The bedroom is dark. Even the ever present light from Alicante’s demon towers doesn't penetrate the blackness from around the edges of the curtains. Alec almost can't tell if his eyes are opened or closed. Almost. He knows they're open though because he can't sleep. He's been lying awake since he and Magnus went to bed...angry.
Alec slams the door behind him as he enters the loft. It’s late and he’s in a bad mood after an awful day dealing with Clave stupidity. Why do they have to fight him at every turn? Why can’t they see that the 'way things have always been done' is not a reason to continue to treat downworlders like second-class citizens. He thought things were going to be easier, better, once he was Inquisitor, especially since the High Warlock of Alicante position had been specifically created for Magnus. He was wrong. Today, both of those promotions seem like they were just for show. An attempt by the Clave to appear to be ‘progressive’ and ‘willing to change’, when in reality, many of the members didn’t want change. They liked things just the way they were, because they were the ones in power. They were the ones with privilege. Why change what was clearly working...for them? He was sick and tired of those people making his life and the lives of downworlders, a living hell.
He flops down onto the couch in a huff, stretched out on his back, covering his eyes with his arm to try to block out some of the light. He’s got a pounding headache from all the shit he’s dealt with today. He doesn’t hear Magnus come into the room, doesn’t know he’s there, until he feels him pick up his feet and sit down on the couch, putting his feet in his lap.
“Tough day, darling?” Magnus asks, as he begins to massage Alec’s calves.
“Yeah, it was shit.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Alec thinks for a minute then sighs. “Why does the Clave have to be so fucking difficult?”
Magnus chuckles quietly. “I wish I knew the answer to that. If I did, maybe I could have changed some things centuries ago.”
“They just fight me at every turn. All I wanted to do today, to even just START today, was a discussion about creating the Alicante Downworld Council. Jia is on board, of course, but most everyone else? They’re so stuck in their ways. If I heard, ‘We’ve allowed your husband to live here with you and even created a position for him, just to make you happy, isn’t that enough?’ once, I heard it fifty times today. By the third time I was ready to stab someone. That third time was at ten o’clock this morning.” Alec sighs in defeat and sits up, runs his hands through his hair and looks despondently at his husband. “What do I do Magnus? How do I make positive changes when it feels like I’m taking one step forward but three steps back?”
“You just keep doing what you’re doing.” Magnus takes Alec’s hands in his and looks earnestly into his eyes. “You’ve got Jia’s support, and mine, so you just continue to do what you know needs to be done. They’ll come around eventually.”
“I feel like I’m just spinning my wheels. It’s going to take my lifetime and the rest of yours before things are better.”
“You’re doing the best you can, Alexander. I know that, your family knows that, and so does the downworld. Nobody expects change to happen overnight. Like I said, a lot of us have been fighting this battle for centuries.”
“I know.” Alec says in exasperation as he rises from the couch and begins to pace the room, gesticulating wildly with his hands as he talks. “I know I’m new to this position and to the fight. The way I was raised, the way downworlders were, are, treated was just normal to me. I thought that was just how it was, how it was supposed to be. As I grew up and learned more, I formed my own, different opinion about the situation. And of course, meeting you had an enormous impact on that. I think I would have gotten to this place eventually, but admittedly, it would have taken me a lot longer. I just want things to be better...for everyone.”
Magnus stands and approaches Alec. “Well, maybe it’s time to change your approach. Maybe diplomacy isn’t the way to go. That obviously isn’t working. Just tell the Clave to fuck off. You're the Inquisitor and, with the full support of the Consul, you’re going to make the changes you want to make so they can get on board or they can get out of the way and be deruned.”
A slight laugh escapes Alec lips. “Believe me, I wish it was that simple. That I, no WE - Jia, the Alicante Downworld Council and myself - could make sweeping changes. We just can’t. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.”
“Hmmm, well, after the centuries of pain they've caused the downworld it's about time someone crashed their little holier-than-thou party and smacked them in the face with some truth. Better if that someone is from the Downworld. Now that I’m High Warlock of Alicante, I may just go down there tomorrow and do it myself. I've had enough of their shit. I’m used to the way they treat downworlders, but the way they're treating you, one of their own, that’s too damn much.”
“I appreciate your support, and agree with you, but you can't do that Magnus. That would put me in a really bad situation. I could be fired, lose the position as Inquisitor. My reputation is also at stake. I can’t risk it.”
Magnus looks at Alec questioningly. “Is that all you’re worried about, your position and reputation?”
“Of course not. But it's a big part of it. I can’t afford for us to be ruled by our emotions. I've worked too hard to get where I am to have you knock it all down in one moment of weakness.”
“Weakness?” Magnus flinches as if Alec had slapped him. He can’t believe those words just came out of Alec’s mouth. “Excuse me? WEAKNESS?!?! After everything we've been through and what we’ve been trying to build here? The changes we've been trying to make, together, within the council, you think fighting for what I believe in is a weakness? Standing up for the downworld and for you, my husband, is weak? Wow. I really thought we'd gotten past all of this ‘emotions cloud judgement’ and ‘I’m just following orders’ business. Apparently not.”
“That's not what meant and you know it.” Alec says flippantly.
“Do I? Hmm, I don't know. My weakness may be hampering my ability to READ YOUR DAMN MIND!”
Alec cringes. He isn’t sure how they went from ‘how was your day?’ to having an argument so quickly. “Magnus, I’m just trying to do the best I can here.” He reaches out to try to touch Magnus’ arm but Magnus quickly pulls away before he can even get close.
“Don’t touch me. I'm not gonna stand here and listen while you try to explain my weakness to me. I'm going to bed. Maybe I’ll let you try to explain it to me in smaller words in the morning.”
Magnus spins on his heel and storms off to their bedroom. “Magnus!” Alec calls to him but the only answer he receives is the resounding slam of the bedroom door.
Alec stands slack-jawed in the middle of the living room as he waits for the reverberations to end. Clearly, Magnus needs some space so he waits for an hour or so before attempting to go to bed too.
Alec gently opens the bedroom door. He can see Magnus lying in bed facing the door and Alec’s empty side of the bed. He pads softly towards the bed but before he can do or say anything, Magnus turns away from him angrily. Alec sighs then goes to the bathroom to get ready for bed. When he comes back out, Magnus is in the same position. Alec can't tell if he’s still awake or not but decides that if Magnus can play this petty game then he can too. He pulls back the covers and none too gently or quietly flops into the bed yanking the covers up over himself as he tries to find a comfortable position, his back turned towards Magnus.
He doesn't know how long he’s been laying there, stewing over the fight and staring into the darkness. The space between them in bed feels as wide as the Hudson River. They’re both still lying on their sides, facing away from each other.
Alec can’t take it anymore so he rolls over gently and quietly in case Magnus is asleep and whispers into the dark, "Magnus? Babe? Are you asleep?"
He hears a huff of breath. "Yes."
"Aw, come on Magnus." Alec itches to reach out and turn Magnus to face him but he doesn't.
Magnus sighs. "Of course I'm not asleep. You're so far away I might as well be in this bed by myself. You know I don't sleep well when you're not here. Plus, I hate when we fight." Magnus turns then of his own accord and waves his hand quickly, causing a soft glow to light the room.
“I do, too.” Alec takes a chance now and reaches a hand out to Magnus. Thankfully, Magnus takes it. Alec rubs his thumb on the back of Magnus’ hand as he talks. “I’m sorry, Magnus. I didn’t mean that my job is more important than standing up for what is right or that you are, in any way, weak. Far from it. You’re the strongest person I know. I’m so proud that I’m your husband.”
“And I, you.” Magnus responds.
Alec continues. “I’m sorry I took my frustrations out on you. That wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right. You were trying to help and I made it all about me. It was as if I had learned nothing from the last year and a half. I promise, I have learned and I’ve changed, for the better I hope. There’s nothing I want more than equality and respect for all of the Downworld...except for your love and support, which I need to do better at earning.” He looks at Magnus seriously. “I really am sorry Magnus. Can you forgive me?”
Magnus takes a moment to study Alec’s face. He can see the sincerity in his eyes. “You’re forgiven. You have my love and support. Every day. Always. Thank you for apologizing. I owe you an apology, too. I’m sorry for being so brash about the Clave then getting snappy with you. Nothing gets resolved that way. I should have offered some suggestions that were actually helpful.”
“I guess neither of us handled that in the best way, huh?”
“No we didn’t. Now let’s get some sleep. I’m exhausted. We can figure the rest of this out in the morning.”
Alec pulls Magnus towards him and wraps his arms around him. “I love you so much. I promise that I’m going to work on being a better husband and communicator every day.”
“I love you, too. And I’ll do the same. Relationships take effort, right?” Magnus winks to him.
“Right. And I’m all for effort.” Alec grins back to his husband.
“Me too.” Magnus leans in and presses a chaste kiss to Alec’s lips then waves his hand again to envelope them back into darkness. “Goodnight my angel.”
Alec snuggles up to Magnus and kisses his forehead. “Goodnight, love. I know we’ll eventually be able to make all the changes that need to be made because we’ll do it together.”
Alec falls asleep to the sound of Magnus’ steady breathing, secure and content in the strength of their love for each other.