A/N: This was a yuletide fic exchange story written for jeslyn_nighthawk, who wanted to see a scenario in which Alec Lightwood put Jace (however temporarily) behind him. Thanks as always go to my darling beta, BooksAreLove and my crit partner Alaylia, both of whom were invaluable! As always, the characters belong to the lovely Cassandra Clare, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Bridges of Stone
Alec stood motionless in front of the old wooden door, staring at it as if he half expected it to open up and swallow him whole. Part of him wished that it would. Death by doorway would be a whole lot faster and less painful than what he was about to do.
He hadn't expected to come back here ever again, not after his last talk with Magnus, and he hadn't intentionally come here now. He'd just needed to be away. Away from the Institute. Away from his worried mother fussing over his injured father. Away from the bitter frost that had surrounded Jace since he learned Clary would be coming to Idris with them in three days. Away from Isabelle and her constant supportive concern. Just…away. It was with no particular heading that he'd pushed through the front doors of the Institute and walked down the sidewalk. With no distinct destination that he'd gotten on and off the subway cars that eventually led him to Brooklyn, to this door.
Now that he was here, he wondered how he'd deluded himself into thinking he'd been headed anywhere else.
Alec took a deep breath and pressed the buzzer. There was no answer. He pushed it again and then a third time. Silence. He chuckled darkly to himself, remembering the first time he'd ever stood on this doorstep, the night of Magnus's party when Clary's mundane had gotten himself turned into a rat. Isabelle had been the one pressing the buzzer repeatedly that night, and he'd grabbed her hand, told her not to be rude. That seemed like a lifetime ago. In some ways, the important ones, it had been.
An involuntary sigh tickled his lips as he let his head fall against the chipped wooden frame. "Fine," he whispered. "I'll just go." He pulled himself back and looked at the door one last time, still nursing the distant hope that it would swing open. It didn't.
He spun around and lurched down off the porch. He'd taken three loudly crunching steps—stomping down hard on the broken glass that inexplicably littered the sidewalk—when he heard the sound of the door opening behind him. He whirled to look at it, half certain he'd imagined it only because he'd wanted to hear it so badly, and gaped openmouthed at the man that stepped out into the sunlight.
It wasn't Magnus.
He was young, probably only two or three years older than Alec himself, and he was attractive in a sort of generic way. His hair was a shiny copper, the color of a newly minted penny. His cheeks were flushed with pink, and his eyes—the exact grassy green of his clingy tee shirt—shone with some secret pleasure. Inked designs covered the skin of his arms, but they weren't Marks, just ordinary tattoos. He was human, nothing more than a mundane. Well, Alec thought acidly. It didn't take him long to move on. He narrowed his eyes at the boy and spun on his heel, taking two long strides away from the door. Away from Magnus.
"Hey," the human called timidly after him. Alec kept walking. "Hey," the boy called again, more insistently. "Are you Alex?"
Alec stopped dead and turned back around to glare menacingly. Had Magnus been gossiping about him to this new…this mundie? He wondered. "Who wants to know?"
The human's eyes opened wide in alarm. "Magnus said…"
"Yeah," Alec cut him off. "I don't much care what Magnus said. Whatever he may have told you…it doesn't matter now." The human's face was void of any emotion other than shock. Alec rolled his eyes and turned away again.
"Uh," the redhead called after him once more. "He just said for you to come up is all."
Alec halted again, vaguely aware that he must look like some sort of ridiculous stop motion video with the way he kept stuttering in his retreat. "What?" he hissed, almost as annoyed with himself as he was with the mundane.
"Yeah," the human clutched his arms around his chest. "When we were done, he told me that someone named Alex was downstairs, and that I should send him up?" His voice lilted as if this were a question.
When they were done? Angel, but mundanes were callous. "Alec," he corrected sharply, wishing he'd had the common sense to use glamour when he left the Institute. He wouldn't forget next time, not that there would be a next time for him to turn up here.
"Whatever, Dude." The mundie's surprise had finally melted away, exposing a layer of disinterested irritation. "Just relaying a message." With that, the human walked down the street in the opposite direction and turned the corner, sparing only a single short glance back over his shoulder. Alec stood and watched the retreating figure, then focused his attention back on the door. He wanted to go to it, to pull on the handle and see it if would open for him. He wanted to turn around and stalk off. He wanted to be sick. He did none of those things. Instead, Alec simply stood there, staring forlornly at Magnus's apartment building, wishing a thousand things were different, but not sure what he could have done differently to make it so they were.
He might have stood there until the sun went down had the object of his fixation not opened of its own volition, creaking lightly as it swung out towards him. He shook his head as if to shake away the indecision and walked through the open doorway, slamming it shut behind him.
The ascent up the stairwell went by much too quickly, and took far too long. When he reached the landing, the door to Magnus's apartment stood slightly ajar. He briefly considered knocking until he remembered the flush of the human boy's cheeks and shoved it the rest of the way open with his boot instead.
As if he were the villain in an old movie, Magnus sat in a large wingback chair facing so that Alec could see his profile. He even had a small cat on his lap that he was stroking distractedly, though the effect was somewhat lessened by the fact that this particular cat was more miniature powder puff than feline.
"Alec," Magnus turned his head to look at him, but did not stand up.
"Alex, apparently. That's what your boyfriend called me anyway."
"My boyf—ah. I see. You mean Daniel."
Alec didn't respond, and Magnus shook his head and laughed. "He was a client, Alec. A paying customer. Not that it should matter to you one way or the other. Even if he was here for kisses and canoodles."
Alec bit his lip, trying to stop himself from asking the question, but failing. "He wasn't though, right? He wasn't here for the…for the kisses?" He looked down at his shoes.
Magnus's tone softened and he shooed Chairman Meow off his lap as he stood and stepped toward Alec. "No. Not for the canoodles, either." Magnus stopped barely a foot away from the Shadowhunter. "Daniel was here for business reasons. But that isn't the question. The question is what are you doing here?"
Alec let out a deliberate sigh. "I don't know," he answered honestly.
"Don't you?" Magnus's voice was a whisper that felt cool on the skin of Alec's face. He shook his head but didn't look up.
"Alec," the sound of his own name on Magnus's lips brought his gaze involuntarily up to the warlock's face, just as it always had. Magnus was smiling at him, though his eyes were reserved. Alec didn't smile back. Magnus settled the Shadowhunter's chin in his palm, leaned forward slowly, and kissed him.
It was tentative, hesitant, as if Magnus expected the other boy to jerk away at any moment. Alec didn't pull away, but he didn't respond either. He stood perfectly still and simply allowed himself to be kissed. In a flash it was over, and Magnus tilted his head back to smile at the dark-haired boy. He winked one heavily glittered eye and launched into animated conversation, as if nothing had happened at all. Not the argument or the separation. Not the funny accusation or the awkward little kiss.
"So I've been thinking," his voice was bright and his hand was firm as it grabbed Alec's and led the boy over to the couch, "and I realized that we've both been idiots."
"We have?" Alec was bemused.
"Yes." Magnus sat down and patted the sofa cushion beside him, indicating that Alec should sit, so he did.
"Do you…um…care to elaborate on that?" he pulled his bottom lip between his teeth, both nervous and mildly amused.
"You were an idiot to think that you were in love with Jace," Alec hissed in protest but Magnus put up a finger to forestall him, "and I was an idiot for not realizing how to prove to you that you aren't sooner."
Alec smirked, all the apprehension gone from his face. "You can prove this, can you? I'd be interested to hear your process. What does it involve? Magic? Keeping a journal of my most private thoughts? Watching reruns of Dr. Phil with you?"
Magnus looked taken aback. "Dr Phil? Why on earth would I do that? I said I was going to prove that you were in love with me, not that I hated you." Magnus shook his head. "Where have you even seen that ridiculous…"
"No you didn't," Alec cut him off.
Magnus blinked. "Didn't what?
"You said you were going to prove that I didn't…" Alec gulped and flitted his eyes down to examine his monochrome pants, "that I didn't love Jace. Not that I was in love with you."
With an easy laugh, Magnus reached over and patted Alec on the thigh reassuringly. "Oh. I'm actually going to prove both."
A small swell of hope rose up within Alec's chest—the longing for Magnus to actually do what he claimed—but he pushed it down quickly and tried to keep it from his face and voice. "I'm listening," he said flatly, acutely aware of the fact that Magnus's hand still rested warmly atop his leg.
"My 'eureka' moment came to me last night while I was giving Chairman Meow a bath."
Alec raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
Magnus swatted him softly and pulled his hand away, back into his own lap. "Don't interrupt. Yes, I was using a small bit of magic to keep him calm, because he is absurdly terrified of the water."
"A cat that doesn't like water," Alec mumbled under his breath. "Imagine that." Magnus glared at him and Alec ended his sarcastic commentary. "Afraid of the water, I'm with you."
"Anyway," Magnus said pointedly. "I was reminded of the time Clary created that rune to help you Shadowhunters magically get past your fears."
"It's not magic," Alec said. "Shadowhunters don't—"
"Shadowhunters don't do magic," Magnus said, doing a veritable imitation of Jace's voice and making finger quotations in the air. "I know. Now are you going to let me finish or am I going to have to use real magic on you to keep you quiet?" He winked, so Alec knew he was joking…or, at least, he was almost certain he was. Alec nodded, indicating for the warlock to continue.
"Do you remember that afternoon?" Magnus asked. Alec nodded. "Do you remember what you did after Jace Marked you with the fearless rune?"
Alec drew his brows together, frowning at the memory of how he'd nearly humiliated himself. "Yes. Though I hardly see what that has to do with anything."
"It has everything to do with you, Alec. And with me. You remember the purpose of the rune?"
Alec sighed, not sure he wanted to be discussing any of this with Magnus, and certain he didn't want to relive this particular abasement. He knew the warlock well enough to know that he wasn't going to drop the subject until he'd had his say, so Alec's options were listen or leave. He decided to listen. "It's a fearless rune," he said resignedly. "That's fairly self explanatory."
"Right. Well, then. Jace marked you, so it made you fearless. Whatever things you fear—really fear deep inside—you would be able to confront."
Alec nodded patiently.
"Alec. If you really loved Jace, if the very core of you were truly in love with him, you would have told him then. He was right beside you. If you really worried what he would think if you told him, if you really loved him and thought he would reject you, or even if you harbored some illusion that maybe he might someday reciprocate the feeling…well, it wasn't the strongest emotion in you. Not the greatest fear. You didn't say anything to him at all."
"What? That doesn't…"
"Wait, I'm not finished. You didn't say anything to him about it, you were perfectly fine, but then your parents walked in…" Magnus let the sentence trail off and looked over at Alec expectantly.
"So my biggest fear," Alec said slowly, trying to puzzle it out, "is my parents finding out about me?" He looked up at Magnus then, hating that he was playing the pupil to Magnus's tutor, but unable to help himself. "I still don't understand how that is supposed to prove anything."
Magnus took a deep breath and shook his head tolerantly. "That isn't it, not precisely. The fear that the rune overcame was not that they would find out about you, Alec, but that they would find out about us. You didn't say, 'I'm gay.' You didn't say 'I'm in love with Jace.' You said 'I'm seeing someone. Not just anyone. A Warlock.' Well," Magnus flicked his wrist as if to indicate the unimportance of his next words, "technically I knocked you out before you said 'warlock,' but it's what you were going to say, and that's what matters."
Alec thought about that for a moment, trying to unwind all of the implications of what Magnus had said, which were twisted and tangled up like a kitten's well-loved ball of yarn, into some sort of streamlined conclusion. He couldn't manage it, not definitively.
Magnus watched him, expressionless, and when several moments had passed and Alec still had not spoken, his face fell. "You still think it means nothing," he sighed. It wasn't a question.
"I didn't say that," Alec protested. "I'm sure it means something. I don't know exactly what, but not nothing." And it was the truth. He was certain that there was something to be learned from this, something he could ascertain about himself were he to unravel it. If asked, he would have said that his greatest fear would be something directly tied to his parabatai. That Jace would hate him if he found out how Alec felt. That Jace would say, as the Clave undoubtedly would, that he was an abomination. Abhorrent and unnatural. He'd spent hundreds of sleepless nights imagining the scenario, rarely with a happy ending. If Magnus was right, and he usually was, then why hadn't Alec said anything to Jace? He wasn't sure that fear of his parents learning about his relationship with the warlock was proof that he was in love with him, but he wasn't entirely certain that it wasn't proof, either. He realized he'd been silent for awhile, a long while, as he processed this new information.
"It's interesting," he offered finally. "Definitely something to think about."
Though Magnus made a valiant effort to hide it, Alec could see that he was crestfallen. With that realization came a sudden clarity. A newfound interpretation of his life, and of the people in it. It didn't matter what he did or did not feel about the boy who was not there. That would never be. He accepted it. And he didn't need magic, or invented runes, or even deep internal analysis to know that he felt something, something as real and tangible as the couch supporting his body or the floor under his feet, for Magnus. He'd hurt him badly, had been the cause of that pensive, guarded expression in Magnus's jewel toned eyes too many times. Alec never wanted to put it there again.
"I see," Magnus said, though he didn't. Not really, because Alec caught the look of startled wonder on the warlock's face as he leaned across the sofa to press one soft, quick kiss on his lips, and then pulled back to look at him.
"Alec," Magnus sighed, whether in longing or protest Alec couldn't be sure. He didn't wait to find out. He raised his hands to cup Magnus's smooth cheeks and pulled him back into the kiss, cutting off whatever else he might have been about to say. For an instant, maybe the length of three accelerated heartbeats, Magnus wasn't kissing him back. Alec tightened his hold on the warlock's face and made an involuntary sound deep in his throat, born of regret for what he'd lost and desperation to have it back.
Magnus responded to that, as if he was no more willing to be the cause of Alec's pain, than Alec was to be the cause of his. Alec felt strong, sure arms wrap around his torso, and then his body was moving closer to Magnus, being cradled into his arms and chest. It felt wonderful. It felt like home. Why had he fought so hard against this? It didn't matter, he wasn't fighting now. Alec shifted so that he was straddling the warlock's lap, one knee on either side of his slim hips. He raised up on them, forcing Magnus backward until he was lying on the couch, his head on the armrest.
Alec watched the lazy grin dance across his lover's mouth, thrilling to the fact that he was the cause of it. He grinned back and placed his hands on the armrest, framing Magnus's face, and then lowered himself back down, pressing bodies and lips together in one swift motion that caused them both to groan. Magnus slid one hand underneath the hem of Alec's shirt, running his fingers along the sensitive skin at the small of his back. Alec bucked against him, and then hissed as Magnus arched his back up, drawing out the heightened pressure where their bodies pressed together. Alec deepened the kiss then, glorying in the taste and feel of the other boy's lips and tongue. Reveling in the sensation that he'd believed was lost to him.
He reached down and grabbed the hem of his own shirt, lifting it smoothly over his head. When he looked back down, Magnus was grinning up at him lasciviously. "You're sure you want this?" His tone was light, but Alec could hear a faint hint of concern behind it. There were a great many things he was unsure of, but wanting Magnus was not one of them. Not anymore. He was going to enjoy eradicating the warlock's doubt.
"I can prove it," Alec said, echoing Magnus's earlier claim.
Magnus smiled wickedly. "It doesn't involve Dr. Phil, does it?"
Alec chuckled and shook his head, then slid his hands beneath Magnus's shirt. He pulled it off and dropped it to the floor to join his own.
"You're sure?" Magnus asked faintly.
Alec leaned down and answered in the most honest way he knew how. With a kiss.