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#Izzy keeps trying to choke him
angstysebfan · a month ago
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The Truth Will Set You Free- Part 4
Pairing: Bucky x Female Reader, Thor x Reader (other Avenger characters)
AU: Modern
Summary: You dated for two years, and thought he was the one for you. One day you came home and found him with someone else. After running away from you, you return home and found yourself in the arms of Thor. When Thor decides to introduce you to his friends at a dinner, you realize that there’s something familiar about the house you were visiting.
Warnings: implied cheating, language (not proofread)
--
You take a deep breath as you knock on the door, hoping and praying that he is here. Your heart rates spikes when you hear his heavy footsteps head toward the door. When it opens you see a distraught Thor standing in front of you. When his eyes meet your they get icy. Before he can make a move you step further into the doorway.
“Thor, I am so sorry I lied to you. I should have said something the moment I realized whose house we were at. I was just scared, and I panicked, and I am so sorry,” you spoke quickly as tears already rush to your eyes. 
Thor doesn’t speak, but he stands back to allow you entrance into his apartment. You walk in and walk over to the couch, sitting slowly. Thor walks in behind you and sits next to you, but keeps a distance, which you don’t lie hurts, but you understand.
You wait for a moment to see if he will speak, but when it feels like the silence will go on forever, you decide to continue with your prepared speech. “I know you must hate me. I just really want you to know that I care about you, a lot. You have made me so happy, and I don’t want to lose you because I was stupid. Please don’t tell me I have lost you,” you say in a whisper.
Thor looks at you confused. “I would think you wouldn’t want to be with me anymore. Since I am friends with the man who cheated on you,” Thor says.
You choke on a sob, “I- It’s all complicated. But I...” Thor cuts you off.
“It wouldn’t have to be if you were just honest with me,” he says angrily.
“You’re right,” you say softly before crying. “Thor, I am not going to ask you to choose between me and your friends. I know how much they mean to you,” you say.
“And do you know how much you mean to me? Do you have any idea how much I care about you? I mean I would trade the world for you. But I think you need to figure out where you and Bucky stand before we can talk about us,” he says. 
You nod before standing and walking past him, stopping to kiss the top of his head, and then walking to the door and leaving. You were completely broken about hurting him. He was right, you should have just been honest. You know what betrayal feels like. 
You decide to get this all straightened out tonight. You were going to walk to Bucky’s, hopefully he still lived there, and demand the whole story. If he does not give it to you, Natasha be damned, then you were done. If he does tell you, it better be a pretty damn good story, and even then you might be done. 
You kept thinking about what might happen between you and Thor once this whole thing was over. No matter what you knew someone was going to get hurt, and you hated the idea that it was Thor. You hurt him enough as it was, and you were going to try and protect him as much as you could. But even if you and Bucky worked it out, you didn’t know if you would get back with him. You liked being with Thor, and it’s not fair to him. But it would be awkward if you and Thor stay together, and you wouldn’t want Thor to give up his friends. You hated this whole thing, and wish that you never moved back to New York.
You found yourself outside of your old apartment door. You knocked and waited, taking deep breaths. The door opened to show Bucky, who was very surprised to see you. He opened the door wider, revealing Natasha inside. You force yourself to not roll your eyes as you walk into the apartment.
Natasha stands from the couch and looks, dare you say, nervous. What did she think you were going to do? If you didn’t hit her that day, you weren’t going to hit her now. You look from Natasha to Bucky and swallow the lump in your throat.
“I came here to find out the truth. I don’t care what it is, I deserve it. My life is once again in shambles because of you both, and I hate to see Thor hurt. He won’t even talk about us until I straighten this thing out, so someone better start talking,” you demand, glaring at them both.
Nat sighs and sits back down on the couch, Bucky standing behind her. “You’re right. But Bucky is not to blame here, I am. I- I need to tell you what happened that day. But i beg you to listen to everything I have to say before you respond,” she asks, almost begging.
You nod in response and sit down in the chair next to the couch. You look up at Bucky you nods and gives a sympathetic smile. You suddenly got very nervous as to what Natasha is going to say. You look back at a fidgeting Natasha, which is so out of character for her.
“Where to begin,” she says almost to herself.
“How about the beginning,” you say, making her look up at you. 
“Right, well... If you recall, not long before the events of that day, I broke up with Bruce,” she says, to which you nod. “Well even though I cared for Bruce, I realized something toward the end of our relationship, which was the cause of our break up,” she says.
She looks up at Bucky who gives her a reassuring nod before turning back toward you. “I realized that I was in love with someone else. I realized that I was... in love with... you.”
~~
Part 3 / Part 5
What?!?!? Yea... I did it. I was torn on how I wanted to do this, and decided this is what was going to happen. What do you think? It still doesn’t explain why she was in their bed, but the flashback is coming in the next part. Feedback is appreciated!
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echo-bleu · 2 months ago
Congrats on the big 500!!! 🎉🎊🎈 id love to ask after shadowhunters/Alec/food aversion and sensitivity
Hi Anon! Ugh it’s been ages since you sent this, so I hope you’re still around. I meant to answer much earlier but I’m just really not good at keeping track of things.
I have plenty of thoughts about Alec and food! It’s a very interesting topic about any autistic character and I enjoy coming up with different headcanons.
So I think Alec, at least pre-Magnus, mostly thinks of food as something his body needs. His body is a tool and a weapon, and he has to keep it in shape, so he has to eat and drink, but taste doesn’t really come into it. He’s long used to eating the rather bland food of the Institute’s cafeteria and he actually prefers it, because the blander it is, the easier it is not to think about it too much. As a child, he was very picky but his parents and instructor never let him get away with not eating, so he’s learned to force food down and think of it as another duty.
That’s the sad thing about Alec, is that he doesn’t think that he’s allowed nice things. He doesn’t eat food because he likes it. He has favorites, of course, and I think he has a huge sweet tooth, but he doesn’t allow himself to seek out the food he actually likes, to the point that he couldn’t even say what his favorite foods are if asked. He will, however, get Izzy and Jace and Max their favorites whenever he can.
I think he can cook, if he has a precise recipe. He can follow instruction perfectly well, and he’ll be very precise about it. It won’t be creative in any way, but it will be good, except when the recipe isn’t good (like the stew he made for Maryse). He’s not very good at putting a whole meal together because he has no idea what food goes with what, he has no culinary grammar since no one ever taught him. He prefers to bake, because there the instructions are always very precise. Again, he will only do it for other people, mostly his family.
When he meets Magnus, Magnus decides he’ll do everything to discover Alec’s tastes and Alec ends up discovering them with him. They go to restaurants around the world and try things. It backfires a few times at first, because Alec wants to please Magnus more than anything, and he doesn’t think that it’s important to tell him when he doesn’t like things, so Magnus misunderstands a couple of times until he figures that out and manages to get Alec to be honest about it. I think that Alec is hypersensitive to taste and smell, so anything strong or spicy isn’t really for him. He’s never really thought about it before now, but he has a few textures he really can’t stand, like wet bread and custard. But he learns to pick out subtleties in spices and seasoning and he starts to enjoy the good food. He’s still fine with Institute food, but he likes the food he eats with Magnus. He even starts liking wines.
And he starts to let himself put aside the things he doesn’t like. That’s a huge change in him, one really brought out by Magnus’ acceptance and encouragements. Instead of choking things down, he stops eating them and gets himself something else to eat. And he also lets himself get he occasional pastry or chocolate bar when he’s in the right mood. He cooks for Magnus, even though Magnus can just conjure food, and I think after a while he starts getting a feel for how to improve on a recipe. His cooking remains quite formulaic and his baking will always be much better, but he becomes a decent cook. And his cinnamon buns are to die for, according to Magnus.
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Slash X Reader X Michael Monroe (Hard, BDSM Lemon) - Punished
May 1st, 1987, 6:30 PM
(Reader's Perspective)
After everything that went down a few days ago, things were back to normal. Slash forgave me, and was as understanding as possible. I knew I didn't deserve that easy of forgiveness, but it felt way better than him being angry at me, and not wanting to see me. The night after he left for Izzy's, he came back the next morning, and apologized to me. We had never hugged tighter, when he came back. I was so glad he was back, but.. I couldn't help but feel an endless amount of guilt. I couldn't hardly focus on anything that day, in fear of Saul finding out what I had done. It would be horrible if he found it. It would be all my fault, and he would probably never talk to me again, and most likely beat the shit out of Michael! I wouldn't want him to do anything crazy, out of anger. Slash was good at handling his anger, and hardly ever lost his temper with people, but knowing him basically our whole lives, I know he would lose it if he found out.
"Something wrong, baby..?", he asked, as I stared blankly out the window, in the living room.
I snapped out of my thoughts, and whipped my head around to look at him,
"O-oh! Yeah, I'm fine, babe.. are you okay?", I asked, giving him a smile, to let him know I'm okay.
"I'm great, Princess. I'm just worried about you. You've been acting like you're upset all day, and I wanna make sure you're okay", he replied, as he gently kissed me on the lips.
"I'll be okay, Slashy.. I promise you I'm fine", I reassured him, keeping the act up.
Eventually he smiled, and gave me another kiss.
"Well, I'm glad, baby. As long as my sweet (Y/N) is okay, then I'm okay", he said, as he then walked out of the living room.
As I sat in our bed, reading a book, wearing a satin, (F/C), night gown, Saul walked in, dressed in a nice black suit, and tie, with his hair back. Looking him up and down, I gently set my book down, and walked over to him.
"Oooh, where are you going, sexy?", I asked, biting my lip.
"I'm going with Duff, and Axl to a party. They told me to dress up", he said, smiling at me.
"Well you sure are dressed up, baby.. you look so hot..", I said, as I gently tugged on his tie.
"Whoa! Someone's frisky, huh..?", he asked, in a teasing tone, as he gently grabbed my ass.
"I am, honey..", I admitted, looking into his eyes, with a lustful look.
He laughed a bit, and looked down at me, with amusement.
"You're gonna have to wait a little bit, Princess..", Saul told me, playfully.
"I'll wait, then.. have fun, sweetheart. But don't get too crazy, okay? Try to stay sober, hon", I told him, as he pulled me in, and kissed me, before he went downstairs, and waited for Axl and Duff to come get him.
I then went back to my book, and started reading, once again. As I was enjoying my book, I suddenly realized something.
"What if Duff or Axl, or somebody at the party somehow knows what happened?", I thought to myself.
I then tried to shake the thoughts away, but they wouldn't stop. I knew I fucked up, and now it was making my life just a mess of anxiety, and worry.
"Oh god..", I said, as I held my head, in pain.
I was beginning to get a headache from being so anxious.
I tried to get some sleep to calm down, so I set my book on the nightstand, and tried to snuggle up, comfortably. Of course, I tried and tried, for 10 minutes straight, and I could not calm down the fast beating in my chest. It was beating so fast, and my head spun with all these different thoughts. I had visions of Saul coming home, furious, and kicking me out, I had visions of going to our rehearsals, and seeing that the band hated me, no matter how good I may be at guitar. I had visions of so many terrible outcomes, and they would all be my fault. All I wanted was to calm my brain down, and realize that I was just being silly. Nobody could've possibly known about what Michael and I did, right? I decided to take a few deep breaths, to help me calm down, but that didn't do too much. All I could do was sit there, and just hope that Saul wouldn't find out tonight, or ever. Damn.. I really have fucked up. I hated myself so much for it.
May 1st, 1987, 10:25 PM
(Reader's Perspective)
As I sat in our bedroom again, watching TV, I heard Saul come in the door, so I quickly got up to greet him downstairs. With a smile, I stepped down the last step, and onto the downstairs floor.
"Hey, baby! Have fun?", I asked him, giving him a loving smile.
"Hey..", he said, dryly, with no emotion.
His face didn't show any emotion, either.
"Soooo, what did you guys do?", I asked, hoping that he would reply to me with more emotion.
"I mean, it was just a party. Nothing much..", Saul said, shrugging, and rolling his eyes.
"What's the matter, sweetie?", I finally asked, and he took his hair out, and tossed his jacket on the floor, leaving him in his black jeans, and his white, button down shirt, and tie.
"(Y/N)..", he began, as he sighed a heavy sigh.
"What, baby?", I asked, curious.
"We need to have a talk.. now", He said, with a serious tone, not looking me in the eyes.
"Well.. about what?", I questioned, my brows furrowing, in a confused expression.
"A little birdie told me that they saw Michael at the local gas station buying (favorite alcoholic beverage), on the night that I left to spend the night at Izzy's", he said, emphasizing my favorite drink.
I tried to play dumb, so I asked,
"Well, what about it? Who told you that?", I asked.
He groaned, and sighed in anger, covering his eyes, and crossing his arms, still not looking at me.
"I'm not gonna tell you who told me, but.. (favorite alcoholic beverage) is your favorite drink, and they also told me that they struck up a conversation with him, and he told them that he was on his way over here to hang out..", Saul said, having a more serious tone, towards the end.
"Saul.. I-I can explain..", I began.
"No! I don't care, (Y/N)! What happened here?! What, did you let him fuck your throat, again, huh?!", he yelled at me, as he slammed his fist on the counter.
"S-Saul! Calm down!", I told him, backing up a bit, in fear.
"Calm down?! Calm down?! That's all you have to fucking say about this? Just tell me what the fuck went down here! And don't you fucking lie to me, (Y/N)!", he hissed, glaring at me.
"Okay, okay! I'll tell you! I called him to vent to him, since we've been hanging out a lot, and he's been so nice to me.. He.. he came over, and he bought me wine. Then.. He kissed me", I confessed, finally, starting to cry a little.
"And you didn't stop him? You just let him suck face, like that?!", he asked me, giving me a look of disgust.
"I-I wanted to push him off, but.. Saul, I was lonely! I needed somebody to comfort me! You're the one I love and you just walking out on me, it hurt me!", I protested, as tears fell down from my eyes.
"(Y/N)! You could've just pushed him off and told him you don't want him! But, let me guess.. He's irrestible, he's gorgeous, he's everything I'm not!", Saul said, sarcastically, as he glared at me, again.
"Saul.. I'm so sorry..", I choked out, as I wiped the tears from my eyes.
I turned to walk away, but suddenly, I felt him grab onto my hair, and pull me back.
"S-Saul! What are you-", I began.
He growled a bit, as he grabbed his tie from his neck, and wrapped it around mine, tightening it slightly, and pulling it.
"Ah!", I yelled, as he pulled me into the living room, by the tie, and threw me onto the couch.
He then jumped on top of me, and ripped my night down off, the clothing tearing, and ripping. He then threw it to the side, angrily, and he pinned me down.
"I'm gonna show you that you belong to me! Nobody else, you fucking hear me..?", he whispered in my ear, with a stern tone.
I nodded, whimpering, and he then gently began to kiss, suck, and nip my neck, all the way down from my jawline, to my collarbone. I moaned as he left hickeys all over my neck.
"Mmm.. I fucking love your sexy body, baby.. it's all mine. It belongs to me..", He doted on me, as he then started to bite, and suck on my nipple, while fondling, and massaging my other breast.
"S-Saul..", I moaned out, as he continued to pleasure me.
"Wrong name, baby..", he said, as he twisted my nipple, hard.
"M-master!", I moaned loudly, gasping.
"That's right, sweetheart.. I'm your master..", he replied, as he then kissed down my stomach, all the way down to my dripping wet, throbbing cunt.
"Mmm.. you're all wet from me touching you, huh, baby?", he asked, as he then began to lick me down there, his tongue making circles around my clitoris.
I moaned, and arched my back, in pleasure. It felt so amazing, and my toes curled as he then began to kiss, and suck on my clit, as he fingered me. First with one finger, then he slipped in another, and curved them upwards, pushing into my g-spot.
My eyes rolled back in pleasure as he ate me out, and fingered me like there was no tomorrow. He then spread my lips down there, and slipped his tongue inside my entrance, and licked me all over in there. I moaned loudly, and gasped, as he looked up at me. I was becoming a mess for him. My face was flushed, my cheeks red, my breathing heavy as I felt so good down there. I was mumbling, and moaning. Slowly going crazy for this sexy beast.
"Mmm.. you taste so good, baby.. I love eating you out like this..", he said, as he winked at me.
He then stood up, and pulled his shirt off, his sexy, toned arms, and ab muscles turning me on even more, like it always did when we had sex. Slowly undoing his belt, he tossed it to the side, and dropped his pants, revealing his big, hard cock. He slowly stroked himself, as he looked down at me.
He then gazed down at me, and bit his lip.
"I think I know what I wanna do to you.. why don't you put that amazing mouth to work, baby..?", he suggested, as he walked closer to me.
I blushed a little, but nodded, and I gently took his cock in my mouth. I slowly started sucking on his cock, licking all around the tip, and then taking it all down my throat. He moaned, as he suddenly grabbed onto my hair.
"I hope you're ready, baby..", he said, and soon he was thrusting his cock deep into my mouth, forcing it down my throat.
I gagged a bit, and my eyes watered, but he just went faster, and harder.
"Mmph! You think it's okay to kiss other guys?! When you belong to me?! Huh, baby?!", he asked, asserting all dominance, in his stern tone of voice.
"Mmm!", I moaned, with my mouth full of his cock.
He then gripped onto my hair harder, and thrusted even deeper. I gagged, and choked, as he did so, and I shut my eyes.
"Oh my god.. I love this fucking throat... it's all mine!", he growled, fucking my throat harder.
Suddenly, he pulled out, and I coughed a bit, and took a deep breath in.
"God.. you look so fucking sexy, down there.. I just wanna destroy you, right here and right now..", he said, as he positioned himself on top of me.
My legs wrapped around his waist, as he was on top of me, looking into my eyes, from above.
"I'm gonna fuck you so good, that blonde asshole won't even compare, baby.. I'll show you who's boss..", he said, as he then began to passionately kiss me, shoving his tongue into my mouth.
Our tongues intertwined, and rubbed against each other, as we kissed. I moaned into the kiss, and he then pulled away, a string of saliva between us for a second, once he pulled away.
"Now turn around, baby..", he said, in a stern tone.
I obediently turned around, and he then grabbed the tie he had wrapped around my neck, and pulled on it, making me choke a bit.
"Now.. you're gonna let me destroy this pussy.. it's all mine, and I am gonna claim it!", he said, as he tugged hard again, making me gasp.
"Mmm..", he moaned, as he penetrated me, slowly sliding all of his length into me.
"M-master.. you're so hard, and it's stretching me!", I moaned out, as he started to pound into me.
"Fuck, baby..", he groaned, leaning his head back, in pleasure.
Suddenly, he started to thrust into me faster and faster, his cock hitting the back of my pussy, as he went. It felt so amazing, and I moaned and whined as he went faster. Hearing him growl, and groan, and make sensual, sexy noises just drove me insane. He then realized I was being silent, all of a sudden.
"What, baby? What's up?", he said, laughing a bit, as he still fucked me.
"N-nothing, master.. you're just.. so amazing..", I said, as I breathed heavily.
He then laughed, and leaned down to kiss me, on the neck, from behind, his hands still gripping my ass, hard.
"Fuck, I love you, baby.. I love you so much!", he moaned, as he went even faster, thrusting into me as hard and fast as he could, now digging his nails into my skin.
"I- I love you too, Master!", I moaned in reply.
He then grabbed onto the tie around my neck, and pulled on it, hard.
"Who do you belong to?!", he asked me.
"Y-you..", I choked out.
"That's right, honey..", he replied, letting go of the tie.
He then fucked into me even harder, now pulling on my hair.
"Ah! Master!", I yelped, as he tugged harder.
"I'm gonna cum, Princess! And I'm gonna cum all over your ass, baby..", he said, as he thrusted in a few more times.
"Agh! Fuck, baby!", he moaned out, as he suddenly came a bit inside me, but quickly pulled out. I felt his warm, sticky cum splatter all over my ass, and I gasped in pleasure.
Panting, I then layed down, below him. He giggled a bit, and then layed on top of me, snuggling his head in between my breasts.
"Mmm.. oh how I love these soft, plush titties I can just lay on after pounding you..", he said, wrapping his arms around me.
I smiled, and gently wrapped my arms around his neck.
In a shy, small voice, I then asked,
"Do you forgive me, Saul, honey..?"
He then took a deep breath, and sighed.
"Yes, baby.. I do", he said.
"I feel like it's partially my fault.. I was the one who introduced you to Michael..", he continued.
"No, baby.. it isn't your fault at all.. I should've never let him kiss me like that..", I said, as I gently ran my fingers through his hair.
"Still.. I shouldn't have thought a threesome wouldn't have any consequences like this..", he replied.
"It's okay, Slashy..", I reassured him.
"I know.. I love you, Mrs. Hudson..", he said, as he looked up at me, and smiled.
"What..?", I asked, shocked at what I just heard.
"I wanna marry you, (Y/N)..", he said, as he gave me a kiss.
"Do you want to marry me?", he asked, looking at me with a hopeful, but serious expression.
I had never felt more happy in my life. I couldn't stop smiling, and I started laughing, as I replied,
"Yes! Yes! I do wanna marry you, Saul! Oh my gosh, I love you so much!"
He smiled at me back, with the happiest look I had ever seen on his face, and we kissed, once again sharing a passionate kiss, before we fucked again at least two or three more times, by the end of the night. God, I was in love... I was deep, deep in love.
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jobrookekarev · 2 months ago
Text
I Remember it All Too Well Chapter 3
Chapter Three of Six: In My Defense, I Have None
Words: 2800
Chapter Summary:  Alex unintentionally works with Jo on one of her cases and sees her work as an OB. However, he makes the mistake of trying to flirt with her, and everything that's been boiling between them since he left comes to a head. Alex finally gives her an explanation as to why he left. 
Story Summary: Alex knew from the moment he signed the divorce papers that leaving Jo and Seattle was the worst mistake of his life. As Alex works his way back to Seattle, he sees Jo again four times before she allows him back into her life.
Or
The four times Alex saw Jo after their divorce, and the one time they finally got back together with her, plus a soft epilogue.
Fandom: Grey’s Anatomy
Relationship: Alex Karev/Jo Wilson.
Characters: Jo Wilson, Alex Karev.
Rating: General Audiences
Additional Tags:  Regret, Longing, Pining, Angst, Angst with a Happy Ending, Foster Kid, Adoption.
Read at AO3
Read at FFN
……………………………………………………………………
“What do we got?” Alex asked walking into the delivery room and over to the warmer where the intern had the baby. He briefly saw Carina with her back turned to him as she was still with the mom and the anesthesiologist as they took out the epidural. 
“A Newborn baby boy with a cleft palate,” the young intern, Dr. Chee said.
“And?” Alex asked, looking down at the pink baby that squirmed on the blanket.
“Umm..” Dr. Chee stuttered as he looked down at the baby and then back at him not sure what Alex was asking of him.
“The baby is oxygenating well, heart rate is normal, and APGAR scores were an 8.” 
Alex looked back at Jo dressed in pink scrubs as she looked down at the tablet and finished the chart work. Alex quickly looked back at the baby and took a deep breath as he started to assess the baby.
“Is he okay?” the mom's desperate voice asked him and Alex glanced back at her. She and her husband exchanged a worried look as they watched Alex intently. 
“He appears to be doing well,” Alex said, as he quickly checked the baby over. “What's his name?”
“Jordan.”
“Hi Jordan, I’m Dr. Alex I'm just going to take a look in your mouth real quick,” Alex said looking down at them as he put his fingers on the baby's gums and assessed the pallet. “It looks like a cleft lip, alveolus, and cleft palate.”
“Oh my god,” the dad said, sitting down into the chair next to the bed.
“It's all my fault,” the mom said as she began to sob. 
Alex glanced back at the parents not sure what to say. He was never good with parents much less crying parents.
“Hey, hey, Emily, look at me,” Jo said in that soft and calming voice that washed over them like ocean waves. “It's not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong. I've been with you throughout this entire pregnancy and I know that you didn't do anything wrong. Sometimes birth defects just happen no matter what we do or how well we take care of ourselves while pregnant. It's not your fault, and despite this rocky start your baby is going to be just fine.”
“Really?” the dad asked, still unsure.
“Trust me, Michael,” Jo said, with a reassuring smile. “Jordan is going to be just fine and you can trust Dr. Karev too, he's the best Pediatric surgeon I've ever worked with.”
Alex had to tear his eyes away from Jo and he could hear the mom take a deep breath behind him. He quickly finished checking over Jordan and swaddled the baby. Jo had finished with the mom and she tucked the blankets around Emily. Alex brought the baby back over and sat them in Emily's arms. 
“Are you going to take him to the NICU or something,” Michael asked as he looked down at Jordan.
“Nope,” Alex said, shaking his head and putting his hands on his waist as he stepped back.
“Why not?” Emily asked in disbelief as she looked down at her baby. “Doesn’t he need to be monitored or something?”
“All of that can be done right here,” Jo assured them with a nod.
“Dr. umm... Wilson is correct, with a cleft palate one of our main concerns is feeding. Given that the gap is just in his lip and hard palate I suspect that he won't have too many issues. I’ll be around to keep an eye on him and we can see how he does. Otherwise, his prognosis looks pretty good. Will have him fitted with a palatal obturator before you leave which will fill the gap in his lips and palate until we can do surgery which usually will do around the time he’s a year old. It’s still a long journey, but for now, there's nothing we need to do.”
The parents seem to take his words in stride as they cautiously look down at their little baby. Alex thought that he should say a few more comforting words, but nothing came to him.
“So for now you just hold that baby close,” Jo said, as she moved to the end of the bed. “Get to know each other and I'll have a Lactation Consultant come by in a few minutes and we'll see how he does on the breast before we consider a bottle or tube feeds. I know how important it was for you to breastfeed and I’ll page Dr. Karev after that.” 
Alex wasn't surprised that Jo didn't directly address him and he didn't take it personally. He wasn't even supposed to be on her cases, but Hayes was in an emergency surgery and he didn't know Jo was the primary OB.
“Thank you,” Emily said looking at them. 
“Yes, thank you,” Michael said looking up at them for a second before their baby captured their attention again. 
“You're welcome,” Jo said as she beamed with a smile and Alex just smiled and nodded at the parents. He smiled at Jo too, before he remembered his place and looked away from her. 
The two of them stepped out and Alex sent the intern off to page Avery so they could get a good plan for the cleft palate in place. As he finished up the chart for baby Jordan, he lingered at the nurse’s station and watched as Jo finished her chart work. When he walked into the room he didn't recognize that it was her in the pink scrubs. Alex had never worked with Jo before and Meredith was right, Jo was amazing.
“You're really good with the parents,” Alex said, trying to seem nonchalant as he spoke. He took a chance to look up from the chart and glanced at her. Jo had paused, and she didn't look at him, but she didn't walk away either so he continued. “I was surprised when you switched specialties. I always thought that you would follow in Meredith's footsteps in the two of you would be co-heads of general surgery, but now that I've seen you work. I see why you switched, plus the pink scrubs look good on you.” 
Alex smiled as he reached over to tug the hem of her pink sleeve, but the second he touched her, she turned away and took a step back.
“Don't,” Jo said, turning to look at him, setting him with a glare that he knew better than to argue with. “Don't do that, don't flirt with me, Alex.”
“I wasn't, I was just talking...”
“No, you were flirting. I know because you’ve flirted with me for years,” Jo said, crossing her arms as she raised a single eyebrow at him. 
She was right of course, he was flirting with her. It wasn’t intentional, but it just came so naturally to him, to flirt with Jo. To sweet-talk her until she smiled and laughed and kissed him. But as he looked at her, Alex saw only anger, and he knew her anger too. Alex was all too familiar with Jo’s anger, just as much as he was familiar with her happiness. 
“You're right, I'm sorry, Jo. I just, I just wanted to be able to talk to you again,” Alex said looking over at her and watching her I soften the little at the edges before she shook her head and scoffed, turning back to the chart on her tablet.
“You don't get to do that either, Alex. You don't get to come back and just expect me to forgive you because a year has passed and we work together now. There's a reason I ask for Hayes every time I have a case that requires a Peds doctor. I don't want to work with you. I don't want to be your friend. I want you to pass me in the halls and look the other way because you left.”
Jo trailed off, she took a deep breath and Alex could hear her getting choked up and he hated himself for it. All this pain, and anger, and sadness were because of him and his decisions. 
“You left. You did the one thing, the one thing you told me you'd never do. Whenever I got squirrely or insecure about my place in your house, in your life, whenever Meredith kicked me out of our bed, when I found the goddamn papers with your and Izzie’s embryos you assured me that you’d never leave. You know I think about that night all the time, the twins would have been what, a year old by then, and we didn't even know. That night you came home and you told me you weren't going anywhere, but then you left. You made the choice between me and Izzie and you chose her and I am done being your second choice.”
Jo pushed away from the nurse's station and quickly walked away. Alex knew he shouldn't, but he couldn't help but chase after her. He owed her an explanation even if it was the last thing he ever said to her. 
“I didn't choose between you and Izzie, Jo. It was never a choice between you and Izzie…”
“Yes, it was,” Jo said pausing and turning around so fast he almost ran into her. “Don't give me the crap about how it was between your kids and me. We tried for a baby the day you left. I know we hadn’t been trying for very long, but we were ready. I thought you were ready to have a family with me. I joked that I'd take the test and present you with the positive pregnancy test at the airport and you said to text you the day my period was due so we could find out together. Instead, I took that test with Meredith and she was the one who reassured me that we could try again.”
Alex’s shoulders fell as he looked down at the floor. He remembered that conversation all too well, he remembered the way that she'd climbed on top of him that morning and how she kissed him as they had sex. He remembered how she smiled when she said that she would announce it to him at the airport in front of everybody. He remembered how excited she was to be a mom and how excited he was to be a dad, but at the time he was already a dad to the twins. He remembered the sheer disappointment he felt when she texted him that she wasn’t pregnant and how he wished he was there to comfort her.
“What would you have done if I was pregnant? Who would you have chosen them? Would you have made our kid fly halfway across the country so you could co-parent with Izzie? Because you sure as hell didn't want to co-parent with me.” Jo yelled, as her anger faded into hurt as tears collected in her eyes. “Or did you just divorce me because I couldn’t give you a child?” 
“No, of course not, Jo,” Alex pleaded with her that she would believe him. 
“Really then why? Why did you leave me?” Jo cried out as her tears started to fall, but she didn’t falter, she just stood there, demanding answers to her questions.
Alex tried to answer her. There was so much he wanted to say, but it was all this big complicated mess and he didn’t know how to begin. He stood there like the fool he was with his mouth open like a fish as he tried to figure out how to explain it all to her.
Jo shook her head and wiped away her tears, “Yeah, that's what I thought.”
She turned and walked away. Alex knew he couldn’t let her go without telling her what she needed to hear, Jo deserved to know the full story and to know why he left her, despite how much he loved her. Maybe it wouldn't make things easier and it certainly wouldn't make things right. However, Jo deserved the full story, and Alex didn't want her ever thinking that he chose Izzie over her.
“Do you remember what it was like for Meredith when Derek was in DC?” Alex yelled as Jo paused in the hallway, but this time she didn't turn around to look at him. 
“I know you do because she crawled in our bed nearly every night. I remember how hard it was for her to have her life here but have her husband in DC. Meredith was a mess and every time she saw Derek they fought. For a year, they fought, and for a year, Meredith was miserable. I know that before Derek died they were working things out but I didn't know how we could work things out without going through something similar. I didn't know how to continue my marriage with you and be a father to my twins without hurting you.”
Alex walked towards her, the hallway was empty as most of the nurses and other staff must of had the good sense to stay out of their way. Jo didn't turn around and he walked forward until they were just a foot apart. Alex could hear her breathing in and out and he could smell the scent of her perfume and shampoo, lavender, and sage. It was still the same as when they were married and he remembered how the scent used to linger on his clothes. He used to love it. It was a gentle reminder of her in his life. Now his clothes just smell like his cologne and his kid’s laundry detergent because he didn't bother washing his clothes separately.
“I knew that if I tried to co-parent with you, I would be torn between Kansas and Seattle and I would have spent half my time there and half my time here. I knew that I’d tear you apart too and I loved you too much to do that to you, Jo. You had everything you’ve ever wanted in Seattle and you'd be miserable if we moved, to Kansas. I thought that you would begin to resent me because you wouldn't be my only priority, but I couldn't make Alexis and Eli my second priority after I had missed so much of their life already.”
“I knew that you would be okay because you had Meredith and Link, and I knew that you would go on, you would move on and you would do amazing things and you did. You adopted a baby and you switch specialties and you have this whole big life and career and you did it without me and I am so proud of you.”
“For what it's worth I’m sorry that I didn't give you a choice in any of this. It felt like I was holding two stones and I dropped you instead of taking the hard route and figuring out how to carry them both. So yeah, I regret leaving you. Leaving you was the worst mistake I've ever made and I will spend the rest of my life knowing that my life will never be as good as it was when I was with you. I'm a coward and I'm a runner, Jo. Even after all these years, but I'm done running and I'm trying to fix the relationships that I broke. That's why I'm back in Seattle and you were right, you made it so I could never love again, not unless it’s you.”
Alex didn't expect her to react to his declaration of love it just sort of tumbled out of his lips and he let his words hang between them. His words were messy and it probably didn't make half as much sense as it did in his head, but at least she knew everything now. Jo continued to just stand there in the hallway, her back was to him in those pink scrubs. 
The more he stared at her the more he realized how much he had overstepped with her. Alex knew he shouldn’t have tried to talk to her. He made it seem like he was trying to worm his way back into her life. That was something Paul would have done and he wasn’t Paul. Everything he did around Jo, he tried to be aware of how his actions affected her as he didn't want to hurt her.
“I'm sorry, I'll be respectful of your boundaries going forward and I'll try and make sure Hayes is on your cases as much as possible.”
Alex took a step back and then another, walking backward for a second and just watching Jo as she continued to stand there in the middle of the hallway. Then he took a deep breath, turned around, and walked away. What he didn't see was how Jo turned around and watched him go.
……………………………………………………………………
AN: Okay, so I wasn't sure about Alex's big speech to Jo. I rewrote it and edited it a million times before I finally settled on this version. I wanted him to have an explanation that seemed reasonable and I think this kind of makes sense, but I'm not sure. I also kind of intentionally made it a little messy, because I figured Alex of all people isn't really the best at speeches, but let me know what you think of it?
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mera-shifts · 3 months ago
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“Isobel!”
The girl turned around to find where the voice came from. But, she didn’t see where until her father, Rowan, came running towards her.
“Isobel,” he cried once more before he stopped dead in his tracks and collapsed to the ground. Isobel ran to him and fell next to him. A knife sticking out of his chest and blood sputtering out of his mouth and slipping down the sides of his face.
“Dad!” she screamed, “SOMEONE HELP PLEASE!!!” she cradled his head in her hands. “Dad Please stay you’ll be ok.” she practically begged voice shaky and breaking. She looked behind her to see none other than Jackson Hale.
Smirking while holding a matching knife to the one in her father’s chest then he turned a ran away
“Izz, leave me here, go,” he stuttered whilst grabbing her hand and holding it in his own.
“No! Shut up,” she shouted trying to keep the tears at bay and from spilling like rivers. “You’ll be ok.”
Jasmine came running over kneeling next to a sobbing Isobel. “Izzie we need to go,” she stated quietly
“Go-” he coughed. More blood. He was finding it more difficult to keep his eyes open
“NO! We can’t leave him.” she looked at her friend. Eyes red a puffy full of pain and sorrow her lip quivering trying to stop the tears, “Please,” she whispered so quietly even she could barely hear it.
She couldn’t lose him. Not again he promised he would stay and not leave.
12 years ago
Isobel was holding a crying Corey in her room while her parents were arguing. Yelling was all she could here.
Sure her parents fought sometimes, maybe more than necessary, But that was normal. Right?
But it was never this bad.
“It’ll be ok Corey. Mommy and Daddy are just talking,” she tried her best to stop him from crying, “Really, really, loud.”
“Where are you going?” she heard her mom ask, “You can’t just leave! What about the kids?”
Isobel ran out of her room to see her dad walking towards the door.
“Daddy?” she called and he stopped, “Where are you going?”
He turned and knelt down to her level, “I’m going away for a little while. I’ll be back though, okay? I Promise.” he reassured her gentley placing his hand on her cheek.
“Pinky promise?” she asked, sticking out her tiny finger.
“Pinky Promise.” he said linking it with hers. He gave her a hug and left.
She waited.
Months.
Years.
And he still didn’t come home. She eventually learned that he wasn’t ever coming back.
He can’t go again. He can’t.
“Isobel he won’t make it to the camp.” jasmine said trying to get some sense into her.
“Girls! We have to go,” Oliver came running over out of breathe and sweaty.
“She won’t leave him,” Jasmine gestured to her friend. She undertood why. She would do the same thing.
“NO, LET ME GO!” Isobel kicked and screamed as Oliver grabbed her and started running. “PLEASE! PLEASE LET ME GO!” the desperation and pain in her voice was heartbreaking
The whispers of an “I love you” rested on his lips
But she never heard it.
But she swears she heard the echo of Jackson’s evil laugh ringing in her head
A/N: its kinda shitty but eh whatever on a second note, Rowan is a character fashioned after my bio dad and 10 year od me HATED him and Kinda wanted to kill him for causing me so much pain and stuff, so 10 year old me, would probably be very proud.
@choke-me-pansy
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forever-rogue · 3 months ago
Ah, requests <3 Yay! First of all, congrats on the milestone Patricia. I would like a story with our favorite sweet boy FRANKIE Morales and the following prompt: From List 1: 95 AND 109 , if you feel up for it ;)
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95. “I don’t know why I’m crying.” & 109. “I just want to be alone right now.”
Hmmm, I see! You would like some pain!
Frankie Morales x Fem!Reader ; warnings: mentions of depression, drug use
Frankie Masterlist
»»————- ♡ ————-««
You sighed lightly as you noticed the empty, distracted look in Frankie’s eyes. He’d barely spoken a word since you’d both sat down for dinner. Isabella was cooing and babbling away happily as you fed her, oblivious to any tension between the two of you. You ruffled her dark curls before wiping the corners of her mouth. You loved her just as much as you loved her father, but lately he had seemed...different - closed off and distant. It had come on suddenly, and you couldn’t help but wonder if you’d done something. But hells, you wouldn’t know because he wouldn’t talk about a goddamn thing.
“Frankie - baby?” you nudged his foot under the table with yours and he snapped back into reality, turning to you with a weak smile, “is everything okay, love?”
“Yes,” he promised, but it was a weak lie you could both see through, “just...tired is all. Long week at work.”
“Yeah?” you asked as he nodded slowly; Isabella turned to him and grinned at him, and for a moment you could see a real smile flicker across his features, “I love you, Francisco. We both do. You know that…”
“I know,” he promised, and despite his lukewarm attitude, you knew he was being honest, “I love you too.”
It was short and seemingly hollow, but you knew he would never speak those words unless he actually meant them. You relaxed a little, but your guard was still up. You would find out whatever was plaguing him.
»»————- ♡ ————-««
And so it carried on for a few weeks - he was half there and half gone. You could only take so much before you finally snapped and needed answers; but those answers you weren’t seemingly going to get from Francisco himself.
“Bee?” the man on the other line sounded as though he was in the middle of working but stopped immediately when he heard you on the other end, "what's wrong, honey?"
“Hi Santi,” you whispered into the phone as you tried to keep from crying, finding it difficult as your voice cracked, “can you come over? I need you.”
"I'll be over in twenty." 
"Thank you," you whispered as you hung up the phone. Isabella looked up at you from the floor, waving one of her small stuffies around as you smiled at her. You walked over to her and bent down before scooping her up in your arms and clutching her tightly to your chest, "look at you my pretty girl! I love you so much, mi amor. More than you can even know!"
The little girl looked at you with a serious expression before breaking into a fit of giggles and throwing her arms around your neck. At least you had this little light to keep you sane right now.
»»————- ♡ ————-««
It wasn't long before Santi arrived, knocking gently at the door. You opened, still bouncing the baby on your hip as he beamed at the both of you. She reached for him immediately and Santi didn't hesitate to take her from your arms.
"See, baby, I promised your Tio would come," you smiled as you let him in and closed the door, looking around to make sure Frankie hadn't somehow come home.
"What's going on?" he asked when you rejoined him in the living, taking a spot on the couch and curling your legs up under you. Isabella was already falling asleep on his lap, a peaceful little look on her face. It was amazing just how much like Frankie was - from her dark curls and eyes, to the pouty lips, and the expression she wore as she slept. There was no doubt that she was his daughter.
Opening and closing your mouth a few times, you tried to find the words to describe what was going on. And suddenly you found yourself unable. It all seemed so pointless, so bleak, and tears were already welling up in your eyes. Reaching up to wipe them away, you couldn't help yourself but let them flow freely as your lips trembled, "s-s-sorry Santi. I don't why I'm crying...already."
"Its okay," he reached over and gave your shoulder a gentle squeeze as you nodded, "take your time...is it Fish?"
"Mhmm," you managed to choke out in between small sniffles, "he's been so distant lately and I don't...he won't tell me what's going on no matter how much I ask. I don't want to push him away but he's just shutting me out. I love him so much, Santi, I just want him to be okay."
"Shhh," he reached over and helped to wipe away some of your tears, "its okay, Bee. Please don't think it's you - you know he loves and you and Izzy more than anything else. That much you never have to question."
"I know," you nodded slightly, "I just want him to know that I love him as much as he does us. I just want him to be okay, but I don't know how to help him when he's like this."
"You don't think he's…"
"No," you stated firmly, knowing that despite his struggles he was still clean and wouldn't go back to using drugs to get by or cope with his problems, "he's good. I know...he would never. I just don't know what's going on in his head, but I feel the more I ask the more he closes up."
"Maybe he's just-"
"Hey," Frankie's voice cut into your conversation as you both turned to look at him. All the blood rushed out of your face as you tried to read the expression on his face, "what's going on?"
"Fish, my brother, what's been going on with you?" Santi turned towards him, making sure not to disturb the baby that was snoozing on his chest, "Bee says-"
"Nothing's going on Santi," he said sharply before leaving down the hall and to your bedroom and lightly slamming the door shut. You gave Santi a despondent look before he nodded, motioned in the direction of the door.
"Go and talk to him," he suggested the obvious as you swallowed the lump in your throat before standing up, "I'll take care of her. You know what you need to do."
You slowly passed him and padded down the hall, your heart thumping like mad in your chest as you made your way to the bedroom. Hoping this would go well, praying it would go well because all you wanted was nothing but the best for Frankie, you raised your hand to the door and slowly knocked on it. After a few moments, you heard an audible sigh from the other side of the door.
"I just want to be alone right now," he called out - it wasn't biting or venomous, but it was still enough to make your heart drop.
"Francisco," you said softly, "please don't shut me out. Please just talk to me, love."
It was a few tense moments of silence before you heard the tell tale creak of the floor as he got up and crossed the room, hesitating for a moment before opening the door. When he opened the door and revealed himself, you slowly met his soft brown eyes and offered him a weak smile. You could see that his eyes were glossy too and immediately, without even hesitating, you reached up and touched his cheeks, tracing over his cheek.
Frankie keened into your touch with a heavy sigh as decided to just pull him into a hug. You didn't care if the moment didn't care for it or whatever. You just want to hold him.
And he melted into your touch like it was nothing; his body perfecting melding into yours as you held him and rubbed his back, whispering sweet reassures to him. 
"Its okay, Frankie," you kissed the side of his head as he buried his face into your shoulder, wetting the fabric of your shirt with a few tears, "I've got you. I've always got you, my love. I love you so damn much."
"I'm sorry," you heard him mumble softly as you scooted him closer to the bed and pushed him gently to sit down. He rubbed at his eyes for a moment before exhaling deeply, "I'm so sorry."
"What on earth are you sorry for, Frankie?" you raked a hand through his curls lightly scratching at his scalp, "you've done nothing, honey. Nothing's happened."
"I have failed as a father and a husband," he stared at the floor as you made a small sound of surprise, "I don't know why you haven't taken the baby and left me too."
"Francisco Morales," you got on your knees in front of him and immediately grabbed his face to look at yours, delicately but firmly, "what on earth are you talking about? Where is this coming from?"
"My wife left me and abandoned our daughter, my daughter probably hates me, and then there's you. I have nothing to offer you, my Honey Bee, but I've tricked you into thinking I'm this good man," you could tell that he'd been thinking about this a lot, his face twisted with worry, "I'm just waiting for the day you discover that I’m nothing and leave."
"Francisco, you are nothing of the sort. I love you so much, and so does Izzy. That girl adores you and so do I," you promised him, hoping that he believed you, "your ex wife leaving has nothing to do with you. That's on her, Frankie. Besides - what kind of person just abandons their baby and husband? That says more about her than you."
"I...still. Look at me," he sighed lightly, "what can I give you? I'm a vet with more problems than I know what to do with. You deserve the world and I feel like I'm dragging you down. You could do so much better."
"And what about you, Francisco?" leaning up, you kissed him gently, "all I see is a good man that is trying his best and gives us all so much love. I am never happier than when I'm with you or Izzy. You make me feel so loved, so happy - Frankie, you make everything so much better. The two of you are my everything.”
“I am-”
“Amazing? Kind? Wonderful? Funny? Handsome?” you quickly cut off his train of thought before he could get too derailed and self-deprecating, “I know it can be hard for you to see that, but please know it’s true. Please know that you are everything. I will do whatever it takes for you to realize that.”
“Even if…” he stopped and looked at you with the sweetest eyes you had ever seen and you just nodded, “I feel so...useless sometimes. I see you and you’re so amazing, a wonderful mother, and...I feel like I could do so much more for you. Like you’d be happier and better off without me.”
“I would be so much worse without you,” you promised him, meaning every single word, “I love you, and means every part and parcel of you. All the good and bad, all the light and dark. But that will never change how I feel about you. I will always love you, today, tomorrow, and forever. So will Izzy. We’re a family, Frankie. And that means we work together through everything.”
“I love you,” he whispered softly as you wiped away the tears that had rolled down his cheeks, “more than you will ever know. I just worry if it...if it gets really bad…”
“I’m not going anywhere, Francisco,” you insisted as he helped to maneuver you into his lap, “and I swear that’s not going to change. If you need help, outside help, or just someone else, we’ll get you all the help you need, baby. We’ll figure this out - together.”
“I love you, Honey Bee,” he pressed his forehead against yours, “you are and Izzy are the best things to happen to me. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“And that’s just how we feel about you,” you pressed a kiss to his nose, “you never have to shy away from anything with me. You know that.”
“I do,” he agreed, “I’ve always known...I just got tripped up along the way. I’m sorry for shutting you out.”
“It’s okay,” you kissed lips tenderly, “it’s okay. Sometimes we trip up along the way, and that’s fine. I just want you to know you will always have us by your side, through the good and the bad.”
“What did I do to deserve you?” you felt him smile, actually smile, against your lips, “I am the luckiest man.”
“Funny how I feel the same about you, silly man,” you wrapped your arms around his neck and held him close, “should we get Izzy? I’m sure Santi didn’t come just to babysit.”
“Did you call him because of me? To ask?”
“I figured if anyone knows you as well as I do, it’s him,” you admitted shly, “I just wanted to make sure you were okay...maybe if you wouldn’t talk to me, you’d talk to him.”
“All that for me?”
“I would do anything for you.”
“I love you, Bee,” he laid back down on the bed and pulled you on top of him, “so much. Now let’s say we just...stay in here for a few?”
“Frankie!” your eyes widened at his suggestion before you giggled, “Santi did not come here for that!”
“He’s bonding with his niece,” Frankie grinned, “it’ll be fine, he can hang around for a while.”
“You’re explaining this to him!”
“Fair enough,” he agreed with a wicked little grin, “now please, let me hold and love you. Because I do. I love you so much.”
“I love you too, Francisco. You and Izzy are my everything.”
»»————- ♡ ————-««
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galaxina-the-pyro · 3 months ago
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A Cure That Ails You
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"IT'S NOT FAIR!" "I'm sure it's not, hon..." "Like, he asks me to all these things NOW?! While I'm trying to get over him?! That oblivious, kerfluffin-!" Schnitzel sighed deeply, rolling her eyes towards a sobbing mess of a seventeen-year-old Isabella. In hindsight, this was all on the former Fireside Girl - Phineas had asked her out to some stupid festival that Danville was setting up. Isabella turned him down. Phineas was disappointed but never once felt upset over Isabella's answer, only telling her that he'll still meet up with her at the festival or whatever with whomever she was gonna go with. She told him that that one kid named...uh...what was it...Everett? No, wait, that was the bastard who broke her heart after her Bat Quincinera Mitzvah party thing. That other boy who started showing signs of having a thing for Isabella was that one kid with that completely fake British accent. Bland and forgettable to Schnitzel, though Isabella fawned over the kid's sense of humor at the very least. Humor was important in a relationship. But if Schnitzel remembered this particular kid, she remembered that he seemed much more...flamboyant for someone Isabella would be pursuing. Not that Phineas didn't have those moments, it was more like this particular kid- "CLINTON!" Schnitzel shouted, "That's his name! Clinton, right?" Isabella whined. "Yes, Clinton," she leaned her head back against her couch, covered in crumbs of cookie dough and chips, "He already asked me before...before he did. I told him I was gonna think about it..." She scooped another clump of cookie dough into her mouth and chewed. Schnitzel examined her jaw bobbing up and down like a well-oiled garbage disposal. "Don't you like that kid?" she asked, "You told your other friends you liked him, anyway. They won't shut up about how..." she trailed off and shook her head, "You flipping lied to them, didn't you?" Isabella threw her hands up into the air, nearly sending her spoon flying into the air in the process. "They wouldn't shut up about it!" she cried out, mouth still full of dough, "The girls kept pushing how I shouldn't give up on him just yet!" she had the sense to swallow before she could choke on a chocolate chip, "That we were meant to be! Love knows no limits! You have to wait for it-UGH! I just-I couldn't take it anymore!" "I get what you're saying, kid," Schnitzel frowned deeply, "But that's not a cool thing to do to a guy like Clinton. He's a cool...well...nice dude, at least. Leading him on is kind of a jerk move on your end." The fat woman could feel the sense of irritation drooling from Isabella's tone as she turned to face her. Isabella sighed. "You really can't tell?" she asked with a raised eyebrow, "Clinton's gay. Like, really, really gay." Schnitzel was taken aback, but not by much. "...then," she paused, "Then why is he-?" "He's not out of the closet yet," Isabella shrugged, "I and another one of his friends are the only ones who know. Though honestly, I'm surprised no one's figured it out by now. It's kinda obvious." Schnitzel blinked. "I mean, I figured," she admitted, "But, like...why would he be pretending to-," she facepalmed, "Oh, duh, this is a setup. You're trying to cover up your crush, he's trying to cover up his," she smirked, "Which one of your friends is he pining for?" "Buford," Isabella said, "Totally Buford. He hangs out with him the most. The two like to jerk around with each other." Schnitzel nodded, smiling for a moment before she noticed Isabella slumping back into a depressed pile. The former villainess scowled slightly at the sight, having hoped changing the conversation to that of Clinton's dilemma would snap Isabella away from what happened with her and Phineas. Schnitzel picked up one of the empty cookie dough canisters and lifted it up for examination. "You know," Schnitzel said slowly, "You really don't have to lie to your friends. Just talk to them. Explain that you don't appreciate-." "They wouldn't understand," Isabella insisted, "They only ever backed off when I was with...you know...and now they're kinda backing off now that I'm...interested in Clinton, you know? I...I wanna keep it that way." "It's a dumb move," Schnitzel stated bluntly, "But...I see why you're doing it...at least partly," she turned the cannister, looking for the ingredients - the odor of the dough making her lick her lips, "Your friends mean well. They do. They shouldn't push this stuff, but they definitely care," she looked over at Isabella with a frown, "But maybe you're backing the wrong horse here, too?" Isabella squinted her eyes at the greying woman in her early fifties at best. "What do you mean?" she practically scowled. "I mean that maybe," Schnitzel leaned back slightly, not looking at Isabella, "Maybe they have a point...I'm not saying you should go back to how things used to be," she briefly placed the plastic onto her lap, "It's good to take breaks. Learned that from experience," she turned to the teen carefully, "But...is giving up on the kid entirely really what you want? Or do you think it's what you have to do because you need to start 'growing up' and moving passed those supposedly childish endeavors?" "I can't revolve my entire being to him all the time," Isabella insisted, "I'm more than that!" "Yeah, well," Schnitzel drummed her fingers on the bottom of the plastic canister, "Who said you had to give up on being with Phineas in order to do that?" Schnitzel regretted her choice words, regretted the look of sheer agony that graced Isabella's face from hearing the name of her heart's desire ring in her ears. The floodgates reopened as the strong, fearless leader, Isabella, once again succumbed to a sniveling mess. Schnitzel let out another deep sigh as she returned to examining the cannister. "Why does the world hate me?!" "Heck if I know." "I don't understand why emotions work the way they do! Why can't I just MOVE THE HECK ON?!" "Feel ya, girl. I really do," Schnitzel lit up, "OH! Here it is! Ingredients!" Isabella wailed, "H-he's just so PERFECT, Alice," she insisted, "Why must he make it so hard for me to move on from?! Why does he feel the need to squeeze at my heart?!" The broken sobs that followed were bone-shattering, even for Schnitzel. A wave of guilt washed over onto her, even as her eyes refused to leave to words on the container. "Oh, Isa..." she paused upon looking at the part of the container that specifically said 'do not consumer before baking' in bold letters, wondering why she hadn't noticed that before; she glanced around the empty as well as the partly empty containers on the ground, and barely noticed the large black garbage bag beside Isabella, slowly putting two and two together, "...uh...Isabella, how much cookie dough have you been eating?" Isabella's response was a mere hiccup and a cough, having nearly choked on some more cookie dough. "Why won't Phineas love me?" she sobbed before hugging her current container close to her chest like it was her offspring. Schnitzel swallowed some air and slowly stood up, the container in hand. "Ooooookay, that's enough cookie dough, Is," she looked at the container once more and gaped, "Why...why would you buy cookie dough that uses unpasteurized eggs?" Isabella coughed again. "Why does THAT matter?" she groaned. "Well," Schnitzel walked towards the garbage bag, opened it, and saw a lot of containers and empty chip bags of varying flavors, "Raw cookie dough already gives you a strong likelihood of getting foodborne diseases," Schnitzel failed to notice Isabella's coughing suddenly turning into gagging, "But when you use unpasteurized products, it also gives you the high risk of getting-" Schnitzel cringed as she heard Isabella lurch forward and, for lack of a better word, tossed up her cookies all over her feet. The woman need not turn to look at the poor child, but did so anyway and sighed as Isabella trembled in a bent up position, whimpering. "...salmonella." (~) "Oh, Izzy...oh you poor baby..." Isabella moaned as she leaned against the toilet, feeling Phineas' hands gently rubbing her back. He sighed and shook his head, as if somewhat disappointed in her. It was both painful to see, yet far more comforting than any medicine would do for her right now. "You really should be more careful," he said sternly, "What compelled you to eat all of that anyway?" "I was," Isabella gagged again and clutched the seat, wincing, waiting...but nothing came; she slowly turned back to Phineas and swallowed dryly, "Clinton broke it off with me. I...I didn't take it well." The look on Phineas' face was as heartbroken as it made Isabella feel. She hated to see Phineas look so hurt, even when it was because she was the one in pain. She felt his arms gently wrap around her waist and his chin rest on her head ever slightly. "I'm so sorry," he said, "I know you liked him a lot." "I...yeah," Isabella laughed softly, "I did...I do...but..." her chuckles became shaken, "Phineas, I...I need to..." she fought the need to wretch as the words echoed in her mind like a broken record. "Who said you had to give up on being with Phineas...?" "Isabella?" Isabella could barely turn to look at Phineas like her neck was locked into place. But from the corner of her eyes, she could see the kindness and love that Phineas had on his face. Platonic or not, that love was real - that love was far more than worth fighting for. Worth pursuing even. He proved that by coming over today on such short notice. He proved that by dropping everything just to go see if she was doing okay. He loved her. He loved her so much... "I lied." Phineas blinked, tilting his head. "Lied?" he asked, "About what?" Isabella breathed slowly. "About me and Clinton," she explained, "I made it-made it all up," she sucked up on some air and choked in down, "I'm so, so sorry, I was," the tears poured, "I was just so tired of it all...they had so many expectations for me," she shook her head, "I just couldn't stand it. I wanted to prove I could really stand on my own." "What are you talking about?" Phineas seemed to pull in closer to Isabella, his voice filled with...hope, perhaps? Isabella wasn't entirely sure. But she desperately wanted that to be the case. That would make this so much easier to do. "From the day I met you," Isabella paused, "No, that's silly...for a long time, since we were little," she grimaced, "I felt strong feelings for you...I...loved you...and whether I wanted to or not, I," she almost broke out into a sob, the pain too much for her to handle as her stomach twisted, "I still love you. I still want you. I wish I was," she shook, "I wish I was strong enough to have told you this when-." "Izzy." Isabella flinched at her nickname, her body finally allowing her to turn and look at Phineas, who pulled his arms away from her. He cupped her face. A tender grin formed on the boy's face as he rubbed his thumb across her cheek to wipe away a stray tear. "Izzy," he repeated, "I always-." Before he could finish, Isabella gasped out in agony and turned back to the loo, chundering once more. Phineas immediately went into position, lifting up Isabella's hair, serenely humming as she finished, a worried frown still in place even as he continued to try and soothe her. Once Isabella had finished, she looked over at Phineas, a shaken up smile forming. He opened his mouth to finish his previous statement before the door opened. "I'm back with some water," Schnitzel stated walking in slowly, looking around, "Were you...talking to someone?" Isabella was afraid to look away from Schnitzel. She was afraid to look behind her. She really didn't have to. She already knew the truth, anyway. But that didn't mean it wouldn't hurt her to see the confirmation first hand. And yet her head turned. Like an idiot, she looked, a small, stupid bead of hope shining in her chest. The same one that refused to die like the rest of it. And the fruits of that hope was met with an empty spot where Phineas was once kneeling at. Some hair that he had been caressing slid onto her skin as she sniffed. Schnitzel took another step closer. "Isabella?" The automatic action of any human being with even the smallest shred of decency was to immediately reached down and clutch the poor, sobbing mess close to her. The once ugly tears of over-dramatics had turned into something far more self-destructive. Schnitzel felt this the moment she felt Isabella's tears on her shoulder as she hugged her close. Rather than disappear, the bead of hope in Isabella's chest proceeded to taunt her with small maybe's and what if's before it was briefly drowned away in fragmented sorrow. Who did Isabella think she was kidding? Phineas would never truly feel that way for her, no matter how many times she could've sworn he did.
"Let it out, Izzy," Schnitzel cooed, brushing the girl's black locks between her fingers, "Let it out..."
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echo-bleu · 3 months ago
Text
straight through the smoke (3)
Summary: After Magnus breaks up with Alec and chooses to align with the  Seelie Queen, pulling the Downworld Cabinet with him, Alec is arrested  by the Clave for high treason. Will Magnus find out in time to save him  from a death sentence?
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2
On AO3
Ten minutes left.
Alec stumbles when his guards push him roughly toward the center of the courtyard, struggling to regain his balance with his hands still cuffed in front of him. One of the guards swipes his stele along the cuffs to remove them, and Alec flexes his wrists to help the blood flow back into his hands. He takes a pause to steady himself, then raises his head high and walks the rest of the way.
The large rune carved in the stone of the courtyard hasn’t been used in a long time. There hasn’t been an execution in the New York Institute in over a century. Alec has to fight himself not to look down as he steps in the middle of the rune, instead holding Imogen’s gaze until she looks away.
Beyond the no-man’s-land created by the rune and its safety circle, the courtyard is crowded. They’re all familiar faces, people Alec has led for most of the last decade. There is no hunger, no blood-thirst in their eyes. In fact, the atmosphere of the courtyard is muted and heavy. Disapproving.
Imogen is in front of the crowd, holding an adamas staff. Behind her, the Institute’s core stone of adamas has been set on a small platform, waiting to power the staff. The staff would normally be handled by a Silent Brother, Alec knows, but there must not have been any within the warlocks’ wards. Imogen is taking it upon herself to do the deed, just like she almost did with Valentine – or the man she thought was Valentine. Alec is looking at his executioner.
The anger has settled in him, and then evaporated. There is no time left for bitterness, not when he has mere minutes to live. Imogen doesn’t matter.
He tears his eyes away from her to survey the crowd. Even the youngest Shadowhunters of the Institute are here, some of them barely turned thirteen, and Alec is immensely grateful that his parents took Max back to Alicante as soon as he was stable. He couldn’t stand to look at his little brother today.
He wonders if Imogen has deemed it necessary to inform his parents, if they’re raising hell to save him from this, powerless, in Alicante, or if they secretly think he deserves no less. He’ll never know.
Despite being crammed around the safety circle, his people are standing apart from Imogen’s goons, like they’re showing their disapproval by isolating the Clave’s envoys into a group of their own. The Institute’s Shadowhunters are all standing at attention, in their formal uniforms, the Institute’s insignia on display on their chests. Alec chokes up. Every one of them seems to be wearing the—his Institute’s symbol instead of the more conventional Clave insignia for such an occasion – it’s a deliberate show of support to him, one that Imogen can’t take away from them.
Alec locks eyes with his second-in-command Jens, his mentor, who looks back at him with his gaze full of rage and sorrow. He breaks his stance to place his hand over his insignia, just above his heart. Alec nods at him, trying to make his gratitude apparent in his expression. Jens will handle the Institute until Imogen or the Consul appoints someone else – maybe Jace again, unless his association with Alec has tainted him irremediably.
Alec tries to meet everyone’s eyes, even briefly, in the time Imogen gives him. Sixteen-year-old Kara Svec, a recent transfer from Prague, who Alec has been taking under his wing. She’s crying silently, her head held high, and Alec gives her a tiny smile. Sandra, his favorite IT specialist and Alec’s de facto secretary, since the Clave has yet to assign him a real one. They won’t need to anymore. Andrej, the weapons instructor who replaced Hodge, and his herd of teenage Shadowhunters. Underhill, his brand new Head of Security. Even Lindsay Wayglide and Carson Strongmill, who grumble at each of Alec’s new briefings, are wearing their Institute insignia.
Jace and Izzy are standing at the front, their expressions a mix of horror and trepidation that even their best attempt can’t hide. They’re holding hands tightly, not bothering to stand at attention. It’s clear that they’re still hoping that something will stop the execution, but it’s too late for that now. Alec wishes that he could hug them one last time.
Magnus isn’t there. Alec wonders if he hallucinated his presence yesterday, or if Magnus is out there somewhere, trying to stop Valentine. He has his people to think about. Alec berates himself for hoping that he’d be able to look into his lover’s eyes as he died.
“Alexander Gideon Lightwood, you have been declared guilty of high treason, and sentenced to death by immolation,” Imogen declares, her tone emotionless. “Do you have any last words?”
Alec, turns away from Imogen, clasping his hands behind his back in one last show of respect in the direction of his people. He looks down at the rune on the floor and tries to put his thoughts together, swallowing.
“I was lucky,” he says quietly. The silence in the courtyard seems to grow deeper, expectant. “I was lucky to fall in love with a man as wonderful as Magnus Bane. A man who is a warlock, a Downworlder. Someone that my entire upbringing had conditioned me to despise, and yet the man I met and fell in love with was nothing like what I had been told.”
Alec blinks back the tears coming to his eyes, letting his memories of Magnus wash over him. He can barely remember, now, why their breakup felt so important, why he didn’t run to Magnus and apologize, to spend one more day, one more minute with him. Wasted chances, all of them.
“Nephilim, Downworlders, Mundanes,” he continues, this time raising his head high to meet the eyes boring into him. “We’re all people. When it comes down to it, we’re all the same, with the same faults and the same hopes. I love a Downworlder, and if the Clave is going to execute me for that, then so be it. I am not ashamed, and the only regret I have is that it took me too much time to understand how deeply we Shadowhunters are failing at fulfilling our duty.” Alec turns to look at Imogen, letting his hands fall to his sides. He refuses to show her any more deference. “Our prejudices deform our understanding of the world until it is unrecognizable, and that is how ideas like those of the Circle are born.”
Imogen opens her mouth, but Alec turns away from her again. “The coming times may bring war and grief to our doorstep,” he meets Jens’ gaze. “I am sorry that I will not be there to meet them at your side. But when there comes a time when you have to take a stand, I urge you to think. Is caring for other people a crime that should be punished, just because those people are different from us?
“I love a warlock, and I will not apologize for treating him and his kind like people.”
Alec lowers his head to signify the end of his speech. He traces the rune under his feet with his eyes, once more, then catches Izzy and Jace’s eyes. I love you, he mouths, opening the parabatai bond wide to push through all of his love. They’re the ones who will have to stay behind, and keep fighting.
Jace pushes back fearstrengthlove and Alec nods at him just a fraction. Izzy has tears running down her cheeks. Alec takes all the courage he can get from their gazes and tries to send some back, before he turns back to Imogen. He will not let his siblings see his face as he burns.
Imogen doesn’t look at him as she raises the staff and touches it to the core stone. The entire courtyard seems to hold its breath, watching the tip light up like a stele, ready to activate the fire rune on the floor.
“Pulvis et umbra sumus,” Imogen declares. Her posture tightens when the only ones who repeat it are her Clave soldiers, but she turns her staff to the rune without stalling.
Alec closes his eyes.
This is how his story ends. Burnt to death in the courtyard of his own Institute, under the eyes of his siblings and his people. This is how he dies.
*
Twelve hours left.
“He wasn’t supposed to plead guilty! We were supposed to have more time!”
Isabelle is pacing the length of the small bedroom, while Jace sits immobile on the bed, staring at nothing. He looks in shock, incapable of processing. Clary looks at Magnus with pleading eyes as Jace fails to react to her pats on his arm.
Magnus pinches the bridge of his nose. “The Clave called off the search for Valentine,” he says. “He got through the wards around the city. He’s on his way to Lake Lyn as we speak, and the Consul is going to welcome him with open arms.”
The three Shadowhunters stare at him in shock. “The Consul is part of the Circle?” Isabelle asks with wide eyes.
“Alec said it was the only explanation. I told him during the trial.” Magnus closes his eyes. “Maybe that was a mistake. He pleaded guilty to speed up the trial, so we could get there faster.”
“Fuck!” Jace mutters through his teeth. He rams his fist into the mattress in desperate rage.
“That sounds like Alec,” Isabelle sighs.
“What do we do?” Clary asks, wringing her hands. “We have to stop Valentine, but we can’t let Alec get executed!”
Magnus feels himself flinch at the word once more. Executed. If they don’t find a solution fast, Alec will be burned to death by his own people, for the crime of loving him. Of being a good person, in spite of everything he’s been taught.
Clenching his fists, Magnus forces down the magical outburst he can feel coming and instead conjures a timer. “We have twelve hours,” he says, starting the magical clock with a wave of his hand.
“If Valentine is already in Idris, he’ll be at Lake Lyn long before that,” Isabelle says. Her face distorts before her next sentence. “Stopping him has to be our priority. We can’t let him succeed.”
Magnus shakes his head. “I agree that he’s the priority, but we can’t leave things as they are. This isn’t just about Alec. Even if we succeed in stopping Valentine, if Alec is executed tomorrow and word gets out about why, we’re looking at an all-out war.” He takes a gasping breath, the guilt eating him alive. How much of all this is his fault? He knows, he’s known for centuries that the Seelie Queen can’t be trusted. He chose her side over Alec. And if the war that’s brewing happens, he’ll have doomed his own people as well as Alec.
He leans against the wall, struggling to breathe through the panic. “Magnus?” Isabelle asks, squeezing his arm.
Magnus shakes himself. He can’t give in to the fear. Not yet. “The Seelie Queen betrayed us all. And your Clave is about to execute one of its own Heads for associating with the Downworld. This is a fuse that will blow it up to massive proportions.”
“But what can we do?” Clary asks.
“We need to split up,” Jace breathes, meeting Magnus’ eyes as he understands his intent. “Some of us need to stay behind. To organize.”
“Yes,” Magnus confirms.
They all look at each other for a moment. It’s not an easy decision. “Magnus,” Isabelle says softly. “You’re the best equipped to fight Valentine, especially since Jonathan might be with him.”
Magnus sighs. As loathe as he is to leave Alec, he knows she’s right. “I’ll go. I’ve already spoken to Luke and Raphael, they know where I stand. You can coordinate with them.”
“What about the warlocks?” Clary asks. “There’s still the wards over the city.”
“That’s also why I need to go,” Magnus says. “I’m the only one here who can go through them. I can take one of you with me. The warlocks won’t get involved beyond lowering the wards when I tell them to, unless war is officially declared.”
“The wards are useless now, though,” Isabelle remarks.
“Maybe not,” Jace says. “If you take them down, we expose ourselves to the Clave, and we know we can’t trust them. Right now every Shadowhunter in New York is in the Institute. That could work to our advantage.”
“An insurrection?” Magnus asks curiously.
“Maybe not that far, but Imogen is a minority right now. Our people are loyal to Alec. We may be able to use that to stall, if nothing else.”
Magnus nods. “Buy us more time.” He eyes the timer. “We could use that.”
“Clary, you go with Magnus,” Jace says.
Clary frowns. “You’re a better fighter than I am.”
Jace shakes his head. “You have your runes. And I’m needed here. My name and Izzy’s contacts will go a long way.”
Jace doesn’t add that if Alec is executed, it will incapacitate him and make him useless in a fight, but Magnus can see it on his face.
Clary nods and stands up, checking her pocket for her stele. “Magnus, do you think you could summon me a blade from the armory?” she asks. “I don’t know if we’re still on house arrest, but I’m sure we’ll be watched the second we step out of this room.”
“Of course.” Magnus visualizes the armory the best he can and pulls. The blade he finds in his hand isn’t Clary’s usual one, but Clary doesn’t seem to be bothered as she grabs it and clips it to her belt.
“Alright, Biscuit,” Magnus takes her shoulder. “We can’t waste any more time.”
He watches her hug Jace tightly, then Izzy, and the steel band around his chest tightens a little more at the thought of Alec, alone in a cell, waiting for his execution. He doesn’t let himself wish that they could have had more time, that they could have talked. They will.
“Isabelle,” he says. Isabelle turns to him and hugs him a well, but Magnus can’t quite return the gesture. He’s too tense. “If we don’t make it back in time—”
“We’ll do everything in our power,” Isabelle promises. She doesn’t say what, specifically. She can’t promise more.
Neither can Magnus. “If Valentine succeeds,” he starts instead, swallowing. “Tell Alec that I love him, and I’m so sorry.”
“Oh, Magnus,” Isabelle murmurs. “You’ll get to tell him yourself. Have faith.”
Magnus nods. “I love you, too. Alec is my family now, and that means that so are you.”
“Go kill Valentine for me, then,” Jace says, punching his arm. In another context, it could have seemed callous, even rejecting. But the look on his face says everything, and Magnus suddenly remembers that Valentine raised him. That Valentine is his abuser.
“For all of us,” he chokes out. “Brother.”
They’re brothers in battle now, not just in their connection to Alec. They strive toward the same goal. Jace nods, pursuing his lips in the way he does when he’s trying to hide his emotions.
Magnus opens a portal, layering it with a shield meant to pierce wards, both those of the Institute and the ones around the city. Clary takes his hand, and in a second, they’re gone.
*
Eight hours left.
They’ve set up in the training room. It’s something Alec once started, Izzy remembers, in the first year he took over the Institute. He was sixteen, not even an adult in Nephilim eyes. She remembers that he had to get Jens to sign every single report before he could even send them to their parents because his own signature held no weight, even though he was effectively running an entire Institute.
Their parents still came back for a few days every month back then, and after dressing Alec down for some minor mistake, they’d kicked him out of the Head’s office like his work meant nothing. So Alec had swallowed his pride, changed into workout clothes, and held every single one of his planned meetings in the training room, under the guise of fighting hand-to-hand.
He kept doing that as long as their parents still held some pretense of running the Institute whenever they were in New York. The practice came in handy when first Lydia, then Aldertree and later Imogen took over the Institute and Izzy watched Alec more than once discreetly listen to his people’s complaints and needs while kicking their ass on the training room floor, or letting them pretend to watch him fight Jace or Izzy herself.
Today it’s Izzy and Jace on the mats, sparring without conviction. It’s past midnight, and the benches are full. They’ve had to wait until Imogen retired for the night, leaving only one of her henchmen to watch over the ops center while the Institute works are reduced capacity. They can’t leave the bounds of the city, when they would usually handle calls as far out as New Jersey, and half of the regular patrols have been canceled because of the events of the day. Anything involving Downworlders has been put on indefinite hold.
Izzy straightens with a silent nod to Jace, untangling herself from his grip, and heads back toward the nearest bench to grab her towel. Jens hands her a bottle of water, casually standing up next to her, just outside of the line of sight of the Clave guard in the other room.
“Clary’s training all night,” Izzy says. “I need someone to cover for her. It’s her final exam.”
Jens nods gravely. “Is she on her own?”
“No,” Izzy shakes her head. “She’s getting some help.” She makes a small hand gesture low at her side, imitating Magnus’ style the best she can.
“Good,” Jens nods. “I hope it will be enough.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Izzy sees Jace gesture to her. It looks like he’s got Lindsay to distract the Clave guard, and he has his back to them now. Jace runs his hand across his throat. The sound of the surveillance system has been taken down. The guard won’t notice as long as he’s not looking. They have a few minutes.
She signals the Shadowhunters around her to come closer. They gather around her just as Jace joins them, still looking like an accidental grouping but close enough to listen.
“I think you all know that the crimes Alec is accused of are unfair and that he’s innocent. It looks like the Clave is corrupt far beyond what we thought. I’m reaching out to people we trust to try to overturn this decision, but I need you to be ready.”
“Ready for what?” one of the Shadowhunters asks.
It’s Kara Svec, Alec’s little protegee. She’s at the bottom of the Institute hierarchy, still a trainee, and she’s speaking out of turn, but Izzy doesn’t point it out. She knows it, Izzy can see it on her face. She loves Alec and she’s terrified.
Alec was her age when he took over the Institute, Izzy realizes. She didn’t understand how young that was at the time. They were teenagers, ready to take on the world, and she and Jace must have caused Alec so much trouble with their unruliness. Izzy can barely handle the thought of leading the Institute now, let alone when she was sixteen.
Izzy puts an arm around Kara’s shoulders to comfort her, though the young Shadowhunter is taller than her. “We’re going to do everything we can to get Alec out of this,” she says. It’s looking less and less like they’ll succeed while staying within the bonds of Clave law. Izzy and Jace have tried everything they could already, from calling their parents – they didn’t answer, and Izzy has a feeling that Imogen is purposefully keeping them away – to Jace directly trying to convince Imogen to change her mind. Izzy has been through all of her contacts in Alicante, and the only thing she got was a promise from Aline that she’d call back as soon as she got hold of her mother.
“If we have to, we’ll stop the execution and break Alec out,” Jace says, his voice deep and more confident than he is. “We won’t ask any of you to put yourself in a position to go against the Clave, but we need to know that you won’t stop us.”
Jens steps up at that. “Alec is our Head, and what’s happening is wrong. I am loyal to him before the Clave.” Izzy nods at him. The older Shadowhunter is Alec’s mentor in many ways, the one who taught him how to run the Institute when their parents left. Alec broke traditions when he made Jens his official second-in-command, despite him not being a fieldworker.
“He’s the best commander I’ve ever had,” Underhill declares. “I stand with him. We’ll help in any way we can.”
Kara nods emphatically at that, tears in her eyes, and she’s followed by all of the others. Everyone here has a reason to be thankful to Alec, and that’s exactly why Izzy chose them.
“We’ll do things by the book for as long as possible,” Izzy says. “But be ready. Pass the word to anyone you know you can trust.”
“Time’s up,” Jace signals.
They break ranks immediately, going back to the benches as Jace drags Underhill out to the center of the room. Izzy sits down next to Jens, making a show of unwrapping her hands.
“Whatever happens tomorrow,” she murmurs. “Thank you. For your support, for all these years. Alec wouldn’t have made it without you. None of us would have.”
Jens lowers his head. “I wish I could have protected him more. He took on so much more than he should have had to, and now they’re punishing him for it.”
“Imogen hates Downworlders. Hell, the Clave hates them. Alec knew that when he made his choices, Jens. None of this is your fault.”
“Be careful tomorrow,” Jens whispers. “We’re on the brink of war. If you free Alec and side with the Downworld, you’ll be hunted by every Institute.”
“I hope it won’t come to that, but it’s better than Alec being executed,” Izzy murmurs. She looks around her and spots Kara with her face in her hands, trembling slightly. “Jens, tonight, will you watch over Kara? I’m worried about her. She’s really attached to Alec.” Izzy doesn’t know all the details of the abusive situation she escaped in her previous Institute, run by her father, but she knows enough to know that Alec saved her life by pulling her out. The fear of losing him could pull her right back to the traumatized state she was in when she first got to New York.
“I know,” Jens says sadly. “I’ll take care of her. What about you? Are you going to be okay?”
Jens is one of the few people in the Institute who knows about Izzy still being in recovery, and how stressful the last few months have been.
“I’ll hang on until morning,” Izzy smiles weakly, touched by his concern. “I have Jace. And I have a mission. I’ll be fine.”
*
Two hours left.
“For the last time, the Inquisitor is not allowing any visitors,” the Clave guard growls, his hand ostensibly on the hilt of his seraph blade.
Izzy fights the urge to roll her eyes. “Come on,” she pleads. “He’s my brother. He’s gonna die tomorrow.” She almost chokes on the last sentence, and it’s far less of an act than she’s willing to admit.
No. Alec isn’t going to die. They’re going to get him out of there.
“I have orders,” the guard says. “I’m not letting you through.”
Izzy sighs. She’s been trying to get to Alec for a while, coming back here every hour, but it’s not happening. She turns on her heels and walks back to the elevator. Jace joins her just as she gets out on the third floor and comes with her to her room. “Any luck?” he asks.
“No.”
“Me neither. Still nothing from our parents, and Clary and Magnus aren’t answering their phones.”
“Fuck,” Izzy swears through her teeth. She throws herself on her bed. It puts her face to face with Magnus’ timer, which now read 2:03. They’ve got two hours and three minutes left to save Alec, and they haven’t made any progress. What are they going to do?
The only positive point so far is that Luke and Raphael are still alive, answering their texts, so Valentine hasn’t succeeded in making the Wish. Yet. Clary and Magnus have been out of contact since they portalled to Idris, so there’s no way to know if they’re even alive.
Izzy’s phone buzzes in her hand, and she brings it up to see the text, only now realizing how tightly she’s gripping it. Jace sits down beside her to look over her shoulder.
It’s Aline.
Mom has got the Council together in an emergency meeting. The Consul is out of reach, so she’s calling the shots. What do you need?
Izzy breathes out. Finally, something is moving. Just as she moves to answer, her phone starts ringing.
“It’s Clary,” she breathes. Jace immediately straightens. Izzy taps the screen to answer the video call.
“Clary?”
“Izzy!” Clary’s face appears on the screen, bathes in sunlight. It’s almost midday in Idris. Magnus comes into the frame beside her, and Izzy lets out a breath she didn’t know she held all this time. They both look okay, if a little out of breath.
“We did it,” Clary says. “We got Valentine. He’s dead.”
Izzy closes her eyes in relief – or maybe just exhaustion. Jace says something under his breath and squeezes her against him tightly.
“He raised the Angel, but I got to him before he could make a wish,” Clary continues.
“Thank the Angel,” Izzy sighs. A part of her registers that the Angel she’s thanking is the one who would have annihilated the Downworld on Valentine’s command. “I mean, thank you, in this case. You’re certain he’s dead?”
“Yes,” Clary answers. “Magnus killed him while I talked to the Angel.”
Izzy chokes on her breath at Clary’s nearly casual tone. “You talked to Raziel?”
“Yeah,” Clary laughs. She sounds more shell-shocked than happy. She’s had a long night. They all have, but Clary and Magnus perhaps more than anyone else. “Not my first rodeo with an angel, remember? I told him that we didn’t want to make the Wish today, and he left. The Wish is safe.”
Izzy takes a moment to breathe and process that. It’s too much at the same time, she doesn’t know where to even start, but she has to keep it together. For Alec. Alec needs her to figure out their next step, and the next. He needs her to get him out of this.
The news of Valentine’s death should feel more earth-shattering than it does, but they still have work to do. Izzy puts that aside for now. They can celebrate and think of what almost happened later.
“What about the Consul?” she asks.
“We ran into him while walking to the lake,” Magnus answers. “We had the element of surprise, since he didn’t know we knew he was a traitor. We had to fight off his goons, but I think we got them all. The Consul is dead.”
“Good. Do you have conclusive proof that they were with the Circle?” Jace asks.
“Is this enough?” Clary asks, switching to her phone’s second camera. It moves for a moment before it stops on what is unmistakably Malachi Dieudonné’s face, the Circle rune prominent on his neck. “I think he had a glamour on it that fell when he died.”
“Definitely enough,” Izzy says, taking a screenshot. She thinks for a moment, as Clary brings the camera back on herself and Magnus. “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to get in touch with the Council.” She pauses as Magnus nods. “We need to make sure that you’re untouchable, especially Magnus, in case there are other Circle members in the Council. You record a video of you two explaining exactly what happened tonight. Jace authorized Magnus’ portal as Head of Field Ops and Magnus will get paid for his services, so we’re in the clear on that front. Make sure the video shows Malachi and the Circle rune clearly, and that you don’t implicate yourselves. Then send it to the Institute’s servers. It will make several backups just in case.”
“Okay,” Clary accepts. “We’ll do that. Can we come back now?”
Izzy sighs. “No. I’m sorry, but if you aren’t there when the Council sends a team to the scene, this will all have been for nothing.”
“Alec only has two hours left,” Magnus says, anguish in voice.
“I know, Magnus. I’ll do everything in my power to make sure he’s still alive when you get back, okay? But you can’t leave Idris, or you’ll get thrown in jail too, and it will all have been for nothing.”
Magnus pinches the bridge of his nose, but nods.
“Magnus, can you get the warlocks to bring down the wards? We’ll need you and whoever they send from the Consul to be able to come through.”
“Okay,” Magnus says. “I’ll be there the second they let me go.”
“Me too,” Clary affirms. “Guys. We’re gonna make it through. Valentine’s dead. We’re gonna save Alec. Okay? Just hold it together.”
Izzy takes a breath and gives her a small smile, feeling Jace do something similar at her side. “Thanks, Clary.”
They’re all inches away from crumbling, but they need to hold on for a bit longer. One hour and forty-eight minutes left, according to the timer.
It’s a terrifyingly short amount of time that somehow feels like an eternity. Izzy sends the screenshot of Malachi’s Circle rune to Aline, along with a quick summary of what happened, and transmits Clary and Magnus’ video to the Council as soon as she gets it. Jace paces the length of the bedroom, fists clenched. After a while, Izzy takes his hand and pulls him down to the floor, where they sit cross-legged, across from each other.
“I think Alec could use some calm right now,” Izzy gestures to Jace’s parabatai rune, swallowing her tears. It’s almost seven. Outside, the sun is rising, coming through the stained glass windows.
Jace lets out a near-sob. They still don’t have an answer from the Council, and Clary and Magnus aren’t responding to Izzy’s texts. With no official backup coming, all their plans are crumbling one by one until they’re only left with the last resort.
“Breathe with me, brother,” Izzy murmurs, holding out her hands. “Send him strength. And love.”
Jace links hands with her and closes his eyes.
They don’t move until Jens knocks on the door, fifteen minutes before the end of the timer. “It’s time,” he says when Izzy opens the door. “They’re prepping him.”
Clary and Magnus haven’t made it back.
They’ve run out of time.
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angstysebfan · 3 months ago
Hi, can i request a Sebastian x reader fic where reader has a kid (like 2 or 3) and Seb & reader start dating and they're together for a couple years. Then for whatever reason, they break up but her kid (whos a little older now & obviously got attached to him) is always asking for Seb. And maybe they bump into Sebastian somewhere and you can choose where to go from there?
So sorry for taking so long with this! Hope you like it!
--
Daddy of Mine
You are walking with your 5 year old son, Nathan toward the park. It was the first warmish day of the year, and you promised to take him to play. You have been avoiding this area of the city for awhile because of your ex Sebastian. You haven’t seen him in 6 months, and the pain of that break up is still fresh in your mind and heart, thanks to your son who fell in love with him.
You met Sebastian a little more than 3 years ago. You were shopping for your weekly groceries, exhausted. Ever since your boyfriend, Nathan’s father, walked out on you and your baby boy, you had to do everything yourself. You were thankful for friends to babysit him while you did errands. You loved your son more than anything, but 2 year olds were exhausting.
You pushed your cart into another aisle and suddenly smashed into another cart. You cover your face with your hands in embarrassment, as you kept saying, “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry.” You hear a chuckle and look to see beautiful blue eyes staring at you. You blush even more in embarrassment. You both chatted for a bit, exchanged numbers, and finally went on a date.
It took a few weeks before you told Sebastian about your son. He was awesome about it, and was even more amazing when he met him. You knew then that he was keeper. You both had an amazing relationship, and Seb and Nate were quite the pair. Nate never cared about his real father, because Seb was the perfect father figure for him. 
Everything went to hell about 7 months ago when Seb, again, had to cancel plans with you and Nate because of work. You understood, and Nate tried, but Sebastian felt guilty. He didn’t want to disappoint you both, and it had been happening a lot. He came home from filming, sat you down, and broke your heart into a million pieces. He felt that ending it now would save you, but it did the opposite.
While you were trying to deal with him leaving you, Nate was having a harder time. He cried for Sebastian constantly, wanting to know where he went and why he wasn’t around anymore. I mean Seb was there for most of his life, and now he was just gone. Over the last 6 months, Nate has not asked for Seb as much, but he still asks where he is and if he could call him. Something that still killed you.
You held Nate’s hand as you walked down the city street toward the park, silently praying that the man you are currently thinking about doesn’t make an appearance. But like saying Beetleguise 3 times, you see through the crowd, Sebastian standing on the other side of the intersection.
You can tell he doesn’t notice you at first, and you pray Nate is not paying attention so you can cross the other street and avoid him, but you lock eyes with him. Blue eyes staring into Y/E/C, holding you to your spot. When the crowd starts moving you cautiously step toward Seb, hoping he will just walk the other way and ignore you. Of course luck is not on your side as you see him wait for you on the other side. Nate suddenly sees him and pulls you.
“Sebastian! Mom it’s Sebastian!” he screams, pulling you. Once you get on the sidewalk, you let go and watch your son run toward Seb, who squatted down and scooped him up into a hug. You can’t help the tears that come to your eyes as you see how happy both boys are. You stand back to let them have their moment. You see Seb saying something to Nate, who nods while still holding Seb tightly.
After a few moments, Seb turns his eyes to you and walks over, still holding your son. Nate refuses to lighten his hold on Seb, which breaks your heart. Seb keeps holding him and rubbing his back, “Hey Y/N,” he says to you.
“Sebastian,” you respond, trying to stay calm.
He gives you a small smile, “How have you guys been?” he asks as he continues to rub your sons back.
“Oh ya know, same stuff, different day. Though Nate has obviously missed you,” you say, trying to sound indifferent.
Seb laughs and kisses Nate’s head, who finally lifts off his shoulder. Seb looks at him, “You missed me pal?” Seb asked him.
Nate nodded his head quickly, “I asked about you everyday! Right mom?” 
You looked at Seb with a mix of sadness and anger, “Yes you did,” you said  and cleared your throat. You looked at your son, “Come on Nate. We have to go,” you say.
Nate whines, “Can’t Seb come with us? I want to hang out with him,” he says.
“I’m sure Sebastian has more important things to do and people to see than hang with us,” you say reaching for your son, who wraps his arms tighter around Seb.
You sigh as Seb chuckles, “I’m free. I would love to hang with my little guy,” Seb says petting the back of Nate’s head. 
You look at Seb now with full blow anger, “He isn’t yours. Now please just put him down so we can leave,” you snap.
Seb looks at you for a moment before kissing Nate’s head again and squatting down to put Nate on the ground. He pulls your son back and looks at him, “I’m sorry bud. This is my fault. But you listen to your mom and be a good boy ok? I promise I will fix this and see you soon,” he says before standing up.
“Do you think we could talk?” he asks you. 
You rub your forehead to hide the tears starting to come, “I don’t know. I--” you suddenly feel your throat close as you choke on a sob. 
Seb steps forward and wraps his arms around you, whispering in your ear, “I’m so sorry I hurt you baby. I’ve missed you so much. Both of you. I’m so sorry,” he says.
Along with Sebastian you feel your son hugging you both. You are sure people are staring at you, but you don’t care. You finally are back in his arms with your son. You finally feel whole again. Your family. You pull away from Seb and see the regret and sadness written on his face. He wipes the tears away from your cheeks and presses a kiss to your forehead. While you are still angry, you love him. You miss him, and most of all, your son misses him.
“Uh,” you sniff, “We were heading toward the park, if you would like to come,” you say to Sebastian.
He smiles and tucks a stray of hair behind your ear before picking Nate back up, “Let’s go,” he says grabbing your hand.
You walk toward the park as Nate giggles, “I finally got my daddy back!” he says.
Seb snaps his eyes to you. “He kept asking where his dad was. I thought he meant you-know-who, but it’s you. He considers you his dad,” you say.
Seb stops and puts Nate down, but holds onto him. You see tears in his eyes, “I would love nothing more than to be your dad Nate. If your mom will let me,” he says.
Nate looks at you hopefully. You smile at your son, “Of course. It’s Nate’s choice, not mine,” you say.
Nate cheered as Seb picks him up in a crushing hug before grabbing your hand and walking toward the park again. While you don’t know what the future holds for you and Sebastian, and as much as it would hurt if you both don’t get back together, you know that you will never keep Nate away from Sebastian. 
You will never keep him away from his Dad.
--
Hope the wait was worth it! I honestly think the reader and Seb will get back together, but I like to leave it open ended... Feedback is appreciated!
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echo-bleu · 4 months ago
Text
take me back to the start (3)
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2
Read on AO3
For @moonlight-breeze-44 Ready for more angst? This was betaed by @jeanboulet who did an amazing job as usual 💙 Chapter warnings for description of depression and canon levels of self-harm.
Alec lowers his center of gravity, wincing when it pulls on his hip, and turns to face the petite form of Helen Blackthorn. She looks back at him steadily, taping the wrapper around her wrist in place.
She was transferred with him from the overflowing Alicante hospital to the New York infirmary after the battle, along with many other wounded Shadowhunters — Catarina probably saved hundreds of people single-handedly that week. Helen stayed in New York to recover and they became good friends, helped along by Aline who, as Alec discovered, followed wherever Helen went. She’d managed to get her mother to assign her as permanent Clave liaison to the New York Institute.
“Ready?” Alec asks.
Helen just nods and slips into a fighting stance. They’ve been training together as she learns to adapt to the loss of her lower left leg. Now eight months in, she’s already back at the level of most fifteen-year-old Shadowhunters, thanks to Izzy’s creative rune work on her prosthesis and her own stubbornness. She’ll be ready for the field soon. Alec sometimes feels pangs of jealousy as he struggles to keep up, knowing that his shattered hip will never let him get back to where he was before.
“I’m slowing you down,” he says as he picks himself up from where she just threw him on the floor. “I should assign you to train with someone else. Maybe Izzy? She’ll understand the readaptation process.”
Helen offers him a hand to stand back up. “You’re not slowing me down,” she says, shaking her head. “Sure, maybe I could keep pace with Izzy, but I think you underestimate the value of what we’re learning together. Being aware at all times of what the other is feeling, what our bodies are telling us. It’s like...parabatai training, but without the rune. I don’t want to stop training with you.”
Alec blinks in surprise. “I hadn’t really thought about it that way,” he says.
“I don’t have a parabatai,” Helen says. “I dreamed about it as a kid, but I figured out pretty quickly that no one would want to be bound to a half-Seelie. But I wanted to know someone so well that I could tell how they were doing at all time and be known in return.”
“It’s not exactly like that,” Alec says, rubbing at his parabatai rune. He hasn’t opened the bond in months, and yet he knows that Jace still feels the pain that leaks through. There’s so much pain, now, for both of them.
It’s a strange kind of irony, that they would both lose their lovers to amnesia, only weeks apart. Clary still remembers nothing, going about her mundane life, and Alec knows that Jace spends too much time watching over her. Alec avoids Magnus, now. It’s not hard, since Lorenzo Rey is still the High Warlock of Brooklyn, and Magnus hasn’t tried to contact him since he healed him.
Clary was forced to leave their world, and Jace hangs onto the hope the angel they summoned gave him, that she will be forgiven eventually.
Magnus made his own choice. Or rather, both Magnus and Alec made choices that led them here – separated and alone. There’s no going back.
“Being parabatai… We feel each other, but that doesn’t mean we know each other”, Alec says. “Jace didn’t know I was gay for the longest time. The bound was made for battle, to make parabatai the best warriors.”
Helen nods. “I’ll never have a parabatai, but I like training with you. I don’t want to stop.”
Alec opens his arms in surrender. “Fine, okay, I like training with you too. I’m getting a feel for your style, finally. And you’re starting to really take advantage of the way your body moves.”
“Seelie flexibility,” Helen winks. “You should try sparring with a full Seelie.”
“Yeah, well, right now I need a break,” Alec says, limping back to the bench at the front of the training room. “How are things with Aline?”
“She’s freaking out,” Helen laughs. “The wedding’s in two months and we’ve barely started planning. I don’t care, I’d elope to Vegas with her, but she wants it to be a symbol.”
“The first official Nephilim gay marriage,” Alec mutters. He swallows, looking down at his hands.
He had all these dreams, once. He wanted to marry Magnus in front of the whole Clave, show the world that relationships like theirs could work. It would have been beautiful. The first gay, inter-species marriage recognized by the Clave.
Now he’ll have to leave those firsts to others. Helen and Aline. Izzy and Simon. Hell, at this pace, even Underhill and Lorenzo Rey. Alec will get to watch them and see through them everything he gave up.
Alec’s dreams went up in smoke the day he made that deal.
Helen lays a hand on his arm. “I’m sorry, Alec.”
Alec shakes his head. “You don’t have to apologize that things are working out for you.”
“No, but I know how you miss Magnus.”
“I was going to propose to him, you know?” Alec sighs. “I had all these dreams about our wedding. And then I broke up with him the next day.”
They’ve talked about it, a lot. When Alec was in the hospital and his siblings had to handle the Institute, Helen was there with him. They have things in common that Jace and Izzy will always struggle to understand.
“You tried to help him,” Helen says.
“I broke his heart so badly that he couldn’t stand to remember our time together,” Alec murmurs. He nervously runs a hand through his sweaty hair.
Even now, there’s a knot in his throat so large that he can barely breathe. He hasn’t had a chance to heal. For five months, his whole life was reduced to the venom slowly overtaking his body, to the knowledge that he would not see the end of the year.
When he was dying, it was easier, in a way. He could tell himself that it would be better for Magnus not to remember. He could tell himself that his own suffering would soon be over, anyway.
Now he has to learn how to live without Magnus.
“Alec,” Helen says slowly, after a long pause during which she supports him silently, a hand on his arm. “I would understand if it’s too hard for you, but I want to ask you to be my suggenes.”
Alec chokes on his breath and coughs. “Me?”
“Yes. You’ve been...you’ve been my best friend, these last few months. I don’t know how I could have made it through all this without you. And...it seems like a good way to show that we’re both still standing. Together.”
Alec swallows and opens his arms to hug her. “Of course I’ll do it,” he says in her ear. “Thank you.”
“No, thank you,” Helen says, hugging him tightly.
Just as they pull apart, all hell breaks loose. They hear a commotion coming from the outside, at the back entrance just below the training room, people shouting like there’s a fight going on. Helen jumps to her feet and Alec follows as quickly as he can, grabbing his cane. He takes his bow and quiver from the weapons rack as he goes.
Two Shadowhunters are fighting by the elevator against three people clad in all black, including ski masks, wielding swords. Seraph blades. The intruders are also Shadowhunters. By the time Alec makes it there, Helen has joined the fray, making the match more even.
Alec lets his cane clatter to the floor and nocks an arrow. The closest intruder, the one now fighting Helen, is an easy target, and Alec shoots him in the shoulder, trying to incapacitate rather than kill him. The arrow flies a bit to the side and almost misses, but it gives Helen the time she needs to bring her opponent to the floor.
Underhill is already sitting on his own opponent, roughly pulling his arms behind his back. Alec concentrates on the third man, who is fighting an unarmed Jens. Jens is Alec’s second-in-command who handles the administrative life of the Institute, and he’s an older Shadowhunter who hasn’t been in the field in years. Against a well-trained opponent armed with a sword, he doesn’t stand a chance.
Alec’s shot flies wide. Jens’ opponent throws him to the floor and turns to Alec, rushing toward him blade first. Alec parries with his bow, but he’s quickly forced to let go of his bow and duck another blow. The blade glances off his shoulder, slicing through his shirt and his skin. Alec hisses and swipes at his opponent’s feet, making them both fall to the floor.
Alec cries out in pain as his hip gives out. His vision black around the edges, he struggles to get out from under the other Shadowhunter, who isn’t moving.
“Alec!” Helen calls from somewhere above him. Alec feels the dead weight of his opponent being lifted, and he scoots back hurriedly. Helen’s blade is protruding from the man’s back. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Alec says, though he doesn’t try to stand up. He tries to stop the flow of blood from his shoulder with his hand. “Thank you.”
Helen nods and digs her blade out of the body.
“Alec!” It’s Jace this time, who must have felt the pain. Alec can block the constant hum of pain from the bond, but not sudden bursts – that’s what the bond is for, after all, having each other’s back. Jace kneels in front of him.
“I’m okay, I’m okay,” Alec repeats. “Remove their masks,” he tells Helen. “We need to find out who they are. And how the hell they got in.”
Jace already has his stele out, and he hitches up Alec’s shirt to draw an iratze. It stems the flow of blood, but the wound is too deep to heal completely. That’s fine. Alec can deal with it.
(Magnus would have healed it with a swipe of his hand.)
“Let’s get you to the infirmary,” Jace says.
He guides Alec’s arm around his shoulders and hauls him up. Alec bites hard on his tongue as his hip seizes violently, and he hops on his good leg for a couple of steps. Jace gives him time to get his bearing. They’re good at this, by now. They’ve done this too many times.
Alec gives out orders all the way to the infirmary, even as he struggles to walk, and only reluctantly lets Izzy take over once she gets to the scene, after she’s fussed over him for a good five minutes. He lets one of the medics bandage his shoulder, as it doesn’t even need stitches after two iratzes.
Once they leave him there, sitting on one of the beds as he waits for someone to bring him his cane, he groans in frustration and runs a hand through his hair, pulling at it.
“Alec, what’s wrong?” Jace asks. Damn. Alec thought he’d left. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
Alec shakes his head. His injuries are minor, something he’d usually shake off and go on like nothing happened. But unknown Shadowhunters somehow got into his Institute and attacked his people. “I missed,” he says.
“What?”
“I shot at him, and I missed. And my first shot was way off the mark. I’m not good for anything anymore.”
“You’ve missed hundreds of times,” Jace says. “You’re the one who keeps telling me that. In the middle of the battle, more arrows miss than reach their target. Things move too fast.”
“He wasn’t moving fast,” Alec protests. “I had a decent shot. But my balance was wrong. I shouldn’t have missed.”
Jace sighs. “You’re not back to a hundred percent yet. That’s okay.”
“I’m never going to be, Jace!” Alec snaps. “This,” he points down to his hip, “isn’t going to heal anymore than it already has. I’ll never go back to the field. I’m useless as a Shadowhunter.”
He’s useless, period. He hasn’t had his head in the game in month. Since Alicante. Since Magnus. He’s lucky that nothing major happened to the Institute since Jonathan’s death because he’d probably have messed up everything.
“So you’ll focus on the political stuff. You’re good at that. Practically no other Head does fieldwork anyway, especially in an Institute as large as this one.”
Alec shakes his head. The political stuff, as Jace puts it, has largely consisted in arguing with the new Inquisitor – an old-school homophobic asshole named Goldstream – and desperately missing Magnus at every Downworld Cabinet meeting, unable to focus to the point that the Lorenzo Rey has been threatening to stop coming altogether.
“I can’t, Jace,” he says, hating the unsteadiness of his voice. “I can’t do it. I should step down, let Izzy take over. She’s got the head for it.”
“Alec, you’re the one who created the Downworld Cabinet. You’ve always been the best at this. I know you miss Magnus, I know you’re hurting, but don’t throw away your career.”
“I’m never going to have a career,” Alec sighs. “The whole Shadow World knows me as the Nephilim who fell for a warlock. Most Shadowhunters think I whored myself out and the Downworlders hate me for breaking Magnus’ heart. Not very conducive to good cooperation.”
Jace closes his eyes in dismay. “Alec—”
“Whatever,” Alec waves dismissively as Helen knocks on the door. “Let it go.”
He steps down from the bed. His hip is still more sore than usual, but it will hold. “Any word on who those Shadowhunters are?” he asks Helen.
“We’ve identified them,” she says. “They’re separatists. Not Circle members, but part of this fringe of Nephilim who think we should stop dealing with the Downworld altogether. They swear that the dead one was their leader, but they couldn’t have been working alone. The wards shouldn’t have let them through, for one.”
“After the mess with the Forsaken, Dad had Magnus update them to let in only authorized people, rather than all Shadowhunters,” Alec says. “If they weren’t on the list, they shouldn’t have been able to get inside. Either the wards are weakening for some reason, or they had help from a powerful warlock.”
“Someone more powerful than Magnus?” Jace asks. “There aren’t many.”
“Or someone who knows how he works,” Alec points out. He learned a lot about warlock magic, dating Magnus for over two years. He takes a deep breath. “We need to call him.”
Jace tilts his head. “Are you sure?”
It took Jace and Izzy a long time, after Magnus had healed Alec, to accept Alec’s decision to stay away. They still think they could have convinced Magnus to take his memories back.
Alec doesn’t even know if it’s possible. Magnus is nothing if not thorough. He might have erased the memories completely, just so he wouldn’t be tempted to take them back. To hurt like that again.
Unbidden, Alec thinks of the stack of letters in his desk. Sheets upon sheets of paper detailing each moment of their relationship, the good and the bad, everything Alec can remember. He hasn’t looked at them since he woke up in Magnus’ loft.
He needs to learn how to live without Magnus. It will hurt, maybe until the day he dies, but Alec will do it for his family, for this Institute, for whatever good he can still do.
“He’s the only one who will know how the wards went down. And we need him to pull them up again.”
Seeing Magnus, though… Alec is tempted to hide, to let Izzy or Jens handle it and pretend he’s occupied elsewhere. But he can’t do that. He’ll need to learn how to function around Magnus, too, as long as they live in the same city. Even if it feels like a hundred stab wounds to his heart every time Magnus’ eyes cross his.
There’s a terrible kind of comfort in knowing the pain will never end. Like any grief, it will fade with time, until it doesn’t feel like he’s dying every time he thinks about it, but it will never go away fully. Nephilim only love once.
Alec feels a surge of sympathy for Lydia, who stood with him at the altar and would have married him, with her heart in shambles like Alec feels right now. She hugged him tight, when she came to visit while he was in the hospital, and back then Alec didn’t fully comprehend that she understood him like no other.
But Magnus isn’t dead. Alec still has his number in his phone, their endless thread of loving text messages now another gaping wound. He doesn’t pull out his phone, and instead asks for some pen and paper. He sends Magnus a fire message, formal and distant, and stares after the vanishing flames.
“You gonna be okay?” Jace asks.
Alec nods. Helen squeezes his arm and hands him his cane. His injured arm is thankfully not his cane arm, and his hip seems to be holding up. He hobbles out of the infirmary and down to his office to start dealing with this mess.
*
Magnus doesn’t reply for several hours. Alec figures that he must be with a client, or maybe the Institute has simply dropped to the very bottom of his priorities and he won’t bother coming until tomorrow. But in the early evening, he gets a fire message back. I’m outside.
He painfully drags himself over to the Institute’s entrance. His hip has seized up again, and even mundane painkillers aren’t doing much to help.
Magnus is waiting at the bottom of the steps, his outfit sharp and almost too shiny – armor. Alec can recognize it easily, the way his make up is a bit too pronounced, the unnatural shine in his hair. That’s how he dresses when he’s unsure and scared.
Alec hates that he notices it all, when all Magnus probably sees about him is the cane. He waves at Magnus to come up the stairs – he doesn’t think he could walk down and back up if he tried – and lets him in. He summarizes the events while they walk into the ops center, keeping it business-only.
“Alexander,” Magnus stops him, reaching out to put a hand on his arm. Alec flinches back, because the name feels like a balm and a match to his heart at the same time. He doesn’t know what he’d do with Magnus actually touching him. “How are you doing?”
Alec frowns and leans away from him. “I’m fine,” he says. Right, Magnus wants to know if his healing stuck. “Free of venom and all recovered.”
Magnus’ eyes travel down to his cane. Alec swallows under his gaze. He keeps wondering how it might have been, to have Magnus beside him as he got used to this new reality – that he’s never going to go back to the field. Never going to walk unaided again, to run, to move without pain. He wonders what Magnus – his Magnus – would have said and done.
He doesn’t want to hear what this Magnus, this version of him that Alec doesn’t know, has to say about it. “This has nothing to do with it,” he says curtly, gesturing at his leg. He turns away, waving at Izzy to come over. “Can you check the wards?”
“Of course,” Magnus says. “I will need some time to get through all the layers, if you want me to be thorough.”
Alec nods. “You can give me your bill along with your report when you’re done. I’ll see that it gets expedited. Thank you for coming so fast. Izzy, will you show him around?”
It’s hard, to remain all business like that, but it’s better than any alternative Alec can come up with. He watches Magnus walk away with Izzy and he can’t help noticing the little details, the way Magnus’ longer hair sits on his head, or his blue-painted nails. He aches to holds these hands in his own.
It’s been eight months, and the pain isn’t quite as fresh as the first day, but it’s not gone, either. He’s not at the point where he can fondly remember Magnus and not ache fiercely for what he has lost. The way he misses Magnus is visceral, and he can barely stand it some days, the way his insides feel twisted. He struggles to get up in the morning. He struggles to eat anything, and he knows he’s lost weight, even since his body is free of the demon venom. He sees himself gaunt in the mirror, and he can’t bring himself to care.
The worst is trying to sleep. Alec has never been a sound sleeper, but it’s gotten worse. In the year before their breakup, he and Magnus slept together every night, and any bed without him feels cold and empty. His nightmares feature the break up most nights, or the battle of Alicante, a mix of all the stress and trauma of the last few years – Angel knows he has enough bad memories to fill his nights.
But it’s the good dreams that Alec dreads. The ones where he’s in Magnus’ arms, all warm and soft. Because then he has to wake up to an empty bed and remember what he’s lost all over again.
“Sir?”
Alec starts and almost overbalances, catching himself on the corner of the ops table. “Sir, are you okay?” It’s Underhill, who is frowning in concern.
“I’m fine,” Alec grits through his teeth.
Underhill doesn’t argue. “This came for you from the Consul’s office,” he says, handing Alec an envelope. “I put the rest of your mail in your inbox, but this seemed important.”
Alec takes the envelope and quickly opens it, while Underhill politely takes a step back. He skims through the letter from Jia Penhallow, then frowns and reads it again, more carefully.
It’s a job offer. An entirely unexpected one.
Alec stares for a moment at the letter, a little stunned, then he slowly folds it back into the envelope. It doesn’t call for an immediate answer, and he has a lot to think about – not to mention urgent issues to fix, namely the intrusion, before he can even start to think about it.
“Put this on my desk, I’ll deal with it later,” he give it back to Underhill, who watches him curiously. “If anyone looks for me, I’ll be in the training room.”
“Sir, are you sure you should?” Underhill dares to ask, hesitant.
Alec just glares at him until he backs off. “I want detailed report on the interrogation of the intruders,” he says instead of answering. “Yesterday.”
He’s rarely this stern with his people, but he’s too tired and frustrated to police his tone. Underhill straightens and nods formally. “Yes, sir.”
Alec turns away and makes his way to the training room. He changes into sweats, careful of the new bandage on his arm, and takes out his bow and his quiver.
He tries not to think about Magnus being in the building. The attack on the Institute just showed him that he’s been resting on his laurels far too much in the last few months, since Clary killed Jonathan. They haven’t had any major threat, nothing beyond the usual demon nests sprinkled over the city and Downworlder/Mundane issues to settle, and Alec has lapsed in his duty. He hasn’t asked anyone to take care of the wards, or implanted the exercise routine he was working on before Alicante, before he broke up with Magnus. He’s let his personal life interfere with his duty.
Worse, his performance today was abysmal. Alec has had to adjust his expectations of himself a lot since his injury, but missing his shot like that… It shouldn’t have happened. If he can’t fight enough to defend himself, he has no business running an Institute. He’s a liability.
Jia’s letter comes to his mind again. If he’s to accept her offer...
He empties half his quiver into the fifty yard target. His arrows all hit the target, but some of them are nowhere near the bullseye. Alec groans and tries to focus, taking a painful step to align with the second target, at sixty yards.
In a practiced move, he nocks an arrow, ignoring the way his arm stings. He draws the string up to his chin and settles there, paying attention to his posture. His hip isn’t strong enough to take most of his weight anymore, and too stiff – he has to lean on his left leg, throwing his whole body off balance. He’s started to adjust to that, but his posture is still too unstable.
He lets the arrow go. It hits almost an inch off the bullseye, and Alec sighs in dismay. He empties the rest of his quiver, taking the time with each arrow to adjust his posture, and his aim gets progressively better, but still nowhere near his previous level.
Yet another thing he’ll have to get used to.
The walk up to the target to retrieve his arrows and back is painful and harrowing. Alec leans into the pain almost in spite of himself, letting the burn in his lungs and the throbbing of his hip feel like punishment.
After two repeats of this, he’s holding back tears of frustration and pain. His entire body is sore, his shoulders aching from the undue strain and his hip sending shooting pains down his leg and all the way up to his neck. He powers through until his aim is good enough to satisfy him, even temporarily, then stops caring and keeps shooting for the sake of shooting. He gets a second quiver of unruned arrows just so he won’t have to walk all the way to the targets again and shuts out the outside world, narrowing it to just the tip of his arrow and the target.
It’s easy. It feels good, even if he knows he’s abusing his body in a way he’s going to pay for. He can’t bring himself to care.
He’s almost forgotten that Magnus is even there when he’s interrupted mid-draw.
“Alexander! I’m all done.”
Alec’s arrow flies wide and he curses under his breath. What kind of archer is he if he gets distracted so easily?
“Magnus,” he says, lowering his bow but not looking at his—at him. “Did you find anything?”
“A warlock helped take down the wards, but I could not identify them,” Magnus answers. Alec squirms under his stare. He hates that he both wants nothing more than to be somewhere else and wants to hug Magnus and never let him go. “I pulled them back up and fortified them, so that a similar attack cannot happen again.”
“Thank you,” Alec says. “Is there really no way to know who it was? Wouldn’t they have to be more powerful than you to take down your wards?”
“Or know my patterns,” Magnus agrees. “But in this case, they exploited a flaw that was there because the wards hadn’t been updated in too long.”
Alec grimaces. It’s his fault. He knew the wards needed work, it’s been on his to-do list for months. He put it off because…
Because it required calling Magnus in.
He put the whole Institute in danger because he can’t keep his personal life separate.
“Do you need a little warlock TLC?” Magnus asks.
Alec looks up sharply, the flashback jarring. Magnus must take his shock for confusion, because he gestures to Alec’s arm. “Your sister told me that you were injured in the fight.”
“My sister should mind her own business,” Alec mutters, trying to hide the pit opening in his stomach.
“She was simply recounting the events, as it is,” Magnus defends her. Alec doubts that Izzy lost an occasion to meddle at least a little, but he doesn’t comment.
“I’m fine,” he says instead.
“You don’t look like you’re fine,” Magnus insists. His voice is gentle, though it lacks some of the warmth that Alec has come to associate with him, the familiarity that his heart is weeping for.
Alec stares for a moment, eyes riveted to Magnus’ lips, to the curve of his nose – everything but his eyes, too intense and soulful, unbearable. He’s about to turn him away with something scathing, but he almost wants to—
He wants to hug him, to feel safe like he never has outside of Magnus’ arm, to let go for the first time in months. He wants to cry his heart out and be held.
He wants Magnus.
“I don’t know what to do,” he murmurs.
It’s a bad idea, and he knows it. He’s staying away from Magnus for a reason. He has to respect Magnus’ choice, especially now that Magnus doesn’t even remember making that choice. Anything else is abusing his trust.
But now that the word are out, Alec can’t stop. “It’s like...everything’s been turned upside down. I’m trying to run this Institute, and work with the Downworld Cabinet, and it’s everything that I dreamed of growing up and yet...I can’t do it, Magnus. I can’t be what they expect me to be. I can’t—I can’t live like this.” I can’t live without you.
“Alexander,” Magnus starts, but he trails off. He reaches out, and this time Alec lets him, leaning into his touch. It’s just a hand on his arm, light and unsure, but it feels—
Wrong. They can’t do this. Not now, not like that. Alec would give almost anything to go back in time, to fix this, to stop Magnus before he removed his memories, but – no, he wouldn’t. Magnus is happier with his magic and without his memories. What Alec feels doesn’t matter.
“I don’t know what to do,” he repeats brokenly.
“You can’t change things outside your control, but you can change your own life, Alexander,” Magnus says compassionately. “Do what’s in your heart.”
Alec makes a strangled sound and closes his eyes, stepping away from Magnus. “I can’t,” he chokes out.
He flees. As much as he can when he first has to put back his bow and get his cane. His arrows stay scattered on the targets, and he abandons them and Magnus, limping to his bedroom.
He hops into the shower, cursing at the time it takes him to undress and walk in. He runs water directly over his face and lets it hide the pouring tears. He collapses onto the recently installed shower seat, sobbing.
He can’t breathe. He swallows water and tears, choking, and hits his head hard on the shower wall. He hasn’t broken down like this since Magnus healed him of the venom – maybe since he was in the hospital in Alicante. Since the day Maryse quietly announced that Magnus didn’t remember any of them.
He doesn’t know how long he stays in the shower, but when he finally calms down, there is no light coming from the tiny window in his bathroom and his hip is killing him. He narrowly avoid falling on his ass as he gets out, hopping on his good leg, his head swimming from exhaustion.
He goes through the motions of drying himself and pulling on clean sweat pants, groaning when his body refuses to bend. He hates how hard everything has become, even dressing himself. He re-bandages his arm and runs the towel over his face a few times, trying to erase the redness of his eyes to no avail.
When he comes out of his bathroom, Izzy and Jace are both sitting on his bed. Figures.
“Alec!” Izzy welcomes him with too much brightness for it to be genuine.
Alec doesn’t answer and collapses between his siblings. They scoot over until they’re all lying on the bed, with Alec in the middle. He slips his arm under Izzy’s head, relishing the pressure of her weight on him.
“Magnus was here,” Jace starts in a low voice. Alec wonders how long they’ve discussed what they’re going to tell him. He knows they’re worried. They’ve had a rough year. He wishes he could erase it all, make things easier for them. Erase the concern, the fears, the pain.
Erase himself from their lives.
Alec blinks against the thought and breathes through his mouth.
“Yeah,” he forces out, his voice hoarse.
“How did that go?”
Alec shrugs, his shoulder hitting Jace’s. The wound on his arm stings.
“He was concerned,” Izzy says. “I walked him out. He said you ran away.”
“He—” Alec trails off. He doesn’t know how to express it. “Seeing him, it’s hard. I’m not ready.”
Izzy sighs.
“Look, I know we’ve had this conversation a dozen times, but I still don’t get it,” Jace says. “Why don’t you just tell him everything? Asmodeus is dead. All of Edom is gone. Your deal doesn’t hold anymore.”
“You don’t know that,” Alec sighs, not in any mood to rehash this again with his siblings.
“Come on, that’s a bogus argument and you know it. You only broke up with Magnus because of the deal. Doesn’t he deserve to know that?”
Alec shakes his head. “I need – we need – to respect his decision.”
“But he wouldn’t have made it if he knew about the deal!” Jace exclaims.
“You don’t know that,” Alec repeats.
He doesn’t believe it, not completely. Things would have gone down differently, had Magnus known about the deal. But that’s exactly the issue: he didn’t. They don’t know what could have happened, and they can’t make decisions based on that.
“Alec,” Izzy starts quietly. “What’s the real reason why you won’t tell him?”
“He’s okay,” Alec says in a low tone, almost a whisper.
“What?”
“He’s happy. Or he will be. He has his magic back, and he can go on with his life. All I brought him was pain and heartbreak and danger.” Alec swallows. “Even if we’d managed to be happy together, it would have been just a few years, a blink in his lifespan, before more heartbreak. It’s better that way.”
“But what about you?” Izzy asks. She has that same look on her face, as the first time she asked him that. But she was sad and resigned, then. Now she’s...angry.
Alec shrugs. “I’ll survive,” he says.
“Bullshit,” Izzy says through her teeth. “Surviving isn’t enough, and you’re barely doing that.”
“You think we can’t see how badly you’re doing?” Jace asks, now just as angry. “You’re not sleeping, Alec. Not eating. I can feel your pain, twenty-four seven. You can’t go on like that.”
Alec closes his eyes. He’s just admitted the same thing to Magnus, but hearing it from Jace and Izzy, from the people in his life who actually know what’s happening…
“I have to,” he murmurs. “It will get better, eventually.”
He doesn’t believe it, even as he says it.
“Will it?” Izzy asks doubtfully.
Alec doesn’t answer and buries his face in his pillow.
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cuubism · 4 months ago
Text
Learning to Speak
T, no archive warnings | communication, repression, emotional intimacy, references to past trauma, finding your voice
After so long spent having to hide parts of who he is, Alec loves telling Magnus how he feels about him. Even if Magnus has a hard time doing the same.
for @eternallysilvermagnusandalec as part of the malec secret santa 2020
The first time he sees Magnus, the first time Magnus turns to look at him, Alec loses his ability to speak.
That's never happened to him before. And it's not as if he always tells people what he's really thinking—he has secrets after all, very necessary secrets—but that's a calculation, a choice.
With this—Alec isn’t sure he could say anything to Magnus even if he wanted to. Not anything real, at any rate.
Magnus looks at him like he knows. And Alec wonders if, for all his flirtations and brash declarations, Magnus is holding something back, too.
Alec can’t know for sure. All he really knows is he wants to see more of him, so he can find out.
*
Alec knows better than to be here.
This is dangerous. Magnus’s loft is dangerous. Not because of Magnus, but because of what it means. The unraveling of a carefully walled-in life.
He’s about to say as much—well, not that, but some excuse as to why he has to leave before the aching in his heart can keep him here, when Magnus raises a finger to his lips.
And everything in Alec stills for the first time he can remember.
He can hear his heartbeat pounding louder in his ears, but everything else is—quiet. His vision narrows in on Magnus, the glitter under his eyes, the subtle vibrancy of him. And suddenly, he can’t remember why anything else is supposed to matter.
It’s quiet. It’s never quiet.
And Magnus is the opposite of a quiet person, but still everything in Alec settles before him. He thinks he might stop breathing if Magnus were to actually touch him.
Magnus doesn’t touch him. He does, however, watch Alec rather knowingly as he invites him to stay.
And Alec wants to stay. Here, in Magnus’s orbit. He knows he shouldn’t give in to that want, that it could tear out the cornerstone of everything he’s so carefully built.
He stays anyway.
*
Magnus is a flurry of sharpness and blue, his grace tempered by anger. Alec can’t tell if Magnus is angry at him or at the world or both. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
What does matter: Magnus is a sharply-moving thing that sets him alight. Alec so rarely feels alight. What matters even more: under Magnus’s quickfire anger is a deep distress that brings all of the lines of him into relief. Alec wants to hold him until he softens again.
Magnus stalks closer to him, the silk of his shirt shifting over his shoulders. His eyeshadow is dark and hollowing, his eyes glint in the dim light of the loft. He has such a natural grace to him, an ease of being that Alec’s admired since the first moment he saw him—though Alec’s starting to suspect that it’s not actually ease at all. Rather, Magnus’s existence is hard-won and tenuous, an act of continuous strength and balance and delicacy.
Alec admires him all the more, knowing that, feeling that, because his own life has also been built against a current, different from Magnus’s but precarious all the same.
And Alec can’t tell him—any of that. He can’t tell him that he’s so beautiful it makes Alec’s chest hurt. That the thought of leaving the loft, going home, leaves an aching cavern under his ribs. He can’t tell him, because this—him, Magnus, them, if there even is a ‘them,’—is the precarity threatening everything.
Magnus circles around him, leaning in close. Alec can smell his cologne, and has to close his eyes for a second to get his bearings. He feels Magnus’s magic brush his neck, so like a flame but cool to the touch. It feels like mourning for something they should have been able to have.
What about love? Magnus challenges.
And Alec thinks, despairingly, what about it? What about it, Magnus?
*
What about it.
Alec looks at Magnus at the far end of the aisle and thinks, I could love you. He’s never thought that about someone before, not in that way. He’s not sure he ever will again.
When he walks toward Magnus, his vision tunnels. All he can focus on is Magnus, the details of him: the streak of red in his hair, the velvet of his jacket, the glitter under his eyes. Everything else is so bright and loud—the shocked gasps, the murmurings, the very air.
When he kisses Magnus, it’s quiet. It feels like the first time he saw him, the first time he stayed the night in Magnus’s loft: that sudden clarity that shears through everything he’s constructed in his head. This is what matters: the way Magnus leans into him. The realness of his chest under Alec’s hands. The kiss feels like a declaration—of everything he hadn’t been able to say before, of everything he’ll want to say, someday.
So when he finds Magnus afterwards, it rolls so easily off his tongue, this simple request that seems to mean so much, that harkens back to their first moment together, and an Alec who had to stay silent for his own protection—but no longer.
“You wanna go get that drink sometime?”
*
It’s shockingly easy, once he starts doing it, for Alec to tell Magnus how he feels about him. It’s like the words spill forth from his mouth almost unbidden, like they can’t hide in the darkness any longer, and he wonders how he didn’t choke on them, before, when he was unable to speak.
“I don’t care how many people you’ve been with,” he says, almost started to find that it’s true. He doesn’t care about any of the complications. All he cares about is Magnus now, and how he feels about him, which is—well, he sort of still doesn’t want to think about just quite how big that feeling is.
Magnus looks sort of shocked, but allows Alec to kiss him, leaning up into the touch. And Alec says what he wanted to say when he first saw him, what he’s wanted to say every time after:
“God, you’re so beautiful.”
Magnus melts, looking away over Alec’s shoulder with a sort of pleased embarrassment. “Flatterer.”
“I’m only stating the truth,” Alec tells him.
“Yes, you always are, aren’t you?”
Alec isn’t entirely sure what he means by that, but Magnus is looking up at him with a gentle, warm smile on his face, so it must be good.
Alec leans in to kiss him again.
*
Magnus is holding the omamori charm like his hands have forgotten how to hold. Like this is the first thing they’ve really needed to hold. Alec is starting to get concerned by his silence when Magnus looks up at him and says, “You got this—for me?”
Alec nods. “It’s supposed to bring you luck and protection.” He thinks he might have been embarrassed by it, once, this gross sentimentality, but he isn’t now. He knows there’s no functional utility to the charm. That isn’t the point. He wants Magnus to carry a piece of him with him, and just hopes that isn’t too much to ask for.
Magnus tentatively closes his fingers around the charm like it might vanish from his grasp. “I— thank you, Alexander.”
Alec pulls Magnus close to kiss him, feeling his chest light up when Magnus hums into his mouth, reaches up to twine a hand in his hair.
“No need to thank me,” he says when they part. “Just let it do its job, okay? Let it protect you.” And then, because he feels almost compelled to say it: “I couldn’t handle it if you got hurt.”
Magnus hums again. His hand is still on the nape of Alec’s neck, and he strokes softly at his hair.
“I will try.”
*
It turns out Alec’s the one who needed the protection charm.
Though what he really needs protection from is himself, because he’s always thinking about Magnus. Including, and especially, when he’s in the middle of a fight and a demon is coming at him.
He cuts it straight through with his seraph blade, but not before it gets him in the side, claws cleaving through his gear. Alec hits the ground hard, and at first he thinks, maybe it’s not so bad.
Then he tries to push himself up, and his vision shatters into a million colors, and he thinks, oh, right. Venom.
He’s vaguely aware of Izzy crouched over him, yelling into her phone, but whatever she’s saying is too far away to hear.
*
It’s startling, to come to in Magnus’s bed. Because it’s not that they haven’t shared a bed before, but they don’t do it regularly, and Alec’s always a little wary of encroaching on Magnus’s space, pushing too far.
He stretches out on the sheets, trying to come back into his body. His side is sore, but less than should be expected, even from an iratze. And as he pushes himself to sit up, his hand closes over something that was sitting in his palm.
The omamori charm.
“This was meant to be for you,” Alec says before he can think about it.
And Magnus, who’s sitting beside him, dead quiet, staring off into space so intensely Alec’s not even sure he’s heard him, startles and looks at him.
“Alexander,” he says instead of addressing Alec’s comment. His voice is quiet, disused, grief threading through it. He leans over to help Alec sit up with gentle hands. “Shh, don’t move too much, you’re still not fully healed.”
Alec groans as the act of sitting up aggravates the scar tissue in his side. “What happened?”
Magnus looks away again. His hands twist into each other. He looks very tired, Alec notices suddenly. “Venom. Don’t worry, I extracted it. It will take another few days for the wound to heal completely, though. You’ll have to take it easy.” He rubs at his ear and still doesn’t look at Alec.
It hurts, to see him looking so distant. Alec tries to call out to him. “Magnus.”
No response.
“Magnus.”
When Magnus stays looking away from him, Alec reaches out and takes his hand. He places the charm back in his palm.
Finally, Magnus looks at him. There are tears brimming at the corners of his eyes.
“This was meant to protect you,” Alec says, closing Magnus’s fingers over the charm.
Magnus looks down at it. “You needed all the help you could get,” he says. And then, looking back up at Alec, “You worried me.”
It seems to pain him a little, to admit it.
“I’m sorry,” Alec says.  
“No.” Magnus shakes his head. “No.”
And they’re still sort of new, they still don’t really do this. But still Alec tugs on Magnus’s sleeve, pulls him in close. “Come here.”
Magnus follows his pull, climbs into bed with him, and Alec pulls him close. Magnus hesitates, then tucks his face into the curve of Alec’s shoulder, pressing up close to him.
“Don’t let me hurt you,” Magnus murmurs, ever wary of Alec’s wounded side.
“Never,” Alec promises.
*
Don’t let me hurt you, Magnus had said. Don’t let me hurt you. As if he could ever.
Alec, on the other hand…
He’d yelled at him. He’d yelled at him, and now Magnus is missing, missing in an Institute full of dead Downworlders, he could be lying somewhere hurt, or dead, and does he even know? Does he even know that Alec loves him?
The rising sun should be a blessing after one of the darkest nights the Institute’s ever seen. But it means less than nothing to Alec, not without—
“Alexander—”
Alec spins around and crushes Magnus in a hug, effectively cutting off anything else he might have been going to say. He can’t breathe for the relief crashing through him, but he manages to say into Magnus’s shoulder—
“I love you.”
He can’t bear for Magnus to go another second without knowing it.
“Magnus, I love you, I— by the Angel.” That’s all he can say, the rest is swallowed by the relief of Magnus’s presence.
Magnus pulls away to look at him. He looks sort of startled. “I—” he tries to say, and has to pause to center himself. “I love you, too.”
Alec hugs him again, because he’s so overwhelmed with feeling that he has to, and Magnus hugs him back, shaking a little.
“I thought I lost you,” Alec says, clinging to him.
Magnus shushes him. “I know.”
*
It’s even easier, after that, saying it to him. Even when Magnus is struggling, and has a hard time accepting it, Alec will say it to him.
When Magnus comes home after a tough client—
“I love you.”
When Magnus is going through one of his spells where all he can manage seems to be sitting out on the balcony, smoking cigarette after cigarette—
“I love you.”
When Magnus is shaken and hurting after the incident with Azazel, barely able to handle anything from Alec at all—
Quietly, and from a distance— “I love you.”
Alec tries not to feel hurt when Magnus doesn’t always say it back.  
*
It’s hard not saying it to him, when they’re broken up. Even harder than not being together is this: not being able to let Magnus know how loved he is.
Standing in the alleyway outside the Hunter’s Moon, looking at him, the words get caught in Alec’s throat. He’s not sure he can handle it if Magnus doesn’t say it back.
Magnus watches him, arms wrapped around himself. God, he looks so tired, Alec thinks. So tired and stressed beyond belief. And Alec realizes that however much Magnus may have stood by his decision, this has been incredibly hard on him.
Alec steps closer, grateful when Magnus doesn’t move away, but actually seems to soften as Alec approaches.
“Magnus…” he takes another step closer, “I love you.”
It feels like breathing again, to say it.
Magnus softens further. “I know,” he says, and then, “I’ve missed you.”
How Alec’s missed him, too. They’ve been working so closely together recently that it shouldn’t be possible, but he’s missed him.
He gets close enough to pull Magnus into a hug, and Magnus lets him, going boneless in Alec’s arms, like he’s been putting so much effort into holding himself up that the moment the opportunity comes to let it go he can’t help but collapse.
Alec holds him up, keeping himself upright solely on the warmth and solidness of Magnus in his arms, the relief of having him there.
“I love you,” he says again, into Magnus’s hair, and Magnus lets out a sort of whimper against his throat. “I love you.”
*
Magnus struggles with saying it, is something Alec’s realized. And it’s not that Alec doesn’t feel loved; Magnus shows him. He magicks hot drinks into Alec’s hands when he comes in from the cold. He gives him a hug when he can sense Alec’s feeling down and doesn’t know how to ask for it. He’s always there when Alec needs him, before Alec even realizes he needs him. But saying it aloud, committing to it—Magnus rarely does it unless Alec does it first.
So Alec tries to say it as much as possible.
He comes up behind Magnus when he’s working in his apothecary, wraps his arms around him, presses a kiss into the side of his neck. “I love you.”
Magnus tilts his head up to look at him, offers him a smile and a kiss on the check. “I love you, too. Now shoo before you distract me and I accidentally blow up the apartment.”
“Mmm, might be worth it.”
He comes to find him when Magnus gets lost in his thoughts, when he’s standing on the balcony, staring out over the city, a drink in his hand but not sipping from it.
Alec stands beside him, leans against him, letting Magnus support himself on him.
“I don’t know what you’re thinking about,” he says, “but I love you, you know.”
Magnus leans his head on his shoulder. “I know, darling. I love you, too.”
He wakes him with a soft kiss on his lips, runs a hand through his hair. Magnus always melts into it, wakens to look at him with unglamoured eyes.
“I love you,” Alec tells him, wanting it to be the first thing he hears when he wakes up.
And Magnus looks at him with this soft wondrous expression, always caught off guard by it.
“My darling,” he says, pressing a hand to Alec’s cheek.
Alec will keep saying it first until Magnus believes it.
*
If Alec has to have last words, he knows what he wants them to be.
Magnus comes careening down the alleyway toward him, skids to his knees in a way that must tear up the fabric of his pants, never mind hurt. “Alexander—”
Alec takes Magnus’s hands from where they’re hovering over him and holds them in his own. “Magnus—”
“Shhh, don’t talk, you’ll—” Magnus swallows harshly. “Save your strength.”
And Alec knows he doesn’t have long, but he has to say it to him, even if, especially if, it’s for the last time.
“I love you.” The words are broken and jagged, pushed out around the arrow driven through his lungs. They shear right through Magnus, his expression crumples, his hands on Alec’s chest fluttering desperately.
“No, no, don’t, please, darling—”
But Alec’s already fading, satisfied that at the very least, he’s told Magnus what he needs to.
*
Afterwards, when the hole is gone from Alec’s chest, and Magnus has a new one carved in his, Magnus lies down beside him in their bed, tracing a finger back and forth over the scar tissue on Alec’s heart. He’s wearing one of his silk robes open on his chest, and Alec can’t help but think that Magnus should have a scar, too, anything to show how he’s actually feeling inside.
“I love you,” Magnus says, still quietly dragging his finger across Alec’s skin. “I should have said it, before.”
“Before…?” But Alec thinks he already knows what Magnus is talking about.
“Before,” Magnus insists. “When…” you were dying. “I should have said it back to you.”
“No, Magnus, it’s okay—”
“It’s not.” Magnus lets out a sigh. “I suppose I was thinking—oh, I don’t know what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking. But the point is, you deserved to hear it. You always deserve to hear it. I’m sorry that… I have a hard time sometimes. Saying it.”
He sounds so sad about it. Alec doesn’t want him to feel that way, especially not now, when things are already hard enough.
He takes Magnus’s hand and kisses his knuckles. “It’s okay. I know how you feel.”
“Do you?” Magnus’s gaze is searing and very sad. “Do you really?”
“Yes.” Alec tugs him in until Magnus is lying pressed against his side, his nose tucked in against Alec’s neck. “You show me, don’t you? I know that you love me. I always know.”
Magnus still seems unsettled, but he stays against Alec’s side. “You’re good at that,” he finally murmurs after a long silence.
“At what?”
“Just— saying how you feel.”
Alec supposes it’s true, though he wouldn’t phrase it as the statement of fact Magnus seems to think it is. While it’s true that he’s never exactly been known to mince words, growing up he doesn’t think he was ever truly honest with his feelings with anyone. Not before Magnus.
“Maybe,” he says. “I don’t know.”
“You are,” Magnus insists. “It’s something I love about you. I can always count on you to be honest with me about how you feel.”
There’s something almost wistful in his voice, and Alec pulls him closer, pressing a kiss into his hair.
“Okay,” he concedes. “How’s this for honest feelings? I love you. And it’s going to be okay.”
They haven’t talked about his magic yet. Alec’s not sure if this even counts as “talking about it.”
Magnus sniffles. “How?”  
“I don’t know,” Alec says, and he really doesn’t. “But it will.”
*
It doesn’t get better. Alec doesn’t know how to make it better, not when Magnus won’t let him.
Or, rather—he does know how to make it better. But not in a way either of them is going to be happy with.
Magnus is staring at him like he doesn’t even know who Alec is. Like he’s been transported to a darker world, one where the few truths he still holds have been turned on their heads.
Alec hates that he’s brought him to such a place, hates that it was necessary. He hates himself for the things he’s saying to him, terrible things, hates watching them embed themselves in Magnus’s chest. The spark in you is out for good. I’m not in love with you anymore.
And—Alec’s never lied to Magnus like this. He lied about the Soul Sword. But he’s never lied to him about his feelings for him. Not ever.
He wonders if Magnus can catch the disingenuousness in his tone, or if his feeling that he doesn’t deserve kind words is too deeply ingrained to allow for it.
Apparently it’s the latter. Magnus doesn’t try to follow him as he walks away. The slump in his posture isn’t just grief, but resignation.
It makes Alec’s chest want to cave in, the knowledge that some part of Magnus has just been waiting for this moment. Maybe that’s why he never pushes, never asks, never says anything first.
But it’s too late for Alec to try and remedy that now.
Magnus probably wouldn’t believe him anyway.
*
The last thing Alec expects is for Magnus to storm into his office the next day, magic flaring along every inch of his skin. Some part of Alec thrills to see it, that spark back in his eyes, even if it’s now mainly anger, and directed at him.
“How—” Magnus starts after he’s slammed the door shut and locked it. He stays over there, not coming any closer to Alec. “How dare you—”
It’s evidently too late to try and hide the deal from Magnus. Alec can only hope that this won’t invalidate it.
He raises his hands in self-defense, respecting Magnus’s wishes to stay on the other side of the room even if all he wants is to be closer to him. “It was the only way—”
“That’s not what I’m talking about. I don’t care that you summoned Asmodeus.”
Alec blinks. “You… don’t?”
Magnus crosses his arms. “Well, that was incredibly stupid, Alexander. But quite frankly, it’s secondary.”
Alec’s about to ask, secondary to what? when Magnus stalks closer to him and he figures he’s about to find out.
“How dare you—” Magnus is clearly trying to maintain his composure, but his voice starts quivering, and there’s a catch in his throat when he speaks— “say those things to me? Those awful things, I— I thought you loved me.”
Alec tries to swallow around the pain in his throat. “I do,” he says quietly. “I had to make you believe it.”
“Oh, I believed it.” Magnus turns away as if he can’t bear to look at him any longer. “For a moment, anyway. But then I thought, you’ve always told me how you feel. If you had been feeling those things all along, why wouldn’t you just say so?”
“Magnus—”
Magnus practically hisses at him. “Let me finish.”
Alec lets him, taking a step back for good measure.
“I didn’t deserve that,” Magnus says, as if he’s convincing himself of it as he says it, “those things you said to me. I didn’t deserve it.”
And despite the perversity of the situation, Alec can’t help but be sort of proud of him, for saying that.
Magnus deflates, then. “That’s all I wanted to say.”
Alec wonders if he’ll leave, wonders what he could possibly say to keep him here, but instead Magnus just backs up to the wall, slides down it so he’s sitting on the floor, puts his face in his hands.
Alec comes cautiously around to the front of his desk, sits on the floor with his back against it so he’s at Magnus’s level.
“I’m sorry,” he says quietly, “I didn’t mean any of it.”
Magnus huffs out a weak laugh into his hands. “I know, that’s the worst part.”
After a long moment of hiding his face, Magnus finally looks back up at him.
“How is it fair, Alec?” he demands. “How is it fair that you’re the one who’s hurt me, yet the only person I want to go running to about it is you?”
Alec thinks this is probably more honesty than he’s gotten from Magnus in a long time. He tries not to think too deeply about that.
“It’s not fair,” he says.
At that, Magnus pushes himself back up, straightening himself out. A jolt of panic runs through Alec at the idea that Magnus will leave, leave before Alec can make it right.
But Magnus just says, “I have to go deal with my father. And I should probably ensure Lorenzo is no longer a chameleon while I’m at it. Will you meet me at home tonight?”
Alec scrambles to his feet. “No longer a what? Wait, you got your apartment back?”
“Yes… please don’t ask how. I’ll see you tonight?”
“Yes,” Alec says, hope starting to banish the despair that’s been overtaking his chest, “of course.”
Magnus nods once, and then he’s gone, and it’s only after he’s left that Alec realizes exactly what he said:
Meet me at home.
*
When Alec gets to the loft later, Magnus is sitting on the couch with a drink, looking vaguely singed and unsettled.
Alec sits down tentatively beside him. “You okay?”
Magnus nods, reaches up to touch the tips of his hair. “It’s just a bit of smoke.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Magnus sets his drink down abruptly. Alec’s ready for anger, accusation, can’t help but feel he deserves it.
What he isn’t ready for is for Magnus to sigh and say, “This was all my fault.”
Alec tries to protest. “No, Magnus—”
Magnus raises a hand to stop him. “In a way,” he clarifies, “because I don’t think I—” he lets out a heavy sigh. “I’ve never been honest with you about how I feel. That’s what led to all of this.”
Alec shifts tentatively closer to him. “Magnus… it’s okay. I never want you to have to do something you’re uncomfortable with.”
But Magnus just shakes his head. “One can’t grow that way, Alexander. I’ve gotten too used to… not growing.”
Alec isn’t sure this is really the moment for Magnus to be berating himself over his perceived weaknesses, but neither of them has ever been any good at that sort of timing.
“You’ve been living one way for a long time,” Alec says gently. “It’s okay to have trouble with changing, all of a sudden.”
“It’s not just that, I—” Magnus has let Alec get closer all this while, and Alec manages to reach out and grab his hands. Magnus sighs at the touch. “I’m not used to someone like you, someone who won’t… take what I say as reason to leave me. Whether what I say is good or bad, love or suffering, someone always takes it as a reason to leave.”
Like I did last night, Alec thinks with a wrenching pain in his chest, but doesn’t say it.
“And so, I’ve gotten rather good at not saying it,” Magnus finishes, lips twisting.
“You deserve to be honest,” Alec says, “and not have it held against you. If someone has a problem with that, that’s on them.”
Magnus nods. “That’s the advice I’d give someone who came to me with this issue,” he agrees. Then he looks down at their joined hands. “And yet, difficult to put into practice.”
“So, let’s practice it,” Alec says. “Tell me how you feel. Don’t hold any of it back.”
Magnus lets out a small laugh. “I think I’ve already told you off well enough today.”
“That’s okay.” Alec squeezes his hands. “Say it anyway.”
Magnus looks back up at him tentatively. After a moment, he says, “It hurt me, to hear you say those things. I’ve heard it all before, mind you, but it hurt more, hearing it from you. I know you didn’t mean it,” he adds quickly as if he thinks Alec will jump in, “but it hurts all the same.”
“I’m sorry,” Alec says, heart squeezing, even if he’s honestly not sure he wouldn’t make the same choice. Magnus does have his magic back, after all.
Magnus nods. “I know, darling.” He’s quiet for a moment, contemplative. “I’m sorry, as well. I wish I was the type of partner who was as open with his affections as you need.”
“You think you’re not? You think I don’t—” Alec flounders for words—“feel loved?”
Magnus raises a challenging eyebrow. “You felt you were dispensable to me. Or am I wrong?”
Alec starts to deny it, but realizes he can’t. His behavior’s already made his feelings clear on this matter.
“And besides,” Magnus continues firmly, “it’s also something I want for myself.” He says it like the sentence doesn’t quite fit in his mouth. “Starting… now.”
And he turns to Alec and takes his face in both hands. “I love you.”
Alec pulls him close and kisses him with all the desperation of having recently thought he’d never get to again. He kisses him with all the pride he feels for this man, who wants so much but asks for so little, finally taking something for himself.
When Magnus pulls away, he tucks his face into Alec’s shoulder, and Alec draws him down so they’re lying on the couch, Magnus resting on his chest.
“I expect lessons, Alexander,” Magnus says.
“On what?”
“Emotional bluntness. I want to know how you do it so easily.”
Alec runs a hand through Magnus’s hair. “It wasn’t always easy.”
“Somehow, I can’t imagine even a young Alexander Lightwood tiptoeing around anything.”
“Not tiptoeing, but— I don’t know. There were a lot of things that I just—never told anyone, before I met you. Never thought I would be able to tell anyone.”
Magnus doesn’t lift his head from Alec’s neck, but Alec can tell he’s listening carefully.
“Being able to tell you that I love you…” For the first time in a while, Alec struggles to find the words. “You can’t overestimate how… powerful that is to me.”
Magnus does look up at him then. His gaze is soft, fond with a tinge of melancholy.
“It feels powerful,” he says.
Alec cradles his face between his hands. “It’s okay if it takes you a while to get the hang of it. You have a lot of history to work against.”
Magnus laughs quietly. “That’s an understatement.”
“It’s okay,” Alec repeats, “because I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”
Magnus nods. “And neither am I.”
He puts so much weight into it that Alec knows he’s serious. About trying. About being vulnerable. About being honest with himself.
Alec vows to himself that he’ll do better, too, try to meet him halfway instead of jumping forward without him.
“I love you,” Magnus says, and okay, maybe Alec did need to hear him say that more often, because everything within him blooms to hear it.
He pulls Magnus close and kisses him.
*
Coming home to Magnus has always been a blessing. But there’s a new sort of warmth in Alec’s chest when he sees him now, now that they’re married, now that Magnus is settled.
Magnus is on the phone when Alec gets home, so he busies himself making drinks. He still can’t do it as well as Magnus, but he’s working on it.
Magnus flings his phone across the room when he sees Alec is finished with the drinks. Alec’s not sure if he actually hung up the call or not.
“I see my workday is finished!” Magnus says as he comes over to him.
Alec hands him a drink, rolling his eyes. “Not sure it’s much of a workday if it falls apart at the slightest distraction.”
“Oh, but what a lovely distraction.” He throws Alec a wink, which is relatively unsuccessful given he’s trying to take a sip of his cocktail at the same time.
“Acceptable?” Alec asks once Magnus has tasted it.
Magnus beams up at him. He smiles at Alec differently now, with the full force of his emotions, not holding anything back. There’s an exuberance to him now that Alec had only caught glimpses of before, this riot of color and energy in his heart, now fully on display.
Alec loves him so much.
“It’s perfect, darling,” Magnus says. “I love you.”
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malecsecretsanta · 4 months ago
Text
Merry Christmas, eternallysilvermagnusandalec!
For @eternallysilvermagnusandalec. I hope you like it :)
Read On AO3
*****
Learning to Speak
The first time he sees Magnus, the first time Magnus turns to look at him, Alec loses his ability to speak.
That's never happened to him before. And it's not as if he always tells people what he's really thinking—he has secrets after all, very necessary secrets—but that's a calculation, a choice.
With this—Alec isn’t sure he could say anything to Magnus even if he wanted to. Not anything real, at any rate.
Magnus looks at him like he knows. And Alec wonders if, for all his flirtations and brash declarations, Magnus is holding something back, too.
Alec can’t know for sure. All he really knows is he wants to see more of him, so he can find out.
*
Alec knows better than to be here.
This is dangerous. Magnus’s loft is dangerous. Not because of Magnus, but because of what it means. The unraveling of a carefully walled-in life.
He’s about to say as much—well, not that, but some excuse as to why he has to leave before the aching in his heart can keep him here, when Magnus raises a finger to his lips.
And everything in Alec stills for the first time he can remember.
He can hear his heartbeat pounding louder in his ears, but everything else is—quiet. His vision narrows in on Magnus, the glitter under his eyes, the subtle vibrancy of him. And suddenly, he can’t remember why anything else is supposed to matter.
It’s quiet. It’s never quiet.
And Magnus is the opposite of a quiet person, but still everything in Alec settles before him. He thinks he might stop breathing if Magnus were to actually touch him.
Magnus doesn’t touch him. He does, however, watch Alec rather knowingly as he invites him to stay.
And Alec wants to stay. Here, in Magnus’s orbit. He knows he shouldn’t give in to that want, that it could tear out the cornerstone of everything he’s so carefully built.
He stays anyway.
*
Magnus is a flurry of sharpness and blue, his grace tempered by anger. Alec can’t tell if Magnus is angry at him or at the world or both. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
What does matter: Magnus is a sharply-moving thing that sets him alight. Alec so rarely feels alight. What matters even more: under Magnus’s quickfire anger is a deep distress that brings all of the lines of him into relief. Alec wants to hold him until he softens again.
Magnus stalks closer to him, the silk of his shirt shifting over his shoulders. His eyeshadow is dark and hollowing, his eyes glint in the dim light of the loft. He has such a natural grace to him, an ease of being that Alec’s admired since the first moment he saw him—though Alec’s starting to suspect that it’s not actually ease at all. Rather, Magnus’s existence is hard-won and tenuous, an act of continuous strength and balance and delicacy.
Alec admires him all the more, knowing that, feeling that, because his own life has also been built against a current, different from Magnus’s but precarious all the same.
And Alec can’t tell him—any of that. He can’t tell him that he’s so beautiful it makes Alec’s chest hurt. That the thought of leaving the loft, going home, leaves an aching cavern under his ribs. He can’t tell him, because this—him, Magnus, them, if there even is a ‘them,’—is the precarity threatening everything.
Magnus circles around him, leaning in close. Alec can smell his cologne, and has to close his eyes for a second to get his bearings. He feels Magnus’s magic brush his neck, so like a flame but cool to the touch. It feels like mourning for something they should have been able to have.
What about love? Magnus challenges.
And Alec thinks, despairingly, what about it? What about it, Magnus?
*
What about it.
Alec looks at Magnus at the far end of the aisle and thinks, I could love you. He’s never thought that about someone before, not in that way. He’s not sure he ever will again.
When he walks toward Magnus, his vision tunnels. All he can focus on is Magnus, the details of him: the streak of red in his hair, the velvet of his jacket, the glitter under his eyes. Everything else is so bright and loud—the shocked gasps, the murmurings, the very air.
When he kisses Magnus, it’s quiet. It feels like the first time he saw him, the first time he stayed the night in Magnus’s loft: that sudden clarity that shears through everything he’s constructed in his head. This is what matters: the way Magnus leans into him. The realness of his chest under Alec’s hands. The kiss feels like a declaration—of everything he hadn’t been able to say before, of everything he’ll want to say, someday.
So when he finds Magnus afterwards, it rolls so easily off his tongue, this simple request that seems to mean so much, that harkens back to their first moment together, and an Alec who had to stay silent for his own protection—but no longer.
“You wanna go get that drink sometime?”
*
It’s shockingly easy, once he starts doing it, for Alec to tell Magnus how he feels about him. It’s like the words spill forth from his mouth almost unbidden, like they can’t hide in the darkness any longer, and he wonders how he didn’t choke on them, before, when he was unable to speak.
“I don’t care how many people you’ve been with,” he says, almost started to find that it’s true. He doesn’t care about any of the complications. All he cares about is Magnus now, and how he feels about him, which is—well, he sort of still doesn’t want to think about just quite how big that feeling is.
Magnus looks sort of shocked, but allows Alec to kiss him, leaning up into the touch. And Alec says what he wanted to say when he first saw him, what he’s wanted to say every time after:
“God, you’re so beautiful.”
Magnus melts, looking away over Alec’s shoulder with a sort of pleased embarrassment. “Flatterer.”
“I’m only stating the truth,” Alec tells him.
“Yes, you always are, aren’t you?”
Alec isn’t entirely sure what he means by that, but Magnus is looking up at him with a gentle, warm smile on his face, so it must be good.
Alec leans in to kiss him again.
*
Magnus is holding the omamori charm like his hands have forgotten how to hold. Like this is the first thing they’ve really needed to hold. Alec is starting to get concerned by his silence when Magnus looks up at him and says, “You got this—for me?”
Alec nods. “It’s supposed to bring you luck and protection.” He thinks he might have been embarrassed by it, once, this gross sentimentality, but he isn’t now. He knows there’s no functional utility to the charm. That isn’t the point. He wants Magnus to carry a piece of him with him, and just hopes that isn’t too much to ask for.
Magnus tentatively closes his fingers around the charm like it might vanish from his grasp. “I— thank you, Alexander.”
Alec pulls Magnus close to kiss him, feeling his chest light up when Magnus hums into his mouth, reaches up to twine a hand in his hair.
“No need to thank me,” he says when they part. “Just let it do its job, okay? Let it protect you.” And then, because he feels almost compelled to say it: “I couldn’t handle it if you got hurt.”
Magnus hums again. His hand is still on the nape of Alec’s neck, and he strokes softly at his hair.
“I will try.”
*
It turns out Alec’s the one who needed the protection charm.
Though what he really needs protection from is himself, because he’s always thinking about Magnus. Including, and especially, when he’s in the middle of a fight and a demon is coming at him.
He cuts it straight through with his seraph blade, but not before it gets him in the side, claws cleaving through his gear. Alec hits the ground hard, and at first he thinks, maybe it’s not so bad.
Then he tries to push himself up, and his vision shatters into a million colors, and he thinks, oh, right. Venom.
He’s vaguely aware of Izzy crouched over him, yelling into her phone, but whatever she’s saying is too far away to hear.
*
It’s startling, to come to in Magnus’s bed. Because it’s not that they haven’t shared a bed before, but they don’t do it regularly, and Alec’s always a little wary of encroaching on Magnus’s space, pushing too far.
He stretches out on the sheets, trying to come back into his body. His side is sore, but less than should be expected, even from an iratze. And as he pushes himself to sit up, his hand closes over something that was sitting in his palm.
The omamori charm.
“This was meant to be for you,” Alec says before he can think about it.
And Magnus, who’s sitting beside him, dead quiet, staring off into space so intensely Alec’s not even sure he’s heard him, startles and looks at him.
“Alexander,” he says instead of addressing Alec’s comment. His voice is quiet, disused, grief threading through it. He leans over to help Alec sit up with gentle hands. “Shh, don’t move too much, you’re still not fully healed.”
Alec groans as the act of sitting up aggravates the scar tissue in his side. “What happened?”
Magnus looks away again. His hands twist into each other. He looks very tired, Alec notices suddenly. “Venom. Don’t worry, I extracted it. It will take another few days for the wound to heal completely, though. You’ll have to take it easy.” He rubs at his ear and still doesn’t look at Alec.
It hurts, to see him looking so distant. Alec tries to call out to him. “Magnus.”
No response.
“Magnus.”
When Magnus stays looking away from him, Alec reaches out and takes his hand. He places the charm back in his palm.
Finally, Magnus looks at him. There are tears brimming at the corners of his eyes.
“This was meant to protect you,” Alec says, closing Magnus’s fingers over the charm.
Magnus looks down at it. “You needed all the help you could get,” he says. And then, looking back up at Alec, “You worried me.”
It seems to pain him a little, to admit it.
“I’m sorry,” Alec says.  
“No.” Magnus shakes his head. “No.”
And they’re still sort of new, they still don’t really do this. But still Alec tugs on Magnus’s sleeve, pulls him in close. “Come here.”
Magnus follows his pull, climbs into bed with him, and Alec pulls him close. Magnus hesitates, then tucks his face into the curve of Alec’s shoulder, pressing up close to him.
“Don’t let me hurt you,” Magnus murmurs, ever wary of Alec’s wounded side.
“Never,” Alec promises.
*
Don’t let me hurt you, Magnus had said. Don’t let me hurt you. As if he could ever.
Alec, on the other hand…
He’d yelled at him. He’d yelled at him, and now Magnus is missing, missing in an Institute full of dead Downworlders, he could be lying somewhere hurt, or dead, and does he even know? Does he even know that Alec loves him?
The rising sun should be a blessing after one of the darkest nights the Institute’s ever seen. But it means less than nothing to Alec, not without—
“Alexander—”
Alec spins around and crushes Magnus in a hug, effectively cutting off anything else he might have been going to say. He can’t breathe for the relief crashing through him, but he manages to say into Magnus’s shoulder—
“I love you.”
He can’t bear for Magnus to go another second without knowing it.
“Magnus, I love you, I— by the Angel.” That’s all he can say, the rest is swallowed by the relief of Magnus’s presence.
Magnus pulls away to look at him. He looks sort of startled. “I—” he tries to say, and has to pause to center himself. “I love you, too.”
Alec hugs him again, because he’s so overwhelmed with feeling that he has to, and Magnus hugs him back, shaking a little.
“I thought I lost you,” Alec says, clinging to him.
Magnus shushes him. “I know.”
*
It’s even easier, after that, saying it to him. Even when Magnus is struggling, and has a hard time accepting it, Alec will say it to him.
When Magnus comes home after a tough client—
“I love you.”
When Magnus is going through one of his spells where all he can manage seems to be sitting out on the balcony, smoking cigarette after cigarette—
“I love you.”
When Magnus is shaken and hurting after the incident with Azazel, barely able to handle anything from Alec at all—
Quietly, and from a distance— “I love you.”
Alec tries not to feel hurt when Magnus doesn’t always say it back.  
*
It’s hard not saying it to him, when they’re broken up. Even harder than not being together is this: not being able to let Magnus know how loved he is.
Standing in the alleyway outside the Hunter’s Moon, looking at him, the words get caught in Alec’s throat. He’s not sure he can handle it if Magnus doesn’t say it back.
Magnus watches him, arms wrapped around himself. God, he looks so tired, Alec thinks. So tired and stressed beyond belief. And Alec realizes that however much Magnus may have stood by his decision, this has been incredibly hard on him.
Alec steps closer, grateful when Magnus doesn’t move away, but actually seems to soften as Alec approaches.
“Magnus…” he takes another step closer, “I love you.”
It feels like breathing again, to say it.
Magnus softens further. “I know,” he says, and then, “I’ve missed you.”
How Alec’s missed him, too. They’ve been working so closely together recently that it shouldn’t be possible, but he’s missed him.
He gets close enough to pull Magnus into a hug, and Magnus lets him, going boneless in Alec’s arms, like he’s been putting so much effort into holding himself up that the moment the opportunity comes to let it go he can’t help but collapse.
Alec holds him up, keeping himself upright solely on the warmth and solidness of Magnus in his arms, the relief of having him there.
“I love you,” he says again, into Magnus’s hair, and Magnus lets out a sort of whimper against his throat. “I love you.”
*
Magnus struggles with saying it, is something Alec’s realized. And it’s not that Alec doesn’t feel loved; Magnus shows him. He magicks hot drinks into Alec’s hands when he comes in from the cold. He gives him a hug when he can sense Alec’s feeling down and doesn’t know how to ask for it. He’s always there when Alec needs him, before Alec even realizes he needs him. But saying it aloud, committing to it—Magnus rarely does it unless Alec does it first.
So Alec tries to say it as much as possible.
He comes up behind Magnus when he’s working in his apothecary, wraps his arms around him, presses a kiss into the side of his neck. “I love you.”
Magnus tilts his head up to look at him, offers him a smile and a kiss on the check. “I love you, too. Now shoo before you distract me and I accidentally blow up the apartment.”
“Mmm, might be worth it.”
He comes to find him when Magnus gets lost in his thoughts, when he’s standing on the balcony, staring out over the city, a drink in his hand but not sipping from it.
Alec stands beside him, leans against him, letting Magnus support himself on him.
“I don’t know what you’re thinking about,” he says, “but I love you, you know.”
Magnus leans his head on his shoulder. “I know, darling. I love you, too.”
He wakes him with a soft kiss on his lips, runs a hand through his hair. Magnus always melts into it, wakens to look at him with unglamoured eyes.
“I love you,” Alec tells him, wanting it to be the first thing he hears when he wakes up.
And Magnus looks at him with this soft wondrous expression, always caught off guard by it.
“My darling,” he says, pressing a hand to Alec’s cheek.
Alec will keep saying it first until Magnus believes it.
*
If Alec has to have last words, he knows what he wants them to be.
Magnus comes careening down the alleyway toward him, skids to his knees in a way that must tear up the fabric of his pants, never mind hurt. “Alexander—”
Alec takes Magnus’s hands from where they’re hovering over him and holds them in his own. “Magnus—”
“Shhh, don’t talk, you’ll—” Magnus swallows harshly. “Save your strength.”
And Alec knows he doesn’t have long, but he has to say it to him, even if, especially if, it’s for the last time.
“I love you.” The words are broken and jagged, pushed out around the arrow driven through his lungs. They shear right through Magnus, his expression crumples, his hands on Alec’s chest fluttering desperately.
“No, no, don’t, please, darling—”
But Alec’s already fading, satisfied that at the very least, he’s told Magnus what he needs to.
*
Afterwards, when the hole is gone from Alec’s chest, and Magnus has a new one carved in his, Magnus lies down beside him in their bed, tracing a finger back and forth over the scar tissue on Alec’s heart. He’s wearing one of his silk robes open on his chest, and Alec can’t help but think that Magnus should have a scar, too, anything to show how he’s actually feeling inside.
“I love you,” Magnus says, still quietly dragging his finger across Alec’s skin. “I should have said it, before.”
“Before…?” But Alec thinks he already knows what Magnus is talking about.
“Before,” Magnus insists. “When…” you were dying. “I should have said it back to you.”
“No, Magnus, it’s okay—”
“It’s not.” Magnus lets out a sigh. “I suppose I was thinking—oh, I don’t know what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking. But the point is, you deserved to hear it. You always deserve to hear it. I’m sorry that… I have a hard time sometimes. Saying it.”
He sounds so sad about it. Alec doesn’t want him to feel that way, especially not now, when things are already hard enough.
He takes Magnus’s hand and kisses his knuckles. “It’s okay. I know how you feel.”
“Do you?” Magnus’s gaze is searing and very sad. “Do you really?”
“Yes.” Alec tugs him in until Magnus is lying pressed against his side, his nose tucked in against Alec’s neck. “You show me, don’t you? I know that you love me. I always know.”
Magnus still seems unsettled, but he stays against Alec’s side. “You’re good at that,” he finally murmurs after a long silence.
“At what?”
“Just— saying how you feel.”
Alec supposes it’s true, though he wouldn’t phrase it as the statement of fact Magnus seems to think it is. While it’s true that he’s never exactly been known to mince words, growing up he doesn’t think he was ever truly honest with his feelings with anyone. Not before Magnus.
“Maybe,” he says. “I don’t know.”
“You are,” Magnus insists. “It’s something I love about you. I can always count on you to be honest with me about how you feel.”
There’s something almost wistful in his voice, and Alec pulls him closer, pressing a kiss into his hair.
“Okay,” he concedes. “How’s this for honest feelings? I love you. And it’s going to be okay.”
They haven’t talked about his magic yet. Alec’s not sure if this even counts as “talking about it.”
Magnus sniffles. “How?”  
“I don’t know,” Alec says, and he really doesn’t. “But it will.”
*
It doesn’t get better. Alec doesn’t know how to make it better, not when Magnus won’t let him.
Or, rather—he does know how to make it better. But not in a way either of them is going to be happy with.
Magnus is staring at him like he doesn’t even know who Alec is. Like he’s been transported to a darker world, one where the few truths he still holds have been turned on their heads.
Alec hates that he’s brought him to such a place, hates that it was necessary. He hates himself for the things he’s saying to him, terrible things, hates watching them embed themselves in Magnus’s chest. The spark in you is out for good. I’m not in love with you anymore.
And—Alec’s never lied to Magnus like this. He lied about the Soul Sword. But he’s never lied to him about his feelings for him. Not ever.
He wonders if Magnus can catch the disingenuousness in his tone, or if his feeling that he doesn’t deserve kind words is too deeply ingrained to allow for it.
Apparently it’s the latter. Magnus doesn’t try to follow him as he walks away. The slump in his posture isn’t just grief, but resignation.
It makes Alec’s chest want to cave in, the knowledge that some part of Magnus has just been waiting for this moment. Maybe that’s why he never pushes, never asks, never says anything first.
But it’s too late for Alec to try and remedy that now.
Magnus probably wouldn’t believe him anyway.
*
The last thing Alec expects is for Magnus to storm into his office the next day, magic flaring along every inch of his skin. Some part of Alec thrills to see it, that spark back in his eyes, even if it’s now mainly anger, and directed at him.
“How—” Magnus starts after he’s slammed the door shut and locked it. He stays over there, not coming any closer to Alec. “How dare you—”
It’s evidently too late to try and hide the deal from Magnus. Alec can only hope that this won’t invalidate it.
He raises his hands in self-defense, respecting Magnus’s wishes to stay on the other side of the room even if all he wants is to be closer to him. “It was the only way—”
“That’s not what I’m talking about. I don’t care that you summoned Asmodeus.”
Alec blinks. “You… don’t?”
Magnus crosses his arms. “Well, that was incredibly stupid, Alexander. But quite frankly, it’s secondary.”
Alec’s about to ask, secondary to what? when Magnus stalks closer to him and he figures he’s about to find out.
“How dare you—” Magnus is clearly trying to maintain his composure, but his voice starts quivering, and there’s a catch in his throat when he speaks— “say those things to me? Those awful things, I— I thought you loved me.”
Alec tries to swallow around the pain in his throat. “I do,” he says quietly. “I had to make you believe it.”
“Oh, I believed it.” Magnus turns away as if he can’t bear to look at him any longer. “For a moment, anyway. But then I thought, you’ve always told me how you feel. If you had been feeling those things all along, why wouldn’t you just say so?”
“Magnus—”
Magnus practically hisses at him. “Let me finish.”
Alec lets him, taking a step back for good measure.
“I didn’t deserve that,” Magnus says, as if he’s convincing himself of it as he says it, “those things you said to me. I didn’t deserve it.”
And despite the perversity of the situation, Alec can’t help but be sort of proud of him, for saying that.
Magnus deflates, then. “That’s all I wanted to say.”
Alec wonders if he’ll leave, wonders what he could possibly say to keep him here, but instead Magnus just backs up to the wall, slides down it so he’s sitting on the floor, puts his face in his hands.
Alec comes cautiously around to the front of his desk, sits on the floor with his back against it so he’s at Magnus’s level.
“I’m sorry,” he says quietly, “I didn’t mean any of it.”
Magnus huffs out a weak laugh into his hands. “I know, that’s the worst part.”
After a long moment of hiding his face, Magnus finally looks back up at him.
“How is it fair, Alec?” he demands. “How is it fair that you’re the one who’s hurt me, yet the only person I want to go running to about it is you?”
Alec thinks this is probably more honesty than he’s gotten from Magnus in a long time. He tries not to think too deeply about that.
“It’s not fair,” he says.
At that, Magnus pushes himself back up, straightening himself out. A jolt of panic runs through Alec at the idea that Magnus will leave, leave before Alec can make it right.
But Magnus just says, “I have to go deal with my father. And I should probably ensure Lorenzo is no longer a chameleon while I’m at it. Will you meet me at home tonight?”
Alec scrambles to his feet. “No longer a what? Wait, you got your apartment back?”
“Yes… please don’t ask how. I’ll see you tonight?”
“Yes,” Alec says, hope starting to banish the despair that’s been overtaking his chest, “of course.”
Magnus nods once, and then he’s gone, and it’s only after he’s left that Alec realizes exactly what he said:
Meet me at home.
*
When Alec gets to the loft later, Magnus is sitting on the couch with a drink, looking vaguely singed and unsettled.
Alec sits down tentatively beside him. “You okay?”
Magnus nods, reaches up to touch the tips of his hair. “It’s just a bit of smoke.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Magnus sets his drink down abruptly. Alec’s ready for anger, accusation, can’t help but feel he deserves it.
What he isn’t ready for is for Magnus to sigh and say, “This was all my fault.”
Alec tries to protest. “No, Magnus—”
Magnus raises a hand to stop him. “In a way,” he clarifies, “because I don’t think I—” he lets out a heavy sigh. “I’ve never been honest with you about how I feel. That’s what led to all of this.”
Alec shifts tentatively closer to him. “Magnus… it’s okay. I never want you to have to do something you’re uncomfortable with.”
But Magnus just shakes his head. “One can’t grow that way, Alexander. I’ve gotten too used to… not growing.”
Alec isn’t sure this is really the moment for Magnus to be berating himself over his perceived weaknesses, but neither of them has ever been any good at that sort of timing.
“You’ve been living one way for a long time,” Alec says gently. “It’s okay to have trouble with changing, all of a sudden.”
“It’s not just that, I—” Magnus has let Alec get closer all this while, and Alec manages to reach out and grab his hands. Magnus sighs at the touch. “I’m not used to someone like you, someone who won’t… take what I say as reason to leave me. Whether what I say is good or bad, love or suffering, someone always takes it as a reason to leave.”
Like I did last night, Alec thinks with a wrenching pain in his chest, but doesn’t say it.
“And so, I’ve gotten rather good at not saying it,” Magnus finishes, lips twisting.
“You deserve to be honest,” Alec says, “and not have it held against you. If someone has a problem with that, that’s on them.”
Magnus nods. “That’s the advice I’d give someone who came to me with this issue,” he agrees. Then he looks down at their joined hands. “And yet, difficult to put into practice.”
“So, let’s practice it,” Alec says. “Tell me how you feel. Don’t hold any of it back.”
Magnus lets out a small laugh. “I think I’ve already told you off well enough today.”
“That’s okay.” Alec squeezes his hands. “Say it anyway.”
Magnus looks back up at him tentatively. After a moment, he says, “It hurt me, to hear you say those things. I’ve heard it all before, mind you, but it hurt more, hearing it from you. I know you didn’t mean it,” he adds quickly as if he thinks Alec will jump in, “but it hurts all the same.”
“I’m sorry,” Alec says, heart squeezing, even if he’s honestly not sure he wouldn’t make the same choice. Magnus does have his magic back, after all.
Magnus nods. “I know, darling.” He’s quiet for a moment, contemplative. “I’m sorry, as well. I wish I was the type of partner who was as open with his affections as you need.”
“You think you’re not? You think I don’t—” Alec flounders for words—“feel loved?”
Magnus raises a challenging eyebrow. “You felt you were dispensable to me. Or am I wrong?”
Alec starts to deny it, but realizes he can’t. His behavior’s already made his feelings clear on this matter.
“And besides,” Magnus continues firmly, “it’s also something I want for myself.” He says it like the sentence doesn’t quite fit in his mouth. “Starting… now.”
And he turns to Alec and takes his face in both hands. “I love you.”
Alec pulls him close and kisses him with all the desperation of having recently thought he’d never get to again. He kisses him with all the pride he feels for this man, who wants so much but asks for so little, finally taking something for himself.
When Magnus pulls away, he tucks his face into Alec’s shoulder, and Alec draws him down so they’re lying on the couch, Magnus resting on his chest.
“I expect lessons, Alexander,” Magnus says.
“On what?”
“Emotional bluntness. I want to know how you do it so easily.”
Alec runs a hand through Magnus’s hair. “It wasn’t always easy.”
“Somehow, I can’t imagine even a young Alexander Lightwood tiptoeing around anything.”
“Not tiptoeing, but— I don’t know. There were a lot of things that I just—never told anyone, before I met you. Never thought I would be able to tell anyone.”
Magnus doesn’t lift his head from Alec’s neck, but Alec can tell he’s listening carefully.
“Being able to tell you that I love you…” For the first time in a while, Alec struggles to find the words. “You can’t overestimate how… powerful that is to me.”
Magnus does look up at him then. His gaze is soft, fond with a tinge of melancholy.
“It feels powerful,” he says.
Alec cradles his face between his hands. “It’s okay if it takes you a while to get the hang of it. You have a lot of history to work against.”
Magnus laughs quietly. “That’s an understatement.”
“It’s okay,” Alec repeats, “because I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”
Magnus nods. “And neither am I.”
He puts so much weight into it that Alec knows he’s serious. About trying. About being vulnerable. About being honest with himself.
Alec vows to himself that he’ll do better, too, try to meet him halfway instead of jumping forward without him.
“I love you,” Magnus says, and okay, maybe Alec did need to hear him say that more often, because everything within him blooms to hear it.
He pulls Magnus close and kisses him.
*
Coming home to Magnus has always been a blessing. But there’s a new sort of warmth in Alec’s chest when he sees him now, now that they’re married, now that Magnus is settled.
Magnus is on the phone when Alec gets home, so he busies himself making drinks. He still can’t do it as well as Magnus, but he’s working on it.
Magnus flings his phone across the room when he sees Alec is finished with the drinks. Alec’s not sure if he actually hung up the call or not.
“I see my workday is finished!” Magnus says as he comes over to him.
Alec hands him a drink, rolling his eyes. “Not sure it’s much of a workday if it falls apart at the slightest distraction.”
“Oh, but what a lovely distraction.” He throws Alec a wink, which is relatively unsuccessful given he’s trying to take a sip of his cocktail at the same time.
“Acceptable?” Alec asks once Magnus has tasted it.
Magnus beams up at him. He smiles at Alec differently now, with the full force of his emotions, not holding anything back. There’s an exuberance to him now that Alec had only caught glimpses of before, this riot of color and energy in his heart, now fully on display.
Alec loves him so much.
“It’s perfect, darling,” Magnus says. “I love you.”
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malecsecretsanta · 4 months ago
Text
Merry Christmas, antisocial-af!
For @antisocial-af: (HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!)
*****
Why did I even agree to this in the first place?
Alec wondered to himself as he checked his watch again for the tenth time in the last five minutes.
His date was late, exceedingly late in fact, and he was beginning to feel pathetic; the waitress had been giving him a look of pity for the last half an hour.
Alec had begrudgingly agreed to be set up on a blind date by his sister.  It had become the general consensus among his siblings that he needed to get out and finally meet somebody.
“You need to get laid big brother.” Isabelle had said with a smirk as Jace had laughed.
“She’s right man.” Jace had agreed wholeheartedly. “At the very least it’d lighten you up a bit.”
Alec had been incredulous.  “This is really none of your business and I don’t think—”
“I know someone!” Isabelle piped in suddenly with a grin.
“See!  Problem solved Alec.  We’ll get you laid soon enough.” Jace had said clapping Alec on his back.
Why he had eventually agreed to the blind date was anyone’s guess, even Alec himself was questioning it, especially since the guy had apparently decided not to show.
“That’s it.  I’m—”
“I am so sorry I’m late!”
Alec looked up startled.  In front of him was what had to be the most uniquely beautiful man he’d ever laid eyes on.  His hair was swept up in an elegantly wavy coif with blue highlights, his eyes were traced in black eyeliner with some kind of shimmery eyeshadow that helped bring out the beautiful bronze of the man’s eyes.  His lips were plump with a slight pink gloss to them, which Alec wanted nothing more than to kiss.
Wait…what?
Alec shook his head and closed his eyes.
Get a hold of yourself Alec.
He took a deep breath and opened his eyes, finding his blind date looking at him with wide eyes.
“Look, you’re probably angry with me, which I totally get, but I have a very good excuse I swear—"
The man stopped rambling as Alec held up both his hands indicating that the other man should stop.
“You’re here now, which is all that matters, right?” Alec said straightening up and focusing his attention on his date.
The other man smiled softly at Alec and gently nodded his head.
“Right.  Let me formally introduce myself, I’m Magnus, Magnus Bane.”
“Alec.”
The two men shook hands and neither one could keep the smiles off their faces.
“Wow, Isabelle really hit the nail on the head with you.” Alec couldn’t help but say, feeling himself blush as his own words hit his ears.
The other man, Magnus, was quiet for a moment, looked unsure before a Cheshire grin spread over his face.
“Can’t say I heard as much about you, but I don’t think words could do you justice Alexander.”
Alec paused a moment, his full name coming from the man in front of him causing a shiver to radiate up his spine.
I like that.
Alec chuckled and smiled back at the man who seemed like such a force of nature, all he wanted was to try and contain it just for himself.
So, the two men chatted and laughed and drank together for the next couple of hours.  The waitress who had previously been looking at Alec with pity was now looking on at him with envy.  It felt really good he had to admit to himself.
Magnus was an impressive man.  He owned his own night club (he’d been helped out with a loan by his grandmother), but he’d been the one to turn it into a successful venture.  He was also an artist; painting was his main forte, but he also enjoyed writing poetry every now and again.
“Maybe one day you could show me a piece of your work.” Alec had said nonchalantly.
Smirking Magnus had replied with, “Maybe one day I’ll let you see my piece.  I’ve been told it’s quite impressive.”
Alec had nearly choked on his food at that.
“I didn’t—That’s not—”
“Alexander, relax,” Magnus had said reaching forward and clasping his hand over Alec’s. “I’m just flirting with you, no need to get flustered, though I must admit you’re even more adorable now than you were ten minutes ago.”
“I’m sorry gentleman, but we’re closing in five minutes.”  It was their waitress who did have guilty look on her face.
Magnus swiped the check from her before Alec even had a chance.
“It’s on me my dear Alexander.  I was late after all.”
Alec couldn’t stop the stutter that made its way out of his mouth as he tried to protest, but it was a losing battle.  The man before him had bewitched him.  Everything about Magnus Bane left him feeling hungry for more.  His sister sure knew how to pick guys.
They ended up exchanging numbers, promising each other to text when they made it home safely.
Magnus took Alec’s hand in his and placed a gentle kiss to the top of it.  Alec’s eyebrows were up to his hairline as Magnus looked up meeting his gaze.
“Goodnight, sweet prince.”
And in a flourish Magnus Bane was gone.
Alec was in a daze most of the way home.   He also had the biggest smile on his face.  Izzy definitely had outdone herself.
His phone rang suddenly, and he answered without thinking.
“Hello?”
“Alec?”
“Hey Isabelle, what are you—”
“Did Jason show up?”
Alec looked at his phone in confusion.
“Um, who’s Jason?”
“Shit, what an asshole, I should have known.”
“Iz you really need to figure out what you’re saying because I just had the best date I’ve had in years, and you’re kind of freaking me out here.” Alec said stopping.
“Well, I don’t know how that would have been possible Alec, because the guy I fixed you up with turned out to be a total prick and decided not to show.  I had been so scared you’d just sat there all night alone…"
“Ok Izzy wait a second.  So, if the guy who you set me up with didn’t show then who the hell did I have dinner and desert with for the last two and a half hours?”
“Oh, Alec I—I’m not sure.  Two and a half hours, really?  That’s Amazing!”
“Not the point Iz.” Alec said impatiently trying not to freak out.
“What was the guy’s name?”
“I don’t think that matters—”
“Alec just tell me the guy’s damn name.”
Sighing Alec shook his head.  “Magnus Bane.  That’s his name.”
There was a moment of silence before Isabelle started to scream on the other line.  Alec had to hold the phone out from his ear.
“Iz? Isabelle?  Can you stop screaming I kind of need my hearing.”
Laughing Isabelle stopped her yells and took in a few deep breaths.
“Alec, Magnus Bane?  He’s only one of New York’s most prominent eligible bachelors.  He frequents bars, restaurants, and night clubs sometimes. And he, Oh!  He must have seen you were a damsel in need of rescuing and decided—”
“Isabelle, I am not a damsel.”  Alec interrupted, feeling all the hope and excitement from the date drain from him.
There was another moment of silence before she answered.
“Alec listen, I didn’t mean anything by that.  Magnus Bane has very high standards when it comes to those he takes interest it, he might have a reputation of sorts but he really is a good guy, at least from what I understand.”
“Iz if you think that’s suppose to make me feel better—”
His phone buzzed and he noticed a text message from Magnus.
“Not home yet, but I can’t stop thinking about you.  Tonight, was fantastic, but I have a confession to make.  I wasn’t your blind date.  I saw you sitting there looking absolutely stunning and the idea of leaving you alone seemed cruel to me.  So, I took a chance and I am glad I did.  If you forgive me, I’d like to see you again.  What do you say?”
Alec felt the wind knock itself out of him, and he actually smiled.
“Isabelle, I’ll call you later I have a text to respond to.”
And without letting her respond he hung up.
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moonlight-breeze-44 · 4 months ago
Text
Jalec Secret Santa for @finditagain24
Hi, Lau! You mentioned that you liked angst with a happy ending, canon development, pining, and longing so I thought you might like this little thing <3 I hope that you do, and happy holidays!!
watch the sunset in your eyes
Read on AO3
When Jace first came to the New York Institute to live with the Lightwoods, Alec regarded him as another Isabelle; a charge, someone for him to protect, despite the fact that Jace proved on his very first day that he was more than capable of protecting himself.
It didn’t matter to Alec; Jace reminded him of himself, in ways that made Alec want to rip off the cocky mask Jace always wore and meet the broken boy underneath. Jace was something, a new kind of challenge that Alec had never met before - utterly broken and flawed, but in that kind of beautiful way that Alec liked to lose himself in.
Years passed, and before long, Jace & Alec were in battle together, fighting side-by-side. They worked so well together, so steadily, that Alec thought he might have known even before Maryse cornered him in his room and told him the political benefits of having a parabatai like Jace Wayland. The truth was, Alec and Jace were already connected; the parabatai bond would only symbolize what was already there.
But Alec would’ve had to be blind not to notice the way that Jace’s eyes shone in the light, or how he managed to look a little like a lost puppy when his straw-blonde hair fell over his eyes, or the fact that his smirk after he’d killed a demon made Alec’s heart skip a beat. Alec noticed, and he knew - of course he knew.
Alec also knew that Jace didn’t share his feelings or his thoughts about the possibility of being bonded; he was all too happy, excited, and practically giddy at the idea of having a parabatai. Alec knew there was no way Jace was having the same internal crisis that he was, and he hoped to the Angel that the other boy wasn’t aware of it.
That fear of awareness was another thing that scared Alec - being parabatai would mean that he and Jace would be deeply connected on an emotional and physical level, and Alec wasn’t sure he wanted to know what that meant. Being gay wasn’t heard of in the Clave, and those that were guarded that secret so fiercely that it was rare for anyone to ever find out. Alec knew enough about Clave politics by the time he was thirteen to be afraid of Jace’s reaction, if he were to find out Alec’s secret.
Alec laid in his bed well after midnight that first day, when it was first announced that he and Jace would make a good parabatai pair, his hands clenched together tightly. He couldn’t sleep. It was starting to seem like he could never sleep these days. Jace slept on the other side of him, his blonde hair a golden halo on the pillow. He looked so peaceful, so unlike the brash warrior Alec knew in daylight. Alec swallowed hard. He looked like an angel. He looked like an angel, and Alec felt like a demon.
~ ~ ~
In the end, Alec knew he had to become parabatai with Jace, regardless of his own feelings. His mother would disown him if he backed out of the ceremony, and he couldn’t bear to disappoint Jace when he looked at Alec like he’d hung the stars in the sky.
Alec felt like he was going to throw up when they stepped into the ring of fire, but the look that Izzy gave him, so complicated and supportive and full of love, made him grit his teeth and lift his chin to meet his future parabatai’s eyes. He could do this. For his mother, for Izzy, for Jace. He could do this.
When Jace grabbed Alec’s arm, it sent a wave of heat through Alec and made his head swim. He swallowed hard. He had to do this.
The words, when they left Alec’s lips, felt oddly right, oddly comforting in some way. He’d thought they would taste bitter, like acid, but they fell from Alec’s mouth with the ease of his baby sister’s name.
“For whither thou goest, I will go. And where thou lodgest, I will lodge.”
Jace’s voice soothed the frayed edges of Alec’s nerves, and he found himself wishing the fire wasn’t quite so bright. He wanted to be able to look at Jace, really look, memorise the lines of his cheekbones and the soft suns in his eyes.
“The Angel do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.”
The overlap of their voices made Alec want to cry, made him want to reach for Jace and never let go, but instead, he reached forward and drew the parabatai rune on Jace. When he felt the matching burn on his own hip, he had to bite his lip so hard that it drew blood to stave off the tears that threatened to fall.
There was no going back now.
~ ~ ~
The main difference between Jace and Alec, in behaviour and in personality, was that Jace wasn’t afraid to take what he wanted. In that respect, he was practically fearless. And Alec knew that Jace had fears, but they were things whispered under the cover of darkness to him and him alone. Jace’s fears were rooted deep in his childhood, and they would have taken years for anyone else to uncover. Alec knew he was the only person to ever hear them, maybe the only person who ever would.
When it came to romance, however, Jace was fearless. He was so fearless that it took Alec’s breath away and made his heart stutter a step.
Alec wasn’t blind, but when it came to Jace, he tended to view the world through glasses tinted with self-loathing. He could feel Jace’s desire sometimes, knew that the other boy wanted something, but he had never considered that it might be him that Jace wanted.
They had been parabatai for nearly a year before Jace grew tired of waiting for Alec to realise what was happening, and made his intentions very, very clear.
“What is it?” Alec asked, entering the training room and letting the door fall shut behind him. “You said you needed to talk to me?”
Jace grinned, sharp like a cat that knew it was getting what it wanted. “Well, maybe talking wasn’t the best word to use.”
With that, Jace strode forward and slammed his lips to Alec’s, punching the breath from his parabatai and sending his heart into a spiral Alec knew it would never recover from.
Jace’s lips on his, in fact, were making Alec think he would never recover from Jace, period.
He’d dreamed about this moment for ages, and yet, the real thing blew past even the most insane of Alec’s fantasies. The feeling of Jace’s lips on his, of Jace surrounding him and pressing close to him and guarding him like he was something to be loved, something to be protected, made Alec dizzy. His hands found Jace’s hair, tugging at the golden blonde strands like they could somehow meld their bodies even closer together. Alec sighed against Jace’s lips and felt Jace respond in kind.
Halfway through their kiss, it hit Alec that he was kissing Jace, and he felt his knees begin to buckle. Jace, almost as if he’d expected this, backed Alec up against a wall and wrapped his arms around his parabatai’s waist, keeping him upright. Alec felt tears pool in his eyes. It shouldn’t be like this. He should be the one taking care of Jace, not the other way around. But he couldn’t deny that, after so long of taking care of other people, it felt good to be taken care of.
When finally they pulled apart, gasping for air, Jace’s eyes were bright, and the grin on his face was something softer than Alec was used to seeing on him. He smiled, too, almost shyly. This was new territory for him. He’d wanted, he’d dreamed, he’d even wished, but he had never thought that Jace would love him back, that Jace would feel for him what Alec felt for Jace. It almost felt like a miracle, like a gift from Raziel even though Alec knew he didn’t deserve it.
“Stop,” Jace whispered, pressing his forehead to Alec’s. “I can hear you thinking. Stop it.”
“Sorry,” Alec muttered, his cheeks flaming pink.
Jace shook his head, smiling a little. “You don’t have to apologise. I just don’t want you to overthink this like you do everything else.”
Alec opened his mouth to defend himself, but Jace raised an eyebrow at him, and the unspoken ‘You know I’m right’ was enough to make him close it again.
“You know this is forbidden, right?” Alec mumbled, avoiding Jace’s eyes. “We’re not, we’re not...we’re never supposed to do this. It’s against the Law.”
“Rules are meant to be broken,” Jace replied, grinning, and Alec sucked in a deep breath, frustrated. Jace could act like this meant nothing all he wanted, but Alec knew what they were risking.
“If anyone finds out - ”
“They won’t,” Jace reassured him, and his voice had lost some of its flippantness. Alec was still unconvinced. The Clave would consider them traitors if they were found to be in a relationship with each other. They could be de-runed. They could lose everything that they had ever loved, and all for what might be a quick fuck to Jace.
“You’re not,” Jace growled, and Alec flushed. He hadn’t realised he had spoken out loud.
“Alec, look at me,” Jace demanded, and Alec lifted his eyes to meet the other boy’s. As always, the golden orbs made his breath catch in his throat, but this time, there was more. It was like peering into a looking glass - the same feelings that Alec harbored for Jace were reflected back in Jace’s eyes.
“You’re my parabatai,” Jace said, and his fingers found Alec’s, tangling together in the space between their bodies. “You could never be just, just a fling to me, Alec.” There were tears in his eyes now, and he looked so hurt that Alec wanted to take all of his words and stuff them back into his mouth until he could erase that look from Jace’s face. “You mean so much more than that.”
“I feel the same way,” Alec said, exhaling with relief. “I just...are you sure you want to do this?”
Jace ducked his head and pressed another kiss to Alec’s lips. “I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life.”
The tears from before spilled over, and Alec bit his lip, trying to stem the flow. Jace made a small, wounded sound in the back of his throat and pressed a soft kiss to Alec’s temple, wiping away his tears with the pad of his thumb. Alec choked on a sob, sagging forward into Jace’s arms. Jace caught him easily, holding his parabatai close. Alec couldn’t be sure, but he thought Jace was crying, too.
When Alec went to bed that night, it was with the scent of Jace on his clothes, the taste of Jace on his lips, and a smile on his face - for the first time in a very, very long time.
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hdlynnslibrary · 5 months ago
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Gedet'ye
The Just One More Series Prequel Part 1: Te Sol'yc Mirsh'nyn Prequel Part 2: Daryc Sur'haaise Part 1: Just One More | Part 2: Gedet'ye
Pairing: Din Djarin x Fem!Reader Warnings: Smut, pwp, praise kink, light spanking (like literally one little swat), little bit of body worship???, some cursing, unprotected sex (please be responsible irl)… I think that is all of them? Word Count: 1.3k Tags: Plot? What plot?, established relationship, Din is a tease, but so is reader, unconventional Mando’a lessons (i figure if you can remember your lessons while getting fucked you know it pretty well) Thank you to my beta reader @princessbatears for proofing for me no matter when I send her stuff XD
Thank you to Izzy for the prompt for more “Din teaching you Mando’a” and letting me make it as fluffy or as smutty as I wanted (i went for smut with some soft surprising no one I am sure)
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Things had been simmering between you and your beroya, your riduur, all day. So it was no surprise that once dinner had been cleaned up and the child put down for bed, you both had tumbled into your small shared room.
Din’s mouth was on yours, hungry and nipping at your bottom lip. He made you feel breathless and giddy and alive.
Your hands cupped both sides of his face as you deepened the kiss, both of you still strung out from a full day of rising wants. Breaking apart you started to pepper softer kisses on his pouting lips, his eagerness for you in every touch and caress over your still clothed body, it was also rather prominently being displayed through his tenting pants. He ground his arousal against your core, pulling a gasp and then a giggle from you.
“Someone’s a bit eager,” you teased from already bruised lips as you shamelessly rocked back into him.
Din growled, nipping at your lip again. The slight sharpness of his teeth caused your giggles to morph into a quiet whimper as you let him back you up until the backs of your legs hit the edge of the bed. You would have toppled onto the bed if it wasn’t for Din’s grip keeping you steady.
Breaking apart again, dark brown eyes watched you as he dropped his helmet with a soft thump onto the bed. Crowding you so that you had to let your weight rest against his arm, he ran a thumb over your bruised lips. You couldn’t help it when your eyes fluttered shut and you let out a shuddering breath at the soft touch.
“I’m not the only eager one,” Din said as his hand trailed down to slip into your pants. His tone, so cocky you had to give him a little glare, but he knew you didn’t mean it.
Din cursed when he realized you weren’t wearing underwear, his voice cracking slightly. He could feel all the wetness gathering already at your slit, as you squirmed to try and get some pressure on your clit.
Before you knew it, you were on the bed and Din was helping you strip your bottom half so he could admire you.
“Been thinking about me today, cyare?” he asked soft yet darkly, kneading the sensitive flesh of your inner thighs. You knew he could see how slick you already were from just thinking about him — thinking about his cock — for the past several hours.
You bit your lip and nodded, “Yes.”
“How do you want me, sweet girl?”
Blinking up at him with glazed eyes, it took your brain a moment to figure out what words were again.
“Want… I like it when you’re a bit rough with me, want you to take me how you want.”
Din growled and had you turned over in a flash, positioning you so your ass was up in the air while your face was pressed carefully down into the bed. Two large hands started groping your ass, causing you to shudder and mewl at the sensation.
There was a light swat to your thigh, as Din shushed you while he knocked your legs apart so he could settle between them.
“This okay?” he asked, two of his fingers pressing at your wet slit and you heard him taking care of his belt and zipper. You knew from some other past experiences that your riduur was going to give you a good hard fucking like he always did when he took you from behind and he was only going to undress just enough so he could sink into you.
The teasing pressure of his fingers made at your wet entrance made you keen before you were able to give your hearty assent. Any embarrassment with how your ass was currently in the air with your sex fully exposed was instantly replaced with the thrill of seeing Din’s face looking at you when you glanced back at him. Maker, he looked at you like you were the most gorgeous being in the galaxy. It made your breath catch in your throat.
He caught you looking, his eyes dark and sparkling in the low light.
“Mesh’la,” Din praised as his hands came to knead at your ass. “Ibic mesh'la sheb'ika cuyir pal'vut.”
Whining, you pressed back into his touch. Your face found the bed as he spread your ass cheeks to get a better view of your glistening folds and curls.
“Want you to say please,” Din said thickly even as he rocked his cock along your slick entrance.
You looked back over your shoulder with pleading eyes, whimpering, “Please, Din, I’ve needed you all day.”
He shook his head, “Nayc, want… want you to say its in Mando’a — ‘gedet'ye’.”
That made you pause and blink before smiling at him coyly, “Gedet'ye, Din. Gedet'ye, I need you, ner riduur.” You paused for a moment, finding the equivalent words in Mando’a that you had been trying so hard to learn for a moment like this. “Din, gar ratiin gotal'ur ni aalar bid jate.”
You knew he always reacted favorably to praise in the bedroom, but you hadn’t seen Din flush quite like that before. There was no time for you to tease him though, he was already pushing the head of his cock against your entrance, the thick head catching for a moment before pressing into you. He bit back a moan at the first inch as you hid your face into the bed, your mouth open with a silent gasp at the feeling of being filled up.
Your hands fisted into the blanket as he slowly rocked in deeper. Keeping one hand at your hip, the other smoothed along your back before coming squeeze at your thighs as he came to rest heavily against your ass.
“Osik, osik,” Din bit out as he held rigidly still, his cock pulsing so violently you thought for a moment that he was about to come in you right then and there. His forehead dipped down to press against your back as he collected himself, hands kneading into your flesh so hard you knew there would be bruises.
You hummed, pleased at the moment at how full your riduur always made you feel, as you felt his nose drag along the back of your skin as he pressed a line of kisses there.
“Din,” you moaned as he leaned forward to nip at one of your shoulders. “Please, more.”
His cock stayed hot and heavy where it was wedged in you while his grip kept you from rocking back onto him. You whined at the unfairness of it and you could practically hear the smirk that was on his face as he pressed a kiss to the spot he had just bit.
“What do you need, ner riduur’ika?” The cockiness back in full swing as your riduur just ground his cock into you rather than starting a rhythm that you had been craving literally all day.
“Diiiin, don’t tease me,” you whined, trying again to bounce against him to no avail.
“Come on, sweet girl,” Din purred, enjoying watching you squirm wanting more of him. “You proved already you know how to use your words.”
He rocked his hips just once, teasing. Your face crumpled in pleasure as he bumped up against your g-spot.
“Gedet'ye, shaadlar,” you begged, hoping you remembered correctly.
From the choked sound that stuck in Din’s throat as he gave one hard thrust and then another, you had remembered correctly and you weren’t sure if you were going to be able to walk right tomorrow but remembering those Mando’a lessons was certainly going to be worth it.
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Translations Gedet'ye: please Beroya - bounty hunter Riduur- spouse Cyare - beloved/sweetheart Mesh’la - beautiful Nayc - no Ner riduur - my spouse ibic mesh'la sheb'ika cuyir pal'vut - this beautiful booty is mine Din, gar ratiin gotal'ur ni aalar bid jate - Din, you always make me feel so good Osik - shit Riduur’ika - little spouse Shaadlar - move
Perm: @princessbatears @cosmicbug379 @yellowbubblewrap @keeper0fthestars @agentpike @opheliaelysia @catfishingmorales @anxiety-riddled-mando @rzrcrst​ @mrsparknuts @beccaplaying​ @trippedmetaldetector​ @maybege​ @aeryntheofficial​ @mandolovian​ @littlevodika​ @oloreaa​ @lovinglokiforever​ @gallowsjoker​ @whataenginerd​ Pedro Characters: @mrschiltoncat @seasonschange-butpeopledont Din Djarin Tag: @kyjoraven @maydayfigment @awboomerangsno Late Night thots fren: @spacegayofficial
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kreationa · 5 months ago
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BLACK MESA: GROUND ZERO
Chapter Two: Unforeseen Consequences
It was the blaring of the alarm that woke him.
Eyes opening, Gordon saw the chamber’s cracked ceiling from under heavy lids. He blinked slowly, then again, waiting for the blur to fade away.
‘Warning: minor head trauma detected. Morphine administered.’
The HEV’s voice confirmed it. He was alive. He wasn’t sure how, but he was alive.
Fingers slid over the metal floor to find some grip and he gingerly began to push himself up. His head was spinning from both dizziness and ache – the back of his skull on fire from the hit it took when he was probably thrown to the floor.
With some effort he was back on his feet, groaning and sore, but still breathing.
The chamber was a catastrophic mess. What was left of the Spectrometer after it exploded hung dangerously from its dislodged mounting and still-attached pipes. Most of it was littering the floor, hunks of metal, casing and wires now no better than scrap. The remaining two metal arms were crushed under debris and torn away from their hinges.
Thick smoke from electrical fires filled the area. Some pieces of the machine were letting off sparks even now and the one remaining rotor sent out small pulses of weaker – but still quite deadly – voltage.
Stepping over pieces of wall, ceiling and who knew what else, Gordon sluggishly made his way to the blast door which had definitely not withstood the impact; partially melted and wedged ajar. At least he wasn’t trapped any longer, which he would have been more grateful about if he wasn’t suffering from the worst headache imaginable.
His dizzy spells made getting over the half-closed blast door more difficult than it needed to be, almost falling inside the room as opposed to climbing. He fought through it, determined to leave the damn chamber even if it killed him. That place was not going to be his grave.
He stumbled into the wall near the damaged retinal scanner, growling in frustration, before clawing himself towards the door.
It didn’t open.
Gordon eyed the scanner irritably, before slamming the plated guard on his forearm against the damaged screen. It broke under the strength of both the suit and wearer, sending sparks to the floor and short circuiting.
The door made a whirring noise, struggling to cycle and only opening half way. It was better than nothing.
With a sigh he lowered himself to a crouch and crawled through the gap, finally making it out of that death trap.
Or so he had hoped.
Near the desk, a scientist was performing CPR on the same security guard who gave him access earlier. Blood had pooled around the back of his head. He was motionless.
“One... Two... Three... Four... Five...”
The dizziness and pain began to ease, no doubt because of the morphine. Gordon found it easier to stand this time.
The lights were all out and the tiny auxiliary lamps on the ceiling were only illuminating the way partially. Most weren’t working at all. Every alarm in the vicinity was ringing, but he couldn’t hear any other voices in the background.
Gordon moved closer to the two, but the scientist didn’t respond. He was transfixed on repeating the CPR over and over.
He hadn’t registered that the man was dead.
“One... Two... Three...”
Swallowing dryly, Gordon didn’t have the heart to tell him that his efforts were worthless. He figured he would be safer where he was for the time being and so left him be, not knowing what the extent of the damage was just yet.
He was about to find out.
Broken pipes on the walls let out jets of steam which created an eerie fog the flashing red lights tried to penetrate. It was too dark to see far enough, until the HEV’s flashlight – mounted on the computer’s panel – lit up automatically. Gordon took a tentative step forward, seeing the body of a scientist laying face-down. Dead or not, he wanted to at least check.
The breaker close by exploded, sending out flames and sparks. Yelping, Gordon reeled back and the heavy equipment toppled over to land directly on the body. It was thoroughly crushed, blood seeping from underneath.
If they had been alive, they weren’t any longer.
Fear rocked him but his need to get out pushed him onward, keeping away from the fires and other machines he passed in case they too exploded. Debris had fallen in through the ceiling, smashing into one of the terminals and sending it to the floor. Flames began to spread around it, leaving him no choice but to climb over.
He considered going back for the scientist, but there was a worry that he would end up pulling them through more danger. Trying to ignore his nagging conscience, he decided to scout out the rest of the floor to find survivors before returning.
 Sadly he had no such luck. Everyone was gone, dead or missing. The corridor at the other end had partially collapsed and he thought he could see an arm sticking out of the rubble. His blood ran cold.
There’s nothing you can do for them, Gordon. You need to find Isaac and Eli.
Having little other options, Gordon pulled himself away from the sight and jogged to the elevator down the adjacent path. Rubble and junk had been thrown to the floor around it and he had to pry the worst of it aside before he could get in through the jammed-open door.
Graciously, the damn thing still worked.
It was a welcome relief to see both Dr. Vance and Dr. Kleiner in the same spot he left them, albeit in a darkened, mostly ruined room. Everything was either broken, fallen over or barely functioning, but a couple of the lights were still on. Notably, the plasma cells were no more – leaving the three containers empty with one shattered.
Gordon pushed the stiff doors open, stepping on shattered glass from the window above as he approached. The pair didn’t hear him over the din of the alarms ringing, but he could just hear Eli’s voice as he spoke to Isaac, who was sitting on the floor with his knees raised and looking distraught.
“Why wouldn’t they listen? We tried to warn them...”
“I never thought I’d see a resonance cascade, let alone create one.”
Dr. Kleiner sighed, cleaning his glasses lenses with his lab coat. He put them back on and finally noticed Gordon was standing there, staring at him as if he’d seen a ghost.
“By Schrödinger’s cat – he’s alive!”
Eli turned to see what he was looking at, gasping in surprise.
“Gordon!” They both cried in unison.
Kleiner stood up and – along with Eli – embraced the suited associate tightly. Gordon was a bit taken back by the gesture, slowly raising his gloved hands to return it.
“Thank god for that hazard suit.” Eli sighed in relief.
“I... I thought the worst when I heard the explosion. I’m so glad to see you’re alright.” Kleiner’s voice softened and Gordon thought he heard him choke, but he quickly cleared his throat.
The two released him, checking him over with concern. Gordon felt just as relieved but there was a harrowed look on his face he couldn’t mask. Eli was the first to break the silence as Kleiner crossed his arms and adjusted his glasses out of nervous habit.
“Gordon... Were there any survivors?”
“Just... Just one.”
“We’ll get to him. For now, we need to figure out how to get out of here. All of our phones are out – I can’t reach anyone in the facility. I know it’s a lot to ask, but you’re the only one of us capable enough to make it to the surface in one piece. Someone needs to know we’re stranded down here.”
Gordon blinked, feeling the full weight of responsibility being thrust upon his shoulders. He opened his mouth to interject but stopped as Eli continued. When that man had a plan it was wise to let him finish, something which he had learnt well.
“But you’ll need to be careful. There’s no telling what danger there is out –“
A flash of green light – just like those from the test chamber – appeared inside the middle plasma cell container, cutting the conversation off with a yell from all three men. Gordon immediately looked for some sort of cover, still suffering from horrible flashbacks of the Spectrometer, but it was over as quickly as it came.
Skittishly, the trio turned towards the source and took small, tentative steps over to it. Something was trapped beyond the glass. It was alive.
“My god... What have we done?” Eli uttered, voice shaking in disbelief.
Kleiner was the first to get close – too curious for his own good, Gordon thought – and was utterly bewildered by the strange being that was around the size of a pumpkin.
As Gordon ventured nearer, he could see that it had four, crab-like legs attached to its pale, fleshy body. There were no visible eyes, but the way it moved as they got close proved it could sense them nearby. The front legs were far longer, ending in menacing, hooked talons, whilst the rear legs were stubby with two claws for feet. Its four grotesque mandibles, in-between two long fangs, rubbed against each other.
Perhaps understandably, Gordon shuddered and retreated. As a scientist one would think he would be overjoyed to discover a new species, especially extra terrestrial, but something about the creature disturbed him just as much as the ones he saw in that cave. It had “wrong” written all over it.
“Fascinating... Would you look at that? Eli! Eli, look at this! I wonder where its stomach is. I can’t see the underbelly. Hello, you. Can you understand me?” Kleiner asked, tapping the surface of the container. The crab-like thing nudged the glass with its ‘head’.
Eli sighed and rubbed at his face. Kleiner was like a child in a zoo and for a moment, the fact that the whole sector was in meltdown had been forgotten. He glanced at Gordon, seeing how uncomfortable he looked and sighed.
“I’m sorry, Gordon. I know you’ve been through something terrible down there – I can see it in your eyes – but I need to keep Izzy safe. I need to find my wife and daughter. There’s no telling what could happen and whether we’ll have another disaster.”
Eli approached Gordon and placed a firm hand on his shoulder, encouraging him to make eye contact.
“Will you help us?”
Gordon swallowed dryly and tensed his jaw. The gravity in Eli’s voice and the pleading look in his gaze hit him right in the gut.
All of this was real. No matter how much he wanted to deny it, this was happening. It was insanity and hardly fathomable and yet he was living it.
No one was going to come and rescue them, not if they couldn’t get the word out. More lives than just his own were on the line... Lives he could save.
The creaking and groaning of metal, crumbling concrete and the muffled explosions that seemed to shake the very foundations of the place cut through the tension. Vibrations were felt through the floor, making the structures and equipment tremble.
Taking a deep breath through his nose, Gordon stiffened his back and picked himself up.
“I will.”
Eli smiled, both in relief and gratitude.
“Thank you. You’ll need me to open the way for you. If you find others, I am sure they will be more than happy for your help... And help you in return.”
Eli patted his shoulder twice, before walking past. Kleiner looked up from the container to give his former student a warm, proud smile that met his brown eyes along with a nod. He didn’t need to say a word, Gordon knew he was afraid. They all were.
Returning the smile, even if it was a little strained and fraught with worry, Gordon nodded and turned to follow Eli. It could have been the last time they saw each other but he didn’t want to make it a long goodbye.
As Gordon caught up, Eli had just unlocked the door with the retinal scanner.
“Alright. Make your way to the lobby and see if you can get in touch with anyone from there. If not, you’ll need to try and navigate the rail system to find a way out.”
“Got it.”
“And for god sakes, leave that suit on until you’re in the clear. Got it?”
He hadn’t considered it, but Eli did have a point. This suit was the only thing protecting him and it wasn’t as though he was going to get into trouble with anyone for keeping it. He’d rather have the HEV than rely on his lab coat to stop laser beams.
“They’ll have to tear it off of me if they want it back.” Gordon quipped.
Eli grinned, nodding in approval.
“Atta boy. Stay safe, Gordon. I promise we’ll see each other again soon.”
“You too.”
Nodding and managing a small smirk, he walked through the open door leading to the control room. As it shut and locked behind him, there was a feeling of finality to their meeting. He didn’t look back, fearing he’d have second thoughts and regrets.
Gordon wasn’t sure if Eli would be able to keep his promise, but he was going to keep his.
 There was no door stopping him from entering the control room, having been blown off and laying flat just inside.
Small fires lapped at the main console, with the screens above it – that would have shown camera feeds for the test chamber – now showing static. Some of the ceiling panels had fallen, denting the bloodied, metal panel flooring and the chairs were scattered, thrown in different directions.
The half-charred body of a scientist was slumped against the wall near the entrance, blood splatters around the point of collision. Gordon didn’t look twice, eyes instead drawn to the still smoking hole in the centre of the wall.
A pile of smouldering ash lay just before it.
Gordon failed to suppress a shiver, knowing that could have easily been him.
Movement on the far side of the room snapped him out of it. From behind a fallen cabinet scurried a terrified-looking Wilkes, desperate to pry the broken door next to him open.
“Banner! Banner, you piece of shit – help me! Don’t leave me here to die!”
He banged on it with his fists, unable to break the thick glass.
“Wilkes...?” Gordon called out, surprised to see someone alive in the mess.
Flinching, Wilkes spun on a heel. He was covered in blood that Gordon couldn’t determine if it was his own or not. Skin white and eyes wild, he stared at his fellow scientist as though he was going to kill him, cowering against the door.
“S-stay away from me!”
Raising his hands to show he was unarmed, Gordon moved slowly and carefully, not wanting to spook Wilkes further. He spoke calmly.
“Easy. I’m not going to hurt you.”
“W-why should I trust you? One of my own colleagues just abandoned me!”
He wasn’t thinking straight, which Gordon couldn’t exactly blame him for. He took a small step forward, prompting Wilkes to grab a piece of metal near his feet and hold it up threateningly.
“I’m warning you, Freeman, I’ll kill you!”
“Put it down, Wilkes. We’ll get out of this. Eli and Isaac are still alive and there’s bound to be others... But I can’t help them if you stop me.”
“Eli and Isaac are as good as dead and you know it. There’s no escape, do you hear me?!”
Gordon frowned, about to argue, but a heavy vibration almost sent the pair to the floor, requiring them to grab onto the walls to stay balanced. Beyond the window, the sound of the Spectrometer’s last remaining rotor attempting to fire its broken emitter could be heard, making them both look.
No... No, not again...!
A photon beam shot through what was left of the metal blinds, hitting the cabinet and melting it completely in the few seconds it existed. The two men screamed, trying to keep their distance. Wilkes panicked, starting to hit the door with the improvised weapon.
“HELP! SOMEONE HELP ME – PLEASE!”
Another beam fired, hitting the middle of the back wall and making the already present hole even worse. Gordon instinctively crouched, trying to keep out of view.
“Wilkes! Wilkes, get down!”
He wasn’t listening, consumed by his terror. Gordon tried to get over to him, keeping low, but a third beam shot through just above his head, making him drop to the floor. It left a glowing ring of melted metal in its wake.
Sweating due to the stifling heat in the confined space, Gordon started to crawl on his hands and knees. Wilkes was ignoring everything going on and focused entirely on his own freedom.
If he could just get to Wilkes and pull him down to the floor, Gordon thought, he could not only save his life but maybe talk some sense into him. He was almost there, just a little further.
A blinding light danced across his glasses and forced him to close his eyes.
Wilkes’ screaming and the sound of metal being torn invaded his ears.
The harsh sting eased just enough to let Gordon squint, colours and specks dancing in his vision.
Wilkes was gone and so was the door – having been blasted off its hinges and into the corridor behind it.
Particles of ash rained down from the ceiling and began to coat his gloved hands.
Gordon swallowed repeatedly, ignoring the sting caused by his staring. His stomach flipped as his gaze flicked to the dust settling on and around him.
That was a person. That was a living, breathing person just seconds ago and now he was wearing them.
Freaking out, Gordon rapidly crawled out of the room and into the corridor. He practically launched to his feet, patting himself down and brushing off the remnants of Wilkes from his suit and hair.
Nothing could have prepared him for this.
No amount of training could teach him how to react when people were dying all around him. Even soldiers, where killing and being killed was par the course, suffered mental scars.
Gordon was no soldier; he was an ordinary man being exposed to an increasingly extraordinary situation, with nothing but a promise and a will to live driving him.
Leaning against the wall and hugging himself, Dr. Freeman shivered.
Get a hold of yourself, Gordon. You need to keep going or you’ll never see the light of day again.
Gordon took a slow, deep breath and closed his eyes. If he lost it and panicked, he’d end up like Wilkes. A few minutes passed, allowing his body and mind to calm and claw back some focus.
If Banner had left Wilkes, that meant there was still a way out. There was still hope.
The VOX system called out following a warning tone, giving him something other than his own overactive thoughts to listen to.
WARNING: HIGH ENERGY DETONATION DETECTED IN MATERIALS LABORATORY. FLOODING DETECTED ON SUB LEVEL B. BIOHAZARD WARNING IN SECTORS B AND C. DAMAGE CONTROL TEAM TO SECTOR C IMMEDIATELY.
ATTENTION: SECTOR C SCIENCE PERSONNEL, PLEASE REPORT STATUS IMMEDIATELY.
It’s worse than I feared. Much worse.
Exhaling, Gordon pushed himself off the wall and moved on through the dark corridor, relying on the flashlight to see.
There was no one around but this section had been mostly spared in terms of damage, so he was hopeful that they had evacuated along with the bastard head scientist. He wasn’t far from the main elevator now – every step brought him closer.
Retracing his steps back to the domed hallway, he could hear a very low hum and see erratically flickering red light. Gordon winced, already having a bad feeling.
The glass tubing protecting the lasers had been broken, causing refractions which aimed into the hall. Machinery and consoles were being cut in half, sending them smashing into the floor and starting more electrical fires. Smoke was slowly filling the area along with a heavy acrid smell.
Lowering into a crouch, Gordon eased under the first one and vaulted over the fallen equipment that blocked the way. He made an effort to hold his breath, the smoke making his eyes water whilst navigating through the torn apart electrics so to get to the other side.
A second section of tubing cracked and sent another beam ahead, carving into the floor. The fallen body of a guard lay nearby, which the beam cut into like a hot knife through butter. They didn’t scream at least, but innards seeped out between the singed clothing.
Don’t stare. Keep going.
Gritting his teeth, Gordon kept his gaze ahead and sprinted past the beam before it moved again. Once in the clear, he coughed and wheezed, gathering oxygen.
His mind kept reminding him of the gruesome sight of the guard, but he shook it loose and distracted himself with the next obstacle, the jammed door. A few kicks with the heavy boot in the lower panel of already weakened glass provided an exit and he crawled out.
All of that decathlon training was really starting to pay off.
One of the men who had joked about him coming to work that morning lay pinned by the legs under the machine he’d been trying to fix. Gordon checked for a pulse. Considering the injuries he’d likely sustained, there was almost relief in that he found nothing. It was a small mercy.
Sighing heavily, he strode towards the elevator waiting at the end of the sparking, dilapidated walkway. A single working light flickered over the double doors as if to highlight them to him.
He reached over to press the button.
“Please, someone help us!” A male voice called out, echoing from within the shaft.
Gordon paused and quickly moved to the glass and peered through it, trying to see inside. The elevator cab was stuck above the door and he could hear multiple people moving around from within. Audible groans came from the cables and the brakes grinded and squeaked.
“Can anyone hear us?! We’re trapped in here! Get us out!” Another male voice, deeper, shouted.
“Please... I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die!” A sobbing woman – quieter than the other two – begged.
“Hold on – I’ll get you out of there!” Gordon shouted close to the glass, hoping the three could hear him.
“Oh, thank god! The damn thing won’t move – it’s stuck! We can’t get the hatch open from our side, but if you could use the maintenance ladder and climb on the roof, you could pry it off for us!”
“Hang tight, I’m coming!”
Gordon pressed the button to open the doors, but they didn’t budge. Cursing under his breath, he dug his fingers into the gap and began to heave them apart. Every second wasted was torturous for both parties, the strained noises from the elevator were getting more frequent and rising in volume.
The suit’s strength was helping, but the stubborn doors were still proving a challenge to budge. Inside, the worried-sounding voices could be heard.
“Is – is he still there?” The woman asked.
“Hey, you’re still there, right?” One of the men called out.
“Y-yeah! The doors are jammed, but I’ve almost got it!”
“Please, hurry!”
WARNING: SECTOR C ELEVATOR FAILURE.
A screech followed by a rumble came from above, causing the elevator to groan and jerk downwards. The people inside screamed.
“GET US OUT! GET US OUT RIGHT NOW!”
The woman sobbed, drowned out by the yelling and pounding fists on the metal walls. Another loud groan shook the shaft and the elevator inside it, adding to the poor passenger’s terror. The cables rattled with tension.
Gordon was putting every ounce of strength into the struggle, the fused doors moving inch by painful inch. So close and yet so far, they were just beyond his reach.
“PLEASE!”
“I DON’T WANNA DIE – I DON’T WANNA DIE!”
The cab shuddered and jerked again, lowering enough so Gordon could see the horrified occupants inside.
Everything slowed down. The three scientists stared at him and he stared back. As the cab began to slide – sparks coming from the brakes – there was realisation on everyone’s faces. It was going to fall and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.
In his lapse of concentration, the doors’ weight pushed back against Gordon and he was forced to retreat or risk getting his arms crushed. They slammed closed with an echoing thud that almost didn’t end.
With that, he was cut off from his colleagues... And their fates were sealed.
“NO!” Gordon cried, slamming his shoulder against the glass. It cracked but didn’t break.
A last shudder and the elevator slipped, cables snapping and the brakes failing to hold it. There was a very brief glimpse of the trio holding each other before they vanished from sight.
The screams of the passengers, encased in their metal coffin, echoed as they plunged. A quaking thud and sounds of screeching, twisting metal followed shortly after.
Gordon was thrown back and away from the door by the force of the impact, which bent the frame and shattered the glass. He curled into a ball, protecting his head and face from the rain of shards landing on and around him, feeling a few pieces bounce off his hands. Once it stopped, he leant up and sat on his knees, brushing himself off carefully and looking towards the damage. Even if his ears were still slightly ringing, there was a notable silence.
Panting quietly, he crawled back to where he was and slipped through the now open gap to the short metal gangway. Staying on his hands and knees, he peered over the side of the platform and down the shaft. He didn’t know what made him want to look, morbid curiosity perhaps.
Fire raged at the bottom, lighting up the destruction for him to see. The cab had collapsed in on itself and resembled little more than flattened and crushed metal, slowly blackening because of the heat.
His chest tightening, paired with a twisting in his gut, made him look away and he slammed a fist onto the metal platform in both grief and frustration.
Grimacing, he held back a choked noise of anguish. There were no words he could find. There was nothing to say. No amount of cursing or yelling was going to make him feel better, or bring them back.
They’re gone, Gordon.
That cold logic in his thoughts stung, but it snapped him back to reality. Letting loose a shaking sigh, he dragged himself to his feet and moved to the ladder.
The climb was slow. His body felt heavier than it should have been, a pang of guilt lingering like a weight. Solitude seemed to be a near constant outcome, with only the sound of his own movements and breathing for company.
Light flooded in as he reached the top, a welcome reprieve from the smothering blackness.
Gordon, catching his breath, cautiously stepped out into the junction to glance at both routes. There was nothing more than an upturned plant and discarded files leaking papers on his left.
Deciding to head right, he had just turned the corner of the central pillar when his boot slipped on something wet and made him press a hand against the wall to keep his footing.
Staring wide-eyed, he was met with a grisly scene.
Pools of blood had been trailed over the floor. Bloody shoe prints of different sizes, going in different directions, decorated what the pools missed. A struggle had taken place here, that much he could gather, but what got his attention were the claw-like marks in the concrete near the smeared handprints.
Being careful not to slip, Gordon stepped over to the wall and gingerly traced his fingers along the indents – five in total – before lowering his palm on the print. The closeness of the two offered him a disturbing conclusion.
“They... Came from the same thing...” He whispered to himself.
Something akin to a muffled wail echoed from beyond the corridor ahead, startling him. The door at the end was jammed open and bloody drag marks invited him to follow.
Horrible as this was, he had to go that way to reach the lobby.
Clenching his shaking hands into fists, he pressed on, though slowed as he got close to the door. Flares had been dropped and with good reason; the area had no working lights. He took a few of them, sparking one as he stepped inside.
A red-orange glow guided Gordon as he took cautious steps into the labs. Holding it high, he had a good overall vision nearby as well as far away thanks to the flashlight.
At first glance it almost looked like the place had been abandoned, but the drag marks he was still following told a different story. Furniture had been strewn about in the first lab he passed, papers and files littering the carpets. One of the glass walls had been partially smashed, with another stained with streaked blood.
What the hell happened up here? Where is everyone...?
The wail returned, making him flinch. It was further ahead.
Although every instinct told him not to go to the source of the noise, what choice did he have? If he didn’t he might as well have stayed with Eli and Kleiner.
Resolving the argument within himself, he kept going.
Pipes and ventilation shafts had sunk in from the ceiling, making the passage awkward to manoeuvre. He passed more claw marks on the walls and blood stains near them, but no bodies were seen. Some of the furniture had been taken out of the lab areas and used as makeshift barricades. With how they now lay smashed, battered or simply tossed aside, they didn’t look to have been effective.
But what were they trying to protect themselves from?
Gordon’s breathing was picking up in pace and his heart was hammering in his chest. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He was increasingly getting paranoid, checking over his shoulder as if something was watching him.
Something clattered in the lab he was getting close to, making him stop.
“H-hello...?”
There was no verbal reply, just the sound of shuffling and something moving.
Exhaling shakily, he held the flare more in front of himself and proceeded.
The smell hit him first. A coppery, heady stench mixed with rotten meat that made him gag. He coughed, covering his mouth and nose with his arm.
As the light reached the smashed glass walls, he soon realised where everyone was.
Piled in the centre of the communal lab and propped up along the perimeter were bodies of scientists, maintenance crew and guards. All of the desks, chairs and equipment had been tossed or pushed aside to make room for this ... Collection. The corpses had been mutilated, eviscerated and some looked partially eaten.
Gordon’s blood turned to ice and he felt bile rise in his throat, quickly forcing it back down.
Oh... Oh my god...
Horror shook him to his very core and he was so transfixed that he hadn’t noticed the flare starting to grow dim.
Muffled sobbing came from the corner, sounding strained and choked. Turning, Gordon shone the flashlight towards the noise.
A scientist in a ragged, bloodstained lab coat faced away from him, kneeling over the body of Wilson with his head lowered. He shook as though cold or in pain, twitching his shoulders.
“A-are... Are you... Are you alright...?” Gordon asked in shock, barely gathering his voice.
The scientist didn’t answer, but did shift – albeit stiffly – to the question. He stood slowly, remaining hunched. His arms hung by his sides, showing torn, ragged sleeves... And elongated claws growing from his bloody hands.
Freezing in terror, Gordon stared as the man slowly turned to face him and stood straight, letting out a ragged moan.
Latched onto his head, completely obscuring it was one of those crab-like creatures. Its legs had pierced into the flesh of its victim’s torso and back to keep it secure. The withered body of the scientist appeared to have gone through necrosis, flesh rotting on his emaciated limbs. His chest bore a long slit down the middle, as if he had been cut open. As he took an unsteady step forward, it widened to reveal a maw-like opening lined with shards of rib.
“G... Gor... Don... Help... Me...” Banner’s muffled voice sounded from within.
Petrified, Gordon stumbled backwards, struggling to accept what he was seeing. Banner staggered towards him, clawed hands grasping.
“Help... Me...” He broke into a pained sob.
This isn’t real. This isn’t happening. Please, for the love of god – let me wake up!
The flare went out, making Gordon yelp. He dropped it, fumbling to light another. The flashlight stayed on Banner, but he could hear a second pair of shuffling steps nearby.
Upon bathing the area in red-orange glow again, another of the zombie-like creatures had cut him off on the left. It howled, screaming from within its fleshy helmet.
“Whyyyyy!? Whyyyyy meeeeee!?”
Gordon screamed, going into reverse, both of the creatures coming right for him. Compared to Banner, the other one seemed much livelier and it swiped out at the air in a feeble attempt to catch its prey. Its claws scratched the wall whilst it writhed in agony.
“Pleeeease!”
Too busy keeping an eye on the two, he almost didn’t hear the clicking of talons on the desk behind him. He turned just as one of the crab creatures sprung – launching itself via its long legs – aiming for his head.
Having little else to defend himself with, he shielded his face with one arm and aimed the flare at it. The fleshy underside opened like a cavernous mouth, engulfing the hot flare and most of Gordon’s hand. It squealed as it cooked from the inside out, talons swiping at him.
Grimacing in disgust, he flung the screeching crab at the nearest zombie. On impact it spat out the live flare, catching the suffering scientist’s lab coat and setting it alight.
Instantly, the garment went up in flames and spread all over it as the monster clawed and swiped around itself in blind panic. The wails of pain and sobs of distress got louder and louder, soon turning into screaming as what was left of its body started to burn.
With the crab twitching on the floor, dying, Gordon lit the last flare and made a break for it, narrowly avoiding Banner’s grab.
“GOOOOOOOORDOOOOOOOON!”
Pure, primal fear made him forget all tact, colliding into obstacles in his desperate attempt to escape.
A dozen more mutated scientists looked up at him from their feasts of co-workers and friends, some crying, some begging and some snarling like wild animals.
GET ME OUT OF HERE – GET ME OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW!
He flew through the rest of the labs, skidding over the floor as he turned the corner. Corpses – some whole and some not – dotted the corridor, along with altered staff that stopped what they were doing to pursue their fleeing, fresh meal.
Even in half, the poor souls were still alive. One of the zombies with its innards hanging out crawled after him, roaring as he got out of reach.
There was only one place Gordon wanted to be, but if the rest of the level was this bad, there was a good chance it wasn’t going to be safe either.
He realised that a bit too late.
As he saw the curved desk and ran over to it, he failed to check what waited around the corner. A sharp hit landed squarely at his back, knocking him off-balance and sending him towards the furniture at an angle, his head banging against the corner.
Landing heavily with a grunt, his glasses were knocked loose and tumbled away from him.
Gordon groaned, feeling the hot spot of pain growing on his temple. He tried to see, but everything was blurry with a trail following it.
Loud, shuffling steps were getting closer, a snarling moan sending a shiver up Gordon’s spine and he immediately tried to crawl away – however blindly. Unfortunately, he ended up trapping himself within the desk’s circumference and only realised when the blur eased to just about normal.
He rolled over, seeing the twitching, hunched body of the security officer that loomed above him. With his impaired vision, he couldn’t make out a lot of detail, but it was likely just as macabre as the others.
Its warped hand reached downwards and snatched his shin, gripping it with a supernatural strength that made the metal plating creak in protest. It turned, starting to drag him along as it walked back towards the labs.
Initially surprised by the change in behaviour, it quickly turned to panic as he clawed at the floor in an attempt to stop or at least slow the creature’s advance. He kicked at the thing with his free leg, but it wasn’t deterred. Necrosis or not, they were still tough.
Wails, sobs and feral cries echoed from the hallway he’d come from and he was being taken right to them. The fallen flare had rolled further inside, casting shadows of reaching claws as they drew closer.
Struggling with all his might and beginning to tire, Gordon still couldn’t get free.
“N-no! No – let me go! LET ME GO!”
Three gunshots rang out, hitting it twice in the back and once in the arm that held his leg, snapping it clean off. The creature staggered forward into the opening of the hallway and turned with a snarl, only to be cut off with one final shot which blasted half of the crab away in chunks.
The guard fell back onto the floor with a gurgling wheeze, motionless.
Gordon scrambled backwards, panting. Those things were still coming for him. Banner’s voice rang out the loudest, calling his name.
The person-shaped blur raced over to the entrance and smashed something on the wall. A warning alarm bleeped before a heavy shutter closed and sealed off the corridor just as the horde reached it. Angry cries and screams came from the other side, along with the sound of raking claws.
Still in a state of heightened terror and not being sure of who or what was in the lobby with him, Gordon tensed as steps approached, getting ready to defend himself. He felt his wrist get taken by the blurry mass and – before he had the chance to swing at them – his glasses were pushed into his hand.
“You always were as blind as a bat, buddy.”
Gordon perked up at the unmistakable voice and stopped resisting. He quickly put the glasses back on after his wrist was released, blinking up at the man standing over him in his security force uniform sans helmet. They swept a hand through their messy black hair, watching him with dark brown eyes.
Seeing recognition on Gordon’s face, the man responded with his signature, boyish grin. There was no one else who could have so much bravado and still keep a sense of humour in a time of crisis.
“Miss me?”
Barney Calhoun.
Staring in disbelief, Gordon tried to speak but every thought in his head came out at once in a hurried, stammered line.
“B-barney? You – how – those things – they’re – Banner is –“
Barney blinked in surprise, his grin wilting, but he quickly laughed it off, moving to heave Gordon up.
“Hey, slow down there, doc, before you break something. Damn – this thing you’re wearing is heavy as hell.”
A little unsteady from the hit to the head and still catching his breath, Gordon took a few attempts to plant his feet. His legs shook in place, prompting Barney to guide him to the desk and let him lean against it.
“Deep breaths, buddy, okay? You hurt?” Barney asked, giving him a once over.
Gordon shook his head, taking his friend’s advice. Barney nodded, patting his shoulder and turning to observe the lobby.
“Well, I’m glad I made it when I did – I figured you’d be knee-deep in trouble like always. Things are going to shit out there. Please tell me that Kleiner and Vance aren’t dead.”
“They’re... They’re alive...” Gordon muttered, pushing his glasses up his nose.
“Good. I’ll find them next, but it looks like I’ll have to take some detours.”
Barney wiped some sweat from his brow onto his sleeve, releasing the clip from his handgun and checking the ammunition. The click of his tongue suggested that he didn’t have much left to spare. He glanced at Gordon then, raising a brow.
“Why didn’t you stay down there with them?”
“Eli needed someone to get topside. He said to use –“
“The rail system, right?” A small, mirthless smile appeared on his lips.
Gordon blinked, raising both brows and Barney sighed heavily.
“It’s trashed, Gordon. Tunnel collapsed right down on top of it with the explosion. I’ve tried every phone, radio and computer on my way here and none of it works. We’re cut off.”
Lowering his head with an exasperated sigh, Gordon glared at the polished surface of the desk. He saw his own reflection staring back at him, green eyes intense and his short brown hair wild and spiked from sweating. His face was much paler than usual, for obvious reasons.
Resting a hand on the back of his neck, he looked up at the ceiling.
“So, now what?” He asked, quietly.
Barney huffed and put his hands on his hips, nudging a cup away from his boot. He’d clearly been through a lot, too, judging by the blood and marks on his clothing. He sounded stressed, but was good at hiding it behind his carefree attitude.
“You’re the scientist. You tell me.”
Gordon rolled his eyes. This really wasn’t the time for his joking around. Knowing he was probably irritating the other man, Barney smirked back at him.
“Well, come on! You’re the brains and I’m the brawn.”
Frowning, his gaze caught something past Barney and he slowly stood. Barney hadn’t noticed that he wasn’t the target and blinked, raising his hands a bit.
“Hey, uh – Gordon – you’re not gonna hit me with that suit on, are you?”
Gordon was already walking past him when he paused and looked at him quizzically, raising a brow. Barney sheepishly cleared his throat, realising his mistake.
“Never mind. You ... Do you.”
Shaking his head, Gordon continued and Barney followed, rubbing at his neck awkwardly. On the wall at floor level was a vent duct, which he pried off and tossed away. He peered within the small space, just about seeing the server room on the other side and scratched at his goatee with a finger thoughtfully.
Barney crouched next to Gordon, glancing inside.
“No offense, Gordon, but this isn’t exactly the time for a race to Kleiner’s office.”
Both rather competitive, the duo raced against each other to be the first to retrieve Dr. Kleiner’s keys whenever he happened to lock them in his office. With how regular this was (Isaac may have been a genius and prolific author but his thoughts were usually elsewhere) it soon became a game to break up the tedium of subterranean life. With conventional means disallowed, Gordon’s preferred method had been ventilation shafts, which he’d mapped out by memory.
The scientist’s deadpan expression at the comment made Barney snap his fingers.
“Ohhh... You want to – right...”
Sighing, Gordon nodded.
“If I can find another route using the ventilation system in the sector, I may be able to get out and find a way to the surface.”
“You really wanna risk it? There’s more... Things out there. The place is falling apart.”
“What else can I do, Barney? If I don’t –“
“You’re not a hero, Gordon. We should quit while we still have our skins. We’ll grab Kleiner and Vance and get the hell out.”
“Eli won’t abandon his wife and kid, Barney, you know that.”
“Then I’ll knock the dumb son of a bitch out if I have to. Black Mesa might be going to hell but I still remember my oath.”
Gordon bristled at Barney’s remark.
“And they aren’t part of that oath?”
Barney glared, bristling back.
The pair had their arguments, which was unavoidable with differing personalities and opinions, but they normally resolved themselves and made their bond stronger for it. Gordon was a pacifist and a pragmatist and Barney was a headstrong idealist with a defender mentality. It made them unlikely friends and they clashed a lot in the beginning, but Dr. Kleiner had a hand in getting them to see eye to eye. They balanced each other out perfectly.
“You are part of that oath. I won’t let you get yourself killed because you think you can save everyone. One thing you learn in times like these is that you can’t.”
His friend’s voice shook on the last few words, Gordon being observant enough to tell that there was a reason for it, a hint of fragility showing through. How many friends had he seen die today? What horrors had he gone through to get here?
Lowering his head with a heavy sigh, Gordon removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to gather his thoughts. Barney brushed a hand through his hair, exhaling sharply in frustration. They were both stubborn men, but something had to give. A few seconds of silent simmering passed.
“Alright...” Barney began, rising to stand.
“I know when you’ve made a decision, there’s no stopping you. If you wanna try for the surface, I’ll let you do it... But don’t you dare die on me. Meanwhile, I’ll get the docs...”
Gordon raised his gaze to Barney after pushing the glasses back up his nose, expectantly. Barney eyed him for a moment and lowered his shoulders with some reluctance.
“... And we’ll make a stop at the dormitories on our way out.”
Satisfied, Gordon nodded. Barney pouted, huffing in defeat and placing his hands on his hips, looking elsewhere with a frown.
“Thank you.”
“Yeah, yeah... It’s my ass on the line if any of you brainiacs die. You better get going... And find yourself something to defend yourself with. I’d give you a spare gun if I had one – you remember what I taught you, right?”
Barney had snuck Gordon away on their days off to use the security force’s shooting range for private lessons. It could have gotten them both in serious trouble, but someone was in Barney’s debt and this was the investment. His excuse was always ‘you just never know’ and although Gordon wasn’t a fan of violence or liked the idea of using a firearm, he didn’t think it was a bad skill to have. He wasn’t a terrible shot at any rate.
“Yeah...” Gordon nodded.
“Good. You do what you gotta do and meet up with us later, outside the base if need be. I still owe you a beer so I’ll be pissed if you don’t make it.”
His tone was in jest, looking down to Gordon with a smile, but unease was written all over his features. Just as concerned but doing his best to look braver than he actually felt, Gordon returned it, and then looked to the vent, mentally preparing himself.
“I’ll be there.”
Barney paused, opening his mouth to say something, but instead cleared his throat. He reached to pat Gordon’s shoulder before the scientist crawled inside the vent. It was both a gesture of farewell and encouraging him to go.
Half-way through, Gordon heard Barney call to him.
“Take care, buddy.”
“Stay safe, Barney.”
Footsteps led away from the vent and Gordon continued onwards, the two parting ways.
Unbeknown to the other, both did pause and glance back to where their friend had gone, questioning decisions made. A fear took root in the back of their minds. Would they ever see each other again? Should they have said more? Said proper goodbyes?
Rumbles throughout the facility shook them back to reality and set them on their paths once more, the fear being ignored for the time being.
They had work to do.
Gordon’s cramped travel to the server room was mercifully short, the HEV making it a little more awkward than he anticipated. An orange glow, caused by a large fire eating away at one of toppled and partially-buried servers, illuminated the darkened space. Wall-mounted red lights struggled to break through the thick smoke. He couldn’t see anyone from the shaft’s position, just a small group of blood splatters on the far wall.
He was just about to heave himself out when a live hanging cable from the collapsed ceiling sent a bolt of electricity at one of the monitors above the workstation nearby. It exploded; sending sparks to the displaced computers on the floor and began a chain reaction of short circuiting. Bursts of flame grew higher and higher, quickly starting to spread.
Having retreated to hide from the sparks and explosions, Gordon peered out and saw there was only one way he could avoid the fire – through the security booth on his left. The doors were open. He just had to hope the ones on the other side would be.
Gritting his teeth, he decided to risk it. He clambered out of the shaft and landed on the floor, raising an arm to shield his face from the flames as he jogged to the booth and ducked inside.
Gordon followed the booth that curved around the perimeter of the room, giving him a little reprieve from the choking smoke. The fire hadn’t spread to the back area yet, leaving him with an easy exit.
Or so he hoped.
To his dismay the other set of doors were jammed shut, but this had been done on purpose for a change. A metal crowbar with a red painted handle stuck out between the locking mechanisms, as if someone had tried to stop something from following them.
The moans from the other side of the glass wall made him realise what.
Turning sharply with a gasp, three of the zombies stumbled through the smoke and began to hit on the glass, raking it with their clawed fingers. He was trapped and the fire was growing bigger. Two of them were scientists and the third was a security guard, his almost skeletal jaw hanging low underneath the crab, as if broken.
He reeled back in fear, bumping into the desk behind him and sending the keyboard and mouse clattering to the floor.
An errant bolt of electricity from the cable flew into the machinery on the wall outside of the booth, detonating it. The resounding explosion almost sent Gordon to the floor, pieces of metal and concrete hitting the monstrous colleagues and throwing them across the room. The glass on the doors shattered, buckling them, but stayed shut due to the tool wedged between them.
Ears ringing, Gordon used the desk to regain his balance. He saw the fallen zombies, unsure if they were really dead and then looked to the wall which now had a rather sizable hole in it.
That was his way out!
Feeling a surge of courage, Gordon grabbed the crowbar and tugged it loose – the doors springing open enough so he could squeeze through. He didn’t check to see if anything was going to come for him or not, clambering through the hole with renewed vigour.
It took him to the personnel offices, the orange line on the curve of the wall just about seen through more smoke. The corridor that would have normally led him here had suffered a lot of integrity damage, part of it caving in. Fire raged behind the rubble.
He could hear the trapped monsters not so far away, howling for blood and flesh; probably his.
Fighting the shakes, Gordon pressed on into the dark hallway with the spot of light from the HEV leading him.
The office on the left was pitch black with its door and windows intact. He tried to look inside but wasn’t able to make out anything and the door was locked. In the middle of the floor was a filing cabinet, shards of glass and papers trailing to the shattered window of the right side office. As well as that, the door had been torn off, crumpled before its designated spot.
There was no doubt about it – somehow, those crab creatures had been spreading all over the upper level and changing everyone who didn’t die first. The way that one he killed had acted – launching for his head and ignoring the danger of the flare – made him sure it was a form of parasite. Parasites needed a host for continued survival, it just so happened that humans were compatible.
A slow, repeating, wet smack snapped him out of his trail of thought and he moved the glow along the window.
Opposite him was one of the altered scientists. It hadn’t noticed him and it also didn’t react to the gleam. The creature repeatedly hit its ‘head’ against the glass, leaving a growing blood splatter.
“Why... Why...” A muffled, gargling voice moaned from inside.
Gordon watched in silence, finding the scene disturbing and horrific. He didn’t know how aware they were of their actions, how much pain they were in and if there was even any humanity left in their disfigured bodies.
“Please... Someone... Help me...” They sobbed over the impacts.
Which of his colleagues was this? It could have been anyone. He had worked with so many people – different names, different faces and different quirks – but now he couldn’t tell them apart. Their identities had been forcefully stripped from them, replaced with these husks of men and women, faces obscured with a vile and cruel entity.
Swallowing heavily, he looked to the crowbar in his hand, then back to the creature. He weighed it up in his head and fought with his conscience. Was it mercy to end their suffering, or murder?
His grip shook. No matter what they were now, they were people once. Scientists just like him. They had families. They had friends. Maybe they had been living on site with dependents and maybe those very people were looking for them right now.
He couldn’t do it.
Gordon turned away and fate taught him what a terrible mistake that was.
The wet smacks stopped.
Pausing mid-step, noticing the sudden quiet, Gordon turned to shine the flashlight back on where the zombie had stood.
It was right in his face, catching it just as it finished its leap.
A scream was cut off as it collided with him, sending him to the floor. The corridor was cast into darkness, the HEV instead fully illuminating his assailant as it tried to pin him down.
Choking out a yell after having the air knocked out of him, Gordon wrestled and struggled underneath the rotting, but still heavy body of the scientist. Getting a knee under its abdomen, he held it back, pushing against its shoulder with his left hand. It was a test of strength between the two, which – when faced with something that didn’t tire – he was bound to lose.
Screeching, the monster swiped at his face with its left hand, claws just missing his cheek and jaw as he turned his head against the floor. Its right hand clutched his forearm tightly – very tightly – and tried to pull it aside. Its writhing was making it difficult to balance on his knee, the full weight of the thing on it.
Panting raggedly through grunts of exertion, Gordon saw the crowbar on the floor nearby. With his free hand he reached for it, flinching as the zombie swiped and missed again.
His fingers almost touched the crowbar but it wasn’t enough. It was too far.
Meanwhile, his hold on the shoulder loosened. The creature pried his arm aside momentarily and the sudden shift broke his defence. It fell on him, his knee lowering enough for it to get uncomfortably close.
Crying out in terror, Gordon quickly pressed his released forearm against its collar bone in a futile attempt to keep it at bay. His other leg tried to find leverage underneath it, the heel of his boot scraping against the floor, but the creature was moving around too much for him to do so.
It swiped with its right hand, missing and scratching into the surface near his head thanks to an elbow knocking its aim. In that same movement, Gordon shuffled his body towards the crowbar, but it also left him more vulnerable.
The creature reached around and grabbed the wrist of his defending arm with a snarl, pulling it away roughly before pinning it to the floor just above his head. Suit or no suit, the wrenching of his arm and the impact still hurt – making him yelp in pain.
Wincing, he looked to the crowbar and stretched for it again out of desperation. It was only a matter of time before it landed a killing blow.
Instead, he felt claws curl around his head and press it into the floor with force, effectively keeping him down. Screaming, panic and fear surging through him now, his hand grasped for the crowbar – fingers touching it at last and trying to drag it towards him. Bony talons clicked against the lenses of his glasses, displacing them at an awkward angle.
The creature leered at him and his eyes caught it in their peripheral. Its mandibles rubbed together, the two longer fangs rising in anticipation and aiming for his neck. Whimpering, Gordon closed his eyes and prayed.
Feeling the crowbar in his grip, he pulled it over and thrust the pointed wedge into the side of the crab and the skull underneath as deep as he could.
A choked noise came from inside, its body convulsing for a few moments before it slumped on top of him. Both green and red blood seeped out of the wound and from underneath the crab itself, dripping onto his face and chest.
Gordon’s trembling hand was locked around the crowbar, holding it for dear life. He slowly opened his eyes – vision skewed with his glasses half-on – and timidly checked that the thing was no longer moving.
Seeing it on top of him and feeling blood trickling over his cheek, mixed with the stench of death and decay which was no longer possible to ignore sent him into a panic attack. Hyperventilating, he struggled underneath the mangled corpse and eventually rolled it off him, leaving the crowbar stuck inside its skull.
He scrambled backwards and away from it, huddling by the wall he reached and hugged himself, cradling his still-aching arm. The adrenaline pumping through his body made him shake, along with fear – he was trembling and freezing cold even though the raging fires’ heat could be felt from the corridor.
An unsteady hand reached up and slowly pulled his glasses off, holding them as his other hand wiped at his face. He looked at it after as though he was in some sort of stupor, blankly staring at the blurred, smeared blood covering his fingers.
Whether it was the smell, the sight of the blood or the whole experience and the shock it put him in, he suddenly heaved, leaning over to the side and throwing up.
It took a few minutes to stop.
Panting heavily, Gordon waited until the queasiness passed. His brow was slick with cold sweat and his trembling had turned into shivers. Once sure he had nothing left to vomit, he spat a few times to try and rid the taste out of his mouth, before shuffling a little further down the wall and away from the unpleasantness.
Gordon leant his head against the wall and raised his knees. He brought the glasses to his face with one hand, checking that they were still alright, and then slipped them on whilst wiping the remnants of blood off his other glove’s fingers using the floor. Swallowing dryly, his throat sore, he stared off at the opposite wall where the flashlight created a circle of sanctuary.
The hallway was mostly silent aside from distant moans echoing from where he came and the crackling of flames.
A flood of emotions abruptly surfaced, unable to hold them back this time.
Grimacing, he covered his face with his hands and let out a choked sob.
What a fool he was, thinking he had any chance in hell of doing this. The hit to the head must have removed all rational thought.
Barney was right, he was no hero and he wouldn’t have lasted a minute if that one zombie had been two. He should have gone with him, forgot about Eli’s plan and just escaped. Everyone was dead anyway, what was he trying to prove?
If he was indeed doomed to die down here, he could have chosen to do it alongside his friends and those he cared about, rather than alone and surrounded by corpses and destruction.
Destruction he had played a part in creating.
Crying quietly, he hugged his knees and rested his forehead on top of them, blocking out the world around him. Even if he decided to try and catch up with Barney now, the fire fully prevented him from doing so. He was on his own and the prospect of seeing his best friend again seemed less and less likely by the second.
There was, however, a small comfort to be had, knowing that he wasn’t going to be seen like this.
 Gordon had always been a quiet, private man. He would often go hours without speaking to others. Some had called him ignorant or simply rude, having an awkward and aloof air about him, more focused on his work than socially interacting.
That wasn’t true – he paid attention to everything going on to the tiniest detail. He even remembered Steve the janitor’s birthday when others were just too busy. Someone he didn’t even know – lowest on the food chain in terms of position – and yet just two words and a gesture of goodwill to a lonely and underappreciated man made him a friend for life. Barney even took him to the bar to get drunk that evening and it was the best celebration he could ask for. No one had done that for him in the years he’d worked there.
Steve was probably gone now, but he didn’t die in the belief that no one saw him as a person.
The fact that Dr. Kleiner was Gordon’s mentor and professor at MIT had raised some questions of favouritism by some of his colleagues who doubted his experience and knowledge. Dr. Banner and Dr. Magnusson (who competed with Isaac for grant money) had been the main culprits but there were more, using his status as an Associate to get him to do demeaning tasks they saw beneath their skills. Of course he did them; it was his job to do so.
Although he figured it was just jealousy, it had made him feel like an outcast. In their eyes he was still a Postdoc. The only solace he could find was in Isaac’s and Eli’s company in the beginning, which only perpetuated the issue.
Barney changed all of that the day they met, being introduced by Kleiner a couple of weeks into his new job when he was still trying to find his feet. He frequently got lost and that was how he got to know the security guards better than his own lab mates, possibly seeing Barney too but not knowing his name.
They were around the same age, which helped, but they were very different people and that was the secret. It threw Gordon completely out of his comfort zone and forced him to adapt whether he liked it or not. He couldn’t be quiet around Barney because he talked a lot – almost excessively so – and his exuberant personality, whilst unusual considering what he was used to, was contagious. When he wanted to retreat and go back to his room to relax alone, Barney would instead drag him out for drinks and force him to interact with others.
This was all quite overwhelming at first and, at times, annoying, but he began to see the benefit. He made more friends – mostly with the off duty security guards – started to enjoy his life at Black Mesa as opposed to questioning it and discovered that there was still fun to be had after graduation. Game night in the bar every Thursday and poker night on Saturdays became regular arrangements, mixed with whatever crazy new idea Barney dragged him to, including competitive sports and, of course, the shooting range.
His peers didn’t like that they were friends and that came as no surprise. They claimed Barney was a bad influence; a track record of getting into trouble, debt and fights and especially when the races to Dr. Kleiner’s office began. Gordon stuck up for him and that put him in a bad spot for opinion, too, but he had learnt to brush it off rather than taking it to heart like he would have done before.
It wasn’t all one-sided, however. Barney benefitted from Gordon’s friendship as well, getting helpful and – when required – blunt advice, a listening ear to his many questions and thoughts and someone to reel him in when he got too far ahead of himself. Gordon kept him grounded whereas he had taught Gordon how to let loose.
He also taught him not to give up.
 How much time had passed since the incident?
Gordon’s tears had dried, leaving him sitting in silence with his eyes closed. His moment of weakness faded away, leaving behind a residual, lingering numbness.
Distant shakes and rumbles made him raise his head and glance back and forth along the corridor. Nothing had changed. The corpse of the zombie was where he left it, the crowbar sticking upwards out of its head. Blood pooled around it.
He sighed heavily, pulling his glasses off and cleaning their lenses using the sleeve of his suit, before switching to his glove. Sniffling, he slipped them back on and rose to stand.
Flies had begun to accumulate around the dead scientist, drawn in by the smell which hit him as he got close. Covering his mouth and nose with one hand, he took the handle of the crowbar firmly and held the body in place with his boot. A strong tug pried it free, the bottom half of the tool covered in blood, pieces of bone, crab innards and gore.
Closing his eyes and swallowing back bile, he flicked as much of the mess off as he could onto the floor, then used a torn off piece of lab coat to wipe off whatever remained. He discarded the filthy rag aside, turning to the corridor at the end of the hallway.
Exhaling as his jumpy stomach settled, he made a cautious advance.
A single working light flickered over the sign on the wall, noting the next checkpoint was for Sector B. He had never been there but two guards were normally posted by the door to prevent entry. Considering how dark the entryway looked, he doubted they were there now.
Approaching slowly and keeping the crowbar close, he hugged the wall on the left and peered around the corner.
A dead guard covered in lacerations lay in a pool of blood near the first aid station mounted on the wall, which glowed dimly. On the bench behind him was the slumped, mutated body of another guard, unmoving with blood stains covering the pockmarked wall behind. It was a bleak affirmation of his doubt.
With nothing else to be aware of, he gingerly moved to the first aid station and stayed on high alert. He didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.
Easily recognised by their steel casing and red cross, the station had two functions; storing vital medical equipment inside and providing a terminal to be used by HEVs to replenish their painkiller supply.
Gordon sighed softly, placing the crowbar on top of it and pressing one of the buttons on the computer. A tiny compartment opened up underneath it, revealing the connector plug, which he released and pulled out – its short cable following along. He plugged it into the port at the bottom of the terminal, turning it until it locked, before inputting his code onto the keypad.
A green light appeared over the keys and one of the two tubes filled with clear liquid began to drain. The suit hummed gently as it worked.
Leaning close to the machine and holding either side, he tapped a finger gently against it while he waited. It gave him a small moment of calm.
A long beep sounded, announcing the process had finished. The green light changed to yellow and the plug automatically turned as it was released. He tugged it out and pressed the button again, the cable being retracted and the compartment closing.
Gordon mentally checked himself over, touching at the back of his head and then his temple. Although there was a bit of swelling on the back, it wasn’t bleeding and the latter had settled to a manageable tenderness. He wasn’t injured to the point of needing medical treatment other than what the suit had already provided and that was particularly lucky considering what he had been through so far.
He picked up the crowbar and turned away from the station. He had no way to carry anything without it being cumbersome and his impromptu weapon was more valuable to him than bandages currently.
Heading on through the open doors, he entered a junction with two long hallways either side. No lights were functioning, but a fire raged in the room at the right side’s end, casting an orange glow along the walls. There was the outline of a doorway adjacent to it. On the left was the coolant reserve, protected in another lab, but the tanks had toppled over and leaked everywhere – freezing furniture and floor into hard clumps of ice.
Not wanting to investigate, Gordon took to the right, noting blood splatters on the floor and the large panels that had fallen in from the ceiling. A gaping hole was crumbling above, some of the still attached panels entangled with fallen wires.
Underneath the rubble was the shape of a body – their awkwardly bent arm sticking out through a gap. Gordon paused, his expression grim, but he forced himself to keep walking.
Muffled screaming came from the flames on the other side of the broken double doors, a crab-headed scientist launching at the gap where the glass would normally be. The frame prevented it from getting out and with its poor motor functions it appeared to be unable to climb. It slammed against its prison – flailing its clawed hands at Gordon.
Although spooked at first, Gordon tore his gaze from the scene and did his best to ignore its screams and cries as it burnt to death, moving to the other door.
It led to a storage area, albeit a messy one with shelving units, boxes and crates fallen down on top of each other. Shortly after entering he was forced to stride and eventually climb over the blockade, not staying disarmed for long if he had to put the crowbar down.
Sighing with relief after escaping the debris, Gordon scanned the long, dark corridor. Large white tanks dotted his right along the wall and a jammed door only partially open was on his left. More shelving units, racks and pallets were further ahead, strewn over the floor underneath sunken ventilation shafts.
As he walked along he checked the gap of the open door. A shelving rack had collapsed against it and he couldn’t see much of the room beyond. He could see blood all over the floor, however and what was enough to make him not want to tamper.
Gordon wrestled with and climbed over more irksome blockages, seeing a red light flickering at the end of the corridor near a large step ladder. Fighting his way to it, he discovered it was coming from a sunken elevator; the broken, misaligned doors leading to the shaft decorated with bloodied handprints and smears. Worryingly, a trail of blood led through the gap between them.
Tensing with fear, remembering the last time he was involved with an elevator, he was hesitant to go inside. He wanted to go up, but with the cab blocking access to its roof at this height, he couldn’t get to a ladder.
Gordon bit his lip, rubbing a knuckle against his chin as he fought with himself. If he wasn’t prepared to do this, why didn’t he just stay by that wall and wait for the inevitable end?
It’s either this or fire, Gordon. At least this would be a quicker and considerably less painful death.
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Releasing a shaking exhale, he moved to the gap and crouched down, slipping into the narrow opening legs first.
A loud, metallic thud rang out in the cab when his boots hit the floor. Two marked containers designated for labs had been left inside, as well as a few crates and a trolley to carry them. The light within doused the cab, him and its contents with a red glow.
Not wanting to be trapped in there for long, he looked up at the escape hatch above and began to rearrange what he had with him so he could climb to it.
The elevator shuddered and groaned, sinking a little. There was a good chance that the suit’s weight had pushed it over its already weakened limit.
Gordon flinched and cried out; stopping what he was doing and looked to the now tighter space leading back to the storage area.
“N-no...”
Thinking he could still make it out if he was careful, he abandoned his plan and slowly stepped back to the ledge. He moved one foot along, then the other, keeping his arms out in an attempt to distribute weight. Simple physics, really.
Eyes locked on the ledge getting closer, he could feel his heart pounding in his ears and sweat beginning to bead on his brow. One hand reached for it with trembling fingers, the other holding the crowbar tightly despite it not really being able to help him. It was for comfort.
The cab violently rattled, metal creaking and brakes screeching. Wincing, Gordon paused and waited for it to ease. He was so close now.
Just... A little more...
With the rattle turning into a thrumming vibration, he took a careful step and touched the wall.
“Come on, come on...”
A strained creak came from above and the elevator suddenly jerked, making Gordon lose his balance with a sharp gasp. He fell on his back, the heavy landing being the elevator’s tipping point.
The brakes gave way and the cab plummeted.
Screaming, Gordon clung to the floor with his fingers – the force of gravity keeping him pinned. There was nothing he could do except brace for impact.
Barely able to see straight with all the shaking, he could just make out the elevator passing two more floors – one exit had a door missing with flames licking at the entrance to the shaft and the other simply had its doors closed. With no way of stopping it, he was going to be crushed at the bottom.
Now he knew how those poor people felt.
Please, let it be quick...
The screeching of metal came to an abrupt end as it collided with something. It wasn’t hard like he anticipated but it still delivered a less than comfortable landing, his body being thrown a few inches up before hitting the floor.
“Agh...! Gah! Ow...”
Grimacing from the rough travel – rattling still being heard in his head after being thoroughly shaken – Gordon groaned. He wasn’t dead, much to his surprise, but he was going to feel that for a while. Not so dire as to need morphine, though, at least that’s what the HEV thought anyway.
Coughing, Gordon reclaimed lost air and blinked rapidly to focus. Aside from the crates and containers thrown away from the hatch, there was no integrity damage at all.
Why had it stopped?
Gordon felt a sudden coldness against his left leg that was swiftly moving underneath him and he dazedly looked to see what it was.
Water. The elevator was sinking into water.
The bottom of the shaft had flooded.
Bolting upright, Gordon hurried to his feet and he felt the elevator get pulled deeper. Water began rushing into the open cab and it was rapidly filling up. So rapidly, even, that he wasn’t allowed any time to plan.
He was trying to think straight, but panic was dominating his mind. The cab tilted to one side awkwardly as its weight adjusted, filling with freezing, dark water he could barely see through. He stayed dry thanks to the suit, but the temperature was still being felt even with its layers and his teeth began to chatter. If he didn’t drown first there was a severe risk of hypothermia.
Beyond the doors, he saw hope in the form of an open exit to the floor he’d arrived at and tried to wade towards it. The push of the water slowed him down, which was at his chest now.
The cab sank faster and further and the exit started to vanish out of view. He wasn’t going to make it in time.
Gasping at the biting cold, the water reaching his chin, he looked up to the escape hatch. That was his only chance. Gordon felt his feet leave the floor as the level got higher, now treading water to keep his head above the surface. Soon enough he was running out of room, being wedged by the ceiling – a hand pressed against it.
Whilst he still had air, he took the crowbar and hit the hatch as hard as he could, several times. Each hit weakened and dented it, but it was being stubborn.
Gordon panted, trembling now with how cold he was. The suit was working hard to regulate his body temperature, buying him some time. It unfortunately couldn’t do the same for oxygen.
As the water pushed him towards the last few inches of space, he swung it one more time and caused a small breach to form. It needed more force to come away, but the crowbar had done its job. Savouring his last few deep breaths, he held it and took his glasses off, holding them with the crowbar in one hand and pushed himself down with the other.
The icy touch of the water on his skin made him wince, descending into a dull haze with shimmers of red that were blocked out periodically by the floating containers and crates. With the elevator filled, it was beginning to sink further down the shaft. Gordon had to get out now or risk being carried along for the ride.
Orientating himself, he swam to where the hatch was – barely making it out – and kicked it. It twisted outwards. He kicked it again and again, the hatch opening just a bit wider with each blow. He could feel his lungs starting to burn and the cold sapping his energy.
Just one more – come on!
Pushing back the urge to gasp, he kicked again.
The hatch swung open. There was a very faint shimmer of light above, giving him some idea of how far he needed to go.
Gordon grabbed the mouth of the opening and pulled himself through it, pushing up towards the surface. Every thrust made him more tired, every kick made his chest hurt. His eyes flickered and were struggling to stay open.
The HEV’s voice, muffled, was just about heard.
‘Warning: Vital signs are dropping.’
“Ghk...” A choked noise replied. He was desperate for air.
It felt like he had been swimming for hours and yet he was still no closer to the light. His legs were starting to slow down against their will. Gritting his teeth – his suffocating lungs on fire – he reached up towards the light, his numbing fingers grazing its shimmer.
How ironic was it to escape a falling elevator, only to drown in the water that saved you?
Not... Like this...
His hand breached the murky film and grabbed the ledge, hauling him up with the last bit of strength he could spare.
Gordon gasped deeply; taking in so much air all at once he choked and coughed. He leant his head against the concrete, gulping down oxygen, his body shaking from strain and cold. It hurt to move but he had to get out of that water, his legs were too tired to keep treading and if he lost grip on the ledge there was a risk he could sink.
Panting and wheezing, he pulled his other hand over the ledge and gently dropped the crowbar and glasses onto the floor past the open doors. With both hands free, he clawed forward and used the leverage of his arms to drag himself out, crawling away from his watery grave before collapsing into a heap.
Water pooled on the floor, droplets running down his face and dripping onto the concrete tiles. He lay still, waiting for the pain in his chest to settle. Every breath felt like a stabbing needle; a sharp, tear-inducing pain that spread similar to an electric shock. On top of that, he was trembling – so much so that it was actually making him ache.
“Less... Painful... Death... My ass...” Gordon uttered, coughing.
‘Warning: Body temperature at 33 degrees. Hypothermia risk is imminent.’
“T-tell me about it...” He responded dryly.
As much as he wanted to remain on the floor to avoid hurting himself further, there was a significant risk of passing out. He had to stay awake. Who was to say he was any safer? More of those monsters could be hiding nearby.
Groaning, he pushed on his hands and slowly pressed himself up onto his knees. His tightening muscles resisted movement, stiffly complying.
“Ah... Agh... Nn... God, that hurts...”
‘Warning: Body temperature at 33 degrees. Hypothermia risk is imminent.’
The suit repeated itself, much to an already stressed out wearer’s inconvenience.
“I know, I know – shut up!” Gordon hissed, reaching for his glasses and slipping them on.
They were a bit streaky, but they were clean from dirt and dust at last. It was like having new eyes again. Taking a moment to rest, so to not push himself too hard too quickly, he looked around.
It was a small storage area with crates and boxes abandoned in the middle of processing. A forklift truck was left parked near the closed shutter door with a crate still loaded on it. Leaks poured in from damaged pipes on the high ceiling. At the back of the room, split into three individual sections by pillars, were shelving racks. The room formed an L-shape and he was unable to see around the corner from where he was. Even so, it was silent.
He was safe... For now.
Relaxing just marginally, he focused on stopping his condition from worsening. He rose to his feet – grabbing the crowbar – and hugged himself tightly as the tremors returned in force. He needed heat and he needed it now.
Think – think – think. Lots of crates – got to be something in these.
Armed with his trusty companion, he sluggishly stepped to the nearest crate and pried the lid off. Inside was filled with packing and after rooting through it, only found mechanical parts. Irritably, he moved away from the crate and picked another; this one had fragile lab equipment inside.
“Damn it...”
It was increasingly becoming more difficult to concentrate. On his way to the next one, he slumped against it and felt his eyelids getting heavy.
So tired...
He caught himself, jerking upright and harshly slapping his own cheek. It stung like hell, but it woke him up.
“Stay awake. Stay awake.”
Not knowing what to expect this time, he pried the lid off the larger crate and peered inside. There had to be something he could use in this place, surely?
It was full of fresh lab coats.
Hardly believing his luck, he placed the crowbar down and dug out as many as he could carry, layering them around himself to preserve heat. They would be ruined, certainly, but that was a given at this point. He dried his face and hair with another, the latter sticking upright in wild spikes until he brushed it back down with his fingers.
Gordon grabbed a few more and dropped them by his feet, before sitting on them. He leant against the crate and huddled in his mound of makeshift blankets. The tremors rattled him, his teeth chattering, but it was all he could do at a moment’s notice.
He had little choice but to wait – no sense in risking his health over trying to find something to light a fire with. That and he didn’t plan on staying still for longer than he had to. He was beginning to feel a light amount of warmth permeate through his limbs and head, slowly but surely. The tremors eased into shivers.
The almost far away voice of the HEV droned on.
‘Warning: Body temperature at 34 degrees. Hypothermia risk is imminent.’
He didn’t realise his eyes had closed.
 A distant, high-pitched whine and the sound of something metallic toppling over echoed from the exit to the room.
Gordon woke up with a start and tore the lab coats off him, snatching the crowbar by his feet as he stood. Rapidly scanning the area revealed nothing nearby. Holding his breath, he waited for further noise.
Nothing came.
Letting out a sigh of relief, Gordon plucked the glasses from his face and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes with a knuckle. How long had he been out for? He had no sense of time anymore.
His body must have been so exhausted that it shut down. After all he had gone through it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The rest was dearly needed, even if it was unintentional. He had recovered stamina and stabilised his temperature, at a cost of progress.
Slipping his glasses back on his nose, Gordon rolled his shoulders and loosened his neck.
Time to go...
Crowbar firmly in hand, he left his nest of lab coats behind and headed around the corner to the wide hall leading to the exit.
A double door had been jammed open with a crate and didn’t appear to be working. On the wall next to it was a red, glowing sign warning that the following area was restricted to those below Level 4 access. That wasn’t enough to tell him where he was, though.
Gordon heaved the crate through the doors just enough to let him get past, finding the scenery had changed to a low, tiled ceiling, grey tiled floor and narrow corridors made up of ribbed metal panels. Dials, meters and switches were built into the panels opposite, a grated walkway giving him a glimpse of large pipes above. Oil barrels and tanks of gas were left in the corners by the doors.
To his surprise the lights and power seemed to be functional down here, giving him a well-lit area to search through. Checking the right side showed him the body of someone underneath a fallen step ladder – the weight of the top step on the back of his neck. Even from here he could tell it was crushed. He quickly took the left side to avoid looking at it further.
The tight, winding corners made him wary. Aside from the sounds of machinery there was no sign of life so far. He expected to run into one of those crab-headed monsters at any moment and now that he knew just how dangerous they were, he couldn’t afford to get cornered.
Instead, he reached a long hallway with a ramp. The walls and floor were coated in a thin layer of frost and the air had a lingering, chilly dampness to it. A foggy window on his left partially showed him a few damaged nitrogen tanks, letting out mist and freezing the room they were in.
As Gordon glanced at the group of pipes that snaked into the ceiling and walls above the corridor, he noticed something dangling from above them. He mistook it for thin rope at first, or a hanging wire, but on closer inspection it was yellow-green with a faint shine to it. Following it with his eyes, he stared at what it belonged to.
Attached to the ceiling was a large, organic mass composed of little more than an enormous mouth filled with two rows of sharp teeth. It had a tan, leathery outer ‘shell’ with hooked spines growing out of it, protecting its fleshy innards with four large fangs. It didn’t move or respond to him being there, merely clicking its fangs and lowering what could only be its ‘tongue’ to just above the ramp.
Four more of the creatures were dotted around it in a cluster, idly waiting for something to catch like a living fly trap.
Somewhat bewildered by the sight of something other than the crabs or warped corpses of his co-workers, Gordon didn’t notice another descending cord until it latched around his neck and tightened like a noose. Letting out a choked gasp, he grabbed it with his free hand, trying to loosen its grip. The tongue held fast, covered with a very strong natural adhesive which not only clung to the suit, but also stuck his hand in place.
The creature above, sensing its struggling prey, retracted its sticky appendage with instinctual reflex. To his surprise and horror, it dragged him off his feet as if he weighed nothing.
Gordon kicked his legs, unable to breathe and forced to watch helplessly as he was hoisted to the ceiling. The shell around the giant mouth opened widely and revealed the toothy maw which dragged and reeled in the tongue, bringing him closer and closer to it. At this distance, the thing was much larger than he thought – so big in fact that it could potentially swallow him whole.
He wasn’t willing to test that potential. Gritting his teeth and bearing with the pain of more suffocation, he readied the crowbar. There was no sense in striking the shell; he had to hit the inner parts for his escape to have a chance of succeeding... And that meant waiting until the last moment.
As the jaws started to close and clamp around his shoulders, Gordon winced and rammed the wedge of the crowbar into the open maw of the beast inches from his head. It let out a strained, guttural sound of pain, the tongue releasing him and its stickiness vanishing. Gasping for oxygen, Gordon fell the – thankfully short – distance back to the floor, landing on his side with a grunt.
Coughing and holding his neck, Gordon eyed the creature as he dragged himself out of range. Its entire form writhed before the shell relaxed and hung open, whilst the innards turned inside out, vomiting fluids mixed with green blood onto the floor. A skull and a few human bones landed in the mess. The tongue hung lifelessly, still retracted.
Taking ragged breaths, Gordon stared at the skull until his stomach somersaulted. He shivered, looking away. Others hadn’t been so lucky.
Too close... At least they don’t have legs.
Some relief perhaps, but they were still in his way. Whether their location was a strategic choice or completely random, they had successfully made the corridor perilous. There was no way he’d make it past them without being detected. The slippery surface was just the icing on the cake.
Gathering himself, Gordon got to his feet and observed the hanging tongues with a frown, thinking. He snapped his fingers, face lighting up.
Leaving the crowbar leant against the wall, he headed back through the corridor and gathered whatever barrels or tanks he could carry and brought them to the ramp. Placing one at the edge on its side, he held it in place with his boot.
“Let’s hope this works...” He muttered.
Like any good experiment, he tested it first. He let go of the barrel and let it roll down the ramp. As soon as it hit one of the tongues, it was immediately stuck. The creature above wasted no time in dragging it up, thinking it was food.
A small, boyish grin appeared on his face, taking some measure of pride in that he could outwit them. It was the only thing that had gone right so far.
Wasting no time, he turned and grabbed the crowbar and began to kick the other barrels down the ramp. Each tongue snatched them up, leaving him a gap to get through. He took a running start and hopped off the ramp, one foot in front of the other as he slid down towards the wall at the end as if he were skiing without the skis.
He made it through without a hitch, catching the wall with his hand and coming to a stop. Whilst the creatures on the ceiling were so busy chewing on metal, he was well out of their reach. It was an exhilarating rush and Gordon couldn’t help but let loose a nervous laugh mixed with a relieved sigh.
As he looked through the passage into the next room, he saw someone standing atop of the walkway, watching him.
It was the man in the suit!
Gordon’s relief vanished and he felt the same unease as before, but mixed with confusion. How had he ended up down here? He pushed off the wall and scraped remnants of frost from under his boots, frowning.
“You... Who are you? How did you get down here?”
The man said nothing, watching him calmly, but coldly with an unending stare. He wasn’t hurt and there wasn’t a speck of blood or dirt over his pristine clothes or his black briefcase.
Annoyed by the silence, Gordon strode forward. He wanted answers and after finding nothing but the dead, it just rubbed salt in the wound that he found someone alive who didn’t want to talk.
“Answer me!” He demanded.
The man smirked and turned away from him, walking through the open door he stood next to as if he was on a casual stroll. This only infuriated Gordon further and he darted forwards, the door closing and locking.
“Hey! Stop!”
There was definitely something weird going on with that suited man. Had he caused this? He didn’t look afraid or even remotely bothered about what was happening. Gordon glared at the closed door, but a disturbing thought distracted him.
Was he... Waiting for me? Did he know I was coming?
“No... No, don’t be ridiculous.” He shook his head.
Whatever the case was, he was gone now and the walkway – for the moment – was beyond his reach.
In the long room he found himself were two large tanks designated ‘Temperature Control’ and their unit number, a single red pipe running into the floor behind each. They conjoined into one, trailing underneath the walkway and winding around the corner. Above, a sign on the walkway wall informed him that there were feeding locations for the tanks, one on the left wing and one on the right where that man went. Large windows on the left wall revealed a second misty room and even more damaged tanks.
He wasn’t going to distract himself with a wild goose chase. He needed to focus on his goal, however strange this was. Deciding to follow the red pipe as a point of reference, he walked past the tanks and remained cautious.
The last window on the wall smashed open, something flying out of the room behind it and scattering shards of glass everywhere like tiny diamonds. Gordon yelped and staggered backwards, covering his face with his left arm, broken glass hitting the suit with tiny metallic rings.
When the glass settled, he lowered his arm and saw the tripedal creature, roughly the size of a large dog, skid along the floor clumsily.
Its whole body was a thorax and three strong legs with two stubby claws on its feet. Having yellow-green, reptilian skin with electric blue stripes, it reminded Gordon of some sort of tropical lizard or amphibian. As it turned towards him, he saw that in place of its head was a huge, insectoid compound eye made up of black orbs. A thin ring of pink muscle around the outside stretched vertically like an eyelid, covering the eye twice as if it were blinking at him.
Gordon blinked back, unsure of what to make of it.
These things just get stranger and stranger by the second...
The two stared at one another, both human and alien uncertain of how to react. In the hope that this one wasn’t going to try and devour him, Gordon awkwardly waved at it. The three-legged being followed the movement of his hand, blinking once.
“... Right. If you don’t mind, I’ll just... Go.”
Gordon gave it a wide berth, stepping around it and watching it warily. The creature turned with him skittishly, letting out a high-pitched yip. It even sounded a bit like a dog.
“Not going to hurt you if you stay right there...” He warned, adjusting his hold on the crowbar.
As he carefully retreated, the creature yipped again, then again, becoming more and more agitated and even moving towards him. In response, Gordon struck the crowbar on the floor near it, which made it back off and scurry around the corner in fear.
Surprised his tactic actually worked, Gordon relaxed.
Finally, something running away from me for a change.
Nodding firmly, he was about to investigate the broken window when he heard the scampering of feet. He looked to the corner again and saw the creature return... With two more following it.
It was part of a pack.
Or not...
Gordon backed off quickly, the three moving to surround him. They yipped at him aggressively, lowering into a defensive stance.
One of them let out a squeal that increased in volume the longer it continued, soon becoming so unbearable that Gordon had to cover an ear. The markings on its back glowed brighter at each octave. The other two joined in the chorus and the sound rose to a painful crescendo that was almost deafening. Gordon yelled, crippled by the sheer intensity that bore into his skull.
The next thing he knew, he was being thrown across the room. Everything blurred and he couldn’t hear anything but a shrill ring. He hit the floor once, then twice, the noise of impact and his own voice muffled and distant. After a short, rolling tumble, he came to a stop.
Disorientated and dazed, he forgot where he was until that annoying yipping returned. He felt something nip at his gloved fingers and a tug on his leg, swinging an arm out to dissuade the surrounding pack as he fought to stand. Realising he was still alive, the three backed off and moved to regroup.
They were a lot more dangerous than he anticipated. Alone they may have been weak, but in a group they appeared to be capable of harmonic, sonic force that hit like a truck and almost ruptured his ear drums. If he hadn’t been wearing the HEV suit, chances were he would either be severely injured or dead.
Yipping, the pack charged at him.
Having little time to recover, he stumbled into a run. He could barely see straight, the world still spinning, but he could make out the shape of the tanks. Using them as a both a support and an obstacle, he fled from the trio – which were now trying to bite him with incisor-like beaks on their underbelly, rearing up to do so.
He swung the crowbar behind him, hitting one of them away from his leg. It cried out, skidding and falling over, but it swiftly rejoined the back of the group.
The window was a way out, but he wouldn’t have the time to climb with them snapping at his heels. He ran another lap around the tanks to try and tire them out a little, before turning left past the window and into the next corridor.
He skidded to a halt, only finding a locked door on his left and a jammed double door on his right.
Gordon was trapped.
Panting, he turned to the hounds that approached him slowly, cornering him. They growled, lowering their stances and seemingly getting ready to charge their shockwave again. With nowhere to go, he’d be launched into the wall behind and at this distance, he doubted even the suit could withstand it.
Taking a fearful step backwards, doubting he could take three on at once with just the crowbar, the panel below him rang hollow. He looked down, moving his foot and saw the handle of the maintenance hatch between his legs.
The pack began to whine and Gordon quickly knelt down to tug the hatch open and tossed the lid at one of the hounds; knocking it away. The other two, undeterred, continued. He gritted his teeth, ignoring the rising pain and dropped the crowbar down the hatch.
Just as the sound got unbearable, he positioned himself on the ladder and put both hands and feet on the outer rails.
He slid down as the wave slammed into the wall he was standing by and rattled the top of the hatch. The sound thundered down the hole he was descending into, making him wince, but he was unharmed aside from a headache and ringing ears.
It didn’t take long before his boots found the floor. The ladder wasn’t that tall, but the drop was not something the hounds were willing to try. They gathered at the entrance, watching him with their many eyes.
Gordon grabbed the crowbar and slumped against the wall of the concrete tunnel, pushing himself along it with his left hand. The agitated creatures yipped and growled, almost daring him to come back.
“Not... Not today...” He muttered breathlessly.
He was just glad the lenses of his glasses hadn’t shattered.
The narrow passage was partially lit by a caged light bulb near the ladder and another at the far end. A red light next to a pipe with many small valves jutting out of it lit up the two much larger ones running along the right side. He stepped in a couple of shallow puddles as he walked, needing to duck now and then under low, dripping ceilings.
This was a good recipe for disaster, he first thought, but there was not a single human or mutated corpse in sight. An uneventful, short trip took him to another ladder.
Not hearing anything near the exit, he climbed up and found himself inside the locked room he had previously been trapped by. The muffled yips of the hounds sounded from behind the door.
He was safe from them for the moment.
What he wasn’t safe from were the other residents on the level, a crab leaping at him the moment he turned the corner. He batted it away with the crowbar like it was a baseball out of surprised reflex and it hit the wall with a sickening crunch.
Although Gordon made a face in disgust, he felt a small degree of satisfaction also. It was revenge for Banner, Wilson and the many others who they had changed and killed. These things were no better than vermin.
The frosted window at the next turn showed him the leaking tanks again, half-buried in mounds of ice. At the far end of the hall to his right was a partially open door that was misaligned and jammed. A bloody streak led into the darkened room behind it, dragged handprints and splatters over the door frame. It was a sight that was becoming the norm, but it never got any easier to see.
Taking a deep breath to settle his nerves, Gordon approached with the crowbar ready. No sound came from the other side of the door and he almost considered it a dead end until he saw the stairwell next to it leading up. He didn’t feel comfortable turning his back on the mess and so climbed the steps side-ways with his back against the wall, allowing him to see in both directions.
His caution gave him the advantage. Beyond the railings around the stairs knelt one of the warped scientists, tearing into the barely recognisable carcass of another staff member. It paused and looked up from its meal and Gordon held his breath, watching it.
Snarling, the creature looked left and right. Not noticing Gordon, it lowered its head and went back to eating.
Adjusting his hold on the crowbar, Gordon took the last few steps to the top and slowly approached the monster from behind. The space was far too small to avoid it and after his last encounter – which still haunted him – he was left with little other option.
Raising the crowbar high and readying it for a swing, he had a perfect opening to strike it in the head. Again, morals and conscience tried to stop him – his hand trembling. He needed to breathe soon and it’d hear him if he gasped.
They’re not human anymore, Gordon.  The least you can do is put them out of their misery.
Bracing himself, he swung. The curve hit the back of the crab and the skull underneath with a fleshy thump and a gargled cry came from the scientist as it slumped over the corpse it was eating. He swung again – something cracking – then he repeated, again and again.
Eat hit produced a more gut-wrenching noise. Green and red blood poured from the misshapen crab’s innards and only when there wasn’t much left to hit did he stop.
Shaking, Gordon panted quietly and covered his mouth with his other hand, looking away. He summoned as much willpower as he could to stop himself from throwing up.
He felt terrible.
Forcing his stiffened legs to step over the bludgeoned corpse and the chewed remains, he stumbled into the room ahead.
Two wide pipes were mounted next to the wall in front of him, partially illuminated by a red light above the valve handle attached to the one on the right. The sign nearby informed him that this was one of the hot water feed valves. He walked over, studying the temperature gauge underneath it, which currently read -96 degrees. No wonder, considering all of the nitrogen turning the area into Antarctica.
Before being chased by the hounds, he remembered seeing a safety warning. Something about temperature controlled storage and normalising the temperature before entering. Even if he could bypass the safety locks on the doors, he’d surely freeze to death far faster than swimming in icy water.
He was no technician but he’d just have to wing it. The place was already collapsing and suffering major damage, it wasn’t as if he could do much worse.
Shrugging, he grabbed the handle and turned it, watching the screen above the light fill with a red bar. At full, he heard a rush of steam and a single, blaring bleep.
Gordon was too eager to get away from the dead scientist to really think about what the noise meant. He just hoped it wasn’t about to blow up.
Some of the panels on the walls had been taken down throughout the corridor, showing the tangled, complex network of piping behind them. A passing curiosity made him wonder if the maintenance crew had been trying to fix something before the incident.
A tank had toppled and smashed into the window he approached, allowing freezing trails to drift through the open hole. The condition of the other, badly damaged tank he could see and the room thickly layered with ice wasn’t filling him with much hope and dread knotted his stomach.
Oh how he really didn’t want to go in there.
Something moved just around the corner and he turned to meet it, raising the crowbar defensively.
Instead of a zombie, a hound or whatever other fresh hell that was going to try and kill him today, it was a scientist. A living, breathing scientist! They looked just as surprised as he was.
“Oh, thank god! Someone alive! That – that suit, you must be from Sector C, right?” The middle-aged man asked timidly.
Gordon quickly lowered the crowbar to his side, not wanting his first impression to be that of a maniac. He nodded, struggling to find words. He’d been alone for so long now that he never thought of what to say when he finally found somebody.
The scientist sighed with relief, rising from the stack of cardboard boxes he’d been sitting on and dusting off his lab coat. His umber hands were rough and scratched, damaged by the temperature they had been exposed to.
“I didn’t think anyone was going to find me here. Those... Eye-dog-things – whatever they are – they chased me in here with a few others. They wanted to hide in the storage closet but I’m not... Good in small spaces. When I heard the screaming, I...”
He looked down at the floor, shaking his head and covering his eyes with his palms.
“I just covered my ears and waited.”
Gordon watched the man with sympathy. His actions might have saved his life, but he was also guilt ridden. It wasn’t an easy choice to make.
“It’s not your fault... You did what you had to.”
“I... I know I did, but I feel nothing but shame. I was a coward.” The man sobbed quietly.
Glancing downwards and off to the side, Gordon felt empathy, but this also not a good place for a heart to heart. One of them could be in the closet still. He looked back to him then, speaking calmly, but firmly.
“Listen... I’m trying to get to the surface and call for help. Can you help me?”
The man looked up from his palms to Gordon and stared at him like he was mad, wiping at his eyes.
“What? You want to go out there? Are you crazy?”
“I have to try.”
“Well... Better you than me, but...” He paused, rubbing at his chin.
“There’s a security office not far from here which I can unlock for you. No doubt that might have some weapons you can use... Something better than – well – that.” He motioned to the crowbar in Gordon’s hand.
Gordon peered at the crowbar with a quizzical expression.
“Come on.” The man motioned for Gordon to follow him.
Staying close and being ready to defend him should anything try to get in their way, Gordon glanced to the scientist.
“Did you see a man in a suit around here, before or after the incident?”
The scientist, hugging himself, looked at Gordon with a raised brow.
“A man in a suit? Can’t say I have... Why?”
Gordon frowned a little, but shook his head.
“Never mind.”
“You haven’t been breathing in coolant fumes, have you?”
Gordon decided not to keep the subject going, making the scientist shrug. They travelled back around the corridor and past the valve he’d turned before. This time the door next to the pipes was unlocked by his companion, which led to the walkway above the room where the hounds were.
The two slowed down and quietly made their way across, Gordon taking the lead. The hounds couldn’t get to them, but he didn’t want to risk them bringing the walkway down with their shockwaves. They were sitting by the hatch still, expecting him to come back.
A tense walk later and Gordon found himself in the same spot that the man in the suit had stood earlier. He nervously glanced at the door, not expecting to see him waiting on the other side, but he couldn’t suppress his feeling of discomfort.
The door opened and the two headed inside. At the end of the small junction was the second manual override valve, with a turn to the left. Before Gordon had the chance to scout out the corner, the scientist was already jogging ahead of him, a bit too desperate for safety perhaps.
“It’s just around here!”
“W-wait!” Gordon cried, darting after him.
He hadn’t gone far. In fact Gordon almost ran into the back of him as he stood frozen in place, trembling.
“M-my god...  That’s Bennett...”
Moving to stand next to the scientist, Gordon tensed. The torn open corpse of another scientist lay on the floor by the security offices’ window. Blood and gore covered the tiles and some of the glass. A twitching, crab-headed co-worker was taking chunks of meat and organs and feeding the maw in its chest.
“Holy shit...” The scientist covered his mouth, staring in disbelief.
“I’ll distract it. Get the door open.” Gordon muttered.
The scientist didn’t respond, prompting Gordon to look at him and give him a nudge. He flinched out of his terrified stare and looked back.
“B-but...”
Gordon offered a fleeting smile, trying to reassure him.
“I’ll protect you. Go.”
Taking a sharp breath and plucking up courage, the man jogged to the retinal scanner near the mess. The creature looked up at the noise and hauled itself to its feet with a groan, beginning to shamble forwards.
“Left... Usssss... Johnssson... You left... Ussss...” It moaned, reaching its claws out to the scientist.
“S-scott...? Is – is that you...?” The man paused, staring at it.
“Left... Ussss...  Left usss to die...”
As it lunged at the screaming scientist, Gordon launched forwards and swung the crowbar at its head, knocking it into the wall behind. It clawed at the panels, leaving grooves in the metal, but stayed upright.
Its focus was on a petrified-looking Johnson but when Gordon stepped in front, its head turned to him.
“I... I’m s-sorry, Scott. I’m s-so sorry...” Dr. Johnson whispered, turning to the retinal scanner.
The machine gave out an error bleep.
“Damn – hang on...”
The zombie pushed itself off the wall and hobbled towards Gordon. He went to meet it. It swiped at him and he weaved to the side – the talons just missing the suit’s plating. Snarling, it swiped again, forcing Gordon to duck out of the way. It was dangerous but it had a slow reaction time, allowing him to swing the crowbar up as he stood – hitting it under the jaw in an uppercut.
A gargling growl escaped it as it staggered backwards, but it wasn’t down yet. Gordon didn’t know how long he could keep this up for.
“Is it working!?”
“It’s having trouble connecting; just give me a bit longer!”
Blood ran down the creature’s chest from its now hanging jaw, seen just underneath the crab’s mandibles. It only seemed angrier rather than weaker, lunging at Gordon. With the short distance between them he couldn’t aim for the head properly, so he rammed the wedge of the crowbar into its chest instead, which only got deeper as it fell on him.
The two crashed to the floor, Gordon trapped underneath it. Having flashbacks of his near-death experience, he tried to escape quickly, with the monster attempting to keep him pinned. He left the crowbar where it was, punching the crab out of desperation. The reinforced plates under the glove created a dent in the fleshy helmet and stunned the mutated Scott momentarily.
Grabbing the zombie by the shoulders and rolling to the side, he pushed it off of him with a grunt.
A confirming bleep came from the scanner, the door sliding open.
“It’s open!” Johnson cried.
Gordon got to his feet, moving to join Johnson, but the monster was just as fast.
“Look out!”
Gordon turned just as it leapt at him again and they revisited the floor with a crash. Johnson backed off and ran into the open office, the door closing behind him.
“Johnson!” Gordon called, not getting a reply.
Left to wrestle the zombie alone, he tried to push the thing off him with his arm and the crowbar still jammed in its chest as leverage. It was losing momentum and strength – green blood seeping out of the wound around the crowbar’s puncture. Using it to his advantage, he twisted the tool and tore the hole wider; foul-smelling ichor pouring out onto the suit. A gargled cry came from the monster and it slumped lifelessly.
Taking a moment to catch his breath – through his mouth to avoid breathing in the heavy stench – he didn’t notice that the crab was still moving until he heard it detach itself from the corpse. By the time he looked, it was too late.
The crab tried to land on his head, its fleshy mouth opening wide.
Something collided with the creature, sending it to the floor. It twitched before going still.
“Get off him!”
Eyes closed and grimacing, Gordon didn’t realise that he was not in fact dreaming the voice of Johnson until the corpse was hauled off him. He opened them, looking up to the sweating scientist who dropped the broken keyboard.
Gordon stared at him, dumbfounded.
“S-shit... Are you okay?” Dr. Johnson asked worriedly.
Dr. Freeman managed a small nod, thoroughly shaken. Johnson wasted no time in trying to help him up.
“It’s alright, I got you... Come on, get in here.”
Johnson brought Gordon into the office, the door sliding closed behind them. He moved him to the chair and let him sit down, before leaning against the desk terminal to catch his breath.
“I don’t know what they make those HEVs out of, but I am glad you were wearing one... Though, if you don’t mind me saying – you look like hell.”
Gordon glanced down to his suit and gloves, now covered in a mixture of sticky green and red blood along with dark ichor, not smelling particularly pleasant. He tried not to focus on it too much, swallowing dryly.
“I – uh – look worse than I feel...” He muttered pulling off his glasses and rubbing off a speck of green from one of the lenses, leaving an annoying smudge.
“Here, let me. Least I can do.” Johnson offered his hand.
Gordon offered the glasses over and Johnson cleaned them with his lab coat carefully whilst he quietly spoke.
“I didn’t mean to leave you like that... I know I was a coward once – I can only imagine what you were thinking – but I wasn’t going to let someone else die whilst I did nothing. It won’t bring back Scott, but...”
He offered the glasses back and Gordon took them with a small smile and a nod, slipping them back on.
“Thanks.”
“Don’t worry about it... But this is the end of the road for me. I’m not suited up like you and I don’t think I could stomach fighting more of ... Them. There’s a weapon locker over there; someone left a gun behind and some ammo. I can’t see a better person to take them than you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine here. Nothing around, I can lock the door and I think there’s some snacks in the cupboard. I won’t starve to death.”
Nodding, Gordon stood from the chair and walked over to the weapon locker behind an open security gate. A single, loaded Glock 17 was secured inside, along with an extra clip of ammunition. It wasn’t much but it was far better than relying on the crowbar for everything. He took the handgun, testing its weight in his hand and checked the safety was on.
‘Munition level monitoring: activated.’
Gordon blinked as the HEV spoke up. He hadn’t expected that.
“Guess that thing wasn’t just made to look good...” Dr. Johnson joked dryly.
Not about to question the suit, Gordon took the last holster and secured it around his right thigh – awkwardly at first due to the plating covering most of it – until it was tight enough and comfortable. He slipped the handgun inside, with the clip sitting snugly in the compartment behind it.
“Now you look a little more formidable. I just hope you don’t have to use it that much.”
Gordon left the locker and stepped out to meet Dr. Johnson, who stood and offered his hand to him.
“Thank you... What was your name?”
“Gordon Freeman.”
“Freeman, huh? Swear I’ve heard your name somewhere before... Anyway, thank you, Dr. Freeman. I’m forever grateful to you. Now you get to that surface and run like hell, understand?”
Nodding, Gordon took Johnson’s hand and shook it firmly.
“Good luck.”
“Thanks. Stay safe, Dr. Johnson.”
The scientist smiled some, nodding to him and releasing his hand. Gordon turned to the door and stepped through once it opened.
When it closed, it closed for good, locking behind him. A metal shutter lowered over the window, protecting the already thick glass.
Gordon was alone once more, but with a new form of defence and some hope to boot. He let out a heavy sigh, knowing what he was about to do and glanced at the corpse of Scott.
A few tugs pried the messy crowbar free and he flicked what excess he could off as he walked back to the manual override valve.
The temperature for the storage area was currently -41 degrees. He turned the valve until the bar on the screen filled completely.
The light on the temperature panel turned green and the bleep sounded again, along with a rush of water from the pipe. It looked as if he had fixed the problem, but he needed to go and check the main gauge to be certain.
To do that, he was going to need to get past the hounds.
Slipping through the door and onto the walkway, Gordon peered into the large room. The hounds had since stopped being so interested in the hatch and had gathered in the corner, lying on the floor. Their ‘eyes’ were closed and they shuffled a bit now and then. Had they fallen asleep?
He decided to use that to his advantage. The water tanks were just below the walkway, so he carefully climbed over the railing and dropped onto one of them as gently as he could manage. A low thrum came from it, making one of the hounds stir a little, before it settled once more.
Phew...
A smooth slide to the floor completed his descent and he crept along the tiles towards the gauge. It was lit up in green, which must have been a good thing as the door that was once locked had also been released; he could just about see it through the shattered window.
Eyeing the sleeping hounds, he stayed low and moved slowly to avoid waking them. If he could save the bullets now, he’d have them for when he was desperate later. There was no sense starting a fight if he could avoid it. Barney would have advised differently, he was certain.
Each step was torture, but the hounds did not wake. He made it up the ramp and to the open door, which closed behind him.
There was little time for a break. The air was biting cold because of the leaking nitrogen and the ice made the floor a little difficult to traverse. He didn’t want to stay there for too long, not after finally getting warm.
Sliding through into the awaiting storage chamber, he peered up at the massive tanks through the mist. He shivered, navigating his way towards the green lights of the awaiting door.
It closed, keeping the uncomfortable cold at bay.
Gordon had a new corridor to explore and it was already a bad sign that one of those barnacle-like growths had made its home on the ceiling. In this case, however, he was able to get around it without much issue, but he drew the handgun and kept it levelled in both hands for reassurance – flicking the safety off with his thumb. The crowbar was tucked through the holster for the time being. It wasn’t ideal, but it was better than nothing.
 “Just point and shoot.” Barney had so helpfully instructed on his first time at the range. Gordon thought he’d forgotten that he had never held a gun in his life.
“I thought there was more to it than that...”
“Well, yeah, but that’s kind of the basics. You see an asshole; you aim at them and blam! Hah...”
“... Are you serious?”
“... No, Gordon. Do you have to take me so literally? Oh come on, don’t give me that look – we’re supposed to be having fun!”
“Shooting things to death isn’t my idea of fun.”
“Don’t be such a stick in the mud! This could save your life, you know? One day you’ll thank me for it.”
 As he turned the corner of the corridor, he was forced out of his thoughts by a flying barrel, needing to press against the wall to avoid getting hit by it. It slammed into the back of the hallway, cracking the concrete.
“Ah...!”
A writhing, mutated guard scratched at the walls and tore at pipes in what could have been destructive rage. He’d already seen one of them hurt themselves, so there was a chance that this was part of the horrible process. He couldn’t imagine going through something like that and if it wasn’t for Johnson he might have got the opportunity.
Noticing Gordon, it snarled and lumbered towards him. Gordon aimed the handgun at its head and tried to steady his shaking hands.
“That’s right, hold it like that. Gotta be firm with it, but not so much that it starts shaking. You’ll get a feel for it after a while. Your dominant arm needs to stay straight and your other one can bend just a little. It’s all about balance.”
His finger rested on the trigger as his eyes trailed down the sights and then to the target. He inhaled, holding his breath. The sights moved with the beating of his heart.
“Notice how the sights are moving? If you look at how they move, they trace a small figure eight. You have to pull the trigger when the sights come to the bottom of the pattern.”
“How do you have the time to do all that with something that’s moving?”
“Well... You don’t. You have to do all of this in a split second. It’s kind of natural for me now, but I’ve been doing this sort of thing since I was a kid. Don’t let that discourage you, though – you’re a smart guy. I’m sure you can figure it out. Eventually.”
“Your confidence in me is always reassuring, Calhoun.”
“Man, don’t give me the surname treatment – you know I hate it.”
“Only because it means you’re in trouble.”
“Smartass.”
Gordon pulled the trigger twice, one bullet hitting it in the chest and the second was a near-perfect shot in the centre of the zombie’s head. It staggered backwards, before falling to the floor in a lifeless heap.
Exhaling quietly, he relaxed. He doubted his chances with a target running at him, but he could at least fire the damn thing. His arms shook after being under so much tension and his heart thudded in his chest. There was a certain excitement that came from firing a gun that was unavoidable, but apparently this was normal for a beginner.
He walked down the corridor slowly, glancing at the dead guard sadly as he passed.
“... Thanks, Barney.”
 Quiet returned to the labyrinthine sector. The large room awaiting him was empty but his eyes were once again drawn to the red wording of the security access sign by a sparking, broken door. Another maintenance hatch, opened with its lid pushed aside, lay before it.
It made sense to follow. If others had got out that way, he could too.
He’d only taken a few steps when a bright green flash appeared behind a sealed door ahead. Its sickly light seeped through the cracks, casting an eerie glow that reflected over the metal floor and walls.
Gordon brought his free hand up, shielding his eyes. The light was so intense that he could still see it through his closed lids.
In just a few seconds it was over.
Lowering his hand, Gordon opened his eyes and blinked the glare away, watching the door. A harsh thud came from it, making him flinch.
Another hit, louder, made the metal bubble outward. Those doors were a good few inches thick! What could make it bend so easily?
Two more slams came from the other side, denting the door and buckling it with creaking protest. Sparks came from its electronics, being damaged in the process. Gordon was already backing away to the corner he came from, feeling it was better to hide than be out in the open.
Green light shone behind the door again, but this time it was joined by the sound of electricity. It took him back to the Spectrometer and in retrospect that was more than enough to make him fear for his life, not the brutal show of force. He retreated around the corner and timidly peeked out.
The door was blasted off its hinges and away in the form of a dazzling, smoking missile that scraped along the metal floor, creating sparks up until the point it came to a halt. Unable to stop himself from staring, Gordon watched the large shape move out of the darkened room – thin claws grabbing the doorway it lurched through.
It was one of the many-eyed creatures from his dream... Which he suddenly doubted was a dream at all.
A low rumble escaped from its throat as it looked around, stepping forward to observe its surroundings. As it turned his way, Gordon quickly ducked behind the wall and covered his mouth with his hand.
This was a lot to take in at a moment’s notice. Had he really gone to another place, another world? These... Invaders, for lack of a better word, were coming from somewhere. Was that what he saw? The fabric of reality as he knew it was being torn down, but he wasn’t being given the chance to understand it.
His thoughts were a jumbled, incoherent mess, mixed with panic.
The creature snarled viciously in its guttural language, perhaps displeased with where it was. It began to walk around the room, the claws on its feet clacking against the tiles.
He couldn’t stay there. It would find him eventually and the way back was closed. He could run to the hatch to escape, but it could also hit him like it did with that door. Talk about a rock and a hard place.
Peeking around the corner again carefully, he saw the creature walk off to the right and out of his view. He gingerly stepped forward and tried to cushion his steps as best as he could manage, keeping close to the wall. A quick glance around the next corner showed the creature slowly making its way to the other side of the room.
If he was fast, he’d make it.
Gordon kept a low profile and made a beeline for the hatch with a light, hurried advance. He hadn’t considered the creature being able to use ladders or not, he just wanted to get as far away from it as possible.
The crowbar slipped from the holster and fell onto the floor with an echoing clang.
A noise of alarm came from the creature and it began to turn. Gordon darted away from his precious tool – forced to leave it behind – to hide in the room the alien had materialised in.
Ironically it was a supply closet for ammunition. A weapon locker with a handgun clip inside, a sealed container and a low shelf was all there was. He’d trapped himself again. There was no time to lament; the clicking steps were getting nearer. His eyes flicked between what little he was given and they caught the space underneath the shelf. It wasn’t big, but it was something.
No sooner as he crawled inside, the creature made it to the crowbar. He heard it being picked up and there was more muttering in words that made no sense. Since he couldn’t understand what it was saying, he tried to focus on the tone of its voice instead. At the moment it sounded puzzled, no doubt wondering where the crowbar had come from.
It dropped it. The sound of its claws tapping against the floor drew closer and it cast a long, horrific shadow that engulfed the small closet as it stepped inside.
Gordon trembled in his cramped position under the shelf and held the handgun in both hands. This was like a living nightmare. Never in his wildest dreams did he envisage something so terrifying happening to him. Time and time again he begged to be released from this limbo, to return to the normal life he knew in Black Mesa, where his biggest problems were asshole head scientists.
A foot landed on the floor just next to him and an irritable rasp rumbled through the top of the shelf. He held his breath, his shaking finger hovering over the trigger.
Just go away, just go away. Just go away!
He really wanted to avoid fighting it in a small space. He really wanted to avoid fighting it period. It was larger, stronger and far more formidable than anything he’d faced so far. Would bullets even kill it? How many would it take? Would he even be able to empty a clip into it before it tore him to pieces?
After what felt like hours of waiting, the creature turned and stepped back out of the supply closet with a snarling sigh. It didn’t touch the crowbar again from what he could make out and the sound of its footfalls got further and further away.
He finally allowed himself to breathe.
Gordon peered from underneath his hiding place, looking out of the closet and to the creature that was approaching the corpse of a dead scientist slumped against the wall. It reached down and wrapped its gnarled fingers around one of the legs, then proceeded to drag it off – disappearing out of view.
Do these things just want to... Eat us?
It harked back to his first encounter with them. They seemed more sentient then, but they did try to stop him from escaping – or teleporting away, as the case now seemed to be. Shuddering at the thought, he dragged himself out quietly. He rose to his feet, snatching the clip of ammunition and tucking it away with the other one.
Trying to calm himself down, he focused on his goal. He approached the doorway with caution, glancing out of it. He could just see the creature at the very far end of the room, in a small area with containers and large dumpsters, starting to tear into and eat the body in its possession.
Now was this chance.
He crept out of the closet and met the crowbar, snatching it and tucking it back into the holster with a bit more care. From there it was a straight dart for the hatch.
The only problem was that there was no ladder to climb down. He hesitated, seeing that it had come away from its mounting half-way into the shaft. Shallow water rippled inside the dimly lit tunnel below.
A cry of alarm snapped him out of his indecision and he looked behind him.
Now with bloody hands and teeth, the alien had returned. Whether it had heard or sensed him somehow he didn’t know, nor was he given the time to wonder. Its eyes locked onto him with an intensity he could only ascertain to be anger. It spread its claws out, a green light coalescing in each palm and sparking erratically through its digits.
Gordon raised the handgun and shot at it twice, hitting it in the leg and shoulder. Its concentration waned and one light went out like a candle. The other hand flung a bolt of green lightning towards him, but with the creature’s balance impaired the bolt flew slightly off-centre and avoided him by a hair.
It struck the door behind with a thunderous clash, smashing the glass of its windows.
The creature, infuriated further by its pain, charged – claws reaching out to strike.
Overcome with adrenaline from almost being hit and the thing getting uncomfortably close, he pulled the trigger repeatedly. Bullets tore into the creature’s body, sending streams of green blood flying and making it howl in agony as it staggered towards him. Some hit the floor from his panic-stricken aim, but the majority landed on his target.
The gun clicked empty, its slide locking back and exposing the smoking barrel.
‘Ammunition depleted.’
Gordon blinked, the HEV’s voice bringing him back to reality.
At his feet lay the body of the creature, unmoving and full of holes. Green blood pooled around its broken form. Its large eye was open at a slit and the smaller ones were closed.
He won.
His movements were automatic as he ejected the spent clip and plucked a new one from the holster, clicking it into place and pulling the slide back with his finger and thumb. On release it snapped back into a loaded position.
Letting out a slow breath, his eyes flicked from the gun to the dead alien. The collar and wrist devices it wore were the same as what he saw previously, but he couldn’t define their purpose and he also didn’t want to touch them. One thing he had learned was that they were just as vulnerable as he was, but with how much lead he’d fired it shouldn’t have surprised him.
He couldn’t afford to do that again. Once the clips he had were spent he’d be back to the crowbar until he found more and there was no guarantee of that.
Gordon turned to the hatch, flicking the handgun’s safety on and holstering it, trading places with the crowbar. He lowered himself into the hole feet first, then allowed himself to drop.
An echoing splash announced his arrival, the water reaching his shins.
The tunnel was in fact a giant pipe, the flashlight lighting up the damp curved walls as it moved across them. Sloshing grey lapped the sides, like a river with nowhere to go. It was cold, but not unbearably so.
It was also deathly quiet.
He looked back and forth, the HEV showing him a dead end in the form of a steel bars behind and the rest of the pipe in front. Tiny red lights bordered each section, giving him a little bit of guidance, but other than that he was on his own.
Increasingly unnerved and still not settled after his close call, he was hesitant to move from the ladder.
You have to keep going.
“I... I have to...” He whispered.
Gordon forced his buckling knees to cooperate and propel him forwards, even if it was just a small step at a time. The liquid waved and pushed at his shins, making movement awkward and slow. Ripples bounced light off the roughened surface. Each advance reverberated throughout the pipe, obscuring everything else.
If something was in there with him, he’d never hear it coming.
The pipe turned and he followed it around, his breathing picking up. Paranoia toyed with him as the tiny orb of light threatened to be swallowed by the overpowering darkness, creating shapes out of nothing and making him see shadows in the water. He wanted to close his eyes and run through it, but this was the perfect environment for those hanging mouths. One wrong move, one unchecked area of ceiling and he could be a goner.
He felt something brush against his leg and he almost leapt out of his skin – spinning around and hitting it as he screamed.
The dented barrel bobbed around in the water, floating past him. Gordon panted, holding his chest.
Nearly gave me a damn heart attack!
He took a few shaking breaths before continuing, moving around the corner and starting to approach a three way junction. Water churned through his legs, the cold settling into the boots enough to make him feel uncomfortable. His gaze moved from the surface to the space before him, then back again, not settling on one spot for too long. In an effort to keep himself calm, he counted the seconds per each sequence. Repetition, numbers... Things he could make sense of.
Looking to the water for the fifth time, he noticed that the ripples his steps made were met by another set pushing back at them.
Although he stopped immediately, the sound of the choppy waves kept going, filling the pipe with echo upon echo.
The light bobbed slightly with his breathing, catching a shape as it shambled out of the dark, thrashing through the water from the opening ahead. A ravaged scientist snarled and hissed, reaching for him. Claws raked around the corner on his left, digging into the concrete as another appeared and looked towards him, fangs rising in challenge.
Gordon took a step back and moved the crowbar to his left hand. He grabbed the handgun and leant his right arm over his left to steady his aim, moving it between them and watching them carefully.
They were undeterred by the weapon, approaching with little care for their own safety. All they wanted was him.
Holding his breath, he fired two shots at one of them, hitting it in the chest. It stumbled backwards. He turned to meet the closer one, hitting it in the head twice and it dropped like a lead balloon.
With the remaining one still reeling, he raised the crowbar and surged forward with as much speed as the water allowed, swinging the curve at its head. He didn’t have as much control over it in his less dominant hand, but it was enough to send it to its knees. A hiss was cut off as the wedge was rammed through the back of its skull, Gordon twisting it and tugging it out again. It fell limply into the stained murk.
Please, stop making me do this...
He shook his head, holding back a grimace and he decided to move a little more quickly through the pipe, taking the right turn. All of the noise probably alerted everyone to dinner now.
At the end of the section was a ladder with a red light above it. He raced forwards but a brief quake rattled the pipe and made him stumble, shaking the ladder loose from its mounting and bringing it down. That must have been what happened to the last one.
In hindsight, if it wasn’t for the rumble stopping him in his tracks, he would have been tangled up in the lashing tongue the glow caught. It was just next to his face.
“AH!” He cried, hopping back and shooting at it thrice.  
Compared to the crowbar, bullets appeared to penetrate the shell quite easily and just three was enough to kill it. Whilst it vomited out its guts, Gordon ran around it with an increasingly desperate desire to leave.
Water was splashed and kicked all around him as he tried to weave around more sticky streamers, a few more barnacles in a cluster making navigation difficult. They tried to latch onto his limbs and head as he passed, sensing vibrations no doubt, but his speed – even inhibited – was saving him.
His footing was getting difficult to place, stepping on hard objects that crumpled under his weight. Despite not looking, he knew they were bones of previous victims and it only spurred him to go faster.
He fled until the pipe prevented him doing so, another barred wall in his way. Only this time it had a valve jutting out of it with a floodgate behind.
The sign doused in red light read; ‘EMERGENCY USE ONLY.’
Gordon considered his plight to be a definite emergency and he turned it as quickly as he could manage.
With a creak and a thud the floodgate opened and the gallons of water behind it began to surge into the pipe, making the water level rise. Having a horrible sense of déjà vu, Gordon turned and waded his way back to where he saw the shaft and the ladder, but was being severely hampered by the tongues still in his path. Every second wasted was another inch of oxygen taken away.
Just as he thought he was free, one of them grasped his wrist, tugging him back. He yelled, struggling to stay upright and turned – firing the gun until it let go. Four more bullets gone. The water was up to his waist now.
It felt like he was getting nowhere, but as the level rose, the tongues pulled back and finally gave him space to move so long as he didn’t get too close. He fought with all of his strength to keep going, until his feet didn’t touch the floor any longer.
Now he was swimming for his life, in a pipe he could barely see in. The ceiling was getting nearer and nearer. Flashes of light, to darkness and then to murk created an almost dizzying sensation to deal with, but he could just make out the red haze of the shaft getting closer. He coughed and spluttered, inhaling water as it lapped over him.
For what would have originally been a sprint had become a marathon, pushing his body to its limits. Adrenaline pumped through his arms and legs, dragging him to the beacon of salvation even as it too started to be overcome. He wasn’t the strongest man – more wiry than muscle – but his will to survive was far greater than he originally gave it credit for.
He reached out, snatching the rung with his free hand and heaved up the ladder and away from the still-rising water. Exhaustion loomed but he refused to stop until he was completely safe, the agonising climb made tricky with holding the gun and the crowbar in one hand.
The jammed door with its broken glass, along with the dead alien he’d shot earlier on the other side, greeted him as he crawled away from the hatch, soaking wet yet again.
Gordon slumped against the wall, leaning his head back and panting. Water ran off the suit and formed a puddle under him; now clean from all of the blood it had collected.
He flicked the safety of the gun on and gave it a shake to free it of excess water, then slid it back into the holster. Thankfully it was waterproof, leaving the remaining cartridge dry inside its pouch. Whilst he took the time to recuperate, he placed the crowbar in his lap and rubbed off a droplet from the left lens of his glasses with a squeak. A little nudge set them on his nose proper once more.
Twice now he had been in situations where he could have drowned. Whilst the elevator shaft was a lot direr, he had been so tired and suffering from the cold that his mind didn’t get the chance to think about it. Now? It was dredging up bad memories from the past that scratched at the surface of his psyche.
It had been around a month or so of working at the facility when the opportunity for HEV training came along. Gordon, feeling unfulfilled and underappreciated by many of his colleagues at the time, considered putting himself up for it, but needed the approval of his peers to do so. Eli and Kleiner were reluctant at first, he was very young and still very new, but his stubbornness won out in the end.
They were right to be worried. Gordon might have been a determined man with an intelligent mind, but he had no real idea of what he was letting himself in for until it happened. There was a good reason why there were so few people capable, it was tough and unforgiving.
For the purpose of the exercises he was to wear a training variant of the HEV suit, an older model than the one he had now and lacking most of the modern features. It resembled a black, tight-fitting jumpsuit with orange metal plates fastened over it and a dark, chunkier carapace, to get the wearer accustomed to the weight of the real thing.
On one particular day, following a series of already gruelling laps through the obstacle course, he was to be unknowingly tested on his reaction to an emergency. The idea was to observe the subject’s behaviour and score them based on how they solved a problem they weren’t prepared for.
He was asked to stand in a chamber with seemingly nothing in it, only for the floor to give way underneath him and deposit him into a pit filled with water. It was about as long and just as deep as an average swimming pool, very different to what he’d been dealing with.
What Gordon hadn’t told them was that he couldn’t swim.
Panic mixed with the heavy suit made him sink immediately and he couldn’t get back up to the surface. He tugged and pulled at the suit desperately to try and remove it, stuck at the bottom of the pool. If the scientists observing, including Eli who had decided to check up on Gordon by chance, weren’t already alarmed, his vital signs going critical certainly did it. The session was terminated immediately and he was fished out, at least that was what he was told.
He woke up in the infirmary later, having fallen unconscious, surrounded by Kleiner, Eli and Barney – who he had never seen so afraid before – and received both affection and harsh words. He was forbidden from training again until he learnt how to swim and it was only due to Eli’s vouching that he hadn’t been struck off the program entirely. His traumatic experience lingered with him for weeks.
That trauma was starting to creep back, even if he was a competent swimmer compared to before.
How long was it going to be before his luck ran out?
Gordon took a slow, deep breath and pushed himself to his feet. Drips pinged off the metal flooring as he began to move down the corridor with a sluggish pace. He was going to have to dry naturally this time.
It was uneventful. The snaking corridors were quiet and lonely, with a leaking ceiling the only point of interest. He wasn’t about to complain, he needed a break.
Soon, he reached a jammed open door taking him through into a wide, open room with a massive cargo lift dominating the centre. Crates and stacks of containers lined the wall on the right with a forklift truck and a high ceiling was ablaze with large, bright lamps. The control room was at the top of a ramp on the left and Gordon wasted no time in heading towards it.
The thick glass windows were littered with bullet impacts and splatters of blood and the interior walls didn’t look much better. He tensed, peering close to the glass and moving his hand over his eyes to try and see inside. Behind the terminal looked to be the elevator’s circuit breaker, which was offline. He couldn’t see the floor for the desks, or hear anything on the other side.
Biting his cheek, he moved to one of the doors and tried to open it.
ACCESS DENIED.
“That would be too simple...” He muttered, glancing through the window again.
He could just see a ventilation shaft inside the room. When he turned to observe the cargo area he spotted an open duct above some of the larger containers. It looked easy enough to get to.
With nothing around to stop him, he lightly jogged over to the containers and clambered up onto the smaller one, then pulled himself onto the larger ones, reaching the shaft entrance after some careful footwork.
Gordon crawled inside, shuffling through the duct on his hands and knees with the flashlight illuminating the way. He kept the crowbar close, trying to listen past his own breathing and thuds of metal for any signs of life – good or bad.
It was an unlikely place to feel calm or comfort, but it reminded him of better times.
After some turns and long, almost endless straights, he made it to the other side. The exit was a short drop down and the bloody body of a guard lay underneath the opening.
Gordon manoeuvred himself around to drop feet-first and slipped out of the vent, landing heavily on the body’s chest with a soft crunch. It might have broken his fall, but it felt like desecration.
“S-sorry...” He whispered, clambering off it and standing.
Now on the other side of the glass, he could see what the bullets had been aimed at; the corpse of a crab lay crumpled on the desk. Its talons were stained red. Gordon surmised that the guard had killed it but it had fatally wounded him in the process.
There was nothing else for him here. He moved to the circuit breaker and flipped the lever up.
The doors to the control room opened, a bleep coming from them. He jogged back to the elevator, getting aboard and moving to the control panel, which was now lit up.
Gordon didn’t know how to feel about descending even deeper into the facility. This wasn’t exactly what he had in mind but there were no alternatives being presented to him. He glanced over the railing to the huge, diagonal shaft and felt nothing but trepidation.
He hit the button before he got second thoughts. A bell rang loudly as the lift slowly descended. Sighing, he prepared for the long ride down, turning to see the cargo bay slowly vanish from view.
The closed vent ducts on both the front and left wall were suddenly thrown off. Gordon blinked.
Dozens of crabs skittered out of the open holes like waterfalls of talons and teeth, scrambling over each other to try and get to him.
Gasping, he turned and hammered the button on the panel as if it would make it go faster. No dice.
The drumming of claws on metal rose in volume and he turned back to see them try and navigate the steep incline. They began to leap in waves, some soaring over his head as he ducked and others landing on the elevator floor. Gordon swung the crowbar relentlessly, hitting whatever got close. He couldn’t let them overwhelm him.
Others skidded down the shaft towards him and jumped. He was being attacked from all angles and he needed to keep moving, dodging and weaving from the onslaught. Swing after swing, he hit and batted the fiends away but they weren’t letting up.
“I’d really like to get off now!”
The elevator, oblivious to the danger, continued its slow descent.
There were so many. Where were they all coming from? When he killed one, another took its place almost immediately.
He was starting to get tired and it showed, his swings getting slower and less effective. One of the things took advantage of this and clung to his back whilst he dealt with another. He could feel its talons trying to dig through the carapace, to no avail, but he couldn’t reach it either.
“Gah! Get off!”
The HEV hummed loudly, reacting to the jabs and an electronic pulse sent the crab flying off like it had been launched out of a cannon.
‘Power level: 65%’
Gordon let out a nervous laugh, despite his situation, completely stupefied as he looked at the suit.
“That works!”
Given a small window to breathe, he saw a balcony with an open door that the lift was starting to pass. With the crabs still coming, he took it as an escape route and leapt over – bursting through the doorway with less finesse than he would have liked.
Unable to reach him, the crabs were stuck on the elevator. Some did attempt the jump and missed it, one clutching to the metal walkway before falling.
Gordon leant against the wall with one hand, breathless and sweating. Green blood coated the crowbar, dripping off of it and forming a small puddle by his feet. He could hear the elevator in the background, slowly coming to a stop at the bottom.
Taking in some more gulps of air, he glanced up and around the small stairwell he was in. There was another walkway at the bottom and he slowly made his way down the steps.
He was definitely deeper now. The cavernous room with its towering ceiling was made out of reinforced concrete. Large pipes ran along the breadth of the area, and just below them was a rail and crane system used for transporting the containers. One container in particular was still suspended over a flooded area at the bottom of a ramp. Boxes, crates and forklift trucks were dotted around the vast floor space.
Happy to stay above and out of the way for the moment, Gordon tore his bewildered gaze from the room and instead headed on through the door he was near to.
It was another control room, but larger than the last one. In stark contrast it was grey, dreary and miserable looking. The blood stains over the stone floor set the mood just perfectly.
Whilst unsettling, his interest was drawn to the orange panel upon the wall. It was an HEV charging port and it was actually working.
This was the first one he’d seen so far and he wasn’t about to pass up the chance to use it. Giving the room a quick check first, he moved over to it.
The charging port consisted of a thick rubber hose with a plug attached to it, hooked in place, a terminal and three large batteries, which glowed with a bright blue light, in a recessed area underneath. The terminal screen indicated that the charger was ready for use.
Gordon unhooked the plug and unfurled the hose. He slotted it into the suit’s port, making sure it was firmly secure then input his code on the keypad.
The following words came up on the screen; G. Freeman: Authorised.
A loud hum came from the charger as it whirred into life, the lights of the batteries slowly starting to drain. The suit hummed along with it, gentle and soothing. Gordon leant against the top of the panel with his arm tiredly, resting his forehead on it.
He could feel fatigue catching up with him and also a dull pang of hunger. The realisation that he was still capable of having an appetite came as a surprise, but he’d been running empty for a while now and losing fluids.
Just need to keep going a little longer...
That’s what he kept telling himself. A little longer, a little further.
The charger bleeped, signalling it was finished.
‘Power level is one hundred percent.’
Gordon’s reaction was slow, almost drifting off there and then. He pulled away, tugging the plug out and placing it on its hook. Even now, in a time of crisis, he acted like an associate and respected what he touched. He glanced at the terminal screen.
It said; Have a very safe day!
“Yeah, right...” He grumbled sourly.
On his way out he checked the weapon locker, finding two more clips of ammunition. He tucked them away, trying to remember how many shots he’d fired since his last reload, figuring it was around six. It was good to know the suit was keeping track as well, but knowing ahead of time would hopefully keep him out of trouble.
Standing on the walkway again, he peered at the floor below and saw a few straggling crabs wandering around. He used the rest of the clip on them, thinning their numbers and it also gave him some target practice. The small area to hit was tricky, but the parasites were easily downed in one blow each.
‘Ammunition depleted.’
The clip was discarded with a ringing clang and a fresh one took its place.
Safety having returned for the time being, Gordon kept the gun handy and secured the crowbar through the holster. He really needed to find a better way of carrying the thing. A quick search along the walkway found a ladder and he descended to the bottom floor.
He stayed alert and moved with light steps through the large space. Creaking and thudding came from the walls and overhead and leaks from the ceiling dripped into shallow puddles. The ambience was eerie and desolate, like the place hadn’t been touched in years even though it was normal just this morning.
Passing crates, cargo and tall shelving racks, he saw a tunnel leading ahead and the body of a guard slumped against one of its walls. Gordon, feeling a wave of dread, moved a little more hurriedly towards it.
To his relief it wasn’t Barney. The man had been severely torn into by several bites and lacerations from who knows what. His handgun, broken, still had a half-full clip inside. He took it with him, muttering a thank you for his contribution.
He was beginning to amass a small supply of ammo, which was comforting. With the increasing frequency of needing to fight for survival, he believed it was only a matter of time before he would be relying on it more than fighting up close and personal. Considering how slow he was becoming, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Following the wide tunnel with its low hanging, caged lights and pipes, it opened up into a chamber with a suspended walkway with another network of large pipes trailing around the right wall. Crates and a forklift had simply been abandoned, along with smaller box containers. On the forklift’s pallet were a couple of barrels with warning labels on them.
A flash of green light appeared in the middle of the mess. It stopped Gordon in his tracks, startling him with a gasp and he raised the gun, expecting another of those many-eyed beasts to get in his way.
Instead it was a hound. Spooked by its sudden change of environment, it defended itself by charging its ear-piercing shockwave. For lack of anywhere better to hide, Gordon knelt behind one of the sturdy containers and grimaced, bracing himself.
At its peak the shockwave hit everything around it, shunting the container Gordon was hiding behind. The barrels ruptured with the force and summarily exploded, causing major structural damage to the walkway. Metal groaned, concrete collapsed and the area around the impact crumbled away into the dark chasm below.
Pieces of barrel and wood landed on the container and around Gordon, along with specks of green blood.
Cautiously, he peeked over the top of his cover. The forklift, the hound and the rest of the debris were gone and an impassable gap was left in their wake.
Not wanting to investigate any closer in case more of the floor fell in, he looked to the pipes and noticed that he could, in theory, use them to circumvent the drop. They weren’t too dissimilar from the sorts of things he’d clambered on and over in the hazard course... Only there was no risk of breaking every bone in his body if he missed.
He tried to push that thought aside for a moment, switching out the handgun for the crowbar. If anything he could jab it into a pipe to save himself if necessary. Using the container he had hid behind as a boost, he hopped across and over the railing to the pipes behind it. A dull clang trembled through the pipe on landing.
Exhaling shakily, he clambered onto the next one, carefully treading over it until he couldn’t go any further. The other half of the crumbling walkway was near him, but the angle was far too awkward to attempt a jump. The only place he could go was ahead, on a pipe jutting out a few feet away.
Between that and him was a sheer drop.
Jesus...
Vertigo hit him hard just from a brief look and he forced his gaze forward. His knees threatened to buckle out of fear and he shook them loose as he stepped back for a run up.
You can do this, Gordon. Just don’t look down.
Swallowing heavily, he took control of his breathing and shivering limbs, mentally judging the distance and readying himself. Every signal in his brain told him not to jump and he could feel his muscles trying to lock up so to stop him.
He broke free, a short jog becoming a full sprint. The chamber became a blur and the pipe fell away from his feet as he leapt.
A loud thrum echoed with his landing, his momentum still propelling him forward and into the waist-high pipe which became his next obstacle. He grabbed it, panting and refusing to look back at the drop and hauled himself on top. From there it was a simple matter of clambering and vaulting up to the pipe on the far wall, following it along carefully until he came to a ventilation shaft.
He’d never been so happy to see one, using the crowbar to pry the duct cover off and crawling in. He felt safe within the confines, especially knowing he wasn’t above a huge pit any longer.
Gordon used this time to calm down again, concentrating on where he was going as the shaft abruptly turned this way and that. He wasn’t used to this much stress, his body and mind thrust into terror repeatedly with little relent. Not knowing where he was, completely lost, wasn’t helping either.
He kicked the vent cover off, slipping through the opening and landing in a crouch. A small room with a maintenance access hatch and a ladder greeted him. For the moment he left the hatch alone and decided to see what his other options were, opening the door.
Now he was on the other side of the collapsed walkway, which was a great relief. With that horrible event behind him, he followed the corridor around and began to slow down when he realised there was no more floor left to walk on.
The whole bridge had fallen through, the railings torn and bent and the walkway itself dipping at a dangerous angle. Chunks of ceiling had come loose, no doubt hitting the bridge and destroying it. He had no way of getting across.
From what he could make out, this place looked like a water treatment plant. A wide canal cut the massive space in half lengthways. Arched ceilings on either side of the bridge domed over the platforms forming the perimeter. Hanging lights, some working and some not, gently squeaked and swayed as rumbles from above periodically disturbed them, bathing the area in a dull orange glow.
The murky water was full of debris, crates, barrels and junk, bobbing around or being pushed to the sides of the platforms. A stale dampness permeated the air, along with the faint smell of sewage. It was quite unpleasant.
Unsurprisingly, hanging tongues spread throughout the low and high ceiling in small groups, some above him and some below him. They looked like fishing lines, skimming the surface of the water and much like fishermen themselves, remained patient.
Gordon sighed. More water, potentially toxic as well as filthy.
How he was going to make it to the other side of the bridge from here, he didn’t know. There was no obvious path. He had a way down and that was a start.
About to turn back to the small room, he heard a loud, droning howl that echoed around the expanse. He tensed, looking across to the other side of the canal and saw a group of crabs trying to flee from a large animal.
It ran on two short muscular legs and consisted of a bulky thorax with a long, tapered tail. He couldn’t see much detail from this distance but its skin was a sandy brown and decorated with dark, spotted markings similar to a snake or frog. What he definitely could make out was the striking, bright red tentacles making up its ‘head’, undoubtedly covering its maw.
At a guess, the creature would probably reach his waist, give or take a foot. It was also very aggressive, shown by how it hunted each of the fleeing crabs and engulfed them in its tentacles, eating them alive or flicking them into the walls with its tail. As he studied its behaviour, it reminded him of a charging bull with a squid for a face.
It made short work of the crabs, grunting like a territorial boar whilst rooting amongst the debris to check if any got away. In the midst of doing this it appeared to notice him, tentacles rising in his direction and showing bloodied sharp teeth.
Gordon wasn’t worried. It couldn’t get him from there.
At least that’s what he thought.
The beast huffed and sounded like it was trying to vomit, before spitting a bright green substance from its mouth. The spray hit the floor, the ceiling and almost Gordon – who yelped and moved out of the way – sizzling on whatever material it met. It smelt foul to begin with, but the fumes were like noxious gas, making him cough.
‘Warning! Hazardous chemical detected!’
Eyes watering, he went into retreat, trying to shift the acidic burning in his throat.
Another glob splattered into the corridor, some droplets landing on his forearm. They bubbled on the surface of the plating, but couldn’t penetrate it. He quickly flicked them away, coughing hoarsely and backing off.
That was going to be a big problem.
Now the beast knew he was here, there was little opportunity for him to shoot it from his perch. The floor was covered in bile, eating away at the surface of the concrete. The best thing for him to do now was to find another angle to kill it from, before it turned the whole area into a place he couldn’t breathe in.
Wheezing faintly, Gordon walked back to the small room with the maintenance ladder, carefully climbing down it. He ended up in another small area, with a door no doubt leading out to the water. Preparing himself, he switched to the handgun and gingerly opened the door, peeking through the gap.
The beast had gone back to eating its prey, which he could just see amongst boxes and barrels. His keen eye noticed these barrels were flammable, like the others previously.
If he could get close enough for a clear shot, he could finish it quickly without needing to expend much ammunition. So long as that ... Stuff didn’t touch his face, he should be fine. The suit protected everywhere else.
Just another push, Gordon. Come on. You can rest soon; you just need to keep going.
It might have been an empty promise, but the reward of rest was what made him continue. The HEV was starting to feel heavy for the first time even with its servos assisting his movement and he was increasingly putting himself at risk with the mounting fatigue.
He made a break for it.
The creature perked up, grunting and it turned towards the noise. It spat more of its bile across the canal, hitting spots of floor and forcing Gordon to dodge around them. He ducked and used crates and rubble to take the hits for him, the sound of the materials slowly dissolving fizzing in his ears. Closing his eyes for a moment, panting, he waited. More fluid splattered over the crates and hit the back wall. Holding his breath from the fumes, eyes stinging, he darted out again and took shots as he ran.
Two hit the floor and one hit the wall next to the barrel. Snorting in alarm, the creature looked away from him and to the bullet impacts.
Seizing his chance, Gordon took aim and fired at the barrel from a stationary position, hitting the barrel twice. One penetrated the barrel, causing the fluid to leak, the other sparked it.
It never saw it coming.
Flames burst outward as the barrel exploded, sending shrapnel all over the platform. Not only was the creature hit by the shards of metal, it was also set alight. Its agonised cries echoed as it ran around in panic, bashing into more barrels and setting them alight too.
The resulting explosion made Gordon duck underneath stacks of containers. Pieces of singed flesh, metal, wood and debris flew across the river and into it. A heavy, sour, burning smell lingered in the air. Small flames and scorch marks circled around the location his enemy once was.
When everything stopped falling and the ringing in his ears stopped, Gordon stood and observed his handiwork.
He broke into a series of coughs, covering his mouth, his throat still burning from whatever he’d breathed in before. It was irritating and making it difficult to swallow. Unfortunately the only water to drink around here would probably make him sick.
If I start coughing up a lung I’m in big trouble... Well, bigger.
The cough wasn’t the only bad news. There was nowhere for him to go. He couldn’t get to the other side and the platforms didn’t reach all the way around. Reluctantly, he looked to the grey sludge.
Whoever was watching over him during all of this had a really cruel sense of humour.
He approached the railing and tried to look either way for an opening. There appeared to be a small, lit tunnel at the left side. As much as he hated it, he was once again given the short straw.
Putting the handgun away and taking the crowbar instead, he vaulted over the railing and held it whilst lowering himself towards the water. When he couldn’t go any further, he let himself drop – leaning back to try and avoid getting much on his face.
It smelt horrible. Shuddering, he gently swam through the muck-coloured liquid and into the tunnel, which took him to a small chamber with a ladder. He couldn’t get out of there quick enough.
At this point he had given up on being dry. The suit’s regulators kept him warm but that wasn’t going to do much for the rancid odour lingering on it.
Thoroughly miserable, Gordon walked through the area he ended up in, not finding much except a half-eaten scientist he only spared a quick glance at and a door. He moved on through, now on the other side of the canal. The acrid smell was stronger now and he held his breath whilst jogging through the scorched zone with little left behind, wanting to prevent another coughing fit. Another door waited for him and he headed on through, closing it behind him in the hopes of finding fresher air.
Finally there was some reprieve. Winding, empty hallways with a linear path and a ladder going up made him feel like he was actually getting somewhere. This would no doubt get him to the other side, which he originally worried was impossible. It was a roundabout way of getting there, but so was this whole damn journey. When he asked to go up he was offered down instead.
He opened the next door and his wish was granted... But not in the way he hoped.
Footsteps rang on the metal balcony as he slowly walked forward to the railing, eyes wide.
He’d found the rest of the cargo delivery system; a complex network of rails were suspended throughout the concrete silo, rising, falling and turning every which way and leading into closed doors with numbers on them. Large containers hung by crane hooks throughout the tracks, now stationary with the whole system shut down.
Gordon had never realised just how vast this all was, or what amount of work it took to keep a facility of this size running like clockwork. He’d taken all of his meals, his toiletries, supplies – everything – for granted. He never gave a thought for where it had all come from. Would anybody?
“Wow...”
It was impressive for certain. He tore himself away from his curious staring and towards the ladder nearby, climbing up to the next balcony.
Higher up, he got a better view of the trail of containers and their destinations, whistling lowly. The large control room took up most of the level, which would have originally housed a team to man this monster of logistics. It was now empty.
Gordon peered through the glass, unable to see anyone or much of anything. A single working light flickered, revealing splatters of blood and gore for a few seconds at a time. The door was also locked, buzzing at him when he tried to enter. Biting his lip, he moved to the door at the end of the balcony and tried to open it. Locked also.
“Crap... Now what?”
He looked around the silo. There was another balcony on the far right wall but no way to reach it. His eyes followed the rail next to him, which led down at a steep angle and deeper into the system below, where the containers were coming from.
The only way to reach it was via those same containers suspended in a line, on that very rail showing him where to go. They made an evenly spaced path.
Terror rattled Gordon as his mind put it together and he quickly shook his head.
“N-no... No, no. No! No way! This is crazy!”
It had to be a thirty to forty foot drop. If he fell he’d be paste. The pipe jump was bad enough but this was on a whole other level.
Gordon rubbed at his forehead with his fingers, trying to calm himself. His heart hammered in his chest and he was already shaking before he’d even started. He had nothing else to work with, no other way to go. It was this or nothing... And no one was going to find him down here if he stayed.
It’s just like the hazard course. Just like it. I have to do it.
He felt sick, moving along the balcony slowly towards the nearest container. Some planks of wood and a few cinder blocks had been left on a metal crate and he arranged them carefully to make a semi-sturdy walkway to get him across. From there he’d be relying on his own legs, which were stiffening the longer he hesitated.
Clambering up onto the crate, he finally got a sense of just how high up everything was. He avoided looking directly down, keeping his eyes on his destination and nothing more.
I must be nuts...
He took a step back and then launched himself off the planks towards the container, landing between the chains locked around it. It tilted a little with his weight and he clung to the crane for dear life.
Eyes closed, he adjusted his glasses and made sure they weren’t about to fall off, then looked to the next platform. He worried that if he stayed still for too long he’d lose his nerve. He couldn’t afford to on top of one of these. Adjusting his footing, he turned to it and stepped over the chains, then hopped.
“Ngh!”
He made it, clinging to the crane once more. The container swayed with him gently which didn’t help with his nausea, but he used it to help with his next jump. He leapt over to the third container, making it easily and clutched the crane for stability, then pushed himself to the fourth.
That looked to have been the easy bit. From here he could see the containers were further apart and it would require more than a short hop to make it. If he misjudged the jump he would either miss or overshoot it entirely. There was no coming back from this.
Swallowing heavily and readying himself, he forced his shaking hand to release the crane and took a step back. The container tilted faintly.
He ran, feeling the floor move with him as his weight altered its balance. Waiting until the last moment, he kicked off the box and soared over nothing.
For Gordon it felt like minutes, legs moving in slow motion as they cut through the air under him. He held his breath, chest tightening. Gravity pulled him down and as he descended, his legs bent and braced for impact.
In just a few seconds it was over. He landed on the container with a resounding thud – metal against metal – and clutched the crane as it moved with him, the chains rattling.
“Agh! God!”
That was awful and he still wasn’t finished. He could see the bay entrance and the containers before it.
Just two more – you can do this, Gordon. You aren’t winning the decathlon for nothing.
Giving himself a little encouragement, he took a few sharp breaths and stepped back. His legs were starting to burn a little but the suit was supporting them, strengthening them. He surged forward and launched off the edge, landing a little off centre but still in reach of the crane.
Panting heavily, waiting for the container to stop swaying, Gordon glanced at the last one. It was even further away. He was going to need all he had and then some to make the jump. If he was ever going to see Barney, Dr. Kleiner and Eli again, he had to make it.
I don’t want to die here...
He shook that thought out of his head quickly, silencing the frightened voice.
“Focus.” He whispered.
Altering the grip of the crowbar in his hand, he prepared himself. The container settled at last.
One last jump.
Gordon found his balance and edged back as far as he dared, one foot in front of the other. He needed as much speed as possible to propel him and although it was a lot to expect, managing a sprint on such a small space, that was what he intended to do.
Breathing in deeply, he darted forwards and sprung into the fastest run he could muster in the shortest time possible. If he had regrets it was too late to think about them, he reached the end of the container in seconds.
He pushed himself off with his front foot and flew – literally – over the yawning chasm. It was a weightless moment that was spectacular and terrifying all at once, air rushing past him. His legs danced on nothing, arms cutting through resistance and in the time it took for him to perform this feat, only seconds had gone by.
The container got closer and closer, his altitude lowering and it looked like he had a good angle on it at first. His eyes caught the drop and he looked past his boots to the hard ground some thirty foot below. Fear gripped him.
It was only made worse when he checked the container.
He wasn’t going to land on it. He was going into it.
Time sped up again and he slammed into the edge of the container chest first. The suit took the brunt of the impact, energy dispersing throughout the carapace plates and cushioning him, but it still knocked the wind out of his lungs.
Coughing and stunned, Gordon felt the world shift. The container tilted backwards and he began to slip. He snapped out of it, rapidly clawing with one hand and kicking his legs to try and save himself. The crowbar created sparks as it scratched against metal, unable to find grip.
“Nn! N-no, no!”
He slid faster, the suit’s weight pulling him down. His only hope was the chains attached to the crane and he swung the crowbar at the one nearest. The crowbar’s curve hooked on it and saved him just as he ran out of surface area. He hung by one hand, legs dangling over nothing.
“AHHH!”
His voice echoed, bouncing off the walls. Kicking furiously to try and give himself some leverage, he hauled his body up using the crowbar and grabbed the chain with his other hand. Absolutely petrified and gasping for breath, he eased himself onto the container slowly so it levelled out then crawled over the edge. He clung to the crane, closing his eyes.
He was a trembling wreck.
Despite that last hiccup, he had made it.
I never... Ever... For as long as I live and breathe, want to do that again...
After having some time to calm down, Gordon stiffly stood and eased his way off the container, landing in the bay behind and near a stairwell. It took some convincing to keep his legs moving, quite hampered by his brush with death for the umpteenth time.
He was sceptical when he found a ladder heading up, but ascended it anyway. It was a surprise to find that the next door took him to the rest of the walkway on the other side of the filth-ridden canal.
That was one hell of a detour.
Relieved with the idea that he could leave this awful place behind, he moved down the corridor, following it until it took him to a large warehouse. It must have been where some of the suspended containers were delivered to, judging by the empty rail and one container near the closed door. He’d be glad to never see one again.
Past the racks, crates and even more boxes, there was a service elevator with its doors open; the cab brightly lit up.
Gordon, although understandably nervous around elevators, was so excited about the idea of finding a way back up after his unexpected downfall that he was running to it without a second thought.
Flashes of green light formed behind him, the sounds of squealing hounds piercing his ears. He ignored them, even as he heard them coming, focused entirely on escape.
He leapt into the cab and slammed the button with his fist – the doors closing just as the hounds got close.
The elevator hummed gently, beginning to rise. No creaks, no groans, no short circuiting.
He was free.
Gordon leant against the wall of the cab, utterly exhausted. If he trusted the metal box enough not to kill him, he would have happily stayed in there to rest. However, experience told him otherwise. He’d find somewhere soon. He had to, before he passed out. He was so thirsty, his throat still sore and the hunger pains were getting worse.
Wherever he was going now, within this living hell, it had to be a lot better than where he’d been.
Right?
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echo-bleu · 5 months ago
Text
carve our names with fire
Clary gave Alec a wedding gift before losing her memories and her runes. Alec does with it what he does best: change the world to right an injustice (and become a BAMF immortal warlock along the way).
Alec & Clary Brotp with a side of Immortal Husbands, Angst and Fluff and Emotional Hurt/Comfort. Betaed by Bsgoddess (SorryTheUsernamesTaken). Takes off after Alec and Magnus announced their wedding, but the show happened over 3-ish years and the wedding is about a week after they come back from Edom, not the next day (because Timeline). The last part was loosely inspired by prompts on the Malec Discord Server, though it grew more world-building than I expected.
Read on AO3.
“You two will make amazing husbands.”
Alec looks up from his paperwork, realizing that he’s been unconsciously twirling his ring while reading. He didn’t hear Clary come into his office, but she’s leaning against the door frame, a small smile on her face.
They haven’t had time to talk properly since the announcement of Alec and Magnus’ wedding, with Jonathan wreaking havoc all over the world. But Jonathan is dead now, thanks to Clary.
“Thank you,” he grins at her sincerely. “I know it’s a little rushed, but with everything that’s happened, we decided we didn’t want to wait for the next catastrophe. At this pace, we’ll never find time to plan a proper wedding.”
“That’s fair,” Clary snorts. “We never seem to get a break.”
They’re still reeling from the deaths of several hundred Shadowhunters, just days ago. Alec has done his best to go to as many Rites of Mourning as he could, especially for people he knew, but even he couldn’t make it to every one of them. After being surrounded by so much grief, he’s more than ready for a slice of happiness. Magnus is in a frenzy preparing everything for the wedding tomorrow, and Alec can’t wait.
“I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful,” Clary continues, walking into the office fully. She closes the door behind her, and Alec frowns. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Of course,” Alec gestures for her to sit on the couch, while he stands up and comes around his desk. He sits down beside her. “What is it?”
Clary looks down at her lap, biting her lip, and Alec feels dread pooling his stomach. She’s so uncharacteristically quiet that it can only mean bad news.
“I haven’t told anyone else yet,” she starts. “I don’t want to ask you to keep it a secret, but I can’t carry it on my own anymore.”
Alec places a hesitant hand on her arm. They rarely touch, but it seems appropriate. “Clary, what’s wrong?”
“I saw my mom the other day,” Clary breathes out.
Alec stares in shock. He lets go of Clary’s arm and glances down at his hand, the same hand that once ripped Jocelyn Fairchild’s heart out of her chest. Even now, almost two years later, he doesn’t feel clean of that. He can still feel the blood, see her face in his nightmares, Clary’s face accusing him. He has plenty of newer traumas to dream about, and it’s started to fade, but it’s not gone.
“What?” he croaks out. Is Clary having the same nightmares? Is she seeing things? It doesn’t match the way she said it, with that intense conviction in her eyes.
Clary’s eyes widen like she just realized how that sounded. “Not like… She was a...ghost, maybe? I don’t know. She felt real. She said she was sent by the Angels to give me a message.”
“A message,” Alec repeats slowly.
“I know how it sounds, but I think that’s the truth,” Clary says. “Because what she told me would happen...it’s started.”
“Clary, I don’t understand.”
She closes her eyes, her face screwed up in anguish. “She said that my rune ability was against the wish of the Angels and that if I kept using it, they’d take it away. They’d take everything away. Everything that makes me a Shadowhunter.”
Alec blinks for a moment, trying to make sense of it. “When was that?” he asks.
“The day after we got back from Edom.”
“You used a rune to kill Jonathan,” Alec breathes.
Clary looks up at his face then and nods minutely. She rolls up her sleeve, showing off unmarred skin where Alec saw a Silent Brother draw the angelic rune just a year ago. “It’s already started,” she murmurs. “They’re fading. One by one.”
“So you’re being...deruned? No,” Alec realizes. It’s different. Deruning is a Nephilim punishment, a human one. It strips them of their runes, but not of their identity, of their blood. “It’s more than that, isn’t it?”
“I think…” Clary hesitates, tears falling down her cheeks. “I think when it’s over, I’m going to be mundane. Fully. Without the Sight, and any memories of the Shadow World.”
“Fuck, Clary,” Alec mutters. “There must be something we can do—”
“I don’t think we can go against the Angels’ wish, Alec.”
Alec closes his eyes, his mind desperately running through possibilities and scenarios. He doesn’t see a solution. She’s right, the Angels’ wish is untouchable, they all know that. There’s no army to fight, no law to circumvent, no obstacle to overcome.
He pinches the bridge of his nose and feels the knot in his throat grow until it’s nearly choking him. He’s not ready to lose another friend, not now. And Jace… Fuck. Jace will be devastated. Izzy, too. None of them can take another disaster.
He takes in Clary’s red and puffy eyes, the way she’s looking at him like a lifeline. She’s become a friend, over the years. They didn’t start that way, but they’ve grown close. She’s the person closest to Alec outside of his family and Magnus. He blinks back tears.
“You’ll still be alive,” he murmurs. “But—”
“I’ll forget you. All of this,” she gestures around them. “Everything. I’m scared, Alec.”
Alec holds out his hand, and she grips it tightly in hers. He covers them with his other hand. “How long?” he asks.
“I don’t know. I only have two runes left, so not long. Tomorrow, maybe the day after.”
Alec closes his eyes. She might not even make it to the wedding. “Fuck,” he repeats.
“I don’t want to forget,” Clary murmurs, sobbing.
“It’s going to be okay,” Alec says softly. Neither of them believes it.
At least she’ll be okay, most likely. If she forgets everything, loses her angel blood, she’ll be just another mundane. She’ll be safe. Alec tries hard to hang onto that and not on the pain to come.
Because if he even lets himself imagine it, he’ll crumble.
“Why tell me first?” he asks.
Clary hesitates, biting her lip. Her sobs have receded, though tears are still running down her cheeks. She sniffles. “You’re in charge of the Institute, so you need to know. For, you know, patrols and stuff. I didn’t want you to be caught by surprise.”
Alec swallows, touched by her foresight. It’s hard to remember sometimes that she’s the same girl who once trampled on every rule without care. She still doesn’t follow orders blindly, but she’s come to care about the Institute and its Shadowhunters like they’re her family.
And in a few days, none of that growth will matter anymore. She’ll be gone. Alec wants to retch at the injustice of it all. She’s come so far, and this punishment is truly unfair.
But then, why should the Angels be fairer than the Nephilim? Alec once sat in this same office waiting for his sister to be convicted of treason and deruned. He watched his mother be stripped of her runes and her identity. Clary herself was sentenced to death for bringing Jace back to life.
They both know all too well that life isn’t fair.
“There’s another reason,” Clary says after a moment of silence. “I wanted to give you something. It’s a wedding gift, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to hold on until then, so I wanted to give it to you now.”
She pulls back her hands and takes a folded piece of paper out of her pocket. Alec carefully unfolds it, expecting some kind of drawing, but what jumps out at him is a rune, carefully inked onto the thick paper. One he doesn’t recognize.
“I can still create runes, even if I don’t dare activate them,” Clary explains. “It will work, I know it.”
“What is it?” Alec asks. It has similar elements to the Alliance rune, Clary’s most beautiful invention to date, but it’s also different, rounder, and more complex.
“I didn’t give it a name,” Clary says. “You can name it if you want. Or keep it to yourself and never use it. It’s your choice.”
“You’re rambling,” Alec says, almost amused despite the gravity of the moment.
“Sorry. It works kind of like the Alliance rune, but it requires a strong emotional bond. There are elements of the Wedding rune and the Parabatai rune in it.”
Alec tilts his head, and he can recognize it now, the familiar runes almost intertwined with each other.
“Shared between two people,” Clary says slowly, “it should bind souls and bodies together. You’d share blood, powers, emotions. And it’s permanent.”
Alec’s eyes widen as he takes in the implications of that. “Sharing powers…”
“Yes. If you do it with Magnus, you should be able to share his eternal youth.”
“Clary, this is—” Alec breathes, unable to formulate his overwhelming gratitude. “It’s an incredible gift.”
Clary swallows. “I wanted you to have it before—” she gestures vaguely. “I didn’t talk about it earlier because I wasn’t sure I could make a rune that powerful, but I know this one will work.”
Alec closes his eyes briefly to clear them of tears and pulls her into a hug. She melts into his chest, sobbing. “I want you to know that I’m incredibly grateful for everything you did for us,” he says over her shoulder. “We owe you so much.”
“Even if I didn’t obey the rules?” she hiccups. “I caused you a lot of trouble.”
“But you saved us over and over too,” Alec says. “You brought Jace back to life. You’re the reason we got Magnus back. You’ve been through so much in the past few years, but you’re still here coming up with the most incredible gift for my wedding, even when you’re running out of time…”
“I can’t tell Jace and Izzy,” Clary sobs into his shoulder. “Izzy just asked me to be her parabatai. And Jace… I can’t say goodbye. It’s too hard.”
Alec hugs her tighter. “It’s okay. I’ll tell them for you if you want. Anything you need.”
“I love them. I love you. I love you all so much. To think that I won’t remember anything…”
Alec runs a hand through her hair, gently. “We’ll make sure that you’re alright. And… I’ll keep looking. Maybe there’s something we can do to make the Angels let you come back. If not, maybe we can figure out how to bring you back ourselves. I won’t give up.”
“Thank you,” Clary murmurs. “Take care of Jace for me. He’ll need you.”
“I will. I promise.”
They hold each other until Clary’s sobs subside, and she’s able to compose herself. Alec keeps a tight grip on his own emotions, even though they threaten to spill over. He’s long learned to compartmentalize, and he can’t afford to break down in the middle of a workday. But before he goes back home to Magnus that night, he takes out the folded sheet of paper again and studies it until his sight goes blurry and he has tears running down his cheeks. He goes to the roof with his bow, working his anger into the arrows he sends out in the sky, and he runs to Magnus’ loft without a speed run, his lungs burning.
When Magnus asks him what’s wrong, he can only shake his head and hug him tight.
 *
 He’s dancing with Magnus when Clary leaves. He’s tried to keep an eye on her most of the night, once the ceremony was done, but he misses her running out and only realizes she’s gone when Jace starts to look for her.
The party is coming to an end. Alec excuses himself to Magnus for a while and he tracks Clary down, two blocks away, where he finds her looking around her in confusion.
“Who are you?” she asks when he calls her name. “Don’t come any closer!”
Alec sighs, the knot in his throat threatening to explode, and he raises his hands in a gesture of peace. “I don’t mean any harm,” he says. “You just seemed lost.”
“I’m—” She looks around again, frantically. “I don’t know where I am.”
“I’ll call you a cab, okay?” Alec offers. He falters, realizing that Clary doesn’t have a home to go to anymore. Jocelyn’s dead, and Clary will have to suffer the loss of her mother all over again. “Is there anyone you can call? A friend?”
“Yeah,” Clary says. She pats her dress. “I’ve...I think I lost my phone.”
“I’ll lend you mine,” Alec says. “I’m Alec, by the way.”
“Clary.”
Alec forces the pain away and attempts a smile. “Nice to meet you.”
 *
 “I told you you’d make amazing husbands.”
Alec looks up from his paperwork in surprise, and he’s overtaken by a strong sense of deja-vu. It isn’t the same office or even the same city, but the way Clary is leaning against the door frame reminds him exactly of the day before she left. She seems aware of the parallel, grinning at him conspiratorially.
“You did,” he smiles. “Welcome back, Clary.”
She looks different, and yet the same. Her skin is free of runes, and she has a new haircut that makes her look older, but there’s the same light in her eyes. It’s been a year. A year of Jace moping around the Institute, his pain a constant tug on the parabatai bond. A year of missing her, more than Alec never thought he would.
“Thank you.”
Jace called Alec just hours after Clary recognized him at her show, three weeks ago, but Alec hasn’t been able to join them in New York yet. She regained her memories quickly, in only a few days, once it started. Jace and Izzy have been keeping him updated.
“So that’s where it went,” Clary says, staring at the large abstract painting on the wall. “I thought it was you and Magnus, but I wasn’t sure. It’s hard to reconcile those memories together.”
Alec looks up at it, at the signature that looks suspiciously like a rune in the shape of a C and F in the bottom right corner. “It was us,” he confirms. They’ve been to every single one of her school’s shows, buying multiple paintings while having to pretend they didn’t know her. “We have more of them at home. Magnus felt it was a way to keep you with us. He’s missed you a lot.”
“I know,” Clary says. “We had lunch a couple of days ago. He didn’t tell you?”
Alec laughs. “He did. He recounted every minute of it. He was excited.”
Clary tilts her head playfully. “Is he the only one who missed me?”
“I’m pretty sure Jace thought of you once or twice. Izzy, too,” Alec smirks. “Of course we all missed you. Come here,” he stands up and opens his arms.
She bounces up to him and hugs him tight around the middle, the top of her head barely reaching his shoulders. Alec laughs and leans into the embrace. “I’ve missed you,” he murmurs.
“I’d say I’ve missed you too, but—” Clary shrugs, pulling away to look up at him. “I felt like something was missing, the whole time. And ugh, I didn’t remember you were so tall.”
Alec raises an eyebrow. “You didn’t remember me at all,” he deadpans. “More seriously, I meant to come to see you, but things have been hectic over here.”
“I heard you made Inquisitor. That’s amazing, Alec!”
“Yeah, it’s, uh, very recent,” Alec blushes. He still hasn’t learned to take a compliment, but his promotion is something he can take pride in. It’s an incredible testimony of how far the Clave has come in just a couple of years. Not so long ago, a Shadowhunter who chose to marry a Downworlder would have been cast out or at least kept carefully out of any politically significant position. And now he’s here, barely turned twenty-five, in the second highest Clave office. “Magnus is the High Warlock of Alicante now,” he adds. Because of that, the Clave asking his husband to help Downworlders move back into Idris after centuries of fleeing the Shadowhunters’ increasing restrictions, is something Alec will never not be proud of.
“You haven’t changed,” Clary observes, smiling. “I was worried you’d turned into a high and mighty prick, now that you’re such a big name.”
Alec rolls his eyes and snorts. “I’m not Jace,” he reminds her. “Come on, let’s sit down. Do you have some time? I can take my lunch break, there’s a restaurant around the corner.”
“Sure,” Clary nods. “I have an appointment with the Silent Brothers to determine if my body’s ready to take runes again, but I came early to see you.”
“Great. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
 *
 “Did you use it? The rune?” Clary leans in over her dessert in curiosity. They’ve been catching up for the past hour in a booth at the back of the restaurant, and it almost feels like they saw each other yesterday, for how comfortable and easy it is to get back into their banter. Alec has missed this.
He leans back in his seat, his stomach full. “Yeah,” he says, placing a hand over his heart where the rune is located. “We exchanged them two months ago.”
“Does it work?” Clary asks with a spark in her eyes.
Alec turns his hand palm up over the table and focuses. It doesn’t come easily to him, not yet. He’s been training with Magnus, but magic is much harder than it looks, so they’ve been focusing on controlling his random outbursts whenever he’s stressed more than developing his active magic.
Blue strands of light encircle his hand briefly, leaving in their wake a yellow rose. He hands it to Clary, who gives him a wide smile and turns it in her hands to observe it. “Wow!” she exclaims. “Yer a wizard, Alec.”
Alec bites on his finger to contain his laughter. He’s learned far too many mundane cultural references through osmosis with Simon and weekly movie nights at the loft, while Clary was gone.
“We had my blood and magic analyzed by the researchers at the Spiral Labyrinth, and they say I’m immortal too,” he says. “Or more exactly, tied to Magnus’ immortality. But since he’s tied to my life force too, it makes us functionally invincible. Someone would have to kill us both at the same time for it to stick.”
“That’s amazing,” Clary breathes. “More than I even thought of when I made the rune.”
“We have a lot to thank you for,” Alec reaches out to pat her hand. “More than you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“This rune allowed us to make huge strides in magical theory, and specifically angelic magic. It’s part of the reason why I’ve been so busy because I’m also working with our researchers on several projects.” Alec pauses, realizing he’s getting ahead of himself and Clary can’t follow. “Okay, so when you gave me the rune, I told Magnus about it right after our wedding. He was blown away that you would give us such a gift, by the way. I’m sure he’ll want to thank you himself.”
Clary smiles. “He’ll have plenty of time for that, now that I’m back for good,” she says.
Alec nods. “Since you said it was permanent, we took our time to make the decision. Immortality is not something to be taken lightly. For me, it wasn’t even really a question, but Magnus wanted me to be sure that it was what I wanted.”
“That makes sense,” Clary nods.
“We also wanted to make sure that the rune would work the way you said it did, that it wouldn’t have any…unforeseen side effects.”
Clary frowns. “I never had a problem with my runes.”
“Honestly, Clary, you used them mostly in emergencies, with no regard for safety. Maybe it was warranted then, but this time we weren’t willing to gamble both of your lives on it. Especially when it came to using a rune on a warlock.”
“Of course,” Clary says sheepishly. “Ugh, I was rather impulsive, wasn’t I?”
“You could say that,” Alec grumbles, remembering all the times her hasty decisions landed him in hot water with his parents or the Clave. “Anyway, we researched the hell out of it. Every text we could find on rune creations, on the wedding rune and its variations, we even looked into warlock archives that hadn’t been opened for centuries. And that’s how I figured it out.”
“Figured what out?”
“How you created runes. And why the Angels hated it.”
 *
 “This is what we’re working on,” Alec says, letting Clary into the lab. “It’s all confidential, but since you’re the one who started it all, I figured you deserve to know. And I’m the one who decides who is read in on it anyway.”
Clary looks around in wonder. The room has some of the equipment she’d expect in a lab and some she doesn’t recognize, but what attracts her gaze is the large corkboard in the middle, covered with sheets of paper.
On each of them is a rune. A rune she’s never seen before.
“They’re all new runes?” she asks.
“Yes,” Alec answers, leaning his back against the wall. “What clued me in was how you used elements of several existing runes to create a new one. I copied down every rune from the Gray Book and all of your runes and I started looking for patterns. We’ve always known that some basic elemental runes existed, but not that they could be combined. It took me a few months, but I came up with this.” He points at a rune at the top left of the board, which Clary can see is based on the Deflect rune, with two additional strikes going through it.
“Of course you would,” she mutters. “That’s some kind of armor rune, isn’t it?”
Alec smiles. “As it turns out, everyone can create runes, at least in theory. It’s very hard and requires a strong theoretical background unless you’re named Clary Fairchild and you have additional angel blood. Or maybe just an amazing instinct, I don’t know. Yes, this one imitates armored plates around your body. It’s more effective at stopping blows than the regular Deflect rune, but it doesn’t stop people from tracking you.”
“That’s amazing,” Clary says.
“As soon as I saw it work, I told Magnus and we worked on it together. It’s the biggest discovery about angelic magic that we’ve made in centuries.”
“Why did no one find it before?”
Alec pushes away from the wall to face her fully. “Soon after I used this rune for the first time, I started experiencing the same thing you did: push back from the Angels. Even drawing normal runes became harder. We got scared that I might be deruned like you were, so Magnus and I decided to go ahead with your rune, bind ourselves together. If I had magic, the Angels couldn’t take away my Sight or my memories.”
“That sounds like a plan me or Jace would have come up with, not you,” Clary quips.
“Yeah, well, things were evolving quickly. I could barely hold a stele at that point,” Alec says, frowning.
Clary blinks. “Wow, the Angels really were angry.”
“The bond fixed it. I’m out of reach now, they can’t do anything to me. And now that I knew what I was looking for, I found accounts of other people to whom it happened, who lost their Nephilim blood because of this. You have to read between the lines because it became taboo to even talk about it, but it looks like the Angels don’t want us to have this ability. Jonathan Shadowhunter probably had it, he had more pure Angel blood than you and he’s the one who created all the original runes, but since then, no Shadowhunter has been able to create new runes. Until you.”
“But I got punished for it,” Clary says, wringing her hands. Her memories of the last few days before she was stripped of her runes don’t feel fresh like the events happened yesterday, but they also don’t feel like they’re a year old. She can still see her mother’s ghost, or whatever it was, telling her what would happen if she kept using new runes.
It’s been a year, but without her memories, she hasn’t had a chance to process all the trauma, all the emotions.
“Yeah,” Alec sighs. “You certainly didn’t deserve it, but you were.”
Clary shakes her head, trying to get rid of the darker thoughts. “Obviously you didn’t stop there,” she says, gesturing at the board. “So what did you do?”
“Well, since my warlock blood protects me, I started thinking about who else might be protected. I reached out to Helen Blackthorn, you remember her?”
“Oh, she’s half-Seelie, isn’t she?”
“Yes. She and her brother. They were both willing to try working with us, especially since Magnus and I were fairly sure we could stop the process if we were wrong and the Angels were able to harm them. As it turns out, they did fine. So I found more Shadowhunters with Downworlder blood. At this point, we have eight people creating new runes, including me.”
“That’s incredible,” Clary says. She looks closer at the runes on the board. She can instinctively tell their purpose, which is proof that her ability hasn’t gone away. Alec lets her observe them for a while in silence, and she thinks she can discern a pattern in there like the runes have a signature. “That’s yours,” she points at a rune in the middle of the board, once she’s fairly sure she’s understanding her instincts right. “And this one.”
“You’re right,” Alec says, sounding impressed.
“You have a...tell,” Clary smirks, looking at him over her shoulder. “They feel distinctively you. I can probably find Magnus’ too, but I’d need a place to start since I’ve never seen him draw a rune.”
“Here,” Alec points to one on the right side of the board. “Can you tell because of your rune ability, or because you’re an artist?”
“Maybe a bit of both,” Clary shrugs. “I’m not sure. I should have known this was Magnus’,” she laughs when she looks at the rune. The flourish and artistic strokes look exactly like something Magnus would go for.
“We definitely need you in our group,” Alec mutters, jotting down a note on a pad on the desk beside him.
“I don’t know,” Clary says, taking a step back away from the board. “I don’t want to tempt fate. I don’t think I could stand to lose my memories again.”
“No, of course,” Alec says. “But I don’t think it would happen.”
“Why?”
“Magnus’ theory is that if enough Shadowhunters start creating runes, the Angels will just have to accept it since they can’t cast us out. Since our wedding, there are more and more mixed Nephilim and Downworlder couples, so there will probably be a whole generation of people with mixed blood. They’ll be able to create runes.”
“What does that have to do with me?” Clary asks.
“I don’t think it was a coincidence that the Angels chose to give you your memories back now. The breakthroughs that we’ve made aren’t going away. I think it’s their way of telling us that they won’t fight us anymore.”
Clary blinks at him, trying to process that idea. She remembers asking Maryse, at the wedding, if the Angels could forgive. The picture of the Angels that Alec paints is cold and calculating, matching with what Clary saw of Raziel — and to some extent, even Ithuriel. What if she wasn’t forgiven, but instead simply reinstated in her rightful place? What if Alec managed the unthinkable, and made the Angels themselves change their minds?
“Is that possible? I mean — wow.”
“Why not?” Alec shrugs.
Clary has a sudden flashback of the Alec she first met, over four years ago, who was terrified of coming out and upsetting the order of things, who was killing himself trying to meet his parents’ expectations. The man standing in front of her now has grown so much, just like Clary has, that they’re barely recognizable. To hear him talking so casually about changing the world-changing immutable laws such as those of the Angels?
But then, they’ve changed so much already, haven’t they? They participated in the destruction of Edom. They defeated the Mother of Demons. They explored and even created whole new sections of magic. Alec and Magnus’ marriage and their careers changed the laws of the Clave and opened the way for so much more.
They’ve already changed the world. So why not a little more, indeed?
Clary jumps at Alec’s neck, making him grunt in surprise. “This is amazing,” she says. “You’re amazing. And I’m so glad I’m back.”
“Me too,” Alec laughs, resting his chin on the top of her head. “Welcome home, Clary.”
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angstysebfan · 6 months ago
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PR Stunt Gone Wrong - Chapter 29
Pairing: Sebastian Stan x Reader
Summary: You are a fellow actress in the MCU, Bucky’s love interest. You met Seb during the CA: WS and you guys hit it off. Chemistry on and off the set, but never dated until after Infinity War. During filming of FATWS, the pandemic caused everything to shut down. Seb offered you to spend quarantine with him, but somewhere along the lines, things go wrong and Seb makes a PR decision.
A/N: I was going to to this in a Bucky story, but then I decided to keep it Seb. With everything going on with Seb over the last several months, I came up with this story in my head. Obviously a lot of this is made up, but it is using what we know Seb has been doing over the last several months.
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You dropped off Tucker with your mom again and caught a flight back to LA. You were nervous the entire flight, not knowing how he would react seeing you. Once you landed you grabbed a cab and went straight to his apartment. You hesitated once outside of his building, trying to build the courage to knock on his door and have this conversation.
You sighed and walked into his building and right up to his door. Before you could talk yourself out of it, you knocked on the door. You heard his footsteps coming and you tried to calm you heart as he opened the door. You saw his surprise and confusion when he saw it was you. “Y/N?” he asks still in surprise. “Hey Chase, can we talk?” you ask. He nods and lets you in.
--
Back in Nw York, you stand outside of Sebastian’s apartment, knowing he was there. As soon as you got back from LA, you went home and planned on how you were going to have this conversation with Seb. You walk in when you see one of his neighbors leave. You climb up the few stories to his floor and head to his door. You knock on the door, and again try to calm yourself.
Seb opened the door to reveal you, and his heart dropped. “Y/N? Are you ok?” he asked concerned. You give him a smile, “Hey Seb. Can I come in?” you ask. He nods and opens his door wider, allowing you in. You look around the apartment you haven’t been in since June. You look over every inch remembering all the good times, and bad times here. 
You walk into the living room and walk over the couch, sitting down and playing with your fingers. “Did you want something to drink?” Seb asks nervously. You shake your head and look at him. “Seb,” you say patting the seat next to you, “We need to talk.. about everything,” you say. You see Seb nod, knowing this was it. When this conversation was over he will know if he totally lost you or if he still has a chance.
“When we first met, I instantly knew we were going to be important in each other’s lives. I had never had a connection with someone like that before. It was a long and painful road with you, but eventually we got there. These last few years with you were some of the best in my life. I didn’t know what love was until you. My other relationships could never hold a candle to what we had,” you say, trying to contain your emotions.
Seb stays quiet, allowing you to get everything off your chest. “I should have seen the signs that we were ending,” you say shaking your head. “You kept bringing up Spain, and this project that you wouldn’t tell me anything about. Now I know it was her, but I need to know... why didn’t you tell me about it? Why did you make that decision without me? I could have helped you,” you say looking at him with tears falling down your cheeks.
Seb also has crying and sniffs, “I... I was scared they were going to hurt you. You are so talented and deserve the best career, and I thought by doing this, I was saving you. I didn’t think... that’s just it, I didn’t think,” he says looking down at the floor. You choke on a sob, “Why did you sleep with her? Multiple times! That hurt worse than anything,” you say the last sentence in a whisper. 
Seb wipes his tears then grabs your hands, “Y/N, I... I don’t want to hurt you more. We added that into the contract and... At first I didn’t think about it, but when I saw you again, when I... I have no excuse. I’m an asshole, and selfish,” he says pulling away from you and looking down. “Yes, Seb. You are... very very selfish,” you say. “You expressed your feelings via a letter, instead of telling me to my face. You are a coward, and selfish,” you say angrily.
Sebastian winces at you tone, choking on his own sobs now. You look at him and soften, “But you put yourself on the line for me. You helped me with this case, and gave me your lawyer. As cowardly and selfish you are, you are also kind, and sweet, and... I know you love me,” you say cupping his cheeks, wiping his tears. You bring his face closer and give him a soft peck on his lips.
“I don’t know what will happen in the future, but... I know that right now, I...” you stop to look down and take a deep breath, “I know I can’t be with you,” you say. “I do love you still. I do. But I need to remember who I am, and I think it’s best if I just do that by myself for awhile,” you say. “What about Chase?” he asks between sobs. You give a small smile, “We are just friends,” you say.
Seb pulls you into a crushing hug, “I’m so sorry, Y/N. I’m so fucking sorry,” he cries into your shoulder. You allow yourself to sob also, knowing this was over. Everything you had loved over the last few years was over. You both hold each other for a long time, allowing each other to cry. When you both finally calm down, he takes your hand and leads you to the door. 
When the door opens he wraps his arms around your waist, as you wrap your around his neck. You both inhale each other’s scents one more time. You pull away slightly and look at each other. You both pull closer until your lips meet. It’s passionate, it’s raw, it’s breathtaking, it’s goodbye. You lean your foreheads together for a moment, allowing more tears to fall. He kisses your forehead and whispers he loves you. You look into his eyes and peck his lips again, “I love you too,” you say before pulling away and walking down the hallway, making sure not to turn back.
--
You picked up Tucker and brought him back to your apartment. You lay in your bed and allow more tears to fall from your eyes. You look at Tucker, who is asleep at the bottom of the bed, “Looks like it’s just us now Tucker. Don’t you hurt me too,” you say. You turn on your side and cover your face in your pillow as you sob. Tucker wakes up and lays closer to you, putting his head on you hip, letting you know you re not alone. 
You’re not alone.
--
Chapter 28 / Chapter 30 (end)
Well... 1 chapter left. I honestly was tearing up writing this. So I hope the emotion was captured. I thought it was more important to see the reader and Seb’s discussion than Chase. Feedback is appreciated.
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lovessrvduffadlerandsixx · 6 months ago
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Guns N Roses Fic
Hey I started a story and can’t think of anything else. Feel free to finish the rest of what I put out there.
You read the ad. 2nd KEYBOARDIST NEEDED FOR BAND MUST BE ABLE TO PLAY ANYTHING. PLEASE CALL WILLIAM AT 555-1234 OR MELISSA AT 555-5678. 
Called William, told me to meet at an address. I get there and open the door and what do I see but Axl Rose and Slash standing there talking. Both turn around and Axl says “you must be y/n, come in come in” after all the hellos and what not I auditioned and they had a meeting in the other room. Steven walks out, hugs me says “welcome to GNR”. Then we all talked about my how long I’d been playing, my influences, etc etc. I had gotten so comfortable I forgot I was talking to Axl, Slash, Duff, Steven, Izzy, and Melissa.  Izzy says I hope you gotta passport, because we’re touring in a month and in 9 months we’re going overseas. I said I guess I better work on that. Melissa says “I’m just glad there’s another female here.” Then I joked “yea someone I could get my periods with.”  We burst into laughter. Duff rolled his eyes like he wasn’t amused. I don’t think he likes me. Izzy tells me “we start rehearsing in 2 days.” Me “wow, ok.” Slash tells me the address but it’s in a part of town that I don’t frequent because of heavy traffic so I would probably get lost. Axl said“ok we’ll pick you up.” Me “ok no probs, here’s my address.”  Steven” hey you hungry, I can order pizza.” So we ate and talked and ate and talked till I realized it was 11pm. Me” holy shit ya’ll it’s late I gotta go. It’s my turn to do the dishes today and my roommate Lindi’s gonna be pissed.”  Axl “she’ll get over it.” Me” she’s a hairdresser on her feet all day, she’s done a lot for me, oh and btw she has a huge crush on you.” I got home and told Lindi I got the gig but didn’t tell her who it was. I wanted to surprise her.  2 days later Slash calls to tell me they are on the way. I tell Lindi “ok they are on the way, I’m glad your home right now, you are gonna freak the fuck out when you see who it is.” Lindi says ”I can’t wait.”  We’re talking and eating breakfast and 15 min later there’s a knock on the door.  I say “By the way it’s Guns and Roses, you should answer the door.” She says “bullshit” and opens the door and there in all his red headed glory is her man Axl Rose .  Axl “hey you must be Lindi”. Lindi yells “holy shit” looks at me and says “you weren’t kidding”. We all laugh. I asked if they were hungry but they all ate already but Steven said he was so we fixed us both a few breakfast tacos for the road. All I was thinking the whole time was “Omg Steven Adler is in my house and we preparing breakfast tacos together, damn it, I gotta keep this professional.” Izzy “ so this is your place?” Me” no, it’s Lindi’s place.” Axl looks at Lindi” so this is your place?” Duff looked bored sitting on the couch. Slash and Izzy looked at all the art work on the walls. In the meantime Axl & Lindi seemed to take a liking to one another. He might have a crush on her to. They were talking, talking, and talking. Wow they actually make a cute couple.  Me ”Ok guys restroom is this way if you gotta go, I’ll be right back cuz I gotta go”. I come out. Axl says “ok y/n you ready to go?” Me “yep let me grab my coffee” and out the door I went. Getting in the car I asked where Melissa was. She was already there. Axl “she don’t like to fuck around.” 3 months later on the road and I’ve turned into Steven’s breakfast taco cook, me, Steven, Axl, Izzy, and Melissa tell each other dirty jokes. Slash is just Slash but we’re cool with each other and he calls me sweetheart a lot. He tries to teach me some riffs every now and then but we both just get frustrated. I can safely say they are like my brothers except for Duff; he still doesn’t seem to like me. Fans are jealous of me and Melissa. We’re getting our periods together and shopping together.  I confided to her that b4 I joined that I had a crush on Steven and Duff. Melissa “and now?” me “well Steven and his drug use and Duff doesn’t seem to like me” Melissa “but Steven isn’t on drugs anymore” I said “I know but he can still relapse and plus it doesn’t matter I have to keep it professional and I don’t know what D’s problem is with me, Susan’s nice though.” Axl seems to be the one I’m closest to. One night me and Axl got to talking about our abusive childhoods and how drugs were involved and that’s why I don’t do them. We just talking about everything. He asked how I met Lindi. I said “Well, my boyfriend had just kicked me out of his life and out of our apartment. he was the love of my life and he broke my heart. The next day my band broke up.  I had to pack all that I had and move into a cheap motel with thin walls. Luckily I still had a freelance job as a graphic designer. Got myself a 2nd job and struck up a conversation with a customer Lindi who had a room to rent. That was 2 years ago and the rest is history.”  It got so late that we ended up falling asleep next to each other in his hotel room. I woke up at 6 am disoriented then realized I slept in Axl’s room but where was Axl. I got up to go to restroom and saw him laying on the floor and went “oh no” but in whisper but it still woke him. Me” oh shit I’m sorry.” Axl stretching goes “hey.” Me ”why r u down there?” Axl “you were moving around too much so I just slept on the floor.” Me”you could have just woke me and I would have gone to my room.” Axl “nah I  wanted to be a gentleman, besides what would Lindi think.” Me”I fucking knew it, you have a thing for Lindi, haha.”  Axl “she’s cute.” Me “yes she’s very pretty and a good person and she a good hairdresser and makeup artist. Did I mention that she’s also an electrician on the side?” Axl “cool.” Me “but she has a serious boyfriend now, she started seeing this guy who she’s had a crush on for awhile.” Axl looked disappointed. Me”you’d only end up hurting her anyway, you know I’m right.” Axl breathed a sigh.  Every 2 weeks I would call and check in with Lindi. She was always excited and happy for me when I told about this and that. This time she wasn’t doing too good. She just lost her job because the building burned down, her and bf broke up, and having a hard time with her part of the rent. I had still been sending my half lately. One day during a photo session Steven noticed something wrong with me. Steven “what’s wrong?” Me: I’m worried about Lindi.” Axl ”talk to me.” Me ”She just lost her job cuz the building burned down, having a hard time finding a job, her and bf broke up, and having a hard time with her part of the rent.  She’s just in a bad place right now emotionally. “  Axl “oh damn, so she’s single now?” Me: “AXL!! This is serious.” Later we all went to lunch and I started thinking about having Lindi on tour with us. A hairdresser just quit and Lindi would be perfect. So I asked Axl in private if Lindi could join us because she’s a hairdresser and the other just quit and maybe I could get her the job. He agreed but that he would have to talk to mgmt. then I said “promise me something” he goes “I’ll think about it, what is it”? I said “Please don’t try and fuck her, she’s very vunerable right now and I don’t wanna see her hurt, she means a lot to me and if you fuck up her life I don’t know if we could still be friends” he just looked at me said “ok I promise” Axl said “promise me something.” Me: “yes?” Axl: “don’t try and fuck Steven” Me: with a puzzled looked I said “huh.” Axl said “don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ve seen the way you look at him. Me: “oh geez, I haven’t even tried and I’m not about to start now. I’m not like that.” Axl said “I know, you just make him breakfast tacos.”  Both laugh. Later that day I called our apt mgr and arranged to pay her rent for 6 months then I called Lindi and told her the news and asked if she wanted to go on tour with us as our new hairdresser. She was estatic and said yes.  I bought her plane ticket to Vegas and called to let her know.  Me “I won’t be able to me you at the airport cuz we’re interviewing all day but I’ll have a driver pick you up and I’ve already let the hotel know you’re coming and to let you in the room. So we’re at interviews and I guess I didn’t answer a question right because Duff gave me a death stare. He does to me that a lot. Every interview we’re at they ask Melissa if she’s jealous because she not the only girl anymore and then ask me if she bullies me. I just wanna choke someone.  So we get to the hotel lobby and start making plans to eat across the street at the Hard Rock and I ask if Lindi checked in and clerk said yes. I said “cool, let’s go see Lindi.” Everyone had other plans before dinner but Axl came with me. I opened the door to room, didn’t see Lindi and asked “hey baby girl, where u at?” “In the restroom” she yelled out from behind the door.  So I laid across the bed while Axl sat on the end watching what looked like a big giant ant movie on TV.  I yelled out “Lindi what are you watching?” She said “it’s a big giant ant movie”. Me and Axl laughed. Then I said “if 1 more interviewer ask me that Melissa question, I’m gonna vomit, I am literally gonna stick my fingers in my mouth and I’m gonna vomit on them.”  Axl laughed. Lindi asked “who’s with you?” Me “It’s Axl. ” Minute later she comes out, I sat up from the bed and gave her a big hug. Me said “Axl you remember Lindi?” Axl “yes, hi Lindi how are you?” he and Lindi both shake hands. Axl noticed I only had the 1 bed and asked if we were sleeping together or what. I said “we can sleep in the same bed it’s no problem” Axl with a mischievous  smile goes “oh really?” Me ‘Shut up Axl.” All 3 of us laugh then knock on door and Steven and Duff are in the room and exchange hellos with Lindi. They said “We’re going to Hard Rock across the street for dinner.” I said “I think I’ll just stay here with Lindi and order room service.  I’m tired and I don’t feel like walking across the street right now.” Duff said “suit yourself” very rudely. Steven said “we’ll miss you”.  Me “Lindi feel free to go if you want”. Lindi “naw, I’ll stay here to, I’m tired from the flight.” So they all leave for Hard Rock and me and Lindi started talking. Lindi “I know I’ve asked you this before but now that I’ve seen it but what’s it like working with your 2 crushes?” Me”well like I said me and Steven get along great and you’ve just seen the death stare that Duff gave me.” Lindi “yea he probably secretly has a crush on you, just kidding, I don’t know what to tell you on that one.”
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angstysebfan · 6 months ago
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PR Stunt Gone Wrong - Chapter 19
Pairing: Sebastian Stan x Reader
Summary: You are a fellow actress in the MCU, Bucky’s love interest. You met Seb during the CA: WS and you guys hit it off. Chemistry on and off the set, but never dated until after Infinity War. During filming of FATWS, the pandemic caused everything to shut down. Seb offered you to spend quarantine with him, but somewhere along the lines, things go wrong and Seb makes a PR decision.
A/N: I was going to to this in a Bucky story, but then I decided to keep it Seb. With everything going on with Seb over the last several months, I came up with this story in my head. Obviously a lot of this is made up, but it is using what we know Seb has been doing over the last several months.
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Seb picks you up and carries you to your couch, hovering over you, as you both continue your passionate make out session. You pull him closer, feeling that you can’t get close enough. His hands roam your body, feeling familiar. His lips trail down your neck and stop at your secret sweet spot he knows oh so well.
You pull his shirt up and he doesn’t fight taking it off, followed by yours. After a few minutes you are both just in your underwear. He kisses down your chest and stomach, continuing to head south, but you stop him. “Just fuck me, no foreplay, no teasing,” you say. He comes back up and kisses you as he slides your underwear down your legs. You push his boxers down and his erection springs out. 
You pump him 2-3 times before inserting him into you. You groan as he pushes in completely, and you both revel in the feeling of it. He looks into your eyes for moment, but you don’t want love. “Either move or leave, those are your choices,” you spat. He furrows his brows as he starts to move. You pull his lips back to yours, as you know he loves to talk while having sex, and that is not what you need right now.
You finally separate your mouths as you moan. He laughs, “Does he make you feel this good?” he asks. You look at him, “Does she?” you ask. He shakes his head, but before he can answer you say, “Harder.” Seb pushes his hips harder, making you moan louder, feeling him so deep. “Shit I forgot how fucking big you are,” you say as he continues to pound into you, quickening his pace as well.
You feel the build up in your stomach, and know your orgasm is going to be big. “I... I’m close. Fuck,” you say as Seb speeds up sucking on your neck. He looks at you as your orgasm finally hits, causing you to scratch his back. He hisses in pain as you make sure to break skin as you arch your back. After a few more thrusts, Seb finally hits his peak and collapses on top of you.
You both lay there and catch your breath before what just happened hits you. “Get off me,” you say. Seb looks up at you concerned, “You ok?” he asks, pulling himself off of you. “I... this... shit! Leave! Get out!,” you scream before covering yourself and turning away from him. “Y/N, I...” “Leave,” you say, trying to hold your tears in. Seb looks at you helplessly, wanting to to console you, but quickly changes and leaves.
Once you hear the door to your trailer close you let the tears fall. You allow yourself to let go, and just sob. All the emotions going through your head and you just don’t know what to do with anything anymore. All the information he gave you, the fighting with him, and then the sex. You just don’t know what to do and what to feel.
--
You get back to the hotel late and decide to take Tucker for a walk while your sister sleeps. You walk all over the city trying to clear your head of all your thoughts. You want to call Chase and tell him everything, get his advice, but what if he is pissed that you slept with him? What if he says you deserve it?
You make it to a park and sit on a bench, while Tucker lays at your feet, wanting to sleep. You take out your phone and dial, “Hey, I hope I didn’t wake you,” you say quietly. “Nah, what’s going on? I haven’t heard from you in a few days,” Chase says in response. You choke on a sob, “Chase I need you. I know you can’t be here, but I need you,” you say through your tears.
“Woah, Y/N, I’m here. I’m right here. Talk to me,” he says concerned. You try to calm yourself down, as you hear Chase say calming words that always helped. After a few moments you take a deep breath, “So much has happened today, and I don’t know what to do,” you say. “Well, let’s talk it out. I’ll stay on the phone as long as you need, you know that,” he says. “Ok,” you say weakly.
You explain everything that happened from the moment that Seb walked into your trailer. You told him about his reasons for everything that happened. The fight that you both had, and the sex. Chase was quiet throughout everything until you were done, and then you heard a sigh. “Yea, that is a lot. Ok, well I think you need to look into what he said. He mentioned your manager was in on it, look into that, and if that is true, it’s time to fire her. Also as much as you don’t want to, talk to Seb and tell him you want to be involved in the investigation with his lawyer. They threatened your career, you have a right to know what happens.”
“I understand why you are still pissed at him. I think you need to take time and think about your feelings for him. You still love him, which is allowed. He was a huge part of your life for years, even though he had a lot of questionable moments in the beginning, but eventually you got there. If you want to take it slow with him, then fine, if you want to just cut yourself loose forever, then thats fine. I think you need to just take time, think about everything and make a decision. You will feel so much better once you do,” he says.
“Chase, I don’t...” you stop yourself. “Y/N, I can’t make this decision. That’s why you need to take time. I mean it’s hard right now because of filming, but once you are done you have nothing on your schedule until after the new year. Take that time and make a decision. 2020 sucked for you, but now you are in the driver seat,” he says.
You take another deep breath, “Thanks Chase. You’re right, I need time to think. I’ve let my emotions handle me and now I need to let my heart and brain talk. Thank you, I really needed that,” you say. “You’re welcome. Please call me before the breakdown next time,” he says, making you laugh. “I promise,” you say. “Goodnight Y/N.”
“Goodnight Chase, and thank you.”
--
Chapter 18 / Chapter 20
This was my first smut, so be nice. I know it wasn’t totally angry, but it wasn’t lovemaking. And the emotions slammed our poor reader. Feedback is appreciated.
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