“Alec is eighteen!”
“Whatever,” said Ragnor. “Raphael would never date a Shadowhunter.”
“Of course, why would he, when you two are in loooove?” Magnus asked. “‘Oooh, Raphael is always so professional.’ ‘Oooh, Raphael brought up the most interesting points in that meeting you forgot to attend.’ ‘Oooh, Raphael and I are planning a June wedding.’ Besides, Raphael would never date a Shadowhunter because Raphael has a policy of never doing anything that is awesome.”
“Stamina runes are not the only things that matter in life,” said Ragnor.
“So says someone who is wasting his life,” Magnus told him. “And anyway, it’s not like . . . Alec is . . .”
“If you tell me about your gooey feelings for one of the Nephilim, I will go double green and be sick,” said Ragnor. “I’m warning you now.”
Double green sounded interesting, but Magnus did not have time to waste. “Fine. Just advise me on this one practical matter,” said Magnus. “Should I buy him a birthday present, and if so, what should it be?”
“I just remembered that I have some very important business to attend to,” said Ragnor.
“No,” said Magnus. “Wait. Don’t do this. I trusted you!”
“I’m sorry, Magnus, but you’re breaking up.”
“Maybe a cashmere sweater? What do you think about a sweater?”
“Oops, tunnel,” said Ragnor, and a dial tone echoed in Magnus’s ear.
Magnus did not know why all of his immortal friends had to be so callous and horrible. Ragnor’s important business was probably getting together to write a burn book with Raphael. Magnus could see them now, sharing a bench and scribbling happily away about Magnus’s stupid hair.
Magnus was drawn from this dark private vision by the actual dark vision currently happening in his loft. Elyaas was generating more and more slime. It was steadily filling the pentagram. The cecaelia demon was wallowing in the stuff.
“I think you should buy him a scented candle,” Elyaas proposed, his voice stickier by the minute. He waved his tentacles enthusiastically to illustrate his point. “They come in many exciting scents, like bilberry and orange blossom. It will bring him serenity and he’ll think about you when he goes to sleep. Everybody likes scented candles.”
“I need you to shut up,” said Magnus. “I have to think.”
He threw himself onto his sofa. Magnus should have expected that Raphael, filthy traitor and total priss that he was, would have reported back to Ragnor.
Magnus remembered the night when he took Alec to Taki’s. Usually they went to places frequented by mundanes. The haunts of Downworld, crawling with faeries, werewolves, warlocks, and vampires who might pass on word to his parents, clearly made Alec nervous. Magnus did not think Alec understood how much Downworld preferred to keep apart from Shadowhunter business.
The café was bustling, and the center of attention was a peri and a werewolf having some kind of territorial dispute. Nobody paid Alec and Magnus any attention at all, except Kaelie, the little blond waitress, who had smiled when they’d come in and who’d been very attentive.
“Do you know her?” asked Magnus.
“A little,” said Alec. “She’s part nixie. She likes Jace.”
She wasn’t the only one who liked Jace, Magnus knew that. He didn’t see what all the fuss was about, personally. Other than the fact that Jace had a face like an angel’s and abs for days.
Magnus started to tell Alec a story about a nixie nightclub he’d been to once. Alec was laughing, and then Raphael Santiago came in the door of the café with his most faithful vampire followers, Lily and Elliott. Raphael spotted Magnus and Alec, and then his thin arched eyebrows hit his hairline.
“Nope, nope, nope, and also no,” Raphael said, and he actually took several steps back toward the door. “Turn around, everybody. I do not wish to know this. I refuse to be aware of this.”
“One of the Nephilim,” said Lily, bad girl that she was, and she drummed on the table of their booth with shining blue fingernails. “My, my.”
“Hi?” said Alec.
“Wait a minute,” said Raphael. “Are you Alexander Lightwood?”
Alec looked more panicked by the minute. “Yes?” he said, as if he were uncertain on the subject. Magnus thought he might be considering changing his name to Horace Whipplepool and fleeing the country.
“Aren’t you twelve?” Raphael demanded. “I distinctly recall you being twelve.”
“Uh, that was a while ago,” said Alec.
He looked even more freaked out. Magnus supposed it must have been unsettling to be accused of being twelve by someone who looked like a boy of fifteen.
Magnus might have found the situation funny at another time, but he looked at Alec. Alec’s shoulders were tense.
He knew Alec well enough by now to know what he was feeling, the conflicting impulses that warred in him. He was conscientious, the kind of person who believed that the others around him were so much more important than he was, who already believed that he was letting everybody down. And he was honest, the kind of person who was naturally open about all he felt and all he wanted. Alec’s virtues had made a trap for him: these two good qualities had collided painfully. He felt he could not be honest without disappointing everybody he loved. It was a hideous conundrum for him. It was as if the world had been designed to make him unhappy.
“Leave him alone,” Magnus said, and reached for Alec’s hand over the table. For a moment Alec’s fingers relaxed under Magnus’s, began to curl around them, holding his hand back. Then he glanced at the vampires and snatched his hand away.
Magnus had known a lot of men and women over the years who’d been afraid of who they were and what they wanted. He had loved many of them, and had hurt for them all. He had loved the times in the mundane world when people had had to be a little less afraid. He loved this time in the world, when he could reach out in a public place and take Alec’s hand.
It did not make Magnus feel any more kindly toward the Shadowhunters to see one of their Angel-touched warriors made afraid by something like this. If they had to believe they were so much better than everyone else, they should at least be able to make their own children feel good about who they were.
Elliott leaned against Alec’s seat, shaking his head so his thin dreadlocks whipped about his face. “What would your parents think?” he asked with mock solemnity.
It was funny to the vampires. But it wasn’t funny to Alec.
“Elliott,” said Magnus. “You’re boring. And I don’t want to hear that you’ve been telling any tedious tales around the place. Do you understand me?”
He played with a teaspoon, blue sparks traveling from his fingers to the spoon and back again. Elliott’s eyes said that Magnus would not be able to kill him with a spoon. Magnus’s eyes invited Elliott to test him.
Raphael ran out of patience, which admittedly was like a desert running out of water.
“Dios,” snapped Raphael, and the other two vampires flinched. “I am not interested in your sordid encounters or constantly deranged life choices, and I am certainly not interested in prying into the affairs of Nephilim. I meant what I said. I don’t want to know about this. And I won’t know about this. This never happened. I saw nothing. Let’s go.”
So now Raphael had gone running off to report to Ragnor. That was vampires for you: always going for the jugular, both literally and metaphorically. They were messing up his love life as well as being inconsiderate party guests who had got blood in Magnus’s stereo system at his last party and turned Clary’s idiot friend Stanley into a rat, which was just bad manners. Magnus was never inviting any vampires to his parties ever again. It was going to be all werewolves and faeries all the time, even if it was hell getting fur and faerie dust out of the sofa.
Magnus and Alec sat in brief silence after the vampires departed, and then something else happened. The fight between the peri and the werewolf got out of hand. The werewolf’s face changed, snarling, and the peri turned the table upside down. A crash rang out.
Magnus started slightly at the sound, and Alec acted. He leaped to his feet, palming a throwing knife with one hand, his other hand going to a weapon in his belt. He moved faster than any other being in the room—werewolf, vampire, or faerie—could have moved.
And he moved automatically in front of the booth where Magnus was sitting, placed his body between Magnus and the threat without even thinking about it. Magnus had seen how Alec acted with his fellow Shadowhunters, with his sister and his parabatai, closer than a brother. He guarded their backs, watched out for them, behaved at all times as if their lives were more precious than his own.
Magnus was the High Warlock of Brooklyn, and for centuries had been powerful beyond the dreams of not only mundanes but most of Downworld. Magnus certainly did not need protection, and nobody had ever even thought to offer it, certainly not a Shadowhunter. The best one could hope for from Shadowhunters, if you were a Downworlder, was to be left alone. Nobody had tried to protect him, that he could remember, since he was very young. He had never wanted anybody to do so, not since he’d been a child who’d had to run to the cold mercy of the Silent Brothers’ sanctuary. That had been long ago in a country far away, and Magnus had never wanted to be so weak ever again. Yet seeing Alec spring to defend him caused Magnus to feel a pang in the center of his chest, at once sweet and painful.