"So," Simon tried. "You guys remember Raphael, right? He, uh, held a knife to my throat that one time? He wasn't so bad."
Simon was met with four blank faces, though the variety of blankness was telling: Clary's had a tiny quirk of concern, Jace's had a dash of amusement, Alec looked like he was fantasizing about his own torture and death, and Isabelle clearly thought Simon was insane.
Okay, maybe not so blank then.
"Simon," Clary said, green eyes traveling over Simon's face in bemusement. "What is this about?"
Maybe he was just waiting for that exact push from that exact person, because Simon finally spilled. "Thing is – He kind of, sort of…checks on me sometimes? After the whole Camille thing, I think he feels sort of responsible even though he'd rather be immolated than say so and…" Simon coughed. "He's worried about Camille, he wants to get rid of her."
There was a waterfall of Shadowhunter blinking in response.
"Oh," Clary said finally. "Well, I think everyone would be on board with that. I mean, I definitely wouldn't mind sucker punching her once or twice or fifty times, maybe."
Simon smiled. "Clary Fray," he said. "You've become a very violent person."
"Yeah," Jace put in, looking at Clary fondly. "We're all real proud of her."
"Speak for yourself," Alec interjected. Then, casually, he added, "We could ask Magnus Bane about Camille. He does know her."
"That's true," Isabelle said, her tone even but eyes sparkling at her brother. "Maybe he has some…ideas."
Simon couldn't help a little bit of a beam. He obviously had mad ambassador skillz.
"You did what," Raphael said flatly.
Simon stared at him. "You told me to!"
Raphael closed his eyes and appeared to mentally count to ten if the tap of his fingers against the outside of his thigh was anything to go by. His eyes opened again and he said, "I made a suggestion, but I didn't expect you to go about so tactlessly. Am I to expect four seraph-happy Shadowhunters on my doorstep any day now?"
"Alec likes arrows, I think," Simon said, which was not really an appropriate thing to say. Simon wasn't great at appropriate, not always. "Look, you want her gone, they want to help, seems like a match made in heaven to me."
Raphael put a hand over his face like a frustrated cartoon character. "You're an idiot."
Simon was strangely unoffended. "You can thank me later."
The Camille thing went nowhere fast. Nibbling on Simon wasn't considered rulebreaking enough to earn an intervention; it probably would have been better if she killed him. Well, "better."
"Something else will come up," Raphael said in a strange moment of consolation. "She's not exactly careful with mundanes." He tilted his head a bit, watching Simon, and lifted an eyebrow. "Tell me something."
"Ask nicely," Simon shot back.
Raphael ignored that. "Why did you even try? Revenge?"
Such justifiable pettiness hadn't even occurred to Simon, which embarrassed him. "You said you needed me to play ambassador. So I played." He met Raphael's eyes, steady. "Why did you ask if you didn't really mean it?"
Raphael returned the look impassively. His answer, when he answered, was for a different question entirely. "For what it's worth, I think Camille's forgotten you for the moment. She's…capricious. She'll go after the Cup another way."
Simon was still studying him a little. "Small miracles." He paused. "Does that mean you won't be my sensei anymore?"
Raphael made a huffy sound like a laugh and rolled his eyes. "There are other things that go bump in the night. And you haven't exactly mastered self-defense yet."
"No," Simon agreed, chest feeling warm. "No, I haven't."
Simon was at a distinct disadvantage when it came to trying to spar with Raphael (who also made no attempt to pull his punches) but stubbornness was Simon's middle name and he wasn't going to give up easily. He paid attention to Raphael's irascible instruction and filed away all of his tips and eventually achieved success.
Simon managed to sent them crashing to the gym floor, his hands on Raphael's shoulders pinning him to the ground until a push from Raphael reversed their positions. Simon refused to be defeated again so he shoved with every bit of strength he had and got Raphael underneath him again, brought the stake up and pressed it against Raphael's chest, right over his heart.
"Ha!" Simon crowed, victorious. "Say uncle."
Raphael leaned up into the stake's pointed end. "Uncle," he said. His lips formed the word slowly, tip of his tongue against his teeth, and there was something about it Simon couldn't pull his gaze away from. Something lush.
Simon cleared his throat and let the stake fall from his fingers, clattering dully as it rolled along the floor. "Um, yeah. So. I win. Simon Lewis, vampire hunter extraordinaire. You're dust, pal. Ashes to ashes."
Raphael raised a curious eyebrow but allowed Simon's rambling to reach its natural end. "You won once," he pointed out. Quick as a flash he had them turned over again, Simon's back on the cool, cool floor. "Do it again and I'll be impressed."
"My goal in life, impressing you," Simon joked weakly.
Raphael just smirked at him.
Raphael had called him an idiot maybe five times in the last fifteen minutes, but that was actually pretty good for him so Simon was allowing it without complaint. He had reached a stage of being almost entirely unperturbed by Raphael, who spewed casual insults like some people asked about the weather. Simon was also kind of busy trying to stem the bleeding from his head wound.
There'd been a mission to rescue Isabelle's Seelie ex from almost certain doom that Simon had been enlisted in; in turn, he'd enlisted Raphael, who dragged along a handful of vamps from the hotel. He'd only been able to help because Camille was currently out of town but it meant a lot to Simon that he'd made the effort despite the risk. In fact, Simon had been feeling pretty positive about the situation up until the scuffle had left him with a gash across the forehead and a faceful of blood he'd never be able to explain to his mother. It was embarrassing, really. The whole thing wasn't even anyone's fault, just stupid mundane Simon getting in over his head again.
As Raphael was happy to remind him.
"I know, I know, I get it," Simon mumbled eventually, annoyed. He was leaning in to catch his reflection in a truck window as Raphael escorted him home; the bleeding had stopped but Simon's face had seen better days. "My incompetence is staggering. I got the memo."
Raphael didn't respond so Simon looked at him, reflected in the glass over Simon's shoulder. Raphael's jaw was set, his expression hard. Simon had interpreted it first as annoyance but now he put two and two together and finally came up with four. As in Simon's blood plus Raphael is a vampire equals bad, bad news.
Simon felt his face heat up a little. "Hey, friends don't eat friends, right?"
Raphael blinked and then turned disdainful. "I'm not dignifying that with a response."
"Because you'd have to admit we were friends?"
"Because I'm capable of controlling myself," he snapped.
Simon turned to face him and Raphael's gaze immediately went to the cut on Simon's forehead, the drip of crimson on his temple. Simon didn't know how he missed it before. He also didn't know why he wasn't even slightly scared or grossed out or offended. He felt kind of the opposite about it.
"Don't be embarrassed," Simon started, a grin beginning to curl his lips as the joke unfolded, "if you find me irresistibly delicious."
"I could kill you just to make you stop talking," Raphael said flatly.
"I mean, I'm sure this is like," Simon touched his face lightly and then held out his reddened fingers teasingly, "catnip for you guys, huh?"
Raphael was in Simon's personal bubble in a blink, close enough to be sharing breath – if Raphael breathed. Simon found he could never quite tell. "Don't mock me."
"I'm not," Simon said. Still not scared. He wondered if Raphael felt like this when Simon had the stake to his heart: certain of his safety. "Just being friendly-like."
"It feels like mocking."
"Maybe you're thin-skinned."
Raphael searched Simon's face, anger writ on his features, but his gaze seemed pulled to the blood. He was close now, close enough that it was probably unbearable for him; as Simon watched, Raphael's lips parted a little and there were his teeth, sharp and gleaming, and the hint of his tongue. Simon's breath caught in something like anticipation but Raphael was gone as suddenly as he'd arrived.
"Are you good to get home?" he asked brusquely.
They were just a block away. "I can handle it," Simon assured him. Raphael gave him a quick nod before speeding off and it was only then Simon realized his heart was hammering, his pulse racing. But he wasn't scared.
"Do you kiss people?"
Raphael stared at him. He did that a lot. "What?"
"Is kissing people," Simon said, "a thing that you do?"
Raphael blinked slow and suspicious, his lip curling. "Why?"
Why do you think? Simon wanted to ask. He could almost hear the words spilling out in a challenge. Instead he shrugged. "I don't know anything about you."
Sometimes conversations with Raphael felt like one of those scenes in a movie where an actor had to aerobicize their way through a web of lasers just to grab some mystery treasure on a pedestal. There were a million wrong steps to make, a million wires Simon could trip, and he wasn't even sure that the treasure, once he got it, would be what he wanted. He always felt like he was trying to break some code as he puzzled out Raphael's enigmatic expressions and half-answers. Now was no different.
"Not everyone feels the need to write their autobiography for every new person they meet," Raphael said.
Simon's sigh tripped into a laugh and he shook his head. "Yeah. Well. I don't need a whole book, I wouldn't mind a blurb."
"Your problem is that you have all these expectations with people," Raphael told him. "You want so much. It's so visible. How can someone give you anything when what you want is everything?"
Simon flushed. "I never – I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be kidnapped and held hostage and fed on and followed and 'protected,' full air quotes, just because you felt guilty or whatever –"
"I didn't," Raphael said tightly. "What would I have to feel guilty about?"
Simon shrugged, arms spread wide, at a total loss. "If it's not that, then what is it? Why are you here, Raphael?"
Raphael's jaw locked and he looked away, seeming suddenly young and sullen. "Simon –"
But Simon didn't bother letting him finish. Instead he stepped forward, grabbed Raphael by the face, and pulled him in for a kiss that was too hard, slightly off the mark, and impossibly awkward. Awkward until Simon looped an arm around Raphael's neck and pressed in close, until Raphael's deer-in-headlights reaction relaxed and he kissed back. His mouth was surprisingly soft considering all the sharp things that came out of it.
"I have been known," Raphael said, when they pulled apart, "to kiss some people sometimes."
Simon smirked, already leaning back in for more. "Lucky me."
It was risky, maybe, what Simon was doing. It was definitely stupid. He found himself staying up late at night, waiting for a tapping on his window that didn't always come. But when it did –
The seize of Simon's heart, the speeding of his pulse. The flip of anxious excitement in his stomach at the knowledge that Raphael could probably hear it, that he could tell exactly how Simon felt around him. Maybe he could always tell.
Simon didn't mind the thought.