Raphael raised his eyes to the ceiling and leant back in his chair. His arms were crossed behind his head and his legs were stretched straight in front of him. He did his best to tone out the droning of the school principal and the whispers of the students seated beside him on the stage.
The gymnasium roof was excruciatingly plain, a dirty white colour streaked with painted wooden beams and hanging warehouse lights. Raphael could only count the same 11 light fixtures so many times, and after an admittedly long time where he mapped out a far more effective pattern for them to hang, he bought his gaze back to ground level, meeting the gaze of two chocolate brown eyes.
And in the audience, Simon Lewis fell in love. The sinfully handsome boy didn’t break his gaze, seemingly greatly amused at Simon’s staring. Of course, this caused Simon to immediately look down, a blush covering his features as he shuffled restlessly in his chair. Being Simon, this caused his backpack to fall to the ground and come undone, the noise echoing throughout the room. If possible, his face grew even redder as he tried to gather his things while avoiding meeting anyone’s eyes.
On stage, Raphael chuckled to himself, watching the awkward mundane below. It was a welcome distraction, but it soon ended and the principal continued his speech. Accepting his fate, Raphael returned to his previous position, tipped his head back and closed his eyes, attempting to tone out the overwhelming noise and smell of hundreds of young adults crammed into one room.
His head ceased to hammer and a comfortable calmness spread throughout his body. How long he stayed tuned out, Raphael couldn’t say, but he suddenly became aware of an insistent poking at his arm. His eyes snapped open and his head snapped forward, glaring at the student who dared to touch him. The girl instinctively shrank back underneath his dark eyes, but not before her head jerked indiscreetly towards the man standing at the podium.
Raphael moved his glare towards the principal, who met his it with an impatient one of his own.
The large man narrowed his eyes and cleared his throat pompously. “How…thoughtful of you to join us, Mr. Santiago.” He said, his entire face twisted into a look of disapproval.
Raphael didn’t try to straighten his posture at all, letting out a devilish grin as he replied. “Oh you’re quite welcome, principal.” He purred, letting just a tiny part of his pointed incisors show. “And please, call me Raphael.”
A gasp came from the audience, murmuring rippling through the students like a river rapid. The immediate noise seemed to please the principal, he pushed his glasses further up his nose and pulled himself to his full height before raising his chin and screwing his mouth into something closely resembling a pout.
He held up a hand to the watching audience, the students instantly falling into silence. Like a machine his turned his head slowly to level the waiting Raphael with a fiery scowl.
“You think you are so funny, don’t you Mr. Santiago?” He started, his face contorting further at Raphael’s careless shrug. “Well I disagree. As I was saying before, this is a new school for our new students, and you’ll find it very different from any other. Here we believe in discipline, and order. An attitude like yours, Mr. Santiago, will not win you any friends at all here.” He finished his speach with a small huff, satisfied with himself until the air was interrupted by an unrestrained chuckle from Raphael.
“Oh believe me, making friends is the last thing I came here for.” The vampire said lowly, a dangerous glint in his eyes.
If he had moved his gaze from the now silent principal, he may have once again met the stare of one Simon Lewis, who was currently the very epitome of heart eyes.
And if he had of moved his gaze to the back of the room he may have met the eyes of one Magnus Bane, whose constant laughter had faded away to silence as he stood with a look of fear and disbelief on his face.
“It’s preposterous! It’s ludicrous. It’s absurd. It’s nonsensical. It’s ridiculous. It’s unreasonable. It’s…”
Raphael closed his eyes and resisted the urge to take a breath he didn’t need. “MAGNUS!” He finally interrupted. “What even is it?”
The two were standing in a secluded corner of the school grounds, safely glamoured against the unlikely possibility of anyone passing by and seeing them. He had followed the muttering warlock here after finally escaping the monotonous school assembly. The entire way his friend had been spewing words like a walking thesaurus. As was Magnus’ way, he was gesturing wildly with his hands as he spoke, an unfortunate nearby shrub already sacrificed to the fast moving projectiles.
It took a few moments for Raphael’s words to register and Magnus’ words to slow down until he became comprehensible again.
“What is it?” He drawled, “Not much, I suppose, unless you find it worrying that someone just fell in love with you?”
Whatever Raphael had been expecting, this was certainly not it, as he felt his dead heart grow cold and the blood in his veins stop running. “What?”
It had been six months since Raphael Santiago, daylighter and reigning head of the New York vampire clan, had been forced to make the call and complete the action of killing the rogue Warlock Stephen. The downworlder had been directly responsible for the deaths of seven vampires and four mundanes. After a reluctant appeal to the shadowhunters fell on deaf ears, Raphael had had no choice but to put an end to the Warlock himself.
Stephen’s distraught lover had not viewed the situation in the same light, and had hunted down the vampire, deranged and hysterical. She had not tried to stake him, or even attempted to attack him. Instead she had marched into Hotel Dumort, her magic a swirling mass of power surrounding her. She had picked her way directly to Raphael, no protective clan member able to come near without getting burnt. And everyone who witnessed the occasion could recount perfectly her thunderous words.
“I am Lucille, Warlock and Widow. I come here under no pretence. You killed my husband, my partner, my lover. You took from this earth my soulmate, the one being who loved me. You are Raphael, Daylighter and Clan Leader. You have no spouse, no partner, no lover. And I take from you the chance to ever have someone love you. You will walk the rest of your days alone, as I am. I, Lucille, the avenger, curse you!”
To the watching vampires it had seemed like a burst of violet light, a blinding flash that lasted no more than a second. For Raphael, though, it had been a burning more intense than he had ever felt, a flame that tore through his body and melted his bones. How long it had lasted he could not say, he only knew that in that moment he was suspended in time, unable to move his body and his gaze locked onto the bright purple pupils of his tormentor. She had stood there uncompassionately, her features a wild mix of grief, anger and satisfaction. When she lowered her hands and retracted her power, Raphael had slumped to the ground and for the first time since his turning, blacked out completely.
When he had come to, he was lying upon his bed and he was not alone. He later learnt the Lucille had vanished after he had collapsed, leaving no sign that she had been there at all. His second in command, Lily, had arranged for him to be taken to his room and called the one person they both trusted completely.
Magnus had listened closely to their recounting of the event before he ran his hands lightly across Raphael’s body and located the curse. He had tried numerous times to remove that dark magic, each time failing and leaving Raphael an unresponsive figure on the bed. Eventually Magnus had given up trying to remove it and worked on understanding it.
He had spent over half an hour in silence, occasionally relighting the blue glow of his hands above Raphael’s body and frowning in concentration. Finally he had sat back, released Raphael and started to explain.
The spell was not simply a ward against anyone falling in love with Raphael, no, that would have been far too kind on Lucille’s part. Nor was it a barrier against him loving someone. Instead, it was a complicated procedure that guaranteed that no one who fell in love with the cursed vampire would be able to live after coming into any form of physical contact with him. They would immediately lose all sense of consciousness and be lifeless within the minute. Lucille was thorough, Magnus studied the curse in detail and determined that not even a powerful immortal would be able to survive the enchantment.
To everyone’s surprise, Raphael had not reacted negatively in any way at all. He told no one that the reason was that he had long believed that he was unlovable anyway. Magnus, who knew him better than anyone could most likely tell, but he stayed silent. He had recommended that as Raphael was still in great danger from the mourning and unpredictable Warlock, he should take a temporary leave in order to protect his clan.
While Raphael had agreed with his friend, he was unsure how he had allowed Magnus to talk him into attending a boarding school instead of hiding out in solitary. He was sure that the situation awarded Magnus more hilarity than practicality, but the eccentric warlock could be incredibly persuasive.
At least, Raphael had counted on his ability to ignore the mundanes around him and therefore also ignore the exasperating curse inside him. Which is why Magnus’ words didn’t, couldn’t make sense.
“It’s true!” Magnus protested. “I’m connected to that blasted curse inside you, I felt it the moment they fell.”
Raphael was currently acting extremely out of character as he paced back and forth across the grass.
“It can’t be possible. Honestly, did I in any way whatsoever act in a manner that invited someone to fall in love with me?”
Magnus seemed to consider the question seriously for a second before shrugging. “No, I must say you most definitely did not. Quite the opposite, no offense.”
Raphael momentarily let a smile creep upon his face as he remembered the few words he has spoken during the assembly, before schooling his features into something more closely representing a snarl. “It was most likely just a young girl, falling for the first boy she saw.” He spoke the words in disgust, and perhaps even a little bit of hope. Whatever it was faded away as Magnus shook his head.
“No, I can guarantee you that it was definitely a male signature, whoever it came from.”
Raphael rolled his eyes at the warlock. “Well you seem to be very knowledgeable, any way you can tell who it came from?”
Magnus frowned at his sarcasm, rolling the words on his tongue before he spoke, “You know I can’t…whoever it was certainly a mundane though.”
Raphael resisted the urge to shout at Magnus, knowing full well that he was not the warlock he was frustrated with. “So what,” He started, “should I just navigate the school and make sure I at no point come into contact with anyone? Because that seems a little too difficult, even for me.”
Magnus span on the spot, his multi-coloured clothes and necklaces making the movement look like a swirl of his magic. “You could…do something particular terrible and dickish to ensure that they fall out of love with you?”
The vampire gave him a wolfish smile. “Just act like a dick, as you so eloquently put it? I can do that, very easily indeed.”
Magnus met Raphael’s smile with one of his own, opened his mouth to agree and settle the matter, then closed it with a snap and a dark blur erupted into the space and a mundane with messy brown hair, freckles and chocolate coloured eyes covered by glasses appeared before them.
“NO! DON’T DO THAT!” He shouted at Raphael, his hands gesturing wildly and his eyes wild behind the glass.
Magnus and Raphael both stared at the boy when he finally stopped moving, both equally curious and disturbed at the interruption. When he registered their gazes he flushed red and gave a sheepish smile at both of them.
“Hi?” His eyes flicked back and forth between them, lingering on Raphael before he closed them and groaned in embarrassment.
“Let me start over. I’m Simon Lewis.” He smiled brightly, seemingly unconcerned by the lack of response. “Okay then. I’m assuming that you,” with a carefully distanced hand pointing towards Raphael, “Have been…cursed? Or something of the sort. As much as I could gather, I do not want to touch you!”
The boy’s, Simon’s, voice was far too loud and cheerful in Raphael’s opinion, not to mention that he was far too knowledgeable. “You were listening to us?” He accused the boy, only pausing to register a nod before turning to Magnus. “You said you glamoured us.”
For once it seemed that Magnus was completely lost for reason and words. “I did!” He protested. “We are!”
Simon waved a hand to get their attention. He screwed his nose up in apology before explaining. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Simple glamours don’t work well for me.” He shrugged carelessly, as if it were a normal occurrence.
Raphael once again felt like taking a breath, despite the fact that it had been many years since his last one. “You. Are. A. Mundane.” He forced out between his teeth. “There is no way you should be able to perceive anything through a glamour.”
At that Simon laughed, laughed!, and gave them another wide grin. “Well that’s a long story.” He said enthusiastically. Without giving either downworlder a chance to protest, he started speaking again. “You see, I had this great friend when I was younger, not my best friend, but a very good friend nevertheless. Her name was Esme, and whenever I was not with Clary, I was with her. She was very sweet, and very shy. She was great at hide and seek though, I always wanted to team up with her. Of course, Clary got very jealous at this, but I was able to…” A pointed cough from Raphael made Simon smile sheepishly at him.
“Anyway, she was young, so I guess she hadn’t learnt control properly yet. One day when we were playing frog-that’s a great game to play on a bed-she slipped to the ground and when I went to help her up she had two magnificent azure antlers reaching from her shoulder blades. When she realised that they were on display she burst into tears and hid under the bed, desperately apologising. I didn’t understand why she was so ashamed of them, they were the most beautiful things I’d seen! So I told her that, and she came out and shyly asked me if I was lying. Of course I wasn’t, and it took a long time but eventually she trusted me and I think I might have been the only one who wasn’t afraid of her, back then.
“We were both young, so she saw no harm in telling me all about the ‘shadow world’. As we both grew up and she started to realise her mistake, we realised that it was too late. I was already so accustomed to downworlder life and beauty that I had unconsciously developed the sight.
“So yeah, I’m very much a mundane, but I know that you,” A smile in Raphael’s direction, “are a vampire, in fact, you’re a daylighter! Which is very cool, by the way. And, you, “A nod to Magnus, “Are definitely a warlock, and unless there is more than one who dresses like that and is a gorgeous man with cat eyes, you’re most likely Magnus Bane.” With a last grin, Simon stopped talking and gave a tiny bow, just stopping himself from toppling over headfirst.
Magnus gave a long suffering sigh. “First of all,” He began. “Thank you for saying I’m gorgeous. Secondly, how do you know who I am? I know no warlock named Esme.”
Raphael, who expected another grin was surprised and a little concerned when instead Simon’s face crumpled and tears grew in the corner of his eyes. “No,” He said, his voice little more than a whisper. “You wouldn’t know her, she was murdered two years ago.”
Raphael couldn’t understand the irrational urge he felt to comfort that sad mundane. He was glad when Magnus spoke up, as it prevented him from doing something foolish, such as offer condolences to the annoying boy.
Magnus simply gave Simon a sad smile before once again prompting him to explain how, exactly, he knew who he was.
Simon didn’t quite grin, but there was definitely a hint of a smile as he replied. “That’s simple,” He shrugged. “You’re Alec’s Magnus. He always talks about you!”
Magnus smiled warmly to himself and Raphael groaned.
“How do you know Alec, Samson?” Magnus inquired. “He doesn’t make a point to associate with mundanes.”
Simon frowned. “It’s Simon, actually, and didn’t I tell you? Clary Fray’s my best friend! She just found out that she’s a shadow hunter.”
“Clary Fray?” Magnus repeated. “No you didn’t say. But that explains it. Biscuit is definitely not good at keeping her mouth shut.”
Simon wavered between agreeing and defending his friend. Eventually he just stayed silent, which was a welcome surprise.
The silence allowed Raphael to speak up. “Not that I wasn’t enjoying story time,” He drawled lazily, feeling very much in control. “But can we get back to the matter at hand? Unless Simon comes to his senses, there is the small issue of his imminent death if he comes into contact at all with me.”
Simon’s eyes nearly fell out of their sockets as he opened them wide. “Whoa, did you just say ‘death’?” He almost shouted. “Who the hell did you piss off?” His voice was full of worry, and Raphael had a dreadful feeling that all of that worry was irrationally directed at Raphael instead of himself. His thoughts were confirmed when the boy continued speaking. “Man that’s horrible for you, God I’m sorry. Wait, you can’t say God, can you? Sorry.”
Raphael narrowed his eyes to keep himself from chuckling. “For God’s sake can you focus?” He snarled. “Do you have a death wish? No? Then make sure you stay well away from me.” He tried not to notice how Simon’s face fell at that and something like heartbreak flashed across his face.
“Yep. Yes. That’s a very good idea.” He stumbled over his words, fishing in his pockets before huffing adorably-not that Raphael thought he was adorable-and sitting himself on the grass to search through his backpack. With a triumphant cry, he re-emerged with his mobile, which he promptly handed to Magnus. “Give me Raphael’s number,” He instructed. “That way we can text each other our schedules so that we don’t accidently run into each other.”
Raphael raised his eyebrows, feeling slightly impressed at the mundane’s practical thinking. He ignored that idiotic feeling of disappointment that welled up inside of him, instead rolled his eyes at Magnus’ incompetence and took the phone from him. The mobile was warm from Simon’s hand and once again that foolish feeling popped up to remind him that this was the closest he would be able to get to touching the mundane.
Raphael will deny that he felt something leave his body as Simon gave them a last grin and turned to leave. He will deny that he had to stop himself from following the boy. And he will definitely deny that he watched the mundane leave while starting to think that he wasn’t unlovable after all.
Raphael knew it was wrong. He knew it was selfish and unfair and crazy and stupid. But somehow, what started as a casual exchange of schedules had progressed to a regular correspondence. If he could, he would definitely say that Simon started it, but it would be a lie. It was Raphael himself who sent the first conversational text, a simple question in a moment of weakness. He wasn’t to know that it would escalate into a wild debate over coffee preferences. He couldn’t have predicted how Simon’s many geeky references and complicated jokes that he always felt the need to explain made the vampire smile genuinely and laugh unreservedly.
It started to get out of hand at the phone call. This was all Simon’s fault, though. If the mundane would stop getting himself in fights Raphael would have had no need to call and make sure he was okay. And after a particular day when a bruise covered Simon had waved at Raphael from across the cafeteria, there was really nothing Raphael could do but initiate a video chat in order to fully ascertain that they really were just ‘surface wounds’. It was fully excusable.
Maybe there was no excuse for the late night chats where they both told the other secrets. Raphael knew all about the hardest and darkest times of the younger boy’s life, he’d watched as Simon started to cry talking about his father and perhaps he longed to hold him as he broke down explaining Esme’s impact on his life. Simon had comforted him from across a screen as he spoke for the first time ever about his turning and the tragic events that had followed.
There was no excuse, but the moment that Raphael realised how deep he was also happened to be the moment where he realised that there was no way out.
It was idiotic, greedy and reckless, but Raphael Santiago had fallen in love with Simon Lewis.
The problem with a curse is that it’s like poison. Perhaps at the start, it is unnoticeable, but eventually it starts to affect your body and soon it envelops your entire being. Raphael could maybe blame the curse for clouding his thinking as he set out to find Lucille on his own.
There was something, some stupid part of the once level headed vampire that made him think he had a chance. That Lucille had felt this terrible, desperate feeling called love, she would surely understand him. Surely, once she understood she would take pity on him and remove the curse.
Such were the delusional thoughts that filled Raphael’s head as he stood outside that deceivingly modest apartment and raised his hand to knock at the door. The first warning sign should have been evident when it opened before he knocked and the shimmering, deadly, warlock stood waiting for him.
“You’ve come.” She purred smoothly. “Oh you foolish, foolish darling. You thought you could appeal to my better side? My dear,” She hooked a long fuchsia fingernail underneath his chin, forcing him to meet her unglamoured eyes. “You killed my better side. You ripped into him like he was nothing but a blood bag. You took him away from me, you showed no mercy. He was defenceless, all alone. Vampires are all the same. They see blood and they pounce.”
He voice was silky smooth on the outside but underneath was a note of something, something alien to the heartless being in front of him. Raphael stared at her, uncomprehending. Then her words repeated themselves in his head. ‘Defenceless, all alone. They see blood and they pounce.’ And suddenly he recognised what it was in her voice. Warning.
A vampire’s heart doesn’t beat. But if it did, Raphael’s would have as he fully understood what Lucille was trying to tell him. His hands started to shake, then blur as his vampire speed grew unstable. His arms flew up and he gripped Lucille’s shoulders tight.
“What did you do Witch?!” He cried. “WHAT DID YOU DO?”
A deranged cackle of laughter answered him. “The punishment fits the crime, vampire. The punishment fits the crime. Go, boy. See if you can save yours like I couldn’t save mine. Except what will you do? How can you save someone you can’t touch? Oh murderer, the punishment fits the crime.”
Raphael could still hear her cackling as he ran out of the street and headed back towards the school. It had been many years since he had grown used to his speed, but never had he moved as fast as he did that day. One thought spurred him on, one person’s name was on his tongue and the same person’s face on his mind.
He left no time to thinking rationally as he surrounded the school and finally found his mundane in a tunnel near the dam. He hadn’t had a chance to prepare himself for what he saw, and he wondered if there would ever be a moment where he could.
There were four vampires, all he recognised as loyal followers of Camille, the leader he had killed years before. They held in their arms Simon, who was bloody beyond anything Raphael had seen before. For a moment time stilled as Raphael asked himself if he was too late. But then his ears picked up the heartbeat he had memorised long ago.
That was all the incentive Raphael needed to leap into action, snarling as he sank his teeth into the closest vampire and with one smooth twist of his hands broke the creatures neck. That single move startled the others into the fight, they clawed and bit and fought with everything they had but they stood no chance against the rage that was Raphael. The last one crawled itself over towards Simon’s unmoving body and with the last of its strength pushed the boy over the edge of the dam.
Raphael had seen the entire fight in slow motion, so he was already at the edge as Simon started to fall. With no hesitation, he reached down and grabbed Simon’s arm with his two hands. He pulled the boy up and into his arms, shivering and shaking.
Raphael collapsed onto the ground, pulling Simon down with him. He cradled the younger boy in his lap and turned him so they were face to face. Already he could see the effects of the curse taking place. Through the blood that covered the boy’s face, deathly white skin was showing and he was gasping for breath.
Though Simon was weak, he found enough strength to pull Raphael down and press a desperate kiss onto the others mouth. Gasping for breath, he pulled the other as close as possible to him and parted for just a moment to whisper painfully, ‘I never stopped loving you.’
Raphael held the boy in his arms and kissed him forcefully, nothing held back. He poured all of the love he didn’t think he could ever give into the kiss and hoped that it was enough. In his mouth he tasted blood, his, Simon’s, one of the others, it didn’t matter. Because through it all was a taste that was wholly Simon and Raphael needed to take this last moment to memorise it. To never let go of it.
And it was there, in Raphael’s arms, at the edge of a dam wall, surrounded by blood and bodies, that Simon Lewis died.
A vampire’s heart can’t beat. But it can break, and Raphael’s heart broke when Simon took his last breath and stopped moving in his arms.
And it was many hours later when he was able to move again, when he called the one person who might be able to help him, and Magnus Bane unceremoniously called him a dramatic idiot.
It was midnight when Simon Lewis rose again, the blood of a daylighter in his body and the love of a daylighter in his unbeating heart.
If across the city, a watching warlock smiled to herself and finally lost the last traces of rage in her body, then that was nobody’s business but her own.