Disclaimer: Still doesn't belong to me.
Warnings: None. Although you might want to make a dental appointment before reading, because this gets tooth-rottingly sweet near the end.
Notes: I sat down to write the second half of The One With The Blue Eyes and got this instead. What the hell, self?
Please keep in mind that I'm using the genres 'drama' and 'h/c' very loosely, because ffdotnet doesn't have a 'cotton-candy fluff' category for some reason, and that's pretty much all this is.
"Why," Magnus asked nobody in particular, "am I not drunk yet?"
His cat, sprawled across the top of the television, looked at him as if he'd just said something incomprehensibly stupid. Since that was Chairman Meow's default expression, Magnus paid him no mind and downed the remainder of his whiskey like it was water. That made 675ml in under two hours, and so far, the only effect he had noticed was a sudden tolerance for the Full House marathon that was currently running. Damn his demonic origins. Warlocks were so resistant to alcohol that the only thing that could get them indisputably blitzed was liquor infused with demon energies, and that stuff tended to taste like sucking on the underside of a car.
Banishing his glass to the sink with a wave of his hand, Magnus propped his feet up on the cluttered coffee table and let his head dangle over the arm of the couch. An upside-down Stephanie plopped a hat on Upside-Down Michelle's head. "When did my life become so indescribably dull?" he mused. "Dear me, I think I'm entering a terrible depression."
It had been nearly a week since he'd had a paying job. Magnus wasn't worried about the money, but he was beginning to feel useless. And it had been six weeks since he'd ended his relationship with that cute but bizarre kelpie he'd met down at the Holy Cross (what she had been doing at a vampire bar, he had no idea). He didn't miss her, but – there was always a but – he was a little bit lonely. Bumming around his apartment with only his cat for company probably wasn't helping. Isn't someone over in Bushwick having a party this weekend? Ugh… I'm so tired. I'll look into it later. Sleep time.
Forty minutes and six commercial breaks later, Magnus had tried and failed to fall asleep. He needed Valium. Or perhaps a shovel to the skull, whichever worked quicker. He expelled a gusty sigh, earning him another glare from Chairman Meow, and moaned, "I'm bored," at the ceiling.
As if a higher power had heard his complaint and smiled down on him, the telephone in the kitchen rang.
Magnus, being somewhat catlike by nature and thus loath to exert himself when he was comfortable, merely summoned the cordless to him with a wave of his hand, pressed the 'talk' button, and put the phone to his ear. "Bane."
"You're the High Warlock of Brooklyn, aren't you?"
"That is correct," Magnus said, frowning slightly. The deep voice on the other end was familiar but not identifiable, like the speaker was someone he'd interacted with recently and then forgotten – although, given his age, 'recently' could be anywhere from a week ago to the nineteen-twenties. "Can I help you?"
"Yes." Weary, breathless, anxious, Magnus ticked off, someone's hurt. "Yes, you can. My son's been seriously injured."
Magnus probably shouldn't have perked up at these words, but he was so bored that he would have walked into a bank robbery if he thought it would yank him out of his funk. Grievous injuries were always a nice break from the monotony. He tore a strip off of yesterday's newspaper, summoned a pen, and said, "Address?"
"We're at the Institute in Manhattan."
Oh, lovely. A Shadowhunter. Raising an eyebrow even though he knew it wasn't visible over the phone, Magnus set the pen down and sat up. He felt like he should know who was running the New York Institute – it was always a smart idea to be on good terms with the local Conclave – but it had been empty for quite a while and he'd just never gotten around to finding out who'd taken it over. "I know where that is. Shall I assume that your son requires immediate attention and I should hurry?"
"Yes. He's lost a lot of blood."
"All right." Magnus grabbed his jacket from where it was draped over the back of an armchair and slung it around his shoulders. "Expect me at the front doors in five minutes."
"Understood. Thank you."
"Don't thank me yet, I don't come cheap." He hung up the phone, shoved the armchair aside to create an empty stretch of wall, and began the intricate spell that would form a Portal. He'd just add the cost of it to the bill. Magnus never felt guilty about overcharging Shadowhunters.
The Portal spit him out in front of the massive church housing the Institute, about two inches away from a giant puddle of glowing pink goop that he couldn't identify and was glad he hadn't stepped in. Magnus had been here many times, but never actually had reason to go inside. He climbed the steps and raised a hand to knock on the doors.
His knuckles had impacted once when the door swung open, and Magnus was face-to-face with a man he hadn't seen in over six years.
Post-Uprising, Magnus had accepted the responsibility of keeping an eye on a pair of Shadowhunters who had survived the battle and were awaiting trial – mostly because the price the Clave was willing to pay for his help bordered on the obscene, but that was neither here nor there. The two Shadowhunters, Robert and Maryse Lightwood, were high-ranking Circle members and considered too dangerous to be left alone, even weaponless and not in possession of a stele. It had been an unpleasant four days, with both parties avoiding each other as much as possible. When their trial finally arrived, Magnus hung around just long enough to collect his compensation and then went home to lick his own wounds. He'd assumed they would get off fairly lightly. Nephilim had written history starting in the early nine hundreds and there had been Lightwoods even then – the Clave didn't want them around, but they also wouldn't want to lose such an old, typically-honorable family if they didn't have to. Lineage meant a lot to those people.
However, seeing Robert standing inside the New York Institute came as something of a shock. Magnus hadn't expected him and his wife to receive more than a slap on the wrist. Is he here of his own volition, or is this an exile? My word, if it's the latter, the Clave seems to have grown a pair.
"Robert Lightwood," Magnus said. "Well, this is a surprise."
"Bane," Robert replied. If he was uncomfortable requesting help from his former jailer, he didn't show it. He just looked exhausted. "Come with me."
Exiled or not, he hadn't lost his penchant for giving orders. Magnus followed him into the elevator and slid his hands into his pockets as Robert pressed a button. The elevator began to rise, and Magnus took a moment to survey his reflection in the mirrored walls with distaste. He had the faintest beginnings of dark circles under his eyes.
Then he realized Robert was eyeing his hair with an expression akin to alarm. Magnus had remembered to un-spike it when he'd gotten home from the club the other night, but maybe he should have taken out the glittery purple streaks as well. Deciding that this was a good time to break the silence, Magnus said, "Out of curiosity, is there a reason you called me instead of the Silent Brothers?"
The elevator shuddered to a halt. "Not enough time," Robert said shortly, wrenching open the door and walking out. Magnus could see his point – of all Nephilim, he respected the Silent Brothers the most, but they were not the ones to call on if something needed to be done without delay. He trailed behind the man until they reached another pair of doors. One was propped open, leading into a stark white room that appeared to serve as an infirmary. Only a single bed was occupied. "He's in here."
Magnus had been aware the Lightwoods had children, though he'd never met them – they'd stayed with Maryse's mother during their imprisonment and trial. He knew absolutely nothing about them, including their ages. But, upon realizing whose son he would be treating, he assumed the child was at least thirteen or fourteen.
This boy was, at most, ten years old.
More important than his age was the deep gash in his side, which was being tended to by another Shadowhunter. He wasn't having much success in stemming the flow of blood. "What happened?" Magnus asked, coming around the side of the bed to get a closer look at the wound.
"He was with me and two others," Robert replied, settling in a chair next to the narrow bed and touching his son's face. "There was a spider demon scavenging in an alley near Central Park. He wasn't there to hunt, he's too young, but I thought there wasn't any harm in letting him observe."
Clearly, you were wrong about that, Magnus thought, but he wasn't about to say it out loud.
"I left him at the mouth of the alley, where he could watch but be out of the way, and went with Beth and Jason to dispose of the demon. It was large, female, and more aggressive than usual."
"She had babies?" Magnus guessed.
"Several. We hadn't known when we'd been called out. They scattered when we killed their mother. We got to most of them, but –"
Robert broke off. Magnus didn't need him to continue. "One got to him, first," he muttered. It was easy to figure out what had happened from there. The demon had sank its teeth into his side, but because he was so small, its fangs couldn't slide between his ribs. Three of them had snapped. It must have gotten its teeth caught and then tried to pull away – or, the boy had, probably not realizing how much more damage he was causing himself – and tore a nice hole in the child's side. The only bright spot was that the demon must have indeed been very young. Too young to produce the poisonous acid they were known for. Had that not been the case, this boy would have died the way many who got on the business end of a spider demon's fangs did – liquefied from the inside out.
Aside from the obvious injuries, his breathing was shallow and labored. Magnus wanted to chalk that up to the broken ribs, but there was blood smeared across the boy's mouth and, when he inhaled, both sides of his chest didn't expand equally, meaning… Crap. Punctured lung. No wonder they'd called him, an iratze wasn't even close to being powerful enough to repair that. The lung would be the hardest thing to fix, followed by the ribs. The rest was superficial damage. "You're going to have to leave."
Robert's brows knit. "I'm sorry?"
"This is easier to do without an audience, and I need to concentrate. If I'm distracted, I run the risk of making a mistake and doing your son serious harm."
For a moment, Robert sat, motionless, and Magnus wondered if he'd have to enchant him to get him to leave – but then he stood up. The other Shadowhunter had already opened the door and was waiting. "Fine," Robert said shortly. "As long as you can help him –"
"I can heal him," Magnus corrected, drawing glowing fingers through the air. "He's about two pints shallow, but the internal damage is thankfully minimal, considering what he went though, and I've dealt with far worse injuries on children half his size. Don't underestimate my prodigious magical powers. Out. And keep anyone else who might be poking around from coming inside."
It wasn't his most convincing speech, yet it was enough. Robert turned and headed for the door. "You don't need to worry – my daughter is sleeping and my wife and son are away."
"Fabulous." Magnus looked down at the boy through a net of wavering blue lines. He was a small, scrawny kid, curled up on his uninjured side, with a mop of dark hair and an appropriately angelic face. He didn't look big enough to be Shadowhunting, even if he was on the sidelines. Magnus, inexplicably, felt sorry for him.
All right, forget the sympathy. He's just another patient. Doesn't even have a name, as far as I'm concerned. "How old is he?" he wondered absently, rolling his sleeves up past his elbows.
"Good Lord," Magnus muttered to himself. "What kind of race turns its children into soldiers before they reach double digits?"
Robert paused halfway across the threshold. "One that doesn't have any other choice," he said. Then, with a last backwards look at his son, he exited the infirmary and closed the door behind him.
All in all, healing the boy didn't take nearly as long as Magnus had thought it would – no more than fifteen minutes in total. But when the last of the magic dissipated into dim blue sparks and the gaping wound on the boy's side had been reduced to a long, raw scar, it was all Magnus could do to cover him with the starched white sheet before collapsing into the chair by the bed, vision ringed with gray. He was more out of practice than he'd thought. Almost tempted to make himself comfortable right there and take a nap, Magnus ran a trembling hand down his face and blinked until he was looking at one infirmary instead of three.
To his surprise, the sleeping boy groaned quietly, coughed, then licked his blood-flecked lips and frowned.
Is he waking up? That much magic should have kept him under for another hour, at least – oh, wait, he was already unconscious when I got here, so I didn't put him out… god, I need sleep. Magnus leaned forwards, prepared to keep the kid from squirming around too much and undoing all his hard work, though it wasn't necessary – the boy didn't move.
A moment later, his eyelids fluttered open. His eyes were glazed and not entirely focused, but they were also a startling shade of blue, the sort one usually needed colored contacts to achieve. He spotted Magnus almost right away. "Am I dead?" he said hoarsely. Then – "You're not what I thought an angel would look like."
Magnus smirked wearily. Healing magic tended to have much the same effect as mundane anesthesia, frequently making the patient woozy enough to say things they would never voice with all their faculties intact. "Lucky for you, kid, I'm not an angel. I'm just about the furthest thing from one, actually. And you aren't dead."
"…oh." The boy's gaze wandered around the room, taking in his surroundings, and the familiarity must have convinced him because he clumsily tugged the sheet up to his chin and squinted at Magnus. "Who are you?"
"I'm the warlock your father called to heal you."
"I'm told you were attacked by a spider demon."
Memory jogged, the boy cringed and shuddered violently. "I hate spiders."
"I don't think anyone could blame you for that. Now, go back to sleep, all right? Your wound's closed, but it's still delicate, and you might tear it if you aren't careful. Besides, I need rest as badly as you do. So…" Magnus twitched a finger, "sleep."
The boy's eyes closed of their own accord. Then they opened again – which evidently took a great deal of effort – and he looked quite put-out. "It's rude to put someone to sleep without asking first," he lectured.
Magnus nearly laughed – this kid had to have a younger sibling running around somewhere, because if that wasn't an 'older brother' tone, he didn't know what was. Even funnier was the fact that he was using it on a warlock almost literally a hundred times his age. "My apologies, but you do need to sleep."
"Are you going to leave as soon as I do?"
"Probably," Magnus admitted. The boy shut his eyes once again and exhaled a long, shuddering breath that Magnus found rather concerning. "Look, if you're in any pain, I can fix that."
"Doesn't hurt," the boy murmured. "I'm cold."
Well, that was understandable, given the blood loss. The warlock glanced around, but every bed contained nothing more than a pillow and a thin sheet. "Don't Shadowhunters believe in blankets?"
"…yes…" The kid was blinking at him, looking like he wasn't sure if Magnus was asking that question seriously or not. "I have a blanket on my bed."
That he could work with. Even a vague idea of what he was searching for and who it belonged to was enough information to summon something that didn't have any protective enchantments on it. Hardly an instant later, Magnus was holding a brightly-colored patchwork quilt. It was obviously handmade, tattered and well-loved, the sort of thing you owned when your parents cared for you – though Magnus suspected that Maryse Lightwood, of all people, did not know how to quilt. Possibly put together by a grandparent, then, or Robert might have some hidden talents. Snickering to himself at the mental image, he unfolded the blanket and draped it over the boy.
He gazed at Magnus for a moment, then snuggled into the quilt, his lips curving up just the slightest bit. "That's amazing," he breathed. There was something like genuine adoration in his glassy eyes.
As if you've never seen a warlock work before. Oh, darling, flattery will get you anywhere. "Thank you."
Magnus expected the boy to give in and fall asleep now, but he was still fighting it. Every time he thought Magnus wasn't paying attention, he would stare at him over the top of the covers, and when Magnus looked back, he'd avert his eyes. Entertaining though it was, Magnus really did want to go home, drop into bed, and sleep uninterrupted for the next ten or twelve hours. "What? Do I have something on my face?" he asked after several minutes of this exchange.
The boy quickly shook his head. He seemed to be sinking into the quilt, slipping further and further under it until all Magnus could see were his eyes. Blushing madly, he mumbled, "I like your hair," and then disappeared completely.
My, my, Magnus thought in amusement. Be still my beating heart, I think I'm in love. "Thank you," he said again, trying not to smile too widely. This kid was adorable, but he was also nine years old, and Magnus really shouldn't be encouraging him. He braced his elbows on his knees and asked, "Are you going to sleep now, or am I going to have to put you to sleep?"
The quilt came back down, and Magnus found himself on the receiving end of an affronted, if unfocused, glare. "You need my permission for that," the boy informed him, "which I do not give."
Magnus did laugh this time. "Oh," he said. "Well, then, that complicates things."
"Do you have a cat?"
Thrown by the abrupt change in topic, Magnus said, rather dumbly, "What?"
"There's fur all over your jacket."
Magnus peered down at himself and saw that he was indeed covered in white-and-gray cat hair. "In fact, I do. He was probably sleeping on it while I wasn't paying attention."
Again with that timid little smile. "I have a cat too. Her name's Olivia. She's kind of vicious… everyone hates her except me."
His words were beginning to slur together. The end was in sight. Magnus was almost sorry it had to end – if nothing else, this short conversation had been enjoyable. Maybe he should talk to baby Shadowhunters more often. "Go to sleep," he said, for what was easily the third or fourth time tonight.
"But then you'll leave."
"Sorry, kiddo, but I'm leaving whether you fall asleep or not. I need to get home, and your father won't be happy with me for monopolizing your time."
The boy looked devastated. "Are you going to come back?"
"Probably not." Magnus stood and swept a hand down the front of his jacket; with a small burst of blue sparks, the black fabric was spotless. He was showing off, yes, along with draining the last of his already depleted magic, but it was worth it just to put that sleepily awed expression back on the boy's face. "I'm a warlock. My kind isn't usually given a warm welcome into Shadowhunter dwellings when we're not needed." Especially not by people like your parents – although, I'm astonished, they don't seem to have passed their prejudices onto you.
Flushing once more, the boy twisted a stray thread from his quilt around his finger and muttered, "You could come and see me."
Is this really happening? Magnus had been alive for eight centuries, give or take a few decades. He had never before been in a situation that required him to politely reject a doped-up nine year old, even if the boy was so out of it that he was unlikely to remember this conversation come morning. Shaking his head, he smiled gently at him and said, "I think I'm a little too old for you."
The boy instantaneously colored even further and yanked the quilt over his face. Look at that, I was right. Aww, what a cutie. "Hey," Magnus said, crouching down and poking the boy's shoulder, "come out from under there, I wasn't done." When he could see eyes again, half-hidden by locks of dark hair though they were, he continued, "I'll tell you what. In nine or ten years, you come find me, and then we'll talk, okay?"
There was no other term for it – the boy's eyes lit up.
"Okay," he yawned. "I will." He sounded so determined that Magnus had difficulty not laughing a second time. Instead, he just reached over and ruffled his hair. A few blue sparks drifted lazily down to the blanket, but the child's eyes had slid closed and he didn't notice – good thing, too, because Magnus didn't want another lecture about using magic on people without express consent.
"I'll hold you to that," he said softly. There was no answer. The kid was finally out.
Magnus straightened up and stretched, feeling his vertebrae pop back into place. Too bad, really. No doubt that this one would eventually turn into another arrogant, obnoxious, holier-than-thou Shadowhunter who knew he was attractive and wouldn't look twice at a Downworlder. Nephilim had no use for anyone shy and sweet and amazed by something as simple as magically-summoned quilts. He'd grow out of it sooner or later, and if not, he'd simply bury all his better qualities to fit in with the rest of that whole conformist mess. Oh well. I can't imagine I'll ever see him again, anyway.
Magnus crossed the room, opened the door, and poked his head out. Robert Lightwood was near the end of the hall, staring blankly at a painting. Magnus had the feeling he might have been pacing up and down the corridor this entire time. He cleared his throat, the man looked up, and seconds later he was standing in front of him. "Is he –"
"He's fine," Magnus interrupted. Robert almost sagged from relief. "It'll scar and his lung might be weak for a while, but there shouldn't be any lasting damage. If anything goes wrong, you know how to get in touch."
"Right." Robert passed a hand over his eyes with a sigh. "How much do I owe you?"
The warlock lifted one shoulder in a shrug. Honestly, he hadn't given the whole matter of payment much thought so far. "It's twenty of four in the morning, and I haven't yet slept. I am going home, getting some rest, and then I will contact you and we'll work it out."
"Right," Robert repeated. "That's fine. Thank you."
The gratitude sounded authentic, which, coming from a Shadowhunter, was rare. Magnus was impressed. "I told you not to thank me until you find out what I'm charging you."
Robert either didn't hear or pretended not to. He simply went back into the infirmary and took Magnus' vacated seat. Then, with a tenderness that was almost surprising, coming from such a big man, he stroked his son's cheek with his thumb. Magnus stood there for a moment and watched them, well aware that Robert had probably already forgotten that he was there.
Magnus didn't like the man (though, to be frank, he'd rather deal with him than with his wife), but it was difficult to hate anyone who looked at their son as if he was the most important thing in the world.
…it must be nice.
Whatever. Time to go. Sleep is beckoning. For some reason, though, he wasn't feeling quite so exhausted or depressed anymore – in fact, he felt positively cheerful. Maybe he would pop over to Alistair's place on his way home and see if he could secure an invitation to that party he was throwing at the end of the week. And maybe he'd "forget" to call the Institute back later to negotiate his pay. There were some experiences that just couldn't be bought, and being shyly hit on by a drowsy nine year old was one of them. That in itself had been payment enough.
Magnus left the Institute with a spring in his step.
And I think I'll keep my hair like this for a little bit longer.
I'm starting classes in a few days, so I can't say when the other half of TOWTBE will be up, but I promise it won't take months.
I've been oddly prolific lately. Maybe it's all the reviews. Hint, hint. :)