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I'm only human (I bleed when I fall down)

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Life had a funny way of changing on you when you least expect it. For Magnus, all of those changes seemed to be coming up on her lately, one right after the other. At least most of them were good, a fact she consoled herself with, though there were one or two she could do without.

If she stopped and thought about it, she could admit to herself that these changes weren’t actually sudden. All of this had started with a visit from Jocelyn Fairchild all those years ago. Though Magnus hadn’t realized it at the time, that’d really been the beginning of it all for her. The moment where everything began to change. By agreeing to help the Shadowhunter protect her daughter from the Shadow World, Magnus had set herself on this path. A path that had brought her here.

There’d been many times through the years that Magnus had regretted her decision to help Jocelyn. For one, she wasn’t all that fond of Shadowhunters, and this woman had been married to the worst of them. While she’d clearly gotten out, and just as clearly later on opened herself up to the Downworld a little more, it didn’t mean that Jocelyn had left behind the prejudices that had gotten her into this mess. At one point she’d believed in Valentine’s ideals. Believed that Shadowhunters were better. That wasn’t something that went easily away.

Having Clary had changed Jocelyn even more. Taught her that there was more out there. But there were some things that hadn’t ever gone away. Each time she was so demanding with Magnus, each time she acted like the payment she gave was enough to convince Magnus to do anything, like she had no morals or anything beyond a greedy need for more money. Each time she insisted that she didn’t want her daughter exposed to the wrong kind of people – each one of those moments reminded Magnus of the woman she’d once been and the man she’d willingly tied herself to.

But Magnus had bit her tongue, something that she wasn’t well known for, and she’d helped her. Because she hadn’t been able to resist the sweet, sassy little girl that Clary was. And because she’d known that Jocelyn would go to someone else if Magnus wouldn’t help her. Someone who wasn’t as skilled with memory spells, who wouldn’t care as much about the potential damage they might cause just because Clary was a Shadowhunter child.

So Magnus had done it. She’d spent years taking away Clary’s memories when she encountered things she shouldn’t. She’d blocked her inner eye, shielding her from seeing what was natural to her eyes.

Magnus had regretted it time and time again. When Clary was tied to her chair by Jocelyn’s own hands, terrified of what was happening. When the young girl looked up at Magnus with so much fear, demanding to know what was going on, what they were doing to her. Magnus had hated it.

But now, as she sat on the balcony of her loft and smiled at the gorgeous young woman curled up in the chair opposite her, she couldn’t find it in herself to regret it for even a moment. Not when it had brought her here. Brought her Alec. The young Shadowhunter/warlock who had intrigued Magnus from the very first moment she’d seen her at the club and thought she was only a gorgeous mundane.

Alec had been dressed in her riding leathers, a look that was enough to have Magnus’ mouth watering. And the way she’d looked at Magnus? The physical attraction had been instant. It hadn’t gone away, either. Not even when Dot had brought the scared young woman to her home and Magnus had watched a glamour melt away to show stark black runes on all that pale, pale skin, while blue magic chased around her fingertips. If anything, it’d made Magnus want her more. She’d wanted to pin Alec down and chase each one of those runes with her tongue.

Talking to the woman over drinks had deepened that attraction while also sparking it with something more. Interest. The kind of interest that Magnus hadn’t felt since her last serious relationship. Since Camille.

Every passing moment with Alec only made Magnus fall harder. Having her at the safehouse, watching the way she was with the other warlocks there, how she hadn’t flinched at all the marks on open display around her. The way she’d responded to Catarina, laughing and teasing with her, and the clear sisterly love she’d displayed for Dorthea. Then, seeing her with Clary, coming back and watching her fight, kill, to keep the warlocks safe. Even when it was clear it tormented her to have done it. And that kiss.

Alec was a delightful dichotomy of shy and blunt. Nervous about her attractions and yet not shying away from it. She wasn’t denying that she wanted Magnus, though it was clear she wasn’t entirely sure what to do about it, and was even less sure about the fact that it was reciprocated.

In just the two short weeks that Alec had been staying as a guest in Magnus’ home, the older warlock had been able to see that someone somewhere along the line had definitely damaged this beautiful woman’s self-image. Alec thought so little of herself it was a wonder she was even allowing this thing between them to grow. But she wasn’t letting her disbelief prevent her from meeting Magnus flirt for flirt, or kiss for kiss.

Magnus let her eyes travel over Alec’s body while she watched the younger woman tip her head back and laugh. How on earth Alec could think she was anything other than stunning was an absolute mystery.

At the moment Alec was still in comfortable lounge clothes. For all her doubt toward her looks, she had a surprising lack of modesty that was a bit remarkable and wonderful all at the same time. Currently she was in a pair of cotton shorts that showed off those long legs that seemed to go on for miles. With a hint of definition to her thighs, and calves that Magnus wanted to bite, it was a beautiful view.

The rest was even better. With the spell that Magnus kept over the balcony to keep the temperature warm in the mornings – she hated being too cold – it meant that Alec didn’t need to bundle up in one of her countless baggy sweaters. Instead, she was in an oversized t-shirt that spilled off her shoulder a bit, and a sports bra, the two showing off the muscles of her arms perfectly. Magnus had spent many a night lately thinking about the strength of Alec’s arms and how easily she would no doubt be able to pick Magnus up with them, hold her in place, pin her legs down to the bed while she put that sinful mouth to work, eyes dark and smirking up at her…

Okay, nope, breakfast on the balcony was not the time for those thoughts.

Though Alec didn’t help at all when she lowered her gaze, hazel eyes bright with mirth. Magnus was so screwed it was almost funny. All because of a Shadowhunter.

“Are you all right, Magnus?” Alec asked, her lips still curved into a smile, warm and easy in a way that had taken her days to really get to.

Magnus brought out her own smile while she pushed the rest of her thoughts back to the little box in her mind. One she could pull out when she was alone in bed that night – just the same as she’d done every single night for the entirety of Alec’s two weeks here. Not a one of which had the younger woman taken her up on her offer. “Wonderful, darling. Just enjoying watching you laugh. It makes you radiant in this morning light.”

Just because Magnus wasn’t going to let herself think dirty thoughts didn’t mean she was going to pass up a chance to flirt with Alec. She may be trying restraint, but she wasn’t dead.

The way that Alec flushed at that was beautiful. Shy, yet bold, face tipped down a little even as she said “Look who’s talking. You look beautiful like this.”

Magnus beamed brightly at that. She loved Alec’s compliments and her blunt way of flirting. There was no falseness to her words. No artifice. One thing Magnus was learning was that when Alec said something, she meant it, be it for bad or good. It made her compliments mean more. “Thank you, Alexandra.” Magnus’ eyes crinkled up a little with her grin. “It must be something special if you can say that before I’ve even put my face on for the day.”

Just like Alec, Magnus was in her lounge clothes, though hers were a bit more decadent. Silk pants, a matching camisole, no bra, and a robe left open. Her hair hadn’t been brushed beyond her fingers running through it, and she had no makeup on.

Yet when Alec’s eyes ran over her, it was more than clear that she liked Magnus just like this. Maybe even more than she liked seeing her all dolled up in her High Warlock persona. “I told you, you look beautiful, Magnus.”

It didn’t escape Magnus’ notice when Alec’s gaze briefly lingered on her chest. She’d learned pretty quickly that Alec was a breasts girl. She definitely enjoyed the fact that Magnus often went without a bra. Though she also seemed to have a thing for hands, judging by the way she liked to watch Magnus’ move.

Their moment was interrupted rather rudely by the buzzing of the cellphone on the table. Alec bent forward, snatching her phone up and giving Magnus a quick peek down the top of her shirt. When she saw whatever was on it, her brow furrowed down and she bit at her bottom lip. Magnus kind of wanted to climb over there and bite it for her.

All at once Alec’s expression cleared. Her eyebrows went up, her eyes widened, and Magnus was already bracing herself for trouble even as Alec gave a low “Oh, shit!”

While things had been quiet lately at the Institute, that didn’t mean that they weren’t all living on alert, waiting for the next bit of trouble to happen. “What is it?” Magnus asked, a bit sharper, more alert than before.

Alec vanished her mug with a bit of magic and was scrambling to unfold her long legs from the chair and push up to her feet. “Fuck, I can’t believe I forgot. I’m gonna be late for work!”

That… was the very last thing Magnus had been expecting to hear. She looked after Alec’s quickly retreating form with a bit of bemusement. Work?

Shaking her head, Magnus rose as well, heading inside after Alec. She didn’t follow her to the bedroom though the temptation was strong when she saw the other girl hadn’t shut her door all the way. Instead, Magnus leaned against the wall and sipped on her mug. “Work?” she called out, pitching her voice just loud enough for Alec to hear.

“Yeah,” Alec answered loudly. There were a few thuds, a low curse, and then, “Luke went and talked to them after the fire, put in a few weeks grievance leave for me. But I’m supposed to start back up today and my class starts in ten minutes! That was my coworker asking me where I was and if I’m coming in today. I can’t believe I forgot.”

“I’d say it’s a bit justified. You’ve had a lot on your plate lately.”

“Yeah, well, if I want to keep putting things on my plate I need to get over there.”

The ridiculous pun had Magnus rolling her eyes. Eyes that almost immediately widened when Alec came back out of her room dressed like sin in a pair of tight black workout pants, a matching black sports bra, sneakers, and an unzipped sweater over it all. Her long hair was in a perfect braid like usual, hanging down her back, and she carried a duffle bag in her hand.

Even if Magnus hadn’t already planned to go with her, this reminder of what Alec said she did for work was enough to get Magnus to snap her fingers and change her own clothes.

She went for simple, because this wasn’t a party or such they were attending. Though she stuck to her own style. Tight blue jeans artfully torn here and there, with a hint of sequins on the pockets and legs, a grey tank top, a red shrug jacket to match the sequins, and red wedge heels.

Alec looked surprised at Magnus’ sudden change of clothes. Appreciative, but surprised. “Magnus?”

“I know that you don’t like the idea of bodyguards when you go out,” Magnus began, having heard Alec argue on the phone with Clary a few times, or witness it here when Clary visited the loft, when the younger girl tried to remind Alec not to go out anywhere by herself. Or to be careful. “But at times like this, there’s a certain safety in numbers.”

“I can handle myself,” Alec said, rolling her eyes.

“Of course you can. Does it help if I admit I’m mostly coming along so I can admire your ass in those pants?”

She laughed at the way that Alec blushed and shook her head. Yet Alec stopped protesting. She just made a ‘come on’ gesture at Magnus before turning to begin to create a portal in the open space of the entryway.

Magnus skipped forward and slid her hand into the crook of Alec’s elbow. It was a pose the both of them were discovering they quite enjoyed. Magnus could keep one hand there while they walked and use her other hand to gesture with. Or be free to defend them with. “I’m quite eager to watch you. I remember how well you fought before.”

With the portal open the two women strolled forward together. Alec put a hand over where Magnus was holding her, leading them into the portal and out the other side in what looked like every other alley in New York. “I’m not going to be fighting, Magnus,” Alec reminded her, banishing the portal. She adjusted her bag over her other should and then began leading Magnus out of the alley and onto the street. “I’m teaching kids, not fighting them.”

Magnus waved her free hand dismissively. “Either way, watching you move is a pleasure I’m going to thoroughly enjoy, and you should be ashamed of yourself for thinking even one moment of denying me that pleasure.”

That got her a warm, easy laugh, and another of those bright smiles of Alec’s that always stole her breath away. “My deepest apologies.”

“Mm, I’m sure you can make it up to me later,” Magnus said, winking at her.

Their playful teasing carried them down the street toward a building that was kind of tucked in around the others. It wasn’t one that would’ve made Magnus stop and look on a normal day. In a way, it looked just like every other gym out there. Though she didn’t say that to Alec. Not when it was clear she loved this place and her job in it.

The people, too, judging by how she smiled when she walked inside.

They were greeted almost instantly by a tiny, peppy young woman sitting behind the front desk. She looked to be in her earlier twenties, and smaller than Clary, if Magnus was gauging her size right. She was a petite woman with a bright smile, big blue eyes, and a blond ponytail. Magnus could imagine she helped draw in quite a bit of male business.

“Alec!” The girl lit up at the sight of Alec, bouncing up on her toes. She looked like she wanted to rush around the desk and was just barely holding herself back. “It’s so good to see you! I’m glad you’re back!”

Alec’s lips quirked up in a little half-grin. “Hey, Allison. How’ve things been around here?”

“Good, good! We’ve got a few new bodies, but mostly we’ve just been staying even lately. I’m so glad to see you! We were all so worried about you. All your kiddos and their parents were worried too, but we understood. I’m glad you took the time off to be with your family!”

All those words came out in a rather quick jumble and audible exclamation points. Magnus blinked a little at the high energy and cheer of the young woman. She definitely hadn’t had enough coffee for this.

Allison abruptly seemed to notice Magnus, and her mouth dropped open just a little, and then shifted into an even bigger grin than before. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry. Look at me, blabbing away, and you’ve got someone here with you.”

There was a slight shake to Alec’s arm that had Magnus looking at her. When she did, it was clear the other woman was trying to smother her laughter. The smile she gave Allison was kind. It held not even the mock annoyance that Magnus had seen Alec pull when Clary or Simon jabbered for too long. She really is too nice for her own good under all that scowling.

“It’s fine, Allison,” Alec said in that low, soothing tone of hers that she took sometimes. The one that sent shivers down Magnus’ spine and eased her tension all in one go. “This is Magnus, my…”

When Alec hesitated, Magnus grinned, entirely unashamed to take advantage of the moment and fill in “Girlfriend.”

A second after she said it, as she watched Allison’s eyes go wide, Magnus felt a flare of worry. With it came guilt. Had she just outed Alec here? The way Clary talked, and how Alec flirted, Magnus hadn’t guessed that she was closeted but she knew better than to make assumptions like that. Not everyone was out and open. Not everyone was safe to be out and open. Just because Magnus didn’t hide herself didn’t mean that other people lived the same. Be it for preference or safety or something else.

However, when she darted her eyes up to Alec, mind scrambling to try and think of a way to jokingly play this off, it was to find Alec looking down at her with wonder on her face. Like Magnus’ words had amazed her for some reason or another.

That wonder melted away to the brightest smile that Magnus had ever seen Alec wear. It chased away all the shadows that usually lurked in her eyes and left Magnus tongue-tied.

Allison let out a high pitched “Oh my God!” that broke through their moment. The girl had her hands up over her mouth and was staring at them like they were the second coming of Christ. “Your girlfriend? You have a girlfriend?”

“Is there a reason you’re shouting it to the whole building?” Alec asked dryly, though her smile was still on her lips. When it looked like Allison was going to squeal again, hands over her mouth, Alec chuckled and shook her head. “Much as I’d like to introduce her around, I have class starting in a few minutes and I need to get my stuff put away and get Magnus settled.”

“Oh, right, yeah, of course,” Allison said immediately. “Go to your class, they’re going to be so happy to see you. And it was nice meeting you, Magnus!”

Magnus grinned at the girl and wiggled her fingers. “A pleasure to meet you as well, my dear.” She waited until they were past the front office and into what was clearly staff area before she giggled. “She’s definitely… exuberant.”

That got a snort from Alec. “That’s one word for her.” There was fondness in her tone, though, that was easy for Magnus to hear.

Magnus let herself get led through the hall and into the staff locker room. She leaned against the locker beside Alec and watched her quickly unlock it and stuff her bag inside. While there was no one around, Magnus took a moment to reach out and brush her fingers over Alec’s arm again. “I owe you an apology for blurting that out back there, Alexandra. I didn’t stop to think about whether you were out or not, or anything like that, and while it’s clear it wasn’t a big deal with Allison, it could have been. I’m sorry for not thinking about it.”

The locker clanged as Alec tilted her bag to shove it in there. She shrugged as she did, seemingly unbothered by Magnus’ words. “It’s fine. I appreciate you thinking about it afterward, and the apology. But I’ve been out for a few years now. It’s part of why I come to this gym. They’re open to everyone, but they have a lot of LGBTQ customers here. It’s kind of a safe space to come where you don’t have to worry about being harassed in the locker room if you don’t fit society’s standard of what you should be.”

Magnus’ mouth formed a soft little ‘o’ at that. She blinked her eyes a few times while processing it, and then she felt her whole face melt into the kind of soft look she let so few see. “That’s wonderful.”

“Most of the kids in my class come from unconventional homes. It’s kind of why they come. They’ve got a safe space with me to have fun, and learn how to defend themselves against the people who like to bully anyone who’s different. Plus, their parents don’t have to worry when they bring them. They don’t get harassed here.”

The more Magnus heard, the more she wanted to reach out and grab Alec and kiss her just to show her appreciation. How was this woman even real? Kind souls like this weren’t common. Magnus would know – she’d met plenty of people. Very few of them had ever had the kind of kindness that Alec hid underneath her stern and adorably grump demeanor.

Alec shut her bag in the locker and abruptly turned toward Magnus. There was a hint of color high in her cheeks, and her eyes darted away for a moment, yet she showed that bravery of hers by bringing her eyes back up and looking right at Magnus as she blurted out “Did you mean it?” Her flush deepened a little more. “The, uh, I mean you don’t have to if you, like, were just trying to give us a cover story or whatever, but if you don’t…”

The quickest way to shut off an embarrassed Alec ramble was to lean in and kiss her. Magnus had employed that once already, and she was happy to see it worked just as well this time.

When they pulled apart, the color was still high in Alec’s cheeks, and her eyes were just a bit hazy. Magic, she would love to kiss her and kiss her until her eyes fully hazed over.

“Alexandra.” Magnus stroked her fingers over the bit of Alec’s hair where her hand had settled on the side of her neck. She smiled up at her. “We’ve been on a couple dates already, and shared many more if you want to count the meals at the loft. Which I don’t, by the way!” That reminded Magnus that they were well overdue another date. They hadn’t had a chance to go out since their fourth date. But, that was a thought for later. For now, she ran her thumb over Alec’s cheek. “I think we’re at the point where we can use titles. I mean, I’m not looking to see anyone else. Are you?”

This was probably one of the strangest places to have this sort of conversation. Someone could walk in at any time. They were surrounded by lockers and benches and there was a faint hint in the air of towels that needed washing. Alec’s students were likely waiting for her. It was a little odd, a little messy, and so very much them.

Alec’s eyes were shining when she shook her head. “No, I’m not.”

“Then I’d very much like to go around introducing you to people as my girlfriend.”

She got another one of those blinding smiles for that. Then Alec leaned in, her hands on Magnus’ hips to tug her close, and this kiss was anything but gentle or soft. Alec poured everything she had into it in a way that she hadn’t before. Magnus lost her breath to it, only to steal Alec’s so they could keep kissing, keep leaning into one another like this.

Unfortunately, they had to break apart eventually. Alec was here to work.

It was with a much lighter step that Magnus let Alec lead her out to the training room. Just as Magnus had suspected, children were already there waiting for them. There were ten of them, and if Magnus guessed their ages close enough, they had to be in the range of five to eight. Maybe a little more or less. She wasn’t the best at guessing those sorts of things.

There were chairs over with the parents who were sitting and watching, and that was where Magnus headed to while Alec went to the middle of the room and greeted the group of kids that almost immediately swarmed her. It was a lovely sight to sit and watch. One that Magnus’ hadn’t expected to make her heart flutter the way it did. She sat in her chair, one leg crossed over the other, and just let herself enjoy the sight of her girlfriend surrounded by kids who clearly adored her.

“Isn’t she amazing with them?” A voice to Magnus’ right asked.

She turned to look toward the parents that were sitting around her. The woman that had spoken was older, with bright green hair that was short and spiked. Cuddled up to her side was another woman with no hair whatsoever, and the brightest blue eyes Magnus had ever seen. The other parents seemed to range a little. One couple was male and female, one woman seemed to be there alone, but the other couples were either two women or two men.

Magnus smiled at the woman who’d spoken to her. Then she let her eyes drift back to Alec, who was calling her class to order. “Yes she is.”

“I’m Ellen,” the green-haired woman said, holding her hand out for Magnus to shake. “And this is my wife Tippa.”

Magnus shook both their hands, as well as the hands of everyone else who leaned forward to introduce them. She practically beamed at them when she got to introduce herself as “Magnus, Alec’s girlfriend.” Sweet Magic, what was she, some mundane teenager giggling over being able to say girlfriend?

“How’s Alec doing?” asked one of the men, who’d introduce himself as Cory. His husband Quentin was holding his hand. The both of them looked concerned.

Well, all of them did, really.

“We heard about what happened,” said one of the other women, Vivian. “It’s so sad. We were so glad to hear she took some time to herself before coming back.”

Wendy, a grandmotherly woman, let out a low chuckle. “Jimmy wouldn’t stop worrying about her. He made a card for the other kids to sign, and he baked her some brownies because, as he said, chocolate cures everything.”

Most of the parents laughed at that, and Magnus laughed with them, soft and easy. “I’m sure she’s going to love that. She’s… doing okay.” That wasn’t a lie, though it wasn’t the whole truth. There were some mornings that Alec came out looking like she’d barely slept. Other times she’d get a haunted look in her eyes that had Magnus wanting to wrap her up in her arms and keep the world at bay.

Quentin made a low, pained sound. “The poor girl. Losing someone is never easy.”

They must’ve told people that Jocelyn had been lost in the fire. It would explain how they kept anyone from noticing her disappearance. “She’s been staying with me so I can take care of her,” Magnus told them, slanting a look over at Alec.

“Good. It’s best to be with your loved ones in a time like this,” Vivian said firmly.

Magnus hummed a little, yet said nothing more, letting herself get caught up in watching Alec. She participated in the small talk; that was easy. If there was one thing Magnus knew how to do it was mingle and entertain. This wasn’t her usual atmosphere, of course, but that didn’t stop her from keeping the parents laughing while their children were busy.

By the time class was over, Magnus had a few new numbers in her phone and an insistence that they get together sometime for coffee by more than a few. She was still smiling over it as she watched everyone say their goodbyes to Alec, and when Alec finally made her way over to her. The fact that she was carrying a bit of Tupperware in her hand that was likely full of aforementioned brownies had Magnus chuckling.

“I see you got little Jimmy’s brownies,” Magnus said teasingly.

Alec grinned and pulled the container in closer. “Eyes off my brownies, Bane.”

“I wouldn’t dream of touching them. Not after that sweet boy went to all that hard work to make them for you.” Magnus tilted her head up a little when Alec came close. Those legs made her tower over Magnus like this. Smirking, Magnus gestured at Alec to bend low, pleased when she did. In a stage-whisper, she told her, “Word is that he’s got quite the crush on his teacher.”

The laugh that Alec gave had a little snort mixed in that only made Magnus’ own grin even bigger. “Wow. A nice boy who makes me brownies.” She looked down at the container and then back up at Magnus. “I dunno, Magnus. I mean, you gotta admit, that’s pretty awesome.”

“I know,” Magnus said, giving a sad shake of her head. “I don’t know how I’m going to compete with that.”

“I’m sure you’ve got something just as sweet for me.” Alec winked at her and tilted in that last little bit, stealing a quick kiss.

Not one that last long, though. Magnus broke it by huffing out a laugh. “Oh Lilith, Alec. That was terrible!”

Alec shamelessly shrugged at her, straightening back up as she did. She looked way too smug. “I don’t know. Got me a kiss, didn’t it?”

Laughing, Magnus took the hand Alec held out her way and used it to pull herself up to her feet. “Yes, though magic knows I shouldn’t reward such terrible pickup lines.”

“This from the woman who makes meat puns,” Alec fired back.

The fact that Alec wasn’t afraid to tease back with her like this was something Magnus enjoyed. The younger woman often gave as good as she got in conversation. She wasn’t afraid to snark back with Magnus the way that some people did, while at the same time her barbs held none of the poison that so many others had.

Sliding her hand around Alec’s arm, Magnus let Alec steer her back toward the lock room. “You know, we should take advantage of being out today and portal somewhere for lunch. There’s quite a few places I’d like to take you for our next date. I’ve been thinking about it lately and I have a few I’m sure you’ll love.”

“Mm, that might be good. Though, I, uh, I wasn’t thinking about leaving quite yet.”

Magnus looked up at her in surprise. “Oh? Do you have another class?”

“No, no. Not today. It’s just… been a while since I’ve been able to get a good workout in. I usually do one every day. I thought today might be a good time to get some in.”

“And I’m just supposed to sit and watch? Not that I don’t believe that would be plenty entertaining – it’s just not quite how I thought I’d spend my morning.”

One corner of Alec’s mouth twitched with what was clearly a poor attempt at fighting back a smile. “You could always come and spar with me if you wanted.”

There was a hint of a taunt in those words. Not in the sense that Magnus felt like Alec was doubting her skills or trying to imply she couldn’t do it. More like, she was challenging Magnus to do it. And Magnus had never, ever been one to resist a challenge.

The way that Alec’s smile slowly spread over her face made it clear she knew what kind of answer Magnus was going to give. Seeing it, Magnus shook her head, her own lips twitching. “You’re playing with fire here, darling.”

“Why don’t you go ahead and go change?” Alec suggested, far too smug for someone who hadn’t even started the fight yet, let alone won it. “I’m sure there’s something in my bag you can grab.”

The way Alec looked at her made it clear she didn’t actually mean for Magnus to take something from her bag. But her eyes darted up to a nearby surveillance camera and then back to Magnus, which was explanation enough. No magicking up a change of clothes on camera. Right.

Magnus smirked a little as she reached up to tap the tip of Alec’s nose. “Be right back.”

As she made her way to the locker room, she couldn’t help but think how this was such a tremendously bad idea. The two of them out on the mats, sweaty, trying to pin one another to the ground? Magnus shivered a little just thinking about it. This was going to be torture of the absolute best kind. There was going to be so much sexual tension by the time they were doing she was going to be lucky not to just take Alec to the floor and devour her.

After Alec had made it clear on their last date that she wasn’t ready to take that next step yet, the two of them had been enjoying flirting outrageously, and plenty of kisses that left Magnus panting and so turned on she often had to retreat to take care of herself. Not that she minded! She was willing to go at whatever pace Alec was comfortable with. Honestly, it felt good to slowly build the anticipation like this. To take the time to get to know one another, too. Magnus knew more about Alec now than she had just a couple weeks ago, and everything she learned only made her fall all the more for her.

This was going to be a bit of a test for the both of them, though.

Magnus summoned some workout clothes to the inside of Alec’s bag when she reached in there. Then she quickly changed, pulling on the loose, comfortable workout pants, a sports bra, and a tank top. Simple enough to move around in. If the pants happened to show off her legs nicely, and the arms of her tank top came down low enough to show plenty of her sides, well, it was Alec’s fault for asking her to do this.

The look it got her when she came back out to the gym was well worth it. Alec had shed the t-shirt she’d pulled over herself for the kids sake earlier. She was like some sort of glorious amazon warrior standing there waiting for Magnus, and yet she still looked at Magnus like she was the beautiful one.

“Are you ready?” Magnus asked, putting a bit of an extra sway to her hips when she walked forward.

Alec had to blink a few times before it looked like she got her brain back online. When she did, she gave her head a quick shake, and then her eyes narrowed. “Ready when you are.”

A little thrill of excitement was startling to curl in Magnus’ stomach. This might be the start of the most sexually frustrating morning she’d had in quite a while. However, it also had the promise of being fun, and anything that let her put her hands on Alec and potentially pin her to the ground wasn’t bad at all.

The two came to a stop in the middle of the mats, just a few feet apart. “What’re the rules?” Magnus asked, deliberately running her eyes down Alec’s legs and then slowly back up.

Alec snorted. It didn’t escape Magnus’ notice that her cheeks were just a bit pink, though. “First pin?”

“Mm. And the prize?”

Neither of them even thought of doing this without some sort of prize. Magnus already knew that Alec was just as competitive as she was. More so, in some ways, which made for lots of fun.

Alec clearly thought about it for a moment. Then she shrugged one shoulder. “Winner picks our next date?”

“The next three,” Magnus countered.

She watched as Alec’s eyebrows went up. Then they settled back down and her smile stretched wide enough to crinkle her eyes. “You’re on, Bane.”

When Magnus had been watching Alec earlier most of the other woman’s moves had been simple. Easy. Something that her kids would be able to pick up on and replicate. They’d carried a fluid sort of grace to them that the children had worked hard to try and mimic. Now? Now, as Alec lowered herself down into a defensive crouch, slowly starting to move sideways, Magnus could see that grace even clearer.

They circled one another for a few moments. Each one waiting for the other to move first.

It was no surprise that Alec was the one to do it. She struck out with a blow Magnus easily deflected, ducking down and moving swiftly to the side. Alec definitely had more muscle mass for this fight but Magnus knew she had speed.

“You’re gonna have to do better than that, gorgeous,” Magnus teased her.

Alec’s eyes were alight with that competitive spark. She kept moving, kept circling, and then in a blur of speed she was right there with a blow that Magnus just barely managed to avoid. Magnus darted back, blocking a few blows that Alec followed her to give, waiting for the opening she needed. As soon as she saw it Magnus was moving forward, going down under Alec’s guard and catching her by her bicep. With a quick duck and twist, she got her shoulder under Alec’s arm and yanked, sending the younger girl over her shoulder and down to the ground.

Magnus didn’t have long to enjoy it. As soon as Alec hit she was twisting her body and giving a solid yank that brought Magnus down with her.

The two rolled along the mats, neither willing to let go of the other. Magnus almost had her pinned, only for Alec to twist in a way that Magnus didn’t recognize, switching their positions and catching Magnus’ arm, rolling the woman over her back and down onto the mat with a blow that almost knocked the wind out of Magnus.

Alec didn’t follow through with the finish she could have. She hesitated just enough that Magnus was able to pull away and launch an attack of her own.

She didn’t know if it was just Alec’s continued distraction or if maybe she just wasn’t prepared for it when Magnus caught hold of her arm and twisted them, using one knee to pin Alec’s neck down while she drew her arm up behind her back, the angle high enough that Alec was either going to have to stay where she was or risk dislocating her shoulder.

To her surprise, Alec immediately reached her free hand out and tapped the mat.

Magnus let go of her arm instantly. When she went to rise, Alec struck, knocking Magnus straight onto her back in a move that ended with Alec straddling her waist, hands flat on the ground on either side of Magnus’ head. Some of Alec’s hair had come loose from her braid and was hanging around her face in frizzy little curls. Her chest was heaving a little, and there was a hint of sweat on her skin.

“You’re good at this,” Alec said, smiling just a little.

Arching one eyebrow, Magnus smirked up at her. “And you threw that match.”

The little shit didn’t even try and deny it. She let her smile grow a little wider and actually shrugged. “I don’t know – looks like I won to me.”

Oh, the little brat. Magnus pressed her tongue against the back of her teeth to keep back the shit-eating grin that wanted to spread over her face. “Hate planning dates that much, do you?”

“Not like I exactly have experience at it.”

Magnus felt her eyes go wide at that little admission. She knew she’d gone still, and the look on her face must’ve been something because Alec went still as well. “You… none?” Magnus asked slowly, not quite able to believe it. “Have you… have you never been on a date?”

“I mean, I’ve grabbed coffee with a girl or two, but,” Alec cut herself off, shrugging again, only this time it was nowhere near as cocky as the last one. If anything, she suddenly looked way less sure of herself. Slowly, she lifted herself up so that she wasn’t bent over Magnus anymore but sitting high on her hips.

The position would’ve been one that Magnus would’ve enjoyed at any other time. Definitely. Right now? Her mind was too caught up on everything else to focus on that.

There was no way Alec could be saying what she thought she was saying. No way. Magnus refused to believe that anyone could resist this sweet, gorgeous girl.

She could feel it when Alec’s body tensed like she was going to rise, her expression shuttering as her feelings were slowly being drawn behind a mask that Magnus had taken joy in trying to get behind these past weeks. Quickly, before Alec could go anywhere, Magnus surged up off the ground.

The force of her push was enough for her to catch Alec with her arms and roll them, switching their positions.

Now it was Magnus who was shifting so that she straddled Alec’s waist, her hands down by Alec’s head. She didn’t sit up; she made sure to get right down in her face, wanting to have her absolute full attention. Judging by the wide-eyed look Alec was giving her, she had it.

“You are the single most stunning woman I have ever seen,” Magnus said bluntly. No games, no tricks, no hidden meaning to her words. She gave Alec the same brutal honesty that the woman so often gave to her. It was the only way she could guarantee that Alec might hear her. “Whatever girls you grew up around were either blind or stupid.”

Alec’s hands had ended up on Magnus’ hips sometime during their shuffle. She held on to the top of her pants and fiddled a little with the waistband. At the same time, her eyes darted down a little, looking more at Magnus’ shoulder than her face. “I’ve been told my size makes me a bit… intimidating.”

Oh, these stupid mundanes. Magnus kind of wanted to go and curse every idiot in Alec’s life who’d made her feel that way. Except the small part of her that was savagely grateful they were all so blind – it meant Alec was here now, with her, and there was no way in Heaven, Hell, or Earth that Magnus was going to give her up.

That didn’t mean she couldn’t hate them for the clear lack of self esteem they’d left behind in Alec.

Bending down low, Magnus stopped with her lips just inches away from Alec’s. “You, Alexandra, are absolutely exquisite. If others couldn’t see that, they’re blind or dumb, or both.”

“Magnus,” Alec breathed out her name like it was a prayer to her precious angels. The same kind of reverence and awe contained within just the letters of Magnus’ name.

It sent a shiver down Magnus’ spine. She licked her lips, tasting Alec’s breath mingling with hers. What else was she supposed to do with them like this except bend down and seal her lips over Alec’s in a kiss full of everything this beautiful woman made her feel. They were far too early in things for any big words, though Magnus was beginning to suspect that those weren’t that far away. Not if the warmth in her heart was anything to go by.

They broke apart for a second, just long enough to get their breath back, and then Magnus was sliding her hands from the floor to either side of Alec’s head, resting her weight on her forearms and diving back in.

Magnus.” The soft shudder of Magnus’ name was moaned out, the sound swallowed down by Magnus. She felt the hands on her hips grip tight, keeping her pinned right in place, and Magnus moaned as well at the sensation of it. Alec took advantage of that moment to draw her head back. “We… we’re still in the gym… Someone could come.”

Magnus grinned at her choice of words. “Let’s hope.”

There was a split second where Alec clearly didn’t understand what she meant. When she did, her eyes went wide and then rolled up. “Oh my God,” Alec breathed out. “I shouldn’t find you this hot while you make bad jokes. Why are you still so hot?”

She didn’t give Magnus a chance to answer. Just lifted a hand from Magnus’ hips and caught the back of her neck, yanking her back into another kiss.

This kiss was harder than the last one. Sharper. It was full of sharp nips and teasing tongues. It took so much control for Magnus to keep her body still; to not start rocking down against the firm body resting between her legs. She’d dreamt about this so many times lately. Thought of it alone in her bed at night with one hand between her legs to relieve the aching need that Alec put there just by simply existing.

There was no telling how far either one of them might’ve gone if it weren’t for the sound of footsteps and then a low “oh, shit” from somewhere nearby.

The words themselves wouldn’t have been enough to make Magnus pull away. She’d never shied away from an audience a day in her life. Not even for something like this. Hell, she’d done a whole lot worse in Pandemonium with countless other Downworlders watching her. If someone wanted to come in and stare while Magnus did something as chaste as a kiss, well, let them.

Alec, on the other hand, was clearly not as open. She broke their kiss with a soft little gasp that Magnus immediately wanted to chase and swallow down. Instead of clutching Magnus close, she started to push at her until Magnus reluctantly drew back.

When Magnus dropped her weight onto her hip, off to the side of Alec, it gave her a perfect view to watch the way that Alec scrambled up to her feet. It also let her watch that cute little ass in those tight workout pants, though Magnus had to fight back the urge to just lean forward and bite.

The person who’d come in and disturbed them seemed just a little frozen. They looked at Alec, who was clearly trying to figure out what to say while just as clearly being embarrassed, and then down to Magnus, who had no shame. Magnus glared up at him and gave a little huff, blowing her hair away from where it’d fallen in her face. One look at her face had the guy giving an actual squeak. Then he was blurting out “Sorry!” and darting for the door.

No sooner had the door shut than Alec let out a low, emphatic “Fuck.

If it hadn’t been for how easily Alec had accepted the use of the term girlfriend at the front desk, and the way she’d held Magnus so close, this reaction might’ve had Magnus worrying about Alec actually being out. She had a feeling this was a little different, though. “Calm down, Cinderella,” she said teasingly, pushing up to her feet. “We were just kissing.”

“On the floor at my work,” Alec moaned out. She had one hand over her face that did nothing to hide the adorable redness underneath.

Magnus fought back the urge to coo at her. She didn’t think Alec would take it that well. Instead, she moved over to her and caught her hand, dragging it away from her face with only a little resistance. As soon as her lips were free, Magnus pushed up to take a quick kiss. “It’s fine,” she reassured Alec, stroking her fingers over Alec’s wrist as she did. “Whoever that was saw us kissing, nothing more. At worst, they got a little fodder to jerk off to later.”

By the Angel.”

Her scandalized tone had Magnus laughing. “It’s fine, Alexandra.”

Though she was still red, and still clearly a bit flustered, Alec was recovering quickly. She shot Magnus a glare that was barely even real. The way her lips were curving up made it clear she was starting to become more and more amused. “I blame this on you.”

“That’s fine,” Magnus agreed easily. Proudly, even. She would fully accept the blame for pinning Alec to the ground and kissing her. Though she’d dare anyone in her shoes to be able to resist.

Alec laughed, and the last of her tension seemed to break. “You’re shameless.”

“And you’re adorable.” Grinning, Magnus took a second to look Alec’s face over, trying to gauge her mood. What she found had her wanting to sigh. Their moment on the floor was lost, and though she was sure she could regain it if she really wanted to push, the mood was gone. Magnus took just a second to mentally lament that loss. Then she pushed it aside, and focused up on Alec. Her smile gentled as she watched her. “What do you say we go back home, get showered and changed, and then you let me take you out this afternoon. There’s this lovely little place down in Cappadocia that I think you’d like…”

It was easy to sweep Alec up with words and gestures, drawing her in and then heading toward the locker rooms. She was always drawn in with an avid attention that so few honestly paid Magnus after extended periods of time. She was used to commanding the room as High Warlock. Or reigning over parties that put her at the center of attention. But none of it beat this feeling right here of standing arm in arm with a beautiful woman who looked at her like she hung the stars in the sky, and never failed to hang off her every word.