Shaking Jace from my trail was trickier than I had anticipated. I thought I'd given him the slip diving in and out of thick throngs of people and cutting through a labyrinth of alleyways. I'd peered over my shoulder constantly, never catching any sign of him. It shouldn't have surprised me to see him waiting for me at Magnus's. Anyone with half a brain could have guessed where I was headed. Still, I nearly tripped over my own two feet when I saw him, body tensed, hands clenching and unclenching, obviously pissed. I'd ducked out of sight before he could spot me. That had been half an hour ago.
Jace still hadn't moved an inch. His head turned left and right rhythmically, eyes vigilantly scanning the crowds. He paid no attention to the suspicious glances passersby cast in his direction, even completely ignored a pretty blonde girl that flashed him a flirty smile and a wink as she walked by, swinging her hips all the while.
Something buzzed against my thigh suddenly, making me jump. I exhaled, realizing it was my phone. Ever since Magnus had called it quits, I never kept my phone out of reach. The first couple nights -- the most painful nights -- I sat up in bed staring down at the phone cradled in my hand, waiting for him to call. The lack of sleep was excruciating, but I'd been too afraid to close my eyes even for a minute for fear of drifting off and missing that one phone call I'd been desperately waiting for.
I reached into my pocket and yanked out my phone, frantically flipping it over to check the call display. Jace Wayland. Disappointed, I let it vibrate until my voice mail finally kicked in. I waited until the message finished recording to listen to it.
"Alec. It's Jace. Where are you? Call me back." Jace's tone was icy and flat, as if he was struggling to keep his temper in check. It sent chills down my spine.
I didn't blame Jace for being livid. He gave me his trust and I hurled it out the window. Literally. If our places had been switched I knew I'd be furious with him. Jace was my parabatai, and, based on personal experience, I knew that rooted at the base of his fury was an anxiety so strong it was crippling. We were brothers. We loved each other and we protected each other. He'd always guarded my back, and I, his, but just this once I turned my back on him and disappeared. I knew Jace was suffering. After all, it was one thing to protect your brother against demons and Downworlders; it was another to try and protect him from himself.
Guilt seared my veins like burning poison as the plan unveiled itself in my head. If I went through with this I would deserve nothing less than Jace's hate, but he couldn't give me what I needed. I needed Magnus.
I dialed Jace's number and pressed the phone to my ear.
He answered on the first ring. "Alec? Where are you?"
I paused long enough to shake his nerves, and I hated myself for doing so. "I-I don't know."
"Where are you?" He asked again, tense and alert.
"Jace," I whimpered. "I don't know what I did."
"You need to tell me where you are, Alec," Jace said, alarmed.
"I don't know how it happened, Jace. It was an accident, I think. I can't get the bleeding to stop." My voice was hysterical. Inside my head another voice, full of malice, hissed, "Alec Lightwood, you disgrace the name parabatai."
"I need you to look around and tell me what you see."
I gave him the surroundings of an abandoned worksite that would lead him in the opposite direction.
"I'm on my way, Alec. Don't hang up."
I flipped the phone upside down so I could still hear Jace speak without him hearing me breathe. I bit my lip hard enough to draw blood, punishing myself. It wasn't nearly enough pain to counteract the guilt.
"Alec?" He waited for my response. "Alec!"
I readjusted my phone, whispered, "I'm sorry" and disconnected the call.
Jace was long gone by the time I peeked out from my hiding spot. Raziel, I silently prayed, cast me into the deepest pit of hell and let me burn for eternity. I approached the first door and hesitated before pushing the buzzer. Magnus was not an easy man to con. This would have to be timed perfectly. I put my phone on speaker and opened Jace's voice message, pausing it after a second. Swallowing hard, I pushed the buzzer.
His voice alone made me weak in the knees. I put my free hand against the door to hold myself up. My shaky finger hit the play button and the message projected Jace's voice back at the buzzer, "It's Jace." I hit pause again before the message continued and blew my cover.
The door swung open instantly, to my surprise. I passed through it quickly and climbed the staircase on unsteady feet. With my phone back in my pocket, I fidgeted nervously with my fingers. I hadn't considered how Magnus would react once he saw who really walked through his door. I didn't even know what I wanted to say. Then again, maybe I wouldn't have to say anything. If Magnus was in the right mood he'd slam the door in my face. Or light me on fire. Or drop a shiny anvil on my head.
Magnus's door was suddenly staring me in the face. My heart felt ready to explode. I timidly reached up and knocked softly.
"Come on in, Nephilim."
I swiftly slid inside, softly closing the door behind me. Magnus, who had his back to me, was looking at a painting on the wall, his head cocked to one side thoughtfully. It was all I could do not to rush forward and wrap my arms around him, to inhale his scent.
"What do you think, Shadowhunter? Too tacky?"
His head, complete with spiked hair, obstructed my view. I said nothing. Suddenly I felt very self-conscious. If I hadn't left the Institute in such a rush I'd have cleaned myself up. I hastily ran a hand through my hair and straightened my clothes to the best of my abilities.
Magnus chuckled. "Your silent awe speaks for itself. It kind of takes your breath away, doesn't it?"
I could no longer restrain myself. "Magnus," I breathed.
The warlock's shoulders stiffened. His posture reminded me of a threatened wild cat: fur bristled, back arched and fangs bared. Magnus turned, finally allowing me to get lost in his beautiful yellow cat eyes. I'd forgotten how bright they were; untamed, much like his personality.
I moved forward. Magnus lifted his hand and I bumped unexpectedly into an invisible wall. I looked at him, confused.
His eyes held no warmth. "That's far enough." He lowered his hand, but the wall remained. "What are you doing here?"
"I was in the neighborhood?" My answer was more of a question than a statement.
Magnus was unimpressed. "I thought I told you I didn't want to see you again."
"You did," I admitted, unable to keep the hurt out of my voice.
Magnus pinched the bridge of his nose. "And yet, here you are."
"Here I am."
When Magnus finally opened his eyes again I saw they are glimmering, watery. "Why can't you just stay away?"
Because I love you. "I don't know."
Magnus snorted, sounding more annoyed than amused. He inspected his black polished fingernails, looking for anything to divert his attention from me.
"Where's Chairman Meow?" I asked, hoping to brighten the mood.
"I don't know." He scowled at me. "Maybe out with some vampire plotting to take away my immortality."
It would have stung less if Magnus had actually slapped me. I started as a loud buzz pierced the silence. Magnus calmly wandered over to the intercom and pushed the buzzer.
"WHO CALLS UPON THE HIGH WARLOCK?" Magnus bellowed, making the walls rumble.
My entire body stiffened. I couldn't get dragged away now. Words were getting jumbled in my head. There were so many things I had to say, but I couldn't remember what they were.
Magnus turned to me with his brow raised. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised if Clary walks through that door."
"Magnus, please," I whispered.
"What do you want?" Magnus asked Jace, none too politely.
"Buzz me up!" Jace sounded out of breath.
Magnus looked over at me again. I shook my head, pleading. He held my gaze, his expression impassive. He pressed the button and said, unabashed, "I'm strutting about nude up here, Mr. Wayland. Tell me what you want or leave."
"I'm looking for Alec. I think he might have hurt himself. I wouldn't be calling unless it was urgent. Have you seen him?"
The accusation and disappointment in Magnus's face made me want crawl under and rock and die. His jaw was set and his lips were pressed into a thin line, teeth gritted behind them. He turned back to the buzzer, lethalness pulsing from every pore. "He stopped by, but I didn't buzz him up. I told him to go back to the Institute."
"Oh, great!" Jace said, distraught.
"He'll be back at the Institute, Jace."
"How do you know?"
"Because I told him I'd meet him there later."
There was silence on the other end, and I wondered if Jace had sniffed out Magnus's lie. Finally we heard his sigh of relief. "Thanks. I'll leave you to your...devices."
Magnus stomped up to me. The anger burning in his eyes made me quiver. With a snap of his fingers, the invisible wall between us disappeared, making me feel more exposed. He grabbed me by my upper arms and shook me so violently I cried out.
"What is the matter with you, Alexander Lightwood?" He shouted.
"Magnus, stop!" His grip, combined with the shaking was becoming agonizing.
Magnus shook me harder. "What is the matter with you?"
"You left me!"
The shaking abruptly stopped, but Magnus kept his hands gripping me. I jerked myself free and wrapped my arms around myself, head bowed so he wouldn't see the tears that had escaped.
"You left me," I repeated, broken, "and it was too much. I couldn't handle not being able to text you or call you or sleep beside you. You were just...gone. I never really got to say goodbye."
I cut him off. "But I don't want to say goodbye. I made a mistake, Magnus, and I'm sorry. I know that sorry isn't enough, but our love is. Our love is enough. You can forgive me. I need you to forgive me, Magnus. Please. Because I can't forgive myself for screwing up the best thing that happened to my life. You make me feel normal. I don't feel ashamed of the way I am when I'm with you. Without you I'm broken, damaged. I'm so messed up I took a blade to my own wrist."
Magnus's eyes widened in alarm. He reached out and snatched my wrists, flipping them upwards to inspect them. He visibly relaxed to see they were unscathed. The scent of sandalwood filled my nostrils. He was standing closer to me now, looking sadly down into my eyes.
"I'm a Shadowhunter. I'm not supposed to be afraid of anything. Hell, we even have a rune for fearlessness." I took Magnus's hand in mine and squeezed. "But I'm terrified of being without you."
With his free hand Magnus reached up and stroked his thumb softly across the curve of my jawbone. He leaned forward and my breath caught in my throat. Our lips barely brushed and I gripped Magnus's hand tighter. He did not fully press his lips to mine, but instead touched his forehead to mine and cupped the side of my face delicately.
"I will never stop loving you," I whispered. "I can't."
Magnus pulled me against him, cradling my head against his shoulder and resting his cheek on top of my head. One of his hands gently rubbed my back. I clenched his shirt in my hands, willing him to never let go.
"Alec," Magnus said softly, his hand still rubbing my back, "I don't know if I can forgive you..."
My body went rigid.
"Shh, shh, shh." Magnus held me tighter. "I just need to think on it. In the mean time, you're welcome to stay the night."
I pulled back and gazed into his yellow-green eyes. "Really?"
He ran his fingers through my hair once. "We're not sharing a room, just to be clear. And don't think seducing me will help your cause." He stroked my cheek, coaxing me to smile, and continued, "I do still love you. That won't change. I've gotten better, but you haven't. I'm going to take care of you, but I can't guarantee things will go back to the way they used to be."
I was so overwhelmed by his kind offer that I was at a loss for words...again. All I could do was nod my head. Magnus brushed his thumbs over my cheeks, wiping away the tears. He bent down and placed the lightest kiss on my lips. A glow filled my body, expelling the darkness and demons that had been suffocating me.
"Take my bed and get some rest. Those bags are distracting me from your blue eyes." Magnus steered me towards the bedroom by placing his hand on my lower back.
Before I passed through the doorway Magnus stopped me and held out his hand. I looked at him, baffled.
"I'll call Jace and tell him you're having a sleepover." I placed the phone in his hand and he waved his hand in a shooing motion. "Go to bed."
I swiftly planted a light kiss on Magnus's lips before I turned away, a silent thank you. His eyes rested on my back until the bedroom door separated us. With a smile I collapsed face first onto the bed. Darkness enveloped me easily, but, for the first time in a long time, I was not greeted by nightmares.