He had expected to come home to an empty, silent apartment that would remind him of his loneliness in the way that his jumper was no longer slung over the back of his sofa, or the way that his toothbrush was no longer sat in an organized line next to the floss and toothpaste in the bathroom, or just in the way that he knew, from the emptiness, that he wasn't going to be back. This apartment would never know Alec Lightwood again.
The thought was even more painful than he had imagined.
Pushing away the past few months that had been a blur of horror and chaos and the silver lining that had been the young Shadowhunter, Magnus tried not to let himself think of the boy at all. But there he was, again and again, in his head, trapped, where he had been all day. He saw Alec as he had left him, his face so open, so honest. It cut him deeper than Amatis' dagger ever could have.
He thought, wearily, as he leant against the front door, his keys still in his hand, about the encounter with Azazel. The demon had wanted a happy memory. Magnus remembered searching his brain for a happiness he could give up, and all he had found was Alec. But his memories of Alec, whose life was so short and precious, were not something to sacrifice, not for the life of Jace Herondale, not for anyone. So he had given away Camille, and the only time he remembered ever having been trying happy with her. Not for a moment had he regretted it until she had told him the truth of where Alec had been, where he had been sneaking off to, why he had become so distant from him. Magnus had known he was losing the Shadowhunter, but for a time, he had believed it was because of Jace, his brother, and nothing more.
But he had been wrong.
Sighing, Magnus pushed himself away from the doorway and into his apartment. He had told Alec to leave his key on the dining room table, and knowing the boy like he did, he knew that it would be there.
Yet, instead, he found something else – something that was so much more. He recognised Alec's handwriting on the sheet of paper that lay upon the table instantly. It would be a lie to deny the way that his heart fluttered and then sank, knowing that this would not be like one of the notes Alec sometimes left when he slipped out of bed early in the morning to go to training, where he sometimes signed his name with an 'X' or two after it, depending on his mood.
He felt himself sit down as he took the letter into his hands, almost not wanting to read it, knowing that what it said could never reverse what had happened, what they both had done.
Magnus, it read,
I know you don't want to see me, I know it even if I cannot bare it, so I doubt you want to hear anything I have to say, but I can't bring myself to leave this place – here, where you gave me my first kiss and stolen Chai tea- without at least explaining myself a little bit.
What I did – what I asked of Camille – was wrong.
Your life is your own, not mine, even if sometimes it feels as though mine belongs solely to you. I know you think I wanted to take it from you, to somehow take away the endless years you will have, and that the secrecy was worse of all – but Magnus, don't you understand? With us, it is never just us. You said once that your immortality was becoming a third member of our relationship, and in a way, it was. It was always there, staring me in the face every damn day, telling me that I was just a blimp in a long line of others. I know you think me jealous, and I am, terribly. For me, there has only ever been you. I thought I loved Jace, I really did, but you proved me wrong. I never loved him; I have never loved anyone but you. So, surely, you must see? You're the first person I have ever cared about, kissed, loved… and me? What am I? What could I possibly mean to someone who gets to live for ever?
That's why I went to Camille, why the words she said to me when I found her at Lilith's stuck with me. I have always felt trivial, like I am insignificant, like before me there was someone and after I die, there'll be someone else who you'll care for just as much – and one day, you'll forget me, whereas I will never forget you, no matter what happens between us. I would be fine with you not loving me back – I can't say I'd enjoy it, mind you, but that at least has reason, has sense, but just the thought of never being to you what you are to me kills me. So that, is why I first went to Camille - but her offer, Magnus, that I could never do; never could I kill something – someone - so unsanctioned, so unjust, but more important, to you, no, I couldn't do that.
I went, instead, because she knew you – knows you, better than I do. You loved her once and she kept you loving her for some time, didn't she? I didn't – I don't – know how to do that. I don't know you Magnus, not in the ways that it counts. I know that you don't date people who don't please your cat, I know you like sandalwood just as much as I do, I know you love Venice more than anything and I know why you were banned from Peru (Jace told me) – but I don't know where you were born, I don't know where you grew up, I don't know where you've been all your life. I don't even know how old you are. Eight hundred, 'give or take', doesn't cut it.
I feel – no, I felt – like you know everything there is to know about me, yet, I know nothing about you. You close off if I so much as ask you anything about your father or your past and once you're gone, you're gone. There's no opening up again after and I have to pretend like I was asking just out of a fleeting interest so you'll come back to me, like knowing you isn't important. But it is, Magnus, it really is. If you were worried I would change my mind or see you differently, then you're wrong. Nothing you have ever done could change the way that I feel.
You said to me that I didn't trust you, that I never had, but Magnus, it's not you I didn't trust, it was me. I went to Camille because never once have I believed that I deserve you – because I don't. I don't trust myself not to make the same mistakes over and over and keep hurting you like I did, first when I was still hung up over Jace and then when… when Max… and then with my stupid, petty, pointless jealousy over the past you have never shared, and then losing Jace... Things haven't been easy, for any of us, and I didn't trust myself not to ruin it – which, I guess, is ironic considering where we are now, born of what I thought I would be preventing.
I'm sorry, Magnus. I am sorry, whether you believe me or not, and as much as I hope I'll end up at your door again, like so many times before, and find you there, smiling in the doorway with Chairman Meow and blue flames at your fingertips, I don't expect you to forgive me. I know what I did – but I wouldn't, no – I could never do it. It wasn't even something to consider. It's your life. I spent so long worrying about dying and leaving you, wondering how long it would take to be forgotten and replaced, I never realised that I might be the one who… I thought you were dead, Magnus. I thought I had lost you and I hadn't thought it possible. My immortal boyfriend, dying? No, that wasn't how it was meant to work. By the Angel, I had been so caught up with the qualms of your immorality and my own fleetingness on this earth that I hadn't realised that I might lose you rather you lose me. But there would never be a next time for me, Magnus. As short as my life may be, even if you were not in it any more, it would only ever be you…
But, I suppose, that doesn't really matter anymore, does it? And neither, I suppose, does this letter. I can only hope that you read it and don't throw it onto the fire and extinguish the words I don't think I would ever have the courage to say aloud without a Fearless rune–
I love you, Magnus. And I'm sorry I never had the courage to tell you that until now, on a stupid piece of paper that you're probably not even going to read…
The key, by the way, is in Chairman Meow's bed. Whilst I was writing this, he started to play with it and I didn't have the heart to take it off him.
P.S - you were never our 'pet Warlock ', not to any of us, not for a single second. There would never be a Team Good without Magnus Bane.
Very slowly, Magnus lowered the letter with a shaking hand. There were no words – but what could you say to a person who wasn't there? It was as though Alec had known exactly how to tear out his heart and make sure that once it was returned, it would never be quite the same. It would never beat properly; it would never function right with him gone.
Glancing to the corner of the room, he saw his cat sitting with false innocence on his small bed. He moved to it hurriedly, Alec's letter still in his hands. He shooed the cat away and there it was, just like he had said. He wasn't sure why seeing the key there, the one he had slipped into Alec's back pocket one day and refused to take back in the days that had followed until finally, the Shadowhunter had gotten the message and started to use the key instead of the buzzer, affected him so much. He bent to pick it up, his thumb brushing against it – the key that had belonged to Alec, the key he had carried around with him – was it all he had left of him? A stupid key and a letter? That was it?
Closing his eyes, Magnus wrapped his hand and his fingers around the key and brought it and the letter to his chest as though they would give him answers. But instead, there was nothing. Just the silence of the empty apartment that felt as though it too knew that what he held in his hands was all he would ever have of Alec Lightwood. s