Rafael let out a loud sigh from where he was sat at the table, his head resting tiredly on his hand as he idly flicked through the book in front of him. Max glanced up at his brother for the fifth time in the last twenty minutes, biting the inside of his cheek for a moment before he returned his attention back to his book.
It had been a quiet day at the Institute, which was a rarity considering they lived in a city like New York, so Max had suggested they catch up on some quiet reading in the library to pass the time until their parents could escort them home. Normally, they would make their own way home, but recently there had been an increase in tensions between the Downworld and the Shadowhunters which had put their parents on edge.
Rafael let out another sigh and absentmindedly started drumming his fingers against the wood of the table. Max felt his shoulders tense in annoyance as he shot a look over the top of his book. “Rafael, can you stop that, please? It’s distracting.”
Rafael blinked and looked up at Max curiously. “Huh? Stop what, hermano?”
“Stop drumming your fingers,” Max replied, nodding his head towards his brother’s hand.
“Oh, sorry, Max.” Rafael folded his fingers underneath the palm of his hand. Max nodded his head and returned his attention back to his book. He tried to find the paragraph that he was reading.
Rafael looked up at his little brother and held back a sigh. He was just so bored. Although he liked reading, it wasn’t something that he enjoyed all the time. He would rather listen to some music, or practice with his weapons in the training room.
Shifting in his seat in a bid to ease the numbness making its way up his legs, Rafael suddenly felt the folded piece of paper in his trouser pocket lightly scratch against the skin of his waist. Rafael suddenly tensed, glancing at Max before he slipped it out and unfolded it in his lap.
Staring at the paper, Rafael felt a jumble of conflicting feelings as he read the words at the top of the page, printed in bold, capital letters:
APPLICATION FOR TRANSFERRAL TO A FOREIGN INSTITUTE
Name: Rafael Santiago Lightwood-Bane
Rafael swallowed nervously as he remembered when his Uncle Jace had led him into his office to find his father, Alec, standing next to his parabatai’s desk with his arms crossed in front of his broad chest. He remembered wondering at the time whether he was going to be scolded for something he had done wrong.
“Have a seat, Rafe,” Alec said seriously as Jace sat down in his chair and fixed Rafael with a stare. Rafael held his breath as he sat down, glancing between his father and his uncle in apprehension.
“Am I in trouble?” Rafael asked quietly. Better to get the question out of the way, he thought.
“It depends on your next answer really, Rafael,” Jace replied with a raised eyebrow. “Is there something you wish to tell us that you think might get you in trouble?”
Rafael flushed and sat up straighter in his seat. “Look, the trebuchet was already broken before Evie, Max and I even got there. So whatever Bernard has been saying—"
Jace held up his hands in a calming gesture. “We already know the trebuchet is broken. It has been for years…” Jace snorted as he shared a smirk with Alec. Rafael watched with surprise as a mischievous look appeared in his father’s eyes. Jace opened a drawer in his desk and took out a piece of paper, sliding it across the desk towards Rafael.
Rafael stared at the paper in confusion before Alec stepped forward and reached out his hand, grasping Rafael’s shoulder gently. “Rafe, it’s okay. I know you’ve been wondering about Buenos Aires.”
Rafael stared at his father in shock. “How did you know? I haven’t even told Max or Papa.”
Alec gave him a look and smiled. “You’re my son, Rafael. I can tell when something is bothering you.”
Jace gestured to the piece of paper on his desk. “This is an application for you to observe how another Institute is run in a different country. We could arrange for you to visit Buenos Aires for a year if you want to go.”
Rafael looked up at his father, feeling a hint of worry in his chest. “What about Max? What about you and Papa? I can’t just go to another country for a whole year.”
Alec frowned before he took a seat next to his son. “I’ve spoken to your papa, and he’s happy for you to go on the condition that you keep in contact. And I’m sure your brother will understand once you tell him.”
“You don’t have to decide anything now. The deadline for the application is in a month. Just think on it.” Alec patted Rafael’s shoulder as he picked up the form on the desk and gave it to his son. Rafael stared at it nervously, biting his lip in thought before folding it up and sliding it into his pocket.
Holding the form in his hand now, Rafael let out a quiet breath. He has been carrying the form around in his pocket for three weeks now, trying to decide whether he was brave enough to go back to Buenos Aires on his own.
Rafael jumped in surprise, hastily stuffing the form back in his pocket as Evie appeared at his side, hopping onto the table with a grin on her face. Rafael liked Evie’s smile. It was a kind of smile that lit up her face and made Rafael’s chest squirm pleasantly like he was possessed with butterflies.
Evie was almost buzzing with excitement, swinging her legs idly like a child would when sat on a high up surface. “You’ll never guess what I’ve just heard.”
“Don’t tell me. You’ve finally figured out that Hobbits aren’t real,” Max suggested as he closed his book and made his way over to them. Evie gave Max a withering look.
“Ha, ha, you’re so funny, Max. My sides are splitting,” she replied with a roll of her eyes. Rafael leaned back in his chair as Max sat down in the chair next to him. “No. Bernard has been bragging that he’s found his parabatai.”
Rafael let out a snort. “Bernard? Who would be his parabatai?”
Evie pursed her lips. “Alright, I know he can be a bit of an ass at times—"
“You mean all the time,” Max interrupted, raising his eyebrow at her.
“Maybe, but don’t you think that’s wonderful? It’s not every day that someone finds their parabatai,” Evie continued as a small smile appeared on her face. “I’d love to have a parabatai. At least you know then that someone has your back, right?”
“I suppose it would be nice, yeah,” Rafael said thoughtfully. He had often thought of looking for a parabatai, but whenever he thought about who he would ask his mind would go blank.
Evie brushed a lock of her brown hair behind her ear and looked at them both curiously. “If you guys could pick someone as your parabatai, who would you choose?”
Max shrugged. “Well, I’m a warlock so there’s no point asking me.”
“I know, but if you were a Shadowhunter, who would you choose?” Evie turned to Max with an interested look on her face. Rafael followed her gaze to his little brother curiously.
A crease appeared on Max’s brow as he looked down at his hands thoughtfully. “I…I don’t know who I would choose. I’ve never really thought about it. What about you, Evie?”
Evie grinned at them both and sat up straighter. “I would pick one of you two, of course. You guys are my only friends.”
Rafael felt his eyebrows rise in surprise. “Really? What about that girl you sit next to in class? Rosie or Rosa…?”
“You mean Rosalyn? No, she’s okay I guess, but we mostly just talk about training.” Evie gave a half shrug. “I think she has an obsession with your Aunt Isabelle by the way.”
Rafael turned around in his seat. Standing in a tight red dress and a pair of matching seven-inch heels was his Aunt Isabelle. She smiled brightly at them all as she fiddled with the clasp of her ruby necklace. Her long dark hair fell in thick, lustrous waves down her back. Rafael faintly heard Evie whistle with approval at his aunt’s appearance.
“Wow, Mrs L, you look incredible.” Evie exclaimed as Isabelle entered the room, her heels click-clacking on the wooden floorboards. Her signature whip was clasped as a snakelike bracelet around her wrist and was glinting brightly in the fading orange light coming in from the windows.
Isabelle smoothed out her dress and picked at some invisible lint on the hem. “Thank you. It’s date night tonight, so my husband and I are going to the movies.”
Evie frowned in confusion. “Aren’t you a bit overdressed for the movies?”
Isabelle raised an eyebrow at her and laughed. “Oh sweetheart, this dress isn’t just for the movies if you know what I mean.”
Rafael cleared his throat in embarrassment whilst Max clapped his hands over his ears, a bright violet flush creeping up his cheeks. “Tía Izzy, we didn’t need to know that.”
Isabelle rolled her eyes and chuckled quietly. “There’s no need to be embarrassed, boys.”
“But you’re our aunt, it’s weird.” Max grumbled as he squirmed uncomfortably in his seat.
Isabelle raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow at Max. “Don’t go pulling the family card on me, Max. I know for a fact that your parents–”
“By the Angel, stop talking!”
Rafael watched his aunt purse her lips and huff in annoyance, crossing her arms in front of her. “Speaking of your parents, your dad asked me to escort you home, but seeing as I’m busy getting ready for my date, I’ve arranged a portal for you.” She turned to Evie with a smile. “He also said that you’re invited for dinner as well by the way.”
“Cool! I’ll just go text my mother to let her know where I’ll be.” Evie hopped off the table and darted out of the room excitedly, her head bent as she hastily pulled out her phone from the back pocket of her jeans. Rafael couldn’t help but notice a lock of her hair fall into her eyes as she went.
He didn’t realise how long he had been staring after Evie until Max cleared his throat. Rafael hastily turned around, his face warm with embarrassment as he caught his Aunt Isabelle smirking and sharing a knowing look with Max.
“What?” Rafael demanded stiffly, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.
“Nothing,” Isabelle replied innocently with a smile. “Come on now, let’s get you boys home.”
As soon as Rafael opened the door to their apartment, he immediately wished he had left it closed for a few minutes longer.
Pacing irritably back and forth was their papa Magnus, who was currently dressed in his most vibrantly colourful outfit to date. Magnus wore a bright neon green silk shirt, over a lemon yellow mesh vest, and a pair of ripped, white skinny jeans. Wrapped around his slim waist was a silver studded belt with a sparkling “M” buckle which glinted brightly to match the glitter underneath his gold-green cats’ eyes. Although Rafael and Max knew that their papa had a penchant for glitter and bright colours, it still came as a bit of a shock at times whenever they came home and he was still with a client.
“I don’t care if the laws are different in Scotland. No one is permitted to have one of those damn creatures here in New York. They’re on the banned list for a reason, Percival.”
“But she’s only a wee’un, Magnus. She’s not even grown her fangs yet, see!” replied Percival, a tall barrel-chested man with thick bright red hair and a strong Scottish accent, holding up a glistening green snake in his hands.
Magnus narrowed his eyes in disgust at the snake and took a step back as the snake hissed in his face. “Get that thing out of my face right now if you know what’s good for you.” Magnus glowered darkly at Percival. Percival lowered the snake and gave Magnus a look as if he had just been told that his puppy had died.
Rafael heard Max let out a gasp as he stepped forward with a wide smile, reaching up to stroke the snake’s head with the back of his fingers. “Cool Basilisk! Where did you get him?”
Magnus blinked at Max in surprise as the two men stared at their new guests. Whilst Evie slowly shut the door behind them, Rafael shook his hand in a little wave. “Hola, Papa.”
“Hey, Rafe.” Magnus waved back before he stared at Max in alarm as the snake began to weave around his wrists. “Max, be careful with that thing.”
“I’m okay, Papa. He’s being really gentle.” Max replied calmly as he peered closely at the snake.
“That one’s a girl actually. Her name is Morag.” Percival beamed proudly.
Max shook his head. “No, he’s definitely a boy. Look at his markings. I read about them in one of Papa’s bestiaries last year. I have a good memory.”
Percival frowned. Magnus clapped his hands together suddenly as he turned to his guest. “Well, that settles it then. If you can’t even tell the difference between genders, then there is definitely no reason for you to be carrying this creature around in your pocket. It needs to get out of New York tonight.”
“Very well,” grumbled Percival as he took the snake back and deposited the creature in one of his coat pockets.
Magnus waved his hands and a portal appeared in the middle of the living room. Percival trudged towards it and stepped through it with barely a wave goodbye as it collapsed behind him with a pop. Magnus let out a long sigh, his long fingers pinching the bridge of his nose. “Sorry about that, boys. Percival is one of the difficult ones.”
“We get it, Papa,” Rafael said as he walked over and pulled Magnus into a warm hug. Magnus smiled fondly as he hugged his son back before they each broke away. “Dad’s running late at the Institute by the way. He says he should be home by eight though.”
“Your father is never on time for dinner, Rafael. I’m used to it by now.” Magnus stroked his son’s hair and kissed the top of his head lovingly. He took a step back a moment later with a smile. “Boys, you two can set the table – Max, make sure you wash your hands first though. I’ll serve up the food for when your father gets home.”
“Is there anything I can do to help, Mr Bane?” Evie asked lightly as she stood awkwardly by the door. Magnus looked up with a smile.
“Hello, Pumpkin, come here.” Magnus waved her over and lightly kissed both of her cheeks. “You can help me with buttering some bread in the kitchen.”
Rafael watched as Magnus and Evie headed into the kitchen, both of them talking animatedly as Evie tied back her hair into a messy bun, whilst he carefully set the table with his brother.
“Are you okay, Rafe? You’ve been quiet all day,” Max murmured as he brushed away one of Chairman Meow’s stray hairs from the tablecloth.
“Of course, hermano. Why wouldn’t I be?” Rafael murmured back, tearing his eyes away from the conversation in the kitchen.
“I don’t know. It’s just odd that you haven’t bothered to try and annoy me all day. It makes me wonder if you’re planning something.” Max snapped his fingers and a stack of plates appeared on the table alongside a set of cutlery.
Rafael felt his stomach tense with anxious knots as he thought about the transferral form in his pocket. He swallowed thickly. “I’ve just…I’ve just had a lot on my mind lately.”
Max stopped and looked up at Rafael with concern. “You can tell me if there’s something bothering you. Or if there is some big secret you think you can’t tell our parents.”
“I know, hermano,” Rafael nodded. He took a deep breath and stared at Max, his mouth forming a tight line. “There is something I need to tell you, but I’m just figuring out how to say it right.”
A crease appeared on Max’s brow for a moment before he suddenly gasped. “Oh! This is about Evie, isn’t it? Is it something to do with that parabatai conversation earlier?”
Rafael felt his eyes go wide and held his hands up in a calming gesture. “Hold up Max, this isn’t about–”
Max continued to talk excitedly, his fingers buzzing with light blue magic. “Wait… Are you going to ask her to be your parabatai?”
“Max, this isn’t about Evie!” He exclaimed a little louder than he would have liked. He cautiously glanced towards the kitchen where his papa and Evie were still talking. They were smiling widely as Magnus struggled to uncork a stubborn wine bottle. It appeared that they hadn’t heard anything. He let out a small breath and turned back to Max who stared at him with a frown. “I just – I…I don’t want to talk about it right now, Max.”
He sighed in frustration as he picked up the stack of plates at the end of the table, placing one in front of each seat whilst Max followed him round with the cutlery. Max placed his hand on the side of Rafael’s arm gently. “Rafe, what’s going on?”
Before Rafael could come up with an answer, the front door slammed open as Alec stumbled in clutching his side and limping. A small trickle of blood dripped from a scratch on the side of his head, the skin surrounding the wound was dark and swollen. His gear was torn to shreds and covered in blood.
“Dad!” Max exclaimed in alarm as Alec closed the door and slumped against it tiredly with a groan. Rafael sprinted to Alec and helped him stand, letting his dad lean heavily against him. Max appeared on Alec’s other side, sharing the weight between both of them, and worriedly looked up at Alec. “Dad, are you okay? What happened?”
Alec opened his mouth to speak but then suddenly gasped in pain, his left leg giving out beneath him. Rafael let out a breath as he struggled to keep his father upright. “Papa! Papa, Dad’s hurt!” Rafael called out and glanced towards the kitchen.
Magnus and Evie hurried into the room at the sound of the commotion. Upon seeing his husband in such a state, Magnus’ mouth formed a grim expression. “Put him on the couch. Quickly, boys.”
Rafael nodded as he and his brother staggered into the living room and gently deposited Alec on the couch, wincing when he let out a groan of pain and clutched his side. Magnus knelt down beside him with a frown, his cats’ eyes bright with worry. “What happened, Alexander?”
“I’m okay, Mags. It’s just a few scratches.” Alec gasped as he tried to sit up.
“These seem pretty deep, Dad,” Max said worriedly as he examined the bleeding wound on Alec’s side. “Was it a demon?”
Alec shook his head and turned to Magnus. “It was a werewolf.”
Magnus and Alec shared a grim look between them which left Rafael suspicious. “A werewolf?” he demanded as he checked over Alec’s leg in concern. “Was it one from Maia’s pack?”
“No, I didn’t recognise him. He must have been a lone werewolf.” Alec let out another groan, this one more painful than before. He patted the pockets of his gear with a frown. “Where’s my stele? Magnus, I can’t find it.”
“Use mine, Mr Lightwood.” Evie held out her stele from where she stood at the side of the sofa. “Do you need a first aid kit? I could get some water to clean your wounds or something.”
Alec took it with a grateful smile, his hand trembling unsteadily. Rafael leapt up onto the sofa taking the stele from him. Rafael looked up at Evie. “Water would be great. And some towels. There should be some in the bathroom.”
Evie nodded and sprinted out of the room with a determined look on her face. Rafael turned back to his task, taking a deep breath to calm his nerves as he drew an iratze on Alec’s shoulder. Max growled in frustration as he shook out his hands, snapping his fingers repeatedly. Tiny wisps of magic fizzled and died away on his blood soaked fingertips. He looked up at Magnus. “Papa, I need your help with this wound. My magic isn’t working properly.”
“It’s okay. Just try to calm down and it will work.” Magnus instructed as he shuffled around, waving his hands over Alec’s side and sending sparkling blue flames of magic all over the injury.
Alec sighed in relief and reached out to touch the side of Max’s head, stroking his unruly, dark blue hair gently. “It’s okay, Max. I’m going to be alright.” he said comfortingly.
Before Max could reply, Evie returned with a bowl of water and a stack of towels. She placed them on the couch beside Rafael and immediately started cleaning the wound on Alec’s head. Rafael glanced at her face and saw her biting her bottom lip in concentration. He suddenly felt a wave of relief and gratitude hit his chest as he watched her, wishing that he could just hug her tightly. He blinked and shook his head, checking over his dad for any more injuries. “Why would a werewolf attack you? Don’t they know about the Accords?”
Alec lifted one of his shoulders in a half shrug. “I don’t know. He could have been recently turned or he might just not care. I’ll send Maia a fire message when I’m healed to let her know to keep an eye out for him.”
“You mean he got away?” Evie demanded. “He just attacked you and ran away? Why would he do that?”
“I don’t think he was in the right frame of mind.” Rafael watched as Alec shared another look with Magnus. He glanced between them with suspicion.
“You’re lying.” he said loudly, causing everyone in the room to look at him in surprise.
Magnus turned to Rafael and gave him a stern look. “Now is not the time, Rafe.”
“What’s going on? What aren’t you telling us?” he demanded hotly. Max and Evie turned to look at his parents. Rafael continued, “Is something happening in the Downworld that you’re not telling us? Are we in danger?”
“You don’t need to concern yourself with this. We’re handling it.” Magnus gestured between himself and Alec, who nodded in agreement.
“But what if something happens–”
“We’re handling it.” Magnus interrupted with a note of finality.
Rafael fell silent, clenching his fists in frustration. He was almost eighteen years old, he was almost an adult, but it still felt like his parents treated him like a child. Deep down, he knew they were just trying to protect him as well as Max, and Rafael appreciated it, he honestly did. Even though he had had a good upbringing since he was adopted, there were still times when he was would wake up during the night from nightmares of his time on the streets in Buenos Aires.
It wasn’t long before Alec’s wounds healed to the point where only bruises and faint scars remained behind. Magnus sighed tiredly as he knelt on the floor before he leaned up and pressed a kiss to Alec’s forehead. Max, Rafael and Evie tidied up around them. “Right,” Magnus announced in a cheerful tone. “Let’s have something to eat before the food goes cold.”
“You mean you actually cooked this time? No takeout?” Alec chuckled quietly as he stood up from the couch, swaying only slightly before he straightened up and walked over to the dining table and sat down.
“Of course I cooked. I’m not completely incompetent when it comes to the kitchen.” Magnus rolled his eyes as he waved his hand. A large steaming pot appeared on the table and filled the room with smells of Italian food. Rafael, Max and Evie made a beeline for the table, their stomachs rumbling loudly as they took their seats. Magnus stood at the head of the table, Alec sat to his left and Rafael to his right, and began dishing out meals with a proud smile on his face. “I hope you’re all hungry. I think I made too much.”
“This looks lovely, Mr Bane,” Evie said as she took her seat next to Rafael, opposite Max who was furtively glancing at Alec as if checking that he was still okay.
“Thank you, Evie. And for the last time, call me Magnus.” He held out his hand and gestured for her plate.
As Evie picked up her plate and passed it to Magnus, her arm lightly brushed against Rafael’s shoulder. He held his breath as he felt his body tense up, his heart beating loudly in his chest. He could smell the scent of Evie’s shampoo – wild roses and vanilla – which made his head swim. He had never smelt her hair before, but he thought that it was quite a pleasant scent.
“Rafe? Are you going to pass me your plate or not?” he heard his papa ask him with a raised eyebrow. Rafael flushed as he picked up his plate and passed it to his papa. He caught Max smirking at him as he looked at Evie and then back to him. Rafael glared at him quietly and took back his plate.
“So, how was your day, boys?” Magnus asked as he sat down and picked up his knife and fork. Alec poured a glass of wine for Magnus and himself before tucking hungrily into his food.
Max shrugged. “It was okay. Evie has been going on and on about Bernard all the way home.” Rafael smiled as he caught Evie rolling her eyes whilst Max smirked at her.
“Bernard? Isn’t he the kid you don’t get on with?” Alec asked with a raised eyebrow, his fork full of pasta paused in midair.
Rafael nodded, lifting his fork to his mouth and taking a bite of pasta. “Yeah, that’s him. He’s found his parabatai apparently.”
Magnus raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Well, that’s…good for him, I suppose.”
“It’s more than good.” Evie sat up in her seat, looking up at everyone around the table. “When someone finds their parabatai, it’s almost like a miracle.”
Alec nodded quietly with a wistful smile. “That is true. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without Jace.”
Evie turned to Alec with a questioning look on her face. “Mr Lightwood – I mean, Alec,” She added sheepishly when Alec gave her a look. It wasn’t the first time he and Magnus had had to tell her to drop the formalities. “How did you know that Jace would be your parabatai?”
“Well, I asked him and he said yes, Evie.” Alec chuckled as he sipped his wine.
Rafael snorted as he spotted Evie’s face growing pink with embarrassment. Max grinned as he shovelled another forkful of pasta into his mouth whilst Magnus watched the conversation with a fond smile, his bright gold-green cats eyes filled with amusement.
“I meant, like, why did you pick Jace? Why not ask your sister?” she asked curiously, taking a sip of water from her glass. Rafael suspected that she was taking a moment to hide behind her glass until her embarrassment was forgotten.
A quiet hush befell the table as a thoughtful look appeared on Alec’s face. Rafael and Max watched their dad, curious themselves as to how Alec and Jace had become parabatai. Ever since they were adopted, they had always known two facts about their Dad: he was fiercely protective and loving towards his family and their papa, and that he and their uncle Jace were nearly inseparable. Rafael faintly remembered an old mundane saying that they were like ‘two sides of the same coin’. Wherever their dad went, their uncle would follow and vice versa.
Alec sat up and shared a look with Magnus, who nodded and took a sip of his wine. Alec smiled warmly, taking Magnus’ hand in his own and giving it a squeeze. Magnus smiled back.
“Well, there were many reasons why I asked Jace to be my parabatai,” Alec said in a calm, almost diplomatic tone. “One, Isabelle didn’t want a parabatai, which I was fine with. We decided that we didn’t need to be parabatai to protect each other with our lives. She’s my little sister. It was my duty to protect her as her big brother anyway. It still is, to tell the truth.”
“Just like I would protect Rafael and he would protect me if we were in danger,” Max said, looking up at Alec with a crease on his brow.
Alec nodded. “Exactly, just like your papa and I would protect you both because we’re your parents.” He raised his hand and gently ruffled Max’s hair with a smirk. Max rolled his eyes but didn’t move to smooth out his hair. Alec continued, “Jace was different. He had suddenly just appeared in our lives all alone without anyone to look out for him, and I thought to myself, I can protect him. He needs me, you know?”
Magnus smiled with a shake of his head. “Ever the protector, my Alexander is.”
“I can’t help it. It’s part of who I am.” Alec shrugged as he took another bite of his food. “And I may have had a little crush on him already at the time.”
Rafael choked on his drink, coughing and spluttering as he stared at his dad in surprise. “Y-you had a crush on Uncle Jace?”
Max, Rafael and Evie gaped at Alec in shock as a bright red flush crept up his neck. “I was young and there weren’t exactly any other guys around my age whilst I was growing up.” he mumbled, flippantly waving his hand. Rafael heard a quiet chuckle coming from his papa, his mouth hiding conspicuously behind his hand as he watched Alec with adoring eyes. “But anyway, I chose Jace because he is my best friend. He is my brother even if we aren’t related by blood. We were raised together.”
“But you could basically choose anyone?” Max said with a deep frown on his face.
Alec shook his head. “No, Max, you don’t just pick anyone. Once bonded, your parabatai becomes part of you. You share a part of each other’s soul in a sense. You’re stronger, you’re faster, you move together as if you were the same warrior. If you just picked anyone, you could end up resenting them. The bond would turn toxic. It’s the same if you fall in love with each other.”
Rafael frowned. “But you just said you had a crush on Uncle Jace. Why didn’t it damage your bond?”
“Jace only ever saw me as his brother. My feelings weren’t reciprocated in the way I wanted them to be at the time, which worked out just fine in the end. Jace has Clary, and I have your papa. Everyone’s happy.” Alec finished and turned to Magnus, leaning across and kissing his lips sweetly.
Rafael glanced at Evie out of the corner of his eye and found her staring at his parents with a smile on her face. It wasn’t the first time that he had seen her watching his parents whenever they were together. It was odd at first. To Rafael, seeing his parents kiss was nothing strange. But he guessed that for someone who didn’t have two parents who were as open in their affections as his own, it would be quite shocking.
Magnus returned his gaze to Evie with a raised eyebrow. “Why are you so curious about Parabatai, Pumpkin? Do you have someone in mind?”
Evie flushed as she took a sip of her water. “Possibly, I haven’t asked them yet. I’m not sure how they would react.”
Rafael stared at her with wide eyes, suddenly feeling his chest tighten uncomfortably. “Who? Do we know them?”
“Yeah, I thought we were your only friends.” Max added with a raised eyebrow.
Evie rolled her eyes. “You guys aren’t the only people I talk to, you know.” A loud buzzing noise sounded in the room and Evie jumped in surprise, patting the pockets of her jeans for her phone. She slipped it out of her pocket and stared at it with a frown. “Sorry, um, is there somewhere I can take this? It’s my aunt.”
“Of course, go ahead.” Magnus gestured to the hallway that led towards the bedrooms.
Evie pushed back her chair and stood up, only to let out a sudden scream. Rafael leapt up from his chair, sending it crashing backwards onto the floor and pushed Evie behind him protectively, feeling her fingers shakily clutching the back of his shirt. Max ducked under the table to see what had spooked Evie and suddenly let out a gasp. “Cool! Papa, can we keep him?”
“What on earth–” Alec started, staring around at everyone in confusion but then falling silent as Max reappeared from underneath the table. A huge black python slid around his shoulders and waist, flicking out his tongue idly whilst Max beamed with excitement.
Magnus slammed his fork down on the table in annoyance. “By Lilith, I’m going to kill that warlock!”
Max shrugged his shoulders as he gently stroked the python’s head with his fingertips. “I’ll call him Monty. Don’t you think he looks like a Monty, Rafe?”
“Monty the Python...? Are you kidding me, hermano?” Rafael gaped at Max, not sure whether to burst out laughing. “You’ve been hanging out with Uncle Simon too long.”
“I really hate snakes.” Evie whimpered shakily from behind Rafael, her breath lightly tickling the back of his neck. Rafael glanced back over his shoulder at her, noting her brown eyes were wide with fear as she stared warily at the python.
“Let’s just move to the hallway, yeah?” Rafael said calmly as they carefully backed out of the room. Evie nodded hastily, her hands tightening her grip on his shirt.
As soon as the python was out of sight, Evie let out a slow sigh of relief and her head dropped against Rafael’s shoulder blade. Rafael tensed, swallowing nervously as his chest filled with butterflies again. A crease formed on his brow as he turned around and looked at Evie. “You okay now?”
“If Max is keeping that thing, you can be sure I am never coming round again.” she said with a shaky laugh. “That thing looks big enough to eat Chairman Meow whole.”
“Yeah, and the Chairman has put on a lot of weight recently.” Rafael added, his face splitting into a grin despite the topic of conversation. Evie giggled and ran a hand through her hair, shaking it free from her messy bun and letting it fall down her back. Rafael caught the smell of her shampoo again, and it made him pleasantly dizzy.
Rafael suddenly felt a buzz near his hand as Evie’s phone vibrated once again in her jeans’ pocket. He suddenly realised that his hands were lightly resting against Evie’s hips and he stepped back, clenching his hands into fists and willing the blush on his cheeks to go away.
As Evie turned around to answer her phone, Rafael frowned at his hands. How could he not have realised that he was standing so close to Evie? Surely, he would be making her uncomfortable. He didn’t want to give her the wrong impression, especially considering he knew she had had a crush on him a while ago. Rafael and Evie were just friends. That was all they were ever going to be. Rafael glanced at Evie with a thoughtful look. She didn’t look uncomfortable around him…
Evie hung up and let out a sigh, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I’ve got to go. Mother’s been drinking again, and she’s upset that I’m not there.”
“I’ll walk you home. I’ll just let my parents know where we’re going.” he said before heading back into the living room.
He spotted Max sitting on the sofa with a pout, holding Monty the Python in his arms whilst his papa yelled at his phone. “You come back here right now and collect your damn snake, Percival! No, leave the Basilisk at home…Seriously, I will hex you if you even think–”
Rafael shook his head and turned to his dad, who was still sat at the dining table, sipping his wine tiredly. “Dad, Evie’s got to go. I said I’ll walk her home.”
Alec looked at him worriedly. “We could portal her home if she wants. It’s not really safe at the moment.”
“I can look after her. If you’re that worried, I’ll send you a text when she’s home and I could get a portal home,” Rafael suggested. Alec bit his lip in thought, and Rafael could see that he was debating whether to let him go. He touched the form in his pocket and lowered his voice. “Besides, I should really tell her about Buenos Aires as well. She deserves to know too.”
Alec sat up with interest. “So you want to go then?”
“I’m still thinking on it. Maybe,” Rafael replied as he furtively glanced over his shoulder at Max and found his little brother’s attention still occupied by Monty. “I still haven’t found the right time to tell Max yet.”
Alec nodded. “Okay, just make sure you decide soon. You haven’t got a lot of time now to get the application in if you still want to go. The form has to be in before your eighteenth birthday.”
“I know, Dad. I’ll…I’ll tell him when I get back.”
“Good,” Alec leaned up and kissed his forehead with a smile. “Be safe. Text me as soon as she’s home okay.”
Rafael nodded and walked to the front door, shrugging on his coat and grabbing his keys. He spotted Evie cautiously making her way towards him, giving Monty a wide berth as she went and then dashed out of the door, calling out a goodbye to his parents over her shoulder.
“Mother’s always had a problem with drinking. Ever since Dad died according to my aunt,” Evie said quietly as they walked side by side, crossing over the Williamsburg Bridge towards Queens. “She’s been drinking more and more these days. I don’t think she even goes on patrols anymore because of it.”
“It’s okay. You don’t need to explain, Evie.” Rafael replied, kicking a stone into the road. He could faintly hear the sound of an underground train travelling through a tunnel as they walked, but he didn’t remember going past any subways.
“I know, but I feel like I need to. I don’t want you to think badly of her.”
“I don’t. We’ve all got our issues, Evie.” Rafael shrugged easily. “You don’t like snakes. Your mama has a drinking problem. My dad doesn’t like umbrellas, god knows why. We’re all different in our own way.”
“That’s not the same, though.” she said quietly. “A drinking problem isn’t the same as having a fear of snakes.”
“True, but I suppose if you battle demons all the time it’s bound to be stressful. She’s just coping the best way she can. Not everyone is cut out for this kind of life.”
“But she’s got no choice now. She gave up her mundane life when she met Dad. How could she ever go back, knowing all she knows now?”
A pregnant silence filled the air between them as they walked. Rafael thought about what it would be like to be a mundane, to go about his daily life without having to worry about demons trying to destroy the world. He tried to picture his family as mundanes in his mind, his parents and Max standing in the middle of the loft with smiles on their faces as Chairman Meow stretched out by their feet, but the picture seemed odd.
“Rafe, are you okay? You kind of zoned out there for a minute.” Evie waved a hand in front of his face, and he shook his head out of his thoughts.
“I was just thinking about what it would be like to be a mundane. I can’t really picture it,” he replied with a bemused expression on his face.
Evie nodded in agreement, a pensive look on her face. “I know what you mean. Whenever I try to picture a life without you guys in it…I get upset, you know?”
Rafael reached out and squeezed her hand comfortingly. She gave him a small smile. “I can’t imagine not having my family around me. Max never fails to make me laugh.”
“Do you remember that time when he went crazy about those pancakes? I’ve never seen him move so fast in my life!” She giggled loudly as Rafael shook his head with a grin.
“Or when he tried making a portal to the Institute and ended up upside down in a dumpster in Costa Rica.” Rafael remembered getting a phone call from a very sheepish Max around ten minutes after he disappeared, begging him not to tell their papa what had happened to him.
Evie scrunched up her nose at the memory as they turned a corner onto her street. “By the Angel, I couldn’t go near him for a week without puking!”
“I think Papa was tempted to make him sleep in the hallway by the front door that night.” He chuckled with a shake of his head.
As they reached the front gate to Evie’s garden, Rafael noticed that Evie had stopped beside him, chewing her bottom lip in thought as she stared up at her house. He wondered what she was thinking about. He wondered whether he should say something just to fill the awkward silence that had somehow filled the space between them without them noticing. He needed to tell her about the transferral form anyway, so why not now?
Rafael opened his mouth to speak, his hand reaching into his pocket and clasping around the form, when Evie suddenly turned to him and took a deep breath. “Rafe, can we just sit here for a moment? I need to ask you something important.”
Rafael blinked and nodded his head, his hand dropping the piece of paper in his pocket before he sat down beside her on the sidewalk. He watched her breathe in another shaky breath. Her whole body was buzzing with anxiety which made Rafael feel nervous too. She turned to Rafael, looking at him with wide eyes, and tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear with a trembling hand. He watched her bite her lip which was already pink and starting to swell.
She blinked and shook herself out of her thoughts. “Okay, I’m just going to come out with it,” she said in a brave tone of voice. “Rafe, will you be my parabatai?”
The world around him seemed to pause as Rafael stared at her in silence, taking in but not entirely registering what she had asked him. It was like he had been struck dumb. He couldn’t figure out how to speak or even what to say. He just simply stared at her like an idiot and watched as the blood drained from her face. “Well…say something, Rafe. Don’t leave me hanging here,” she demanded, swallowing thickly against the bile rising in her throat.
Rafael felt like he was struck with déjà vu, as he remembered the moment when she had asked him out a couple of years ago. He had said no to her because he had been going through so many issues at the time that he felt that he didn’t want to burden her with his problems. As he stared at her now, his chest was filled with a cold feeling of dread as he already knew what his answer would be.
“Evie,” he said slowly as he took her hands in his own and squeezed them gently. “I’m really sorry but I can’t.”
He didn’t want to look at her face, but he forced himself to as he watched her eyes well up with tears. “Why not? Is it because I had a crush on you? You heard what your dad said, we can work around that.”
“No, it isn’t because of that.” He sighed. “Evie, I already have a parabatai.” The words were already out of his mouth before he could properly think about what they meant.
Evie stared at him in shock. “What? Who is it?”
Rafael paused in thought for a moment, a blurry image of his parabatai slowly sharpening into focus in his mind, before he felt his mouth split into a grin. “Max.”
He wondered how he didn’t realise it sooner. For the past three weeks since he had been carrying the transferral form in his pocket, the only thing he had been worrying about was telling Max about it. He wanted to laugh at how stupid he had been.
Evie didn’t appear to find the situation funny. There was a deep frown on her face as she stared at him. “Rafe, no offence to Max or anything but…you know he’s a warlock, right? You know he can’t bear the parabatai rune – or any rune – without it killing him. So how can he be your parabatai?”
“We don’t need a rune,” Rafael said confidently. “Look, Evie, Max has always been there for me, ever since I was adopted. He’s my hermano. He is my best friend in the entire world. I’d do anything for him.”
Evie still stared at him quietly. Her mouth had formed a tight line. Rafael sighed and fished out the form from his pocket, unfolding it carefully in his lap before he passed it to her. A crease appeared on her brow as she looked down at it, glancing up at him in confusion a moment later. “Rafe, what is this?”
“I want to go back to Buenos Aires. Not for long, just for a year. This is an application form that will enable me to see how an Institute is run in another country,” he explained as he watched her stare at the form.
“I don’t get it. Don’t you like it here?”
“Of course I do. This is my home.” Rafael reached out and touched her hand. She looked up at him, and he found himself staring at her brown eyes. “I’ve been thinking about my parents – my birth parents, that is. I want to know what happened to them, how I ended up on the streets. I want to know who they were, whether they were good people or…I don’t know. The only way I can do that is by going back there and finding out more about them from the locals.”
“Have you told Max about this?” she asked, gesturing to the form in her hand.
He slowly shook his head, trying to push down the guilty feeling that was threatening to rise up in his chest. “I’ve been trying to find a way to tell him, but I just can’t think of the right words. Max doesn’t remember his birth mother, nor does he want to remember her. I don’t think he’d understand why I want to do this.”
“I think he would. Max isn’t unreasonable. You’re his family. He would want what’s best for you.” Rafael watched as she gave the form back to him before moving her gaze to their hands. He only just remembered that he was still holding her hand, which was warm and soft compared to his own. Over the many years of doing archery, the skin on his fingers had toughened and become rough. A crease appeared on his brow as he glanced at her in concern.
“What about you? Are you okay with this?” he asked. He felt his stomach clench with nervousness as he waited for her reply. He hadn’t realised how worried he was about telling her until now and he wondered why.
It wasn’t as if he was in love with her. She was like a sister to him. No, wait, that wasn’t right. Evie was one of his best friends. He cared about what she thought of him, just like he cared about what Max thought of him. But the thought of having Evie as his sister made him feel oddly sick. But it shouldn’t make him feel sick because what else could she be to him? Sure, he did think that she was pretty, but most of the women he knows are pretty. But that didn’t mean that he had feelings for her, did it…?
He shook away his confusing thoughts and waited for her reply. She shrugged her shoulders. “What does it have to do with me? If you feel like you need to do this, then do it. You can’t let anyone try to stop you.”
“So you’re not angry with me about turning you down again?”
“Well, I will admit, I am a little hurt. But I understand. Max will always come first, he’s your family,” she said as a little smile appeared on her face. “I actually think it’s quite sweet. I wish I had someone like that.”
“You do. You’ve got us. Come on, Evie, just because I picked Max as my parabatai, doesn’t mean I don’t care about you just as much as him. Besides, I think if we weren’t friends, Papa would probably ground me until we’d made up.”
Rafael watched as Evie’s mouth started to twitch into a smile, as if she was trying not to make an embarrassing grin. “You care about me? Really?”
“Yes, of course I do.”
Evie gave him a bright smile, and Rafael felt as if his chest was about to explode with warmth. He thought back to when he had watched her tend to his dad’s wounds earlier, and he suddenly remembered he still had her stele. He slipped his hand into the pocket of his sweatshirt and held it out to Evie. “Here, I forgot to give this back to you. Thanks for helping with Dad earlier.”
“It’s okay. I really like your parents, they’re awesome.” She took her stele and stood up, Rafael following close behind, and slipped it into her pocket. “They’re kind of what I imagine my dad might have been like if he was alive.”
The sound of a door opening made them jump in surprise as a tall woman with long brown hair appeared in the doorway of Evie’s home. “Evangeline, what are you still doing out here? Come inside.”
“I’m coming, Aunty. I’m just saying goodbye,” Evie called out to her. Rafael watched as the woman pursed her lips at them before she closed the door and disappeared. Evie sighed. “I should go. Thanks for walking me home.”
Evie stepped towards him, rising up onto her tiptoes and pressing a chaste kiss on Rafael’s cheek. Rafael froze in shock, feeling as if he had just been set alight with heavenly fire. He wanted to pull her into a hug just so that he didn’t have to let go of this weird feeling coursing through his veins. He wondered if she could hear his heart hammering in his chest like a restless bird wanting to take flight. She pulled away, stepping down from her tiptoes and shyly smiling at him. “Tell Max about the form before it’s too late. I’ll see you tomorrow, Rafe.”
“Adios,” he mumbled as she walked up her garden path and disappeared inside her home.
Rafael let out a long breath as he felt his heart slowing down. He took out his phone and sent a text to his dad, letting him know that he was ready to come home. Now, it was time for the hard part.
Now, he needed to tell Max about the form.
Rafael opened the door to his bedroom to find his little brother sulking on his bed, his chin resting on his folded arms and his white horns shining dimly in the pale light of the room, and felt his mouth form a half smile. “I see you didn’t get to keep Monty, eh? That’s too bad. I think he would have been good company.”
Max looked up at him and let out an exasperated sigh. “I know, right? I told Papa and Dad that I’d take good care of him, but they wouldn’t listen. It’s so unfair.”
“It’s probably for the best, hermano,” he said as he walked over and sat on the end of Max’s bed. Rafael watched his little brother sit up reluctantly, placing his bare blue feet on the carpet. He bumped his shoulder gently against Max’s and offered him a smile. “Cheer up, Max. It’s not the end of the world. Well, hopefully not.”
Max rolled his eyes. “Hmm, something’s going on though. I overheard Dad talking to Maia on the phone while you were out and whatever they were talking about didn’t sound good.”
“You’ll just have to keep an eye on Dad and Papa then.” Rafael sighed.
“Me?” Max frowned, glancing at Rafael suspiciously. “Why? Where are you going to be?”
Rafael bit his lip nervously as he took the form out of his pocket, holding it in his clenched hands before he took a deep breath and turned to Max. “Hermano, how would you feel if I went away for a while?”
“A year, maybe,” he said quietly, unfolding the form in his hand and showing it to Max. Max stared at it in confusion. “I’ll still call when I can, and you could possibly visit, but I want to know what you think before I make a decision.”
“Where would you be going?”
Rafael glanced at Max’s face and took a deep breath. “Buenos Aires.”
Max’s eyes widened in alarm, and Rafael could see a tiny amount of worry appear in them. “That’s pretty far away.”
“I know. In any other circumstances I would have said no straight away and stayed here in New York. I mean, come on, we’ve never been apart since the moment I was adopted, but…it’s where I was born, Max. I want to know more about where I come from, about who my family was.”
“But we’re your family.”
“And you always will be. That’s never going to change.” Rafael shuffled around on the bed until he was fully facing his brother. “All my life, I’ve been terrified of that place. I’ve had nightmares that I’ve gone to sleep here one night and the next thing I know I’m waking up back on the streets with demons chasing me everywhere I go. I need to go back and face my fears. Otherwise, what kind of Shadowhunter would I be, eh? And if I can find out more about my birth parents whilst I’m there, then that’s even better. But I won’t go unless I know that you’re going to be okay without me.”
“What if I came with you?”
Rafael shook his head sadly. “Someone needs to stay here and look after our parents. Who better than you?”
Max let out a slow breath, a crease appearing on his brow as he quietly thought. “Would you miss me?”
“Every day.” he replied with a small smile. Max fell silent and stared at the form in his hands, his mouth forming a tight line, and Rafael waited with baited breath for his answer.
Max nodded and shrugged his shoulders with a mischievous smile. “I suppose I could live with that.”
“Really…? You’d honestly be okay with that?” Rafael felt his mouth stretch into a smile in disbelief. Max nodded. Rafael pulled his brother into a fierce hug, blinking back sudden tears of happiness. “Gracias, hermano, gracias! You have no idea how much this means to me.”
“Alright, calm down, Rafe. I’m suffocating here.” Max chuckled as he hugged him back. “Hey, you better bring me back a present. Actually, make that two. Did you know that there’s a snake over in Buenos Aires that is known as the ‘owner of all snakes’ according to Argentinean folklore?”
Rafael laughed as he pulled away, fixing Max with a look. “I’m not getting you a snake, Max. Papa would kill me. And Dad probably would too.”
“Not even a little baby one? You’re supposed to be my brother here.” Max sighed. “I need a Monty Junior to keep me company whilst you’re gone.”
“Fine, but my presents had better be even better than a snake.” Max pointed a finger at Rafael seriously. “And you can do all my chores for me before you go too.”
“You can do your own chores!”
“Some brother you are. You’re abandoning me for a whole year and you’re not even sorry enough to make it up to me. I see how it is.”
Rafael rolled his eyes and playfully tackled Max to the ground, knocking over Max’s bedside lamp and sending his books onto the floor beside them and they started to wrestle. Even when Max had finally pinned Rafael beneath him, his face pressed in the carpet and his arms shackled tightly against his back with magic, Rafael found himself grinning and laughing like a mad fool.
Hours later when everyone had gone to bed, Rafael sat hunched over at his desk with the application form laid out in front of him. After reading through the form for the hundredth time, he smiled and signed his name at the bottom of the page. He was going to go back to Buenos Aires. He was finally going to do it.
Folding up the form and switching off his lamp, he got into bed and curled up on his side. For a moment, he glanced over at Max sleeping soundly in his bed, one leg sticking out from under his covers and drool slipping down his chin, and Rafael fell asleep with a smile on his face.