He hadn’t stopped wanting love. He had simply, somehow, stopped looking.
He wondered if you could be exhausted without knowing it, if hope could be lost not all at once but could slip away gradually, day by day, and vanish before you ever realized.
Then Clary Fray had appeared at his party, the girl whose mother had been hiding Clary’s Shadowhunter heritage from her all her life. Clary had been brought to Magnus so that he could ensorcel her memory and cloud her sight, over and over again as she’d been growing up, and Magnus had done it. It was not a terribly kind thing to do to a girl, but her mother had been so afraid for her, and it had not felt like Magnus’s place to refuse. Yet Magnus had not been able to stop himself from taking a personal interest. Seeing a child grow up, year after year, had been new to him, as had feeling the weight of her memories in his hands. He had started to feel a little responsible, had wanted to know what would become of her and had begun to want the best for her.
Magnus had been interested in Clary, the little redheaded scrap who had grown into a—slightly bigger little redheaded scrap, but had not thought he would be terribly interested in the companions she had found for herself. Not the nondescript mundane boy; not golden-eyed Jace Wayland, who reminded Magnus of too much of a past that he would rather forget; and certainly not either of the Lightwood siblings, the dark boy and girl whose parents Magnus had good reason to dislike.
It made no sense that his eyes had been drawn to Alec, over and over again. Alec had hung to the back of their little group, had made no effort to attract the eye. He had striking coloring, the rare combination of black hair and blue eyes that had always been Magnus’s favorite, and Magnus supposed that was why he had looked in Alec’s direction at first. Strange to see the coloring that had so distinguished Will and his sister, so many miles and years gone by, and on someone with an entirely different last name . . .
Then Alec had smiled at one of Magnus’s jokes, and the smile had lit a lamp in his solemn face, making his blue eyes brilliant, and briefly taking Magnus’s breath away. And when Magnus’s attention had been held, he’d seen a flicker of returned interest in Alec’s eyes, a mixture of guilt, intrigue, and pleasure at Magnus’s attention. Shadowhunters were old-fashioned about such matters, which was to say bigoted and hidebound, as they were about everything. Magnus had been approached by male Shadowhunters before, of course, but always in a hole-and-corner way, always as if they were doing Magnus some huge favor and as if Magnus’s touch, though desired, might sully them. (Magnus had always turned them down.) It had been a shock to see such feelings open and innocent on a beautiful boy’s face.
When Magnus had winked at Alec and told him to call him, it had been a reckless impulse, little more than a whim. He had certainly not expected the Shadowhunter on his doorstep a few days later, asking for a date. Nor had he expected the date to go so spectacularly bizarrely, or expected to like Alec quite so much afterward.
“Alec took me by surprise,” said Magnus to Catarina at last, which was a massive understatement and so true that it felt like revealing too much.
“Well, it seems like a mad idea to me, but those usually work out for you,” said Catarina. “What’s the problem?”
That was the million-dollar question. Magnus resolved to sound casual about it. This was not something that he should be worrying about as much as he was, and he wanted advice but did not want to let anyone, not even Catarina, see how much it mattered.
“I’m glad you asked. Here’s the thing,” said Magnus. “It’s Alec’s birthday today. He’s eighteen. And I’d like to get him a present, because the celebration of one’s birth is a traditional time for the giving of gifts, and it indicates your affection for them. But—and at this point I’d like to say that I wish you had returned my call sooner—I don’t really have any idea what to get him, and I would appreciate some advice. The thing is, he doesn’t really seem to care about material goods, including clothes, which I don’t understand, though I find it strangely charming. He is impossible to buy for. The only new things I ever see him with are weapons, and nunchakus are not a romantic gift. Also, I wondered if you thought that getting a present at all might make me seem too keen and chase him off. I’ve been seeing him for only a little while, and his parents don’t even know he likes boys, let alone likes degenerate warlocks, and so I want to be subtle. Maybe getting a gift at all would be a mistake. It’s possible that he will think I am being too intense. And as you know, Catarina, I am not intense. I am laissez-faire. I am a jaded sophisticate. I don’t want him to get the wrong idea about me or think the present means more than it should. Maybe just a token gift. What do you think?”
Magnus took a deep breath. That had come out a little less cool, calm, well-reasoned, and sophisticated than he had been hoping for.
“Magnus,” said Catarina, “I have lives to save.”
Then she hung up on him.
Magnus stared at the phone in disbelief. He would never have thought Catarina would do this to him. It seemed like wanton cruelty. He had not sounded that bad on the telephone.
“Is Alec your lover?” asked Elyaas the tentacle demon.
Magnus stared. He was not ready for anyone to say “lover” to him with an oozing note of slime beneath the word. He felt he would never be ready.
“You should get him a mixed tape,” said Elyaas. “Kids love mixed tapes. They’re the cool ‘in’ thing right now.”
“Was the last time you were summoned the eighties?” Magnus asked.
“It might have been,” Elyaas said defensively.
“Things have changed.”
“Do people still listen to Fleetwood Mac?” asked the tentacle demon. There was a plaintive note in his voice. “I love the Mac.”
Magnus ignored the demon, who had softly begun to sing a slimy song to himself. Magnus was contemplating his own dark fate. He had to accept it. There was no way around it. There was no one else he could turn to.
He was going to have to call Ragnor Fell and ask for advice about his love life.
Ragnor was spending a lot of time lately in Idris, the Shadowhunters’ city of glass, where phones, television, and the Internet did not work, and where Magnus imagined the Angel’s chosen ones had to resort to pornographic woodcuts when they wanted to unwind after a long day’s demon-hunting. Ragnor had used his magic to install a single telephone, but he could not be expected to hang around it all the livelong day. So Magnus was deeply thankful when Ragnor’s phone actually rang and the warlock actually picked up.
“Ragnor, thank goodness,” he said.
“What is it?” asked Ragnor. “Is it Valentine? I’m in London, and Tessa’s in the Amazon and there’s no way to contact her. All right. Let me wrap this up fast. You call Catarina, and I will be with you in—”
“Ah,” said Magnus. “There’s no need for that. Though thank you for your immediate leaping to my rescue, my sweet emerald prince.”
There was a pause. Then Ragnor said, in a much less intent and much more grumpy voice, “Why are you bothering me, then?”
“Well, I’d like some advice,” said Magnus. “So I turned to you, as one of my oldest and dearest friends, as a fellow warlock and a trusted comrade, as the former High Warlock of London in whom I have implicit confidence.”
“Flattery from you makes me nervous,” said Ragnor. “It means you want something. Doubtless something awful. I am not becoming a pirate with you again, Magnus. I don’t care how much you pay me.”
“I wasn’t going to suggest it. My question for you is of a more . . . personal nature. Don’t hang up. Catarina was already extremely unsympathetic.”
There was a long silence. Magnus fiddled with his window catch, gazing out at the line of warehouses-turned-apartments. Lace curtains were fluttering in a summer breeze in an open window across the street. He tried to ignore the reflection of the demon in his own window.
“Wait,” said Ragnor, and he started to snigger. “Is this about your Nephilim boyfriend?”
“Our relationship is as yet undefined,” said Magnus with dignity. Then he clutched the phone and hissed, “And how do you know private details about my personal life with Alexander?”
“Ooooh, Alexander,” Ragnor said in a singsong voice. “I know all about it. Raphael called and told me.”
“Raphael Santiago,” said Magnus, thinking darkly of the current leader of the New York vampire clan, “has a black ungrateful heart, and one day he will be punished for this treachery.”
“Raphael calls me every month,” said Ragnor. “Raphael knows that it is important to preserve good relations and maintain regular communication between the different Downworlder factions. I might add, Raphael always remembers important occasions in my life.”
“I forgot your birthday one time sixty years ago!” said Magnus. “You need to let that go.”
“It was fifty-eight years ago, for the record. And Raphael knows we need to maintain a united front against the Nephilim and not, for instance, sneak around with their underage sons,” Ragnor continued.