Alec stirred lazily, his legs slowly extending, toes outstretched. Against him, Magnus as usual was already awake, patiently waiting for his husband to be ready for social interaction.
Since their wedding, Alec had surprisingly been bossier than before, but also more open. Not only was he enquiring about what Magnus could want or would feel annoyed by, but he was also more verbal than before about his own wishes.
Magnus thought of that chat they had had the night after their wedding – both contently naked on the wooden floorboards of their flat, seeping in the pleasures they had enjoyed in each other's company.
"I think we should tell if we are annoyed by anything the other does…" Alec suddenly said, his eyes upon his husband to capture his reaction.
"What? We've been married for two minutes and you're already finding me disagreeable?" Magnus smiled charmingly, his eyes, though, nervously seeking the reason for that remark.
"No, that's not that!" Alec started, searching his words carefully.
He knew after the Underhill story how sensitive Magnus could be about relationship issues.
"People say that marriage is even harder than relationship…"
"Oh pup!" Magnus exclaimed lifting himself on one elbow. "Are you telling me things will get worse? They've been pretty bad so far!"
"Exactly!" Alec exclaimed as he got to his feet.
Magnus observed his lover's body with lust.
"So what?" he finally said, realising he had quite forgotten what they were talking about.
"So I think we need ground rules to avoid the hurdles…"
"Are we going to train for the Olympics?" Magnus teased.
Alec grabbed the two glasses they had left on the coffee table by the sofa and came back, not bothering with clothes or finding a more comfortable place to sit. He handed his drink to his husband and sat next to him, his skin immediately sensing the difference in temperature and producing a hard delicate cover of goose bumps.
"If we want to have a long-lasting marriage, we need to know when we are being a pain… I'm sure you have plenty of things you wish I wouldn't do…" he offered.
"I'd like my husband not to question me when I have other things in mind… But maybe that has something to do with what I had on my mind… Pray, what do I do that annoys you?"
The room suddenly felt stuffier. That was a hard conversation to have even when only small things were the source of the problem.
"I'd like to have a good half an hour of silence when I wake up in the morning…"
"I'm too talkative then? I'm sure I can find someone else I could annoy with my…"
"It's not about you being too talkative… It's about me being a little… slow…"
"Hmmm…" Magnus pondered for a minute, his eyes peeking through his long lashes at his husband's face. "Well… done! Something else maybe?"
"No… I think that's what I would need for now… Do you have something I could do to make things… better?"
His ears were pricked like a little wolf, his hazel eyes studying.
"Well… No, I suppose…"
"Nothing?" Alec insisted.
"I can't think of anything my little pup needs to change…"
The shadowhunter rolled his eyes with a faint smile of amusement.
"Stop making 'pup' happen! I'm so not into it!"
"Alright… Now, can we go back to something more interesting?" Magnus smiled cheekily. "This is our wedding night if I am not mistaken…"
"Oh really?" Alec replied with the same air of naughtiness imprinted on his face. "What could we do then?"
"I seem to recall I had some whipped cream in the fridge… And if I remember correctly, this time, it's my turn!"
As if called out of his own memory, that same warlock went back to his present situation, his husband having now his eyes open by his side.
Alec pulled him a little closer, his strong arms tightening around the smaller frame he held so carefully. He exhaled and kissed the top of his man's head, the overpowering smell of his shampoo bathing the air around him. With all the magic and the powers he had, Magnus was the only warlock to make his own shampoo, but it was certainly the best smell anyone could wish for. It was somehow calming, manly and sweet all at the same time which made it the perfect perfume for that amazing being.
"Good morning, my love…" he whispered.
"My love?" Magnus cooed like a schoolboy. "Good morning, Coon."
"Coon?" Alec asked, lifting only his head.
"Racoon? Must be those eyes that inspire me!"
Alec shook his head and didn't comment. It was best not to comment, especially because he had to tell him something that wouldn't be taken well. He hesitated. He didn't want to create any problems but there was no way of avoiding it. For once, he had even decided to tell him as soon as he had been told.
Well… almost. Next morning. That was almost the same as immediately… he thought to himself.
"What is it? You're not even rolling your eyes at me?"
"Magnus, I need to tell you something…"
"Oh oh! Is that about me talking to you just after you wake up? Because you started talking and…"
"No… Nothing to do with that…" Alec started then preferring to add, "You've been so good and patient with me about that… No, it's…"
"Well, off with it! I do have all eternity to hear it, but you definitely need to come out with it in the next fifty years!"
"Alright! I'm listening!"
"I have to go to New York… Izzy called me on an urgent matter and…"
"I'll probably be gone for a few days and…"
"Well… if it's necessary!" Magnus said throwing the bedsheets in the air and getting up as swiftly as if he had been dancing. "Say hi to Izzy for me. And Jace of course!"
"I was thinking… maybe you'd like to come and spend the evening with us…"
"Are you asking me to come or are you asking me to open a portal just for the night?"
"Whatever you prefer or nothing if you want to have some time for yourself… This is really up to you… I just thought you might want to…"
"My beautiful husband, you can be so easily worried!" Magnus mused as he grabbed Alec's chin between his index and thumb.
"So… Are you coming?" he asked with a smirk.
"Not this time, no," Magnus admitted as he straightened up. "I have an agenda filled with meetings, these people in Alicante really don't know how to take care of themselves!"
Alec felt a sudden wave of concern. They hadn't been separated since Magnus' departure for Edom to close the rift and it felt quite foreign to consider not sleeping in the same bed with the man he loved.
Magnus was already choosing his outfit for the day, trying on different combinations with a snap of his fingers.
"Okay… Good…" Alec said mechanically, getting to his feet.
"When are you leaving?"
"Today I think…"
"It would be easier if I help you transport there, wouldn't it? Let me know what time you want to do it and I'll spare you a moment…"
Somehow his voice sounded so distant that Alec couldn't resist anymore. Grabbing a new pair of boxer shorts he walked over to his husband and kissed him hard.
"I'll miss you!"
"Alexander… Are you planning on leaving me indefinitely? If such is the case, I'll advise you to trade carefully, I might destroy the whole of Alicante by mistake!"
"No, I didn't mean to… I just wanted to… tell you…"
"Oh, I see… In that case, I'll miss you too, my love."
Alec kissed him again but this time it was a more familiar feeling that invaded both of them, a flavour of routine affection and pre-coffee delight.
"Waffles?" Magnus asked with a widening smile.
Alec hugged Jace hard as they met on the other side of the portal. Being back by his side felt like going home and he could sense the feeling was mutual somehow.
"Somewhere around the institute dealing with another Simon emergency I suppose... For once, it's been pretty quiet here... quieter than ever!" Jace added as he walked to one of the large screens near them.
"How is peace between warlocks, seelies, shadowhunters and werewolves going?"
"Intriguingly well... We have now organised a whole network of patrols going round the city together to deal with demons and any other problems. They do have some beef from time to time but it's more of a petty sibling rivalry than dangerous rows."
"Good!" Alec commented, crossing his arms against his chest. "So then, what do you need me for?"
"That might be nothing, but it seems some of us are getting sick."
"Sick? What kind of sickness?"
"Well, that's our trouble. No one can really say what it is... It started two weeks ago, some people were found unconscious in different places around the city. They fall asleep and don't seem to be able to wake up."
"Have you asked anyone else about it?"
"I got in touch with Arnie in Idris, but they believe that might be endemic from here... Out of precaution, we have decided to cancel any transfer between us to prevent any contagion..."
"How about the other institutes here?"
"London and Paris do not seem affected..."
"Are there only shadowhunters affected?"
"No, all of us..."
"So far no... Catarina looks out for us, just in case..."
"How many people have been infected?"
"About fifty," Luke said as he entered the room with Catarina and Madzie.
Madzie, as usual, ran to Alec who picked up her as swiftly as if she was weighing nothing.
"Alec!" she exclaimed with sheer happiness.
She had grown so much since he had last seen her, her beautiful hair plaited neatly and her sparkling eyes even more loving than before.
"I've missed you, pumpkin!" he answered as he hugged her hard, conscious that he really thought of her as some kind of daughter. "Have you been good to Catarina?"
"Of course, she is!" Catarina smiled as she kissed Alec's cheek.
"So, that virus?" Alec asked with renewed attention, the little girl still in his arms.
"We don't know what it is..." Catarina explained taking Jace's place at the screen to show them the files she had stored on the different cases. "They brought to us completely out of it... They seem to be in a coma... Something like I have never seen before. The problem is that we can't find something in them that is wrong... We can't even find what keeps them in such a state..."
"Even Lorenzo can't find anything on it..."
Lorenzo, grand warlock of Brooklyn, Magnus' successor and not the friendliest man on Earth. Alec couldn't think of him without recalling that time he had found him in Magnus' flat, locked in a lizard's body. It somehow made him more acceptable.
"The strange thing about this virus is that it touches everyone... Demons included... So far we have fifty-seven cases that we know of..." Catarina explained. "Nineteen werewolves, three warlocks, fifteen shadowhunters and twenty demons. We dealt with those."
"Any specific links between those people? Age, location, abilities, environment, diet?"
"Nothing concrete... We could establish that the three warlocks had never met one another, one of which is a complete recluse who lives in a theme park... "
"Are all these shadowhunters part of the institute?"
"No, some of them haven't come here for years and they live quite a far stretch from any other patrols. In fact, they haven't been anywhere near us which makes things even harder to comprehend..." Luke concluded.
"I'd like to see some of them..."
"We don't know if it's contagious, so we take our precautions but so far no one who has been in direct contact with them prior to their illness has been affected..."
Alec furrowed his brows. This was certainly something quite suspicious and it seemed quite dangerous too. After their last disaster, it had been rather quiet for him. Being inquisitor was far different from being Head of Institute – less field work, less exciting adventures and especially less fighting practice. He had continued training himself with a few other members of the Clave, but it hadn't been as rewarding or intensive as before. In Idris, people believed themselves more protected and less subject to invasion thus limiting their fighting abilities to a basic minimum and enjoying a more health-related physical practice.
Alec preferred the fighting to the shapes of his muscles. He was too practical for that.
As Jace and Luke were discussing patrols and the map of the epidemic, Alec observed the halls of the institute and felt a little knot forming in his throat. He hadn't expected his first trip to be so nerve-wracking and he suddenly wished he hadn't left. Of course, being the inquisitor was all he had ever wanted, to be so high in the chain of command that everyone will look at him with the upmost respect; but things were quite different to what he had envisioned. The last inquisitor had been so prejudiced and narrow-minded that it had cost her her own life. People still remembered that and with a new, much younger inquisitor, married to the high warlock of Alicante to boot, most people thought him highly unsuitable. Yet, he knew he could be a good one. He wanted peace and order but also a much better understanding between them. Even if they were quite different – warlocks, seelies, shadowhunters or even werewolves – they were looking for the same things: a place to live safely and as happily as it could be.
That was his goal too.
They passed the training room where two women were clearly busy sharpening their own skills. One of them was quite tall, blond with a large scar across her right cheek. Her face was so flushed that the blood had started to accumulate around the base of her skull and the bridge of her nose but had quite left the rest of her skin. She was a master in attack but always left a small corner of her defence unprotected. That was what her adversary had already noticed. She was more muscular but much smaller, large arms framing her toned body. With her olive skin and short dark wavy hair, she had a rather distinctive resemblance to Simon. The thought made Alec smile.
Simon's lookalike or not, she was more clever than skilled in the fighting arts. She anticipated the other's movements and acted accordingly which offered her a poor lesson on attack but a rather good one on defence.
Alec could have both taught them something that would have made them better in the field.
They finally arrived at the lab where Simon and Izzy were talking around a jug of blood.
"Really?" asked Jace. "You could go to Taki's!"
"Jace!" Izzy snapped. "He's smelling the patients' blood. Maybe he can detect something we have been missing!"
"Not all the blood tastes the same…" Simon added tentatively. "I can tell what resus they are and how old is the blood."
"So what's your take on this?" asked Alec stepping closer.
Izzy jumped with excitement, immediately locking her arms around her big brother's neck and embracing him as hard as she could. Madzie, half-squashed between the two giggled.
"Good to see you too, sister!" Alec whispered to her ear as he closed his eyes with a feeling of relief to see her well and happy. "Now, come on! Let's focus on the problem! What do you think, Simon?"
"Well, nothing much! It smells completely normal… Now I could try…"
Before even finishing his sentence, he rose the bicker to his lips and to everyone's surprise he took a sip. Izzy rushed to him with curses, trying to grab his wrist in fear.
"I don't taste the difference either!" Simon plainly said.
"How are you feeling?" asked Catarina who was already by his side.
"You're taking some stupid risk!" Jace reprimanded.
"I'm pretty sure the blood is not infected by anything. That time I drank Rebecca's blood I could tell she was coming down with a cold… I would have felt it!"
Alec took a moment to recall who Rebecca was. It didn't seem familiar.
"Simon's sister," explained Luke calmly.
Alec approached the glass jar left on the top of the table, put Madzie down to free his hands and smelt it himself. There was only a faint hint of metal flavour emanating from that container and he wondered what could have caused such a strange state.
"Let's see the patients," proposed Jace as he led the way to the infirmary.
All the sick were in a vegetative state. They seemed to be resting, quiet and still with no sign of any problem on their face or limbs. That was the reason of this mystery. Their brain waves were absolutely normal, their organs were functioning as usual and their body was exempt from any sign of bite, cut or bruise. They were therefore completely sane. And yet, they were in a coma.
"Do we know where they have been for the whole day before they collapsed?" Alec asked, putting his hands together in the small of his back.
"We have a tracker for every shadowhunter but as you know the downworlders are not quite happy being visible at all time, so we only have official data for our side…"
"And so far no connection or crossed path in any way?"
"Well yes and no. The likelihood of passing by the same path someone has taken before is very high but out of fifty-seven, there was maybe two connections between these people…"
"And they haven't been able to speak or move since they felt ill?"
"That's rather odd then…"
"What are you thinking?" Catarina asked, picking Madzie up in her arms, feeling Alec was onto something.
"Well… if it's not because of a place, which we can assume in all logic because they can't have been contaminated at the same time and place, well it should be about a person… Maybe a demon that could take control of bodies and use it to do its bidding but as they are clearly out of it, what's the point of keeping them like that?"
Alec looked at Madzie who rested her head on her carer's shoulder. She had always been so quiet in public that the only indication that she was there was the weight on people's arms.
"Maybe it could be a warlock…" he proposed. "One that hasn't yet learnt how to deal with their own powers…"
They all looked at each other in agreement. Now they had to find a way to identify who could that be.
For once, Catarina had allowed Madzie to stay for the night with Alec at the institute, far preferring a calm evening by herself to a raging one with an unhappy warlock who might go for the worst tricks she had been taught because she wanted to see her friend.
Alec was so glad of his little guest who was offering him just the right amount of love and affection he needed for a night alone. After a selfie session with the girl he considered part of his family, he put her to rest on the sofa of his office. He then closed the door after himself and found Izzy sitting on his bed, waiting for her brother.
"What are you doing here?" he asked in surprise. "I thought you would be with Simon at his flat… Jace seemed to believe you spend every waking and sleeping moment with your downworlder."
"I do but not when my brother is in town! I haven't seen you in what? Months?"
"A month and a half, nothing more than that… And you can visit us whenever you want, you know it!"
"Only snobbish people live in Alicante!"
"Hey!" her brother exclaimed, pretending to be offended.
"So how is Magnus and how is married life?"
"Well, he is well and it's quieter than life at the Institute… I guess…"
"What is it, Izzy?"
"What do you mean?"
"Oh come on, I know you! Off with it! What's going on?" he smiled, amused.
"Simon may be planning on asking me to marry him…" she admitted staring into his eyes.
Quite taken aback from that revelation, Alec suddenly got to his feet to think more clearly.
"Wait! Haven't you been together for something like 2 months?"
"Alec! We've been together for more than a year now!"
"Would you say yes if he asked you?"
"I think yes."
"Wow! That's big, sis! Real big!"
"Is it?" she wondered for a second. "I don't think I would find it so… big…"
"You wouldn't? He was with Clary and the werewolf…"
"So, that's a lot…"
"Well, do you want to look at the number of people Magnus has been with?" she answered defensively.
"Magnus hasn't been with three people in the course of a year!"
"Alec! It's not a big deal! Not for me at least! I have a longer record than him if you remember…"
He wanted to say more but he remembered that pushing too far would make things worse. He sighed.
"Well, he'd better treat you well or I'll nail his coffin to the bottom of the ocean!"
"So melodramatic! He doesn't sleep in a coffin!"
"Well, you know what I mean!"
"Yes, I do, big brother!" she exclaimed, hugging him hard and kissing him on the cheek. "I'm going for a drink at Taki's. Are you coming?"
"I've got a little girl in here!"
"Who would have known my brother would become such a perfect husband and stay-at-home dad!"
The left side on Alec's mouth suddenly drew a large crooked smirk on his face as he tried to contain the other half from joining the movement. A wave of pride brushed him. Maybe she was right. He had grown into a real adult in these past few years. One that could be an affectionate partner and a loving father.
Izzy hopped out of the room like a nymph, her thin sword in her boot the only sign that she wasn't the innocent lamb most men thought her to be.
Alec sat on the sofa and went through the photos he had just taken of Madzie and himself, trying to find the perfect one to send to Magnus. His thoughts went from the little girl to the last time they had babysat for Catarina unintentionally. He could never forget that night. At that time Magnus had lost his powers and Iris had portaled into the room to steal her away. He remembered his heart racing in fear for Madzie and the pain Magnus had to bear, feeling powerless against that horrible woman. Even the memory made him wince. He never wanted to see him in this state ever again.
A sudden flash of light coming from his phone brought him back to the present. A message.
"Hey, pup, still working?"
He rolled his eyes and shook his head at the same time. Pup, again.
He was about to answer when a portal opened in front of him and Magnus himself came in.
"Am I disturbing you maybe?" the high warlock asked with a rueful smile on his face.
"Just in time!" Alec whispered, getting up to greet his spouse. "I've missed you today!"
"I would have loved coming here with you, you can't imagine the boredom I had to suffer with Lady this afternoon! What have I missed?"
Alec started with telling of Madzie's presence in the next room and then went on with the unusual virus that had appeared in New York.
On the other side of town, Catarina couldn't sleep. Having Madzie had quite changed her life. She was so used to working at the hospital every moment she wasn't with Madzie that it felt too strange to have nothing to do. She went for a shower, tried to watch TV but nothing worked. She was useless without someone to look after. She considered a couple of friends to ring but she wasn't quite up for it. Socialising wasn't her forte since the adoption.
She looked out of the window and wondered who the warlock child could be. Maybe they lived in the street or maybe they were new in town. Her eyes lingered on the city lights and she suddenly remembered that many of the patients had arrived at dawn or in the early morning. The child was walking around at night. Maybe they were there at that exact moment, unknowingly putting people into a comatose state.
Without thinking more about it, she grabbed her jacket and took the lift down to the lobby. After all, she didn't have anything special to do tonight.
Madzie woke up with a start. Her eyes flashed open at the sound of an enchanting singing voice in her ear and found Magnus sitting next to her, all smile.
"Good morning, sweet pea!"
"Magnus!" she cried excitedly.
She reached for his neck and hugged him as hard as she could. Even if Alec had been the first to find her, it was definitely Magnus she felt the closest to. He had taught her so much since they had met.
"Listen sweet pea, what do you fancy for breakfast? Alec wants us to go with the others to eat that cardboard garbage they serve here but I think we can do better than that… What do you think?"
"Magnus! That was not the way you were supposed to propose the idea!" Alec scolded with a cheeky smile on his face.
"Well, pup, I think Madzie deserves a better service! Aren't I right, honey?"
"Yes!" the little girl shouted with a big grin.
She jumped out of bed, changing clothes in a split second.
"I've texted Catarina to see if she wants us to take her to the flat," Alec said as Magnus picked the little girl up and took her to the next room.
"Good! This way we could tell you all about that time uncle Alec wanted to paint our new loft in pink!"
"It was salmon!" Alec corrected with an offended look. "I was told it was very in!"
"Are they the same people who told you that yellow was your colour?" Magnus teased.
"It was one time! One shirt!"
"Oh, pup! That was enough to give me nightmares for a year!"
"It wasn't that bad!"
They ate waffles in pleasant mood, all three of them sharing news of things they had done since they had last seen each other. Madzie, in particular, was quite chatty for once, telling them about the horse she rode the previous week.
Magnus looked at his phone and announced that it was time to go, reminding Alec of the text message he had sent earlier. Yet, he hadn't received any answer to it. He frowned, picked up his phone and called. He heard the usual tone, but no one answered. That wasn't like her – especially because Madzie was there with them. Feeling that something was wrong, he left the room to call again. No answers.
He had to investigate with Jace.
"Alright, guys, something came up," Alec said as he came back in, his eyes down on his phone to avoid Madzie's eyes. "I need to go out for a bit. Magnus, do you mind taking Madzie to the park… alone?"
Magnus lifted his head in surprise, knowing that something was happening by the tone he had used. Seeing Alec's brows furrowed, he realised that he couldn't press questions on him for now.
"Well, sweet pea, let's get your things and let's go!"
The little girl got to her feet and touched the back of the chair, making a little handbag appear.
"Don't forget your coat, honey."
Nodding she pressed her index down her shoulder and a sparkly denim jacket materialised on her arms, with a unicorn head at the back. Her smile broadened.
"I'm ready!" she sang, running to Alec for one last kiss.
"Be good!" he said with a smile.
Magnus waved his hands gracefully in the air, conjuring the energy to open a portal. His concentration at his highest. The room opened up, a whirl of running water floating in the void.
"Time to go, puppet!"
As soon as they were out, Alec phones Catarina again but received the same answer. Running down to the dinner hall, he found Izzy, Simon and Jace sitting altogether in front of their breakfast, discussing some events about to be organised at the Hunter's Moon.
"Catarina hasn't given us any news since last night," Alec barked louder than he intended.
The other three looked at him with surprise, not quite understanding what he meant.
"Catarina didn't work and didn't have Madzie last night…"
"She might have found a friend?" Simon proposed.
"Yes, you're right, that sounds very wrong!" Izzy agreed, glancing quickly at Simon and patting his shoulder.
"Okay, let's go to her flat…"
Before they could even get up, Magnus opened a portal by their table and emerged looking even more worried than Alec.
"Where's Catarina?" he asked with urgency in his voice. "I went to the flat and there's no sign of her. I can't reach her either…"
"Where's Madzie?" Alec questioned.
"I brought her to my friend Dayna for the day. She has a few young warlocks at home."
"Good," Alec commented then turning to Jace, he asked, "Has she got a tracker?"
"Yes, she has accepted… Let's get to the Ops Centre and see what it says."
In less than five minutes, they had been able to define her position and, thanks to Magnus' portal they got there immediately. They found her lying on the floor of an old hotel, unconscious, by herself. Jace and Alec checked every room in case there might be anyone else in the building but found only traces of habitation with empty packs of food left on the ground and a simple mattress left under the stairs. That might not have been the warlock they were looking for…
In the meantime, Magnus, Izzy and Simon had carried Catarina to the infirmary and Magnus, too worried of the danger that laid in that place, went straight back for his husband.
"Any sign of our little devil?" he asked as he joined the pair on the first floor.
"People have come here but we can't be sure who they are…" Jace muttered angrily.
"And now…?" Magnus started with increase concern.
"Let's go back to the Institute and see what we can do," Jace replied placidly.
When they arrived at the infirmary, Izzy had already taken care of everything. Catarina was monitored and well looked after, doctors testing her blood.
"She is exactly in the same state as the others…" she explained with a pained face. "There's something else…"
"What is it, Izzy?" Jace questioned in alarm by her quiet tone.
"Last night, seven other people were found in the same state… They were all together when it happened…"
"So it could be something they were exposed to together…" Jace concluded. "We need to find that warlock, quickly."
"Where were the seven other people found?" Magnus asked suddenly.
"Two blocks from where we found Catarina."
"That's a lot of energy spent in one night…" Magnus reflected. "Inexperienced or not, he is definitely powerful."
Alec hadn't spoken a word since Magnus had arrived, but nobody paid attention to it. He was thinking about the problems at hand. They needed to act faster before something worse happened but also, they needed to be ready of the consequences it would engender.
"Magnus, could you take Madzie to ours tonight? She'd be safer there. It's also best if you don't come here, we are not certain how easily people can be contaminated, and you are not immune either."
"You neither," Magnus answered gloomily.
"For now, we need to proceed carefully," he continued without paying attention to what his husband had just said. "All shadowhunters living off site must be called back for now with their family. I'm calling on an exceptional cabinet meeting as soon as possible. Simon, Jace, please contact Meliorn, Maia and Lorenzo. We must start talking about the protocol to follow. Anyone who has been contaminated must be transferred here. We need them all together and we'll use the free space we have to welcome any downworlders and their families who wish to be protected."
"Alec, do you realise what you're saying?" Izzy cried. "We don't have the resources nor the staff for this."
"Well, we'll find a way."
Alec knew that he wasn't the head of the Institute anymore, but he couldn't care less at that moment. Things needed to be done and he had never been one for waiting patiently. His head was spinning. He had to protect Magnus and Madzie first then the rest could be dealt with.
He hadn't realised that people were talking to him before Magnus' voice overpowered all the others and ordered them to stop.
"Alec, I can help. Let me cancel my meetings today in Alicante and I'll be ready…"
"No. Madzie needs to have someone safe on the outside."
Magnus was taken aback. For the first time since they had known each other Alec wasn't paying attention to what he was proposing. If any other person had dared dictate him around, he would have been mad enough to take his revenge upon them but he could see the line of worry creasing his husband's forehead and hear the resolution in his voice. It wasn't to be discussed.
"Well then," he murmured, "I'll leave immediately. Goodbye Alec."
He moved his hands in the air, rising energy in their wake and opened a portal.
Izzy looked at him with an uncomfortable expression, her eyes going from her brother to him with concern.
Before he walked out, Alec, animated by instinct more than a conscious decision, grabbed Magnus' arm and pulled him closer to him, his other hand already welcoming his neck as he kissed him.
"Please, be safe. I love you."
"I love you too, Alexander," he answered with a smile, forgetting in a second what had just happened.
Surprisingly, once he was gone, the others did not dare comment his orders. Jace went to contact Meliorn, Izzy went back to the medical staff to study the new data they had received and find a way with them to get the other patients in and Simon got hold of Lorenzo and Maia. Alec, then alone, felt drained. He needed to keep his focus and to find a solution, fast. His head was still buzzing when he entered the meeting room where they were all waiting for him, Luke and Jace included even if they weren't head of Institute.
"We are going to ask you some great sacrifices for now, but this is only so that we can protect everyone. There will be specific patrols placed around the city with a tight surveillance of their progress from here – we don't know what we are looking for, but we can't risk not being in control of what is happening. Any volunteer to be part of the factions will be accepted as long as they promise not to use violence unless required…"
They all nodded in agreement, their eyes studying the others with certain distrust.
"I propose the institute as a shelter for anyone in need."
"Vampires will be too dangerous under our roof!" Jace warned.
"We could use Taki's maybe," Simon proposed. "We'll have blood supplies in large quantity to hold people in place…"
"You will never fit all of you in there…" Alec reflected.
"If I can convince the leaders of each clan to stick to one place, maybe someone could provide them with supplies…" Simon offered.
"Is it possible Izzy?" Alec asked.
"We can make it work," his sister answered after a short pause.
"Now, how about the werewolves? Do you want to come here at the Institute?"
"I think it would be too risky, but I can offer it and then we can consider the same regrouping concept if needs be…" Maia conceded.
"Lorenzo, what do you think?"
"Warlocks," he started emphatically, waving his hand in the air for better measure, "even with the changes we have gone through recently, won't accept this type of agreement. I'm not even sure they would accept your alternative. We are not a family as tightly knotted as you may be. We are more of… lone wolves," he gestured in Luke's direction. "But maybe I can make them restrain from any mundane events… After all, the people infected were all in the streets when it happened, weren't they?"
"As far as we know, yes. It didn't happen in any clubs or any private houses."
"Then we can find some kind of agreement on that…"
"But anyone who wishes to be welcomed here can come…" Alec repeated, feeling that he hadn't been clear enough on that point.
He swallowed hard, preparing for the next step.
"There is another point I would like to discuss with you…"
"A more sensitive one, I see…" Lorenzo whispered, his eyes two dark slots.
"Yes… We need to know more about the situation and find a way to get hold of whoever is causing this… But to do that, we'll need to track people…"
"We have already told you that we will never accept it," Lorenzo stopped him in mid-sentence. "We all have our own privacy and we do not wish to make ourselves easier to enslave or kill."
"I know… And we respect that but how can we protect you if we don't know where you are?"
"We don't need protection…"
"Catarina may disagree with you if she was conscious!" Alec snapped.
"Not all of us are received with such friendliness and curtsy!"
Alec could feel the anger rising in their voices, but he clenched his jaws and breathed out as calmly as he could.
"Would it be possible for downworlders to entrust you of that knowledge?"
"What do you mean?" Simon asked, his head moving from one side to the other to see if someone could tell him.
"He wants us to keep track of everyone's movement or to have us give that power to other people who would then report to us…" Lorenzo explained with an elegant movement of his right wrist.
"Would you consent to that?"
"I would, Alec," Lorenzo replied with a small grin on his face. "But I can't promise they will tell me the truth…"
"I trust you to tell us what you know and that is enough for me. Thank you."
Lorenzo nodded gravely. Somehow, he could feel the rift between them slowly closing after more than a year of anger. Maybe that was because of Magnus and the fact that Alec had held him as an equal or maybe because he had been honest with him like no shadowhunter had ever been before. He was certain that Alec wouldn't try to pry over their business and really meant to help.
"Well… Now… Send us the names of anyone who wishes to be part of our patrols. We'll position them strategically…"
He was about to dismiss the meeting but held out his hand at a thought.
"You can contact or come here whenever you want or need. We don't mind having some of the downworlders helping us, it would actually really help."
Lorenzo smiled at the thought that a shadowhunter, an inquisitor even, would ever admit they were less useful than any other downworlder.
After the meeting was adjourned, Alec, Jace and Izzy started talking about the best strategy to find the warlock. They studied the different places where people had been found unconscious around the city and determined a progression. That person was probably walking, even wandering which may explain why people are taking interest. A child, if they were correct in supposing he was one, would be immediately a centre of attention and was bound to be noticed by adults at night.
"He probably doesn't have a home…" Jace reflected. "He's moving from one place to another and is never attacking people at the same place…"
"Well… If it is a young warlock, this is not exactly 'attacking' but more self-defence," Alec corrected, "and it might not be a male warlock either…"
"Fair enough," Jace conceded "but we still need to understand what motivates THEM to move the way THEY do… There was a victim here, near this night club but there is nothing else around then the following night, we have three people on the opposite side of town… It's impossible to know where it will happen next!"
"And what about during the day? Why are there no victims during the day?" Izzy pondered.
"They need to sleep too…" Alec proposed without any certainty.
"But how do they get from one borough to the next?" Jace questioned. "There are more than 20 miles of distance between these two points!"
"So they wouldn't know how much they affected people but they would know how to use a portal?"
Alec shrugged, confused by the situation at hand.
"Let's organise three patrols per borough with each a segment to go through… This way they would be able to cover as much of the area as possible…"
"Even this way, it will take us days or maybe weeks…" Izzy said, her eyebrows raised in concern.
"Do we have a choice?"
They were still discussing the details of their arrangement when Ayden, a warlock from Astoria, walked in at a fast pace. His blond locks fell freely over his shoulders in a harmonious way, light and shiny. He was wearing light brown thigh high leather boots, black leggings and an oversized white bouse that was partially open over his chest. Around his neck, a blue chalcedony stone moved from side to side to the rhythm of his steps. His skin was paler than any of warlocks they had ever encountered, almost transparent with deep sharp ocean blue eyes that seemed to pierce your soul with just a glance.
Every one of them fell mesmerized by him the moment he entered, enable to detach their eyes.
"Good afternoon, shadowhunters," he said, his voice as soft as an angel. "I am here to bring you some of our friends."
"Friends?" Jace frowned.
"They have become ill and we were told you wanted them all here to monitor their progress."
"Of course!" Alec exclaimed, handing out his hand as a welcome. "I'm Alec Lightwood."
"Oh!" the warlock muttered in surprise. "Nice ring!" he added as he touched the wedding band on Alec's finger. "Magnus Bane's husband! I have heard of you! I'm Ayden."
"Have you?" Alec blushed, confused by the attraction he felt for that stranger, a timid smile at his lips.
"How many do you have?" Izzy asked, quite recovered from that enchanting entrance.
That was enough for Alec to regain his own control over his body and to take back his hand from the stranger.
"By the way, I'm Isabelle Lightwood, Head of the Institute."
"Seventeen. Nice to meet you Isabelle," he said, picking up the hand she had given and kissing it with his eyes fixed on her.
"Seventeen?" she repeated in surprise, immediately withdrawing her hand from his grip.
"When was the first person found?"
"A week ago… We were celebrating at the Palma Bay and we found my friend, Iris, unconscious."
"In the club?"
"No, just outside the emergency exit. The club is under the foundations of the Kennedy bridge, in the park."
"Let's take them to the infirmary…" Izzy proposed.
"I already did. It's easier to materialise them there."
"Good, let's check on them then. I will need any information you have on their whereabouts before they got ill."
"We have tried our magic on them, but it does not work. Whatever did that to them, we can't undo it."
Ayden took the pain to explain in every detail what he knew, sipping on an oolong tea, his hair seemingly floating as if a constant breeze was blowing on his porcelain face.
Alec, Izzy and Jace left the handsome warlock to focus on the meeting they had to organise with the rest of the Institute. For the first time since he had arrived, Alec turned to his sister and parabatai and apologised for having taken over the entire operation. Jace, almost taken aback by his words, patted Alec's back with a broaden smile.
"We called you to ask for your help… You've always been bossier than us!" he laughed openly.
"Well, this time, it's your turn to speak!" Alec smiled at Izzy, thinking about the wave of disagreement that would arise when the whole group had learnt about their plan.
The shadowhunters' reaction was as to be expected. They roared and they shouted over each other's voice to express their disapproval. But once they had been given the order to respect that decision, most of them – though complaining in hush tones – went back to their team leader and were ready to do what they had been asked to. Only a few handfuls of them preferred to leave the premises and announced their departure for Idris for the time being.
Alec, Izzy and Jace spent the rest of the afternoon discussing the night patrols with the team leaders and organising the following nights search so as to cover all the ground in three days. They knew there was a small chance that they will not find what they were looking for if they kept moving but they had no other options.
Initially, Jace proposed that one of them patrolled every night but Alec refused.
"If we were to meet that warlock and we were affected, how can we be certain how things will be conducted? No, we need to supervise from here and only get to the field if there are no other choices…"
Jace nodded, conscious that his brother was right.
"Which shift would you prefer?" the inquisitor asked.
"I'll take the first one, Izzy proposed, "they'll be more responsive if the Head of the Institute is the prime contact on their first round."
"I'll take the second then. Jace, are you good with the third one?"
"I'll have a shower and sleep a little then, I feel drained."
"I'll have some food brought to your room."
Once under the shower, the hot water soothing his tense shoulders and the distinctive smell of Magnus's shampoo in his hair, he felt a wave of relief hit him. It could almost feel as if he were home and that he would meet Magnus just outside his shower, holding out a drink for him and kissing him with his soft lips.
The thought overcame him in a matter of seconds like a thirst, his head suddenly obsessed with the need to see his husband, to feel him against him. When they had met, Alec was only focussed on his work, never enjoying any mundane activities like partying or drinking. He only had in mind his career, his ambition and the safeguarding of his family. Maybe this hadn't really changed that much. After all, he had achieved his ambition's goals and was still particularly attentive to the wellbeing of his family. But that notion had so much shifted. There were now downworlders in this concept, there was a man that had sacrificed even his powers to help him and who was his whole world. His love for him had opened a door – he was more loving to others than he had ever before. Madzie, Luke, Simon and Catarina were part of his family, almost as much as his real parents, his sister and his parabatai were.
Coming out of the shower, he wrapped himself in a towel and came out of the bathroom, his eyes already looking for his phone. He found it lying on the bed, next to his trousers, and instinctively called the last number contacted.
"Hey!" he said as soon as the phone was answered, a coy little smile on his lips.
"Finally apologising?" Magnus asked with a sharper voice.
"Apologising?" Alec repeated incredulously. "What for?"
"Oh, I don't know, maybe for the way you sent me back to Idris with a little package under my arm as if I was your housewife?!"
"Magnus! You know this is not the reason I did that!"
"Oh? Is it not?"
"Every person that has been in contact with this person has fallen ill! I'm not going to expose any of us to them until we can deal with the situation!"
"And there was no way to present things in the way that felt more respectful then?"
"You're being unfair, Magnus! Yes, maybe I was rough, and I could have taken the time to go over it into details, but you also know me. We need to deal with this problem fast and efficiently…"
"Can't I be fast and efficient?"
"Magnus! Yes, you are! You are the High Warlock of Alicante. You are the most powerful warlock I know, and you are able to do anything! You saved me enough time to prove it!"
"Then what? Am I a liability?"
"No! But can't you see? I'm already taking risks to help and Catarina now… We must protect Madzie, she needs someone who can be there for her while we find a solution… I can't have her lose everyone now… She needs a family…"
"We are both her family, not just me…" Magnus rectified with a calmer voice.
"I don't want to exclude you, but I need her to be safe with someone I trust… And this time, anyone of us is at risk… Not just me… If something were to happen to me, I know you would…"
"Do anything to get you back?"
"I've missed your voice," he smiled. "I wish you were here…"
Before he could even turn around, a portal appeared, and Magnus stepped out of it with two martini glasses in his hands.
"I need this!" Alec exclaimed as he got to his feet.
Magnus outstretched his arm to hand his drink to his husband but instead, Alec grabbed him by the neck and kissed him hard, spilling a little of the liquid onto the floor.
"My! You've really missed me!" Magnus mused when his lover finally let him time to get his breath.
"You have no idea!" Alec whispered as he undid the towel from around his waist.
"Well now I do!" the warlock said with a large grin on his face, throwing the glasses over his shoulders with a dramatic intention.
Simon had a difficult task at hand. The fact that he was a daylighter hadn't made him particularly popular with other vampires. Most of them lived in clans under roofs or in basement, far from the mundanes or the other downworlders unless they needed to quench their thirst. Not many clan members dared come to Taki's, even after the werewolves' decision to include fresh blood to their menu, the animosity between the two species was still strong.
His first stop was to the Hotel Dumort where resided Raphael's old clan, now belonging to Lily Chen. It wasn't a place he enjoyed going to. The fact that he had been bitten there by Camille didn't help but there was also this strange atmosphere that seemed to weigh you down, gloomy and heavy-handed. The main apartment on the top floor had been completely changed since his last visit. Where there were elegant red velvet sofas and top to bottom bookshelves stood now Japanese draperies and bamboo screens.
Simon thought to himself that the only thing was quite identical was the presence of that red colour everywhere. There was a good reason for that, and no one would deny it.
A young man who had welcomed him at the front door asked Simon to take a seat and wait for Lily. His pale face was almost as clay, as if painted or covered in rice make up; his green eyes, circled with a red ring.
Simon observed and worried.
He walked around the room, finally noticing behind a larger screen, in a corner, a simple straw mat with a red silk cushion. The place was ideal. It was on the same side as the tall window – to avoid being bathed in any shade of sun if an intruder was to attack her and open the thick double curtains that had always covered the opening during the day – and was far enough from the main door to alarm the resident of any unannounced visitors.
"Enjoying the visit?" a small but very elegant, almost singing voice called behind him.
A very small, thin woman stood on the threshold, her figure making her look like a shy teenage girl in her ripped skinny jeans and her white t-shirt.
"Yes… No… I didn't mean to…" Simon spluttered, running his hand through his hair with embarrassment. "I need to speak to you about a situation…"
"For a vampire, you can be so extremely… mundane…" she admitted, walking toward him slowly, her head lolling from one side to the other as if too heavy. "Speak."
"You… You must have heard of the people falling into a coma…"
"Yes, two of ours are in this state…" she said, looking away from him.
"Well… We want to find who… what is causing that," he corrected quickly, suddenly conscious that this slip might lead to a blood bath.
"We? Us vampire you mean?"
"No, I mean all downworlders and shadowhunters together. We organised an emergency meeting and we have decided to work together…"
"I haven't decided anything…"
"What I mean is that… We want to prevent anyone else from getting infected so we thought of a way we can all stay… protected…"
"Does it include us staying in the middle of werewolves while warlocks try to kill us?"
"No!" Simon smiled nervously, the left corner of his lips trembling meekly. "You can stay with your clan where you are, and we would have collects of blood directly delivered where you are until we are able to solve the problem…"
"Isn't it a way to park us all together to kill us more easily? How can we trust the blood you bring?"
"You can trust it because I would bring it to you, myself. If you want… you could even make me try any of them… I'm always a bit thirsty!"
"And that way we stay out of the streets and you would know where we are at all times?"
"Well… we thought it was easier if each clan looked after themselves and only tell us what we need to know… We… It is not about tracking vampires and other downworlders, it's about making sure no one else gets hurt if we can help it…"
"Would you be okay to give it a try?"
"I will think about it… But this someone you are looking for, will there be punishment for their actions?"
"I… I don't know… The Clave is really keen on punishment."
"But not you…"
"I don't drink blood directly from people, you can't expect me to be into punishment!" he exclaimed with an honest laugh.
"I want to be part of the hunt for that thing!" she said with a coarse voice. "My kind's enemy is my enemy…"
"Well… Alec Lightwood promised anyone could help… But they might have some rules on how it can be done…"
"Are you saying they would allow me at the Institute?"
"Then I might come and see for myself!"
"Okay!" Simon smiled a little more reassured. "I'll let them know you're considering on dropping by!"
Luke wasn't quite as convinced about the idea of mixed crowds. Even if things had changed and that werewolves had been more than welcomed since Jace, Alec and Izzy had taken charge of the Institute, the werewolves weren't ready to show the same respect. So many of them had been hunted and tortured over the years, accused of perpetrating violent acts or even punished unfairly by the Clave that anything the Institute said was taken with the upmost caution.
In less than two hours, Maia had been able to contact most pack leaders in the city, but she had asked him to talk to the ones she had never met before and who trusted absolutely no one. They weren't many but they had this preservation instinct running so strong in their veins that they would bite her head off just smelling her nearby. She really didn't need that.
Luke was now on his way to find the lone wolf who never listened, Grayson Monroe.
He thought of Maia's account of her meeting with the packs and her worried tone over the phone. The Alphas hadn't been quite receptive. Every idea that had been proposed sounded intrusive and over-controlling to them. They did not trust the Clave to have one good bone in their body and they had been right about it in the past. But even if things had changed and that they were ready to make peace, it wouldn't be easy to forget the past and build a new future together.
He sighed. One step at the time, he thought.
He parked his car just outside a small café that looked to have been closed for years. Wood boards replaced the glass panes on all the ground and first floor, an old ripped poster stuck on the front door announcing a concert on May 5th. Large red letters, dusted and with faded paint, marked the threshold.
He knocked three times on the door and waited. No answer came. He knocked three times again. Still no answer. He tried one last time and this time, a large banging noise echoed inside – movement of metal and heavy furniture – until the door cracked open violently. A middle size, middle age bold man with an unusual blond beard that only ran on his jaws but was shaved around his chin and nose stood with a crooked neck, an axe in his hands.
"What?" he growled.
"Grayson, it's Luke Garroway."
"Luke? What'd you want?"
"Can I come in or do you want me to talk to all the creatures that can hear me here?"
The man only grunted for an answer, turning around and opening Luke's view on a very messy and dirty room. Tables were standing in every position, as if they had been piled up after a hurricane, two centimetres of dust flying with every step they took.
Monroe walked to the far end of the room and pushed a metal shelf to enter his own residence. It was a simple studio room with a single bed, a kitchen corner and a small door signaling the bathroom access. The place was well-lit, clean and completely quiet. Not a television, not a phone, not even a newspaper lying around.
Luke wondered for a minute how this man could survive by himself and what he ate.
"What takes you here, Luke?" he repeated after indicating the only chair in the room.
"We have a problem… I don't think you'll be really concerned by it, but I promised to let everyone I could possibly reach know about it…"
Grayson sat on the bed; his eyes fixed on his visitor.
"What kind of problem?"
"A downworlder one."
"I'm not going back to war with the bats! I can't give a damn about them, not anymore! I had some in the attic three years ago, I was close to blow up the whole building… Lucky for me, they are not fan of people with shotguns!"
"No, no war… Not this time at least… Some people have been in a contact with… well we don't know yet and they get into a coma. They are welcoming anyone at the Institute, and we are organising street search for the origin of this… ailment. Of course, most of us are not ready to live under the Institute governance so some have decided to keep to their packs and to protect themselves directly. Some of us will participate in patrols, though. We are all affected by that situation and we all want our freedom to walk the streets whenever we want."
"Does it mean you want me to join your pack or to help in the search?" the man asked, rubbing his chin with his thumb.
"I propose only… If you wish to come with us to remain safe, you can come to us to Taki's, or you can go to the Institute. And if you wish to roam the streets, let us know…"
"Well… I'll think about it, I suppose… If I see anything suspect, I will definitely contact you…"
"Here's my card with my number and here's the one from the Institute."
"What does your suspect look like?"
"We suspect a small warlock."
"Like a dwarf?" the man questioned with surprise.
"No, like a child."
Grayson arched his eyebrows, reflecting deeply. Whatever he was thinking, he preferred to keep it to himself, already getting to his feet and bringing his guest toward the door. He politely said goodbye and left Luke wondering if anything he had mentioned had been useful.
There was little he could do apart from that. And he had still more than twelve other werewolves living as recluse to see. No time for overanalysing.
Alec thought how useless his shower had been. He felt his body covered in sweat and pure satisfaction. Magnus was against him, his fingers running through his husband's still wet hair to untangle it.
"I could do with a drink now," Alec whispered with closed eyes.
Magnus snapped his fingers and a martini glass appeared on the bedside table.
"My genie!" he laughed. "Where's Madzie?"
"I left her playing with her new shadowhunter friend. They've met this afternoon and they are already two peas in a pod."
"By themselves? Who's that friend?"
"Well, yes, but they are in our flat. Do you want to see them now? He lives with his parents on the first floor. He's really nice for a future shadohunter."
"We'd better get dressed maybe…"
"Maybe later then… They were playing hopscotch… with a twist!" he smiled enigmatically.
"What kind of twist?" Alec asked, pulling himself into a sitting position to grab his drink.
"A little water and fire challenge."
"Is that dangerous?"
"Only if they fall…" he answered very seriously.
Alec felt an urge to check on them but realised that it wasn't quite wise. He was meant to rest and hadn't even started. Yet, he didn't want Magnus to leave him, nor did he want to sleep.
"Do you think he could undo what he has done to these people when we get him?"
"So now you think it's a boy?"
"I don't know… It could be…" supposed Alec after a sip.
He handed his drink to his warlock, his thoughts already diverting from their original course.
"What if Catarina can't wake up?"
"Don't talk like that… Once we have him here, we'll be able to do something for Catarina and all the others…"
"What if we can't? What happens with Madzie?"
"Ah! That's your thought, isn't it?" Magnus lifted his head on his arm, looking at his mate's eyes. "We'll take her…"
Alec nodded gravely. Some other ideas were pushing in his head, but he wasn't certain they were wise to say out loud just yet.
"What is it, Alec? This crease on your forehead grows bigger by the minutes. Tell me! Remember, you promised to tell me everything…"
Alec lowered his gaze to him and smiled.
"No, I was just thinking about… children."
"Children in general or some in particular?" Magnus encouraged him.
"Is it too early to consider it?"
"Are you already bored with our life?"
"No, of course not…"
"Then what is it?"
"You're right, it's probably too early… It was just… an idea…"
"But maybe we can at least define what you would like… for the future…"
Alec wasn't certain how he felt about it. When he hugged Madzie, he had this strong feeling of love invading him and yes, he had always portrayed himself with children, but he had never questioned how they would appear in his life before. His wife would have born them, and he would have taught them how to shoot, how to fight and the honour of being a shadowhunter. Now, it was somehow more confusing. They could adopt or they could find someone to carry their children. But what would they be?
"I'm okay with six…" admitted Magnus seeing his husband emerged in deep thoughts.
"Six?" repeated Alec in bewilderment. "That's a lot of them! Two, maybe three… but not six!"
"We would need a bigger place…"
"A much bigger place! We would have to build our own institute!" Alec laughed.
"Boys or girls? No, no difference for me! They'll learn the same things anyway!"
"Oh my! We'll make them the perfect little warriors able to take over the world!"
"That's the idea!"
"Would that make a difference to you if they are shadowhunters or not?"
"I don't know…" Alec confessed. "I don't think so… I'd love to be a dad for someone like Madzie… But I don't know if I would be fine with absolutely any child…"
Magnus ran his fingers over Alec's chest.
"I know what you're thinking… I'd be lying if I told you I hadn't thought about it myself… that child would need a home but I believe we need first to meet 'him' or 'her' before deciding what to do… For now, we need to help people…"
"Since I realised what we were after…" Alec admitted turning his wedding ring instinctively, "I've had that… need to protect him. I don't want anyone to hurt him."
Magnus smiled. He remembered that night he had told Alec of his own childhood. He had listened and had comforted him, being that support that he had never had. Yes, that was a perfect man to rise a scared child.
"We'll find him, and we'll take care of him… Whatever happens…" the warlock promised. "But if it doesn't work out, we can try other ways… we can certainly find some vessel for a little Alec Junior…"
"Are you suggesting I have sex with a woman?" Alec said hesitantly, a disgusted look on his face.
Grayson Monroe was preparing for a resting night, brushing his teeth in his dark bathroom. He had stopped changing the bulb a few years prior, not really having any necessity for it, thanks to his night vision. After living in this small flat for so long, he knew every corner and the place of every single thing in there too so what was the real need?
He spat the remnant of toothpaste down his washbasin, one hairy hand holding the perfectly white porcelain. His ears seemed to prick at the sound of something moving nearby. He closed his eyes to hear better.
"Not these bats again!" he grumbled under his minty breath.
But no, his instinct could tell that there were no vampires around. It was different. It was lighter.
He opened his muddy eyes and thought of Luke's visit. The likelihood that it was the little creature they were looking for was rather small, but he hadn't heard many visitors in this area apart from the local night owls looking for an open club or bar around. And he knew their footsteps. They were always heavy with drinks and loud with laughter, always in large groups and never discreet.
This was different.
He grabbed the rifle with the long view and climbed as silently as possible toward the first floor. There, on the far end window, he had left a tiny opening where he could slide the gun and be able to see anything happening in the street. He didn't see anything at first but then he noticed a little shadow sliding away under his window. That had to be the one.
He continued observing, his right hand sliding in his jacket inside pocket for the tiniest and oldest fashion phone most teenagers would have ever seen. It was a Nokia 8310 he had bought in 2001, just a couple of weeks after having left his pack. Since then, he had barely used the device, still using it on the cheapest contract they had, which was, now, quite a lot of money for the services it offered.
He dialled Luke's number and waited for an answer, but it didn't receive any. He then called the Institute line. After two ringtones, a friendly female voice asked who he wished to be connected with.
"I don't bloody know, anyone looking for that thing…" he growled as quietly as possible.
"Putting you through," the lady calmly replied as if this had been the most precise instruction she had been given.
"Hello?" Izzy said, tracing a new patrol line on the screen.
"I have it in visualisation," Grayson plainly explained.
"You have?" Izzy repeated unsure she had understood well.
"Should I shoot that thing?"
"No!" she cried in terror. "Where are you?"
"The old café the Rumours at the corner of the 26th and Carter."
"I'm sending a patrol. Do not shoot!"
"What shall I do then, darling?"
"Tell me what it's doing?"
"It's walking real slow…"
"How do you know this is the real 'thing'?"
"I live in a dead-end, there are only hipster lofts and abandoned factories… A small thing like that shouldn't be walking around at this hour…"
"Are you with him?"
"No. I'm on the first floor and I can clearly see it… I believe that thing is hurt… It's really slow… I can go down and stop it if you want."
"No! Our team is less than a minute away."
"Okay, darling. Hey, what's your name?"
"Isabelle Lightwood, Head of the New York Institute."
"I'm sensing blond vibes…" Grayson teased with a large grin.
"Oh man! How wrong you are!"
"I prefer brunettes anyway!"
Izzy smiled despite herself.
"They should be there now."
"Yes, I can see them. Well-equipped to kill…"
Six shadowhunters with guns in their leg holsters and swords tied in their backs approached the silhouette that seemed to be sitting on the steps in front of an empty building. They walked cautiously, one man at the front with bent knees, trying to make out the face of the creature they had in front of them.
Suddenly the creature's head lifted, and two red eyes appeared in the darkness like two lasers. Taken aback by the sight, the front man jumped before falling back on the floor.
"Man down!" shouted the last man in the formation in his radio.
"What's happening?" asked Izzy to both the patrol and the man she had on the phone.
"Well I don't know," Grayson answered with surprise. "The man looked at it and that was it."
"Don't look into his eyes!" Izzy ordered, all her body tensed.
The sound of her voice echoed in both Grayson's ear and the radio but when it reached the others, it was already too late, a feeling like a wave shook the whole street, rising like a wind and the next second, all of them were unconscious on the floor. Monroe included. The only thing that could be heard was Izzy's voice asking for report.
Alec closed his eyes, his head on the pillow Magnus had been on for the past hour, and breathed it in. There was still the same distinctive shampoo smell but also his own unique scent mixed up to it and that alone would help him fall asleep.
"Time to put Sweet Pea to bed!" Magnus had sung as he snapped his fingers to get dressed. "Maybe I'll stop by in the morning…"
"I might be sleeping…" Alec mentioned as he observed his husband adjusting his hair in the mirror next to the bed.
"I might come and wake you up…" The warlock answered as he came closer to his lover and kiss him softly.
"I'd love that…" Alec grinned, seizing Magnus' arm to kiss him again.
"Ninight, pup! Dream only of me!"
And then he was gone.
The Inquisitor wondered how long he had left before his shift but refused to check his watch. All he needed for now was a solid three-hour sleep and he would be able to process any information given.
He felt himself slowly slipping away, a grey cloud passing in his eyes and he forgot what he was thinking of.
The phone rang loudly, vibrating at the same time, next to him.
"What's the fuck!" he muttered as he rose his head, unsure what was happening around him.
He grabbed his phone and pressed the green button automatically, slowly putting the devide to his ear.
"We need you here! Now!" Izzy cried in alarm.
"What? How? Okay, just a minute, I'm coming."
Still unable to comprehend fully what had happened, he got to his feet and put on the clothes he had left lying around. His phone and his stele in his pocket, he ran down the stairs toward the Ops Centre. Jace, Izzy, Simon, Luke, Underhill, Maia, Lorenzo, Ayden and a tiny woman that he identified as Lily Chen as soon as he was close enough to see her face, were standing around the main presentation table.
"What is it?"
"One of our patrols has met the warlock."
"What happened? Have they captured him?"
"No," Izzy informed with a dry voice. "They have been left unconscious, but I have learnt something. I was contacted by one of Luke's werewolf friend, Grayson Monroe. He is the one who identified the target. He called us and I was the one who sent the patrol to apprehend the suspect. I was on the phone with him and on the radio with the team. They followed the protocol and Orte was the leader of the squad. He tried to talk to the child, but he fell unconscious the second he met that child's eyes. The others all saw it, and both Grayson and the radio guy were absolutely certain that this stare had caused him to fall into a coma."
"I told them not to look at him directly in the eyes but the next moment, they were all unconscious. Grayson included and he had no direct visual on the target. Alec, he was on the first floor, with a rifle and couldn't even see the face of the child…"
"We have had years ago a famous demon called Marlo" Lorenzo interrupted thoughtfully, "who enjoyed paralysing people as they were in movement to capture their beauty. He was able to call it just by thinking about them…"
"He might have known someone was on the first floor, but would that be enough?"
"And you heard nothing at all on your side?"
"I don't think I did…" she said, turning to the computer she had been using. "We can listen to both recordings and see…"
She started playing the phone call first. The sound was obviously far from perfect but there wasn't a single element that could have risen suspicion. When they listened to the radio one, Maia and Simon suddenly jumped a few seconds before hearing Izzy calling the squad.
"There!" Simon exclaimed excitedly. "There was like a… like a…"
"Wind!" Maia ended. "Repeat that last 10 seconds."
Izzy played it again, unsure she would hear anything, but the others did perceive a tiny blowing sound.
"Sounds more like a breeze than wind…" Luke corrected.
"How about some soundwaves?" Lorenzo proposed.
"Are you certain it is a warlock? It would look more like a demon's work…" Ayden asked calmly.
"How do we get him now?" Jace said, ignoring their guest's question.
Izzy explained that all patrols had been called back to the Institute in fear that another team found themselves in the same situation. They needed to have a better organisation and a different approach to catch that child.
They were starting to brainstorm some ideas when a blond woman that Alec recognised as the woman in the training dojo when he had arrived came running to them. Her name was Megan, young recruit transferring from the London Institute and quite energetic. She had a dry tone when she spoke but her whole appearance made her more contained than cold. Her eyes, ocean blue and piercing, studied every single person in the room before speaking.
"We have a problem."
Alec crossed his arms over his chest, internally sassing her for her euphemism.
"What is it?" Izzy asked with care.
"Seven of our patients just died," she announced plainly.
"What?" Jace cried in surprise.
"They were perfectly constant up to an hour ago then they started convulsing and bleeding. We tried to stabilise them and to find what was causing the haemorrhage, but we couldn't stop it… At first sight, it seems that their whole internal system collapsed."
"Collapsed?" Ayden repeated uncertain he understood what she meant by that.
"It's as if they had imploded. We will conduct the autopsy immediately, but we are quite certain of the cause of death… Maybe we can discover what led to that…"
"How many people died, you said?" Simon questioned, stepping closer to her.
"When did it start?" Alec continued with the same clear idea blooming in his head.
"The first patient, Diego, got sick at 10.26. Then the six others followed barely three minutes later."
"We need to see their charts immediately."
"We haven't proceeded to their autopsy yet…" she stammered, confused by the order.
"We are not interested in that yet."
The woman went to the closest screen and proceeded with exposing the seven cases they had. Alec required to know when each of them had been found unconscious and where. He tapped the localisation on a different screen to present them on a map and added to it the day and time they had been discovered.
"So apart from this one – Lisa – all the others have been found on the same day…" he concluded.
"But we know when they were found, not when they were taken ill…" Jace attempted.
"Are there any patients that have been unconscious for longer than them?" Alec questioned.
"No, I don't think so… I can double check…"
"What do you have in mind, Alec?" Lorenzo asked.
"We've always assumed they were in a coma because they were still under the influence of that warlock, but we all know that it requires a lot of energy to control that many people at the same time… What if he got to his limits and needed now to get some free space for new ones? What if they died because he got seven others tonight?"
An icy silence followed, each of them aware that the theory was in all likelihood correct.
"How many patients do we have in total?" Alec said.
"Are the seven new ones included in that number?"
"Eighty-six." He replied with disgust. "We can't let anyone come close."
Lily Chen, who had been until then quiet and passive, suddenly moved to the screen with the city map and observed it carefully. Her head rolled from one side to the other in great reflection. She acted rather strangely for a vampire, between a rag doll and a little girl, with her eyes always languidly closed.
"I need to talk to all the clans… They will need some more convincing; Simon was rather useless. Warlock, can I have a lift to my place?"
Lorenzo looked quite offended, reminding her of his name and exact status. Yet, the second she nodded in acknowledgement, he opened a portal and they disappeared together.
"Nice to think of others!" muttered Maia, having been left to drive home unprotected.
"Ayden," Izzy immediately added, her friendliest and most charming look on her face, "would you mind taking Maia to Taki's or wherever she needs to go, please?"
"For such lovely women, I can never refuse!" he replied with a large grin.
Once they were gone, Izzy ordered Megan to get ready for the seven new patients about to arrive and to proceed with the autopsies. The young woman nodded as the only answer and ran back to the infirmary. She wasn't one to question anything that she was told. A true shadowhunter.
"We can't let anyone else get hurt!" Jace cried with alarmed. "We need to neutralize him!"
"By killing him?" Alec added in anger. "I won't let that happen!"
"What if Ayden was right and it was a warlock but a demon?"
"He is not a demon!"
"You don't know anything about him! Why are you even so concerned about him?"
Alec felt a wave of anger rising in his chest but Jace's question was right to the point. Was it only because he wanted a child so much that he acted that way?
"I feel… connected to him," he admitted, his eyes studying his siblings to gather their reaction.
"Like a curse?" Izzy proposed. "Have you felt strange recently or have you lost…"
"No… No… I don't know. That might be just me being… suggestible."
"We'll try everything else before even considering it… But if it comes to saving the people who have been affected, you know we don't have a choice," Jace explained.
Alec nodded, his head still processing the feelings he had boiling there. Magnus and he had only been married for a year almost and they had just transferred to Alicante. That wasn't the right moment and yet, just the idea that this child was left in the streets alone – scared and unprotected – made him irrationally terrified.
"Maybe I just need some sleep…" he smiled sheepishly.
"Go back to your room, I'll call you if there's any news…" Izzy answered, touching her brother's arm.
He closed his eyes in agreement and walked toward the stairs, too beaten to fight with her. He wondered again what time it was and took his phone out of his pocket to check. He looked at the screen but didn't really pay attention, a voice calling him back. He turned around and saw Maia coming to him at a fast pace. For a second, he believed he had dreamed her leaving with Ayden but the presence of the handsome warlock at her side seemed to confirm it.
"What is it?" he asked.
"I just spoke to my people; they want a meeting with you to discuss what happened tonight and what risks are involved."
"Of course. We can discuss it in the m…"
"No," she replied hastily. "They want to do it now… They are really scared. Some of us are lying in these beds…"
"Let's go then," sighed Alec, aware that he wouldn't have any sleep at all.
They portaled to Taki's where more than a hundred werewolves and seelies were gathered together. The place was normally quite busy but never that much. People were scrunched up on benches, some even sitting on tables while the last few ones who couldn't even find anything were just standing awkwardly. The racket made by their discussion was deafening – languages mixed up together, strange lingos exchanged and even some signs made up to be understood. A very small number of vampires were packed by one of the windows, half-scared and half-thirsty. They were the only ones with empty glasses on the table, but it had probably not been enough to quench their thirst.
One of the cooks came forward to welcome them and asked the whole assembly for silence.
Alec's head was now throbbing with fatigue, even more at the thought of having to deal with these people's fear but he didn't have any choice in the matter. It had to be done and things had to be changed. He breathed out slowly and took a step forward.
"I'm Alexander Lightwood, Inquisitor for the Clave. Some of you might have already met me when I was at the New York Institute. I think it is best if I, first, tell you all about what I know and then we can maybe discuss the issue in the best possible way, maybe by raising hands…"
He paused and looked around, his eyes meeting most of them for good measure. He had been told so many of these things - how to talk to an audience, how to interrogate, narrate or even negotiate. Yet, talking to them felt a lot different from exposing new orders to the shadowhunters. They were frightened and didn't trust a man like him to make it work. The inquisitors were rarely nice, friendly, or approachable people. They were more prejudiced and misguided.
Alec didn't lie or hide anything he had been told. He mentioned every option they had thought of and the consequences that could result from it. He could read on their faces the terror of losing someone they loved, someone that was part of their clan or pack but also the panic at the idea that they may be next.
"Now, do you have any questions?" he concluded, dreading the flow of discussion that would ensue.
Hands shot up in the air, the silence still respected.
Alec crossed his arms across his chest, quite relieved by the calmness these people showed in the face of such terrible situation.
"Yes?" he proposed, pointing the finger at the person closest to him.
"You have said that you would welcome us at the Institute, is that right?"
"Yes," Alec nodded cautiously. "It goes without saying that we cannot accept people without some kind of safety measures. There will be no weapons out of our armoury room, but we will have mixed shifts – we don't want you to feel jailed without protection – and everyone will have to help. With an increased number, we will have bigger needs for cooking staff, laundry helpers and other everyday activities. As far as we know these attacks have only happened at night… Which means that we could just instore in each one of our groups a curfew. That might be enough until we find the responsible…"
Another hand was risen in the back.
"Would anyone be accepted?"
"Yes. But as I said, there are rules. There will be no violence, no fights, no feeding on others and no provocations. We cannot keep people showing dangerous behaviours in our mists."
Alec answered a few more questions but they seem rather satisfied by his explanations and it soon died out.
"Well then, I'll let you come to a decision. Maia, contact me to let me know what you have decided."
Ayden and he travelled back to the Institute but by that time, it was his turn to look after the ship. He let Ayden rest in his assigned room and finally sat down, feeling the weight of a day dragging him down.
The warlock smiled, proposing to help Alec with a massage or at least a little bit of company but the inquisitor, feeling rather uncomfortable at the thought of spending time with this man he found attractive, preferred to refuse politely. Ayden accepted his decision and left, not quite ready to give up on him yet.
All the squads had come back, the new patients were settled in the infirmary and the place was quieter than ever but somehow it didn't help him to release the tiredness. On the contrary, he sat in his chair, wide awake and feeling too tense to even anticipate what problems they would have the next day.
He was still in that state when Jace's hand touched his shoulder hours later. Startled, Alec turned to him with a lost expression and looked at him strangely.
"Are you alright?" Jace asked with furrowed brows.
"Yeah… I think yeah…"
"Didn't have the time…"
He was too tired to explain the meeting he had had and only blinked.
"Go to bed, it's my turn anyway!"
"Thanks…" he mumbled.
He didn't attempt to get undressed or to get under the cover, just throwing himself onto the bed and closing his eyes. This time, sleep welcomed him openheartedly and he didn't try to fight it. He didn't hear a thing until the next morning, when Jace came to wake him up at 10, nudging him gently.
Not quite conscious of what was happening around him, he straightened up against the bedrest and yawned. It took him a couple of minutes to register his brother's face and the clear sign that something was up.
"What now?" he grumbled.
"They all want to stay here."
"You didn't pick up your phone, so they call directly at the Institute."
"How many are we talking?" he said, finally awake.
"A hundred and ten."
"What?" How can they be so many?"
"Well, you did say anyone…" Jace smiled crookedly. "We have already organised with Izzy to move part of them to Idris, they have more space there and it will be easier to contain them there."
"I should have never proposed it…"
"That wasn't maybe your finest idea, but we can do it."
"When are they arriving?"
"Any moment now. They want to take advantage of the daylight, but we required them to come in small groups not to raise any suspicion in the local area. We now need to organise the rooms to make it work."
"Give me five minutes for a shower and I'll help you with it…"
"I'll get you something to eat there…"
Alec didn't have much time to appreciate the food, having to chew at the same time as giving orders but he managed to come up with different solutions to their space problem. Once he was done, he felt much clearer and able to focus on the task at hand with more energy than before and little more positivity.
They had decided to place people in groups of four in each room of the institute, leaving only a few families the luxury of having a suite to themselves. Then, with Maia and Luke's help, they were able to come to a temporary attribution of the rooms and separate as much as possible the people that might cause problems.
The flow of people increased exponentially in the next few hours, Alec supervising the entry checking, Jace looking after the weapon disposal and Izzy enquiring over the dietary restrictions. Twelve, two o'clock and even four o'clock passed without them taking a break, only focused on the task at hand and the management of issues.
It had been agreed that all room would be used to the maximum of their capacity and Alec's bedroom – which was the largest in the whole institute – was to be shared between Alec, Jace, Underhill and Luke. Underhill and Luke would work during the day and sleep at night while Jace and Alec would do the opposite. That meant that Jace and Alec was to put up with a 24-hour shift, but they were ready for anything.
As Alec and Jace were having both dinner and lunch, Izzy came to meet them, her face clearly sullen. She sat down next to her brother and put her head on his shoulder, her eyes lingering on Alec's plate with a mix of disgust and envy. All three of them kept more silent than they usually did; having had to talk to so many people for such a long period of time had drained too much of their energy.
"The families of the seven deceased want to organise their funerals as soon as possible…" she finally said, grabbing a grape from her brother's plate.
"Here?" Jace asked with curiosity.
"Well… I proposed the idea, but they would rather do it as their traditions dictate… I told them that they would need an escort in that case…"
"Of course," Alec nodded.
"I'll let you see with them when to do it… They are coming to talk about it in about two hours…"
"We'll wait in the Ops Centre."
"Where's Simon?" Jace questioned in surprise. "He's been here every day since you got together and tonight, he's not even visible?"
"He's coming later… The vampires are quite shaken too. One of them died too last night. Lily Chen has clearly understood the impact on her clan."
"I like her. She's true to her people."
"Maybe," Izzy conceded, not certain she liked the way she toyed with her boyfriend.
"Okay, I'm going to call Magnus. I'll find you at the Ops…"
He kissed his sister's head as he got up, leaving his tray half-eaten. She slid to replace him, staring at Jace with great concentration.
"Have you told him yet?"
"No," he admitted.
"He's your parabatai! You shouldn't hide it from him… He'll discover it sooner or later."
"He is my parabatai so he already knows. We haven't talked about it because he is the Inquisitor and you know he would have to punish me if he was officially told!"
"When Clary got you back from the dead, he told her he would have done the same! He'll understand it!"
"I know he does but as long as I don't tell him… he can pretend he doesn't know… I won't let him risk his career for me."
"For her, you mean!"
"Yes, for her."
"But are you really happy this way? I mean she knows, and she remembers bits of it but… It's not like she's back."
"She remembers enough, and we were never in love because she was a shadowhunter like me."
"Does mum know?"
"Not yet… I might try to tell her later… When things aren't so…"
"Jace, things are always complicated! And mum will understand. I mean she's with Luke!"
"Yeah, but she wasn't stripped from her memory when she was exiled. Clary was."
"Well, suit yourself! I just hope Simon doesn't let it slip by accident…"
"Maybe keep him out of the institute until we're done then!" Jace smiled, biting on his apple with appetite.
"Are you happy at least?"
"Clary is back in my life, of course I am!"
"Then I'm happy for you, big brother!"
They exchanged a quick laugh then went back to more pressing business, discussing the food supply that would be required to maintain the whole community that now lived under their roof. They had planned a daily supply of fresh blood for the main covents around the city but this horde was even worse – meat, vegetables and fruit were almost all tarry by the end of lunch time and they were now using resources originally meant for the next day.
"We've more than doubled our capacity; it was bound to happen…"
"But who's to pay for all that?" Izzy asked with a dry smile.
When Izzy and Jace arrived at the Ops centre, Alec seemed even more down than he had been before. Underhill and Luke, by his side, looked quite nervous too, all in deep silence.
"What happened?" Izzy enquired.
"We just had the results from two of the autopsies…" Alec began, rubbing his hand over his forehead, uneased.
"What is it?"
"They were dried up…" Luke explained. "Like prunes but with less external effect."
"What do you mean?"
"That we might not be looking at a warlock trying to defend himself but a creature sucking up all the energy from the people around until they are unable to keep up… Both victims' hearts were as old and worn out as a hundred-year-old person's. Same for all the organs but the heart was a mess…"
"Could it be a demon then? Some kind of life-sucking creature?"
"But then we would just have to kill him, right?" Jace offered with a shred of hope.
"Lorenzo is not certain it wouldn't also kill all the infected people too…"
They were all suddenly so quiet that they could hear the buzzing of the light bulb in the corridor, ready to explode.
"But the fact that seven people died, and seven people were newly affected… Surely it means that…" Izzy attempted.
"Have they died to make room for the new ones or were the new ones chosen because the seven old ones were about to die?" Alec commented, a bitter taste in his mouth. "The power wave that was unleashed has stricken seven of us but was it really intended to be seven? Could it also have been a complete accident? After all… Maybe he didn't know Grayson was there…"
Alec had gone through the same reasoning in his head before and they were now all at the same conclusion.
"Let's see how it goes tonight… I've asked Megan to check on the oldest patients if they already suffer from that aging condition. In all logic if this theory is correct, by midnight, we will have three more death… If we do, I'll reunite the cabinet again. This time, we'll need to make a choice."
"We need to kill him and end the threat," Andrew growled, his arms crossed over his chest.
"That's not that easy, Andrew," Alec replied, "we, as shadowhunters, see a life lost a gain if it prevents any other loss but we are talking about the Seelies, the Werewolves, the Vampires and the Warlocks. We are not allowed to take that decision without their own agreement."
Underhill nodded. He was known for his strong point of view and his straightforwardness, not surprising anyone by his comment, but he was also a loyal soldier and as such, he would have accepted any sentence whether just or unjust. That made him an extremely useful man in the field. Maybe thanks to Alec, he had even come to the idea that downworlders were to be considered as human as the others and therefore as valuable. Everyone knew by then his sexual preferences for men and especially the fact that he was attracted to Alec – he didn't keep it a secret, though not discussing it either. The Inquisitor never talked to him about it, preferring to keep their relationship strictly professional and friendly to risking compromising the stability of their rapports. Magnus had been jealous once – and without a real motive – there was no need to go into it. For Alec, when Andrew was ready to find someone, he would turn to a person that could return his affection fully. If he felt some kind of infatuation, it would disappear as soon as he connected to another as he had himself experienced.
After the briefing, Underhill, Luke and Izzy went to rest while Jace and Alec sat down at the table and started drawing plans for the next day.
They had the idea that they could try to attract their suspect with some kind of bait. That night, no one being out, he would have nothing to feed on and would therefore be drawn to any downworlder or shadowhunter on his path. If they could lure him into going to them instead of finding him, he would be easier to neutralise.
"But how do we neutralise him?"
"Maybe we can check with Lorenzo and Magnus for some kind of sleeping potion or something… Something to keep him unconscious while we decide what to do…"
"Yeah…" Jace conceded, "Will Magnus come tomorrow morning?"
"I don't know, it went to voicemail… I suppose he has his hands full between Madzie and his clients… I'll leave him another message to see if he can come tomorrow morning."
They were quiet for a moment, going through the supplies and energy consumption details that Izzy had drawn for the next three days. Numbers were rather alarming, but they didn't have much choice in the matter, at least for now.
"The Clave will never allow that much expenditure. Thankfully money can be found." Jace sighed.
Shortly after, Alec was called to the infirmary for the next report and Jace, being then alone, decided to call on Clary. He knew she had an exhibition in SoHo and that she would be going back late anyway. He took his phone out of his pocket and rang her with a large grin on his face, just thinking of her voice. She answered on the second ring.
"Hey!" she exclaimed with a surprised tone. "I wasn't expecting you to call me now! Aren't you supposed to be working?"
"Coffee break!" he smiled feeling lighter. "Are you finished for tonight?"
"Not quite! There are still so many people in! I didn't think it would work so well!"
"Sorry I missed it!"
"I wish you were here too… Missed you last night…"
"Maybe I could come by your place tomorrow morning when I'm finished here…"
"That might be an option…" she answered cheekily. "I am not meant to go back to the Academy before 4 so I'll have some spare time…"
They spoke for another few minutes, discussing their plans for the next day then she hung up to go back to her clients and he stared at the table in front of him, thinking of her.
He had missed her so much when she was exiled but now that she could see and remember him, he was quite convinced that things would work out between them. Even if she had been stripped from her rune, he didn't feel any different holding her in his arms – it was as powerful as it has always been.
He was so engrossed by his own thoughts that he didn't hear Alec coming back and only noticed him once he was sitting on the other side of the table. His brother smiled.
"She's well then?" he only asked with a smirk.
Jace looked at him in surprise. Wasn't it a tacit agreement not to mention her?
"Yes, she is," he replied calmly.
Ensued a silence but it wasn't a heavy one, more a time for both of them to consider what to say next.
"She sees through my glamour."
"Then the Angels must have half-forgotten her already…"
"Maybe I'll be able to take her here too…"
"If I can make it happen, I'll definitely help."
They both felt the need to hug but decided to stay sitting opposite one another and enjoy that moment of peace while it lasted.
Just before three, Imlo, a Seelie who had volunteered to help in the infirmary came running to them and reported a new death. It was one of the warlocks. Jace and Alec follow the Seelie and found Megan clearly distressed.
"It's the first time it ever happens! They are immortal? How can this thing kill an immortal being?"
Jace immediately contacted Lorenzo who appeared in less than a minute. His face was even more grave than it usually was, bending over the deceased as if he was examining an abomination. He knew the dead, but it wasn't what concerned him at that time. He was more worried about the implication that this discovery was leading to.
"We need to do an autopsy…" Megan attempted. "I need to know how he did it…"
She took the drill she had used on the previous victims and attacked the thorax with dexterity, feeling the tool dig into the tissues until meeting the sternum. She forced a little more until she felt the pressure ease. She then removed the section she had cut and stopped abruptly, visibly shocked.
"What is it?" asked Jace, sensing there was something unusual happening.
"His heart… It's a stone… All his organs are turned to stone!"
Lorenzo bent over the body to see clearly the inside and not even repulse by the idea, he slid his hand inside the man's chest and touched his heart, feeling the porous surface cooling his own skin.
"He petrified," he concluded, taking out of his fingers and rubbing one against the other to remove the pink dust that covered them.
Alec didn't dare breathing. The idea that Magnus or Madzie could be at risk was intolerable for him. But Catarina, though, was already on that list. If he wasn't stopped, she would be dead. And soon. The realisation made him ache more than he let it show, conscious that killing the boy was their first priority now.
Lorenzo started explaining some stories he had heard of a very old power some demons had but Alec wasn't focused on listening, his mind still racing over potential dangers and dire consequences. Yet, in the mist of this all he couldn't help but picture a poor lonely and terrified little boy who didn't know who he could trust and what he could do to survive his ordeal.
A cabinet meeting was immediately called for the next morning at 8, leaving them to prepare their presentation of the facts, digest what had happened and build their strategy. Jace was quite convinced that killing the boy was the only way forward but Alec, still considering the fact that it was question of a child first and foremost wanted to capture him alive. If there was one chance to get everyone back and to save that child from destroying the world around him, it had to be done.
When Izzy came downstairs just before seven, Alec took the chance to leave the Ops Centre and have a shower before the beginning of the cabinet session, feeling restless and nervous.
On his way to his room, he met Luke who seemed pretty restless. Not wanting to be the one telling him about the new development of the night, he only waved at him and entered the room where Underhill was still peaceful snoring. His blond curls lying on Alec's bed made him look like a cupid from that angle, his right arm placed on the pillow just above his head, the bedsheets not covering the highest part of his back.
Alec didn't pay much attention to him, only thinking how comfortable it would be to lay down with his eyes closed for a couple of hours. He took off his t-shirt and trousers, wondering if there was an unused towel in his bathroom when the portal opened, and Magnus appeared with a cup of coffee in his hand.
One look at the scene was enough for him to turn around, face crisped in horror.
Alec, not quite understanding what had happened to his husband followed him to the other side, knowing full well where he was heading. They were now in their kitchen, Alec in underwear and Magnus in a fit.
"How could you do that to me, Alexander?!"
"Do what?" Alec asked in surprise.
"Underhill is still in your bed and you ask me what's wrong?!"
"I told you in my message last night! Andrew and Luke are going to sleep in my room at night and I am meant to sleep during the day even if I'm probably not going to have much time for that…"
"Then, where was Luke?"
"He went out as I came in, I met him in the corridor!"
"And that?" he cried, pointing at his shadowhunter's outfit.
"I was about to have a shower! We have a cabinet meeting in less than an hour and I smell!"
Magnus seemed to take it in, calmer now, but Alec knew better than believing this was over. He walked to his husband and took his hand, all the way staring in his eyes.
"I wouldn't cheat on you… You are far more than I can ever want… Remember we are one. I love you."
"And you are telling me you don't feel anything seeing him naked in your bed?"
"Jealousy… I'd love to sleep!" Alec smiled, stepping closer to him.
"Alexander, seriously, tell me… I would understand…"
"I am not attracted to him. I only want a warlock with cat's eyes and eyeliners…" he said kissing him softly.
"Oh well, I am irresistible!" Magnus conceded, smirking.
"I'll have the shower here then… Where's Madzie?"
"I took her to a friend this morning. She asked me about Catarina."
"What did you tell her?"
"How did she react?"
"She's scared she might die but I told her it wouldn't…"
"A warlock died last night…"
Magnus suddenly fell silent.
"All his organs changed into stone…" Alec continued, feeling almost sick thinking about it. "Have you heard of some demons who swallow people's energy and then kill them?"
"Some kind of parasites? No, I don't think so, but I can look in my books."
"Thank you…" he answered kissing him again.
When he came from his shower, Magnus was flipping through different books at the same time, all to his concentration. Alec came to him, not resisting caressing the nape of the one he loved. He was now wearing a black shirt with a pair of black jeans and his usual boots, but something felt strangely odd to him. That must have been the fatigue talking.
"Have you found anything?" he asked distractively.
"Nothing for now… Apart from Medusa…"
"But it's only the warlocks who get their inside petrified…"
"I think the simpler explanation would be that this… individual drains the energy in a natural way. After all, if a warlock is tired of living, they just petrify and die."
"That would explain why the shadowhunters and seelies die too. It's like they got old prematurely…"
Alec thought for a moment how Magnus could one day petrify too, the disgust of that idea sending a shiver down his spine. He shook his head to chase the idea away.
"I need to go back to the Institute. It's almost time."
"I'm going too, if that's okay with you."
"Yes, I will need it!"
They looked at each other, not trying to hold up their fear anymore. They both felt the uncontrollable need to stay together far away from the rest of the world, but it wasn't the time to be soft. They had to defend others and Alec didn't know how not to be the one in the frontline.
When they arrived at the Institute, Meliorn was the only one that hadn't arrived. Magnus left his husband at the door, not being invited to the meeting, and found Jace, half-asleep on a chair in the Ops Centre. Next to him, Luke and Underhill were discussing the latest events with animation. Andrew was quite adamant that the suspect needed to be killed but Luke, maybe because of his old tie to the downworlders, was more reserved. There was a risk and quite a great one to put that many people's lives in the balance. If killing that creature led to killing all his victims, there could be repercussion on the peace between the communities. Werewolves, vampires, seelies, warlocks and shadowhunters had found a stability in the last year but it was still precarious and one bad action could have led to so many unfortunate consequences.
Jace didn't interact with them, probably because he had had the same conversation already twice and wasn't ready for a third time.
He noticed Magnus from the corner of his eye and wondered why he was there. He stretched awkwardly, trying to avoid hitting anyone around and got to his feet.
"What you doing here?" he asked with a weak smile.
"I couldn't stay another day out of his mess…"
"We'll need you for sure…" Jace conceded with a nod. "Do you want to see the body?"
He lowered his head without lowering his gaze, something Magnus had never quite understood about him. Maybe this was some kind of respect or just embarrassment.
"No, better not," Magnus replied, uncomfortable with the idea. "How is she?" he whispered suddenly, eying him with an understanding look.
"I talked to her last night. I was meant to come over, but things have been…"
"Something like that… Once they get out of that meeting, I'll probably have to plan the bait with Alec… I tried calling her, but I suppose she's asleep…"
"If you want, I can portal you to her flat…" Magnus offered with an elegant wrist movement.
"They might take a while to decide anyway…" Jace admitted then turning to Luke, he informed him they were going on a quick errand. Luke nodded without paying much attention to what his friend was saying, his head filled with new problems at hand.
"Let's go then!"
The portal led them just outside her house, in a quiet street, a few blocks from the Institute. The navy-blue door was shut, the blinds down and the place absolutely deserted.
"I'll pop round Maryse's store. Ring me when you want me to come and pick you up…" Magnus proposed.
"Wait! Come with me inside, it'll be more discreet to portal straight into her living room than in the middle of the street."
The warlock nodded, climbing up the four steps after the shadowhunter. Jace took a key out of his pocket and let himself in, knowing the place well enough not to hesitate. Her flat was on the second floor, left door after a fire extinguisher. Nothing differentiated this place from any other in the building and probably any in the street, but Magnus felt her around as strongly as if there were paintings of hers plastered all over the walls.
The flat was quite modest with a large living space containing three rooms in one – a living room, a dining room and a kitchen. Where people would have found a television stood an easel and a chair with paint all over the floor. The canvas on the easel bore bright colours and depicted something that wasn't quite there, almost like shadows or a blurred vision.
Magnus, upon seeing it, smiled broadly.
"The best day of my life," he murmured with delight.
He could tell that this was a representation of their wedding, with the flowers hanging upside down above the altar where Alec and he had exchanged their vows, brother Zacharias with his hood over his head just behind them and on both sides, Jace and Catarina. It was only an agglomeration of colours and unclear notes but there was no mistaking it for any other event.
While Magnus admired the painting, Jace had already moved on to Clary's bedroom, as silent as a mouse, excited to hug her tight but when he opened the door, the bed was still done and there was no sign of her. No handbag, no phone lying around.
"She's not here!" he exclaimed with a sudden outburst.
"Maybe she went out?"
"No, she clearly hasn't come back since yesterday afternoon…"
"Where could she be apart from here? Maybe she slept at a friend's?"
"No. She knew I was coming… She would have texted me…"
"Would you like me to track her?" Magnus asked with caution, knowing how sensitive Jace was about her.
Jace went to the canvas and took her brush from the chair, handing it to the warlock without a word. His face betrayed every thought that came to his mind, every emotion and right then, Magnus could see the fear growing stronger and pulsing hard through his veins.
He closed his eyes and focused on the thread of connection that linked Clary to the paintbrush, seeing her paint by the window, feeling her warm smile then it went blank as if she didn't exist.
"I can't see her…" he admitted in a soft tone. "Do you know something she might have on her that I could retrace more easily?"
Jace raced to the bedroom and came back with her phone's power cord.
This time, Magnus could see a place. It was on the grass, with Oaktree leaves nearby. A park. It wasn't far from there.
"Denvie's park… It's round the corner and it's on her way back here from the gallery!" the shadowhunter cried.
He ran out of the door without even thinking while Magnus portaled himself straight to the place. They arrived almost at the same time, the warlock being already bent over Clary's unconscious body, one knee on the ground when the other got there.
"She's breathing," he immediately said, not wishing to create more panic than was necessary.
"She's breathing?" Jace repeated, not quite able to process the idea.
"Let's take her back to the Institute."
Jace had already seized her, Magnus picking up both bag and phone before projecting a portal.
When they arrived back in the Ops centre, they found Luke, Simon and Megan talking about a blood supply problem. All three instantly stopped their conversation as soon as they saw the still body Jace was carrying. Simon sped to him, terrified the worst had happened but he quickly noticed the vein pulsing blood in her throat and the heat emanating from her skin.
Megan, though slower – not having vampire speed – came to them and looked at her.
"She's met the creature!" she exclaimed, surprised not to see any sign that she could be a downworlder. "Where did you find her?"
"At the park, near 'the Bagelman'."
"Who is she? She doesn't bear any sign of…"
"She used to be a shadowhunter," Luke intervened.
Megan nodded quickly, understanding that this was the end of the interrogation. She ordered Jace to take her to the infirmary, all five of them following after him.
This was unprecedented. All the patients that had been recovered were official shadowhunters and downworlders, making them prone to attack. But if mundanes were also targets, things were getting even more complex.
"Maybe it's because she's still half-angel," Simon suggested.
"I hope so… If not, we're going to be in so much more trouble!" Megan admitted.
"So, does it mean that Clary was taken ill when the warlock died?" Magnus inferred.
"We don't know if it's really connected but it could be."
Bane's thoughts were driven elsewhere. Alec might have been right all along, and they were really after a warlock and not a demon. A demon preyed on souls and energies. They were more interested in immediate victories and rewards. Sucking out people's lives required too much effort. The only exception possible was a greater demon but they were too well-known and ancient not to be recognisable by their modus operandi.
No, this was something different. It had to be a young warlock.
Magnus put down the bag and the phone he was holding in his hands. The phone turned on, indicating a low battery. Something, though, drove Magnus to take it again.
"Maybe she saw something… She had it in her hands when it happened."
He went to Clary's bed and took her fingers, passing them one by one in front of the lock screen key. The screen flashed open when he pressed her right index on it, her camera still working.
"She took a picture," he explained, taping on the little round picture at the bottom of the screen.
The gallery showed three pictures taken in the dark and in one of them, there was the face of a little girl of maybe nine or ten years with a hood over her head and bright striking red eyes.
Not wanting to wait another moment, Magnus rushed to Alec, interrupting the cabinet meeting. All six people sitting at the table turned to him in surprise, half-expecting to be under siege with such theatrical entrance.
"We are looking for a female warlock!" he burst out. "We have a picture!"
"What? A picture? How?" Alec asked, going to him in a second.
"Look! Clary took it!"
"Clary?" Maia repeated in surprise. "How can she know…?"
"She was attacked too, last night. She is unconscious in the infirmary like all the others…"
"What?" all of them cried simultaneously.
"Look at that photo, you'll see. This is not a demon; this is a warlock."
Alec took the phone from his hand and observed the picture he had in front of him. He immediately forwarded it to his own phone so as to send it to all of them. They all observed attentively the face they could see on their screen. You could see little of else but the eyes. Magnus, though, was right – this was clearly a girl, not a boy.
"Thank you, Magnus," Alec said, nodding slightly as he stared in his eyes.
His husband smiled back and left, closing the door after him softly.
"This doesn't change anything!" Lily Chen finally stated. "Warlock or demon, this… child has killed people and has now the power over too many of us. We need to kill her."
"Please, let me at least capture her and try to find a way to get our people back…" Alec begged. "We must try!"
"Alec, I understand your willingness to save everyone but how do you intend to capture this girl?" Maia questioned.
"Jace and I had an idea last night. One of us wait somewhere in the city, to bait her. Another person shoots her and put her to sleep. We just need to consider the right formula for a warlock, something strong enough to keep her unconscious until we take her back here. I'm certain that our cell can contain her. We need to make it work. We have to try, at least!"
"And the fact that you're married to a warlock doesn't interfere in that choice?" Lily Chen asked, snarling.
"Of course, it does. But you know very well my position on all downworlders. Magnus may have been the one to open my eyes about it, but we are first and foremost here to protect all mundanes and downworlders alike."
"Are you saying you want to protect this… warlock?" Maia attempted, feeling the rise of anger in her.
"If I can, yes," he admitted. "We have a duty to protect lives."
"Exactly!" Maia agreed. "This is why we need to kill her! She has caused too much damage; we can't risk any more lives!"
"Hear me out, let me do this mission and try it out. If it doesn't work, then you can kill her."
"And we may be responsible for killing the Inquisitor of Alicante?" Lorenzo suddenly intervened. "How dangerous for our future!"
"I will let the Clave know of my plan myself with the order that whatever happens, there will be no repercussion on any of you. Izzy will carry out my wishes. As the head of the Institute, she is the one in charge of people's welfare here. Do you agree, Izzy?"
Izzy looked back in horror, feeling the fear quickly freezing all her body. Her brother risking his own life for the sake of one child wasn't surprising, but it was too dangerous for any sister to just sit there and wait in silence. She wanted to shake him into good sense.
"This is very perilous… Even if you do catch her and bring her back here, we have no knowledge of what she could do if she felt threatened by us…"
"If something happens to me, will you see that the cabinet's decision gets executed?" Alec asked with a mastered voice.
"Yes. I will."
The words seemed to rattle in her throat as they came out, her voice half-strangled. She hated the idea of exposing someone to a hazardous situation but the thought of having to organise an execution was even more daunting, especially as she might at the same time, be the one to kill that many people – her brother included.
"So, will you let me try my way first?"
They all looked at each other. Maia had clearly chosen to follow Alec, knowing all too well how he would always do the things he had promised, however dire the consequences. Lorenzo was quiet, thinking to himself how things could turn out. Meliorn hesitated. He was against killing innocent people, but he wasn't sure what this girl was. Yet, in all consideration, giving Alec permission to first assess might have been the safest option they had. Lily Chen was against it. She wanted a clear kill, a quick death – that story had lasted long enough already.
When they voted, they were then four against one, Alec not being part of the cabinet anymore wasn't given a say in the matter.
"We need to have a unanimous vote," Alec explained. "Lily, could you give us a chance?"
"We need to stop this now."
"By tomorrow morning, it will be, one way or another."
"Then I accept," she conceded against her will, not wishing to lose more time in unnecessary chatter.
The cabinet meeting was then dismissed, and each leader was sent back to report to their group. Having a new presence in the Institute, it was agreed that the shadowhunters would be informed of the new directives in the dojo while the seelies and werewolves would be told in the Ops Centre.
Magnus joined Alec in the cabinet room, sensing that something had happened. His husband was sitting, eyes closed with a deep crease between his eyebrows. He walked to him and put his hand against his ear. Alec bent his head toward his partner's fingers, enjoying the familiar warmth. The warlock took a sit next to him, staring as if to breathe in his thoughts.
"I'll try to get her back to the institute. We need to put her to sleep first. Could you help Lorenzo to test something?"
"Of course, but…"
"If I am taken…" he started, hoping to look for the right words, "I have agreed that they can kill her."
"Wait! That would mean that you may die!"
"Alec, you're not leaving me now! I wouldn't be able to take it!"
"We both knew that you'll always be my only love," Alec whispered, facing him and touching his face, his hand on his cheek. "Promise me that if this really happens and that I die you will move on. You won't close your heart for another century…"
"I can't promise that!" Magnus cried, tears growing in his eyes. "You know that I have never felt that with any others, ever before! I may be immortal, but I don't think I can move on from you!"
"Promise me you will. When the time comes, you will move on and you will find someone…"
"I can't…" he broke, burying his head in his husband's chest. "I can't!"
"Promise me," repeated Alec, crying himself, "please, promise me!"
"I promise," Magnus answered.
Magnus slid from his seat to Alec's shoulder, now unable to resist. They embraced in silence, both arms locked hard around their lover's body, not wishing to let go. Alec had always known he would have to make that speech but had never considered having it so early in their marriage. Since their wedding, they had been cocooned into their new responsibilities and their new life, so wrapped up that they didn't have to stop and think about the dangers they were facing. They were not facing many of them, other than the mundane living risks. Sooner or later, reality had to catch up with them. It seemed they had even brought it on themselves just by being who they were.
"Get some sleep," Magnus murmured. "You'll need your strength. I'll organise myself with Lorenzo for the rest."
"I wish you could come with me."
They kissed lightly before Magnus accompanied Alec to the stairs, both heavy hearted.
Alec didn't take the time to change the bedsheets, only rolling onto his back, one hand behind his head, one hand on his chest. It felt somehow estranged with smells in his beddings other than Magnus's and his but he didn't have any interest in thinking of it. He closed his eyes. It was too late for that.
Before getting to Lorenzo's, Bane went to the infirmary to check on Jace and found him asleep on Clary's hand, his lower body on a chair and his upper body curled up next to her. He observed them for a second, feeling his pain and worry as strongly as if they had been his own.
With a snap of his fingers, he transformed the medical bed into a double one with both of them on it, Clary's head resting on Jace's shoulder.
"That might help!" Megan said, getting closer.
Her voice was clearly softer than it would normally be, a sign that she was trying to show more empathy than she was able to.
Magnus turned to her, feeling compassion for the poor soul who had to wait without being able to do anything for all these people. She was so young to be bearing such a heavy weight, her eyes carrying the fear of not doing enough and the fatigue of her unending days.
He put his hand on hers and kissed her cheek with benevolence.
"You're doing all you can, and this is enough."
Tears rose in her eyes, but she quickly swallowed her moment of weakness, chinned up and went to one of the doctors at the other end of the ward.
"Shadowhunters," Magnus whispered to himself.
He remembered for a moment all the times Alec had been exactly like her – when they first met, his pride was higher than the ceiling and yet, when they were just the two of them something in him shifted. He was seen for the first time as something else than a shadowhunter and he relished it. Of course, gradually, Alec had let his guard down more and more until it completely disappeared when they were by themselves. However, once in public, especially when this public was composed of Nephilim, his pride seemed to take over fast. His back was straighter, his hands poised against the small of his back like a good soldier waiting for orders.
He smiled. He even liked that side of him.
Lorenzo wasn't that happy to receive Magnus in his home. Water had run under the bridge since their last disagreement and they had made peace before the wedding, but he would have preferred working by himself on that elixir. He was, after all, the high warlock of Brooklyn and by right the one in charge of people's protection in all New York. But these Lightwoods were too keen on their newest member to let the chance slip – they had to have him save the world again.
"Let's work then!" he proposed.
Even if they were very different and Magnus enjoyed telling him how much more powerful he was, this time, they studied with the same seriousness and dedication, in perfect respect of the other's experience. To their own surprise, it wasn't as difficult as they had imagined. It was more a matter of agreeing on the best option they had at hand and knowing how strong their elixir needed to be.
By 4pm, Alec woke up abruptly, a feeling of emerging out of the water fogging his brain. Instinctively, he stretched his arm to check the place next to him, not feeling Magnus by his side. Slowly though, his mind started remembering where he was and when he was last awake. Of course, Magnus wasn't there. It was late afternoon and he was trying to get the right weapon to catch the little warlock.
He straightened up, thinking of her. The thought of her being a girl made him smile. She was a real fighter! As strong as a shadowhunter, he admitted to himself.
He had a shower, thinking of that girl and how powerful she was, feeling a clear pride. He knew he was going to get her and only wished she would accept him as much as he did. Having a daughter was somehow exhilarating. After all, he only had the experience of Madzie, his little sister and his mother to compare it with, but the feeling was quite different.
He was just dressed when he finally shook his head out of his reverie. He couldn't know if this would work, no more than he could be certain that she wouldn't kill him, but he felt such a strong bond, something he had never experienced before. Even when he had fallen for Magnus, he hadn't had that kind of intuition. Shadowhunters do not have intuitions. They analyse and decide on the best course of action but this little being did something to him even without having met him.
"Get over yourself!" he snapped. "We need to get ready."
"Who are you talking to?" Magnus asked entering the room and walking to him.
"No one… Myself."
"If you are already talking to yourself, do I need to consider that you are already past the first stage of dementia? I thought I would have more time before that happens…"
"Magnus…" Alec smiled, rolling his eyes.
His husband caressed his nape as he reached him, leaving a tingling sensation as his fingers touched his skin. He closed his eyes in pleasure. Maybe they didn't have that bond straight from the beginning but each moment with him since then had unlocked more love from his heart than he had ever dreamed he would ever feel.
"Have I told you how much I love you today?" he cooed, placing his left hand on Magnus's cheek.
"Maybe you have said it, but you clearly haven't showed me…" the warlock answered with a flirtatious smile.
"Do we have time?" he breathed against his lips.
"We can definitely make it…" Magnus proposed, his eyes immediately changing to their honey cat appearance.
"Already?" Alec laughed. "Blessed the angels, I'm good!"
When they finally joined the rest of their team in the Ops Centre, the atmosphere was much more tensed and solemn. Izzy and Jace had huddled one next to the other in some protective instinct, their eyes staring at the ground. Luke and Underhill observed the map of the location, trying to study a different approach to take the edge off. Lorenzo was the only one who seemed rather satisfied with his work preparation, examining the darts they had prepared with Magnus.
Alec walked to his siblings and putting a hand on Jace's shoulder asked if he was ready. His brother nodded, his eyes severe.
"Who else is coming?" Luke intervened, ready to offer himself.
"No one else." Alec answered. "We are not risking any more lives. The more we are, the more we are killing back here. I am already risking two lives."
"And yours…" Magnus inferred gloomily.
"I wish I could do it alone…"
"You know that I'll go wherever you go," Jace reassured. "Clary is here too. I'm not waiting for her to die."
Alec took one dart in his pocket, the rest of the ammunition with the gun being handed to Jace. They were ready to go fishing.
They had decided not to get too far from the Institute, knowing all too well that the concentration of downworlders in the building itself had already converged masses of demons toward them. The lawn around it was soft and perfectly well maintained, without rubbish on the ground or animal traces.
A few metres from the church stood a strong and old elm tree. Alec helped Jace climb in it, observing his brother reach a great height to see everything around and still have a clear view on the foot of the tree. They then both found a comfortable spot to sit and wait, their eyes sweeping the surroundings with attention, just waiting for the girl to come to them.
Using wireless earpieces, they could talk to each other through their radio without being heard by others. Alec wasn't really keen on chatting, but he knew that Jace needed to have a little moral support and he submitted to the task without even thinking about it.
"How is she?" he asked, feeling silly not to have a more helpful thing to say.
"Unconscious in a bed as if she's dead… Well she is slowly dying inside so…" Jace's voice uttered dryly.
"We'll find a way, I promise."
"Well if we don't, at least I can be with her until the end…"
"Does she know everything about the past?"
"No… She has feelings about it, but she doesn't remember clearly. Better this way…"
"She will have to know sooner or later… If you want to build something in the longer term."
Jace didn't answer, knowing full well his parabatai was right. He had thought about it every time they had met since that night at her gallery when she had seen him for the first time. Every time he touched her, and she remembered the feeling of his hands on her, he wanted to tell the whole truth, but he feared she would be taken away from him again.
"I was thinking of proposing…"
Alec lifted his head to see him through the branches, a wide smile on his face.
"Did you get a ring?"
"Mum has some in our family safe… She'd be so happy if you took one."
"Would she really? I mean I know she is in some similar situation now, but I mean… It's Clary."
"Nah! She wants us happy and since she's dating Luke, she's already feeling part of her family anyway, even from a distance! Have you seen how she warmed up to Magnus? She adores him! I think she might like him more than she likes me!"
"Oh well… That's easy to prefer him!" Jace teased.
They exchanged an amused glance, their mood made a little lighter by the closeness they still shared after all those years. Alec had missed him in Alicante.
Some pebbles cracked under a person's shoe a few feet from them, calling them back to their mission.
There was only one streetlight in that zone of the city, barely strong enough to illuminate the path toward what looked like an abandoned church, but someone was coming their way. The footsteps were rather light and indicated a single person approaching which were two good signs for them.
Alec felt his heart beating a little faster, thinking of her being so close by. He held his breath and looked busy staring at his phone, impatiently waiting to see if it was really her.
Jace could see the silhouette getting closer and noticed the short shiny dress and the high heels in a quarter of a second, his fingers already releasing the pressure around the gun he was holding in his right hand.
"False alarm. It's just a woman."
Alec's shoulders fell, his excitement flagging.
This time they didn't try to have a conversation, both completely silent, ready for the next person that would cross their path. Jace could feel one of the branches digging in his ribs and started to consider the mission a failure when he saw something in a distance. It was coming toward the church and them, but it was barely perceptible. The movement was scarcely visible from his side and he believed Alec wasn't even able to see anything from his position. Jace was about to let him know when he realised that he might be heard and preferred to wait a little more, just enough to know if they were coming in their direction. The dark lump seemed suddenly to disappear from his sight.
It took him a second to think, wondering if he had imagined the whole thing.
"I think I saw something at the end of the driveway by the Institute door, but it's gone."
"You think or you know?" Alec asked, feeling a tension in his stomach.
Magnus was pacing in the Ops Centre, feeling too nervous to sit down and chat with the others who were preparing their plan B with a little too much excitation. They wanted to kill the creature so badly that they interrupted each other in even louder voices, Underhill guiding the discussion with clear satisfaction. Simon and Izzy had left for the infirmary as soon as Jace and Alec had gone, feeling the need to take some time away from the shadowhunters' craze for a warlock's blood.
Magnus stared at the entrance door, thinking about his husband taking too many risks and saw a little black thing moving at the end of the corridor. Surprised, he walked toward it slowly. Something in him rang at that sight and he instinctively knew it was her. Switching to his cat's eyes, he whispered to her not to be scared.
Behind him, the chatter had stopped and turning to them in fear, he saw all eyes riveted on the small person by the door, their weapons already in hand to use them.
"No!" he yelled, one hand outstretched to defend her if he needed to. "We promised Alec to let him try first!"
"He's out there and she's here, ready to kill us all!" A woman's voice rose from the group.
Izzy who was now running to them, Simon at her back, immediately understood what was happening. She grabbed the gun she had at her waist and aimed at the girl whose red eyes started shining like two rubies.
At the same time, the door at her back started moving, so imperceptibly that Magnus took a good few seconds to realise that Alec was trying to get in, as silent as possible. His tall figure slid in and upon seeing everyone ready to fire, he jumped straight to her and pushed her aside.
Simultaneously, Izzy, not having quite seen her brother coming in, ordered all the others to stand down with a sharp cry and then shot. When her eyes went back to her target, she saw in horror her brother having taken the girl's place and being hit by the bullet straight in his left side. He uttered a large grunt and fell, holding the little warlock in his arms.
Magnus ran to them, calling his husband in terror. Alec reassured him immediately.
"I'm good. Take her, she will not be scared with you." The inquisitor said between greeted teeth before turning to the little girl in his arms. "Are you okay, darling? They haven't hurt you, have they?"
The small body hugged him hard, so strongly that despite the pain he could feel, Alec smiled.
"I'm here, darling. I'm here. Nobody is going to hurt you! I promise."
He stroked her face softly, a sudden urge to kiss the top of her head invading him.
"See this man, this is my husband, Magnus. Go with him, he will protect you until I can come and see you, okay?"
Shily the girl still buried under her hood nodded, her little red eyes closing slowly in confirmation.
Magnus held one hand to her, and she accepted it, going straight against his legs and wrapping her tiny arms around his waist. The warlock felt it as Alec had even before meeting her, that warmth inside him seemed to grow as fast as a flu. He would have done anything to keep her alive and safe. He waved his hands elegantly and opened a portal, stepping in with her.
Izzy, Simon, Underhill and Luke were by Alec's cramped body, not quite certain what had just happened. Behind them the whole shadowhunter group stared, their anger rising louder and louder.
"Let me see," Izzy ordered, pulling her brother into a straight position with urgency.
"You really got me!" he winced.
Jace, who had just entered the Institute looked at everyone in disbelief.
"Took you long enough to get down that tree!" Alec laughed through the pain.
"Well I might have done it faster if my stele had not fallen on the ground… Where is she?"
"Safe with Magnus."
"Let's get that bullet out of your body before we heal you!" Izzy muttered. "You two!" she gestured to Underhill and Luke in clear anger, "carry him to the infirmary. I'll deal with you all later!"
Nobody questioned her orders, following her instruction to the letter. The group of shadowhunters in the Ops Centre stayed put, waiting for the next instruction with dread. They knew they had disregarded the plan set by the inquisitor himself and they were the reason why he was now being looked after with a gun wound. The Clave wouldn't let that one go unpunished, even if they had their reason to act as they did.
Izzy came back but a few minutes later, her small frame, filled with rage. It would have been a comical scene if she hadn't been able to kill every single one of them in a split second.
She clenched her teeth, both hands left on her hips and seemed to consider how to deal with them. She finally stared back and said:
"Have I given you order to shoot the girl?"
No one answered, eyes to the ground and arms in their back, taking in the lecture in complete silence.
"By then, we all knew she would attack everyone who posed as a threat which would have led to more people being killed in our infirmary but no, you thought, let's kill her, we don't risk anything! What were you thinking?!"
Her voice was even stronger, thundering above the crowd in rage.
She was surprising herself by how hard she was to them. Afterall she had been the one to shoot her own brother thinking she was aiming at their suspect but even so she couldn't help blaming them for their stupidity.
"You have put everyone here at risk and not only yourself! Where would this have ended? Once she had neutralised all of you, she would have gone to the seelies and the werewolves here and the whole Institute would have disappeared in the blink of an eye! Us as a team have failed today and every one of us need to face the consequences. The Clave will hear of this incident and they will take actions. Dismissed!"
She was over the fear she had felt. The ire still burning in her veins was different. She knew that she was going to be the one held responsible for the happening. If it reached the Clave which she wasn't certain of. He was her brother and he was large on the protective side. He would have done anything to take care of his little sister even if her team had led him to be hurt. Thankfully the bullet had entered cleanly through the flesh and hadn't touched any major organs or veins.
When she came back to the infirmary, he was already standing up, as if nothing had happened discussing something with Megan. Simon was sitting by Clary, holding her hand and whispering to her that she would soon wake up, his voice calm and confident. She felt left behind for a second until she saw Jace leaning on a wall, observing his girlfriend and her best friend. His eyes were dark and hollow, staring out of space.
"What is it, brother?" she asked.
"Do you really think this girl can bring them back?"
"I don't know but Alec believes it…"
Their sibling walked to them, still holding his side.
"I talked to Megan. I'm going to first spend time with her and see if we can keep her calm enough. When she is ready, we'll try to teach her how to release them…"
"We don't have a lot of time, do we?" Izzy dared.
"No, but I am certain she doesn't want anyone to die…"
"The Clave will want to put her on a trial either way…"
"I'll take care of them when the time comes. I don't want to report everything that happened. The Clave don't need to know everything."
They got all three very silent for a moment. Izzy examined her brother's face carefully. She could feel something different in him, a sort of excitement. She frowned. That couldn't be.
"What do you want to do with her?" She asked in suspicion.
He looked back at her and smiled.
"I would like to adopt her. If Magnus agrees of course."
He straightened up and put his arms in his back as he had learnt from his first training as a shadowhunter.
"Are you certain this is the best thing to do?"
He smiled again and nodded.
"There's nothing like it…"
She wasn't certain what he meant by that, but he really did look happy.
"I'm going to tell all our guests that they can safely go home…" Izzy declared with a soft tone, turning her heels and leaving the room. "And I should contact the members of the cabinet to tell them we got her…"
Alec touched Jace's shoulder, smiling.
"Time to get that ring from mum, we're going to bring her back shortly."
He walked away and rang Magnus, asking them to join him in his bedroom.
When he arrived there, they both were waiting on his bed, the little girl curled up on Magnus' lap.
"She fell asleep as soon as I put her on the bed, but she refuses to let me go…"
"I've never seen something that beautiful," Alec whispered as he sat down next to them, a large grin passing his lips.
"Well… You might have been right all along…"
"She'll need someone."
"She'll need us." Alec replied with pride.
They stayed like that for an hour or so before she slowly stirred and opened her eyes. The intensity of her gaze was quite petrifying, but Alec could look past it and see the rest of her face. He carefully pulled her hood down and smiled. The little girl observed him too, not quite understanding why he would examine her in that way.
"Would you like some food?" he asked with a soft voice. "We can get anything you want. We have a chef here."
"Don't listen to him, the food here is inedible! I can get you something better!"
With one snap of his finger, Magnus brought an elegant table with a white cloth, covered with waffles, sandwiches, fruit, vegetables and various drinks.
"Magnus…" Alec smirked.
The little girl went from one to the other than stared at the array under her eyes, not daring to move.
"Go on!" Alec invited.
"I'll think I'll have a little sandwich too…" Magnus helped.
She jumped off his lap and grabbed the first thing she could reach, studying the food as if she expected it to disappear from under her eyes. She bit in it once, observing what would happen but the moment she started chewing the morsel she had in her mouth, she stuffed her cheeks with food at a fast pace.
"Take your time," Magnus said gently. "We have all the time in the world…"
She stopped eating for a second then munched less quickly.
"Would you like something to drink?" Alec proposed as he filled a glass of fresh water.
She took it from his hand and swallowed the whole content in one gulp.
Glancing at each other, the two men breathed a sigh of relief.
Once she was finished with the food, Magnus offered to clean her up, placing her in front of a mirror. He then spread his fingers above her head, the girl following his movements with a certain curiosity. The next moment she was wearing a navy-blue dress with a large bow at the back, coordinated ballerina shoes and a beautiful plait which fell down neatly on her right shoulder.
Both discovered at that moment that her red eyes were not her only distinctive feature, her arms covered in little red waves as if she had been tattooed fish scales. They shimmered with the light when she walked giving her a distinctive look.
"How beautiful you are, my little princess."
The girl raised her head to him and dared a shy smile.
"Are you trying to seduce me, young lady? With a smile like that, I'd be ready to do anything for you!"
"Don't start corrupting her!" Alec grinned, putting both hands on his husband's shoulders.
The girl looked back at the mirror, seeing herself and the two men together and this time smiled openly. It was quite a family portrait.
"Let's go and see the others," declared the inquisitor softly.
The girl's eyes seemed to darken suddenly.
"No, darling! No one is going to do anything to you. I promise! We are going to show them how beautiful you are, and they won't do anything."
"We will protect you just like we did before… If there's any kind of danger…" Magnus added quickly.
"My sister and my brother will want to meet you…"
"There are not the nicest people here, but they are good enough!" Magnus teased, touching the tip of her nose.
"Come on, let me introduce them to you!"
He held his hand and she took it immediately, but he abruptly stopped before getting to the door, turning to her.
"What's your name, sweetheart?"
She looked confused by the question, her eyes going from one to the other.
"You can choose a new one if you prefer…" Magnus proposed.
"Eden," she whispered timidly.
"Eden? What a beautiful name!" Magnus encouraged her.
"Come on, Eden, I'll show you my friends and family!"
They all three went down the stairs to the Ops Centre, the two men observing carefully the surroundings to prevent any kind of incident. There were only a few men in the room who were all busy dealing with some new missions, their eyes riveted on screens and maps.
They turned left to the infirmary, passing on the way the dojo where a seelie and a shadowhunter were training with large wooden sticks. They were both aggressive and excited, laughing and grunting as they did.
The little girl watched them silently, with a certain fascination, not quite familiar with this practice.
The infirmary was empty apart from the rows of beds and four people all grouped together at one end of the open space. They were examining something together, immerged in their conversation so deeply that they didn't hear the others approaching.
Eden hid behind Alec who had his left hand on her neck to make sure she was alright, Magnus one step behind surveying their backs.
Alec cleared his throat to interrupt the group which broke instantly. Simon and Izzy on one side opened large eyes with a mixture of fear and hostility. Jace, more protective than ready to attack placed himself in front of Megan to block her way. This last one stared with curiosity at the little frame that caused so much damage.
"I would like to present you Eden," Alec beamed as he moved her forward. "Eden, this is my brother and parabatai, Jace, this is my sister, Izzy and her boyfriend, Simon and this is Megan, one of our doctors."
She looked at them in terror, feeling them towering her. Sensing her discomfort, he picked her up swiftly, her little arms wrapping around him instinctively.
"They won't do anything bad to you, darling. They just need to get to know you first."
Everyone looked back at them in bewilderment. Alec seemed so at ease with her, as if he had been caring for her for years and Magnus, putting his hand on his husband's shoulder looked even more pleased of their new friend. The same friend who had put all these people in a coma and killed many others.
"I'd like to show you someone else, Eden," he continued, walking toward Catarina's bed. "This is our friend Catarina. She has a little girl a bit younger than you are… Her name is Madzie. I think Madzie and you will be great friends!"
"I remember her…" the girl replied carefully. "I wanted to sleep on the stairs, but she said I needed to follow her…"
"She wanted to take you to us. She is very nice."
"Eden…" Magnus murmured calmly. "Would you like to try something with me to wake her up? This way Madzie can go home with her?"
Eden nodded, her red scales shining brightly under the neon lights.
Alec put her down and Magnus, already by her side took over. He asked her to focus on the memory she had of Catarina.
"Think very hard. What was she wearing? Do you remember her voice? Now think of her talking to you. Good… Now picture her waking up."
The young warlock followed every instruction to the letter.
"Now, open your eyes, Eden, and she will wake up."
Exactly as he had said, when she looked back at the body in the bed, Catarina's pupils flashed open too, quite surprised to be in that position.
Megan ran to her, scaring the girl who took refuge against Magnus's legs. The doctor started examining the nurse, busying herself with tests. Her patient, quite disorientated, didn't understand what was happening or why, interrogating her doctor.
Eden and Magnus moved on to the next bed and they repeated the same process again. Slowly, one by one, they took care of each patient in their order of arrival at the infirmary. They would stop for a few hours when the girl was too tired until, by the end of the afternoon, every single one of them had regained consciousness. They were then examined and stayed in observation with a battery of tests to ascertain that their organs had not been affected too badly by the prolonged comatose state.
The last one was Clary. When she opened her eyes, she discovered Jace holding her hand on one side and Simon on the other. At the foot of the bed, Izzy, Alec, Magnus and a strange little girl were staring at her. She looked back at them with the feeling that she knew them all but the youngest one. Something about that girl was somehow strange. Maybe she was hallucinating but she seemed to have red eyes. The more she looked and the redder they appeared.
"Hey, welcome back…" Jace said carefully to draw her attention back to him.
She turned toward the voice and touched his cheek.
"Hey!" she answered back.
"Wanna meet the family?"
"I know them already, don't I?"
"All but one."
"This is Eden," Alec added with both hands on the girl's shoulders. "She is new in our family and we hope she decides to stay."
Clary sat down slowly and watched, puzzled, the scene she had in front of her.
"Where am I?"
"We have our own hospital at the Institute. It was easier to take care of you from here… I got so scared when I couldn't find you at the flat…"
"Yes… I was coming home and…"
"You met Eden," he finished for her with a smile. "You're going to be fine now…"
"Am I? What happened? I don't remember…"
"You just had a little bump on the head. Everything is okay now…"
At the same moment, a female warlock with long ginger hair running down her back arrived with Madzie. The child ran to them and was picked up by Magnus.
"Mum is ready to come home!" she cried in excitement.
"Great news!" he replied.
Eden observed the scene with a clear mistrust for that other child, her eyes getting darker.
Alec took her in his arms, sensing the change in the atmosphere.
"Madzie is going back home with Catarina. She likes to visit us from time to time. Next time you might play together…"
"Madzie," Magnus said with a solemn voice, "this is Eden. Eden will now live with Alec and I in Alicante."
Madzie smiled with confidence, only happy that she had a new friend almost the same age as her.
Eden, on her side, continued her observation with care. She wasn't familiar with all the bonds these people had developed for one another, but she understood enough to see how she had to respect them. She had to be nice to the other girl and she had to trust the adults around her. Alec and Magnus seemed inclined in keeping her and she didn't want to make them change their mind. She couldn't make any more mistakes.
Madzie asked to be let down and went to Catarina, laughing. When she got to the bed, she had a bouquet appeared in her back that was larger than her. Catarina accepted it with a large smile on her face.
A few feet away, Lily Chen, Meliorn and Lorenzo were observing the newcomer with care. Paraded with those clothes, she looked more innocent than she was but the blood that ran in her veins made her even more dangerous than all of them together. They already knew there would be no punishment for her. The Clave would not even hear of what she had done.
"We'll need to deal with that soon…" Lily mentioned.
The young warlock didn't see them, still mesmerized by the love she could sense. She observed the mother daughter reunion with curiosity.
"I'll teach you some of those tricks…" Magnus whispered.
"She will also learn how to defend herself!" Alec rebuffed with a smirk.
"A warlock shadowhunter then? Would you like that, princess?"
Maia walked in with Luke and Ayden, her face suddenly serious when she met Eden's eyes. Shivers ran down her spine as she approached, not convinced the danger was yet over. Ayden, by her side, didn't show that much reserve, greeting the group with a pleased smile.
"Thank you for bringing our friends back, Alec."
The inquisitor blushed, feeling his husband's eyes burning on him.
"Actually, Magnus helped Eden. He is the one deserving all the praise."
"Magnus…" Ayden began with an indifferent look, "Perfect as usual."
They both nodded, the grin on their faces not quite reflecting what they were feeling.
"It is now time for me and my people to take our leave. Sweet Izzy, I thank you for your hospitality," he said as he took her hand and kissed it. "Alec, I hope we will see each other again in the future."
"Thank you for your trust," Alec replied, feeling even more self-conscious.
"I see…" Magnus uttered once the rival warlock had left.
"What do you see?" Alec whispered.
"We'll talk about that later…" he answered coldly, trying to hide his displeasure. "Time to put the little one to bed."
"Magnus…" Alec pleaded, feeling guilty for the first time since they had started their relationship.
"At least now, I can definitely say that Underhill will never be a problem…"