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The art of finding a soulmate

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“Really?!” Alec groaned, trying to pull back as Jace dragged him by his elbow towards the tackiest storefront he had ever seen.

Sandwiched between a seedy nightclub and a boarded-up shop, absolutely everything about the place screamed fraud . Above the door hung a sign reading ‘Magnus Bane - Tarot Card & Psychic Readings’ in elegant curly writing. The window was dressed in sequined curtains and on the red velvet-covered display sat a collection of odd objects, including an array of tarot cards, several Buddha heads, and a skull within a pentagram. The flashing neon “OPEN” sign hanging in the door only added to the sense that this place was a scam. It was 3 am. What sort of legitimate psychic was open at 3 am?!

‘There’s no such thing as a legitimate psychic’ Alec chastised himself mentally.

“Jace! No!”

He realised too late that in the time he’d been glaring at the shop in scorn his brother had already pushed open the door, causing the little bell above the door to tinkle and alert the owner to their presence.

With a sigh, Alec followed him inside knowing that he absolutely could not trust drunk Jace around strangers at all.

The inside of the store was slightly less tacky than the window display would have suggested. The air was heavily scented with incense. It should have been overpowering but Alec found the deep, woody scent strangely relaxing.

The shop itself was organised chaos. Drapes of reds and golds hung from the ceiling. The light was just soft enough to create atmosphere while still enough light to allow Alec to take in the entire room. Clothes racks lined the sidewalls, jammed with mish-mashed items of black lace and deep purple silks mixed in with bright coloured patchwork fabrics. In the centre of the space stood an array of bookcases and glass display cabinets full of trinkets and jewellery.

Spotting Jace leaning up against a clothes rack, pressing his face up against the material in a catlike fashion, Alec figured he was staying out of trouble. For now at least. Stepping up to a bookcase, Alec perused the titles on display. Everything from The Meaning of Witchcraft to books on Pagan Gods featured. A bright yellow cover caught his eye. Snorting he picked up A Dummies Guide to Demon Summoning and leafed through the first couple of pages, raising his eyebrows at the ridiculous sketches of various devil-like characters.

“Oh, that one’s entirely nonsense, I assure you.”

Alec jumped at the sound of a smooth voice from behind the counter. Looking up, his cheeks heating with embarrassment, as a man emerged from the shadows. Alec’s heart fluttered in his chest. Approaching the counter was a handsome man with golden brown skin that shimmered under the lights, his eyes were lined with kohl giving him a feline appearance as he studied Alec.

“The real demon summoning rituals I keep in the back,” the man gestured behind him, giving Alec a peek of his toned chest beneath the purple silk shirt that was unbuttoned almost to his navel. His chest was littered with silver necklaces of varying styles and lengths. Everything about this man was entirely too alluring. Alec felt intoxicated just from his presence.

“I, uh I see,” Alec stuttered, unable to break away from the man’s gaze.

“Well, I can’t have just any old tourist summoning a Prince of Hell into this dimension can I?” He asked with a wink.

Jace stumbled back into view. Alec groaned internally and quickly shoved the book back on the case. Stepping forward, he was ready to spring into action should his brother’s drunk tendencies towards destruction make themselves known.

“You need to help my brother,” Jace slurred, “Tell him how to find love.” He leaned precariously onto the corner of the wooden counter towards Magnus, who’d stepped back a little with a look that fell somewhere between annoyed and alarmed.

“I apologise it’s my brother’s bachelor party and he’s a little drunk,” Alec quickly jumped in, all the while cursing Jace internally. Of course, he would choose now to reach the sentimental stage of drunk rather than the aforementioned chaos. Alec would almost rather have to foot the bill if Jace broke everything in the shop than deal with the ‘You deserve someone special in your life ’ speech.

“Just the two of you? Your brother doesn’t have many friends it appears?” the man’s voice was musical with laughter.

“Oh no, all our friends just didn’t last this long. I stayed mostly sober to try and keep him from getting arrested days before the wedding. His fiance would lose it if anything went wrong this close to their big day,” Alec explained, wondering why he was suddenly sharing basically their entire life story.

“I see,” the man quirked his eyebrow slightly, his lips raised in a slight smile. “Well, you’re in luck. Finding people love is my speciality. I have a couple of options we could try. We could try the traditional methods of looking into your future. Like tea leaves, the crystal ball or tarot of course. But for you, hmmm.” He raised an elegant finger to tap against his lip.

Alec was momentarily distracted by the urge to kiss this stranger. ‘ Stop it’ he chastised himself. He’d only had four beer, why was he reacting like this?

“Yes, I’ve got it. For you, I think a soul sketch will be best.” The man clicked his fingers, “Follow me, gentlemen. Let’s see if we can find you your perfect match.”

He turned with a graceful twirl and led them through a beaded curtain into a back room which was a little less gaudy than the main shop. Comfy armchairs sat around a coffee table, which they were urged to sit at. The walls were lined with yet more bookcases - these containing leather tomes of varying ages and states of disrepair. Alec squinted trying to read the titles on the spine but all were written in cursive script and too faded to read in the dim light. They were exactly what he would expect a crackpot who tried to summon demons to store on his bookshelves though.

“Would you like tea?” their host offered as he flitted around the room, collecting various items.

“No, uh, we’re good thanks,” Alec said wondering how the hell they ended up here and more importantly, how the hell they could get out of there. This man may be attractive, but he was also clearly an eccentric.

“No problem. Now why don’t we start with your name?” the man suggested.

“I’m Alec, this is Jace,” Alec introduced trying to ignore Jace leering next to him.

“Alexander, wonderful. I’m Magnus.”

Alexander’ Jace mouthed at him, a shit-eating grin plastered across his face. Alec felt his cheeks flushing. While he couldn’t deny that the name coming out of Magnus’ mouth sounded seductive and made his heart rate pick up slightly, he mostly wanted to sink into the floor in embarrassment. Why did his brother have to be such an idiot all the time?

Ignoring the glare Alec was currently sporting, Magnus set up a small easel on the table between them and sat himself down at the chair next to Alec. He’d angled the easel in such a way that the two brothers couldn’t see his work - only adding to Alec’s overall unease.

“So, how does this work?” Alec asked, trying to keep his tone light. He didn’t want to offend Magnus with his scepticism.

“It’s quite simple really, we sit here and enjoy each other’s company while I draw the image that the spirits present me with. And we hope that your brother doesn’t vomit on my Persian rug.”

Alec’s eyes widened in panic and he looked over at where Jace was slumped over the arm of his chair, head lolling and a thin line of drool falling from his mouth. Pulling out his phone, he snapped a quick picture - he was best man, after all, it was his duty - before pulling Jace upright by the back of his shirt. Jace let out a loud snore at the movement before slumping his head forward against his chest and continuing to sleep.

“I’m sorry about him. He’s a complete mess, but I’ve never known him to throw up from alcohol so your rug should be safe,” Alec looked up at Magnus through his eyelashes with a soft smile.

“I’ll take your word for it. Now, shall we begin?” He clapped his hands together drawing Alec’s attention to his long, slender fingers tipped with glittering black nail polish and adorned with rings on every finger.

Alec’s mouth went dry - he didn’t know what it was about these hands but they were incredibly attractive. He wanted to feel them pressed against his body. He wanted to know what the contrast between warm skin and cool metal would feel like grabbing his ass. Blinking and trying to clear his mind of his silent reverie, he nodded.

Magnus opened a tin of drawing pencils that were laying on the table, selecting one and began sketching.

“So, if you don’t mind me saying, you two don’t look much like brothers.” Magnus’ tone was politely curious.

“No, but I’ve known Jace all my life. He’s as much my family as my actual siblings are at this point.” Alec explained.

“You obviously care for him a lot,” Magnus commented, not looking up from his drawing. His eyebrows were furrowed in concentration as his pencil scratched softly at the paper in front of him.

“Most of the time, yeah.” Alec grinned, “Times like this it’s more questionable though. He can be a giant pain in the ass. But that’s just Jace - he’ll act like a complete dick at the most inappropriate moments but he’s also one of the most fiercely loyal people I’ve ever met. His heart is in the right place and his intentions usually good, even if his actions are slightly questionable at times.”

“Loyalty is an important trait. It’s good that you’ve got someone like that in your life,” Magnus murmured absent-mindedly. His head tilted to one side slightly as he stared at his drawing. Grabbing an eraser, he made an adjustment to something that Alec couldn’t see before continuing to sketch in small but precise looking movements.

Alec was so lost in his observation of the alluring artist that he didn’t respond for a moment. Clearly sensing that Alec had lost the train of the conversation, Magnus took it upon himself to move on.

“So, your brother seems to think you need help in the relationship department. Which, if you don’t mind me saying, is quite surprising to me.” He eyed Alec up and down, making him squirm slightly in his seat.

“I don’t need help,” Alec grumbled. “My siblings are just of the opinion that being single for five years is not good for me. Apparently, I’m ‘lonely and bitter’ and ‘have too high standards’. They don’t even listen when I tell them I’m OK with my life just as it is.”

“OK doesn’t sound that enthusiastic though? Sounds like they could have a point.” Magnus’ tone was lightly teasing, though still bordering on polite. From anyone else, Alec would probably have taken offense but Magnus was charming enough that he could pull the teasing off.

“I have a great job, great friends, great family. Well, great siblings. My parents are… Interesting shall we say.”

“Parental relationships tend to be like that,” Magnus chuckled gently.

“My life is pretty full as it is. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything really.” He shrugged.

“It’s not a case of something being missing per se, but more the ‘extra’ that having someone to share things with brings. But that’s where I come in.”

Alec didn’t really know what to say to that. He was highly sceptical that one middle of the night trip to a psychic was going to result in a happily ever after for him. Though he was finding himself genuinely enjoying Magnus’ company so at least it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

For someone who made a living ripping off grieving and lonely passers by Magnus was surprisingly warm and genuine. He seemed to really care about making sure Alec found happiness. It also helped that he was exactly Alec’s type. Alec could at least enjoy looking at him, despite the weirdness of the situation.

They lapsed into a comfortable silence. Magnus continued to add to his drawing, occasionally pausing to stare contemplatively at his work or to smudge something with a delicate stroke of his finger.

As time ticked on Alec found himself growing more curious. He had no idea what Magnus would come up with. He didn’t seem to have any reference photos hidden anywhere so was he just drawing a face from memory or did he really believe the spirits were guiding his hand?

Alec realised with a groan that they hadn’t actually said anything about what his type was at any point. Magnus was probably sketching a beautiful woman that he would assume would be Alec’s dream girl. Worrying his lower lip between his teeth, Alec decided it was probably too late to point out that whoever his soulmate was, they should definitely be male. He hoped he wouldn't look too disappointed when Magnus revealed his art and it was inevitably going to be very wrong.

“You look nervous, Alexander,” Magnus pointed out. He was sat back in his chair now, sketchbook clutched to his chest. Alec hadn’t even realised he had finished drawing.

“Well, surely it’s quite a big deal finding out who the love of your life is going to be?” Alec laughed awkwardly.

“I hope that’s true,” Magnus murmured. “Are you ready to see your future?”

Without waiting for a response Magnus turned the sketchbook around for Alec to see.

Alec’s first impression was that Magnus was a truly incredible artist, why he was wasting his time faking it as a psychic he had no idea. OK so he wasn’t an art expert, but considering how quickly Magnus had pulled together this portrait he must be talented.

Furthermore, Magnus clearly had a skill for reading people. Alec didn’t think he’d been particularly obvious this evening but Magnus had read him well enough to draw his soulmate as male. A handsome male with hair styled up in a high quiff,kind-looking eyes and strong cheekbones. His supposed soulmate had a neat goatee emphasising his jawline, the lips were drawn in a soft smile. In fact, his ‘soulmate’ looked remarkably familiar?.

Alec glanced between the drawing and the artist a few times before it dawned on him what he was seeing.

“Is that- is that a self-portrait?” he asked hesitantly.

“Not my best work I’ll admit,” Magnus tilted his head to look at the paper still held out in front of him, “But I thought the resemblance was good enough for the avoidance of doubt at least.”

Alec barked out a laugh, loud enough to startle Jace awake.

“What? What did I miss?” the blond asked, suddenly alert and to attention.

“Nothing,” Alec tried to say, just as Magnus responded.

“Well, your brother was just about to tell me what he thinks of my predictions for his future.” Magnus winked at Alec continuing, “So, Alexander, are you free on Thursday at 8?”

“Yes,” Alec mumbled, suddenly feeling shy. At Magnus’ raised eyebrow he responded with more conviction. “Yes, 8pm Thursday is great.”

“Get in there brother,” Jace cheered.

Magnus’ responding smile lit up his entire face. Alec couldn’t help but grin back at him, even as he elbowed Jace in the ribs.

He was still pretty sure psychics were nonsense, but hey, he was willing to give this whole soulmate thing a try.