GOOD MORNING @magnusbae
mind & heart, body & soul - chapter 9
It takes the damn Shadowhunters twenty minutes to let Magnus into the Institute, even though they knew he was coming. He stands on the steps, pacing, growing increasingly irritated, the sun uncomfortably hot over his waistcoat.
God, Magnus hates Institutes.
By the time a Shadowhunter—neither his husband nor his lovely sister-in-law, more’s the pity—finally opens the door, Magnus is practically seething. Bad enough that he has to come crawling over here to get his payment when it should have been delivered a week ago. How dare they disrespect him as well?
But he swallows his rage and merely offers the Shadowhunter a steely glare. “I’m here to collect my payment for the ward repair,” he tells him, and the Shadowhunter nods, silent, and ushers him into the entryway.
“You’ll want Lightwood,” he says, which makes no sense since Alec’s already submitted his bill, or so he said. Perhaps he means Isabelle, though Magnus isn’t sure that makes much sense either. But he’d rather deal with either of the Lightwoods than with this random Shadowhunter who’ll barely give him the time of day, so he doesn’t protest.
They search in Ops first, then in the Head’s Office, to no avail. Magnus wonders briefly if Alec’s even in the Institute at all. Presumably the Clave is keeping him busy with all sorts of inane tasks, though Magnus hasn’t gotten the chance to ask him much about it yet.
Then they turn the corner towards the training room, and Magnus hears the smack of fists impacting a punching bag. The Shadowhunter waves him forward and disappears before Magnus can thank him sarcastically for all of his help.
Stepping forward into the room, he finds Alec going at a punching bag like it murdered his family, gaze dark and intense, breath heaving. He’s not wearing a shirt, muscular chest glistening with sweat, and Magnus stops and stares for a long moment, forgetting that he should probably be a little more discreet, thinking instead about how Alec’s chest had felt under his hands when he’d drawn their wedding rune, how Alec’s body had felt against his when Alec had helped him heal Luke. He just stares, swallowing hard, feeling pleasantly off-kilter, his former irritation vanished.
Then he finally manages to get a grip and shakes himself, clearing his throat. “Warlock TLC may be free-of-charge, but broken fingers cost extra,” he says, stepping closer and more into Alec’s line of sight.
Alec stills the punching bag and fixes his gaze on him, chest heaving. It seems to take him a moment to come back and fully realize Magnus is there, and then he frowns.
“Did they seriously not pay you yet?”
Magnus hides a smile at how easily Alec’s read him. “What, a man can’t come see his husband?”
Alec just shakes his head. “They didn’t pay you yet. I can’t believe this. I told them six times. I’ll go make them do it now, come on—”
He starts to walk away, but Magnus catches him by the arm. “I didn’t mean for you to go rushing off.”
Alec pauses and looks down at himself. “Yeah, I guess I should probably put on a shirt.”
And that’s not what Magnus meant. He sighs, put out, as Alec grabs his sweatshirt from a nearby bench. “If you really must…”
Alec side-eyes him as if he knows exactly what Magnus is thinking. “Think I’d better. Wouldn’t want to short-circuit your brain.” He slips his arms into his sleeves, smirking a little, as Magnus chokes.
“But I’m serious,” he adds before Magnus can say anything. “The Clave has to pay you for the wards, and I’m going to make sure it happens right now.”
They wind up back in the Head’s office, where Alec makes a beeline for the paperwork on the desk. Magnus follows him more slowly, looking around, a realization slowly dawning.
“Alec…” he starts, “you’re not… running this Institute, are you?” How can he be, when he has all his other work to do as well? But it sure looks like that’s what he’s doing from here.
Alec huffs out a bitter laugh. “Not technically.”
“My uh… current position precludes me from being an Institute head. But I was basically doing it before, and it’s not like anyone’s going to do the work now. Technically my parents are supposed to run the Institute, but they’re never here.”
He finds whatever paperwork he’s looking for and places it at the top of the stack, lifting his desk phone to his ear and dialing in the same movement.
“If I was the real Institute head, I could have signed for your payment myself. Instead we have to deal with all of this bullshit. Hey, Whitelaw, where the hell is that payment?” This last bit he snaps into the phone. “The one I told you to approve six times. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. You want the New York Institute to go without wards? ‘Cause I’m happy to lay all of the resulting deaths at your feet if you don’t approve this payment. Oh, you’ll put it through today? Was that really so hard? No, I didn’t think so.” And then, as fast as he started the call, he hangs up.
Magnus watches, speechless. Alec scribbles something on the paper he’d found, then looks back up at him.
“Well,” Magnus says when he’s regained his ability to do so, “that was sexy. Perhaps I can take you to lunch?”
Alec raises an eyebrow. “In return for getting you the payment you’re rightfully owed?”
“For providing me a show on a day full of irritation. Besides, I want to hear more about this running-the-Institute-but-not-really-running-the-Institute thing you have going on.”
Alec looks down at his sweaty workout clothes. “Uh, yeah, that would be nice. Just give me like fifteen minutes to shower.”
Magnus almost makes a comment about joining him. Almost. But that might be a little much. The flirting is meant to be a joke, after all.
Before he can decide what to say instead, there’s a Shadowhunter standing in the doorway—the same one, in fact, who had shown Magnus around the Institute, the one whose name Magnus hadn’t bothered to learn.
Alec looks up at him. “Yes?”
“I’m here to show the Warlock out of the Institute.”
Alec’s jaw grinds. “You’re here to show him out?” he repeats flatly.
“Yeah, presumably he’s got what he came here for.” The Shadowhunter looks bored. There’s a vein standing out on Alec’s neck now. There’s no way anyone in the Institute is ignorant of Magnus and Alec’s relationship, which makes this even ruder than it would be normally, but Magnus isn’t sure whether to feel offended, or whether to sit back and watch the show.
He’s watched Alec decimate Clave officials twice his age. He has no doubts about his ability to handle one mediocre Shadowhunter.
“Mr. Bane can leave when he wishes,” Alec says, voice tight with annoyance, “and he certainly doesn’t need your help finding his way, Greywell. Don’t you have something more productive to be doing, like staring at a wall?”
Greywell just shrugs. “Suit yourself.”
He starts to amble out, then pokes his head back in the doorway.
“Oh, by the way, your parents are here.”
Alec startles upright, mouth dropping open. Fortunately, Greywell is already gone, and only Magnus witnesses it.
“Shit,” Alec says, “they didn’t tell me they were coming. What am I saying, of course they didn’t, they love to do that.”
He starts scrambling around, putting papers in order, seemingly without reason, and Magnus steps forward to lay a hand on his arm.
“Alexander, darling, breathe. You’re doing brilliantly, there’s nothing they can say to you. And besides, you’re your own man now, remember? Don’t Shadowhunters place a lot of importance on the independence of marriage?”
Alec offers him a small smile. “Yeah, I guess that’s true. I just haven’t seen them since—”
It’s at that moment, of course, that Maryse Lightwood strides into the office. Magnus feels the weight of her gaze bore into where he’s still touching Alec, but he doesn’t move away.
“This is a sacred office, Alec,” Maryse begins without even so much as a hello, “I better not see any canoodling corrupting the air.”
“If you didn’t want him canoodling you shouldn’t have married him off, it does rather come with the territory,” Magnus says, before immediately realizing that antagonizing Maryse is probably a bad idea. But he’s feeling incensed—he detests the tension he can feel in Alec, a tension that wasn’t even there in front of the entire Clave. Magnus almost wants to take his hand, as he’d done at the Clave event, but he doesn’t think that would go over so well with Maryse.
He gives Alec’s arm one more deliberate squeeze before turning to Maryse.
“Warlock,” Maryse says, lips set in a line. It’s not quite a greeting, more a grudging acknowledgement of a mess.
“Maryse,” Magnus says, matching her tone.
“Will you leave us?” she asks, gesturing to Alec, and then, when Magnus doesn’t budge, spits, “Please?”
“That depends,” Magnus drawls, “what does my husband think?”
A muscle in her jaw twitches when he says ‘husband,’ and Magnus relishes in it.
Maryse grits her teeth. “Alec?”
Alec finally turns to her. He looks calmer now, gaze set and impassive. “You heard what Magnus said. We’re married. Whatever you have to say, he can hear.”
And isn’t that something?
Maryse huffs. “So be it. It involves him anyway. Alec, you made fools of us at the swearing in. Parading that Warlock around like you’re proud of him. Insulting the Clave officials. How could you?”
Alec crosses his arms. “I was protecting my family. Isn’t that what you’ve always taught me?”
Maryse’s mouth pops open, and Alec stares her down, daring her to say Magnus isn’t family, which is clearly on the tip of her tongue.
“You helped arrange this marriage,” Alec continues when she stays silent, “what did you want me to do? Pretend like he doesn’t exist?”
“Yes, exactly! The whole point of this— this— marriage is to restore our family’s reputation with a political sacrifice. Not for you to go whoring around the Downworld. I already have one child making a disgrace of herself, I don’t need another.”
“Don’t talk about Izzy like that,” Alec snaps. “And do you really think Izzy dating a Seelie is what ruined our family’s reputation? You and dad did that yourselves long before she was even old enough to pick up a seraph blade.”
“Alexander!” Maryse looks furious, but Alec doesn’t back down. Magnus stays by his side, crossing his own arms over his chest, mimicking Alec’s posture. “Perhaps this… alliance was a mistake, after all. I’ve never known you to be so insolent. Clearly, this Warlock is a bad influence.”
“Oh, clearly,” Alec says, a little of the sarcasm Magnus saw in him at the Clave event slipping into his tone, and Magnus has to hide a smile. “It’s obviously Magnus’s fault.”
Maryse softens a little unexpectedly at that, and for the first time Magnus gets a glimpse of the mother underneath the soldier, the mother who might, at least at one point, have wanted the best for her son. “Alec, I know you see your role as more… ambassadorial, and maybe the Clave does too, in their own way, but just make sure you know which side you’re on. Make sure your allegiances are clear.”
It’s a warning, rather than a threat, and the gears start spinning in Magnus’s head. Are they in danger? Is Alec in danger? He knows the Clave doesn’t mind them associating—whatever Maryse says, they are married—but perhaps Alec’s blatant support of him at the council event was a step too far. Perhaps Magnus being around him so frequently is a step too far.
Alec nods seriously and says, “My allegiances are clear.”
With that, he takes Magnus by the arm and marches past Maryse and out of the office.
Outside, in the hall, he leans against the wall, pressing a hand to his eyes. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for that to get so… so petty. I just— I can’t handle her right now. I should be able to, but I just—”
Magnus silences him with a fingertip to his lips. Alec drops his hand from his eyes, and goes a little cross-eyed trying to look at Magnus’s finger before he meets Magnus’s gaze. “It’s alright,” Magnus says. “You already handle so much, you don’t have to handle everything. Besides, don’t you know that ‘petty’ is my middle name?”
Alec frowns in thought. “So your name is ‘Great Petty Destruction’?”
“Precisely!” Magnus releases him and starts walking down the hall. Alec follows him as if drawn along on a string behind him. “Now, will you allow this petty man to take you to lunch? I believe I was promised lunch, and you certainly deserve lunch after all of this drama.”
“Yeah,” Alec says, and Magnus can’t see his face but he can hear the smile in his voice, “that would be great.”
“Actually serious question for you,” Magnus says around a bite of noodles, pointing his chopsticks at Alec’s face. God, he can just hear Catarina scolding him for his manners. “What your mother said. About your… allegiances. That sounded like it came from higher up.”
Alec watches him uneasily, stirring his broth. “What’s the question?”
“Do you think…” Magnus bites his lip in thought. “Are we in danger? Are you in danger? I don’t want the Clave coming after you. Perhaps we should be a bit subtler. There’s a fine line between pushing back against the Clave and aggravating them to the point of danger. I’m afraid that we’re crossing it.”
“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” Alec sighs. Then he shakes his head and looks hard at Magnus. It’s an intense, determined look that has Magnus swallowing, his throat suddenly dry. “No. No. We said we would make this marriage our own, and that’s what we’re going to do. They won’t do anything to us—they can’t, not without threatening the Accords. I’m not going to let them tell us what to do with our marriage.”
The last thing Magnus wants to do is contradict such a passionate affirmation of their relationship, but he can’t help but fear for Alec a little, fear what will happen if someone the Clave considers a pawn starts making too much of a reputation for himself. “Well, you know I have your back, darling, just please be careful, especially when I’m not there. I couldn’t stand the idea of something happening to you.”
Alec lays a hand over Magnus’s on the table. “Hey, come on. Nothing’s gonna happen to me.”
“It better not. Who else is going to eat ramen with me?” Magnus lifts some more noodles to his mouth and slurps them up, just to enjoy the way Alec rolls his eyes at his antics.
“I don’t know, anyone?” Alec says, but he’s smiling again, and Magnus smiles with him.
“Wait,” Alec says, stopping Magnus with a firm hand on his chest. “Don’t move.”
Magnus waits, listening intently for whatever Alec might have heard, but he doesn’t have a Shadowhunter’s hearing.
“There!” Alec spins toward a nearby alley just as a winged demon comes careening out of the shadows and straight towards him. He shoves Magnus out of the way and impales the thing on a seraph blade Magnus hadn’t even known he was carrying.
Magnus regains his balance just as Alec yells, “Watch out, there’s more!”
There are indeed more. A stream of winged demons comes flying out of the alleyway, claws outstretched. Magnus incinerates the first few that get near with a wave of fire, but soon he’s surrounded, fending the things off with fireball after fireball. Alec seems to be faring similarly, slashing at the demons with his blade. He doesn’t have his bow, not that it would be much use in close quarters like these anyway.
Magnus gets distracted by a demon flying at his face, and doesn’t realize Alec’s lost his blade—presumably in a demon—until Alec yells, “Magnus, I need to borrow your magic!”
Magnus explodes the demon before it slashes open his eye. “You can just use it, darling, you don’t have to ask permission.”
“Of course I do!”
And then Magnus feels a slight tug in the center of his chest, a minor drain on his magic and a slight pull from the bond, and turns just in time to see Alec hurl a glowing blue fireball at a demon, shattering it into a million pieces. He looks down at his hand, then at where the demon was, then up at Magnus.
“Wow,” he says, wonder in his tone, “that was more powerful than I expected.”
Magnus raises an eyebrow. “Should I be offended by that?”
Alec doesn’t get a chance to reply. Another demon is winging towards him, and he spins and launches another fireball in its direction. His use of the magic is slightly shaky and uncoordinated, unpracticed really, but he’s getting by.
Magnus turns back to his own demons. “Try using a rune!” he yells back over his shoulder.
“But we haven’t practiced it since we healed Luke!”
“Well, nothing like a crash test!” Literally, Magnus thinks, as one of the demons slips through his blind spot and hurtles into his shoulder, knocking him to the ground.
Magnus tries to hold the demon off his chest. Its claws scrabble at his shoulder. “Could use a strength rune, Alexander!”
There’s a pause, and then Magnus feels strength flood into him, and he throws the demon off, pushing himself back to his feet. Alec destroys the last few demons with fireballs, and then the street is quiet, and they stand, breathing hard, eyes locked.
Magnus can still feel Alec’s heart pounding alongside his own, can still feel Alec’s adrenaline, his battle-heightened emotions, much stronger than the bond normally allows for. He tries to calm his breathing, remember where they are, because it’s either that or do something deeply, deeply stupid.
Like grab Alec by the front of his shirt and kiss him senseless.
“Nothing like a little demon-hunting to help you digest your lunch, hmm?” he says instead, voice shaky.
Slowly the tension diffuses. “Yeah,” Alec says, running a hand through his hair, which has drops of ichor in it now. He offers Magnus a gleaming smile. “It does mean I have to shower again, though.”
Once again, Magnus is tempted to offer to join him, and this time he doesn’t have the self-restraint not to. Fighting demons right after lunch will do that to you, apparently. “Let me know if you want some company.”
Fortunately, Alec seems to find this hilarious instead of revealing. His grin only widens. “I will.” Then his gaze narrows on Magnus’s shoulder, and he frowns. “Oh, that one got you.”
Magnus looks down at his shoulder to find his shirt and blazer torn, blood seeping through the fabric. He’d been so focused on Alec, he hadn’t even noticed.
When he looks back up, Alec is standing close by him, and Magnus’s breath catches. Alec presses a hand gingerly to the edge of the wound.
Magnus starts to summon his magic. “It’s no big deal, I can just—”
“No, let me.” And Alec pulls out his stele and activates his iratze, and they both watch as Magnus’s wound disappears.
“That’s neato,” Magnus says. “Thank you, darling.”
“‘Neato’?” Alec echoes.
Magnus just smiles at him in response. “I don’t suppose you have time for a drink? A virgin drink, if you prefer.”
Alec grimaces. “I should probably go report this.”
“Another time, then.” Magnus pats Alec’s arm, and turns away, calling over his shoulder, “You’ll get back okay? No more demons crawling about?”
He can almost hear Alec roll his eyes. “Yeah, Magnus, I’ll be fine.”
Magnus doesn’t necessarily expect Alec to show up at his apartment that evening, but doesn’t not expect it either, which is probably to say that he hopes he’ll show up.
Which is maybe why Magnus is practicing tai chi on the balcony, shirtless, when the front door clicks open.
He hears Alec stop and stand silently for a long moment. Magnus smirks, but doesn’t turn to face him.
“Okay,” Alec says at last, “fine. You win. This flirting thing was over before it began, I should have known.”
Magnus finally turns around and throws him a wink, ignoring the way his heart flutters at the way Alec is looking at him, all fond and amused, his gaze dark. “Oh, darling, we’ve only just begun.”