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Be Still, My Beating Heart

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Keith had practiced this conversation a thousand times in his head.

The recitals had prepared him for a myriad of painful outcomes. Dismissal, brash laughter, an awkward rejection of “sorry, man, I don’t see you that way”. He’d braced himself to be shot down, to have his confession of love for his childhood friend crash and burn. Not because said friend was a cruel person – because he wasn’t – but because the tall, cool, devilishly handsome Lance McClain stood miles out of Keith’s league.

Keith had been star-struck ever since they met in fifth grade. On the first day of class, an older jock had pushed Keith in the corridor. Quarrelsome Keith had of course pushed back, and the bully’s circle of friends pounced on him. They shoved him about, teasing and pulling his long hair while passers-by jeered.

Then, in charged Lance.

Baby-faced Lance, loud and short and mocked for his poor English, had punched a kid twice his weight to protect the loner, angry orphan boy nobody liked.

The jock’s black eye had earned Lance detention. Keith was already there, in trouble for picking fights earlier that week. Lance tossed him a note when the teacher was distracted, a spidery The name’s Lance :) scrawled inside a paper aeroplane.

After that, Keith never ate lunch alone again.

He had someone to talk to in class, someone to walk home with, and it was great. Lance was his first, and only, friend. Though chalk and cheese, they got along famously. They braved middle- and high school together, scoundrels who ditched gym and ‘forgot’ homework and snuck out to explore the mall on free periods.

Lance had two other best friends, more bully victims nicknamed Hunk and Pidge. Pidge was picked on for being a nerd, and Hunk for his weight. Keith would hang with them, sure, on the rare days Lance took off sick, but they weren’t close.

Lance, in contrast, was Keith’s whole world.

He was everything Keith wanted to be. He shot up in height, baby-face replaced by charming confidence and a grin that could warm a whole room. Kind, charismatic, and totally sure of his sexuality. That boy flirted with everyone – girls, guys, even teachers – but he never once hit on Keith. Maybe that was why Keith grew so smitten, in the same way a cat might sit in the lap of the one person around who ignored it. Lance wasn’t cold to him, though: Keith got his brightest smiles and biggest hugs, the one person Lance didn’t hide his tears from.

It was so easy to crush on him, Keith didn’t notice how hard he’d fallen until senior prom.

Lance had been inconsolable. He’d had his sights set on that Jenny girl as his date, but some other kid had asked her first. It pained Keith to see Lance so sad, but … it also made him feel something else, a strange twisting in his chest. On their stroll home from school, with Lance still miserable, Keith suggested they go together. Nobody was raring to ask him, after all – and while Keith himself loathed parties, he didn’t want his social butterfly of a best friend to miss it.

Lance had gawped at him for all of two seconds before that bubbly grin returned. It made Keith’s insides flutter – and as he lay awake in bed that night, he realised why. He liked Lance. A lot. He liked Lance enough that the thought of him dancing with somebody else made Keith want to vomit.

Keith didn’t dare tell him, though. How could he, without ruining their friendship?

Lance had treated prom like a bit of fun, as he did with everything that involved Keith. He took Keith shopping for a nice suit and bought a corsage for his own wrist, and they waltzed together under colourful lights and too-loud pop music. It was both the best and worst night of Keith’s life – because as much as he enjoyed the intimacy of holding him, he knew Lance would never feel the same way.

He’d thought about this conversation so many times in the four years since that night.

Too afraid of rejection, he’d bottled up his feelings and said nothing. It was dumb and unhealthy – but Keith ignored that thought, too. He’d never been good at expressing himself. ‘Emotionally constipated’, Pidge often called him, over his preference to brood and let things unfold around him.

Though Keith knew confessing would change – and likely end – his most treasured friendship … he couldn’t keep quiet forever.

The longer he went without telling Lance the truth, the more it ached to be around him. Keith loved his eyes, vivid and sharp and so expressive, like bits of sky or sea come to life. He loved that infectious giggle, the way his face scrunched up when he sneezed, the weight of his head when he used Keith’s shoulder as a pillow on movie night. The attraction continued to swell once they started living together for college, in the house Keith’s brother left vacant when he moved in with his fiancé.

There was nothing about Lance McClain that Keith didn’t adore, didn’t admire, didn’t want. Keith loved him and it hurt to keep that inside. Lance was solid ground, the first rain after an unbearable heat wave, starlight and ocean foam.

Keith did his best to put all that into words. He fought through the terror of it’s one-sided and he’ll hate you now, the dread and nausea and crippling self-doubt. Keith told himself he was too plain for Lance, too unsociable and short-tempered, wild hair and an unhealthy pallor. His flawless, cheerful, beautiful friend could never be happy with someone like that. It wouldn’t work.

He’d thought up a million ways Lance could respond to his confession – but none of them came close to the one he got.

“Would you still like me if I wasn’t human?”


Keith stared across the park, stiff beside his best friend on their dirty wooden bench. Despite the absurdity of Lance’s question, the cool breeze and scent of cut grass told Keith this wasn’t a dream. A jogger bounded past while he wrestled his confusion, her footfalls on the gravel path jarring amid autumn birdsong.

Convinced he’d misheard, Keith chanced a glance aside.

Lance’s head was down. He reclined on their bench in his old khaki jacket, long legs stretched out, elbows draped over the backrest. Though his pose appeared casual, Keith knew him too well to buy it. He read the furrow in Lance’s brow, noticed rare worry-lines on the bridge of his nose as he toed the dirt with one sneaker.

At this angle, Keith could see his behind his friend’s sunglasses. Blue aviators were a permanent part of Lance’s outdoor attire, due to sensitive retinas. His frown was troubled, squint eased by the dappled shade of the tree that sheltered the bench.

Any other day, Keith would’ve been mesmerised with the way the shadows played across Lance’s face. As it was, gut in knots, he could only gulp. “I – what?”

Lance dug his heel into the gravel. “Y’know, like, an alien or whatever,” he said. His light tone baffled Keith even more. “Something off your late-night conspiracy shows. Bigfoot, mothman, the chupacabra – would you be into that?”

The cogs in Keith’s brain creaked into motion. He couldn’t process the connection, the link that tied Lance’s words to his confession. “Are you saying … you’re a furry?”

At that, Lance burst into laughter.

Embarrassed, Keith ducked his head. He squeezed the edge of his seat so hard that his knuckles throbbed. What the fuck, dude?! He felt like the butt of a joke, stung and bewildered. He’d bared his soul, his deepest insecurities – in public – and all Lance could do was, what? Poke fun at his interest in cryptozoology?

No … that’s not it. Lance was trying to tell him something – in a weird, abstract way.

A hand on his knee brought Keith back to the park.

The touch made him flinch despite its careful, barely there weight. When Keith glared at his friend, he found Lance had removed the shades to look at him in earnest. That jewel-blue gaze was so soft, so fond even while scrunched against the daylight, Keith couldn’t stay mad at him.

“I’m saying you don’t know everything about me,” said Lance. As he spoke, he thumbed an apologetic circle into the black denim of Keith’s jeans. Lance then gave his knee a squeeze, and withdrew. “But I don’t want us to have secrets, if we take things to the next level.”

Fresh air caught in Keith’s lungs. He steeled himself before hope could make a fool of him, but there was no denying the skip of his heart. “Next level?” he echoed. Thoughts raced through his skull, half-formed and jumbled. He twisted at the waist to face Lance better. “You mean … you’re–?”

“Kinda stupid in love with you, too, yeah,” said Lance. He scratched at his earlobe with one arm of his sunglasses, no malice or jest to his tone. If anything, he sounded wistful. “I have been since ninth grade, when you hit that James kid in the crotch in dodgeball.”

Since … ninth grade? Keith felt himself bristle. “Lance,” he growled. He couldn’t decide if he should hug the man or hit him, joy and frustration like brambles in his belly. “Do you know much I’ve – ninth grade, you – oh my god, you absolute ass. Why didn’t you tell me?!”

Lance raised both arms in surrender. “Um, because you never showed any interest in me – or anybody?” he said. Keith gaped at him. One corner of Lance’s mouth quirked up, equal parts amused and sympathetic. “You’re hard to read, man. I thought you were aro-ace, or something.”

Overwhelmed and exasperated, Keith made to slump against him in defeat.

Lance seized Keith by the shoulders, stopping him. He held the shorter man at arm’s length on the bench and Keith froze up, afraid he’d misunderstood. Lance offered no answer, uncharacteristically serious in the dappled sunshine.

“I’ve gotta tell you something,” he said. “Just, let’s put this talk on hold for a sec. Let’s go home, I’ll say my piece, and … and then you can decide if you still like me.”

Keith flicked suspicious eyes between Lance’s fretful blue ones. He felt a lot of things as they held each other’s stare: concern, affection, hope – and dark, morbid curiosity. What about Lance could be so bad that he’d kept it hidden for all the years they’d been friends? What did he think could possibly make Keith hate him?

“All right, I’ll hear you out.”



Lance was blunt. Always had been. He was direct and said what he thought, brutal honesty that had dragged a moping Keith from many a slump. He may have struggled for words sometimes, since English wasn’t his first language, but he rarely minced them – and he never, ever lied.

And so, when Lance told Keith that he was a vampire, Keith believed him.

They perched on stools at the breakfast bar in their kitchen, Keith nursing a glass of cherry juice while he listened. It was a nice kitchen, too nice for what two college seniors could usually afford, spacious with faux marble surfaces. It was only the generosity of Shiro – Keith’s adoptive brother – that allowed the pair to live here; he’d offered the house rent-free when he moved out, so all the lodgers had to deal with were grocery costs.

Groceries were the last thing on Keith’s mind right now.

Lance explained that he was a ‘half-blood’, born to mixed human-vampire parents. This meant he could walk safely in sunlight and retract his fangs, and didn’t need to feed as often as purebloods. He blamed his sensitive eyes on nocturnal ancestry; when well-fed he was stronger and faster than the average man, with a fast healing rate and limited powers of persuasion.

“To stamp out any fears, right now – I don’t kill people,” he said, in firm conclusion to what sounded like a speech he’d rehearsed a thousand times in the mirror. “And Keith, I promise, I would never hurt you. Not in a million years. You … you trust me, right?”

Without hesitation, Keith nodded. Given their history, he was almost offended that Lance would ask such a thing.

Lance’s relief was instantaneous. He buried his face in both palms, elbows propped on the bar, and let out a shaky exhale. Keith felt oddly distant from his own body as he witnessed the rare breakdown. He wanted to reassure him but didn’t know how, so stayed silent for the minute it took Lance to compose himself again.

This must’ve been a huge weight off his chest, he thought – much like Keith’s own confession in the park. Keith sympathised in that way, able to breathe easy after so many years of hiding the truth.

According to Lance, pop culture got a lot wrong about vampires.

He couldn’t turn into a bat or a swarm of locusts, and said there was no such thing as ‘undead’. Purebloods just had long lifespans, he explained, and in medieval times would fuck with humans by spreading misinformation. Keith didn’t question Lance’s claim to be twenty-one, having grown up beside him. Keith had also spent enough time with Lance to know that he had a reflection, a pulse, and could eat solid food, so those were three more myths debunked.

“But I swear,” Lance grit out, “if you ask me if I sparkle, I will slap you.”

Though the reference sailed over Keith’s head, he took it as a cue to ask questions. So many crowded his mind that at first, he didn’t know which to lead with.

“How often do you need to feed?”

Lance massaged his throat in thought, frown pinned to the unlit lamp above the desk. The fire of sunset illuminated the kitchen, its red-gold glow pooling on the walls through the patio glass. “Three or four times a week,” he said. “I do get energy from normal food, but … it’s not enough. Like when you’ve got the munchies. I can eat a whole pizza by myself and not feel satisfied if I’m ‘thirsty’.”

Keith shuffled on his stool, glass of juice forgotten in his fascination. “Is it only human blood, or can you drink from other animals?”

“Human is better,” said Lance, picking at a crack in the countertop. He’d already finished his own juice, the glass set aside so he wouldn’t knock it over as he gestured. “There’s more nutrition in it, proteins and antigens. Animal blood is pretty much junk food.”

Keith paused to ponder this, dazed as the reality hit him.

A vampire. His best friend – boyfriend, now, maybe? – was a vampire. Holy shit.

“So, how do you, I mean …” said Keith. Inside, he scolded himself for dithering. Lance had already said he didn’t kill; this wasn’t a loaded question. “Do you, like … grab people off the street?”

It took Lance a second to understand. His eyes then went wide with alarm, and he shook his head vehemently. “Christ, no!” he said. “Fuck, Keith, we have laws against that sort of thing. It’s how we stay hidden.”

“So …” said Keith, “what do you do for blood?”

Lance bit his lip, mute for a long moment. “You know the place where I work?”

Keith nodded. Lounge Altea, it was called – or just ‘The Lounge’ in conversation – a cabaret club in the red light district. Lance waited tables there, part-time around his classes, wages paid by a woman called Allura. That was about all Keith knew of the establishment.

In their clean kitchen, Lance told Keith that the club was run by purebloods. He said most of its employees were human; they worked off-the-books as ‘cattle’, offering their blood to vampire clients in the guise of a private dance. At Keith’s gulp of horror, Lance rushed to explain that the donors were well-paid with great health plans – and they never gave more than they could spare.

“And that’s where you … dine?” said Keith. He reminded himself to blink, fingerless gloves damp with condensation from his glass. He didn’t want his juice anymore. Its deep red hue too closely resembled the liquid of discussion, dark and unappetising.

Lance drummed a nervous rhythm onto his thigh. “Employee discount,” he said. “You pick a dancer and a booth, sit down and … have a drink.”

Keith licked his cracked lips. He tried to picture Lance sucking on some stripper’s neck, but the image refused to form. In hindsight, Keith was glad it didn’t.

In that same subdued tone, Lance explained the final type of vampire. Thralls, he called them – humans transformed by drinking vampire blood whilst being bitten themselves. They were weak compared to pure- and half-bloods, and couldn’t infect other humans, but were tied to their maker through a strong emotional bond. Family, in a way, like adoptive children or in-laws.

“Can you turn people,” said Keith, “even though you’re half-human?”

For the first time, Lance shied from Keith’s stare. He picked at his cuticles atop the counter, discomfort radiating from his slim frame. “In theory,” he muttered. His next words were louder, but he didn’t meet Keith’s gaze again. “My blood and venom isn’t as potent as pureblood stuff, so it’d take more, but … I don’t wanna force that on anyone. What would I do with a thrall, anyway? Make ’em fold my laundry?”

Keith couldn’t help but chuckle at that. Lance was still Lance, revelation aside, gallows humour and sarcasm. Keith flashed a smile. “Laundry does suck.”

At the pun, Lance snorted. The sound broke the tension in the kitchen, and he sat straighter on his stool. He looked Keith up and down, features mellow in the dying glow of sunset. “You’re taking all this awfully cool, man,” he said. “I expected … well, I dunno. Scepticism, at least? Then again, you are the cryptid guy.”

Keith traced the pad of one finger over the rim of his glass. He’d never had reason to doubt Lance in the past, so why should this be any different? Still curious, he flicked the tumbler. The shrill noise reverberated about the plain walls, crisp and sharp. “Tell me about your venom.”

Lance no longer tried to avoid Keith’s eye. “It’s sorta like a narcotic?” he said. “Think morphine. To someone who doesn’t drink or do drugs, like you, it’ll hit pretty hard. It kills the pain of the bite, but doesn’t numb the area.”

“Analgesic, not anaesthetic,” Keith hummed. He’d picked up a few health terms from the books Shiro used to leave open when studying for medical school. “What happens if you go too long without feeding?”

Lance heaved a breath. “After a few days, I get sorta … lethargic,” he said. “Everything feels blurry, and I’m weaker and don’t heal as fast. A week without, I’ll get sick. Nausea and stuff, the sweats. In the end, instinct kicks in. It’s … not pretty.”

Pensive, Keith pushed his now-lukewarm glass away from himself. “Is your garlic intolerance vampire-related?”

“Allyl methyl sulphide doesn’t agree with us,” Lance said sagely. “Though, because I’m a half-blood, I’m not deathly allergic. Which is dope, ’cause Mamá McClain’s garlic knots are too good to pass up.”

“What about things like holy water, and crosses?”

“Bullshit. The vamps of old had weird ideas of ‘fun’. One was to pretend they were scared of religious symbols, to make humans think they had an edge over us.”

Keith picked at a hole in his jeans. “You said you have … powers of persuasion,” he recalled. “What does that mean, exactly?”

Lance gave him a lopsided shrug, made a so-so gesture with one hand. “Kinda like, hm …” he fretted. “Okay. Not mind control, or any of that psychic shit on TV. More like … hypnotism? Suggestion. It’s hard, though, doesn’t always work. Some folks are resistant to it, I guess, and I can’t make anyone do anything they wouldn’t normally.”

“Have you ever used it on me?”

Another shrug answered Keith’s query, more meek than the first. “I tried, once,” said Lance. “You’re stubborn as shit though, so, no dice. I didn’t wanna wash the dishes, so I asked you to do it. You threw the rubber gloves in my face.”

Keith remembered. A thought then struck him, one that made his fists ball in his lap. “Does anyone else know, about you?” he said, almost an undertone. “Hunk, Pidge…?”

Lance seemed quite pleased with himself as he shook his head. They’d fallen out-of-touch with his other friends since school; Hunk had moved state and Pidge went off to some fancy science academy, though they still swapped texts sometimes.

“Just you,” said Lance. He leaned back, in a catlike stretch that made his spine pop. The hem of his sweater rode up with the motion, exposing a sliver of caramel-coloured stomach. Keith was quick to look away. “God, you don’t know how good it feels to finally come clean. I hate keeping secrets. Especially from you.”

“So, why did you?”

Lance faltered. Keith’s expression was blank, guarded, wrung by a close cousin of disappointment. Lance lowered his arms, cautious. “What?”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Keith clarified. He kept his voice as even as possible, cursed its tendency to snag and break when he let down his barriers. “I’ve known you for eleven years, Lance. I trust you more than anyone. You could’ve said you were Elvis in disguise, and I would’ve believed you and never told a soul.”

Lance fidgeted. “I’m not proud of what I am, man,” he said. He flattened his choppy hair as if self-conscious. “And I … I liked our friendship too much. I didn’t wanna risk scaring you off.”

“You wouldn’t have,” Keith said at once. He restrained himself, embarrassed all of a sudden. “Like you said, I am the cryptid guy. You didn’t have to hide something so big from me, especially if it hurt to keep it secret.”

Under the table, Lance nudged Keith’s shin with his sock-clad foot. His sole was warm, bony as the rest of him. “Says the closet-gay crushing on his BFF since prom,” he teased.

Flustered, Keith raked aside his own mop of hair. He hadn’t brushed it since that morning, thick curls tangled and windswept from their walk in the park. With the knotted fringe removed from his vision, he studied his playful housemate.

There was nothing scary about Lance. Nothing dangerous, or threatening. He was all gangly limbs and boyish mischief, whipcord muscles lost under tight jeans and a baggy sweater. Keith couldn’t imagine him as a predator, as something to be feared.

“Can I see?” he said.

Lance rocked on his stool, cagey in exaggerated suspicion. “See what?” he said, and reached for Keith’s abandoned glass of juice. He downed the leftovers in one go, slammed the empty tumbler down, and smirked. “My dick?”

Keith sighed. “Your fangs, dumbass.”

Lance flinched as if poked. Colour flushed the shells of his ears, his posture more insecure than Keith had ever seen it. “You sure you wouldn’t rather see my dick…?”

Keith felt a spike of interest at the hope in his tone. “Maybe later.”

At that, Lance beamed.

Swift, Keith glanced to his teeth. Even in the last dregs of sunset, those celebrity-straight pearly whites glittered. Keith remembered the years of braces he’d endured to get that perfect smile, and wondered how such devices worked at all with retractable fangs. Must’ve been painful. Lance often whined of toothache back then, sometimes bad enough that he’d been sent home from school.

Then he noticed how sharp Lance’s canines were.

Keith had never examined them until now. Never had a reason to. Now that he was paying attention, though, fuck, those were some pointy teeth. But … they weren’t different to how Keith remembered. Lance hadn’t done anything yet. Keith slid off his stool to stand, and edged closer for a better view.

In the space of a blink, Lance’s canines doubled in length.

His gums had done a fine job of concealing their true size. The fangs grew out like wisdom teeth erupting at record speed and good God, Keith sure hoped it didn’t feel that way. Lance’s stillness suggested no such agony, however; he didn’t even flinch, stare searching Keith for any sign of distress or disgust.

Keith felt neither of those things. Instead, intrigue overtook his better judgement.

He reached out and cupped Lance’s thin jaw in his hands, and gently pushed his top lip up with one thumb. Lance made a show of rolling his eyes, huffing a hot breath over Keith’s fingers – but he didn’t pull away. On the contrary, he opened his mouth wide to let Keith see in.

Keith noted the twitch of his juice-stained tongue, threads of saliva linking the muscle to pink gums and a smooth palate. Something about being this close, about looking inside Lance, made Keith’s own throat go dry, but he willed himself calm.

Lance’s fangs were impressive, the top two enticingly sharp while the bottom pair were shorter. And they were so white, paler than ivory and slightly translucent. Keith could see the canals inside where the venom flowed. Some dumb part of his brain wanted to touch them, to drag a fingertip under their points and learn how easily they pierced skin.

Instead he lifted his thumb, let Lance’s lip return to its natural shape. The moist flesh clung to his teeth a little, where the enamel had dried in the kitchen air. Breath held, Keith then slid his gaze up to meet Lance’s – and found his friend’s eyes closed.

Of everything that unfolded today, this was what took Keith most by surprise. He’d thought Lance would keep staring at him, watching for a negative reaction, but….

Lance trusted him not to fear or judge.

It felt strangely intimate, to stand here at the breakfast bar and play with Lance’s mouth. Keith grew light-headed, all of a sudden, hyper-aware of the drool on his fingers and the chill of linoleum seeping through his threadbare socks. His pulse thudded hard and fast in his ears, the sensation of vertigo at the edge of a long drop.

He wasn’t frightened or revolted. Nor was he paralysed by the knowledge that vampires existed. He wasn’t even upset that Lance had hidden something so huge from him for so long, a wall of silence wedged between them for over a decade.

No, Keith was grateful. They had no secrets anymore. Lance had let him in and now they were even, their deepest insecurities on show for no-one but each other. Warmth bloomed in Keith’s ribcage, filled it fit to burst, made his throat constrict and pulse stutter with affection.

For the first time, he allowed himself to act on it.

Gently, he pushed up under Lance’s chin to close his mouth. Lance didn’t part his long lashes, pliant and unguarded in his grip. Keith then hunched closer, gloved palms still cradling that angular jaw, and pressed his lips to Lance’s cheek.

The inhale beside his ear rang shocked, a whistle of nostrils as Lance went rigid against him. Keith jerked back, mortified by his own recklessness – but before he could splutter an apology, Lance surged forward to capture his mouth.

No wet dream could prepare Keith for how it felt to finally kiss him.

Lance tasted of cherry juice and waxy balm, of something indecent when a hot tongue darted out to wet Keith’s chapped lips. Lance’s were supple in contrast – moisturised, because of course they were – soft and velvety and addictive. Keith moaned into them and then there was a hand in his hair, tugging at the knots and his own were wandering and fuck he couldn’t breathe.

How many years had they wasted dancing around each other, when they could’ve been doing this?

Keith bowed over him when Lance broke the kiss. The dark-skinned man was flushed where he sat, also winded, his grin a mile wide. It was the same he wore whenever he beat Keith at Mario Kart, ecstatic and triumphant.

“So …” he said, and Keith noticed his teeth were normal again. The canines had shrunk, pulled in to a respectable length. Lance walked his fingers around Keith’s narrow hips, and tugged him closer to the stool on which he perched. “I guess you still like me, gnashers and all?”

Not quite brave enough to let himself be pulled into his lap, Keith set his forearms on Lance’s shoulders for balance. It was strange to interact like this, to touch each other without shame. Strange, but good. Keith hooked his wrists around Lance’s nape, and pressed their foreheads together with a sigh.

“They suit you,” he said. “To be honest, I think I like you even more.”

Lance sniggered. “Weirdo.”


Chapter Text


The transition from friends to lovers wasn’t as awkward as Keith feared.

He and Lance already lived together, cooked and gamed and watched TV together. But where they used to step out of each other’s way, dodging physical contact, now they would deliberately collide. Little touches in passing, ruffled hair and squeezed hands, touches skating over waists. They’d stop on the stairs to share a quick kiss, or something longer if they weren’t in a rush to leave for class or work. Time passed and they grew bold: joint showers, wearing each other’s clothes, slow make-out sessions on the couch while some TV rom-com went ignored in the background.

It felt so easy, the advance to sex a natural progression of their relationship.

What Keith lacked in experience, Lance made up for in enthusiasm and care. He explained every step, ensured Keith was happy and comfortable, relaxed him with kneading digits and tender words. Their first time was gentle, intense, clumsy at moments but spirited and they laughed through the afterglow. It got better with practice, more intimate. Keith had never thought of himself as a snuggler, per se, but Lance’s sweaty, post-coital embrace felt like home.

He knew Lance had done this before, with other people. He’d had flings, one-night stands to vent urges when they were still ‘just friends’. It didn’t bother Keith that he wasn’t Lance’s first. Rather, he was glad the man’s past encounters meant at least one of them knew what the hell they were doing.

No … what bothered Keith was how Lance refused to drink from him.

Where Keith liked to cuddle, Lance was a biter. He sucked hickies into his lover’s pale flesh at every chance he got, clamped on to his neck or shoulder while they floated in euphoria. Lance marked him and licked him and gripped a tad too hard with his teeth, but he never once used his fangs. He kept them short, too small to pierce skin – in bed or elsewhere.

This disappointed Keith more than it should have.

Lance would only discuss his vampirism when Keith directly asked him about it. He never brought it up himself, would brush off the loaded question of ‘are you hungry’ with a ‘nah’ or a dismissive shrug. At the same time, Keith was too embarrassed to straight-up offer his blood as a snack. He had no clue how to voice a proposal like that, without sounding like he had some kind of monster fetish.

The fact that he did have such a thing was beside the point. Lance’s raw strength turned him on, the thought of those fangs in his throat an exhilarating fantasy.

Sometimes, though, Lance would come home from a shift at The Lounge all buzzed. He’d be full of energy, animated and extra-attentive, and Keith knew. He could tell it had been a feed-day. The idea of his boyfriend’s mouth on a stranger made Keith squirm inside, twisted his stomach with envy and hurt.

Keith tried not to let it fester. He told himself that Lance’s abstinence was born of love, was because Lance didn’t want to hurt him. A reasonable concern. All the same, Keith couldn’t help but feel offended. He wasn’t made of porcelain, skin tone be damned. He wasn’t some fragile waif to be coddled and protected, like he’d break the moment his skin was punctured.

He was a grown man, for fuck’s sake, and he wanted to know how it felt to have his partner really sink his teeth in.

These thoughts plagued Keith one Sunday morning, as they lay together on Lance’s lumpy mattress.

The sheets were crumpled, spilling off the edge and onto the floor, pillows tossed God-knows-where in last night’s revelry. Grey light streamed through gaps in the blackout blinds, the untidy room bathed in lavender scents from a diffuser on the windowsill. Keith traced shapes into the fine hairs that peppered Lance’s chest, one ear suctioned to a firm pectoral, distracted while Lance stretched beneath him and talked about beds.

“We could totally fit a queen in here,” he said, massaging his brow. His other arm lay trapped under Keith, hooked around his broader frame. “Mm, turn your room into a study, or something … or storage.”

Keith hummed, non-committal. Sharing a single-size bed was … mixed. Great for snuggling, but there wasn’t much wiggle-room and on hot nights the extra body heat was inescapable. It also meant using two blankets, since Keith liked to cocoon himself and Lance had a habit of rolling.

“You think Shiro’d let us decorate?” said Lance. His bed-head was a disaster, but his smile shone bright as he faced Keith. “’Cause I’d love to paint these walls a nice periwinkle.”

“That’s blue, right?” said Keith. He didn’t raise his sightline, still combing Lance’s sparse chest hair with his fingers.

Lance snorted, and Keith was jostled where he used his boyfriend’s ribcage as a pillow. “Yeah, caveman, it’s blue,” he said. “Aren’t you an art major?”

Lance moved as he spoke. He shifted his weight onto one elbow, rose in such a way that Keith slid off him and onto his back on the mattress. Lance crawled to hang above him, framing Keith’s more compact body on all fours. One of the duvets hitched a ride on Lance’s hips, draped over both men like a tent in the morning chill.

Keith inhaled deeply when Lance leaned down to nuzzle him. He smelled Lance’s fancy shampoo, tea tree and witch hazel from his sacred skincare routine. The kiss that followed was warm and drawn-out, breathy with a chuckle at Keith’s appreciative purr. Lance kissed him again, on the fold of his eyelid, and again a little lower, working his languid way down Keith’s jaw to the junction of his throat.

Keith’s lungs stuttered. The pressure of lips on his pulse point made the sour thoughts resurface, jealousy and want. The dark desire to be bitten flashed through him and he faced away, presenting his neck as a wolf might submit in a fight.

He felt Lance freeze above him, motionless for several seconds. A glance up found his stare fixed on Keith’s jugular through the snarl of black curls, transfixed. Lance then ducked his head, shuffled lower in a creak of bedsprings. His next kiss landed instead on Keith’s sternum – far from the danger zone.

With a frustrated groan, Keith sat up. They needed to talk about this.

Lance continued to mouth at his flexed abdomen, worshipping the toned muscles there until Keith reached to stop him. Lance broke off his ministrations with a start, and his lust faded at his partner’s frown. Keith then pulled him into a hug, tight and possessive.

“Do you think I’d taste bad, or something?” he said.

Lance melted into the embrace. His grip was just as tight, telling, tugging at the longer locks of Keith’s mullet. The blanket slid down, pooled around their waists, and Keith noticed a lack of scratches on Lance’s spine. The dusky skin was smooth despite the passion of the night before; the wounds left by Keith’s nails had already healed.

Lance didn’t answer at first, and in the pause Keith worried that he’d overstepped. When Lance did speak, his voice was meek. Apologetic. “Can we discuss this when we’re not naked?”

Keith sighed. Maybe this was a conversation for the clothed.

He gave Lance’s nape one last pat, touch lingering as the hug dissolved. He refused to let him off so easy, though. Before Lance could retreat, Keith surged forward and latched like a limpet onto his lover’s clavicle. Lance made a noise of pleasant surprise – then yelped when Keith bit down in a reversal of roles.

Keith sucked a hickey over Lance’s collarbone, made a mark to match the dozens that littered his own body. He was no expert, but had seen Lance leave enough of them to know what to do. Keith lapped at the bruise with intent, hard and slow, savoured how the salty skin flared merlot-red under the flat of his tongue.

When he was done, he flicked his gaze upward. He caught Lance watching enraptured, pupils blown, speechless where he knelt between Keith’s spread thighs. Keith felt a rush of pride, smug that he could turn his boyfriend on with as much ease as Lance aroused him.

“Listen, Lance–”

“I don’t wanna use you, okay?” Lance blurted out. His sheer volume startled Keith, made him jump as if zapped by static. The taller man shrank away, gestured in agitated discomfort. “I don’t want … that … to become the big, central thing of our relationship, like blood is all I’m interested in you for – because it’s not.”

Keith settled against the headboard, bare skin stippled where the cold air grazed him. So much for getting dressed. “I know it’s not,” he said. When Lance wilted, Keith felt his brow furrow. “Hey. Look at me.”

Smelling of stress and sex and aloe, Lance did. He reminded Keith of a scolded puppy, slumped and pitiful, with large, doleful eyes peering through his messy fringe.

Keith gave him a stern look. “If you think our relationship is going to end up revolving” –he drew a circle in the air with one index finger– “around you feeding from me, then you’re an idiot.”

Lance flinched as if poked. His Adam’s apple bobbed, and he visibly struggled to hold eye-contact when Keith spoke again.

“I don’t love you because you’re a vampire,” said Keith, solemn, “and you don’t see me as a walking buffet. If you did, you’d have ‘used’ me a long time ago. We’ve lived together for years, Lance, and you haven’t bitten me yet. What’s really going on?”

Lance became very interested in the floordrobe, all of a sudden, wrinkled jeans and jackets strewn amid scattered textbooks and chocolate wrappers. His cell phone buzzed with a text atop the dresser – Allura, most likely, offering him a shift – but he made no move to check it.

“I’m just … worried,” he said. “I dunno. It’s weird to think about.”

Keith tried to be patient. He knew he was pushing Lance’s boundaries, but it wasn’t for selfish reasons.

If Lance allowed his housemate to feed him, he wouldn’t have to restrict his diet to nights at The Lounge. He could drink whenever he needed it, and not have to starve himself if work didn’t fall on the right days.

Even now, in the awkward lull in conversation, Keith could pick out signs that Lance was thirsty. Faint shadows under his eyes, a slight gauntness to his cheeks, and – most obvious – the fact that his hickey hadn’t yet started to fade. His body wasn’t healing itself as fast as it could. At a guess, it had been a few days since his last ‘meal’. The scratches on his back must’ve taken all night to mend.

A grim thought squeezed Keith’s innards. “Are you scared you’ll hurt me?”

With a hiss, Lance stood and dumped the blanket into Keith’s lap. Stark naked and wholly unbothered by it, Lance then picked his way across the bombsite of a bedroom to search the dresser for clean underwear.

“Of course it hurts,” he said, in a voice that throbbed when he shook out a fresh pair of boxers. He donned them without fuss, none of his usual flirty ass-shaking, and swiped yesterday’s jeans off the floor. “The venom dulls the pain, but it’s still an open wound and you’re anaemic enough as it is. Seriously, dude – outta the two of us, you look more like a vampire than I do.”

As Lance stepped into the creased jeans, Keith brooded. He made no move to get dressed himself, but pulled the duvet higher to burrito himself in silky cotton. “I’m sorry,” he grumbled. “I just … I hate the thought of you sucking on some chick’s neck in a seedy bar.”

Lance wheeled around. A slanted grin ruined his fake scowl, fists on the jut of his hips in over-acted umbrage. “Excuse you,” he said, “Lounge Altea is not a seedy bar, thank you very much. It’s a very classy establishment where the ‘chicks’ are well-paid for their donations. We have male dancers, too, you know.”

Keith grit his teeth. “Not helping.”

Lance blinked at him. He stood there a long moment, shirtless with his fly half-zipped, striped in dull daylight from the cracks in the blinds. Keith drew up his legs beneath the covers, felt himself flush in dawning embarrassment.

“Are you …” said Lance, hushed, as if struck by a revelation. “Are you jealous?”

Keith glared between the slats that veiled the bedroom window. Crows dotted the tree across the road, the quiet street slick with rain. “Wouldn’t you be?” he said. “If I went out every other night and put my tongue on someone – or several someones, you don’t know – how would that make you feel?”

Lance’s exhale sighed loud in the cluttered room. Keith wished he’d replace the battery in his alarm clock, if nothing else, for a bit of background noise. Lance’s hands rose as if to twist in front of his middle, but he dropped them again to ball loose at his sides.

“Yeah, I …” he said, subdued. “I don’t think I’d like it.”

Keith faced him in a rasp of fabric, earnest where he hugged his shins under the sheet. “I trust you,” he said, level and calm. “Lance, please … I want to help. Let me feed you. Even if it’s only once a month, or however long it takes the human body to replace blood.”

“Four to six weeks, per pint of red cells,” said Lance, plucking at a stray thread in his waistband. He licked his lips. “I don’t need that much, though. Keith, this isn’t … you don’t have to….”

“I want to,” Keith spoke over him. He sat up, cheeks burning as he dared to be honest. “I … I wanna know what it feels like.”

That drew a smirk from Lance. He cocked his weight, flashed those dazzling teeth. “Kinky.”


With a snort, Lance raised his arms in surrender. His expression was fond when he lowered them again, dreamily so, as if he couldn’t figure out how he’d landed such a boyfriend. Keith knew the feeling.

At a cautious pace, Lance returned to the bed. He perched near Keith’s feet on the mattress, focus glued to his own lap for a while, then twisted to study Keith square-on. His air was sombre, probing, grave.

“Are you sure?”

Keith held his gaze, and replied with a single solemn nod.

“Positive?” Lance urged.

“One hundred percent,” said Keith. He kept still, tried not to appear too eager despite the haste with which he’d answered.

Lance sized him up for what felt like an age, searching Keith’s stubborn face for any sign of doubt. When he found none, his taut posture sagged. Keith saw him grip the edge of the mattress, gathering the cloth in harsh lines, as if to root himself in place.

“Fine,” said Lance, no more than a whisper. He swallowed hard, his heavy frown muffling the spark of triumph in Keith’s chest. “On one condition. I’m gonna cook you a huge chicken salad later, and you have to eat every scrap.”

Keith squinted at him. “What?” he said, incredulous. “Why?”

“Iron and protein, man,” said Lance. “It’s the fastest way to recover from blood loss. You’ve also gotta drink a bunch of water to stay hydrated. That’s the deal. Take it or leave it.”

Keith propped himself higher on the headboard, contained his joy as best he could. “I can do that,” he said. “Guess we’re feeding each other today, huh?”

Lance beamed, wide and bright and loving.

They didn’t dive straight into it. On the contrary, Lance told Keith to get comfortable and promptly left the room.

He vanished next door, into the bathroom. A baffled Keith heard him slam on the faucet, water thundering against the basin, then the unmistakeable sounds of Lance cleaning his teeth like a madman. The drone of his toothbrush buzzed low in pitch, a sign that it too needed a new battery. Lance was forgetful that way.

Keith nestled in his fleecy cocoon while he listened. His heart hammered in effort to escape his ribcage, giddy and gleeful and excited all at once. It was happening, holy crap it was happening. Part of Keith’s brain scolded him for craving the thrill of pain, but he couldn’t help himself. He’d always been an adrenaline junkie.

When Lance reappeared in the bedroom doorway, Keith was stumped to note the large purple tub in his grip.

“Um …” said Keith. He knew the bowl well. They used it to ferry dirty clothes downstairs on laundry day, or – on mornings after Lance went out partying with college buddies – as a barf-bucket.

“You probably won’t need it,” said Lance, setting the tub down on the floor. In it, he’d placed a roll of medical tape and a sealed piece of gauze from their First Aid kit. He straightened up, serious, and wiped toothpaste off his chin with one thumb. “Better safe than sorry, though, right? My venom’s gonna hit you like a truck, and I’d rather not have puke all over the floor.”

Keith raked through his tangled mullet. What a delightful thought. “Fair enough,” he said. “I actually thought it was for you, in case I taste gross.”

With a chortle, Lance lowered himself onto the bed. He crawled to sit on Keith’s left, bedsprings creaking as they huddled shoulder-to-shoulder. “For real, dude?” Lance said affectionately. “The way you smell, you wouldn’t taste bad even if you ate a whole jar of anchovies and a family bag of chilli Doritos.”

Keith wriggled into him, gave Lance’s earlobe a playful nip. “Sounds tasty,” he said.

Lance kissed him, hard. “Now that’s gross.”

They made out against the headboard for more minutes than Keith cared to count. The kisses grew urgent, dirty, Keith’s soul alight with need as he imagined what was to come. Lance’s palm cupped the back of his head, devoured by the mullet, minty breath filling both of their mouths. Keith felt himself getting worked up where he rutted against him, didn’t bother to hide it. Lance growled when he noticed; he hit the brakes, pulled away, and pressed their foreheads together for a much-needed breather.

“You mind where I do it?” he said.

It took Keith longer than it should have to process the question, draped around his lover. “You don’t always go for the neck?”

Lance scoffed. He hunched to lay an ear over Keith’s racing heart, sprawled with jeans slung loose on his hips. “That’s a pop culture cliché, my dude,” he said. His free hand slipped under the blanket as he spoke, traced the crags of Keith’s abs. Keith shuddered, bit his kiss-plumped lip. “Anywhere works, so long as there’s a vein underneath.”

Lance took this chance to lathe his tongue over Keith’s collarbones. Keith stifled a groan. He’d never been more turned-on in his life, mind filled with dangerous images as he clutched for purchase on Lance’s shoulders. “W-what’s your preference?” he managed.

A hum fluttered against his throat. Lance then slid free, shimmied lower to lie on his side with one elbow supporting his torso. He trailed explorative nails along the outside of Keith’s closest arm, scraped down through the peach-like hairs.

“I’m a forearm guy, myself,” he said, lazy. “Easy access, easy to clean, and definitely easier to bandage than a neck wound. And with your love of hoodies and sweatbands, it’ll be a cinch to hide the marks, too.”

Keith’s digits twitched of their own accord, hyper-sensitive under Lance’s touch. The muscles jumped and he turned the limb over, offering his vulnerable inner arm to his boyfriend. Tendons shifted within, milky skin like gooseflesh from cold and arousal, his sprawling veins faint blue in the half-light of the bedroom.

Like the first time Keith presented him with a blood supply, Lance froze – locked up with his body plastered to Keith’s hip. From above, Keith heard him gulp. He watched Lance force himself to move, thin fingers snaking around to cradle Keith’s wrist. Lance’s frame was a knot of tension where he propped himself semi-upright, hungry but hesitant.

He dragged his stare up to meet Keith’s. “Are you absolutely sure about this?”

Keith huffed. “Lance, I swear to God,” he said. “If you ask one more time, we’re sleeping in separate beds tonight. Yes, I’m sure.”

The threat drew a snicker out of Lance. The pause that followed was charged with suspense, anticipation, and Keith held his breath. It was now or never.

“You might wanna lie down,” said Lance.

Keith stayed where he was, sloped forward from the headboard so he could see. He didn’t want to miss a thing. Lance raised himself on his elbow, sighed, and guided Keith’s wrist to his mouth.

It felt like a normal kiss, supple lips warming the joint in docile affection. Keith shivered, memorised the pattern of feather-light pecks Lance began to trail upward. The kisses grew firmer as they neared his elbow, rough and wet, blunt teeth grazing skin in a way Keith instinctively knew Lance didn’t spare for his usual donors. This was tender, special, romantic. A show of thanks, an act of love, superfluous and passionate.

Then, pain.

It was quick, so sudden and sharp that Keith choked on a gasp. Four fangs pierced deep into his flesh and he felt them sink in, a vice-like pressure as Lance bit him. The burning sting made Keith’s eyes water. Years ago, he’d been attacked by a dog let off its leash in the park. This felt similar, the punch of strong jaws and a lingering ache.

He clenched his fist against it – and then it was gone, soothed by an odd chill in his veins. The sensation left him dizzy, but no less aroused as Lance sat up to cradle his limb properly.

It was every bit as intimate as Keith had fantasised. Lance, clamped on yet caressing him, body moulded to his naked side. Keith felt the thud of Lance’s heart against him, the wet heat of his mouth countered by the cold those fangs fed into him. Keith reached out with his idle hand, threaded greedy fingers into Lance’s soft hair. He wanted to kiss him but feared it would break the spell, was terrified Lance would stop if Keith distracted him from dulling the pain with his venom.

He felt … strange. Light-headed, almost. Foggy, like vertigo or seasickness without the nausea. It left Keith blurred at the edges, unfocused but still present, the kind of buzz he pictured whenever he tried to imagine himself tipsy.

Through the haze, he realised Lance had stopped biting. Keith saw a bead of red trickle free when Lance sheathed his fangs. That quick tongue darted out, caught the droplet before it could fall and stain the sheets. Lance delicately licked away the thin trail of crimson, then sealed his lips over the wound.

Keith watched in morbid fascination, weighed down by a surreal sense of calm as Lance began to drink.

Lance didn’t suck on the bite, as Keith expected, but fell still and let it weep into his mouth. Keith could feel it, the flutter of blood leaving his system. He wondered how it tasted to a vampire, if it had the same salt-metal tang he gagged on whenever he bit his own tongue. From Lance’s pleased hum, Keith suspected otherwise. It was the sort of noise he used to make when Hunk baked cookies in home economics, brought to tears by culinary perfection. Lance’s grip tightened, eyes squeezed shut, breaths ragged through his nose.

All the while, the cool sensation spread through Keith.

It crawled up his captive arm to pool in his chest, where the tendrils fanned out and into the rest of his body. It was a pleasant feeling, comforting and serene, a happy disorientation that made his knots unwind and vision double. He tried to stay focused, to watch until the end, but it was a battle he had no shot at winning.

When the chill hit his brain, Keith lost all sense of time.

His surroundings fuzzed out, and something solid smacked into the base of his skull. It took Keith a moment to comprehend that he’d overbalanced, tipped backward like a felled tree. He moaned where he’d ended up slumped against the headboard, helpless as a tide of bliss washed over him.

Fuck, vampire venom was good.

The cracks in the ceiling seemed to smile down at him, and Keith smiled back. He felt sluggish, uncoordinated, weightless as the bedroom’s colours brightened before his half-lidded gaze. He smelled sweat and mint and stale denim, the scents vivid enough to touch. A snigger bubbled in the air and Keith belatedly recognised it as his own, the rattle of a breeze on the window panes like applause in his cotton-filled ears.

Oh, he felt … he felt great.

He had no idea where he was, but Keith couldn’t bring himself to care. He couldn’t see Lance anymore. Instead he saw funny shapes in the wood grain of the wardrobe, the DVDs that stuffed the bookcase reduced to strips of hue and nonsense words. He wanted to dance, but was too relaxed to move, acutely aware and in love with the velvety blanket in which he writhed.

Something licked him.

The slick friction tugged him to the present, if for a moment. Did he have a dog? He couldn’t remember. Mm, he hoped so. Dogs were nice, except for the one that once bit him. A blurry figure moved on his left and Keith didn’t even try to track it, dazed and content where he lay. He drifted on a swell of euphoria, peace like nothing he’d ever known, and hummed when a beautiful brown face swam through the ether in front of him.

Keith swore he could fly. The face – the angel – beamed down at him like a lover would, gorgeous blue eyes crinkled in a way that someone more lucid might read as sympathetic.

“You with me, buddy?” said a voice.

Keith’s affirmation left him as a grunt. Huh. It sounded a lot more articulate in his head. He tried to reach up and catch the angel but found that he couldn’t move, and soon he forgot he had a physical form at all. He floated instead like a fluffy cloud, another groan rumbling out of him without permission.

A laugh like music met his ears, and the face disappeared.

Keith felt pressure on the mist where his forearm should’ve been. It was spongy, soft, familiar. A band of something rougher then began to wind its way around that spot, adhering to his skin like tape. It was over in no time at all, too soon for him to place what was happening.

“There you go,” that pretty voice assured him. “All bandaged. Take it easy, okay?”

Dimly, Keith looked down at himself. He saw his own arm stretched before him, atop the lumpy mattress, limp and wrapped in white. Drowsiness took him as he stared, grounded him enough that he sank through dumb joy and bliss and back into his house with Lance.

Lance. That was his name. The angel, his wonderful boyfriend.

Keith wriggled in vague distress when the bed rocked. He couldn’t see him, the dozy high punctured as the room began to spin. The warmth of a palm then settled on his cheek and at once Keith felt better. He willed himself to talk, managed a slurred “love you” while a careful thumb brushed the corner of his lip.

Lance’s dulcet tones soothed him. “I love you too,” they sang, somewhere distant. “You’re okay, just try to sleep. I’m gonna stay right here, yeah? I’ll be here when you wake up.”

Keith hummed. Yeah … he liked that idea a lot.



Regaining consciousness was a chore.

Keith awoke three times before he managed it for real. Or, rather, his body tried to wake – and was pulled right back under by the last dregs of venom in his system. When he did finally surface, Keith didn’t want to move. He was snug and cosy, too tranquil to process stimuli from the outside world, no aches or pains to speak of.

It was the best sleep he’d had in a long time.

He sprawled on his side where he’d passed out, warm and heavy, Lance curled around him in the role of big spoon. Lance himself lay atop the duvet, still in his jeans where Keith remained nude under the blanket. He petted Keith’s spectacular bed-head from behind, slow strokes suggesting deep thought. Keith stared ahead for a while, silent as his brain trundled into gear. Once alert enough to swallow, he rolled his gaze down to where his wrist lay before him on the pillow.

Vaguely, he remembered Lance bandaging his bite. The dressing was gone now, the pink imprint of medical tape a sign he’d been unconscious for several hours. Dull hunger in the pit of his stomach supported that suggestion. Keith examined the wound in his flesh without a word, vision still a little blurred at the corners.

Four dark marks broke the pale skin of his forearm, clean and coated with Vaseline. Faint bruises edged the puncture wounds, splotchy and purplish in a familiar imprint of teeth.

The sight made him happy, in the same way normal hickeys stoked something hot in his gut. It made him feel desirable, valid, fiery with the thought that Lance loved him enough to leave a physical mark.

There was something more innocent in it, too – something mellow and sentimental. He’d fed Lance, sacrificed his own life force to his partner. A piece of Keith was inside Lance now, making him strong, keeping him alive. They were connected in a way they hadn’t been before, intrinsically, linked at the core.

God, did normal hangovers turn people into such saps? He blamed the venom.

Keith sucked in a breath to clear his woozy head. Lance went still, alerted to his boyfriend’s awakening. Muffled into Keith’s nape, he spoke. “You up?”

Keith groaned, flexed in a full-body stretch that made his shoulder crack beneath him. Lance shifted, half-rose onto one elbow with an anxious sound. The concern gave way to relief when Keith rolled over with a whine, and buried his face in Lance’s chest. Lance settled down again, let Keith snuggle against him as he might welcome a stray cat into his lap.

Gentle, Lance kissed Keith’s forehead. “How do you feel?”

Keith crushed himself to his lover’s front. “Good,” he muttered. He nosed at Lance’s sternum, at peace with the world. There was nowhere else he’d rather be. “You…?”

He felt the thrum of Lance’s chuckle, before two willowy arms wrapped themselves around his bare frame. “Better,” he said. “Thanks, Keith. I love you so much.”

Keith could hear the smile on his lips. He draped his bitten limb over Lance’s waist, hummed, and drifted back to sleep.