“That’s a bad idea,” Raphael says, leaning against the doorframe and watching Simon as he fumbles with his metro card and reaches for the Starbucks cup that’s still blessedly warm.
“I’m sorry,” Simon says, eyes widening in alarm. “This is coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee. There’s nothing bad about it.”
Raphael raises an eyebrow. Simon expects he’s spent decades practicing to achieve just the right level of patronising amusement, and goes back to ignoring him, making the most of the surprisingly epic sound system the vampires have installed and starting up a playlist he’s sure Raphael’s going to hate, just because.
His indifference is pretty spectacularly ruined when he spits coffee all over one of the ridiculous gold couches.
“What the hell?”
“I tried to warn you,” Raphael says, amusement hitched up a notch.
“Are you telling me that I can’t drink coffee anymore?” Simon says, horrified, and Raphael shrugs like Simon’s pain is no big deal.
“You can,” he says, “but it won’t taste any good.”
Simon blinks at him. “I’ve never wished I’d stayed dead more than this very moment,” he says, and Raphael rolls his eyes because he is a cold, heartless man.
“Sure,” Raphael says, “okay.”
Simon’s totally convinced this is hell.
“How’re you settling in?” Clary asks, looking guilty, and Simon shrugs and orders a plate of blintzes the size of his head and sadly refuses his usual coffee order.
“M’okay,” he says, and if he uses a little of his supernatural speed to grab them a table before the frat boys who’ve been checking out the waitress then he’s cool with that. “Mostly they’re just ignoring me. Everything’s kinda tense since the whole ‘overthrowing Camille thing’ and I’m trying not to remind them that I was, like, the major pawn in that mess.”
“How is the training going?” Clary asks, and Simon shrugs, resisting the urge to pull a face.
“Well, Raphael hasn’t staked me yet, so that’s progress.”
Clary looks alarmed but Simon doesn’t know how to explain he’s being serious without her going all Shadowhuntery on him. Raphael might spend most of his time treating Simon like he’s five years old, but it’s better than running around feeling lost in his own body. Also, he’s started keeping cinnamon in the kitchen so Simon can try and make his blood taste…well, not like blood, which possibly means that Simon’s wormed his way under his skin somehow. It doesn’t make up for the ‘caffeine tastes like crap’ thing but that’s not really Raphael’s fault so Simon’s willing to let it go.
“How’s everything your end?” he asks, changing the subject, and Clary’s eyes light up as she talks about Jace and the Institute and Jace and weapons and Jace.
Simon eats his pancakes and tries not to sigh too loudly.
“You’re hesitating,” Raphael says, frowning down at him.
Simon may have pretty spectacular healing powers now, but after a dozen rounds against his new leader he’s feeling battered and bruised and about ready to crawl into bed with warm, bloody milk and the latest issue of Grayson. It’s not that he isn’t all for the speed and strength and quality twenty-twenty eyesight that come with the whole undead shindig, he just can’t manage to catch Raphael off-guard no matter how hard he tries.
“Okay,” he says, rolling away and getting back on his feet, “just a reminder that you’re a) older, b) stronger, and c) probably spent your first vampy years partaking in a healthy bout of self-flagellation. I, however, am used to my battles occurring entirely through my game console.”
Raphael growls under his breath. Simon would make a werewolf joke but he’s hurting too much.
“I’ve already had to save your life too many times,” Raphael says, which is totally unfair considering he’s been at least partially responsible for a good handful of those. “You need to learn to protect yourself. The Downworld is never a safe place.”
“Yeah,” Simon says, “I got that. What with how I, oh you know, died.”
Raphael somehow manages to combine his signature raised eyebrow and eye-roll into one giant unimpressed expression. Simon feels suitable quelled and then hates Raphael a little more for it.
“Again,” Raphael says.
“G—” Simons says and promptly chokes. “Fuck,” he says instead, and dares Raphael to call him out on his language.
Raphael smirks and takes a step back.
Simon hates everything.
Simon won’t tell Clary, but training and vampire politics and missing his family aren’t the only parts of turning he’s dealing with.
After his dad died, his mom had sent him to a child psychiatrist because the nightmares wouldn’t go away. He’d had to talk about everything he was feeling and draw a ton of pictures and he’d been allowed to miss school for a while which would have been great if it hadn’t meant being away from Clary too. Eventually the grief settled somewhere deeper and he’d been able to sleep through the night.
Now he wakes screaming, his fingers clawing at sheets and too much weight on his chest. He feels trapped, gasping for air he no longer needs, shaking apart from the inside out, and he’s sure he’s dead — dead dead — and locked beneath the earth alone, alone, alone—
It only ever takes minutes for Raphael to appear, though it feels so much longer. He doesn’t say anything, just holds onto Simon’s shoulders and keeps him still as he rattles back to reality, eyes close and alert and sad. When his head begins to clear, Simon knows he should feel embarrassed but he just needs Raphael to anchor him a little longer; Raphael never rushes away, just waits until Simon relaxes and brushes his hair back with gentle fingers.
“Que duermas bien,” he whispers, and Simon plays the words through his head as he drifts back to sleep and waits for sunset.
They never mention it come nightfall, but Simon’s starting to realize why the rest of the clan would throw over one of the oldest vampires alive for a boy that looks barely out of his teens.
Raphael’s a leader.
And Simon? For all that he resists, he thinks it probably won’t be much longer before he starts to follow.
“Simon!” Maureen says, eyes widening in surprise, and Simon’s not sure whether the flush spreading across her cheeks is from anger or embarrassment. He really hopes he’s not about to get punched, but he’s also not looking forward to the whole ‘we slept together and then you disappeared for weeks’ talk either. There’s not exactly a sitcom out there to help him explain that it wasn’t a case of ‘wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am’ so much as…well, dying and then moving in to a hotel full of vampires.
“Maureen,” he says, trying for casual, “hey!”
There’s an awkward moment where neither of them know how to continue the conversation, and Simon’s about to start babbling about the Terry Pratchett book she’s holding or her Firefly t-shirt or anything at all when Raphael appears, nose in a copy of Far From the Madding Crowd.
Simon wants to hide behind a stack of shelves but he’s also aware that he’s a vampire and Raphael’s a vampire, and it’d be the most pointless game of hide and seek ever played. Also he’s, you know, supposed to be practising being around people without eating them, which is the whole reason they’re here.
“I’m impressed, Baby,” Raphael says without looking up, and Simon would happily take the compliment to his burgeoning willpower if Maureen wasn’t now staring between the two of them with an ever-increasing expression of shock.
“It’s not—” Simon starts. “I mean—”
Raphael finally closes his book, the corner of his mouth tugging up suspiciously, and Simon’s going to kill him, seriously, kill him dead..er.
“Hello,” Raphael says, smiling at Maureen politely and freaking Simon out. He turns to Simon. “Are you ready to leave?”
Simon thinks about how he’s managed to keep his hunger in check all evening even without eating beforehand, and then thinks about how Maureen thinks he’s on a date with his vampire clan leader, and nods too quickly.
“Uh-huh, sure,” he says. “Were you buying that?”
“Camille left a first edition somewhere,” Raphael says, sliding the book onto a nearby shelf with a raised eyebrow that suggests he’s doing it just to give some poor shop assistant more work, and it’s Simon’s turn to roll his eyes because he’s learning fast that Raphael may be many things but he’s about as evil as an untrained puppy.
“He’s cute,” Maureen says quietly, once Raphael’s started sauntering towards the door. Simon blinks at her and hopes Raphael’s not listening too closely.
“Okay,” he says, and makes his escape.
Simon’s sort of beginning to understand why Downworlders don’t like Shadowhunters.
Not that he’d say as much to Clary, but once again it’s the whole ‘if we just work together’ speech, and once again one of the Shadowhunters — Jace this time — gets hurt and suddenly ‘working together’ becomes ‘you hold them off whilst we stand over here worried about our own and not the big dudes with bigger weapons’. Simon gets it, he does, but then Kieran, the vampire who’s been teaching him to play these really outdated card games the last few nights gets staked through the heart.
Simon feels the jolt of it, looking up in time to see Raphael’s face as it crumbles with sorrow and fury, grief appearing like physical waves over him as the rest of the clan stumble. Kieran’s the first of them to die since Simon was turned and it doesn’t matter how many times Raphael’s told him, he hadn’t really understood that they were all connected, not until one of them was gone.
A forsaken appears behind Raphael, and Simon doesn’t stop, doesn’t think, just charges, swinging his fists and his fangs, a brick from the debris clutched in his palm as he bashes again and again and again.
Clary’s shouting something in the distance, but it’s Raphael who grabs hold of him, tugging until Simon’s back is flush to his chest and the crumbled dust of the brick blows away. The fight’s over. Everyone else is safe. Simon’s lungs are still heaving, muscle memory instead of any real need, and Raphael murmurs Spanish into his ear until Simon’s himself again.
Or maybe that other self — the furious, savage one — is him now.
“God, Simon,” Clary says, rushing forward, and Raphael fades back. Simon shouldn’t feel the cold anymore, but somehow he does anyway. “Are you okay?”
“Not really,” he says, because there’s no point lying when he’s standing with his fangs still out over a forsaken with a crushed skull.
Clary looks like she wants to hug him but doesn’t know if she’s allowed, which Simon thinks is stupid until she says, “Jace is pretty hurt. We need to get him back to the Institute.”
“Yeah,” Simon says. “I should stay with the clan. Losing Kieran’s going to hit everyone even harder once the adrenaline’s worn off.” Clary opens her mouth, and Simon knows it’s to ask who Kieran is — was — and he can’t take that right now, not when he’s feeling so connected to the clan and not when Raphael’s still looking lost as he tries to rally his family around him. “See you later,” he says instead, and walks away.
Raphael spots him coming closer and his eyes soften, just a little.
It’s not much, but Simon hopes it’s enough to show he’s choosing him this time.
The next time he dreams he can’t wake up.
His throat’s hoarse from screaming, he can smell blood beneath his own nails as he scratches at everything and nothing, and he’s sure he’s going to drown in dirt and bone for eternity. It hurts, like he’s digging his way out of his own grave all over again, only this time he’s not just reacting on instinct, this time he knows that his heart won’t start beating just because he wills it to.
Somewhere at the edge of consciousness he can sense Raphael, muttered curses and firm hands, but even that isn’t enough to pull him back this time, not when forever’s stretching out in front of him as nothing but a nightmare. Raphael’s hands become more insistent, and Simon can vaguely hear his own name repeated over and over, but the darkness is too thick and he can’t.
“Dios,” Raphael hisses, somewhere other, and Simon can feel his sheets being tugged back and the imaginary heat of another body pressed close, holding him as he shakes apart. Raphael’s mouth is pressed against his cheek, shaping sentences Simon can’t make sense of, one arm firmly around his waist to help him still as the other hand splays over the spot where his useless heart is.
Simon’s had family and friends and girlfriends, but he’s never needed someone like this, and maybe it’s the fear of that realization, or maybe it’s Raphael’s presence itself, but it’s enough for the darkness to fade a little.
When Simon finally wakes for real, Raphael’s still holding him, the sheets tangled between their legs and the sun disappearing on the horizon. The others are already moving around the hotel, and Simon never thought he’d be grateful to be able to sense them, but he is.
“Good evening,” Raphael says, and Simon would have jumped if he hadn’t already realized Raphael was awake.
“Did you sleep at all?” he asks, and feels Raphael shrug.
“I can last longer without rest than the others,” Raphael says. He doesn’t ask Simon how he is, and Simon’s glad; he doesn’t know how to vocalize the tangle in his head just yet, and he’s not sure he’d want to even if he could. “We should eat.”
“Yeah,” Simon says, “can we just—?”
Raphael doesn’t move, and Simon wills the rest of the darkness away.
“I ran into Maureen yesterday,” Clary says instead of a greeting, and Simon wonders if it’s too late to moonwalk the hell out of here.
“Oh,” he says instead. “That’s nice?”
Clary gives him a look, and Simon forgets that he’s, you know, a badass immortal vampire, and kind of wants the ground to swallow him whole.
“She asked if you were dating a guy. A sexy guy.”
“Oh fuck,” Simon says, dropping his head into his arms. “Okay, I can explain—”
Clary laughs, and Simon shoots her a look of his own. “Calm down,” she says. “I figured out pretty quickly she was talking about Raphael. Do I need to have a word with him?”
Simon bites down on the horror of that statement.
“Is it, like, a sire-bond thing?” Clary asks, and he really needs to find out where she’s stashed the Anne Rice novel.
“He’s not my sire,” Simon says, sounding a lot more defensive than he intends.
“Right,” Clary says, “but he’s your clan leader or whatever.”
He wants to tell her that it’s not the same thing, that for all Raphael is in charge, he doesn’t control Simon in that same base way that Camille did. Raphael can’t make Simon do anything he doesn’t want to, a fact Simon’s sure pisses Raphael off, like, eighty percent of the time, especially when Simon would rather hang out doing normal young adulty things than learn the intricate do’s and don’ts of vamp culture.
Raphael takes his role seriously, and it might have taken Simon a while to see through the leather and hair gel, but now he’s willing to bet he’d follow Raphael to the ends of the earth if he asked.
He doesn’t know how to explain that to Clary without it sounding like he’s been brainwashed, though, so he just shrugs, and says, “Yeah.”
“He is kind of sexy,” Clary says after a while, and Simon chokes on air.
“Um,” he says.
“I mean,” Clary continues, “I’m just saying.”
“Please can we talk about something else. Anything else. How’s Jace?” Simon says, desperately, and Clary’s laugh makes him feel more human than he has in weeks.
“You’re getting better,” Raphael says, rubbing at the fast-fading mark Simon’s left on his cheek.
Simon grins. “The power dynamics are balancing out,” he says, and happily waits for the roll of Raphael’s eyes.
“Cockiness will get you killed,” Raphael reminds him, and Simon shrugs but doesn’t argue.
He reaches for a bottle of blood, downing half of it and tossing the bottle to Raphael before he thinks about it too carefully. “Do you train every new fledgling like this?”
Raphael drains the rest of the bottle before replying. “No,” he says. “There haven’t been many in recent years, and even when there were, Camille was too self-involved to think about the aftereffects.”
“Oh,” Simon says, and it’s the first time he’s thought that maybe all Raphael’s actions haven’t been part of a passed-down manual somewhere. It shouldn’t be a surprise; Camille never struck Simon as the sort to spend hours honing skills or teaching willpower or sitting by the bedside of a screaming new addition to the family, but it also means that Raphael’s been doing those things for Simon and Simon alone, and that’s—
“Thanks,” he says, before he can second-guess himself, and Raphael nods and doesn’t look at him, and Simon thinks maybe he’s not the only one going through some changes.
It’s possible that Simon might be dying.
Clary’s freaking out, buzzing in and out of his vision as Jace tries to hold her back so Isabelle can check on the damage. Even Alec looks concerned which is enough to make Simon really begin to panic, and it’s only when he starts to sense Raphael nearby that he’s able to calm down.
“What the hell?” Raphael says, appearing fast enough to make the others reach for their weapons.
“Hi,” Simon says, and he didn’t know vampires could feel woozy but there you go.
“Have you called the warlock?” Raphael asks the others, and Isabelle nods. “Dios, Baby, I didn’t train you just so you could die on some stupid Shadowhunter crusade.”
“Sorry,” Simon says. “I’ll try not to.”
Clary’s still hyperventilating nearby, but Jace seems to have a good hold on her, and Alec keeps checking his phone so Simon would wager that Magnus is nearby. Raphael’s lips are drawn into a tight line and he’s wearing an outfit Simon hasn’t seen before because apparently he is a decades old vampire that loves to shop.
“I like your jacket,” Simon says, “and your face.”
Raphael snorts, and even Clary stops fretting. “You’re an idiot,” Raphael says, and Simon kinda can’t disagree.
“Sure,” he says, “but I’m also dying for the second time in as many months so I’d say that’s the least of my problems.”
“You never shut up, do you?” Raphael says, but he’s giving Simon that gentle, fond look he gets when it’s just them post-nightmare. Simon’s probably been attached to that look for longer than he’d like to admit.
“Magnus is here,” Alec interrupts, sounding like he’s ready to give Magnus Bane his first born just for stopping this conversation, and even Raphael looks relieved.
“We should give him some space,” Isabelle says, moving away so Magnus can work, but Simon’s still watching Raphael.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Raphael says, and Simon smiles up at him gratefully right before he passes out.
When he comes to he can smell coffee and blood.
“Here,” Raphael says, passing over a mug. “Since you were so childish about it before, I thought I’d give you the obvious solution.”
“Café au sang,” Simon says with a sigh, and Raphael, predictably, rolls his eyes. “We should market this. Starbucks could make a killing from the late night crowds.”
“Well, you’re certainly feeling better,” Raphael says, and Simon hums his agreement into the mug and refuses to apologize for almost dying.
“Did I actually tell you I liked your face?” he asks as the memory rushes over him. “Fuck, I did.”
Raphael looks smug, and Simon hates that he still likes his face whilst not-dying.
“And my jacket,” Raphael says. “Which was nice since you seem to have a vendetta against those normally.”
“Right,” Simon says. “Sorry about the whole accidentally hitting on you whilst in mortal danger thing.”
Raphael shrugs, and his eyes are glittering. “I suppose there are worse times to hit on someone.”
“I have no idea what I’m doing,” Simon says, honestly. He doesn’t know when he started liking Raphael as well as depending on him, doesn’t know when he started liking guys full stop, and he’s sure some of it’s a vampire thing, but he thinks a lot of it might just be the complicated mess that is plain old Simon Lewis.
“Do you ever?” Raphael says, and Simon throws a cushion at him then reaches for his hand.
“I know you’re super old and probably need to be courted and stuff,” he says, “but these days the kids mostly just start with making out.”
“Dios,” Raphael says, “you’re so annoying,” but he kisses Simon anyway.
It definitely makes up for dying.
It almost makes up for the coffee.