(A/N – Merry Christmas, everyone! I would apologize for this being late, but honestly I think two to three weeks is just going to be my usual update time. You're reviews were all lovely and really pushed me to get this finished. Not gonna lie – I finished this two days ago, but I figured I'd post it as a Christmas present – as lousy a present it may be :p

I'm really happy with this chapter – I think it makes up for the last one (though, you guys didn't seem to mind it which made me really happy) big time. And, I guess, in the spirit of Christmas, it has a healthy dosage of Malec fluff ( gotta get through the angst first xoxo), yay :D I've also added a lot of references to canon, and PLOT FORESHADOWING DUN DUN DUN. Plus there's also the usual Jalec, some Simobelle and WOW CLACE OMG FINALLY. Just because I love you guys ;D ALSO, I should tell you now, I've snuck some tiny little Doctor Who and Harry Potter references in, just to spice things up in my own geeky way (as a multifandom girl, I'm gonna be throwing as many references in as possible, just a warning.) WARNING – trigger warning for Anxiety, guys. If you're uncomfortable with it, this probably isn't for you. I wanted to include this because Alec seems anxious in canon, I wanted to explore that more, and the inner sub-conscious workings of it, as well as the helplessness of it, because even a small panic attack is terrifying enough and I want the chance to be able to write about it.

Wow ok I'm gonna shut up. Enjoy this chapter, tell me what you think, and happy holidays, everyone 3)

DISCLAIMER (because I forgot to do this oops) – All characters belong to their rightful owners. No copyright infringement in intended whoooooo)

He wasn't entirely sure why he was so anxious.

After all, he had never been a timid person. He had never been fearful of the dark, even as a baby – he wasn't afraid of heights, or spiders, or monsters or people. Sometimes, Jonathan wondered if he was afraid of anything at all. Maybe this time he had found it.

He turned the phone Alec had given him around in his hands again, finding comfort it its smooth, plastic texture. While he did, he snuck a glance at Alec. He looked nervous too – maybe even more than Jonathan.

"What's taking them so long?" he asked aloud, biting his lip. He had his arms folded around his stomach, like he was trying to defend himself from an attack. Funny, Jonathan thought. He never tried to defend himself when I attacked him. It was all kicking.

They were standing by a streetlight, not far from an old restaurant his parents used to take him to. Taki's, if he remembered correctly. It wasn't much, but passing it sent little jolts of nostalgia through him. Just another little tie to the life he used to have; a tie that hadn't yet been cut.

Jonathan shrugged. "Maybe they left without you. Maybe they think you're a bad son." He wasn't sure why he was being so mean; it wasn't as if he didn't like Alec – well, sort of. He didn't hate him, anyway.

Alec didn't say anything, but his arms tightened around his stomach and he bit his lip harder, so hard Jonathan swore there would be blood. After a second, he saw the skin break.

"Stop it!" Jonathan said with alarm.

Alec looked at him. "Stop what?"

"Your lip is bleeding!"

Alec's hand flew to his bottom lip and touched the blood. Jonathan watched as his cheeks turned almost as red as the thick dark liquid itself.

"Sorry," he mumbled. "I'm always doing that."

"Why?" Jonathan asked incredulously.

Alec shrugged half-heartedly. "I don't really know. But . . . can you not say that? About me being a bad son?"

"Uh," Jace looked away. "Sure. Sorry."

Alec was about to reply, when they heard a shout.


Jonathan had realized that the voice was directed at Alec, a woman – tall, slim, with raven hair like Alec's – had pulled the other boy into what looked like a bone crushing hug.

The woman was followed by two other people; a tall, broad-shouldered, angry looking man and a pretty little girl, almost identical to Alec except for her long,carefully-brushed hair, and her eyes, which were black instead of Alec's blue.

The entire family were tall, pale and dark-haired. It was a little nerve-wracking; Jonathan looked nothing like his parents.

"Alec," Alec's mother said softly, stroking her son's cheek. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, I told you," he pulled away from her, and looked at the little girl. "Isabelle, I told you to stay close to me!" he scolded, his voice full of anger. Jonathan frowned. He sounded different when he was angry. Older.

Isabelle, who must have been Alec's sister, sneered. "Well maybe you should have stayed close to me, moron."

"I am not a –"

"That's enough." It was the man he spoke, his voice dripping with authority. Alec looked up and seemed to shrink. Jonathan couldn't exactly blame him.

The man seemed to have only then realized that Jonathan was there. He glared at him. "This isn't a spectator's sport, kid. Run along."

"I'm not a kid," he said, before he could stop himself. The man's eyes narrowed, and he took a step forward.

"Dad." Alec said quickly, stepping between his father and Jonathan. "This is – this is Jonathan. H-he's my friend. I –"

His father looked shocked. "Alexander, you're not supposed to be talking to people you don't know," he said angrily. "I thought you were a bit smarter than that."

"No, it's not that – it's just – he was alone, and-and I –"

"We can't afford to be making a name for ourselves, boy." Alec seemed to go even paler at that, which was incredible, considering he already looked like a corpse. Like a corpse . . .

"Please," Alec said, quieter this time. "Please. He –"

"My name's Jonathan," Jonathan said cheerfully, stepping besides Alec. He wasn't sure why, but a part of him hated seeing Alec look so stressed. Why was that? "I'm not going to mention you to anyone, if you don't want. First of all, I don't actually care. Plus, I'm the best secret keeper in, like, ever. Well, not really, but –" he glanced at Alec's father, and smirked. "But you're terrifying, so out of respect for you and for my safety, you're secret – whatever it is – is safe with me." He finished his speech, winking at Isabelle. She giggled.

Alec's father had a face like thunder; cold, harsh, sombre – and then his lips broke into a grin.

He had almost the same smile as Alec's, with all its vibrancy and sunshine. Alec's was still better – it made Jonathan feel like he achieved something, like he won something – this man's smile didn't make him feel anything. But he returned the smile anyway.

"I like him," he said finally, smirking at his wife. She smiled too, but it seemed a little forced. "My name is Maryse," she said. "This is my husband, Robert, and Alec's sister, Isabelle."

His smile morphed into a grin when he looked at Isabelle. She looked about the same age as him, maybe slightly younger. Apart from her dark eyes and long her long hair, she looked the same as her brother – except she seemed to lack all his self-consciousness and anxiety. She made a face at him and laughed at his rejected look.

"Well, I suppose it couldn't hurt – we lost the dogs at least an hour ago, and I doubt they'll still be looking for us." The way Maryse said 'dogs' made Jonathan question whether or not she was actually talking about your typical canine. "Some dinner won't be the end of the word."

Robert nodded, and Maryse continued. "Anywhere in particular?"

Isabelle started shouting out places eagerly, and Alec remind silent, except for the occasional agreement.

"We could go to Taki's," Jace suggested.


"Taki's. It's just down there," he pointed. "It doesn't look great, but it is. Trust me. It's cheap, too."

"Money isn't an issue." Robert said, giving his wife a grim look. "Alright, I guess it's settled."

Alec Lightwood was dreaming of home.

He stood in his old garden, with a handful of sand, and he was dreaming of the home he used to have, before everything fell apart, slipping through his fingers like tiny little grains of happiness; the last remainders of the only true happiness he had. Except when the sand fell from his fingers now, they disappeared before they touched the ground, and all the dirt from the garden disappeared and he was alone. Now he was in a graveyard, but there was no grass or dirt or sand – only concrete, and the concrete was stained with red.

Alec sobbed and stumbled through the headstones, closing his eyes. I can't see the name, I can't. We don't talk about it. You don't talk about it. Wake him up! No, no, no, it didn't happen. But then why did this happen?

And then he was in his old primary school maths room, and the whiteboard displayed advanced calculus, and he couldn't figure it out, because he was only small, and scared, and he didn't understand, and no child should ever have to understand advanced calculus, please, please –


"Wake up!"

"Wake up!"

"This is your fault!"

"Wake –"

"I don't understand –"

"Alec, wake him up!"

"Wake up!"

"It should have been you!"

"Wake up, Mum, please!"


Alec moaned. His eyes fluttered open, and they felt raw and heavy. His throat was tight, and the side of his face and his ribs both ached. He was momentarily baffled – and then all the events from the night before came flooding back to him, so suddenly that he groaned, his index fingers working at the dull pounding in his temples. He sat up, his heart beating. This bed didn't creak like his old bed normally did – alright, last night was real. Not a dream.

He rubbed and his eyes tiredly, and realized he had been crying in his sleep; his brow furrowed, and he tried to remember what he had been dreaming about. Something about calculus? Well, that was enough reason to start crying.

Honestly, he was surprised he had fallen asleep in the first place. He vaguely remember going back to his 'room' after Jace left, feeling empty and sad. He remained awake for at least two hours – but then he must have fallen asleep. He pulled open the eyes, blinking at the sudden light.

Lighter than he expected. He must have slept in.

He yawned and stretched, only then realizing that he'd slept in his clothes. Right now, these clothes are the only things I have, he reminded himself. He skin was hot and clammy with sweat, and the only think he could think about without getting a splitting headache was a shower. Magnus said he had work, so he's probably out already.

He bit his lip. Magnus. Would he still have stayed, had it have been anyone else?

No. Well, probably not. Magnus Bane just had that personality, the one that made people want to leave their friends and family and stay in house arrest, innocent or not. His previous hopes of leaving after a few nights were all but eradicated. Leaving is the worst thing I could possibly do. And he knew Jace was aware of that, even if he didn't want to be.

He stepped out into the hall, and started down into the foyer. He bit his lip, thinking. What the hell was he going to do, spending the next . . . how long would he even be staying here? A week? Month? A year? He knew some court cases took years – that made him nervous. He was questioning how he could make it threw of day with Magnus, let alone a year. Liking him or finding him funny or kind or interesting or compassionate or intelligent or really, really, really attractive – none of that would make the experience any better; especially since they weren't exactly friends. Hell, Alec couldn't stand Jace half the time – his stomach did flips thinking of how he was going to handle things with Magnus.

He stepped out into the foyer. "Oh!" he shouted, nearly jumping out of his skin. "Oh, wow!"

Magnus sat at the table with a cup of coffee, reading the newspaper absently. His spiky, colourful hair from last night was wet and limp, all traces of colouring gone, little beads of water from the shower still clinging to the sides of his face, which was devoid of any makeup Alec could see. He was dressed in fashionably worn jeans and a black shirt; the only evidence of the flamboyant person Alec had met yesterday night was the faint shine of glitter on his clothes.

Alec's eyes went wide. Magnus looked normal, and that was perhaps even more baffling than his craziness.

Magnus looked up from the paper and smirked at him knowingly, taking a sip of coffee, refusing to break eyecontact. There was something in his smile that made Alec uncomfortable - was he imagining things, or was there annoyance behind those lips?

"Sleep well?" he asked with amusement.

"Uh," Alec avoided his eyes and stared down at his feet. "Yeah, I guess. The bed was, um, nice and . . . nice."

"Nice and nice," Magnus repeated in a strange, business-like tone. "Fabulous. I'm glad the bed meets the Nice requirements."


"So you slept fine, I take it? No disturbances? You didn't wake up at any time?"

Alec gulped. He was always bad at lying. "Nope. None."

"Huh." Magnus's laugh was bitter and humourless. Alec bit his lip. What did he do wrong?

"Do you want coffee?" he asked, getting up. Alec noticed this time that he was making a point in not looking at him. His hands sought around his stomach instinctively. "I . . . if it's no trouble. I don't want to be a . . . a hassle."

"Not at all. I'll make some toast as well."

Alec was going to refuse, but thought better of it. He was hungry, but he was feeling sick, and food probably wasn't going to help. He took a seat next to Magnus's chair.

"I thought you were going to be out today? For work?" Alec asked loudly, whilst the taller man rummaged around in the other room.

"I'm working from home. Apparently leaving a suspect alone is 'unprofessional.'" Magnus called back.

"Oh," Alec didn't know how else to respond, so instead he distracted himself, his eyes flickering to the page Magnus had been reading.

His heart stopped.


"Oh, Christ."

"Relax, sweetheart." Came Magnus's voice from the kitchen, Alec looked up and frowned. Sweetheart?

He glanced again at the headline, feeling the anxiety spread through his system like a weed."I . . . I am. Relaxed, I mean. I'm f-fine."

He heard footsteps, and then Magnus was back in view, with a mug of coffee in one hand and a plate with two pieces of toast balanced on the other. He set the down in front of Alec at retook his seat. He was smiling pleasantly enough, but he still didn't meet Alec's eyes.

"You sound utterly fantastic," he said sarcasticly. "Alexander 'I'm Fine' Lightwood."

The use of his full name sent another jolt of panic through his. Alexander, the name his parents called him, the same parents he'd endangered by allowing himself to get caught. "Please. It's Alec."

"Fine. Alec "I'm Fine" Lightwood. Happy?" The joking was out of his voice now. Alec grimaced and looked at his toast, feeling sick. The thought of food was nauseating.

Magnus noticed his queasiness, and reached his hand out to wrap on the table. "Don't worry about that article, by the way."

"There are pictures of me!" Alec squeaked. His slammed his mouth closed. If he kept talking, it was making everything worse. He couldn't have an episode here. Not here. Not now.

Magnus nodded. "Yes, of course. And as you can see . . ." he gestured at the snapshot of him walking outside the NYPD offices. "Your face is blurred. I made a few arrangements, with your rights in mind. While they have to communicate with the media, your identity will remain anonymous for safety and privacy and so on." Alec felt Magnus's eyes boring into him. When he spoke next, it was slow, cautious."I imagine the public discovering who you are could get the people you love into trouble, right?"

"Like . . . like who?"

"Like friends."

"I d-don't have that many friends."

"Oh." Magnus took another sip of coffee. "I suppose that was a gift from a fan, then?" He nodded to the chair on the opposite side of his, and Alec followed his gaze. There was a duffel bag sitting there, most inconspicuously, though it looked familiar. In growing horror, Alec unzipped the bag and opened it. It was his stuff – clothes, toiletries, necessities.


"I . . ."

"Your friend Jonathan left them outside the door. I found them this morning. He must have come back after last night, to drop them off." Magnus said pointedly. Alec gulped and stared at the wall in shock. In the corner of his eyes, Magnus leaned it. "Now, what kind of kidnapping victim willingly drops off their kidnapper's possessions?"

"I don't . . . I don't know what you're t-talking about."

His voice was barely even a whisper.

Magnus groaned, leaning back and running his fingers through his hair. "Don't play stupid with me, Alec. You strike me as a bright guy – do not make the mistake of lying to me. You need to tell me what happened."

"How did you know?" Alec demanded suddenly. "How-how did you kn-know J-Jace . . . how did you know Jonathan visited me last night?"

"He's not the brightest witch of his age, let me tell you that." Magnus said, smiling with humourlessly. "When he tried to break you out – from what I understand, that's what he was attempting to do, right? – when he tried to break you out, he woke me up. I followed you both, and the rest is history."

"I –" Alec broke off, at a loss. His stomach was twisting painfully with anxiety, and he could almost imagine the room beginning to flood – something he used to do when he was younger, before he had panic attacks.

"You did nothing wrong, though," Magnus said quickly. "In fact, this is excellent. I can use this to our advantage. Your relationship with Herondale can be our main case, and especially if we sell it well. Teenage sob stories work well, truth be told. I just wish you would have told me this at the beginning."

Alec frowned. "Tell you . . . w-what? That he's my-my friend?"

Magnus looked at him, and there was something both pitying and also deeply sad in his eyes.

"How long have you been in love with Jonathan Herondale, Alec?"

Before Alec really knew what he was doing he was out of the chair, pacing around the room, trying to get his breathing back in order. Too much water, he thought desperately. I need air. I can't breathe.

"This is your fault!"

The flood was sweeping memories back, memories he didn't want to revisit. Advanced calculus, right? Or maybe a graveyard? His subconscious was splashing around in the water, impossible to ignore. The dream, what happened in the dream?

Alec let out a sob. The world was spinning too fast. He tried to focus on Magnus, to answer his question, but he couldn't speak with all the water. "No! No, no! I'm not – w-we're just . . . he's my f-friend. I – I can't – nobody – oh, oh God. I'm sorry – I just, you don't . . . you don't . . . understand, okay? Please, I can't just . . . God, this is my fault. It's my fault, it's my fault."

"Alec, calm down," Magnus was standing up, staring at Alec in alarm. Except he was worried for all the wrong reasons. It didn't matter, he was already underwater. Alec didn't really care at this point.

He remembered what his dream was about.

This wasn't how it was supposed to be. This wasn't how he wanted his life to go. All his thoughts were on Jace, on Izzy. If anyone found out about him, their lives were over. And he'd ruined everything. Everything. A blurred photo was still a photo, and getting arrested would still draw attention. It would only take one curious reporter to figure out everything. And if his other secret got out, what would his parents say – God, what would Jace say? He would look at him in disgust and never speak to him again. His parents would be ashamed. His father would disown him. And he would lose everyone he loved, and it would be entirely his fault. Again. Again, again, again.

All he wanted was to help, to protect, and every time he just ruined it. He ruined everything.

"This is your fault!"

"It should have been you!"

"Wake up!"

He was underwater, but he wasn't floating. He might as well have been an anchor. His entire world spun violently, and he reached out blindly for something to grab, anything to stop spinning. He was seeing double, his breath rapid and short and terrified."Oh, God, no –" He felt himself falling . . .

And then he felt arms around him, catching him before he hit the ground. He blinked stupidly, and the world seemed to stop moving, and reality catching up to him. Stop. It's just you. There's no water, remember? He inhaled, shuddering, looking up.

Magnus's face was full of concern, his arms gripping Alec elbows tight enough to hurt. He didn't mind though. Anything to keep him out of the water.

"Alexander, darling, it's alright." He assured him, his voice soft. Gently, he lowered Alec down to the floor, resting his head against the wall. Alec shuddered and struggled to get up, but Magnus pushed him down again. "No, stay. I'm getting water. Don't pass out, okay. Do you want me to call someone?"

"No, please!" Alec said, his breath catching.

"Shh, shh shh, Alec! It's alright! It's fine, I'm not going to call them. Just try and keep calm." Magnus got up off the floor and went to the kitchen, and Alec held back a sob. This was the last thing he wanted, to start thinking about these things again. He brought his knees up to his chest and rested his forehead against his legs, desperately trying to get his breathing back to normal. He was still hyperventilating, but thankfully he wasn't crying. He didn't want to cry with Magnus looking. He didn't want to cry, ever. He realized he had stopped breathing, and the panting came back.

Magnus came back and handed him a glass of water, smiling nervously. "I'm not angry, you know." He said quietly. Alec stared at the water, but he couldn't drink it. He took gasping breaths.

"I – I'm really sorry, Magnus," Alec mumbled through his breaths.

"No, it's my fault. I –"

"No, th-this happens all the time, I – I just panic, and I start thinking, and then I just sort of lose everything and I go crazy and start seeing things and thinking things and I used to think I was crazy and honestly sometimes I still do I know I probably seem pathetic to you now and I'm really sorry about all this because I never normally do this in public because I hate it so much and it wasn't your fault because it was just everything and I can't deal with everything and please please Magnus don't tell anyone about Jace."

Magnus frowned at Alec, letting him speak and then waiting, watching as he buried his face in his knees, trying to get his breathing back to normal again.

Deep breath. Count to five. Release. Hold for ten. Well done. You haven't even made it twenty-four hours and you've lost it. Excellent job.

He realized with a start that Magnus's hand was on his neck, just under his jaw, his thumb rubbing calming circles on his cheek. Alec closed his eyes and concentrated on that.

He wasn't sure how much time had passed before he realized that his heart was beating steadily, and his breath had returned to normal. He opened his eyes, blinked, and looked at Magnus again.

"Don't tell anyone about Jace," He whispered again.

Magnus's hand fell away, and he looked guilty, as if it shouldn't have been there in the first place. "I won't mention the . . . the details of your affections, Alexander. I can say that you and Mr Herondale have a close, brotherly bond, and your desire to keep him close influenced your reasoning to not come forward. That can still help you. Does that sound alright?"

Alec bit his lip. "I . . . I'm not sure. I'm just really – really confused." To his own amazement, he found himself laughing. Magnus smiled, shifting his body closer so he was sitting side-by-side with Alec, their legs stretched out in front of them.

"Would it really be so terrible if people thought you were friends?"

He thought about it, trying to analyse the detailed. A part of him still felt like he was in a dream. "No."

Magnus nodded. "No." He looked at Alec, his eyes revealing only the slightest hint of worry. "Alec."


"I wish you would have told me about this. If I'd have known you had anxiety, I could have prevented this."

"I don't really like talking about it," Alec said, looking down. "I don't . . . I don't like drawing attention to myself."

"A severe anxiety disorder is reason enough to get attention – you don't have to feel bad about asking." Magnus replied, not unkindly.

"I know, I just – ugh, you saw how it was. I can usually stop it, or feel when it's coming, but sometimes, things like that happen, just tiny things. Funny, how I can be calm during an interrogation, and go crazy over a photo. God, it's like I'm drowning, and –"

"And it's bad. I know."

"I don't know if you do." Alec frowned.

"I know," Magnus repeated. "I used to have anxiety. Not as bad as you, but I had it." He smiled, his eyes far off in some distant memory. "This is going to sound fucking ridiculous, but I used to do this one thing whenever I felt panicky, and it always worked, every single time."

"What was it?" Alec asked, feeling the corners of his lips lift up slightly.

"Stab fruit."


Magnus joined Alec in his laughter. "I'm serious! Stab fruit. I'd go with apples, honestly. If you get citrus in your eyes, it's kind of a buzz kill. Just get a kitchen knife and go mental. Honestly, it's the greatest thing ever."

Alec laughed harder, shrinking lower down against the wall. Magnus was looking at him, grinning, and for a few seconds he didn't feel uncomfortable in the slightest.

"You have a beautiful smile, Alec." Magnus said in a quiet voice. His laughter trailed off as his embarrassment set in, and he straightened himself up, wrapping his arms around his torso. "Thanks," he mumbled, looking down at his hands.

"If I ask you something, will you tell me if you're not comfortable answering it?" Magnus asked.

"I . . . yes?"

"How long have you been in love with him?"

He knew that question was coming. He took a shaky breath, tightening his grip around his stomach. "Promise you won't mention any of this to anyone? Promise."

"If it's endangering to someone's life, I'm obligated by law to tell. But it isn't, is it?"

"Sometimes it feels like it." He took another breath, sorting out the information he needed to leave out. "I sort of . . . I met him when I was just a kid. I . . . I started feeling – feeling things for him . . . a few months afterwards."

"Does he feel the same way?"

He shook his head. "No."

Magnus sighed, and reached out for Alec, as if to comfort him. He hesitated a few inches from his shoulder and then decided against it. "And I suppose he doesn't know about you being gay?"

Alec cringed. He hated that word. "I don't think so, no."

"Does anyone?"

"I don't want anybody to know . . . ever." After Magnus, the only person who knew was Isabelle, but she avoided the topic like the plague. She didn't do it out of resentment, he knew – she didn't want him to feel bad about it, which she knew he did. He was a little shocked, with Magnus talking about it so casually. He hadn't been able to talk about it before like this – openly.

Magnus squinted at him with his strange, catlike eyes. "Why not? I don't mean that offensively, by the way. I'm just interested."

He bit his lip. "I wish I wasn't – I . . . I don't w-want to be . . ."

"Gay?" Magnus suggested, brows raised. Alec flinched.

"I don't want to like Jace this way," he said, choosing his words carefully. "I don't want people hating me any more than they already do. I don't want to spend the rest of my life with eyes on my back, judging me. I don't want to see the disgust in their eyes. Do you understand?"

"I do," he said with a kind smile. "And let me guess – Lightwood's aren't very tolerable to the non-heterosexual variety?"

"No. If they ever found out . . ." he shuddered. "Well, they would be ashamed to call me their son. They wouldn't call me their son."

"They would disown you for being gay?" Magnus asked, dumbstruck. Alec nodded, studying the other man's expression. He looked baffled and sympathetic, and protectiveness shone fierce in his eyes – though he was probably imagining it. "Why?"

"It's wrong," Alec said flatly.

"Who told you that?"

Alec opened his mouth to reply, and stopped. Magnus cocked an eyebrow, smirking.


Alec nodded. "Oh."

"I thought so," he sighed and the hurled himself up off the floor, and turned around to pull Alec up with him. "Feeling any better?" he asked pointedly.

Alec smiled sheepishly. "Lots. Thank you."

"Anytime, sweetheart. You should drink that water though, just in case. I'm assuming your friends pulled a pretty little stunt with the NYPD last night, because Agent Herondale swears she sent to sentries out to patrol, and yet they were able to break into the apartment with zero problems. Needless to say Imogen wasn't exactly impressed, so securities doubled. Have a look."

Magnus lead him to the kitchen window. "There's two cars there, and one a few blocks down. There's also two officers outside now, and two more in the lobby."

"There goes my cunning escape plan," Alec joked, smiling nervously.

Magnus laughed. "Did I mention how touched I was with your loyalty last night?" he asked.

Alec frowned. "Huh?"

"You stayed. You could have left, with no problem at all. If I was in your position, I would have left without looking back. But you stayed. That says a lot about who you are."

"It does?"

"Of course. It says that you're a good person."

Alec blushed. "I'm not really."

The man rolled his eyes. "How else would you explain it?"

Alec shrugged. Not being stupid, he thought irritably. And it's not my fault you're so . . . you. What else was I supposed to do?

"Sorry, you can't change my mind. You're a good person, and nothing you say will make me think otherwise."

"Um, okay, how about this? I hate Shakespeare."

Magnus gasped in faux-horror. "You monster! Oh, wait, I thought Romeo and Juliet was stupid. I guess I can forgive you, just this once."

"How kind," Alec scoffed.

"I know, right? I should be knighted." He laughed. "By the way! If you're going to have a shower – have one now or have one later tonight; we have to leave at two."

Alec frowned – wasn't the entire point of house arrest to keep him from leaving the house? "Leaving where?"

"To the station. Just a check-up to make sure you have murdered me and skipped town or something. You'll have to do it for at least a month or two – it all depends on how long it takes to go to court. After a while they'll be more lenient."

He nodded. A check-up would be almost pleasant. On one hand, it meant seeing that psychotic Herondale woman again, but it also meant leaving the house, which meant fresh air, which meant open spaces and good things for a claustrophobic Alec Lightwood.

He glanced at the duffle bag with his stuff in it. He felt dirty, which meant he probably was. "You don't mind if I have a shower now, do you?"

"Course not. The bathroom's next to your room on the left. Your towels are by the sink, and just through those closes in the basket. I was going to buy you some stuff today, but I guess I don't have to now. Although," he grimaced at Alec's visible clothes in the bag, "I think I have a moral obligation to burn everything in that thing. Tell me that sweater is supposed to be brown?"

Alec blushed. "It faded. I've – I've had it for a couple years."

"I can tell. Vintage is only cool if it's not actually vintage, sweetheart." Magnus sighed dramatically. "Go have your shower, Alexander."

Alec picked up the duffel bag and started towards the bathroom, but when he got to the hall, Magnus spoke again. "About your parents, Alec . . ."

Alec cringed. He had been hoping the topic was dismissed. Nothing made him feel worse than talking about his family issues. Although, you felt better when you told Magnus, didn't you?


"It might not be my place to say, but from my understanding of things, I think the word family, when you look at the subtext of it – it means acceptance. Trust, compassion, loyalty, respect, love. All those things are what make real families worth fighting for. God knows, I didn't have the best childhood – and maybe that's why I feel that, if you don't have all that good stuff, what else do you have but the bad stuff? The thing is, Alec; I see you, and I see your kindness and loyalty, and I'm wondering if you're wasting all this love on people who wouldn't do the same for you. You need to figure that out for yourself, though. You need to figure out who's worth loving, and who's worth calling family."

Magnus bit his lip and looked down, as if he regretted speaking. Alec stared at him, his lips ajar, unsure how to reply. He wasn't sure whether to be angry or sad or thankful or flattered. Instead, he went with honest.

"I don't know how to respond to that in the right way."

Magnus gaped at him in amazement for a moment, and then let out a breathless laugh, still looking at him as if he was some sort of old, forgotten dream from his childhood, come to life. "Go and have your shower," was all he said, still smiling.

Alec turned and left, frowning. He wasn't entirely sure why Magnus was laughing, but he was even more confused as to why he was looking at him the way he had. I probably sounded like an idiot, he decided.

He stepped into the bathroom, his jaw dropping. It was about as large as Jace and his bedroom, if not bigger, and to the left was one of the biggest bathtub he'd ever seen in his entire laugh. Bathtub was a poor choice of words – a large spa or a small swimming pool would suit better. He shook his head and turned on the water from the shower, which was also ridiculously wide. His own shower was about the size of a linen cupboard.

He reached his hand out to feel the water and gasped. It was hot. Painfully hot. He almost laughed – at home, it would take ten minutes for his shower to get warm, let alone boiling hot. He hadn't had a hot shower in months.

I don't know why I'm surprised, he thought, fiddling with the taps until it was the desired temperature. Magnus is rich – rich enough to afford a freakishly large bathtub, anyway. Big water isn't a big deal.

And yet, when he undressed and stepped under the warmth of the shower hose, he found himself sighing contentedly, as if the panic attack earlier was just a vague dream.

"Well, this is a bit awkward."

Isabelle glared at him, her fingers curled into claws around her mobile; Maryse's answering text still grinning at them like some smug little harpy from the pits of hell. Or maybe Maryse was the smug little harpy from the pits of hell.

Although, Jace thought. She had a soul, on most days. This had Robert's name all over it.

"I . . . I can't believe her!" Isabelle screeched, her voice rising to an impressive height. Jace shushed her angrily.

"Jesus Christ, Izzy, you'll alert every junkie in the neighbourhood with that freaking banshee cry, shut up!"

"There are no junkies –"

"We're getting off topic," Jace shook his head. "Alright. So what exactly did you write to her?"

Isabelle frowned, her eyes darkening. Jace had noticed the bags under her eyes and the slept-in mascara smudges the moment he stepped into the flat. Being careless about her appearance was very un-Isabelle like. "I already told you. 'Reply to this as soon as you receive it. Alec has been arrested by Imogen Herondale, and his identity is compromised. Jace escaped, but they're looking for him. Come home, we need you.'"

Jace sighed. "That's fantastic."

Isabelle must have heard the anger in his voice, and snarled. "Hey, jackass, what else was I supposed to say? 'Hey Mummy, just wanted to say you're the bestest in the whole wide world. Also, Alec's been arrested. Love you, XOXO.' Keeping emotions out of it is the best thing right now."

"I wasn't referring your text. It was fine." He stretched his limbs, leaning back on the dining chair, yawning. He hadn't slept in almost thirty six hours, and sitting in the dim, dark little dining room was taking its toll on his remaining energy. "It's her reply that's getting to me."

"Tell me about it."

"I just don't get it."

Isabelle glanced at the text again, a shadow passing over her expression. "'This is your problem," she read through gritted teeth. "'Sort it out. I'm sure Alexander wouldn't want to endanger his family's whereabouts. We have to honour his sacrifice.'"

Jace scoffed in disgust. "'We have to honour his sacrifice.' Jesus Christ. You know what that sounds like, Izzy? Fucking Satanism. Next it'll be sacrificing virgins and cannibalism and . . . . I don't know, something involving goat blood or something. There's always goat blood. I'm starting to think you were right for leaving when you got the chance. Alec wanted to leave too, but he stayed because I did. But this –"

". . . Is a new low," Isabelle finished his sentence and pushed the phone across the table, looking grim and nauseous, as if the sight of it made her sick. "And besides, at this point I don't particularly care what Alec wants. This isn't about want he wants – it's about protecting our brother, and right now we've done a pretty sucky job."

"I should have dragged him out by the hair, I swear to God." Jace moaned, running his fingers through his golden hair.

"Why did he stay?" Isabelle exclaimed furiously. "What the hell compelled him to stay? Guilt? Why would he feel guilty – he hasn't done anything!"

"It wasn't guilt. He stayed because he knew if he didn't it would be worse for all of us. It was smart. He's a fucking tool, but he's a fucking smart tool."

"I don't care what kind of tool he is – I want my brother back."

Jace smirked. "Speaking of tools – where's rat boy, anyway? Off playing Dugeons and Dragons with his little friends?"

Isabelle reached across the table and clipped him over the head. "Simon is helping his friend move some boxes for her uncle's store." The bitter jealousy in her voice was clear as day. "Her name's Clary. Stupidest name ever. But he wants to introduce her to me, and show her the flat, so I have to play the sweet stay-at-home girlfriend while he brings some stupid tramp –"

"Hey, Izzy! I'm back!"

Isabelle groaned. "Oh, for fuck's sake. That's Simon now. Look, don't mention the Alec thing; I told you, I don't want him finding out."

Jace followed her as she went to the front door.

"Are you gonna stay?" she asked under her breath.

"I think you need some moral support. And honestly, I'll take any excuse to torment Simey-Wimey," Jace grinned.

Isabelle rolled her eyes, and then her expression melted into an overly ecstatic smile when she saw Simon, talking to a short red-haired girl, the same age as Isabelle.

"I missed you!" She squealed, jumping into his arms. She kissed him messily, ruffling his hair and sighing longingly against his lips. Her body melted against his, pulling him closer to her. Simon, confused and hopeless as ever, wound his hands around her waist awkwardly, and Isabelle giggled. Jace held back laughter; already she was on defensive mode. She was only ever this annoying when she was competing with other girls.

"I, uh, jeez Iz, how long was I gone?" Simon asked, blushing a little.

"Too long," she whimpered dramatically. Jace felt it was time to step in.

"Far, far too long, rat boy," he said with faux sadness. "I've waited so long for you – an eternity, almost . . . you still look as handsome as ever with your rat-like features and your beady little eyes. . ."

"Shut up, Jace," Isabelle snapped. "Why 'rat boy', anyway? It's not even funny."

"It is!" Jace insisted, side stepping the trash in the hall and almost tripping when they finally reached the main room. "Just look at him – can't you see the rodent-y resemblance?"

"Give a round of applause to the comedic genius," Simon muttered, dumping a handful of shopping bags on the kitchen counter with a huff.

"Stop talking, weirdo. Look Izzy, look into his soul and see the rat within."

Isabelle huffed in annoyance, her hands curling into fists at her sides. "Whatever," she sighed. She squared her shoulders and studied her boyfriend, who looked humiliated and uncomfortable, blushing like a maid.

For a moment, Isabelle remained expressionless, and then, with great reluctance, a tiny smile spread across her face.

"Isabelle!" Simon exclaimed, and Jace hooted with laughter.

"I'm sorry! It's not a bad thing, you know! Some rats can be cute!"

"Some rats," Jace howled, doubling over. "Unfortunately, this fine specimen here is not one of them. Oh, dear God, I think I'm having a stroke. It's moments like these that make life so beautiful, oh my God –"

"Don't worry Simon," said a quiet voice from behind Jace. "At least you're not a big headed Neanderthal who puts his sister's boyfriend down to make himself feel big."

Isabelle's jaw dropped in surprise, and Jace raised his eyebrows. He spun around and stared at the girl who spoke.

She was ridiculously short, but she must have been the same age as Simon. Except she, unlike her friend, didn't look like a rat.

Long, vibrant red hair spilled across her shoulders down to nearly her waist, contrasting elegantly with the fair, pale rose tone of her skin and her big amber eyes. Her nose was sprinkled with freckles, but other than that her skin was bare. She didn't wear makeup, and her face was natural and soft and . . .


"I don't believe we've met." He said.

The girl regarded him coldly, her arms crossed over her chest. "Thank God," she said bluntly. Jace felt a tiny pang of hurt, but mostly, he was just impressed.

He held his hand out. "I'm Jace. Jace Wayland."

She ignored his gesture. "Clary Fray."

Jace smirked and opened his mouth to reply, but Isabelle cut him off.

"Well, yeah," she said quickly. "W-what Clary said. And besides, Simon is the hottest guy in the room. Hottest guy ever, actually." She flashed him her best Hollywood smile, and raised her voice. "I'm the luckiest girl in the world."

She jumped on him again.

"Uh," Simon started. "Not that I'm not loving this whole 'two girls defending my masculinity thing', but I need to have a look at something for a minute."

Isabelle pulled back, looking hurt. Simon went to the TV and turned it on, flicking through the channels until he found CNN.

"Did you hear?" he said seriously. "They found one of the Lightwoods."

Jace kept silent. Suddenly, the spotlight was on them. He took a step back, so Simon and Clary couldn't see his face, and glanced at Isabelle. She'd done the same thing, and her eyes were wide as plates, the blood drained from her face. Please, please don't show his face, Jace prayed.

"- multiple reports of vandalism in the UK, with the words "Bad Wolf" scrawled in over seventy locations across the country. More word at eight." The reporter shuffled his paper. "Our top story this afternoon: officials have confirmed that they have taken the son of Maryse and Robert Lightwood – owners of the hemisphere's largest drugs and weapons smuggling business – into custody.

"Alexander Lightwood, 20, was arrested early last night after being caught in a drugs bust by the NYPD. Eye-witnesses state that he has been picked up by renowned and questionable defence attorney Magnus Bane, who will act as his lawyer during the court session, of which the date has yet to be released. Rumours have yet to be confirmed that the Lightwood drug business is not also related to a kidnapping of Jonathan Herondale, a ten year old boy who disappeared shortly after moving in with his Grandmother, Imogen Herondale -current head of the New York Police Departmen – nine years previously."

An old photo of Jace as a child flashed up on screen. He was with his mother, he saw, but her face was blurred out. Her smile was still visible through the pixels.

He bit his lip so hard he tasted blood.

It was sunny out, but the blinds were drawn, and in the dimness of the room, he sought out Isabelle's hand and held on tightly. She squeezed back, her sympathies going unsaid.

"If you have any information concerning the whereabouts of Jonathan, or the Lightwoods, we urge you to contact Crimestoppers. Police refuse to discuss the details of Alexander Lightwood's release, but Agent Herondale did say that 'he and his family will not go unpunished for the deaths they've caused, and the lives they've ruined.' More news on this breaking news at six."

Another picture flickered onto the screen – it was Alec. Isabelle's hand shot to her mouth, holding back a cry. Jace inhaled sharply, and then paused. The photo was from last night. He was walking outside the station, his head down, with Magnus Bane trailing beside him. It took a moment for him to understand, but then he smiled.

His face was blurred.

"Thank God," Isabelle said breathlessly. Simon straightened up, turned the TV off and spun around to stare at her.

"Come again?"

"Oh." Isabelle bit her lip. "I just – I just meant that he's been caught. You know – justice and all that."

"Yeah," Jace agreed. "Good to see the police are doing their jobs, getting horrible monsters like that guy off the street." If he wasn't so worried, he probably would have snorted.

"Is it just me, or did he look really familiar?" Simon said aloud, wondering.

Jace and Isabelle exclaimed a look. "Nope." They said in unison. "Not at all. His face was blurred out – it's impossible to see his face anyway."

Simon nodded absently. "Yeah, I know . . . it's just . . . I don't know. It felt like I've seen him before."

Clary, who had been silent the whole time, exclaimed in alarm. "Oh my God!" she shouted.

"Clary?" Simon asked.

"What's wrong?" asked Jace.

Clary ignored him. "Simon! Oh my God! Simon, I've seen him as well!"

Isabelle stood up frantically, then tried to brush it off as a stretch. Jace didn't miss the horror in her eyes. He looked at Clary intently. She was pacing around the room, looking horrified beyond belief.

"I know where I saw him, too. Oh my GOD. I used to see him every week at Luke's bookstore!"

Jace wasn't sure why, given the circumstances, but he had to ask. "Is Luke your boyfriend?"

Clary brushed that off with a wave of her hand, but it looked like her mind was elsewhere. "He's my mum's friend. Oh my God, we used to talk all the time! I told him to read The Book Thief, and then he said I should read To Kill A Mockingbird!" she gasped for breath. "Oh my God, I spoke to a freaking Lightwood!"

Simon smiled in awe. "Wow," he said slowly. "What was he like?"

Clary opened and closed her mouth a few times, searching for words. "He was . . . pretty nice, actually. He barely spoke, though. I always thought it was just because he was shy –"

"- but he was actually just a murderous thieving junkie." Simon shook his head. "It's always the quiet ones. And it means I probably have seen him."

Simon frowned, and then glanced at Jace. There was an understanding in his eyes that made him want to turn and run. "What was the guys name again? Jonathan?" He looked Jace up and down.

You need to sell this, his mind hissed. He forced himself to laugh. It sounded rough and bitter and mocking, and most importantly, it sounded genuine. "My real name's Jackson, just in case wanted to research my family history. If I was a fucking Lightwood, rat-boy, I guarantee you I would not be wasting my time in a place like this."

There was a cool silence. Simon looked sheepish, and Clary looked annoyed. "Besides," he went on, starting on Clary. "Is your mum's friend Luke Garroway, by any chance?"

"Yes , how did you -"

"Exactly. Last time I checked, that place wasn't exactly thriving. Why would he go there, when he could just as easily buy somewhere better? You're imagining things, little girl." He didn't mean to be so cruel to her, but once he got started it was difficult to stop. And Simon finding out about Alec was one thing – the Fray girl was a stranger, and therefore a threat.

Clary met his eyes, looking furious. "I have won over twenty art awards, plus a scholarship." She said, her voice deathly quiet. "I take a drawing class at school, and two more outside of school. I can recognise body language and a person's shape like you can recognise your sister's face. I am not imagining things, and my name is not little girl." With that, she stormed passed him and down the hall. The door slammed shut, and Simon groaned.

"Thanks," he said, his voice thick with sarcasm. "She's never going to come back here again. Actually, you know what? You can see yourself out, too."

Isabelle put her arm on Simon's shoulder. "He's not leaving," she said firmly.

"He insulted me and offended my best friend!" Simon insisted. "Look, I'm all for jokes, and I don't really care how he treats me, but keep Clary out of this."

Isabelle moaned. "Oh, of course, it all leads back to C-"

"Simon's right."

They both turned to him. "What?"

"No, Simon, you're right. I've been a dick. And unfortunately I can't find it in my heart to feel sorry about that, but I can pretend to, out of the goodness of my heart. So, here you go; I'm sorry, rat boy. We'll talk later, little sister." He winked at Isabelle and gave Simon and look, and then left them both to their bickering. He had considered staying, just because it would be something to laugh at, but the amusement would be short lived. Isabelle won every fight.

He stepped out into the cold New York air and started down the street, thinking of Alec. What was he doing right now? Probably being interrogated by that weird attorney, who Alec seemed to have a fixation on. It hadn't been difficult to miss.

Maryse's text still lingered on his mind, and he felt his mood slip further. If Alec's parents refused to help, what could they do but wait blindly for a miracle to drop out of the sky?

The more he thought about it, the more he wished he was still that little boy in the photograph, smiling next to his mother.

(A/N – so, I'm not overly fond of the ending, but altogether I'm pretty pleased with this chapter in general. The thing with Clary saying "I'm not a little girl" is a direct and deliberate quote from Cassandra Clare's book Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, in case any of you wanted to accuse me of plagiarism ;D I wanted to reference it back to the book, because I'm trying to keep this fic as close to the series as possible. Also, hopefully the anxiety thing was covered well – I didn't want to make it too dramatic, but then the water analogy came in and . . . oops.

Okay, so I have a question for you all – should I make a playlist for this? I see other authors doing this all the time, just suggesting a song with every chapter, and it seems like fun. Would you guys be interested? LET ME KNOW.

Just another quick side note regarding Magnus's issue with Imogen; I've thought about it, and I'm not going to turn that into a huge plot point. Obviously it's still an issue, but I think we all know that Magnus is too fond of Alec to do anything like that, so it's just boring and obvious if I make a big deal out of it. Besides, I'm basing this story more around the characters and then emotional dealings (Alec's dream, Magnus's childhood, and Jace's flashbacks will all be key elements, btw)

Gahh! What is with me and long author's notes? Ok ok, thank you so, so much for taking the time to read this – it means so much to me that anyone likes it at all. I'm a review whore, so make sure to rate and review just to tell me what you thought. Happy Holidays!)