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Playing Hard To Get

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When Magnus Bane met Raphael Santiago, he wasn’t nearly the man he was today.

Not that Magnus blamed him for that. They were all young, scared, lost and afraid once. Life was a journey, and the only benefit for being centuries old was that Magnus had been allowed more time to go on his. Time to figure everything out, to work out who he was and what he wanted from his life, who he wanted to be.

When Magnus Bane met Raphael Santiago, he was barely in his twenties, newly deceased, and part of a world he couldn’t begin to understand. And whilst Magnus Bane was not that person anymore, he still vividly remembered what it was to be young, alone, and part of a world he couldn’t begin to understand.

He might act like the hard as steel High Warlock of Brooklyn who didn’t do anything without a price, might act like the demon blood in his veins sometimes. But the truth was that deep down, buried at his core, Magnus had a heart that he gave away all too easily when he let himself. He’d been hurt and bruised and battered for it, and yet he still never seemed to learn, seemed to trip into the same old trap over and over again.

Despite that, Magnus had very few true friends, friends he could keep for more than a fleeting brush of a few decades, the limits of mortal lifespans making everything all the more fragile. He’d lost people he’d never wanted to lose, lost people he should never have had to lose, and yet he’d survived. He always survived, pulse throbbing on. People had tried to kill him since he’d been old enough to create his first sparks of magic, and maybe even before.

And at the end of the day, here he was. Wandering around Camille’s Raphael’s suite at the Hotel Du Mort, drinking Camille’s Raphael’s wine, as Raphael himself stood at a drinks trolley, decanting blood into a crystal glass. It was all so civilised, such a far cry from where they’d started. He couldn’t help but feel proud of that. Of the growth, how they’d changed in a lifetime. How far they’d come.

There might be a whole new set of problems on the doorstep, but they’d survived the last batch. Magnus had to believe they could survive this set too. That they could keep surviving. It wasn’t as if there was no reason to. Raphael had finally kicked Camille to the curb, she was rotting somewhere far, far away in relative luxury, and Magnus… well, he had things to hope for. It was enough. Even if Valentine was a looming threat, it was more than enough for now.

Magnus let his fingers skim over the shelving units, examining the things lying there. Camille’s style, objects she’d strewn around for effect and impact that Raphael had never removed. Tacky decorations, overpriced statements and…

“So that’s where you got to,” Magnus commented, lifting the small golden egg from the shelf, holding it up to the light in the room.

“Didn’t you give that to Camille in the Forties?” Raphael asked from where he was putting the stopper back in the decanter.

“Technically, yes. But it was still mine, and now I want it back,” Magnus said, tone carrying a certain levity that said that was the end of the discussion, slipping the priceless artifact into his pocket. No one would ever be crazy enough to call Magnus petty but… oh, he could definitely be petty when he wanted to be.

Raphael rolled his eyes, lifting his glass to his lips as if to distract himself from what he really wanted to do. But the fact was, Magnus had spent too much time with Raphael Santiago. So he knew exactly what Raphael wanted to do. Rather than vocalise it, though, Magnus simply quirked an eyebrow, watching as Raphael took a seat on the couch, stretching across the space like he belonged there.

Leadership suited Raphael, and he’d always known it would. He’d just needed a little push to get there. The threat of the Clave and the Shadowhunters coming down on the entire clan like a ton of bricks was apparently it. Still. If Magnus had learned one thing over the years, it was that you couldn’t push people into things they weren’t ready for. All you could do was open the door, show them the way and hope they could make it there alone. He couldn’t take that step for them. They had to do that for themselves.

“I never understood why you were with her in the first place.”

Ah. There it was. The real confession.

Because he’d been looking for love in somewhere that wouldn’t bruise his heart as much. Because he’d convinced himself, after a string of mortal lovers, that someone immortal who paid him the slightest bit of attention had to be better than losing someone who loved him with all their soul. Because he was tired of loving and losing, getting attached and watching everything slowly burn up and die around him. Because he’d thought immortal meant bulletproof.

He knew better now, of course.

Magnus sighed dramatically, collapsing onto the sofa opposite Raphael, collecting his drink from where he’d left it. He stretched out with a certain grace, swirling the liquor in his glass, watching it flow. It was always strange, being at the DuMort. So many conflicting memories and emotions. He was never quite sure what to think or feel. But Raphael had needed him, and so here he was.

If there was one thing Magnus would never be accused of it, it was being a bad friend.

“You, my dear friend, wouldn’t.”

It wasn’t even a misstatement. Magnus had been there nearly from day one. He’d met Raphael in a day and age where he’d been forced into having a girlfriend before he met his demise, a girl his mother had been quite keen for him to marry. Magnus, on discovering this fact, had warned against Raphael going back to her, knowing exactly what could happen. There’d been no vampires around to teach Raphael in those early days, so Magnus had taken on the job himself.

He had been a little surprised when the young Raphael had merely shrugged and said he wasn’t that bothered to see her, that she was a friend but she was better off without him anyway. He’d been more surprised when Raphael had explained later that the only reason he’d even been dating her was because their parents had encouraged him, that he’d never felt like that about her. That he’d never felt attraction towards anyone, not in the same way that Magnus did. That seemingly everyone else did.

It would be many years later before either of them stumbled across the word ‘asexual’, and a bit longer before Raphael would feel comfortable enough to start applying to word to himself, and even then only around certain people. Magnus would always feel privileged to be one of the few people that Raphael trusted enough to discuss something so personal with.

And really, when Magnus looked back at his own relationship with Camille, when you took the sexual attraction away, there was very little there worth having. She was a vile, manipulative person who would never stop trying to manipulate him and ruin whatever joy he found outside of her, because she would always be trying to convince him that she was what was best for him. It had taken him a long time to realise that he deserved better, and he certainly wasn’t going back from that now.

The thing about immortal meant that she was also an immortal pain in his ass.

“I can’t believe you people are so sex-crazed that you’ll get into things like that to get it.”

“I’m not sex-crazed,” Magnus complained.

“No? But you tolerated Camille for decades with literally no other attraction in that relationship, and now I’m hearing the great Magnus Bane with a severe distaste for all things Shadowhunter is suddenly spending rather a lot of time with a group of their children.”

Shit. Well.

“That’s different,” Magnus objected.

“Is it?” Raphael pressed, raising an eyebrow. “The Lightwood boy has his own world. He is always going to be a Shadowhunter, and that is always going to come first. No matter what he feels for you. You’re attractive because you’re new and exciting and forbidden, amigo. How long until that all dies away and he remembers what his job is?”

Magnus huffed, stretching out a little more, doing his best to not pout and act like a spoilt brat.

“You are precisely no fun, Raphael. Honestly, ever since Ragnor went away you’ve been even gloomier than usual.”

Raphael shrugged idly, swallowing another mouthful of his drink. “What can I say, I’m a realist. Besides, maybe Ragnor had the right idea. At least if the world thinks he’s dead no one will be trying to hunt him down and kill him in this damn war.”

“I’m still hurt he told you his plan but not me . His best friend .”

It had been one of Ragnor’s more brilliant moments, one that Magnus would surely murder him for himself when he got his hands on him. He should have known that the great, ancient Ragnor Fell would never be stupid enough to expire on the fangs of a Shax demon in his own home. But the stage show had been so convincing, and the grief Magnus had felt had been so real. Apparently, it had been crucial for the Shadowhunters and the Clave to think Ragnor dead, and only Magnus’ authentic reaction could assure that.

When Raphael had told him, weeks later, that Ragnor was safe and sound and in hiding somewhere, and that the bastard had probably been astral projecting when he’d told him to interrupt Alec’s wedding, Magnus had been both furious and relieved all at once. He had no idea where Ragnor was, and neither did Raphael, but it was safer that was. Ragnor would come back, when the time was right. When he had something that could end this damn war once and for all.

“Maybe he trusts me more because I’m not constantly wondering how to get into a Shadowhunter’s pants.”

“I’m not constantly wondering that!” Not constantly. Even if Alec did keep showing bits of skin with all those runes that Magnus maybe hadn’t expected to see so soon.

“No, but you are thinking about it now.”

Dammit, Raphael.

“And here I thought you and Simon were getting close,” Magnus retorted, mostly to deflect the attention off of his own love life. Raphael snorted.

“Hardly. He never stops talking. He’s… loud and irritating and also far too tangled up with Shadowhunters. He needs to sort out where his loyalties lie.”

It wasn’t as if Raphael didn’t need friends, didn’t want to get close to people. Of course, Raphael would never admit to that. But Magnus knew he was still a romantic, somewhere in there. He’d probably just started thinking that was impossible, somewhere along the way. Out of everyone, Magnus had always thought he and Ragnor were the closest, the most likely to cause a shift. But then Simon had shown up, and he’d thought there was something there, or the potential for it.

“Give him a chance. He’s new,” Magnus reassured him softly. Raphael scoffed.

“He’s had his chances. Besides, before you start setting anyone up, I’m not interested, and he’s hung up on the arrogant blonde one anyway.”

Oh. Simon and Jace?

Maybe Magnus was slipping in his old age.

Or maybe he was just too hung up on Alec to notice it, since he usually saw those two when Alec was around, which meant he had other priorities. Which meant… dammit. Raphael was maybe partly right.

Partly .

Magnus sighed again, putting his drink aside. “Well, then I suppose I’ll just need to take you out instead then,” he complained, even if there was no real heart to it. He’d gladly take Raphael out every day of the week, because he loved the grumpy vampire, even if he didn’t want to accept or admit to holding that love. Raphael never seemed to want to let him, though.

“Magnus. No.”

“Oh, come on. It’s been practically centuries since I visited Pandemonium, and you should come with me. You need to relax.”

“I’m not going anywhere near that dancefloor.”

“Fine. Just drinks. I’ll even keep the seelies off you.”

Raphael sighed, downing the last of his blood before getting to his feet. Raphael had been around Magnus long enough to know when he was committed to something. And there was no talking him out of this one.

“Fine. One drink. I have things to do, you know.”

Magnus bit back a smug smile, getting to his feet and quickly conjuring up a portal. “No one will even notice you were gone,” Magnus promised, even if he wasn’t sure he really meant it. He just wanted Raphael to unwind, have fun. That would never mean grinding on a dancefloor, and it would never mean having mindless sex like he’d so often been talked into himself in order to loosen up. But that was okay. Because they were not the same person, which was one of the beauties of life.

Raphael Santiago was not broken. He was a man who’d had decades to grow and learn and be comfortable in his own skin. And Magnus was proud that he’d been able to be there for so many steps of the way. He was proud of the man Raphael was today.

And nothing would ever be able to change that.