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I See You In The Dark

Chapter Text

 

In an ancient time, in an ancient place...

His feral, flaming eyes are piercing the young warlock who just turned his back and left with no intention of ever coming back. His eyes narrow into slits as he is barely capable of holding his rage in place. He wants to rip him apart, make him beg for forgiveness, watch the youthful arrogance fade and make room for grave pain and despair. A plan is forming in his deluded mind. He will wait, wait and watch, and get his revenge one sweet day, he has forever after all. And he will make sure that the warlock will suffer the utmost possible when his time comes. When true love will be his demise.


 Present day...

 

[April 23 - 20:51 - To: Magnus]

Just finished mission, be there in 30. Warm up that lasagna for me, will you? I'm starving! Love you.

Alec smiles to himself as he sends the text to his boyfriend, his whole body feeling jittery with the anticipation of seeing the man he's been in love with for quite a while now. It's been a long day but thinking about his lover always provides him with new, exhilarating energy. His neck tingles and his step feels lighter, and he never gets tired of it.

[April 23 - 20:53 - From: Magnus]

Alexander, finally! Be assured that something hot will be awaiting you! Also food and your favorite cocktail. Hurry! Love you, too.

His smile broadens as he reads the message and his step quickens, he feels a surge of uninhibited want and love and he needs to get to his man, now! He jumps a fence to use a shortcut, a sudden coldness creeping up in his chest which elicits unwelcomed goosebumps. He freezes, listens carefully and observes his immediate surroundings.

Something feels... ominous. Wrong. Alec's natural skills and profound training make sure he is seldom mistaken in these situations. The coldness is creeping further into him, all along his limbs, getting too close to his heart, and his fingers are twitching.

He can't see anything but the houses, streetlights, cars and the road before him. His intuition is uncannily telling him to run. But he's not one to flee from danger. He goes for his bow and quiver. It takes him almost a minute to realise that his arm, his hand, isn't moving. He can't. He can't move at all, not even a toe.

Dread is forming in his gut. He's trying to move again and again, just to take a step, to fish his phone out of his jacket pocket, to open his mouth. He can't. He can't even try to shout for help. A cruel sickness is taking him over, sweat is breaking out on his face, his neck, seconds later it's covering his skin everywhere, his heart is pumping with fear and adrenaline. He's completely vulnerable and helpless.

There's movement on his right, but he can't turn his head. A swish and he loses consciousness.


 27 weeks later...

There's a man sitting in a loft in Brooklyn. The rooms are dark, no light could penetrate even through a tiny gap, he made sure of it himself.

It is silent, the kind that feels oppressive, crushing. A few bottles that used to contain strong liquor are lying around him, all empty. One left broken as he smashed it against the wall a few minutes ago, or maybe hours. He has lost the ability to gauge time.

His cats are gone, taken in by Isabelle who wouldn't play the silent onlooker any longer. It's as well, as he couldn't take care of them anymore. He can't take care of anything.

He hasn't left this loft, this room, this spot on the floor for days probably, maybe more. He feels nothing, he is nothing, nothing is left.

He's had dreams, visions, nightmares. He has seen someone that wasn't really there. Someone, always the same person. Always him.

Alexander. His Alexander, who vanished from the earth so many weeks, months, ago. Without leaving a single trace.

Magnus feels as if he's succumbed to madness. He has been talking to Alec. Has seen him in their empty rooms. Striding to the kitchen with fast, secure steps, when he was hungry. Leaning against the counter, his arms crossed in front of his chest, smirking lightly as he was watching Magnus, probably telling him of some grandiose skirmish, or some lascivious joke. Laughing, smiling, observing. Magnus always sees him, hears him, even smells him, but he can never touch him, never make him stay. He's but a ghost in Magnus' home that doesn't feel homely anymore.

He's a mere shadow of his former self, no longer caring for his appearance, clothes, hair, make up, daily hygiene. It doesn't matter.

The first time he saw Alec, his ghost, was when he was lying in their bed, he had been shivering from a coldness he couldn't explain, a low light illuminating the room, he suddenly felt a shuddering sensation crawling up his arm. As he turned his head, Alec was there, lying next to him, his cheek on his hand, a soft strand of dark hair falling into his left eye, watching his boyfriend, a gentle, loving expression on his face that was painful. Magnus stopped breathing. He could feel his lover's breath, his body heat. He was so real, until he reached out a hand to touch him. He felt him, but it was just a reflex, a muscle memory. He grasped nothing but air. The pain was all-consuming.

He's consumed by it now. There is nothing left but his memories, which provide endless torture. He's given up questioning, searching. There's nothing and no one to be found, he tried, he tried absolutely everything.

For months he's been looking, following leads that revealed nothing as there was nothing to be found in the first place. He's been traveling everywhere, looking into any possible scenario, any possible enemy who could be responsible for Alec's disappearance. He's made a few new friends on the way, more enemies. But he doesn't care. There's nothing and no one he cares about now. Alec is gone. His Alexander is gone, and his tortured mind has started to accept that he's gone for good.

It shouldn't have been possible. There was always a clue, a hint of a spell, some magic, a witness, a rumor. Blood. Evidence. A rune. Jace had stopped feeling his parabatai that fateful evening. There was no abruptness to it, not even a moment to pinpoint when it happened. It was a fleeting sensation. Alec was there. Alec was gone. As simple as that.

They have all been looking, exhausting every possibility they could come up with, cashing in on every favor anyone's ever owed them, doing favors and indebting themselves. To no avail. Alec was gone. And no one knew a thing. Not seelies, not vampires, not werewolves, warlocks, mundanes or even demons.

Magnus had sweet talked, bought, used magic and threatened everyone he could think of, or was pointed to. Ragnor, Catarina, Raphael, Luke and other friends had helped them. No search had ever had such a gigantic and widespread scale, beyond and above worlds, as the one for Alec Lightwood.

Hope had faded with every passing week, every impasse they encountered. They were all so determined, no one believing that their friend, brother, lover, could have disappeared just like that - or even be dead. There was no body, no trace evidence.

In his worst, most despaired moments, Magnus felt as if his Alexander had never truly existed. Just a figment of his warped imagination. A punishment for his crimes, for being the monster he conveniently forgot he was.

They saw it. The real him. Izzy, Clary, Jace and Simon. They know the real him now. He had gone just a little bit insane as yet another doubtful path had led them nowhere. And some demons had thought it to be the best moment to attack them. He had let his rage and desperation, all that dreadful pain, take him over. He had killed them all before the Shadowhunters could even react. But he couldn't stop. He needed to destroy. He needed to get rid of the anguish, the distress, the sorrow. As there were no demons left, he had demolished a row of buildings that luckily had been abandoned. The girls had tried to stop him first, talk sense into him, but when Izzy came too close, she had been hit by the force of his magic, been thrown a few hundred feet to the ground where she lay motionless. Only when hearing Clary's shattering scream could Magnus calm himself enough to help his friend. He healed her and she was going to be alright. But nothing is as before. Nothing can be.


 “Alexander?” He speaks into the darkness, his voice timid, his body and mind weak and shaken. He blinks. There is no one here. He withdraws more into himself, wishing his mind was wiped, free of every painful thought, every image, every memory. He can't let that happen, though. This will be his sentence for eternity, his punishment for having lost the one person he would give his life for. His one true love. His Alexander.

He's in a state of half dreams, half consciousness. Reliving the best part of the little over a year they spent together as a couple. Seeing Alec for the first time (second time, the very first time he hadn't had a proper chance to look!), the tousled dark hair, the slight dent in his nose, that deep voice, that tall, slender but muscley body, that enchanting smile, and those eyes.

Blue eyes had always had a special appeal to him, but seeing those hazel hues made all the blue he thought he treasured appear pale in comparison.

Something had drawn him undeniably close to the wonderful, strong, gorgeous, young man. Every pore of his body had felt it. Every one of his thoughts had led back to the Shadowhunter. He had fought with all he had had, held back, learned so much about respect, patience and mindfulness. Realised what happiness was and that he would have given him up, should Alec not have found the same happiness in Magnus.

Alec had made dreams come true the warlock hadn't even known he'd had. He was perfection with all his imperfect quirks and behavorisms. He was endearing, adorable, beautiful, trustworthy, a savior and a warrior, the gentlest, bravest, kindest and most loving soul who could be fierce and wild as well, as Magnus had found out over time, when Alec had learned in return to let go, be who he wanted to be. Alec had given Magnus his heart and soul and the greatest gift of spending his life with the much older man, accepting him, his history, the dreaded immortality, all his mistakes and shameful actions. And the cats adored him, even Church liked Alec more than he ever did Magnus and Magnus so got it. And Alec adored them just the same.

Alec had accepted every part of Magnus and loved him and Magnus had never loved the same way before the young man. Alec had surprised and amazed him in more ways than he would have thought achievable. Alec was everything. But Alec was gone, so Magnus had nothing.

Except those fucking condemning memories that wouldn't stop haunting him.

Their first, amazing, passionate kiss in front of the whole Institute on Alec's wedding day, when the young Shadowhunter finally chose himself over his parents, his duty, the law. And later on he had chosen Magnus, making the warlock the luckiest one in the history of everything.

They'd had awkward, yet funny and unforgettable dates none of them would change for anything, they had spent many nights trying to find Alec's favorite alcoholic drinks, Magnus becoming more creative than ever. Magnus will never forget the day Alec agreed to go out dancing with him, his insecure look, his stiff body, working against everything he was used to, eventually letting himself go and enjoying himself, being comfortable with Magnus holding and guiding him. And the one time he had let Magnus put eyeliner on him. Nothing glittery! Plain black eyeliner, but honestly, it was all Alec needed to be just that bit more compelling to Magnus. And the boy basically possessed his whole being anyway.

Alec had given him his trust, his love, his fantasies. Together they had explored their growing affections and attraction, and Alec had learned to trust Magnus with his trepidations grown from his insecurities, his desires and wants. And Magnus had been patient, kind, sometimes challenging but never forceful, never pressured the younger man into anything he didn't want to or wasn't ready for. And Alec had surprised him again with how well he knew himself and what he wanted and was ready for in the end. Magnus would have waited forever just to be with him. And Alec was everything and more, and again the older man had realized that there was still so much he hadn't known, hadn't experienced about love and making love in so many ways. Magnus had been Alec's firsts in many ways, but Alec had also been Magnus' in more ways than the warlock was able to express.

All of it was shredding him from the deepest part within himself to the bare, sore surface. He had thought Camille had killed him, but now he could only laugh at himself for having believed such ridiculous nonsense. This felt like dying. Being ripped apart over and over and over and over again. It never stopped. It hadn't stopped since April 23rd when Alec hadn't come home as he'd promised to.

Magnus remembers every second spent with him from that day. Waking up next to his boyfriend very early, kissing him awake lazily, his heart missing a couple of beats when sleepy hazel eyes gazed at him, how he slowly and lovingly burned Alec's body with ecstasy. Afterwards he made breakfast, well, snapped his fingers because he couldn't be bothered to get out of bed, yet. They talked and laughed and kissed and kissed some more, took a shower together, made love again, kissed and talked and kissed until Alec was called to the mission, promising he'd be back soon. Magnus couldn't stop thinking about him at all that day. He had felt such deep satisfaction, an understanding that no matter what happened, this was what he would live and breathe for, for as long as he was graced with.

He hadn't stopped smiling that day, Church and Chairman Meow giving him the strangest looks he simply ignored, as well as their hissing when he grabbed them to cuddle them senseless. Then he cooked, one of their favorites Alec had taught him; before Alec he never had had the urge to cook regularly himself, and they texted a few times, Magnus enjoying how he made Alec envious of the food, though he didn't really want to eat it without him. And then he was waiting impatiently to hear from his boyfriend that he was well and on his way home. It had taken him long enough, but as soon as he got Alec's text, he turned into a ball of excited, happy energy.

And then Alec hadn't come home after those 30 minutes. And neither after an hour. And he hadn't answered his phone, and Magnus hadn't found him, and no one else had known where he was, either.


Chapter Text

 

Enjoy your own personal hell, Alexander.

The voice sounds eerie and spiteful as it booms in his ears, his chest, his mind, and then it fades as quickly as it came. He doesn't know where he is, he doesn't see anything, he doesn't feel anything, not even his own body. He's weightless, opening his eyes seemingly having the same effect as closing them. A void. He's terrified.

Alec doesn't have to wonder long about where he is and what is happening. He's pulled away, deeper into something he's unable to make sense of.

He is floating, or at least it feels like it. He still can't see, or touch anything, but he doesn't feel as scared anymore. Maybe he's just dreaming, maybe it's all a dream, or nightmare, but he'll wake up soon enough.

Just that he doesn't.

He's suddenly falling, through time and space, he doesn't know, he feels nauseous, he's screaming, or at least he thinks he is, might just be in his mind.

He hits something, a surface, a million needles piercing his body, he's freezing. Water. He hit water and it's icy and he's struggling to swim. It's impossible and he doesn't have any air left in his lungs. He's drowning, freezing, getting numb, seeing how the light fades, feeling how the ice cold water fills his insides, agonizing pain, blackness.


Present day...

His phone his buzzing. He doesn't know where he put it, it should probably have run out of battery by now anyway. It keeps buzzing and the sound feels alien in the silence and he's going to just ignore it.

Buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz. He blinks. Still? It's just a background noise he successfully blended out, but it's still there?!

He moves his hand wearily, waves his fingers and the phone appears in his hand. Clary. The name doesn't really touch anything in him. But she's extremely persistent. No matter, he'll just tell her not to bother calling him ever again...

“Magnus! Finally, where are you? It doesn't matter, just, you have to come, right now!”

His mind seems to have become slower these last days, or weeks? He doesn't care anymore. Her words sink in but what is he meant to feel? Whatever insignificant trouble they're in, they can handle it on their own. He's not their possession, he won't come running at their every beck and call. Never again.

“Magnus!”

Oh, he forgot to actually say the words.

“Just leave me al-”

“It's Alec!”

“...”

“Magnus? Did you hear me? We found him! He's right here!”

It's not real. It can't be real. Another dream, wishful thinking, mad desire. He's gone mad! He isn't actually talking to Clary, and she's just saying what his mind is wanting to hear!

“I'm so tired, just let me sleep.”

He won't sleep, doesn't know when he last did, doesn't care. It's all senseless and ridiculous. He won't play along, especially not with a concoction of his own mind's insanity.

“MAGNUS! Don't make me come get you! I'm not lying! It's true! Jace suddenly felt him again and found him close to the institute, he's here! ALEC IS HERE, ALIVE! You better come right now or-”

He knows it's a lie, but something is telling him to make sure. He turns the lights on suddenly, squinting his eyes furiously for a moment, not used to the brightness. The loft, his living-room. Everything's here. Not as neat as it used to be (he broke everything at one point, just to magic it whole again and break it over and over – afterwards Izzy took the cats in who were rather traumatised) but it's familiar. He turns to stare at the phone where Clary's voice is still going on. He needs a moment to make a decision.

“Tell me again.” His voice sounds a little firmer, a little more life back in it.

“Alec is right here, at the institute, Jace found him, we don't know what happened, but he's... alive, and you better hurry!”

She hangs up before he can say anything else, but he feels speechless anyway. Alec is... alive, at the institute? HOW?!

He kicks himself. It doesn't matter just now. He has to go!

Magnus ignores the complaints his body shouts at him as he quickly pulls himself up into a standing position. He can barely feel his legs, having been in the same position for too long. He quickly opens a portal but the moment he wants to step through he's registering something. He looks down at himself, smells himself. He can't possibly go like this. They can't see him like this! He doesn't have time for a shower, though. All he can do is magic himself casually presentable, it will have to do. Then he steps through the portal.

Clary and Jace are waiting for him. He feels suspicious at the way they regard him. Jace has bloodshot eyes. Clary's are a little too red as well. It would be understandable, he should probably be crying as well... Alec... Alexander... but they're not smiling, they don't come across as two people who are relieved to have found their best friend and parabatai again after endless months of suffering from his absence. All of Magnus' alarm bells are going off at once.

“What haven't you told me? What's wrong?!” He's too wound up, too anxious, worried, unable to fathom what is really happening, that this actually is happening. He needs to see him, he needs to touch him, to know, to feel that it's true, that his Alexander is actually back in this world.

He got too close into Clary's face, her eyes widen, showing a spark of... fear? Jace is between them in an instant and Magnus backs off a little. He's too out of it.

“Magnus, get yourself together. This hasn't been easy on any of us! But I promise you it is true, Alec's here now, and he's... alive.”

Alive. The word Clary used on the phone a few times. He should have paid better attention. Alive means everything, or nothing. Alive... they didn't say he's fine, alright, OK, unharmed. Just alive. Just isn't really justifiable as it's more than they could have hoped for, but right now, it's not nearly enough!

It takes all of his self-control to stay calm outwardly. “Just take me to him.”

Jace and Clary share a quick glance that unsettles him to his core. What aren't they fucking telling him?!

“Magnus...”

He ignores the red-head and storms on further down the corridor. He'll find Alec himself. Jace is suddenly in front of him, a hand on his chest, holding him back. The Shadowhunter should really know better by now than to do that! Rage is flaring up in Magnus and he's about to do something he may regret at some point, but it's Jace's own damn fault!

“Magnus, stay calm, Alec doesn't... he's not...” Jace fumbling with words? That's a sight he hasn't seen often, but he really doesn't give a shit!

“He lost his memories!” Magnus turns abruptly, staring at Clary, incomprehension showing on his features. Jace's hand drops but Magnus hardly notices or minds now.

Clary puts a hand on his arm, makes sure he's looking at her, and speaks again, her eyes brimming with unshed tears. “Alec doesn't remember anything, not what happened or where he's been, or even... who we are or who he is. He doesn't remember anything, Magnus.”

It takes him a very long moment to grasp the meaning of her words. Magnus feels out of his depth, unable to cope with yet another maddening truth. If it's true? Maybe it isn't, or just temporary, or he can use magic to-

“I need to see him, Clary.” She must have seen, maybe even felt, his desperation, the flood of words and emotions contained inside him, wobbly at best.

“We'll take you.” She squeezes his hand for a moment then leads the way, Jace following them, looking crestfallen.

 


 

The room they put him in is rather bare. A small bed, a desk, an empty closet, empty shelves, brown walls, a window, a door. The girl said it used to be his room. He doesn't remember, nothing feels familiar. He has no memory, no knowledge of this place, these people. The girl who said she was his sister. He didn't know he had one. But then... he didn't even know his own name. Alec, apparently. Alec Lightwood. It feels as out of place as the rest of him. He glimpsed himself in a mirror earlier, the reflection staring back at him could have belonged to anyone, anyone at all. He has never seen that face. Any of these faces. He doesn't know where he is, where he's been, what he's been doing, doesn't even know who he is. He guesses he can't but trust these people.

The blond, Jace, he was crying when he, Alec, opened his eyes and saw him. He didn't understand why. He gets it now, he thinks. If his best friend had suddenly appeared out of nowhere after thinking he had been lost forever... but he doesn't feel the emotions attached to it. He doesn't feel much, apart from the confusion, the frustration, the emptiness. He couldn't even describe it.

He's been sitting on the bed, staring at his hands, they're quite large with long, slender fingers. His feet, also quite large, wearing black boots. He's wearing all black, apparently that's his style. The girl, Isabelle, his sister?, told him a few things about this place and who he is apparently, after she, too, had stopped crying. Everyone he saw was shocked into silence or started to cry. It made him feel extremely weird, uncomfortable. He was glad when she brought him here, at least he can try to make sense of something now, though that seems rather impossible.

There's a knock on the door and his head shoots up, his heart starts pounding nervously. Isabelle? “Co- come in!” He stands and moves back towards the window, the bow and quiver with arrows he had with him are leaning against the wall next to him. He has no recollection of ever using a bow and arrow, but Isabelle told him they were his. His eyes are drawn back to the door that's opening.

There's Clary, Jace's girlfriend he remembers, and Jace, and also someone he hasn't seen before. A man of Asian origin, his mind tells him, his black hair styled in a quiff. He's wearing black pants, a navy colored shirt, and a black jacket adorned with strange silver embroidery, and he's not sure why he's noticing it at all in a split second and why this man is staring at him so intently, the hairs on his body are all standing up, sending waves of cold shivers all over his skin. His throat tightens and he feels trapped in the small, too crowded room, and also weirdly fascinated.

“Who... who are you then?” He finds his voice, though a bit too soft for his liking, he swallows and wets his lips and the Asian man's eyes seem to stare even more. What's wrong with him?

“That's Magnus, he's a very good friend of ours, yours, too.” Clary offers with a soft, nervous smile. Jace is glancing down and the other man, Magnus, seems to shake himself out of something, his goldbrown stare feeling less intrusive.

Alec just nods at him, not sure what he's supposed to do with this new information. At least he isn't crying.

“You really don't remember... anything?” The man's voice is smoother than he would have thought, revealing emotions Alec can't discern, but he guesses it's the shock reaction to his appearance they all seem to be feeling.

He shrugs slightly and runs his fingers through his hair. “Not really, not anything about this place, or you people.” Or myself.

The man, Magnus, seems to have the most trouble coming to terms with this revelation judging from the shocked, haunted look in his eyes, but there's nothing Alec can do. He would change it if he could.

Still he wants to say something, proffer something... anything. “I know... about this world, I mean, about Shadowhunters, mundanes and such. Vampires, werewolves, warlocks, demons, that kind of stuff. I know that's a bed and a desk, furniture... I know... things... I just don't know...” He's fumbling for words to describe it but he doesn't really know how to, what words could make sense of it.

“It's alright, I get it, don't worry.” Magnus offers with a slight twitch of his lip, resembling the beginning of a smile, but his eyes don't show any signs of joy. The opposite really, and Alec glances away, not sure where he should look, his hands coming up to settle on his upper arms in an unconscious attempt to comfort himself.

“We should let you rest for now, you must be... exhausted.” Maybe the new guy, Magnus, yes, could see his discomfort? Alec's eyes find the three people in 'his' room again, the other two having been so quiet, he almost forgot they were there. Rest? He doesn't not feel rested, just... disjointed. But he nods because he wants to be alone for a while, gather his thoughts.

“Yes, we'll be just outside, just shout if you need anything, alright?” Clary smiles at him and Jace nods in agreement, then they leave, Magnus being last, his eyes once again sending a shudder down Alec's spine before he disappears behind the door. Alec exhales slowly and takes a few deep breaths, trying to relax his muscles as well as his inner turmoil. It's rather futile.

 


 

The three of them gather in a secluded room, away from curious eyes, Clary and Jace sharing worried looks while watching Magnus' unfathomable expression.

Clary's searching for something to say when the door opens and Isabelle enters with Simon in tow. Clary hugs them both and then watches as Isabelle moves over to where their warlock friend is standing, a greater distance away from them.

“Magnus?” Her voice is soft, concerned, she wants to touch him but isn't sure if to even try, apprehensive of his reaction. He looks so broken she's finding it hard to breathe.

Magnus finally looks up and meets her eyes and she gasps as his arms fling around her smaller form so suddenly and with such vigor, but she's not afraid. Not of him. She closes her arms around him, holding his trembling body as close as she can, while he holds onto her like she's his last functioning lifeline.

 


 

Magnus has never felt so torn between following his agonizing need to leap into action and frightening restraint. When he sees Alec, standing in his old room, looking exactly the same as on the day he last saw him, he almost loses it completely. He wants, needs to grab him, press the taller man into him and never ever let him go again. The second their eyes meet, however, Magnus knows it's true. Alec doesn't recognize him. He was sure he has by now felt every kind of pain anyone has ever felt, could feel, but this is...

Soul-corroding.

Magnus doesn't know how he stays standing, how he manages to speak, how he doesn't break down hearing Alec's voice, seeing the familiar gestures he's seen a thousand times, like the taller man shrugging, his tongue wetting his lips, running his fingers through his hair in that Alec way. Everything is so him, his Alexander, but there's an insurmountable barrier between them. It's shredding him apart.

Magnus can't stay any longer, he can't trust himself. He needs to get some distance, force sense into him, look at this rationally, make plans... but he's so full of so many feelings, above all anguish, and he's left helpless, again.

As soon as he becomes aware of Izzy's presence and meets her kind, worried eyes, he knows she's the only one who can help him now. He has to give in, craving for someone to hold onto, someone to hold him, somehow giving him the strength to go on, to find a way to make everything OK again. He's the most powerful person in the room, yet he feels pathetically frail. But he's not fighting it, not now.

“I'm so sorry.” He whispers for Izzy to hear only before he turns his head away slightly, bringing a hand up to magic the tear stains away. He doesn't exactly care whether they see him crying, but his moment of weakness is over. He has to be stronger than ever now, find his power and determination again. Alec is back, alive, physically unharmed. That's all he will allow himself to focus on until he finds a spell, any solution, to bring Alec's memories back and find whoever did this to him.

He turns and walks over to Jace who's looking a little uneasy. Does he think Magnus is going to hug him, too? At any other moment in time, Magnus would laugh and make fun of him to his heart's content. His face shows nothing but firm, newfound purpose, however.

“Tell me in all detail what happened from the moment you felt your parabatai bond again.”

 

Chapter Text

Alec had paced the small room, lain on the bed staring up at the light-brown ceiling, but felt too weird to stay in a rather vulnerable position, and eventually asked the Shadowhunter who was left outside to guard him, if and where he could take a shower.

He even provided him with fresh clothes. He feels relief as he turns the lock on the door, feeling pretty sure that no one can come barging in. The outside seems rather huge and frightening. But he doesn't want to succumb to such feelings. How will he ever find his place in this world if he keeps himself locked in a room? A bathroom for that matter.

He's watching himself rather intensely as he strips down. He doesn't know this body, has no recollection of the tattoos – no - runes that are adorning his skin. He's a Shadowhunter. He knows what it means, but he doesn't know what it means, for him.

He has definitely been working out, that's for sure. When he's done inspecting his body, he moves closer to the mirror and observes his face thoroughly, touching it, pulling the skin, grimacing. He messes up his unruly hair even further, sticks his tongue out at himself, fake grins and looks mad. In the end he shakes his head at himself, sighs and starts the water running. The hot wetness engulfing his body feels good, better than he remembers feeling, and he can finally relax.

Dressed in dark-grey jeans, his boots, and to his surprise a white T-shirt, and a black top, he also pulls on the black jacket he wore when Jace found him again. It fits him rather well and it's something a little bit familiar at least.

He thinks about going back to that room, but what is he meant to be doing in there? There's literally nothing in there, except for the bed but he can't find any rest and he doesn't want to. He wants to know more about this place, so he's off to explore. People look at him strangely which he's almost used to by now, but they let him observe. There is so much hightech stuff everywhere, he should probably know what it all is and how to work it, but he doesn't have a clue and he doesn't want to ask.

He finds a kitchen, but it's empty, lots of doors he's too chicken to open, and ends up at what must be a place for training, judging from the punchbag hanging from the ceiling and the fighting staffs arranged on a rack at the wall. Have I been training here?

He must have. It all feels like a dream, maybe he's just stuck in one. His stomach growls and he guesses it's time to find Isabelle or one of the others anyway. Walking around this place without any aim is useless to him.


 

Jace swallows and sends his mind back to a few hours ago. He had been getting ready to go on a walk. Checking the perimeter while getting some air, should anyone ever ask. They all knew what he was doing anyway. He just needed to get out at times, more often the longer his parabatai was missing. He was suffering in a way the others couldn't comprehend, simply because they weren't connected to Alec in that way. Part of him had been lost together with his best friend, and it had left a void in him. The only one suffering even more was probably Magnus. Jace had hoped they would be able to be there for each other through it all, but the signs had been clear that that wasn't going to work out after the incident with Magnus going all mad warlock on them and hurting Izzy. He and Simon had been livid, not making any excuses for him but Clary had eventually talked them down. And then Magnus had pretty much stayed away.

It was a vague sensation he didn't even notice at first. Then something like a heartbeat, then... he just knew. And he was close, so close, he started running, calling out Alec's name over and over, his body going wild with the adrenaline pumping through it. He almost tumbled over when he had to stop so abruptly because of the body lying on the ground only a few feet away from him.

Everything seemed to happen in slowmotion then. He stepped closer carefully, got onto his knees and turned the body towards him, tears filling his eyes. Alec. It was really him, but he wasn't conscious. However, he was definitely breathing! Before Jace could decide what to do, Alec's eyes opened and met his. Jace could barely contain the sob that was forcing its way out of his throat. He held Alec's body as tight as never before, crying almost uncontrollably for a minute.

Who... are you? Where... am I?” Jace startles, freezes and pulls back to look at his best friend, his brother. He wipes his eyes, loosening his grip on the other man.

Alec? What are you saying? It's me! Jace.” The blond is looking for the recognition to appear in Alec's hazel eyes, in vain.

Jace had been scared, shocked, confused, but all he knew to do, all he could do, was to take Alec back to the Institute. Alec had gone with him, but he seemed out of it, not quite there with him. But he was there, and he was alive, everything else would fall into place. Or so he had hoped.

There hadn't been anything suspicious, nothing out of place Jace could remember. He described to Magnus where he had found Alec, and Magnus called Ragnor to send him to check for any strange activity, any trace that could help them. He would have gone himself, but he physically couldn't leave the place Alec was at. He was secretly glad that the Lightwood parents weren't present at the Institute. They had never truly accepted their relationship, Robert coming close, but Maryse was another matter altogether, and he didn't want to deal with her right now. Izzy had to have informed them about their son's return anyway, and they probably wouldn't have a whole lot of time without them interfering.

He still had to hurry to come up with a plan. He wanted to 'examine' Alec, in a magic kind of way, but under the given circumstances, he didn't want to scare the younger man. He already knew that he had never, in all his hundreds of years, come across anything similar to what had happened to Alec. The unknown was always the worst enemy, and he didn't know whether he could ever shake off this fear that had been eating away at him for so long and even now hadn't grown any weaker.

Five heads turn simultaneously as Alec enters the room. He looks a little taken aback with everyone staring. “I.. uh, that guy out there said you were in here and it was OK to join you.” His hand goes to his neck, rubbing it in embarrassment.

The gesture is so familiar to all of them, it hurts them all in different ways. Magnus doesn't understand how it's possible for him to be so much himself, yet... it hurts so bad. And he sees the same hurt in Izzy's expression and Jace's body language.

“Hey, sure! I'm Simon, by the way, Izzy's boyfriend.” Simon's walked over, stretched out a hand and grins at Alec joyfully. Alec looks a little stunned but shakes the offered hand and smiles a little. “I guess you already know who I am.” His smile doesn't falter and the tension leaves the room. “Yeah, and before anyone tells you otherwise, we've been the best of friends from day one! You totally love me!”

“Simon!” Izzy says reproachfully before she smirks slightly, Clary chuckles and even Jace grins softly. Just Magnus seems to be unable to appreciate what's happening. He can't but stare at Alec, and when the young Shadowhunter meets his gaze for a moment, chills are running in waves over the warlock's body. He's beyond jealous of the vampire holding Alec's hand, but he swallows the notion down bitterly.

Alec takes his hand back and regards Simon suspiciously for a moment, however, he doesn't have a clue if what he said is right or wrong, and being his sister's boyfriend, he can't have disliked him too much, right?

“Do you need anything?” Izzy steps closer, watching her older brother fondly.

Alec blinks and then remembers. “Oh, yeah, I wanted to ask who I have to bribe here to get some food, I'm starving.” Alec's words elicit a few more grins from people, but Magnus freezes, remembering the last time he had read those words from Alexander, the day he had gone missing. He feels so close to losing it once again, it takes so much willpower to remain calm and pretend he's OK with this ridiculously insane situation. He also feels like an asshole for obviously not appreciating enough that Alec is back. But it's not that... he just... all those months he wanted nothing more than to hold his love once more, and now that he's right here, merely a few steps away from him, he can't.

Alec wouldn't know what to do with him being like this, and Magnus wouldn't be able to let go, and most of all he can't because Alec wouldn't feel the same as him. He doesn't feel the same, he doesn't remember him, them, their life, their love. Nothing.

That realisation feels like infinite cuts to his soul.

“Magnus? Are you coming?” Clary. He blinks and looks at her confused. She's the only one left with him now. “We're taking Alec out to dinner, to that Italian place he likes so much, a familiar place, you know?” Magnus can see how bad she feels for him, how much she pities him. He feels sudden hatred for himself flare up, nods and leaves the room without a word.

If Alec doesn't remember the place he grew up in or even his own sister and parabatai, do they honestly think a stupid restaurant would trigger his memories? He doesn't think so, but he's joining them anyway, not ever going to leave Alec alone at any place, any time, never again.


Dinner is quite enjoyable, if your name isn't Magnus Bane. He sat down last, the furthest away from Alec as his emotional turmoil grants keeping a safe distance, also he can watch him and their surroundings most efficiently that way. He keeps out of their conversations, pretending to listen and eats without tasting the food. All he's able to do is watch the young man and wreck his brain. What happened to you? Where have you been all this time? Who wiped your memories and HOW could they do it without leaving a single clue behind?!

Ragnor didn't find anything, and though Magnus didn't have much hope, his mood turns even more grave after getting that piece of news.

“So, wait, you're saying you're a vampire? How'd that happen?” Alec is turned to Simon who's sitting a chair away from him with Izzy between them. “Oh, that's a very long and very profound story.” Simon brags a little, grinning.

“A vampire seduced and bit him and Clary buried him because she didn't want to let him die.” Jace retorts and Clary pushes her elbow into his side but too late.

Simon's face falls and he sighs defeatedly. “Well, there was a bit more to it than that, but basically, yes.”


Alec smiles vaguely, taking everything and everyone in once more. He doesn't exactly feel uncomfortable right now. Even though he doesn't really know these people, they seem very in sync with each other and they have a way of making him feel welcome and include him. Except Magnus. All that man ever seems to do is watch him and look sour. Alec wonders how the Asian man fits into this little group but he thinks it would be rude to ask. Clary had said he's a very good friend of theirs and himself. He doesn't have any reason to question this, but something definitely feels off about the guy.


It's almost 10 pm when they're walking back to the Institute. It's a mild night for it being November. They chat in low voices, sometimes laughing at something someone said, while Magnus is trailing behind. The scene before him is so bizarre he doesn't know how it can be reality. It's as if Alec was never gone almost, as if everything would be alright, but nothing is alright! Nothing at all! He can't pretend like the others seem to have no qualms about. But then it's so different for them. Alec's only their brother and friend. They can talk and tell him stories and make him smile and laugh... being a brother and a friend is normal, it's fine. Being... gay and in love with another man, warlock, when you completely forgot about those small details is on another level entirely.

Jace, Simon and Clary say goodnight to Alec shortly after they arrived. Izzy and Magnus are talking quietly, waiting for Alec to change in his room. Izzy actually delayed telling their parents about Alec's return when she learned about his condition. She had to inform them eventually though, but she may have bought them all a little more time. Their parents don't want Max to know which makes Izzy rather bitter. Their brother has a right to know and he's not a small, helpless child... but she will wait, for now.

Magnus is debating whether he should stay here or let Isabelle watch over her brother tonight and come back in the morning, when they will have to have a serious talk about this situation. Being all nice and chitchatty and wanting to make it easier for Alec is all noble, but ignoring the problem instead of facing it and looking for a solution is unacceptable.

There's a yell coming from Alec's room suddenly, and Magnus and Izzy are in there within a second. They certainly hadn't expected the sight greeting them.

Alec is standing in the middle of the room, barefeet, wearing black sweatpants and the white T-shirt, his arms awkwardly angled up towards his head, and on his head is...

“Chairman?!” Magnus is truly surprised at the cat balancing on the young man's head. The Chairman meows and pushes his paws into Alec's hair, purring. Alec's expression is so perplexed that Izzy's outright laughing and even Magnus can't suppress the grin. Church is there, too, stretched out on Alec's bed, watching the scene with clearly visible contentedness.

“You little devils.” Magnus feels a surge of longing, regret and guilt at seeing their cats. It must have been at least three weeks since he last saw them. Izzy's been looking after them very well, which makes him feel very grateful and even guiltier.

“Chairman?” Alec's expression is still rather bewildered but he's letting his arms fall to his sides.

“Chairman Meow, and that's Church, yours and Ma-, I mean, our cats.” She sends Magnus an apologetic look, his eyes had started to grow dangerously narrow. She just about saved herself.

“Come here you little furry ball, you gotta introduce yourself first before attacking someone like that.” She takes the cat from Alec's head carefully - he bent down a little to give her access - and cuddles him to her chest, smiling up at her brother. “They've missed you a lot, as well.”

Alec's looking suspiciously at the cat and runs his hands through his hair, making sure it's alright, tousling it even more in the process. Magnus feels a series of painful jolts in his chest. He'd give absolutely anything to touch...

“I don't even know how they got in here, I'm sure I closed the door.” Having a cat you don't know exists lying in your bed all of a sudden is one thing, but having one also jump on your head?! He truly hadn't expected that!

The grey striped, furry ball of happiness is purring extremely loudly, stretching its head towards Alec and his hand comes up automatically, his fingers scratching the cat between his ears. A tender smile appears on his face and he looks breathtakingly beautiful. Magnus can't stay, his hands forming into fists and tears threatening behind his eyes. He leaves without saying a word, they don't even notice before he closes the door on them.

Alec frowns. “What's up with him? He's been... strange.”

Izzy swallows, biting her cheek before she can say something she shouldn't. She puts the cat into Alec's arms who's susprised for a moment but quickly gets used to having the warm, soft animal pressed against him, nuzzling his chin. He certainly likes cats, at least this one!

“Don't worry, he's just got a lot on his mind. Come sit, I'll tell you some more about our little brother, Max, and the mischief he used to get into all the time.” She grins, sits down on the bed and strokes Church who lets her. She needn't ask twice, Alec feels like he has a never-ending thirst for learning more about his former life and the people in it and he can't wait to meet Max at some point, preferably when he can remember something again... at this moment he feels rather hopeful for this to happen, at least some day.


Magnus decides to go back to the loft, to take a shower, change clothes, get some reading material about memory spells and such, and then he's back at the Institute. He magicks his couch into the training area which is secluded at this time of night, watches the punchbag with fond sadness for a moment and then makes himself comfortable, reading most of the night while also conferring with Ragnor and Catarina via text messages. They have been looking further into the matter, but as expected, unsuccessfully so far.

He did get some rest, enough and more than he is used to anymore, and so he takes the couch back to the loft, makes himself presentable, forces himself to be more himself again, the way Alec got to know him, some blue streaks in his hair, make up and glitter and fashionable clothing included, and portals himself back once again. It's still early, not even 6.30 am but to his surprise, Alec is up and walking the empty corridor, a thoughtful expression on his pretty face. Magnus shoves all those stupid, distracting feelings aside and greets him with a soft, but confident smile.

“Good morning, Alexa- Alec. You're up bright and early.” He curses himself for that mishap, it's just too familiar, even though he hasn't called Alec by his name in so long.

The young man startles a little, obviously surprised to have company at this time of day as well. A smile twitches on his lips. “Morning. I couldn't sleep anymore, unlike those cats.”

Magnu's eyes widen slightly at that information. So the cats stayed with him? Of course, they would! He swallows down a lump in his throat, the smile firmly in place.

“Oh yes, cats can sleep anywhere, any time, some of the felines are as bad as sloths, or so I heard.”

Alec's smile widens a little and he's holding eye contact. “Right. I... I'm sure that's possible.” His beautiful hazel eyes are taking in Magnus' face and the warlock feels rather pleased with this development. Even if he can't tell Alec about them, he can still try to make those feelings the younger man harbored for Magnus reappear. No matter how long it will take. This morning he is ready to fight. He'd go to the end of the earth for his Alexander, he practically already has, and he'll do it over and again if that's what it takes.

Magnus would definitely have liked to stay alone with him for longer but the other three Shadowhunters appear soon, and of course, the vampire who can never keep his nose out of anything. Okay, that was mean, Magnus. He's just trying to find his lovely, sarcastic self again.

They go back to the room they were occupying last night to be undisturbed. Magnus is pleased to see the same we need to talk business expressions on his friends' faces as he knows is on his own. However, before he can start, Alec has a question.

“So, I've been wondering this morning, you know, my old room is all empty, where's all my stuff? Have I been living somewhere else?”

One could hear all five faces drop and four pairs of eyes shoot to look at Magnus at once. Now, the warlock isn't as faced as that, it's easy enough to make up something, a storage place for safekeeping, something like this.

Simon takes it upon himself to save the day, however. “Yes, well, you have actually, with Clary, and her mother, Jocelyn, and her husband, Luke.”

Clary blinks in confusion, Jace raises an unimpressed eyebrow, Izzy just refrains from rolling her eyes and slapping her boyfriend. And Magnus wants to strangle him. What kind of nonsense is that?!

Alec frowns and is about to probably question this even more, but Magnus sweeps right in. “Look, we can talk living arrangements and getting some of your possessions back here later, right now we really have more urgent matters to address.” Luckily, everyone agrees.

“Oh yeah, magic.” Simon's smile lasts only briefly before he feels everyone's murderous looks on himself. Alec just looks more confused, and Magnus will throw the vampire out should he utter one more word aloud. Simon gets the message finally.

“Magic?” Alec inquires, looking around at everyone curiously. “I thought only warlocks can do that, and fairies, um, I mean seelies.”

Jace only half manages to suppress a snort and grin and Alec gestures at him clumsily, apologetic, but feeling rather amused himself.

Magnus doesn't want to play the bad guy and spoilsport, but they've really wasted too much precious time already!

“You're quite right with that, Alec, and fortunately for you, I am the High Warlock of Brooklyn, and know a thing or two about magic.”

Alec chuckles softly, surprising everyone. “What? That's actually a thing? I mean, really?”

Magnus gives him a challenging look, secretly pleased to see Alec rather joyful, even if it's at his expense.

“Yes, it certainly is. And here's the plan. I'm going to use my magic to... examine you, for remnants of anything that might tell us what happened to you.” He also wants to try to pull those memories from wherever they may be hidden. He's quite confident he can do it if they're still there. He has to try!

The young shadowhunter regards him with a guarded look, not sure whether he should like this development. He guesses it really depends on how Magnus (a warlock? Why had no one told him before?) would use magic on him exactly, and whether it would hurt.

“I assure you it's painless.” Alec's mouth opens the tiniest amount, startled by Magnus' words. Can he read minds, or something? Can warlocks do that? “I wasn't... I mean... good.” He's shifting a little nervously, wanting to keep face in front of these people. Being a shadowhunter he can't have been a coward!

“Good, let's start right away, everyone who isn't Alec or myself, leave this room right about... now.” He gestures them all out and they obey rather sullenly. Of course they would have liked to observe this spectacle, but Magnus doesn't need curious onlookers right now. He would never admit to it, but he feels a little nervous himself.

“So, how-” Alec can't finish the sentence, a cot appears in the room as Magnus snips his fingers. “Please, lie down, it will be more comfortable.” Alec follows the warlock's arm towards the cot, taking a deep breath inwardly. He doesn't like to think it, but he feels a little intimidated and less sure with only Magnus now. He hardly knows anything about him. And the revelation of him being a warlock and all... very good friend. Alright, he'll just have to trust him, what choice does he have? He wants to know what's wrong with him more than anyone else, and if Magnus' magic can help with that, he's going to go through with it!

“Relax, you'll probably feel a kind of prickly energy, a bit like an electric shock, but completely harmless.” Alec's extremely tense when he's lying on that cot, the warlock standing over him. Relax? Right. Should be easy...

“You can close your eyes if you prefer. I'm going to start now.” Alec takes another deep breath and closes his eyes momentarily, but he needs to see what's happening.

Blue flames, or energy, sparks – he's not sure how to describe it – are coming out of Magnus' hands. That's magic? The moment the blue stuff touches him he knows what Magnus has been talking about. His body is prickling all over, but it's really not unpleasent. He can certainly deal with that, and relaxes visibly after a minute.

Magnus is pleased and continues, chanting a spell to intensify his magic. He moves from Alec's toes slowly upwards to his torso and neck. He can't detect anything, which leaves Alec's head. The moment his magic dips inside, Magnus feels... something. He can't tell what yet or even where exactly, but he's so thrilled to finally have found something. He works his magic in deeper into Alec's mind, the younger man aware of the change, but he's not alarmed, yet.

Magnus' eyes close and he's chanting yet another spell in a language Alec has never heard. He feels another change, like a headache coming on. It's still managable, though. Sweat is building on his forehead and neck and his limbs are starting to twitch lightly. The headache is growing and he contemplates telling the warlock to stop. But maybe it's over any second...?

Magnus is lost in the spell, the magic, so determined to finally learn what happened, he doesn't register the warning signs Alec is showing. He digs deeper and deeper, so close to grasp it-

Alec screams and bolts upright the moment Magnus is startled out of his trance and pulls his hands away. Alec is holding his head with both hands, eyes pressed shut, panting, his shirt drenched in sweat.

Magnus is too stunned to react before the door is pulled open speedily, Jace, Izzy, Clary and Simon appearing, throwing questions at them, Izzy by her brother's side in an instant, looking him over, inquiring what's wrong, where he's hurt, because it's obvious that he is, and it's Magnus' fault.

He let himself get too distracted, he hurt Alec. Magnus is actually shaking, stumbling backwards until his back hits the wall.

He can see the same hurt, anger and disappointment in their faces as the night Izzy got hurt, because of him. He hadn't meant to... not then, not now... he just wanted to... Monster. That's all you'll ever be.

They're not saying anything, and Alec seems to calm down, claiming he's OK, but they take him out to rest in his room anyway, and Magnus is left on his own, a vicious dread chaining itself around his heart like a snake ready to squash it.

 

Chapter Text

He just about composed himself enough to face people again, when he runs into no other than Maryse Lightwood, her husband close behind her. “Magnus! Of course you would make yourself at home here while we're gone. Where's my son?”

The contemplating tone of her voice is nothing remotely new to Magnus, but seeing how guilty and even vulnerable he is feeling just now... but there's no way he would let her see that. Her timing is impeccable, truly. If she finds out what not even half an hour ago happened, and that it's his fault, she'll probably try to slit his throat or something similar.

He stands as tall and as confident as he can manage, facing her head on. “He's resting, and I suggest you get yourself back under control before you traumatize him. He doesn't remember your lovely personality traits, or even your face, so I suggest you take this chance of a lifetime and show him a kind, caring, motherly side before he regains his memories and remembers the witch you really are.”

Robert is about to say something, no doubt, to put him in his place, but his wife's hand comes up to shush him, an unsettling expression in her eyes as she continues to watch Magnus with scrutiny. “So, what you are saying is that Alec doesn't remember us, any of us?”

Magnus must admit he feels a little startled. He thought Isabelle had told them... or maybe, she only just realized the extent, and that's on him! Can't he do anything right today? He fishes for a good comeback but she already saw through him, she knows.

She knows Alec doesn't remember Magnus and he knows that she'll use this against him any way she can. And not wanting Alec to find out about this, none of them, especially not Magnus himself, will be able to do much about it.

He doesn't even know how Alec is, what he thinks and feels about what happened, about the warlock who is supposed to be a good friend to him, but didn't have himself enough under control to stop himself before hurting him.

Maryse's triumphant glare makes him feel about an inch tall and he watches as they walk off. He could tear down this whole damn building – he won't, of course – but he feels so helpless again, such a failure. And he can't stay. The chance of them not finding out are too slim and he can't defend himself, not in front of himself, probably not even in front of them, especially not Alec, and he's useless to him anyway.

Alec doesn't need him, he needs his family and friends right now. Magnus is nothing to him at this moment, and he needs to figure out what to do from here, whether to do anything or, for once, wait and see what will happen. Alec's memories may come back all on their own, in time. Or not.

He shudders remembering what he felt in Alec's mind, but he has too little knowledge about what it could be, and he'd probably do more damage to the young man, attempting to find out more. If he'd even let him. Maybe there is simply nothing he can do about any of it.

Hard to fathom that less than an hour ago he was so ready and determined to fight, to succeed. But he's brought this on himself. He sees Clary's red hair appear in the corner of his eye and quickly opens and steps through a portal to get away. He just needs to... be away from them, from Alec. Maybe all he can do for the man he loves more than he ever thought he could is stay as far away as possible.


It wasn't quite that far, but for two days Magnus had stayed at Ragnor's place, hiding away, drinking and instead of eating, drinking some more, waving every one of Ragnor's attempts to talk sense into him off. He knew he was wallowing in self-pity, and that he'd have to face all that he'd rather ignore again soon, but for the time being he opened another bottle of 18th century whiskey.

Clary had tried to call him a dozen times, and eventually sent a text, telling him he shouldn't be a coward and come back, and that Alec was alright and there didn't seem to be any lasting damage. Magnus had only cared for the last part, feeling slightly more at ease, but the guilt and dread were too overpowering to grant his tortured mind relief.

Ragnor had finally had enough and thrown him out. So if he didn't really want to disappear properly he didn't have much of a choice but to go back to the loft, sort himself out, and find out what kind of damage control he could opt for, if any.


To not be an even bigger asshole he sent Clary a text, informing her of his return but also warning her and the others of using this opportunity to gang up on him.

He's been back for less than an hour when someone knocks on his door. Really? They were decent enough to wait this long?

He just about finished making himself presentable, pulling on silky navy blue pants. He throws a gold silk shirt on, only bothering to close the first few buttons from downwards up, leaving his chest bare, and walks barefeet out of his – there's no theirs, not right now - bedroom. He waves his hand to open the front door, “Come on in whoever you are!”, he's using his sarcastic singsong voice, and awaits the intruders in his living-room. He feels him before he sees him, but he's too shocked to really believe...

His mouth agape he stares as none other than Alec Lightwood himself enters with careful steps, his whole demeanor telling Magnus how uncomfortable he's feeling about coming here unannounced. And why would he? And on his own? Why? Magnus needs too long a moment to get himself together.

“I, I'm really sorry for barging in like this, I don't mean to bother you, I just wanted to... to see how you are, but I can leave if you're busy.”

Magnus feels the earnesty in Alec's deep, stuttery voice, in his body language, in the way he tries to glance everywhere at once, the way he's got one foot set to turn immediately and leave, should Magnus tell him to. Another stab wound to Magnus' heart, but they are countless by now.

Snap out of it, Bane!

“There's no need to apologize, Alec.” The young man in front of him is the very last person to ever have to say sorry for anything to him. Magnus seriously doesn't know how much more he can take.

“Please, come in, sit, would you like a drink? Some food?” Of course he doesn't care for that! He came to see how Magnus was doing?! The warlock can't get his head around that, better to ignore it for now.

“How are you? Your head? I am so sorry.” He means to step forward but almost violently holds himself back, not wanting to see any sign of trepidation, of fear in Alec's eyes. Stay away.

There's enough hesitation and insecurity showing on the young shadowhunter's face already, but to Magnus' surprise the tall, dark-haired man takes a few steps closer to him. Magnus swallows, his skin tingling all over. He better not come much closer, he doesn't know what- exactly – he doesn't know.

“I'm fine, really. I told them to tell you, just... well, they said you were gone, some business.”

Business? They actually made excuses for him? Magnus smiles softly, sadly. “I was gone, yes. But I should have made sure you were alright first. What happened-”

“I don't blame you for that, that's what I'm really here to say.” Magnus is shocked into silence and Alec's running a nervous hand through his hair.

“I know you were trying to help. It didn't really work out, but we had to try.”

We. Magnus just wants to wrap himself around Alec and not let go for the next few years...

“It was still my responsibility, Alec, and I should never have been so careless. You shouldn't be so lenient with me, after all, you don't really know me.” Saying those words shouldn't hurt this much.

“I know, but Isabelle told me a lot, Jace and Clary, too. About what we've been doing together, and how often you helped us, and I get why you're friends with them, I mean, us.”

Magnus feels alarmed immediately, but surely they wouldn't ever... No, they really wouldn't. Friends. Yes, they're friends. He nods and offers Alec a seat on the couch again which the young man takes this time. Magnus sits down as well, the furthest away from Alec, who is looking around the room curiously, as if he were seeing it for the first time.

He knows he's staring, taking in the perfect shape of his visitor's profile, throat, chin, lips, nose, forehead. He'd studied that face religiously every single day and not having been able to for months, he now feels he's dying of thirst and has finally found that one live-saving well, yet he is incapable of actually getting close enough...

“Nice place.”

Magnus blinks, not having noticed that Alec actually turned to look at him. He quickly drops his eyes, shows a small smile and folds his hands tightly to stop himself from picking on his fingers, hiding his nervous tic.

“Yes, I have quite extraordinary tastes.” Hazel green amber eyes lock with chocolate gold brown ones and there's a tender quietness filling the room, only streaked with two heartbeats.

Alec turns away first and Magnus curses himself. “So, you haven't had any more headaches, or any other discomforts I ought to know about?”

The young man shakes his head, glancing his way again. “I went to see some healer in Idris, my... parents made me.”

Ah, of course, Magnus thinks bitterly, also having gotten the confirmation now that the Lightwoods know, but he expected no less anyway.

“Good, I heard they're pretty good at what they're doing.” At least they didn't hurt him in the first place.

Alec shrugs, nods, pulls on his jacket before dropping his hands back to his lap, glancing up and down, as if he were nervous about something. Magnus knows him, every single detail about him, and even now, having lost his memories, his behavior hasn't changed. Magnus almost wishes it would have, maybe it wouldn't all be so painful then.

“What is it, Alec? I can tell there's something on your mind and you're trying to figure out wether to tell me or not.”

Alec stares at him and Magnus can't but grin. “I know all of my friends very well, so just ease your mind and tell me, no matter what it is, I assure you I can handle it.” He sounds startlingly sure of himself, inwardly feeling as if Alec would only have to blow on him to break him – in case of that thing on his mind not being in his favor.

“It's just... I'm not sure... I mean, I don't know how to...” Magnus is propelled back to a time when Alec had rushed to help him heal Luke's wounds from a werewolf fight, and them having drinks later that night. The adorable way Alec had stumbled for words back then, and on so many other occasions, and now... it feels like traveling back in time.

“It's alright, just say it with whatever words you have, I'll understand.” There's so much warmth, so much care in Magnus' voice, Alec is stunned silent for another long minute. He grasps his fingers together, glances down, takes a deep breath and opens his mouth, dreading what might come out this time.

“It's just my parents... actually, my mother, she said some things I haven't been able to stop thinking about.” That look in Alec's eyes clearly states that those things were at least involving Magnus. It's been two days and Maryse has had nothing better to do than try to corrupt her son's fragile mind with her poison. He feels sick.

“I guess I just forgot the whole shadowhunter, downworlder stuff... that we're not supposed to... you know... be friends.” It's not a knife, not a dagger, not even a katana but a whole longsword with jagged edges that is plunged right through Magnus, sowing away at his flesh and bones.

What could he possibly say to that? And does that mean Alec believes her? But then, why...

“Why did you come?” He remembers having asked Alec that same question a long time ago and in a different context. His voice sounds fragile, plagued with sorrow even to his own ears, but he cannot pretend just now.

“I'm not sure,” Magnus' face falls even more, the sword turning in his gut, “I mean, I understand some of it, and I've read up on our history, but,” he shrugs, rubs his face and sighs, then meets the warlock's eyes again, “I guess I don't really care.” The warlock's heart stops, the sword still.

Alec glances down. “I don't believe that my sister would date a downworlder if she had to fear anything from him, and, well, you know Simon better than me, I just don't see how he has one bad bone in his body, vampire or not... and you...” He trails off, swallowing hard, glancing over at Magnus, his heartbeat resounding like drums in his ears.

Magnus is frozen, hanging on Alec's lips, awaiting his next words as if they could provide eternal salvation to his soul.

“And also, there's been really vicious Shadowhunters about, like that Valentine and his followers.”

Magnus blinks, feeling like he just involuntarily took part in a time leap and missed whatever it was Alec said between and you and that unimportant Valentine business.

Magnus' thoughts are toppling over one another in his mind, which basically never happens. Take a deep breath.

“What were you going to say before? About me?” See, wasn't that hard. He needs to stop talking to himself.

Alec looks rather uncomfortable now, and Magnus doesn't want him to ever feel this way, let alone be the reason, but he needs to know.

“Well, just... as you said I don't really know you, and... you were, are, confusing me... just how you... were...” Alec gestures vaguely, clearly embarrassed to be telling him this, but a certain spark of determined courage apears in his eyes, Magnus would recognise anywhere, any time and the sword that was figuratively stuck inside him, disappears.

“I just want to get to know you all by myself and not just believe whatever anyone tells me, you know? I need to figure things out on my own, even though I feel like a blind man stumbling around a room full of obstacles.” The soft, genuine smile Alec offers Magnus is squelching the warlock's heart, but in a good way, for a change.

“Alexander, you have always been one to amaze the people around you.” Especially him. The name slips naturally, because, no matter what, even if he'll never regain any memory at all, this is his Alexander and no one could convince him otherwise. And he knows he shouldn't feel this yearning, this hopeful little piece of bliss that could shatter again any moment, and who knows how many more times he could actually cope with it? But... he couldn't help it if he tried. Not when he's so close, looking directly into the man's eyes who holds Magnus' heart and soul in his hands, regardless of him being aware of this.


Alec felt somewhat alleviated when he left Magnus' place. He had been tremendously anxious about going to see the warlock, more so when he had come the first time, just to find he wasn't there. Izzy and Clary had tried to ease his mind, telling him Magnus had some business to attend to, but he just had had that intuitive notion, that in fact, the older man was feeling worse about what had happened than the others wanted him to know.

He also couldn't quite explain to himself why he wasn't mad at Magnus. Jace had been very angry, ranting on about things Alec didn't really understand and Clary had told the blond off quick enough. He had left in a huff, leaving the girls and Simon with Alec. He had never felt such pain, well, if he had, he wouldn't know. It was as if something was trying to burst out of his mind from the deepest place within. Thankfully the agony had only lasted a few seconds and the pain had lessened quickly. For the most part only a subtle throbbing remained, and he could deal with that.

After a shower he had felt much better and meant to talk to Magnus right away, but, to his surprise, two people being introduced by Isabelle as his parents had arrived, and he'd had no chance. They had hugged him, squeezed him tightly, thankfully not showing tears. He didn't really think about whether that was normal or not as he felt like he was the least viable source for determining that.

They hadn't let him out of their sight, asked him questions, a lot of which he wasn't able to answer, reassured him, told him how relieved and happy they were that he was back where he belonged and he had felt quite overwhelmed with it all. And then he had felt a remnant pang of pain from earlier and when his mother had inquired about it, he hadn't thought anything of it... he merely mentioned Magnus' name, and his mother had changed so drastically. Her eyes became so cold and vicious that he had felt a shiver along his spine.

He had noticed the sad, regretful look in his sister's eyes and though he still didn't know what was going on, he felt that he had tread into a field full of landmines. His mother hadn't said much at the time, but the moment she had caught him alone, she had given him a book to read and told him in many details why shadowhunters weren't supposed to converse with downworlders, warlocks particularly, except when they were of use to them, of course. She had been condescending in her statements and he had felt patronized by her, which had stuck with him like a bitter aftertaste.

Next she had sent him to Idris to get thoroughly checked out, and though he had told her that he was really fine, there was no saying No to her.

He had pondered a lot over her behavior, her words drenched in resentment and contempt, and whether she'd always been that way, and the first thing he did when he came back, with a clean bill of health, was to ask Izzy, Clary and Jace (Simon had been gone when their parents came back) to tell him about how their friendship with Magnus came about.

Although he felt like he didn't just want to take anyone's words as the law, he couldn't but find himself trusting those three people more than what his mother had told him.

Asking Isabelle what their parents' thoughts were on her being with Simon, the look on her face made his insides squeeze. “She basically denies his existence, and dad... he's not so bad but he pretty much goes along with whatever she wants.” Alec had frowned at that, feeling more confused and saddened for Isabelle who was clearly in love with the vampire and even from what little he had seen, Simon worshipped the ground she walked on. Surely that was what every parent wanted for their child?

It was then that he decided to go see Magnus and Isabelle helped him slip out undetected. The second, successful, time, he had managed on his own, after finding out from Clary that Magnus was actually back.

His whole body had been shaking with nervous jitters and he had wanted to turn back several times, but again, he just didn't want to be a coward!

What he hadn't anticipated was the way his heart skipped a beat at the sight of the warlock. The blue streaks he'd had before were gone but that didn't let his hair appear any less stylish. He wore dark blue eyeshadow, fitting the color of his pants, and Alec was sure he had never seen a shade of gold as bright as the one of Magnus' shirt. What took Alec's main attention, however, was Magnus' skin, and the vast amount of it.

Once before he had thought how nice the slightly darker, creamy shade of Magnus' skin had looked. That time in the early morning when he'd met him alone in the Institute, all dressed up and made up like Alec hadn't seen him before. He had been surprised, but not unpleasently so.

But at the loft, Magnus' shirt had been halfway open, showing the middle of his smooth chest down to the start of his stomach exposed and Alec had felt slightly agitated trying to keep his eyes on the warlock's face.

The young shadowhunter hadn't been sure what to make of these sorts of sensations, but he hadn't been troubled enough by them to overanalyse them, either. They were simply there, just like everything else he kept feeling.

What had truly troubled him was the certainty he felt that he'd make a fool of himself, or that Magnus turned out to be just like his mother would want Alec to believe every warlock, every downworlder was. Selfish, cruel, ready to prey on weaker beings, betraying everyone in their path, incapable of real feelings, power-hungry, greedy and willing to use any means and anyone for their personal gain and perverse desires, which she had stressed a few times.

Alec hadn't seen any of that in Magnus, and he chose to make up his own mind, listen to what his inner voice was telling him, which was literally all he had to go by in every aspect concerning this world he was suddenly thrown in.

Alec wasn't surprised about the name anymore, he had found out his birthname was Alexander Gideon Lightwood, but everyone had called him Alec so far, but he was surprised about the tone of Magnus' voice, the tenderness with which it was laced, eliciting a vibrant thrumming sensation in his chest.


“Hey, big brother, how was your talk with Magnus?” Izzy greets him that evening a couple of hours after he came back from the loft, had dinner with the family and excused himself, saying that he was tired, to get some alone time in his room.

When he had entered it, there were things inside. Like clothes, books, an additional chair, a music player and CDs, a couple of portraits of beautiful nature scenes on the walls, deep red velvet curtains framing the window, his bow and quiver no longer just leaning by the closet, but held up securely by a rack on the wall. Someone had been busy in there. Oh, not to forget, the cats were there as well, curled up with each other amidst his pillow, both cocking up their heads and starting to purr when he entered.

He gives her a little smile and bids her in before he takes his former place on the bed, his hand going immediately to stroke the Chairman and Church in turns. “Better than I thought. I think he was nervous, too, but I told him I won't just believe whatever people tell me, no matter who they are, and figure stuff out by myself. I know he didn't mean to hurt me, or he's an amazing actor, and according to our mother he's capable of anything, which is why I will get to know him and see for myself.”

He's been looking ahead, lost in thoughts but his attention snaps back to Isabelle when he's done talking. She's grinning from ear to ear. “You know, it is so good to see you're still you, even without your memories. Never let anyone manipulate you into believing anything, not even me, and though you will find out by yourself in time, just know that Magnus didn't just help us countless of times, he also saved some of us, and he's a wonderful man,” she holds up a hand as she noticed Alec's mouth opening to say something but shushes him, “and that's all I'm going to say about him, you'll see.”

She gets off the chair, leans down and kisses his cheek. “Goodnight, big brother, sleep tight.” Alec watches her in surprise. “Goodnight, Izzy.” At least calling her by her nickname feels kind of right already. But damn, he forgot to ask who's responsible for his room!

He'll have to wait until tomorrow now, seeing that he's left with two sleepy, purring furballs on his lap.


Darkness. Silence. Weightlessness. His body must be drifting. He's reaching out his hands into the dark void, but there's nothing to touch, not even wind, it doesn't even feel like air, he has never known anything remotely like this. He can't hear a single sound, not even when he moves his limbs about. He should hear something, but he could as well be deaf, and blind.

Something in his head is telling him that he's been here before, it's trying to warn him, but the warning isn't getting through to his consciousness, it's trapped inside the fog that's clouding his mind.

And then he's being pulled and falling and suddenly he remembers but it's too late and even if it weren't, what happens is inevitable, beyond his capabilities to change any of it.

He's falling, endlessly, until his body is thumping onto a hard surface. He moans with the pain, but at least he could feel that. He could also hear himself, but the darkness hasn't yielded.

He gets up slowly, carefully. Something is trickling along his temple, his cheek. He reaches a hand to touch it. Warm, wet. He can feel his head hurting now. But there's nothing he can do. He takes cautious steps, his arms outstretched, he can hear his footsteps.

With all his courage gathered he opens his mouth and speaks tentatively. “Hello?” He can hear his voice, but it gets swallowed by the blackness around him. He tries another time, louder. “Hello? Is anyone here?” Again, he calls, shouts, yells for anyone to hear him, but there's only the voidness.

He doesn't know how long he's been wandering, there's no sense of time, of direction, of purpose. His head is throbbing and his legs are aching. Minutes, hours, days, it doesn't mean anything here, wherever here is.

He takes another step, trips on something on the ground and just about manages to break his fall. What was that? His heart is pounding madly in his chest, sweat pearls have built on his skin, running along until they get soaked up in his clothes. He crouches down and feels around gingerly. His fingertips brush against something and it takes all of his willpower not to pull back again, he needs to find out what it is.

It feels like cloth, fabric, warmth, something solid... a body! He flinches backwards, falling on his butt. Why is a body lying there, who is it? And... are they dead or alive? “Hello? Who's there? Are you OK?” He holds his breath but there's no answer. Shit.

He has no choice but to check, find a pulse or heartbeat. The body still felt warm at least. He's shuffling over, reaching out his hand once again but higher this time, to about where he would think the torso would be. He guessed well and finds it, leans down to be able to hear something above his own drumming heart.

There's nothing there and hope fails him, but then, very quietly... thud... thud... thud... A heartbeat, definitely! Whoever is lying here is alive!

Alec knows CPR, but it's useless when someone's still breathing, and moving upwards even more, he can hear that this someone is, if quite shallowly. He can't think of anything else but to shake the body and see if they'll wake up.

A gasp, a cough. Alec's joy of whoever waking up. A roaring noise infiltrates the void, his mind, he throws his hands over his ears, crying out in agony. Light fills the void so suddenly, he yells and grimaces in pain, his eyes shut tightly to guard them from the terrible brightness.

Alec?”

The noise is gone, he opens an eye carefully, it's still bright but not painfully so, when his eyes take in the person before him, he's filled with shock, joy and despair all at once.

Jace!” He flings his arm around his brother, tears flooding his eyes. “How come you're here? What happened to you? Do you know where we are?”

It takes him a moment to notice that he's not getting an answer, and that his best friend's body has gone stiff in his arms. He's filled with a new sensation, fright and the beginnings of terror. Pulling back, his lungs can't get any more air inside. Jace is staring at him, livelessly. Blood as thick as paint is bulging from his wide, dead eyes, from his mouth, his ears. A silent scream is tearing itself through Alec's whole being, but no sound manages to tumble over his lips.

Jace! No! Nononononononono!

 

 

When he wakes up, he's bathed in sweat and the cats are whining pitifully.

He has no memory of the dream.

 

Chapter Text

The more he tried to remember, the thicker the veil clouding his mind became. He felt clammy, shaken, a sickness in the pit of his stomach he couldn't explain, didn't know where it came from. Alec knew he had to have had a nightmare, but other than these extreme sensations, he couldn't grasp anything. The cats were walking about his room unsettled, watching him, mewling from time to time. He must have scared them, but he simply couldn't remember.

He was a mess and so was his bed, so he quickly changed the sheets and took them with him to the bathroom where he showered and changed. He felt better for it, but he was scared. When he was with people, his mind was preoccupied, but when he was on his own he couldn't always shake the anxiety that came with trying to figure out what had happened to him and where he had been all that time, and whether he would ever remember anything. He read up on forms of memory loss, anything he could find, but nothing fit with what little he knew happened to him.

One day he simply disappeared. There were a lot of cases when people lost their ability to remember who they were, sometimes ended up miles away from where they lived, even got jobs, lived a relatively normal life, but they were found eventually. And they didn't have a warlock as an ally who would have found them right away in their cases. Or even a Parabatai.

To simply be gone... non-existant... it left such an icy, frightful hollowness inside him he could only ever push back, but never get rid of completely.

He couldn't go back to sleep, so he listened to some music and read about archery to distract himself, relieved when the cats settled down next to him again.

After a couple of hours, however, he felt too restless to stay idle. It was only close to 4.30 am, but he decided to take a walk around the Institute anyway. He had little hope of encountering anyone, but he needed something to do, something physical... he ended up going to the training grounds and to his surprise, someone else was already there, working the punch bag.

Jace hadn't been able to sleep, he didn't really have nightmares that frequently anymore, but the night time was his least favorite part of every day. Except when he was with Clary, but she was staying at her mom's and Luke's place, so all he could do to fill the hours before the others would wake up and be bustling about again, was to train. It provided him with something to concentrate on other than what was troubling him throughout the hours he was on his own. And that night he had felt especially restless.

The blond feels Alec's presence immediately and turns quickly, his first impulse that something is wrong with his Parabatai, why else would he come here so early in the morning? Other than looking a little pale, he seems OK. But that is never any real indication, is it?

He shows the dark-haired man a small smile and walks over to him, watching him intently. “Hey, couldn't sleep?”

Alec always feels bad for intruding on people at first, but when he sees Jace's smile he relaxes, smiles softly and nods. “Yeah, I kinda felt like I needed something to do.”

Jace runs a hand through his slightly sweaty hair and nods in understanding, they're very similar in very few aspects.

“Wanna train with me? I've been meaning to ask now I got my favorite training partner back.” His smile is so sincere, Alec feels guilt he knows isn't granted, and also touched.

“Yes, but I can't promise I'll know what I'm doing, you better teach me.” He thought about trying to use his bow and arrows and find out whether his body may remember what to do with them, but then he was too busy and also didn't like to find out that he was totally useless, should it turn out that he was incapable of archery now.

“Sure thing, c'mon.”

At first Jace is showing him some basic stands and movements and Alec is deeply concentrated, wanting to know everything and do it perfectly right away. And to his delight, it seems that his body really hasn't forgotten how to fight. He's hesitant and insecure at first, but the more Jace shows him and commends him, the more confident he feels and they're soon immersed in an intensive training fight with Alec managing to hold his own. Jace is quite impressed.

“Good to see you haven't forgotten how this works, I would have hated to start at zero again, you're such a whiny, little bitch when you're inferior to me.” Alec can tell Jace is teasing him, probably just like a million times before when they were training, or doing whatever else Shadowhunters usually do. He knows they fight demons mostly, but he hasn't quite gotten his head around that, yet.

Alec raises an eyebrow, a smirk creeping over his lips. “Oh really? Is that so? A whiny, little bitch, you say?” He doesn't know how he knows, but something is telling him exactly how to move to get Jace on his back, and that's what he does.

A pair of very startled eyes is staring up at him and he's grinning down at his training partner, feeling rather pleased with himself. Jace suddenly breaks into laughter and Alec sits down next to him, smiling broadly, feeling as if he has accomplished something great.

He watches Jace wipe his eyes and grin at him. “It's so good to have you back, buddy. I really missed you.” Alec's smile fades slowly and he swallows. He knows that these people care for him, suffered because of him, missed him, but it's still weird for him to fathom. And he feels guilty for not being able to feel the same and tell Jace that he missed him, too. Because he didn't, or if he did, he doesn't know now.

Jace sees the look on Alec's face and feels sad for his brother, he slaps Alec's knee affectionately and squeezes it. “Hey, don't worry, we've been through worse than this, you'll remember.”

Alec tries another smile, but he only feels it halfheartedly. There's no point on dwelling on this now, though. “I've been meaning to ask you something.”

He's waiting for permission from Jace, who doesn't get why Alec has stopped talking.

“Shoot.” Jace will have to remind him that he can speak his mind freely, any time, with him. But for now he's too curious to hear what Alec has to say.

“I've been reading about this Parabatai bond, whoever invented such a word? Anyway, it said that we're bound together as lifelong partners, uh, I mean, fighting partners.”

Jace grins at Alec's flushed cheeks, remembering a time when his best friend had had feelings for him and the guilt he felt for having hurt Alec. This sort of thing better not repeat itself... but then Jace is with Clary and Magnus is already in the picture, so it should be safe. “And so I was wondering about the sensing each other stuff, because apparently I should be able to feel you, uh, I mean... sense your, uh, life force?”

Jace can't but chuckle at Alec's embarrassment and pats his knee again. “Don't worry, I'm not homophobic, and you're right, we can sense each other, and draw from each other's strength.” Alec nods slowly, pleased with this new information although he's not exactly sure why, and he stays quiet, a certain indicator that there's something important going on in his mind.

“Whatever it is, you can tell me, I know you don't remember right now what the bond means, but even without it, we're still brothers and best friends, Alec, and we vowed to always be there for each other.”

Jace can see emotions in Alec's eyes, but he's still quiet and the blond grants him the time he needs.

“I don't think I can... sense you, I don't know how.” Jace must admit he's quite surprised at that, and it has been weighing on his mind, the whole Parabatai thing, how it could even ever be possible for him to have lost his connection with Alec when the bond clearly wasn't broken and Alec must have been alive somewhere, somehow.

“Let me show you.” Jace goes for Alec's shirt but stops before touching it, waiting for permission which Alec gives, the confused look on his face making Jace grin inwardly, and then he lifts his friend's shirt and holds it up with one hand, the other softly touching the rune on Alec's belly. “That's the Parabatai rune, touch it, you have to concentrate but be calm and open, just try it, you'll see.”

Jace is more nervous than he wants to admit and he watches gingerly as Alec does as he's told and traces the rune with his fingers. Jace pulls back and also finds his own rune on his left side, cups it with a hand and closes his eyes, trying to make Alec relax with him.

Alec feels rather fascinated watching and learning and when Jace closes his eyes he mirrors him. At first he feels no different, but after a minute or so... there's a pull, a sense of something other than he knows, of someone... it's the weirdest feeling, but not bad, just foreign to him. He thinks that he can actually sense a heartbeat, Jace's? It's quite fast!

He opens his eyes and grins slightly at his opponent. “You're not as calm as you make out, are you?” His tone is dry, sarcastic and he smirks at seeing Jace's openly startled expression. But then the blond smiles. “So you can feel it! See, I told you! I must say it's very subdued still, it's usually stronger, but I'm sure we'll be back to normal soon!”

Back to normal, eh? If only! But maybe there's hope. “Next I'll show you how to draw runes, where's your stele?” Jace's eyes are expectant and Alec just frowns. “I didn't think I had one, well, I don't.”

“What? Of course you do, you always have it with you, in your jacket.”

Alec just shakes his head, he's had his hands in the jacket pockets a dozen times, definitely nothing in there, and he can't remember having had anything like that since he came back.

“Well, maybe you lost it when... you know, it doesn't matter, we'll get you a new one.” Jace quickly diverts where he was going, not wanting to remind his best friend. He knows it's too late anyway, but they have to look to the future and make the best of this, and try to make it as easy for their brother and friend as they can. He smiles encouragingly.

When... yes, when this shit happened! Alec smiles back, but he doesn't feel it.


 

They continue to train until the Institute fills with life again, they take a shower and Jace wants to take Alec to get a new stele, when out of nowhere, without any warning, an envoy from The Clave appears, several guards behind the Council member.

 

Jace and Alec stare at the group of people, Alec being even more clueless than usually about what's happening, but he can see bewilderment on Jace's face, as well.

Maryse and Robert come rushing from their chambers, seemingly as unprepared as all the rest of the Institute.

The envoy, a middle-aged man, dressed in a black suit, looking all prepared for business is looking directly at Alec as he speaks, filling the young Shadowhunter with worry and dread.

“Alistair, what brings you here? Why weren't we informed of this?” Maryse's voice is strong and imperious.

Isabelle is suddenly by Alec's side, standing close enough to make their arms touch, they share a quick, puzzled glance.

“The Clave is under no obligation to inform you of compulsory actions, such as this. I am here in the urgent matter of placing one Alec Lightwood under The Clave's protection.”

There are gasps to be heard, shock so loud in the silence. Isabelle is moving in front of her brother as Jace steps back to shield him, his fingers itching towards his seraph blade. Alec is completely frozen with incomprehension and fear.

Maryse and Robert take a step towards the envoy, disbelief and suspicion showing on their faces.

“And why would he need to be protected by The Clave? He is perfectly well protected here, with his family at the Institute.” Robert speaks up, sharing a knowing look with his wife.

“Recent developments bring forth evidence of this not being the truth. Fact is, Alec Lightwood has mysteriously vanished seven months ago, without leaving any trace behind, five days ago he reappeared under the same mysterious circumstances, having lost a great part of his memory. Furthermore, there have been reports about downworlders at this Institute, coming and going without valid business. And lastly, Alec Lightwood has been seen leaving this Institute, on his own, to meet with one warlock, Magnus Bane. Taking all of this into account, The Clave has decided it is best for him to come to Alicante, where his protection can be warranted until further notice.”

How do they know all of this? Have they been watching me? Why? To protect me? I don't want to leave! Panic is slowly rising in Alec, he's shaking, unable to stay in control. His sister and his Parabatai notice this immediately. Isabelle takes his hand in hers and squeezes tightly, sending him a reassuring look. Jace moves even closer, trying to shield them both.

Maryse's stance is stiff, tall, and full of cold authority. She is livid about learning this, most of all about Alec, after all she told him, having nothing better to do than stealing himself to that cursed warlock. She will deal with that after she's done here, though.

“Unless you are accusing my son of having committed a crime and putting him under arrest, you will not leave here with him. That is my final word and I suggest you take that back to The Clave and repeat it to them. Alec will stay right where he is.”

Hearing those words from his mother, Alec can finally breathe again. Surely they can't just take him without his consent? Chancing a look at his sister, Izzy hasn't relaxed in the slightest, and neither has Jace, which surges a new wave of anxiety through him.

The envoy doesn't exactly look impressed, almost bored. “As you wish, Maryse, but this won't be the last you'll hear about this.” His dark, cold eyes meet Alec's whose lungs tighten painfully, not letting any air through for a long, painful moment. The man nods at him, turns and leaves.

Maryse turns and marches at the three Shadowhunters now in front of her, even before The Clave's messengers have disappeared. “You three with me, now.”

Isabelle doesn't let go of Alec's hand and leads the way, Jace following closely behind them. In her office, Maryse glares at them before her eyes rest on her oldest son, their iciness making him shudder.

“Just to make this perfectly clear, you are under house arrest, and mustn't even leave your room without my permission. No downworlder will set foot in here again, especially not Magnus Bane,” her voice is laced with so much repulsion and hatred, it's making all of their insides freeze, “and should any of you go behind my back again on this, I will make personally sure, that you won't have any chance to do so again in the future, is that understood!”

Her glacial glare pierces each one of them in turn and the three of them can't but nod obediently, failing to fully understand what is happening and what they could do about it, and scared of seeing their mother this way.

“Good, now give me your phones. And be sure should you try to obtain any other device to contact anyone on the outside, or do so in person, you will have to face severe consequences, as well as anyone who might try to help you. Now GO!”


 

“Don't worry, we'll figure this out.” Jace and Isabelle took Alec back to his room where they're trying to make sense of their dilemma, Isabelle trying to ease all of their minds. “I can't believe she took our phones and put us basically under lockup.” Jace looks stunned.

“Well, actually, I'm the only one under house - or make that room arrest.” Alec can't believe any of what's been happening in the last hour. It's completely mad! Yet, he is so glad to still be at the Institute with Jace and Izzy by his side. He really doesn't want to be wherever The Clave would have put him, without anyone familiar around.

“We have to tell the others.” Isabelle. “You heard her, we aren't allowed to.” Jace. “They still need to know! You can tell Clary, she's a Shadowhunter, too.” Jace can accept this, but he knows where Isabelle's mind is going. “I won't let her contact Simon for you, if Maryse finds out, she'll be in big trouble and us, too. I won't let that happen.” Isabelle's face falls, but she knows he's right. They can't endanger anyone for them, they need another plan.

Another hour droops by, and they haven't come up with anything that would work in their favor. There's a rap at the window suddenly, then an almost familiar sound of paws against the glass. Alec leaps up to let the cats in. As ever he wonders how they find their way around so well.

“That's it!!” Both men look rather startled at Isabelle's outburst, her huge eyes full of realization and joy. She bends down to take Chairman Meow into her arms and strokes his head, smiling knowingly. Alec and Jace share a look that says they both think she lost it.

“Guys, come on! Really? You haven't figured it out, yet?” Alec shrugs and shakes his head earnestly and Jace crosses his arms in front of his chest. Let's hear your ingenious idea then.

“We will send the cats to tell Magnus about what's happening, then he can inform Simon and work on a plan to get us out of this, or at least, he'll know what's happening and we need to know what The Clave is really planning to do with Alec, putting him under protection, my ass.”

Her brothers look astounded at her. She really is quite amazing. Hearing her last words, however, Alec feels fear creeping up his bones. Isabelle knows that look on his face. “I'm sorry, Alec, but we can't trust them, not with this, and we'll make sure they won't be able to do anything. Trust us, okay? And now, Church, Chairman, go on and tell Magnus, and no detours to catch mice! We need your help!” She opens the window again and they watch as the cats jump out.

“Um, how exactly will the cats be able to tell Magnus anything?” Alec feels rather stupid, like he missed another essential puzzle piece.

Izzy grins at him. “Magic, of course.”


 

Magnus is eating his favorite cereal, daydreaming about Alec when the Chairman and Church arrive at the loft, his spoon dropping from his hand without his notice when he hears what has been going on at the Insititute. He's up and sending Clary and Simon a message to meet with him immediately, then he tries to figure out The Clave business.

“Magnus, what's going on?” Clary and Simon arrive about 20 minutes after receiving his messages, both watching him with alarmed, worried eyes.

“Calm down, it's not as bad as it could be, not yet anyway.” He's been trying to reassure himself of this, with mild success. But Alec's still at the Institute, at least, though he'd rather have him a lot closer.

“Someone from The Clave marched into the Institute announcing they want to take Alec with them to 'place him under protection',” he's signing the quotation marks in the air, his voice filled with mistrust and spite.

“What? Why? Is he-” Magnus holds up a hand to shush his red-haired friend. “Maryse wouldn't let them, at times that woman has a nice surprise in store, however, Alec is under house arrest, they know he's been here, and Jace and Isabelle aren't allowed to contact anyone on the outside, particularly you,” he points at Simon, “and me.”

“Fuck.” Magnus agrees with Simon's assessment of the situation.

“So how did you find out?” The Biscuit's quite clever, isn't she? Magnus turns to point at the cats who are sleeping on the couch after having fulfilled their duty.

Simon and Clary look impressed. “Izzy's idea.” Magnus adds, which explains everything.

“So, what's the plan? Am I allowed to go in?” She inquires, feeling hopeful. “I suppose so, seeing as you aren't a disgusting downworlder.” Magnus can't hold himself back. He feels agitated, angry, worried and most of all scared that he won't be able to help Alec, again.

“Give me your phone.” He holds out his hand and Clary does as he told her. Blue flames are weaving out of his other hand, making the device disappear.

“You do know how to use it blind, right? That's the best I can do for now. It won't stay invisible forever, but you can contact me safely for the next 24 hours.”

Clary carefully takes it back, staring at 'nothing' while feeling her phone just like before. She does love magic stuff.

“You better leave now, Simon can stay here and I have contacted a source who I'm waiting to hear back from about what The Clave is planning to do with Alexander.” Clary and Simon nod and she turns to head to the Institute quickly.

“Clary!” Magnus follows her, facing her as she turns back around, watching him questioningly.

He wants her to relay a message to Alec, but he's not sure what, and he'd give anything to be able to just go and see him. And he will. Coming to this conclusion, he doesn't need his friend to deliver anything anymore.

“Just be careful and tell the others to stay away from prying eyes and ears. Don't trust anyone but each other and Simon and my humble self.” She nods, hugs him and leaves.

Clary is allowed in, after being thoroughly searched first. Luckily her invisible phone is not detected. Jace awaits her and they hug tightly before meeting with Isabelle and Alec in his room.

They hug and she updates them with what she can, which isn't much, but knowing Magnus is on the case, they all feel a little more light-hearted, even Alec. He can feel how much those three people care for and trust each other and the warlock, and so he decides to do the same, because if he doesn't trust anyone, he's lost.


 

Magnus eventually sends Simon to let Jocelyn and Luke know about what's going on, they may need their help yet, and determining that it's enough when he himself goes nuts waiting. Isabelle sent a message through Clary's phone for Simon earlier that calmed his mind at least. Magnus is waiting to hear from his source, although he knows it will take longer than a day to get a response, but he's also waiting for time to pass.

It's close to midnight now, and he can't wait any longer. He opens up a portal and walks through, hoping he won't startle him too much. Such luck that he has been in Alec's old room before, on more than one occasion.

To his delight, Alec is still awake. “Magnus?!” He just about stops himself from yelling out, basically stood in his bed, a book gripped tightly in his hands.

“Interesting choice for a weapon, Alexander.” Magnus smiles softly, taking in his love's disheveled look, every fiber of his body longing to get closer, much much closer. To his – normally pleasure – but right now torture, Alec is wearing a sleeveless top, showing off his perfectly defined arms that Magnus adores so much.

“Very funny, Magnus, what are you doing here? You're not allowed in! There's a guard outside my room and if they find you-”

Magnus marvels at how easy it always is to shush these Shadowhunters with a move of his hand. “It's alright, no one but you knows I'm here, trust me.” Alec watches the blue energy in amazement as Magnus magicks the room sound-proof.

Alec decided mere hours ago that he would trust these people, so he better stick to it. He flops down on his bed again and puts the book aside, visibly exhausted.

“So, what's up?” Magnus sends a very amused look at Alec, not having heard that kind of expression coming out of the young man's mouth for a long time.

“I just wanted to see you again, to see how you're doing. So, how are you? That must have been quite the shock earlier.” His features soften, wishing he could have been there to reassure Alec and look after him.

“You could say that.” Alec's running a hand through his hair, glancing down. “I just don't understand what's happening anymore, I mean, even less than before. And Izzy said we can't trust what that man from The Clave said, and... I really don't want to have to... go away.”

Magnus' heart churns at the way Alec is suddenly looking so young and vulnerable. He won't let anyone take him away again, over his dead body!

Aforementioned body is moving closer and sitting at the edge of Alec's bed before Magnus can consciously hold himself back. He just needs to be there, let the love of his life know he isn't alone, and never will be. You already broke that promise once.

The pain he feels is overwhelming, but Magnus forces himself to get a grip. “We'll know more soon, but I – we - won't let anyone take you away from us, Alexander, you can be sure of that.” He's forcing all the bravado and certainty he has into his voice, into his eyes that are connecting with Alec's so pretty ones.

Alec is more than ready to just believe the warlock's words. He's completely out of his depth here, feeling his only chance to survive this world without his memories is if he sticks close to these people, who seem to be trying to do everything in their power to keep him safe. He can't be that wrong about them, it would completely shatter him.

“Where are the cats?” Magnus is rather surprised at Alec's inquiry, and smiles fondly.

“I think it's best if they stay at the loft for a while. They may not be safe here any longer.” Alec frowns and nods at that, he'll miss them, but Magnus is surely right, and he wouldn't want any harm to come to them. Their eyes find each other again.

The warlock's eyes hold him hypnotized. Even if he has seen a million pairs of eyes before in his life, Alec's sure none came close to how ethereal Magnus' are. Especially when they're focusing on him. His own eyes drop to Magnus' lips, as if it were the most natural thing to do.

For a moment Alec feels as if he's being pushed and pulled forward, closer to the man sitting on his bed, and he can't even tell whether he's moving or not, but Magnus leaps off the bed, and paces the room for a moment or two, Alec watching confusedly, until he opens his mouth to say something, what, he's not yet sure of.

Magnus turns like a flash. “Alexander, you should really get some rest. If everything works out as I planned, I will be able to give you news tomorrow. Goodnight.” My beautiful one.

Alec nods, feeling rather disappointed but figuring that that's just stupid and the warlock has better things to do than babysit him all night. He really does wonder about some thoughts he has from time to time.

“Goodnight, and thank you, for, uh, you know... coming, and, um, everything else.” He gestures clumsily, feeling a blush creep onto his cheeks.

Magnus is so close to jumping the unsuspecting man, that he merely nods before he quickly exits through another portal. He'll have to find a way to occupy himself with tonight, before thoughts of his boyfriend-he-can't-have-right-now overpower him completely.


 

Alec reads until he can't keep his eyes open. He turns the light off and tries to relax his body and mind. It would be more comforting with the purring and warmth of his two friends he grew so fond of in so little time.

He falls asleep eventually.

 

Blackness, weightlessness, deafness, callousness.

Falling.

Something has changed this time. He's in familiar surroundings. He's at the Institute.

He's roaming the rooms, looking for someone, anyone, but the building seems empty, ghostly.

He's calling out for his sister, for Jace. NO! Jace is dead! It feels like a shot straight through his heart. He's clutching his chest, unable to stand on his own he's colliding with a wall, his legs giving out under him and he's sinking to the ground.

Jace. Is. Dead.

He saw him. He held him. There was blood everywhere. It can't be true. But he remembers, he remembers now.

He has to find his sister, his parents, Max.

He crawls until he has enough strength to stand on his feet again, he runs. “Izzy! Max! Mom! Dad!”

He arrives at the end of a corridor, turns back, stops and stares. The way he just came isn't there anymore. There are four corridors now instead. He doesn't understand what's happening, but he can't stay here. He runs through the very right one.

Every corridor he takes ends in a deadlock, just for him to find even more ways he could go when he turns back. He's trembling, sweating, his stamina rune not having much of an effect, if any. But he has to go on, he has to find them.

He's aching so much, everywhere. He has to support himself on the walls, unable to walk straight any longer. His feet are almost refusing to take even one more step. But he needs to go on, he HAS to find his family!

When he reaches the end of the corridor, the ground opens up to swallow him.

He hears himself screaming.

His body crashes onto hard ground, breaking his every bone.

He's conscious for a long while, feeling complete mortal agony.

After an eterniy his eyes close.

 

He screams so loudly, if Magnus' sound-proof spell wouldn't still be working, half of the Institute would probably storm in right now. He's having a horrible déjà-vu. His sheets and he himself drenched in cold sweat, his heart pumping so fast it's threatening to burst his eardrums. The fog in his mind getting thicker, impenetrable.

All he manages is crossing his arms, gripping his trembling body tightly and sobbing quietly into the inconsolable stillness of the night.

 

Chapter Text

After a long while he manages to calm himself down enough to function again.

Not daring to face the guard outside, unable to explain the state he's in, he changes clothes and the bed, opens a window because he prefers the cold to the stench of his nightmare, and waits for day to rise.

“Shower!” He doesn't even look at whoever's posted close to the door, his arms full of laundry and heads eagerly to the bathroom.

Rubbing his hair dry, he stares at himself in the mirror. His skin is a little ashen, bags under his eyes proof of his lack of sleep. But no one would think of the terror he's been facing the second night in a row. He's not sure whether he should be happy he can't remember or more terrified.

The guard followed him to the bathroom, of course. A woman he's seen around, but honestly, he doesn't even feel the urge to be polite and inquire about her name. He knows it's not her fault, she's fulfilling her duty, what seems to be the most important code for all shadowhunters from what he now knows, but that doesn't mean he's happy with it.

He wants to go find Isabelle or Jace, or even Clary who stayed at the Institute as far as he knows.

He moves quickly, swiftly, taking the guard by surprise and he thinks he might actually be able to lose her, though he doesn't really care, he won't just go back to his room and brood there on his own.

He stops dead when, at the same spot as yesterday, more people he doesn't know appear. A woman, clad in bright red robes, with green eyes, more guards than yesterday, and also, behind them, Alistair.

Before he can even attempt to turn and run, the woman who also has dark, red hair, is right in front of him, holding his arm in a death grip that makes him flinch and struggle to get away. Toxic green flames are shooting from her free hand, engulfing his whole body. He wants to scream but the shock won't let him. Then she lets go and steps back. He doesn't feel any different, apart from frightened out of his mind. Two men move forward, surrounding him, each taking hold of one of Alec's arms. Again he's trying to get away, again it's futile.

The guard must have alarmed the Lightwoods who are running to their son's aid, but before either of them can even get a word out, Alistair is in their faces, holding up a paper. “As you requested, the warrant for your son's arrest. He's coming with us now.”

The paper floats out of his hand. Maryse and Robert are feeling too incredulous to speak for a second which is all it takes for the intruders to start marching off with Alec.

“Mom!” Alec's head is turned, desperation, fright, a plea for help in his eyes.

The red woman is opening a portal as three Shadowhunters approach speedily with one single goal. Rescue Alec!

Isabelle's whip catches the guard on Alec's left, pulling him off as Jace fights off the one on his right before he helps Clary to hold the others back as Isabelle grabs Alec and they run.

Maryse and Robert have also drawn their blades, standing right behind Clary and Jace now. “Go!” Jace meets his mother's eye for a split second but it's all it takes for him to understand. He grabs Clary's hand and runs with her after Isabelle and Alec, their only goal now to keep him safe.

Clary managed to text Magnus an urgent 'Come NOW!' before they stormed in to fight off the guards. He steps out of his portal the moment Isabelle and Alec enter the room. “Thank the Angel, we have to get Alec out of here, they want to arrest him!”

She grabs the bow and quiver from the rack. Magnus, not as shocked as he could be, as he had just heard the same from his source and was about to come and rescue Alec himself, opens another portal immediately, then holds out a hand towards the young man.

Alec feels as if his head is going to explode, surely whatever nightmares he's had, they can hardly have been worse than what's happening now.

When he realizes what Magnus is doing, all thoughts fly. Their eyes connect and their hearts sync the moment Alec lays his hand in Magnus'.

“We gotta go, now!” Jace shouts as he appears with Clary, ready to get the hell out of here.

“We're going to the loft!” Magnus walks through first, and something happens which has never, in all the many years he's been using portals happened before. He's pulled back, unable to go through.

Impossible.

 

Three Shadowhunters are staring at him, no, at Alec. Clary finds her voice first.

“He couldn't get through. Magnus, I think he can't go through the portal.”

What?! “That is not possible...” He pulls Alec to try again but the young man could as well be walking against a stonewall.

“They have a warlock with them, maybe she did something to him.” Isabelle offers, trying to think of another escape route, but they're out of time!

“She did.” Alec's soft voice. His mind can barely keep up with any of it.

Magnus just stares disbelievingly, needing to know who and what.

“Let's jump!” Jace is quickly in action, pulling the window open and jumps. Clary is right behind him.

“We can jump from this height?” Alec just stares, not even trusting that he would stay alive when he hit the ground.

“Of course, we're Shadowhunters, big brother.” She takes his hand, they will jump together, and Alec fleetingly glances at Magnus before letting go of the warlock's hand and leaping into death.

Actually, he's completely fine, just feeling a little mad.

“Run!” Jace and Clary are already on the move, Isabelle dragging Alec along who's looking behind them for Magnus. When he sees that the warlock made it down safely and is right on their heels, he speeds up. He had no idea he could run so fast.

As they round the next street corner, a black SUV comes to a halt, wheels screeching. Everybody but Alec draw their weapons, or magic in Magnus' case, until the door opens and a dark skinned man gives them a wave and shout to get a move on.

Alec has no idea who that is but as the others seem happy to see him, he gets into the vehicle without questioning anything.

He feels a little disjointed from the here and now, hearing voices around him, but only catching snippets of what's being said, sounding muted. His head hurts, his body feels drained, he just wants to sleep...

“Alec?” He blinks and meets his sister's concerned gaze. “Are you okay?” He nods and looks out of the window, not really seeing anything.


 

First things first, Magnus moves the loft when everyone's safely inside. He doesn't doubt that they may still be found at some point, but it will give them more time.

They need an ironclad plan of action to make sure The Clave won't get their hands on Alec again. He's deeply worried about recent events and really just wants to take him away to the furthest part of this world, which he could, if there weren't that peculiar problem with the portals. No doubt that warlock bitch was hired to make sure he wouldn't be able to escape that way, except using her own magic. It must have cost them a fortune, especially if it will last a while.

Magnus doesn't know a counter spell for it, and even if he did, he's sure it would take a long time to mix whatever unique potion would be needed. They'll have to think of something else.

Alec is really worrying Isabelle now. He seems very withdrawn in himself. She makes him sit on Magnus' couch and quickly gets him some water to drink which he does without a change in his weary face.

She catches Jace's, then Magnus' eyes and knows they feel the same. How much more can his fragile mind take?

She's taking him to his bedroom, which he doesn't know is his and Magnus' anymore, but it doesn't matter now, he clearly needs to rest while they conjure up a strategy.

Alec doesn't complain, he can't. He's dead weight and dropping off the moment his head hits the pillow.

But rest he cannot.

 

He's going through the same terror as the nights before, but this time when he starts awake, crying out and clutching his wet through shirt, there are six people in the room with him.

Jace is sitting on the bed, a hand cupping Alec's cheek. He meets his blond friend's haunted eyes. “It's OK, you're safe with us, Alec.”

He doesn't understand, why is this happening? Why?! Alec closes his eyes and takes some deep breaths.

“Alec... what did you dream?” Jace's voice is soft, laced with traces of fear. Did he...? He's able to read his Parabatai's eyes. “I felt you, but I couldn't wake you up.”

Alec averts his eyes and is silent. He feels horrible for Jace having to feel any of this, and even guiltier for being incapable of remembering. All that looms in his mind is that ominous veil he just can't shake.

Wanting to give Alec a bit more space, Luke, Simon, who had arrived earlier, and Clary leave the room again.

Magnus feels a poisonous sickness inside him, has felt it the moment Jace had stormed into the bedroom to see what was happening to his Parabatai. They could not wake him up! Seeing his love like this, not knowing what the reason is or what he can do to help, is tearing him apart.

“Has this happened before?” Jace inquires further, gently, but trying to get something out of his brother they can maybe work with.

Alec sighs softly and nods. “Twice, the last couple nights... I always woke up like this... but I don't... remember.”

The silence is oppressive. Alec can't stand it anymore. “Can I take a shower?” He doesn't look at any of them, he feels exposed and vulnerable, wanting to hide.

“Of course, I'll show you.” Isabelle takes her brother to the bathroom, Magnus and Jace watching them disappear. Magnus stays silent and Jace feels so unnerved.

“Magnus, please, there has to be something we can do!” The young Shadowhunter is clearly shaken, feeling anguished for his brother. Magnus gets it. He gets it like no one else, but he is entirely powerless.

Jace understands, feeling despaired. Unable to stay in the same room with the warlock now he leaves quickly to join the others.

Alec's letting the hot water run, his forehead pressed against the bathroom tiles. Why is this happening to him? Why did he come back to this? His whole life feels like a nightmare now, not just those night terrors. What's the point when that is his life now? Maybe he would have rather stayed not found. But he can't think like this. He just feels so weak and helpless. His tears mix with the running water but he doesn't make a sound.


 

Magnus stares at the bathroom door for a long time, feeling utterly worthless.

 

Before he leaves with leaden steps he quickly snaps his fingers, refreshing the bedsheets for Alec and lying out fresh clothes.

Magnus listens and watches, but stays quiet. He doesn't feel like he could contribute anything useful any more. He has failed so spectacularly with just about everything that's happened in the last seven months, he doesn't trust himself anymore, especially not with saving Alec.

The werewolves and vampires are working together once more, on the look out for unwelcome intruders or activities which they will report to either Luke or Simon immediately.

Other than that, no one seems to come up with an actual plan on how to move forward. Hiding out here may work for a while, definitely not forever. If The Clave is set on getting Alec, they'll eventually send anyone or rather anything to apprehend him.

Changing their strategy from placing him under protection to arresting him is more than enough of an indicator of how serious they are, and also how scared. They can't know more than them about what happened to him, but they must think it to be a peril in disguise for the Shadow World. They'll want to use him to find out whatever they believe they have to know to keep their world safe, and Alec is the innocent victim in all of this who they will sacrifice without a second thought, for the greater good, of course.

“What are they accusing him of anyway?” Simon asks as Isabelle just told them in more detail what happened mere hours ago at the Institute. He's looking into a lot of clueless faces, no one knows. There wasn't exactly time to read the arrest paper.

“Refusal of cooperation, lack of obedience to The Clave, and withholding existential information, knowingly or unknowingly, and therefore endangering solidarity and every people within.“ Magnus interjected.

Everyone's staring at the warlock now, who still hasn't moved from his spot and isn't meeting anyone's eyes.

“How do you know that?” Clary. Magnus shrugs. “Someone in Alicante owed me a favor, a big one.” With that he moves to pour himself a drink from his bar, which is better than just standing around aimlessly and brainlessly.

“Do you really think now is the time to get drunk?” Jace is clearly angry, but Magnus is impassive. “I think it's exactly the time for that, or do you have a better idea?” He sips from the blue drink, sending a rather provocative look towards the blond whose hands ball into fists at his sides. Clary immediately places her hand on his arm, but that hardly calms him down.

“Yes, actually, I do! Wreck your freaking ancient, immortal brain, your books and spells and all that shit for something that's going to help us save Alec from this bullshit! You're always boasting about how powerful you are, how knowledgeable and above everyone else you think you are! SO fucking DO something instead of being a whiny loser and feeling sorry for yourself and fucking everything up! Do you even care anymore?”

“Guys, this really isn't the time!” Luke steps forward, but they completely ignore him. No one else seems to dare say a word, all just staring between Jace and Magnus, whose eyes have become yellow cat's ones, flaming up with rage.

“That's very rich coming from you. How often have you put your own selfish needs before Alexander's? Begging him for help whenever he was useful to you but discarding his wants and needs when it was inconvenient? How often has he saved your reckless ass just to be taken for granted by you? And you accuse me of not caring? I've done nothing but, trying everything to find him when you were merely crying yourself to sleep at night like a damn cowa-”

Even through his raging rant, Magnus suddenly becomes aware of someone standing in between the sliding doors of his bedroom who wasn't there before. Alec. He's looking shocked and crestfallen and Magnus is too startled himself to even manage to glamour his eyes before they meet Alec's deeply sad ones. The others have turned as well, Jace feeling terribly guilty and disappointed in himself for losing it like that and provoking Magnus in such a way, and most of all for having hurt Alec again.

The dark-haired Shadowhunter is slowly turning, walking out of their sight again. They all feel guilty, even though most of them weren't involved in this ruction. They should have stopped them.

After a long moment of oppressing silence, Isabelle is joining her brother in the bedroom, sliding the doors fully shut. She could never stand to see her big brother sad or in pain, but he was always so very strong, so focused and taking care of everyone around him, never asking for anything in return. And now... he is in so much more pain than ever before, forlorn and breakable, and their bond isn't what it used to be, which isn't his fault, but she doesn't know how to help him, how to get really through to him, to make him see and believe how much she loves and cares for him and would give up pretty much anything for him, and she knows that's how Jace and Magnus feel, too. Why they couldn't hold back their flaring emotions anymore, both knowing full well that they just wanted to rant and hurt the other because of how much they're hurting themselves. If only Alec knew, was able to remember how deeply and completely he is loved by them all. She is sure that it would help him to heal, to have hope, but without his memories... their capabilities are limited.

She sits down on the bed next to him, glancing at his profile. He's so lost. It breaks her heart. She wants to hold his hand, hold him and tell him everything is going to be just fine, but she can't lie to him. “Alec...”

She only just perceives the slight shake of his head and trails off, swallowing hard.

“I never wanted this... for this to happen, no one should be fighting because of me, it's no one's fault... you have all been so good to me, and I feel like I don't deserve it, and I can't let you sacrifice so much for me... maybe they... The Clave aren't so bad... maybe they'll know what to do... I should just surrender and-"

Isabelle's actually pressing a hand onto her brother's mouth who's blinking at her confusedly. She doesn't know how she even listened to half of what he was saying without holding him back. “Alec Lightwood, you are such an idiot, and that also hasn't changed. You've always been the first to jump at every opportunity to sacrifice yourself for the greater good or us, but this is pure idiocy and none of us would ever let you do this, you better not even repeat this crap in front of anyone else, they will lock you up.”

She feels tears in her eyes but manages a smile and then she can't but pull him into a tight embrace. He'll just have to get used to her again. His thoughts have deeply saddened her and it's extremely disconcerting, but no matter what, they'll make him see that that's the last thing they will let him do.

Alec's swamped with too many negative thoughts and emotions, and all he really wants is to get some peace. The mere thought of falling asleep and having that kind of nightmare again, however, is making him want to never close his eyes again. How long will he even manage to keep sane? And how long can someone like him survive without sleep? I guess I'll find out. Gives me something to look forward to. At least he hasn't lost all of his humor, yet... he sighs defeatedly and finally relaxes into his sister's warm and solid body, wondering whether he will ever feel strong enough by himself.


 

“Magnus, I'm-”

“Let's not talk about it anymore.” Jace wants their friend to know that he really is sorry and that he had been overpowered by pain and fear for Alec, but then he can guess that Magnus already knows. He understands. He nods and walks off back to the others, while Magnus is getting several messages from someone he had been hoping to hear from for a while now. Finally! His fingers move speedily, then he downs the rest of his drink and announces. “We're getting a visitor, so everyone be on your best behavior!” Lame jokes won't help his dreary state, but he's not yet ready to give up being himself.

Before anyone can inquire further information, a portal opens and a woman, warlock most of them already know, steps through. One couldn't forget her blue skin, white hair and kind smile.

“Catarina, darling, it's so good to see you. Please excuse my bad manners but taking into account recent developments and our rather unfortunate circumstances... please, tell me you found something that will help.”

Magnus is full of hope but also terrified of having hope, it has been wiped out too many times. Yet, he can't stop, not until someone finds something to rescue his Alexander from that hell he's trapped in.

Catarina pats his hand, smiling understandingly. “I have found something, which is why I am here, but I can't make any promises. Where's Alec? He needs to hear this most of all.”

Clary's getting the Lightwood siblings from the bedroom. Isabelle is happy to see Catarina again, and Alec feels apprehensive and doesn't really want to be in a room with so many people, and yet another stranger he has no memory of. He's rather fascinated by her looks and her pretty smile, though.

“Alec, it's very nice to see you again, and I know you don't remember me, which is why I am here. I've been doing research for several months now, on a rather peculiar subject. Memory spells are one of the most crucial and complicated ones. They're very rare and unique and there isn't much of terms of guidance to find for most of them. I've been working on something, a particularly powerful memory spell, for several weeks now, and I have, after some failed attempts, successfully completed a potion which could help reverse the loss of your memories. But I must warn you, I don't know whether it will be successful, or the consequences if it fails.”

Alec's stunned into silence, trying to come to terms with this new information. A spell, a memory spell that could help him get his memories back... or, yeah, or what? If she, a warlock, doesn't even know... he doesn't know whether he wants to take such a huge risk, and he wishes nothing more than for someone to tell him what to do.

Magnus' joy at his old friend bringing good news has been short-lived. Alec can under no circumstances take such an enormous risk when literally anything could happen. His courage drops, giving room to new desperation.

If the potion and spell work, however... he would finally remember and all of this would be over, and he could go back to having a real life with nice feelings and no more of this horror. “I want to do it.” Maybe, if it doesn't work, he'll simply die, which really isn't the worst he could think of. As long as he's being selfish, at least.

Magnus' head shoots up and he's in Alec's face in a second. “Alexander, I can't let you do this, you have no idea what this kind of magic could damage within you-” Magnus realizes the moment Alec's eyes connect with his. They're so beautiful, yet so sad and haunted with unspeakable trauma. They speak of a truth he doesn't want to see, but cannot overlook. Something has already damaged so much in Alec, he is willing to risk further pain in slim hope of relief.

Magnus' lungs are quenched of all air, being faced with the whole unadulterated impact of Alec's suffering. He accepts silently and steps away, unable to look at the man he worships more than his own life any longer. He nods at Catarina, a big part of his remaining soul shattering.

“Let's get you comfortable, Alec, and we'll need quiet.” She takes the young man with her to Magnus' bedroom and closes the door behind them firmly.

She instructs him with gentle authority to lie down on the bed and uses a minor spell to help him relax. He can't drink the potion all at once, but bit by bit while she's chanting the spell. Alec has sort of shut off. He can't think things really could get worse, so he'll just accept whatever will happen.

“I'll start now, and I will try anything in my power to help you come out of this as unharmed as possible.” Alec nods and gives her a tiny smile. He really likes her, the second warlock he thinks of as such. His mother really can't have ever given them a real chance... Catarina has started with the spell and feeding Alec the potion and he's drifting off calmly.

 

He is floating. He feels warm and safe, cushioned. He can't see much, but it's bright. No comparison to the usual darkness.

He realizes he is inside his own mind then. He doesn't know how that is possible, or even how he knows. He simply does.

The brightness is actually fog, a veil he recognizes from his nightmares. He starts to feel afraid.

But to his surprise, the veil is suddenly moving, as if it's being pulled apart on both ends. It's thinning out and he can see. A younger Isabelle, he's with her, carrying her on his back while she laughs and squeals, he's laughing, too.

A younger Jace, they're training, trying to outsmart and overpower each other. He feels strong, and proud, and happy.

He's floating along, a young boy coming into view he hasn't seen before... but... “Max!” his younger self calls out, rushing to the boy as he runs towards him and they hug tightly, broad smiles on their faces. He remembers! His siblings, he finally remembers.

He's smiling, turning back to those memories but he's still floating on and he's looking forward to what he'll see next. The spell must be working and he feels so unburdened.

He can see a silhouette of a figure in the distance. He can't make out who it is but he's steadily coming closer.

Black hair styled fashionably, a long, colorful coat adorning his body. He's wearing jewelry, glittery make up, painted fingernails, a silver earcuff, and what entrances Alec the most is a pair of yellow cat eyes, staring back at him.

All of his senses are filled with pleasure, happiness, bliss.

But as sudden as they emerged they're gone.

His head shoots upwards, there's a blackness rushing through the brightness, coming right at him.

Terrified he looks back to the man and to his horror he's being pulled away, so fast he can't follow. He's alone.

A horrible grating noise is forcing him to cover his ears which doesn't help at all, the noise is inside his head.

It's forcing him onto his knees as he's groaning in pain.

His hands are bleeding, no, his ears are, the noise is all-consuming, slicing his mind slowly, like razor blades.

He is absolutely certain he will die. No one could bear this. Especially not himself, not for much longer anyway.

The noise is sucked out of him, making him scream. Then it's silent.

He can't see anything in the dark. He doesn't know whether this is death? Or more of the same torture, or something else altogether.

He needn't wonder for long.

There are small, red circles right in front of him, coming closer and closer and he can't move, not a muscle. The red circles consist of flames, dancing dangerously, threatening to burn him. His eyes are frighteningly wide, full of panic.

Eyes. He can see now. Red, flaming eyes. He knows those eyes, he's seen them before but he can't remember and he doesn't have the time or the sanity to think.

They're growing bigger, angrier, there's so much raw hatred, repulsion, frenzy.

He can't even scream as they leap at him, engulf him, but instead of heat burning him, they're freezing him from the inside, icier than anything he could ever begin to imagine.

Just when his heart is about to give out, he's hauled up and thrown so far back into the void, he loses consciousness.

  

“Shhh, he's waking up.”

Alec hears whispers, voices, far away but getting closer. He's disorientated and can't sense his body. He can't see and he panics.

“Alec, it's alright, just open your eyes.” A female voice. Soft, kind. Oh. Eyes. Open your eyes. He needs a while to find his eyes, to remember how to open them.

His view is blurry. There's a hint of blue and white. He blinks a few dozen times before his sight becomes sharper. He recognizes the woman, Catarina. She's smiling softly at him, looking very exhausted. He wants to ask her what happened but he can't find his mouth. He doesn't feel it.

Another face comes into view. The other warlock, Magnus. Brown eyes. Oh.

“It will take some time until your senses work properly again, Alec, I'm sorry, it's all I could do to keep you with us, but you'll be okay.”

Alec doesn't really understand what she means and frankly, he doesn't care. He's way too tired. So he sleeps.


 

In all her years and with all her experience, Catarina has never come across something such as this.

The spell had been working, she could feel Alec's memories return, if slowly. But then...

She had to use all the rest of her magic to perform a powerful healing spell to keep Alec's life force from slipping away. She had managed. Just.

He is alive, he will need a lot of rest and mending but he should be as OK as he was before. But there is nothing she can do about his mind, whatever implanted itself in there, it is more powerful, more malicious, than anything she has ever faced before.

Jace had felt Alec a lot stronger this time and to his dismay he had felt his Parabatai's life draining away. Luke, Simon and Magnus had to hold him back from crashing into the room. Magnus had known that Catarina was Alec's only chance to come out of it alive. And she didn't disappoint.

Magnus feels beyond all hope to ever find out who is behind it and rid Alec of this horror, now that even a warlock as powerful as Catarina is helpless against the unknown evil that is infesting Alec's mind.


 

Chapter Text

He finally gets the rest he needs. It seems whatever's in his mind has lost some of its power, at least for now. Alec welcomes it, craves it and moans disappointedly when he just can't go back to sleep any more. He rubs his eyes, suddenly tensing up.

Alarmed he looks around the room. Bedroom. Very... extraordinary. Familiar. He's alone. But there are people outside, he knows. Magnus' place. Right. So he hasn't lost it completely, or died.

But one attempt at thinking back any further than a week ago, and he knows he hasn't gotten back his memories, either. He feels rather numb and decides to just not think about it.

What he can't decide on is whether he should just stay in bed, or take another shower, or look for the others. He can't imagine how they must be, knowing he failed. Well, he didn't fail, the spell did, he guesses, he doesn't actually remember. This is becoming a running joke with him.

He feels as if he is to blame, though. Maybe he's just not strong enough. And all these people are giving up so much for him, have given up so much... he remembers Magnus' and Jace's argument, but it's making him feel too guilty to think about further. He rubs his face, runs his hands through his messy, dark hair and sighs deeply.

He feels rather frail and he's not actually sure whether he can move his legs, now that he thinks about it. He tries but they're very heavy. Maybe he should give it some more time. Catarina said something to him, it's all hazy, though. He thinks she said he'll be okay, and for now he's simply going to believe it. He's sure he'll find out soon enough if it isn't the case, he just needs a break from all that doom and gloom.

He flinches as suddenly, out of nowhere, Church and the Chairman jump onto his bed. They must have been in the room all this time. Or, well, he didn't want to think too much about things, right? The cats settle on either side of him and he can't but smile and stroke them, eliciting a lot of excited purrs from his furry friends.


 

Alec had been sleeping peacefully, as far as they could tell, for hours. One good thing for once.

Magnus had taken Catarina home to let her rest. She promised to look into it more once she regained her magic and Magnus is grateful, but he won't hope. He can't.

Luke also left, taking care of something Magnus didn't inquire about, he's sure the werewolf is more than capable, and they’re all more capable than himself.

When he returns, Isabelle and Simon are quietly talking, Simon having an arm around his girlfriend, and Clary and Jace are also holding each other. Jace looks positively bad and Magnus feels a pang of guilt in his gut. He shouldn't have... oh, it doesn't matter, he shouldn't have done so many things. He can't undo any of them, or make them any better.

He doesn't want to disturb any of the couples so he turns to the bedroom, uses his magic to look through the door to check on Alec and closes it, his heart missing a few beats, thrilling anticipation flooding his body. He's awake! He knocks a couple of times, meeting Isabelle's eyes for a moment before he enters. They must want to give them both some time, else he can't understand why they're not following right behind him. He'd have to lie to say that he minds.

Alec startles slightly hearing the knock and tries to sit up immediately, but his body is even more stiff and leaden than he thought, and he would have disturbed the cats.

“Please, Alexander, don't exert yourself, just give it time, you'll be alright.” Magnus is looking him over intensely, searching his hazel eyes for any pain, any unrest. To his relief, right now, Alec isn't showing any sign of that, which may be helped by the two little pests sharing the bed right now. Magnus feels a softness he hasn't for a while. Often they had to chase them out of bed so they could have some alone time... they usually only both came when Alec was there.

Magnus sits down on the bed cautiously, not too close, just close enough. He shows a little smile that vanishes the moment Alec's gaze drops. He feels discouraged but won't let it show.

“What happened?” Alec's eyes come up to rest on the warlock once more. Magnus thinks how best to tell him, without troubling him even more.

“Well... the spell failed, but Catarina saved you from worse. How do you feel? It will take a while until you can fully move again and built up your strength but you will make a full recovery.” Physically... but Magnus can't bring that word over his lips and what it implies. Alexander knows anyway, to a much greater and worse extent than any of them.

“I can move my arms, but not my legs, everything feels very heavy and strange.” Magnus nods, knowing there isn't anything he can do to help. Sometimes only time does that. At least Alec doesn't seem to be in any pain.

“Do you remember anything that happened during the spell?” The warlock's heart is speeding up with nerves. If Alec remembers something, it could maybe lead them somewhere, but should it be as bad as he fears, he'd rather the young shadowhunter never remembers. Catarina told him that Alec's heart had stopped for a full minute before she could revive it. Magnus can't even let himself think any further and the others, except Jace who actually felt some of it, will never find out.

Alec's trying to think back... he remembers hearing Catarina's voice, quietly, and then... fire that was ice cold. He shudders and shoves it away. He doesn't know what it means or whether it's got anything to do with, well, anything. He's clueless and useless and he doesn't want to talk about it, so he just shakes his head, feigning complete ignorance.

For a moment Magnus could detect a strangeness in Alec's eyes but it's gone too quickly and he exhales with relief. It's for the best.

“Can I, uh, get some water, please?” Magnus feels taken aback at this almost shy request. I'd give you the seas, the stars and planets, and all of the universe. But I can't even give you peace. Alexander, I am so endlessly sorry.

Alec blinks at the weird expression in Magnus' eyes. He's just looking at him so intensely and the emotions in the deep brown eyes seem to overflow. It makes his heart skip a beat and his skin prickles all over.

“Of course.” Magnus finally speaks and moves his hand, snaps his fingers and holds a big glass of water out to Alec, who's looking rather mesmerized at it.

“Uh, thank you.” He tries to sit up again but his body won't work with him. Magnus is quick on his feet. “Let me help you?” Alec blinks, feeling a little embarrassed with the whole situation but nods, there's nothing he can do about it. Any of it.

Magnus very gently supports Alec's head so the young man is able to drink without spilling everything over himself. He's so aware of the smell of Alec's hair, his warmth. Magnus' fingers itching to move, to run them through the dark, thick but soft strands. Like he's done a thousand times before. Like he thought, not long ago, he never again would.

He's watching calmly until Alec's done and looks up at him once more. “Thanks.” His voice is so tender, the expression in his beautiful eyes making him look enchanted, Magnus almost loses the ever present battle with his heart and self-control and leans down to seal the taller man's lips with his own. If only he could. He lets go of Alec's head as gently and pulls himself away, his heart shut off again, as much as he can bear.

“You're very welcome, Alexander. Now, I'm sure there are a few others, who rather than trust my word, would like to see for themselves that you're alright. I'll go get them.” He's so fast, Alec just about manages to open his mouth before he's already gone. He sighs inwardly. He didn't want to chase him out... though rationally he knows he didn't do such a thing... just one of these very weird and inexplicable feelings he seems to have around the warlock whenever they're alone.

Isabelle and Jace are first to assure themselves of Alec's well-being and they're trying to make light of it, hiding their worries and fears, but Alec seems to have some kind of inner sense for these people generally. Something just tells him they are pretending, being strong for him. And what can he do in return for them? Be more of a burden than before? That seems to be all he's good for. He will never utter these thoughts aloud, though. The talk he had with his sister before ensures that. But nothing and no one can convince him otherwise.

Meanwhile Clary approaches Magnus who's staring out of the huge loft windows, lost in a bleak state of mind, she can tell. She puts a hand on his arm until he looks at her.

“What is it, biscuit?” She swallows down the sadness she feels at hearing him so broken, yet trying to be so strong for them.

“As long as we won't give up, we won't lose. You know how stubborn and strong-minded he is. We will find a way... together.” She links her fingers with her friend's, Magnus set on speaking for a second but then his face relaxes and he lets his eyes convey his gratitude instead, squeezing her hand affectionately, even though he doesn't feel confident enough to believe it.


 

Alec eventually dozes off again, made easier by the two purring furballs on either side of his head.

Everyone else is back in the living-room where Simon took the liberty to turn on the Ultra High Definition flat screen TV Magnus had gotten for Alec once his boyfriend had admitted rather grumpily how inept he felt when Magnus, Simon, and Clary talked for days (a slight exaggeration!) about movies and everything pop culture thing he didn't have any knowledge of. Of course, once he saw the TV, Alec had firstly complained that they didn't need it and that he wasn't really interested, but after a very nice and long make out session he was more susceptible to watching a movie, or all three extended parts of The Hobbit, followed by The Lord of Rings trilogy. He seemed rather hooked, analyzing all the fight, especially the archery scenes, of the elves, and making some mental notes about them. Magnus had felt so giddily happy, and so proud.

“Oh, look, they're showing a rerun of Coachella from this year.” Simon states a little enthusiastically, trying to lighten the somber mood, just a little. Jace and Isabelle are looking at him as if he's lost it, and Clary smiles a little pained while Magnus simply ignores him.

Simon decides to enlighten Jace and Isabelle. “It's this huge festival in California with tons of cool artists and bands like M83, Meg Myers and Halsey, Guns N' Roses and Sia, you have to know Sia!” Jace stopped listening at the first few words, rubbed his face, sending Izzy a look that clearly questions how she can stand having Simon as her boyfriend, and walked off to the side, next to his girlfriend who's looking rather amused at him. Isabelle smiles softly, loving how her boyfriend's so inappropriately comforting. At least to her. She kisses him softly which shuts him up and then they actually watch some of the festival, because frankly, they don't know what else to do for the time being.


 

Alec has some feeling back in his legs when he wakes up and he manages to sit on his own. The cats complain but he needs to go to the bathroom, his bladder is about to burst. He makes it, taking small steps, supporting his weight with his hands on the wall. He feels so damn useless but what can he do? He washes himself some and gets properly dressed, even though it takes him forever, or that's how it feels to him.

He ponders whether to see what the others are doing but feels too groggy, just about reaching the bed before he tumbles, falling face down on the soft covers. Bed it is then. He sighs, but at least the cats are happy again.

  

Clary's phone rings. “It's Luke! Hey, Lu-”

She listens intently for a moment, her face serene. Four pairs of eyes are watching her cautiously, Magnus using his superior hearing to listen in on their conversation.

Demons! Just what they need! He snaps the TV off and paces the room while Clary explains to the others that a hoard of demons appeared a little while ago and that their werewolf and vampire friends are taking care of them.

There's a tenseness filling the room now with the unspoken question. Do they stay or do they go and help the others to fight the demons off?

Jace observes the ambivalence in Magnus and makes the decision for them. “Izzy, Magnus, you stay here with Alec, the three of us will check it out and report back.” The warlock is surprised at how relieved he feels, silently thanking his Shadowhunter friend and nods. Simon quickly hugs and kisses Isabelle before Magnus opens a portal for them, so that they can quickly meet up with Luke and assess the situation.

“Don't worry, he's safe here, right?” Isabelle can read the worry in her friend's face and puts an arm around him. Magnus nods and takes a deep breath. She's right, Alec's safe in here and he'll die before he'll let a demon get close to him!

A sudden thudding sound makes them both freeze and dash to the bedroom. They find Alec on the floor, limbs strangely entangled. “Alec? What the heck are you doing?”

Isabelle rushes forward to help him sit up, checking him over for injuries. Alec flushes in embarrassment and rubs the back of his head when he sits, leaning back against the side of the bed. “Just wanted to dress my boots,” he mumbles, glancing down.

He had enough of staying idle and took another attempt at getting up. He lost his balance, which is still disturbed, and fell over. Of course, that's when they find him.

“Always so stubborn.” Magnus says softly, an affectionate little smile on his lips.

“C'mon, I'll help you on your feet, but don't overdo it!” With the support of his sister, Alec is up and back on the bed in no time, sighing softly. “Thanks, but I'm really much better, just a little wobbly still.”

Magnus' phone rings. He turns away, walking a few steps before he halts, his body gone completely stiff.

Isabelle is highly alarmed, approaching him carefully. “Magnus? What is it? The others...?”

He drops his hand with the phone, his eyes pressed shut tightly before he opens them, looking directly into her dark ones. “There are more demons than they can handle.” Realization hits her before he continues to speak.

“They need my magic.” He turns to look at Alec, feeling his heart wrench in his chest. The young man looks confused and so innocent and Magnus doesn't want to leave him, doesn't know how to. But leave he must, because he couldn't live with any of the others getting hurt, or worse, because he wasn't able to shove back his emotions.

“Don't let him out of your sight.” He urges Isabelle before he walks out and disappears.

Of course she won't. She doubts that any demon could invade the loft but it happened once before, the day they went to ask help from Magnus to summon the memory demon to retrieve Clary's memories. She wishes they could have done the same for Alec. It seems such a trivial matter now, compared to whatever's going on with her brother.

In any case, her whip is ready for action should it come to it, and she helps her brother into his boots, hoping he will be strong enough to get out of here, should they have to. She regrets not having asked Magnus for a phone, and curses herself for not thinking fast enough. Hers and Alec's are probably still in their mother's office, along with Jace's. There's nothing she can do about it now, they'll just have to wait for someone to come back.

“Are you going to tell me what-”

A loud crash shakes the loft as well as the two Lightwood siblings. Isabelle feels frozen with disbelief but she's fast at recovering, telling her brother in no uncertain terms to stay exactly where he is and then leaves, her whip moving elegantly and confidently in her hand.

There are three shax demons in the loft and she has to be speedy and ferocious to kill them before they can get too close to her, or worse, Alec. She's certain about one thing now. They can't stay here.

She grabs Alec's bow and quiver, slings them over her arm and shoulder and hurries to get her brother, letting him lean on her while they move out as fast as they can.

Alec's frightened and doesn't think he'll manage to get far, but he's biting his cheek and tells himself to man up and be strong for once, despite the odds and his whole body trembling.

They make it outside, fighting sounds clearly audible in the air. Isabelle knows she can't focus on that, her priority, her mission, is Alec's safety, so she drags him along as quickly as they manage, in the opposite direction of the battle sounds.

“Wait, what about the others? We can't just leave them behind!” Alec wants to turn back but Isabelle has a firm grip on him and despite the height and weight difference, in his state he isn't a match for anyone, especially not demons! They have to get out of here!

“Alec-”, he cuts her off, a pleading look in his eyes. “Please, Izzy, let's just check if they're OK!” His eyes move about them quickly. “If you help me I can climb that ladder, up there we can at least check their situation and we're still far enough from danger, please!?” Isabelle knows they absolutely shouldn't do that, but something in her brother's voice, his eyes, and his demeanor, is so much more like himself... she can't dwell or wait it out, so she does help him up the fire ladder onto a building where they can overlook the streets in front of them.

She loses her breath at the sight before them. There are dozens of demons, shax and Moloch demons, Kuris and a few Vermithralls. Werewolves and vampires have taken over the left flank, keeping them at bay, but for all they kill there seem to be more crawling out from some invisible hell hole. When she spots Raphael and Simon not far apart, fighting their enemies with vigor, her heart leaps with pride. They'll be okay, they have to be!

Alec is looking for his friends, his eyes jumping about for a moment before they focus on the obvious. Blue light, a whole ray of it. Magnus is on the right, holding off a whole crowd, his magic killing them one by one, Jace and Clary close behind him, holding more demons off of his back. But there are yet more, creeping along the barely lit streets, along buildings and getting closer.

Alec gasps suddenly, his Parabatai rune throbbing painfully. A Moloch jumped right at Jace and he's on the ground fighting it off, Clary's yelling but there are a couple of shax demons wanting her full attention. And then Alec spots it. There's another couple of Molochs moving in close, going right for his Parabatai. In a split second Alec evaluates the scene, knowing it's impossible for any of them to help Jace in time.

He feels an inner calmness, a strange pounding energy and then his body moves without his head being able to catch up, but it doesn't need to. He grabs his bow and quiver from Isabelle whose looking startled at him, he doesn't have any time to explain, though. The demons have almost reached Jace!

“Just support my body!” He instructs and she's quick to comply as he draws his bow and shoots the first arrow faster than Isabelle can watch. The first demon goes down, not a second too late, followed right by the second and Jace is finally back on his feet, looking around shocked but with no time to waste as he runs to Clary's side to help her fight off yet more shax demons.

Alec is scanning the crowd, his vision sharper than he remembers, his body withstanding the strain with Isabelle's firm grip and strength supporting him, his bow like a second skin, another limb that feels so natural. He aims and kills, swiftly moving to do the same over and again, like flashes in the night the demons can't see coming, wherever he can spot lethal danger for any of their allies down there.

Finally there seem to be fewer demons appearing and Alec relaxes. He's suddenly shaking like a leaf in a storm, his bow dropping from his hands, unable to perceive what's happening. Isabelle cries out as her brother goes down, too heavy for her body that is worn thin now to hold up anymore. He drops like a dead weight, hitting his head on the stone floor.

Jace, who could sense Alec's presence earlier is alarmed immediately, and with few demons left, he tells Clary and Magnus to run after him as he leaps up to where he spotted Isabelle leaning over his unconscious Parabatai. “What happened?!” He turns Alec's body slowly, running a sweaty hand over Alec's still face. “He just collapsed, he was... shooting all these demons, but then... it was just too much for him.” Clary's by Isabelle's side, trying to comfort her. Magnus is quickly killing off a few more minor demons that followed them before he turns to see what's going on exactly. He doesn't have any time to let fear or sorrow take him over. Luke's there now and Jocelyn.

“There are more demons coming, get out of here!” Luke's green eyes are glowing dangerously and he and Magnus share a look that leaves no argument, and he's back in wolf's form, running back to his pack to aid them. Jocelyn's hugging her daughter tightly. “Go, and take care of yourselves, just get as far away as you can, if The Clave resorts to using The Mortal Cup to send demons after you, you're not safe anywhere near here!” Clary looks at her mother incredulously. The Clave did this? Why?! Do they want to kill them all? There is no more time to waste. Jace is already on the move, carrying Alec, hell bent on getting him out of that place.

Isabelle is desperately searching, trying to make eye contact with Simon. Finally he notices and their eyes meet. He wants nothing more than to follow her, but more demons are crowding them in and he can't leave the others, not now. Furthermore, the more of them stay behind to fight the demons off, the better the chance for Isabelle and the others to escape. He silently promises to find her as soon as he can, then turns to kill more of those damn pests.

And then all they can do is run. Magnus secures the rear, his magic more potent to fight off any unwelcome attackers.

They make it to the harbor where they hide between huge shipping containers to catch their breaths. Jace is laying Alec down gently, Isabelle supporting her brother's head. Magnus rushes in to heal Alec's head wound, for once praying his magic will do some good for his love.

Alec's eyes open seconds later and everyone noticeably relaxes. He blinks, his vision blurry at first, his body feels as if it got hit by a truck, and his throat is raw and sore, but he's glad to see the others, all looking terribly worn, dirt on their faces, their clothes torn in places, some blood and scratches, but alive. If only he could move now...

“You scared the crap out of us, buddy, don't do that again! But damn, you just had to be the hero, killing those fuckers even without knowing what you were doing!” Jace is laughing now, tears in his eyes, he's just so relieved that Alec is awake again, and so in awe of what he just did. No one but his Parabatai could have pulled that off! He's kind of bursting with pride and love and also sorrowful seeing the weakened state his brother's in now. But he fucking saved his life! Again and without his memories! Damn!

Alec is blinking, feeling rather baffled, and his head hurts. He has no idea what happened and how he knew how to do that... and he's going to delay wondering about it until he feels less shitty.

While the others are smiling and gushing over Alec, Magnus feels antsy and anxious. Where are they supposed to go? The loft is compromised, portaling is out of the question, The Clave being ridiculously paranoid, unlawful and simply manic is a very bad sign and leaves them with very few choices. And his magic has run almost dry fighting those cursed demons. He needs to come up with a plan, make a decision, the right one, for goddamn once!

“Well, you have clearly seen better days, my friend. I haven't seen you this rumpled in a long while, it's still not a good look on you.” Magnus turned almost as fast as lightning, shock turning into a bemused roll of his eyes. “And where have you been while all hell broke loose? Having a few drinks letting me do all the work, no doubt!” He's secretly glad to see his old best friend. Maybe they can come up with a strategy together.

Ragnor's grinning, slapping his warlock friend's shoulder. “Usually, but this time I bring real news. I finished it.” Magnus is uncertain about what his friend means for one fleeting moment, then he gets it and his eyes widen in proper surprise. He didn't think...

“Where is it?” They have no time to lose!

“Texas. I will go there now, take a look around. And you better find a way to get there quickly, assuming he still can't use a portal?” Magnus sighs a little painfully, glancing at Alec who’s still lying on the ground, his head in Isabelle's lap, Jace's hand over one of his.

“He can't, I could actually make out her magic just now. It's still way too strong.” Cursed warlock bitch!

Ragnor nods serenely. “You'll find a way, I'll let you know the exact location once I have made it there, just hurry as fast as you can! Until soon, my friend!” They hug quickly and then Ragnor leaves and Magnus walks over to his friends.

“What did Ragnor want? Did he have any news?” Clary inquires, looking a little too hopeful at Magnus. He can't deny she has a talent for always seeing and believing in good things.

“Actually, he did. And I'll explain later but now we have to find a way to get to Texas.”

“Texas? Why? What's in Texas?” Jace questions, looking rather doubtful.

Magnus raises a cool eyebrow. “If you learned to listen properly you'd need not ask!” He just told them he'd explain later! Jace rolls his eyes but keeps silent, glancing back at Alec who's very quiet, and looks like the definition of drained.

“We need a means of transportation to get us there fast but preferably inconspicuously.” Magnus ponders, an image of a racing car popping into his mind. A yellow Ferrari maybe?

“Can you get Simon's van?” Magnus blinks at the red-head. Simon's van? “Tell me, biscuit, what didn't you understand about inconspicuous?” Magnus deadpans.

Clary just waves him off. “We were about to spray paint it again, it's just yellow now, and old and rusty enough, no one will think a bunch of Shadowhunters and a warlock are hiding in it to cruise to Texas!”

Magnus' Ferrari vision puffs out and he sighs softly. “Well, I suppose. At least it is yellow.”

His magic isn't sufficient enough to magic the van to them, however, so they're running again, thankfully being able to stay hidden and Clary finding them the quickest way to Simon's home. The garage is locked up but Magnus can help that still.

Jace puts Alec in the back and covers him with a couple of blankets, his skin feeling cold and clammy. “You'll be alright, brother.” He whispers to him encouragingly then leaves him in Isabelle's care and moves to the front, pretty sure he's going to be the designated driver. Clary made other plans, though. “I'm driving, you crashed the last two cars you practiced in.” Jace's mouth drops open and he wants to argue, but, unfortunately he can't deny it and settles in the passenger seat, feeling a little resigned.

In the end it doesn't matter as long as they'll get there.

 

Chapter Text

A couple of hours after they had taken off, the first light of day made its way through the dark, it was going to be another cold, but sunny day. Snow still wasn't scheduled as the radio commentator informed them. It certainly made for better and safer driving.

Clary had made Jace google their travel time, about 26 to 28 hours, depending on where exactly they needed to go. They would have to stop for supplies at some point and a bathroom break. She also doubted she could stay awake for that long, shouldn't be driving anyway. But she felt well enough, happy they were together, just missing Simon, Luke, and her mom, but they had gotten a text from them, informing them about the demons' retreat, not long after they had escaped, letting them come to the conclusion that they really were just sent to draw them out. It was hard to get their heads around that. Luke also said that the hell creatures hadn't been as vicious and lethal as demons usually are (apart from a few Alec had shot), resulting in no casualties for their friends, which was hard to believe, but made sense if they only wanted to scare them into giving up what they really were after. Alec.

He had been in and out of sleep, restless and a little feverish at one point, thankfully being helped by Isabelle drawing a couple of healing runes on him so Magnus could save up his magic. They had both been watching him quietly, sharing troubled looks every now and then.

Magnus can't remember having ever felt so heavy, like a set of iron weights was stitched on him, pulling him down hard. And the worst is, that Alexander has been going through one bottomless pit after another, and still managed to be this amazing, unwavering man, finding impossible strength and willpower when he was most needed by his loved ones. Magnus had been sure for a while that no one could come close to his Alexander in many ways, but now he really knew, could feel it in every fiber, tendon, muscle, and bone in his body.

Even if he truly were to live forever, no one would ever come along who could be half the incredible person the young Shadowhunter was, and always would be for him. Already he had experienced life without Alec, and he never wanted to repeat it. He would go on to exist without him, but he wouldn't live.

He had never felt like this about anyone, not even Camille, maybe for a second in time, but nothing like this raw, brutal, overwhelming grief and anguish he felt that left him breathless and sore whenever he thought about continuing life without Alexander by his side. It was inconceivable to him, and he would have preferred to not think about it for many years, but recent events had forced it on him. And now he knew that he couldn't endure it.

His inner need to annihilate something was extreme again, he wanted to scream his pain into all the worlds, see them crumble and combust and kill anything and anyone who ever tried to harm Alec again, whoever did harm him, in ways he hadn't been able to imagine. His fingers were balled into fists, so tightly and furiously, his nails were scraping his skin, drawing blood. There was so much hatred in his heart, his soul, for himself, revived in the endless weeks of not knowing where Alexander was, whether he was even alive, when Magnus had blamed himself more every day, every hour he hadn't been able to find him. It had chopped away at his happiness, his confidence and self-worth, his ability to love and let others love him, doubting the truth of this statement more, the more time had passed.

Most of all he was so terrified of what would happen to them. Maybe there wouldn't even be a them anymore. Maybe Alec's memories were lost forever and maybe he wouldn't feel the same way about the warlock ever again. Magnus didn't know how he was meant to cope with that, either, but at least, as long as Alec was there, he had a chance... and he could be close to him as a friend, if nothing else, the mere thought of staying away, a sheer impossibility.

Also, if Alexander would blame him, too, which would be his damn right, because he felt as guilty as if he were responsible for what had been happening to the young half angel already, it would destroy him.

Seeing that kind of betrayal, disappointment, repulsion and even fear in those warm, gorgeous hazel eyes would erase any good, any redeemable part of him that was left.

Magnus has never felt so full of fears, each one overpowering the last, like a never-ending vicious circle.

“Magnus?” Isabelle's suddenly next to him, her hands covering his fists. He winces, feeling startled and caught, guilty as if she could read his mind. Her dark eyes are warm and caring when they meet his, to his surprise, cat eyes, he must have been too distracted to keep them glamoured, but she doesn't seem to mind and he slowly relaxes, loosening his fingers.

“It's all going to be okay. I know it's hard to believe right now, but we will find a way, we always do. And Alec won't ever give up, not even now, look how he's fighting, even in this state. Just don't give up, don't let us lose you again, please. We need you, he needs you more than ever, and you need him.”

He averts his eyes, observing the brave, young man he loves more than anyone has ever loved another being.

His breathing has evened out, his chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm. He's finally resting properly. Magnus takes a very long, deep breath and musters a little smile for his friend. He's not giving up, never! Not as long as they're both breathing. And even then...

They continue to sit in silence, Isabelle putting an arm around him, leaning against him.


 

 They're somewhere in Virginia when they have to stop for gas, taking the opportunity to wash up, buy food and drinks and a few clean shirts. Clary had been embarrassed to ask Magnus for money, but she hardly had had time to get any herself. Her friend hadn't bat an eyelid, snapped his fingers and handed her a couple thousand dollars, simply shrugging her off when she had stared at him and assured him that they didn't need that much. He really didn't care and wouldn't take it back, but she would make sure to return the rest another time.

Alec had been awake a couple of times but rather unresponsive. Isabelle had to feed him a sandwich and make him drink some water after which he had just closed his eyes again, but they'd been pretty sure he hadn't gone back to sleep. They let him be, unable to fathom what he was going through.

Even Jace isn't sure what it is he's feeling from his Parabatai, it's all muddled up and undiscernible. He's trying not to think too much.

When Clary had finally needed a break from driving, Jace had, of course, thought it was his turn, but he didn't count on Isabelle, who'd been dozing and was more rested than any of them, to take the keys off of her red-haired friend instead, leaving Jace stranded. She was a very confident driver, just not as rash and risk-taking as her adoptive brother. Jace gave up, pulled a white Welcome to Virginia cap over his face that matched the shirt he was wearing underneath his black leather jacket, the same as Isabelle and Clary, and tried to get some sleep instead. All the time he was aware of Alec's very soft heartbeat.

 

Magnus' eyes flick to the young woman, her red hair spread all around her head, sleeping on the van floor for a moment before they're back on the young man he hasn't let out of his sight, who has been disturbingly still for a couple of hours. He hasn't let himself think or feel, fully concentrating on Alexander's breathing, making that one up and down movement of the taller man's chest his single most essential focus.

He didn't dare allow himself to sleep, resting like this would have to be enough. Enough to... do what they would have to once reunited with Ragnor. He had to trust their combined magic would be enough to...

Jace and Magnus jump in the exact same moment, Jace having felt a painful jolt coming from his Parabatai rune, and Magnus having witnessed Alexander's body convulse, his skin drenched with cold sweat seconds later. Jace is frantic, scrambling back into the van where Magnus is already bent over Alec, trying to see what's happening, trying to wake him up.

Even while being still, Alec had been dreaming, just not like the terrors from before, more like normal dreams, his mind going over everything that had happened since they'd found him. Every now and then, images he wasn't able to place mingled with the rest. At first it had all been clear and real, like a movie playing, gradually it had become erratic, faster, too fast for him to follow, voices distorted and images blurred, faces pulled into grotesque grimaces.

He wanted to get away, out of the dream, being aware of it being such, but he couldn't. An all too familiar darkness started to envelope him then and he wanted to scream, punch and kick and run away, but all he was able to do was take it, losing all feeling in his body, going deaf and blind and feeling so very frightened of what was to come next.

 

He's falling, expecting to crash and break all of his bones once more. He's stopped suddenly, the impact of the pullback crushing his lungs, making him gasp and gurgle.

Then he's standing on solid ground.

He's back in New York, remembering the place. He's standing on the building from where he had shot the demons. But he's alone, and he doesn't have his bow and quiver and he can't see anyone – no, wait – he squinches his eyes and moves right to the edge, grabbing the banister with both hands. In the distance, on the streets there are figures lying on the ground.

He jumps off and sprints towards the closest one, his heart drumming in his chest, pumping blood thrice as fast as normal. It's a vampire he recognizes but can't remember his name. He's dead. Not far off is a werewolf, his stomach sliced open, its content spread around the corpse, blood and guts everywhere. Alec's running further, dreading what he may find, but he can't stop.

His heart leaps out of his chest as he suddenly spots long, red hair, dyed with thick, red blood. Clary, deadly wounds on her head, throat and chest. He's horrified and sick but he has to move on. He finds Simon, Jocelyn and Luke and others he doesn't recognize, all murdered, sometimes their limbs scattered around the battle field. Sometimes they're missing their faces.

But he's sure that he hasn't found neither Isabelle, nor Jace or Magnus. As long as he can't be sure that they're dead he has to look for them!

He can hear sounds, a voice crying out, a woman. He runs faster, his intuition telling him it's his sister before he sees her. He's right.

Isabelle is surrounded by four demons, she's badly hurt, long gashes on her arms and legs and one across her abdomen, almost too weak to stand on her own. The demons are still, watching, as if they're waiting... all four heads turn as Alec comes into view. Eight red, flaming eyes are staring right at him. An eerie gut-wrenching sensation is crawling along Alec's insides. If he didn't know it's not possible, he'd think they're smirking at him.

He calls out his sister's name, scanning his whereabouts for anything he could use as a weapon, but he's too late. The demons close in on her, grabbing at her, their pincers, claws and teeth penetrating her flesh, blood shooting from her wounds. He screams and runs to get to her, in vain. They rip her body apart right in front of him and the pain he feels is mind-blowing, as if he were torn to pieces himself.

 

Jace is in a lot of pain, kneeling at his brother's side, desperately trying to bring him back into a waking state. Magnus had tried to use magic again, though he had little hope, and it turned out futile. Clary had woken up, watching angst filled the scene before her, Isabelle hardly able to go on driving but forcing herself because they had to get there and she couldn't have done anything more than the others.

Alec was completely wet-through, his skin drained from all color, his body twitching and flinching, his eyes going mad behind his eyelids, flitting from one side to the other.

Suddenly his upper body shoots up, eyes flying open wide, bloodshot and teary. A guttural sound, comparable to an animal in its death throes, leaves his mouth before he's crying, panting, groaning and falling backwards heavily, lucky that Jace is there, catching him and laying him down carefully.

Alec's sobbing now, turning all of their insides out, and though they try to comfort him, he's inconsolable. They're entirely helpless.

 

“Izzy! Izzy? Izzy, no, nononono! Izzy!” He's still crying his heart out but they finally understand some of what he's trying to say. Isabelle stops the car within a couple of seconds by the road and races to his side, Jace and Magnus making some room for her. She grabs his hand tightly and strokes his sweat soaked hair and face, trying to soothe him. She can't hold back her own tears, seeing her brother suffering so terribly. Jace is crying, too, feeling so much of Alec's pain he doesn't even know how his brother can bear any of it.

Magnus is stunned into silent limbo, not even noticing Clary's arm around him or when she eventually moves to comfort her boyfriend. Why would anyone have to ever go through such miseryWhy Alexander?! Why can't whoever's done this do it to him instead? He'd take it, infinitely, if only Alec would be spared.

Clary eventually started to drive again, leaving Isabelle with her brother who went quiet after a long time, and was just staring into nothing now. Jace and Magnus both sat on the van's floor in torpid silence.


 

The van had just crossed the state sign of Arkansas when Clary noticed they needed more gas again. They had a little over five hours to go. Ragnor had sent Magnus the location where they'd meet, but their warlock friend still hadn't told them anything more, but then they hadn't asked, too troubled and preoccupied by Alec's suffering.

The dark-haired Shadowhunter hadn't spoken a single word, still looking up at the same spot, blinking at times, accepting a few sips of water from his sister, but other than that being still and quiet, not reacting to Isabelle wiping his face with a wet cloth, or her attempts at inquiring about how he was feeling.

“We should get some air, move our legs and freshen up, if we're lucky this is our last stop before we meet Ragnor.” Clary tried to encourage her friends who all looked as if they'd been in a meat grinder. She got it, of course, feeling herself completely out of her depth and just so sad for all of them, but whatever was waiting for them, it had to get better than this.

Jace complied quietly, needing to stretch his legs and get some feeling back into his numb body. He also needed to get a grip, stop driving himself crazy and dwelling on what happened, even though he knew that he would never be able to forget those horrid feelings and this defenselessness against Alec's personal demons. And it was fine, he'd take a lot more, if only his brother were safe.

“Izzy, go, I'll stay.” Magnus' voice is feather light, his touch on her shoulder soft and she wipes her eyes before nodding, trying to muster a smile but finding herself unable to, and leaves the van.

Magnus sits down next to where Alec still lies, and forces himself to seek out those beloved hazel eyes that comprise such a rich color spectrum, from green to gold to amber and darker shades in the throes of passion, anger or sadness.

Magnus shudders at how lifeless and veiled those eyes appear. If he loses him again...

“What happened to the cats?”

For a moment the warlock freezes, then adrenaline kicks in, making his whole body tingle. Alexander's voice is raw and throaty, which is no wonder after... he mustn't think back to that now! What makes him want to break down and cry more is the simple request, which is so defining for him. No one else, not even he himself, would have spared a thought for the cats in the young man's distress. No one but his Alexander.

“I... I'm sure they're just fine, they can take much better care of themselves than most animals or even some people are able to, you needn't worry about them.” He actually doesn't know what happened, but he is sure that his words are true nonetheless.

Alec's quiet again, and Magnus can't be sure whether he believes him, or what he's thinking, or feeling, or...

“Why did you have cat eyes?” Magnus is startled once more, staring now directly into Alec's eyes who have shifted towards him. When did he see? His mind is so jumbled and crowded, he doesn't remember. His eyes widen suddenly. Does he remember?

“At the loft... you and Jace were arguing...” Magnus' hope crumbles at once. Of course, how could he forget and be so stupid? He takes a deep inward breath.

“They're my true eyes. These ones,” he gestures at his face, “are glamoured by my magic, so they look normal.”

Another long, silent moment passes, but Magnus finds that Alexander's eyes aren't quite as clouded anymore.

“Why?” One word, one innocent question, one sea of hurt behind the answer.

Magnus smiles gently at him. “Sometimes we have to hide part of ourselves, to fit in, and to make others feel... more comfortable.” It's by far not the whole reason, but it's part of it and Magnus has accepted that a very long time ago.

“You shouldn't hide them, they're... nice.” Alec had difficulty finding the right word and that wasn't what he wanted to use at all, but his mind isn't half functioning right.

Magnus' features soften in surprise, but before he can respond the van doors are opened and their three friends are back.

Alec isn't exactly smiling at them, but even acknowledging their presence provides them with joy.

“Hey, big brother, I got you a cool T-shirt, just like ours but with ducks, and before you ask, I have no idea why ducks.” Isabelle seems to really have gotten a grip on herself, sounding cheerful and upbeat again, and even gets a half raised eyebrow from her brother for her effort. She's delighted! Even more so when he actually sits up on his own and manages to even bend his legs. His movements are anything but swift and what one would call elegant, but they all have a silly, adoring expression on their faces when he looks at them, his face turning into a confused frown.

“Don't worry, they're all lunatics.” Says his sister who's got a goofy grin on her face. He sure has strange friends and family. But he's so fucking glad they are and they're here... wherever here is and going... wherever they're going. He actually doesn't have a clue, but he's fine with it just now, not thinking is working, for now. And he has a more urgent matter to attend to...

“Um, I,” he clears his throat that's still rather sore, “I really need to use a bathroom.” Actually he feels absolutely disgusting, his clothes partly still sticking to his skin that was bathed in sweat not terribly long ago. And he wants a shower and wash his hair! But he knows that's unlikely just now, and he'd really be grateful to just empty his bladder and splash some water into his face and neck.

“Sure thing, I'll take you.” Jace is right by his side, having snatched the T-shirt from Isabelle, helping him up, watching out for his head so he won't hit it in the van, and they manage to step out and reach the bathroom slowly, but Alec's legs work with him for once. He manages alright in the stall and can lean on the wall while freshening up.

He doesn't want to stop splashing himself with water and pushes his whole head under the stream after Jace helped him get rid of his jacket and shirt. The shirt's ruined and he drops it in the bin, washes his upper body and then pulls that weird yellow duck T-shirt on. It's very comical and surreal when he observes himself in the mirror, water still dropping from his wet hair, a light stubble on his chin, cheeks and upper lip. He'll have to shave, just like Jace, but he guesses that's also not one of their priorities just now. He pushes some wet strands out of his eyes and tries standing straight. He's too wobbly on his legs still, though.

Jace has been watching his best friend subtly, wanting to give him some space and privacy but also prepared to rush to Alec's aid should he need it. Like now. He helps him back into his jacket and pulls one of Alec's arms over his shoulder, wrapping his arm around the taller man's waist. “Alright?” Alec can't meet his brother's concerned gaze but he nods anyway, taking a last glance at himself in the mirror. A few minutes later they're back in the van but he refuses to lie down again. He's had enough of that and he won't, under no circumstances, let himself fall asleep.

Thankfully, with Alec this lively again, all their spirits have been revived as well, and they manage to keep a nice, steady conversation going to which Alec doesn't contribute much, but he listens attentively. Especially Magnus telling them a few stories about his travels a couple hundred years ago, how the world had been so different, has Alec transfixed on Magnus' lips, his every word, and he catches himself wishing to see those yellow, glowing cat eyes again. He may dare ask some time, when they're alone again.


 

It's quite early still when they finally reach their destination. “Welcome to the middle of nowhere.” Clary's reaction to the seemingly endless vastness of Texan territory. There are mountains way back in the distance, a few small bushes spread on the mostly earthy, even ground.

“Are you sure this is the place? There isn't even a sign or anything.” She inquires as they all got out of the van and are standing about, a little lost and puzzled.

“Yes, I am sure, don't you trust me anymore?” Magnus shows her he's kidding, scanning the vast landscape intently until he finds what he's been looking for. “Follow me.”

He walks directly into the countryside, not a single path leading to anywhere, but his steps are definitely aimed for something. They follow, Jace and Isabelle supporting their brother on either side.

Magnus stops at the mark Ragnor left him that only he could see, and waits. His friend should appear any moment now...

 

Ah, finally Ragnor's portal opens and he steps out, gifting his best friend with a smile that conveys how glad he is that they made it.

“Took you long enough.” Magnus just waves him off, knowing they have no time to waste. “Let's just do this, will an hour be sufficient?”

“Only if you can keep up.” Ragnor retorts, unable to hide a small grin. Magnus can't hold back a small pout before he turns to the Shadowhunters who are all looking expectantly at the two warlocks.

“The four of you need to wait back in the van until we're done.” He points at them, his finger circling the air.

“What? We're supposed to wait around stupidly now that we're finally here, and what is it we're doing here anyway?” Jace, of course. Magnus sighs softly, his patience wearing thin now, knowing how much work and risks lie ahead.

“Don't mind my old friend, he's always been a little bit too protective of his secrets.” Ragnor responds diplomatically, sharing an affectionate look with Magnus, knowing how wired and nervous he's feeling.

“A really long time ago, some warlocks, six to be exact, came up with a plan to create a safe house if you will, a place where only those who were entrusted with the right spell and powers could enter, but once they did, they were completely safe from harm. Unfortunately that kind of magic is very unique and complex, and there are only three such houses in this world, one of which, luckily for us, is situated right here.” He turns and gestures ahead of them. They can't see anything.

“Look, it will all be revealed once I have learned the spell, so just wait-” Magnus says impatiently but gets rudely interrupted by Jace again. “What, you don't know the spell, yet?”

Magnus' chest is swelling with rage, his eyes forming slits and he's about to explode, but doesn't, because Ragnor's hand is settling comfortingly on his shoulder. “Just wait for me over there, Magnus.”

The younger warlock swallows down hard and complies, stalking away.

“I didn't mean to-” Ragnor holds up a hand to silence the blond man. “It's alright. Magnus couldn't learn the spell yet because I had to find and translate it first, we will study it now, so as not to make any mistakes, and once we are done we will make sure to get you all to safety.” He smiles softly at them. “Thank you, we will wait in the van.” Clary concedes and they walk back quietly.

It's all sapping more on Alec's little strength than he wants to admit. He's glad when he's back in the van, sitting, being able to stretch out his legs and lean back. Jace and Clary took a blanket and stayed outside for now, but he doesn't mind. He's weary and would love to take a nap, if he were back at the Institute, being Alec Lightwood as he must have lived before, with all his memories intact and no devilish worm inside his head. He doesn't know what is inside, but he doesn't particularly like worms.

“Do you want to eat or drink something?” His sister's sat down next to him, watching him closely, he can tell. They have all been watching him since he can remember.

“No, I'm good.” He knows she knows he's not good, how could he be? But he has no words to tell anyone, not even himself how he is, so what's the point? All he knows is that he's happy she's alive, but the images in his mind will probably haunt him for the rest of his life. He mustn't think about it now.

His eyes fall on his bow and quiver that are lying in the corner. He remembers shooting the demons, but he's baffled as to knowing how. Looking at the weapon now, he's absolutely certain he couldn't do it again.

“Why did you even bring them?” He turns his head carefully, meeting his sister's deep, dark eyes. She looks slightly puzzled for a moment.

“Well, you would have lynched me if I left them behind when your memories come back.”

She says it with so much clarity and genuineness, he's left stunned, feeling so touched at that, her belief that he will remember, just a question of when. He can't help but smile. It's small but sincere. Isabelle's about to cry again so she quickly moves to lean against her brother and takes one of his big hands into hers. As long as they'll be able to do that, they'll be alright.


 

It takes more than two hours for Magnus and Ragnor to approach the van again, the four Shadowhunters having moved close together inside, wrapped up in blankets as it's gotten quite cold without the van moving. It's high time they get into that house.

Magnus is scared. Not about messing up the spell, though it could be deadly for all of them, not about his magic running out, though, again, it could be deadly for them, but those matters are small compared to the actual reason. The reason, and he so wishes for it to not always have to be him, being Alexander.

He leaves it to Ragnor to explain the basics. “There are six marks all around where the house will appear, once we successfully completed the spell. We will each stand on one of the marks, and before you ask, we don't have to be six because of the six marks, but it's useful that we are, all it really requires is at least two warlocks who are powerful enough, so we're fine.” He says with a lot more confidence than Magnus feels.

“All you really have to do is hold your position, keeping your arms stretched out so our combined magic can run from us through your hands and into each one of us, until the cycle is complete. Also, we will have to draw from all of your strengths, because those who don't make a certain sacrifice won't be allowed to enter. Oh, and one more thing. Magnus and I won't be able to talk or help you in case of something going wrong. We have to keep up the spell in perfect sync, while also pouring out our magic in the right amount, and that will take all of our concentration. You'll have to take care of yourselves.”

The two warlocks are looking into four pairs of stunned eyes, all needing a minute to take it all in. Magnus feels sicker the longer he has to wait and when he meets the blond's eyes, he quickly gestures him to follow. He makes them walk a sure distance so no one could hear what he's about to tell Jace.

Magnus forces himself to look straight into the Shadowhunter’s quizzical eyes, piercing them so Jace will have left no doubts about how severe this is.

“You're the only one I can tell this, and you mustn't tell any of the others, especially not Alexander. I am truly sorry to have to burden you with this, but it's the only way. All Ragnor said is right, but what he left out is this; Alexander isn't strong enough to withstand the spell. If we even try he will die.” Magnus halts, giving Jace a few seconds to let this grave truth sink in.

“The only solution is to link you two through your Parabatai bond, so Alexander will be included in the spell, but it won't draw from his strength but yours, meaning you will have to be burdened twice as hard as the others.”

Jace doesn't need long at all to make a decision. “Alright, no problem.” Magnus obviously knew this and it makes him proud and happy, and so very sad.

“There's one more thing you have to know, should your strength fail, you will both be punished, but no one can tell how. There's only one record of two Parabatai to ever participate in this spell, one of them was severely injured, and the other wasn't able to hold out.” Magnus can't say it, maybe it's not worth the risk, maybe they should wait or try something else, but there's more none of them, but Ragnor and himself know.

Luke had called, he and Jocelyn had found out more about The Clave's plans. And they weren't good. And they could keep running but ultimately they wouldn't be safe anywhere else. This safe house is their one, real chance, and he trusts in Jace, and his love for Alec will hopefully provide him with the physical might and willpower he'll need. And the punishment doesn't have to be certain death, but it could happen.

Jace is quickly catching up with what Magnus is trying to tell him. “They died.” The warlock nods slightly. “I can strengthen your bond, give you some extra endurance and healing, but I can't guarantee that it will be enough.”

The young Shadowhunter doesn't feel despaired over this, to his own surprise. He thinks back to the times Alec saved his life, and they weren't few, all his Parabatai sacrificed, for him, everyone else, his own happiness, his own life. Jace finally realizes the overwhelming enormity of his Parabatai's vigor, even in this dire situation, having lost his memories, his safety, his identity, being thrown into the unknown, helpless and alone, going through such unthinkable hellishness so many times, and yet coming out alive, hoping, trusting. He would be appalled and hate himself for all eternity if he failed him now. There's not a chance in hell that he will!

“I can do it, for Alec.” He feels like he could do anything for his brother, he knows he would die for him, and so he can keep them both alive, now that Alec truly needs him and only he can do this.

Magnus feels a spark of hope when he sees the fiery determination and mad confidence in the young man's eyes. And even though he had expected this, he is in awe of the young Shadowhunter, who is willing to face and give up everything for the one they both love the most in different ways.

Their one mutual constant.

 

Chapter Text

“What did you two scheme all secretively?” Isabelle inquires as soon as Jace and Magnus are back. Magnus has been going through each single, careful word he'd tell them about it several times, but Jace is much faster to respond, leaving Magnus startled and, for a few seconds, terrified.

“Oh, just about Alec.” He turns to his Parabatai who's sitting on the van's back, the doors open so he can dangle his feet. “I'm really sorry, buddy, but you're a little weak on your legs just now, so Magnus and I decided it's best that we share a mark. Through our Parabatai bond we can trick the spell into including us both but you won't have to give up any strength which sounds like a very fine deal to me, what'd you say?”

Alec has been watching him, listening closely to every word. He was alarmed at first, but there doesn't seem to be any need now. Jace is seemingly relaxed and quite happy about this, and if he's totally honest with himself, he was really worried about the having to stand his ground and lose strength part, because he can still not really stand properly on his own, let alone for more than a few seconds while the little strength he has is being sucked out of him. He feels a slight apprehension but he doesn't know why or what to do about it. His mouth twitches in acceptance and he nods slightly. Jace pats his arm, smiling.

“Well, let's start then, the sooner the better, right?” He turns to Magnus who is still rather astounded by the coolness and easiness with which Jace has made everyone believe his words, completely concealing the gravity of it all. The warlock has to admit he wouldn't have managed to be quite as convincing just now. It's genuinely overwhelming what these Shadowhunters do for each other, what he himself has been willing to do over and again... for Alexander mainly, but also Clary and Jocelyn before that and now, he'd do pretty much anything in his power for each and every single one of the people present.

“Right, yes, let's do that. You should all refresh your runes and then you two,” he points at the Parabatai pair, “come to me.” He doesn't meet their eyes, turning away and finding a more secluded spot to get his mind in order. There isn't room for one single mistake, and even then it could end badly, but they'll just have to make it! If any group of people can, surely it's them!

It's not long before Alec, supported by Jace, appear and Magnus tells them to lift their shirts up, which, in any other situation, he'd find highly amusing, and lets his magic run over and into their Parabatai runes, also invigorating Jace's endurance and healing as promised. “All done, let's get started, your mark is the one closest to mine.” He'll have to keep an eye on them in any case, even if he will be utterly powerless as to help them, should the need arise. He still has to know what's happening, if only to store it forever in his memory as his eternal sentence, should the worst case scenario become reality.

The warlock marks form a quadrangle, leaving a large free space in the middle. Magnus and Ragnor are standing in the middle of their side with only one mark each, facing each other at the longest distance. Alec and Jace are on Magnus' right, and Isabelle on Magnus' left, leaving Clary next to Isabelle and next to Ragnor's right, leaving the mark on his left empty.

Alec is going to stand behind his brother, holding onto Jace's middle, with Jace needing both of his arms and hands to participate in the spell.

Magnus and Ragnor stretch out their arms, their eyes meeting in the distance, sending each other luck. The Shadowhunters are mirroring their example and when Jace feels his Parabatai's grip on him, he feels inspired with confidence. I won't let you down, my brother, never. He nods at Magnus who is hopeful to still see such determination in the blond Shadowhunter.

Everyone's feelings are highly intense which is reflecting on everyone's faces as they're facing one of their biggest challenges yet, without really how high the stakes could be. Add it to all the rest of my sins. Magnus needs to focus now, erasing everything but the spell and control of his magic from his mind. It all depends on him and Ragnor first and foremost.

The warlocks give each other the sign that they're ready, and it begins.

 

They start chanting the spell at the same moment in time exactly, Ragnor's green magic starting to flow out of his hands, one ray towards Clary's hand, the other, having to overcome a slightly greater distance, to Jace's. At the same time Magnus' blue magic is doing the same, meeting Isabelle's hand at the exact second as it's meeting Jace's other hand on his right. Their magic is uniting between Isabelle and Clary, bright green meeting bright blue, glowing as brightly as never before, and on the other side within Jace.

They all feel alleviated, having such tremendous power flowing through them. Jace feels invincible, so aware of his brother relying on him, there really is no way he could let him down, especially not feeling like this!

As the spell goes on, however, they start to realize what Ragnor meant about sacrificing part of themselves. They can feel every ounce of strength that is leaving their body and it is painful. They're soon sweating and trembling, needing all their self-control and willpower to stay standing and keeping their arms up. Jace being doubly affected doesn't let it show at first. He stands his ground like a rock that nothing could alter, his only concern being Alec's well-being, but the dark-haired man seems to be fine, not feeling any of the strain himself. He can't tell what he may feel through their bond as he doesn't have enough focus left to concentrate on it, but it simply has to be alright.

Ragnor and Magnus are in a trance, their bodies and minds having been taken over by ancient voices in their heads, chanting and chanting and chanting. Magnus has seldom felt something so powerful, and he could get lost in the sensations, if not for the tiny pull on his mind that is leading towards the young Shadowhunter clinging to his brother's body. Magnus doesn't know what it means and he can't lose focus, so he keeps on chanting the spell.

Many minutes have passed and they're all slowly having to dip into their reserves, their bodies as tense as possible so they won't give in. Jace is soaked in sweat, trembling dangerously but focusing his whole being into his stance. But even though, he doesn't know how much longer he will be able to... suddenly he notices how tightly Alec is pressing into him, trusting him with his life even though he's probably not aware of it. He can't fall through now, or ever. He can do it, for Alec, he can do it. And really, a wave of newfound strength no one would believe is growing inside of him, but it's sucked out of him almost as quickly again, the spell becoming even more forceful.

Magnus hears Isabelle's gasp, for a moment scared that they've failed, but his brave friends are all still standing, fighting. Why is this taking so long, though? It should have happened by now, they should have succeeded!

He can feel that strange pull again, more present now than before and though it's a big risk, he lets part of his mind follow it. Leading directly to Alexander's mind. Magnus needs a few seconds to understand, and when he does, fright is threatening to paralyze him and it's taking everything out of him to not give into it.

The spell is rejecting Alexander, not particularly him, but whatever is inside his mind. And he's completely helpless to do anything about it. He just knows with grave certainty, that Jace won't be able to withstand this enormous strain much longer, no matter how much he wants to. Giving up might be their only chance... but it's way too late for that. They may all die if he stops the spell now. But he can't do nothing. He just can't!

Magnus has never been in need to control his body and mind on so many levels at the same time. He manages to send Jace a telepathic message, informing him about what's going on.

Jace is seriously disturbed by suddenly having Magnus' voice in his head, but thankfully he doesn't let that falter his resolve. Magnus' warning is deeply disconcerting, though, and what can he do about it? He'll just have to hold on, no matter how long it will take, no matter what happens, he won't let Alec die!

Magnus is relieved when he senses Jace's resoluteness. But it won't last forever! He has to do something to force the spell to act according to his wishes and accept Alexander and whatever power within him. He reaches out to Ragnor, praying that he won't startle his best friend too much.

Thankfully Ragnor's still perceptive enough to get Magnus' message and his plan. They will both divert magic from the girls, who have already been accepted by the spell's magic, towards Jace, hoping to overpower the spell's refusal. They can't be sure it will work and even more they can't be sure Jace will be able to handle it.

Magnus quickly lets Jace know that it will get worse any second and that he'll have to fight like never before. Jace is bracing himself, his teeth clenched, his body shaking to his core, but he won't ever give up!

Alec has been aware of something being awry. He can't tell what but he feels a wrongness deep inside of him, maybe because of their bond, maybe because he's extremely intuitive, or both. Something is definitely not going right and Jace is barely keeping on his feet. Alec's trying to support him somehow but he fears he's only more of a burden, as ever. When a shockwave of magic crashes into his Parabatai, Alec can feel some of it and he gasps, clinging even harder to his brother, trying to find more strength in himself. He needs to find a way to help him before he collapses and the spell will have failed, and then...? He doesn't want to find out!

All Alec can think of, all he's able to do is carefully loosen his grip on his brother and moving his hands along Jace's arms, finally covering his hands with his own and taking in the full force of both warlocks' combined magic, which is wringing all of his strength the second he comes in contact with it. One instant later they're both falling to the ground, no longer conscious.

Magnus wants to scream when he becomes aware of what Alexander's doing, but he mustn't break the spell... and then everything is lost as he sees both brothers fall. It's all over. Everything. And he doesn't need to fight anymore, letting himself go as he, too, loses consciousness.


 

Isabelle is holding her head as she finds herself on the ground suddenly, not a clue what just happened. She could feel how the magic lessened, and took less of her strength. But other than that... She blinks and stares up at something that hadn't been there before. A house... no, the house! They made it?! She looks around frantically but only spots Clary, everyone else concealed by the building. She crawls towards her friend who looks a little dopey. “Clary! We made it, look!” The red-head focuses on her, then follows her friend's pointed arm, oh! It's here! The house! “Where is everyone else? We have to find them!” The women help each other onto their feet, both feeling rather feeble but together they manage and then they round the house towards where Magnus had been only moments ago.

They find him lying on the ground, unmoving, breathing, but his eyes closed. “Clary, stay with him!” Isabelle is suddenly terrified about what else she might see when rounding the next corner, and her fears are confirmed.

Ragnor is with Alec and Jace, checking them over, relieved to find they're still alive. He had been very close to collapsing himself but then the spell stopped just in time.

“Ragnor! Are they breathing?” He quickly nods in affirmation and she breathes out with relief. “What happened? Magnus is unconscious as well.”

The warlock really isn't quite sure, they'll have to ask those three later, when they're awake again. “We better take them inside.” Isabelle agrees that that's their priority right now and helps him to carry first Alec, then Jace inside, laying them both down on rather large couches, but there's no time to spare a second look around the interior, yet. They help Clary to carry Magnus inside as well, placing him carefully into the armchair facing the couches.

“What do we do? How do we wake them up?” Isabelle. “I'm not sure, maybe there's some smelling salt here somewhere? Or something magical, maybe?” They're both turning to Ragnor for advice. “I think we should just let them come to on their own terms. They need time to heal and recover and we shouldn't interfere.”

The Shadowhunters aren't happy with that, but they're reasonable enough to know he's probably right. “As long as they will wake up.” Isabelle shares a serene look with Ragnor who's nodding earnestly, they very well don't have a choice!

They find blankets to cover all three of them and then, leaving Ragnor with them, the women start to explore the house, which is so much bigger on the inside than it had looked from the outside, though it was pretty impressive even then.

There's a huge kitchen downstairs, a bathroom, pantry, storage room, and even a cellar with all kinds of expensive looking bottles of liquor. Most likely the front runner for becoming Magnus' favorite room.

Upstairs are several bedrooms and two more bathrooms. Every room is bright and colorful, but tasteful, with a lot of details and decorations. The girls are drawn to the beds, closets full of clothes for every man or woman who could possibly come in here. They don't take a long time to choose something as the thought of hot showers are filling up their minds, apart from worrying about the unconscious men downstairs.

They haven't moved once they join them again and they decide to check out the kitchen and pantry for something edible. They'll surely be hungry once they wake up.

The women can only stare at the amount of food, of all kinds. “This is like the land of milk and honey.” Clary says, her face full of amazement. Isabelle, though not knowing what her friend is referring to, can only nod.

They decide to make stew and dumplings because it's a winter meal and it will hopefully saturate all of their empty stomachs. Isabelle even lets Clary do most of the cooking, she really wants it to taste good!


 

Wherever he is, it is very dark here. Also, it smells funny. Like... vegetables cooking. Alright, what happened, what does he remember? He's searching his mind, but it feels like cotton. There was magic, a lot of it, a spell, a very powerful one, and people... Ragnor, Clary, Isabelle, and...

 

He gasps as if he's fighting for air, his eyes suddenly wide open, flitting about like alarmed insects. Where the hell is he? Not a place he knows, he's sure. And where are...

He blinks and turns his head slightly, unable to move it further. What in the devil's name...

“Relax, Magnus, everyone made it.” Ragnor's sitting at the end of a large, navy blue couch, next to a sleeping blond Shadowhunter. Everyone... flashes of the last images he saw invade his mind, Alec covering Jace's hands, taking in their magic, they were both screaming and dropping... And where is Alexander?! He moves his head as much as he can to the other side, relief flooding him when his eyes take in the young man, lying on another couch, also sleeping?

“They're still unconscious, as were you a minute ago, but they'll be alright.” Ragnor saw the dangerous frown on his friend's face and made haste to reassure him, though a reassured Magnus looks usually differently...

“How do you know? Maybe that's the punishment and they won't-” No, wait! If they were punished, then they wouldn't be in the house! Which can only mean that... they succeeded in overpowering the spell...? Seriously? Magnus is stunned into silence for a long moment. He had acted out of sheer despair, having had no knowledge of whether it even could have worked out... and Alec, he must have known something was wrong, and put himself in danger again, even though he couldn't have known how lethal it was this time, because he hadn't told him! It could all have gone so very wrong. And it would have been his fault and his fault alone.

“Magnus, stop panicking, they both made it and they're safe. There's no point thinking about the what ifs now. You did what you had to do and you won, proving that fortune favors fools once again.” He truly is impressed with his younger warlock friend, he doesn't know anyone else who would have done what he did in that situation, putting himself at such risk to save others, being so quick and foolish to improvise, and even emerging victoriously, by a hairsbreadth. No, there certainly isn't another warlock he knows who would have done that.

Magnus eventually gives in, sighs and leans back to rest a little. He put himself under enormous strain and he'll need a while longer than usual until he'll be back to normal, may as well make the best of it. At least in this position, he has the best view of Alexander. He will only be able to relax once he wakes up, fine, both of them, and them be alright.

  

Ragnor's gone to freshen up and check on the women, when Jace awakens. He's disorientated, his head hurts, well, actually, every inch of his body hurts, a lot.

“Alec?!” Magnus turned to him, being able to move a bit more again. “Jace, don't worry, he has yet to wake up, but you did, so he will, too. How are you feeling? Any lasting damage?” Magnus feels deep respect for the Shadowhunter, he won't ever forget this.

Jace relaxes visibly when he hears Magnus' voice and then manages to turn enough to see the warlock, draped over an armchair as if from a magazine. Only Magnus.

“So, we did it?” A smile twitches at the corners of the blond's mouth and grows bigger.

“Yes, we did, you were quite impressive.” Magnus smiles back softly, gladly giving him that praise, he earned it.

“Good, damn, I really didn't think I could hold on, you really could have explained better what taking on double the burden meant, and then Alec... what did he even do? He must have felt something was up, but I couldn't stop him.” He remembers the raw panic he had felt in that moment.

Magnus presses his lips together fleetingly. “He could have killed himself but luckily the spell had accepted him in that moment, otherwise... but we really shouldn't dwell on that. We got amazingly lucky, seeing that we could all be dead instead.” Magnus tries to make light of it and Jace nods earnestly.

“Yeah, though I'd rather be dead with everyone than having lost Alec.” Magnus completely shares this sentiment.

 

Alec wakes gently and subtly for once, which is certainly a new experience for him. He doesn't know this place, but he hears familiar voices. Jace... and Magnus. So they're OK! His relief is short-lived when he can make sense of their conversation. Something he hadn't been able to give a name before had been irking him since the two had had that talk about them sharing the mark. He hadn't known what that discomforting sensation was, but hearing them just now, it falls into place. He doesn't feel happy.

“Well, well, well, I see the three of you are amongst the living again, congratulations!” As Ragnor walks down the stairs, he notices Jace and Alec having their eyes open again, and as Magnus isn't livid in any way, they must be alright.

Three? Jace and Magnus move despite their weakened bodies to take a look at Alec who they hadn't noticed waking up at all. Alec feels caught but he simply moves his head a little towards them, making it seem that he just came to.

“How are you feeling?” Jace sits down beside him, placing his hand on Alec's arm, seeking contact with his Parabatai to assure himself that he's okay. Magnus feels a pang of jealousy, but it's not directed at Jace, just at the fact that he can't just pull the dark-haired man into his arms and snog the shit out of him!

Alec shrugs a tiny bit, not meeting the blond's eyes, glad he has some feeling in his limbs, and he's almost used to his useless body by now. “Alright, how is everyone?” Clary, Isabelle? They aren't here...

“The girls are cooking, haven't you noticed this rather delicious smell, yet? In fact, I better go check.” Ragnor leaves to the kitchen and a moment later, Clary and Isabelle come rushing out, Clary throwing herself at Jace and Isabelle, more gently, bends down to hug and kiss her brother's face. They're beyond happy to see them both awake again. Magnus will be lenient and oversee their outrageous disregard of his person.

“Okay, okay, I'm not unbreakable!” Jace teases Clary slightly as her grip on him increases even more. She just gives him a no shit look. “You sure wanted us to believe you are, I was so worried about you out there.” He shakes his head, smiling, reassuring her with a kiss.

Magnus has to look away, needing distraction and as he can walk again and his stomach's growling, they better get some food. “Didn't anyone mention food? I trust you didn't let Isabelle do the cooking?” Clary tries to suppress a grin and Isabelle rolls her eyes halfheartedly. “It's more than edible, I promise.” Clary remarks and takes Jace's hand to lead him to the kitchen, carefully so he can keep up.

“Can you get up?” Izzy has this special, worried look in her dark eyes that seems to be reserved for him, and Alec doesn't know why, but he feels... annoyed. He swallows it down and nods, forcing her away as he moves into a sitting position, his feet eventually touching the floor. He's gauging whether to attempt standing. And he really wishes the remaining two people wouldn't keep staring at him!

“Just give me a minute, I'll be right there.” His eyes stay firmly on the cream carpet as he awaits tensely whether they'll take his hint.

Isabelle and Magnus share a confused look but decide quietly to leave him be. All he's been through... he may just want a moment to himself. “Sure, big bro, just don't wait too long or Jace will have eaten all of it.” She smiles softly but he still won't look up and then she and Magnus leave to the dining-room.

Alec exhales slowly, closing his eyes and rubbing his stubbly face firmly. He needs to get a grip. But he feels so... weird, so wrong in a way he hasn't felt before and he really just wants to be somewhere alone, to sort himself out, and take a shower. He really just wants a shower. Well, food sounds tempting as well, but they're all there. Damnit, and now he feels guilty for thinking that! What the hell is wrong with him? Just go and eat and be... not weirder than usually.

Finding this resolve he gets up cautiously, swaying a little at first but is able to balance himself out. And then he takes careful steps along the wall and doors, but he arrives at the dining-room without any mishaps and sits down on the closest chair, Isabelle immediately placing a full plate in front of him. He meets her warm eyes tentatively and manages a little smile. The food does look delicious and he truly hasn't eaten properly in way too long!

Jace eats four plates and Alec's kind of impressed, his own stomach telling him after only the second that he should take it slow. He listens, feeling much better stuffed now. But his skin and hair everywhere is itching like crazy and nothing and no one will hinder him from finding a shower right now.

As he makes to stand all eyes are on him immediately. Gosh, these people! He's not a fragile tiny kitten! “What's wrong, where are you going?” He really has to control himself not to roll his eyes and give some sarcastic comment that's suddenly just waiting on his tongue. “The bathroom, I need a shower.”

“Oh hell, yeah, me too! I'll help you!” Jace is eager, already up from his chair, apparently having regained a lot more strength in the time than Alec. Figures.

“I'm really fine, I can do it on my own.” And he damn wishes his legs would finally stop wobbling. He took like two steps when Jace is taking a hold of his arm and Alec just reacts, pulling his arm, his whole body away forcefully. The blond is clearly taken aback at this, maybe even hurt, but Alec really can't let himself care right now.

“I told you I can do it myself, stop babying me!” His hazel eyes are glowing furiously and to make sure the others get it as well, he turns to them. “All of you, just stop pushing and forcing your help on me, I'll let you know if I need it!”

Satisfied when no one says a word to argue, he leaves as fast as he can manage. Now, he just needs to actually find the damn bathroom... but he won't ask! He can do this, damn it! He doesn't want to feel like this pathetic loser everyone's pitying and having to protect all the damn time! He can take a bloody shower on his own!

No one had expected that. They honestly don't understand what has come over Alec to react so strongly. Magnus and Isabelle had obviously witnessed the start of it earlier in the living-room, but that anger just now seems to stem from a deeper root they have no clue about. As much as they, especially Jace, Isabelle and Magnus, hate to, they will give him some space and hope to find out what's going on later.

Alec does find a bathroom, after he somehow managed to overcome the obstacle of the stairs, and a really posh one at that, and to his absolute delight, there's a bathtub! No falling in the shower guaranteed then! Finally something is going his way. The voice that keeps reprimanding him about his behavior in the back of his mind is easily shut up at the prospect of a hot bath. Right at this moment, he is sure that nothing grander exists!

He finds all kinds of bathing oils, shower gels, different shampoos, creams and body lotions and sponges. This safe house can keep up with any luxury hotel. And, the best thing after the bathtub, is finding not one, but two razors in a drawer. He genuinely feels excited at that, having looked at himself in the huge mirror and very much disliking what he saw. Not just the beard, but also the dark bags under his eyes and thin cheeks. He looks like an unlucky pirate. He definitely has lost some weight as he already noticed while observing his face, but seeing his naked body makes it a fact.

Oh well, he just ate properly and it's not the worst of his worries, but he really doesn't want to think about any of that now. When he sinks into the hot, deliciously scented water, he wants to stop time and stay like this forever.

He stays in it for a whole hour, scrubbing every inch of his skin from so much dirt and washing his hair three times. When he's positively clean and his wet skin is threatening to dissolve, he finally gets out of the tub, grabbing one of several white bathrobes that are hanging next to it, and letting the soft fabric engulf him. This is heavenly.

He finally shaves and dries his hair, cutting away some long strands that have been getting on his nerves for a while now. He even styles it a little, thinking about the way he looked when he first saw himself in a mirror, well, the first time he can remember. He's still not handsome, but at least he looks more decent again. And then he finds unused toothbrushes and paste and he could honestly hear himself squee inwardly for a second. Amazing what being clean can do to him.

After brushing his teeth enthusiastically for a few minutes, all he needs to find now are clean clothes. Maybe he should have thought of that earlier, but never mind. The girls were wearing different stuff, so there must be clothes around. He almost laughs out loud when, by the door, he spots several pairs of fluffy slippers. What is this? Maybe he's dreaming... maybe he went insane after all that hell and now he's in lala land... he wouldn't even mind!

With a grin he slips his naked feet into a big enough pair and leaves the bathroom. He looked into a couple of bedrooms earlier, and they had closets, so finding clothes shouldn't be a difficult task.

The hot water, and him being able to truly relax properly seem to have worked wonders for his body. He doesn't even have to support himself on the wall anymore.

As he turns to the first bedroom door, it's suddenly pulled open and a rather startled Asian man is facing him, all dressed up in black and blue, and made up, glowing from within, and Alec's heart vaults, his breath hitching in his throat.

Magnus' eyes grow huge, his mouth almost agape. Alexander... he looks a little haggard, a little thin and worn from that never-ending ordeal he has been facing, but so much more he looks ferally, breathtakingly beautiful and Magnus loses all coherent thoughts. And he's only wearing a bathrobe. That man will be the death of him. One he will happily, eagerly endure, every time.

Their eyes can't seem to let go off each other again, their heartbeats so loud they're sure the other must hear. Alec has no idea what's happening to him, there seems to be nothing and no one else, just him and Magnus, looking so enthralling, making him feel so astonished and breathless.

He just feels so much he's unable to give a name to, except that sudden blow in his head, pain in his mind that makes him feel slightly nauseous. It vanishes as promptly as it came but it leaves an awkward feeling within him and it's enough to sober him up. His eyes flicker uncontrollably and he needs to go.

“I, um, I need clothes.” He sees a complete lack of understanding on the warlock's face as his eyes fleetingly glance over him once more, but he can't stay here and pushes past Magnus, quickly closing the door from the inside and locking it. What the hell was all that?!

 

Chapter Text

Magnus can only gape at the closed door. He usually thinks of himself as smart and clever but he doesn't have any idea what just happened.

For that one moment in time everything felt so perfect, just like before... when he knew Alexander felt the same way he did, when it was ever present in his wonderful eyes, showering Magnus with so much affection, adoration and love... he could see it in Alexander's eyes, mere seconds ago! But then... what happened?! How much more is he supposed to take?!

But... he can't let this self-pity and frustration overpower him, no matter how much he wants to just give in!

Whatever's happening to his Alexander, that's what he needs to focus on and find out! So that this one dream-like moment will soon become reality again. And now, as much as he wants to tear down this door, he needs to leave and gather his wits. He cannot get the sight of Alexander in that bathrobe out of his head, however, and maybe he doesn't even try.

Alec sinks down on the king-sized bed and stares at the floor for a while. Why as soon as he thinks he's got some control over himself back, do these batshit crazy things happen?! All that hard-earned relaxation has gone to shit and he feels sore and weary and so sick of feeling tired and confused. He doesn't want to go on like this, he just...

He takes a deep breath, slaps his cheeks and forces himself to get off the bed to look for fitting clothes. The closet is actually a walk-in one when he opens the big doors and he has never seen so many different clothes in so many different shapes and colors... all of this is maddening, but what else can he do but accept it?

He finds black jeans, silky grey boxer shorts and a maroon button up shirt, and it takes him a while to find these normal clothes among all the extravagant fashion items. Thankfully there are quite a few pairs of plain old black socks. And then his eyes fall on a pair of dark brown boots and they're very much to his liking, and just his size. How lucky.

Now that he's dressed, he doesn't know what to do. He doesn't want to stay here, he doesn't want to face the others again... particularly not a certain warlock, especially not alone... but even less does he want to be tempted to go to sleep on this very inviting bed. Nope, no more sleep for him!

He sighs deeply, strokes along the buttons of his shirt once and kicks himself into action, leaving the room to check downstairs.

Everyone's showered and dressed in fresh clothes now, and they're all lounging in the large living-room. There are fruits, sweets and drinks on the table. Magnus has indeed found the cellar and brought only the finest bottles upstairs with him. And then he convinced everyone to have a drink, because they fucking deserve to indulge themselves after the last few days, certainly after earlier today. And it's something to do while they're clearly all troubled by Alec's outburst and general state of mind.

The second he appears on top of the stairs, three heads turn and two others are already looking at him. Why do they do this?! He feels an awkward prickling sensation inside him and already like he doesn't want to be here with them. But he'll just have to now, he doesn't know a better alternative. Well, he could leave. The house? Really? And where would he go? His mind's really fucking with him, it's all annoying him greatly but he has himself under control, he'll stay calm.

He ignores the stares and smiles directed at him and sits down in the empty armchair, inwardly cursing the chair for being situated so everyone can keep damn looking at him. Calm, Alec!

“Drink?” Magnus is sitting in the other armchair, next to him. He should have noticed that before and sat somewhere else, damn him. But no matter. Just don't think! The warlock is still holding out a glass with brownish liquid inside and they all seem to have one. Does he really want to be the odd one out again? Well, why should he care?

These stupid arguments he keeps having with himself are really frustrating him. He grabs the glass more harshly than he meant to, ignoring how Magnus' expression changes from friendly to somber and sniffs the drink. It's strong and he's really not sure whether he wants to taste it.

“It's Sherry. You like it, well, once before you did.” Magnus swallows, cussing inwardly for having reminded himself. What Alexander had truly liked about it was licking it off of his body... he just had to go there. The smile he tries to keep up is grimly strained.

Alec doesn't look up but looks very suspiciously at the drink now. Well, trying it won't kill him. He takes a sip and his face contorts into a grimace. He puts the glass down and wipes his mouth. “Well, I don't like it now.”

Magnus could cry at the familiarity of that scene. It all feels like another lifetime ago. And he knows a thing or two about time, but he's never felt any of this.

“Well, there's more, feel free to try whatever you like.” Magnus says as a peace offering. Alec actually looks up at him, his expression gloomy. “No, thanks.” His voice is almost dripping with sarcasm and Magnus has to really pull himself together to stay calm and collected and not feel hurt.

“C'mon buddy, there's no reason to be rude, let's just enjoy ourselves for a while, we've earned it after our little adventure.” Jace smiles at his brother, trying to brighten his mood and letting him know they're not his enemies, maybe they overdid it a little, but he can't really blame them, he's just... in a bad place, but they're all here to get him out of it. And he'll realize that again soon.

Alec's expression doesn't waver as he regards the blond Shadowhunter. And anger is rising, flaring up. Little adventure? Really? “And wouldn't you know.”

Alec's really testing him now and unfortunately Jace has a rather bad temper himself, especially after all of this insanity they've been through lately, and with Alec being so much like his old self at times but also weird and he really can't tell why his brother is so hostile towards them all of a sudden, but he's about to find out!

“And what's that supposed to mean, Alec? Don't keep it inside, please, just tell us what we did to piss you off so much!

“Guys, just keep calm, we're all friends here, all on the same side!” Isabelle chimes in, feeling very worried and confused about her brother's behavior and wanting to prevent a fight between her brothers.

Alec smirks, but not because he feels amused. “And which side would that be? Their lying one or mine being the one lied to?”

Everyone's faces drop, Jace and Magnus sharing a meaningful glance.

“So? Who else knew about Magnus' and Jace's little untruth? You really had me convinced, I gotta give you that. But then, I guess your life really isn't worth much, is it?” Alec sounds cold but calm even though inwardly he is raging and that sensible inner voice is telling him to shut up and not do this, but it's too quiet for him to properly register.

“What are you talking about, Alec?” Clary inquires, looking from Magnus to Jace to Alec, waiting for an answer.

“Look, I don't know what you think you heard, but-” Jace is trying to find a way to solve this without making them all more miserable, but Alec's having none of it. He's standing now, eyes filled with anger, hurt and despair and he can't hold anything back anymore.

“I don't think I heard anything. I did! You and Magnus were right here, saying how close we were all to death because of me, because you lied to me and didn't tell me that you had to take twice the burden, that the spell would weaken you twice as much, because of me! And you were so eager to do it and die and even risk letting everyone else die, just so could maybe live? And who the fuck asked you to make that decision for me?! Did it even occur to you that it wasn't ok to go behind my back with something so crucial?! Did it occur to you that maybe I'd prefer to be dead than be... like this?! I don't even know who I am or who you people really are and you're all over me all the time, not giving me any room to breathe and throwing your damn lives away for me?! What the fuck is wrong with you?!

His anger suddenly turned into weeping despair and he's so close to tears he's shocked and frightened and all he can do is flee even though his limbs are screaming for him to stop. He ignores the pain, what's a little more anyway? He's existing of so much fucking pain, he doesn't think there's anything else left now. Never will be.

He stumbles into the first room he reaches, throws the door shut, locks it and sinks onto the floor, curling up, making himself as small as he can, his throat raw, his insides churning, ripping, and tears streaming down his face. But he won't let himself make a sound.


 

They were all distraught, even Ragnor felt the heaviness of it all. They had all wanted to run right after Alec, but the forcefulness of his words had them paralyzed.

 

Isabelle and Clary felt upset learning about what Magnus and Jace had really been doing without their knowledge, but in the end they understood. Alec had been right with one thing. They were all willing to sacrifice themselves for him, for each other, because their bonds were never stronger, their friendship and love never more present or more important than now. And it pained them to no end to learn that they were contributing so heavily to Alec's hardship.

“You have to talk to him.” They had sat in thick, oppressive silence for a long time, each one of them lost in their own wretched world, when suddenly Isabelle turns to Magnus and speaks up.

It takes him a moment to realize she means him. “Why me?” He's very sure that he's the last person Alec would want to see right now. And he's almost numb with the sordidness inside of him, hearing Alexander's words, spoken with such intense woe, like a broken record in his mind, etching themselves into his already fractured soul.

“Because, whenever he was like this, you were the one to get him out of it! Because your bond is stronger than even Jace's! Because you're the one he loves the most!” She's desperate now, needing Magnus to understand, and act!

However, what Magnus does, is rather the opposite. He's laughing without any humor, letting some of the guttural pain out he's been hiding, for once. “Oh, Izzy, you have no idea... he doesn't love me, not consciously and as long as he doesn't remember that he does, I'm powerless! I already tried everything and I hurt him! I hurt him and I keep hurting him and I'm the very last person that should go anywhere near him!”

She tries to persuade him for a while longer but the wall he's built around himself again is too impenetrable and she can't but give up, for now. “Well, I can't just leave him alone with all this! He needs us more than ever, whether he knows it or not! And shame on you, Magnus Bane! He would never abandon you this way, especially not in a situation like this!” Her Latina temperament is showing like hardly ever before and she's glaring at the warlock fervently before she stalks upstairs to find her brother.

 

The first door she tries is locked, lucky her. “Alec? Please let me in, or let me know you're okay?” She holds her breath but gets no answer, there's not a single sound.

“Please, just... talk to me... or don't, whatever you want. I'm just... right here in case you want me, alright?” She sinks down against the door and stays on the floor, hoping with all she has that he will be OK.

He has been holding his breath since he heard her footsteps and now that it's quiet again and his lungs are protesting, forcing his mouth open, he exhales achingly. All he really wants is for someone to hold him and make everything OK again. But he's not a child and he doesn't know if anyone ever did that for him, though, he guesses, if, then it would have been his sister. He can't deny that she loves him, even though he can't remember, she has been showing him every minute he's been in her presence, just how much she does. Right this instant he feels like the worst scum, and just so guilty. He let her die! Not for real, but it feels almost as bad as if it were true. He can't shake that dream. It's all too much!

He forces his body up again so he can unlock the door and pushes the handle down, and before he can say a word she's there, pulling him so tight he feels crushed and saved at the same time and he can't fight the sobs that come bawling out of him any longer.

Time is ticking by uncaringly but Isabelle keeps her beloved brother in the tightest embrace she has, murmuring soothingly, wishing she could take all of his pain, all that he's suffered, just so she could see him smile again, so he could be happy again.

Isn't it odd how sometimes there are so many tears it's improbable that they'll ever stop coming and other times there's nothing but an endless desert. Alec doesn't think his tears will ever subside again, but eventually, they do. He keeps clinging to his sister's body because she seems to be the only part of himself he trusts right now to somehow get him through this. She's the only person he understands his own feelings towards. His sister, it's simple, isn't it? And Jace is his brother... but also his Parabatai and the immensity of that is still incomprehensible to him, even after, or especially after witnessing what Jace is willing to do... he can't fathom it and he doesn't want it to be true, because it's tearing his soul apart. And Magnus... whatever he felt the times they were having these strange moments, he understands that the least. He doesn't feel strong enough in the slightest to figure it all out without getting smothered. And then there's that other problem with his mind and those horrible nightmares... He only notices he's crying again when he feels his sister's hand wiping his cheek gently.

“I'm just not...” He whispers in anguish. “Please, don't risk your lives again for me, I'm just not worth it. Please, please.” He hides his face in her shoulder, more sobs shaking his body.

Isabelle is shocked frozen, and when she looks up slightly she meets Magnus' eyes that are reflecting the exact same emotions she's feeling alarmingly vigorously. How are they ever going to mend him again?

 

Alec's quietly lying in her arms now. His body stopped shaking and she can hear his faint breathing. Magnus is gone again, but she can't ponder about him now, they'll have to talk later. A few of her limbs have fallen asleep and she can't see how it's not the same for her brother. They should move. “Alec, love? Let's move onto the bed, it's more comfortable.” She's carefully pulling back a little to get a look at his face but she stops abruptly when Alec's fingers suddenly dig so deeply into her arm, they'll leave bruises. Not that she cares about that.

“Alec? What is it?” She's scared now, trying to stay composed.

“I... I don't... I can't... don't let me fall asleep.” Out of everything it's what he fears the most.

The terror in his feeble voice is too much for her to bear. But she'll just have to. She manages to loosen his grip on her gently and wraps her arms around him again, stroking his hair. “Shhh, it's okay, I'm here and I won't leave you again, I promise.” She doesn't know how to promise that he won't fall asleep... even with renewing his stamina rune, it will happen at some point... maybe Magnus or Ragnor could help out with some kind of magic? But she doesn't know and she can't think that even that would work for a long time. As ever she feels helpless.

Alec knows she, or anyone else, can't really prevent it forever, but he'll have to hold out as long as he can. But she's right, he can't stay in this position on the floor for much longer, most of his muscles are groaning with the strain.

Isabelle helps him lie down and though he wants to curl up again, he keeps lying on his back, stretched out legs and folded arms over his chest. It feels safer, less comfortable than on his side, or curled up, which might be his favorite sleeping position. He doesn't even know that.

He feels her body next to his again, an arm around him, her head against his shoulder. He feels grateful for having her here, guilty for being this shell of a brother she adores so much, terrified about all the rest. And just so violated. He thinks he'd rather lose all of his limbs than having no control over his own mind. It's a horribly vulnerable and abusive sensation, the most intimate intrusion into his being, leaving him completely at the intruder's mercy. But mercy he seems to get none.

They stay like that for a long while, a false perception of peacefulness layering the atmosphere. And Alec is so heavy all around and about to drop... when a sensation of falling hits him suddenly, and his whole body constricts forcefully, fighting the dreaded sense of terror that usually follows which it remembers. His eyes snap open and as he cries out, his upper body leaps into a sitting position, startling Isabelle tremendously. He's shaking all over, panting heavily.

“Alec, what-” “I can't stay here, I can't fall asleep, I need... to do something, anything other than lie down, please!” She thought she'd seen outright despair before in her brother's eyes, but this trumps even that. She just nods, hugs him and then takes his hand to lead him downstairs. They'll need help from the others.


 

When Magnus reappeared, Jace and Clary had immediately inquired about Alec's condition but the warlock hadn't even bothered to wave them off, he simply disappeared into the cellar, only to come back with a bottle which held contents that looked positively toxic, and then he positioned himself staring out of a window and did nothing but drink from aforementioned bottle. The other three let him be.

Shame is crushing Alec as soon as the others come into view. He keeps his head low, his eyes lower, and let’s himself be pulled along by his sister, though he feels like he should just vanish in some bottomless hole and never return. All their lives would be so much easier and happier without him. He bites his cheek until he tastes blood because he can't let these thoughts, no matter if true or not, control him right now.

“Alright, guys and girl, it's time to stop being lazy and get some action going, we need some proper distraction from this boredom, anything you can come up with!”

Four startled faces are staring at her, at Alec, looking so... forlorn, fragile and out of place. And Izzy is pleading, begging them so hard with her eyes... they don't know what happened but it must be bad and this is obviously what's needed of them, so they better comply quickly! Thankfully Clary is usually very resourceful in these matters and she pipes up almost immediately. “I know, let's play some travel games! Like I Spy, The Alphabet Game, 20 Questions, c'mon it'll be fun, I've played these games and tons more with Simon before, and they’re the best distraction!”

Isabelle is out of words, grateful to her friend, and she tries to ignore the painful throb at the mention of her boyfriend. She knows he's safe at the moment, and other than that Alec is her top priority.

She makes her brother sit down on a couch with her, Clary and Jace occupying the other one while Ragnor and Magnus sit in the armchairs opposite of them. Clary explains the rules and they start playing, pretending that they're all on a vacation together in a great country house, having the time of their lives. At least they're doing their best to try. And they completely ignore Alec. Not really, but they want him to feel better, comfortable again. And being reminded of how much he hates attention right now, they simply don't give him any. Except Isabelle pushing some snacks and drinks his way, should he want any. Even Magnus manages, under great duress from himself, to keep his eyes away from the dark-haired man.

At first he had felt ridiculously embarrassed about what his sister was doing for him, making the others do, for him. He really just wanted to tell them to forget about him altogether and forever and run away. But he hadn't let himself, instead sat down, listened to them play this strange game, and, to his utmost surprise had started to relax at some point. Isabelle, facing away from him, had smiled broadly at the others once she'd noticed and made sure they understood to keep going.

A couple of hours had passed, at some point Alec had felt secure enough to try a couple of drinks, but he really wasn't sure about them and stuck to red berry juice instead, and eating some crisps and chocolate. He's been quite fascinated by a game they had started about 30 minutes ago. They had to come up with an animal and the next person had to find another animal starting with the last letter of the previous one's name. Clary's last one is 'Hyena' and Jace is struggling to find one with an A, which isn't usually a problem, but unlucky for him, there had been a lot of As in use already and they can't repeat any. Oh, and they each only get 10 seconds to find one!

“Axolotl.” Alec's voice is so soft that he doesn't register himself that he said it out loud, but the others heard him, all glancing at him now. He doesn't even realize it at first, until his mind suddenly lets him wonder why it's so quiet.

He looks up, blinks in surprise and then blushes heavily. What did he... oh, he must have. He wets his lips, his eyes nervously flicking about. “Uh, it's an animal, Ambystoma mexicanum, a Mexican walking fish.” Why did he have to say anything?

Everyone's smiling at him wondrously now and he rubs his hands together. “How the hell do you know something like that?” Jace can't help himself, he's grinning, wanting to be just the way he would be with his best friend and brother normally. Just a little.

Alec shrugs but he doesn't feel too bad right now. “I guess I like animals, and apparently I read a lot?” He glances over at his sister who's happily nodding, feeling such relief...

“Well, animals are awesome, no question.” Clary chimes in, sending him an acknowledging smile. He somehow can't help it and his lips reciprocate one, very softly, but everyone's feeling it so strongly.

Alec averts his eyes again, knowing he should say something else. He rubs his fingers harder together as he's fumbling for words.

“I'm sorry... for freaking out on you all, I shouldn't have, like that.” Even now he can't say that he regrets what he said or even feels it's less true, because that simply isn't the case... but he could have definitely done it very differently.

“I'm really sorry, too, Alec. I didn't mean to hurt you. You once told me that when someone or something pushes us off our path we need to focus and find our way back. Admittedly the situation back then was... completely different and has absolutely nothing to do with the here and now, but the point is... we're all here and we won't go anywhere until you're back on track and got your life back, and it would be quite nice if you didn't fight us every step of the way on it, but that's just friendly advice you can take or leave.” Jace hasn't stopped smiling, pulling a few faces for effect here and there, but he sounds so kind and so genuine, Alec doesn't know anymore how he should doubt him, or anyone else as he hesitantly glimpses in all of their faces, mirroring the truth of Jace's words. He swallows and glances down. “I'll try my best not to.”

He feels Isabelle's hand on his and turns his to entangle their fingers, squeezing hers, gifting her with a tiny smile. Some weight has been lifted from all of them.

They continued to play the animal game because Alec wanted to participate and he himself, just as everyone else were really impressed with his knowledge of exotic animal names and whenever he wasn't sure what they were exactly or where they lived, Magnus and Ragnor knew a thing or two about it.

It is close to 4 am when Alec goes to the bathroom to pee and freshen up. When he comes back, Ragnor's head has fallen to the side and he is snoring slightly, Clary and Jace are leaning on each other, asleep, and Isabelle is close to dropping off herself, no longer able to fight the heaviness of her eyelids. It's been a couple of days since any of them had gotten any proper night's sleep after all, and Alec's so thankful they endured all this for him, wishing nothing more than lying down and closing his eyes himself, but he won't surrender, not yet.

“They should have gone to bed.” His voice is a whisper but Magnus hears him. “They all had too much fun to do that.” Alec startles a little, the warlock was so quiet he thought he was asleep as well. He meets Magnus' chocolate brown eyes for a moment then glances at the sleeping figures again, and moves to cover them all with a blanket.

“Aren't you tired?” Alec doesn't remember ever having seen Magnus sleep. The warlock just shrugs. He has no intention of leaving Alexander alone in his fight against unconsciousness. He has large capacities at his disposal should he need them, and obviously, for Alexander he would exhaust them to the very last drop. Also being unconscious for a few hours counts as rest in his books.

 “I should have before, but I want to apologise to you, too, Alexander.” Alec shakes his head softly, not wanting any more reminders of it. “Just don't do it again."

Magnus swallows and nods, quickly thinking of something else to distract them. “If you don't mind, I'd like to show you something, and these people here are rather bad company just now.” Magnus is prepared for rejection, he must be, and he won't feel hurt or take it personal, he has to be whoever and however Alexander needs him to. Having seen his beloved Shadowhunter reduced to ineffable grief, convinced of himself to be worthless... that kind of sorrow in Magnus' heart is unescapable.

Alec glances at the warlock, at his sleeping friends, back at Magnus, remembering that moment earlier after his bath that's still confronting him with unsolvable questions. But no matter, what he can't understand or figure out, he can simply shove away for the time being.

“What is it?” He doesn't exactly feel... suspicious, but a little wary. Magnus smiles softly despite the situation being so unbearable. “You'll like it, I promise.” Alec watches Magnus' back while he walks away and taking a last glance around he makes to follow him, too curious not to.

Magnus found the rather small, but comprehensive, library during his several trips to the cellar. It's probably the smallest room in the house, but it's full of high shelves, filled with hundreds, probably closer to thousands, of books of all kinds. He holds the door open for Alexander to enter first and quickly follows, refusing to miss any tiny expression on the dark-haired man's wondrous face.

Alec isn't just surprised, he's gob smacked. SO many books! Amazing. He can't stop looking all around, trying to take it all in, feeling a yearning in his gut to read each single one of them, or even just their titles which would be a mission in and of itself.

Magnus is close to tears as he watches Alexander's reaction that is so much better than he could have imagined. His gaze falls onto the young man's neck and the rune that is showing clearly, only slightly concealed by the collar of his shirt. He is suddenly catapulted to another moment in time...

 

Alec is reading in bed, waiting for Magnus to finish a phone call with a client in the living-room, the cats are both asleep on his legs. The book is captivating and it takes him a couple of minutes to notice he can't hear Magnus' soft voice anymore.

As his eyes move to the door, they rest on his boyfriend's figure who's leaning in the doorway, watching him longingly. Alec puts the book down and waits, his heart beating a little faster, his skin tingling, his eyes unable to look anywhere else. Magnus does this to him every time he sees him.

The older man is finally moving again, elegantly, cat-like, quickly losing his shoes and joining him in bed, Alec's head turning to his left to be able to keep watching him. Magnus smirks softly before he bends his head to the young man's neck and starts tracing the rune there with his tongue. Like he has done a few dozens of times before, like he will do hundreds more, and never tire of it. It's one of the sexiest sensations, for both of them.

Alec reacts immediately, his whole body surging towards the hot wetness of Magnus' tongue and mouth, a blissful shudder spreading all over his skin, his mouth opening to free a sensual moan which drives Magnus half-insane already.

Tell me, what does it mean?” Magnus' voice is but a feathery whisper, existing to torture and even more so pleasure Alec in the tenderest way.

I've told you, many times.” Alec can just about find the strength to answer, before Magnus' lips part to let his teeth sink into the Shadowhunter’s very sensitive curve of his neck. Alec groans with the sensations and his legs twitch so much the cats are suddenly looking at him disturbed.

Magnus...” “Shhh, they had you long enough, it's my turn now.” He shoos them out and they complain with a loud whine but run from the room anyway, used to being chased out after all.

Magnus moves swiftly to sit on Alexander's lap, their lips barely touching, eyes watering at the close proximity. “Now, tell me, Alexander.” Magnus' fingers are now tracing the rune and Alec feels almost as aroused as from his lover's mouth.

Endless more shudders are running all over his body, his insides, just everywhere. “Deflect or block.” He pushes out trying not to moan again. Magnus' eyes widen in delight and the little grin on his face is adorable, and so handsome. But Alec really doesn't know why he always wants him to say it...

Very good, I guess I should remember it this time, shouldn't I?” They both know he'll pretend that he won't. And when their mouths crash Alec doesn't give a shit anymore.

 

Magnus is suddenly back in the here and now, his heart racing, his body crawling and yearning with the residue of that too vivid memory. He has to steady himself, taking a deep breath, his eyes closed. He can't do that to himself, not now, not before Alec remembers! Though it is the sweetest, it is still torture! Don't do this!

“Magnus? Are you ok?” Shit! He quickly opens his eyes again and straightens himself up, trying to think of very bad, disgusting things instead, unable to properly meet Alexander's puzzled eyes.

“Yes, fine, so, I gather you do like this little surprise? Each book is an entrance into another world and he who reads much will have lived many lives.” Magnus rants a little while trying to get himself together again.

Alec is still a little disturbed by the warlock's strange demeanor but he shows a little smile now. “Yeah, I like it, thanks for brining me here. I wish I had time to read them all.” Well, maybe he has! He can't sleep while he reads!

“They're all yours to indulge yourself in while we're here.” Magnus feels a tiny bit happy having been able to contribute a spark of joy for Alec. And he wants to kiss him so very badly. He should leave him to it. He really can't stay, he shouldn't-

“Magnus? Um, can I ask you something, well, that's a question in itself, but, uh, just... a... a favor, I guess.” Alec looks so flustered it makes Magnus forget that he had wanted to go and melts his insides. “Yes, anything.” Anything at all, for all time and forever, only for you.

Alec is stunned, impressed with himself that he actually dared to say something. But now, staring right into Magnus' eyes again, he freezes up. Magnus is trying to encourage him silently to go on but he can see the drawback in Alexander's eyes before he says anything. “Uh, sorry, it's not important.” He turns away, feeling like a complete idiot and failure. Magnus is hurting so much for him, but he can't push him now. He's had to have so much patience before with his Shadowhunter, he will have even more now, as much as it takes.

He smiles sadly. “Alright, but just know I'm here, for whatever you need. And now, why don't you choose a book, I'll be in the kitchen if you want me.” He has to pull himself away with force, and can't help looking back once more at his man before closing the door behind him.

Alec turns back just in time to see the door close. Damn, he didn't mean... shit! Why is he such a coward? Why couldn't he just say it? He rubs his face a little aggressively, runs his fingers through his hair a few times and tries to calm himself again, taking deep breaths. Next time... next time he will ask to see Magnus' real eyes again! He's not sure he's trusting himself, but there's no point worrying about it now. And then he turns again to all the books and tries to forget about everything else while he browses through them.

 

Chapter Text

Alec can't quite believe he found a book with a cat as the protagonist. He just has to read it. And he's hooked by it.

Magnus doesn't hear a sound coming from the library anymore, and the times he checks up on Alexander, using his magic to look through the wall, the taller man is sitting in the reading armchair, immersed in a book. Magnus has to smile when he focuses in on the title. He should have thought of giving that one to him before.

It's almost 8 am when Alec finishes the book and places it on the small table next to the armchair. The book did a really good job at keeping him awake, though he kept feeling terrible about the cats needing to remind himself that it's just fiction. He's beyond tired now, feeling as if his body is already asleep. He mustn't... he pushes two of his fingers into his eyes and keeps them there for half a minute. Focus. Breathe, get off this chair. He groans with his muscles protesting all at once. Ignoring the protest, he leaves the library to go to the kitchen, feeling very thirsty.

Magnus gets off the chair immediately where he's been procrastinating, lost in his own unhappy world, scanning the young Shadowhunter thoroughly, his heart dropping into his knees. Alec looks beyond exhausted, barely able to stand on his feet. He wishes nothing more than to use his magic to give him some relief, but he knows it wouldn't be permanent, if it worked at all.

Alec gifts him with a small, sleep-deprived smile that rattles Magnus in more ways than he cares to analyze, and pours himself a glass of water which he downs in one go before he exhales and tries to shake the hazy feeling. He'll have to keep moving for a while, being still is no good when you're about to drop. He turns to Magnus, an idea forming. “Can I go outside? Or is that not possible now?” Though, would they have to stay in here literally forever? Couldn't be true...

Alexander sure is still fighting. And not sleepy enough yet to be incapable of using his brain. “Yes, you can, once you're allowed to enter you can come and go as you please, the house won't disappear for us again, but anyone else will only see the empty land we saw when we first got here.”

Alec rubs his forehead, trying to follow Magnus' words and nods in understanding. That is good, really good. His eyes drop suddenly and he flinches, forcing them open wide. “Alright, let's go for a morning walk, breathe in some cold air and stuff.” Walking, cold air, that has to do the trick of waking him up properly again!

Magnus watches him wistfully, wanting to take that burden from him so badly. He nods, forcing a small smile for the young man, at least he invited him along. “Let's do that.”

 

Everyone else is still asleep, merely having changed positions at some point, so Alec and Magnus get their jackets, a dark blue coat in Magnus' case, matching his blue silk shirt, and they start walking, the direction doesn't matter because it all looks the same.

“So, you found a good book?” Magnus wants to help in any way he can, if just by talking and keeping Alec's mind occupied.

The dark-haired man smiles a little at that. “Yeah, did you know some people write crime thrillers from a cat's point of view? I couldn't but imagine Church and Chairman in the book as two detectives.” His smile's a little sad. “I miss them.”

Magnus feels a little stab in his gut. “I'm sure they miss you, too.” Alec glances over at him. “You think?” The warlock nods quickly in affirmation. “Oh yes, you were always their favorite, right from the moment you came into m- I mean, from the moment you got them.” Shit, Magnus forgot that they told him the cats belonged to Isabelle and himself. He's holding his breath to see if Alec picks up on his slip up, but if he did, he's not saying anything.

They walk a few minutes in silence, then Magnus spots the mark. “We should head into another direction now.” Alec stops to mirror him and looks quizzical. “Oh, right, the spell ends here, so if we step outside of this mark, it's not safe for us anymore.” Chances are really slim that anything would happen, seeing that no one knows where they are, but better safe than sorry.

Alec frowns and tries to see what Magnus could be seeing so he knows what to look for, but, to his eyes, there's nothing. He has no reason to doubt the shorter man's words, though. “Okay, I guess, let's walk back.” They turn and walk back towards the van and the house, Alec suddenly feeling the wind strongly, freezing his bones. He wraps his arms around himself but he's shaking and his body feels heavier with every step. He could cry but he won't, no way! He forces his legs to go faster, desperate to keep moving and not giving his body or mind chance to catch him by surprise. He doesn't see the stone, though, stumbles and would have fallen quite spectacularly if Magnus hadn't reacted speedily and caught him.

Alec's eyes are big, directly staring into his and Magnus, having his arms around the Shadowhunter’s waist, having him so close so unexpectedly, is perplexed and speechless and breathless. Only when his eyes drop to Alec's lips is he able to pull himself together before he ruins everything. “Alexander, don't injure yourself.” He lets go of the younger man when he's sure he'll stay standing on his own two feet and pulls his clothes straight, not daring to look at him.

“Sorry.” Alec mumbles, feeling a little dazed, but weirdly not very tired anymore. He can still feel Magnus' arms around him, his scent lingering in his nose. And the way his eyes dropped downwards... he must have imagined it.

They continue in silence, the cold eventually catching up with the Shadowhunter again. “I guess it's a choice between freezing to death and being killed in my dreams.” The joke sounds terrible to his own ears. There's just no making light of this situation for him.

“Alexander, if I could do anything-” Alec stops and watches him. “Maybe you can? Isn't there some spell or potion or anything to prevent me from falling asleep again?” Magnus' jaw tightens painfully before he speaks, wanting nothing more than to promise him that.

“There are several, but in the long run it would harm you more than do good. Even if something would work, and we don't know that it will, the repercussions wouldn't be worth it. You would always have to recover from something so strenuous for your body and mind, and we wouldn't be able to wake you up, maybe not for days.”

Magnus knows he doesn't have to explain it further... Alec understands. He could be trapped in his nightmares for much longer should they interfere. The risk is way too high to take. He spots the resignation in his love's eyes immediately. “I'm so sorry.”

Alec shakes his head, it's not Magnus' fault. “It's alright, I'll just... maybe I should just get it over with, how much worse could it get than your sister dying, anyway?'

He walks on but Magnus stays back, confused and alert. He's sure that Alexander couldn't remember what he dreamt before... so how does he know? He quickly catches up with the Shadowhunter. “When did you remember that's what you dreamt?”

Alec frowns slightly, and shrugs. “I just knew after I woke, you know, we remember what we dream if we wake up shortly afterwards.”

Magnus puts his arm out to make the younger man stop. “Alexander, those aren't normal dreams, and you couldn't remember any other before that, could you?” Alec tenses up with the sudden realization. Of course! How did he not notice that? That nightmare was the first that was still all there when he woke up, even now, it's all very vivid, as if he'd just witnessed it.

“You're right, I don't know what I dreamt the other times, but I know that last one, every detail.” What does it mean?

Magnus is asking himself the same question. Whatever's invading Alexander's mind seems to have changed. And maybe, just maybe, that will give them a chance to find out more...

“Can you tell me about it? It might help to give us a clue who's behind it.” He detects the sorrow the thought of having to relive it brings Alec. But to Magnus' surprise, though he shouldn't be because his Alexander has never been anything but brave and enduring, facing his numerous challenges head on, he nods. “But inside, it's really too cold out here.”

“Of course.”


 

Isabelle woke up first, her ingrained impulse to look for her older brother. Not finding him would have worried her to no end, if Magnus hadn't been gone as well. In case he wasn't with Alec, she would personally strangle him.

When the two men enter the living-room, Jace and Clary are just waking up, yawning and stretching, immediately more alarmed when they spot them. “Hey, have you been out? Something wrong?” Alec shakes his head at his brother. “No, we just went for a walk, but it's really cold.” Jace can suddenly feel Alec's exhaustion and then he also sees it in Alec's body language, his eyes. He can't have gotten any rest at all and the blond feels immediately guilty for falling asleep.

“There you are, I was starting to wonder what you were up to.” Isabelle emerges with two water bottles and six glasses on a tray that she places onto the table, her eyes falling on Ragnor, who is still draped over the armchair, snoring. “Don't mind him, he can sleep through earthquakes and hurricanes.” Magnus retorts. She smiles slightly but when she meets her brother's distressed eyes she feels the full impact of his plight again, knocking the breath out of her for a moment.

Alec can tell how the mood changes immediately and that he's the reason, of course, and he really just wants to be alone with Magnus again, well, he doesn't, but he has to, to tell him about that awful dream and then he will have to go to sleep... because he can feel himself surrendering already.

“Look, guys, there's no need to worry, okay, just relax and have some breakfast, Magnus and I have to sort something.”

He gestures the shorter man to follow him, but he may not remember how hard it is to keep his siblings out of his business.

“Wait, what do you mean? Sort out what? Did you come up with a plan? Tell us.” Jace. Isabelle nodding in agreement.

Alec sighs and shares a quick glance with the warlock. “Not really, we just... I remember my last dream, so I'm going to tell Magnus and maybe he can find something that can hint at what or who's behind this, that's all.” He's keeping his voice completely neutral, not wanting to make a big deal out of this, however, judging from the expressions on his siblings' faces...

“That's great! I mean, that's progress, right? Tell us, too! Maybe we can find out something as well!” Alec is stunned at Jace's enthusiasm. Maybe it is... great, which he absolutely doesn't feel, but he's not going to tell them all! “No, just Magnus.”

“But we can help, too, Magnus doesn't know everything.” That came out worse than Jace had intended to and he winces, the warlock giving him a dark look. “You know what I mean.” Jace is apologetic enough and Magnus really has other matters to attend to.

Alec's exhaustion, frustration, trepidation and anxiety about having to tell anyone at all about his nightmare get the best of him and he bursts. “For fuck's sake, why are you so keen on hearing about me seeing my own sister being torn to shreds?!”

Obviously he realizes what he just did, even as he yells it, but as ever it's too late now. He sighs with the disappointment and anger but knows it's senseless. And now they know the worst already... fuck this! “Fine, if you have to know, stay and listen, I don't care!” He doesn't look at anyone, not wanting to see whatever their faces are showing right now, he has an inkling anyway. He sits down in the second armchair, folds his hands together tightly and seeks out one spot that he won't look away from again and waits until everyone sits.

“It started like a normal dream, a normal nightmare with weird images and such... it's not really that clear anymore, so I guess it wasn't part of it... and then everything was just darkness and I couldn't feel or hear or see anything anymore, and then I was falling...”

Alec recounts everything he saw, felt, and heard, wanting to, but not leaving out finding Clary's corpse and, obviously the worst being those demons killing his sister right in front of him. “They were looking at me, like... they were waiting for me to get there, so they could... do it in front of me.”

The room is eerily silent and Alec feels even more tense than before. “So, any ideas?” He still can't look up to meet anyone's eyes, especially not his sister's. Not getting any answer is making him so antsy he almost leaps off the armchair. “Well, then, I'll go prepare for the next one, maybe it will be more helpful.” He doesn't mean to sound so bitter but he just can't help it and he's not blaming anyone, he just wishes it wasn't all so futile and horrifying.

He picks the bedroom from earlier and shrugs out of his jacket, throws it onto a chair and sits on the bed to open the boots. He looks up when someone's knocking. “Come in!” It's Isabelle, and Jace, and Magnus, and Clary. He blinks surprised and stops what he's doing. “Look, Alec, we know we can't prevent this or help you while you're trapped in it, but we won't leave you alone, and we'll be right here until you wake up.” Isabelle's stepping closer cautiously, waiting for his reaction.

Alec feels really strange, but also deeply touched. Damn these people! But a smile is tugging on his lips. “Thank you.” He does feel a little better knowing he won't be lonely and that someone will be there when it's over... he just needs to focus on that. It will be over at some point. He removes his boots and watches the others settle in the room, Clary and Jace sitting down on the floor, leaning against the wall while Magnus seems to be rather undecided but eventually sits down on the chair by the window, after taking Alec's jacket off it and placing it over the back of it.

He can't deny it feels weird to have so many people here while he's going to try and sleep, but somehow it also gives him a sense of security. And he really does trust them all, he thinks. He slips under the covers, but quickly notices that the jeans and shirt he's still wearing aren't going to do him any favors, so he undresses them, making sure he stays concealed. Well, he does feel more comfortable now and pulls the cover up to just under his chin, suddenly feeling movement on the bed next to him. “I'll be right here, okay?” Izzy. She molds into his body and he feels calmer immediately. “Okay.” He says softly, closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.

“D'you want the light off and the blinds down?” Jace. Alec's eyes open again and he shakes his head. “No, leave it.” It won't matter, but maybe, just maybe his mind will remember while being terrorized, that he's in this room with four people he trusts, with lots of light and that whatever is happening, isn't real. Maybe.

He turns on his side, Izzy at his back putting an arm around him and finding his hand to hold. He drifts off feeling rather hopeful.

Alec seems to just sleep peacefully for a couple of hours, Clary even goes to get them some food at one point but even while eating they're always watching him, Magnus' eyes are glued to Alec's face, not wanting to miss any change and Jace is fully focused on his rune, their bond, feeling for any sensation that would tell him something is happening to his brother.

He's been still for almost three hours when Jace suddenly starts to sweat and a few moments later cries out in pain, holding his stomach, toppling over on the floor. Clary's immediately next to him, trying to find out what's happening.

Magnus had been distracted by Jace's outburst but he jumps off the chair now and watches Alexander's face again closely, noticing the sweat pearls on his forehead, his eyes flitting crazily under his closed lids, his body starting to convulse. It's happening... and all they can do is hope it will be over fast! Isabelle is trying her best to be brave, squeezing her brother's hand tightly, feeling even more scared while also watching how badly Jace is impacted by their bond, being Alec right now has to be atrocious.

They watch for almost an hour, Alec showing more and more signs of agony until it's finally over and he wakes up, crying, drenched, disorientated and absolutely horrified. Isabelle is holding him tightly, trying to comfort him. Clary is meanwhile doing the same to Jace who isn't in as bad a state as his Parabatai but definitely affected more than before. It seems to get worse every time.

This time, Alec manages to calm down a little faster than the times before. He's more aware of what's real and having Isabelle and Magnus right there with him, definitely helps. What he has no control over is the trembling and his hands running frantically over his torso and throat where they remember blood.

Jace and Clary move to sit at the end of the bed now, watching their friend cautiously. “Alec?” Jace is waiting for his brother's eyes to move towards him, he still feels shaken, and he needs to know whether what he thinks he felt is true, whether that's what Alec had to bear in the nightmare. “What happened? I felt like... being stabbed.”

More like being butchered. Alec's head retorts.

  

After falling and crashing he finds himself chained to a metal chair. His ankles are tied as are his wrists behind his back. There is the familiar blackness around him, but he can see himself. It's like a spotlight is thrown on him but he can't make out the source.

He's trying to get free, of course, but he soon has to give up, the pain of the wire digging deeper and deeper into his wrists and ankles getting unbearable. He can feel how his blood is running down his hands, he can hear it drop onto the ground.

He's trying to brace himself for the inevitable to come out of the darkness. The anticipation is almost worse than the horror staring him in the face. And for a long time nothing happens, and the longer nothing happens, the more terrified he becomes.

It's so subtle, he doesn't even acknowledge it. He's wearing his usual dark clothes, but there's a spot on his stomach that suddenly looks darker, and it's stretching.

Now he can feel it. A stab. Has he been stabbed? By what? When? He didn't see or hear anything, didn't even feel-

He feels this one and the next. Invisible weapons penetrating his skin, his flesh. There are two more darkened patches on his shirt now and he can feel blood oozing out. Cold sweat is spreading all over his body, his heart is racing dangerously, throbbing in the wounds, but he knows from experience that they're not lethal, not deep enough.

Not yet.

Against better judgement he's starting another attempt to free himself, the wire tightening dangerously, threatening to cut off every muscle, tendon and artery. Alec doesn't want to lose his hands, so he stills them again.

It feels like a dagger is plunged into his thigh and he screams, watching horrified as a long bloody gash appears right down to his knee. It's deep, he can see the bone, and the blood is soaking his pant leg immediately.

Alec is used to physical pain, has had to endure it many times, but even though, watching yourself being cut to pieces, without any chance of defending yourself, inspires extreme panic in him, his survival instinct wanting him to beg for his life, beg for it to stop, but he knows it won't matter so he swallows the plea down.

He gets stabbed and cut countless more times, cries out in agony over and over, hoping, begging silently to pass out at least, but he's not granted that kind of relief.

Something suddenly grabs him by his throat and hauls him upwards, the chair and his chains vanishing. He's naked now, dangling from an invisible ceiling, only few patches of his natural skin color still showing as he's covered in blood.

He gasps, the heart wrenching scream getting stuck as something big, and long plunges into his chest and pierces right through him. He can only gurgle, blood rushing from his mouth, sheer disbelief, mingled with mortal terror in his eyes. He's still not passing out, or dying.

The last he feels is his throat being slit.

 

Alec leaves out the worst parts because they don't need to know and he doesn't even know how to handle Jace being forced to go through some of it, and he can't think that any of them could find anything helpful in it. Someone obviously harbors implacable hatred for him and is set on torturing him for the rest of his life, because he just can't see how they're ever going to free his mind from this. And then he needs to be on his own and quickly excuses himself to take a shower. He can still taste his blood in his mouth and does phantom pain include wounds that don't really exist?

 

 

“Who would do this to him? Who would have a reason and who would even be powerful enough? I've never even heard of anything like this!” Isabelle is inconsolable, pacing the bedroom. Jace and Clary left a little while ago, Jace wanting to freshen up and needing some time to get his head around everything.

Magnus is about to say something but she cuts him off again. “I mean, could it be more than one... demon or whatever? Like combined magic for it to be so strong and permanent? Like the warlocks creating the spell for this house? How could only one being possess this kind of power?!” She halts and pierces Magnus' eyes directly with her fiery ones and though she doesn't intend to, it makes him feel guilty and small, because he's asked himself the same questions a hundred times by now and he still couldn't come up with any kind of answer, let alone a plausible one, and he feels just so guilty.

“Izzy, I honestly don't know. There are some rumors of ancient beings, demons, angels, no one even knows for sure anymore, who apparently lived thousands of years ago with unlimited might and magic, but I certainly haven't come across any of them and there's no knowledge or any kind of proof of such an existence now, or for the last few millennia. And even if, why would any such being even take notice of an ordinary Shadowhunter? I am sorry, but I just don't know.”

“Maybe not because of him...” She has never felt this level of desperation in her life, hadn't known such depth were even possible, but now... she regrets her words even before they're finished leaving her lips and can just about hold her thought back, feeling nothing but horrid for even considering Magnus could be to blame for what's happening to her brother and she wishes so much she could take them back when she's confronted with the crass, raw, scathing in her friend's eyes.

“Magnus, I'm sorry, I didn't mean-” The space he occupied a moment ago is left empty. Crestfallen she drops onto the floor and hides her face in her arms.

 

Alec spends half an hour in the shower, willing every single thought out of his mind. He wants to be a robot, a machine, just function, no thoughts, especially no feelings disturbing him. He brushes his teeth three times until he thinks he can't taste blood any longer, then brushes them again, and eventually grabs a bathrobe and heads back to the bedroom. He's trying to only think step by step. Go to the bedroom, open the closet, find clothes, dress clothes. That's it.

 

When he finds his sister all upset in the room, that concept is blown to pieces.

“Izzy?” He crouches down next to her and puts a hand on her shoulder, wanting to make her feel better, take her pain away. He doesn't want anyone else to feel so much pain, isn't it enough that he does?

“Hey, big brother, I'm sorry, don't mind me, I'm okay.” She wipes her eyes and smiles at him and it breaks his heart. “I don't think anyone is okay anymore, Izzy. And you don't have to pretend for me, I really understand... I just wish I could make it better anyhow.” “You can, just give me a hug.” They share a sad smile and then hold each other tight. Isabelle feels so awful and horrible and guilty and if Alec knew what she did... if he had his memories... but he doesn't and she won't tell him anything, she'll have to beg Magnus for forgiveness later, she honestly didn't mean to blame or hurt him! She was just so out of her mind with worry and anger and fear... but she doesn't want to make excuses for herself, either. She'll have to find a way to make it up to him.


 

Dear friends,

I've taken it upon myself to go and find out what's happening outside of our safe haven, I will join you again once I have gathered information.

Magnus, don't drink too much, or have some for me, as well!

Look after each other.

Your friend,

Ragnor Fell

Magnus crumbles up the paper and incinerates it in his hand, shaking out some shreds of remaining ash. He would very much love to burn down this whole damn place... or himself. At first he honestly couldn't fathom what Izzy had implied, what she had said, thought... he had felt so betrayed. But as much as he would love to blame her, be furious with her, hate her... he can't, he doesn't. He blames himself, he is livid with himself, he hates himself. Izzy has nothing to do with it, she is in such pain and despair over her brother... no one understands this better than himself. No one gets it more... He stares down at his hands, lets his magic appear. All that power... all that knowledge and experience of centuries... magic... and yet, he knows nothing, he can do nothing, he is nothing.

For a long moment he is genuinely considering going after Ragnor, just leave, go away, far away...Shame on you, Magnus Bane! He would never abandon you! He magicks himself outside, closes his eyes, fists his hands and screams savagely into the Texan sky.

  

The good thing, well, less bad thing, about this nightmare was that it only included himself. Alec can deal better with that than if he had seen that cruelty done to Izzy, Jace or anyone else. It's still brutally dire, but he can just about bear it, and bury it in the back of his mind, while Izzy is helping him pick clothes and finds him a pair of blue jeans and a big, warm and soft navy blue hoodie, a size too big but adding to the feeling of comfort. He'll take all he can get.

Clary had suggested to cook for them all to take Jace's mind away from that traumatizing experience. He'd been very quiet but all she could do was be there. She could never completely understand what their bond truly meant and made them feel, simply because she didn't experience it, but she was fine with that and would support both of them in whatever way needed.

They were both very pleasantly surprised when Isabelle and Alec joined them in the kitchen and even offered to help cook the lasagna (one of Alec's favorites) and salad, and though this almost homely scene felt utterly bizarre to them all, it was still extremely nice to have.

“Where are Magnus and Ragnor?” Alec inquires while cutting peppers, more vegetables waiting, another task he likes to do because it's monotone and doesn't really require thinking. “We haven't seen them in a while, maybe they're plotting some mischief.” Clary offers with a small smile. Alec just nods, they'll probably find out sooner or later, and though he doesn't want to be, he's too perceptive and intuitive to miss the way his sister stiffened and masked her face at the mention of Magnus' name. What, and if he may do anything about it, he doesn't know, though.

 

Magnus had expected to return to four young adults in deep misery, making him all the more astounded to find them cooking in the kitchen, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of 20-part food processors.

“They're very time efficient, you can chop and mince all kinds of food in maybe... a quarter of the time it would usually take you.” Alec.

“Maybe so, but cleaning all that shit is going to take a lot more time than rinsing off a few knives and bowls! If you didn't know, you're not supposed to put them in a dishwasher, and you have to dismantle them first.” Jace.

“How do you even know that when you don't know how a toaster works?” Clary can't but challenge her boyfriend.

“What? Of course I know! That was just... I wasn't really awake at the time!” Jace is a little outraged and Clary raises an amused eyebrow at him. “Uh huh, right.”

Alec and Isabelle are smirking at each other when he spots movement in his peripheral vision. He turns his head, their eyes meeting. He can feel how his lungs contract slightly, and it's definitely become warmer in the room. He should maybe say something. “Hi.”

Isabelle's head whips around and when she sees Magnus she feels a storm of guilt coming down on her, averting her eyes immediately, her body tense. Alec and Magnus notice and Alec looks very puzzled. Magnus wants to put her at ease, but not with everyone around. He can't wait until later, either, because he can't watch her this upset because of him, and without good reason.

“Isabelle, would you be so kind as to join me for a minute? I need some fashion advice.” He makes sure his voice is nothing but soft and amicable but the way she flinches he could as well have shouted at her.

“Yes, sure.” She gets up and walks past him quickly, inwardly preparing herself for pretty much anything. At least she tries to.

The moment they're alone and out of earshot from the others she's basically in his face, not letting him get a word in.

“I am so endlessly sorry for what I said, I didn't mean it, it was horrible of me and so unfair and I am a terrible person and friend and you can hate me but please don't hate me forever because I couldn't stand that, because I love you, you're one of my very best friends and I'd miss you so much if you were gone and wouldn't talk to me about fashion and food and décor and our boyfriends and life and I honestly couldn't cope and I will do anything you want to make it up to you, I swear by the Angel, and my life!”

Magnus is completely stunned at how many words came tumbling out of her mouth in such a short amount of time and as he doesn't immediately react she seems to think she needs to say even more. He quickly kicks himself into action and takes her by her shoulders. “Izzy, stop! I'm not mad at you, there's no need to apologize.”

She blinks at him dumbfounded. “You're not mad at me?” She can't quite believe it yet. He smiles softly and shakes his head. “No, Isabelle, I am not. And you're not a terrible person or friend and I love you, too, and I would not be able to spend even a week without talking to you.” Under normal circumstances at least.

She flings herself into and around him and after the initial shock his arms close around her as well. He hasn't let anyone comfort him in a very long time, not since Alexander... but at this moment he can accept it and reciprocate it. “Thank you.” She whispers and he can hear tears in her voice and squeezes her body a little tighter. “There's no need, I understand.”

Before they head back to join the others, he quickly uses his magic to change his outfit. “Now, don't you give the best fashion advice?” She gives him an impressed all over. “I sure do, Mr. Bane.”

They emerge arm in arm which elicits smiles from the other three Shadowhunters. Alec is very relieved. He doesn't need to know what it was about as long as they're good again. Whilst facing these strenuous challenges they need to stick together, he really gets that now.

 

Chapter Text

Magnus had explained about Ragnor and they had all spent a couple of hours longer in the kitchen, finishing to cook, enjoying more banter about silly things and then ate together, the atmosphere relaxed throughout. None of them would have believed this could happen a few hours ago, and they wouldn't waste a second of it.

It was a reflex, an impulse that had them all, subtly or unconsciously, seek out the oldest Shadowhunter frequently, each single one of them in need to know that he was 'alright'.

Clary and Jace volunteered to do the dishes, while Magnus, Izzy and Alec were meant to go prepare the living-room to have another games night. They were all keen on keeping the momentum going, providing especially Alec with as much ease of his burden as they possibly could. Before they could leave, Jace felt the sudden impulse to pull his Parabatai against him and hold him close, squeezing him tightly. Alec was taken by surprise but he could feel Jace's emotional turmoil and squeezed the shorter man right back. Magnus, as ever, tried not to feel jealous, and failed.

“So, what's it to be this time? More animals? Music, movies, fashion designers? Oh, how about alcoholic drinks!” Magnus raised his glass filled with red wine at that and toasted to his friends. Sweet red wine was even to the liking of Alec's rather delicate taste buds and he sipped on his glass while smirking softly at the warlock's suggestions. “I think you and Izzy would be the only ones to play the designers category. And if you don't want to play on your own, cross the alcoholic drinks, as well.” Clary interjects.

Magnus rolls his eyes dramatically and leans back elegantly into the armchair, crossing his legs. “Fine, you choose, biscuit.”

Clary thinks hard for a moment, trying to find something they all have rather vast knowledge of. As she glances about, a painting comes into view, portraying an archer about to shoot some demonic creature. That could work. “How about armor and weapons?” She looks around at the others who seem quite agreeable to the idea.

Alec had been a little apprehensive, not sure if or what kind of knowledge he had about the topic, but he was soon, together with Jace, in the lead. They weren't playing with the proper rules anymore, by now it was a match between the Parabatai about who would falter first. It didn't look like any of them wanted to let the other win, though, and both their knowledge was impressive.

It's Alec's turn and he's highly concentrated, searching his mind for a weapon beginning with the letter S frantically. He has only a few seconds left and he's afraid he'll lose now when all of a sudden he remembers something. “Stele!”

Jace frowns deeply. “A stele isn't exactly a weapon, Alec.” The others have to kind of agree, but Alec just raises an eyebrow.

“Tell that to Max, he used his stele when he almost burned down the Mumbai Institute!” It had hardly been this bad, but at the time their father had told them, it may as well have been.

Jace is considering this while Isabelle sits frozen, staring at her older brother. She knows she has told him a lot about their little brother, but something about the way Alec said it... before she gets her hopes up she needs to be sure, though.

“Do you know where we were when they told us?” She asks him as casually as she manages, the others suddenly catching on, especially Magnus, having thought something similar when he noticed Izzy's reaction. He's practically on the edge of his armchair, observing the siblings intently.

Alec rubs his forehead for a moment, frowning at her question. “Dad's office, I think, an office anyway, we were there to...” His mind's gone blank but Izzy almost squees, suddenly clutching his arm. “Alec, do you know what just happened?!” He looks rather wary at his sister now, having no clue what's up with her. “You remembered! You remembered Max and the Mumbai incident! On your own! I never told you about that, I'm sure!"

Alec just stares at her incredulously. He what? He remembered? On his own? But... fuck! She's right, she must be! He can actually see it in his mind. Max, their father, Isabelle and himself in the office, Max had hugged him and he had felt delighted to see his little brother. He remembers. A stunned smile is slowly ghosting over his face.

“I do, I really remember."

He suddenly finds himself surrounded by three grinning, happy faces and they're all hugging each other, him in particular, just a little too firmly. None of them minds. Isabelle's catching Magnus' guarded expression, gesturing him to join them but he shakes his head and leaves, just to appear a couple of minutes later with another bottle of the wine they'd been drinking. She's sure it was just an excuse, though, but she knows it's even more difficult for her friend than for any of them.

 

“Let's celebrate!” Magnus is happy that Alec seems to have regained a memory and maybe there is hope that he will get them all back now, in time. He's just... he can't let himself be too hopeful, too enthusiastic, too emotional. He has to keep those parts of himself locked up for now, today just proved it. Only then will he be able to do what's required of him, only then will he be able to bear being so close to the one he loves so greatly and completely and keep his distance to refrain from harming him in any way.

He's filling up their glasses again and sits back in the armchair. “Do you remember anything else?” Izzy seems giddy with excitement and downs her glass in one go, but who can blame her...

Alec is looking rather flustered and insecure, feeling overwhelmed with this kind of development and also scared to disappoint. He doesn't think he remembers anything else, but maybe he just doesn't know right now, or maybe his memories will flood back any moment, or not for a long time. He guesses it's all possible but he won't know until it happens. He shrugs, a soft, apologetic smile tugging on his lips.

“Hey, Alec, don't worry, this is great! Try not to pressure yourself.” Jace squeezes his brother's shoulder, smiling encouragingly.

Yeah, okay, no pressure. If only Alec worked that way.

They drink (not only alcohol!) and eat and talk until the early morning hours and this time, Alec is the one who seems to be the most affected by sleep-deprivation. But then he had only got few undisturbed hours of rest and the strain of his situation is quickly eating up all of his resources.

“Do you want me to refresh your rune?” Isabelle asks quietly as she runs her fingers through her older brother's hair, his head resting on her shoulder.

He is just so terribly tired. And he knows it won't last and he has to give in, anyway. Maybe he'll find a few hours of reprieve at least.

He forces himself into an upright position and rubs his face. “No, it's okay. I'll go to bed.” A glowering sickness is immediately expanding from his gut, engulfing him wholly. He'll have to be brave.

“I'll come with you.” Izzy. “Me too!” Jace, but Alec shakes his head. “No, stay here, Jace, honestly, it's okay. You should try to get some sleep as long as it's possible. And Izzy'll protect me.” He shows a small grin, trying to ease their minds, though he can clearly see how dreadful they're feeling for him again. At first Jace wants to argue but then he concedes. If he's sure of one thing, it's that he will know the moment Alec's nightmare begins. Jace and Clary hug their tall friend before he disappears with his sister.

Jace drops back onto the couch heavily, sighing wistfully, then looks at Magnus who seems to be wearing a mask, not letting any of what he thinks or feels through.

“Alexander is right, you two should go to bed as well and catch some sleep.” Before it's too late. He empties his glass and reaches for the bottle. “Magnus, you need sleep, too. I know you haven't been looking after yourself.” Clary's gaze rests on him, reflecting worry and care for her friend.

“Biscuit, I'm a warlock and I don't need-” “Bullshit, you need rest as much as we do, so be reasonable and go to bed, we will all know as soon as Alec... wakes up, and he'll need us all to be strong for him. If he finds out you're sacrificing your health for him he'll be royally pissed.” She sounds and looks like no one, not even The High Warlock of Brooklyn, should mess with her. Now, Magnus is exceptionally good at ignoring, even provoking these kinds of arguments, but he doesn't feel like it just now.

“Fine, let's all go to bed and enjoy some heavenly slumber.” He can't hold back the sarcasm, or refrain from having another glass of wine beforehand, though.

The three of them choose the two bedrooms closest to Alec's and even though none of them truly believes it, they all fall asleep not long after their eyes close.


 

He finds himself surrounded by thick, black bars, gaps wide enough to get his arm and shoulder through, but impossible to fit his body, impossible to bend the indestructible material. The light in his cage is dim, but enough to see inside, all around him that same, impenetrable darkness.

All he can do is wait.

He can hear strange sounds before half a dozen blinding headlights are turned on, his arms pushing before his eyes to shield them. But they're not pointed at him.

When he dares to check, he's startled to see a stage in front of him, taken right out of a theater play. There's a huge brown velvet curtain pulled close, concealing what's behind.

Alec holds onto two of the bars, hardly daring his heart to beat or his lungs to breathe.

The curtain gets pulled apart suddenly, making a loud squeaking noise. Then stillness.

Alec sees three chairs on stage now, unoccupied, behind them more darkness. The headlights move to point directly at them. His stomach leaps painfully, his knuckles becoming whiter with his fingers clinging desperately to the bars, threatening to cut off his blood circulation. He's not aware of any of it.

His heart stops.

Three people dressed in all white, their arms restrained behind their backs, a white hood hiding their heads, are led on stage by a figure dressed in all black, a black hood over its head.

Alec's brain is hardly able to take it all in. The one in black is tall and buff, definitely male, and despite the hood he seems to be able to see what he's doing and where he's going.

The three figures in white have to be a man, a woman, and to Alec's biggest dismay, a child.

One after the other they get pushed onto a chair roughly by the dark figure, ropes appearing out of nowhere, strapping them all onto the chair to make sure they can't escape.

Alec feels noxious with fear.

The black man positions himself behind the first figure, the other man, and pulls the white hood from his head.

Jace!!” Alec screams out, startling at his voice resounding uproariously and everywhere around them like an echo, just more viciously.

Alec?!” Jace calls out, seemingly able to see him. He has to get out of this cage!! Jace is struggling, desperate to loosen his restraints and get to his friend, Alec is banging against the bars, trying again to get through even though it is absolutely impossible.

And then he freezes, all blood drained from his face, his whole body, as he watches the black hooded man grab a large axe out of nowhere and hacks Jace through in the middle.

Alec is shocked into numbness, his legs giving away but he doesn't even feel his body hit the ground. This isn't happening, it can't be.

The man is already moving again, having dismissed the axe he's behind the second person now, pulling off her hood and Alec just knows it's his sister, because who else would it be? He's trying to command his body again, desperately getting up and flinging himself against the bars, stretching his arm out as far as he can, which isn't far at all and his screams get stuck in his throat this time, as he watches Isabelle being impaled by a large spear, her body fidgeting until she's completely still.

Alec doesn't even have a second to recover before the dark figure is behind the last person, pulling up the white hood. It clicks in Alec's mind. A child.

Max.

He's screaming uncontrollably, throwing himself against the bars with such vigor some of his bones are breaking, but he doesn't care, doesn't feel anything but horrifying despair. The black figure halts for one moment, red, flaming eyes flashing directly into Alec's soul. Alec feels freezing coldness and then he has to watch as the black man beheads his crying, little brother.

Unspeakable pain. Then darkness.

  

Jace knows this time it's nothing directly being done to his brother, which makes it only worse. He doesn't have words to describe it, he just feels so much pain and despair and horror from his Parabatai, he can hardly breathe or control his tears as they're all gathered in Alec's room again, watching the inevitable, unable to help him out of it.

What's also worse are his screams. Alec's moving about a lot more than before, screaming almost constantly, while a flood of tears leaves his eyes. They can't bear it, and even more they can't bear for him to have to bear it.

When he finally comes to, he's forced to throw up, unable to reach anywhere but move his head over the bed, so he only spoils the carpet.

He's still violently retching when nothing is left inside of him to get out. Isabelle is gently rubbing his back and head, trying to soothe him while willing her own tears away and Magnus got quickly rid of the evidence so Alec won't have to feel bad about that, too. So useless and pathetic.

 

Jace is looking as if he had been throwing up for minutes as well, and he was close to it. He doesn't actually want to know this time... he just can't imagine what must have happened to evoke such a brutal reaction. But thinking like this he suddenly feels riddled with guilt and like a damn coward. Alec would never even think... it's all just so terrible and insane!

Finally the heaving stops and Alec can move his body into a sitting position again, wiping his mouth. Magnus quickly snaps his fingers and hands Isabelle a glass of water for her brother which she helps him drink a few sips from. Alec's trying to only focus on his breathing, willing the remaining sickness to go away. His mind is in complete denial about what happened in his nightmare. He just cannot ever think of it again. He drops his head and hides his face in his hands, holding his breath painfully long. Images of Jace, Izzy and Max being slaughtered invade his mind again, begrudging him any peace.

He screams hoarsely into his hands, causing his friends and family to shiver and tear up again with sorrow and compassion, then he takes a deep breath and drops his hands, slowly opening his eyes, focusing on his Parabatai, feeling suddenly choked up. But he's alive! Alive, alive, alive! They're all alive! He wishes so much that his little brother was here, at least that he could be sure he's safe, wherever he is.

There's a soreness starting in his mouth, leading all the way through his body. Nothing but hurt. He swallows painfully and wets his lips, tasting the disgusting cold sweat that's stuck on his skin. He can't look away from his brother's multicolored eyes, not wanting to, but needing to know...

“You don't... see what I see?” He has to be sure, feeling partly what he feels is awful enough. Jace shakes his head, swallowing down a big lump that's threatening to gag him. “No, what did you...?” It feels as if they're all holding their breaths.

His voice is laced with timidness, softer and more broken than they've ever heard him before. “You, Izzy... and Max... you were all... killed right in front of me... and I couldn't do anything.”

Alec doesn't feel the tears this time, doesn't register his sister's arms around him, holding him against her. He just closes his eyes, never wanting to feel anything ever again. They're trying their best but comfort can't reach him this time.


 

He didn't tell them any details, he couldn't get the words out and his throat was killing him, but even after drinking something Magnus gave him, some sort of herbal tea maybe, he wasn't really that interested, and the soreness subsided, he still didn't want to talk. He really didn't want anything but for this torture to stop and it wasn't going to happen. He took a hot bath, not feeling any bit relaxed afterwards, and he wrapped himself up in warm clothes but he still felt cold, a coldness that had taken possession of him completely.

All day Alec's subdued, seemingly not really there with them, not participating in anything, no matter how hard they try. In the afternoon he finally excuses himself, just wanting to be alone.

He positions the chair in 'his' room so he can look out of the window. He can see the yellow van, asking himself how they could have driven here only a few days ago when it feels like a lifetime to him now. He can see endless landscape, tiny mountains way back, a neverending sky. Even the sun is shining today. He keeps rubbing his arms, embracing himself, trying to hide within himself, but he can't shake the shivers infesting his body.

He's been drifting in a state of outright exhaustion for a while, his head suddenly snapping up and he looks around, wondering where he is before it all comes rushing back and takes his breath away. His view falls on the van again, and he's not sure why, but he gets up, grabs a coat and heads outside without anyone noticing.

As he opens the back doors of the vehicle he doesn't have a clue what he's looking for, but it's not exactly a new feeling. He seems to be on an endless quest, after his memories, after what is happening, who is doing it to him, after safety and making sense of his life, his existence.

He's been staring at the bow and quiver for a couple of minutes now. A last moment of hesitation turns into resolution and he reaches for them.

He really doesn't have a clue what he's actually doing out here and with this weapon he doesn't really know how to even properly use, not consciously anyway, but he's just going by instinct now, or whatever it is that brought him out here. Now, what does he... he doesn't even have a target. He doesn't think shooting at the house or the van would make much sense. This is rather pointless really... he looks up to see some birds fly by and watches them turning into tiny dots before they disappear out of sight. Now, he doesn't want to shoot birds, or any animals, but maybe he could just see how high he can shoot. Would be kind of cool if the arrow would disappear. The things he's occupying himself with to not think... He shrugs it off, positions himself, draws the bow, nocks the arrow, bends his body upwards and shoots the arrow straight up into the sky.

Disappear it doesn't, but it does fly pretty high and he's following with his eyes, not leaving it out of sight and jogging after it to where it comes down again. He lifts it off the ground and observes it. He always liked the red color of the feathers. There's a flash of raging, flaming eyes, and it's gone, and the hairs on his neck are suddenly erect as he knows someone's behind him and when he turns he's met by soulful brown eyes and for a split second he forgets everything.

Magnus had been silently standing by a window, lost in his own mind, when he became aware of movement. Seeing Alexander, bow in hand and quiver strapped over his shoulder, walking purposefully towards, to him, an invisible place, made him believe he was, like so often before not even two weeks ago, a figment of his imagination.

“Will you go to him?” Isabelle had appeared at his side and he hadn't noticed. Not a ghost then? He glanced at her fleetingly, making sure she was seeing the same as him. “You think I should?” If Alexander had gone outside, and gotten his bow and quiver, he probably didn't want to be disturbed. He always found excuses not to do things these days. Especially concerning Alec.

“What do you think?” She regards him intently for a moment before she walks off again, leaving him to ponder.

Against his better judgement he decides to take the risk. If anyone's worth taking risks for it's his Shadowhunter, after all.

 

“It's not easy finding a target in all this wilderness.” Magnus states eventually, after their staring had felt to go on for a little bit too long.

Alec is suddenly back in the here and now, glancing down at the arrow he's still holding in his hand for a moment before he places it back into the quiver.

“No, but I didn't really mean to... I just...” He shrugs, glancing from Magnus' face to the ground and the side, not sure what he means or what he wanted here in the first place and feeling embarrassed by his lack of eloquence once again.

“I can get you a makeshift target if you want to practice?” Magnus is all too familiar with the signs Alec's showing and wants to put him at ease, if he can.

The tall man is quite surprised at the offer, but he didn't really want to practice, did he? He slowly shakes his head. “Maybe another time. But thank you.” He quickly adds not wanting to be rude again. Magnus nods, a trace of a smile on his lips.

Alec feels a shudder along his neck and spine, but he actually doesn't feel cold right now. It's yet another strange and confusing sensation he can't make sense of.

They both seem unsure of what to say now and before any one of them can make up his mind, they're spooked by a loud, very high squeaking noise. Alec leaps around, scanning the ground frantically, but apart from the first shock he doesn't really feel afraid, the sound even seems a little bit familiar. Definitely an animal. And then he spots movement and Magnus, who also saw what he did, follows him swiftly.

Alec is crouching down now, moving slower, then he's still, observing the small animal standing on its hindlegs, its mouth with two sharp front teeth open, blurting out a row of the high-pitched noises from before. Magnus crouched down next to the young man, more interested in watching his face than the animal.

“I think it's a gopher. Pocket gopher, because they hoard food in their cheeks.”

Magnus realises he'd love hardly anything more than watching and listening to Alexander talking about animals all day long. There's even a gentle half-smile on his face that reflects in his beautiful hazel eyes. Just for witnessing this moment he feels eternally grateful.

“What's it doing?” Magnus asks quietly not to scare Alec's newfound joy, and to hopefully hear some more.

“Probably calling for a mate or their boy- or girlfriend.” Magnus can't but smile a little wondrously at seeing the tiny crooked grin on Alexander's lips.

“I think they're usually quite unfriendly, though. Loners and not likely to share their burrows, except when they have offspring. There must be a whole network of tunnels below us.”

Magnus keeps staring at the face he just wants to smooch and touch and have close every second of every day, until Alec stands up again and the gopher disappears in the ground.

“Guess I scared it. We best head back before it gets all its friends to chase us away, they have sharp teeth.”

“Fascinating.” Magnus retorts and quickly follows Alec to be by his side again, his eyes back on the taller man's profile.

“You must have watched all episodes of Animal Planet at some point.” Magnus knows that he did, in their loft, whenever he was too tired to read and waiting for Magnus to come home or while he was on the phone or having to brew a potion or some other warlock stuff Alec couldn't help with.

“Yeah, maybe.” Alec's eyes briefly land on Magnus' face before they're gone again. “You like glitter, don't you?”

Magnus is rather surprised at this sudden and clearly unexpected change of topic, but he feels rather amused, and just happy they seem to be able to keep a conversation going now.

“I do. But what made you say that just now?”

Alec brings up a hand and scratches his cheek, his nose, then drops the hand again, glancing back at Magnus. “You wear it quite often, and you have a bit on your face.”

He halts suddenly, making Magnus stop as well and brings up a hand, gesturing at his own face, the general direction of his cheek. Magnus, knowing he didn't put on glitter today, tries to gauge from that where the Shadowhunter means and rubs his cheek.

Alec realizes his mistake and before he can stop himself his hand is reaching for Magnus' face, his thumb touching the skin on his right temple, stroking gently and then down to just under his eye, caressing a spot before the hand's gone again, leaving Magnus in a state of pure longing.

“There, all gone.” Alec feels very sheepish suddenly and turns away, slowly walking onwards. Magnus blinks, still feeling that tender touch that makes him want to grab the taller man and melt into him. Another moment to get himself back under control and he's quickly catching up again.

“Thank you, glitter does get everywhere and you sometimes find it weeks after you thought you cleaned it all up in rather strange places.” As they had found out first hand, involving lots of glitter, lots of making out and lots of cleaning afterwards, as he wasn't allowed magic. The reward had more than made up for it.

Alec nods in acknowledgement, still feeling the warmth and smoothness of Magnus' skin on his thumb. And once again he wishes he could see those eyes... He suddenly halts again and Magnus' heart skips a beat in anticipation.

He mustn't mess up this time! He's seen them before, so surely Magnus won't mind! Alec turns again slowly, swallowing and gathering courage and then looks directly into the warlock's brown eyes. “Can I... can you show me your eyes again? I mean, your real ones, the cat ones.” He blabs uncoordinatedly, well aware that Magnus knows what he means by his real eyes, but he seems to be really quite hopeless at expressing himself, especially in these situations. He doesn't remember whether he's always been this way, but he's afraid so, and feels bad for all the poor people who've had to deal with him like this.

The request is actually taking him off-guard. He really hadn't expected this... and judging from the way Alec acted just now, this has been on his mind a lot and seems to be quite important to him, and Magnus simply can't fathom why, with everything else going on... or maybe that's exactly why. And it's finally something he can do for his Alexander.

“As you wish.”

Alec feels tingles pleasantly dancing along his body as Magnus closes his eyes and when he opens them, he can finally see the glowing, yellow cat eyes up close, just as he wanted to since seeing them from a distance. Unconsciously he steps closer, unable to take his eyes off of them.

The enchanted tiny smile Alexander's showing at such close proximity has Magnus stand still in time. This could as well be an alternate universe. He wouldn't care as long as they could be together forever, he'd welcome it!

Alec feels mesmerized and he wishes he could get even closer but he's already close enough, too close, and Magnus can't like having someone so rudely stare and be right in his face. He pulls himself back quite forcefully. “Thank you.” He rubs his neck awkwardly, glancing all around. Magnus, violently thrown out of this bliss he was in, glamours his eyes again quickly, feeling a little insecure about Alec's behavior.

To Alec's disappointment the warlock's eyes are glamoured again as he looks up. And his brown ones are very... pretty, but those cat eyes are out of this world. “You really shouldn't hide them.” He feels very shy suddenly, but he had to let him know, not that Magnus has any reason to value his opinion, but he still had to say it.

He feels moved to a place deep within where no one has touched him before, not until Alec. And he's still him, memories or not, this gorgeous, brave, selfless, broken man in front of him is his Alexander. If Magnus let himself speak in this moment, he would tell him all that he feels and all the promises they had shared and everything about their love for each other. And he would have ruined this moment, and infinitely more. He's lucky something stops him, though he feels anything but.

Magnus' stunned silence prompts Alec to continue walking towards the house, unsure whether he did the right thing. Magnus is suddenly next to him again, seeking out his eyes, emitting a shiver down his neck. “Thank you, Alexander, I will conside-” They startle at hearing the loud, high-pitched noise again, just that this time it's definitely more than one gopher! Their eyes grow a bit wider simultaneously, both having the exact same thought and they quickly escape into the house, not even looking back to see if their assumption is right. The crooked little smile Alec's showing as they close the door behind them elicits warm shudders along Magnus' body.

 

“What were you running from?” Jace has witnessed their entrance, a spark of joy settling in his gut at feeling a nice and calm sensation from his Parabatai, and that little smile on his face. If only he'd remember Magnus, their love, he knows it would help him, them both so much. But Magnus was dangerously clear, they were under no circumstances to tell Alec, not even give him a hint, about their relationship until Alec remembered. And they would honor that promise they made him, no matter what.

Alec's head turns to look at the blond, while Magnus' eyes remain on the taller man, longingly. “Yeah, actually, it was kind of... a huge animal... with sharp claws and teeth and it wanted a bite out of us, but we were faster, of course.” He takes off his bow and quiver, smirking into himself at Jace's half startled, half suspicious expression, and places them carefully against the wall.

Jace uses the opportunity to mouth a thank you to Magnus for succeeding in making Alec feel better, even after that kind of horror. Magnus gives a hint of a nod, not agreeing with the blond Shadowhunter but he's not going to argue now.

“So, I hope you guys are hungry now that you've been running for miles from that beast?” He certainly hopes so, because Alec needs to get his weight and strength up and hasn't eaten all day, couldn't after that nightmare.

Alec nods a little, glancing at Magnus who's quick to agree, and they all have dinner together.

It's not as if Alec forgot, but having found distractions like his bow and arrows, Magnus, his friends' banter during dinner and cleaning and drying the dishes, has enabled him to focus all of his mental strength on pretending, locking up everything else and throwing away the key, for a while. It's much more strenuous, but also much safer to deal with than the alternative, if only it could last.

Everyone jumps a little and stares at the broken plate on the floor, Alec quickly crouching down to gather up the pieces. “Alec, wait, you'll hurt yourself, let me get-” Isabelle is about to check for a dustpan and brush, but freezes mid-movement. Alec is immobile, staring at his finger where a small line of blood appeared.

An image of terror had managed to invade his mind the moment he let the plate drop, but now, looking at his blood, everything seems to come rushing back and he feels nauseous and as he stands up he's swaying. Jace is with him in a flash, supporting his brother out of the kitchen to the living-room where he makes him sit and pushes his head down while rubbing his neck and back. The other three keep in the background, watching helplessly.

He needs a few minutes before he can control his body again, pushing the panic and images down. Alec moves up slowly and leans backwards, his eyes falling on the blond Shadowhunter. He can see that same sorrow and anguish as before on his face, in his eyes. Why does he have to be a part of this insanity, too? Alec can't help it, it's his fault because of their Parabatai bond! People shouldn't be forced to do this, Shadowhunter or not, this level of relayed pain shouldn't be possible! It's hideous enough to have to bear it himself, but forcing his brother to, as well...

“Is there no way we could... sever the Parabatai bond? Or at least weaken it?”

Jace can't help feeling shocked and showing it, immediately remembering a time when Alec had weakened their bond due to a lot of unfortunate circumstances, and Jace who had been fighting a demon at the time, could have been killed... but it's long been forgiven and this isn't even comparable.

The younger Shadowhunter understands that Alec's pained, almost desperate plea stems from the overwhelming guilt he's feeling, because of him having to share the burden. Jace honestly doesn't know what to say at first. He feels like destroying something, or someone, such hatred and defenselessness. But he quickly controls himself, for Alec, knowing he'll feel that, too.

Jace places his hand over one of his brother's, giving him a soft, sad smile and shakes his head. “No, it's not.” Even if they could try now, he wouldn't let him, he swore to always protect and die for his brother, he will see this through with him, no matter how long, or how much worse it will become. He won't ever abandon him to save himself pain, knowing how selfless Alec truly is, always putting others before himself, always trying to find the best solution for everyone, being their constant shoulder to lean and rely on. He could never repay Alec for all he's done for him, but what he can do is stand by him now, supporting him through this and never giving up finding a way to lessen his despicable fate.

He can tell from Alec's hopeless expression how badly he had wished to receive a different answer, and it's breaking him a little. Jace feels that he can hardly provide comfort for his best friend as he moves closer, puts an arm around him and leans his forehead against his brother's, but try is all he can do.

 

Chapter Text

“Could we maybe just... I don't know... do something like... watch a movie, or something?” The four of them are sprawled out on the couches, except Magnus back in one of the armchairs, all tired and somber, not mustering up the energy for another night of 'games and fun'. But Alec can feel himself slipping away, and he needs some distraction, something to focus on, no matter what.

“Yes, good idea! Where's the TV, though?” Clary pipes up, looking all around, she can't see it, and actually, she doesn't remember seeing one at all.

Magnus snaps his fingers and a cabinet placed in the wall opposite them opens, revealing a big plasma TV. He snaps his fingers again and it comes to life, the remote control suddenly in Isabelle's hand. Alec sat up, rubbed his face and was watching in awe. Magic is unbelievably amazing, and useful (and frightening in some situations) to him.

“Thank you.” Magnus nods and smiles delicately at his favorite person to ever live, concealing a profound sadness that's filling him up. Alexander looks like the epitome of depletion, his face thin and ashen, his eyes fatigued and veiled. He seems much younger and at the same time much older than he is.

Izzy is zapping through the channels and programs and finds the pay per view channel. “I'm assuming this works without payment?” She glances at Magnus whose look confirms this, and smiles softly.

“Cool, so what are you in the mood for? Comedy, action, crime, horr-, nope, chick flick?” She grins at her big brother gently, trying to coax him into thinking about this trivial stuff rather than what's terrorizing his mind. Alec feels over challenged with having to make that kind of a choice.

“Just zap through and shout when you see something interesting.” Jace suggests and Alec can agree with that. He's focusing on reading the movie titles, there are so damn many, and he doesn't think he knows any of them, when his head seems to be stuck on one of the titles he saw for a second, a minute ago.

The Devil's Advocate. His mind seems to be glued to that word. Advocate. He glances at his sister and suddenly something triggers his mind... They're at the institute, he's not sure what room, but he recognizes it and he's been there before, and Isabelle... she's angry and sad, “What kind of people sacrifice justice for law?” She's talking to him, and he's warning her, something about demons finding her when she's stripped off her runes. And then he's standing behind her, “You need an advocate.” And suddenly he's at Magnus' place. And the Asian man looks... kind of stunning... and pissed... at him, circling his pinky finger in a cocktail, and now he's stepping towards him, mimicking someone, “Since, as you all say ‘The Law is the Law', there’s no stopping me from slipping through this gaping loophole - for the right prize.

Alec blinks, the stream of the memory having stopped in his mind. He feels kind of shaky, a mix of anxiety and excitement coiling inside him. And now he feels four pairs of intense eyes on him.

He meets his sister's eyes briefly before glancing at Magnus and averting his eyes to the ground. “I think I just remembered something... you were in trouble,” he looks back at his sister. “Something about someone wanting to strip you off your runes?” Isabelle's eyes grow wide. “Yes, The Clave! I was on trial for high treason, for helping to rescue a seelie you wanted to...” She thought too late. Damn.

Alec's frown is unmissable. “I wanted to?” “Well, it was complicated, I'll tell you another time, but in the end everything turned out well, thanks to Clary and Jace.”

“And Magnus.” Alec says without realizing at first. But he thinks he gets why he was at his place now.

“Yes, that's right, do you remember the trial, too?” Izzy can't keep her excitement contained now, but her brother shakes his head. “No, just that I told you that you needed an advocate... and then I was at your place,” he looks at Magnus, who seems positively astounded. “And... well, you seemed... kind of... annoyed with me? But I don't know why... and you said something about slipping through a gaping loophole for the right prize.”

Magnus' mouth is hanging open for just a split second before he catches himself again. He can't believe it! But Alec really only remembers fractures... but then, if he did remember why Magnus had been 'annoyed' as were his words, he's not sure whether that would be better or worse.

“That is right, it happened. But I was not really annoyed, just... had a bad day.” Close enough to the truth.

“So, you defended Izzy at her trial? What was the prize?” Alec doesn't know what it is, but he can sense there's more behind the memory and Magnus' words and he wants to remember all of it, so badly.

“Oh, nothing, well, at first I wanted your bow and quiver, but I told you I'd had a bad day, and I didn't really take them. Well, at first I did, but I gave them back right away.” Magnus feels torn between wanting to pour out all he hasn't told him about that memory, and rather stabbing himself before saying one wrong word. It's so painfully frustrating! He can't risk it, though, not yet anyway. But Alec remembered something else! And about him. There's definitely more hope in his heart now.

“I don't remember that.” Alec sighs softly and rubs his eyes. They're heavy and achy.

“It may very well come back to you, just give it time.” He wants to reassure him, mend him, hold him...

Alec drops his hands, glancing at the floor. He feels oddly deflated, and not in a mood to watch a movie now, and he wants to be alone.

“I'm gonna read a while in the library, you just watch whatever you want.” He gets up without looking at anyone again and leaves. Isabelle's head falls onto her chest as she exhales a painful sigh. Everyone looks defeated.

Alec tried to find a book, well, he found many, but none that he actually wanted to read. He's too confused, too drained, too dissatisfied, too impatient and restless.

Eventually he drops into the armchair and stares ahead.

Magnus has to check up on him, just to see whether he's really reading, or... looking like a forsaken young man, staring into nothingness with an empty gaze, making Magnus' soul bleed.

He can't leave him here like this. He knocks on the door and opens it with a confidence he doesn't actually have. “Don't mind me, Alexander, I'm just looking for a book.” He pretends to walk past before he lets his eyes fall on the Shadowhunter and turns towards him. “You're not reading?” He has to keep himself in check not to jump into the taller man's lap (carefully) and wrap him into his arms and never let go again.

Alec merely moves his shoulders a tiny bit, suggesting a shrug. He feels too lethargic to really care.

Magnus watches him sorrow-stricken, wishing so very much that he could do something... if only the cats were here! They aren't though, but there's one thing he can do, whether it will help or not he'll have to find out.

He steps closer, stretches out a hand at Alec's eye level and blue magic appears, and within, a moving image of the Chairman, running about the loft, chasing a little ball.

Even if Alec had wanted to fight it, he's drawn to the hand and the blue energy irrevocably, unable to look away again. His eyes become wider, clearer and he watches spellbound, the moving images changing every now and again, showing the cats in all kinds of situations, usually doing some mischief, unless they're asleep.

Magnus is so moved watching Alec's wonderful face, he almost lets a tear slide past his eye. As he snaps it away, the image vanishes and he lets his arm fall to his side, shaking inwardly, losing Alec's eyes as his drop downwards. When he glances up again carefully, Alec's actually smiling softly, causing Magnus' heart to skip a beat and his lungs to choke up.

“Thank you, you're quite magical, um, I mean, uh, you're very good at magic.” Magnus wants to laugh and cry at hearing Alexander's stumbled words, and seeing his startled, adorable, blushing face. How is it even possible to love someone so wholly and exhaustively? He'd never change it, not for anything anyone could ever offer him. Alexander is more precious to him than any materialistic treasure, and any other life, including his own.

Magnus can't but smile lovingly at him. “Thank you, I have never gotten a better compliment.” Well, maybe he had from him, but certainly not from anyone else.

The tiny smile Alec meant to let loose is swallowed up by a new wave of rippling fatigue rolling over him, he can hardly keep his eyes open. A gentle hand on his upper arm steadies him enough to focus once more. Warm, brown eyes meet his. “Come, let's go back to the others, they can refresh your stamina rune.” Alec nods dazedly and feels the hand stay on his arm, warm and reassuring, safe... he takes two steps and falls, his body and mind no longer willing to take the strain of staying conscious.

Magnus' exceptional perception and quick reflexes ensure him cushioning Alec's plunge and he swiftly lifts him into his arms, a damaging sense of devastation spreading inside him, seeing his love so vulnerable and at malice's mercy.

He quickly carries Alec to the living-room. “He passed out. Let's keep a close eye on him.” He meets Isabelle's and Jace's terrified eyes before tenderly laying the tall man down on a couch and spreading a blanket over him. Then they wait.


 

They're at the loft, Magnus is holding out a drink to him, he takes it, they look at each other and sip from it. Magnus is smiling. He feels like smiling too.

Now they're in a place he doesn't remember, a fancy restaurant, they're dressed well, Magnus is glowing from within, looking especially dashing. He feels tingles everywhere and can't seem to stop smiling.

He's spread out on Magnus' couch, reading, the cats are both there, Magnus is coming in, smiling, carrying a few shopping bags.

There's Magnus looking at him, smiling at him, talking quietly to him. So many flashes of him. Magnus, Magnus, MagnusMagnusMagnusMagnus.

Dozens, hundreds of images, moments in time, moving so fast.

He feels dizzy as they suddenly stop.

Magnus is right in front of him, an inch apart, his face haggard, his cheek bones sticking out horribly, his eyes closed, his hair down and unkempt, not a trace of makeup, he feels his body is cold even though he's not touching him. His eyes suddenly open, they're hollow, they're flashing, red flames.

Everything is dark.

Alec wakes up slowly, his head is thumping, his body feels weird, out of order. He blinks and tries to focus. There's someone else, chained on a wall opposite of him, arms stretched out upwards, legs stretched sideways, like a snowangel, but it looks very painful. The man is only wearing black shorts, his head is down, fallen to the left, his face hidden by long, black straight bangs falling over his eyes. He doesn't seem to be conscious.

He looks around them, there's nothing else there, just cavernous darkness. And now he understands why his body is feeling so weird. He's chained up in exactly the same position as the other man. He's familiar, he must be. The body, the tone of his skin, the shape of his face, the hair color... his mind doesn't want to think it. He knows this isn't real, just one more night terror. Nothing is real. Nothing will face him. Nothing will hurt him.

Nothing.

He watches as the man seems to regain consciousness, his body twitching in places, his head slowly moving upwards, eyes he can partly see now, blinking in confusion, glancing around. He spots him, their eyes meet. An icecold shower is running down his spine, spreading over and under his skin, deep into his bones.

Alexander?”

No, nonononononono! He closes his eyes for a long moment, willing it all away, wanting to ignore the sight of that man, pretend he's not here, none of this is happening. It's not REALLY happening!

Alexander? Where are we?”

NO!

He has to open his eyes again.

Magnus.

Finally he let himself think his name. He feels a warm spark in his chest for one second before it gets replaced by apprehension, a bleak premonition, a deep unrest.

This isn't real, you don't have to be afraid, you're not really here, nothing can happen to you.” So why are you trying to reassure him? Alec dismisses his own thoughts, all of this is only happening in his head!

Alexander, what did you say? I can't hear you.” Magnus' expression is unsettling, worried.

What does he mean he can't hear me?

Magnus? Can you hear me now?” He makes his voice sound louder. He must hear him, they're only a couple of meters apart!

The other man is struggling, trying to get free, watching him, no trace of understanding in his dark brown eyes.

He really can't hear me?

Alexan-” Magnus' breath is suddenly knocked from his lungs, his eyes grown unnaturally big, full of fright, all color draining from his face.

His whole body is shaking, twitching uncontrollably, his eyes rolling backwards, showing only white. Alec is pierced by such fear he's frozen. Against his better judgement he's trying to free his wrists. Impossible. He knows this, it never works. He knows but he can't help it.

Magnus stopped moving, his eyes are back to normal, but they're staring at him, right through him, sending icy shivers all over him.

Something he can't see seems to be driven into Magnus, forcing his body to convulse, making him scream. Sweat's covering his body, and he screams and screams as if he were exposed to fire.

Alec is hardly trying to convince himself anymore that nothing about this is really happening. What he feels, is real. The angst, terror, agony, despair. It's all so real.

He tries to talk to him again, but his voice is unheard, even to himself. He tries over and over again, only becoming more desperate. Magnus is drenched in sweat by now, his voice sounding so sore and ragged. Finally he stops, his head dropping.

Alec thinks he's unconscious again, giving him a sense of relief, at least he won't have to feel more pain then.

His eyes widen in shock as blue energy appears all around Magnus, it's seeping out of him, sucked into the darkness. Magnus' head shoots up, eyes wide, showing yellow pupils with a black slit like a cat's.

He's shaking erratically, but there isn't one sound leaving his lips. Alec watches horrified as Magnus' skin is turning wax-pale as more and more of his magic is being drained from him, until there's none left.

Magnus looks like a statue, immobile, ashen, his eyes the absence of color, soulless.

Alex...ander...help...me...please.” Magnus' voice is but a croak, laced with utter anguish.

Alec is recoiling with horror, trying desperately to get free, help him, just help him!

Why...are...you...doing...this...to...me?” Alec congeals, staring into those lifeless eyes. He can't mean him... but it feels as if he does.

Suddenly Magnus' eyes turn a fiery red, a flame moving angrily in each one.

You betrayed your parents, you wanted to see them punished!” Magnus' voice is in his head, but he's not moving his lips. It's filled with so much wrath Alec's never heard before. His mind is suddenly invaded by images, memories. He's outraged, feels deceived and vengeful, he hates his parents, he wants them gone!

A blink of an eye, Magnus is still staring at him with those flamed eyes, talking in his head again.

You wanted to have an innocent man tortured.” Magnus' voice is tormenting him, forcing a memory of himself dragging a restraint man, a seelie, Meliorn, he remembers now, to the Silent Brothers to be tortured. But why would he do that?! Get out of my head!

You tried to break your bond and kill your Parabatai, you wanted to! You should have done it!” The voice isn't Magnus' anymore, can't be, it only exists of cold-hearted fury. More memories are overpowering his mind, filling him with torturous grief.

He's screaming Jace's name, feeling unbelievable pain. He can see the other Shadowhunter now, lying on the ground, screaming his name, fighting for his life.

He's fighting Jace, knocking him down and holding a blade to his throat. He feels his own rage, despair, desire to kill... He wants to slit his throat so badly... “Jace is dead to me.” He can see himself, hear himself. NO!

Alec's screaming for it to stop, he can't take it anymore, he didn't! He couldn't... He would never!

But you did, and you will kill the one you love the most.” There's a sizzling fire burning his insides, making him cry out endlessly.

He feels like he hasn't got a drop of strength left, hardly enough to move his head to be able to look at the other man, and he doesn't want to, fearing what he will see... he's stunned when two dark brown eyes are looking back at him. Magnus looks like himself again if pale and stricken.

Magnus?” He's startled at the sound of his own voice, audible to his own ears again, but faint and full of hurt.

Magnus doesn't respond, doesn't move, doesn't even blink. Alec feels chills washing over his body, something squashing his heartbeat and ability to breathe. Is he...? He can't be... He's not... No, no, no! He mustn't even think it!!

Magnus?” Silence.

Magnus! Answer me! Magnus!? Please, answer me! Say something, or at least move! MAGNUS!! PLEASE!!”

He feels completely angst-ridden and powerless, a fear greater than any he's ever known.

When Magnus suddenly gasps, Alec yells with the shock and relief flooding him.

Magnus? Oh gosh, you're alright!” Tears are flooding his eyes and he blinks furiously not to lose sight of the other man.

Alexander...help...me.” Alec's mouth opens, eyes dilating in sheer horror as the scene unfolds before him.

Alec watches as the skin upon Magnus' arm is peeled slowly from his wrist to his elbow, exposing bloody muscle underneath. More and more of Magnus is coming apart, from his flesh to his soul. And Alec can feel every bit of it in great detail. The burning of Magnus' insides from an unseen force, the stab through each lung, gasping for air when there is none to be had...

Please...make...it...stop.”

I can't...please...save...me.”

Alex...ander...Please.”

He wants to close his eyes, his ears, never again see or hear, never again FEEL... but he's forced to take it all in, blank despair and soul-destroying pain.

Blood is trickling out of the corners of Magnus' mouth, out of his eyes and ears, as he's going through inconceivable atrocities.

Alec's crying so hard he's in danger of smothering himself. He hardly notices the crack his wrist makes as he breaks his own hand, having repeatedly thrashed it violently against the restraint.

He doesn't know how he's freed, suddenly plunging to the ground, spraining his foot but unable to perceive anything else. He's on his feet, trying to loosen the other man's chains, faced with eyes that are being extinguished of their existence.

Magnus! Please... don't die, please! Hold on! Just hold on!” He presses out between aching sobs, giving up freeing him eventually. He throws his arms around the other's battered body, soaking wet with his blood, crying into his neck.

They fall suddenly, Alec managing to shield Magnus' body with his own. He pulls the wounded man into his arms, holding him as close as he dares.

Please...Alexander...let me...die.” His voice is barely a rasped whisper, yet conveying the lethal ordeal he's experiencing. Alec just cries even harder, shaking his head aggressively. “No, nonono! I won't! I can't! Please...don't leave me!

Alex...ander...let me...go.” Alec screams in pure, heartless desperation, his tears falling onto Magnus' face, mingling with his blood. Magnus' eyes close and his body goes limp, boneless.

Alec's scream is beastly, resounding eternally in the vast blackness.


 

“Hold him down! He's going to hurt himself again!” Isabelle's voice is frantic as she and Clary are trying to keep her brother's thrashing body on the couch. They still can't believe he actually broke his hand, but Jace felt it, he felt so much of it, at one point when Alec had screamed so unnaturally, consumed by all corroding mourning, he had passed out, no longer capable of coping.

 

At the start of the dream, Jace had felt bliss, joy from his Parabatai, amazed that he was actually dreaming something nice for a change, but it quickly turned into the most excruciating mental and physical ordeal they had ever experienced. Hours of it.

After all the pain, mind games and abuse he'd been through, Jace couldn't ever have imagined for something to feel even more gruesome, but this ferocious torture of Alec's body and mind and therefore his own, was beyond the realm of imagination and reason. He was numb with the realization that he would never find a way to make sense of it, to even speak of it, inept of finding words that would slightly come close...

“Where's Magnus?! I think he's waking up!” Isabelle is staring intently at her brother's face, his body finally still, too still after hours of involuntary physical burden while its owner's mind was trapped in hell.

Magnus had left after witnessing that scream, not able to, not wanting to watch more of this unfathomable torture without being able to do anything at all. He knows he's selfish, he knows he owes him so much more, he knows he's a pathetic excuse for a half-human and supposed powerful half-demon, he knows. But he can't bear it.

To somehow excuse his cowardice he's cooking up a healing potion Catarina taught him that will maybe help ease some of Alexander's pain, and Jace's, once he regained consciousness. Magnus has never dared to even attempt interfering with his own magic while Alexander was confined to the terror in his mind, fearing that the damage that could cause would be irreversible... though, by now, he doesn't think that's even possible. It couldn't get any worse, this is already it.

Everyone's holding their hurtful breaths, staring at their brother and friend as his eyes slowly open, gauging whether he recognizes them, whether he knows where he is and that the nightmare is over, whether he's even in a state of mind to do so.

Alec's confused, light-headed, wondering why he sees his sister and brother and Clary down there, bending over someone's body. He stretches his neck so he can see who it is... startling with the shock of seeing his own face. How can he be down there... and up here at the same time? And where is Magnus?!

Everything is clouded, grey. His sight as much as his senses. He's vaguely aware of people, of a throbbing pain in his right hand, of clothes sticking to his skin. He doesn't care, it all doesn't really matter. He wants to stay like this, not caring, not really feeling much, not thinking... but there's something bubbling up in him, a heated sensation, forcing its way through his innards, into his brain, electrifying it.

A white hot panic is threatening to cut off every essential part of him he needs to live.

“Watch out, he'll start again!” Jace yells, grabbing Alec's legs while Isabelle and Clary once again are guarding his upper body with their own, trying to hold him down and keep him unharmed.

Alec's body is jerking without his doing, without his knowledge, tears overflowing and sobs rattling his chest, as he's gasping for air he doesn't seem to have any longer. All he can see before his eyes is one single, earth-shattering image. Magnus. Dead.

“No, no! Nonononono! Please...no...no...please...help...no....oh no, nonono...Magnus!!! NOOO!!” The force of his scream combined with the enormity with which his body is leaping upwards throws the women off him. There is no way they could calm him now.

Magnus who was about to bring the finished potion, freezes horrified at hearing his own name, yelled with such agony from his Alexander. He drops the mug uncaringly and rushes to the living-room, even more shocked at the sight before him.

Alec's fighting all three of them off vigorously, as they're trying to calm him with words as much as keeping him from completely losing it and doing more damage to himself. “Magnus!” Clary shouts at him as she spots him and he's suddenly right there, taking Isabelle's place, grabbing Alec's hand and waiting frighteningly until Alec's tormented, panicked eyes settle on his own.

“I'm right here, Alexander, I'm right here.” Magnus doesn't understand, why would he scream, and like that, for him? What happened to emit this whole new level of panic and anxiety? Why can he never do anything...?

But the moment Alec recognizes him, he's quieting down, staring at the warlock intently, but is still, only the grip he has on Magnus' hand that is threatening to break a few bones evidence of his ongoing distress.

Magnus is murmuring soothingly, out of his depth why any of it is happening, but prepared to be here and do whatever he can, for however long Alec will need him to. He snaps his free fingers, holding a fresh cup with the potion, bringing it to Alec's lips.

“Drink this, it will make you feel a little better.” He watches, the remains of his heart breaking once more, as Alec empties the cup and lets Magnus push him down again gently, but he's not letting go of his hand, not even slightly.

Magnus snaps his fingers again and holds out another cup to Jace who doesn't even inquire what it might be, just drinks it eagerly at the prospect of feeling any kind of relief.

While Alec keeps watching Magnus' face as if it were the only thing keeping him in this world, Magnus keeps talking to him quietly, healing his broken hand. His three friends watch in silence.

The potion takes effect in calming both Parabatai down, suppressing their turmoil to an extent, without endangering Alec to fall back into perilous oblivion.

It takes close to an hour before Alec's hand is letting up on Magnus'.


 

Alec's freshly showered, sitting on the bed he's been occupying for a few nights, feeling detached from reality, or what he thinks is real. He doesn't know anymore, he doesn't understand a single thought. His mind isn't even strong enough to analyse and try to make sense of it.

He didn't speak a word, he could tell they wanted him to, get some kind of clue about what had happened while he was there, but he wouldn't.

He looks down at his hand, the one that was broken, now healed. Thanks to Magnus. Magnus, who isn't dead. He's alive. This is reality, the truth. Magnus is not dead. He doesn't know whether he fully trusts this, too intense are the memories of what happened in the nightmare, he can feel holding Magnus' assaulted body as much as he can feel Magnus' hand in his. What's real? Both? Nothing? Nothing makes any sense. Why did he react so much worse than before? Why did he feel so much worse? Why was it never ending this time? Why Magnus? Why?

He's unconsciously touching his Parabatai rune, wanting, no, needing something his mind can't discern but seems to think Jace can provide him with. A minute later there's a knock on the door.

“Alec? It's me, Jace, can I come in?” He had felt a surge, an unspoken plea and immediately dropped what he was doing to find his brother.

Alec's watching the door stunned for a moment then wills himself to move. He pushes the handle down, meeting his brother's worried eyes.

“Hey.” The blond's showing a soft smile and steps in when Alec steps back to make room. They sit on the end of the bed, looking down.

Both of them seem to be looking for something to say, but when Jace is about to, Alec beats him to it.

“I can't... do this anymore.”

Jace feels ice cold dread in his gut, keeping him quiet.

“I know you felt what I felt, too much of it anyway, and I can't go through it another time, I just can't, I'd rather...” He swallows the words down, not needing to say them aloud anyway.

“Alec, don't even think that, please. I know it's bad, like, the worst, but we always find a way, Alec. We always do, you can't give up now, please.” Jace is placing a hand over Alec's, squeezing. It's so painful to look at his brother's shattered eyes, the hopeless expression on his emaciated face. And he might be lying to him, there might not be a way this time... but he mustn't ever let himself believe that, not ever.

Alec's shaking his head slowly, his shoulders hunching. “I can't even tell what's real anymore, or what I'm supposed to believe or feel.” Or explain the guilt quenching his insides with the realization of how much worse he has taken Magnus' death than any of his siblings, albeit those were over quick in comparison and he wasn't as brutally weakened yet. Still... he just can't understand it.

“Why... what was worse this time?” Jace asks carefully, expecting Alec to close off again, but he may be able to make more sense of it once he knows...

Alec is shutting off again, but then, maybe... if not his Parabatai, who else...

“It was... I was... Magnus... he was tortured... and died... in my arms.” His voice dropped to a grievous whisper, icy horror threatening to overtake him once more.

Jace can hear his own intake of a sharp, hurtful breath. That's why...!

Alec's pain connected to his own is pushing him almost too far, almost over the edge of no return, wanting to tell his brother so badly why this nightmare was so much more terrible than the rest... but he cannot. He promised, and even more so, he could damage Alec so much further... and also Magnus. Confronting a fragile, violated mind with a truth it may not be able to process is a risk too great to take. Alec, without his memories of their relationship, may not even believe it, and if he did... then, him being Alec, he would find a way, if subconsciously, to make everything his own fault.

Magnus' pain and heartbreak over Alec having forgotten about their love, not remembering loving Magnus, not knowing if he still could, obsessing about Magnus' feelings and the pain whatever he would do or say could cause the older man, could drive him into further mental destruction no one will be able to reverse.

He'll have to be more patient. He will remember. He has to.

Jace moves closer, wraps his brother into his arms and holds him close until their bodies stopped shaking once again. “We'll find a way, I promise.” Breaking that promise wouldn't cause him any more pain than this is, and as long their bond exists and they're both alive, he'll never falter trying to keep it.

 

Chapter Text

He has reduced his breathing to the shallowest point possible. His fingers are clamped so tightly with each other they've started to go numb. He's been willing his mind into a state of hollowness, his eyes dull and unseeing, unblinking.

Clary finds him in the library. As soon as she enters the room and spots her friend, sitting perfectly still in the armchair, she can feel something ominous, some kind of aura around him, something that makes her step falter as a cold shiver runs along her spine and she has to swallow down and muster up new resolve before she moves to stand before him.

“Magnus?” She is surprised at how feeble her voice sounds in her ears, not wanting to let any insecurities become the better of her, needing to somehow stay strong and do whatever she can to keep them all together, to somehow comfort her friend who hasn't moved an inch or even hinted at noticing her being here.

He could stay like this, for a really long time, maybe forever if he tried hard enough. He's sure he's more likely to succeed at this than ever being able to help Alexander. This single thought alone replenishes himself with a penetrating soreness impending to consume him wholly. So he doesn't think.

Several more attempts at getting his attention have failed. Clary's crouched down now, a hand over his very cold ones which seem to be intertwined viselike, one cupping his cheek gently. The look on his face, especially in his eyes that are usually so vibrant with life and light and emotions, is filling her insides with fear. She has to get through to him.

“Magnus, please, just talk to me. I know you're hurting, I know it all seems impossible... but you can't shut yourself off like this, not forever. Please, Magnus."

Forever, more often than not, feels like it's over in the blink of an eye. Why and who is disturbing his one moment of feigned peace?

Clary freezes, gasping silently, as Magnus' cat eyes suddenly rest on her, not piercing into her soul, as they've done before, but watching her intently, as if they were lying in wait for something... preying.

She pulls her hands away achingly slowly, finding herself unable to breathe properly or keeping her body from shaking lightly.

“Magnus? I'm sorry, I just-”

“Why are you here? What do you want?” Clary can't remember hearing that kind of voice from her friend before, actually she's sure she hasn't.

It's so cold, making chills rise up on her skin, but looming with a dark promise of blazing rancor. She's shaking more now, slowly standing up and taking a few steps backwards, glued to the eyes that are following her, not letting her out of sight. No other part of him is moving.

She reached the book shelves now, trying to steady herself on them, trying to shake this fright in her gut, trying to address her friend, not... whoever this is.

“I just wanted to see how you are, maybe help-”

The eyes are piercing her now, swallowing up any other word that may have come out of her mouth. She can't remember ever having felt so small and insignificant, and she's doubting her ability to move at all, much less quickly, should she need to.

“I don't need your help, Nephilim.” He spits out and she watches as his lips move into a wicked smirk, making him look like she's never seen him before, a word she never truly thought of associating him with. Demonic.

“I'm the son of the Prince of Hell, I'm a destroyer and vanquisher, I can demolish a whole city, a whole people if I wanted to. I can bring destruction, despair and death to anyone in my path. I do not need your pathetic, worthless, insulting help.” His voice is laced with feral rage and repulsion.

Clary is paralyzed, terrified, only capable of watching this... creature she doesn't recognize, as it stands up, prowling closer like a big, wild, sinister cat, having found its next victim.

“Magnus... I... I'm sorry... I didn't mean to...” Her throat contracts painfully, her eyes wide with horror as he's suddenly right in her face, no, his head is right next to hers, his mouth by her ear, exhaling hot breath.

“Run.”

Her whole body flinches as adrenaline is pumping into her, forcing her limbs to finally move again and she's fleeing from the library, running until she finds the next room she can lock up before she sinks onto the floor, panting and shaking, trying to handle what just happened, trying to not feel so shocked and afraid and, above all, feeling so much anguished worry for her friend, incapable of fathoming the dire torment he must be going through, and all she can do is let herself cry, for all of them.

The moment Clary's gone, he feels drained from all the mighty supremacy and demonic powers.

His head collides with the shelf as he's suppressing a manic scream. He just about manages to divert the pent up desperation, pain, and hatred for himself into burning down the library, watching in gut-wrenching woe as the flames eat up every last book. The bitter, destructive truth is, he is no one.


 

“There's something I need to ask.”

They had lied down after Jace had promised he wouldn't let Alec fall asleep any time soon, and though Alec was sure he had never, in his entire life, been so exhausted, he didn't feel tired for once. Too much was rattling his brain about the nightmares and as much as he didn't want to, he couldn't not think about it, his mind desperately trying to make sense of any part of it.

And then he remembered.

Alec turns his head to meet his brother's questioning eyes. He feels a stab in his gut, for the first time really seeing the evidence of what their connection has done to Jace.

The paleness of his skin, the dark circles around his eyes, the lines and creases telling of inhuman strain and misery, mirroring in his blue and amber flecked eyes.

All because of him.

“Sure, anything.” Alec blinks and forces himself away from these self-destructive feelings, trying to stay on point. He glances away, down, up again, rubs his fingers unconsciously.

Jace is waiting patiently, a feeling of dread growing in his stomach.

“In the... dream... Magnus...” No, it wasn't really Magnus! He bites his cheek for a moment and takes a deep breath.

“There was... something...” He's becoming more and more frustrated with himself and the whole situation.

“Did I ever want to have an innocent man tortured and... break our bond?” Did I ever try to kill you?!

They're both holding their breaths, Jace shocked, unsure what to answer, Alec in fear of Jace's answer.

The longer the moment lasts the worse Alec feels, the less he wants to know. Silence is also an answer, right?

“It wasn't exactly like that, there was a whole lot of unfortunate things happening and you had to deal with a lot of bad stuff about your parents and Izzy and me, and... yourself. We all did some things we're not proud of, but we got through them and came out stronger and better people.”

Jace moves to be able to look properly at his Parabatai who seems frozen. “Alec, don't let some warped half memories get the better of you. Whatever you may think and feel right now, you're the most decent and honorable person I know, we all know, and we're all not perfect and made mistakes, but you more than anyone, made up for them tenfold.” He gently cups Alec's cheek to make the taller man look at him.

“I swear to you that you don't have a single reason to feel bad or guilty because of anything that happened in the past. Okay?"

Alec's eyes flick upwards timidly, barely able to look at his brother. So if those memories are true... I did try to kill you, too. “Okay.” One side of his mouth twitches fleetingly to feign an attempt of a barely existing smile.

“Okay, good.” Jace moves to hug him once again and Alec pats his back, suppressing all he really feels to not let his Parabatai know. He's slowly getting the hang of it, at least when he's conscious.


 

He knows he needs to apologize, if she even wants to hear it. He went too far, way too far, and this time he didn't even have the excuse of fighting demons... funny, really, being a demon himself, and often worse than most of those braindead creatures. He should never have lost it like that. Alec would be...

He feels utterly defeated, seals the library door so no one can go in, he'll have to redecorate it sometime soon, and cautiously heads for the living-room, arriving just when Isabelle comes out of the kitchen, as well as Jace and Alec from upstairs. No Clary, his insides churn.

“Hey, guys, good you're all here, where's Clary, though?” Izzy inquires while looking at each one of them. Magnus swallows down hard, he could imagine in what state she may be...

“I haven't seen her since I went to see Alec. Is something wrong?” Magnus feels worse, so much worse and maybe he should just come clean, he doesn't deserve any better than all of them hating him after all.

“No, nothing's wrong, I was in the bathroom.” Clary's voice and then Clary herself appears behind Alec and Jace on top of the stairs. Magnus' insides feel as if they're reversing themselves and he'd love to just vanish but stands his ground and forces himself to look at her, connecting their eyes. The sympathy and concern he detects in hers are enough to floor him speechless. How can she be like this after what I did to her?

“Clary-”

“Magnus-”

Magnus blinks, staring at Alec who had said his name simultaneously with him addressing Clary. Alec's look is insecure now and Magnus needs to know what he wants from him, but also has to mend things between him and Clary, if he can.

“Magnus, it's fine, we can talk some other time.” Clary quickly interjects, smiling softly at him and points her look at Alec to make it clear that Magnus should see to him now.

How do I have such incredible people in my life? He's trying to express his infinite gratitude, though he knows he won't even come close and he has so much to make up to her, them, he may never manage before...

“Can we talk alone somewhere?” Alec feels a little impatient, restless and there are too many eyes on him again. And frankly, he doesn't really want to be alone with Magnus because it makes him feel too much, too many confusing and mysterious things, none of which he has an explanation for, but the warlock is the only one he can ask.

“Of course.” Magnus gestures for him towards the kitchen and dining-room, and follows after Alec, well aware of three pairs of inquisitive eyes on them.

As soon as Magnus closes the door, Alec jumps right in, fearing he'll become too nervous otherwise, and will only stumble over his words again and chicken out of it in the end. “I want to stay awake, you said there are spells or potions, whatever it is, I want it.

Magnus is very taken aback by Alec's not so subtle demand. Most of all he feels sick with heartache and preying worry. Alexander has never looked so frail and neglected, yet he has found the strength to ask him for this, to even look determined, his eyes, right now, the only thing that seem the same to Magnus.

How does he refuse him? How can he when looking at the man he basically worships feels like someone's twirling his heart out slowly with a blunt object?

“Alexander-”

Alec expects the shorter man to argue, but he knows the risks, at least he thinks he does, he just doesn't care, not now. He needs a break, some kind of brief respite at the least, to gather some strength and face whatever to come later... he can't even think of a later, there's only this pounding terror right now, so nearly pushing him over the edge of his remaining sanity, driving him to giving up completely. He can't do it, he needs help, he needs Magnus.

He holds up a hand to stop the warlock. “I know the risks, but I can't think about those right now, I just need you to help me with this, please, Magnus.” If you don't, I honestly don't know what I will do...

His voice consists of such frailty, Magnus isn't sure how he manages to keep on his feet, his jaw clamped painfully tight.

All tension leaves him suddenly, knowing he can't refuse his love's desperate plea, knowing Alexander wouldn't ask for something like this if he weren't about to lose any hope and give in to dreariness. It's all he can do.

“I will make the potion, but it won't last for more than a day.” He could make one to last a week or two, but he could as well murder Alec himself instead, he'd never survive in his worn state. Magnus is already worrying and going through every possible scenario, and what else he could do, especially after the potion's magic will run out. He'll have to contact Catarina.

Alec wants to argue at first but then he concedes, a day is good, not ideal, but it's much more than the few hours he'd usually get. And he must admit he is scared about the after but not as scared as he is about the now.

He nods, feeling a little bit lighter. “Thank you.”

Magnus conceals all the troubles wrecking him and nods, showing him a tiny smile. “Give me an hour.”

One hour? He can definitely do that. His mind is already fixated on the idea of feeling some liberation at last, sending excited hormones into his body.

“I'll wait with the others.”

Magnus watches him leave with one more burden weighing on his soul.

After talking to Catarina he feels slightly reassured. She gave him a few instructions on how to, hopefully, lessen the repercussion of the potion, so Alec won't be completely helpless and out of it, at least not for longer than absolutely necessary. He also found out that she's also gone into hiding and that Ragnor left over a day ago and she hasn't heard from him again for over 12 hours. Magnus immediately tries to call him and after not getting an answer, sends him a text to call him back immediately. He's not overly worried yet, and he cannot leave here now, but Ragnor better be fine and contact him soon.

 

They're watching the first episode of Sense8 (Simon had introduced Izzy to it and she got totally hooked, never having seen anything remotely like it and told Magnus about it all excitedly, just to find he had already watched the whole season, twice, meaning to make Alexander watch it as well but in the end hadn't gotten round to it, yet) when Magnus emerges from the kitchen with the much anticipated potion. Isabelle has been watching her big brother subtly, not wanting to miss his reactions to the beautiful transgender lesbian couple, and, of course even more so, to the gay couple. Just because Alec couldn't remember his sexuality, it sure as hell wouldn't suddenly be erased! But all she could depict from his face was a slight, one-eyed squint at the sex scene and that was about it. So typical for her brother! She'd missed him inhumanly much and all of this was slowly killing her, but she'd never ever give up hope, she hadn't when he vanished and she sure as hell wouldn't now.

When Alec had returned from his talk with Magnus, they had all immediately felt a change in him, but even Jace didn't have a clue what was going on and Alec wouldn't say.

He feels the hairs in his neck stand up and turns to meet Magnus' gaze who quietly gestures to the cup in his hand. Alec's off the couch immediately and striding over to the warlock, trying not to feel too agitated but failing. He's nervous and scared of it not working, because what if the devil in his mind won't let it? But he won't find out unless he tries, and he will, it's too late to back out now.

“What is that?” Izzy had stopped the program and Jace is up on his feet, walking over to them, feeling rather suspicious and nervous, sensing Alec's feelings quite strongly again.

“A potion to prevent me from passing out for a while.” Alec answers before Magnus can. “What? But I thought you couldn't use that! It's too dangerous!” Isabelle and Clary stepped closer as well, watching the three men closely, frowning.

“It doesn't matter, I need it now and later... I don't care for that right now.” Alec reaches for the cup but Jace is quicker and Magnus hasn't anticipated the blond yanking the cup from his hand, spilling some of its content, holding it in a tight fist.

“Jace, what the hell!? Give it to me!” Alec's moving in on his brother, while he's backing away, holding the cup behind his back. Alec feels anger mingle with slight panic and fright.

“Alec, think about this, please!” “I have! It's not your decision! I thought you of all people would get it!” Jace goes a little pale at having Alec antagonized, detecting disbelief and disappointment in his expression.

“I do, Alec, but you don't know what's gonna happen, it could be worse!” Alec almost laughs without any humor, shaking his head lightly, his eyes piercing his brother's.

“How could it get worse than... that?” Jace actually forgets to breathe for a moment being openly confronted with Alec's immense pain.

Magnus has been watching quietly for long enough, also he can't bear thinking about what it was Alec had had to go through in the last nightmare and unable to help feeling jealous once again about their bond still connecting them so strongly that Alexander even told Jace. He snaps his fingers and the cup is back in his hand, Jace hardly noticing, feeling rather intimidated and just so hurt for his Parabatai.

Alec averts his gaze and slowly turns back to look at Magnus, and the cup. Damn this!

“Alexander, it is your decision and furthermore I have made a few alterations according to Catarina's instructions. The potion isn't as potent anymore and the aftermath shouldn't be as extreme as it normally would be. However, we cannot guarantee anything, not even that it will work at all. It is your choice.”

Alec feels everyone's eyes on him and even Jace is quiet now, seemingly accepting this conclusion, or just feeling too guilty, he doesn't know and just wants this so badly... Have I always been this weak? Would the old me even consider it? Would he actually be able to cope with this? Why can't anyone tell me? Why don't I feel stronger? Why do I feel like I'm letting everyone down?

He closes his eyes for a long moment, pressing his lips together and holding his breath before he exhales slowly, opens his eyes and looks directly into Magnus'. His brown orbs are too deep for him to comprehend, and sensations he still can't give a name are threatening to overwhelm him. To hell with all of this! He moves purposefully, takes the cup from Magnus' hand and gulps the liquid down before he can falter again.

It tastes like chocolate mousse which really irritates him. “I... modified the taste, so it goes down more nicely.” Alec stares surprised for a moment and he doesn't know what it is, but something about the warlock is so dear in that moment, it robs him of a soft, grateful smile.

Magnus suddenly feels alleviated, his lips immediately curling upwards.

The women have been watching quietly, in the end agreeing with it being Alec's choice and Clary had taken Izzy's hand, knowing how anxious she's been and reaching her other out to Jace, who slowly joined them and now they're all watching the two men before them, this beautiful, little moment, that moves them all tremendously and gives them back some more hope... he will remember, surely.

“Do you feel any different?” Magnus eventually inquires, knowing he won't be able to stare into Alexander's wondrous hazel eyes for terribly much longer without it becoming awkward.

Alec shakes himself out of... whatever that was and thinks about the question, trying to evaluate how he's feeling in comparison to a few minutes ago. He feels rather good, actually. And that is definitely a huge change from before. He nods and turns to look at the others.

“You actually look better.” Izzy remarks and the others can see it, too. The color in his face is healthier again, the bags under his eyes almost invisible.

Alec's limbs aren't so heavy anymore, he doesn't feel as if he were carrying half the world on his shoulders, either, and he's just so very glad. A day... he better make the best of it.

He takes it upon himself to cook for all of them, on his own, because he likes the work and it is just the tiniest way to say thank you to them all, not taking up anyone's offer to help.


 

 

Clary takes the opportunity to talk to Magnus who she can tell is filled with guilt and self-loathing over what happened in the library earlier.

“Magnus, I just need you to know that I'm not mad at you, or even scared, I mean, I kinda was, because you are really intimidating like that, but I understand why, and I don't want you to feel worse than you already are, okay? Let's just forget about it, I won't tell anyone.”

Magnus is shocked, even though her demeanor throughout let him know this already, but he knows he doesn't deserve her forgiveness or even her friendship and somehow it just makes him feel much worse, because he deserves anger, he deserves hatred, he deserves to be punished... he's aware of this being his own thoughts, his own twisted mind games he's fallen into because it's easier to blame himself for everything than to believe that sometimes bad things happen without anything anyone can do and no one to blame. He certainly can't do that. But he will not again lose control and punish the people he cares about the most, who are going through hell with him because they're loyal, pure at heart and care deeply for him, especially for the better half of his soul, Alexander. He can't do that to any of them ever again, or he may never stop hating himself.

He has to shove all of that away, lock it up, and just do whatever it takes to keep it hidden. “Thank you, Clary, I am truly sorry and I won't let it happen again.”

“I know, Magnus.” He feels her arms, her tender, yet strong body against his as she hugs him tightly and he brings his arms around her, closing his eyes for just a moment, inhaling some of her warmth and strength. He could do with an endless amount of that, but he has taken too much already from them all. He needs to be better.

“Ragnor's back, with guests.” Magnus suddenly feels his best friend's magic right outside the house and the presence of two others. Clary and he are quick to head outside, Isabelle and Jace who were waiting for them in the living-room right on their heels.

“Simon?!” He's the first person Izzy sees, a moment later wrapped up in her boyfriend's strong arms, crushing her to him. Through her delight at being reunited with him, she still feels someone else's eyes on her and as she turns her head and glances down, she's almost shocked out of her skin.

Max?!” Tears are threatening to spill over as she quickly frees herself from Simon's embrace, who is okay with it as long as the reason is her little brother, and crouches down to squeeze the dark-blond teenager to her. He has grown some, but not terribly much in the months his big brother wasn't with them.

“I'm so happy to see you! Are you alright? Where have you been? What happened?” She's holding him back a little to be able to look him all over while he just grins and rolls his eyes at her eagerness. “I'm fine, Izzy, and I have yet to decide whether to forgive all of you keeping Alec's return a secret from me!” Her face falls immediately, guilt and regret taking over her happiness. “I know, I am so sorry, Max, mom and dad... but we should have told you anyway.”

“It's okay, Izzy, our parents told me what happened and at least I'm here now. They're still imprisoned by The Clave.”

“What?!”

“Okay, everyone slow down and let the newcomers fill us in.” Magnus looks at Ragnor and Simon expectantly, also happy to see them, especially Max, well, but concerned to learn about recent happenings.

“The Clave have gone mental, ignoring their own laws and basically running rampant. They've been arresting anyone who they think might have any clue about Alec's whereabouts. Luke, Raphael and Jocelyn have brought whoever they could to safety but enough allies have been captured and are being interrogated in Idris. Lydia has been helping me gathering information, seemingly the only one not taking part in The Clave's insanity, but unfortunately she was captured and we couldn't get to her. She told Simon where the Lightwoods were held and he managed to rescue Max when I caught up with him. We also saw Maryse but she stayed behind with her husband, making us promise to keep Max safe.”

Simon nods gravely. “I also saw that warlock again, the one that put that spell on Alec. She's actually from Romania and rather unpleasant. But Lydia said her spell should be dormant by now. They were able to track Alec through her magic before, until they lost him.”

So, if they hadn't found the safehouse... if the spell hadn't worked, they would have been screwed! Magnus feels a rather huge sense of relief. Especially about the prospect of Alexander being able to use portals again.

Isabelle is hugging Max again before Clary and Jace sweep in to welcome him, having hugged their vampire friend and she takes Simon aside, thanking him with a kiss he won't forget for saving her little brother.

Magnus lets everything sink in while watching everyone's reunion fondly, also feeling an extreme, cutting ache in his chest.

They will have to figure something out to-

Surprised he glances down where a small body has wrapped itself around his waist. Max... he perches to be able to hug the boy back, feeling sadly touched. Max closes his arms around Magnus' neck and whispers into his ear. “Don't worry, I know, and he's always a bit slow with emotions but he'll remember.”

Magnus can't but stare dumbstruck at the boy who just grins and winks at him before letting go. “So, where is my big brother? I came all the way to Texas to see him most of all!” He stems his hands on his hips impatiently.

“I'm right here.”

Seven heads turn simultaneously, mouths agape, not even Jace having felt in all this tumult that his Parabatai had joined them. For them, he's standing right in the doorway of the house, Simon and Max see him amidst the open wilderness.

Max's face lights up with unbound happiness and he runs towards him but halts in front of him, looking up, observing him thoroughly. “You look kind of run down.”

Alec blinks surprised, unable to suppress a little crooked smile. “I just haven't been sleeping that well.” He's overly glad that he drank Magnus' potion now, he can't think what Max would have commented otherwise...

Max nods earnestly. “Do you remember me at all?” He's putting more bravado into his voice than he feels, not wanting his big brother to feel bad about it, but also hoping that maybe he would...

Alec crouches down, now looking up slightly at the boy. “Yes, a little.” And finally he has proof right before his eyes that his little brother is fine!

Max's smile splits his face and he leaps into Alec's arms who is holding his breath but exhales with such relief when his arms close around his brother's small frame. Now he understands why giving up can never again be an option.

Isabelle can't hold back her tears any longer, subconsciously having waited for exactly this moment. Max had taken Alec's disappearance extremely hard, but not letting it show. Or rather, showing it in insubordinations and rebellious, sometimes rather dangerous actions that got him suspended from the Mumbai Institute in the end, as his tutors and teachers refused to continue with his education.

Their parents, Izzy nor Jace, hadn't had a chance to get through to him, either, Magnus wasn't in any state to even try, and in the end Isabelle had taken Max to an abandoned safe house, where they had stayed on their own, a week full of heated arguments and painful silences and eventually she had broken down his walls and he let himself feel all that pent up grief and heartache from missing his oldest brother.

She had told him how they had to stay strong and together for Alec's sake, because he would have wanted them to try even harder and become even better people and Shadowhunters and never give up. Max had understood and tried his best and was allowed to resume his education eventually. He had managed to mostly control his temper and emotions, for Alec.

Seeing them reunited in this moment... how can things not turn out good in the end?

 

Chapter Text

“So, where exactly have you been staying at? Not my van?” Simon asks while looking around him, puzzled at why they met right here, in the middle of nowhere.

“Of course not, silly.” Izzy smirks. “There's a magical safe house right in front of us, but you can't see it or go in before you have been approved.”

Magnus has talked this over with Ragnor as their first plan of action. They'll have to perform the spell again to make sure Simon and Max can enter.

“Oh, right. So, how do we get approved? Is there some kind of dare or task we have to perform?”

Jace takes the opportunity to wind up his favorite vampire, putting an arm over his shoulder, looking at him very seriously. “Yeah, actually, you'll have to dance. It can be any dance you want but make it good, because if the house doesn't like your skills, there's not a second chance to try again.”

Clary and Isabelle share an eyeroll, not believing Simon would still fall for Jace's baits, but Simon is looking rather thoughtful, as if he were trying to figure out what dances he knows and could do to get him in.

“Simon, seriously?” Clary pokes his forehead and Jace loses the mask for laughter. It's good to have him back!

“As much as I'm sure we would all enjoy your dancing skills,” Magnus makes sure to put as much sarcasm into his voice as is needed so even the vampire gets it, “truth is, Ragnor and I will need to perform a spell with you and Max, drawing from your strengths, but good news is that this time we have more control over it and it shouldn't be dangerous anymore.” He meets Jace's eyes who look at him all somber and sad at the memories from their first attempt.

“Are you sure? Max couldn't be harmed?” Alec and Max came over and the tall Shadowhunter is watching Magnus closely, not going to take anything less than a promise from him, one he'll have to keep.

Magnus feels insecure at first, almost as if he could only be a failure no matter what, but he pushes it aside, musters up all his remaining confidence and meets Alec's eyes with determination and serenity. “Yes, I am sure, and to make the strain on them even smaller, Clary and Isabelle can take part again as they didn't have any difficulty before.”

Unlike me, Alec thinks bitterly for a moment but lets it go and nods. Clary and Isabelle agree immediately and Magnus and Ragnor think it best and safest to perform the spell right away. Alec takes Max to show him where to stand and explains to him what to do and then watches with Jace, both feeling nervous, sharing rather unpleasant feelings connected to the memories of this situation.

The spell doesn't even take half the time they'd needed and everyone seems alright. He's so glad Alec hauls Max up to hug him tightly. With anyone else the boy would complain and struggle, but Alec could do basically anything and he'd comply, craving the closeness of his beloved sibling.

“Oh, that house you mean.” Simon is staring in awe, as is Max once he's on the ground again and looking around. “Magic is the coolest, you'll have to show me everything!” He grabs Alec's hand without a second thought and drags him along, determined to be shown every single room by his big brother. Alec can't but indulge him, sharing a small, genuine smile with Isabelle and Magnus before he gets pulled inside.

Magnus presses a black painted finger to the corner of his eye where a tear almost came loose when he feels Ragnor's hand on his shoulder. “I'm sorry I didn't check in earlier, my friend, how have you been?” Isabelle gestures everyone to walk with her back to the house to give the two friends some privacy.

“Let's not talk about me, I'm barely keeping it together as it is. Thank you for all you've done, especially for bringing Max and Seamus here.”

“You do know his name is Simon.”

“Of course I do.” They share a knowing smirk. At least Magnus hasn't lost all of his humor yet.

“My biggest regret is not being able to help Lydia, without her we wouldn't have managed to stay out of The Clave's reach and find Max, though, I must say, but it might just be my paranoia speaking, I would have expected more resistance, there were hardly half a dozen guards and they were no match for the vampire alone.”

“So, what you're saying is you think rescuing Max was too easy?” Magnus frowns deeply, all of his brain cells on alert. He never did trust The Clave, not even after they became more... tolerating of Downworlders after months of hard work, negotiations and much fighting from none other than Alexander, who had been determined to make a change in the Shadow world, having complete support from Isabelle, Jace, Clary, Max (who simply adored Magnus and his magic and the cats!) Jocelyn, Luke, Lydia and many Downworlders, though not nearly everyone, too wide were some differences and too deep some wounds, and trust never came easy.

But Alec had never been so determined to succeed, not after saving himself, and rescuing Jace, and once more, against his parents' wishes. And he had thrived with the new mission, and Magnus had been awe-struck every time he had heard him speak on behalf of Downworlders and their affairs, always finding the right words to declare exactly what he meant but never offending the other party. (Such a stark contrast to Alexander being so shy and adorable and stammering, stumbling over his words whenever they had been alone and working on their relationship, which Magnus just found all the more endearing and stunning.)

After many long hours of negotiations he had finally succeeded in The Clave establishing a small committee – existing of exactly one member – to hear Downworlder matters through Alec acting as the intermediary between Downworlders, Shadowhunters and The Clave. He hadn't performed miracles, but he had still managed to further understanding and better relations between them, one tiny step at a time. Things had stagnated once he was gone, and apparently, now they were spiraling completely out of control. And Magnus feared what else The Clave would come up with... but giving them Alec was obviously not even a choice. They would have to just sit it out and see...


“Mom told me to give you this, for protection, and to keep it very close.” Max is holding out a small, maroon colored stone to Alec, who takes it and looks at it carefully. There are symbols engraved in it, runes. Protection, endurance, love, he remembers them from reading about that stuff. He can't deny having mixed feelings about it, about his mother, not exactly having had many 'loving' experiences with her to draw from. But she's his mother...

He slips the stone into the front pocket of his jeans and smiles at his little brother. “Thanks, Max, I'm very happy you're here, I'm really sorry for... everything.” He doesn't even know how to express all the guilt and sorrow that has reawakened with their arrival, and learning about what's happening back in New York. He's sure the others don't know, but he heard every word of it. And it's weighing on him severely. But he doesn't have a clue what to do about it.

“It's not your fault. And I know you will remember eventually, if anyone can do it it's you, and with Magnus' help, he's really very powerful, you know, and you'll both be just fine.” Max is hugging him again and Alec feels touched, but also something puzzling from the way his brother said it. He just can't place it. However, what he has, for once, no doubts about are his feelings towards Max. He already knows he'd give anything to keep his little brother out of harm's way.

They join the others again for dinner, everyone praising Alec's food and making small talk, for whose benefit Alec can only wonder.

They end up in the living-room, Max next to his big brother. He has basically been glued to him, moving when he moved, watching him as if he could disappear the moment he looked away, following him wherever he went, and so it's no miracle at all when he eventually drops, his head landing on Alec's lap whose hand is immediately stroking Max's hair gently. Isabelle wipes a tear away, her face lit up with the most beautiful smile. Actually, everyone is smiling at them and he feels rather awkward, averting his eyes back to his brother's head.

“Take a picture!” Simon urges Clary on who has just fished her cellphone out of her pocket. Clary must agree that the moment is special and wants to oblige, when she notices a text message she hasn't before.

“What's wrong, biscuit?” Magnus who hasn't looked away from Alexander and Max for one second, is still perceiving Clary's distress.

“It's just... I've asked mom and Luke if they could come here and join us, be safe... but they can't. The Clave is sending more and more demons after everyone and they don't want to leave anyone behind.”

The atmosphere in the room changes immediately, everyone seemingly sharing unspoken thoughts.

“So, we're going to just stay here and wait for better days to come while all these people are out there being hunted and arrested and hell knows what else?” Because of goddamn me?!

Alec's voice is quiet, so he won't wake Max, but full of no bullshit authority. After hearing that he just can't keep quiet any longer.

“There isn't much we can do.” Ragnor speaks when no one else seems to dare.

“And how long is this supposed to go on? Do you think they will actually give up on finding me, or are we just all prepared to let innocent people be punished or worse for something they have no knowledge of and no control over? What about this Lydia person? She's obviously a friend and-”

 

A forsaken wound often needs a little warlock TLC, may I? Free of charge.”

It's OK, I'm fine.”

If anything were to happen to you-”

Magnus! I'm good. I, just, I gotta-”

Go? Of course, you're a busy man, and I should find this Lydia person, payment upfront us just smart business. Where might I find her?”

I haven't seen her, but if I do I'll send her your way.”

 

Rumor has it you're going to settle down, get married.”

Damn it.”

Let me guess, not your idea?”

Not even close.”

 

“Alec? What's wrong? Are you OK? What happened?” Izzy's right in his face, cupping his cheeks, careful not to disturb their little brother still sleeping. Alec blinks and eventually focuses on his sister, not a clue what just happened... except... memories? The first one of Magnus and himself at the institute, and the second with Lydia? So he knows her, too. And what the heck was that about getting married?

“I... don't, by any chance, have a wife you haven't told me about?” Alec's too stunned to figure out what he's feeling but Isabelle's eyes growing huge and hearing other people's gasps does not reassure him in the slightest. At least she quickly gets over her own shock. “No, no, absolutely not, no wife or girlfriend whatsoever, certainly not!” Alec exhales slowly, nodding, feeling fucking relieved. That would have been truly weird and many other things he doesn't care to even give chance to invade his mind.

Magnus literally stopped breathing, color draining from his face. Something had obviously triggered memories in Alec's mind, but him inquiring about a secret wife is truly more than Magnus can handle... and though Izzy is quick to quench that thought, he feels on edge and so unsettled he has to leave fast, get a drink or five and calm his nerves. Why the fuck does he remember that but not... It's no use, every memory is a success and hopefully bringing him closer to remembering the important parts! Like his damn warlock boyfriend!

At first, Alec wants to ask about Magnus' sudden departure, but he decides against it, having already enough of a mess in his head.

“So, you heard all that?” Jace inquires carefully, looking rather crestfallen. His brother just nods. “I don't appreciate you trying to keep things from me, especially those that concern me directly, I thought we established that before.” He can't help his voice sounding cutting, old anger at being lied to rekindling.

“We didn't mean to-”

“Don't then! I have a right to know these things, and-”

A sudden quiet groan coming from Max mutes him. Damn, he doesn't want to wake him! He's been through too much... everyone has... and just because of that thing in his head? He doesn't want it to be true! He doesn't want to have to live with that knowledge and the huge responsibility and even larger guilt and helplessness. He can't.

“Shh, everything's fine, you're fine, you're safe.” Alec caresses Max's hair again, talking soothingly to him.

“Alec... come back.” Max's soft mumbling is freezing his blood, threatening to overwhelm him. Alec just concentrates on his own breathing and comforting his little brother. “I'm here, Max, I'm right here, don't worry, just go back to sleep.”

And he does.

 

They were just quiet then and eventually Alec lifted Max carefully into his arms and took him upstairs to bed. He stayed for a little while, watching his little brother, making sure he stayed asleep before he left again.

 

 

“Alec-” Jace speaks but they're all watching him intently, all wanting to talk it out probably, but he doesn't actually want to right now. He just wants to... not think, and he's thirsty. He quickly leaves for the kitchen just to halt abruptly in the door when he sees Magnus, sipping from a whiskey glass, standing by the window, looking rather stressed-out for a second before he notices Alec and quickly hides whatever he's been feeling. Don't think about it, you know you don't want to.

“Uh, hi, I just... want a drink, um, I mean, something to drink, not alcohol.” He feels flustered without knowing the reason and quickly gets himself some water, gulping it down his parched throat.

Magnus, who feels caught somehow, though he's not even sure what of, just watches the tall man, relating to his thirst, just of a different kind. He could completely lose himself as he watches the movements of Alec's throat as he swallows, his tongue peeking out, licking over those lips that are made for kissing, kissing him. He has never known true restraint like in these last days being so very close to the man he's loved unconditionally for as long as he cares to remember - secretly thinking at times he may have loved him even before he knew him, that fate, or whatever had always planned for them to find each other, deeming any other love interest unworthy eventually – yet having to stay so far apart it is physically and emotionally rupturing him.

“Do you know why the library is locked up?” The question comes out of nowhere and Magnus must resemble a deer caught in a headlight. Alexander's looking at him anticipatory and his throat feels suddenly too dry to swallow.

Just tell him some story. It could have been an accident. Maybe you just don't know! Say something!

He's trying the swallowing thing again and vaguely manages. “I... it was... my fault...I did something... stupid and lost control of my... magic and I burnt it.” Magnus feels utterly vulnerable and naked, and curses himself for telling him all that, but he's been lying so much... has had to so many times, he just needs to be honest once in a while, even when it is sheer idiocy.

Alec feels dumbstruck, staring uninhibitedly – the whole library burnt down?! - but he quickly catches onto the shorter man's hunched shoulders, the way he doesn't meet his eyes, the tight and regretful expression on his face, his usually graceful body language non-existent. He looks so small, fragile and hurt, before Alec consciously acts he's stepped over to him, his arm coming up to place a comforting hand on the warlock's arm. He wants him to know that it's okay, he's not mad or even upset, just wanting to make him feel better. His hand almost touches Magnus' shoulder when he suddenly flinches backwards, seemingly shaking himself out of something, leaving Alec confused and very irritated. What the hell was that? Why doesn't he want me to touch him? Am I being paranoid? He clearly flinched away from me! I don't get it.

“In any case, I will fix it and I will do it right away, excuse me.” Alec watches in even more irritation as he leaves. He rubs his face and sighs, reminding himself that he shouldn't even try to figure some things out, certainly not Magnus Bane!

He's beyond livid with himself, for saying anything in the first place, for being incapable of keeping his emotions hidden once more, for letting Alec close just to run from him because he could hardly cope with having him so near, let alone being touched... he just can't do it. He'll have to make sure to not be alone with him anymore. It's getting too hard to control all his flared up feelings and outraged desires when it's just the two of them. He could never stay away from that face, those eyes, those lips, nose, cheeks, chin, forehead, all of it so perfect, so gorgeous, so smooth and warm and made for touching and kissing. And he hates himself for thinking about this above all these disastrous events... but how does he stop?

 

Feeling bewildered with just about everyone and everything, Alec goes back upstairs to check on Max who is thankfully still sleeping peacefully. If only I knew what to do, what I even could do. How can I stay here and hide while all these people are in danger? Do you really want such a coward as your big brother who's supposed to be a role model and a warrior?

 

 

He sighs quietly and tenderly caresses Max's forehead. His free hand is dangling, making contact with his jeans pocket, touching a bump that's not supposed to be there. Oh, he remembers now.

He takes the stone out and leaves the room silently, checking it over in better light. 

It looks the same as before, except when turning it and the beam of the light hits the protection rune, it's suddenly glowing. Alec frowns and turns it again, out of the light, it's just like the others, in the light it's glowing again. He runs his thumb over it and suddenly jerks, almost cries out with the extremely unexpected occurrence. He's shaking.

It's like a hologram, or actually, he thinks, that's exactly what it is! He closes his hand over the stone and it's gone. Damn, what now? He needs to find out, and heads into an empty room, locks it and opens his hand to check on the stone. It's just a stone again. He turns it so the light hits the protection rune, runs a finger along the glowing symbol and watches in fascination as the hologram appears once more.

And in it, his mother.

“Alec, when you see this, and I know you will figure it out, make sure you're on your own and hear me out, please!”

Well, he is alone... and now he doesn't really have a choice, he absolutely needs to know what this is all about.

“First and foremost, know this, no matter what you remember, I am your mother, and I love you and want to keep you safe! That has never changed and I hope you can trust me on this at least. However, hiding away somewhere you think The Clave won't find you may work for now, but certainly not forever. Your father and I have spoken to the council and we have made a deal with them on your behalf. All you have to do is come back, and let them help you! No one wants to hurt you, Alec, no matter what you think or what anyone may tell you. The Clave is as concerned with your safety and well-being as anyone, and more importantly, they have a way to rid you of this evil magic in your mind! I would never tell you to do this if I didn't have full faith in their words and actions. Please, Alec, you don't have to do this for me or your father, but you are our son, a leader and protector and for most of your life you have known this and followed this path, and I urge you to do this now. For your sister and your brothers and all the innocent victims in this. You cannot approve of their suffering, that isn't who you are! You're smart and compassionate and selfless and you need to be brave now. Surrender, let them take that thing out of you and you, and everyone else, can be free again, and all of this will be nothing but one bad dream soon. Alec, son, please make the right decision. Contact Alistair through this number.”

Digits appear in the blue light and Alec's mind is memorizing them automatically.

“I hope to see you very soon, Alec, I love you.”

The hologram fades and he's staring at the plain stone, thoughts and emotions running through him like a whirlwind and he can't grasp any of them. Focus!

He forces himself to breathe evenly and go through one thought at a time, ignoring feelings, they're just in the way and Jace will know something is up if he lets himself be overwhelmed by this... Don't feel, conceal, don't let it show. What is that? Another strange fracture of a memory? Of a song? He shakes it off, unable to deal with such nonsense now.

Their mother gave that stone to Max, hoping, or knowing he would find them...? If she knew... and she made a deal with The Clave, they knew... so they wanted Max to escape to find him? But did they track him then? No, well, even if, they couldn't find him now in this house! Okay, okay, breathe, stay focused. He's sure Max doesn't know the stone isn't just a stone or he would have told him. Their mother must have thought this to be the only way to get it to him. Because she wants him to surrender... save everyone, get rid of that devil in his head and be free himself. That's what she said. That's what he desperately wants to believe now. It would solve everything and he wouldn't even have to feel bad about it, no strings attached. Can I believe it?

But she's his mother! Even if she's not the most caring one, she couldn't but want the best for her children, for them to be safe. And he now has the means to guarantee theirs and everyone else's safety. He wanted to find a solution so badly and it just got served to him on a silver platter. It feels almost too good to be true.

He's just not sure... only of one thing. He can't let anyone else know about this. He thinks he knows them all well enough to know they would try everything to convince him otherwise. They're all so determined to keep him safe, it's as if they lost focus on the bigger picture, the greater good. And he won't even have to sacrifice himself! If he believes it...

For now he needs to hide the stone and think, but secretly and discreetly, he can't let anyone become suspicious, not until he made a decision. Though, probably not even then.


 

“Lydia said something else I've been thinking about.” Simon addresses everyone when Magnus joins them again. “She said that The Clave think they found a way to... extract that thing from Alec's mind.”

Magnus doesn't even try to hold back the snort. “Oh, but of course, the almighty Clave would know that when the rest of the world does not! And I'm sure all it would take is Alexander's life, but that's hardly any prize to pay for the common good, meaning The Clave to get their hands on whatever they think this is. What they cannot understand they need to control and if they cannot control it they need to possess it at the least.” Now Magnus has to control himself, his hatred for The Clave taking on a whole new level.

“Just make sure no one mentions this to Alec, in his current state he would probably believe it and at least think about giving himself up.” Isabelle warns, having her and Alec's conversation about this in mind, and she knows her big brother...

“That is never going to happen, over my dead body.” Magnus. “And mine.” Jace. Everyone else agrees. The Clave will never get their hands on Alec.

  

He doesn't know how but he's managing to stay rather calm and composed, maybe that training he's supposedly been doing all his life is paying off. He's glad no matter.

When he descends the stairs, he's immediately taking in how Clary and Jace lean on one another, their hands entwined. Isabelle and Simon almost the same picture, he just has his arm around her shoulders as well, and Magnus and Ragnor are standing by the window, talking quietly. An image of a sleeping, innocent Max appears in his mind and mingles with the scene before him. I could save them all, and more. How can I even hesitate?

And he knows his decision has been made for him, all he has to figure out is the how.

“Hey guys, how are you all?” He joins them casually, mustering a small smile and sits down in an armchair. He realizes that he probably never asked any of them about their feelings before. It is high time he stopped being so self-centered and selfish.

“I'm sorry for earlier, I don't seem to have my temper in check that well, but I get it and I guess, for now, we'll have to just wait and see what happens.” He's cursing himself a little for sounding so nonchalant and compliant suddenly. Would he do that? Well, no, he wouldn't, but maybe he's lucky and they won't question him too much right now, nothing is as it should be after all.

Just as he feared everyone is looking at him rather perplexed, having expected more of his offensive and determined, if valid, character traits to make another appearance. He looks rather accepting of the situation and it is making them wonder.

“Are you sure?” Izzy is scrutinizing him and he feels how he's starting to shake underneath his masked exterior.

“Yes, Izzy, I'm sure. There isn't exactly much we could do right now, is there? And at least we're all safe here, and Max... he can't be harmed here, and I guess everyone, Luke and your mother and all the others, they can take care of themselves, and maybe join us later.” He feels as if he's acting, which is probably exactly what he's doing, but he started this and he knows why he's doing it, so he has to stick it out now.

As he glances at everyone's faces they all seem to really ponder about what he said and he's trying not to feel anxious. His gaze suddenly drops to the table, Clary's phone. He'll have to get it somehow. A wave of guilt and betrayal rolls over him all of a sudden but he manages to keep it at bay and push it down again. He's not doing this to harm them! He's doing this for them. To protect them and to make sure, no matter what, they won't be hurt. Also, imagine this working out and he'll get his memories back and actually know what's what and what's real and finally understand all those weird and confusing sensations and emotions... especially connected to Magnus. That would be incredibly satisfactory. Feeling bad about his intention doesn't count, he has to listen to his head now and shut off his heart.

He freezes as his eyes connect with Jace's and he's so sure that his Parabatai found him out and knows. He's actually holding his breath.

Jace smiles softly and nods at him. “I think he's right and we should try and make the best of it, you never know what opportunity might open up soon, and we'll have to be prepared.”

Alec is so relieved. Thanks, Jace. I'm sorry.

“Alright, but for now, let's prepare some cocktails, and don't worry, there will be non alcoholic ones, for yourself, and Max.” Magnus gives him a small wink, not exactly at ease, not even close to it, but Alexander's change of heart does seem lucky just now and he'll need to think more about a lot of things, and he likes doing that while being creative and drinking, sue him.

To Alec's surprise everyone seems rather fond of the idea, probably just to do something other than sitting around idle and staring into space and they're all heading for the kitchen, Clary leaving her phone behind.

Just as he's taken it, her voice suddenly sounds from behind him and he swiftly pushes it as deeply into his front pocket as he can, leaving his hand hovering over it and turns to face her, hoping against hope that she didn't notice anything.

“Aren't you joining us?” He nods quickly. “Oh, no, yeah, I mean, I will, I just... need a quick shower and check on Max, but I'll be there in fifteen tops.” His heart is hammering in his chest.

She smiles softly. “Alright, don't keep us waiting.” He quickly shakes his head, making sure he looks sincere and exhales deeply once she's gone. He totally sucks at sneaking around, but he got lucky again.

He's glad he made up a plan in his mind already so as soon as he's upstairs he can proceed. He uses the phone's GPS to track their location and checks the nearest border. Perfect. Then he punches in the phone number from the hologram but suddenly he gets another idea. He won't be able to explain anything to them, he already knows that, but he can do one thing.

He quickly tapes himself with the video function and saves the video. Then he takes a deep breath, calms himself as much as possible and calls the number. It doesn't ring twice before someone picks up. He recognizes the voice. Alec's determined to do this on his terms and he needn't argue. Alistair will meet him at the border in a few hours and he reassures him, just like his mother, that no one will come to any harm, especially not Alec himself. There is still a small voice somewhere inside him that is warning him, but he has to ignore it to do this. He has to ignore everything that could get in the way. He must!

After he ends the call he feels lighter, there is no going back now, and he did the right thing for his family and friends, and all those people. It will be fine.

He then figures out how to send the video message at about the time he's supposed to meet Alistair, so there's no risk of anyone finding it sooner, and after a moment of wondering he sets it to be send to Magnus. Then he deletes the video and the call, quickly dresses something else so they won't question his shower story, checks on Max, and heads downstairs, leaving the phone on the table before he joins the others in the kitchen. He'll have to keep the act going for a few more hours now, then, soon, everything will be back to normal, and they'll forgive him. He hopes.

 

Chapter Text

Thankfully everyone's quite into making cocktails and there's a ton of fruits on the table as well, Isabelle insisting on making fruity ones and a bowl of punch.

“What are you guys doing?” All heads turn with the arrival of Max, still looking rather sleepy, rubbing his eyes and immediately brightening up at seeing the fruits (he loves them, all of them, except grapefruit) and Alec and everyone seemingly in a good mood.

“Hey sleepyhead, we're making drinks for everyone, what do you want?” Izzy.

Max first heads to where Alec is seated and hugs him, enjoying his brother's strong squeeze and then he settles down next to him. “All of that.” He's pointing towards the cut fruits on a plate in front of him before he starts digging in. Alec can't but genuinely smile at his little brother.

Everyone's staring for a moment too long, all knowing and having seen those smiles of his that literally light up a whole room and change the atmosphere, making him breathtakingly beautiful, but they haven't in a very long time and weren't sure if they ever again would.

Ragnor actually takes Magnus by his shoulders to turn him around to conceal the way he's been staring at Alec, mouth agape and eyes huge and glistening, showing so many unguarded emotions of adoration, love and longing, it would be almost impossible to explain them away. Luckily Alec seems to have only eyes for Max.

Magnus feels shot or stabbed or punched so hard he's fighting for his breath, blinking furiously to keep those many unshed tears inside. That smile is too much for him, too unexpected, too gorgeous, too much of a reminder of what he lost. Clary noticed his dismay and is quick to start a conversation including the others to distract from Magnus' inner battle. After a couple of minutes he managed to calm himself enough to breathe properly again. He quickly downs a strong cocktail and shakes the remaining prickling sensations off, that image of Alexander will stay with him for all eternity, though. Like tens of thousands more.


 

They've stayed in the kitchen, playing card games. But he has trouble concentrating. Alec's mind seems to want to unleash today. Several bits of memories get loose throughout the next couple of hours, more about Lydia, the two of them being with Luke at some place, checking on a corpse that looks like a zombie, then he's at a morgue with her and she's talking about calling in Magnus for help, then they're talking about an alliance between their families, then Jace is pointing at him, calling out a warning before he vanishes in a portal with a mean looking bald guy, and Clary loses it, he's holding a baby, Max? He's giving his little brother a piggyback ride, he's fighting some boy, breaking his nose. Then he's back at the institute, using his stele to hide some card with a cup, Clary's thanking him but he's telling her not to misread this for friendship, back to Lydia telling him about her lost love, back to the institute with another Shadowhunter... Hodge? Then he's working the punching bag and Magnus suddenly appears, suggesting him to live for himself and follow his heart...

Bits and pieces about everyone and nothing he really understands. His mind is on overload and he can't begin to analyze one scene when the next jumps right in, giving him a bad headache. He's trying not to let any of that show this time, not wanting to draw more attention than necessary. Jace has been giving him strange looks as it is but he just shook his head and continued playing somehow.

He'll also have to leave soon. It's so real suddenly, he feels kicked in the gut, and a little sick, also he's starting to feel the potion's magic fade, slowly, but surely.

Probably high time he left anyway. It's done. He can't go back on his word, even if he wanted to. And looking at each of the people around him, he would never forgive himself if he did let them down. They'll be protected here and they'll have each other. He better do this.

All eyes are on him again as he gets off his chair. “Are you okay? You look bad.” Max is definitely concerned, and honest. Alec musters a smile and ruffles his dark-blond hair. “Nah, just a bit tired and I need to go to the bathroom, don't mind me and take over for me, will you?”

“Alright, but come back soon!” Max slides over onto his chair. Alec swallows painfully, forcing every unwelcome feeling far away. “Yeah.” He can't say anything else, he has to go, now.

All he takes is his jacket, the one they found him in. He takes the backdoor to head outside which is further away from the kitchen. He can't risk anyone noticing. He runs to the van, knowing the keys are still inside as no one bothered to take them out once they arrived. He starts the engine, hoping again that it's not loud enough to alert anyone and then he's racing as speedily as he can towards the border. It will take him about 20 minutes more or less, and then... he wipes away a few tears, angry at himself, needing to be stronger than this, trying to convince himself that nothing bad will happen, not to any of them and soon not to anyone else, and hopefully not to him, either... but if... then at least he'll know everyone he cares about is safe.

 

After about ten minutes Jace goes to check on Alec, in every bathroom, all of them empty. He checks his bedroom and others, nothing. He frowns deeply as he joins the others again. “Guys, I don't think Alec's still-” He trails off, staring at Magnus, as is everyone else, a chilly, awkward unrest spreading throughout their bodies at the look of sheer horror on his face.

Alec's voice is suddenly filling the silence in the room, coming from Magnus' phone. He got a message and was very puzzled over the sender being Clary, why would she send him a message? And a video at that? When they've been in the same room and she's not even been near her phone.

Once the video starts and everyone's rushing next to and behind Magnus to see, realization floods them like a shockwave, the most terrifying disbelief keeping them all glued to the small screen.

“Guys, I know this will come as a shock to you, and I'm so sorry for that, but I need to do this, it's the only way to guarantee everyone's safety. I got a message from our mother, and she promised that The Clave won't harm anyone if I surrender and they have found a way to get rid of that thing in my head, without endangering me, so everything will be fine, just trust me, please. I can't sit here and wait while innocent people suffer because of me. And I need to know that you're all okay. And I will be fine and we will all be together again soon. Please understand. I... gotta go, when you see this I'll be long gone, so don't try anything, please, everything will be alright.”

Magnus' hands are shaking so hard by now the phone falls to the floor but no one gives a damn. “Check everywhere, outside!” They're all running out, except Magnus whose legs won't work with him, he's shaking like a leaf in a storm and has to grab onto the table for support, Alexander's words resounding in his mind, what's worse the meaning behind them, and all he doesn't know, doesn't realize, doesn't remember... yet he's doing what he's been doing all his life, putting everyone else before himself, even if it costs him his own life, and Magnus knows Alec's not naïve enough to fully believe that story, but he's still prepared to sacrifice himself. Magnus can't breathe anymore, he may never breathe again. And once he gets his hands on Maryse he may just damage her irreparably. Or worse, he will kill them all-

“Magnus! The van's gone!” They're all back, watching him desperately, counting on him to do something. And for once, he can.

Seconds later they're all in the van, tumbling over each other in the narrow space. To their dismay, Alec's not there anymore.

 

To us.”

They toast to each other, take a sip of their respective drinks, he's pulling a face, wincing at the weird taste.

Magnus is smirking softly.

There are gold-blond highlights in his long bangs, he's wearing a burgundy velvet top with lots of gold adorning the fine fabric, necklaces of several lengths around his neck. Glittery makeup around his eyes. His silver earcuff. He's quite mesmerizing.

Why did you ask for me? When Jace and Clary were both here?”

Jace didn't tell you?”

He shakes his head while Magnus turns and walks towards the huge window overlooking the city. “Doesn't matter, it was a lie anyway.”

Are warlocks always this cryptic?” He turns more towards him, studying the back of Magnus' head.

I'm not being cryptic, I'm being coy.”

Magnus turns to look at him again, stepping closer. “Let me spell it out for you, I wanted to see you again.”

He can't fathom why he would. “Why?”

Why'd you come?” Magnus looks rather hopeful.

I'm not sure.” Too many thoughts in his head, nothing discernible.

For almost a century I've closed myself off to feeling anything for anyone, man or woman. You've unlocked something in me.” Magnus looks almost... vulnerable, like he's not seen him before.

 

Alec almost crashes the van, gasping for breath, his feelings so intense with that memory that came out of nowhere, overwhelming him. And it's not over, yet.

 

There's no conversation to be had, I'm getting married. You and I, we understand marriage very differently. I'm a Shadowhunter, this is about family and tradition, honor.”

Honor? Where's the honor in living a lie?”

What are you talking about?”

What about love? Even Shadowhunters fall in love, Alec. Just tell me you're in love with Lydia, and I'll stop.” Magnus is wearing a navy blue silk top this time, showing some skin, a few necklaces, dark eyeshadow, his hair just black but no less stunning.

I don't know. Why do you keep pushing? Th, this is... y... you're confusing me!” He walks away but turns and looks at the warlock again.

Confusion is part of it, that's how you find out if something's there! Emotions are never black and white, they're more like symptoms.” He's moving around him now. “You lose your breath, every time they enter a room. Your heart beats faster when they walk by. Your skin tingles when they stand close enough to feel their breath.”

 

Alec screams and pushes the break hard. He's sweating and panting and his heart is pumping insanely fast. What the fuck is happening?! Magnus?!

He doesn't get chance to think. He's here, and he can see Alistair and a dozen guards with him, also the warlock from before. Shit! Don't panic, just don't panic! It's going to be okay! You need to do this! Get your memories back before this drives you completely nuts!

He takes a couple of deep breaths, rubs his face and leaves the van, trying to walk with confidence, willing his limbs to stop shivering. He's regarding everyone suspiciously, his gut feeling, his intuition, his common sense, the voice in his head telling him to run. But he mustn't. Alistair nods at him which he returns hesitantly and when the taller, intimidating man turns to the warlock she opens a portal for them, the guards slowly moving in closer, Alistair gripping him by the elbow and pulling him towards the portal. Alec feels numb with trepidation suddenly. He wants to struggle so badly, get away, just get away! He can't, he must not, he has to do this, for them!

“ALEC!” His head whips around in shock. How are they here?! He's dragged through the portal forcefully, the last thing he sees are Magnus' glowing cat eyes.

  

They quickly leave the van and spot them immediately, they run and shout, Magnus using inhuman speed to catch up with them, in the last second being pulled back from Jace's strong grip on him, having caught up with the warlock in the last possible moment to rescue him from eternal limbo.

Magnus' scream is otherworldly and soul-crushing and Jace is hauled through the air for a moment before landing rather harshly on the ground, but he's lucky, nothing seems to be broken.

Everyone is feeling delirious despair, and they can only watch what's unfolding in front of them, unable to fathom one coherent thought, incapable of moving a single muscle.

Magnus' arms are stretched out at his sides, his head strained upwards. His blue magic is swirling all around him, starting a whirlwind around him, gaining speed and strength, the blue energy turning to black, getting more and more ferocious, faster and furious. When he suddenly turns, his face is a bleak grimace, his eyes dark, almost black with wickedly glowing yellow splotches.

Ragnor is as shocked as everyone else at seeing his oldest friend like this, but he's the first to react and pushes them all backwards towards where Jace is sitting paralyzed on the ground. “Stay together and don't move!” The warlock instructs and uses his own magic to weave a cocoon around them, to keep them protected from the roaring storm that's about to befall them.

“MAX! NO! COME BACK! MAX!” Isabelle screams in pure panic. Her little brother has gotten away from them, he's running, fighting his way through the angry tempest caused by Magnus' dark magic. Ragnor's keeping them put with his magic, scared of what might happen otherwise, but unable to do anything about Max, who has almost reached Magnus now, who seems to consist of just darkness, woven into the demonic, spiraling blackness all around him. Max can barely set a foot behind the other, the storm threatening to blast him off his feet, but he manages to grab onto Magnus' leg and pulls himself closer, clinging in a death grip to the warlock who doesn't resemble anything they've ever known any longer. Max pulls himself up, wraps his arms around Magnus' waist, and closes his eyes, the storm taking them both over.

He wants to give up his humanity, forever be freed of every pain known to existence. He's ready to give into the darkness in himself for all eternity, to never feel anything ever again. He's close, so close.

He barely perceives two small arms around him, a small body pressed into his own, desperately holding onto him. It doesn't matter anymore, nothing, no one.

Max. Alexander. No. They may as well be dead, all dead. But they're not! They're not... he can't abandon them! He mustn't... even if he will live entirely in agony forever... he can't do it. There's not going to be any salvation for him. Not if he loses them now.

The storm fades suddenly, a breathless silence falling, everyone is staring in consternation.

Magnus, void of every drop of magic and strength, collapses. Max is still holding onto him, falling with the man onto his side, not letting go, tears streaming down his face, tears flooding Magnus' eyes when he opens them to watch the boy, overcome by infinite reverence and mournfulness. He manages to close his arms around the small figure, sobbing heart-rendingly into his shoulder.


 

Alec's distressed, wishing he could have had time to explain... but he did, in the message, but obviously they didn't take that as well as he'd hoped! They almost... no, they're safe... and he's... not in Idris, that much he can tell from being there once before. He has no idea where they are and Alistair won't answer his questions, the grip the man has on him unfaltering. Alec can't help this restless, sinister feeling in his gut as he's led into a square, grey building and down into a shaft, along a tunnel that seems neverending, nothing but grey walls and grey doors, strange yellow light.

Again he asks where they are and where they're going, and again he's not getting an answer. One of the doors suddenly opens and he's led inside, the man's grip on him finally disappearing as he's left behind, the door locking from the outside.

There's a chair and a table, as grey as the walls, no window. One door.

He's not sure whether he's ever felt so unsettled, and he can't shake the foreboding that he may have made a huge mistake.

 

Chapter Text

Nothing happened, for an hour, maybe two. Alec has been pacing the small room, from wall to wall, sat down on the hard, cold chair for a time, picked up pacing again, banged against the door several times, shouting for someone to come and tell him what was going on, never getting a response. He is trying not to panic, not fully.

Maybe they've been preparing the extraction, maybe they've been letting everyone go which could take a while... maybe he is completely delusional and will never get out of this room again.

He stands frozen, his heart almost exploding as the door finally opens and Alistair steps inside, holding a small bottle containing a strangely moving purple liquid.

“Alec, sorry to keep you waiting, there are a lot of matters to attend to at the moment, I'm sure you understand. Please, sit.” The man gestures to the chair and Alec forces himself to take a breath again, calm down, and sits.

“Is everyone okay? You said they'd all be free to go if I came.” He doesn't trust this man, from the first moment he saw him enter the institute, this unapproachable aura, cold eyes, and every movement, every word measured exactly, calculated. Alec feels an icy shudder spreading all over his body as Alistair regards him clinically.

“We're working on it, but first, we're going to have a conversation, you and I, to clear a few things.” There isn't even emotion in his voice, it's just... sterile.

“What's there to say? You already know everything and I'm here, you can just get the thing out of me and examine it for yourself, I don't have any answers.” Alec feels smaller than he ever has, at least what he remembers, with that man towering above him, only the table between them, providing hardly any safety. But he's determined to stand his ground anyway.

“Let me be the judge of that. And don't worry, we will get it out, but first, drink this.” Alec blinks and stares at the purple flask. I'm meant to drink this?! No way!

“Why? What is that?” His voice isn't as strong as he'd hoped.

“A potion to guarantee you will tell the truth when you answer my questions, that should speed proceedings up a little.” Alec's eyes widen in shock and he's shuddering worse as his eyes meet Alistair's unblinking ones.

“I... will tell you the truth without this.” He's got nothing to hide. And he'd rather not drink any potion which doesn't come from Magnus. Magnus! Those flashes... Shit, concentrate!

“Alexander,” Alec winces at the way his name is spoken so callously, such a stark contrast to the litheness in Magnus' voice, “we can do this one of two ways. Either you fully cooperate, or I'm going to have to make you, it's your choice.”

Oh yeah? What kind of a choice is that exactly? Alec feels defiance grow strong in him, but he doesn't really want to find out how this man would make him drink this. And hopefully afterwards, they can finally move on. To what exactly, though? He can't let himself think too far, he knows emotions, fear especially, would get the best of him otherwise. One step at a time. He glances back at the flask, takes it and opens the small cork.

“Any side effects I should know about?” He's glad he manages to at least muster up a bit of snideness towards this daunting stranger.

“None whatsoever, and I guarantee the effect will let up quickly once we're finished.” Right. Has he always been so stupidly trusting? Or is he really just so desperate to believe what these people, his mother and Alistair basically, are telling him?

Deep down he knows he shouldn't have been so quick to throw himself into this. He has no way of defending himself, he's trapped and seemingly at this man's mercy. And he shouldn't trust a word he's telling him. But what choice do I have now?

Before he can drive himself crazy he swallows down the purple potion. It tastes rather foul, not comparable to Magnus' modified one. He feels an aching pang in his chest, fluids behind his eyes, he shakes his head and tries to focus.

“Are you feeling alright?” Alistair's scrutinizing gaze on him hasn't faltered even slightly, if anything, Alec can feel the man's cold eyes bore into him more.

“No.” What the...? He didn't mean to say that! Truth potion. Oh shit.

Alistair actually smirks, and it looks like a grimace. Alec's trying his best not to tremble.

“Did you leave New York voluntarily or against your will?”

Alec blinks confusedly, not expecting such a question, but honestly, he doesn't have any clue what to expect.

“Voluntarily.”

“Why did you run? Who was with you?”

Shouldn't he already know that? “Because you, The Clave, sent demons after us! We weren't safe. Isabelle, Jace, Clary and Magnus.”

“Did anyone else join you at any time?”

Why does he need to know that? He said they'd all be free and safe! “Why...” It's as if something is winding itself into his thoughts, takes a hold of the ones it wants and pulls them out of his head before forcing them out of this mouth.

“Ragnor, Simon and Max.” Damnit! He really can't lie, not even evade.

“Why weren't we able to track you?” The man sounds like a machine, shooting out questions, unmoving and unfeeling.

“The... house's magic kept us hidden.”

“What house?”

“The... warlocks' safehouse, you can only enter if you know the spell.” He did not want to tell him this, but he has no control over his thoughts or his mouth any longer. It's a horribly familiar feeling, but this seems even worse.

“Do you know the spell? Who performed it?”

“No, Magnus and Ragnor.”

“Are your accomplices still at the house?”

Accomplices? What? He shakes his head quickly, pain shooting into his temples. “I don't know.” They may have gone back, he hopes so as it might still be the only place for them to truly be protected.

“Do you know where the magic in your mind comes from?”

“No.”

“Do you know who put it there?”

“No.”

“Do you know where you were for the last seven months you were vanished?”

“No. I don't remember anything about that.”

“Do you remember anything about who took you?”

Alec wants to say no, but that's not the whole truth. “Just... red eyes... and coldness.”

“Has anyone tried to extract the thing from your mind, and if so, who and why?”

His first impulse is to shake his head but then he suddenly remembers Magnus at the institute, but he doesn't want to answer any more! He presses his lips shut tightly, feeling cold sweat build on his forehead, the headache getting stronger, this invisible force in him becoming fiercer, eventually forcing the words out of him.

“Yes, Magnus, to help.” He's panting, holding his temples.

“Help with what?”

“Me! To get rid of that thing and return my memories.”

“Do you know what his ulterior motives were? Does he want to possess it for himself?”

“No, he doesn't... I don't know!” Just stop!

“Do you trust him? And the others?”

“Yes!”

“Why?”

“Because... they're my family, my friends.”

“So, your family and friends couldn't lie to you and deceive you?”

Alec wants to shout NO at him, but he can't. It's not the truth. Alistair seems satisfied with that.

“Have any memories returned to you?”

“Yes... some, of different people and different situations.”

Alistair is relentless, wanting to know more about the memories, the safe house, what they did and talked about, whether anyone had any incriminating information about The Clave, himself, or plans to act against them in any way.

Alec is extremely exhausted once the interrogation seems to end, Magnus' potion must have almost run out of magic. He just wants to sleep...

But he can't!

“Please, can you take it out now? I will... I can't fall asleep again, but I will, very soon.” Every fiber of his body is already struggling against the cursed unconsciousness. It needs to happen now!

“What happens when you do?”

“I... the nightmares will return.”

“What nightmares? What happens in them?”

“The nightmares that come whenever I'm unconscious. I get tortured or killed, and so do my friends and family. I can't go through it anymore. Please, you have to get it out of me now!” Alec hates himself for sounding, for being so desperate, but it's taking up all of his last strength to stay awake long enough for them to do... whatever it is they'll do. He hardly cares now, he just needs it out of his head!

Alistair regards him intently, a slight frown creasing his forehead, which is more expression than he's shown all this time. That doesn't ease Alec's mind in the slightest, however.

“Interesting.” The man finally mutters, turns and leaves, and though Alec calls out for him and leaps at the door, it's already locked again and he sinks down against it, fighting the urge to close his eyes. It's all your own damn fault! You did this to yourself!

A spark of hope flares up when only minutes later the door opens again and he just about manages not to get knocked out by it. There are two guards, grabbing him and hauling him to his feet. “What's happening? Where are you taking me?”

Why is no one ever telling him anything?! He can only hope he's on his way to wherever they'll rid him of that devil, and that it won't take long!

One of the guards opens a door, the room inside as grey as all the rest, but instead of a chair and a table there's a bed. Alec stares for a moment in disbelief, intuition screaming at him that this isn't the place where he'll be freed.

“No, please! Don't do this! I can't sleep! I can't!” He's fighting, pushing, kicking and shouting, but the guards are much stronger than him in his very weakened state and they force him to lie down on his back and strap his hands and legs to it.

All his screaming and struggling doesn't do him any good, if anything, it makes him pass out quicker. The last thing his subconscious notices is a device next to him, resembling a video camera.


“Magnus?” Ragnor's cautiously touching his best friend's shoulder, crouched down next to the warlock and the boy who are still tightly embraced, but their bodies aren't shaking from crying any longer. The other four came over, sat down close to them and are still leaning on each other, giving Max and Magnus the space they needed. They don't know what to say anyway.

Max's head moves slowly, his red, swollen eyes searching out his friend's. Magnus meets the boy's gaze hesitantly. He's like a dried up ocean and Max is soft rain, beginning to slowly fill and revive him again. “We have to get him back, Magnus. We can't leave him there, they'll hurt him.” A single tear leaves another wet trail on the boy's cheek and Magnus is shell-shocked before Max's words finally sink in.

He lets go of him carefully and they sit up. He wipes his face and looks around him, his friends are all here, looking as if they've been through hell and back, several times, but they're here, they're still with him. He can see it in their eyes. They won't abandon him, not even now.

Max helps Magnus up when the warlock falters, seems to still be stricken from using that incredible power earlier. The others get up and stand before him, watching him closely, so pained and still worried about him, caring so deeply, for him. He has never internalized how much not only they have become part of his life, but he has also become part of theirs. At times he can be quite dumb. A tiny smile is curling around his lips.

He's holding Max's hand, pulls the boy close again, bends his head down and squeezes him tightly. “Thank you, my friend, I won't ever forget it.” Then he lets go of him and walks straight for Jace whose eyes grow incredibly big when he realizes that, for the first time ever, Magnus is about to hug him, and after a moment of shock he hugs him back emphatically.

“I am so sorry, Jace, please forgive me.” Magnus is holding back more tears and feels the utmost relief when he feels Jace's arms tighten around him. And he knows he isn't just apologising for hurting him earlier, but also, even more so, for having failed to acknowledge how brilliantly strong he is, and has been his whole life, growing up with an abusive father and going through so much hardship, yet fighting it and dealing with it, coming out greater and better and doing his best to be there for the people he cares about, and he cares for Magnus, and Magnus truly cares for him, and not just because of Alexander anymore.

He feels beyond ashamed as he finally fully admits it to himself, but Jace has, for a long time, just been the annoyance that had this unique bond with Alexander that Magnus was afraid to never reach, he was jealous and threatened by Jace and would never let himself get fully past this pettiness and see the young man for who and all he really is. Magnus is very grateful for having been given another chance in so many ways, and maybe once they get Alec back, he can work on forgiving himself.

“There's nothing to forgive, Magnus. I... I can't feel him.” Jace's voice breaks and Magnus swallows hard. “Don't worry, just magic.” That's all he can allow himself to think it is.

Jace quickly wipes a tear away and they stand back to look at each other in deep understanding. Alec has always been their one connection, their one reason to overcome their animosity and often petty arguments. They've grown with him and because of him and they will do whatever it takes to not lose him, but they have also grown to earnestly care for each other, and they finally get that.

Magnus nods softly, and looks at each one of the most important people apart from Alexander in his life. Even Simon, he'd never have thought to grow so fond of the vampire, but he has a very soft spot for him and his nerdy passions and his heart of gold.

They all possess their own unique kind of strength and he is so much stronger with them. They are all so special and important to him, and they could never go on without Alexander. He turns to Max, the bravest, funniest, cleverest and most adorable boy he's ever known who reminds him a lot of his big brother, and sister, and sometimes even of Jace. His family. They're all...

His hands ball into fists as his face becomes hard with resoluteness. “Yes, Max, we will most definitely get our Alexander back.” He feels as if he's healing just by seeing the hopeful smiles on everyone's faces.

  

Ragnor opens a portal to spare Magnus' recovering magic, and they quickly get what they need from the house, this time Jace makes sure they also have Alec's bow and quiver, and then they portal to Catarina and ask her for help, next they find Luke and Jocelyn and the remaining wolves, then they get Raphael and the vampires and when everyone's filled in on their plan, they all portal straight to Idris to basically run The Clave into the ground.

“Be sure to be especially careful of that warlock, her magic is quite extraordinary.” Magnus reminds his friends. “Oh yeah, I think her name's Rayna, like that singer from Nashville.” Simon suddenly remembered.

“Well, Sean, this Rayna can do a little more than sing us to oblivion, so watch out.” Magnus feels great with all the support around him, powerful, ready to fight and conquer. And his sassy sarcasm is back full force.

“Well, Mags, I know that!” Simon retorts smugly but his face is quickly wiped of it when he sees the warlock's gravely wicked look. “Call me that again and I will make you puke toads for a week, the very slimy ones.”

Simon's mouth drops open. “Bu... but you call me weird names all the time!” He's indignant.

“So? Can you make me puke toads?” Magnus deadpans as Simon's searching for a comeback but in the end just looks defeated. “You have to be sure of your personal assets, my friend, only then can you play in league with the big bad wolves.” Magnus' eyes are sparkling brilliantly.

“Did someone call for me?” Luke appears at Magnus' side who's smirking at his friend. “Good to have you all back.” The tall man smiles softly and earnestly.

“Not all, not yet.” Magnus isn't even trying to hide his pain but he's also never been more purposeful.

Luke nods, knowing how grave the success of this mission is, every single one of them does. “We'll get him back, let's do this.”

They can all agree on that as Catarina, Ragnor, and Magnus start combining their magic to breach the building's wards, all of their allies dispersing to surround the enemies.

They did not expect it to be this easy, and for everyone there running around like headless chickens, barely taking notice of them. They all stay alert, in fighting stance as they slowly move in further, wondering where all the guards are.

“Magnus Bane!” Their heads shoot upwards. On top of the big staircase they spot the Inquisitor. She's staring down at them before descending the steps. “You can put down your weapons.” She addresses all of them, Isabelle, Simon, Clary, Jace, Ragnor, and Magnus having stayed close together, while Max is with Jocelyn at a safer distance.

“Do you honestly think we are that stupid? I give you exactly one minute to bring me to Alexander, and should you not comply we will demolish this sacred site of yours, until no brick is left whole.” To make sure she knows how serious he is, he loses the glamour on his eyes, blue flames dancing dangerously around his hands.

The sheer look of confusion on her face startles him and troubles him deeply, but he's not going to back down, he'll never trust anyone of these people ever again.

“I didn't know Alec Lightwood is missing. He is not here.”

“Don't lie, woman! You took him, Alistair and that warlock witch! We saw it! So, don't you dare tell me lies!” His magic is flaring up all around him, just about holding back from destroying something, or her. She steps back, a little shocked and frightened.

“Alistair is no longer with The Clave. He betrayed us, stole the Mortal Cup, and the warlock is with him, as are almost all the guards, doing his bidding. He has been acting on his own for a while now, deceiving the Council and manipulating us all into giving way to what must have been his plan from the start. They're not here and no one here knows where they are. I have no reason to lie to you, we've been doing damage control since they left.” The worst is how sincere she looks, but he still can't believe her!

“Tell the others to turn over every single stone until they find him!” If what she said is true... they could be anywhere and with that warlock's power, she could be hiding them too well to find. He won't believe it, not until he must.

They've been searching for over an hour when everyone's back, looking apologetic, disappointed and defeated. There isn't any trace of Alec, Alistair, or the warlock.

“He's not here, I told you. We've acted against the law and that shame will stay with us for a long time, but this is Alistair's doing. He's been obsessed with finding out what's hidden in Alec Lightwood's mind, believing it's some kind of power we haven't ever seen before and it looks like he wants it all to himself.” The Inquisitor's words are inflicting immeasurable upset in Magnus. His magic disappears as he starts to sway, still not having regained all of his strength yet, and Jace is quick to steady him. “We'll find him, Magnus, he has to be somewhere, we can track them all, one of them has to lead us to where he is.” Magnus meets the Shadowhunter's worried eyes and gets himself under control again.

He nods. “Let's do that.” He turns back to the woman. “Where are Lydia and the Lightwoods?”

“Lydia was captured by Alistair, I assume she's wherever he is, and the Lightwoods are back at the institute doing damage control from there, also everyone who was captured has been let go, as far as we had control over it.”

“I hope you are aware that this will have dire consequences.” Magnus is right in her face and relishes at the fear and regret he can depict in her eyes. “We've been deceived as well, he even sent demons after some of us.” Trying to talk her way out of this? No such luck.

“We'll be seeing each other, and should you hear from Alistair or anyone who knows anything about where Alexander is and fail to contact me, I will thrive in being your personal nightmare for as long as you shall be granted life.” He stares her down so there's not a spark of doubt left in her mind about how serious he is, then turns and marches out, everyone else following close behind.

“What do we do now?” Simon inquires as they're all back with Jocelyn and Max, who is trying his best to suppress his dismay at the absence of his big brother.

Luke hands Magnus something, a jacket, black and gold, something Magnus might enjoy wearing himself. “A. C., Alistair Clairmont.” Magnus' smile is nothing but predatory and his friends are exceptionally glad to see it.

“So, Stefan, does that answer your question?” Simon rolls his eyes at Magnus' sassiness, but is unable to hide his broad grin. “Go on then, impress us.”


There is no darkness, no losing of senses, no falling and breaking bones. He's not even realizing he's dreaming. He's in the same room as before, grey walls, grey chair, grey table. He's alone, pacing, waiting, trying not to panic.

He's expecting Alistair to come right in and interrogate him again, make him drink another despicable potion, but not this time, he won't!

He's leaning with his forehead against the cold wall, eyes closed, calming his breathing. A sudden, urgent cold shower is running from his neck down his spine, and he just knows that someone's in the room with him, even though he didn't hear a sound.

He opens his eyes, his body fully tense and turns slowly. Upon seeing the person he feels puzzled more than anything else. There's someone sat on the chair, a brown cloth bag over his head, he guesses it's a man from the broad shoulders.

He just stares for a minute, trying to make sense of it but nothing makes sense anymore. And he needs to find out who it is and why he's here and what's wrong. He hopes he won't find a dead man below the cloth.

Nervous tingles spread in waves over his body as he slowly walks closer. Why isn't he moving?

His hand is slowly, shakily reaching for the cloth, he's holding his breath.

He almost yells, jerking backwards, hitting the wall as the person moved so suddenly, shaking his torso, givng off a painful moan. Maybe he was unconscious?

He takes a deep breath and wills himself to move closer again, at least he knows the man isn't dead! He quickly pulls the cloth over his head and gasps in shock.

Jace?!” His features soften and a smile is spreading, soon replaced by disarray.

Jace is gagged and chained to the chair, but that's not what's confusing him. It's that look of pure terror in his brother's multicolored eyes, as they're staring right at him.

Jace, what's wrong?” He pulls the gag from his mouth, or tries to as Jace turns his head quickly, moving his whole body to get away from him, unsuccessfully so but fright makes him try.

He doesn't understand.

Jace, are you scared of me? It's me, Alec! I won't hurt you! Let me help!” He moves quickly and manages to pull the gag out this time.

Get away from me, stay away!!” Jace is panting, spitting, his face red with the strain, struggling even more to get free which is futile judging from how tight the ropes are around his ankles and wrists, but he doesn't even seem to notice.

Alec is so taken aback he backs away until his back hits the wall and he steadies himself, staring dumbfounded at his brother. He really is terrified of him...

He watches him until he seems to give up fighting, his eyes piercing Alec defiantly. “I know you'll kill me but you won't get away with it!” Jace spits at him coldly and Alec freezes with icy shock. KILL HIM?!

J... Jace, what is going on with you? I'm not going to kill you! I'm your brother! Your Parabatai! What... who did this to you?” Someone must have put a spell on him, or something like that! He can't know who he is, he can't.

Jace chuckles humorlessly. “I know exactly who you are, Alec.” He says his name like a curse and Alec feels knocked off his feet.

Why don't you stop pretending and just get it over with?” Jace spits again, such hatred and fury in his eyes, Alec feels smaller than an inch.

I'm not going to hurt you, Jace, no matter what you think right now, I'm your friend and I'd never-” His eyes fall on the table suddenly, more precisely at the dagger that appeared out of air and is lying in wait.

Alec feels drawn to it, unable to take his eyes off of the shiny blade. He feels electrified, powerful, invincible.

Liar! A liar and a killer, that's what you are! And there's your proof!” Jace shouts at him as Alec's blinking, pulling his eyes away from the weapon. What's wrong with him? He's not a liar! Not essentially, and he's certainly not a killer! Not counting the demons...

You're not even going to argue? Do you finally admit it?” Alec connects with Jace's hateful eyes again, trembling inside. “No, I... I'm not!” He's drawn back to the dagger, stepping closer, his eyes widening in bewilderment, shock, the thrill that's filling him up at the thought of touching it, holding it in his hand, and...

No! Stop this! I don't! I won't kill anyone!” He yells and leaps backwards but the room is small, there's nowhere he can go. Jace is watching him, pure repulsion in his expresson. Alec's cold and hot and sweaty and wanting to get away, out of that room, away from Jace who's gone insane, away from that dagger and this toxic temptation that won't let go of him, just seems to intensify the more he wants to fight it.

Seconds feel like hours to him, Jace is quiet, just watching, the dagger is lying there unmoving, but it's as if something is calling to him and he knows he can't let it penetrate his mind, or something horrible will happen.

He's fighting it with everything he has.

Until he stops.

The change is obvious and Jace notices it immediately, tension is rising in his body as he's trying to prepare himself for the inevitable.

Alec doesn't feel anxious anymore. He stands straight and cocks his head to the side, regarding the man before him with a wicked little smirk playing on his lips. He feels good, so good he knows he's never felt before. He feels mighty, indestructible and fearless.

With movements oozing of self-confidence and dominance he walks over to the table, reaches out a hand to trace along the dagger, his fingers caressing it tenderly, as he feels enthralled by it. What a beautiful, shiny blade.

He takes it into his hand, it fits perfectly and he feels overpowering satisfaction.

But he's going to feel even better.

Alec, you don't have to do this!” Jace has suddenly lost his fighting spirit, his eyes begging him.

Alec regards him amusedly, an eyebrow raised. “What, now you are trying to convince me when earlier you were just taunting me? You would have had more of a chance to plead with me then, but not really.” He smirks evilly and with one push of his hand the table flies to the wall, crashing against it.

Please, Alec, this isn't you!” Alec bends so he's at eye level with the other man, moving so close their noses are almost touching.

Oh, but it is, and you are right, I don't have to do this...” He moves to talk directly into Jace's ear. “But I want to.”

He moves so swiftly, it's hard to perceive but Jace can feel the dagger slicing through his skin, his flesh, blood spilling out of the wound in his abdomen and pushing high, filling his lungs, overflowing in his mouth.

You...'re...a...monster.” Jace manages to sputter.

Alec's smiling ferally.

Jace's death struggle doesn't take long and when his head's limply on his chest, Alec cleans the blade on the corpse's trousers before he stands up straight again, regarding his work with blissful gratification.

Now, who's next?

 

Chapter Text

To his delight the door is open as he pushes down the handle and he strides out, leaving the dagger behind, he just knows he won't need it. There are better things to come.

Intuitively he knows which door to open next and he's a little surprised to find himself at the institute. Interesting. It seems to be empty, though, but he's confident he'll find something to do. Someone.

Hello? Is anybody there? Please, help us!” A woman... he knows that voice for sure and when he opens one of the office doors he's met by two people, both chained to a chair, one of them gagged like Jace had been. Interesting. He wonders who's responsible for all these gifts he's getting, he'd like to express his gratitude.

Alec! Help us! We were... I don't know! Someone did this to us! Have you seen anyone? Is everyone else ok?” Isabelle, his sister, right. And she's not scared of him? That is... curious. Let's see how well his acting skills are.

Izzy? Simon? Shit, are you alright, are you hurt?” He puts on a concerned face, laughing inwardly at how damn good he is at this, indeed, and rushes to his sister's side to free her.

Yes, we're fine, thank you!” She hugs him once she's off the chair and rushes to free her boyfriend. Alec watches, wondering how to proceed, he has no self-doubts, no sense of fear that they could escape or even overpower him. He knows they can't, they're completely helpless. He almost feels sorry for them... but nah.

Actually, he wants to try something. He reaches out a hand, directed at his sister and concentrates and suddenly he's filled with strange energy... is that... magic? He can do fucking magic now? He's overflowing with joy, and power.

Alec? What are you doing? What's wrong?” Simon, she managed to take out his gag, but he's still restrained with his hands behind his back.

Izzy is just standing there, unmoving, staring at her brother in utter confusion. Is he doing that? He moves his hand and she moves with it. This is awesome! He waves his hand up and down then pretends to push and her body is flung against the wall, Simon's yelling at him. Oops.

My bad.” He's moving her up again, she's like a puppet, disbelief written all over her face, and fear, but she can't speak and he's glad because the vampire is loud enough for three people. He waves his other hand towards him, imagining to strangle him and he's suddenly quiet, gasping for breath. This is brilliant, he can't believe how much he's enjoying himself.

He's playing a little more but, apparently, he gets bored easily and surely there must be some kind of weapon about... ah, he spots it now, leaning on the wall. He lets off of them, hearing their gasps and cries but all he can think about is the sword he grabs swiftly and frees from its sheath. Marvelous. The things he could do with that...

Alec... what are you doing? Who are you? You're not my brother!” Isabelle is shaky on her feet, tears streaming down her face, moving to attempt to free Simon once again.

But, Izzy, of course I'm your brother, don't you recognize me anymore? I'm disappointed. Wait, wasn't there a similar occasion before... Oh yes, I told our mother, I'm the same person I've always been, now everything's just out in the open. I used to be quite repressed, no? Ah well, can't be helped now.” He shrugs nonchalantly while still admiring the sword, pretending not to even look at them, but the moment she starts working to get Simon free again, he waves his hand and holds her in a strong grip, her limbs tense and shaking.

Sorry, sis, but I'm on a schedule...” He doesn't know where it comes from, but he can sense something trying to interrupt him on the outside. Nothing to worry about, though. At least not yet.

So, who wants to be first? Any volunteers?” He pins her to the wall and looks back at the vampire disdainfully. “You're not much of a hero, are you? Letting your girl do all the work, not that it makes a difference.” He's feeling impatient now, knowing there's something else he needs to take care of before it's too late, he's not sure why it will be too late, but he trusts his intuition completely.

Let me make the decision for you.” He lets go of Isabelle who falls to the ground screaming, and before they can even react he beheads the vampire with one elegant, precise wave of the sword. Blissful. But only for a second.

Gosh, woman, you're giving me a headache!” He's angry now, stepping over to where she's crying and screaming and grabs her around her throat, hauling her upwards, pushing her head against the wall. “No hard feelings.” He grins and watches as he’s strangling the life out of her, then drops her and leaves, again leaving the weapon behind.

He's slightly puzzled to find himself stepping into a whole other place once again. Of course, the loft. It does make sense.

Genuine surprise is showing on his face when this time, the person he spots is a child. His little brother, isn't it? Not that he feels any hesitation or even remorse to kill a child, but whoever's doing this for him, must be more evil than he himself. Oh well. He's just glad the kid has a cloth in his mouth, he really would get a headache from that high voice crying and screaming, his sister was bad enough.

Still, where is...? Ah, bedroom. He finds the warlock he expected to be here bound with ropes on the bed. A special present for him? Well, at a different point in time... his kink is really just the killing now, though he does look rather delicious, he can't deny that.

Alexander, what are you... you're not him, who are you?” Oh? He hasn't even said or done anything! Smart warlock, but they all don't seem to get that IT IS him. Oh well, it's not his concern. He uses his magic to lift him off the bed and floats him into the living-room, down on an armchair, next to the boy.

The warlock seems extremely shocked and not believing what's happening, they never do believe it, do they?

Max!? What... let the boy go! He has nothing do with any of this, whatever this is!”

Let the boy go? He could, but he really doesn't feel the need to. He's rather enjoying the aspect of killing the boy right in front of the warlock, yes, that will be the ultimate pleasure before killing him.

No can do, and, no, I'm not sorry. I don't feel those kinds of emotions, all straightforward pleasure in inflicting pain and killing with me. And I'm honest, letting you know right from the start, so you needn't wonder whether I can be swayed to change my mind. I won't.” He smiles angelically at the warlock who seems a little pale and unwell.

Anyway, let's choose a weapon.” He claps his hands and looks around, surely he won't be disappointed now.

And he isn't. His bow and quiver, of course, perfect! There's even his seraph blade, he really missed his weapons!

Why are you doing this? Who's making you?” The warlock trying to understand his motives. He sighs and walks closer, caressing the beautiful blade.

He shrugs and meets his despairing eyes. “It's just what I do, I enjoy it, I don't question it. Life's too short for that, don't you think?” His voice is laced with sarcasm and he can't but smirk wickedly.

Anyway, no time to chitchat, I need to get this done.” Something is definitely happening on the outside now, and he may not have enough time...

He quickly chooses the blade for the boy, heads towards him, grabs him and is ready to stab him when a loud scream is inside his head suddenly and he tumbles backwards, holding his head, dropping the blade.

Ahhhh, what the hell! What is that?” He feels nauseous and has to close his eyes.

When he opens them he's shellshocked to find Max and Magnus constrained and how did he even get here?

What happened to you?” He looks at Magnus who isn't gagged while he rushes to free his little brother.

Alexander? Is it really you?” Alec doesn't get the question at all.

“Of course it's me, who else do you think? Who did this to you?” He doesn't notice how terrified Max is as he frees him, he only gets it once the boy runs to hide behind Magnus, staring at him frightened.

Max? What's wrong? Magnus?”

Alexander... you were just... not yourself. Something had taken possession of you, something evil.” Magnus tries to explain carefully, watching him closely, not convinced they're out of danger. He can feel Max working on his restraints and hopes the boy will manage to get them open quickly.

Are you kidding me? I'm not possessed, I was just...” Jace! He killed Jace! And Simon and Izzy! What!? NO, NO WAY! It's just a spell, a dream... it's not real, it can't be!

He shakes his head, feeling numb, his eyes fall onto the blade he dropped earlier, his bow and quiver. Oh.

He bends to lift the blade and the moment he touches it, he's back. That was weird, what was that? He's pretty sure that wasn't supposed to happen! But anyway, it's not too late, but he better be quick.

Alexander?” Ah, was he his nice self again? Shame.

Right here, but also not really, it's rather complicated, let's finish this, shall we?”

Max, run!” Magnus shouts, hoping the boy will have a chance to escape at least. But Alec waves his hand and Max is paralyzed. “Ah, ah, ah... not so fast, the fun hasn't even started, yet!”

But he's almost out of time! Damn, whatever is happening out there? That wasn't the plan! He's outraged and quickly steps over to the warlock, grabs his hair and pulls his head up forcefully, piercing into his eyes. “We'll meet each other again, soon. Until then...” He pushes the blade right through the warlock's heart but has only a couple of seconds to feel elated. Then darkness is taking him over.

  

Alistair and Rayna had been watching closely as Alec Lightwood had begun dreaming, moving about more and more, crying, shouting and eventually screaming his lungs out. They were sure he would have seriously injured himself if he hadn't been bound to the bed. Whatever that strange magic in his mind was doing to him, it was horrifying, and fascinating. And they need to know what it is and who put it there, and why. They wish they could actually see what it was doing to him, but unfortunately such a spell would require too much time and even more power than Rayna has right now.

When they heard Alec's primal scream they actually flinched and got the doctor to check on him. For a while they were scared of losing him, and they absolutely cannot allow for that to happen. They need him alive.

First they tried to bring him back out of his unconscious state with different injections and electroshocks, which seemed to make him only worse.

Rayna then took matters into her own hands, thinking that the thing imprisoning his mind would surely need him alive, as well, and would probably lose its power with him dying. So she slowed down his heartbeat just enough for him to stay alive, barely. But it worked. He was conscious for a couple of minutes, in a terrible state, and they were actually glad when he passed out again. They just hoped he wouldn't have another such crass nightmare. They were monitoring him now, watching closely for any sign of distress, but he seemed to just be sleeping for several hours.


 

Magnus tracked Alistair to Brooklyn Bridge Park, but that's where his trace runs cold.

Luke and his pack are canvassing the area, while Jace is focusing on his Parabatai rune, trying to get any kind of read on Alec, but they all come up empty.

“It must be a spell. They must be here somewhere.” Ragnor and Catarina agree with Magnus, but not knowing what kind of spell was used, they can't even begin to counter it.

“Could it be another safehouse?” Clary asks a little hopefully, they could surely get in there without much of a problem. Magnus shakes his head. “No, there isn't one here, and there are no magical marks anywhere, either. But they must be here.” The jacket led him here, so they have to be!

He almost forgot to make one crucial phone call, and quickly takes care of it, moving away from the others.

“Magnus! What happ-”

“I can't believe what you did, I don't even have words for you, and I sure as hell will not indulge your curiosity when Alexander's life is at stake, which is entirely your fault! Do you know where Alistair is keeping my boyfriend or of any way to find him? That's all I want to know and afterwards I hope to never see your despicable face again.”

“I was also deceived, I just wanted to-”

“I do not care for your appalling, petty reasons! Now, tell me what you know if anything or shut the hell up!” Magnus' voice is resounding loudly and everyone at close proximity is quietly watching him.

“I do not, but-”

He hangs up on her, takes a deep breath, having expected this to be futile but even only hearing Maryse's voice rattled him dangerously. He quickly gets himself back under control and stalks to the others.

Catarina has been deeply in thought when she suddenly strides over to Simon. “You said the warlock, Rayna, is from Romania, right? Do you know anything else about her?”

Simon frowns, thinking back to what Lydia told him. “Not really... just that she's extremely powerful and... Lydia said something about rare magic, that she can use it, I guess, there wasn't a lot of time.” He looks apologetic but Catarina smiles at him and nods. “That's fine, I think I know what we need to do.”

“So, we're all going to Romania?” Simon inquires after listening to their plan. “Not all of us, Shawn, just the important people.” Magnus retorts but he's not feeling it, right now.

He's too anxious and angry and helpless once again. It's taking too long, it's all taking way too long! His potion can't be working any more, which means Alec is either trapped in another terror episode, or they're already trying to extract the thing from his mind, and he's not sure what's worse. They need to find him, now! But this warlock really has outdone herself... and they, Ragnor, Catarina and Magnus, have a fairly good idea how she's been able to pull it off. But, in any case, they need to find her residence, what spell she used and then hope against all odds that they'll be able to prepare a counter spell, and in time to rescue Alec alive... He forces himself to stay focused on the next step, unable to cope with anything else.

“The three of us will go, the rest of you stay here.” If three warlocks can't succeed, the others don't have any chance.

“But... no way, I'm going, you don't know what might be waiting for you, safety in numbers!” Jace is desperate to be doing something, anything other than just waiting around, he can't do it.

“I'm coming, too.” Clary. “And me.” Izzy. “Well, if they're going, I'm going, too!” Simon. Magnus is frowning at his friends but frankly, he doesn't have the strength or time to argue. “Fine, whatever. Let's g-”

“Wait for me! I want to go, too!” Max is rushing towards them. “Please, I want to help!” Magnus is startled at the sheer desperate plea in the boy's eyes that remind him so much of Alexander's... he bends slightly and puts his hands on Max's shoulders. “I need you to stay here, Max, be my eyes and ears and contact me immediately if anything happens, can I count on you?”

Max knows exactly what Magnus is doing and Magnus knows that he knows, because he's way too smart not to, and because similar things have happened a few times before, but, as ever, Max is swayed knowing Magnus and the others will do anything in their power, and also, he likes being in charge, if just for pretense. “I will, and you better do the same!” They hug tightly, Ragnor opening a portal, and to Romania they go.

Ragnor knows another warlock there, which is lucky, and it doesn't take them that long to find Rayna's well-hidden house. The problem is the spell protecting it.

 

Catarina's seen it once before and takes Ragnor away to the side out of earshot.

“You can’t be serious,” Ragnor looks back at the others, standing at the foot of the stairs, “A blood sacrifice?”

She nods at him solemnly. Someone had to die the one time she witnessed it. “Ragnor, we cannot tell Magnus. If we do he will be the first to sacrifice himself.” Catarina begs her friend. “Please, promise we won’t tell him.

“If we do not, and he finds out another way, or worse, Alec is harmed in any way, we will lose him in a far greater way.”

Magnus is approaching them now, “Did you find a counterspell?”

Catarina nods, but says nothing. Ragnor speaks in her place, “There is a spell, but it requires a blood sacrifice, as well.“

“So, what’s the problem, I will do it.” Magnus turns and walks back to the group waiting for him.

“I told you!” Catarina hisses at Ragnor, as tears begin to form in her eyes.

“Okay, Jace. I need you stab me when the time comes.” Magnus is blunt, there is no time for anything else.

“What? No.” Jace steps away from the warlock, “Why?” He's incredulous.

“It requires a blood sacrifice, and I will be that sacrifice.” Magnus answers matter-of-factly.

“Nope! Alec would never forgive me if I let you do this, and I won’t forgive myself either.” Jace replies through gritted teeth. “I’ll do it.”

“You most certainly will not.” Magnus growls at Jace.

“Hey, guys.” Simon. “Shut up! Seriously, do you people not watch movies?” He steps over to Magnus and grabs his hand, then holds his other hand out for the dagger Jace has been holding. Jace doesn’t want to give it to Simon, but one look from Clary and he is compliant. Simon slides the blade across Magnus’ hand and lets a few drops hit the barrier on the house. It sparks, “See, like in Pirates of the Caribbean. Neither of you have to die.” He shrugs and gives a goofy grin.

“Catarina, Ragnor, quick the spell.”  Magnus shouts. Both of the warlocks are chanting the spell in no time. When the barrier falls, Magnus feels relieved. “By the Angel, Shelby, you were right.”

The house is old and big and there must be hundreds of unique, incredibly valuable items in it, but Magnus doesn't even notice. He's going straight for the smell of old books and papers, finding her library, which is way bigger than he had expected which means they'll have a huge load of work ahead of them, and they better start right now. Just one more thing to take care of first.

He opens a portal speedily. “Guys, thanks for your help, but this is warlock territory now and you can't do anything here, but you can help Luke and the others back in New York, so off you go, we have no time to waste!”

They all want to argue but seeing the grave expression on his face makes them give in immediately, he promises to tell them as soon as they find anything and when they're gone, the warlocks get to work immediately.


He almost falls out of the bed when he wakes in a sudden panic, not knowing where he is, what has been happening, for a moment not even who he is. But it all comes back to him, with a cruel vengeance and if he'd had anything in his stomach he'd have emptied it tenfold. A knot of bile is threatening to choke him. He didn't... he can feel the icy viciousness he felt in the nightmare, the intoxication, the satisfaction and joy of killing... he's retching, gasping, hurting so maliciously, he doesn't think he will ever stop. He needs a long while to calm himself enough to function. He feels utterly dreadful, filled with a sickness that is seeping into his bones as well as his very soul, and he doesn't believe he will ever be cured.

At least he isn't bound anymore, but his upper body is naked and there are electrodes on his skin, leading to some monitor. He doesn't even want to know! He pulls them off of his body and gets out of bed, he feels almost as weak as before when he wasn't able to even walk, but he manages somehow, grabs his shirt and pulls it on and heads for the door, but it's locked. Immediate despair is taking a hold of him, and he's hitting and kicking the door, shouting raspily and jerks backwards when the door is suddenly opened and a guard looks at him expressionless. “Mr. Lightwood, come with me, please.”

Alec's so taken aback he does as he's told, he doesn't have much fight left in him, and not seeing Alistair and just getting out of that horrible room is incentive enough for him. He's shocked when he's led to a bathroom where he can take a shower, and fresh clothes are laid out for him. As he feels absolutely disgusting he does take a very quick shower, and dresses in the plain black clothes. His jacket seems to have vanished, though. Not that it actually matters. He doesn't feel like anything matters anymore.

They're heading another direction and he can suddenly hear several quiet voices. As he steps into what looks like a dining-hall, he's pinching himself to make sure he's not still dreaming. It's all so... surreal... crazy... everything is just madness, but he's too despondent to really care. And he's definitely not hungry.

The guard stays unmoving by the door and Alec slowly walks to an unoccupied table. There are several more guards and also a few people, also in black, he thinks he may have seen before at some point, but they could be complete strangers, as well. Are they imprisoned here like him?

“Alec?” He turns his head to look up at a woman... “Lydia?” He remembers her. “Oh god, you remember me?” She sits down next to him, glancing around cautiously. “Some, I heard you were arrested, I didn't know you were here.”

She leans in closer to him. “Yes, everything has gone to shit! Alistair and that warlock basically took over The Clave, as ridiculous as that sounds, but there's nothing we can do about it now. What did they do to you? Have they taken it out?” Alec blinks, trying to stay focused but he's almost beaten, just shaking his head.

“Alec, hey, stay with me, please.” She takes his hand and squeezes it and he's forcing himself to focus on her face. She looks exhausted, kind.

“Have you eaten anything?” He looks like warmed up death and she can't find any humor in it. He shakes his head again. “Wait here, I'll get you something.” Before he can refuse she's off and back a minute later with a bottle of water and a bowl with something like broth. It doesn't smell bad, but it's turning his stomach anyway. He takes a few sips from the water and tries to take deep breaths.

“Alec, I'm so sorry, but I'm sure everyone is out there looking for you, they won't stop before they find you, especially Magnus, and we need a warlock or two to get out of here, Rayna's wards are everywhere and impenetrable for us, but Magnus will find a way, I'm sure.” She tries her best to reassure him, feeling scared for her friend who she's stayed in touch with after the failed wedding and grown very fond of, just like the others, even Isabelle. Alec looks like he's gone through several infernal ordeals, and she feels throttled with sorrow.

Alec perks up at the mentioning of Magnus. Memories pushing back into his mind, also the terrifying ones. He's trembling and Lydia's doing her best to calm him again.

“I... I think I'll die here, if I pass out one more time... I won't make it.” He just knows. There's no way his body, especially his mind, can take that torture one more time, he's barely keeping it together now, unable to rid himself of those images of killing them and this perverse delight. He has never felt anything more abominable, he's sure of that.

“Don't even think that, Alec, you're not going to die here or anywhere anytime soon, you can't.” She moves closer and wraps her arms around him, not caring for anyone seeing and the guards seem disinterested anyway. He's too drained to cry but he leans against her, his remaining strength pouring out of him.

“Why did we almost get married?” He manages to whisper, needing some kind of anchor to cling to as long as he'll last. And he's glad she's here right now, intuitively trusting her.

“Oh, that... well, we thought it would be a good idea to become allies, restore your family's name and run the institute together... but we were wrong and it's all turned out as it should have, you'll remember the rest soon.” She has an inkling that he's not aware of his and Magnus' relationship, and probably not a lot of other things and she doesn't want to overwhelm him.

“I guess not everyone agreed with it?” He remembers being at Magnus' place again, his friend challenging him, basically telling him he shouldn't marry unless it was for love. And the way he described those feelings, Alec feels tingly even now. And all he sees is Magnus' face... there's still a piece missing he just can't find.

“Not especially, actually no one was and thankfully, in the end, we came to the same conclusion... do you remember that?” She asks cautiously, glancing at him, feeling a deep sadness at the emaciated and hollow look on his face. Magnus, you're going to have to hurry...

“No, I don't. There's just-”

I just want you to know, Lydia was wonderful in court, she's great.” Magnus is wearing a suit, looking very sharp. But his face is serious.

So you get it!” Alec's smiling for a second.

No, Alec, I get her, I like her, but you don't have to marry her.”

He's annoyed now. “Yes, I do, Magnus.”

You'll be lonely all your life, and so will she. Neither of you deserve it. And I don't either.”

“Alec? What's wrong? Alec?” She's cupping his cheek, turning his face carefully towards her. He blinks and concentrates. “Just... another memory.” Probably triggered by him being with Lydia? He's guessing Magnus played a big role in them deciding not to get married after all. He wishes nothing more right now than for him to appear.

They're silent for a while, but Alec's still thinking, trying to figure things out, but it's all pointless. “Lydia... if I don't make it... please tell them... that I'm grateful for everyting they've done for me and it's not their fault.” Lydia swallows down the lump in her throat, tears growing behind her eyes. “Alec, you're not-” “Please, you're the only one I can trust in here, please just... promise me.”

She holds him closer, wishing she could do something to help. “Okay, I promise.”

He exhales, feeling a little more at ease. “Thank you.”

“No need, just... eat something, okay? You need some strength and don't be your usual stubborn self, please.” Of course he wants to refuse because he's pretty sure he won't be able to keep it in, but Lydia's pleading eyes kind of get the better of him.

His usual stubborn self, eh? Yeah... knowing everything best even though he knows absolutely nothing at all... he swallows it down and manages to eat a few spoons. The warmth of the food actually does make him feel a tiny bit better, as long as he doesn't let himself think. But he can't control the memories pushing fiercely to the surface.

I meant to thank you for your advice.” They're at the insitute again, standing opposite and rather close to each other. Alec feels nervous, and prickly all over as he meets Magnus' shining eyes.

Magnus looks up at him, pleasantly surprised. “The whole, follow your heart thing.”

Oh, what can I say? I have a deep understanding of the human psyche, at least that's what Freud always said.”

Alec can hardly stand the anticipation, can hardly get the words out but needs to stay calm and in control to do this, it's important, so important that Magnus understands...

I'm getting married.” It feels wrong to his own ears, never having thought it to be possible, not this soon, not ever. But it's his reality now and he has to face it.

Woah, that's a tad sudden, isn't it? I mean, we should at least go to dinner first.”

Alec is just a little shellshocked at Magnus' completely unexpected reaction, his insides are convulsing painfully, anxious tingles are running all over him and he needs to explain, make him understand!

Magnus! Family is everything to me, you have to know that.”

I get it, you're part of a don't ask, don't tell culture, I'm fine with it, you're a... traditional guy.”

Alec could despair as it's obvious to him that Magnus does NOT get it!

Ya, I am. That's why I proposed to Lydia.” That hopeful then completely crushed look on Magnus' face hits him like a punch in his gut, but it's done now, no more room for misunderstandings. Why doesn't he feel more relieved, though?

That's... interesting.” Alec can hardly bear seeing the warlock like that.

I, it makes sense, it's a solid partnership... for both of us.” He must understand. It's so important to Alec that he does, he's not even sure why, it just is.

Solid partnership...” Magnus' little laugh is bereaved of humor, full of ridicule and hurt. “That's HOT!” Alec's taken aback at yet another sudden complete change of Magnus' features, anger, pain, something he can't name. It makes him feel extremely small.

Well, okay then. Congratulations, marriage is a wonderful institution... not that I would know... Goodbye, Alexander.”

Lydia has to work to get him to focus on her once again. “What did you remember?” He's clinging to her hand without realizing it. “Magnus... he...” He doesn't know how to say it. All these memory snippets of them and the nightmares... is he... are they...

He can't finish his thought as Alistair and Rayna enter the hall and head directly towards him.

“Alec, it is time.” Alec starts shivering immediately, fear and dread pulling on his insides. Even if the others would rescue him right at this moment... they still couldn't help him. This is his only chance to come out of it alive, the alternative certainty that he won't. He can feel it undoubtedly.

He gets up slowly, Lydia right by his side, still holding his hand. “Alec-” “It's okay, thank you for everything.” She doesn't want to let him go, fight them, but she knows she's helpless against the warlock and all those guards. She can only watch as they take him away, not wanting to but still wondering whether it's the last time she'll ever see her friend.

 

Chapter Text

They have been looking through the warlock's books, scrolls and papers for hours, but most of them are useless to their course, even though they now have profound proof of her using blood – forbidden - magic, and they will deal with her, in time, but right now they need to find any clue about how to get to Alec!

Ragnor and Catarina have also been watching their friend, feeling the gruesome strain he's under, fearing he could crack at any given moment. Magnus is relentlessly rifling through the spell books that seem to never become any fewer, focusing his entire being on this one task, because if just one single thought escapes him, he will suffocate. And after hours of it, he's about to.

Catarina has read a lot about forbidden magic, but she still wouldn't call herself an expert. Her growing anxiety for Magnus makes her become more creative, though, and when she senses he's about to hit his breaking point, she gets her knife out, cuts her hand and uses her magic to make her blood flow across the room.

Magnus has been about to snap, but all he can do now is stare at his friend, as is Ragnor, and they watch transfixed as the wave of Catarina's blood floats through the air. She is softly chanting a spell now she only read earlier, to make a blood sacrifice find its host.

In the wall opposite of them, a secret door opens, a golden sphere gliding out towards them, halting when it comes in contact with Catarina's blood. It absorbs the fluid right away and shines with a red glow.

“That's it, that must be the source of her power.” They all rush towards it, staring awe-struck. They have never seen something so... perfect, perilous. Catarina is again the first to act, moves into the room behind the secret door and comes out with a scroll that lets one know it's age and value just from one glance. It's sure to contain invaluable but hazardous knowledge.

“I know the language, at least partly.” She makes to translate it immediately, feeling how her confidence wavers and cold dread takes hold of her soul. If Alexander's life wasn't at stake, she would never tell a soul and try everything to destroy every trace of this scroll and the sphere.

“Catarina, no matter what, don't keep it from me.” Magnus has been watching her closely, seeing the change in her eyes, her body language, and he knows her too well... and it is obvious that they will have to make some kind of sacrifice, a much greater one than the simple blood sacrifice to enter Rayna's home. And he's prepared for anything. And though she's one of his closest friends, she better not stand in his way right now.

Catarina takes a deep breath to compose herself, knowing she cannot prevent any of it, and hopefully, none of them will have to actually die.

“Two warlocks were involved in awakening this source of power. Both had to give their lives, but one of them survived, namely Rayna, but she must have been at death's door, as well. A great amount of blood is needed to activate this artifact and even more to be able to use it at our will. But once we do that, we should be able to break any of her spells.” In case they will still be able to...

“So, seeing that we are three warlocks...?” Ragnor glances from her to Magnus, dearly hoping none of them will have to sacrifice their complete vitality

“I am hoping that this will result in keeping us all alive, also Magnus, you being Asmodeus' son should give you an advantage.” Magnus nods slightly, feeling torn to pieces at the prospect of potentially losing one of his best friends, and at best forcing them to suffer terribly... he quickly checks his phone, a text from Jace eliciting cursed hope for one second before he reads it. No news. He closes his eyes, for a minute unable to breathe, beaten with sorrow.

“Magnus, you know we're standing by you, no matter what, of our own volition.” Ragnor's placed a hand on his friend's trembling shoulder and is completely sincere. They have overcome centuries of adventures, challenges and hardships, and they won't falter now, or ever, especially not when Magnus' heart, soul and happiness is at grave risk.

Magnus turns to look into his friends' earnest eyes and pushes the notion to just break down and cry far away. There may be time to do that, yet, but now he needs every drop of his strength and powers to successfully break this damned spell and not lose anyone while doing so.


 

He feels utterly defenseless as he walks between the two, along the corridor towards yet another grey door. He doesn't have a choice, though. If only he didn't feel so blood-curdlingly alone.

In the room is a cot, high enough to reach his hips, and nothing else. He dismisses the notion to wonder, it's all out of his hands. He lies down on it, glad the light is dim enough not to blind him and tries to relax, but his muscles are unyielding steel and he's aware of every tiny ache, his heartbeat blisteringly fast and thunderous in his ears, his breathing aggravated, almost stuck.

“Relax, I assure you, you won't feel a thing.” Rayna's standing above him now, her wild red hair shining, her bilious green eyes glowing, and he guesses her words are supposed to calm him down, but he can't breathe!

He's in a church, his parents are there, the whole institute, his friends, Jace, Isabelle and Lydia are on the altar with him, she's holding his hand about to draw a rune with her stele when they hear the door opening, footsteps, Magnus appears. Alec's dumbstruck, stunned, shocked, amazed, just staring and staring, unable to breathe.

Alec?” His head turns without his doing and his eyes meet Lydia's, his body wanting him to get air back into his lungs.

I... I can't breathe.”

She's understanding and kind and he hates himself in this moment but he finally knows what he has to do, what he must. That he can't go through with this, that this isn't what he wants or something he'll be able to live with, it's not fair on either of them, he finally gets it! And he chooses himself for the first time ever, his own worth, his own happiness, his own life.

And again, she understands and he knows he can never make it up to her, and right now there's something else he must do.

He turns, takes a look at all the people there but essentially he can't take his eyes off of Magnus, standing there, looking so beautiful, and he can't help himself, having finally found the courage he probably always possessed but was too terrified to let free. And he steps down the altar, his eyes never disconnecting with Magnus' and then he knows and he moves and dismisses his mother and speeds up his steps because he can't control himself anymore and he needs to do this more than he's ever needed anything and his hands come up to grasp Magnus' jacket lapels and their faces collide as Alec pulls this wonderful man closer and kisses him with everything he is and the earth stands still.

“MAGNUS! NO, WAIT!” But it's too late. He finally found that one missing piece of his puzzle, but there's nothing he can do.

Rayna lifted the concealment on the items in the room, a jar with blood, taken from several magical beings to perform her blood magic, and a few black rubies containing ancient, dark spells, as well as one crystal to bind the magic from his mind into.

She's used them before to extract memories from creatures' minds and she doesn't doubt that this will work to get the piece of unique magic out of Alec's just the same.

She laid the rubies onto his chest, marked his face with the blood, adding her own, and started the spell immediately and Alec who wasn't already unconscious as she assumed, but trapped in the memory, startles her with his yell, and she quickly incapacitates him. There's nothing in her way now.

  

He's been watching every development unfold, mostly staying out of it, only a few times interfering when certain actions were aggravating him. And though many of these occurrences have been unexpected, they provided him with outermost pleasure and delightfulness. Not even he could have planned this kind of masterpiece, and a masterpiece it is without a doubt. The boy, if one of the most inferior beings he's ever come across, held on even longer than he could have anticipated, which only fueled his glee and craving to see him suffer more. It has been his own perfect bliss to watch them be torn apart, piece by piece by piece. But he's not delusional, he knows the time has come to end this part of his scheme. And with this stupid man and warlock interfering, thinking they could honestly play in league with his kind of prevalence, would be hellishly amusing, if he weren't so outrageously disgusted by them.

And she's about to kill his indispensable subject for good! What a ridiculous amateur! He should kill her to show her how pathetic and insignificant she really is! But it's not time to make his appearance, yet. He's been so extraordinarily patient so far, he mustn't get sloppy now. It takes nothing of his might to make the part of him he planted in the boy's mind disappear and break her spell so she won't take any more of the boy's weakened vital energy. When he's satisfied enough he glides back into the darkness, anxious to see what will happen next, and what Magnus and his pitiful little friends have cooked up.


 

“I have no words to thank you, my friends, I-”

Ragnor interrupts him. “Don't waste time on mere phrases now, we will give you chance to make it up to us infinitely, for now, let's start and get your Alexander back safe and sound."

Magnus breathes deeply, nods and focuses.

“Will we not have to get back to New York?” Ragnor questions Catarina, never having been part of an undertaking such as this.

She shakes her head. “No, that's not necessary, the sphere is directly linked to her and her spell, no matter where it or she is.” They gather around the sphere, looking again to Catarina for guidance.

She slits open both palms of her hands before giving the knife to Magnus. “Make sure the blood keeps flowing, we'll need a lot, and as far as I can tell there is no spell to perform with it, the blood must be all it takes.” Which is as well so they can fully focus on their life energy, but troubling concerning the sheer amount this suggests they'll need.

Her friends nod sternly and cut their own hands, their blood immediately beginning to flow into the sphere that absorbs it and glows brighter and brighter with pure red brilliance, becoming darker and darker. They're all spellbound by its mighty force, at this moment fully comprehending why Rayna would risk everything to possess such incredible power.

They will have to fight gravely to not succumb to it themselves.


 

“Rayna! What just happened? What is the meaning of this?!” Alistair is beside himself when Rayna's chanting and flow of magic comes to an abrupt stop, and all the warlock seems to be able to do is stand there uselessly and stupidly stare.

“Rayna! Tell me-”

“It... it's gone.” She doesn't have words to explain what just happened, she was so close to grasping it and the next moment there was no trace of it at all, and in her mind she saw two flaming red eyes and felt hauled out of her spell. She's disheveled and speechless.

“That is impossible! You said so yourself, where did it go?!” They're both staring at the young man, still seemingly unconscious, lying on the cot. Rayna reaches out a shaky hand, activates her magic again and checks his mind.

“There's nothing there... it vanished... completely.” She could not ever have foreseen this and even less can she find a reason for it which deeply unsettles her, making her regret ever becoming involved in the first place.

Alec can hear faint voices, arguing. They're somewhat familiar, but not belonging to anyone he cares about. He had such a nice dream, about the wedding, well, what happened just before the vows... Magnus striding in, capturing his full attention, giving him the last push he needed to unlock the courage to change his life. And that kiss... he will never in a million years forget that kiss, ever. It was his salvation.

Magnus... where could he be? And who is arguing in their home anyway? Or are they somewhere else? Is he at the institute? But he was on his way home, wasn't he? He should probably properly wake up and check what's going on.

He blinks his eyes open and is met by dim white light and a grey ceiling. Definitely not the loft or the institute. And the voices have become louder, penetrating his skull, or so it feels. He sits up and nothing makes sense. Not where he is or who these people are.

“Excuse me, what's going on here and who are you?” He stands now and watches the tall man and the very extraordinary looking woman closely, his instincts and intuition telling him something is very dodgy.

Alistair and Rayna are gobsmacked, just staring at him. Alec frowns deeply, squints one eye and steps closer, crossing his arms before his chest. “Answer me now, where am I and who are you?”

“Has he lost his memories again?” Alistair is inquiring while still staring at Alec Lightwood, his stance and whole demeanor having changed drastically from the frightened, tortured young man from before. He's basically oozing with authority and confidence, not lessened by his still very deprived appearance. Is that the effect of the strange magic disappearing?

Alec's frown deepens. What the heck does that man mean? He hasn't lost his memories, he would kno-

A tsunami comes crashing down on him, on his mind, thousands of memory shreds being woven into one whole image, punching the air out of him and at first he doesn't even realize that not only he himself, but the whole room is starting to shake.

“What now? What is happening?!” Alistair leaves before Rayna gets chance to answer, still in shock about the situation. She manages to pull herself out of it eventually. But she has no idea why their underground hideout is plagued by something like an earthquake... unless... but that is impossible!

Alec's swamped and nauseous and scared he'll pass out again with the full force of every single memory coming back to him. He can't let that happen, he has to... focus, shove it all away, far away! He steadies himself and glares at the warlock who he now remembers clearly.

“You... I swear by my life you won't get away with this! None of you will! You acted against at least a hundred different laws and I promise you, you won't ever be safe anywhere again if you don't help me now!”

The room is suddenly shaking heavily, plaster coming off the walls and ceiling and Rayna runs. Alec is shocked for just a moment then determination to not let her get away takes over and he's right on her heels. It's not just the one room that's starting to collapse, it's the whole building. Alec grabs Rayna's arm and hauls her around.

“Let go of me! It's not safe here, we need to get out!” But his grip is strong and he doesn't feel intimidated at all, even though he knows, has first hand experience with her powers.

“You're not getting away, I won't let you! You're coming with-” Startled they look up at the same time where they heard a loud burst and big parts of the stone ceiling are falling straight at them. Alec gets hit on his head by one, lets go of the warlock and drops. He feels numb but he's still conscious, blood on his hand as he touches the side of his head.

Rayna wants to just run, portal herself to the end of the world if she must, but something is holding her back. She's not invincible, not even using blood magic, and Alec Lightwood remembering everything now is a serious threat, so she makes a decision.

Alec's swaying, having trouble to keep his balance but fighting with all he has. When the warlock rushes towards him, he's sure that's the last he'll ever see.

Rayna grabs him and pulls him onto his feet then quickly opens a portal. “Just go to a safe place, that's all I can do! And you better remember who saved you in the end!” She can't kill him because she'll have an army after her head, led by Magnus Bane, and her life is too precious for that! Hopefully this will give her some leeway with the High Warlock of Brooklyn and the Lightwoods.

Alec's completely taken aback and his head wound doesn't let him form any coherent thought, but one. A safe place.

He stumbles through the portal into the loft where he's greeted by two cats who have never been as overtly delighted to see anyone ever. He manages to carry both purring fur bundles, who are pushing against and licking his face, to the couch before he falls onto it and blacks out.


 

They all felt it simultaneously as they breached the blood barrier shielding Rayna's power and eventually broke it. Their skin has turned the color of porcelain as most of their blood has been absorbed by the sphere which sparkles like a crimson ruby.

Catarina has also been using her special healing powers to keep them all going for as long as somehow possible. They can feel how the spell is slowly crumbling, but they, too, are close to giving into the intoxicating sensations of the blood magic, signifying certain death in their enfeebled state.

Ragnor's first to falter and Catarina senses it just in time to disconnect him from the sphere. He falls and lies unmoving but they can only hope he'll recover, the strain on the two remaining warlocks even higher now.

Magnus is single-mindedly set on withstanding the call of the blood magic and giving their blood time to surpass Rayna's spell, hopefully providing their friends in New York with the opportunity to find Alexander and get everyone to safety. They have no way of knowing when it's done, so holding on is all they can do.

Catarina, though being in a ways, more powerful than her two friends, has given much of that power to them and is now about to lose her battle. Magnus senses this and he won't let her make that sacrifice for him. “Let go, I'll be fine! Catarina, let go, NOW!” She doesn't want to, but it's all she can do, hoping against hope that they did enough, before she loses consciousness.

Magnus focuses solely on using every ounce of power he still possesses into his blood and the sphere and further, channeling that demonic force he had used in the desert to summon that storm, this time making sure the spell will be irrevocably destroyed.

In the utmost last moment he's still able to, he pulls himself away, passing out instantly.


 

The werewolves had been the first to notice something. Soon after, everyone felt the ground beneath them shaking, lightly at first but quickly gaining in force. The bridge was threatening to fall to pieces. Everyone made sure to evacuate mundanes from the area and then watched as the park simply collapsed into itself, revealing an underground building beneath it.

The missing guards appeared first, being taken under arrest by members of the Silent Brothers who had, when all this started, averted themselves not wanting to have any part of it, but with recent developments concerning Alistair, the Cup, and Rayna, decided to take control of the situation, lead a thorough investigation and eventually bring back order into their world.

Jace, Clary, Isabelle and Simon were the first to help others; formerly imprisoned wolves, vampires, and Shadowhunters to escape their temporary confinement, closely followed by Luke and Jocelyn who couldn't hold Max back any longer and stayed close to at least make sure nothing could happen to him. Being the smallest though, he slipped away under the rubble, anxious and determined to find his big brother first.

Luke, in wolf's form, speedily caught up with him and they found Lydia who was hurt quite badly, but conscious and they quickly got her out while others were working on freeing everyone remaining.

“Lydia!” Jace is by his friend's side immediately, pushing hair out of her face, checking over her wounds. “Are you alright? Where's Alec? Did you see him?”

“Yes, he was with me for a while but they took him... Alistair and the warlock, Rayna! Have you found them?” Jace shakes his head, looking all around but those two haven't been seen by anyone. And he thought he had felt his Parabatai earlier... but now he's not even sure anymore! This can't be happening! Magnus and the other two managed to break the damn spell but Alec is still missing?! It's too much, just too much, he feels like drowning, suffocating.

He makes room for Jocelyn to tend to Lydia's wounds. Clary's holding him, talking soothingly but they're all just despairing, needing to finally know where he is and that he's alright... if he is. And if not... there's no telling what will happen to them.

Jace suddenly feels a strange sensation on his leg and when he glances down it takes him a moment to realize. “Chairman? Oh my god, it's you!” He takes the cat up and strokes him, wiping his eyes, just about having managed to hold his tears back this time.

“Meow."

“Church!” Isabelle quickly takes the other cat up. 

“What are they doing here?” Clary.

Everyone shrugs, feeling out of their depth completely. The cats suddenly jump off of them and head away, looking back at them, calling out.

“Guys, I think they want us to follow them! C'mon!” Simon grabs Isabelle's hand and runs after their furry friends, Jace, Clary and Max immediately after them.

The cats had watched over Alec, but after an hour of him just lying there motionlessly they decided it was best to get help themselves. Good thing these people weren't always incompetent. And wherever was that damn warlock of theirs?

Clary had texted Magnus when the whole earthquake was starting but she hasn't got an answer, which isn't really worrying seeing that he was and still probably is preoccupied. She quickly sends another one once they know the cats are leading them to the loft, and pushes her phone back into her pocket.

“ALEC!” They're kind of all shouting the moment they lay eyes on their brother and friend, feeling incredible amounts of relief but only for a couple of seconds before they understand that he's wounded and unconscious and needs help immediately.

Thankfully his head isn't as bad as it first seemed and they don't need, for example, magic to heal him, which they don't have and they have no idea what their warlock friends are doing or even where they are now, and their undivided attention is on the man they were so terrified of having lost forever, again. There is just nothing to describe that kind of voidness. They tend to his wound as best as they can and clean his face from that blood that doesn't seem to belong to him.

“He's not trapped in a nightmare, is he?” Isabelle is frantic and Max is clutching Alec's hand, observing his face, not wanting to miss any kind of movement that could indicate he's waking up.

“I don't think so... he's usually more active... let's just try and wake him up!” Clary tries to be matter-of-fact and takes charge, getting the smelling salt from the kitchen, knowing exactly where it is from one incident where one of Magnus' clients got a little too anxious and fainted after aggravating Magnus into showing his badass warlock side with glowing eyes and the whole intimidation thing going on. It was a little much for that poor faerie.

She rushes back, opens the small bottle and holds it under Alec's nose, moving it from side to side a little. Everyone's holding their breath.

Alec gets thrown out of his rather blissful state of quiet and warmth and comfort which he feels he hasn't had in the longest time... gasping as all kinds of pains are rushing from his body into his head, letting him know they're there and not very happy... and the actual ache in his head is the worst, bit still bearable.

And he doesn't get any time to process this because two arms are flung around him and a body, which, thankfully isn't terribly heavy, presses down on him. And he feels hot fluid on his neck. What... and the cats are also back, having jumped on the couch's top, watching them, the Chairman also pawing at Max's shoulder.

“Max? Hey, hey, it's okay, it's okay.” It is, isn't it? He is? He's okay? And they're okay? And everything...? How often will he have to endure that kind of monsoon of memories knocking him over? He's glad he's lying down already, feeling dizzy and it takes him a minute to respond again.

Everyone is staring at him and crying and talking at him. Gosh, so much to take in, but he's so happy to be here and see them again! He didn't really dare hope in the end... but he mustn't let himself think about all that insane shit now, there'll be a time for it later...

“Hey, guys, cool you made it here. I was kinda tired and took a little nap.” He's smiling at them, wanting to see them smile, not all those tears... he gets it, of course, he could probably cry for a full week, but... later.

Max moves up, smiling through his tears and Alec takes the opportunity to sit up himself, wrapping an arm around his little brother and suddenly gets the breath knocked out of him, once again, when another pair of arms attached to a rather heavy and strong body cling around him. He exhales painfully, heartbroken but joyful and wraps his other arm tightly around his other brother, squeezing them both against him, smiling affectionately.

“Never ever do this to us again, buddy, just don't ever.” Jace is smiling through his tears, soft sobs escaping him, a little scared he may crush Alec too much, but he can't help himself. No horror he ever felt was as bad as losing his soulmate, and he genuinely doesn't think he'd cope another time.

“I'm so sorry, Jace, I don't intend to, trust me.” Alec's close to tears himself now, squeezing his Parabatai tighter.

“Okay, you big softy, move out of the way for a minute and let me hug my big brother!” Everyone's still crying but laughing as well now and Jace plants a big kiss onto Alec's cheek before he gets off the couch and lets Izzy have her turn hugging the crap out of Alec. “I'm so happy, I can't even tell you, te amo mi hermano mayor.”

Alec smiles broadly. “Te amo mi hermanita, et tu hermanito.” He ruffles Max's hair who moves up to hug both his sister and brother. “I love you, too.” Max has never found love for the Spanish language, or even interest, but that he'd get in any language.

Clary doesn't think she'll get chance to hug her friend soon, so she walks around the couch and cups Alec's cheeks, pressing a kiss to his forehead once he looks up surprised. “I love you, too.” “And me!” Simon pushes Clary, gently, out of the way and grabs Alec's head before he can even attempt to move out of the way and places a loud, wet smack onto his forehead. Alec grimaces and moves his hand to wipe Simon's saliva off of him, but even that can't ruin his happiness or keep him from smiling.

His face is hurting from smiling so much. “Actually, I really love you all, even you, you traitor, I can't believe you tried to make me believe I liked you when I met you!” He's pointedly regarding Simon now who's mouth drops open, but not because he's shocked to be called a traitor, but because... this means...

“Do you remember? Do you have your memories back? Is it gone?” Simon's staring at Alec, pointing at his own head to indicate the evil magic in his mind.

Everyone's suddenly quiet and gaping at Alec, who's still softly smiling. “Yeah, it's gone, and, yes, I got them all back.” And that realization is still too fucking much to handle all at once. Especially the last couple of weeks... that seem like years! And suddenly a whole mountain is falling on top of him, unfathomable how he didn't think, how he just... didn't think.

“Where's Magnus?!”


 

“Ragnor? Magnus?” Catarina's the first to come to, dizzy and disorientated, but alive and somewhat able to move. Ragnor's closest to her so she crawls over and looks for a pulse, which thankfully, she finds. She exhales deeply and moves onto checking up on her other best friend.

She finds his wrist first and again checks for a pulse, but she's not finding any. Fear is rising in her but she's not giving up so quickly. She doesn't have enough magic yet to do anything, but she's got a few potions with her, for such cases, or similar. She takes one out of her pocket, opens Magnus' mouth and pours it in, massaging his throat so it will flow down easier. She's actually holding her breath.

Relief floods her when Magnus gasps and his eyes shoot open, he's definitely got a pulse now. They are so damn lucky.

“Ca... Catarina?” He blinks and tries to sharpen his sight, it's all quite blurry and hazy but when he moves his head he can see his friend, alive. He's so grateful. “Ragnor?”

“He's breathing. We all just need a little TLC.” She smirks softly and Magnus can't but chuckle. Warlock TLC, yes... Alec!

“Have you heard anything? Do we know if it worked?” Every inch of his body is protesting but he's sitting up anyway, just when they can hear a moan coming from Ragnor.

“No, I'm sorry, I don't know.” Looking at the sphere, it's back to its perfectly golden self before their blood sacrifice. That could mean anything, though.

Magnus robs over to where Ragnor is slowly coming to. “Hey, old friend, we made it. Now, we need to find a way to get to New York, quickly!”

Ragnor groans. “Hold your horses, I'm barely alive.” Magnus smiles softly and helps him sit, hugs him and then Catarina who's moved over to them. “You two are the most amazing creatures ever.”

“Liar.” The two say in unison, eliciting a loving chuckle and a tear from their best friend. Catarina is giving a healing potion to Ragnor, another one to Magnus and takes one herself, thinking. “About the portaling problem... I think I saw a locket earlier with some magic stored inside, we can probably use that to make a makeshift one.”

Magnus frowns. “A makeshift one?” She chuckles slightly. “Well, it won't be very strong and only one of us can get through and it will only last a couple of seconds, but better than waiting for our magic to restore. At least you can go and see what's happening. Now, get me that locket, it's in that drawer over there.”

She points and Magnus complies as quickly as he manages, grabs it and hands it to her, then he remembers his phone, but he's not sure where... he spots it and gets it checking it quickly. Two texts from Clary. 'All hell is breaking lose here, I think whatever you're doing is working!' and 'LOFT!'

She could really have elaborated a little bit! But he's got no time to waste now, Catarina has managed to stand, leaning against the table, and is already using what little magic she still possesses with that of the locket and truly manages to open a portal. Magnus could kiss her, she really is the most amazing-!

“Magnus, quickly now!” Oh, damn he almost forgot! He forces himself up and leaps into the portal, not a moment too late, the instant his feet make contact with the floor in the loft, it disappears again.


 

“They, Magnus, Catarina and Ragnor, they're probably still in Romania, they found a way to break the spell that kept you and Lydia and others trapped.” Isabelle explains to a very anxious Alec.

“Shit, Lydia! Is she okay?” Isabelle nods quickly. “Yes, she got hurt a bit but nothing too bad, and she's looked after.” He nods, feeling a little better, but not really!

Magnus... Magnus... he's gone through all that horror with him without him knowing!! Oh fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck! This is killing him, genuinely the worst realization he's had, knowing how deeply and horrifyingly Magnus has been hurting, suffering, despairing with him and over him not remembering, not knowing whether he ever would... He feels completely numb with that kind of soul-corroding woe.

“Magnus!” Clary shouts startled as their friend suddenly appears, looking terribly wrecked, only a fraction of what he must have gone through showing in his cat-like eyes. He doesn't have the magic to glamour them. But he's here! Everyone's breathless, staring from Alec to Magnus now, their eyes unable to decide, not wanting to miss any detail.

Alec is paralyzed, staring open-mouthed at the man every fiber of his body, his entire being, is yearning for.

Magnus is frozen, compelled to the man who's sitting amidst all his friends but seeing none other, feeling ripped off his skin and bone as he's fighting so hard to stay put, against his all-encompassing need to crush him against himself and melt into him.

Alec is actually pulled up by Izzy and his whole body is trembling madly, waves of white hot joy overflowing inside him and he finally manages to move, stepping clumsily towards Magnus, who looks so pale and vulnerable and he's so worried about him but he's also so radiantly beautiful and he's here and alive and he's feeling exactly the way he felt at the wedding, Magnus having that same shocked, hopeful, amazed, questioning, stunned look on his face, just before he kissed him, and how could he not grab him by his shirt, pull him and squash him against himself, while crashing their mouths and faces together, kissing him like it was the very first and very last time, silently promising to never part again, their hearts and souls finally whole again.

Magnus only sees Alexander, only smells, feels, hears and eventually touches him, his body shaken with tremors, his mind unable to catch up with endless jolts of emotions and ecstatic sensations overflowing his outright existence.

Alec's taken over by a highly addictive passion and all-consuming love and he's pushing Magnus back against the wall where he continues the onslaught of his mouth, greedily tasting him, every part of their bodies pressed together in an attempt to crawl into each other.

Magnus' hands are running untamed over Alec's back, shoulders, neck and hair, the fiercest need to touch, to convince himself that his Alexander is real and alive and remembers. Oh gosh, he must be, else this would only be happening in his imagination and he couldn't bear that.

When they run out of breath they don't part, just open their mouths to let air in while their lips are still touching, their eyes watering from staring at such close proximity, but neither of them give a damn.

“Alexander... are you-” Magnus breathes against Alec's mouth and Alec's answer is another fervent kiss, to which Magnus instantly surrenders himself completely.

Chapter Text

They honestly would not keep staring at two people being so lost in each other, but they simply couldn't look away, and this is so much more than sexual, it hardly comes into it, just knowing these two are finally united again after going through the most agonizing months, is filling them all with so much happiness they could burst and the pureness of love those two emit is mesmerizing and captivating.

The cats aren't quite so happy and patient, however, and the Chairman jumps off of the couch, toddles over to his housemates and starts meowing, and when he's not getting any reaction, he stands on his hind legs and paws on Alec's leg, the next step will be claws...

Alec never ever wants to come up for air again, he will happily drown in this perfect man, this neverending bliss his taste and touches and soul provide... but something tiny is penetrating his subconscious and not letting off... He pulls his head away eventually, glancing down just as the Chairman decides to hook his claws into his leg.

“Ow, hey, you little rascal,” Alec bends slightly to lift the cat up with one hand, Magnus' eyes never leaving his face and his arms still flung tightly around him. “Is that any way to-” the cat pushes against his cheek and purrs like mad and Alec's voice softens immediately. “Yeah, I missed you, too, and thanks for taking care of me and getting our friends.” Alec drops a kiss onto the little head and grins fondly and when he meets Magnus' eyes, he's thrown into speechlessness with the infinite amount of love he's being showered with.

And then he feels slightly faint and it's a good thing Magnus has such a strong hold on him. “Alexander?”

Jace and Isabelle jump immediately, rushing to them, a new wave of panic overflowing everyone.

“I'm okay, guys, I'm okay, just a little dizzy.” And a little sick and shaky.

“It's probably a concussion, you better sit down.” Isabelle warns and Magnus complies immediately and leads Alec to the couch with Jace on his other side and the moment he sits, leaning against Magnus who has an arm protectively around him and holding one of his hands, Max is at his other side again, the cats settling on Max's and Alec's laps.

“Well, I sure have my own loyal entourage.” Alec jokes softly, smiling a little. No one else does and he absolutely doesn't want that. “Guys, seriously, I'm better than I've been in... a really, really long time, it's just that stupid stone that fell on my head, it's nothing.” He regrets his words immediately when he feels how tense Magnus became.

“Hey, it's not your fault, you saved us all...” He moved to be able to look into those cat eyes again he loves so much.

Magnus feels caught and a lot of things he doesn't know how to handle, yet, so he decides to delay it, smiles softly and places a gentle kiss on Alec's forehead. “Let me see if I can do anything about that concussion.” He snaps his fingers and a blue flame appears, but it's snuffed out a few seconds later. He tries again gaining the same result. Alec's very worried now, Magnus isn't exactly looking healthy.

“It's just that... spell... it took a lot of magic, I'll just have to wait a while longer.” He quickly reassures Alec and the others, he'd rather not let them know what they had to do to break the spell, at least not now.

“It's okay, it's really not that bad.” Alec tries to reassure him again.

Clary comes back with an herbal tea Magnus taught her to make and hands both a cup, no one even having noticed that she was gone for a bit.

“Thanks.” Alec smiles at her.

“Thank you, biscuit, I'm glad to see you all well.” He didn't dare think of anything other than them being alright, especially Alexander, but he knew the possibility of this not being the case was very high and he feels like he's been gifted the grandest miracle in the universe, being able to look at him and hold him again. He really remembers...

“How did they succeed? Is it really gone?” Magnus isn't sure why but that's the hardest part to believe...

“I don't remember what they did, Rayna used some spell on me, I guess, and when I woke up she and Alistair were arguing about it just having disappeared... they weren't pleased but I sure as hell am. And then I just got them all back, my memories, I mean.” And he can still feel the aftershock.

“So, you also remember the last couple of weeks?” Magnus wishes that he wouldn't, that he wouldn't ever have to think of these unspeakable terrors again that would no doubt plague his mind for a long time to come.

Alec doesn't even have to respond, the pained look in his eyes is enough to freeze Magnus' heart for a moment. He pulls him closer, kissing his temple.

“I'm so... endlessly sorry for everything...” It's wrecking Alec so badly, the guilt weighing him down like a mountain of lead.

“Alexander, you have absolutely nothing to be sorry for.” Alec knows Magnus and the others believe that, but he can't.

“It's a shame I won't be able to get my hands on her...” Magnus would make her pay for a long time to come. But then he's got much more important things, people, to take care of. When he sees the puzzled looks on everyone's faces, he gets a little uneasy. “I'm assuming she and this bastard Alistair were captured... by someone?” Who knows if The Clave even has the means for it now, they should just all vanish in a big, black hole and never return.

“Not exactly.” Clary is the only one who eventually dares to speak. “There was no trace of them, they must have escaped, I'm sorry, it was chaos.” She looks apologetically at him and Alec and before Magnus can show his outrage, Alec places his pointy finger onto his lips and smiles slightly.

“It's okay, at least everyone's free and judging from how panicked they were, I doubt they'll try anything again. And Rayna actually helped me get here, no doubt for selfish reasons, but she didn't have to, and I'm just really happy to be here right now. Let's focus on that, alright?” He can see how Magnus' anger turns into agreement and he takes his finger away and replaces it with his lips instead, until Jace coughs, grinning and they part again, if very reluctantly.

“Biscuit, be a darling and call Catarina and ask how they're doing.” He's worried about them, too, especially should Rayna have returned... they'd be no match for her in their state.

Clary complies immediately. “They're fine, well, she said so, and they've brought the sphere to Ragnor's friend, what's a sphere?” Magnus feels relieved, good, very good.

“Just a magical... thing... it's not important right now.” No, just that they're all safe. He's still having a hard time really comprehending that Alexander's back, not just physically, but mentally and all of his feelings...

“Magnus? Are you alright? Is there something you need?” Magnus has been zoned out for a few minutes while Clary called her mother to let Lydia and Luke and the others know about Alec's return, and while everyone was talking quietly, she noticed the weird, unmoving look on his face.

Everyone's immediately looking at him and he just blinks, feeling Alec's big, slightly clammy hand on his cheek. “Yes, no, I'm good, really.”

“Shouldn't we call our parents to give them the good news?” Jace inquires, looking at Isabelle especially, she may, after all, already done so.

Before they can answer, Alec's sitting straight, a hard look on his face. “No!”

Feeling his Parabatai strongly suddenly, Jace regrets having asked. “Sorry, Alec.”

He shakes his head, one hand fisted. It's not even the way his mother manipulated him into giving himself up, not that that was entirely her doing, and she maybe had good intentions, but he remembers all too well the way she tried to poison him against Magnus, when he was completely vulnerable and dependent on people he could trust, who weren't abusing his defenseless state for their own petty reasons, like she did. He's not going to forgive her for that, and he certainly doesn't want to see her, speak to her, or be in the same room with her. He'll have to at some point, but just not any time soon. “They can wait.” The tone of his voice makes sure no one questions him.

“I think you two especially, but all of us could do with some nutrition in our stomachs. C'mon, guys, let's see what we can find.” Isabelle is quick to change topic and she even manages to coax Max into helping, though he really follows because he knows Magnus will protect Alec while he's gone, and couples seem to want time on their own a lot. He grins knowing they'll probably be smooching again in no time.

“I don't know how to believe this is real, that you're really... back.” Their foreheads are pressed together, arms tightly embracing each other. Alec's hurting more for Magnus than he's ever hurt for himself, or anyone else, and that broken tremor in his voice is heart-splitting.

“I promise you this is real and I am, and I love you so much.” To prevent the tears that would undoubtedly spill from his eyes if he kept talking, he tilts his head, his lips finding the only mouth he ever wants to kiss and lets fond caresses and ardent tongue dancing speak instead.

“Magnus, what did you have to do to break the spell?” As ever, they did have to break for air, and though Magnus feels a little warmer and looks more... like himself again, Alec can't shake the unrest that's troubling his mind.

The warlock can't meet his lover's eyes for a moment, but knows there's no way he would lie to him or even evade the question, they've come too far and Alexander always knows. “Do you remember what I told you about blood magic?” Magnus searches Alec's eyes, for a moment lost in the staggering sensation elicited by the sheer force of realizing that he really, truly, remembers. He doesn't even understand how he's supposed to cope, so he simply doesn't. He rather concentrates on Alec's beloved voice and facial expressions.

“It's forbidden, and warlocks would have to kill a lot of creatures and make sacrifices themselves that could be lethal.” Alec revels in the way he's able to seek out certain memories again, they're just there as they're supposed to be and it's a liberating feeling.

Magnus nods. “Rayna is using blood magic and she used it to create the spell to hide you from us, and we used our own blood to break it, but none of us had to die, which is rather fortunate.” He smiles softly but it quickly fades with the shocked look on Alec's face.

“You shouldn't have done that! You could have... any of you could have-” Magnus quickly places his fingers onto Alec's lips. “Shhh, don't think about what if, we are all fine, and each one of us had to face grave challenges, not least of all you, but we all succeeded and are here now, and if we never leave this couch again, I'll be more than alright with that.” He quickly replaces his fingers with his lips and shudders happily when Alec doesn't argue but reciprocates it eagerly. Not even a horde of demons could come between them right now. Or two pushy cats who eventually settle on the backrest of the couch, watching them.


 

“Are you two decent in there?” Simon grins as he keeps the others back with outstretched hands while peeking around the door himself.

Why did they have to come back already? Alec's softly grinning up at Magnus who is lying on top of him on the couch but they're still fully dressed, they just needed to feel each other more, and Magnus is still concerned about Alec's head, hoping he'll soon be able to use enough magic again to heal him. He'd ask Catarina but she's in no state to even get here, and brewing up a potion takes too much time and he'd rather stay as close to Alexander as somehow possible... with other people around. He gives Alec a look that clearly states how unfortunate it is they're not undisturbed any longer, kisses him one more time, thoroughly, and slowly moves off of him, the others all there watching now as Simon obviously couldn't hold them, or himself, back for more than a minute.

Alec moves to lean against Magnus, frowning a little. “Where were you?” He thinks Izzy was saying something about food earlier, but his head is kind of full of Magnus, as is all the rest of him.

“Well, seeing that you two don't have anything edible in your kitchen, we got us some A-class burritos.” Izzy remarks, hands Alec a bag and sits down next to him just to have to move over to let Max in between them.

“They're your favorite, and I got treats for the cats.” Max turns to be able to give them to Church and Chairman who are eagerly devouring their food, at last being rewarded for their hard work.

“Thanks, I guess I'm kinda hungry.” Alec bites off a piece of the burrito, glad he's not feeling sick anymore. And suddenly he feels like he's starved and has to control himself not to shove the whole thing into his mouth. The last decent meal he had at the safe house... that seems such a long while ago, it's so very surreal, all of it, because sitting here with his loved ones and eating that delicious food, it could seem as if the last couple of weeks... no, actually, months, didn't happen... months...

That last bite gets stuck in his throat and he quickly grabs the cup Clary brought him earlier and downs the rest of the now cold tea. He's got the weirdest feeling, awkward pin-pricks racing over his skin, making his fingers feel numb. “Just gotta use the bathroom.” He mumbles and leaves to the bedroom as quickly as he manages.

Magnus shares the most fleeting eye-contact with Jace before he gets up and follows, not going to stand back anymore, he's done that way too often lately, granted mostly to protect Alexander, but he needn't do that anymore, not from Magnus himself.

Alec's pushing cold water into his face, spreading it over his neck while taking deep breaths, trying to shake off this dazing feeling he suddenly got while imagining being non-existent for months and having not a single memory of that time. It's such an eerie, hollow sensation that takes hold of his innermost part, and he wishes he wouldn't have to remember that he doesn't have any memory of it. Whatever had happened to him in such a long stretch of time? And would he ever find out? Does he even want to know? Maybe he was trapped in a seven months long nightmare, and if so, he definitely does not want to know! The recollection of those he has is horrifying enough.

He stiffens as he suddenly feels a hand on his lower back but relaxes instantly when he sees Magnus' reflection in the mirror as he looks up. Magnus spoke his name three times but he didn't seem to hear him. Alec inhales heavily and turns to face his boyfriend. “I'm...” Still, his first ingrained reaction is to say he's fine as he's done all his life, but he's been working hard on changing a few things about himself in the time they've been together, and he wasn't going to be satisfied with anything less than success. Everything's just... so wrong again. Except them being here together, that will never be anything but right.

“Stuff just keeps coming at me like a tidal wave, it's just...” He gestures a little helplessly, hoping Magnus will understand like he's done most of the times he hasn't been able to find the words.

Having to watch his love still suffering so much evokes a deeply rooted fear and unrest in Magnus and he can't find words... instead he puts his arms around Alec cautiously and gently pulls his head down against Magnus' shoulder before he tenderly massages Alec's neck and strokes his back soothingly, quietly humming the first melody that comes to him, and only when he feels Alec's body relax can he allow himself to, as well.

  

“Let's take a shower.” Alec is almost too relaxed now, loving Magnus' soft humming always soothing him, making him feel sleepy, but sleep is not what he wants. He wants to be with Magnus, and the others, and delay having to fall asleep for as long as he can, doubting he will ever find a way to make himself look forward to bedtime again. And he can smell himself too intensely, and Magnus, though he still doesn't smell bad to him. But a warm shower sounds pretty good right now and he just doesn't want to be on his own.

Magnus refrains from commenting as he usually would, and simply drops a kiss onto Alec's lips before they undress, Alec pointedly not glancing at himself too much, knowing how bad he must look, and steps into the warm shower Magnus already started. They languidly caress soap into each other's skin, washing each other's hair gently, Magnus wincing secretly as he notices traces of blood from Alec's wound in the water, and embraces him tighter, craving to make everything good again, but knowing he's helpless. Alec focuses solely on Magnus, every move, touch, caress and kiss, wanting nothing more than forget the rest of the world, the past and even the future, only living for these current moments.

And he could get irrevocably lost in Magnus' silky, wet skin while his fingers are mapping him as if they're scared of losing the feeling.

“My love, if you don't want this to get out of hand, we should probably leave this shower now.” Magnus is smiling softly, tingling all over even though Alec's caresses aren't wild and desperate, but often the slow and gentle touches are affecting him even worse... but he's not sure that's what Alec wants or rather needs right now. And they still have people occupying their living-room, who're probably wondering what's taking them so long... or not, all of them having very visual imaginations.

“I know, you just feel so good.” Alec breathes against Magnus' neck, not having moved his heavy, slightly pounding head for a while. He's not sure he's able to do more just now, especially not standing upright in a shower. A regretful sigh escapes his lips as he slowly pulls away, kisses Magnus lovingly for a minute and takes his hand to lead him out of the shower. They stay very close as they get dried and dressed in comfortable clothes and eventually head back to the living-room.

 

Everyone's smiling softly as they emerge holding hands and settle down again on the couch, Max leaning into his big brother, finally able to relax again, especially as Alec starts stroking his hair. The cats are satisfied on their laps, purring and Alec feels like exactly this moment is what he'll live for now. If only he weren't so supremely exhausted, and Magnus isn't looking any less worn, but still so enthralling with his hair unstyled and no make-up. His skin is still too pale, his eyes void of their usual golden glow. But he's here, they're all here. That's the only thing he'll have to concentrate on, his mind already starting to fight invading tantalizing thoughts and images.

“You'll let us know if you want to, you know, get some sleep?” Clary is sitting comfortably on the floor, leaning against her boyfriend, who she knows will need a good night's sleep himself soon and she hopes they'll all be able to get one at long last. Alec stiffens visibly and everyone's regarding him apprehensively.

“I'm good.” He has to wince at the blatant lie and again remind himself that he needn't pretend, not when it's so freaking obvious! “I mean... I really don't want to.” Not now, not ever if it were possible. He can feel Magnus' arm tighten around him but his eyes are drawn to his Parabatai. Images of Jace in the safe house, suffering with him through the nightmares are worming themselves into his mind, leaving him with a coldness that is exacerbated by cruel flashes of Jace being killed in front of him, heightened brutally by the memory of the feeling of holding that dagger and driving it right into Jace's flesh.

He's gasping, suddenly fighting for air, Jace having felt some of his torment, intuitively knowing it's to do with him, is right in front of him now, cupping his cheeks, trying to soothe him, while Max and Magnus are watching frightened right next to them.

“Alec, Alec! Hey, it's ok! I'm here, I'm fine, I'm fine, you're safe and I'm safe.” Jace's voice is urgent and hardly hides how terrified he's feeling. His words eventually penetrate Alec's brain and he focuses on his brother's eyes, slowly calming his breathing again. Jace! You're here! I didn't... I didn't kill... Why can I feel your blood on my hands? Why can I see the life leaving your eyes? And why can I feel how much I ENJOYED it...?

Jace has no idea what's happening this time, he just knows it's bad, very bad judging from the look of pure horror in Alec's eyes and all he can do is wrap him into a hug and hold him, his soul freezing at hearing Alec's woeful words, “I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry,” as he clings to his younger Parabatai.

Izzy wraps her little brother, who's barely keeping from crying, into a tight embrace, Simon moves to put an arm around Clary who's troubled keeping her own tears in check. Magnus meets Jace's eyes, mirroring perfect sorrow and anguish.

Once Alec's in control of himself again he's cursing himself for letting those damn untrue nightmares get the better of him. He's ashamed, angry and full of guttural pain, but he can't do this to them, not again!

“I'm sorry, I'm okay.” Just unable to meet anyone's eyes and quick to gather Max into his arms when he sees how upset his little brother is because of him. “It's okay, Max, I promise.” The boy is glued to him, his small body shaking and Alec makes a promise to not lose it again, not in front of his little brother, at least!

“Does anyone have a tissue?” Alec asks after a long while of just rocking Max in his arms, finally feeling how he's calmed down again. Magnus snaps his fingers without losing a thought on it, too troubled worrying about Alexander, and hands the box of tissues over.

“Hey, does that mean you got your magic back?” Simon inquires hopefully. All eyes are on the warlock now who's staring at his hands confused for a moment before he does a little flourish, blue flames appearing in both of his palms, staying there this time.

“Great, now you can heal Alec's head, can't you?” Max asks, smiling again, never ceasing to be awed by his favorite warlock's magic. Magnus meets Alec's eyes tentatively, thinking of his last attempts to do good for him by using his magic, and horrendously failing. Alec gives him a crooked little smile that's full of trust and encouragement, however, and Magnus takes a breath, moves for better access and carefully lets his magic work, ready to pull back any moment. But nothing happens, nothing bad.

Alec exhales with the pain finally gone and Magnus is amazed at feeling the void of that cursed dark magic for himself. He quickly alleviates Alec's state of mind and other physical discomforts, at least for a while, before he feels his magic's running low again. It's enough for now anyway.

“Thank you.” Alec whispers meaningfully and leans in to kiss his lips, immediately drowning in blissful sensations. If anyone can make him forget, if only for a short time, it's this mesmerizing man next to him.

Everyone gets the feeling it's time to leave, seeing proof that their friend and brother is feeling much better right in front of them. “Alright, guys, let's all get some rest, Max you're coming with us, okay?” Isabelle stands, smiling down at her little brother.

“Do I have to? I want to stay here with Magnus and Alec and the cats!” He sulks.

“They can come, too. Magnus and Alec need to rest, as well, and we can see them tomorrow.” She bends down to him. “You know he's safe with Magnus, right?” She knows Max is the most protective of Alec now, needing time to work through his trauma and fear of losing him again. But he trusts no one more to look after his big brother than Magnus.

“Yeah, fine, if I have to, but we'll be back first thing tomorrow!” That's a promise and he moves to hug Magnus tightly and Alec even tighter before he coaxes Church and Chairman onto his shoulders to take them. “We're sleeping at the hotel, right? Raphael promised to show me a few more vampire tricks he still hasn't done!” Simon chuckles as everyone else grins, all very grateful that the evil Downworlders lessons have been rather futile on the boy. He loves all the amazing powers they have and demands to know everything about them. And he's charmed his way into many of their hearts somehow.

“I'm sure he will once you show him your most intimidating expression. I'll help you!” Simon winks and moves to hug his friends as well as do the others before they leave out the front door. Alec smiles heartwarmingly after them before he gets the urgent notion to run. “Jace, wait a second!” When the shorter man stops and looks at him rather concerned, Alec's quick to lean in and whisper. “I need to borrow your stele, please.”

Jace is rather taken aback for a moment, but quick to comply and hands him the stele. “Are you okay? Do you need me to-”

Alec quickly shakes his head, smirking a tiny bit. “Remember when you told me to stop thinking with my stele?” At Jace's eyes widening Alec's smirk grows.

“You sly fox.” Jace chuckles, feeling happy that his brother is clearly feeling better, more deserving than anyone else, and he hopes it will last for a long while. Alec grins and they hug once more, squeezing each other.

 

Alec makes his way back to where Magnus is standing, looking a little puzzled and more than anything else, ravishing, hiding the stele behind his back, showing him an enchanted little smile that drives shudders all over Magnus' skin.

The Shadowhunter stops just before they would be touching, gazing into rather brilliantly glowing cat eyes, filling him with such joy to know Magnus is feeling better himself and he's having this kind of effect on him still. “So, are you really tired?” Alec glances down just to look up again coyly, feigning innocence.

Magnus is surprised and thrilled, and once again utterly amazed by his beautiful, charming boyfriend who makes any negative thought vanish into thin air when he's this close and watching him, touching his innermost core with his sparkling hazel gold green amber eyes, who sometimes seem incapable of choosing a color, and Magnus never stops feeling radiant fascination by them, or the way Alexander's upper lip is parting as if in slow motion from his lower lip, one of the most sensual sights he's ever laid eyes on.

Alec is exhilarated at his lover seemingly having lost the ability to speak and takes his answer from that, smirking softly as he reveals the stele, pushes up his top and draws a stamina rune onto his skin while Magnus watches mesmerized, finally catching up with Alec's intention.

When he's done, he quickly puts the stele away safely, flings his arms around Magnus and pulls him flush against himself, devouring his mouth.

They must have been kissing for minutes caressing each other, and finally Magnus' hands decide to speed things up a little finding their way under Alec's black top, intending to pull it off over his head.

Alec's hands close around Magnus' suddenly, halting them and Magnus is alarmed, but only for a second until he meets Alexander's deep eyes, darkened by desire. “Come with me.” He whispers before placing a gentle kiss on Magnus' lips, and leads him to their bedroom by his hand. Alec lets go just for a few seconds, pressing play on their music player, knowing the last CD he inserted is the one that's usually in there. A compilation of piano love songs from all kinds of movies he's yet to watch he got for his birthday from Clary and Simon – and he truly loves every single song on it. It's loud enough to fill the room but quiet enough so he won't miss a single one of Magnus' breaths.

“Close your eyes.” Alec whispers while tracing a finger along Magnus' temple, a tender smile curling around his lips.

Magnus feels as if he could burst with emotions but Alec's warm gaze is calming him enough to breathe evenly again and obey his request. Alec's smile grows and he moves silently to stand behind his love, laying his hands on the back of Magnus' head, starting to massage gently, letting his fingers move as they please, down along Magnus' neck, shoulders, arms and back, eventually freeing his body of his shirt and discarding it on the floor. His hands are warm, keen on heating up every tense muscle in Magnus' body, soothing every strain proving the countless ordeals he's gone through. Alec's set his mind on relieving Magnus' pain and pouring him with all of his love and need to pleasure. And he won't rest until he's completely satisfied with his efforts.

His fingers are slowly running up Magnus' sides and forward to his perfectly defined abdominal muscles while he showers his neck and shoulders and eventually his spine with open-mouthed kisses, moving subconsciously with the music, his ears pricking up deliciously with every tiny sound leaving Magnus' mouth.

When Alec reached the small of Magnus' back and kissed all of his velvety skin there he moves around his waist, continuing his gentle onslaught on his boyfriend's smooth skin that's covered in goosebumps which Alec can feel overrunning his own body with the look of sheer stunned delight in Magnus' eyes. Alec smiles softly as he lets his lips move upwards, his tongue peeking out to lick over an erect nipple forcing a breathy gasp from Magnus who grabs him the moment he's standing upright and crushes their mouths together haphazardly.

Alec's overjoyed with that kind of reaction but he's got a plan to follow, and he will. He loosens Magnus' grip on him carefully, gently pushing him backwards until he's lying on their bed, looking up at Alec with sensual anticipation that the Shadowhunter is hardly able to resist. He averts his eyes for a moment as he, as slowly as he manages, discards his clothes, knowing Magnus is watching him so intensely it's driving a storm of shivers over and through him.

Only after taking a deep breath is he able to meet those eyes again, shining with passion and worship that used to intimidate him like nothing else, but couldn't make him happier in this moment. Alec moves to free Magnus of his remaining clothes and carefully lies down on top of him, seeking out his mouth desiring to taste him, his hands, legs and rest of his body stroking and caressing every connecting part of skin as their moans mingle.

When Magnus' hands on him become too dangerous for Alec to lose control, he takes them into his own, gently pinning them down above their heads. “This is for you, don't fight me on this, please.” He breathes heavily against Magnus' lips, staring down into those glowing, love-filled, wanting eyes, and when he sees the surrender in them he dives in to kiss him sore, claiming possession of this breathtaking body and soul.

His lips and tongue are eventually moving downwards, intending to mark every part of Magnus' body when he's stopped by two loving hands cupping his face. “Do whatever you will but I need you to stay up here with me, I need your face, all of you, close.”

Alec loses his ability to breathe, hearing the heart-splitting plea, Magnus' cat eyes glistening with unspoken emotions of desperate need born from primal fear of loss and solitude.

Unable to let himself think, or deny him ever, Alec quickly moves upwards aligning his face in Magnus' space, smothering him with kisses before their mouths slide together again, slick and heated in a silent promise, their bodies aching to feel each other.

The only moment he pulls back slightly is to watch Magnus' face rippling with pleasure, a stream of blissful moans freed from his mouth, as ecstasy given by Alec's hand is taking him over wholly.

Both speechless with hypnotic emotions they kiss each other breathless once more, Magnus' legs finding their place around Alec's hips naturally, just like Alec's hands entangle themselves with Magnus' above his head, and they never lose eye-contact as they move together in perfect unison, Alec only granting himself to let go once he feels Magnus deliciously clenching around him as they capture each other's vehement cries with their inseparable mouths.

Alec wipes a tear away affectionately that stole itself out of Magnus' eye and they kiss lovingly until their bodies are calm again, Alec eventually moving to rest his head on Magnus' chest so he can listen to his heartbeat, two of their hands and their legs entwined.

“I can't imagine what you've gone through when I didn't come home.” Alec's voice is a faint whisper, but Magnus hears him crystal clear and reacts immediately by tightening his arm around him. Alec couldn't stop his mind from venturing and he wonders if it will ever be able to seek out solely good thoughts again.

“You shouldn't think of any of that, love.” Magnus knows it's a futile request, Alexander has always had the affinity of torturing his own courageous but fragile soul with others' miseries, even more so when he's convinced of being to blame.

“I have to. Not thinking doesn't work or I'll explode, and I just wish so much I could have done something to fight it.” Whatever it was that had taken away his free will and finally his whole existence.

Magnus feels how he's flooded with grief for Alexander. “Do you remember what happened that night?” He used to think of that night as the worst of his life, but having witnessed Alec's suffering has been infinitely worse.

“Yeah, I was rushing to get home to you, and then I got this feeling... like when you know something is just wrong but you can't grasp what... and then...” He swallows heavily and wets his lips. “I couldn't move anymore, not a finger and I felt so cold, like nothing I've ever felt before, it was as if I was freezing from the inside and then... I saw two red spots... like eyes, like fire, and then nothing until I woke up when Jace found me.”

Magnus can feel Alec's body overtaken by unpleasant shivers and quickly snaps his fingers, using his magic to replace them with comforting warmth, not indicating how deeply unsettled he feels himself by his boyfriend's recount.

Alec smiles fondly when he becomes aware of Magnus' doing and moves his head to be able to look at him. “Thank you. For everything you've done... I don't know how it can be real... how I could just forget you...” His throat contracts painfully and cuts off any other words.

Magnus runs his finger along his love's swollen lips, feeling the utmost desperate need to rid him of all and any burden and agony, knowing he cannot, something holding him back forcefully from suggesting to take away those memories. Instead he leans closer, covers Alec's lips with his own and cradles his body protectively with his.

Magnus intends to overpower any sorrowful emotion with one of love, gently kissing and kindly caressing Alec, but he realizes quickly that Alec's indigent of more as he's trying to absorb Magnus' touches in any way possible and Magnus doesn't have to think, but gently moves him, holds him down, and starts a journey along Alec's body, intending to give back every rapturous sensation he received earlier.

Alec's gifted with feelings of nothing but visceral pleasure for a long time, never having felt this limitless trust and freeing vulnerability, radiating love from every pore and when he finally feels Magnus completing not only his body but his very being he can unclasp his barrier, at last, shedding copious tears Magnus kisses away tenderly.

Tears arisen from boundless adoration are adorning Magnus' own face as they shudder together through the highest peak of their love-making, kissing away every liquid trace on each other's faces in the aftermath before they lie together embraced and peacefully and, Alec feeling as safe as he could be, fall asleep eventually.

 

Chapter Text

When Alec wakes he feels something he hasn't in the longest time; at peace. He's not going to question it for a second and instead fully turns his head to the left to watch the man lying next to him, their legs still intertwined.

He takes in the wild state of Magnus' black hair, sticking up in a few places, a few strands falling onto his forehead and in his eyes. His skin is back to its usual warm bronze tone, vibrant and silken, his lashes hovering just above his cheeks. His hand basically moves on its own, a finger touching the tip of Magnus' nose feather light, running downwards, along his velvet like lips, back up over his cheekbone, temple and forehead, carefully wiping the hair away and down his other cheek, along his jaw and chin and down his throat, adam's apple and collarbone. He's never going to tire of touching or watching him.

A tiny movement makes Alec look up again, seeing the warlock's eyelids flicker he holds his breath, wondering whether dark brown or golden cat eyes will meet his, hoping for the latter, and thankfully, they do.

He smiles lovingly, cupping Magnus' cheek and strokes his thumb over his tender lips again, watching as Magnus blinks the sleep from his eyes.

“Alexander, what- oh.” Alec shudders hearing his hoarse voice, no doubt from sleep but exacerbated by their countless moans from last night. The shudders on Alec's body increase endlessly and giving Magnus no time to say anything else he leans in and brushes their lips together, over and over again while his hands continue caressing Magnus' body.

For a fearsome moment Magnus believes that he's dreaming but when his brain catches up he immediately acts, wrapping Alec closer to him, his hands roaming all over strong muscles, light hair and skin strewn with runes and scars and he knows each one by heart. They lose all consciousness for a world outside of each other.

“Shit, I need to pee, I'm sorry.” Alec pulls back flustered, smiling apologetically but he's bursting and quickly leaves their bed for the bathroom, Magnus not letting him out of sight until the door closes, a happy, carefree smile on his face as he stretches languidly before his gaze drops to the bed cover next to him and he reaches out a hand to touch it. It's still warm. Definitely not a dream. This is real, last night was real, his Alexander is real. He feels like screaming, laughing, dancing and bursting with happiness and inside he's doing all of it, but outwardly he's staring down the bathroom door, willing it to open more quickly.

Alec hurries as much as he can, needing to be back with his man, grinning broadly the moment he opens the door and lays eyes on Magnus, lying on his side, an elbow propped up to support his head, a naked leg angled up, the bedcover concealing his waist and other leg. Alec's heart jumps and he's about to dash back into bed to devour his magnificent boyfriend when sudden disturbing sounds appear from the living-room.

“Oh, shit, I guess we're not alone anymore.” Max did threaten they'd be back first thing, though it is past lunchtime. And he's standing naked in their bedroom and someone could suddenly appear, not everyone big on knocking. Jace, Simon.

Magnus left the bed and is standing in front of him now, embracing him around his waist. “You go take a shower while I entertain the family, and hurry.” He leans up slightly to leave Alec with a rightful kiss that should be incentive to rush even more and then Alec watches him grab a navy silk robe, closing it around his body and running a hand through his hair before he winks at him sassily and sidles out the door.

Before Alec can move he takes a deep breath, unable to shake the smile off of his face and then he turns and sprints back into the bathroom to speedily get done with his morning hygienics, still smiling when he reappears and joins everyone in the living-room.

He's immediately greeted by the Chairman jumping onto his shoulder, nuzzling his head, Church walking through his legs, pushing against them and Max rushing forward, his biggest grin plastered on his face and Alec catches him swiftly as he jumps up into his arms. “Hey, Max, guys.” He grins as he squeezes Max tightly and glances around the room at everyone. They're all smiling and kind of... yeah, they're all glowing, looking so much better and rested and gorgeous. It's like a damn dream, but it better not be!

“Well, seeing as you got your main attraction back, I'll retreat to make myself presentable.” Magnus smirks but doesn't leave before he's stolen a kiss and butt squeeze from Alec who looks after him thoroughly flushed, unable to keep the grin splitting his face away, unable to think of anything much but him and them together, having absolutely zero regrets.

He then has to hug everyone, not that it's such a hardship. “You're looking so much better, big brother, I'm so happy for you.” “Thanks, Izzy, you're not looking so bad yourself, all of you, well, maybe not you.” He raises a pointed eyebrow at Simon who looks wounded and counters with jumping at Alec much in the way Max has done earlier, threatening to not let go again.

“Okay, okay, you're handsome, somewhat, now let go.” Alec's voice is mock stern as he can't muster up real annoyance. “I guess I forgive you, for now.” Simon concedes but only lets off of the tall Shadowhunter after dropping a kiss onto his cheek.

Alec wipes it off, frowning. “Why is your boyfriend always kissing me?” Izzy laughs and takes his arm into hers, leaning against him. “I guess you're just too handsome not to.” She leans up to kiss his cheek as well before she lets off him again.

“Right, okay, enough kissing for now! Jace, come over here for a sec.” He walks to the table, takes up the stele and turns to his Parabatai, handing it over. “Thanks for that, I guess you, uh, felt...?”

Jace takes it, grinning widely and pats his shoulder. “Yup, you were pretty intense, but I'm not complaining, bro, it was a good night for me, too.” He glances at Clary who's chatting with Max animatedly and Alec smiles knowingly. “Glad to hear it.”

Jace flicks his stele once, meeting his brother's eyes again. “Yeah, borrow this any time you want.” He winks. “I'm sure I will, seeing that I can't really get another-”

“Alright, mi amigos y amiga,” Izzy smiles at Clary, “let's get breakfast, or rather brunch ready, I think we're all starving!” She receives nods and sounds of agreement and everyone's heading to the kitchen where they left the food they brought. Alec's watching them all fondly before he starts walking but is caught in the movement as the sound of the bedroom door opening stops him and makes him turn again.

His heart and libido drop to his knees, his breath catching in his throat, as Magnus appears, looking even more astonishing than Alec remembers. He wasn't gone long but he sure has perfected his time management. His hair is styled impeccably, done up and slicked back, a sheen of blue and silver glitter sparkling off it, dark eye-shadow with delicate silver streaks beautifying his eyes even more so. His lips are shining with mildly glittery lip gloss and Alec just knows it will taste like honeysuckle, blueberries or something else delicious to him. Magnus is dressed in a teal satin shirt, fine silver patterns woven into it, the top buttons undone, no doubt for Alec's benefit, and black jeans that compliment his strong legs immaculately.

Magnus, vibrating blissfully, bathing in Alexander's obvious delight at his appearance, steps closer, showing him an entrancing smile. “Have the cats got your tongue, my love?” He quips happily, his eyes sparkling.

Alec's mouth actually dropped open and he's blinking dumbly, inept of forming cohesive thoughts, but one.

He's so fast, Magnus is actually taken by surprise as he feels Alec's mouth smashing against his, his long, strong arms locked around him, pressed against Alec's warm, solid body and it's beyond tempting to simply take him back to their bedroom and shut the door so no one, not even the cats, could get in.

Sweet lime, one of Alec's favorites. How is he supposed to keep his mouth and hands away from this preying allurement that is Magnus?!

Loud meowing and voices a second later. Right, they are not alone here. Get a grip, Lightwood. He wipes his lips as he physically constrains himself to let go of Magnus and step away from him as it's really too dangerous otherwise, and everyone's smirking at them already!

“You got something on your face! Here, and here, and here.” Jace taunts him, pointing at his brother's face before wiping his hand all over it, Alec fighting him off. “Yeah, yeah, just shut up.” He feels so flushed but full of energy and so damn exhilarated and happy, he could explode! He never ever wants to lose these feelings again and glancing back at Magnus who is smirking saucily, because he can't hold himself back, Alec is rather positive that he won't.

“Let's eat!” Clary interjects, unable to hide her own grin and they all settle around the table, sharing glances and Max telling them all about what he learned from Raphael and what the cats got up to. Magnus' and Alec's gazes meet in consummate understanding.

They're almost finished when Clary's cell rings and the look she shares with Jace lets Alec know something is up immediately. Jace takes the phone and leaves the room and Alec's so close to going after him to inquire who it is and what's going on. And when Jace comes back a few minutes later, looking rather sullen, Alec knows his happy bubble is about to pop.

“Who-”

“Our mother, she called Clary's phone yesterday, so often I eventually answered, she was frantic and I told her you're alright and safe but don't want to see her. She got that you're here and, well, she demands to see you or she'll come here herself... and also... the Silent Brothers want to speak with all of us.” Especially you. Jace doesn't even need to say it for it to penetrate Alec's psyche.

POP!

Alec feels punched in his gut, color immediately draining from his face and he's glad he's still sitting. Magnus is by his side and Jace crouched down in front of him. “I'm sorry, Alec, but look, you don't have to see her, Magnus can just move the loft again or you can go somewhere else... and the Silent Brothers just have to do their job to get order into all that chaos, it will be okay.” Alec just wants to cry, but he won't, not a chance in hell! Think of Max! Why is it always him crushing their happiness?

He forces a little smile and nods. “Yeah, it's fine, I know.” Flashbacks from Alistair's interrogation deluge his mind and icy shivers are spreading over his skin. He can't let those memories, any memories get the better of him, though. And he's not in any danger now... it's just his duty to help solve this mess. He just wishes he wouldn't feel like choking from just thinking about anything outside of their loft. He would choose to stay in here for a damn long time if only he could.

He sends a better, reassuring smile to Max and ruffles his hair. “When this is done we should all go on a vacation or something, I think we earned it.”

“Yes! The beach!” Alec's smile turns more genuine at the excitement in his little brother's voice. “Yeah, sure, sounds good.” He pulls him closer, keeping the smile for everyone else.

When everyone's busy clearing the table, Alec steals himself back into the bedroom and when he emerges again he's fully dressed in his black hunting gear. “Do you know where my bow and quiver are?” He's met with six pairs of startled eyes.

“They're here, safe, but why do you need them?” Magnus inquires, cautiously stepping closer, feeling rather anxious about this sudden development.

“Oh, good, I was worried they may still be in Texas. I don't need them, not now, I just...” He sighs wearily, traces of the misery he's been through clearly visible on his face again. “I just wanna go to the institute and get this over with.” He won't ever be ready to face his mother again, and he won't find any peace of mind either, so he can as well do it right now, and maybe he won't feel too shit...

“Alexander, are you sure? You don't have to do this, especially not right now.” Magnus feels sick with worry about him having to confront Maryse, and so shortly after having escaped from that terror.

Alec smiles gently and takes Magnus' hands into his own gloved ones. “Yeah, I won't be able to concentrate on anything else, I just want it all to be over, so we can just... be together.” His voice turned quieter, his face moving closer and his eyes shut as their lips connect.

“Well, I'm coming with you for protection, I'm not happy with our mother, either, and she better not think I'm on her side, and I also need my stele back!” Max says resolutely, moving to stand next to his big brother who's parted from Magnus again and looks down at Max affectionately.

“Thanks, Max, I really appreciate it, but I don't think that's-"

“Actually, I'm coming, too.” Jace. “I think we're all coming.” Izzy meets her big brother's eyes, fiery determination written all over her face. Simon and Clary are in complete agreement and Alec is a little bit speechless, hating how relieved that makes him feel, because they shouldn't ever have to fight his battles, but he also has had to learn that they've been doing it for a long time, and he would do exactly the same for each one of them, so how is he meant to deny them?

“So will I, seeing that the quickest way to get there and back is by portal.” Magnus hasn't finished speaking as his hands move elegantly, opening a portal for them all, everyone feeling joyed that his magic is back at full force.

Alec sighs softly, a grateful smile reflected in his eyes. He watches them go through until only Magnus and he are left. And the cats who are watching them closely from the couch.

“Thank you for this.” Alec notices how much this means to him from the way his voice quivers and his heart pounds. Magnus cups his face with his soft hands and gazes into his shimmering hazel eyes. “You don't have to thank me, Alexander, wherever you'll go, I'll follow. If you ever leave my side again I'm going to chain you to my hip to make sure you won't be able to, no matter how much you'll complain.”

Alec can't but grin gently, bringing his arms around Magnus' neck and leaning in to drop a kiss on his lips. “I won't, I promise.” He hopes with everything he's got that he will be able to keep it.


The others have waited for Magnus and Alec to join them before they enter the institute, Alec in the lead with Magnus and Jace right behind him, Clary and Max, and Simon and Isabelle following just a few steps behind.

Alec can't shake the feeling of walking to his own slaughter, even though it's ridiculous, how many arguments have they had since the day he kissed Magnus in front of everyone at his supposed wedding? Countless, that's for sure, but this feels more vigorous in a gloomy way. He's making his face and whole body hard, as tense as possible, feeling slightly more confident to fight wearing his familiar gear, and with those amazing people having his back.

His fingers are twitching nervously, though, when his mother comes into view and he has to refrain himself from falling into the inbred behavioral pattern of moving his arms behind his back obediently, he will never do that again. Instead, he's crossing them in front of his chest, making himself as tall as possible with his legs apart to ground himself more strongly. Inwardly he's taking a deep, long breath.

Maryse is glad to see her oldest son well, relieved her other children are back healthily as well, but disappointed and vexed at seeing the vampire and the thorn in her flesh, Magnus Bane. She tries to ignore them as she's not letting herself be intimidated by Alec's stance, takes him by his upper arms and leans up to kiss his cheek, feeling a little taken aback by his tenseness and hardened face, not getting any kind of reaction.

“Alec, I am so happy you're okay, let's go to my office and talk.” Away from prying eyes and ears.

“No, whatever you have to say you can do it right here.” His voice is unflinching, sounding a lot more rigorous than he expected and he's glad. He won't give her even the tiniest chance to sway his mind her way. He can't, for his own sake.

“Alec... fine.” He can see how she masks her own face, no intention of backing down or losing face in front of them, in front of the Downworlders. It makes him sick.

“I am truly sorry for my part in this, son, I sincerely hope you believe me that I had no idea about Alistair's schemes, to me it seemed like the only way to get you home safely and to protect you from this evil, and what really matters is that it worked and you're free and got your memories back?” She wants this assurance from him himself.

Alec can't but think 'protect you from this evil' includes Magnus. He knows her too well by now. He nods once, trying to find the words to tell her what he needs to say, even though he expects it to fall on deaf ears. But he needs to say it anyway.

“Yes, I remember everything, and I don't even care anymore about the way you tried to manipulate me into giving myself up, but using Max to do it was low, even for you, but luckily he's got great friends to look out for him.” She would be livid if she knew how many friends in Downworlders by now, not that she could do anything about it, he wouldn't let her. He'd rather Max spent all his time with the vampires and werewolves than any moment here where she could harm him by spreading her poison.

“I didn't want to use your brother, but it was the only way to get the message to you, and it worked and I knew your friends would protect him and I am grateful for that.” She manages to meet Simon's eyes for a second, completely disregarding Magnus.

Alec almost snorts, shooting her a very sceptical look, but fighting a lost fight is not what he's here for.

“Do you remember that night, just a few weeks before I... disappeared, when we were talking at the library? What you told me? I tried to explain to you how much better I felt about myself and my life and you actually lied to me, telling me you accepted my decisions at last, even though you weren't happy about them, but you never did accept anything!”

“Alec, that's not tr-” He's holding up a hand to stop her, dropping his arms to his sides, hands fisted.

“It is, mother. I thought we were finally getting somewhere, mending our relationship, that you could really accept me and me being in love with Magnus, but you just pretended to, because the moment you saw a chance of tainting my mind against him, you took it! When I was in a state of total helplessness, you abused it! And I won't ever forgive you for that, and you will never understand how that makes me feel.” He looks up, closing his eyes for a moment, taking a breath, before he regards her again, her face pure defiance. She truly won't ever get it. So, he'll just say whatever he needs to this once.

“Do you even... do you have any clue about what I, what we've all been through? If not for Magnus and Ragnor and Catarina and Simon I'd be dead right now, they've done and cared more for me in the last couple of weeks than you ever seem to have. If you really loved me as a parent should, unconditionally, you'd be so fucking happy for me because nothing and no one has ever made me happy like Magnus is doing every single day, and he loves me so much he almost died for me, and would have, even my friends and siblings would die for me and I for them, because we love each other unconditionally and they actually want to see me happy and loved, and I really can't say the same for you and I don't have words to tell you how that makes me feel... but maybe it doesn't matter, as long as I have them and Magnus I don't want or need whatever you have to offer. I don't need you in my life, I thought I did because you're my damn mother, but...” He swallows hard but quickly continues to get it over with.

“You can spit your toxins all you like but not with us, not with Max, not in my presence and I won't ever let you treat my friends and especially Magnus, my life partner, like scum when he's the one person you owe so much respect to, you should freaking worship him because that's what he deserves, but you'll never actually get that and I feel sorry for you... just don't even look at him the wrong way or you may truly never see me again, should you even care to.”

Alec can feel himself crumbling and it's time to retreat, particularly because, even though she's rather stunned, she's about to flood him, he can tell.

“Just... don't, just leave me in peace, just leave me.” He's holding up his hands, his face gone pale, moving backwards, the others making room for him, staring in disbelief, completely staggered by his words and hurting so badly for him. None of them actually grants Maryse another glance, all heading to catch up with Alec to see what they can do to take some of his burden from him.

He doesn't manage to get out of the institute, instead finds his old room and quickly heads inside, sliding to the floor, dropping his head into his hands. His heart is racing, his breath is ragged, he feels dizzy and weak, chills are tormenting his body and he feels as if he's completely losing control over himself, everything, and it's made much worse by vicious memories overflowing his mind.

Jace, who ran after him, is the first to find him, having felt his brother's oncoming panic attack even before he saw the state he's in now. He manages to calm him slightly but only when Alec realizes that Magnus is next to him is he able to calm himself enough while clinging to his boyfriend, to breathe evenly again.

“Take me away, Magnus, please, just take me far away.” Away from this place, his mother, away from his mind.

Magnus shares an excruciating look with Jace, glad the others stayed with Max outside, and he suddenly knows the perfect place, or so he hopes.


He can feel rather cold wind in his face, his nose is filled with scents of salt and earth.

His ears prick up at the sound of birds, seagulls? He opens his eyes, astounded by the sight before him. They're somewhere at the sea, high up on a cliff where the sun is setting, tinging the horizon in soft red, orange, yellow and blue colors, streaked with white, grey and black clouds, below them the vast sea, and he can hear waves crashing against the sturdy rock beneath them.

As he looks up there are a dozen seabirds circling above the cliffs, calling. He closes