This is a semi-AU story, meaning that this is based in the Shadowhunter world and all the relationships that were built in the books will be represented in foreground or background in the story. Some events from the books hold true, while other things do not. For example, Alec meets Magnus at his party but the story of Valentine and etc. are largely ignored. Focuses on Alec's relationships with his siblings, Magnus and his parents.

Warnings: This story deals with very sensitive subject matters, including sexual abuse of a minor (actual abuse is not explicitly described but alluded to), internalized homophobia, self-destructive behavior, language and adult sexual content.

Learning to Be


Max couldn't sleep. He blinked his eyes, adjusting to the soft glow of his nightlight. His heart was racing from the nightmare that disturbed his sleep. He frowned, looking at the door.

He had just turned four and turning four meant having his own room. But the only problem with having his own room was that he was all alone when he woke up scared. Unconsciously, he stuck his thumb in his mouth, contemplating his options.

He could go to his parents room…but he wanted his parents to know that he could handle big boy privileges. Hodge wouldn't tolerate the interruption. Izzy would just treat him like a baby and Jace was not an option. Jace was the toughest person he knew and he wanted to be tough like his adopted big brother. Crawling into his bed because of a nightmare wasn't tough.

He swung his legs over the side of the too-big-for-him bed, deciding to go to his oldest brother, Alec. Alec was acting weird lately. He hadn't spoken to anyone in months. Their parents tried to get him to talk to them. Izzy even punched him in the arm to try to get a reaction out of him and Jace relentlessly annoyed and teased him. Even the shadowhunter from Alicante staying with them, Mr. Manson, offered to play chess with him. But nothing worked. Alec would just brush it all aside and walk away, locking himself in his room. He heard Hodge saying something about kids his age being moody. Max wondered if there was something different about being 13.

The only person Alec seemed to tolerate was Max. If Alec was in the library, Max would sit by him and read his picture books and his brother wouldn't move away. He would just continue reading his big-boy books and nodding in encouragement as Max read his out loud.

Max slowly padded towards Alec's bedroom, his witchlight balanced on his open palm, giving him just enough light to make his way down the hallway. He stopped at Alec's door, feeling the eeriness of the silence creeping over him. He gripped the doorknob and swung it open. Immediately, the witchlight illuminated the room and a rush of sounds hit him abruptly, like he had broken a silencing rune by opening the door.

Max gasped, his eye blinking rapidly. All he could properly make out was a large figure moving over Alec's significantly smaller figure under his sheets. Alec's face was turned away from the door but Max could hear him making these horrible whimpering noises and the man above him making sounds Max had never heard. It was terrifying.

He stumbled back, letting the door swing slowly towards the doorframe. He started running down the hallway towards his parents' room.

He burst into his parents' room, panting loudly.

"MOMMY! DADDDY!" he yelled, running towards them and jumping onto the side of the bed by his mother.

He shook her urgently.

"Max, by the angel. What is going on?" Robert said, sitting up, as Marsye struggled to untangle herself from the sheets and her youngest child.

"Alec," he exclaimed.

"What about Alec?" Maryse asked groggily.

"He's hurting him!"

Marsye seemed to snap out of the daze. "Who?" she said as she swung herself to her feet, rushing to grab her stele and a weapon.

"Mr. Manson…he's in Alec's room…he's hurting Alec!"

Robert was already out the door and Max had to scramble to keep up with his parents. He accidentally dropped his witchlight in front of Jace's door as he ran by. From the corner of his eyes, he could see the blonde boy stepping into the hallway.

"What's going on?" Jace muttered, scratching his head.

Max didn't stop to explain anything. Soon he was in Alec's doorframe, Jace just behind him.

They arrived as Maryse yelled out. Each second seemed like a minute. Robert seemed to be frozen, blinking dumbly at the scene in front of him. The man looming over Alec stopped moving, his head swinging back at the noise.

"Fuck!" Mr. Manson's voice was hoarse.

"Get off of him!" Robert yelled as he finally moved forward.

Jace somehow made it passed everyone, flying at the man in a fit of pure rage and pushing him over the side of the bed. Max knew Jace, at 12 years of age, wasn't strong enough to knock over a fully grown man but Mr. Manson was obviously startled by the arrival of four people in the room.

Alec cried out in pain and scrambled backwards to the headboard, his knees immediately pressed against his chest. A streak of red stained the sheets under the boy. Alec wrapped his arms protectively around his bare legs, holding his knees tightly to his body, his blue eyes glassy and wide as he watched everything unfold around him.

"Jace, take Max and leave," Robert instructed harshly, his eyes never leaving the offending adult. Maryse had already rushed to her son. She was seated on the side of the bed, her arms wrapped around the child. She was whispering soothingly into his hair but Alec did not relax, continuing to sit tensely, curled into himself.

"No!" Jace exclaimed. "I'm not leaving Alec!"

"Do as I say now!" Robert turned to the two standing boys, his eyes ablaze with fury.

Max knew Jace did not want to listen to him but surprisingly, he took hold of Max's hand and pulled him out of the room.

Jace stopped against the wall beside Alec's door and Max immediately wrapped his arms around his leg, tears finally rushing over his face. He didn't understand what was going on except that Alec was really hurt.

Jace unconsciously stroked the little boy's hair comfortingly even though his full attention was on the words coming from Alec's room.

"Put your fucking clothes on, you sick bastard," yelled Robert.

"Robert, please." Mayrse's voice floated into the hallway, desperate and pleading. Max imagined his mother holding her palms over Alec's ears, trying to shield him from the harsh words.

The man laughed harshly. "Fuck you, Lightwood. Oh right, that's what I did with your son."

There was a scuffle and the sounds of a struggle.

Max tipped his head enough to see into the room from the side. Robert was towering over Mr. Manson, who was crumbled against a wall, a blade held under his chin.

"You're not going to kill me," he taunted. "Besides, your son enjoyed it, isn't that right, blue-eyes?"

Alec immediately shut his eyes, his lower lip trembling before burying his face into his drawn knees. Maryse hissed but remained on the bed, holding her son tighter. "You're going away for a long time…it'll be worse than death."

The man ignored his mom and kept his eyes trained on his dad. "Really, Robert? You're going to report me to the Clave? You're going to explain how you didn't know what was going on in the Institute you are responsible for? Or better yet, you're going to drag the brat through this? Let them all know what he enjoys. Think of your reputation, Robert. Hasn't it suffered enough with your association with the Circle?"

"Maryse, get Alec out of here," Robert said, his eyes never leaving Mr. Manson.

"Sweetie..." Maryse started but it was obvious to Max that Alec had no intention of moving. It was like he was frozen in the position, knees drawn and face hidden, desperate to disappear but having nowhere to disappear to.

Instead of pushing Alec further, Maryse addressed Robert. "You get that...get him out of here, Robert."

Robert didn't argue, grabbing the offending shadowhunter by his shirt collar, which he had hastily put on during the confrontation and started dragging him towards the door.

Max quickly swung his head back, stumbling into Jace, who also had his head tilted so that he could see what was going on.

"What did I say?" snapped Robert, as he manhandled Mr. Manson out of the room. "Why are you still here?"

"You told us to leave and we left." Jace hissed the words through clenched teeth, his eyes glued on Mr. Manson. He looked like he was ready to pounce on him again and tear him to shreds with his bare hands.

"Take Max to your room and stay there."

"What about Alec," Max finally spoke, his eyes wide with worry.

"Mom has Alec. I need you both in Jace's room."

"What about him? Are you reporting him to the Council? He needs to be punished!" Jace said angrily.

Robert tightened his grip on the man's shirt. "Go to your room."

Jace glared at the older Lightwood. "Alec hasn't spoken in months."

Robert ignored the pre-teen. He pushed his temporary prisoner towards the staircase.

"Jace?" Max murmured. "Will Alec be okay? Why was Mr. Manson hurting him? I saw blood." He tried to blink away the tears. He wanted to be angry, like Jace but he was scared and confused. "Did Mr. Manson cut Alec?"

Jace watched the two adults disappear out of sight before looking down at the small boy. Without saying anything at first, he scooped Max into his arms, allowing the little arms to wrap around his neck. Jace glanced into Alec's bedroom as Max buried his head into his shoulder.

"Alec's going to be okay." Pause. "Alec will be just fine, Max."

He didn't sound very convincing, even to a four-year-old.

AN: So, that's the prologue. The next chapter picks up five years later, although, the story will occasionally return to this time. Let me know what you think. Feedback is greatly appreciated. This is my first fanfiction in this fandom.