With a jittery hand, Alec pressed the buzzer.
What's the problem, Lightwood? he thought to himself. So, Magnus Bane, the High Warlock of Brooklyn, gave you his number before leaving the Institute after healing you. And you called it…And he invited you over…So what? It doesn't have to mean anything…
But that was the problem. He didn't know if it did mean something, or if he wanted it to mean something. Growing up in the Institute, away from Idris and all the other Shadowhunters his age, he had never really had any friends. At least, not until Jace came to live with them. You see how THAT turned out. You fell in love with him.
For the last hour, Alec had paced the sidewalk outside Magnus's apartment building, having this conversation with himself. Intermittently, he would walk up to the buzzer, stare at it as if it were an alien being, almost press it, then lose his nerve and resume pacing.
This time, he finally pressed the buzzer, and there was no turning back now.
"Yes?" Magnus said in a silky voice. Alec wondered if Magnus knew he had been outside on the sidewalk all this time.
Alec cleared his throat. "It's…it's Alec Lightwood," he said, nervously. He could hear the quiver in his voice and instantly hated himself for it. He was profoundly thankful that Magnus could not see his face flush in embarrassment.
He heard a click and the door latch sprang open. "Come on up," said Magnus, and Alec was pretty sure he heard a smile in the warlock's voice.
When Alec reached the landing at the top of the stairs, Magnus was already waiting for him, leaning against the door frame, grinning. He was wearing tight black jeans, and a vivid purple t-shirt that spelled "Magic is Life" in silver glitter. Alec smiled at the image.
Magnus stepped back and motioned Alec toward the couch. "Thirsty?" he asked politely.
"Umm, sure?" Alec said, uncertainly.
Magnus smile. He hadn't had a nervous teenage boy in his apartment in quiet a long time. He found it endearing.
"What's your poison? Soda, coffee, tea, beer, wine…champagne?" he said with a twitch of his eyebrows. Alec flushed involuntarily. "No? Vodka? Scotch?"
"Tea," Alec said. "Tea would be fine."
Magnus looked disappointed, but said, "Tea it is, then." He conjured two cups of tea out of thin air and placed one in Alec's hand. Alec looked taken aback, but said nothing.
They sipped their tea in silence for several moments. Finally, Magnus said, "You look well. Hardly a limp, I see."
Alec nodded. "You do good work," he said. "Thanks, by the way. I'm not sure I ever properly thanked you for healing me."
Magnus waved a dismissive hand. "I always do magnificent work."
Alec laughed, finally breaking the tension, and they settled into an easy conversation, mostly about living in New York., Shadowhunting, and about the sort of jobs Magnus did as High Warlock of Brooklyn.
Alec found he was enjoying Magnus's company. He wasn't entirely surprised, since he had spent a few days with Magnus already, at the Institute, while he was recovering. But Alec had been in and out of consciousness, and didn't really remember a lot of what happened those days. This was different. He was talking to someone, someone outside his family, about his life, for the first time ever. Perhaps having a friend is what has been missing in my life, he thought.
They lapsed into a comfortable silence. When he finished his tea, Magnus rose from the armchair he'd been lounging in, crossed the room and sat on the coffee table facing Alec. He studied Alec for several long moments before speaking.
"Can I ask you something…personal?" Magnus said, holding Alec's gaze with his own.
Alec visibly swallowed. "Umm, sure, I guess," he said, suddenly feeling nervous. He wound his fingers together and placed them in his lap, hoping Magnus wouldn't notice them trembling slightly.
"Have you ever been kissed?" Magnus asked.
Alec's eyes widened a little with surprise before he composed himself. "Yeah, sure," he said, trying, and failing, to sound offhanded. Magnus didn't respond, so Alec added, "Thanks to Jace."
Magnus's mouth gaped open momentarily. "You kissed Jace!" he replied.
"What? NO! By the Angel, no!" Alec shook his head firmly. "No. Sometimes Jace's…dates, or whatever you want to call them-"
"Conquests was the word that came to mind," Magnus interjected.
Alec glared at him, and Magnus shrugged. "Anyway, sometimes Jace arranged double dates with his date's sister, cousin, friend, whatever. I kissed a few of them. I think he wanted me to fit in, so I tried. Honestly, I don't see what the big deal is with kissing. It didn't do anything for me…" he trailed off.
"Perhaps you should try not kissing girls. It's better when it's someone you are interested in," Magnus said, knowingly.
"So have you told any of them yet?" Magnus asked. "That you're gay, I mean."
Alec's head snapped up and he stared at Magnus. "What? No," Alec said, fear plain on his face. "I mean, Isabelle knows, I think, but we don't really talk about it. And apparently Clary figured it out. But no one else knows."
"Not even Jace?" Magnus asked, surprised.
Alec shook his head, vigorously. "Especially not Jace! And you can't tell him!"
Magnus placed a hand on Alec's knee. Alec started at the touch. It felt like tiny jolts of energy coursing through his leg and he wondered if it was Magnus's magic, or something else, making him feel this way.
Seemingly unfazed by the touch, Magnus replied, "Why not?"
Alec took in a deep, steadying breath. "Look, Jace is my best friend, my parabatai. He knows me better than anyone, except maybe Izzy. But he can't know this about me. He can't know how I feel. OK?"
Magnus placed his other hand on Alec's other knee, intensifying the electricity running through Alec. "I hate to tell you this, Alexander, but if Jace doesn't know this about you, Jace doesn't really know you at all. How can you know someone but not know this very basic part of their soul?"
"Why would you want to hide it from him?" Magnus pressed.
Alec couldn't meet his gaze, it was too intense, so he looked down at his hands, still folded in his lap. "It's not really acceptable for Shadowhunters to be…you know, gay."
"Acceptable or not, we are talking about your parabatai. He should know." Magnus paused, thoughtfully. "Unless…unless you have feelings for him?" He said it like question.
Alec's eyes flashed to Magnus. The blue irises almost disappearing as his pupils dilated with fear. "I don't want to talk about this any more," he said, abruptly. "Maybe it's time for me to go."
Alec rose, knocking Magnus's hands off his knees in the process. Relieved by the disconnection, he started toward the door, but Magnus stopped him.
"Wait," he said, anxiously. It was the uncharacteristic anxiety in his voice that alerted Alec and made him wait to see what Magnus had to say. He turned slowly back to face Magnus. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry. Listen, if you are free on Friday, I'd like to take you on a real date." Magnus smiled sweetly at Alec and he felt his knees unexplainably weaken.
"I…I don't know," Alec began. "I'm not sure I'm ready for people to see me on a real date with a guy."
"I promise to maintain your privacy, Alexander."
Alec smiled. "Ok."
Alec arrived promptly at Magnus's apartment on Friday. This time, when Alec reached the landing, Magnus was waiting for him outside the apartment with the door closed. To say Magnus looked handsome would be an understatement. He was dressed in a black tuxedo, with a white shirt and silver cummerbund and bow-tie. On his lapel was a brilliant pink flower, a type Alec had never seen before, that was opening and closing lazily, as if my magic. Of course, knowing Magnus, it probably was by magic.
Suddenly self-conscious in his black jeans, faded black sweater and boots, he glanced at Magnus uncomfortably and said, "I'm not sure I'm dressed for the occasion. You should have told me I needed to dress up."
Magnus smiled. "Don't worry, we are staying in tonight."
"What?" Alec said, unable to reconcile Magnus's attire to his words.
Magnus opened the door to his loft and escorted Alec inside. One look at the apartment and Alec froze.
It was like a scene from an old movie. The room was much larger than Alec remembered, as if magically enlarged. Dozens of tables covered in white linen were scattered throughout the room. Fine china and silver utensils sat elegantly atop the linen. Centerpieces of the same flower Magnus wore on his lapel brightened each table. The soft tinkling of piano keys reached his ears. A large chandelier sparkled from the magically raised ceiling. The far wall was completely made of windows, overlooking a part of the city and a river that Alec knew were not visible from Magnus's loft.
As Alec took in the scene, he realized there were people there, many people, seated at the tables dressed in early 20th century attire. He could hear the low rumble of their conversations, the tinkling of their wine glasses and scrapes of cutlery on plates. Wait staff weaved throughout the tables, delivering food and refilling beverages. They were dressed in black pants with white formal jackets, gold striping along the seams.
Alec gaped at the scene. Magnus couldn't help but grin broadly. "Don't worry. It's all a strong glamour. I'm rather good at those, you see. We are actual all alone." Then he placed Alec's hand on his arm and escorted him to the only real table in the room, next to the roaring fireplace.
Since there were no actual waiters, Magnus poured them both a glass of chilled champagne, before taking his own seat. He passed a menu to Alec. It was written in French and Alec couldn't read it, so Magnus ordered a glazed duck entrée for Alec and steak and caviar for himself.
The food magically appeared moments later, and Alec had a strong suspicion there was a French restaurant somewhere in New York that was confused about missing a couple of entrées. The food melted in Alec's mouth. He had never eaten anything that tasted this good. Magnus made a crème brulee and chocolate éclair appear for dessert. They shared the desserts, Magnus feeding Alec a spoonful, as Alec's face blushed helplessly.
Throughout dinner, Alec had covertly glanced at Magnus, frequently, and many times had caught Magnus already watching him. He would look away quickly, but the table was so intimate, he wondered if Magnus could see his barely concealed smile.
When the food was finished and cleared away, Alec returned his attention to the rest of the room. He sipped his champagne, and finally felt himself starting to relax.
"You really outdid yourself here, Magnus," he said, sweeping his champagne glass in the direction of the dining area.
Magnus smiled. "There is a reason they call me magnificent," he said slyly.
Alec returned the smile. "So, is this what you do on all your first dates? Wine them and dine them? Is this a scene out of your past?"
Magnus's smile dropped and he said, steadily, "There is something you need to know, before this goes any farther." Alec felt the grip of apprehension in his chest, as Magnus continued. "I don't answer questions about my past. I prefer to live in the present, and will gladly discuss the future, but my past is my own. Can you live with that?" Magnus sat his glass down and stared intently at Alec, his cat-like eyes holding Alec's own blue ones.
Alec had no idea how to respond to that. He'd never been on a real date before, with someone he was actually interested in. He had no idea where this date was even heading. But he was enjoying himself, and he really wanted to follow through, so he replied, "Ok, I can live with that."
Magnus beamed. "Excellent," he said, and they resolved into silence again for several moments.
Abruptly, Magnus said, "Would you dance with me?"
Alec looked apprehensive. "I, umm, I've never danced before. I have no idea what I'm doing…"
Magnus stood and offered Alec his hand. "Let me lead. You'll be fine."
Alec hesitated. He was afraid of making a fool of himself, but since the only person here to witness him making a fool of himself already knew that was a distinct possibility, Alec finally relented. He placed his hand in Magnus's proffered one and let Magnus lead him onto the dance floor.
Magnus placed Alec's hand on his shoulder and his own hand on Alec's waist. He grasped Alec's other hand in his and started a slow, three-step movement that was easy to follow. It was a formal dance position that Magnus hoped would help Alec feel more comfortable. Alec was graceful, thanks to his Shadowhunter training, but not confident and occasionally stepped on Magnus's toes, but Magnus didn't seem to mind.
As they danced, Alec noticed more instruments added to the tinkling piano. A violin played high notes and a harp, adding almost a dream-like quality to their dancing. After awhile, Magnus dropped the formal position and pulled Alec to him, encircling his waist with his long, slender arms, as Alec wrapped his arms around Magnus's neck. The closeness seemed to constrict Alec's windpipe at first, but as they swayed with the music, he started to relax.
He had no idea how long they danced like that. It could have been hours or just mere minutes. Finally, Alec heard a clock chime and realized it was midnight.
He stopped moving and looked at Magnus with wide eyes. "I have to get home," he said, reluctantly.
"Are you Cinderella?" Magnus teased. "Will you turn into a peasant and your coach into a pumpkin at midnight?"
"I have no idea what you are talking about," said Alec, perplexed. Magnus chuckled and shook his head.
"I wish you didn't have to go," Magnus said, gazing into Alec's eyes.
"Honestly, I wish I didn't have to go, too." Alec took in the scene one last time. "You really made this night special, Magnus. Thank you." Magnus smiled and Alec turned toward the door.
"Wait. I'll walk you out." Magnus opened the door for Alec and followed him out into the hall. Alec wasn't sure if it was the dancing, the champagne, or Magnus, himself, but he felt a little light headed. He leaned up against the wall outside Magnus's apartment to steady himself.
"I had a great time tonight, Alec," Magnus said, seductively, or maybe that was Alec's imagination.
"Me, too," he said quietly.
"Can I see you again?" Magnus asked, and this time Alec was sure he heard a note of strain to the warlock's voice. He looked up into Magnus's cat-like eyes and nodded gently.
That seemed to be all the encouragement Magnus needed. He closed the space between them in one long stride. He touched Alec's cheek, tenderly, hesitantly, watching Alec's reaction for signs that his advances were unwanted. He must have been comforted by what he saw, for a moment later, Magnus leaned in and kissed Alec.
Magnus's lips were soft and the kiss was gentle, but that didn't lessen Alec's response. His legs suddenly felt as if all the bones had been removed and he was standing on two pieces of rubber instead. He wrapped his arms around Magnus and clutched at his shirt, partially for support. Magnus took this as motivation to continue and he deepened the kiss. Magnus's lips, becaming more firm, parted Alec's and he felt Magnus's tongue hesitantly enter his mouth. Then, with more confidence, Magnus began to explore.
Magnus tasted sweet, like champagne and chocolate, and his hands were gently caressing Alec's back. If Alec thought he felt dizzy before, it was nothing compared to what Magnus was doing to him now. He pressed his body to Magnus's, still searching for support, and was completely enveloped in the kiss. He had no idea how long it lasted, it could have been minutes, days, or even years for all Alec knew, but then, finally, almost reluctantly, Magnus pulled away, breaking the kiss.
Magnus looked down at Alec, still wrapped in his arms, and studied him for a moment. Apparently satisfied, he then kissed Alec's cheek and whispered, "Good night, Alexander," then disappeared into his apartment, leaving Alec alone in the hallway.
Alec leaned against the wall for several minutes, steadying himself, allowing his heavy breathing to subside. So that's what all the fuss is about, he thought, absently touching his lips with his finger. I get it now. He smiled to himself. He was already looking forward to kissing Magnus again. He then pushed himself off the wall and started home, hoping no one had noticed his absence.