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The Absolute Lightest Darkness

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Keith bared his teeth as another bloodsucker reared its head in his direction. He wiped the blood from his face and gripped tightly the sword in his hand. It wasn’t his blood; or, at least, he hoped it wasn’t his. The beast came at him with full force then. Keith maneuvered around the bodies of the other abominations that he had already dropped, and with two quick flicks of his arm, brought the sucker down. These things died just like any human, Keith knew all too well; they just happened to be much stronger and faster, and their only basic instinct was kill.

As the body before him dropped unceremoniously to the ground, Keith peered around at the rest of his team. To his right, Pidge had taken down another leech, leaping to the next with surprising speed and agility despite her minute stature. To his left, Keith saw that Hunk had cornered a group of them. What the big guy lacked in hand-to-hand combat, he more than made up for in size and strength. Pulling out his massive semi-automatic weapon, Hunk began gunning down the monsters he had trapped. Keith swiveled his head again; in front of him was Shiro, their leader. Three bloodsuckers had him surrounded, foolishly thinking that he was without a weapon, and Keith smirked at their stupidity as the man’s mechanical arm began to glow brightly, radiating heat. Shiro made quick work of the beasts in front of him as he slashed through the soft flesh of the creature’s necks and plunged his weaponized arm into their chests. Keith’s victory cheer caught in his throat, however, as a new swarm of the beasts flooded through the doors.

This was supposed to be an easy mission, Keith thought, gritting his teeth and rearing for another attack, Get in, eliminate the nest, and get out. But more kept coming. Keith took down two more parasites easily, but doing so caused him to turn his back to the enemy. Before he had time to correct himself, he felt a hard body being slammed against his own. A lone sucker had barreled into him, knocking him down and clean through a weakened, rotting spot on the ground. The two were thrown clean through to the level below; Keith was separated from his team.

“Keith!” he heard Pidge shout from above him. Her voice was clearly strained, no doubt from taking on whatever beast had attacked her next.

The breath had been knocked out his lungs, and Keith coughed once, twice, before managing to sit up and reply. “I’m fine!” His voice came out much weaker than he hoped. Keith rolled to his side and pushed himself up, facing the bloodsucker that had fallen through with him. It had brought itself to its feet as well, and upon seeing a very pissed off Keith, realized its mistake. Its eyes widened in fear, freezing; it looked like a deer caught in headlights.

Keith took a moment to study the creature, waiting for it to make the first move. It had been a girl once: long, brown hair and pretty, green eyes. But she wasn’t a girl anymore, she was a freak, an abomination; she was the monster in the night that Keith had sworn to kill. Keith saw its eyes fill with sheer panic before it turned on its heels, fleeing into the deserted street.

Keith didn’t hesitate to lunge after it. “I’m going after this one!” he called up to his team, not pausing to make sure anyone had actually heard him. He knew what Shiro would say; he knew what he should do. Wait for backup. But Keith knew that if he waited until one of them could back him up, they would lose sight of the bloodsucker and all would be for nothing. Their orders were to eliminate this nest. He couldn’t damn well let one get away.

Keith trailed close behind as the bloodsucker wove its way through side streets and alleyways. This was its territory, and it was trying desperately to shake its tail. The bloodsuckers were fast, but so was Keith, and he has had years of training for this exact purpose. Keith finally caught up to the leech, yanking hard on that long, brown hair and bringing the sucker to the ground. He straddled the beast, pinning its hands down with one of his own, and brought his sword up to the creature’s neck. This was Keith’s favorite part. He dragged his blade across slowly, but firmly, ripping through the soft flesh of the sucker’s neck. Blood spurted out, staining his clothes, and the creature made a truly pathetic, strained gurgle before going silent. Keith watched as the life left those pretty green eyes.

He stood then, leaving the body there. What did he care what happened to it now? As Keith wiped his blade off in the crook of his elbow, he glanced at his surroundings. Great, now he was lost. Keith sighed, but didn’t yet sheath his sword. He was still in enemy territory after all. He made his way toward the direction he thought they had come from, and turned straight into a dead end. Just fucking great. Keith had always been a bit directionally challenged, but this was just ridiculous. Three more wrong turns and dead ends later, Keith relented to just climb up the next tall building he found. Perhaps then he would have a better vantage point to find the rest of his team. Shiro was going to be pissed… But Keith couldn’t bring himself to care. Sure, he had been a bit more reckless as of late, a fact that Shiro never let Keith forget. But he had a good fucking reason for being on edge, and Shiro knew that. What Shiro didn’t know was that Keith really couldn’t care less if he did end up dead on one of these stupid missions. Sure, he wanted to kill as many of these fucking creeps as he could; but he also didn’t really want to live…not anymore.

Keith spied the perfect building down the street. It was tall enough to see over most of the others in the area, and it conveniently had a still intact fire escape for him to easily climb up. As he made his way around the next block toward that building, Keith stopped dead in his tracks. A sound had caught his attention. He was still far away from the fight; it hadn’t been the sound of a blade cutting through flesh, of that much Keith was certain. So what was that? Keith heard it again and the hair on the back of his neck stood up. Slurping. That was the unmistakable, horrifying sound of one of those leeches drinking.

Keith crept up to the wall at his right, flush with the fading bricks. A quick glance around confirmed that the rest of the desolate territory was free of any other beings, at least for now. Slowly and silently, Keith crept around the corner of the crumbling building, opening to an alleyway. His eyes narrowed at the sight as he approached. He could see the creature’s back as it crouched in the alley before him; it wore a long dark coat, hood drawn up to cover its face, and it’s head was bent over, divulging in the neck of the young girl that it held delicately in it’s arms. The girl was already dead, Keith knew, her lifeless eyes staring wide at nothing. Her head would move with each inhale from the parasite whose arms she was cradled so gently in.

As silent as the dead, Keith approached the monster. As he held his sword up to the creature’s neck, Keith saw its shoulders tense. It detached its fangs from the girl’s neck, head lifting just a fraction, waiting for Keith to make the next move.

“Can I help you?” the creature finally lulled, voice low, almost a whisper. It seems completely unperturbed by the sharp blade at its throat.

“Get up!” Keith spat at the leech, “Slowly, and turn around.”

Shit.” Keith heard the bloodsucker breath out quietly, panicked. It sighed deeply, then slightly louder it said, “You really don’t want to do this.”

Keith chuckled bitterly. “Yeah, I think I really do. You see, I like to look my prey in the eyes when I kill it. I like to see the light leave them as I rid the world of one more monster. Now turn around!” Keith pressed his blade more firmly into the creature’s neck; he meant what he said.

The leech hissed at the pressure of the sharp sword, shifting its head, shying away from the contact, but it made no move to get up. Instead, it tried to reason.

“Look,” it said, voice still low, “just let me go, okay. I don’t…I don’t want to hurt you.”

It’s voice seemed almost familiar to Keith, yet chillingly alien at the same time. He bared his teeth at these words, and hissed at the beast, “I don’t think I’ll have to worry about that. Get the fuck up before I lose my patience and cut your head clean off.”

“So fucking stubborn,” the creature muttered. It breathed out a bitter laugh. “Fine,” it said, “have it your way. But remember, you asked for it.” The creature stood slowly, placing the lifeless body of the young girl gently on the ground as he did. Keith waited a moment, but the being kept it’s back to him.

“Turn around, you fucking freak!” Keith spat at it.

With a heavy sigh, the creature turned its body, but kept its head down. With the hood still covering it’s face, Keith couldn’t hope to see the beast’s eyes.

“Look at me!” Keith said through gritted teeth.

It brought its head up, and striking blue eyes met Keith’s grey. Keith knew those eyes, knew that face. It couldn’t be…he couldn’t be…

“Hey there, samurai,” the boy’s blue eyes were apprehensive as they stared into Keith’s.

Keith inhaled sharply, suddenly forgetting how to breathe. His sword fell from hands and fell to the ground with a clash, dirt swirling up from where it had settled. “Oh, God…” Keith breathed out.

“Nope, just me.” The boy seemed to be much more at ease now that he no longer had a sword pressed against his throat. “Did you miss me?” he asked, flashing Keith a grin. Keith could only stare at those sharp, white fangs that protruded from his mouth.

Eyes fixed on those fangs, Keith let a strangled “No!” fall from his lips. His feet led him backward until his body slammed against the brick wall. Without the support, Keith was sure his legs would have failed him by now.

The boy raised one eyebrow, frowning slightly. “No?” he asked, “Keith, you wound me… ‘cause—“ he advanced upon Keith then, placing both hands on the wall on either side of Keith’s face, successfully trapping the young soldier— “I’ve sure missed you.” He breathed out the last part softly, face now inches from Keith’s, and Keith felt his stomach twist sickly at the sight of those gleaming fangs.

Keith recoiled; or, he tried to recoil, but with the wall right behind him, all he could do was flinch. “H-how? You…you’re dead,” was all he could mutter out. Keith cursed himself for how small his voice sounded. Still, Keith could feel his face grow warm at the close proximity as he looked at the boy…at his boy. Keith’s eyes crawled over his face like he was starved for it; and, perhaps, he was.

The boy hummed in agreement, not moving an inch from he was hovering over Keith. “I mean, yeah, if you want to get technical about it,” he mused, “I am dead.”

Keith wanted to argue, to shout that he can’t be him…that the boy he knew was dead and this was some sick shell of the boy he once knew. But before he could even open his mouth, the blue-eyed boy was nuzzling closer to Keith, down into this thick, black hair. His nose inched down, dragging across Keith’s cheek and sending shivers down his spine. He felt the boy nose at his ear before trailing down to settle in his neck, breathing deeply. Keith shuddered at the touch.

“Damn, samurai,” the boy breathed into Keith’s neck, lips brushing against the soft skin there, “you smell so good.” His voice was low and rough, and Keith felt his face grow red as he was brought back to all those nights of that rough whisper, those wandering hands, and oh God that mouth.

“KEITH!”

Keith’s eyes snapped open; God, he hadn’t even realized that he’d closed them. The shout had been close. His team was looking for him. He looked up to the boy, eyes wide in panic. What would happen if they saw him here? “Lance,” Keith breathed out the boy’s name; in a plea to stay or in a warning to go, Keith couldn’t be sure.

But the boy just smirked at Keith, flashing his fangs again and sending a chill down Keith’s spine. How close had those fangs been to his neck just now? “Guess that’s my cue to go.” He surged forward, placing a rough kiss on Keith’s still gaping lips, not even giving the shocked boy time to react before disappearing into the empty streets.

Keith's body was trembling. His breath caught in his throat as he struggled to find enough air. His legs finally gave out underneath him, and he slid down the rough brick wall. His brain couldn’t even process what had just happened, what he had just seen. Another shout of his name sounded, closer this time, and brought Keith back to reality. He somehow managed to make his voice work again, though it sounded weak and broken.

“I’m here!” he called out, but he didn’t move an inch.

When his team finally found him and surrounded him, they were all bloodied and looked worse for wear, but they were much more concerned about Keith. The boy was still collapsed against the wall, tears threatening in his eyes. His breathing was shallow and ragged. Keith was sure that his eyes were wide with terror. Still he couldn’t move. It was as if he were frozen in time against this crumbling building. Suddenly, they were all speaking to him at once, but Shiro’s voice sounded above the rest as he pulled Keith’s deadweight to his feet.

“Keith, what happened?”

Keith finally looked up, into the man’s eyes to see the concern and panic that was held there. And suddenly, reality flooded in. Before, Keith couldn’t seem to find enough air to breath; now, he had too much air filling and deflating his lungs.

“Nothing,” he breathed out all too quickly, “I’m fine.” Keith continued to breath, faster and faster, his head feeling dizzy and a tight panic coiling in his chest. Obviously, no one was convinced.

“Keith, buddy, are you having a panic attack?” Hunk’s concerned face loomed in the corner of Keith’s vision, and he felt the other boy’s strong hands grab at his arms, steadying him. Keith reached out, grasping Hunk’s arm like a lifeline as his vision blurred.

Suddenly, another set of hands was grabbing him, one mechanical and one flesh. Shiro pulled at Keith’s clothing, stretching down the collar of his shirt, pushing his sleeves away from his arms, pulling the hem of the shirt over his belly. He was looking for bite marks, Keith knew.

“Stop! Fuck, I’m fine!” Keith blindly swatted Shiro’s hand away and leaned forward, resting his hands on his bend knees to steady himself. He forced his breathing to slow down before shoving past the concerned faces of his team. With a trembling hand, Keith went to retrieve his forgotten sword from the dirt. He tried to sheath it once, twice, before nicking himself with the sharp edge. “Fuck!” Keith muttered before finally managing the damn thing into it’s casing. He didn’t turn back around. He couldn’t face them.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Pidge said, breaking the momentary silence that had fallen on them. Keith stiffened at her words. If only she knew how applicable that phrase was for this moment…

Keith forced himself to turn around, to scowl in his usual manner. “I was just caught off guard,” he muttered, “having an off day, I guess.” When he looked up, Keith was met with concern and disbelief. His scowl deepened. “I’m fine,” he said more firmly.

“You weren’t bit?” Shiro asked, and Keith shook his head. “Did one get away?”

Keith shook his head again. “No, I killed the rogue one a few blocks away.”

“Yeah we found her,” Pidge said hesitantly, “but why were you all the way over here?”

“I-I don’t know,” Keith sputtered, “I was coming back to you guys, and I guess I…I don’t know…whatever Hunk said.”

“Started having a panic attack?” Hunk offered, unconvinced.

“Yeah,” Keith grumbled. He could tell by the look on everyone’s face that no one was buying his bullshit. He snarled at them. “Can we just go home now?” he spat, “Mission complete right? You guys finished off the rest of the nest?”

“Yeah,” Shiro nodded, eyes lingering on Keith with worry, “Mission complete. Let’s head back."

The man turned to lead the team back to where they had stashed their rover, Hunk and Pidge following close behind. Keith moved to follow, but paused. He turned and looked behind him one last time, almost expecting to see those piercing blue eyes watching him from somewhere, but he was met with only emptiness.

 


 

The entire journey back, from their walk to the rover, to the drive back to civilized territory, all the way to their walk to command center for their debriefing, Keith felt on edge. His mind was reeling from what had happened. He was quiet, which wouldn’t have been unusual except for the three pairs of eyes that watched him, warily, from the moment they had started moving. They tried talking to him, asking him more questions, which Keith successfully ignored until they gave up trying. Keith felt as though he was caught in a dream, in a nightmare. Any second now, he would be jerked awake to the sound of Shiro knocking on his door, shouting that he had slept in and missed the morning meeting. This had to be some sick, cruel dream, right?

But no knock came. Instead, Keith was pulled back into reality at the slamming of a door, indicating that Commander Iverson had entered the briefing room.

“Mission report,” the man said, taking his place in front of the team, who were standing at attention in the front of the large room.

It was Shiro’s voice that echoed into the quiet. “Successful, sir,” he said, “The last nest in the eastern quadrant has been eliminated and the perimeter has been coordinated with members of teams AD and L. The territory belongs to us again.”

“As it should,” Iverson grumbled, and said in a much clearer voice, “Good job V-team. Shiro, you’ve got a sharp bunch here, even if they are all cadets. You should be proud.” He clapped the man on the shoulder for good measure.

“Yes, sir,” Shiro replied, “I am.” His eyes certainly shone with pride as he looked over the members of his team. Keith could feel his gaze lingering on him, and he made an effort to not make eye contact, choosing to look straight forward instead.

“Sir,” Shiro said, turning back to Iverson, “I’d like to request temporary leave for cadet Kogane—“

“Shiro!” Keith’s eyes snapped up as he interrupted his leader, blatantly ignoring his status, “I’m fine.”

Iverson seemed to not notice, or else not care about, the insubordination and quirked his good eyebrow at Shiro. “Oh?” he asked the man, prompting him to explain.

“I believe he was attacked today, sir, almost bitten,” Shiro explained, still not looking at Keith, “Keith needs time to process and understand that he could have been turned today, that he could have died today.”

Iverson grunted in disapproval. “Well, we’ve all had our near death experiences, Shiro. All part of the job.”

Shiro promptly shook his head. “No, not Keith. I’ve never seen him like this. I don’t exactly know what happened, but it shook him in a way I’ve never seen—“

Iverson cut Shiro off with a raise of his hand. Turning to Keith he asked, “What do you have to say, cadet?”

Keith peeled his eyes away from where they had been glaring at Shiro and turned them to the commander, settling to look at the man’s one good eye.

“I’m fine,” he said for what felt like the tenth time today, “I was just caught off guard,” not entirely untrue, “I was nowhere near being bitten,” though those fangs were dangerously close to his neck, “I don’t need to take any leave.” That part was true—the last thing Keith needed right now was alone time to think.

Iverson nodded, seeming to believe in the bullshit Keith was spewing, and turned back to Shiro. “I can see your concern for you cadet, Shiro,” he said, “but ultimately, the choice is up to him whether he needs any leave. You’re all dismissed!” He waved his hand as a signal to get out.

Each of them saluted their superior before filing out the door. The team shuffled out in a line, spilling into the adjacent hallway. Before Keith had a chance to dodge around them, he found himself caught between Shiro and Pidge, with Hunk to his left looking just as confused and uncomfortable as Keith felt. Pidge would be easy enough to get through. She was tough, but Keith had sparred with her enough to know her weak spots. But she was behind Keith, and going through her would just leave him back in the briefing room without another exit plan. Shiro had positioned himself in front of Keith, in the direction of his freedom. To go anywhere, Keith would have to go through him, but they both knew he couldn’t. So Keith huffed out an annoyed breath and crossed his arms, pouting like a child. “Guys I’m—“ he started before promptly being cut off by Shiro.

“Keith, if you say that you’re fine one more time, I swear you wont have to deal with the fangs anymore because I’ll kill you myself.” Keith knew that Shiro loved him, and that this was all coming from a place of concern and care, but Keith couldn’t help but scowl at the man’s words, feeling more irritated than was probably warranted.

“We all know you’re not fine, Keith, so just fucking tell us what happened,” Pidge said. Her hands were curled into fists at her hips, and Keith would have thought it looked adorable if he didn’t know how deadly she could actually be. As Shiro scolded Pidge quietly for her use of language, Keith scowled at her next.

“Nothing ‘happened’!” Keith threw his arms out at dramatically as he practically shouted the words, spinning back to Shiro next. “And I am fine! So just lay off!”

Shiro sighed heavily, his face softening as he looked at Keith’s rage. “Keith, these last few months have been hard on all of us, and I know they’ve been especially hard on you. But you can’t keep shutting us out like this. All we want to do is help, to be there for you. You-you know what happened wasn’t your fault—“

“This has nothing to do with that!” Keith’s mouth twisted into a snarl. It wasn’t a complete lie. “I was having an off day, okay. What, I can’t have a fucking off day?”

“Of course you can, Keith. I…I just feel like it’s more than that.” Shiro looked exhausted as he tried to reason with a feral Keith.

“Well it’s not,” Keith snapped back at him, “so can we fucking drop it?”

“Guys, he said he’s fine. Maybe we should leave it be for now, yeah?” Hunk’s calm voice immediately dissipated the hostility in the room, and Keith had never felt more grateful for him. Hunk didn’t insert himself in conflict very often, but when he did, he always knew how to diffuse the situation. “Yelling at each other is definitely not going to solve anything. Maybe we should just cool off, process like Shiro was saying, and we can readdress this in the morning, after we’ve all had some sleep…and a shower.”

Keith didn’t like the idea of talking about this again in the morning, but he definitely wanted to get out of here. And Hunk was right about one thing: they all desperately needed to shower. Each of them was covered in blood and dirt and they all certainly smelled like such. So Keith just shrugged as calmly as he could and said, “Fine, sounds good to me, “ as he shouldered past Shiro and practically ran to the dorms.

It wasn’t until Keith was back into his own room, door safely locked behind him, that he let the events of the day wash over him. Shiro had been wrong: what had happened was his fault, and he had spent every day for the last three months overridden with guilt. But this? This was so much worse than he had ever imagined. When Lance had disappeared on that mission, Keith had imagined that the boy had been brutally killed, ripped through and torn apart; he had imagined that he had perhaps been hung up and cut open, left to bleed out; Keith had imagined Lance being passed from fang to fang, until he was dried up and left for dead. But Keith couldn’t have imagined the fate that the boy had actually received.

It came to Keith not gradually in the way realization sometimes does, but instead hit him like a tidal wave, both knocking the air from his lungs and Keith off his feet. He collapsed onto the ground and curled up within himself. The tears that had been threatening pinpricks in his eyes now flowed freely down his face, and a violent sob escaped his throat. Whether the tears were shed of guilt over Lance’s fate or whether they fell out of relief that he wasn’t truly gone, Keith couldn’t tell. Perhaps it was a bit of both. After all, he wasn’t dead. But he wasn’t exactly alive either, Keith had to remind himself. And it was all Keith’s fault.

Lance was a vampire.

Chapter Text

Keith felt his heart swell as Lance snaked his arm around his shoulders, pulling him in tightly so that Keith rested against the boy’s chest. They were both exhausted after the mission, and they sank into each other instantly, each acting as a crutch for the other as they made their way back to the rover.

“That was some fancy footwork there, samurai,” Lance teased lazily as he ruffled a hand through Keith’s dark hair, “You’d better be more careful to look behind you, though. I don’t know how many times I had to save your ass today from becoming chow.”

Keith chuckled. “That’s a bit exaggerated, but I’ll keep that in mind. Besides,” he said, bumping Lance’s hip lightly with his own, “I’ll always have my sharpshooter there, right?”

Lance smiled devilishly, “You’re absolutely right, samurai. I’d never let a vamp turn your ass to chow. That’s my job.”

Keith felt his face grow hot. “Lance,” he scolded, looking around. Their team was far enough ahead of them that no one had heard the lewd comment.

But Lance just laughed. “Don’t worry, babe. You know I’ll always have your back.” His hand trailed down to give Keith’s ass a tight squeeze, causing Keith to yelp in surprise, before running off ahead, giggling so sweetly that Keith almost let the action go unchecked. Almost.

Keith kept behind the group as they approached their rover, one by one clambering inside. He crept up behind Lance, who had one leg in the vehicle, ready to hoist himself up, and brought his hand down hard on the boy’s ass. A satisfying smack rang out, muffled by the unholy shriek that issued out of Lance’s mouth. He twisted around to glare at Keith, but the look appeared rather unthreatening with the way the boy’s cheeks were ruddy with a deep blush and his eyes were wide with shock.

Keith, in turn, gave Lance a rather smug smile. “And I’ll always have yours,” he said simply before scooting around Lance to climb into the rover.

As Keith settled into his seat, Hunk twisted around from the front of the car, hand held up in anticipation of a high five. Keith happily obliged.

“Yeah, Keith buddy, tap that ass,” Hunk said smiling.

“In more ways than one,” Keith replied, smug smile still etched on his face.

Pidge made a face. “Gaaaaay,” she said, shoving a boney elbow into Keith’s side.

Shiro sighed heavily as he turned the keys into the ignition and the rover roared to life. “Please guys,” he said, sounding more tired than the rest, “can we keep to decent conversational topics?”

“Yes, dad,” came a chorus of three voices as Keith, Hunk and Pidge each respectively replied.

Lance, calm once again, climbed into the car, his face still red but his eyes holding a mischievous glower. He sat down in his seat in a dramatic huff, eyes boring into Keith’s smirk.

“What’s wrong Lance?” Pidge asked him, “Is your ass sore?”

Lance looked at her, face immediately shifting to match Keith’s self-satisfied grin. “It’s not nearly as sore as it was last night,” he replied, winking at her.

“Oh, come on!” Shiro exclaimed, and the car burst into hysterical laughter.

A genuine smile stretched across Keith’s face as a hand snaked its way into his, fingers twisting together like they belonged that way. Lance was right: Keith knew that Lance would always have his back; just as he knew that he would always have Lance’s.

 


  

Keith woke suddenly, blinking at the harsh sunlight that filtered through his window. Was it that late already? He groaned at the thought that he’d missed breakfast; though he couldn’t care less about the morning briefing. Keith went to brush his messy locks from his face, realizing as he did that his cheeks were damp. He must have been crying in his sleep. He groaned and rolled out of bed, cursing as he saw that he hadn’t even bothered to change last night; still donning his filthy, blood-stained clothes from the mission.

The mission. The vamp nest. Lance. The events of the previous day came flooding back again, and more tears threatened Keith’s eyes. Was he crying because of what had happened to Lance? Or was it because of what Keith almost did to him…might have to do to him…? No, he couldn’t think like that. Keith shoved those thoughts down into the deepest, darkest corner of his mind. That was a problem for another day. Or maybe never. Never sounded best to him.

Gritting his teeth and swallowing down the tears, Keith shed off his dirty clothing. Crumpling them on the ground, he went to grab his civilian clothing: a simple black tee, black skinny jeans, black combat boots and a red jacket. He didn’t bother showering. Instead, Keith opted for a messy bun that left half his hair still falling into his face. Lance would have probably commented on how ridiculous Keith’s mullet looked… No, Keith shoved Lance back down into the corner. He couldn’t think about that; not right now.

As Keith slipped on his fingerless gloves, black of course, he moved to open the door. Hunk’s fist almost connecting with his face as the boy went to knock, and Keith had to expertly dodge out of the way to avoid being knocked out.

“Whoa! Sorry buddy,” Hunk laughed, “Nice reflexes though. Very impressive. I, uh, I come bearing gifts.” He held up a tray then, which Keith recognized as one from the commissary. The tray held a single muffin, an apple, and a bottle of water. “It’s not much,” Hunk said, face dropping a bit, “It’s pretty hard to sneak hot food out—“

“Hunk, it’s great,” Keith interrupted him, “Thank you.” He took the tray without another word, but Hunk didn’t move from his place at the door.

“Yeah, no problem,” Hunk said, shuffling nervously in the doorway, “You slept in and you missed breakfast so…” he scratched the back of his head like he always did when he felt anxious or guilty.

“Yeah?” Keith prompted.

“I guess you could also think of it as a preemptive ‘I’m sorry?’” He said, blushing.

“Sorry for wha—“ Keith began eyes narrowing; but his unfinished question was swiftly answered when Shiro and Pidge ducked into his room from whatever corner they had been lurking in. Clever; they knew Keith would never have answered the door for either of them so they send Hunk in with food to get his foot in the door. Shiro quickly ushered him to the bed, where he sat Keith down.

“I literally just got up,” Keith grumbled, trying to look as enraged as possible while taking a bite out of the muffin, “Can’t this lecture wait until I’m actually awake and fed?”

“We’re not here to lecture you,” Shiro said, taking his place in front of Keith. He crossed his arms across his broad chest, as he always does when he’s about to start a lecture, Keith noted. “We just want you to know that we’re here for you, and that we’ve got your back.” Shiro paused, as if considering his next words carefully. “Keith,” he sighed heavily, “just…please, you can’t go running off on your own like that during a mission. That’s what…”

“That’s what I fucked up last time,” Keith finished for him, “I got it. Thanks.”

“Keith,” Hunk spoke up, “no one blames you for what happened. You know that right?”

Keith grimaced, not meeting the other boy’s eyes. “Doesn’t mean I can’t blame myself.” He trailed his gaze up to the three team members before him, instantly regretting the action. They each looked at him with a mixture of pity and disappointment. Keith averted his gaze quickly. “Yeah,” he barked, “I won’t run off anymore. Scout’s honor.”

Shiro seemed unconvinced as he shuffled his feet. Keith continued to glare into his food, waiting. Finally, the older man sighed heavily. Keith would have grinned with satisfaction if he didn’t think it would cause Shiro to stay. Keith knew he had worn him down enough, at least for now. Shiro gave Keith a gentle squeeze on the shoulder. “I’m here for you Keith, if you ever want to talk.” Keith just nodded in reply.

Shiro made his way to the door, Hunk following closely behind. They paused, looking back at Pidge. She had seated herself at Keith’s desk. She sat in his chair, feet dangling, as they were too short to reach the ground. She looked back to them, a small smile on her lips.

“Go on ahead,” she said, “I’ll catch up with you later.”

Keith groaned inwardly as Hunk closed the door behind him and Shiro, leaving Keith alone with his breakfast and his best friend. If there was one person he couldn’t bullshit, it was Pidge. There were a few moments of silence. Keith relished in it, dreading what would come next.

“Look,” she began hesitantly, “I know it’s a completely different relationship, but…when Matt went missing, I was a mess too, you know.” There were tears gracing her eyes. “We all lost Lance, Keith.” She let out a frustrated sigh. “I just mean: you’re not alone in this, okay?”

Keith blinked in confusion. Of all the things that he had expected to happen when Pidge decided to stay behind, that was the last of them. Screaming, check; maybe some punching, check. But, emotions? Pidge knew full well that Keith didn’t really do emotions all that well, and usually she was very sympathetic in avoiding them. And Pidge herself barely handled emotional things better than Keith. In the months since her brother had gone missing, Keith had never once heard Pidge herself bring it up, and she always got furious whenever someone else tried to.

Keith realized that he had stopped chewing halfway through his last bite. It took a moment to compose himself and remember to swallow the now soggy chunk of muffin before speaking again. “Yeah, Pidge, I know that,” he said quietly, staring at the floor. He didn’t quite know why, but he felt that he couldn’t tell her why he was upset at the moment. He couldn’t tell her that Lance wasn’t gone, not really. He couldn’t tell her what had happened to him. He couldn’t tell her his greatest fear. He couldn’t tell her what was truly eating away at him. But he also couldn’t contain the tears that were welling up in his eyes as he thought about all those things. “I just…” the tears were falling freely down his face now, leaving hot, wet streaks down his cheeks, “I can deal with the loss, you know? I’ve dealt with loss before…but,” he choked down a sob that tried to escape his throat, “I ca…I can’t handle the guilt.” Keith hung his head lower as he ground the heel of his palms into his tear-filled eyes. “I can’t help but think that he probably…that he would probably hate me…” Keith corrected himself quickly, “for…for what I did.”

Silence permeated the room, and Keith chanced a look at Pidge. Through his bleary eyes, he saw her looking at him with newfound anger. Keith didn’t have time to react as one of her small fists swung around, making contact with his arm.

“OW, Pidge! What the fuck?” Keith said through gritted teeth, rubbing the sore spot on his arm. She may be small, but Keith’ll be damned to say she didn’t pack a hard punch.

“Keith, it wasn’t your fault,” she said fiercely. Yeah, this is much more what Keith was imagining would happen. “No one thinks that. And…and Lance wouldn’t either.”

Keith wanted to believe her, but all he could think as he kneaded the throbbing flesh of his arm, was that he definitely hadn’t seen the last of Lance. His boyfriend had come back from the dead to haunt him, and deep down, Keith knew he deserved it.

 


 

Between team training and meals, and with each member of his team constantly monitoring his every move, Keith felt as though he didn’t have more than a second alone for the rest of the day. It wasn’t until he went back to his room that night that Keith had time to just breathe, to think. Thinking, it turned out, was a terrible idea. As Keith sat on his bed, thinking over the past 24 hours in his head, he could slowly feel the walls closing in on him, could feel his breath shortening, becoming harder and harder to find air. Keith clutched his hair in his fists, trying desperately to calm his breathing. He couldn’t stay there.

Keith pushed himself off his bed roughly and took a shaky step toward the window. He needed air, he needed space, he needed to get out of his own mind. He pushed the window open, turning his body and sticking his head out as he did. Now perched on the windowsill, Keith had the perfect vantage to grab hold of the drainpipe that ran along his window. Climbing the pipe like a ladder, Keith hoisted himself onto the roof.

The roof had no actual access from the building, so you had to literally climb up the wall in order to get onto it, as Keith had just done. Though Keith was fairly certain that no one else ever came up here except for him…and Lance. Keith couldn’t remember how many times the two of them came up here together, just to get away from the world, just to be together. This roof acted as Keith’s fortress of solitude. Before Lance, Keith could come up here and just be alone, breathe. With Lance, Keith could come up here and feel free, happy. Right after Lance had disappeared, assumed dead, Keith couldn’t bring himself to come up here; the memories that haunted him were suffocating. But more recently, Keith just needed to breathe again, he needed to be alone.

He plopped himself down roughly in his favorite spot. When Keith nestled against one of the large air vents that dotted the roof, the perimeter guards that patrolled the outer gates of the Garrison couldn’t see him, and yet he had the perfect view out into the unknown territories. Gloomy and mysterious, Lance had once commented, kind of like Keith. And hiding all kinds of darkness, Keith had silently added. So he sat, staring out into the dark abyss of the unknown, trying to wrap his head around what the hell was happening.

Lance died; Keith had seen him taken by those monsters, blood soaking his body. He was dead. They had killed him. That…thing that he had seen yesterday, that couldn’t have been Lance. That wasn’t his Lance. It just couldn’t be. That was a monster; a sick imitation of the boy he had loved, of the boy he had lost. Nothing more. It was a monster. Keith had to kill it. But Keith knew deep down that he wouldn’t be able to.

Keith groaned loudly, kneading his palm into his now aching head. Keith felt the reality of the situation crushing him, suffocating him. He couldn’t deal with the uncertainty, the fear, the guilt. Fuck, Keith didn’t do emotions! He barely knew how to handle them when they were positive towards this boy; he certainly couldn’t deal with all this negative, confusing bullshit.

“Has anyone ever told you that your thinking face makes you look a bit constipated?” a disembodied voice spoke from behind Keith; Lance’s voice.

Keith twisted around, standing up as he did. The action caught him off balance, and sent him tripping into the air duct at his side. He hissed as the hard metal came into contact with the sharp bone of his hip. His heart leapt into his throat, both happy and terrified at the voice sounding behind him. Keith looked up, at first seeing nothing. It was almost a full moon tonight, and it shone brightly, casting deep shadows on the roof. Stepping out from those dark spaces, a tall figure appeared. Keith, too petrified to move, studied every last detail of the predator stalking toward him.

Keith had been depraved of looking upon this boy for far too long. His tanned skin looked as flawless as ever, freckles dotting his cheeks like stardust. His short, brown hair barely brushed his forehead. He wore the same dark green jacket that he had on that day, and Keith could see a few dark spots staining the olive tone, wincing as he realized that it was blood, Lance’s blood, blood from when he had been taken. He had on a simple shirt and jeans, void of any tears or bloodstains, Keith noted. Draped over the boy’s broad shoulders sat the same long, dark coat that Keith had seen yesterday. Most of the bloodsuckers that Keith encountered wore similar dark clothing; all the better to hide in the shadows, lying in wait for their prey.

Keith’s eyes trailed up the lanky frame, finally reaching the blue of his eyes. A blush spread across Keith’s cheeks as his gaze met the boy’s own smug expression, realizing that Lance clearly saw how Keith had been checking him out. He flashed Keith a smile, and Keith cringed, as the sharp fangs seemed to glow in the light of the moon. Keith made a move for his sword, grasping at air as he cursed himself for not thinking to arm himself. The gesture did not go unnoticed by the other boy, who faltered for a moment before continuing towards Keith, hands remaining calmly in his pockets.

“What was your plan, samurai?” he lulled to Keith, “You gonna kill me?”

“I…n-no I…” Keith trailed his eyes once more down and back up the being’s body, fixating again on those blue eyes; those eyes that were once so innocent and full of life that now held a deep, mischievous tint to them.

“Like what you see?” The boy waggled his eyebrows at Keith, flashing him another fang-filled grin as he slowly approached. His hand snaked its way out of his pocket, striking out and grasping Keith’s chin. The tight harshness of his grip contrasted the gentleness of his thumb slowly stroking Keith’s jaw.

Keith tried to flinch away, but the strong grip held him tight, and his back was literally up against a wall, (or, air duct, more accurately) preventing him from moving his head, let alone the rest of his body. Finally finding his voice, Keith squeaks out a small, “Lance,” before clearing his throat and speaking a bit stronger and asks, “What the hell are you doing here?” His voice still sounded small and Keith cringed at how weak he felt in that moment, both physically and mentally.

The boy grinned at him again, and Keith fixated on those sharp fangs protruding from his mouth, a mouth that Keith had once thought sounded so sweet, that now only held nightmares. “I wanted to see you,” he said with a honeyed voice.

“Stop fucking with me,” Keith growled, sudden anger permeated through his body, “That’s low, even for a fang.”

The boy before him looked honestly taken aback by Keith’s outburst, mouth gaping open in confusion, yet no sounds escaping. “What are you talking about?” he finally asked, hand dropping from Keith’s chin. He didn’t move though, successfully keeping Keith trapped against the air duct.

Keith glared at the being in front of him, a sickening mixture of feelings emanating through his body. It was Lance, but it also wasn’t. The cool, relaxed posture, the unfamiliar glint in his eyes; those were new. And yet, it looked so much like him. He had Lance’s memories, Lance’s mannerisms, Lance’s body. But this was not Lance any more; this was a monster.

“You’re not him,” Keith sputtered, “You’re not Lance. You’re not my Lance.” Keith tried to press his body harder into the vent at his back, wishing desperately to shrink away from the boy’s haunting face. It looked…hurt?

“Keith, of course it’s me,” he said quietly, eyes softening and mouth closing in a tight line. “I know I’m…different, but I’m still me. I’m still Lance. I still…I still love you.” His eyes were pleading with Keith to believe him.

And Keith almost did. Those blue eyes could reel him in so easily, but Keith had to remember what stood in front of him. He shook his head firmly, mouth twisting into a grimace. “You’re not just different,” he scoffed, “You’re a…a fang. You’re a murderer.” The boy flinched, hurt enveloping his features, and Keith felt the confidence rise as his voice followed suit. “I saw you yesterday; you killed that girl, you were drinking from that girl.”

The face before him dropped at those words, a deep betrayal clouding his eyes. “Keith,” he said so quietly that Keith almost missed it, “I didn’t kill her. I’m not a monster.” He spoke the last word with so much venom that Keith almost wanted to believe him. But it went against every fiber of his being; against everything he had ever known. The boy clearly saw the disbelief in Keith eyes. “I’ve never killed anyone, Keith.” His voice bordered on desperate as he took a small step forward. “I know that I have to…drink—“ he grimaced— “to survive, but I just…I find…leftovers?” he finished with uncertainty.

Keith narrowed his eyes, trying once more to scoot backwards, hoping perhaps that he’ll melt into the metal of the vent behind him. “You’ve never…?”

The boy shook his head, “No,” he said, earnestness laced in his voice, “I told you, I’m not a monster. I know it’s not…ideal, and there are other ways… Look, it’s a lot more complicated than we ever thought. And not all vamps are bad…I know this is a lot—“ the boy ran a hand over his face in exasperation— “Please,” his voice grew quiet, “just hear me out, samurai.”

Keith swallowed thickly. Did this monster really think it could play his feelings like this; that it could just show up and turn Keith’s world completely upside down? What kind of sick game was this? “Why should I believe you?” he asked venomously.

“Fuck, Keith, because it’s me.” The boy had reached his peak of desperation, face cracking with pain as he grasped Keith’s arms in his hands, shaking him softly. Keith could see the agony in his eyes, and he wanted, so badly, to believe him, to trust him. As Keith’s gaze lingered on the boy’s face, he could see pinpricks of tears threatening the corner of his eyes. Keith hesitated; he had never seen a fang cry before, he had never even thought them to have, well, feelings.

As a single tear escaped the boy’s eye, slipping down his smooth cheek, Keith instinctively reached for it. Gently cupping his chin in the palm of his hand, Keith stroked his thumb across the boy’s face, capturing the tear. The boy leaned into the touch, eyes fluttering shut.

“Keith,” he said softly, voice broken in his throat.

“Lance,” Keith breathed before he could stop himself. But it felt so right to say. Could this boy be the same person he lost those months ago?

Lance’s eyes snapped open, hope brimming at the edges. He moved his hands, trailing up Keith’s arms, sending a shiver through his body, and rested on his cheeks. “Keith,” Lance said again, cupping his face in his soft hands. He moved in, hesitantly at first. Keith could have reacted, he could have pushed the boy away, kept him at bay, but he didn’t. Instead, when Lance’s mouth met his own, Keith felt a deep hunger swirling through his body. He shifted the hand that had been holding Lance’s face to wrap around the boy’s neck, pulling him in closer, deeper.

The kiss was timid, chaste, as both boy’s were holding back from what they wanted, what they carnally needed. Their mouths moved together, as though learning each other all over again for the first time. And, perhaps, they were. With Lance’s transformation, there was no doubt a shift in their dynamic, in the boy’s mannerisms. Keith couldn’t deny the strange feeling of familiarity mixed with something so alien.

It felt as though a tidal wave crashed into Keith. The reality of his actions, of what this meant, overcame him, and Keith pushed hard against the boy. Despite the newfound strength that Keith could feel resisting his own, Lance let himself be pushed away. Keith could see the mixture of confusion, hope, and apprehension shining in those blue eyes.

“I…I just…” Keith didn’t know why he felt the need to explain himself, and yet he found himself stuttering anyway.

Lance just gave him a small smile. “I get it,” he said, dropping his hands from Keith’s face. Keith felt the ghosting touch lingering after the boy removed his hands.

“I just…have questions?” Keith said lamely, before, to his mortification, stifling a yawn.

Lance snickered cutely. “Of course, samurai, and I want to answer all of them. But…you still need things like sleep, don’t you?” Keith could feel a blush crawl up his neck and Lance chuckled. “Will you…” Lance trailed off, uncertain of how to proceed, “Will you meet me up here tomorrow night? I’ll answer all your questions…that you have…for me…”

“I…y-yeah, okay.” Keith furrowed his brows. Nothing had changed, he couldn’t say no to Lance.

“Just…promise you won’t kill me, yeah?” Lance chuckled nervously.

“I won’t kill you,” Keith grumbled, an odd blend of embarrassment and hostility coursing through him. “But…be careful. You’re not just in enemy territory here. You’re breaking onto a military base that’s hell-bent on exterminating…” Keith’s voice caught in his throat before he could utter the next word.

“Vampires?” Lance hissed out, hostility lingering in his eyes.

Keith felt his blood run cold at the sudden change of demeanor. Any doubts that Keith might have felt about Lance being a lethal predator were washed away with one look into his now cold, hard eyes. Keith stiffened under the intense gaze. Lance looked Keith down, eyes dragging back up his body in a way that made Keith feel naked, exposed. “Do you trust me?” Lance asked, eyes locking onto Keith’s.

“I…don’t know,” Keith answered honestly.

Lance sighed, chuckling under his breath. “Do you trust me not to hurt you?”

“Y-yes,” Keith said, surprised to find that it was the honest truth.

Lance smiled, fangs gleaming. “Then I’ll see you tomorrow night, samurai.” Lance leaned back in, kissing Keith hard and taking the boy’s breath away. Keith closed his eyes, leaning into the kiss. And suddenly, the lips were gone, the warmth. Keith’s eyes snapped open, only to find emptiness in front of him. He spun around, but Lance had vanished. If it weren’t for the tingling on his lips, Keith would have feared that he’d imagined the whole thing.

He was gone, but Keith knew he would be back. He couldn’t help shivering, despite the warm night air. He would see Lance again tomorrow night. He was going to see him again, talk to him again. Lance expected Keith to ask him questions. But Keith only had one question that really mattered, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answer. Why shouldn’t Lance blame him? After all, everything that had happened to him was all Keith’s fault.

Chapter Text

The vamp they were up against was big. It was bigger than big, and Keith may have underestimated the beast’s strength when he and Pidge faced off against the thing. Keith considered calling for Shiro and Hunk, but he knew they were occupied elsewhere with who knows how many more fangs, and Lance had no doubt set up his scope near them, ready to back them up. No, Keith and Pidge were alone in this.

But it was more than just size that had Keith worried; the sucker was fast too. Keith, already panting from the exertion, felt a spike of fear he hadn’t felt since he was a trainee. He glared on the fang’s face. It was ugly, that’s for sure, with a scar torn over its right eye. Keith feigned right and dodged left, trying to stay in the creature’s blind spot. He jabbed his sword out at the parasite as he and Pidge continued to dance around it, but their blows were doing near nothing as the beast rounded every attack.

It wasn’t long before Keith made a mistake. A simple misstep, but as soon as his foot touched the floor, he knew he had fucked up. Off balance by his last attack, Keith left his back to the creature, and it instantly took advantage. He barely had time to turn back around before the beast’s strong hand grasped at his throat. Keith shouted in surprise, but his shock quickly turned to triumph. Just as he had left his back open to the leech, so too did the leech leave it’s back open to Pidge. Fangs often underestimated the small girl, which was definitely a miscalculation.

Pidge swooped in low as the creature grabbed onto Keith, swinging her short blade up. It cut clean through the parasite’s outstretched arm. The creature roared in pain as its grip on Keith was lost. Keith threw the severed limb aside, ready to end it. But he could only grind his teeth as the creature kept lashing out with its right arm. It was slower, clumsier, being in that much pain and having lost so much blood. But it was still a force to be reckoned with, and Keith grunted as it reared back for its next attack.

This time, it was Pidge who dodged a little too close to the creature’s outstretched arm, and the fang snatched at her, grasping the back of her collar and pulling her in tight.

“Stand back!” the creature roared, turning to Keith. Keith could only freeze as Pidge struggled in its strong grip, trying desperately to break free.

Keith was weighing his options; he could attack, hoping that the vamp would release Pidge in order to defend itself with its one good arm, or else he could fake a surrender, relying on Pidge to wiggle free and deliver a blow. But he barely had time to consider which would be the best option before Keith heard the unmistakable echoed bang of a sniper rifle and the creature was falling to the floor. Pidge tumbled out from under its sprawled limbs.

“Yeah, alright!” Keith could hear Lance shout through their comms., “We are a good team!”

Keith chuckled. “Yeah, we are,” he replied through their comm. link, “Thanks for the save there. That was some nice shooting, sharpshooter.”

“Why thank you, samurai,” Lance’s smooth voice pierced Keith’s ear.

“Gross,” Pidge muttered as she dusted herself off. Keith saw that she was now covered in the creature’s blood.

He grimaced at her. “It’ll wash off?” he offered.

She glared. “Not this. I don’t give a fuck about blood. I’m taking about you two gay boys. You’re gross.”

Keith laughed as he heard a shout of “Rude!” from Lance over their comms.

It was then that Shiro and Hunk rounded the corner, each respectively also covered in vamp blood. Keith could tell by the looks on their faces that they were rather impressed at the dead fang at their feet.

“Oh wow,” Hunk said, his face overwhelmed with anxiety, “That was awful, guys. Who’s ready for a nap? And a snack. I need a nap and a snack. Probably not in that order, though.”

“I want a snack!” Lance’s voice screeched through their earpieces.

“Alright, Lance buddy, let’s get snacks!”

Shiro stood then from where he had crouched to examine the body of the vamp. “Nice kill, Pidge and Keith,” he said.

“I cut his arm off,” Pidge said smugly.

“But, we can’t take the credit,” Keith added, “Lance shot him.”

Shiro just smiled at his team, pride beaming on his face. “Nice, Lance! That’s why we bring our sharpshooter!”

“Thank you,” they heard Lance’s disembodied voice say, “I was all ‘Pow! Pow! Pow!’”

“What was that noise?” Keith deadpanned.

“My guns,” Lance said, and Keith could hear the grin in his voice.

“No, Lance, I think you mean—“ Hunk waved his arms, imitating explosions as he gestured firing a gun himself.

“That sounds like fireworks!” Lance exclaimed.

Pidge adjusted her glasses as she spoke up. “Technically, they’re more like ‘ba-choo, ba-choo, ba-choo.’” She held her hands together, pointer fingers angled out as she shot her imaginary gun.

“Okay,” Shiro called, drawing the attention back to him, “enough with the bad sound effects. Besides, it’s more like: ‘blam, blam, blam!’” Shiro darted his own finger guns to the side, dropping to one knee as he shot again.

“What?” Keith exclaimed.

“You’re crazy,” Pidge agreed.

“No way,” Lance’s voice sounded.

“Wrong,” was all Hunk said.

At once, the team erupted into a fit of laughter, and Keith couldn’t help the swell of pride that grew in his chest. He looked down once more to the fang that had dropped. It was a good kill, and it was all Lance. His Lance. His sharpshooter.

 


  

Keith was surprised to find that he actually woke up in time to make the morning briefing, especially considering the late night that he’d had on the roof. It was obvious just by looking at him, however, that he hadn’t gotten much sleep. As Keith shrugged on his civilian clothing, he noted the dark circles that had formed under his eyes. Scowling at his own reflection, Keith made a mental note to go to bed earlier that night. Except…he had agreed to meet Lance again, hadn’t he? Keith shook those thoughts away as he trudged over to the central command building; that was a problem for later.

As Keith wandered into the briefing room with the last few stragglers, he noticed Shiro eying him warily. Keith grumbled a quick “hey” and sat down next to his leader, avoiding his gaze. He didn’t have the time or energy to deal with Shiro’s dad mode right now. Luckily, Shiro didn’t push it. It wasn’t as though Keith could tell his leader the reason he looked so strung out. It wasn’t as though Keith could go to Shiro for advice on what to do when your assumedly dead boyfriend comes back from the dead as a bloodsucking monster that you’ve spent your entire life trying to kill. There wasn’t a freaking manual for this sort of thing. And Keith couldn’t tell Shiro, not yet at least; not until he knew what Lance wanted…and knew how dangerous he really was now.

Keith was jerked from his thoughts when Commander Iverson started speaking. “Morning soldiers. Thanks to the MFE team’s last raid and the intel we got from our drone’s last infiltration, we can confirm that there is one remaining stronghold in the western district.” Iverson was never one to mince words. He always cut straight to the point. Keith liked that about him. “If we can eradicate this last remaining nest, we can win back the rest of that territory. We need to hit them hard and hit them fast. Should be a relatively easy job.”

“Yeah, just like the last one,” Pidge breathed barely loud enough for Keith to hear, and he scoffed at her comment. They had made the mistake of thinking their last mission would be easy, and look where that got them. Look where it got him.

Iverson had been standing at the head of the long table that occupied most of the briefing room. A variety of ranking soldiers sat around the table, all honed in on what their commander was saying. Though Shiro’s team was quite obviously the youngest of the group, consisting of only junior cadets and himself, they still held a formidable reputation among the other teams and senior officers. Iverson moved aside as a series of images were projected onto the wall behind him. They were recon photos from the drones sent in over western territory. They depicted a scatter of buildings, video images of a few fangs milling about, and a zoomed in image of one of the fangs. It had an ugly, grotesque face, dead, grey eyes, and a spiky mohawk on top of its head.

Keith saw Pidge shift in his peripheral vision and he twitched his head to the side to glance at her. Her tiny fist was clenched on the table, ever so slightly shaking. He opened his mouth to ask her what was wrong when Iverson started speaking again. He would have time to corner her later.

“The vamp that you see here is, as far as our scouting missions have indicated, the leader of this nest. He is our main target. Now, this is a two team mission, one to infiltrate, and one to watch the perimeter and be on guard in the case of immediate extraction. Griffin—“ he addressed the senior cadet— “your MFE team will stand as perimeter and act as backup for the infiltration team.” Griffin looked sour at the role of backup, but nodded, not daring to argue with a senior officer. Keith felt a smug satisfaction at his obvious irritation. “Shirogane,” Iverson continued, addressing Shiro by his full name, “I want V-team to infiltrate. I know you had a rough go on your last mission; is your team up to the task?”

Shiro turned to look at his team, eyebrow raised as he extended the question to each of his cadets. It was a rare act in the team dynamic, and Keith admired Shiro greatly for it. He always looked to them before deciding anything; they were a team, always.

Shiro’s gaze fell first to Keith, who glared at the man with determination. “I’m all in,” he said through gritted teeth.

Shiro nodded and moved his eyes to Pidge. Keith followed his gaze, turning his body to face her. Her hand was still clenched in such a tight fist that had Keith wondering if she was breaking any skin, and he had never seen such a fierce determination on her face. When their eyes turned to her, she dragged her own gaze away from the image projected on the wall and gave one short but tenacious nod to Shiro. Shiro nodded back and slid his eyes over to Hunk, who just shrugged in confirmation. Hunk would follow his team, wherever they lead him; he always put the needs of other’s above his own.

Satisfied, Shiro turned back to Iverson and smiled. “V-team is good to go.”

“Good,” Iverson grunted, “then Shiro and Griffin, you two stay behind and we’ll get a plan in motion. The rest of you have jobs to do. Dismissed!”

Keith saw a flash of green out of the corner of his eye. Pidge was up and out the door before Keith had even moved, and he had to dodge through the thickening crowd of soldiers before finally catching up to her. His hand darted out, gripping her elbow firmly and yanking her off into an adjacent hallway, away from the stream of soldiers exiting the building. The fire behind her eyes had Keith flinching as she tried desperately to break away. But despite her aggravation, Keith held her firm.

“Pidge, what’s wrong?” he asked softly.

“Fuck off, Keith,” she hissed, still struggling to free herself, “I’m fine.” Keith had never seen such strong hatred in his friend’s eyes.

“Pidge,” he tried again, but still she fought him, short nails now digging into his hand, scratching at the soft leather of his gloves. “Pidge, please,” he said, a little more desperate this time. He was losing patience. “Katie,” he hissed. Pidge stilled instantly. Keith rarely used her real name; no one did outside of her parents, really, and it always worked to catch her off guard. Keith sighed and dropped the hand that was clutching her. “Look, you know I don’t really do…feelings…all that well. But I still opened up to you yesterday. And you can’t tell me that I’m not alone in all this, and that you’ve got my back, and then not let me say the same for you—“ Keith met Pidge’s glare with a hard stare of his own— “All I’m asking is for you to open up to me too. We’re friends, Pidge. You can trust me.” A surge of guilt twisted through his stomach at the blatant hypocrisy, and he pushed that away, too, to be dealt with later…or, perhaps, never.

Pidge sighed and rolled her eyes dramatically, and Keith knew that he had won. “Fine,” she growled, grabbing his wrist and yanking him down the hallway, “Come with me.”

Pidge led Keith out of the command center and over to the dormitories, weaving through the halls before shoving him through the door of her own room. She closed the door only after looking down each side of the hallway as though paranoid that someone had followed them.

Keith had been in Pidge’s room countless times before, but it still shocked him every time. Where his room was neat and tidy, with only the essentials of uniforms and civilian clothing and his gear, Keith was used to seeing a more minimalistic lifestyle each day. Pidge’s room, on the other hand, was barely visible underneath all the stuff. Frankly, Keith was surprised he could see the floor at all, let alone stand and walk around. Actually, it looked a lot cleaner than last time. Pidge shuffled over to her desk. Keith swore that her desk was the same size as his, and yet it looked so much more formidable, harboring three monitors and a variety of other equipment that Keith couldn’t hope to know the uses for. After typing in a line of code onto her keyboard, Pidge turned back to Keith.

He raised an eyebrow, but when she didn’t speak right away, Keith opened his mouth. “Gonna tell me what’s up?”

She sighed heavily. “When…when Matt…disappeared…” she started, pausing to chew the inside of her cheek. Keith stiffened slightly. Matt had disappeared a few months before Lance had, but he had only heard Pidge talk about her brother a handful of times since then, and never by her own desire. The team had learned quickly to not bring up the subject, ever, after Pidge had punched Lance square in the nose for asking once how she was holding up. “I just wanted answers,” she said, finding her voice again.

“That makes sense…” Keith frowned, not understanding the guilty look that had taken up residence on her face.

“Well, the Garrison wouldn’t give me any!” Pidge huffed out in annoyance, “So I…well, I…I needed to know what happened, so I…hacked into the camera feed of their rover on that mission, and I found the footage of that day.” She bared her teeth in a guilty half smile, half grimace and looked up at Keith.

“Damn,” Keith said, more impressed than anything, “So what did you find?”

Pidge exhaled, seeming relieved at Keith’s lack of disappointment at her misdemeanor. Though why she was worried about Keith being upset, he didn’t know. It wasn’t like Keith was a stickler for the rules; I mean, come on, he wasn’t Shiro. Pidge had turned back to her computer, pointing a small finger at the middle screen. “I found them.”

Keith stepped forward, careful to avoid the tech littering the floor, until he was standing behind Pidge. He looked up the screen, where a blurred, pixilated image was pulled up, depicting three beings that Keith could only assume were fangs. They were holding between them an unconscious person whom Keith instantly recognized as Matt. Pidge struck the space bar on her keyboard and the video played. The three figures dragged Matt from one end of the camera’s field of vision to the other before disappearing, each one checking over its shoulder to make sure they weren’t being followed.

“So…from this footage—“ Pidge typed in a line of code and three images popped up next to the video— “I grabbed each of their faces, and well…”

Keith examined the three faces now on screen. They were pixilated, like the video, but he could clearly see their features. He felt himself tense as he laid eyes on the last of the three photos. “Is that...?”

Pidge nodded. “The leader of the nest we’re set to take out,” she said, a wicked grin stretching across her face, hatred returning to her eyes. “These motherfuckers took my brother, probably sucked him dry, and left him for dead.” She turned to Keith. “We took out the first one a few weeks ago,” she explained, “and MFE team took out the other on their last mission. And now this one’s gonna pay. He’s been the hardest to find, but now I’ve got him.”

“Good,” Keith said, placing a hand on Pidge’s shoulder and giving it a light squeeze. “They deserve it.” He couldn’t help but wonder, though, if perhaps Matt wasn’t dead after all; if maybe the same thing had happened to him as what had happened to Lance. He couldn’t decide which one Pidge would be more devastated by: if her brother were dead, or if he had been turned into the same ravenous monsters that had taken him from her in the first place. Truthfully, Keith couldn’t decide which he would have preferred, either.

 


 

During lunch, Shiro gathered the team together and relayed the course of action that he, along with Griffin and Iverson, had been divulging for the majority of that morning. They would go tomorrow, giving them plenty of time to do weapons checks and determine where the support team would be located. They would aim to hit the nest at noon, when the sun was high in the sky and hardly any vamps would be out, meaning that they would, hopefully, all be inside the nest. Sunlight didn’t kill the bloodsuckers, but they definitely had an aversion to it. With their superior eyesight, it was easy to see in the dark, but the daylight became near blinding to them, giving humans the tactical advantage.

Neither Pidge nor Keith shared with their team exactly whom they were hunting. Knowing Shiro, he would probably pull her from the mission for being too emotionally involved. That was something that Pidge couldn’t risk, so Keith kept his mouth shut too.

Their meeting adjourned and lunch hour was over, giving Keith the rest of the day to himself. He was grateful that Shiro was too busy planning their mission, that Pidge was too busy fantasizing her revenge, and that Hunk…well Hunk just didn’t intervene unless absolutely necessary. So, for the rest of the day, no one bothered him. Keith trained, not having anything better to do, and when the sun began to sink low in the sky, his arms began to ache. He was, admittedly, the only soldier to use a sword in combat, but he just wasn’t as good with a gun. Knives, though, knives he could handle just fine. He liked the up-close, personal effect of slashing a vamp rather than shooting it from afar. Sniping, shooting, that was Lance’s area of expertise. Or, at least, it had been.

Lance. Keith bolted up from where he had collapsed on his bed. How had he forgotten that he’d agreed to meet Lance on the roof again tonight? Knowing full well that he could go back and forth in his mind for hours about whether he should go up there or not, Keith shoved all rationality into the darkest corner of his mind and started to climb out his window. He still had questions that he needed answered. Well, one question anyway.

Keith pulled himself onto the roof and looked around. Not seeing Lance’s lanky frame anywhere, Keith settled down into his usual spot, feeling embarrassingly disappointed that the other boy wasn’t there yet. Or maybe he wasn’t coming after all.

“I was wondering if you were going to show up.” The voice behind him made Keith jump, twisting around to see Lance step out from behind the shadows of the vents. Despite himself, Keith’s mouth curled with a small smile. That boy had always been dramatic.

As Lance sauntered casually over to Keith and perched gracefully next to him, Keith forced his face to frown. When he met the boy’s blue eyes with his own blue-grey, Keith suddenly had trouble breathing. “Me too,” he breathed, “But I have questions…” His voice came out smaller than he would have hoped.

“Hmmm,” Lance hummed, smiling playfully and rolling his head closer to Keith’s, “I imagine you have quite a few. So ask away.” Lance shifted his body from where he had sat down next to Keith, lifting his arm up to Keith’s chest as he did. His long fingers moved slowly, gently down from Keith’s collarbone to his stomach and back up again. Keith inhaled sharply at the touch, already feeling the warmth crawl up his neck and nestle into his cheeks. This boy had no idea what he was doing to Keith. No, Keith thought, Lance knows exactly what he’s doing to me. He looked down at Lance’s finger as it lovingly caressed him and swallowed thickly. Lance chuckled beside him.

“Uh…um,” Keith stuttered, fear stopping him from asking the boy what he really wanted to know, “H-how are you not…you know, dead?” He tore his eyes away from where Lance’s finger was still caressing circles into his chest and set them upon the boy’s face again.

Lance chuckled again, brandishing his polished fangs as he did. “You mean why did those leeches who took me turn me instead of turn me into a meal?” Keith nodded. “I don’t know. Maybe they liked me. They probably thought I was cute—“ he winked at Keith— “I never asked. And frankly, once I woke up like this, I didn’t care.” He flashed another toothy grin at Keith. The moon was already climbing in the sky, and in the low light, the boy’s fangs practically glowed. Keith furrowed his brows in frustration.

“What…what do you mean?” he asked slowly, “Lance you can’t…you don’t mean…you can’t actually want this?”

“Samurai,” Lance said, voice dripping like honey, “you have no idea how freaking amazing this feels—“ his hand moved up to cup Keith’s cheek, and yet Keith found no comfort in the gesture as his eyes widened in horror— “the speed, the agility, the strength. The only thing that even comes remotely close to this feeling…” Lance gripped Keith’s chin harshly then, making sure he had the boy’s full attention, “…is making love to you.” Keith felt his face heat up with a deep blush and he inhaled sharply, shakily, breath hitched as his pounding heart stuttered. He could remember those nights; Lance’s soft touches and sweet lips, the feeling of Lance’s hands all over his body, the feeling of being inside him. Keith’s lips parted involuntarily as Lance inched their faces closer together. Their lips brushed against each other as Lance whispered, “And even that falls woefully short, if you can believe it.”

The kiss felt like ice, running a shiver down Keith’s spine, yet building a fire deep in his stomach, warmth pooling down and around. His head was swimming as though he couldn’t get enough oxygen to his brain. Keith had never felt such intense desire. After months of loneliness, of being untouched, of missing that familiar boy beside him, Keith was insatiable. He longed desperately for Lance’s tongue, for his hands, for his everything. But the kiss was slow and gentle, as though Lance wanted to take his time with Keith. He finally pulled their lips apart, dragging his thumb across Keith’s bottom lip as he did, smiling devilishly at him.

“Do you have any more questions for me?” Lance asked coolly, as if nothing had happened.

Keith could barely catch his breath. “I, uh, what?” he asked dumbly. He cleared his throat. “Yes. Yeah, I do.” Keith tried to compose himself, but every touch from Lance send him spiraling further and further into a place he had never been before, and Keith wasn’t sure if he liked how dark it looked down there. He cleared his throat again and Lance snickered at him. “Why are you here? I mean—“ Keith struggled to find the right words as Lance’s face twisted into an amused confusion. “I mean why didn’t you tell me sooner? Why are you just now here?”

Lance’s face fell as he smiled sadly. “I guess…I didn’t want you to know.” He spoke so softly, yet Keith heard him clearly. “I guess I was scared of what you’d think if you found out, of what you’d think of me…” he hesitated, clenching his jaw, “…if you’d want to kill me.” Lance’s eyes met Keith again, this time full of sorrow. “But then I saw you in that alley, and I just…I couldn’t resist.” Lance’s eyes suddenly grew hungry again as they traced over every inch of Keith’s face. “I had to see you again.”

Keith swallowed thickly as a disturbing thought entered his head. “Do you…” he hesitated to ask, and lowered his voice to barely a whispered. “Do you want to bite me?”

It was Lance’s turn to inhale sharply, lips curling into a villainous smile that flashed his fangs brightly. He chuckled as he exhaled, softening his smile but letting his hungry eyes roam over Keith’s face. “Of course I do,” he said simply, tongue darting out to drag across his gleaming fangs. His eyes turned to Keith’s exposed neck. “I want, so badly, to know what you taste like.” Lance pushed himself up with one arm, swinging one leg around as he did and settling back down, now straddling Keith’s lap. His hand brushed Keith’s long hair away from the boy’s neck, fingers lingering to caress the soft skin.

Any emotions that had previously lain in Keith were instantly replaced with a disturbing fear. He grabbed Lance’s wrist with one hand, snatching it away from his exposed neck, and he brought his other hand to rest against the boy’s chest. Though Lance’s strength could easily overpower Keith’s, the boy let himself be held back.

Lance pouted down at Keith. “Won’t you let me?”

“I…I don’t…I don’t want to be a…” Keith could barely stutter out the words.

But Lance just laughed and brought the hand that wasn’t trapped in Keith’s stroke the pale skin of his face. “Oh samurai, so naïve,” he said, “You can’t believe everything the Garrison says you know. They’re kinda idiots… You don’t get turned just from being bitten.”

Keith released Lance’s wrist, keeping his other hand firmly on the boy’s chest. “You don’t?”

Lance shook his head, giving Keith a smug smile. “But don’t worry,” he purred, “I won’t bite you just yet. Soon.” It wasn’t a question.

“Lance—“

“Trust me, samurai,” Lance interrupted, “Soon, I’ll have you begging me for my bite.” His tongue darted out once more to lick his lips, eyes ravishing Keith’s face.

Uneasiness washed over Keith. “I somehow doubt that,” he said, voice small.

Lance smiled again. “Whatever makes you feel better.”

Keith shivered as Lance brought his mouth down to the other’s ear, licking gently. Lance started to work his tongue down Keith’s neck next, lapping at any skin left uncovered. Several times, Keith barely felt the gentle scrape as Lance let his fangs trace over the blue veins branching out under his skin. His eyes fluttered shut as Lance began to suck at the skin, lightly at first, then hard enough to leave angry, red marks. Lance had one hand tangled in Keith’s hair, gripping the black mane tightly and tugging it to the side, leaving more of Keith’s neck open for Lance to explore. With his other hand, Lance slithered his way under Keith’s shirt, long fingers ghosting over each muscle.

“Lance,” Keith breathed out, more a whimper than anything, a plea to keep going, to never stop.

The other boy hummed against Keith’s neck, still kissing and sucking at the exposed skin. He pulled away and Keith felt the cold sting of the night air tickling at the moisture on his neck. “God, I’ve missed you,” Lance said, pulling his head back, but keeping his hand gripped tightly in Keith’s hair. His blue eyes ran up and down Keith’s body. “You’re so fucking beautiful. The things you do to me, samurai…” He released his hand from Keith’s hair, letting it fall to rest on the boy’s chest instead. “But I forgot, we were playing twenty questions. Anything else you want to know?”

Keith felt himself stiffen at the question. Yes. “No,” he said. I have one more. “Not that I can think of right now at least.”

Keith could see the disbelief in Lance’s eye, and breathed out a sigh of relief when the boy seemed to dismiss it. “Hmmm alright,” he said playfully, “Well then, do you need sleep? Should we meet back here tomorrow night?”

Keith furrowed his brows. “Lance, its too dangerous,” he said firmly, eyes boring into Lance’s, “You’re going to get caught.”

Lance laughed. “Samurai, do you know how many times I’ve snuck in and out of here? And that was before I was super stealthy. I’ll be just fine. Unless…” Lance narrowed his eyes at Keith, “Unless you don’t want me to come here again?”

“No,” Keith said all too quickly, “That’s not it. I just…We, or the Garrison I guess, could help you, you know. The lab, Pidge’s dad, is working on a cure right now. Maybe—“

Lance held up a hand, halting Keith’s speech. “You think I want to be some lab rat for the government?” he asked coldly, eyes hardening. His voice was dripping with spite and venom. “You and I have both seen what happens to those fangs that we’ve brought down to those labs, down to Pidge’s dad,” he spat, “They never make it out of there in one piece.”

“The doc wont let that happen to you,” Keith pleaded, “Please, Lance, you can’t…you can’t actually want this…”

Lance smiled one of those dangerously mischievous smiles that Keith found were already starting to mess with his head. “Baby,” he lulled, “I never want to go back to the way I was. Of course I want this. And soon, you’re going to want it too.”

A cold shiver shot down Keith’s spine, and his eyes widened. Was that what Lance wanted in the end? To turn Keith? “I…uh…wha…” Keith sputtered.

Lance laughed, loud and open mouthed, fangs glowing in the low light. “Relax, samurai. I’m joking. Well, mostly joking, anyway.” That did nothing to sooth Keith’s panic. “So,” Lance drawled, ignoring the squirming Keith beneath him, “tomorrow night?”

“Oh,” Keith furrowed his brows, suddenly remembering, “I might not be here tomorrow night. I mean, we may get back plenty early, but we’re going on a mission tomorrow.”

Lance drew his eyebrows together in vexation. “So soon? I don’t like that. Something could happen to you.”

It was Keith’s turn to chuckle. “Relax, sharpshooter,” he teased, “it’s a pretty cut and dry mission. Just a nest to clear out.”

“Then couldn’t someone else do it?”

Keith shrugged. “Iverson asked for us. Plus, I think Pidge would lose her shit if anyone tried to take her off it.”

“Why?”

“Oh…” Keith hesitated. He had promised Pidge that he wouldn’t tell anyone. But what was Lance going to do, tell Shiro? “The leader of this nest, he’s one of the fangs that killed Matt. Pidge will finally be able to, I don’t know put it behind her? Move on?”

Lance visible tensed up at his words and Keith looked at him questioningly. “Keith…” he said softly, “Matt is…Matt’s still…alive.”

Keith bolted upright, causing Lance to lean back so as not to collide. “What?” he choked, breath catching in this throat, “I mean, alive like you, or like…?”

Lance shook his head, face unreadable. “No. Alive like alive.”

“H-how?” Keith’s mind was reeling. It couldn’t be possible.

Lance grimaced at the question. “Well…” he sighed and pursed his lips. “The…the boss man…he has a few favorite…” Lance looked pained as he searched for the right word, “flavors?” He glanced back to Keith with a sour look. “He collects people, and he keeps them alive, keeps them healthy, so he can, you know, feed whenever he wants.” Lance sat there, one hand scratching the back of his head like he always did whenever he was feeling embarrassed, and Keith couldn’t help but think how much he looked like his old self.

Keith threw his arms around Lance and laughed, actually laughed. “Fuck, I have so many questions. I mean, that’s super fucked up, but holy fuck Matt is alive. I mean, we could actually get him back. Pidge is gonna freak!”

Lance held Keith’s arms tightly and pushed them apart. “Keith, no. Listen to me, it’s way too dangerous to even think about getting him out of there, okay? You’d be going right into the belly of the beast, and you don’t even know what the beast is, got it?”

Keith scoffed bitterly. “I know exactly what the beast is, Lance. We’ve been fighting it our entire lives.”

Lance shook his head. Keith had seen that determined look of Lance’s gaze countless times before. He was more than just worried. “Keith, no, this is different. The boss, he’s on a complete other level than anything we ever faced. Do you hear me? It’s a suicide mission.”

Keith shook his head back, firmly. “No, Lance, we have to do this. You know we have to. This is Matt, this is Pidge.”

When Lance dropped his head, Keith knew he had won. “You stupid, stubborn…fine. I’ll tell you everything you need to know. But you gotta promise me, samurai: don’t do anything stupid.”

Chapter Text

Keith gently wiped the blood from Lance’s nose with a damp towel. They had gone back to Keith’s room after the altercation, and Lance had dramatically collapsed onto the floor, leaving Keith to clean the mess on his face.

“What the hell is her problem?” Lance grumbled, “I mean, I know what her problem is, but what the hell is her problem? I was only trying to be nice!”

Keith sighed and moved the cloth away from Lance’s face. “She’s hurting a lot right now Lance. Pidge acts tough, but…she really looked up to him, you know? And, well, I get that you were trying to be there for her, and believe me, she gets that too, but…you don’t know what its like to…to lose someone like that.”

“I’ve lost people, too,” Lance said quietly.

“No, I know,” Keith sputtered, “Sorry. It’s just…different. Losing someone that close to you, it’s like your whole world falls apart…”

Lance sat up and leaned against the bed, pulling Keith down with him and nestling him in close to his chest. Keith complied, letting himself be enveloped in the other’s arms. “You’re right,” he said softly, “I don’t know, and I’m sorry. I can’t imagine what she’s going through right now. But you can…”

“Matt was her world,” Keith’s voice was muffled against Lance’s chest. “I mean, just think about if—“

“No.”

“You don’t even know what I was going to say,” Keith grumbled.

“You were going to say ‘just think about if it was one of us’ and I wont. I wont think about losing you because it’s not going to happen. You’re stuck with me. Forever.”

“You know, that’s not very realistic in our line of work.” But Keith was smiling against Lance.

“Doesn’t matter,” Lance said determinedly, “it’s not gonna happen to either of us. So don’t even think about it.”

“Yeah, okay sharpshooter, I won’t.” Keith burrowed closer into Lance’s arms, hoping that the boy was right. That they would always have each other.

 


 

There was a pit in his stomach that Keith couldn’t quite place. He was ready for this. He and Lance spent hours on the roof last night, coming up with a plan, and then coming up with a backup plan in cast that didn’t work out, and then coming up with another backup plan in case that one failed, which, frankly, sucked, so Keith hoped it wouldn’t come to that. But Keith was ready for this. He needed this for Pidge.

He glanced over to her. Pidge was nervously fidgeting with her arrow-shaped blade, one hand running up and down it’s edge, the other grasping the handle so tightly that her knuckles were turning white. Keith placed a hand on her shoulder and felt her tension relax just a fraction. Keith knew how important this mission was to her. But Pidge had no idea just how much would changer after today. That is, if everything went according to plan.

As they crossed the threshold into the western territory, each member was immediately on high alert. According to their intel, there shouldn’t be any nests remaining save for the one they were hitting, but one could never be too careful. As they neared their destination, the teams stashed their rovers, waiting for Garrett and his team to get into position around the perimeter and up on the rooftops before going in.

The sun was glaring harshly as the team of four approached the building quietly. From the outside, it was completely nondescript, probably once a housing complex or maybe offices. It was a smaller building, which meant only one entrance in the front, and one to the basement. Shiro signaled for Hunk and Pidge to take the one up front while he and Keith would go in from the basement.

Keith frowned. Usually, Shiro and Hunk took the main gate, being the biggest and strongest of the group, while he and Pidge would sneak in from behind, being the quickest and most agile. But Shiro wasn’t taking any chances with Keith, it would seem. It was going to be a lot harder to get himself separated from the group while his overbearing handler was making sure he didn’t do exactly that. Knowing he couldn’t argue an order, Keith nodded and followed Shiro to the small door around back.

The door was unlocked, not surprising since this was technically still vampire territory, and Shiro led Keith out of the blazing sun and into sudden darkness. The visors on their helmets were switched to night vision, and the two looked around the trashed basement for any signs of hostiles. Keith squirmed as they shifted around in the dark. He was much more comfortable in the daylight, where it was less than likely they were going to run into any vamps. Where there were no shadows to hide in. But down here, in the dark, Keith felt out of his element. Down here, anything could be lurking in the shadows. Only after concluding that it was empty did the two weave their way through the basement and toward the stairs. As they made their way up to the next floor, Keith peered around, trying to find some angle that would get him the alone time he needed with that leech. He scowled, unable to see any means of escape. He would have to improvise. Of course, they would have to find the fang first.

Shiro and Keith stopped dead before entering the next room. They could hear voices, maybe half a dozen of them, lazily conversing and laughing. Keith heard a ‘Yes, boss,’ and smiled to himself. There it was. Keith caught Hunk and Pidge out of the corner of his eye as they approached the same room from around the corner at the other end of the hall. Before Shiro could move, Keith motioned for the two of them to check upstairs for any more fangs. He needed to stay here. At Shiro’s gesture, Keith made his way to the other end of the hall, where Hunk and Pidge had just been, and the two burst into the room at the same time.

The fight was a chaotic mess. Keith slashed down the two vamps closest to the door, taking them by surprise, and he held up his sword to block another that dove straight for his neck. Shiro had taken down one already and was fighting another two that were trying to back him into a corner. In the center of the room stood a leech that Keith instantly recognized. This was the one that had taken Matt. Its hair was sticking up in its ridiculous style, and its lips were curled back in a snarl. It looked back and forth between the two intruders, as if deciding which one it wanted to lunge at first.

Keith knew it had to be him the leech lunged at. He made short work of the creep that had attacked him and faced his new opponent. Shiro, unfortunately, had also made short work of his opponents, and was moving toward Keith to back him up when they heard a shout from Pidge upstairs and Hunk’s gun start blasting.

“Shiro, go help them upstairs! I got this one!” Keith shouted at him, jabbing toward the bloodsucker before Shiro had time to argue. As Shiro exited to assist the rest of the team, Keith put his plan into action.

He had to hurt the thing, but not kill it. But this one was a much better fighter than its counterparts, and actually caught Keith off guard. It barreled into him, knocking his sword out of his hand and throwing him to the ground. As they rolled together, Keith felt a sharp sting at his side, realizing the beast had scratched him, cutting deep with its superior strength. He groaned through gritted teeth at the accompanying pain. I don’t have time for this, he thought, and quickly regained control. As the bloodsucker came at him again, Keith reached for the blade he kept at the back of his belt. With a single, swift moment, Keith brought the knife up and straight into the creature’s soft abdomen.

The being’s face contorted in pain. Collapsing to its knees, it looked up at Keith with a look of loathing and bared its fangs in a hiss.

“Relax,” Keith said, pushing himself up to stand in front of the monster, “It’s just a flesh wound, you’ll live. And if you cooperate, I might even let you go, understood?”

The fang’s face softened to snarl as it asked, “Why?”

“There are going to be some question that you need to answer. Any minute now, a very angry girl is going to come down those stairs and she would love nothing more than to string you up by your feet, slit your throat, and watch as you choke on the blood. Now, I can stop that from happening, but only if you cooperate with me.”

The creature narrowed its eyes at Keith. “Questions about what?”

“About the people that you snatch for your boss’ personal buffet,” Keith hissed.

The leech’s eyes widened. “How do you—“

“No, no,” Keith interjected, “You don’t ask questions. You don’t talk unless you’re answering ours. Understood? And you say nothing about this conversation right here.”

“Again, why should I?”

Keith sighed heavily. Of fucking course the fang had to be difficult. Couldn’t it just cooperate? He didn’t have time for this. “Look,” he said, turning in attention to the leech once more, “you’ve got zero chance of getting out of here. You realize that, right? We’ve got more soldiers outside,” he said, “They’ll take you out as soon as you step through that door…if you could even get through me, that is, which I doubt with how much blood you’ve already lost. But,” Keith emphasized, “if you help me out, give me information, I can convince my team to let you go, understood?” Keith waited, but the beast said nothing. Its eyes narrowed as it considered Keith’s words. “Do we have a deal?”

The being snarled and lowered its gaze, which Keith took to mean yes. Not a moment later, his team came bolting into the room, Pidge leading the charge. When she saw what was kneeling in front of Keith, a murderous glare flashed in her eyes.

“You!” she shouted and began to charge at him.

“Wait, Pidge!” Keith rushed to her and pulled her back.

“Are you fucking kidding me, Keith,” she snarled, “You know who this fucker is, let me go!”

“Wait, just calm down. I know, just listen to this okay?”

“Listen to what?” she cried, trying to wiggle out of Keith’s grip. “This motherfucker killed Matt, Keith, he killed my brother!” Tears were welling up in her eyes.

The creature before them chuckled weakly, and all four pairs of eyes turned to it. “Matt,” it muttered, “your brother…Ah, yes, I see what’s happening…Yes I can see the family resemblance.” It flashed a pained grin at Pidge, who began struggling even harder against Keith. “Young lady, it truly pains me to say this, but your brother’s not dead.”

The room stood still. Shiro inhaled sharply. Hunk placed a hand over his mouth. Pidge stopped moving altogether.

“Just listen,” Keith said gently, releasing his iron grip from Pidge’s arm and turning to the creature. “Tell us everything, from the beginning.”

It grinned knowingly at Keith. “Well, you see, I’m what you’d call a collector.”

“What the fuck does that mean?” Pidge’s voice was small as she snarled at the creature.

“Well, to put it bluntly, I collect…snacks for the boss. He has a diverse palate after all, and he’s far too busy to hunt for himself. So, he enlists others to fetch his meals. And sometimes, if he likes one of these snacks enough, he keeps them. I got quite the reward for that haul. Your brother is one of his favorite flavors.”

Keith had to grab Pidge’s arm again as she moved to raise her blade. She couldn’t kill him yet, they needed more information. She snarled as she tore away from Keith, looking down at the parasite with disgust in her eyes. “You mean to tell me that my brother is being kept alive to be some…some blood bag to your boss?”

“In the most rudimentary sense, yes, you could say that. Though it’s far more posh than you make it out to be.” It flashed them a fang-filled grin.

“Where is he being kept?” Keith asked. This was taking too long. Any slip up from this fang could result in the team realizing that Keith had had insider information.

The creature paused, but as Keith began to raise his blade, it relented.

“Smack in the middle of our northern territory,” it snapped, “There’s a large mansion there where the boss lives, along with his…favorites. Like I said, quite posh.”

Keith nodded. They had enough information now. He looked down at Pidge with a cold look in his eyes. “Go loose, Pidge.”

She nodded, the anger and hatred returning to her face, and raised her curved blade.

The bloodsucker fell back, clutching its side where Keith had stabbed it, in a weak attempt to get away. “No! No, wait…you said—“

But the small soldier plunged her knife deep into the creature’s heart, cutting its cries short. It gave a few more shuddered gasps before falling still.

There was silence only for a moment before Shiro broke it. “What…the hell…was that?” He sounded both angry and confused.

Keith and Pidge exchanged a look before turning to their leader and Hunk, guilt painted on their faces. Pidge spoke first. “I kinda knew that the fang we were hunting was one of the ones that took Matt…” She paused, but when Shiro merely replied by crossing his arms, she offered further explanation. “I might have hacked into the rover cam footage from his last mission and I may have seen the fangs that took him. But I had to, Shiro. They weren’t giving me any answers and—“ The beginning of her tirade was cut short when Shiro raised his hand.

“Shiro,” Keith offered, “I get that we could have caught this fang and taken it back with us for information or whatever, but Pidge needed this.”

Shiro stared Keith down. “You knew?” Keith nodded silently. Shiro’s voice was steady as he spoke to them. “We are a team,” he scolded, “We are a team that is built on trust, and we do not keep secrets from each other. Is that understood?” The pair before him nodded, a sickening guilt twisting through Keith’s stomach as he did. “Now,” Shiro continued, “As far as I’m concerned, this fang was trying to escape and we had no choice but to put him down.” He looked at the other three, making sure they each understood what he was saying. They each nodded firmly. “Good, then let’s get back to base and figure out how we’re going to get Matt back.”

Pidge’s face broke out in a smile, and tears finally cascaded down her cheeks. She stepped toward Shiro, wrapping her arms around his middle and squeezing him into a hug. “Thank you,” she breathed out as a sigh of relief.

Keith went to move toward his team, but a sharp pain at his side had him falling to his knees. With all the adrenaline, he had forgotten about the deep gash that the bloodsucker had carved into his side. He looked down to see that his dark clothes were soaked in blood.

“Keith!” Shiro crouched down before Keith, gripping his arm tightly, face contorted with worry.

“’M fine,” Keith muttered, head growing dizzy and vision blurring, “It’s just a scratch.” But when he tried to stand, the world grew dark and he could feel himself falling. Lance’s words were echoing in his head: don’t do anything stupid.

Chapter Text

Lance opened his eyes, and Keith shot upright from his chair. The boy had been unconscious for two days. Keith had refused to leave his bedside, and he was pretty sure he looked and smelled disgusting. But he didn’t care, Lance was finally awake.

Keith had prepared a whole speech—a lecture really—on being more careful, but the second he saw those blue eyes and that cocky grin, it all slipped away.

“Welcome back, sharpshooter,” Keith breathed out.

“You look like shit,” Lance mused, voice cracked.

“You’re one to talk. You look like you fell out of a window…oh wait…”

Lance scoffed. “Rude! At least I took a fang with me!”

“No, you didn’t. It got up and started to run, and then Shiro took it out,” Keith deadpanned, unimpressed.

“Fine,” Lance said, crossing his arms, “At least it makes for a cool story.”

“Falling out a window, knocking yourself out, having massive internal bleeding, and then being unconscious for two days?” Keith raised one eyebrow.

“Exactly! I’m so cool. You’re just jealous.”

Keith shook his head and took one of Lance’s hands in his. “Seriously, Lance, you always say that I’m the reckless one. You really should be more careful.”

“Hey, that’s my line.” Lance squeezed his hand gently.

“And getting hurt for stupid shit is my move, but here you are stealing my thunder. How about next time I’m in the med bay and you’re at my bedside, you can say it back to me. Until then, be more fucking careful.” Keith bore his eyes into the bright blue of Lance’s, urging the boy to understand just how serious he was.

But Lance just laughed. “Alright deal. But maybe let’s both try to not get hurt anymore? I mean, this place seriously sucks. Look, they never even brought me Jell-O!”

Keith couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face as he rose to find the boy some food. “Fine,” he said, “It’s a deal.”

 


 

Keith awoke in the med bay, bright fluorescent lights greeting him and making him blink, scrunching up his face in irritation. When he opened his eyes again, Pidge and Hunk’s looming faces came into his field of vision, having stood up from where they had both been seated at his bedside.

“Hey, buddy, how ya feeling?” Hunk lulled quietly.

“I feel great,” Keith mumbled, wincing as he sat upright. The cut in his side had been much deeper than he had realized.

“Yeah, that fang took a good chunk out of you,” Pidge mused, noticing Keith’s hand move to hold his bandaged torso.

Keith had been changed from his black uniform to a loose-fitting hospital gown, and he could feel the gauze that was wrapped tightly around him. “How long have I been out?”

“Just a few hours,” Pidge said, “We took you straight here, but then we all went in for briefing. Shiro’s still there…” her voice trailed off.

“He’s trying to convince Iverson and the rest of them to let us go on a rescue mission for Matt,” Hunk explained, “No one’s too keen on the idea of us dropping straight into the middle of vamp territory. We’ve been here, waiting for you to wake up. Well, except Pidge told her parents everything that happened of course. But yeah, we’re just waiting.”

“Well, sorry I’ve been such poor company,” Keith replied dryly.

Pidge opened her mouth to respond with no doubt something snarky, when Shiro walked in through the med bay doors. They all turned to him expectedly, and were greeted with a sour look on their leader’s face. The unpleasantness wavered for a brief moment of relief upon seeing Keith conscious.

“How did it go?” Pidge asked when he had reached them. Her voice was downcast; they could all see from his expression exactly how it had gone.

“Not well,” Shiro replied grimly. He looked around and, upon seeing that the room was empty save for them, he continued. “We’ve been denied an official mission to get Matt back. Iverson doesn’t think it’s worth the risk to send a team in to such heavily populated fang territory.” He spoke as though the words were leaving a bitter taste in his mouth.

“What?!” Pidge exploded, “Fuck that, and fuck him! I’m going to get my brother back—“ she pointed a small finger at Shiro— “and don’t you dare try to stop me!”

“Pidge,” Shiro spoke firmly, grabbing Pidge’s arm as he did to prevent her dramatic exit. He spun her around so they were facing each other. “I said that we were denied an official mission. I never said that we weren’t going on one.”

“I…thank you,” Pidge muttered as Shiro released her arm.

Shiro smiled down at her. “We’re a team, Pidge. And Matt’s my friend. I’m not going to let high command get in the way of saving him. But this is a voluntary mission,” Shiro said, turning back to Keith and Hunk, “and it will be going against both your and my superiors, so I understand if you don’t want to—“

“Fuck no, I’m in,” Keith interrupted.

Hunk nodded determinedly in agreement. “Me too.”

Pidge beamed up at them and Shiro nodded. “Then let’s start mapping out a plan,” he said, “We may need a bigger tactical team, but I’ve got some recruitments in mind that might be willing to help.”

Keith moved to get out of bed, but fell back when a sharp twinge tore at his side.

“We’ll wait until you’re better, though,” Shiro said gently.

“Yeah,” Pidge mused, “You kinda look like crap.” She looked at Keith oddly and cocked her head to the side. “Is that…” her eyes gleamed with amusement, and a mischievous smile broke out on her face, “Keith, is that a hickey?”

Keith’s pain turned to panic as he scrambled to pull up the collar of the gown from where it had slipped down his neck, exposing the red bruise that Lance had sucked into him the night before. “N-no!” he stammered, “That’s not…”

“Who’s the lucky guy?” Pidge hummed, smug smile still painted on her face.

“None of your damn business,” Keith snarled, face flushed pink. It wasn’t as though he could be honest with them.

“Oh my god,” Pidge’s mouth fell open, “Is this why you’ve been so distant and secretive the past few days? And why it looks like you’ve barely slept? Because you’re “sleeping” with some hot ass?” She not so subtly held up her fingers in air quotes.

“Jesus, Pidge, no,” Keith hissed.

“Alright, okay.” Shiro fanned his hands to settle them down. “Maybe we should get back on track. Pidge, we’re going to need all the intel we can get our hands on about the northern territory. Do you think you can get into the system?”

Torn away from her teasing, Pidge’s mind was once more focused on the task at hand. “I’ll pull up any surveillance of the area that the Garrison already has. Meet me in my room!” She took off running, but not without giving Keith one more self-satisfied smile.

“Hunk, you go on ahead,” Shiro said, “I’m going to stay and talk to Keith for a bit.

Hunk gave them a nod and a quick, “Okay,” before following after Pidge. Keith couldn’t help but notice the discomfort on his friend’s face as he left.

Shiro sat down next to Keith’s bed. Keith watched for a moment as he rubbed his hand over his face, clearly exhausted. The man composed himself and looked up at Keith, fatigue, worry, and then perplexity flashing across his features. “Keith,” he said slowly, “you’ve got to tell me what happened back there.”

Keith nodded, looking at the floor. “I’m sorry. I know you didn’t want me being on my own. I thought I could take that fang down easy, it just got the jump on me and—“

But Shiro cut him short. “No, not with the fight; though I’m not happy about that.” He sighed deeply. “How did you know to ask him all those things? How…how did you know about Matt?”

“Right.” Keith was prepared for this. He knew what to say. “That leech was talking its mouth off about all kinds of shit. Said it liked me and it’d take me to see the boss, and that maybe if I’m lucky I’d get the royal treatment of being a blood donor or some shit. It talked about how many people it had already taken to see the boss. Pidge had already showed me the video of Matt getting dragged away, so I knew that this was one of the fangs that took him. When I mentioned Matt’s name, the fang said it sounded familiar. That’s when you and Pidge and Hunk came down, and I thought maybe we could get some answers from it.” Keith refrained from looking at Shiro while he spoke, instead choosing to be very interested in a stray thread hanging off the sleeve of his gown.

If Shiro suspected dishonesty, however, he didn’t show it. “Keith, I just can’t have you continue to run off on your own during these missions. I…I don’t know if you should come on this next one.”

Keith snapped his head up and glared at Shiro. “What?” he hissed, “Are you crazy? Of course I’m coming. This is Matt we’re talking about; this is Pidge! You need me!”

“I have no doubt that you’re a vital asset to the team, Keith, but…” Shiro’s voice remained even, “I just know what you must be thinking right now.”

Keith scoffed. “I doubt that.”

“So you’re not thinking that if Matt is alive, then just maybe Lance could be too?”

Keith stiffened at the words. Honestly, the thought hadn’t crossed his mind. Why would it? But it was a perfectly logical, in fact probably expected, thing to think about.

“I don’t blame you,” Shiro continued, “I thought about it too. But Keith, I can’t have you go running off in the middle of the mission trying to find him—“

No,” Keith said firmly, “You don’t have to worry about me, Shiro. Matt may be alive, but I know that Lance isn’t. I’m going on this mission. This is for Pidge.”

Shiro nodded slowly. “Okay.” He got up and moved to leave, but stopped before turning away. “Keith?” Keith looked up at his leader, who gave him a small smile. “Don’t feel guilty about that—“ Shiro motioned to his neck, where Keith had re-covered the hickey with his gown— “You deserve to be happy, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about things that made you happy.

With that, Shiro left the room, leaving Keith to wonder if it was actually happiness that he experienced whenever he had been with this new Lance.

 


 

Keith was kept in the med bay overnight and for half of the next day. Something about monitoring him and making sure that his wound wasn’t contaminated. Keith could have laughed at their naivety if he hadn’t been on the same page as them just two days ago. If Keith had learned anything through this ordeal, it’s that a scratch sure as hell wasn’t going to turn him into a bloodsucker when apparently not even a bite does. It left Keith to wonder though, why was the Garrison so intent on them not getting bitten when they didn’t even know what it does; or doesn’t do? And what else were they wrong about?

When he was finally released, Keith made his way straight to Pidge’s room. He was in no condition to train and dinner wouldn’t be served for another few hours, so he had literally nothing else to do. Besides, he wanted to see how Pidge was doing after all that had happened.

Unsurprisingly, Keith found her hunched over her monitors, fiercely typing line after line of code. She nodded to Keith as he entered, and he traversed the rough terrain of miscellaneous junk that littered her floor to make his way over to her. With each small twist of his body, Keith felt a twinge of pain from the still healing wound at his side. Now in perfect view of the monitors, Keith could see that all three held various photos and reports that had been conducted in the northern territory, dating back at least five years.

Keith whistled. “Damn, Pidge. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

She nodded, still rapidly typing as she responded. “We just need to find out exactly where this ‘mansion’ is that that scumbag told us about and we have to figure out exactly who this ‘boss man’ is. So far, I’m not seeing any vamps in these logs that have much promise, but I have found a few potential locations.” She grinned wickedly at him. Keith smiled back. He hadn’t seen Pidge this lively since before Matt had disappeared, and it felt like she was finally getting back to her old self.

“Show me,” Keith replied, and Pidge pulled up photos from recon and rover cam footage of a handful of beautiful buildings.

One was a chic apartment complex, seemingly unscathed, which was uncommon in the aftermath of all the fighting. Another was an actual mansion, but Keith could tell by the surroundings of the photo that its location was too far out of the city to be the one. The third was a Victorian-style estate, with grey stonework and too many windows. In the background, skyscrapers could be seen. He didn’t bother looking at the rest of them.

“That one,” Keith said, pointing to the third picture.

Pidge seemed unconvinced as she raised an eyebrow to Keith. “Why that one?”

Because my assumed dead boyfriend-turned-vampire has fed me inside information and he told me exactly what the boss man’s residence looks like, Keith thought. “From its location,” he said instead, “It’s smack in the middle of the northern territory; the perfect place for a leader to be. Plus, it’s an actual mansion, like that leech said. Half of the ones you pulled up are hotels or apartment buildings, and that other mansion looks like it’s out in the suburbs.”

“Okay!” Pidge said excitedly, “We have one lead!” As she reached for the third and furthest keyboard, Keith snickered when the realization hit both of them that she couldn’t quite reach it. “Curse my short arms!” Pidge muttered under her breath as she scooted her desk chair closer to her destination.

Keith was still grinning as he asked, “So how’s Shiro doing with those ‘recruits’ he mentioned? Any idea who he meant?”

Pidge shook her head, once more hunched over the desk, typing rapidly. “Nah, he won’t tell us anything yet. I don’t blame him though. This whole thing’s gotta be kept a secret—“ she turned to Keith, eyes suddenly wide— “and there are ears everywhere.”

Keith snorted. “Okay, now’s not the time for conspiracy theories, as fun as I find those. Besides, you already check your room daily for bugs. I think we’re safe.”

“Yeah, maybe in here. But I guarantee you, the Garrison is watching us.”

Keith’s brain betrayed him as it dredged up the memories he had fought so hard to shove into the corner. Memories of Lance, memories of the long nights they spent together, memories of the things they did in the dark. Keith’s face contorted with a sour smirk. “God, I hope they’re not always watching. That would be pretty awkward.”

Pidge scoffed. “Yeah, I can imagine that you and your new fuck buddy get into some pretty kinky shit.”

Keith felt his face grow hot. “Pidge!” he screeched, “That is not what I meant, and you know it!” That was exactly what he had meant.

Pidge snorted out a loud laugh. “You’re just too easy to embarrass, Keith!” Her face softened as she smiled up at him. “You know, you’re really acting like your old self again. I like it. I missed my friend.”

Keith huffed a laugh, and smiled back. “Funny, I was thinking the same thing about you.”

“Yeah! Look at us! Finally getting back on top!”

“I don’t know if we were ever on top, Pidge.”

“Alright, back in the middle then.” Keith gave her a sideways look and Pidge rolled her eyes. “I just mean that I’m going to get my brother back and you…you have a new loverboy.” She raised her eyebrows at him suggestively.

Keith sputtered. “W-we are not talking about this!”

“C’mon, Keith, it’s meeee. I’m your buddy. It’s Pidge, your buddy! Just tell me who he is.” With each word she inched closer and closer to Keith.

“I’m leaving,” Keith grumbled, shoving Pidge’s face away with the palm of his hand and trudging out the door.

“Say hi to loverboy for me—“ he heard Pidge yell as he slammed the door behind him.

 


  

The next few hours dragged by as Keith waited for nightfall. Finally, after dinner and a dismal team meeting in Pidge’s room where they relayed the hypothesis that she and Keith had speculated about the location and literally no other new information, Keith could make his way up to his room; or, more accurately, up to the roof.

As soon as he was inside, door shut and locked, Keith hauled himself through the window and up the drain. The moment his feet touched the roof, he felt strong arms wrap around him. His first instinct was to fight, but the familiar comfort of the embrace had him pause, realizing quickly who was wrapped around him, despite the pitch dark of the night.

“Where. The fuck. Have you been?” Lance asked him, squeezing tighter, causing Keith to wince at the pain in his side. Lance released him and held Keith at arm’s length, eyes narrowing in anger. When he saw the obvious pained look on Keith’s face, however, his gaze softened to worry and then to deep anger again. “You did something stupid, didn’t you?!” Lance flung his hands in the air dramatically to emphasize his point.

Keith couldn’t help but laugh. “First of all, you really shouldn’t be so surprised at that. Of course I didn’t something stupid. I think we all know who was stupid for actually thinking I wouldn’t do something stupid. Second, I told you that I might not be here last night, so why are you so freaked?”

“Because I worry! Because you have almost died more times than anyone I have ever met, and I was a soldier in war. What happened?” Lance’s eyes darkened suddenly as they looked Keith up and down.

Keith pawed at his side and lifted his shirt a bit to reveal the bandage. “Got nicked a bit. Don’t worry, it wasn’t a bite. But I had to stay in the med bay overnight to make sure I wasn’t contaminated or some shit.” Seeing the displeasure in Lance’s eyes, Keith reached a hand out and wrapped in in the other boy’s. “I’m okay, Lance, really. Besides, our plan worked perfectly. That creep told us everything we need to know and Shiro was only a teeny bit suspicious of me. I think. I call that a win. Though, the entire team saw this lovely hickey that you graced me with, so now they all think that I’m sucking face with a random dude in a dark corner, so…thanks for that.” Keith had meant it as a joke, laughing as he said it, but Lance’s face blackened to an eclipse, a low snarl escaping his lips.

Lance pushed Keith roughly against one of the vents, bringing his elbows to rest on either side of the boy’s head and leaning in so that their faces were only inches apart, noses almost brushing. “You are mine, you hear me?” Lance hissed, “And no one else’s.”

Keith’s eyes widened and his breath quickened. Half of him was flushed from the overbearing sexual tension that was building up between them, wanting nothing more than to crush his lips into the other boy’s, to pull their bodies closer together until every part of them was touching, to be kissed by him, to be touched by him, to be inside him… The other half of Keith was flustered from the sudden fear that gripped his mind. Lance had never been possessive or overprotective. If anything, Keith was the jealous one of the two. But now, staring into the bright blue eyes, Keith saw the darkness that he had only gotten a glimpse of before, and he had to stop himself from doing anything foolish, from doing anything that would send him spiraling down into that darkness to a place he wasn’t sure he could climb out of.

“Lance,” he said as calmly as he could muster, “you know I’m not actually sucking face with some stranger in a dark corner, right? I’m sucking face with you in a dark corner. I just can’t exactly tell the team that…”

Lance twisted his mouth into a vicious grin and Keith could see the sharp fangs inch closer to his flesh. “I know,” Lance whined, “But just the thought of you being with anyone else has me crazy.” He paused, shifting his body a bit and placing one long leg between Keith’s open ones, his thigh pressing gently into Keith’s groin. “You haven’t, have you?” he asked softly in Keith’s ear.

Keith’s breath hitched in this throat at the new and sudden contact. He felt that same chill creep down his spine at the same time a warmth pooled in his stomach. “Haven’t what?” he panted.

“Been with anyone else?” And as Lance spoke, he slowly pressed his leg forward, grinding harder into Keith.

“N-no,” Keith groaned, “I haven’t. I couldn’t. I only wanted you…”

“Fuck, that’s hot, samurai,” Lance breathed against his ear. Lance hummed gently as he began kissing Keith’s neck, sucking more spots there and then lapping at the abused skin to soothe it. Keith’s mind was starting to unravel, to spiral downwards. But he couldn’t stop it, he didn’t want to stop it; it felt so good. Keith moved his hand to cup Lance’s check, gently pressing to urge him upward towards his mouth. But Lance was in charge, and he moved his head instead to the other side of Keith’s neck, smiling as he did.

“H-have you?” Keith’s breath hitched in his throat.

Lance stilled. “Have I what?” he asked quietly.

Keith shifted his head to better look at the boy. “Been…with anyone else?” he asked cautiously, even though the pit in his stomach had already given him the answer. Lance was still frozen, hovering above Keith with a pained look in his eye. “Lance,” Keith said softly, “it-it’s okay.” It really wasn’t, but what could Keith say to him? He had no right to be angry. Hurt maybe, but Lance was an adult…vampire… “I mean, I thought you were dead…” he tried.

“But I knew that you weren’t,” Lance said bitterly. Keith couldn’t place the disgusted tone in his voice and the hatred in his eyes. Was Lance angry?

“Lance, I don’t…it’s not like you thought you could come here and, like, continue our relationship. I get it…I guess.”

Lance scoffed sharply, avoiding Keith’s gaze. “I can’t decide which is worse,” he muttered.

“What?” Keith breathed.

Lance was still for a moment before speaking again, still looking anywhere but Keith. “I don’t know which is worse,” he said again, “for you to know the truth or…or for you to think that I actually…wanted it.” His voice grew more and more quiet with each word, until the last were uttered out in barely a whisper.

Keith’s spine stiffened and his body ran cold. His breath was caught in his throat as he processed what Lance had just said. “Lance, what…the fuck are you saying?” he asked cautiously.

Lance shook his head, eyes shifting from horror to discomfort in an attempt to seem normal again. “It’s okay,” he lulled, “Don’t worry about it, samurai.”

“I-it’s not okay, Lance,” Keith hissed, “Tell me what happened. Tell me who I need to fucking kill.”

Lance smiled sadly at this. “I appreciate the effort, samurai, I really do. But this isn’t a fight you can win. This is a whole ‘nother beast.”

The realization hit Keith like a gust of wind. “The boss man,” he said, and Lance flinched. “That’s who did it? I’m right, aren’t I? I’m gonna fucking kill him. I’ll cut his fucking head off—“

“Keith, tranquilo,” Lance pleaded, “just let it go.”

Keith could see the fear in his eyes, the panic, and understood. Lance couldn’t talk about it; not right now at least. Keith nodded. “What do you need?”

“Distract me,” Lance breathed, “I just need you, Keith.”

“Lance—“

But Lance didn’t let Keith finish his thought. The boy shifted forward, forcing their lips together and curling his tongue into Keith’s gaping mouth. And Keith let himself get lost in Lance. He got lost in the fluttering touches trailing up and down his body; he got lost in the soft sighs that Lance emitted each time he deepened their kiss; he got lost in his own head, flashing between a swirling, dark storm, and a hot, raging fire. Keith let Lance get lost in him.

After what felt like an eternity, Lance pulled away a fraction, leaving Keith panting heavily, eyes still closed in a daze. “I’ll see you tomorrow night, samurai,” Lance said. And when Keith opened his eyes, Lance was gone.

Keith shivered, and not, he thought, because of the chill in the air. Lance was still hiding things, that much was obvious. There was a part of the boy that didn’t trust Keith. But there was a part of the boy that was hurting as well, and Keith yearned to fit the broken pieces back together. This was the storm that was raging in his head, the uncertainty, the contradiction. He really shouldn’t come up here anymore; he shouldn’t keep meeting with Lance, letting him snake his way into his life so easily. Keith needed to be more cautious. But Lance knew as well as he: Keith was already hooked on a drug that he had no chance of kicking.

Chapter Text

“She works and lives here, how have I never met her before?” Keith groaned as Lance pulled him through the hallways of the dorms.

“Because she used to work communications and analysis.” Lance was beaming with excitement. “It’s only recently that she got moved to combat. She may have let slip how great a marksman she is and got transferred as a result. Not as good as me, of course, but she’s not half bad.”

Keith could tell by the smile on his face just how proud Lance was of his sister, even though she was older than him. Keith knew that Lance was close with his family. It was something that he’d always envied. Sure, he had Shiro, who had always been like a brother to him, but it wasn’t quite the same.

They arrived at the right door and Lance knocked loudly, practically jumping out of his own skin with excitement. When the door opened, Lance threw his arms around the woman standing behind it.

“Lance!” she beamed, squeezing him back. “I was wondering when you were going to come see me in my new space.” They released their arms from each other, and she noticed Keith for the first time. “And is this the boy that you won’t shut up about?” She smirked as Keith blushed.

“This is Keith!” Lance pulled Keith closer and snaked his own arm around the boy’s shoulders.

“Nice to meet you,” Keith said, smiling nervously. He had never been great at meeting new people.

“Nice to meet you, too. I’m Veronica.” She held out a hand and Keith shook it. He went to withdraw his hand, but she held it firm, narrowing her eyes at him menacingly. “If you hurt my baby brother, I swear I will kill you, understood?”

Keith swallowed thickly. “Duly noted,” he said, yanking his hand away.

Lance only laughed. “She’s only kidding. Kind of… Well, ready for lunch?”

Veronica smiled again and shut the door behind her. As they made their way to the commissary, Keith had one thought running through his head: Lance was definitely going to be the death of him.

 


 

The days and nights passed quickly; days full of training and secretly preparing for their unauthorized rescue mission, and nights spent on the roof with Lance. Keith couldn’t help himself; he was addicted. Every day he could feel the lingering touches on his skin, taste the bittersweet of Lance’s lips on his, remember every playful scrape along his skin of the boy’s fangs, each sending a chill down Keith’s spine. It definitely scared Keith for fangs to be so close to him, to his neck; but it absolutely terrified him how thrilling it felt. He didn’t trust Lance completely. There was still something…off about him that Keith couldn’t quite place. He was still hiding things. He was still hurting. Lance refused to further discuss what had happened with the 'boss man,' and Keith didn't push. He knew the boy wasn't ready to talk about it. Not yet. And, despite everything, Keith trusted the boy enough to know that Lance wasn’t going to hurt him.

Each day felt like an eternity as he waited to be up on the roof again, and each night felt like a fleeting moment, never enough time to do what he really wanted. His team had, naturally, noticed his improved mood and added bruising along his neck. Pidge and Hunk teased, and Shiro seemed happy for him. No one asked him about it, though, knowing full well that nothing could make Keith tell them anything until he was ready to. So his ‘loverboy,’ as his team had labeled, remained a mystery to them, and that was fine with Keith. Two weeks passed of meticulous planning before Shiro called a meeting in Pidge’s room. Keith arrived first, followed shortly after by Hunk and Shiro, who informed them that his recruits would be arriving soon as well. One by one, they showed up, senior cadets Rizavi, Kinkade, Leifsdottir, and, of course, Griffin. Keith scowled as it was revealed that Shiro’s recruits were the members of MFE team. Well, he was mostly just scowling at Griffin. Honestly, he didn’t mind the others.

Pidge clearly felt the same. “Why would you agree to help us?”

Griffin raised an eyebrow and scoffed at her. “I may not like you guys all that much, but Matt is one of our own. We’re not about to leave him to the dogs.” His team nodded in agreement.

“Plus, any chance to kill some fangs, I’m in,” Kinkade added with a smile, “Get me a shot at this so-called ‘big boss.’” Keith decided that he liked Kinkade best. He also decided that, if the opportunity were to present itself, he was going to be the one to take out this boss man. His hatred of the creature grew each night that he saw Lance, every time that he thought about what that fang had done to him…

Shiro wasn’t one to waste time, and immediately went into divulging their plan. There were a lot of uncertainties and they had to be prepared for all of them, they had to be prepared for everything to change at the drop of a hat. And they had to prepare the best they could with very little information. The northern territory was the least documented of the four, having the highest population of fangs, and most of what Pidge managed to hack into was just areal footage. But with that, they devised the best route to take through less populated areas, the safest direction to approach the mansion from, and the best positions for snipers. Once they were in the manor, however, they would be blind. As the team discussed strategy, Keith looked again at the map that they had marked up.

“Shit,” he said suddenly. The room went quiet as everyone turned to him. “How many marksmen do you guys have?” he asked the members of MFE team.

Griffin looked perplexed by the question. “Two,” he answered, eyebrow raised, “Rizavi and Leifsdottir.”

Keith sighed and pointed at three distinct spots on the map. “We’ve mapped out three snipers in order for this to work. We need one more.”

“You guys don’t have a sniper on your team?” Rizavi asked.

Keith stiffened as Shiro placed a hand protectively on his shoulder. Right, he should probably act sad.

Kinkade jabbed an elbow hard into Rizavi’s side and, suddenly realizing what she had, breathed out a quiet, “Shit, I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine.” Keith shrugged Shiro’s hand off his shoulder. “I know who we can ask.” He took off out of the room, hoping that his brusque behavior would come across as grief. As Keith walked out, he heard Rizavi quietly ask, ‘Is he alright?’ and as he shut the door, Keith heard Shiro reply, ‘I don’t know.’

Keith didn’t have time to worry about keeping up appearances right now. Acting happy and getting teased for hickeys one minute, and then mourning every time someone brought up Lance was starting to become exhausting. They could come up with their own assumptions for now; Keith couldn’t care less.

He snaked his way through the halls of the dorms, stopping at the right one. He took a deep breath, dreading the next encounter. He had all but avoided her for the past three months. Back then, it had been too hard to see her, to look into her eyes. Now, he didn’t know how he would react; he didn’t know if he could lie to her. Before he could talk himself out of it, Keith raised a hand and knocked. He silently prayed that she wouldn’t be home. Not a moment later, however, the door opened.

She looked startled when she saw who was at her door. Keith looked over her face, but ashamedly looked down after a moment. Her brown hair was still cropped short, and those blue eyes. Keith couldn’t look into those eyes.

“Keith,” she said, “It’s been a while…uh, how are you doing?” Her eyes trailed over the bruises lining Keith’s neck, disappearing into his shirt, and a bitter scoff escaped her throat. “Busy, I see,” she murmured.

Keith shifted uncomfortably and cleared his throat. “I-I’m not here to talk about…Lance. Look, I’m sorry about everything that’s happened, and I know you wanted to talk about it. I know you lost him too, but I just…can’t.” He finally looked up, braving to meet those blue eyes with his own. “I’m here to ask for your help, Veronica.”

 


 

When Keith made his way back through the door to Pidge’s room, Veronica was following close behind. All talking ceased when the door opened, and seven heads snapped up to greet them. Shiro smiled.

“Good idea, Keith. Veronica’s the best sniper the Garrison’s got.”

“Second best,” she automatically corrected him, and her face dropped. “Or, I guess I am the best now, huh.”

“Well, welcome to our little band of misfits,” Pidge smiled sadly.

“Yeah, you guys wanna tell me what the hell this is about? Keith can barely look me in the eyes and he told me absolutely nothing.” Veronica shot Keith a glare and Keith scowled at her.

The team was quick to catch Veronica up to speed, who was instantly on board with everything. She was, of course, supportive in rescuing Matt, but Keith knew that she, like her brother, also just liked to ‘fuck with the system,’ as Lance had once so eloquently put it. It was well into the night before the small group disbanded. Their plan was set and ready for execution: in the early hours of the morning, Shiro and Griffin would load up two rovers with the gear they needed and the team would set out at first light. Keith actually had a really good feeling about all of this.

As he made his way back to his room, Keith wondered if Lance was still waiting for him on the roof. It had been hours since the sun had disappeared and the moon had taken over the sky, and it wouldn’t surprise him if the boy got tired of waiting. Keith walked through his door, locking it behind him, and almost screamed when he turned around. Lance was lying on his bed.

Keith clutched his chest as the breath returned to his lungs. “What the hell are you doing here?” he hissed at Lance, “Anyone could have walked in!”

“But they didn’t,” Lance hummed, waggling his eyebrows. “And I’ve been waiting for my samurai. I got bored on the roof!” He got up and glided over to Keith, cupping his face and leaning down for a kiss.

Keith melted into Lance. He had been deprived of the boy’s touch all day. He wrapped his arms around Lance’s middle, pulling him in close, and he felt Lance smile against his lips. Their tongues swirled together, their hips dug into one another, their hands roamed underneath the other’s shirt, and Keith’s head was swimming. He was sure he was going to drown.

As much as he didn’t want to, Keith forced them apart. “Wait,” he said, breathless, “I actually need to talk to you.”

Lance whined, but nodded, plopping back down on the bed and patting the area next to him. Keith obliged and sat down beside him, leaning in so their shoulders were touching. One of Lance’s hands snaked its way to the back of Keith’s neck and began playing with his hair. The other crept up his leg, resting lightly on his inner thigh and stoking it gently. Keith shivered at the touch.

Keith shoved away the inappropriate thoughts that had wormed their way into his head. “It’s happening,” he said, “We’re going after Matt. We leave in the morning. It’ll probably be a long mission and we won’t get back until the next day, so I didn’t want you to worry.”

The hand that had been caressing Keith’s thigh froze. Keith couldn’t tell if he was seeing irritation or concern swimming in Lance’s eyes. “That’s…soon,” he said, blue eyes narrowing. His hands resumed their motions, though stiffer, more calculated. “I thought there’d be more planning. Are you sure you’re ready?” Lance didn’t look at Keith as he spoke, but out the window. “I just…I don’t want anything happening to you.” He looked at Keith then, a new hunger in his eyes. “I can’t lose you.”

Keith swallowed thickly. He couldn’t tell what was in that boy’s head anymore. But he nodded to Lance. “I mean, I’m not gonna lie, this is probably the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done. And that’s saying something.” His sarcasm was dry and neither of them laughed. “But I’ll be okay, Lance, I always am. You’re not going to lose me, sharpshooter.”

Lance nodded and licked his lips, fangs peeking out as he did. “I know, samurai. But…just in case—“ Lance pushed Keith flat on the bed, straddling the boy and pinning him down underneath him. One hand grabbed at Keith’s hair, the other pulled at his shirt. Lance attached his lips to Keith’s neck, sucking and licking more bruises on top of the fading ones.

“Lance…I can’t…do you know…how early…I have to get up…” Keith’s protests were diminished with his breathy, unconvincing words.

Lance hummed into Keith’s neck. “If you want me to stop, all you have to do is say so.” He brought his head up so their faces were inches apart, a devilish smile painted on his lips. “As for me, I think I’ve waited long enough. I’ve missed you inside me.”

Keith was gone. A small groan slipped from his lips, and he tilted his head back, exposing more flesh for Lance to attack, and Lance didn’t hesitate. He dove in hungrily, biting and sucking harshly, only to soothingly lick them after. Keith could help but let rasping breaths escape his throat, quickly turning to moans. He felt his own hand trail down to his stomach, clutching at the fabric of his shirt. Lance made short work of pulling Keith’s shirt over his head, attaching his mouth then to the boy’s chest. Keith keened at the new sensation. He wanted this moment to last forever, and yet at the same time he could feel his patience growing thin. He clutched at Lance’s shirt, clumsily pulling it off and throwing it to the floor. Lance reattached his mouth to Keith’s smooth skin, one hand once again fisting the boy’s long, black hair while the other made his way down. Lance pawed at Keith’s jeans, rubbing against the hardness that was forming there.

Another groan escaped Keith’s throat as he rutted his hips up, grinding himself harder into Lance’s hand. He felt Lance snicker against the sensitive flesh of his stomach where the boy was leaving a trail of kisses.

It seems that Lance had about as much patience as Keith as he unbuttoned the boy’s jeans, stripping them and his boxers off and dropping them onto the floor before repeating the same action for himself. Both boys took a moment just to stare, and Keith’s heart skipped a beat. There, on Lance’s bare chest, paler than the boy’s tanned skin, sat a mangled spider web of a scar; right over his heart.

“Lance,” he breathed, “what the fuck happened?”

Lance followed Keith’s gaze down to his own chest, down to the raised flesh that spread across his otherwise flawless skin. “Don’t worry about it,” was all he said, eyes glinting in a warning that Keith knew he should heed. Keith knew he’d learn the truth, eventually.

Lance smirked and reached to Keith’s nightstand, where he knew the boy kept everything they needed, before returning to his perch straddling Keith. Lance had pulled out a small bottle and popped the cap open, letting Keith watch as he put a generous amount on his fingers. Lance leaned in for a deep kiss, and Keith could pinpoint the exact moment that Lance inserted the first finger as the boy moaned wantonly into Keith’s mouth.

“Fuck, Keith,” Lance breathed, breaking their kiss, “God, I’ve missed you so much. I’ve missed you inside me.”

Keith whined and moved his hands to grab at Lance, but with the boy’s free hand, Lance trapped both of Keith’s above the boy’s head.

“Lance, let me touch you,” Keith breathed.

“Not just yet, samurai—ngh—what was it you always said? ‘Patience yields focus?’”

Keith could see it on Lance’s face; he could see the pinched pleasure of him squeezing his eyes shut and the silent cry that caught in the boy’s gaping mouth. Keith could see as Lance added another finger, opening himself up for Keith.

Keith wriggled underneath Lance’s body, fingers twitching at the inability to grab at the tanned skin. “God, Lance, please,” he begged.

“”Hmmm? Please what? C’mon, samurai—ah—I want to hear you say it,” Lance panted above him. His mouth was gaping open and Keith was transfixed on the sharp fangs that protruded from behind his lips.

Lance’s mouth opened wider in a silent cry and he threw his head back. Keith wiggled his hands out of the boy’s grasp and pushed himself up onto his elbows to attach his teeth to Lance’s exposed neck. Above him, Lance groaned, only partly due to Keith’s mouth; he had inserted a third finger, he would be ready soon for Keith to take him.

“God, Lance,” Keith murmured against his neck, leaving trails of kisses, “I wanna be inside you…”

Lance shuddered above him and Keith pulled back to see a smirk on his face. “Fuck patience, right?” he panted, and drew his fingers slowly out of his own body. As Lance reached back to the nightstand and the small bottle atop it, Keith shifted, ready to assume his usual position above Lance. But Lance stopped him with a firm hand to Keith’s chest, grabbing the bottle with the other. “Ah, ah, ah, samurai,” Lance lulled, “You’re staying right here.” He shoved Keith down on the bed so he was once again lying on his back. Lance opened the bottle and Keith watched as he coated his palm. “I’m going to ride you so hard that you won’t be able to think straight.”

Keith tried to smirk, but it was weak and accompanied by a whine. “Yeah, thinking straight has always been a bit of a problem for me—ah!” Lance had begun stroking Keith, slicking him up as he did. All coherent thoughts escaped Keith’s mind and the only noise he could manage to let loose were raw moans.

Lance shifted himself above Keith, lining himself up as he looked down on the boy beneath him, insatiable eyes trailing up and down the boy’s body. “God, you look so good, all fucked out like this for me.” Lance watched as Keith’s face contorted with pleasure, watched as a low wail escape his lips, as he slowly eased down onto him. He moved gently at first, hips lazily rising up and slipping back down; but as Keith’s hips started to squirm with voracity, Lance quickened his pace. Keith longed desperately to thrust himself upward, reaching further, harder into Lance. But Lance’s hands on his hips kept Keith firmly down as the boy moved above him. Keith was completely at Lance’s mercy.

Keith had never felt so whole. The void that Lance’s disappearance had left within him had been slowly closing up with the boy’s return. But now, Keith felt as though he were about to burst at the seams. He had almost forgotten how good Lance felt around him. As Lance hastened the rolling of his hips, grinding harder and faster onto Keith, Keith wound his arms around the boy’s neck, fingers tangling in his short brown hair and pulling just a bit too hard. Lance reciprocated by snaking a hand up to Keith’s hair and jerking it to the side with a sharp tug, followed by a gentle nip to his neck. Keith could feel the sharp fangs graze the soft skin.

“Fuck,” Keith groaned loudly, “God, La—“ but Lance slapped a hand over Keith’s mouth.

“Shhh, baby,” he cooed, not once faltering at his breakneck pace, “As much as I love to hear you scream my name, we can’t let people hear that, can we?” Keith nodded and Lance moved his hand away from his mouth and then up to join the other one that was already tangled in Keith’s messy, black mane. Lance leaned down then, capturing Keith’s mouth with his own, and Keith could help a low moan escape his lips.

Keith was close; he could feel the heat pooling in the bottom of his stomach, ready to spill out. He opened his mouth to tell Lance, but all that escaped was a strung out groan. Lance pounded into him harder, knowing exactly what Keith needed. The rough pace, the hard thrust of Lance’s hips down onto his own, the nimble fingers tugging at his hair, the soft lips on his own, the gentle tongue invading his mouth, the dangerous fangs threatening to cut; it was all too much for Keith to handle. Lance’s hips began to stutter as Keith felt his own release, spilling out inside of Lance, filling him up. Lance followed Keith’s release closely by his own, spilling out onto Keith’s stomach.

Almost all at once, Keith felt the euphoric sensation of his own relief, the warmth of Lance’s spilling out between their bodies, along with a sharp pain on his shoulder, followed by an odd, tingling sensation. He cried out in shock and turned his head to the side. His eyes widened in horror as he watched Lance detach his mouth from the hard muscles of Keith’s shoulders, two pinpricks of blood dripping from the fresh bite.

“Lance!” Keith breathed out, breath quickening in panic. But the boy just lulled his head, exhausted, into Keith’s neck as he slid himself off of Keith’s body. Keith winced at the empty sensation, but kept his eyes fixated on the red blood, stark against his pale skin. “Lance, what the fuck did you do?” he asked in barely a whisper.

“’M sorry,” Lance murmured, still riding his high, “Couldn’t help myself…did I hurt you?” He raised his head to look at Keith, and Keith shook his head. It had hurt, but just at first. “Good,” Lance cooed, shifting so he could see the bite. “Fuck, Keith, I’m so sorry.” Suddenly, Lance was sentient again, eyes widening in horror at what he had done. “I didn’t mean to, Keith, fuck—“

Keith cut him off with a gentle caress on the boy’s cheek. “Lance, shhh, you didn’t hurt me.”

“I…are you sure?” Lance asked cautiously, “You have to tell me if I did, okay?”

Keith nodded. “It hurt a bit at first, but…it felt kind of nice?” It was the truth, but God, it felt so wrong to say it. Keith furrowed his eyebrows; why had he just said that?

Lance, however, perked up at the words and stared at Keith. “You…liked it? I mean, I had heard that it’s supposed to feel kinda good but…” he paused for what felt like an eternity, “I could…I could do it again…if you wanted that…?”

Keith sucked in a startled breath. No, he didn’t want that. He hadn’t wanted Lance to bite him in the first place, despite Lance teasing him that one day Keith would beg for it. Keith knew he would die before he begged for a bite… But he also couldn’t get it out of his head. It felt as though a thick fog was filling his brain; all Keith could think of was that sweet, tingling sensation. It had felt good…

And Keith found himself nodding. Why was he nodding?

"Interesting," Lance muttered, barely audible, and Keith barely had time to contemplate the word before Lance smiled and bent his head down again, slowly opening his mouth. His fangs were shining white in the darkness, the moon streaming in through the window and hitting his face perfectly so they practically glowed in the dim light. He bit down carefully, fitting his fangs back into the holes he had already punctured through the thin flesh. Keith could swear there was satisfied gleam in his eyes as he did. Keith inhaled sharply, expecting another shot of pain. But none came. Instead, the tingling, warm sensation ran through his body, making his mind grow tired and fuzzy.

Shit, he thought, I could get used to this.

Chapter Text

Keith awoke the next morning with not just sheets tangled around his legs, but Lance as well. It took him a moment for his brain to catch up, but when he remembered the events of last night, a deep blush settled on his face. They were both still naked, but somehow Keith didn’t feel exposed or embarrassed; or perhaps, he just didn’t mind being exposed to Lance. He smiled down at the sleeping boy. He looked so calm like this. Lance was usually always so high-strung and energetic, practically bouncing off the walls. Keith was one of the only ones that got to see his calm, soft side; and that was okay with him.

As Keith placed a chaste kiss on the boy’s lips, Lance stirred awake. “Good morning, samurai,” he slurred, still half asleep, and smiled up at Keith.

“Morning, sharpshooter,” Keith hummed back.

Lance reached up and brushed a hand through Keith’s tangled hair. “You look damn good like this, you know,” he said, smiling widely, “But I gotta say, I think my new favorite look is you behind me.” He waggled his eyebrows as he spoke. Keith blushed and Lance leaned in, kissing him deeply.

Keith suddenly felt nervous. “Last night was…” He couldn’t think of the right word. Amazing? Surprising? Perfect in every literal sense of the word? All of the above? It all seemed to fall short of how he really felt. “I really liked it,” he concluded lamely.

But Lance just smiled at him, knowing how truly awful Keith was at expressing, well, anything really. “I meant what I said last night, Keith.” Lance spoke in barely a whisper, but Keith clung to every word. “I know that it was in the moment or whatever, and I had planned on telling you in some more…special way, but I meant it.” Lance paused, as if waiting for Keith to stop him. But Keith couldn’t speak right now even if he did want Lance to stop, which, for the record, he definitely didn’t. Lance bit his lip. “I-I love you.”

Keith smiled and brought a hand up to Lance’s cheek. “Lance,” he breathed, finding his voice again, “I love you too. I…I want to wake up every morning like this.” Keith could feel his face grow hot with a deep blush.

Lance beamed back at him. “I like the sound of that, samurai. Very much.”

 


  

For the first time in a long time, Keith woke up next to Lance. One arm was slung across the boy’s chest and their legs were tangled together. Rubbing sleep from his eyes, Keith looked up to see Lance smiling.

“Good morning, samurai,” he mused.

“Did…did you just lie there all night?” Keith asked, his voice thick with sleep, “You…don’t need sleep, right?”

“Hm, yeah, but I like watching you sleep.”

Keith smiled and his eyes dragged over to the window. He sat bolt upright. The sky was lightening with the coming morning; the sun was about to rise. And Keith was going to be late. He flew out of his bed and began putting on his uniform and gear. His movements were clumsy and slow, the blanketed fog of sleep still lingering in his head. “Shit, shit, shit,” he muttered.

“Whoa, where’s the fire, hotshot?” Lance asked, still lounging.

“Gonna be late,” Keith said curtly, “We’re set to leave, like, now.”

“Right,” Lance said, and Keith could easily pick up on the uneasiness of Lance’s tone. “You guys are going after Matt today…” He sat up then, watching Keith intently as he raced around the room, collecting the gear he needed. “Keith, stop,” Lance said, and Keith’s hands froze from where they had been belting his sword at his hip. He looked up at Lance. Keith had to blink a few times before his vision was clear. Fuck, this sleep-deprived state was not going to do him any favors. He had to be alert. Shaking his head a bit, hoping to clear whatever funk he was in, Keith looked at Lance again. The boy sighed deeply before pushing himself off the bed and walking to stand in front of Keith. “I need you to be careful today, samurai,” Lance said, and Keith nodded; of course he would be. “I just…come back to me in one piece, yeah?” Keith nodded again. “You’re going into a nest that…knows me…so you can’t tell anyone about me, got it? Matt might also know about me. Keith, you need to do everything you can to make sure he doesn’t say anything about me either, okay?”

Again, Keith nodded. “Okay, yeah,” he said, “Don’t worry so much, sharpshooter. I won’t slip. And I’ll be careful, I promise.”

Lance nodded, seeming satisfied, before cocking his head slightly to the side. “Pidge is coming,” he said, and Keith stiffened, “Don’t worry, samurai. See you soon?” He gave Keith a quick kiss before sliding the window open and climbing out. Not a moment after he disappeared, Keith heard a loud knock at his door.

“Just a sec,” Keith called, finishing the buckle of his sword and slipping on his gloves.

There was a rattling at the door, and then Pidge shoved her way in side. “Oh good, you’re awake!” she said all too cheerfully.

Keith narrowed his eyes at her. “Pidge, how did you unlock my door?”

She grinned at him wickedly. “A girl never reveals her secrets, Keith. Anyway, Shiro sent me to come get you ‘cause he figured you’d sleep in.”

As Keith put his shoes on, Pidge noticed the open window. She scoffed. “What, did you sleep with the window open last night? It’s fucking freezing out there.” She went to close it, noticing a very distinct footprint on the sill. “Oh my God,” she mused, mouth gaping, “Did your new boyfriend sleep here last night, and then escape out the window? Or…” she paused eyeing Keith suspiciously, “is it more accurate to say that you two didn’t get much sleep?” She laughed loudly as Keith scowled, a dark blush covering his neck and cheeks.

“We are not talking about this, Pidge. Let’s go, I’m ready.” Keith grabbed her by the arm and dragged her out the door, Pidge laughing to herself the whole way.

 


  

When Keith and Pidge finally snuck their way into the Garrisons’ garage, the cars were near ready to go. As the last of the gear was being loaded, Griffin looked up from where he and Shiro had been strategizing to smirk at the final arrivals.

“Nice of you to show up,” he said bitterly.

“I’m not even late,” Keith grumbled, still feeling half asleep, “The sun’s barely risen. And the cars aren’t even ready!” he said gesturing to where the rest of their teams were just finishing up.

“If you had gotten here when you were supposed to, then the cars would be ready to go by now,” Griffin snarked back.

“Hey now, go easy on the guy,” Pidge mused, a shit-eating grin still plastered on her face, “Keith didn’t get much sleep last night, if you catch my drift.”

Keith felt his face grow hot and he instinctively looked over at Veronica, who was not so subtly avoiding looking anywhere in their direction. “Pidge,” he hissed, “now’s not really the time or the place.”

Pidge held her hands up in defense, but her eyes held a mischievous glint. “I’m curious, sue me,” she said, “I just want to know more about this mystery boy that’s captured your attention.”

“Pidge,” Shiro warned, “that’s enough.”

“No. I’d like to hear too.”

Keith stiffened as a familiar voice rang out. His stomach twisted with a sickening guilt as his eyes met Veronica’s. Those blue eyes could have gouged holes in him with how intensely they were glaring at Keith.

“It-it’s—“ Keith’s mind was drawing a blank. It wasn’t just the lack of sleep that was inhibiting him. He just wanted to curl into a ball, he felt like he could sleep for days. By now, everyone was staring at him; most held pure intrigue in their gaze, but Veronica’s held spite and disappointment. And hers were the only eyes that mattered. “None of you know him,” he finally murmured out.

“Keith,” Pidge deadpanned, “we live on a military base. Practically everyone knows who everyone is here. At the very least, one of us is bound to know him. So who is it?”

“Hey, you never know,” Hunk chimed in, “maybe he goes to the city. Like when I go to visit Shay.”

“I…yes…that,” Keith mumbled. His brain was too muddled to come up with anything better at the moment.

“Keith,” Pidge tried again, exasperation clear on her face, “you have, not once, even been to the city since enrolling at the Garrison. And your mystery boy snuck out your window last night. You and I both know that civilians aren’t allowed on Garrison property without clearance, and definitely not at night.”

“This conversation is over,” Keith hissed, a mixture of guilt, embarrassment, anger, and confusion bubbling in his stomach. Pidge opened her mouth to protest, but Keith cut her off. “It’s over. Now, Katie.

Her eyes narrowed. “I’ll get it out of you one day, Kogane.”

Keith didn’t spare a glance back to the rest of them as he shoved himself into the nearest rover, but he could feel the daggers of Veronica’s glare like needles on the back of his neck. As persistent as Pidge was, and as seriously pissed off as Veronica was, Keith wasn’t sure how much longer he’d be able to keep up this charade.

 


 

They had to stash their rovers before entering the northern territory. Once across the line, they’d be watching their backs with every move. The whole way there, the team went over again and again what their plan of action was, along with the multitude of contingencies that they had accounted for. Keith had every step, every caveat, every countermeasure memorized. He was prepared for anything. Yet, something still felt…off.

The team made their way to the first designated sniper nest without encountering a single fang. So far, luck was on their side. Though, with the blazing sun rising higher and higher in the sky, it was no true surprise that so few, if any, monsters were lurking about. They much preferred the shadows. After confirming that the chosen building was, in fact, empty, they made their way to the top floor, where Kinkade and Rizavi set up shop. Rizavi would snipe any strays that they encountered while Kinkade would ensure their position remained secure.

Maneuvering through back alleys and behind buildings, pausing every so often when one of them spotted a rare bloodsucker out in the daylight, the rest of the team made their way to the second vantage point. There, they dropped off Griffin and Leifsdottir.

As the now small team entered the third building that would act as lookout, they didn’t just drop of the sniper and guard, but all five of the remaining members went to the top floor together. So far, everything was going rather smoothly. But Keith knew better than anyone how quickly luck could change, especially in such uncharted territory.

Shiro, Keith and Pidge would be the team to infiltrate the mansion. From Veronica and Hunk’s base, they had the best view into the mansion through the many west-facing windows. They had agreed that entering during the daytime would be suicidal, as it was likely that all the vamps would be lingering inside. It was much safer to wait until the cover of night, when the fangs went out to hunt, to enter into the fray. So, the team set up shop. They would, for the time being, monitor the manor, collecting as much information as they could so they wouldn’t be going in quite as blind.

As Veronica set up her sniper and Hunk did a perimeter sweep, the other three each pulled out binoculars and pointed them toward the large house. Through the windows, Keith could see a lot of movement, and he was definitely glad that they were waiting for night to fall. But what he saw surprised him. There weren’t just leeches living in the house, but humans as well. Keith could see the small puncture marks dotting their bodies, trailing down their necks, twirling around their arms and legs.

“What’s wrong with them?” he heard Pidge ask softly, “They’re just…letting themselves get bit…”

She was right. Keith suppressed a shudder as he watched one of the fangs sink its teeth into a girl’s neck. Her head lulled back, her eyes fluttered shut, her mouth opened in a silent cry. And Keith was reminded of just how good Lance’s bite had felt.

“She likes it,” he muttered out before he could stop himself. He saw Shiro give him a curious glance. “I mean, look,” Keith gestured vaguely in the direction of the manor, “that’s just what it looks like.”

“And that would help explain it,” Pidge declared.

Keith looked back through the windows to see a variety of pills being passed around, each human present washing them down with what was probably alcohol. They were all drugged.

“Hey,” Shiro spoke without removing his gaze, “first floor, second window.”

Keith and Pidge followed his gaze. Through the windows there, they could see a bloodsucker with long, white hair. It was lounging on a large sofa, and a human was serving it what looked to Keith like blood in a glass. It was smiling as it spoke, and though they couldn’t hear what it was saying, the look in its eyes made Keith’s stomach twist.

“We need to know what he’s saying,” Shiro muttered.

“Oh!” Pidge perked up. “Hold on…” She reached into her bag and pulled out a small device that Keith recognized as a parabolic microphone. Keith smiled; of course Pidge would think to bring one of those. She set up the machine quickly, pointing it toward the manor. There were other voices that the machine picked up, but the creature with the long white hair was the clearest.

Conversation had lulled as the creature took a sip from the red liquid sloshing in the clear crystal. As the glass was brought down, the fang made a rather unpleasant face. “Ick,” it sounded, “this will simply not do it for me today.” It spoke with a thick British accent. “Acxa, darling, would you bring me my favorite dessert?” Even its voice had Keith’s stomach twisting in knots. Who was this fang?

Yes, boss.” The voice they heard wasn’t spoken by anyone they could see through the large windows, but it was clear whom it was addressing. This white haired British fuck was the boss man. Keith could feel Pidge tense up beside him, and his own heart started to quicken at the revelation.

“Hold,” he said, placing a hand on her shoulder, even though Keith wanted nothing more than to charge in there right now and lob the monster’s head clean off its shoulders. He didn’t know exactly what this parasite had done to Lance, but Keith knew he was going to pay for it.

“I know,” Pidge hissed back, “I’ve just never wanted to slit a fang’s throat so much before.”

The trio watched with bated breath as the leech lounged, waiting for its meal to arrive. It took to sipping what looked like champagne and chatted idly with the other bloodsuckers around him, though nothing of import was said. After a few moments, another vamp entered their field of vision, with a human wound in its arm. The vamp stood between the window and the human, however, and Keith couldn’t see anything distinguishing.

Here’s your dessert, Lotor,” the fang said.

The white haired creature, the boss man, Lotor, pushed itself up with a putrid grin, pulling the human down to sit between its legs. “Thank you, Acxa.” The other fang, Acxa, nodded and moved out of the way. All at once, the air was sucked out of the room. Sitting between the bloodsucker’s legs, leaning against its lean frame, letting it pet his hair, was Matt. Keith felt his blood run cold, he could hear Pidge’s rapid breathing beside him. He was sure that she was making every effort not to cry. The three watched with bated breath as Lotor stroked Matt’s cheek, then his neck.

Such a sweet darling,” the creature mused at Matt, “Come now, you don’t want to leave me hungry, do you?” Matt shook his head dully as he leaned further against the beast’s chest, dropping his head to one side. Pidge let out a strangled gasp as the creature sank its fangs into the soft flesh of her brother’s neck.

“What?” Hunk asked, “What’s happening?” He was hovering over the trio as they peered through the wide windows. The microphone projected the sound into the abandoned room, but offered no visual. Veronica had long since taken to looking through her scope. But Hunk was left blind; blind to the horror that Pidge must be feeling with the visual of those sharp fangs piercing through her brother’s neck.

Keith absentmindedly reached up to his shoulder, where his own bite marks were hidden beneath his uniform. Shiro noticed his moment and raised an eyebrow at him. “You okay?” There was something else mixed with the concern, but Keith couldn’t place it. In fact, Keith’s brain didn’t quite register that his leader had spoken at all, and he remained unmoved, gently pressing on his shoulder. In the background, he could vaguely hear Veronica and Hunk muttering to each other.

“Hey,” Shiro tried again, placing a hand over Keith’s own. “Keith, are you okay?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah. Sorry. I’m fine,” Keith lied, “Just tired.”

Shiro nodded, obviously unconvinced, but went back to looking through his own binoculars.

They watched for a few more moments as Lotor continued drinking from Matt. Matt’s body looked limp against the body behind him, and his eyes began fluttering shut. Keith could swear that there was a faint ghost of a smile on his lips.

“Why is he just sitting there?!” Pidge hissed out, “Why is he letting this happen?” She made a move to get up, but Keith pulled her down. Tears were streaming freely down her face now as she glared down at him.

“Pidge, calm down,” he said gently, “Look.” Keith shoved her binoculars back into her hands. “Look at his eyes. He’s been drugged too, just like all the others in there. I don’t know what, but something’s wrong with them.”

Pidge looked once more through the binoculars to find that Keith was right. Matt was barely moving. His pupils were blown out and unfocused. There was definitely a smile tugging at his lips now. As his head began to lull forward, the creature detached itself from his neck. It licked its lips at it pet Matt, stroking the boy’s brown hair.

Good boy,” it lulled, “But we can’t have you drying up on me. Go on back to your room darling and rest up. I’m sure I’ll be wanting more of you soon.”

Keith watched as Matt nodded sleepily, allowing himself to be led out of the room by the same leech called Acxa. He followed their movements best he could, losing sight of the pair whenever the windows were sparse. The creature led Matt through the next room and between a set of doors that once again blocked their vision. When Acxa reappeared again, back into the room adjacent to Lotor, it was alone. Somewhere in that time, the vamp had delivered Matt.

“Okay,” Shiro said, voice calm, “we need a plan. We know Matt’s general vicinity. We can assume that he’s under some sort of influence and won’t be much help in a fight, if it even comes to that. Our best bet is to try to get in, grab Matt, and get out as quickly and as quietly as we can. With any luck, this could all go undetected.”

“What’s our point of entry?” Keith asked.

“There’s a door on the side of the mansion, here—“ Pidge pointed— “right in the same area that the fang chick took Matt.”

Keith followed the line of her finger to a large door on the side of the grey building. It let onto a porch of some sort that was open to the back yard. It would be a rather convenient entry point, except…

“We have no idea where that door leads,” Shiro said, “We could walk straight into a room of vamps for all we know, and we can’t risk that. A place like this has got to have some sort of cellar. I think that’s our best bet.”

Keith looked to Pidge. Her face still shone with tears, but with a new, angry determination set in her eyes. She clutched her arrowhead-like knife tightly and nodded to Shiro. Keith, in turn, did as well. As soon as it was dark, they were ready to go in.

Shiro spoke into his comms. “Alright team, we have eyes on the target. Does anyone have visual on a cellar or basement door of some kind? We still need a point of entry.”

Rizavi’s voice could be heard through their earpieces. “Northern wall. Looks like a cellar to me.”

“Copy,” Shiro replied.

Now, all there was to do was watch and wait.

 


 

The sun had long since set, and the moon was high in the sky, casting a low, luminous glow around the desecrated city. The five of them had taken turns looking through the binoculars, noting anything that seemed important, and keeping an eye out for Matt’s location in case he moved. They were also noting the movements of the fangs, and it wasn’t until the manor was near deserted that they decided to make their move. The people inside had long since gone to bed, which meant the vamps were bored enough to leave. They would probably go hunting, or possibly just destroy more of the once beautiful city. But once they were satisfied with the number of vamps they saw leaving, they were ready for action.

Keith, Shiro and Pidge made their way down onto the street, keeping low and constantly checking their surroundings. Keith realized that they didn’t have a single long distance weapon on their small infiltration team. He, Shiro and Pidge all had close range weapons. If they spotted a rogue fang from afar, they would have to rely on their snipers to neutralize the threat before it had a chance to warn the others. Keith hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

They made their way to the outer wall of the manor, peeking over to make sure no parasites were patrolling the border. The three hopped the fence, one at a time, landing behind bushes to keep themselves hidden from any fangs that might be lingering in the house. When they were sure that the coast was clear, they shifted their way to the cellar doors on the north side of the mansion, right were Rizavi had spotted them. Pidge nicked the lock with a swipe of her blade, and the three entered into pitch black.

Switching to infrared on their helmets, Keith could see that they had landed in a wine cellar; and the boss, Lotor, had quite an extensive collection. The trio wove through the racks of wine, finding a staircase against the back wall.

“I think it’s safe to assume that this will spit us out somewhere near the kitchens,” Shiro whispered, fully aware of the bloodsucker’s enhanced hearing, “But we need to figure out where that puts us in relation to Matt.”

“I definitely saw someone bring that white-haired fleabag a drink from the opposite end of the room where Matt came from,” Pidge whispered back, and Shiro swore under his breath.

“What does that mean?” Keith furrowed his brows, clearly missing something.

“It means that there better be some way to go around that room, ‘cause that fuck is still in there and we sure as hell can’t through it.” Pidge breathed out.

“Let’s just get up there and see where we are—“ Shiro moved toward the stairs, the other two following close behind— “It’s going to be a guessing game either way, so we just have to stay on guard. Keith, take up the rear.”

Keith blinked, taking a moment to register what Shiro was saying, and nodded. Shit, he would have to remember to get more sleep before missions. He took a few deep breaths, hoping to oxygenate his tired brain. Following after Shiro and Pidge, Keith made sure that his sword was steady in his hand. Even feeling this foggy, Keith knew he could slice down a bloodsucker with ease, which calmed his mind, at least a bit.

At the top of the stairs, they paused, allowing Shiro to crack the door open, just barely, and peer out before shutting it once more. Turning back to the team, he spoke in barely a whispering breath, and Keith had to strain forward just to hear him. When had this ringing in his ears begun? “This leads out into a hallway. Kitchen’s on the right, more hallway to the left. Looks like the room where we saw Matt with Lotor is straight ahead. I saw another girl bringing a tray of drinks in there.”

“So we go down the hall, right? That’s gotta be the direction Matt’s in.” Pidge’s voice was small but determined.

Shiro nodded. “This is going to be dangerous. They won’t be on alert, listening for intruders, but we have to remain undetected for as long as possible.”

Keith and Pidge nodded in response, waiting as Shiro peeked through the door again and giving the all clear before following him out into the hallway. Keith kept his back to the group, walking backward in perfect time with their steps as he watched out for any movement from behind. Keith knew that on the other side of this wall, that bloodsucking, parasitic, fucking leech was sipping its champagne, and probably a few humans too, completely unaware that it had unwelcomed guests in its nest. It would be so easy just to burst through the doors and hack its head off…

Shiro motioned for the group to stop and Keith was wrenched away from his vengeful thoughts. Their leader held up his prosthetic arm, two fingers in the air. There were two vamps right around the corner. One sound, and the creatures could be made aware of their presence. One wrong move, and they would have to be fighting their way out. One mishap, and they may not all make it home. Keith could practically hear his own heart it was beating so aggressively, and he took solace in the fact that with so many humans living here too, the vamps were probably used to hearing regular heartbeats and breathing throughout the manor.

You heard the rumor right?” The team heard one vamp say, its voice high pitched and overly excited.

No, Ez, but I bet you’re going to tell me.” The other vamp had a deep, gruff voice.

Rumor has it that a vpeřit got into the Garrison base!”

Keith’s breath hitched in his throat. Vpeřit? He recognized the word from his history class at the Garrison. God that was so boring; what did it mean again? Keith had to actively avoid choking on his own spit when the realization sunk in. Vpeřit: the etymological stem of the word vampire. These fangs knew that a vamp had infiltrated the Garrison.

No way,” the second one said, pulling Keith out of his own spiraling thoughts. “How?”

That’s really all I heard. Who knows if it’s even true. But man, Lotor would be pissed if it was!”

Keith saw Pidge look back and forth between him and Shiro. He offered her a wide-eyed shrug, hoping his face wasn’t conveying all that he actually felt. Shiro, in turn, furrowed his brows and put a finger to his lips, urging them to keep quiet.

Or maybe,” the first fang lulled lightly, “we could use it to our advantage. You know, Zeth, a man on the inside!”

I say we kill the traitor as soon as we catch him. It’s not like we need more information. We already have everything we need.

Keith heard the first vamp huff in disappointment as he knotted his eyebrows together. They had everything they needed for what exactly? And would they actually kill Lance if he were found out? Keith wouldn’t let that happen.

A sharp voice called the two vamps into the adjacent room. As the two leeches shuffled away, the three released a collective breath that none had realized they’d been holding. Eyes wary, Shiro motioned the group forward. Keith shook all thoughts of Lance out of his head. That boy could take care of himself, Keith knew, but he couldn’t help but feel pained that their meeting was putting them both in such danger.

They curved with the hallway; passing the tall windows they had last seen Matt through. As they continued, Shiro shifted his pace, slowing down a notch. Keith noticed his head moving once every second, as though he was counting as he walked. Keith smiled; that sly bastard. He had counted how long it had taken Acxa to walk Matt to his room and back again. He matched her pace and would count halfway and, with any luck, they’d be right at Matt’s door.

Shiro stopped, and they all paused for a moment to look at the door on their left. Shiro motioned for Pidge to check the door as he and Keith stood watch. As Keith positioned himself, he heard Pidge take a deep breath before cracking the door open.

“Piiiidge!” Matt’s voice was slurred and thick, but far too loud for Keith’s comfort.

Shiro seemed to agree, and in an instant he had grabbed Keith by the collar and pulled him into the room, simultaneously pushing Pidge in and closing the door behind them.

“Matt…” Pidge’s eyes were swimming with tears as she ran to embrace her brother.

“Pidge,” Matt slurred as he slung his arms heavily around her small frame, “You came to visit me?”

“No, Matt, what?” Pidge shrugged free of Matt and held him at arm’s length, pinning his arms against his sides. “We’re here to rescue you. We’re going to take you home.”

“What?” Matt looked genuinely confused as his eyes trailed over to the other two intruders in his room. His eyes widened when they saw Keith. “Oh my God, Keeeeith,” Matt breathed heavily, “You’re here…”

“Yeah, buddy, I’m here,” Keith said. Keith had to reach out as Matt stumbled over to him and almost fell in the process. Just how many drugs was he on?

“Keith, I can’t believe you’re here!”

“Yeah, we’re here to take you home, Matt.”

“No, no, no—“ Matt waved his hands dismissively— “It’s so great here, I don’t wanna leave. And you won’t either—“ he grinned, shaking Keith slightly before loudly whispering— “You’ll never guess who’s here!”

Keith felt a panic rise in his throat. He couldn’t let him say anything about Lance. Lance had been very specific: do anything he could to keep Matt from revealing Lance.

“Matt this isn’t funny,” Pidge chimed it, her voice growing sharp with panic, “We need to leave. Now.”

“No,” Matt whined heavily, “I need to talk to Keith about—“

“Matt, I’m really sorry about this.” Keith brought his fist up and made straight contact with Matt’s nose. The boy fell to the ground, out cold.

“What the fuck, Keith!” Pidge squealed.

“Sorry, but we don’t have time to deal with his drugged ass right now. We need to get out of here. Preferably before Lotor decides he wants another snack.”

“As harsh as his methods are, I agree with Keith.” Shiro moved toward Matt’s limp form. “I’ll carry him out. Pidge you lead the way, and Keith, you—“

“Bring up the rear. Got it boss,” Keith grumbled. The fog that blanketed his head hadn’t faded in the slightest, and irritation rose in Keith.

Shiro nodded and spoke next into the comms: “Alright team, we’ve got Matt and we’re coming out, but we’re going to be moving a lot slower than we hoped, so look alive.” There was a chorus of acknowledgement from their team of snipers. “Good, then we’re moving out.”

Pidge thankfully didn’t argue any more. She moved into position, opening the door only after Shiro, with Matt slung over his shoulder, and Keith were in position behind her, and she led them out only after peeking her head out to make sure the coast was still clear. She made her way left, no doubt to the exit on the other end of the manor, the one that led out onto the veranda. The trio plus one made it all the way to the end of the hallway and Pidge was just poking her head out the door when Keith spotted the vamp.

“Go!” he hissed at Pidge and Shiro, “Get Matt out of here, I’ll hold it off!” He shoved Shiro, not strong enough to really move his leader physically, but with enough force that Shiro understood, hastily following Pidge outside.

Keith heard the fang shout angrily, and turned to see it charging at him. Keith held his sword up, ready to fight. The thing had a least a hundred pounds on him, both towering over him in height and doubling his girth in muscles.

“Who the hell are you?” it roared, and Keith recognized its voice as being one of the vamps in the hallway earlier.

They collided with a sickening crash, and Keith was knocked hard to the floor, breath catching painfully. He managed to roll aside before the creature could grab him, though. What he lacked in strength and size, Keith more than made up for in speed. Re-gaining his balance, Keith lunged at the bloodsucker with a few experimental jabs, getting a feel for its fighting style. Keith smirked when he nicked its arm, smile quickly disappearing when it was clear that the creature was unfazed.

Its lips curled into a hideous grin before it brought its leg around, kicking Keith hard at his side and sending him bursting through the door and out into the yard. With a quick glance around, Keith could see that Shiro and Pidge had made their escape with Matt. Good. Keith tried to stand, but the wind had been knocked so far out of him that any attempt to move was in vain. The creature followed him outside, eyes practically glowing in the moonlight, and Keith tried again to stand, only to be kicked down again. He felt himself being pulled up, a thick hand wrapped around his neck and his feet left solid ground. Keith could feel the air being crushed from his lungs as the bloodsucker held him up by the throat. He kicked and clawed at it, but it just smirked, amused at his feeble attempts. Keith’s head had been fuzzy all morning; now, it was swarming.

Keith could clearly see, however, another vampire saunter its way outside to join them. He clearly saw the long, white hair, billowing causally in the breeze. He clearly saw the amused snarl on its lips, and he clearly heard the laugh escape its throat.

“And what have you caught here, Zethrid?” Its posh, British accent was thick with enjoyment.

“A little snack, by the looks of it,” the creature that held Keith replied with ease, “Him and his friends were jail-breaking your favorite.”

“That is most…displeasing. But, perhaps I’ve found another.” Lotor’s eyes were haunting as they stared into Keith’s. Keith attempted a snarky reply, but all he could manage was a strangled hiss. “Yes, this is much more interesting. You are a soldier, are you not?” it asked as though it were a question, knowing Keith couldn’t reply. Instead, the creature stepped forward, closer to Keith, inches away from his face, and inhaled deeply; it was smelling him. “Oh, yes,” it lulled, “definitely a soldier, but that is fascinating.” Lotor met Keith’s eyes again, this time with playful amusement. “It seems Ezor’s rumors are true. The Garrison has indeed been infiltrated by one of our own.” It smiled wickedly as Keith began struggling more.

Suddenly, the creature’s head snapped up, turning its gaze to the tall building the Keith knew hid Veronica and Hunk. “Zethrid, move!” the creature barked, darting back towards the manor with such speed that Keith barely registered it.

But the bloodsucker holding him didn’t react quite as fast, moving just enough so the bullet pierced its shoulder rather than its heart. But the wound was enough for it to release its hold on Keith. Falling to his knees, Keith staggered upright, snatching his sword from the ground and got the hell out of there.

“Nice shot, Veronica.” Keith sounded as though he had swallowed a handful of gravel. “Get the hell out, they know you’re there now.”

“Already on the move,” came Hunk’s reply, and Keith breathed a sigh of relief.

“Shiro, Pidge, are you safe?” Keith asked, again into his comms.

“We’re en route…to the rendezvous. Meet us…there.” Shiro’s voice came in between his panting, no doubt strained from having to carry a fully-grown man on his back. Keith copied his leader and wove his way through back alleys and side streets until converging on their location. Surprisingly, he didn’t meet any trouble along the way.

When Keith arrived at the stashed vehicles, Shiro was just loading Matt into the bed of theirs. Griffin, Leifsdottir, Rizavi and Kinkade were already there, and Hunk and Veronica followed close behind Keith. Griffin, noticing Matt’s unconscious form and the caked blood from his nose, jokingly asked if one of them had punched him in the face.

“Yes,” Keith replied sharply, “I did.”

“What? Why?”

“He…” Keith paused, not sure if Pidge would be comfortable sharing what had happened with Matt. He looked to her, one eyebrow raised.

“He didn’t exactly want to come willingly,” Pidge finished his sentence, not making eye contact with anyone.

“What?” Griffin snorted, “Like he wanted to stay? So now we’re rescuing a fang banger?”

Pidge snarled and began to lunge at Griffin before Shiro caught her under the arms.

“We don’t know what happened,” he said firmly to Griffin, “Let’s just get him back to the Garrison, back to the med bay, and we’ll figure it out.”

Griffin and Pidge continued to glare at each other as the teams loaded themselves into their cars.

It wasn’t until they were all shoved back into the rovers, Matt still passed out in the back, that Keith allowed himself to breathe, though he winced with each breath that he took. With all the adrenaline, Keith hadn’t realized just how tired he was. The fuzziness in his head kept spreading, and Keith had a hard time forcing himself to focus on any one thing. Keith blamed the loss of oxygen from practically being strangled in addition to his lack of sleep. There was also a deep bruise forming in the shape of fingers around his neck. That bitch would definitely pay. And then there was that mention of the vamp that infiltrated the Garrison. Keith was deeply anxious about that. To make matters worse, Veronica hadn’t stopped glaring at him from the moment the team reconvened. It wasn’t as angry glare, or even a worried one. It was worse; it was a suspicious glare, almost like she knew what was eating away at Keith’s conscious. He didn’t have time to worry about Veronica, though, Keith was far too preoccupied with a single question pounding in his disoriented head: how had Lotor, just from smelling Keith, known that there was a vamp at the Garrison?

Chapter Text

Keith twisted through the maze of hallways, following Dr. Holt as he led their team around the labs. He had been talking for a while, something about blood samples and different ways to test, blah, blah, blah. Keith had stopped listening after a while.

Lance’s hand slid into his and Keith smiled as he laced their fingers together. It was comfortable, normal, and Keith felt a wave of calm wash over him. They hadn’t been dating for very long, but they had known each other for what felt like forever. True, they had started out as rivals, but as their team was formed and they were forced to work as a unit, both boys began to see just how well they fit together. Keith had found Lance absolutely infuriating at first; well, he still did at times. But now, he found it enduring.

Keith’s attention is drawn back to Dr. Holt as the man led them into the next room. The room is small, and barely fit them all in, not to mention Matt, Pidge’s brother, who was already there. He greeted them silently, attention immediately pulled back to the opposite wall, where Keith could see a large window. Through the window, they could see into a much bigger room. There were scientists surrounding a hospital bed, and when they stepped aside and shifted their positions, Keith could see a vamp strapped to the table.

“This is one of the many rooms where we hold experiments,” Dr. Holt describes, “Truthfully, it’s a bit embarrassing how little we know about vampirism, but I like to think that each day brings us a bit closer to understanding more about them and their kind.”

Keith’s eyes never left the vamp in the next room. It seemed to have been sedated, its attempts to break free of the bonds were feeble at best. Keith watched as one scientist leaned over the creature, a syringe of what looked like liquid silver in his hand.

“First injection,” the scientist said, inserting the needle into the vamp’s arm.

Beside him, Keith could hear Matt furiously scribbling down notes on the clipboard he had clutched in his hand.

A scream broke through the silence. The vamp was writhing in pain on the table—arms and legs strapped down, prohibiting any real movement. Keith flinched as the beast cried out once more, mouth gaping open and fangs flashing menacingly. But he also felt a sick satisfaction, too, that the creature was in so much pain.

“Come on team, let's leave them to their work,” Dr. Holt began ushering them out of the room before turning back, “Matt, make sure you take note on everything that happens, son.”

“I know how to do my job, dad,” Matt snarked, shooting a wink in the group’s direction before turning his attention back to the other room.

As the door was shut behind them, obscuring the room once more, Keith could see Pidge practically vibrating with excitement beside him.

“What have you learned so far, dad?” she asked.

“Well, I’m afraid not much, and most is rather boring so far. I’d say the most interesting, and yet the most mysterious to us, is their bite.”

“What do you mean?” Keith deadpanned, “We know why they bite: to drain you or turn you.”

“That is what we’ve hypothesized so far, yes,” Dr. Holt responded, “But the actual properties of their…let’s call it venom, still remain a mystery to us. It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before.”

“Ooh man,” Hunk chattered nervously beside them, “Isn’t that, like, super creepy? Not knowing what you’re even working with? Or what it does? Or what it could do? I mean, like, what if just touching it infects you? And what if you guys touch it? Or what it one of us does? Or—“

“Hunk!” Lance said, “Calm down buddy. You’ve got nothing to worry about when you’ve got us to cover your back.”

“Lance is right,” Shiro said, arms crossed and a smile on his face, “We’re a team.”

“Besides,” Pidge said, adjusting her glasses like she did whenever she was going to start talking ‘science,’ “Scientifically speaking—“ yup, Keith called it— “any virus would have to enter your system in some way or another, whether that be airborne or through the blood stream. So as long as the scientists conduct the proper, basic safety procedures, we’ll all be safe.”

“Yes, thank you, Pidge.” Hunk nodded. “That does make me feel better.”

Keith heard Lance snicker beside him and he turned to see the boy grinning widely.

“What?” Keith asked.

“Nothing,” Lance shrugged, “Just what Shiro said. We’re a damn good team.”

Keith smiled back, squeezing Lance’s hand. Had anyone said that back when their team had first formed, Keith would have laughed in their face. But now? Now, he couldn’t ask for a better team, better friends, than the ones surrounding him. “Yeah. We definitely are.”

 


  

When the teams re-entered Garrison property, Iverson was waiting for them. He stood in silence, waiting for them to park their rovers and exit the vehicles. Leaving Matt unconscious in the back, they all fell into line before their superior.

“Sir,” Shiro started, his voice calm and booming in the echo of the garage, “I’d like the record to show that this was an unauthorized mission and that I take full responsibility for—“

“What?” Griffin snapped, turning to Shiro. This had been the plan, Keith knew, but he still snarled at Griffin’s outburst. Shiro would be the one to take the blame and, hopefully, no one else would be punished. “You said that this mission was on the down low, you didn’t say we’d be going rogue!” Griffin’s words cut like knives through the silence. Everyone else made an effort to look as shocked as he sounded.

“It’s true, sir, that I led both my team and the MFE team, as well as private McClain, to believe that this mission had been authorized,” Shiro continued, eyes never leaving Iverson, “I’m fully prepared to give myself up for disciplinary action. I only request first that we get Matthew Holt to the med bay as quickly as possible.”

Iverson was visibly stunned by this. He had yet to notice the unconscious boy in the back of the rover, but now moved through the line of soldiers to get a better look. Keith could just barely glimpse over the edge of the truck’s bed to see that Matt’s body was clearly riddled with bite marks; dotting his neck, running down his arms, and Keith was sure that if they inspected further that the boy would have even more.

“I’ll be damned,” Iverson grumbled, mostly to himself, before turning back to the soldiers. “Very well,” he addressed Shiro, “Get this boy to the labs. I’m sure his father will want to treat him personally. And then report immediately to my office. As for the rest of you,” Iverson let his one good eye roam down the line of his subordinates, “get back to your dorms now. I’ll decide what to do with you later.”

“Permission to go with my brother, sir.” Pidge’s voice was fierce, though Keith could imagine that she was on the brink of a breakdown.

“Granted,” Iverson barked, “Dismissed!”

There was a chorus of ‘yes sir’s as they all scrambled into action. Shiro lifted Matt gently out of the bed of the truck and began carrying him in the direction of the labs, Pidge following closely behind. Everyone else filed out in the opposite direction, toward the dorms. As they all chatted nervously about Shiro’s debrief with Iverson, Keith was yanked back with a sharp tug at his collar and shoved sideways into an adjoining hallway. He went to snap at whoever had grabbed him, but when came face to face with a very angry Veronica, he froze.

“What the fuck happened back there, Keith?” she hissed in his face.

“What? Back wh…what are you talking about?” Keith’s brain couldn’t take the convoluted bullshit that she was dancing around. He was tired, his head was aching, it felt like he hadn’t slept in days. He just needed this fog to be gone.

“Let’s just assume that I heard everything that you heard thanks to Pidge leaving behind the microphone. I heard what that creep said before I shot the other vamp. He said there was a vampire here. And he knew just by looking at you, Keith. And what the fuck was Matt so eager to tell you, huh?”

“How should I know?” Keith growled at her. It was partly true; he didn’t know how Lotor had realized Lance out, even though his conclusion was valid. “And Matt was completely crazy back there. God only knows what he was talking about.”

“Keith,” Veronica’s voice held a hint of desperation underneath the anger, “you’re not being honest with me, and I can tell. Even Shiro can tell that something’s wrong. You need to talk to me.”

“Or what?” Keith snapped, surprising himself. He felt the hostility growing like a weed for no real reason.

Veronica, too, was taken aback by Keith’s sudden animosity and narrowed her eyes. “Or I’ll report you.”

“You wouldn’t.” Keith had meant for it to come out threateningly, but his voice wavered just so that he sounded more scared than anything.

“You’re not giving me a choice, Keith. I don’t want to assume the worst, but I’ve heard enough to guess what’s happening with you, and I don’t want to be right. So just talk to me.”

Keith knotted his eyebrows together, fury boiling inside him. She couldn’t have realized. She was bluffing, or she was wrong. But Keith also couldn’t risk any unwanted attention to him, not right now, not with Lance already in danger from Lotor. “Did Hunk hear anything?” he asked instead. He couldn’t have two suspicious people.

“No.”

Keith sighed. He could barely form a cohesive thought at this point. His skin was crawling and he wanted nothing more than to hide away from those blue eyes that bore into him. It felt like someone had stuffed his brain full of cotton. He couldn’t tell her about Lance, he couldn’t tell anyone…

“Y-you don’t want to know,” Keith said quietly, unable to meet her gaze.

“I need to know,” she snarled.

Keith bit at his bottom lip until he tasted blood. This wall all too much. He could feel the walls closing in around him as a deep ache spread through his body. He couldn’t deal with this, not yet. “Just meet me in my room after lights out, okay?” Keith kept his head down as he shoved his way past Veronica. As he made his way back to the dorms, Keith felt the anxiety crawling on his skin, unsure whether or not he was going to make a terrible mistake.

 


  

It was hours before he heard any news. He was confined to his dorm, as was the rest of their band of misfits, and Keith couldn’t take it. He felt like he was going to be sick. He felt like he was sick. His body ached all over, and he had a thin sheen of sweat coating his clammy skin. The shaking had just begun when Keith heard a knock at his door. Opening it, he stepped aside as Shiro, Pidge, and Hunk all entered. Taking a seat on his bed next to Pidge, while Hunk occupied the desk chair, they all turned to Shiro.

“So…” Keith asked warily, “What’s the update? How much trouble are you in?”

Shiro eyed Keith suspiciously. “Not too much,” he said, eyes trailing up and down Keith’s pallid frame. Keith tried not to squirm under the intense gaze. “Some of the brass wanted to strip me a few ranks. Sanda was calling for my head. But in the end, we got Matt back, no one was hurt, and we picked up some pretty valuable intel, so all I really got was a slap on the wrist.”

“He’s downplaying it quite a bit,” Pidge said, rolling her eyes, oblivious to the silent battle between Shiro and Keith, “But yeah, he’s not in too much trouble. And they believed him that we were all in the dark about the mission being rogue, so we’re in the clear!” She nudged Keith and shot him a playful wink. Keith tried to reciprocate with a smile.

“That’s good to hear,” Keith said, looking pointedly at Pidge rather than his leader, “How’s Matt doing?” Keith had to know as soon as the boy regained consciousness. He couldn’t risk him blabbing anything.

Pidge’s face fell a bit. “He’s stable, I guess. Dad’s keeping him under while they do a few blood transfusions and patch up his wounds. They won’t wake him back up until the morning, so I guess we’ll see then. Would...” she paused, dropping her eyes to the floor, “would you guys be willing to be down there with me? When he wakes up, I mean. It would just…make me feel a lot better I guess, to have you there with me.”

“Of course we will, Pidge!” Hunk’s smile never failed to make the rest of them grin, and both Shiro and Keith placed a hand on each of Pidge’s shoulders, letting her feel their support as well.

“Definitely,” Keith said. He couldn’t sound too enthusiastic about the request. Though, it was the perfect excuse to monitor Matt. He had to do whatever necessary to make sure he didn’t say anything about Lance…

“We’ll always be here for you,” Shiro said with a smile. He shifted rather uncomfortably then, and Keith felt his eyes land on him. “Keith…I know you don’t want to, but we need to talk about…whatever it is that’s going on with you.”

Keith furrowed his eyebrows, looking around the room to see that all eyes were trained on him. “What, is this another lame attempt at an intervention?” He had tried to sound lighthearted, but it came across rather harsh.

Shiro shook his head and sighed. “Keith, you’ve just been…off. And I can’t figure out why. I don’t know how to help you, and I need you to talk to me, to talk to us.” There was desperation leaking through his voice. Keith saw Pidge nod out of the corner of his eye. Hunk’s face was full of concern. Fury boiled inside Keith.

“Nothing’s wrong with me!” he shouted, voice cracking a bit. He knew he didn’t sound genuine, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. He felt as though he were about to burst with irritation. “Guys, I’m fucking exhausted. I don’t really feel like pouring my heart out right now. But, no, I’m not okay, and you all fucking know why! So stop asking me. Just…stop.” Keith had always been a bit hotheaded, but this was different; he felt as though he could snap at any moment.

“Keith…” Shiro started, but paused, searching for the right words. None came. “I’m sorry.”

There was silence in the room. Keith could hear the steady rhythm of each of their breaths. He could feel the pinpricks of sweat on his skin. Everything felt itchy, twitchy; Keith felt as though he couldn’t sit still. He could feel the crawling sensation creeping up his spine. And it was Pidge who finally broke through the stillness.

“That’s bullshit.”

“What?” Keith snapped, turning his head to glare at her.

“This is about more than just Lance, and you know it. There’s something going on with you, so just fucking tell us.” Her eyes were fierce; a look Keith knew meant that she wasn’t backing down easily. When Keith made no reply save for a scowl, she continued. “You’ve been off for days, Keith. You’ve almost been killed in the field twice, you’re hiding things from us, and not just about a secret boyfriend. And you fucked up today, Keith. You could barely keep your focus. And now, you kinda look like you’re dying, no offense. I know what grief looks like, Keith; I know what grief looks like for you. This is something else.”

With a scowl painted on his lips, Keith turned to look at Shiro and Hunk. They both looked equally as shocked at Pidge’s outburst, but neither offered support for Keith against it. So Keith groaned dramatically. “Just fuck off,” he snapped at no one in particular. Yeah, he could definitely feel himself snapping. He would break at any moment.

“We are teammates!” Pidge said, punching Keith hard in the arm.

“Ow!” Keith yelled, glaring at her once more.

“We are teammates,” she repeated, softer this time, “and we need to be able to trust each other. We need to be able to trust you, Keith, and we can’t when we know you’re hiding something. But just as important, you need to know that you can trust us with whatever it is that’s going on with you. We’re on your team, both literally and figuratively.”

Keith’s elbows were resting on his knees, and he brought his head down to fist his hands in his hair, tugging with frustration. He could tell them everything; he almost wanted to tell them everything, but what would it cost? He couldn’t risk the repercussions. He didn’t, Keith realized, trust his team to keep this secret. “I…can’t,” he finally said, eyes fixed on the floor beneath his feet, “I know that’s not what you want to hear, but I can’t. I’m sorry. I just can’t right now.”

He heard Shiro sigh heavily. “Come on, guys,” he said softly, and Keith felt Pidge get up from the bed. Keith still didn’t look up as he heard his team leaving. But he did hear Shiro turn back one more time before shutting the door behind them: “Just let us know when you are ready to talk.”

 


 

 Keith skipped dinner, cowardice deterring him from facing his team, his friends. Deep down, he knew they wouldn’t understand the truth. He paced back and forth in his room, growing more fidgety and twitchy with every passing minute. How could he tell them the truth? Wouldn’t they just try to kill Lance? And what about what Lotor had said? How did the vamp know about Lance? Did the vamp even know that it was Lance? And what did this mean for them? Would Lance have to stop coming to see him? Would that really be such a bad thing…? But those eyes; Keith would miss those eyes. And that mouth…God, now Keith was thinking about his mouth, his tongue, those fangs. Why couldn’t he stop thinking about his fangs…?

A knock at the door snapped Keith out of his thoughts. He hadn’t realized that he’d been absentmindedly kneading at his shoulder where the bite was. Keith shook his head; what was happening to him?

He opened the door to see Veronica. Keith blinked. With all that had happened, and all the questions swirling around in the fog of his head, he had forgotten that he’d asked her to come. She pushed her way inside and Keith closed the door behind her. Why had he thought it was a good idea to have her come here? Keith had no idea what he was going to say to her.

She crossed her arms, waiting for Keith to speak. When he didn’t, she huffed out a quick, “Well? What the hell do you have to say now that you couldn’t tell me earlier?”

“Right…” Keith was struggling to find the right words. His head was too muddled to come up with any kind of logical excuse. Guess he’ll be going with the truth then. “Just…wait here, okay?” Keith moved toward the window, shoving it open and pulling his body out.

“What—“ Veronica started, and Keith held up a hand to stop her.

“Stay.” He hoisted himself up the drain and onto the roof, looking around for the mess of brown hair. He saw a shadow stir, a figure rising from it. Keith breathed out a sigh of relief that he hadn’t realized he’d been holding; part of him had feared that Lotor had gotten to Lance first.

Lance advanced upon Keith, enveloping him in a tight embrace. “Thank God you’re okay,” he breathed into Keith’s ear.

“Well, still in one piece, at least,” Keith chuckled, returning the embrace with a tight squeeze that pinched his bruised ribs.

Lance pulled away, shifting his hands to cup Keith’s face. “Did you find Matt? Is he okay? Did he say anything?”

“Uh, yeah, we got him. And no, don’t worry, he hasn’t said anything. Not yet, at least.” Now wasn’t the time to talk about the mission; it wasn’t the time to bring up Lotor and what had transpired at the manor. “Look, we have a lot that we need to talk about, but…” Keith paused, wringing his hands together nervously. They were shaking heavily now.

“What?” Lance’s eyes were steady as they stared into Keith’s.

“Look, she knew something was up, and she also terrifies me a bit, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about you McClain’s it’s that you’re all stubborn as hell—“

“Keith.” Keith hadn’t realized that he’d been rambling until Lance cut him of. “Use your words. What is happening?”

Keith clenched his jaw, dropping his gaze. “Veronica…is in my room. You need to go talk to her.”

Lance visibly recoiled at his words, issuing a small hiss from his teeth that bore his fangs. “Why the hell did you think that would be a good idea?”

Keith snapped his eyes up to meet Lance’s, fury once again spilling out. “I told you, she already knew something was up! I can’t lie to her—she fucking threatened to report me. She’s your fucking sister, you need to deal with this!”

Keith cringed at the harshness of his words, but Lance’s eyes held understanding behind the irritation.

“Fine,” he said after a moment, “But if I’m going to come back from the dead—“ he brought his hand up and pulled the black hood over his face— “then I’m going to do it with style. Lead the way, samurai.”

Keith scoffed at his theatrics, but released a mental sigh of relief that the boy hadn’t angered at Keith’s sharp words. He didn’t know where this irritation was coming from. Keith led the way down the drainpipe, Lance following close behind. As Keith pulled himself back through the open window, he could see Veronica’s stern face, twisted with worry and anger.

“Keith, what the fuck—“ she faltered as she watched another figure climb through the window, whispering, “Keith, what the fuck?”

“Just…hear him out?” Keith tried.

Veronica stared coldly at the hooded figure, body tensed defensively. Keith could imagine that she had already guessed what was standing in front of her. Her hand twitched, no doubt wishing she had brought a weapon.

“Of all the idiots over the years who have thought working with vamps could be a good idea, I never imagined you’d be one, Keith.” Her eyes never left the hooded figure. “Who are you? And what do you want?”

“Is that any way to greet your brother, Veronica?” Lance asked coolly, sliding the hood off his face. Keith could have laughed if the tension wasn’t so thick that it could be cut with a knife.

Veronica’s face melted from anger to horror to sorrowful relief in the span of seconds. She moved her hand to cover her gaping mouth, muttering some words in Spanish and Keith swore he recognized a few from when Lance had tried to teach him to swear in his native tongue.

“L-Lance,” she stuttered through the tears falling down her face, “you’re alive…”

Lance snickered, flashing his fangs as he did. “Well, not exactly.”

Keith heard Veronica gasp, though from her lack of extreme shock or disgust, he knew that she had already guessed what he was. “How did this happen?” she whispered quietly. Then, snapping her head toward Keith with a new fierceness in her eyes, snarled, “How long have you known?”

“What…I, only like a week!” Keith stuttered, surprised by the sudden hostility.

Lance chucked, stepping closer to Veronica and reaching out to grasp her arm lightly. “He couldn’t tell anyone. Not even you. And you can’t tell anyone either. You understand that, right?”

Veronica nodded, and her face contorted with confusion. “What…does this mean that not even your team knows? Shiro and Pidge and…Hunk?”

Lance shook his head solemnly. “No one can know, Veronica. It’s too dangerous for them and for me.”

“But…but we could help you. Dr. Holt has new findings every day and—“

Lance cut her off with a small laugh. “Funny. Keith said the same thing when he found out.” His face darkened. “I’m not going to become some lab rat, Veronica.”

She nodded, understanding the implications of what she had said.

Keith groaned inwardly. This was going to be a long night, and he wasn’t sure how much longer he would last. Shiro and Pidge were right about one thing for sure: something was definitely wrong with Keith.

 


 

Veronica stayed well into the night. It wasn’t until she had calmed down and until Lance was sure that she would keep his situation a secret that he kissed her on the cheek and bid her goodnight. Keith couldn’t read the mixture of feelings running through her blue eyes, but he knew that she’d keep her mouth shut. He would have felt worse keeping this from her if his head wasn’t filling up with irritation and buzzing with anxiety.

With the door closed behind Veronica’s retreating figure, Lance turned to Keith and smiled wryly. “Well, I gotta admit, samurai: I was pretty mad at first, but that went better than expected. This could be a good thing…” He stepped closer to Keith.

Keith took a step back, snarling at Lance. “You owe me some fucking answers,” he said angrily. Though, Keith had no idea why he was mad at Lance.

Lance raised one eyebrow. “Hey, Keith, you okay?” he asked gently.

“No!” Keith spat, “God, Lance, my head is killing me. It’s like I can’t fucking think straight.” Keith raised a hand to clutch at his forehead, noticing not for the first time that he was trembling. “What the fuck is wrong with me?” He continued to take his short temper out on Lance.

But Lance remained calm, collecting Keith gently in his arms and holding him tight against his chest. “Shhh,” he said easily, “I know what will make you feel better.” Lance led Keith slowly to bed and pushed for him to sit down. Keith, trembling even harder now, let himself be handled. Lance brought his hands around Keith’s waist, pawing at the hem of his shirt before bringing it up over the boy’s head.

Keith laughed coolly. “I don’t think sex is going to make me feel better right now, Lance,” he spat.

Lance looked down at him. “Not what I was going for, but I do like where your head’s at, samurai. No, I was thinking about something else that could penetrate you.” He smiled at Keith, fangs gleaming.

Keith swallowed thickly. No, he didn’t want that. But he did, he so badly did. What was wrong with him? “I…” he opened his mouth, not knowing what to say. “Will that…make me feel better?” he asked dumbly.

“Trust me,” Lance replied calmly, “It’ll make everything better.” Lance stroked the side of Keith’s face gently, running his finger along his jaw and down the nape of his neck, his tongue darting out to wet his lips.

Though the hungry look in Lance’s eyes scared him more than he would admit, Keith knew he couldn’t resist the tug in his chest. Lance had told Keith to trust him, and Keith did wholeheartedly. He wanted Lance to bite him. He wanted it more than he could put to words. He needed it. So Keith closed his eyes and tilted his head to the side, allowing Lance full access to his neck.

Again, Keith braced for the pain, and again none came. When Lance slid his sharp fangs deep into the soft flesh on the top of Keith’s shoulder, Keith felt only ecstasy. A small moan escaped his lips. The trembling stopped. The anxiety swimming in his head was replaced with a pleasant fog. Keith felt as though he were drowning and floating at the same time. And it was all over too quickly.

Lance pulled out of Keith, quickly licking up the trickles of blood that flowed from the puncture marks before straightening himself upright. He cupped Keith’s face in his hands and Keith looked up at him through heavily lidded eyes.

“How do you feel?” Lance asked him.

Keith smiled lazily. “So good,” he mumbled. He felt so good. Keith felt like he could sleep for days. But that wasn’t what he wanted to do. He realized as he started fumbling at Lance’s belt that what he really wanted was to be fucked so hard he couldn’t move.

“Keith,” Lance smirked playfully down at the boy as he undid the zipper and began pushing his pants to the ground, “whatcha doing there?”

“Lance,” Keith whined, shoving his hands under the other boy’s shirt, “I want you inside me. I want your fangs inside me, I want you inside me. I need you inside me.” Keith knew he was babbling and he looked up at Lance with fierceness in his eyes. “Fuck me,” he growled, “Bite me.”

“I…are you sure?” Lance asked, raising one eyebrow, but Keith could see the hunger in his blue eyes. “This is new territory for us, samurai.”

“Fuck, Lance, please.” Keith didn’t even care that he was begging. “Fuck me, Lance, hard. Bite me.”

“Damn, samurai,” Lance looked down at Keith, a newfound lust in his eyes, “you might just regret saying that.”

Lance shoved Keith back onto the bed so that he was lying, legs dangling off the edge. He made short work of ripping Keith’s pants off and relieving himself of the clothes he still had on. Lance then took his sweet time nipping and sucking down Keith’s body, starting at the neck and working his way down. Keith let a gasp escape each time he felt the sharpness of Lance’s fangs scrap his skin. But they never ripped through his flesh. Keith thrust his hips up, trying to get any kind of friction as he grew harder, but Lance’s hands on his hips held him firmly down.

Lance grabbed him tighter and flipped Keith onto his stomach, pulling his hips up to meet his own hardening flesh. Keith groaned at the contact, pushing back onto Lance’s body. Lance chuckled at his eagerness and once again retrieved the bottle from the nightstand. Keith could only wait as the boy poured the thick liquid onto his fingers. He could only wait as the boy teased him until Keith cried out for him to hurry up. He could only wait as the boy roughly shoved two fingers deep inside. It hurt, but it felt so good. Keith groaned into the sheets as Lance quickened the pace of his fingers, dragging in and out of Keith. Keith gasped as Lance curled his fingers inside of him. It wasn’t enough. He wanted more; he needed more.

“Lance,” Keith panted between breaths, “please…just do it.” Whether he was asking to be fucked or bitten, Keith wasn’t sure.

Lance, however, complied with both. He grabbed the bottle again, pouring it on himself before getting into position behind Keith. Lance bent down over the boy, placing soft kisses on the muscles in his back. As Lance thrust himself hard into Keith, he also sank his fangs deep into the boy’s back. Keith cried out. It was odd; the warmth of the bite soothed the ache of everything else.

Keith could feel Lance consuming him as the boy moved his hips, going deeper and deeper into him. Lance had to cover Keith’s mouth with one hand to stifle the moans escaping his throat, while his other hand was on the boy’s hips, pulling Keith onto him with every push. Keith felt the boy’s fangs withdraw from his skin, and felt Lance’s tongue lick the open wound.

A groan wailed out of Keith, muffled by Lance’s hand. He missed the ecstatic feeling of Lance’s fangs in his flesh; the warmth that pooled through his brain, the high.

Lance pulled out of Keith completely, causing the boy to whimper again at the loss of fulfillment. But Lance quickly flipped the boy over onto his back, shoving his way back inside even deeper still. Lance grasped a handful of Keith’s hair while the other hand secured itself at the boy’s waist. He quickened his thrusts, and Keith couldn’t stand not being touched for much longer. He went to reach down, but Lance’s hand caught his, pinning it down.

“No baby,” Lance hummed, grinning down at Keith, “I want you to come undone for me…fuck…completely untouched…” Keith could tell by his husky voice and shortness of breath that Lance was close.

“Lance…ah…please…” Keith knew what he was begging for, but he couldn’t bring himself to say it.

“What do you need baby?” Lance cooed in his ear, still thrusting hard and fast into Keith. “Tell me.”

“Please,” Keith begged again, “please…fuck…” His stormy eyes met Lance’s blue and Keith needed it now. “Bite me,” he moaned.

Lance flashed a voracious grin and Keith’s eyes locked on to the sharp fangs. Lance tugged on Keith’s hair hard, pulling the boy’s head to the side, exposing his neck that was already dotted with bites. As Lance’s sharp fangs penetrated the delicate flesh of his shoulder, Keith felt himself release. He had come undone completely untouched, just as Lance had wanted. Keith moaned at the dulling sensation of the bite mixed with the satisfaction of everything else. As he came, he felt himself clench around Lance, and it wasn’t long before the other boy came undone as well. Keith could feel Lance filling him up. He could feel Lance sucking him dry. He loved both.

Lance detached himself from Keith at the same time that he pulled himself out. Once again, he licked any stray drops of blood that oozed from the open wounds at Keith’s neck.

“Come on samurai, let’s get you cleaned up and then to bed.” Lance lovingly pet Keith’s hair; stroked his face. Keith let the boy clean him up, dress him, and tuck him under the covers, smiling when Lance slid in beside him.

Keith closed his eyes as he curled around Lance’s body, but Lance prodded his cheek. “Hey,” he said, “You never told me what happened with Matt. You said we had a lot to talk about.”

“Hmmm.” Keith couldn’t remember what had been so important. “Oh yeah,” he mumbled, “Lotor knows that a fang broke into the Garrison.” Keith stifled a yawn. “He could tell just by smelling me.”

Keith felt Lance tense up, but couldn’t bring himself to care as he nuzzled in closer to the boy and fell deep into sleep.

Chapter Text

Keith was surprised with a knock at his door. It was late, almost everyone in the dormitories already asleep. He had been training late and was just getting out of the shower when the rapping sounded softly, hesitantly.

“Yeah?” he called, and the door opened, revealing a rather forlorn Lance.

“Hey man,” Lance said, walking into the room and closing the door behind him, “I just wanted to talk with you because…Well, because I’ve been worrying about something.”

Keith’s stomach dropped. Was this it? Was Lance sick of him already? He crossed his arms, painted a smirk on his face, trying to appear calm while a storm raged in his brain. “Must really be bothering you if you’re coming to talk to me.”

“Well, I mean, I trust you Keith.” Lance’s face softened with a small smile.

Keith faltered. This didn’t sound like the beginnings of a break-up. At least, he didn’t think so, but he’d never actually, you know, been in a relationship before Lance.

Lance’s eyebrows turned up as his face twisted with worry. “I’ve been doing some math. Most infiltration teams have just four members, but ours has five, and if I’m right, that’s one person too many.”

“Solid math,” Keith sighed heavily, still not seeing where this was going.

“Well it’s just that Shiro’s an amazing leader, and you’re a great fighter, and Pidge is literally the smartest person I know, and Hunk is great and he’s always there for everyone, you know, and me…I just don’t know that I really…matter.” Lance’s face fell as he spoke, and Keith felt the weight in his stomach grow heavier.

“What are you talking about?” Keith asked quietly.

Lance huffed in annoyance. “Look, this isn’t a participation game. This is war. And you want your best soldiers on the front lines—“

“Stop worrying about other teams and just focus on your missions,” Keith interrupted, “Lance—“ Keith stepped closer to the boy, wrapping his arms around Lance and pulling him in close— “you are one of our best soldiers. You know that, right? Shiro wouldn’t have picked you to be on his team if he didn’t think so.” Keith untangled himself from Lance and smiled up at him.

“Yeah?” Lance asked, disbelief still shone in his eyes.

“I wouldn’t want anyone else out there watching my back.”

Lance chuckled, though his eyes were glassy as he tried to hold back tears. “You sure you’re not just saying that to try to make me feel better?”

“Lance, I would never lie to you.” They smiled at each other for a moment, and Keith’s heart soared. “Now—“ he surged toward the boy, planting a quick kiss before stepping back— “get your ass to bed, soldier.”

Lance smirked. “You know we’re the same rank, right? You can’t actually tell me what to do.”

Keith scoffed, shoving Lance back out the door. “Wouldn’t dream of it, sharpshooter.” Lance turned to go, but Keith caught his sleeve. “Lance?” he asked as the boy turned back around, “Leave the math to Pidge…”

Lance’s smile radiated happiness as Keith closed the door.

 


 

When Keith woke up, he expected to once again be entangled in Lance’s arms, but he awoke to find the other side of the bed empty and cold. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Keith spotted the boy. Lance was pacing across Keith’s room, brows furrowed and muttering to himself. He failed to notice that Keith had awoken until the boy sat up in bed. Lance stopped pacing, shooting Keith a pained smile.

“You’re awake!” he said.

“Barely,” Keith grumbled. He looked at his clock and groaned. He had missed the morning meeting and breakfast. Again. Keith felt his stomach grumble at the realization that he wouldn’t be able to eat until the lunch hour, meaning 24 hours will have passed without him eating anything. He shook his head and looked back at Lance. “What’s up? You only pace when you’re really stressed about something.”

“Uh, yeah I’m stressed! Do you not remember what you told me last night?” Lance flung his hands in the air to emphasize the dramatics of the situation.

“Oh, yeah,” Keith said, still trying to rub the sleep from his eyes, to no avail. His head was buzzing and everything looked fuzzy. The room was definitely spinning, Keith was sure. Keith’s knees immediately gave out on him when he tried to stand, and he would have fallen completely if it weren’t for Lance catching him and steadying him. He stumbled his way to his closet and started putting clothes on.

“We need to talk about what happened when you rescued Matt. Please, Keith, focus; this is important. What exactly did Lotor say to you? And why the hell were you close enough to talk to him in the first place?”

Keith shook his head, feeling a fraction clearer than when he had first woken up. He narrowed his eyes, trying to focus on the memory of that day. “First, we heard two vamps talking about a rumor that one of you had broken into the Garrison. Then, I got caught by one of them, and then Lotor saw me. It was like just seeing me, or I guess smelling me, confirmed that the rumor was true: that a vamp had infiltrated the Garrison. Why is that?” With each word, Keith’s mind slowly grew clearer. There was still an underlying buzzing that he couldn’t quite get rid of, and the vertigo hadn’t gotten much better.

Lance started pacing again, muttering under his breath. “This is bad. This is really bad.” He stopped and snapped his head toward Keith, a fierce look in his eyes. “Wait, did you say that you were caught by one of them?”

“Y-yeah,” Keith stuttered, surprised at the sudden sharpness. “I mean, I felt pretty off all day. I guess I didn’t get enough sleep. I’ll go ahead and blame you for that.”

“Dammit, Keith. You need to stop going on missions. Immediately.”

“What, why?” Keith didn’t want to stop going on missions. He had vamps to kill. He had a team to protect.

Lance seemed to falter at the question. “You just can’t anymore, okay? You’re putting yourself in danger. Promise me. You won’t go on any more missions.”

Keith didn’t want to. He was fine. He couldn’t agree to that. Lance would understand. He knows how important this was for Keith. And yet Keith found himself nodding. “Yeah, okay, I promise.” This is what Lance wanted, and Lance knew what was best, right?

Lance sighed, the worry visibly leaving his face, if only for a moment. “Okay, now we just have to figure this thing out with Lotor—“

A knock at the door broke the boys from their thoughts. They looked at each other with wide eyes.

“Uh, just a sec,” Keith called, “Let me…get dressed!”

Lance swooped in to give Keith a chaste kiss and a ‘see you tonight’ before ducking out the window. Keith made sure to close the window completely this time before going to open the door. He was surprised to see Hunk standing outside, holding a single muffin.

Keith stuck his head out the door and looked to either side, narrowing his eyes at the boy. “This isn’t another ambush where you bribe me with food so I let my guard down and then Shiro and Pidge swoop in to attack, is it?”

Hunk chuckled. “No, that was a one time thing, I promise. Can I, uh, come in though? I do want to actually talk. And I brought you food since you missed dinner and breakfast.”

Keith led him into the room, taking the muffin. He tried not to moan as he took a bite. He was famished. Hunk situated himself at the desk and Keith plopped down on his bed. Keith waited for what he assumed was another lecture, and he wasn’t anticipating the words that came out of Hunk’s mouth.

“Lance was…my best friend. And I miss him like crazy…” There were tears swimming in his eyes already. “And I know you do too. I just, I get what you’re feeling, but I also get that it’s different. I, uh, don’t really know where I’m going with this…” Hunk chuckled and nervously scratched the back of his neck. “I guess I just wanted you to know that I think Lance would want you to be happy. I think that he’d want you to move on, as hard as that may seem sometimes, and as guilty as that might make you feel…” The old Lance maybe, Keith thought, But this Lance is different. “And I get that there may be stuff that you don’t want to talk about. But Pidge and Shiro and me…we just want you to be happy, too. Shiro always says that we’re a team, but I feel like we’re so much more than that. We’re brothers, man. I don’t know what’s going on with you, or why you feel like you can’t talk to us, but just remember that we’re always here for you…with whatever you need.” Hunk was apparently done with his speech as his eyes wandered down to the carpet.

“Thanks, Hunk,” Keith said hesitantly. He knew that much of what he had said was irrelevant to Keith’s current situation, but it had made him feel a little better nonetheless. “I’m sure Pidge is pretty pissed at me right now though…”

“Oh uh, jeez, I almost forgot!” Hunk said, looking up at Keith again, “Dr. Holt is going to wake Matt up in, like, fifteen minutes. I know that Pidge is…kinda mad right now. But I also know that she needs you there, so if you’re down…?”

Keith stood up. “I’m coming. Let’s go.” Yes, he wanted to be there for his friend. But Keith had his own ulterior motive for wanting to be there when Matt woke up. He needed to make sure the boy wouldn’t give anything away about Lance. He had to do whatever he needed to make sure Matt stayed silent.

 


 

Keith followed Hunk down through the maze that made up the laboratories to where Dr. Holt had been keeping Matt sedated. Keith had hardly been down here. This is where they took any vamps that they managed to catch so the scientists, like Pidge’s dad, could experiment. What exactly they were experimenting, Keith wasn’t sure. He didn’t have much of a stomach for that type of thing.

The two boys wandered through a set of doors and Keith instantly made eye contact with Pidge. Her eyes were angry as they met his, but she mumbled that she was glad he had come. Shiro was already there as well, and offered a small smile as Keith and Hunk entered. The two others turned back around and Keith followed their line of sight.

Through a large window that Keith could only assume was one-way glass, he could see Matt lying on a hospital bed. There were bandages laced up his arms, and Keith could see more peeking out of the hospital gown on the boy’s neck. Dr. Holt was standing beside the bed, fiddling with a bag of liquid that ran into a tube connected to Matt’s arm.

Keith came up behind Pidge and placed a hand on her shoulder. She slumped a bit at his touch, but didn’t turn around. “Dad says I can’t be in there when he wakes Matt up. He doesn’t want him to get overwhelmed,” she said without tearing her eyes away from her unconscious brother.

“You know you’ll be the first in there to see him, though,” Keith said, and he felt her stand a little straighter.

She walked over to the door that connected the two rooms and gave her dad a thumbs up, closing the door after he nodded in acknowledgement. Keith watched through the one-way glass as Dr. Holt injected something into the tubes attached to Matt’s arm. He watched as the boy stirred, scrunching his face up before opening his eyes. Keith watched as Matt’s eyes landed on his father’s smiling face. He watched as those eyes twisted into worry, panic, and then anger.

“Where am I?!” Matt shouted, sitting bold upright. There must have been a system of microphones in the room, because the team outside could hear everything clearly.

“Son, calm down.” Dr. Holt was trying to hold Matt down, but Matt kept swatting his hands away. “You’re back at the Garrison, son. You’re safe now—“

“No!” Matt’s eyes widened in horror. “No, no, you took me away from him! I have to get back to him!” He began pulling out the needles embedded in his arms, ripping multiple bandages off in the process.

“I need a little help in here!” Dr. Holt shouted, and Keith and Shiro came running through the door.

Dr. Holt was barely able to keep the young boy in the bed. Shiro ran around and he and Keith each grabbed an arm, the doctor grasping at the boy’s legs, attempting to restrain him.

Matt continued to yell through the chaos. “Just let me go back, please just take me back! Oh, God, it hurts! Please just let me go!” Tears were streaming down the boy’s face as it twisted with pure agony.

Dr. Holt struggled with plunging a needle under the boy’s skin, discharging a clear liquid into his bloodstream. Matt’s flailing began to slow a bit, becoming dull and weak. Keith released his grip as the boy slowly faded.

“Please let me go,” Matt continued to beg, “I need to get back to him…you have to let me go…I need to…” Matt closed his eyes, out cold.

“What…” Keith felt himself shaking. “What the hell was that?”

Dr. Holt just shook his head, eyes brimming with tears. “I don’t know,” he whispered.

The three made their way back to the other room, where Pidge was frozen in horror. A small hand covered her mouth, and Hunk gripped her shoulder’s, both in support and comfort.

“Dad…?” her voice cracked as she spoke.

Dr. Holt shook his head again. “I don’t know, Katie. I’ll run more tests…I’ll figure this out.” He stopped and looked for a moment into the next room, lost in thought as he looked upon his unconscious son. “I think it’s best if you all leave for now.” Pidge started to protest, but he held up a hand to stop her. “I’ll let you know as soon as we know anything, Katie, I promise. But right now…right now I need to think…” His eyes never left his son.

Pidge nodded her head slowly, and the team shuffled out of the room. Hunk was still holding onto Pidge. Keith feared she would collapse without the support. None of them spoke as they made their way out of the labs. No one knew what to say. No one understood what the hell they had just witnessed.

 


 

The team stayed together, not letting Pidge out of their sight all throughout lunch and after, as they all sat with her in her room. They hardly spoke. There was nothing to say. It wasn’t until hours later that Pidge was called away by a lab assistant. She went alone.

The group disbanded shortly after, nothing to keep them together now that Pidge was back with her father. Keith didn’t train. He didn’t feel up to it. The fuzziness in his head still persisted, and though he felt less dizzy than he did that morning, he still felt so tired. As much as Keith had enjoyed the past few nights—I mean really enjoyed them—he would have to remember to get more sleep. He was in no shape to fight. But, then again, he wasn’t going to go on missions anymore, was he? He still didn’t like the idea, but he felt he had no choice.

After hours of Keith sitting in his room, alone, with various thoughts of Matt, Lance, and Lotor, among other topics, swirling around in his head, an announcement was called for an immediate emergency briefing. As best he could, Keith shoved those thoughts down into the deepest corner of his mind and made his way down to the briefing room; he had a pretty good guess at what the main topic of conversation would be. It was no surprise to see Dr. Holt standing in the front of the room with Iverson. Keith found Shiro and Hunk and sat in his respective seat, noting that Pidge’s remained empty. Once everyone else had filed in and taken their place, Iverson began.

“Listen closely!” he barked, “New information has come to light that you all need to be aware of. This is Dr. Samuel Holt of our science division. He will be leading this discussion.” Iverson stepped to the side to allow Dr. Holt the center of attention.

“Thank you, Commander,” Dr. Holt said, stepping further into the middle of the room. “We do, indeed, have new information pertaining to a vampire’s bite; or, more specifically, their venom.” There were a few surprised looks around the room as Dr. Holt continued. Keith could see how tired the doctor looked, yet wired as his eyes darted around the room, like he had drunk a few too many cups of coffee. “We have always known that a vampire bite secretes a sort of venom. Previously, it was thought that this was, perhaps, a key factor in the transformation process, but we have recently proven that to be untrue.” Keith suppressed a scoff at this ‘realization.’ Finally, the Garrison was catching on. “As many of you are aware, my son, Matt, was brought in the other day after being rescued from a vampire’s nest. He was littered with bite marks, yet had obviously not been transformed. After careful examination of his wounds, of the venom still present in his body, and of his behavior upon waking up, we can conclude that the venom acts more like a drug.”

There were audible gasps from around the room, and Keith felt himself tense. That couldn’t be right. After all, he had been bitten, had been exposed to this venom, but he was fine.

“What do you mean by a drug?” someone asked from across the room

“Yes, of course,” Dr. Holt continued, “Think of it…as though Rohypnol were addictive.”

At this, Keith gave a sharp intake of breath. He could barely focus on the doctor’s next words.

“Not only does this venom cause confusion and a certain degree of compliance, but it is also highly addictive. It appears as though there are severe and rather fast-acting withdrawal symptoms as well, including extreme irritation, paranoia, shakiness, sweating, and of course extreme craving, among other things…”

Keith swallowed thickly and suddenly found that it was very hard to breath. Dr. Holt’s voice faded into the background. He subconsciously began to knead at the bite marks that littered his shoulder. This couldn’t be right. That can’t be what’s happening to him. He didn’t need Lance’s bite, he just wanted it; he so, so badly wanted it. But it wasn’t like what Dr. Holt had described. It couldn’t be. Keith was in complete control. He could stop Lance from biting him whenever he wanted to; he just didn’t want to, was all…

The scraping of chairs snapped Keith out of the ocean of thoughts swirling through his head. Everyone was getting up to leave, the briefing officially over. Keith looked up to see Shiro eyeing him curiously.

“You okay, Keith?” he asked.

Keith nodded, standing to join the exiting crowd. “Yeah.” His voice sounded foreign through the fog in his head. “I’m just really worried…about Matt.” Keith hoped that Shiro hadn’t caught the hesitation in his voice.

He didn’t want to find out, though, as he darted through the thinning crowd and back up to the safety of his room. Keith couldn’t stop his hands from trembling the whole way as he replayed the same mantra in his head over and over again: you want it, you don’t need it, you just want it, you don’t need it.

 


 

Keith’s plan was to stay in his room, pacing back and forth with his own thoughts until it was dark and he could see Lance again. This was, unfortunately, foiled with a knock on his door. Keith considered not opening it, but before he could decide one way or another, Shiro was pushing his way in. Keith cursed internally for not locking it.

“What’s up?” Keith asked, trying his hardest to sound normal. Who was he kidding, he didn’t know what normal was anymore.

Shiro smiled at him. “You’ve skipped dinner, and you missed breakfast this morning. I’m just here to make sure you come down to the commissary and actually eat something.”

Keith looked at his clock. He hadn’t realized that it was already so late. Part of him wanted to argue, but he knew that sundown wasn’t for another hour or so, anyway, and he had nothing else to do until then. Besides, at the mention of food, Keith’s stomach had begun to grumble at him. So he nodded and followed Shiro down to the commissary where they took their seats with Hunk and a very dejected Pidge.

Keith had been to awkward dinners before. First date ever, check; team dinner after he and Lance told the team that they’d started dating, check; meeting Lance’s family for the first time; double check. But this dinner, Keith thought, takes the cake.

They didn’t speak, at all. Pidge ate her food like a zombie. Or, more fittingly, like a robot. Hunk ate his as though he were sitting on pins and needles. Shiro didn’t take his eyes off of Keith the whole time. And Keith couldn’t help the anxiety and paranoia that slithered its way into his murky head. Worse still, his hands had begun shaking again; every time Keith wasn’t taking a bite of food, he had to jab his hands under the table to keep Shiro from seeing them tremble.

After finishing only half of his food, Keith couldn’t take it anymore. He was shaking, paranoid, and now he was nauseous? Keith promptly excused himself, ignoring the protesting look on Shiro’s face, and scrambled back to his room. It would be dark soon and he and Lance had a lot to discuss.

 

As soon as the sun had disappeared on the horizon, Keith made his way up to the roof. Lance wouldn’t be there yet, Keith assumed, but waiting up there versus waiting in his room didn’t make much of a difference. In the low moonlight, Keith spent the next hour pacing until a voice finally swept him from his thoughts.

“Hey there, samurai.” Lance crept out of the shadows. Keith hadn’t even heard him approach. A cocky grin was painted on his face, but there was worry in his eyes.

“Lance,” Keith breathed, sudden fear gripping him. You want it, you don’t need, you just want it, you don’t need it. He was rooted on the spot.

Lance stepped closer and Keith stood frozen in place.

“W-we have to talk,” Keith murmured, eyes widening as the boy approached him.

Lance visibly tensed, a sour look overcame his features. He looked almost sick. “Yeah, I know.” He reached up and stroked Keith’s face. It was gentle, yet Keith shivered at the touch. “This whole thing with…Lotor—“

“No.” Keith’s voice was shaking. “I mean, we can talk about that, yeah, but…I need to ask you something first.” He couldn’t make eye contact with the boy and chose to fixate on one of the buttons on Lance’s long, black coat.

“Ask away.” Lance’s voice was calm, but there was an air of concern laced in it.

Keith took a few shaky breaths before feeling brave enough to continue. Either Lance would confirm the Garrison’s finding, and Keith really was literally addicted to him, to his bite; or else Lance would deny the claim, meaning that Keith really did just desperately want his bite. Keith wasn’t sure which answer scared him more.

“Is…” Another shaky breath issued from Keith’s lips. “Your bite, your…venom, is it…is it addictive?” Keith met Lance’s eyes then, and he was surprised by the lack of emotion that greeted him.

Lance chuckled; it didn’t reach his eyes. “What?” he asked, “Why would you think that?”

“Well…uh…” Keith sputtered, “When they woke Matt up, he was, like, going crazy. And Dr. Holt said—“

He was cut off by a short laugh issuing from Lance. “Keith, two days ago the Garrison thought that the bite is what turned you. You can’t believe everything they say, you know. They know, like, nothing when it comes to true vampirism.”

Lance’s voice was calm and casual, but Keith saw a dangerous gleam in his eyes; a warning not to press the matter further. Keith wanted so desperately to believe what he was saying. But can you even trust your own mind right now? The thought nagged at him from the back of his mind, and Keith promptly pushed it down.

Lance could clearly see the storm that was raging in Keith’s mind, and the boy’s eyes softened. He cupped Keith’s face with his hands and smiled gently at him. “Keith,” he said in barely more than a whisper, “I would never do anything to hurt you, and I won’t ever do anything that you didn’t want to do. You know that, right?” Keith nodded. He did know that, right? “So don’t worry about what the Garrison does or doesn’t think is going on with Matt. Everything’s okay now.” Again, Keith nodded. Of course everything was okay. “Good. Now tell me what you want, samurai.” Lance’s voice was playful as he asked.

What did Keith want? He knew they would need to talk about Lotor and the dangers that lie there. He wanted to stop having to lie to his team; to stop disappointing them. He wanted Matt to be okay, with whatever it was that was actually going on with him. He wanted Lance—

“I want—“ Keith muttered before he could stop himself. He knew exactly what he wanted. He just didn’t want to say it. But he needed to say it. It was like he couldn’t stop the words from bubbling out of his chest. “I want you to bite me.”

Lance smirked, fangs gleaming in a way that Keith both loved and wanted to recoil at. Yes, this definitely what he wants. He didn’t need it. He just wanted it; so, so badly wanted it.

Keith walked backwards as Lance pushed him against one of the larger vents. He reclined his head against the cool, metal surface and leaned it to one side, exposing his neck for Lance to ravage. Lance, in turn, tugged down the collar of Keith’s shirt. He placed gentle kisses along the boy’s neck, making Keith shiver in anticipation.

“Just fucking do it. I can’t wait any longer,” Keith whined.

He felt Lance smile against his neck. He felt the boy open his mouth. And he felt the sharp fangs sink deep into the soft flesh. It was pure ecstasy. He had never, in his life, felt anything so good; Keith was sure of it. Keith moaned into the chilly night air, and slipped one hand around the back of Lance’s head, fingers gripping at the short hairs there. He pulled Lance closer, deeper into himself. Lance pressed his body into Keith’s, grinding him against the cool surface of the vent. As Keith’s eyes began to flutter shut, Lance pulled away. Keith hissed as the fangs left his flesh, instantly missing the tingling sensation that they brought. He tried to pull at Lance’s head again, silently urging him to do it again, but the boy just took to licking the red drops that spilled from the fresh, new punctures.

“I know you want more,” Lance cooed against his neck, “but I can’t take too much or you’ll pass out on me.” He met Keith’s eyes, a welcome warmth against the cold of the night. Those were the eyes that Keith knew so well. Those were the eyes he had missed.

Keith just hummed in reply, perfectly content to stare into those eyes forever, happy with his mind swirling lazily in the warm fog that enveloped it. He slid unceremoniously to the ground, sitting with his back against the vent, and looked back up at Lance. Lance smiled, stepping one leg over Keith and sitting himself down, straddling Keith’s lap. Lance brought a hand up and curled his fingers through Keith’s long hair.

“See, samurai, I’ll never do anything that you don’t want.” He emphasized the word again.

“I know.” Keith’s voice was slurred. He hadn’t realized how tired he was.

“What do you want now, baby?” Lance asked. “Do you think we should talk about…about what you told me last night?”

Keith’s breath caught in his throat. Lotor. How had he forgotten about Lotor? “Shit, fuck, yes,” he stammered, “He knows that you’ve been here, or that a vamp has been here. I don’t know if he knows it’s you or not… but he could tell by smelling me, Lance. How could he tell? And how dangerous is that for you?” Keith knew he was rambling and he stilled when Lance placed a finger to his mouth to silence him.

“Shh,” he said calmly, “Don’t worry so much, samurai. I’ve got everything taken care of, at least for now. I spread a little rumor that it was another fang who got onto Garrison property. That’ll buy us a little time.”

“But if he finds out—“

“It would be a problem, yes. But I’m already working on a fix. Really, Keith, you don’t need to worry about this. I’ve got it handled.” There was a hint of anxiety laced in Lance’s smooth voice.

Keith wanted to argue, he wanted to help. But one question still mulled around in his murky brain. “But how did he know?”

Lance paused. His brow furrowed. Keith could tell that he didn’t quite know what to say. “He…must have just smelled vamp on you is all,” he finally said, “We have a distinct smell from humans, so he must have just sensed that. You shouldn’t worry about it, though. I’ll handle it.” His eyes bore into Keith’s then. “But that’s why you can’t go on any more missions. So don’t worry about it. And trust me to deal with it.”

Keith nodded. Of course he wouldn’t go on any more missions. Lance already told him that he shouldn’t. He couldn’t. But something still wasn’t right. It didn’t add up. Of course Keith would smell like vamp; he hunted and killed them for a living, he had been inside a nest when Lotor had seen him. Lance had to be missing something. But Keith couldn’t worry Lance. He said he would handle it, and Keith had to trust him to do so. Plus, Keith was exhausted.

When Lance noticed that Keith was having a hard time just keeping his eyes open, the boy prodded him gently on his cheek. “Hey, let’s get you back inside, samurai. If you fall asleep out here, I’m not carrying your dead weight back through a window.”

Keith nodded and let Lance help him up. He climbed down the drain sloppily, almost falling only once, and slid back into his room. He let Lance undress him and tuck him into bed. Keith’s limbs felt so heavy, as though they were made of lead, and yet so pliant as Lance handled him. He vaguely felt a kiss on his forehead as his eyes drooped shut, and Keith was asleep before Lance had even escaped back out the window.

Chapter Text

The ceremony was small, just a few higher ups and Iverson. Some friends and family, too. Keith saw some of Lance’s family, Hunk’s parents, as well as Pidge’s parents and Matt in the modest audience. He could have rolled his eyes as Iverson pinned the bronze medal to each of their uniforms.

It was arbitrary, really. They were just doing their jobs. C-team had gotten pinned down during a routine extermination mission, and V-team had been sent in to clear the nest and get their soldiers out. And they did; the nest was eliminated, each soldier was brought back, alive though not entirely unscathed, and Shiro had even caught a bloodsucker to take down to the labs. So they were being rewarded…yay.

Keith looked sideways at his team. Pidge looked as bored and unimpressed as he felt, and Hunk just smiled nervously. Lance sported a crooked smile, looking rather pleased with himself, and Keith almost snorted in laughter. And Shiro, of course, beamed at each of them with such pride and adoration in his eyes that it almost made it worth it for Keith.

Once the ‘ceremony,’ if it could even be called that, was over, the team was dismissed and they all convened in Shiro’s room.

“Guys.” All eyes turned to Shiro as their leader spoke to them. “I could not ask for a better team. Seriously, I couldn’t be more proud.”

Keith couldn’t hold back the snort that issued from his nose this time. “Shiro, we didn’t do anything special. Any other team could have handled that extraction and extermination.”

“Maybe,” Shiro replied, “But they didn’t. We did. And—“

“And we kicked ass!” Lance exclaimed. “I mean, come on Keith, did you see us? We’re the freaking dream team, right?”

Four pairs of eyes looked at the boy, entirely unimpressed.

Lance, in turn, rolled his own eyes rather dramatically. “Come on,” he insisted, “You’ve got Loverboy Lance—“ he gestured to himself while grinning slyly— “There’s Science-Wiz Pidge. Whoa! Look out, big brain!” Pidge adjusted her glasses, refusing to make eye contact with Lance as he continued. “We’ve got Lone Wolf Keith—“ Lance shimmied over to Keith, winking at him— “That’s you.” Keith, in turn, scowled at him. “And Hunk!” Lance called, advancing upon the boy, “You’re Humorous Hunk! And last, but not least—“ Lance held out his arms, effectively doing jazz hands in Shiro’s direction— “Shiro, the Hero!”

There was deafening silence for a moment, before Keith sighed heavily.

“Alright,” he said, yanking Lance toward the door, “We’re leaving.”

“What?” Lance shrieked, “Why?”

“You need to take a cold shower or something. And I’m confiscating your medal until that big head of yours deflates a bit.”

“Hey, no fair,” Lance protested as Keith dragged him out the door, “Where’s the love?”

“Apparently, it’s all with you, ‘Loverboy,’” Pidge called before the door closed behind them, and Keith snickered as Lance relented. The boy’s theatrics never ceased to amaze him.

 


 

The days passed slowly. The team had no missions to go on; that had been part of Shiro’s punishment it seemed. Not that Keith was complaining. He had yet to tell the team that he was ‘retiring,’ so to speak. The right time had yet to present itself, but with everything else going on with Matt, Keith didn’t feel right to say it yet. That, or he was stalling. Keith had the nagging feeling in the back of his head that he really didn’t want to stop going on missions. But, that’s what Lance needed from him, and he couldn’t say no.

As the days progressed, Matt’s condition continued to worsen. His tremors turned to seizures, his chills to sweats. He seemed to be in constant pain whenever he was awake, and the doc took to sedating him more and more. He still screamed for them to let him go whenever he was conscious. Keith was starting to wonder if perhaps Matt wasn’t going to get better. If maybe the only way for him to get better would be to give him what he needs…what he wants.

During this time, Keith continued to see Lance each night. Sometimes they would stay on the roof and talk, and sometimes they would sneak into Keith’s room. Often they would make love. And always Keith asked Lance to bite him. Keith still had no idea why these odd symptoms kept recurring throughout the day, but they became more and more manageable. Though his head still felt constantly thick with fog. But each night, Keith would feel that deep need…no, that want, of Lance’s fangs sinking into his flesh, and Lance happily obliged.

After a week had passed since bringing Matt home, his condition finally took a turn for the better, and after a few days of progressive recovery, they were finally allowed to see him again. Pidge had, once again, asked for the team to be there and they had, of course, agreed. Keith still needed to be sure that Matt wouldn’t say anything about Lance, no matter what it took. So, the four found themselves walking down to Dr. Holt’s lab together, nervous energy flitting between them.

They entered the same room as before. Keith saw that the door to the next room had been left ajar, and through the window he could see that Matt was already awake, sitting up in bed and smiling as he talked with his father. As Shiro, Hunk and Keith stayed behind, Pidge broke away from the group, running to the next room and to her brother.

“Pidge!” Matt’s face lit up when she came barreling into the room. She threw her arms around him and he gently squeezed her back. “How ya holding up, champ?”

“How am I holding up?” she snapped, recoiling from Matt’s embrace. Her voice was sharp, but even from a distance, Keith could see a happy gleam in her eyes. “Let’s see: I thought you were dead, then I find out you’re not, so I go to rescue you, and you don’t want to fucking come with me—“

“Language, Katie,” Dr. Holt warned.

Pidge looked sheepishly up at her father before continuing. “You didn’t want to come with me…and now you’ve been dying all over again for, like, two weeks. So, yeah, I’m fu—I’m great,” she snarled out the last word with a sharp glare at Matt. She was trying to scold him, but Matt just laughed.

“Well, I must admit, I have been better. But worry not, Pidge: I’m a badass. You’ll see, I’ll be healed back up and out there ganking vamps in no time!” Matt flashed her a grin.

Pidge rolled her eyes dramatically. “Matt, you were a science geek. You’ve never ‘ganked’ anything.”

“I will gank them with science!” Matt proclaimed. He rested a hand on Pidge’s shoulder then, face growing solemn. “But, serious time, Pidge. Thank you…for getting me out of there.” Tears had begun prickling his eyes. “I can’t even describe what it was like. Like, I knew in the back of my head that I didn’t want to be there, that there was something wrong, but I couldn’t do anything…I didn’t want to do anything…” his eyes held the ghost of his experience in captivity. Keith had seen it too many times in the eyes of the soldiers around him, coming back from missions too horrifying to even describe.

“You’re home now—“ Dr. Holt rested a hand on his son’s shoulder— “and that’s all that matters. We can talk about the effects later. I don’t want you wearing yourself out.”

Keith could feel his heart beating against his chest, pace quickening. He had to get to Matt before he let anything slip that might incriminate Lance. But he couldn’t help the thoughts that slipped through the fog in his head: what Matt had described, is that how it was with Lance? But, it was different, right? Lance had said it was different. He had said that he wouldn’t do anything that Keith didn’t want. Keith was in control of this situation. Matt hadn’t been. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to do anything about it, as Matt had said, it was that he was already doing what he wanted. With Lance…

“Do you guys feel like we’re intruding?” Hunk’s whisper was close behind Keith, and he turned to see the boy fidgeting. “Like, should we even be here, or is this, like, really intimate family time, right?”

“Pidge wanted us to be here, Hunk, it’s okay,” Shiro smiled at him, “Maybe we should go in and say hello.”

Hunk looked like he wanted to protest. Keith was trying to look like he wasn’t overly eager to get in there. And Shiro moved to walk through the door, trailing the both of them behind. Matt’s face lit up when he saw Shiro, faltering only slightly when they landed on Keith. Yeah, he definitely knew something.

“Hey, there’s the rest of my knights in shining armor!” His voice was wavering slightly, and his eyes kept darting back to Keith, only staying for a fraction of a second before shifting somewhere else. He wouldn’t meet Keith’s gaze. “Dad’s, uh, told me everything that you guys did to get me back. Seriously, thank you. And…sorry you got busted, Shiro.”

“It was well worth it,” Shiro said, clapping Matt gently on the back.

As the group began chatting, Keith looked over Matt. From afar, the boy had looked almost healthy, but up close, Keith could see the physical toll that his absence had taken. There were dark bags under his eyes, and his face was a few shades too pale. There was sweat lingering on his brow, despite the chill in the room, and Keith could see that Matt was still shaking ever so slightly. He still had bandages laced up his arms and around his neck, covering the bite marks that were slower to heal. He had a bandage on his nose, too, probably from where Keith had broken it. He certainly looked worse for wear, but it was nothing he couldn’t come back from.

When Matt began yawning, Dr. Holt started ushering them out, saying that Matt needed to rest.

“Wait,” Matt said, eyes finally latching onto Keith, “Keith, can you…stay back a minute?” Keith tried to look surprised rather than relieved as the rest of the group eyed the two curiously. “I have a bone to pick with you,” Matt chuckled nervously, “I mean, you did break my nose!”

Keith smiled slyly. “Technically, I did apologize right before I decked you. And, in my defense, you were being rather difficult.”

Matt’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Still, what kind of man would I be if I didn’t give you shit for it, right? Dad…could you just close the door for us, and…please don’t listen in…”

Dr. Holt nodded, giving his son a strange look as he followed the others out into the adjacent room, but he closed the door behind them at his son’s request.

Keith shifted nervously. Dr. Holt may have agreed to keep the microphones off so he knew they couldn’t hear them, but the team could damn well still see him, and he couldn’t risk them seeing how on edge he really was. So Keith stood there awkwardly, waiting for Matt to show his hand.

Matt sighed heavily, fatigue clearly straining his face. He looked down at his hands, aptly refusing to make eye contact with Keith. “You, uh…you might want to sit down or something. This isn’t exactly going to be easy to hear…” Matt waited a moment, but Keith made no move save for crossing his arms. Keith didn’t need to sit down; this was hardly going to be a shocking revelation for him. What he needed was to get this over with quickly before Matt had the chance to expose him. Realizing that Keith wasn’t moving, Matt cleared his throat before continuing. “I’m, uh, I’m telling you this first because…I think you deserve to hear it from me, I guess. And this is going to be really hard for you to hear….but, fuck, I don’t know how to say it…”

“Matt,” Keith said, deciding to spare him the turmoil of guilt that was clearly eating away at him. He really just wanted to get this done. Matt met Keith’s eyes finally, and Keith held his gaze. “I already know.”

Matt faltered, shock struck across his face as he took in Keith’s words. Then his eyebrows furrowed as his eyes swam with pain. “No, Keith…look I don’t know what you think you know, but this…what I need to tell you, it’s…it’s…” Matt trailed off, clearly finding neither the courage nor the right words to tell Keith. But Keith already knew.

“So this isn’t about Lance then?” Keith asked as casually as he could.

Again, shock occupied Matt’s face, a newfound horror mixed in as well. “I…Keith, what? How? What the fuck?”

“I already know,” Keith repeated slowly, “I know that Lance isn’t…dead. I know that he’s a…” He trailed off; he still couldn’t bring himself to call Lance that.

“Fuck, Keith,” Matt breathed. Keith twitched uncomfortably under the intense pity that Matt was boring into him. “Are…are you okay?”

Keith’s eyebrows twitched with irritation. “Of course I’m okay,” he said, “Matt, Lance would never do anything to hurt me…”

Matt shook his head, looking down at his lap. “Keith,” he said softly, “that’s not Lance, not anymore. You have to realize that.” When his eyes met Keith’s again, he could see a guarded sympathy there, like Matt wanted to pity him, and yet feared how Keith would react if he did.

Keith sighed heavily. He would have to convince Matt that Lance wasn’t a threat…somehow he’d have to. “Look…I know that Lance is…that he’s different than how he was. But you haven’t really seen him, really talked to him. He’s nothing like those monsters that had you.” Keith saw Matt shiver at the mention of his captors. “I’m not naïve,” he continued, “I can see that there’s…a darkness there…” It was the truth. Keith had seen this darkness in Lance from the beginning. What he wouldn’t tell Matt, however, was that Keith felt himself slowly slipping into this darkness with Lance. “I know that Lance would never do anything to hurt me, though.” He studied Matt then, who seemed slightly more convinced than he had moments ago. Keith sighed heavily and closed his eyes briefly. “Matt, please, please don’t tell anyone. It…you have no idea how good it is just to see him again.”

“Keith, your team—“

“I’ll tell them,” Keith lied, “Eventually. I just…haven’t found the right time yet.” It was easy to feign desperation when Keith was clinging on the verge of it already.

It was Matt’s turn to sigh deeply, and he ran his hands over his face. “Keith, please,” he cautioned, “just be careful, okay. Look, my dad is right. The bite…it’s really fucking addicting, Keith. I don’t…I don’t know if there will ever be a time that I won’t crave it anymore. I just…I don’t want you—“

“Matt,” Keith interrupted, “I get where you’re coming from, I do. But I promise you, there’s nothing to worry about. I would never let Lance do anything like that.” Keith could feel the lie slip from his lips. But was it a complete lie? Keith had realized as he talked more with Matt that he couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Matt obviously didn’t have the same experience with the bite as Keith had with Lance. Matt had clearly never been in control of his situation, not like Keith. He felt a swell of pride, actually, as he realized how well he was handling everything, handling Lance. Keith had Lance eating out of the palm of his hand, or rather, his neck; and he was getting everything he wanted.

Matt seemed satiated, at least for the moment. He swore to not tell anyone about Lance only after Keith swore to tell Matt first thing if there were any signs of trouble. It was a blatant lie, but Matt didn’t have to know that. He had done what he needed to do; Matt wasn’t going to expose Lance, Keith would make sure of it.

As he exited the room into the adjoining one, Keith was met with Shiro and Dr. Holt, who had obviously been in deep conversation. Both stopped to look at him with a mixture of worry and irritation on their faces.

“Where are Pidge and Hunk?” Keith asked, hoping to avoid the awkward conversation he knew was coming.

“I told them to go ahead on up,” Shiro said, still eyeing Keith. “So…what was that all about?” He waved his hand in the general direction of the other room.

“He…” Keith sighed, picking out the most conceivable lie he could think of. “He wanted to ask me about Pidge, about how she was when he was, you know, gone.” Keith was surprised how easily the lie slipped from his lips. “He knew that if he asked you—“ he nodded toward Dr. Holt— “you’d try to spare his feelings and not be honest with him. And we all know that Pidge wouldn’t give him a straight answer if he’d asked so…yeah, he asked me.”

“What did you tell him?” If Shiro saw through Keith’s lie, he was good at masking it.

“The truth.” Keith shrugged. “That she was a fucking mess. That she wasn’t okay, but that she is now. Or she’s at least getting there.”

Shiro nodded, lost in thought.

“Keith,” Dr. Holt said, and Keith turned to him, “Thank you…for being there for Pidge.”

“Of course.” Keith nodded, caught off guard by the sudden sentimentality of the situation. “I, uh, I should get going though…”

“Of course,” the doctor replied.

As Keith slipped out of the room, he couldn’t help but feel the prickle of stares on his back. Keith would have to be careful, he knew. Shiro was already suspicious of something, though Keith doubted he had any theories even close to the truth. Still, Shiro was persistent, and he was smart. Keith knew he’d have to be more careful going forward or his charade would be over quickly. He shook those thoughts out of his head. He knew he’d have a lot to talk to Lance about tonight.

 


 

Keith didn’t see Pidge for the rest of the day. He kept to himself until dinnertime, and when he went down to the commissary and his team’s table, only Hunk and Shiro greeted him. Keith had no doubt that Pidge was spending as much time as she could with Matt.

Their group of three ate quietly. Keith tried to appear as his normal, sulking self, but the fog that was swirling thicker and thicker in his head made him seem more tired than anything else. And a persistent buzzing in his ear was making him much more irritable than usual. Keith could see Shiro’s worry and skepticism, but he couldn’t find it in himself to care.

As soon as dinner was over, Keith retreated to his room, more eager than ever to see Lance. Visiting Matt had affected him more than he had realized, and he found himself craving Lance’s attention: his touches, his fangs. Keith paced his room impatiently until the sun sunk down into the earth and the world had succumbed to darkness. He pushed open the window and climbed out, up, and onto the roof. He sat down in his favorite spot to wait for Lance. He didn’t have to wait very long before Keith heard a voice sound behind him.

“Hello, handsome,” Lance lulled. Keith turned his head to see the boy leaning casually against the large vent; his black hood was casting a shadow on his face and his hands were in his pockets. Keith could barely see Lance’s face, but he could tell that he was smiling.

Keith smiled back as he stood to join him. “Hey, yourself.” Keith leaned against the vent next to Lance, staring into those crystal eyes.

“Tell me about your day.”

It wasn’t unusual for them to chat idly like this, but Keith didn’t have the patience for it right now. He would much rather skip ahead to the fun parts of the night. But Keith couldn’t deny Lance, well, anything, and he had no choice but to oblige.

“It was fine,” Keith said shrugging, “We saw Matt again. And we have nothing to worry about. He knows about you, but he won’t say anything.”

Lance visibly relaxed at this, and Keith began tugging at Lance’s coat, urging the boy forward.

But Lance just chuckled, placing a hand on Keith’s chest to keep them separated. “Whoa there, samurai, slow down. I love the enthusiasm, babe, I really do, but talk to me for a bit. How’s Matt doing?”

Keith groaned in frustration, but complied, dropping his hand from where it had been clutching Lance’s coat. “He’s fine. Good, I guess. Getting back to his old self.”

“Hmmm…” Lance’s eyes sat unfocused, as he was deep in thought. “It’s been, what, about a week and a half since you guys brought him back?”

Keith nodded. “Yeah, I guess. And it’s just now that he’s finally…” Keith couldn’t think of the right word to describe Matt’s condition compared to how he’d been when they first found him.

“Sentient…?” Lance offered hesitantly.

Keith nodded again. Yes, he supposed that was the best descriptor for how Matt was behaving, completely reversing the insensibility he had portrayed upon his rescue.

“Interesting…” Lance muttered to himself. He looked off into the distance, chewing his bottom lip. Keith couldn’t help but fixate on those sharp fangs as they poked out. Before he could do anything about it, though, Lance had turned back to him. “And did he get worse each day for that whole week and a half…before he started to feel better, that is?”

Keith shrugged; he didn’t know, he didn’t care. “Don’t know,” he said curtly, “we weren’t allowed to see him at all.”

Lance hummed in understanding, and Keith could feel his already thin patience waning. He pushed his body closer to Lance, both of them still leaning against the metal duct. “Lance,” he whined, “less talking, yeah? More biting?”

Lance chuckled, looking back at Keith with amusement twinkling in his eyes. “Samurai, you are absolutely insatiable, you know that?” He pushed himself off the vent to stand upright. “Let’s go to your room, though, okay?”

Keith grinned and made to follow. When he pushed his hand against the cool metal of the air vent, however, he felt a sharp sting across his finger. He hissed in pain. “Ow, fuck,” he muttered, looking down. He had scraped his hand across a loose screw and a large gash had been ripped through his index finger. Blood was already dripping down.

“Let me see,” Lance said, grabbing his wrist. He shot Keith an annoyed look. “You just have to keep hurting yourself, don’t you? What am I going to do with you? Here, you better let me take care of it.”

Keith resisted as Lance tried to bring his hand up to his own lips. “Lance,” he argued, “don’t. It’s probably dirty.”

Lance looked at him with a wry smile. “All the more reason to let me lick it clean.”

“I’d rather you bite me,” Keith retorted, but let Lance pull his hand up this time.

Lance slid Keith’s finger into his mouth. It was warm and wet, and Keith couldn’t help but gasp as Lance’s tongue danced around. He began sucking gently, careful to not let his fangs break the delicate skin. He closed his eyes at the sensation.

Keith’s eyes shot open when a voice sounded behind them.

“Wow, I came up here to say thanks and I find your new loverboy sucking you off…kinda. Kinky.”

“Pidge!” Keith spun around at the sound of her voice, his mind going blank. He was too slow to think to hide his hand, and by the time he enclosed it in his other fist, it was too late. She had seen the blood dripping down.

Her stance shifted immediately to a defensive crouch, eyes narrowing. “Keith, what the fuck?” she snarled. She reached around for the curved blade on her belt. Of course she had it with her, she was smart and practically always had it on her.

Keith held his hands out in a plea for her to stop, and the red blood was glaring in the moonlight. “Pidge, wait, just listen!”

“Keith, move, or I will fucking move you.” Her eyes never left the hooded figure behind him, and Keith could tell from her hostility and complete lack of shock that she couldn’t tell who it was under the hood.

He held his hands out further, trying desperately to diffuse her animosity. He tensed as felt Lance’s lips on his ear.

“Don’t tell them about me,” he whispered in Keith’s ear.

As Keith heard Lance retreating, he managed quick enough reflexes to grab Pidge as she went charging after him. She struggled against him as they fought for dominance.

“Keith, that’s a fucking bloodsucker and we need to kill it!” she shrieked. Jabbing him hard in the stomach with her sharp elbow, Pidge sprang free of his grip. But the hooded figure was gone, long since retreated into the shadows.

Pidge whirled around, eyes flaming with hostility as they landed on Keith. “What the fuck was that?”

Keith had no answer for her. He couldn’t tell them about Lance. Part of him wanted to, but…he just couldn’t. “I-I can’t say.” His eyes were wide with panic and he could feel his head throbbing.

Pidge’s jaw dropped. “This,” she spat, “this is what you’ve been hiding from us?! This is what you couldn’t tell us?! That you’re, what, with a fang? Jesus, Keith, is he the one that gave you those hickeys? You let a fang get that close to your fucking neck? What were you thinking?!” She was screaming by the time her tirade was done. Keith was silent.

I can’t tell her about Lance. I can’t.

She glared up at him “You have nothing to say?” When Keith still remained silent, she shook her head, disgust taking over her face. “Fuck you, Keith,” she spat.

Keith wasn’t expecting the punch; he couldn’t react fast enough to dodge it, and he took it full in the face. He fell to one knee, dazed for a moment. But a moment was all Pidge needed to storm past him and climb back down the pipe. When Keith stopped seeing stars, though his head was still swimming, he stood again, and Pidge was gone.

Keith raced to the edge of the roof, climbing down as quickly as he could and shoving himself through back through his window. No Pidge. But his door was open. She had run out of there in a hurry. Keith raced out the door. He had to stop her. He had to get her to listen, even if he had no idea what he was going to say. Keith sprinted to her room, wrenching open the door only to find it empty. He cursed. He was such an idiot. He knew exactly where Pidge had gone.

Keith started to run again. He raced upstairs, where higher commanding officer’s rooms were. He had to get to Shiro before Pidge could tell him anything. Though, in the back of his mind, Keith knew he would be too late. When he burst through Shiro’s door, he knew his fears had been right. If the tears in Pidge’s eyes and Shiro’s fist clenched on the desk in front of him weren’t enough of a confirmation, the look the two gave Keith when he opened the door certainly was. The shock, the disgust, the betrayal; it all shone through their eyes as they fell on Keith. Keith stopped dead in his tracks in the doorway.

“L-let me explain,” Keith panted, “Please, I—“

“No!” Shiro remained at his desk, fist clenched tight. He had turned away from Keith, unable to look him in the eye. “No, Keith. I don’t want to hear it right now. Go back to your room. Now! Until I decide what I’m going to do with you.” He spoke through gritted teeth.

“Shiro, please—“

“Go! Now!” Shiro stood then, facing Keith. Keith had rarely seen such anger in his mentor’s eyes, and never directed at anything other than a fang. Is this how Shiro saw him now, the same as the monsters that they hunted?

Keith nodded, knowing he couldn’t argue. He had neither an explanation nor the energy to think of one. He backed out of Shiro’s door, making his way back down to his own room. Keith was shaking, though not from the cold, and the look in Shiro’s eyes haunted him every time he closed his own.

Keith stepped into his room, the door still open. He closed it, but didn’t bother locking it. Shiro would come to him soon enough. Come to think of it, hadn’t Keith locked the door before going out onto the roof? He always did. How had Pidge gotten in? Keith should have thought of Pidge’s sneakiness. Though, he never expected her to actually come up onto the roof…

Keith sat on his bed, letting his head fall into his hands. What was he going to do? Any minute, Shiro was going to walk in. He couldn’t tell him the truth. A large part of him actually wanted to tell them, but he couldn’t. Lance had asked him not to, and he had to respect that. Though why Lance was so against their team knowing, especially with the position that Keith was in now, was a mystery to him. He wished that he could just tell them. That would make this whole thing so much easier. But now, Keith just had to wait for Shiro to come and yell at him.

 


 

Hours passed, and still no Shiro. The moon had sunk low in the sky, and it wouldn’t be long before the blazing sun could be seen on the horizon. The dark sky outside had already begun to lighten. Keith was full on trembling now, and he had started to feel cold sweat prickling on his skin. Lance hadn’t bitten him; he needed Lance to bite him. Keith had never gone so long without a bite.

His face was still buried in his hands when Keith heard a light thud next to him. He looked up to see that Lance had snuck in through the window. The boy’s head was still covered by his dark hood, and Keith could barely see the ghost of a smile there.

“Hey, you’re alright…”

Keith leapt up. “What the hell are you doing here?” he hissed, “Are you stupid? This is way too dangerous!”

“I had to make sure you were okay,” Lance cooed. His back was still to the window as he took a step toward Keith.

“You need to go. Now. If Shiro suspected that you’d come back, then he’d be waiting—“

As if on cue, another figure slid in through the window. Shiro straightened himself up and held his mechanical arm, glowing with energy, up to Lance’s throat. “Don’t move, bloodsucker.”

Keith started toward Lance, but the boy held up a hand and he halted. Lance tilted his head down ever so slightly, covering his face entirely in shadows.

“Shiro, don’t,” Keith pleaded, “You don’t understand what’s going on here.”

“I think I understand just fine,” Shiro replied, eyes trained on the back of Lance’s head. Keith knew that he could only see the hood; he knew that Shiro was oblivious as to who was standing before him.

The door burst open, and Keith whirled around to see Hunk and Pidge enter, each with their weapon at the ready. They held their position at the door as Pidge closed it again. Shiro stood at the window. There were no other exits.

“We’ve got you now, you fucking freak,” Pidge spat at Lance’s hooded figure, “Yield now and maybe we won’t kill you on the spot.”

Keith’s head was swimming; something didn’t feel right. “Please, guys, you don’t understand,” Keith said, pain spreading through his body.

“What exactly is there to understand?” Pidge said venomously, eyes never leaving her target.

“Keith, buddy, you gotta know this is wrong,” Hunk offered, though his eyes, too, never left the hooded figure before them. “You just gotta tell us what’s going on.”

Keith barely registered the words. His head didn’t just feel thick with fog, it felt heavy. Keith clutched at his head. He was shaking visibly now, and his hair was matted with sweat. What was happening to him?

“Keith, what’s wrong?” Shiro asked, anger still present in his voice, but concern snaked its way through as well.

But Keith didn’t know. He had never felt this. He had never felt such need. He needed Lance; he desperately, desperately needed him. Keith reached out blindly, making contact with Lance’s arm. The boy gripped his arm tight, holding Keith steady.

“Don’t touch him!” Pidge hissed. Lance ignored her.

“Shhh.” His voice was barely a whisper, but Keith heard him clearly. “You’re okay now. Everything’s okay.”

The pain ebbed out of him slowly, the fog began to clear, the trembling subdued. Keith groaned at the odd sensation. He stood upright, clutching his still throbbing head. “What the hell was that?” he muttered.

The team stood around them in shock. Shiro bared his teeth. “What was that? Start talking, fang. Now.” His mechanical arm was still trained, completely steady, at the back of Lance’s head.

Of all the things Keith could have anticipated happening at that moment, this was not one of them. Lance started laughing. It wasn’t a loud laugh, or a particularly happy one. Lance kept his head down and let his shoulders shake. Something about it disturbed Keith deeply.

“Shiro the hero!” Lance spoke in a clear, loud voice. Each of the team members sported a shocking, confused look. Whether they thought they recognized his voice, or whether they were perplexed by the nickname that they’d only ever heard from one person, Keith couldn’t tell. “Always so demanding,” Lance continued. “I hate to tell you this, buddy, but I don’t take orders from you…anymore.”

Lance dramatically flung his hood off, turning his head to give Shiro a sideways glance. His mouth was twisted in a smirk. The air in the room stood still as the three team members each sucked in a collective gasp. Keith heard a soft ‘Oh, God’ from Pidge and a breathy ‘No way’ from Hunk. Shiro remained silent, frozen on the spot, staring into Lance’s blue eyes. Keith saw Lance shoot Shiro a playful wink before turning his head forward, facing the others.

Lance flashed them a devilish grin that brilliantly showcased his fangs. “Pidge, Hunk my man, long time.”

Chapter Text

“Oh my God,” Pidge said again.

“L-Lance, buddy…” Tears were welling in Hunk’s eyes. “H-how?” He couldn’t even piece together a sentence.

“Hmm,” Lance hummed, “Long story, pretty boring. Anyway—“ he sauntered to the side, toward the desk and, pushing aside the chair, sat atop it— “onto business, right? What are we going to do in this odd predicament?” Lance spoke coolly, as though three trained soldiers didn’t have their weapons fixed on him.

Keith looked at his team, at his friends. Pidge had a look of controlled horror on her face. Hunk looked as though he would break down at any moment. But both kept their weapons directed at Lance. Shiro’s face held something different. Anger, yes, and sadness. But there was something else there, too: understanding, perhaps? Keith couldn’t be sure. He, too, kept his weapon aimed at Lance.

“It all makes sense…” Shiro spoke quietly, and Keith almost didn’t catch it.

“What?” Pidge spat, panic leaking from her voice, “How does any of this make sense to you?”

Shiro sighed heavily. “Keith’s behavior…” All eyes turned to Keith, though the weapons stayed fixed on their target. “It all makes sense.” Keith could see the pain in Shiro’s eyes as his mentor looked down at him. “Keith…show me your neck.”

Keith stared in shock at him, and he heard Pidge and Hunk gasp sharply behind him. He couldn’t show him, he couldn’t do that to Shiro…

“Keith, darling, come here, would you?” Lance held his hand out to Keith, and Keith turned toward him once again.

“Don’t—“ Shiro said, reaching out to Keith, but Keith dodged away from his grasp and found himself walking toward Lance almost mechanically.

Reaching a hand out, Keith grabbed Lance’s and the boy pulled him in. Lance spun Keith around quickly and drew him flush against his own body, so that Keith’s back was leaning into Lance’s chest, standing between the legs that dangled off the desk. The boy held him at the hips. The others seemed to be frozen in place, watching the scene unfold before them.

“So you want to see my handiwork?” Lance spoke to Shiro before turning to Keith. “Keith, baby, don’t you want to take off your shirt and show them what I’ve done to you?” Lance lulled in his ear.

Keith furrowed his brows in confusion. No, he definitely didn’t want that. He didn’t want his team to see the multitude of bite marks that littered his skin. He couldn’t do that to them. And yet, Keith found himself tugging at the hem of his shirt; because, yes, of course he wanted that. So Keith pulled the dark tee over his head, dropping it unceremoniously on the floor and fell back onto Lance’s chest. The boy snaked his arms around Keith then, one hand landing on his collarbone, fingers trailing up his neck and stroking his jaw; the other fell on Keith’s stomach, holding him firmly in place.

There were audible gasps from the three onlookers, as well as a breathy ‘fuck’ from Pidge. Keith knew how bad it must seem to them. There were dozens of puncture marks dotted around his shoulders, running down his arms. There were plenty on his back too, but they couldn’t see those. Some were almost healed, just irritated red marks; some were scabbed over, and some were still fresh. All of them had been placed in an area that would be easily covered with Keith’s t-shirts; Lance had made sure of that. Keith should have felt embarrassed, maybe even guilty, but he didn’t care. After all, he wanted to show them what Lance had done to him, didn’t he?

Lance waggled his fingers a bit, tapping Keith on the jaw. Keith knew what it meant, and he leaned his head to the side, giving the boy full access to his neck. Keith saw Shiro start toward them, but Lance didn’t bite. He just rested his chin on Keith’s shoulder.

“So what do you think?” Lance asked, “Beautiful, isn’t it?” Keith could feel him smile against his neck. Lance then kissed his shoulder gently, sending a shiver through Keith’s entire body.

“Lance…” he sighed out before he could stop himself.

“Hmm?” Lance mused, “Tell me what you want, samurai.”

“I want you to bite me.” The words left Keith’s mouth before he could even register that he was going to say them. Keith shut his eyes. He hadn’t wanted to say it. He didn’t want his teammates, his friends to hear him say it.

Keith felt Lance’s lips brush against the skin of his shoulder as the boy opened his mouth.

“Don’t.” Shiro’s voice was somehow strong and broken at the same time. He took a step toward Lance.

“Careful now,” Lance said coldly, “Human flesh is so…delicate. One slip up, and I could rip right through it…”

Shiro froze, wide eyes staring in horror as Lance sank his fangs deep into Keith’s flesh.

Keith couldn’t help let a moan escape his lips. He dropped his head further sideways, resting it all the way on his shoulder. His hands gripped the edge of the desk behind him, one on each side of Lance. He could feel his nails digging into the wood. This is what he had needed, what his body craved. He could feel the aches and pains slowly ease out of him, replaced with the pleasant fog swirling thickly around. And God, it felt so good— And it was all over too quickly. Lance unhinged his fangs from Keith’s skin, licking up the drops that spilled like he always did.

“Don’t stop,” Keith whined quietly. Perhaps he should feel shame from the three bystanders looking on in horror, but he didn’t. Keith felt only ecstasy.

“He’s addicted to it…” Pidge’s voice was small, and Keith could barely hear it through the buzzing in his head. “Just like Matt…”

Keith felt Lance remove the hand from his jaw, only to reach up and tangle his fingers in Keith’s long, black hair. “Of course he is,” Lance said plainly, “I’ve had him hooked for weeks.”

Keith furrowed his brow. That wasn’t right, was it? Lance had said that the venom wasn’t addictive… “But you said—“

“Shh,” Lance said, stroking Keith’s hair, “It’s all okay.”

Keith nodded. “Yeah, okay.” And it was okay. Why should Keith care if he was addicted or not?

“Why is he doing that?” Shiro asked, malice dripping from his voice.

“What?” Lance asked, feigning innocence, “You mean agreeing with everything I say and doing everything I tell him to do?” Lance took Shiro’s angered silence to be a confirmation of his question. “Vampires call it The Mist. You can call it whatever you want: influence, persuasion, compulsion, brainwashing…doesn’t matter. That’s what the bite does to you. You’re not just addicted, you’re obedient.”

Keith watched as their faces all contorted back into horror. They didn’t understand. It wasn’t a bad thing. They just needed to feel it for themselves, then they would understand.

“You—“ Shiro looked almost sick to his stomach as his eyes trailed over Keith’s blissful face and over to Lance’s smug one. “What the hell do you want?”

“Ah, yes,” Lance said, fingers still brushing gently through Keith’s hair, “Thus brings us to why you are all here tonight!”

Pidge scoffed. “We’re here to stop the fucking bloodsucker that’s been brainwashing Keith.”

“No, no, little Pidge. You’re here because I wanted you to be here.”

Keith stiffened at Lance’s words, realization creeping in. “You-you wanted to get caught.” His voice was barely a whisper in the quiet room. “You knew this would happen, you planned for it. That’s why you came back so quickly…” None of it was posed as a question. Keith knew he was right.

He could feel Lance chuckle behind him. “Well, it happened much sooner than I had planned, I’ll admit. But when Pidge caught us red-handed on the roof, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Yes, I wanted you all to quote, unquote catch me.”

“But why?” Shiro asked, voice full of spite.

Lance sighed heavily, resting his chin once again on Keith’s shoulder. “I need protection,” he admitted.

Shiro scoffed. “And you think we’ll give it to you? After everything you’ve done? Who could you possibly need protection from?”

“Lotor…” Keith answered for Lance. He twisted around and out of Lance’s grip to look at the boy. “He knows…”

Lance grimaced. “He’s getting dangerously close, yes.” He eyed Keith up and down hungrily. “Do put a shirt on darling, you’re quite…distracting.” Lance turned his eyes back to the team as Keith scrambled to pick his shirt off the floor and let it slip back over his head. He hardly noticed the angered pity that shone in his teammate’s eyes.

“Lotor knows that a vamp has infiltrated Garrison property; a feat that he’s been trying to accomplish for some time now, mind you,” Lance continued, “As soon as he finds out that it’s me, we’re all screwed. Lotor may already know that I was a soldier here, but trust me, I won’t be able to resist him. He will learn everything I know: every secret, every mission, every strategy; he will learn how I get in here, and he will use it against you.” Lance’s eyes narrowed, growing darker as he spoke, a warning to the group that he meant what he said. “I imagine that this would be very bad for all of you.”

“And what do you want us to do about it?” Shiro said, eyes darkening as well at the implications of what the boy was saying.

“Like is said,” Lance chided, “I want protection. My demands are quite simple.”

“Again, why would we help you?” Pidge spat. “Killing you would have the same result. Lotor can’t extract information from a dead guy.”

Lance feigned shock, gasping dramatically and placing a hand over his chest. “And I thought we were friends, Pidge! I thought you’d want to help me, especially after all the help I’ve given you lately.” He waggled his eyebrows at her, grinning.

Keith sighed. Apparently they were going there. Lance was putting all the cards out on the table. They might as well tell them that Matt knew about Lance too. They might as well tell them Lotor knows that Keith is connected to this, too.

“What the fuck does that mean?” Pidge asked venomously.

Lance face twisted into a sick smile, flashing his fangs. “Who do you think told Keith that Matt was still alive?”

Pidge’s eyes widened as she took in the boy’s words. “I-I don’t believe you. That vamp is the one that—“

“Ah, yes,” Lance said, “That was risky. It was lucky that he complied so well with Keith’s threats. What—“ he eyed them tauntingly— “you didn’t think he’d willingly give up that information if Keith hadn’t goaded him into it, did you? It turned out well, though, I must say. He gave you everything you needed. You had to find the information on your own, after all, to not arouse any suspicions.” He flashed Pidge another smile.

“I-I don’t believe you,” Pidge said again. She looked to Keith.

“It’s true,” Keith muttered, avoiding her gaze, “Lance is the one who told me Matt was alive, told me where to find him. We wouldn’t have gotten him back if it weren’t for Lance.”

“You still haven’t answered our question.” Shiro’s words cut through the room like a knife. “Why would we want to help you? Why would we ever after what you’ve done to Keith?”

Lance smirked, turning his head to meet Shiro’s hard stare. “Because I have information that I think you’d find quite…interesting. About Lotor. I’ll give it up, for a price. Like I said, my demands are quite simple.”

“And what are your demands?”

“I’ll stay here at the Garrison, you’ll protect me: you’ll make sure I’m not harmed here or turned into some sick experiment and you’ll protect me from Lotor. Oh, and I’ll get to see Keith every day; I’ll still need to feed, after all.”

Keith could feel his body grow warm at Lance’s words. He couldn’t help the smile that tugged at his lips. He’d still get to be with him every day. He’d still get to have those fangs sink into his flesh. Keith didn’t realize how much he needed that…

“What makes you think the Garrison will ever agree to that?” Shiro asked harshly.

Lance smirked again. “You’ll convince them. You’ll have to, if you don’t want your favorite golden boy to die.”

“Is that a threat?” Shiro’s eyes darkened as he took a step toward Lance.

“Not at all,” Lance said, eyes wide with artificial innocence, “just a fact.” He stared Shiro down, his blue eyes suddenly hard and cold. “The mind is a powerful thing, Shiro. You convince the brain that you’re dying, and your body will start to shut itself down. All I have to do is tell Keith that—“

Lance was cut off by Shiro’s sudden assault. The man had lunged at Lance, pushing Keith backwards and away from the boy at the same time. Shiro’s arm wrapped around Lance tightly, turning the boy and holding him, Lance’s back against Shiro. His mechanical arm had attached itself to Lance’s mouth, muffling the boy’s speech.

“I won’t give you the chance,” he hissed into Lance’s ear.

Keith, who had been momentarily frozen with shock, moved to help Lance. But Shiro was quicker.

“Hunk,” he barked, “grab Keith! Now!”

Hunk, who had been near petrified the whole time, sprang into action. With how hard Shiro had shoved Keith, and with how thick his head felt with fog, Keith couldn’t react fast enough to evade the other boy’s grasp. Hunk threw his arms around Keith, lifting him easily off the ground and holding tight. Keith tried to struggle to no avail, and he began shouting for the boy to let him go.

“Shut him up!” Shiro hissed, and Hunk’s hand clasped over Keith’s mouth, muffling him into silence as well. “Keith, you need to calm down,” Shiro barked at him, “You make this much noise and you’ll wake up the whole building. Soldiers will come flooding in and you know that they’ll shoot first and ask questions later. I am trying to help you.”

Keith stilled and, being restrained from doing anything else, took to glaring at Shiro. The man’s face was weary, tired, and Keith could tell that he was unsure of how to proceed. “We…we should get them to Dr. Holt. He’ll know what to do…I hope.”

“How are we going to get there?” Pidge asked, “There are patrols everywhere. As soon as we step out of the building, we’ll be stopped.”

Lance made a muffled sound against Shiro’s hand. The boy had been calm, not fighting Shiro’s grasp on him in the slightest, and all eyes turned to him at the attempt to talk. They hadn’t understood what he was trying to say, but Keith did. He had grasped what the four syllables that Lance had hummed out meant. His eyes widened in intrigue, and he wiggled his head, struggling to be free of Hunk’s grip on him.

“Keith?” Shiro asked, and Hunk dropped his hand from Keith’s mouth.

Keith looked only to Lance, confused by what the boy was suggesting. “Veronica?” he asked. Lance nodded underneath Shiro’s hand. “You…want us to get Veronica?” Keith asked. Lance rolled his eyes dramatically and nodded again.

“I don’t know…” Shiro eyed Lance. “I don’t want to bring anyone else into this if I don’t have to. I don’t want to bring her into this. We have no idea how she’d react…”

“She…” Keith said hesitantly, “She already knows. About Lance…”

Shiro’s face twisted into a controlled anger before settling again. He sighed deeply. “Pidge,” he said firmly, “go get Veronica.”

Pidge hesitated for only a moment, then nodded. She ran out the door, shutting it as quietly as she could behind her. When she returned a few minutes later, she was dragging behind her a very tired looking Veronica. Upon seeing the four boys, Keith and Lance both entrapped, her face shifted from exhaustion to shock.

“What the hell is this?” she asked harshly.

Lance hummed another muffled note and waggled his eyebrows playfully at her, a gesture which they all recognized as Lance’s ‘heey!’

“What are you doing?” Veronica snapped at Shiro, “Let my brother go!”

“I can’t, and I’m not even going to get into the fact that you knew about all of this,” Shiro said calmly, tiredly, ”But, I can’t let him talk. It’s…a long story.”

“Lance brainwashed Keith,” Pidge snarked.

“Okay…not that long…” Shiro mumbled. Seeing Veronica’s horror as she looked between the two boys, he tried to explain. “Look, we need to get them to Dr. Holt. If anyone can help them right now, it’s him. We just need a way to get to the labs discretely. Lance…may have suggested that you’d be able to help?”

Veronica hardened her face, making it impossible to tell what she was thinking. She looked to Lance. “Good memory,” she mused, before turning to the rest of them. “There are tunnels that connect each building underground. Kind of like the ones that lead to the city. They’re to be used in emergency situations, if we ever lose power or we’re unable to go outside for any reason. All the communications officers know them, but no one uses them. I can lead you through them and take you to the labs.”

Shiro nodded. “Then that’s our plan. Pidge, you go wake your dad up and get him to the labs. Tell him it’s an emergency but don’t tell him anything else. No one will question you two going to the labs, even at this time of night. They’ll just think you’re there to see Matt.” Pidge nodded and raced out the door once more. Shiro turned back to Veronica. “Okay, lead the way.”

Keith couldn’t help but feel defeated. He was still captured in Hunk’s strong grasp, unable to help Lance in any way. They were caught between a rock and a hard place. But as Keith looked at Lance’s eyes, at the determination and smugness that showed there, Keith could help but wonder if this, too, was all part of some plan.

Veronica expertly led them down through the tunnels. It was a maze, and Keith was in awe that she knew her way around. Shiro kept his grip on Lance, one arm snaked around the boy’s middle, pinning his arms down, and the other still on his mouth, making sure he couldn’t speak, especially to Keith. Hunk, meanwhile, still held Keith tight, both arms wrapped around him like a hug, carrying the smaller boy as they journeyed.

“Hunk, you can put me down, I can walk.” Keith kicked his legs a bit as if to prove they still worked.

“Uh…I…um…” Hunk looked to Shiro, who shook his head. “Nope. Gotta keep you here. No can do. Sorry, buddy.” Keith groaned loudly.

“This is definitely the weirdest situation I’ve ever been in,” Veronica muttered under her breath.

“You’re telling me,” Hunk said, “I just found out that my best friend is a…and he’s been…feeding on Keith for, like, weeks…and you knew?!”

Veronica stiffened visibly. “I-I didn’t know that he had…bitten Keith. I just knew that he was alive. That he was a… that they were meeting.”

No one could choke out the word: vampire. It was easier to call them bloodsuckers, leeches, fangs, freaks, parasites, monsters. But they couldn’t bring themselves to call Lance such things.

Veronica paused in the middle of the dark, windowless hallway. Keith could see the outline of a door that he could only assume led into the labs.

“The lab has the highest security of anything at the Garrison, save for the weapons store,” Veronica said, stepping up to the door, “Lots of valuable information, I guess. I just have to remember the key…” After a moment of thought, she perked up and typed a long string of code into the keypad just outside the door. It slid open with a slight creak, obviously having rarely been used.

As the team made their way through the door, Pidge and a very tired and confused Dr. Holt greeted them. His eyes widened at the scene before him. “What on earth is going on here?” His gaze darted back and forth between the boy captured in Hunk’s arms and the vampire trapped in Shiro’s. “Is that—is that Lance?”

“Sorry to spring this on you Sam,” Shiro said sympathetically, “but we really need your help. We’ll fill you in on all the details, I swear, but first we need to get them away from each other. We need to gag Lance, or else get him somewhere else, somewhere Keith can’t hear him…”

Keith struggled a bit in Hunk’s arms and looked desperately to Lance. There was a gleam in his eye: amusement? Keith couldn’t be sure. Why wasn’t he fighting?

“We’re not doing anything until you tell me why.” Dr. Holt was a reasonable man, but also a cautious one.

Shiro sighed heavily. “The venom…” he began, “it does so much more than you realized. It’s not just a drug, it’s…” he sputtered, trying to find the right words.

“Influence, persuasion, compulsion, brainwashing,” Pidge said flatly, “To use Lance’s words at least.”

Both Dr. Holt and Veronica looked shocked at this. “I thought you were kidding when you said he’d brainwashed Keith…” Veronica muttered.

“Anything Lance says Keith will believe, or do. We have to get them away from each other.” Shiro’s voice was strained, and Keith had never seen him look so weary.

Dr. Holt quickly recovered. “Very well. We’ll put Keith in with Matt. No one will disturb him there. Pidge,” he said, turning to his daughter, “go get an extra bed, you know where they are, then meet us in Matt’s room.”

“What am I tonight, a fucking errand boy?” Pidge muttered under her breath as she trudged away.

“You all come with me. We can’t risk you being seen by anyone that might still be wandering about.”

The group followed Dr. Holt through a series of hallways before entering the same room as before. Though it was darker than the last time they’d been there, the room was unmistakably the same one that was connected to where Matt was being held. Through the one-way glass, Keith could see a peaceful, sleeping Matt.

Moments later, Pidge appeared, rolling in a hospital bed identical to the one Matt was in. she held up a bundle of padded restraints. “Brought these too. Figured they might come in handy.” She cast a guilty glance in Keith’s direction. Damn her for being so smart. Keith snarled back.

Dr. Holt nodded, taking another look at the boy imprisoned in Hunk’s arms. “Probably a good idea,” he muttered, then, speaking louder, “Shiro, stay here and keep…Lance restrained. The rest of you, I’ll probably need your help getting Keith to settle down…if he’s anything like Matt was…”

Keith began to struggle once more against Hunk’s grasp. “No,” his voice was strained, “You can’t take me away from him!” He began to kick at Hunk’s legs to no avail; the other boy was much stronger than him. Keith looked desperately to Lance, wishing the boy would tell him what to do. But Lance just looked at him calmly, unmoving. He wasn’t even fighting against Shiro, he wasn’t fighting for Keith. But there was something in his eyes: guilt, perhaps?

Keith continued to fight as the barged through the door and into Matt’s room. Matt woke with a start, blinking, confused, at the scene before him. Pidge was positioning the bed, Hunk was dragging Keith toward it, Dr. Holt and Veronica trailed behind. Keith continued screaming, but he couldn’t break free of the strong arms that held him down.

He kept fighting as Hunk forced him down onto the bed, holding his arms down so that Dr. Holt could cuff each wrist, attaching them to the side of the bed. He continued to kick as Pidge and Veronica each held a leg down, cuffing them to the bed as well. He continued to pull at the restraints even when they were all secured. “Let me go!” he yelled. It wasn’t desperate or hurt the way Matt’s cries had been; it was pure anger.

“Pidge, what’s happening?” Matt had gotten up from his bed and stepped over to the commotion. He placed a hand on his sister’s shoulder.

“Keith is a lying fuck-wad is what’s happening.” Her voice was full of spite, but her eyes showed immense pain. Keith knew he had betrayed her trust. He had betrayed all their trust. But it didn’t fucking matter; all that mattered was Lance.

“This…seems a little extreme, don’t you think?” Matt asked, casting a pitying glance at Keith, “I mean, he did tell you the truth…”

Pidge rounded on Matt with a newfound fury in her eyes. “What?” she snapped.

“He…” Matt looked between Pidge and Keith, realization setting in. “He didn’t tell you, did he?”

“You knew?!” Pidge shrieked, “You knew what Lance was? You knew that he was using Keith as a fucking bloodbag?!”

“I—“ Matt’s eyes widened in horror as he snapped back to Keith, a new panic in his eyes. “I didn’t know that Lance…I didn’t know he’d bitten him…”

“Are you fucking kidding me, Matt!” Pidge growled, “Just because—“

“Pidge,” Dr. Holt said firmly, cutting off her tirade, “Why don’t you show Shiro to the sub-basement. It’s away from prying eyes and I think one of those rooms will be sufficient to hold Lance.” He spoke calmly, and Keith could hear him fiddling with something out of his line of vision.

“Lance…is here?” Matt gasped. He looked in the direction of the other room as Pidge ran through the door. He couldn’t see Shiro and Lance through the one-way glass, but he knew they were there. Continuing to struggle against the shackles that held him down, Keith remembered what Matt had told him, and wondered if Matt craved Lance’s bite as much as Keith did, or if perhaps Matt only craved Lotor…

“Keith, I need you to calm down,” Dr. Holt said, coming back into Keith’s vision. “We’re only trying to help you, and pulling on those restraints is only going to hurt yourself. I don’t want to have to sedate you, son.”

At those words, Keith stilled. A scowl still resided on his face, having taken up permanent residency since this whole ordeal had begun. But the last thing he wanted was to be knocked out cold.

“That’s better,” Dr. Holt said, “I need to examine you now, but I won’t hurt you.” He brought up his hand and Keith could see the gleam of medical scissors. Keith started to move again, but the scissors merely went to cut open his shirt. With the restraints on his wrists, it was the only way for Dr. Holt to remove it, for him to get to the skin hiding underneath, to the bite marks. When the cloth tore away from his shoulders, there were audible gasps.

“Jesus,” Veronica said, at the same time Matt said, “Shit.”

“Don’t worry, Matt,” Matt said thinly, mockingly, “I’ve got it handled, Lance would never hurt me…”

“I-I didn’t know,” Veronica stuttered, “I’m sorry.”

They were speaking to no one in particular.

“Don’t apologize,” Hunk said, “No one blames you for this, Veronica.”

“But you blame me?” Keith spat out venomously.

Hunk shook his head; pity shown in his eyes. “No, Keith. I don’t think anyone blames you either. You literally couldn’t help yourself. This…this is Lance’s doing.”

“I thought he was your best friend.” Keith glared at Hunk, taunting, mocking, trying to cut deep.

“He was, Keith, but that,” he gestured vaguely in the direction of the other room, “that’s not the Lance we knew. The Lance that we knew would never have done this to you. He never would have hurt you. He never would have used you.”

“That’s not—“ He started to struggle against the confines of the restraints once more. “Fuck, let me go!” His cries were moving from anger to desperation.

“I think it’s best if you all leave,” Dr. Holt said calmly, fingers still working around Keith’s squirming form. “Matt, try to get some sleep. And you two, when Pidge comes back with Shiro, I suggest you all go back the way you came. You can come check on him in the morning, yes?”

Keith felt a sharp jab in his arm as Dr. Holt injected a needle through his soft flesh. The drug acted quickly, slowing his movements and making his eyelids heavy with sleep. The last thing he saw before closing them was Hunk walking through the door, looking back on him with a look of absolute heartache.

Chapter Text

When Keith woke up again, he was alone. He looked around the room to see that Matt’s bed was empty and that the door to the other room was closed. He glared at window, unaware whether anyone was even on the other side, and was met with his own pale reflection. Keith examined himself in the mirror. He looked paler than usual, with heavy bags under his eyes. It looked as though he hadn’t slept in days. He slammed his head back down on the pillow.

There was a tingling sensation crawling up his skin, making Keith feel agitated, restless, but he couldn’t move. If Keith had to guess, he’d say that it hadn’t yet been a full day since he’d been put in here. He had yet to get the usual signs of sweating or shakiness that occurred whenever he was in need of Lance’s bite. Lance. Need. Bite. Keith groaned and felt a wetness on his cheek as tears began slipping down. He knew he should care that Lance had lied to him, that he was apparently using him, but he didn’t. He just didn’t. All Keith cared about—all he could think about—was getting back to Lance.

But the restraints were tight around his wrists and ankles. Keith examined them closely. They were padded, so they wouldn’t hurt. How kind of them. But they were fastened tightly to the edge of the bed. Keith couldn’t even reach his hand out to grab at his own side, let alone make a move to free himself. The shackles around his ankles had a bit more of a leash on them, but that hardly did any good. He wouldn’t be able to reach them regardless.

Keith wasn’t sure how much time passed of him lying there by himself, but eventually, exhaustion struck him. Keith’s body suddenly felt too heavy, his eyelids drooping. He had never felt so tired. He closed his eyes, and he let sleep overcome him.

 


 

The next time Keith woke up, it was because of the voices. He heard them before his body had even fully woken up, before he could move a muscle. It was Shiro, and there was the doc, and Hunk? Pidge? Keith couldn’t be sure. What were they saying? Keith used any minimal strength that he had to focus on the sounds around him. The voices ebbed in and out of his consciousness, like a wave lapping at the shore.

“How is he…” Shiro’s voice swam through Keith’s head; he sounded so tired.

“…hard to say at this point in…” Dr. Holt’s voice rose up and then sank down.

“…do about Lance?” Pidge’s voice sounded through the crashing of waves in Keith’s head. What did she mean? They couldn’t hurt him…please don’t hurt him. But Keith still couldn’t move, let alone talk to them.

“…see him right now, I’ll probably kill…” Shiro’s voice was suddenly hard. Keith felt panic rise in his chest.

“…is so wrong. Is no one else freaking…” Hunk’s voice was a tremor in his mind. It, too, faded in and out. “…feels really messed up…”

“…course this feels wrong, but we…” Shiro’s voice sank back down into exhaustion. “…keep them apart…”

Then the pain struck Keith. It seeped into him slowly, like squeezing a bottle of toothpaste out, and trailed through him. He couldn’t help but cry out pitifully as the pain spread across his body. The talking subsided, and when he finally opened his eyes, Keith could see all of them looking at him. There was anger on their faces, no doubt, but there was a saddened worry lingering there as well. He had hurt them, Keith knew, but they still cared. He knew he should feel much worse about his actions than he actually did. But right now, currently, all Keith cared about was Lance.

“How are you feeling, son?” Dr. Holt’s face bobbed into Keith’s field of vision as he fiddled with the IV bag that was attached to Keith’s arm with a long, thin tube.

Keith could only moan in reply, weakly tugging at the restraints around his wrists. He was already shaking, and he could feel a sheen of sweat on his brow despite the cold room. The doc had said there were withdrawal symptoms, but Keith had only scratched the surface on those. Lance had never let it get that bad, and Keith didn’t want to know what worse would feel like. He needed Lance. Now.

“Please, please just let me go,” Keith’s voice was faint and raw, as though he desperately needed a drink of water. He felt sickly, weak, and he needed a fix. His head hurt, his whole body hurt. “You need to let me out.”

The doc’s eyes were sympathetic as they looked back down to Keith. “I’m sorry, Keith, but you know I can’t do that.”

“Please,” Keith begged. He had never felt such a strong pull. He knew he needed it, and he knew he couldn’t get to it. It would drive him mad, he was sure of it. Keith began tugging harder at his restraints.

“Shh, shh, Keith, you’re okay. You need to calm down, son.”

“No, no, no,” Keith chanted, pulling harder at the bindings around his wrists. He barely registered the horrified faces of his team around him. “Please, I need Lance. You have to let me go, please!”

“Keith, you’re going to hurt yourself if you keep pulling like that. I don’t want you to pull something.”

But Keith barely registered Dr. Holt’s words through the thick buzzing in his head. The blanketed fog that he had experienced over the last few weeks was being replaced with fear, paranoia, anxiety, and Keith couldn’t push it away. His breath quickened as he pulled harder against his cuffs. His eyes searched wildly, looking for anything, for nothing. “No, please, I can’t…” Keith knew that what he was feeling now was only the beginning, and he couldn't begin to comprehend how much worse it was going to get. He could feel hot tears running down his cheek, mixing with the sweat that was already coating his body.

Beside him, Dr. Holt sighed heavily and reached for a syringe, quickly injecting it into Keith’s arm. As his muscles relaxed and his eyes grew heavy, Keith realized all too late that he was being sedated once more. “No,” he whined before blacking out completely.

 


 

Three days passed. Keith had never felt so much pain. He was freezing, yet sweating; and he couldn’t stop shaking. The tremors weren’t just in his hands anymore, they resounded through his entire body. His muscles felt sore and his skin felt as though it were on fire whenever it came into contact with anything, which happened quite frequently since Keith couldn’t help but struggle against his restraints. It felt as though sandpaper was being dragged across his flesh and through his veins. It burned. Keith could feel his anger boiling inside, as well as the extreme craving—the thirst—for Lance. It was like an itch just under the surface of his skin that Keith could never hope to reach.

Three days passed of only seeing Dr. Holt in and out of his room. Keith had resolved that the others wouldn’t come to see him anymore. He didn’t blame them. He also didn’t care. Keith only needed one person, but they wouldn’t let him have even that. He constantly grew more and more agitated with Dr. Holt, snapping at him whenever he was in the room. He just couldn’t take this anymore.

Three days passed before Keith heard his voice again.

Keith.

Keith’s eyes sprang open. He hadn’t been asleep, had he? The voice had been so clear, like it was in the room with him. It had sounded like Lance.

Keith.

Keith lifted his head and looked around, but there was no one. The door was open, most likely meaning no one was in the adjacent room either. Where was it coming from?

I really hope you can hear me, samurai.

That was definitely Lance. It sounded so close, yet echoed like he was worlds away. Keith was hearing Lance, there was no doubt, but he was hearing him…in his head?

I need you to do something for me, samurai.

Lance’s voice sounded tired, strained. And Keith knew he would do anything for him, with or without whatever was influencing him before. He needed Lance.

I think…or I hope at least…that it’s been long enough where they’ll believe it if you start to get better. I…I know you must be in pain right now, and I’m sorry.

He was. Keith was in so, so much pain. He had never imagined before what death would feel like, but now he had a pretty good guess that it would feel something like this.

I need you to pretend that you’re okay. No…Keith, you are okay. I need you to fight through the pain and act like you’re getting better. I need you to get them to trust you again, at least enough so you can get out of there. As soon as you have the chance, I need you to come get me out. Please, Keith, I need you to be strong. You feel okay now. You feel like you’re getting better…okay?

The voice stopped suddenly, and Keith could feel a release like a headache dissipating. But the words still echoed in his head. It was easier said than done. Keith had pushed through pain before: on missions when there were no other options besides fight or die. But lying here, with nothing to think about but the pain that emanated throughout his entire body? Keith wasn’t sure if had the strength to do it. And yet, even as these thoughts crossed his mind, Keith felt the pain slowly start to ebb away. It wasn’t leaving, not entirely; more like being covered up, hidden underneath something more prevalent, underneath Lance. And yeah, Keith felt like he could do this.

 


 

When Dr. Holt came next, Keith pretended to be asleep. As he heard the doctor fiddling with Keith’s IV bag, scratching notes on his chart, Keith stirred and blinked his eyes open.

“Hey, doc,” Keith muttered, letting his voice sound weak, but clear.

“Keith,” Dr. Holt smiled at him, “How are you feeling today?”

Keith managed a small chuckle. “Kinda like I’ve been hit by a truck, so better I guess.”

“Well you certainly look better.” Dr. Holt checked Keith’s eyes with a flashlight, marking more notes on the chart beside the bed. “You seem more cognizant.”

“Yeah,” Keith grimaced, “Yeah I feel…clear, I guess?” Dr. Holt nodded and scratched a few more notes onto the chart. “Hey, doc,” Keith twisted his face with apprehension as the doctor looked back at him. “How, uh…how much do they all hate me?” Keith made his voice small and avoided eye contact. He needed to sound regretful. He needed Dr. Holt to trust him again.

“Keith—“ Dr. Holt placed a hand on Keith’s arm. The touch burned tremendously, but Keith resisted flinching away. He had to be strong— “No one hates you, son. They may still be angry, yes, but they know what happened isn’t your doing. This was…” he trailed off.

“How is he?” Keith asked quietly, once more looking at the doctor. “I mean, did they…is he dead?”

“No!” Dr. Holt said quickly. “No, of course not. I don’t think they could, even if that’s what they wanted. But no, he’s being kept locked up for now. In secret, of course, until we decide the best course of action…” Dr. Holt paused and looked curiously at Keith. “Maybe…when you’re feeling up for it, you could go see him?”

Keith flinched visibly, letting discomfort and guilt take over his face. “I…don’t think that would be a good idea.”

Dr. Holt nodded as if pleased with Keith’s answer. If he had been testing Keith, Keith knew he had passed.

“It’s interesting…” Dr. Holt looked at Keith’s IV bag again, but Keith could tell he wasn’t really giving it any attention. “Your recovery seems to be progressing much quicker than Matt’s was.”

Keith made a low hmpf noise and asked, “Why’s that?”

The doc gave him another sideways look. “I’m not sure,” he said carefully, “Keith, I have to ask: how often did Lance feed from you?”

Keith flinched again, squeezing his eyes shut. He hoped to God that it portrayed horror. “It was…usually once a day,” he said through bated breath.

Dr. Holt nodded again as if understanding. “So a lesser dosage than Matt, and for a shorter period of time. I suppose a more rapid recovery could make sense then.” He spoke mostly to himself. Turning back to Keith, he asked, “And…do you still crave it?”

Keith inhaled sharply. He had to choose his words carefully. He needed the doctor to trust him, at least enough to take the cuffs off. Keith thought back to his conversation with Matt, remembering what the boy had said. “I…I don’t know if I ever won’t.” Somehow, Keith was managing to send tears cascading down his face. “I just see it for what it was, now, I guess. I-it’s like I’m finally back in control of my own body or something.” Keith paused for dramatic effect. “I’m so sorry,” he croaked, letting his voice sound broken and scared. He looked back up at the doctor, and Keith could tell that he had the man eating out of the palm of his freaking hand.

“Hey, it’s okay, son,” Dr. Holt said, gripping Keith’s arm, “It seems that the worst of it is over now.”

Keith nodded and tried to bring his hand up, only to be stopped by the padded restraints that were still strapped to his wrists. Now was the breaking point; now he would see just how much the doc trusted that Keith was on the mend, and how far he was willing to go to extend that trust. Keith chuckled through the tears. “Hey, doc,” he said weakly, “wanna do me a gross favor and get this snot that’s dripping out?” Keith sported a halfhearted grin.

Dr. Holt chuckled. “How about we just get you out of these?” he offered, gesturing to the cuffs.

Keith forced his face to twist with concern. He couldn’t seem too eager, but he didn’t want to downright reject the idea. He was walking on the edge of a knife. “A-are you sure that’s a good idea?” It was for the doc to decide now.

And Dr. Holt just nodded, already starting to unstrap the first cuff. “Like I said, the worst of it is over now.”

Keith could have laughed with triumph, but he pushed himself to appear apprehensive, shrinking down into himself more and more as he was freed from each restraint. Keith wiped his nose across the sleeve of the hospital gown he was wearing and wrapped his arms around his knees, curling up into a ball. “Thanks, doc,” he said, voice muffled as he buried his head in his arms.

“Of course,” Dr. Holt said, smiling down at him. “If you’re feeling up for it, I’m sure the others would love to see you. It’s pretty late now, but I’m sure they’ll come if I ask. I could go wake them up if you’d like.”

Too many people and someone was bound to notice that Keith was still acting strange. It would be safer to avoid them. “Actually, doc, I kinda feel like curling up into a ball and sleeping for days. If that’s okay…”

Dr. Holt nodded. “I understand. I’ll get out of your hair then, and I’ll come to check on you in the morning.” He began to leave, but turned back. “I really am glad you’re feeling better.” And he shut the door.

Part of Keith knew that he should feel bad. He had been lying to everyone for so long, and he was deceiving the people he called friends, the people he considered family. He wasn’t sure if it was the carnal need for Lance’s bite, or the command that the boy had given him to get out and free him. Or perhaps a mixture of the two. But Keith’s dominating thought was only to break out, no matter the cost. So he shoved down the part of him that held any capacity for guilt, and Keith shrank under the blankets, shutting his eyes, and listened. It was deadly silent, and Keith listened for the faint shuffling that he heard on the other side of the door. He heard the soft click of the other door shutting as the doc left the adjacent room. Finally, Keith smiled. He had done it. He was alone. He was free. Almost.

Keith sprang up from the bed, feet skidding across the linoleum floor to the door. It was locked. Keith swore under his breath and went to the cabinets, searching frantically though Dr. Holt’s medical supplies. Rummaging around unceremoniously, Keith’s eyes locked onto anything thin and narrow, anything he could use to pick a lock. A scalpel and a set of long, curved tweezers. It would have to suffice. Keith strained to pull the tweezers apart, finally snapping them like a wishbone, and set to work jimmying the door open. He wasn’t skilled at lock picking by any means, but he had done it once or twice. Frankly, Lance was much more suited for the nimble work. It took a few minutes, but finally the door clicked open.

Keith shoved into the next room, relieved both to find it empty, and to see that his team and left a pair of clothes for him, just waiting there for whenever he was feeling better. He shrugged out of the hospital gown and tugged the clothes on, his usual dark jeans and a red shirt. His friends had even thought to bring a pair of shoes and his favorite jacket, how nice of them. Once clothed, Keith made his way to the outer door and took to work picking that open as well. Finally, Keith cracked the door and peered out cautiously.

Dr. Holt had said that it was late, and Keith was relieved to not see anyone else passing through the halls. However, he had absolutely no idea how to make it to sub-basement where he knew Lance was being held. Keith sighed; he’d just have to wander until he found stairs.

Creeping down hallway after hallway, Keith only happened upon one group of scientists, too consumed in their experiments to notice him almost slink past their open doorway. Keith ducked backwards, out of their line of sight and sighed in relief that none had seen him. As he peered further down the hallway, his heart leapt at the neon green Exit sign that lay above a door. Next to the door, a plaque read “Stairs”. Keith was almost there. He just had to get past these scientists first.

Peering cautiously around the corner, Keith’s breath caught in his throat. There was a medical bed in the middle of the room, a group of three scientists gathered around it. On the bed, strapped down in the same manor Keith had been, was unmistakably a vamp. It had been caught on one of the missions and had fallen prey to the Garrison’s experiments. Keith stayed low, waiting for an opportunity to dart across the doorway and not be seen, and as he waited, he listened to the scientists discuss the specimen in front of them.

“Results?” One asked. Keith couldn’t see any of their faces, but this was male.

“Same as previous subjects, sir,” a female answered him.

There was a heavy sigh from the first. “Sedate him. Quickly. Before he becomes too strong.”

There was a clattering as his direction was carried out. A muffling came from the vamp, and Keith could only assume that it had been muzzled. Soon, though, the suppressed cries stopped and the bloodsucker stilled.

“I can’t help but feel frustrated and fascinated simultaneously,” the first one said, “I mean, we aim to create a cure, and we end up creating the near opposite.”

Keith furrowed his brows. Opposite of a cure? What the hell did that mean? Had the Garrison found a way to artificially transform people into vamps? Then why were they experimenting it on vamps?

“We’ll get it sooner or later.” The second scientist’s voice pulled Keith out of his own web of thoughts.

The first made a humph of agreement. “Well, come along. We have to report these results. Harris, prep the subject for transfer.”

Keith tensed up, ready to dart up and around the corner if their exit happened to be the door he was hovering over. But the two scientists left instead through the opposite door, and Keith relaxed. When he peered around the corner again, only one scientist remained. His back was to Keith as he was unstrapping the unconscious vamp to be moved, and Keith silently slipped by the door, making his way quickly to the stairs. As quietly as he could manage, he nudged open the door and shut it once he was fully in the stairwell. He sighed in relief when it, too, was empty.

Keith made his way down. He only had to descend two flights of stairs before the door marked “Sub-Basement Level 1” came into view, and Keith pushed his way in. The whole floor was deserted. As Keith glanced around, he saw identical hallways stretching out before him, each lined with a set of doors that sported a single, small window toward the top. It reminded Keith of prison. He imagined this is where the vamps were kept if they ran out of rooms upstairs, but they hadn’t exactly had an influx of inventory as of late, so the holding cells remained empty and the sub-basement all but forgotten. Keith glanced down a few hallways, but all the doors were shut, making it impossible to tell which one Lance could be behind. But there, down the last hallway, he saw a light. Just a pinprick as it shone out of the small window. Lance.

“Lance,” Keith breathed, quickly advancing to the door.

“Samurai?” he heard Lance answer from behind the door, “Damn, it’s good to hear your voice.” Lance sounded weak and tired.

Keith moved to open the door, but found it locked. A small pin pad was nestled into the wall next to the handle. He definitely couldn’t pick that. “It’s a code…I don’t know it.”

“1-8-4-0,” Lance breathed faintly, then chuckled, “They didn’t even try to hide it when they shoved me in here. Idiots.”

Keith punched in the numbers as quickly as his trembling fingers would allow, hearing the mechanical click of the lock when he did, and shouldered the door open. Lance was sitting on the ground against the opposite wall of the otherwise barren cell. His shoulders were slumped, hands draped limply across his lap, head leaning against the wall behind him. He was breathing raggedly and looked paler than usual, dark circles intensifying his pallid complexion.

Keith swore under his breath as he entered the cell. “What the fuck did they do to you?” he hissed.

Lance shrugged weakly. “Nothing, technically. But that includes not feeding me, so…” he chucked halfheartedly. “You okay, samurai?”

“Yeah.” Keith knelt next to the boy. “I mean, I wasn’t until I heard you talking to me, but I’m okay now. Lance, you need to feed.” Keith shed his jacket and yanked the collar of his shirt to the side, exposing his neck to the boy. Most of the bite marks were healed, but Lance could always make more.

Lance nodded, though a sour look overcame his face. Keith pointedly ignored that and moved closer, realizing that the boy was too weak to even move. As Keith settled into the boy’s lap and nuzzled his neck into Lance, he felt him breathe a sigh of relief. They had both been waiting for this. Once Keith’s pale flesh was against his lips, Lance opened his mouth. His fangs speared through the soft flesh, and a guttural moan escaped Keith’s throat. The pain that had taken up residency in his body was being washed away. The pain that Lance had blanketed with his voice had been uncovered and cleansed. It was replaced with pure bliss. Keith felt the paranoid buzzing in his head replaced with the thick comfort of fog, and he felt warmth radiating through his body, pooling in his stomach. He felt euphoric.

As Lance detached his jaw from the confines of Keith’s neck, both boys collapsed against the wall, panting. Lance, having regained his lost energy, held Keith steady, who had lost what little energy he had left.

“Thank you,” Lance whispered, unable to look at Keith.

Keith burrowed his face into the crook of Lance’s neck and smiled. “Always.”

“Keith, I…” Lance trailed off. Keith lifted his head and looked at the boy, seeing a swirl of emotions behind his blue eyes. “I’m so sorry,” he said.

“For what?” Keith asked. He had nothing to be sorry for. Keith had never felt better.

Lance breathed out, eyes closing for only a moment. “For…everything that happened. For everything that I just put you through. For…showboating you around like that. For exposing you to the team like that. I swear, that wasn’t what I was planning on doing. Kinda improvised I guess. But please, please believe me when I say that I never would have done any of that if I had thought there was another way. And…please don’t hate me.”

Keith held a hand to Lance’s chest and the boy stilled. “Lance, what are you saying?” he asked quietly, “Are you trying to tell me that…everything you said that night was, what, an act?”

Lance grimaced at the accusation, but nodded slowly. “Yeah, kinda…” he said carefully, “I…I needed to get caught. But more importantly, I need to be taken down to the labs and not as some lab rat. I knew it had to be our team to catch me. I knew that if it were anyone else, they would have instantly killed me or else taken me down here to be experimented on. But if the team were to catch me, I worried that they’d try to protect me still. And…there was still a chance that they’d let me go. So I…I had to get them angry enough to not do that. I had to get them to hate me enough. I had to make them think I’d hurt you…”

Keith’s mind was reeling through the thick fog that enveloped it. “So…everything was a lie? The…the addiction? The compulsion, or whatever the fuck you called it?”

Lance shook his head, a bitter grimace twisting his lips. “No, actually,” he said quietly, “That stuff is all true. But Keith, you have to know that I would never hurt you. That I never wanted to…use you like that. I just…had to make them think that I would, or was.” The pain and guilt were obvious on the boy’s face, and Keith felt that he truly meant what he said. The question remained, however, whether this bothered Keith or not, and with the pleasant fog that was swimming in his head, he honestly couldn’t tell.

Keith felt a million questions shift through his head, but all he could manage was a choked, “Why?”

“I…I needed to get into the labs. The Garrison’s easy enough for me to break into, but the labs are like fucking Fort Knox. I needed a way to get in, and I figured that the only way was to get taken down here was to get caught. I…” Lance hesitated, looking up at Keith with his mouth open, pausing mid-sentence as though unsure if he wanted to proceed. “I need to find something,” he practically whispered, “I need to steal it.”

Keith furrowed his brow. Lance was still holding back; he wasn’t telling him everything. “Why do you need to steal something? What is it? What’s it for?”

“I can’t give you everything right now, samurai. I’m sorry. It’s too dangerous and we’re running out of time.” Lance scratched the back of his head and grimaced. “Look, I don’t expect you to, and I’m certainly not going to force you to, but I’m asking for your help with this. I need to find what I came for and then I need to disappear. You…you can come with if you want, but you don’t have to. When I go, I won’t be able to come back, maybe ever. But if you leave with me, you’ll probably never be able to come back either…” Lance paused, looking for Keith’s reaction. “I don’t want you to make this decision based on…this addiction, though. That feeling will fade. Dr. Holt can help you get through that, just like Matt. I want you to make this decision from your heart, from what you actually want, okay?” The boy’s eyes were earnest as they bore into Keith’s.

Keith’s head suddenly felt clearer than it had in weeks, Lance’s words allowing for his own mind to regain complete control. He looked away as he contemplated what Lance was saying, not trusting himself to look into those blue eyes and make a competent decision. Keith was angry, that much was clear. He was angry at what had happened, at what Lance had kept from him, of the way Lance had used him; and yes, Lance definitely used him. But his heart still ached for the boy. Still, Keith wasn’t sure if he could do what Lance was asking of him. Leave the Garrison? Leave Hunk, Pidge, and…Shiro? Leave the only life he’d ever known, the only family? Or, option B: lose Lance…

“I…” Keith spoke slowly, carefully, “I want to come with you.”

Lance perked up, his face shining with adoration. “Really?” he asked, “Are you sure?”

Keith brought his hand up to Lance’s cheek, staring hard into those blue eyes. “Lance, I lost you once. I never want to lose you again.”

Lance smiled widely. He surged forward, slamming their lips together in a heated, frantic kiss that neither wanted to break.

It was Lance who pulled away first, standing up and offering a hand to Keith. “Then come on, samurai: we’ve got a heist to finish.”

 


 

The two boys made their way through the hallways of the labs. Keith followed behind Lance, who moved swiftly and as silently as a shadow. He dodged through the hallways and around corners with determination and speed, and Keith was struggling to keep up while maintaining the same level of stealth.

“How do you even know where you’re going?” Keith asked quietly.

Lance glanced at him over his shoulder, smirking. “Oh, I don’t. I just know that I’ll find it eventually and that I’ll know it when I see it. I can hear everyone who’s down here, so I know exactly what areas to avoid.”

Keith blinked in surprise. He wondered just how long it would take to find…whatever the hell it was they were looking for. But, as it turns out, not too much time passed before Lance happened upon a plain, unmarked door. When Lance opened it wide, he halted suddenly, and Keith nearly ran into him in the effort to keep up with the inhuman quickness.

Lance looked back at him, grinning wide. “We’re here!”

“And what exactly is here?” Keith asked, peering over Lance’s shoulder into the room. A few desks dotted the middle of the room, each with a computer resting on it. There were papers haphazardly strewn about the place. Keith could see anatomical depiction of the human body, or rather, the vampire body, as well as diagrams detailing teeth and fangs. Other papers were hand-written, as if someone scribbled notes down in the field, or in the middle of a revelation. But none of this seemed too exciting. Keith let his eyes wander further.

There were cabinets lining the back wall, illuminated in a yellow glow and, no doubt, refrigerated. Keith swallowed thickly when he saw the contents: vials upon vials of blood, differing in quantity, all labeled as to whose body it was drained from. The cabinet at the end, however, held something else. Only five vials occupied this unit, each containing a silvery substance that swirled in the glass tubes. It looked like a galaxy, like mercury, like the moon and stars. These vials were labeled as well, but with simple numbers rather than names and dates, as the blood was. This was the cabinet that Lance went to.

Opening the door and letting out a hiss of cold air, Lance grabbed the last of the bottles. It was labeled #5 in bold font. “This,” Lance said, closing the unit once more, “is the medicine cabinet, if you will. It’s where the scientists keep all their samples. Any blood that they’ve taken from a vamp they dissect, or from wounds any soldiers got on missions. Your blood is probably in there somewhere—“ he gestured nonchalantly to the other refrigerated units— “And it’s where they keep the findings of their experiments.” He held up the vial of liquid silver, eyeing it curiously. “I have no idea what this is, but I know it’s important, and I’ve got to get it to a friend to see just how dangerous it will be…”

Keith took a deeper look at the shimmering liquid. Examining it closer, Keith could see that it wasn’t quite as shiny as mercury, and it was neither dark nor light. The color seemed to flow, change. One moment it was a pale grey, speckled with white; the next it would appear as a shady storm, sparkling with silver flecks. It seemed almost alive. Keith was drawn out of his trance as Lance placed the vial carefully into the pocket of his coat, making sure the opening was securely covered before moving on. Lance slid into the chair closest to them, flicking the computer to life as he did. As the screen illuminated, Lance reached down and pulled something out of his shoe: a flash drive.

Keith shot Lance a sideways glance and Lance just shrugged. “I was worried they were gonna frisk me or something,” he said before jamming it into the computer.

Keith snorted. “So what, you’re Pidge now? You can suddenly hack?”

“Is it really hacking if you already have the password?” Lance asked, eyes never leaving the screen. Over the boy’s shoulder, Keith could see that the drive was copying all the computer’s files.

“And how did you come across that?” Keith asked, bemused.

Lance just shrugged. “We’ve got an inside man. Or, we had an inside man…I just mean, I guess he’s not really a man anymore, per say—“

“Lance,” Keith deadpanned. But before either could retort, a tone dinged out that the drive had finished its work: the entire processor had been copied. Lance tore the flash drive out of the computer and turned the screen off again.

“There!” he said, standing with a rather satisfied grin on his face. “Now, let’s get the hell out of Dodge!” Lance made a move to leave, but stopped, looking curiously at the closest cabinet as something caught his eye. “Wait…” he said, opening it.

Keith saw him pull out two vials near the bottom. One held a sample of blood, much like the others in the surrounding cabinets. But the other held a single cotton swab, the end dyed pink with just a trace of blood. Keith could see the labels from where they were held in Lance’s hand: Matthew Holt. They were dated last week, and underneath, in even smaller print, they each read: ‘blood and venom sample.’ Lance quickly pocketed these too with a shrug. “Professional curiosity,” he said before turning once again to leave.

“Lance, how are we going to get out of here with all the patrols outside?” Keith asked, suddenly very aware of the dangers of this next phase.

Lance shot him a mischievous grin. “The same way I’ve always snuck in. We go through the tunnels.”

“Those tunnels were a freaking maze. How on earth do you expect us to find our way back?”

“I happen to have a great memory,” Lance bragged, leading them back through the labs hallways.

Keith rolled his eyes. “You forget everything.”

“True, true. But one of the many perks of being a bloodsucking freak is now I have a great memory. Let’s see…” He squinted his eyes and scrunched up his nose, an expression which Keith knew all too well as Lance’s thinking face. “Two lefts, two rights, left, middle tunnel, right, left, and then one more right.”

“That’s...actually really impressive,” Keith said.

“Hey! Why do you sound surprised?”

Keith just laughed. That sounded like the old Lance, like his Lance.

 


 

The two boys made their way through the tunnels, Lance pausing every so often to remember which direction to go in. So far, he had only led them down one wrong tunnel, but had quickly realized his mistake and set them back on track. As they hurried down one long patch of tunnels, Keith suddenly froze. They were almost out, but he couldn’t move, staring hard at the door on their right. A faded sign hung next to the door with a single word: ‘Barracks.’

He wanted to go in. He wanted to see Shiro, and he needed to see Pidge. He wanted to tell her that he was leaving, that it was his choice, not Lance’s. He wanted her to understand that Lance wasn’t a bad person, that he still loved Keith and that Keith still loved him. He needed her to realize that this was for the best, despite the terrible circumstances that got him into this situation. He needed her to know how sorry he was. He needed them all to know that. Ever since Lance had cleared Keith’s mind of his influence, the guilt had been crashing into him like waves. The shame had blanketed him like the night. He knew he had betrayed them all, but he knew that he’d hurt Pidge the most. He was her closest friend. That, coupled with everything that she’d already been through with Matt, and Keith knew that he’d utterly shattered her trust in him. He wanted to hate Lance for that. He hated himself for that.

“Keith,” Lance said softly, noticing his hesitation, “You don’t have to leave, you know. You can stay if you want to. You’ll be able to work it out with them. I can take you back to the lab right now. You can get back into that room like nothing happened. Sure, it’ll be weird that you started getting better, then you’ll get worse before you’re actually better, but I’m sure the doc will chalk that up to a medical mystery or something. You can have your old life back. But…if you do leave with me, you know you can’t say goodbye, right?”

Keith nodded, absorbing Lance’s words. It was a thought he’d had multiple times since starting this heist with Lance. He could stay. No one would have to know that he’d helped Lance escape. He could go back to his old life. His life, at least, in these past few months. His life without Lance. And he just couldn’t… He was angry with Lance, but he still loved him deeply. “Let’s just go,” he finally said.

Lance nodded slowly, apprehension clear on his face, and turned back around. Keith followed, noting the slower pace as they continued, as if Lance expected Keith to have a sudden change of heart and run back the way they came. But Keith had made up his mind. He was staying with Lance.

Finally, the two boys reached a thick metal door, a placard reading ‘Southern Boundary’ to the left. Even Lance struggled to push open the heavy door, and as Keith crossed the threshold, he saw that they were outside Garrison property. Though the fence could be seen a short distance away, the entrance was concealed from the guard posts around the perimeter of the base. As Lance heaved close the door behind him, Keith noticed too how inconspicuous it looked from the outside. Once shut, the door blended into the tall rocks around it, near invisible if you didn’t already know where to look. To the left of it, obscured by a tangle of brush, was a small keypad; no doubt the door locks from the inside with no way to open save for the correct code. Keith was impressed; it was a brilliant entering point, and one that Lotor would never find unless he had insider knowledge.

Lance turned back to Keith, an uneasy grin twisting on his face. “You sure about this?”

Keith nodded. He was. Over the past few weeks, Keith hadn’t been completely sure of anything outside of the influence from Lance’s bite. But now his mind was clear. Now, Keith was sure. Perhaps the addiction still fueled the decision, but one thing was certain: Lance was no longer influencing his choices. This was Keith’s own will. So Keith followed Lance as the boy started leading him into the empty of the southern region. Keith followed Lance as he led him through the black of the night. But Keith did look back, just once, as he said goodbye to his team, to his friends, to the only life he had ever known. And then Keith followed Lance into the unknown.

Chapter Text

“So…do you need to feed again?” Keith tried to sound as casual as possible, hoping that his own eagerness didn’t bleed through the words.

By the sound of Lance’s laugh, he knew it had. “I just fed, Keith. Like, half a day ago. I can’t go sucking you dry, samurai.”

The boys had escaped the Garrison the night before, running and not stopping until they were well into the southern territory, well away from the military base. Once they were a safe distance away, they rested for the remainder of the night. Keith had desperately needed it after the abuse his body had endured through the past few days of his ‘recovery.’ As soon as the sun was high in the sky, the two set out again. Keith had no idea where they were going, and he could only hope that Lance did.

“Are we…” Keith paused, hesitant to hear the answer, “Are we going to start heading north, then?”

Lance reeled back, staring at Keith in horror. “God, no!” he baulked, “We’re staying as far away from Lotor and his psychotic nest as we can!”

Keith breathed a sigh of relief. He had no desire to ever see that white hair or those cold, dead eyes, ever again. He knew he wouldn’t be able to hold back his rage if he were to see that sick fuck. And Keith didn’t have his sword, so starting a fight he knew he couldn’t win wouldn’t be the wisest choice. But everything in Keith’s being urged him to stab that bastard straight through for what he had done to Lance. Keith still hadn’t heard the full story, but the look that came over the boy any time Lotor was mentioned gave Keith enough reason to hate the vamp. “Okay,” he breathed, “so where are we going?”

Lance shrugged casually, but his voice wavered, “A…nest. In the south.”

Keith stilled, and Lance stopped walking beside him. A nest? In the south? “But…the southern region has been clear for years…”

“Yeah, not exactly,” Lance said. The boy kicked a few stones as he continued to walk, Keith having no choice but to follow. Keith had only been to the southern region once, and only to accompany and guard the scientists who needed to collect samples or something. The south was the first area that the Garrison cleared of vamps once their presence had come to light. It was their first victory in the war against the bloodsuckers. “A nest moved in there. Since the Garrison hardly ever goes into this territory anymore ‘cause, you know, they think it’s deserted, it’s pretty much the perfect place to hide. From the Garrison and from Lotor.”

“And you’re planning on taking me,” Keith asked carefully, “to a nest full of vamps?”

Lance breathed out a laugh and smiled easily. “Don’t worry, samurai. None of them will try to eat you.”

Keith’s breath hitched at the disturbing image. Sure, he wanted Lance’s bite. He was addicted, apparently. But that didn’t mean he was fine with any fang attaching itself to his neck. “How can you be sure?”

“This nest is…different,” Lance said, pausing to search for the right words. “They call themselves vegetarians, which I know makes no sense, but they think it’s ironic I guess.”

“What…the hell does that mean?” Keith knew for certain that he’d never heard of a vegetarian vampire before, and he was unsure as to whether or not he liked the sound of it.

“It means they don’t feed on humans. They only drink animal blood. It’s fucking disgusting, but it keeps them alive and they don’t have to hurt anyone. It works for them.”

Keith’s head was reeling. He had gone his whole life believing, no: knowing, that vampires were ruthless, heartless, bloodthirsty monsters, that they would do anything to drain you of blood; that their only instinct was to kill. And now, Lance was telling him that there were, what, friendly vamps? Casper the friendly ghost, except vampires? Keith wasn’t sure if he could get behind that notion. And yet, hadn’t Lance already proven to him that his outlook on vamps was wrong? Hadn’t he shown Keith that he was still the same goofy, lovable, infuriating boy that he had fallen in love with? That he wasn’t a monster…

“So, you trust them?” Keith asked. Lance nodded. “Because you’re in this nest…”

Lance stilled for a moment before continuing. “Yes, and no,” he answered carefully, “They’re the reason I pulled this little ‘heist,’ and they’re the ones who have been actually taking care of me since, you know, transforming. So yes, I trust them. But I’m not part of their nest. Not officially. I also had to be a part of Lotor’s nest because…well, he’s the one that made me.” Lance didn’t meet Keith’s eye, but Keith could see the clear disgust on the boy’s face.

“He…he made you?” Keith asked, “He’s the one that turned you?”

Lance nodded, still grimacing. “Yeah, so it was easy enough to, you know, spy on him. Kinda. Obviously ditching the double agent life now… And as much as I think I’d like joining this nest, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t think I’ll be able to live up to these guys’…lifestyle standards. Tried it once, and animal blood is so gross. I puked most of it back up, actually. Plus, I’m kinda hooked on the real thing now.”

Keith snorted. “What, you’re addicted too?”

“To you? Definitely.”

Keith’s heart leapt. It was both terrifying and heartwarming to hear that Lance was just as hooked as he was; that the two boys were so tangled together that nothing could tear them apart.

“I…” Lance’s voice was cracking, and there was a hardness on his face that Keith couldn’t quite place. “I didn’t want to bite you,” he said carefully, looking down at the ground. “I mean, sure I really, really wanted to, yeah, but I knew what would happen if I did. I knew you’d get hooked and, you know, all the other shit. But, fuck…when I saw you again, you smelled so good. I wanted to know what you tasted like and…I think I got hooked the moment I saw you, to be honest. I don’t think I could have resisted for much longer.” He looked at Keith then, a tender guilt swimming in the blue of his eyes. “I’m sorry.”

Keith didn’t know what to say. It was like he was being torn in half. One part of him, the part that grew up seeing monsters everywhere, the part that had become a soldier and vowed to kill them all, was furious with Lance. But the other part, the part that saw the sincerity, the shame in Lance’s eyes, the part that knew that he wasn’t a monster—the part that was addicted, Keith reminded himself—didn’t want to be angry with Lance. He wondered if perhaps he hadn’t been bitten, if he would have been more spiteful.

“I’m pissed,” Keith said carefully, “but I’m also not.” As Lance gave him a look that bled such deep regret, he quickly attempted an explanation. “I just mean…if the ‘addiction’ you feel, the thirst, is anything like I’ve been experiencing, then yeah, I get that you can’t help it. But Lance, you should have just talked to me. You could have, I don’t know, asked for my help, told me the truth. Instead, you lied to me and deceived me, made me lie to the team, then dangled me in front of them like a piece of meat; you used me. That’s what pisses me off.”

Lance cringed at these words. Keith was satisfied that the boy at least felt regret in the matter, but that didn’t excuse what had happened. “Yeah, you’re right…I’m sorry.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“What?”

“Why didn’t you just ask me to help you?”

Lance scratched the back of his as he contemplated the questions. “I guess…I was worried that you wouldn’t. I mean, I would be asking you to steal from the Garrison, break who knows how many of their stupid codes, and then help me escape. I was…I guess I was scared.” Lance glanced at Keith and hastily looked away. “Would you have? Helped me, I mean.”

“I…I don’t know,” Keith answered, “But you didn’t even give me the option, Lance. You took away my choice in the matter.”

Lance just nodded. “I should never have bitten you,” he muttered.

Keith remembered the debilitating fear he had felt when Lance had first said he’d wanted to bite Keith, to know what he tasted like. But even then, there was a strange exhilaration. Keith, in truth, had always been addicted to Lance. At first, he had been addicted to the competition, the nonstop bickering and constant attempts to undermine the other. But as their bond became stronger and their words grew softer, Keith found a whole new high. Those piercing blue eyes, those gentle touches, those tender moments. Keith had been addicted to Lance long before the boy’s venom had poisoned his brain.

“I still love you,” Keith said quietly, “I always will.”

Lance smiled at this and opened his mouth in reply, but froze suddenly, his mouth still open.

“Lance, what—“ But Keith’s voice was silenced by Lance as he hastily slapped his hand over Keith’s mouth.

Lance shoved Keith backwards, into an abandoned house, and herded him into the darkest corner, away from the street. The boy quickly shucked his jacket and draped it over Keith’s shoulders. The boy then pressed his body against Keith, successfully trapping him between himself and the wall.

Keith looked at Lance with a worried plea in his eyes, but knew enough not to ask verbally. Lance saw the look in Keith’s eye, and Keith heard a single word, loud and clear, though the boy’s mouth never moved: fangs.

It took almost a full minute before Keith could hear what Lance had, and even then, it was the barely there sound of low voices and shuffling feet from a distance. As the vamps loomed closer, Keith could make out two voices, talking quickly and quietly together as they patrolled down the street. Lance pressed closer to Keith, squishing him against the wall and causing his breath to catch in his throat. Keith could feel his heart pounding in his chest, and he closed his eyes, willing it to slow down. To quiet down. He knew that if these vamps had any sense to them, they would be actively listening for anything suspicious around them, and a rapid heartbeat was certainly that.

But, to their luck, the two fangs meandered away; not noticing the two boys huddled in the back corner of an abandoned house. Lance waited another few minutes before pushing off of Keith’s body and straightening himself up. Keith looked at him with worry in his eyes. Questions swirled in his head, but he kept his mouth shut, unsure whether or not it was safe to talk.

Lance returned Keith’s look with a grimace. “Sorry.”

“So,” Keith said, “not friendly I’m guessing?”

Lance shook his head. “Those were Lotor’s.” He made a face like he’d swallowed something bitter, scrunching up his lips in a tight line. “The other nest is far enough off the radar that he doesn’t know about them, or, at least, he doesn’t think they’re a threat. But he still had patrols around the area, picking up stragglers or anyone who tries to flee his nest to seek sanctuary out here. I don’t want to know what they’d do to us if they found us…” Lance allowed a small shiver to run through his body.

“But, come on, two vamps?’ Keith asked, “We could have taken them easily.”

Lance smile wryly. “Yeah, I guess we probably could have. But better to keep on the down low. This, unfortunately for you, is not a ‘shoot first, ask questions later,’ situation, and you can’t just go running in guns blazing like a psycho.”

Keith snorted and rolled his eyes. When was Lance going to let that go; it was one time.

“So…two questions,” Keith said, looking up at Lance, “One: what the fuck is up with the freaky telepathy thing?”

“Oh, yeah,” Lance said so casually they might have been discussing the weather, “I don’t really know. Heard Lotor talking once about how if the venom bond is strong enough, then the vamp and human can communicate in their minds. To be honest, I thought it was crazy until it actually worked in the labs. But, yeah, definitely can’t explain that one.”

“Oh-kay…” Keith said slowly, still trying to wrap his head around the situation. “Okay, two: can I take this off now?” He pawed at the jacket that was still draped across his shoulders.

“Oh, yeah, sorry!” Lance tugged the jacket off Keith, worming his own arms back through the sleeves as he pulled it onto himself. “I, uh, didn’t want them to smell you, smell your blood. I figured if you had this on, and me standing in front of you, it might block the smell from getting to them so much. Sorry…”

“Hey,” Keith smiled, “no complaints here. I really don’t mind having your body pressed up against mine, you know.”

Lance raised one eyebrow, smiling playfully at Keith. “That so?”

Keith hummed in response.

Lance pushed Keith back then until the boy’s back was against the wall once more. “I think I can make that happen.”

Lance brought his face down to meet Keith’s, lips barely brushing before Keith lunged forward, closing the gap between them and smashing into the other’s mouth. The kiss was messy and desperate and it sent a warm shiver down Keith’s spine. Lance’s tongue flicked out and lapped against Keith’s lips, and he opened them for Lance to devour. Their tongues swirled around each other. Lance’s body pressed deeper into Keith, grinding him against the cement wall. Keith brought his leg forward and in between Lance’s legs, grinding back. The boy let a moan escape his lips, and Keith smiled into it.

Their kiss broke as Lance dropped his head onto Keith’s shoulder. Both boys were panting. “Fuck, Keith,” Lance whispered, “You have no idea what you do to me.” When he looked back up at Keith, he was met with what Keith was sure was very desperate look on his face. “What’s wrong, samurai?” Lance asked him.

Keith clenched his jaw. He shouldn’t want it, he knew he shouldn’t. He knew how wrong it was, but damn it was so good. “Fuck,” he whispered, mostly to himself, before meeting Lance’s worried gaze. “I know you said you didn’t need it but…fuck, Lance I…I want you to…bite me.”

Lance’s worry turned to shock. “A-are you sure? I…Keith, this is just the venom talking…”

Keith exhaled slowly. “Honestly, I don’t know. My head feels clear, but I still crave it so bad. Fuck, Lance, I want it. I want you to bite me. Please.” Keith was unconsciously moving his head ever so slowly to the side with each word that escaped his lips, exposing his neck for Lance. Keith wouldn’t beg for it. He had in the past, but now he knew that all he had to do was ask. He knew he was going to get exactly what he wanted. And now, Keith knew, Lance was just as addicted as he was.

If the desperate longing in Lance’s eyes wasn’t enough of a giveaway of how much he craved Keith, then the way Lance was, also unconsciously, slowly opening his mouth definitely was.

“Don’t you want it, too?” Keith asked coyly, his eyes darkening as they narrowed in on Lance. The boy looked taken aback by Keith’s sudden prowess, but it faded quickly and was replaced with a ravenous gleam of his own.

Lance’s mouth quirked into a smile as he descended upon Keith’s neck. When his fangs pierced through the paper flesh, they both exuded a soft moan. Warmth radiated through Keith’s body as he fisted a handful of Lance’s hair, holding the boy firmly in place. It was different this time; less rushed, less passion-filled and more pleasure driven. It was less desperate and more intimate. They weren’t doing this for some ulterior agenda or addiction-fueled desperation. They were doing it because they wanted it. They both so desperately wanted it.

Lance took his time with Keith. They were in no rush today. There was no underlying fear that they could be caught at any moment. So he drank slowly, and Keith could feel every inhale, hear every swallow. Keith held one hand in Lance’s hair, the other wrapped around the boy, pulling him in as close as he could. Lance kept one hand snaked around Keith’s middle while the other cupped the boy’s cheek, his thumb brushing Keith’s face as he drank him down. There was an overwhelming euphoria blanketing Keith; warmth pooled in his stomach, and his chest was fluttering. Soft moans escaped his lips, as his breathing grew more and more ragged. Was this better than sex? It certainly felt better than sex… The hand that was gripping Lance’s hair began to weaken its grasp as Keith’s eyes threatened to flicker shut. As much as neither boy wanted it, Lance knew that this was his cue to stop. It would prove far too much trouble if Keith were to pass out from blood loss only part of the way through their journey.

As Lance detached his fangs from Keith’s neck, Keith let a small whimper escape his throat, though less, Keith realized, from the loss of sensation, as it had before, and more due to the blissful elation that still permeated his body. For the first time, Keith didn’t immediately crave more the moment Lance pulled away from him. This time, Keith felt unbelievably satisfied, and an intense relief settled over his body. By the look on his face, Keith knew that Lance was feeling much the same.

“That was…” Keith breathed out, a smile forming on his lips.

“Yeah…” Lance breathed back, panting just as heavily. “Fuck, I love you, Keith. I hope you know that.”

Keith’s smile widened, and he chuckled. In lieu of responding, Keith slid his hand down from Lance’s head to his neck and pulled him in for another kiss. When their lips met, Keith tasted the unmistakable metallic of his own blood still smeared across Lance’s, but he didn’t care. Lance’s lips were so soft against his, and his hands left a trail of goose bumps where they crept along Keith’s flesh. As Keith went to open his mouth, wanting nothing more than to be devoured completely by this boy, Lance pulled away.

His breathing was once again ragged as he said, “Fuck, Keith…” Lance brought his hands around to cup Keith’s face, thumbs gently stroking his cheeks, “As much as I want to fuck you into this wall right now—“ Keith breathed out a moan— “we really need to go. There could be another patrol, and we need to keep moving. We have to get this shit from the lab to the nest…” Lance had rested his forehead against Keith’s, and the two stayed there for a moment before Keith conceded.

He nodded against Lance’s head and smiled. “Fine,” he said, still catching his breath, “but as soon as your mission is done, double agent, I’m going to find us another nice, dark corner like this one so we can do just that.” Keith gave one last quick lick to the top of Lance’s lips in just the way Keith knew drives the boy crazy.

“Fuck…” Lance moaned, and Keith could tell that it took all of his willpower just to push off the wall and step away. “Let’s finish this fucking mission quick, then.”

Keith snickered as he, too, removed himself from the wall and went to follow Lance out into the abandoned street. He smiled to himself as he watched that mess of brown hair dart around the corner, and Keith had to hurry to keep up. As the two boys traipsed through the streets, Keith realized with a glow in his heart that he would follow this boy anywhere.

 


 

It wasn’t until the sun was sinking low in the sky that they arrived at the fabled nest, and Keith's anxiety was on high alert. From afar, it didn’t look all that impressive. A ways back, the southern territory had given way to suburbs and then to small farmlands. The compound that the two boys now approached was enclosed in a high fence, barbed wire lining the top.

To keep Lotor’s monsters out? Keith wondered, Or to keep themselves in?

Keith peered through the tangled wires that lined the fence as he and Lance approached the compound. He saw a few low buildings scattered around the area. They were large, nice looking farmhouses with many of the windows alight. Toward the far edge, Keith spotted a shack with a multitude of wires and cables branching from it, probably a generator of some kind. In the center of the compound sat a vast expanse of farmland with a barn. There were a variety of animals grazing this space: cows, sheep and pigs mostly, from what Keith could see at this distance.

What Keith honed in on, however, was not the houses or the animals, but rather the sheer number of people he saw; No, not people, Keith reminded himself, vampires. There were dozens upon dozens of them walking around the compound, idly chatting with one another, tending to the animals. It was more than Keith had ever seen in one place before. He hadn’t gotten a very good look around Lotor’s mansion, but he imagined that there were just as many, if not more, hiding within those walls as well. Keith felt sick at the wonderment of just how many vamps were still out in the world. How many innocent people had fallen prey, how many could he have saved?

Lance visibly stiffened beside him as the two boys neared the gate. As they approached, though, Lance relaxed, if only by a fraction, upon seeing who was on guard duty. Still though, Lance put himself in front of Keith as they continued forward. Peering around Lance’s back, Keith spied a tall vamp, waving excitedly at them. It had thick, bright orange hair, an impressively large and equally orange mustache, and sported a wide grin that seemed to consume half its face. Keith could see its fangs gleaming.

“Lance, my boy!” the vamp called when the two were closer, “We’ve been so worried about you. Thank goodness you’re okay!” Keith noted a thick accent and wondered where the vamp was from; when he had been human, that is.

“Hey, Coran,” Lance smiled back. “Yeah, sorry I wasn’t in contact sooner. My timeline got pushed up a bit…” Lance shifted slightly to reveal Keith behind him, “And, uh, yeah…” he said, gesturing to the boy behind him.

The vamp’s face contorted with concern when it noticed Keith. “Oh,” it said hesitantly, “And you brought…a friend? Lance, I’m not sure that’s the wisest choice, my boy.”

“I know, I know.” Lance looked dejected at the vamp’s words. “It was kinda unavoidable though.”

“Many of these people are, well, new, you know—“

“I know,” Lance interrupted, growing desperate, “I was hoping you could help me sneak him in, though. I need to see the boss lady anyway, so I figured I’d just take him straight there…”

Coran sighed, the mustache billowing out. “You know she hates it when you call her that.” The vamp’s voice was discouraging, but the gleam in its eye and the smile that stretched across its face indicated that Lance had won. “Go ahead and give him your coat, my boy. And here—“ It unwrapped the scarf that was looped around its neck— “put this on as well.”

Keith flustered as both Lance and Coran handed him the articles of clothing. He didn’t fully understand what was happening, or why it was such a big deal that he was here after Lance had assured him that he’d be safe. But Keith could tell that he wasn’t exactly welcome. Why then, had Lance insisted it was fine? He figured now was not the best time for questioning Lance, what with the worried look that had taken up residence on his face. So Keith slipped the coat around his shoulders and wrapped the scarf around his neck. He lifted an eyebrow at Lance, hoping he was good to go. Lance smiled encouragingly back at him, though the grin didn’t quite reach his eyes, and lifted the hood over Keith’s head.

“There,” Lance said, “now, no one should be able to smell him…hopefully.”

“Wait, what?” Keith reeled.

But the two vampires were already moving.

“We’ll just have to be quick about it, yes?” Coran asked, motioning for Keith and Lance to follow.

“Just keep your head down,” Lance whispered to Keith as they crossed over the threshold of the compound. “Keep your hands in your pockets and your face out of the wind. Basically, try to cover up as much skin as possible until we make it to the cottage. And…maybe just don’t talk, okay?”

He wanted to open his mouth to, what? Protest? Ask Lance what was going on? But his voice caught in his throat, and Keith found himself as if on autopilot, shoving his fists into the oversized pockets of Lance’s coat. His fingers brushed against the glass vials that were stored there, and he burrowed his face into the warm scarf roped around his neck. Keith was sure that only his eyes were showing, and yet he had never felt so vulnerable. Even if he’d wanted to, Keith knew he wouldn’t be able to talk. After all, Lance had told him not to.

He could feel his heart racing and he willed it to calm down, knowing full well that if any of these fangs tried, they would be able to hear it pounding from across the property. Keith prayed that none of them would hone their senses, assuming that it was just another vamp passing through and not a fully stocked pantry to snack on. Lance had said that no one would hurt him here, no one would try to bite him here; but after Coran’s reaction, and Lance’s anxious tension, Keith wasn’t all too sure how true that was.

As the trio made their way across the compound, the only movement that Keith detected was smiling and waving. A few vamps called out to Coran, and the vamp happily replied while still keeping a good distance. Lance, however, bore a scowl on his face so intense, his eyes shifting back and forth, glaring at anyone who moved to approach them, that no one dared come too close. Every one of them steered clear; looks of shock, awe, and fear flitting across their faces. It seemed that Lance already had a bit of a reputation here.

It was lucky that Keith was so quick on his feet. He was sure that Hunk, or even Shiro would have a difficult time keeping up with the two vamps as they led him through the farmland and toward a smaller house near the back corner. It was a secluded cottage, with nothing but greenery surrounding it. As they approached, Keith spied a vamp exiting the house. It paused when the trio reached it, a look of shocked horror on its face when its eyes landed on Keith.

“Now, Romelle, calm down,” Coran said to the frozen vamp, “I know you’re strong enough, yes?” Coran paused to let the vamp nod, but its eyes never left Keith. “I need you to keep this a secret for now Romelle. Can you do that?”

The vamp hesitated, meeting Keith’s eyes with a look of controlled fear, and Keith glared back at it. It turned its eyes back to Coran and nodded again, long blond hair shining with the movement. The vamp stepped aside then, giving the trio a wide berth. As it passed by them, wide eyes never leaving Keith, Lance gently gripped its arm.

“Thanks, Romelle,” he said quietly, “I can’t really explain it right now, but thank you.”

The vamp nodded, eyes turning to Lance. “I trust you,” it practically whispered before turning on its heels to race back to the center of the compound. Its voice had a lightness to it, a gentleness, with just a hint of an accent. How many of these freaking vamps were British?

“Come on then.”

Keith’s attention was once again drawn to the house as Coran ushered them inside. Keith only had time to do a quick survey of the place before they were led to the back of the small cottage. It seemed homey enough; there was plush furniture that looked a little worse-for-wear, and a large bookshelf along one wall with books overflowing onto the floor. It was nothing like the vampire nests he’d been in before. But what shocked Keith the most were the photographs hanging on the walls. There must have been hundreds of them. Every inch of the wall that wasn’t covered with furniture or a window was hidden by a photo. Some were black and white, others in color; some seemed like they were just taped up onto the wall while others had frames, ranging from shiny and new to chipped and falling apart. With just the brief glance that he had, Keith couldn’t tell much of what the subjects of these photographs were. He just saw a lot of people. Keith also glanced through the archway that led into the kitchen as they passed by, which looked entirely unused. He was hardly surprised. His thoughts were once more drawn back to reality when Coran spoke.

“She’ll be in the study,” the vamp spoke over its shoulder as they reached the back of the house, “I’d better go in first.”

The vamp approached the simple wooden door at the back of the house, raising a hand to knock. A gentle ‘Yes?’ sounded from inside. Keith blinked in surprise; another British vamp? Coran opened the door just a crack and peeked through.

“Yes, uh, well…” Coran stammered, “Lance is back…”

“Wonderful! Send him in please,” the voice called back. It was light, sweet sounding even. It didn’t churn Keith’s stomach the way Lotor’s did.

“Yes, right…well…” Coran opened the door all the way and shifted to the side to accommodate the two boys.

Keith flinched as Lance unexpectedly grabbed his hand. Though the worried look on Lance’s face made Keith want nothing more than to turn the other direction and pull Lance out with him, he had no choice but to follow the boy as he yanked him into the next room.

“Hey…” Lance drawled, an obvious nervousness sounding in his voice.

Keith peered around Lance to eye the vampire that was sitting at the desk. His breath caught in his throat. Keith had never laid eyes on anyone so beautiful. The vamp’s dark skin exquisitely contrasted the stark white hair, and Keith swore that its eyes were a vibrant blue and purple. The kindness that shone in them was obvious, but Keith could also sense a darkness there, one that told him that this vamp was not one to be messed with. But God, Keith was awestruck. It wasn’t attraction that had Keith so flustered, it was pure intimidation.

Keith cleared his throat and brushed the hood off, shaking out his hair and diverting his eyes in embarrassment. He was not one to be caught off guard very easily. Keith knew this was a vampire. Lance had even called it “the boss.” Just because it was beautiful didn’t mean that it wasn’t still an it. Keith had been so flustered by the sheer beauty that he had almost forgotten that this wasn’t human. When he looked up at the vampire again, all the kindness that it had previously held in its eyes had twisted to shock and anger.

“Lance, what have you done?” it hissed the words between its teeth, and Keith could see its sharp fangs glistening.

“I know, Allura, I know.” Lance held his hands up in defense. “Believe me when I say it couldn’t be avoided.”

“You brought a human…to my sanctuary…are you insane?”

“Sorry…?” Lance offered with a shrug. Fury spiked in the vampire’s eyes. “I figured we could hide him here,” he said quickly, “You know, just for the time being, until we can figure something else out… You said no one really bothers you here, so…”

The vampire sighed heavily, looking down. “This is Keith, isn’t it?” it finally asked, looking back up at the two boys.

Lance nodded, sorrow swimming in his eyes.

“Coran?” it asked.

Coran stepped forward and, for some reason, Keith felt comfort in that. “I do believe we can make it work, Princess,” the vamp replied, all while twisting the thick mustache between two fingers. “After all, Lance has sacrificed much for us, and has risked his own life on several occasions. I think it’s the least we could do.”

The other vampire, Allura, nodded slowly as if contemplating Coran’s words. “Alright,” it finally said, “You may both stay here for the time being. We will figure something else out. In the meantime, I will address the rest of the nest and inform them that I will be temporarily unavailable…I’m sure I can come up with some excuse…” the vampire paused, looking deep in thought for a moment before returning its gaze to Lance. “Now, tell me everything you found.”

It was at this moment that Keith’s body decided that it just had to yawn; it had been such a long day, and his body was aching and exhausted.

Lance looked at him sideways, worry clear on his face. Keith wanted to argue, to let Lance know that he was fine, just a little tired. He wanted to tell Lance how completely uncomfortable he was to be staying in the home of a vampire; to be staying in a whole nest of them that, apparently, would absolutely eat him if they had the chance. But any time Keith attempted a sound, it caught in his throat. Lance had, after all, told Keith to not say anything… Keith took to furrowing his brows and frowning at the boy, hoping Lance would understand.

“Maybe…” Lance said hesitantly, looking back at Allura, “we could get some rest first? It’s been a long day.”

The other vampire sighed deeply, but sympathy shone in its eyes. Sympathy; it was not an emotion that Keith was used to seeing on a fang.

“Alright,” it said to Lance, “go and rest. We’ll talk when the sun is up. You may take the room upstairs. There’s no bed, unfortunately, but I’m sure you’ll be comfortable enough, Keith.”

Keith could only nod curtly at the vamp’s words, unable to respond with any words of his own. Did he want to thank it? Or tell it to fuck off?

“Now,” Allura continued, “leave Coran and I to discuss things.”

“Thank you, Allura, really.” There was deep admiration on Lance’s face as he spoke. “For everything…”

“It is I who should be thanking you, Lance. Coran is right. You’ve risked more than any of us these past few months…” The beautiful purple and blue eyes returned Lance’s affection. “Please, go rest. We’ll talk in the morning,”

Lance nodded and turned toward the door, dragging a mute Keith behind him. Keith didn’t fight as Lance led him through the hall and up the stairs. As soon as he could, though, he would tell Lance exactly what he thought of this whole situation.

There were only two doors at the top of the stairs, unsurprising for how small the cottage was, and Lance led Keith through the one on the left. Inside was…quaint? There were more photographs lining the walls, though not nearly as many as the ones that covered the downstairs, and this room, too, was overflowing with books. On the other end of the room sat a plush couch, a chair, and a table, which, of course, had books on it. These fangs clearly liked to read.

“I guess you take the couch?” Lance said, “Since, you know, I don’t need to sleep. And I kinda doubt we’ll be comfortable with both of us on there, yeah?”

Keith just glared at him and crossed his arms purposefully.

“Or you can sleep on the floor, if you’d rather…?” Lance offered, confusion sweeping across his features.

Keith rolled his eyes and pursed his lips. He was less than amused.

“Look…I don’t know what you want here, samurai,” Lance said, patience clearly wearing thin. There was a pause as the two boys just looked at each other, one with annoyance, the other with anger. “Dammit, Keith, will you just talk to me?”

“Thank you! Fuck, Lance…” Keith burst out.

“You’re…welcome?” Lance said, one eyebrow raised.

“You fucking told me out there to not talk, so guess what I couldn’t fucking do this whole time?” Keith threw his hands out dramatically as he spoke. He was angry, yes, but he knew deep down that Lance hadn’t meant anything by it. No, more than anything, Keith was scared; though he’d hardly ever admit that to Lance.

Lance’s face fell. “Oh, shit, Keith, I didn’t—“

“Yeah that’s the fucking problem, Lance, you didn’t think!” Keith knew he was being unfair, but he couldn’t stop the words from coming out of his mouth. It left a bitter taste.

“Keith, I’m sorry.” Lance’s voice was soft. “I need to be more careful about how I say things, I know. This…is a lot. It’s a lot to fucking process, for both of us. Maybe you should just…” Lance paused.

“I should what?” Keith spat, “What would you have me do now Lance?” He knew this anger wasn’t completely warranted. He knew that Lance hadn’t meant to literally prevent him from speaking; he had been trying to keep Keith safe. But now, in the nest of apparently less than friendly vamps, in the home of their leader, Keith couldn’t listen to reason. He didn’t want to listen. He didn’t want to listen to Lance.

“Keith, that’s not what…I…I just think—“

You’re thinking, Lance, but you’re not asking me. You think I want to stay here? With vampires right downstairs? With all of them crawling around outside, who apparently want to eat me.” Keith was sure that Allura and Coran could hear them from downstairs if they wanted to, but he didn’t care. His disgust of vampires was fair, he thought.

“They’re good people, Keith,” Lance begged, “They’ll protect us, protect you here.”

“I wouldn’t need protection if you hadn’t brought me to a nest full of vamps, Lance.”

“That’s not fair. That’s not on me. I told you exactly where we were going. I gave you multiple chances to back out, and you still chose to come with.”

“Lance, there are dozens of them out there!” Keith whisper-shouted. As much as he didn’t care if the vampires downstairs heard them, he was sure that full on screaming would attract the attention of at least a few others, and he definitely didn’t want that. “And from the way you and those vamps have been acting, I think a good many of them would just love to eat me if they had the fucking chance.”

“Yeah, okay, some of them are still new to this whole…vegetarian thing, sure. But Allura wouldn’t let anything happen to you. She’s a good person, Keith—“

“It’s not a person, Lance, it’s a vampire, an it, a monster!”

Keith regretted the words as soon as they came out, and the look on Lance’s face made his gut twist even more with the guilt

“So am I,” Lance said flatly.

“No,” Keith shook his head, “No, you’re not. You’re you. You’re different…”

“Why?” Lance was barely whispering now, but the words cut through the room like a double-edged sword. “What makes me different, Keith. What makes me not a monster?”

“Lance, you’re different than them—“

“How?” he chided, “Because you’re in love with me?”

“Because you still have humanity in you, Lance! Because I saw that before and I still see it now.”

Lance smiled bitterly. “So do they. That’s what you don’t get, Keith. These people were all human once, too, before they were turned—most of which was involuntary, I’ll add. We can choose to cling onto our humanity, to fight that monster inside us; or, we can choose to let the monster take over, consume us, control us. All of these people are fighting, every damn day, to cling onto their humanity. Most of them are a hell of a lot stronger than I am. After all, I gave in pretty quick to temptation.” Lance was looking at Keith with a mixture of disappointment and guilt and it made Keith squirm uncomfortably.

“Yeah, well, if you hadn’t, then maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess right now. Maybe you wouldn’t have to watch every goddamn thing you say to me to make sure you’re not, what was it you said: brainwashing me.” The words were bitter in Keith’s mouth.

Lance sighed heavily. “You’re right.” His face was void of emotion.

Keith scoffed.

“Look, maybe you should—“

Keith glared at Lance, daring him to finish his thought.

“I think that you should get some sleep. You look dead on your feet, samurai.”

Keith couldn’t argue with that. He certainly felt dead on his feet. Keith shrugged off Lance’s coat and shoved it at the boy. He could hear the glass vials inside clinking as he did. “Just because I’m doing what you said doesn’t mean that I’m not still pissed,” he said through gritted teeth.

Lance nodded. “I know. You have every right to be. I am sorry, Keith. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. And just so you know, I’m still pissed, too. And we’re not done with this conversation.”

“I know,” Keith said turning to the couch and laying down in a huff. Lance stood there for a moment, in the middle of the room, cradling his jacket against his chest. He looked at Keith like he was lost. Keith rolled his eyes and scooted as far back as he could, until his back was flush with the back of the couch. “You gonna join me…?”

“You sure?”

“I’m mad at you, Lance, but I still love you.”

Lance sighed in relief and smiled. He placed the coat gingerly on the chair and slid onto the couch. Keith fit perfectly draped across Lance’s lanky frame. Their legs intertwined and Lance’s arm came up and around Keith to hold the boy tightly. Keith’s hand rested on Lance’s chest, just over the boys heart…but Keith couldn’t feel the steady heartbeat.

“I just…” Lance said, “I don’t want you to hate me. I don’t want you to think I’m a monster.”

Keith looked up at Lance, who was pointedly avoiding his gaze. “Lance, I could never hate you. I could never see you like that. You know that.”

“But that’s how you see the rest of them.” It wasn’t a question, and Keith didn’t reply. They both knew it was true. “Look, all I’m asking is for you to keep an open mind. Listen to Allura, to her story, and then decide what you think of her. Then, maybe you’ll see things differently; see that not all of us are the monsters we killed for the Garrison…”

“They’re not all Lotor?” Keith took a guess at Lance’s pause, and the boy bristled at the words, but gave Keith no response. “Are you ever going to tell me what happened? What he did to you?”

“I already told you what happened,” Lance said quickly.

“You haven’t told me anything, Lance. I just…I won’t push you, okay. Talk to me when you’re ready. I’ll be here for you when you are.”

Lance nodded. “Just not right now.” Keith responded by nuzzling closer into Lance’s neck. “Hey,” Lance poked Keith gently, “I’ll tell you everything you want to know, if you promise to just listen to Allura tomorrow, okay? Keep an open mind.”

Keith nodded again. “Yeah, okay, I’ll listen.” The words surprised even Keith as they left his mouth, but they were, unmistakably, his own. Keith knew that Lance had had no influence over him this time. Yet Keith was still doing this for Lance, regardless if the boy asked him to, if only to prove that Lance wasn’t anything like these other bloodsuckers.

Chapter Text

When Keith woke up, he was alone. The sun was shining through the upstairs window and onto his face. He could feel the warmth that radiated from it even before he opened his eyes. Keith blinked at the brightness as he sat up. As he surveyed his surroundings—the overstuffed couch, the bookshelves, the photos—the reality of his situation came crashing back. He was in a vampire nest. There was no other way to look at it. Whether they drank from humans or not, Keith was in enemy territory, behind enemy lines. He was in the belly of the beast.

Keith rubbed his hands over his face. Had it really come to this? He could accept Lance…that was one thing, but the rest of them? They were monsters. And Lance…wasn’t; at least, Keith didn’t think. Keith thought back to how Lance had acted when their team had caught them. How Lance had dangled Keith in front of them, manipulating him, manipulating them into doing exactly what he wanted. Keith knew that Lance regretted having to act like that, and he understood that Lance felt as though he had no other option. But still, Keith couldn’t imagine the Lance he knew doing that kind of thing to him, to the team. The Lance he knew wouldn’t have been able to use people like that, and that thought set Keith’s teeth on edge. There was no denying that there were parts of Lance that had changed, spiraling down into a new darkness.

And yet, Keith had still made the cognitive decision to go with Lance; to leave their friends, his life, behind, and to enter the nest. And now Lance was asking Keith to give these other bloodsuckers a chance? Keith had never seen vamps as anything more than murderous, bloodthirsty leeches. He had thought their only instinct was to kill and feed. Or was that just his first instinct; to kill the monsters? No, he couldn’t think like that. He was not the bad guy here. But Lance had said that these were the good guys, and Keith didn’t know what to believe anymore.

Keith stood up. He may as well head downstairs and get this over with. He had promised Lance that he’d talk to these fangs, so he’d at least do that, though he doubted they’d change his mind in the matter. As Keith went to exit the room, something caught his eye. The photos on the wall; he’d been curious about them the night before, but hadn’t had the energy or the time to really look at them. Now, he had the chance to examine them. He circled the room, slowly, eyeing each and every photo that was posted there. Keith had seen correctly that the photos depicted people, but he was surprised to find that almost every photo captured different people. Each face his eyes grazed over was a new one; all except two. In each and every one of these photos, posing and smiling with the others—sometimes vampires and sometimes humans—were Coran and Allura. Keith also noted that the photographs were taken at vastly different times. There were some photos so old that they had grown yellow; these depicted period clothing that Keith guessed was early to mid 1800’s. Others were new, modern photographs, having obviously been taken very recently. A few, even, were not photographs at all, but paintings, depicting periods even earlier than the faded, yellow photos. A lump formed in Keith’s throat as he looked at picture after picture showing the beautiful, white haired vampire. Just how old was it? And how powerful?

Keith didn’t have long to dwell with these thoughts, as Lance burst into the room. He smiled widely at Keith, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. Keith tried to smile back, his face turning into a grimace instead. They were still dancing around each other, last night’s conversation still weighing on both of their shoulders.

“Hey, you’re awake,” Lance said, “Allura wanted to wait for you to wake up before she debriefed me. And she did want to tell you her story…you know, answer any questions that you had, if you want…”

Keith just stared at Lance. A horrible mixture of anger, guilt, uncertainty, fear, and shame rolled through his stomach, making him feel sick. He wanted to trust Lance, but he knew why he couldn’t completely. He just didn’t know if he’d be able to push past what had transpired between them, not entirely at least. So much had happened, and Keith had barely had enough time to wrap his mind around it. Lance must have noticed the mixture of emotions on his face, as the boy came up to Keith and placed a hand gently on his arm.

“Hey, samurai, you okay?”

“No, I’m not,” Keith said quietly.

“I know you’re not exactly…comfortable here,” Lance said, “but I’ll figure something else out. I promise.”

“It’s not that,” Keith said, “Well, it’s not just that…” Keith met Lance’s eyes only to find them full of confusion. “Look, you trust these…vamps. And I said I’d give them a chance, so I will. I’ll listen to what they have to say. It’s just…It’s been a lot, you know. I don’t know…”

“Hey, I get it.” Lance’s voice was gentle, understanding. “I mean, I don’t fully know what you’re feeling right now, but I get that this all really overwhelming.”

Keith nodded. It was overwhelming, and even he didn’t know what he was feeling. He didn’t know how to put into words that he felt as though he was being torn in two. Keith didn’t know how to tell Lance that everything that he’s done over the past—what, month?—goes against literally everything he’s ever believed. He didn’t know how to express the frustration and confusion that, until recently, he believed Lance to have the same ideals and morals as him. Keith didn’t understand what had changed the boy’s mind. He didn’t know why Lance was so content with the way things were; he couldn’t comprehend how he was okay with all of this. So, he just nodded.

“Thank you,” Lance said quietly. His eyes were sparkling with appreciation and Keith couldn’t help but smile.

“Come on,” Keith mumbled, “you said we have to be debriefed.”

“Keith.”

Keith met Lance’s eyes as the boy pulled him in close. When their lips met, Keith felt a flutter run down his chest and through his stomach. His lips were so soft and warm, and Keith couldn’t help but feel greedy as he opened his mouth, licking at Lance’s to ask for more. Lance happily obliged as he slipped his tongue out to meet Keith’s, and Keith felt his heart leap again. Kissing Lance always felt like the first time, as cliché as that sounds, and Keith couldn’t get enough. But they pulled apart, both blushing furiously as they grinned at each other.

“Alright, now we can go.” Lance turned to go, but Keith grabbed his wrist, stopping the boy in his tracks.

“Wait,” Keith said, pulling Lance back around.

Lance chuckled as he looked down at Keith. “I know that kissing me is absolutely magical, but we can do more of that after we meet with Allura, okay?”

“No, uh…” Keith looked down as he felt his face flush with embarrassment. “I just, um… A-are you, you know, hungry?”

“Oh…” Lance’s eyebrows raised in shock when Keith met his eyes. “Do you…I mean is that something you still want? I just figured after what I did yesterday—“

“No,” Keith said too quickly. He sighed and chewed his bottom lip. “Lance, I think it’s been established that we’re both completely addicted to it. I get that you didn’t do that on purpose, and while it did piss me off, I know that you get how careful you need to be with how you word things from now on. Look, it’s…weird; I’m not saying I like it, and it’s going to take time to get used to, but…yeah, I still want it.” Keith dared a glance at Lance’s wide eyes. “I need it,” he added quietly.

Lance nodded slowly. “Yeah, okay.” His face was calm, but there was hunger gleaming in his eyes.

Keith nodded back and grabbed at his collar to expose his neck. Lance reached for his hand before he could.

“Let’s wait…until after we talk to Allura. I haven’t exactly told her yet…”

“Oh, yeah, okay.” Keith tried to not let the disappointment show on his face as he began to follow Lance downstairs. “But…I’m going to need it soon, I think. I get all…jittery.” Keith hated that he even had to think like that. In truth, he didn’t mind the bite from Lance; and that thought only deepened the pit that had formed in his stomach. He no longer felt as though he were being dragged down into the darkness with Lance; now, he was going willingly.

At the bottom of the stairs, Keith turned to the rear of the house, towards Allura’s study, but Lance spun him around to the plush living area that Keith had spotted on his way in. In the bright daylight, it looked even cozier than the evening before, and it was nothing like Keith had ever pictured a vampire nest to look like. Keith looked around. Other than the books and furniture, the room was empty.

“Allura and Coran will be back soon,” Lance said, taking a seat on the couch, “She’s just talking with the rest of the nest, letting them know that she’ll be out of commission for a few days.”

Keith nodded, but held off on joining Lance on the couch. Instead, Keith took to grazing over the photographs that were displayed in this room. There were dozens more on these walls than the upstairs, but their stories were much the same. All of them depicted Allura, most included Coran, and all were posed with different people from vastly different periods of time. In all of them, Keith noticed, Allura looked the same as she did now. In all of them, Keith could see the vamp’s fangs.

“There are so many…” Keith muttered, still circling the room.

“Yeah,” Lance was smiling, “Yeah, Allura likes to remember all the people she meets. She says that each person’s story is significant, in one way or another, and that we have to remember them if we want to better understand each other.”

Keith’s mouth twitched with a smile before he remembered to compose himself. It was just such a…nice thing to believe. But Keith wouldn’t, couldn’t, forget what Allura was. He continued to trail his eyes across photo after photo, seeing Allura with countless people and vampires alike in countless points across time. As he reached halfway around the room to the brick fireplace nestled into the wall, a large painting in an ornate frame made him pause. Allura looked different in this one. Something wasn’t quite right. Keith hadn’t even taken notice of the other two figures depicted in the painting until it struck him: that wasn’t Allura, but fuck if it looked just like her.

The woman in the painting had the same thick, long white hair as the vampire, but she was, without a doubt, human. She had the same kind smile, the same tanned skin. But something was wrong; it wasn’t the vampire that Keith had met last night. His eyes shifted to the man in the photo. He had dark hair, shorter, resting at shoulder length, and had a thick beard as well. His eyes were a brilliant blue. It was then that Keith noticed that the two wore crowns on their heads. They were royalty. Only after examining these two did Keith move to the third member depicted in the painting. It was a young girl, barely aged ten by the look of it. She had the same white hair as the woman and the eyes of the man, who, Keith assumed, must be her parents. She, too, had a small tiara atop her head. The three were smiling happily as they posed, holding each other. As Keith stared into the young girl’s eyes, the realization hit him like a tidal wave. “That’s…is that Allura?”

He heard Lance chuckle fondly behind him, but Keith couldn’t tear his eyes away from the family. “Yeah,” Lance said quietly, “Her and her parents. That’s the only thing she could save from, you know, before.”

“She’s royalty?” Keith asked, amused.

Lance barked out a short laugh. “Yeah she was,” he mused, “Coran still calls her Princess. Though, I think he’s the only one that does. It was a long time ago.”

It took Keith another moment to tear his eyes away from the painting. Allura had once been human, obviously. But that didn’t change the fact that the little girl he saw there was now a bloodsucking monster. It was just odd to see Allura as so…innocent. Keith’s head swiveled to the other end of the mantle, where another painting rested. This one was in the same style as the previous; similar colors, size and clothing, but Keith could see that Allura was now an adult and already a vampire. And as Keith’s eyes wandered over the other figures depicted in the painting, his breath caught in his throat. “Lance!” he choked.

“Yeah…” Lance’s voice sounded behind him, hesitant and wary. “Yeah, that’s…yeah.”

Keith’s mind was reeling, trying against all odds to understand what the fuck he was even looking at. His eyes blurred the others out of the painting; they were insignificant. All Keith could see as he stared in shock at the scene before him was the figure snaked around Allura: the long, white hair, the cool smile, those eyes.

“Lance, what the fuck is this?” Keith couldn’t stop his voice from shaking.

“Yeah,” Lance repeated, and Keith reeled around to stare at the boy with shock. There was a pained look on his face, and he wouldn’t meet Keith’s eyes. “It’s weird, I know. I fucking freaked the first time I saw that…”

“Care to explain?” Keith said, baffled at the boy’s reluctant silence.

But Lance shook his head. “No, Keith. It’s not for me to tell.” He met Keith’s eyes then, a hard determination rooted deep.

Keith opened his mouth to argue; how could Lance expect Keith to just be okay with that answer? But as he did, the sound of the front door opening creaked through the room, and both boys snapped their heads up to see Allura and Coran walk in.

“Ah, good, you’re awake—“ Allura faltered when the vamp laid eyes on Keith’s unabashed anger, gaze shifting to the painting behind him. Allura’s face softened from shock to a sad understanding, sighing heavily. “Ah, yes,” the vamp said, “I can imagine you have questions for me, and—“

“Yeah I fucking do,” Keith snapped, interrupting the next thought.

“And I will answer all of them,” Allura finished gracefully as though Keith had never interrupted. “I am more than willing to share my story with you, Keith. That is the point of us sitting down. I only ask that you listen to it.”

Keith looked to Lance, who was staring at him with desperation in his eyes. “You promised you’d give her a chance, Keith,” he pleaded.

Keith sighed heavily. He had promised that. But that was before Keith saw this, and he wasn’t sure if he could see past it. He looked to Allura once more, and was shocked to see a deep sorrow on the vampire’s face. Lance had said that Allura was good. Keith trusted Lance. Keith had promised Lance that he’d try. He looked back to Lance, who was unashamedly trying to use his puppy dog eyes on him. It certainly didn’t sway Keith like it once did, but he also couldn’t completely resist it either. Fuck, he might regret this.

He sat down next to Lance in a huff. “Fine,” he said, voice clipped, “I’ll give…her a chance.”

Lance whistled low and long. “Damn, that’s some serious progress already.”

“Shut up,” Keith snapped.

Allura cleared her throat. If the significance of Keith’s attitude and choice of language were obvious to her, it didn’t show. She moved to sit on the chair adjacent to the couch where the boys were perched, and Coran took his place standing behind her. “I’ll just start from the beginning, I suppose,” she said and, when Keith said nothing, continued. “My childhood is likely not as relevant as what happened after my…transformation, but I suppose I should share it nonetheless…”

“Nonsense, Princess,” Coran said, “It’s incredibly important. You were raised as a leader, by kind and caring monarchs. They shaped you into who you are now.”

Allura smiled sadly. “Thank you, Coran. It is always nice when you speak of them…” She turned her attention back to Keith, who had crossed his arms on his chest and had taken to staring hard at her. “Yes, well, what Coran said is true then. I was born into royalty, in a kingdom called Altea. It is no longer, and I doubt you’ll find a history book in existence that still references it, but this is the world I was born into. It was a peaceful and prosperous land. My parents were kind and just, and Coran their most trusted and loyal advisor.”

Keith looked up to see that Coran’s cheeks had turned a deep pink, his mouth barely holding back a smile. His attention snapped back to Allura as she continued, and he wondered briefly when she was going to get to what he actually wanted to know.

“I had just come into adulthood when the attacks began.” Both her and Coran’s faces fell at the sudden memory that haunted them, and Allura’s voice grew soft. “It was years before the rebels reached the capitol, and by then our armies were thinned out to such an extent that we didn’t stand a chance. My parents fell quickly, and I was gravely injured.” She paused to take a shuddering breath. “Coran helped me escape, leaving our fallen home behind, but…it was clear that I wasn’t going to make it. I would have bled out by morning.” She took another breath, this time to steady herself. “Perhaps it was the blood that drew him, but…that is when Alfor found us.” She looked toward the painting that lay on the mantle, and Keith followed her gaze.

There were three other men shown in the painting other than Coran. Keith knew to rule one out, and he examined the other two. The first stood behind Allura. His hair was white, like Allura’s, and he had a short, straight beard. His eyes were a similar shade of blue, and they held a kindness in them. There was a woman wrapped in his arms. The other man was taller and broader by quite a lot. His face was more stern, his eyes less friendly, and Keith let out an involuntary shudder. Allura gave no indication which of the two she was referencing, and Keith hoped to god that it was the former.

“Alfor offered me a chance to live, a chance to be immortal. He left no secrets in what I would become, that I would have to fight against my nature every day if I didn’t want to become a monster, but he assured me that he would stay by my side for as long as I needed him…” Allura continued to look at the painting, a pained fondness lingering in her dampening eyes. She cleared her throat, averting her gaze and continuing. “I don’t know if it was a fear of dying, a desire for vengeance against the monsters that ravaged my home, or if perhaps Alfor reminded me a bit of my parents. Or maybe it was something else entirely…but, whatever the reason, I agreed. And Alfor changed me.”

“You wanted to become a vampire?” Keith asked, shocked.

Allura nodded slowly. “It was a choice, yes,” she said, “I don’t know if I’d choose the same, or if I would make a different choice if I were presented with the decision now, but…yes, that is what I chose. And Coran, too. He couldn’t leave me alone.”

“It was always my duty to protect you, Princess. I wasn’t going to quit on you.”

They smiled fondly at each other and Coran placed a hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently. Keith’s mind was boggled. Sure, she was dying, but to actually choose to become a monster? It was unfathomable. And Coran; he wasn’t even dying. He did it out of, what, a sense of loyalty? It made Keith sick just to think about. But he kept his mouth shut and let her continue.

“So we became part of his…nest, I suppose you’d call it, though there was, at the time, only a few others. Zarkon was Alfor’s second-in-command, if you will. He’s the other in that painting…” Allura’s eyes grew cold as they shifted over.

Keith looked again at the picture, at the large, serious-looking man beside the white-haired one. He could guess by Allura’s reaction which was which. “What about the woman?” he asked.

Allura’s face softened and a smile played at her lips. “Melenor,” she said, “She was like a second mother to me.”

“She was human,” Keith said, noting her rounded teeth in her wide, welcoming smile.

“Yes, she was. And her and Alfor were deeply in love. They had a rather special companionship.” There was sorrow under Allura’s smile.

“Had?” Keith asked, “because they’re not anymore, or because she’s…” He couldn’t finish the question.

“She’s dead,” Allura said sadly, “They both are.” Allura took a deep breath as Coran cleared his throat uncomfortably. They were both raw with emotion; Keith could see it in their eyes. “But,” Allura said, feigning a smile, “we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, you need to know about Zarkon. He was…rather different than Alfor. Where Alfor wanted to co-exist with humanity, only coming out of our sanctuary when absolutely necessary, and only…drinking from willing participants—“ she shifted uncomfortably under Keith’s gaze at her words— “Zarkon disagreed. He thought that we were stronger than the humans, better, and he thought we should come out of hiding. But, he obeyed by Alfor’s rules, at least for a short while. It wasn’t too long after I was turned that Alfor found a companion in Melenor, and they quickly took me under their wing. It was then that Zarkon decided he wanted a protégé of his own, and so he turned one…” Her eyes trailed over once more to the painting, a mixture of sadness and disgust on her face. Keith knew who she was looking at.

“Lotor,” he spat.

Allura nodded. “Zarkon turned him. Alfor was furious with him. It was one of his rules that only he would add members to their nest, and only when absolutely necessary. But Lotor was…rather good at deceiving people, even back then, and we all quickly grew to…to love him…” she trailed off, and Keith could see the shame in her eyes.

“You loved him,” he said, not as a question.

She nodded again. “I did,” she said quietly, “But, in truth, I did not know him. Not really. He had us all fooled; him and Zarkon. We lived in ignorance for so long, blind to their true intentions. Until one day they struck. Zarkon killed Melenor first—“ Allura’s voice broke as tears started rolling down her face— “Then he came for Alfor. And in one night, they had slaughtered our nest, our family. Coran and I ran…but Lotor caught up to us. He…he asked us, asked me, to come with them, to join their new nest, to follow Zarkon as they led our kind into newfound power. I refused and…he let us go. I…I still don’t know why…”

“I still maintain that he felt love for you, Princess,” Coran said gently.

“Well I still maintain that he has no capacity for it,” Allura snapped back. She sighed deeply. “Either way, we went into hiding. We vowed to never harm anyone again; we vowed to protect anyone we could, just as Alfor had done for us. It wasn’t for years and years that we heard word of Zarkon or Lotor. It wasn’t until they led their new, bloodthirsty followers in their attack on humanity. And years after that even that Lotor attacked Zarkon, murdering him in cold blood and taking over the nest. And it was this war that you were born into…” Allura looked up at them, tears shimmering in her eyes. “I am sorry,” she whispered, and Keith furrowed his brows. “I should have seen it…”

“It’s not your fault,” Keith muttered, instantly regretting it as three pairs of eyes locked onto him with identical looks of shock in them. “What? It’s not. How were you supposed to know what a fucking psycho he is? I’ve met the guy once for, like, two minutes, and I could tell how—“ Keith waved his hand in the air, searching for the right word— “charming he could be.” The others looked at him blankly. “I just mean I can see how he could fool someone! Stop staring at me!” he growled.

“Keith…” Allura’s voice was soft as a small smile appeared on her lips, “That’s…kind of you to say.”

“Well don’t look so fucking surprised,” Keith muttered, earning a chuckle from Lance.

“Well, in any case, Lotor is still a problem; one that I’ve been subtly chipping away at for years now…”

“Why haven’t you just taken him down?” Keith asked.

“I’m afraid it’s not that simple,” Allura said sadly, “He has far greater numbers under his thumb than I have allies of my own. His men are scattered across the entire area—“

“Not anymore,” Keith interrupted, “The Garrison just has the northern territories to clear out, but that’s it.”

Allura looked honestly surprised at this, and turned to Lance, who just shrugged. “Don’t look at me. Before I got taken, we had yet to clear out the eastern territory.”

“Yeah, we took that back,” Keith nodded, turning back to Allura, “How many vamps you got here?”

She composed herself quickly. “It’s…still a bit more complicated than that. I fear I don’t have the strength to beat him…”

“Aren’t you older?” Keith asked, getting a blank look in return. “Is that not how it works? The older you are, the stronger you are?”

“It is,” Allura said carefully, “But unfortunately our, um, diet also comes into play.” Upon receiving a blank look now from Keith, she continued. “Unfortunately drinking only animal blood makes us far weaker than Lotor and his nest. We simply would not have the strength to beat him…”

“Speaking of which…” Lance shifted nervously beside Keith, and Keith looked at him curiously. Speaking of what?

Allura looked equally as confused as her gaze turned to Lance.

“Onto business?” he asked.

“Oh,” she said, eyebrows still furrowed as she struggled to find the connection. “Yes, well I suppose that is rather important.” She composed herself, sitting up straighter and looking at the two boys. “Please, tell me everything. From the beginning, if you don’t mind, considering this one—“ she glared mockingly to Lance— “swore to me that he was going to stay away from you.”

Keith blinked at Lance. Lance had told him that he was afraid for Keith to see him like this, that he feared Keith would only see the monster he’d become. He supposed it made sense that Lance would want to keep his distance, but Keith suddenly felt ashamed that Lance would ever assume him to think that, though the fear was entirely validated by everything Keith had ever stood for…

Beside him, Lance just chuckled nervously, not meeting Keith’s eyes. “Right, well…that was kind of an accident?”

“I was on a mission,” Keith offered. He could see how uncomfortable Lance was. He was sure that the boy was apprehensive about admitting to Allura that he had bitten him… “We were clearing out a nest, and I was chasing a rogue vamp when I just kind of…stumbled upon him. And I…I couldn’t kill him. The next night, when I went up on the roof…” he paused, seeing the mix of confusion and intrigue cross both Allura and Coran’s faces. “It’s kind of…our spot?” he shrugged, continuing, “Anyway, Lance was there and we just kind of got into the routine of seeing each other every night. Until we got caught, that is…” Keith trailed off, unsure of how much detail Lance wanted to give out.

Lance took this as his cue to jump in. He turned to Allura, a soft guilt on his face. “That,” he said, “was actually on purpose…” Her silence prompted him to continue. “You asked me to be a part of Lotor’s nest, to get him to trust me if I could and to report anything I thought was important back to you. When I was in there…I heard rumors…” He paused then, unsure of how to continue.

Finally, he took a deep breath and proceeded. “You’ve both heard the doc talk about the experiments that the Garrison does with any vamps that they catch?” Both Coran and Allura nodded. “Well, I kept hearing rumors that Lotor had gotten his hands on the stuff…” Allura gasps softly at his words, and Lance pushed on. Keith sat, dumbfounded; this was all new information for him. “And not long after that, the rumor started going around that a vamp had broken onto Garrison property. That was me…I was that vamp…” Lance added for clarification as though it weren’t blatantly obvious. “I knew I had to act quick…so I planned to get into the Garrison labs, steal some of the stuff, and bring it back here.” Lance paused again and sighed deeply. He would have to tell Allura soon, Keith knew, and he was sure that the boy feared the disappointment that would follow.

“Lance, my boy,” Coran spoke, one eyebrow raised, “how exactly were you planning on breaking into the labs of all places? They’re extremely heavily fortified, are they not?”

Lance nodded, grimacing. “I didn’t have a full plan at first, to be honest. I knew there were tunnels that ran under the Garrison, but I didn’t know my way around and I didn’t know the code for the labs… Then my sister, Veronica, learned about me, so I had thought that maybe she’d help us out…”

Keith raised an eyebrow. He hadn’t known that that had been Lance’s plan. “That…actually could have worked. If she’d agreed to help us, that is.”

Lance smiled sadly. “Yeah. But…we got caught on the roof one night,” Lance huffed, “I didn’t even know that Pidge knew about the roof.”

“Are you surprised?” Keith asked bitterly, “Pidge knows everything.”

“So?” Allura was on the edge of her seat, both literally and figuratively as she waited for the boys to continue. “What did you do?”

Keith looked to Lance who sighed heavily. “I…I let our team catch me. I figured if anyone could get me into the lab without becoming a science experiment, it was them. But…I knew that there was still a chance they’d let me go. So I knew I had to…piss them off, make them think I was enough of a threat that they’d take me there, take me to Pidge’s dad…he’s one of the lead scientists there. And it worked?”

“But how on earth did you convince them of that?”

Here it comes.

“I…may have used Keith?” Lance hesitated, looking up to see confusion on the other’s faces. “I…I had already bitten him.” Horror passed over both Allura and Coran’s faces. Allura’s eyes swept between Lance and Keith. The words began pouring out of Lance like vomit. “I used our connection to make them think I was a threat to Keith. I made them think that I was, well, brainwashing him was the term that I used… And they were pissed, understandably, that they thought I was using Keith as a blood bag, and they had already experimented on the venom when they rescued Pidge’s brother from Lotor’s nest—that’s a whole other story that I won’t get into now—and I made them think I was doing all of this against Keith’s will…even though I guess I kinda was…”

Keith offered Lance a small smile. He was still pretty pissed, and they still had a lot to talk about, but Keith needed Lance to understand that he didn’t hate him or even blame him, really, for what happened.

Allura huffed out a breath. “And you,” she said, turning to Keith, “you went along with this?”

Keith cleared his throat, uncomfortable that the attention had been turned to him. “I mean, no? I didn’t know what Lance’s plan was at the time. But I also didn’t necessarily have a choice… And I know that Lance only did what he felt was absolutely necessary to—“

“Wait.” Allura held a hand up. “What do you mean you didn’t have a choice? What, Lance, did you threaten him or something?”

Keith balked at her. He definitely didn’t expect that. Did she not know? How long had it been since she’d drunk from a human that she didn’t remember the effect it would have?

“The Mist, Allura,” Lance said quietly, confusion on his face as well, “I used The Mist to compel Keith…he didn’t have a choice.”

It was Allura’s turn to look aghast. Her mouth was parted as her eyes darted to Coran, but he looked just as shocked and merely shrugged at her.

“Lance, that’s not…” Allura looked back at the boys, “I don’t understand what you mean.”

Lance’s face contorted with more guilt. “I mean, I used the compulsion… Everything I said, Keith did, so I made it seem like—“

“Lance, that’s not how The Mist works…” Allura insisted.

“What?” Lance looked as confused as Keith felt. “I’m pretty sure it is? I’ve pissed him off enough to know…”

Allura looked between the two of them. “Our venom does create a sort of…compliance for humans, but it does not give us full reign,” she explained carefully, “If we tried to make them do something completely against their will, any human would be able to resist to some extent. It makes them susceptible to influence, Lance, but…what you’re describing, it’s more than that, is it not?”

“Much more,” Keith practically whispered. He and Lance looked at each other in horror.

“Show me,” Allura insisted.

“I—what?” Lance stuttered.

“Show me. I need to know how powerful this connection is.”

The two boys stared at each other with open mouths. Lance had practically sworn to Keith last night that he would never command him to do anything ever again.

“It’s okay,” Keith said carefully. He needed to understand what was going on, and he needed Lance to know that he trusted him.

Lance nodded, an apologetic gleam in his eyes. “Okay. Uh, Keith…don’t talk.”

Keith opened his mouth to protest; not that, not again. He had been pissed off enough last night and now Lance was doing this again? Seriously? He opened his mouth, but was met with silence. He chuckled bitterly, silently, to himself, shooting Lance daggers with his eyes. ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ he mouthed, not even a whisper escaping his lips. He clenched his fist and glared at Lance.

“That’s incredible,” Coran said quietly.

Keith turned to him, having momentarily forgotten that he and Allura were still there. Both looked at him with complete awe and horror. Allura’s eyes held pity as well, while Coran’s showed fascination.

“Okay.” Lance fidgeted. “You’ve seen enough. Keith, you can talk now.”

“Dammit Lance!” Keith hissed, “I said you could do something, but I made it clear last night to never silence me again.”

Lance rolled his eyes at Keith’s dramatics. “Sorry, samurai. Next time I’ll just tell you to punch yourself in the face.”

“Lance, I swear to god—“ but Keith cut himself off when his own fist connected with his cheek. He was dazed for a moment, both from the force of the impact as well as the shock at what he’d just done. When he looked up again, red blooming on his face from humiliation, he was met with Lance’s horrified gaze.

“I am so sorry,” he said, muffled from the hand that covered his mouth in pure horror, “I swear, I wasn’t even trying to do it that time.”

“I will stab you in the face,” Keith said through gritted teeth, “don’t test me.”

“Lance…” Allura’s voice was so quiet that Keith almost missed it. The two boys turned their attention to her only to be met with two equally astonished faces. “Lance,” she said again, louder this time, “this level of compulsion, i-it’s…”

“Impossible,” Coran offered, eyes never leaving Keith.

“Extremely rare, almost unheard of,” Allura nodded, eyes fixed on Lance.

Keith shifted uncomfortably under Coran’s gaze and, beside him, he could see Lance was squirming too.

“I mean this is…” Allura started again.

“Incredible,” Coran finished.

“I haven’t seen anything like this since…” Allura breathed out, “I’m equally horrified and intrigued.”

Keith looked down to the floor. He didn’t understand what was really happening, but he knew he hated the intense attention that was currently trained on him. “Well, it saved our asses back there. We wouldn’t have escaped otherwise.”

“How do you mean?” Allura asked anxiously. She wasn’t doing a very good job at hiding her interest in the subject.

“Uh, when they caught us and realized what was going on, they immediately separated us. They took Lance down to the holding cells and they took me to the lab to…detox? And it was…painful. I’ve never felt such agony.” Keith clenched his jaw at the mere memory of those three days of torment. “But then I heard Lance’s voice, you know, in my head, and he told me that I felt okay, or whatever, and to come break him out. I wouldn’t have been able to fake it without Lance telling me to. And honestly, I probably would’ve been too pissed to come break him out if we’d waited for me to actually detox the venom. I didn’t know yet that all that shit Lance had done was an act, so…”

“Wait, hold on!” Allura had stood up. Her eyes were wide with disbelief and her mouth hung open. “First you tell me that you have unparalleled compulsion capabilities, and now you tell me that you have a telekinetic connection?” She turned to Lance, reeling. “Are you serious?”

“Uh, yes?” Lance scratched the back of his head nervously and looked down. “I don’t know how I did it, to be honest,” he said quietly, “I-I’ve tried, but I haven’t been able to do it again.”

“You have?” Keith asks.

Lance looked over to him, guilt in his eyes. “Yeah, I tried it a few times on the way here. When it didn’t work, I thought maybe it was because we were too close to each other? But it worked that one time when the patrol came through… Then I tried it this morning when I went out, and I thought maybe you were asleep. Or maybe it just worked that first time ‘cause I was, like, dying or something, and the second because we were in danger?”

“I’m sorry,” Allura said suddenly, sharply, “but what the hell is going on? Coran?”

The other man sputtered, equally as flabbergasted. “I don’t know, Princess,” he stammered, “This is…”

“Completely insane!” Allura finished. She turned to Lance. “You’re sure they didn’t perform any sort of experiment on you while you were in the lab?”

Lance shook his head. “No, and I knew about the compulsion thing before we were caught anyway. You’re saying you’ve never heard of anything like this before? The way Lotor talked…” he trailed off.

Allura faltered, looking to Coran again. Sympathy mixed with shock shone in both their eyes.

“Allura?” Lance asked hesitantly.

“I’ve…seen it,” she said carefully, “Only once.” She paused, and her eyes trailed over once more to the painting. “Alfor and Melenor,” she said quietly, “they had this ability…” She turned her eyes back to the two boys. “But in all of my many, many, many years I have neither seen nor heard of anything remotely close to the bond they had…until now, it seems.”

“What does that mean?” Lance asked, voice barely a whisper. Keith looked over to see a mixture of shock and awe on the boy’s face.

“I don’t know,” Allura answered truthfully, “They were in love, that much is certain. And they fell in love before Alfor ever bit Melenor. But they didn’t gain the ability until after he had bitten her. Even he was surprised at their capabilities, and he often theorized that they had only just broken the surface of their potential…” She trailed off again, a deep concentration settling on her face. “This is something we must examine further,” she concluded.

“Uh…sure, okay,” Lance stammered, turning to Keith with questions swimming in his eyes.

“Yeah,” Keith breathed, “I’d like to know what the fuck is going on.”

“Uh, pardon me,” Coran cleared his throat and all eyes turned to him, “But you said that you had, indeed, broken into the lab, did you not? What exactly did you find there?”

“Oh, shit!” Lance barked, suddenly remembering why they were there in the first place. He began shoving his hands into the various pockets dotting his coat, searching for their prize. “So like I said, I’d heard rumors that Lotor had gotten ahold of this…whatever the shit is called that they’re making, and from what I heard about it, that’s, like, really bad. I figured why not grab some and, I don’t know, even the odds?” He finally located what he was looking for and carefully pulled the three glass vials out. “I think this silvery stuff must be what the doc has told us about. The blood in these is from Matt, Pidge’s brother, so I think Lotor must have made the wound it was drawn from. I figured it might have his venom on it or something and you could, I don’t know, smell something.” He handed the vials over to Allura, who stared at them with awe.

She examined the first vial, completely mesmerized by the substance within. The silver tendrils curled through the stormy liquid as she swished the bottle around. It danced like a galaxy of stars.

“Coran,” she said, eyes never leaving the bottle, “we need the doctor. Quickly.”