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Blood Bath

Chapter Text

“Get your hand off your gun.”

Keith glares at the man beside him before realizing that his hand is, indeed, on his gun. It is bad etiquette, and unnecessary, but it is the only way for Keith to feel calm at this moment.

He forces his hand off the gun, smiling a bit sheepishly.

“Sorry Shiro.”

Shiro smiles tightly at him. He knows Keith is on edge. They are in a mixed bar, meaning a place that vampires and humans interacted openly. It had only been three years since vampires earned a type of equality in the world and these establishments that used to be underground had gained massive popularity quickly.

Not that that is a good thing. Keith clenches his hand into a fist, willing himself to remain calm. Logically, he knows that they are not in danger at this particular moment. Though Keith hates vampires, he knows that they are smart too. They wouldn’t openly attack two cops in public.

He knows that their evil is more insidious than just killing. Oh no. Vampires have other means by which to slowly take over the world. He has no idea what the human world was even thinking legitimizing these monsters. They were stronger than humans, had mind control powers, and needed human blood to survive.

They needed to be controlled and eradicated, not invited to senate hearings.

He feels goosebumps on his arms and glances over to the seated area to the side of the main bar. He ignores the women and men on stage, prancing around in little clothing and high heels. He ignores the clubgoers who are watching or dancing themselves to the pounding music. No, there is something else that gets his attention right now.

He knows before he even looks who he will see. Sitting nestled in a booth between a beautiful boy and girl dressed in matching cop tops, shorts, and stilettoes sits Keith’s least favorite vampire of them all.

Lance Alvarez.

Lance with a shiny dark blue shirt on that is unbuttoned so far down that you could see most of his bare chest.

Lance with tight black pants on that barely hid anything.

Lance who walks around in heels like he was born in them and wears rings on too many of his fingers.

The blue eyed monster is looking at him and probably has been looking at him since he walked through the door. With an arm around each of his dancers, he watches Keith. As soon as he notices Keith looking at him, he smiles, something wicked in just this small act.

His smile is an innuendo.

His smile makes Keith feel pinned to the wall without the vampire lifting a finger.

His smile reminds Keith that vampires are dangerous predators and nothing more.

Keith looks away, unconsciously moving closer to Shiro.

Right now, they just need to question someone about a murder that happened a few days ago. It may be connected to a huge human trafficking ring the police force has been trying to crack for years. It is frustrating always just missing the players that matter in the ring, only ever dealing with dead bodies and subordinates that are clearly not in the know.

One of the dancers here was the last person to see the murdered boy alive and Keith hopes that maybe this is the big break they have been waiting for.  

“Keith, I think I see her. Stay here for a second.”

And with that, Shiro is gone.

Keith actively battles against grabbing his gun again. He knows he just needs to keep an eye out, maybe back Shiro up if this person bolts. But, he wants out of this space with its pounding music and monsters that look like people and people who didn’t realize the danger they are in.

Keith shivers. It isn’t a sound so much as a feeling that alerts him that he is no longer alone, not really. He gets goosebumps, the hair on his arms standing on end. The most powerful vampire he has ever known is beside him now, quietly standing.  

If Keith ever needs reinforcement that vampires are bad, Lance does it for him. They had met during an investigation into the possible human trafficking ring. Lance owns most of the mixed nightclubs in the area so he was one of the first people they questioned. The vampire had been almost overly helpful, handing over all video evidence and allowing himself to be interviewed extensively. He was very good at playing to be genuine. He expressed emotions almost like he still felt them. Keith didn’t like him immediately, but he didn’t like most vampires.

It is really what happened next that made Lance high on his list of vampires to execute. As Lance was leaving one of their last interviews, he had walked a bit too close to Keith, turned his head, and then, unmistakably, sniffed. Not a sniff like he had a cold. A sniff like he was smelling Keith. Keith had immediately grabbed the vampire, shoving him against wall with an arm behind his back. Lance had cried out, acting surprised and Shiro had dragged Keith off of him.

Profuse apologies followed and, really, Keith could not do anything. It is not illegal to smell someone. Lance denied even doing it.

But Keith knows exactly what Lance was doing. Vampires are predators. Lance was smelling his blood, scenting him as prey.

Since then, the vampire had taken some sort of liking to him, always seeking him out when in the same area, being flirty, but polite. Everyone thinks his feelings about Lance are irrational though. Lance is well-liked by human and vampire communities alike.

He is a social butterfly, laughing and flirting, friendly in a way that most find likable. He is extremely supportive of police officers.  He implements a support system to help vulnerable people in the nightclub business, realizing that many dancers who work at his nightclubs are the type of people targeted by human traffickers. He gives lots of money to charity and generally seems like a nice guy, the gold standard for vampire-human relations. There is even a widely circulated picture of him kissing a human baby like a goddamned politician.  

Everything with Lance, on paper, is copacetic.

But Keith knows the truth. He can feel the underlying threat behind his actions and words. It is never anything obvious or overt. It is always a whisper. A hint of danger.

Like when Lance shakes his hand and holds on just for a moment too long, exerting just enough of his strength to remind Keith how much stronger vampires are. In a physical fight without weapons, Keith would be helpless and Lance wants him to know that.

Lance also doesn’t seem to mind acting like a vampire around him. Most vampires will try to appear as human as possible, breathing, blinking, eating human food, avoiding drinking blood except in certain company. It is a trap. No different from an angler fish that dangles a pretty light in front of its prey before eating it. Keith knows they do this to trick humans, to seem harmless when they aren’t.

Lance, however, does not seem to care about seeming harmless, at least not in front of Keith.

Keith had accidentally walked in on Lance one time when he had some pretty human girl in his office, drinking her blood. He had one hand on her neck, tilting her head to the side while biting the other side. She was breathing heavily and gripping onto his arm tightly.

Lance held one finger up and casually kept drinking just like Keith had accidentally walked in on him drinking from a water bottle or finishing the last bites of a sandwich. Keith had awkwardly stood there, watching, startled into inactivity, unable to react even when Lance makes eye contact with him and winks before finally pulling away from her. He wipes his mouth, thanks her and squeezes her shoulder before she walks out.

Keith sometimes wishes he had pulled his gun and killed Lance right there and then.

“Anything I can do to help, Officer?”

Lance breaks the silence and pulls Keith out of his thoughts.

Keith looks over and can’t stop himself from looking down the expanse of the vampire’s chest. He can’t quite see all the way down the man’s stomach, but he can definitely see most of his brown chest, sparkling with just a bit of body glitter or maybe bronzer, including one nipple that Keith can’t help but notice.

Lance’s smile curls upward.

“Officer?”

“Seems like a lot of crime happens in your clubs,” Keith stutters out.  

“It is the nature of the business, unfortunately. You won’t find more crime here than any other chain of nightclubs. In fact, I think we even have less crime. I do try though. Full background checks, all the proper licenses, security posted everywhere…”

“Yes, we have heard it before.”

And it is true. Most of the crime associated with the nightclubs seems to be unconnected to the nightclub itself. They had found zero evidence of organized crime, much to Keith’s disappointment. He would love nothing more than to take Lance down. The laws currently in place to protect humans had a much lower threshold of both severity of crime and reasonable doubt before a vampire could be legally executed. Evidence of organized crime, especially human trafficking which Keith suspects Lance of, would be an easy conviction.

And Keith would volunteer to be the one to kill Lance himself, pull the button that would stake his heart and blot his cursed existence from this world.

“Officer, is there a problem?”

Keith realizes he is gripping his gun again. He forces his hand off.

“Do I make you nervous, Officer?” Lance grins again, looking at him closely, his hair slicked with gel and sticking up just a little bit in a way that somehow makes him seem simultaneously slimy and sexy.

Keith grits his teeth, trying hard to control his impulse to lash out at the monster grinning at him.

Shiro arrives back at that moment, thankfully.

“Mr. Alvarez! It is a pleasure to see you again.”

“Officer Shirogane, the pleasure is all mine. And it’s Lance.” Lance winks and Keith sneers.

“I wanted to speak to one of your dancers named Plaxum, but she called in sick?”

“Yes, she did. There has been a cold going around. However, I am absolutely sure she will answer any questions you have. Do you need her number or address?”

“Thank you, but no. We will try to contact her tomorrow.”

“Please let me know if there is anything else I can do. Goodnight, officers.”

“Goodnight,” Shiro says, smiling. Keith glowers by his side, ignoring the wide smile on Lance’s face.

They slowly make their way across the dance floor. Keith ignores the cages at the sides of the room that have more dancers writhing in them. He ignores a somewhat drunk girl that tries to get him to dance with her.

They quickly say hello to Hunk, the alcohol distributor for most of the night clubs and bars in the area. He is a genuinely nice man and Keith feels protective when he thinks of Hunk working around so many vile vampires.

Finally, the goal is in sight. The door is within reach. However, as they reach the door, Keith slows, putting a hand to his head. There is a gentle sensation in the back of his head, barely noticeable if Keith hadn’t been so trained for exactly this issue.

“Keith?” Shiro asks and stops.

Though recommended for every human, training against mind control is mandatory for every cop. Keith is especially good at it in general. Some people are naturally more susceptible, but not Keith. He is naturally resilient and, taking training very seriously, probably one of the humans least likely to have his mind invaded or controlled. Weaker humans could be turned into puppets, essentially.

It is Keith’s worst nightmare. A fate worse than death. He would rather have a vampire drink from him than let one in his head.  

Weaker vampires had tried it before on him and it is always clumsy and laughable because Keith is so talented at mental defense. It is usually a desperate move made by them when Keith brought them in or executed them. A last ditch effort to save their hideous selves.  Keith had always smirked at their futile attempts to save their lives like a flopping fish against the concrete in his mind.

But this. This is not the last ditch effort of a weak vampire. The subtlety of it spoke of a master, an old vampire that is very experienced. Cold runs through Keith’s veins. It isn’t that the attempt is successful, but the gentle tendrils of power he had just felt, if wielded at their full strength, could be a problem. They had almost slipped into him before he even realized what was happening.

Keith trembles, ignoring Shiro’s calls as he looks around the room again. He doesn’t know why he is looking though.

He knows who just tried to invade his mind.

He knows.

Lance is across the room, leaned against a back wall, staring as they leave. He shoots finger guns at Keith before turning and walking back to his little harem of dancers.

Keith swallows and tries to stop his knees from shaking. He knows he would never be able to prove that it was Lance. He knows that it would never hold up in court. He knows there are other vampires here who anyone could argue is the real culprit.

But Keith knows.

And now he knows more than ever that he needs to eliminate the silver-tongued vampire with the dangerous smile.

Chapter Text

A silver arm reaches out toward him.

“Hey, don’t be scared. Let’s get you out of here.”

Keith sometimes still dreams about the voice and kind grey eyes that pulled him out of hell.

Keith is only 15 when it happens and his life already resembles a sad movie of some sort. His mom and dad died in a car accident when he was 10. It only takes four years to find himself on the streets, running away from his last foster home where the dad drank too much and preferred to take out his frustrations on people other than his biological children.

Keith spends about a year bouncing between couches, shelters, and the occasional space beneath a bridge.

There are things that happen in that year, unspeakable things he doesn’t want anyone to know, things that make him sit up at night even now in cold sweats.

Except Shiro, who never judges him. He had taken Keith into the station as part of a bust of a group of people living in an abandoned property. A drug house, essentially, though Keith never used. He was there for a different reason.

Once realizing his age and the fact that his drug test came up clean, Shiro made the decision not to prosecute Keith for anything though there are certainly charges that could have stuck.  

This one act of kindness changes the entire course of Keith’s life.

Shiro sponsors Keith for a program where he could go back to school and live in a type of government living situation, while also working part-time. It is the opportunity of a lifetime, but it isn’t like a flip is switched overnight.  Keith is still a little shit, falling below the required GPA in the first semester, occasionally sneaking out of his crappy dorm at night only to be dragged back by Shiro.

He had come home drunk one night, nearly puking on Shiro when he tried to stumble into his apartment. Shiro had tended to him and waited until the morning to have the talk.

“Listen, Keith, I can’t force you to change your life. I am giving you a choice here. A chance. You can choose to take it or not. I hope that you do, but ultimately it is your decision. But something needs to change now because I can’t protect you anymore, not when you aren’t even trying.”

He is about to get kicked out of the system, again. And Keith knows where that leads. He knows what path lies before him. He shudders, thinking about what he did to survive in that year.

“What do I have to do?”

Once the choice is made, Shiro is 100% on board again. He comes home after long hours at work to tutor Keith. He starts letting Keith stay at his house, locking the doors firmly at night and all but tucking Keith into bed.

By the next semester, Keith has all As. By the time he hits 18, he has a full ride to a university.

By 21, he wants to join the police force, like Shiro.

He almost doesn’t get hired, but Shiro saves his ass once again. He has to fully disclose his actions as a teenager. He knows he admits things that would bar him from employment, ever, with any police department. But Shiro vouches for him and everyone loves Shiro.   

He is now 23 and Shiro’s subordinate, training to become an investigator just like him. They also live together. Keith is sure that half the force thinks they are lovers, but it isn’t like that and never has been.

He sits in their kitchen now, nursing a mug of coffee and watching Shiro pour himself a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

“So…” Shiro begins, fidgeting.

Keith is exhausted, but he knows when someone is hiding something.

“What’s up? Just tell me.”

“I have been seeing someone…”

Keith blinks twice.

“Shiro…that is great news. Isn’t it?”

Shiro smiles.

“Yes, yes it is. I really like him, Keith. I really think this might work.”

Keith had actually assumed Shiro was seeing someone. Some whispered phone calls and uncharacteristic blushes, occasionally going out and coming back smelling like cologne that isn’t his. He doesn’t push for information about it though, knowing that the situation is tricky. It wasn’t too long ago that Shiro had his heart broken and swore he would never love again.  

His longtime first boyfriend, Matt, had decided to take a job in Norway. Shiro wanted to make it work and was even looking into jobs he could possibly take in a different country. Rather than trying to make it work, Matt decided it was better just to break up. Though Keith is happy that Shiro didn’t move to fucking Norway, the aftermath had not been pretty. Shiro was a mess for months afterward.

It is Keith’s first time seeing Shiro cry. It is Keith’s first time taking care of a drunken mess Shiro like Shiro had done for him so many years ago. It is him dragging Shiro’s ass to work so he doesn’t get fired.  

Matt’s sister, Pidge, works in cyber crimes at the department and had introduced the two. Keith also considers her one of his best and only friends other than Shiro.

She whispers to Keith, in the weeks after the break-up, that she regretted ever setting them up, worry clear in her eyes when Shiro would come in with the now permanent bags that seem to haunt his eyes.

Keith had briefly avoided her just because he was mad at Matt and didn’t want to accidentally bash him in front of Pidge. Pidge had seen through him like always though and cornered him in a supply closet.

“Hey listen I know he is my brother, but I am just as mad at him. You can bitch about him to me,” Pidge had told him one day.

So, they did. Behind Shiro’s back, of course, since Shiro is a saint and refused to speak negatively about Matt. Pidge and Keith bond through silly means, making fun of Matt’s glasses even though Pidge has the same ones, sneering about how much Norway sucks even though neither of them know anything about Norway.   

The three of them are angry and hurt together, but, things tend to work themselves out. Keith and Pidge’s viciousness toward Matt eventually wanes to “well, you can’t force someone to be in a relationship they aren’t feeling anymore.” Shiro’s tears eventually dry and his tone changes from I wish I never met him to how he doesn’t regret any of it and he will always care about Matt even if his future led him elsewhere.   

Keith takes it as a good sign. An indication that Shiro is healing. And now, another man may have popped up.

“So, who is the lucky guy?”

“Do you want to meet him?”

“Of course. Let’s go have a drink or grab dinner with him. I have to give him the shovel talk anyway.”

Shiro smiles warmly.

“Just…Keith…I have to warn you that he is…very different from Matt,” Shiro swallows hard.

“If he makes you happy that is all I care about. Maybe you need someone different from Matt anyway.”

“Ok, it is Thursday. Maybe we can all hang out tomorrow? Do you have plans?”

“I mean, you will be interrupting my British Bake Off marathon, but I think I can make an exception.”

“Thanks Keith. For…being supportive. I am proud of who you turned out to be.”

Keith rolls his eyes.

“Thanks, dad.”

“Don’t call me that!”

 

********

 

Keith’s short-lived hope for Shiro and his future happiness crashes and burns faster than Keith could have imagined. It is Friday afternoon when Shiro texts him.

Shiro: Hey, I don’t think tonight is a good idea.

Keith: What, why?

Shiro: Ok, please don’t get mad but I don’t think you will approve of him.

Keith: I have no idea what could make me mad or disapprove of him immediately…is this dude married? A criminal? A republican?

Shiro: Lol god no who do you think I am?

Shiro: It’s just…

Shiro: He is…a bit…undead

Keith: lol funny

Shiro: It isn’t a joke Keith. He is a vampire.

It had taken Keith a full hour to respond. He excuses himself to the bathroom, fighting back fear and anger exploding in his chest. He imagines someone biting Shiro and wants to kill them immediately.

He returns to find a panicked Shiro messaging him over and over again. They text briefly before he finally gets it out of Shiro that he is meeting his vampire at the gym after work and then they were planning on getting a drink with Keith afterward before Shiro got cold feet and tried to cancel with him.

Keith insists on keeping the plans. He senses Shiro’s hesitancy, but Keith needs to know what he is up against. To see who he might need to find a reason to execute next.  

And these are the events that lead to Keith standing in a gym, with his arms crossed, fuming at the scene before him.

“That’s it, Takashi. Two more reps, you can do it.”

The new vampire boyfriend is spotting Shiro who is currently bench pressing over his personal best. This is something that Keith would normally be cheering on except for the fact of who is spotting him.

Lotor Lannister with his obnoxiously perfect body and stupid man bun.  

They had actually met him before at one of the bars. Hunk, the alcohol distributor, knew him and introduced them. Keith’s stomach twists at the thought that during that meeting Lotor was probably already planning on swooping in on Shiro.

“Good, make sure to keep your elbows tucked so you don’t get shoulder pain.”

They re-rack the weight before Shiro jumps up, bro fisting Lotor and happily smiling at Keith. Keith can’t quite make his face smile.

“If you will give us a few minutes Keith we can go have a drink?” Lotor says to him.  Keith nods tightly and waits for them to return from the shower area.

Then they are all walking toward a trendy little bar near the gym.

They order drinks and Keith notes that Lotor orders a Blue Moon Pumpkin Harvest Ale. He rolls his eyes. He knows what Lotor really wants to drink and, really, if you are going to force yourself to consume something you won’t like anyway at least get something better.  Keith orders a Guinness while Shiro orders one of the locally brewed IPA options.

“I know what you really want,” Keith says to Lotor when the waitress brings their drinks.

Lotor’s smile never falls. “Yes, I really wanted the Pink Lemonade Ale, but it is only seasonal. This is a good second choice though.”

Shiro is already giving Keith The Look so he backs off.  They sit awkwardly at the small table while Lotor and Shiro attempt to make small talk. Lotor asks Keith about how he likes his job which Keith completely ignores.

 “Why does a vampire even need to weightlift?”

“Keith…” Shiro groans.

“Your bodies don’t work like that. You have the same body you had when you died.”

“Seriously Keith, inappropriate.”

“I am just stating facts…”

“Kashi, it is fine. Weight lifting was a favorite of mine when I was alive. I still enjoy it even though I obviously can’t benefit from it in the way it is intended. I guess old…alive habits die hard.”

“How did you die?”

Shiro puts his hands on his head.

Lotor looks surprised, but recovers quickly.  

“I am afraid the story is quite embarrassing, actually. I was vacationing in a little place in Mexico. We had spent some time on my dad’s yacht, but decided to shake things up a bit and come on shore. There was a huge cliff and I was drunk. I jumped off, hit my head, and drowned before any of my friends could get to me. However, my maker was watching me. He wanted to drink my blood and was waiting for a chance, but unfortunately I died first. He was the one who pulled me out of the water, actually, and the rest is history.”

“Who is he?”

“Now Keith, I can’t kiss and tell too much.”

Keith grits his teeth. Vampires rarely seem too willing to discuss their connections with others, whether that be maker relationships or human servants. It is considered private, but Keith doesn’t understand why it would be private unless you are hiding something. Sometimes Keith feels like the entire vampire population is hiding important information from them. His mood darkens even further.

“Have you drank from Shiro yet? Probably? Using some of your mind control to get him to…”

“Keith, you are being really rude and I think we are done here.” Shiro stands up, only pausing when Lotor tugs on his sleeve.  

“Shiro, sit back down. We need to have a little chat with your friend.” Then he turns and looks back at Keith.

“Keith. I know you don’t like this situation and I know you don’t like vampires very much.  But I want to make this very clear for you. I would never, ever do something to Takashi without his consent and I will not have you insult our relationship by implying anything to the contrary.”

“Furthermore, it is my body and really none of your business what we choose to do in our private time as a couple,” Shiro adds. Keith sinks in on himself. It is an automatic reaction to hearing Shiro talk to him in that tone.

There is a moment of awkward silence. Keith watches as Shiro plays with his napkin, a disappointed look in his eyes. 

“I am sorry,” Keith finally mutters.

They both look at him, shocked. Keith stares out of the window, mind reeling. He can’t and won’t accept Lotor as Shiro’s partner. But, Shiro had looked so happy the last few weeks. He is confused about how to proceed, but he also realizes that being a dick won’t make Shiro leave Lotor.

“I mean, I know it may not matter to you, but I am also terrible at mind control. I am not kidding. It is embarrassing. I am a new vampire and mind control is not one of the natural skills that I obtained.” Lotor laughs. “Shiro got himself a lame vampire as far as vampires go.”

“Aw, babe, you are the best vampire,” Shiro responds.

“Seriously, not much changed from being human to vampire, such bullshit.” Lotor is eyeing Keith carefully, smiling cautiously.  

Keith understands that Lotor is trying right now, trying to set him at ease and save the mood with self-deprecating humor. It helps that Keith can actually sense that Lotor is weak. He is a very new vampire and Keith can sense very little of that prickly power he gets from most other vampires.

He tries to smile.

“Well, at least you didn’t have a really stupid haircut or something when it happened.”

Lotor looks eager, happy that Keith has responded.

“True! Thank god I was not turned as a teenager. I had a bowl cut at one point. A bowl cut!”

“Don’t worry. Keith and I have had our experiences with bad teenage haircuts. Remember when you tried to give yourself an undercut? He thought it would look cool and ended up looking like he just had brain surgery.”

They all laughed and Keith decides to play nice, for now.

There are a couple of tense weeks where they slowly settle into a routine. Lotor comes over to their house now at least once a week. But, he is also always polite and respects Keith’s boundaries. At some point, it even starts to feel normal. Keith has other things to worry about anyway.

“Seriously Pidge, you can’t find anything on him?” Keith sneers at the picture of Lance in his file.

“No, Keith. He is clean as a whistle. I can’t even find an unpaid parking ticket.”

“There has to be SOMETHING.”

“Maybe…maybe he is just a good guy?”

“No one is that clean. I even found some history on Lotor from like, the 70s.”  

“I don’t know what to tell you. I know you want to nail this guy, but there is just nothing there and that is even with me doing stuff that could get me fired. Like, this is super invasive and illegal, Keith. He is not a part of an investigation right now, we don’t have warrants…”

“Would it be possible to…I don’t know…bait him or maybe put something…”

“Keith, if you are suggesting entrapment or planting evidence or something similar, then I don’t want to hear it. You are better than that. Listen, we will get him, if something is there. Ok? I’m with you. Just be patient.”

Keith nods. They are failing in so many ways at the department. They still cannot crack the human trafficking ring. He still cannot find anything on Lance. The murder from before had led them nowhere except to more questions.

“Keith, have you seen Shiro?” a voice calls from behind them. It is Slav, Shiro’s old partner.

“No? We aren’t working together tonight.”

“Oh, he was supposed to meet with me after dinner but never showed and he isn’t answering his phone.”

“That is strange…”

Keith makes his way to Shiro’s office space where he doesn’t find Shiro. Then he calls and texts him.

There is a little bubble of worry growing in his stomach that he shoves down. Surely, there is an explanation. He hears a text back and feels relief, assuming it will be Shiro.

Unknown Number: Hi Keith. This is Lotor. Takashi gave me your number. We were supposed to meet for dinner today and he never showed? I mean, it’s fine, I know how busy you guys are, but he hasn’t called or texted like usual today and I am a bit worried? Is he just caught up in a case or something?

Keith is still hopeful that there is some stupid explanation for this and Shiro will be sheepishly apologetic about worrying people when he shows up. He hopes that an hour later with no Shiro. He hopes that a day later with no Shiro. He even hopes it when a day stretches into a week and then a month.

 

*********

 

Keith grabs the front of Lotor’s jacket and shoves him against the wall.

“If you did anything to him, if you are in any way responsible for him not being here right now, then I will do worse than kill you. I know exactly how to hurt vampires without killing them. I will torture you until you break and then do it more. You will beg to die by the end of it. Do you understand me?”

Lotor nods quickly.

“Keith, this isn’t me. I know you don’t believe me, but I love Takashi…I’m in love with him, I…”

“I don’t want to hear it.”

It had been over a month since Shiro disappeared off the face of the Earth. The cameras showed him walking out of the station at 6:37, his car driving out of the parking lot, and then nothing. No car. No sign of Shiro. No other evidence. Pidge tracks his phone a few miles away from the station, but the pings drop abruptly. She tells Keith that the phone was either completely shut off or smashed.

Keith would love to nail Lotor immediately, but he has an airtight alibi. He is on camera leaving his neighborhood from a neighbor’s security camera, getting on the newly vampire friendly subway, exiting where he was supposed to meet Shiro for dinner and then sitting in the restaurant. He even arrives early, already sitting at the restaurant when Shiro was still on camera at the station. He sat for a long time, eventually eating by himself while texting and calling Shiro. Then, cameras capture his every movement back home. Pidge says his cell activity affirms the video evidence. Lotor also allows Keith to pick apart his house even without a warrant. He finds nothing.

Keith suspects Lotor, but there is just no evidence, not even when Keith looks into his friends and associates.

The department is dedicated to finding Shiro, but with no leads they eventually scale back resources. Keith is desperate and lost.  He feels like his entire world disappeared for no reason. He worries that Shiro is suffering somewhere.

“If it is vampire…” Lotor starts, startling him out of his thoughts. He backs up and allows Lotor to move away from the wall.

“If? Of course it’s a vampire.”

“I am assuming if you are threatening me that the department is ready to give up…”

Keith is silent because it is true.

“There is someone who can help you. When it comes to Vamp matters, he knows everything and everyone. I mean, he is a vampire, so I know you won’t want to trust him, but…”

“Just spit it out, Lotor.”

“Just consider it. Here is his personal number. I think he would work with you.”

Keith takes a small slip of paper from Lotor. Scribbled in pretty handwriting is a number with the name Lance written above it.  

Chapter Text

It takes Keith one long night and day of consideration and then stopping at a package store to pick up some whiskey for some liquid courage before he finally texts the number given to him. With trembling fingers, he reaches out.

Keith: Hi. This is Keith Song. Could we get together and talk?

His phone immediately shows the three dots that let you know someone is typing.

Lance: Hi!

Lance: I’ve been waiting for you, sweetie  

Keith: Fuck you

Lance: You really have a way with words when you want to ask someone for a favor

Keith: Can we talk?

Lance: Come to my house. I know you know the address

Keith: No. I don’t want to meet at your house

Lance: My main office?

Keith: I don’t want to meet on your turf

Lance: You are going to make things difficult, aren’t you?

Keith: Come to this restaurant-I will text you the address in a second. It won’t be busy at this time and the owner will let us sit in the back.

Lance: Fine. You bringing dinner?

Keith: I will buy your dinner

Lance: Or you could just, you know

Lance: Bring it

Lance: In your body

Lance: And veins

Keith: This was a mistake.

Keith: If you ever bring up my blood again I will kill you

Lance: Loosen up, Kitten, I am just joking.

Keith: Only refer to me as Keith or Officer Song

Lance: Ok, Keithy-Boy

Keith: . . .

 

Keith is nervously eating an appetizer of fried pickles at the restaurant when he hears a throat clear beside him. He jumps and looks up to see Lance already standing right next to the table. He is doing the creepy vampire thing where they seem to become ghosts rather than something that moves around and has a physical form. He had made absolutely no noise when entering the back room and walking to the table. For once, Keith wishes that Lance would at least pretend to breathe.

With a smirk, Lance scoots into the booth beside Keith rather than across the table.

“Fuck you,” Keith says, immediately standing and moving to the other side of the table.

“Jesus, you are uptight,” Lance says.

Keith aggressively pulls the pickles closer. “I don’t want to be any closer to a fucking monster like you than I have to be.”

Lance leans back in the booth and looks at him. He is still smiling, but it seems frozen now.   

“I think we are also going to have to adjust how you speak to me.”

“Oh, is the monster…”

“Or I will walk out of here right now.”

Keith glares at him, but remains silent.  

Lance is unmoved, eyes blank, staring Keith down. There is no hint of the playfulness that was there before.  

“Fine. I’m sorry.”

“That’s better, dollface.”

“I told you what you could call me.”

“Too bad, you aren’t the one calling the shots here. Unless I am mistaken, you want the type of help from me that you don’t want your department knowing about…”

Keith sighs. It is true. He would lose his job if they knew what he wants to do with Lance. He hadn’t even told Pidge any details. But, it is a necessarily evil in Keith’s mind.

The vampires have their own system, unofficially of course, of policing themselves. They have networks and connections that range far beyond what the human side of the world had figured out. There are entire networks of vampires connected to each other either by maker-progeny status, blood bonds, or even vampire-human servant relationships. It had always bothered Keith that vampires did not seem to want to be forthcoming about these relationships and connections or even how they police their own. If they wanted equality, then they needed to go by human rules, not their own.

But, as it stands now, vamp crime is tricky because of these tendrils of connection that are largely unknown to the human world and the lack of cooperation from vampires. So, he needs Lance or someone like Lance. He needs to be able to move comfortably in these circles of vampires and in ways that would largely not be approved by the department.  

“Yes. I need you to help me find Shiro…Takashi Shirogane, my partner.”

Lance nods, shifting forward and leaning his head on his hands. Keith tries to ignore the creepy feeling he gets from Lance’s eyes being on him. He refuses to look down or away. He knows it makes Lance happy when he gets flustered around him.

“I don’t know how much you know, but he went missing a bit over a month ago. I suspect that it is vampire-related. The department is rolling back funds and out of funds. I have been told that you can help me.”

Lance nods again. “Has anyone ever told you that you have beautiful eyes?”

It takes a moment for Keith’s mind to catch up. He flushes and then hates himself for it.

“We aren’t here to talk about my fucking eyes. This is about Shiro, dammit.”

"And this place is so nice. It is almost like we are on a date, isn't it?" 

Keith rubs a hand down his face. 

“Ok, fine. Shiro was nice. I always liked him. Are you really willing to do anything to find him? Go against your department? Do illegal stuff? Work with me?” Lance emphasizes the last part by reaching forward like he is going to grab Keith’s hand. Keith jerks away, crossing his arms across his chest.  

“Yes and I will kill anyone who touched him.”

“You know, you jump to killing people quite fast.”

“I don’t jump to killing people. I jump to killing vampires. There is a difference.”

Something cold passes over Lance’s face before he smiles again.

“Right. And why should I help you, again?”

Keith groans. He doesn’t know why. He has always been an asshole to Lance even if, to him, his reasons are valid. He can’t even begin to count the number of times he has casually mentioned killing Lance or other vampires, sometimes even to his face. He has nothing to offer the man sitting across from him, smirking.

“I…”

He tries to figure out how to articulate that he needs Shiro, that he won’t make it without Shiro, and he is willing to dirty his hands with a vampire in order to save him. That nothing is more important than Shiro’s safety. Would vampires even understand those emotions?

“Ask me nicely,” Lance cuts into Keith’s thoughts.  

“What?”

“Ask me nicely for help and then I will consider it. I may even give you a little information tonight.”

Keith can’t stop himself from slamming his fist against the table. Then, he catches himself. If he is being reasonable, which he is capable of sometimes, then he understands why Lance may not immediately be happy about working with him. He suspects the only reason Lance is here is because the vampire had taken some kind of liking to him and Keith hopes he can manipulate that to get his help without having to take things too far.  

“Please help me. I care about Shiro a lot and I don’t know if vampires understand that, but I need to get him back.”

Lance actually looks a little surprised, then laughs.

“See, now that didn’t kill you, Angel.”

Keith glares at him, but remains silent.

“Ok, so, I don’t know anything firm or concrete. I don’t. But, there are rumors of a vampire clan further North kidnapping a cop.”

Keith feels like puking.

“It may just be a rumor. I don’t know. It is just whispers right now. But, that is where I would personally start to investigate. It will be tricky though.”  

“Aren’t you like, some kind of big deal with vampires? Can’t you just ask?”

“Ah ha! So you finally admit I am a big deal. I will remember this forever, mullet.” Lance leans back, grinning and running a hand through his hair. Keith averts his eyes. He hates Lance’s stupid smile.

 “And, no, it isn’t that simple. They are not a part of my clan or an allied clan. Think of vampire clans like countries. Some are friendly, some are not. I am not at war with this other clan, but we are also not entirely friendly. If they are kidnapping, which, for the record, not every clan is involved in crime like that, thank you very much. But if they are kidnapping, then they will probably not be very open to talking about it with outsiders.”

It is one of the clearest explanations Keith had ever gotten for how the clan system works. He files it away for another time.

“So, what do we do?”

“Well, like I said, it is tricky. This clan is also, let’s say, old school. They haven’t entirely adapted to our attempt at a modern way of life.”

“Ok, fine, then what do you suggest?”

“I would have to infiltrate. Probably pretend like I want an alliance.”  

“Ok. Let’s do that then.”

“Alright, you make it sound easy though. This will be dangerous for me. This may start a war. And what do you mean by let’s?”

“I would go with you.”

Lance barks out a laugh.

“Oh my god, are you serious, cupcake?”

“Yes, I am fucking serious. Do you think I trust you to infiltrate or whatever without me? Or that you would even save Shiro if you found him?”

Lance is grinning like Keith has just told the funniest joke in the world. “Well, there is a gathering in a week that we could attend. An underground one that may point us in the right direction or at least give us a direction.”

“Ok, and…?”

Lance taps his fingers on the table.

“Just say it.”

“To go, you would have to pretend to be my new human.”

“Excuse me?”

“The only way you would be allowed in the front door is as my human toy. It is an old school underground vampire meeting. No humans allowed unless they are owned by a vampire.”

Keith quietly seethes. “Fine, how hard can it be? I will just tell people I am your…toy.”

He pushes the pickles away, suddenly not hungry.  

“We will need to practice so we don’t seem out of place. Well, mostly you. No offense, but you smell of cop. Maybe we could meet later this week to go over some basics. But, there is one other matter we should discuss before we start preparing for this meeting.”

Keith nods.

“I am not doing this for free. I am not doing this out of the kindness of my heart either.”

Keith should have expected this. “What do you want then? Money?”

Lance snorts. “That’s cute, but I make more than your yearly salary every two or three days, sweetheart.”

“Then you want protection in some way. From the police. You want me to be the cop in your pocket. Jesus, you are involved in the human trafficking, aren’t you?”

“That is a less stupid guess, but no. I have never needed to traffic humans anyway. They always come to me willingly.”

The way Lance looks at him makes a shiver runs down Keith’s spine.

“My needs are even simpler than that though a cop in my pocket sounds tempting.”

“Then what? What do you want?”

“I want you.”

Keith blinks. He blushes and his chest feels tight.

“I…no…I’m not…”

“Aw, baby, you are so red right now. It is adorable.”

“Just state your terms and stop dicking around.”

“I am not dicking around. I meant exactly what I said. I want a little piece of you in exchange for every time I help you with this.”

“You are unreal…I can’t believe…”

“You can’t believe that a monster like me who lives off human blood would be more interested in your body than your paltry paycheck or vague promises of future police help?”

Keith bites his lip. Lance is leaning his head on one hand while gently tapping his fingers on the table with the other. His eyes are captivating, different from a humans, sparkling with an energy that felt otherworldly.

He looks away. They are a predator’s eyes.

“What do you mean exactly by a piece of me?”

“We can go about this three ways and I am even being nice enough to give you a choice in the matter. You either lower your mental defenses and let me in that head of yours, let me drink your blood, or we can have sex. Your choice.”

Though Keith suspects this answer, hearing the words out loud makes his heart race anyway. Sirens go off in his head, red flags wave before his eyes.

“No. Absolutely not, none of those,” he states.  

Lance gets up, neatly placing his napkin on the table and then walks out of the room.

Keith sits for a few moments before running after him.

“Wait!”

Lance doesn’t stop.

“Lance, please.”

Then he stops.

“I stated my terms. You didn’t accept. We are done here.”

“But…just…anything else…”

“You have nothing else to offer me. My terms will not change.”

Keith looks down, clenching his hands. He can feel Lance watching him, carefully, quietly. Keith thinks of Shiro’s face and sighs.

“What type of pervert are you anyway?”

“Not a pervert according to you. A monster. But also a monster you need. Sucks for you, right?”

“I will choose one. You said we would need to get together and practice…I will…pay you then.”

“Sure thing, honey.” Lance relaxes again, the easy smile crossing his face.

Keith deflates, realizing that he would need to let Lance do something to him that he promised he would never let a vampire do and especially not one like Lance. A dangerous vampire even among other vampires and one who is a wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing.  

“Come to my house Friday at this time. We can practice so you won’t seem out of place at the gathering. And then you can pay me.”

Keith nods. Lance looks smug.

“Out of curiosity, which one would you prefer?” Keith asks. He isn’t sure why since it would not matter in his decision.  

Lance grins. “Who knows?”

And then he is gone, disappearing down an alleyway.

Keith grips his arms close to him and realizes that he has a lot to think about.

Chapter Text

Keith stands outside the door in front of him, hoping he is in the right place. The weird, boxy, but extremely nice house that Lance owns is confusing and it takes Keith a few moments to find the front door. Once he reaches what he hopes is the front door, he paces back and forth for a few minutes. He feels like he is crossing some boundary here, a point of no return. Like he is at a crossroads and stepping over the threshold would be making a choice he wouldn’t be able to take back.  

But, Keith can handle this. He doesn’t think Lance wants to kill him so he just needs to keep a weapon near him at all times just in case he tries something. Save Shiro, then cut all ties from the blue eyed monster. Or maybe he will get lucky and save Shiro at the same time as getting information that will take Lance down at the same time.

He finally knocks on the door which swings open almost instantly. A tall vampire with brightly colored rainbow hair in a high ponytail stands before him.

“Hi!!!”

Keith shrinks back. “I am here for Lance.”

“We know! Come in!”

He walks into a large living space with a bizarre glass fireplace in the middle of the room.

“You know, we were watching you that entire time on the security cameras and wondering how long you would take to come in…” she giggles. Standing in the room are two other vampires. One is muscular and tall. She looks like, even when she was still human, she could bench press Keith. The other has purple hair braided on one side and is glaring at him.

“I’m Ezor, this is Zethrid, and that is Acxa.”

Acxa looks him up and down. “You know, he isn’t that hot.”

“I thought he would be bigger. He is teeny tiny,” Zethrid adds.

Keith bristles.  

“Don’t let Lance hear you say that!” the rainbow haired one says.   

“I’m Keith.” he says and immediately feels stupid.

Acxa rolls her eyes. “We know. We know all about you and how you threaten to kill the boss every 10 minutes.”

“The boss?”

“Lance, of course. And I think he is pretty hot. Lance likes them pretty,” Ezor responds.  

“Ok Ezor, that’s enough. Thank you.”

Keith turns around at the sound of Lance’s voice.  He can’t quite stop himself from gasping at what he sees. Lance is wearing a pair of skin tight yoga pants and nothing else. There are peekaboo panels across his thighs. He leans against the doorframe, stretching out his body, making sure every muscle is viewable.  

Keith can’t deny that Lance has an amazing body. His clothes make him seem thinner than he is. He is actually quite built with the long, lean muscles of a swimmer.

Lance smirks, noticing exactly where Keith is looking.

Keith turns around. “Why don’t you put on some damn clothes.”

“I am not sure why me having my shirt off would bother you so much,” Lance responds, faking innocence.  

A moment later, Lance has dismissed the three vampires from earlier and put a loose tank top. It isn’t much, but Keith is grateful for any coverage at this point.

“You seem tense as always. Why don’t we have a drink first, relax a bit? You know us going undercover together will require us acting like we can stand to be in the same room as each other.”

“I am not getting drunk around you.”

“Keith, I would never get you drunk.” Lance smiles, but in the way that is more like baring his fangs than smiling. “It sours the blood.”

Keith curls in on himself, but accepts the glass of wine offered to him. They sit down on one of the couches. Keith tries to work out if what is in Lance’s glass is actually wine before deciding he cannot take the silence anymore.  

“How did you die?”

“I am not sure if you know this, but that is kind of a rude question.”

“I’m a rude person.”

“Can I ask you a rude question back if I answer?”

“Sure, whatever.”

“Ok. How do you think I died? Just curious.”

Keith stares at him. Lance is, or was young, maybe around his age. But, he can tell that he is an old vampire. What did people in their early 20s die from in the old days?

“A war.”

“Nope! Good guess, but I was lucky. My older brothers were involved in a war, but I was too young and it was over by the time I was of age.”

“Then some kind of weird disease. Whooping cough or dysentery or some shit.”

“Another good guess, but actually it was not that common for adults to die from that stuff. In my time, only children were really vulnerable, or old people.”

“Just tell me then.”

“I lost my life heroically saving a damsel in distress from some pirates.”

Keith stares at him.

“I died while carrying out a super secret assassination of a state leader.”

Keith continues staring.

“I was challenged to a sword duel by a neighbor and with my dying breath I killed him, avenging my father’s death.”

Keith doesn’t move, still staring.

“Ok, FINE. I was a servant. My family sold my labor to one of the owners of a fairly large farm in the area. I was basically a farm boy. It wasn’t a terrible life and I was lucky that the people in charge of the farm were mostly good people. I mean, the master was kind of a bastard, but he didn’t hang around much, so it all worked out.”

“Did you die some embarrassing way like a horse stomped you or you fell in front of a tractor?”

Lance laughs “Well, no, but my death was kind of embarrassing. My mistress is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen and I am including the hundreds of years I have lived since I died. Just so ridiculously gorgeous that the word gorgeous doesn’t even do her justice. She makes you want to say shit like she is ethereal and I barely even know what that word means. So, I would hit on her.”

Keith groans.

“It was never serious. I mean, come on. She was ridiculously out of my league and treated me like a younger brother. It was always a joke. But, one day, the master overheard one of my dirtier pick-up lines to her. He shot and killed me on the spot for disrespecting his wife.”

“Wow.”

“Yep. I wish I had a more heroic story to tell you.”

“What was it?”

“What do you mean?”

“The pick-up line…”

“Oh. Uh, she had this horse, a white mare that she would ride around the property. It was getting older though and she started cutting the rides short. So, on that day I went up to her and said…” Lance leans forward, putting on a charming smile. “I guess you will just have to ride me instead.”

Keith wonders how someone so awful can actually sell a line like that and make it sound somewhat charming. He groans.

“That is just terrible.”

“My master thought so too.”

“So who turned you?”

“My mistress.”

Keith jerks in surprise. “How is that possible? Did you know she was a vampire? Did he? That is really early for a human-vampire relationship. Could she even be in the sunlight?”

“I did not know. And my mistress, who is still the most beautiful person I have ever seen and still treats me like a younger brother, is the most powerful vampire I have ever known. It is difficult to imagine that she was ever human. The older the vampire, the more resistance we have to the sun.”

“So, what happened after she turned you?”

“Well, you know there is a transition time period after someone is turned right? It takes a few months for us to be coherent so I don’t remember much of that. When I came to, I saw her rolling her eyes at me for causing so much trouble and we were in a completely different country. It was a country I had never even heard of. Essentially, she killed the master, freed all the servants on the property, and then bailed with me in a crate at the bottom of some boat. And that is a story for another day.”

“Did you ever see your family again?”

Lance’s face drops. “No. Back then, once you were turned you didn’t remain in contact. I would send them money sometimes to make sure they were ok and I grieved their eventual deaths. But, my fate no longer rested with them.”

Keith feels a pang. If he didn’t know better, he would read some regret in Lance’s words.  

“What is her name?”

“That isn’t information you need to know.”

“Why are vampires so closed off about telling us information like that?”

Lance shrugs. “It is just us being careful. Remember we were hunted for a long time. Hated. Humans also found ways to use our bonds against us. I would never want to get her in trouble and vice versa.”

“Do you have progeny of your own?”

“Yes. Quite a few actually.”

“I am guessing you won’t name them either?”

“Nope.”

“Are the women in the other room your progeny?”

Lance shrugs.

“Do you have a human servant?”

“Yep. Only one. But the best human servant a vampire can have.” Lance’s face noticeably softens.

“Do you consider them your personal blood bank?”

Lance wrinkles his face. “Keith, no. He is my best friend. My platonic soulmate. Immortal life comes with immortal bonds and I would give my life for him. I don’t even drink from him anymore, though I have in the past.”

Keith frowns.

“Maker, progeny, human servants…all of our souls are tied together.”

“That is assuming you have souls.”

Lance laughs, but it is clipped and harsh. Then he leans forward, scooting just a bit closer on the couch.  

“The only connection I haven’t experienced yet is the blood bonded one.” Lance lays his hand on the couch, not quite touching Keith’s, but close.

“What does that mean?” It is one of the vampire relationships that the humans knew the least about.

“It is the deepest relationship possible in the world between any combination of humans and vampires. It is the closest to what a human may call a soulmate. But, it is more than that.”

Keith shrinks back a bit as Lance moves even closer. Lance is an intense person in general. Everyone always knows when Lance is in the room no matter how many other people were there. Being alone with Lance feels even more overwhelming and Keith feels like he might suffocate.  

“It is becoming one with someone even if you still have separate bodies. And I mean becoming one in every way. In soul, in blood, in body…all are tied together. Nothing is more sacred, more intimate. You stop being a separate person and start existing as a union. It isn’t that you are missing something before, but this individual fills parts of yourself that you didn’t even realize were empty. There are no walls, no boundaries, none at all with this person. None of that matters anymore. All that matters is the profound way that your flesh, your body, your spirit intertwine. They are both a beginning and an end. The end of who you used to be, but the beginning of something more beautiful than can even be put into words.”

Lance eyes are burning, now only a foot away from Keith’s face. Keith jerks backward, leaping off the couch and turning away from the vampire.

“Uhm, ok, why don’t we start practicing for whatever meeting is happening tomorrow.”

Lance sits for a moment longer before sighing and standing up.

“Alright. Your wish is my command. So, for this to work, you have to pretend to be my human. To be very explicit about what that means, they will assume that you are sharing blood with me and that we are having sex. We have to be able to act convincingly that we have been intimate before and enjoyed it. This would be easier if you were cute and giggly rather than cute and angry.”

“I can be…giggly.”

Lance laughs. “It is fine. We will stick to your strengths. We also aren’t denying that you are a cop. Trust me, they will smell it on you. I am going to sell it like I charmed you for that reason, like maybe you keep the heat off my back. It isn’t unheard of, you know, for that to happen. In fact, this crew probably has half the department up North in their pockets.”

Keith grimaces as Lance moves closer to him again.

“And, I know you don’t like this, but this group particularly will consider me to be the one in power. You are the lovesick fool. I am the one in control. We can pretend you are very possessive of me and you can look as angry as you want. Just pretend it is because there are other humans and vampires around. This actually happens sometimes when the blood sharing is new. The human gets clingy and possessive so it will seem natural. You can be my pouty little human who is newly bitten. Can you do that?”

“Fine, so what do we need to do.”

“You need to act like you are in love with me. Or at least obsessed with me. Pretend we are a gross couple that has just started having sex and can’t stop pawing each other in public.”

Keith makes a face.

Lance sits down on the couch again and grabs Keith’s wrist, pulling him backward into his lap. Keith reacts automatically, punching at him and thrashing. Lance easily grabs his hand and secures him with another hand on his hip.

“Ok, see, this is what is going to get us killed. If we are sharing blood and a bed, then you need to be comfortable with me touching you.”

“I will pretend once we get there.”

“Nope, not gonna happen. I am not going to put my life on the line without you proving you can handle this first. Now sit in my damn lap.”

Keith swallows and eases into Lance’s lap.

“Now relax.”

Keith tries, he really does.

“This isn’t going to work. The deal is off.” Lance pushes him off his lap and onto the couch.

“What? I am trying…”

“You are acting like you can’t stand me. Which, may be true, but these people need to believe that you are in love with me, that you are willing to share your life’s blood with me. And you are not pulling it off.”

Keith sighs. He closes his eyes for about a minute, dipping into a part of him he hasn’t visited in a long time. Then he crawls back toward Lance. Lance watches him closely.

He doesn’t quite get into his lap, but he does curl up beside him, leaning into him and wrapping his arm around his. Then he leans up and tilts Lance’s head down before kissing the side of his mouth. It isn’t quite a kiss, but it is close.  

Lance eyes get wide. “Wow. Well, that is better.”

Lance pulls Keith even closer and drops his head to nuzzle at his neck. Keith wills himself not to tense up and mostly succeeds.

“Good boy,” he whispers into his neck.

“Fuck you,” Keith whispers back.  

“One day.”

“You are disgusting.”

“See this works as long as no one overhears us.”

Then, Lance straightens up and deliberately knocks a coaster from the table onto the ground.

“Be a doll and get that for me.”

Keith glares daggers at him.

“Remember, you are sick in love with me and I am the one in control here. If you feel the need to glare, then glare at someone else and pretend like it is because you are afraid of anyone else touching me.”

Keith rolls his eyes and bends over to grab the coaster. Then, he feels his ass being grabbed.

His immediate response is to grab at the gun that he has concealed on his waist. He stops himself though and reminds himself that this is for Shiro. He takes a second to compose himself before looking over his shoulder and throwing Lance a coy smile.

Lance grins.

“You learn fast. That was good. I mean, you almost shot me, but we are getting there.”

He pulls Keith back into his lap and, this time, Keith accepts it, relaxing as much as possible into the other man. At that moment, a door opens and Acxa walks in.

“Sir, you have a…”

Keith grips Lance harder and glares at Acxa.

Lance barks with laugher. “Oh god, you are good at this, kitten.”

“You have a phone call from…him.”

“Is it an emergency?”

“It did not sound particularly urgent but he does need to speak to you soon.”

“Tell him I will call soon. Thank you, Acxa.”

“Now Keith, tell me you understand the role you have to play and that if you don’t play it well then we might literally die.”

“I get it, I get it. I actually had training to go undercover before. I will be fine. You know that we are there to look for Shiro, right?”

“Yes, I will do my best to get us some information. Now there is another matter to discuss…”

Keith wrings his hands.  

 “I believe there is the matter of my payment.”

Keith tenses. He knew it was coming, but had kind of hoped Lance would forget.

“How have you chosen to pay me?”

Keith doesn’t hesitate.   

“Sex. I will have sex with you.”

“Ha, that is what I thought you would…Wait, WHAT?” Lance does a double take that would be funny if Keith isn’t currently considering offering his body to Lance. “Are you serious?”

“Yes.”

“But like, it would make so much more sense if you just let me bite you a little…”

“I told you my choice.”

Lance stares at him for long enough that Keith almost breaks the silence, but then Lance grabs his hand.

Keith allows himself to be led into a big bedroom. It is as gaudy as he imagines Lance’s room would be. It is old-fashioned reds and golds with an honest to god canopy of sorts over the bed. Keith is too nervous to look too closely at the surroundings though.

Lance turns toward him now, face unreadable.

“Now, pumpkin,” he says, “I never asked you my rude question in exchange for telling you how I died.”

“Yes?”

“Are you a virgin?”

“Yes…”

“Keith…”  

“So what?”

“I just don’t get why you wouldn’t choose something else. Like, a sip of your blood? It would be over in a second…”

Keith frowns. He refuses to admit why he made the choice he made. “The deal wasn’t for me to have to explain myself to you.”

Lance wraps his arms around him, pulling him close and trying to kiss him. Keith stiffens up.

“This is pretty much the opposite of sexy.”

“What do you expect? I don’t want this. I don’t want you.”

Lance is completely still.

“Then why don’t you just let me…”

“No. No blood. No biting.”

“I just think it would be easier…”

“No. You gave me a choice and I have made it.”

Lance closes his eyes and sighs. “You are going to make everything difficult aren’t you? Why don’t we make this easier for you then? No actual sex.”

Keith’s head snaps up, looking at Lance warily. “But your payment…”  

“Keith, when I take your virginity I want it to be special.”

Keith blinks, ready to bite back before being interrupted.

“So, no actual sex, but I get to jack you off.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me. All you have to do is lay down, close your eyes, and enjoy.”

Keith stares at him. It seems too easy. He had been expecting to have to offer his ass to Lance. Being jacked off seems like a great compromise.

“What type of pervert wants to be paid by jacking off another man?”

“Not a pervert, remember? A monster.”

“Ok…and if I don’t get hard you have to stop.”

Lance laughs. “Not going to be a problem, but deal.”

Keith sprawls on the bed and closes his eyes. He feels the bed dip down as Lance joins him.

He tenses as he feels Lance’s hands slipping under his shirt.

“Is that a gun or are you just excited to see me?”

Keith cringes.

“It’s funny because you actually have…just forget it.”

“Just get this over with.”

Instead of heading downward, Lance rubs upward, trailing his hands up and down Keith’s abdomen.

“I can’t believe how tiny your waist is. I mean, you are so much smaller than you look in your clothes.”

“Shut up.”

“It isn’t an insult.”

He rubs his hands up Keith’s ribs and nuzzles at his neck.

“This isn’t jacking me off.”

“It will enhance your experience. And god, your skin is so soft and clear. I know you don’t use product. How do you even do it?”

Keith clenches his teeth and doesn’t answer. Lance is being surprisingly gentle, caressing his sides with soft hands. If he is being honest, Keith is just a bit touch-starved. He can’t remember the last time someone touched him so tenderly.

He wishes Lance would be rough instead. He wishes it hurt.

But Lance is patient and gently massages him until Keith relaxes.

He swallows as Lance makes his way down, quietly unzipping his pants and finally wrapping his hand around his length.

“Not bad,” he whispers, close to Keith’s ear.

Keith shivers.

Hand jobs, on a good day, are a bit awkward. Keith figures that every man has his own method that feels good to them and it is hard to figure out what specific method another man will prefer. Keith had always considered jacking off to be like itching a scratch by yourself rather than something sexy to do with someone else.

At least, that is what Keith has always thought.

Lance’s hand though…

“Fuck,” he hisses.

Lance snickers in his ear. “Looks like you got hard in about 10 seconds, my friend.”

“Why are you so good at this?”

“Honey, I have been alive for hundreds of years. I have had a lot of practice. When people call me the best fuck in the country they really aren’t exaggerating that much.”

A part of Keith doesn’t want to enjoy it, but Lance’s hand is like a virtuoso stroking the keys of a piano.  It is difficult not to react and, soon, he is whimpering and feeling the heat spiking in his stomach.

Lance mouths at his neck and Keith tenses. It is dangerous. He would be helpless if Lance attacked him. He doesn’t pull away though. He tells himself this is a necessary evil, that all he has to do is finish and then Lance would have his payment.

He turns his head, baring his neck. Lance huffs quietly before rising up just a bit and licking at his ear, nibbling at his ear lobe.

“Keith, you know everyone knows right.”

“Knows….what…” Keith forces out.

“Knows that you used to let vampires pay you to suck your blood when you were a teenager.”

His lips are so close to Keith’s ear and he shivers at the sensation. He is close and not going to last much longer and he doesn’t care right now if everyone knows.

“You want to know what I know that everyone else doesn’t though?”

Keith can’t even answer, thrusting into Lance’s hand now.

“That you enjoyed it,” Lance answers anyway.

A dark feeling shoots through Keith’s chest before he comes, whimpering into Lance’s hand.

He is only allowed a moment of post-orgasm glow before the shame hits him like a truck. He immediately covers his face with his hands and promises himself he won’t cry.  

Lance is still nuzzling at him. “Oh baby. I could take such good care of you if you would just let me.”

Keith only gives himself a few moments of crippling shame before smacking Lance’s hand away from him. He stands up, zipping up his pants and not making eye contact.  

“Tomorrow, 3pm.”

Then he walks away, not even bothering to stay to listen to whatever Lance says to him as he storms out of the room. He doesn’t even respond when the rainbow-haired girl tries to say bye to him. He doesn’t remember climbing in his car and driving home. And he definitely doesn’t spend the night trying to forget Lance’s hands on him.  

Chapter Text

Keith shows up at Lance’s house again the next day, stomach in knots when he thinks about the evening in front of him. He would be somewhere, unarmed per Lance’s advice, in a mansion crawling with vampires. He doesn’t even want to be unarmed around Lance, let alone a pack of other, strange vampires. He is relieved that he is at least allowed to wear comfortable clothes. Lance tells Keith to just wear normal clothes or maybe what he would wear on a casual or normal date. So, he is wearing his nicest pair of jeans, a leather jacket, and a pair of his nicer boots.

For Shiro becomes his motto, repeating it to himself as he knocks on the door. He is surprised when Lance himself opens the door. He is expecting Lance to go flamboyant and wear one of his ridiculous, high heeled club outfits. Instead, he has opted for a simple all-black suit. Simple worked though especially since it is clearly expensive and perfectly tailored.

Lance grins and does a quick spin when he sees Keith. “So how do I look?”

“Uh, uh…” Keith stutters to find some kind of insult.

Lance is laughing now though and Keith knows he lost his chance to make a snappy comeback.

“Fuck you. You look stupid.” It isn’t Keith’s finest moment.

“You look good too, baby.”

“Don’t call me that.”

Lance pokes at his side playfully. Keith hates that, somehow, their interactions feel flirty now instead of adversarial.  

They step outside together to the roundabout in front of Lance’s house. Keith can see something shimmering in the distance as they make their way to the end of the driveway.

“Is…is that our car?”

“Yes, it is.”

Keith groans as he gets a closer look at the car. It is a ridiculous Lamborghini painted with an equally ridiculous shiny blue and gold finish. It is disgusting.

“You don’t like my lambo?”

“Only douchebags call them lambos.”

The inside of the car is cramped, but nice.  He wants to say something about it, but Lance’s smug face makes him stop. Keith pretends not to be impressed with the high tech dashboard.

“Before we get there, there is one more thing you need to do, or let me do.”

Keith glares at Lance warily.

Lance pulls out a small piece of jewelry with a stylized L on a jewel.

“You must be crazy if you think I am wearing that.”

“It is my insignia. Those that are mine wear it.”

“I am not yours.”

Lance sighs. “You are pretending to be.”

“I don’t see your employees wearing it.”

“Hold on.”

Lance reaches over the dash, video calling someone. Acxa picks up, wearing a uniform of some sort. “Acxa, you are at the main office right now. Can you show me your wrist?”

She lifts her wrist showing off a bracelet with the stylized L on it. It matches the jewelry in Lance’s hand.  

“Thank you.” The call is disconnected. “Everyone that is mine has a piece of jewelry that symbolizes it. I am a modern guy so I don’t force everyone to wear it all the time. But, these people are more old-fashioned and will expect it, especially with a human.”

Keith groans and grabs the jewelry, blushing a bit when he realizes it is a choker. It is basically a black ribbon with a blue jewel situated on the front.

“Why this?”

“Oh, uh. Tradition. See, it would cover or at least partially cover my spot on your body…like where I would be biting you.”

Keith takes a deep breath. For Shiro.

“Whatever. It doesn’t mean anything.” Keith struggles to get the choker on. Rather than a clasp, it ties like an actual ribbon and Keith’s fingers fumble trying to tie it behind his head.

“Can you help me?” He finally chokes out.

Lance looks excited, motioning to Keith to turn around. He feels Lance’s hands moving behind his neck, tying the ribbon into place.  When Keith turns back around, Lance’s eyes are hazy and dark. His fingers linger over the choker.  

“It looks good on you. Really good. One more present.” He reaches down and hands Keith a dagger.

“What is this? I thought you said no weapons?”

“No weapons specifically for killing vampires. This is not treated or the materials necessary to kill us, at least not easily. It will be worthless against most vampires there, but I have a feeling you could take on some of the lower levels ones with it. I thought it would make you feel better.”

Keith shrugs and slips the knife into his jacket.

***********

 

The house is basically what Keith expects. It is a gaudy mess that looks straight out of some stereotypical vampire movie where the vampires dress like they are in Blade Runner. Lance has already made fun of them for their aesthetic, telling him that the Northern district, or as they liked to be called the Galra clan, were a bit old-fashioned.

After giving the car to a valet, Lance turns to him, grinning.  

“Ok, so we are officially in character now. People can see us,” he whispers.

“Right,” Keith responds.

Then Lance pulls him close, pressing his lips against his. Keith can feel him smiling into the kiss and feels a stab of anger. He kisses back, pulling Lance close. He isn’t going to let Lance throw him off.

Lance laughs as he pulls back. “Perfect. Let’s go.”

They make their way up a long driveway where people are standing outside and talking, draped over lawn furniture and forming little circles. Keith can’t help but notice that people stop and look at Lance out of the corners of their eyes when they walk by.

“Why is everyone looking at us?”

“I’m the leader of the Southern District. I’m kinda a big deal.”

Keith snorts.

Lance pulls him closer, wrapping an arm around his shoulder.

Then, off to the side, Keith sees someone that looks familiar. He squints, hoping it is a mistake, dread forming in his stomach. As they get closer to a particular figure, a tall, thin man with an unkind face, he cringes and moves closer to Lance.

“What’s up?” Lance whispers.

Keith shakes his head.

“It is better if you let me know.”

“That is someone that used to…when I was a teenager. You know.”

“Oh,” Lance says quietly. A few steps later and Keith realizes that another man standing in the same group is another one from his past. He gasps.

“Him too.”

Nearer to the door, they see a tall woman with her arms crossed smoking a cigarette.

“And her.”

“Jesus, Keith, should we just start pointing out who haven’t tasted you?” Lance’s voice is light and joking, but Keith finds himself dragged back to a hazy past he wants to forget. Lance’s voice becomes distant as he focuses on trying to breathe.  

He still remembers everything.

Hands on him and teeth in his body.

Unkind words and bruises.

Laughter as he begged for more.

“Keith! Holy shit. You are actually freaking out right now.”

When Keith comes too, he is inside the house, pulled off to the side by Lance who is facing him with wide eyes.

“Its ok, baby. I didn’t realize it was affecting you that much. It is fine. You are safe.” Lance hugs him tightly, pulling his head into his chest. “I’m here and I will protect you. I promise.”

Keith doesn’t quite relax into the hug, but he doesn’t pull away either. “I don’t like thinking about it,” he mutters, somewhat embarrassed.  

“It’s ok, sweetie. I’m here. Who are they? Do you want me to kill them for you?”

“I don’t remember what the other two are named, but the main one was Haxus.”

“Do you want me to kill him?”

“I can’t tell if you are serious or not. You can’t just kill people because…”

“Oh come on, that is rich coming from you.” Lance tickles his sides playfully.    

Lance looks like he is going to say something else when he is interrupted.  

“Lance! So good to see you!”

A short woman with grey-purple hair and golden eyes appears. Keith squirms. He can feel her power wash over him and can tell that she is extraordinary. Probably even older and more powerful than Lance.  

“Honerva! Not as good as it is to see you!” Then, Lance takes her hand, leans down, and kisses it. Keith can’t stop himself from rolling his eyes. He immediately realizes that she is looking at him though and had seen him do it. He panics momentarily that she had seen him being rude to his pretend master before she squeals with laughter.

“Your little one here is jealous, how cute! Kova gets jealous of me sometimes too.” She gestures downward.

Keith then sees a weird-looking cat by her feet and cringes at being compared to an animal.

“Yes, humans get so attached once you have bitten them, don’t they?”

“Some find it annoying, but I think it is sweet. They are good little pets, aren’t they?”

Keith huddles closer to Lance and, thankfully, no one else seems to be paying attention to him. All in all, most of the vampires seem uninterested in him, not even bothering to ask his name when they talk to Lance. It works in his favor though. He would rather go unnoticed right now.

They walk through the house, Honerva and Lance laughing, talking about flowers and other random stuff, while Keith just cuddles closely to Lance and tries to look around to see if anything seems important.

They finally enter a back room with a handful of vampires circled around a table. They are all like Honerva, classy looking and powerful. Lance says hi, but does not bother to introduce Keith.

When they sit, Lance basically half-pulls him onto his lap. Keith lets it happen. Something about these vampires put him on edge. At least Lance is the devil he knows.

“So, what has everyone been up to?” Honerva asks the random assortment of vampires.

“I was in the Alps last weekend and tried the most darling little boy.”

“Ooh, I have never tried someone from that area. What was he like?”

“Citrus overtones, but a gentle, smooth finish. Maybe a touch of nut, perhaps from the mountains? Loads of character.”

“Sounds heavenly!”

“See, sounds too fancy for me. I like things closer to home. Like, my mechanic is actually delightful. Fragrant tobacco, a hint of seafood. Soil and rust. But, with a white flower midtone, somehow.”

“Yes and sometimes I just want some junk food. A fleshy human who eats a lot of fast food makes for a truly decadent experience. Of course, only every once in awhile.”

“Yes, there is something to be said for the basics, but sometimes you just have to try something new. I tasted a girl with a flawless pedigree the other day. She is in their little human shows…wait, what are they called?”

“Pageants. They call them beauty pageants,” Lance speaks up.  

“Yes! Thank you, Lance. Anyway, a flawless pedigree, first in show in these “pageants” quite frequently. It was delightful! A herbaceous bouquet of flavors, layers of velvet and cream and a thoroughly mild finish.”

Keith has never heard vampires talk quite like this and all of the reasons he hates vampires come flooding back to him. He takes his phone from his jacket and discreetly messages Lance.

Keith: You guys are fucking sick

Lance: Like you never sit around and talk about ur fav restaurants

Keith: You are talking about PEOPLE

Lance: You eat cows

Keith: So you admit you see us as livestock?

Lance: Ur impossible

“So Lance…” one of the male vampires with an eyepatch interrupts them. “I see you have a new human. I am not used to seeing you with one.”

“I couldn’t help myself this time.” Lance punctuates his words by pulling Keith even closer.  

“He smells delightful! What does he taste like?”

Keith stiffens, wishing they would go back to speaking amongst themselves.

Lance is quiet for a moment, turning his head and smelling Keith’s neck. Keith resists the urge to push him away.

“He tastes like a late summer day when the sun is like butter and you spend all day outside rolling down hills and climbing trees and talking about your dreams.”

There is a moment of silence, then laughter.

“Oh Lance! You are always so weird!”

“Are you keeping him a virgin on purpose?” The same male vampire speaks up.

Keith clenches his fist and only forces himself to relax when Lance grips his shoulder hard in warning.

“For now. Sometimes sex changes the flavor and I don’t want to risk it, not when I have found something this amazing.”

“Yes, I understand completely. Sometimes sex just sours the flavor,” he responds. “Not that I am very good at not fucking them.”

“Oh, absolutely scandalous, Sendak!” The woman next to the man lightly swats at his arm.  “He is definitely a good catch though. Look how clear his skin is! And those eyes! And he is Korean, is he? I have never drank one of those before. Very exotic. But, a bad personality?” the woman asks.  

Keith assumes he doesn’t have a very pleasant look on his face right now.   

“He is still very, very new so he is probably worried one of you will touch me,” Lance responds.  

Everyone laughs.

“Awwww, how adorable! I like when they are all clingy like this.” Honerva, the main vampire from before, reaches over and pats his head like he is a dog.

“See, how can you resist bedding them when they are like this?” Sendak pokes his finger at them.

Keith is lucky that his facial expression can be passed off at him being mad that someone is closer to Lance. As soon as he can, he viciously pulls his phone back out.  

Keith: I changed my mind. I am not just killing you. I am killing every vampire in this room.

Lance doesn’t answer. He turns his head, biting his lip, clearly trying to stop himself from laughing. The main conversation turns to something boring, stocks and bonds and properties, so Keith messages Lance again out of boredom.  

Keith: Is virginity really that important to how we…taste?

Lance: To some. I think it’s a myth. I like blood that is…experienced anyway though. Life experience tastes good.

Lance: Virginity is only a part of that tho. Like, all experience is experience not just the sex stuff

Keith: Sick freaks

Lance: I can’t wait to make your blood more experienced ;)

 

Keith puts his phone back in his pocket.

For Shiro For Shiro For Shiro For Shiro For Shiro For Shiro

At some point, Honerva stands up and grabs Lance’s hand.

“Dear, can you be a doll and come with me for a moment, alone? He wants to speak to you and humans aren’t allowed in the back chambers.”

Lance hesitates, looking at Keith out of the corner of his eyes. “Are you sure we couldn’t break protocol this one time…”

“Sorry, no. But your little pet will be fine. No one would dare touch Lance’s human.”

Keith nods at Lance, hoping he gets the point that it is fine. Not that Keith wants to be alone without his only form of protection, but maybe this would be the break he needs. Maybe Shiro is even somewhere in those back chambers.

So Lance disappears into a back room and Keith wanders back out in the main part of the house. There are a hungry few stares in his direction, but not much else especially when they see the choker at his throat. Keith decides to walk outside, giving himself some fresh air and pretending like he wants to check his phone.

He steps outside and almost immediately feels arms wrap around him.

“Keith, long time no see.”

He turns his head and sees a familiar shock of long, blonde hair. It is Nyma, one of the main vampires he ran with as a teenager. Someone he is intimately familiar with, unfortunately. A hand clamps over his mouth and her other arm tightens around him. He tries to push her off, but she easily holds him in place.

“Why don’t we go somewhere private?”

He is dragged to the side where big, trees and bushes give them some coverage. Her hand is still over his mouth, stopping him from crying out. Once behind a tree, she removes her hand.  

“Lance will…”

“Oh come on Keith. Just for old time’s sake, yeah? Do you want me telling Lance all about you? All your secrets?”

“Don’t touch me. I…”

“Wouldn’t want to lose your vamp sugar daddy, would you? You have him wrapped around your little finger don’t you? I see what he lets you get away with…”  

She steps closer, reaching up and dragging the choker off his neck. He feels naked suddenly without it.

“I missed your blood so much. Jesus, has it been almost 10 years? And how are you still a virgin?”

Keith fights, but there is only so much he can do against someone with supernatural strength. He wonders if he should scream, if Lance would hear him, or if it was better just to let it happen.

“Little slut,” she murmurs, leaning close.

Seeing her sends him back to that place he tries to forget. Wants to forget despite remembering every single last detail.

Laying on the floor of an abandoned house

Nyma straddling him, hands pulling his hair.

He can’t move and all he can feel is her biting him again and again and again.

Slut slut slut slut slut slut slut

He braces himself, closing his eyes, resigned to the fact that he can’t stop her.

The bite never comes though. Rather, something wet splatters across his face.

He opens his eyes to see Nyma on the ground before him with Lance behind her. It is dark and he can barely see Lance’s face, but the anger radiating from him is enough to make Keith curl his arms across his chest defensively and step backward.  

He suddenly realizes that Nyma is not only on the ground, but also no longer alive. Her body is disintegrating before his eyes, the familiar rot that happens when a vampire dies for the final time. Lance is holding what looks like bloody ground meat, which Keith assumes used to be Nyma’s heart.  

“Jesus Christ did you just kill her?”

Lance acts like he is about to speak, but three laughing partygoers, two women and man, happen to walk by. Lance moves closer to Keith and turns to them.

“Is that Nyma?” One of the women asks.  

“Oh dear, how terrible,” the other responds.

“She went behind my back and tried to drink from my human. I was in my right to punish her as I saw fit. Anyone who disagrees can take it up with me, right now.”

Keith senses that the two women do not care at all that Nyma is dead, even find Lance justified in doing so. They shrug off his words. However, the tall, blonde man is not fine with it. The man is tense, ready to attack. Keith’s instincts scream at him that this man is about to attack Lance and, before he knows it, he has drawn the blade Lance gave him and stepped forward, pushing Lance back with a quick hand.

There is a moment of silence, a tense moment, and Keith thinks he fucked up. Like, really fucked up.

Then, laughter.

“Oh my god, how cute!!”

“Look at the little human protecting his master.”

“Isn’t it adorable!?!”

“Nyma knew the rules. Just make sure to tell someone so the groundskeeper can clean up that dreadful mess.” The two women then stumble off, giggling and whispering, already moving onto the next drama.

Keith mostly focuses on the man though who is looking directly at Lance and also clearly enraged. Keith senses that a decision is being made before the man breaks eye contact and, with a sneer, walks away.

Lance whispers to him. “Go get the car from the valet. Here is the ticket. I will be there in a minute. And wipe your face off.” Then he is gone.  

Keith does as he is told and sits in the car until Lance appears again. Lance is silent as he puts the car into drive and pulls away from the house.

Keith huddles in the side of the car, quickly realizing that Lance is probably still really angry, possibly even at him. Keith wonders if he is angry that someone else had his blood and not him or if he thinks he went off with Nyma willingly.

It isn’t like Keith is a stranger to driving fast, but Lance is driving fast and stupid. They are taking turns too fast and hills are actually making Keith’s stomach drop in that weird way that usually only rollercoasters cause.

He can’t quite read Lance right now, but it is the least amount of control Keith has ever seen Lance have over himself. He is usually at least somewhat reserved, but there are waves of power rippling in the car, chaotic energy that Keith recognizes as uniquely vampire, but stronger than anything he has ever felt before.

He is even beginning to wonder if he underestimated just how old Lance is.

He assumes Lance is mad, really fucking mad, and starts to feel more and more dread about his position and lack of weapon. Lance could basically do anything to him right now and he would be helpless.  He feels like he is locked in a room with a hungry bear.

The silence is awful and Keith grows tenser and tenser, more and more fearful even though he knows that Lance could feel that, smell it, sense it in the way that vampires do.

“Stop that.” Lance breaks the silence.

“What?” Keith responds, feeling his fear spiraling.

“That.”

He then suddenly jerks the wheel to the side. Keith can’t help jumping, bracing himself for impact, but they bumpily pull into a small alcove in the trees, somehow avoiding hitting anything. Lance slams on the brakes and Keith would have done a header into the dash if not for his seatbelt. He tenses, reaching for the door handle, but finds it locked. Lance undoes his seatbelt and Keith’s breathing is ragged now, panicked.

Lance grabs the front of his shirt and pulls him closer and Keith winces and closes his eyes, expecting to be bitten or hit.

Instead, he feels Lance pressing his lips to his mouth.

Keith is stunned into silence and accepts the hand at the back of his head, pulling his head back, Lance swiping his tongue over his mouth. He kisses back instinctively.

Then Lance pulls back, a dangerous smile on his face, hands still at Keith’s neck.

“There,” he says. Keith realizes he is wearing the choker again.

“Why….why did you do that? No one is watching us right now.”

“You were amazing.”

“I was what?”

“Amazing. You pulled that dagger even though you were as helpless as a baby. You protected your master.”

It takes Keith a moment to register that Lance is the master he supposedly protected. He flushes.

“I did not. I was just pretending like you told me too.”

“Please, you sucked at pretending all night. That was real, bro.”

“You just want it to be real, you sick pervert.”

“You can’t lie to me, Keith. I know you better than you know yourself. You are in denial about everything.”

“Whatever. I wouldn’t have cared if they killed you right there except for the fact that they would have eaten me themselves if you were gone.”

“That is true. Oh man, they wanted a piece of you so bad.”

“Nyma…was someone I used to…”

“It’s fine. I know you didn’t want it. I could feel it. I wish I hadn’t left you.”

“That man knew her. He was angry. Why didn’t he attack?”

“Because I would have killed him too. He was nowhere near my level. He was smart to walk away. I am actually worried that Nyma challenged me so directly. It is a major offense to touch a master vampire’s human. It either means she is really, really stupid, or that they do not respect my power, which could be a problem for our entire region.”

“Did you find anything out?”

“They were mostly tightlipped. I did get confirmation that a cop was taken though and there is someone else we need to meet.”

“Give me their name.”

“They won’t meet with cops or humans and I will need to schedule a meeting with them. I will do it as soon as I can.”

Keith sinks further down in the seat, looking away from Lance. He had hoped for more, but knows anything is better than nothing.

Lance decides to drop him off that night at his place since he took a taxi to Lance’s place. He smiles as Keith gets out of the car. “I will set up that meeting and it will be our next date, yeah?”

Keith nods dumbly.  

It isn’t until he is crawling into bed that night that he realizes he is still wearing the choker.

Chapter Text

 

Keith wakes up the next day to his phone ringing. He sighs, immediately assuming that it will be a telemarketer. He is off work today, he has few friends and family, and he has given up thinking the next call will be Shiro.

When he picks up his phone though, the display name is Pidge. His stomach immediately drops.

He bonds with Pidge over his hatred of talking on the phone. He isn’t sure he has ever actually spoken on the phone to her. They text, but never a phone call. Sometimes even emails, but not a call.

A phone call means something serious happened.  

Keith takes a few shaky breathes and then answers.

“Keith? Did I wake you up?”

“It doesn’t matter. Why are you calling?”

“We found Shiro’s car.”

He grips the phone tighter. “Was he in it?”

Though he has always kept up the stubborn hope that Shiro is fine and just missing, he is also a cop. He knows that when someone goes missing with their car it usually means one of two things. They either walked away from their life or they were in an accident, either in water or down a steep hill next to a road. There are some semi-mountainous areas around where they live and bodies of water. It is entirely possible that Shiro just had an accident, though Keith doesn’t want this to be true because it means Shiro is dead and has been the entire time.

“No, he was not in the car. It was crashed down a ravine though…”

“I am coming in.”

“I know, but Keith, play nice with the boss. Ok?”

Keith’s relationship with those at work had progressively become more and more tense. He wants to put full resources into finding Shiro. He doesn’t care about budgets or practicality or the fact that they think his vampire theory is a weird conspiracy theory rather than a valid possibility. He also completely rejects the idea that some at the station float around that maybe Shiro left and started a new life somewhere. Shiro wouldn’t do that to him. Ever. And he told them that, rudely and loudly if necessary.

He skips a shower and is out the door in minutes.

*********

Keith is already furious not too long after entering the station. The car had already been lifted out of the ravine by the time he got to the station. They claim that they had photographed the scene and catalogued all evidence, but he wanted to see exactly what happened. It is important to see the original crime scene as it is. Photos don’t always capture everything.

That isn’t the only reason why Keith is angry though. He is told that they already have a new theory for what happened to Shiro. Their boss tells him that they now think that Shiro was in an accident and drove off the side of the road. Then, injured and confused, possibly with a head injury, he stumbled into the woods and died, either bleeding out or succumbing to exposure eventually. They were already gathering a search party, one which Keith is told he shouldn’t participate in.  

And Keith knows that it is a very practical theory, but there is no way that Shiro stumbled out of a car and bled to death in the woods. It is ludicrous to think that Shiro would meet his end in that way.  

He “plays nice” as Pidge advises him though mostly to earn him the right to see the car.

It is sitting in the corner of the police evidence yard. Keith chokes up when he sees it. The windshield is broken. There is front-end damage. It does look like a car that could have driven down a ravine.

Inside the car, he sees dark stains that he knows is blood on the seat. He was warned about it beforehand, by Pidge and his boss. He examines everything, hoping he can find something that will clue him in to what really happened. He notices a tear in the upholstery and wonders if it has always been there. Something glints in the sun when he bends over the seat and he discovers a long, shiny blue box laying on the passenger side floorboard.

He picks it up, sees Lotor’s name on it, and cringes.

He has come to accept that Lotor is likely not involved in Shiro’s disappearance. However, he also can’t bring himself to be nice to the vampire. He had long stopped answering texts or phone calls from him. He also holds it against Lotor that the vampire stops asking for updates on Shiro pretty quickly.

He can’t help but feel like Lotor somehow caused this even if it isn’t direct or clearly his fault. That somehow Shiro dirtying himself with a vampire made whatever happened happen.

Keith opens the box, praying that he doesn’t see a ring in it, and rather sees two tickets. Cruise tickets. A South African cruise. His chest clenches at the thought that Shiro planned a nice vacation, not knowing that he would be missing soon after and never get to go.  

He sighs and puts the tickets back. He can’t imagine that the tickets mean anything except for the fact that apparently Shiro was getting serious about Lotor.  He leaves the evidence yard and goes back to the station, walking immediately to Pidge’s office.  

She has a strange look on her face when he walks in.

“What is that face, Pidge?”

“It is the “I am worried about you face, but I can’t say I am worried about you because you blow up at people for stuff like that.”

He clenches his jaw.

“I am fine. This just proves my point. Someone must have shoved the car down the side of the ravine.”

“The car was in drive when it went over…Usually it wouldn’t be if someone just pushed it over. You know that.”

“Ok, then a vampire drove it off the side. They can do that and survive.”

“Isn’t it more likely that Shiro just had an accident?”

 “The car isn’t that damaged. He could have survived that, Pidge.”

“Yes, but sometimes cars don’t look that damaged and the person can still be injured badly. If he hit his head…”

“The blood in the car…it doesn’t look like a head injury.”

“You can’t know that for sure. It also could have been more than a head injury.”

“We don’t even know if it’s his blood.”

“The boss is letting us do a DNA test, but you do understand it is just because he is one of our own. The blood is in the car he was driving that likely wrecked the night he went missing.”

“There were no tire marks that indicate swerving or braking.”

“Depending on what happened, there aren’t always tire marks like that.”

“Do you want him to be dead?” Keith angrily slams his hands down on the desk.

“Keith, no. You know I don’t. But at some point we have to deal with the fact that he may not come back.” She pauses, gathering herself before continuing. “And I am worried about you buddying up with vampires in your free time. I know you are investigating behind the station’s back. I know you went somewhere last night…”

“How did you…”

“I have my ways. I just want you to be careful and also realize that some convoluted conspiracy that Shiro was kidnapped by vampires sounds crazy, right?”

“Shiro isn’t dead. If there isn’t a body, then he isn’t dead.”

Pidge sighs. “I will accept your anime logic. I am just worried about you especially if the search party does find him.”

Keith won’t even consider the possibility.

“Does it really feel like he is dead to you, Pidge?”

She adjusts her glasses. “I mean, if we are thinking logically…but no. To be honest, it doesn’t feel like he is dead.”

“See?”  

Pidge sighs again. “For the record, I have heard that some vampires have weird senses of smell or something. Like, even better than dogs.”

“Why that fun fact now?”

“Well, do you think a vampire could examine the scene or car and be able to recognize vampire involvement, somehow? Better than we can with our current forensics?”

Keith pauses. It is possible. It is very possible. “I have to go.”

“Call me if you need anything!” Pidge yells at him as he leaves.

********

Keith walks up to Lance’s front door and bangs aggressively. It isn’t quite sunset yet and Acxa, he believes, is almost completely covered in an oversized hoodie when she lets him in. Heavy blackout blinds cover every window, completely altering the feel of the living room.  

“What do you want?” She asks, not exactly in a kind voice.

“I need Lance.”

“Lance is sleeping right now.”

“It is important.”

She stares at him suspiciously.

“Listen, do you think I would be coming here like this if it wasn’t important? That I want to be in this house, ever, willingly?”

She rolls her eyes. “Sit here. He isn’t awake yet. I will have to arrange it.”

“Arrange it?”

Vampires usually woke just like people so he isn’t sure what she means.  

“Can’t you just bang on his door?”

She rolls her eyes again. “He had a rough night last night after dropping you off. I will have to make some preparations to wake him up. Just sit here for a minute, ok?”

Keith waits for her to walk out of the room and then storms to Lance’s bedroom. He isn’t a patient person in general and particularly not now that he finally might have a break in Shiro’s disappearance.

He pushes the door open and turns on the light. Lance is curled up on the bed. He has headphones on and a sleep mask over his eyes despite having blackout curtains everywhere. Keith steels himself and walks over, gently grabbing Lance’s foot and shaking it. Lance doesn’t wake up. In fact, Keith realizes, Lance doesn’t even stir. He is completely still and silent no matter how hard Keith shakes him.

He puts a hand on his chest. There is no heartbeat, no rise and fall. Keith pulls off the sleep mask and headphones.

Lance, no two ways about it, looks like a corpse. An actual corpse. Someone who has actually died and isn’t bizarrely reanimated. There isn’t a smell, but pretty much every other sign is there. His skin is pale and clammy. His lips are blue. When Keith touches him, it doesn’t feel right. His body seems to be in rigor mortis.

Keith cringes and tries not to be creeped out. He had seen vampires and dead bodies in this condition before, but usually in different contexts. Not in a silent room with blackout curtains and the scariest vampire he has ever known lying in front of him. He shakes Lance harder, digging his hand into his shoulder. Still nothing. He slaps him lightly on the face. Nothing.

With a sigh, Keith leans his wrist in front of Lance’s face. He thinks his smell might wake him.  

Nothing.

He briefly lets himself wonder why he is having so much trouble waking Lance up. This isn’t normal, unless the vampire is unhealthy, which Lance is not, or hurt somehow. Which, Lance is not, at least when he dropped Keith off. He wonders what a “rough night” means for Lance. He had assumed she meant he worked after dropping Keith off, but work wouldn’t cause this.

He also realizes what he is probably going to have to do to wake Lance up and he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t like it at all.

He tells himself it is for Shiro though as he pulls out the knife he always keeps with him and pricks his finger lightly. Then, he squeezes one, single drop of blood into Lance’s mouth. Lance immediately stiffens up and then sleepily opens his eyes. He doesn’t register Keith at first, stretching slowly. If he didn’t currently look like an actual rotting corpse, then it might have been cute.

“I need your help,” Keith says.

Lance slowly turns his head to look at him and stares at him for a minute before his eyes snap open wide with recognition. He pushes Keith so hard that Keith slams backward onto his backside.  

“What the hell?”

Lance bares his teeth, for real this time, like a feral animal. Keith fumbles around for his knife that he dropped when falling and, when he can’t find it, pulls his gun instead. He had seen feral vampires before, but never Lance. Never even close with him. They usually only get this way when starved or near death. His heart is pounding and he wonders what could have possibly happened to throw Lance into this state.  

Lance hisses and grips the covers with his hands so tightly that the material rips under his fingernails. Muscles tensed, Keith sits on the ground, gun pointed, waiting for him to pounce.

Then he watches as Lance pulls the comforter over his head and huddles underneath it.

Keith gives himself a few moments to calm down, watching the unmoving Lance-sized bump in the bed.

“Lance?”

“GO AWAY!”

“Are…Are you mad I woke you up during the day?”

Lance whines.

Keith gets up and cautiously tugs at the comforter. “Are you kidding me? I almost shot you.”  

“I’M HIDEOUS. GO AWAY.”

“You are hideous?”

“I HAVEN’T EVEN SHOWERED YET!”

Keith swallows hard, caught somewhere between enraged at the vampire’s vanity and ecstatic that Lance is still rational. “You are worried about what you look like? You always look like a corpse to me, asshole.”

“No I don’t. I go through a lot of effort to make sure I don’t look like a corpse, thank you very much. I take care of my skin and…”

“Oh my god, shut up. I don’t care. Just come out. We need to talk.”

Lance finally peeks out. He still looks a little too dead for Keith’s comfort, but he tries not to let it show on his face. He cautiously sits next to Lance on the bed again and briefly summarizes the situation with the car and what type of help he wants.  

Lance grins and the appearance is a bit disturbing given how blue and stiff he looks. “I have someone who can do exactly what you want and we will be able to tell if there were vampires and possibly even which vampires. But, it isn’t like a bloodhound like you think. It is more, I don’t know, impressions? I am not very good at it really. One of my employees is though.”

“Great, when can we get them out to see the car?”

“Probably not until tomorrow night. She is doing something for me elsewhere right now. I can call her back right now, but it will take some time. She is also very sensitive to the sun so it is not possible for her to help during anything but complete dark.”

Keith groans. “She won’t make it by tonight?”

“No, sorry.”

“Fine, tomorrow night, I will meet you guys here and then drive you to our evidence yard.” Keith leaves out that they will likely have to break in.

Keith stands up, ready to leave when he feels an ice-cold hand grab his wrist.

“You think you are just walking out of here?”

“Why not?”

“You haven’t paid me.”

Keith pulls his hand away and fiddles with one of his gloves. “So….give me another hand job?”

Lance throws a pillow at him. “The terms have changed, you selfish prick. I want your blood.”

“No.”

“Then I am not giving you the services of my employee.”

“You gave me a choice last time.”

“I changed my mind. You woke me up in the middle of the day, you saw me like this, I had a bad night…”

Keith briefly considers asking him about it.

“So, right now, the deal is your blood. Or letting me into your head, but I am thinking that is a no.”

“Never. I will never let you in my head.”

“So that is a yes to your blood then?”

Keith paces and thinks how he can get out of this. “Are you sure you don’t want to have sex with me?”

“I do, but that isn’t part of the deal right now. Your blood or your mind.”

“Can I just slash my wrist and drip the blood into a cup and you can drink from the cup?”

“No, it doesn’t work that way.” Keith knows that vampires are very picky about the freshness of blood they drink. Something about the life force draining very quickly once it leaves a body.   

“Can I slash my wrist and then you lick the blood off me?”

“Keith, god no, I am not an animal. Just let me bite you. You let a bunch of other people bite you.”

“Does that bother you?”

“No, except for the fact that you won’t just let me…” Lance stands up, crossing the few feet between them and stroking his hand down Keith’s neck.

“Not my neck.” Keith shudders.

“Your thigh then?”

“Hell no.”

“There are only so many places we want to bite…It has to be a good source of blood, not like your pinky or something…”

“My wrist. Bite my wrist. That is my final offer.” He is desperate, but tells himself he will be able to handle one little bite on his wrist.

“Deal.” Lance smiles again and leads Keith back to the bed. Keith sits uneasily on the bed, cradling his arms close to his body.

“What’s wrong? I’ll be gentle.”

“I hate you.”

“Come on, baby. Don’t be like that.” Lance reaches over and takes his hand, pulling it up to his face.

Keith closes his eyes and waits.

Then he feels Lance’s tongue licking his wrist. Keith suppresses a shudder. His tongue is rough and dry and it doesn’t feel good.  

Being bitten by a vampire is a strange sensation. For someone who hasn’t experienced it, it is difficult to explain. It isn’t like what you might imagine being bitten by someone or something would feel like.

There is something about it that makes Keith feel like he is floating. It is like being dizzy, but in a good way. Keith likes it, a lot, and briefly wonders if he should have pushed harder for the sex option. Maybe he can’t handle just a little bite on his wrist.  

But then it is too late as he feels a gentle prick of pain.

Keith tries to get out of his head. He tries to be anywhere else other than in Lance’s bed allowing him to bite him.

But no matter how much Keith tries to retreat into his mind, he can’t deny it.

That his body missed this.

That he likes how it feels.

The numbness in his wrist quickly turns to the floating feeling that crowds his head. His stomach drops and he squirms a bit, feeling like there is an itch he just can’t scratch, just out of reach.

Lance uses his other hand to hold him steady.

He feels a pleasant haze, a warm aura overcome him, only punctuated by the little pricks of pain. Keith doesn’t mind. It is stronger than it has ever been before and he doesn’t mind that either. He knew it would be. Lance isn’t just any vampire. He is special and strong and Keith dips into the hazy space that overtakes him, forgetting why he fought against this in the first place.   

He isn’t how much time has passed when he opens his eyes with a jump and realizes that he had fainted.

Lance is licking his wrist again, slow, lazy movements. His tongue is wet and warm again. He also looks stunning. His skin is practically glowing, his eyes are sparkling. He is warm and alive again.  

He looks up when Keith opens his eyes. “Hi there.” His voice is low and husky. It is the type of voice you use when speaking to a lover, not someone you just blackmailed into shedding their blood for you.

Keith pulls his wrist away with a jerk and scuttles off the bed.

“Fuck you.”

“You are very, very sensitive, Keith. We are going to have some fun when you stop fighting me so much.”

Keith charges out of the room, blowing past an annoyed looking Acxa and storming out to his car.  

He drives home a bit too fast, gripping the steering wheel a bit too tightly. He pulls into a spot in his parking lot and sits for a moment. He had promised himself to never let a vampire bite him again. Why did he let Lance?

It is just for Shiro. He repeats it to himself. Just for Shiro. He shoots a quick text to Lance to confirm their meeting time tomorrow night.  

After he sends the text, he sees two men standing at the entry of the parking lot in his rearview mirror. He doesn’t think anything of it. There are many units in their complex and lots of people use the parking lot. He turns the car off, ready to go up to the house when he realizes the two men have separated, both walking toward his car, but from a flanked position.

Keith’s blood runs cold. It could be nothing, it really could be. They are just friends separating for the night. But, he feels little pin pricks that let him know that these are vampires, not humans. And their formation doesn’t look casual. It looks deliberate. He tightens his grip on the steering wheel, tense, and scared. He doesn’t want to admit it, but he is scared.

He looks in the mirror again, hoping to see some sign that he is being paranoid and overly cautious. Unfortunately, instead he sees one of them pull a gun from his waistband. Keith takes a long, shaky breath and puts his hand on his gun. He turns the car back on and puts it in reverse which has the immediate effect of making the vampires walk faster toward him.

He takes one more deep breath, thinking about just how much he absolutely fucking hates vampires, before pressing down the gas pedal, ready to fight for his life.   

Chapter Text

The two vampires are running toward him now and Keith pretends for a moment that he is just going to leave the parking lot before jerking the wheel and slamming down on the gas. The move works perfectly and he hits the vampire on his right with a satisfying crunch.

Unfortunately, the angle means that the vampire doesn’t go under the car like Keith had hoped. He wanted to pin one of them under the car or at least hurt it enough to keep it down until Keith could shoot it.

The vampires are shouting at each other now, but all Keith can hear is the blood rushing in his ears. He considers seriously just leaving the parking lot. It would be the smarter choice and he is only one human against two supernatural beings. In that split second of thought, the vampire to his left opens the passenger car door and reaches for him.

Keith unloads three or four shots into him until he forces himself to stop.

He only has 15 bullets and two vampires to kill. And to kill them he needs a pretty direct shot to the heart because vampires are like cockroaches. They don’t go down easily. They don’t die easily.

The vampire on that side collapses when Keith feels something grab his other arm from the driver’s side, right next to him. The vampire to the right is already standing after being hit by the car and is trying to force him out of the car. Keith calms himself, pointing the gun directly in the vampire’s face and pulling the trigger.  

Vampires are tough to take down, but not invincible and the vampire collapses beside the car. Keith jumps out, pointing the gun down at the vampire, directly at his heart when something smacks him. He realizes he left the car in reverse and it is rolling down the parking lot with the driver’s door open.

He winces, praying that no one is near them at this moment as he watches his car drift away. The vampire underneath him grabs his leg at the same time that he sees the other one rising and running at him.

Keith takes a deep breath.

And decides to even the playing field.

He places his boot on the vampire’s abdomen, forcing his back down to the asphalt of the parking lot. He is grateful that the vampire is in an awkward position and injured from the gun shot to the head. Another moment or two and it would have the upper hand again, being much stronger. But all Keith needs is this moment.  He pulls the trigger three times. It is the third shot that does the trick and his foot suddenly sinks into the decaying and now finally dead body underneath him.

He then immediately drops his shoulder, trying to circle out of the path of the other vampire that he can see out of the corner of his eye.  

The remaining vampire stumbles, hissing, but the move doesn’t entirely work. The vampire grabs the collar of his jacket and drags him to the ground. Keith covers his face as the punches come, knowing that he cannot afford to lose consciousness.  

Keith takes a few wild shots, not good ones admittedly, especially not for someone who has limited ammo. It gives him what he needs though. The vampire backs up as one of the shots strikes him in the shoulder.

Keith kicks him off, dragging himself to his feet and pointing the gun again, firing at his chest.  

The vampire starts toward him, then stills and drops to his knees.

However, his gun clicks empty and the vampire is not rotting. He was never the absolute best shot in the world and it is extremely difficult to hit a moving vampire directly in the heart.  

He reaches behind him, looking to grab his trusty dagger. In some ways, he is even better with it than his gun. His fingers find nothing though. He gasps, realizing that somewhere along the line it must have been taken from him or jostled free from his waist.  

Then Keith is running. He prays that he had injured the vampire enough to give himself some time. Just a little bit of time. He approaches his front door, suddenly hating the lock that is keeping him from safety. He thanks god that Shiro convinced him to allow him to put a spare key in the plant outside their door. His own key is somewhere with his car that might still be rolling down the road for all Keith knows. With shaking hands, he digs the key out of the dirt and unlocks the door. He barely swings it open when strong hands drag him to the ground again. He fights, kicking and squirming, knowing that he is so close to winning this fight. He reaches for just inside the door, near where Shiro keeps his umbrella and finds what he needs.

The vampire is on top of him, angry.

“Goddamn, I am going to enjoy every second of sucking you dry,” The vampire above him says. Keith allows himself to be flipped, letting the vampire lean down over him, barely seeing a pair of handcuffs in the vampire’s hands. Then he takes the stake and drives it upward, not stopping until the light in the vampire’s eyes dies and he goes limp on top of him. A second later, Keith feels the distinctive rot dripping on him.

He is shaking so hard he can barely crawl from underneath the corpse. He can already hear a siren in the background though and silently thanks whatever neighbor already called the cops. He sits and waits for them, momentarily catching his breath while listening to the siren get louder and louder.

***********

Five minutes of pure adrenaline and fighting for his life is followed by an entire day of waiting and impatience. His own people show up and then he is strongly encouraged (forced) to go to the doctor. His head is bleeding just a little bit from when he was dragged down by the one vampire. So he goes, smiles at a doctor, and gets out of there as quickly as possible.

Then, he spends many hours answering questions, describing what happened, and dealing with paperwork. Thankfully, no one else had been dragged into the situation except for some minimal car damage. His insurance is already involved and Keith honestly can’t bring himself to care that much as soon as he knows no one was injured. There are more important things to worry about right now and he wants to be done with the formalities.

In all honesty, he wants to talk to Lance.

When he finally thinks it is over, he is told that he needs to stay with a friend as well as have an escort, at least for now. And Keith gets it, but he wants to go home and start figuring things out.  Though he tells them that he thinks it was just random violence and not targeted, he believes the exact opposite. He knows this was about Shiro.

Pidge offers to escort him home and then they agree that a squad car will drive by every hour. Keith accepts this compromise and suffers through a painful car ride home with Pidge. She is silent and he knows she thinks that his dealings with Lance are the reason for the attack. She offers to see him inside and won’t be persuaded to just leave so Keith lets her into the house. He is only one step inside the dark house when someone grabs him, pulling him close. He sees Pidge’s gun being drawn out of the corner of his eye, but he already knows what type of visit this is.

“It’s Lance! Pidge, stand down.”

Lance pulls him close, sticking his nose in his hair and smelling.

“Lance, you stop too,” Keith says and tries to push Lance away. It is like trying to push a brick wall though.

Then he feels Lance running his hands over his body, under his clothes. He struggles, but Lance is much stronger.

“Keith, what is happening?” Pidge asks, sounding strained.

“Did they hurt you?” Lance asks, finally speaking.

“No.”

“Liar.”

Pidge turns on the lights and awkwardly stands while Lance looks at the bruises and cuts, cataloging them, a mournful look on his face.

“I’ve failed you.” He whispers.

“So, uh, are you guys…together?” She asks.

“No. It’s not like that. Listen, why don’t you head home and I will see you later? I will call…”

Pidge stares at him angrily.

“Please, Pidge? Just trust me this one time. It is fine. Lance won’t hurt me.”

It takes a few more reassurances before Pidge finally leaves.

As soon as she is gone, Lance is dragging him toward the living room, still not allowing Keith any space.

“Lance, stop.”

“Did they bite you?”

“No.”

Once inside the living room, he jumps to see Acxa sitting on the couch, looking bored.

“Acxa…”

“Hi,” She responds.  

Lance pulls him to the other side of the couch, trying to pull him down into his lap. Keith huffs and pulls out his dagger, the one he recovered from the parking lot, and pushes Lance again.

“Lance, I swear to god, I am not in the mood to be touched right now.”

Lance wilts a bit, but accepts it, letting Keith put some distance between them. “I’m just worried about you.”

“I am fine. Look at me. Fine.”

“Tell me exactly what happened. We have a lot to discuss.”

“I was attacked and I killed them both.” Keith sees a flare of pride in Lance’s eyes.

“They didn’t want to kill me though. It wasn’t an assassination. I know that for sure. They were armed, but never shot at me.”

“That could mean a number of things…” Lance says.

“I think it means Shiro is alive. They clearly wanted me for some reason having to do with him.”

“Or they were going to use you against me. Or someone else really wants your blood. I mean, you basically have gourmet blood, Keith.”

Lance runs a lingering hand down Keith’s face before being smacked away again.

“So what do we do now? Have you contacted that guy we were supposed to meet?”

Lance and Acxa share a knowing look.  

“We will figure it out, but without you. Things have changed now. This is out of your hands. You won’t be involved for your own protection,” Lance says.

“I was just attacked. You can’t take this out of my hands.”

“I am going to protect you now. I am going to kill every person who is a threat to you.”

“Fine, whatever. But I am still involved here. I don’t trust you with this, with Shiro.”

“It would be safer…”

“What did you mean when you said that things have changed now anyway?” Keith interrupts.  

“You being attacked by vampires is a declaration of war against me.”

“Why?”

“It is basically an attack on my property.”

Keith glares at him. “I am not your property.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it that way. I meant that it was an attack against someone that belongs to me.”

“That isn’t any better.”

“Something that is mine?”

“I wish you were dead.”

“Can we focus?” Acxa cuts in, clearly annoyed.  

Keith sighs. “Let’s go back to this being a declaration of war?”

“Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows that I have claimed you as my own. You even wore my symbol. That means you are under my protection and an attack on you is an attack on me.”

“What if it was just some rogue attack?”  

“There are not many of those attacks in vampire society. See, we are responsible for those under us. I am the master vampire of this area. All vampires under me are considered my responsibility. That doesn’t mean that occasionally people don’t go rogue, but there are strict rules about this type of stuff. It can be tricky because our populations have grown to where I don’t personally know every vampire considered in my clan, my region. But, even so, there are rules and the result of breaking those rules is death.”

“So every time a vampire attacks a human it is war between vampire clans?”

“No. You aren’t a human. You are my human. And, sometimes war can be avoided depending on how the master vampire decides to act. Like, it can be avoided, but the death of the vampires in question is a given. I would also expect at the very least a public apology to you. And groveling. Lots of groveling. Maybe even some other reparations. God, I haven’t thought about this a lot. For most of my existence, I was under my maker and it was not an issue because no one messes with her.”

“So they aren’t…vampires from around here. The ones who attacked me?”

“Not mine. Unfortunately, we don’t know whose they are which points to a different problem.”

He nods at Acxa.

“In our investigation so far, we found that these vampires are off the books. We do not know what their clan is or if they even have one.”

“What does that mean?”

“It either means that a current master vampire is keeping vampires off the books to do stuff that would cause a war otherwise, like this, or it means that there is a new master vampire somewhere,” Acxa responds.  

“I feel like it is the first one. A new master vamp would be letting themselves known, getting ready for a challenge. Not sending goons after my human,” Lance says.

“Stop saying that,” Keith sneers.

“Whatever. You know what I mean.” Lance rolls his eyes.  

“So what is the next step?”

“Lance doesn’t want to admit that you are right, but I personally think this has something to do with Shiro. It just seems like too much of a coincidence. Anyway, what I mean is that we should still let our person look over Shiro’s wrecked car and see what they notice. I think they will end up confirming it is vampires though,” Acxa says.  

Lance shrugs. “It is possible, but I am not ruling out some sort of retaliation for me killing Nyma. Which means I have work to do today.”

“What does that mean?”

Acxa steps forward.

“It doesn’t matter. You should be packing your bags.”

“What?”

“You are coming to stay with me from here on out,” Lance says.

“You think I would agree to stay in your house?” Keith laughs.

“I have a bunch of bedrooms. You don’t have to stay in my room.”

“I am not falling asleep with you anywhere near me.”

Lance sighs. “What if Acxa stays here with you?”

“I don’t want her near me either. What part of I hate vampires don’t you get?”

Lance is quiet for a moment, then stands up, leaning over Keith and caging him in with his arms. Keith feels an immense pressure pushing him down and goes still.  

“Listen, sweetie, I am trying to be patient, but being stubborn isn’t going to keep you alive. I have given you two choices. Choose one.”

Keith considers arguing, but knows that Lance won’t give this up. “Acxa can stay here.”

“Done.”

The tension is cut with a knock on the door.  

Lance nods at Acxa, telling her to open the door. Keith tenses, unsure who it could be. He doesn’t think Pidge would be back.

He doesn’t know who he is expecting to see when the door swings open, but it isn’t Lotor.

Lotor looks equally surprised to see Acxa. “Uh, Acxa…is Keith…”

“Lotor!” Keith yells. Anger he didn’t realize he still had bubbles up.   

Lotor steps inside. “Keith?” he ask before stopping abruptly when he sees Lance.

They all stand for a moment, looking at each other, and Keith gets the unpleasant feeling that he is missing something.   

“You guys know each other right?” Keith asks. He knows that Lotor recommended Lance, but in hindsight he had never confirmed why he recommended Lance or how they know each other.

“Yes, somewhat…I am in his clan but we have only met a few times.”

“Yeah, you are Lotor right?” Lance scratches the back of his neck.

“Yeah, Lotor.” They shake hands before Lotor retreats back to the other side of the room.

“What are you doing here?” Keith asks.

“You were attacked by vampires. If he knew I wasn’t looking out for you he would hate me.”

“I’m fine.”

“Are you sure? Do you need anything?”

“Funny you seem to care now when you have been absent for the last month.”

“You ignored all my phone calls.”

“Do you even care where the investigation with Shiro is going?”

“Of course. You don’t know everything Keith and you don’t know what…”

“I think Keith is tired and needs to rest,” Lance cuts in.

Lotor backs off immediately, dropping his head. “Right, I am sorry. Please call me if you need anything Keith.”

“Lotor…” Keith walks toward him. He isn’t sure why, but he feels like he needs to talk to him more. That they are connected through Shiro even if he hates Lotor. Or maybe even some part of him knows he has been unfair to Lotor.  

But he is gone, waving at Keith and all but running out the door.

“What was that?” Keith asks.

“Acxa, do you want to go check out your room? I believe they have an office with a daybed that will work for you,” Lance says, ignoring Keith’s question.

She leaves just as abruptly and then it is just him and Lance.

Lance turns toward him.

“This would all be easier if you would just let me take care of you.”

“I don’t need anyone to take care of me.”

“You can’t do everything alone.”

“That still doesn’t mean I need you.”

“But, the next set of vampires may be stronger or catch you off your game…”

“I will kill anyone who stands in the way of me finding Shiro. I don’t care how strong they are.”

Lance moves closer, suddenly right in front of Keith.

“You put my…your necklace on your nightstand.”

“So?”

“I expected you to throw it out or put it somewhere neutral. A nightstand is intimate, where you keep important stuff. Right next to where you sleep.”

“You are reaching.”

“It made me happy to see it there.”

Lance is pulling him close again.

“Kiss me.”

“Hell no.”

“I won’t make you pay for my next bit of help. The kiss will be my next payment.”

“Really?”

“Yes. But, I get to control the kiss.”

“Fine.” It seems like a great compromise. He wants to avoid letting Lance bite him again. A kiss is just a kiss. It doesn’t have to mean anything at all.  

Lance steps close, gently kissing him at first. Then, it deepens, gentle pressure, a swipe of Lance’s tongue against his mouth. He has one hand wrapped in Keith’s hair and the other strokes down his arm. It is passionate in a way that makes Keith blush and feel warm. He opens his mouth a bit, tilting his head into the kiss.   

It’s nice.

It feels right.

Then it is over.

“I have a lot to do tonight so I should go. Call me if you need anything at all even if you just need to talk, ok? And Acxa is one of my best so she will know if you try to sneak out on her or something. Just warning you.”

Then Lance is gone, leaving Keith standing numbly in his living room.

Chapter Text

Lance isn’t kidding when he says Acxa is going to watch him closely. The stone-faced vampire appears immediately after Lance leaves and then follows Keith everywhere, keeping an eye on him no matter where he moves. She stays out of his way for the most part, but she is always there.

She doesn’t want him shutting any doors and Keith considers being petty and going to his bedroom and masturbating or walking around completely naked, but takes the high road instead and mostly tries to research, attempting to put together the pieces of the puzzle that is right in front of him, but still frustratingly just out of reach.

In his insistence that a vampire did something to Shiro, he never stopped to consider why. It is true that it would be exceedingly rare for a vampire to go after someone as high profile as Shiro. People would miss Shiro and not so much homeless teenagers like Keith once was. Keith wonders if Shiro figured something out that put him at risk and even stoops to look through Shiro’s personal belongings. They had already looked through his work office, but Keith feels bad rifling through his nightstand and dresser.

He finds nothing of interest until he sees a small corner of a sheet of folded paper hidden underneath the base of his bedside lamp. However, when he opens it, he just finds a note from Lotor.

I had a lot of fun today. Hope we can see each other again soon!

Love,

Lotor

There is a kiss next to the Love, Lotor part that looks like Lotor had put on lipstick just to kiss the paper. Keith grits his teeth and puts it back, trying to ignore Acxa’s presence in the hallway.  

It is when he tries to go to the bathroom and Axca doesn’t want him shutting the door that he can’t take it anymore.

“You can’t just do this. You can make me a prisoner in my own home,” he snaps at her, trying to shut the door.  

“I don’t care what you think I can or can’t do. I was given orders by Lance. His orders are to keep you safe, not make you happy,” she responds nonchalantly, easily keeping the door open with her foot.  

“I will call the cops on you guys.”

“Yes, go ahead and do that and watch Lance withdraw all help. Good luck finding Shiro by yourself.”

Keith considers his options, considering fighting or running, but eventually accepts the situation for what it is, awkwardly relieving himself where he knows she can hear and see. He takes petty comfort in the fact that she is spending her day listening to him piss and watching him read love letters from Lotor.

Night comes slowly, but eventually the sun goes down and Lance arrives with an obnoxious honk of his horn. Keith slides into the backseat once realizing that there is another vampire in the front seat. She is wearing dark glasses that cover most of her face and a sparkly black hoodie with the hood up, covering most of her head. The hoodie has little cat ears on it.  

“Hi, I am Keith.” He gets in and tries to smile. She looks in his direction, but doesn’t respond.

“Narti says hi. She is mute and blind though. I will help translate,” Lance says.

“Oh… but how is she going to...”

“Did you think she was going to like…look for clues? Vampires use different methods, Keith. Trust me, she is the best in the world for this job.”

There is a moment of silence where Narti tilts her head in Lance’s direction.

He snorts. “Right, Narti?” Lance laughs and Narti doesn’t make a sound, but her shoulders shake like she is laughing too.

“What did she say?”

“Oh nothing,” Lance responds, waving his hand in the air. Keith sinks down in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest.  

They stop by the evidence yard first to see the car. It takes breaking at least 6 policies and two laws to get the two of them inside the evidence yard, but Keith figures he is in too deep now to back out.

She only gets in the car for a moment before stepping away and looking at Lance.

“Ok, she says the only vampire she senses in here is Lotor. There is a lot of Lotor in there.”

Keith bristles. “Does that mean…”

“No. They were dating. Lotor was in his car a lot. Narti says she doesn’t feel like a struggle happened here anyway.”

“Shiro’s blood is all over the seat.”

Lance shrugs. “Maybe from the accident? I think she will be able to tell more from the actual crash site.”

Keith knows the site of the crash like the back of his hand by now. He leads them there easily, parking on the side of the road and making their way down a small path near an access road. Then, a separate path takes them through a wooded area to the place where Shiro’s car came to rest after leaving the road. Keith stands quietly in the dark, watching as Narti kneels and does whatever Lance says she can do, previously described as “sensing life essences.”

It is very dark except for a bright moon above them casting an eerie light through the trees. There is a gentle breeze blowing over them. Keith shivers a bit and not just from the cold. He can see the ruts from Shiro’s car on the ground. He knows Shiro’s blood is still there. He imagines Shiro hurting, trying to crawl his way out of the car, his blood soaking into the soil. He looks out into the forest, wondering with an aching heart if he would ever actually see Shiro again.

Lance and Narti come together again, confer silently, and then walk over.

“Narti says that there are definitely vampire scents here. At least two and not mine or Lotor. Also he didn’t walk into the woods. He was taken in some other type of vehicle and probably went up the path we just walked. Not a car but something else. Maybe a four wheeler or ATV or something.”

Keith is silent for a moment. It is what he has wanted to hear for a long time and emotions flood through him. He takes a step forward and gets in Lance’s face.

“How does she know that? Where was he taken? Which direction? Was it the same vamps that attacked me? Who would have a four wheeler just sitting here? Could it be someone who owns a farm around here?”

Lance holds his hands up. “I said she is mute and blind, not inanimate. Ask her those questions.”

Keith sighs deeply and then turns back so that he is facing Narti too. “I’m sorry. Can you tell me anything else, directions, which vamps they were…”

Narti nods and looks back over to Lance.

“Ok…Ok…that direction.” Lance points to the side. “The trail drifts off close to the access road though. Maybe put in another vehicle at that point? They were not the same vampires. She thinks…”

Lance trails off.

“She thinks what?”

“Listen Keith…”

“Don’t do this. Tell me what she thinks.”

“You have to be calm though and not do something stupid and impulsive. We are working on it, ok?”

Keith nods furiously.

“She thinks, but cannot confirm, that one of them is a Galra vampire. Maybe both, but at least one.”

Keith nods to himself. His brain is rattling through the new information, trying to grasp the implications. But, first there is really only one question that truly matters. He walks up to Narti, putting a hand on her arm.

“Was he…alive? Was he alive when they drove off with him?” he asks, fighting the small wobble making its way into his voice.

She nods vigorously, then looks toward Lance again.

“She says his essence is quite strong and that he was even fighting at one point. If they just wanted him dead, I think they would have done it right away. In fact, she would even guess that the accident caused almost all of his injuries so they were being careful with him. We guess they wanted him alive for some reason.”

Keith sighs in relief, a weight lifted off his chest. “I hope he took a few of those bastards out,” he murmurs into the night air.  

They make their way back to Lance’s car, Keith deep in thought. Narti offers him the front seat this time which he takes. There is a lot to process, but despite the new information about Shiro something else is bothering him. He glances at Lance beside him as he drives back onto the main road.

Lance seems off. Quieter than usual, paler than usual. Even a bit fidgety. He had barely flirted with Keith which Keith doesn’t mind, but it is a change in behavior.

“You look sick,” he finally says.  

“Worried about me, eh?” Lance grins at him.

“You are lying to me about something. Or hiding something.”

Lance is silent.

“I mean, it’s not like it is a surprise that vampires are liars but you claim to…to want me…to be your boyfriend or partner or something. You need to be honest with me.”

“There isn’t much to tell…”

“Why aren’t you sleeping? What are you doing when you leave me?”

“Well, if you forgot, I am the Master of this area. I have shit to do that doesn’t concern you or Shiro.”

“You are deflecting. Please, Lance?” Keith tries to make his voice as soft as possible. He doesn’t care about Lance or his health, but Lance’s behavior may be connected to Shiro and pretending to care seems to do the trick.

Lance pouts and Keith almost thinks it is cute.  

“Fine. I will say I suspected the Galra before Narti confirmed it and not just because of rumors.”

Keith sits forward violently.

“If you have information about Shiro I swear to god…”

“I don’t. Not about him exactly. It’s complicated. I know you are focused on Shiro and I get it, but all of this goes beyond just Shiro.”

“What does that mean?”

“I am trying to avoid a full out war with the Galra. If they are taking humans from my area though, then that may no longer be possible.”

“Why do I care about that?”

“Lots of people might die in a Galra take over, Keith. And when I say people I do not just mean vampires.”

“Ok, so we just need to take the Galra out.”

Lance barks with laughter. “Yes, why didn’t I think of that, just take them all out! All our problems are solved!”

“Fuck off.”

“They are powerful and I am not sure we would win a war. I am trying to figure out exactly what is happening before making any decisions. I have a good relationship with them right now, but I know they don’t take me seriously, which is a problem.”

“Why don’t they take you seriously?”

“Too many memes on my twitter? My yoga pants? The fact that I am a modern vampire rather than someone who still lives in a mansion with gargoyles? They are very traditional and take themselves very seriously. I know they think of me as a kid, which is funny because I am older than the leaders of their clan.”

“In vampire years…”

“Yes. I am older than Honerva by nearly a hundred years.”

Keith is surprised. He had previously thought she would be older. “Is she the master?”

“No, that would be Zarkon though they really co-rule. He is the vamp we are supposed to meet but it isn’t going to happen because I am not letting you anywhere near that creep.”

 “I can handle myself.”

“Yes, Keith, we get it, you are tough and can do everything by yourself, but Zarkon is extremely strict about vampire-human relations. He would be angry that you are in the front seat right now over Narti. I do not trust meeting him together and he would expect you to be punished if you slipped up. You would not like the punishment. I will meet him alone.”

“But…”

“There is more. I think we have a spy on our side reporting to the Galra.”

Keith pauses. “A spy?”

“Yes, I have reason to believe that.”

Keith looks back at Narti. “What if it is her?”

Narti’s shoulders shake again and Lance laughs along with her.

“It isn’t Narti. We wouldn’t normally be upfront about this information, but I am her maker and we are very closely connected to one another psychically. It is very difficult to betray your maker and hide that you have done so. Not impossible, but usually the maker can sense it.”

Keith nods. “So you think it is not a vampire you have made?”

“Yes. Which doesn’t narrow it down that much because I haven’t made that many vampires myself.”

Keith’s phone flashes and he is momentarily distracted by a new text message. The text comes from an unknown number and contains some coordinates and a time for later tonight.

“Who is that?” Lance asks.

“Just Pidge,” Keith responds, hiding the phone screen. “Now, tell me more about the Galra and why they would have taken Shiro.”    

Lance has apparently said all he wants to say though and the only other information Keith gets reads like a history book of when the Galra clan was established and such. When they arrive at his house, they walk into the living room to see Ezor standing there instead of Acxa.

“Ezor is your new babysitter. Play nice, ok?”

“Keith! Do you have cable?” She asks, sprawling across the couch.  

Ezor spends the next hour on his couch eating an entire bag of potato chips and slamming Keith’s Mountain Dew, an unfortunate bad habit drink of his. She chatters about renovations being done to Lance’s house and how she doesn’t get how he survives without cable, but Keith can’t stop thinking about the coordinates.

He isn’t stupid. He realizes that it may be a trap of sorts. But, another part of him cannot help but think maybe Shiro is at these coordinates.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” he says abruptly, making up his mind.  

She gets up and starts to follow.

“Uh, you don’t want to do that. I am not peeing...” he hopes she gets his implication.  

“Gross. Just hurry back.” She slouches back on the couch.

Keith makes his way to the bathroom, shuts the door behind him and promptly climbs out the window. He thanks god they are one of the few bathrooms he has ever seen that has a large, easy to open window. It seemed weird to him at first because who wants a big window right where private stuff happens, but he is grateful for it now. Once outside the window, he slips down to the outside storage located next to the house and then finally to the ground.

Then he is gone and it almost seems too easy. He drives away quickly, putting some distance between him and Ezor before pulling over to put the coordinates into his phone. He realizes that the coordinates are a set of semi-abandoned warehouses wedged to the immediate North of the area where Shiro crashed and his heart picks up. Shiro feels closer than he has in months now.

He is smart though and parks far away from the warehouses, choosing not to use any of the parking lots nearby. Instead, he swings behind them, approaching from the woods that would face immediately behind the warehouses. In an abundance of caution, he swings pretty far out and ends up walking for quite some time in the dark woods with only his phone to help guide him. He keeps one hand on his dagger.   

As he approaches, he hears some music playing. When he gets closer, he can see that there are people and vampires milling around. Some are surrounding a fire pit in an open area behind one of the warehouses. Others are casually standing around the tree line smoking cigarettes. He stays behind a cluster of trees and watches.  

It unmistakably looks like a party. He wishes he had binoculars from work. He isn’t sure why someone would want him to come to a vampire party, but he is sure there is something he is meant to see or do. 

Keith’s nose twitches. He wonders if Lance is here. Wonders if Lance is telling him the truth or not about the situation and why he is so tired lately. He observes for a few minutes, vaguely recognizing some of the vampires from the Galra party he had attended before with Lance. 

Then he sees something that makes his stomach drop. He presses a hand to his mouth, taking a moment to process. He has to get closer. He has to make sure he saw what he thinks he saw. He creeps closer, using trees as cover and then some boxes laying haphazardly around the area. He finally gets as close as he dares, peeping out from behind a box.

He is desperately looking into the crowd when a large hand suddenly comes down on his shoulder.

“Are you lost, little one?”

Keith looks up in horror, immediately recognizing the awful vampire, Sendak, from the party before.

“Are you one of the party favors? She really spoils us, doesn’t she?” He hovers over Keith.  “Wait, aren’t you Lance’s little pet?”

Keith trembles. It only takes a second for him to sense that there is no way he is walking away from a fight with Sendak with just his dagger. His power borderline rivals Lance’s.

His hesitance costs him as Sendak grips both of his wrists tightly and pushes him back against the boxes. He would break his arms before breaking this grip.

“Answer me. Why are you here?”

“Lance got tired of me,” Keith blurts out.  

There is a moment of silence as Sendak searches his face and then laughter.

“And you are such a little vamp slut that you came to us? I know Lance is too much of a prude to actually sell you to us.”

Keith swallows, eyes darting around.

“Don’t worry. I will take care of you.” 

With one massive hand on the back of his neck and another gripping his wrist, Keith is forced toward the party, forced to walk directly into the nest of partying vampires.

Chapter Text

There is a moment of blind panic as Sendak drags Keith into the middle of the party. Away from the safety of darkness and the trees, he is suddenly thrust into the middle of everything. There are tons of vampires milling around, noises, music, talking. He reaches for his dagger, expecting something to happen immediately. The wrong person would recognize him. Sendak would attack him. That they would immediately know that he isn’t actually one of the “party favors.” He briefly considers trying to cause a diversion by throwing someone into the bonfire or something and then running.  

But, the seconds tick by and Sendak is actually talking to some other vampire about lab supplies. Keith slowly, slowly relaxes. Maybe the vampire had believed his story about Lance.

No one really even seems to give him a second glance. It is much like the party at the mansion where they had treated him like a second class citizen, like something so lowly that he doesn’t even deserve to be noticed or spoken to. This is fine. Keith can work with that. In fact, there is even something freeing about being beneath notice. He thinks he will be able to use that to escape.   

Sendak keeps a firm hand on Keith though, first on the back of his neck before slowly moving downward. He rubs between his shoulder blades for a moment before setting his hand on the small of his back. Keith swallows hard at the feeling of his hand, but still feels like he is in control of the situation. He can’t just fight his way out, but all he needs to do is play it cool and then wait for the right moment to run away or kill Sendak. It may even be as easy as excusing himself to the bathroom. As far as he knows, Galra vampires don’t usually kill their humans.

Besides, he has more important things to worry about at the moment. Like, confirming if he really saw who he thinks he saw earlier. Sendak pulls him closer, throwing a meaty arm over his shoulders, but Keith ignores it and, as subtly as possible, cranes his head in the opposite direction toward the doors of the warehouse on the left.

Then he finally confirms it. Someone walks away, freeing his line of sight. Long, white blonde hair. A tall athletic body.

Lotor.

Lotor sitting and chatting with the Galra inner circle. Laughing. Putting his hand on Honerva’s arm. Keith’s head is spinning, trying to explain Lotor’s presence here. For all he knows, he is here as an ambassador of Lance’s.

However, there is a young looking human on his arm, maybe Keith’s age, but probably even younger. The boy’s eyes look dead and there are visible bite marks on his bare neck.  

Keith feels sick. Lotor throws his head back, laughing loudly and patting the boy at his side on the head. Honerva laughs back and it feels wrong. This doesn’t feel like an ambassador situation.

He can’t do anything right now, but he feels like his every instinct about Lotor is true. That he is a piece of shit. That he did something to Shiro. Keith knows in his bones that the answer to what happened with Shiro lies with the Galra. Lotor shouldn’t be here buddying up with them in a party like this. A party in the woods away from civilization, away from pretending to be human. This isn’t some official party in a mansion between political ambassadors. It is off the books, seedy, shady. Lotor shouldn’t be here.

He wonders if Lotor is the spy working against Lance or if Lance is working more closely with the Galra than previously indicated. Maybe he is playing Keith along with Lotor. He knows that the two of them had been hiding something from him earlier.

Keith looks at the youth on Lotor’s arm again and wants to stab the vampire immediately. How he could do this when he claimed to love Shiro, when he claimed not to be one of those vampires. How could Shiro be such a bad judge of character?

Keith steadies his breathing. He reminds himself that he can’t do anything right now, but that as soon as he can, he will. He will save the young boy. He will kill Lotor. He will take down every godforsaken vampire in the country.

Keith looks around the party again and notices other humans dotted throughout the groups of vampires. They are all being dragged around as well, looking more like corpses than even the vampires. The gears are turning in Keith’s head. He feels like what he is seeing here is somehow directly connected to Shiro.

He winces as he sees one that could not be above 15 years old. There is another one being fed on in the corner by two vampires at the same time.

All the while, the vampires around them laugh and joke and talk like this is normal. Like it isn’t disgusting. He reaches for his dagger again, barely being able to stop himself. He can’t take them all out right now.

Keith’s attention is dragged away by Sendak, who reaches up and starts petting his hair. Keith cringes, but manages to stop himself from flinching away. He has to wait for the right moment to make a break for it. He just has to wait for his chance.  

Bits and pieces of the conversation start to reach Keith.

“Right? We are almost there.”

“It is only a matter of time now.”

Then Sendak is waving the other vampire off. A firm hand is on the back of his neck again, forcing him to walk. Keith can’t see Lotor anymore, but quickly stops looking the further Sendak leads him away. A stab of fear runs through him as he is led away from the main party. The vampires and people start to thin out as he is led toward the back of one of the buildings. Again, he reassures himself that everything is fine and he has control of the situation. Even if Sendak gets him alone, he will be able to stab him, kill him, and then run. Maybe being isolated would even make that easier to do.

“Do you know who I am?” Sendak asks, breaking the silence.

“Sendak…a Galra…vampire…”

“Yes, but what else?”

“I don’t know…” Keith tenses. He understands that there is something deeper going on here, that maybe he should know who Sendak is.  

“I am a high-ranking commander, First in Command to Emperor Zarkon, with over a hundred years of experience as a soldier. Do you know what that means?”

“You are a big deal?”

Sendak laughs. “Yes. I am also not an idiot.”

In one swift movement, Keith’s dagger is gone, clutched in Sendak’s huge hand. He impulsively reaches for it, but Sendak holds it above his head. There is a humiliating moment where Sendak plays keep away with him. Keith stops, throwing a punch into Sendak’s side. He might as well have tried to punch a brick wall though. Sendak laughs again and tightens his grip on the back of Keith’s neck to the point that it starts to hurt. With a flick of his wrist, he throws the dagger far into dark woods. Keith starts to move toward it, but Sendak grips him all the tighter. He forces them to continue walking, dragging Keith’s feet when he refuses to walk himself.  

“So, did Lance let you keep a special vampire weapon like that in your jacket?”

“He gave it to me.” The lie somehow comes easily, grasping to maintain some sort of advantage.

“He did? And you kept it and brought it here?”

“I…”

“You are lying. I see two options here. You are working for Lance and he thought that you could gather information or take at least one of us out. Or, Lance really did ditch you and you want to gain back his favor by gathering information or taking one of us out. So, which one is it?”

“I…”

“It doesn’t matter either way really. You coming here with a weapon specially made to kill us…that is a grievous crime that Lance has committed.”

“Lance has nothing to do with this.”

“But he does. You are his, are you not? Yet, you come here with a dagger that you claim he gave to you?”

“I lied, he didn’t.”

Sendak laughs again. “I will be honest with you. We are pretty much looking for any reason to take him out anyway. Honerva thinks we may be able to get him to work for us or force him to work for us, but I say why take the chance? Why not just take him out and put one of us in his position?”

Keith struggles, but he might as well be trying to wrestle a bear. Sendak’s grip keeps him still.

“He is a stupid little shit of a vampire anyway. I can’t wait to watch him die. And with this, I have a reason to push for that again. Him sending his human here, armed, is an attack upon our Empire and Emperor Zarkon. A direct attack, one that calls for immediate action, I would say.”

They reach a door at the back of the warehouse. Sendak opens it and then opens another small door inside a hallway. That door opens into a small, dusty room. The room has a bed in the corner and not much else. Keith locks his knees, trying to back away. Sendak grabs him, picking him up and tossing him on the bed like he weighs nothing.

“Do you want to know why I dislike Lance so much? It really has to do with you or at least what you represent.”

“I don’t care you fucking asshole.” Keith tries to stand up, but is immediately pushed back. Sendak shuts the door behind him. Keith trembles. Sendak’s size overwhelms the space and Keith isn’t armed anymore.

“See, he has this stupid idea that we should live as equals with humans. That we should work together with them. It is shameful, embarrassing. Beneath his status as a master vampire. Because we are not equals, me and you.”

Keith opens his mouth only to feel Sendak grab the bottom of his face. Keith tries to twist out of it, but can’t shake the hand off of him. Sendak’s fingers dig into face, making Keith whimper.   

“Did I tell you to speak? That is the problem. Humans are our livestock. They are here for us to use. Not our equals. It makes me sick that you think that you have the right to look me in the eye, to look at me like I am the one who is dirt.”

Keith squirms, starting to realize that he is not, in fact, in control of what is happening.

“The Galra Empire will rise. We will control the world. We will, once and for all, subjugate humans to where they belong. But for tonight, little one, I will just subjugate you.”

Keith bites at his hand, frantic now.

“When I am done with you, you will understand your place in the world. You are here for us to use. You are weak, an animal, and we are evolved beyond you. You are nothing. I will break you and then you will take your place in the Galra Empire as ours to use as we like.”

He tries to punch him, kick him, hurt him in any way he can. Sendak doesn’t even acknowledge it as he, quite literally, rips Keith’s shirt off his body. Then he lays down on Keith, pinning his body to the bed with his weight. He stops for a moment to tilt Keith’s head back and forth while holding his chin.

“You have beautiful skin, you know that? I am going to ruin a lot of it, but we won’t touch your face. It would be a shame to ruin that face. So pretty.” He leans forward, licking a strip up Keith’s face.

Keith wants to puke. “You fucking…guh…”  

And then he is being bitten.

Keith can admit that he likes being bitten by vampires. He knows that they use some kind of trick to make it feel pleasant and not painful, but Keith probably likes it more than most people even keeping that in mind. He has come to accept it about himself.

But this. This is unbearably painful. Sendak uses none of the charms typically used to lessen the pain for humans being bitten. He screams as Sendak’s teeth dig into his shoulder and neck. It is less like being bitten and more like being eaten. He can actually feel his fangs drag against his collarbone. He pants and claws at Sendak, fast losing his ability to reason or come up with a plan in his panic. He can’t move Sendak though, not even an inch. He is pinned and can only sit there as Sendak feeds on him.

It isn’t long before he feels dizzy from the pain and blood loss. He can’t stop himself from crying, angrily blinking back his tears.

Sendak finally pulls away.

“I do have to admit, your blood is heavenly. I don’t really want to do anything to change it. But, see, you should see the way you are looking at me right now. I think you need a little something more to show you your place.”

Keith begins struggling anew as Sendak drags his pants down. He screams, kicking, grabbing anything he can.

“You can scream as much as you want. I like it.  It won’t be long before you accept what you are anyway. Then you can be my little slut for real. Do you like the sound of that? Being my little pet, my blood bag…”

His boxers are pulled down next and Keith screams, wishing someone would hear though he knows no one there would care. His tries to cover himself, but Sendak pins his hands above his head with one hand, using the other hand to spread his legs. He feels more exposed and helpless than he ever has before.

Without thinking, he yells for Lance.  

“I am going to fuck you and feed on you until you don’t even remember that name. Until you don’t even remember your own name.”

There is suddenly a searing pain and Keith realizes in horror that Sendak has pushed a finger inside him. It hurts and Keith sobs, the reality settling that he is going to be raped in a crappy room on a dusty bed by a vampire. He shivers, pain coursing through him.

“Please stop. Please…” the words escape without him realizing it.

“You don’t have the right to say no. Do you ask a cow if he wants to be eaten?”

Keith cries as the vampire fingers him, unable to answer, mind racing with panic and dread.

“There are plenty of others who will want a piece of this too. Maybe once you are nice and broken in I can share you with my friends. Or maybe our Emperor himself will want to fuck you. How does that sound?”

Keith is beyond the point of being able to follow his words though. He wants to be somewhere else. He wants to be away from here. He wants to be at home with Shiro. He wants his parents.

He hears a zipper and shuts his eyes. He tries to find a happier place, somewhere he can retreat to.  

He is trying so hard that he doesn’t even hear the door opening behind them.  

Chapter Text

Keith feels something splash on his face. Then, Sendak’s weight is lifted off of him.

He opens his eyes to see Sendak fighting with someone he can’t quite see. There is a long, thin rod sticking out of his back. He gasps when he sees Narti standing there, struggling against Sendak. The room is small and she is quickly pushed against the wall, over-powered by the much bigger and stronger vampire. She claws ferociously at his arms, trying to free herself.   

Keith pulls up his pants, shakily zipping up his zipper, and takes one second to look at the window. He can see the woods outside. He could crawl out of the window and he would be free to run away. He longs to be away, outside, far from anything resembling a vampire.  He tries to tell himself that he wants all vampires to die anyway so what does it matter if Narti dies here? Why should he care?

He shakes his head, ashamed of himself and immediately embarrassed. Narti had helped him, protected him when she is not a match for Sendak at all. Keith can see her quickly losing to the commander, slammed against the wall by the large vampire.

Sendak is laughing again, a horrible sound that Keith feels like he will hear in his nightmares for years to come.

“Lance sending his weakest against me? Like someone like you could ever defeat me.” His claws are out and Keith jumps up, knowing what is about to happen next.

Narti is not dying on his watch.

He runs toward them, grabbing the rod sticking out of Sendak’s back and twisting it, trying to force it in further. Sendak loosens his grip on Narti enough for her to wiggle loose.

He turns around and grabs Keith, easily lifting him up into the air and throwing him out of the room through the doorway. Keith can never quite get over just how strong vampires are as he flies through the air like a ragdoll, slamming into the back wall of the warehouse. He manages to take the brunt of the impact in his shoulder rather than his head, leaving him thankful to be conscious and still able to fight. Sendak pauses for a moment, trying to pull the rod out of his back. Narti takes the chance to kick him backwards into the room, shutting the door and pulling a random work bench in front of it though they both know that a door wouldn’t offer them much time. She then turns and grabs Keith, lifting him up bridal style and running. Keith squirms in her arms.   

“Hey…Let me down…” Keith gasps out as they run deeper into warehouse. She looks down for a moment, but does pause to let him down. Then, they run across the expanse of the warehouse together, weaving in and out of aisles of supplies and boxes. It seems to be mostly storage. Keith sees more metal rods like the one Narti had attacked Sendak with as well as smaller tools and loads of unopened boxes. He really wishes he had his dagger, or a gun.

She tugs him behind some boxes and kneels down. Keith kneels beside her, generally understanding that they are hiding.  

“We need to run,” he whispers at her.  

She shakes her head and grabs his arm and then points outside.

“I don’t know what that means.”

She begins signing and Keith cringes in regret. It is always a skill he wanted to have, but never quite took the steps to learn.

“I am sorry. I don’t know sign language.”

He can’t see her eyes, but he knows what an eyeroll feels like anyway.

She points again toward Sendak, or rather the closed door, then waves at the other side of the warehouse, where Keith can hear vague party noises still, then points at her fangs, then grabs him again with both arms.

“They will get me?”

She nods.

“And you don’t think we will make it if we run?”

She nods again.

“So what is the plan? Fight Sendak?” Keith balls his hands into fists, trying to come up with a plan to overcome his lack of weapons.  

She pauses for a moment, before shrugging and nodding at the same time, and then points at both of them and runs a finger across her neck.

Keith grimaces. “I got that. He will kill us…I doubt we can hide forever though.”

She holds up two fingers.

“Two? Peace?”

She shakes her head. Then, does finger guns at him and pats the ground.

“You have a gun? Or there are guns in here?”

She huffs and then holds up an L.

“L…Lance?”

She nods and then balls her hand into a fist as Sendak crashes through the door and work bench. She cowers lower behind the boxes, pulling Keith with her as Sendak slowly begins walking up and down the aisles. She puts a finger up to her lips, shushing him. He nods. Then, she grips his arms and drops her forehead against his.  

Keith cringes away, but not fast enough as she wraps an arm around him, pressing her head hard against his.

Then, suddenly, it is like a camera flash happens inside his brain and images flood into his head. Ezor, Lance. Both driving fast in a car. The warehouse. The word soon.

Then she pulls back.

“Holy shit, that was amazing,” Keith whispers.

She pokes him and puts a finger up to her mouth again.  

“Ok. Ok. Lance is coming.” Relief floods through Keith.

She nods, then freezes as there is a loud crash and then footsteps. Sendak is banging around some canisters of something at the far end of the warehouse.

“You guys are pathetic. Sitting here hiding in the dark like rats. Maybe I should go tell everyone what happened and we can have a rat hunt together.”

Narti grips his hand harder, slamming her forehead against Keith’s again.

His mind is flooded again with images, this time of a swarm of vampires ripping him to shreds along with Narti and Lance.

And Keith gets it. If the entire Galra force descends upon them, they would not have a chance even if Lance and Ezor do show up. They need to distract Sendak, to keep him inside and isolated until Lance shows up. It is their only shot especially since he doesn’t seem to be taking them seriously.   

He looks around, seeing only tools that would not help him to take down a vampire like Sendak. Someone as old and experienced as him would have a protected heart and he would not go down easily. Keith is frustrated at his weakness, his inability to just stand up and take Sendak out with his own two hands. He wishes for once that he was a vampire, a strong one, one that could take them all out by himself except maybe Narti, who he likes for some reason.

Keith can see Sendak walking around the darkened aisles of the warehouse, smirking. He crouches down, looking behind a set of boxes only two aisles over from theirs. He is coming closer though, swinging nearer and nearer to the spot where they are hidden.

“Whatever. I will just go get one of my trackers and about 20 of my best men. Tell Honerva that we need to go get Lance too. We haven’t had a good public execution in awhile…”

Then he straightens up and begins walking toward the exit of the warehouse. Keith takes a deep breath and starts to stand up. He isn’t sure what he will do, but he has to do something to stop him. Narti grabs his arm and shakes her head. Then she darts out into the open. Keith gapes as she pounds the wall, making Sendak turn around.

He turns around, grinning. “You want me to kill you first?”

Narti lowers herself, getting into a fighting stance, but Keith knows she can’t win against him.

He desperately tries to come up with a plan. They don’t have to win. They just have to buy time. He grabs another one of the metal rods that seem to be laying around everywhere and then turns to see if he can find an opening to attack Sendak.  

Narti is fast and agile, slipping around Sendak easily. She maneuvers around the boxes stealthily, but ultimately all she can do is avoid his grip. But, Sendak is an actual soldier and a good one at that. He watches her patterns carefully and, as Narti jumps on a set of boxes to evade him, he pulls something out of his prosthetic arm and shoots. Narti instantly collapses to the ground.

Keith cringes, praying that he didn’t hit her heart.  

He sighs in relief as she rolls over, looking up as Sendak approaches her. He can still do this. He can still help her. Sendak is almost to her when Keith jumps out, holding the rod behind his back.  

“Wait!” He walks up, trying to look submissive, eyes down, shuffling his feet. He still does not have a shirt on and he hopes that the blood still dripping from the wound on his shoulder where Sendak bit him smells great. Since vampires seem to like him so much, Keith might as well take advantage of it.   

Sendak pauses for a moment, a small patronizing smile on his face. “Why should I?” He nudges Narti with his foot.

“You are right. About Lance. And about me. I have information I can tell you about him though.”

“Why do I care about information about Lance? We are going to kill him no matter what.”

“I have more…information…I will cooperate. Don’t kill her. Please. She is just doing this for Lance, but we will both join you guys.” He grasps trying to think of what he can say as Sendak smirks and shakes his head. “The trafficking…Shiro…the police force…Lance’s generals…His maker.” Sendak shakes his head at all of his words, but freezes at the last one.

It is a shot in the dark. Keith doesn’t know much about Lance’s maker except that she is supposedly very attractive and he assumes her to be extraordinarily powerful since she created something like Lance. That shot in the dark seems to be the correct one though. Sendak turns fully toward him, no longer looking down at Narti. Keith shuffles a few feet closer, almost within reach.

“I know about his maker and her plans for this country.”

Sendak sneers. “Well now, that might be worth something. But, I can just get the information from you later. No need to keep this one alive for it.” Sendak lifts his hand up.  

Keith makes his move, swinging the metal rod as hard as he can and stabbing it into Sendak’s eye.  He howls, stepping away from Narti and clawing at his face.  Keith knows that Sendak would heal quickly, but apparently eyes are weak spots on humans and vampires alike. He runs toward Narti, pulling her up to a standing position and finally notices that some sort of arrow is sticking in her chest.

Keith reaches for it momentarily, shakes his head, and then grabs her hand instead. Then he turns and runs, dragging her behind him. He wants to get out. He doesn’t care if Narti wants to try to hide in the warehouse. He needs out. Freedom feels so close and he feels like if he can only make it outside into the darkness and protection of the woods then they will be able to hide.  

But, Sendak is every bit the commander that he has bragged himself to be. Narti and Keith have barely made any progress to reach the door of the warehouse before he is behind them, not even bothering to run. He has dragged the rod out of his eye, a bloody mess dripping down his face. He is smirking though, unhurried. Keith grits his teeth, knowing that they are not going to make it.  

“You are so pathetic fighting against something you cannot change. The Galra Empire will reign supreme and you two are nothing in the face of it. It is going to be extra fun killing her and breaking you.”

Keith turns to face Sendak, spitting on his feet.   

Sendak howls with laughter. “I can’t wait until we wipe out Lance and every one of his shitty generals.” He raises a big meaty hand and Keith braces himself, ready to fight with his bare hands if he has to.  

And then another hand is on Keith’s shoulder, thrusting him and Narti backwards out of Sendak’s grip and a familiar, slender figure appears in front of them. Keith will never admit it, but he has never been happier in his life than this moment, seeing the tall, cocky, smartly dressed in a pair of obnoxious skinny jeans vampire position himself between them and Sendak. Keith pulls Narti closer and sighs in relief.  

“We are going to do what to Lance now?” Lance asks, cracking his knuckles.

Chapter Text

Lance faces Sendak, body shielding the injured Narti and Keith from the other vampire. A hand is placed on Keith’s shoulder and he realizes that Ezor is also there, a concerned look on her face.

“Lance, so good of you to show up. That makes everything easier,” Sendak says, looking smug.  

“I aim to please.”

“The actions of your human and vampire general are an act of war against the Galra Empire. I am detaining you and will present you to Emperor Zarkon and Empress Honerva.”

Lance doesn’t bother to respond, turning to look at Keith and Narti. His eyes trace over the arrow sticking in Narti’s chest before moving to Keith, still shirtless and wounds on display. He notes their injuries, Keith’s messed up hair, the haphazard way his pants are pulled up.

Keith sees Lance’s fangs grow, the only real outward sign of his anger.

“Did you hear me, pretty boy? I am taking you in for execution in the name of the Galra Empire and its glory.”

Lance turns back slowly.

“The only thing you are going to be doing right now is dying.” 

There is a moment of silence before Sendak laughs loudly. Keith doesn’t miss the way he squares himself though, preparing.

“Who would have thought a slutty human would be your downfall.”

“Ezor,” Lance says quietly.

“Right,” she responds and Keith feels himself being lifted into the air.

“Hey!” he says, but she ignores him as she basically tucks him under her armpit along with Narti and turns and runs.

Before they exit the warehouse, all Keith can see is Lance lunging forward, slashing, a splash of blood.

“Wait, Ezor wait! We have to help him!” Keith yells.

Ezor laughs dryly. “We would only be getting in his way. Why do you care anyway?”

Keith opens and then closes his mouth. He doesn’t care if Lance dies. But, it is better for him if Sendak dies, at least right now. Plenty of time for Lance to die later.

“Come on. The car is parked down the hill.”

Keith tries to struggle out of her arms only to realize that Ezor is ridiculously strong compared to him. It isn’t until they are halfway down the hill that she lets him down, keeping a hand on his shoulder.

“I need to get a better grip on Narti so just follow me now,” Ezor orders.  

Narti is shivering and Ezor shifts so that she can hold her closer in her arms, bridal style. As soon as Ezor looks properly distracted with Narti, he turns and runs.

“You moron…” he hears Ezor say, but he ignores it and runs harder. He isn’t even entirely sure why he needs to be there, but something urges him to get back to the warehouse.

He steps cautiously inside the warehouse which now looks like a bomb went off inside. The aisles of supplies, the tools, the metal rods have been blown back from the area where the two vampires are currently grappling. Keith feels waves of power rippling over him, making the hair on his arms stand up. Sendak looks terrible already despite his earlier arrogance, one arm laying limp at his side, a hunk of flesh missing from his shoulder, and blood everywhere. Lance drags Sendak to his knees before throwing him over his shoulder, slamming his body to the ground. The concrete breaks easily, like glass beneath the force of the throw. Keith steps back as the throw puts Sendak too close for comfort. It is only then that Lance notices Keith, pausing for just a moment when they make eye contact. A moment is all it takes before Sendak is on him, grabbing him, pulling Keith’s body close to his own and holding one hand around his neck.  

Keith doesn’t have to be told that Sendak just needed to twitch his wrist and he would be gone.

“Give up or I will kill your human.”

Sendak’s grip tightens and Keith can barely breathe. He is furious at his own helplessness. Why did he come back into the warehouse? Is he going to get Lance killed? Narti? Ezor? He raises his hand to Sendak’s meaty arm, trying to claw at it, trying to get him off, realizing he made a dire mistake coming back to the warehouse, wondering why he did when all he wants to be is

At home, sitting at the kitchen table. Keith drinks the brown sludge in a glass in front of him. It is a protein shake, marked as chocolate but Keith wonders if it is only labeled that way because it is brown. The taste is pretty chalky with only a mild hint of the supposed chocolate.

“It’s not that bad.”

Shiro smiles, towel thrown over his shoulders while he washes the blender.

“You get used to it. I even like them now.”

Keith tries not to wrinkle up his face like a child taking medicine, drinking more of the shake. He is freshly showered, straight from the gym. He has just been hired by the police department, but wants to get into better shape. He has always been strong and fast, but never had any type of diet or regular exercise routine. He knows he will never be a Shiro who has naturally wide shoulders and a body structure that lends itself to muscles, but he would like to bulk up a bit. Shiro helps, giving him some advice about lifting and cardio as well as diet. He has only been at it for a week or two, but swears he can already tell a difference.

“Do you want pizza for dinner?” he asks, finishing the smoothie.  

“Pizza, Keith?”

“We can get the veggie lovers.”

“That still isn’t healthy. We should have a protein bowl or something. I have this new recipe that uses cauliflower rice!”

Keith rolls his eyes, walking over to bring his glass to the sink. Shiro smiles, reaching out and

Suddenly Keith is no longer in the kitchen. He is on the ground somewhere that is cold and hard. He shivers, wondering if he fainted, and looks around for Shiro.

It takes a sluggish moment or two to realize he is in a warehouse. The warehouse. He stands up quickly, running a hand over his body to make sure that he is ok. He has no idea what just happened. The memory had felt so real, like for a few minutes he had transported back in time to that conversation with Shiro, like the last few years never even happened. He can’t quite wrap his mind around what just happened, wondering if he has a head injury that he can’t feel just by running his hands over his scalp.

Then he remembers Sendak and Lance. The warehouse is quiet and still, way too quiet and still for what should currently be happening.

He uneasily walks forward, finally seeing a figure in the distance, huddled on the ground and obscured by the dark.

Keith steps hesitantly forward, eyes adjusting to the dark and debating whether he should just turn and leave. He also hears a sound he can’t immediately place. It is like air releasing from a tire, but rougher, raspier. He hears it ebb and flow, the only thing interrupting the silence as he gets closer to the form on the ground.

He can finally make out that Sendak is on the ground, not moving, but still alive. Lance is kneeling beside him. Keith steps even closer, realizing that the sound he is hearing is a raspy, breathy whine emerging from Sendak’s throat. He swallows hard.

Keith shudders when he realizes he can see Lance’s hand inside Sendak’s chest. Sendak’s entire chest cavity is splayed open and Keith can see the horrifying movement of his heart in Lance’s hand. He isn’t sure why Sendak’s heart is moving. Vampires’ hearts usually don’t beat and the sight of it makes him sick.

He must have made some noise because Lance looks up at him. They look at each other for a few quiet moments where the only thing moving is the rapid flutter of Sendak’s heart and the terrible rasping whine interrupting the silence.

“Well, Keith? Do you want to punish him yourself? Do you want to be the one to kill him? It’s up to you.”

Lance’s voice is casual, monotone, and it feels wrong given the situation.

Keith shakes his head. Sendak hurt him, violated him, and he wants him dead. He doesn’t have the stomach for torture though and there is something that, even in this moment, makes him pity the dying vampire stretched out on the floor.

“Are you sure? You can make him pay for what he did to you, what he tried to do to you…”

“Just end it,” Keith replies quickly, fighting a wave of nausea at what he is seeing. He is a cop and it isn’t like he has never seen violence or blood before. He has witnessed legal executions. He has worked car accidents. His partner got shot in one of the first patrols he ever did.

But he is deeply unsettled right now. Lance maintains eye contact with him as he squeezes his hand. There is a wet noise and then Sendak’s body collapses in on itself, rotting.

Keith remains still, watching Lance carefully as he stands. His shirt is soaked in blood. There is blood splattered across his face. Keith struggles to stop himself from crossing his arms over his chest defensively. Lance looks particularly inhuman at the moment, his fangs visible even with his mouth closed, eyes dark and cold. He stares at Keith and it reminds Keith of something reptilian, for lack of a better comparison. A rattlesnake maybe, a creature that doesn’t know morals or emotions. Just a predator reacting to stimuli, deadly and dead inside.

No, not a snake. A shark, Keith thinks. Definitely a shark.

Keith hates it and wishes that Lance would go back to being his usual annoying self, the one that jokes and flirts and almost seems human at times.  

He forces himself not to take a step back as Lance walks toward him. He mentally calculates how long it will take him to grab one of the many metal rods laying scattered nearby. He is scared right now and pretty much helpless. Keith can admit that to himself, but he also has pride. He refuses to let Lance see him frightened, especially not of him. If he is going to die, then he is going to die with his head held high, shoulders squared, and putting up a fight.  

Lance smirks, stopping an arm’s length in front of him, then opens his mouth and drops to his knees.

Keith blinks.

He watches as Lance curls over, clutching his stomach.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing!” Lance answers too quickly.

Keith stares, wheels in his mind churning, and then realizes what is happening.

“Oh my god, you are hurt. You are actually hurt.”

“I am not!” Lance snorts, curling in on himself even more.  

“I can see you. I can see that you are hurt.”

“Nope, not happening, maybe I just like being on my knees…” Lance looks up and winks at him, a small dribble of blood coming out of his mouth as he does. 

Keith rolls his eyes. The reality of the situation sinks in though. They are still in danger and the only one that can realistically stand a chance against most of the vampires in the area is currently on his knees choking on his own blood. 

He makes a decision, grabbing Lance and tossing him over his shoulders like a bag of potatoes.

“What are you doing?” Lance cries out.

“We have to get out of here, you idiot,” he answers, trying to make his way back to the others as quickly as possible. Lance is a slender man, but surprisingly heavy with awkward long limbs that make holding him inconvenient. But Keith perseveres, wondering why Lance has gone silent as he makes his way out of the side door and into the dark woods.

He is panting by the time he sees Ezor and Narti, crouched on the ground in the same spot that Keith left them.

“What?” Ezor says as she sees them, Lance still slung around Keith’s shoulder.

“My man is saving me!” Lance yells from Keith’s shoulders.

“I am not saving you!”

“What would you call this?”

“Not saving! I want to be the one who kills you, not some Galra.”

“Right, keep telling yourself that.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be some big deal anyway? One vampire hurt you?”

“One vampire? You are calling Sendak one vampire? He is one of their master commanders and hundreds of years old. There are very few people in the world that would be able to defeat him.”

“One vampire almost took you down, weakling.”

“Guys really?” Ezor says. “We have to go. Should I still do what we discussed earlier, Lance?”

“Yes, do it.”

Ezor immediately walks off.

Keith lets Lance down now, moving his attention to Narti instead. He knows not every vampire can self-heal and the arrow or whatever it is poking out of her chest concerns him, especially since, on some level, he knows it is his fault.

He reaches for it and she swats at his hand. Lance leans down and hugs her.

“She will be ok. My healer is already waiting to help us. We have been in worse shape before, haven’t we, Narti?”  

Keith steps back, watching the two bloodied vampires lean on each other, wondering if they are having a secret conversation.  

Ezor is back a moment later. “Let’s go,” she says, leaning down to gently pick up Narti.  

They awkwardly make their way through the woods. They had parked fairly far away to avoid detection. The music from the party fades into the background as they make their way through the woods.

Keith begrudgingly offers a shoulder to Lance who still seems to be struggling. Lance leans on him, walking beside him quietly. Keith can’t quite see where he is injured since he is so covered with blood, but a few flickers of pain on his face show how much it must hurt.

He feels Lance’s hand grip his waist and turns his body slightly, offering more support to the wounded vampire. Then, he feels Lance’s hand slide lower, to his hip, and then lower still until he cups his ass.

Keith immediately pushes him off. “Are you kidding me? You are disgusting.”

“Keith, I might be dying, don’t be mean to me.”

“Then just fucking die,” he snarls, walking ahead.  

They finally reach the car and somehow Keith finds himself piled into the backseat with Narti and Lance. Lance is in the middle, letting Narti curl up beside him.

There had been a few moments where everything seemed almost back to normal, or at least Keith’s new normal. Bickering with Lance feels normal. But, once in the car, the mood shifts again. Ezor drives them away quietly, obviously worried about Narti whose head was drooping down to her chest beside Lance. Lance’s earlier levity turns off like a switch has been flipped.

They are barely back on the main road before Lance reaches over, undoing Keith’s seatbelt.

“What are you doing?”

He doesn’t answer, rather leaning up against Keith, nestling his head on his shoulder.

Keith remains still, not pushing Lance away, but also not giving into the urge to put his arm around the vampire.  

They remain in uneasy silence until they arrive at Lance’s house.

“Get Narti to the lab. She needs to be treated first. I will be right down,” Lance says to Ezor when they enter the house. She nods and quickly takes Narti away.  

Lance places a hand on Keith’s back and guides him up the stairs and down a hallway until they reach a nice guest bedroom, Keith assumes. It is basically decorated like a room in a beach house complete with a bowl of shells on a dresser and a painting of a lighthouse above the bed.

“Keith, stay in this room until I come for you. If you leave this room before then, I might literally kill you.”

In different contexts, the above statement might have been funny or obviously sarcastic. This is not one of those times though. There is not a hint of humor on Lance’s face or in his tone.

He nods and watches Lance leave the room and shut the door behind him with a click, leaving Keith to the quiet of the bedroom. Not that Keith minds. He has a lot to think about as he cautiously sits down on the bed and begins his wait.  

Chapter Text

Keith goes to the bathroom and tries to clean up, using a towel to wipe himself off. He wants a shower, but decides against it for now. There is something distracting him anyway, beyond being worried about Narti. Something isn’t right.

His thoughts are interrupted by hearing the door to the bedroom opening.

“Keith, you better be in the bathroom right now and not crawling down the side of the house…” he hears Lance call out.

He takes a deep breath and walks out, not quite making eye contact with the vampire.

“My healer is with Narti. You will see him after he finishes with her.” Lance gestures at Keith’s shoulder. It does hurt especially now that the adrenaline is completely gone.

“Is she going to be alright?”

“Like you care…”

“I do. I…” Keith pauses. Lance is clenching his fists by his side.  

“You pranced into the middle of a Galra party, endangering her life in the first place. She should have been at home with her cat. What were you thinking?”

“I could have handled it on my own.” It’s a lie and not even a good one at that.

Lance snorts. “Right, you were totally handling it when Narti showed up and saved your ass, literally.”

Keith shrugs, backing away and crossing his arms in front of him. Lance has rarely ever been angry at him. Playful angry sure. But not actually angry.

“The arrow was so deep in her chest that we had to open her up to get it out safely. I wasn’t even entirely sure she would make it. I could feel my connection with her fading in front of me. Do you know how painful that is for people are connected as we are?”

Keith winces. “I didn’t ask for her or you to help me.”

“You are such an ungrateful asshole sometimes. And selfish. You are so selfish, Keith. You have done jack shit in our goal to save Shiro. It has been all us putting our asses on the line. Then, you can’t even not stay out of trouble in the meantime.”

It isn’t like Keith can really argue with that. He settles for a simple “I’m sorry.”

“You are sorry? Come on. Tell me. Why should I endanger my people, my family, for you? What makes you think you are so special?”

Keith turns his back to Lance and prays that his voice will be steady when he speaks next. “I don’t. I’m not special. No one thinks about me at all except for Shiro. I don’t deserve anything.”

Lance is behind him in a second, not quite touching him, but close enough that all Keith would have to do is lean back even a little bit and they would be.   

“I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean any of it. Keith, baby, you are special. You are so special to me.”

The words are right next to Keith’s ear. He almost feels Lance’s breath even though he knows that isn’t really possible.

“Lance…”

“I didn’t mean any of that. I just got scared with you and Narti being there with him. You are precious to me. I want to make you a part of my family. I want to spoil you. I want to protect you, forever.”

“Why? You barely know me. Why would you order your generals to risk their lives for me?”

There is a pause before Keith feels Lance’s arm slip around his midsection and then the gentle press of Lance’s body against his back. He doesn’t push him away.

“I didn’t order them to do anything. When we learned what happened, Narti started tracking you and was closer than Ezor and I or anyone else. They want to protect you too.”

“That makes even less sense. I literally just met Narti. And she only saved me because you claim to be…”

“In love with you?”

Keith’s breath hitches.

“Is that what you wanted to say?              

 “I don’t get you.”

“You can’t sense things like I do, sense souls like I do.”

“That sounds like bullshit.”

“It’s not. I can sense you and if our souls were instruments, they would be perfectly in tune, in perfect harmony with one another. I wish you could hear it.”

Keith snorts at the same time as slowly lifting his hand to touch Lance’s arm.

“We are two sides of the same coin, the silver lining to each other’s clouds, the stars in each other’s constellations, the thunder to each other’s lightning…”

Keith finally holds onto Lance’s wrist, squeezing gently. Lance is being so ridiculous he almost thinks he is making fun of him, but it is in a way that makes Keith’s chest hurt. Like maybe some part of him wants to be the other side of someone’s coin or the silver lining in anyone’s life.  

Lance is nuzzling at his neck now and Keith feels warm. It feels so natural to stand here, to let Lance hold him from behind, to lean into him. Lance is taller and broader than him by just enough so that he seems to fit perfectly around him, like a puzzle piece.  

“Sendak shouldn’t have given me as much trouble as he did. Do you know why I struggled? It is your fault.” The flirty tone had returned to Lance’s voice, the last line delivered with a teasing lilt.  

“We have already established that everything is my fault and you probably struggled with him because you suck.”

Lance laughs. “I mean, the problem is that I haven’t been sucking enough. I haven’t been eating.”

“By eating you really mean…feeding?”

“Yes.”

Keith pauses. A vampire like Lance would need quite a bit of blood on a regular basis to keep functioning. And he had looked pale and drawn and agitated lately. Vampires don’t get sick, but Lance had seemed sick lately. “Why not? You have your pick of humans…”

“I only want your blood.”

Keith laughs.

“It’s true. I’m so hungry, but I only want your blood, I only want you. You are all I think about.”

He can feel Lance tighten his grip around him, rubbing his nose in Keith’s hair.

“Please, Keith?”

Keith closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and, wordlessly, tilts his head, letting his hair fall to the side, exposing his neck. Then Lance is biting him and everything goes hazy, fuzzy, pleasant.

It feels good. It always does with Lance.

Lance is always so gentle with him. Keith lets himself ease into Lance’s arms, allowing himself to relax. Lance’s arms are around him now completely, caging him into his grasp. It feels nice, like he is being protected, like Lance would keep him safe from everything, and never hurt him.

He loses track of time, eventually realizing that Lance is done, gently licking his neck where he bit. Keith likes it. He knows Lance wants to make sure the wound doesn’t get infected or keep on bleeding after the fact. It is a caring act.  

He turns his head and sees Lance’s face right next to his, happy, smiling, a bit of fang poking out of his mouth. He already looks better, more color in his face, eyes bright.

Something though.

Something is ruining the moment.

There is a nagging feeling in Keith’s chest, like he is forgetting something.   

Something about what Lance said earlier. That he hadn’t ordered anyone to save him, that they chose to come to save Keith. He believes him, but

But

It’s a cop out isn’t it?

Narti didn’t show up for Keith, really. She showed up for Lance. Lance is the one who made her. Lance is the one who owns her, which isn’t a pretty way to put it, but it is common enough language to describe the relationship between a master vampire and their underlings. There is a power dynamic at play, reasons that Narti would give her life to keep Lance safe and happy.

So, maybe he didn’t technically order her, but

But

Sometimes it is hard to think around Lance and Keith chases the strands of thought in his brain, trying to bring them together to make sense of things.

Then, he remembers Shiro handing him a smoothie.

“Lance?”

“Yeah, babe?” Lance responds, still happily nuzzling him.  

“Back when you were fighting Sendak…”

“Mmmm?”

“Did you do something to me?”

“What do you mean?”

“Did you give me a vision?”

“I sent you somewhere safe…”

“Why?”

“Because what I was doing to Sendak’s mind would have left you permanently insane and clawing your eyes out or something.”

“No…why that memory?”

“You were really happy then, with Shiro…”

Lance keeps on nuzzling his hair, but Keith’s blood is running cold. Lance suddenly stiffens behind him.

“I mean, I am assuming you were with Shiro…in whatever you remembered…”

Some vampires had varying levels of mind control abilities. Thankfully, at least in Keith’s mind, it is fairly rare for them to be great at it and it is almost always limited in scope. It isn’t like complete, total, permanent mind control. Some could control someone short-term. There was also the harder to quantify idea of “influence.” Some could influence humans emotionally or otherwise, make you want to buy something you didn’t before, make you feel certain emotions you didn’t before, at least temporarily. Weaker humans could be broken over time and repeated contact with a particularly talented vampire.

But still, there were limits to this ability.  Just like Narti when she made a temporary telepathic bond to communicate with Keith in the warehouse. It was limited in time and scope.

Having his mind controlled is one of Keith’s biggest fears and he was always diligent against falling under any type of influence, taking extended lessons against it during training and remaining aware at all times near vampires.

He had been especially diligent against letting Lance near his head, knowing how powerful he is and the weird obsession Lance had with him.   

The more he thinks about it, the more he becomes scared of what happened. He had never, ever heard of anything documented about vampires being able to do what Lance did. The control, the power, the reach needed is beyond what he even imagined a vampire would be able to do. Which, realistically, Keith knows that humanity doesn’t know everything about vampires and vampires probably have reasons to keep some of it secret. He had always known that. But this…

How much could Lance see? Did he know the entire memory? Could he read his thoughts? Was it like a book? How could he so effortlessly send Keith’s brain there, so vividly reenact that scene?

But there is something worse than the idea that vampires are hiding secret powers.

When he had first started working with Lance to find Shiro, they had made a deal. Keith would “pay” Lance with blood, sex, or access to his head. Keith had chosen sex and wanted to keep choosing sex because he didn’t want to be food for Lance, especially not with how he reacts to being bitten, and he also especially didn’t want Lance in his head, influencing him, controlling him.  

But there is a cold fear that settles deep within Keith now.  

That the deal was always just the illusion of control. The illusion of choice. Just like when Lance didn’t order Narti to risk her life to save Keith, but did she really have a choice?

If he could send Keith back into a memory with Shiro for a few minutes, then doesn’t it mean that Lance is already in his head?

He remembers the stupid frog metaphor from when he was a teenager in psychology class. That you can slowly boil a frog to death by putting it in warm water and then slowly increasing the temperature in increments so small that they don’t even realize it is happening.

What if Lance had been doing that to him, except mentally?

He hates Lance. Yet, he had willingly let him drink his blood twice now. The first time could be called part of the deal. However, what just happened didn’t even bother with the pretense that it was part of any deal. Lance had just said please and he had bared his neck for him, submitted without a second thought.

Keith is squirming now, finding it harder to breath.

It feels so good to be close to Lance. He is always so warm and safe and strong. Even now, Keith wants to lean backward into him, lose himself in those arms. Keith squirms harder, suddenly panicking.

This isn’t right. Lance is a disgusting monster. He hates him. 

“What’s wrong, baby?” Lance asks.

“I need to go…”

“You aren’t going anywhere.” He says it with the same flirty tone as always, but the words feel threatening at the moment.

“I…” Keith closes his mouth and swallows.

“I don’t get why you keep trying to run away from me into danger.”

Keith grits his teeth. “You don’t understand that I also see you as the danger.”

And then he pushes Lance off him and walks briskly out of the room. He hears Lance call his name behind him, but he ignores it. He needs to get out of that house. He needs some space.  

He enters the living room and immediately freezes. Zethrid and Acxa are there, which is normal. But there are also two people he doesn’t recognize. One, a man with a rather impressive head of orange hair and an orange moustache. But, he barely notices him because all he can really see is the person sitting on the love chair with a teacup in her hand. 

“Hello….Keith?” she asks, standing up, moving toward him with a smile. Long, shimmery white hair and kaleidoscope eyes are the last thing he sees before he is forced down to his knees. 

Chapter Text

Keith lets out a deep sigh, staring at the goddess before him. He wants to get down on his hands and knees and kiss her feet. He wants to give her something amazing and make her happy.  Maybe if he made her happy she would let him lay his head on her lap or pat him on the head and he would be a good boy for her and protect her and cherish her and…

He feels something smack the back of his head, but barely registers Lance beside him, pouting and sunk down on the couch with his arms crossed in front of him.   

“Allura, turn it off!”

“I think it’s cute!”

“He is going to be like a rabid animal when he wakes up…”

“He is so cute though. I didn’t expect him to be this sweet. You said he was…difficult.”

“Isn’t he tiny and adorable?” Zethrid adds.

“Adorable isn’t the word I would use…” Acxa responds.

“He is a handsome young man. I am happy for you, Lance,” the orange-haired vampire says proudly.  

“Yes, Coran thank you, but like I said, he is going to try to gut us all once he…”

Keith smiles dopily, nodding like he understands the conversation.

Then, gently, he feels the fuzziness recede, bit by bit. He puts a hand to his chest and breathes in, looking at the beautiful vampire back in the loveseat smiling back at him. The rollercoaster of emotions he feels derails almost immediately, going away from the intense love slipping straight past anger to fear.

Like, real fear. The type that leaves him paralyzed and struggling to stop his hands from shaking. Because that had been effortless and instant. He had loved her. He would have worshipped her. He would have killed for her. He knelt and bowed his head to her. There was nothing in any of his classes that even approached a defensive strategy that could hold up to what he just experienced. He crosses his arms over his chest defensively, suddenly feeling very surrounded and vulnerable. The vampires that Lance had called Allura and Coran are in front of him, Lance at his side, and Ecxa and Zethrid are on the outskirts of the room. He is trapped.  

And he is very tired of feeling scared and helpless.

Allura’s face drops. “Oh, sweetie, I am sorry. I was just having some fun, I did not realize…”

Which doesn’t make him feel better, to be honest.

Lance puts a hand on his shoulder. Keith turns and Lance’s eyes are wide. “Are you ok? Allura has that effect on people. I would never let anyone here hurt you though.” Lance angles his body closer in a way that Keith recognizes as a protective one.  

Keith shrugs the hand off his shoulder.

“I just want…” he stops.

“Yes?” Lance reaches again and squeezes his shoulder.

“I want…” he pauses again.

“Just tell me, baby.”

“All you fucking vampires to die.”

Zethrid snorts with laughter. Acxa rolls her eyes.

Lance grins. “Ok, he is fine. Keith is back.”

“Well, that is a bit rude,” Allura sniffs.  

“The Princess has that effect on people. Do not worry about it, young man,” Coran says.

“Yeah, she is really powerful because she is really, really, really, really, really really….” Lance leans over, looking at Allura with a smirk. Her eyes narrow.

“Really, really, really, really…”

“You better be careful, Lance,” she murmurs.

“Really, really, really old.”  

She gasps and throws a pillow at him. “You aren’t exactly young yourself.”

“Yeah but you…”

He is cut off by a pillow slamming into his face which he grabs and stalks over, hitting her with it. At some other point in his life, this would have been a bizarre scene, watching two master vampires have a pillow fight, but Keith is still reeling from what just happened. He drops his hands to his lap and tries to slow his heartbeat.  

Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Zethrid trying to pull an entire couch cushion off of the couch she is sitting on, distracting Keith momentarily. Coran is the only one not watching the others, rather watching Keith, carefully. Keith makes eye contact with the vampire for a moment before looking away, still clutching his hands in his lap.

“Maybe we should start our business, Princess?” Coran asks.

“Right,” Allura clears her throat and Lance returns to Keith’s side.  

“I do not think I ever introduced myself. I am Princess Allura of Altea. Altea is one of the largest and oldest vampire clans in existence. I am also Lance’s maker.”

“And I am Coran Hieronymus Wimbleton Smythe, the royal advisor to Allura.”

“I used to rule this territory, but eventually, I needed someone to lead the American faction, hence, Lance,” Allura continues.

“You let Lance lead…anything?” Keith asks. Lance snorts beside him.

“Yes. And trust me when I say this, if he had turned out to be an incompetent leader, I would have removed him immediately. If he had proven to be a bad leader, such as being abusive or power hungry, then I would have killed him.”

The deadpan delivery almost edges on funny, but one look at her face lets Keith know it is not a joke. He nods.

“It is Lance’s territory now. The vampires here are loyal to him now and I am so very proud of how my little Lance has grown.” There is real fondness in her tone as she smiles at Lance.  

Lance smiles back, making eye contact for a moment before turning to Keith again. “One other thing I want to make clear is that she should be Queen Allura or maybe Empress Allura, but she keeps it at Princess because she thinks it makes her seem younger,” Lance elbows Keith, smirking in Allura’s direction.

“I swear to god Lance, I brought you into this world, I can take you out…” Coran elbows her, stopping the threat.  

“And I believe you are Keith Song, police officer, and Lance’s boyfriend?” Allura asks after shooting one more dirty look at Lance.

Keith laughs loudly. “No. God no. We are not dating. We will never date. I don’t even like him as a friend or human being.”

 “So, you aren’t dating…But…?” Allura questions.  

 “I am going to kill him eventually,” Keith responds.  

“He means that metaphorically,” Lance tries to grab his hand which Keith jerks away.   

“No I don’t. I am serious.”

“Ah, interesting. You two are courting like vampires then? Nothing like a good old fight to the death before mating off, right?” Allura seems excited, leaning forward.

“Mating…off?” Keith squeaks.  

“Now Lance, he seems actually angry at you. You know, humans do not normally court like vampires, right?” Coran asks.  

“Of course I know that, but Keith is a weird human. He wanted to kill me the first time we met because I smelled his blood. I mean, so sue me, I sampled the goods a bit…”  

“We aren’t courting or dating or mating off or…” Keith tries to regain control of the narrative.

“Humans do not necessarily flirt in the same ways that we do. Smelling someone’s blood might be seen as rude or too personal. They like flowers and dates and sweet gestures,” Coran continues.  

“Look at him, Coran. Does he look like he wants flowers?”

“Well, maybe he does. Maybe that is why he is angry at you. How many dates have you two been on?” The older vampire presses on.

“A few…”

Keith chokes. “What?? What have we done that could be considered a date?”

“We went to that restaurant…you questioned me about human trafficking alone one time…we went to that vamp party…” Lance counts them off on his fingers.

“In what reality would those count as dates, you moron.”

“You didn’t officially ask him out? You are approaching this all wrong, Lance. You have to be sweet to humans and they like their formalities in courting. What does Keith like? Maybe you can take him to a movie? Or a festival! Humans do love festivals!” Allura claps her hands together.

Keith slams his hand down on the coffee table.

“Maybe you have all lost touch with reality or something being undead abominations but I am not courting with Lance, I will never “mate off” with him, I hate him, I hate all of you, and I want to erase all vampire kind from existence.”

All five vampires stare at him for a long moment. Allura finally turns to Lance and whispers.  

“I think he is mad you never gave him chocolates.”

“He does like sweet stuff. Sometimes I watch him get coffee at the shop across from where he works. He always gets their ridiculous fraps and stuff.”

“You watch me where I work?” Keith gasps.  

“See, there you go,” Allura beams. “Maybe you can go to the festival and share a funnel cake then!”

“I want a funnel cake too!” Zethrid says.

“We can go later, Zeth. Lance and Keith are going on a date by themselves,” Allura says.   

“We can bring home a funnel cake for everyone though…” Lance muses.

Keith rubs his hands down his face. The only other sane one in the room seems to be Acxa who looks just as angry as he does.

“Princess, maybe we should start with the real business and figure out Lance’s love life later?” Coran interrupts again.  

“Right. Zethrid, Acxa,” Allura says.

They immediately stand up and walk out of the room.

“Now, Lance, it is up to you how much we tell Keith. That is not my decision to make.”

“He can hear everything. He is just as much a part of this as we are now…”

“Why did you make Zethrid and Acxa leave?” Keith asks.

“Neither of us made them. We cannot guarantee their loyalty,” Allura responds.

“You can’t guarantee mine either.”

“No, but I trust you and I trust that your main priority is what you say it is,” Lance responds.

Allura nods. “Ok. So, Keith. We think we know what happened to your Shiro.”

Keith stands up immediately. Lance drags him back down, tugging on his waist. “Hold up, cowboy.”

“Let me talk. You can ask questions after I am done and then we will talk about plans because this affects more than just you or him.”

“Is he alive?”

“We cannot know for sure. It is possible, but not entirely guaranteed. What do you know about the process of turning a human into a vampire?”

“I know the process.”

“Do you know why we do not do it more frequently?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why we do not turn more humans into vampires? I am not sure what they teach you in your funny human schools. The process has a success rate of less than 5%.”

“I knew that it was difficult.”

“Most of us only try it when someone has already died naturally for that reason. A last attempt to save someone. Like, I couldn’t let my cute little Lance go.”

“And most of the people I have turned were dead or dying from other means as well. Narti was very ill in life and passed way before her time. I wanted to give her another chance,” Lance adds.  

“In other words, it is not like we kill people just to try to turn them. It is a very messy and inefficient process and one that rarely works. Then, once someone is turned there is a relatively high chance that they will not work as a vampire, meaning their body will reject the change. They are wretched creatures until they die, knowing no reason or sanity, driven by insatiable bloodlust. We usually put those vampires down.”

“Right. So Shiro…” Keith feels a lump rising in his throat.

“Well, see, we have always accepted this limitation. It also keeps the balance just a bit, you know, between humans and vampires to keep our populations stable. Frankly, we do not need a huge population of vampires running around, right? But the Galra, you see, do not necessarily agree. They want to make more vampires, many, many more vampires. Most of their research over hundreds of years has been geared toward more successful and efficient ways to turn humans into vampires and, particularly, vampire soldiers. Meaning, a way to make these vampires loyal and easily controlled.”

“You think…they took Shiro for that?” Keith feels sick to his stomach.

“Yes, we do. See, there are certain indicators for more successful turnings. Extreme physical health and strength is one. The other is blood type. After reviewing Shiro’s file, we believe that he meets all the desired qualities.”

Keith feels dizzy. “So, if he is alive he is probably a Galran soldier now…a vampire.” His voice breaks on the word.

“There is usually a gap of time before they start and finish the process. It takes some conditioning. Then, after turning, there would be conditioning that comes after that. He may still be human. He may be a vampire in conditioning. He may have died. We have not been able to find his exact status.”

“What does conditioning mean?”

Allura and Coran share a long glance. “Perhaps we should wait to get into the specifics until we have more information,” Allura finally responds.  

Keith understands that they are probably shielding something from him, but can’t bring himself to push for more details, at least not right now.  

Keith stands up again, clenching his fists, before turning angrily to Lance.  “Did you know about this?”

“That depends on what you are asking. We knew the Galra were encroaching on our territory. They are secretive though and it is difficult to get spies in there. I had suspicions, but no concrete information. I did not initially think Shiro was involved at all just because he is too high profile of a mark and not from their territory. And I wanted to be sure before I got your hopes up and we still don’t know the exact situation. I am sorry I didn’t tell you more along the way though.”

Keith sinks slowly back down.

“This is tied to the trafficking ring as well isn’t it,” Keith asks, pieces of the puzzle clicking into place.

“Yes,” Lance responds.

“You knew that was the Galra.”

Lance hesitates. “I suspected. But I didn’t know they were experimenting on people.”

“But you knew they were kidnapping teenagers and homeless people and foster kids and drug addicts to suck their blood or whatever, right?”

“It’s complicated Keith and I know you don’t understand that, but the Galra may literally wipe us out if we challenge them. We were trying not to start a war which, the last time two big vampire factions went to war…”

“At least 30% of the world’s entire population was wiped out,” Coran interrupts. “It was terrible. A horrible, destructive war that we do not want repeated. And, our success is a not a guarantee here.”

Keith looks at Allura and Coran in disbelief, unable to believe that such strong vampires could be taken out by anyone, Galra or otherwise.  

She shrugs. “It is true. Think of this as releasing a nuclear bomb if we start a war with them. It is not something to be done lightly and a lot of people might die. We will admit that perhaps we should have been more aggressive though protecting our borders and not ignoring their wrongdoings.”

Keith chews on his bottom lip. “So when are we saving Shiro?”

Allura laughs. “I like him, he doesn’t even care about the millions of people dying, just his friend.”

“We are currently trying to come up with a plan to minimize casualties and maximize our chances. We do not want a long drawn out affair. We also know that if we take out their leadership, then the lower ranked vampires will fall in line with Allura, Lance, and Altea. Negotiations or peace treaties likely will not work now, though and we may have also lost the element of surprise, unfortunately,” Coran responds.

“Why?” Keith asks.

“Well, you remember when we killed Sendak, right? It just had to be Sendak, didn’t it?” Lance sighs heavily.    

“Ezor burned down the warehouse to buy us some time, but they will know what happened pretty quickly. And they will see it as a declaration of war. Sendak is, or was, one of the highest ranking vampires in the Galra Empire.”

“It is kind of romantic, isn’t it? Keith is like the face that launched a thousand ships…” Lance says dreamily.

Keith stares at him.

“Like, you two are suggesting I give him flowers when I just started a war for him.”

“Humans don’t think that way Lance! Be romantic! You did it with me!” Allura yells.   

“Anyway, our plan is to strike early and hard, take out the higher levels fast and stop the war before it gets started. We think that will minimize causalities,” Coran says.  

“and Shiro?”

“We will try to save him if it is possible,” Allura says.

Keith looks off into the distance. “Vampire, human, it doesn’t matter. He survived. I can feel it and I am going to save him.”

Lance nods. “I believe you.”

Keith stands up, walking over to the window. Lance has a beautiful front yard and the flowers are blooming. During a different time, he may have taken advantage of the good weather, gone for a hike, rode his bike around town. But, right now all that matters is Shiro. He will do whatever it takes, even if it means allying with the vampires behind him now. Even if it means sacrificing himself.

He feels Lance beside him.

“Hey man, listen, we are going to find Shiro and stop the Galra. I promise you.”

Keith watches as Lance leans against the window, a bit too close for Keith’s comfort.

“Damn straight we are,” Keith responds, turning around to Allura and Coran.

“Where do we start?”

Chapter Text

Pidge: Keith, I am about to call the cops on you. And we are the cops.

Keith: Pidge, chill.

Pidge: Why are you asking me to look up a random number out of nowhere when you have been ignoring me and calls from work?

Keith: Can’t you just do me this favor?

Pidge: What the fuck is going on? And why are these coordinates the warehouse fire that happened during a Galra party?

Keith: Its complicated

Pidge: What have you gotten yourself into? Why are you at Lance’s house? Do you remember when you were literally trying to get me to frame him for stuff so you could execute him?

Keith: He is helping me save Shiro

Pidge: Is he drinking from you?

Keith: That is none of your business

Pidge: Would you let me do an EEG test on you?

Keith turns his phone on silent and puts it down on the dresser. Sometimes, EEG tests, which monitor brain activity, could show certain signs indicating a human is being influenced by a vampire. But, right now, Keith doesn’t care. He had taken his eye off the ball, so to say, but his discussion with Allura has him back on track. He has made up his mind.

He needs to save Shiro. He also needs to stop the trafficking. It is just now weighing on him how this isn’t just about Shiro, but also the case they have been working on for years to solve. That taking down the Galra also means taking down the biggest trafficking ring the department has ever seen. Keith’s stomach turns, thinking of all the innocent people ripped out of their lives, thinking about how that includes Shiro now.

To achieve both goals, he needs Lance. If losing himself to Lance is the result, then he is fine with it. He had wanted to run from Lance before, but now he knows he needs to do whatever needs to be done to get Lance to do what he wants.   

He is surprised to learn that the plans to take down the Galra were made for this very night though. Allura wants to hit quickly and unexpectedly, perhaps before they even realize who killed Sendak. Keith’s stomach is in knots, thinking that after tonight everything would be over. He would either have Shiro back or not. Tomorrow might see him some vampire slave or sitting at home with Shiro.  

He is back in the bedroom in Lance’s house at the moment while Lance and Allura discuss particulars. Stretched out on the bed is a buffet of weapons, daggers, short swords, knives, guns. All specifically created to kill vampires. It is really Keith’s dream come true. Apparently he has been good enough to earn the right to be armed at least. He slides his fingers over them, choosing his favorites from the bed when there is a knock on his door.

“Come in,” he responds.

Lance practically skips in, carrying a big black bag, but also wearing nothing but a pair of boxer briefs.

“What the fuck,” Keith says, looking up at the ceiling.

“Oh come on, it’s nothing you haven’t dreamed about before,” he says, teasingly.

“You wish.” He can’t help himself from looking back though as Lance throws the black bag in his direction. Lance has a ridiculously nice body, lean and muscled and tan.

Lance is also aware of this fact. He lifts an arm over his head, rubbing his hand down his toned stomach, looking like he is posing in some shitty Abercrombie ad. Keith sighs. If he is meant to become some vampire’s bitch, then he guesses Lance is a much better option than someone like Sendak.

He can’t help but notice the actual boxers though. They are Ghostbusters themed with a large image of the Stay Puft Marshmallow man on the front. It only somewhat ruins the effect of Lance posing.  

Keith scoffs. “Seriously, how old are you?”

Keith sometimes can’t believe how Lance can go from a cool and intimidating vampire to an idiot in a blink of an eye.

“What, you can’t enjoy movies after a certain age or something?”

Keith ignores him, reaching down for the black bag and opening it. He is surprised to see his own clothing in it along with a toothbrush and other stuff from his house.  

“What is this?” He asks.

“Your punishment.”

“My what?”

“For sneaking out when I told you to stay put. I had Zethrid and Acxa go pack your stuff for you. By the way, they say you need to go shopping and they can’t believe you live like that. Maybe we can go shopping later? Get you some new clothes…”

“I am not staying here,” Keith answers automatically while simultaneously understanding that he really might never go home again.

“You are. This isn’t up for debate. I even had them change the locks so you would have to break a window to get in anyway.”

Keith considers arguing, but bites his tongue, remembering his resolution.

“Where is Ezor?” Keith knows that Narti is healing and he had seen Acxa and Zethrid, but Ezor is suspiciously absent.  

“Being punished,” Lance answers in a clipped tone.  

“What? Why?”

“She had one job. Keep an eye on you. She failed.”

“That…that isn’t fair.”

“I think it is completely fair. She was given a fairly simple task. She failed almost immediately.”

He is completely serious now, looking at Keith impassively, jaw set.   

Keith fights the shiver that runs up his spine. It is ridiculous anyway, to feel afraid of someone wearing a pair of Ghostbusters boxers.

“You aren’t hurting her though, right?”

“I am a fair person. She is being punished the equivalent to her mistake.”

Keith nods.

Lance walks over to the closet and throws it open, running his hands over some of the clothing in there. The clothing looks more practical than what Lance usually wears, similar to what a swat team might wear in Keith’s department. Keith takes a deep breath before speaking.  

“There is something I want to talk to you about.”

Keith likes to think that he is a person who can change, who can learn from his mistakes. While Lance and Allura had talked, he had thought, long and hard, about the mission tonight. He steps closer to the bed, running his hand over one of the daggers.  

“Mmmhm?” Lance hums as he pulls out a pair of pants and begins putting them on.

“I don’t think I should go tonight.”

Lance’s head snaps to look at him, openly surprised.

“What…really?”

“What Allura outlined…I feel like I would just be in the way, you know. Being a human.”

And it is true. It is supposed to be a concentrated strike just to take out the upper brass of the Galra Empire. The strike team was fairly small to remain stealthy.

The upper brass meant vampires only as strong as Sendak or stronger. If he is being realistic, Keith understands that he would be a liability. Lance would have to concentrate on protecting him as much as fighting.

Lance is searching his face, stopped with one leg in the pants and the other not. Finally, he nods. “I agree.”

Keith nods, hanging his head, swallowing back how hard it is to think about sitting at home while Lance went off to fight.

“Look, Keith, you are amazing. You have taken down vampires twice your strength and endurance. If this was a normal raid of sorts I would even take you without reservation…but it’s not. I can’t even guarantee my own safety and, to be honest, if you were there I would be distracted trying to make sure you were safe.”

“Why were you going to let me go at all then? Earlier, you told Allura that I was coming.”  

“I figured you would throw a huge temper tantrum if I didn’t bring you that would result in you burning the house down or something. Or maybe killing all of us and then killing yourself. It didn’t seem worth it to try to keep you away and, ultimately, you are an adult. You can make your own decisions even if they are bad ones.”

“I…ok. Right. You have me there.” And, Keith knows that he, even two days ago, might have done just what Lance said, thrown a fit, fought his way into the raid team even if he was a liability. Sendak had been a reality check. Keith knows he needs to start thinking of Lance as his weapon, his fighter.  

“Look, Keith. I just want to protect you. And being here will keep you safer. I feel better already hearing you say you will stay here. My top priority is you.”

Keith feels a rush of warmth in his chest and shifts his weight from foot to foot. He doesn’t quite know how to respond when Lance says stuff like this to him. Out of habit more than anything else, he imagines a brick wall, one of the mental tactics they taught in mental defense classes.  

Lance frowns and then turns to start digging through the closet again, pulling out shirts.     

“You know, I am not bragging or exaggerating when I say I am probably the best vampire out there when it comes to mind control stuff. Like, Allura has the whole “can force people to worship her” thing going on, but I can do other stuff that she can’t. I can rewrite memories, “edit” someone’s thoughts and opinions…”

Keith swallows. “Ok?”

“Just saying, if I wanted to, I could have done that to you the first day I met you. Rewired you to love me. Made us childhood friends. Made you my obedient little blood bag.”

“Are…are you threatening me?”

“What? No. I am comforting you.”

Keith stares at Lance long and hard enough that Lance grimaces, running a hand down his face.

“Ok, shit. This isn’t coming out right.  What I mean is, you seem worried that I am manipulating you into feeling stuff for me or whatever. Or that I am just after you because I want to drink your blood and I am going to mind fuck you until you give it to me. But if I wanted to do that and if all I wanted was your blood, then I would have already made that happen with a lot less trouble and a lot more payoff. I am trying to tell you that that isn’t what I want from you though. I don’t want you to be…tricked into being with me or anything. I don’t want to change you. That isn’t what I want.”

Keith pauses, rolling Lance’s words over in his head. “Then what do you want?”

“Not your blood. Or not just your blood. I mean, I am not going to tell you that it isn’t on the list at all. But, you seem to think that vampires are only interested in you because of your blood and humans only interact with you because of Shiro. But that isn’t why I want you. I like your stupid personality. I like how stubborn you are. I like how ridiculously strong and fearless you are even though you are just a human. I like how you didn’t just investigate the trafficking case because it is your job, that you actually seemed to care about the people being hurt. I don’t want a blood bag or a slave or a mindless follower. I want you, as you are.”

Keith is silent. Lance steps closer.  

“I just want to be clear about my intentions since you seem to have some misconceptions about me and my actions. I am not controlling your mind right now. I want this to be an actual relationship. I want to protect you from anyone, human or vampire, that would hurt you in any way.”

Keith finally snorts. “You probably say that to every human you try to seduce.”

“You know that I don’t.”

Keith clears his throat, steeling himself for his next movement, his next choice. He reminds himself of why he contacted Lance to begin with and then steps forward, moving closer to Lance, closing the gap between them.  

“Let’s make a deal then. A new one.”

Lance eyes him carefully.

Keith takes a shaky breath and steps even closer, willing himself to reach forward and put a hand on Lance’s chest in a way he hopes seems intimate or affectionate.

“If you bring Shiro back to me and end all of this shit the Galra are doing to innocent human beings, I will give myself to you. Whatever you want. My body, my mind…my blood. All yours.” Because that is what he has to give. This is how he can help Shiro. This is how he can help every person who had been trafficked by a Galra vampire.  

Lance smiles and then leans forward. For a moment, Keith blushes, thinking he is going to kiss him, thinking back to their first kiss and how soft his lips were. But, Lance turns his head, instead leaning forward so his lips are right next to Keith’s ear

“No.” He whispers. “I reject your deal.”

Keith stiffens, a bit surprised. Then, there is a gentle pressure of Lance stroking down his arm, lips still near his ear.

“Firstly, I don’t need you to motivate me to want to stop the Galra by offering your body to me. I have morals.”

Keith feels just a little guilty.

“Secondly, when you give yourself to me, it is going to be your choice made out of free will and you will enjoy doing so.” Keith blushes, stepping backward, suddenly needing space.  

Lance stretches, smiling easily, the moment broken. “Well, it is about time for me to go, don’t you think? Allura is probably getting cranky. She hates waiting.” He pulls some boots out of the closet and slips them onto his feet. Keith watches, frowning.

When Lance is done, he smiles again at Keith, before walking over. In one smooth movement, he reaches up to the side of Keith’s head. Keith sees a flash of color before something is put behind his ear.  

“Wha…what?” Keith sputters, looking in the mirror to see a red flower behind his ear.

“A pretty flower for a pretty boy,” Lance says, smiling at him, eyes sparkling.

Keith opens his mouth and then closes it. He blanks for a moment. Lance’s face falls just a bit before a grin tugs at his mouth.

Keith grabs the flower furiously and throws it to the ground, stomping on it.

“Too late! Too late! You blushed. I made you blush!”

“Shut up. No you didn’t. I hate you.”

“You do want flowers! You really do want flowers! Oh my god, Keith! This is a turning point!”

“No, I don’t. Shut up. I am pale, I am always red!”

“Whenever I flirted with you before, you got all murdery. I thought you didn’t like it so I stopped.”

“I don’t! I hate it!”

“I can’t wait. I am going to go take out the Galra, bring back Shiro, be your hero, look really cool doing it, and then I am going to romance the shit out of you.”

“You realize I am currently near a lot of guns and blades right?”

“and we both know you don’t intend to use them on me.”

They are both interrupted by Allura screaming Lance’s name from below.

“Be back soon, sweetheart,” Lance says, walking out the door with a wink, leaving Keith with a bed full of weapons and a crushed flower beneath his feet.  

Chapter Text

Keith takes a few moments to gather himself, calming his beating heart by picking out some weapons from the bed. Then, he makes his way to the wing of the house where he knows Narti is resting.  

He opens the door to a podcast playing and Narti stretched out on a couch with the ugliest cat he had ever seen in his life sitting on her shoulder.  

“Uh, hey Narti…are you feeling ok?”

She waves a hand at him.

“I am assuming that means yes?”

She nods.

“Can I sit with you for a minute?”

She nods and then points at the cat.

“That…that is some cat…”

She grabs at him and unmistakable words enter his mind.

Pet him.

“It is weird when you do that and I am not sure he wants me to pet him…”

She nods vigorously and gestures toward the cat again.

Keith holds his hand out cautiously, immediately drawing back as the cat hisses angrily at him.

Then Narti is shaking and Keith realizes she is laughing at him.

“Whatever. Your cat is ugly.”

She flips him off, still seeming amused.

He talks to her a little bit after this. It is strange to have a conversation with someone who can’t talk back, but he feels that somehow he can understand her even when she isn’t planting words in his mind. They had quietly gone back to listening to her podcast when the door opens abruptly.  

He turns toward the door, expecting to see any range of people that he knows work for Lance or maybe even Lance himself back from the raid. He is not expecting to see Hunk standing there.

He jumps up. He hadn’t seen Hunk much lately, but it doesn’t immediately register why he would be here. He thinks for a moment that maybe there is some kind of problem with Lance’s bars and, for some reason, the other man decided to come to his personal residence to tell him about it.

“What are you doing here?”

“Hi Narti, Kova, Keith. It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? I am supposed to heal your wounds.”

“What? Wait, what?”

“Oh I guess Lance didn’t tell you…” Hunk fiddles, not quite making eye contact. A horrible realization hits Keith.

“No way. You aren’t a vampire. It can’t be.”

“I am not a vampire.”

“So you can’t be one of Lance’s…”

“Well, I mean, technically I am not a vampire, but…”

A memory comes back to Keith. He remembers a conversation he had with Lance where a human servant was mentioned, but not by name.  

“You…you are his human servant?”

“We don’t really like that word. Sounds kind of…offensive.”

“His bondservant?”

“Still offensive.”

“His drudge?”

“Why are all these words so negative sounding?”

“Thrall?”

“That is better, but misleading. We prefer Renfield.”

“What? That is a character name. You can’t go by that. How is Thrall bad and not Renfield?”

“We think it is funny. You have to say it like the movies though….Reeeeenfield,” he lowers his voice and mimics a scary old movie voice.

Keith glares at him. “I don’t care what you call yourself. Why didn’t you tell me or Shiro?”

Keith feels betrayed for some reason. How many times had he casually had a conversation with Hunk and never connected him to Lance, especially not this intimately? His mind races, trying to remember if he had said anything to Hunk that he shouldn’t have. He is pretty sure he at least joked about killing Lance before to him.   

“I didn’t want to not tell you especially now that you and Lance are kind of friends. But, this is one of the perks of the job. Everyone thinks I am just a human.  Very few know that I am his Renfield. I can be his eyes and ears in places that others cannot.”

Keith stares at Hunk suspiciously.

“Don’t make this something that it isn’t. Not everything is some conspiracy against you. I have been helping Lance spy on other vampires.”

“Why haven’t you been around?”

“I told you-I have been eyes and ears elsewhere. You would be surprised what people will say in front of someone they think is just a human. He called me back when Narti got hurt. Now take your shirt off.”

Keith blinks and then obliges, allowing Hunk to take off the rough bandage job that Keith himself had put on his body after Sendak bit him. He winces at his red, marred flesh. It hurt to be bitten by a vampire with no interest in making the process feel good. Hunk holds up a spray bottle of water and sprays it on Keith.

It instantly feels better, cooling the skin. Hunk does it again and gently dabs the wound. Keith can already tell that the wounds are disappearing.

“What is this?”

“It will help heal you and avoid scarring…Now drink this,” Hunk hands him a small glass. It looks like water, but he knows it isn’t. He frowns.

“It’s safe, I promise. If it isn’t, Lance would personally kill me.”  

Keith drinks it. The liquid is like water, but slightly sweet and more viscous.  

“What was that?”

“It improves your blood production.”

“You aren’t really answering my questions.”

“It’s nothing bad, I promise.”

“Why does my blood production need improved anyway? Am I low on blood right now or is this so Lance can drink more from me?”

“Why not both?” Hunk shrugs.

Keith narrows his eyes. “Was everything you told me a lie? We talked…you told me about your family.” A distant memory pops into his head. “You told me you were sickly as a teenager and had trouble with your lungs, tuberculosis or pneumonia or something, but that you had beaten it by college…”

Hunk shifts his eyes around again, looking guilty. “None of that was a lie, not exactly. I did have trouble with my lungs, but we called it consumption back in the day. I just…I didn’t mention beating it meant becoming not a human anymore.”

“Why a human serv…Renfield and not an actual vampire?”

“Blood is GROSS, Keith. Renfields don’t have to drink blood to survive.”

Keith stares at him. “Really? You made a decision that important because blood is gross to you?”

They are interrupted by the sudden sound of glass breaking.

Keith and Hunk look at each other for a moment before Keith jumps up. It was a loud crash, like someone had broken through a window. Adrenaline shoots through his body and his heart is pounding as he runs out of the room, pulling a gun as he goes. He distantly hears Hunk calling something behind him, but ignores it and keeps running. He races down the stairs, toward the noise.

He runs into the living room to see a vampire breaking through Lance’s front door. He vaguely registers a few shadowy figures behind this vampire. He doesn’t recognize any of them, but notes the fangs and the fact that the main vampire is pushing his way into the living room.

He raises his gun. “Stop and put your hands up or I will shoot.”

The large male vampire in front doesn’t even act like he hears him, stepping toward Keith with a snarl. Keith takes a deep breath, steadies himself, points, shoots and…misses. He groans, distantly remembering Pidge making fun of him for barely passing his gun test back when he became an officer. Two more shots finally hit their mark though and the vampire collapses to the ground, rotting.   

He shoots and kills the next vampire behind that one as well before pulling a blade instead. It is old-fashioned in the contemporary world, but he just feels better holding a blade against a vampire.  He stabs through the heart of another vampire coming toward him and smirks. It feels good to be armed again, to kill the danger facing him. To have a tangible threat in front of him that he could handle by physically stopping it, by slashing it to pieces. This is how things should be, Keith thinks.

He pulls another blade, easily slicing through two more vampires before dodging a swipe from another. He slips out of the vampire’s grasp and slides his blade into its heart. Even in the midst of this adrenaline fueled moment, he realizes that something is off though. The vampires’ mannerisms are stilted and slow. Unnatural in a way that he doesn’t remember seeing in vampires.

He sees a handful lining up to crawl through the door when Hunk appears beside him. He glances at him to see that he is carrying what appears to be a bazooka.

“What the…”

“I got this,” Hunk says, squaring himself and pulling the trigger. There is a loud boom that leaves Keith’s ears ringing and every remaining vampire immediately drops as a large bullet, or more like a cannonball, rips through their bodies at once.  

“Wow,” Keith says.

Keith raises his blade again, realizing that one is still moving. It is injured, but not yet rotting like the rest, indicating that they missed its heart.

He walks over, putting his boot on the vampire’s chest and the blade to the vampire’s throat.

“Who sent you?” He asks, even though he figures he knows the answer. The vampire stares up at him with cloudy eyes and moans.  

“There is something wrong with them,” Hunk says.

Keith nods. “That was way too easy and they…they are acting more like zombies,” Keith says. “Zombies don’t exist, do they?”

“Keith! Don’t say that, that’s scary! Zombies don’t exist!” Hunk shrinks away from him, eyes fearful.

“Are you kidding me? Do you hear yourself? Your best friend is the biggest monster I know and you are scared of a hypothetical zombie?”

“Hey man, that’s not cool, Lance isn’t a monster.”

“He is still scarier than a damn zombie.”   

The vampire growls again, pulling their attention back to the creature. It thrashes against Keith’s boot, but not in a coordinated way, not in the way a human or vampire would react in a similar situation. He watches for another moment before his stomach turns, and he slips the blade into the vampire’s chest. He is relieved when the squirming stops beneath his foot.   

He turns back to Hunk who is looking upward with a faraway look in his eyes. “Lance is coming back right now.”

“Can you feel him?”

“Yes, all the time.”

“That’s weird.”

Hunk shrugs. “You get used to it.”

Hunk insists on cleaning the living room as much as possible before Lance gets back. Keith half-heartedly cleans up glass while keeping an eye on the door. He finally hears some cars pull into the driveway. He stops cleaning immediately, watching as Lance and others get out of their vehicles. He impatiently watches Lance talk to some other vampires, a few he recognizes, a few he doesn’t. Zethrid is there and gets into a car and drives away. Ezor follows a moment later. Allura stands to the side. He can already tell that something is wrong. Once most of the cars leave, Lance and Allura stand in the driveway for a few moments. He watches as Allura hugs Lance. Keith feels sick to his stomach. He can’t help but think something really bad happened, that Lance is hesitating from coming inside to talk to him.   

They finally walk inside, stepping through the broken door like it is normal.  They both don’t quite make eye contact with Keith or Hunk. Lance glances around the ruined front foyer and barely seems surprised.

“They knew we were coming and had cleared out,” Allura says in a clipped tone. “No sign of Shiro. Just some vampires…which I am assuming they sent some here too…”

Lance idly picks up a piece of the broken glass. Hunk puts down the cleaning supplies and walks over, staring intently at Lance.

“Our intel cannot locate any of the main Galra at this point. Which, honestly, is surprising. I would have assumed they would take us head on. It’s the Galra way,” Allura continues.

“I need to get some air,” Lance says abruptly before walking by Hunk and Keith, making his way to the kitchen.

“Lance…” Allura calls after him before sighing and looking at Keith.

“What’s wrong with him?” Keith asks.

“Why don’t you ask him yourself?” Hunk responds.

“You are his Renfield. Why don’t you go comfort him?”

“I think he has something he wants to say to you, specifically.”

The fear returns. He can’t help but think this has something to do with Shiro even though they said they hadn’t seen him. He finally nods.

“And Keith? Be nice,” Allura says. Hunk nods.

He can’t quite stop himself from rolling his eyes. “I’ll try…”

Keith walks into the kitchen. He already has a good idea of where Lance is. He had a great back deck that overlooks the ocean in the distance. Lance had told him at one point that it is his favorite part of the house. He walks outside and, sure enough, sees Lance sitting on the deck railing, looking up at the stars. It is dark and Lance had not turned on any lights or even lit the tiki torches. Keith pauses, awkward, not knowing what to do and feeling like he is intruding.  

Then, he sighs and sits gingerly beside Lance. He can tell the vampire is upset, but struggles to form the words to ask him why.  

He looks at him, face turned in profile, and sees the vampire’s lip quiver. It is a surprisingly human movement. Keith is very good at mentally separating vampires from humans in his mind. It isn’t hard. Lance is clearly not human. He isn’t even a new vampire that still has human mannerisms. But, moments like these collapse those carefully laid boundaries. Lance seems very human right now and very small. Sometimes Keith forgets that Lance was young when he died. He looks young now, like a kid.

He can see the human that Lance once was and, for some reason, that scares him.

After a moment of silence, he finally reaches out his arm like he is going to pat Lance on the back and then just awkwardly leaves his arm hanging there. He isn’t really the comforting type and all of the touching between him and Lance had always been initiated by Lance. Keith isn’t even sure if Lance wants to be touched right now.   

Lance doesn’t seem to mind though and flops easily over onto Keith’s shoulder, nestling into his side. Keith lets his arm settle, barely laying it across Lance’s back and not quite gripping him. He doesn’t want this to get too cozy by actually putting his arm around the vampire.

“They knew we were coming and were already long gone. Someone is betraying us and I don’t understand who it could be.”

“Lotor…”

Lance shakes his head immediately. He had told Lance about Lotor being at the Galra party and was basically shut down about it. Lance said that it isn’t Lotor betraying them, that Lotor was loyal, but flighty and probably just wanted to go to a good party. Keith isn’t convinced, but Lance dismisses the idea that it could be him.

“I trust Lotor. And even if I didn’t, I have not had contact with him in quite some time. He did not know about the raid we planned tonight. He literally can’t be the leak because he isn’t in my inner circle. I think it has to be someone in the inner circle…”

“Allura…”

Lance snorts. “If she wanted to betray me she would just kill me outright. She wouldn’t play petty games.”

“You missed something or someone then.”

“I know. We are missing something. I don’t know how. We can literally read minds and sense each other’s souls. It shouldn’t be possible that we can’t figure this out.”

There is a moment of silence.

“There is more…” Keith prompts.

“I said they cleared out, but some of those unnatural vampires were there. We took them out easily. But…”

He is silent long enough that Keith prompts him to continue again.  

“You know, I have killed people and vampires before. There was always a reason though. They made a choice and did something that made them deserve it or I was protecting myself or someone I love. I have morals and I follow vampire law. Under vampire law, I am in my right to execute these vampires. But this…this is different.”

“Why?”

“I can tell those people didn’t choose this for themselves. They were made monsters against their will and I don’t just mean by being made into vampires. Even if a person is changed against their wishes into a vampire, that person would still have the free will to choose to leave their maker and still be a law-abiding person. These people…they don’t have free will. They are…mindless. Like zombies.”

Lance shivers.  

“They had something horrible happen to them. It feels terrible, like there is a gaping hole where the soul should be, like they were mutilated internally. I went inside one of their mind’s to try to question her or use her for information and it was just this black, terrible hole, this emptiness. It was so cold. I have seen some shit in my life Keith, multiple wars, the worst things that people can do to one another, and being inside that vampire’s head made me sick to my stomach.”

“There isn’t a way to…save them? Or help them?”

Lance shakes his head.
“It feels like their souls have been ripped out of their bodies. Like, there is nothing to reach, nothing to save. It is best to put them out of their suffering. But, it feels really bad, like really bad.”

Keith stiffly pats Lance’s shoulder.

“You are doing the best you can.”

“I am sorry I didn’t find Shiro for you.”

“It’s ok.”

“Keith…I hope you can put two and two together here about what might have happened to Shiro. I am not sure we will be able to save him even if we find him.”

“If Shiro…if they did that to Shiro…”

Keith pauses, looking up at the sky. Ever since Shiro had went missing, Keith had been in denial about the possibility that Shiro might not make it. That he could already be dead or beyond saving. He was so sure for most of Shiro’s disappearance that everything would be fine eventually. He lets himself think about it now though, that maybe it is too late. That maybe it had been too late for quite some time.  

He lowers his head and makes a decision.

“Promise me something, Lance, if they did that to Shiro.”

“Anything…” Lance responds immediately.

“I want to be the one to end his suffering.”

Lance stiffens. “Really? That isn’t what I was expecting. I thought you would want to lock him up somewhere and hope he wakes up one day.”

“If his soul is gone, then it won’t be Shiro.” Even as he says it, he isn’t sure he would be capable of hurting Shiro, even a Shiro that had been transformed into a monster, one who is already dead even if his body is still animated. He thinks about sinking a blade into Shiro’s body and shudders.  Maybe he could make himself do it and then he would just take himself out as well.  

Lance frowns, pulling back and searching his face. “We will cross that bridge when we get there, ok?”

Keith nods, no longer feeling the chill in the air or the hand now gripping his bicep from the vampire beside him.

Chapter Text

Two Weeks Later

 

“Ok, a cold foam cascara cold brew for Allura, an espresso macchiato for Pidgeon, a flat white for moi, passion fruit tea lemonade for Coran, a lightly sweet soy chai tea latte for Hunk, and Double Chocolaty Chip Frapp for Keithy,” Lance bounces into the living room with a drink holder.

“What did you call me?” Pidge asks, grabbing her drink and frowning.

“Oh thank god,” Allura responds. “You took forever.”

“There was traffic!”

“Seriously, what did you call me?” Pidge repeats.  

Keith barely looks up from his position as he takes his frapp. He is on one side of the couch, looking through files of information. It had been an uneventful and uneasy two weeks since the night of the failed raid. Allura and Lance had expected something quick and decisive to happen. A show down of some sort, an attack. But, it is like the Galran upper brass had disappeared. Everyone, for the most part, wanted to avoid dragging humans into it and especially did not want the attention of the government. So, it isn’t like they could just enter Galran territory in the North and attack haphazardly to flush them out.  Keith had somehow convinced Pidge of this when he asked for her help. She had begrudgingly agreed that no one wanted the attention of the government in a potential vampire conflict if it could be avoided.  

She sits now on a recliner, close to where Hunk is sprawled on the ground. Allura is draped across a loveseat with Coran.

For now, they are all focused on trying to figure out where Honerva and Zarkon are or figure anything out about their current plans. Pidge and Hunk are taking care of tech side of the search. Keith is using more traditional methods, relying on his cop background and extensive notes and files on anyone involved with the Galra. Allura and Coran had literally hundreds of years, maybe even more, of battle experience and strategy. Lance easily became bored though and got nominated by everyone in the room for a Starbucks run to give him something to do.

“I got you a cookie too. It’s a little squirrel with a flower on its nose…” Lance purrs.  

Keith grunts, barely looking up from the documents in front of him. “You didn’t have to.”

“It is a sweet for my sweet.”

“Awww,” Hunk makes a pleased noise.

Keith doesn’t react, grabbing the cookie and biting off a leg while never taking his eyes off the papers in his lap.  

Lance smiles nevertheless and throws himself across the couch, pushing his legs into Keith’s lap.

“Hey!”

Lance smirks at him. Keith rolls his eyes and puts the file on top of his legs, continuing to read.

He fails to notice how Pidge is watching them. Lance doesn’t though.  

“Oh come on Pidgey, don’t look at me like that,” Lance says

“If you ever call me that again, I will literally kill you.”

“Hey, can we stop threatening to kill people?” Hunk asks.  

“People? I don’t think Lance qualifies,” Pidge responds.

“Oh come on, you used to like me.”

“That is before you mind fucked my friend.”

Keith finally looks up. “Pidge, I told you, it’s not like that. I still hate him.”

She types on her computer, still looking at them though, frowning. Lance grins at her before turning back to Keith.  

“Let me have a bite,” Lance whines as Keith sucks down some of his frapp. He relishes in the tooth-rotting sweetness.   

Keith holds out the cookie. Instead of grabbing it like Keith expects, Lance leans forward, biting directly into the cookie while Keith holds it. He bites the head off, smiling and laying back down on the couch.

Pidge shakes her head. “Do you even see yourself right now, Keith?”

“I am trying to find Shiro…”

“While casually touching Lance.”

“I am not.” Keith looks down and realizes that Lance’s legs are still in his lap and that he had wrapped his hand around one of Lance’s ankles without even realizing it. He jerks, pulling his hand off.  

“Pidgeotto, back off. Do you know how long it took us to get here?”

“Do not call me that! Remember when you used to want to kill him, Keith?”

“I mean, it’s still on the table,” Keith responds.

“Hey!” Lance cries out.  

“If Lance dies so do I!” Hunk yells.

“It’s 50/50 now. Maybe I will kill him, maybe I won’t. Sorry Hunk,” Keith says.

Lance seems to consider this for a moment, leaning his head back and looking at the ceiling. “…Fine, I’ll take it. It’s progress. See Pidgeot, he still wants to kill me a little bit. You can relax.”

“I swear to God…do not fucking call me that. I will kill everyone you love and then rip your throat out.”

“Hey!” Hunk exclaims. She looks at him sympathetically for a moment before turning back to Lance. Pidge likes Hunk despite his connection to Lance. She had already briefly wondered to Keith if it is possible to kill a vampire while saving their human servant.

“Keith, take off your jacket,” Pidge demands.  

“Why?”

“I want to see your neck.”

Keith feels Lance tense ever so slightly before relaxing again. Keith closes his eyes for a moment. He can feel Lance looking at him intently.

“You don’t have to do anything,” Hunk says.

Keith huffs and jerks the collar of his jacket down. He knows there are bite marks all over the expanse of his neck. He doesn’t care. He knows Pidge knows anyway.  

“This isn’t important right now, Pidge. The fucking vampire war that may be happening is. Shiro is. Seriously, we can revisit killing Lance and if I am mind fucked or not after this is over.”

Lance squawks.

Keith goes back to his files. He gets why Pidge is so upset. He does. He had always been very firm about his hatred of Lance. He was especially against letting Lance drink from him. However, the first compromise was the hardest one. After that, it seemed so easy to just give Lance what he wants. It even feels normal to bare his neck, let Lance take what he needs. It is a regular thing now, at least once a day and sometimes twice.  

He is even able to admit to himself that it isn’t just Lance getting something from it. Keith likes it. He always has. He has always been one step away from being a vampire junkie. And there is little in his life that he enjoys right now. Everything that made his life his life disappeared seemingly overnight. Shiro is gone. He lives at Lance’s house now. He even officially resigned from the police force.  

So he is giving himself this. He is letting himself indulge. There are worse vices than occasionally letting a vampire nibble on you anyway, Keith tells himself.

He tries to keep it clinical at first. Lance is hungry and needs to be fed. It doesn’t have to be intimate in any way. This works for about one day. Then, the feedings turn into gentle mornings spent with Lance curled around him, mouth to his neck. Lance is surprisingly respectful, never letting his hands wander or pushing for more. Even so, it is more intimate than Keith should allow. He lets himself lean against Lance, relax into him, close his eyes and enjoy the moment. Lance is always so gentle with him too, kissing his neck when he finished, licking the wound closed, murmuring thanks in his ear before releasing him. Keith tries and fails to ignore the soft way that Lance looks at him during these moments.

Keith tells himself it is just for now. He may not even survive this vampire war. Or, if he does, he can just go back to hating Lance. He still has control of the situation. He can stop this any time he wants. For now, he is just allowing it to happen until he can resolve things. Then everything can go back to normal.  

He hears Lance chuckle beside him. Lance smirks at Pidge, a touch of smugness in it that doesn’t suit him. “He feeds me every day now. His blood is like nectar from the gods, my skin is basically sparkling.”

“Fucking gross,” Pidge responds.  

“Lance!” Hunk yells.

“Seriously Lance, don’t antagonize my friends,” Keith says.  

He squirms as he can feel Pidge desperately trying to make eye contact with him. He avoids it. He can’t right now. He is going to stay on this track until things are finished, for better or worse. Pidge would just have to accept that.

“I just don’t get why they won’t let us kill them,” Allura whines, interrupting their little fight.

“I fear they are planning something,” Coran responds.

“What I don’t like is the feeling that they are two steps ahead of us. What are we missing?” Hunk asks.

“As far as vampire power goes, could Lance and you beat their two strongest vampires?” Pidge asks curiously.

Lance and Allura look at each other.

“I believe we can. But, there are more factors at play. There will likely be others involved. The Galra are also devious, much more devious than we are. My fear is that they may have a weapon that we are unfamiliar with or that they have some plan that is going to catch us off guard.”

“Pidge, why is it so hard to find them? You can find anyone, right?” Keith asks.  

“Well, apparently the Galra have a tech person that is better than me or they don’t use much tech that is traceable.”

Hunk clears his throat. “I am also fairly sure, based on what I witnessed and our research, that some of their experiments have been successful. Or, more successful than the Vambies.” Vambies was the name they had given to the zombie-like vampires.

Keith winces. “Have you seen some of them retain their…souls? Or whatever.”

“Not directly, no. But I would guess they have succeeded. And we have no idea what their battle abilities will be.”

“It can’t be that great. Modified vampires cannot stand up to the power that comes from age and experience. I have been on this Earth for an eternity. Those Vambies were easier than even humans to defeat,” Allura responds.  

“Unless they are modifying their more successful experiments in very specific ways to be anti-vampire fighters,” Pidge shrugs. “It’s possible.”

They are quiet afterward, the weight of the statement hanging over the room.

They split for the night not long after though. Pidge goes home with a promise to return the next day. Allura and Lance leave, traveling to see a contact who might have information for them. Narti joins them, now healed and able to help in the search. Hunk and Keith both go their rooms.

Keith enjoys being alone for a while. He spread the files across the expanse of the bed, looking again and again for any patterns related to the Galra, possible crimes related to vampires in general, anything. He feels like there has to be a connection or a clue.

Time slips by before he hears a knock on the door. He turns as Acxa pushes her way into the room.

“What are…”  

She interrupts him. “Keith, Lance thinks he found Shiro.”

Keith gasps. “What?”

“One of our contacts claims that there is a warehouse an hour north of here where some of the Vambies are locked up. There is one that overlooks the rest though, a big Japanese man with white bangs. Lance is headed there with Allura now, but they think the information is good.”  

Keith freezes for a moment and then immediately heads for the door. Acxa strides ahead quickly. Keith has to jog to keep up with the very tall vampire.

“We should hurry,” she says, walking to the driveway. A million questions rip through Keith’s head, heart racing at the idea that this might be it and that perhaps Shiro still has some of his humanity left. If he is overseeing the other Vambies, then surely he isn’t just a mindless zombie. That is all Keith needs, all he needs to regain some of his hope. He rapidly approaches the black Cadillac that Acxa drives.

He trembles as he reaches the back end of the car, so caught up in his head at the thought of finding Shiro that he doesn’t even react when Acxa pauses, letting him step ahead before grabbing him from behind and putting a hand firmly over his mouth. He grabs at her arm in surprise at the same time as he feels a prick in his back. He squirms violently, managing to elbow her hard enough in the stomach to make her back up a step though she keeps a firm grip on his face. He grabs for the blade at his side, but his limbs are already feeling heavier. He is still fighting, but his movements are weaker, sluggish. She pulls him close, hand stopping any noise from leaving his mouth.  

He feels his muscles give in on him, going limp in her arms. He feels her other hand gripping at his arms, forcing them in front of his body. There is a snap and handcuffs bind him. She abruptly drops him then, letting him fall to the pavement with a thud. He looks blearily up at her as she opens the trunk.

He tries to say her name, but he can barely keep his eyes open now. He can do nothing to stop her from tossing him in the trunk. He feels her pawing at him, removing the blades and gun he had on his body. Then, darkness falls over him as the trunk is closed.

Chapter Text

…Be careful…don’t puncture…

Put the padding here…

Male….24….

….normal?

….yes….

Oh look its moving!....Idiot

Mark, here, right shoulder

Why are they so soft?

Probably just a childhood injury, see?

O…right…

150…

Where do you think….?

Dilated…. .3 cm, right?...Abnormality…

75kg…10, 10

So soft…stop!

What if she sees you?

Keith slowly opens his eyes. He sees three vampires hovering over him. He is strapped on a chair, much like you would be at a dentist’s office. His vision blurs and he closes his eyes for a moment, then opens them again. He first thinks that the vampires are triplets. They look very similar, with similar slim frames, brown hair, and heights. Only after his vision clears a bit more can he see that there are differences and that they may be sisters but not triplets. They move around him smoothly, almost like they are coordinated.

“Look, it’s awake!” One cries when she sees his eyes open.

“It’s a he!”

“Not yet it isn’t!”

“Do we talk to it?”

“No, just let her know.”

Keith feels a hand stroke down his hair.

“I told you to stop doing that!”

“It’s so soft! Are we really going to shave it?”

“Maybe.”

Keith opens his mouth to speak and can’t quite get his tongue to cooperate.

“How do humans even survive? Look how fragile he is.”

“We could just cover its mouth and then it would die in like, a minute.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, they suffocate really fast.”

“Not THAT fast!”

Keith looks down momentarily. His arms are bound to the arms of the chair. There is a thin metal strap keeping his wrists bound to the chair and then another closer to his elbow.  

“What’s going on? Where am I?” He finally speaks.

The three vampires stop and look at him with wide eyes.

“She said not to talk to it.”

“It might be confused.”

“Where is she? She said she would be here by now.”

“She’s meeting with the Emperor right now what do you expect?”

Keith pulls against the restraints. He looks down at himself and groans at the fact that he is naked except for a thin piece of fabric, a paper gown, draped over his body like the modesty gowns they give you at a doctor’s office. The reality of his situation starts to sink in and he jerks harder against the restraints.

“What if it hurts itself?”

“We can sedate him again if we need to.”

He lifts his head a little and looks around the room. There is a tray with a bunch of objects he can’t quite see next to the chair. Then, the rest of the room is white and reminds him of a lab. A microscope sits in a corner, a weird machine he doesn’t recognize next to it. There are Bunsen burners on another wall and a trash can that is labeled “Hazardous Waste Materials” nearby. A door is directly across from him.

He shakes his head again.

“Acxa…” he says, suddenly remembering what happened with a sinking feeling in his stomach.

“Such a hero.”

“I still can’t believe she pulled all that off.”

“And let herself be a guinea pig.”

“Well, would you say no in her position?”

“Fuck all of you, let me go,” Keith spits out, jerking forward in the chair before sinking back immediately, the sudden movement making him dizzy. 

The three of them face him again.

“He’s so cute!”

“It’s like a kitten…”

“Don’t let your guard down. Remember Sendak…”

“But Lance was there and his general…”

“Lance?” Keith jerks up again at the name, fighting against the sluggish feeling in his head. He needs to focus. He needs to get out of these restraints. On the tray near the table he can see that some of the objects are sharp. A scalpel, some items he doesn’t recognize, but most of them have sharp edges and points. If he can get a hand out, if he can grab one fast enough, if…

The door on the far side of the room slams open. He recognizes the vampire that enters as Honerva, the one that he met at the party.  Keith stills. He has spent enough time around vampires now to know that he did not stand a chance against this vampire, especially not when naked, drugged, and using a scalpel as a weapon. She gracefully walks over to the chair. She is beautiful, even Keith can admit, with an easy smile on her face, but behind her eyes are red blaring lights that scream danger to Keith. It is a look that he had seen in Lance sometimes, but Lance still has some warmth in his eyes, some humanity. There is none in Honerva’s.

“Mr. Song! So good to have you finally awake.”

The other three vampires immediately step to the side, forming a line with eyes lowered reverently.

“Can I call you Keith?”

“You can let me go.”

She laughs like he just made a joke.

“First of all, I want to say welcome and congratulations. It is quite the honor to join the Galra Empire.”

Keith stares at her. “Are you crazy? I haven’t joined shit.”

“I realize you haven’t settled into things yet. Don’t worry, that will come later. Be assured that we consider you Galran property now, one of the highest honors in the world.”

Keith jerks at his restraints as she moves closer, sitting down on a stool beside him.

“I am no one’s property.”

 She smiles like one would at a child. “Silly human notions. You will settle into things eventually. I get it though. You are limited now by your restricted and fleeting existence. The transition won’t be easy for you.”

He fights against the metal cuffs keeping him in place and grits his teeth.

“We have no desire to hurt you or damage our property. None of this has to hurt if you do not want it to. In fact, we graciously finished most of our initial tests while you were unconscious. We scanned your body, took blood samples, tissue samples, urine samples, semen samples…”

“Wait, what?” Keith cries out.  

She quickly sticks two fingers in his mouth and, for a moment, he is so shocked he cannot move. She pushes them downward and he gags.

“Hmmm,” she hums, withdrawing the fingers before replacing them with tongue compressor.

He bites down, not getting a finger, but only a mouth full of the cold, metal compressor. She clucks at him, but seems undisturbed as she picks up another piece of metal from the tray. It is in his mouth before he can react, slipping between his teeth. This time, when he bites down, his mouth is forcibly kept open.

“There, that is better, isn’t it?” She doesn’t wait for him to react before running a finger across his teeth.

“The incisors protrude a bit here, but not enough to represent an abnormality, I wouldn’t say,” she says, mostly to herself though the three vampires behind her are listening carefully and nodding.

She then takes something that looks like a huge Q-tip and sticks it in his mouth, scraping up and down his cheek.

“Take it to the lab,” she says, holding it up for one of the triplets.

She takes the gag out of his mouth then with a smile.

“If this is a plan to use me as bait to lure Lance here…” he begins.  

She laughs loudly. “Lance? Who cares about Lance?”

Keith stares at her dumbly. She reaches down, taking a small mallet object from the tray and hitting his knees and the bottoms of his feet.

“Normal reflexes, if we account for the drugs in his system,” she murmurs.

“You should care. When Lance realizes you took me, he will raze the entire place to the ground.”  

She shrugs. “Lance is not a threat. He is part of a crumbling empire. If he comes here to save you, we will kill him. If he doesn’t, then, well, we will end up killing him anyway at some point. You aren’t here because of Lance.”

“Then, why…what? Why would you take me? Is this about Shiro?”

“Shiro? Who is that?”

Keith’s stomach falls. It doesn’t really mean anything that she doesn’t know who he is, he tells himself.   

“I think he means Takashi, ma’am,” one of the triplets speaks up behind her.  

Her eyes light up. “Yes, I forgot! You knew our Champion! You will get to see him later.”

His heart stutters in his chest. “I will? Shiro is alive?”  

“Of course. You can be reunited with him, once we finish.”

His hope is only tempered by one word in her response. “Finish?”   

“Finish your transition. Your training.”

Keith shivers. He had assumed that they captured him as bait and nothing else. It only occurs to him now what she is implying when she says they are going to transition him. And what it means if they are calling Shiro their Champion.  

Honerva smiles, ignoring his distress and running a hand down his chest. In any other context, it may have been romantic or sexual, but in this one it just feels like she is sizing him up. 

“Isn’t it remarkable? How normal he appears despite his true nature?” She asks.  

“Are you sure about him?” One of the triplets responds.

“Yes, absolutely,” Honerva responds back.  

“I don’t understand. My true nature? And I’d rather die than be turned into one of you.” He jerks again, hard enough to hurt himself, to feel the metal digging into his wrists.  

“Keith, you have no idea do you? How special you are?”

Keith can’t stop himself from laughing. “There is nothing special about me.”

She smiles. “I can see why you wouldn’t know with losing your parents so young. Or, who knows, maybe they didn’t even know. Many still think you are a thing of legends, myths.” She looks over her shoulder and claps her hands. The triplets are moving immediately, one bringing over a huge syringe. One grabs another tray, sliding it over to the chair. The other one leaves the room.

“It is a bit surprising to me that he didn’t suspect though. We know that he has drank from your arteries. He has tasted your life force. How could he not know?  But, if he knew just how precious you are, there is no way you would have ever been let out of his sight.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Do you know how we figured it out? We found Sendak’s remains. And, wow. I have never seen that before in my life. And it’s been a long life, Keith. So, we tested a small amount of your blood that we found in his body.”

“You disgust me.”

“We suspected then and wanted to move slowly, but had to move up our plans when our Acxa let us know that Lance was getting suspicious, asking Allura questions about you, about your blood. See, Allura would know immediately if she looked for it. Just one sip of your blood and she would have taken you and hidden you away. Thankfully, Lance is possessive and never let her feed on you.”

“Allura would never do that. I am…” Keith cuts himself off. Even in this situation, he is not saying he is Lance’s out loud.   

“None of them matter now. Your future is here, with us.”

“Fuck you.”

She smiles at him again. “Special. Precious. Maybe even one of a kind. It is a shame we didn’t know and lost your parents to a realm that we cannot reach. At least for now. Souls never truly die, you know that right?”

“Don’t ever talk about my parents. I will rip your tongue out of your mouth.”

She laughs again. “Making threats when you cannot even break free from a simple metal restraint. Such a shame, living in such a fragile body for so long not knowing your true self. You are saved now, Keith. We will initiate you and then you will become the progenitor of the future. Our future.”

“I am not progenitoring shit for you guys. Who…what do you think I am!”

“You are our missing link. Let me show you.”

She picks up the large syringe one of the triplets brought her and draws just a bit of blood from his arm. She rolls her stool over to the area that has a microscope and drops a few drops of the blood onto a slide. Then she presses her eye to the microscope.  

“Beautiful. Just amazing. Look at it…the structure, the DNA…Breathtaking despite your mundane biology otherwise.” She wheels back to him, trying to show him a picture.

“This is an actual capture of a test we did earlier on your blood. Do you see it?”

Keith isn’t exactly sure how blood is supposed to look when under a slide, but the image is strange. There are orderly crystalline structures linked together.  

“Everything begins now. We need to move quickly through these initial parts. Now, let me explain. I would prefer to do this at another time. Make it a ceremony and celebrate this special moment. But, unfortunately, this,” she presses a hand immediately over his heart, “prevents us from doing so.”

“I don’t understand. I am not special. You are making a mistake.”

“Just relax. We will begin the process of your initiation and then we can talk at length later. I will fill you in on your past, your history, and your future.”

She turns to the remaining two triplets. “Prep him for the procedures. And absolutely do not cut him.”

Two of the triplets come over, smiles on their faces. One pulls out an electric razor. The other begins rigorously wiping down his chest. He squirms, trying to get out of their grip, but he is held down by hands that have, literally, supernatural strength. The one with the electric razor shaves a small portion of his hair off the side of his head. He watches the dark hair fall down his body into his lap before jerking his head, hard, in her direction. He makes contact, head butting her. She squeals and backs up, holding her nose.

Honerva pulls on gloves, watching what is happening with amusement in her eyes. “I like someone with fight in them. I can see why you and the Champion got along so well in your old lives.”

Keith shivers as the remaining triplet wipes disinfectant over his chest, or more specifically over the left side of his chest before toweling him down and moving away from the table. Honerva moves in.  

“Don’t…don’t do it. Don’t touch me.”

He doesn’t even know what it is, but the disinfectant smell, his newly shaved head, and the fact that Honerva is now holding another syringe frightens him.  

“You don’t have the right to say no to me. I am your master now. You will understand that soon enough and you will thank me for my kindness.”

She sticks the needle into his chest where the triplet had cleaned. Keith closes his eyes as the needle sinks into his flesh. He grits his teeth against the sting of something being injected into him.  

“This is paralytic and a painkiller. You won’t feel a thing. Again, we have no interest in hurting you. We consider you one of us already.”

She turns toward the triplets.

“Leave.”

They do immediately, closing the door behind them. She stands up, stretching before reaching for the weird machine that Keith saw earlier, but did not recognize. She checks something, a gauge on the front, before pulling something out.

Keith’s stomach drops.

It is unmistakably, without a doubt, a brand. Something Keith had only seen on TV before with livestock.  

He shivers, trying to pull away but kept in place by the metal cuffs securing him to the chair.

“Please no. Don’t…don’t.”

“I understand that that is just your human side talking. Once you have shed this body, you won’t fear stuff like this anymore. And you will embrace your mark, the proof of your belonging. You become one with the Galra Empire today, Keith.”

She moves quickly after that, pressing the brand into his chest roughly where his heart would be. He tenses, preparing to scream, but true to her word he doesn’t really feel anything but pressure. He might even believe that the brand is not heated, but…but…

A smell quickly reaches him. It is acrid and unlike anything he has ever smelled before. Tears prick his eyes and he turns away. The terrible smell then fades just a bit into something not unlike what you would smell during a barbeque. This isn’t better though because Keith realizes the smell is his own flesh burning.

He gags, tears in his eyes, in disbelief that this is really happening. Then the pressure is gone.

She forces his head toward her, a smile on her lips.

“One day, Keith, this will be your greatest pride. Your ascension begins now.”

He looks up to see her holding a mirror up to his face. He can see it now, clearly. A scar. His burned flesh. The perfect shape of the Galra symbol burned into his flesh.

He is throwing up on himself as he distantly hears Honerva leaving, telling someone in the hallway to clean him up for the next step.  

Chapter Text

On the sheets where he lies, there is a pattern embroidered into little spirals sprawling in all directions. It is subtle, an off-white to the white of the sheets. But, Keith likes to follow it with his eyes. He traces his finger across it, trying to find the end, the origin. He doesn’t have the energy for much else these days. It isn’t that he feels bad necessarily. He isn’t tired or exhausted or in pain. He just feels empty, devoid of energy, lacking motivation to do anything but curl up in his bed.  

People come in and talk to him sometimes. Sometimes he doesn’t comprehend what they are saying. It is like he is under water, the sounds muffled while he lets their words flow over him. Other times, he understands the words, but struggles to put them into context.

What does it mean that he is recovering well? Why are they happy with his progress? Who is the emperor that he needs to meet? He doesn’t understand how they apply to him. Hadn’t he always been laying in this bed?

Sometimes he doesn’t even remember his own name which should panic him, but rather, he feels strangely calm. Like maybe his name doesn’t even matter anymore. Like everything is going to be alright. 

**********

“Just relax. Lay down. I said relax…”

At some point, he is taken from the room that looks like a lab and wheeled into what looks like an actual hospital room. The triplets are all back, making sure his cuffs keep him secure on the table, inserting an IV of something into his arm, and preparing another tray of medical items to the side.

Keith is trembling and only partially because he is naked. He suspects what they are about to do to him.

He’d rather die.

Honerva shows up a few minutes later with that same infuriating smile on her face.

“I know, I know…this is the scary part. But it will be over soon.” She is saying comforting things, but her tone is cold. “I know it’s been an exhausting day. You will feel better soon though.”

Keith is rapidly losing his ability to fight back tears. He refuses to cry in front of them. He never cries in front of anyone, not even Shiro.

But there is really only one thing that transition can mean in this context.  

There is only one fate in front of him, looming, so close that he can’t hope that help will reach him in time.  Honerva is explaining to him how the process will work, how he will be asleep for all of it and feel no pain. He barely hears her.

He fights against the sedative injected into his veins a moment later. He doesn’t want to be unconscious and helpless, forced to let them do whatever they want with his body. He wills himself to stay awake, believing that if he stays awake he can still fight even strapped down to a table. He jerks his head, banging it against the table in an attempt to fight the darkness creeping into his vision, to fight against his overwhelming desire to close his eyes and let sleep take him.

Honerva clucks, shaking her head while still smiling like one would to a child throwing a tantrum. It is the last thing he sees before finally closing his eyes.

***********

In the time when gods still walked the planet, there was one named Hecate…Gods do exist. Shhh. Just listen. Hecate was the goddess of many faces, magic and necromancy, witchcraft, and the night and the moon. She was sometimes known as the goddess of crossroads. If she still walked the earth, she would be our goddess.

She was a Titan and one of the rulers of the underworld. She was capable of dark atrocities, sending out all manners of familiars and demons into the world at night, to seek out the blood of murder victims, to corrupt those already weak, to rule the dark shadows of the world.

She created all manner of creatures and spirits to do her bidding.

One of her creations were the Empusa, demigoddesses, or monsters depending on who you ask. They were powerful and insatiable. They could bend reality itself. They fed on the flesh and the blood of young men.

There was one Empusa who spent too much time on Earth without going back to the underworld. One night, she was captured by a powerful human necromancer. He bound her to a glade in the forest and ate her flesh and drank her blood. The blood killed the man, but it also revived him. He became the first vampire that night. The captured Empusa was greatly amused and stayed with her accidental creation. So started a relationship with this necromancer, this vampire that lasted even after the Gods and Goddesses, Hecate herself, crawled away from Earth to the edges of the universe.

Many Empusa left with Hecate and the others. Others continued to live and love, following the lead of that one Empusa who changed the world. They loved vampires even more than humans and enjoyed living among their beloved vampires, influencing the world from the shadows.

…No…you are not one of these older vampires. You are the Empusa. A demigod of darkness. 

It’s an old story. One that has been relegated to myth status. And who knows. Maybe it is fake. What isn’t fake is the fact that you are, indeed, the creature that created vampires. You are our origin. Only the oldest among us, like our emperor and me, your empress, even know that your kind exists. Eventually, even the Empusa themselves forgot what they were. The ones who remembered eventually left this world like the gods and goddesses. The others forgot, breeding with humans and vampires alike without remembering their place. Vampires cannot forget though. We evolved and thrived. We became more powerful because we had to. There was no other choice. We took on many of the powers of the gods and goddesses. However, we cannot bend the fabric of reality. We are limited in how we create new life. Unlike you. There are no limits for you.

Your kind has been extinct or bred into nothingness for hundreds, no thousands of years. I have no idea how you are here, today. It is a miracle. You are a miracle.

…Don’t shake your head, Keith. You have no idea how valuable even a drop of your blood is. To think you have been letting lesser vampires drink from you just for fun. It is shocking. You will help me create a new version of vampire. You will perfect our experiments. You will pull more Empusa from the shadows. Think of it. An ancient relationship brought back to life. The Galra Empire with an Empusa on its side. There are none that can oppose us now that your real life has begun.

***********

The first thing Keith feels is heat, burning heat, like there is a literal fire inside of him. There is sweat dripping down his body. Despite the heat, he somehow feels cold at the same time. Chills rack his body. He trembles, fighting to open his eyes. He doesn’t know where he is, but at the moment it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that he literally feels like he is dying. He pants, reaching out for relief, still unable to open his eyes. Strong arms toss him in what feels like a bath tub of ice water. He struggles, but he can’t move his arms. There are voices yelling all around him.

The ice bath helps keep the heat at bay.  

“He is revived...How do you feel? What hurts?” Someone asks.

“I don’t know.”

It is the only answer he can give. Everything seems terribly bright even with his eyes closed. He feels increasingly nauseous the longer he sits in the ice water. The sick feeling takes over his entire body, making him cry and struggle. He needs it to end. He needs relief. He tries to articulate what is happening to him to the voices above him, but he can’t make his mouth form the words. Instead, he just trembles, and sweats, and weakly struggles to free his hands.

At some point, blissfully, he either falls asleep, or loses consciousness. It doesn’t matter. Some indeterminate amount of time passes like this. Shivering fever dreams, voices around him, helplessness and dizziness and nausea.  Hands holding him down though he barely has the strength to open his eyes anyway. It is always a blessing, a gift, when he can slip backwards into the darkness.

**********

Honerva, his Empress, comes to visit him frequently. It is fine. Keith doesn’t like or dislike her presence. She is just there, like the bed, like the embroidery, like Keith himself.

She tells him things that he only somewhat understands. Sometimes she touches his head while telling him stories.

There are times he leans into Honerva’s touch and times that he dreams about ripping her heart out of her chest.

**********

It is after the triplets clean up his vomit that Honerva appears again with a small group of other vampires. Keith sees long, silvery hair and instantly tries to pull his hands free, struggling against his restraints. He is angrier than he ever remembers being before. His anger verges toward hysteria. At the same time, a sense of sadness fills him.  

Lotor.

Lotor enters the room following at Honerva’s heel and never quite makes eye contact with him. She is talking to the group who are all staring at him like he is an animal at the zoo. Lotor doesn’t stare though. He watches Honerva instead.

“Keith, these vampires will be part of your vanguard after the process is completed. They will all serve you in some way, such as…” Honerva pauses, seeing Keith’s eyes on Lotor.

“Lotor, you have met Keith before, right? You were friends, or?”

“Never friends, Empress. He is friends with Shiro and Lance though.”

Keith takes a shaky breath. “Shiro told me that he loved you,” he hisses at Lotor. For some reason, it is all he can think about, how Shiro had loved and been betrayed. That Lotor is standing calmly in front of him right after he had been branded against his will with the mark of the people who had likely enslaved Shiro.  

Lotor turns his back to him, silently fiddling with one of the medical gadgets on the counter. He does not respond.

Hoverva laughs. “Aren’t humans so emotional? Our Champion was chosen for an honor far greater than any love anyway.”

“Keith always hated me. I guess it wasn’t entirely unwarranted.”

“That will change. He is still human right now. After his transition, you will all work together as one for the Empire.”

Keith waits until Lotor turns around again. Waits until he is looking in his direction. He needs Lotor to hear this and to understand that he means it with everything in his heart and soul.  

“I am going to enjoy killing you the most.”

*********

Keith recalls this memory as he sits on the edge of his bed and looks at Lotor again, but he doesn’t understand why he was so angry. He lost the context for the memories somewhere along the way. He fades in and out mostly, sometimes unconscious, sometimes blissfully blank. There are other times that he can grasp strands of what is happening, parts of himself blowing in the wind. He can never quite connect the dots though.  

He knows that Lotor doesn’t like to look at him though. He barely even glances in his direction when Honerva makes Keith stand up and show off his clothing.

“You are going to meet the Emperor, finally. Are you excited?” she asks Keith.  

Keith nods, knowing she expects a response. They had dressed him in silky clothes, purple embroidered with gold. The clothes don’t feel right on his body. The jewelry they place on him doesn’t feel right either, even when Honerva tells him what it all means. The headpiece is some kind of sacred relic. The rings all have meanings. The bracelets and bangles are a tradition of some ancient people.  

Keith feels like he is in a dream as he is ushered out of his room, Honerva, Lotor, and a small group of other vampires at his side. They lead him to a massive throne room. The emperor himself is massive too, at least three of himself. He can sense the strength and power in him. He can tell that this is likely the oldest and most powerful vampire he has ever met. A part of himself tells him to kneel before this emperor. Another part tells him to throw the emperor to the ground, to sink his teeth into his neck, to end his life.  

In the end, he sways on his feet, barely hearing any of the conversation the Emperor has with the Empress, barely feeling Lotor’s hand on his arm when he becomes particularly unsteady on his feet.  

In the end, he doesn’t fight it when the Emperor pulls him close, sinking long teeth into his neck, drinking until he is weak in the knees and needs to be carried back to his room.

Keith is allowed to curl back up in his bed after this. The others leave, but Honerva stays, checking his vitals and writing something down on a chart.

“Keith, you did so well with the Emperor today and your recovery is remarkably fast so far. Would you like a present to celebrate?”

He looks up at Honerva’s smiling face before sighing. He can’t seem to articulate a response. Does he want a present?

She claps her hands and his door swings open to reveal a man standing.

**********

He really doesn’t care to celebrate, but Shiro insists. They are sitting in a Thai place that Shiro knows he loves and they even order beers. They are celebrating with Matt later, but for now it is just them.

“I am so proud of you.”

Keith blushes and looks away. He was never good at taking compliments.

“You act like I did something amazing.”

“You did.”

“I mean, not really.” He had just been sworn in as a police officer. He was in a class of plenty of other people who were also sworn in. There are tons of police officers in America. He had barely eked in anyway.

“Not everyone was facing what you are in life. Don’t minimize this, Keith. I am proud of you and of how hard you worked to get here.”

Keith squirms. It is hard to hear, sometimes, when Shiro praises him, because he isn’t used to it and he mostly doesn’t think he deserves it. But, it is also nice to have someone like Shiro in his life, telling him nice things. Sometimes Keith’s inner voice isn’t kind and it isn’t like he has a lot of people in his life cheering for him, but Shiro is always there, a steady anchoring presence.    

“Thanks. I couldn’t have done it without you,” he finally mumbles.

Shiro holds up his beer.

“To you, and to us. We are going to clean this city up and protect the hell out of our community.” Keith clicks his beer against Shiro’s and is happier than he ever remembers being before.  

**********

Keith sits up in the bed, clutching his arms to his stomach. He makes eye contact with those familiar eyes.

“Shiro?”

Chapter Text

Something clicks in his head and suddenly bits and pieces of himself filter back into focus. Keith stumbles out of the bed, ignoring the fact that he is weak and his legs are shaking. He makes it two steps before his body gives out, crumpling only to be caught in Shiro’s arms. 

Shiro wraps his arms around him, holding him up and hugging him tightly. Keith leans his head against his chest, more relieved than he has ever felt before. Warmth floods through his body.   

He isn’t entirely sure why he feels this way, but he knows, he feels it deep in his bones that everything will be ok now.

“Shiro,” he says again.

“Keith…it’s ok. Here, sit down.”

He guides him over to the bed, sitting him down gently on the side. Keith still grips onto his arms, seeking something in the other man’s eyes, answers, an anchor to reality that had slipped out of Keith’s grasp somewhere along the way. 

“Can we go home now?” Keith remembers now, a life before the bed, before Honerva, lazy nights in front of the TV, protein shakes, comfort, warmth.

“You are a little confused right now. Just relax.”

Keith shakes his head, trembling. “I don’t want to stay here. Let’s go home.”

Shiro smiles at him gently. “But Keith, we are home.”

Keith freezes and then pulls away.

“You have been through a lot. Just focus on resting right now.”

“This isn’t right…” Keith knows he trusts Shiro. It is one of the few things in his life that he knows for certain right now. But, nevertheless, something is wrong.   

“You had brain surgery. It is making it hard for you to think straight. This is normal.”

“Why did I have brain surgery?”

Shiro pauses, opening and closing his mouth before looking over at Honerva.

She steps forward. “Your body was weak and fragile before. The recovery process is difficult, but the surgery was necessary to help you and ultimately this will make you stronger.”

“Shiro? Is this right?” Keith asks.

“Yes…”

“But…”

“Don’t you trust me?” Shiro asks.

Keith nods immediately. It is an easy answer. There are some convictions so deep inside of Keith that nothing can touch them and that includes that he trusts Shiro, that he has always been able to trust Shiro.

He feels sick though looking at the other man, or rather, now he can see that he isn’t really a man anymore. He is a vampire. Small fangs punctuate his smile and his eyes are dark. Keith feels tears swelling in his eyes. He senses that he had failed Shiro somewhere along the way.

“I am proud of how strong you are. You are getting better faster than any of us thought you would.” Shiro hugs him again.

Keith lets him, hugging back while glancing over at Honerva. He feels something itching at the back of his head, like if he could only think a little more clearly he would figure something out.  

“I don’t know what to do,” he murmurs, more to himself than anyone else.

“For now, just rest. Later? It will be Keith and Shiro again.”

“Keith and Shiro?”

“Yes, we never have to be separated again. I will be your right hand man.”

Keith squirms again because it is wrong.

There is something wrong with Shiro.  

Shiro smirks at him and gently swats shoulder. “They have a gym. I bet you haven’t been keeping up with your routine. As soon as you feel up to it, we should go.”

Keith smiles and it feels normal just for a moment, even though he suspects that nothing will ever be truly normal for him again.

Honerva ushers Shiro out soon afterward. Keith watches them walk out the door, Honerva’s hand firmly on Shiro’s back.

Keith then returns to being a ball under the sheets. There are things he knows he can’t remember that are threatening to rise above the surface. He isn’t quite sure what is going on, not just yet, but he knows two things, for sure.  

That he and Shiro do not belong here and that he cannot trust Honerva.

********

Sometimes, when Keith is left alone for a while, he presses a hand to his chest and feels. He holds his breath and waits, and waits, and waits to hear his heart beat.

It never does.

He understands though that sometimes you can’t feel your own heart beat easily. It can be difficult to find a pulse. So, he tries other places. He holds his wrist. He puts his fingers to his neck.

He never feels his heart.

He panics over this just once, clawing at himself, trying to see if he still works, if he is still human, if he still bleeds like normal. One of the triplets had appeared out of nowhere and then Honerva herself. A needle had been stuck in his arm and then when he woke up he wasn’t panicked about it anymore.

This is all just another step of figuring out what is happening to him anyway. As his body gets stronger and the fog slowly clears from his head, he slowly remembers. Memories and feelings dance just outside of his understanding. He repeats the facts that do become clear to him in an effort not to forget them. They become his mantra, his path to the truth.

Shiro is his family. Something is wrong with Shiro. Neither of them belong here. He cannot trust Honerva.  

Before he can come up with a next step though, he needs to figure out how his body works again. He feels like his brain had been ripped out of his old body and transplanted into a new one. Nothing feels completely natural anymore, not even something as simple as walking.

He isn’t sure how his blood still runs if his heart doesn’t beat. He doesn’t understand why he hasn’t been hungry at all or why he hasn’t needed water. He doesn’t remember the last time he even used the bathroom.

There are other oddities too.   

Sometimes, when he concentrates hard enough, he feels like he can see something glimmering beneath the surface of his skin. It flows and twists just beneath the surface, almost more of a feeling than something tangible.

He watches it and wonders if this is how his body works now, this dancing light. On his better days, he can even see it in the others, swirling energy beneath their skin.  

**********

Most of the time, he really only comes in contact with Honerva and the triplets. The triplets are his daily attendants though. They come in, ask him questions about how he feels, sometimes poking and prodding at him. They clean his room for him and bring him clean clothes.  

One thing they never do is drink blood from him. They do not even draw blood from him. Honerva repeats to him, over and over again, that he is special, that his blood is valuable. No one is allowed to spill his blood or drink from him except for her or the Emperor. She tells him that he is sacred, a god of the Galra, and that he is to be treated as such.

It is hard for Keith to believe that he is sacred when Honerva locks the door so firmly behind her every time she leaves or when she produces a needle to calm him down whenever he gets upset though. 

He needs more information. He needs to clarify the shady images of his past that come to him in flashes. Honerva is an impenetrable force though, never moved, never losing her composed smile. She responds to his questions like she has practiced the answers beforehand. She repeats the same lines about how he belongs to the Galra, how he is a part of their family, how they will change the future together. If he gets too insistent with questions, she just sticks a needle in his arm and he wakes up later, fuzzy-headed and forgetful.

The triplets are another matter though. Now that he spends more time with them, he can start to see the differences between them. One has blue eyes. One is taller. One has hair that is a few shades darker than the others.

The blue-eyed one dislikes him. He can sense this. She never makes eye contact with him and never spends more time than she has to with him.  

The tall one is the most like Honerva. She is interested in him from a medical point-of-view. A scientist. Smart. She reminds him of someone he can’t remember from his past.

The dark-haired one likes him. She thinks he is cute, like a puppy and spends extra time making sure he is comfortable.

This is the one that Keith decides to target.

It is easy to get her talking. Most of what she prattles on about is worthless, silly comments about her day and sometimes even celebrity gossip that Keith, in any form or version of life, would never ever care about. But he listens to her, which she seems to appreciate. She begins spending more time with him, dragging out her tasks for the day to chat.

He tries, slowly, to get more information from her. He knows they are underground now. He knows that he is kept isolated far away from others. He knows that Honerva is experimenting with his blood. It isn’t much, but Keith feels like he is getting somewhere.  

She decides one day that he needs a haircut and convinces Honerva to let her give him one. He still has a partially shaved head from his apparent brain surgery. The others do not stay for so mundane of an activity. He is rarely alone with anyone except for Honerva and carefully plots his questions as Lillith (he finally asks her name), the darker haired one, secures a towel around his shoulders and begins running her hands through his hair.

She is excited, waving a razor around as she talks about what she is going to do.  

“Vampires can’t change their hair so I am glad we have someone who can. If I could I would do so much stuff to my hair all the time, cutting, dyeing. Why did I have to become a vampire when I had such a boring cut? I watched some youtube video the other day and this girl did rainbow hair. It looked so cool and here I am stuck with the same dark boring cut that I have had for like, 100 years, literally…”

He nods, watching as she wets his hair with a spray bottle.

 “Am I dead?” He blurts out. It isn’t really the earth-shattering information he needs to get out of her, but for some reason it is important to Keith to hear it from someone else.  

She laughs nervously. “You are speaking and moving. How could you be dead?”

There are certain subject matters that Honerva does not allow them to discuss. Keith’s past and what happened to him are on the list. He is supposed to be thinking of the future, only.  

“But, I am not human anymore.”

“You never were. That was just a skin that held you back.”

“You guys killed me though to…get rid of the skin.”

She stopped, petting his head with a pitiful look on her face.  “Technically, yes.”

“How?”

She coughs. “Why does it matter?”

“I want to know how I died.”

“You didn’t die permanently.”

“Please, Lillith?”

She pauses for a moment, then goes back to snipping a few split ends off his hair.

“We just injected you with stuff.”

“What stuff? I am just curious. I want to know how it happened. I mean, you know how you died.”

She sighs. “Look, just don’t tell anyone I told you, ok? We injected you with Sodium thiopental. It basically induces a coma. Once you were in the induced coma state, we injected you with pancuronium bromide. It stops your breathing and then, eventually, your heart.”

Keith stares numbly ahead. “You guys put me down like a dog.”

He feels a surge of, for the first time in a long time, anger. Actual anger.

It feels like home.

She freezes by his side and then starts to back up.

“Don’t…please.” He expects the needle that appears whenever he gets upset. “It isn’t your fault. I know that, Lilith. It’s just hard to hear. I wish I had a different death…a cool one…” He grasps at the words that would keep her here.  

She returns to his side, cautiously patting his head again. “Not everyone can have a heroic death. At least yours was painless. Try dying of cancer! I am happy you are here with us now though, cool death or not. You belong with us.” She seems to relax.   

“Where did I belong before?”

“You were Lance’s.”  

Keith jerks, eyes widening.

Lance.

Lillith claps a hand over her mouth. “Wait,” she says. Keith ignores her.

How could he have forgotten Lance? He remembers a police station, Lance making fun of his desk, his infuriating smirk. The smooth skin on his bare chest, Starbucks coffee, a flower behind his ear.  

“I’m not supposed to mention his name. Don’t tell anyone?”

Lips at his neck, gentle hands, yoga pants.  

“Of course I won’t tell anyone,” He pats her arm and smiles.

Lance.

“He is handsome isn’t he? Too bad he is an enemy. You know, a long time ago he was dating…”

He tunes her out, only thinking of blue eyes. Whispered promises that he would be protected no matter what.

Why haven’t you come for me? The thought rises. He groans and shakes his head.  

Fucking Lance.

A big piece of the puzzle. His lips curl into a smile.

He understands how he feels about Shiro. He remembers, more and more, their past together, how they worked and lived together.

He doesn’t understand how he feels about Lance. When he thinks about Lance’s smug face, he isn’t sure if he wants to kiss him or kill him.  

“Are you ok?” Lillith asks.

He unclenches his fist. “Yes, sorry.” He tries to focus again. In the mirror, he can see the glittering energy, pulsing brightly in his body, brighter than he has ever seen it before. He takes a few moments to calm himself down, watching her work in the mirror before continuing.   

“So I am not human. Will I have super powers like vampires?” He asks.

She laughs, pulling out the razor and shaving off a bit more from the side of his head.

“We honestly don’t know exactly what you will be capable of, but Honerva thinks you will be really powerful. Did you know that your kind made and commanded vampires?”

“Really now?”

Command, command, command repeats in his head. He tries to concentrate on Lillith, watching the glittering energy beneath her skin. He doesn’t entirely understand it, but he feels like he is connected to her already. Or maybe she is connected to him. He tries to tug on the connection between them, like a leash.

She pauses momentarily, but then continues.

“What does my blood do, exactly?”

“Keith, you know we aren’t supposed to be talking about this stuff,” she whines.

For all the talk about how special and valuable his blood is, Honerva didn’t like getting into specifics. He senses that she is very careful about what information he is allowed to know.  

He pouts. “Come on, I just want to understand. Maybe I can do more if I understand.”

Lillith hesitates, but it is really just pretense. Keith knows she likes talking to him, likes answering his questions.

“You are aware that our ability to save humans and turn them into vampires is limited in success. While we can consistently transfer humans to vampires with a much higher success rate than the traditional method, almost all of them lose their…humanity for lack of a better word. They become mindless monsters, except for a few, like our Champion. We don’t know why he was an exception though.”

Keith winces.

“Vambies…”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s nothing.”

“But, if we run the process with your blood, we get regular vampires. Not mindless monsters. Think of it Keith. Our biggest problem as vampires solved! You are helping so many people!”

“Is that all my blood is being used for…?”

“Well…”

“Lillith…”

“I don’t know for sure…”

“Tell me. I won’t tell anyone.”

She looks around the empty room like someone might be watching. “We haven’t been told this explicitly, but we think your blood also changes vampires. Like, there have been changes to Honerva’s energy whenever she drinks from you. It is like you have…steroid blood or something.”

Keith isn’t really sure what to do with this information, but he files it away anyway.

When she is done with the haircut, he looks at himself in the mirror. She has trimmed him a little, but mostly kept it long except for a half-shaved head undercut look. It is a tad too trendy for him, but looks much better than the brain surgery look he was rocking before. 

“I think you look like a Viking warrior or something with this cut,” she trills happily.

“Thank you.” He puts his hand on her arm, smiling up at her and watching as her life source pulses beneath her skin.   

***********

Hundreds of miles away, blue eyes open for the first time in days. With a gasp, the vampire gets up, throwing the comforter off his body. He runs out of the roomm grabbing Allura’s hand who is sitting next to his bedroom door and dragging her down the stairs where Hunk and Pidge sit, 6 computers between them and wires spreading everywhere.  

“He’s alive,” Lance yells. “He’s still alive. I can feel him!”  

Hunk looks ecstatic. Allura wraps her arms around him.

Pidge looks unimpressed. “No shit, Sherlock. Keith is too stubborn to actually die to some shitty vampire.”

Allura hugs him tighter. “I was so worried, you idiot,” she whispers.  

Pidge adjusts her glasses, glaring at the two. “Now, can you morons actually do something to help since you aren’t pouting anymore?”  

Lance nods, the anguish of the last few days leaving his eyes so dark they are nearly black.

“Let’s get our boy back.”

Chapter Text

That night, Keith dreams of a place that he has never been before, yet somehow still feels like home. It is a dark beach, early morning, rays of sunshine peeping over the top of the horizon. A kaleidoscope of colors stretch across the sky. The waves gently wash over the sand. Though Keith knows it is a dream, he can smell the salt in the air, feel the morning sunshine on his face, and hear the chirps of water fowl emerging from their nests for the day.

Keith feels safe.

There is a young boy playing in the sand, reaching in the sand to capture little colorful coquina clams. The boy giggles as the clams tickle his hands in their bid to dig down into the sand. He then releases them back into the beach, watching them burrow down into safety.

Keith walks over, taken in by the beautiful view of the sun rising, the rippling water, the innocent giggle of the child.

The child stops then, seemingly taking notice of him.

The boy turns to him and says something in a language Keith doesn’t understand. Spanish, probably, but fast, and different from what Keith is used to.

He shakes his head, confused.

“You need to wake up. Keith, get up,” the boy says then, in a way that Keith can understand.

Keith looks back out over the ocean. He doesn’t want to leave the dreamscape just yet.

The boy walks toward him, except the image turns shaky suddenly and all he remembers seeing before he wakes up for real is penetrating blue eyes.

***********

Keith’s mind and his past are like a jigsaw puzzle where certain pieces are missing. However, instead of most of the pieces missing, he has gathered enough memories to cobble together the big picture. The general outline is there even if he doesn’t understand all the links or how he came to be with the Galra. Those memories are gone, completely.

The times where he loses himself, when he loves Honerva and truly feels happy to be a part of the Galra Empire occur less and less.    

He learns to trust himself, to rely on his instincts. He doesn’t remember how he ended up with the Galra, but he knows it feels wrong. He knows if they truly consider him a valued part of the family as much as they claim that he wouldn’t be watched as closely as he is. He knows Honerva is lying to him, feeding him propaganda lines about how the Galra are glorious and perfect.

Keith is given more freedom as he behaves himself, but he is smart enough to realize it isn’t real freedom. There is always someone watching him. He knows the stronger vamps are never far from where he is. There are cameras in every corner.

Honerva seems to know everything about him, even the parts he tries to keep secret. She watches him carefully and Keith imagines she can read his mind. He tries not to think when she is around, not that it helps much.

They often have breakfast together now. Honerva recommended that he start eating regular food again, saying that he will be stronger that way. Keith doesn’t think about the fact that his body isn’t really working anymore, not like a human’s. He does enjoy the food though. It tastes good even if he doesn’t really feel hungry anymore. He can pretend he is human as he eats a plate full of eggs and bacon with Honerva.

“You know Lance has forgotten you already, right?” She casually asks as she stirs her tea.

Lance is never far from Keith’s thoughts. The memories are murky there as well, but he remembers, clearly, the power and conviction with which Lance had promised to always protect him.

He wonders where Lance is, why he isn’t protecting him now.

“What?” Keith answers, trying to sound innocent.

“He isn’t coming for you. We thought he would, but he is already started dating someone else.”

Keith is silent for a moment. “Who? Who is he dating?”

Honerva is silent for a moment.

“Some pretty human girl. A dancer at his club. I have known him for hundreds of years, Keith. He never sticks to one partner for long.”

Keith remains quiet.

“Did you think you were special to him?”

Keith doesn’t answer.

“We are still planning on killing him. For you. Since he lied to you and abandoned you.”

Keith grips the fork tightly. Part of him believes Honerva. He knows that Lance is a flighty person who has been living long enough that it seems silly to imagine him shackling himself to a mere human like Keith. He knows that Lance has lied to him before so why would this time be any different? Part of him can imagine Lance wrapped up with one of his dancers, laughing casually on a Saturday night, hand on her thigh. And that makes Keith angry.   

Some other part of him tells him that it is lies. All lies. He can’t quite gather the memories that would prove them to be lies, but he feels, deep down in his core, that he is special to Lance. That the pretty vampire may have lied to him about some stuff, but the strength of his love and dedication to Keith is not one of those lies.

He feels it, deep down in his bones. That Lance is coming.

He prays Honerva can’t see it.

He holds onto that belief, the belief that help is coming, and tries not to listen to Honerva as she whispers in his ear. The more Honerva talks to him, the more confused he gets. The more he thinks that maybe he does belong to the Galra.

He is irritated by his inability to discern between truth and fiction. He is irritated by his dream telling him to get up. What is he supposed to do, unarmed in a nest of vampires? He would escape if he has the chance, but he isn’t going to risk his life unnecessarily. He also isn’t going to risk Shiro’s life, no matter how strange Shiro is now.

So, after his breakfast with Honerva he heads to the gym, one of the few freedoms he has now. He suspects the gym was created just for him. Though it is large, he almost never sees anyone else there. Sometimes, there will be scattered vampires in there pretending like they are working out when really they seem to be watching him more than anything else.

Keith knows his body is different now and that working out does nothing for him physically. But, it is one of the few things that clears his head and lets him focus.

As he makes his way through the winding hallways to the gym, he stops suddenly, sensing something. Or, more accurately, someone.

It is one of the new quirks of his body. He can sense people now, better and better. He visualizes it like casting a net. He can sense now who is coming to his room and when if he concentrates hard enough. Honerva’s energy is intimidating and powerful. The triplet that hates him has a dull, muted energy. The triplet that is smart has a jagged, wiggly energy. Lillith, the one he likes, feels friendly and comfortable. Soft and reddish somehow. He can sense Shiro even though that energy is weird. It feels wrong, like there is something out of place. A dark jagged edge that isn’t Shiro.

Keith is frustrated that his new powers as a demi god or whatever amount to the equivalent of being a sideshow carnival aura reader or something though. Isn’t he supposed to be able to bend the very fabric of time and reality?  

But, having the ability to sense people like a biological radar does have its benefits. And right now, he senses Shiro. He is allowed occasional short, supervised visits with Shiro. He longs to spend more time with him, to have an honest conversation with him. So, when he senses Shiro’s energy on the way to the gym, he changes paths and eagerly turns a different corner.  As he gets closer, though, it feels off, not quite right, even for Shiro. He turns the corner anyway and is surprised to see Lotor instead of Shiro. Lotor is leaning against a wall, casually looking over something on a tablet. He looks up as Keith pops into view, momentarily surprised before narrowing his eyes.

Lotor is supposed to be one of his advisors, eventually. He isn’t sure why Honerva decided on that since they both seem to hate each other. Keith can’t even entirely remember why he hates Lotor, but it is one of those firm instincts that he knows to be true. That he cannot trust the tall vampire.

“Keith,” Lotor says, cautiously.

“Where is Shiro?” Keith asks, walking by the other man without looking at him.

“Do you want me to get him for you?”

“Send him to the gym.”

He isn’t sure if it will work. Lotor is technically part of his team, according to Honerva. She likes to pretend Keith has some authority in this place. But, he knows it is flimsy and that they are limiting his contact with Shiro for a reason.

He is doing bicep curls when, surprisingly, Shiro does enter the gym. Lotor is right beside him, looking at Shiro carefully. There are scattered other vampires behind them. The random vampires wander off, pretending to use the treadmills on the side of the gym. Lotor himself goes to a weight bench and, to his credit, actually seems to be lifting weights rather than just trying to look busy while actually watching Keith.  

Shiro approaches Keith directly though.

“Keith! So good to see you this morning.” He holds his hand over his chest. “Vreprit Sa!”

Keith hesitates for only a moment, glancing around the room before doing it back.

“I heard you were asking for me. Sorry we have not had a lot of time to work together yet. I am busy planning our campaign for the glory of the Galra Empire.”

“Our campaign?”

“We are building our military. It is going so well with your help, Keith. I am so proud of you.”

The words hit their mark. Keith feels fuzzy and happy before remembering what Shiro is actually talking about here. His blood. His blood is creating soldiers.

He swallows.

“We have new recruits in just yesterday. One of them reminds me of you. I bet she will be one of our best.”

It is so achingly close to conversations they might have had before, when Shiro was still an officer and Keith just a beat cop at his side.

“Shiro…Do you remember Pidge? Matt? The police station?”

Shiro frowns and pauses. “What? What is a Pidge? Which Matt? The one in accounting that gives me my blood rations every month?”

“No…”

“I am sorry, are you talking about a TV show? Right now, I am just focused on my work.”

“Are you sure it is your work?” Keith’s voice drops low, still mindful of the others.

“Not just my work. Our work. All of us together are working toward one common goal. Together, we will create the most perfect Empire to ever rule the land.”

“Rule?”

“We will be benevolent rulers creating a better world.”

Keith recognizes the rhetoric. He is basically parroting what Hoverva tells Keith on an almost daily basis.

“We are planning a ceremony for you, by the way.” Shiro smiles, a teasing lilt to his lips.  

“For me?”

“To officially welcome you to the Galra Empire.”

“I don’t need that.”

“They insist. We are also announcing our plans to move forward with the progression of the Empire into the surrounding colonies.”

“Colonies? Do you hear yourself, Shiro?”

“It is all for the safety of those around us. They just need to be enlightened, like we have.”

“Enlightened?”

“To the fact that our glorious empire will herald a new era of peace and human evolution.”

Keith sighs, frowning. This is how every conversation with Shiro basically goes. It is like someone cloned Shiro, took out everything that made Shiro Shiro and brainwashed him into a good Galra citizen, one that parrots the party line as an answer for everything. However, there is still just enough Shiro left, just enough of the encouragement, the warmth, and the way he treats Keith that it makes Keith ache.     

“Our Empress told me that you are eating solid food regularly now. Keep it up. We will be together soon, me and you, changing the world for the better.” Shiro puts a hand on his shoulder and smiles warmly at him, and Keith longs to shut off the doubts in his brain, to drink the Koolaid, to lose himself in the reassuring smile that he has trusted for so long.

************

It is later that night when he hears someone slip into his room. It is strange because all the people who would normally slip into his room would turn on the light and greet him. He waits, wondering if someone just forgot something and then would leave when he feels someone beside his bed, pulling the covers back.

He jerks up only to feel a hand slapped over his mouth.

He does not recognize who it is.

“Don’t make a sound or I will kill you,” the vampire hisses.

Then, the vampire is pulling at him, dragging him closer, forcing his mouth onto Keith’s neck. Keith struggles, kicking the vampire. He tries to throw a punch, but they are too close and he can’t build up much power.

Vampires are just naturally stronger than humans anyway. He finds himself pinned to the bed, neck exposed.

Keith is furious. He squirms, thrashing, but ultimately cannot wiggle away from the vampire. He closes his eyes, snarling as fangs pierce his neck.

“Just let this happen,” the vampire whispers.  

Keith feels like he has been letting too much happen lately. Just letting it happen. Just laying there while Honerva manipulates him and his body. Letting them turn him into a monster. Just laying in that bed day after day. He sees the young boy with infuriatingly blue eyes on the beach again telling him to wake up. His anger grows and grows and fireworks start going off behind his eyes. He feels strange, like his body isn’t quite his body anymore. Like his physical form is fading or becoming something else.

He forgets sometimes that he isn’t just human anymore. Now, he remembers. He is special. He is very special, just as Honerva tells him.

He places a hand on the vampire’s chest, closing his eyes, concentrating on the fireworks and energy he feels pulsing through him. He can see, or sense the vampire’s very soul, twisting like a river in his body. He reaches his hand into the vampire’s chest, squeezing his hand around that river and blocking it like a dam.

The vampire instantly goes limp. Keith pushes him off, stumbling over to turn on a light. He isn’t even sure what he did, but a body, an actual body lays on the ground. The vampire is limp, eyes glassy and open, but he isn’t rotting like dead vampires usually do. There are no marks on the vampire though Keith could swear he just shoved his hand through his chest.

He walks back over, staring at the prone body on the ground. He can still see the river in his body, but it no longer flows. He reaches forward again, grabs at the still waters in the vampire’s body, and rips it out of his body. The vampire immediately explodes. It is like Keith set off a bomb in his chest, blood and viscera splattering everywhere, even on the ceiling of the room.  

Keith feels a rush of happiness. Of rage. Of power.  

He can take care of himself. He has been his entire life. This isn’t any different.

He isn’t a helpless damsel in distress. He doesn’t need Lance to save him. He can save himself.  

The door is flying open at that point and Lillith stands there, horrified, staring at the gory mess. Keith looks at her, stalking over and grabbing her by the neck. He lifts her off the ground. She is one of Honerva’s. She had helped hurt him.

Lillith doesn’t fight him, dropping her eyes, holding onto his hands without moving.  

He wonders if he can kill her in the same way.

He doesn’t get the chance to try. Honerva rushes through the door next. She briefly takes in the scene, a smile reaching her lips.

“Keith!” She says excitedly.  

Keith immediately drops Lillith and lunges at her, enraged at her happy face.

She only momentarily acts surprised and then quickly snaps her fingers.

Keith instantly drops to the ground, body limp, and loses consciousness a moment later.

He wakes up later during the day, wondering why his room smells like cleaning supplies.

 

Chapter Text

Keith is peacefully empty, without a care in the world when one of the other triplets, not Lillith, brings him breakfast. Or, Keith guesses it might be lunch or even dinner depending on how long he slept. It doesn’t matter anyway. Except for a persistent feeling that he is forgetting something, Keith actually feels great. Relaxed. He is told the sandwich is a croque monsieur which Keith isn’t exactly sure what that is, but it sounds too fancy for him anyway.

He eats it nevertheless, picking the sandwich up and biting into it. It is good, like a fancy breakfast ham and cheese sandwich. He is almost done when he notices something out of place. There is a little slip of paper on the plate, sitting right where the sandwich had been, damp from the grease from the bread.

Curiously, he picks it up and unravels it. He immediately freezes at the words on the paper.  

Lance has not abandoned you. Stop letting Honerva mess with you head. Remember who you are.

Keith blinks.

And suddenly it all comes back to him.

He doesn’t recognize the handwriting. He isn’t sure who is on his side in here with the Galra, if anyone is at all. But something tells him that these words are true. Lance would never abandon him, no matter how many times he is told that he has.

And there is something wrong with his head.

Like a barrier somewhere deep inside keeping all the synapses from firing. He keeps forgetting, whiting out, figuring out who Honerva is and then forgetting again.

The note brings him back to himself though, somehow, triggering him back into the right headspace. Because he does remember who he is. He is Keith and he hates vampires and he is going to kill Lance (maybe) and Honerva does not mean him well.

Then, the door is opening and Keith panics. The note. He can’t let them see the note.

He takes one look around before shoving the letter in his mouth and swallowing. He is thankful immediately for his quick thinking, seeing Honerva pop in a second later, eyes narrowed.

“Keith, how are you feeling this morning?”

“I feel…great, Empress.” He smiles and it is not a lie.

********

Keith discovers that the more he focuses on what he has forgotten, the more flashes of memory come back to him.  

Lillith is taking some final measurements for a special outfit being made just for him for the ceremony happening tomorrow, the one Shiro had mentioned to him, when he has a flash of a memory. His hand around her throat, lifting her off the ground.

“I hurt you,” he says simply.

“No?” She answers.

“I did. I tried to choke you.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“You do remember. Why?”

Lillith is silent. “I think you are confused.”

“I swear to the God I am not even sure exists that I am going to kill the next person who tells me I am just confused.”

“Keith, I think you maybe just had a nightmare? Or maybe you choked someone else some other time…” she pats him on the head and smiles.  

“Can you touch up my hair?”

“What?”

“It’s growing out a little. I want it to look nice for the ceremony.”

He can practically feel her vibrate with energy and excitement.

“Now you are getting into the spirit! You are right. It has grown out a little on the side here. Lemme grab my stuff.” She disappears out of the room and is back a second later, happily waving around a razor.

“Let’s do it in the bathroom,” he says.

Her smile falters. “Why?”

“I don’t like the little hairs that get on you and last time hair got all over the floor too. We can clean up easier in there and I want to jump in the shower afterward.” He answers with clenched teeth, hoping that Lillith just goes along with it.  

“Oh, ok!” she responds perkily.

Keith has ulterior motives of course. He doesn’t give a shit what his hair looks like. Also doesn’t care if hair gets on the floor. But, out of some bizarre sense of privacy or maybe an oversight or arrogance, the bathroom is one of the only places Keith can go that doesn’t have a camera.

As soon as the door is shut, he turns and grabs the razor, quickly reshaving the side of his head that needs it.

“Stop! You aren’t even doing it right!” She hisses at him, clawing at his arm.  

He throws the razor in the sink and grabs her wrist.  

“I hurt you. Why?”

She looks betrayed. “I thought you just wanted a haircut.”

“Just talk to me.”

“You know they will kill me?”

“I will kill you if you don’t talk to me, right now, and they won’t care because you are disposable and I am not.”

A flash of hurt crosses her face. “That is mean. I mean, true but you don’t have to say it out loud.”

Keith sighs. “Just, please? We are friends right?”

She frowns, looking toward the door. “You did just threaten to kill me.”  

“I’m sorry. I wouldn’t really kill you right now. I like you. Just help me remember what happened. I keep having these flashes of memories.”

She sighs and rolls her eyes.  “Well, if you already sort of remember…One of our lab assistants got the key to your room and tried to drink your blood. I ran in and I think you attacked me because of like, adrenaline or something. You didn’t seem like yourself.”

“What happened to the lab assistant?”

“He was basically soup when we came in.”

“Me? Did I make him soup?”

“Yes. I am not even sure what you did, but wow. I didn’t even realize it was a vampire body at first and I have seen a lot of dead vamps.”

Keith thinks, finally letting go of her wrist.  

“No one is allowed to drink my blood except Honerva and Zarkon,” he says, almost to himself.  

“That is true, sort of. They dose some of the newbie vampires, but only with a little. And…” Her voice drops.

Keith thanks whatever higher being exists that Honerva made the crucial mistake of letting a huge gossip take care of him.

“What?” He prods.

“Just don’t tell anyone. But Honerva and Zarkon have stopped drinking your blood for some reason.”  

“Why?”

“I have no idea. I mean, in general we don’t really get how your blood works, at all. But, they were chugging your blood like it was the sweetest wine in existence for the first week you were here. Then…some whispers and they stopped.”

“Why do you think they stopped?”

“I am just guessing, ok? This is higher up than my pay grade. I am basically just your like, assistant or something. But, they are being really careful with your blood now so maybe some aftereffects they weren’t expecting? Like, Honerva is working on a distilling process for it. She literally has an alchema machine or like, small distillery thing that we run your blood through and then she tests it on other vamps.”

Keith tries to process, rolling the words around in his head.  

He wishes Pidge or Shiro were here, the real Shiro that is. Both are better at thinking things through and strategizing. Keith has always been more of a rush in type person. They would know what this meant though and they would know how to use it to their advantage.

“They have something in my head that is keeping me calm.”

“I honestly don’t know a lot about that. But like, you know she wouldn’t just let you roam around without a failsafe in place.”

Keith sighs. If rushing in has always served him before, he isn’t sure why he would change that now.  

“Drink my blood,” he demands.  

“What? No. Are you crazy?”

“I know you want to. I am basically like, some kind of vampire drug to you guys. Everyone wants a piece.”

“Do you know how dead I would be? I mean, yeah, of course I want it, but I enjoy not being dead more.”

“They won’t know.”

“Honerva will find out.”

“No she won’t. Trust me.”

He tilts his head and watches her eyes dilate.

“Lillith, drink my blood.” He says it firmer. He imagines her doing it, imagines her stepping forward and biting into his neck. Reaches out to her to plant the image in her head too. There is a heavy moment of silence.   

Then she is doing it. She steps forward and timidly pierces his neck with her teeth. She doesn’t take much before jerking backward, a horrified look on her face.  

“Why did I just do that? Oh god I am going to die. Why would you make me do that?” She smacks his arm again before turning toward the door.

She takes one step before collapsing. Keith manages to catch her in time, gently setting her on the ground.   

“I’m dizzy,” she states.  

Keith panics for a moment, thinking maybe that wasn’t the right choice to make. It had seemed like the right decision at the time for some reason.

“Wow…” she continues.

“Are you ok?” He asks.

Then she is standing up, pushing him out of the way. She grabs the razor out of the sink and clutches it to her chest.

“Ok…Ok…just…” she stutters.

“Do you need to sit down?” He asks.  

Then suddenly she digs a small blade out of her medical scrubs. It is little more than a dagger, but Keith can already tell it is sharp.

“You know how Honerva is controlling you and you know what you need to do,” she says before hurrying out the door.

********

Keith spends the rest of the day and long into the night thinking about what Lillith said. The thing is he doesn’t know what to do. If she is telling him to attack Honerva, a small dagger wouldn’t do it. He would be better off trying to use his new demi-god empousa mind tricks on her. So, why did she give him a knife? A small one at that.  

He meditates, concentrating on the river of energy he can feel and sometimes see inside of him. He hopes it can give him answers somehow. That if he is really supposed to be some mythical being, then this shouldn’t be that big of an obstacle.

He isn’t sure how late it is when, oddly enough, he does figure it out.

As he concentrates on the swirling energy inside of him, he can sense that there is something wrong with him. Something wrong with his head. It makes sense that they would have a kill switch on him. They wouldn’t just let him be powerful or dangerous, especially to Honerva and Zarkon.

He had always assumed it was Honerva’s magic though. That she is somehow messing with his head in the same way that Lance could read minds or whatever. But, tonight, as he concentrates on himself, he realizes that there is literally something wrong with his head. It is like there is a dam inside his head, blocking off parts of his brain. He starts to suspect that it is an actual something in his head. Like, a medical device.  

It would explain Honerva’s control over him. How he forgets so easily, sometimes when she isn’t even around. How long was he unconscious and at her mercy when she killed his human body that day? Anything could have happened.  

He thinks about Shiro with a lump in his throat and wonders if they did the same to him. When he tried to sense Shiro’s life force, his entire brain seemed shadowed compared to Keith’s one dam located in one spot. He had assumed it was Shiro’s new vampire brain, but now he suspects that they inserted something in his head too and, as just a human, Shiro had succumbed to it. Keith, as not quite human or vampire, perhaps is better able to resist.

Keith shudders and makes a decision.

He goes to the bathroom and sits on the floor in the dark, grabbing the dagger out from behind the toilet.  

He leans into the part of himself that is decidedly not human, concentrating on his life force and the dead spot in his brain.

He takes a deep breath, letting his energy swallow his body.

He holds the knife with a firm hand. He only hesitates for a moment, taking a few deep breaths and allowing himself to regret what might happen if he is wrong.

If he can fix himself, then he believes he can fix Shiro too. If he can’t fix himself, then he would rather be dead anyway because it means Shiro is gone forever and so is he.   

Then, with an unshaking hand, he shoves the blade into his temple, right into the dead spot he can feel inside himself.

There is an excruciating burst of pain as well as a wet feeling dripping down the side of his face. He surprisingly has not lost consciousness though, so he twists it just a bit, gets the tip just right, and then pushes again directly into that foreign spot inside of him that shouldn’t be there.

Then there is nothing but darkness.   

********

Keith isn’t sure how long he is out. It couldn’t be that long since no one has moved him or roused him. He is curled up in a ball on the ground with sticky wetness underneath him.

Keith grins.  

The world is amazing.

It is like he can see in colors he didn’t know existed before. Rainbows of energy swirl around him. Everything is suddenly Technicolor and he can feel everything, from the vibrations of souls across the entire facility to the mouse family in the next room cuddling up for the night to a bat flying in the sky far above him.  

There is no dead spot in his head anymore. There is nothing holding him back.

He giggles, a weird sound even to himself.

He grabs the knife, covered in blood beside him.

It is one of the most beautiful things he has ever seen. The blood is a sign. Proof he is alive.

He hides the knife in the tank of the toilet. It would be found eventually, but it doesn’t matter. It will all be over soon anyway.  

He stands up and stretches, a full body movement where every joint seems to crack. He cleans the bathroom quickly, now eager for the ceremony the next day.  

He sits in his bed, excited, waiting for what is probably the most important day of his life. Honerva tells him that she wants to present him to the Galra Empire. Keith can’t wait.

Can’t wait for his moment. His coming out.

His ceremony.   

Chapter Text

Old vampires are very hard to kill.

There are many different reasons for this, but really old vampires don’t leave anything up to chance. Some are nearly impossible to kill. Keith doubts he would have been able to kill Sendak himself even if he had the advantage or a great weapon. At least not when Keith was still human. 

Anything can die though, or at least Keith thinks. He had just shoved a knife in his head and somehow survived and feels great, so there is that. But vampires have vulnerable hearts. It is their weak spot and maybe Keith’s as well.

So, the old ones have protections, magical or otherwise, to protect that weakness. It isn’t like they will just walk around with an exposed heart.

Emperor Zarkon, for example. Zarkon is ancient and there is a thick armor where his skin should be. He is one of the few vampires that physically changed so much that he doesn’t even look like his original human self. Or maybe he never was human. Keith can’t tell.

It is different for every vampire though. Honerva has a magical energy, a dancing light that is prettier than it should be for someone like her.

Lance…well Keith would need to be close to him again in his new “can shove knives in brain and live” form, but he has mind control powers, or the ability to read minds at the very least. Maybe prescience or precognition of sorts. He might even know before the person themselves if they were going to try to kill him.

Allura is old school. You just look at her and want to worship her. Even now, Keith feels like he might kneel before her if she told him too.

Lotor is too young to have developed anything. Keith pokes at his energy and is surprised to find how young he feels, like a baby next to most of the others. Keith thinks, if he lives, he will have some sort of charisma skill. He is good at talking and manipulating. He will probably make a good politician, a supernaturally powerful one.
If he lives, of course, which he won’t.

Keith can’t wait to turn Lotor into soup. Or maybe he will kill him slower than that.

That will have to wait though. Keith has bigger concerns right now. There are stronger foes to worry about. Lotor is just a baby vampire and can wait his turn to be killed by Keith.

It is the early morning when he is woken up to get dressed for the ceremony. It is his first time being presented to the Galra clan as a whole. Lillith tells him that there will be tens of thousands of vampires there. She exaggerates sometimes, but the number could be true. Keith knows the clan is huge.

She seems nervous while helping him get dressed though still chattering on as always about decorations and the ceremony. The main reason for her being there is to help him into his clothes though. She pulls out clothes that, at any other point in his life, Keith would have been offended to see draped on his body. But, they almost seem fitting now.  

The outfit is basically a dress. Or, Keith thinks, more like robes. They had called him a priestess, a holy figure. An Empousa. A demi-god. He supposes it makes sense.

The robes are dark and lined with purple accents. They are light-weight, flowy, and clearly made for his body. There is a type of cinch around his waist that perfectly accentuates his body.

They also put jewelry on him, extensive and no doubt more expensive than Keith could ever truly appreciate himself. Each finger has a ring. There are thin chains around his wrists and looping over some of his fingers. Then, a weird, ornate piece of jewelry around his arm that has a delicate chain connecting it to the robes. The chain also crosses over his torso, following the folds of the fabric.  

It seems bizarrely showy for the Galra who seem to prefer, otherwise, militaristic aesthetics with darker, plainer features. But, Keith supposes maybe that is the point. He is something exotic, their pet, a spectacle.

Keith allows Lillith to put a touch of eyeliner on him but draws the line at any lipstick.

When Keith looks in the mirror, he barely recognizes himself. He doesn’t miss how the side of the robe is pulled down in a sort of asymmetrical drape, exposing just a bit of his collarbone. He knows this is a deliberate choice to show off the brand burned into his skin that he pretends isn’t there most of the time. It is a mark, a clear sign of who he belongs to.

The final touch is a ridiculous head piece that reminds Keith of something you would see an elf in Lord of the Rings wear. It is made of the same delicate chain that is wrapped around his arm.

Old Keith would have felt ridiculous even thinking about this type of clothing. But, a lot has changed, and he has to admit he looks striking. He fiddles with one of his sleeves, frowning at the face looking back at him, tuning out Lillith’s words. His appearance has changed in other ways too since his death. He feels like he looks better. Glowing, clear skin. His hair is shiny. His eyes glow an intense purple. He is paler somehow, translucent.

It isn’t a huge change, but just enough that he can see, visibly, that he isn’t human anymore. That the inhuman part of him makes his eyes flash unsettling purple and his hair magically look like a supermodel’s.

Not that it matters, really. What he looks like, what he is wearing, human or not human. All that matters is the next step that he is about to take.

He is told that Shiro and Lotor would be accompanying him to the ceremony. He nods and Lillith starts to leave before hesitating at the door.  

She turns back, almost making eye contact with him. “So like, are we good?”

“Yes, we are good.”

“Friends?”

“Yes.”

“Ok. Just remember that. You know.”

Then she is gone and Shiro and Lotor enter the room. Lotor already looks angry, hand resting on the sword at his side.

Keith doesn’t care. He isn’t important, now or ever.

Shiro on the other hand. It is painful to be near Shiro. Keith, at some point, could sense that the Galra had put something in his own head. A blocker, a tracker, something to keep him obedient. It had stopped him when he got too feisty or asked too many questions. But, it was just a small area that he could feel inside of his brain.

With Shiro? His entire brain is dark. Where there should be constellations of activity, there is nothing. Just a dark expanse.

It makes Keith want to vomit.

Mostly, all he can sense is Honerva’s energy in Shiro and especially in the new prosthetic arm they had given him.

They walk briskly down a hallway to an elevator. Keith tucks himself into the corner of the elevator and Shiro stands in the middle. Keith takes a deep breath.   

“Shiro…”

“Yes, Keith?”

“I love you and I am going to do what I have to do to help you.”

Shiro’s brow furrows and then he smiles.  “I love you too. And it is me who will be helping you. Together, we will expand the glory of the…”

Keith tunes him out, deciding to focus on his first words. He clings to the hope that somewhere Shiro still exists. He notices Lotor staring at him in pure hate, practically baring his teeth at him.

Keith smirks and allows himself to be old Keith for one moment, flipping him the bird at an angle that only he could see and not Shiro. Lotor’s eyes widen and then the doors are opening.

“…celebrate our ascension from mere clan to Empire…”

Shiro is still going. Keith is speechless at what he sees as they exist the elevator and approach a group of vampires standing outside at the end of another short hallway. What he notices first is that he is outside. Outside again after so much time spent underground. The moon is overhead. He craves the sun, but even the moon, with its cold, silver light, seems like a welcome friend right now. It is a beautiful, still night, chilly and cold, but crisp and clear.

He can see the stars too, for the first time in forever. He whimpers at the sight of them.

When they get closer to the group of vampires, he realizes they are on a great balcony. Looking down, there are so many vampires that Keith can’t believe it. It might be tens of thousands, maybe. Honerva, Zarkon, and a small group of other vampires, their vanguard, are on the balcony too, waiting for him.

Once he shows his face, the crowd goes silent. Shiro and Lotor stand a step behind him, at attention. Zarkon, in an outfit befit a military leader with flowing purple cape and large sword, begins talking. Keith ignores him though and looks beyond the crowd of vampires, at the walls surrounding wherever they are, and even to the horizon beyond with the moon’s light stretching over an expanse of snow.

Snow, Keith thinks. Strange. He doesn’t think it should be snowing back at home right now.

He barely hears Zarkon’s overblown speech about a new Empire, a new age. It’s the same propaganda that Shiro has been feeding him for weeks now. His eyes focus on something else. A blue flame sparkling in the moonlight, throwing a beautiful glowing hue across the snow. It is distant, but here. Keith feels warm inside.

Keith smiles and waves at it. Shiro looks at him strangely and Keith guesses it does look a bit weird. Shiro can’t see what he can see though.  

He wishes he could reach Shiro, just one last time. Tell him what he has meant to him in depth. Talk to him as old friends once again. The plan is still to try and save Shiro, but Keith senses the darkness in his brain and in his heart. There may be no Shiro left to save.

And if that is true, it is fine. Keith will kill him with his own hands and then kill himself. They will leave this world together, hand in hand. 

He turns back to Zarkon. He is ridiculously powerful, so powerful that it flows from him like waves. He is relaxed and Honerva, by his side, is relaxed as well. They have no reason to fear, no reason to look behind them or protect their backs. It is not by accident that they have been in this world for as long as they have been.

It doesn’t matter either way because anything can die if you know how to kill it.

Keith concentrates on Zarkon’s body, on the thick protection that surrounds the weakness inside. The heart that is like the heart of any other living being.

Honerva’s protection is very different indeed. A spiritual energy surrounds her like an impenetrable waterfall of magic.

At the core is still the same problem though. A weak heart.

And a weak heart can mean more than one thing. The actual physical heart, that is stupidly easy to hurt. But also the metaphorical heart.

Keith had figured out a secret with his newfound powers.

Honerva and Zarkon are not just a political couple or even a normal vampire couple. They are bonded. Lance had called it blood bonded at some point. Keith doesn’t entirely understand the concept, how it happens, the exact rules if it does happen.

All he knows is that, for all their primal, supernatural, scary energy, Honerva and Zarkon love each other. They are in love with each other. Have been for centuries.  

And being in love, they had bonded to each other intimately, in ways only the supernatural can. Keith can see it now. Can see their energies swirling together. They are connected, so closely, so intimately. It is beautiful, actually.  

Keith smiles as he takes a small step forward to get closer to Zarkon who is still droning on. Everything seems to move in slow motion as he places a hand, almost gently, on Zarkon’s back.

Then he is reaching into that inhuman part of him and his mind splits in two as he splits the armor covering Zarkon’s body. Breaks through the centuries old protective barrier that used to be skin like it is paper. Then, in one smooth motion, he pulls the sword from Zarkon’s own waist and stabs into his back.

Keith’s aim with a blade never misses.

There is a moment of unbearable silence before Honerva is screaming loudly, a terrible noise.

Keith knows the pain of losing a loved one. He knows what it feels like to be ripped apart by the agony.

It is his gift to Honerva.  

Honerva throws herself at Zarkon, arms wrapping around him even as he rots, collapsing, nothing left in her arms but strings of flesh and his beautiful uniform.  

Keith senses the blue flame rushing toward them at a frightening pace at the same time as he sees Shiro activate his arm out of the corner of his eye.

Then, a pandemonium of sound and movement begins, punctuated by the horrible screams of Honerva.

Chapter Text

Keith had already prepared himself for this moment. He knows the darkness in Shiro’s brain. How he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from attacking.

Shiro’s arm lights up purple and Keith turns to face him.

There is a flurry of motion though. Long hair whips in his face as Lotor appears. Keith prepares to spread his guts across the entire world when, surprisingly, he doesn’t attack Keith like expected. Rather, he seems to target Shiro, grabbing at his arm and yelling something incomprehensible. Keith isn’t sure why Lotor would be attacking Shiro, but he still rushes forward because he is the only one who gets to kill Shiro. Only him. No one else can do it.  

Then, Lotor is being lifted off the ground by Shiro and thrown, slamming hard enough into the wall behind them that Keith can see a splatter of blood. He falls to the ground and lays still.  

Then Shiro is facing him again, eyes burning.

Keith thought he was prepared, but he can’t bring himself to lift a hand against Shiro, even as Shiro attacks him for real, hard blows meant to hurt. Keith tries to call on whatever powers he has to find another option. A way out, an escape route, a different path. So he blocks and defends without attacking. He doesn’t have much time to think about it though because Shiro is an amazing fighter and quite literally punches a hole through Keith’s chest. Some dregs of Keith’s human side flickers. He should be hurt. He should be dying.

But, instead, it feels like an inconvenience rather than a mortal wound. He grabs ahold of Shiro’s arm and reaches one hand out to try to touch Shiro’s face.

But he is kicked away with a boot to his chest.

“Nothing is immortal. I will hack you to pieces until you die, traitor,” Shiro yells at him.  

He knows there are noises happening around them. A flurry of activity from all sides. There are vampires running, vampires trying to help Honerva, screams and confusion. One or two vampires even try to attack Keith, but he kills them without even thinking about it.  

All Keith knows is silence though. This is about him and Shiro and no one else.

He is going to have to kill Shiro.

He clenches his fist, sadly looking at the man who used to be his brother. He expects Shiro to strike again, but instead he stops, bowing his head. It takes Keith a moment too long to react, a bit too slow figuring out why Shiro has suddenly frozen and stopped his attack.

A bony hand wraps around his throat and he feels teeth piercing him. He reacts immediately, trying to destroy what he knows is Honerva behind him.

She blocks it though, somehow. Keith doesn’t really know what he is doing, fumbling for a way to attack the vampire. She is old and powerful and uses ancient magic that Keith has only recently received. One of her hands, clawed and inhuman looking now, starts digging into his chest. He can feel it clawing, creeping into him in a way that shouldn’t even be possible.

She is reaching for his heart.

Keith flushes with fear at the thought that she is going to rip his heart straight out of his chest. He claws at her, trying to rip her off his back, slamming backwards in an attempt to smash her against a wall.

Unfortunately, he miscalculates their location due to the chaos around them. Instead of a wall, he just keeps going, falling backwards into nothingness, into the void of empty air as the world turns upside down.

The balcony. They were on a balcony, emphasis on were because now both are plummeting to the ground beneath them.

Keith kicks helplessly and hopes that whatever creature he is now will protect him from dying from a fall that would have killed him easily as a human. They slam into the ground with a force that briefly knocks Keith out. He wakes up only a moment later, and the world is blurry and he has vomit on the front of his robes. He stands up shakily, confused and lost.

Then he sees Shiro climbing over the railing on the balcony, looking like some kind of death god coming to take his head.

For the first time, he wonders if he overestimated himself, not physically, but emotionally. If he doesn’t fight seriously with Shiro, Shiro will kill him. He will die. And Shiro will be left in the dark, alone, with the remains of Honerva to mess with him as long as he lives.

Keith grits his teeth, trying to prepare himself for the incoming onslaught. He hears a timid “Keith” spoken beside him.

He turns and Lillith is standing there, holding a blade that glows purple. He clenches his fist, ready to take her out if she attacks him, when she kneels and holds the blade up for him.

He makes a mental note that, if he survives, to tell her to never, ever do that again because its fucking weird. But, Shiro is on the ground now and closing in fast so he just wordlessly grabs the blade, immediately recognizing how powerful it is. He can feel the energy, not unlike what he had felt in Honerva or himself at times, radiating from it. It glows brighter in his hands.

Then Shiro is at him again, punching with a force that makes Keith’s bones rattle. He uses the blade to block, to protect his body as much as possible.

He steels himself. He has to be brave for Shiro right now.

The next time Shiro punches, he doesn’t just block but feints to the right, using Shiro’s momentum against him. Then he stabs him, in the stomach, far away from where he knows would kill him. He freezes at the sight of the blade sticking out of Shiro’s stomach, which is a mistake. A moment later, Shiro’s fist connects with his face and it is the second time that Keith blacks out for the day. His eyes open to see Shiro standing over him, the blade aimed directly over his heart.

Keith panics, grabbing onto Shiro’s leg and letting out a pulse of what he had used before to turn vampires to soup.

Thankfully, Shiro doesn’t explode, but rather screams, blood dripping from his eyes and nose and mouth as he collapses to his knees.

Keith swallows hard and stands up. He takes the glowing purple blade and, again, tries to prepare himself. He reminds himself that Shiro isn’t there anymore. That all he has left to do in life is to end Shiro’s suffering and then end himself and then he can sleep. Then he can rest.

He moves to drive the blade in when he realizes he can’t move. He tries to push his arm forward, and nothing happens. He is like a statue.

Honerva is there. She looks like a corpse, shrunken and harsh, barely recognizable from the beautiful woman she was earlier in the day. Two gashes had appeared across her cheeks. She is surrounded by her inner circle, those she calls her druids. There are at least 6 of them and Keith isn’t sure if he can take on this many, especially since he has no idea what he is doing with his powers.

 “We will harvest your blood, your organs. Sacrifice your heart to bring my emperor back to me,” she hisses.

Shiro stands, looking at Honerva, head bowed in respect, waiting for orders.

Keith stares up at her. He wouldn’t go down without a fight. He would die fighting for himself and for Shiro. He has resigned himself to this, the fact that he won’t survive this day. Then, a tremor runs through him. A weird, warm feeling exploding out of his chest.

He turns toward the warmth and there is a vampire, encased in a swirling blue energy that does not only stay in his veins, but circles his entire body like a raging river after a heavy rain.

The world seems to stop. Time itself stops.

Lance, he mouths rather than actually saying it out loud. He is there, in person, walking slowly toward them. He leaves a wake of destruction in his path, a literal path of dead vampires where he had walked. Unlike Shiro, who looks like a Valkyrie death god of sorts, Lance is softer, beautiful. No less deadly, but life-giving in addition to taking.

He looks at Keith with a soft expression, a bit timid, a bit apprehensive.

Then, he lifts a hand and waves.

Everything begins moving quickly after this. One of the druids blasts Lance with something, making him stumble backward before surging forward and dragging the druid to the ground. Only then does Keith notice the soft pink energy of Allura, dashing gracefully into the mass of druids and literally cutting one of them in half with a long whip-like weapon. Then, another druid is at Lance’s back, pressing a hand to him like Keith did to Zarkon.  

Keith clenches his fist, reaching for the purple blade Lillith had given him and throwing it at the druid at Lance’s back. His aim is true and the druid melts as the blade pierces his chest.

Keith readies himself, ready to dart forward to join the fight when a sudden pain makes him stop.

Pain.

Actual pain.

A weird feeling now since his body is different.

He hadn’t felt actual pain, not real pain in a long time.

It explodes in his chest like a fire.

He looks down and sees another blade sticking out through his chest. Not so much his chest though. A more specific area.

His heart. Right through his heart. He can literally feel his heart struggling to beat even though he didn’t think it did that anymore.  

Blood is dripping out of his mouth. He turns to see Shiro standing there, eyes dead, holding the sword firmly.

Keith forgives him, instantly. There was never anything to forgive, even as he falls to the ground.

Pain. Dizziness.

Blood.

Fading.

Guess he isn’t immortal after all.

Shiro steps back, pulling the blade out and looking up.

He can sense more than see Lance and Allura cutting their way through the druids, an impressive feat. All of them are just as capable as Honerva and there are a lot of them. But, they aren’t moving quite fast enough to help Keith. Honerva is letting each druid sacrifice themselves to Lance and Allura, buying herself time.

Time to come and lean over Keith.

He can’t move. His body doesn’t work anymore. Even the pain is fading as fireworks start going off behind his eyes.

She doesn’t say anything now. Just leans over him, pressing her lips to his neck, biting down. Keith whimpers.

More pain.

Consciousness fading fast.

He only has a few regrets. Shiro is one of them. He tried but came up short.

He hopes Shiro will forgive him.

Another regret he doesn’t dare voice to himself. Something a little embarrassing. A truth he had perhaps been hiding from. Something so close, yet so far away, hidden behind yet another druid.

It is when he is fading away that he feels a little blue light enter his body. A feeling more than anything else.

Anger.

Pain, but a different kind.

A challenge.

He wants to tell the light that he isn’t giving up, that he tried as hard as he could. That his heart is pierced and a master vampire is sucking the life out of him, literally. That he is just a human.

But he isn’t.

Keith isn’t a human anymore.

A ray of hope.

He isn’t even sure if it is his hope or the blue light’s.

With his last bit of energy, he reaches up and pulls Honerva closer to him. He imagines the life still inside of her, the one growing in strength with Keith’s blood. Then, he pulls it back. Consumes it.

Consumes her.

He takes back what is his and then keeps pulling, dragging her energy out of her body. It is a strange feeling, like all his blood is running backward. He doesn’t stop when she screams. He doesn’t stop when she struggles. He doesn’t even stop when she goes limp. He only stops when she is a mummified corpse in his arms, no flicker of light left.

He sits up, clutching his stomach. There is something tumultuous inside him right now. His normal energy and Honerva’s, battling, swirling around. He feels like a live wire that could snap at any moment. There is something dark inside of him that he thinks will never leave. But, with that darkness is also light.

Life.

A comforting blue.

Lance is running toward him now, with determined eyes. Keith wants to comfort him but realizes quickly that Lance is not running toward him exactly. He barely gets there in time to stop Shiro’s strike, body trembling at the force of Shiro’s swing.

Shiro punches Lance in the face, easily avoiding Lance’s counterattack. Vaguely, Keith is worried. He knows this Shiro was created by Honerva to be the perfect warrior for her. That includes resistance to vampires. He trembles, willing his legs to stand and help Lance.

There is a hand on his shoulder though. He turns to see Hunk and Pidge, crouched next to him.

“Keith, we have to get you out of here, now,” Pidge says.  

“But, Shiro…Lance…Allura…”

“Let Lance and Allura handle this,” Hunk says.

He glances back at them, both Lance and Allura flanking Shiro, able to contain him but not get the upper hand.

“It has to be me. I have to be the one to kill him.”

“Keith, you don’t understand. We have to go. They are going to try to help him. But you must get out of here,” Pidge repeats.

Then he is being cradled to Hunk’s chest and carried back, out of the chaotic scene.  

“If you kill him, I will never forgive you. Never,” Keith yells, hoping Lance and Allura both hear him.

Hunk is swift taking him out of the area, covered by Pidge holding dualies. As he is being whisked away, Keith thinks he sees many vampires, not dead, but rather kneeling as they pass.

Chapter Text

Keith opens his eyes groggily. He is unsure how much time has passed. It could be 10 minutes. It could be 10 years. He stares up at the white ceiling before looking around. He is in a room he doesn’t recognize. It isn’t Lance’s house or his townhome (from days that seem impossibly long ago now). It isn’t where he stayed with the Galra either.

It is a generic, but nice room. Almost like a hotel room though without the obvious signs of a hotel room, like the heavy door to the hallway.

He sits up slowly, shaking his head, trying to clear his head. His memories get fuzzy past a certain point. He remembers fighting with Shiro and not much afterward. Just bits and pieces.  

He vaguely remembers being cradled by Hunk’s strong arms.

Then, being in a car, Pidge hugging him and, he must be mistaken because it feels like she is crying.

Whispering voices.

A bath tub and someone gently cleaning him.

Everything feels fuzzy, like it happened in a dream. He assumes it is real though, especially since he is not covered in blood and viscera right now. He is wearing a pair of joggers and a black t-shirt. Neither are his, the material too soft and expensive for something he would wear.  

He sits up, putting a hand on his chest and taking a deep breath. He can feel something weird inside of him, something worming its way around his body. He doesn’t really understand how he works though or what he should do about it. This is probably his new normal though so he pushes his worries down. There is a bigger concern that he needs to address at the moment.

Then, suddenly, his head snaps up.

Shiro.

He stumbles to his feet, forcing himself to focus. He staggers, feeling a bit like a newborn deer as he stumbles toward the door. He makes his way into an equally generic but also nice hallway. He hears hushed voices and feels vibrant energies simultaneously coming from the end of the hallway.  

He staggers toward them, ripping open another door and nearly collapses as he bombs into the room.

Everyone immediately falls silent. He looks around the room, searching the faces of Allura, Coran, Hunk, and Lance.  

“If you hurt Shiro I will kill you,” he slurs out, his voice feeling unfamiliar in his throat.

There is a long moment of silence, all of their eyes wide. Then, Allura’s eyes narrow.  

“Excuse me? Did he…did he just ask if WE hurt Shiro?”

Keith takes a closer look at the three. Allura’s hair is uncharacteristically ruffled and out of place. There is a long, thin cut across her cheek. Lance is nursing a wound on his arm that looks like someone literally ripped a hunk of flesh off him. Hunk is tending to it. There are scratches and bruises and scrapes on all of them.

Lance barks with laughter. “Taking him down was like taking down a bear.”

“Though, you guys are vampires so an actual bear wouldn’t give you trouble,” Hunk responds.

“A VAMPIRE BEAR,” Lance yells.

“It would have been easier if we could have just killed him, but no, this idiot insisted we take him alive,” Allura scowls.  

“So he is alive?” Keith asks tentatively.

“Alive and extremely pissed off and scary. Pidge is examining his blood right now, but we forbade her from actually examining him because he seems to want to kill everything right now,” Coran responds kindly despite the content of his words.  

Keith swallows hard. Not much had changed, not really. His earlier decision still stands.

“Take me to him.”

Lance finally stands, stepping closer to him.  

“I understand how you feel, but you need to rest.” He lifts his hand like he is reaching for Keith, but Allura stands up, gripping his wrist and stepping in-between him and Lance.

Keith frowns, brows furrowing. He slowly looks around the room again. Everyone, in addition to being beaten up, looks various degrees of tense. But, not just tense. Defensive. Wary.  

It dawns on Keith that he is the cause of at least some of their wariness. Everything that seemed normal just a moment earlier when joking about vampire bears dissipates. Keith knows that nothing is normal. He isn’t normal and nothing will ever be the same again.  

“Why are you guys being weird,” he yells, unable to modulate his voice at the moment.

“Allura, stop,” Lance warns her.  

“We don’t even know what he is. What are you?” Allura asks him, an unkind look on her face.

Keith laughs, a hard, harsh sound. What is he going to tell them? That he is a demigod?

“Honerva said that you would know what I am.”

Allura looks at him sternly.

“To be honest, I have no freaking idea what I am,” Keith continues.  

Coran clears his throat. “We picked up on you being something special. You will have to forgive Allura. An Empousa is a thing of legends for us.”

“You guys are freaking vampires. If vampires exist why not other shit?” Keith’s hands are shaking, suddenly feeling very isolated. He takes a step forward and doesn’t miss it when Allura angles herself further in front of Lance.

“We talked about this Allura…” Lance hisses.

“Are you guys scared of me?” Keith asks. It is ludicrous. Back when he was a human, the vampires had all the power. The dynamics had shifted too much, too fast.  

“No. You are the same old Keith you have always been, aren’t you?” Lance answers immediately.

Keith swallows hard, feeling the various energies swirling inside of him, a feeling that has no equivalent to anything he felt when he was a human. Like having a nest of snakes made out of electricity inside of him.

“I’m…” he says before stopping again.  

“You will have to forgive our hesitance. Empousa…well, legends say they are basically what we are to humans. Predators.”

Lance gives Coran a dirty look.

Keith snorts. “Oh, so that is why you guys are acting weird? It must be awful to wake up every day knowing there is some superhumanly…supervampirely? Strong creature that could eat you if it feels like it! It isn’t like humans live that reality every day! It must be so awful for you!”

 “Allura…” Lance hisses at her and physically moves her out of the way, stepping closer to Keith.

“Take me to Shiro, now,” Keith demands again.

Lance reaches out, taking his hand.  Keith lets him, looking down and focusing on how his hand looks in Lance’s, how Lance’s fingers are longer, but his hand is broader.

“You should go lay down or are you hungry? Does anything hurt? I think you need…”

Keith jerks his hand away. “I need to go see Shiro.”

His anger is growing and it comes off him like waves. He realizes that he can sense Shiro is here. Can feel that awful, dead energy.  

He turns and starts walking, seeking his energy out like a bloodhound.  

Lance power walks beside him, leaving the others behind.

“Listen, Keith…you aren’t thinking straight right now…”

“There is no more thinking to be done.”

“Just stop…” Lance grabs his arm.

“How do I get to the basement, Lance.”

“I’ll show you. I promise. Just listen to me while we walk, ok?”

“Fine.”

“Ok, so, I entered Shiro’s mind…”

“You did what??”

“Ok Mr. Demigod, I am pretty sure I just saw you eat someone’s soul and that’s not even getting into Lillith who calls you her lord and liege. Don’t come at me for using my supernatural abilities.”

Keith shakes his head. “Fair. Ok, you entered his mind.”

They reach a door which Lance opens and begin stomping down some stairs.

“And it is weird, but not completely wiped.”

“What do you mean?”

“There are bits and pieces of Shiro in there…like a puzzle, but most of the pieces are missing.”

Keith pauses. “So, he can be fixed?”

“I don’t know. I am being honest. But I do not have the missing pieces.”

Lance stops, turning toward him and looking him straight in the eyes.

“But you do. And, I know what you think you have to do, but,”

Keith is walking again.

“You are supposed to be alive. There is a reason you are here, a reason you exist, and I think you can change the world for the better and…”

Keith keeps walking toward the negative energy he feels emanating from distant corner of the spacious basement.

“And there are people who will miss you.”

“Shiro isn’t even conscious enough to miss me.”

“Me. Me, Keith. I would miss you.”

Keith turns and looks back at Lance.

He had always thought of vampires as being dead. Animated corpses. He realizes now that he has always been wrong. Lance is practically glowing with energy, with life. It is beautiful, delicate blues and silvers, glittering inside him. It feels warm and comforting.  

He pats Lance on the shoulder and offers him a small smile.

Then he keeps on walking.

He finally sees Shiro, in the middle of a glass cage essentially, chains hanging around his neck and arms.

His eyes are still dark, looking forward without seeing.

If Keith is doing the math correctly, it is nearing Christmas now. He looks sorrowfully at his friend and is suddenly transported to a different time.

“Keith! Do you need help?”

Keith shakes his head, juggling the brightly wrapped presents in his arms. Shiro is smiling brightly, excitedly, wearing a Santa’s hat and not ironically.

He even forces Keith into a Christmas sweater. A tasteful, subtle one with a plaid reindeer on the front. Keith would never wear the tacky shit Shiro loves so much.

It is their December routine, Christmas Eve, when the weather is chilly and people are hoping for snow, hoping for happiness, hoping for a new start. They are both involved with the orphanage and group home in the city. Shiro more than Keith, but they both help with Christmas, buying gifts, decorating, making sure the place is a Wonderland for all those that didn’t really have homes of their own. Shiro lugs in a huge Santa that lights up and is setting him up near the big bay windows in the home. Keith thinks it is creepy, but it makes Shiro happy.

“We will put these down and then go get some hot chocolate, ok?”

Another tradition. Starbucks hot chocolate, classic for Keith, snickerdoodle for Shiro. A reward for finishing the decorations. A bit of warmth before heading home and watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Keith complains the entire time, but secretly would not have it any other way.

It made Shiro happy, it always did, to try to do something for the betterment of the world, to make his dreams come true by enabling other people to live their dreams.

The secret that many don’t know is that Keith is not the only one in their household of two that is lonely and sad sometimes. He is not the only one who doesn’t really have anywhere else to go on the holidays. You wouldn’t think it since Shiro is so well-adjusted compared to Keith, but he had been through a lot.

A chronic illness.

Being gay in a conservative family.

Making a life in a foreign country, feeling alienated by his original home.

Keith is one of the few people who gets to see behind Shiro’s mask, who knows how this weighs on him sometimes, despite his cheery, positive attitude. The nights when it is too hard to keep up the smile. The nights when he hears Shiro doing push-ups instead of sleeping.

It is why breaking up with his first boyfriend affected him so much. It must have felt like going back to being alone in the world.

Keith wouldn’t allow Shiro to ever be alone again though.

He approaches the chained man with a different mindset now though.

Despite everything, Shiro is still Shiro, a survivor. Someone who wants to live. And Keith wants him to be happy.  

Keith is finding that he wants to live too. It is easier to imagine a fiery dramatic death when pumped up on adrenaline, noble and dramatic. To die in the middle of a battle.  

Now, in a quiet basement, he only wants to leave it, reenter the light, maybe explore some parts of himself he had denied…maybe. He doesn’t want to die down here, alone, with Shiro’s blood on his hands.

“He will tear you to pieces if you go in,” Lance whispers from somewhere behind him.

“He won’t hurt me,” Keith responds.

Because what type of demigod is he if he can’t even save his friend?

He enters the glass chamber. Shiro’s head jerks up and he snarls.

Keith grips the chains, letting one after another crumble and drop to the ground.

Shiro instantly grabs him, slamming him against the wall.

He puts all of his eggs in one basket and he hopes it works. There really isn’t any back-up plan. Shiro is weak, likely very hungry especially after a battle. And Keith has blood that is apparently crack for vampires.

He bares his neck, hoping Shiro finds it enticing.

He does. A second later he is biting Keith, teeth tearing into his flesh. It is not kind, not a gentle bite, nothing like Lance or even the other vampires who had bitten him before.

It doesn’t matter though because it opens the same portal that he felt with Honerva. He clenches his eyes shut, concentrating, feeling all of Shiro’s lifeforce. He plucks at the strands, trying to find the dark ones, the ones that don’t belong. He pulls them out like weeds and consumes them.  

He tries to give Shiro more than just blood as well. He has memories. Feelings. The Christmas Eves spent together. The mornings at the gym. Investigating cases. Snickerdoodle hot chocolate.

He hopes something will heal, something will connect in a way that he can spark a light in the depths of Shiro’s mind. All he needs is one spark and then they can make it, together. They can survive.  

It feels like an eternity before Shiro finally stops and pulls back. There is a moment of silence. Keith waits, holding his breath.

“Keith?”

Keith lets out a shaky sigh of relief.

A light now illuminates Shiro’s eyes.

“Yes. Yes, it’s me, Shiro.”

“I don’t know where I am right now.”

“I don’t either, to be honest.”

Then he hugs him, firmly, grounding himself in Shiro’s arms.

 

*************

 

He had brought Shiro out of the basement, carefully putting him in a bedroom and all but tucking him in.  

It isn’t perfect. Shiro is disorientated, his memories are foggy, he seems confused and didn’t even realize that he is a vampire now. Keith isn’t sure how to fix the fogginess in his brain, the missing pieces.

But he is alive and can say his own name and recognizes Keith and that is all Keith cares about at the moment.

He doesn’t know where to go after putting Shiro to bed though. He thinks that he will be expected to talk, to tell people what happened, to answer questions, and his stomach turns at the idea. He feels wired, like there is some pressure bubbling that he can’t get rid of. Anger, darkness, the dark snake curling inside of him. He doesn’t know what to do with it. He stands outside where he knows Lance and Allura and Coran wait for him, considering his options.

He is deciding what he should do when he hears a familiar and unwelcome voice.

“Where is he?”

Keith snarls. The perfect vampire to expend some restless energy on had just appeared, ready for the taking.

Chapter Text

Keith stalks through the door again to see exactly who he thought he would see. Lotor, standing in front of Lance, looking infuriatingly comfortable and relaxed. Lance turns toward him when he enters, opening his mouth to say something. He is cut off by Lotor’s sarcastic voice.

“Oh, look, it’s Kei…”

He doesn’t get to finish whatever might have come next because Keith punches him square in the face. There is a satisfying crack and Lotor stumbles backward.

With his godly powers, he could just make soup out of Lotor, but he doesn’t want that. He wants to hurt Lotor. He wants to hit him, to physically feel the impact of beating him up. He wants to feel his fist hitting flesh. He wants to expend some energy making Lotor suffer as much as he did. Allura and Coran jump to their feet, but Keith barely registers their words as he swings as hard as he can, punching Lotor’s stomach. He is stronger than he used to be though and this punch makes his fist sink into Lotor’s stomach, squishy innards surrounding his fist.

Lotor doubles over, spitting up blood.

“Stop!” he hears Lance yelling behind him, a hand grabbing his arm.

Keith pushes him away. He will not be satisfied with just two punches. He is going to hit Lotor until no one can even recognize him. Lotor’s hunched over body gives Keith a perfect angle to deliver an uppercut directly to his chin and Lotor falls backward onto a small side table which crumbles immediately.

Then, Keith feels arms around his waist and he is lifted off the ground and thrown across the room.

Keith is too focused on Lotor right now to even realize that it was Allura who did it. All he can see is Lotor’s arrogant face, mocking him.

He strides toward him again, only stopping when Lance steps in front of Lotor, shielding him. Lotor grabs at his arm, cowering behind Lance. If Keith wasn’t so angry, then it would have been funny.  

“Move, Lance.”

“No, Keith, let’s talk this out.”

“Move or I will kill you too.” At the moment, he really believes he might actually kill anyone who gets in his way. He is like a live wire ready to explode.  

“I promise, Lotor is a jerk, but he is a good guy underneath it all.”

Keith snorts. “He betrayed you. He worked for the Galra. He hurt Shiro.”

“No, he was spying. He has been spying for me for a long time, even before Shiro.”

“Do you know how long it took me to get the Galra to trust me? How many lies I had to tell?” Lotor says, peeping from behind Lance.  

“He is lying. I was there. He is a double agent or whatever. Maybe he started out spying for you, but he genuinely ended up joining them in the end.”

“No, he didn’t, Keith.”

“How do you know?”

“I just know, ok?”

Lotor laughs all of a sudden. “Wait. Wait a minute. You haven’t told him?”

The question is directed at Lance. Lance looks down and sighs.

“You haven’t told him…and he is so stupid he hasn’t figured it out. Oh, this is priceless.” Lotor is all smiles now, looking particularly garish with the blood dripping down his face.

“Figured what out?”

“Yes, Lance. What important fact hasn’t he figured out? Should we let him in on the secret?”

Lotor wraps an arm around Lance.

Keith narrows his eyes.

“I know Lotor never betrayed me or betrayed his assignment,” Lance says meekly.

“How?” A sick feeling starts to grow in Keith’s stomach.

“Because…” Lance hesitates.

“Yes, how? Work it out. Even you can do it.” Lotor’s voice drips with sarcasm. “How would a master vampire know for sure that one of his underlings hasn’t betrayed him?” Lotor’s grin widens.  

There is a moment or two of silence while pieces of the puzzle click into place as Keith looks back and forth from Lotor’s smug face and Lance’s guilty one.

Then, it clicks.

“You are Lotor’s maker.”

“Bingo! And it only took him how many months now?” Lotor looks positively gleeful.  

“Keith,” Lance says quietly.

He can tell from everyone’s facial expressions and postures that they expect him to start swinging. Each vampire is tense, prepared, and watching him carefully. Keith feels deflated though. All the pent up energy inside of him snaps and he is left with a strange empty feeling. He shakes his head, then turns and walks silently out of the room.

He doesn’t know where to go to be alone. He feels a sudden and horrible urge to cry of all things. So, he makes his way to the back hallway, avoiding Shiro’s room for the time being, trying to ignore the way his hands are shaking at the revelation. He finds an empty bedroom and makes his way inside.

He isn’t even able to fully shut the door to the room before someone is already there, forcing the door back open. Of course, it is Lance.  

“Keith, we need to talk about this.”

Keith can’t bring himself to say anything.

“You are scaring me. Say something.”

“Did you set up Lotor and Shiro to get to me?”

“No. Hell no. I would never use Shiro like that. He is a good guy.”

Familiar anger finally starts to well inside him again. It is a relief. Keith would rather be angry, which is familiar and safe, over sad or, worse yet, hurt. “Why the fuck would you not tell me? Did that never seem like an important piece of information that I should know? That I have a right to know?”

“I wanted to, but I kept putting it off and then it never seemed like the right time…”

Keith cannot quite put into words what he is feeling, but a lot of emotions swirl at once inside him. He feels oddly betrayed above all else. Foolish. And hurt, which is silly. It isn’t like Lance owes him anything.  He paces back and forth, drawing ragged breaths and trying to focus. Some old part of him wants to shut down, run away, close off his borders. But, he isn’t the same person he was months ago. Not anymore. And he thinks it is time to have a brutally honest chat with Lance.  

“You say you want to be with me, that you love me, that you would miss me if I was gone and that you want to protect me, but then you pull this shit. It is lying or close enough to it that how can I believe anything you say? How many other things have you lied to me about?”

Lance looks surprised, but then rallies with a firm facial expression. “I only lied to you when I felt like I had to…Ok, don’t give me that look. I know that sounds bad. It is because you always assume the worst in people, Keith. I knew if I told you that Lotor is one of mine you would immediately assume the worst, which you did. You immediately accused me of planting Lotor with Shiro just to hurt you or manipulate you. I just felt like maybe if I could get to know you, earn your trust, then you wouldn’t always assume the worst about me. Then I could break it to you gently.”

“Am I wrong about you planting Lotor with Shiro?”

“Yes. Not everything is about you, Keith and not everyone is out to get you.”

Keith never breaks his stride, pacing furiously. He feels like his chest is about to burst open.

“How can you claim to want to earn my trust when you lied to me about something so important?”

“I’m not perfect. I made a mistake. I just wanted a chance with you and I didn’t want to lose that chance because Lotor decided he wanted to date your best friend. It was selfish but I don’t regret it. I don’t regret anything I have done to get closer to you and I have never lied about how I feel about you.”

“Have you had sex with him?”

Lance blinks in surprise. “Uh…I mean…”

“Oh my god.”

“Keith, it happened in the 1970s. You weren’t even born. I am not even sure your parents were born yet.”

“God…oh my god.”

“You can’t hold things against me that happened before you even existed!”

“Why him?”

“The 70s were a weird time for me, ok?”  

Keith lifts his hand to mouth and gnaws on his knuckles. It is a nervous habit that he had when he was a kid in foster care. He can hear Shiro’s voice in the back of his head, telling him to communicate. Keith feels angry, hurt, betrayed right now and it isn’t just because of Lotor, if he is being honest with himself.

“Where were you?” He finally asks, quietly.

“What?” Lance is confused by the seeming non-sequitur.

“You claimed you would always protect me. Why did it take so long for you to come and save me?”

It is unfair and Keith knows it. He immediately regrets saying it as soon as he sees the look on Lance’s face.

“We didn’t know you were missing right away. Then, I felt it…I felt you…” Lance stops and swallows hard. “I thought you were gone…dead. Like, for good. When we finally tracked you, well…you do know we are in Alaska right now, right? And you were a mile underground. Like, they really went out of their way to isolate you and keep people away from you.” He stops and runs his hands through his hair. “I’m sorry though. These are just excuses. I did fail you. It was my duty to protect you and I trusted the wrong people.”  

Keith resumes pacing, wondering how much of that answer he should believe, while gnawing harder on his hand. “Acxa…is she alive?”

“Yes, but imprisoned. We will talk about what happens to her later.”

“Why not now?”

“Listen, a lot has happened. You need to relax, take it easy, calm down and we can talk more. You are all over the place right now…”

“What I need is for people to stop telling me to calm down and take it easy. I was kidnapped and…shit.” Keith bites down on his knuckle hard enough to draw blood.   

“Ok, ok.” Lance holds up his hands in surrender. “Do you want me to leave you alone? Or, do you want to talk about it?”

“Did they target Shiro because of you? Or Lotor?” Some part of Keith is still looking for someone to blame, for someone to take his anger out on.  

“From what I can tell, it was random. He happened to have a blood type and an ancestry that made him ideal for their experiments. You could argue that you were on their radar because of me, but honestly…they figured out that you were more than human and I don’t even know how.”

Keith grinds his teeth. “You drank from me. How could you not know?”

“I knew I loved your blood and that it was special, but I thought it was just because it was you, not that you were some supernatural being. Plus, you hadn’t…transitioned yet. It was very faint. Honerva must have been able to detect it somehow. She was more magical than I am. Allura probably would have been able to tell if she had some of your blood, but she didn’t. I think I just explained all of it away with, you know, my love for you making your blood the best or something.”

Keith isn’t even sure he cares. Why do the specifics matter now? He can’t reverse time, can’t bring his heartbeat back, can’t bring himself back to life or normality.   

“Since we are being honest right now,” Lance starts, “I said earlier that Lotor never betrayed me. That was a lie. He did.”

Keith clenches his fists, already ready to fight again.

“We had very limited contact for a long time and, after a certain point, no contact. However, I did make it very clear to him that his priority was you. Not Shiro.”

“So that means…”

“That means he would prioritize helping you, saving you, getting you out even if it meant sacrificing Shiro. Toward the end, he disobeyed me and chose to protect Shiro instead. He likely could have extracted you sooner. Maybe even avoided…what happened to you.”

“You can say it. I died, Lance. They murdered me. And now I am an undead freak.”

“Ok. He possibly could have extracted you before they killed you and made you an undead freak. He didn’t in favor of staying with Shiro. He disobeyed a direct order from his master. That rebellion against me led to your death and torture.”

“Why are you telling me this.”

“For two reasons. First, you need to understand that Lotor is in love with Shiro. I have felt it and sensed it. It is real.”

Keith cringes.

“Second, if you want his life for this, then I will grant you that. It is your right to execute him given the circumstances. I just wanted you to have the entire picture before making your choice.”

Keith scoffs. He can sense Lance isn’t lying about this though. Some foggy details from his time underground make more sense now too. The time he thought he sensed Shiro, but it was really Lotor. The way Lotor looked at Shiro. They have, or maybe had, a genuine emotional connection, as much as Keith would love to deny it because Lotor is still an arrogant bastard who doesn’t deserve Shiro.  

“You know I am not going to call for his life for that. Stop pretending like I would. Forget Lotor…you were willing to sacrifice Shiro for me?”

“Yes,” Lance replies frankly. “Shiro is a nice guy and I always liked him. But you are everything to me. I would sacrifice everyone for you.”

“That is bullshit. You should always put Shiro over me.”

Lance rolls his eyes. “Seriously, Keith. Is everything about Shiro to you?”

“Yes, he is the only family I have.”

“And that is great. Really, it is. But, you are your own person and you are important too.”

“I know!”

“Do you? Why did you want to become a cop?”

“It…it’s a valid career choice.”

“It is.”

“I’m good at it.”

“You are. Is that why you chose it?”

“I..”

“You did it because Shiro is a cop. Which is sweet, but what do you want out of life, Keith?”

“I just want to…” Sit around with Shiro, watching crappy TV. He shuts his mouth. He had never thought beyond that point.

“What do you, as a person, as an individual, want out of life? What do you enjoy that has nothing to do with Shiro?”

“Why are you giving me life advice right now? Why does it matter? I am some fucking freak now. My life is over.”

“Because you are going to need to figure this out since you joined our supernatural live forever club. Trust me. It is easy to go crazy and lose yourself facing immortality. You need hobbies. A reason for living. A support group.”

Keith clutches at his hair. The direction of the conversation had veered in ways he didn’t expect. He went from homicidal rage to betrayal and hurt to restless anxiety in the course of a few minutes. He thinks Lance is trying to help him, but right now he just doesn’t care. He doesn’t want to think about the future. He just needs something that seems out of reach to ease the tension inside of him.  

“I am nothing. I am a blank slate of a person. I like Shiro and I like…”

Keith suddenly remembers fangs at his neck.

He likes vampires.

He has always liked vampires drinking from him. In some twisted way, it makes sense now. He is some supernatural creature that used to be linked to vampires. Maybe that is why he has always been so drawn to them at the same time, as a human, repulsed. He couldn’t know what lurked inside of him, what made him crave fangs in his neck.   

He turns toward Lance, finally stopping his pacing. So Lance wants him to consider what he wants out of life?

“You are an asshole, you know that Lance?”

“Hey, I am trying to help you and…”

Keith cuts him off with his lips pressed against Lance’s.

“Whoa!” Lance backs up immediately. “What are you doing?”

“Fuck me. Bite me.”

“What? Ok, maybe we should run some tests, check your head...”

“I don’t care anymore. I’m dead. I died a virgin.”

“You aren’t really dead…I mean, your concept of death should have changed by now knowing…”

Keith kisses him again, desperate, forceful. It only lasts a second before Lance turns his head, breaking the kiss.  

“Keith, this isn’t how this should happen.”

“I know you want to fuck me. You have since the first day you saw me. And god knows you love my blood.”

“True but…”

“So what is the problem?”

“You aren’t just a fuck anymore and you are clearly upset right now.”

“I am not. I am perfectly fine.”

Lance looks Keith up and down, taking in his shaking hands and clenched teeth.

“Yes, clearly. Why don’t we just sit down and talk?”

Keith grabs him again, pulling Lance close.  

“You know I have always thought you were hot too. I have always wanted you to fuck me.”

“Now, that is a damn lie.”

“If you weren’t a vampire, I would have ridden you into the sunset ages ago. The vampire thing was my only issue and hey, how can I judge you for that now? I can eat souls or some shit.”

Lance whimpers and then shakes his head. “Keith…”

Keith kisses him again, cutting him off, desperate for his warmth, or maybe just anyone’s warmth.  

Lance finally kisses back, either sensing the desperation for comfort or giving into temptation. He grips Keith’s shoulders, controlling the pace, stopping the frantic desperation and turning it into something sweet and gentle and slow.

He pulls back after a moment.

“It’s ok. I’ve got you,” he whispers, wrapping his arms around Keith.  

Keith lets him and they kiss again. It is easy to close his eyes and let him rub comforting circles in his back.

Lance pulls back again. “We will work it out and then be together in any way you want when the time is right.”

Keith nuzzles into his neck, letting Lance’s hands wander over his shoulders and chest. Keith sighs, trying to remember the last time someone had touched him in a way that wasn’t unpleasant in one way or another. The last time someone had been tender and comforting.

Then, the moment is ruined when his fingers graze over the brand on Keith’s chest, the Galran symbol that Keith hates, etched on his body for all eternity. Keith immediately pushes him away, a hot poker of pain and shame shooting through his body. He turns from Lance, clutching his hands to his chest.

It is a physical reminder of everything he went through, everything that happened. One that he will never get rid of. A mark of ownership.

The world starts closing in again, darkness narrowing his eyesight as he pants and bends over.

Then Lance’s arms are gently wrapping around him. He shushes Keith gently, leaning his head against the panicking demi-god. They remain in this position, breathing deeply, until Keith relaxes.   

Keith immediately tenses again when Lance reaches for the hem of Keith’s shirt and yanks it off over his head. Keith covers the mark again with his hands, filled with shame and humiliation.

“Keith, you can’t hide from this. Here, look.”

He shifts Keith slightly, situating him in front of the floor length mirror. Then, he moves Keith’s hand away from the brand. Keith looks at the hated mark, remembering the feeling of the poker against his flesh, the smiling face of Honerva as he sat helpless in front of her. Weak. Used. Owned.

“I don’t see a victim before me right now or a prisoner of the Galra.”

Keith scoffs.

“I see one of the strongest people I know. I see someone who went through hell and survived. I see someone who walked into a centuries old vampire empire and destroyed it and lived to tell the tale. I see a survivor. This mark can mean many things, Keith. It doesn’t have to be a mark of shame.”

He tentatively reaches around Keith’s body, touching the edges of the brand. Keith attempts to process his words, trying to ignore the prick of tears he feels gathering in his eyes.

“I can still feel her hands on me sometimes,” Keith whispers, reaching up and placing his hand over Lance’s.

“That is ok. You had a lot of shit happen to you. I…we will support you and help you. Ok?”

Keith is still desperate, seeking something, reassurance, permanence, some kind of promise.

“Did you really feel it when I died?”

“Yes.”

“Would you really kill Lotor for me, if I asked you to?”

“Yes.”

Keith sighs, letting himself lean back into Lance.

“I don’t think I am going to come back from this.”

“You are the strongest person I know. And, you don’t have to do it alone. You aren’t alone and you will never be alone again.”

Keith closes his eyes and really considers those words. Really considers that, for once in his life, maybe he isn’t alone and not just because of Shiro.

That maybe he can just let himself have this.   

 

Blood Bath Fanart

Chapter Text

“Concentrate, Keith. Just try.”

“I am trying.”

“Try harder,” Pidge presses.  

Keith takes a deep breath, rubbing his temples before glaring at the large watermelon sitting on a table in the middle of the room.

There is a tense moment of silence, Pidge and Hunk eagerly waiting, both holding clipboards. Lance, Allura, and Coran hover behind them, watching just as intently. They all stare at the watermelon as the seconds pass by.

“I told you, it doesn’t work!” Keith yells, crossing his arms over his chest. “I’m not psychic.”

“I think you mean telepathic,” Lance says.  

“Uhm, actually. It’s telekinetic,” Pidge says.

“You could have been like a Jedi,” Hunk says mournfully.  

“Aren’t you supposed to have the powers of a god?” Allura asks.

“I’m not a god!” Keith says, kicking the table.

“I think that some of what we know about vampires could translate to Keith. He is “new” and still learning. He even said when he first woke up he didn’t notice anything different about himself. Perhaps he still needs time to hone and develop his skills,” Coran says.

“So, not telekinetic, at least yet.” Hunk makes a mark on his clipboard, showing it to Pidge.

“Ok, so next test. You have some power to manipulate, what you call, vampire “life” essence, correct?” Pidge asks.  

Keith nods.

“Can you also manipulate human essence?” Pidge asks.  

“Uhm…” Keith stutters, suddenly uncomfortable.

“Let’s start slow. Can you see Pidge’s essence?” Hunk asks.

He looks at her, part of him hating that he can. He nods.

“What does it look like?” Pidge asks.  

“Green….and looks smart.”

“Looks smart…really Keith?” Pidge snorts.  

“It’s a feeling. I get feelings when I look at it.”

“How does my essence ‘look smart?’” Pidge adjusts her glasses and holds her pen over the clipboard, ready to make notes.  

“Like…I dunno. I feel like it looks at the world in a different way, like it can piece things together in new ways. Not just book smart or whatever.”

“Wow, you have a way with words, Keith,” Lance laughs from the corner.

“Shut it,” Keith snaps back.   

“Maybe like an aura? Except you can see it and manipulate it, interesting,” Allura muses.  

“Can you manipulate my essence like a vampire’s?” Pidge asks.  

“No.”

“Is that a ‘no’ or a ‘I’m not willing to try’”? Hunk presses.

“I’m not willing to try.”

“Come on!” Pidge says.

“For science, Keith!” Hunk adds.

He winces, looking at Pidge again. Silence falls across the room again. Pidge stares at him, a welcoming look on her face, her arms spread slightly in front of her.

He opens that door inside him, just a bit, and reaches out gently. He isn’t trying to kill her, not like the others. He touches her essence, just a bit, the equivalent of a head pat. It feels ok, weird, but fine, until a dark shadow crosses through his body. He winces, gripping at his mid-section, and pulls back quickly.  

Pidge’s eyes immediately glaze over and she drops the clipboard she is holding. Keith immediately freezes, closing the door, trying to shut off the part of him that is frightening and new.  

She shakes her head and then reaches down for the clipboard, carefully watching his face.

“I’m sorry,” he gasps. “I didn’t…” he backs up a few feet. Suddenly, it feels like there is a train roaring by his ears and his eyesight darkens. He leans over, putting his hands on his knees and trying to breathe. 

“Ok, everyone out. Now,” Pidge says, voice not allowing for any disagreement.  

Everyone obeys except for Lance, worry scratched on his face. Hunk and Allura take an arm each and guide him out of the room though.

He barely hears Pidge walking over to him and putting a hand on his shoulder.

“Keith. Breathe. It’s fine. I asked you to do it.”

“I hurt you,” he gasps, unable to get air into his lungs.

“No, you didn’t. That was fucking amazing. I felt my soul, Keith. Up until now I didn’t even think souls existed!”

“I’m a monster.”

“I felt your soul too, idiot. It was beautiful and delicate and…shit, Keith I will never say anything this corny again but damn, you’re amazing. Now count slowly to 10….now do it backwards…deep breaths…”

When Keith can finally breath again, he shakily takes a seat in a chair at the same table where the watermelon still sits.

Pidge is glancing over her clipboard though he can tell she is just giving him some space until he is ready to talk rather than actually studying her notes.

“I could have hurt you,” he begins when he feels steadier.

“Yes, you could have.”

The panic starts to rise again and Keith clenches his fists.

“But you wouldn’t have hurt me, ever. Seriously, do you think I’m worried about you? You cried during Moana.”

“I did not!”

“Your eyes were watering, Keith. We all saw it.”

“I’m not that person anymore.”

“Yes, you are. You would still cry like a little bitch during Moana.”

“Pidge.”

“Ke-ith.”

“I don’t know what I am anymore.”

“And that’s ok. You have changed some of the scientific beliefs I have held my entire life and I am dealing. Stuff changes. People change. You don’t have to go through it alone.”

Keith is silent, letting himself believe the words. Then, he reaches over and squeezes her hand. They let the moment happen before Pidge pulls her hand back.

“We aren’t becoming that type of friend.”

“Hell no. No hugs, no telling each other how much we appreciate each other,” Keith affirms.  

“You are a disappointment anyway. Can’t even explode ONE watermelon.”

“Fuck you. You act so smart and you didn’t even know souls exist!”

***********

Even though normal doesn’t really exist anymore, Keith can appreciate how much everyone works to make him feel normal. There isn’t much time that he has to himself to brood or panic. He is almost entirely sure that they have a schedule worked out so he isn’t alone for very long, Hunk, Pidge, Lance, and even Allura take turns either making small talk with him or watching movies. He explores a bit of the Alaskan wilderness with Lance. Hunk plays cards with him and bakes ungodly delicious cookies. Allura apologizes for her initial wariness of him, explaining that she was worried about Lance. Pidge is just Pidge, not waiting long before pressing him into experiments, which he doesn’t mind. Some of the experiments are even fun.

He knows they have to go home eventually, but apparently there is some business Lance and Allura have to take care of first. Keith doesn’t question it. There is something that panics him about going home. Like, the delicate equilibrium he has found will disappear and reality will set in. Here, in some weird Alaskan landscape, he feels like he is suspended in a dream state and he can avoid the reality of his situation.  

There is one person notably absent from these happenings though.  

Shiro.

Three different times Keith had tried to go talk to him only to be turned away by Lotor twice and once by Shiro himself. Shiro had all but regained his memories, but in some ways, this actually worsens his condition. His state-of-mind seems delicate, ranging between shutting down completely to dark, cryptic statements. He didn’t seem to want to see Keith, either, even allowing near strangers like Allura come and see him while shutting the door on Keith.

He seems depressed to Keith, his life essence muted and greyed out.    

Keith finally decides that this is unacceptable and stomps his way to the little in-law suite area of the house that is unofficially Lotor and Shiro’s. There is a small living area that leads into a bedroom and a bathroom. Lotor had been sleeping on the couch in the living area, making it impossible for Keith to sneak by. Today, he doesn’t care.

He pushes the doors open and marches toward the bedroom.

Lotor immediately stands, tossing aside a book. “Keith…Shiro isn’t feeling well and…”

“Shut it. If that’s true then I need to be with him, not some disgusting va…”

He stops, looking Lotor up and down.

“Disgusting narcissist,” he finishes.  

 “You can’t barge in and…”

Keith shoves him out of the way, stomping by. He reaches the door and swings it open.

He expects to see Shiro laying in bed. However, the reality is a bit jarring. The room is dark, the curtains drawn, and Shiro is sitting alone in a chair in the corner, unmoving. Keith stops and swallows.

“Now isn’t a good time, Keith,” Shiro says.

“It is never a good time. Just…don’t shut me out.”

Then Lotor is behind them, grabbing at Keith’s arm.

“Takashi, I’m sorry, he pushed past me.”

Shiro laughs, a completely mirthless and dry sound. “Keith never knows how to take no for an answer. It’s fine. You can leave us.”

“Are you sure?” Lotor asks.

“Yes.”

Lotor looks at Shiro and back at Keith. Keith feels a bit of fear drifting off Lotor and can’t quite figure out why. What does Lotor expect to happen?

He obeys nevertheless, shutting the door as he leaves, shooting one more look at Shiro.

“So…” Keith says, suddenly having no idea what he wants to say. He flips on the light and winces a bit when he sees Shiro, pale and drawn, eyes dark.

Shiro doesn’t say anything, staring blankly ahead.

“So, what’s up? How…how’s it going?”

“You don’t have to do this, Keith,” Shiro says abruptly, something like anger crossing his face.  

“What do you mean?”

“Pretend to be my friend any longer.”

“What?”

“I know how you feel about me.”

“I…”

“I disgust you. You hate me.”

“What? Never. I could never…”

“How many times have I listened to you talk about killing all vampires? How many times have I seen the look of disgust on your face when one was near you?”

A bloom of shame crosses Keith’s body. “That wasn’t…I was confused. I was wrong. I think I saw myself in them or something.”

Shiro bares his teeth at him.

“You see yourself in this?”

Keith steps forward, placing a hand on Shiro’s shoulder. “No, I see my best friend. I see my brother.”

Shiro looks away, but doesn’t shrug Keith off. He takes it as a good sign.

“I did things. I remember them in bits and pieces. I killed. I ate. I…tore flesh and enjoyed it.”

“Honerva was inside your head. It was her.”

“It was her and me. Even if it was her, I still have the memories of my hands doing it.”

“I’m sorry.” It feels empty.  

“I crave blood. I think about it, chugging it, bathing in it…”

Keith winces, and then pulls his collar down. “You haven’t been eating enough. That is why you are fantasizing about it. I can tell. Take me.”

“Vampires disgust you. Their feeding disgusts you.”

“I’ve been letting Lance feed on me for weeks leading up to when I was kidnapped. I fucking love it. Better than sex. Better than a steak. I’ve always loved it. You remember where you found me…”

Shiro is silent.

“You will feel better. And we will get through this together, ok?”

Keith flushes, remembering the promises of everyone currently in the house (except Lotor). It’s true. Shiro isn’t alone and neither is he. They have each other. They have others too that Keith can quite literally see how much they care about him in the swirling life forces that move in their bodies. For a moment, he feels like anything is possible.

“I want to believe that,” Shiro says.

It is better than nothing. “Now drink.”

“No. Tell Lotor I am hungry. He will get me a blood bag.”

“But…”

“I’m not feeding from you, Keith.” His voice is harsh and clipped.

Keith backs off, barely looking at Lotor before going to the kitchen to get a blood bag himself for Shiro.

He stomps through the house, passing a confused Hunk and barely nodding at Pidge who is sitting at the kitchen table. He grabs a blood bag, sticking it in the microwave and tapping his fingers while it heats up.

Suddenly, he hears noises coming from the other room. It sounds like Lance and, to be honest, he doesn’t need this right now. He just needs to get back to Shiro and make sure he eats. If he eats, then he can start healing. He hears a female voice yelling and a bit of a scuffle, like furniture is being pushed around.

“Let me see the Emperor! Let me see him!”

He shrugs. There are a few, random scattered vampires around, refugees from the Galra and some of Lance’s own people. He knows Narti is hanging around somewhere and Ezor as well. He just assumes one of the refugees is a bit confused.

Hunk pops through the kitchen door a second later.

“Don’t they know the emperor is dead?” Keith laughs.

Hunk doesn’t laugh back.

“Uhm, yeah. Right. So, just like…just for fun, how do you think a new emperor comes into being?”

“I dunno. Votes?”

“These are vampires, Keith. We don’t really do democracy. Think ancient.”

“Bloodline or like, birthright?”

“Sort of, but we don’t produce children…so…

“So?”

“So what is left?”

Keith thinks idly. “Well, I guess the emperor could abdicate and choose someone else…”

Hunk nods. “But this is the Galra and they aren’t one to just “give up” power. If the Emperor is killed?”

“Then the person who killed him takes over.”

“Precisely.” Hunk stares at him.

The microwave dings, but Keith stares off into the distance. Hunk continues to look at him meaningfully.

“But…wait…that means…”

“Long live the new Emperor of the Galra,” a voice sneers from the door, Lotor appearing from the back of the house, arms folded over his chest.

There is a quiet moment where Keith’s brain grapples with what is being implied before he finally can’t take it anymore. It’s so absurd. It’s so stupid.

He bends over, gripping his stomach, screaming with laughter, barely feeling it when Hunk puts a comforting hand on his back.  

Chapter Text

“Ok, let’s run through this again.”

“Keith, we can run through it as many times as you want, but our answers are not going to change.” Pidge looks at Lance and Allura, who nod in affirmation.

“Why can’t I just say no to the emperor position.”

“This isn’t like a Starbucks barista position or something. It doesn’t work that way, I’m afraid. They would hunt you down,” Allura responds.

“Then I will kill them all.”

“Very few Galra are actually bad. I know it seems that way to you, but the ones at the top are the corrupting forces. Most Galra are just average vampires, being used and lied to. They are innocent, just as most in a country with corrupt leaders,” Lance answers.

“That is a bunch of bullshit. They could have overthrown their leaders. They knew what was happening.”

“Yes, maybe, but some are very poor or very ignorant and, even if they did rebel, they likely would have been crushed. Plus, they are raised on the idea that you don’t question the emperor, ever. Zarkon and now, well, you,” Allura responds.  

“I can hide really well from everyone.”

“Even if you did, it would cause a vacuum in power, one that could possibly spread beyond just the Galra. It could turn into the next Vampire World War. Humans could die,” Lance says.

“Why can’t I just give the power to you or you,” Keith says, gesturing at Lance and Allura. “Or, fuck, I don’t care, maybe even Lotor or something. You said the Galra like him.”

“They will only respect an ascension to power in the manner they are accustomed to. Which means someone kills you in combat,” Allura answers.

Keith sighs in relief. “Ok, easy then. Easy solution. Lance, kill me.”

“What?” Lance squeaks.  

“I won’t fight back. We can just go outside and you can kill me in front of everyone.” Keith looks eagerly at the blue-eyed vampire.

“That isn’t a funny joke,” Lance grumbles.

“What makes you think I’m joking? I’m done. Fuck this life.”

Lance sighs and leans forward. “Keith, you could really help a lot of people here. You could end the human trafficking ring that has operated for years. You could help a lot of humans and vampires. You could help maintain peace in the entire world. All you need to do is…”

“Be an emperor. An EMPEROR. Do those even exist anymore? We don’t even really have kings and queens anymore. What makes you think I know how to be an Emperor?

“Allura and I will help. We can assign a panel, a congress, people who would run the everyday stuff. A government. I am pretty sure we can vet people effectively, especially with your new powers. It isn’t like Zarkon was budgeting the economy or some shit anyway. His underlings were basically running things with his intervention here and there. Lately, he had barely even been doing that. He has basically been acting like a…guardian. Jury, judge, and executioner when someone acted out,” Lance responds.

“A powerful figurehead that kept people in line, which, frankly, is what vampires need to keep it together. Immortality can be complicated,” Allura adds.  

“And frankly, you can do that. People are terrified of you. You can be that figurehead, that center of focus and control” Lance says.

“I didn’t sign up for this.”

“Too bad, god boy. Seriously. Buck up and do this.” Pidge shakes her head, annoyed.  

“I would have worded it more judiciously…” Allura continues.

“Forget that. Keith doesn’t respond well to coddling. He languishes. Look at him right now.”

Keith glares at Pidge and then tries to force the pout off his face.

“Seriously, you actually have a chance to bring peace to a great portion of the world’s population and you are whining because you don’t wanna and its hard,” Pidge continues.

Keith bites his lower lip.

“The Keith I know would never back down from a challenge, but I guess if this is too much we can’t expect him to do it,” Lance says, a clear lilt in his voice that is too close to an actual challenge, an appeal to Keith’s competitiveness.  

“Seriously, is that how you guys are playing this?” Keith runs his hands through his hair. “I can’t do it. It’s too much. I don’t even understand myself right now and Shiro is fucked up and my heart doesn’t beat anymore and…” Keith cuts himself off, feeling the now familiar feeling of panic rising in his chest.  

Lance puts a hand over his and Keith can feel a calming sensation spread throughout him. “I felt the same way when I woke up as a vampire without a heartbeat. I also felt the same way when Allura handed me the entire Northeast sector of her empire. It can be scary, but you aren’t alone, just like I wasn’t back then. We are all here for you, in any way you need us.”

Keith is silent for a moment. “Maybe I can try…but plan B will always be Lance offing me in front of everyone.”

Pidge snorts. “Ok, if that makes you feel better.”

“As for early duties as an emperor, you will have to make an appearance at some point. Right now, the Galrans think you are going through the rituals to induct you into the position so we bought some time. We think your first act as emperor should be executing Axca, publicly.”

It feels like ages ago that Keith had lived a life that Axca was technically responsible for taking away from him. His stomach falls.

He should be angry at her and he should want revenge, but part of him balks at the idea of a planned public execution. “I agreed to be a figurehead, not a real emperor, let alone performing a public execution for people to gawk at.”

“They know. Everyone knows she betrayed you. As new emperor, one that needs to maintain the respect of your people, it is expected that you will execute her personally,” Allura responds.

“Plus, what do you think you did to Zarkon in front of the entire Galran Empire if not a public execution?” Pidge asks.  

That is different, Keith wants to respond, but he can’t entirely explain why. “Did she have a reason? Has she spoken about it?”

“She has not provided a reason. She is not one of my own, or Allura’s, so we can’t compel her to tell us. She is resigned to death one way or another at this point,” Lance responds.

“Can’t we just lock her up somewhere forever or something.”

A wave of red fire suddenly licks over Keith’s body. He swallows at the intensity, the hatred, the raw and primal anger at the core of it. He instinctively moves away from the kitchen table though it does little to calm the flames.  

Lance stands suddenly and moves toward the door. “Whether you choose to execute her or not, Acxa is as good as dead. This isn’t up for discussion.”

Keith stands up, ready to follow after him when a sudden other sensation forces its way inside him. Someone appears beside Lance in the doorway and, for a moment, he thinks it is a clone of himself. He clutches the back of his chair, gasping, staring until his vision clears and a different figure stands there.

“You can’t be here,” Lance hisses at the vampire.

With a dirty look and a shoulder bump, Lillith bustles her way past Lance into the room, smiling broadly at Keith.

“Helllooooo, Your Imperial Majesty. They have been keeping me from you while you “heal.” You seem fine to me now. Which of these fabrics would you prefer for your new cape?”

“My new…what?”

“Cape. Your cape.”

“Repeating that word is not going to make me any more likely to own one or ever wear one.”

Lillith laughs like he is joking, pressing several different swaths of purple against him.

“See, I chose purple because it is the Galran color, of course, but also a sign of royalty and, last but not least, it matches your eyes and makes your skin color pop. I just can’t decide if I want a more elegant fabric for its fluidity or a heavier fabric that can handle more embroidery and detailing.”

“I…”

“I have already started on your outfit, of course. The cape is just the final touch.”

Keith ignores Pidge’s snorting laughter in the background.

“This person claims to be your equerry,” Allura says.  

“My what?”

“Like a chamberlain,” Pidge says.

“Say that in English.”

“I am the Hand of the King, your most loyal servant and vassal. Your wish is my command, except when it comes to capes, because you are wearing one whether you want to or not,” Lillith responds.  

“Did you give her a rank or title?” Allura asks.

“Oh yes, that is totally something I would do. I totally knighted her or some shit,” Keith responds with a roll of his eyes.  

“He blessed me with his blood,” Lillith responds.

Lance looks at her carefully then back at Keith.

“You did? You let her drink from you?” He asks.

“You let a random Galra feed off you?” Allura continues.

“According to my research, she was one of the closest servants to Honerva and Zarkon. Are you sure she isn’t tricking you or…” Pidge says.

“I think we should remove her,” Lance continues.

Keith can feel Lillith freeze in fear, particularly at the aggressive stance Allura and Lance are taking toward her. Keith knows that Allura and Lance are both capable, both physically and psychologically, of obliterating Lillith from this world.

“Lillith helped me the entire time I was in Honerva’s hands. I didn’t let her drink from me or feed from me. I gave her my blood and we are connected because of it. If anyone has a problem with that, then they can kindly fuck off.”

There is a touch of smugness in Lillith as she presses more fabric to his chest. Keith isn’t sure how it works, but he knows that he is connected to her now and vice versa. He can sense her motives, her feelings, her heart and soul itself. She isn’t lying when she swears her loyalty to him.  

It is surprisingly intimate of a connection and he wonders if this is how vampires feel with their creations, the vampires they make.

“Understood,” Allura says while Pidge nods.  

Lance, however, just walks out of the room. Keith follows him all the way to the veranda on the back side of the house.  

“Come on Lance, are you really mad about Lillith?”

“No. You need to have people close to you on your team and I believe you when you say she was there for you. That doesn’t mean I can’t be a little jealous that you just offered your blood to her.”

“That isn’t her fault.”

“It isn’t. Listen, Keith…We are leaving here soon. We will have your ceremony, maybe execution, but then you can set up base wherever you want. Their mansion, the one where we went to the house party, is technically yours now. You can go there or really settle anywhere in the general area. It’s time for us to get back to work too, Allura and I. You can go back to a normal life. Well, somewhat normal. We can all get back to normal.”

Keith laughs. “Normal. Right.”

“Your new normal.”

“I just want to go back to a house with Shiro and…” he wants to say mend or heal, but the words stick in his mouth.

“You can do that. You know, in-between the occasionally emperoring.”

Lance still feels off, uncomfortable despite the seemingly happy subject matter of going back home.  

“What’s wrong?” Keith asks.

“Can I make a selfish request? Before you do that? Before we separate?” 

Keith assumes Lance wants to drink from him, one last time. He wrings his hands. His blood is different now and he isn’t sure how Lance would react to tasting it. Lillith had nearly passed out and then apparently become his lifelong loyal servant.

“Go on a date with me.”

“A date?” Keith repeats after Lance, surprised. “Didn’t you try to say that we already went on a date?”

“A real date. No weird stuff getting in the way. Just me and you. I know its selfish and the timing sucks, but if I worry about timing I will never ask.”

Keith shifts his weight. Things are complicated in every sense of the word.   

“Just one date. No obligations. None. Just a date. No sex. No blood. No kissing. No expectations. Nothing you don’t want. Just give me one date and then, if you want to go, then you can go and I will never bother you again. I will always be here for you if you need it, and we will absolutely support you as leader of a Vampire Empire now, but I will never push anything romantic or intimate again.”

Keith nods slowly. “Ok. I can do that. One date.”

“One date,” Lance repeats, smiling brightly at him, lighting up the room.   

Chapter Text

Keith makes his way down to a dark place, following a winding staircase that might as well be straight out of a movie, into an equally dark cavern at the bottom.

No one is with him and this is exactly how he wanted it.

He is still expected to execute Acxa publicly. The ceremony had already been planned with Lillith excitedly detailing ways he can execute her to scare anyone from ever challenging or betraying him.

Keith is really interested in the why though. There has to be a reason that Acxa did this to him, to Lance, to Allura, to the people she considered a family for a long time. Lance claims he doesn’t know why, same as Allura, but there has to be a why, a motivation.

He finds her in a dark, damp cell. She is sitting with her head hanging.

“Are you here to kill me?” She asks without raising her head.

“No. Just want to talk.”

“Nothing I say will change anything, will it, Emperor?” The word is spit at him.

Keith shrugs. He still can’t imagine killing her. Maybe if it was in the heat of the moment, but she looks so small and weak right now, starved, alone in a dark cell. Resigned to her death.

“Why did you do this to me?”

Acxa laughs.

“It was never personal. It was never about you. You just happened to be part of the plan.”

“What plan?”

“Honerva’s plan.”

“To hurt Lance?”

She scoffs. “Both of you are so small-minded. Aren’t you supposed to be some celestial god angel thing? Honerva had a plan to save the entire world. To end all suffering. A new vision for what this world could be.”

“That’s it? You seriously believed some bullshit vision she had?”

“It wasn’t bullshit. Do you really think humans and vampires can live in harmony forever? Do you really think the Vampire Equality Act solves every problem? Come on. I know you don’t. You hate vampires.”

Keith considers for a moment. “True. But you act like she had some grand plan when really she was just trafficking humans and experimenting on them. Is that really your great solution for a better world?”

Acxa shrugs. “The end justifies the means. People will die, humans and vampires, in the march toward a better world.”

“How long have you been working for Honerva?”

Acxa smiles. “For almost my entire true life as a vampire. I’ve never worked for Allura or Lance except as a spy. Lance is a moron. Allura is too old-fashioned. Neither of them will make it in the new world Honerva has planned for us.”

“Had planned. She is dead now. I killed her with my own hands.”

Acxa looks up finally and smiles. “Did you? Are you sure about that?”

“What does that mean?”

“Go away. I have nothing left to say to a fraud like you.”

Keith didn’t have high expectations for what he would get out of Acxa. He wanted some kind of closure, some kind of reason that would give meaning to what he experienced. Maybe even something sympathetic. Perhaps Lance had killed a loved one of hers or something.

The fact that she was working for Honerva the entire time, since before he was even born, does nothing to give him closure.

It doesn’t help that he agrees with a lot of what she is saying. He is a fraud. The idea of him being an emperor is a joke. He doesn’t think that vampires and humans can live in harmony.

None of that excuses the crimes she and Honerva had committed against humanity though.

He makes his way back to the others, feeling even less at peace than he had before talking to Acxa and even more confused as to what he needs to do with her. She is just a war criminal. If he doesn’t kill her, Lance or Allura definitely will. He could at least give her a clean execution, but his stomach turns at even doing that.  

Lance is fiddling around with a bookcase when he gets back to the main floor, pretending to be really interested in sorting the books though Keith can sense Lance go still when he enters the room.

“You’re doing chores?” Keith asks.

“Yes. It’s my “I’m respecting your space if you want it but I’m also available if you need it” chores,” Lance says, not even turning to look at him.

“I’m not an emperor or an executioner,” he says matter-of-factly.

“We know.”

“I can’t do this.”

“We all feel that way.”

“This is different. I’m just some orphan who eats poptarts for breakfast.”

“And I’m just a boy from Cuba who died because I hit on a pretty girl. Now I rule an entire kingdom and people look up to me. They look to me for safety. How crazy is that?”

“But…that’s different.”

“How? Are you implying I’m better than you?”

“Never. Never! But…”

“Listen. There isn’t some guide or preparation we can give you. You just go to sleep one day and wake up immortal. Being immortal has its perks, including being able to change the world into what you want it to be. Isn’t that what you wanted to do as a cop? Stop trafficking rings? Help people? It’s not as different as you think, Keith.”

“Being some small-time newbie cop is a lot different from being a fucking god emperor, Lance.”

“Ok, when you word it like that…but, like. Just be yourself. You’re still you. You have a moral code. You always have. You have a heart. And, I know people hate when other people say this, but everything happens for a reason. I think fate wanted you to be here for some reason.”

“Well, fate can be a bitch.”

“No kidding.” Lance finally turns and smiles timidly at him.

Keith fights back the urge to give him a hug and instead makes his way to the kitchen to see if there is any of Hunk’s cheesecake left in the fridge.

*****************

Keith clenches his fists, looking around the ridiculous limo that Lance demanded they take to the execution. Lance, Narti, Allura, and Lillith sit inside the limo with them, all staring down at their phones. Normally, he wouldn’t care, but he still has no idea what he is going to do in the next hour, what he would do when faced with Acxa and a crowd of Galra vampires.

“What is more important right now than this stupid ceremony,” he finally hisses at them.

Lance looks up first. “I’m planning our first date and yes, that is more important than this stupid ceremony.” Lance has a twinkle in his eye and a playful smile on his lips and a red flag is raised in Keith’s brain. He will worry about that another time though.

“Lillith?”

She rolls her eyes. “I’m spreading rumors about you right now.”

“Excuse me?”

“There are already a lot of rumors and I’m just, you know, adding to it, making you seem cooler and stronger. It isn’t hard, what with you taking down Zarkon and Honerva like that and defeating the Champion and forcing him to serve you.”

Keith blinks. “The Champion?”

“Yeah, your friend or whatever.”

“His name is Shiro. Don’t ever call him that other name again and he serves no one.”

“Sorry. It’s going to be hard to change the nickname now though.”

“So, what do the other rumors say?”

“That you are a fearsome, loathsome monster that can suck people’s souls out of their bodies. It’s great! Exactly what we need to keep people in line.”

Keith runs a tired hand down his face before turning to Allura and Narti, crowded together over one phone.

“And what oh so important job do you two have right now?”

They look at each other and giggle. Then, Narti waves her hand flippantly and then says, or rather thinks,

Just reading fanfic

Then he gets an image of Lance as a barista serving art student Keith a latte.

Keith can understand Narti now with no issues, receiving both words and images straight into his brain, but at this moment he wishes more than anything that he couldn’t.

He deliberately turns to look out the window, ignoring the delighted look on Lance’s face.

*********************

For a ceremony thrown together at the last moment, everything seems to be running smoothly. Hunk, Pidge, Ezor, and Zethrid are already at the arena when they arrive, one that Zarkon himself had built and now Keith supposes he owns. They are the team leaders for throngs of Lance and Allura’s own vampires working to make sure everything is secure and in place.

Lillith had wanted Lotor and Shiro there as well, but Keith had vetoed that. Shiro isn’t ready yet and he doesn’t really want Lotor anywhere near him. It is expected that they would be there though so to avoid any rumors they put all of the security in what Lillith calls Marmora suits. The suits conveniently cover faces and most features except for height. One of her rumors is that Shiro and others close to the new Emperor would be in the suits.

As he is guided through the hallways of the arena, already hearing the milling around of countless vampires, everyone he passes bows to him and moves out of his way in a show of deference that makes Keith uncomfortable.

He doesn’t want this. He doesn’t deserve this. He doesn’t want to be pressured into executing someone who had hurt him, but for some reason he can’t hate her, not like he needs to in order to kill her.

The arena falls silent as he walks into the broad, open area surrounded by seats. He can’t stop himself from rolling his eyes as smoke billows around him and a wind machine blows his ridiculous cape.

Lillith.

Maybe he made a mistake bringing her with him instead of just killing her.

Still, he makes his way to Acxa who is in the middle of the arena. He isn’t sure what he is expecting. He was told that she would be tied up in plain view, but no other details had been provided.

She isn’t tied up though.

She is nailed to a ghastly looking metal cross of sorts, like some grotesque mockery of a crucifixion.

Keith wants to vomit as he approaches her, looking at the blood dripping down from her wrists.

He has his blade with him and rests a hand on it when he finally reaches her. For a moment, everything goes silent and it is just him and her.

“Go ahead and do it, Emperor,” she says dully.

He knew as soon as he saw her that he wouldn’t though. It isn’t him. It would never be him to execute someone tied up and helpless.

He takes his hand off the blade.

She laughs, a dry, harsh sound.

“And this is why you won’t succeed. You are nothing, Keith. A silly, small human. No different from a cow trying to raise up against its owner before slaughter.”

Keith reaches out and grabs her hand, letting himself access into her head. Several impressions flash through him at once. Loyalty. Unwavering belief. A brave heart unafraid to die. No remorse. A flicker of something deep inside him that feels like Honerva. That Acxa would spend every second of her life serving her still. Humans in cages, livestock pens. Shadows roaming the earth. A black sun.

The solution to the puzzle of what to do when you don’t want to kill someone, yet they are too dangerous to live comes to Keith in a snap.

Of course.

He has to do things his way after all.

He grabs both sides of her head, squeezing lightly.

When he had done this before, it had been fumbling, either feeling people out or, in Shiro’s case, trying to hold together the fragile fragments of his psyche.

This time he has a goal and does the exact opposite of healing.

He digs himself into the pieces of Acxa’s psyche, the parts that make her who she is, and he rips and tears, shredding everything he can find. She screams and screams, but he barely hears her or the pandemonium of those in the arena.

He makes his life force into a weapon, a thousand little blades and teeth that destroy her until she is quiet.

Then he stops.

He pulls out the nails from her with shaking hands, catching her as she falls. She is empty, a body rather than a person.  

When she looks up at him, her eyes are blank.

“Your name is Acxa. You are one of my most loyal servants and guards.”

And, like that, her eyes focus. She nods, still clutching his arms.

Chapter Text

Keith hovers outside the door he had just closed behind him, ignoring the fact that Acxa is hovering with him, watching him intently. He had just told Shiro that he was going on a date with Lance. Shiro had barely reacted, only nodding in affirmation.

It’s wrong. Though Shiro slowly seems to be improving, becoming more aware of himself and less prone to forgetting who he is, he still seems so un-Shiro like that Keith can’t help but worry and want to be around him all the time. However, Keith also senses, quite clearly, that one of Shiro’s problems is Keith himself. He has seen the way Shiro tenses when he enters the room, how he won’t quite make eye contact with him. It frustrates Keith.

Shiro even seems more comfortable around Lillith, for gods sake.

Keith is at a loss for how to help Shiro though. He hopes a change will help. Lance and Allura had announced earlier that it is time for them to go home.

Home home. As in, taking Shiro back to their little townhome with their silly little possessions and life before the Galra. 

Keith aches for it now, thinking that maybe Shiro will heal there. Maybe all he needs is a sense of normalcy, to go back to being the person he was before everything happened.  

In his darker moments, Keith wants to just force Shiro to open up to him, but he knows he can’t. He would never betray him like that. He will never pry Shiro’s brain open again unless he is asked to do so by Shiro himself.  

He tries to get out of the date with Lance, feeling like it is ridiculous to go on a stupid date when Shiro is still locked inside his head, when Axca is following Keith around like a puppy dog because apparently she took his command of being a loyal servant and guard very literally, and when he is dealing with having to make weekly appearances now in the process of restructuring the Galran empire.

Lance insists though, telling him he needs to have some fun, needs to get away and clear his head. He tenderly tells Keith that Shiro perhaps needs some time to himself as well, which Keith knows but doesn’t want to admit.

So Keith lingers outside the door, knowing he should go meet Lance for their date, yet still desperately wanting to stay with Shiro, a Shiro that he can sense actively wants some distance from him right now.

Sudden movement draws him out of his thoughts as someone bumps him and Acxa out of the way of the door.

Lotor breezes past them, sneering in Keith’s direction briefly before brightening when he turns toward Shiro. He looks ridiculous. He has a high ponytail, lavender Nike shirt, black bike shorts, and neon green sneakers.

“Get up. We are going for a run.”

Shiro looks at him blankly.

“I said get up.” Then, Lotor throws a bundle of clothes at Shiro, who catches it easily.

“No,” Shiro says.

“You are going to get out of shape.”

“You know good and well my body doesn’t work that way anymore, Lotor. Stop.”

Lotor makes a show of bending over and touching his toes, then twisting to stretch his sides. “Don’t know what you are talking about. Worried you won’t be able to keep up?”

Keith peers into the room, watching as Shiro’s blank eyes stare at the clothes in his hands.

Lotor walks over to him, placing a hand on Shiro’s shoulder.

“Please, Takashi?” he asks, quietly, barely audible from where Keith is standing. Shiro looks up at him, eyes shining, in pain, but not shut off.   

Keith walks away then, feeling like he is encroaching on something personal. He senses that he can’t help Shiro right now and maybe no one can. Maybe it has to be Shiro who makes the decision, to take the step forward. But maybe, just maybe, Lotor can provide something that Keith can’t right now.    

*****************

When Lance announces that he had gotten Keith clothes for their date, Keith is immediately worried that he would be stuck in something ridiculous, something expensive, something horrible. Lace maybe or fancy embroidery. Instead, he finds his own clothes, almost. He had gotten a bit bigger since becoming a god or whatever, so his old clothes probably wouldn’t fit. But, Lance had bought one size up in the same brands and types that he did own.

He forces Acxa to leave the room and then slips on a pair of jeans and black t-shirt and immediately feels better. He even has his own work boots that he typically wore all the time anyway. No capes. No purple. Nothing flashy or uncomfortable. Nothing showing him off in any way. He feels more like himself than he has in months.

He can admit it is a kind gesture from Lance.

He enters the living room to find Lillith grinning at him, Acxa frowning, and Lance standing with his hands behind his back.

“I won’t let you go alone, master,” Acxa says firmly, stepping forward toward him.  

It isn’t the first time he has heard her repeat this. He frowns and then glances toward Lillith who had helped him in this regard. He clears his throat.

“Acxa, I need you to look after things for me here. My affairs need more protection than I do right now. Work with Lillith to help prepare my security team. Be my eyes and ears here while I’m gone. This is the most important job to me right now and you are the only one I trust with it.”

She looks at him for a long moment before nodding.

Lillith winks at him and then pushes him gently toward a relieved looking Lance. They walk outside carefully, Keith wondering if Acxa will leave him alone for long enough to get into the black Chrysler that Lance had secured for them to use.

Once in the car, Keith allows himself to look over the vampire. He looks divine, a blue shirt unbuttoned partially at the top and loose white pants. He looks like he could be doing a photoshoot on some beach. Not that Keith would ever tell Lance that.

“So, what are we doing?” Keith asks as they settle into the car. He cringes, waiting for the response. There is absolutely no telling what Lance might have planned. He expects showy, flashy, gaudy. Maybe some big party. Maybe some epic, formal affair or dancing. A ball. Or just something uncomfortable and over-the-top.   

“Oh, just a movie and a bite to eat,” Lance answers casually.

Keith blinks. “Really?”

“Disappointed?”

“No. Just, I expected something crazy and over the top from you. Not low-key.”

“Now, Keith, I’ve matured over the past few months. I think low-key is exactly what we need right now. Just a relaxed evening of chilling and watching a movie.”

Keith nods and then turns to watch the wilderness slip by as they drive.

Time passes and he starts to wonder why they don’t seem to be approaching any type of city really, where movies or bites to eat exist.

Then, he sees them pulling into a clearing with a few long, flat buildings.

“Don’t tell me this is your own private movie theater…”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Keith. I don’t own a movie theater.” Lance laughs loudly and waves his hand around.

“Then what is this?”

“Oh just my private airport.”

Keith barks with laughter, before they drive by something that does look suspiciously like a runway.

“Oh my god. It is your own airport. What the fuck.”

“Private jet is the only way to travel!”  

“You’ve got to be kidding me. There is no way I’m getting on a private jet with you.”

Lance frowns, turning and giving what best can be described as puppy dog eyes. “You promised me a date.”

“A date…not a private jet.”

“Why can’t a private jet be a date?

“Where do you even want to take me?”

Lance sighs and looks out the window, a wistful look on his face. “I’ve been thinking about us a lot lately. I realized that we don’t really know each other that well. Or, rather, I haven’t shown you a lot about me, the parts about me that aren’t just the vampire. So, we are going to my home.”

“I’ve been to your house though…”

“I mean Cuba.”

“Cuba? You want to take me to Cuba?”

Lance nods.

Keith fiddles with the hem of his shirt. “It couldn’t just be dinner and a movie, could it?”

“Well, I didn’t lie. It’s just the dinner and the movie are in Cuba!”

Keith gives in, boarding the small plane that has a nicer inside than he has ever seen in a plane before. The chairs are comfortable and nice and big. It looks more like a luxury hotel room than a plane.

His eyes are immediately drawn to the spread waiting for them though. An assortment of small bites of food sits on a table with two tropical drinks with little Cuban flags.

“They are all Cuban snacks and alcohol I like. I, uh, may have gone overboard a bit?”  

“Whatever,” Keith says, shoving three of them in his mouth and settling in for his first private jet experience.

***************

Keith has to hand it to Lance. Private jet is the best way to travel. They sit back, making small talk about what they had missed in the real world while dealing with the Galra. They chat about music (so, the song is about horses?), tv shows (A whole wedding episode, wow, we have to watch it), and other random subjects (3 million dollars and he’s only 16?). The casual conversation is punctuated with Keith looking out the window, enjoying the scenery and downing at least three of the little Cuban drinks that Lance provided for them.

It’s relaxing in a way Keith hasn’t felt in a long time.

When they land at yet another private airport, Lance immediately leads him to a classic cherry red convertible mustang. It is Keith’s favorite car that Lance owns. He tries not to act too impressed, but he knows from Lance’s smug smile that he doesn’t hide it well enough. They drive along the seacoast, the wind whipping through their hair before turning down a road that eventually turns into a drive-in movie theater.

“This is the community theater but, uh, I sort of rented it out for us tonight. So we could be alone.”

“It’s kinda creepy with no one else here.”

“Yeah, it’s dark now, but the movie will start soon after we get our food.”

“Our food?”

Just then, Keith notices someone appear beside the car. A human.

“Hey, Vero,” Lance greets her.

The woman leans over, narrowing her eyes at Keith. Then she grins and winks at Lance.

“Hi Keith. Nice to meet you after hearing so, so, so, much…”

“Not that much!”

Every little detail…”

“I hate you.”

“Uh, nice to meet you too?” Keith responds.

She hands them two trays and then punches Lance in the arm before walking away.

“Who is that?”

“Uh, my sister, kind of?” Lance answers.

“She is human and not hundreds of years old…”

“She is my brother’s great great…great…I never know how many greats to add. Some great-grand-daughter? She is family and has always seemed like a sister. She wanted to meet you. I originally just had one of my staff here to serve us, but she insisted.”  

Keith likes her immediately.

“My…family that lives here. They helped prepare some traditional Cuban food for us. Some rice and beans with plantains and pescado. Then, ropa vieja which is probably our most popular tourist dish. Arroz con leche is for dessert.”

“It smells amazing.”

Lance visibly brightens.

“And, I chose Into the Spiderverse for us to watch…”

“What is that?”

“An animated Spider-man movie. I think its mostly for kids, but you know, I felt like we needed something a bit lighter and it has great reviews.”

Keith nods, already shoving plantains in his mouth.

The date itself is surprisingly nice. The food is amazing. Spiderverse is better than Keith thought it would be though he would never, ever admit to getting teary-eyed during certain parts. Lance keeps an acceptable distance, occasionally making little jokes. By the end, their hands are almost touching, but not quite.

Keith relaxes as the credits roll, enjoying the last bits of arroz con leche and wondering if he would ever be allowed to drive Lance’s mustang.

“So, are we just jetting back now?” He asks.  

“What? No. Date’s not over,” Lance responds.

“What are we doing next? It’s getting late…”

“Seriously, you sound like an old man. And do you think I would bring you to Cuba for a two hour movie?”

Keith shrugs.

“I have three days planned in Cuba for our date.”

Keith sputters. “A date lasts for like, 3 hours, tops.”

“Look it up in the dictionary and tell me where it says that. Dates can last as long as you want them to...”

“But what if Shiro needs me…”

“Shiro needs some space. He needs to get back home and make sense of what happened to him. You will be there for him for that in the long-term, but don’t tell me you don’t sense he needs a break from you specifically right now.”

Keith crosses his arms.

“This is for you, too. You went through a lot. You are in a paradise now with no budget. I…I won’t touch you unless you want it and if you just want some space that is fine too. I will count the movie as our date. I can just leave and you can be alone. Just…enjoy this. Relax a bit. Have my credit card. Consider it my gift to you.”

Keith sighs, uncrossing his arms. Lance looks at him, slumped in the car like a kicked puppy. Keith rolls his eyes.  

“And who is going to show me around or entertain me while I’m here? Fine…let’s enjoy our stupid beach vacation which cannot be called a date.”

Lance grins. “I don’t care what we call it as long as I get to spend it with you.”

Keith hopes the dark covers his blush, cursing himself for forgetting just how smooth Lance can be.

Chapter Text

Keith presses the pedal to the floor, feeling the power beneath him, letting his hair and mind flow freely in the wind.

He sees Lance in the passenger side cringe once or twice, but he doesn’t care. It’s just him and Lance’s little red convertible with a surprisingly powerful engine and this coastal road in Cuba, his new favorite place.

He needed this.

Keith yells into the wind, taking a curve perhaps a bit too sharply, earning Lance clutching the side of the door. Not like it matters if they crash. It wouldn’t kill either of them.

Keith can’t remember being this happy for a long time.

He is finally satisfied when they near a beach access that has the tantalizing smells of street food wafting through the air combined with the ever present salty ocean scent.

He doesn’t really need to eat anymore, but that’s just a technicality. He still likes to eat and that is what matters.

Lance insists on taking the food to another beach access though rather than staying at the first one. He slips back into the driver’s seat, perhaps a bit too relieved for Keith’s pride, before driving them a few miles down the road.

They set out some towels before plopping down. Keith rips into some pork burger with something else on the side that Lance calls tostones. They eat sitting on the beach, overlooking what is admittedly a beautiful beach. The beach is actually just as gorgeous as Lance had described, not that Keith is ready to admit that to him. He would never hear the end of it.  

Keith almost finishes his food when he realizes the beach is a bit strange. Empty where the other beach access had been packed with people.

“Why aren’t more people here?” He asks.

 “Oh, uh. It’s my personal beach,” Lance responds sheepishly.

“You own a beach?”

“Yep.”

“You’re shitting me. You can’t own a beach.”

“With enough money, you can own anything you want.”

“Anything?”

“Well, everything but what you really want, I suppose.”

Keith brushes it off, not wanting this conversation to veer into serious territory.

“So you just like, bought up a beach and told people to get the fuck off it?”

“I mean, I could tell people that. But I usually don’t. The beach is open to people most of the time. I also do charity surfs and barbecues here. One next week is for autism awareness. But yeah, the beach is ours for these next few days.”

“You kicked everyone out for me?”

“You’re making it sound weird. Come on. This is definitely not the weirdest thing I’ve done for you.”

Keith shrugs, suddenly a little embarrassed looking across the beautiful, empty beach. The water is shimmering and deep blue and very inviting. Keith stands suddenly and then rips his shirt off, ready to finally get in.

“Jesus, Keith, my dude, give a guy some warning,” Lance exclaims beside him.

“What?” Keith turns to see Lance staring at him, eyes wide.

 “Too much hotness without warning a man.”

Keith hopes he doesn’t blush as he crosses his arms.

“Shut up. You are such a…”

Then Lance’s shirt is off too and Keith’s words die in his mouth.

“What was that?” Lance asks, smirking and subtly flexing.  

“Shut up.” Keith stalks off toward the water.

Lance joins him, crouching down into the water and humming with happiness.

Keith wades into the water, looking up at the sky. The sun spreads across the gently rippling water. It’s peaceful. It’s beautiful. It’s great.

But as he stares, a measure of sadness fills him.

The ebb and flow of the tide marks off change, time passing.

But time doesn’t pass for Keith anymore. He is stuck, in this moment, forever. He would never change. Never die, never grow. He would watch people die and leave him behind and then live long enough to forget them.

He puts a hand on his chest, hoping to feel it beat.

But, he is completely still.

Suddenly, water splashes across his face. For a moment, he is so shocked he doesn’t react, looking down at Lance’s shit eating grin. 

“Did you just splash me?”

“Whatcha gonna do about it?”

Keith stands there for a moment and then dips his hand into the water, splashing Lance right back.

Then, it’s war.

They splash each other for awhile before Keith accidentally slaps Lance’s arm.

Lance grins at him, flashing fangs before grabbing Keith around the waist and suplexing him into the water.

Indignant, Keith pushes his way upward and grabs Lance, throwing him. He means to just toss him down into the water, but realizes quickly that he has no concept of his own strength anymore as Lance flies though the air a good 20 feet before splashing back into the water.

“Oh, you are in deep shit now, Keefers,” he says as he spits water out of his mouth and his eyes glow faintly. Then he charges, looking like mischief personified. Keith turns, running as well.

He feels giddy as his feet fly over the sand on the beach. He hasn’t done something this goddamned stupid since he was a literal child, forgetting as an adult what it feels like to be chased, giggling as you try to evade the person behind you.

He swerves around the beach, remaining just out of reach of Lance’s seeking hands before finally being caught near a clutch of palm trees near the parking lot. Lance grabs his arm and swings him around directly into one of the trees, resulting in the tree being decimated, bark flying everywhere as Keith crashes through it.  

“You ok?” Lance gasps.

Keith growls, standing up and grabbing another palm tree, ripping it out of the ground in a way that he had only seen in cartoons before. He swings the several hundred pound palm tree like a bat, smacking Lance across the body and lifting him off the ground.

Lance quickly recovers, grabbing the tree with his bare hands and breaking it in half.

For a moment, they are at a standstill, wild eyes looking at each other. Then, Lance darts to the side, leaning down to grab a section of concrete out of the sidewalk like it is a piece of paper.

Keith charges forward, grabbing onto the concrete block before Lance can throw it at him.

They lock together in battle, both fighting over the block of concrete, panting, muscles straining, snarling, teeth bared.

Then, a snap.

The concrete disintegrates leaving nothing but dust and rubble between them. The sudden snap leaves them no more leverage, causing them to fall into each other.

They giggle, holding each other in the sand, laying on top of the destroyed concrete.

“Uh, I guess I’ll need to get a crew here soon to fix this shit,” Lance says.

Keith glances at the beach, which now looks like a hurricane had hit it. Sand is obviously displaced. There are craters in the beach where their feet had dug in to get leverage. It looks like trees and part of the sidewalk had exploded.

“Wow…” he says.  

They spend the rest of the day in the same manner, relaxing and occasionally playing on the beach.

It starts getting darker now. Not quite night, but the sun is starting to set. Him and Lance hadn’t spoken in awhile, instead choosing to watch the setting sun disappear behind the water.

“Can I take you somewhere?” Lance breaks the silence, voice very quiet and soft.

“Haven’t you done that already?”

“Somewhere special. Come on.”

Things feel a bit more serious somehow as Lance drives. He takes them quite far away from their current area. The paved road turns into an unpaved road which turns in what is more like a path than a road at all. Keith sees more and more sprawling fields, some overgrown and some dotted with barns and other farm buildings.

Lance stops eventually and gestures for Keith to get out of the car.

Keith follows him even when he starts to feel a bit apprehensive. Even when he feels like they have gone too far into the wilderness.

Keith supposes that, at some point, he started to trust Lance though.  

“Are you bringing me out here to kill me?” He asks eventually as they wind their way deeper into the rural part of the country.

Lance smiles at him, but doesn’t say anything.

Lance finally stops. It isn’t anything special really. Some old, gnarled trees. A slight little clearing in the underbrush and bramble.

Lance crouches down and touches the ground, not moving at all in that creepy way only vampires (and maybe now Keith) can do.

“So?” Keith asks.  

“This is a special place to me.”

“Ok…” Keith lets a bit of a question enter his voice.

Lance stands up and looks at him, a somber look on his handsome face.

“This is where I died.”