"Are you stupid?"
Simon had his hand on the doorknob of the Hotel DuMort's back entrance, heart pounding and grip slipping, when Raphael's voice pierced the haze he'd been in since he last left this hotel. Raphael sounded drawling and bored and certain already of his answer. Simon didn't turn, his fingers still resting on the cool metal.
"Everything's – I can't –" Simon struggled to overcome the panicky tension that had made a home in his chest. "There's something wrong with me. I need to be here. I need to see her."
"You're on a bad trip that won't end," Raphael said impatiently. "Camille did this to you. She's not medicine. She won't make it better. Go home."
Simon faced him, frustrated. "And what, wait it out like the flu?"
"Yes," Raphael said tersely.
"I can't do that. I can't sleep. It feels like my skin is crawling, I can't control myself – you should see my room, it looks like a tornado went through it. I'm –" Simon faltered, embarrassed. "I'm seeing things, hearing things. I want – I want blood."
If Simon didn't know better, he'd think there was something akin to sympathy on Raphael's face. "It will fade. You just have to keep away from Camille."
Simon huffed a disbelieving laugh. "Keep her away from me. I didn't ask for this."
Raphael just looked at him, expression blank, before his eyes narrowed ever so slightly like he was trying to determine something. Then in the next blink he was gone. What happened after that happened very fast.
Simon felt a forceful, unexpected tug on his sleeve and it caught him off guard, his position at the top of the small flight of stairs too precarious. He tripped and then he toppled, graceless and ungainly as he spilled down the steps, landing hard in a pretzeled heap on the sidewalk. His glasses flew off and skittered across the concrete right before his body made impact – and there was a sound, an awful cracking sound followed by a rush of inflamed heat in his ankle that hurt so badly for a moment that nothing hurt at all.
When Simon opened his eyes, Raphael was looking down at him. "You should probably go to the hospital, huh?"
The next time Simon saw Raphael his cast was off and he was tentatively hobbling his way home from physical therapy on a leg that felt weirdly vulnerable without its plaster protection. Breaking an ankle wasn't exactly an ideal way for Simon to escape vampiric clutches, but it got him laid up and fussed over for a while and by week three he wasn't even dreaming of Camille anymore. It was even sort of nice after the high stakes stress of the last month to get coddled by his mom and sister, to get daily visits from Clary and Isabelle. It made Simon feel kind of normal again.
Until Raphael once again leapt out at him from the shadows. Well, emerged, maybe. Raphael didn't really leap.
His sudden swoop out of nowhere almost startled Simon into another fall, but he was saved by Raphael's quick hand reaching out for his jacket. "Where are your stupid friends?"
"I don't know, demon hunting? It's late. Why are you here?"
Raphael was studying him critically. "You're the weak antelope in the herd, aren't they supposed to be circling the wagons around you?
"You're mixing metaphors like whoa, that doesn't even – hey. Who said I was a weak antelope?"
Raphael just looked at him.
"Clary can't babysit me every hour of the day," Simon told him. "I'm good now, all healed, no bloodthirst, vampire flu free." Which reminded Simon. "And wait a minute – you broke my ankle!"
"You broke my ankle," Simon said again.
"You're alive," Raphael reminded him. "Dead or a broken ankle, which do you think is worse?"
"You basically made me a sitting duck," Simon pointed out.
"I made you protected," Raphael corrected. "You just said it yourself. All healed."
"Right." Simon gave him an accusatory look. It wasn't like he expected logic from an undead monster of the night that fed off the blood of innocent nerds (not that Raphael seemed especially guilty of that) but it was still some kind of assbackwards sense. "So why are you here?"
"I need you to play ambassador to the Shadowhunters," Raphael said. "Camille is getting out of hand. She needs to be dealt with."
Absently, Simon's hand came up to rub his neck. "Yeah, you're telling me."
Raphael's gaze followed the gesture. "Don't worry," he said. "Time heals."
The marks were gone but Simon thought he could still feel exactly where they were, like the skin there was more sensitive than other places. "So I've heard."
Simon wasn't sure what Raphael expected him to do when it came to smoothing over Shadowhunter-vampire relations, particularly because Simon was neither one nor the other. Drop little hints? Talk up the group that had kidnapped and ate him? Simon tried to envision himself sitting amongst all those moody, black-clad warriors and saying, You remember that Raphael guy? He wasn't as bad as the other vampires trying to kill me for sport and blackmail. He only poked me with a knife a little bit.
It just wasn’t going to work.
Simon didn't even know why he was considering it.
Raphael pressed something into Simon's hand – something thick and solid, its surface smoothly carved. A stake, Buffy the Vampire Slayer-style, except Simon wasn't a cute California blonde with serious ass-kicking skills so he wasn't quite sure what he was supposed to do with it.
"Your idiot Shadowhunter friends aren't going to be around all the time," Raphael told him. They were in Simon's hastily reassembled room, because Raphael had shown up here, in Simon's room, for some reason. "Camille likes to play with people. She isn't done with you just because she's out of your system. You need to know how to defend yourself."
Simon looked down at the stake in his hand. The pointed end was surprisingly sharp; when he touched it lightly it left a pinprick of blood on the tip of his finger. He wondered, for a second, if Raphael could smell it. Simon could still remember wanting to lick Maureen's blood from the broken glass of a picture frame. "I don't know how to use this."
A moment later Simon's legs were swept out from under him, sending a shooting pain through his bad ankle. He looked up at Raphael incredulously.
"I know," Raphael said mildly. "That's why I'm going to teach you."
Simon didn't tell Clary about Raphael appearing next to him on shadowed sidewalks or rapping impatiently at his bedroom window at night. Simon was used to telling Clary everything, texting her about his weird dreams when he woke up at three a.m. or debating band names first thing in the morning on the bus to school. Their friendship had been a lifelong continuous conversation that carried on whether they were together in the same room or not and it hadn't been interrupted until a guy named Jace walked into their lives. Now Clary was too busy to give all her free time to Simon. Now Simon was keeping secrets.
He didn't know why, really. He had gone through so much of the vampire thing on his own that it felt consigned to some secret, private part of his life that couldn't be shared. Plus Simon just couldn't explain any of it if he tried.
"Why are you doing this?" Simon wondered, pushing away the feeling that it was something he shouldn't ask. "I mean, I'm just one guy. What does it matter to you if I'm turned into an appetizer?"
"It doesn't," Raphael said. "People exist besides you, you know."
It was the middle of the night (because, hello, vampires) and they were at some weird old timey gym in Harlem that Raphael had led him to. It was empty and dark and creepy as hell, and it was here that Raphael did his best to teach Simon to not die.
"Believe me, that is a thing I know." Simon tried to dodge Raphael but that vampire speed just couldn't be matched by Simon's out of shape mundane fumbling, so instead he ended up sprawled on his ass. He sighed, but Raphael reached down to haul him up to his feet again.
"Your connection to Valentine's daughter makes you vulnerable," Raphael said in that slow way he had that made it seem like Simon was wasting his time just by existing. "You are a mundane, which makes you a snack. This puts you at an incredibly high risk when a power-crazy vampire is trying to get her hands on one of the most important artifacts in the world. And believe it or not, I don't want mundanes to die. It's messy, it draws unwanted attention, and it'll make the Clave crack down on us. This is not an outcome I am interested in."
Impressed, Simon told him, "I think that's the most you've ever said to me."
Raphael rolled his eyes. "I'm glad that's what you took away from it."
Simon grinned. "No, I get it," he said. "You're saving my life."
Raphael looked at him strangely. "A life," he corrected. "It just so happens to be yours."
Simon began to notice things about Raphael. His hands were always cool any time he touched Simon, which wasn't often and was always casual – helping him up, pushing him around, trying to prove something to him. Camille's skin had felt like a pane of glass with the sun behind it, warmed by external forces, but no matter how much he exerted himself, even if there was a thin sheen of sweat on his skin after kicking Simon's ass for hours, Raphael was always cool to the touch.
Not that Simon touched him often.
Curiosity killed the cat, but Simon had already gotten close enough to death to be reckless about it. Raphael never came to see him on the same day or at the same time, never announced himself until Simon was being jerked awake out of half-remembered dreams. Raphael never shared anything about himself: thoughts, motives, plans, intentions. He was opaque as a tinted window and Simon wanted to know what was happening behind the glass.
"How did you meet Camille?" he asked. "How old are you?" and "How long have you been at the hotel?" and "Who made you into a vampire?" Every time Raphael gave him the slightest of eyebrow raises, the hint of a smirk.
"Why would I tell you?" was Raphael's favorite answer, and Simon never could think of a good comeback. Why indeed.
"You spend all this time with me, you gotta give me something," Simon tried once.
"I wasn't aware that was an exchange we agreed upon."
Simon groaned, because Raphael was truly impossible, and then he made a decision: if Raphael wanted to save his life, then he was going to know just what he was saving.
So Simon gave it all away, all the stories and facts and small talk and nonsense he'd kept bottled up since this whole crazy adventure began. All of the meaningless little things he used to tell Clary that felt frivolous now in their new life-and-death existence. Simon spilled it all to Raphael and Raphael endured it like a person who had caught fire and was planning on dealing by ignoring it entirely.
Finally, exhausted, he said, "Simon, why are you subjecting me to this?"
Simon spoke, as he often did, without consulting his brain much. "Friendship?"
Raphael snorted, his expression the picture of disdain. He warned, "I'm not someone who gets close to other people easily."
"That's cool," Simon said. "Me neither."
Television had taught Simon something about vampires who came knocking on your window at night. The one thing he learned was that you were never supposed to invite them in.
Simon guessed it was too late for that.