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Time and Time Again (I Will Always Find You)

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[2019]

 

            Simon Lewis woke up to the sound of his Bluetooth speaker playing one of his band’s own songs, just as it woke him up every day at 8:30. However, today wasn’t an average day; it was Simon’s twentieth birthday. It wasn’t going to be anything too exciting, but he had planned on making it exciting enough to be special.

            He took a fast shower and got dressed speedily since his mother, sister, and Clary were on the way to take him to brunch for his birthday. It seemed like the moment he had his socks and shoes on, his mother called to inform him they were outside.

            He headed out of his apartment building to see them all waiting outside for him. Clary was the first to give him a hug and wish him a happy birthday. His own family had to wait to be second. The blood of the covenant appeared to be thicker than the water of the womb it appeared.

            “It’s so good to see you, Simon,” his mother said.

            “Mom, we just had dinner together like a week ago,” Simon said.

            “I know, but it’s different not having you around. But I am proud of you for being able to be responsible and independent,” she replied.

            “It’s rough sometimes, but I like it too,” Simon said.

            “Ugh,” Rebecca grunted. “Let’s just go, I’m hungry!”

            “Alright, alright!” Elaine said as she gestured for them to get into the car. Rebecca got shotgun and Simon and Clary sat together in the back. There was a large baby blue paper bag with tissue paper sticking out in one of the seats.

            “Here is your present from me,” Clary said as she handed it over. Simon eagerly stuck his hand in and fished around without removing the paper first. He felt something flat and skinny and immediately knew what it was, at least partially. He pulled out the record, bringing a few sheets of paper along with it.

            “Oh my gosh!” Simon exclaimed. “The new Shadowhunters vinyl!? It’s not out for another week! How’d you score it?”

            “I have a hookup at this old vinyl shop. The owner’s name is Maia. She said she was this cool hacker in the 90’s. She’s super badass. She said she’s only legit now, she said she had some friends that were in too deep with the law and died and all or something. Scary stuff. But, she’s friends with my mom.”

            “Well I will have to meet her and tell her thank you,” Simon said. “This is a great start to the day so far.”

            “I’m glad you like it,” Clary said.

            The family arrived at Simon’s favorite brunch spot. It was a warm day with just a nice faint breeze. They had a great spot on the patio seating area. Simon’s mom and his sister each got a mimosa, but Simon and Clary were still too young.

            “One more year and I’ll be able to have those. Legally,” Simon said.

            “Just remember, if you are going to any parties, now or any age, drink responsibly and don’t drive ever,” his mom lectured.

            “Of course, Mom,” Simon said, embarrassed at the lecture.

            “It’s such lovely day for your birthday, Sy,” Clary said. “What do you want to do today?”

            “Well, I want to redeem my birthday coffee at like, 4 different cafes. The mall would be fun. Then I’m thinking a book store and the science museum?”

            “Sounds like a long day,” his mother said. “Are you going to want to come over for dinner?”

            “I don’t know. This is more than enough. I was just going to plan on pizza, wings, and a movie at my apartment,” Simon replied.

            “Your birthday sounds boring,” Rebecca teased.

            “Well I promise to go on a raging bender next year, how’s that sound?” Simon asked.

            “Sounds like a memorable 21st. Or maybe if you blackout enough, not so memorable,” she replied. Clary laughed and his mom rolled her eyes at her two children. Simon ate his chicken and waffles while Clary had a spinach and white cheese crepe.

            After brunch, his mom dropped Simon and Clary back at Simon’s. He hugged his mother and his sister goodbye and they headed back home. Simon and Clary got into Simon’s van and took off for his favorite café first.

            The Hunter’s Moon was a cute little independent coffee shop that made the best iced drinks. It also had a cute werewolf theme, and as a queer individual, Simon was contractually obligated to love werewolves and vampires.

            Simon got a Full White Moon Mocha, which was white chocolate and regular chocolate together. Clary got a Wolfsbane Tea which was just a berry and mint tea.

            “I love this place so much,” Simon said. “I like to do my homework here. It’s a nice place to focus.”

            Simon took a sip of his drink when an attractive, overdressed man entered the café. He looked like he was ready for a job interview or something. He was stylish, suave and he was looking right at Simon.

            The man gave a charming smile and Simon looked away bashfully. The man approached, however and Simon forced himself to look at the attractive model that must be mistaken or delusional to stop at Simon’s table.

            “Excuse me, sir,” the guy said. “May I please ask what kind of drink that is?”

            “It’s uh….” Simon stuttered. “The Full White Moon Mocha.”

            “How’s it taste?” the man asked. Simon wasn’t sure if it was a seductive line or not, but he felt it had the potential and that made Simon’s blood warmer.

            “It’s….really good.” Simon was awkwardly nodding which made the man smile.

            “You seem like you have good taste. I’ll try it,” he said as he headed to the counter. Simon just looked at Clary with large beaming eyes and Clary looked like she was fighting her face muscles to prevent an obnoxious smile.

            “What the hell was that?” Simon whispered.

            “Obviously the universe is giving you a birthday present!” Clary chuckled.

            “Is he looking this way?” Simon asked. Clary looked behind Simon, who had his back to the main counter, to look at the handsome stranger. He was looking at the barista, but turned backwards for a brief moment to smile at Clary.

            “He gave me a warm, friendly smile. The looks he was giving you were much…hungrier,” she explained.

            “Oh my god,” Simon said. “We should go.”

            “Absolutely not,” Clary argued. “We are getting you a birthday boyfriend.”

            “How do we know he likes dudes?” Simon asked.

            “He seemed pretty into you,” Clary added.

            “How do we know he’s not a serial killer? He entered and immediately came to me. He didn’t even look anywhere else or at a menu.”

            “Maybe you are the menu.”

            The guy came back to Simon’s table and did a ‘cheers’ gesture with his drink towards Simon. “It’s really delicious. I appreciate the recommendation. May I ask your name so I may thank you properly?” he asked.

            “I’m Simon. This is Clary,” Simon replied, Clary waved hi silently, enjoying every moment of this encounter.

            “Well, Simon, my name is Raphael. And I have no idea how I’ve been living my life without this wonderful coffee you brought to my attention. I need much more of your recommendations for my own personal growth and development. Why don’t I give you my number and you can recommend me restaurants, movies, places, and we could even potentially go to some of these places together?” Raphael asked charmingly.

            Clary immediately started to chug her tea to control her face as she attempted, yet failed, to nonchalantly look anywhere else. Simon felt embarrassed and put on the spot and uncomfortable by the handsome stranger’s advance, but he certainly wasn’t protesting. “You just met me and you don’t know much about me!”

            “Hence why I would love to know more, but I don’t want to interrupt your day with your Clary. But I think you’ve got great taste. If you accept my number and go on a date with me, I will be even more sure of that fact.”

            Simon smiled at the man. “You seem a little too confident. I don’t know if I trust a guy who can’t be vulnerable or worried.”

            “I have plenty of vulnerabilities and things to be worried about,” Raphael replied.

            “Like what?”

            Raphael made a tsk noise with his tongue and tilted his head as he smiled. “Seems like a first date question to me.” He took a napkin from the table and a pen from out of his pocket and wrote his number. He slid it into Simon’s hand and then wrapped his own around Simon’s and folded Simon’s hand closed over the napkin. “I recommend putting it in your phone as soon as possible. I don’t want to risk not being able to see you again.”

            He let go of Simon and grabbed his drink back from the table. “I hope you enjoy the rest of your day. Clary, sorry I sort of ignored you. I meant no offense. Please put in a good word for me.”

            “Oh I will,” Clary promised.

            “Goodbye, Simon,” Raphael said as he headed to the door. He turned around to look at Simon one more time, winking at him, as the door opened with his back. Raphael disappeared from view and Clary began to excitedly shake Simon’s arm.

            “AHHHHHHHHH!!!” she squeaked, getting a few angry glares. “That was amazing!”

            “What the fuck was that!?” Simon asked, beet red in the face. “That has never happened in my life. Is this even real?”

            “I think it’s real,” Clary said, pinching Simon.

            “Ow!” he exclaimed, jerking his arm back. “That was fake, like porn. That doesn’t just happen. We got hit by a car. And we’re dead now. That is the only acceptable truth.”

            “Just take the win Simon! He obviously thought you were so breathtakingly gorgeous that he needed you in his life.”

            “Bullshit,” Simon countered. “He’s a solid ten, and I’m like a five point five. Six with my hair styles nicely.”

            “You are way too harsh on yourself. You’re a very attractive guy. But yes, he is a solid 10. And he wants you. Put his number in your phone this instant.”

            “Fine,” Simon grumbled as he typed it into his phone. “What should I put as his last name?”

            “Hottie. Dreamy. Café guy. Your last name.

            “Raphael. Guy,” Simon said.

            “Lame. Don’t bore him into ghosting you. You cannot mess this up, Simon!”

            “I’ll do my best not to,” he said with a chuckle. “Let’s get out of here. What’s our next stop?

            The rest of his birthday proceeded as normal without any further mention of Raphael, but Simon couldn’t stop thinking about him all day. They stopped at a music instrument store, the mall, another café in the afternoon for an additional fix of caffeine. He eventually dropped Clary back off at her place and retired to his own apartment for the evening for his self-promised pizza and wings.

            He pulled out his cell phone and sent a text to the cute man he had met. “This is Simon. I know I’m supposed to wait three days, but I just wanted to give you reassurance I didn’t lose your number.”

            Simon took a bite of his wing and continued to watch Star Wars when his notification went off. He fought the impulsive urge to text that second, but he did want to play a little cool. Luckily, the sauce coated to his fingers would require cleaning before he touched his phone again.

            He eventually looked at Raphael’s message that read, “Three days is over a fifth of a fortnight. That’s too much time to waste trying to be too confident and cool. I hear boys don’t always like that. They like a boy who’s anxious. Perhaps anxious to text too fast and too soon.”

            Simon smiled. “Perhaps they do. I’m usually a fast texter too.”

            He sent the message, and soon saw the upcoming bubbles emerging in the chat box. “Life is too short. Not everyone has eternity to wait for the one. Besides, I heard Ariana Grande’s new song. I saw it, I liked it. Or something like that. I can’t say I usually listen to pop. But it has me inspired.”

            “Just as long as you aren’t inspired by Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored.”

            Simon was getting too distracted from his movie, but he didn’t mind. He had seen it before a hundred times. Raphael was new.

            “Naw, I’m a one man at a time kind of guy.”

            “Do you often give guys your number within moments after seeing them for the first time?” Simon asked.

            “Just about once or twice. But that was a very long time ago,” Raphael stated.

 

[1997]

 

            Raphael got out of bed that morning eager as can be. He knew he was going to be sleep deprived because he was so restless falling asleep the night before. He had waited 21 years for today, just as he had waited every 21 years for thousands of years.

            Today was Simon’s 20th birthday. Every 21 years, he meets Simon on his 20h birthday. It has never failed, never faltered. Wherever Raphael goes today, he will run into Simon, and Simon will fall for him and be intrigued.

            Raphael put on a simple red T-Shirt and a jean jacket and paired it with some cargo pants and a studded belt. His day of hunting was due to begin.

            Raphael got some breakfast at a diner. He looked around the room as he sat from the main counter. No sign of him. Raphael contemplated between a quick breakfast so he could search new places or a long one to hope he may appear.

            He ordered a short stack of pancakes and some eggs with sausage. Whatever happened, happened. He would meet Simon one way or another today.

            As he ate, he thought about his year with Simon in 1975. The Vietnam war ended, which was exciting. They saw Jaws together, and Raphael got to hold Simon because he was “scared” but he thought Simon was just faking for a chance to cuddle. It was a decent year for them both. Not the most exciting, but he loved every year with Simon.

            Raphael paid the check and there was still no sign of him, so Raphael continued on his quest to find Simon. Every Simon was a little different, but they were all fundamentally similar. He was always geeky or nerdy, he was always horny, empathetic, a true friend. He had a great sense of humor, and he was always the most beautiful boy Raphael had ever seen in his thousands of years of life.

            He stopped by an art museum; a fun thing to do for one’s birthday. He wasn’t looking at any of the paintings or sculptures, at least not really. He was trying to scan the crowd for Simon, but not look weird doing it.

            His second attempt of the day wasn’t successful. It was already noon, and about a third of the day had been wasted. Worst case scenario, Simon could be at a gay club tonight now that those were popular. That’s where he met Simon last time though, and Simon was drunk out of his mind. It’s hard being suave and charming when the love of your life is practically incoherent. He hoped the universe would let him have a change of pace.

            He was walking past his favorite internet cade when he finally spotted a cute brunette through the glass. The glare and his own reflection made it hard for him to verify, though. Raphael entered the café for a better view.

            Sure enough, Simon was here, sitting at what was coincidentally Raphael’s favorite spot. He observed a little closer and noticed a small window on the corner of the display. It was the window for hacker coding. Raphael chuckled. This year’s Simon was a hacker. Luckily for Raphael, hobbies get boring, and he has had plenty of years to adapt and find new things. Hacking was something they could share in common.

            Raphael got an hour and a half’s worth of tokens for the systems and he slowly approached. He looked at the people next to him: there was a guy with long black hair that was definitely not Raphael’s type, and there was a black girl with a curly afro. They might be a part of his hacker crew.

            Raphael slowly approached and Simon must’ve sensed him because the window was minimized, but he didn’t turn around.

            “Hey there,” Raphael addressed.

            Simon turned around nonchalantly. He must be wondering if he was caught, but he was playing it safe. “Hi?” he asked, clearly indicating he was bothered.

            “I just wanted to let you know that you’re in my favorite spot today,” Raphael said. “But I don’t mean it in a passive-aggressive way. It’s a lucky spot, I hope you have a lucky day.”

            “Oh really?” he asked condescendingly. “It doesn’t feel very lucky right now. Some jackass won’t stop bothering me.”

            His two buddies smirked, and honestly, so did Raphael. Simon has never been this bitter or aggressive. It was sort of fun. And Raphael had a plan in mind for him.

            “Alright then,” Raphael said. “You have a good rest of your day.” Raphael headed to one of the other computers and heard Simon and his other friends laughing. Raphael put the tokens into the computer to get it ready and started.

            As soon as he was logged on, he pulled up the text box and got to work. Raphael had memorized all of the important computer information of the terminal Simon was using. It wouldn’t take long to see what Simon had been up to. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be much longer for Simon to notice. Raphael got a few transaction details when he noticed Simon had glanced his way with a piercing expression. It wasn’t angry, it wasn’t amusement. It was merely acknowledgement. Raphael winked in return.

            Raphael was potentially going to be three against one if Simon was a narc. Did Raphael want to start securing his own defenses, or work more on offense on Simon’s computer?

            It appeared Simon began to try to shut Raphael out, so Raph continued to probe deeper and counter. He wasn’t hearing Simon alert the others, but his vision was blocked and couldn’t see if there was any non-verbal code.

            Raphael was able to pull Simon’s instant messaging and quickly skimmed it. Nothing recent looked like an alert to the other two. Simon was pursuing this one on one, like a game of chess.

            Raphael’s detour delayed him though, and it appeared he was shut out. An override attempt would take a moment, but he needed to check if Simon got to his yet. There wouldn’t be much point though, Raphael hasn’t done anything on this computer yet. He’d only get other patron’s information, which was the best point of these low security cafes.

            Raphael sent Simon a message. “Should I reverse the transactions from the money you stole?”

            “Are you sure you want to do that?”

            “Maybe. If it gets you bothered enough.”

            “I’ll give you 25% if you let bygones be bygones.”

            “I want 50% and a date.”

            Simon didn’t respond as fast as he did with the past two messages. He peeked at Simon, who was looking dumbfounded at the computer.

            “You look confused,” Raphael said.

            “I am confused.”

            “You need a good looking guy who can help you explore that ;)”

            “Not that part. The date part.”

            “Wow. I know us computer nerds have a bad rep for never getting any, but I figured you’d at least be eager to try.”

            “Why?”

            “You’re cute, and we have something in common.”

            “Was this like foreplay or something to you?” Simon asked.

            “Honey, this was the sex.”

            He heard a laugh coming from Simon’s monitor.

            “Why didn’t you out me to your friends?” Raphael asked.

            “You were outnumbered. It would have been a meaningless victory, had I succeeded in something.”

            “Well, I think now we’re even given your rude behavior. What’s your name?”

            “You first.”

            “Nuh-uh. I have the blackmail. You want to keep your money? You tell me,” Raphael countered.

            “Fine. I’m Eric Sanders,” Simon lied. Raphael chuckled.

            “Nice try, Simon. One attempt remaining.”

            “What the f-” Simon had said out loud. Technically Raphael was cheating. He didn’t obtain that from a hack. And now Simon was going to tear through the computer wondering where Raphael would have possibly gotten that. It made Raphael grin wide.

            Simon headed over to Raphael’s computer where he watched his love approach. He kept a shit eating grin on his face as Simon came over to surrender.

            “Where’d you get that?” Simon asked.

            “That’s a long last name,” Raphael teased. Simon exhaled from the anxiousness and stress.

            “I’m Simon Locke,” he said quietly. It seemed legit enough. The last name always changed, but it always began with an L.

            “I’d like to see some identification, Mr. Locke,” Raphael said, trying to be seductive with his power.

            “Why?” Simon contested.

            “Because I’d like to be able to find you again in case you’d ever like a cock up your ass instead of the stick that’s currently lodged in there.”

            Simon chuckled and bowed his head bashfully. Without fail, every version of Simon was very horny and always intrigued and attracted to Raphael. He fished into his pocket to pull out his wallet. He opened it and have Raphael the ID. Raphael took a moment to inspect it; it was real.

            “Nice to meet you, Mr. Locke,” Raphael said.

            “I showed you mine, show me yours,” Simon replied. Raphael complied and provided his own.

            “Raphael Santiago,” Simon said. “Seems legit.”

            “How can I get a hold of you?” Raphael asked. “I assume AIM and email are out of the question.”

            “You’ll have to use phone for now,” Simon said. “Give me a minute.” He headed over to the front counter and got a small piece of paper and pen and scribbled a number down. He gave it to Raphael.

            “If this is a fake number I’m reversing those transactions,” Raphael threatened.

            “It’s not a fake number,” Simon assured. “Plus you’ve got my address. I can’t hide.”

            “Okay,” Raphael conceded. “Thank you. I look forward to our date.”

            “I look forward to that other thing you promised,” Simon said with a wink.

 

[2019]

 

            Raphael looked through Simon Lewis’s Facebook and Instagram. Now that he had a last name, it was a lot easier. He already tried to take a peek at Simon’s email, but those are nothing but spam advertisements these days. But he did learn some of his favorite stores and interests.

            His phone began to ring. The caller ID said Maia. He answered the phone and kept her on speaker.

            “Hey Maia,” Raphael said.

            “So did it work? Did you meet him today?” she asked

            “Yes I did. In a coffee shop,” Raphael replied.

            “Wow. Internet café and then a regular café. Does he…look the same?” she asked.

            “Exactly the same each and every time.”

            “I honestly can’t believe it,” she said.

            “You can meet him sometime.”

            “I don’t know if I can handle that,” she replied.

            “Wouldn’t you want to see Kyle’s face one more time? If you had the chance?”

            “Maybe,” she said. “What’s he like?”

            “Very bashful. Very shy. He has a friend. A redhead named Clary.”

            “Oh my gosh! I know Clary! I gave that boy a Shadowhunters vinyl that I’m not supposed to sell yet!” she exclaimed.

            “What a small world,” Raphael said.

            “Are you hacking him right now?” Maia asked.

            “Of course. Gotta keep the tradition going,” Raphael said.

            “Well I’ll let you go, Raphael. I hope this year’s a good year for you both,” she said.

            “I do too, Maia. Thank you,” he replied. “Good night.”

            She disconnected from the phone and Raphael continued to scroll through Simon’s feed. The first day of his year with Simon was always bittersweet. He always counted down to the day, but he felt so incredibly stretched for time, and the realities of his curse always set in.

            In 364 days, Simon was going to die. Raphael would likely witness it just as he has hundreds of times. It was a looming gray cloud thought lingering over him, overshadowing every silver lining. It never got any easier.

            “I’m going to bed Raphael. Talk to you more tomorrow,” Simon texted.

            “Sweet dreams, handsome,” Raphael replied. He set his phone down and looked at the photos of Simon. He was so dashing in most of them. Even the ones where he was intentionally goofing off and making funny faces still had his charm.

            He was very excited to get to know this Simon. He looked up from his computer screen and saw a dark figure on his balcony, on the other side of the glass. Raphael didn’t react aside from flipping the man his middle finger and looking back at Facebook. When Raphael glanced again, the man had disappeared, just as he always did.

Chapter Text

Simon had been texting Raphael non-stop since his birthday two days ago. Raphael was funny, smart, and interesting. It also didn’t hurt that he was incredibly hot and took interest in Simon first.

            Simon had just gotten out of the shower when his phone started to ring for Facetime. Simon hadn’t really gotten dressed yet, he had just thrown on some briefs. That thought of being shirtless and tantalizing for Raphael was tempting so he answered.

            “Hey there,” Simon said, holding the phone up so Raphael could see his shoulders and the very top of his torso.

            “Hey, did I catch you at a bad time?” Raphael asked.

            “No, not at all. Why do you ask?” Simon replied coyly.

            “You’ve got no shirt on I didn’t want to intrude.”

            “I don’t mind. Do you?”

            Raphael smiled. “I most certainly do not. I just wanted to see your face and hear your voice again.”

            Simon’s face was warmed by the compliment. He headed over to his bed and collapsed in it. It felt like he was laying down with Raphael. “How does a guy as hot as you get so sweet? I feel like you’re just planning to get me into bed and then ditch.”

            “No, I wouldn’t do that. I’m actually asexual so you don’t have to worry about that,” Raphael admitted.

            “Oh,” Simon said in surprise. “So you don’t do that at all?”

            “It’s complicated,” Raphael said. “I have done it, when I’ve liked the person. But I may not always be down for it. I don’t initiate it a lot. But if we do become a thing, you wouldn’t have to worry about never getting it.”

            “I wouldn’t dump anyone over that petty of a reason. At the end of the day, you should be in love with the person for who they are, not what they do in the bedroom. So, thank you for trusting me with that. I actually identify as pansexual, since we’re coming out to each other.”

            “That’s cool. You can be my cute little pan-da bear,” Raphael said.

            Simon chuckled. “I definitely don’t think I’m a bear yet, but it’s funny you mention that. I was in a band called Rock Solid Panda. It’s one of my favorite animals.”

            “Oh really?” Raphael asked. “They’re one of mine too. My favorite is the bat, though.”

            “A bat?” Simon asked, intrigued. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone claim those as their favorites before.”

            “Well, I like them a lot,” Raphael said. “Did you know bats have one of the highest rates of homosexuality found in mammals? More than 20 species of bat have been observed participating in homosexual acts.”

            Simon laughed at Raphael’s fun fact. “Well, that’s pretty intriguing. Do you have a favorite bat?”

            “The serotine bat. It’s the cutest, and it sounds like serotonin, which makes me happy,” Raphael replied.

            “Wow,” Simon replied proudly. “You’re a really big nerd.”

            “Exactly. So you don’t need to be worried about me being ‘out of your league’,” Raphael said with air quotes. “We can all sorts of nerdy things together.”

            “Naughty?” Simon asked, raising an eyebrow in an attempt to be flirty.

            “NERD-Y,” his crush emphasized. “You horndog.”

            “Me? A horndog? I was just seeking clarification,” Simon lied nonchalantly.

            “Sure,” Raphael replied, not falling for the act. “Do you have any plans tonight?”

            Simon smiled due to intrigue and excitement. He would love to hang out with Raphael. “No, why, did you have something in mind?”

            “I’d really like to take you out on a date tonight,” Raphael replied.

            “I would like that very much. Did you have a place in mind?”

            “I was thinking perhaps the art museum, if that’s something you would enjoy doing.”

            “Anything with you is something I would enjoy doing,” Simon said before making a concerned expression on his face. “That didn’t come out right.”

            “No, you’re fine,” Raphael said. “I will pick you up at seven if that’s a good time for you.”

            “Seven sounds good. I guess I’ll see you then,” Simon said.

            “Ok, I have to go, my phone is about to die. Text me your address and I’ll see you tonight,” Raphael said.

            “Ok, goodbye,” Simon said as he disconnected.

            As Simon disappeared from Raphael’s view, Raphael looked at the pamphlet for the Brooklyn Art Museum he had next to him. He opened up the pamphlet to the center that displayed the highlighted exhibit.

            ‘Freedom, Liberty, and Tea: Art from the American Revolutionary War’ was headlined at the top. There was imagery of the flag, a bald eagle, and George Washington along with lengthy text describing what they may see in the exhibit.

            Raphael laid down on his couch, closing his eyes, and held the pamphlet close to his chest.

 

[1777]

 

            Raphael was cleaning off his boots in the barracks of Fort Hunter. It was a rainy, overcast day, and his outfit had become incredibly muddy. Raphael had only planned to do six months with the Continental Army. He didn’t want to meet Simon as a soldier, he didn’t want Simon to enlist in something so dangerous or miserable.

            Raphael wanted a better for Simon. The British rule did not appear to be ideal. Raphael wasn’t going to die, so there was no risk to him joining. But the war wasn’t going smoothly, and they were desperate for soldiers to stay longer. Simon was going to die on his 21st birthday regardless, and the war was pretty miserable for Raphael. Having Simon around would definitely make the longer enlistment period much more pleasant, so he decided to stay-and therefore choosing Simon’s destiny for him.

            Raphael was in only his underwear at the moment. He hung his clothes up on a wire he had rigged for him to do his laundry indoors. He was cleaning off the mud on his clothing when a new recruit and his commander came in carrying a large bag.

            “You can have that bottom bunk next to Santiago’s” Captain Lightwood ordered.  The new recruit headed right over to where Raphael was standing, practically naked, and threw his bag on the bed.

            “Get acquainted, you’ll be spending a lot of time together,” Lightwood said as he left the barracks.

            “Raphael Santiago,” he introduced himself, hand stretched out. “In the army, I just go by Santiago.”

            The recruit took it and shook it firmly. “Lexington, Simon.”

            “It’s nice to meet you, Lexington,” Santiago said. “I apologize for my state of undress. The bloody weather ruined everything.”

            “I definitely don’t mind,” Lexington said. “I assume there will be a level of uncomfortable closeness with every soldier. There’s only so much room and privacy. I’ll adjust.”

            Lexington sat down on his bed and Santiago was well aware of how close his head was to his own dick and ass as well as how eye level his view was. But it appeared Simon looked away to open his bag to start unpacking. He took out a pillow and blanket from his home. “I assume we weren’t going to be given much, and the nights would be frigid.”

            “You assumed correct,” Santiago replied. Lexington took his new uniform out of his bag and started to get dressed out of the damp commoner clothes he was already in. Raphael once again grew exceedingly aware of their proximity. His instinct was to step away due to his discomfort in potentially sexual situations, but this was his soulmate. However, it was still a soulmate he didn’t know. He decided t stay put and maybe peek at this Simon.

            “So what’s your story?” Lexington asked. “You look a little older for a soldier. Everyone else appears to be a teen. You look like a man.”

            Raphael smirked at the potential entendre. Simon was also only in his underwear now. He bent over to grab his uniform from the bed, and Raphael ogled and smiled. He still had the same gorgeous ass he always did. He brought his glance back to his own dirty uniform before Simon noticed.

            “Well, this war is fairly recent. I’m only about 21. I have a lot of fight. I want a better future for a loved one.”

            “You got a special girl?” Lexington asked as he started to put on his trousers.

            “No, not a girl.” Raphael said. Simon paused and looked with intrigue. “There’s nobody, currently. But I assume the special someone is closer than I think.”

            Lexington placed on his undershirt. “I can’t help that you’re not mentioning a woman or any female pronouns,” Lexington said.

            Santiago’s back was turned to Simon so Simon couldn’t see his smirk, but Raphael turned to look into his lover’s eyes. “No, I didn’t.”

            Lexington didn’t say anything, he just nodded. Raphael wouldn’t out himself to his fellow soldiers, but every version of Simon had to be either queer or questioning. While not all were out when they would meet, all would fall in love with him. Raphael turned back to his own bunk and fished out a spare uniform from his own satchel of clothing and began to dress himself.

            “Dinner will be soon,” Santiago stated. “I hope you like stew. If not, you better get used to it.” Santiago left the barracks to head to the cooking station. The rain had luckily began to slow. Eating watered down beef stew was not very appetizing.

            He took his bowl and headed over to a log stack that made for a surprisingly good chair. He brought the bowl up to his mouth and began to slurp some of the broth out first to warm his body up.

            “So you just like to dive in face first?” Lexington’s voice asked.

            Raphael lowered the bowl and licked some broth off from the top of his lip. “It’s cold outside and the stew is hot.”

            “I’m not actually passing judgement,” Simon said as he sat down next to him with his own bowl.  He took a spoonful and blew on it before taking his first bite. His face grimaced as he chewed.

            “I suppose you’re passing judgement now,” Raphael said.

            “That I am, Santiago,” Lexington replied. “Two years of this?”

            Raphael’s heart ached a bit hearing Simon overextend his timeline like that. “Something like that,” he said softly before taking another drink of his broth.

            “Did you leave family behind when you came here?” Lexington asked.

            Santiago shook his head. “My family died a long time ago,” he said truthfully. “You?”

            Lexington looked like he was in pain. “They just passed finally prior to my arrival. They’ve been terribly sick. I don’t know why I didn’t catch the disease and die with them.” Santiago tensed up, knowing the circumstance. “I don’t have much more to live for. I either reunite with them or I make the world better and get to see it. Meet a……..lover, settle down.” A tear came to Raphael’s eye. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to burden you with that. You barely know me.”

            Lexington got up to leave, but Santiago launched up to grab his hand to stop him. “No, you’re no burden,” he argued. “I’m very flattered you could open up to me so quickly. I just,-” Santiago took a deep breath to regain his nerves. “You deserve a future where you can be happy. We all do. I want that for you, Lex.”

            The brunette chuckled. “Lex?”

            “Yeah,” Santiago replied. “Lexington is quite the mouthful.”

            The new recruit smiled at his senior, the entendre didn’t go unnoticed. “Santiago doesn’t sound nice shortened in any form.”

            “No, it does not,” he chuckled. “You can try to call me Raph, maybe.”

            “I think I’ll stick to Raphael. I don’t mind a mouthful,” Lex said, winking and walking away.

 

 

            That night, the soldiers were all sleeping in their barracks. It was the middle of the night, and some were snoring loudly. Raphael learned how to sleep through it, but he was restless and excited with the thought of Simon right next to him. He promised himself he wouldn’t stare, but he couldn’t help himself. He turned on his side to look towards Simon. It was too dark to tell if Simon was awake or not, or even which way he was facing, but Raphael wanted his first sight of the day to be Lexington.

            Sure enough, when they were all woken up in the morning, Santiago opened his eyes to see his lover of many lifetimes sleeping peacefully. He reminded Raphael of a doe: bushy, brown, and cute. Simon’s eyes fluttered open and he smiled when he looked at Raphael. Even with the rest of the soldiers hopping down from their bunks and getting ready, it felt like it was only the two of them there.

            “Good Morning,” Santiago said smoothly.

            “Good Morning, Raphael.”

            They got dressed and headed outside to receive their daily assignments from Captain Lightwood.

            “Santiago,” Lightwood addressed. “You will be training Lexington on marksmanship. The redcoats outnumber us. The only way our battalion stands a chance is if we take them down with great efficiency and accuracy.”

            “Understood, Captain,” Raphael stated.

            “Don’t waste our bullets, Lexington. We’ve got limited funds as is,” Lightwood ordered.

            “Sir, yes sir,” Lexington replied.

            “Go get to work you two.” Raphael nodded affirmingly and led the way over to their targeting range.

            “Do you know how to hold a gun?” Santiago asked.

            “I assume that I do. But your inquiry has me less confident now,” Lexington replied.

            “Let me show you,” Santiago replied. He moved behind Simon, his chess pressed along his back. He maneuvered Simon’s limbs into their proper postures. Raphael was enjoying this act of intimacy. He nestled his mouth very close to Simon’s ear.

            “Next we’re going to turn the safety off,” Raphael said as he guided Simon’s thumb to the switch. “You’re going to close one eye to properly aim. You’re going to look directly down the barrel, and then pull the trigger.”

            Raphael was too distracted to be teaching properly. He wasn’t aiming correctly. Simon’s body turned slightly, pulling Raphael ever so, and Simon hit a dummy right in the face. Raphael took a step back in awe.

            “I’ve hunted a lot. I know what I’m doing,” Lexington said.

            “Why didn’t you say anything to Lightwood? We could have had a different task,” Santiago said.

            “I wanted to spend this time with you,” Lexington said, getting closer to Raphael. “If war is going to be miserable, I want something that will make it slightly more bearable.”

            He wrapped his arms around Santiago and pulled in him for a kiss. Their lips met and melted into one another’s. This was a contender for one of the fastest times they’ve gotten together, which Raphael certainly did not mind. Their time was so limited as it. It was nice feeling like he could pick up exactly where they left off.

            Simon broke apart from the kiss smiling. “I’m glad that went smoother than I feared. I wasn’t sure how you would react to such a bold advance so soon.”

            “I get the feeling you’re something special, Lexington. You’re not just any man to me,” Santiago replied.

            Simon smiled warmly. “It comforts me greatly to hear you say that, Santiago.”

            Raphael kissed him tenderly once more for reassurance. “I meant it.”

 

            The two of them would steal kisses when they could. The opportunity to be alone was extremely rare, and privacy was practically non-existent with all of the other soldiers around. It was one of the many struggles being an army soldier, but the two of them appreciated any alone time they could.

            Their favorite nights was their guard duty nights. The shifts alternated, but those were the times everyone else was asleep. It was just the two of them on one unit, and another duo that patrolled the other side of the camp as they walked the perimeter. Raphael thought the midnight strolls under the moonlight were extremely romantic. This was one of the rare times where they could hold each other’s hands like a real couple.

            “Lex,” Santiago stated. “Please tell me about your family. If you’re feeling up to it, of course. You don’t have to.”

            Simon sighed to brace himself for the idea of talking about his recently departed family. “My father Levi died when I was very young. I don’t have many memories of him, but my sister did. She said he was the greatest. He was a tailor. He and my mother worked together. They had their own little store. My sister had to learn the trade pretty quickly after his passing. And then they taught me when I was a bit older.”

            Raphael merely just continued to look at Simon supportively as he continued his tale. “My sister and I were close. We didn’t form many outside friendships. We had to work too hard to keep our store and home afloat. It wasn’t an ideal childhood, but who really has those?”

            Santiago chuckled. Life indeed was tough for many children. He had seen on and off improvement over the years though. He hoped for a future where all children could go to school and enjoy their childhoods instead of working.

            “My mother was incredibly kind and soft. But she was truly devastated after my father passed. She couldn’t work, eat, or sleep. We were too young for anything. Luckily we had a grandparent that was able to help us for a while, my father’s mother. She passed shortly after my mother was done grieving my father. But she powered through. Had it not been for my grandmother, my sister and I may have died from our mother’s negligence. But she made up for everything after that. To the best she could, anyways.”

            A tear came to Raphael’s eye. Many of Simon’s lifetimes haven’t been easy, but very rarely were they filled with this much hardship and tragedy.

            “They started to get sick about a year and a half ago. First it was my mother. And then my sister caught it from her. It was incredibly difficult to try to care for them and run the store. They were so bedridden, but we needed the money, so I had to ignore their ailments and just focus on working. When my mother passed-” his voice started to break as he was fighting the tears that were on the way. Raphael held him tightly.

            “You don’t need to continue, Lex,” Raphael said.

            Simon sniffled up his tears and gasped for a breath. “I need to tell someone. I need to.” Raphael rubbed his back to soothe him and calm him down enough for Simon to pull apart.

            “I was so relieved when my mother passed. Partially because her suffering ended, but I knew deep down that my burden had been alleviated by half. My sister and I could eat more, there was less to clean, more time for clothing. And I have felt so guilty for those thoughts for so long, Raphael. Does that make me terrible?”

            “No, no of course it does not,” Raphael promised. “I know you loved her mother, and you hated to see her go. But the reality is, she was gone when she fell ill. Your grieving must have been at the start. And you were placed in a terrible situation. She must have felt terrible too, knowing how much you were sacrificing for her. She wouldn’t have wanted you to bear that burden, and she would have wanted you to recover from this.”

            Simon took a strained, deep breath. “You don’t believe she would have been disappointed with my thought?”

            “No,” Raphael said.

            Simon kissed Raphael softly. It was chaste, given the mood, but it was meant as an appreciation. “Do you believe in the afterlife?”

            Raphael had been alive for centuries and had to contemplate his own personal hell he was forced to endure. “My thoughts on the matter are complicated. I am not sure what to believe. I don’t see why there couldn’t be, though.”

            “I hope she’s there, and she’s happy and she wants for nothing. She deserves it,” Simon said.

Raphael often wondered what happened to Simon’s soul the year between his death and his rebirth. Hopefully he got to spend a year with each family. Raphael had met many of Simon’s families. The mother was always Elaine, the sister always Rebecca. Levi was around sometimes, as a gift, but it made sense since Levi had passed in their original life. However, they were not reincarnated as they almost always outlived Simon and the math didn’t add up. They always looked different, always acted different. There were even some Raphael did not like. Sometimes Simon hated them too. Family had a way to make things complicated.

But Raphael was always alone. He would try to make friends to keep him entertained the 21 year gaps without Simon, but they often didn’t last before he had to move elsewhere to avoid suspicion of his immortality. Raphael often wished he and Simon could trade roles, but he understood fully why he couldn’t.

            Their shift finally ended at sunrise, and they were allowed to sleep after everyone else was awake and headed out. They would have a few hours of privacy.

            “Stay in my bed with me,” Raphael suggested. “For once, I’d like to have my boyfriend in my arms as I sleep.”

            Simon smiled deeply at the recommendation and nodded. They both stripped down to just their underwear and kissed one another passionately. Simon ran his hands down Santiago’s chest and brought them back up to caress his pecs.

            They both got erect, and they grinded against one another. “As nice as this is,” Raphael interrupted, “I don’t feel comfortable going further that this. Anyone could walk in.”

            “That’s completely fine, Santiago.”

            “You have me extremely tempted though, Mr. Lexington. Get in my bed.”

            Simon crawled into Raphael’s bed and Santiago playfully smacked his ass as it was presented to him, making Simon chuckle. “Get in here,” Simon said as he slid a finger into Raphael’s waistband, tugging it and therefore revealing part of Raphael’s erection. “Are you sure you don’t want to give me it?”

            Raphael crawled over Lexington and pressed his body on his. “I’m sure,” he said before planting a kiss on his lips.

            “You’re going to be the death of me, Santiago,” Lex said playfully. The flirtation clawed at a piece of Raphael, but he played it off with a smile and got behind Simon. He pulled the blanket over the both of them and wrapped his arm around his lover before planting many soft kisses on the back of his neck.

            “I love you, Simon Lexington,” Raphael said.

            “I love you, Raphael Santiago.”

Chapter Text

Simon was brushing his teeth, getting ready for his first big date with Raphael. Simon didn’t think he was ever this excited for a first date before. It was crazy to think they just met two days ago.

            He facetimed Clary and was showing her all of his outfits so she could provide some insight as to which outfit to wear.

            “I think you shouldn’t stress too much. Wear one of your logo tees. Be authentically you. You’re not the type to dress up. But then skinny jeans to show off your butt,”

            “Bold of you to assume I wasn’t already planning on skinny jeans,” Simon joked. “I just know he’s going to be dressed all fancy though, and I don’t want to look like I didn’t put in any effort at all.”

            “Get a button down. That red one. Red is supposed to increase the heartrate, make someone hungry, horny, feel lust,” Clary said. “It will pique his interest in you more.”

            “Thank you, art psychology,” Simon replied. “I need to get dressed, don’t look.” He put his phone so the camera faced the ceiling. He quickly put some deodorant on before dropping his towel and heading over to his dresser. He opened his underwear drawer and was about to grab some simply comfy boxer briefs when he eyed one of his jockstraps he hadn’t worn in a while. He smirked as he squeezed into those and adjusted the straps lifting his ass. He grabbed his dark skinny jeans and shimmied his way into those and took a minute to check himself in the mirror.

            “Everything looking good?” Clary asked.

            “I definitely think so,” Simon replied as he began to put on the red shirt. “Gosh this is so crazy. He came out of nowhere, headed straight to me, and things are progressing so quickly. I’ll talk to guys on Grindr for days and then things just fade without any interest in hanging out.”

            “Maybe Raphael is a guy that knows exactly what he wants,” Clary said. “He seems rather confident and charming.”

            “Well, hopefully he wants more than just sex. All the signs kind of point to that,” Simon said, picking his phone back up to show Clary the complete look.

            “I feel like guys who only want sex don’t offer to take somebody through an entire date just to get it.”

            “I suppose that’s right, most of the time, anyways.”

            His phone vibrated as he spoke to Clary, a message from Raphael peeking from the top. “Am I still good to pick you up in an hour?”

            “Of course. Nearly ready. Very excited :) ”

            “Clary, is it possible to feel this strongly about somebody this quickly? Is it healthy?”

            “Possible? Yes. Healthy? Hmmmm. Well just don’t stalk him or anything. Let him stalk you.”

            “That’s not reassuring whatsoever.”

            “I’m kidding of course! I just know you don’t listen to reason when you’re like this, all nervous and anxious. Just let loose, have fun,” Clary said.

            “There’s just something different about him,” Simon said. “I felt something when I met him that I haven’t really experienced before. It felt like…familiarity, comfortability. With new relationships, you don’t know exactly where they’ll go. Even when you’re hopeful and optimistic, there’s nothing concrete or guaranteed. With him, it felt like we were already established. It’s a crazy thought, I know.”

            “Well, it’s a very cute and romantic crazy thought,” Clary reassured.

            Simon smiled and sprayed some cologne on himself. “I really hope he likes me.”

            “He’s going to love you, Simon. You’re funny, charming, and irresistible.”

            “Those adjectives have never been used to describe me by someone I’ve been into. It’s usually awkward, clumsy, and add another synonym for awkward.”

            “Simon, relax.” Clary insisted. “Play it cool.”

            “Yeah, you’re right. I’m making this too intense. I’ve had first dates before that have gone nowhere and I’ve turned out fine. If this goes nowhere, I will be ok. So I will be casual and I will see how it goes and just enjoy the evening.”

            “Good,” Clary said. “But I am still confident that it will go pleasantly.”

            “Thank you, Clary. I need to let you go so my phone can charge as much as it can.” Simon said.

            “Ok, goodbye. I want all the deets later,” she said.

            “You’ll get them. Love you, bye.” He hung up the phone and placed it on the charger. He kept his phone face-downs o he wouldn’t be tempted to anxiously look at the time. He took out a book called What If It’s Us and began to read it. He wasn’t sure if reading about two gay teenage boys falling in love in high school was a great thing to read before a first date. He needed to keep his expectations low and not come on strong. It was way too soon to tell if Raphael was his soulmate.

            It didn’t help that one of the characters thought their meeting was the fate of the universe. It really appeared that way to Simon. Raphael showed up literally out of the blue, asked for his number, then asked him out immediately. It really seemed like something larger than himself was in play.

            After a chapter or two, his phone began to ring. It was Raphael, and Simon sighed a breath of relief. He didn’t want to be one of those tragic first date tales about the person being alone because the other person didn’t show up. He composed himself before he answered the call.

            “Hey, Raphael,” Simon said.

            “Hello, Simon,” Raphael said. His voice was warm and velvety as usual. It made Simon melt inside. He really got every attractive quality possible. “I just parked outside. What’s your apartment number?”

            “Oh, don’t bother, I can meet you outside,” Simon said as he slid the bookmark back into his novel and stood up.

            “I’d really love the opportunity to walk you to my car. Please?”  Simon smiled intensely on his end of the phone. Usually everyone these days just texted ‘I’m here’. He actually made the effort to call and offered to come to him.

            “I’m in unit 327,” Simon said.

            “Alrighty,” his date said. “I am on the way there. I can’t wait to see you.”

            Simon chuckled and he took the phone away his ear. He watched as the timer counting the length of the call continued to rise. He brought the phone back to his face. “You know you don’t have to stay on the line. You’re only a few feet away.

            “But I wanted to stay on the line with you,” he said charmingly. This guy was one hell of a romantic. How was he still single? Simon wondered if other guys thought he came on strongly. Guys thought that of Simon too. The two of them falling in with each other too deeply could be a recipe for disaster. But there’s a possibility it could also be magical.

            “Should I be expecting any more romantic gestures?” Simon asked.

            “Of course,” Raphael replied. There was knocking on his apartment door and Simon hung up the call. Hopefully Raphael wouldn’t be offended by the few seconds of time apart. He made his way to the door and opened it to find Raphael in a full suit, holding a bouquet of roses.

            Simon’s jaw dropped at the gesture. He’d never been given flowers before, especially not on a first date.

            “I know it may be a bit much, but I didn’t plan it. I was just walking and happened to come across a vendor,” Raphael said.

            Simon’s face was turning as red as the flowers. In all of Simon’s past relationships, he hadn’t received as much romance in them combined as he has in the past five minutes with Raphael. Simon gasped as he realized he didn’t have anything to put them in.

            “I don’t have a vase, or like, anything for these,” Simon said.

            “You can leave them on the coffee table. Even if they die overnight, as long as it brought a smile to your face right now, then they will have fulfilled their purpose.”

            “Are you always this romantic on first dates?” Simon asked.

            Raphael chuckled. “No, I am not. Maybe if I had been, I wouldn’t be here right now. So I guess that I’m truly grateful I haven’t been.”

            “I feel like I shouldn’t trust a guy as smooth as you are,” Simon said as he took the roses out of Raphael’s hands. “Only con men and serial killers are this charming.”

            “Well, I promise I am neither of those things.” Raphael replied. “Granted, I am sure that is exactly what a con man or a serial killer would say. But to be honest, I am just really nervous. I just really wanted tonight to go well.”

            Simon looked at Raphael and saw undeniable humility and honesty. The confidence Simon has seen constantly was paused, and he saw Raphael for what he was, just a man with the same complex emotions and thought processes as the rest of humankind.

            “That makes two of us,” Simon said as he placed the flowers on his coffee table like Raphael suggested.

            “Did you have a best friend give you the ‘just be yourself’ talk?” Raphael asked teasingly.

            “Hers was more ‘calm the fuck down you absolute clinger’.”

            Raphael chuckled. “Well, shall we get going so we can get closer to telling our friends a hopefully positive story?”

            Simon smiled and nodded. “You lead the way.”

            The car ride was peaceful and the two of them made casual small talk. They picked up from the rest of their conversations that they had been texting, and it made Simon think this was already like a third date. The way they were already so comfortable with one another was unlike anything Simon had experienced yet. It was definitely something he could get used to.

            They arrived at the museum and made their way inside. Raphael was going to pay for them, but Simon had to put his foot down and insist. Simon wished he could say it was to be sweet or make a good first impression, or simply to be generous. But the truth was that Simon always insisted on paying for first dates because the other person never enjoyed their dates with him. Simon would feel bad if they were out money on a bad date. So Simon pays to get his heart broken instead. And while the two days of talking was already completely different than anything else, Simon still acted on his default setting.

            “Thank you for the ticket,” Raphael said. He lifted it up to his mouth and kissed it, keeping his eyes locked on Simon. It made his heart flutter. Yeah, this was definitely way better than anything else he had previously experienced with another boy.

            “Don’t mention it,” Simon said in response.

            “This museum has a pretty straightforward layout, so how about we head down his hallway and work our way around?” Raphael asked.

            “Sounds like a plan,” Raphael said.

            They walked together down the hall and made sure to stop at every single display case. Simon wasn’t sure what type of person wouldn’t. You never know what you may be skipping. Simon would admit, however, he didn’t always read the descriptive plaques as much as he should. Raphael, however, looked at everything so intensely and with such focus. He appeared so serious, and as he was done, he would smile at Simon with his warm, enticing demeanor.

            “You’re quite the enigma,” Simon said.

            “Oh?” Raphael inquired. “How so?”

            “You go from serious and entranced and then it melts away into this charming cool guy that I would have assumed was too cool for school,” Simon said.

            “Well, you’d assume incorrectly. I love history, literature. There’s a million lifelines within these walls and we get only glimpses to understand them. So I try to look a little longer.”

            The man was as beautiful inside as he was outside. Simon would never know how he got so lucky. “So what is your favorite time period?”

            Raphael looked caught off guard and he huffed as he pondered the question. “It’s so hard to answer. I love so many. They all have their pros, and their cons.”

            They approached a new section called ‘Tribute to Olympus’. And Raphael smiled. “Ancient Greece, actually. Would actually be my favorite.”

 

 

[Ancient Greece]

 

            Raphaelles carefully examined the bunches of grapes at the marketplace. It was a beautiful day to do the shopping. He was extremely particular with his produce and goods, and he did not care about taking the extra time since he got to enjoy the sunny weather even longer.

            “The grapes are good. Better than good. You will not find better grapes. I do not know why you look at my grapes as if you were investigating murder. You will find now flaw in these grapes. Stop touching them all with your grimy hands if you do not wish to purchase,” lectured the vendor.

            “A seller who rushes his customer out before the sale has been made is not a good seller. And a seller’s goods are a reflection of the seller,” Raphaelles argued.

            “You spend so much time looking at the grapes. They are grapes. You see one grape, you see them all,” the seller said.

            “I have not seen the grapes at that stand there,” Raphaelles retorted. “Perhaps I shall check those instead.”

            “Wait wait wait wait. I will save you time. Those grapes from Markos? Terrible grapes. I would not feed those grapes to swine. For my apologies, I offer you discount. I take ten off for you. You will like these grapes, you will continue to like these grapes, and I promise you will be back. These the best grapes in Greece.”

            “You have yourself a deal, sir,” Raphaelles agreed. He purchased the grapes and carried his basket of goods back to his house. He set the goods on the table in the kitchen and smiled. He knew the grapes were good, and he liked getting a deal.

            “O gios mou,” a voice said behind him. He turned around to see his mother.

            “Mama,” he said, embracing her tightly.

            “You came back,” she said happily.

            Raphaelles laughed. “Mama, I was only gone for a few hours.”

            “And yet, I have missed you,” she said. “I only have you and Rosarite. She is young still, lucky me, but you? How am I to know when you will run off with some gynaika or andras to be wed?”

            “I would not elope, mama. You would meet them first,” he argued.

            “So you say. But the Santiaggos men are very good at keeping the secrets.”

            His heart ached whenever she mentioned his father. He ran off to be with another family when they were younger. They had no idea where he was now, not that they cared.

            “As a sign of good faith, mama, I will reveal a secret to assure you I shall keep no more. It will likely be a boy that I choose to marry.”

            “Good. Your sister and I must be the only important women in your life,” she teased.

            “Mama, don’t be ridiculous. I will have to grow old someday. I will not stay young forever.”

            “You will always be my paidi,” she said.

            “I will be going to the festival tonight. I will be out late. I will likely drink and fornicate until sun rise,” he teased. His mother laughed.

            “I suppose if that is what my adult son wishes to do then I must let him fly like Icarus did. Just remember what happened to him when he drifted to far away his mama.”

            “It was his father,” Raphaelles corrected.

            “The point remains. Be careful, my son.”

            “Yes, mama.”

 

 

            The festival was held for the birthday of Zeus. It was a two day ordeal. The first day was a tribute for his generosity for the past year and the second served to bribe him for the year upcoming. His other was too old to party, and his sister was too young. But Raphaelles was in his prime.

            Music played through the streets and the people danced. Some of the women only fastened their togas at the hips and let their breasts be exposed to please Zeus. Raphaelles was always fearful of the women pleasing Zeus too much, as Hera’s wrath would surely be unleashed instead. It seemed to be a wash.

            Raphaelles grabbed a gauntlet of wine and took a generous sip. He wanted to meet someone to enjoy the festival with. There would surely be numerous men to party with at the bathhouse, but that type of party did not appeal to him. He may have made a joke to his mother about fornicating the night away, but that idea wasn’t something he was comfortable with yet. He didn’t know how to describe it.

            He looked over and saw a brunette man sitting on top of a wall, drinking to himself and watching the festivities. Like Raphaelles, he was on the outside looking inward. The man was attractive, and his arm and exposed pec appealed to Raphaelles greatly, but not as much as the boy’s eyes did.

            He made his way over to the wall and looked up. He was tempted to peek under the toga, but the angle was not ideal. “Good evening, sir,” Raphaelles announced.

            “Good evening to you too. Are you enjoying yourself?” the boy asked.

            “A little, but I believe I would prefer it more with company. You appear you may also be in desire of company.”

            “Feel free to join me,” the brunette said. “The stairs are around that corner.”

            Raphaelles travelled down the alley and found he staircase which lead to the brunette. “I have found you.”

            “I am very thankful to have been found by you,” the brunette said. “May I please ask your name?”

            “Raphaelles Santiaggos. And yourself?”

            “Simonnos Leus,” the boy replied.

            “Ah, a family name like that must be favored by the gods.”

            “Well, we are not very rich, but we have comfort, a strong lineage, and we are well endowed,” Simonnos said with a wink. Raphaelles almost spit out his wine with laughter. “I apologize if I transgressed. I have had any a cup of wine to celebrate.”

            “No apology is necessary. You’re a beautiful man, so I suppose that is to be expected,” Raphaelles flirted.

            Simmonos got a twinkle in his eye and smiled. “Do you enjoy beautiful men, Raphaelles?”

            He looked deep into the man’s beautiful brown eyes. He hadn’t told anyone aside from his mother, and that was just today. He knew men enjoying the pleasure of other men was popular, and there was nothing to hide, but it was just something he kept to himself. He barely knew Simmonos, but yet, he felt an indescribable comfort with him. “I do,” he said softly. “You?”

            “I do as well,” Simmonos said.

            Raphaelles’s heart fluttered at the admission. He had never courted anyone before. He wasn’t sure if he would be good at flirting. He felt his nerves bouncing around in his skin and his heart raced faster. He took another big gulp of his wine before bringing his attention back to the handsome stranger. “Do you find me to be beautiful as well?”

            Simmonos smiled and brought his hand up to stroke Raphaelles’s jawline, and cup his face. He brought their faces closer together, and Raphaelles needed to land his hand on Simmonos’s shoulder for support.  Raphaelles’s breath hitched before their lips met. It was tender, chaste, but perfect to Raphaelles. Simmonos pulled away with a smile. “I find you ravishing, Raphaelles.”

            Raphaelles slid his hand from Simmonos’s to his chest, cupping and massaging his exposed pec. Raphaelles didn’t know what came over him, but he wanted more. Apparently, so did Simmonos. The gentlemen took Raphaelles’s hand and guided it down to his erection that was hiding under the thin toga. Raphaelles gasped as his hand was being pushed down onto the first erection that was not his own.

            “I came to this festival intent on find a lover who would allow me to turn into a man. Raphaelles, would you allow me to fuck you?” Simmonos asked.

            Raphaelles was hardening up himself, but he was so caught off guard and bashful that he wasn’t sure what to say. “I-I’m a virgin, too.”

            “Well I can think of no better match,” Simmonos said. “We can experience this together. Would you want to buggar me as well?

            “I-I am not sure,” Raphaelles stuttered.

            “We can see how you are feeling after I’ve penetrated you. Shall I take you back to my place?”

            Raphaelles was nervous as hell, but he nodded enthusiastically. They walked through the town, their togas pointing forwards indicating to the others in town what they would be up to this evening. Raphaelles was self-conscious, but luckily he recognized no one.

            They emerged to Simmonos’s home and made the way to his bedroom. Simmonos pushed Raphaelles against a wall and delivered a more intense and passionate kiss this time. It was hard to reciprocate, but Raphaelles did as enthusiastically as he could.

            Simmonos placed his hands on Raphaelles and slid the shoulder fabric off, allowing the garment to drop with little further effort. He slid his hands down Raphaelles’s sides, making him shiver at the foreign touch of man. His new lover grabbed each check and kneaded them with his hands, making Raphaelles press against him harder.

            Simmonos let him go to remove his own garment. “Show me what it feels like to be swallowed by a man,” he said as he slightly pushed on Raphaelles’s shoulders to encouragingly guide him downwards. Once Raphaelles was on his knees, he could confirm that Simmonos was definitely gifted with a generous endowment from Zeus.

            He took the stranger into his hands and stroked his new lover, mentally preparing for this moment. He hadn’t planned on this act, especially not expecting it to occur any time soon. He used his tongue first to guide himself cautiously onto Simmonos’s dick before sucking slowly. The brunette moaned and began to comb his fingers through his hair.

            “By the heavens, this feels truly magical. You have a truly gifted mouth,” Simmonos said. Raphaelles took that as encourage to pick up speed and go deeper as well. Simmonos was moaning with pleasure. Raphaelles began to stroke himself to enjoy in the pleasure as well.

            Simmonos interrupted by placing his hands under Raphaelles’s arms and lifting him upwards for a kiss. “I am not positive what my endurance will be like. You almost had me finish, but I must save that for that beautiful ass of yours. Let’s move to the bed.”

            Raphaelles nodded and made his way to Simmonos’s bed with him. Simmonos laid him on his back and continued to kiss him intensely for several moments before breaking apart and looking Raphaelles deeply into his eyes. “I must thank the gods every day for you, Raphaelles.”

            He slid his hands under Raphaelles’s thighs and lifted them up. “Please hold yourself open for me for a while. There’s something I’d like to try that I think you’ll greatly enjoy.”

            Raphaelles nodded and grabbed his own legs and kept them up for Simmonos. Simmonos made his way to the older boy’s exposed hole and began to lick at it. Raphaelles moaned at the sensation. It felt so sensitive, and Simmonos’s tongue wasn’t slowing down. He was biting his lips as he enjoyed the ecstasy that was being performed on him.

            Simmonos licked and kissed nearly every inch of what was exposed. He must’ve been so slick based on how much attention his tongue was being given to him.

            Simmonos brought himself up and took a deep breath. “You taste like a delicacy. I am going to cherish every second I spend inside of you, Raphaelles. Do you wish to taste what I have tasted?”

            Raphaelles wasn’t sure how to respond, but Simmonos took the initiative and brought himself back to his mouth for another tender kiss. He didn’t taste much since Simmonos has tasted slightly different every time they kissed anyways, but he enjoyed kissing Simmonos.

            “Are you ready for me to deflower you?” Simmonos asked. Raphaelles simply nodded. Simmonos smiled and coated himself with the oil on his nightstand. “Should I, uh, give you half of it, or-“

            “I want all of you,” Raphaelles encouraged.

            “Just tell me if it changes. What is the joy in making love if it is not enjoyed by the other? I want this to be good for you,” Simmonos said.

            “It will be,” Raphaelles said in response. Simmonos nodded and lifted Raphaelles’s legs up. He positioned himself at his hole and began to push in slowly.

            Raphaelles gasped as he felt his hardness slide inside of him and stretch out his ass. He took a deep breath to calm himself as more of Simmonos entered him.

            “I got you,” Simmonos said as he slid out partially. Raphaelles’s breathing hitched again at the new sensation. “You feel like you were made for me, Raphaelles. I can’t wait for you to feel me how I am feeling you right now. But I still must make you mine.”

            Simmonos pushed in again, making Raphaelles moan. Part of Raphaelles was craving hi to go faster, but he would admit he was not sure if he could handle it. He was in partial discomfort now, but part of it felt undeniably irresistible.

            “You’re so perfect like this,” Simmonos said as he began to fuck Raphaelles a little faster. “You make me feel so good.”

            “Come closer to me,” Raphaelles requested. “Let me hold you.” Simmonos nodded and positioned himself on top of Raphaelles more. He wrapped his arms underneath him and began to kiss Raphaelles as he continued thrusting in and out of him. His thrusts were shallower now due to the angle, but Raphaelles had to admit that he liked the intimacy more.

            Simonnos pressed his lips against the other boy’s as he continued to move in and out of him. Raphaelles could hold his new lover like this forever.

            Simmonos broke the kissing to look Raphaelles deep in the eyes. He was panting heavily and his face was faintly twitching due to the pleasure. “May I erupt inside of you?” Raphaelles nodded. With a few more thrusts, Simmonos was exclaiming and shaking. Raphaelles held hi and rubbed his back as he deposited himself within him.

            As he slowly removed himself from Raphaelles, he gave his lover a few more gentle kisses. Raphaelles wasn’t sure if this was more kissing than average, but he definitely enjoyed it. His ass was sore and aching, but there was definitely a euphoria that was involved.

            “Did you like it?” Simmonos asked. Raphaelles smiled and cupped his lover’s face.

            “I did.”

            “I, uh, do not believe I satisfied you properly. I suppose tomorrow morning you’ll have to do the same to me for us to be equal,” Simmonos offered.

            “Are you implying you’d like me to stay?” Raphaelles asked.

            “Of course. I am not some ill-mannered beast of a man. I’d love to fall asleep with you in my arms, wake up to the beautiful man Zeus himself brought to me,” Simmonos was saying as he rubbed his hand over Raphaelles’s chest. “-and then have him devastate my body and pillage me like a warrior.”

            Raphaelles chuckled at that and pushed Simmonos down. He had, however, caught Raphaelles’s arm and pulled him on top of him. Raphaelles straddled Simmonos, who was now holding in place by his ass, kneading at the tender muscles.

            “Please stay,” Simmonos said softly.

            Raphaelles lowered himself so he was laying on Simmonos’s chest. “Of course,” he said before planting one last kiss on him.

 

[2019]

 

            It was hard to believe that the confidently sexual and bold Simmonos was the same Simon that Raphael was with right now. Simon Lewis, who was nervously bubbling and shy at a slight romantic glance. He wasn’t much different than Raphael was in that first life of his.

            Every Simon was different. Every Simon was perfect. Every Raphael was different too. He wondered if the roles were reversed, if Simon knew how Raphael was in every decade, how he’d constantly changed, if Simon would have any favorite Raphaels.

            They came across a painting that depicted Aphrodite’s temple. Raphael swallowed hard and tried to focus on literally anything else. Simon seemed intrigued by it, so Raphael was stuck.

            “Don’t you think this one is super pretty, Raphael?” Simon asked. Raphael couldn’t force himself to answer.

            “I think it’s gorgeous,” said a familiar voice behind him. Raphael’s heart skipped a beat from the fear. His breathing sharpened and his fight or flight instincts activated. Raphael turned around to face the man with eyeliner and a gaudily lavish outfit. “Hello, Raphael.”

            “Hello, Magnus,” Raphael replied. He kept his tone light for the sake of Simon. It was too soon for Simon to be asking questions.

            “Hi,” Simon introduced himself, extending a hand. “Simon Lewis.”

            “Lewis,” Magnus said with a smile, shaking Simon’s hand. “I like that last name.”

            “How do you and Raphael know each other?” Simon asked.

            “We go way back,” Magnus said with a smile. Simon wouldn’t have noticed how conniving it was, but it was clear to Raphael. “I’m just an acquaintance. Just an elder of the community he grew up in. I watched him grow in a sense. I just felt obligated to say hello as I do. I feel like it’s been, I don’t know, twenty-one years since I last saw Raphael.”

            “You exaggerate, Magnus,” Raphael said flatly.

            “Of course. I’ll leave you two to your date. It was wonderful seeing you, Mr. Lewis. A pleasure as always, Mr. Santiago.” Magnus did a curtsey and he walked away from the couple. Raphael worked quickly to compartmentalize his emotions into boxes before faking a smile to Simon.

            “He’s very eccentric,” Simon replied.

            “Yes. I rather dislike his company,” Raphael said too honestly. He didn’t want to be negative in front of Simon, but he was rather angry.

            “You seem upset. Is it something you can talk to me about?” Simon asked comfortingly. He grabbed Raphael’s hand gently and rubbed his thumb on the back of Raphael’s hand.

            “Stupid family drama,” Raphael said. “Another time. I’d rather think about you tonight.”

            Simon smiled at that. “Okay,” he said softly. He didn’t pry at all. He didn’t pressure Raphael. He was as comforting as he was in every single lifetime. Raphael could only show his appreciation the easiest way he knew how. He leaned in to Simon and landed his lips gently against Simon’s. Simon returned the kiss carefully. It wasn’t chaste, but it was pure in its nature, like it was the easiest thing to do in the world.

            Simon broke himself off Raphael’s mouth with a smile. “Our first kiss so early into the date? Unexpected.”

            “You seemed like you enjoyed it,” Raphael said confidentially. Simon giggled bashfully. “I just couldn’t wait for that any longer.”

            “Well,” Simon said. “I’m glad you didn’t.”

            The two of them just kept looking at each other, smiling. The whole world could stand still, just the two of them like this forever, and Raphael would enjoy every second of it. “Come on,” Raphael said. “I owe you another half of this museum.” He extended his hand to Simon who took it eagerly, and the two of them ventured off into the next section together.

            Magnus watched them walk away from a distance and chuckled to himself, stirring his martini. “To the happy couple,” he said as he raised his glass and took a drink.

Chapter Text

Raphael and Simon continued on their tour of the museum. They had stopped for a moment on a couch nearby to rest their feet. Raphael loved being close to Simon. He just wanted to put his arm around him and cuddle with him all evening. Perhaps they needed a movie date soon. Not that Raphael would be very interested in watching it.

            “And that is why I love Star Wars so much,” Simon finished saying.

            Raphael grinned at his cute, nerdy boyfriend. Geeky interests was one of the things Raphael missed about Simon Locke. It was always a little fun seeing similarities Simon had with his past lives. “I love the way you can analyze pop fiction the way one would with literature.”

            “Videogames, Movies, and TV are literature. There’s a script, there’s writing. There’s just less imagination because it’s visually portrayed for you. But the content has every potential to be just as deep. Not every book is better by default. There’s some shitty books out there,” Simon lectured.

            “Like what?” Raphael asked.                            

            “Well I don’t know any off the top of my head. But they have to exist. There is a book equivalent to-“

            “Keeping Up With the Kardashians?” Raphael asked.

            “No,” Simon said. “We are not going to put women down. I don’t like them personally, and sure, there are some questionable choices in that family, but I feel like they get a lot of crap for just existing. Plus Kim is becoming a lawyer now I guess and is doing some important work for marginalized women, so go her. I was gunna say those old white men from Duck Dynasty. They’re at least homophobic and deserve my hatred.”

            “That’s very fair,” Raphael replied. “I will be sure to start throwing them under the bus instead.”

            “Well thank you. I feel very influential,” Simon said.

            Raphael took a deep breath and smirked at Simon’s charismatic goofiness. He was happy to see Simon becoming less timid over the course of the date. “Are you ready to keep walking?”

            “Sure,” Simon said, standing up from the couch. They made their way to the next wing titled ‘Renaissance Men’. Raphael maintained a poker face to hide his amusement heading inside. Out of all his lifetimes, he didn’t mean to accidentally become famous in one of them. That nearly caused some trouble.

            “I always thought it was funny they named the ninja turtles after renaissance artists. Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Donatello. I never knew who Raphael was. He was kind of obscure,” Simon said.

            Raphael chuckled. “Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino”. Simon turned to him in surprise.

            “You are a history nerd,” Simon said.

            “You could say he was my favorite,” Raphael said.

            “This is going to be a bit of a stretch, but if you say Raphael San-zi-da-no with a thick Italian accent, it may sound like Santiago,” Simon said.

            Raphael laughed with a gasp. Simon was too smart for his own good. “You’re very clever,” Raphael brushed off. “Almost as clever as Da Vinci.”

            “I think he would have been cool to hang out with. He was gay too, right?” Simon asked.

            “Yes he was,” Raphael replied. “Depending on who you ask of course.”

            “I always like hearing about gay and trans people in history. Historians try to hide it. I like the truth being out there,” Simon said.

            Raphael smiled at Simon’s warmth and empathy. He was always a kind soul. “I like it too.”

            Simon just smiled back before approaching Rafaello’s section. Raphael followed cautiously. He wasn’t sure what he’d find. There was a portrait of Raphael. Luckily, it didn’t look like him at all. His hair was longer at the time, and Raphael insisted on brown being used in the portrait instead of black paint to match his actual dark hair. He was very cautious about his secret, but he confided in Leonardo. He was one of the first to know.

 

[1513]

 

            “I am almost done, hold still,” Leonardo ordered.

            “You paint like a tortoise runs,” Raphael teased.

            “You cannot rush quality art, my friend,” Leo countered. “Once you’re my age, you’ll understand.”

            “I think you forget how old I am.”

            “You are not old, Raffaello. You are forever young. There is knowledge to be gained as a mind ages,” he said.

            “You’ve years left to go. Don’t rest in your casket yet,” Raphael teased. “Hurry up. I am not Ms. Gheradini. I do not have all day to wait on you.”

            “For a man with all the time in the world, you are truly an impatient bugger.”

            “You’ve buggered more.”

            “I hope not. Maybe more frequently, but add up all your years, I sincerely hope you would have passed me,” Leonardo said.

            Raphael scoffed at Leonardo’s crudeness. “I’m nervous about seeing him tomorrow. I never know quite sure where I should go.”

            Leonardo smiled. “I know where he’ll be.”

            Raphael raised an eyebrow towards his older friend. “What do you mean?”

            Leonardo sighed. “I had hoped to surprise you. But I put out an advertisement for a model. For a painting session specifically tomorrow. I only spoke to candidates with names similar to Simmonos. Last initial ‘L’. And in interviews I made sure they were born in 1493. There was a fit. He looked like the drawings you keep stashed.”

            “You’ve gone through my stuff?” he asked defensively.

            “That is what you choose to focus on?” Leonardo asked. “I found him for you.”

            Raphael’s heart began to race. “I, I just can’t believe it. Thank you, Leonardo. You cannot begin to imagine what that means to me.”

            Leonardo smiled at him. “You are one of my oldest friends, Raffaello. You have always been sharp and a great protégé, but you have been so lonely and somber for so long. I wish we had known each other in 1491 so I could have met him twice.”

            Raphael sighed. “I wasn’t exactly Raffaello Sanzio then. Raffaello Sanzio would have been eight I think. Aliases are hard to keep track of as time goes by.”

            “And who were you?” Leonardo asked.

            “Raffaello Santine.”

            “No wonder you are so talented. You’ve had centuries to hone the craft,” Leonardo said. “Imbroglione.”

            Raphael laughed. “I haven’t done it constantly. On and off over the years. I need to change my hobbies every few years or else they become mundane. I was very inspired by your work, actually, to start again. I’m glad I found you. I feel history will remember you.”

            “I hope it remembers you too,” Leonardo said.

            “Risky.”

            “I am done,” Da Vinci finally said as he put down the brush. Raphael moved from the couch he had been posed on and looked at the portrait. “What do you think?”

            “A masterpiece as always, sir,” Raphael said. He played with his long hair and groaned. “I miss my shorter hair. I hope it comes back in style eventually.”

            “It’s beautiful raven black hair. I wish you had let me used the black.”

            “I would’ve looked too much like Francesco’s wife.”

            “You’re her splitting image.”

            “He may try to take me home instead,” Raphael teased.

            “He would have been in for quite for the shock when he finds a hole he does not recognize.”

            “Perhaps he’s more familiar with it than we think.”

            Leonardo let out a hearty laugh that turned into an intense fit of coughing. Raphael rushed to grab him a glass of wine that he had set aside. He had a drink and cleared his throat.

            “I assume mankind would envy you, Raffaello. But I pity you. I am fortunate enough to have a career, a life. A start, a climax, a denouement, a resolution. You must continue to go without end,” Leonardo described. Raphael looked at him without emotion. He was providing no new information to him. He understood his life was a punishment for a crime.

            “What should happen to you should the world end in fire or in ice?”

            “I would pray for the same thing I have prayed for every day for millennia. A merciful release from this imprisonment of my life. But I do not feel I’d find it. So instead I shall pray that the Earth continue to spin.”

            “Keep your mouth down. Don’t let the church hear you,” Da Vinci joked. Raphael laughed and stroked strands of his hair for stimulation as he pondered what tomorrow will hold.

“You really found him?” Raphael asked.

“I am fairly certain,” Leonardo replied. “You’ll have to confirm upon his arrival. If not, you just wander into town and search for him. You are guaranteed to find him, no?” Raphael nodded. “Well you better plan a portrait. I recommend a nude one. He is very strapping.”

“That he is.”

 

 

Raphael found it so hard to fall asleep. He was always anxious leading up to Simonnos’s birthday. He had excitement and fear every time. What if his punishment increased? What if he never actually got to see Simmonos again and he was still made to live an eternal life without the one person that made his life worth living?

He’s sure Magnus would have made an appearance to torment him if that were the case. He had to have faith that Simmonos would be brought to him tomorrow and the peace in having faith slowly lulled him into slumber.

 

Raphael awoke and made his way downstairs. There was no sign of Leo anywhere. Perhaps he was fetching Simmonos earlier than anticipated. He made his way to their shared art studio behind the house. It was a glass building to allow the most natural light possible inside. Leo also liked to keep plants inside for atmosphere and inspiration.

He had grabbed a blank canvas and had set it on an easel. He could not believe Leonardo had hired him under the guise of needing a model. It was an absurd notion, but it was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for him.

He was brainstorming an idea when there was a knock. Raphael turned to see Leonardo smiling eagerly. “Raffaello, I would like for you to meet Simone Luciatti.”

Simone entered the room, and Raphael’s breathing shallowed due to the overwhelming emotions he was experiencing. It was the same familiar face he remembered. Leonardo had actually found him for him. His heart fluttered nervously as he approached Simone to introduce himself.

“It’s nice to meet you, Simone. I am Rafaello Sanzio. It is a pleasure to meet you,” Raphael said nervously.

“To you as well. I’ve heard about both of your works. You’re both very talented men,” Simone said.

“I will leave the two of you alone to work.” Leonardo said as he bowed for little reason other than to be dramatic before headed out.

Simone paced around the greenhouse, admiring the few plants that were kept inside and the art supplies. “So, where do you want me?”

“That stool over there is good,” Raphael gestured.

“Should I undress?” Simone asked. Raphael grew visibly flustered at the response. Simone gave him a questioning look. “Did you not have a plan for this project?”

“Not entirely,” Raphael admitted.

“That’s peculiar. Leonardo went to such great lengths, he made it seem like this needed a very specific model. And yet, you do not know what you desire.”

“It is complicated,” Raphael countered.

“How so?”

Raphael chuckled, unsure of how to proceed. “Truth be told, this was a surprise arrangement for a courting. I was unaware until yesterday.

“Oh,” Simone said softly. “How would Leonardo know that I would be interested in courting with a male?”

Raphael hesitated with an answer. He wasn’t sure how truthful he could be. Never in his many years has he ever scared Simon off from being able to spend their year together, so he felt confident that whatever answer he chose would be the right one.

“I think the universe wanted us to meet today. Even if Leonardo didn’t arrange this, I believe I would have found you today,” Raphael said.

Simone looked intrigued, yet still suspicious. He sat up off of his stool and made his way closer to Raphael.

“Why today of all days?” Simone asked.

“It’s a magic day,” Raphael replied.

“How do you it’s magic?”

“Because I got to meet you.”

“But you knew it was magic prior to getting to meeting me, so I’ll ask again; how would you have known today was going to be magical day in the scenario where Leonardo was not arranging our meeting?” Simon was now standing mere inches away from Raphael, and the older man gulped nervously.

“Would you believe me if I said I have met you before in former lives? And we always meet on your twentieth birthday?” Raphael asked.

Simone raised an eyebrow. “Leonardo did make a point to ask my age and when my birthday was on our initial interview.” Raphael nodded. “Do you have something else to prove your claim?”

Raphael nodded. “I know how to make love to you.”

A cheeky grin grew on Simone’s face. “Making love is easy.”

“No, having sex is easy. Making love is art. Art requires talent, passion, knowledge about its subject. This is two thousand years of knowledge that has been formed since the ancient Greeks when we lost our virginities to one another in our first lives,” Raphael said.

Simone looked at him deeply, studying him. He didn’t show any fear. “You could be committed for that type of talk.”

Raphael nodded again. “Yet it does not scare you. Because as you look into my eyes, you sense something familiar.”

“I do,” Simone said softly.

Raphael smiled with glee and he looked at Simone seductively. “Would you like me to further prove my claim?”

Simone nodded and wrapped his hand around Raphael’s head and they kissed passionately before removing each other’s clothing and making their way to the concrete ground to break each other in in this life.

 

[2019]

 

Simon stared at a portrait of Raffaello’s that simply had a note next to it that read “To my forever lover” along with an educational paragraph about how even though homosexuality was illegal and punishable by death, Raffaello continued to make work dedicated to only one man through the course of his career, even though his written poetry and random notes indicate the lover passed away fairy shortly after their meeting based off of recovered dates.

He looked closely at the painting and felt a sense of resemblance, though, that was the point of art he supposed. As great as a painter as Raffaello was, Simon knew that he couldn’t get a completely accurate CGI render of facial structure, and the portrait could look like over millions of men due to the lack of detail.

He turned to see Raphael staring intimately at Simon. His eyes widened as he glanced at the portrait, but quickly turned back to Simon with a smile. “Do you think we look like the two of them?”      

“Ohhhhh,” Raphael said awkwardly. “It’s impossible to say. I think we project and see what we want to see.”

Simon laughed lightly. “Well, I think you’re a great man. Am I projecting that?”

“Maybe,” Raphael replied. “I think you’re a great man too.” Simon smiled at that at brought him in for a deep, long kiss.

“Let’s go back to my place,” Simon said softly, but with intent.

Raphael smiled shyly and nodded. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

 

 

 

The moment they were within Simon’s apartment, they were kissing wildly and fumbling around, trying to get as much action as they could in between getting their shoes off, clothes off, while still navigating towards the bedroom without taking too much time apart from one another.

There was a trail of pants, shirts, shoes and socks leading from the entryway to Simon’s bedroom. The two of them were down to just to both of their briefs when they got to the bedroom.

Simon pushed Raphael down on the bed, and Raphael had wide eyes with anticipation and excitement as Simon stood over him, both of them enjoying their own view of the other.

“I don’t usually do this this quickly, but you’re really hot and the museum was quite the aphrodisiac,” Simon said.

“I don’t either, but you have powers over me I can’t begin to explain,” Raphael stuttered.

Simon stepped closer to the bed, hooked his fingers under Raphael’s briefs and quickly pulled them off his legs, exposing his hard cock. Simon got to his knees and took it into his hand and began to immediately swallow as much of the shaft he could. Teasing and foreplay was fun, but Simon couldn’t wait for this any longer.

Raphael was moaning and he rubbed the back of Simon’s head and he moved his mouth up and down Raphael’s cock. He propped himself up on his free elbow to give himself a better view.

“Simon,” he whimpered. “I want to suck you off too.”

Simon took his mouth off Raphael and chuckled before standing up. Raphael slid Simon’s briefs down and his erection sprung out in front of his face with equal enthusiasm as he was feeling. Raphael used his tongue on Simon’s shaft, getting it nice and lubricated at all angles before taking Simon in fully.

Simon whined as he pleasured by Raphael’s lips. Raphael was a talented cock sucker. He may have been doing this longer than Simon wanted to think about right in this moment, but his talent was definitely paying off. Raphael was making Simon’s cock feel so good, Simon knew he needed to do something else with it.

“Let me fuck you,” Simon said dominantly, taking himself out of Raphael’s mouth. He was usually more of a verse-bottom, and Raphael definitely seemed like a top type, but something about Raphael made him feel more confident, plus he definitely wanted to make Raphael whimper like he was making Simon whimper.

            Raphael looked up and nodded his head, showing big eager eyes at Simon before laying on his back and lifting his legs. Simon got flat on his stomach and grabbed each side of Raphael’s ass to support him as well as get a better view of Raphael’s hole. He kissed and licked it, making Raphael swear under his breath immediately. Simon picked up the pace and raised Raphael a little more to get a better angle and better access.

            “Please fuck me, Simon, please,” Raphael begged. Simon kissed his way up to Raphael’s dick, sucking it a few more moments to really drive Raphael wild before addressing his concern. “I am having such a good time kissing you, sucking you, licking you. I just don’t know if I’m ready yet.”

            “Simon, I need it. I need you bad,” Raphael pleaded.

            “I suppose I can continue to suck you off when I finger fuck you open,” Simon said.

            “I don’t know if I’m going to survive that, and I’ve survived a lot,” Raphael.

            “I guess we’ll have to see,” Simon said as he opened his nightstand drawer and pulled out a condom and some lube. He graciously coated his fingers and began to coat Raphael’s hole, barely dipping inside yet. Simon got onto his side and simultaneously engulfed Raphael into his mouth again as he slid a finger into him.

            “God, Jesus,” Raphael muttered as Simon stimulated Raphael all over. His left hand was rubbing up and down Raphael’s toned chest, making an occasional stop to playfully grab Raphael’s pecs.

            Simon slid in a second finger and Raphael’s moaning got louder. “God, you’re so tight,” Simon said as took his mouth off Raphael for some air. Raphael chuckled faintly, interrupted by his wincing from the pleasure and pressure within his ass. Simon picked up the pace just a little since his attention was no longer divided. He took his free arm and wrapped it behind Raphael’s back to hold him as he worked him open.

            Raphael loved this, being held so intimately in Simon’s arms. He looked forward to them cuddling in a romantic, non-sexual context, with Simon focused on him and not just his hole, but he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t in absolute bliss right now. While he wasn’t one to crave sex, he could only think about connecting with Simon right now.

            “Please fuck me, Simon,” Raphael asked. “I want to hold you and look into your eyes as you’re in me.”

            “Okay,” Simon said softly as he brought his mouth to tenderly kiss Raphael. Simon repositioned himself, keeping his lips on Raphael, to sit up on his knees, slightly over him. He reached back for the drawers and grabbed a condom. He got it removed from the package, and he slipped it on himself and began to generously coat it with more lube.

            “You ready?” Simon asked, looking at Raphael for consent.

            Raphael nodded eagerly. “Come down here and be close to me.”

            Simon got as close to Raphael as he could prior to slipping himself inside his date. Once he was aligned, he pushed inside Raphael and brought Raphael for a closer embrace simultaneously. Raphael moaned and gripped the sheets below him as Simon entered him inch by inch. The brunette silenced his moaning with his lips.

            Once Simon’s pelvis was firmly at Raphael, they just kissed to distract Raphael from the pressure while he got adjusted to Simon.

            “You feeling alright, babe?” Simon asked.

            Raphael smiled back at the use of a pet name so early on in their relationship. Although, he immediately recognized the irony that he was more intrigued about a pet name used early than Simon being inside of his body.

            “I’m good, I can take it,” Raphael said as he ran his hands up and down Simon’s arms assuringly. Simon did as he was told and began to move his hips, pulling himself in and out of Raphael.

            “Oh fuck.” Raphael said, wrapping his arms around Simon for comfort.

            “You feel so amazing,” Simon commented before kissing Raphael’s neck appreciatively. Raphael continued to moan as Simon sucked and bit his neck all while maneuvering his cock in and out of him. He moved his hands down to Simon’s ass and squeezed it, holding and helping Simon push himself deep within him.

            “How am I making you feel?” Simon asked.

            “Perfect,” Raphael replied. “Just like that.” Simon brought his lips back to Raphael and they made out as Simon continued to fuck Raphael. Raphael’s moans were so intoxicating and encouraged Simon to go faster. Raphael’s moans got louder with the increase. “Oh fuck,” Raphael exclaimed. “I’m gonna come.”

            Raphael began to stroke himself to get himself off. His panting intensified and he felt his sensitivity rise. He began to spray on his and Simon’s stomachs, letting out an audible yelp from the intense rush he was experiencing.

            Simon smiled wide, turned on by his lover’s expressiveness. “I’m close too.” Raphael rubbed Simon’s back and up to the back of his head to coax him into coming. A few more intense grunts from Simon did the trick. He had slowed himself down and held Raphael still as he climaxed.

            Raphael continued to gently massage his fingers over Simon’s skin to relax him until his dick was no longer sensitive enough to remove himself. He carefully took the condom off, preventing it from spilling, and dropped it into the waste bin by his bed before kissing Raphael tenderly for a long period. It felt wonderful for Simon- that was the best sex of his life, even if it was just missionary. There was something magical about Raphael. Simon wondered if it was love, but he figured he should probably slow himself down.

            “Let me grab us a washcloth,” Raphael said, excusing himself from the bed and heading over to the bathroom. He opened up what appeared to be a linen closet and grabbed the first washcloth he saw.

            As he turned back to Simon’s bedroom, he saw that it had been changed. The bed was made perfectly, the room was spotlessly clean and unlived in, and instead of Simon Lewis waiting for him, there was Magnus Bane.

            Raphael immediately covered himself and Magnus laughed. “You’re not hiding anything I haven’t seen or watched for thousands of years, Raphael.”

            “What are you doing here? Where’s Simon?” Raphael asked.

            “Oh don’t worry, this is just a little time pocket. Once I press play, you’ll be back in his room. He’ll be none the wiser. Only we know about this, darling,” Magnus said.

            “Let’s get this torment over with,” Raphael said. “What is it that you want?”

            A cocktail appeared in Magnus’s hand and he began to drink it, smiling at Raphael. “I’ve always been curious. Every first time you have sex with Simon, how does it affect you psychologically? Is it difficult, considering the situation?”

            “Incredibly so. But it got easier every 21 years. After a while, I just miss him so much that I want to focus on him, and not about you,” Raphael said.

            “Was it as good? As the time in the temple, that is?” Magnus asked.

            “Anything is better than that time in the temple,” Raphael replied.

 

[Ancient Greece]

 

            Raphaelles and Simonnos were walking through their city, holding hands. They had chosen to court each other and be a couple after their passionate time during Zeus’s birthday.

            Raphaelles’s heart fluttered every time they were together. The passion never faded. Simmonos was beautiful, charming, creative, and eloquent. They had the most fascinating conversations about art and literature. Raphaelles didn’t know what life was until he was holding Simonnos in his arms, playing with his beautiful brown hair every night. He was in love, and he thanked the gods for Simonnos.

            Simonnos gazed at a beautiful, elaborate temple they had come across on their walk. “This temple is dedicated to Aphrodite. They say couples who make love inside are blessed with fertility, long romantic, happiness, and-” Simonnos began to rub Raphaelles’s cock through the fabric of his toga as he playfully nibbled on Raphaelles’s ear. “-the most sensational orgasms ever,” he whispered.

            Raphaelles got warm under the touch and advances of his lover, nervously looking around to see who was watching. “Simonnos, we are in public.”

            “All the more exciting. Heracles gets to go on amazing adventures completing his 12 Labors and I get to drain my lover in a temple for all of Greece to see,” Simonnos flirted boldy, receiving a flabbergasted chuckle from Raphaelles.

            “If it will satisfy you, my love,” Raphaelles agreed. He grabbed his boyfriend’s hand and guided him inside the temple. Nobody was inside, giving them at least an illusion of privacy. There were candles and incense burning to give a warm and romantic atmosphere. There were small annexes on both sides of the atrium that were adorned with sheer curtains, a small mattress, and multiple pillows.

            They quickly rushed inside the small room and closed the curtains, even though they would not cover much. Simonnos pushed Raphael down, causing him to fall on the low mattress. His robe loosened upon the fall, causing him to reveal a lot of his legs. Simonnos got to the ground and placed his hands on Raphaelles’s ankles before slowly running them upwards to his lover’s groin. He used his thumbs to push away the remaining fabric, exposing Raphaelles’s erect cock. He grabbed Raphaelles and immediately began to suck him. Raphaelles moaned as he grabbed the back of his lover’s head, guiding him up and down.

            “You make me feel so magical, Simonnos,” Raphaelles said as Simonnos stimulated his dick. His lover removed his mouth and smiled sincerely at him.

            “You make me feel magical all of the time. I am simply doing my best to reciprocate,” Simonnos replied.

            The sides of Raphaelles’s mouth turned upwards at that. “Well, if the two of us are about reciprocation-”. He moved upwards to wrap and arm around Simonnos and flipped the two of them around so Simonnos had his back on the mattress. Raphaelles quickly pulled open Simonnos’s toga to reveal his own erection. Raphaelles began to stroke Simonnos with his hand. The two of them locked eyes as the raven haired man pumped his eager boyfriend.

            “I desire your beautiful lips on me, Raphaelles,” Simmonos requested. Raphaelles smiled coyly. He leaned forward and placed a tender and soft kiss on his lips. They opened and closed slowly for multiple moments as he continued to pull on his lover.

            “Like that?” Raphaelles muttered slowly with deep passion in Simonnos’s ear.

            “That was delightful, but not what I had in mind, you tease,” Simonnos bantered.

            “A tease?” He feigned with fake, dramatic offense. “I’m not sure I know what you mean. I just want to pleasure you how you desire. Did you mean here?” He pulled on his boyfriend’s toga a bit more near the top to expose one of Simonnos’s breasts. He licked delicately across the hardened nipple in a circular motion, sucking it intermittently.

            Simonnos chuckled and emitted a low murmur in pleasure, rubbing the back of the scalp that was pleasuring him.

            “I want you to suck my cock, Raphaelles. Suck on it as though it is your source of life, and look at me with those gorgeous eyes while you do it.”

            Raphaelles let a shocked surprise emit on his face. “I wanted you to tell me what you desired, but I was not expecting such vulgar prose.”

            “I was not expecting such a difficult muse.” Raphaelles gave him one more deep kiss before descending his mouth upon Simonnos’s cock. As instructed, Raphaelles was not being soft nor tender. He was bobbing with velocity and technique, not drawing this out. Simmonos likely was not expecting what he had requested. He panted and cursed under his breath.

            Raphaelles trailed a hand down to Simonnos’s hole and began to drag his finger faintly around his rim, just enough to send shivers through his skin.

            “I’m going to cum,” Simonnos panted. He felt fire building up within him that needed to burst into the warm, wet mouth enveloping him. But fate would not have it as Raphaelles removed himself with a pop and grinned devilishly at him.

            “I’m not quite ready for that, lover. I found something far more interesting than your cock,” he teased as he put more pressure onto Simonnos’s hole. He rubbed circles, causing Simonnos to moan.

            “Get on your knees for me. Put your chest on the ground and keep that beautiful ass of yours pointed towards Olympus so that they may see their beautiful creation get ravished by my cock,” Raphaelles ordered.

            “And you said I was the vulgar one,” Simonnos replied as he flipped over as instructed and presented himself. Raphaelles grinned eagerly at the sight and began to massage the muscular cheeks that were presented to him. He proceeded to slap one of them, causing Simonnos to yelp.

            “I’m branding you with my hand so all of Greece knows you belong to me and only me,” Raphaelles taunted as he spanked the other one.

            “Yours and only yours, Raphaelles,” Simonnos said.

            “Good.” He brought his head down and began to lick the muscular ring that was being in front of him. Simonnos moaned in pleasure at the sensation of Raphaelles’s tongue moving around his sensitive hole. His muscles relaxed at the calming and tingling sensation of his insides being massaged by his lover’s slick, wet tongue.

            “You taste finer than any Greecian wine, and you intoxicate me more intensely than any could,” Raphaelles said as he switched to his hands to knead and massage the bubbling thighs he was preparing to penetrate.

            “Well, my lover. Like a gauntlet, I am needing to be filled by you immediately. I’ve enjoyed the poetic banter, but I need you to make love to me now,” Simonnos ordered.

            “Anything for you, my love,” Raphaelles said as he stood up and headed to the table against the wall. There were small bottles and vials arranged on the top. He opened one carefully and poured the contents on his fingers before rubbing them together to analyze the contents. The liquid was slick, exactly what he was looking for. He poured more to coat his fingers generously and then began to insert one into Simonnos to massage and coat his entrance.

            Simonnos grunted in pleasure as Raphaelles fingered him delicately. Raphaelles bent and flexed inside of his lover to coax the stretching, which got him more audible noises of eagerness and acceptance from his love. He eased in a second finger to continue, causing Simonnos to jerk his back slightly in response.

            “I’m going to take good care of you, my love,” Raphaelles said as he added a third. He was moving practically his whole hand in and out of Simonnos to ready him.

            “I’m ready for you, Raphaelles. Please do not delay me any longer. Join yourself with me,” he begged.

            “You are needing and greedy like Plutus. Always wanting more, always demanding. Tell me, do you yearn for my cock as Tantalus yearns for an apple? For water?”

            “Yes, Raphaelles. I ache for you. Please place yourself inside of me. I cannot bear to wait any longer,” Simonnos panted.

            “As you wish.” He removed his hand and began to pour additional lubricant on his cock, which was also aching and pulsing for Simonnos. He slicked himself up generously and then aligned himself at Simmonos’s hole. As soon as his tip was placed, Simonnos pushed himself backwards onto his lover, letting Raphaelles gasp in surprise at the eagerness which was displayed.

            Raphaelles met Simonnos halfway with his thrusts, the two of them colliding with one another in a synchronous rhythm. Simmonos’s moans and the clapping of Raphaelles’s skin on his lover’s echoed among the marble walls of the temple.

            “I’m going to cum,” Simonnos said. He hadn’t even needed to stroke himself due to the close buildup prior. He began to spray on the bedding below him, crying out in pleasure as Raphaelles pumped inside of him.

            A few more grunts from Raphaelles and he also began to unload himself. His essence stayed within Simmonos, however, and Simmonos chuckled as he felt a warming sensation enter him.

            The two of them chuckled together and tenderly kissed as Raphaelles slowly removed himself from his partner, a small amount of Raphaelles leaked out of Simmonos upon release, but Raphaelles took a cloth from the dresser to clean themselves up.

 

 

 

            They helped each other robe up and then began to try to sneak out. They saw that the main doors had been sealed whilst they were passionately enjoying the other’s company and they heard the clearing of one’s throat coming from the opposite end of the doorway. They walked around the central statue of Aphrodite and made their way to the north end of the temple that did not have the bedded annexes. There was a man sitting on the throne under a painting dedicated to Aphrodite. The man was dressed lavishly and was adorned with makeup and jewelry.

            Raphaelles felt embarrassment that someone had eavesdropped and potentially watched their love making session. “We’re sorry to have disturbed you,” Raphaelles apologized.

            The man smirked and made his way off of the throne and approached the couple. “My name is Magnus Bane. I am the keeper of this temple and humble servant to Aphrodite. I am not the one that was disturbed by your intercourse.”

            “We had heard rumors that it was accepted and encouraged within here,” Simonnos defended.

            “It is,” Magnus replied. “However, that courtesy is afforded to heterosexual couplings. You see, when a man and a woman make love here, Aphrodite possesses the woman, and she makes love to the man directly. That is what makes it acceptable. Unfortunately, with your coupling, she is unable to do so. And Aphrodite is unpleased when she encounters a man she cannot have. In this case, there are two.”

            Raphaelles’s heart sank. The gods were not kind or forgiving beings when it came to mortals who had offended them. “We meant no disrespect to Aphrodite. We came to celebrate her and to thank her for bringing us together. We love each other, and we owe Aphrodite for that love.”

            Magnus hummed and nodded. “Love is a wonderful thing. Homosexuality is common and even Zeus partakes in it on occasion. But, this is her sacred temple, and none of the temples for any god are meant to be disrespected.”

            Raphaelles began to tense up. His breathing became harder and his heart rate accelerated. The temple became hotter and the walls moved in on him. “How may we make this up to the goddess? How may we please her?”

            Magnus closed his eyes and meditated, silently communicating with Aphrodite. A brief look of shock came on Magnus’s face, but he quickly recovered his expression to his strong visage. Whatever she had chosen for them, it was not pleasant.

            “Aphrodite says a love as pure and true as yours is rare. Many people spend their lives searching for it and never receive it. She states that she will personally guarantee that in every life you experience, every reincarnation with every age, she ensures that you two will find each other. Every romance you have will be as true and as passionate. You will love each other deeply, you will crave each other deeply, and your love making will always be passionate and exciting.” Magnus stated.

            “That is awfully generous,” Simonnos said.

            “However,” Magnus interrupted. “Just as most humans wait years, one of you must do the same. One of you will receive the reincarnations. The other shall receive immortality. Since many mortals experience a fleeting and brief love, after you are reunited in each life, you will only have 365 days together. The one who reincarnates constantly will pass away on their twenty-first birthday. You will not meet again until the new incarnation reaches age twenty until Aphrodite decides your love has been selfless.”

            Raphaelles’s heart sank into his chest and he began to pant. He looked over at Simmonos who was pale and frightened.

            “Aphrodite asks which of you wants to play which role,” Magnus said firmly. “Please be advised that the one who reincarnates will begin the cycle now, and will not be leaving this temple.”

            “No,” Raphaelles said sternly, stomping towards Magnus, urging to attack. Magnus waved his hand and Raphaelles was thrust back several feet. Simonnos rushed to Raphaelles and held him.

            “It’s ok, Raphaelles. We can be together again. It will not be so bad,” Simonnos said comfortingly as he stroked Raphaelles’s face.

            “No, Simonnos, you can’t leave me. You can’t,” Raphaelles said.

            “Return to your mother, please,” Simonnos said, “You will always have so much to live for. You will do great things. Besides, it’s only until we live a selfless love. You’re the most selfless person I know. We will be fine.”

            “Simonnos-” Raphaelles cried as he sat up and held him tightly.

            “It will be okay,” Simonnos reassured.

            “It has been decided,” Magnus said, snapping his fingers. Simonnos let out a choke before going limp in Raphaelles’s arms.

            “NOOOOOOOO!!!” Raphaelles wailed as he laid Simmonos down, tugging on his face to try to awaken him, attempting to get some type of movement from his eyes to indicate he was still with him. He felt ill, as if he was going to throw up upon looking at his lover’s lifeless body- the one that was just full of life with excitement and passion a few moments ago.

            The doors to the temple creaked as they opened automatically, and Raphaelles looked around for Magnus, but the mysterious man was nowhere to be seen. He was all alone, holding his lifeless lover in his arms on the cold tiles of the temple.

 

[2019]

 

            Raphael glared at Magnus as he relived that memory. “You said it would be over as soon as we lived a selfless love. Well, there have been hundreds of times, plenty of which were selfless and true. Aphrodite isn’t even fucking relevant anymore. Doesn’t new god have a say in anything? I’d rather him put me in Hell because I’ve already been living it for over two thousand fucking years.”

            Magnus chuckled. “He doesn’t have jurisdiction under your soul. You’re one of the last few Greecians still under Olympus’s contract.”

            “That’s a bag of worms I don’t want to get into,” Raphael said bitterly. “Is Prometheus still tortured? Tantalus? Sisyphus?”

            “Naw, Zeus got bored and wanted to retire. They’re just in regular hell now. But, Aphrodite still enjoys your love with Simonnos and was not going to damn you to Hell. Upon completion of her terms, you two can actually potentially go to Heaven specifically because she has not given up on you. And the immortality thing, yeah, it got old ages ago, but I guarantee your torture-” he said with air quotations, “was nowhere near as bad the other guys. You get blowjobs and ejaculations. They got extreme constant never ending physical pain and likely still are.”

            “Mental trauma can be as exhausting as physical,” Raphael argued.

            “I can see if Aphrodite wants your fucking liver eaten daily or if you want to climb a steep incline rolling a thousand pound giant boulder eternally instead you ingrate,” Magnus threatened.

            “I know I don’t have it worse, but I’ve had enough. I’ve tried everything.

            “No you haven’t, clearly,” Magnus countered.

            “Don’t act like you care. The executioner doesn’t get to hang out and have camaraderie with the prisoner,” Raphael said.

            “I’m just a man with a job trying to pay off my own debts. I’d like to retire too.”

            “Then help me,” Raphael pressured sternly.

            “I have been you idiot,” Magnus replied sternly back. “I’ve given you hints, I’ve given you opportunities, but you fuck it up each and every time!”

            “What am I supposed to do?” Raphael asked angrily.

            “Obviously I can’t fucking tell you. I shouldn’t even be fucking telling you I’ve been on your side for the last fifteen hundred years but Aphrodite has taken pity on you so I am able to say a little more than I would have from the start, but you have to figure out the rest on your own,” Magnus explained.

            “If she really had pity, she would have ended it,” Raphael argued.

            “Complicated curse magic. The gods didn’t put fail safes into their curses. They put 0 ways out, or 1 way out. They were young and naïve and didn’t anticipate another god showing up and getting reigning control over all of Europe and both Americas. Those contract negotiations were the worst decades of my life,” Magnus replied.

            Raphael shook his head. “Like I said, not my fucking business. Do you have any advice or can I get back to my boyfriend?”

            “This was the advice. Do one thing you’ve never done before so this can be over,” Magnus said with an exhausted tone.

            “What is the fucking thing?” Raphael asked angrily.

            “Figure it out!” he exclaimed before vanishing. Raphael looked back at the bed and Simon was back in it. He sighed deeply out of frustration, a little too loudly. He heard a groan coming from the bed.

            “Why are you not cuddling me?” a sleepy voice grumbled. The cute innocence in his voice washed away all of his anger instantaneously. Maybe Aphrodite was more generous than he gave her credit for. His love for Simon was magical and he had quite a healing effect on him.

            “I wanted to clean you off first,” he said as he headed back to crawl in the sheets next to his lover. “But I was counting down the seconds to touch you again.”

            He rubbed the washcloth on Simon and cleaned the two of them up before he wrapped his arms around Simon and kissed him softly.

            “Do you want to spend the night?” Simon asked. “Unless that’s too fast or clingy. I’m not usually a first date-“

            “Hey,” Raphael interrupted. “I’d love to stay the night. We can get breakfast in the morning. I’m not a first date guy either, but no guy has been like you.”

            Simon’s bright smile was visible even in the dark. “No guy has been like you either. I’d love breakfast in the morning.”

            “Perfect,” he said, giving Simon another kiss. Raphael let himself be the small spoon. He loved having Simon hold him. He was still shaken up by his confrontation with Magnus. He had always pictured him as the villain. But Magnus saying he’s been trying to help him for over a thousand years now? How? What has been the similar piece in this puzzle? Every life had similarities, but they were all so different. There’s no magic glowing test of puzzle that Raphael’s oblivious ass needed. What was more selfless than waiting 21 years after his lover dies in his arms just to be reunited with him again?

            He couldn’t think too much more on it, or he’d drive himself insane with anxiety. He had about 11 and a half months with this Simon, and he was not going to waste his limited time being unhappy about being in his arms again for the first time in over two decades. He would just have to hope Magnus was sincere and this cycle would be the last.

 

 

Chapter Text

[1953]

 

            Raphael was getting impatient. It was Simon’s twentieth birthday, and it was currently after 5pm. There were only a few hours left, and he knew it wouldn’t take too much longer, but he had already been waiting all damn day.

            He liked this decade. He liked his greaser aesthetic with the leather jacket, slick combed hair held back by the greasiest product known to man, and the denim jeans that showed off his ass.

He loved the suburban lifestyle. Things had improved significantly since their last life during the Great Depression. This was a decade of decadence and wealth. He had a nice home again. He had lost a lot of money that he had saved up in his several lifetimes during the economic crash. It was odd starting new again.

            It was bittersweet knowing that if he didn’t break the curse this cycle, he wouldn’t get to share it with Simon for long. He wanted nothing more than Simon to be a cute little housewife of his. Simon could work if he really wanted, but something felt right about being able to take care of Simon all on his own. He’d come home from work and have Simon already there for him. Most husbands expected the wife to have a meal ready, but Raphael would still cook since he had two thousand years of experience. Simon wouldn’t have to lift a finger.

            Maybe Simon would insist on giving him a massage, and Raphael would reciprocate, and then it would lead to the amazing sex they were cursed with always having. Raphael started to get hard in his jeans, right in the middle of this small town in broad daylight. Damn he missed Simon.

            His stomach began to growl and he remembered he hadn’t eaten since breakfast. He had been actively scouring the town for Simon. He supposed he could take a quick break. He walked down the street, looking for a spot to get food when he saw the ‘Shake and Bacon Diner’. He had driven by this diner multiple times since he’s lived in this town, and had heard constant good things about it. But never once did he ever have any desire to go inside. He liked diners, liked milkshakes, and liked burgers. Some excuse always kept him from going inside.

            “Simon,” he said softly as he put the pieces together. If this was a place Simon frequented, he never would have been able to come by since he was never supposed to meet Simon before he turned 20. He knew Simon had to be inside.

            He took a deep breath and made his way across the street to the diner and opened the metal double doors. The inside of the diner was cute, although it wasn’t much different than the average diner. Two of the walls were pastel yellow and the far wall with the diner counter and window peering into the kitchen was a baby blue. There were murals of people eating ice cream or cartoon hamburgers on each wall. It was a bit gaudy, but it seemed friendly.

            Suddenly, Raphael noticed a cute brunette boy with thick rimmed glasses, a baby blue button down shirt with sleeves rolled up that were tucked into sleek black pants behind a white apron headed towards him. Raphael smiled as his body warmed like sunshine as the boy approached.

            “Good Evening, sir,” the waiter said cheerfully. Raphael didn’t need to look at the nametag, but it read ‘Simon’ in thick bold letters. “How many people are in your party?”

            “It’s just me,” Raphael replied. “Do I get to sit in your section?”

            Simon smiled back, almost surprised at the man’s friendliness. “Every section is my section right now.”

            “Lucky me,” Raphael said. “Unlucky you, though, I hope it hasn’t been too busy.”

            “It’s been a good day. Please follow me,” Simon said as he grabbed a menu and led Raphael to a table. He admired the view of Simon’s ass in the black slacks as they walked. It was as perfect as ever.

            Simon gestured to the booth and Raphael sat down, and then looked towards Simon with an eager grin that made Simon blush a little as he set down the menu. “Do you know what you’d like to drink or would you like a minute?”

            “Do you recommend anything?” Raphael asked, trying to engage Simon as possible. Simon chuckled a bit at the absurdity of asking for a drink recommendation, but he was happy to oblige.

            “You can never go wrong with a Coke or a ‘Pepper. Buuuuuut, Randall in the back makes a mean malted.”

            “I’ll take a vanilla malt, then,” Raphael said.

            “Alright, I’ll have it out in a jiffy,” Simon replied eagerly as he headed to the counter to put the ticket on the wires in the kitchen window with Raphael’s eyes on him the entire time. He looked so cute in his waiter outfit. This was going to be a great year for the two of them, Raphael could already tell.

He wanted almost every lifetime to be the one where the curse would be broken, aside from a small handful of his least favorite periods. Namely during the plague, the revolutionary war, and their previous life together during the Great Depression. But this era would be perfect for the two of them.

Simon snuck up to his side and set the malt in front of Raphael, which brought Raphael’s attention back from his daydreaming and reminiscing. “Here you go, sir. One vanilla malt. Why don’t you tell me what you think?”

Raphael moved the drink closer to him and put his mouth on the straw. The malt was dense, and Raphael was using a significant amount of suction. “It’s so thick, it’s making it harder to suck it properly,” Raphael said with slight seduction. The expression on Simon’s face indicated that the innuendo was not lost on him, but he kept himself composed extremely well after a brief second or two of shock. Raphael continued trying to drink until the sweet drink was pulled completely through the straw and landed on his tongue. It wasn’t hard for Raphael to have even more inappropriate thoughts about what the drink could be a metaphor for, but he would save other jokes for later. It was actually the best malt he ever had so far, and he involuntarily made a moaning noise out of delight.

“Wow,” Raphael said. “This is pretty spectacular. Tell the guy making them that I’m amazed.”

Simon smiled at the compliment, even though it wasn’t for him. “I definitely will, sir.”

“Please, call me Raphael,” he replied, extending his hand for an official introduction. Simon looked genuinely pleased and intrigued and extended his arm to shake it as well. “I’m Simon.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Simon,” Raphael said. “May I ask how old you are, by chance?”

Simon looked embarrassed at the question. Here he was at work, trying to be professional, and Raphael was just being so friendly and making actual conversation with him. “I actually just turned 20. To…day.” He was shy about revealing the last part, Raphael noticed. He likely didn’t want to make anything awkward or make it seem like a ploy for bigger tips. Raphael had learned how to be a good actor over the years. His eyebrow peaked and he feigned a pleasant surprise.

“What on Earth are you doing working on your birthday?” Raphael asked.

Simon was smiling at every sentence Raphael spoke. Raphael wasn’t sure if Simon was aware he was doing it. His smile was always so beautiful. It was one of the things Raphael missed most about him in every lifetime. This one in particular was bashful, embarrassed by the constant attention of this stranger, but he was intrigued and was enjoying it.

Sometimes Raphael was self-conscious and wondered if Simon only ever fell in love with him because of their curse, or if Simon was genuinely falling in love with him each time. There was a certain type of vulnerability that Raphael experienced each time he saw Simon smile. It was just perfect, and Raphael wanted Simon’s smile to only be for him, and he wanted to make sure he was earning that smile. In his weird world of immortality, Greek gods, and curse magic, sometimes that smile felt like the only real thing in the world.

“I didn’t have anything much better to do,” Simon replied, embarrassed. “But I like working, I like feeling productive. Plus, nice customers like you make it all worthwhile.”

“That’s very kind and noble of you, Simon. What time do you finally get to be free to enjoy your birthday?” Raphael asked.

“I’ll be done at seven, so I’ll get to enjoy my evening, don’t you worry,” Simon said.

“Let me tell you what, Simon. How about this? I order a double cheeseburger with extra fries, and I’ll come back at seven so you can spend your birthday with a friend and do something fun?” Raphael propositioned.

Simon looked at Raphael like he was crazy, but he wasn’t repulsed by the idea. He looked intrigued. “That’s a strange thing to offer. Most people would have told me what they wanted five minutes ago not say many other words to the help. You may have even already had that burger by now.”

A delightfully entertained scoff emerged from Raphael. “You are not the help, Simon. You are a human being that has to work on his twentieth birthday who deserved to have a friend make plans for him as an incentive to request the day off. I happen to be in the market for a friend myself in this town. We may hit it off, we may not. We don’t know each other well. But I do know that time is precious and limited, and we don’t know how long we have. Not everyone gets to live forever, so you have to make the time we do have count. We’re too busy most of the time, but if there’s one day a year to make count, it’s one’s birthday. So, Simon, on the-” he felt his throat tighten with anxiousness and pressure at the thought of his next words. “On the worst case scenario this should be your last birthday, will you please do me the honors of trying to make it a special one for you?”

Simon looked at Raphael sort of expressionless, taking in all of the information Raphael just gave him. But he started to slowly nod. “Okay. Double cheeseburger, extra fries, and meeting up at seven. It sounds like a plan.”

Raphael was beaming with excitement, but he managed to hide it well. He didn’t want to come on too strong for this. “I’m glad.”

“I’ll be right back with the food,” Simon said.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Raphael joked, getting a small humored chuckle from Simon before he walked away.

 

[2019]

 

Raphael and Simon were cuddled up on Simon’s couch, watching Endgame on DVD. They had been together for about a month now, and Simon was enjoying every moment of it. He loved having Raphael’s arm around his waist on his couch, he loved placing his head on Raphael’s shoulder as they walked and joked. Even if his head got bumped when he made Raphael laugh too hard, it was perfect being so close to the man.

“This scene gets me teary eyed,” Simon said, watching as Natasha and Cliff began their fight on the cliff on Vormir.

“Yeah,” Raphael said. “I remember thinking someone was going to have to end up here and I was anxious the entire buildup.”

“The parallel differences between this scene and the one in Infinity War is really telling. Thanos claims to love Gamora, but throws her off. Clint and Natasha love each other dearly, and they fight each other to volunteer to sacrifice themselves so the other can live,” Simon explained.

 “Sacrificing your life for the one you love,” Raphael said. “-it’s poetic. I wish they ended up together. They hinted that they were in Winter Soldier when she was wearing the arrow necklace, but then he just ended up having a wife and kids.”

“I agree. But it’s super cool that his wife is Velma from Scooby Doo,” Simon replied.

Raphael took his head off of Simon to sight up straight, position his body towards Simon, and looked at him with a flabbergasted expression. “I’m sorry. She’s who from what now?”

Simon laughed at Raphael’s dramatic reaction. “Linda Cardellini. She played Velma in the live action Scooby Doo movies.”

“No she didn’t.”

“Yes she did!”

“You’re lying to me.”

“She also played the perm girl in Legally Blonde. The one who killed her dad and framed Ali Larter.”

“Now you’re just fucking with me.”

“IMDB exists.”

Raphael let out an annoyed and took out his phone and began typing away. Simon put some more popcorn in his mouth as he saw Raphael’s eyes widen upon realization. “What the fuck?” Simon started to laugh and threw popcorn at Raphael. Raphael faked offense and pretended like he had just been shot. He dramatically fell back with his arms spread to his sides. After a few more chuckles from Simon, Raphael rose back up. “I am a zombie now. And I have come to attack!”

He pounced on top of Simon, pushing him backwards along the couch. Simon laughed harder as Raphael’s hands tickled his sides frantically and he gently gnawed on the flesh of Simon’s neck, not being rough enough to leave a bruise or any marks. Simon wiggled and writhed under Raphael due to the tickling sensation he was being forced to endure. The tickling faded into slow touching that explored under Simon’s shirt, the nibbles became soft and sensual kisses along his neck, and the wiggling to break free turned into a sensual grinding of each other’s pelvises on one another.

Raphael’s hands continued to slide Simon’s shirt up to his armpits until Simon leaned forward to better angle himself to allow Raphael the access to get it off the rest of the way. Once the shirt was discarded to the floor, Raphael closed the distance between their bodies with a fluid grind of his dick, and then easing his torso upon Simon’s, skin touching higher and higher regions of shirt until their lisp were brought together again.

“Shall we take this to your room?” Raphael asked a few moments after passionately making out.

“We still have about an hour of the movie,” Simon teased.

“We’ve each seen it enough,” Raphael argued. “And I-” he interrupted himself to place a quick kiss on Simon’s lips. “-can never-”, another kiss; “-get enough-” “-of you.” He placed two more distinct kisses on Simon after the ending of his declaration; the first on his lips, and one on his cheek before moving to Simon’s neck and just beginning to suck and lap up at his lover’s throat. Simon let out a moan as Raphael continued to stimulate not only Simon’s neck with the intense oral assault, but also the dedicated frotting that was occurring below their waists.

“Enough with the teasing. Let’s go,” Simon encouraged. Raphael smiled fiendishly and planted one more kiss on Simon, but slid his hand under Simon’s back and guided him to sit upwards so they could easily move off the couch and head to the bedroom together.

 

[1953]

 

            Raphael waited outside the diner next to his black mustang convertible. He felt like the car truly suited him. Raphael loved cars. Out of all modern inventions he had seen in his lifetime, cars and airplanes were the biggest, most awe-inspiring things. He was ecstatic when he was able to purchase his own.

            Simon stepped out of the diner, dressed in button down white polo that was trimmed with a red collar and tucked into his jeans. He smiled as he made his way to Raphael.

            “Part of me was thinking you’d back out,” Simon replied.

            “This was my idea.” Raphael countered matter-of-factly. “I thought you were maybe going to quit your job and this place forever to avoid this.”

            “Well we’ll see how tonight goes first,” Simon teased.

            “That’s very fair,” Raphael replied with a chuckle.

            “So,” Simon started. “What is the plan?”

            “You’re the birthday boy. I figured I’d ask you first,” Raphael said.

            Simon looked around and sighed. “I don’t really know. I’m not like a cool guy, I just relax at my home most nights.”

            “I understand,” Raphael replied. “I did plan a backup. Meet me at Lucy’s Skaterade. You familiar with the address?”

            “Uhm,” Simon hesitated. “Not completely. Would it be alright if I rode in your car?”

            “Yeah, absolutely,” Raphael said. “Hop on in.”

            The two sat inside the car and Raphael inserted the keys to start it. The engine purred perfectly and Simon seemed impressed.

            “This is a very stylish set of wheels. I think it suits you. It goes with the leather jacket and greaser vibe you got going on,” Simon complimented.

            “Yeah, we’re both screamers,” Raphael teased as he put the car into drive and they made their way to the roller rink. They talked about Simon’s family and his goals. Simon wanted to be an accountant. He was saving up and was looking to start next year. Making plans for their future was always emotionally difficult for Raphael. All he could do was hide his true emotions and sound excited and hopeful.

            Raphael was always torn about what to say about his own family whenever Simon would ask. Sometimes he’d tell as much of the truth as possible, and say they were gone. Sometimes he’d make up a family out of state. He wondered so much what his mother and siblings would think of these modern times. Everything was so drastically different. He often had a hard time remembering their faces and voices. It made him feel terrible that he would forget his own family. He knew 2000 years was a long time to hold onto a memory, but it didn’t make him feel any less guilty. He also hated thinking about how Elaine and Rebecca only had one more year with him as well, except they had the disadvantage of never knowing. Raphael sometimes felt terrible about monopolizing his time with Simon each lifetime, but he figured they had 21 years with him, and he only ever had the one. Soon, Raphael hoped, their curse would be broken and they’d all have long, fulfilling, happy lives with him.

            They arrived at the roller rink and stepped out of the car. “I’m not a very graceful skater,” Simon admitted.

            “That’s alright, I’m not great either. We’ll make fools of ourselves together,” Raphael replied as he held the door open for Simon. The two of them headed inside and looked at the large oval skating rink underneath a multi-colored disco ball. Rock and roll was being played on the speakers overhead. It was a weekday, so place wasn’t crowded at all.

            “What size shoe are you?” Raphael asked.

            “Ten and a half,” Simon replied. Raphael did a finger gun towards Simon as a sign of acknowledgement and he went over to the counter to rent the both of them some skates. Simon found his way to a nearby bench and Raphael came back with both of their pairs.

            “You didn’t have to pay for mine,” Simon said.

            “I insist. It was my idea. Besides, you shouldn’t have to pay for things on your birthday,” Raphael objected.

            “I mean, you already gave me a generous tip at the restaurant-”

            “The service was fantastic. I had an excellent waiter.”

            “It’s just, you don’t know me, and I am not entitled to your money or anything,” Simon replied.

            “Nobody said you were. I am just wanting to try to make a friend with a cool new guy I met. It just happens to be his birthday, so I am being nice and making sure he has a good time,” Raphael replied.

            “Well, thank you,” Simon said as he accepted the roller skates from Raphael’s gesture and proceeded to take off his shoes to replace them with the rental skates.

            After the both of them had put them on, they slowly eased themselves off of the bench they were sitting on and slowly inched their way to the rink with caution.

            “I’m really glad there’s not a lot of people here. I don’t want to make a fool of myself to the entire town,” Simon said.

            “It’ll be only to ourselves and those four other couples out there,” Raphael said. Simon looked at Raphael as of to contest the implication that they were considered a couple but if he was, he didn’t say anything and crossed the threshold to the sleek glazed floor of the rink instead.

            “You coming?” Simon asked with a taunting grin.

            “Yes, sir,” Raphael replied as he followed suit. Getting a hang of the footing was slightly difficult, but Raphael got used to it fairly quick. Who looked over at Simon who was having no problem. “You doing okay over there, Sy?”

            Simon chuckled as he looked over to Raphael. “Yeah, I just need a few laps to practice.”

            “Well, luckily, we’ve got enough time to practice. Thing you can keep up?” Raphael teased.

            “Maybe if you go a little easy on me,” Simon replied.

            “No promises,” Raphael said cheekily as he picked up the pace a bit. Simon chuckled and began to push himself harder as well. Dancing while skating at his level was hard, but Raphael shimmied a little to the rock and roll that was playing. He turned to see Simon had caught up and was smiling at Raphael, delighted by his dancing.

            “You’re a keen dancer,” Simon commented sarcastically.

            “Thanks. You should see me when I can actually use my feet.”

            “I’m sure it’s quite the sight.”

            “What about you? How often do you get your jive on?”

            Simon laughed at that, and it almost caused him to lose balance. “Definitely never.”

            “Why not? Do you not like the sounds?” Raphael asked.

            “I like music, but I definitely am not a party type. Not many other places to dance,” Simon explained.

            “Maybe you just need a partner to dance with.”

Simon didn’t reply at that line. Instead, they skated a few more laps together before he suggested the two of them get a drink from the snack counter. Raphael was happy to oblige. They finished their lap to leave the rink and head over to the snack counter. They got two ‘skaterades’ which was just fresh made lemonade. Raphael wasn’t sure if skating and lemonade were a strong combination, but it seemed to be what the rink was trying to market as their special.

“So Simon,” Raphael said before taking a sip of his lemonade as they were seated together at one of the tables. “Was tonight better than staying at home?”

“Yeah, it was gas,” Simon replied honestly. “I appreciate it. I’m glad I met you, Raphael.”

“I’m glad I met you too, Simon. I think it’s about time we got you home, though,” Raphael said. They took their skates off and returned back to their regular shoes.

As they dropped off their skates, the attendant said, “Nice to see you again, Mr. Langley.” Raphael looked at Simon with intrigue as they walked out.

            “The attendant knows you? You made it seem like you weren’t more than a novice skater. And you said you didn’t know where this place was,” Raphael investigated.

            Simon looked bashful due to being in a hot seat. “I actually come here a lot. It’s a lot of fun. And I just wanted to impress you and ride with you. Hope you’re not mad.”

            “Of course not, I’m glad I got to spend time with you,” Raphael said. The drive back to the diner was peaceful and quiet. Raphael would sneak glances at Simon who was usually looking at him right back. They pulled back into the diner parking lot. It was a 24 hour diner, but it looked empty inside.

            “Should we exchange phone numbers?” Raphael asked.

            “Sure, Simon agreed. Raphael gestured to the glove box and Simon fished out a paper and pen and gave it to Raphael, who tore it in half. He wrote his number on one half and have the pen and both halves to Simon. Simon then wrote his on the blank half and gave him his number. Raphael quickly put it into the breast pocket of his leather jacket.

            “Let me walk to your car,” Raphael said as he opened up his door and headed out.

            “That isn’t necessary, my car is right there,” Simon replied.

            “I know,” Raphael said as he walked to Simon. “But I just wanted to thank you once again for allowing me to take you out. I wanted to give you one last birthday present.”

            “And what’s that?” Simon asked, raising his eyebrow at Raphael.

            “This.” Raphael cupped Simon’s face and brought himself in for a kiss. Their lips met and it was soft, sweet, and everything Raphael waited for for the past 21 years.

            What was unexpected was Simon to shove him back a few feet, leaving him confused and disoriented. Simon’s face was one of shock and fear. “Dude, what the fuck?” He was looking around rapidly, trying to gauge who had witnessed their kiss.

            Raphael didn’t know how to process what was happening. Never in his 2000 years of life has Simon shoved him off of him. “I’m sorry, I thought we were having a moment on a date.”

            “Woah, woah, you never said this was a date. You said you were looking for a friend. Not a date. I’m not a….not a…..” Simon’s face looked hurt, and out of breath. He struggled with the words. Was he going to say ‘gay’, ‘homosexual’? Maybe Simon wanted to call Raphael a queer right now.

            “You’re right, I did say that. I meant it. But I thought we vibed, and I must have misread some things as flirting. Like you wanting to ride with me and impress me. I’m sorry, Simon,” Raphael apologized. Pressure was bubbling in his chest. He wanted to cry, but he held back. Simon looked genuinely distraught also. Raphael was afraid this would be it. Simon wouldn’t see him again and he’d have to wait 22 years this time in addition to the 21 he’s already waited.

            “I can’t..I need to….go. Bye, Raphael,” Simon said as he made a beeline for his own car. Raphael got into his own car and slammed the door behind him.

            “FUCK!” he yelled as he punched his steering wheel. He got to his house as fast as he could while still driving safe. He made his way inside and threw the keys on the counter and threw his leather jacket on the floor. He tried to take a few deep breaths to regain his composure, but it wasn’t working. He knew who he needed to take his anger out on. “MAGNUS!!!!!” he exclaimed.

            He turned around to see the man sitting in Raphael’s favorite recliner, drink already in hand. “This is for you this time,” Magnus said. “I think you need it more.” He bravely stood up and made his way to the furious Raphael and extended the drink towards him. Raphael did not take the drink, but continued to glare at him with a piercing gaze.

            “You said every fucking reincarnation we would love each other passionately and be in love for one whole year. Well you tell me what the fuck that was,” Raphael demanded with a pointed tone and raised voice.

            Magnus sighed and opted to take a sip from the drink instead since Raphael wasn’t interested. “Simon does like you. If he didn’t, he would not have agreed to meet up with a stranger, he would not have flirted, and he would not have looked at your ass 7 times tonight. I counted.”

            “Then explain why I was rejected,” Raphael replied.

            “In 2000 years, it was bound to happen eventually,” Magnus joked. Raphael did not appreciate that answer and proceeded to shove him, causing him to stumble backwards and spill some of his drink on the carpet.

            “I don’t appreciate your fucking jokes right now, Magnus,” Raphael warned sternly.

            Magnus took a deep breath as the liquid in his martini glass replenished itself. “Fine, look, I have no control over Simon or anything. Every Simon has his own personality, his own opinions, his own personal history. Not only is this era not exactly gay friendly, but he may have encountered something in his past to make him scared to be out. You may have to personally work a little harder at this one, but Aphrodite hasn’t gone back on her word, and this is not a malicious attempt on us to torture you further. This just happens to be a Simon Langley problem that none of your previous Simons had to deal with, I suppose.”

            Raphael closed his eyes and took another deep breath to try again to calm himself. It was hard enough waiting so long for Simon as is. They usually always had instant chemistry and they started their relationships right away. He was scared. What if he spent the whole year failing? “You better not be fucking yanking my chain.”

            Magnus made a dramatic scoff. “I have better things to yank. Besides, I don’t like being angrily summoned. You’re an uptight person and I can’t personally wait for you to get some. So, if we are on the same page, I would like to go now.”

            “Beat it,” Raphael agreed. Magnus was gone without a trace. He collapsed on his couch and sighed. A tear came out of his eye and he wiped it away. He wanted Simon in his arms right now and he wasn’t sure what he was going to be able to do about it. He had the worst sleep that night that he’s had in 21 years.

 

[2019]

 

            Simon was laying with Raphael in his bed. They were cuddling after their Avengers Endgame induced coitus session. Raphael was tracing random patterns on Simon’s stomach with his finger.

            “God, you’re good at that,” Simon complimented.

            Raphael chuckled due to the embarrassment. “I’m very passionate about my work,” he joked. He bent his forehead down to kiss Simon’s shoulder. “I think we almost broke your bed.”

            “Well, maybe next time we can do to your place and fuck up your bed, how’s that?” Simon asked.

            Raphael squirmed uncomfortably. “My place isn’t as nice as yours. It’s also a mess.”

            “You can clean it at any time,” Simon replied.

            “I like coming here,” Raphael said.

            Simon was feeling a little suspicious at this point. He turned over on his side to face Raphael. “I’d like to see your place sometime, though. What if we do something on your side of town? It’d be less driving.”

            “Why do you want to see my place so bad?” Raphael asked.

            “Why do you want to keep me from your place so bad?” Simon countered.

            “I’m not keeping you away,” Raphael insisted. That felt like a lie to Simon.

            “Are you hiding a husband and kids? Or a wife and kids?” Simon asked.

            Raphael laughed at Simon. “There’s no woman in my life romantically or sexually. The only man is currently naked in front of me. I’m just in a temporary place that’s messy and it’s not ready for visitors right now. But maybe you can see it once I get it touched up.”

            “I’m sure it’s not bad, but I guess I’ll respect your wishes,” Simon replied.

            “Thank you,” Raphael replied as he kissed Simon’s forehead. “Be right back, I wanna wash up.” Raphael left his bed and headed to his bathroom. Simon discretely made his way to Raphael’s side of the bed and took the black leather designer wallet that was on the nightstand. He opened it up to look at Raphael’s ID. The two things he noticed were that is birthday was soon, and he looked at the address. He set the wallet back and then moved back to his side and unlocked his phone to save Raphael’s address in his notes. He heard the toilet flush and the faucet begin to run. Simon set his phone back on the nightstand and made sure to pose how he had been, looking at Raphael’s side of the bed.

            Raphael climbed back in and gave Simon a deep long kiss as he moved back under the covers. “Sweet dreams, babe.”

            “Sweet dreams, Raphael,” Simon replied.

 

Chapter Text

            Raphael and Simon were at a bowling alley with Maia and Kyle. After Raphael’s stunt in the internet café, he was invited, albeit cautiously, into their squad of hackers. They liked to call themselves “The Praetor” and they considered themselves the best of the best.

            They focused on small viruses for pranks to keep a low profile, but they had been starting to grow more and more adventurous: getting credit, debit, and bank account information so they could start to earn money for their diligent effort and time.

            “Your turn, babe,” Raphael said as he approached their benches. He had just knocked down eight pins in the eighth frame, but Maia was still kicking all their asses. She was the only one who had broken 200.

            “Baaaaaaaaaabe,” Kyle teased. Maia responded in turn by hitting him, and Simon looked annoyed and uncomfortable at the pet name. This Simon wasn’t as openly affectionate as most of the other Simons were. He was slightly colder, more calculating, and serious. In private, he was smooth like bourbon and ran hot like an engine on the sun. Raphael knew he cared deeply, but he wasn’t as good as expressing it. Or he didn’t want to.

            “You’re such a dumbass, Kyle, sometimes,” Maia complained.

            “But I’m your dumbass,” Kyle replied, attempting to be cute about it.

            “Unless she dumps you for what will be the fifth time,” Simon commented, not even attempting to put a positive tone to make it sound like he implied his words with love or in jest.

            “You and Raphael will get into a fight soon enough. We’ve all met you and you’re only tolerable for so long,” Kyle retorted.

            “Guys, you’re both being dickheads. Kyle, stop starting shit,” Maia huffed, very frustrated.

            Simon took his frustration out on the bowling lane. The anger fueled and motivated him. He would accept nothing less than success and domination in this moment. His red bowling ball struck the sweet spot of the triangle at the perfect angle and they all came crashing down under his might.

            “Good job, Simon,” Raphael said. “I’m proud of you.” Simon just looked at Raphael like he wanted the night to be over with.

            Their double date night wrapped up, and Maia was the only first to feign positivity saying they should do something like that again sometime. Raphael kindly went along with it, but Simon replied less convincingly.

            The two of them walked back to Simon’s apartment in silence for a while. “We could have been planning and programming our next score. This was a stupid waste of time,” Simon said.

            “They’re your friends,” Raphael argued. “You need to let loose once in a while and not focus on work.”

            “Maia is a friend. Kyle is a good hacker. I barely tolerated him in social settings before he started making unwelcome comments about us.” Simon’s tone was flat and pointed. He was definitely holding onto tension.

            Raphael looked at Simon. His hands were stuffed in his hoodie’s pockets, not even inviting Raphael’s.

            “Is it because you’re embarrassed or scared about us being together in public?” Raphael asked softly.

            Simon exhaled strongly to destress. “Yeah, it’s weird and unsafe. Our job is about keeping a low profile. I don’t want to be the local identifiable fags.”

            “I understand,” Raphael said solemnly, thinking about Simon Langley. “It’s scary.”

            They got back to Simon’s apartment, and as soon as Simon’s door was locked behind them, Simon gently, yet quickly pushed Raphael against the wall. Simon began to feverously kiss Raphael’s mouth, grabbing his lips with his. Raphael didn’t respond enthusiastically. Simon took his hand to cup Raphael’s groin and that’s when Raphael put his hand on Simon’s chest and forced some space between them.

            “I’m sorry, Simon, I’m just not in the mood,” Raphael replied.

            “Well you’ve barely begun to let me try to get you in the mood,” Simon teased sweetly, his words flowing like honey.

            “You can’t get me in the mood by having a poor attitude all night and then giving me an erection. That’s not what romance or passion is,” Raphael said.

            “Oh come on, it was Kyle’s fucking fault,” Simon argued.

            “Partially, yeah, tonight specifically, but-”

            Simon shrugged his arms and let them fall to his sides. “But what?”

            Raphael took a deep breath. Maybe they would have a fight. “Even when it’s just the two of us, you’re not romantic or sweet enough. It’s always straight to business with you. You do something seductive or say something sexy and I go for it, but I’ve realized lately, there’s not a lot of depth to this. I feel like we’re just fuck buddies and not boyfriends.”

            Raphael was expecting Simon to argue or be offended, but he actually looked sort of surprised. “Oh,” he said in response.

            “Do you like me?” Raphael asked. “On like a personal level? Or am I just someone hot you like to have sex with exclusively? This has been exclusive, right? I’ve never had to ask that before, but now I don’t know.”

            “Raphael,” Simon replied, taking a step closer. Simon brought his hand close to Raphael’s face, and then stopped it. He looked at Raphael’s body, as if to contemplate holding it, but he couldn’t decide what to do. He brought his eyes back to Raphael’s. “I am only seeing you. I only want to see you. I want to keep seeing you. I like you, a lot. It’s just-”

            Raphael looked at Simon patiently, and understandingly. He could tell Simon was nervous. Raphael slowly grabbed Simon’s hand and rubbed the back of it reassuringly with his thumb. “It’s ok,” he whispered softly. “I’m here.”

            Simon smiled faintly, the nervousness and tension preventing more brightness. “I haven’t done this before. The dating thing. I’m nervous and slow t trust, with everyone, but especially you. I’ve never been this vulnerable and it scares me. I also thought I was behaving how I’m supposed to be. I thought you’d like a sexy, confident, bold boyfriend.”

            Raphael smiled. “You already are those things. I like the sexy boyfriend I get to wake up to when he has bed head and morning breath and he’s in my arms because we cuddled all night. You’re confident when we’re discussing programming and hacks and when you bowled today, and just how you walk and talk about what you’re passionate about. And you’re bold every day you live your authentic life and choose every day to love me when our world advises against it.”

            Simon has a random spurt of a short laugh that was accompanied with some tears that had been building. Raphael used his thumb to wipe one away. In a fluid motion, as he got closer to wipe away the tear, the falling thumb turned into Raphael cupping Simon’s face and bringing him in for a tender kiss that was softly returned.

            “Please come to bed with me,” Simon said after he broke his lisp away from Raphael’s. “We don’t have to do anything. I just want to hold you and kiss you.”

            Raphael nodded. “We can do that.”

            The two of them made their way to Simon’s room and they shut the door behind them. The kissed again, just as slow and just as tender as they slowly helped each other out of their clothes. There was no rush, there was no carnal desire that craved sexual release this time.

            They crawled into bed, fit the covers over them, and Simon layed on his side. He had one arm running behind Raphael’s pillow and the rest of himself was propped up against Raphael’s skin while he was on his back. Raphael used his left hand to rub Simon’s back and the back of his neck while his right hand was resting on his own chest, holding Simon’s free hand.

            “Isn’t this better than sex?” Raphael asked.

            Simon smiled. “It’s better tonight. I needed this more than my original idea.”

            “I’ll take it,’ Raphael said.

            “In my defense, have you had sex with you? You’re pretty great.” Simon teased. Raphael chuckled in response. “On a serious note, I do love doing this afterwards. I love waking up to you too. Sorry I haven’t made that clear.”

            “That’s ok,” Raphael said. “This is always my favorite part.”

            “I haven’t been pressuring you into anything have I?” He quickly got up, feeling guilty about touching Raphael at all. “I didn’t mean-“

            “Simon-” Raphael quickly, but softly addressed as he sat up, wrapped his arms around Simon and gently guided him downwards. “I do it because it feels good. And I like making you feel good too. “If I didn’t have it ever, I’d be ok. But I am also ok when I do have it. You don’t have to worry about me. I’ll let you know if I can’t or don’t want to. Ok?” Simon nodded. “I love you, Simon Locke.”

            Simon smiled wide at that. “I love you too, Raphael Santiago.” They kissed for a few seconds before Simon went back to resting his head on Raphael’s chest and falling asleep together.

 

 

 

            Simon was walking through the quad on his college campus. The sun was warm and shining, his day was almost over, and he was going to meet up with The Praetors tonight. There was a career fair going on and Simon had time to kill. He didn’t need a job. His scholarship, mother, and hacking income covered all of his expenses.

            He only paid the booths half a bit of attention until he saw the booth for ShopSmart. He was familiar with it because it was an up and coming online retail store. One of the first to focus online only. He heard they were opening a new warehouse in the city. The banner stated that they were doing quick hires for the roles of accounting, IT, Customer Service, and Sales both full time and part time.

            He approached the booth where the perky blonde brand representative was handing out flyers.

            “Hello, sir!” she said cheerfully. “Have you heard of ShopSmart?”

            “Yes, I have, I’m really into news about the internet,” Simon said. “Studying technical programming.”

            “Oh my gosh, that sounds awesome! We are really looking for more interest for our IT and Technical support. Since it’s all online, we’ve got a big demand to make sure everything regarding our site is running smoothly.”

            “Sadly, I’m not graduating yet,” Simon replied.

            “Oh, that’s no problem. We are offering part time positions with competitive wages. If you stay with the job after graduation, there is the possibility of promotion to full time with benefits and increased pay. Most students are a fan of the Customer Service role, but like I said, we are looking for IT heavily. Let me get you a flyer!”

            She turned around to grab from her stack and handed it to Simon for him to look at. The graphic design was cheesy and rushed. They either did not have good computer people, were highly rushed, or both. “Do you have friends in IT as well?”

            “I do actually,” Simon replied.

            “Please please please pass this on to them too. We are trying to fill these spaces as soon as possible. We are looking to launch this warehouse in a month and a half. Our IT pool has been smaller than anticipated so, very easy entrance if your resume is decent. Not even a whole lot of previous experience is needed because we know college students may not have it yet,” the blonde said.

            “Thank you, I appreciate it, ma’am.” Simon said as he walked away, curiously investigating the flyer.

 

            Simon arrived at the abandoned warehouse they liked to meet up at. Leila and Scott, the other two members of their group, were chilling patiently waiting for Simon to arrive.

            “There he is,” Kyle announced. “Maia says you have a surprise for us.”

            “Maia’s right,” Simon said confidently as he held the flyer open. “ShopSmart is opening an office here. The recruiter said IT is their biggest need, and they’re accepting just about anyone.”

            “Your big news is work?” Kyle asked, annoyed at the idea.

            “An online store means all credit and debit card information is coming through via phone or stored online. We can potentially find that information and steal it. Worst case scenario, we get job experience. But, I have one more idea. It’ll involve more recon, but it’s a possibility I’d like to consider.”

            “What’s that?” Leila asked.

            “We create a fake employee. Get them in the system. We create an algorithm that clocks them in, clocks them off. Their checks get direct deposited to a secure bank account. We split an extra check,” Simon replied.

            “One part time check divided among six people isn’t a lot,” Maia countered.

            “It’s better than nothing. Plus, the fun is in the challenge with seeing if it is possible. So,” he paused for dramatic effect, “who is in?”

            Everyone looked at each other hesitantly before Maia pipped up. “I’m in. I like a challenge.” Maia was the unofficial leader. She never requested a formal title or expected special treatment or gave orders, but she had recruited nearly all of them.

            “I’m in,” Scott replied.

            “I’m in too,” Leila said.

            “I guess I don’t have a choice,” Kyle replied.

            Raphael smiled softly at Simon and approached him. “I’ll support you in anything you do,” Raphael stated.

            Simon’s grin reciprocated the happiness. “How selfless of you.”

            Selfless. The word echoed within Raphael. “I sure hope so,” he said, cupping Simon’s hand and stroking it softly.

 

 

[2019]

 

            Simon was at the store buying cheap decoration supplies for Raphael’s birthday. Simon had a risky and bold idea for Raphael. He was going to break in to his apartment and decorate it for him. Simon really wanted to see Raphael’s place. He mentally prepared himself for everything. Maybe Raphael was self-conscious about a bad neighborhood. Maybe it was just really dirty. Maybe he was a hoarder. He wanted to show Raphael that he didn’t care. He also wanted to be spontaneous and romantic.

            “I don’t think we should risk glitter. That stuff will never get out. It’s bad enough we’re breaking and entering,” Clary suggested.

            “I agree,” Simon said. “I really hope this goes smoothly.”

            “It’s been almost half a year. You both say you’re very into each other. Sure, it’s new, but this is harmless fun. If we find a dead body in his place, at least we know,” Clary said.

            “I’m hoping for sex dungeon used only for consenting adults of legal age,” Simon teased.

            Clary briefly looked like she was contemplating the suggestion. “I can see it.”

            Simon paid for the decorations and Clary helped load them into her car. “Next step is to stop at my friend’s shop to get that lock picking kit.”

            “The friend that got me that Shadowhunters vinyl real early?” Simon asked.

            “Excuse me, I got you that vinyl early, but yes, I did get it from her. She’s the coolest person I’ve ever met,” she replied.

            “WOW. I am so hurt,” Simon said with feigned offense.

            “You’re too big of a nerd to be cool,” Clary teased.

            “I thought this girl was a nerd?”

            “She’s a cool nerd. She can be both. You just don’t have that in you.”

            “If we get caught I am narking on you to the cops.” He took a deep breath to get into character. “I’m so sorry, officer! She made me do it! She said she was going to prostitute me on the streets if I didn’t break into this handsome stranger’s apartment!”

            “I don’t put you on the corner because I can’t make money off of you on the corner. Raphael, however, would earn me a pretty penny,” she joked.

            “I will let him know you think very high of him,” Simon replied.

            Clary started the car and they made their way to the record store downtown. The cheesy board display looked like it was designed in the 90’s. It had a blue and white vortex design with the title ‘Time Travel Vintage Vinyl and Tech’.

            “TTVVT,” Simon randomly commented, shortening the title.

            “I thought you didn’t like T or V,” Clary said in a teasing tone. Simon picked up that she was referring to the female anatomy.

            “You’re so funny,” Simon said sarcastically, definitely not amused.

            They entered the store and looked around. The place was definitely older, but it was kept up well. There were multiple rows of those waist high display shelves that were lined up with either vinyl records or CDs. The opposite half of the store had some grunge rocker apparel, band memorabilia, and a small corner had record players, karaoke machines, boom boxes and speakers, and there were a few TVs for sale.

            There was only one other customer in the store currently, browsing the racks for a good find. Clary gestured for Simon to follow her to the front counter. Clary hit the bell about five times in a row before shouting ‘It’s Clary!’

            “Coming!” Maia exclaimed from the backroom. The door to the offices slowly moved open. The woman was carrying a cardboard box and was pushing the door open with her back. First she saw Clary, and she smiled warmly and friendly. As the door fully opened, she could turn the rest of the way. When she laid her eyes on Simon, her eyes grew wide the smile faltered into a gasp. The box she was holding was dropped and it made a crashing noise when it hit the ground.

            “Oh my god!” Clary exclaimed.

            “I’m so sorry,” Maia exclaimed, quickly getting down to pick everything up. Clary and Simon rushed over to help. Everything was quickly put back in and Maia safely got it back to the counter. She turned back to Simon with a perplexed expression. “Simon?”

            Simon was very confused and concerned. “Uhm, yes? Has Clary mentioned me? She’s my best friend.”

            “Right,” she said softly before remaining her composure. “Exactly. Clary has told me so much about you.” She stuck her hand out to shake Simon’s, which he did without showing any signs of discomfort.

            “Did I scare you or something?” Simon asked. “You seemed startled.”

            “No, I’m sorry,” Maia apologized. “You just look……exactly like someone I used to know.”

            “I must have one of those faces,” Simon replied cheerfully nonchalantly. He felt better with that explanation. He didn’t mean to catch her off guard. Whomever he reminded her of, he must’ve been very important to her-and likely long gone.

            “We are going to decorate his boyfriend Raphael’s apartment,” Clary said eagerly.

            “Raphael,” she repeated softly. “That’s a lovely name. I hope he treats you well.”

            “He’s the best. I love him a lot,” Simon said.

            Maia looked like she was smiling, but also holding back tears. Yes, whoever Simon reminded her of was definitely no longer alive. “I’m glad to hear that.”

            “Your friend, that I look like, what happened to him?” Simon asked. “If that’s not rude or anything, we just met, but you seem a little sad.”

            Maia took a deep breath and sighed. “I don’t want to spoil your guys’ good mood. Maybe another time if I get to see you again. Let me get you that kit.”

            She went in the backroom and Clary looked at Simon. “They say we have like, seven doppelgangers on Earth with us. It’s funny how that works.”

            “You mean there’s more people on the planet that share your face? Oof. I feel terrible for those poor souls,” Simon bantered.

            Clary playfully hit him with a magazine that was on the counter. Maia came back with a small pouch. As she extended it to Clary, Maia pulled it away.

            “Promise me you’re only using this to surprise his boyfriend, and you’re not doing any other actual kind of break in? Nothing illegal that would send you to jail, right?” Maia interrogated.

            “Only this one fun romantic break. And then I’m returning it,” Clary promised, extending her pinky. Maia took it with hers and smiled, lowering her wrist to get the pouch closer to Clary.

            “Have fun being a bad ass. This better be the only time,” she said sternly.

            “Yes, Maia,” Clary agreed. “Don’t tell mom.”

            “Are you kidding? She’d kill us both,” she replied playfully.

            “You ready, Simon?” Clary asked.

            “Yeah,” Simon said. “It was wonderful meeting you, Maia.”

            She nodded. “It was great seeing you.”

            They got back into Clary’s car and Simon punched in Raphael’s address that he stole from his wallet the other week.

            “You ready for your first B&E?” Clary asked.

            “You bet your ass I am,” Simon said eagerly as she put the car into drive and made her way through the streets of New York to Raphael’s apartment. After about fifteen minutes of driving, they were at the complex.

            They made their way inside and up the stairs to Raphael’s apartment unit. Clary started to fish the picking tools out of the pouch. “You positive this is the correct unit?” Clary asked. “I don’t want to be arrested.”

            “I am positive. I saved the information on my phone immediately,” Simon replied. “Hurry up, these bags are getting heavy.”

            Clary maneuvered the picks inside the keyholes carefully. She’d practiced a few times with Maia, hence how she knew Maia had the kit to begin with, but it had been a while.                   

            After about two minutes and luckily nobody coming by to look at them suspiciously and call the police, the lock was undone and they made their way inside. The living room was modest. He had some nice furniture. There was some beautiful artwork on the wall.

            He had an ornate gray stone fireplace with two plants on each side and some framed photos. His entertainment center was fancy, and he had a large TV as well. Raphael seemed really well-off.

            “What does Raphael do for a living?” Clary asked.

            “Uhhhh,” Simon said. He couldn’t recall. Had it ever came up? They’ve been together for about five months, it surely had to. “I don’t remember.”

            “Let’s find out where the magic happens,” Clary suggested, wiggling her eyebrows.

            “Hopefully he’s got a big bed for me to break in,” Simon teased suggestively.

            There were only two rooms down the hallway. The bathroom door was open, and another door was skinny, so that was obviously a closet. Raphael had his bedroom door closed.

            “You ready?” Clary asked.

            “Sure,” Simon said as he turned the doorknob and opened the door. He had nice blue walls, and a queen sized bed with a black comforter to his left. The door opened to his right, so as he stepped in he saw the dresser and vanity that was to the right, across from the bed. The wall was adorned with photos, a painting or two, and memorabilia. Simon stepped closer to the wall and smiled. He looked at the photo closest to him to try to gain a peep on Raphael’s life, but that’s when his heart skipped a beat and his comfort went away.

            “Oh my god. Clary.” Simon said flatly.

            “What’s wrong?” Clary asked.

            Simon looked at a black and white photo of him and Raphael. Except, Simon had never taken this photo. Raphael was wearing a leather jacket he didn’t recognize, and Simon’s hair was slicked back, a style he’d never worn. There were a few that looked like they were taken in succession, like a photo booth, but these were bigger. The last one was of the kissing. They’d never kissed in front of a camera.

            There was a sepia tone photo of the two of them, a small painting of the both of them in very outdated military uniforms, a photo of them looking dirty in overalls. There was a framed one in color that looked like it could have been taken yesterday. Simon was just in a regular band T-shirt and so was Raphael. He didn’t know the other two people in it.

            “I haven’t taken any of these photos. These never happened. And some look decades old,” Simon said. He was tense and uncomfortable. He had no idea what these were or why Raphael had them or how he had them.

            “Wait a minute,” Clary said as she pointed to the brown skinned girl in the colored photo. “That’s Maia.”

            “That can’t be,” Simon argued. “This girl is like, twenty, Maia is in her forties.”

            “This is Maia in her twenties,” Clary insisted. “She said you looked like a friend, that’s this guy,” she said as she pointed to the Simon.

            “That doesn’t explain Raphael,” Simon said. “The man hasn’t aged, that’s not possible. This was a bad idea, we need to go.”

            Simon grabbed Clary’s hand and rushed her out of the room. They went down the short hallway and turned to the front door only to see Raphael standing in front of it. He was holding his hands in front of him. He didn’t look angry, frightened, or surprised. He did look slightly nervous, though.

            “Hi Simon,” he said softly.

            “Raphael, what the fuck is that in your room?” Simon asked angrily.

            “I can explain,” Raphael replied.

 

 

Chapter Text

[Medieval Era]

 

Twenty years until meeting Simon. One year after Simon’s most recent death.

            Raphael was in the back of a wagon; his hands and legs were bound. He had been unlawfully arrested by the royal guardsmen having done no offense or broken any law. They did not even say what he was being taken for. The thought of being taken directly to the Queen was a terrifying thought. In his 1500 years of life, he always tried his best to maintain a low profile. Being forcibly captured and brought directly to the reigning royalty of the nation did not exactly equal ‘low profile’.

            Raphael liked Castile. It was much different than Greece, although the Greece he knew was no longer there. Nobody knew of Zeus or Aphrodite anymore. Or at least, they were no longer worshipped or believed. They were called ‘myths’ now. Tall tales of grandeur and fiction. Catholicism became popular, but it did not free Raphael from his plight. They had an interesting concept of hell though, which involved eternal torture and damnation. Perhaps that’s what he was experiencing and his curse would never truly end.

            The castle was finally visible from their distance. As the horse drawn wagon got closer in its approach, the castle appeared to grow larger and larger, along with Raphael’s anxieties regarding the business of his arrival.

            The suspense dragged unbearably, and it seemed as though they were almost at the drawbridge for an hour, but the arrival did finally come. They waited patiently as the drawbridge was lowered before the horses continued and pulled Raphael into the courtyard.

            The wagon was stopped and the guards came to the back to get him. They cut the ropes around his feet so he could walk, but they left his hands bound in front of him. They roughly escorted him into the castle.

            The doors were large and heavy. After a secret knock, Raphael heard the barricade being removed on the other side before the doors were slowly pulled open. He hoped it was trained guards on the other end who are well trained, fir, and muscular because if it was just some poor castle maids who had that responsibility, they must be very exhausted.

            He was lead down the long running carpet down the main foyer until they approached the two thrones up on a raised platform. Only the throne on the right was occupied. The Queen had not taken a husband, and it was the controversy of the kingdom.

            She was stunningly beautiful. Rumors said she could seduce any man just by staring at them. She had beautiful tanned skin and her hair was the texture of silk and color of ravens. It fell over her left breast in a long, delicately woven braid. Her crown was supposed to indicate her status and power, but on her, it only appeared as a mere accessory. She was the epitome of royalty.

Suitors flocked to Castile from all around the world just to court her, and she had turned them all away. Raphael was certain none of them were good enough for her. Had he had an interest in the female sex, he was certain he would be swooning.

He did kneel, out of courtesy. He wasn’t sure if prisoners were supposed to or not. It certainly wouldn’t make the situation any worse.

“May I present to you, Queen Isabelle,” the royal announcer exclaimed.

Raphael looked up at the queen and she looked at him intensely, sizing him up or studying him; Raphael wasn’t exactly sure which.

“Do you know why you have been brought to me?” the Queen asked.

“No, your majesty. I have committed no crime,” Raphael stated.

“No, you haven’t, but I was advised that you would not have come willingly and to use heavy restraints,” she said with an amused smile.

“May I ask by whom and for what purpose?” Raphael asked.

The Queen smirked again. “Someone bring me my royal seer!”

A guard nodded and made his way down the hallway. Isabelle continued to examine Raphael from a distance as they waited for whomever she was fetching. After a few moments, the guard came back along with a man in an ornate hooded robe. Raphael couldn’t see a face at his distance and angle.

“My trusted seer, is this the immortal man you spoke of?” Isabelle asked.

Raphael’s heart skipped a beat. He never let anyone find out about his immortality. He wasn’t sure of the implications or consequences of his truth coming out. He didn’t want religious fanatics praising him or worse-attempting to crucify him for saying things they didn’t want to believe. They apparently have a tradition of that.

The man made his way down the stairs of the Queen’s platform to the foyer Raphael was at an approached him. As the man were a few steps away, he took the hood off of his head to see Raphael, and Raphael’s blood began to boil at the sight of the man.

“Yes, your majesty,” Magnus Bane confirmed. “This is the immortal man.”

“Is there any way I can have a demonstration for verification? Is there proof of your claim?” Isabelle asked.

“You, guard,” Magnus ordered, gesturing to the closest knight. “Please take your sword and plunge it into this man’s heart.”

The guard turned to Isabelle for confirmation, and she looked hesitant. “Do you have a less drastic method of extracting proof?”

“Not really, your excellence. I promise you, if I am wrong, I will clean up the mess, and then you’ll likely want me executed for my false prophecy as well,” Magnus reassured.

Isabelle gave a nod to the knight who approached Raphael.

“Your majesty, you cannot trust Magnus Bane,” Raphael insisted.

“See? He knows me,” Magnus counted.

“Please, you don’t want to do this,” Raphael insisted. The knight drew his sword and plunged it to Raphael. The steel blade forged with the finest craftsmanship the nation could afford shattered like glass upon Raphael’s skin, leaving only a hole in the mortal fabric of his shirt.

Raphael took a deep sigh. He had tried to take his own life with daggers and such before, only to witness a similar outcome. The Queen, on the contrary, as well as the knight, were in a state of awe and shock.

“I don’t believe it,” she said softly. Soon her surprise turned into laughter and excitement. “Do it again! You, knight over there, you next. Take his head off!”

“Your majesty, is that really necessary?” Raphael asked as he felt a small, unpainful pressure on his neck accompanies by the sound of shattering and the feeling of metal shards falling over his body onto the floor. He was annoyed. He didn’t enjoy being an entertainment show, and he especially was not enjoying in the presence of Magnus Bane.

“You see my queen? This is exactly the man the kingdom needs. Plus, he has an affinity for men, so you will not even need to share a bed with him,” Magnus explained.

Raphael did not like the outcome he thought he was hearing. The pieces of this mystery would not be coming together like that. “I’m sorry,” Raphael interrupted. “What am I here for?”

Magnus gave a smirk that Raphael didn’t like. Not that he liked any of Magnus’s looks. “Queen Isabelle needs to marry in order to effectively rule this kingdom. She wishes not to share it with royalty of any other nation. Once our allies and our enemies hear about an immortal king on the throne of Castile, this nation will be the strongest empire in history.”

“I do not consent to this marriage,” Raphael argued.

“You do not have a choice,” Magnus replied. “I will lock you in a hole several feet in the ground. You do not need air, you do not need food, and you’ll never die. After Isabelle is long gone, and new heirs sit on this throne, everyone will have forgotten about the man buried beneath the foundation of this very castle. You will never be freed. And you’ll never see Simon again.”

“I feel like that goes against your boss’s curse,” Raphael argued.

“I guarantee you she does not care about your punishment getting worse. You break the curse, or you don’t. And you cannot break it from the confines of a coffin,” Magnus threatened.

“Boys, boys,” Isabelle intervened. “Surely, it doesn’t need to come this, right Raphael? I mean, look at all of this.” She gestured to her surroundings. “Who doesn’t want to be a king? This is the grandest shelter you’ll find. I will share my riches with you. You will not have to work. Your lovely Simon that Magnus has mentioned will have a great year here.”

Year. Singular. She knew. “Magnus has told you about what he is? What he’s done?”

Isabelle took a breath to compose herself and looked at Raphael with sincerity and maybe there was even some sympathy in there. “Yes, he has. My advisor keeps no secrets from me. I, personally, am the descendant of a Greek man that won Zeus’s favor. He was promised a long, successful lineage. I am well verse in Greek religion. I know about the gods and how cruel they can be with their punishments. I’m sure your 1500 years of life have not been easy. But I can make the next forty sixty, eighty, hundreds of years be slightly better. We just need a marriage on paper. We just need an heir.”    

“An heir?” Raphael asked, astonished. “I barely enjoy sex with men, and I love men. I do not intend to copulate with you.”

“We do not need you to,” Magnus added. “We just need you to manually produce the ejaculate and we will administer it to the Queen. Nobody needs to know.”

Raphael’s face grimaced into an expression of disgust. “Can’t you magically make her pregnant or something?”

“Wrong deity,” Magnus said flatly. “The power of artificial insemination isn’t exactly a useful one. Don’t think any of us got signed up for that one. I can only extract that substance manually if you understand my connotation.”

Magnus winked at Raphael and he shut his eyes and took a deep breath to calm himself from the anger. The thought of having an heir, a child, his first and only in 1500 years didn’t sit right with him. “Am I not tortured enough, Magnus? The natural law of humanity states that offspring outlive their parents. We have a word for people who lose a spouse, we have a word for a child who loses a parent, but no word exists for a parent who loses a child because it is too cruel. The few people in my 1500 years of life who have lost a child were broken at the tragedy, and you want me to willingly go through that knowing I will outlive them? HAVE I NOT SUFFERED ENOUGH!?”

“You will be a part of this child’s life for many consecutive years. In your 1500 years of life, you’ve only had Simon in yours for about 70 years total. This child can be in yours for 70, or even 80. It’s time with a loved one to keep you busy in-between Simons. There’s always the possibility of you breaking the curse as well,” Magnus reasoned.

“We both know that I likely will not meet whatever outlandish criteria you’ve set,” Raphael countered with sharp poison on his tongue. “Why are you even here? You only appear on years I meet Simon.”

“As she stated, she’s of Greek descent. I am here to oversee her successful reign,” Magnus replied. “So please make this easy on us. Live a comfortable life here. Have a child to love until you meet Simon. You can have a clear objective for a several decades to help pass time.”

Raphael breathed heavily to vent out the stress and tension. He began to weep slightly. “This request couldn’t have waited? I’m still in mourning.”

“You’re always in mourning,” Magnus countered. “The state of this nation is at stake, and I am here to use my assets to ensure successful lineage. Lineage is at risk now. You are one of my assets. So: do you want to live a good life, or do you want to be buried in a box?”

Raphael looked disdainfully at his torturer. “I suppose like everything in my life, I do not have a choice, do I?”

“That’s the spirit!” Magnus exclaimed with an uncalled for level of patronizing enthusiasm. “Queen Isabelle, we have a wedding to prepare for.”

“On one condition,” Raphael interrupted. Magnus turned around back at Raphael with an annoyed but intrigued expression.

“What could your condition possibly be?” Magnus asked.

“If I’m going to be a king of this castle, then I should have a say in its residents. I don’t want you here.” Raphael stated firmly.

“I’m the Queen’s royal advisor with the gods on my side dictating I need to make sure this reign is run smoothly,” Magnus argued.

“You can do that remotely and teleport here when there’s an emergency such as a war or something vital. As her husband, I can advise on the rest,” Raphael replied.

“I am a magical and powerful deity, you think you can advise better than I?”

“I’ve had a lot of time to read and study almost everything. I can cover the basics. You wanted her to have me. She has me. Like I said, you can pop in for emergencies only,” Raphael stated.

“Enough,” the Queen announced. “I’ve heard enough. Magnus, take your leave. I rule in favor of my betrothed.”

Magnus silently grunted in frustration of being defeated by Raphael. “This planet is stupid anyways, I don’t even care to be here that much. Goodbye, Mr. Santiago. Have a successful reign.”

A slight breeze flew through the foyer as Magnus vanished in front of their eyes, much to the Queen’s amusement. “Come now, fiancée,” Isabelle stated. “Let me show you around your new home.”

 

 

A few weeks later, Raphael and Isabelle were getting ready for their wedding ceremony. Word had travelled that Isabelle was marrying an immortal human being. At engagement parties, Raphael had to do a party trick with a knife to prove the claims. He was sure many of the party goers summed it up to an illusion or a parlor trick, but the partygoers and high nobles spread the word; the press was positive for the kingdom. The threat of war dwindled as many high ranking officials from enemy kingdoms were often at these parties. Why send an army after a man who could not die?

Raphael was standing in the middle of Castile’s grandest cathedral in the finest suit he’d ever worn in his very long life. It was adorned with gold, jewels, and the rarest fabrics.

The music began to play and Raphael turned to see the Queen making her way down the aisle. Her wedding dress appeared as if it could have fed the country for a lifetime. It was too lavish to spend on a loveless marriage like theirs.

She approached Raphael and he took the veil and withdrew it to behind her head to reveal her face. She truly was beautiful. She had to have been a direct descendant from Zeus. That type of beauty could be bested only by the goddesses themselves.

They insisted the ceremony to be brief. Neither of them were Catholic given that they knew of the truth of the Greek gods, they just needed to play the part.

“I vow to be a loyal wife to both you and to the entire nation of Castile. I will love you forever as deeply and committedly as my love for our people. As I commit to you daily and make sure your needs are met, I will commit to our subjects’ needs. For our matrimony will not only forever bind us to each other, it will also bind us to this land and our people that we have been chosen to lead by the power of God,” Isabelle recited.

“And I, my Queen, forever vow to lead not only this marriage into a long lasting fruition, but also lead our subjects. My heart is not split between you and our people separately, but rather, all the love I have to give, I share equally. I will not give up on our union for in doing so would give up on Castile. Long live the queen. Long live our nation. Long live our love.”

“I now pronounce you husband and wife, King and Queen of Castile. You may now kiss the bride,” the priest announced.

They both leaned in and kissed to complete the marriage. It was chaste enough to be tactful, but had enough lip to make the people happy. Isabelle was the only person he had kissed other than Simon in the entirety of his life.

They broke apart to the cheers of the attendees and made their way out of the Cathedral and to the carriage that would bring them back home.

Isabelle smiled softly at Raphael, who was looking out the window. “Have you ever gotten the chance to marry Simon in any of your lifetimes?”

Raphael sat quietly for a few moments, not meeting her gaze. “No. No, I have not.”

Isabelle looked hurt and guilty. She was now Raphael’s very first marriage. “I’m sorry, Raphael.”

Raphael finally looked to her and gave her a reassuring smile. “Don’t be. I’ve never wanted it. I don’t want to marry Simon until my curse is broken. I wanted that marriage to be special. We have such limited time together, I never wished to take up time with minute details of planning for a union I knew that would end.”

Isabelle nodded. “Well I’m glad there’s a positive to this situation. I appreciate you doing this.”

“It’s not a problem. Although, I never really asked, what do you get out of it?” Raphael asked.

“I wanted a husband that wouldn’t have conflicting interests with other countries. I wanted to be the main leader and any other King would have taken those reins away from me. You fit a perfect picture. You’ll be a symbolic figurehead, give me counsel if I need it, but aside from that, we can live our separate lives,” she explained.

“That sounds fine to me,” Raphael stated.

“I do mean to ask though,” she added, “How do you feel if I were to have male servants to suit my bedroom needs for me?”

Raphael chuckled. “You are the queen, you have needs. You won’t be getting it from me, and we have separate bedrooms. Have fun.”

“You won’t think less of me if I have a diverse and frequently changing employment roster?” she asked.

“I assume every monarch does the same. I believe I am the only outlier, choosing a life of celibacy for 21 years and being only sexually active for one. Usually just for his pleasure. I love the intimacy aspect of sex, but I don’t really need it,” he explained.

She had an intrigued expression on her face. “You’ve never gotten elation from it? It’s never satisfied your cravings?” she asked.

“Occasionally, but those cravings are rare. And I’m usually specifically craving being close to him. I think it feels good because of him. I just don’t care to experience that with anybody else.”

“I see,” she said softly. “Thank you for sharing that with me. Where is this Simon now?” she asked.

“I never know until I meet him. But he’s currently a newborn. Hasn’t even aged a cycle yet. He just died a little over a year ago. He’s not born again until a year later, it’s not instantaneous.”

“I can pull the nation’s resources. Surely we can find him sooner,” Isabelle offered. Raphael just shook his head.

“It wouldn’t work. We’d never find him. Plus, he’s a child. I wouldn’t feel comfortable raising my future lover,” Raphael pointed out. Isabelle laughed at her foolishness.

“Right. I didn’t mean now. Or maybe I did. I just…..don’t know what to say or how to help.”

Raphael reached over and squeeze her hand. “I appreciate it, Isabelle. I’ve never been able to have a confidant with this. It’s truly liberating. I am no longer alone in this. I tend to not keep many friends for a long time because I didn’t want them to know.”

Isabelle smiled genuinely and reassuringly at Raphael. “Well, what better friend to have in your life than your wife?”

Raphael laughed. Perhaps this lifetime would not be so bad. They made their way to the castle where a large banquet and festival was set in their honor. The entire kingdom celebrated in their own small towns and villages along with them. Raphael actually had a fun time partying and dancing with his new wife. They got drunk and had laughs that would entertain them.

A few days later, they decided it was time to impregnate Isabelle with the heir. Raphael did what he was ordered to on his own, focusing intently on Simon, and the royal doctor took care of the rest.

A few weeks later Isabelle ran through the castle to find Raphael who was practicing the piano in the main library. Her sudden presence jolted Raphael, causing him to strike the keys wrong, unleashing a foul note.

“What is it?” Raphael asked.

“I’m not bleeding,” she answered happily.

Raphael looked surprised and delighted and he got up from his bench to embrace his wife. He wasn’t sure if a side effect of his curse would have been some type of infertility, but he supposed Isabelle’s gifts outweighed his curse even if that was the case.

The seasons passed and Isabelle’s stomach grew. Raphael would read to her stomach and play music for the both of them as well. Raphael did not know how much he was truly looking forward to being a father until the day she gave birth and he got to hold his son in his arms. He shed a tear looking upon his beautiful face, and he was truly happy for the first time in along time for any year that did not include Simon in it. After 1500 years, he had something else to live for.

“Have you decided on a name?” the doctor asked.

Isabelle and Raphael looked at each other proudly. “Prince David Castro Santiago-Lightwood,” Raphael stated.

“A powerful name, my king. It means beloved. He was the second king of Israel. It’s truly fitting,” he said.

“Thank you,” Raphael said.

 

As Isabelle ruled her nation, Raphael elected to watch over his son. Most monarchs likely relied on nannies and servants, but Raphael didn’t wish to miss a thing.

The two of them were inseparable. Isabelle would occasionally need to pry Raphael away for important meetings and counsel. As much as Raphael hated to leave David, he felt prideful that the nation Isabelle and he were running would be a great world for his son.

Raphael was tucking a now child-aged David into his bed for the night after a long day of playing and bonding with each other.

“Dad?” David asked after he was snug under the covers and before Raphael had started to leave.

“Yes, David?”

“They say that you’re the Immortal King of Castile. Is that really true?” David asked.

Raphael chuckled and approached David’s bed. “I am immortal.”

“That means you’ll live forever?”

Raphael hoped not, but the details of his curse were elaborate for a child. “Yes, I will.”

“Am I immortal to?”

Raphael felt pity. How does one tell their son that he will die before his father? Or die at all, even eventually?  “Sadly, no. It is not something I could pass onto you. But it isn’t as great as it seems.”

“Why not?”

Raphael stroked his son’s hair. It was a mundane thing to do, but Raphael had only been able to do a task like that- give a comforting touch to your child- for the past few years. “It gets rather boring. I’ve travelled a lot, learned a lot of skills. It doesn’t mean much. That’s why you can’t take your time for granted and you must always be careful. I’ve seen all of Europe, but that’s not impressive because I’ve had 1500 years to do it. But if you see all of Europe, well, that’s very impressive because you made better use of your time than I did. You need to use your time very wisely. It’ll run out before you know.”

“Why doesn’t mom spend her time with me like you do?” David asked.

“Your mother is very busy running the kingdom, my son. We decided that we could each do our job half of the time or watch you half of the time. But, any job worth doing is worth doing one-hundred percent. But I assure you that she loves you very much, and everything she is doing she is doing because of you. She isn’t happy about it. If she could, we’d all be together all of the time and she would do anything you asked of her. But being an adult is complicated, and ruling a kingdom is complicated. You’ll have to do it someday too. And you’ll need to make your own sacrifices, and you can’t do what you want all the time or else other people will get hurt. Your mother helps many many people, as many people as she can,” Raphael explained.

“But I want help too,” David said.

Raphael smiled at that response. “Well maybe I was wrong about the one hundred percent thing. Everyone needs a break. If you work too hard and don’t rest, your brain paralyzes your entire body for you because you didn’t rest.”

“Is that why you make me go to sleep even when I am not tired?” David asked.

“That’s exactly why,” Raphael confirmed. “In fact, the moment you feel the least tired is when your brain is plotting to STRIKE!” He began to tickle and bother David with the shout, causing his son to laugh and squirm back.

Isabelle walked in the room and chuckled at the sight of her husband and son playing around. “Am I missing out on more fun?”

Raphael paused so Isabelle could climb in the bed and lay down with her son and hold him. “Daddy says that you work real hard and you don’t see me often because you’re helping people.”

Isabelle looked genuinely sad at that comment. “He’s right. And I’m very sorry, baby. I love you so much. But if I work really hard right now, you won’t have to work as hard when you’re a king.”

            “I know, but I miss you. I wish you could help people a little less,” David pleaded. Isabelle strived to keep a pleasant expression on her face but she was hurt by her son’s words.

            “Well,” Isabelle said. “The nation is at peace, and, perhaps I have spent too much time away.” She got out of bed and stood up straight and proud.

            “Prince David Castro Santiago-Lightwood,” Isabelle stated in an official tone. “Is it your very first royal decree that you order me, Queen Isabelle Santiago-Lightwood to spend more time with you and daddy?”

            “Yes!” David cheered, sitting upright in bed now with enthusiasm.

            “You must say ‘I order it so.’”

            “I order it so!” David exclaimed.

            Isabelle and Raphael exchanged happy glances at one another. “It is law!” Raphael added.

            “So it is,” Isabelle stated. “Now, you have a good night’s sleep. I’ll see you in the morning.”

            The two of them headed outside of David’s room and Raphael slowly closed the door. “I’m sorry about his words. He asked where you always were,” Raphael said softly.

            “No, it is fine. If more time with his mother makes him more well-adjusted and a better future king, then I must. It is my duty to my country,” Isabelle stated.

            Raphael looked at her with disappointment. “You don’t want to do it because you love him?”

            Isabelle returned the look of disappointment with a heavy sigh and walked away. Raphael followed, and got in front of her to stop her tracks. “You do love our son, right?”

            “I have an obligation to our son, as I have an obligation to this country. I care for his growth, success, and health. I had to have a kid to fulfil some ancestor’s oath to Zeus. You had to have a kid to not be locked away in a tomb. I am very happy for you that David brings you infinite joy. There are few things in this arranged life of mine that bring me joy. None of them have been forced on me,” Isabelle said as she walked past Raphael.

            “I don’t believe you,” Raphael said. “I saw your face in that room. You were hurt. I think you’re afraid to love. I think you’ve suffered loss. You’ve let me talk about Simon, but you have never told me anything in return.”

            He approached her and made her sit on a chaise that was in their hallway. Tears began to flood Isabelle’s eyes. “I had a baby out of wedlock,” she confessed. A stable boy named Meliorn had my heart at the time. I was only sixteen. It wasn’t appropriate for a princess. I named him Maxwell.”

            Raphael held her hands as she wept. “May I ask what happened to Maxwell?”

            Isabelle took a deep breath to relax herself and stop crying. “The first day I met Magnus Bane was on Maxwell’s birthday. He looked solemn. I was mid-delivery and he already looked upset. Maxwell was born already deceased. Magnus explained to me that Maxwell wasn’t of noble blood. He told me about my Greek ancestors, and that my bloodline needs to be royal. That’s why I put off marrying someone for so long. I couldn’t deal with the pain.” She took a moment to wipe her own tears away.

            “Anyways, the line had to continue. Magnus pulled some strings and convinced someone on that mountain that you’d be an exception to the rule. A non-royal immortal would bring the success needed to oblige the deal made with my great great great someone,” Isabelle explained softly.

            “I am so sorry, Isabelle,” Raphael. “I wish I had known.”

            “I’m sorry too. I wish I loved David, but he just reminds me of this predicament and Maxwell. I loved Maxwell as he grew inside me. I loved Meliorn. I was in love, and that baby was made in love, just as it is supposed to be. And I have a loveless marriage now with a man who loves men and a baby that was made with the help of a doctor. I am sure my ancestor got everything he wanted, but I sure didn’t. I feel like I’m cursed right along with you.”

            Raphael nodded and embraced Isabelle. “We will get through this together. Just promise me something.”

            “What?” Isabelle asked as she let go.

            “Don’t let Maxwell’s passing be in vain. Please try your best to give David everything you would have given Maxwell. We didn’t ask for this life, but David did not either. Let’s not let my mistakes or the mistakes of your ancestor affect that little boy. Please?”

            Isabelle looked shocked and surprised at that truth. “You’re right.” She stood up, not meeting Raphael’s gaze for a while. “I can’t promise I’ll be perfect right away, or ever maybe. I don’t know if I’ll ever cope well enough.”

            “Just do the best you can. No parent is perfect. I am not either. If he is to be our only son, we must do everything as right as we can,” Raphael advised.

            Isabelle just simply nodded in agreement and made her way to her quarters. True to her word, she made more of an effort. She started out small, as to not overwhelm herself, but Raphael did find that her love for David genuinely grew. It wasn’t perfect, and maybe she was still more withdrawn with her love than he was, but it was all Raphael could ask for, and it made all the difference to David. She still mourned every year on Maxwell’s birthday, and when Maxwell would have been sixteen, Raphael had sixteen apple trees and a statue of both Maxwell and David in the courtyard. They did not know what Maxwell would’ve looked like, but Isabelle didn’t care. She was ecstatic at the sight of it.

            As Isabelle and David aged, Raphael did not. David got taller, bulkier, and grew up handsome like his father. Isabelle had a few hairs turn gray, hidden by dyes, but a few wrinkles on her face weren’t hidden as easily. David was now nineteen, a grown man. Raphael looked like Isabelle’s son as opposed to a husband and David looked like a brother to Raphael as opposed to a son.

High officials of neighboring kingdoms who had met them before and saw Raphael’s parlor trick but were still skeptical were now coming to terms with it and were making the foreign affairs interesting for Isabelle. Some were pledging more support in fear or devotion to God. Some countries were acting suspiciously but there was no risk for war yet.

            But life was good for all of them. David was studying the law of the land, overseeing a lot of his Mother’s meetings. They started prepping him in his teen years, and it had become a way for them to bond since he was no longer a child.

           

            Today was the day Raphael had patiently waited for. It was Simon’s twentieth birthday. He had distracted himself with being a father to fill the void, but Simon was his purpose. He was as nervous as he ever was.

            David knocked on Raphael’s door and Raphael turned away from the glass pane to greet his son. “Hello, my son,” Raphael said as he approached David and held him in an embrace. “What is it that you need?”

            “Mother said I should check up on you. She advised you’d be particularly nervous today,” David said.

            Raphael smiled at his wife and son’s concern. “Thank you, David. It is a big day. It’s the day I get to be reunited with Simon.”

            David smiled at the news. “I’m very happy for you, father.”

            “Thank you,” Raphael replied. David began to leave when Raphael stopped him with a question. “When did you know your mother and I were not in love?”

            David chuckled and turned back to Raphael. “Twelve or so, I reckon. I realized you had slept in different rooms, never displayed affections. Mother would be charming around the male servants.”

            “Did it ever bother you?” Raphael asked.

            David shook his head. “Maybe I spent too much time in these castle walls. I only heard about love when I read about it. But you and mother had always ingrained in me about my duty and serving our people. I assumed I would have an arranged marriage one day for a favorable alliance. Mother made many sacrifices for me. You’ve sacrificed your whole never-ending life. I have accepted I will likely sacrifice as well. Such as spending less time with you this year.”

            “I will still be here,” Raphael reassured, cupping his son’s face.

            “Perhaps. Perhaps not. I remember when I was a boy and I first asked you if I would be immortal like you, you said I was not, and that I should not waste my time because it is precious. If what you’ve said is true, Simon only has a year left to live. Don’t have him waste his final days being alone because you chose to spend insignificant days with your son whose side you have not left in 19 years, whose side you’ll get to be with for dozens more.”

            A tear came to Raphael’s eye and he hugged his son tightly. “How did you grow up to be so smart and selfless? The selflessness couldn’t have come from me. I’ve been advised I haven’t lived a selfless life in 1500 years.”

            “I don’t buy that,” David replied.

            Raphael sighed. “What if this is my test of selflessness? What if I chose to stay by you instead of Simon? What if I had restraint?”

            “You said in 1500 years, I was your only child. I’m not your first test, as bittersweet as that news may be,” David reassured.

            “I suppose you’re right,” Raphael said.

            “I know I am right. I am the Prince of Castile, son of the Immortal King of Castile. I was raised by the man with lifetimes of wisdom that has been bestowed onto me. Now,” he extended his hand to his father. “Let’s go find him, shall we?”

            Raphael smiled and took his son’s hand. “Thank you, David.”

[2019]

 

            Raphael was picking up some produce from a farmer’s market a few blocks away from his apartment. He was stuffing a head of lettuce into his bag when his phone began to ring. He shuffled the sack into one of his arms and took out the phone. It was Maia calling.

            “Hey, Maia,” he said, carefully positioning the phone against his ear. “What’s up?”

            “I saw him,” Maia said softly.

            “Saw who?” Raphael asked.

            “Simon,” she said. “He came in the shop with Clary. I know he was here and you were seeing him and you’ve said he looked the same but he………Raphael, he was exactly the same.”

            “I know,” Raphael said empathetically. “It’s hard to grasp. His very first incarnation when I was still in Greece I could barely deal. It took me about 160 years to manage the expectations. It’s still weird, sometimes.”

            “And he’s…going to be gone in a few months? He’s just going to be ripped out of Clary’s life, and they don’t know?” she asked.

            Raphael felt his heart harden and sink in his chest. “No, they don’t.”

            Maia grew silent on the phone. It wasn’t the best thing to announce over the phone. “Well, uh-” he heard a sniffle on the line and her voice was strained by the lack of air. “I just wanted to say that I saw him. And they have a surprise waiting for you at your apartment.”

            Raphael immediately grew tense, thinking about the photos and memorabilia on his bedroom wall of the two of them. “What do you mean they have a surprise waiting for me at my apartment?”

            “They had a cute idea for your birthday so I gave them some lock picks,” Maia said.

            “MAIA.” Raphael said sternly. “I have photos of Simon and I all over my apartment.”

            “Which Simon?” Maia asked.

            “All of them.” Raphael said as he briefly hung up the phone and left the sack down, apologizing to the vendor before dashing off towards his apartment complex. It was several blocks away and Raphael wasn’t sure how much of a head start they’d gotten.

            There were very few Simons that knew about Raphael, but he’d never revealed to any of them about their short-lived role. Raphael wasn’t ready to have that conversation now or ever.

            He couldn’t die, but his lungs were not magical. They were aching and in pain just as anyone who was untrained for marathons would be in this moment. That’s what he gets for putting off the ‘run a marathon’ part of his eternal bucket list for centuries.

            He got to his apartment and turned the knob, already finding it unlocked. He sunk his head and his heart somehow simultaneously froze from the fear and accelerated from the anxiety. This was a conversation he needed to have now. There was no escaping it now.

            He wondered how this was going to affect his relationship with this Simon. He thought back on his conversation with his son. Their time together was so limited. Would their time be wasted apart out of fear of the truth? Was the truth powerful to make Simon not love him anymore?

            He opened the door and took a few steps into the living room. He heard talking coming from the bedroom. This was it. He heard the footsteps fastly approaching, they were rushing out, afraid of what they had seen in his room.

            Simon and Clary appeared in front of him before they froze in their tracks. They both looked terrified, afraid of him. They likely thought he was some type of serial killer. How much easier that would be than the truth.

            “Hi Simon,” he said softly.

            “Raphael, what the fuck is that in your room?” Simon asked angrily.

            “I can explain,” Raphael replied. He glanced over at Clary. This did not concern her and it was complicated enough as is. “Can I explain to you without her here? It is complicated and changes a lot of things. Obviously, you can relay the truth to her if you feel like you want her included in it, but I think you need the facts first to make that rationale decision.”

            “I don’t care. She stays. Anything you can tell me you can tell her,” Simon insisted.

            Raphael grunted. A naïve choice, but it was Simon’s to make. “No take backs, then. I will need something from the kitchen, which you two are guarding. And I sense you don’t want me stepping towards you all. Can you move to the fireplace so I may pass?”

            “What do you need from your kitchen right now?” Simon asked.

            “A prop to help demonstrate. Would you like me to tell you my way or not?” Raphael asked. Simon nodded to Clary and they moved out of the way to the living room and Raphael slowly made his way to his kitchen. A low bar island was a replacement for the wall separating the kitchen and living room so they had a perfect view of him. “What are you grabbing? A gun? Will you kill us?”

            “I’m not killing either of you. I am grabbing a knife and an apple,” Raphael explained calmly.

            “What do you need a knife for?” Simon asked.

            “I am almost there,” Raphael said, placing the objects on the island counter. “Now I need to be on that side, you need to see the floor, but I wanted you to know I am not approaching you with a knife.”

            “You’re being very considerate about this. And cryptic.” Clary said.

            “Well you’re both very afraid and looking at me like I’m a sociopath and you asked if I was going to kill you, so I am trying to do what I can to salvage something here,” Raphael explained as he slowly made his way to their side with his hands up reassuringly.

            As soon as his whole body was in view, he grabbed the apple and began to slice it. “This is a real knife. I’m about to do a magic trick, so I am showing you that this is very real and not an illusion.”

            “What does a magic trick have to do with why there are photos of us we never took in your roo-” Simon’s sentence was cut short with Raphael plunging the knife into his chest. Clary and Simon screamed at the sight, until they saw the metal of the knife shatter like glass and fall onto the floor below them. They were scared and panting heavily. Raphael used two fingers to spread open the new hole in his shirt, but the skin beneath showed no cut.

            “I can’t die,” Raphael said slowly. He looked at their confused, processing faces as they took in the information. “Let me know when you’re ready for me to continue.”

            Clary and Simon looked at each other and nodded, and then nodded at Raphael, who took a deep breath to calm his nerves. “I’m about 2400 or 2500 years old. I stopped counting centuries ago. I was born in ancient Greece during the times of Zeus and Mount Olympus. All of those deities are very real. All of the myths were true stories. I had a boyfriend named Simonnos. He was my first love, and I was his. Simonnos convinced me to make love to him in Aphrodite’s temple. She did not approve because we were both male. Like all of the fun stories, when you pissed a god off, you got tortured for eternity. My curse was immortality. I constantly meet Simonnos’s reincarnations, and I outlive him. Forever. We always fall in love. We always find each other.”

            The two of them were silent together and Raphael gave them time to process. “You can try to kill me with another object if you need further proof.” The attempt at humor was not appreciated by the two of them.

            “You always outlive me?” Simon asked.

            Raphael nodded. “You’re the one that volunteered to be reincarnated.” Raphael really hoped Simon pry on that any more than he already did.

            “That was me in the 90’s. I’d only be 40 something right now. I was young in the photo that looked like the 70’s, one that looked like the 50’s and another from the 20’s or 30’s. Why am I never old with you?” Simon asked, puzzled. There it was. Raphael had a lump in his throat that was hard for him to swallow. His heart quickened and he felt unwell. He let his head limp down and refused to look at their eyes anymore.

            “I really think Clary should leave for this part,” Raphael tried to insist.

            “It’s too late,” Simon said. “I need to know if there’s more of this. And I can’t be alone in this.”

            Raphael began to cry a few tears before bringing his head back to them. “I always meet you on your twentieth birthday. You always die on your twenty-first.”

            Clary and Simon appeared to be in shock. Clary was shaking her head no and Simon just looked angry.

            “Let’s go, Clary,” he said, grabbing her arm and walking out of Raphael’s apartment, leaving him alone, the most alone he’s felt in two and a half millennia.

 

Chapter Text

            It had been a month since Raphael was forced to tell Simon the truth, and he hadn’t seen or heard from Simon at all during this time. He had lost a whole twelfth of their limited time together and it was absolutely breaking him apart.

            He didn’t even fully want Simon to be here for himself. He just wanted to make sure Simon was being strong and holding up. He needed to know that Simon wasn’t comatose in his bed wasting the last few months he has left. He needed to spend time with his mother, his sister, and Clary.

            He picked up his phone and called Simon, but the call just rang until he heard “Hey, this is Simon. Please leave a message!”

            “Simon,” Raphael said weakly. “I don’t know if you’re getting these. I hope you are. I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry to put you through this. I just want to make sure you’re okay. Or as okay as you can be. You only have so much time to spend with your mom and Rebecca and Clary. Please don’t be hiding and locking yourself away and robbing them of their time with you. I hope you make some memories.” Raphael sniffled as he inhaled, trying to fight the tears he was holding back, and losing. “I love you so much. And your family loves you so much. And if I can’t see you again in this life, just know I have been trying so hard to break this curse. I’ve tried so hard and I keep failing and I’m so sorry. I keep failing you. Just please don’t fail your family. Please give them all the love you can. As much of it as you can. Please, do it for them.”

            He hit the hang up button and curled back under his blanket on his couch and cried some more. He just wanted to hold Simon and reassure him that everything was going to be okay. Even when they were at their lowest points, they still had each other, aside from now.

 

[1931]

            Simon Lakesworth walked around the streets of New York looking for work. America was experiencing the worst financial depression the country had ever seen.

            He graduated high school a few months before the stock markets crashed in October. He had a factory job for a small time, and then he was let go a few months after the company tried to hold on.

            His father died fighting the war. He didn’t even really remember him. His mother, as most of the women did, took up the jobs men left behind. But they were all laid off when the men returned.

            Their house was nearly paid off, but it wasn’t, and they were evicted. The bank that had their savings and the money they earned from losing their father closed, and they lost that too. They were all living in a Hooverville, a community of the homeless, on the side of town now.

            Simon went door to door in neighborhoods that still had residents fortunate enough to have their homes if they needed their chimneys swept. The answer was almost always no. When he could, they only gave him about five or ten cents to spare. He took anything he could get.

            His mother sang in a speakeasy somewhere in the city. Drinking was still illegal, but it was the only form of relief some people could get. She didn’t earn much, but what she got, she shared. They mostly only ate bread. It was cheap, the carbs gave energy. They splurged for protein no more than once a month. They relied on soup kitchens for most of their meals.

            Simon figured he would stop by one now. His stomach was aching something fierce. It always was though, that was the norm.

            He stepped inside and the place was busy as usual. It always was. Soup kitchens served 1500-3000 people a day. This soup kitchen was run by Luke Garroway, a veteran of the Great War his father served in. His father and Luke didn’t know each other as the battalions were segregated, but Luke was well known around the community even prior to the depression.

            “Good Afternoon, Luke,” Simon said.

            “Good Afternoon, Simon,” Luke said. “How are you holding up?”

            “I got ten cents today,” Simon said cheerfully.

            “Keep that optimism, buddy,” Luke replied. “That is in less supply than anything else these days.”

            Luke poured him a bowl, gave him some bread, and Simon brought it over to a table. He took a spoonful, and it was only lukewarm, and a little watery due to the demand today, but it was significantly better than nothing.

            A gentleman sat across from him and gave Simon as smile. He was just as dirty as Simon, but he had a pretty face and raven black hair. “Good Afternoon.”

            “Good Afternoon,” Simon replied back. Many people didn’t want to be social here. Sometimes it was the only chance they had to be social, but they weren’t usually chipper like this guy was.

            “I’m Raphael Santiago,” the man introduced himself as.

            “Simon Lakesworth,” he replied.

            “You new around here? I haven’t seen you before.”

            “No, I’m a regular. We must just have different schedules. I try to only come in emergencies. I want to save some soup for the others I suppose.”

            “That’s very noble of you, Simon. That’s very selfless. I strive to be like that.”

            Simon chuckled. “Nobody’s complimented me that way before. I suppose not many opportunities to showcase that these days.”

            “It’s strange to thing that we were all different people before this crash,” Raphael. “And now we’re just whatever has survived and adapted within these empty shells of the people we once were.”

            “I was pretty much just a kid. I don’t feel I really even got the chance to grow into somebody yet,” Simon said. “How about yourself?”

            “I feel like I’ve been multiple different adults. I don’t remember much of the original me. It feels like so long ago,” Raphael stated. He felt so brutally honest and sincere in his words. Simon was amazed at how a person could have such an old soul in a body so young. Simon just nodded in understanding. “Whoever you are now, it would be a good pleasure to get to know this person more.”

            Simon smiled softly at that. It’s been a while since he met a truly friendly person aside from Luke in a long time. Most people wanted to suffer in silence. “Thank you, Raphael.”

            Raphael nodded. “The pleasure is mine. I hope to see you around sometime.” Simon smiled as Raphael left their table to put his dishes away and head out. Simon’s heart fluttered as he watched the man leave. He was a beautiful man, and charming too. Simon hadn’t thought about anything romantic in a while. Everything was just about survival.          

 

 

            Raphael went to work that night at a speakeasy called The Mortal Cup. He was the club’s pianist. He had been living off of his money from his time as a king, but the funds he brought with him to America were lost when the banks failed.

            He approached the building which had no trespassing signs, and signs about the building being condemned for safety reasons where a guy was sitting on a barrel, smoking a cigarette. He would’ve looked like another homeless man to the average commoner, but he was the security, and the building wasn’t actually condemned.

            “You here to spend some change, sir?” the security guard asked, as part of the ruse.

            “The lake is a mirror,” Raphael replied.

            The man nodded upon hearing the verification of the correct password and got off the barrel and escorted him around the corner to a boarded up door. The man pulled a key out of his pocket to unlock the door and let Raphael inside.

            It was still early, but there were some patrons. It was never too early to ease your suffering or escape the world.

            He headed along the wall, walking around the main seating area until he arrived backstage where he heard arguing between Elaine and the club’s owner, Mr. Valentine. He stayed hidden behind a wall.

            “Mr. Valentine, please,” Elaine begged. “I need this job. I support two kids. That little harlot is barely twenty. You know she’s being supported. She doesn’t need to sing. She’s not even that good.”

            “I gotta please my patrons,” Valentine replied. “They’re too drunk to care about the quality of her voice. They do care about the quality of how the dames look. You’re over forty, Elaine. People want a fantasy of a good life here. That new girl can give them that. If I let her go on the street, she’ll only make money by selling that dream into a filthy reality. I’m saving that girl by letting her sing in your place.”

            “It only takes one pair of loose lips to bring this club down, Mr. Valentine. They giving rewards for information about these clubs. If I don’t have a job here, I’ll need that income,” Elaine threatened.

            Valentine chuckled heartily at that. “Oh you don’t want to do that, sweetheart. Them mobsta’s that protect this place and keep the juice flowing, you don’t wanna see what happens when people stab them in the back. Something may happen to that little Simon of yours, or that Rebecca.”

            Raphael realized he was with Simon’s mother. He knew this was Elaine Lakesworth, but he hadn’t pieced it together when Simon mentioned his last name earlier.

            Elaine began to sob. “There has to be something I can do here. I can sing days for the day customers. I’ll tend bar, I’ll clean.”

            Valentine began to stroke Elaine’s cheek. He wiped away her tears with his thumbs. “You know what, Elaine? I’ve admired your hard work here. And being the generous man that I am, I do have a job for you that I’m willing to pay for.” He took one of his hands and put it on Elaine’s lower back and with his free hand, palmed his groin.

            “Mr. Valentine-” she tried to protest.

            “If you don’t want employment here, that’s fine. Unfortunately, all of the other positions are currently full. So, would you like to come to my office or not?” Valentine asked firmly.

            Raphael wanted to speak up so badly, but he couldn’t. He wasn’t sure what the retaliation would be. He could be fired as well. He wouldn’t die if he didn’t eat, but the pain would be just as unbearable, if not worse.

            As Elaine nodded and made the steps towards his office with Valentine, Raphael knew that he would need to make a selfless decision. “Elaine!” he stated as he came from around the corner, grabbing both of their attentions. “You don’t have to do this.”

            Elaine began to cry from the embarrassment, disgusting Valentine. “I can’t have you sobbing, you’re pathetic. Get out. The both of you! You’re both done in this club!”

            He headed by himself to his office and Elaine looked sternly at Raphael. “You shouldn’t have done that!” Her voice was mad, her tone pointed as opposed to a ‘you shouldn’t have’.

            “I’m sorry,” Raphael apologized. “But that couldn’t have been worth it. Please don’t do that for Simon.”

            “Well now I don’t have a choice, and no money to bring him or Rebecca,” she said weakly. “This may have condemned us.”

            “Valentine is a cruel person. He likely wouldn’t have given much. And it likely would’ve only been one time,” Raphael reassured.

            Elaine still looked angry, but calmer. Raphael knew that type of decision was a heavy one, and she was being coerced into it without time to rationally decide. Or maybe he just wanted to tell himself that because maybe he had condemned her and Simon.

            “Can I please walk you home?” Raphael asked. Elaine didn’t look happy about the thought, but she nodded. It gave Raphael an opportunity to learn where Simon lived, which would make visiting him much easier.

            They were walking through town, the sun was just beginning to set, and they were both silent for a while. It was the fear of the unknown, the wanting to do things differently. Raphael knew for the last 2400 years that there was never going back, never getting a second chance. Mistakes were always permanent.

            “I met your son today,” Raphael stated. “At Mr. Garroway’s soup kitchen. He seemed very kind.”

            Elaine smiled faintly at that. “I’m glad to hear that. He’s the sunshine in these cloudy days, my beacon, my lighthouse. Him and Rebecca both are.” She started to become moved by emotion and she fought tears back. “I wish they didn’t have to endure this cruel life. And I wish there was a good future coming. Not just aching hope, but an actual guarantee. I long for a date on the calendar when this suffering will expire.”

            “You’re preaching to the choir,” Raphael said solemnly, thinking about his own never-ending situation.

            “We’re right up here,” she said as they approached the community of about two hundred shacks of wood planks that were unattractively assembled. They navigated their way through the suburb of shanties, passing people who hung out outside since the insides were too cramped for anything other than sleep. Each of these housed two to four people, and many would only have a few blankets to keep warm as they slept on the floor.

            Raphael saw Simon reading a newspaper in front of their shack. He looked over and saw his mother, and he became visibly concerned. “I thought you sang tonight,” Simon said as she was in standing distance.

            Elaine nodded with a somber expression. “We were both replaced,” Raphael half-lied.

            “Raphael,” Simon said with a pleasant smile. Raphael’s heart fluttered at Simon being so delighted to see him after just hearing devastating news. “What a small world.”

            “I’m sorry, Simon,” Elaine said.

            “No, mother,” he said, holding her close. “There is nothing to apologize for.” He stroked her cheek and wiped away a teardrop that she had shed.

            She took a deep breath and held her son’s hands together as she brought her head back high. “The three of us will manage.” She turned to Raphael with a smile. Her resentfulness was gone. “Thank you, Raphael. For trying to stand up for me. That was truly selfless of you.”

            Raphael smiled back. “It was my pleasure.”

            “So you weren’t replaced then?” Simon asked. “You talked back to the boss and he booted you for it?”

            Raphael nodded. Simon stepped close to Raphael and gave him a tight hug, surprising Raphael. “Thank you, Raphael.” It wasn’t common to hug a stranger, but Raphael didn’t mind. Simon was not a stranger to him. He hugged Simon back and patted his back before Simon stepped off. “My mother means everything to me.”

            “She said the same about you and Rebecca.” Raphael said, smiling back at Elaine. He noticed the sun was setting real low now, and he was pretty far from this neighborhood.

            “I should head back now. It was good running into you again, Simon,” Raphael stated.

            “It’s way too dark to travel safely. Mother, we have room for one more body for one night,” Simon pleaded.

            “No, no,” Raphael countered. “You all deserve leg room. I’ll rest outside here, this neighborhood should be safe enough. It’s not going to rain tonight, the weather is fair.”

            “Do we smell?” Simon asked. “I soaped myself the other day, you have cologne on, mother has perfume on.”

            “Elaine, please tell Simon I cannot,” Raphael requested.

            She sighed and looked entertained by the banter. “It is up to you. You are welcome to share. Simon’s blanket will fit over you both. We’ll just advise Rebecca a friend of Simon’s is staying a night.”

            “You’re both kind. Thank you,” he said.

            “It’s my pleasure,” Simon replied.

            That night, it was the four of them in the shack. It was Elaine and Rebecca on the right side, and Simon and Raphael on the left. Raphael was against the wall, so it felt like it was just the two of them. He knew Elaine was just on the other side of Simon, but he didn’t care.

            He wanted so desperately to reach over Simon and hold onto him that he felt his hand physically ache as he restrained it to himself. He was so close, but so far.

            Simon subconsciously inched backwards closer to Raphael, further weakening Raphael’s defenses. He would have to settle for his pinky finger to graze the back of Simon’s shirt until he lulled himself to sleep.

 

 

            The two of them began to hang out more and more, with Raphael visiting Simon’s neighborhood frequently. They would walk around town together, see the sights of the city. Watching people live life around you was one of the only affordable pass times these days.

            Raphael found another speakeasy to play piano at. Elaine occasionally found a few houses to clean every few days. Simon still tried to find the occasional odd job.

            Simon walked Raphael to work one day and they were bidding their farewells when Raphael’s new boss came out on the floor.

            “Ay, you, Raphael. Mitsie gone and left. Found some man with a job and a house that says he can take care of her. Can you sing and play the piano too?” his boss asked.

            Raphael shook his head. “No, sorry, I’m afraid only these hands are magical.”

            “My mother’s a singer. I can go find her,” Simon said.

            “Nah, there’s no time, and I don’t need an old broad. Do you sing like she can?” he asked.

            “Uhh,” Simon stuttered. “Well, I haven’t sang from a crowd, but I have heard no complaints from my neighbors.”

            The club owner gestured to the stage. “Go sing something, let me see what you got. Raphael, get some jazz going.”

            Raphael looked at Simon and smiled reassuringly with enthusiasm and got an easy tune going that Simon could adapt to confidently. Simon tapped his toe a few times and shook to the rhythm.

            “I got that 1930’s blues.” Dada dada dadadada. “Time don’t treat me like it used to.” Dada dada dadadada. “My job done just shut down.” Dada. “My car done just broke down.” Dada. “My rent’s close to being due.” Dada. “But I spend I spent it all on chew.” Dada. “But do you know what I get to do?” Dada. “I GOT MY BABY TO GO HOME TO!” Simon exclaimed passionately for that line as Raphael matched his upbeat and energy on the keys.

            “I ain’t gotta worry bout a thing. Cuz I locked my baby down with that ring. All of my problems go away. When I get to see my baby every day. I know everything will be alright. When I get to hold my baby late at night. I know nothing else will go wrong. WHEN I’M MAKING LOVE TO MY BABY ALL NIGHT LONG!”

            Raphael and Simon gave each other glances that made Raphael maybe thing Simon was currently singing about him, even though they haven’t had an opportunity to establish anything with each other yet.

            “I don’t got that 1930’s blues, whenever I’m with you. I know everything else will improve. But life’s already perfect, let me prove it to you. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, I’ll love you even more than before. We could live in Hooverville or Hollywood, I will never leave you, yeah I never would. I know we can get through anything together, these times are temporary but my love’s forever. Let me take you to the bedroom I’ll show you my roaring 20’s, and once we’re done we can spend our last few pennies. Suffering’s a choice and do you know what I choose? I choose to love yooouuuuuuuuu through these 19! 30’s!.............BLUUUUUUUUUUUUEEEEEEESSSSS!”

            Raphael had the notes get higher and then eventually fade away as Simon gathered his breath and looked at Raphael happily.

            The club owner began to slow clap. “You’re hired, kid. No more chimney’s for you!”

            Simon was pleasantly surprised and was almost frozen in shock. “Th-thank you, sir!” He got off the stage to shake the club owner’s hand. “You won’t regret it!”

            “You start tonight, you better have more songs,” the man said as he walked off. Simon headed over to Raphael who was beaming with pride.

            “That was amazing, Simon,” Raphael said. Simon smiled and hugged the man tightly. Raphael was caught off guard, but he was more than happy to reciprocate. Simon felt so good to hold in his arms. Even if he was greasier and skinnier than his past loves, every embrace was magical to him.

            Simon did a slow release, keeping his hands on Raphael’s arms for an extra second or two before withdrawing them, all while smiling wildly and intimately at Raphael.

           

            After the night was done, they made their way back to Raphael’s Hooverville since it was closer to this side of town.

            “Thank you, Raphael.” Simon suddenly said.

            “Me? I didn’t do anything,” Raphael said. “That was all you.”

            "Well, if I hadn’t walked to you to work, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity. And if you weren’t my friend, I wouldn’t have been able to walk you. So, thank you, Raphael, for your….friendship.”

            Raphael’s interest piqued as to why there was hesitation on that final word. Maybe this was the time to take the plunge.

            They entered Raphael’s shack and he shut the door behind them. “Simon, there’s something I wanted to ask you.”

            Simon’s expression didn’t change. He just looked at Raphael with the same optimistic expression he always did. “What is it?”

            “That song tonight, was it for anyone in particular?” Raphael asked.

            Simon’s confident façade faltered a little and he appeared to be a little more nervous. “It’s….uhhh…just a silly love song. About couples in general.” He swallowed a hard lump in his throat. “Why?”

            Raphael took a step closer and wrapped his arms around Simon’s waist, causing him to tense slightly from the surprise, but he looked at Raphael with interest and wasn’t seeming to back off. “Because I wanted them to be about me.”

            Raphael leaned forward and pressed his lips to Simon’s, and Simon immediately reciprocated the kiss back to Raphael, bringing his own arms around him before briefly removing his mouth to say “Yes, they were all about you.”

            The older man quickly reunited their mouths and his hands worked quickly began to shed off Simon’s shirt and Simon made sure to be the same. They were both shirtless and had their hands moving over the other’s skin, feeling the rib cages and ab muscles that were defined from the default of having no body fat.

            Simon removed his mouth from Raphael’s with an expression of concern. “I uh, don’t think we’re clean enough to…”

            “That’s ok,” Raphael said. “Feeling your skin under my fingers is more than enough. Falling asleep with you in my arms is more than I could ever ask for.”

            “Okay,” Simon said before returning their kiss. They stripped the rest of the way to their underwear and then got underneath the blankets on the floor.

            “I do have a bar of soap,” Raphael said. “And we have the day off. We can take a bath in the river tomorrow. And then I can taste you.”

            “Jesus,” Simon moaned. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

            “Good,” Raphael said. “For now, let’s get some rest.”

            Raphael wrapped his arms around Simon and kissed the back of his neck tenderly. Simon’s song definitely resonated with him. No matter how bad or rough his life was, it was perfect because he had Simon.

           

[2019]

 

            Simon was in his bedroom with the curtains closed, preventing daylight from coming in, and his lights were all off. He rarely left it now, let along leave his apartment. All he did was try to distract himself from the sadness by zombily playing his video games, much to no avail. It was hard to talk to Clary. All the questions of “what’s up” or “how are you?” had the same bleak responses.

            He listened to all of Raphael’s voicemails. He never wanted to, but he was a masochist he supposed. None of them helped his situation, and the guilt just made him retreat more. He knew he had limited time with his family, but how he could possibly face them knowing what he knew?

             His thoughts were interrupted by loud knocking on his main door. He hoped it wasn’t Raphael. He prayed for anyone but him. He made his way and looked through the peephole, and was surprised to see Maia. Maia was Raphael’s friend though, so he wasn’t surprised, just surprised he sent someone else in this place.

            He opened the door against his better judgement. Maia looked at him sympathetically. “Hello, Simon,” she greeted.

            “Hello Maia. Are you here representing Clary or Raphael?” he asked.

            “Both,” she said. “They both extremely concerned. May I come in?”

            Simon was annoyed and his sigh showed it but he obliged and let Maia inside. “Thank you,” she said as she entered. She looked around and took in the view. “This is a nice place. Simon Locke would’ve liked it.”

            Simon’s interest piqued at the mention of his former self. He had been more focused on that he was dying as opposed to focusing that he had lived many lives before. “What was he like?”

            Maia smiled, fondly thinking about her best friend. “He was a firecracker. Fiercely determined. Overtly sexual. The first time he and Raphael met they were openly sexualizing each other in the middle of this crowded internet café, and homosexuality was still pretty taboo in the mid 90’s but the boy just did not care. He was….a rebel with a cause. He was the best hacker on our squad, but he never wanted to take the leader position from me. He was confident enough to lead, but he wanted to support me.” Her eyes got watery and she wiped a tear away. “He took a bullet for me. He died for me and we had to leave his body behind and have him die all alone.”

            Simon’s heart ached at the admission. How terrifying that must have been for Simon, for Maia. Raphael would have been the only one to have seen it coming.

            “How did Raphael let that happen?” Simon asked.

            Maia took a short breath to compile herself. “The job we did was the night before Simon turned twenty-one. It was a great plan, Simon’s best work, and Raphael wanted to make sure Simon died with a happy memory with that high of success. We were supposed to be in an out before midnight, but we ran into a complication. We got caught just a few minutes after midnight by the cops. They pulled the trigger. Raphael felt so guilty, and he couldn’t show it or let any of us know he was grieving.

            Simon stood in silence contemplating about that. He thought Raphael was heartless for not telling him, but maybe he wasn’t heartless at all.

            “Simon, Raphael has lived 2500 years alone. He gets one year with you, witnesses your death every time and then he patiently waits a whole twenty-one years just to see you again. He doesn’t get the luxury of keeping friends. He moves to a new town before people witness him not aging. I’m the first person he’s stuck around for and let me know the truth. At least, as of recent.”

            Simon hated being alone. He realized he felt alone right now, and he started to pity Raphael.

            “What you’re going through is scary and frustrating. That fear and anger is well justified, rightfully so, but you got a significantly better deal than Raphael did. And I think trying to keep you in the dark was smart of him, because now you’re tortured about that. I don’t know if he’s told a past Simon and if he did, how that may have gone, but that’s a question for him.”

            She got up off of her chair and slung her purse over her shoulder. “You need to grieve, but you need to try to be present for your family and Clary. Whether or not you take Raphael back, I can’t choose for you. All I know is that man has lived solely for you and has somehow not gone insane. But your sister and mother only have a few months with you left. I think you should end on a good note. Do a bucket list, make memories with them. I had a fight with my father before he died. If I knew the date he was going to die, I would’ve had a much more pleasant ending to that. Please do what you can for them, because they’re going to have to grieve too, and I don’t think you want them having to struggle to remember the last time they saw their son.”

            “You know, some would consider this gas lighting and emotional manipulation,” Simon stated.

            “Well, you can’t light a fire under someone’s ass with no gas,” she stated. “Those of us who don’t know when we’re going to die make a lot of mistakes thinking we’ve got time to waste. Don’t be like us, Simon.”

            And with that sentence, she walked out the door, leaving Simon to stand alone in his entryway thinking about her words and what kind of life he wanted to live.

           

Chapter Text

            A week after Maia’s visit, Simon tried to put more effort in managing his day to day life. He missed too many of his classes to make up for this semester, and he wasn’t planning on doing Spring, so he used his new days off to enjoy New York and do all of the things he’d never thought to do. He went to all the local dive concerts he had to pass on for studying and let himself let loose, he mustered up the courage and got his band’s symbol tattooed on his arm, he got brunch in the city every few days and read the classic literature he had been putting off.

            He didn’t tell his mother or sister about the classes, but he made an effort to see them every few days and had dinner with them twice a week at least, and they did normal family outings again like movies and shopping.

            Thanksgiving came around, which was pretty nerve-wracking for Simon as he thought about having their last few holidays together as a family, but that gave him the courage to have his perfect Thanksgiving.

            Every year he asked his mother for mac and cheese. She always said no because it ‘wasn’t a Thanksgiving food’, so he was bold enough to bring his own small crockpot with just a few servings.

            Elaine rolled her eyes at him, but let it slide after interrogating him to ensure it was kosher, knowing it was his favorite.

            “Alright,” Elaine said as she sat down. All of the food was on the table, but they were not dining in yet. “You both know what it’s time for. You need to say one thing you are thankful for from this past year. It cannot be family. It’s cheating, and I think you’re lying anyways.” Simon chuckled at his mom’s crass humor. He was truly going to miss it. “I will start. I am thankful that we got to see Clary’s art show. I love watching her grow up along with the two of you and seeing everything you’re all accomplishing.”

            Simon smiled at his mother’s words. Clary had been so excited. It wasn’t even her art show. She had a piece featured in an art show, but his mother was all about hyping up accomplishments and she wouldn’t let anyone belittle their accomplishments. It was also a pretty great art show.

            “I’m thankful that I finished that really long story I was working on for over a year, and the comments online were really nice and sweet. I’m one step closer to being a real writer. It was good experience,” Rebecca stated.

            “I’m very proud of you, honey, and I can’t wait until you’re a published author. Hopefully then you’ll allow me to read whatever you write, but I hope you never give up that dream,” Elaine said cheerfully, giving her daughter a proud smile. Rebecca looked embarrassed, but flattered. “Simon?”

            Simon took a deep breath. The last few months weren’t positive. He was no longer thankful about much due to finding out he was going to die. He took his time before Raphael for granted and didn’t do much aside from schooling.

            He missed Raphael. He really did. There was a point early on where he was thinking about bringing Raphael home for the holidays. He would have loved to have him here. He supposed it wasn’t really his fault that they were in this mess. He thought about Maia’s words a lot. Raphael was a bigger victim in this situation than he was. Simon’s situation was just scarier.

            “I’m thankful for…realizing what’s important in life. We don’t know how much time we have on Earth, and we waste it thinking we’ll have forever to do what we want. I find myself wondering what dad would have done if he knew that he only had one more year with us, what he would have done. How would we have maximized the quality of our remaining time together?”

            Elaine and Rebecca were looking at him with awe, concern, sorrow, and understanding all wrapped up into one. “I was just thinking about him, I always think about him, but this particular thought came to me. I just wanted to let you both know that I love the both of you, and I don’t want to take my time with you all for granted anymore.”

            Elaine smiled as she held back tears and Rebecca just looked at him like he was cheesy ad dramatic, but Simon didn’t care. He felt so bad about leaving them behind. He was so worried what their first Thanksgiving and Hanukkah without him would be like for them. They were already hard with just the three of them. Soon it’d be just the two. All he could do is hope that they would have the strength to continue on well without him.

            “That was very beautiful, Simon. I know I tell you both I love you all the time, and I do, but I hope those words mean something when I say it. I know it’s a repetitive motherly script that loses its meaning, but I cherish you both and it would just kill me if anything were to happen to either one of you,” Elaine said.

            Simon winced and his heart felt as if he just drank a deep-fried lard milkshake with blended in bacon bits. It was rock solid and tight and tears came to his eyes. “I just need a moment,” he said as he excused himself away from the table.

            He headed out to their backyard and sat on the swinging bench. He felt the cool breeze brush against his face and he took a deep breath to inhale it all in. He watched the sunset and tried to find peace in it with the breeze, but it wasn’t working. He didn’t know if he could do this.

The anticipation of his birthday was killing him and he was so tempted to get it over with now, but it would only rob his mother and sister of their remaining time together. He couldn’t do that to them. He wasn’t sure if he would die in his sleep or some freak accident, but they would hopefully manage those outcomes better than him taking his own life.

            He took out his phone and opened up the contacts. His thumb hovered over Raphael’s name as he contemplated calling him. He took another breath and slowly pressed his finger down to call him. He held the phone to his ear and it only rang briefly before it was answered.

            “Simon?” Raphael asked on the phone. His tone was surprised, understandably so. The velvet notes in his voice that Simon missed caused him to make a brief breaking sound as a burst of sadness came over him. “Simon, what’s wrong?”

            “It’s Thanksgiving,” Simon choked out. My final Thanksgiving, Simon wanted to say. But it didn’t need to be stated.

            “I’m so sorry, Simon,” Raphael apologized. “I never wanted this for you.” Simon understood now why Raphael would have been so keen on keeping this from him. This pain, these feelings, they were all so unbearable.

            “Can I come see you tonight?” Simon asked. “I don’t want to be alone tonight.”

            “Of course,” Raphael said. “I’ll be home from Maia’s at around eight. Can you wait ‘til then?”

            “Yeah,” Simon said. “We haven’t eaten yet. I’ll see you soon.”

            “See you soon.”

            Simon hung up the phone and composed himself before heading inside. He used a simple excuse that he was just missing his dad more than usual and they hugged him supportively and understandingly, as if it were true.

            They laughed and drank a bit and Simon started to feel a little before making the drive to Raphael’s apartment.

            He made his way up the staircase and stopped in front of his door. He hesitated, frozen in place. The last time he was here, his life changed. He didn’t want to see Raphael anymore because of what he learned, and now he needed to see Raphael because of what he knows.

            He knocked on the door, and Raphael opened it fairly quickly. He must have been waiting on his couch for him. Simon took a moment to take in Raphael. He was wearing a simple black deep V-neck and some gray joggers. He had never seen Raphael so casual, and he had never been sexier to him.

            Simon stepped in and hugged Raphael tightly, holding him with all of his strength. “It’s so hard, Raphael,” he cried out. “My death is going to break them. I know it will, Raphael.”

            Raphael stepped backwards, still holding on to Simon to coax him inside before reaching behind Simon with his foot to push the door closed. “Breathe, Simon. Just breathe. I’m here. We can talk about it,” he said soothingly. “Let’s sit down, let’s sit down.”

            He held Simon all the way to the couch. It was a sectional, so Raphael sat on the long bench part that doubled as a foot rest and Simon took the long end of the couch, immediately laying his head on Raphael’s lap. Raphael pet and stroked Simon’s hair to calm him.

            “Elaine and Rebecca will be okay,” Raphael reassured. “They hurt, but they always manage.”

            “What do you mean?” Simon asked.

            “Rebecca is always your sister. Elaine is always your mother. Sometimes your dad’s around, most of the time he isn’t. I’ve watched them lose you right along with me over a hundred times. Even the versions of them that have already lost Levi are still resilient and they bounce back after losing you,” Raphael explained.

            “Really?” Simon asked hopefully.

            “Mmhmm,” Raphael hummed as he nodded, looking down upon Simon. “It’ll be hard for them, and some of your past mothers have had it a lot rougher. It’s not one hundred percent consistent, and I can’t guarantee it’ll be easy for them. It’ll take them some time, but they should be fine after a while.”

            “That’s better than what it could be,” Simon said. “I wish they weren’t affected by this at all.”

            “I know,” Raphael said softly. “Me too.”

            Simon allowed himself to cuddle with Raphael a little longer before he realized that he had broken Raphael’s heart most likely and then threw himself at him and making the night all about his own feelings. He sat up self-consciously and shot Raphael an apologetic look as he wiped his tears away.

            “I’m so sorry,” Simon apologized. “I’ve been incredibly selfish. I never apologized for running away and ignoring you. I must’ve hurt you so bad. I’m so sorry.”

            Raphael made a faint nose-laugh sound in amusement as he watched Simon fumble over his apology. “I’m alright, Simon. I’ve gone through a lot in my life. I’m just so happy to have you back in my life. However you wish to be in it. I don’t expect much too fast-”

            Simon silenced him by cupping his face and pressing their lips together. Raphael moaned into the kiss and kissed his lover back. He missed this deeply. He wrapped his arms around Simon’s waist and continued to kiss him until Simon reached down and grabbed the hardened bulge beneath the sweatpants.

            Raphael pushed Simon’s hand away and his torso off him gently, just to give them distance to talk.

            “I’m sorry,” Simon apologized. “I got carried away, that was wrong, I should have asked-”.

            “It’s okay, Simon,” Raphael reassured. “You’re my boyfriend, I love you, you can try anything anytime, but I just feel like we need to decline ourselves tonight. Neither of us is in the right mental or emotional state for this.”

            Simon nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. You’re not mad?”

            “No, baby,” he reassured, bringing Simon back for another kiss, just must more chaste. “I just want to hold you tonight and wake up with you still in my arms, if that’s okay.”

            “That sounds perfect,” Simon said as he stroked Raphael’s face.

            They went to Raphael’s bedroom and they stripped down to their briefs before climbing under the covers. Raphael held him again, facing each other, and Simon inhaled deeply to take in Raphael’s scent. He smelled like his cologne that Simon loved, and the warmth of his skin pressed against his face and torso made him feel safe and secure.

            “I should have come back a long time ago,” Simon said softly.

            Raphael shushed him softly while rubbing his back. “It doesn’t matter now. I’ve got you back. That’s the only thing I ever want in every lifetime,” Raphael said.

            “You really wait twenty-one years after I die just to meet me again?”

            “Mmhmm.”

            “How do you bear it?”

            “It’s not easy, and it’s not fun. I just try to live a life the best I can. I try to make friends, just as everyone else does. But it’s just not as enjoyable without you with me. You make my life worth living,” Raphael said.

            Simon felt so vulnerable hearing those words. He had never been loved like this. And it was only going to be temporary for them. “Do you love me for me, or do you love me because of the original Simon?”

            Raphael chuckled. He put a hand under Simon’s chin adjusted his gaze to his own eyes. “You are very different in every life. I love you differently than I have loved the others. I fall for you differently every time. I know my feelings for you are real. I’m cursed to lose you, but not cursed to love you. That’s the most natural thing in my life.” He kissed Simon’s lips and they just held their pose together for a few moments before breaking off and drifting fast asleep, holding the other in their arms.

 

 

            Sun came through Raphael’s window and slowly stirred Simon awake. He must’ve rotated in his sleep because his back was against Raphael’s chest and he felt Raphael’s erection pressed against his ass.

            He felt a small tender peck on the back of his neck and he the arm that was around him moved to rub his back and move up and down his spine instead.

            “Good Morning,” Raphael said softly.

            “How’d you know I woke up?” Simon asked. “I barely stirred.”

            “After many years of being able to wake up next to you and fantasizing about waking up next to you again, I know what you’re like when you wake up,” Raphael answered.

            “I thought you said we’re all different,” Simon accused in a way that made it sound like he was interrogating his lover about other partners.

            “Your body is always the same. And I have-” he placed a kiss on Simon’s shoulder blade. “-memorized-”. Another kiss. “This. Body.”

            He made his hand drift down all the way down Simon’s back and below his underwear, grabbing a handful of Simon’s ass, causing him to chuckle. Simon flipped around to face Raphael and looked at him mischievously.

            “So you can grab my ass but I can’t grab your dick?” Simon asked in a tone that was clearly playful. Raphael was right, last night they were too emotional but they were happier this morning, and hornier. Simon knew that if he didn’t want anything sexual from Raphael right now and he said ‘no’ that Raphael would quickly stop and apologize. He definitely wanted Raphael right now.

            Raphael, having understood this, just smirked at Simon. “Do you want me to stop?” Simon shook his head no. “Do you want to grab mine now?” Simon responded by rapidly deploying his hand down Raphael’s briefs, earning him a surprised yelp.

            Simon pushed Raphael on his back and moved the blanket away, earning him clear access to Raphael. He did not bother being romantic right now or delaying the moment with kisses. He satisfied his urges by immediately swallowing all of Raphael, causing his boyfriend t curse loudly.

            “I’m definitely awake now,” Raphael humored as Simon pleasured him. He bit his lips as he felt Simon’s suctioning lips move up and down his shaft. Everything was so sudden and it all felt so good. He didn’t care about the blowjob, but he was very turned on by the enthusiasm Simon was giving him. He was happy enough they made up, but he definitely was not disappointed by this benefit.

            “Simon slow down I’m going to-” Raphael stuttered too late. He felt the waves and endorphins of release rush through him as he spilled into Simon’s mouth, who didn’t mind at all. “I’m sorry, I tried to warn you.”

            Simon chuckled and wiped away some excess from is lips. “It’s ok. I missed you a lot.”

            “I missed you too,” Raphael said as he got close to Simon and kissed him, not deterred by his own taste. His hand grabbed Simon to return the favor with small, rotated strokes before he got down on his stomach to reciprocate.

            Simon moaned as he dragged his fingers through Raphael’s feathery hair. It was beautifully messy from their slumber, and it was even more dazzling now.

            Simon rocked his hips gently to participate without staring Raphael, and that earned him a delighted moan on his dick, vibrating perfectly so. After a few more moments, Simon was panting more heavily.

            “I’m coming,” Simon said. Raphael took his mouth off and kissed the spot on his pelvis right below the waist while running one hand up his abs and using the other to grab his ass. Simon came over Raphael’s chest with a few stokes of himself. They looked at each other mischievously before kissing again.

            “Let’s get you clean,” Simon suggested.

 

 

            They showered together, only lightly groping one another and getting distracted with more kissing nearly doubling the length of a normal shower. Raphael let Simon borrow some of his clean clothes. Raphael didn’t have much for casual wear, but there was a pair of jeans and a very soft maroon designer T-shirt.

            Simon was forcibly shoving his foot inside his shoe instead of putting it on normally when he caught Raphael looking at him with complete and udder adoration. It made his heart flutter and he felt bashful under his gaze. “What?” he asked nonchalantly.

            “I just love how you look wearing my things,” Raphael said as he approached slowly. He wrapped his arms around Simon and just held him, no kiss necessary. “I wish I could grow old with you so badly.”

            Simon took a deep breath melancholically. They were having such a good, positive morning only for it to be brought down by being reminded of their situation. He wasn’t mad, and ignoring the problem wouldn’t solve anything, but he didn’t want to think about it so soon. “I know,” he replied softly as he broke apart their hug just enough to look into Raphael’s eyes. “But there’s nothing we can do about it.”

            Raphael’s heart skipped in panic. He realized Simon left his apartment so suddenly when the truth came out that he never got a chance to mention Magnus’s clause. He could give Simon hope. But he realized, as Simon was breaking apart dejectedly, it was likely nothing more than false hope. Raphael hadn’t lived a selfless life in 2500 years apparently. Why would this one be any different?

            “Let’s go,” Raphael said as they headed out the door.

 

            Now that Thanksgiving was over, Christmas Season was in full effect. Simon liked it to an extent, but he wished that there was more Hanukkah representation.

            “Was I Jewish, previously?” Simon asked as him and Raphael were walking down the street. Raphael laughed heartily at the random question and looked at him with confusion. “The previous Simons, were they Jewish too?”

            “Oh,” Raphael said. “Not that I can recall. Catholicism was pretty heavy for most of your life. A few times you were an atheist. In Greece, we worshipped those Gods. At least I did until they-”, Raphael stopped himself. “But this is the first time I think you’ve been Jewish. Which means I should ask how your family celebrates. I hear everyone does it differently.”

            Simon smiled that his boyfriend took an interest and wanted to celebrate with him. He didn’t want to think too much about the implications of Greek Gods being real and what that meant for his own faith. He figured he’d choose to believe and stick with his faith.

            “We like to do one present a day, each one starting small and the biggest on the last day. We also get one dollar on the first day, two on the second, and we end up with thirty six dollars as well. But because the tradition was coins, it stays in coins,” Simon explained.

            “That’s cute, I like that,” Raphael said. “Can I give you one present a day?” He question was enthusiastic and it made Simon chuckle.

            “One is fine,” Simon replied. “And nothing lavish. Are you rich? You have a nice apartment but never mentioned a real job.”

            Raphael chuckled embarrassingly. “I, uh, have some family money back in Spain that I will not elaborate on. Brought a little over when I moved to America, it got lost in the Great Depression, had to work and save up enough just to get back to Spain to get more of it to live comfortably.”

            “Were you royalty or something?” Simon joked. Raphael just blushed and tried to look at Simon while appearing stoic. He did a pretty bad job of it, though.

            “Raphael.” Simon said sternly. “Raphael, I swear to fucking god. If you were the fucking king of Spain I will lose my shit.”

            “I was King of Castile,” Raphael stated smugly.

            Simon just looked at him with confusion. “What the fuck is a Castile?” Raphael laughed at Simon’s expression.

            “It was Spain before it was Spain,” Raphael said with a bashful look.

            Simon continued to just stare in silence before looking ahead. “You’re lying to me. Pulling my leg. You were not a king. You sell drugs, and you’re on them. That is what I am choosing to believe.”

            “You can believe whatever you want, just as long as I get to occasionally spoil you,” Raphael said suggestively.

           

 

            Hanukkah came around and Raphael was saving a gift for New Year’s Eve. Hanukkah ended on the 30th this year, so Simon would get a 9th day in a way. Simon was spending most of the time with his family, which was ok with Raphael. Now that they were together for good, he could do with one week off.

            Simon and his band Rock Solid Panda had a gig on New Year’s Eve at a small rock club called Pandemonium. He was always a talented singer and musician in the lifetimes where he’d taken it up. Sometimes it just never came around.

            Raphael hung out with Maia, Clary, Rebecca, and Rebecca’s boyfriend Thaddeus. They got to drink and have fun as Simon ‘worked’.

            He grabbed the microphone and looked out on the crowd. He was sweating, but only slightly to where it looked like he was glistening beautifully under the colored lights. Raphael wanted to ravage his sexy rocker boyfriend here in this seedy club.

            “This next song,” Simon announced, “is morbid, but I feel we can all relate a bit to it. Cuz sometimes life is shit and we just want to get drunk and forget about our problems, am I right?”

            The angsty crowd cheered on and Raphael was intrigued with curious interest. The band began to strike up a heavy tune that they were all banging their heads to before Simon began.

 

            “I am cursed! With this pitiful existence, and I know- that in this very instance a god is plotting; plotting to take me down and I know- exactly…when it’s coming ‘round.

            I am dying! And there’s nothing I can do about it-it is coming, and I know the date it’s gonna happen, and I am waiting; I’m just waiting for something to happen while I lose hope. And I can’t co-oh oh-ope!”

 

            Raphael, Clary, and Maia all shot each other brief, uncomfortable glances and took a drink simultaneously.

 

            “I am miserable! I guess I pissed off someone in a past life cuz I am inconsolable. I guess Karma’s taking out her strife, I hope she brought a big knife! I’m not going down without a fight. I wanna see the future. I want to be around here so much longer!

            So if you want to take me out then I dare you to do it in person because- I’m already at rock bottom and there’s nothing you can do to make it worsen. So I dare you to come at me! Cuz I just want to be happy!

            Cuz we’re all cursed. And we’re all dying. We’re all broken, and we’re all crying. You put us in this position but I’ll make it my mission to prove you wrong and defy you! If you want to make it hard for me then you bet I’ll come and find you!

            Cuz we want to be blessed. And we want to be living. We feel our hearts in our chests, and we want them to keep on beating and keep on breathiiiiiIIIIIING; cuz I’m gunna defy you!”

 

            The crowd cheered loudly and he looked like he was experiencing a wave of emotions at once. He glanced briefly over at their table and took a short bow before headed backstage.

            “I’ll go talk to him,” Raphael announced as he made his way behind the stage. He saw Simon sitting on a chair, looking stressed, and drinking a bottle of Mike’s Hard.

            “You’re not twenty-one yet,” Raphael teased.

            Simon shot him a dirty look. “And I fucking won’t be. So cheers.” He raised his bottle and tilted it towards Raphael before taking another drink. Raphael agreed that was likely not the best comment he could have made.

            “I have your gift for you,” Raphael said. “I want to give it to you now. I think you could use it.”

            Simon calmed himself down and softened up his expression towards Raphael as he approached carefully. He reached in his leather jacket and brought out a small cube shaped box. He presented it in front of Simon and opened it slowly, revealing a small silver ring.

            “Fuck, Raphael,” Simon said, not amused. “What is this?”

            “A promise ring,” Raphael answered. Simon got up off his seat and grabbed his head tightly, the hairs on his head being pulled through his fingertips before he looked at Raphael.

            “Out of all the tone deaf gifts, why would you do this? And why now after that song? Are you dense or deaf? What the HELL are you promising, Raphael? To give me a good six months left before I DIE?”

            “There’s something I need to tell you. I didn’t get a chance to mention it. I think I mentioned it in a voicemail but you probably ignored those or were too emotional to connect the words,” Raphael said.

            Simon looked at him irritated and expectantly for a few moments before gesturing for him to go on.

            “The curse can technically be broken,” Raphael said. “There wasn’t a good opportunity and I also kept it to myself because in 2500 years I haven’t successfully broken it yet because I don’t fully know how. I have failed every. Single. Time. And I watch you die over and over and I didn’t want to give either of us any false hope, but it’s supposedly possible. And this ring is to promise that I’m not giving up on this life. And I am not giving up ever. I promise to keep trying to break the curse so in some life we can finally be together forever. And I know I love every Simon, but I love you. I have such an intense connection with you that I really want it to be this time, and I will do the best I can to make sure we come out of this alive.”

            Raphael was crying slightly and Simon just looked at him with a neutral expression as he slowly approached. “How is this supposed to be broken?”

            Raphael breathed deeply to console himself and gain control again. “I have to live a selfless life. I somehow haven’t been doing that.”

            “Don’t say that,” Simon said softly. “You’re plenty selfless.”

            Raphael shrugged at the sky with his arms. “Apparently not.”

            “You’re selfless for telling me the truth about the curse. Have you done that before?” Simon asked.

            Raphael pondered at the question. “I told Simone Luciatti in Italy. I don’t know if he ever believed me, though. I’m not really sure if that’s enough though.”

            Simon contemplated possibilities with him. “Were we ever married?”

            Raphael shook his head. “We only get a year together, no Simon ever indicated wanted to get married that quickly. I have been wanting to wait until after it was broken, but getting married if you don’t want to isn’t selfless, it’s performative.”

            “You’re right,” Simon sighed as he massaged his temples. “This is too much.”

            “Hey,” Raphael said calmly. “One day at a time. We continue to live our best life just in case, but-” he slipped the ring on Simon’s finger. “-we have each other for now, and that’s enough for the time being. You have to get back on stage.”

            Raphael pressed his lips against Simon’s softly before breaking apart. “Thank you, Raphael,” Simon said tenderly. “For the hope.”

            Simon went back on stage and Raphael rejoined the others. He gave Clary and Maia a reaffirming nod. The rest of the night was fun and the band played all the way up until the final countdown.

            “Alright everyone, it’s time to make some noise! I hope you’re wearing your contacts cuz we’re all about to get 2020 visIOOOOOOOOON!” Simon exclaimed to hype up the crowd.

            “Let’s count it down!”

            10!

            9!

            8!

            7!

            6!

            5!

            4!

            3!

            2!

            1!

 

[2020]
The year Simon dies.

Chapter Text

            Simon knocked on the door of Raphael’s apartment holding a bouquet of roses and the traditional box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. This was his first and possibly only Valentine’s Day with a boyfriend, and he wanted it to be truly special.

            Raphael opened his door, and was wearing a stunning suit red velvet colored suit. He beamed with happiness upon seeing the roses, but most importantly, the man who was holding them.

            “You look stunning, Raphael,” Simon declared.

            “And you’re as handsome as ever,” he replied. “Are those roses for me?”

            “Of course they are,” Simon said. “Unless you have a twin in here. Then you two can share the roses. And me.”

            Raphael chuckled at Simon’s stupid humor and raised an eyebrow at him. “Oh is that so? That’s how today’s going to go down?” He grabbed a handful of Simon’s shirt and pulled him into his apartment. The door was quickly slapped behind them and Raphael immediately began to attach Simon’s neck with his mouth and let his hands roam all over Simon.

            As Simon was being worshipped, he noticed how Raphael had lit candles on his shelving and had rose petals spread all around the floor invitingly.

            “I don’t like to share,” Raphael said. “I want you all for myself.”

            Simon reciprocated an intense kiss back. “You can have me.”

            “I will. Later,” Raphael promised. “I was hoping to start this with actual romance.”

            “You pounced on me,” Simon clarified.

            Raphael chuckled. “I did do that, didn’t I? You do funny things to me.” He brushed his hand through Simon’s hair and cusped his face before leaning forward for another gentle kiss.

            “So what is the plan for the evening?” Simon asked after they removed their lips from one another.

            “I was thinking a picnic,” Raphael said with a smile. Simon looked at him like he was insane.

            “It’s February. In New York. It’s cold,” he enunciated for emphasis. “Are you crazy?”

            “I’ve got hot meatball sandwiches in a special heat retaining container, hot cocoa in insulated thermoses, we can bundle up, bring a big blanket. How many people can say they’ve had a picnic in winter? It’s one of the few things in my life I haven’t done yet. I would love the chance to do it with you. Pretty please?”

            “What’s wrong with a fancy restaurant or a movie?” Simon asked.

            “I don’t like exploiting workers on holidays. They could be spending the day with the one they love, too, but they’re being forced to service other happy couples. That’s just cruel to me. Besides, as I mentioned, I want you all to myself,” Raphael said seductively as he pulled Raphael in closer.

            “Were you anticipating the waiter hitting on me right in front of you?” Simon jokingly asked.

            “I could hardly blame him if he did,” Raphael said with a smirk. “But now I don’t have to worry about that. C’mon, what do you say?”

            Simon let out a huff, but he’d be lying if he said the idea didn’t intrigue him. Plus, he reckoned this may even be a bigger deal to Raphael than he was letting on. After 2500 years, he likely was bored. If he wanted to have a picnic in the snow, Simon would give it to him.

            “Okay,” Simon said enthusiastically. “Let’s get bundled up.” Raphael looked incredibly happy and planted a kiss on Simon’s cheek.

            “Thank you. I promise you won’t be disappointed.”

 

            About forty minutes later, they found a spot in Central Park to set up their picnic. Luckily, the night was not as cold as it could have been since they were having a warm week. It wasn’t snowing, and they were well insulated with hand warmers strategically attached to their clothing.

            Raphael carried the blanket while Simon carried the cooler, which was ironically now being used for heat. With a quick unravel and a few shakes, the thick comforter was now spread against a sturdy patch of snow.

            They both got comfortable and began to open up the container to divvy up the food. Upon opening the smaller containers that had the sandwiches, Simon was surprised that a bit of steam still emitted.

            “This is some fancy Tupperware,” Simon teased.

            “Nerd.”

            “Says the guy that owns the Tupperware.” They both chuckled before Simon took a bite out of the meatball sub Raphael had made. He felt it warming himself up, and the meatballs and sauce were perfectly seasoned. “This is delicious, Raphael.”

            “Thank you,” Raphael said. “Homemade.”

            Simon looked at all of the stars and all of the lights in the city in general. “This is really beautiful and peaceful.”

            “Is it worth being a little cold for a while?” Raphael asked.

            Simon nodded as he breathed in the crisp, fresh air. “It is.”

            Raphael scoot himself closer to be by Simon’s side. “Lay with me for a bit.” Simon complied and the both of them were cuddling one another in the middle of Central Park. “Thank you for trying something new with me.”

            “Thank you for a great first Valentine’s Day,” Simon said softly.

            “Thank you for being a great boyfriend,” Raphael replied before pulling him in for a kiss.

 

 

 

            March rolled around and Simon and Raphael were out running some errands at the local mall with Elaine and Rebecca. Elaine said she needed a new spring wardrobe because she had insisted she had put on a few pounds over the holidays. Raphael tried to insist that she looked lovely to no avail, but it did earn him a lot of brownie points.

            “She never listens to us when we tell her she looks great,” Rebecca stated.

            “You’re my children and you’re supposed to. Also, you never use the word ‘great’, you always say ‘fine’ and I do not want to be ‘fine’, I want to be ‘fiiiiiine’ as the trendy people say,” she joked.

            “Please don’t refer to yourself as ‘fiiiiine’ ever again,” Simon said uncomfortably.

            “See, Raphael? This is what I deal with,” Elaine said in response.

            “Yeah, he’s just as mean to me too,” Raphael said, shooting Simon a playful look.

            “He’s lying, I’m nothing but nice to him,” Simon argued.

            “He made jokes about other guys twice on Valentine’s Day!” Elaine and Rebecca gasped and Simon just rolled his eyes.

            “You have no sense of humor. And you were being very mushy,” Simon replied.

            “Wow. I am romantic and I get called mushy. I’m hurt,” Raphael replied sarcastically.

            “He doesn’t deserve you,” Rebecca said.

            “No, he doesn’t,” Raphael agreed with a conniving smile.

            “Mom, can we adopt Raphael and give up Simon?” Rebecca asked.

            Elaine laughed. “Well, they’re both twenty. I don’t think that works like that, but if it wasn’t for that, I would say maybe.”

            “I can’t believe my own family is staging a coup against me. If Clary were here, she’d be on my side,” Simon replied.

            “We’ll adopt Clary too, we can convert her,” Rebecca stated.

            Raphael smiled widely at all of their familial bantering. It made him miss his own mother and siblings. He felt so guilty because they were so hard to remember after all of these years. There were too many memories to try to keep stored in his brain. It wasn’t built to have the capacity Raphael required it for. But he remembered little things like his mother’s hugs and how she always worried for him when he was out late, even though he was an adult.

            He remembered how hard it was to watch Rosarite age around him. She was so young, she was his baby sister, but she continued to grow bigger and older. Things were fun the few years they were similarly aged, but then she started to grow her own family. They buried their mother together, which was to be expected, but watching Rosarite age was painful. She had kids, and then her kids were his age and she was so old. She watched her granddaughter be born, but then he had to bury her too.

            Rosarite’s great grandson was his age when his oldest nephew died, and he just didn’t feel much remaining familial bloodline with him or his mother. He had already met and lost three more Simmonos doppelgangers in that time. He decided he didn’t want to be in Greece any longer, and that was when he first started travelling.

            “What are you thinking about, Raph?” Simon asked, breaking him out of his trance. “You look so serious.”

            “Nothing, just starting to get a little tired,” Raphael lied. He didn’t want to make a fake story about his family for Elaine and Rebecca. If he said they died young he needs to explain how he grew up and if he says recent, it’s met with an undesirable amount of pity.

            Simon looked at him, knowing he was lying, but he figured it was something about their past lives, so Simon didn’t mention anything further.

            “Well, let’s rest up at this restaurant and grab something to eat. That sound good to everyone?” Elaine asked.

            “Sure,” Simon chipped in.

 

 

            They got a booth inside the restaurant, and Raphael thought about how cool it was that he got to see malls develop. They went from being small clusters of a few stores to large shopping centers that only got even bigger with department stores being included. He saw some get merry go rounds, arcades, movie theatres; and now a whole wing packed with full-size restaurants was one of the things about his life that at least made it fascinating and distracted him from the painful absences without Simon.

            Elaine was wearing her reading glasses, looking at something intensely on her phone as they waited for the food they ordered to come.

            “What are you looking at, mom?” Simon asked.

            “I really want to go on a nice trip this summer. We haven’t had a summer vacation in a while. Nothing extravagant, just maybe head to Florida and go to the beach. Maybe Disney or Universal,” Elaine said.

            “Sounds fun,” Rebecca said.

            Simon and Raphael shared a look with each other and Simon got slightly tenser. “When did you have in mind?”

            “I think June and July is crowded. I was hoping for August,” Elaine said. Simon felt his his nerves light ablaze and he suddenly lost his appetite. His birthday was the end of July.

            “That’s really close to school, mom,” Simon said. “We should do late June or the very beginning of July.”

            “Oooh, what if we did it for the last week of July for your 21st birthday?” Elaine asked.

            Simon felt the room getting significantly hotter. “That’s so not necessary. Rebecca never got a vacation for her birthday. Besides, I’d definitely want to spend that day with Raphael, Clary, my band. I’d feel much better bar hopping in a city I’m familiar with.”

            “You make a good point. You deserve to have that day with your friends,” Elaine said. “I’ll keep looking into it, but I guess June or July sounds better,” she said.

            Simon couldn’t hide the breath of relief he had to take. He instantly felt his anxiety soothing by the second and his heart rate calming down. Raphael grabbed his hand and rubbed his thumb on the back of it reassuringly.

 

 

 

            They got back to Raphael’s apartment and Simon collapsed on the couch. “This has been a day,” he groaned.

            Raphael went to his fridge and got them both two ice cold bottled margaritas and he headed to Simon and handed him one. “Don’t tell Elaine,” he teased.

            “I definitely need this,” Simon said as he twisted the cap off and pressed the bottle to his lips. He took a generous gulp and swallowed it all. “I wish this was stronger.”

            Raphael looked at Simon fixatedly, trying to analyze the man. “Talk to me.”

            Simon took another big drink and took a deep breath when he was finished. “I have four months to live, Raphael. We don’t know how to break this curse. My mom and Rebecca are making plans for a life they think I’m going to be in, but I’m not. They have no idea.”

            Raphael made his way to Simon and put his arm around his back. Simon leaned his head unto Raphael’s shoulder.

            “You’re here to give them good memories,” Raphael said before placing a kiss on his forehead. “They got 21 great years with you. And even if we don’t succeed, even if they hurt, they’ll be grateful they got the time with you that they did, even though they’re going to wish they had more.”

            “They deserve more,” Simon said softly.

            “Yes, yes they do.”

            “Am I the most difficult boyfriend you’ve had? Always getting depressed because I know the truth? We have this terrible obstacle preventing the most of our time together,” Simon said.

            “No,” Raphael said. “The most difficult was probably Langley whom I met in 1953,” Raphael said.

            “What made him bad?” Simon asked.

            “He was afraid and closeted,” Raphael replied as he stroked Simon’s hair.

            “Tell me about him,” Simon requested.

 

[1954]

 

            It was New Year’s Day, and Raphael and Simon had just gotten back to Raphael’s house from a small party composed of some of Simon’s friends from high school and the diner. Raphael volunteered to be the designated driver because he hadn’t cared much for getting drunk, but Simon went overboard and truly lived for that party. Raphael parked the car in his driveway where Simon was mostly unconscious. He had to look at the boy and laugh at how foolish he had gotten. He got out of his driver’s side and made his way to Simon’s half to open the door, undo his seatbelt, and hoist Simon out of the seat to help him walk into his house from his car.

            Raphael had one of Simon’s arms around his shoulders, and he was holding on to Simon’s waist trying to hold him up and get Simon to walk in sync with him. Simon was barely holding himself up, making the job very tedious for Raphael.

            They finally got inside and Raphael made it a few more steps before letting Simon collapse onto his couch. He was out of breath and was panting heavily for a few moments before he was recovered.

            He took the trash can out of his kitchen and placed it by the couch in case Simon needed to vomit. He got a pillow from his bed and a spare blanket from the linen closet to bring to Simon.

            He was sound asleep already and Raphael just shook his head at how ridiculous he was. He tucked the pillow gently under Simon’s head and draped the blanket over him before taking his shoes off of him and turning the lights off before heading to his own bedroom.

            Raphael stripped down to his briefs and climbed into his own bed alone. His eyes stared in the direction of the doorway that lead to the hall that connected to the living room. Simon was so close, and he felt so far away.

            They’d spent the past five months together, and every day was Raphael hopelessly waiting for Simon to make some indication that he had feelings for him. Raphael didn’t want to push any harder than he was. His few flirtatious comments got him annoyed looks or no comment back. Simon was strictly a friend, and while it was still great to have Simon in his life, it hurt him to no end.

            He gathered that this life had to be the test, to prove he was truly selfless. He could show that he was a good friend. Simon could live, come out afterwards, and then they could be happy together.

            Raphael drifted off asleep for about two hours before a noise brought him awake. He saw Simon shuffling his way into his room.

            “Hey,” Simon said softly.

            “Hey.”

            “I can’t sleep on the couch well. Can I crash in here with you?” he asked.

            Raphael’s heart accelerated at the thought of Simon sharing his bed with him. He knew nothing would happen, and they were still friendship-only, and that made his excitement mix with anxiety. Simon was drunk and he didn’t want a sobered up closet Simon being mad at him in the morning. But he couldn’t turn him down.

            “Sure,” he agreed nonchalantly. As Simon climbed in, he noticed that at some point, Simon had taken his shirt and pants off, and he was in his boxers only. Raphael forced himself to turn to his other side and look away. He wished so badly he could reach over and touch him or hold him.

 It was harder for him to fall asleep that night that the day before he met this Simon. After what felt like hours, he was still awake when he felt Simon place a hand on his back and say his name to get his attention.

He turned back around to look at Simon, who was staring at him intensely. He looked hypervigilant and alert, like he had never been more awake in his life. “What is it?” Raphael asked.

Simon didn’t say anything aside from cup both sides of Raphael’s face and bring the two of them together for their first kiss since Simon’s birthday. Raphael melted in Simon’s hands, tears coming to his eyes because he was so overcome with emotion. He wasn’t expecting this day to come right now. He wished it was a slightly more romantic setting, but he sure wasn’t complaining it was finally happening.

Their lips broke apart and Simon continued to stare, but he looked like he was contemplating something serious. “What inspired that?” Raphael asked.

“It was my New Year’s Resolution. To try to kiss a boy again,” Simon said. “To see if I’d like it or not.”

Raphael’s high quickly faded and his heart sunk deep into his chest. Simon wanted to use him as a test, he still wasn’t having feelings for him. “And how was it?”

Simon still looked troubled at the question, and conflicted with himself. “I don’t know.” Raphael wasn’t sure if he was getting an honest answer or a defensive one from Simon. He wished it was everything Simon needed and he could know right now if he was gay and liked Raphael or not.

“Did you do it because you felt you needed to or because you wanted to?” Raphael asked.

“I think because I needed to and I felt brave,” Simon said honesty.

It hurt Raphael, but at least he was honest. “It’s better when you want to. You’re supposed to want to.” Simon looked at Raphael and nodded understandingly before he flipped away from Raphael’s gaze. Raphael felt like he should drop it and turn around and nap too, but he wanted to get something off his chest.

“I love you, Simon,” Raphael said. “And it’s ok that we’re just friends. If you’re going through something, I am here for you, to support you and help you through this either way. Whether you’re straight or gay, I don’t care. If you don’t want me that way, that’s okay, I’ll still be your friend. That’ll be my problem to deal with. But I can’t be your test dummy. I just can’t be strung along. So, just let me know what you decide, and I’ll be here.”

He laid down and looked away from Simon. The boy didn’t say anything in response, and that was okay for the both of them for now. It was hard to not think about Simon long enough to fall asleep, but eventually, his sadness knocked him out.

 

 

The next morning, they woke up casually. Simon didn’t seem angry or bitter with Raphael, but he was maybe too hungover for that. Raphael got out of his bed, put some pants on, and headed to the kitchen to get a glass of water for Simon. He brought it back along with some pain reliever and Simon took both appreciating.

“Thank you, Raphael,” Simon said as he sat up to grab the water and medicine from Raphael.

“You’re welcome,” he replied.

Simon drank the whole glass and got redressed in the same clothes he partied in last night. Raphael escorted him to his door and held the door open for him. As he was halfway out, he turned back to look at Raphael. They were so close together. Either one of them could lean forward, just a little, to kiss the other. Their eyes were studying the other’s eyes and they could feel the other one’s breath on their own skin.

Simon’s eyes watered a little bit. “I’m sorry for hurting you,” he said. “I’m sorry I’m so afraid to give you want you want.”

Raphael gave Simon a sympathetic smile. “It’s not about what I want, Simon. You need to give yourself what you want. If you want to be safe, it’s okay to be safe.”

Simon nodded and headed to his car and Raphael slowly shut the door behind him, fighting the tears that wanted to escape his eyes.

 

 

They spent three weeks apart before they hung out together again. They each pretended nothing was wrong, and neither brought up anything that had happened on New Year’s. Raphael didn’t say anything out of self-preservation. Simon likely wasn’t saying anything for survival. It wasn’t ideal for Raphael, and he would be lying if he said his heart wasn’t aching, but anything was better than not having Simon in his life at all.

Valentine’s Day rolled around and they made it a point to not see each other. Simon volunteered to take a shift and Raphael stayed home, avoiding any place couples might be going on dates. Valentine’s Days were always difficult for Raphael the years he wasn’t with Simon, but he loved the holiday on the years they were reunited. It nearly broke him to think he may have to wait two more decades to celebrate this holiday when he should have been celebrating it now.

He drank alcohol for his dinner and headed to bed early when he was disturbed in the middle of the night by a loud banging at his door. His heart rate accelerated and he looked for anything that could be used as a weapon before he realized it was knocking. He quickly put on a robe and headed to the door to see who was bothering him at this hour. He realized he was still partially drunk; he felt unbalanced as he tried to move in a hurried pace.

He opened the door to see a very upset Simon waiting for him, who looked relieved to see Raphael.

“Simon, do you have any idea what time-”

Simon stepped his way into the house uninvited and cupped Raphael’s face and pulled him in for a kiss. It was as big as a surprise as the one he received on New Year’s. He allowed himself just a few more moments of drunken bliss before he pulled back, knowing they shouldn’t have done that.

“I thought we had an understanding,” Raphael stated, his words full of pain.

“I want you, Raphael. I was scared to, but I do. I thought avoiding you today would make it less real, but it made it worse. All I saw all day were these couples so in love, holding each other’s hands, flirting with each other, kissing each other. And these were all straight couples and I knew that no matter how badly I wanted to be straight, I do not want to be with a woman.” His eyes were watering and his voice was cracking from his lungs working without oxygen. He gasped for air among the words, trying to compose himself. “I want to do all of those things with you. And I know we’ll have to do it in private, but I want them. I want you. More than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life.”

Raphael began to cry and he had heard all he needed. He stepped closer to Simon and just wrapped him in an embrace, just to hold him. He held onto Simon so tightly, worrying that if he let Simon go, he’d change his mind.

            “Can I hold you in my arms tonight? I need to know this is real,” Raphael said softly into Simon’s shoulder.

            “I would love that,” Simon said.

            Raphael let go of Simon, but held onto his hand and escorted him to his bedroom. Once they were inside, Raphael pressed his mouth to Simon’s again. Kissing Simon was always euphoric for Raphael; it was one of his favorite things in the world, and he was so afraid he wasn’t going to kiss this Simon again. He had never been happier to be wrong.

            He felt a hand slide under the front chest area of his robe and the shock made his head jerk away from Simon’s. Simon used the other hand to pull the robe open, completely exposing Raphael. Raphael’s heart accelerated nervously as Simon explored Raphael’s chest with his hands. They spent a lot of time over Raphael’s pecs.

            “So, this is what a man feels like?” Simon asked, rubbing circles on his flat chest, exploring the absence of boobs.

            Raphael just nodded as Simon slid his hands down his torso, rotating to his sides, then his hips, and then grabbing Raphael’s ass.

            “An ass is still the same,” Simon replied. Raphael bit hips lips and just enjoyed the relaxing bliss of his ass being squeezed and massaged by his lover’s hands. “Yours is big like a girl’s.” Raphael chuckled as Simon continued to play with it when he was surprised by the feeling of a finger running in between both cheeks and drifting over his hole. “I assume this is hairier than a girl’s.”

            “I can shave,” Raphael offered. But Simon just shook his head. “Please don’t change for me.” Raphael nodded and took a deep breath as he felt Simon’s hands move around to the front of him. Simon wrapped one of his hands around Raphael’s erect cock and that’s when Raphael got weak. His head fell against Simon’s neck and shoulder and he gently sucked on the flesh out of frustration.

            “Fuck,” Simon said.

            Raphael quickly fumbled with Simon’s pants one handed since his spare hand was holding on to Simon for support. The button finally became undone and Raphael lowered the zipper before reaching for the hem of his boxers and pulling them down along with the slacks to free Simon’s cock.

            Simon cursed loudly when Raphael took it in hand and began to jack him off in tandem with Simon. They brought their mouths together and deeply kissed one another, their tongues breaching the partition into the other’s mouths to enjoy their partner fully. They had both been craving deeply for so long but were so afraid to fight for it.

            Simon began to pant and moan harder and harder until it was impossible to continue kissing. He let out a groan and Raphael felt warm fluid spill onto his hand. Raphael was close, but he could finish up himself. He pushed Simon’s hands off of his dick to pump him himself, but used the free hand to firmly grab Simon’s ass and pull him closer for continued kissing. With Simon’s tongue on his, his finger grazing Simon’s hole, and his newly lubricated hand stroking himself more efficiently, Raphael was coming in just a few moments, letting a deep and intense moan right into Simon’s mouth.

            Simon massaged Raphael’s chest and coaxed him down from his climax. They were both out of breath, but both had been happier than they were for the first time in months.

            “Let me wash this off and we can go to bed,” Raphael said as he headed for the bathroom. He headed there and turned the sink on. Simon appeared in the reflection right behind him. He wrapped his arms around Raphael and rested his head on Raphael as he rinsed their DNA off his hand.

            “It was only going to take two seconds,” Raphael joked. He turned around in Simon’s arms and stroked his cheek.

            “There’s been too much time apart already, don’t you think?” Simon asked softly.

            Raphael smiled and placed a quick peck on Simon’s lips. “You have no idea.”

            Raphael escorted Simon to his bed, and true to his word, he held onto Simon the entire night, holding on to him and never wanting to let go. With his face rested on Simon’s back, and Simon’s back against his chest, Raphael got some of the best sleep he had in months.

 

 

            They made the most of their time together after that. They couldn’t be open in public, but in private; they couldn’t take their hands off each other, their sentences were full of adoration and confirmation, they rarely spent a night apart.

            They were at an amusement park in early June, and they allowed themselves to discretely hold each other’s hand on a ride after it started, letting go as it slowed down before any observer or operator could see. On the Ferris wheel, when they could see the whole town and all of their worries and fears were over a hundred feet below them, they allowed themselves a kiss at the very top.

            Raphael found a photo booth and Raphael definitely wanted documentation of this night together. They hopped inside and Raphael inserted the coins. The first photo was the two of them making big, exaggerated grins. The second one, Raphael put his arm around Simon as a display of comradery. Simon did a “peace sign” with a smile and Raphael stuck his tongue out and displayed the “Rock and Roll” hand gesture. Simon felt so right under his arm that Raphael wanted something loving and genuine. He asked Simon to put his head against his, still holding him. They smiled softly at the camera for their third photo.

            “What should we do for the fourth?” Simon asked.

            Raphael answered by cupping Simon’s chin and bringing their lips together. They closed their eyes and enjoyed each other. They were shielded from the world in this booth, and life was just the two of them. They sensed a flash on the other side of their eyelids and they broke away smiling.

            Raphael hopped out and grabbed the two slips before anyone could see. He held one out to Simon. “Please keep this somewhere safe,” Raphael pleaded.

            “Of course,” Simon replied.

            That night, Raphael fell asleep with Simon wrapped around his back, and the photos of them together in his hand. He stared without ever letting it go until his eyelids got heavy and his body succumbed to recharging.

 

            It was the end of July, and Simon’s birthday rolled around. Raphael was incredibly nervous, but he felt strangely confident. He felt a confidence he hadn’t experienced before. With everything that they had gone through, this had to be the time they’d break the curse.

            They had stayed in bed as long as possible. Not much could kill Simon in bed, but if he was too persistent, the curse would find a way. Stroke, heart attack; it was never pretty, and pretty painful for Simon. Besides, if it was Simon’s last day, it needed to be fun.

            They went to the movie theatre to watch Magnificent Obsession. It was a romance about a selfish, rich man who accidentally caused a woman’s husband to die. She hates him at first, naturally, but then they fall in love.

            Raphael had insisted on sodas only when they arrived. No popcorn, candy, nothing he could choke on. Raphael insisted he didn’t want Simon to spoil dinner, but the truth was that if Simon was going to be at risk to choking, it wouldn’t have been appropriate for a movie theatre. When they eat dinner, Simon would need to be in his eye sight at all times. Simon was annoyed, but complied with Raphael’s absurd request.

            As they watched, Raphael pondered if he had truly been selfless this time around. He felt guilty about the no popcorn and no candy rule, but he was so terrified. He felt so close this time. It was so unfair for the main character, Bob Merrick to live a reckless and self-absorbed life and get the widow of a man he inadvertently killed to fall for him. None of Raphael’s lives were this bad. He was never selfish. He never understood what was going to be good enough.

            The movie ended, and Simon didn’t die in the middle of it. They were over halfway through the day, but that didn’t mean much. Every car ride to a new location, every time they walked, anything they ate could kill off Simon. He could also drop dead for no reason at all. Raphael’s anxiety would only grow until the clock hit midnight, but he couldn’t show it.

            They got lunch at a diner, different from where Simon worked, and Raphael ate slowly, keeping his eyes on Simon intensely. At one point, Simon went up to go to the bathroom, and Raphael didn’t have a good reason to follow him, so he sat in the booth and anxiously waited.

            He allowed himself to break a little, to feel his anxiety out of sight of Simon. He grunted as forcefully, but as quietly as possible to release the tension in his body. What if he slipped on the wet tile and smashed his head against the sink? What if he popped a blood vessel using the toilet? What if someone went in to mug and murder him? So many things could happen to him while he’s in there. Raphael told himself that if he wasn’t back in two more minutes, he was going in, but it ended up not being necessary; Simon returned and smiled genuinely at Raphael, and Raphael allowed himself to calm down a bit.

            After their late lunch, they went shopping. Raphael watched as Simon picked out new clothes he may never get to wear. He bought himself a book he may never get to read. Raphael just had to keep on to the hope.

             They dropped the stuff back at Raphael’s. Raphael found comfort that if the worst was to happen, he had these items of Simon. Maybe he’d want to return them and give the money back to his family. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, he just knew he didn’t want to do it.

            Eight PM came around, and nothing had happened to Simon yet, but the night was dangerous.

            “I want to go to the roller rink we went to on our first date. Where you took me for my twentieth birthday,” Simon said.

            Raphael smirked seductively at Simon. “Oh, was that a date?”

            Simon smiled back and wrapped his arms around the back of Raphael’s head and kissed him deeply. “Of course it was.”

            Raphael chuckled. “You had a funny way of showing it.”

            “I know,” he said apologetically.

            Wheels were dangerous, and Raphael really didn’t want to go. But if this death were to find them, it’d find them anywhere. They were risking a car accident both to and from, they were risking Simon losing balance and hitting his head against the slick, solid floor. All of the options were gruesome. But if Simon wanted to skate, it was the selfless thing to go with him.

            “It’s a sweet idea,” Raphael said. “Let’s go.”

 

 

            They made it to the roller rink safe and sound. Simon came here all the time. He was a good skater. Raphael tried to be confident in Simon’s skating skills. There was no way he’d be hurting himself here.

            Raphael almost got himself hurt repeatedly on the rink since he was paying more attention to Simon than he was on himself. He brought himself out of the rink and watched Simon’s carefree spirit as he danced and spun in circles along with the music.

            Raphael was so entranced with Simon’s grace that he didn’t notice another skater losing their balance. They corrected themselves, but ended up on a trajectory straight to Simon and collided right into him, knocking the both of them onto the ground with a hard thud. Raphael’s heart jumped in fear. “SIMON!”

            Raphael immediately zoomed his way back into the rink and made his way to Simon who was on the ground. People had circled around him, and Raphael couldn’t see. “Move out of the way! Simon?”

            He got close and saw Simon standing up without a scratch. “You’re okay?” he asked with a breath of relief.

            “Yeah, I’m good,” Simon replied.

            “Did you hit your head at all?” Raphael asked concerned.

            “No, I am completely fine. Just a sore arm,” Simon reassured.

            “Nothing broken?”     

            “Raphael, you’re looking paranoid in front of the people, chillax. Let’s head on out if you’re concerned,” Simon said. “Come on.”

            Raphael almost wanted to break down in tears in front of all of these people. He was barely keeping his composure together. It was ten and they were so close to being free from this hell, but if the odds were against him as they always were, he was due for devastation at any moment.

            He wanted to go to bed now and just finish the day, but unfortunately, he had to see midnight. Otherwise, they’re put into the exact same predicament as staying in bed in the morning. Raphael did not want to wake up holding a dead body in his arms.

            “I think it’s time for some birthday drinks,” Simon said as he sat on the bench and removed his skates.

            Great. More driving. Alcohol. Raphael could hardly handle the pressure. Simon usually died in the midday or evening. Even the latest had been ten o’clock. The waiting was unbearable. Raphael wasn’t in a rush to watch Simon die, but he was in a rush to know if this was finally over. He wanted the Band-Aid ripped off.

            “Everything okay?” Simon asked. No, it wasn’t. Raphael wanted to just cry and hold onto Simon for their last two hours. He wanted to keep Simon safe and he couldn’t.

            “Just shaky from watching you fall,” Raphael lied.

            “Nothing’s going to happen to me,” Simon said. “You’re stuck with me.”

            Raphael couldn’t hold it in anymore. He began to cry and hugged Simon. He didn’t care if they were in public.

            “Raphael,” Simon said with concern, hugging him back. Simon nervously looked around, and people were keeping to themselves. The ones that noticed didn’t react much to the sight. “What’s gotten into you?”

            “My anxiety is just really bad today. We’re finally so happy, and I’m just so afraid something is going to happen,” Raphael cried out softly.

            “Nothing is going to happen,” Simon reassured. “Let’s go home if you want.”

            Raphael shook his head. “No, I need a drink. And you want one.” He sniffled through his nose to get air. “I can do this.”

 

            They go to the bar at ten-thirty and they went inside. It wasn’t crowded, being a weekday. This provided Raphael some comfort. They were going to make it through this.

            “Let’s not have more than two drinks, okay?” Raphael asked. “I don’t want you too drunk to enjoy your present later.” He winked at his boyfriend and made Simon blush. “I’m fine with that. Let’s play a game of pool. I’ll set it up, you get the drinks.”

            Raphael headed to the bar, watching Simon. Nobody was near him right now. He ordered two beers and watched as Simon set up the pool table with no threats to his safety. He brought the beers back to Simon and handed him one.

            “You any good at pool?” Simon asked.

            “A little bit. Why, did you have something in mind?” Raphael asked.

            “Maybe,” Simon said, inching closer to Raphael. He leaned in close to his ear. “Perhaps the loser should be the bottom tonight?” he asked mischievously.

            Raphael smirked at his lover and got close to his ear as well. “You don’t need to bribe me to lose on purpose, Simon. You know you can always have me however you want.”

            “Jesus,” Simon mumbled under his breath before looking around to see if anyone was watching them before heading to grab pool cues for them. “You take the fun out of me wanting to crush you by giving into my demands so easily.”

            Raphael smirked and shrugged. “Maybe it was to get in your head.”

            Simon bit his lip holding back a cheeky smile in response. “Go.”

            They played two rounds of pool together, with one additional drink between the two matches, with no incident happening to Simon. Raphael and Simon each won one game and Simon was beginning to yawn.

            “Ok, it’s ten minutes to midnight,” Simon said. “Let’s go home.”

            Raphael looked around. It was safe inside the bar, but he was only ten minutes away, They had made it, and he allowed himself to be happy and relax.

            “Okay,” Raphael agreed.

            They headed outside and Raphael looked at the roads to be safe. There was only one car on road, stopped at a red light. The risk of an accident was practically impossible.

            “Ok, let’s go,” Raphael said.

            “Wait,” Simon said, grabbing his hand. Raphael spun around and looked at Simon. “Thank you for a positively amazing birthday, Raphael. I love you.”

            Raphael wasn’t fond of being too affectionate and he looked around nervously. “I love you too,” he whispered. “Let’s go home.”

            He heard some footsteps approaching, but Simon must not have. He cupped Raphael’s face and brought him in for a kiss. Their lips met, and Raphael wanted to keep them there, but he heard the footsteps closer and he broke away and began to head to the car when three guys got a bit closer.

            The three of them were all blonde, wearing leather jackets, and had cigarettes hanging in their mouths.

            “Wait, were those two dudes just necking?” one of them asked.

            Raphael tried to ignore them, but they were between them and the car. They headed to the right of the group, but they spread themselves out, blocking their path.

            “Is that Simon fucking Langley from high school?” the middle one with the long blonde hair asked.

            The other two began to laugh. “Wasn’t he a nerd?”

            “I knew you were a fudgepacker,” the ringleader said.

            “Jace Herondale?” Simon asked. “You seem like you’ve had a lot to drink tonight.”

            “We were just talking,” Raphael added.

            “What did you see, Johnathan?” Jace asked.

            “I saw some tonsil hockey for sure. Was gunna check out the bitch, but I’m not sure which one of them it is,” Johnathan added. “What’s your guess, Sebastian?”

            “I hear they like to take turns,” Sebastian added.

            “Look, guys, you had your fun. Let us leave, go inside, get drunk,” Raphael insisted. He took a step closer and that’s when Jace drew a gun from his pocket.

            Raphael’s heart accelerated in fear. He was too close for it to happen this way. His buddies looked surprised at Jace though.

            “Woah, Jace, the fag’s right. Let’s just get our fucking drinks,” Johnathan insisted. “We’re gunna get banned.”

            “Listen to your friend, put it down,” Raphael insisted.

            “I can’t drink in this bar now. I don’t know what these faggots contaminated,” Jace replied.

            “There’s another bar down the street, and we won’t come back,” Raphael rationalized. He didn’t know how many minutes until midnight he had left. They could still make it out of this alive.

            “Bro, let’s just fucking leave,” Sebastian agreed.

            “The both of you have no balls,” Jace said. “So you two are safe from these pillow princesses. But me? I got huge balls, and I don’t want these queers getting near them.”

            Simon stepped slowly in front of Raphael to shield him. “Simon, don’t,” Raphael insisted. He quickly went to jump in front of Simon, but Jace got startled and pulled the trigger.

            A bullet went straight to Simon and his body jerked and fell down in Raphael’s arms. “SIMON!” he exclaimed.

            “Dude, what the fuck?” Johnathan yelled. “I’m fucking out.”

            “Me too, bro, Jesus Christ,” Sebastian said too as he ran off with Johnathan.

            “What the hell’s wrong with you? I did you both a favor!” Jace yelled out.

            Raphael was holding Simon was coughing up a lot of blood. He was trying to put as much pressure as he could on the wound.

            “I’m here, Simon, stay with me. Stay with me,” Raphael cried.       

            Simon sounded like he was trying to say something, but he couldn’t get the strength to formulate the words. His body went limp in his arms and the coughing noises stopped. Raphael cried as he looked at his watch. The seconds hit 57, then 58, 59, and then 12.

            He shook with anger and rage as he looked up and saw Jace lighting another cigarette and walking away, unphased by what he had just done.

            Raphael set Simon’s body down and started to march towards Jace, who heard his approach. He pointed the gun at Raphael and pulled the trigger. The bullet made Raphael flinch slightly, but the bullet collapsed on his otherwise impenetrable skin.

            “What the f-”. Jace fired more bullets at Raphael, all of which had no effect. Raphael got to Jace and grabbed his neck. He launched Jace to the ground by dropping himself as well, while still maintaining a firm grip on his neck. Jace’s skull smashed into the pavement with good force. With a few more shakes of his hand, Raphael continued to beat Jace.

            “What….are….you?” Jace choked out under the tight grip of Raphael constricting his airways.

            Raphael noticed a cross necklace hanging from his neck. “Me?” Raphael asked. “I’m the devil, Mr. Herondale. When you get home, you better put a bullet in your skull. You do not want to know the consequences if you don’t. Do you understand?”

            Jace nodded, trembling with fear. Raphael let go and Jace scrambled, bleeding from his head and tried to make it home. Raphael couldn’t leave the ground. He just cried out heavily.

            “I made your eyes glow red for that last bit. I think he’s going to do it,” a familiar voice behind him said. “I really liked this Simon. You were very close.”

            “Go. Away.” Raphael grunted with seething anger as he turned to Magnus Bane. “You are the last person I want to see right now.”        

            “Fair enough,” Magnus said. He began to shimmer and suddenly, he looked like Raphael. “Go on. I’ll take care of this part, you’ve been through enough. Go before cops get here.”

            “Don’t pretend to be my friend,” Raphael said.

            “Go,” his new doppelganger said sternly. Raphael obeyed and headed home. He arrived to see Simon’s shopping bags on his couch and he couldn’t keep it together. He went to his bed crying, trying to inhale the scent of Simon off the blankets, and he fell asleep holding the photos of him and Simon for a month.

            Jace Herondale was found dead in his apartment by suicide with a note saying ‘I’m sorry. God please forgive me. Please have mercy on my soul.’ Raphael was outside the bar at the time Jace killed himself, ruling him out as a suspect and verifying the story that Jace killed Simon in a hate crime, and felt guilt. Johnathan and Sebastian also testified they witnessed it. They had no idea Jace had the gun and tried to talk him out of it. Raphael’s assault charges were waived due to self-defense.

            Raphael packed up a few suitcases and put his house up for sale. He needed to go somewhere new for the time being. He got into his car and drove off as Magnus Bane watched from around the corner.

            “I really thought you had it this time,” he said softly.

 

[2020]

 

            Simon wiped a tear away from his eye. “I am so sorry, Raphael. I can’t explain how sorry I am.”

            “Don’t be,” Raphael said softly. I loved meeting Lucas, and Locke, and now you.”

            Simon shook his head. “If you didn’t succeed then, I don’t know how I’ll survive this.”

            “We need to think positive,” Raphael said. “We’re doing something different this time. Hopefully that’s enough.”

            Simon laid down in Raphael’s arms as Magnus Bane watched from the kitchen, undetectable from either of them.

            “It’s not,” Magnus said dejectedly. He took a sip of his martini and headed over to Raphael’s bedroom. He swirled his empty martini glass until smoke poured out of it and coated the bed until it slowly faded. “All he needs is a little push and to use that little brain of his. He’s got it this time."

Chapter Text

            Raphael felt his body start to awaken, but he was warm and comfortable underneath the covers of his bed. He did not want to open his eyes just yet.

            He slid his hand over to Simon, but could not feel him. What he did feel, however, was his hand gliding too effortless over silken sheets. He did not own silk bedding.

            He opened his eyes and sprung his body upwards. The sight in front of him was not the apartment in New York he was acquainted to, but his old bedroom in the royal palace of Castile.

            “What the fuck,” he muttered to himself. “MAGNUS!”

            A faint breeze was felt in the sealed off room and Raphael turned to see Magnus Bane sitting at his own vanity.

            “Your highness,” Magnus said. “To what do I owe the pleasure? I thought I wasn’t wanted in this castle.”

            “Don’t play games with me, Magnus. Tell me how old you think I am or I swear-”

            “Relax,” Magnus said, spinning around to look at him. “You didn’t really go backwards one thousand years. You’re technically dreaming. I’m trying out something I think will be good for you.”

            “Why did you bring me here?” Raphael asked.

            “I’m giving you a few repeat days of your past that you can spend again with some of your previous Simons to maximize your Simon time altogether.” Magnus said.

            Raphael pondered at that. He had occasionally had a dream involving past Simons, but this was much more real due to Magnus’s magic. He sort of felt like he’d be cheating on his current Simon with a previous one. “I don’t know if that’s necessary.”

            “There’s more,” Magnus said. “Consider it a politeness down payment on what else I need to show you.” Raphael squinted at Magnus curiously, urging him to elaborate. “I’m going to make you rewatch some of the Simons dying.”

            Raphael knew there was a reason he had been so spiteful to Magnus all these years. The man could never do anything nice without a cost to it. “You just want to torture me more, like you always have. Newsflash, Magnus, my mind is almost constantly replaying all of those deaths as is.”

            “I’m trying to help you see a pattern,” Magnus sternly replied. “Put it together and maybe this life can be your last. I can give you nightmares for a week straight, or you enjoy some happy memories along with them. Make your choice.”

            Raphael sighed in frustration and gave Magnus a look as if he was piercing daggers through his skin. “Fine.”

            “How long do you want this to feel like? You can relive the whole year, six months, one month-”

            “A week should be fine,” Raphael said.

            “Great, I’ll choose the best few days I can. Depending on the choices you make, it may differ from the real memories, but this is only a dream, nothing will change,” Magnus said. “Today’s Simons twentieth birthday. This is your forty second year of being king.”

            Raphael lost the air in his lungs for a moments realizing who he’d get to see. “David’s grown.”

            “Yes,” Magnus confirmed. “You should go see him.”

            Raphael quickly bolted out of bed before realizing that he was still naked and quickly made his way to his wardrobe, which was right next to the vanity Magnus was still sitting at. He quickly averted his eyes away from both Raphael and the mirror.

            “I should go,” Magnus said before disappearing in the blink of an eye. Raphael forgot how different his older clothing was compared to what he had now. His tunic was baggier and his pant waist needed to be laced and tightened with strings.

            Once he was finally decent, he made his way out of his bedroom and down to the dining hall. He walked slow, trying to recall the layout of this massive castle. He reached his hand out to feel the stone of the castle walls. He had forgotten how they felt beneath his fingertips.

            He descended down a winding staircase and continued to head where is subconscious memories guided. He found his way to the dining hall, and saw his son sitting in his usual chair.

            “Good Morning, Father,” David said cheerfully, standing up. David was in his forties. He had put on muscle in his late twenties and he maintained it well. He had a thick, full, black beard that was now getting frosts of gray. David approached him for a hug and Raphael felt so many emotions hit him at once. Reuniting with Simon every twenty-one was emotional, but Raphael always expected it and looked forward to it. He never anticipated being able to see his son again.

            David let out an enthusiastic warrior’s groan as he tried to crush his father with the power of his hug. It had ended up being something they did. Raphael would joke that he would hug David so hard he’d crush him. Once David got bigger and older than Raphael, David started to do it to Raphael.  It was another sweet memory that Raphael had forgotten; his brain only had the space for so many memories. It hurt him deeply to forget one so important of his son. Raphael laughed at David’s noises and began to cry tears of happiness.

            “Father, why do you weep?” David asked, letting go.

            Raphael wiped his tears. “It is just so good to see you.”

            “We live together, father. We see each other every day,” David replied.

            “You’re right. I am being rather foolish,” Raphael said.

            “I think it’s sweet,” a woman said from behind him. He turned to see David’s wife, Elena, approach them. David married at twenty-three, his bride nineteen. It had been a highlight of Raphael’s life. The wedding, he still remembered fondly.

            “Elena,” Raphael said softly. “It is so wonderful to see you too.”

            “Have you had much to drink last night?” Elena teased. “They say as the brain ages, it loses memories. Could that be happening to you? Your mind aging but not your body?”

            Raphael chuckled. “No, it is not that at all.”

            “Well let’s do a test. Who is missing from this room right now?” Elena asked, crossing her arms and looking at him expectantly.

            “Well, there’s my wife, Isabelle, of course,” Raphael answered.

            “Aaaaaand?” Elena inquired further.

            The memory clicked back into him and a smile crept across his face. “Alberto. Where is my grandson?”

            “He’s probably still asleep, just as you were,” David answered. “Are you sure you’re ok?”

            “Yes,” Raphael answered. “It’s Simonides’s birthday. I’m just not as stable as I usually am due to the nerves.”

            “This is the reincarnated lover?” Elena asked.

            “Yes,” David answered. “His last lifetime was right before we met. He was a kind gentleman. I liked seeing how happy he made my father. Which reminds me-”. He gestured for one of the palace servants to approach him. “Please fetch us the Queen’s breakfast tray.”

            “Yes, your majesty,” she said as she headed towards the kitchen area. Raphael looked over at Isabelle’s chair and had a realization; if this was the year he met Simonides, this meant this was also the year Isabelle died. Her early sixties was very young. He remembered how sickly and frail she was near her last few months. They had ordered expensive medicines from Asia, but nothing worked. She rarely left her room the final months.

            The servant carried the tray and was instinctively headed towards the staircase when David called her to stop. “I think the King would like to deliver it personally today.”

            Raphael nodded as he took the tray from her and thanked her for her work before he made his way to Isabelle’s bedroom. He knocked on the door with his foot to announce himself. “Isabelle, it’s Raphael. I brought you breakfast.”

            He didn’t hear a response, but the doors were thick and heavy, and he didn’t recall if her voice was weaker at this time or not. He delicately shifted the tray as easily as he could, but a servant rushed over to help him after seeing him in distress.

            “Thank you,” he said as he guided himself in. Isabelle was awake and alert. She was in bed reading a novel. She smiled warmly at Raphael. “Good Morning, Isabelle.”

            “Good Morning,” she said softly. It didn’t sound weak, but it was much more delicate than the booming voice she used to command respect in her youth.

            “It was David’s idea for me to bring you your breakfast. I apologize it was not my own. It’s been an emotional morning,” Raphael said as he gently set the tray down on her lap. He took a good look at his wife. Her beautiful black raven hair had now become completely silver. Her face was wrinkled, parts of it dropped and sagged; there was even some discoloration. Raphael noticed that her favorite vanity, the one she would spend hours in front of, was no longer even in her room.

            “I’ll bet. You get to meet Simonides again,” she said. “That’s what I wanted to discuss with you.”

            “What is it?” Raphael asked.

            “We hired a new servant,” she said. “We found him. I…planned this…twenty-one years ago. I drew a portrait of him so I wouldn’t forget his face from last time, and I had all of my head servants interview for every position: gardener, cook, housekeepers, tailors. I showed them all the portrait and I told them to find him and hire him, and we did. He starts today. He can be assigned to your duty.”

            Raphael began to tear up. He remembered how emotional he was the first time Isabelle had told him. “I can’t believe you planned that twenty-one years ago.”

            Isabelle just smiled and shrugged. “What type of wife would I be if I didn’t do everything I could to help my husband find his lover?”

            Raphael laughed. The last Simonides was a war strategist that came to the castle to assist Isabelle and educate David on war strategy. Now this one would be his personal servant. He supposed as long as he was in this castle, it would only make sense for Simon to be an employee of his.

            “I should let you go,” Raphael said softly, solemnly. He knew Isabelle liked her space during this last year of her life. At the time, Raphael didn’t know this was her last though. Maybe Isabelle did, and chose to keep it to herself.

            As he stood up, Isabelle gently caught hold of his hand, causing to turn around to look at her again.

            “I want you to know that I had a fun life, fulfilling life. And I owe it to you. It wasn’t a good situation for you, but you allowed me to have freedom, and I wish you the best in your very long life. I hope it does not continue much longer,” she said.

            Raphael chuckled at what would not have been a compliment for any other person. Unfortunately, it did not end soon for him. He’s nearly doubled his life from this era. Maybe he’d find what he needed.

“Thank you, Isabelle,” he said as he left her room, shutting the door behind him. He made his way down the hall when another servant was pacing to catch up to him.

“Pardon me, your royal highness,” she said. “I was informed to alert you when the new castle staff was here.”

His heart quickened with excitement and anxiousness. “Yes, thank you. Is he in the foyer?”

“Yes, your majesty,” she replied.

            “I shall go there at once, thank you,” he said as he made his way to the main castle foyer. He stood by the thrones that were on a raised platform where they sat tall above visitors. He laid his eyes on Simonnos, who was called Simonides twenty years ago.

            Simonides bowed upon the sight of Raphael. No matter how often subjects did that over the past forty years of his reign, he never got used to that. “You may stand, and there will never be a need for you to do that again.”

            “It is a privilege and an honor to be able to meet you, my lord,” he said cheerfully.

            Raphael’s embarrassment caused him to smile. He descended down the steps to approach his new servant. “What’s your name?” Raphael asked.

            “Simonides, sir,” he stated. Raphael watched as Simonides was torn between looking at him and looking away. He seemed so nervous.

            “Relax yourself, Simonides. You are allowed to look at me. I do not bite,” Raphael said as he boldly cupped Simonides’s face and guided it to look into his eyes. He heard Simonides’s breath hitched as he gasped in surprise at the eye contact. “What’s wrong?”

            Simonides just looked in wonder at Raphael. “Are the legends true? Are you really over a thousand years old?”

            “It’s true,” David’s voice boomed from the peak of the foyer. He made his way towards Raphael and his new staff. “I, Prince David of Castile, hereby vouch that King Raphael is my father.”

            Simonides looked at the two of them in awe as David was visibly around forty, but the king looked his age; and Raphael just smirked. “You do not need to treat me as godly or holier-than-thou. I would actually prefer not to dwell on my immortality.”

            “Of course, sir,” Simonides replied. “My apologies.”

            “It is not a problem,” Raphael replied. “Come, let me show you around.”

 

 

            There was a flash of white and Raphael woke up again in his bedroom in the castle. That must’ve been the end of the memory Magnus was showing him. He had no idea what day chronologically this would be though.

            He stepped out of bed and made his way to his wardrobe when then door swung open and a cheery Simonides stepped in. “Good Morning, my ki-” his cheerful introduction was interrupted with an embarrassed look of shock as he noticed the king before him was completely naked. Raphael noticed how his eyes lingered frozen longer than they should have before Simonides realized he should turn around.

            “I am so terribly sorry, my king,” Simonides said. “I should have knocked. I assumed you’d still be resting.”

            Raphael remembered now, this was Simonides’s second day. He remembered he sort of liked having Simon stare at him. “You are forgiven. Please have my bath drawn, if you would.”

            “Yes, sir,” Simonides said as he left, not looking back to the king and closing the door behind him without another glance to the king.

Raphael put on a robe and lounged, reading a book to kill time until Simonides would at least have his bath partially ready. He made his way through the castle to the wash room.

It was a room made of stone with a wooden tub. They had irrigated a stream to draw water close so it could be transported easily. There was a large stone hearth to boil the water for cleanliness. They had two attendants for this wing, and Raphael instructed to always get at least one of them to assist since it was time consuming to gather the water and gave it get to the right temperature.

Raphael entered the room to see Simonides pouring the last of the water into the tub. “Impeccable timing, my lord.”

“You may go,” Raphael said to the attendant. “Simonides will suffice.”

The attendant nodded and left the two of them alone. “Shall I-” Simonides cleared his throat from embarrassment, “-remove your robe for you?”

“Would you like to remove my robe?” Raphael asked cheekily, flashing Simonides a flirty smirk. Simonides looked flustered and red under the pressure. “I can remove it myself, thank you for offering.”

“You’re right, that was inappropriate. It is very intimate and-” Raphael silenced Simonides by placing his finger against Simonides’s lips. Raphael felt Simon’s lips tremble under his digit. He wondered if Simon was tempted to kiss it, lick it, or maybe even swallow it whole. He was certainly aroused, yet intimidated simultaneously.

“I am not offended. We will get intimate. You may remove my robe if it interests you. If not, I can remove it myself,” Raphael said. He slowly removed his finger and Simon looked straight into his eyes. “What do you want to do?”

“I want to serve you,” Simonides replied nervously.

The sides of Raphael’s mouth curved upwards. “I think you want to remove my robe for me but you’re nervous about it.”

Simonides had to turn away. His face was as red as the hearth’s fire. “I will hold your robe for you once you’re undressed.”

Raphael had gotten under his skin. He forgot how fun it was to tease this Simon. He wasn’t one to abuse his role, but he knew how this Simon felt. Raphael stripped off his robe and placed it over Simon’s arm he held out. Raphael laid down in the tub and had his head resting on a built-in support. “I am submerged now.”

Simonides turned and tried to keep a very stoic expression. Raphael could tell he was fighting many urges. “I’ll grab you the soap sir.”

Simonides walked over to a cabinet and hung Raphael’s robe on a hook before grabbing the soap bar and sponge and heading back to Raphael. Simonides dipped his hand with the sponge into the water on the side by Raphael’s legs. Raphael’s eyebrow arched with intrigue knowing that Simonides’s hand was in the water he was naked in. While the water rippled the view of Raphael’s naked body, the flesh and outlines were still visible. He wondered if Simon was looking intimately.

Simonides lathered up the sponge for Raphael. He wondered if Simonides was going to give him the sponge to bath himself or if he was going to take charge.

“I can wash your back for you if you’re comfortable with that and would like to turn around,” Simonides offered.

Raphael nodded and flipped over, partially raising himself out so he could rest his torso on the headrest. This brought his ass closer to the breach of the water. Of course now, Simonides was behind him, and he couldn’t see if Simonides was checking him out.

He felt the sponge begin to rub in a circle on his back. Simonides was rubbing Raphael’s right shoulder with his free hand. Maybe it was for support, maybe it was more intimate. When the sponge made its way to the shoulder he was holding, he let go and held onto the edge of the tub instead.

            The sponge descended lower to the bottoms of Raphael’s right shoulder blade and Simonides switched hands so he could now massage Raphael’s left shoulder. It felt nice being under his touch again.

            Simonides started to scrub the middle of Raphael’s back, and he felt himself getting semi-erect at the thought of Simonides slipping lower and lower. He wanted to touch himself, but he couldn’t cross that line.

            Simonides went lower with the sponge, and his free hand as well. It was now holding onto Raphael’s side as his lower back was washed. Part of the sponge grazed against the top of his ass.

            “I believe I’ve gotten all that I can,” Simonides said.

            Raphael turned back over while descending as to not expose his erection. He quickly covered himself up with his submerged hand and grabbed the sponge with what was free.

            “Thank you,” Raphael said as he scrubbed his own chest before scrubbing his legs and groin underwater. “Can you please fetch me my towels?”

            Simonides nodded as he stood up to head to the linens and grabbed Raphael two towels and headed back.

            “Wrap this one around your waist, sir,” Simon said. He closed his eyes and turned away from the tub, holding the towel out behind him. Raphael climbed out of the tub and did as instructed, grabbing the towel and tying it as to be securely snug on his waist.

            Simonides took the other one and turned back to Raphael. Raphael caught Simonides taking a glimpse of his glistening body before taking the towel to his king’s head and drying his hair carefully for him. It was a nice feeling, Simon’s hands through the towel massaging his scalp. Raphael closed his eyes and let him relax. The towel was then brought to his pecs, and Raphael let out a small noise of pleasure as Simon squeezed those through the fabric to ‘dry them’. Simonides wrapped the towel around Raphael so one hand was drying Raphael’s front and the other was simultaneously drying his back. It felt close to an embrace for Raphael.

            “Thank you, Simonides, I’ll take it from here,” Raphael said.

            “My pleasure,” Simonides said with a faint smile.

 

 

 

            The next day Raphael woke up, it was not a happy memory, initially. It was already evening, and he was sitting on a lounge chair in a parlor. David, Elena, and Alberto were all gathered with some royal friends of the family. They were all crying and seemed solemn. Magnus Bane was in attendance too, and per Raphael’s orders, he was only around for major events. This was the day Queen Isabelle had passed.

            David approached his father and sat next to him, looking mournful. “You’ve outlived people before,” he said bluntly. “Your mother, sister, every Simon. Other friends and loved ones I assume.” Raphael turned to look at his son, a grown a man who appeared twice his age. It hurt Raphael to see him so hurt. Raphael recalled this was the only the first time he had seen David cry. The second would be when Elene passed, but David would be much older, in his eighties.

            “What is your question, my son?” Raphael asked, placing his arm around his son to support him.

            “How long until it doesn’t hurt?” he asked.

            Raphael sighed empathetically. “It’ll be a while. Holidays and festivals will hurt without her presence. The anniversary of this date will hurt, as well as her birthday. And you’ll always miss her. However, once you’re able to feel her as a part of you, the memories will be ones of happiness. You’ll be happy they happened as opposed to sad that they can no longer be replicated. You will be at peace. It will come.”

            “Thank you, father,” David said.

            Simonides looked at the two of them across the room, and they caught his eye. Simonides gave them both a sympathetic smile.

            “He really looks exactly like the last one did,” David said.

            “Yes,” Raphael said softly. “And if things don’t work how I’d like, the next one will look exactly the same. You’ll be 63.”

            “Well I hope my memory is strong,” David. “I truly hope we don’t need to wait for a next time.”

            Raphael nodded. “Agreed.”

 

            Simonides escorted Raphael to his chambers after the wake. He remembered this memory well. Simonides and Raphael had been getting much closer, as friends, but there was plenty of flirtatious banter. Simonides always looked at Raphael so tenderly.

            The door closed behind them and Raphael sat at the edge of his bed. “Can you please help me with my shoes, Simonides?”

            “Yes, sir,” Simonides replied, approaching his king. Raphael worked on unfastening his shirt, which had strings to tighten the cuffs and neckline as Simonides unlaced and pulled off his boots. They finished simultaneously, with Raphael peeling his shirt off of himself right as Simonides was standing back up from the ground, getting a view close to Raphael’s torso right as he stripped and shucked his shirt to the ground.

            Simonides’s breath hitched with arousal before he stood back up completely. “Is there anything else I may do for you tonight, sir?”

            Raphael stood up and quickly wrapped an arm around Simonides to pull him close enough to kiss, with his free hand cupping his face as he held his servant.

            Simonides was surprised and tense at the start of the kiss, but relaxed himself into Raphael to return the kiss before Raphael removed himself, while still holding onto him. He pressed their foreheads together and spoke low. “I don’t want you to think I am taking advantage of you. I don’t want to abuse my power as king. You may say no to this request, and any request. I will never punish you or reprimand you. You will not be fired. If I ever make you uncomfortable, you can do anything else in the castle you wish. If you wish to quit to get away from me, I’ll give you a generous amount to support you until you find something new, so please please be honest with me about what you want. I want you to stay in my bed tonight. And every night. I love you, genuinely, Simonides. I just need someone to hold tonight. If you don’t feel the same and can’t, it is ok please say so.”

            “My king,” Simonides said. “I would love to.”

Raphael shed a tear and kissed him again. He began to remove Simonides’s clothes as well, and they were both naked together, still holding another and kissing.

“I’m a virgin-” Simonides said nervously. “I’m worried I may not be good for you.”

“Simonides, you are perfect,” Raphael said. “And we will worry about that another day. Today I just want to hold you. My wife just died, after all.”

“Right, of course, sorry for assuming, I-”

“Shhhhh,” Raphael whispered, coaxing him down. “There is no need to be nervous around me.”

They got into his bed and Raphael wrapped his arms around Simonides. “This bed is so comfortable. I never imagined a bed could feel like this.”

“You may share it with me for as long as you’d like,” Raphael said. “I love you, Simonides.”

“I love you too, Raphael.”

 

 

Raphael woke up in his bed, undoubtable after another memory time jump. He had this feeling of dread in his stomach. He couldn’t keep track of the date with his jumps, but he knew which memory today was.

Simonides groaned as he woke up and stretched next to Raphael. “Good Morning, my king.”

“Good Morning, Simonides,” Raphael said before leaning down to give him a kiss on his forehead. “Happy Birthday.”

“You remembered,” Simonides said happily.

“Of course,” Raphael replied.

 

Raphael was in the meeting room with David and some other advisors. Simonides sat on a chair in the room off to the side. His advisors were against him being inside for confidential reasons, but Raphael had insisted. He needed to keep an eye on Simonides at all times today and they insisted this meeting could not be delayed.

“My liege,” one of his generals stated, “we have intercepted Hungarian intelligence, and there are enough documents and testimonies to confirm that they are planning to assassinate you.”

Raphael let out a chuckle. “Well I cannot be assassinated. I have literally stabbed myself in front of the Hungarians before at a party so they should know better.”

“They believe they have found concoctions and poisons to trump your livelihood. They have been determined,” he replied.

“They’re stupid and desperate. Was this the cause of the meeting?” Raphael asked.

“We have reason to believe they are in Castile or arriving soon. We can’t fully verify the date,” the general said.

“And even if you are immortal, father, the rest of us are not,” David advised.

Raphael sighed, he didn’t want to deal with this now, but David was right. He wouldn’t want to lose him or his family. Plus, somehow, Simonides was to die today. If it was related, the danger was here now. “How many recent new staff do we have? I’d say, within six months? Any potentially from the East?”

“I’d have to double-check with Elena,” David confessed.

“That’s our top priority. General, interrogate whoever David fetches for you. Nothing drastic, we want to keep good help and not scare them off, but fish for an accent or something,” Raphael ordered.

“Yes, sir,” the general agreed.

“Keep me updated, but I am spending Simonides’s birthday with him,” Raphael insisted.

“Understood,” David said. “I shall head to Elena.”

“Meeting adjourned.”

 

 

Raphael walked with Simonides through the gardens. They had the most talented gardeners and florists employed to keep the estate healthy and thriving. There was a large fountain and the two of them sat on a stone bench in front of it. Simonides took a deep breath of fresh air and relished in the sunlight while Raphael admired his pure smile.

“I am undeniably grateful for you, my king,” Simonides said. “I was a poor peasant, and then you employed me, and then I fell in love, and then somehow you found me worthy of your affections,” Simonides confessed. He was blushing from embarrassment and averted his eyes away from Raphael.

Raphael put his hands under Simonides’s chin and guided his face to look back at him. “Do not put yourself down. I am nothing grand. I am a man who was cursed, coerced into marrying the Queen and inheriting this kingdom. I do not have royal blood in my veins, I married into this. I was used for my immortality. But I am just a boy who loved another boy.”

Simonides leaned forward to kiss Raphael, and Raphael kissed him tenderly back. Their kissing was interrupted by some rusting on the other side of the hedge. Raphael stood up.

“Who is there?” he commanded.

A gardener came around the other side and bowed. “Forgive me, your majesty. I am just here to trim the hedges.”

“Could you please come back later?” Raphael asked.

“Are you sure, your majesty?” he asked, approaching closer to him and Simonides. “It’ll only take a few moments. These are lovely hedges.” A small accent kept leaking out when he said the word ‘hedges’. Raphael was positive this was a newer employee. They always hired more shortly after winter ended, which was within the last six months.

“I am sure your supervisor wouldn’t object.” Raphael stepped closer to guard Simonides.

“He would,” the gardener said with a snarl as he quickly pulled out large garden shears and launched himself at Raphael.

“GUARDS!” Raphael screamed as he kicked the charging assailant square in the chest. While the kick slowed the man, the impact pushed his leg to the side, causing Raphael to lose balance and fall. He tried to get back to stand as soon as he could, but the gardener had already sprung towards Raphael. He brought the garden shears down with all his might, and the metal shattered upon impact with Raphael’s skin.

The gardener looked in feat at his busted shears, which were just two large handles mostly and just a few splinters of metal. “Raphael!” Simonides screamed.

The gardener threw the shears at Simonides’s head to incapacitate him and cause a distraction. They collided with Simonides’s face, causing him to yelp with pain and collapse. The assailant ran off and Raphael dashed towards Simonides.

The guards approached and Raphael ordered them to chase after the gardener. He turned his attention back to Simonides. He had a large cut from the top of his upper lip to the top bridge of his nose, just barely missing his eye. It would be a nasty scar, but it didn’t appear lethal.

“It’ll be okay, Simonides. I am here,” he said. “It’s just a cut.”

Simonides started to breathe harder and harder. “My face feels like it’s on fire,” he cried. Raphael noticed some of the new blood coming out was bubbly, like it had been boiled, and Simon’s entire face was getting red and bumpy.

“No, no, no, Simonides stay with me, please. PLEASE!” Raphael shouted out.

Simonides was then still in his arms, and Raphael began to sob intensely. He had failed again. He knew this was a memory, and he knew this would happen in the replay of his life, but it hurt as if it were fresh. He felt Simonides’s body right now.

“I have a happier memory to make up for this,” Magnus said. Raphael didn’t notice him appear over him. He didn’t appear sympathetic, but maybe it’s because Magnus knew this was all fake and it only felt real to Raphael.

 

 

Raphael was standing at the front of the same church he married Isabelle in. The pews were full of people watching intently. David was standing in front of him, wearing finer clothes than he had worn for his wedding.

An archbishop dipped a sword in holy water and brought it to each of David’s shoulders. “Prince David Castro Santiago-Lightwood, you are anointed through blood by God to bear the responsibility of your crown and nation, to serve the people of Castile honorably and with integrity. Do you accept the role and responsibility of the monarchy and vow to lead your constituents of Castile through a fair, just, and noble leadership?”

“I solemnly swear,” David said.

“Immortal King Raphael Santiago of Castille, do you hereby relinquish your role and responsibility to the crown and nation of Castile, anointed through blood by God, to Prince David Castro Santiago-Lightwood?” the archbishop asked.

Raphael dipped the royal jeweled orb and tip of the royal scepter into the holy water basin and made his way back to David. “I hereby relinquish my title of King of Castile to my son, Prince David Castro Santiago-Lightwood.”

David took the orb and scepter from Raphael’s hands and turned to the crowd in the castle.

“By the power vested in me by God’s will, I hereby declare you as First Son of the Immortal King, King David Castro Santiago-Lightwood,” the archbishop announced.

The crowd stood up and cheered for their new king, and Raphael clapped as well. There was no point in him ruling without a lover to rule beside him. David had waited long enough for the title and had trained well. He would continue to live at the castle until David passed, and then he’d continue to explore the world, waiting until he found his permanent Simonnos.

 

 

            Raphael awoke in his bed in 2020 and sighed with relief seeing Simon next to him. He saw the light was on in his living room and had a gut feeling that Magnus was there waiting a report.

            Raphael slipped out of bed, slipped on some black briefs, and then headed out where Magnus was on the couch sipping his usual martini.

            “What did you learn?” Magnus asked.

            “I don’t know what I needed to look for. It was an overwhelming experience being back,” Raphael confessed.

            “I figured as much. Give me a few more days to get some more memories ready for you. Enjoy indoor plumbing again. Although that sponge bath scene was pretty hot,” Magnus said.

            “Don’t you have your own men to harass?” Raphael asked.

            “That closeted captain of yours from the Revolutionary War. Exactly my type. I should hit up his little heaven and see how he’s been, now that you mention it,” Magnus said. “Good night, Raphael.”

            “Good night,” Raphael said absent-mindedly, not realizing that was probably the most cordial and friendly he’s ever been to Magnus. But this was the first time Magnus has been nice to him, unless you count him covering up assaulting the homophobic bastard that murdered Simon Langley.

            He headed back to his bed and crawled back next to Simon. He could do this. He could put Magnus’s clues from these dreams together.