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Time and Time Again (I Will Always Find You)

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[2019]

 

            Simon Lewis woke up to the sound of his Bluetooth speaker playing one of his band’s own songs, just as it woke him up every day at 8:30. However, today wasn’t an average day; it was Simon’s twentieth birthday. It wasn’t going to be anything too exciting, but he had planned on making it exciting enough to be special.

            He took a fast shower and got dressed speedily since his mother, sister, and Clary were on the way to take him to brunch for his birthday. It seemed like the moment he had his socks and shoes on, his mother called to inform him they were outside.

            He headed out of his apartment building to see them all waiting outside for him. Clary was the first to give him a hug and wish him a happy birthday. His own family had to wait to be second. The blood of the covenant appeared to be thicker than the water of the womb it appeared.

            “It’s so good to see you, Simon,” his mother said.

            “Mom, we just had dinner together like a week ago,” Simon said.

            “I know, but it’s different not having you around. But I am proud of you for being able to be responsible and independent,” she replied.

            “It’s rough sometimes, but I like it too,” Simon said.

            “Ugh,” Rebecca grunted. “Let’s just go, I’m hungry!”

            “Alright, alright!” Elaine said as she gestured for them to get into the car. Rebecca got shotgun and Simon and Clary sat together in the back. There was a large baby blue paper bag with tissue paper sticking out in one of the seats.

            “Here is your present from me,” Clary said as she handed it over. Simon eagerly stuck his hand in and fished around without removing the paper first. He felt something flat and skinny and immediately knew what it was, at least partially. He pulled out the record, bringing a few sheets of paper along with it.

            “Oh my gosh!” Simon exclaimed. “The new Shadowhunters vinyl!? It’s not out for another week! How’d you score it?”

            “I have a hookup at this old vinyl shop. The owner’s name is Maia. She said she was this cool hacker in the 90’s. She’s super badass. She said she’s only legit now, she said she had some friends that were in too deep with the law and died and all or something. Scary stuff. But, she’s friends with my mom.”

            “Well I will have to meet her and tell her thank you,” Simon said. “This is a great start to the day so far.”

            “I’m glad you like it,” Clary said.

            The family arrived at Simon’s favorite brunch spot. It was a warm day with just a nice faint breeze. They had a great spot on the patio seating area. Simon’s mom and his sister each got a mimosa, but Simon and Clary were still too young.

            “One more year and I’ll be able to have those. Legally,” Simon said.

            “Just remember, if you are going to any parties, now or any age, drink responsibly and don’t drive ever,” his mom lectured.

            “Of course, Mom,” Simon said, embarrassed at the lecture.

            “It’s such lovely day for your birthday, Sy,” Clary said. “What do you want to do today?”

            “Well, I want to redeem my birthday coffee at like, 4 different cafes. The mall would be fun. Then I’m thinking a book store and the science museum?”

            “Sounds like a long day,” his mother said. “Are you going to want to come over for dinner?”

            “I don’t know. This is more than enough. I was just going to plan on pizza, wings, and a movie at my apartment,” Simon replied.

            “Your birthday sounds boring,” Rebecca teased.

            “Well I promise to go on a raging bender next year, how’s that sound?” Simon asked.

            “Sounds like a memorable 21st. Or maybe if you blackout enough, not so memorable,” she replied. Clary laughed and his mom rolled her eyes at her two children. Simon ate his chicken and waffles while Clary had a spinach and white cheese crepe.

            After brunch, his mom dropped Simon and Clary back at Simon’s. He hugged his mother and his sister goodbye and they headed back home. Simon and Clary got into Simon’s van and took off for his favorite café first.

            The Hunter’s Moon was a cute little independent coffee shop that made the best iced drinks. It also had a cute werewolf theme, and as a queer individual, Simon was contractually obligated to love werewolves and vampires.

            Simon got a Full White Moon Mocha, which was white chocolate and regular chocolate together. Clary got a Wolfsbane Tea which was just a berry and mint tea.

            “I love this place so much,” Simon said. “I like to do my homework here. It’s a nice place to focus.”

            Simon took a sip of his drink when an attractive, overdressed man entered the café. He looked like he was ready for a job interview or something. He was stylish, suave and he was looking right at Simon.

            The man gave a charming smile and Simon looked away bashfully. The man approached, however and Simon forced himself to look at the attractive model that must be mistaken or delusional to stop at Simon’s table.

            “Excuse me, sir,” the guy said. “May I please ask what kind of drink that is?”

            “It’s uh….” Simon stuttered. “The Full White Moon Mocha.”

            “How’s it taste?” the man asked. Simon wasn’t sure if it was a seductive line or not, but he felt it had the potential and that made Simon’s blood warmer.

            “It’s….really good.” Simon was awkwardly nodding which made the man smile.

            “You seem like you have good taste. I’ll try it,” he said as he headed to the counter. Simon just looked at Clary with large beaming eyes and Clary looked like she was fighting her face muscles to prevent an obnoxious smile.

            “What the hell was that?” Simon whispered.

            “Obviously the universe is giving you a birthday present!” Clary chuckled.

            “Is he looking this way?” Simon asked. Clary looked behind Simon, who had his back to the main counter, to look at the handsome stranger. He was looking at the barista, but turned backwards for a brief moment to smile at Clary.

            “He gave me a warm, friendly smile. The looks he was giving you were much…hungrier,” she explained.

            “Oh my god,” Simon said. “We should go.”

            “Absolutely not,” Clary argued. “We are getting you a birthday boyfriend.”

            “How do we know he likes dudes?” Simon asked.

            “He seemed pretty into you,” Clary added.

            “How do we know he’s not a serial killer? He entered and immediately came to me. He didn’t even look anywhere else or at a menu.”

            “Maybe you are the menu.”

            The guy came back to Simon’s table and did a ‘cheers’ gesture with his drink towards Simon. “It’s really delicious. I appreciate the recommendation. May I ask your name so I may thank you properly?” he asked.

            “I’m Simon. This is Clary,” Simon replied, Clary waved hi silently, enjoying every moment of this encounter.

            “Well, Simon, my name is Raphael. And I have no idea how I’ve been living my life without this wonderful coffee you brought to my attention. I need much more of your recommendations for my own personal growth and development. Why don’t I give you my number and you can recommend me restaurants, movies, places, and we could even potentially go to some of these places together?” Raphael asked charmingly.

            Clary immediately started to chug her tea to control her face as she attempted, yet failed, to nonchalantly look anywhere else. Simon felt embarrassed and put on the spot and uncomfortable by the handsome stranger’s advance, but he certainly wasn’t protesting. “You just met me and you don’t know much about me!”

            “Hence why I would love to know more, but I don’t want to interrupt your day with your Clary. But I think you’ve got great taste. If you accept my number and go on a date with me, I will be even more sure of that fact.”

            Simon smiled at the man. “You seem a little too confident. I don’t know if I trust a guy who can’t be vulnerable or worried.”

            “I have plenty of vulnerabilities and things to be worried about,” Raphael replied.

            “Like what?”

            Raphael made a tsk noise with his tongue and tilted his head as he smiled. “Seems like a first date question to me.” He took a napkin from the table and a pen from out of his pocket and wrote his number. He slid it into Simon’s hand and then wrapped his own around Simon’s and folded Simon’s hand closed over the napkin. “I recommend putting it in your phone as soon as possible. I don’t want to risk not being able to see you again.”

            He let go of Simon and grabbed his drink back from the table. “I hope you enjoy the rest of your day. Clary, sorry I sort of ignored you. I meant no offense. Please put in a good word for me.”

            “Oh I will,” Clary promised.

            “Goodbye, Simon,” Raphael said as he headed to the door. He turned around to look at Simon one more time, winking at him, as the door opened with his back. Raphael disappeared from view and Clary began to excitedly shake Simon’s arm.

            “AHHHHHHHHH!!!” she squeaked, getting a few angry glares. “That was amazing!”

            “What the fuck was that!?” Simon asked, beet red in the face. “That has never happened in my life. Is this even real?”

            “I think it’s real,” Clary said, pinching Simon.

            “Ow!” he exclaimed, jerking his arm back. “That was fake, like porn. That doesn’t just happen. We got hit by a car. And we’re dead now. That is the only acceptable truth.”

            “Just take the win Simon! He obviously thought you were so breathtakingly gorgeous that he needed you in his life.”

            “Bullshit,” Simon countered. “He’s a solid ten, and I’m like a five point five. Six with my hair styles nicely.”

            “You are way too harsh on yourself. You’re a very attractive guy. But yes, he is a solid 10. And he wants you. Put his number in your phone this instant.”

            “Fine,” Simon grumbled as he typed it into his phone. “What should I put as his last name?”

            “Hottie. Dreamy. Café guy. Your last name.

            “Raphael. Guy,” Simon said.

            “Lame. Don’t bore him into ghosting you. You cannot mess this up, Simon!”

            “I’ll do my best not to,” he said with a chuckle. “Let’s get out of here. What’s our next stop?

            The rest of his birthday proceeded as normal without any further mention of Raphael, but Simon couldn’t stop thinking about him all day. They stopped at a music instrument store, the mall, another café in the afternoon for an additional fix of caffeine. He eventually dropped Clary back off at her place and retired to his own apartment for the evening for his self-promised pizza and wings.

            He pulled out his cell phone and sent a text to the cute man he had met. “This is Simon. I know I’m supposed to wait three days, but I just wanted to give you reassurance I didn’t lose your number.”

            Simon took a bite of his wing and continued to watch Star Wars when his notification went off. He fought the impulsive urge to text that second, but he did want to play a little cool. Luckily, the sauce coated to his fingers would require cleaning before he touched his phone again.

            He eventually looked at Raphael’s message that read, “Three days is over a fifth of a fortnight. That’s too much time to waste trying to be too confident and cool. I hear boys don’t always like that. They like a boy who’s anxious. Perhaps anxious to text too fast and too soon.”

            Simon smiled. “Perhaps they do. I’m usually a fast texter too.”

            He sent the message, and soon saw the upcoming bubbles emerging in the chat box. “Life is too short. Not everyone has eternity to wait for the one. Besides, I heard Ariana Grande’s new song. I saw it, I liked it. Or something like that. I can’t say I usually listen to pop. But it has me inspired.”

            “Just as long as you aren’t inspired by Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored.”

            Simon was getting too distracted from his movie, but he didn’t mind. He had seen it before a hundred times. Raphael was new.

            “Naw, I’m a one man at a time kind of guy.”

            “Do you often give guys your number within moments after seeing them for the first time?” Simon asked.

            “Just about once or twice. But that was a very long time ago,” Raphael stated.

 

[1997]

 

            Raphael got out of bed that morning eager as can be. He knew he was going to be sleep deprived because he was so restless falling asleep the night before. He had waited 21 years for today, just as he had waited every 21 years for thousands of years.

            Today was Simon’s 20th birthday. Every 21 years, he meets Simon on his 20h birthday. It has never failed, never faltered. Wherever Raphael goes today, he will run into Simon, and Simon will fall for him and be intrigued.

            Raphael put on a simple red T-Shirt and a jean jacket and paired it with some cargo pants and a studded belt. His day of hunting was due to begin.

            Raphael got some breakfast at a diner. He looked around the room as he sat from the main counter. No sign of him. Raphael contemplated between a quick breakfast so he could search new places or a long one to hope he may appear.

            He ordered a short stack of pancakes and some eggs with sausage. Whatever happened, happened. He would meet Simon one way or another today.

            As he ate, he thought about his year with Simon in 1975. The Vietnam war ended, which was exciting. They saw Jaws together, and Raphael got to hold Simon because he was “scared” but he thought Simon was just faking for a chance to cuddle. It was a decent year for them both. Not the most exciting, but he loved every year with Simon.

            Raphael paid the check and there was still no sign of him, so Raphael continued on his quest to find Simon. Every Simon was a little different, but they were all fundamentally similar. He was always geeky or nerdy, he was always horny, empathetic, a true friend. He had a great sense of humor, and he was always the most beautiful boy Raphael had ever seen in his thousands of years of life.

            He stopped by an art museum; a fun thing to do for one’s birthday. He wasn’t looking at any of the paintings or sculptures, at least not really. He was trying to scan the crowd for Simon, but not look weird doing it.

            His second attempt of the day wasn’t successful. It was already noon, and about a third of the day had been wasted. Worst case scenario, Simon could be at a gay club tonight now that those were popular. That’s where he met Simon last time though, and Simon was drunk out of his mind. It’s hard being suave and charming when the love of your life is practically incoherent. He hoped the universe would let him have a change of pace.

            He was walking past his favorite internet cade when he finally spotted a cute brunette through the glass. The glare and his own reflection made it hard for him to verify, though. Raphael entered the café for a better view.

            Sure enough, Simon was here, sitting at what was coincidentally Raphael’s favorite spot. He observed a little closer and noticed a small window on the corner of the display. It was the window for hacker coding. Raphael chuckled. This year’s Simon was a hacker. Luckily for Raphael, hobbies get boring, and he has had plenty of years to adapt and find new things. Hacking was something they could share in common.

            Raphael got an hour and a half’s worth of tokens for the systems and he slowly approached. He looked at the people next to him: there was a guy with long black hair that was definitely not Raphael’s type, and there was a black girl with a curly afro. They might be a part of his hacker crew.

            Raphael slowly approached and Simon must’ve sensed him because the window was minimized, but he didn’t turn around.

            “Hey there,” Raphael addressed.

            Simon turned around nonchalantly. He must be wondering if he was caught, but he was playing it safe. “Hi?” he asked, clearly indicating he was bothered.

            “I just wanted to let you know that you’re in my favorite spot today,” Raphael said. “But I don’t mean it in a passive-aggressive way. It’s a lucky spot, I hope you have a lucky day.”

            “Oh really?” he asked condescendingly. “It doesn’t feel very lucky right now. Some jackass won’t stop bothering me.”

            His two buddies smirked, and honestly, so did Raphael. Simon has never been this bitter or aggressive. It was sort of fun. And Raphael had a plan in mind for him.

            “Alright then,” Raphael said. “You have a good rest of your day.” Raphael headed to one of the other computers and heard Simon and his other friends laughing. Raphael put the tokens into the computer to get it ready and started.

            As soon as he was logged on, he pulled up the text box and got to work. Raphael had memorized all of the important computer information of the terminal Simon was using. It wouldn’t take long to see what Simon had been up to. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be much longer for Simon to notice. Raphael got a few transaction details when he noticed Simon had glanced his way with a piercing expression. It wasn’t angry, it wasn’t amusement. It was merely acknowledgement. Raphael winked in return.

            Raphael was potentially going to be three against one if Simon was a narc. Did Raphael want to start securing his own defenses, or work more on offense on Simon’s computer?

            It appeared Simon began to try to shut Raphael out, so Raph continued to probe deeper and counter. He wasn’t hearing Simon alert the others, but his vision was blocked and couldn’t see if there was any non-verbal code.

            Raphael was able to pull Simon’s instant messaging and quickly skimmed it. Nothing recent looked like an alert to the other two. Simon was pursuing this one on one, like a game of chess.

            Raphael’s detour delayed him though, and it appeared he was shut out. An override attempt would take a moment, but he needed to check if Simon got to his yet. There wouldn’t be much point though, Raphael hasn’t done anything on this computer yet. He’d only get other patron’s information, which was the best point of these low security cafes.

            Raphael sent Simon a message. “Should I reverse the transactions from the money you stole?”

            “Are you sure you want to do that?”

            “Maybe. If it gets you bothered enough.”

            “I’ll give you 25% if you let bygones be bygones.”

            “I want 50% and a date.”

            Simon didn’t respond as fast as he did with the past two messages. He peeked at Simon, who was looking dumbfounded at the computer.

            “You look confused,” Raphael said.

            “I am confused.”

            “You need a good looking guy who can help you explore that ;)”

            “Not that part. The date part.”

            “Wow. I know us computer nerds have a bad rep for never getting any, but I figured you’d at least be eager to try.”

            “Why?”

            “You’re cute, and we have something in common.”

            “Was this like foreplay or something to you?” Simon asked.

            “Honey, this was the sex.”

            He heard a laugh coming from Simon’s monitor.

            “Why didn’t you out me to your friends?” Raphael asked.

            “You were outnumbered. It would have been a meaningless victory, had I succeeded in something.”

            “Well, I think now we’re even given your rude behavior. What’s your name?”

            “You first.”

            “Nuh-uh. I have the blackmail. You want to keep your money? You tell me,” Raphael countered.

            “Fine. I’m Eric Sanders,” Simon lied. Raphael chuckled.

            “Nice try, Simon. One attempt remaining.”

            “What the f-” Simon had said out loud. Technically Raphael was cheating. He didn’t obtain that from a hack. And now Simon was going to tear through the computer wondering where Raphael would have possibly gotten that. It made Raphael grin wide.

            Simon headed over to Raphael’s computer where he watched his love approach. He kept a shit eating grin on his face as Simon came over to surrender.

            “Where’d you get that?” Simon asked.

            “That’s a long last name,” Raphael teased. Simon exhaled from the anxiousness and stress.

            “I’m Simon Locke,” he said quietly. It seemed legit enough. The last name always changed, but it always began with an L.

            “I’d like to see some identification, Mr. Locke,” Raphael said, trying to be seductive with his power.

            “Why?” Simon contested.

            “Because I’d like to be able to find you again in case you’d ever like a cock up your ass instead of the stick that’s currently lodged in there.”

            Simon chuckled and bowed his head bashfully. Without fail, every version of Simon was very horny and always intrigued and attracted to Raphael. He fished into his pocket to pull out his wallet. He opened it and have Raphael the ID. Raphael took a moment to inspect it; it was real.

            “Nice to meet you, Mr. Locke,” Raphael said.

            “I showed you mine, show me yours,” Simon replied. Raphael complied and provided his own.

            “Raphael Santiago,” Simon said. “Seems legit.”

            “How can I get a hold of you?” Raphael asked. “I assume AIM and email are out of the question.”

            “You’ll have to use phone for now,” Simon said. “Give me a minute.” He headed over to the front counter and got a small piece of paper and pen and scribbled a number down. He gave it to Raphael.

            “If this is a fake number I’m reversing those transactions,” Raphael threatened.

            “It’s not a fake number,” Simon assured. “Plus you’ve got my address. I can’t hide.”

            “Okay,” Raphael conceded. “Thank you. I look forward to our date.”

            “I look forward to that other thing you promised,” Simon said with a wink.

 

[2019]

 

            Raphael looked through Simon Lewis’s Facebook and Instagram. Now that he had a last name, it was a lot easier. He already tried to take a peek at Simon’s email, but those are nothing but spam advertisements these days. But he did learn some of his favorite stores and interests.

            His phone began to ring. The caller ID said Maia. He answered the phone and kept her on speaker.

            “Hey Maia,” Raphael said.

            “So did it work? Did you meet him today?” she asked

            “Yes I did. In a coffee shop,” Raphael replied.

            “Wow. Internet café and then a regular café. Does he…look the same?” she asked.

            “Exactly the same each and every time.”

            “I honestly can’t believe it,” she said.

            “You can meet him sometime.”

            “I don’t know if I can handle that,” she replied.

            “Wouldn’t you want to see Kyle’s face one more time? If you had the chance?”

            “Maybe,” she said. “What’s he like?”

            “Very bashful. Very shy. He has a friend. A redhead named Clary.”

            “Oh my gosh! I know Clary! I gave that boy a Shadowhunters vinyl that I’m not supposed to sell yet!” she exclaimed.

            “What a small world,” Raphael said.

            “Are you hacking him right now?” Maia asked.

            “Of course. Gotta keep the tradition going,” Raphael said.

            “Well I’ll let you go, Raphael. I hope this year’s a good year for you both,” she said.

            “I do too, Maia. Thank you,” he replied. “Good night.”

            She disconnected from the phone and Raphael continued to scroll through Simon’s feed. The first day of his year with Simon was always bittersweet. He always counted down to the day, but he felt so incredibly stretched for time, and the realities of his curse always set in.

            In 364 days, Simon was going to die. Raphael would likely witness it just as he has hundreds of times. It was a looming gray cloud thought lingering over him, overshadowing every silver lining. It never got any easier.

            “I’m going to bed Raphael. Talk to you more tomorrow,” Simon texted.

            “Sweet dreams, handsome,” Raphael replied. He set his phone down and looked at the photos of Simon. He was so dashing in most of them. Even the ones where he was intentionally goofing off and making funny faces still had his charm.

            He was very excited to get to know this Simon. He looked up from his computer screen and saw a dark figure on his balcony, on the other side of the glass. Raphael didn’t react aside from flipping the man his middle finger and looking back at Facebook. When Raphael glanced again, the man had disappeared, just as he always did.