“I don’t Think I can Live Without You” - Chapter 2: It is not enough
Alec was floating, weightless and unmoored, just Magnus’ firm arms holding him steady, as if to stop him from flying away while the most powerful waves of pleasure washed over him, exploding in exquisite bursts of energy that pulsated throughout his whole body; making the hair in the back of his neck stand on end and shivers run up and down his spine. He thought he saw swirls of golden and purple lines glow on his skin, but the effect quickly disappeared and he wondered whether his eyes were playing tricks on him. In any case, he wasn’t concerned, engrossed as he was in the aftershocks of a powerful climax. He closed his eyes and exhaled loudly as the last of the waves moved through his body. Magnus held him, like he, Alec, had held Magnus a few moments ago as the man Alec loved more than he ever thought possible to love anyone also came undone.
With his head resting against Magnus’ chest, Alec could hear his lover’s heartbeat pulsating rapidly and, feeling his own heart drumming against his chest, thought that their hearts were beating in harmony, as if they were part of the same melody; as if they complemented one another.
“Were we floating just now?” he asked, in a sleepy voice, opening his eyes and noticing that they were lying on sheets so white that the morning light streaming from the window seemed to bounce off them adding to the soft brightness of the room.
“I don’t know,” replied Magnus, his voice low and soft. “I guess I was a little distracted and I didn’t notice.”
“You are very easily distracted, aren’t you, warlock?” asked Alec, looking him in the eyes, a broad smile that showed two perfect rows of white teeth.
“It is your fault, Shadowhunter,” Magnus said, a seductively coy expression on his lovely face. He then kissed Alec gently and softly, first on the lips and then on his forehead, the gesture almost paternal.
When they were in public, Magnus called him by his full name –Alexander –a name that no one else used and that in Magnus’ lips sounded to Alec like a public acknowledgement of their relationship, as if Magnus was claiming him as his. In the intimacy of their bed, however, Magnus sometimes called him Shadowhunter and Alec called him warlock, and the names became secret code words, seductive and sinful, like slowly melting chocolate in their lips. Occasionally, one of them used these secrets names when they were not in bed or in their room, though always in a whisper and never in front of others, and the names sounded like an invitation, or a reminder of the intense and intimate moments they shared. Thus, the words that had originally marked their difference and their belonging to different worlds, had in their lovemaking acquired different meanings, and become part of the new vocabulary they used to tell their love story.
Alec brought his nose to the crock of Magnus’ neck and inhaled in the aroma of forest and fresh mountain air that he always associated with Magnus. Not for the first time, Alec was surprised that Magnus, barely six feet tall and slimmer than Alec, could so comfortably and securely cradle his six-foot-four-inch frame. He wondered whether his feeling of security had less to do with height and physical prowess and more with Magnus’ magic, and with the certainty that Magnus could and would protect him against any danger.
As Nephilim, Alec was very aware of his limitations as a human and a mortal; a mortal with advanced fighting and weapons skills, but a mortal, nonetheless. Magnus was another kind of creature, half human and half demon, with powers that Alec was still getting to know and that surprised him every day, like the spell he used the other day when they were in the bathtub to fill the room with music even though there was not a stereo in sight.
Alec’s body relaxed in Magnus’s arms and, for a second, he dozed off, safe, contented and fulfilled, but then his stomach growled loudly and Magnus’ stomach joined in, sending them both into bursts of laughing.
“I guess love is not enough to sustain us,” Magnus said between chuckles.
“I guess not,” replied Alec reaching to brush a strand of hair away from Magnus’ face, and noticing how young he looked with his hair in disarray.
Magnus turned and reached for the phone, and after dialing, he spoke in perfect Catalan to someone on the other side of the line. Alec could make up words such as coffee and espresso, but very little else.
“What should we do today?” Alec asked when Magnus got off the phone, and he turned and laid back on the bed, one arm bent under his head, the other reaching for Alec’s hand.
“I have all kinds of ideas, some of which involve never getting dressed or leaving this room,” Magnus replied with a playful and seductive smile.
“Magnus,” said Alec in a soft and serious tone. “I thought I heard you pacing about the room last night. Did you have trouble sleeping?”
“It is nothing,” said Magnus with a warm smile that although sincere, Alec thought, concealed a mixture of sadness and something else he couldn’t identify. Almost instinctually, Magnus brought his hand to his chest and grabbed the amulet he always wore around his neck hanging from a silver chain. The amulet looked like an old arrowhead, its edges and surface uneven as if it had been chiseled by hand or with some rudimentary tool. It appeared to be very old and it shined with dull silvery sheen.
Magnus always wore jewelry – earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings –but he usually took all of them off before bed. Never this amulet though; it always hung around his neck and Alec was accustomed to seeing Magnus holding it in his hand when he was deep in thought or something troubled him.
“Are you sure? You would tell me if something is bothering you, wouldn’t you?” he asked Magnus with an intent expression in his eyes.
“Of course,” replied Magnus, turning and getting out of bed, as if he wanted to end the conversation before Alec asked any more questions. Alec saw him walk towards the bathroom and, for an instant, thought that Magnus’s shoulders were slumped, as if he was carrying a heavy burden.
Half an hour later, Alec came out of the shower, wearing a grey t-shirt and black jeans, and found Magnus standing and looking out the window, in a silk robe the color of deep red wine that contrasted with the dark brown of the curtains and that made Magnus’ skin appear even more luminescent and golden. Magnus seemed to be lost in thought, his eyes on the plaza down below, but apparently not really looking at anything. Seeing him standing by the window, a coffee cup in his hands and an absent expression on his face, Alec felt something tugging at his heart, and knew that he would never love anyone like he loved this man, with all his contradictions, eccentricities and scars.
This morning, Magnus wore none of the make-up or glitter that usually decorated his face and hair when he was out and about, and without it, he looked boyish. He was still strikingly handsome with almond shape eyes, high cheek bones and a soft golden glow on his skin. However, his features appeared less sharp. He also looked vulnerable somehow, as if with the make-up, glitter and jewelry, he also took off the armor with which he usually protected himself against any attacks, downworldly or otherwise. His eyes were a dark chocolate brown this morning and his hair, which was very short on the sides and the back, and longer and slightly asymmetrical on top was still wet from the shower and fell across his forehead in strands that were so black that they reminded Alec of the darkest of nights.
Alec loved the public Magnus, with the multicolor hair, the jewelry and the makeup. That Magnus was strong, fierce and unconcerned about what people thought of him. But, he also loved this Magnus, the one that came out only in the intimacy of the time and space the two of them shared. This Magnus was gentler somehow, more vulnerable, softer and loving. Alec thought that sometimes he could get a glimpse in this Magnus of the abandoned and wounded child he once was hundreds of years ago.
Alec stood behind Magnus and wrapped his arms around his waist resting his chin atop Magnus’ shoulder. Immediately, he felt Magnus’ body soften and lean against his. The gesture and the position felt familiar and Alec marveled at the fact that they had become so comfortable with each other, despite their relationship being relatively knew. He felt at home with Magnus, as if he had always belonged with him, as if they had always meant to be together, and couldn’t imagine never having Magnus in his life, never being able to hold him the way he held him now.
Another thought quickly followed: in time he, Alec, would age and die, and it would be Magnus the one to remain in this world, in a world without Alec. The thought was unpleasant and not new. In fact, it was something that Alec thought about all the time since he first understood what he felt for Magnus. He had told Magnus outside the Hunter’s Moon that he couldn’t live without him; but in truth, it would eventually be Magnus the one who would have to live without Alec. The thought awoke old feelings of inadequacy and Alec couldn’t help thinking that he was not good enough for Magnus; that Magnus deserved someone with whom he could share centuries and not just decades. Deep down, Alec wondered whether he, a simple mortal, someone with such limited life experiences, let alone life expectancy, could ever be enough for someone as powerful and ageless as Magnus. Determined not to spoil this moment, however, Alec pushed the thoughts out of his mind.
They stood in silence for a long while, Magnus leaning against Alex. They looked out onto the already buzzing Catalunya plaza. From their vantage point in their luxury suite on the top floor of an exclusive hotel, they could see people walking between the imposing statutes and water fountains that adorned the plaza. From this distance, Alec could not tell whether the people were mundanes, Shadowhunters or Downworlders. There were obviously no vampires down there this morning, because of the bright sun that hung in a cloudless summer sky and shone over the square, but Alex wondered whether any warlocks, werewolves or Shadowhunters were going about their business, perhaps heading for work, or on a mission. From up here, the people down in the square looked small and indistinguishable, and Alec thought that, for a moment, he could forget that there were more than one world and more than one species of human sharing the earth. Most importantly, he could forget that his job was to kill demons and guard both the mundane world and the Downworld.
“What should be do after breakfast Alexander?” Magnus asked interrupting Alec’s thoughts, as he turned and briefly placed a hand on Alec’s chest before walking in the direction of the table on which the food he had ordered earlier awaited under silvery domes. “Is there anything you would like to see while we are in Barcelona?
"I would like to see the Gothic Quarters,” replied Alec. “I have been told that one cannot come to Barcelona and not see them.”
“Okay, sounds like a plan, but I should mention that, except for the ruins of a Roman temple and the palace that used to house the court, almost everything else dates to the late nineteen-century, at least two hundred years after the Gothic area. The Quarters were rebuilt as a tourist attraction” said Magnus.
“I would still like to see it, and I suspect you have lots of stories to tell me about the downworlders in the city and about the previous times you were here.”
After the death of Valentine and the celebration at the Hunter’s Moon four weeks ago, Alec spent several days in between meetings and writing reports to The Clave. His days were long and exhausting, and went in a blur of discussions, explanations, and countless hours in front of a screen reading or writing mission reports. No matter how late he finished for the day, Alec always made his way to Magnus’ penthouse where the warlock waited for him, always smiling, a drink in his hand. They spent long hours entangled in each other’s arms, engrossed in the discovery of new love and the building of a new relationship.
However, after two weeks of long days and nights with little sleep, no energy rune was sufficient to keep Alec from falling asleep in the middle of meetings, or at his desk, and Jace kept commenting on the dark circles under his eyes, a knowing and humorous expression on his face.
When Magnus suggested that they take a trip as soon as things settled down, Alec was reluctant. He had an institute to run and, Valentine may be dead, but the threat of demons was not over. There were also so many issues to resolve with the Downworld, now that they were part of the Council. Magnus had insisted, however, and had even enlisted the help of Izzi, Jace and Clary who told Alec that they were perfectly capable of keeping things running for a few days. At the end, Alec had agreed to do what he never thought he would ever do: take a three-week vacation and go to Europe with Magnus.
He had one condition: as much as possible, he wanted to travel like a mundane, no portals, magic or no contact with any of the Institutes or Downworlders in the cities they visit. Alec wanted a complete holiday, away from everything having to do with Shadowhunters and Downworld politics and few reminders of the events of the last few months.
At first, the condition proved hard to meet. As a citizen of Idris, a country concealed by wards and unknown to the mundane world, Alec had no passport, or travelling documents of any kind. He had no identification that tied him to the mundane world, not even a driver license or a birth certificate; it was as if he didn’t exist. Magnus had to use magic to produce a passport for him, and Alec was worried that at some border crossing someone would figure out that the passport was a fake, despite Magnus reassuring him that the document was as real as any other.
Despite being a soldier and a warrior, Alec had almost no experience living among mundanes or doing any of the things mundanes usually do, like getting on a plane, reading a map, or making hotel reservations. Except for trips to Idris, he had never really left New York. But he was determined that he wanted to see Europe for the first time without the conveniences of magic or Shadowhunter support. At the end, he and Magnus portalled to London, where they spent a few days wondering through Portobello Market, Soho, and along the Thames. They then took the train under the English Chanel to Paris because Alec wanted, not only to see the different cities in which they were staying, but also the countryside, the landscape in between.
Magnus, who went everywhere by portal, was at the beginning dubious about the plan, concerned that spending too many hours on a train, with only cheap wine to drink, and in the company of mundanes would test his patience and possibly result in a him conjuring up a portal to transport the whole train to its destination, hours ahead of time. But in time, he too began to enjoy the slower pace of train travel and, along the way, he regaled Alec with countless stories and historical anecdotes of the times he had been in Europe in the previous three hundred years: the time he attended Queen Victoria’s coronation glamoured as a Dutch diplomat; the assistance he lent to a certain Pope of dubious reputation and virtue to ensure his appointment; and the services he lent the warlocks of Venice to keep the city from sinking during a nasty storm.
Thus, in the last two and a half weeks, Magnus and Alec had taken pictures of themselves against the background of the Eiffel tower, walked along the corridors of the Louvre and visited Notre Dame in Paris; seen the Coliseum and the Vatican Museum in Rome; eaten pizza in a small pizzeria near Ponte Vecchio and seen the David in Florence; and taken a gondola ride and taken an evening stroll through Plaza San Marco in Venice. Yesterday, they arrived in Barcelona, and from here they were going to Granada to visit the Alhambra before going home to New York.
So far, Barcelona was Alec’s favorite city, not only for its history which was visible in its architecture and its historical sites, but also because the city was vibrant and had an air of freedom and tolerance that he had not experienced in any of the other places they had visited. He had felt it the night before when he and Magnus were walking along the Rambla –the pedestrian only street surrounded by bars, restaurants and theatres that was the city’s gathering center. They had been talking about their plans for the next three days when Alec noticed several same-sex couples walking near them, holding hands, hugging and even kissing in public. The scene had surprised him because it had seemed so natural and unguarded.
Alec and Magnus rarely touched more than necessarily when they were out in public or with other people. Alec, who had been trained as a soldier since he was a child, and who had grown up doing all he could to go unnoticed and hiding his identity, was by nature reserved. Despite mundane and Downworld society becoming more tolerant of different sexual identities, sometimes he could still see the look of surprise that quickly turned into rejection and disgust that some people gave those who didn’t conform with their ideas of normality and morality. This was specially the case with Shadowhunter society who still existed in a world dominated by tradition and family. It wasn’t that he was ashamed or wanted to hide, and he never denied his relationship with Magnus. Rather, he felt protective and wanted to spare Magnus the disdain of others despite knowing that Magnus didn’t need his protection. One of the things he admired the most about Magnus was his courage and determination to show himself to the world just as he was.
In the intimacy of their bed or their room, however, the two men were affectionate and expressive towards each other. They sat together, one leaning against the chest of the other; they held hands when they watched television or talked; or, they held each other in gentle and loving embraces. Theirs was a loving and expressive relationship as much as it was a relationship built on trust.
Yet, that first night on the streets of Barcelona, Alec had reached for Magnus’ hand and interlaced his fingers with his as they walked along the Rambla following the crowd out for a night on the town. Magnus had first looked at their interlaced hands and then at Alec with and expression of astonishment, as if Alec had suddenly grown a second head. But Alec had simply smiled and, placing his other hand against Magnus’ cheek, had kissed him gently on the lips, unconcerned about the crowd walking past them. They had gone back to their hotel shortly after and made love with a tenderness and abandon that surprised them both.
Since the beginning of their vacation, they had stayed in fancy hotel suites, Magnus’ only condition for the trip. They had made love in each of those hotel rooms as much as their energy and desire allowed, sometimes slowly and unhurriedly, at other times overtaken by such an uncontained desire that they were barely able to make it through the door before peeling off each other’s clothes.
After a leisurely breakfast, they set out on foot along the Rambla, which in the light of day, was packed with street vendors, people wearing swimming suits under t-shirts and carrying beach towels heading to the beach, and tourists who, like Alec, looked a little lost. Magnus, on the contrary, looked perfectly at ease in dark jeans, a cobalt blue shirt, and his usual jewelry and glitter, as if he belonged in this city, the way that he had belonged in Paris, Florence, Rome and Venice. That was not surprising because Magnus had not only visited these cities before, but had also lived for different periods of times and for different reasons in all of them, and had gotten to know them and their histories.
After a few hundred meters, they turned on a narrow street and, just like that, they found themselves in one of the entrances to the Gothic Quarters, with its narrow cobble stone alleys and ancient buildings, fountains and squares, arches and passageways, antique stores and old churches. Despite knowing that the Quarters didn’t really date to the Middle Ages, Alec stills felt transported to an ancient time in history, and the Quarters reminded him a little of Alicante with its narrow roads, alleys and picturesque storefronts.
He noticed that despite the Quarters being in the middle of a buzzing city, the city noises didn’t penetrate it and its streets seemed to be covered in a veil of silence. People walking about also spoke in quiet tones as if they were in a church or a sacred place. Perhaps it was the closeness between the old buildings that acted as sound proof, or perhaps it was a spell designed to enhance the experience of having travelled back in time. The sun didn’t seem to penetrate the Quarters either, and despite the summer heat, the temperature here seemed to be few degrees lower than in the rest of Barcelona.
They walked aimlessly through the narrow alleys, talking about history and architecture, until they emerged onto a slightly wider street crossed by a covered bridge decorated in the most intricate of designs.
“This is Carrer del Bisbe,” explained Magnus. “Can you believe that the architectural style is called flamboyant?” he asked Alec with a playful smile.
“Really,” replied Alec. “I think the name is appropriate.”
Just at that moment, Alec felt a shiver run down his back and couldn’t help turning abruptly. It was as if suddenly the temperature had dropped a few degrees, or as if a pair of icy eyes had settled on his back. His hand went instinctively for his stele –the only weapon he had been carrying during his vacation -and he wondered whether they were being stalked by a demon. He was sure Magnus felt it too because he stiffened, and Alec thought he saw an expression of terror briefly pass across Magnus’ eyes.
The sensation passed quickly and when he looked at Magnus again, Magnus gave him a warm and unguarded smile, and for a moment, Alec thought that perhaps he had imagined the feeling. However, a few minutes later, Alec took a turn on one of the narrow passageways and when he looked back Magnus was gone. He experienced a sudden panic, and went back retracing his steps, momentarily disoriented in the confusing labyrinth that was the Quarters in which all streets seemed to look the same, and no architectural design seemed to have guided its planning.
He found him a few minutes later, and Magnus told him that he had stopped at a store to admire a piece of art and hadn’t noticed that Alec had continued walking. But Alec thought he saw a troubled expression in Magnus’ face, an expression of concern, or perhaps fear, that was not there before. After that and for the reminder of the day, Magnus was quieter than usual, more subdued, and lost in thought, but when Alec asked him, he replied that nothing was wrong, that he was hungry and that it was time for dinner and a drink.
Alec willed himself to push the concern he felt for Magnus out of his mind, and told himself that he would give him time. He knew his boyfriend well and, thus, was certain that Magnus would eventually tell him what was going on.
They walked along of the Quarters’ alleyways for a while longer, stopping to look at some of the souvenir and arts stores, and to listen to the street musicians performing in the plazas, but Magnus was less eager to share any more anecdotes, or gossip about the historical figures he had met in the previous times he had been in Barcelona. After a while, they began to make their way back to their hotel, as if, by silent agreement, they had decided their outing was over.
They stopped for dinner at a busy tapas restaurant overlooking Catalunya Square, and they shared a bottle of wine and several small dishes, each coming out fresh and fragrant with the aroma of spices and saffron. They talked about trivial things, but Magnus seemed distracted and a couple of times, Alex had to repeat his question before Magnus answered. Alec told himself that Magnus was just tired, so he suggested they go back to their room after dinner.
By the end of the night, however, Alec had grown concerned for Magnus who was not only quieter and more subdued than usual, but also seemed to be sad and perhaps afraid. A few times, he thought he saw a look of despondency in Magnus’ eyes when he thought Alec wasn’t looking. So, he decided that he would ask Magnus the next morning what was going on, and would not let it go until Magnus told him.
Alec was the first one to fall asleep, Magnus’ even breathing in the darkness sounding like a soothing lullaby that took him deeper and deeper into a restful slumber.
In the small hours of the night, Magnus reached for Alec in the darkness, and Alec’s body instantaneously responded to the warlock’s touch, coming alive as if a fire had been lightened in the center of his chest, a fire that woke up his body even before his mind was able to catch up. Alec searched for Magnus’ lips and kissed them deeply, passionately and even desperately, his own breathing coming out raggedly and rapidly.
“Make love to me, Shadowhunter,” whispered Magnus in Alec’s ear, his sensual voice sending shivers down Alec’s spine.
“As you wish, warlock,” Alec replied and then kissed Magnus passionately, exploring his mouth with his tongue openly and without restrain, determined to do everything in his power to do as Magnus asked.
They became lost to the world then, entangled in each other’s arms, not only their bodies, but their souls linked in an unbreakable bond. In the past, Alec had let his instincts take over and had at one point or another, lost sense of his surroundings, becoming lost in the intensity that was the experience of making love with Magnus. This time, however, he endeavored to remain present, to consciously give Magnus all the pleasure he was capable of. He knew, of course, that this was futile; that Magnus was stronger and more experienced than him; that he loved and trusted Magnus so implicitly that he couldn’t help giving himself over to him.
They made love unhurriedly but passionately, and at one point, time seemed to stop, stretching almost to infinity as their bodies slowly built towards an intense climax. It was Magnus that cried out first, calling Alec’s name in the most exquisite exclamation of pleasure, and the sound finally pushed Alec over the edge and he too exploded in a torrent of ecstasy that left him disoriented, dizzy and breathless. Afterwards, Alec held Magnus tightly against his chest and fell back to sleep almost immediately, comfortable in the certainty of Magnus’ presence, his body relaxed and satisfied.
Alec didn’t know what time it was when he woke up the next morning and, as had become normal since they had been staying in so many hotels, he was momentarily disoriented about his whereabouts. It took him a moment to remember that he was in a hotel in Barcelona. The room was bathed in a soft morning light filtering through windows, suggesting that the sun had already come out. Otherwise, the room was quiet and cool. He quickly realized that, except for him, the bed was empty, the side where Magnus had been laying was cold but still impregnated with his scent.
“Magnus,” he called, his voice a little hoarse from sleep. He wondered whether Magnus had gotten up and was sitting by the window reading the paper, as he sometimes did. However, for a reason he could not explain, as soon as he called his name, Alec knew he would receive no reply. The room felt too quiet and cold, as if the sunshine filtering through the window could not reach it.
With a sudden and yet unexplainable feeling of apprehension, Alec got out of bed, and walked towards the table where him and Magnus had enjoyed breakfast the day before. There he found the arrowhead amulet Magnus always wore around his neck, its silver chain coiled on top of a white sheet of paper on which a note had been written. Even before he read it, Alec knew that something terribly wrong had happened.
Just four words were inscribed on the white sheet of paper, four words written in the neat handwriting of Magnus Bane, High Warlock of Brooklyn:
“It is not enough.”