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Stone Cold Shoulder

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The Institute is mad with him and Alec hates it.

“Please stop locking me out of my own office,” he begs with a weary sigh, leaning his forehead against the cool wood and trying to recall if the unlocking rune has ever worked when she’s in one of her moods. “I have paperwork to do. After that we can have a talk about whatever it is I’ve done to offend you, I swear.” There’s a fraction of a second when Alec thinks he might actually have to do something drastic, before there’s the distinctive click of the door unlocking; even that sounds huffy. “Thank you,” he says sincerely, then immediately wants to take it back when she trips him up on the hearth rug.

This has been going on for a week now, and while Alec doesn’t know for sure what’s brought on her recent bout of rebellion, he thinks he can take a guess.

He and Magnus have been together for six months, and a lot has happened in that time. They’ve battled Valentine and won, stopped Jace from being used for nefarious demonic purposes, and even banished said demon back to hell before she could bring Clary’s psychotic brother back from the dead. Because apparently he hadn’t been dead initially, much to Jocelyn’s horror, and while Jace had done a decent job rectifying that situation (except for the part where he also nearly died), Jonathan had gotten a little too close to a successful resurrection for everyone’s comfort.

(Before that there had been the whole whoops, incest thing to contend with, which thankfully turned out to be a false alarm; they’d all have needed a lot of therapy otherwise. More than they no doubt already do. Alec kind of wishes he didn’t have to keep walking in on Jace and Clary having celebratory “we’re not siblings” sex every other day, but the Institute seems to think it’s funny, so he doesn’t think that’s going to change for the foreseeable future.

Also, Jace is apparently a Herondale now, which is his fourth surname so far this year. Alec hopes this one sticks, since he’s the one who has to deal with all the fucking paperwork.)

Things have calmed down now though, and Alec can breathe a little easier knowing that they’ve averted the apocalypse for the time being. He can’t believe he’s now the kind of person who wants to think about things other than battle strategy, but he guesses a lot has changed for him in the last year.

Which brings Alec to the reason he suspects the Institute is mad at him. 

A week ago, he’d asked for the family ring from his mother, which had led to happy tears and a shocking amount of hugging; Alec had been unnerved to have his generally stoic mother sobbing into his shoulder, but he supposes it’s an improvement from her leaving the room whenever Magnus enters it. What this conversation has also led to, apparently, is the Institute believing that Alec is trying to abandon her, leaving her for buildings further afield.

Like he’s some kind of real estate hussy, forming magical, glowy connections with apartment blocks every other weekend.

The problem is that he can’t really talk about it with anyone. He hasn’t worked up the nerve to actually propose to Magnus yet, so it’s not like Alec can tell him why the Institute’s getting her basement in a twist, and he has precisely zero faith in Izzy and Jace being able to keep this a secret. Against his better judgment, he thinks he and Clary might actually be friends now, but she and Jace are practically one person by this point, so that’s also a no-go.

Which just about exhausts the list of people who know he has a magical bond with the building in question, and therefore the list of people he can speak to without sounding completely deranged.

Other than, of course, the Institute herself.

Paperwork finally finished and filed away - if only to make room for tomorrow’s deluge - Alec gets up out of his chair and goes to sit by the fire. It’s low now, still hot but not enough to hurt when he gets close; he can sit on the stone, back against the sloping arch of the fireplace, and close his eyes.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he begins softly. He feels like maybe that’s the most important part. “I’m going to ask Magnus to marry me, and maybe he’ll say yes - I hope he says yes - and I’ll probably end up living at his place. But you-” He stops for a moment, taking in a deep breath. It’s been a long time since he’s felt awkward talking to these walls, but he’s still not sure how to make her understand.

“We’re different, you and me,” he says eventually, resting his head on the well-warmed stone and smiling in spite of himself. “Not from each other. I mean, together - we’re different. You got me through a lot. I think I probably would’ve lost my mind without this.” He swallows, throat suddenly tight. “So, I know you’re mad at me, but if it’s because of the ring, you’re crazy. The Clave would have to drag me kicking and screaming out of here. They’d have to de-rune me, and even then, I’d find a way back in. Magnus’s place is just… well, it’s a place. Which you’re not. Not even close.”

The words dry up then, so he just sits there, hands absently tracing natural divots and cracks in the weathered stone. He wonders how long this fireplace has been here; how long it’ll be here after he’s gone. He sucks in a shaky breath when he realises that two of the souls he loves the most in this world will just keep going when he stops.

The fire picks up in the grate just a little, the warmth at Alec’s back increasing until it’s only just bearable. The lamp in the corner flickers, mellowing into something bright but altogether softer than before. He smiles.

“There you are.”

After that, things are better. The only problem now is that the Institute seems to think that Alec should go do that thing he needs to do pretty much immediately.

On the Friday after his chat with the Institute, he brings Magnus to his office to get his opinion on a string of werewolf territory disputes and almost has a heart attack when he realises the ring is just… on his desk. Where he definitely did not leave it.

“Magnus,” he says a little too loudly, trying not to wince at the edge of panic in his own voice. “I completely forgot I meant to grab Clary for this meeting.” This is only partly a lie; Clary has been invaluable in improving relations with the werewolves in the last few months, becoming their official Shadowhunter liaison only last week. He really should have invited her. “She’s probably sparring with Jace. Would you mind…?”

“Always delighted to see Biscuit,” Magnus says with a smile, pressing a quick kiss to Alec’s cheek before setting off on his errand. The second he’s sure Magnus is out of earshot, Alec spins around and glares murderously at the room at large.

“I will do it in my own damn time,” he growls, marching further into the room and sweeping the ring up off the desk, sliding it into his jeans pocket. The gentle hum that starts up just on the edge of his hearing sounds reproachful and not at all sorry. “Is this because I told Jace you were a better wingman than he is? I should’ve known you were listening. That wasn’t meant to be blanket permission.” The hum intensifies, though the tone doesn’t morph into anything close to apologetic.

“I’m just saying, I wasn’t expecting Jace to hit his head that hard-” Clary’s slightly concerned voice filters its way into Alec’s consciousness, and he straightens into parade rest automatically, turning back to face the open door. 

“Oh, I suspect Jace likes being laid out by you more than he’ll admit, Biscuit,” comes Magnus’s cheerfully lewd reply; Clary’s horrified laughter carries across the threshold just before the two come into view. Alec forces himself to breathe evenly.

That had been way too close.

After that particular incident, Alec has the good sense to keep the ring on him at all times; she can’t move it around if it’s on his goddamn body. It solves the problem, sort of, though it doesn’t stop her from doing “fun” things that he can’t prove are her fault, but which always lead to him having to invite Magnus to the Institute to consult. Usually in small spaces.

Honestly, Jace should probably be embarrassed; she really is a much better wingman than he is.

It’s on one of these “fun” occasions a few weeks later that Alec finds himself in the lower levels of the building, angelic core looking oddly green, Magnus frowning his way through a complex diagnostic spell. Alec keeps his arms folded the entire time, telling himself that interrupting Magnus’s flow with his hands would be very bad, even if he looks frustratingly sexy right now. He’s wearing a soft-looking purple Henley, sleeves pushed up to his elbows, and Alec can’t tear his eyes away from his forearms.

And, because it’s just the two of them, Magnus isn’t even bothering with his glamour. When Alec does manage to look away from the tanned, lithe spectacle of Magnus’s arms, he ends up fixated on those golden eyes instead; it may have been over half a year, but the sight of them still makes something inside him shake loose.

“Diagnosis?” he asks when Magnus huffs, hands snapping closed into fists as blue tendrils of magic stutter out of existence at the edges of his frustrated fingertips.

“Honestly?” Magnus says with a sigh. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say she was just trying to get your attention.” Alec’s stomach lurches with concern for just a second; has he been ignoring her? Is there something wrong somewhere in the Institute and he just hasn’t noticed?

Then his head catches up with him and follows that thought to a more logical conclusion. He stifles a groan and steps a little closer to Magnus, resting his hands on beautifully broad shoulders and pressing their foreheads together in mute apology.

“Something wrong, darling?” Magnus asks, still looking unfairly gorgeous even in the slightly sickly green light cast by the angelic core; his glamour is back up now that his magic isn’t focused elsewhere, and Alec tries not to feel too disappointed about it. Alec snorts and pulls back just a little, curling his hands slightly in the soft fabric of Magnus’s Henley.

“D’you remember when we first got together?” Stupid question really; all Alec has to do is mention it to Magnus and he’s pretty much ready to go. It’s an interesting shortcut, and one which doesn’t seem to be getting any less effective with time. In the here and now, Magnus’s eyes flash just a little, stuttering from dark brown to gold and back again for a split second. His arms slide around Alec’s waist and his warm smile goes a little predatory.

“I do my very best to think about it at least three times a day,” he murmurs, the bass in his voice snuffing out Alec’s higher brain functions like candles in a breeze. “It keeps me young. Why do you ask?” Alec swallows.

“The Institute can be pretty heavy-handed with this stuff,” he says slowly, “but she means well. I think. And I haven’t… okay, I’ve been meaning to ask you something for a while. She may have some opinions about how long it’s taking me.” Magnus doesn’t say anything - just raises his eyebrows in a silent nudge to continue.

The thing is, Alec sometimes still struggles with words when he’s with Magnus. Everything he feels is just so big, like it can’t possibly fit inside his flawed and awkward mortal body, and nothing in any language he knows could possibly be grand enough to express it all. He’s been raised for battle, diplomacy, following orders; he came to love and the other things his heart and body were capable of much later on.

But Magnus knows all that - knows him. So Alec drops to one knee, because fuck it, the Institute might actually be right; Magnus is either going to say yes or no, and Alec asked for this ring for a reason. He’s been ready for a while now. 

Magnus might not be, but at least then he’ll know.

“You’re it for me,” Alec says quietly, instead of one of the thousand things he’s prepared over the last few weeks. He’s thought about this at length, especially in the hazy half-light of mornings together, Magnus’s steady breathing pushing at Alec’s palms where they rest on his chest, wondering how the hell he’d ever believed he was living before this. He’s thought about it when they’re curled around each other like quotation marks; when Magnus has taken him to dusty, ancient bookshops hidden away down alleyways all over the world, just because he knows Alec likes the feel of old paper and the smell of vanillin. Once, during a particularly frantic fuck on the balcony after Alec had almost died on a hunt, he’d found himself thinking “yes, this is it - this guy and this frenetic electricity forever”.

Not in any of those moments of clarity had Alec really imagined he’d go this far off-script, but he really should’ve known.

“I’m not naive enough to think I’m the last person you’ll ever love, but there just… won’t ever be anyone else for me. This isn’t anything like how I thought I was going to do this, but I think if I leave it any longer the Institute might actually blow herself up just to make a point.” Magnus lets out a strangled laugh, and Alec feels something in his chest loosen at the look of complete wonder on the other man’s face.

He pulls the ring out of his pocket, and Magnus’s hands clench at his sides like he wants to reach out.

“Magnus Bane. High Warlock of Brooklyn and probably a bunch of other things you’ve never bothered to tell me about-” Magnus only looks a little bit guilty at that, so Alec’s pretty sure it’s at least partly true. He’s probably got some deep demonic connection he thinks Alec will give a single flying fuck about. “I don’t think I can live without you. And I don’t really want to try, so - will you marry me?”

Magnus does reach out then, pulling Alec to his feet and grabbing blindly for the hand holding the Lightwood family ring like he doesn’t quite believe it’s real. 

“Not to be dramatic or crude,” he says in a voice heavy with emotion, “but that takes top spot for the best thing you’ve ever done for me on your knees.” Alec’s heart is in his throat, and he doesn’t think he can laugh even though he kind of wants to. Also, Magnus is literally always dramatic and crude; it’s written into his DNA. “But you’re wrong, Alec. You’re the last person I am ever going to love like this. I’d like to spend the rest of our days together convincing you of that fact.” Alec can barely breathe, chest tight with the effort of it. “That’s a yes, by the way. To everything. To you, and to marriage, and to anything else you can think of. Yes.”

Alec sinks into their next kiss like he’s starving for it. He doesn’t know how he manages to get the ring onto Magnus’s finger but it’s there when he pulls back, and Alec may be biased but he doesn’t think Magnus has ever looked this good.

“Lightwood-Bane,” Magnus says decisively, a little breathless as he glances between his left hand and Alec’s face like he doesn’t know what he wants to look at more. Alec’s heart does something complicated in his chest; he feels like every organ in his body is re-learning its position in relation to Magnus, like he’s cosmic debris and the man in front of him has his own gravitational pull.

“Yeah?” he says hoarsely, absently noting that he’s still got Magnus’s hand in his, thumb running repeatedly over the engraved surface of the ring. “Not ‘Bane-Lightwood’?”

“I’ve put myself first for long enough,” Magnus says softly, turning his hand under Alec’s to tangle their fingers together. “You opened me up again, Alexander - I’m not sure you realise how much. I think the least you deserve is to be the headline act.”

“What happened to putting your best foot forward?” Alec says, sounding horribly, terribly affected. He feels like there’s a distinct divide between the Alec who came down here today, and the one who’s going to go forward from here. Magnus smiles wider, and Alec’s entire body gravitates towards the curve of it.

“That’s precisely what I’m doing,” Magnus says lightly, kissing Alec a little harder now, daring him to argue.

The light around them changes abruptly from green to white, and all Alec can think is, “well played, you dramatic shit.” 

When Alec tells his siblings what’s happened, Izzy cries and punches him in the arm so hard he thinks something might rupture, then hugs him tightly around the middle. Alec hasn’t really felt able to properly take in oxygen since this whole thing started anyway, so it doesn’t make a great deal of difference when he feels his ribcage creak. Jace grins and grins, throwing an arm around Alec before Izzy’s moved away and holding them both for a long few minutes, mumbling things like “fucking finally” and “totally called it.”

Alec doesn’t cry, but it is an incredibly close call. 

“Clary and I are gonna be bridesmaids, right?” Izzy asks, fierce and tearful where her face is pressed to her brother’s chest.

“No, I was going to ask a couple of random people off the street to fill in,” he says flatly, voice wobbling a little bit as his sister laughs wetly into his shirt. “Mundanes, probably. By the Angel, Iz.”

His mother had been delighted to hear he’d gone through with it in the end, his dad surprised but largely fine with the situation, and Max had just asked if he could come to the bachelor party.

Which - no. Any bachelor party organised by Jace and Izzy is likely to end badly. It’ll probably start badly, in fact, and get worse from there. Max should feel inordinately lucky that he doesn’t have to go, unlike Alec.

By the end of the day, he’s completely exhausted. It’s been kind of a wild ride, and Alec’s been so busy trying to balance work responsibilities with telling his family the big news that he hasn’t managed to see or speak to Magnus since they parted ways at the Institute hours ago. Magnus had had appointments to get to, and while it had taken them ten minutes in a conveniently placed hallway closet to actually say goodbye, Alec had still felt his boyfriend’s absence like a physical ache all afternoon.

His fiancé’s absence, he corrects himself, a little jolt of fierce longing going up his spine. That’s going to take some getting used to.

When he finally crosses the threshold of the loft, all he can think about is having a very hot shower and curling up around Magnus in bed. There’s the possibility that food will have to factor in there somewhere as well, as he doesn’t actually remember eating anything other than the “congrats on the engagement” sandwich Clary had forced on him at around midday, but that’s going to have to wait. Right now, Alec wants nothing more than to be clean and asleep, ideally in the next thirty minutes.

Then he sees Magnus, and Alec’s plans splinter apart and reconstruct themselves around the silk robe Magnus is wearing where he sits reading on the couch.

“Hey,” he says stupidly, blood rushing away from his head like a tide leaving the shore. Alec keeps thinking he’ll get used to this; to seeing Magnus and thinking “yes,” wanting him with such an intensity it knocks all the air from his lungs. Magnus looks over at him with a soft smile, putting his book down on the coffee table, and Alec’s moving before he’s even made the conscious decision to do so; he slides into place on Magnus’s lap like they’re two contiguous parts of a whole.

“Hello yourself,” Magnus says, smile pleased and eyes dark as he brings his hands up to rest on Alec’s hips. “Can I start expecting this kind of greeting every evening?” Alec rolls his eyes and leans down to kiss the wisecracks from Magnus’s mouth, tasting the familiar vestiges of gin and aromatics on his lips. Magnus makes a delighted noise in his throat and pushes back against him, all welcome heat and pleasant surprise.

The heat builds quickly, the hairs on the backs of Alec’s arms standing on end as Magnus pulls him closer by the hips, pausing for breath only when it becomes vital.

“I should get up,” Alec says eventually, reluctant to move but also aware that he needs to stop this before they end up finishing right here on the sofa. He’s breathing hard, trying not to focus on the sheer amount of golden skin on offer where Magnus’s robe has begun to slip off one shoulder. It’s difficult. It’s always difficult. “I really need to shower.”

Alec doesn’t mean the words as an invitation, but he’s not exactly mad about it when Magnus takes them as one.

Alec isn’t completely sure how he got here - here being a writhing mess on their bed - but honestly, he’s kind of trying not to think about it too hard. He’s barely present as it is. He feels weightless and on edge, simultaneously bare and blisteringly hot. He hasn’t come yet, but he’s a little unsure as to how he’s managed to hold back for this long.

The shower had been a whole new experience, and he’s still shaking a little bit with the pin-sharp memory of Magnus’s mouth on his shoulders, his spine, lower still, tongue doing something brand new and startlingly good outside his field of vision. Alec vaguely remembers saying a lot of very stupid things, most of them thankfully jumbled and incoherent as Magnus had eaten him out with a single-mindedness that had threatened to take Alec’s knees out from under him.

“You’re doing so well,” Magnus murmurs in his ear, and Alec whines, hiding his face in the crook of his arm and trying to breathe. He’s pretty sure he’s flushing all over by this point; his blush has finally reached maximum capacity at his neck and shoulders and has sought new shelter in the dips of his hips and between each of his vertebrae.

He wants to say something, but he doesn’t even know what he’d end up asking for. He wants more, wants this to stop, wants to never feel anything but this ever again; he feels all of these things in tandem, and they’re all agonising in their truth. Magnus is taking Alec apart with three fingers and a slow, steady rhythm that makes him want to cry, and there’s nothing he can do but take it.

When Magnus finally sinks into him, Alec lets out a sob and pushes back mindlessly against it, completely incapable of thinking about anything other than getting to come. They don’t do it like this often, Alec preferring to be on his back so he can see Magnus’s un-glamoured eyes and the sinuous movement of muscle as Magnus fucks into him; right now, however, he’s glad to be on his stomach, because he thinks seeing all that would destroy him.

Magnus slides his hands from Alec’s hips and over his shoulder blades, smoothing down the scarred skin of his biceps and forearms to circle his wrists. Alec doesn’t resist when he feels his arms being pressed up above his head, Magnus’s fingers threading through his own and pinning him with a coiled strength that has Alec moaning helplessly into the pillows. 

The thing he’d never considered about sex, Alec thinks disjointedly as Magnus continues to do everything in his power to liquefy Alec’s spine, is that it’ll probably never stop being overwhelming. At first it was too much because it was new; now they’re just really good at it, and every time Alec thinks he’s become acclimated, Magnus does something insane like rimming him in the fucking shower.

The noise he makes when he finally comes is close to a scream, his throat made raw by it as Magnus bites at the nape of his neck and fucks every last tendril of pleasure out of him. Magnus follows him over the edge with a string of swear words in a language Alec doesn’t know, only recognisable as cursing in their cut-glass quality, wrecked and splintered.

Alec might actually pass out for a minute (he’s tired, he’s had a long day, he’s just been ridiculously well fucked by the man he’s going to marry one day) because when he comes back to himself, he’s on his side with Magnus plastered against his back like a second skin. He makes a slurred, pleased noise when he realises Magnus hasn’t pulled out yet; Alec had realised pretty early on in their relationship that he needed the connection for a little while afterwards, and Magnus is always more than happy to oblige.

When he’s not totally come-drunk, he finds it a little bit embarrassing, but the way Magnus looks at him whenever he mentions it suggests he thinks it’s anything but.

“Engaged sex,” Magnus says into his neck with a hoarse laugh, the movement of his mouth against Alec’s skin incredibly soothing. “Married sex might actually kill us.”

“S’good way to go,” Alec agrees. Before sleep claims him entirely, he slips one clumsy hand into the one Magnus is resting on his belly, squeezing with what little strength he has left in him. Magnus presses a kiss to Alec’s shoulder and squeezes back, and Alec drops off with the warm weight of the rest of his life wrapped around him.

The following morning, Jace calls Alec practically in tears, and he’s halfway out of bed and struggling into his jeans before he actually hears what Jace is saying. He’s pretty sure his eyes are still closed, so it’s no wonder the words take some time to register.

“Is this how good your coffee is all the fucking time?” Alec stops fighting with his clothes, vaguely aware that Magnus is sitting up in bed now and looking at him with sleepy curiosity. “Does this mean she likes me? Alec?” 

Alec hangs up on him and climbs back into bed with his fiancé, pushing him back down into the sheets with a discontented grumble.

“I feel absolutely disgusting,” he confesses, pressing his face into Magnus’s neck with a wince. He probably just got something unspeakable on his jeans because of his stupid parabatai and his coffee freak-out. “Why didn’t you do your-” He waves a hand blindly around and Magnus snorts, the huff of breath ruffling Alec’s hair.

“I believe you rather wore me out,” he says, voice low and still gravelly with sleep. “I would be willing to help you shower again though. I’m feeling incredibly charitable this morning.” Alec laughs and slides an arm around Magnus’s waist, slinging a leg across his thighs and half pinning him to the bed.

“Five minutes. And no… funny business while we’re in there.”

“You have my word,” Magnus says firmly, sliding a hand down Alec’s back and coming to rest in the soft dip of his lower spine. Alec suppresses a shiver. “No funny business. I actually take eating you out incredibly seriously, darling.”

Alec’s a little late getting to work, but he takes a great deal of pleasure in loudly blaming his fiancé.