The sun has retired just enough for it to be safe outside and the sky is a deep, glassy blue splotched with swirls of inky black. Simon had been waiting in the front entrance of the Institute up until now but he’d soon realised that not everyone was as nonchalant about his species as his friends; a few snide comments and a particularly threatening glance had left him waiting desperately for the sun to go down so that he might leave. Luke had gently suggested that they wait until Jocelyn is well enough to inform them of Simon’s species change - she saw him as a son and would doubtless be upset. When she was definitely alright he’d see her but for now, Simon is outside and alone.
The night sky usually fills Simon with a sense of relief, the dark hues and shining stars washing over him like a cold calm but he’s on edge tonight. Any one of the clan, even Raphael, could find him out here. Could kill him, if they want to, and Simon is pretty sure they do.
I’m disappointed in you.
Simon had set it aside in the adrenaline of everything that had happened today, but the betrayal he’d seen in Raphael’s eyes is taunting him. The situation was awful, and unavoidable. Raphael was right, of course; Camille is dangerous, and freeing her will put the clan in danger as well as most of the downworld. Simon understands that, but Clary was right too. They needed the Book of the White to wake Jocelyn, for Clary and for the cause of stopping Valentine. They were between a rock and a hard place, and Simon had no choice but to free his sire.
He knows exactly how it must have looked to Raphael.
After everything, the months of training and gradual, grudging bonding that had led to- well, to somethingbetween them, and Simon had gone straight back to Camille. Raphael would see it as a loyalty to her, more than anything else. Simon had never felt more cold than when he heard Raphael instruct the clan to kill them. He’d thought – well, he didn’t know what he thought. That Raphael would be okay with it? That he’d let Simon stay at the DuMort to talk it out?
There’s a rustle in the distance and it sets Simon’s senses on edge as he tries to seek out the source. There’s nothing immediately visible but he can feel a presence, a prickle at the base of his neck that suggests he’s being watched. Simon knows he should be worried but instead he’s hopeful, enough to call out a tentative “Raphael?”
And then, “Simon?”
It’s Isabelle. She’s standing in the doorway of the Institute and she looks tired, intricate braids slipping loose from their pins and though a tiny detail, it’s the least put-together Simon remembers ever seeing her. He knows why; while Alec had kept Clary close, drawing comfort from a shared experience as they rode silently back to the institute, Isabelle had remained silent and stoic in the back of the van. She and Simon were alone back there and Simon was hiding under a blanket to avoid the sun, but she hadn’t protested when he’d pulled her under and let her cry quietly into his shirtfront. Isabelle was strong and sure and yet Simon knew Jace was her brother, too, that she deserved someone to make sure she was okay.
Simon hadn’t seen her since; he’d been instructed to wait in the foyer and Izzy had retreated to her room once she was no longer needed. Now she wraps both arms around herself, frowning.
“Everything okay, Izzy?”
She nods, but Simon doesn’t push it. “Jocelyn is awake, I thought you should know. Also, I realised nobody had made sure you’re okay”
Relief washes over him and Simon hadn’t realised how much he’d been worried Jocelyn would never wake up. He’s itching to see her, to see Clary and make sure she’s really awake and okay but then the second part of Izzy’s statement registers. “Why wouldn’t I be okay?”
Isabelle tilts her head. “The whole thing with Raphael?”
Simon thinks if he was still alive, a burning heat would have spread from ear to ear at the suggestion. How could Isabelle possibly know? As it is, he stutters and stumbles his way through a response that comes out sounding vaguely like what thing?.
Isabelle raises both eyebrows, lips quirking up into an amused grin. “You know, the betraying your clan leader to free Camille thing? Vampire loyalty is pretty binding, I thought it might have affected you”
Simon realises all too quickly that it had been an innocent question, but the knowing look on her face suggests he gave himself away regardless. “I’m fine” is what he settles on. “It- yeah, I’m fine”
She looks unconvinced, but extends him the same courtesy of not pushing the subject. Instead, she places a gentle hand on his upper arm and says “if you ever want to talk about it, I’m here” before turning and heading back inside. Simon follows, reaching out for the familiar sound of Clary’s voice and the overpowering scent of her shampoo on instinct.
“We’ve all been taking care of him, Jocelyn. He’s alright” he hears Luke say, familiar warm tones reassuring and placating. Jocelyn is fraught; Simon can feel it, in the way her blood is racing through her body. Which should probably be bizarre, but Simon is coping. They all turn to face him when he rounds the corner and Jocelyn gasps, darting forwards to pull Simon into a fierce hug.
“Oh, Simon” she says sadly, voice thick with emotion. “I’m so sorry”
Simon can see Clary over her shoulder, forlorn like she’d been since Jace left but refreshed to have finally saved her mother. Weeks of tension has rolled off of her shoulders and despite everything else, it overrides the unease that’s been eating away at him ever since the night Jocelyn disappeared. Not only that, Simon has missed having a maternal figure around. He hasn’t seen his own mother in weeks, too scared of hurting her or having her discover the truth about what he is and Jocelyn has always been like a second mother to him.
“I’m okay” Simon reassures her. “I promise”
Jocelyn pulls away and gives him a look that suggests she knows he’s very far from it but she’s a Shadowhunter, so she doesn’t press it. The Silent Brothers are adamant that she stays in the infirmary for at least the night, in case the potion has side-effects and Simon thinks the institute is probably the best place for her anyway. If Valentine tried to get her back…Simon doesn’t even want to think about it.
It’s only when Clary leaves for bed and Luke suggests Simon let Jocelyn rest that he realises he has nowhere to go. The DuMort is out of the question if he wants to stay alive – well, as alive as someone without a heartbeat can be, anyway – and he can’t go home. Wandering the streets for twelve hours didn’t seem safe, either, and he couldn’t seek refuge at the Jade Wolf without Luke being there. Simon is pretty certain the pack might take their chances if he did.
For the first time, Simon is completely alone.
Part of him wants to find Clary and hide under the covers with her, whispering stories to one another like they did when they were kids, but a larger part reasons that she’s too upset for his antics today. Isabelle would be sleeping, Simon is pretty sure he saw Alec sneak out a few hours ago, Jace is gone and there’s no one else here who really cares about him enough to realise he’s essentially homeless.
The sky is still the sky when Simon makes his way outside but it rests heavily on his shoulders now, a reminder of the shackles keeping him away from his old life – his home, his mom’s cooking, bickering with Rebecca over dinner. Rain has started to fall in soft sheets and Simon takes refuge sitting beneath a huge Willow tree a few yards from the front entrance. The tips of his shoes are getting gradually soaked through where the canopy of branches doesn’t reach but Simon can’t find it in himself to care; it’s not like he can get frostbite, being dead and all. Alone in the dark, his thoughts again stray to Raphael.
Simon’s betrayed us.
Raphael would never forgive him for this. It aches deep in Simon’s veins, or maybe he’s just hungry again. Either way he feels empty, thinking of the nights spent up on the roof of the DuMort with Raphael counting the constellations in the sky. Raphael could name them all and they’d sit shoulder to shoulder, Simon commenting things like “that one looks like a lightsaber” until Raphael dug him in the ribs and told him fondly to shut up. It should be a warm memory but Simon feels sick, knows Raphael let him in and now – now, he wants Simon dead.
There’s another rustle, this time closer and more certain than the first but Simon can’t bring himself to care much. Dying will do that to a person, apparently. Exhausted, Simon tips his head back to rest against the bark of the tree and as he does there’s a soft whoosh followed by “Dios, Simon, I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
He startles hard and finds Raphael crouched at his feet, one hand reached forwards as though he meant to touch Simon but thought better of it and his eyes are wide and dark with concern. It occurs to Simon that lying slumped against a tree might not present the best example of being alive and well, so to speak, and once Raphael takes this in his features shift back to their default impassive position.
Simon swallows. “If you’re here to kill me, get it over with”
Raphael looks at him like he’s grown a second head. “Simon” he says slowly, reaching out a hand to curve his fingers affectionately around the bend of Simon’s ankle, “you didn’t think I was serious, did you?”
“You remember the part where you instructed the entire clan to kill me, yeah?”
The rain is a steady shower and Raphael doesn’t seem to notice the way it soaks through his clothes and makes them stick to his skin, curling the tips of his usually immaculate hair haphazardly. “Idiota. What did you want me to do? I’m the clan leader, I do not make exceptions. Pardoning you for releasing Camille against my instruction would have undermined my authority”
It still doesn’t make much sense and Simon stares down at his hands, pale and cold and shot through with ugly purpling veins; so he is hungry, after all. Raphael clucks his tongue. “Simon, I had to put on a front – have you learned nothing from me? But of course I would never kill you, nor would I let anyone else try. I’ve been looking for you ever since the sun set”
Simon bites down on his lower lip to hide the smile threatening to spill over. Raphael’s fingers are a grounding presence against his skin and Simon draws in a deep, unnecessary breath before taking the plunge and nudging them with his own, skin prickling where a blush might be when Raphael takes the hint and holds his hand. “I thought you hated me. I’m sorry, Raphael. I really am – I didn’t want to go against you like that, but Clary-”
“Is your best friend” Raphael finishes. “I…don’t like it. But I understand why you did it”
Raphael finally has enough of the rain and moves to sit shoulder to shoulder with Simon, keeping their hands interlocked as though separating might pain him. It would pain Simon - he’d been thinking about doing ridiculous hand hold-y things with Raphael ever since they met.
“I’m still sorry” Simon reiterates. “And, um. Starving?”
At this, Raphael’s eyes widen and he reaches into his coat pocket to retrieve two medical blood bags. The burning thirst that had been relatively dormant bursts free and assaults Simon’s throat, making his body yearn for the blood so fiercely that it forces a pained sound from his mouth. Raphael pushes the bags toward him, urging, and Simon only just manages to prevent himself from tearing into it with his teeth. Drinking blood is something he’ll likely never get used to; Raphael usually made him up a jug of blood infused with other things so it didn’t taste so much like blood and looked more like an iced cocktail. It helped with the initial nausea he’d been fighting, even if the other vampires did sneer baby at him in a taunting mimic of Raphael’s flippant nickname.
Drinking from the bag like this makes him feel like a savage. It feels too raw, too animalistic and Simon has to close his eyes and think of other things. Raphael’s hand in his, for example. It takes mere seconds for him to finish all of the blood and a just a little longer for it to completely douse the flames of hunger in his throat. Simon tosses the bag a few feet away in disgust, breathing heavily and habitually.
“You don’t need to breathe, you know” Raphael reminds him. Absently, he swipes a smear of blood from Simon’s lower lip with his thumb and cleans it off with his own tongue. Simon blinks very slowly and tries to keep his cool; if Raphael notices, he doesn’t mention it, but he does turn his head before Simon can see his amused grin.
“Makes me feel human” Simon says with a shrug.
Raphael hums. “It’ll hurt your lungs, in the long run. They’re not made for breathing now”
He opens his mouth to say something else and then tenses up, head whipping around. Simon reaches out to hear whatever it is that caught Raphael’s attention but his senses aren’t nearly as perfected, so he trusts Raphael’s judgement when he pulls them into a standing position. “Someone is here, someone from the clan. Quickly, with me”
Before Simon can fully process his words, Raphael has him by the sleeve and his pulling him determinedly across the stretch of dewy grass. They’re moving so fast that Simon stumbles and barely has the time to regain his footing. Raphael curses a quiet, artful a slew of Spanish and then Simon is being shoved against the wall of the Institute with Raphael pinning him in place.
“Stay quiet” Raphael whispers harshly. Simon is fairly certain he knows what Raphael is doing; vampires recognise the distinctive scent of the blood of their clan members, but Simon is new and they’re more used to identifying Raphael. With him blocking Simon in, its unlikely even the better trained of the clan would recognise Simon’s blood. For a few tense, silent moments Simon waits for the other shoe to drop, for the ambush but there’s nothing except Raphael and the smell of rainwater dampening his skin.
“Okay” Raphael says after a few minutes, “They’re gone”
They don’t move.
If vampires possessed the ability to blush, Simon is certain his face would be aflame – Raphael has his hands flat against the stone wall just beside the curve of Simon’s waist and he’s so close that Simon can make out flecks of black in the dark brown of Raphael’s eyes. He wonders if that’s a vampire thing or a Raphael thing but he’s a little too tongue-tied to talk. “Raphael…”
“Simon” Raphael says, voice low. “You know I wouldn’t hurt you, don’t you? That I had to say that, that I’d never-”
“Really,” Raphael implores, “I want you to know I’m sorry if I made you feel like I didn’t…like you’re not important to me”
Simon feels more dizzy than he ever had under Camille’s encanto, with Raphael looking at him like that. Raphael directs his dark, tense gaze to Simon’s lips so briefly that he would have missed it were they not so close. Simon swallows hard. “Raphael. It’s okay”
If they were human, Simon knows they’re close enough that he’d feel Raphael’s chest move as he breathed. Would feel warm breath ghosting the fine bones of his face, and the flutter of a pulse where Raphael’s wrist presses into his side. As it is, they’re dead, and in this moment Simon wouldn’t have it any other way. Raphael’s body is locked tight with tension and Simon knows he’s going to have to make the first move – even if he’s not one hundred percent sure it won’t get his throat ripped out. His hands had been gripping the wall behind him – out of fear, first, then uncertainty and fresh nerves and he moves them tentatively, drawing them up and over Raphael’s shoulders.
It takes a few long, jittery moments before Raphael moves. Simon briefly reflects that perhaps Raphael isn’t as smooth as he’d let everyone believe, with his quipped one-liners and icy sureness. Reflection time is over pretty swiftly, though, because Raphael tips forwards and connects their lips in a chaste, questioning press. “Is this okay?”
There are so many things Simon aches to say – that he knew Raphael had a soft side, that he’s been staring at Raphael openly and obviously since day one, that he doesn’t just hold hands with anybody like that. None of it seems right and for once, Simon chooses to forgo words.
Raphael relaxes into the kiss instantly, hands drifting from the wall to Simon’s waist and the rain is still soaking through their clothes relentlessly. Simon feels like he’s in the Notebook. A part of him wants to say as much but that would require him pulling away from Raphael, which is undoubtedly not an option. Raphael’s mouth is soft and careful, pliant in a way Simon hadn’t quite expected. This Simon thinks, is what the movies were talking about.
Raphael cups a careful hand around Simon’s jaw, thumb rubbing soft circles where a pulse might ordinarily be and the action is so tender and surprising that Simon loses the last shred of composure he has; his fangs slip out suddenly and slice against Raphael’s lower lip. Blood swells up around the puncture for the briefest of seconds, sweet and heavy and brimming with light and then Raphael is pulling back, startled. Simon is ready to apologise for his inexperience at kissing with fangs - or, really, kissing in general - but the sweet smile curling at Raphael’s mouth stops him short.
“Baby” Raphael chides, “you haven’t been working on your control”
Simon thinks he’s well within his rights to be affronted. “It’s not like there was a Kissing 101 class in between your other lessons” he complains.
Raphael’s hand drifts up towards Simon’s hair, which has started to curl disastrously at the front, and he tugs gently at a coil of it. It springs back into place and if Simon didn’t know any better, he’d say Raphael looked fond. “I’m sure something can be arranged”
It reminds Simon of their predicament, and why he’d been moping out here in the first place. “Raphael, I-”
“Come home” Raphael interrupts. Simon lifts his eyebrows in surprise. Home as in the Hotel DuMort, residence to over a hundred vampires who want Simon dead? Sensing his train of thought, Raphael smooths his thumb over Simon’s cheekbone. “The DuMort is your home, Simon. We were all fledgelings once; we all made mistakes”
“There are mistakes and then there’s freeing your evil ex-clan leader to help a race of people who think you’re inferior” Simon points out. Raphael quirks one brow in confusion and Simon almost wants to ask him how he does that.
Before he can, Raphael laughs. “Whose side are you on, exactly? Simon, I’ve never given the clan reason to distrust me. You have friends there, and I know they’ll offer you a second chance. That’s what I’m offering, if you want it”
“Okay” Simon tells him. Raphael looks relieved, like he thought Simon might refuse and that’s so ludicrous that Simon kisses him to convey just how stupid he is. “Okay”
Raphael takes a step backwards and holds out his hand. Simon doesn’t even have to think about it; he takes it and, with one last look back at the Institute, walks into the twilight with Raphael at his side and an assurance that no matter what happens, he has a home again.