A/N: And we've made it to the end! This is a very long chapter at just over 6000 words! And I warn you now, as the closing chapter, it's definitely more talk and no action. But I enjoyed writing it and I hope you enjoy reading it! Please let me know what you think of this last chapter and the story as a whole! You guys are awesome!
Disclaimer: The characters and universe belongs to Cassandra Clare.
Warnings: This story deals with very sensitive subject matters, including sexual abuse of a minor (not explicitly described), internalized homophobia, self-destructive behavior, language and adult sexual content.
Learning to Be
Chapter 25: New Beginning
Magnus stood at his door and waited for the shadowhunter to make his way up the stairs. He had just finished with a client when Alec texted and he had to admit, his mind hadn't been fully invested in his customer's task. Luckily it was a routine request and didn't require much effort, allowing his mind to dwell on the fact that Alec was charging into an unknown situation to face the man that destroyed his childhood. Considering that the last two times Alec faced Manson resulted in the teenager shredding his own flesh, Magnus felt justified in his concern.
When Alec finally arrived at his doorstep, Magnus couldn't help but allow his eyes to roam over his body, looking for anything out of place. The Nephilim pushed his hair out of his face and shifted his feet, uncomfortable under his scrutiny.
"Do I have sometime on me?" Alec asked.
Magnus chuckled and stepped out of the doorway, allowing Alec into the apartment. "Just making sure you're in one piece."
"Oh," Alec said. He shifted his feet again. "I didn't do anything stupid, if that's what you're asking." He paused. "I didn't hurt myself."
Magnus smiled softly. He stepped forward and gently cupped Alec's face in his hands. Alec tipped his cheek to one side, moving into the touch. Magnus's heart fluttered at the gesture. He quickly kissed him, closed mouth on the lips before pulling away.
"I'm glad," Magnus said.
"Can I put these down here?" Alec asked, gesturing at the bow and arrows and seraph blade that he was pulling away from his body.
Magnus took them out of his hands and placed them against the couch. "You don't have to ask, darling."
Alec blushed again and Magnus felt himself drowning in the cuteness of it all. But before he could get lost in the beauty of the young man in front of him, he had to ask, "Are you all right?"
The teenager sighed and Magnus pulled him into the couch. Alec seemed unable to move around the apartment with any agency, instead waiting for Magnus give him permission.
"James is with his family."
"I never doubted that," Magnus said, knowing that Alec wouldn't be here if the child wasn't safe.
Alec's eyes shone sadly. "It was like looking into a mirror of the past. And I don't want James to look back at me and see the mess he has to look forward to."
Magnus felt his heart breaking all over again. Since meeting Alec, his heart was being pulled between complete adoration and despair at startling speeds. "You are not a mess, Alec. You are brave and honest and I know you are going to be there for this child."
Alec buried his head in his hands, his body shaking. Magnus placed a hand gently on his shoulder. He felt Alec's body shudder under the touch but he didn't protest as Magnus drew him in, his arms wrapping around him. Alec let his head rest against Magnus's chest as the warlock rubbed gentle circles into his back.
"If I had said something before, James wouldn't be hurting now," Alec sobbed.
Magnus suppressed a growl at the burden the teenager was placing on himself. "This is not on you," he said firmly, leaving no room for argument. "Manson hurt James. Manson hurt you. This is not on you. You were a child, terrified and confused. You cannot place this on you, Alec. I won't let you." It was the most forceful Magnus had been with Alec. If anything, Magnus would love to place some of the blame on Alec's parents but he wasn't going to voice that.
Alec mumbled into Magnus's chest and Magnus drew him back. "What, darling?"
The shadowhunter brushed away tears and nodded. "I'll try."
"Good," Magnus said. "Now, where is the bastard?"
Alec leaned back, drawing his fingers through his hair absently. "He's probably in Clave custody now. I left him with Jace and Izzy when I took James back to his family."
"Excellent," Magnus said. "Now, have you eaten anything since the few bites you had this morning?"
Alec shook his head. Magnus got to his feet, thinking of what he could literally whip together when Alec stopped him. He was standing up, a hand placed on Magnus's shoulder. "Wait."
Magnus looked at him and noticed him biting his bottom lip nervously.
"What is it darling?" Magnus loved calling the Nephilim darling and watching his cheeks flush.
"You don't have to," he started but Alec stopped him, stepping closer to him and brushing his lips against his shyly, his nervousness and hesitation plainly visible. Magnus's heart stuttered, his nerves lighting up at the slightest touch. He wrapped his arms around the younger man's waist and pulled him in, deepening the kiss. Alec finally pulled his lips away and Magnus could hear the pounding of the other man's heart.
"I have only gotten to know you over the last six days and yet, I have never felt safer as I do here with you. It seems so insane," he whispered, like saying it any louder would make it untrue.
"I have lived for centuries, Alec. At some point, I think I settled into the idea that there was nothing wonderful left. That I have experienced all that there is to experience. Sometimes, I feel like I put on these parties to feel alive, not calcified, like I'm frozen while everything around me continues moving."
Alec stared up into his eyes, his hands clutching Magnus's shirt. Magnus was almost terrified that he was being this open with the Nephilim.
"But you, you make me feel alive again. So, yeah, it's pretty insane that in six mere days, you have captured me but I'm just going to go with it," Magnus said, ending his speech with a smile. "Now, about food," he added.
Alec shook his head, looking at him shyly again. "I think we've done this all wrong. I mean, I know I've only recently decided to start to accept my...my sexuality but I'm pretty sure we've done this all backwards."
"Do explain," Magnus said, his arms still wrapped around the slightly smaller man.
"I mean, I spent the night at your place first, we ate meals at your place, you hung out with my friends and after all that, we kissed. I'm pretty sure these things usually start with a date."
"Are you asking me out, dear Nephilim?"
Alec blushed. "I guess I am. Maybe we can exchange money for food the traditional way this time."
"And he jokes," Magnus said, beaming, remembering their conversation from the morning about Magnus magically transporting food. "I like that idea." He paused, trying to think of a good restaurant. "We'll avoid any Nephilim-frequented joints for the first date."
Alec nodded, gratefully.
"I know this wonderful Ethiopian-Italian restaurant," he started but then shook his head. "Nevermind, they might not take too kindly to me bringing a Nephilim there."
"Why not?" Alec asked.
"Well, it's run by Downwolders."
Alec looked at him confused. "Taki's is too and we go there all the time."
"Well, dear, not all Downwolders are so trusting of your kind."
Alec frowned. "I would never..."
Magnus waved aside Alec's naivety towards his Nephilim privilege. "I know but I think we'll try a mundane place today. I know this delicious Indian place down the street from here."
The teenager nodded and looked down at his clothes. "Do you think I can use your shower before we go?" He bit his bottom lip. Magnus's heart skipped a beat again. He adored his cute mannerisms.
"Of course, darling."
When Alec stepped out of the shower, he put on his black pants and top, leaving behind the leather vest and holsters that he wore when he went hunting. He felt slightly uncomfortable, wishing for his oversized sweaters and loose jeans. He was not used to wearing the fitted top without his vest and he never wore the fitted pants when he wasn't hunting demons.
"Well, you look just delicious," said Magnus, who was leaning by the door, looking stunning despite (or enhanced by, Alec thought fleetingly) the loudness of his clothes and glitter in his hair. He was dressed in a deep purple shirt with silver studs adorning the collar, tucked into fitted white jeans, a studded belt and white sneakers.
Alec felt his face heat up and it only made him flush more with embarrassment. He doubted his pale skin would ever conceal the heat when Magnus complimented him or when he thought about how beautiful Magnus was.
"All you need is a hint of color." Magnus snapped his fingers, a long navy blue scarf appearing in his hands. Alec started to protest as Magnus wrapped it around his neck. "Oh come on, it's almost black itself. But just enough blue to make your already stunning eyes pop more."
Alec instantly felt his body stiffen, his eyes snapping shut instinctively. He hated his eyes.
He felt lips brush against the corner of his left eye and then his right. "Alec, darling, open your eyes."
Alec scrunched them tighter. Magnus's thumbs brushed away a stray tear before it ran down his face. "I don't like my eyes, Magnus."
"Babe," Magnus started and Alec felt his heart stammer at the term of endearment despite his anguish. "You're eyes are beautiful."
He turned his face away. "If they weren't blue, maybe Manson wouldn't have..."
"You can't live in ifs and maybes, Alec. And you can't let him take away the things that belong to you. Open your eyes, please."
Reluctantly, Alec opened his eyes and forced himself to look at Magnus.
"Your eyes belong to you, Alec, not him. Just like your sexuality and your body and your voice belong to you. He may of held them hostage for a while but he can't anymore Alec. You are in control, not him."
Alec nodded and tried to push the unwanted feelings aside. He wanted so badly to make Magnus's words true in his mind. The rational part of him knew that Magnus was right but that didn't make it any easier to believe it.
He forced a smile on his face as Magnus opened the door leading out of the loft. "Let's talk about something else," Alec said as the two made there way down the stairs.
The mid-afternoon sun shone brightly on the autumn day and a slight gust of wind ruffled the colorful leaves of the season as some of them floated to the ground. Magnus led them down the street until they reached a small restaurant between a used books store and a Duane Reade. On the outside, the restaurant looked less than inviting but as soon as they entered, soft melodic music and an aroma of spices filled the small colorfully decorated space.
"Table for two," Magnus said to the woman standing behind the bar.
"Pick a table," she replied, gesturing to the empty restaurant.
Magnus took a hold of Alec's hand and led him into the room. Alec blushed, his fingers tingling at how nice it felt to hold Magnus's hand. The two boys settled into a booth in the far end of the restaurant and quickly ordered two lassis.
"The place is usually packed for dinner," Magnus said, as if he needed to justify his choice in restaurant. "And a lot of their business is delivery."
Alec smiled as he opened the menu. He was almost glad for the empty place. It felt like a easy first step into the world of dating. He was already used to eating with just Magnus after all.
An older woman arrived at their table after a few minutes with two sweet lassis and smiled at Magnus. "It's nice to see you, Magnus. The usual for you?"
Magnus nodded, smiling brightly. Alec was so lost in the smile that he barely heard the woman speaking to him.
"And for you, young man?" she repeated.
Alec felt his face heat up. "I'll have the lamb vindaloo lunch special."
"So, what's the usual?" Alec asked, trying to act nonchalant.
"Curried Indian tiger."
Alec blinked, staring at the warlock. "Aren't those endangered?"
Magnus chuckled. "You're just so cute!"
Alec crossed his arms over his chest, trying not to pout. "You were joking."
"Yes, darling, you are going to be a lot of fun to spend time with."
"I just don't know with you," Alec huffed, taking another sip of his lassi.
When the food arrived, Alec saw that Magnus had ordered masala dosa, a thin fermented crepe stuffed with a potato filling and small side dishes.
The two boys ended up sharing the food and Alec felt so content, even as Magnus continued to try to tease him.
Before they got up to leave, Alec left cash on the table. When Magnus protested, Alec shook his head. "You've fed and housed me on more than one occasion in the last week," he said simply.
They walked back to Magnus's apartment in content silence. Alec stopped in front of the building. "I should get home. I'm sure Izzy and Jace want to make sure I haven't done anything stupid," he said with a sigh. "I mean, I did text them but..."
"They really care about you," Magnus finished.
"Yeah," Alec said. "I wish they didn't treat me like glass but I get it."
Magnus snapped his fingers and Alec jerked at the sudden weight on him. He was back in his vest and gear and his weapons were secured in place. "Eventually, you'll get used to the magic," Magnus said, smiling.
Alec's heart raced at the simple words. It was the second time he said something that implied that he wanted to keep seeing him. He wasn't just being nice because Alec was desperate for a place to stay.
"What?" Magnus said, looking at Alec's expression curiously.
Alec smiled nervously. "Maybe..." He shifted his feet, his fingers absently fiddling with the hilt of his blade. "I mean...if you're free sometime..." Blush quickly rushed to his cheeks and he cursed internally.
"I have clients all morning and afternoon tomorrow but I'm free in the evening," Magnus said, pulling his hand away from his seraph blade and pulling him close. He brushed his lips against his.
"I can do that," Alec said. He would just bring his hunting gear in case he got a call about a demon.
He quickly returned Magnus's chaste kiss with a more urgent one, feeling exhilarated by his growing confidence. Magnus cupped his cheeks drawing him closer than he thought possible, their tongues seeming to fight for dominance.
When they pulled apart, Alec realized that they were on the street and not in Magnus's loft. His eyes darted around, noticing two woman walking by. They didn't pay attention to the two boys and Alec let out a nervous laugh.
"We're not doing anything wrong, Alec," Magnus said, squeezing his hands.
Alec nodded and smiled softly, pecking him on the lips one more time. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"I look forward to it," Magnus replied, his cat-eyes sparkling brightly.
Jace sat on the bench in the greenhouse, staring absently at the still water in the small pool.
Both Lightwood parents had arrived soon after Alec left with two other members of the Clave. They took Manson away, leaving Jace feeling oddly empty, like he'd rather watch the man bleed out from his privates until he died than hand him over to the Clave. He shuddered and pushed the thought away.
He had been slouched on the bench in the greenhouse for hours now, lost in his thoughts and thinking about finding Alec when he heard the door to the greenhouse open. He looked up to see Alec walking into the warm room, still wearing his hunting gear from the morning.
"I thought I would find you here," Alec said as he walked into the center of the greenhouse, stopping across the pool from Jace.
Jace straightened his back, his eyes instantly assessing Alec even though he couldn't see any possible damage underneath his long sleeves and pants.
Alec sighed. He pushed his hair out of his eyes. "Don't worry, I didn't do anything stupid."
Jace tried to reduce the intensity of his stare. He wanted to believe Alec but after so many years of hiding secrets, he wondered how hard it would be for Alec to break the habit.
"Where have you been?" The minute he said it, he realized how demanding he sounded. "I was just wondering," he added. He tried to sound nonchalant and not give away the fact that he was about to bring Alec's favorite sweater to Magnus to track him down. Then again, he would have probably found him with the warlock, he thought absently.
"If I stay in here much longer my eyes are going to get itching," Alec said instead of answering his question. "But um...well, there's something I want to do and..." He ran his hand through his hair again. "I was going to do it alone but I'm trying to remember that I'm not alone. So, if you have time..."
"I have time," Jace said, maybe too eagerly. "What do you need to do?"
"Can you meet me outside the Institute in 10 minutes?"
Jace nodded. "See you in 10."
Jace was leaning against a wall outside the Institute when Alec came out, a satchel slung across his torso. Alec didn't offer any explanation about where they were going and Jace didn't ask any questions.
Instead, Alec asked about Clary and Jace followed Alec while talking about his relationship with the newly discovered shadowhunter.
Finally, after walking for about twenty minutes uptown, Alec stopped in front of a boarded up apartment building sandwiched between a Catholic church and another, occupied walk-up.
"We should put on glamours," Alec said. After the they were sufficiently invisible to any mundanes, Alec swung his arms up and jumped, grabbing onto the bottom end of the fire escape and pulling himself up until his feet were secured on the rungs of the ladder.
Jace wanted to ask questions but instead he repeated Alec's motions and followed him up the fire escape until they reached the roof.
"Are you bringing me here to commit a crime?" Jace said lightly.
Alec laughed awkwardly and pulled out a six-pack of beer from his satchel. "Not unless you count underaged drinking," he said.
Jace stared at the older teen, flabbergasted, as he handed him a cold bottle of Coors. "I don't know what's more shocking...that you cracked a joke or that you brought beer. Have you even had beer before?"
Alec walked to the edge of the roof and used his keys to open the beer before tossing the keys to Jace. "I come here sometimes to be alone...get away," Alec said, staring out into the city below them, the setting sun draping soft oranges, yellows and reds over the concrete jungle. "It used to be a vampire nest decades ago, so there are residual glamours up that prevent mundanes from tearing it down or squatting. But vampires aren't interested in it anymore and neither are any other Downwolders or Nephilim for that matter, so yeah..."
Jace walked over to him. "How do you know this stuff?"
Alec shrugged. "I read a lot."
"Must be some obscure shit, Alec," Jace said as he took a swig of his beer.
Alec gulped down some of his own but made a face. "This stuff tastes like shit."
"That's because Coors is shit."
Alec shrugged and took another swig. "I just grabbed whatever was in front at the store."
"How the hell did you buy it?"
"Glamour," Alec said sheepishly.
"You stole them?" Jace didn't know if he could be more surprised by his behavior.
"I left money on the counter when the guy wasn't looking."
Alec shrugged his shoulders again and turned away from the view. On the far end was a dented and rusted metal trashcan chained to the roof. Alec pulled out some newspapers from his bag and threw it into the can before lighting it on fire with a lighter.
"Are we going to sing hobo songs and drink beers by the fire? It is going to get chilly when the sun goes down," Jace joked.
Alec leaned against the shed that led into the building, staring at the fire as it licked up the sides of the trashcan.
Jace dropped the smile, watching the pensive look on his brother's face.
"I would come up here when things were really bad. I would look out into the city and think about stepping over the edge."
Jace felt like his heart was halting. He gripped the beer bottle tightly, trying not to react too strongly.
"I never did," Alec said. "Obviously. I mean, I probably would have just broken a bunch of bones and ended up in the infirmary for weeks. Instead, I'd light a fire and watch the flames and..." He paused and pulled his eyes away from the fire, looking off into distance, purposely avoiding Jace. "I would bring a razor here."
Finally he looked at Jace. Jace wanted nothing more than to grab Alec and drag him away from this place. Maybe let it burn to the ground.
"Jace, I want to close this chapter in my life," he said.
Jace nodded earnestly.
"I mean I know that I can't literally put this all behind me. There's going to be a trial. And it's not like my mind is just going to suddenly stop having nightmares or flashbacks or whatever but I guess I need to do something symbolic."
"Like what?" Jace finally said.
Alec pulled out a few straight razors and a dagger from his satchel and threw them in the fire. "Those are all the things I used to hurt myself with."
Jace walked over to the trashcan, standing just across from Alec. "I'll buy you some gillette razors," Jace said. "Much closer shave than this old-fashioned shit anyway." He tried to smile but it faltered.
Alec chuckled softly, bringing an actual smile to Jace's face. "Sounds good."
Next, he pulled out the small wooden box that Jace knew contained horrific pictures of a ruined childhood.
"Wait Alec," Jace started.
Alec looked at Jace. "What?"
Jace didn't want to be insensitive but he didn't want to take any chances. "That's evidence, Alec," he said softly.
Alec visibly flinched and looked away, staring at the disappearing sun. "They are going to use the soul-sword on me, Jace." He was shaking at the thought, his long lashes hiding his eyes. "I can't...if these are in the Clave's hands, I might never get them back and then they will never be destroyed and I'll never know who else will see them. I..." There was catch in his voice. "I don't want anyone else to see them, Jace."
The pleading in his voice was breaking his heart and even though he didn't want to destroy any evidence against Manson he knew he could not deny Alec this release. And Alec was right. Both Manson and Alec were going to be forced to reveal the truth under the sword. He would go under the sword too if that would save Alec from more pain but he knew the Clave would want to hear from Alec.
So he nodded and watched as Alec opened the box and tipped it upside down, letting the photos flutter into the fire. Jace didn't look into the can, not wanting to sear anymore images into his mind than he already had. Instead he watched Alec. His parabatai stared into the can, as if seeing the images curl up and turn into ash would somehow burn the memories out of his mind. He tossed the box in after the pictures and finally pulled his eyes away from the can and looked at the younger teen.
"There's something else I need to do before I can...before I can try to start fresh."
"What?" Jace asked earnestly.
Alec stepped away from the trashcan and walked over the the edge of the roof. He sat down, his back pressed against the parapet. Jace settled down beside him and both boys just watch the flames flicker around the edge of the can.
"I need to tell you some truths, Jace. Things that I've been too scared to talk about with you. But I think I have to say them...even though it terrifies me."
Jace felt his heart start to race. Was Alec going to actually be open with him without Jace accidentally discovering it?
Alec closed his eyes. He drew his knees up to his chest and rested his chin against them, his eyes still following the flames.
"You can tell me anything, Alec."
Alec lifted his head, shaking it softly. Finally he turned to look at Jace. His face was chalk white, his messy black hair stark against his skin and his blue eyes, shining brightly. "I like Magnus," he finally said, his voice barely a whisper.
Jace nodded. "I know."
Alec shook his head, almost frustrated by his calm reaction, as if he expected something else. "I mean, I like him as more than a friend."
Jace knew this was Alec attempting to come out to him but Jace already knew. "I know, Alec."
The older teenager gaped at Jace, his eyes wide and confused. "What do you mean you know?"
The blonde Nephilim shrugged his shoulders. "In just the two times I've seen you guys together, I can see that you like each other. And I won't lie, it scares me a little."
Alec flinched and looked away. "Because you think I'm disgusting," he said, his voice shaking.
Jace quickly realized how Alec might have taken his comment. "No!" Jace exclaimed, grabbing Alec by his upper arm and pulling him back. Alec tried to jerk away and Jace let go.
"Damn it, Alec," he said. "That's not what I meant. I don't care who you like or who you date. I'm just kinda paranoid and he's a much older, powerful warlock and you're a teenager who's dealt with a lot of bad shit and..."
He paused, knowing that Alec might take what he was about to say the wrong way. "I don't want him to take advantage of you, okay."
Alec blinked, not knowing how to react. "So, you don't care if I'm gay?"
"Of course not! My sexuality is no better or worse than your sexuality, Alec. It's our society that needs the reality check."
Alec just stared at him, flabbergasted.
"What? Did you expect me to be a raging homophobe?" he asked, feeling almost offended.
"I don't know...I'm barely able to accept myself, so how am I supposed to expect someone else to?"
"Alec, I care more about you than I care about myself, all right? You, Izzy, Max, you're my family. And if someone is going to give you shit about being gay, they'll have to answer to me."
Alec leaned his head back and stared into the moonless sky, the light pollution making it impossible to see any stars in the city. "Magnus...he's not taking advantage of me. I have never felt more alive than when I'm with him. And yeah, that scares me on so many levels but I'm not made of glass, Jace."
He sighed and looked at Jace. "If all this "bad shit", as you call it, hadn't happened to me, you wouldn't feel worried about Magnus taking advantage of me."
"You're probably right, Alec. But I can't turn off my feelings. I refuse to stand by and let you get hurt again, whether you like it or not and if that means I'm a little bit paranoid, that's something we're both going to have to accept."
Alec stood up and walked over to the other end of the roof, facing the Bronx. The parapet stopped just below his knees and Jace had the irrational desire to pull Alec away from the ledge, even though he knew that Alec wasn't suicidal or unable to maintain balance. Jace could only see his back, his muscles tense.
"There's something else I need to tell you Jace," he said. His voice was distant and scared, as if it was escaping into the abyss in front of Alec. The flicker of the fire crackled softly.
Jace sat silently, waiting.
"When we were kids...just before...just before Manson came...I started realizing that there was something different about me. I mean, I think I always felt different but I didn't know why until..."
He paused, running trembling fingers through his hair. "I..." He kicked a rock absently. "Nevermind," he muttered.
"You thought you liked me," Jace said, standing up.
Alec spun around, his eyes shining. "What are you talking about?" he said, his voice hoarse. "How...?"
"I don't think I got it back then but I put the pieces together eventually. I used to think you hated me for a little while. You would look at me and if I looked back, you would almost flinch like I'd caught you doing something wrong and look away. And then you started avoiding me."
"Jace," Alec started.
"Listen, I can't even begin to understand what it was like for you. It's unfair that I was allowed to openly develop and express my sexuality without fear or anxiety while you were not. So, you liked me. I don't care, Alec. I was safe, I get that. You could like me and not have to worry about ever having to actually deal with your feelings."
"When the hell did you become so wise?"
"I've always been wise," Jace said, smirking. "You all just choose not to see it."
Alec rolled his eyes and turned away from Jace again. "It didn't last long," he said. "Maybe if things had turned out differently, I'd still be dealing with liking you."
"What things?" Jace asked.
Jace's eyes darkened as he walked over to his parabatai.
"He noticed and he used it." Alec shuddered. "He...he would say horrible things about how he knew I liked it...because of the way he saw me looking at you," he whispered.
Jace felt like a cold hand was squeezing his heart at Alec spoke.
"And I started to think that what Manson was doing to me was my punishment for my feelings."
Jace wanted to scream at the cruel world they lived in. How could someone so loyal and kind be put through so much pain? He placed his hands gently on Alec's shoulders and turned him around so that they facing each other.
"Alec, you know that that's not true, right?"
The older boy's eyes shone with tears that slowly ran down his cheeks. "Rationally, I know that. And Magnus and Izzy have helped. I just, I needed to tell you. You've known about Manson for so long and I've been closed off with you about it because there were all these secrets I've kept from you."
Jace drew Alec in, wrapping his arms around the taller boy. "Alec, none of this changes how I feel about you. How important you are to me."
He felt Alec nodding into his shoulder before he pulled back. He pushed back his hair and smiled softly. "Thank you."
"There's nothing to thank me for. I didn't do anything special. I'm selfish, Alec. I could not survive without my brother, my parabatai." He shoved him playfully. "I love your sorry ass and you can't get rid me so easily. I'm like a parasite."
"More like a symbiont," Alec said, smiling more broadly, his body more relaxed.
"Symbionts are organisms that have a mutually beneficial relationship."
Jace rolled his eyes. "You're such a fucking nerd."
Alec laughed. "I guess parabatai works too."
"Much better," said Jace.
Alec looked back at the trashcan. The flames had died down, no longer licking up the sides and over the rim. "Let's get out of here before Izzy starts sending out a search party," he said. He grabbed the bottles of beers they drank and threw them into the trashcan from a distance.
"You're good?" Jace asked, watching his brother carefully.
"I'm better. Thanks for coming here with me."
The boys silently descended the fire escape. Alec reached the ground first, his satchel significantly lighter than when they arrived. He adjusted it absently as he waited for Jace.
He felt like a massive weight had been lifted off of him.
So much had happened in the last six days.
And much of it was filled with unbearable pain.
But yet, he felt lighter. He had let go of so many secrets. He was learning to accept himself and be open to the people who loved and cared for him.
Jace landed gracefully beside Alec.
"You're not coming back here, right?"
Alec looked up one more time. He thought about the times he sat on the roof, razor in hand. He thought about the blades and pictures burning, the ash from the photos coating the razors. He thought about what they represented and suppressed a shiver.
He focused on himself instead and on the strength he drew from his siblings and Magnus and he nodded. "I'm done with this place," he said, knowing that he was referring to more than just the abandoned vampire nest.
It wasn't going to be easy but he was stronger than he ever thought possible and he wasn't alone.
The two boys walked away from building. Jace was talking mindlessly about Izzy's annoying cooking habits when Alec turned his head back quickly, the building no longer in sight. He felt a surge of hope, something he hand't felt since the first night Manson came into his room.
"Were you listening to a thing I said?" Jace asked, exasperated.
Alec shook his head absently and smiled. He was ready for a new beginning.
A/N: And we're done! That was a long chapter! Like I said, nothing much happened but I wanted to end with a date and a symbolic closing of a chapter in Alec's journey. And I got to write my two favorite relationships one more time. Please, please, with a cherry on the top, let me know what you think!
I hope to start the sequel soon. I'm thinking of either going with a regular story style like this or more vignettes of moments in their lives moving forward. Haven't decided yet.
Thank you so much for sticking this out with me. It definitely took a long time but I actually completed a story that I started!