It didn’t happen during any of the times you’d think it would. Not when Simon went to Detroit to learn how to get rid of the Mark of Cain. Not at the Seelie Court when he was going through the agony of burning the mark from his body or afterwards when he was guzzling down Isabelle’s blood like a Slurpee to recover.
It should have happened when he stood in front of Raphael, human Raphael, in the soft orange glow of sunset after the Clave injected the other man with Heavenly Fire or while they fought side by side to save the Downworld. But it didn’t.
Simon’s traitorous brain decided that the best moment to recover his memory was an uneventful weeknight in bed with Isabelle, fighting over the remote control.
“But I need it,” she insisted with an edge to her voice. “And I’m going to have it!”
She snatched the remote control from his numb fingers. All he could do was stare blankly at the panoramic photo of the Brooklyn Bridge above the headboard while the memories that had been chased out by a vampiric Encanto rushed back in.
For one night, over a year ago, he’d gotten in between Raphael Santiago and Isabelle Lightwood.
Simon remembered the alley, Raphael’s smooth voice ordering him to come back to the hotel DuMort. He remembered Isabelle, pale and shaking on a bright red couch, pulling him to the bloody gash on her chest. She’d said the same thing then.
“Simon? Simon, what’s wrong?”
He snapped out of it with a shudder. “I gotta go to the bathroom.”
Izzy reached after him, but he squirmed out of her grip and booked it to the bathroom as quickly as he could. The door slammed a little too hard between them. He flicked the lock before Izzy could open it again.
“Simon, are you okay?” Her voice wobbled between concern and confusion.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine.” He was shaking harder than his Bubbie Helen’s chihuahua. “I’m fine, just … Give me a moment.”
He stumbled to the sink, splashed cold water on his face, and stared at his pasty grimace of terror in the mirror. He was not fine.
He had kissed Raphael. Simon remembered the exact moment when he’d thrown himself off that moral cliff and forcefully pressed his lips against Raphael’s, pushed his tongue into the other man’s mouth.
I wanted it.
Raphael’s husky growl reverberated in his mind like an electric current under his skin.
Simon shivered. In the mirror, his dark eyes stared blindly back at him as memories crashed over each other like churning ocean waves.
His face buried in Izzy’s neck, his dick hard as a rock, as he sucked her blood straight from the carotid.
Raphael’s fingers around his throat, bruising, crushing; deadly fangs less than an inch from his face.
Sliding off the couch into Raphael’s lap, amped up, confused, high out of his mind. Wanting more.
Tearing into Raphael’s throat.
Simon dry-heaved into the sink.
Blood everywhere, his hand pressed to Raphael’s mauled throat, wanting to tear off his own arm so he wouldn’t give in to the bloodlust.
He had almost killed Raphael.
Do you have anything to say for yourself?
Simon sucked in breath after breath, hands clamped around the rim of the sink. The enamel under his fingers began to crack.
He had wanted to die for what he’d done. He’d deserved to die for it. He had nearly killed Raphael, and, if not for that, he would have drained Izzy dry.
Clean up this mess.
Disgust and self-loathing slammed into him like a brick wall.
Wishing he could walk into the sunlight and burn to ash like the monster he was. Taking one of Raphael’s shirts, adding insult to injury. Listening from the hallway, concealed like a criminal, while Raphael erased Izzy’s memories. Relief and guilt like a double-punch in the gut.
“She doesn’t know,” he whispered to his reflection.
I wanted it.
Take it, and then make me forget.
Simon stopped breathing.
When he finally made himself come out of the bathroom, Izzy looked up from their bed, her face a mask of concern.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he lied. “Yeah, I think that last batch of blood was too old or something. Sorry. Might not want to go in there for a while.” He jerked his thumb back at the bathroom door.
“Aww, poor thing. Come here.” She patted the mattress next to her. “Do you want me to get you something fresh?”
“No!” He shook his head. “No, that’s all right. I think I just need to lie down for a bit.” He crawled back into bed.
Izzy immediately shuffled over and put her arm around him. She stroked his hair and barely paid attention to the TV show that had been so important a few minutes ago.
Simon didn’t move for the rest of the night. He lay flat on his back, motionless like the corpse he was, with Isabelle curled up against his side. He replayed the memories from that night, over and over again, torturing himself until he was sure he had snatched back every painful detail from the jaws of oblivion.
The next morning, he felt like refried shit. Angry refried shit with an ax to grind.
He kissed Izzy goodbye before she left and promised to catch up with her later at the Institute. Then he took the C train up to 135th and walked the last few blocks.
The church was small. Maybe a hundred feet between the entrance and the altar. Icons on the walls, dark brown pews lined up neatly in two rows. It looked a lot like the temple Simon used to attend, except for the confessional booths against the wall.
He spotted Raphael as soon as the other man stepped out from an alcove behind the confessionals, carrying a bucket in one hand and a yellow leather cloth in the other. Dressed in a short-sleeve black button-down shirt and black slacks, his dark, curly hair combed back and tamed with gel, Raphael looked exactly the same as he had a year ago.
Simon felt cheated. He should have looked different somehow – older – like the frail human being he was now.
As soon as Raphael disappeared inside one of the booths, Simon used his vampire speed to swoosh into the adjoining cabin. He’d seen enough movies to know how this worked. Only, it wasn’t his transgressions that were on the agenda today.
“Forgive me, father,” he drawled sarcastically, “I think you’ve sinned.”
“I’m sorry.” Raphael sounded genuinely contrite. “I’m not ordained, I can’t—”
The bastard didn’t even recognize him. Simon bristled. “You took something that wasn’t yours—”
A spike of something drove through him at hearing Raphael say his name. Simon ignored it and plowed right ahead, “And then you lied about it.”
“Simon, I don’t understand.”
He could feel his anger boil under his skin like a living thing. “There was some fornication, too. Adultery, I guess you’d call it. I’m a bit shaky on the terms, different dogma and all that.”
“Damnit, Raphael. You took my memories.”
The door to the confessional opened and Raphael stood in front of him. The bastard had the gall to look completely calm and at peace.
“I think we should talk about this outside.”
His voice was still the same. Like warm honey dripping onto Simon’s balls – damnit he never should have let Izzy talk him into experimenting with food kink.
Simon burst out of the confessional, stalked down the main aisle, and practically wrenched the front door from its hinges on the way out.
There was a small park across the street. Simon walked through traffic, ignoring the squealing breaks and the angry curses from the drivers that nearly slammed into him.
“Fuck you, too!”
He stopped in the middle of the bare clearing, closed his eyes, and turned his face toward the sky. It felt like he was burning from the inside out, but the warm sunlight on his face had nothing to do with it.
Simon knew when Raphael joined him. He recognized the scent of the other man’s cologne even before he heard the footsteps on the grass. It was the same fragrance, minus the sharp musk of sex and blood.
Simon gritted his teeth. He placed his hands on his hips and clawed his fingers into the small of his back, desperate to feel anything other than the scorching, boiling fury in his veins. Raphael’s deep, even breathing roared like a gale in his ears. When Raphael finally spoke, the somber tone in his voice made Simon’s skin crawl.
“I didn’t think I’d see you again after the wedding.”
Magnus and Alec’s wedding at the Institute over a year ago. The memory cut through clean and sharp like one of Izzy’s treasured angel blades.
Raphael had found Simon and Izzy on the dancefloor, congratulated them on becoming a couple, announced he had joined the seminary.
Couldn’t have asked for a better man.
“Oh, I should have known.” Simon dropped his chin and shot a glare at Raphael. It was so obvious, looking back at their conversation now. “You practically handed us off to each other. A lot to repent for?” He threw the words back in Raphael’s face. “You sanctimonious dick!”
“I understand that you’re angry.”
Raphael shifted onto his back foot and raised his hands as if he were dealing with some angry member of the congregation complaining about a lack of song books. Always so put together, still so damn composed and in control.
“Under…” Simon guffawed. “You don’t understand shit!”
Raphael sighed. “Why did you come here, Simon?”
“I love Izzy.”
He did. He truly, deeply did, but now he was questioning everything. Every moment of their relationship was in doubt because Simon had no idea if Isabelle really loved him or if she only loved him because she didn’t know what he was capable of. Would she still snuggle up next to him if she knew he had ripped her ex-boyfriend’s throat out, nearly killed him, and then tempted him into an animalistic rutting session complete with memory wipe to cap off the night?
“Then why are you here?”
Good fucking question.
“You took my memories. You didn’t even stop to ask. You just … I almost killed you. I almost killed Izzy. We had sex, and then you took it away. You just …”
“The way I remember it,” Raphael said calmly, “you asked me to make you forget.”
“You shouldn’t have listened!”
Raphael’s eyes went wide and the rushing gale in Simon’s ears stopped in the middle of a breath. It was gratifying. Almost as gratifying as it was to watch the tightly controlled veneer slip off Raphael’s face. His dark brown eyes narrowed and the meticulously shaped brows furrowed deeply over the bridge of his nose.
“What would you have had me do instead?”
Simon’s brain supplied answers in chaotic flashes.
Raphael tearing his throat out – or kissing him like there was no tomorrow – dumping Simon’s body in the East River – or taking him back to the Hotel DuMort – lying to Clary when she asked what had happened to Simon – or telling Clary the truth, together, across a table at the Jade Wolf.
They could have gone so many different ways. Simon might have never become a Daylighter. Never suffered the Mark of Cain. Never had to watch Clary choose Jace over him twice. Never had to be in doubt whether Isabelle really loved him; certain that Raphael really did want him.
Simon didn’t think. He swooped in, grabbed Raphael by the back of the neck with both hands and pressed their mouths together. He could feel the hard fist grabbing the fabric of his shirt, and there was a fraction of a moment where Raphael leaned into him, their tongues intertwined, and it tasted like vindication, but then Raphael pushed him away.
“No, Simon. Stop.”
Raphael stood in front of him pale and shaken. He looked like he’d come face to face with a nasty skeleton in his very old closet. His eyes were wide, gleaming in the sunlight. He sucked in shallow breaths, the smell of fear exuding from his every pore. Simon could see the rush of thick, savory blood, hear its seductive rhythm, as it pumped through the artery on Raphael’s neck.
“Coward.” He spat the word between them. “You’re such a fucking coward.”
Yet, it was Simon who disappeared from the clearing with the swiftness only a vampire could muster.