Alec has been working on his first Downworld Council meeting for months. It took him a while to convince the downworlders to send a representative each, but he managed eventually.
Now the only thing he can do is wait for everyone to arrive so he can officially turn a new page for the New York Shadow World. It’s something he’s been working towards ever since he became Head of the Institute at the tender age of 20, and it’s something he’ll continue to support and fight for until downworlders are treated with the respect they deserve.
Unfortunately, knowing he’s done everything he can to be ready for this meeting doesn’t help settle his nerves. He barely refrains from wiping his palm against his slacks as the wards to the Institute part and let four strangers into its walls. Well, three strangers and one almost-friend.
The first one inside is, unsurprisingly, Raphael. Alec wouldn’t say he and the vampire are friends, exactly, but they’ve been working together long enough to form a relationship based on respect. He admires Raphael for leading his people so well, and he knows Raphael thinks the same thing of him in return.
Behind him are the three other representatives, all people he’s heard of but never met. Luke Garroway, Alpha of the biggest New York pack, a former shadowhunter with strong morals who Alec has been dying to meet. He’s only communicated with the werewolves through Maia, a younger wolf, so this is a huge step up. Meliorn, a Seelie knight who’s been graciously chosen by his queen. Alec doesn’t know much about him, but Izzy has nothing but good things to say about him.
And last but certainly not least, Magnus Bane, High Warlock of Brooklyn and one of the most powerful men in the world. He’s also one of the most beautiful people Alec has ever had the pleasure of laying his eyes on, so he’s not complaining about his presence.
These four men are the leaders of their respective communities on a local level, and Alec knows this meeting is going to determine how the relationships between downworlders and shadowhunters evolve in the future. It’s terrifying to know how much he’s responsible for, how many people are relying on him not to screw this up.
No matter how afraid he is, he can’t let the representatives know. He plasters a smile onto his face and greets them as warmly and professionally as possible, starting with Bane and ending with Raphael, who rolls his eyes at the formalities but gives him an approving nod once the others are no longer looking.
“I’m impressed, Lightwood,” he tells him as they walk towards the meeting room. “I didn’t think you’d be able to pull this off, but here you are. Everyone is looking forward to hearing what you have to say, so I hope you came prepared.”
“I’ve been working on this for years, Raphael,” Alec huffs, wringing his hands together behind his back and hoping no one notices. “Of course I’m prepared. I just hope none of the other representatives have demands I can’t meet. There’s a lot I’m willing to do for this Downworld Cabinet, but the Clave has its limits and I’m not sure I want to cross them from the get-go.”
“Don’t worry too much,” Raphael smirks. “We like to keep our shadowhunters on our toes, but we also know how to go easy on the nice ones. And loathe as I am to admit it, you’re a good one, Lightwood. I’m sure everyone else will agree with me; they’re certainly easier to charm than I am.”
Alec smiles at him a little more sincerely, glad to have at least one of the representatives’ support already. He knows Raphael will always put his people first, but this is his way of saying he won’t go against everything Alec suggests. Since Alec is about to walk into a meeting with mostly unknown entities, he counts it as a win.
They’re the last to walk into the room, the others having already taken a seat at the round table Alec chose. It’s a way for him to show he’s not at the head of this Council. He doesn’t want the downworlders to be offended by their seating plan, so he went for the most diplomatic option possible. If the grudging respect in Luke’s eyes is anything to go by, Alec did well.
“Thank you all for coming,” he announces once he’s taken his place between Meliorn and Raphael. “This Downworld Council has been a long time coming, especially given how long it took the Clave to even consider it, but here we are. You’ve all been incredibly patient and accommodating, and for that I’m extremely grateful. I know none of you have the best past with shadowhunters, and I’m here to try to make sure the future is even slightly better.”
Raphael rolls his eyes at him, clearly telling him to move things along, but Alec doesn’t care. It’s important for him to tell these people he’s aware of the time and effort they’re putting into this Council. Shadowhunters have been nothing but dismissive to them in the past, and the fact that would even consider a meeting like this one means more to Alec than he cares to admit out loud. He only hopes his lacklustre thank you is enough to make them understand.
No matter how impatient Raphael is, Alec waits for the other three representatives to nod and acknowledge his words before moving onto business. From then on, the meeting dissolves into a series of questions and requests and arguments. Alec does his best to accept the downworlders’ suggestions, but the Clave and Nephilim society as a whole have boundaries that even he cannot disregard.
He can tell he’s earned the respect of at least Garroway when the man starts relaxing in his seat and siding with Raphael – surprising, since vampires and werewolves are known for hating each other on sight. The other two, however, are not so easily convinced. Alec isn’t sure there’s anything he can do to make Meliorn like him, but he’s determined to at least get the High Warlock to agree to a second meeting.
However, Bane seems determined to go against everything Alec has to say. He’d never met the man before and has only heard tales about his past with the shadowhunters, but he’d hoped for a little less hostility. There’s something in the man’s gaze that tells Alec he’s looking for something, but the shadowhunter has no idea what it is.
Until finally, after three hours of conversation, it comes out.
“I just don’t see how this could possibly work!” Bane exclaims. He looks at Raphael and Garroway seriously, obviously wanting to convince them this Cabinet is a sham. “Even if the shadowhunters try to be kinder to downworlders as a whole, or at least to respect them, we all know they have too many prejudices engrained in those heads of theirs to accept everyone!”
Alec frowns, glancing at Raphael to see if he knows what Magnus is talking about. If the dawning realisation is anything to go by, he does. Garroway, on the other hand, looks as confused as Alec.
“What prejudices are we talking about, exactly?” Alec asks, trying to come off as curious rather than defensive. “Because I know we have plenty, but if we promise to start treating downworlders just as he would shadowhunters-”
“Tell me, Nephilim,” Bane interrupts him, leaning forward with a predatory look in his eyes. “Can you truly say you would treat me the same way you treat Raphael? Can you promise you wouldn’t look down on the way I dress and present myself, just as you’ve been doing for the entirety of this meeting? Can you tell me you wouldn’t shy away from two men kissing if you were to come across them?”
Alec gapes at the warlock, feeling a dark flush rise on his face. Because of course Bane noticed the way Alec’s eyes linger on his eyes and his lips and sparkly outfit every time he catches a glimpse of the beautiful warlock. It’s not his fault the man is ridiculously handsome and glittery. He just wishes his gaze didn’t come off as hostile when it’s anything but.
Still, Bane’s accusations aren’t completely unfounded. Alec wouldn’t even blink if he were to come across a gay couple. He’s not exactly out, but most of the Institute is aware he isn’t straight and he doesn’t try to hide it. However, his sexuality isn’t something he broadcasts either. It makes sense for the local Downworld representatives to want to make sure all their people are respected, no matter what their sexuality or gender or skin colour is.
“I can assure you, I think no less of you than I do Raphael,” Alec says as diplomatically as possible. “You are both great leaders to your communities and I hold you in the highest regard for that, as well as your ability to maintain peace between the different downworlders.”
“Whilst I don’t believe you’re lying, Mister Lightwood,” Meliorn cuts in, a sly smirk on his face. “I have to admit you have been staring at Magnus strangely for hours. Any particular reason? Is it the hair?”
Alec flicks his gaze back towards Bane, whose hair is spiked up and streaked with gold. The colour only adds to his beauty, and Alec wishes he could tug at those strands and see how soft they really are. None of that is appropriate to say in the middle of a meeting, though, and Alec feels his blush extend to his neck. To his left, Raphael snickers under his breath.
The traitor knows exactly why Alec was staring at Bane like that and he isn’t going to do anything to help him.
“I- I don’t see what that has to do with anything,” he stutters out, deliberately avoiding the warlock’s gaze. He focuses on Garroway instead and almost groans when he notices the knowing look on the werewolf’s face. Is Bane truly the only one who can’t see the truth behind Alec’s stares? Has he really faced that much hatred in the past?
Does he really think shadowhunters are immune to his beauty?
“Leave the poor boy alone, Magnus, he doesn’t mean any harm,” Garroway finally says, eyes full of mirth. “I’m quite sure we won’t be getting any trouble from him. As long as you can keep your shadowhunters in line, Lightwood, you have my support.”
“I’ll do my best,” Alec smiles gratefully. “And please, feel free to call me Alec. There are too many Lightwoods here for you to be going around calling us by our last names. The offer goes for all of you, of course. I assume this is your way of saying we should put an end to this meeting?”
“I’m not sure there’s much more we can discuss,” Garroway shrugs. “And if I’m to call you Alec, please call me Luke, it’s much less of a mouthful. I’ll keep in touch with you, maybe send Maia over, just to make sure everything is going smoothly on both our ends.”
“That works for me.”
With that, Luke stands up and extends his hand for Alec to shake, quickly followed by Meliorn and Raphael. The three of them leave, but Bane stays behind, looking Alec up and down just as indignantly as before. He’s obviously not going to accept Alec’s silence on the matter of his flamboyance.
“Now that we’re alone,” the warlock says softly. “Are you finally going to tell me why you’ve been sneering at me all evening? I would really like to know if you treat all warlocks like this or if you’ve just got an issue with me and my way of dressing up.”
“I haven’t been sneering at you!”
Bane looks surprised by his outburst, his eyes widening minutely before narrowing in Alec’s direction again.
“Haven’t you? Because you barely looked away from me during the meeting, and if it wasn’t suspicion and resentment I saw in your gaze, then what was it?”
Alec holds himself back for a second, biting his lip to stop himself from saying something stupid he’ll regret later. He just doesn’t know what’s better; having Bane think Alec genuinely dislikes him or letting him know the truth. The first one if horrifying, but the second one is terrifying.
“That’s what I thought,” Bane scoffs, standing up and heading towards the door. This time, Alec acts before he can overthink things. His fingers curl around the warlock’s wrist and prevent him from leaving the room. He’s probably blushing even more now than he was a minute ago, and that’s saying a lot.
“I find you attractive, alright?” He blurts out, gaze fixed on the floor. “You have to know you’re incredibly beautiful, don’t you? I’ve never seen anyone quite so… sparkly, but it suits you very well and I didn’t want to look away. Is that a satisfactory answer, or do you want more?”
There’s a beat of silence, then another, and finally Alec gathers enough strength to look at Bane again. The warlock is standing in front of him, looking stunned and speechless, and Alec can’t quite believe he did this.
“You were staring at me because you find me… handsome?”
Alec nods shyly, not wanting to repeat himself. He’s not sure ‘handsome’ is the word he would use, more like gorgeous or stunning or ethereal, but a small smile twitches at Bane’s lips and he finds he doesn’t care.
“Oh,” the warlock murmurs sheepishly. “I’m sorry for accusing you of… all that, then. Is there… Shit, is there anything I can do to make it up to you?”
Usually, Alec would have said no. He would have waved Bane’s concerns away and told him not to worry about it. But the man is right there, standing in front of him with his beautiful eyes and slight pout and for the first time in a very long time, Alec wants. So instead of a dismissal, the next words out of his mouth are an offer.
“You could take me on a date.”
(Surprisingly enough, he does.)