Rafe is afraid of the dark.
It's something that started in the streets, when he had nothing to hide behind, nothing to protect him, when he was half-awake at all times, ready to run.
He doesn't remember being afraid before that, but he learned quickly.
Max knows – of course he does. Rafe doesn't know how, but Max knows. Most nights he slips in Rafe's bedroom with a purple globe of light in his palm and he makes room for himself under Rafe's covers without so much as a goodnight before he falls asleep, the light floating gently over the bed.
He doesn't know how to stop being afraid, but that helps, sometimes. The light that Max brings, yawning and rubbing his eyes, showing him that everything is in the exact same place it was before he turned off the lights. That his world doesn't disappear as soon as he stops protecting it.
It's better now, with Alec and Magnus and Max. He can sleep most nights without Max's help.
He's thought about telling Alec, sometimes, but he could never quite bring himself to do it. He wouldn't know where to start, and it sounds silly when he tries to rehearse it in his head.
But it's not enough.
It's not a surprise that it's in the darkness that they take them.
Max slips in his bedroom not even an hour after uncle Simon and aunt Izzy start suggesting they go to bed, his little purple light glowing faintly in his fingers; he can tell when Rafe isn't going to be able to sleep because he becomes fidgety and he can't sit still, his fingers constantly tapping whatever surface they're laying upon.
Rafe closes his eyes as Max's breathing slows down.
He jolts awake, heart pounding in his chest, loud noises coming from the living room, and he knows something is wrong.
He shakes Max's shoulder to the sound of something breaking, muffled screams, steps, and Max blinks slowly, the purple light flickering slightly over the bed and then suddenly disappearing when Max hears what's happening.
“Under the bed,” Rafe whispers, his voice weak as his heart keeps beating too fast in his chest, Max's hands reaching for his shirt, Rafe can feel his fingers slip on his back and his breathing quickening, so he grabs his hand and drags him over the bed, they both tumble on the floor, the living room almost silent even if Rafe can't hear anything over the rush in his ears, he pushes his brother under the bed and follows him immediately, barely enough space for him to fit, he has to keep his head turned to the side not to hurt his nose.
Max is breathing heavily, shaking, and Rafe blindly reaches for his hand, finds his shirt and holds it tight, his fist shaking too. He murmurs: “Shhh,” and he thinks Max nods.
The door opens.
Light pools in a triangle on the carpet, and Rafe's mind stubbornly focuses on that, on the fact that the light in the hallway is on, even as he hears steps moving closer, Max's barely contained sobs, he focuses on the dark blue carpet.
Maybe it's just another nightmare and Max will come, with his purple light and his teddy bear, and he'll slip under the covers and it'll be alright.
Max's sudden scream drags him back to reality.
They're trying to drag him out from under the bed and he's kicking as much as he can, screaming at the top of his lungs, his magic filling the air with the smell of smoke, and Rafe thinks fuck no even if he's not supposed to curse.
He rolls out from under the bed without thinking, two hands immediately closing around his arms, so tight they hurt, he drags his thigh painfully against the bed as he fights against the hold, his voice joining Max's as he screams with everything he has, kicking and grabbing the corner of his bedside table, and then Max is being grabbed too, and he's kicking and crying and struggling, and Rafe bites the hand on his right arm before everything goes black.
Alec shakes so much he falls to the ground, he can't breathe right, and Magnus falls with his shoulders against the wall, pale, shaking, one hand in his hair as the house around them shakes.
Jace grabs Alec by the shoulders and pushes a hand against his chest, says: “Breathe.”, as Luke tries to calm Magnus down like he would one of his wolves, Clary helping Simon and Izzy stand up.
There's a message floating in the middle of the wrecked living room.
If you want your children back alive, vote against the Equality Act.
Jace kicks at one of the broken chairs and growls fuck.
Rafe blinks, feels like his head is too heavy.
He reaches for the light switch and freezes when his hand brushes against something cold and hard and wet, and it takes him a second to realise it's the floor, and he jumps up so quickly his head spins for a moment.
Not a nightmare.
It's dark except for a faint light coming from under a door, and Rafe focuses on breathing slowly, he reaches out with his hands but the room is clearly big enough that he'd need to take a few steps before reaching a wall, but he feels like he's glued to the floor.
Rafe's eyes widen in the darkness as he turns to his right: “Max?”
“Yeah,” Max's voice shakes slightly as Rafe reaches towards his voice, dares taking a couple of steps until he pokes Max's face.
Rafe smiles despite himself: “Sorry.”
Max chuckles, a weak thing that tumbles a bit hysterically from his lips as Rafe pats down his face until he finds he shoulder and then down his arm until he can reach for his hand: “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”
There is a moment of silence, where Max is probably shaking his head before he remembers they're in the dark: “No, I'm okay. You?”
Now that Max asks, Rafe realises he probably has a bruise on his thigh from when he'd struggled and dragged it against the bed and it's pulsing a bit, but nothing else. “I'm okay.”
“Why do you think they took us?” Max whispers, voice suddenly low, and Rafe tugs on his hand and wraps his arm around his shoulders; he's still taller than Max, even if only by a few inches. “I don't know,” he says, finds himself whispering as well. He suspects it's got something to do with Alec and Magnus, but he doesn't want Max to think about it too much.
“Are you scared?”
He's never been more terrified in his life.
“Of course not,” he says, tries to sound brave. He thinks about Alec and what he would do, how he would stand tall, his hands behind his back. “You're with me, right? The most powerful warlock in the whole universe.”
Max giggles and Rafe squeezes his shoulder. His heart is beating so fast he hopes Max can't hear it.
“The vote is tomorrow, how can we – ”
“Alec.”, Jace places a firm hand on his shoulder, looks him in the eyes like he's trying to rein him in, “We will find them before that, I promise.”
“You can't promise that, you can't,” Alec says, breathing hard, pushing against Jace's hand, but Jace doesn't let go: “But I am and we will find them, but we need you. We need you both,” he says, glancing at Magnus too, who seems to be barely containing himself from letting his magic burst out, “to help us. Please.”
Alec is shaking but he nods.
Magnus simply raises his eyes on them, his irises golden.
Rafe starts shaking. He doesn't know how much time has passed since he woke up, but he and Max found what feels like a carpet in the otherwise empty room, and they're sitting there, waiting. They don't know what they're waiting for, but Rafe feels like the darkness is starting to slip under his clothes and in his throat.
He keeps tapping his knee with his fingers.
Max's leg brushes against his: “Daddy and Papa will come,” he says, confident, “You'll see. They'll come before we even know it.”
He sounds scared but like he believes what he's saying and – Rafe does too, somewhere, but the thing is, he was waiting for this. For someone to take it away from him. And it happened late and when he was almost comfortable in his new life but – he knew. He knew he wouldn't get to keep it.
“Yeah?” he says, and he hopes Max can't hear how his voice is shaking.
“Yeah”, Max says, even more confident, “They would never leave us here.”
“I bet they'll come before we can count to one million.”
Max huffs: “I bet they'll come before we can count to ten … thirty times!”
Rafe smiles weakly: “You're on.”
“They are blocking Max's magic,” Magnus says, frustration working its way into his carefully held voice; he lets Max's teddy bear fall on the bed, “I can't track them.”
“Can you track the Warlock's magic?” Izzy says, guilt slipping into tension on her shoulders.
“He's blocked that too,” Magnus says, voice dark; he curls his hands up in fists, his jaw tense before he walks out of the room, back straight, the walls shaking slightly.
Alec follows him, steps quick – he thinks if Magnus walks too far away from him he's going to lose his mind.
“We need to find them,” Magnus says, and his voice is shaking and he crumbles like he's got nothing keeping him up, Alec's hands on his elbows the only thing helping him, “Alec, we must find them, I don't – ”
“I know,” Alec says, it's like they took a piece of his fucking soul, like he has nothing to hold on to, “We will, Magnus,” he calls, and then again: “Magnus,” because he needs him to be here, and Magnus looks in his eyes, his own golden and bright, and Alec says: “We will find them.”
It's still too dark and Rafe has closed his eyes, thinking that might somehow make it better, but it's not.
Max is counting, has counted to ten five times already, very slowly because, as he said, “We didn't say anything about how fast we had to count.”, and Rafe is desperately trying to focus on his voice and count with him, and he thinks the only thing that's keeping him sane is the thought of leaving his little brother to himself.
He could never.
“I can't do magic,” Max says, sounding frustrated, and Rafe mutters: “It's probably because of them.”
There are a few seconds of silence before Max whispers: “I'm sorry.”
Rafe opens his eyes, instinctively, even though he knows he won't see anything: “For what?”
“I wanted to make the light,” Max mumbles, “Because I know you don't like the dark. But I can't.”
“It's okay,” Rafe says, smiling as he ruffles Max's hair, “I'm fine. I promise. You're doing a great job with the counting.”
Max gently pushes him away with his shoulder, but they freeze when someone unlocks the door and opens it.
Suddenly there's too much light in the room and Rafe closes his eyes for a second, enough time for rough hands to grab his arms again and force him to stand even as he starts screaming and struggling against the hold, stepping on the feet behind him as he sees Max standing up, shaking, screaming, “Let him go, what are you doing, where are you taking him,” Rafe kicks blindly at the legs behind him, “Let him go,” he thinks someone is laughing above him, and then he feels Max's magic swell, familiar enough with it that he can almost see it, and Max screams for one last time: “Let. Him. GO!”
There's silence for a moment and then the sound of glass breaking before Rafe hears the voice above him curse loudly: “The fucking little bastard broke the blocking spell.”
Magnus' head snaps up, his eyes blazing golden: “I've got them.”
A woman runs into the room as the man who'd been holding Rafe lets him go, pushing him forward, before he backhands Max so hard Max falls to the floor.
A rage so deep it buries everything else washes through Rafe: “I'm going to kill you.”
They don't stop to think, run straight to the basement of the abandoned house where they can hear voices, a thundering of steps as they go down the stairs, Magnus and Alec in front of Jace and Clary and Izzy and Simon and Luke and Maryse.
A woman – a woman has Rafe pushed against a wall by his throat, a man is using magic against Max, and then it's almost impossible to figure out who reaches the bottom of those stairs first, rage so thick it's suffocating.
It takes them nothing to push them away from Rafe and Max, they're too distracted to react, too weak to stand against the fury of a family, Jace slams the man so violently against the wall he knocks him out cold while Alec and Magnus hold their sons so tight it feels like they might never let them go.
Maryse has the woman against the wall by her throat, her face turning red: “You touch my grandsons one more time, I will tear you apart limb by limb.”
They are on the bed in a family sandwich, as Max calls them; Alec is brushing his fingers through their hair as Magnus' arm serves as a pillow.
“I wasn't that scared,” Max is saying, holding his teddy bear close to his chest, “I knew Rafe would have my back.”
Rafe huffs but feels himself blush; he turns his face in Alec's shoulder to hide it.
“You were both so brave,” Magnus murmurs with a smile, “We are very proud of you.”
Rafe smiles as he glances at Max: “Max's magic was so strong he broke that guy's spell.”
Magnus' smile creases the corners of his eyes: “You are the Highest Warlock of Brooklyn then!” he says, tickling Max.
Rafe turns to Alec as Max keeps laughing, and he whispers: “Dad?”
Alec looks at him, his eyes brightening like they do everytime Rafe calls them dad or papa. “Rafe?”
Rafe smiles at the gently teasing tone in Alec's voice. He whispers: “I really get to stay.”, almost like he doesn't quite believe it.
There's a moment of silence, filled by Max's chattering about how he used his magic against the Warlock, before Alec wraps his arms around Rafe, holds him close against his chest: “For as long as you want, little man,” he whispers.
He sounds like he might cry.
Rafe curls a bit more in his arms: “Can we get a small lamp for my bedroom, then? I'm afraid of the dark.”
Alec chuckles wetly over his shoulder: “Of course we can.”
“We want a bear hug too!” Max protests, stepping over his brother; he almost falls and ends up holding on to Alec's shoulders, and Magnus says: “Absolutely.”, as he tries to wrap his arms around all three of them.
Rafe groans loudly and Max laughs at him.
Alec looks into Magnus' eyes over Rafe's shoulders and Max's arm; they look as grateful and happy as he feels.