This story takes place in the middle of CoA. It has Malec and UILUI (Unresolved 'I Love You' Issues). It disregards all of our fangirlish fantasies of 'what had happened' when Alec and Magnus were left to their own devices while the rest of the main cast went to the Seelie Court. It's also extremely long.

Beware.


Breaking Through (and Coming Back to)

Soft about the moss the wild fern uncurls
ever so gently where a rabbit is born,

king of nervous things
.

If the smell of rain in the crisp fall air made you cry and remember things,
those things you remembered, that is my name
I am the rabbit.

If he kept you a prize on his lap, if he crushed your ribs with his weird love,
if you cried at night in your cage, then you know my name

I am the rabbit.

If you were hunted but walked into meadows to feel the blue of the sky at the price of your life,
then you know my name
I am the rabbit.

If you make love with one eye on every leaf that moves,
then you know my name
I am the rabbit.

If you need a thousand years of peace before you will ever trust this world again,
then you know my name

I am the rabbit.

"I Am The Rabbit"- Joseph Pintauro

Prologue

Freedom

"A moment," the Queen's voice echoes in the dark chamber. "One of you must remain."

Alec shoots a glance at Simon. If anyone had been foolish enough to touch what the fey had offered, trust it to be the mundane. But Simon just looks around, eyes wide and darting about behind thick lenses, lips thin and knuckles white. Narrowing his eyes, Alec quickly sweeps the room. There is only one exit, the same they had used to enter the Queen's chambers. It isn't ideal, it isn't even 'good' or 'enough', but he can work with that. They can still get out three instead of none.

A pained gasp sets off the alarm in Alec's brain, his muscles tensing as the worry wails and drowns his thoughts in an izzyizzyizzyizzyizzy tide. He can feel his heart speeding, sweat gathering where his hands have gripped his bow. His head snaps instinctively to the left, where Izzy always stands, where she stood with Meliorn moments ago. She's still there and breathing, like he should. She sends him a puzzled look, equally concerned. Alec lets go of his bow and looks around to find the actual source of distress, nerves still strained. He locates Clary ten feet from the Queen, her hands spread against the air as if it's solid. She's pressing her shoulder forward, pushing hard enough to turn her face red- yet it seems to have little to no effect at all. She can't get past the invisible barrier.

"But I didn't drink anything," she protests. "I swear!"

"Faeries don't lie," Alec murmurs, confused. He doubts Clary is stupid enough to ignore all the warnings she's been given. As she struggles to free herself of the barrier around her, it becomes apparent she somehow did.

At least it's not Izzy, he thinks, almost without remorse.

"My Lady, you must be mistaken," Alec tries, hoping she is, but doubting the very notion.

"Clary didn't drink anything," Isabelle objects, her voice rising with each word. Simon trembles with rage by her side, eyes trained on Clary, fear clear on his face.

"Oh, but she did," says the Queen, a smile slowly spreading across her lips. "She tasted the rose tea we offered you upon your arrival."

"You're lyi-" Simon's mouth shuts against his will as a faerie blows dust in his face. It sticks to his skin and glows. One of the sprites giggles, its thin voice like a bell chime. It conjures memories of home, of dawn and stargazing and his mother singing him to sleep. Liar, liar, pants on fire! The sprite whispers; as the laughter spreads throughout the chamber, so does the chant. The sound thrums through the walls. It feels like a thundercloud above his head. None of them can move, paralyzed by the sound, as Clary's clothes suddenly catch on fire, the flames stubbornly fighting the wetness of her jeans.

Clary's horrified scream invokes another chorus of laughter. The Queen snaps her fingers and the chamber immediately stills- all the faeries suspended midair, their mouths still open, faces and hands frozen. The only sound is that of fire eating away denim.

"Children," the Queen tuts, eyeing her court sternly. "Manners." With another snap of her fingers, the flame dies and the faeries are released. Clary collapses to the floor before anyone has the chance to catch her. In seconds, Simon kneels by her side, a protective arm around her waist, murmuring soft nothings in her ears. Izzy appears just as fast, her expression stone-hard and furious, one hand on Clary's shoulder, the other on her whip. She's about to do something Alec's going to regret. He can feel in in his bones.

"How dare you attack a Shadowhunter in your court?" Izzy demands. "How dare you?" Alec can hear the implied you bitch. He thinks the Queen can, too.

The Queen waves her hand dismissively, her nails like talons, her voice a cold hiss. "A child's play, Nephilim." Izzy grits her teeth. "My courtiers meant no harm."

"I think they did," Simon snaps, voice hoarse and pitchy from the faerie dust. "They set my girlfriend on fire."

"Oh, please."

Alec sees Izzy flexing her whip-arm, her delicate fingers twitching. He steps in front of her before she has the chance to lash out physically and kill them all in the crossfire. One of the sprites gives him a cocky grin. It twirls and its hair turns to flames. Another faerie juggles with Snapbarries. They explode into a fiery mess as they leave her hands to meet the cool air of the chamber. One explodes by his left foot. Alec steps on it. The fire quickly dies out.

Alec's voice is forcefully level when he says, "It is unkind of you to insult your guests."

"Insult you?" the Queen tilts her head slightly, a curious bird watching. Her eyes are black and inhuman, and there's a laugh lingering in the corner of her lips. "It is you, little Shadowhunters, who have insulted me with accusations of deceit."

"The accusation is well grounded, My Queen." Alec's tone is hard and cutting.

"Stop it!" Clary's demand barely registers. "She'll set you on fire too and then what'd we do?"

"Kick her scrawny, sparkly little ass, that's what." Izzy mutters, but her voice carries, loud in the underground cavern. The Queen's head snaps to Izzy, a snarl painted on her delicate features, the smile whisked away. Her wings unfurl.

"Your own foolishness, Shadowhunters- it, and it alone-has brought such fate upon you," The Seelie Queen says, voice flat.

"It is no reason to attack us," Alec narrows his eyes until the world is made of dark shapes and the occasional bright spot. "You cannot attack Shadowhunters; we're upholders of the law, sons of the Angel-"

The Queen's face twists and morphs, her mouth reshaping into a vicious curl, a razor sharp promise and an indication of a mistake. Alec snaps his mouth shut on cue, but it's too late, for him and for them.

"The Fair folk have of the Angel as you do," she says, calm and collected, her voice low and dangerous like the first lightning of a massive thunderstorm. Izzy snorts her disbelief behind Alec's back. The Queen's eyes narrow and her lips purse into a crooked, cruel line, ready to bear teeth once again. Her hand lifts towards Izzy, composure lost.

"You have of the demon as well. More, actually," Alec snarls back at her, blocking the Queen from reaching his sister with his body. "Lower your hand, My Queen, and none shall be harmed".

"You are arrogant, Alexander, and with so little reason for it," the Queen tells him. He doesn't care what she thinks of him though. It's a first he'd like to cherish.

He gives her a level look and demands, "I believe you owe us an apology before we leave. Before all four of us leave."

"That's rich," the Queen snaps. "You are not old, known or powerful enough to have demands of me, boy." She straightens, out of her throne in one fluid movement, eyes blazing and fingers bent like broken twigs. With another clear, loud snap, Alec crumbles to the floor, his whole body burning. Izzy goes down with him, hands trailing over his back, screaming something at the Queen, or at him; he can't concentrate on anything besides the pain. Alec doesn't know how a razor upon a burn feels, but he can bet his life that it feels like this.

"Here's your freedom," Alec hears the Queen's voice clear in his head. "I hope to never see you again."

x

A superficial check shows Alec's just fine. Besides scraped knees and a few scratches to his cheeks, the Queen hasn't managed to do more than give him a slight concussion.

"Are you sure you're alright though?" Clary asks him again. Alec groans a barely decipherable reply. "I think we should get you checked. Maybe she cursed you or something."

"Curses show up either immediately after being cast or forty-eight hours later. If there's nothing showing now, we'll have to wait," Izzy explains after Alec almost blurts 'are you stupid?'.

"Can faeries curse people?" Simon asks, his voice still high and distorted from the dust. "I thought that was the witches' gig."

"Faeries can do almost anything," Alec informs him curtly but withholds the 'are you stupid?' at the tip of his tongue of his own accord.

"They can't take a joke," Izzy mutters surly.

"Or get drunk."

"Or french."

Alec coughs. Clary pats his back sympathetically, muttering about doctors and concussions; Alec inches away from her hand. Izzy attempts to hide her face in her hands.

"I hope you're concussed," she murmurs, voice slightly muffled. "Maybe you'll forget I ever said that."

Alec gives her a doubting look. She sighs in defeat. "Don't kill him before I get a second, thorough check of the frenching business," she warns before stalking away to bid her farewell to Meliorn. Alec would- and wants to, badly- but he has neither the strength required to lift his bow nor enough patience to deal with the consequences of a Downworlder murder.

Clary asks him what's up with his face, and does he feel worse- he looks it- should she call a doctor, shouldn't he go home? Alec grinds out something he wants to hope wasn't terribly offensive and steps aside, closer to the woods. He leans against a random tree some twenty feet off the Turtle Pond, far enough so he won't hear Clary or feel her eyes on his back. The woods are quiet, the ground cold. He doesn't have to try to fall asleep here, just close his eyes and lean further back. He lets his breath slow, relaxes his muscles and tries not to think.

Alec doesn't get to meditate long. He can recognize the rhythm of Izzy's stride even on the slippery mud. He opens his eyes to glare up at her through wet strands of black hair. She gives him an unimpressed look. "So, what's with the suicidal tendencies?"

"What's with the faerie boyfriend?"

"I have three answers to that: one involves your warlock, another is a rude word you probably don't know, and the last is 'you are deflecting, and it ain't working'. Which do you want?"

"I am not deflecting," Alec objects. "The Queen wouldn't have killed me. She'd be sentenced for killing a Shadowhunter."

"Because fairies are famous for being intimidated by the law. Especially our law." Alec blinks, confused by the implication because they should and don't they? Izzy waves her hands in exasperation. Alec shrugs. He lifts himself slowly off the ground, his limbs aching and his balance somewhat off. Izzy quickly fits herself under his arm. "We should get Clary back home," Alec tells her. "She looks beat." They take a few careful steps towards Simon and Clary.

Izzy rolls her eyes. "She's not the one who can't walk on her own."

"I can walk."

"Oh yeah?" Izzy swiftly slips from under him. Alec sways a little before crushing into the mud. He doesn't have to look up to know the exact angle of the cocky grin spreading across his sister's face. Her laugh echoes in the dark woods.

"You alright?" Simon calls to him, concerned.

"Peachy."

x

The walk towards Luke's place is a quiet one. It's a chilly night, even the slightest breeze raising goosebumps. They trudge through the empty city streets unnoticed. Alec briefly wonders where are the park faeries, the alley vamps and the wandering weres, but he's too tired to dwell into it. The streets are silent without the mayhem of creatures buzzing in the air or crawling by the walls.

"Death warmed over?" Simon matches Alec's pace as they near Luke's, his smile like a curtain ready to drop at the slightest pull. Alec isn't sure he's worth the effort of smiling, even politely, but he tries anyway. It must come closer to a grimace but it seems Simon's the type to appreciate the thought and ignore the actual result. His smile widens and he steps closer.

"Just dizzy."

"A direct hit from Queen Evil and a six feet drop. I can sympathize," Simon says, voice still high. "Listen, I know you don't like me-"

"What do you need?"

Simon rubs the back of his head sheepishly as they stop near the door. "How did you guess?"

"Max gets the same expression when he wants to sneak out of the Institute and go to Carnegie Hall." Simon reddens. Alec points a finger at his face. "And that's what he looks like when he wants ice-cream after."

"I won't mind ice-cream, but I actually need your help with-"

Clary doesn't seem to mind what Simon wants help with because she unceremoniously butts in, cutting off the longest conversation Alec has had with a mundane, ever. She hugs him tight and promises to call Jace.

"I won't tell him what happened," she assures him. Alec finds it in him to be grateful after three deep breaths and his she's Jace's sister well-rehearsed mantra.

"Call me when you get home!" Clary calls after them. Izzy waves at her before they back into an alley. Their pace is slower now, almost idle enough to be a stroll. They reach the Institute just as the moon hides itself behind a thick blanket of clouds, the night so much darker without it. The street becomes a patchwork of blacks and browns. Alec looks ahead but doesn't see the Institute. The glamour set in place, the sort that doesn't conceal but diverts attention away, is stronger than usual. Alec's too tired and too preoccupied to care. He follows Izzy to the entrance, stumbling on the stairs his eyes skirt away from.

Standing by the great, oak doors, exhaustion suddenly settles in like a heavy weigh on their shoulders. Alec can see Izzy sag slightly on the antique, brass handles. As the doors opens, a rush of cold hits Alec's face.

When he steps past the doors, a fierce wind throws him out. He falls on his back with a painful groan on the second step leading to the entrance. "What the-?"

"I have a bad feeling about this," Izzy tells him as she rushes out of the Institute to crouch by his side. Alec gets up gingerly, carefully edging towards the doors again.

"Really?" he mutters dryly. Reaching out, he feels the familiar wooden frame. It's cool, nonthreatening. Another step forward sends him sprawling onto the floor a second time.

"Alec!"

"I'm fine," he assures his sister. "I think." He doesn't try a third time, though.

"Do you think it's the Queen's doing?"

He doesn't know, but they both suspect. He'd like to say he's too tired to think, too cold and too hurt to confirm anything tonight, to deal with the shit he's brought onto himself. He'd like to say he can't hear Clary saying Maybe she cursed you or something in his head. From the look on Isabelle's face, she can hear it too.

"What else can it be?"

They sit in a contemplative silence on the cold steps leading to the institute. Izzy tries to be covert about it, but Alec can see her inspecting him for injuries, signs of demon possession or a beak. "She probably did curse you. If you can't enter the Institute she must've done something unholy that stuck."

Alec looks at his fingers and can't see claws, or talons, and his skin's not green. He tries to focus on the bright side. Fewer possibilities, just one outcome.

"Real question's not what she's done," were he a braver man, perhaps he'd be interested in finding out. "But how we fix it."

"We have to know what it is first."

"Well." Alec gets up, brushing the dirt off the black hunting uniform with pale, shaking hands. He wants to move, to do something that's not thinking about how he's probably screwed up. "We are clearly in over our heads. I vote to go find someone who can help."

"Maybe mom can help."

"If mom finds out I pissed off the Queen of the Seelie Court she will be the one throwing me out of the Institute." Izzy's grim expression matches his.

"Then who?"

"Uh."

Izzy sighs. "C'mon. I know just the guy." She takes him by the arm, confidently strutting ahead. He staggers behind her. "You wanna tell me now or surprise me at the door?"

"You'll know as we get closer. It'll be too far away from here and too late for you to change your mind and hit me."

"You've thought of everything, haven't you?"

Izzy's grin is a sudden white flash in the dimly-lit streets. As they make their way wherever, he shivers, his limbs already numb. He wonders if that's why everything's hazy, unfocused, like he's lost his Precision rune. He can't even tell they're on Magnus' street until they stand in front of his building.

"You're really out of it."

Alec hits her over the head. "Hey!"

"Never too late to hit your conniving, little sister," he tells her with a lopsided grin he has a hard time holding in place. It quickly falls off his face as he's faced with the prospect of climbing up stairs.

"Can't you ask him to, I don't know, Zap me up?"

Izzy wiggles her eyebrows. "Oooh."

It takes Alec a moment before he splutters, "I wasn't implying anything!"

"Uh-ha."

"Really."

"Uh-ha."

Magnus answers the door in tight black jeans and a lace shirt, a pink comforter thrown over his shoulders. He takes one look at the two of them and opens the door wider. "Lightwoods," he says in a tone of deep foreboding. "What have you gotten yourselves into this time?"

"Jace didn't tell you?"

"Oh, he did. But he got the director's cut and is under the impression you're fine. But since you're here, you're obviously not- I want the Clary Uncensored version."

They step into the living room. Chairman Meow takes one look at them and hides under the sofa. Alec is determined not to take it personally.

Magnus throws a few fluffy towels and clothes on their heads with a "Bathrooms. Now." Neither Lightwood bothers arguing. Exchanging glances, they head to change from their wet clothes with sighs of relief. Isabelle takes the bathroom in the hall, so Alec's stuck with the one in Magnus' bedroom. He tells himself he doesn't notice Magnus has changed the color scheme from moss-green to sky-blue, and that it is not the exact shade of his eyes.

He goes through motions without much thought or feeling, quickly dropping the wet pile of clothes into the laundry basket marked 'Filthy and Ew' and stepping under the spray. The water is scalding, quickly turning his skin lobster red. He stays under the stream until it runs cold. He gets out with a sigh, fishing out a random shirt and a pair of sweats he thinks might actually belong to him- probably forgotten a while ago- from the laundry basket. Pulling the soft cotton shirt over his head, Alec's suddenly grateful for Magnus' height and its surprising benefits.

When Alec gets back, Izzy's already on the sofa with socked feet on the coffee table and a steaming cup in her hands. Magnus sits opposite her, glaring. Alec shoves her feet to the floor as he plops down beside her. Magnus gives him a radiant smile and summons a steaming cup of tea with a snap of his fingers. Their hands brush when Magnus hands over the mug.

"Where's Jace?" Izzy asks. Magnus' smile dims.

"Moping. In his room." He raises his voice and shouts: "Which he won't get out of until he apologizes to Chairman Meow!"

"Bite me!" comes Jace's muffled reply from two doors down the hall.

"What's he done to your cat?" Alec asks.

"He stepped on him while trying to sneak out of the house to follow you two. The poor thing screamed so loud he woke the neighbors."

"Why do I have the feeling you're more upset he woke you up?"

"Because I am."

Alec huffs a laugh. Izzy smiles into her cup. "So, duckies, what've you done and why do you think I am obligated to help you?"

"We should really discuss the 'boyfriend in need' ordeal," Izzy says. Alec elbows her, blushing. There's no point in denying anything to her. Last time he tried she kicked him and demanded details of their first date with the kitchen knife held tightly in one hand.

"Is my boyfriend the one in need or not?" Magnus' eyes heat up Alec's skin further.

"I got cursed."

"We think."

Magnus blinks. "Could've waited a bit with that bomb." His expression shifts as soon as the words leave his mouth, his eyes now clearly looking for signs of explosion. Alec's getting tired of that look.

"I'm fine."

Izzy sniggers, but the sound is bitter. "We tried to enter the Institute and Alec got thrown out."

"What do you mean 'thrown out'?"

"I mean 'goes past the front door and gets blown away by a sudden gust of extremely strong wind'."

Magnus' brows knit together in a frown. "Let's restart. The whole story- from the top."

The story seems to confuse the warlock even further. There's not much to go by, anyway. There aren't any signs of a curse, and if not for the door incident, they wouldn't have suspected anything was out of place. Alec tells Magnus exactly that. He gets a "Don't be stupid, darling " in response.

Magnus gets up and in two steps he's right in front of Alec's face. Before Alec has a chance to protest, Magnus' hand is on the top of his head, tangled in his hair and warm, almost as scalding as the water from the shower had been. Magnus murmurs softly, eyes halfway closed, barely a golden slit visible. Alec can feel heat spreading from his cheeks to his hairline.

"What's wrong with him?" Izzy demands. Magnus doesn't even blink. His lips keep moving, forming words Alec barely hears, and certainly doesn't understand.

A few tense moments later, Magnus lets go of Alec's hair reluctantly, his hand slipping from his hair to his cheek, shoulder, and finally back to Magnus' side.

Magnus trembles as he sits back down.

"So?"

"I don't know." Magnus' expression and voice remain carefully bleak. "Something's different."

"How bad?" Alec asks.

"Not bad," Magnus halts. The pause is unnerving. "Different."

"Will it turn bad?"

"I hope not," Magnus declares vehemently. Alec feels somewhat comforted. "And if it will- I'll do everything in my power to help." Magnus' golden eyes are burning.

"When's the next checkup then?" Izzy asks. "To know if it's really something to be worried about."

"Can you stay here tonight?"

"In case I develop weird, yet somehow predictable, symptoms?"

Magnus' lips twitch. "Is that you agreeing? To staying over, I mean."

"Yeah." Alec feels himself smiling back, if only slightly. "That's me agreeing."

"Good." Their eyes lock. Alec feels himself leaning closer unintentionally.

Izzy coos. Alec's eyes snap to her, as if he's forgotten she's there. Like a scolded child,he shrinks on himself, practically burying himself into the sofa cushions. Magnus gives him a carefully guarded look, but Alec thinks he can still see the hurt behind his eyes.

"As much as I hate to ruin such a romantic sleepover invitation, I'm really tired, and since we're-" Magnus' eyes twitch at the pronoun, "-staying here, I'd like a bed." Magnus gives Izzy a dry look and points to the hall.

"Third door on the right."

Izzy stays put, staring at the two of them with a speculative look.

Magnus snaps his fingers menacingly, eyes back on Alec. "Go." She rolls her eyes and skips away, a towel falling from her drying hair to the floor.

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" She calls out before slamming the door of her newly appointed room. The sudden noise scares Chairman Meow enough to make his protest audible from his hideout.

"I hope you put an itch spell on her bed," Alec grumbles, the tension vaporizing off of his body with Isabelle's departure.

Magnus chuckles and promptly makes himself comfortable on Alec's side- shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh. Leaning his chin on Alec's shoulder, his whole body at an angle, he asks, "So, how are you feeling?"

"Alive," Alec replies. Magnus' hair tickles his cheek. "Is there a chance I'd stay that way?"

Magnus nods vigorously into his shoulder. "Of course there is. I highly doubt it's meant to kill you."

"How can you be so sure?"

Magnus' eyes are green and he's smiling a little softly, a little sadly. Alec leans his cheek against Magnus' hair and breathes in the scent of shampoo and magic. "It lacks the usual kind of malice," the warlock clarifies, but his voice wavers. "It feels like-" he pauses. "I don't think it means to hurt you."

Who else then?

"She seemed quite angry, though."

"She always is. And you called her a demon. That's a big no-no," Alec briefly wonders under what circumstances Magnus has met the Queen of the Seelie Court and whether he wants to know. Magnus' eyes suggest he steer clear off the topic.

So he huffs and mutters, "She was about to attack Izzy," instead.

"Don't tell Jace you weren't too concerned with his girlfriend's well-being."

"She's his sister."

Magnus gives him a sad look and nuzzles his neck. His breath warms Alec's skin, a careful touch that is surprisingly timid, carefully slow in its advance; like a man trying to approach a frightened animal. "It'll be alright," Magnus assures him, and Alec wants nothing more than to believe him. He forces the fear down his throat, dark thoughts exiled and repressed. There's no point worrying over something he can't name, or something he can't change.

They meet halfway, lips and teeth and body heat like a supernova.

x

"That's all you got?" Jace taunts. His fist comes hard and strong, angle precisely calculated. Alec has enough time to dodge it; Jace had always been a fraction too slow. A millisecond's just enough to move left, hook his ankle behind Jace's and bring him tumbling on the mats. Alec doesn't know why, or how, but the punch gets him faster than he's expected. He can only thank God they never fight seriously in practice, otherwise his liver would not have survived the blow.

"You alright?" Jace drops on his knees beside him. Alec chokes.

"When did you get so fast?" Alec wheezes at him.

Jace blinks owlishly at him before saying, "I didn't. I was trying to work on the angles. Thought you'd dodge it."

Jace helps him get back on his feet. They take a few steps back and hunch, fists aloft, legs slightly apart; they spring at each other simultaneously. Alec charges in with his right palm flat open, aiming for his opponent's sternum. Jace deflects, slaps Alec's hand to the side and goes in for a low kick. Alec barely escapes the hit. Turning with momentum, Jace aims another kick to Alec's head. When Alec tries to catch it, Jace's foot slips from his grip like water. The blow to his chest is not a strong one, but it ruins Alec's balance. Jace springs like a cat with a hand towards Alec's chin. The edge of his palm gets Alec straight in the jaw, knocking his teeth on his tongue. As Alec goes down, Jace's elbow connects with his upper back. He comes crushing down and soon Jace's weigh settles on his back, pinning him to the ground. Alec can barely breathe. "Gotcha."

"Ungh."

"Say it."

Alec stays silent, head pressed against the blue mat, the taste of blood bitter in his mouth. Jace leans forward and more weigh settles on Alec's upper back. Alec tries to ignore the fact that Jace is on him. "I can sit here all day crushing your lungs, you know?"

"I admit defeat," Alec says, determined to let Jace hear the eye roll and not his frantic heartbeat, his scattered thoughts. "O' marvelous one." Jace snickers like the devious three-year old he is, but lets Alec up.

Third time around, it goes much the same. Jace moves fast like lightening, his moves exact and ferocious. Alec doesn't remember ever sparring like this, doesn't remember ever feeling so lethargic and frail. His fists and kicks are too slow, his breathing harsh in his ears, his eyes burning with the effort of following Jace.

He is already falling down when his senses register Jace had his calf hooked behind his. The fall leaves Alec coughing.

"What's up with you today?" Jace asks as he leans down to look at Alec's face. As handsome as Jace is, looking up his nostrils isn't the most flattering of angles. Alec turns his head. He doesn't want to wonder if he sucked because he's tired, cursed or just plain awful compared to Jace. He doesn't want to acknowledge the fact he can safely cross out two.

"I didn't sleep much last night. I'm probably just tired," Alec lies; he's managed to beat up Jace after sleepless nights before. He sits up and ignores his throbbing everything. "We should wrap things up here before Magnus wakes up."

As it turns, Magnus is already awake when they make their way out of the training room. It used to be the attic, but Magnus had been kind enough to convert it into a training hall so Jace could be occasionally silenced. He gives Alec a measured look. "How'd it go?" he asks. Alec tries not to be overly concerned with the fact the first comment out of his mouth doesn't concern 'sweat', 'sex' and 'shower'. He can't avoid analyzing what it might mean.

"Your boyfriend sucks," Jace tells Magnus. "And not in a good way."

Alec's eyes widen and he forgets everything he's ever been worried about because this, this is so much worse. "What?"

Jace gives him a confused look. "What did you say?" Alec repeats.

"'Your boyfriend-'"

"Why would you think that?"

"Yeah, why would you think that?" Magnus echoes, voice brittle like the first snowstorm of the year. His eyes turn darker, impenetrable.

Jace shrugs. "What do you mean?"

"We're not dating," Alec insists. His heart hammers in his chest, fear seizing his throat. "Why would you think- why would you even-"

"Oh? So you're just that friendly with everybody, is that it?" Magnus snaps.

"Magnus," Alec can't say anything more than those two syllables, unsure if the damage done is too great, and whether it is worth it. Jace just looks bewildered. Magnus looks away. Crossing his arms, he stares imploringly at the floor, eyes slit and mouth clipped.

Alec stands there and feels like he's stranded somewhere far and foreign, a reality with rules he can't follow.

"What's the big deal?" Jace inquires, concern coloring his voice. "It's not as if I care." He looks at Magnus when Alec pales further. "I don't. Really."

Magnus' lips quirk bitterly. "Oh, I think he believes you about that."

Jace just stares at him blankly, comprehension clearly miles away. "So why's it-"

"Do you feel any different?" Magnus cuts Jace off without as much as a blink. His eyes are trained firmly on the floor, unblinking. Alec isn't sure that the question's for him, but he's content with letting the subject drop. He doesn't let himself worry that perhaps the whole curse thing is more serious than defining their relationship. "Your energy's different."

"Just tired," Alec replies, voice soft and apologetic.

Magnus waits.

"Slow." Magnus mentions for him to continue. "I don't know. It's like I'm stuck in slow-motion."

"What do you mean?"

"I couldn't see Jace move." Alec bites his lip. It's difficult to phrase. "When I tried to punch him he'd already moved and I didn't even see."

Magnus nods. He turns on Jace like he's an enemy and fires the question like a buller: "What's the score?"

Jace frowns. "Twenty two-four."

Magnus rubs his head and mutters, "Please let me be wrong," before crouching by Alec and lifting up his shirt. Jace whistles before Alec has enough time to gather his wits and blush properly.

"Uh. Um. Why're you doing this in front of Jace?" he manages to croak. Jace seems to be the prominent feature of this equation.

Magnus doesn't bother answering. He has one hand bunched up in Alec's shirt, the other hesitantly reaching up. His touch is feather-light, following some pattern on Alec's ribs only he knows. Alec suppresses a shiver. When Magnus lets go and straightens, Alec feels lightheaded.

"Well, fuck," is all Magnus says.

Jace laughs, but it's hollow. "It's not as if you've never seen that before."

Magnus ignores him. "Go bring Isabelle," he orders instead. "Now."

Jace raises both eyebrows but doesn't argue. He leaves the room in haste.

Alec stares up at Magnus, stumbling onto a stool near the kitchen counter, his legs buckling with sudden, irrational fear of the unknown. "Am I gonna die?"

"You might live shorter than you've expected," Magnus says. Alec's mind blanks. "On the other hand, you may be lucky and live longer than all of your Shadowhunter friends." Magnus doesn't look at him, but Alec can see him shaking. It's a sight far more frightening than a Raum demon, or a giant spider or his father's angry eyes. Alec can't tell if Magnus' sour expression is angry or frightened.

He'd really prefer it to be anger. Fear is something he can barely handle himself, but having someone afraid for him, having Magnus afraid for him, is unthinkable. So he doesn't think. Really, really hard.

Izzy comes barging in, her face pale, eyes wide, hair plastered to her forehead. She jumps on Alec as soon as she sets eyes on him, her grip tight around his neck. "I'm alright," he says into her hair.

"I know." She lets go, but sticks close. Her eyes quickly latch onto Magnus' form, demanding answers.

"What's wrong with my brother?"

"I believe, and let's all hope I am sorely mistaken," Magnus says, "That Alec's on his way to becoming human."


A/N: A prologue for a 12 chapter story (of which I currently have nine chapters and around 60K words.)
Hope you enjoy :)

Excerpt from Chapter Two:

Jace expects Alec to blush and stare at the floor like it's terribly fascinating. He doesn't- he looks back, and with earnest stubbornness etched all over his features, says 'Thank you' as if Magnus needs it.