Magnus cursed the second he saw the board and all of the red spread across it, indicating active demon attacks. He tightened his hand on the hilt of his sword and turned to look at the others. "Status," he barked, stepping up beside Ragnor.
"We don’t entirely know what’s causing the rifts to open randomly,” Ragnor said, flipping the map around before zooming in to show one of the latest hotspots. "There’s been more than two dozen random openings in the last two hours, and we’re stretched thin trying to cover all of them as it is."
Magnus blew out a hard breath. "You’ve already alerted the local downworld?”
Ragnor nodded. "We’ve received a minimal response, and have already reached out to the Jersey and Connecticut Institutes for backup and assistance.“ He flipped the map again. "The only active rift that is remaining open is, thankfully, contained.”
Magnus frowned and shifted the projection zooming in on the dark red that was near Brooklyn. "What teams do you have dispatched to that location?"
Ragnor shook his head. "Not a single one. It’s being held by the High Warlock of Brooklyn, who has, apparently, deemed this enough of an emergency to warrant his personal involvement, not just that of his sister.”
Magnus let out a low whistle. That meant things were bad. Alexander Lightwood was known for being a recluse and often worked hand in hand with his sister, Isabelle Lightwood (though whether they were actual siblings was a point of debate that Magnus heard come up as gossip more often than not), using her as a representative when he required it.
“But he needs help,” Ragnor said. "He’s been holding it, almost entirely on his own, for more than three hours now."
Magnus’ eyes widened. "Fuck, why the hell haven’t we sent him back up?”
“With what teams?” Ragnor snapped, glaring at him. "You’re the latest patrol to come in, and I don’t know if you noticed, but I’ve already redeployed both Catarina and Raphael to the teams that needed their help."
Magnus swallowed hard under the glare and nodded. "So we can’t send him anyone?”
“We’re sending him you,” Ragnor said, his voice quieting.
Magnus tightened his hand on the blade at his hip and could feel the weight of what Ragnor was about to put on him. "You’re giving me permission, aren’t you?"
Ragnor gave a small nod. "If you deem it necessary, yes, Magnus, I am. No other shadowhunter will be near you. And I highly doubt Lightwood will judge you for saving his life.”
Magnus exhaled hard and closed his eyes. "I need to get ready." He slid his rings off his fingers and tucked them away. "I’ll head there immediately as soon as I am.”
“Magnus?” Ragnor called, turning to look at him.
Magnus paused, his shoulders tense. "Yes?"
"Come back alive, you hear?”
Magnus pulled out his stele, watching it light up under his fingers, and smirked. "You know me, I’m like a cockroach, Ragnor. Impossible to kill."
Ragnor gave a nod. "Good. Dismissed.”
Making his way to Brooklyn turned out to be a nightmare - demon rifts continued to open across the city, and every report showcased just how much of a losing battle they were fighting. Three more Institutes had been tapped for support, and Idris had already sent more than three dozen active-duty shadowhunters to fight back against the onslaught.
And somehow, someway, Alexander Lightwood, the High Warlock of Brooklyn, was handling an entire consistently open rift on his own.
Magnus heard the battle long before he caught sight of it, but the second he turned a corner, his breath caught.
In the center of what had been a normal street a few hours ago, stood two men. Magnus didn’t need to look at the other to know who he was. Jace Lightwood. Alec’s adopted brother, and one of the fiercest warlocks the Clave was aware of. He had fought in every war in the past three centuries and was known for not being merciful.
“Where the hell are the shadowhunters?” Jace snapped. "They should have been here hours ago!" He gave another twist of his hands and sent a fireball crashing through four more demons. "Didn’t you call them?”
Alec grunted and tried to gather more magic around his palms, tightening his hold on the rift. "I suspect that they are dealing with a much bigger issue than this."
Magnus took a deep breath and rolled his shoulders, pulling out both of his swords, looking at the thin blades, the shine of the adamas, and the runes etched into the material. He closed his eyes and offered up a prayer to the Angel that he would survive this.
He stepped up beside the two warlocks, slicing through a demon easily, cleanly, watching as it dissolved into ichor. "There’s not enough of us,” he called. He rolled the blades in his hand and spun, attacking another two that jumped at him, advancing as they marched forward.
“So they send us a single shadowhunter?” Jace snapped. "What good is that going to do?"
Magnus turned to look at them, and met the blazing magic-bright eyes of the High Warlock of Brooklyn. "You’re Alec Lightwood, aren’t you?”
Alec tensed and nodded, watching as the shadowhunter in front of him shrugged off his leather jacket, followed by his shirt and turned to face the demons. "Yes. And you are?"
Magnus didn’t answer, because Alec would know soon enough. The demons were watching him now and he lifted his eyes to them, baring his teeth at them all.
"STOP!” He snarled, the rough grating Infernal tongue making his throat ache with the single word. But every demon nearby turned to face him, exactly as he had wanted.
“You can speak Infernal?” Alec asked, stepping closer to where the Shadowhunter had unholstered his weapons again. He traced his eyes over the runes, but now all of the demons were focused on him. "Listen, they’re not going to obey you for long, we need to get out of here-"
"Do you have enough power to close the rift?” Magnus asked, glancing over his shoulder at the two warlocks. "Between you?"
Alec swallowed and scowled. "Yes, but you getting yourself killed so we can do that is pointless, now stop trying to be a hero and-”
Magnus gave a low laugh and turned back to the demons. He closed his eyes and rolled his shoulders. "I’m no hero," he promised, his voice low. He flexed his arms and let go. He would do what was necessary.
Alec stared in shock as the runes on the shadowhunter abruptly started to move along his skin, shifting, stretching, and changing. He reached out and held Jace back from moving, watching as the runes slowly slid over golden skin, covering it in the same inky black color until his entire torso was covered.
"What the…” Jace breathed, staring at the shadowhunter. "Alec, what is that?"
Alec shook his head. "I don’t know.” He’d never seen anything like that in all his centuries. His eyes darted to one of the demons who decided that they had waited long enough, stabbing forward with a poisonous spine. It sank into the shadowhunter, and he cursed. Fucking heroic fool. "Jace, go get-"
"I SAID,” Magnus growled, pulling the barb out, looking at it disinterestedly before dropping it to the ground. “TO STOP.” He spun, the bright white of the adamas blades in his hands contrasting with the dark black of his skin. The runes would protect him for as long as he could keep concentrating on them.
All at once, the demons descended on him, and Magnus closed his eyes, turning himself over to the power of the runes that had always, always kept him safe.
Alec’s breath caught as he watched the shadowhunter become something else entirely, not a single movement wasted as he swung his blades over and over again, slicing through demons as though they were nothing. He shifted his attention to the rift and pushed more power on it, forcing it to begin to shut. "Jace, keep his back covered!"
"I don’t think he really needs it!” Jace shouted back, but blasted a few demons away from the shadowhunter who was still at the center of the demon horde that had been descending on them.
Alec growled and finally managed, with one last push of power, to seal the rift and dropped to one of his knees, panting hard. His whole body was aching with the weight of the power that he had pulled, and he was going to be regretting this in the morning. And for the next week, by the feel of things.
Turning his attention back to the battle, he stared in shock as the shadowhunter sliced through another demon, before faltering, and stumbling, grabbing at his stomach.
“Jace!” Alec shouted, moving in closer. He watched one of the blades fall from the shadowhunter’s fingers and the, the shield of runes on his body was starting to retreat, all of the runes resuming their usual forms on his torso. "Jace, get him the hell out of here!" He picked up the dropped blade and watched it flare red before he sliced through one of the last demons.
Glad when Jace obeyed the order without protest, lifting the shadowhunter, Alec picked up the second blade and turned to the remaining demons with a smirk. "Let’s dance,” he growled.
When Magnus woke, his entire body was on fire and he sucked in a pained breath, clutching at the sheets beneath him. His back bowed off the bed and he tried to shout, but there was no noise, he was being suffocated, he wasn’t going to be able to come back this time, there was too much-
All of a sudden the fire was gone and Magnus’ chest heaved as he breathed, his heart pounding hard, the panic subsiding enough that he could start to hear what else was going on around him.
“I don’t know, he just woke up screaming, don’t give me that look!”
Magnus blinked slowly, trying to bring the room he was in into focus. This didn’t feel like the Institute medical wing. Where the hell was he? Had he died?
“Here, drink this.”
Magnus wanted to turn his head to the side, but he didn’t have the energy to move. He parted his lips willingly enough and swallowed down the sweet-tasting liquid. He sank back into the pillows and breathed out slowly, releasing the tight hold he had on the sheets. He blinked again and stared at the High Warlock of Brooklyn, who was apparently leaning over him with a glare.
“You know,” Alec said, putting the cup to the side. "I had to call your boss and tell him you were alive. And that I was bringing you here to heal you, because whatever the hell you did put so much stress on your body that you tore almost every muscle you had."
Magnus sighed and closed his eyes, sinking back into the pillow. "Yeah,” he said, breathing out slowly now that it wasn’t filled with pain. "But it saved your life, so are you really complaining?"
A snort from the end of his bed had Magnus lifting his head and he frowned at the sight of Jace Lightwood standing there. A sense of unease crept over him and he looked between the two warlocks. "What’s going on out there?”
“Well, thanks to your absolute fucking stupidity of a stunt,” Alec said, crossing his arms over his chest. "I was able to close the rift, and it turned out that one was what was allowing all the smaller ones to open. The city is now in cleanup."
"Thank the angel,” Magnus breathed, letting his head fall back to the pillow. He opened one eye and gave the warlock still glaring a smirk. "Or should I say thanks to you, Alexander?"
Alec narrowed his eyes. "It’s Alec,” he snapped. "Or the High Warlock of Brooklyn, take your pick."
Magnus grunted and tried to push himself upright, only to gasp in pain and go crashing back to the pillows. "Fuck, fuck, dammit, fuck…” he cursed, his arms trembling.
Alec gave him an unimpressed eyebrow. "I did mention tearing every single one of your muscles, didn’t I?"
"And I thought you said that because you had already healed me,” Magnus snapped back, trying to relax so everything would stop hurting.
“I healed you,” Jace said, snorting. "I didn’t have much left, but I healed enough that you could breathe without pain, and keep your vital organs active. So your torso and shit is fine. But your arms and legs are still a fucking wreck."
Magnus sighed and stared at the ceiling. He wanted nothing more than to flip the arrogant warlock off, but he also was alive because of both of them. "Thank you for healing me,” he growled. "You wouldn’t have happened to grab my weapons, did you?"
"They’re on the other bedside table, along with your stele,” Alec said. "And if you can hold off on being monumentally stupid for twenty-four hours, I should be able to finish healing you."
"Oooh, personal attention from the High Warlock,” Magnus quipped, closing his eyes. "How much is that going to cost me?"
Jace barked out a laugh. "Are you always this much of an asshole?”
“When I’m in this much pain?” Magnus shot back. "Yes."
Jace snorted and rolled his eyes.
"I’ll consider us even since what you did saved both of our lives,” Alec said, instead. He gave Jace a look and was glad when his brother left, shutting the door behind him.
Magnus tensed as soon as the door was shut and turned his eyes to the High Warlock who was staring at him in consideration. "Is now when you interrogate me?"
Alec tilted his head and studied the shadowhunter. "Is that what you think I’m going to do?”
“It’s what you should do, considering what you saw,” Magnus snapped. He breathed out slowly and tried to calm his heart rate. He didn’t need to say anything, he didn’t need to tell the warlock anything.
Alec hummed. "I suppose, were it another warlock, you might be correct. But I am not without my own secrets. Let’s start somewhere more simple. Your name?"
Magnus gave a brief quirk of his lips. "Want to know what name you’ll be screaming later?” A snort and a raised eyebrow told him he wasn’t going to get far with that kind of flirting, but the High Warlock had a jawline to die for, and he was only human. Well. Mostly human.
“Magnus Bane,” he offered. He swallowed and looked up at the ceiling. He heard Alec give another considering hum and wondered exactly what that meant. "Listen, if you call Ragnor again, I’m sure he’ll have you portal me into the Institute, and then I’ll be out of your hair-"
"Your Institute infirmary currently has no room and is actually overrun after the battles,” Alec said. "That’s why you are here, rather than there."
Magnus sighed and closed his eyes. "Just get the questions over with then, would you? I’m too fucking tired to dance around them.”
“Is there anything else I can do to help ease the pain of what happened?” Alec asked.
Magnus opened his mouth and snapped it shut a moment later, glaring at the other man. "That’s it?"
"Would you prefer I asked something else?” Alec shot back.
Another sigh, but he grudgingly offered. "I’m starving. Doing that makes me hungry. If you’re willing, I need something to eat, and soon, or I’ll have a headache that won’t go away."
Alec snapped his fingers once, moving Magnus into a sitting position, and summoned a tray with a variety of finger foods. "Here. Tell me what you want to eat. What do you want to drink?”
Alec snorted. "Try again."
"Water,” Magnus said with a resigned sigh, glad when Alec offered him the straw from a glass, sipping at it before gesturing to the foods. "Any of the meat. I do love my meat." He gave Alec a wink.
Several minutes of quiet eating together later, of Alec feeding him slowly, carefully, and giving him sips of water between, Magnus finally waved him off, sinking tiredly back into the pillows. “Thank you,” he managed, meeting Alec’s eyes when they swung to him in surprise. “For, for the food. For the healing, for…” he swallowed. “For not asking.”
Alec hummed. “I’ve learned, in the case of such secrets, it is always better not to ask, for both myself and the one with the secret.”
Magnus closed his eyes and swallowed hard. “My father was Asmodeus,” he said. He heard Alec shift and opened his eyes tiredly to stare at the warlock, taking in the disgust on his face and sighed. “I’m nothing like him. You can ask my boss. Also, considering I’m the one who put a sword through his heart, I hold no love for him.”
Alec stared in surprise and carefully sat down in the chair next to the shadowhunter again. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Because you didn’t ask,” Magnus said. “Because you, you deserve to know that this is not something I will ever use against your people.” He blew out a hard breath. “And because if you’re not going to ask, the least I can do is tell you in thanks, to show that your trust is returned.”
“It hurts you, to do,” Alec stated. “But you are invulnerable when you do?”
Magnus nodded. “I can activate my runes without a stele, and, and use them to form a shield.” He breathed out slowly. “It hurts, badly,” he admitted softly. “But I was forced to do it again and again until I could do it for longer periods of time. As long as I can concentrate and block out the pain, I can hold it up.”
Alec frowned and nodded. He looked down at his hands.
Magnus recognized that look. He snorted. “I’ll tell you how, if you want.”
“I wasn’t going to ask,” Alec pointed out, his voice quiet.
“But you want to know,” Magnus said, meeting Alec’s eyes when they looked up at him. “You want to know if there are more shadowhunters like me. More that you might need to fear.”
Alec swallowed. “Yes.”
Magnus nodded and closed his eyes. “Well, you don’t have to worry. Asmodeus had only one son, and all his other experiments were failures.”
Alec sucked in a hard breath. “He…”
“Yes,” Magnus whispered. “He got his hands on the blood of a Prince of Hell. It’s, it’s angel blood, but tinted demonic, and he injected it into me when my mother was pregnant, so…” he gestured to the runes on his chest. “That’s why.”
Alec looked down at his hands and let the silence stretch between both of them.
“All right!” Magnus said, injecting as much positivity into his voice as possible. “I’ve told you about my sordid past. Time for you to tell me about the oh-so-mysterious High Warlock of Brooklyn!”
“What?” Alec blinked and snorted. “I’m not mysterious.”
Magnus pouted. “You hide away from the public and let your sister handle all of your public appearances.”
“I don’t hide away,” Alec said, his voice turning grumpy. “Isabelle is just better at people politics.”
Magnus huffed and rolled his eyes. “Well, mister mysterious and pretty warlock. Tell me a story.” He smiled faintly when he saw a hint of a blush on the warlock’s cheeks.
Alec shook his head. “I don’t have any stories.”
Magnus yawned, snorting. “You’re hundreds of years old. Of course you have stories. Tell me something your siblings call boring.”
Alec narrowed his eyes. “How’d you know that they’ve done that?”
“Because I understand siblings,” Magnus said. “And because I don’t want the pretty warlock to stop talking to me yet.”
“Stop that,” Alec grumbled. “Or I won’t tell you anything.”
“Stop what?” Magnus asked, forcing his eyes open again. The blush had gotten more pronounced. He smiled. “Calling you pretty? You are.”
“If you want to flirt with someone, I’ll go get Jace or Izzy,” Alec said in a huff, rolling his eyes. “You’re just trying to get a reaction out of me.”
Magnus hummed. “Nah. Not interested in them. You though? Yeah.”
Alec blinked and turned to look at Magnus. “What?”
“You’ll see,” Magnus slurred, his voice tired. “Now tell me a story, mister pretty high warlock. Alexander.”
Alec bit down the urge to tell Magnus that it was Alec, that it was always Alec, because he’d never heard his full name sound quite like that before. He swallowed. “I could tell you about the time I accidentally stole an entire bookshelf from the Spiral Labyrinth and no one noticed?”
Magnus started to snicker, even though it hurt. “Now that sounds like a story worth telling, Alexander. Go ahead.”
Alec flushed and cleared his throat. “So, I’d gone to Spain for the summer and…”
When Magnus woke up, he was no longer in pain and he stretched, groaning happily into the decadent sheets. He flopped and pressed his face to the pillow and glanced at the chair by his bedside. It was sadly empty.
“If you can bring yourself to shower, there’s fresh clothes and lunch waiting for you.”
Magnus’ eyes snapped open and he sat up in a rush, looking at Alec, standing in the doorway. The warlock was wearing a t-shirt and jeans, and should not have looked nearly as delectable as he did, considering the lack of care put into his appearance. “Sure,” he said, clearing his throat. “You finished healing me?”
Alec nodded. “I did. Now hurry up.”
Magnus watched him go and quickly made his way to the ensuite where there was a fresh set of clothes waiting for him. He got himself showered and dressed, grabbing his weapons and holster before heading out into what was clearly the main room of a loft. He looked around curiously. There was a greenhouse down one hallway that looked to be spilling into the loft and he took a step towards it, wildly curious.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Alec said. “The firesprig is blooming and unless you have a heatproof rune on, you’ll regret that.”
Magnus spun around on his heels, rocking back on them nervously. “You mentioned food?”
“I did,” Alec said, gesturing to the sandwich materials on the counter. “I thought you would be up to making your own, and I could summon us coffee.”
“Yes please,” Magnus said, immediately striding for the counter. He had a sandwich assembled within a minute and took a bite, groaning happily. He looked up and found Alec watching him and raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“I’d like to see you again,” Alec said.
Magnus blinked and lowered his sandwich, watching that same light blush grow on the warlock’s cheeks. “You do? Why?”
“Clearly it isn’t because of your flirting,” Alec said, his voice dry.
Magnus snorted and reached for the cup of coffee Alec handed him, taking an immediate sip before leaning against the counter. “Okay, fair. But then, why?”
Alec took a sip of his coffee and looked down at it, frowning as he rubbed his thumb along the side. Dammit, this was always so easy for Jace. “Because I want to?” he offered.
Magnus put down the cup of coffee and gave the High Warlock of Brooklyn his full attention. “To be clear, you’re asking to meet socially. Not for any official reason?”
Alec sighed and looked up at the ceiling before back to Magnus. “I am attempting to ask you on a date.”
Magnus blinked. Then blinked again. But Alec’s expression hadn’t changed. “Huh,” he managed.
“That isn’t an answer,” Alec said, taking another drink of his coffee.
“You know the flirting was just joking, right?” Magnus said, staring at the warlock.
Alec tensed, his fingers tightening around the cup. “I am sorry, did I read things wrong? I should have-”
“No, no,” Magnus said, shaking his head, reaching out to press his finger to Alec’s lips, a shiver running up his spine at how soft they were. He lifted his eyes to Alec’s and met the bright, shining blue that he remembered from the battlefield. “You read them perfectly right, and I’d love to go on a date with you, Alexander.”
It was Alec’s turn to blink and he stared at Magnus, even as his finger was pulled away. “Oh.”
Magnus smiled. “I more meant that now I’m going to actually flirt with you.” He grinned and gave Alec a wink. “That means bad flirting with a mix of good flirting just for fun.”
Alec snorted. “I look forward to it.” He paused and met Magnus’ eyes again. Strange. The shadowhunter didn’t flinch at his warlock mark. “Drinks? Dinner?”
“Dinner and drinks sounds great,” Magnus breathed, his heart pounding harder at the proximity of Alec and how close they were standing. “Soon, even?”
Alec took a brief step back and cleared his throat. “I, to be clear, I’m not looking for, for a ah.” He frowned. “A roll in the hay. I’d, like to, obviously, see if there’s…”
“Alec?” Magnus interrupted, his lips quirking into a smile, stepping in close to him again. “I’d like to go on a date to get to know you.” He grinned. “I also wouldn’t object to a kiss right now, since we both did almost die yesterday.”
Alec’s eyes dropped to Magnus’ lips and then back to his eyes, before drifting to the delectable rune he had peeking out of his shirt. He thought about Jace’s advice to “Just go for it!” and looked back up at Magnus. “I’d like that,” he admitted.
Magnus grinned, bright and wide, reaching out to wrap his arms around the warlock’s shoulders. “Well then, Alexander,” he whispered, tangling his fingers into Alec’s thick hair. “Far be it for me to deny you something you’d like.”
Alec smiled into the kiss and let himself be pulled down, sinking into the kiss with a quiet groan. Magnus kissed him like a man starved of passion and he wanted all he could get of it.
Maybe there was something special about this shadowhunter.