Alec sat at the edge of the roof, dangling his feet over the side. He supposed that if either of his parents came back to the house and looked up, they’d see him and he’d get shouted at, but he doubted Maryse or Robert would return soon. They’d been called to the Consul’s office after the meeting and were probably still there. The new treaty with the Fair Folk would be hammered out over the next week, during which they’d stay in Idris, while the rest of the Lightwoods went back to New York and celebrated the New Year without them. Alec would, technically, be running the Institute for that week. He was surprised to find that he was actually looking forward to it.
Responsibility was a good way to take your mind off other things. Things like the way Jocelyn had looked when her son had died, or the way Clary had stifled her silent sobs against the floor when she’d realized that they’d come back from Edom, but without Simon. The way Magnus’s face had looked, bleak with despair, as he’d said his father’s name.
Loss was part of being a Shadowhunter, you expected it, but that didn’t help the way Alec had felt when he’d seen Helen’s expression in the Council Hall as she’d been exiled to Wrangel Island.
“You couldn’t have done anything. Don’t punish yourself.” The voice behind him was familiar; Alec squeezed his eyes shut, trying to steady his breathing before he replied.
“How’d you get up here?” he asked. There was a rustle of fabric as Magnus settled himself down next to Alec at the edge of the roof. Alec chanced a sideways glance at him. He’d seen Magnus only twice, briefly, since they’d returned from Edom—once when the Silent Brothers had released them from quarantine, and once again today in the Council Hall. Neither time had they been able to talk. Alec looked him over with a yearning he suspected was poorly disguised. Magnus was back to his normal healthy color after the drained look he had had in Edom; his bruises were largely healed, and his eyes were bright again, glinting under the dimming sky.
Alec remembered throwing his arms around Magnus in the demon realm, when he’d found him chained up, and wondered why things like that were always so much easier to do when you thought you were about to die.
“I should have said something,” Alec said. “I voted against sending her away.”
“I know,” said Magnus. “You and about ten other people. It was overwhelmingly in favor.” He shook his head. “People get scared, and they take it out on anyone they think is different. It’s the same cycle I’ve seen a thousand times.”
“It makes me feel so useless.”
“You’re anything but useless.” Magnus tipped his head back, his eyes searching the sky as the stars began to make their appearances, one by one. “You saved my life.”
“In Edom?” Alec said. “I helped, but really—you saved your own life.”
“Not just in Edom,” Magnus said. “I was—I’m almost four hundred years old, Alexander. Warlocks, as they get older, they start to calcify. They stop being able to feel things. To care, to be excited or surprised. I always told myself that would never happen to me. That I’d try to be like Peter Pan, never grow up, always retain a sense of wonder. Always fall in love, be surprised, be open to being hurt as much as I was open to being happy. But over the last twenty years or so I’ve felt it creeping up on me anyway. There was nobody before you for a long time. Nobody I loved. No one who surprised me or took my breath away. Until you walked into that party, I was starting to think I’d never feel anything that strongly again.”
Alec caught his breath and looked down at his hands. “What are you saying?” His voice was uneven. “That you want to get back together?”
“If you want to,” Magnus said, and he actually sounded uncertain, enough that Alec looked at him in surprise. Magnus looked very young, his eyes wide and gold-green, his hair brushing his temples in wisps of black. “If you . . .”
Alec sat, frozen. For weeks he’d sat and daydreamed about Magnus saying these exact words, but now that Magnus was, it didn’t feel the way he’d thought it would. There were no fireworks in his chest; he felt empty and cold. “I don’t know,” he said.
The light died out of Magnus’s eyes. He said, “Well, I can understand that you—I wasn’t very kind to you.”
“No,” Alec said bluntly. “You weren’t, but I guess it’s hard to break up with someone kindly. The thing is, I am sorry about what I did. I was wrong. Incredibly wrong. But the reason I did it, that isn’t going to change. I can’t go through my life feeling like I don’t know you at all. You keep saying the past is the past, but the past made you who you are. I want to know about your life. And if you’re not willing to tell me about it, then I shouldn’t be with you. Because I know me, and I won’t ever be okay with it. So I shouldn’t put us both through that again.”
Magnus pulled his knees up to his chest. In the darkening twilight he looked gangly against the shadows, all long legs and arms and thin fingers sparkling with rings. “I love you,” he said quietly.
“Don’t—” Alec said. “Don’t. It’s not fair. Besides—” He glanced away. “I doubt I’m the first one who ever broke your heart.”
“My heart’s been broken more times than the Clave’s Law about Shadowhunters not engaging in romances with Downworlders,” Magnus said, but his voice sounded brittle. “Alec . . . you’re right.”
Alec cut his eyes sideways. He didn’t think he’d ever seen the warlock look so vulnerable.
“It’s not fair to you,” Magnus said. “I’ve always told myself I was going to be open to new experiences, and so when I started to—to harden—I was shocked. I thought I’d done everything right, not closed my heart off. And then I thought about what you said, and I realized why I was starting to die inside. If you never tell anyone the truth about yourself, eventually you start to forget. The love, the heartbreak, the joy, the despair, the things I did that were good, the things I did that were shameful—if I kept them all inside, my memories of them would start to disappear. And then I would disappear.”
“I . . .” Alec wasn’t sure what to say.
“I had a lot of time to think, after we broke up,” Magnus said. “And I wrote this.” He pulled a notebook out of the inside pocket of his jacket: just a very ordinary spiral-bound notebook of lined paper, but when the wind flapped it open, Alec could see that the pages were covered with thin, looping handwriting. Magnus’s handwriting. “I wrote down my life.”
Alec’s eyes widened. “Your whole life?”
“Not all of it,” Magnus said carefully. “But some of the incidents that have shaped me. How I first met Raphael, when he was very young,” Magnus said, and sounded sad. “How I fell in love with Camille. The story of the Hotel Dumort, though Catarina had to help me with that. Some of my early loves, and some of my later ones. Names you might know—Herondale—”
“Will Herondale,” said Alec. “Camille mentioned him.” He took the notebook; the thin pages felt bumpy, as if Magnus had pressed the pen very hard into the paper while writing. “Were you . . . with him?”
Magnus laughed and shook his head. “No—though, there are a lot of Herondales in the pages. Will’s son, James Herondale, was remarkable, and so was James’s sister, Lucie, but I have to say Stephen Herondale rather put me off the family until Jace came along. That guy was a pill.” He noticed Alec staring at him, and added quickly, “No Herondales. No Shadowhunters at all, in fact.”
“None in my heart like you are,” Magnus said. He tapped the notebook lightly. “Consider this a first installment of everything I want to tell you. I wasn’t sure, but I hoped—if you wanted to be with me, as I want to be with you, you might take this as evidence. Evidence that I am willing to give you something I have never given anyone: my past, the truth of myself. I want to share my life with you, and that means today, and the future, and all of my past, if you want it. If you want me.”
Alec lowered the notebook. There was writing on the first page, a scrawled inscription: Dear Alec . . .
He could see the path in front of him very clearly: He could hand back the book, walk away from Magnus, find someone else, some Shadowhunter to love, be with him, share the kinship of predictable days and nights, the daily poetry of an ordinary life.
Or he could take the step out into nothingness and choose Magnus, the far stranger poetry of him, his brilliance and anger, his sulks and joys, the extraordinary abilities of his magic and the no less breathtaking magic of the extraordinary way he loved.
It was hardly a choice at all. Alec took a deep breath, and jumped.
“All right,” he said.
Magnus whipped toward him in the dark, all coiled energy now, all cheekbones and shimmering eyes. “Really?”
“Really,” Alec said. He reached out a hand, and interlinked his fingers with Magnus’s. There was a glow being woken in Alec’s chest, where all had been dark. Magnus cupped his long fingers under Alec’s jawline and kissed him, his touch light against Alec’s skin: a slow and gentle kiss, a kiss that promised more later, when they were no longer on a roof and could be seen by anyone walking by.
“So I’m your first ever Shadowhunter, huh?” Alec said when they separated at last.
“You’re my first so many things, Alec Lightwood,” Magnus said.