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Between the Lines

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This double life I lead isn't healthy for me
In fact it makes me nervous
If I get caught I could be risking it all


“Good morning, Alexander!” The sing-song voice trills softly just above the rush of cars and hollering of early New York mornings. Alec isn’t normally a morning person, not until he’s sitting at his desk with his piping hot cup of coffee and breakfast biscuit. Normally he doesn’t have Magnus dangling a delicious blueberry muffin and coffee from their favorite bakery on 5th street.


“Absolutely not,” Alec mutters as he snags the muffin out of Magnus’ grasp.


Scandalized, Magnus presses a palm to his chest and falls into step beside him. “I haven’t said anything other than good morning!”


“Whatever it is, the answer is no.”


There’s an eye-roll, Alec’s sure of it, but he won’t give Magnus the satisfaction of witnessing it. It’s too early, and Magnus is still holding his coffee hostage. 


“Hear me out at least,” Magnus begins, as they continue the trek to the office, a towering building several blocks from Alec’s apartment. Morning walks to work don’t normally include Magnus, who lives significantly closer, and the only occasions that have brought him to Alec’s apartment building were birthdays, bad days, or favors. It’s not Alec’s birthday, and Magnus seems chipper enough in the early morning, so it’s not hard to pin down exactly where this conversation is going.


If Alec’s lucky it won’t include Magnus asking for his help with a new crush, some oblivious man or woman who happens to have caught his eye this month. It never ends well, and Alec can feel little bits of his heart cracking with each new endeavor Magnus sets them on, each new way to lure someone who isn’t Alec into his bed.


“You know how I received that letter from my father a few weeks ago? About wanting to reconnect?” Alec nods. “Well we’ve been talking, just a few phone calls here and there, he likes to hear about my life, and—” Magnus bites his lip, but doesn’t continue.


Brow raised, Alec offers him an encouraging nod and takes a bite of his muffin. The way Magnus’ eyes keep peeking over to him and averting does nothing to ease the nerves that start to chill up his back. Magnus is being weird, and he’s suddenly not sure if this is about a favor after all. Has his father said something offensive, or has he threatened Magnus? It was odd when he received the letter out of the blue, no prompting or explanation other than the lengthy (and elegantly penned) ‘Hey I’m your dad, sorry for being MIA all your life.’


“Magnus,” Alec encourages, hoping to bring forth the words Magnus is valiantly trying to keep from him.


“He wants me to come visit him for the week.”


“And that’s… not good?” Alec inquires around the pastry in his mouth. The sound of their steps still beat against the concrete of the sidewalk in synchrony, and the city buzzes around them in the early morning. Cars honk, people rush past in a hurry, and steam rises through the grates of the sewers in puffs, but still Magnus hesitates. 


After several tense seconds that push Alec closer towards grabbing his best friend by the shoulder and shaking the words out of him, Magnus responds in a quiet voice. “He wants me to bring my boyfriend.”


Alec feels his brows furrow on instinct, feels the scrunch of his nose as he keeps his eyes steadfast in front of him. “You don’t have a boyfriend.”


Magnus expels a small laugh, more of a huff of air than a full sound. “Yeah, but he’s come to the conclusion that I do.”


There’s more to it, he can tell, but Magnus isn’t giving up the information without some prodding, and as much as Alec doesn’t want to submit to Magnus’ ploys, the curiosity is going to drive him mad. “Why’s that?”


Magnus has the decency to duck his head and peek up shyly at Alec with a sideways glance. “I may have told him you were.”


Surprise hits first, then confusion, and then a twinge of anger and Alec’s suddenly thankful that Magnus still holds the coffee between his hands, because he surely would have dropped it at that admission. 


He doesn’t realize he’s stopped in the middle of the sidewalk until someone bumps into him from behind with a muttered curse that Alec is too preoccupied to retort back to. Magnus stops too, more graceful in the way he turns to face Alec. “Why in the world would you tell your father we’re dating?”


The words must come out harsher than he intends for them to be if the hurt that flashes across Magnus’ face is any indicator, but it’s quickly washed away with the pink tint of embarrassment. “Well you know that we’ve been talking, and he’s trying to get to know me and he’s showing an interest in my life,” Magnus trails off, swaying a bit. Alec stays quiet, refusing to respond to the call of Magnus’ silence. “You’re my best friend, so I mention you often, and he just kind of assumed, I guess.”


“And you didn’t correct him?”


Magnus snaps his eyes up to meet Alec’s. “What was I supposed to say?”




The air between them feels suddenly thick, too warm for the chilly morning breeze that whistles by and ruffles the tuft of Magnus’ hair. Alec feels the ticking of his anger growing the longer they stand on the sidewalk, but he’s still waiting for a response that will give him some sort of insight into what the fuck Magnus was thinking.


“I haven’t seen my father since I was a child,” Magnus begins, words slow and purposeful. He’s looking down now at the space between them that’s less hostile than the disappointment on Alec’s face. “I know it probably seems stupid, but I want this to work out. Making him feel silly for assuming something that everyone else always assumes when they meet us didn’t seem like a good foot to start off on. Not everyone can grow up with both of their parents, as damaged as that relationship may be now, Alec.”


He didn’t know what he was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t the tug of guilt and sympathy gnawing at his chest.


With Magnus standing in front of him, shuffling in his spot and astutely focused on anything but Alec, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal after all. Magnus is his best friend, he knows everything there is to know about him, who better to bring as a stand-in boyfriend than Alec? Besides, he knows how much reconnecting with his father means to him, and if Alec can help guide that along in any way, he’d kick himself if he didn’t try.


“Magnus,“ Alec ducks his head, bends his knees in an attempt to catch Magnus’ gaze, but he turns away.


“It’s fine, really. I’m sorry I didn’t set him straight, I promise I’ll do it as soon as—“


When words don’t work, Alec plucks the coffee out of Magnus’ hand and brings it to his lips. It’s still hot and tingles where the heat seeps in, but it’s a successful distraction.


“I’ll do it,” Alec says, when Magnus finally meets him with a questioning look.


“You’ll… do it?”


Alec snorts, turning to face their previous route with the coffee pressed to his lips. Magnus falls into step beside him once more, and in his peripheral he tries not to notice the beaming grin Magnus is fixing him with, and the way it pulses something heavy in his chest.

The more he thinks about it, the more he realizes pretending to be Magnus’ boyfriend for a week is actually a terrible idea.


In the 4 years he’s known Magnus, there was always some favor, always some questionable situation he had gotten himself — and by association Alec — into. But this? This is new territory, this is something Alec never thought he would have to worry about before, a disaster in the making. 


And he willingly volunteered.


Okay, maybe not willingly if the hunch of Magnus’ shoulders and refusal to look at him had anything to say about it. But he can’t blame him, not really. All Magnus has ever wanted was to feel like he belonged, to feel like he wasn’t so completely alone in the world. Losing his family at such a young age and being thrust into the sort of problems that no kid should ever have to face was bound to skew his sense of self-worth. Despite the confidence Magnus exudes, all he wants is to be unconditionally loved and cared for. 


It was a silly notion for Alec to believe that his friendship, his love alone, is all Magnus would need to feel at peace, that Alec alone could help ease the desire for some semblance of normalcy in his life. 


It’s why they work so well together, perfect complements from day one. 


Magnus has always been the eccentric one with endless ideas and blatant disregard for the rules, and Alec has been there to pick him up when he falls from too high up and shatters. And Alec will continue to be there for as long as Magnus needs him, as long as he’s wanted.


Surely there’s a limit to how long Alec can sit on the sidelines and pretend he’s not in love with his best friend.

There are endless opportunities Alec has to tell Magnus that he’s changed his mind, that he doesn’t think it would be appropriate for their friendship to pretend for any amount of time that they’re dating. On Friday when Magnus walks back to his apartment from work so they can hash out the plans, Alec opens his mouth to say just that, to let out all the excuses and reasonings that had been stewing from the week of contemplation.


But then Magnus turns to smile down at Alec from the top steps of his stoop as he fishes out Alec’s spare key from his messenger bag, and suddenly the words remain forgotten, locked away and hidden from the brightness of Magnus’ happiness.


But it’s okay, because the next week he’ll have more opportunities, more chances where Magnus isn’t bouncing with excitement and worry and nerves. Chances where Alec isn’t having to reassure him through the phone late in the evening that it’s going to be fine.


He’s going to make sure that he doesn’t get distracted by the sparkle in Magnus’ eye when he becomes animated over what Asmodeus’ house looks like, or if they’ll instantly click. He won’t let himself be taken away by the scrunch of Magnus’ nose when he smiles or the ring of his laugh in the corridor at work when he comments on the wrinkles in Alec’s brow when he’s thinking too hard. And he definitely will not forget that he needs to breathe when Magnus leans in close and the air becomes warm around them as he jokingly calls Alec his boyfriend.


Alec is really good at making these plans, at making decisions and designating himself tasks he fully intends to see through.


Alec is also just as good at failing each and every one of them. 

The weekend comes quick, and with it the beginning of their week-long bad idea.


They take Magnus’ car, as insistent as Asmodeus was that he send a driver to pick them up, and it’s a short two hour drive before they’re pulling up to the wrought-iron front gates of Asmodeus’ mansion. The ride was easy, filled with Magnus’ playlist of dance songs that had him bouncing the whole way in his seat, and Alec tapping his foot along to the beat. They talked, they laughed, they quipped back and forth about what the week would bring, but Alec couldn’t seem to settle the dread that hung low in his stomach.


It’s not that he’s afraid to meet Asmodeus. In all honesty, he just doesn't know much more about him than what bits of information Magnus has supplied him with, which is admittedly more than he expected, but his opinion of the man started long before he became an actual part of his best friend’s life. Alec remembers vividly a year into their friendship, one drunken night after Magnus had just been dumped by his then-girlfriend Camille when he had leaned against Alec and asked if he was truly so unlovable. 


It had been a lot to process that night, solemn words slurred into the air about Magnus’ past, about how Asmodeus had left him and his mother unexpectedly, about the impact it had on his ability to handle anything long-term. 


“You’re the only stable relationship in my life, Alexander.” Magnus had said so long ago, weary from the liquor and tears. 


It had hurt to see Magnus like that, to see how far down the gaping hole for being loved really went, to see the structure beneath Magnus self-worth barely held together by rusty nails and decayed wood. And as much as he knew then that Magnus was far more broken than he let on, it never hindered him to keep trying, to keep pushing himself again and again until he found someone new to love him.


All the while Alec remained by his side, long given up on the days where his tiny crush had blossomed into a full, brightly burning flower of love that ached in his chest for Magnus.


It had gotten easier, drunken shenanigans and almost-confessions had become his normal for a few years, until he resigned himself to the fact that if Magnus wanted him it would have happened by now. How many times had they sat on Alec’s stoop, pretending to see the stars through the fog of New York lights, Magnus’ head on his chest and Alec’s arm around his shoulder? Too many to count, and still Magnus had always pulled away from the lean of Alec’s face, had always been the first to break contact and stand up to face the cold instead of the warmth of Alec’s body.


Magnus made his choice to keep Alec at a distance, and Alec has to respect that.


Now, sitting in the sudden quietness of Magnus’ small car, Alec takes in the scenery of the mansion and greenery that surrounds them. As far as mansions go, it’s definitely the nicest and most expensive-looking one Alec has ever seen, albeit he’s really only seen one or two in his life. Maybe this was one of them, he’s sure that the grandeur of this whole estate has probably graced the inside of some ‘wealthiest people’s’ article before.


It doesn’t take long before Alec realizes that in his observance of the place, Magnus still hasn’t moved to leave the vehicle. The white of his knuckles are visible where he holds the steering wheel too tight, and his jaw is set rigid and resilient. “Magnus,” Alec says, reaching a hand over to rest against the firm shoulder. 


“This is a bad idea,” Magnus whispers, shaky and anxious. As much as Alec wants to agree, as badly as he wants to tell Magnus he thought the exact same thing weeks ago and that they should go back, he doesn’t. Because this is his best friend, and as scared as he is for what damage this might cause between them if they’re caught in this lie of dating, he’s even more scared for what damage this will inevitably do to Magnus if he doesn’t work up the courage to meet his father again.


“Magnus, you’ve got this.”


“Do I?” Magnus laughs with no hint of humor. “What if he hates me? What if he realizes he was right to leave me behind after all?”


“Hey,” Alec shifts closer in his seat, reaches his other hand to turn Magnus’ face towards him. Wide eyes watch him, and a line mars the brow of Magnus’ face that he doesn’t get to see often, that only burying it against Alec’s chest will smother out. “It’s gonna be fine. You’re gonna be great, and he’s gonna love you and realize what an idiot he was for leaving. And if not, if he decides in the end that this just didn’t work out, then that’s okay. Because I’ll be here by your side, always. Okay?”


Those eyes, brown and wild and searching, are finally calmed, finally settle on the corner of Alec’s lips where he’s offering a comforting smile. It makes something in him ache, makes him want to reach his thumb across Magnus’ cheek to run along his bottom lip before he leans in to kiss him, but then Magnus nods and lifts a hand off the steering wheel to reach for Alec’s. It’s only a second and then Magnus is pulling away, taking the key out of the ignition and stepping out of the car.


Alec lets out the breath he didn’t know he was holding, sits back in his seat and reels in his emotions before he steps out of the car with Magnus.


A man escorts them in, pushes open the intricate door and beckons them inside with a smile, and Alec tries his best not to stare in awe at the wealth that encompasses them.


It’s only a few short minutes of taking in the foyer and chatting with the staff that greeted them before Asmodeus is stepping into the room with a smile and arms spread out. 


“My son,” he says with all the command of a businessman and none of the warmth of a father.


But Magnus, who doesn’t know enough about familial love to be able to tell the difference, steps closer into Asmodeus’ arms and Alec has to turn away from the awkward view of their hug. 


“You must be Alexander,” Asmodeus comments, stepping forward.


Alec extends an arm and plasters a convincing smile to his face before Asmodeus can steal a ‘hug’ from him as well, “ Alec. Nice to meet you.”


There’s a twinkle in Asmodeus’ eye, a glint that Alec can’t quite place yet, but he simply shakes his hand quickly and motions to the house around them. “Shall I give you two a tour? Then you can get settled before dinner.”


Magnus nods excitedly, quickly following after Asmodeus and sticking close as he listens rapt to every word that falls from the man’s mouth, and Alec is reluctant to follow. The week has only started and he already wants it to be over with.

The tour takes a little over an hour with the enormity of the mansion, and there are so many activities that can be done inside Alec feels like he might as well be at a retreat rather than visiting his best friend’s father’s house. House doesn’t even feel like the right word to use, but mansion sounds too ancient.


Things seem to be going fine between Magnus and Asmodeus, there seems to be a natural flow between them once the formalities of their introduction have passed, and most of the tour is spent with them talking and only turning to Alec here and there when Magnus sees something he knows the other would like. 


“I thought I’d give you guys a bit of privacy during your stay here, so I’ve set up the West Wing just for you two, and I’ll be on the East,” Asmodeus says with a flourish, before stalking off with a smile and leaving them to get settled. 


Alec takes the first few steps into the room, noticing all of their things are already set down on the ground beside the door, and does a mental survey of their residence for the next week. 


It’s beautiful, is his first thought. There are wall-length windows that remain covered by dark blue curtains, and the room takes on the broody aesthetic of brown, gray, and dark blue. It’s a suite, he notices, his eyes skimming across the rugs and couches and chairs that fill the space, to the tables that are decorated with expensive looking vases and flower arrangements. The lighting is dim, not really doing much with the peek of sun through the curtains. 


Magnus ooh’s and ahh’s at every little trinket, every picture on the wall, and every mirror he passes by on his way to the open door inside the room. Alec follows slowly, happy to watch Magnus as he experiences things with far more expression than Alec ever allows himself, and it’s only when Magnus jumps onto the bed and moans into the pillows that Alec finally frowns.


In all of his worrying and stressing over if they can actually pull this off, if this was going to be more harmful to their friendship than helpful, he never considered the fact that they would have to share a bed. 




Maybe it won’t be that bad, the bed is pretty big after all, way bigger than the one he or Magnus own back in the city. It’s fine, he can stay all the way on one end and Magnus can stay on the other and they won’t even be near enough to touch.


It would be a fine idea, at least, if Magnus didn’t turn over in now-rumpled sheets with a wide grin on his face and his body twisted in the most beautiful way against the deep blue. 


Yeah, no. He can’t do this.


“I’ll uh… sleep on the couch.” Alec motions with his thumb to the other room.


Magnus crinkles his brow, sitting up quickly. Alec thanks whoever is up there watching out for him, because he doesn’t think he could have honestly been able to look at Magnus on the bed any longer without doing or saying something regrettable.


“I don’t think so! There’s plenty of room for us both to fit!” Magnus makes a show of extending his arm across the length of the bed, as though proving his point. It’s adorable, but Alec refuses to give in. 




“Nope! I refuse to let you sleep out there when there’s a perfectly good bed in here. It’s not like we haven’t shared a bed before, Alec.”


It’s a fair point, one Alec might have considered if the memory didn’t flit into his mind of Magnus sprawled across his bed back home, tangled in the blankets and lips parted in the most angelic image to ever grace Alec’s eyes. They had gone to a concert that night, had stayed out until the sun started to rise and eventually stumbled their way back to Alec’s apartment where Magnus had promptly passed out, neon streaks in his hair and paint on his face. But Alec had tucked him in, gently wiped the paint off his face with a warm washcloth and let his hand linger just a minute longer along the side of Magnus’ face when he sleepily leaned into his touch.


He hadn’t slept much, their proximity working his nerves into a tizzy until eventually the exhaustion of the day had overcome him.


There had been many other situations where they had collapsed near to each other, most frequently late nights binge watching TV in their apartments, popcorn in hand and snores escaping their mouths. Those times were easier to manage, and it had been easier to fall asleep with Magnus’ feet on his lap, or with him reclining against Alec’s side.


Because the connotations that came with the thought of sleeping in the same bed seemed a lot more inappropriate than sleeping on a couch together.


“Magnus. The couch is fine,” Alec says at last. 


Magnus pouts, but Alec’s tone halts any remaining protests.

Dinner comes quickly enough, and they only get lost three times before they finally manage to make it down to the dining room. Asmodeus is already sitting at the table when they walk in, greeting them with an “I see you’ve finally made it.”


Magnus smiles wide, sitting in the chair beside his father’s, and Alec takes the seat next to him. “We may have gotten lost more times than we’d have liked.”


“Ahh,” Asmodeus hums around the wine he brings to his lips. “I admit I still get lost from time to time. This place is too big for just one person.”


A hint of suggestion filters through the words, and Alec almost asks why he stays here alone then, but it’s not his place and he isn’t sure he’d care much for the answer.


The spread of food on the table is far too indulgent and excessive for just three people, and Alec can’t help the surge of guilt as he serves himself a plate. “Alec,” Asmodeus calls in his smooth, emotionless voice when Alec has finally gathered his food. “Tell me a bit about yourself.”


The room quiets after Asmodeus speaks, as though the walls themselves refuse to creak and make themselves known. He feels two pairs of eyes on him, and then Magnus is talking. “Alexander works for Alicante as well, though he’s in the accounting department, not in marketing with me.”


Asmodeus nods, cutting into his food with a fork and knife, spearing it and placing it to his lips before fixing Alec with another stare. “And that’s how you two met? At work?”


The imperious tone to Asmodeus’ words are not lost on Alec, and he sits straighter in his seat. “Yeah, Magnus came down to my floor and asked if there was any way he could squeeze a little more out of the budget for an additional online space he wanted to promote on.”


“Oh, and the look on his face was priceless,” Magnus adds, resting a hand against Alec’s forearm. “He was so offended that I had traveled all the way down there just to ‘haggle him for more money’! But I must have made a convincing argument, because I did get the online space in the end.”


The awkwardness in the room seems to lift, drifts away with the motion of Magnus’ hands and the sound of his laugh. It’s then that he remembers what he’s here for. He’s here as Magnus’ boyfriend, he’s here to pretend that he’s smitten and in love, not to sit here and act pompous and cold towards a man he really has no pleasure of meeting. 


Magnus needs this, Magnus wants this. 


So he makes more of an effort throughout the dinner, brushes his hands against Magnus’ during stories, and gives him more loving glances than usual. Magnus, ever the actor, always takes it eagerly and gives Alec just that much more, adds a wink or the bite of his lip, and Alec has to remember that this is a lie, that this isn’t real as much as he wants it to be.


But for Magnus, he’ll try.

After dinner they move to one of the lounge rooms where the staff has set up a fireplace with chairs beside it and glasses of wine prepared. It’s cozy and comfortable, and when Alec moves to sit in one of the armchairs, Magnus grasps his hand and pulls him down to the loveseat that sits them snugly beside each other.


He’s about to say something when Asmodeus interrupts with a sly comment. “You two are awfully cute. How long have you been together?”


Choosing to grab a glass of wine from the small table in front of them isn’t prompted by the sudden question, but Alec’s thankful for his own distraction. 


“A few years,” Magnus hums, taking the glass Alec offers him and gifting him with a coy grin that Alec tries not to let affect him.


“So it’s quite serious then.”


“Yes, very,” comes the whispered answer, though Magnus keeps his eyes downcast. 


His heart seems to have a mind of its own, and Alec’s not sure if it’s the two glasses of wine he had at dinner, or if it’s the ambience of the fireplace that casts Magnus in a magical glow beside him. Murmured words against the crystal glass don’t help, and when Magnus peers up at him with the weight of his body flush against Alec’s side, he almost wants to believe this is real. 


If Asmodeus senses any strangeness between the two of them, he doesn’t comment on it. Instead he begins to talk about some of the decorations hanging along the walls and how he acquired them, stories of traveling across the world and limitless wealth. 


It’s all very interesting to anyone who isn’t Alec, to anyone who doesn’t know that this is the man that left behind a child, who chose his career over his family. The same man who hindered self-esteem and instilled the inherent desire to be loved by everyone inside of Magnus with just one decision.


Magnus wants to rebuild that burned bridge, and Alec will respect that, but he doesn’t have to like Asmodeus.


So he sits beside Magnus the rest of the evening, quiet and complacent and warm. When Magnus speaks, his voice mellow like the wine they sip, Alec listens. He listens to stories of their adventures over the years, funny anecdotes and serious moments that their friendship has withstood. Only when Magnus speaks, it’s not of their friendship, but rather something more. And Alec wants to believe it, he wants the veil of romance that Magnus sets over their history to be reality, but he knows it’s not, he knows it’s a facade that Magnus willingly presents to his father.


It makes his chest hurt, makes the wound of his open heart for Magnus throb uncomfortably beneath his ribs. More wine doesn’t help, he’s already on his fourth glass when the room begins to feel too hot, when the hands that brush against his knee in a forced display of affection are too much to handle. 


He stands, as balanced as he can manage through the sudden wave of intoxication that hits him at the movement, and declares that he’s going to bed.


It must seem random, and he must have interrupted one of their stories, but the bubbling in his stomach pushes his legs into working, stumbles him to the door and out into the colder air of the hallway. His head feels better out here, away from the fire and the heat of Magnus against him, with taunting words that Alec knows he can’t mean but hurt just as bad anyways. 


Dim lights accent the corridor he walks down, and it’s only after he’s taken a few turns already that he realizes he doesn’t have the cognitive function to get back to their room. They could barely make it to the dining room sober, and with four glasses of wine in him now, he can barely remember which door he came from. 


After several long minutes of stumbling around, he hears footsteps behind him and turns to see Magnus, a frown etched onto his face as he seems to glide down the hall, completely unaffected by the liquor from the night. As good as Magnus looks with the roaring orange of fire on his skin, now, with the low illumination of the sconces, he looks even better. 


A hand reaches out, Magnus’ hand, and grips gently at his elbow, tugging him away from the support of the wall. “I knew you were gonna get lost,” Magnus chuckles and maneuvers Alec’s arm around his shoulders as he slides his own around Alec’s waist.


When they walk their hips brush, and Alec is acutely aware of every step they take, every flex of Magnus’ fingers that bunch into the cloth of his shirt as he guides them back to their suite in the West Wing. 


Only a few minutes have passed by the time Magnus is pushing open the door, and Alec is stumbling in, his head light and spinning. The room looks nicer than he remembers, and only now does he notice the trim around the ceiling that illuminates the room in a soft white. 


“C’mon, off to bed.”


The words don’t urge him on, but the hands against his back do, and it’s only a few steps before he finds himself sinking into the softness of the comforter beneath him. 


“Wait,” he slurs, mustering up the strength to sit up. “‘m s’pose to sleep on the couch.”


Magnus laughs as he helps Alec out of his shoes and socks, and Alec swears that time moves slower with liquor in his veins. The fingers that brush along his ankles seem to linger, brush along the skin just under his black jeans and tickle where they trace. 


He definitely must be imagining it when Magnus looks up at him from his crouched position beside the bed and says, “Would you like me to undress you?”


Oh god. Definitely the alcohol.


And it must be the alcohol that pulses his heart into an unsteady rhythm as he watches Magnus stand, watches the nimble fingers as Magnus works the buttons down his shirt. Alec can’t do this, he can’t sit here and watch Magnus undressing himself and then be expected to sleep in the same bed afterwards.


By some small miracle, in all his overthinking, Magnus has reached into his luggage for his toiletry bag and sauntered off to the adjoining bathroom with a “be right back.”


Alec groans, slumping against the pillows and pressing his fingers to the bridge of his nose where the fuzziness seems to seep into his brain. The room still spins, but when he closes his eyes it’s easier to manage, and it’s only a short minute before he’s drifting off.

Mornings have never been Alec’s favorite time of day, and it’s only with the strong heat of caffeine that he can manage to form coherent thoughts and trudge through the rise of the sun. Whereas normally there is only a general dislike for mornings, today brings forth more reasons, particularly the pounding in his head that reverberates with every hint of a thought, every attempt he makes to move even an inch. It brings him back to younger days with Magnus, back to headaches and hangovers and pills that are always more trouble than they’re worth until they finally kick in.


When he finally cracks an eye open he can see that the blinds are still, for the most part, blocking the heavy sunlight. It must be mid-morning, if not afternoon already, and though the spot beside him has clearly been occupied, Magnus is not here.


There’s aspirin on the table beside a glass of water and a note that holds a message in Magnus’ elegant scribbles. There’s food in the kitchen when you wake. Went with Asmodeus to explore the grounds.


Alec groans and pops the pills into his mouth, downing them in one gulp. Surely it’s bad form to lie in bed smothered in blankets all day when you’re visiting someone else’s home. The thought really should prompt him to get up and into action, encourage him to rummage in his luggage for clean clothes so he can begin his day, however many hours into the afternoon it already is. At the very least, he should brush his teeth.


But his stomach gurgles angry and unsettled, and Alec groans against the rise in his throat that he has to fight back down. Food is the last thing he wants right now. Sleep. More sleep, that’s what he should do, manners be damned.

A soft rustling noise stirs the beginnings of wakefulness into Alec’s conscience, bringing with it the acknowledgement that someone else is in the room.


His head doesn’t hurt nearly as much, just a vague pressure that makes him push thoughts of wine or liquor far from his wants, and the urge to throw up is no longer a constant battle. He feels better.


“Ah, you’re finally awake,” he hears from behind him where their luggage still remains on the floor. The bed sinks behind him and he feels a hand rubbing soothing motions against his back. “I thought the wine had finally done you in.”


Alec snorts, and though he doesn’t want to move from the warmth of Magnus’ hand, he turns to sit up in the bed. “What time is it?”


“A little past four.”


“Four? Fuck, I’m sorry.”


Magnus offers him a small smile. “It’s okay, I got to spend a lot of time with my father. Did you know he has a pool grotto?”


Though it’s posed as a question, Alec knows Magnus doesn’t expect a yes or no answer because there’s no way he could have possibly known that. So he smiles back at Magnus’ enthusiasm and says, “really? I bet it’s lovely, you’ll have to show me.”


That response seems to trigger a spark in Magnus’ eye, and suddenly Alec is wary. 


“Let’s go right now,” Magnus says, breathless as his hands fumble with the comforter wrapped around Alec’s legs. 


“Right now?”


“Unless you don’t want to?”


The hesitancy with which Magnus asks the question tugs at the part of Alec that doesn’t like to say no to him, the part that’s been so intricately woven into his core that associates Magnus with yes, always. He couldn’t say no to Magnus even if he wanted to.


“Let me just take a shower first.”


Magnus beams in triumph and Alec tries to squash the stutter that takes over his heart at the sight of it so close.

The path to the pool is unfamiliar to Alec, who slept way past the time for touring the grounds, but Magnus leads him with little effort as though he’s been here countless times before, as if this were his home. 


Maybe it would have been, too, Alec thinks. Maybe in another time this would have been Magnus’ future, his life. He would have grown up in the splendor of an estate like this, would have been raised to a higher standard that would have no-doubt changed his outlook and stance on all things he’s passionate about. He would have had a father, would have had parents who didn’t give up on him halfway through his childhood, who would have been there to see him through the hardships of adolescence and the blooming of his teen years. They would have been there to see him through his growth into adulthood, to witness  the personality that developed through trials and forthcomings different from the ones his Magnus has had to endure, but life-changing nonetheless.


Maybe he’d be happier. Maybe he wouldn’t scoot to Alec’s side in the evening on the anniversary of his mother’s passing every year, lamenting his losses in life, and pulling with his words every bit of love Alec wants to give to him.


Maybe he would have never met Alec.


Memories of that day flood in, vivid and still so strong in his mind of the day Magnus swept down to his floor with a self-assured smile and a sway in his hips. Words that were meant to bargain and coerce, words that were only meant to garner a bigger budget for Magnus had been wholly more effective than he ever imagined, had taken with them not only the victory he was after, but companionship for years to come. And Alec had let him, had been so blindsided by the sparkle around the kohl-rimmed eyes, had been entranced by the glittering rings that caught the light when Magnus waved his hands around to emphasize his point.


Alec hadn’t stood a chance, still doesn’t with the way Magnus shyly nudges his hand against Alec’s as they walk side by side.


For a moment, Alec forgets where he is. He forgets the situation they’ve caught themselves in, and lets his heart race with the possibility that this is the moment things change. 


He’s not bogged down by the fogginess of wine and uncomfortable fireside conversations, he’s clear-headed and alert with the sun high in the sky and beating down a different kind of heat than the one from last night. Maybe this is it.


“I don’t think the staff are fully convinced we’re dating,” Magnus whispers. Alec glances over at him, watches the way he waves to the gardener who is pruning a bush after he waves back with a curious smile. Alec’s heart sinks.


“Right,” he gulps, turning his attention back to the path in front of them. The staff. 


Magnus isn’t holding his hand because over the span of twenty-four hours something has changed. He’s only doing it to keep up appearances. Alec knew this, knows even now that this is what was expected of him going into this situation.


It doesn’t make it hurt any less.


But — no. 


He needs to stop thinking like this, stop looking for signs when there are none. He’s here to help Magnus, to be his friend and his rock when he needs him most, which is now, this whole week. He’s being selfish and letting his feelings cloud his actions, and they’ve only been here two days. He still has five more left, and he’s going to be the best damn boyfriend anyone here has ever seen.


A body of water peaks over the small incline they’ve walked up, and Magnus pauses at the top with a smile on his face that distracts from the beautiful scenery in front of them. 


“It’s gorgeous,” he breathes, and Alec wants to say ‘Yeah, you are.’


But the moment passes, and Magnus pulls him forward yet again until finally they’re reaching the edge of the water.


As much as he doesn’t want to admit it, the pool is just as spectacular up close as it is from the top of the hill. The crisp, striking blue of the water gives way to the qualities that rarely show in naturally occurring lakes, though it’s been carved into the structure of rocks that must have once been abundant here. It’s too early for the underwater lights to show, but Alec can see them through the ripples in the water just below. Off to the right is a cluster of rocks that the pool seems to be constructed around, and a small waterfall flows above it to give ambience to the grotto inside.


“C’mon, hurry so you can see inside,” Magnus murmurs excitedly as he starts to pull off his shirt.


Alec does the same, albeit slower in his process of removing his shirt, shoes and socks. It only takes a few seconds before they’re both standing in only their shorts and stepping into the pool.


The water is warmer than he expects when he steps in, and he sinks into it and away from the chill of the wind that nips at his bare chest. Magnus hums, and swims closer to the waterfall, beckoning Alec with a crooked finger that he follows willingly.


Past the waterfall lies the grotto, lit with soft blue lights from the rocks above and surrounded by the soothing roar of the gentle waterfall that surrounds it. There are steps that lead out of the pool and up to a seating area lined with couches and tables, a good spot to have a few drinks and relax between swimming.


“What do you think?”


“It’s incredible,” Alec whispers, barely a noise above the water. Magnus is watching him, he can tell. He can feel the gaze on him as he continues to take in the smaller details of the grotto, the speaker that sits up in the corner for music, and the sunlight that filters through the small cracks of the rocks up above. It’s decorated loosely with foliage, potted plants and ivy along the curves of the rocks, peeking in and out of view. Magnus watches him through it all, and continues to watch him even after, when Alec finally meets his eyes.


The look they share is wordless, but Alec can feel the stirring it brings about just under his skin, that itch to be closer, the need to be surrounded by Magnus.


Magnus must notice it too, and if not, then he must notice the steps Alec takes towards him. Surely he can see the way Alec shifts closer into focus, can see the way his chest lifts and falls with the heavy breaths he sucks in. 


Because Alec notices Magnus, catches every hitch as he takes one step, then one more until their chests are almost touching.


He’s too close, much too close to be friendly. They’ve cuddled, spent movie nights wrapped up in each other when Magnus was terrified of the horrors on the screen, have spent lazy days off with Magnus’ head resting on his stomach as Alec played Sudoku and Magnus played games on his phone. They’ve always found ways to stay close without the affecting emotions twisting the situation.


But this, this is different.


The breeze of the day still tingles where it brushes past Alec’s now damp skin, but where it brought a chill from him, now only Magnus’ presence does. 


He should step back, create some distance between them again. Why did he even get so close in the first place?


Magnus finally looks up at him from his fixation on Alec’s chest, finally meets him with a questioning gaze that holds so many words he clearly wants to say but hasn’t managed to work out yet. And how unlike Magnus that is, Magnus the one who always has a story or a comment about everything.


“If I’m supposed to be your boyfriend,” Alec manages, rumbling low and unexpected, “then we should at least make it convincing, right?”


It takes several long seconds of Magnus standing stock-still, eyes wide, before he finally nods, a minute gesture that Alec wouldn’t catch if he weren’t inches away.


It’s the small motion that urges him on, that final say of Magnus allowing Alec in for him to duck his head closer.


There’s a fraction of a moment where Alec pauses, where the rational side of him screams to stop, that this can only lead to more complications than it can help with. It will only hurt him further down the line at the end of the week when they drive back to the city and resume their friendship from where they left it back home, where it remained dormant before the obstacle of a fake relationship put it on hold.


But here is Magnus in front of him, lips parted with shallow breaths and eyes hooded as he waits for Alec’s next move, patient, understanding, surprised. It doesn’t matter that Alec can feel his heart crack with every inch he leans in, can feel it harshly beating in his chest with the ghost of Magnus’ lips so close, a hope of new beginnings and longing romance.


Who cares if it’s only for the week? What does it matter to Alec if he has to put himself back together come Friday? If it means a few days of this, a few moments with Magnus where he can pretend it’s real…


He hears his name, soft in the space where their lips don’t yet touch, quiet and drowned out by the rush of blood and water in his ears. “Alexander,” he hears, and he can’t stop himself anymore.


Slowly, he crosses that final distance between them, crosses the boundaries that their friendship held, that he clung onto so tight with white knuckles like he remembers Magnus yesterday.


And how wonderful it feels, how heavy and light his chest feels at the same time, weighed down by his emotions for so long that they rise to the surface and escape through the air he pants against Magnus’ mouth.


Magnus must feel it, must feel everything pouring out of him when he grazes his lips with gentle strokes, must feel every bit the love Alec holds for him in just a kiss. Alec wants him to, he realizes. He wants him to know, wants him to see that this isn’t just pretend for him, that it’s real, his feelings for Magnus fuel him.


So he shows him again, shows him with the slow swipe of his tongue along Magnus’ bottom lip, plump and trembling from something other than the cool wind that floats through the grotto. He shows him in the grip of his fingers at the skin of his waist where he meets the band of his shorts. Shows him yet in the way his other hand lifts to curl around the back of Magnus’ neck.


Surely, he must feel it. He has to know all the ways in which Alec loves him.


There’s a soft pressure against his chest, a warmth that emanates from the spot above his heart where Magnus rests his palm. 


Gently, regretfully, he pulls back.


He needs to see Magnus’ face, needs to make sure this is okay. 


“Magnus,” he whispers, resting their foreheads together.


Magnus keeps his eyes closed, worries his bottom lip between his teeth for a long beat, before he finally offers Alec a shy smile. “I think,” his voice comes out little more than a slight tremble, and he pauses only for a soft laugh. “I think anyone would be convinced by that.”


For just a second, Alec swears he can hear the way Magnus’ words chip at his heart, held out so openly and readily if Magnus would only look. But he buries it deeper down in his chest, past the ribs that curl around it in protection, past the hollow cavern that keeps it hidden from any other feeling of doubt that tries to consume it.


This is enough, Alec thinks to himself. Having Magnus like this, for the week, is enough.


It has to be.

The more time Alec spends with Asmodeus, the more he dislikes the man.


Where once there was feigned interest in Alec, now there’s only a general sense of distaste. The looks he gives between the two of them often end with a raised brow and sip of wine or bourbon, and Alec’s not sure if it’s an outside factor that influences the change, or if Asmodeus has caught on to the fact that Alec’s not actually dating Magnus, or has no desire to see Asmodeus be a part of Magnus’ life. Because it’s not just Magnus’ life he’s worming his way into, it’s both of theirs. Assuming Magnus gains the relationship he wants with his father, Asmodeus may be around for a long time, and if they choose to keep up this pretense of dating then Alec will have no choice but to remain civilized.


But Asmodeus… He doesn’t look at Magnus or Alec with any sort of familial affection. On the contrary, there’s hardly anything besides the stony disinterest Alec notices. 


It sets cold through him, because amidst all of this suspicion, Magnus doesn’t smother out any of the worries. Previous excitement and giddiness around Asmodeus turns more solemn, and Alec’s all too aware of the telling glances between them when he steps into a room and they cease whatever conversation had been active. 


He tries to get answers from Magnus, but he’s shrugged off or waved away. “We’re just having a heart to heart,” Magnus will say with a stiff smile.


And sometimes he’ll catch Magnus staring at him, lost in thought and biting his lip. There’s a cloud above him, heavy and weighted with thoughts he won’t give Alec insight into just yet, and Alec knows it’s best not to push it.


Even in the mornings Magnus remains quieter than he usually does back at home, and he sits and listens to Asmodeus’ plans for the day and answers questions about their stay and what they’re occupying their free time with. They’re filler questions, things said in front of Alec to take up time for the real conversation when he excuses himself. But Alec isn’t sure if Magnus even notices this through the less excited answers he gives, through the distraction that breakfast brings. Because Magnus has taken to teasing touches in the mornings, seems to find a thrill in the way he can make Alec startle and shift in his seat with a wild heart.


Asmodeus talks and talks, drab and dull with underlying disdain, and all Alec can ever focus on is the way Magnus’ fingers trace patterns along his thighs.

They fall into an easy rhythm after Sunday in the pool, a rhythm over the following days that continues to muddle and smear the lines that map out their friendship before either of them have the chance to think or talk about it.


Communication has always been a strong point between them. Whereas it’s been a cause for so many of the downfalls that life puts in front of others, it has always benefited them through tense situations and arguments that have arisen over the years. But communication, the one thing they swore to always value, suddenly flies right out the window with every hint of possibility that stems to discuss the questionable changes in their relationship.


Yes, they’re fake dating for Asmodeus’ sake, they’re two actors playing a role in a fucked up version of their lives with little to no regard for the disastrous end result.


Alec wants to bring it up, wants to set rules and boundaries like they should have done at the start, but then Asmodeus will turn to them and Magnus will thread his fingers through Alec’s and lean his head against the always welcoming shoulder. Or they’ll be having lunch on the terrace and soaking in the sun when one of the staff members will walk by and Magnus will tug him close by the collar of his shirt and press insistent lips to his that are meant to show how they can’t get enough of each other.


And each time, Alec caves, succumbs to the feel of Magnus pressed against him. Never mind the flutter in his stomach, or the swell of his chest when Magnus whimpers softly as they break away. 


It would be perfect, if it were real.

“What’s on your mind?” Magnus mumbles beside him on Wednesday afternoon in the safety of the library with the fire warm against their backs. They finished a light lunch outside an hour ago, littered with kisses and giggles and everything Alec’s ever wanted, before retreating inside. He hears Magnus’ question resonating in his head and sees the opportunity for what it is: a chance for them to talk. A chance to confess his feelings, a chance to set his heart out for Magnus to accept or deny. 


The ache that has been a near constant in his life the past few years is dulled significantly with Magnus against his side, warmer than the fire that flickers in the room. The threat of losing this, how easily it can be taken from him, hangs in the back of his mind and ultimately changes the outcome of what the afternoon could be, because instead of the words he wants to throw out at Magnus’ question, he holds back. 


“The fire is making me sleepy,” he says instead. He really wants to face these prospects that are laid out in front of him head-on, but his eyes are screwed so tightly shut because he’s just not ready to accept the potential rejection that faces him at the end of the week. He’s not ready for this to be over.


Magnus perks up at his words, disentangles himself from Alec’s hold and watches him with a secretive smile. “Wanna go for a swim?”


The words hang heavy between them, laced with intention and hidden meanings that they don’t dare say aloud. The pool — the grotto — holds more than just the prospect of swimming. It holds much more than that, more than either of them are ready to accept for what it is, more than they’re ready to admit.


“Yeah,” Alec replies, as he fumbles to get off the couch. And Magnus is with him, standing and just as eager as he reaches for Alec’s hand to lead him out of the room.


They must look crazy, Alec thinks to himself as they wave past some of the staff they’ve gotten to know the past four days, big grins on their faces and rushed steps up the hill and towards the clear water of the pool.


It takes less time to shed everything but their shorts the more frequent their visits become. Less time for them to waste before they can jump in the pool and splash at each other until they become tangled limbs and fervent kisses in the bright white of the sun.


“Alexander,” Magnus huffs when Alec slides his arms around Magnus’ waist and holds him close as he guides them under the waterfall and into the grotto. 


Alec doesn’t respond with anything more than a kiss, chasing the words that threaten to fall out of Magnus’ lips as Alec lifts them up the steps and over towards the seating area a few feet away from the edge of the water. He leans back, finds the seat of the couch with his legs first before he sinks back into it with Magnus on his lap.


The jostle of their bodies as Alec sits on the couch pulls Magnus out of the daze that swirls them, causes him to sit back and take in their surroundings. 


The fright hits him, stings ice in his body as he waits for Magnus to pull away completely, to realize that they aren’t here for anyone but themselves. Maybe if he tries hard enough, he can get Magnus to understand what he feels, he can get him to reciprocate it.


Seconds tick by, dread creeps slowly into his stomach and settles where there used to be a pleasurable twisting. Then finally, Magnus leans back in.


They move slower now, taking the time to explore each other’s mouths with tentative tongues and hesitant lips. It’s more intimate, more genuine than in the water. They’re no longer hiding beneath the curious eyes of the staff, opening up to each other in the solace of the grotto that illuminates in gentle blue hues the shapes of Magnus’ face as Alec leans back to take him in.


He thinks he sees a flash of concern, worry etched onto his features that he’s sure he’s mimicked earlier. It passes in an instant when Alec lifts a hand to cup Magnus’ face, brushes his thumb along the warmed cheek in slow strokes until Magnus leans into the touch.


This is it. This is the perfect moment for him to confess his feelings to Magnus. 


Four days of gratuitous kissing is surely a big enough sign, but for good measure he should just vocalize it. 


So, he tries.


“Magnus,” Alec flits his gaze along every curve of his features, soaks it all in and relishes in the small smile that curls the corners of Magnus’ lips. “Magnus, I have to tell—” 


“Alec, shit!” interrupts Magnus, as he shimmies off of Alec’s lap and steps back into the water, wading through it and motioning for Alec to follow. “I forgot Asmodeus was going to introduce us to someone. We’re late!”


The way the words spill out of Magnus are abrupt and suspicious, his retreat too hasty to be a coincidence. He thinks back on the breakfast they shared with Asmodeus and tries to recall a mention of this meeting with a colleague as he follows Magnus back into the pool and out of the grotto. 


There, in the recesses of his memory he does remember the name Lilith being tossed about, he remembers agreeing to meet her, although he forgets anything else that was said because that was when Magnus had rested his hand on Alec’s knee, and then higher, to his thigh without warning.


Well, damn. 

“I was beginning to think you boys had forgotten about us.”


The words greet them as soon as they step into one of many lounge rooms, this one occupied by Asmodeus and a woman who turns to them with narrowed eyes. They’re both sat elegantly and poised across from each other, wine in hand and conversation stilted and static in the air above them.


Have they walked in on something?


“Out for a swim?”


Lilith motions to their damp hair that they very quickly toweled off in the room before rushing to meet them in the lounge. At least they’re not still dripping and soggy with pool water.


“The pool is lovely, as is the grotto,” Magnus offers to Asmodeus with a smile, and Alec swears he can see the hint of pink on his cheeks. The grotto likely brings back activities that are perhaps not appropriate to bring up in front of Asmodeus or his colleague.


Asmodeus smiles and takes a sip of the wine in his hand, before motioning to Lilith. “Lilith, meet my son Magnus and his boyfriend, Alec.”


The words are concise when they leave Asmodeus, unpleasant in their exchange as though Lilith is less the colleague they were told of and more a competitor. Something doesn’t sit right.


Magnus doesn’t notice, or if he does, he shows nothing of it as he extends a hand that she shakes lightly. “Pleasure to meet you, Lilith.” 


Alec repeats the motion, though not as warmly as Magnus, and the feel of her cold fingers only exacerbates the uncertainty of it all in his mind. 


“The pleasure is all mine, gentleman,” she smiles, political and every bit as unwelcoming as she seems to radiate. “And must I say, you make quite a pair.”


They take their seats in the empty chairs, and Magnus ducks his head with a smile. “Thank you, it’s been an adventure.”


Lilith hums but says nothing more about their relationship, choosing instead to turn the conversation to Asmodeus and the topic they must have been discussing before the interruption.


“As I was saying, the timing is unmistakably convenient.”


There’s a pause as Asmodeus swirls the wine in his glass, choosing to focus his attention on the dark liquid and only bringing his gaze up to Lilith as a second thought, hardly an effort given to her despite the regal posture with which she holds herself. She looks important, at least to Alec, with her long dark hair straight and flowing along the silvery sheen of her dress, striking red on her lips as she smirks and keeps her gaze trained on Asmodeus.


“As convenient as it was the untimely passing of Adam?”


The question sparks a glare from her, and she straightens in her seat to regard him with a scowl. “Leave my dear husband out of this,” she seethes, but Asmodeus is unfazed.


“Late husband,” he corrects.


Well, they’ve clearly walked into something.


“Magnus,” Lilith snaps her attention away from Asmodeus, her lips forming a tight line. “Dear, how long have you been a part of the family business?”


Beside him, Magnus bristles. “Long enough.”


Lilith raises both her brows at Magnus’ reaction, and Alec looks between them all wondering what the fuck he’s missing. What exactly is this family business? All Magnus ever mentioned was that Asmodeus handles money for the wealthy. He clearly knows something Alec doesn’t, and only now does he realize how little Magnus has actually told him about his chats with Asmodeus between the first letter he received and now. 


Even Sunday, touring the grounds and spending the majority of their day together while Alec slept fitfully and hungover in bed, who knows the conversations they got up to, what topics were discovered that Alec will never know of. Nobody but himself is to blame, of course, but the fact remains that Alec has continued to let everything remain hidden from him, secrets he’s clearly not learned in the short amount of time Asmodeus has become a part of their lives.


With the way Lilith is watching him, lips pursed and eyes squinted with only the hint of amusement at whatever she finds in his passive face, she knows he’s oblivious.


“And what about you, Alec?”


He’s about to respond, when Asmodeus interrupts with the curt clearing of his throat. “My son’s boyfriend is none of your concern, Lilith.”


There’s something in the way the words are spoken, thrown out so indifferently that makes annoyance prick at the back of Alec’s neck, makes him want to rise and stand from his seat. He wants to ask questions, ask what the fuck is he missing and why is he the only one left out, but then he remembers it isn’t his place.


It doesn’t matter the way Lilith tries to goad him into a response with the upturn of her lips, or the way she quirks a brow as if to say something sly. Alec remains quiet and accepts the gentle comfort of Magnus’ hand against his knee. 


Luckily, the conversation doesn’t last much longer, Asmodeus ushering Lilith out with a synthetic smile and a request to meet again soon. There are words unspoken in the hasty narrowed eyes they exchange, before she’s out the door and being escorted to her chauffeured vehicle.


The air that settles in her absence is awkward and uncomfortable, but nobody comments on it, nobody acknowledges it, and part of Alec wishes they would. He just wants to understand.

It’s late into the evening when they finally make it back to their suite in the West Wing. 


“God, I’m exhausted,” Magnus yawns, stretching his arms above his head as he steps towards the bedroom. Alec watches him, but doesn’t follow, choosing instead to fluff the pillows that he left on the couch from his sleep last night.


It’s only when there’s a cough from the doorway that he looks up from getting his arrangement of pillows ready that he turns back to Magnus, who he suspects just came from the bathroom.


“What’re you doing?”


Alec frowns, motioning to the mess of pillows and blankets. “I’m getting ready for bed?”


“You’re not sleeping on the couch again,” Magnus huffs, “the bed is plenty big enough for the both of us.”




Alexander,” Magnus interrupts, stern and fixed with a quick glare.


He should put up more of a fight, he knows he should. The only reason he had fallen asleep with Magnus the first night was because he was heavy with the slumber of intoxication. But now? Now he’s cognizant of every move Magnus makes, completely aware of every shift of his muscles when he moves his arm to wave Alec over before he steps through the door and back into the room.


He shouldn’t go. He really needs to be more adamant about these boundaries they’ve been skirting over and ignoring completely. 


So it’s with traitorous legs that he stands and follows Magnus into the bedroom.


...and promptly swerves into the bathroom so he can slam the door shut because fuck fuck fuck, Magnus stripping for bed is not the vision he needs to calm his already frazzled nerves.


One look in the mirror shows Alec exactly how fucked he is. 


From the wide, dilated eyes, to the unnecessary tremor in his hands that he runs through disheveled hair from the near constant action, he clearly looks like a mess.


This is a bad idea. It’s a terrible idea. It’s a worse idea than agreeing to be Magnus’ fake boyfriend for a week. No, okay, maybe that was the worst idea because it led to this. Regardless, a bad idea.


In and out, steady breaths, you can do this Alec.  


It’s only Magnus.


Quickly, he turns on the faucet, brushes rough against the skin of his gums with his toothbrush, and splashes cold water against his face. Times like these, he wishes his nighttime routine were as long as Magnus’, because now, with cautious steps, it’s time to face his problem.


The room is already dark when Alec steps out of the bathroom, the only light coming from the moon and stars outside the exposed window behind the shoved aside curtain. It casts a soft light on Magnus’ bundled up body under the comforter, and Alec moves to the luggage he knows to house his pajamas so he can change as quietly as possible.


Magnus makes no noise, offers no friendly banter or conversation, and the eerie silence makes him wonder if he’s already fallen asleep. But when the bed dips with the weight of his body, Magnus turns to him with a shadowed smile that Alec can barely make out in the darkness. 


“Hi,” comes the soft whisper as Alec settles his head onto the pillow. 


“Hey,” he responds, just as quiet.


Magnus says nothing more, only reaches hesitantly to the space between them with an outstretched palm. It’s an invitation, one that Alec can choose to ignore if he wants, one that he really shouldn’t accept because there’s surely a meaning behind it that he doesn’t understand. 


Magnus’ eyes find his across the bed, and Alec wishes for a moment that the lights were on so he could understand the blurry expression that he can’t quite make out in the dark. He wants to know what secrets Magnus holds in these looks, what goes on behind the curtain of those eyelids when he exhales a deep breath and closes his eyes. 


Alec doesn’t know when he’s lifted his hand to meet Magnus’, doesn’t understand what prompts the desire to scoot closer that he doesn’t try to fight, or the reciprocated movement of Magnus’ body shuffling towards him. 


There are a great many things Alec doesn’t understand, so many questions today alone about what the hell happened in the lounge, or why dinner was such a quiet event when Alec had stepped into the room. The past few days have brought stilted conversations when he’s around, and he’s not sure if he’s done something wrong or if he’s just not welcome to family secrets anymore, family secrets that didn’t even exist until a few weeks ago when Asmodeus forced himself into Magnus’ life.


It hurts that Magnus has both kept him at such a distance, and brought him impossibly close at the same time. He feels the whiplash of thoughts and emotions when Asmodeus is present, wordless stares and double meanings hidden in seemingly innocent conversation, but all of it with the slow brush of Magnus’ hands against his back, hand, or knee, as if to keep him complacent. 


Magnus curls his fingers around Alec’s wrist, sneaks another hand from under the blanket to brush light fingers along the top of Alec’s hand in a steady motion. If he felt any bit of the exhaustion that hung over him earlier, he’d surely fall asleep with the feel of Magnus’ hands on him. The harsh pounding of his chest makes it improbable that he’ll sleep anytime soon, that he’ll manage more than a few hours of effective sleep.


Even more so with the way Magnus tilts his head down to nuzzle his nose against their joined hands and murmur a quiet “ Thank you” against his skin.


No, thank you, he almost says. 


You’re welcome, he should say.


He settles for the gentle pressure of his palm against Magnus’ cheek, because he knows Magnus isn’t seeking out a response.


Sleep doesn’t come easy, the heavy burden of love crushing his ribs as Magnus drifts off with steady breaths against his arm keeps him up later than he’d hoped. But when it does, it brings with it peaceful dreams of the face he’s come to love, the feel of Magnus wet with pool water, and lips shining with kisses. It brings dreams of words he doesn’t have the courage to say aloud, thoughts brought to life and blooming in the space between them, and it doesn’t matter that he only manages it after an hour of laying awake and taking in the smoothed features of Magnus asleep. It’s worth it.

The morning is bright when Alec finally stirs awake.


The bed is empty beside him where Alec swipes a hand, cold and unused for at least an hour. If the set of the sun, bright but still low in the sky is any indication it’s still relatively early. So he sits up and rubs the sleep from his eyes before getting ready.


He hasn’t missed breakfast, but he has missed something when he pushes open the closed door of the dining room. Magnus and Asmodeus are huddled close, peering over a stack of papers that Asmodeus shuffles through and flips over face-down when Alec makes his presence known.


“Alec, good morning.”


Alec squints, glancing between the two of them, and then the stack of papers, before sitting himself beside Magnus with a still-sleepy greeting. 


“My father has a board meeting to attend this evening, so I was helping him look over a few things before then,” Magnus explains, though he gives no more insight to the papers than that. “We were going to go for a hike before lunch, would you like to join us?”


On Alec’s list of things he wanted to do this week, going on a hike with Asmodeus is definitely not there. His first instinct is to say no, but the way Magnus smiles over at him and rests a hand atop his changes the words as they leave his mouth. “Sounds fun.”

Hiking is, decidedly, not fun.


Maybe it would be, Alec thinks, if Asmodeus weren’t here. Instead of the quick pace that Alec struggles to keep up with, he’d be able to explore leisurely with Magnus, who never seems to be in a rush for outdoor activities. But now, even Magnus seems eager with hurried steps to keep up with Asmodeus. ‘My father,’ he had said this morning. 


It sits in him something bad, something creeping and dark and festering.


“Keep up, Alec,” Asmodeus calls behind him with a small smirk. “Wouldn’t want you to get lost along the way.”


Alec groans inwardly, feeling the beginning tingle of the burn of his muscles as he takes wider steps to match Asmodeus. If he wasn’t trying to think positive, he’d almost believe Asmodeus wants Alec to get left behind, to fall so far back that he’d just have to walk to the mansion and wait for them to return. Alec refuses to give him the satisfaction.


The hike is fairly quiet, aside from snarky comments from Asmodeus, arrogant chuckles when Alec trips on a rock, or lets out a heavy sigh when they pause to take in the scenery. It grates on his nerves, pushes up words of retaliation, words that intend to sting and insult, but don’t because of the look Magnus gives him.


Eventually, they reach their destination.


It’s a long bridge scaling the side of one of  the mountains, overgrown with trees and shrubbery along the man-made path. Underneath it all lies a small river, and high above roars a waterfall that cascades out and over the bridge and into the water below. 


“That’s incredible,” Magnus breathes out excitedly, and Asmodeus hums content. 


“Isn’t it?”


Fingers brush against his, curl and thread into the spaces between, and then Magnus is guiding him closer towards the waterfall until they’re standing under it with the ricocheting droplets spraying against their faces and washing away the exertion from the hike.


Asmodeus steps closer, but doesn’t join them, choosing instead to focus on the clusters of rocks at the end of the bridge. The expression he wears isn’t one of appreciation, but rather one of possibilities. He isn’t looking at nature the way Magnus is, isn’t reveling in the feel of cool water spraying down on him and enjoying what it all has to offer him. He watches it to tame it, he watches it with calculation and numbers and angles until he envisions what he wants.


He looks at the rocks the same way he looks at Magnus, and it chills Alec’s spine when Asmodeus notices his scrutiny. 


Alec doesn’t avert his gaze, though. He refuses to accept defeat in this puzzle piece he’s figured out, chooses instead to persevere until he unlocks all the secrets Asmodeus keeps hidden inside his cold, callous demeanor. And he sees the way those dark eyes shift, the smirk that pulls at his lips when Magnus steps closer to Alec, when Magnus rests his forehead against Alec’s cheeks and raves about how gorgeous the waterfall is and how he’d love to stay here.


Asmodeus doesn’t look at Magnus like the son he claims he longs to reconnect with, but rather as a pawn in this game he’s playing, in which Magnus is likely clueless. 

The trek back is a lot easier, but with the easier pace comes the longer strides Asmodeus takes. 


“Can you slow down?” Alec grumbles, more to himself than anyone else.


But Asmodeus hears it, and turns on him in an instant, looming towards Alec in a way that holds no regard for the fact that Alec is naturally taller than the hill even gives him the advantage of. “Having trouble keeping up?” He asks, “do we need to take another breather for you?”


Alec wishes his lungs weren’t ragged with over-use, and burning with the ache of needing a break, just so he could prove Asmodeus wrong. But they are, and the rise and fall of his chest gives way to that which he wishes he could keep hidden, gives way to the heavy puffs that are now a combination of anger and exhaustion.


“No, I don’t need a break, I just need you to stop going so damn fast!”


Magnus steps closer, tries to work his way in between them with hands raised and words ready to cut in, but Asmodeus is quicker. 


Alexander,” he bites out, and takes a step around Alec, another step higher until he’s the one with the height advantage. “If you can’t handle the pace, perhaps hiking isn’t for you.”


What the fuck?


This isn’t the Asmodeus that greeted them at the beginning of the week in the massive foyer of his mansion, or the Asmodeus Magnus speaks so fondly of when he’s not around. This man is different, this man with sharp words and a darkness in his eyes that tinges the edges of his face with something terrifying. This man looks like someone Alec doesn’t want Magnus near, someone he would never consider to be a father.


It suddenly doesn’t feel like they’re talking about hiking anymore, but something more akin to the turbulence that seems to stew between the three of them. Something has changed in the past few days, something has shifted that has turned Alec into the outsider, rather than Asmodeus. Whatever happened that day Alec slept in has had an inexorable impact on the dynamic in this moment.


Alec turns to Magnus to see, if just for a moment, he notices it too. He hopes for some insight on what just happened in the span of a few minutes, but Magnus stares desolate at the ground, at the rocks and weeds that sprout from the earth beneath them. 


Magnus knows something, has allowed this change and possibly even encouraged it right along behind Alec’s back. It's a thought he doesn't want to accept, but the way Magnus averts his eyes offers no other answer.


“Maybe you should go back home,” Asmodeus snarls, as elegant as evil.


The next step he takes forward is a step Alec takes back, only his foot doesn’t connect flat with the ground, it slips on rocks angled down, slips and catches in a dip that he would have seen had Asmodeus not rounded on him like an animal to its prey.


Time feels slow as Alec stumbles backwards, and he's hyper aware of the tendons and muscles of his ankle that pull taught with his graceless fall back, and thankfully it’s just a misstep and not a tumble down the hill. The knowledge doesn’t make it hurt any less, doesn’t prevent him from keeling over as he grips tightly to the pain that shoots up his leg and into each carpal of his feet. Magnus is there, in a quick movement, crouching down to press a tentative hand to Alec’s ankle that helps less than it hurts with a cry of his name.


And through it all, Asmodeus smiles, bares his teeth in the definition of contempt. In less than a minute, Asmodeus has successfully taken Alec out of this game he’s playing, has pulled ahead to an unrivaled victory, and Alec still doesn’t know what he was fighting for or against.


“We need to get you back, can you walk?”


Magnus’ words tremble beside him, and Alec’s not sure if it’s with worry for his friend, or anger that he did nothing to stop it. 


Best not to dwell on it, Alec supposes. Best to just stagger his way back to the mansion and pack his belongings, because he’s clearly no longer a welcome guest.

Asmodeus is already gone by the time Alec gets steady footing, opting to resume his brisk pace alone. With Magnus’ help, he manages to stumble his way back quicker than expected, though the journey is filled with angry huffs and hisses of pain that neither of them have the ability to do anything about.


There are only a few half-formed sentences along the way, each one shot down by an exaggerated grunt on Alec’s part, because he can’t stand the thought of having a heart to heart with Magnus while he’s limping back with his tail between his legs.


He'd be lying if he said his ego wasn’t bruised, that he didn’t feel foolish at being lorded over by Asmodeus and his best friend doing nothing to stick up for him. It hurt, seeing the way Magnus shut down and did nothing but raise his hands to stand quietly as his father spat hate in his direction without the actual words of it leaving his mouth.


“Alexander,” Magnus begins again, the tenth time in the past thirty minutes as they pause at the steps that lead up to their suite.


“No, Magnus.”






Perhaps he’s being unfair.


Perhaps he should let Magnus talk to him, maybe then he would have some fucking idea about what’s being going on between the poolside kisses and secret conversations that Magnus has been filling his days with. 


All he wants to do is sit down and just think.


He wants to think without the distraction of Magnus’ hands on his waist, helping him walk a normal pace. He wants answers to all the questions in his mind, he wants results that don’t bring more complications and queries. Honestly, he really does just want to go back home.


He wants the safety of the city. He wants noise that never stops, noise that makes it easier to process by drowning out the overabundance of straying thoughts that cause overthinking.


He wants the low hum of cars driving by, the beeping of computers and clacking of keyboards at work, the silly rush he gets when he finds a way to efficiently budget and his coworkers pat him on the back.


He wants Magnus in more ways than their friendship allows, in ways he’s greedily stolen under the pretense of fake relationships, memories he wants to hold close to his heart and pray that someday they won’t be just that.


As angry as he is, and as much as he wants to be alone, he’s thankful for the strength Magnus provides as they slowly take trepid steps up the stairs, as he continues to guide him until Alec is finally slumping back onto the bed, sheets straightened from when he made them up before breakfast.


Not without hesitation, Magnus finally leaves, and Alec sighs in relief.


Being around Magnus for so long, in such close proximity with the ghost of his lips still haunting him — it’s too much. It’s more than he ever expected, and yet not enough because now that he’s had it he craves more.


In the solace of the bedroom, Alec slowly removes his shoes and socks, taking the time to examine his ankle and poke and prod lightly at the now swollen appendage darkening with the onset of a bruise, and slight scrapes. It’s not that bad, and though it hurts now, it’ll be a quick heal. It’s nothing compared to the painful thrum in his chest.


The plan to relax for the rest of the night and pack his bags to leave early the next morning is thwarted only ten minutes later when Magnus saunters back into the room, an ice pack in hand and a cloth bandage in the other. 


“What’re you doing?” Alec eyes him warily.


Magnus rolls his eyes, scooting onto the bed to sit beside the injured foot as he carefully lifts it onto his lap, making quick work of wrapping it tightly with the bandage. “I’m fixing you up,” he says, matter-of-fact.


The protest is quick to fall upon his lips, but the stern gaze Magnus levels him with stops it in its tracks. “Fine,” he expels a breath, before sinking into the cushion of the pillows beneath him. Magnus’ hands on him, comforting in ways he’s begrudging to accept, do help soothe the hurt from earlier. Here, in the bedroom, Magnus offers what he couldn’t before.


“I’m sorry,” Magnus says to the tender ministrations of his fingers wrapping the bandage. “I should have said something earlier.”


Alec hums and closes his eyes, wishing, hoping that they could avoid this conversation just like all the others they’ve managed to dodge the past few days. 


“It was certainly eye-opening. I didn’t realize you and your father had grown so close already.”


The words are bitter and spiteful, and he’s sure Magnus flinches, but he refuses to look at him. There is cold pressed to his ankle, barely felt at first through the cloth, but the pressure that accompanies it helps relieve the stinging pain. 


“Alec,” Magnus sighs, the warmth of his palm against Alec’s leg hot in contrast to the cold compress only a few inches away. “It’s not that, it’s just —“


Alec waits, remembers a few weeks ago when Magnus had stood in front of him in a crowded street on an early morning, hesitant to admit what he knew Alec wouldn’t approve of. Maybe that’s his own fault, quick to rush in and be angry, making Magnus hesitate at every turn of bad news. 


No, this isn’t his fault.


“A lot has happened, I’ve learned a lot the past few days. I have a decision to make, and I’m not sure I’m prepared to make it yet.”


“Are you going to tell me, or are you going to continue to be cryptic?”


Again, Magnus sits in the silence of his thoughts, sits with information as he tries to decide the best course of action with which to convey them. “Can we,” Magnus begins, “can we not talk about it tonight?”


There’s a moment, just a beat, where Alec wants to say no. He’s been after answers for longer than he remembers having questions, he’s been sitting on the sidelines while Magnus goes on without him, and still Magnus wants him at a distance.


“Fine,” he manages through the clutch of something painful in his throat. 


Gently, Magnus moves his leg to rest back on the bed as he shuffles closer to Alec’s side. It catches his attention, and he opens his eyes to peer over curiously. Magnus watches him, and Alec wonders what he sees. Can he see the painful lump of emotions Alec’s trying desperately to swallow with every sweep of Magnus’ eyes along his body? Does he see the fatigue in his limbs, in his heart, from giving and giving and never stopping to think about the irreparable damage it’s going to cause? With eyes that bore into his own and the downward curve of Alec’s lips, can he see the longing and sorrow that Alec manages to hide and bury in stoic expressions and callous attitude?


Magnus must realize that the way he leans closer does nothing to appease the nerves that swim in his stomach, the nerves that long for his touch, that desperately seek out affection in any way Magnus chooses to give.


And he gives it now, in the barest brush of his fingertips along Alec’s cheek, in the soft breath that shakes against his lips that he takes for himself, locks away inside of him another piece of Magnus. It can’t be real, he tells himself over and over again. This can’t happen, this can’t be anything more than a fantasy that Alec wants to cling to forever. 


In the privacy of their bedroom, it’s harder to rationalize. 


It’s harder to believe that the pressure of Magnus’ lips against his own aren’t intentional, that they’re not meant to be. Because here in this room, who are they showing off to? There are no staff peeking around corners, no doubtful eyes watching them across the grounds as they splash around in the pool. Even reading in the library brought the occasional pointed stare when they sat at opposite couches instead of curled together.


Now, with no witness, Magnus kisses him.


He kisses with purpose, long and drawn out, rhythmic and steady and provoking. And Alec reciprocates with his heart on the line, bared and open and willing, so willing, only for Magnus. He kisses back because he needs this just as much as Magnus needed him to pretend. He feels so deeply, so strongly, emotions locked up so far down in the depths of his heart that only his best friend can string out.


Choosing not to remain limply against his side, Alec’s hand lifts and cups the back of Magnus’ neck, pulls him closer, draws him up until Magnus is sliding a leg over Alec’s body and straddling him. 


It’s not perfect, there are awkward angles they have to adjust, mispositioned arms that shake out and reach and clutch until they get it right. Hands that wander, hands that press insistent fingers against sweat-dried shirts until they’re lifting and bunching and exposing the skin beneath them.


Magnus moans when Alec’s hand lifts along his arm, grips at his bicep and follows its path along the strong shoulders until it’s descending along his back, exploring the muscles that hide under Magnus’ shirt. He wants to take his time, wants to enjoy this in the moment and never let it end. He wants to stay here sprawled along the bed with Magnus on top of him until his lungs no longer work. The throb of his ankle is now only a faint sensation in the back of his mind, overtaken by the feel of Magnus’ body against his, shifting above him and under his fingers that dance along the small of his back.


It’s almost more than he needs, more than he ever expected Magnus to give him this week. More than he wants to admit he wouldn’t be able to live without now.


Having Magnus like this, for even just a second, is far worse than wanting Magnus for the past 4 years.


It’s worse in ways that make no sense, worse because now that he’s had Magnus, now that he’s felt the way Magnus angles his body against his as he seeks out pleasure, he doesn’t want to remember what life was like without it.


Alec doesn’t want almost-confessions, long nights drinking and dancing at the club and heartfelt conversations on his porch where Magnus always pulls away too soon. No longer can he live with the thought of Magnus peering down at him as he fiddles with the key to Alec’s apartment and not be forced to take that step up to bring their lips together.


There’s a whimper above him, lost in the space of Alec’s mouth where he soaks in all of Magnus’ noises, and then another roll of his body before he’s pulling back to tug Alec’s shirt over his head. He complies, taking the invitation to pull Magnus’ shirt too, tossing it across the room to be forgotten.


Magnus is quick to react, his lips pressing a bruising kiss to Alec’s before they trail across his jaw, dipping into the space of his neck where he puffs hotly against the skin and nips and licks until Alec is moaning and tilting his head back. His hands, from their reclaimed spot along Magnus’ back sink lower, follow the curve of his body until he’s firmly grasping his ass and shifting up to meet the movement Magnus settles against him. 


It’s reckless, feverish and stutters the way they move together, the room hotter than the sun that beat upon them on the hike this morning. It’s all and not enough. The fleeting thought to stop crosses Alec’s mind, sparks at the feel of the hardness pressed against him that shoots pleasure through his bones. It’s gone as soon as it comes, a trace of it already fading away with the sinuous way Magnus writhes above him, with the way he moans wanton and needy as he sucks a bruise into the skin of Alec’s neck.


As he lifts, Magnus pushes. They give and take, and push and pull, breathe in and out together until the pants that come hot against his neck are gasped into the parted lips of his mouth. Magnus tenses, balances for just a second before he tips over the scale of his pleasure and moans into Alec’s mouth, taking with him any control Alec had on the shreds of his own orgasm. 


They come together, come undone, and the stickiness of sweat and sated feelings rumbles something low in the back of Alec’s throat. Magnus crumples beside him in an instant, chest heaving in lungfuls of air as he tries to regain his composure. 


What the fuck was that?


The lump in his throat is back, annoying and ready to cause trouble, bringing with it the doubt that cools in the sheen of sweat from their actions. Where had that come from? What happens next? Does Magnus regret it?


Does.. Alec regret it?


His head feels dizzy with worry, yet more questions to add to the mountainous pile that threaten to teeter over until they spill out from his mouth. But his eyes feel heavy. The pleasure still pulses in his veins, twisting in his system the endorphins that lull him into closing his eyes, the gentle hum of sleep that tugs him down. Questions can wait, Magnus can wait, because right now the only answer Alec has is sleep.

The day must pass quickly, because Alec opens his eyes to the sun low in the sky, not quite set.


He stretches languorously, his muscles sore and aching from hiking and —


And Magnus.


Magnus, who’s not here.


Groaning, Alec sits up and grimaces at the dried mess of his body, the disgusting layer of sweat and sex and confusion that radiates off of him. As graceful as one can be with a sprained ankle, Alec lifts himself off of the bed and grabs a clean pair of clothes before hobbling to the bathroom.


The water is hot when it hits him, steams up the bathroom and washes away the grime, taking with it every ounce of indecision the week has produced. 


Hopefully he can talk to Magnus tonight, and sort out this mess they’ve tangled themselves up in. After earlier, Magnus must feel the same about him. Right? The water clears away the mess, but it doesn’t dispel the gnawing in the pit of his stomach, the one that berates him for not protecting his heart, the one that knows he should have said no to Magnus’ request. 


It’s an interesting thought to wonder what would have happened if he said no. Would Magnus be here alone? Perhaps he would be having a better time, maybe he and Asmodeus would be able to discuss freely the secrets they hide from Alec. Maybe it would have been better.


Regardless of possibilities, Alec is here. He’s here, and ready to talk through the newfound peaks in their friendship. He’s ready to tell Magnus how he feels, to lay it all on the line and pray that he feels the same.


His chance comes sooner than expected, because when he steps out of the bathroom, freshly washed and toweling his hair dry, Magnus is sitting on the bed with a tray of food and a shy smile on his face.


“Hey,” Alec says, mid-step.


“Hi,” Magnus offers softly, ducking his eyes to the plate in front of him and patting the space next to him. “We slept past lunch, and it’s almost dinnertime, so I thought I’d bring what I could up and we could watch TV, so you don’t have to walk?”


Alec hears the intonation of a question in Magnus’ words, as though he’s unsure if he made the right decision, so Alec smiles reassuringly and hangs the towel before he hobbles to the bed and settles himself next to Magnus, leg spread in front of him.


They sit in silence while they eat, Magnus flipping through the channels of the television that hangs on the wall, unused in their trip until this moment. They watch some insipid reality show for the first ten minutes, before changing to an action movie that they try to make sense of, until they settle for a cooking show competition. 


“I think I could win one of these,” Magnus chimes around a piece of bread.


“Easily,” Alec agrees. “I think I could, too.” Magnus snorts, turning unbelieving eyes to Alec who feigns shock. “What? You don’t think so?”


Magnus laughs, shaking his head and nudging Alec’s side with his elbow. “Not a chance, Lightwood. Remember, I’ve eaten your cooking, I know firsthand the horrors of your stews.”


For good measure, Magnus shudders. 


“Hey! Your memory can’t be trusted, you were sick, and that stew helped you get better, you even said so yourself!”


“I said that so you’d stop feeding it to me!”


The gasp that escapes Alec he hopes conveys the surprise and betrayal, but it must not, because Magnus throws his head back and laughs, loud and unfiltered, and Alec feels the warm smile that spreads across his lips at the sight. He wants to continue to feign anger, wants to let the mirth and joy last all night. He wants to stay like this forever with Magnus, carefree like they always have been, before the tribulations of meeting Asmodeus, and disastrous hiking took over. 


The laughter slows to a chuckle, then a hum, and finally Magnus turns to meet his look with one of his own. His eyes, always expressive and open, caring and offered to anyone who needs it, are an enigma that Alec hasn’t been able to solve. They hold something behind them, some new fog created by the father he never had, a new puzzle inside of him that Alec just needs the right key to unlock. 


This is it, he thinks. This is the time to tell Magnus. 


He wants it to be, at least.


In the space of his hesitation, Magnus turns back to the television and lightly pats Alec’s hand where it rests on the bed between them.


“If it were a competition for French Toast,” Magnus sighs dreamily, “then you would win ten times over.”


The moment vanishes as quickly as it appeared, and though Magnus’ words still pierce Alec’s heart with their compliment, he can’t help but feel frustrated with himself.


Another time, then.

They stay up late into the night laughing and watching TV, reminiscent of times back home in the safety of Alec’s apartment that they’d spend huddled together on the couch and taking bets on the winner of whichever competition show they decided on that night.


It’s comfortable and familiar, no awkward silences, no wandering thoughts.


Not until Alec hobbles back into the room after brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed, a task Magnus has already managed as he shifts to get situated under the thick blanket. The thump of his feet against the floorboards seems thunderous in the thick silence of the room, laden with uncertainty.


This — this feels awkward.


Alec clears his throat, scoots in under the blanket and stares up at the ceiling. Earlier had been fun, and earlier than that had been - well, it had been something . But now here they lie, both quiet, both contemplating the next move. Neither one wants to budge, neither one wants to put the words out there, but it’s been a long time coming and somebody needs to. 


The lump in his throat is back, nagging, pulsing, threatening.


What does he say?


Magnus I’m in love with you, I have been since you stormed over to my desk and demanded a more flexible budget.


Magnus, I know I’m your best friend, but I can’t help how I feel.


Magnus… I don’t want to lose you.


I don’t want to lose you...


The words suddenly feel foreign, they feel misplaced in his head and not quite ready to be said aloud. It’s almost ironic, because he’s been vowing to say these things for years, been trying all week to get them to just vocalize, and the one opportunity, with no interruptions, is when they refuse to listen.


The bed feels too small right now, and Alec wonders if he should go back to the couch. His ankle hurts, but it still might be worth the pain to get away from the stifling silence that fills the room. 


He wonders if Magnus feels as lost as he does right now, if he, too, is searching for the right words. Curious, he turns to look at Magnus, to see if he’s just as conflicted, and he’s met with the deep frown and furrow of neatly styled brows. 


“Magnus,” he calls out, barely even a sound. Magnus doesn’t move, doesn’t say anything, and the only confirmation that Alec knows he’s been heard is the twitch of that brow so bundled together and crinkling Magnus’ face. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”


Magnus swallows then, and slowly lifts his eyes to meet Alec’s. “I’m glad you’re here with me.”


There are a plethora of things Alec can say to that, a million and one variations of different scenarios that have played out in his head on nights like these where the space between them seems infinite and suffocating at the same time. “Always,” is all he manages, just a croak of a word that bursts out of him in a rush.


Magnus smiles, softens his features and spreads out his palm like he had last night, open and accepting of Alec in all versions of himself. 


When they touch, it ignites the spark of hope he has allowed himself to keep kindled low and ready, waiting for Magnus to fuel and fan the flames. And Magnus does. He fuels it with the hooded eyes that linger in front of him, that search his face and wait for a sign that Alec wants this too, wants this just as bad as he must. Because Magnus won’t be alone in his want, won’t suffer in the silence that threatens to snuff him out. He isn’t, because Alec is here and curling his fingers into the hair at the back of Magnus’ neck.


This kiss is different, this kiss is passion uncontained and fiery, hope that surges high above them and croons low around them. It rises and falls, draws Alec closer and pulls Magnus in until they’re pressed together at last. They shift and twist, tangle together in unceremonious kisses until Magnus tugs Alec above him as he concedes to the necessity of his lungs. 


His body responds to Magnus, sings with the joy that threads through each and every drop of blood in his veins with Magnus pressed against him, with every swipe of his tongue as he licks into Alec’s mouth. It’s so different from adventurous affection in the pool, distinct and contrasting the chaste pecks and urging kisses to keep up appearances. So far from the furtive touches and morning distractions, because now Magnus’ hands roam freely.


They fist in Alec’s hair, scratch painted nails along his naked back, seek out more with every second that passes. And Alec is willing, just as eager to explore and learn each new facet of Magnus in the dark of night that he’s never been privy to before. Because Magnus kisses him, hot and desperate, and Alec wants to cocoon himself in it, wants to know nothing more than this.


At the first gasp for air, Alec seizes the moment to brush his lips lower, to trail kisses down the slope of Magnus’ neck, elegant and twisting beneath him until he’s sucking at the nook that meets his shoulder, pulling whimpers and moans with just the swirl of his tongue. He could die right here, and be content. He could spend his last minutes listening to Magnus below him, feel the shift of his body as he seeks out contact.


Instead, he moves lower, kissing his way down the already bare chest, smoothing his fingers along the curves of muscles and the planes of Magnus’ chest that he’s always longed to touch, just like this. It’s a wonder he ever lasted as long as he did, years existing next to this body of art, self-restraint overworked and wrought. He wants to know all of him.


He continues in his descent and ducks his fingers under the waistband of Magnus’ pajama pants before raising his eyes to meet Magnus’, hazy and filled with lust.


“Magnus,” he breathes, his words ghosting across the ridges of muscles, his fingers twitching with the need to expose more. “Can I?”


“Y-Yes,” comes the hasty reply, lower and raspier than Alec's ever heard from him before. 


Magnus’ voice — his words — dazed and eager and ready for the next step, the fan to his flame, is what roars to life that fire inside of him.


With a swift, but careful motion, Alec tugs the pajamas down, pulls with it the boxers beneath and affords himself long shameless seconds to take in the sight of Magnus before him, seductive as he squirms in anticipation.


Magnus is stunning. 


In the light of the moon, Magnus shines, overflows with beauty in the most magical sight Alec has ever seen. 


In one fell swoop, they’ve crossed the line they’ve been dancing around, stomped on it and buried it far below the guise of friendship. But Alec doesn’t care, because he can’t be bothered to feel anything other than the hot heat of desire that threatens to consume him the longer he stares. 


Alexander, ” Magnus whines, and Alec lets out a low groan as he buries his face against Magnus’ stomach. He’s not sure he’ll even last if they go much further than this.


For so long he’s wanted this, wanted all of Magnus for himself, rather than sit on the sidelines in hope that someday Magnus would see him. And now he has him, has Magnus so deliciously beneath him, shifting as Alec traces fingertips along the side of his hips, following the lines of his muscles until he reaches his destination. 


When finally Alec grips at the base of Magnus’ hardened length, he moans, loud and deep and urging. “Alec,” Magnus moans again, when Alec twists his wrist. “Alec,” again, when he slides a slow stroke up from the base to the tip. “Alexander,” when he brushes his thumb along and all around the head, smearing the pearled drop of precome that greets him.


“Magnus,” he hums back into the delicate skin under Magnus’ cock. There’s a hitched breath above him, a signal of pleasure that’s encouraging and thrilling, and he flattens his tongue to the spot, and licks up. 


Magnus keens from above, high and vibrating, shuddering when Alec follows the length of his cock until he’s taking all of him in, sucking the head into his mouth with a moan.


It’s almost enough to make Alec come himself, unassisted by anything other than the sound and feel of Magnus in his mouth. He’s wanted this for so long, needed Magnus in every way that all self-control has been shot, his nerves fried and sloppily put together with receptors that only receive Magnus.


“Please,” he hears Magnus whisper. “More.”


Alec grips the base of Magnus’ cock and sinks down further to take him in, reveling in the sounds his actions produce. Magnus bucks his hips up, seeks out more and Alec has to hold him steady with his other hand as he bobs his head in a slow rhythm, relishing every twitch and twist that shudders through Magnus' body.


Years of wishing and hoping that maybe he'd finally get his chance to be on the receiving end of Magnus’ desire, to be the one Magnus entrances with every suggestive wink and dance of seduction. He’s wanted to pull Magnus apart so expertly, needed so badly to be the one that makes him come undone, over and over until he’s shaking and puddled in pleasure.


And now he can, now he is, because with each shift higher, Magnus steps closer to the edge. Every inch of Magnus that Alec takes is another inch he creeps towards in the climax of his orgasm.


It’s only when Magnus lets out a high-pitched call of his name, and presses hurriedly against Alec’s shoulder that he pulls away with a worried glance.


Has he done something wrong? 


They haven’t even finished, but is Magnus already regretting it?


In a rush, Magnus jumps off of the bed and begins to rummage through his toiletry bag, only furthering the speculation of rampant doubt that grows in Alec’s thoughts. It only takes a few seconds before Magnus is pressing something into Alec’s hand and climbing back onto the bed, wiggling his way back down to his former position.


It’s… a bottle and foil?


Magnus is watching him, fidgeting and nervous with his bottom lip sucked between his teeth, waiting. 




With a slow, steadying breath, Alec pops the lid open and squeezes a generous amount of lube onto his fingers, warming it before he presses them to Magnus’ entrance. He can feel the tense of Magnus’ body, can see in the darkness the way his shoulders are set and almost rigid, and he’s about to ask if Magnus is okay before he nods his consent. 


Gently, he pushes in a finger, working in a slow slide until Magnus relaxes.


As if Alec needs any more confirmation, Magnus tilts his head back and spreads his legs further, offering a soft moan into the air. His hips shift up to take more of Alec’s finger and speed the process along until Alec’s inserting another, and then a third.


Alec moves slow, despite the movement of Magnus below him, the urging way he writhes and begs for more and more. It isn’t until he hears the low rumble of Magnus calling his name that he pulls back.


In a quicker motion than he’s ever needed to before, Alec slips out of his clothes and slides on the condom, stroking more lube around himself before settling in the space between Magnus’ legs.


“Are you sure?” he whispers above Magnus, eyes flickering along the features of his face to take in every thought and expression that makes itself present. Is Magnus going to regret this in the morning? Is this going to change things for the worse when the fog of lust disperses from around them?


All the confidence that courses through him wavers in this moment, and he’s so attuned to the frantic pulsing of his heart in his ears that he almost misses the quiet “yes” Magnus gives him. But it’s enough, it’s just what he needs to push further, to take that dive and sink himself into Magnus.


The sound of Alec’s moans escapes and falls and catches on Magnus’ as he leans down to bring their lips together, to connect them in every way he can, finally. It’s long and drawn out the way they move, slow and sensual but with no less passion than the kisses that came before it. Because now there’s no rush, the only goal is the rise of the pleasure that blooms to life between them with every pull and slide of his hips against Magnus’.


So he does it again, and again, drags himself back and drives in slow with only the hitch of a breath in the pause between. Each one brings a new sound from Magnus, unexpected but welcome, and Alec takes them all in, labels them each with a kiss and a hum. 


Magnus’ hands find his chest, travel the path of his shoulders, cling to his arms and grasp at his hips, pulling him closer, digging harder with every thrust. It spurs him on, beckons him to go faster, and each gasp and whimper that his hips snap out of Magnus make him eager for more.


It becomes too much, too soon.


The sound of their bodies, the feel of Magnus’ body beneath him and the pleas that fall into his mouth drown him in Magnus, pull him down so deep he never wants to surface. He can feel the beginnings of his orgasm tightening in his stomach, curled low in the depths of his belly where visions and thoughts of Magnus always end. It grows stronger with every slap of his hips, grows heavy in the way Magnus calls his name and how perfect it all sounds together, an orchestrated symphony of addictive noises, touch and pleasure.


“Alexander, ah —” Magnus whispers the most reverent hymn when the sporadic rhythm of Alec’s hips begins to falter, when Alec drives into him with so much force that their breathing becomes stuttered.


He calls out for Magnus with declarations and promises, he calls for all of him and everything this night has become as his climax rises higher and higher until — finally — it peaks, and Magnus follows.


There are stars of white that flood the peripherals of his vision, his eyes focusing down to Magnus as his chest heaves with sated, ragged breaths. Gently, Alec lifts a hand from the spot on Magnus’ hip and cradles his face as he bends down to press a delicate kiss to his lips. Blood rushes, pounding in his ears, the roar of his and Magnus’ hearts beating wildly in the quietness that settles around them. 


I love you.


The words long to come out, want to be known in more than just his thoughts, but the timing doesn’t feel right.


How far have they come, and still, it’s never the right time.


With one more kiss, Alec pulls back in as smooth a motion he can manage with the twisted blankets around his legs. It only takes a few minutes to clean themselves up, before Alec slumps back into the fluffed, unused pillows on his side of the bed, reaching out a hand to tug Magnus close.


His eyes are heavy when Magnus’ breathing evens out, when their hearts beat together and their heat seeps together under the warmth of their embrace. Only then does Alec fall asleep.

Morning comes slow, draws across the bed in splattered light that stirs Alec awake despite the fatigue that aches his limbs. Curled into his side is Magnus, still oblivious to his rousing. 


Carefully, he disentangles himself from the arms around him and sets a pillow in his place as he hops off the bed and limps to the bathroom. 


The reflection that meets him, rumpled and scruffy, looks changed, different than he’s used to seeing every morning. He knows why, but the unseen force that pulls his mouth into a wide smile still makes him feel giddy as he remembers the night before. 


Magnus had been… amazing. Last night had been incredible, and for once he can think about Magnus without the deep longing sorrow that threatens to bring him down. Now, it feels full, it feels content, no longer cast aside by the curve of Magnus’ interest.


Suddenly, he feels inspired to show Magnus everything he’s feeling, to feed him fruit and laze about in bed with adoring smiles and soft kisses. He wants to bask in the feel of his love finally being reciprocated after years of pining.


He’ll start with breakfast.

It’s not lost on Alec the effort it takes to make a fully decorated Belgian waffle breakfast for two. It’s a lot more difficult, however, with a swollen ankle that hinders his capabilities in the kitchen drastically. 


He relies heavily on the kitchen staff, particularly a younger woman named Shaz that coos and giggles at the stories Alec provides her with about he and Magnus’ relationship, funny stories and cute moments they’ve shared that pour out of him without preamble as they never have before.


It’s nice to talk about Magnus, to look back on their friendship and not wonder what could have been. Because now he has it, has had it, and he intends to keep it that way.


With as much speed as his faulty leg allows, Alec heads back to the room with the tray cart of food decorated with colorful fruit and mimosas. Magnus is still peacefully asleep when he steps through the door, and it’s only when Alec sweeps away the strands that fall along his face that he stirs awake.


A slow sleepy smile dawns on Magnus’ face when he notices Alec, before he buries back into the pillow with a sigh. “Too early,” he mumbles.


“C’mon sleepy head, I have a surprise.”


Magnus perks up at that, squinting one eye open. “Food?”


“And mimosas,” Alec hums.


There’s a long stretch, a groan, and then Magnus is sitting up in bed so Alec can slide the tray above his lap. He takes in the food before him with an eager noise of happiness, from the swirl of whipped cream atop the waffles, to the bowl of berries and fizzing drink. 


“You made this?” Alec nods. “All of this, for me?”


Alec can feel the shift in the air, can feel the moment the giddiness of a sweet breakfast transforms into something more meaningful, and he nods once more. “I’ll make you breakfast every morning, if you’ll let me,” he says low, and feels the quickening of his heart working faster at the look Magnus fixes him with.


“Alexander,” Magnus licks his lips, leaning closer.


This is it, Alec thinks. Here and now, he can finally tell Magnus how he feels, how he’s felt for so long.


“Magnus,” he begins, “Magnus, I —“


He’s cut off by the blaring of Magnus’ phone, loud and shrill and constant. Part of him wants to grab it and toss it into the other room, but he stops himself, barely. 


“It’s Asmodeus,” Magnus says cautiously, glancing up at Alec. “He wants to talk whenever I’m available.”


Annoyance creeps in, thick and dry and daunting, and it takes everything in Alec to just nod and accept that they’ll have to save their conversation for later, as usual. The doubt is edging in again, slithering through all of the progress from the week, bringing with it wonder if last night meant to Magnus what it did to Alec.


He won’t entertain it longer than a few stilted seconds though, because Magnus takes a bite of the waffle and moans his thanks through a full mouth, and Alec can’t help but smile at the sight.

One look at Asmodeus’ face as they step into his office only exacerbates the idea that Alec remains unwanted.


Regardless of Magnus’ attempts to reassure him otherwise, or reiterate that they would just have a quick chat about something likely inconsequential, the stack of papers rests damning on the desk in front of Magnus' seat. It’s awkward and quiet in the room as Asmodeus watches him.


He’s not doing anything offending, only sitting beside Magnus in the unoccupied chair he scooted across the room, but apparently, that’s enough.


“Alec,” Asmodeus drawls, pulling back the stack of papers and sorting them into a neat pile closer to himself, as though Alec is not worthy of seeing them. It’s akin to the conversation he witnessed between Asmodeus and Lilith. 




"I was intending to talk to my son alone, but I see that's not an option." Alec smiles but says nothing, leaning back in his chair to cross his arms in front of his chest. Pissing off Asmodeus is quickly becoming his new favorite pastime. "Not a worry," he begins again and after another moment of shuffling, the papers falling into place before Magnus. "Go ahead and look these over, I assume you're ready?"


Suspicion and confusion fill the spots in Alec's mind that are empty without answers. Beside him, Magnus chews his lip and reaches for the papers, and something seems very, very off.


What are these papers Asmodeus wants signed? Does this have to do with them being over for the week? For some reason, Lilith’s words flicker to life in his mind.


How long have you been a part of the family business?


And what about you, Alec?


He's brought back out of his thoughts with the click of the pen between Magnus' fingers. "Wait," Alec says. "What is this?"


Asmodeus rolls his eyes from the spot where his chin rests perched on his locked fingers. "You do not need to concern yourself with this, Alec. This is between me and my son."


The words snap the very flimsy hold of resolve inside of Alec, and a rush of red blazing anger sweeps through and out of his mouth. "With all due respect," he seethes, "you weren't anything more than an old memory in your son's life until a month ago."


He hears Magnus' indignant cry of his name, but with his eyes trained on Asmodeus, he blocks it out. Narrowed black eyes pierce into his, but he holds his ground, sits straighter, and waits expectantly.


"My, my, Magnus. Quite a firecracker you've got here."


Magnus says nothing, and Alec feels the same rise of disappointment he had after the hike. Does Magnus not see that he's doing this for him? That he's standing up to Asmodeus for his sake?


What are they even doing here?


Magnus had lured him in with sad smiles and hopeful thoughts of reconnecting with his father, but now it feels like more. In a few weeks Asmodeus has gone from a speck in Magnus' life to a fully-fleshed demon ready to strike, dragging him further and further away from Alec, who is powerless to stop it, who holds no candle to the strength of finally belonging to a family in Magnus' mind.


When he turns to Magnus, he sees the conflicted look that strains his features, sees the twitch of guilt that pulls his frown and the glint that deflects towards Asmodeus behind the desk.


"Magnus, what's going on?" It’s a question he should have asked ages ago, it should have been a conversation they had at the first sign of a change, at the first length of distance that his best friend chose to keep him at. 


As unsure and hesitant as he has been all week, Magnus falters where an explanation should be. 


"Magnus," quieter now. "Talk to me."


They probably shouldn't do this in front of Asmodeus, this should be a private affair instead of the debacle it's becoming, but Alec doesn't care. There were boundless opportunities, so many different turns Magnus — they — could have taken, yet none of them led to communicating with each other. 


"Asmodeus wants me to stay," the words fall softly from Magnus, who keeps his head cast down, refusing to meet Alec. "He's offered me a spot with him at his company, a spot in Edom as a co-owner. I would be working with him and Lilith, and it’s an amazing opportunity, but it would mean I’d be living here."


The anger thrumming in his veins dissipates, drowned out by the cold, hard realization of Magnus’ words.


“Did you say yes?”


The fear in his voice is obvious, he can tell by the smirk that falls upon Asmodeus, so surely that means Magnus can hear it too. Maybe if he does, he won’t choose this, he won’t leave Alec.


It’s not that they’ve finally just begun to form something deeper, connected completely in every way, building stronger to the foundation of an already wonderful friendship. No, it’s more than that. Magnus is his best friend, Magnus is everything, and until this week, he had thought he meant the same to Magnus. But now… now he’s not so sure.


“I haven’t signed the papers yet, but,” the words die on his lips, unspoken, yet somehow louder than the breaking of Alec’s heart where it sits heavy above his stomach.


“As titillating as this is,” Asmodeus chimes, sliding the papers just a smidge closer to Magnus. “I do need these signed as soon as possible.”


He’s clearly looking for a rouse, looking to push Alec that much further past the point of no return. If Alec had any more fight left in him, he may have gotten it, too.


So he rises, carefully balances himself to stand tall on both legs despite the ache in his ankle, despite the way it shoots up his calf and pierces into the part of him that holds fond thoughts of Magnus. As hard as he’s struggled to accept Asmodeus since the beginning, as many times as he decided against coming here with Magnus or not, for all the snark and attitude that’s been thrown his way the past few days from the one person Magnus clearly holds in a higher regard than Alec… he never stopped trying. And for what?


He tried for Magnus to give up their friendship. He tried just for Magnus to lift him up, bring him higher than he’s ever been before, and drop him just as quick. For Asmodeus, for his father, for the one person who willingly chose to leave him behind.


He tried to make things better, to make Magnus happy, and all it did was break them.


The walk to the door isn’t dignified, embarrassingly so with the limp that accompanies every step, and he can hear the scratch of the chair as Magnus stands and calls his name. It’s not enough, anymore. It won’t matter the excuses Magnus gives him, because he’s going to leave in the end anyways.


The city was his safety. The city and Magnus with it, huddled for warmth on winter nights with hot cocoa and cheesy movies. Magnus in central park when he decides on an impromptu picnic during spring. Magnus on his doorstep in the middle of the night when he’s had his heart broken one too many times. Magnus in the morning with coffee and a muffin from their favorite bakery, walking him to work. 


Magnus darkened by shadows with Alec’s name spilling out of his lips.


How had this all gone so wrong? How had the morning transformed from something incredible, from sweet fruit and breakfast, to bitter realizations and loss in the span of an hour? Last night had been a turning point — or at least it was supposed to be. After all this time, after all the years tiptoeing around their feelings, they had finally reached a point where they were on the same page, where they both finally figured it out.


For nothing.


The stinging pain of losing his best friend radiates through him, pelts him repeatedly with the desire to stop and make things better, to get down on his knees in front of Magnus and beg him not to do this, to think about what he’s giving up. He can feel it prickling in the corners of his eyes, tears that threaten to burn where they fall down his face, but he won’t give in, not now. If there’s been anything he’s learned in the past few weeks, it’s that Magnus gets what he wants.


Today is just another painful reminder that he never quite makes it onto that list.


A comment reaches his ears as he walks out the doors of Asmodeus’ office, something exasperated and drawn out and undeserving of his reaction.


It’s Magnus’ response that forces him to stop, however, the deep, low sound of Magnus’ anger. “All you’ve done the past few days is treat him like shit, for what?”


Alec doesn’t turn, instead takes those final steps out of the room so he can rest against the wall and listen to what he wishes would have come sooner. 


“My son,” Asmodeus starts, level but laced with a weighty threat to the words that come next, “you better think very carefully about the next words you choose to say.”


“Why?” Magnus hisses. “You may be my father by blood, but you are far from the father I came here looking for. You think that just because you’re rich and powerful you can treat people however you want, that you can just keep them at your beck and call? I won’t be that for you, Asmodeus. I won’t be your lapdog, and I’m only sorry it’s taken me this long to realize the incredible mistake I was making in agreeing to this.”




“No! I thought.. I hoped,” Magnus’ words stutter and choke, snag on emotion that makes Alec’s throat tighten with the desire to clear it away, to run back in and soothe Magnus’ woes. “I came here hoping that you meant it when you said you wanted to restart, you wanted to get to know me and my — Alec. But you didn’t, did you?”


There’s a small shuffling sound that Alec can only assume to be one of them moving, but he’s not sure who.


“Of course I meant it. You’re my only living relative, why wouldn’t I want to reconnect?”


There’s a scoff from Magnus, and then, “is that all you see me as? After this whole week of trying to catch up to you, trying to get to know my father, you’ve only seen me as your ‘only living relative’. I’m not a son to you. Alec was right, you don’t care about me, you only care about what I can do for you.”


“Your precious Alec doesn’t know anything, he never will, and he’s only holding you back from your true potential. You belong at my side. I can help you, you can grow with me, become the man I always knew you could be.”


“Don’t you dare say that to me. You were the one who gave me up, you were the one who left, you don’t get a say in my future.”


“Your future was decided before you ever knew it. You were meant to be with me and your mother refused, that’s the only thing that’s kept us apart. You’ll go far if you stick with me, we can accomplish great things.”


The silence is deafening, even outside of the room, and Alec almost walks back in. He wants to see Magnus, wants to see if his face is red and blotchy with anger like he expects, wants to see the reactions that spark across Asmodeus’ face at Magnus’ words, but Magnus expels a sigh that holds a sense of finality, and Alec waits.


“I’m not stupid, Asmodeus. I knew that you had ulterior motives coming here, but I thought maybe just getting to know me was enough, that you were genuinely interested in a relationship and not a business transaction. You’re my father, and despite how long I’ve hated you for abandoning me,” Magnus sucks in a steadying breath. “I thought this week could change that. But you’re so strung on having that step-up on Lilith, you didn’t see me as anything more than a signature of ownership.”


There’s a pause, and Alec hears the beginnings of a word from Asmodeus before Magnus continues.


“I don’t know what this rivalry between you and Lilith is, but I don’t care to know anymore, so you need to find someone else or accept that she owns the other half of your company because I am done. I don’t belong here, I don’t belong anywhere but with Alec, and I’m a fool for almost giving that up.”


The words make Alec’s heart race, and he wonders if Magnus knows he’s listening.


“You’re making a mistake, Magnus,” the disdain with which Asmodeus speaks is chilling, and though Magnus’ voice wavers, he holds firm.


“My only mistake was thinking you could ever be a father to me.”


Footsteps loom closer, the dull thud that’s muffled by the closed door between them, and then suddenly Magnus is throwing the door open and shut in a swift motion. He pauses where he stands, eyes closed with deep breaths filling his lungs, and Alec reaches out with a gentle handle against his arm.


Magnus’ eyes are wild when they turn on him, layered with so many emotions it’s hard to pick out just one. Hurt, anger, resignation, each one of them painful and stemming far, from a place Magnus does his best to keep hidden from everyone else. One by one they seem to flick across his face, make themselves known for just a fraction of a second as Alec lifts the hand on his arm to cup his cheek. Then, something else crosses his face, something he’s noticed on those nights when the lingering looks seem more intense, nights when Magnus hesitates longer than normal at his door before he leaves. Something Alec has always hoped to mean what it is, but has never had the courage to ask.


Slowly, tenderly, Magnus steps closer and rests his forehead to Alec’s. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I should have realized sooner, I should have — I should have said something.”


The words rise to his throat, but they don’t manage to quite make it out, because this isn’t a conversation Alec wants to have in front of Asmodeus’ office. He pulls back, runs a thumb along Magnus’ cheek, and nods his head down the hall. “Let’s go home.”

It only takes an hour to pack all their belongings and bring them downstairs to the foyer. The staff are helpful, congenial smiles as they assist with packing their bags into the trunk of Magnus’ car. It’s a quiet matter, and Alec and Magnus are about to step into the vehicle when a low murmur alerts them to Asmodeus’ presence.


“You still have time,” he announces with a twitch of anger. 


But Magnus smiles and shakes his head, already decided. “Good luck, Asmodeus.”


With the curl of his lips, Asmodeus retreats, and Magnus watches, waits until he’s fully disappeared before he pulls into the driver’s side.


Watching Magnus now, hands around the steering wheel with white knuckles and eyes closed and reminiscent of their arrival here, Alec feels the shards of his heart vibrating with the need to pull Magnus into his arms. He’s about to, when Magnus sits straight and turns the ignition, pulling out of the driveway and leaving behind the elegance of the mansion in the rear-view mirror.

Two hours goes by in a blur, and Alec learns all the secrets that were kept from him during the week.


There had been hints of Asmodeus’ motives long before they arrived, mentions of his company in muffled phone calls, hints of needing family in the letter that arrived that first evening. Magnus had hoped it wasn’t all business, he had been under the impression that Asmodeus’ words were true in their intent, that he truly did want to be the father he never was. 


A loan company for the wealthy, with claws sunk deep into each member, needy and desperate; blackmail and trickery with banks and investors to keep the money coming. It was a vicious cycle, but it was lucrative if you were charming enough, and Asmodeus claimed to be the best. His business partner and co-owner Adam had met and married Lilith a few years ago, and despite attempts to gain her ownership of the company, Asmodeus had refused and battled him at every opportunity. It wasn’t until Adam’s curious and sudden death that Lilith had garnered what she was after.


Magnus had only fit into the plan as a way to keep majority ownership with Asmodeus, a blood bond stronger than the marriage Lilith had used to achieve her goals. It would have worked, had Magnus signed the papers, had Magnus offered to stay with Asmodeus and fall into that life. 


Asmodeus could see the indecision in Magnus, as much as he had tried to stay passive. The change for Alec had come when Asmodeus noticed the strength of the bond that kept Magnus tethered to Alec, when he felt threatened that Alec would be the reason Magnus decided not to join Asmodeus. It was a wedge he had tried to drive between them, one that Magnus had berated and chastised Asmodeus for in early morning conversations before Alec would arrive. 


Asmodeus’ game was simple, but effective, and it had almost worked.


But Magnus chose Alec. As late into the game as it was, Alec had been his final decision.

The city remains as loud as ever, bustling with the noise of people rushing past in a comforting sort of predictability, none of them passing even a glance towards Alec as he limps his way over to Magnus, who takes a slow pace up the steps of Alec’s stoop. Now that they’re back, it doesn’t feel like they’ve just spent a week away secluded in the beautiful landscape of Asmodeus’ home. It feels like a dream, a long lost memory that’s already fading and frayed around the edges.


Only the memories of Magnus remain vividly clear in his head, the taste of the pool water on Magnus’ lips, the feel of Magnus guiding him intoxicated through dimly lit hallways, the feel of Magnus’ fingers brushing along his hand in the darkness. Alec wonders if Magnus will remember it the same, or if it’s already begun to fade with the false relationship that they no longer need to keep up.


“We should probably order take out, I’m pretty hungry.” 


The jingle of his keys are familiar, a clinking of metal as Magnus digs into his bag and fishes them out. It brings him back to more missed opportunities, chances he’s had where Magnus turns to him with a smile and waits. He waits for something that never comes, because Alec never has the courage, is never certain enough that his feelings will be reciprocated to even try.


“You’re thinking awfully loud,” Magnus says with a small smile as he glances over his shoulder.


I love you, Alec thinks, because it’s the one thing he’s wanted to say to Magnus for days, for years, and it’s the only thing that has somehow gotten lost in the jumble of the week.


Magnus stills where he stands, turns slowly and stares at Alec, wide-eyed. “You love me?”


The words are so soft and drowned out by the white noise around them, the chatter of people and far away sounds of construction that never seems to end, and Alec’s heart thumps with the implications of what Magnus’ words mean. He’s said it out loud.


Oh shit.


He could leave. He could stumble his way down the street, walk away and never look back. He could laugh it off, pretend it’s a joke and offer some sort of excuse. He could… he could kiss Magnus, and tell him he means it, that he’s been in love with him forever.


He could do all those things, but lost in the overthinking mess of his mind he does nothing but balk and wait hopelessly for Magnus’ reaction.


Eyes so deep and wide that he longs to get lost in are closer than they were a second ago, shifting directions across his face, taking from him what they can find. Alec gives it all, closes his mouth and does his best to convey every ounce of love he has for Magnus in his body, because words fail him now. Magnus takes another step down and lifts a hand to graze soft fingertips across Alec’s cheekbone, movements timid and shy and contradicting the way they explored each other the night before.


“Do you mean it?” Magnus whispers, breathless with the breeze.


This is it. This is the moment for declarations of love, the moment he can finally open his heart up to his best friend without the fear of losing him. Because Magnus chose Alec, Magnus came back with him, and Magnus stands here in front of him with an endless well of emotion that Alec wants to spend the rest of his life swimming in. 


“Of course I do. I’ve been in love with you for so long, Magnus,” Alec says, at last. Because it’s true.


When Magnus smiles, Alec can feel the tension release from his body with the gentle laugh that follows it, relief and hope and happiness fluttering through him. 


“I love you too, Alexander.”


“Really?” Alec asks, hastily. Maybe he’s too quick, too eager, because the pain in his ankle shoots up his leg when he rushes closer to Magnus but he can’t feel it, high on the sound of Magnus’ words.


“Really, really,” Magnus laughs, sliding his arms around Alec’s shoulder as they meet each other in a slow, curious kiss. 


It’s new and different with the backing of confessions behind it, and Alec savors every second of it, every shift of their lips together, the intrinsic way they fit. In every outcome and scenario he had anticipated for the end of the grueling week, this had never been one of them, too perfect to be real.


But now…


Magnus pulls back first, rests his forehead against Alec’s with a dreamy sigh and a sheepish grin, “I’m thinking Chinese?”


Alec laughs. “Sounds perfect.”


There’s a lot that they need to discuss, a lot of issues from the week swept under the rug and avoided altogether, and the heavy threat of Asmodeus still hangs over them.


But Chinese food sounds like a good way to finally start talking. 




I can tell the way you smile
If I feel that I could be certain
Then I would say the things
I want to say tonight