Work Header

Blood of the Witch

Chapter Text

The whispers hidden by hands and mumbled under their breath by the little old ladies from the small little community in the Sonoran Desert was nothing new to him. Over the years he had learned from the best, becoming an expert on tuning out the little insinuations and bias opinions that they had of him. Of course, he could only handle so much before going insane.

Twenty-four-year-old Lance McClain reluctantly stayed behind and watched as one by one the caskets of each of his family members exited the funeral home by the pallbearers, who marched them to the inside of the family burial colosseum he had purchased through the adjourning cemetery. Now that he was the only living survivor of the McClain family, though not by blood, he had been tasked with handling every one of their funerals. The task had been stressful, but it helped him focus and avoiding the inevitable pressure of actually having time to mourn his adopted parents, siblings, and the younger children who loved more than anything to call them their ‘Uncle Lance’. If it hadn’t been for the task of making sure everything was perfect for the only people he had ever truly loved, he would have surely ventured down the rabbit hole of despair.

He hated to admit it, but the small community that made up the Sonoran Desert had been welcomed, the older community gratefully attending the service and showing the deceased family their love and respect for everything the McClain family had done for them over the years.

Yes, it was times like these that he shouldn’t allow their chatter to upset him, even though it was hard to not ignore what they were saying.

“I heard he chased anything that walked on two legs. Sounds like a little bit of a man whore if you ask me. I don’t understand how they could handle raising someone as promiscuous as that!”

“Well I heard the only reason why people gave him attention was because he actually scared them. Something about he gave people the heebie jeebies when he walked by. They even said if you didn’t interest him, he gave you the cold shoulder and stuck his nose up in the air like a little prick.”

“Now you just shut your mouth! Think about everything Lance has done for us! Who helped us when little Natalie broke her leg? It was him who said a prayer of healing and look what happened, she was healed up good as new despite the doctor’s saying it would never heal right.”

“He is a very capable young man, but something’s a little…off about him. I heard he was able to find something that was lost one time after the owner searched high and low for it. He found it instantly. It was quite eerie he was able to find it just like that.”

Lance couldn’t help but roll his ocean blue eyes as he swung his suit jacket back on over his pale blue dress shirt and walked out of the cathedral. It was bad enough he had to wear a black suit in the middle of a desert, but now he had to listen to chatterers talk nonsense without a care in the world. He ran a hand through his light brown hair, ruffling the small hairs beginning to grow on the nape of his neck. Dang it, I got to get a haircut soon. Ronnie was the only one who could shape it just right.

He flinched slightly when he felt a heavy arm cross his shoulders and draw him close to a warm body. Lance glanced up to see the owner of the arm, Hunk Garrett, easing his nerves as he allowed himself to ease into the man for comfort. Hunk along with his other friend Adam were now the only things left to family Lance had. The dark-skinned man had gained a little weight over the past few months, but his time in Special Forces had reformed his body into a tightly muscled machine capable of mass destruction if he saw it fit. He was the greatest guy to ever exist and always brought a smile to Lance’s face whenever he was down. He loved cooking and having Lance taste his newest creations, each one better than the last. He had the kindest darkest eyes and an easygoing personality. He looked decked out today in a black suit with pale yellow undershirt. His dark black hair was free of his bandana and was slicked back to stay out of his face. He was truly a machine that could kill if need be. And judging from the tightness of his jaw at that moment, Lance knew he wanted to lash out and hit someone.

“Pay them no mind, compañero,” he asked him softly. Hunk barely nodded in reply as they steered away from the gossipers.

It wasn’t a promise, but Lance knew it was the best he would get. It had been over seven years that Hunk had left the Sonoran Desert, full of excitement about changing the world and intending to end all war. When he had returned a few months ago, he was a completely different person. Gone was the soft and gentle man he had grown up with, and in his place was a man who was grim and often seemed disconnected, as though he cared little whether he lived or died.

The two young men stopped next to the colosseum. It was surrounded by floral arrangements and greenery was woven around the canopy poles. Hunk moved to sit next to his mom, whose reddened eyes and pale, tear streaked face gave testimony to her grief from losing some of her true friends in Lance’s parents. When Hunk placed his arm around her, she turned to him with a low sob and buried her face in his shoulder, seeking what comfort she could. Lance took his place at the podium set up and cleared his throat. He could feel the reassuring weight of his father’s last gift, a silver lion head with blue diamond inlays that he wore on a matching silver chain around his neck given to him by his sister Rachel, feeling a slight sense of comfort. He gazed out at the crowd gathered there.

“I would like to thank everyone who came here for my family today. In one way or another you each brought my family the happiness they deserved, and I know they loved you all as well. My request to you is to please not mourn them and to celebrate the lives they lived and be thankful for your own loved ones. The saying is true, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” He closed his eyes and try to hold back the tears that threatened to spill. He knew if he broke down in front of them now, he would just give those gossipers more to talk about. Taking a deep breath, he looked back to the crowd. “Once this is done, please enjoy the reception inside. My friends have helped me day and night with getting everything done and I wouldn’t want their time to go to waste. I would appreciate anyone that would like to join us in celebrating my family. “After the service, there will be a reception inside. We would be pleased if you would join us.”

Lance stepped down and took the seat on Hunk’s mother’s other side. He was grateful that he hadn’t had to plan the reception, instead entrusting the task to his best friend Adam Wakim and his former classmate and newly hired receptionist at his record shop, Shay Bulmeran-Crystals. They were inside the mortuary in the reception room, setting up the food and drinks. Lance let his mind wander as the minister prayed, not paying much attention to words said to a deity he didn’t believe in but appreciating the heartfelt sentiment just the same. In just a few minutes, the words would be said that would send his family to their final resting place. The crowd filed past the colosseum one final time to drop roses near the entrance. Many were crying and a few approached Lance to hug him.

“You did your family proud, son,” Minister Iverson said as he placed a firm but comforting hand on Lance’s shoulder.

Lance stood and walked to stand by his family’s caskets one final time, idly caressing the shiny finish of the one belonging to his mother. “Thank you, sir. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.”

Two stragglers passed by on their way to the reception. One remarked to the other in a voice that carried, “Strange that he doesn’t cry. Apparently he doesn’t realize he literally has no one.”

The minister’s face tightened and then he shook his head. “Your family knows you love them, Lance. They were always so proud of you. This is your final gift to them, and you pulled it together beautifully.”

Lance almost cried then but hugged him instead. “Thank you. Believe it or not, that really helps sir.”

Minister Jones inclined his head. “Do you want me to walk you in? I could use some grub after a service like this.”

Lance shook his head with a small smile. “I want to stay here for a few more minutes. Please, go on ahead. You haven’t eaten anything all morning and we don’t need your health deteriorating any more, sir.”

The minister nodded his head and again placed his hand on Lance’s shoulder before heading inside.

Lance was finally alone. He took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of recently cut grass and freshly turned dirt mixed with the almost sickly-sweet scent of flowers and a hint of rain in the air. Minister Jones was right. He had done his family proud. That felt good; it felt right. His family had adopted him as their own when he was only a baby. No matter how odd a child Lance turned out to be, no matter that he was bisexual, no matter the dissent amongst the older generation of the family, their love had remained rock steady. Always and forever, as they said.

“I miss you guys so much...It’s so freaking hard. Why did this have to happen? Why did you leave me behind? I don’t think I can live in that house. Not without you guys. I was thinking Hunk-”

Lance’s words faltered as the air took on a sudden deep chill. He snapped his head up and looked around. There was a young couple a little way up the path in front of him, and to his right was two women standing at a headstone while a man knelt in front of it. One of the women caught Lance’s eye and noticed where he stood. She gave him a sympathetic nod before turning her attention back to her companions. They all looked like normal visitors to the cemetery.

Lance dropped his gaze and shut his eyes for a brief moment. “I guess I’m just tired. Anyway, about Hunk-”

He felt it again. This time chills rand down his back and the hair on his arms and at the back of his neck stood up. His heartbeat sped up until it pounded against his rib cage. He whirled around to look towards the canopy.

A man was there, standing next to the chair Lance had sat in for the funeral. He was tall and had on a long black coat. He didn’t have a large build but there was something off in his appearance, something Lance couldn’t quite place. He had long white hair that seemed to go past his shoulders and down his back. Si claro, Lance. He’s probably a late mourner. He took a deep breath, noticing a sudden coppery smell. “I’m sorry, you startled me. Are you here for the McClain service?” The man was probably an acquaintance of his father’s or a customer of his mom’s that he just hadn’t met.

The tall man stared at him. “I’m here for you, Lance.”

The man’s eyes were vacant and a cruel strangely blue with yellow tinting. Lance broke into a cold sweat. A voice inside his head screamed Run! Lance shivered, then turned and ran. The soles of his shoes slid slightly in the wet grass. He stopped and turned back. The man was still standing there watching him with a nasty smirk playing on his full lips.

Fear spread hot and bitter in the back of his throat. He reached down and tugged off his shoes. When he looked up again, the man was gone. Vanished.

Get out of there now!

Terror pulsed deep inside him and he ran towards the mortuary. His breath hitched in his throat. It was still too far, at least thirty or forty yards...


It was Hunk striding towards him from the right, Shay by his side, her dark curly hair escaping the bun on top of her head as they ran towards him. Lance turned and ran headed in their direction, a feeling of relief washing through him at seeing the familiar faces. His lungs burned and his legs felt weak. He couldn’t get rid of the metallic taste of fear in his mouth.

Hunk caught him in his arms, lifting him up and spinning with the momentum. “What’s wrong?” Hunk asked as he set Lance back on the ground and whipped back around, keeping Lance at his back as he took in his surroundings.

Tears burned Lance’s eyes at the protective gesture. Hunk had always looked out for him. No matter what happened, Hunk and Lance considered themselves brothers and Hunk would do anything to have his back.

“Lance, are you okay?” Shay asked, her huge brown eyes full of worry.

Hot embarrassment began to build in the middle of Lance’s chest, and he could feel the flush spreading across his cheeks and down his neck. What exactly had he panicked over? “I think I might have just made a fool of myself.”

Hunk’s sharp eyes scanned the surrounding area one more time and then turned to look at Lance. “You look terrified. What happened?” His brows drew together in a frown and anger flashed in his dark brown eyes. “Was somebody bothering you? One of those old ladies-”

Lance shrugged, then grimaced as he slid one of his now damp feet back into one of his shoes. He would have to get them back off soon enough, he didn’t want to ruin them. “This guy just freaked me out.”

Hunk snorted. “That’s a switch. Isn’t usually the other way around?”

Lance rolled his eyes and balanced to brush some grass off his other foot before putting on the other shoe. He straightened up and said, “He startled me. I never heard him walk up, he was just...there. I asked him if he was here for my family, and he said ‘I’m here for you, Lance.’” Lance quoted before he groaned as he thought over the words. “I made something up in my head, didn’t I? Now that I say it out loud, he probably just meant he was here to support me at the funeral or something.” He was startled again when Shay suddenly grabbed his arm.

“What did he look like, Lance?” she asked.

The fear suddenly coming off Shay prickled Lance’s skin and nearly made him step back. In high school, Shay had been the popular captain of the dance team while Lance had spent most of his time awkwardly trying to figure out how to fit in, yet somehow, they had managed to become friends thanks to their mutual interest in Hunk’s cooking skills. Something had changed Shay, though. Lance frowned as he tried to answer.

“Well, he had white hair and these weird goldish blue eyes. And there was something off about his face. It was almost...well, delicate.” Lance grimaced at using the term that had been used by others in reference to himself so often in the past.

“Was he a small guy?” asked Hunk.

Lance shook his head. “No. He was a tall guy, maybe even taller than myself. He had on a black knee length suede coat and black slacks on under that.”

Shay’s frightened eyes darted around the cemetery and she placed her now icy cold hand back on Lance’s arm. She opened her mouth and then grimaced before saying, “I need to tell you something. But I can’t seem to remember what exactly...” She reached up and started rubbing her temples, closing her eyes as though she were in pain.

“Shay, you need to eat something. You’ve been working since this morning,” Hunk said.

Lance silently agreed. That was true. But he had felt the fear in Shay. After being gone from there area for a few years, she had returned, troubled and scared. But then again, Lance himself had just raced across a cemetery as though the hounds of Hell had been after him, so who was he to judge? “Let’s go inside. I’m acting like an escapee from a nuthouse and Shay’s got a case of the mind blankness. We could all use some food and there are guests waiting.”

Hunk put his hand on Lance’s shoulder, his touch warm and protective. “I’ll look around inside. If that guy’s there, I’ll get his story and find out why he did that.”

Lance looked up at him and managed a small half smile. “Thanks.” It made him feel better that Hunk took him seriously even though he himself felt like an utter ass.

But seriously – what on Earth had possessed him to run away?

Lance didn’t arrive back to his small apartment until well past midnight. He was driven to last as long as he had with a promise of a nice long hot bath with a glass of wine to end the day. He lived on the ground floor of an apartment building that had a nice courtyard just outside his window. On sunny days, he enjoyed his time on the comfortable benches or under the shade of the large oak trees with so many interesting branches he couldn’t stop the urge to climb them when it hit him. He also liked the sit out and sunbathe at times (though he already had tanned skin) when the other tenants weren’t complaining about him exposing himself. Having your shirt off and flaunting your body is not considered exposing yourself, thank you very much!

But tonight, it seemed overly dark and shadowy with too many hiding places.

Lance shook his head in disgust. His imagination was in overdrive. Were it anyone else with these feelings, he would think they were overwrought.

He hurried to his front door and quickly slid the key in to unlock it. As soon as he was inside, he closed the door and slid the deadbolt home, followed by the chain lock. He took a deep breath, feeling just a little calmer. He slid his feet out of his dress shoes and ruefully inspected the inside of them, sure they would never be quite the same ever again. He glanced up at the tapestry hanging over his brick fireplace, then took a closer look. It had hung there since he had moved in, but tonight, somehow, it looked brighter.

It pictured an ocean blue lioness, a paw placed on a silver box and looking down into a still lake looking at its reflection. Behind the lioness, mountains shadowed in pink and lilac rose up and petals filled the air, seemingly caught in a breeze. The lioness and mountains cast odd reflections into the lake, making it feel as if sometimes the picture was moving and alive. When he had been younger, Lance would find himself mesmerized by staring at the picture, trying to make out images in the lake surface and trying to catch even the slightest twitch of movement.

Sometimes, when he was lucky, he would see the tiniest movement from the threads of the painting.

And tonight, it seemed clearer and more vibrant than it had even been before.

From what he knew, the tapestry was the only thing he had inherited from his biological mother. His parents had never spoken much about the adoption, but they had hung the tapestry in Lance’s bedroom while he was growing up, swearing that Lance would never have to be without it as long as he lived. His grandfather, who had lived with them at the time, had hated it the thing with a passion. But his father had steadfastly refused to let him touch it and made sure the man had no say in what Lance had hung in his room.

Why had his mother left it with Lance?

He had never really thought much about it before. It had always just been there. But just before they had died, his parents had dropped a bombshell on Lance. He had been signed up with an online birth parent search agency. They had told Lance that it was time for him to learn who he was and where he came from.

Lance bowed his head. He should probably comply with his parent’s wishes and follow up with searching for his birth parents, but his grief for his family was too fresh to decide.

He went into his bedroom and took a hot shower. When he finished, he pulled on a pair of black sweatpants and an old white wifebeater that was soft from repeated washings. He left his hair damp and padded barefoot into the kitchen. He poured himself a glass of wine and fixed a plate of cheese and crackers, then carried everything to the small breakfast nook and sat at the table. He turned on his laptop to check email and saw that there were a few of condolence letters and a couple from online orders for his shop.

Lance took a sip of wine and started replying to the emails and handling the online orders accordingly, occasionally pausing to pop a cheese topped cracker into his mouth or sip his wine. When he finished, he realized that some of the tension had left his shoulders, his headache had eased, and the soft murmuring voices in his head had quietened.

His laptop made a dinging noise to indicate a new email message. The subject line said Warning. Without even thinking, he clicked the email to open it.


Subject: WARNING!
The Galra know where you are! If they get a hold of you, they will kill you. You need to find the Paladins!


Shocked, Lance set down his wineglass. What the hell is this? The noise in his head grew to a loud buzz and fear pounded in his chest. He tried to breathe calmly, sure that he was overreacting, just as he had with the man at the cemetery. He had probably read the email wrong in his utter mental and emotional exhaustion. He leaned in closer and read it again.

The Galra know where you are! If they get a hold of you, they will kill you. You need to find the Paladins!

What Galra? And who the hell were the Paladins? Why would they look for him or want to kill him? Was this some kind of joke, crass and poorly timed? Lance looked to see who had sent the message. What he saw made his mouth go dry and unease skitter up his spine like icy fingers. The cheese and wine turned his stomach queasy.

This didn’t make any sense at all.

The sender of the email…was himself.

Chapter Text

Trying to drown his afflictions in the assortments of alcohol he had to work with, Keith Kogane roamed the floors of his nightclub, his eyes open to find his next piece of action. He really couldn’t explain why he tried drowning himself in alcohol, it wasn’t like it was going to help, but it at least scratched the itch in his body that craved the overwhelming need for sex. Now the want/need to hunt and kill, well that was a different story.

“I can’t believe how busy it is tonight,” Takashi “Shiro” Shirogane commented as he walked up beside him and placed a prosthetic hand on his shoulder, squeezing it slightly before dropping his hand and tipping back his bottle of beer.

Keith smirked at his ‘brother’ and gave the older man a shrug. Ever since they had opened Voltron two years ago, the establishment had been nothing but successful. Not known to the public, the club filled nightly with men and women looking for “relief” from their everyday stress of their afflictions they had buried deep down inside them. Shiro had enjoyed decorating the place in blacks, reds, and blues. The bars on all sides were a smooth black marble that reflected all the overhead lights, which sometimes made the bar appear as if it had dancing lights with the way the lighting hit it. The dance floors were lined with interchanging lights as the music pounded from the speakers. Throughout the bar there was seating and stone statues of many ancient creatures that helped spark up the interior.

Keith sighed as he gave Shiro a questioning look. Shiro wasn’t one for small talk on nights such as this when it came to him trying to deal with his problems. By now he would have found a willing man to take on the large hunter. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

Shiro’s dark eyes roamed over the club as if looking for something. “I don’t really know. But something’s going on, I can just feel it.”

Keith nodded his head. He had begun feeling uneasy more as the hour had passed. “Is it a witch?” he asked.

Shiro frowned. “No. If there was, we’d all be affected.” He eyes scanned the room again and he motioned with his head. “And…so would they.”

Keith turned his attention towards Shiro’s gaze, and a growl escaped his throat as he looked over at the men sitting in an unoccupied area of the club. There was three of them, all wearing matching black clothes and jackets. They also all shared the same discoloration of skin, a purple hue that went unnoticed by humans but to the supernatural would help them be identified easily as to what they truly were. They were witch hunters, but not like the kind who entered his club looking to relax or let loose their tension with a good fuck. “Great. Why in the fuck are there Galran hunters in our club?” he hissed.

Galra were a group of witch hunters who had strayed from the ways of their ancestors and lost their souls after a simple dirty deed. All it took was the kill of an innocent elemental witch for them to become what they are. Keith couldn’t stand them and their ways. Those who sold their souls were no good in his book. “Every time I think we are keeping ourselves in check, I see more and more hunters losing their battle with our curse and allowing themselves to go Galra. Do you know why they are here?”

Shiro quirked a brow, knowing the shorter male should already know the answer to that question. “The Red Lion, what else?” he replied.

Keith rolled his eyes. Of course they wanted to goggle at the man who bore the tattoo of the Red Lion, the signature mark of their ancestor The Blade of Marmora. They wanted to see him in action, to see what he was capable of in his element. As if it knew he was thinking about it, he felt the large tattoo on his back warm slightly as he felt a small growl roar somewhere deep inside him. “I still think Matt was fucking with me when he gave me this tattoo. I wanted a freaking wolf for crying out loud. Yet he gives me this. I bet you he and Pidge had a field day when he came up with the idea.”

Shiro shook his head. “You know that’s a lie,” he stated as he swigged his beer. “I was with him the entire time he was giving you that tat. I watched him ink your skin with black and blue, just for it to turn around and turn into a bright red. He was doing a wolf, but by the end of it the shape had morphed into that of the lion. It was downright creepy to watch. You were the first of us to have our marks changed, therefore The Blade chose you as our rightful leader.”

Keith hopped onto the bar and reached down for another beer. He like his friends wanted nothing more than to keep their souls. They had been born as witch hunters, a breed of men and women that swore to provide justice and protection to those The Blade had demanded they protect. At one time they had been immortal, there to become the support and undivided guardians of the elemental witches: highly evolved women and men with the ability to draw in power from the elements to protect, heal, and assist mortals while they along with their guardians and familiars hunted and killed demons and the Galra.

But that had been in the past. For close to fifty years, witch hunters had been cursed with an affliction that called for the need of an elemental witches’ blood and a sex drive that was out of control. These afflictions would destroy their very souls if they gave in. “Why go the Galra care that I have the Red Lion tattoo?” he asked as he took large gulps of his beer, slamming it on the marble counter when he was done.

Shiro leaned against the bar. “The reappearance of that tattoo means that The Blade might be alive somewhere. If he is, then all the Galra are in for the time of their lives. Something changed the tattoo you were getting, Keith. And it surely wasn’t Matt. You also failed to remember that the exact same thing happened to the rest of us as well, before you very eyes. You were fascinated watching my tat become a black lion while Pidge’s became a green lioness and Matt’s a matching orange. That showed you there all you needed to know about what might be coming.”

“I’m just glad we aren’t Galra,” Keith remarked. Witch hunters bearing no soul became a celestial after they died, a spirit that walked between worlds without ever being able to move on.

“Lotor Daibazaal and his late father Zarkon convinced the Galra that if they kill all the witches it will break the curse and their souls will return. To this day Lotor still preaches Zarkon’s ways, even though they are twisted.”

Keith snorted in disgust. “Lotor Daibazaal is the one who should be afraid of The Blade. His bastard of a father was that one that renounced Him in the first place!” Keith turned to fix his gaze on Shiro. “His doing that combined with the demon witch curse caused the break between The Blade and His hunters. Zarkon caused this mess and he ought to be glad he is dead or I would have killed him myself.”

Shiro studied Keith intently. “So, you do believe The Blade is alive then?”

Keith nodded. “I do. I believe it, but what the fuck I’m supposed to do about it is something else altogether. Why would he tag me as the leader of the witch hunters? We can’t protect elemental witches, we can’t even get within smelling distance or we risk losing control and killing them ourselves.”

Shiro studied Keith, his dark eyes sweeping over his face thoughtfully. “Is it bad tonight?”

The better question was when wasn’t it? There were nights Keith dreamed of sliding his knife into a witch, feeling the bliss of their power-laced blood coating his skin and sinking into him. The he would wake covered in sweat and terrified that it had actually happened. Or would happen. “It’s bad enough, let’s leave it at that,” he shortly answered Shiro.

“Go. Go get some relief. I’ll keep an eye on the Galra,” Shiro said.

Keith nodded once. “Give Pidge and Matt a heads up that we have company. I don’t want any surprises.” The four of them made up The Paladins, the most revered group of hunters thanks to the mark on Keith’s back. He knew the siblings were somewhere in the club, probably already on high alert with the Galras infiltrating their environment.

“Roger that,” Shiro replied as he strode off.

Witch hunters were able to find relief from the curse with sex. Sex helped the hunters ease the need of wanting to kill a witch. He knew Pidge was roaming the club somewhere, either tinkering with something electronical or finding someone to take her edge off as well. Being a woman witch hunter was rare, but those who were generally had a higher sex drive added on top of their normal hormones, so sometimes Pidge had to have some type of sex at least twice as much as Keith to be able to control herself. He grimaced, not really wanting to dread on that fact. He thought of her like a little sister and thinking about her and her numerous amounts of sex partners she had sometimes made he and Matt gag.

Keith decided to head to one of the lounge areas away from the Galrans. The one he had chosen had several women sitting in it, but women never interested him in the slightest. Sitting down in one of the leather black armchairs, he searched the crowd in search of his prey. He sights finally caught on a male with olive-toned skin, brown hair parted in the middle of his forehead, and steely blue-gray eyes. He was wearing a pair of tight blue jeans along with a white long-sleeved shirt that clung to him in all the right places. Catching Keith’s gaze, he smiled as he made his way over to the hunter.

“Hello there handsome. The name’s James,” the human introduced himself.

Keith surveyed him. Up close he could smell the desire coming from the man mixed with cheap body wash. The man smelled as if he had drunk one too many and his eyes seemed to be filled with pain. Welcome to my world. “You lookin’ for a good time, James?’

James boldly settled himself so that he was straddling Keith’s lap. Keith could feel his hunger inside as the human pressed his desire against his leg. “Sure am. Got somewhere we can be alone?”

Keith nodded as he licked his lips. “Sure do. I’ve got a place upstairs we could get acquainted in.”

James smiled but Keith could tell he was slightly hesitant. He knew what James was thinking, something all the guests thought. Rumors spread like wildfire regarding the men and women in the club. The men themselves were well endowed in many places and the women’s sexual desires drove many wild. If the hunters weren’t careful, they could hurt their sexual partner. But Keith prided himself in being careful with the humans he indulged in. He slid his hands to James’s hips and pulled their lower bodies flush together before grinding up into the man, making them both to groan. “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you. I just need you to help me with this problem that I have. You will come out of this unharmed and fulfilled, I promise you.”

Keith stood and took James’s hand, realizing that he wasn’t much bigger as Keith himself. He’d been staring at James’s crotch and the noticeable bulge there and hadn’t thought about his overall size or how much of himself he’d be able to take. Keith wondered how much control it would take to keep his partner safe. He briefly wondered if it was worth it. If he let go and let his animal side take control, he could bury himself hard and deep in a man, completely and balls deep, with absolutely no thought for his partner’s comfort. Lust flamed white hot through his gut and his groin at the thought of being able to give a man everything he had.

Someone jostled him in passing and Keith snapped out of his fantasy. Control. It was what separated the man from the animal, the witch hunter from the Galra. He let go of James’s hand and moved behind him so that they could make their way through the crowd. Keith focused on his sexy ass. James would bring him some degree of relief from the cravings and Keith would make damn sure the human enjoyed himself in the process. He put a hand in the small of James’s back and guided him towards the stairs but stopped when he saw the man standing at the foot of them.

Before Keith could fully react, Shiro moved in behind him to show that Keith wasn’t alone. He didn’t have to look to know that Pidge and Matt were on alert and ready for trouble.

Keith knew he had to get James out of the way. He had taken another step before realizing Keith no longer had his hand on his back and turned to look at him. Keith gently took his arm and pulled him towards him before passing him to Shiro. “Take James up to my condo the back way. Get him whatever he wants.” He looked at James. “I need to take care of something, but I’ll be up as soon as I can.”

James looked confused but nodded and followed Shiro.

Keith turned back to the man. He knew that the four Galra he had seen by the fire pit earlier had closed in, but his focus remained in front of him. “What the hell are you doing here?”

The man held out a piece of paper towards Keith, his smooth palm revealed with the movement. “This is your last chance. Prove your loyalty to me and our leader. Take care of this witch or die yourself instead.”

Keith gave a huff of mirthless laughter. “Hell, Pops, that sounds like a bad line from a movie.” In his early fifties, Richard Kogane looked no older than thirty. The blood of murdered witches kept him looking young. His dark eyes were flat, lifeless, and held no mercy as he regarded his son before him.

“You’re a fucking idiot if you think you can keep living like this. The Blade is dead, killed by the witches and their curse. You hide behind a dead and useless god because you are too much of a coward to man up and kill the bitches that cursed us,” Richard sneered.

Keith could smell the scent of copper coming off his dad, the result of absorbing witch blood. A mortal would never smell it, but a witch or witch hunter definitely would. “Man up? Killing elemental witches who can’t defend themselves is being a man?” The thought made him sick, but what really churned his guts was knowing the dark desire coursed through his veins. The craving to sink his knife in a witch and feel the high of the powerful blood covering his skin.

Richard chuckled darkly. “Maybe you are too much a bitch yourself.” His meaning was obvious, and Keith’s body tightened in fury.

“Get the fuck out of my club.”

The two Galra hunters behind his dad pulled out their knives. Keith reacted swiftly, reaching back to the holster at the small of his back and pulling out his own knife with lightning speed. He glared at the Galra in challenge. He wanted the fight.

To his disappointment, they sheathed their blades. Keith struggled to get himself under control. Galra preferred to fight dirty and never liked a fair fight where they might run the risk of being killed and spending eternity in agony as a shade. He knew that Pidge, Shiro and Matt were watching and would protect everyone in the club with him. They would never start a fight but they damn sure would finish it. Keith was pissed. All he wanted to do was sink himself into the body of a willing man and pleasure them both, and instead here he was having to deal with his asshole dad and some of his flunkies.

The tension in the air was palpable and a restless murmur ran through the crowd. Richard looked at the silver hilt of the knife in Keith’s hand. “There aren’t any wings magically engraved there, are there? The Blade can’t give you back your immortality if he’s dead. Stop being such a pathetic coward and kill the witches.”

Keith grinned coldly. “Thanks, but no thanks. I like my lifeline just where it is.”

Richard flinched before his face hardened once more. “Once we kill all the witches and break their curse, we’ll all have the immortal lifeline. We will all have our souls eternally.”

Keith tilted his head to the side as if pondering. “Try to justify all you want. You know once you kill a witch and lose your soul there is no going back. You’ll always be a soulless monster. And for the record, it was demon witches that did the curse, not elemental witches. They had nothing to do with it.”

“They were there! They did nothing! Nothing to stop the curse from happening! You are out of excuses and out of time. You have twenty-four hours to do your duty and kill this witch. If you don’t, you’re dead,” Richard snarled. He dropped the sheet of paper he held. It was still fluttering to the floor when the door slammed behind the hunters.

Keith snatched the paper out of the air before it touched the ground and looked at it. His eyebrows shot up in shock when he realized that the witch that he was looking at in this picture was, in fact, a very rare male witch. Although elemental witches were typically female, throughout history the witch bloodlines had produced a few males along the way. They were usually unlike human men, being fairer and slenderer. And they were usually incredibly powerful and cunning, many even stronger than females themselves.

Keith studied the witch’s picture for a long moment. His eyes were a beautiful blue that reminded Keith of the ocean, and like most witch eyes, they tilted ever so slightly. While a hunter might not be able to recognize a witch by their appearance, they would always be able to tell by the scent of power in their blood. This witch was extremely attractive. Even in a photograph, he looked vibrant and alive. At the bottom of the sheet was the information Keith would need to hunt down and kill him. He looked for a name and found it.

Lance McClain

Keith shook his head. This wasn’t his fight. He wanted to keep his soul very much intact. He had vowed to never give into the curse and kill an earth witch. He would not kill this Lance McClain.

He folded the paper and stuck it in his pocket.

Chapter Text

Lance was still sleeping when his cell phone rang the next morning. Fumbling around, he finally located it on the nightstand and managed to answer it before it went to voicemail. “Hello?” he said, voice raspy with sleep as he sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

“Lance? Did I wake you sleepyhead?” Lance could practically hear the sarcasm in Adam’s voice. His voice sounded gravely, a testament to the amount of alcohol he had consumed along with Lance the day before.

“Yeah, you did jerk,” Lance said, managing to fight off a yawn and the slight pang of his head. He was grateful he didn’t get hangovers, but the headaches were always bad after he went on a binge. He let out a low groan as he stretched under the covers. “I was finally dreaming about my lion again. It’s been months since I last saw him.”

“Oh? The Red Lion?” Adam questioned gently and with a hint of amusement.

Lance chuckled. “Don’t try to psychoanalyze me, Detective Wakim. At least while you aren’t on the clock.” Adam always referred to the lion of Lance’s childhood dreams as his heavenly red lion. Back then the lion always appeared to comfort him when he was alone and frightened in his dreams. Last night he had come to Lance to comfort him in his grief. The lion had stayed with him all night in his dream world, wrapping around him and keeping him warm as Lance dreamed of luscious fields of green and mountains.

“Of course you would dream of something comforting during a time like this, Lance. This is a difficult time for you. And I am world’s worst friend, because I’m calling to cancel our plans for today. An emergency came up,” Adam said.

They had planned to meet for lunch at a local bistro for coffee and a bite before going to family’s house and starting the process of going through their things. Lance sat up in his bed, propping himself up with his pillows. “Something come up with one of your clients? Do they no longer need you since they found the evidence to prove their spouse’s deceit?” the man joked.

The line was silent for a few moments. “Not...exactly,” Adam evaded.

Lance had learned from the past to leave it alone. Adam’s clientele usually dealt with those with some sort of mental issue, but there were times that he worked with those who had been brainwashed by cults or similar situations that brought forth ever more trouble that what it was worth. He had been thankful of getting a psychology degree while also studying to become a detective since he was known now as an expert for these. Sometimes it was dangerous, and Adam took extra precautions to protect the safety and privacy of himself and his clients.

“I promise I’ll make it up to you. We’ll order a pizza with extra cheese and pineapple on it and drink an entire bottle of wine and not worry about the consequences, okay? I have to drive out for a case in a few days, but we’ll definitely get together before then,” Adam promised.

Lance clucked his tongue in soft disapproval. “You’re working too hard, Adam. You’re a detective and part doctor, you of all people should know better that to run yourself dry.”

“Your mama always said the same thing,” Adam said, fondness mixing with sadness in his voice. He often visited his family home to hang with his mother. Growing up, Adam didn’t have a mother’s influence so being with her was a comfort for him when Lance was busy as his records store. Sometimes Lance would come home to see them drinking herbal teas Adam had brewed while they talked about books they had recently read.

Lance’s little huff of laughter held off his tears. “They loved you so much. You were like another part of the family.”

“I know. I loved them, too. Besides,” Adam said, mischief creeping into his voice, “your siblings were always trying to get all your secrets about your love life out of me.”

Lance laughed. “I don’t doubt it for a minute.” He checked the time. “You’d better let me go and get going yourself. We’ll talk tomorrow, okay?”

Adam hummed. “Lance, please be careful. I didn’t forget what happened yesterday and we still haven’t talked about it. Meet me at the office tomorrow, okay? I have something important to talk to you about. We can work on your family’s house later.”

Lance raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Okay. Is there something wrong, Adam?” he questioned.

“No, nothing’s wrong, but I want to talk to you. I really do have to go, but please, Lance. Promise me you’ll be careful,” Adam said.

“Wow, the suspense may be too much!” Lance teased him. “But I will be. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”


Drowning deep in my sea of loathing
Broken your servant I kneel
(Will you give in to me?)
It seems what’s left of my human side
Is slowly changing in me
(Will you give in to me?)


Keith relaxed as he stretched out against the cool marble of the bar, his pants the only clothing on as he tried to cool off from the burning desire deep under his skin. The night before had taken part of the edge off, but of course the desire never fully left him. He hummed along to “Down With the Sickness” blaring from the speakers. His long black hair was fanned out under his head as he casted his violet eyes up at the ceiling.

“I’m going to wake up Matt,” Pidge groaned as she passed Keith on the bar and made her way to the stairs. “I want him to finish up my butterfly tat before tonight. Lord help me though if I find him naked with his ass hanging out again. I really don’t want a reminder of what my brother’s junk looks like.” Keith snorted at that, reminding him of the mini freak-out she had after catching her brother in the nude with a woman a couple of years back. He had never heard her scream so loud in her life.

Unlike others, Pidge was a fairly small and thin woman, though she appreciated that about herself since she could take others by surprise when she ‘opened a can of whoop ass’ as she put it when she fought. Her light brown hair reached to her neck, growing it out over the years out of habit since she barely had time to sit still and cut it, preferring to tie it in a ponytail or bun. Her brown eyes were generally nose deep in anything technological and hidden by a pair of large circular glasses she had stolen from her brother Matt after he had gotten his sight corrected. Though the lenses had been replaced with fake ones, she had enjoyed wearing them while she wasn’t working as a hunter as a sort of façade. He figured it was a way to hide herself among the masses and it had helped them in numerous occasions when unsuspected Galras had tried attacking the group.


Looking at my own reflection
When suddenly it changes
Violently it changes (oh no)
There is no turning back now
You’ve woken up the demon in me


Shiro chuckled as he stood by the pool table contemplating his next move. The man had rolled out of bed about an hour ago. Unlike his brethren, he had not handled his desires the night before and felt on edge. The man was the biggest out of the group of hunters. He was tall and had broad shoulders. He was of Japanese descent and had pale skin and dark grey slanted eyes. His face had been marred by a scar, which he had received during his battle with a Galran, etched across the bridge of his nose. He would his hair in an undercut, his short bangs died white that he styled to the center of his forehead. The man was all muscle, from his head down to his toe. He was truly the most mature out of all of them there.


Get up, come on get down with the sickness
Get up, come on get down with the sickness
Get up, come on get down with the sickness
Open up your hate, and let it flow into me
Get up, come on get down with the sickness
You mother get up come on get down with the sickness
You fucker get up come on get down with the sickness
Madness is the gift, that has been given to me


“Stop being a lazy ass and get my tat done like you promised,” Pidge said as they trudged down the steps with a sleepy Matt being pulled behind her. Matt towered over his sister and could be her male self. He had long brown hair he wore down his back in a low ponytail. He and Pidge had matching eyes and Matt had a small thin scar under his left eye that curved from his nose to his jawline, a wound he had received when he had gotten too close to his sister during one of her episodes. She had felt horrible afterwards, but Matt had confronted her and had comforted her, convincing her it was not truly her fault. He was wearing only a pair of black sleep pants as he followed his sister to his tattoo station with a groan.

Shiro took a seat looking at the multiple monitors of the security system Keith had in place. Shiro usually kept a close eye on the various camera angles that showed the club as well as the grounds surrounding Keith’s private dwelling next door. Since it was midafternoon and the club wasn’t open yet, it was unusual to see anything on the monitors. Keith sat up from the bar as he saw Shiro’s posture change in alert.

“What is it?” he asked Shiro.

Shiro looked over at Keith. “Your mom and sister are here.”

“By themselves?” Keith asked. He walked over to the monitor to see for himself. Sure enough, his mother was headed for the back door with his sister held in her arms. That was unusual. “Let them in.”

“Already did,” Shiro said, having hit the button that would allow them entrance. Pidge went to the stereo and turned the music off. Keith crossed the room to the door to open it for his mom and sister.

Krolia Kogane was by all accounts a beautiful woman. She was as tall as Keith and had similar violet eyes and long matching hair. But today, she was pale and lines of strain were visible around her eyes and mouth.

Keith’s sister Acxa held out her arms when she saw him.

Keith grinned and took her from his mom. She wrapped her little arms around him and squeezed tightly. “Hi, Keith! Mommy said I could come and color with Matt. Can I? Pretty please?” Her blur eyes sparkled with excitement. She had no idea what he and the other men were, being a mortal like his mother. She loved them all, completely and unconditionally. And to them, each of them a witch hunter with a dark killer instinct they barely controlled, the Paladins were putty in her tiny hands.

Keith looked at his mother. When she nodded Keith set Acxa down. “Go ask Matt if he wants to color,” he instructed her gently. Anyone else who knew Matt might have laughed at the idea of the tough hunter coloring with a little girl, but he and Acxa would spend hours coloring together. Matt was gentle with Acxa and always had time for her. And of all the Paladins, he was her favorite. He would color My Little Pony with the same patience and skill that he used to create his livelihood.

Keith watched Acxa as she skipped away to find Matt, her long dark hair swinging in their pigtails, then turned to Krolia. “Mom? What’s wrong?”

Krolia still stood in the same place she had been in when Keith took Acxa from her. She was one of the toughest, smartest women Keith knew, but at that moment she looked tense and anxious. Vulnerable somehow.

Pidge and Shiro came to stand behind Keith. There was a tension in the air that was palpable. Krolia looked at them, men she loved and had watched grow from boyhood, then turned to look at her son. She swallowed, then took a shaky breath. “She has the mark, Keith. Acxa has Zarkon’s Mark.”

Keith jerked as if she had struck him. Her words echoed on repeat in his brain, his blood surging to a boiling rage. No. Not his sweet little sister. “You’re sure?” he heard his own voice ask, sounding a million miles away.

Krolia nodded jerkily. “I’m positive. It’s Zarkon’s Mark.” A tremor shook her and Shiro quickly led her to a chair to sit down while Pidge grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator.

Keith wanted to tell his mother she had to be mistaken. But even though Krolia was a mortal, she was fully aware of the immortal world that coexisted with her own. She had been a successful travel agent when she was younger and had traveled extensively all over the world as part of her job. During one of those trips, she met and fell in love with Richard, and had accepted that he was an immortal witch hunter. She knew that meant that she would age and one day die while Richard continued to live. But she didn’t let that trouble her. She and Richard married and had been overjoyed when she got pregnant with Keith. Then the curse happened, and Krolia had believed that her love would be strong enough to keep her husband from going Galra, and that since Richard was no longer immortal, they would grow old together.

She had been wrong. And she had fought for years to keep her son from the same fate as his father. Now she looked at Keith with tears forming in her eyes. “It’s on her forehead, Keith. She woke up with it this morning. Just a small pink spot. I thought it was probably a bug bite, but then this afternoon it was bigger and had become perfectly round. And I don’t know what to do!”

Keith felt his mother’s pain adding to the compulsion running through his veins. He knew what he had to do. No matter how much he wanted to hold on to his soul, he would hunt down the demon witch responsible and kill her. It would save Acxa, but it would destroy him at the same time. But he couldn’t let his sister die. He had only a short time. The victim of a death curse would sicken and die at the full moon, which gave him about fourteen days.

“I’ll take care of it. I won’t let anything happen to Acxa. I’ll hunt down the witch who did this and kill her,” Keith said, looking into his mother’s eyes.

Krolia trembled again. “Keith,” she cried, her voice cracking on a sob.

Keith understood. He knew she loved him. She loved him so much that she had stayed with his dad even once he went Galra. She knew Richard would kill her before he would let her take Keith from him. And she had stayed until things got too dangerous for Keith, the two of them going into hiding and on the run until Keith was old enough to handle his dad. They had always been there for each other, especially after Richard found Krolia that one time and used his powers to seduce her, getting her pregnant with Acxa. And now she was faced with having to sacrifice one child to save the other. She shook her head vehemently.

“No, Keith. It only takes killing one witch to change you, demon or not. I won’t let you. I’ll kill her. You hunt her down, and I’ll kill her myself,” she said fiercely.

Pidge growled low in her throat and Shiro stiffened. “Krolia,” Shiro said, the warning in his voice clear. Just the idea of his mother facing down a demon witch made Keith’s rage burn hotter. A hunter was born to protect and to kill. Both instincts ran deep. He put his arms around her.

“Mom, only a witch who has given up her soul in exchange for demon powers can cast a death curse. Killing you would be as easy as swatting a fly. You have to take care of Acxa. I’ll find the witch who did this.”

He let go of her and walked into the next room. Childish giggles and a low male voice could be heard, and he found Matt and Acxa sprawled on the floor. They had a giant Disney Princess coloring book open in front of them with a large box of crayons between them. Acxa lay on her stomach as she colored. She had taken off her shoes and her rainbow striped sock feet were kicking in the air.

Keith kneeled down next to her. “Whatcha coloring?”

She grinned up at him. “Ariel. She’s the Little Mermaid. Wanna help?” She held out a red crayon towards him.

He reached out and casually brushed her bangs off her forehead. There in the center of her forehead was the dime sized pink mark. His head pounded with the compulsion to find the witch that did this and spill her blood, make her pay. Carefully, he pulled his hand away.

Matt’s eyes hardened, narrowing as he saw the mark. Hatred flared hot in their brown depths. But when he spoke to Acxa, his voice was gentle as always. “You’re stuck with me, peanut.” She giggled at the silly nickname. “Your brother has some business he has to take care of.” Matt looked at Keith directly. “Go take care of it.”

Jaw tight, Keith nodded. He knew exactly what had happened. His dad had pissed off a demon witch and she’d cast a death curse on him. But witch hunters were immune to death curses, so the curse had passed down the line, bypassing Keith and settling on Acxa.

Chapter Text

A short time later, Keith pulled up to the compound where his father lived. The compound had once been a veterinarian’s house, complete with an office and a kennel behind it. The house had been renovated and Keith didn’t want to know what use the office and kennel were now serving. The place was owned by the Galra Cadre, but Richard was a loyal witch killer and they gave him what he wanted in return. Keith couldn’t imagine living in that type of servitude to anyone. He wasn’t a Galra and on his orders, the Paladins would kill him if that day ever came. It was looking more like a certainty with a death curse on Acxa.

Keith jumped the fence and strode up the driveway. He knew there were cameras on him and that suited him just fine. He wanted Richard to know he was there. When he got to the door, he pounded on it. “Open up, Dad! We need to talk right now!”

The door opened and Keith nearly let his jaw drop in surprise when he recognized the man in the doorway.

“Rolo? Is that you?”

It was Rolo Ronalds. They had played together as kids growing up. Rolo had been the first guy he’d ever kissed. They had lost contact when Keith had gone on the run with his mother. Keith caught his breath as the scent of copper hit him. Galra. That realization was like a kick to his gut. His childhood buddy and young teenage crush had become one of them.

“Hello, Keith. You’re looking super-hot today. Richard never said you’d grown up so fine. I always knew you’d be a looker, but damn, you’re practically sex on a stick!” Rolo leered at him, licking his lips lasciviously.

Keith blinked at him, in a state of stunned disbelief that was quickly becoming outrage. “What the fuck, Rolo? You’re one of them!”

The leer fell off Rolo’s face and his gaze hardened. “Cut the dramatic bullshit, Keith. We aren’t kids anymore and this isn’t a game. The witches destroyed us and took our heritage. It’s time we fought back and reclaimed what’s rightfully ours.”

Keith thought of the Galra he had killed over the years. He never sought them out, but if they caused trouble of the deadly kind, he would end it. And he always felt a tug of pity and remorse for the hunter who had lost the battle with the curse. But seeing the man he had known as a boy, the boy with whom he had played games where they pretended to hunt down demon witches together, the boy whose lips he had tentatively pressed his own against one night a lifetime ago, made him furious. “You’re fucking stupid if you believe that. You sold out our heritage, and every drop of witch blood you’ve shed has sealed your doom.”

Rolo’s jaw tightened as rage flared in his eyes. “Richard’s upstairs.” He didn’t move from where he was and Keith hit him with his shoulder as he passed.

There was another Galra at the foot of the stairs in the entryway. This one had a gun. So, Richard had guards now. What was he doing that required guards? Keith shook his head. It wasn’t his problem. What was his problem was Acxa. The Galra guard let him pass with a suspicious glare that Keith returned before heading up the stairs. He found his dad in the master bedroom laying on silk sheets and drinking Hennessy. A porno was playing on the television screen.

Richard took a sip of his drink, savoring it in his mouth while he looked at him. Finally, he swallowed. “Is the witch dead?”

Keith knew Richard wasn’t talking about the witch that had cursed Acxa, but the one he had ordered him to kill. “Beats the hell out of me.” He noticed the angry looking burn along Richard’s torso. That kind could only have come from a fire spell. Hunters healed extremely fast, but a burn like that would take several days to heal. His dad had definitely tangled with the wrong witch last night.

“Do you want to die? Lotor Daibazaal knows you’ve killed Galra hunters and that you marked yourself to show allegiance to a dead god. You are as good as dead if you don’t join us,” Richard snarled.

Keith pulled out his gun and aimed it at Richard’s heart. “I don’t care about your threats or Daibazaal’s delusions. Did the witch that did that to you survive?”

Richard took another sip of his cognac. “What the fuck do you care?”

“Acxa’s been death cursed,” Keith growled.

Richard gave an unconcerned shrug then winced in pain. “So?”

Hatred flared up in Keith’s gut and roiled through him. It took all his control not to pull the trigger and just kill his father right then and there. The only thing keeping him from doing it was that he needed to know who the witch was. And besides, killing Richard at that moment would bring the wrath of the Cadre on him, and he didn’t need that additional headache while he hunted down the witch that cursed Acxa. “Who is she? And what did you do to piss her off?”

Richard glared at Keith. “I did my duty. Only by ridding the world of witches will we ever end this curse and regain our souls. How was I to know her mother would show up?”

Keith stared at his father in disbelief. “Christ, dad, you killed a kid?”

“She wasn’t a kid. Probably around your age. She fought like a hellcat until I cut her enough,” Richard said, closing his eyes and shuddering in pleasure just remembering.

Keith’s gut twisted as he looked at his dad. This was his future. Just killing the witch that did the curse...but Acxa. Richard might not care that his daughter would die from the life sucking curse, but Keith did. “Who is she? Who’s the witch that cursed Acxa?”

Richard laughed, then grunted in pain. “Don’t know, don’t care.”

“Damn it, Dad, I’m not going to let Acxa die,” Keith swore in frustration and rage.

“Do you think I give a flying fuck about that girl? You want the curse lifted? Go find a witch and force her to undo the curse.” Richard drained his drink.

Keith’s trigger finger positively ached with the need to pull and end the bastard right there. He would watch his father die with absolute pleasure. But he couldn’t do it. Not yet. He had to save Acxa, and he didn’t need the Galra Cadre getting in his way or going after his mom in retaliation. “One day I’m going to kill you,” he said in a dark, low voice before turning on his heel and stalking out of the room.

At least he wasn’t leaving empty handed. Richard had given Keith a possible solution without even meaning to, one that might let him save Acxa and keep his soul at the same time. He would find an elemental witch and force them to undo the curse. Elemental witches were in hiding from Galra. And even though he wasn’t Galra they might refuse to help him, not only because of the threat of him snapping and killing them, but that they themselves had no protection from demon witches. Casting a spell to undo a demon witch’s curse was a sure way to anger her. But he would force the witch to help him. All he needed was a witch-and his dad had already given him all the information he needed to find one.

Lance McClain. Be ready witch, because you’re going to be helping me. Whether you like it or not.


Hunk shook his head and sighed as he watched one of his best friends literally worked himself to death. “Lance, my man, you shouldn’t be working right now. You look like you’re about to drop and you just buried your family for crying out loud! Did you even get a full night’s sleep last night?” the man asked, glaring at the dark circles under Lance’s eyes. This was not a common occurrence for the Cuban man, and the sight had Hunk worrying about his health. The man had always prided himself on his appearance, and baggy eyes was a big red flag.

“Hunk, I’m fine. I’d rather be working than mourning at home. You know I don’t like to be alone all day with nothing to do,” Lance said with a scowl. Why would he want to spend time at home? What would he do? Go through his collection of albums AGAIN? Tinker with the broken cabinet in his walk-in closet to just have it fucked up even more. Or worse, have a pity party for himself while he wasted away a perfect working day? No thank you. The distraction from his job offered him a peace that he knew his family wanted him to have. He thrived to work, to keep himself busy. “I’m going to see Adam later. That should help ease your mind some.”

Hunk smiled. “Great! Are you guys going out? Find some guys maybe?” he asked with a waggle of his eyes.

Lance nudged him with his shoulder. “No, perv. We’re gonna stay in, order some pizza, and scarf on that and wine,” he answered, though curious as to what Adam wanted to talk about. The man hadn’t called him again and had only sent a text earlier that morning reminding Lance of their plans for later. Lance was looking forward to it, but at the same time he wondered what they needed to talk about.

“When are you ever going to go out on a date again? It’s been over a year since I last saw you go out, and that last chick you went out with was a total loser for skipping out on you not ten minutes after meeting you. You’re always with me or Adam. Unless...are you guys are dating? Is there something going on between the two of you that I don’t know about? Do I need to make sure he is treating you right?”

Oh mi pequeña amiga tonta!” Lance bellowed with laughter. The idea alone was enough to make his eyes water. He had to rub his stomach at the feeling of tightness. “Hunk, buddy, you know that’s not the case! Adam is just as much of a brother to me as you are!”

“Yeah, yeah. Laugh at me why don’t you,” he said with a roll of his eyes as Shay approached them.

“It’s closing time and I’m finished for the day,” Shay said to Lance, “but I wondered if I could talk to you.”

Lance raised his eyebrows slightly. “Sure,” he said, motioning her into the office that had been his brother’s. He sat down behind the desk and gestured to one of the chairs. “Sit. Make yourself comfortable.”

Shay settled into the chair and Lance noticed Hunk hovering in the doorway. When it came to Shay, Hunk always kept close. They had flirted a lot in high school but had never dated. Since Hunk was part owner, Lance decided he had the right to hear what Shay had to say as well. He watched Shay running her hands nervously up and down her thighs. “Is there something wrong, Shay? Are you okay?”

Shay licked her lips nervously. “No. Yes.” She sighed, sounding anxious. “It’s really complicated.”

Lance waited for her to continue. After a moment when she didn’t say anything, he gently asked, “Is there a problem? You’ve been an asset here at the shop, Shay. If something’s wrong, I promise you Hunk and I will have your back.” He meant that. Even though she and Hunk had been a part of the cool cheerleader/jock crowd in school, she had often stood up for him against others when they had bothered him. And the one time he had been in real trouble, it had been Shay that lead Hunk to him. Lance knew Hunk was listening intently to hear what she had to say.

Shay absently brushed her hair back and massaged one temple. “I need to tell you something. Something about my husband.”

Lance waited a moment before prompting her. “Your husband?” He had heard that she had gotten married but nothing about her husband or why he hadn’t come with her back to Lima. “Did you get divorced?”

Shay winced and raised both hands to her temples, closing her eyes. “No, I...” her voice trailed off and she winced again as though in pain.

Lance was concerned. “Are you sick?”

“A headache,” Shay said in a voice barely above a whisper, eyes still closed.

“Why don’t you go home and get some rest? We can talk about this tomorrow when you feel better,” Lance said. “Do you want me to drive you home?” he asked as she stood up.

Hunk stepped into the office. “I would be glad to take her home.”

Shay jumped as though she had forgotten Hunk was there and wasn’t expecting him. “Hunk.”

“I’ll take you home,” Hunk repeated, staring at her. “We can stop on the way and grab a bite to eat.”

Shay shook her head. “N-No, I’ll be fine. It’s only a headache, I can drive myself.” She hurried out of the office, stopping momentarily to grab her purse before walking quickly to her car.

Hunk made a motion to follow her but was stopped by Lance. “Hunk. Don’t push it man,” he said sharply.

Hunk spun back to look at Lance, his eyes worried and almost pleading. “She’s sick, Lance. She needs help.”

Lance watched Shay leave. “She’s scared. If you push her or crowd her, she’ll be even more afraid. Let her come to us on her own will.”

Hunk’s shoulders slumped. “What has she told you?”

Lance shook his head. “Nothing. But when she brushes against me I can, you know, feel it. It’s all jumbled and confusing, but there’s something she’s afraid of. I just don’t know what it is.”

“Or she’s afraid of someone,” Hunk muttered darkly.

“Hunk, don’t mistake the memory of a high school crush for something real. She’s not the same person. Neither of you are,” Lance said quietly. He didn’t want either of them hurt, and he didn’t want Hunk drug into a situation with Shay where either of them might be in danger.

Hunk stared at Lance. “Wow, Lance. This is the kind of shit that freaks out the guys you go out with. You see and know too much sometimes. Or feel it or whatever.”

Lance rolled his eyes. “Thanks doc. Now get going. I have some online orders to sort through and a couple of other things I need to handle before I head home. You go figure out your Shay crush. You don’t need me for that.”

Hunk shot him the easy-going grin that had been his trademark in high school. “Jerk. I’ll catch you in the morning. Be careful when you leave. I’m gonna lock you in, okay?”

Lance waved as he turned his attention to the papers in front of him. Smiling, he picked up his phone and placed his earbuds in his ears, turning his phone to shuffle. Whenever he was alone, the silence drove him insane and made the murmuring voices in his head unbearable. Music always seemed to calm him down and was part of the person he was today. His brother Marco had bought him his first record as a child while Luis had taken the time to teach him how to play the guitar. By the time he was thirteen, he could sing, play almost any instrument, and could even come up with dances for his favorite songs that brought him joy.


Party girls don’t get hurt
Can’t feel anything, when will I learn
I push it down, push it down

I’m the one “for a good time call”
Phone’s blowin’ up, they’re ringin’ my doorbell
I feel the love, feel the love

One, two, three, one, two, three, drink
One, two, three, one, two, three, drink
One, two, three, one, two, three, drink
Throw em back, till I lose count

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist

I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier


After a short time, the knife scar on his neck got his attention. It burned or itched on occasion, and he realized he had been scratching it while he worked. He pulled a small mirror out of his desk to look at it. It looked red from his scratching at it, so he grabbed a bottle of lotion to put some on. He rubbed a tiny amount onto the scar and noticed that he had a new email. He clicked the icon to check it, and his heartbeat stuttered before pounding hard in his chest. It was another email from himself, just like the night of his dad’s funeral. The subject line read WARNING, and the message read They’ve found you! Get out of there! Run!

Lance felt a shiver run down his spine. This was creepy as hell. Feeling like there was someone behind him, he yanked the earbuds out of his ears and whirled around. But there wasn’t anyone there.

Lance let out a disbelieving laugh. He was the only one here, just him and the cars in the garage. He ran a shaky hand over his face. Someone was trying to mess with him. But who? And why? He’d been the victim of a lot of pranks growing up, but not in the last few years.

As he was finishing up counting his drawer, his phone chimed with an incoming email notification. He pulled the earbuds from his ears and phished the phone out from his pocket, tapping on the screen until he reached the app and tapped the icon, his heartbeat ceasing as he noticed it was another email from his email address, just like the day of the funeral. Again, the subject line said WARNING and the message the followed was You’ve got to get out of there! The Galra have found you and are on their way! You will die if they get their hands on you!

A shiver ran down his spine. Now this is just getting plain creepy. Lance let out a breath of disbelief. He was the only one in his little shop. Just him and his collection of sellable records. He ran a shaky hand through his hair. Someone was just trying to get in his mind. But who and why? The time where he was a victim had long passed and he wasn’t going to tolerate it again.

He will not admit his screamed like a little girl when his business phone rang. Scowling, he grabbed the device off the counter and placed a hand over his erratic heart, taking a breath before answering. “Galaxy Records. This is Loverboy Lance speaking. How can I make your music dreams come true?” he stated, a little breathless.


The hairs on Lance’s arms stood up in goosebumps. The voice sounded flat and computer generated. “I beg your pardon? Who the hell is this?” He took a tentative step towards the office doorway. There didn’t appear to be anything threatening in the lobby.

“Run!” the voice repeated. “You have to get out of there! Please just trust me!”

Lance slammed the phone down. He didn’t know what the hell was going on, but he sure as fuck wasn’t staying there alone any longer. He grabbed up his iPod, wallet and keys, tossed his jacket over one arm, and headed for the door. His body was tight with tension as he stepped into the lobby. His eyes darted back and forth, looking for anything unusual but finding nothing. He unlocked the deadbolt on the door and opened it, stepping quickly outside. He shut the door behind him and quickly put his key in to lock it.

The night air had a coppery odor that made him want to gag. He covered his nose and breathed through his mouth to try to lessen it. He had never liked copper. Even as a child he had avoided pennies. Right now, he felt like his mouth was full of pennies, the taste and scent metallic and thick; it took everything in him not to cringe at the urge of gagging.

It smells like that man did at the funeral.

Lance’s head swam and he struggled to get the sudden fear enveloping him under control. Everything seemed normal. He took a deep breath to pull himself together and nearly gagged again.

Copper. Why did he smell copper? Unease was giving way to panic. He believed danger was near but had no idea why. He pulled his key loose and turned to hurry to his blue Ford Mustang but stopped dead in his tracks.

Two large men, both holding large knives, were blocking the walkway to the parking lot.

Lance stood frozen, muscles tight with fear. His heart pounded in his throat. They hadn’t been there a moment ago when he walked out. “What...can I, um, can I help you gentlemen this evening?” he asked them, fumbling with his cell phone to dial 911.

The guy on the right lunged at him, catching him by the throat and slamming him back into the wall. His phone, wallet and iPod hit the ground at his feet along with his jacket. His head spun and the heavy taste of copper filled his mouth. He felt a fear so deep the scar on his neck throbbed as though it were on fire.

Fight! his mind screamed at him.

The second guy moved in closer. The blades of their knives flashed in the moonlight. “Grab his keys. We’ll take him inside.”

Lance clutched his keys tighter and wedged his fist behind his back between him and the wall. But the first guy grabbed his arm by the wrist and squeezed. Lance gasped as his hand went numb and his keys fell from his unfeeling fingers. The guy grabbed the keys and hurried to the door.

Terror flooded Lance’s bloodstream. The voices inside his head screamed, suddenly becoming very clear. Fight back! Lance brought his hands together and thrust them up between the arms of the asshole holding his throat. His hold was broken, and Lance tried to run. Snarling, the guy caught his wrist and yanked him back, slamming him face first into the wall. Lance’s breath left him in a whoosh, and he felt his lip split as his face scraped the side of the building. He felt himself being pinned against the wall by the guy’s huge body, trapping him. “Hurry up with the fucking door!” the guy yelled at his cohort.

“It won’t open! He’s holding it closed with his witchcraft! Cut him!” the other guy screamed back.

Witchcraft? Lance’s stomach roiled with fear. What the hell were they talking about? His head pounded from fear and the endless buzz of voices in his head. The man holding him pushed him harder against the wall. Lance felt the cold, lethal edge of the knife pressing into the curve of his neck just above the shoulder. “Your powers won’t save you, witch,” the guy growled into his ear.

The scar on Lance’s neck burned fiery hot. Images flooded his mind, images of knives and blood. “Bastards! No! Get away from me!” he yelled as he struggled to get away.

He jolted in shock, a gasp leaving him as the knife sliced a trail of fire across his skin. The man leaned forward and hissed, “You smell that, witch? Your blood is mine.”

Lance’s mind swam as hot pain and terror filled him. Even the voices in his mind had fled. This was it, then. He was going to die. They were going to kill him…and he didn’t know why. He didn’t even really know what they looked like, except they were big with mean, vacant eyes. Blood ran hot down his back and the man holding him panted in excitement. Lance could feel his eagerness for the kill. For his blood.

“Finally,” grunted the guy at the door.

Lance heard the door open. He forced himself to think. He had to figure out a way to save himself. If he let them get him inside, they would kill him. Just as the guy holding him grabbed his wrist to drag him inside, there was a roar of an engine that broke the silence of the night. It grew closer and there was a sudden screech of tires. Lance’s face and body were still pressed into the wall and he couldn’t see a thing. But he could hear a frenzy behind him, flesh slamming into flesh, grunts, a horrifying wet sound and a clatter as a knife hit the ground. Then suddenly the man who held him imprisoned against the wall was gone, yanked away.

Lance sucked in a breath and spun around, leaning against the wall to keep him upright. In the headlights of a big truck he watched as a large silhouette stuck a knife into the chest of the guy who’d been holding him. He tossed the lifeless body over onto the body of the first guy that was lying motionless on the ground in the lights of the truck.

Lance was frozen in horror for a split second before he realized the door to the shop stood open with his keys in it. Get inside and lock the door! He lunged, trying to get to safety.

A powerful arm wrapped around his waist and lifted him right off his feet. He lost his grip on his keys, on the door and on his sanity. He flailed like a madman, struggling in the iron hold that had him captive and trying to kick the man carrying him towards the truck. He opened his mouth to scream for help, but a large hand clapped over his mouth.

“Damn it, do you want to die?” the man snarled as he tossed Lance into the passenger seat.

Lance bounced and hit the door. His body ached all over and he struggled against a wave of dizziness. His chest heaved as he tried to get his breathing under control. The interior of the truck smelled like leather. “Who are you?” he demanded as the guy got into the truck behind him and slammed the door.

“I’m the guy who just saved your ass. More Galra will be coming any minute now. They don’t leave a mess and they don’t leave witches alive. You ought to be glad I made it on time.” He put the truck into reverse and stomped on the gas.

Lance grabbed onto the seat to keep from flying into the windshield. As the guy shifted from reverse to drive, he saw his chance and lunged for the door handle. A brutal grip on his arm stopped him. When he looked back, he gasped at cold violet eyes and the knife in his left hand aimed in his direction.

“Don’t make me cut you. I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if you fight me,” he said in a frighteningly calm voice.

Lance felt his breath hitch in his chest. “Why are you doing this?”

The man’s gaze traveled to his bleeding mouth and his grip on Lance’s arm tightened. “I need a witch. You needed a hero. We have what we call here a win-win situation.”

Lance finally broke. “What are you even talking about? Why is everyone saying that? What do you mean, more Galra are coming? And why is everyone calling me a witch? Nothing makes any sense! You’re going to have to go ahead and kill me now. I’m not going anywhere with you!” he shrieked.

The man’s eyes flared with a heat that nearly knocked Lance back into the seat. Yanking him forward, the man leaned in until they were close enough that Lance could smell the scent of campfire mixed with sweat. “Do. Not. Test. Me. Witch. I. Will. Cut. You. With. No. Remorse,” the man grated out.

The back of Lance’s neck burned where the first man had cut him. The same man he’d seen this guy kill. No! screamed his mind, but the tendrils of fear choked him, and he couldn’t answer.

The man nodded and let him go. “There’s a first aid kit in the glove box,” he said as he laid his knife on a muscular thigh and drove away from the shop.

Lance reached for the first aid kit with trembling hands. He had to figure out a way to escape.

Chapter Text

Keith drove the truck down the quiet road that led to the safe house. It was on a large private property a few miles away from the Sonora Desert to a nature reserve, deep in the middle of nature where it wouldn't attract much attention. It was built into a large hillside so that three sides were surrounded by the hill itself while the front faced a lake. Only the Paladins knew of this property that Shiro had created a few years ago. Shiro had long kept it stocked and furnished in case he or the others ever needed it. He knew full well Lotor had no issue about using their loved ones for leverage should they decide they really wanted something of him. But he had never dreamed he would be hiding a witch, much less a witch that was on the Galra's most wanted list.

Keith parked his truck in front of the house and sucked in a deep breath. He could smell the witch’s blood, and it was doing things to him that he had a hard time controlling. Tightening his grip on the steering wheel, he fought against the burning need. The wound on the witch’s neck was no longer bleeding, but the scent of fresh witch blood lingered tantalizingly, mockingly, offering cool relief and eternal damnation all at once. Let’s just get this over with. The sooner he is out of our lives, the better.

A soft click alerted Keith as the witch tried to squeeze the door handle to open it and run. Grabbing his knife, he quickly moved around the truck in time to catch the door as it swung open. He moved to block the way bodily. “Don’t run from me,” he gritted out. He was just barely in control of himself right now. If the witch ran, the predator side of him would surface.

A startled gasp escaped his captive, his face pale in the bit of light coming from the cab interior. “But you did you...?” Fear turned his eyes stormy blue and heightened the prominence of the tilted shape of his witch’s eyes. His jaw was clenched and shoulders hunched with tension.

Keith gave him a humorless half smile. “Witch hunters are fast. We have to be to do what we do.”

“Witch hunters?” was the witch’s wary reply.

Keith’s gaze traveled downward, stopping momentarily to watch the flex of thigh muscle under the snug blue jeans the witch was wearing. A heated flash of lust caught him by surprise. Resolutely ignoring it, he stepped back and made a motion with his hand.

“Get out of my truck.”

The witch, Lance, slowly slid down out of the truck. He stood there uneasily, eyes darting back and forth.

Keith bit back a hiss. The back of Lance’s t-shirt was tacky and rust colored with dried blood. He could see the edge of the gauze bandage he’d fashioned over the wound. Lance had to be in incredible pain, but he hadn’t breathed a word of it. Fury seared through Keith at the memory of pulling into the tire shop and seeing two Galras on him. One of them pinning Lance to the wall while sliding a knife across his delicate skin.

Keith forced his mind back to the present. Lance was there for one reason; to break the death curse on Acxa. Then he would be gone. And when you release him, then what? He’ll be dead within hours. Keith told himself that if Lance cooperated, he would make sure to set him up somewhere that he’d be safe from Galras and the demon witch whose spell he would be breaking. He reached out and grabbed Lance’s arm.

Lance sucked in a harsh breath and pulled back, trying to get away.

Keith could smell his fear at his actions, but he didn’t care. “I won’t hurt you as long as you cooperate with me.”

Despite the scent of fear lacing him, Lance’s gaze was defiant. “Like I believe you. You did kidnap me.”

“Keep it up and I’ll drug you,” Keith threatened. He wouldn’t actually do it, but as a scare tactic it was effective.

“I’m allergic to drugs!” Lance protested, paling even more under that caramel skin.

Keith gave him a cool smile. Finally, Lance was catching on. “I know you are.” Witches were highly evolved and had the ability to heal by means of their craft and earth remedies. Synthetic medications made them extremely sick.

Lance flinched, then glared at Keith. “You’re a fucking asshole.”

Keith shrugged. ‘‘Guess it takes one to know one.”

He grabbed Lance's arm and guided him towards the door. The house looked unassuming from the outside, but only the top level was visible at ground level. There was a lower level completely hidden by the surrounding land. He unlocked and opened the door, then heard the infrared sensors come on. He took out his phone with his free hand and entered the code to have the alarm halt for ten seconds. When the faint hiss stopped, Keith steered Lance through the doorway. They stood in the living room and he could see Lance looking around. There was a large plush couch with matching end and coffee tables in a deep cherry wood. A huge recliner with heat and massage functions was in the corner. The stone fireplace had an enormous flat screen television hanging over it. It seemed an ordinary room. Nothing to indicate that there was another level below or that the place was wired with enough electronics to give any techie a wet dream, courtesy of Pidge and Matt.

“This way,” Keith said, walking down a hallway and pulling a reluctant Lance behind him. They went into the ultra-modern kitchen, complete with stainless steel appliances and marble countertops. Keith came to a stop when he saw Krolia sitting at the table holding Acxa in her lap. “Is she okay?”

Krolia looked pale. Her hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail and she wore a pair of sweatpants and an old t-shirt that belonged to Keith when he was younger. The dark circles under her eyes stood out against her pale complexion. “She has a fever,” she said in a low voice that was weighted down with worry.

Acxa lifted her head from her mother’s shoulder. She held her favorite stuffed Ariel doll that Pidge had gotten her for her 4th birthday last year. “Who’s that?” she asked as she held her arms out to Keith.

Keith reached out and gently picked her up. He could feel the heat coming off of her as she laid her head on his shoulder. “He won’t hurt you,” Keith promised as he rubbed her back gently. “You feel bad, space cadet?”

Acxa nodded listlessly against his shoulder. “Mommy gave me medicine to make me feel better.”

Keith tried to relax. He had brought a witch with him to save them both. He turned towards Lance and had to stop himself from flinching. Lance looked like hell. Keith hadn’t truly realized it until just now. Lance’s face was covered in angry red scrapes and his lip was split and swollen. He and the shirt he wore were covered in dried blood. And there were dark purpling finger marks on his neck that stood out against his fair skin. Keith didn’t really want Acxa to see any of this, but it couldn’t be helped. He would just try to get it over and done with as quickly as possible.

Acxa offered her stuffed toy to Lance. “Would you like to hold my Ariel? He makes me feel better.”

Lance stared at the toy for a moment before shifting his gaze between Keith and Krolia. “I don’t understand. Who are you people? What do you want? I don’t want to be here.”

Keith looked meaningfully at Lance. “Maybe she just needs some medicine.”

Lance narrowed his eyes at the threat and glared at him.

Keith knew he didn’t have time to regret not getting to Lance before the two Galras had hurt him. He had to focus on the important matter at hand. “We’re going to show him the mark on your forehead. He’s going to help you feel better.”

Acxa’s lip turned down and trembled slightly. “I don’t like it, Keith. It hurts. Make it go away.

Anger sizzled through Keith like electricity. The animal within raged just below the surface, wanting to cut and spill blood. His mother’s voice brought him back, forcing back the curse. “Show him the mark, Keith. Lance, I know you want to leave, and I promise you can, after you help Acxa.”

Acxa leaned forward towards Lance. She pushed back her bangs and exposed her forehead.

Keith watched as Lance’s eyes fixated on Acxa’s forehead. Blood drained from Lance’s face and his eyes widened, the pupils dilating in shock. He stumbled backwards, both hands covering his mouth.

Oh, Dios mío! This can't be happening again!” he gasped as he took another step back before turning and running out of the kitchen, shocking the three occupants at his outburst.

Lance knew he was going to be sick. He tore open the door, ignoring the sound of the security system. He stumbled and fell to one knee and stayed there, panting loudly, sucking in the cool night air. His stomach roiled and he had broken out in a cold sweat that stung his injuries.

But he couldn't outrun the truth. He had seen that mark once before. His mind raced back to that horrible day.

He had been eight years old, at his mom’s flower shop, under the strict eye of his no good busybody neighbor as his mom worked the counter. He played quietly in the corner so as not to call attention to himself and no doubt get some sort of tongue lashing.

The bell on the door indicated a customer. Little Lance looked up from his toys and saw a sickly looking man at the counter talking to his neighbor. The man's cheeks were sunken in and his complexion was waxy under his limp brown curls.

“Enrique, you look terrible. You need to be home resting. We could have delivered your order if you were feeling this under the weather dear.”

Lance started to go back to his play when his eyes caught sight of the glowing purple makr on the man's neck. His head started spinning as the voices in his head grew louder in alarm. “Oh, no! That’s Zarkon’s mark! It's a death mark! Stay away from that man, Lance! It's demon witch magic! It is very dangerous!”

“No!” Lance had screamed, causing both women and the customer at the counter to turn to him in shock. His neighbor’s shocked expression quickly turned dark with anger and embarrassment. “Lance McClain!” she boomed warningly in her loud voice.

Lance had scrambled to his feet, eyes wide and frightened. He didn't want that purple mark on him if what the voices were saying was true! “But Zarkon’s mark, Miss Montgomery! He has a death mark on him! He’s going to die!”

His neighbor’s face grew even darker and an angry flush rose up her neck until even the tips of her ears were red. The man just stared at Lance in awkward confusion.

“It'll kill him! The mark will kill him!” Lance cried as tears streamed down his face, trying to make them understand. He yelped in pain as his neighbor surged forward and snatched him hard by the arm...

Lance shuddered as the vivid memory washed over him like ice water. That beautiful little girl inside was marked for death. He struggled to his feet and bent over with his hands on his knees, panting and trying to think. More than anything, he wanted to run. Get away from this place. But he couldn’t leave that poor child. Something within him would not let him; the same mysterious thing about him that recognized the death mark to begin with. What was he that such a thing was possible?

His mind flashed on another memory from just a few days after he had seen the man with the death mark...

Something yanked his arm and Lance woke up, crying out in pain and fear.

His grandfather drug him out of his bed and flung him into the corner. In the dim light of Lance’s nightlight and the moon streaming in his window, Lance could see his eyes were red. His clothes were all wrinkled and his breath smelled of whiskey when he leaned forward, pointing an accusing finger.

I don’t know how you did it, but he’s dead. I’ll not be in the same house as the devil’s spawn!”

“Papá!” his father rushed into the room and pulled his father back, shoving him away from Lance. “What the hell is wrong with you? He’s just a little boy!”

Lance started to cry as the two men stood face to face, yelling at each other.

“There’s something wrong with that boy, Matías! He’s a freak!”

“My God, do you even hear yourself right now? You’re drunk! You stay away from my children or I swear to God I’ll call the cops. Go sleep it off.”

His grandfather had stormed out of the room as his dad wrapped his arms around him, making soothing noises and holding him tight...

A tug on his arm brought him back to the present. “You can’t escape, you know. You set off two alarms just running out the door. Shiro’s house is very secure.”

Lance stiffened and stood upright so quickly he got dizzy. He jerked his arm away from his kidnapper and took a stumbling step back. The cut at the back of his neck burned. After that horrible night, he no longer heard the voices in his head clearly. He had tried with every fiber of his being to not do anything weird or freaky, unless it was an accident. He just wanted to be normal so his grandfather would like him and it wouldn’t be so uncomfortable at home.

The man who had brought him here was still talking. “Not that I need electronics. A witch hunter can track you anywhere.”

Lance took a deep breath to calm and center himself. He had called himself a witch hunter earlier and had referred to the two men who’d attacked him as witch hunters as well. He remembered the emails he’d gotten warning him of hunters. And he had no idea what any of it meant. “Who are you? And what do you want of me?”

“Keith Kogane. I need you to do a spell to take the death curse off my sister.”

Lance studied Keith wordlessly for a moment. He stood a few feet away from him but still managed to loom in his presence. Long onyx colored hair fell in a mullet, which Lance would generally cringe at but found the man before him working it. Bright violet blue eyes glowed from under thick brows. His tight t-shirt clung to obvious well-defined muscles and abdomen. Everything about him was strong and threatening.

“And I suppose kidnapping me and scaring the living shit out of me is your way of asking nicely?” Lance snapped with a raised brow, turning to sarcasm as a shield like he always did. He didn’t like the fear he still felt pulsing through him. The fear that his grandfather had been right and that something was very wrong with him, something evil.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I was too busy saving your life to remember my manners,” Keith snapped back, sarcasm heavy in his own voice. “But even if I had asked, we both know what the answer would be. You witches could give a shit that a child’s going to die...” he trailed off, jaw tightening.

Lance shook his head. Just trying to keep up with this conversation made his head hurt. “What makes you think I can do anything to help you? Your sister needs a doctor, not a record shop owner.” Me a witch? How could that even be possible?

Keith stared at him levelly. “It’s early in the curse. You should be able to do it.”

Lance felt the panic rising all over again. “You're insane! Or drunk or something! I'm not a witch! In case you haven't noticed, I'm not a woman! I clearly don’t have a vagina between my legs my dude!”

Keith's gaze became a glare. “Playing dumb won't help you. Like some of the most powerful witches in history haven't been men. Do you think I'm an idiot? I can clearly see you are a male. You're going to do this spell.”

Lance’s wide eyes flicked quickly back and forth. Keith was blocking the only way off the deck. He could turn back and run through the house, but where would he go from here? He wasn’t even sure where here was. And then there was the little girl. Lance tilted his head, ignoring the burning pain that seared through him from his cut. “Playing dumb? You kidnap me and now you’re talking crazy things like witches and hunters and curses? I don’t know what you’re talking about or why you chose me, but I can’t help you.”

Keith stepped closer to Lance. “You’re telling me you don’t even know that you’re a witch?” he asked, his voice a mixture of incredulity and disbelief.

Lance didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t sure how stable Keith might or might not be or what he might do next. He had no idea what to do to extricate himself from the whole situation.

“That’s exactly what I’m telling you,” he said as he cautiously rubbed his hand along his split lip, wincing at the sharp stab of pain.

“I find that hard to believe,” Keith said mildly as he took another step closer to Lance. “And you made your lip bleed again.” His voice dropped to a low growl that swept over Lance’s skin, making it tingle.

Lance stepped back away from Keith, trying to put space between them but halting as his back hit the wall. His mind frantically tried to understand what was happening. Keith was just a step away now. His eyes glowed golden, looking hot and feverish. The scent of campfire was stronger and Lance felt it literally pulling at him. “Stop! Whatever it is you’re doing, just stop! I need to think and I can’t!”

“I can’t stop. God, I wish I could,” Keith said in a low growl. He inhaled deeply. “You smell like the ocean. But your blood smells spicy.”

Lance’s belly tightened as something fluttered deep and low inside him. He tried to process what Keith was saying but nothing was making any sense. All he knew was that the closer Keith got to him, the bigger the strange feeling inside of him, the need, grew. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Keith focused on Lance’s mouth, his eyes narrowing. “You’re bleeding.”

Lance shivered. “I know. You said that already.” He stood frozen by the intensity in Keith’s eyes, trapped as something he couldn’t explain wove itself around the two of them.

Keith continued to stare at his mouth. “Your blood calls to me.” He raised one hand and gently slid his thumb across Lance's lower lip, wiping the blood away.

Lance gasped as a shockwave raced through him when Keith came in contact with his blood. Deep inside, he felt the strangest swirling and tugging, as though there were parts of himself long closed off that wanted to open to Keith. He grabbed Keith's wrist to pull his hand off his face, but instead for some unfathomable reason found himself holding onto it like an anchor in a storm. Confusion welled up inside him as he struggled to make sense of what was happening. “How can I possibly be a witch?” he whispered brokenly, the words tearing themselves from his very soul.

Keith tore his gaze from Lance's mouth, moving up to lock onto his eyes, his own burning with intensity. “Even if you don’t believe it, you’re my witch now. I've touched your blood. You belong to me. You're mine,” he said, his voice rough and possessive.

Lance's heart pounded. Keith's eyes burned into him and suddenly changed, the violet turning mirror like. He could see his own blue eyes in the depths but felt something pulling him closer. Even though he held his wrist, Keith easily slid his thumb over his lower lip again before sliding it into his mouth. For the first time, the voices in his head calmed to low white noise. The taste of Keith's skin seared Lance's tongue and erotic images danced through his mind. Tears of recognition welled up as his eyes fluttered shut and he swayed forward, wanting, no-needing to be closer.

Keith pulled his thumb out of Lance's mouth to cup his chin as he leaned down to kiss him.

“Keith!” called a feminine voice from inside the house.

A low, threatening growl rumbled up from Keith's chest as he slid his hand around to gently cup Lance's head just above the neck. He traced Lance's lips with his tongue, the movement teasing and intimate. Lance relaxed and leaned into him more, needing contact.

“Keith!” The voice was closer.

Keith went still, looking like a predator about to attack. He looked at Lance with a deep, possessive hunger. Lance gasped as he was sure he saw the shadow of a lion, his red lion, in the reflection of Keith’s eyes. Keith jerked his hand away from Lance as his mother came outside. He looked at the thumb that had wiped the blood from Lance’s mouth. It was vanishing, disappearing into his skin.

Krolia stopped a few feet away, looking horrified. “Keith! You touched his blood! You have to go now! You have to get away from him, he’ll destroy you!”

“I can’t.” Keith kept his intense gaze on Lance.

Krolia hurried to Lance’s side. “Let me take him inside. He’s hurt, he needs-”

“Don’t get between us,” Keith said, his voice a near snarl.

Lance felt his confusion and fear grow. How could he destroy Keith, or anyone for that matter? It was far more likely Keith would destroy him. Already he was forcing him to acknowledge something about himself that he had fought against for so long. Even Keith’s mother recognized there was something wrong with him and thought he would somehow harm Keith.

“I’m not a witch!” he protested again.

His words were ignored as Keith and Krolia faced each other. “We need him to take the curse off of Acxa,” Krolia said.

“He’ll do it,” Keith answered as his possessive gaze raked over Lance again.

Lance felt frustration building up hot in his chest. Nothing he said was getting through to either of them. Remembering that he had a few skills of his own, he lowered his voice and said, “I'm of no use to you. Just let me go. I’m sure you will all find someone who can help you.”

Keith narrowed his eyes and let out a huff of humorless laughter. “Don’t try charming me with your voice. It isn’t going to work. The only chance you have to stay alive is to do exactly what I tell you.”

“Keith...” Krolia nervously broke in.

“Mom, go back inside. Now.” Keith cut her off, his voice harsh. She lowered her head and went back inside. Keith grabbed Lance by the arm and pulled.

“No! Don’t touch me!” Lance dug in his feet and pulled back, trying to put up what resistance he could. He cursed himself for not running while he had the chance. And it was so much harder to think when Keith touched him. He felt a flash of relief when Keith let him go, but it was short lived as Keith easily scooped him up and strode into the house. Wordlessly, he carried him down the hallway and turned into the huge master bedroom. Lance caught a quick glance of a large bed and some sort of computer equipment set up on one side before Keith went into the massive en suite bathroom. There was a huge glass-doored shower and a luxurious whirlpool tub in the corner.

Keith carried Lance into the large walk-in closet.

“What the hell are you doing?” Lance yelled, his voice a mixture of fear and confusion.

“Keeping you alive,” Keith answered shortly, his voice cold. He held his hand up against a mirror hung at the back of the closet. A sliding panel moved silently to the side, revealing a set of stairs. Keith walked through and as the panel slid closed behind them, low lighting automatically flickered to life, lighting the way as he descended the stairs.

Terror and panic raced through Lance like ice water in his bloodstream. Visions of torture and who-knew-what-else flashed through his mind. He struggled, trying to free himself from Keith’s iron hold. Keith tightened his grip, moving so that Lance’s hands were trapped between them. “Whoa, take it easy. I’m not going to hurt you. I need you too much.”

Lance was furious and scared. It had been a bitch of a day and he had been through hell. He thought of the two men who had attacked him and hurt him. He thought of Keith threatening him with his knife. The knife! He had seen Keith put it in the holster at his back. His pounding heart shot into his throat in terror. No. He was a McClain and damned if he would go down without a fight. Lance felt energy building up inside of him as he concentrated on the knife. The energy writhed and swirled into a ball in his chest before escaping outward.

Keith came to a dead halt in the hallway, a look of surprise on his face. His knife had slipped out of its holster and was circling around him. Lance watched the knife in shock, the hair on the back of his neck prickling with a strange sort of connection to the knife. He thought quickly. The hallway where they stood was small. Keith would have to drop him to avoid the knife. Then he could escape.

But Keith didn’t let go of him. He stayed utterly still, watching the knife with wary eyes that widened as it swung towards him. He ducked to avoid the blade, but the hilt glanced off his right cheek. He grunted at the slight impact.

A split second later, pain slammed into Lance’s right cheekbone, snapping his head back with the force of it. He squeezed his eyes shut as tears slid down his face. Pain radiated outward like a ripple in a pond and his ears buzzed as a wave of nausea threatened to overwhelm him.

“Fucking hell, what did you think would happen?” Keith shouted, his voice echoing in the hallway and causing Lance to flinch. Keith lifted Lance closer to him, almost as if he were cuddling him. “Breathe. Easy now. It’ll stop in a minute. Breathe through it,” he said quietly, his voice sounding almost gentle.

Lance struggled to do as he said. Breathe. In. Now out. Again. Finally the pain dulled and he could think again. What had just happened? Had he done that? Had he been the one to make the knife do that? But the knife hit Keith. So why did his face feel like he’d gone a round with his older brother? Slowly, he raised his eyes to look at Keith. There was a fading red mark on his right cheek that was disappearing even as he watched. The thought that Keith must heal fast flashed through Lance’s mind briefly before confusion set in. “What just happened?”

Keith breathed out, his irritation apparent. “You let your emotions get the better of you and flipped. You used your powers to try to stab me with my knife. Did you forget about witch karma? I barely felt that, but you’ve gone and given yourself a black eye!”

The pain was settling into a dull and steady throb. “What are you yelling at me for? I’m the one who just got bitch slapped by witch karma, whatever the fuck that is,” Lance snarled.

Keith stared at him for a second and a reluctant grin twitched on his lips. “Touché.” But then his expression hardened and he walked into a small room as though nothing had happened. He set Lance down to stand on the tile floor. Without a word, he strode out to the highway to pick his knife up from the floor and slide it back into his holster. He turned back to Lance.

“Get started. This used to be a wet bar that we’ve converted to a work area for you. Pidge stocked it with everything she could think you might possibly need, but if you need anything, we’ll get it,” Keith said from the doorway, his massive form filling it.

Lance’s eyes traveled along the granite counter, sink and cabinets. He was confused. What exactly were they expecting him to do? “I don’t understand. Start what?”

Keith grit his teeth. “Stop it. You just demonstrated your witch powers by trying to stab me with my own knife. We don’t have much time. The death curse will kill Acxa at the full moon. Get started.” He turned and left, closing the door behind him.

Lance looked around, right cheek throbbing, trying to take it all in. There were neatly labeled drawers containing such things as salt, incense, silver, and varied dried herbs. There were candles in different colors. A small scale stood next to a stack of measuring bowls. He noticed a small bed in one corner and took a deep shuddering breath.

This room was his prison, and he was in a lot of trouble.

Chapter Text

Keith paced his bedroom like a caged animal. He had a vicious, raging hard on for the witch and no matter what he tried to think of to help, nothing worked.

None of it made sense. The curse made hunters crave the witch’s blood, however all Keith wanted to do was bend Lance over the closest available surface and fuck into him until the witch milked him for every last drop. The sex part of the curse was a highly increased sex drive, not this painful mixture of need and want and own. Needing a distraction, he went to his computer and keyed in, dialing up the one person who could get him the information he needed.

Shiro’s face appeared on the screen. “Keith? What’s up?”

“Please tell me you and Pidge dug up the information I asked for on Lance McClain?” Keith questioned. The Paladins had the kill sheet Richard had given Keith that told him where Lance lived, worked, shopped, banked, everything they might need to track him. But it failed to give him any information on just who Lance truly was.

Shiro frowned. “You still need it? I thought you had went and got him?”

Keith grunted the affirmative. “I did. He’s in the room now, but the funny thing is he claims he doesn’t know he’s a witch.” Keith had heard the desperation in Lance’s voice as he had repeatedly denied being a witch. He’d seen the abject shock and terror on Lance’s face when he’d seen Acxa’s mark. Hell, he’d felt all of it. And then Lance had used his powers to try to stab him with his own knife. Either he was incredibly stupid, or he honestly didn’t know about witch karma. But what witch didn’t know about that?

On the computer screen, Shiro raised an eyebrow. “You couldn’t feel his power?”

Oh, yeah. He’d felt it. He had smelled it in his blood, spicy because of the amount of power the witch held inside. He had felt the sizzle and surge of it when he touched his blood. He had seen it when he tried to stab him. But it was Keith’s own reaction that was so unusual. He hadn’t wanted to kill Lance. No. He wanted to fuck him. He wanted to strip him down and possess him. Even the pain Lance was in bothered him. “I felt it. He’s definitely a witch. But the question is: does he know it?”

He turned to look at the second monitor and sucked in a harsh breath as all the blood in his brain rushed south. Lance had taken off his shirt and stood at the counter with his back to the camera mounted in the corner. He’d removed the makeshift bandage and had a cloth in his hand, trying to clean all the blood off himself. His skin was a delicious caramel colored tone, stretched over his shoulder blades. His jeans were obviously opened and slung lower on his hips so that the top of his black boxers was exposed. He was reaching back, trying to dab at the oozing cut, muscles contracting in pain. But there were herbs in the room, things he could use to ease the pain. Why didn’t he just...fuck. Keith was starting believe what Lance had told him.

“Keith,” the hunter heard Shiro say, breaking him out of his trance.

Keith forced his gaze from watching Lance on the screen. He looked at Shiro on the other screen. “What’d you find?” he asked, swallowing the lump in his throat.

“Not a lot honestly. It says here he went to the hospital when he was thirteen due to a knife wound to his neck. He was admitted after the emergency room pumped him full of drugs and he had a severe allergic reaction. After that there is nothing regarding medical records. Now looking at his birth records...oh, shiiiiit,” Shiro swore, drawing out the word as he eyes widened on the screen.

And there it is. “Tell me. What is it?” he asked, though he already knew the answer.

“Well buddy, looks like Lance is adopted. Says here that the McClain family adopted Lance when he was just a few days old. The rest of the family have extensive medical records prior to their death, and there are no indications of them being allergic to any synthetic meds,” Shiro said as he read off his screen.

“I see. So, none of his family are witches then.” Keith’s gaze swung back to the monitor to stare at Lance. Lance had turned around towards the camera, cleaning frantically with the now bloody cloth. His desperate face was drawn with pain and fear. Keith saw the intricate silver necklace with some kind of pendant he couldn’t make out through the camera. His chest was toned with flesh colored nipples, and his stomach and hips were cut and defined. Keith felt the lust in him ramp up to ball squeezing need while at the same time his stomach dropped. He believed Lance. “He doesn’t know he’s a witch. He’s not gonna know how to remove a death curse. I am so totally fucked.”

“Don’t lose faith Keith. Even if he doesn’t know, we could still help him. He could still lift the curse,” Shiro said.

Keith shook his head. “I have to get him out of here,” he said, desperation and lust turning his voice hoarse.

Shiro’s voice was sharp. “If you do, he’s as good as dead. Pidge hacked into the Galra database, and he’s been moved to kill number one. They want this witch dead.”

Keith remembered the Galras that had found Lance. “What did he do to catch their attention? Why are they after him if he doesn’t even know he’s a witch?”

Shiro studied the screen he was working on. “I have no idea. All I see is that he registered for a birth parent search. I don’t get why something like that would catch the Galras’ attention. Something caught their eye, though, and they are determined to kill him.”

A strange protective feeling surged through Keith. All for a witch. He ignored it, unsure of what to make of it. “None of this solves my problem. I have a witch that hasn’t got a clue how to break a curse and seven days until the waxing gibbous moon.” An elemental witch could only spell against a curse up until that moon phase. After that, only killing the demon witch that cast the spell would break a curse. And once the true full moon hit, nothing would save Acxa if the curse hadn’t been broken.

Shiro leaned back and looked directly into the camera. “Can you control your compulsion around him long enough for him to learn a spell? Surely it can’t be that hard, not for a powerful male witch. And it will be safer than trying to find another witch, especially with the Galra on your back.”

Keith stared back at his friend, swallowing before he spoke. “No. I’ve touched his blood.”

Shiro’s brown eyes widened in surprise. “And he’s still alive?”

Keith absently brought his hand up to touch the hollow feeling place in his chest. He was trying with everything he had to keep his eyes on Shiro and not look to the monitor showing Lance. “Yes. But he’s in me now.” It was a losing battle. He looked at Lance again. Lance was trying to wash some of the blood off his shirt. Keith could see the wide shoulders that tapered to a narrow waist, muscles flexing as he moved. “I need him,” Keith said truthfully, voice deep in frustration.

Shiro pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Can you have sex with him and not kill him?”

Sweat ran down Keith’s back. “I don’t know.” Because he wanted his blood, too, he wanted all of Lance. But what if he lost his control during sex and cut him to get to his blood? Once it happened, he wouldn’t be able to stop until he was dead.

Shiro was typing quickly on his keyboard. “We are going to find out everything I can on how to break a death curse. The way I see it, you have a couple of options to choose from; you can send your mom in to deal with the witch and you stay away from him.”

Keith knew that wouldn’t happen. “Or?” he asked.

“We already know that sex with mortals helps us control the compulsion. Find out if the same rule applies with a witch,’’ Shiro said as he scrolled through the page he was looking at on his screen.

“Find out what you can. I’ll worry about keeping the witch alive. Oh, and talking about this with someone I think of as a brother is really uncomfortable,” Keith said, ending the connection with a cackling Shiro on the other end and standing up.

He prowled around his room restlessly. Lance was like a magnet, a steady pull that he couldn’t resist…that he didn’t want to resist. He went through the sliding panel in his closet down to the lower level. He had designed and built the safe house so his family and friends could hide on the bottom floor if they were ever attacked. There were furnished bedrooms, a small office, and an office he had set up for himself, as well as a hidden garage. There was also an arsenal of weapons, should it be needed.

He had set Lance up in the room across from his office. It had a specially designed lock that would engage a secondary lock should the first one be tripped, and an additional third one after that. Even then, it wasn’t completely witch proof, but it would definitely slow one down and give the hunters plenty of time to be able to retaliate. But Lance hadn’t even tried to open it. Keith held his hand up to the lock mechanism to disengage the lock and pushed the door open.

Lance whirled around, holding his wet shirt in front of his bare chest. He looked so vulnerable that Keith again felt that same protective feeling, combined with a surge of lust. This witch is mine. His sharp gaze focused on the scar on Lance’s neck. That had to be the one that sent him to the emergency room. He quickly closed the distance between them and tilted Lance’s chin back with his fingertips. Lance’s blue eyes flashed fearfully before he jerked his chin out of Keith’s grasp and stepped back to move away from him.

Keith didn’t step after him. He was determined to save Acxa, but he didn’t want to frighten Lance any more than he already had. And he most definitely didn’t want a repeat of the pain Lance had suffered from witch karma earlier.

“Take it easy, I only want to see your scar.” He pressed his thumb gently against it and was caught off guard when he felt the heat radiating from the raised skin. “When were you attacked by a witch hunter?”

Lance glared at him angrily. “Stop touching me,” he growled, slapping Keith’s hand away.

Before he realized what he was doing, Keith had wrapped his hand possessively around Lance’s arm and pulled the witch in closer. His blood was running hot just from being able to breathe in Lance’s scent. He wanted more. It took supreme effort to let go of Lance’s arm. He breathed in once more, needing to have the tantalizing scent teasing his senses.

“Please…just tell me what happened.”

Lance closed his eyes for a moment before he said anything. “I was thirteen. I was at my mom’s shop and was attacked by our neighbor.”

Keith could sense Lance backing away from the truth. There was something more to the story he wasn’t saying. “You were cut with witch karma. Like what happened today, you probably used your powers to stab the hunter with their own knife. When any intentional harm is done with magic, witch karma comes back on the witch times three.” He looked at Lance intently. “What happened? You know exactly what happened that day.”

Lance stepped back away from him and rubbed his hands up and down his arms before crossing them over his chest protectively, still holding his shirt in front of him. “Before that day, no one believed what I had been telling them. She was this older lady, always acting strange around me when she came to the shop. When my mom wasn’t looking, she would make nasty comments under her breath and ‘accidentally’ trip to where she would hit me.”

Keith tensed and the anger that filled him was strong. But Lance wasn’t finished with his story yet.

“That day thought she was pissed. That mark on your sister…I saw it once before on another customer my mom had. I didn’t know what I was saying, but I said what was running through my head. Of course they didn’t believe me…until he died a few days later. The day after he passed away, she came in the shop all fidgety and suspicious, but of course my mom didn’t notice. My mom had to go to the back of her shop for something, and when she was out of sight our neighbor pulled me outside and started yelling at me. At some point she brandished a knife from her purse and began swinging it at me. Somehow I was able to knock it onto the ground, but that wasn’t the only thing she brought. After she knocked me to the ground, she pulled a gun from her waistband and pointed it at me. I was scared…and I didn’t know what else to do. The energy just built up and poured out. It grabbed the knife and tried to jab her in the neck, but it grazed her instead when she moved at the last minute. And the next thing I know, I feel this weird tingle and then my neck just splits open. There was so much blood and it hurt so bad. I thought I was going to die.”

Keith was enraged. Lance had been thirteen! What the hell were his birth parents thinking, letting him be adopted by a mortal family? He had managed to survive a hunter, possibly a hunter who didn’t even know their true potential, and then nearly been killed by the hospital staff when they pumped him full of synthetic medicines for pain. “What happened with the hunter after that?”

“My brother Luis. It was his day to babysit us younger kids, so he swung by the shop to pick me up. He heard the commotion and swung around back to see her standing over me with the gun still pointed in my direction as I bled out. He knocked her out before coming to my aid,” Lance said.

“What did the hunter do after that?” asked Keith.

“It’s hard to really remember,” Lance said with a frown. “She actually seemed so horrified and shocked, almost like she’d snapped out of a trance.” He shivered as memories replayed the self in his mind, along with the frightening realization of a truth he had long tried to suppress.

“Bloodlust. She lost control, but she wasn’t a Galra, otherwise you would be dead,” Keith stated matter-of-factly.

“What do you mean, bloodlust?” Lance asked, his voice sounding small and vulnerable.

Keith felt the need to touch him strengthen with each breath he took. He looked way too sexy, even holding his wet bloodstained shirt in front of himself. Keith took a hold of his own shirt at the neck and pulled it over his head to take it off. He held it out to Lance.

“Here. Put this on and I’ll explain.”

Lance gave him a suspicious look and tossed his wet shirt onto the countertop before pulling Keith’s shirt over his head. Keith caught his breath. For a brief second, he saw Lance’s bare chest with only the silver necklace adorning his skin with a lion head charm, resting against the faint witch shimmer that no camera or mortal eye would pick up on. Many witches had a golden shimmer, but Lance’s was a pale blue. There was a light dusting of hair on his chest with a trail that ran from under his navel and disappeared into the waistline of his jeans. Nipples had hardened from the wet shirt and cool air. He was even more stunning in the flesh, making Keith’s mouth water and his cock jump to attention. He clenched his hands into fists to keep from touching him.

Acxa. The spell. Lance was there to do a spell. Keith had to remember that. It was easier said than done, especially given his state of sexual awareness.

Lance tried to ignore the more than pleasant warmth of the borrowed shirt he was wearing. “I can’t help you. Don’t you see that? I don’t know magic. I just want to go back to my life. My friends will be worried.” His lips tightened when Keith shook his head.

“Not possible. You’ll be dead within the day if I let you go. The men that attacked you tonight? Those were witch hunters.”

Lance raised an eyebrow. “You mean like you? You hunt witches?”

Keith needed to make him understand. “No, not like me. Not yet, anyway. Thanks to witches, hunters are cursed to crave witch blood. If we give in to that craving, we lose our soul. Turn Galra. Galras can’t stop killing witches for the power in their blood. It’s like an addiction, they have to have it. And now that they’ve found you, they aren’t going to stop.”

“But I didn’t even know I was a witch!” Lance protested.

“They know that. They found you and moved you to the top of their kill list. Those tonight were just the first. There will be more, and they’ll keep coming. They’ll kill anyone who gets in their way. Family, friends, it doesn’t matter. They want your blood,” Keith said, trying to get Lance to believe him and accept the seriousness of his situation. “I’m the only chance you have of staying alive. You work to help my sister and I’ll protect you from them.” He fought down a new wave of desire and lust. It was painful, the craving for Lance and the want for sex, his blood, the very essence of him.

Lance’s eyes were wary. “You’re one of them. What’s to stop you from killing me?”

Keith was at the very edge of his control. Lust had him literally by the balls and the compulsion screamed for blood. He broke out into a sweat that beaded and ran down his torso.

“Sex. As much as I want to kill you, I want even more to bend you over that counter behind you and fuck you until you pass out.” Keith knew he needed to get out of there before he lost control completely. Lance was injured, in pain, and he needed to heal. There was no way he could risk sex with him while there was any blood on him. The blood would inflame the compulsion until he killed him to get to the rest of it. Keith knew this, yet every one of his nerves screamed at him to take Lance now. To tear those tight jeans off him, bend him over the nearest surface and bury himself inside him. To hold him tight against him while he fucked into him again and again, filling him up and making him his and only his.

Lance’s face flushed red with fury. “That’s your solution? Let you fuck me and you won’t kill me? I am not having sex with you dude! I don’t believe in rape.”

Keith’s patience was running short. His cock was painfully hard and trapped in his jeans, and his balls fucking hurt. His skin burned like it was on fire.

“I have never forced a guy before, and I sure as hell wouldn’t have to force you. Would I, Lance?” He stepped close enough to Lance that he could feel the heat given off by his witch shimmer, but he didn’t dare touch him.

Lance sucked in a breath. “Why do I feel strange? What are you doing to me?”

“Pheromones. Hunters attract sexual partners with pheromones. But this is different. Maybe because I touched your blood.” Sweat caused by need and lust beaded on his skin, tickling as it rolled down.

Lance crossed his arms over his chest in a protective movement and looked away. “Or maybe you’re an arrogant ass who’s used to having guys fall at his feet.”

Keith blinked at him in surprise. No one had ever stood up to him like this, challenged him. It inflamed him, making his blood run even hotter, and he wanted Lance even more. It was time to get out of there. He turned and headed for the door, intent on making a quick exit before he did something rash.

Lance’s gasp stopped him in his tracks. “A lion. It’s a red lion.”

His tattoo. “Yes. What about it?” Keith stood where he was, telling himself to open the door and leave. He stiffened as Lance stepped closer to him, his soft voice pouring over him and caressing his skin. “He looks so real. Almost as though I could feel his fur if I touched him.”

Keith opened his mouth, but it was too late. He felt Lance’s fingers lightly touch his right shoulder where the lion’s head rested. The lion was etched into his skin like it was roaring, the head on his upper right shoulder and the body going down his back. The lion’s tail wrapped around just slightly along his left hip. Lance traced the body down to the waist of Keith’s jeans, the soft touch searing fire straight to his cock. Then suddenly the touch was gone. Keith missed it immediately.

“Skin. Not fur,” Lance whispered softly.

Keith turned back to face Lance. The sight of his shirt that had just recently been against his own skin now against Lance’s shimmering witch skin gave him a primal sense of satisfaction and made his hands positively itch to touch him and lay claim to him. Before he could think, one arm caught Lance about the waist and pulled him close so that their faces were nearly touching.

“Enjoy being a little tease?” he said, his voice coming out in a low growl.

“Let me go, or I’ll...” Lance began.

Keith kissed him, cutting off his threat and laying claim to his mouth, tracing his lips with his tongue. Static crackled in the room in small bursts of Lance’s undisciplined powers. The rush of it against Keith’s skin went straight to his cock, making it grow impossibly harder and twitch in painful arousal. He curled his hand behind Lance’s head to angle his mouth open and felt the warmth of his hands as they grasped his shoulders tightly when he parted his lips.

Keith slid his tongue against Lance’s and nearly groaned in pleasure. His mouth was so hot and tasted so good. He could feel the heat of his skin against his own even through the shirt. Lance’s body spoke to his. He could smell his desire, a heady spice that grew and surrounded them both. He slid his hand down Lance’s thigh and under his knee, pulling it up high over his hip and bringing their cocks close together. He pulled him into his hard on straining against the zipper of his jeans, grinding into him.

Keith could feel Lance hard and needy against him. Lance was as hot for him as he was for Lance. Whatever this was between them, it was powerful. He kissed him harder.

Lance’s flinch and startled gasp pierced through his raging lust. Keith tore his mouth away from Lance’s. He saw the blood welling up on his lip.

Shit.” Keith cursed.

He had torn the new scab and Lance was bleeding again. The smell was intoxicating, but he felt sick. He had never hurt a guy he’d had sex with, ever. He was always careful. Abruptly, he let go of Lance, stepping back. His deep intake of breath was full of Lance’s sweetly spiced scent and fresh blood.

“I have to get out of here,” he whispered, turning to the door.

“Wait!” Lance called.

Keith couldn’t wait, he had to get out. He yanked open the door.

“I won’t be locked up!” The panic in Lance’s voice caused Keith to pause and yanked him around to look at him. It was a mistake. Lance looked vulnerable and vibrant at the same time.

Keith tried to keep his voice calm. “You’re perfectly safe here. I’m going to help you any way I can to break the curse on Acxa.”

Lance took a step towards the door. “Don’t lock me up. Please don’t lock me up again.”

Keith could smell the fear coming from Lance, a sickly-sweet scent that he didn’t like one bit coming from him. But for Lance’s safety, he had to get away from him. Resolutely ignoring the palpable fear, he said, “You’ll be fine.” He closed the door and engaged the lock.

There was a loud thud as something hit the door and shattered. “You hijo de puta!”

Lance had thrown the first thing he had gotten his hands on, a small pottery bowl, when Keith closed and locked the door. He walked over to the granite countertop and started searching through the drawers. He found more candles of all size and color. He found bowls and towels. There was a small mini fridge built in that was filled with bottled water and different oils. But there was nothing that would help him escape.

He walked to the door on the other side of the room and discovered a small bathroom. There were towels, soaps, shampoo, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a few other toiletries. But still nothing he could use.

Back in the room there was a small desk against the wall near the bed that had paper and pencils, but nothing else. Absolutely nothing he could use to escape or force them to let him out. But he had to get out. Adam would be frantic with worry, wondering what had happened to him. Hunk would be worried and angry. Lance wanted to help the girl, really he did, but he had never been able to control what it was inside of him. He had spent most of his life trying to contain it. Not that it had done him any good. People thought he was a freak. His grandfather never had accepted him. And now he was in a real mess.

But how could he leave that little girl? Acxa’s face was burned into his brain, horrible death mark and all. He rubbed his hand over his face and winced when he touched his sore cheek. Sore because of witch karma.

I’m really a witch. He had to face it, couldn’t hide from it or deny it anymore. Everything over the years added up. And when he had touched Keith’s lion, he had been able to feel what he was and what the curse had done to him.

But damn it, I’m not going to be locked up!

He studied the door. There was some sort of black pad in the center of a metal plate. Was it some sort of sensor or handprint lock? Maybe he could unlock it somehow. Anything was better than staying locked in the room. His breathing was starting to come in shorter breaths and he was starting to feel like the walls were closing in on him. He had to stay angry and hold on to that. But when he looked back at the door, he felt the familiar choking sensation squeezing his chest. The sensation of being closed in away from the world. He shivered, wrapping his arms around himself. Let me out! he thought desperately, feeling a wave of energy move through him.

Was that a click he heard? He ran to the door and tried to open it. But it was still locked. He was locked in a room. A dungeon below ground level. Panic started, increasing his breath more and causing his heart to pound. Memories of being locked in a small dark place overwhelmed him. He moaned softly, eyes darting back and forth with pupils dilated with fear. He grabbed a large metal stool from under the counter and raised it high above his head, bringing it down to crash against the lock. A loud clash echoed in the room. He tried the lock again, but it held fast. He was still locked in.

No fucking way.

He picked up the stool and hit the lock again and again until pain seared up his arms.

He dropped the stool, staring at the scratched but still engaged lock. He was panting and fighting against the choking claustrophobia. As a child, whenever he was this frightened, his lion had come to him and wrapped his body around him, making him feel safe. There was no lion here, no one to help him. The feeling of being closed in wrapped its icy fingers around his throat and chest and squeezed. Tears slid unheeded down his cheeks. He picked up the stool again. Forget the lock, he would bash the fucking door until it splintered and he could get out. He raised it over his head.

“Lance!” yelled a woman’s voice through the door. “Stop! Please stop. I’m opening the door, so please put the stool down.”

Lance stepped back but kept a tight hold on the stool. Could he maybe hit whoever it was and run?

The door swung open and there stood Krolia with Acxa behind her. Lance set the stool down. He couldn’t hit a woman, and sure as hell wouldn’t do it while her child watched. Nor would he risk hurting the child.

“Come out,” Krolia said. She held out her hand encouragingly. “There’s a kitchen down the hall. We’ll make some tea.”

Lance eyed her suspiciously. Was this some sort of trick? “Where is he?”

“Keith’s not here.” Krolia walked into the room and offered her hand again. She looked at his tear streaked face and took his hand. When she looked back up at him, her eyes were sincere with regret. “I saw you on the cameras, I’m sorry I didn’t get here in time. Your hand is swelling. Let’s get some ice on it.”

Chapter Text

The ice on Lance’s hand helped ease some of the pain. Krolia heated water for tea and poured milk to warm for Acxa. When Lance mentioned how he, too, enjoyed warm milk, she poured more into the pan to heat enough for them both.

Lance sat at the small table considering his options. Krolia said Keith wasn’t there, he could possibly get away from her and make a run for it. But he didn’t know where he was. Even though he had honestly tried to see where Keith took him, it was as though his memory was fogged. All he could remember was the dense forest around the house. And then there were the men who had tried to kill him. Were there truly more out there looking for him to finish the job?

“Do you like tea parties?” piped up Acxa. She was sitting across the table from Lance and seemed as though she was feeling better than she had been before. She watched Lance with huge eyes.

Lance felt himself that the tiniest bit. “I sure do! I loved playing tea party with my niece.”

Krolia placed a mug of warm milk in front of him and sat down with her tea. “Lance, I promise you we aren’t going to hurt you. We are desperate and we need you. Acxa shouldn’t have to suffer because of my ex-husband.”

He could see the worry etched plainly on the woman’s face. He found he could relate. “I understand. I just lost every single member of my family. If I could do something…if someone else could have done something to prevent the accident, I would have done the same thing.”

Krolia’s eyes filled with sympathy. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Lance shrugged. “Thank you. I still can’t believe it was only a couple of days ago.”

“Keith’s mad when I’m sick. The spot on my forehead makes him really mad,” Acxa said as she lifted her mug of milk. “He plays tea party with me lots. Sometimes Pidge does too, when she isn’t busy working on her computer.”

Lance felt the corners of his mouth twitch at the mental picture of the arrogant man playing tea party with his little sister.

Acxa kept up her chatter. “I wish I had my swing set here. When Keith pushes me, I can touch the clouds. Do you like to swing?”

Lance watched her as she took another sip of her milk. She was obviously a bright kid, and she adored her brother.

“Well? Do you?”

Lance realized Acxa was looking at him expectantly. “Do I what?”

Acxa frowned and looked at Lance like he might be a little slow. “Like to swing?”

For the first time he almost did smile. He couldn’t help it, the little girl was quite the charmer. “I love it. It feels like I’m flying. I loved that feeling as a kid.”

Acxa bounced in her chair. “Sometimes when Mom pushes me I jump out and Keith catches me.”

Krolia gave her daughter a mock stern look. “He also sneaks cookies and shares them with you when you two don’t think I’m looking,” she said. She reached across the table and took Lance’s uninjured hand. “I should have stopped Keith from locking you in. Please. I’ll do anything you want, but please help us. Help my little girl. Her and Keith are all I have left.”

Lance could feel Krolia’s powerful love and fear for Acxa sinking into his skin to touch his heart. If he did have the means to help this little girl, how could he possibly walk away?

The sound of footsteps jerked Lance awake. He bit his lip to keep from crying out in pain. His entire body hurt.

Keith walked in wearing a dark t-shirt and jeans. He had a steaming cup in one hand and a large bag in the other. He put the bag on the desk and walked towards him. “Here. Drink this. Mom made it to help with the soreness and to keep your hands busy so you leave my furniture alone.”

Lance sat up in the bed and gave him a sour look. “Oh the big bad hunter is concerned? How touching.” He glared at the mug Keith held out to him.

Keith raised an eyebrow. “It’s just tea with herbs. It will help calm your nerves.”

“As if I would trust you.” Lance was too sore and tired to fight. He wanted to go home. His right hand felt like he’d put it through a meat grinder. He flexed it, trying to work out the stiffness and tenderness.

Keith set the tea to one side and wrapped his fingers around his wrist, dropping to his haunches to look at his hand. Lance tried to snatch his hand back but Keith held him in a firm yet gentle grip. “It’s not broken, but you bruised the hell out of it,” Keith said, frowning.

“Yeah, well, I figured I’d give the whole witchcraft thing a go. The guys who attacked me last night swore I was holding the door closed with witchcraft, so I tried to summon that intensity to open the door. Needless to say, it didn’t work,” Lance huffed. It was a little insulting to be forced to acknowledge that he was something other than mortal, then fail at that when he needed it most.

Keith lifted his gaze. “The locks are a special design. Even if you tripped one lock with your powers, another would engage automatically. It will do the same thing with physical force, like smashing it with a stool. There is no way for you to escape.”

Lance stared at him. “I won’t be locked up.”

Keith stroked his wrist with his thumb. ‘‘I get that.”

Keith’s touch eased the pain in Lance’s wrist. It made him nervous that he responded to Keith unlike he had to any other man. “I want to go home.”

Keith kept up his stroking motion on his wrist. “You can’t. Make no mistake, the Galras are after you. I ran into two last night at your apartment. You’re safer here where I can protect you.”

“You went to my apartment?”

“I got you some clothes and some things you might need. You were safe. My mom is a crack shot if it comes down to it.” He was still stroking Lance’s wrist.

“I didn’t see a gun when she let me out last night,” Lance said. There hadn’t been anywhere in Krolia’s sweats that indicated she was carrying a gun.

“The gun is for protection, not to hurt you. We only want to save Acxa’s life. Mom was worried about you,” Keith answered. He reached down with his free hand and retrieved the hot tea. He held it where Lance could take it. “Drink.”

Lance took the tea. If Keith wanted him dead, he would wait until his sister was uncursed, so the tea was probably safe. “What about the Galras at my apartment?” he asked as he took a sip.

Keith’s mouth tightened. “They’re dead.”

Lance nearly choked on his tea. “What?”

Keith let go of his hand. “They attacked me, and I killed them.”

Lance stared at Keith. He was an mystery. He played with his baby sister, loved his mother, and killed that easily. Just who is this freaking guy?

“Drink your tea, then take a hot shower. My office is across the hall. I’ll wait for you there and we’ll figure out what to do next,” Keith said as he stood.

Lance glanced up at the mounted cameras in either corner. “Are there cameras in the bathroom?” he asked nervously.

Keith’s violet eyes flared for a second as he rose to his feet. “No. None of the bathrooms in the house have cameras. The rest of the house is wired with cameras and security devices.”

Lance wasn’t about to strip down for Keith’s viewing pleasure. “How do I know you’re telling me the truth?” he questioned.

Keith looked down at him. “I don’t need cameras if I want to spy on you, Lance.” He faded from view, causing Lance to gasp and nearly drop his mug, and then materialized again right before his very eyes.

“What did you just do?” demanded Lance.

“Witch hunters are predators. We can shield our presence and we can be deadly quiet,” Keith explained.

Lance’s skin prickled in memory. “That’s why I didn’t see those two men last night. I knew there was something there, but I couldn’t see anything. And then the next thing I know, they were just there.”

Keith’s voice pulsed with anger. “You saw them when they wanted you to. Terror drops adrenaline into your blood and gives them more power as they bleed you. Hunters can hide behind a shield and be invisible. And we’re fast.”

Lance shuddered. He opened his mouth to ask more questions when Keith cut him off. “You have complete privacy in the bathroom. Your clothes are in that bag.” He gestured towards the desk. “Get moving. We have less than a week for you to spell the curse off of Acxa. I’ll be across the hall waiting for you.” Keith turned and left.

The struggle in the air eased. Lance knew it came from Keith fighting the compulsion he’d told him about and struggling not become a Galra himself. He finished his tea and went to take his shower. Fifteen minutes later he walked across to Keith’s office wearing his own jeans, t-shirt, and a pair of black Converses. The idea of Keith going through his underwear drawer was vaguely unsettling, but it wasn’t creepy like the idea of Galras having been there was. He felt more like himself with his own clean clothes on, more in control of himself that he hadn’t felt since Keith had saved him.

Keith was sitting behind a large desk. When Lance entered the office, he turned to look at him. His violet eyes swept over him from his still damp hair down to his shoes. Lance looked back at him, taking in just how attractive Keith was. His t-shirt was stretched tight over muscle and emphasized his broad shoulders. He was holding a cup of tea in a mug and gulped as he noticed how pretty the man’s hands were, even if he knew the man had stained those hands with blood.

If Keith wanted his blood, truthfully, Lance was at his mercy. They were isolated, in the middle of nowhere. Having seen Keith’s disappearing act, Lance knew he had somehow shielded him from being able to track where they were. He didn’t trust him.

But he was drawn to him, and especially to the lion. When he had touched the lion on Keith’s skin, he had felt safe. And there had been more, as though there was something inside of him the lion could show him. Maybe he really was crazy.

Keith gestured to a thermos on his desk. “There’s more tea if you want. Or coffee over there,” he said, pointing to a coffeemaker on a table across the way. “My mom will bring breakfast for you soon.” He looked at Lance intently for a moment, then spoke again. “Don’t run, Lance. Don’t run from me,” he warned, his voice hard.

Lance had started to look down towards the kitchen but Keith’s last words caught his attention. “Yeah, I get it. You the big bad hunter that could take me down in an instant,” he quipped, mirroring Keith’s harsh tone.

Keith glared at him. “You look like hell; black eye, split lip, not much sleep...”

Annoyed, Lance strode into the room. “Thanks. It’s a new look I’m trying. Called ‘Taken and Sexually Harassed’. You should try it some time.”

He picked the thermos up from the desk and refilled his mug. Up until Keith opened his big mouth, he had been feeling pretty good. The tea and the shower had helped with the pain and swelling. He heard a snort of laughter that didn’t come from Keith.

“Where the hell did that come from? Who else is here?” he demanded, looking around and seeing a couch, several bookshelves and a flat screen TV. He remembered the way Keith had disappeared. Son of a…is there someone else hiding in here?

Keith put his coffee down and hit a button on his computer keyboard. “Look behind you.”

Lance glanced over his shoulder and nearly dropped his tea. “Santa mierda!” he yelped as the TV came to life and a face materialized on the screen; dark black hair with white bangs, dark eyes, hard jaw, scar across the bridge of his nose. He was huge. The image on the screen was so clear Lance could see the small black hoop in his pierced lip. “Who the hell is that? Where is he?”

Keith got up and walked around to sit on the edge of the desk not far from Lance. “He’s kinda like my brother. He’s video conferencing from our warehouse a few miles away. Shiro’s been looking for ways to link you to other witches. They won’t have anything to do with us, but they should respond to you.”

Lance tore his eyes from the screen to look at Keith. “Shiro? He’s…like you?”

“A witch hunter,” Keith supplied.

“Is he a Galra?” asked Lance.

The man chuckled. “Shiro, show him your palm,” Keith said.

The man on the screen held up his hand. Obviously he could see and hear them. Keith motioned to the screen. “See the lines on his hand?”

Lance nodded once. He did. “And?” he asked. What did that have to do with anything?

“A Galra has no lines on their palms. When they kill a witch and lose their soul, their lifelines vanish. When a Galra dies without his soul, he becomes a celestial with no form and no world, forced to forever roam the emptiness between the worlds,” Keith explained.

Shiro broke in. “See the screen? These are Galras.” The screen split and Shiro moved to the left. On the right was an image of two men. Like Keith and apparently Shiro, they were huge and muscular, but something wasn’t quite right. Their faces didn’t match their physique. Their faces looked almost feminine, with no beard shadow, almost as though they didn’t have to shave. Their skin appeared smooth and hairless…and a pale shade of purple.

“Why do Galras look almost female in some ways and very male in others? AND like Violet from Willy Wonka?” asked Lance.

“Witch blood is absorbed through the skin. Since most witches are female, we assume that’s the cause,” Shiro said. When Lance bristled slightly, he quickly added, “I did say most witches. We can clearly tell you’re a male Lance.”

Lance wasn’t quite mollified but went back to staring at the Galras onscreen. They looked like the two that had attacked him at the shop, but something else bothered him. “There was a man at the cemetery after my family’s funeral. He looked like the Galras you showed me. His eyes were golden blue and...”

Keith made a low noise in the back of his throat. “That sounds like Lotor. He assigned my father to kill you, who tried giving me the job. It was how I was able to find you.”

Lance blinked in surprise. “Your father? He’s a Galra?”

“Yeah. Lotor was most likely there to verify that you were a witch before giving the task over to my dear old dad. If he’d been there to kill you, believe me, you’d be dead,” Keith said.

What it must be like to know your father was a cold-blooded killer. Lance had an insane urge to touch Keith, to try and ease some of the hardness that lived inside him. But he contained himself. Keith had kidnapped him and he had already told him he could barely control his craving for his blood. He was fighting against becoming like his father. “How did the curse happen?” Lance asked instead, pushing away his thoughts.

“Years ago three demon witches captured three hunters. They planned to curse them with a spell that would bind their souls as familiars, but the curse caught up all of the elemental witches and witch hunters working together to stop it. It was one huge clusterfuck,” Keith replied.

“So back then, witches and hunters got along?” Lance asked him.

Keith nodded. “Hunters protected elemental witches and, in return, witches cast protection spells over their families so demon witches couldn’t use them as leverage. If something like a death curse got through, the witches would heal the victim, and the hunters would find the demon witch and kill her, then provide protection for the witch who broke the curse.”

That caught Lance’s attention. “The demon witch goes after the one who undoes a curse?” So he would have a demon witch coming after him. Great. How in the hell am I going to protect myself? Once Keith is done with me, I’m going to be on my own.

“Lance, you have to do this,” Shiro spoke from the screen. “We’ll figure out a way to protect you. The only other choice we have is for Keith to hunt down the witch and kill her.”

“And then he’ll go Galra,” Lance said softly, grasping the situation. What choice did he have? He couldn’t let the little girl die. He didn’t really want the responsibility for Keith’s soul on his shoulders, but he wouldn’t walk away. If he left, Galras were sure to find him. And they might kill others to get to him. He couldn’t endanger his employees, his friends, or even Adam and Hunk.

“Oh, God, Hunk and Adam,” he gasped. “I need to call them, just to let them know I’m okay.”

Keith shot off the desk. “Adam? Hunk? Who the hell are they?”

“Shit, Keith! Back off!” Shiro’s voice roared through the room.

Lance was startled. He didn’t know what had changed Keith. He’d been tense, but not like this.

Keith moved in closer. “Answer me, Lance. Who are they? Boyfriends?”

Lance looked up and saw Keith’s jaw was tight and his pupils enlarged. A surge of anger took place of his fear. He’d been attacked, kidnapped, locked up, and he was sick and tired of being pushed around. “Who I sleep with is none of your damn business estúpido! I have a life outside this mess you’ve wrangled me into and there is nothing you can do about it.”

Keith sucked in a breath. The air around them practically quivered with his fury. “You aren’t going to be going out to fuck someone while I try to save Acxa!” He turned around and stormed out of the room.

“Oh, my fucking...Hunk and Adam are practically my brothers! It’s nothing like that! Get your mind out of the gutter!” Lance yelled as he balled his fists at his sides, starting to tremble as his own temper rose. A slamming door was his answer. “Sí, culo, sólo vete! ¡Huir! ¿Tienes miedo de la bruja?” He shook his head angrily. Maybe he had gone insane, saying something like that, believing he was just that, a witch.

Except it wasn’t crazy. He knew it. Maybe some part of him had always known. He always had been different.

“You realize it’s the bloodlust making him jealous and unreasonable, right?” Shiro spoke from the screen.

Lance stomped around the desk and plopped down in Keith’s chair. He needed to calm down. “Does everyone bow down to him? I won’t be pushed around.”

Shiro sighed heavily. “You’re gonna drive him to kill you.”

Lance stared back at the screen. “Sorry, I don’t buy the whole ‘I’m the leader and you will follow everything I say or suffer the consequences’ excuse. I’m not the type to cower.”

“Noted,” Shiro answered dryly.

Lance looked around the office. There wasn’t any phone. He would find a way to contact Hunk and Adam, but it was starting to hit him that even if he survived this and cured Acxa, he could never go back home to his friends. The Galras would kill anyone to get him. And to top all of it, he was going to have to piss off a demon witch in the process. His grandfather had been right. He was a dangerous embarrassment. He had worked so hard to prove him wrong, show that he was worthy of acceptance and love. What a load of shit. He was a witch, a magical creature, and chased by an evil that would force him into hiding forever. How could he ever fall in love and subject a man to that? Lance sighed. One step at a time. First, find out how to be a witch.

Lance had been working for a couple of hours. The witch loops were rejecting him. All said the same thing, that these were dangerous times and he would need two sponsors who knew him and could swear he wasn’t a demon witch. Apparently Galras had at one point posed as witches and lured others to kill them. Feeling restless and frustrated he got up from the desk to pace the room.

“Keith says you used witchcraft to try to stab him with his knife. How did you do that?” Shiro asked from the screen.

Lance frowned, thinking it over. “Fear, I think,” he said after a few moments. “He was dragging me downstairs and I thought he might kill me. I felt hot energy from somewhere ball up in my chest then rush out.”

“Can you just summon that up?” Shiro asked, his voice laced in interest.

“I’m not sure. When I’m scared, I don’t think, I just react. How can I recreate that?” Lance rubbed at his temples.

“You’ve gotta try. Lives are at risk here. Yours and Acxa’s, not to mention Keith’s soul. Just try.”

Lance whirled around to glare at the image. “Damn it, don’t you think I am? I tried with everything I had to get out of that godforsaken room last night. I don’t know how or what the hell I’m doing! And you dare to tell me I need to try!”

He turned his back on the screen and stormed over to the laptop. He opened a blank email and typed in Hunk’s address.

“What are you doing?” Shiro’s voice came from behind him.

“I’m sending an email to Hunk, then Adam,” Lance retorted.

“No you won’t.”

Lance’s head snapped up and he turned to glare at Shiro. “I have been kidnapped, locked in a room, and pushed around enough. Hunk and Adam will be worried about me. I am going to tell them I’m okay and you’re going to let me.”

Shiro’s dark eyes narrowed. “It isn’t safe to contact anyone.”

“Oh, so just the witches, I guess?” Lance shot back.

“We need them,” Shiro answered in a cool voice.

Lance’s jaw tightened with anger. “Send this email, Shiro. Please.”

Shiro’s stare was imperturbable. “Calm down. You have to be reasonable. You can’t do magic if you lose control.”

Calm down? He wants me to calm down! Fury worked its way up from Lance’s belly and threatened to boil over. With a shaking hand, he hit the Send button repeatedly on the keyboard. “Just go, damn it!” he snarled in frustration when it just sat there taunting him. Then suddenly it faded away. Lance stared at the screen, unsure.

“You’re wasting your time. All emails go through me and Pidge. If you send that, we’ll just delete it,” Shiro said.

But didn’t the email just disappear, like it had been sent? Lance had to think. Had he somehow bypassed Shiro and sent the mail to Hunk? He couldn’t keep staring at the computer so he got up to pace so as not to make Shiro suspicious. Could he do magic? Send email with magic? What about the warning emails he had gotten from himself about the hunters?

Another male voice broke into his thoughts. “Lance, only you can hear me.”

Lance nearly jumped out of his skin. He swung around and caught his foot on the foot of the desk, throwing his balance off and dumping him on his ass. Sprawled on the floor, he looked up at the laptop. An avatar of Atlas, a statuesque man holding up the earth, stared back at him from the screen. A voice came from the screen. “Don’t let anyone know I’m talking to you, Lance.”

Lance blinked. Was this real? Who was he? What if he had moved from hearing voices in his head to seeing characters to go with the voices?

“What happened, Lance?” called Shiro from the TV screen.

“I tripped over this stupid desk,” Lance said as he climbed to his feet, keeping his gaze on the avatar. The voice was undeniably male but had a digitized quality to it…and sounded strangely familiar. When he moved, the eyes of the avatar followed him.

“Tell him you need a break. Take the computer where he can’t see you,” the voice instructed.

Lance tried to think. It wasn’t like he could grab the laptop and run. There were cameras in his room so he couldn’t go there. Or could he? “I need to take a break.”

“We don’t have time for breaks, Lance,” Shiro replied.

Lance turned to give Shiro a frosty look. “Too bad. I think I cut my leg when I fell. I’m going to go into the bathroom to clean it, then I’m going to get a glass of water. Or is that against the rules too?”

Shiro looked wary. “Okay. Go on then.”

Lance looked back to the laptop. How could he get Shiro to let him take it? He dropped his shoulders in a show of resignation. “Look, I’ll take the laptop into my room and work there. I need time to think.”

Shiro’s eyes were hard. “Fine. Remember any emails you send will go through my computer and I’ll see them.”

Lance snatched up the laptop. “Right. Big Bad Hunter Brother’s watching.” He made sure to sell the performance, walking with a slight limp and going into his room. His heart was beating so hard he could hear the blood rushing in his ears. Who was it in the laptop? Was it a witch? Maybe his mind had finally snapped. He thought of the emails from himself and the phone call to the shop before the Galras showed up. He glanced up at the two cameras mounted near the ceiling. His only hope was the bathroom. He walked into the small lavatory and closed the door, turning on the water for good measure. He sat on the edge of the tub and held the computer on his lap. “Who are you?”

The avatar looked at him warningly. “No one must hear you talking to me, Lance. They can’t hear you, can they?”

Lance shook his head. “Not so far as I know. Keith said the bathrooms don’t have surveillance equipment in them. Tell me who you are.”

“I’ll show you, but you have to make absolutely sure no one can see the screen.”

Lance believed Keith when he said there were no cameras in the bathroom. But to be sure, he twisted so his back was to the wall and angled the computer so no ceiling camera could see the screen. “Okay,” he said, feeling breathless with anticipation.

The picture on the screen pixelated, then rearranged themselves into a new face. One he recognized. “Adam? But how...”

“Shhh, don’t say my name. Call me Atlas when you talk to me.” The picture blurred again and sharpened back into Atlas. “I called Hunk about an hour after you didn’t show last night. You weren’t answering your cell phone and I had a really bad feeling, especially after you told me about the guy that spooked you at your family’s funeral. Hunk’s been looking for you. When he told me what he found at the shop, I knew you’d been taken by witch hunters. I can’t believe you’re still alive. Galras don’t wait to kill.”

Lance could hear the emotion in his voice. “Keith and his group aren’t Galra,” he said without thinking. His mind was swirling. Adam is a freaking witch too? Nothing was what it seemed. Did he actually know anything anymore? He didn’t even know his best friend like he thought. “You’re a witch? How are you contacting me? Shiro has the computer bugged or something.”

The avatar nodded, smiling gently. “I’m a witch. I knew you were a witch the first moment I met you. You didn’t know, and it didn’t seem like you wanted to know.”

Betrayal mixed in with Lance’s relief and confusion. “But why didn’t you say anything?”

“Lance, all of us witches are in hiding these days. Our powers have been weakened by the curse and we’re being slaughtered by the Galras. I figured you were safer for not knowing. I didn’t think you would get a Galra’s attention if you lived as a mortal.” Adam paused before continuing. “Let’s get you somewhere safe and you can be mad at me all you want.”

Lance swallowed. Despite everything, he felt less alone and scared. “How are you talking to me? Why didn’t Shiro hear you?”

“I went on the witch loops just hoping I might hear something about you. I saw your emails requesting to join.”

Lance interrupted. “My emails went through? I tried to mail Hunk, but I didn’t know if it worked.”

“It must have. I’m projecting my avatar with magic. The hunter didn’t hear me because I funneled my voice directly to your chakras so only you could hear.”

Lance felt stupid. “My what?”

“Your chakras. Seven levels of magical energy inside of you. Every witch has them.”

“I have so much to learn,” Lance said, feeling his head swim.

The avatar nodded again. “I’ll teach you enough to get out of there, and then you can learn all you want. Do you know where you are?”

“No. And I’m not leaving anyway.” Lance’s words surprised even him, but he realized he was telling the truth.

“You have to! It’s too dangerous!”

“There’s a little girl here. Her name’s Acxa and she’s got the death mark,” Lance said, trying to make him understand. “I have to help her, Ad-Atlas.”

Adam’s voice cracked with regret. “You can’t. It’s spell magic. Witches were there when the curse happened. It broke our bond with our familiars and weakened our magic. We can’t do that kind of magic without a familiar, and we can’t get familiars anymore.”

Lance closed his eyes, picturing that beautiful little girl with the death mark on her forehead. He opened them and looked around. He saw his moisturizers and his hair products that Keith had brought him. Little things, but they made him feel better. Keith had him at his mercy, but he had gone out of his way to get him things he thought he might want. He looked back at the computer screen.

“I have to try. Keith told me the Galras have me at the top of their kill list. Two of them caught me at the shop last night. They had already cut me once when Keith showed up, killed them, and took me. I’m safer here. He won’t kill me, at least not until I save his sister.”

The Atlas picture closed its eyes and its face crumpled in grief. “We’ll leave together. Go into hiding.”

“No. I can’t get away right now. I have to learn magic and you can help me. Please. I need you.” He turned off the water, sure he had been in the bathroom far longer than was a good idea. “I can’t stay in here much longer.”

“Okay. I’ll do what I can to help you.”

Chapter Text

Keith and Krolia both tried to read to Acxa.

“I want Matt to read to me,” Acxa whined as she kicked her legs in protest.

Krolia put her arm around her. “Matt isn’t here. He can’t come here, honey, and it isn’t safe for you to leave.”

Tears welled in Acxa’s eyes and her lip trembled. “Matt doesn’t like me anymore because I’m sick.”

Keith pulled out his phone and dialed Pidge’s number, helpless rage and frustration coursing through him at his sister’s tears. When voicemail picked up, Keith ended the call with a frustrated growl. “Shit.”

“Shit,” agreed Acxa with a sob.

Keith was caught between laughing and throwing something. Instead he lifted Acxa into his lap. “You know that’s a bad word, Acxa,” he said as he tenderly wiped her tears.

“You said it,” Acxa argued weakly.

“I’m a grown up,” Keith said.

“So I can say it when I grow up?”

God, yes. Let her grow up and she can say it every damned day. “You bet. Why don’t I call Matt and you leave him a message?”

“Don’t wanna,” Acxa whispered as she laid her head on his shoulder. She was already getting sick. His happy, bubbly, chatterbox sister was turning into a fretful sickly child.

Krolia stood, fear showing raw on her face. “Let’s put her in her bed.”

Keith followed his mom to the room he’d had set up for her and Acxa. Matt and Shiro had brought a lot of Acxa’s things to help her feel more comfortable and secure while Pidge had worked on fixing up the room for Lance. But none of the preparations mattered if they didn’t figure out how to remove the death curse.

By the time he laid her in the bed, Acxa was fast asleep. Krolia tucked her stuffed Ariel in next to her and gently stroked her hair. Keith gave them both a last long look, then stalked into his bedroom, through the closet and downstairs.

Lance had better be making progress. He had fed Shiro some cock and bull story about a witch suddenly appearing on the laptop and agreeing to help him. Shiro said the other witch was using magic to hide behind an avatar and he couldn’t track them. They didn’t know where the witch calling himself Atlas was or why he popped up to talk to Lance when all the witch loops had rejected him. He was a witch if he was using magic, but what if it was a demon witch trying to cause trouble?

As he stepped off the last step and into the hallway, he heard Lance say excitedly, “I can feel it! It’s opening! I did it!”

What the hell is he getting excited about? Keith hurried down the short hall and turned into Lance’s room. Lance was sitting cross legged on the cold tile floor with his hands folded in his lap and staring at an orange candle that flickered gently with his slow and even breathing. An empty bowl was next to Lance’s knee.

Confused, Keith asked, “Feel what opening?”

“Keith!” Lance yelped in surprise, jerking and throwing his hands up. A thin stream of water flew from his hands and hit Keith in the chest.

Keith looked down at his now soaked shirt in astonishment. “What…the…hell?”

Lance’s blue eyes lit up and sparkled, filled with joy. “I got water! I did it! It’s water, I did water! The second chakra!” His face sobered. “Oh, um, you’re kind of wet. I was trying to get the water into the bowl.”

Keith wondered if he’d done it on purpose, so he leaned against the doorframe and crossed one ankle over the other, watching Lance and waiting to see what happened.

Lance raised an eyebrow at him. “What?”

“Oh, nothing, just waiting to see if you get drenched with witch karma,” Keith replied airily, gaze steady.

Lance leapt to his feet and waved a hand. “Oh, please, you big baby, it’s just a little water. You weren’t harmed. I’m pretty sure shit floats.”

“That’s too bad,” Keith said, eyeing the tight white t-shirt Lance wore. He definitely wouldn’t mind seeing it wet and clinging to his skin. A sudden flash of need ran through his veins, making him hot. He inhaled slowly and caught the sweet ocean and spicy scent of Lance, which only intensified his need. It had to be because he had touched his blood.

Lance narrowed his eyes at him. “The third chakra is fire,” he said, trying to ignore Keith’s heated gaze.

Keith quickly reined in his thoughts. He was there to check progress, after all. He pulled off his wet shirt and used it to wipe his chest.

“What are you doing?” Lance asked him, his voice a little higher pitched than normal.

“Drying off.” Or cooling off, I guess is the correct answer.

He was trying to cool off by running the cool wet cloth over his overheated skin. But the witch didn’t need to know that. He tossed his shirt onto Lance’s bed, then turned back to him. “This Atlas person is teaching you something then?” he asked.

Lance’s face dimmed. “Yes. But it’s going to be more complicated than I thought to heal Acxa. The curse affected witches too, and we can’t do spell magic.”

Keith forgot his lust as suspicion rose in him. What the hell has this Atlas been telling him? “You will do this, Lance.”

“I’m trying here man!” Lance protested. “But I have to learn low magic first, magic in my first four chakras. Then I will try to figure out high magic using the last three chakras...”

“Wait,” Keith interrupted. “Please explain chakras. I might be a hunter but I didn’t have quite the upbringing on how witches operate their magic.” He knew many things about witches. His dad had been sure to teach him how to cut them to disconnect them from their powers, for example. But he knew nothing of where exactly, other than the earth, their magic came from.

Lance was cleaning up his work area. “A witch has seven chakras. The first is at the base of the spine, called the earth chakra. It’s red and connects us with the earth. That’s why I was sitting on the floor, to try to be more connected to the earth and try to access my second chakra.” He blew out the candle before putting it on the counter.

Keith noticed the open laptop with its screensaver on the screen. Was Atlas behind that watching and listening to them? He looked back at Lance. “And water is the second chakra.”

Lance nodded. “It’s here.” He laid a hand flat on his pelvis.

Keith stared at Lance’s palm resting on the zipper of his jeans, wanting nothing more than to move his hand, unzip those snug jeans, and lay his own hand on that second chakra. “Go on,” he grunted, forcing himself to look back up at Lance’s face.

“I was just feeling that chakra open when you walked in,” Lance explained.

Fucking hell. Keith tried to push that thought out of his mind.

“By opening the chakras, I have access to the power,” Lance continued. “The fire chakra is third. It’s yellow and located here.” He ran his hand up his stomach to roughly where his solar plexus was. “The fourth chakra is air. It’s green.” He raised both hands to cover his chest. “Once I can open those chakras, I can pull the power of the elements through them. With practice, I will learn to control the magic. See where I’m going with this?”

Keith was trying hard not to see. Trying not to visualize each spot on Lance’s body where a chakra was. Trying not to imagine tracing each of those places with his fingers – or better yet, his tongue. Focus, damn it! “But those won’t help take the curse off Acxa?”

Lance shook his head. “No. That takes high magic. Spell magic comes through the higher chakras. Chakra five is blue. Here.” He put his hand on his throat. “Communication. Where we bring elemental and spell magic together. Plus we need a familiar, and that’s a problem.”


Lance sighed quietly. “We can’t get familiars. The curse broke our bond with our familiars. We were affected just as bad as the hunters.”

Keith closed his eyes briefly in frustration. Bad news and more bad news. Can’t we just catch a break? “You can’t do the spell without a familiar?” Hunters knew witches had been weakened, but not specific details. They weren’t exactly on the level of exchanging information.

Lance sat on one of the stools by the counter. He raised his eyes to meet Keith’s gaze. “I’m going to try. I need to get in control of at least six of my chakras. The sixth one is here,” he said, touching his forehead, “and it’s the third eye. The color is indigo and that’s where I’ll connect with the Alteans to ask them to help me. It seems that since the curse no one’s connected with the Alteans at all. The final chakra, the seventh, is violet and on the top of the head. It’s knowledge and spiritual connection. Barely any witch has been successful in connection with that final chakra point.”

Keith found himself impressed, assuming what Lance was saying was true. “So the problem is that you have to learn the chakras and how to control the powers, then find a way to get a familiar to be able to do a spell, right?”

“As far as I can tell,” replied Lance. “Atlas tells me there’s much more to learn, but this is where I have to start.”

After a pregnant pause, Keith asked, “Lance, who is Atlas?”

Lance’s eyes fell to Keith’s chest. “I don’t know. He just appeared when I was taking some time to catch my thoughts.”

Keith had a feeling Lance wasn’t telling him the truth. “Then how do you know you can trust him?” Lance looked down and tried to twist his stool away. Keith moved quickly to the stool, forcing his legs apart to stand between them and trapping him there. “Look at me. At my eyes, not my chest,” Keith said. “You’re keeping something from me witch.”

Lance’s witch shimmer darkened to a darker blue with hints of black. When Keith saw that, he knew Lance was physically reacting to him. But was he lying, too? Keeping Atlas’s identity a secret?


Lance looked up at him quickly. “Back off, Keith. I told you before I wasn’t a witch…well, I didn’t know I was a witch. I’m doing all I can.”

Is he? Or is he trying to gain his powers to escape? The idea sprouted deep in Keith’s belly. No. His witch. His. The blood curse was burning, trying to take over and bring out the animal in him. He fought it down, keeping his hands clenched into fists at his sides and concentrating on his breathing. As the moment stretched out, Lance grew tense and agitated. Like a tidal wave, the spicy scent of power slammed into Keith, igniting the burn under his skin and cramping in his gut. His brain fogged over. He could easily take what he wanted from Lance; his knife was in its holster in the small of his back...

The sound of rushing water exploded in the room, shocking his bloodlust back down to a simmer. Lance jerked back, nearly falling off the stool. Keith grabbed him and pulled him to his chest, his instinct now to protect and shield him. Looking into the bathroom, he could see the faucet at the sink, as well as the shower, running full blast. When he turned his head, the sink in the bar counter had turned on, too.

No threat to Lance. Had he sensed his bloodlust rising? Keith eased Lance back to the stool and looked at him, noticing his face was flushed. “Your power turned on the water?”

“I felt that chakra open, so I guess I did. It wasn’t a conscious decision.” Lance frowned at Keith. “You’re making me kinda nervous.”

Shit. He’d scared Lance. Keith tried to reassure himself that he would have controlled himself, that he wouldn’t have actually hurt Lance. Now that he was touching him, bloodlust had faded and sexual lust was pounding through him along with an almost suffocating need to protect. He held Lance with one hand behind his head and the other on his shoulder. He looked at the running water. “Can you turn it off with witchcraft?” he asked curiously.

Lance turned his head and looked at the streaming faucet nearest to them. It shut off. Keith felt a jolt run through him. Was it the curse reacting to Lance’s powers?

“I did it!” Lance looked back up at Keith, laughing triumphantly.

Keith focused on Lance’s face, on his excitement, his joy in discovering what he was capable of and his success. He focused on the masculine beauty he wanted to taste. Lance was Keith’s opposite, of what he was and what he could become. Keith longed to have more of it, more of Lance. He slowly lowered his head to touch his lips to Lance’s.

Lance exhaled into Keith’s mouth and it fired hot through his blood. Yes. That was what he wanted, what he needed; Lance’s very breath. Keith pressed harder until Lance opened his mouth wider, Lance’s entire body leaning into him and his skin growing hotter until the need and desire flowed off him like the water he could control with his power.

Keith wanted to drown in it, to drown in Lance. He plunged his tongue into Lance’s mouth, wanting to taste him down to all seven chakras. The feel of Lance’s hands caressing his arms and chest inflamed him, nearly driving him insane. He was hard to the point that he didn’t think he could pull back, and he didn’t want to. When Lance’s hand slid over his shoulder to touch his tattoo, Keith growled and slid his hands under Lance’s ass to lift him up against him, grinding their hard cocks together.

“Get away from him!” demanded a digitalized voice that blasted throughout the room.

Keith ripped his mouth away from Lance’s, his entire body on protective alert to find and destroy anything that dared interrupt them, or threaten Lance.

The screensaver was no longer on the laptop. Instead Atlas stared balefully at him from the screen.

“Atlas,” he growled. Damn the computer and damn the witch behind the picture. His head was pounding with lust and his longing for Lance was so intense he burned with it. Every inch of his skin craved him. Even his lion tattoo felt tight and hot in a way it hadn’t since he’d gone under Matt’s needle.

“Let go of me,” Lance said softly. When Keith let him go, he wrapped his arms around himself and moved back on the stool.

“Yes, I’m Atlas. Get a hold of yourself, hunter. If you kill Lance, your sister will die,” spat the avatar.

Keith nearly shook his head. He had wanted to strip Lance naked and possess him, not kill him. But for a moment, before the water came on and he actually touched him, he had nearly been swept up in bloodlust. He changed the subject. “Why are you hiding? How do I know you aren’t tricking Lance? Or if you’re a demon witch just trying to use us?”

The avatar scoffed, “You of all people should know that I’m forced to hide because of Galra hunters. I’m helping Lance. I’m not the one who kidnapped him.”

Lance met Keith’s gaze levelly. “The witch loops won’t help me. Atlas is teaching me what I need to know. Without him I won’t know what to do.”

“Lance wasn’t raised as a witch. He is having to learn magic from the beginning, things witches are normally taught from childhood. We haven’t been able to remove a death mark in years, either. You are demanding him to do the impossible,” Atlas added.

Keith felt a sinking sensation in his gut. If that was true, he would have no other option but to find the demon witch and kill her. “I won’t let Acxa die.”

Atlas’s face and voice softened a bit. “Then let Lance work, let him learn. Maybe we will find out a way to achieve the impossible. The best thing for you to do right now hunter is let me teach Lance what I can.”

Keith remembered all Lance had told him of chakras, spell magic and elemental magic. He hadn’t known to what extent the witches had been damaged by the curse. “None of you can talk to your Alteans?” Just like the hunters could no longer reach The Blade? For hunters it had been the lions that talked directly to The Blade. He had the lion tattoo now, but he didn’t know what it meant, especially since he still craved witch blood because of the curse.

Atlas spoke, cutting into his thoughts. “No. And we need the Alteans for spell magic, which is the only thing that can break the death mark.”

Lance leaned towards the computer. “What are the Alteans?”

“Witches evolved from special mortals who began to reincarnate when they died. Each lifetime, they gained in power and knowledge. In our death cycle we go to Oriande to rest, review, and go to the next life cycle. But some souls grew so evolved that they no longer wished to reincarnate. They stayed in Oriande as spirit guides. They assist in learning and in spell magic when we can call upon them. When the curse happened, elemental witches broke through the demon witch shield and entered the grove with the witch hunters. Witches souls were torn from them, just like the hunters. And the connection with our familiars and the Alteans was severed,” Atlas explained.

Lance nibbled his lower lip and looked as though he were deep in thought. “What?” Keith asked him.

Lance looked closely at the screen. “So before the curse, what was communication with the Alteans like? Was it just like having a normal conversation? With any witch?”

“Most witches have some form of communication with the Alteans when they open the sixth chakra, the third eye. They may hear voices, or receive a sign. But some witches, a very few...” Atlas’s voice trailed off as her eyes narrowed.

“A few witches what?” Lance asked as he concentrated on the screen.

“Can hear Altean voices without opening chakras. They may get a message in their dreams or even sometimes when they’re awake. I’ve heard they also hear the voices like a murmur in their head at any given time.”

Lance stared at the screen unblinkingly. “So they could contact a witch…by email?” His hands started fiddling with the hem of his t-shirt and his breathing picked up slightly.

Keith’s tension grew with Lance’s agitation. “What do you mean?”

Lance turned to him. “Do you remember me telling you about the man who scared me at the funeral, and you said it was that man named Lotor? And he’s a Galra hunter?” When Keith nodded, Lance continued, “That night I got an email warning me that hunters had found me. As if that wasn’t strange enough, it came from my own account, as though I’d sent it to myself. But how could I have done so? I didn’t know I was a witch, didn’t know anything about hunters or Galras. And before I got attacked at my shop, I got another email, plus a phone call with a computerized voice telling me to run. And when I got outside, those Galras were there.”

Keith’s tattoo was warm enough that he could feel the outline of the lion. “You didn’t send the emails to yourself, so you think the Alteans did?”

Lance’s gaze moved back and forth between Keith and Atlas and then settled back on Keith. “I hear voices. I always have. When I was really young, I used to talk to them, like they were my imaginary friends. But I stopped as I got older, and since then, I only hear a constant murmur. And a word or two once in a great while.” He frowned down at the granite countertop and fiddled with a candle. “But why? Why would they talk to me? I was raised as a mortal, I didn’t know I was a witch. What’s so special about me?”

Atlas said, “Maybe the fact that you were raised in a mortal household meant you needed the Alteans more than the rest of us. Or,” he emphasized when it appeared Lance was about to say something, “maybe you are special somehow. Maybe something about you made it possible for them to reach you. Remember Lance, has always been something unique about you.”

Keith stayed focused on his purpose. Acxa. “Then Lance could be the witch that can heal Acxa.”

Atlas’s eyes shifted to him. “This is even bigger than just one child’s life, hunter. Lance could be the breakthrough we need to reach our Alteans. He could be our saving grace.”

“Both of you stop it,” Lance said emphatically. “We’ll find a way. This is a child’s life we are talking about.” He crossed over to a drawer and pulled out two yellow candles and a candleholder.

“What’s that for?” Keith asked as he watched him.

“Fire, for my third chakra. I meditate on a candle that’s the same color of the chakra to help me connect and open it.” Lance put one candle into the holder and took the orange candle out of the other holder to replace it with the second yellow candle. He lit one candle with a match and left the other unlit. He carried both candles over to where he had been earlier and placed them side by side on the tile floor, then dropped down gracefully to sit with his legs crossed, crossing his hands in his lap. His back was to Keith.

The room was utterly quiet except for the low hum of the laptop. Keith leaned against the counter to watch. Lance sat with his back straight. Keith’s eyes followed the line of his spine down to his gently rounded ass. He could see his back expand with each breath he took. He realized that he was breathing with Lance, keeping rhythm with him on each breath he took. He couldn’t stop, couldn’t look away. Time was meaningless and he had no idea how long he stood there, fixated on Lance and breathing with him.

Then suddenly he felt it. A low sizzle started deep in his belly followed by an odd sensation, like a ripple of feathers in the wind under his skin. It was so quick he couldn’t be sure of exactly what it was. He could feel the low hum of the curse and its cramping need trying to rise, but it was overshadowed by a deep desire to touch Lance. To feel his power as he stripped him bare and laid him on the tile floor, to sink into him deep enough to feel each chakra.

There was a bright flare as the second candle lit, reaching at least four inches in height before it settled to a smaller steady flame. Keith felt sweat break out on his brow and his back. Blood ran hotly through him and gathered in his cock, engorging it to incredible hardness.

Lance had succeeded in opening his fire chakra, but why did Keith feel it? Why was the bloodlust getting lost under a tide of powerful sexual lust? What was happening?

What is Lance doing to me?

Chapter Text

Keith was restless and edgy. He wanted to fight, wanted to kill. The pulsing lights of the club, the throbbing beat of the music, and the fire flickering in the fire pits suited his deadly mood.

He needed sex to take the edge off. But all he could think of was Lance. It had been strangely hard leaving the house tonight, knowing he was down on the bottom floor. He had felt a pull in his gut to turn back, and every mile he drove felt as though he had run it instead. The skin on his thumb that had touched Lance’s blood burned. Where Lance’s hand had stroked his tattoo felt sensitive and empty, almost as though it craved more. The darker part of him wanted to feel the hot spill of Lance’s blood to cool the burning ache under his skin.

It had to be the curse fucking with his mind. He needed to get laid. He needed to help Lance remove the curse from Acxa so he could send him away.

He also needed to find out who the demon witch was, just in case Lance wasn’t able to remove the curse. Or maybe he could beat the information out of his dad. The idea cheered him slightly.

Matt moved up next to him quietly and offered him a cold beer. “There’s a couple of sets of Galras scouting the place. They’re twitchy as hell, too.”

Keith narrowed his gaze on them. There were two by one of the fire pits, whispering to each other like schoolgirls and glancing around nervously. Another set was at the bar doing the same thing.

Matt took a swallow of his own beer. “Your lion tat made them nervous enough. But now you’ve killed several Galras to protect a witch. They think you’re the enemy.”

Keith snorted in derision. “They’re following orders, they don’t think anything. Left to their own devices, they would just slaughter witches where they found them and leave the mess where it was. Lotor has them organized now. When a witch is murdered the body disappears forever.”

“Their number’s growing, too. More hunters are going Galra and at a faster pace. Your lion tattoo marks you as a leader of Blade Hunters. To them, you’re a real threat. I think we need to figure out exactly why,” Matt said.

Keith turned to look at his friend. “Meaning?”

“Meaning the direct threat to you started when word of your tattoo got out. It means something. Maybe we need to ask the witches. Maybe it’s time we figured out a way to work with them. We would have to avoid direct contact, like Skype or something. Although, you’ve been directly around a witch now and not been affected,” Matt answered, then drained his beer.

Keith took several swallows of his own beer, then huffed out a humorless laugh. “I’m affected every damn second of every damn day.” Lance was in him and he didn’t know if he would ever break free. One touch of his blood, just one touch, and it was as though they had formed a connection of some sort. Needing to change the subject, he nodded towards the Galras and said, “You can bet my dad’s behind this. He has guards at his house, like he’s some sort of fucking king.”

Matt pursed his lips thoughtfully. “He needs you to help him keep his throne. You’re good at planning and good at killing. I bet he thinks using you will show him favor with Lotor. Fat chance of that ever happening though. Lotor is only using him as much as he is using him.”

Keith knew that was the truth. His dad had started trying to turn him Galra when he was fourteen. And when that failed, his dad had seduced his mom in order to try to have another child, but it had been a girl and human. Acxa. Now Richard was back to trying to get Keith to turn and join him in killing witches and eventually ruling the Galras. It would never end. First he had to save Acxa. Then...he didn’t know what. His tattoo warming caught his attention. What was that about? A reminder? Maybe it was just his imagination. Or had Lance done something to him?

He drained his beer and handed the empty bottle to Matt. “Keep an eye on the Galras.” He headed for the dance floor, eyes on a tall guy with dark hair. He needed to get relief, then maybe he could concentrate enough to think. A long-buried memory bubbled up, one of his dad dragging his teenaged self into an abandoned building and seeing that witch tied down, terrified and already bleeding from multiple cuts. He had been horrified, and then shocked when bloodlust blasted through him, making him want dark and terrible things. He would never forget the screams of the witch as his father cut her. Or his father taking his hand and forcing it onto a bleeding wound...

“Keith Kogane.”

A sharp male voice cut through the memory. He turned and sized up the man standing there. He was mortal, heavy built, confident and tightly muscled. Even in the pulsing lights Keith could see the intensity in his dark eyes. “Yeah?” he asked coolly.

The man’s jaw tightened. “I want to see Lance. He swears he’s fine, but I want to see him, see for myself.”

Keith felt jealous rage swirled around to chomp into his gut. He knew the man was a mortal, so he didn’t want Lance’s blood. Did Lance have a boyfriend? The idea of this man touching Lance had Keith clenching his fists to keep from grabbing his knife and killing the man on the spot. “Who are you?” he spat out harshly.

The man didn’t flinch or back down. “Hunk Garrett. Lance’s best friend.” Hunk spoke matter-of-factly and just loud enough to be heard over the music. That he had found Keith and connected him to Lance meant one thing; Lance had somehow contacted him. What a clever witch you are. Or maybe he had gotten Atlas to do it.

But now this was a problem. Keith had to get rid of Hunk and keep him out of the way. Fixing his eyes on Hunk, he mentally reached through the optic nerves to alter his short-term memory. “Lance went on a business trip. He’ll be back in a few weeks. Neither of you have ever heard of me.”

Hunk glared at him and stepped closer. “Cut the bullshit. I-”

A sudden scream tore through the club. Keith whipped around, knife in his hand, and searched the place. He saw Hunk held a gun in his hand. Not fast enough to be a threat to a hunter, but pretty damn fast for a human. Another scream came from the dance floor. Keith saw that two of the Galras had each grabbed a woman and held them with their blades at their throats. At the fire pit, two more stood with their blades to female throats.

Keith didn’t have to look to know his men were on the move. He was furious that the Galras were using his patrons to make this stand. They always deemed women easy pickings. The music came to a halt and the club was silent except for the sobbing of the terrified women.

A fifth Galra slid out of the dark shadows. Recognition hit Keith like a fist to the gut. Rolo.

Rolo stared at Keith and ordered, “Kill the first one.”

“Nooooooo...” the piercing scream turned into a wet gurgle. Around the club, a few women fainted as the rest of the captive women whimpered in fear.

Rage coursed through Keith. What had happened to the boy who had loved to play the hero? Now he was capable of killing an innocent woman to make a point.

And in his club.

Fuck it. Keith hated that it had come to this, but he wouldn’t let anyone, not his father and not a boyhood friend, murder in cold blood. His body tightened as Rolo strode towards him.

Smug satisfaction rolled off Rolo in waves, making his face ugly. He reveled in the moment, enjoying his perceived power. He stared at Keith for a moment before saying, “I want the wi-”

Before he could finish his sentence, Keith threw his knife, burying the blade deep in the center of Rolo’s heart. Because of their ability to heal quickly, the surest way to kill a hunter was a direct hit to the heart. Before Rolo’s body hit the floor, Keith had already yanked his blade free.

This is what they’d become. He had just killed a man he had once called a friend, one he had once secretly hoped could be more. Hot with rage, he looked around to assess the situation. The other Galras were just as dead as Rolo. Pidge, Matt and Shiro were all cleaning blood off their knives. Matt was kneeling by the woman who had been cut. He looked up at Keith, his brown eyes hard. “Dead.”

Fucking assholes. The woman’s shiny pink top was soaked with blood, her blue eyes staring blankly. She had died as a message to him.

A low rumble started as club patrons started to talk. Everyone had seen it. Keith had to get the situation under control. His men gathered around him, awaiting his orders.

“Pidge, you’re the best at shifting memories. Shift them to think what they saw was a jealous boyfriend cutting her throat. Shiro, talk to the hunters. Get them to cooperate or tell them to piss off. Matt, as soon as Pidge shifts the memories and gets rid of the dead Galras, call the cops.” He didn’t look at Rolo’s body. He had no time for regret or anything else as he dealt with the situation.

“Where do you want them?” Pidge asked.

Keith gave him a mirthless grin. “Dump them in front of my dad’s house.”

Rolo had been his dad’s man, so Richard was probably behind the whole stunt. The Galras could clean up their own mess. And it was a message from him. Don’t fuck with him or his.

“Got it,” Pidge grinned back and set to work.

“What have you done with Lance? Where is he?”

Shit, the human connected to Lance. Keith had forgotten about Hunk. He stood loose but alert, gun in his hand, eyes hard and determined. No sign or any fear, shock or horror. This was no average mortal.

Matt stood behind Hunk. “Bro, what do you want done with him?”

Keith considered his options. “What did Lance tell you?”

Hunk returned his gaze even and steadily. “He thinks he’s a witch.”

Keith nodded once. “He is, and he’s in danger. He’s under my protection and safe where I have him.”

Hunk’s eyes narrowed. ‘I have no reason to believe you. If he’s in danger, I’ll protect him.”

Keith figured he either had to kill Hunk or tell him the truth. “He’ll be dead within an hour if I let him go.” He gestured to the bodies of the dead Galras being dragged out. “They came here to find Lance.”

Hunk holstered his gun, folded his arms and planted his feet. “I don’t leave until I see Lance and talk to him.”

And the problems just kept on coming.

“How’d you do it?”

Lance jerked awake. The old panic engulfed him and his heart rate sped up as though he were running. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean...”

“You did, though,” Keith’s voice penetrated the panicked fog in Lance’s brain.

“Keith?” Lance asked as his mind tried to clear itself. He quickly realized that it wasn’t his grandfather dragging him out of bed for some new perceived evil. Everything came back to him and self-righteous anger drove away his childhood fears. “What are you bellowing about?”

“Who’s bellowing?” Keith asked, lifting one brow sardonically, and then without waiting for an answer continued on. “Your bestie came to the club tonight.”

“My bestie? Hunk? What club are you talking about?” Despite having caught up on the where and who, Lance was still trying to orient himself. He had only been asleep for a short time, having worked deep into the night to open all four of his lower chakras. He had succeeded, but control was another matter entirely. He had set off the fire alarm twice, accidentally spawned a mini tornado in his room, and melted some crystals trying to move them.

When Keith’s words finally sunk in, Lance threw back the covers and jumped out of the bed. “Hunk? He’s here?”

Keith grabbed his arm. “No, not here. At my club. How did you contact him?”

Lance studied Keith for a moment. He actually looked tired. His hair was messy and damp with sweat. There were dark shadows under his eyes. His hold on his arm was gentle even though his face was stern. “I used my powers to send him an email.”

Keith sighed. “You’re going to get him killed.”

Lance stiffened and his eyes hardened into a crystal glare.

“What did you do to him?” he said in a low, deadly tone. His first chakra opened with a swooping sensation, followed by the second in such quick succession that he was nearly dizzy with it. The lights flickered on and off while drawers shook, causing the things inside them to clatter noisily.

Keith glanced around quickly and looked back at Lance.

“Witch karma,” he warned.

“I could give a fuck about that shit!” Lance snarled. “If you killed Hunk-”

Keith cut him off. “He’s fine. I didn’t touch him. But he was at the club when some Galras showed up looking for you and decided to take hostages. They wanted me to trade you for the four women whose throats they were holding their knives to.”

Lance felt the room tilt and spin. His powers ran up and down his spine like an electric current. He remembered the terror of facing the two Galras at the shop, remembered the hot stinging flash of the sharp knife cutting into his skin while one whispered about wanting his blood. He was exhausted and his normally calm and rational mind jumped to wild conclusions. Fury washed over him in a hot tide and he tried to snatch his arm out of Keith’s grasp. “You’re giving me over to the Galras? You dragged me out of bed to give me up?”

Keith let go of his arm. “You know better than that. We killed the Galras. But you have to tell your friend to back off. If the Galras figure out who he is and what he means to you, do you have any clue what they’ll do to him? Just to get to you?”

Lance felt his anger begin to deflate slightly. If Keith was telling the truth, Hunk could get killed. “What club are you talking about?”

“Voltron,” said Keith. “It’s my nightclub; mostly hunters hang out there.” Keith walked over to his workstation and grabbed the laptop. “Open it,” he demanded as he handed it to Lance.

Lance swallowed back a sarcastic retort and did as he was told. He sat down and powered it on. Only seconds later, a video feed of a nightclub began to play. The place seemed dark and hellish–not the kind of place Lance would want to have anything to do with. The screen was split with one side showing Keith and Hunk talking on one side while the other showed two men, obviously Galras, each grab a woman and hold knives to their throats. Lance watched, horrified, as a man in a trench coat strode forward out of the shadows and gave the order to kill. He felt sick as one of the Galras pulled his blade across his hostage’s throat and her blood gushed out thick and red onto the dance floor.

Lance slapped a hand over his mouth. “You let them kill her!” he accused Keith.

“Keep watching,” Keith answered in a rough growl.

Lance didn’t want to. Who were these monsters? His eyes involuntarily returned to the screen as the man in the trench coat said, “I want the wi-”

He never finished the sentence. Keith threw his knife in a movement so fast Lance could barely see it. The man crumpled as death took him. Lance looked up at Keith. “You killed him?”

“Yes,” Keith replied.

Lance rubbed his arms as gooseflesh rose up to prickle his skin. He watched the rest of the scene play out, including Hunk leaving unharmed. His worry for his bestie satisfied, he allowed himself to think of Keith’s face when he killed the man in the coat. It had been hard and determined, yet there had been a flicker of something that resembled regret.

“Did you know him?”

“Yes.” Lance could hear the pained grief Keith was trying to repress. “Who was he?” he asked as he looked up, feeling a little as though he was drowning in the purple hue of Keith’s eyes.

Keith clenched his fists. “We were best friends when we were kids. Now I killed him. To protect you.”

Lance could feel the turmoil in Keith. He had hated what he had to do, but he’d done it. And he was still dealing with his own craving for witch blood. For his blood. “Why are they harassing you?”

“Their goal is to wipe out witches completely. Lotor will do what it takes to achieve it. They know I’m protecting you, and they want us both dead.” Keith swallowed heavily. “We’re running out of time.”

Lance felt his shoulders slump slightly. He’d been trying so hard! “It’s only been three days.”

“We’ve got five days to spell the curse off Acxa before the waxing gibbous moon. Once that moon passes, the only hope she has is killing the demon witch before the full moon. Already she’s tired, whiny, and feverish.” Keith turned and walked to the door, then turned back. “I don’t need Hunk getting in my way, Lance.”

Lance could feel the tension in Keith winding tighter. When he’d first been awakened, his instinctual fear had caused him to miss how close to the edge Keith was. But he could see it now. Was killing his friend the last straw? Would he give in to the curse and kill him? “I’m trying, really I am! But five days isn’t much time! I’m doing the best I can and learning as fast as I can, I swear.” His mind was racing. How can I help Acxa in five days?

Keith reached behind him. His knife holster was back there. Adrenaline exploded inside Lance as the voices in his head screamed one word; Run!

Lance jumped up from the bed, ignoring the crash of the laptop to the floor and racing for the open door. His head replayed the video he had watched of the woman’s throat getting cut. He has to get away from Keith and his knife. His powers crackled, but he was afraid of hurting himself with witch karma and making it easier for Keith to get him. The door was only another step away.

Suddenly, he slammed hard into a rock solid chest. Bouncing back from the impact, he nearly fell, but two hands grabbed his arms and kept him on his feet. He could feel someone touching him, but no one was there.

Keith suddenly materialized in front of him.

“Stop. Fucking hell to all, stop!” Keith yelled. He was panting and his entire body was vibrating as though he couldn’t hold all the force bubbling up inside him.

“Let me go!” Lance demanded. He was not about to stand there meekly while Keith killed him. His powers rushed out in a whoosh, exploding the lights in the hallway.

Keith reacted in a blur, grabbing Lance and easing him against the wall before slamming his body up behind him. Lance barely registered the wall cold against him as his senses filled with the warmth of Keith pressed against him to protect him. Shock rippled through him as he had the sense of powerful wings wrapping around him as though his lion was protecting him, as well as the man.

But that was crazy, this time Keith was the threat. “I swear to you, I won’t let you kill me without hurting you, too,” Lance vowed. As far as threats went, it was a rather ridiculous one. Keith had him immobile against the wall. And anything he did to Keith would hurt him three times worse.

“Won’,” Keith panted out, each word taking tremendous effort.

Lance shivered, feeling Keith’s hot breath against his skin. “You were reaching for your knife!”

“No. Cell phone.” Keith’s voice was raspy.

“What?” Lance was confused. And damn it, he couldn’t move. Keith had him pinned completely. He could see one of Keith’s hands against the wall, fingers curled in and turning the knuckles white.

“Cell phone. For you,” Keith gritted out, and then groaned as if in pain. He pressed his entire body against Lance. The heat of his body reached for Lance and surrounded him. Lance could feel Keith’s thick erection pressed against him. The sensation of Keith’s earlier agitation was replaced with something else, something intimate and sensual.

“You’re giving me a cell phone?” Lance asked, trying to think straight. He wondered if he was crazy or if his mind had finally snapped under all the stress he had been enduring the last few days.

“Yes,” Keith whispered.

Lance was reeling. “I need you to move back and give me some space,” he managed to croak, mind numbed by the proximity and sensual press of Keith’s hard body.

Once Keith had backed away, giving him space for his mind to clear, Lance turned in the small space to face him and saw the iPhone in Keith’s hand. He hadn’t been lying.

“What the hell was that?” Lance exclaimed, anger pushing through his unbidden arousal.

Keith was still breathing hard. “You ran from me. I told you, running brings out the predator.” He held out the phone. “I told Hunk I’d have you call him. Let him know you’re safe. You can talk all you want, but tell him to ease up and stay out of the way.”

Lance took the phone, his fingers brushing Keith’s. Was he safe? Why had he imagined his lion around him?

“I thought you were going for your knife,” he said, wrapping his arms around himself and hating the uncertainty and tension that left him confused and frustrated.

“When I catch your smell, the scent of your power, I burn for your blood. But then I touch you and it becomes something else altogether... a burning need to protect you. You used your powers to blow those lights. Don’t you get it? You’d have been cut three times worse than anything I might have gotten, I can’t let you get hurt like that,” Keith said as he continued to breathe in heavy rasps.

Lance lifted his chin defiantly. “I will always fight back.”

Keith pinned him with his eyes. “I’ve fought this curse since I was fifteen, Lance. I live by self control every day. I won’t slip that easily, won’t cut you. But when you run, my hunter instincts react and I’m on you before I can even think.”

Lance ran his eyes over Keith, down the muscled chest and flat stomach to where his erection strained against the fabric of his jeans. That reaction was about sex, not his blood. He jerked his head to the side, feeling confused as his face flushed hot.

“Look at me,” Keith said as he caught Lance’s arm.

Chiding himself to have courage, Lance raised his eyes to Keith’s. “What?”

Keith’s other hand reached out to caress Lance’s face lightly. “I can smell your desire.”

Lance’s heart gave a hard thump in his chest. “You can not.”

Keith’s voice dropped, deeper and sexy. “Baby, your scent tells me everything about you. What shampoo you use, lotion and moisturizer, fabric softener on your clothes. What I can’t get the scent of is any sign of sex on you in a long time. Just need.”

Lance tightened his grip on the phone before tossing it on the rumpled bed. “Stop it,” he hissed.

Keith pulled him closer. “Stop what?”

Lance jerked himself out of Keith’s hold. “It was bad enough with mortal men. They didn’t know what I was, but during sex they sensed something, or maybe they felt something. I don’t know, but it scared them. It made me feel like a freak. That was bad enough. But it would be worse with you. You know what I am and you...” he trailed off and turned away.

“I what?” Keith prompted softly.

Lance whirled around to glare at him. “You hate what I am...and I would feel it. Emotions that release when a man comes-” He broke off and closed his eyes at the sheer weight of it. He didn’t want to feel that. Not from Keith. “I’d feel it,” he whispered.

He would not let himself open sexually to a man who hated what he was, hated that his blood and power could forever ruin him. Every time he had tried for a relationship, then felt the rejection after sex, a small part of him had died off. Hope; the hope that someone out there would love him and accept him for who he was. He couldn’t risk it. It would destroy him.

Keith’s face softened and for a brief moment Lance was positive he saw the flutter of wings in his violet eyes. “I don’t hate you, Lance. I don’t hate what you are.”

Lance frowned at Keith, unsure how to take this sudden change. “You do,” he stated emphatically.

Yet Keith’s warmth was drawing him closer –closer to something he couldn’t put a name to but wanted so very badly. It felt like something that, if he could just grasp it, he could somehow feel whole. He respected Keith’s fight against the curse and his love for his family, but he didn’t want to feel this. It scared the hell out of him.

Keith shook his head, keeping his eyes on Lance’s.

“Not you. Never you,” he said. “I hate the curse inside of me. And I hate those fucking cowards that hurt you. Do you know why they ran scared away from you?”

“Because they somehow sensed the witch in me,” Lance whispered his voice cracking. His grandfather had always said he was evil, that he brought bad things, like his dad’s heart troubles.

“They sensed your power. They know at some instinctive level that you are so much more powerful than them. Witches have always scared mortal men,” Keith said with a scoff.

He had Lance’s attention. “But not you?” Lance asked.

Keith’s mouth tilted at the corner in a small half smile. “I’m not afraid of you. I’m afraid of losing control of the curse that’s in me, but I’m not scared of you. I look at you and right now I see your witch shimmer making your skin glisten blue with sparks of red throughout. It doesn’t frighten me; it makes me want to touch you all the way down to the very depths of your powers. The power in you makes me want to see what you are truly capable of…what you could do when your inhibitions are released and you just let yourself feel.”

Lance’s eyes widened slightly. Was that true? What if sex with Keith was different? What if he didn’t find it abnormal or wrongfully strange to want wild, passionate sex with nothing held back? To need him so deeply in so many ways that he was overwhelmed?

Keith ran his hands lightly up and down Lance’s arms, his light touch raising gooseflesh. “It’s no different for me,” he confessed, “when I have sex with mortal men I have to hold back. I have to hide what I am.”

Lance felt the sheer truth in what Keith was saying. Keith’s emotional weight was even heavier than his own. The hot touch of Keith’s hands on his skin made it more bearable, made him feel strong and surer. The scent of campfire rushed through his senses and his heart thudded in his chest, making him breathless. Desire raced through him like wildfire, heating his skin and pooling low in his groin and making his cock start to harden. “Keith...”

Keith nuzzled lightly at his ear. “Your scent is incredible, tantalizing. Makes my mouth fucking water. God, I want to taste you.”

Lance closed his eyes as nearly unbearable pleasure rippled through him at Keith’s words and hot touch at his ear. Raw need rose to overshadow the weakening whisper of good sense. He could feel his chakras opening, not to draw the power of the earth, but to draw Keith into him somehow, as though he were somehow an essential part of him. Keith had him pressed up against the wall, surrounding him with his body, muscles tight with control. He turned his head to look into the glittering violet of Keith’s eyes. “Keith,” he gasped.

“Taste you,” Keith growled as he skimmed his mouth along Lance’s neck to his collarbone before capturing his mouth hungrily.

Lance couldn’t stop him. Nor did he want to. He turned into the kiss and returned it, hot and desperate.

Keith wrapped an arm around Lance to pull him away from the wall and closer to him. He put his hands on his waist possessively before sliding them down to cup his ass, his fingers digging into the firm flesh when Lance ground against him, wanting more. Keith encouraged Lance with his lips to open his mouth. His tongue slid in and Lance could taste him; pure Keith, hot and strong. Lance’s heart pounded and every part of his body that touched Keith’s burned, every part that didn’t touch him ached.

“Lance? Are you there?” called out a digitalized voice.

Keith jerked as though ice water had been thrown on him, quickly letting go of Lance. “I’ll kill that fucking cockblock. I swear to God, I will find out who Atlas is. I’ll find him and I’ll kill him,” he snarled in frustration. “Hang on. I’ll just close the laptop.”

Lance instantly missed the contact, missed the heat and the feel of Keith’s possessive hands holding him against his hard cock. But common sense stepped in finally, and Lance stopped him. “Wait, Keith. Let me talk to him. We only have a few days.”

Keith closed his eyes as he inhaled deeply. He nodded and stepped aside to let Lance by.

Lance crossed over to the bed and picked up the laptop from where it had crashed to the floor. The Atlas avatar looked back at him. Was he imagining it, or was there disapproval in his eyes? Did he know he and Keith had been making out?

“Are you okay, Lance?” Atlas asked.

“I’m fine. But we’re running out of time. Just a few days until the moon goes to waxing gibbous stage,” Lance answered him.

Atlas nodded. “Yes. I know.”

“What’s the difference between a demon witch and an elemental witch?” asked Lance, having had time to think on things and form questions.

“Well, all witches are born elemental witches. Our history shows that some witches discovered how to summon demons,” Atlas answered.

Lance frowned slightly. “Why would they want to do that?”

“The biggest reason is power. But they also figured out it gave them the ability to bypass witch karma. A demon’s powers don’t have witch karma attached to them. A few witches experimented with summoning demons and negotiating with them for harmful powers. Each time a witch summons a demon, witch karma is bypassed, but her soul gets marked. The more curses a witch uses, the more of her soul is marked, until eventually the demon owns the witch’s soul and she is a demon witch,” explained Atlas.

“Demons want witch souls? But what for?” Lance asked.

Atlas’s lips tightened. “Elemental witches have the power to banish demons. Or, at least, we did. Since the curse, it’s difficult and more dangerous to do it.”

“So, that’s the curse on hunters and witches, then. Getting us out of the way so demons have access to earth,” Lance surmised.

Atlas nodded again. “Yes. The demon witches who brought it on were doing what their demons wanted. They captured the hunters and managed to get one to renounce The Blade, which set up the loophole for the witches to cast the curse.”

Lance looked up at Keith. He had moved to stand nearby, close enough that he could feel the heat of his body. His violet eyes sparked with anger as he said, “Hunters knew the risk. We were given immortality and strength, a high tolerance to pain and a fast healing ability. In exchange, we were to serve The Blade and never renounce Him. Two hunters endured horrific torture but refused to renounce The Blade, and the demon finally killed them. But the third one did; renounced Him. The fucking coward.”

Atlas got Lance’s attention back, saying, “Do you understand now how dangerous demon witches are? The one that cursed Acxa is going to come after you. She will know when you undo her curse and will come after you.”

Lance didn’t look up, didn’t want Keith to see his fear of the demon witch. “I can’t worry about that right now,” he said. He knew now who he was and what his purpose was, and he wasn’t going to walk away from it.

Atlas practically seethed with fury. “Do you think Keith’s going to protect you? If, and I promise you it’s a very big if, you can heal his sister, he’s going to toss you out. He won’t hunt down and kill the witch to save his own sister’s life, why would your life be worth it?”

Lance swallowed hard and looked up at Keith, meeting his fiercely determined eyes. It was the truth. He was only there to heal Acxa. He was a threat to Keith, a threat to his soul.

“Don’t listen to him. I’ll figure something out,” Keith bit out harshly as he glared at the computer.

“Like what? Locking me away somewhere for the rest of my life?” Lance asked hollowly. He couldn’t listen to empty words. And he wouldn’t spend the rest of his life, however long it might be, shut away. He stared at Atlas. “First I heal Acxa. Then I’ll concentrate on surviving. We need to keep working.” He purposefully shut Keith out. He had to do it. He couldn’t be seduced into believing Keith really cared for him when he was only there because of Acxa.

“Lance, I’ll find a place for you,” Keith said, his voice harsh.

Lance nodded, but he didn’t look up at Keith again. “Fine. Go do that, then. I need to be working now.” He kept staring at the floor until he finally heard Keith’s footsteps retreating to signal his departure.

Adam sighed. “I’m afraid for you if you trust him. You know that, don’t you?”

Lance still didn’t look up. “Yeah.”

There was a long pause then Adam sighed again. “Will you be okay? I have some work to take care of. I’ll also talk to some other witches and see what I can find out about communicating with the Alteans. I’ll check in on you later.”

Lance nodded, and after a brief hesitation, Adam vanished.

Lance was alone. Again.

Chapter Text

“I talked to some of the witches.”

Lance jumped and lost control of the books he was levitating in Keith’s office, causing them to fall to the floor with a thump. “Jesus, Ad-” Lance shut his mouth with a snap. Even though there wasn’t anyone on the screen and no one on the lower floor with him, that didn’t mean no one was listening. The big screen flickered and Atlas appeared on it. “Don’t sneak up on me like that!” Lance snapped. He was tired and edgy, his body ached, and he was about over being banished to the basement. Even being able to talk and text with Hunk hadn’t lessened his irritability.

Atlas ignored Lance’s mood.

“They all agree that it’s quite possible that the Alteans are trying to reach you.”

The murmur in Lance’s head rippled agreeably and he felt a sense of excitement bubble up in him. All his life he had been trying to belong somewhere, somehow, and it looked like he was finally going to.

“You mean they’ll let me on the witch loops?”

“It’s actually called a Circle, Lance,” corrected Atlas. “Elemental witches circle to strengthen each other where we can. And they won’t let you on yet, not while you’re living and working with a witch hunter.”

Lance fought back a wave of disappointment. He focused on one of the books on the floor and summoned power through his chakras, trying to lift it back onto the bookshelf. The book shot across the room, scattering papers on Keith’s desk and slamming into the wall. Lance winced when he saw the sizable dent in the wall and hoped that maybe Keith wouldn’t notice.

“You lost control,” observed Atlas. “Control takes mind, body and chakra connection. You can’t let your emotions break your connection. That’s how Galras control us. Enough cuts break our connection to our powers and cause our chakras to close down.”

Lance was in no mood for a lecture. “Blow me,” he snarled, glaring at the screen.

Atlas sighed heavily. “Lance, I’m sorry. It’s unfair that the Circle won’t let you in, but they are cautious for a good reason. You’re living with a witch hunter-”

“Do I really have to remind you that I’m a prisoner in his freaking basement?” Lance spat in frustration. No matter what Keith said about not being afraid of him, he was. Lance could feel it. And it was worse because every time Keith touched him, he felt lion wings–the wings that had always come to him in comfort when he was a child rejected him now.

Atlas’s voice sharpened. “Then don’t be a prisoner. Quit feeling sorry for yourself and use your powers.”

Lance felt a niggling sense of shame. He was taking his frustrations out on the one person who was trying to help him.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being a bitch to you just now.” He took a deep breath and concentrated on the book that had flown across the room. It lifted off the floor and moved back to its place on the shelf. The other books soon followed it.

“He’s getting to you,” Atlas said.

“It’s the lion,” Lance said, not bothering to deny it. “I feel a connection to Keith’s lion tattoo. Maybe I’m just crazy. Not a witch, just certifiably nuts.”

Atlas was quiet for a moment. “I think I’d be crazy, too, if I were locked away from the earth elements. We need to be outside to feel the wind, the sun and the moon. It feeds our souls.”

“Outside,” Lance whispered. “You’re right. I need to find a way to get outside.” He sighed, then looked at the screen again. “So what else did the Circle say?”

“Two things. First, you should try to call a familiar. See what happens,” Atlas said.

Lance stared at the screen. “Wait, what? How exactly am I supposed to do that?”

“It’s not a formal ceremony. You go outside at night, under the moonlight, and ask the Alteans to send you a familiar,” Atlas explained.

“I can’t just pick an animal? Like a cat?” Lance asked.

“No, there’s a little more to it than that,” Atlas said with a small laugh. “I mean, it could be a cat, but you don’t know. The animal has to agree, and it will come to you. Then you take something silver and imprint its likeness on that silver, and you’ll wear that silver close to or on your body. That symbolizes a soul bond.”

“I think I know what I can use,” Lance said, reaching up to touch the silver lion’s head at his throat. He should be able to imprint something there.

“You have to open your fifth chakra to do it,” Atlas continued. “That’s where the magic to bond with your familiar comes from. The moon will help you, if it can be done.”

Lance felt his hope dim. “No witch has successfully called a familiar since the curse?”

Atlas’s face fell slightly. “No. Not that we are aware of. Many have tried, but they’ve all failed.”

“What about you? Have you tried?” Lance asked him.

“I tried once.” Atlas’s voice was introspective. “A long time ago. I can open my fifth chakra.”

Lance nodded and didn’t ask anything more about his attempt to call his familiar. “And the second thing?” he reminded him.

“In order to do the spell, you’ll need your witch book,” Atlas said.

Lance stared at the screen wordlessly for a moment. “I don’t have a witch book.”

Atlas’s face turned sympathetic. “It’s usually passed down from our mothers. You’re adopted, so that’s a problem.”

Lance ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “What am I going to do? I mean, Papi registered me with a parent search agency before he died, but I don’t have that kind of time!”

Atlas shook his head, then smiled mysteriously. “I think you probably have your witch book. Your mother would have known you’d need it one day. She would have left it with you when she gave you up for adoption. I know she did.”

Lance was confused. What was Atlas trying to tell him? What did he know that he didn’t? Something his mother had left him, something...

“Oh!” he gasped. Of course. Adam had seen it hundreds of times.


“We have to go to my apartment.”

Keith jumped out of bed on full alert, startled out of sleep. Lance stood in the doorway of his room.

“What are you doing up here?” he asked incredulously.

Lance put his hands on his hips. “I’m through being held prisoner in the basement. That isn’t the point here. The point is we got to go now.”

Keith ran a hand through his long hair. “No, that is the point. I had the door to the bottom floor locked.” He looked at the clock. He had slept two, maybe three hours at the most. He had gotten home late, and then had that conversation with Lance that ended on such a high note. After that, he’d spent a few hours trying to find a safe place for Lance and looking for demon witches. Lance’s voice cut into his scattered thoughts and got his attention.

“I unlocked them,” Lance said.

Keith watched as Lance’s silver witch shimmer brightened with pride. That brought him fully out of the sleep fog. “Shit, Lance, you can’t startle me awake like that. What if I’d smelled the power in your blood and lost control before I was fully awake?”

Lance waved a hand in dismissal. “Stop arguing with me. There’s something at my apartment that I need to get.”

Keith rubbed a tired hand over his face and stifled a groan. Obviously he wasn’t going back to sleep.

“Fine. Tell me what you need and I’ll go get it.”

“I’m going with you,” Lance said. He ran his eyes down the length of Keith’s body and added, “Put some clothes on.”

Keith had slept in his boxers. “You’re the one barging into my room, babe,” he said, smirking as he strode across his room to his dresser. He yanked out a pair of jeans and started pulling them on. “What is it you need from your apartment?”

“I need the tapestry my biological mother left with me when she gave me up. I think it’s her witch book,” Lance explained, trying not to stare.

Keith pulled a t-shirt over his head and turned back to Lance. “What’s a witch book?”

Lance quickly tore his fascinated gaze from Keith’s stomach. “Spells passed down from generations of witches.”

Keith was tugging on his heavy boots. “Okay. The one over the fireplace, right?” he asked, remembering seeing it when he went over there to get Lance’s things. Lance narrowed his eyes.

“I’m going with you, Keith.”

Keith stood up and stared hard back at Lance. “No, you’re not. It’s too dangerous. I’ve already killed Galras that were after you and killed a man who was once my best friend to keep you safe. There’s no way in hell I jeopardize your safety now.”

Lance crossed his arms. “I’m going and that’s final.”

Keith didn’t say anything. He wasn’t going to waste time arguing. He strapped on his knife holster and reached for his knife. The scent of Lance was in the air, ocean salt mixed with the dark underlying spice of his power.

The knife slid across the nightstand and onto the rumpled bed.

The spicy scent of Lance’s power grew stronger, more enticing. Keith felt the blood rushing hot under his skin. “Knock it off,” he warned as he reached for the knife again. The knife responded by sliding towards the bottom of the bed.

The witch was toying with him. Keith knew he could grab the knife and be on Lance before he could even think of his next move. But that didn’t scare Lance. Not his witch. Struggling between amusement and keeping the curse under control, Keith gave Lance a look.

“Stop screwing around.”

Lance raised an eyebrow at him then moved his gaze to the knife. He held out his hand and the knife flew up from the bed and across the room to land in it. “Looking for this?” he asked casually, twirling it easily in his hand.

Keith’s stomach clenched. If Lance hadn’t been accurate, that knife could have sliced through him. “You’re getting better with your powers.”

Lance’s pink lips parted into a wide smile.

Even with the curse chomping on his guts, Keith was struck by just how beautiful Lance was when he smiled like that–confident and glowing with power.

“You want your knife, you take me with you,” Lance insisted.

Keith knew he needed to leave the room, needed to get some distance from the sweet scent and the call of Lance’s power-laced blood. He told himself to walk out. Instead, he walked to Lance and reached out to touch his face. The feel of his soft, warm skin raced through his fingertips and blazed a trail of fire to his groin while cooling the burn of the curse.

“I won’t chance taking you,” he stated emphatically. “The Galras know where you live and they’ll be watching. I can slip by them and get the tapestry. But I won’t risk you, won’t let them get to you.”

Lance’s face fell and his joy dimmed. “It was worth a shot, I guess.”

Keith moved his hand away from Lance’s face and with a swift move, took the knife from him before he could react. “Hey!” Lance protested.

Keith grinned in response. “I could’ve gotten it at any time. But you were having such a good time ‘tormenting’ me. What a nice bonding moment.”

Even if it ignited the curse and was physically painful, he found Lance’s exhilaration in his newfound powers intoxicating.

Keith wasn’t surprised to find Hunk Garrett waiting for him at Lance’s apartment. He had tried to follow him home last night, and Keith had finally had to get Matt and Pidge to run interference and cut him off. The man obviously had some skills, and Keith recognized a deep protectiveness of Lance in him. Like a brother. It was similar to how Keith felt for Shiro.

Lance had probably called Hunk and told him Keith would be at the apartment to get the tapestry. So, while Keith wasn’t surprised to see him there, he was surprised by the woman with him. A heavyset woman sat huddled on the couch, wrapped in a too large flannel shirt and nervously wringing her clasped hands together in her lap as she waited by Hunk’s side.

Keith heard a distinct groan from the lioness with a large paw on the silver box in the tapestry. He glanced quickly at the picture and, for the first time, noticed that the color of the lioness was a beautiful blue, almost identical to the color of Lance’s eyes. The threads shimmered with magic. How had he managed to miss that when he was here before? Neither Hunk nor the woman seemed to notice the noise, and for now, Keith ignored it. Closing the door behind him, he looked towards Hunk. “Lance told you I’d be here?”

Hunk nodded his head once, standing alert in the living room. “Yeah. Shay’s sick.”

Keith’s violet eyes swung to the blonde on the couch.

“Shay?” He could smell the sour mix of fear and illness coming from her.

To his surprise, she stood up. “I’m Shay Balmeran. Balmeran-Crystals, if we’re being technical. I need to know if my husband-” she broke off with a wince but gritted her teeth and closed her eyes. “If my husband is one of you,” she ground out after she struggled a few moments to get her thoughts in order.

Keith figured the shirt she wore was one of Hunk’s and not her husband’s. He looked steadily at her. What had Lance told them? “What is it you think I am?” he asked her.

Hunk moved to stand beside her protectively. “Listen man, she can’t say it. Something’s wrong with her, but whenever she tries to remember, she gets these wicked headaches and nausea. It’s like…something is blocking everything she thought she knew.”

Keith frowned. It sounded like a witch hunter had been shifting and manipulating her memories repeatedly. He moved towards the couch to study her. She was pale, too pale for her darker complexion, with dark circles under her eyes that testified to her state of exhaustion and worry. He stopped when her eyes widened and she took a step towards Hunk. He recognized the deep fear in her dark eyes. He had seen the signs before; confusion, desperation, paranoia, almost like an addict. But it wasn’t drugs. She was the victim of a Galra screwing with her head. Many women who had been mistreated like this committed suicide to escape the damage. But Shay was fighting back, harder than anyone Keith had ever seen before. He could tell she was a fighter.

“Shay, do you want to know?” he asked her gently, not wanting to frighten her more but knowing she wanted answers just like the rest of them.

Shay wrapped Hunk’s shirt around her more tightly, clearly taking comfort in it. “Yes,” she whispered. “I have to know. What do I need to do?”

Keith kept his voice gentle. “I’m going to come closer to you, and you’re going to look me in the eyes. I swear I won’t hurt you.”

To his surprise, Shay sucked in a harsh breath and took a step towards him instead. He stood still and let her come to him. Her courage was evident with each step she forced herself to take. Keith came to the unwelcome realization that it wasn’t just the witches suffering from the actions of the Galras. Mortals were being affected as well. He had tried for years not to get involved in any way, and while he and his men were knocking around his club and screwing mortals, people like Shay suffered. Shay had come to stand about a foot away from him.

She raised her gaze to his, her eyes fearful yet determined, and said, “Do it.”

Keith looked into her eyes and traced her optic nerves to her short-term memory. His stomach turned in disgust when he found scarring from repeated invasions by a hunter, an unskilled one at that. He could smell the lingering copper scent of a Galra left on her. Judging from the damage he found in her brain, he said, “He cut you. Often and repeatedly throughout your relationship.” It was a brutal way to fuck with someone’s mind. It created a pain-memory reaction, and every time Shay tried to remember what the Galra didn’t want her to, the pain he inflicted on her would flash through her mind.

Shay’s complexion lost all pretense of color as the blood drained from her face. “No,” she whispered as she backed away.

Keith felt rage simmering hot inside of him. This woman was broken because of a Galra hunter. He couldn’t even try to help her by softening the memories because of the extent of the damage. He looked over at Hunk. “I need to see the cuts.”

Hunk quickly moved to Shay’s side and put his hands on her shoulders protectively. He lowered his forehead to touch hers. “I’m here. I won’t let him hurt you, you know that, right? But we want to know. You need to know. Okay?”

After a long hesitation, Shay nodded and exhaled a shaky breath.

Hunk let go of her shoulders and eased his shirt off her thin shoulders. “The cuts are on her breasts and stomach. She thought she had inflicted them herself.”

Keith nodded. “Show me her stomach.”

He knew that if he did this, if he touched those cuts and felt the heat of a hunter blade that he would have to start making choices. He had only been trying to keep his soul and protect his mom and sister, something that was working out really shitty at the moment. Yet this woman was fighting to be strong despite serious damage that would destroy most mortals. Her courage was greater than his, and that shamed him.

Hunk gently took the edge of Shay’s shirt and raised it. Keith saw a flash of shock on his face that melted away to white hot fury when he saw the white scars striping the darker flesh of her belly. He focused on the straight cuts and moved slowly towards her.

“Shay, talk to me. Tell me something pleasant, anything,” he encouraged her, needing to provide a distraction.

Hunk jumped in. “Tell him about how cute you were in your cheerleader outfit back in high school.”

Shay swallowed twice before she spoke in a low voice, “Hunk was the quarterback. All the girls loved him. He was a big flirt. But he was so cute with his brown eyes and his smile. When I was younger, I was a lot thinner, but as the years went by you can see that isn’t the case. Not to I’m ashamed of my body! After I married my husband, I didn’t pay much attention to what I was gaining until it was too late. I’ve worked hard though, and I’m now somewhere comfortable with the way I look.”

While she talked, Keith reached out and laid his hand on the healed cuts on her stomach. When she flinched, Hunk put a hand on her shoulder. “You used to walk by me in the halls everyday in that short little cheer skirt. God, I wanted you. But you wouldn’t have me.”

“I was playing hard to get,” Shay said, her voice tight with tension. “Of course if you would have asked Lance outright he would have told you that. You were just too chicken to ask him.”

Keith could feel the distinctive heat of a hunter blade in the cuts. She had definitely been tortured. He ran a gentle hand over the slight curve of her belly thoughtfully and frowned.

Hunk smoothed her shirt back down when Keith removed his hand. “Lance always said I could keep chasing you. He tried telling me that you were playing hard to get,” he said softly.

Shay looked up at him, her eyes suspiciously bright. “He did? Even when I wasn’t there for him like I should have been?”

Keith stood up straight, feeling something fiercely protective ripple through him. “What do you mean?”

Shay’s eyes flickered towards him nervously. “Lance had it kind of rough in high school. People calling him cursed and whispering that he was a freak, and bisexual at that. We were friends, but I was the head cheerleader, you know? Back then, social position was everything. I was on top of the heap, but it could have been pulled out from under me like that, and there were others just waiting for it to happen so they could take my place. There were times that I could have stood up for him that I didn’t,” she said softly. “I just wish I had been there for him more…”

Keith’s chest ached thinking of Lance trying so hard to fit in, wanting to be accepted.

Hunk put his arm around Shay’s shoulders and said, “Tell us what you found when you touched her cuts.”

Keith looked directly at Shay. “You aren’t crazy, and you didn’t cut yourself. Your memory has been tampered with using a brutal method of cutting you repeatedly and simultaneously forcing commands into your brain so that every time you try to remember certain things, you feel extreme pain.”

“You mean like hypnosis?” Shay asked faintly. She looked as though only Hunk’s supporting arm was holding her up, and he led her to the couch to sit down.

Keith inclined his head. “Similar, but this is more powerful. Any hunter can alter memories. We literally travel your optic nerve to short term memory and superimpose a new memory over the old one. It may leave the person feeling disoriented and frustrated, but if only done once or twice, it’s pretty harmless.”

“And if it’s done over and over?” she whispered brokenly.

Keith sighed. “It can cause permanent brain damage,” he answered reluctantly.

Shay’s eyes again sparkled with unshed tears. “But why? Why would someone do something so horrible?”

“Most likely for control. You said you’re married?” Keith asked.

“I am. Or at least I was. I ran away. But I can’t remember...” her voice trailed off as her eyes closed tightly against the pain.

Keith had his answer. “Don’t try, you won’t be able to. You need to find a witch who can help you. A mortal doctor can’t fix this.”

“Maybe Lance can help her,” suggested Hunk.

“Lance’s just learning to use and control his powers. Something like this would take someone with much more experience with brain damage,” Keith said.

Hunk’s frustration burst out of him. “And where exactly do we find something like that? Not like we can just open the fucking yellow pages or look it up on Wikipedia or something.”

Keith walked over to the fireplace and reached for the tapestry.

“Lance is in contact with a witch that’s helping him, maybe he can...fuck!”

The lioness on the tapestry roared and spit as it dug its claws across the back of his hand. Keith snatched his hand back and looked at it in disbelief as blood welled up from the scratches.

Shay scrambled to a kneeling position on the couch. “What just...did that thing just move?” she shrieked.

Keith glared at the creature. The lioness glared right back and hissed again, its tail twitching menacingly.

“What the actual fuck?” Hunk demanded.

“It’s Lance’s from his birth mother. All her spells and witchcraft are stored in this tapestry. Lance needs it, so that’s why I’m here, to get it for him,” Keith answered.

Hunk stared at the tapestry in wonder. “It’s never done anything like that before.”

“His mom must have spelled it to protect it from hun-” Keith broke off, remembering Shay. “From people like me.”

He studied the tapestry. If he grabbed it by the frame, maybe the lioness couldn’t reach him. He grabbed the corners, and the lioness went ballistic, spitting and scratching in a frenzy.

Keith stepped back and looked at the rips clawed in his shirt. Blood was starting to well up and stain the tattered cloth. “I’m gonna fucking kill it,” he growled, glaring at the lioness.

The lioness growled deep in its throat. The threads along its neck and back stood up and its tail was fluffed to twice its size.

Hunk studied the tapestry. “Lance needs this?”

“Yes,” grunted Keith. And he would get it to him, even if it meant stabbing the fucking thing. Could he even kill a lioness made of magic and thread? Probably not, but he would be more than happy to give it his best try.

“Maybe I can get it-OW!” Hunk jerked his hand back as the lioness bit him. He wrapped his now bleeding thumb in his shirt and glared at the tapestry. “Why now? I helped Lance hang the damn thing, and it never so much as made a noise.”

“It’s reacting to me,” Keith said. “It’s probably charmed to protect the magic and go after people like me.”

Shay climbed warily off the couch. “Maybe I could try.”

“NO!” Both Hunk and Keith yelled at the same time.

Hunk studied the tapestry again for a moment. “Maybe if you put something over it, like a blanket or something.”

The lioness’s tail snapped again angrily as it hissed again.

Keith figured it was worth a try. He went into Lance’s bedroom and took the comforter off the bed. He hurried back to the living room at full speed, tossing the comforter over the tapestry and pulling it off the wall. The lioness fought against the comforter, slashing and spitting. Keith slammed the tapestry to the ground and trapped it with the comforter. The lioness howled in fury. It sounded like it was going through a shredder.

Hunk eyed it suspiciously. “How in the hell will you be able to drive with that thing thrashing around?”

“If I can get it off the frame, I can roll it up and lock it in the toolbox of the truck,” Keith said.

Shay tilted her head slightly. “It’s only going to let Lance touch it. Once you move that thing is going to tear you to shreds.”

Keith narrowed his eyes as he stared at the writhing tapestry. “I could hit it with a hammer. Or maybe run it over a few times with my truck. That might get it to stop.”

“No!” Shay was insistent. “It’s only trying to protect Lance.”

Keith wanted to bang his head on the floor in frustration. He was dripping blood on the comforter, and he needed to get the tapestry to Lance. If he tried to put it in the truck with him for the drive, one of them wouldn’t make it, he was positive.

“Go get Lance,” Hunk said. “He’ll be able to handle it.”

“It’s too dangerous,” Keith snapped. There had to be Galras watching this apartment. He was not going to let Galras get Lance. Ever.

Hunk threw his hands up in frustration. “What other choice do you have?”

Keith twisted to look at Hunk. “You seem to be believing all of this this pretty easily. Do you believe Lance’s a witch?”

Hunk stared back at him with determined brown eyes. “Dude, Lance’s my brother from another mother. I know him probably better than anyone. Do I believe it? Hell, yeah, I do. And it pisses me off to admit it, but I may not be the one who can protect him this time. That’s why I’ve decided to trust you…for the time being.”

Keith raised his eyebrows.

Hunk crossed his arms and said calmly, “But if you hurt him, nothing will stop me from finding you and killing you. I’m a trained killer and I make good on my promises.”

Keith rose to his feet, ignoring the hissing and howling coming from the tapestry. Hunk had been honest with him, so he would be honest in return. “I’m the only thing keeping Lance alive right now,” he stated. “If Galras get him, he’ll die slowly and painfully. I won’t let that happen.” No one was taking Lance from him.

“Lance’s convinced me that he’s safe with you. For now. And I’ll accept that. But you have no choice in this case,” Hunk said, gesturing towards the thrashing lump under the comforter. “How important is it that you get that to Lance in one piece?”

Acxa’s life depends on it.

Hunk continued, “I’ll stay here and keep a look out. If I see any trouble, I’ll call the cell phone you gave Lance.”

Keith nodded and strode out, thinking all along that with Lance, there was always trouble.


Chapter Text

“Are you going to help me feel better today Mister Lance?”

Lance jumped, making a small sound of surprise and dropping the iPod he was holding. He had seen Keith’s iPod by his computers in the bedroom and had been scrolling through his music. He missed his own iPod terribly.

Acxa had caught him snooping. Lance set the iPod down and walked out into the hallway. Acxa stood there, looking smaller and paler than before. Lance knelt down in front of her. He gently brushed her bangs back and sucked in a quick breath. The mark on her forehead had turned red and was getting darker.

“Probably not today, sweetie. But soon, I promise you. Keith’s gone to get me something I need.”

Acxa hugged Ariel tighter to herself. “Maybe tomorrow, then?”

Lance shifted uncomfortably. What could he say to this child? “I hope so.”

Acxa stared at him with huge eyes. “Would you read to me?”

Lance blinked at her. “Um, well, I-”

Shiro’s voice cut him off. “Lance, Keith wouldn’t like you being on the main floor of the house.”

Lance looked back and saw Shiro on the computer screen. He frowned in annoyance. Had Shiro been spying on him? He hadn’t done anything wrong. He had only wanted to see what music Keith had.

“Keith’s not here,” he retorted, then waved his hand. The cord connecting the screen to the computer hard drive popped out, disconnecting them.

Acxa giggled. “Shiro’s gonna be mad. He’s the boss of all the computers.”

Lance smiled at her. “The computer boss, huh?”

Acxa nodded. “He told me he was.”

Lance tapped her gently on the nose. “Well, looks like I’m the boss of him, yeah?”

Acxa giggled again and took Lance’s hand. He felt his heart twist, feeling the small hand in his own. He followed her down the hallway and asked, “Where are we going?”

“I wanna show you my room. Do you like books? I do. I can’t read really good books yet, but Keith and mommy read to me a lot. I can write my name. And I can write Keith’s name, too. I can call him, I know what numbers to call him with. Do you have a phone?” Acxa chattered away.

Lance was smiling at how quickly the little girl’s mind worked, quickly moving from topic to topic. “Keith gave me a phone. I lost my other one.”

Acxa pulled him into a room at the end of the hallway. There was a full-sized bed with pink sheets on it. There was a small bookshelf filled with books and a toy box filled with toys. A small child sized table had a tea set laid out on it.

“Keith let me use his phone to call Matt. Matt is my bestest friend,” Acxa informed him.

Lance smiled at her. “He is?”

Acxa nodded. “Yeah, he’s Keith’s friend, too, but Keith can’t draw and color like me and Matt.” She leaned towards Lance and whispered, “Keith isn’t a very good artist, but don’t tell him. I don’t wanna hurt his feelings.”

Lance nodded solemnly. This child was irresistible. She loved her brother so much that she didn’t want his feelings hurt. And Keith loved her so much in return that he’d kidnapped a witch to heal her, putting himself at risk. And if Lance failed, Keith would sacrifice his soul to heal her. He cleared his throat before answering her.

“I won’t say a word. Pinky swear,” he promised, holding out his pinky.

Acxa wrapped her pinky around his with a giggle.

“Keith sings really good, though,” she said, catching Lance by surprise. “Doesn’t he, Mommy?”

Lance glanced over his shoulder to see Krolia standing in the doorway smiling at them.

“Yes, he does, sweetie. Did you ask Lance to come play with you, or did you drag him in here?”

“I found him by himself in Keith’s room, Mommy. I don’t want Lance to be alone,” Acxa said.

Lance’s throat ached. Krolia was raising an exceptional little girl. And he amended his thoughts to include Keith, who obviously spent a lot of time with his sister. He turned to face Krolia, noting how tired she looked. She didn’t look angry to see him with Acxa, but he didn’t want to add to her troubles.

“I’ll go back downstairs now,” he said rising from where he had been sitting.

Krolia shook her head. “No, it’s okay. Stay. I don’t like you being down there all by yourself either. It isn’t good for you. I’m going to start some dinner. Maybe you can keep Acxa entertained?”

Lance was touched by her kindness. While Krolia had been party to his kidnapping, her actions were borne of desperation.

“Well, I guess I can. But I should probably be practicing with my powers.”

“Show me some witchcraft, please!” Acxa squeezed Lance’s hand and held out her Ariel toy. “Can you make her dance?”

“We won’t know until I try. Why don’t you go get on your bed? You sit on the pillows and put Ariel in the middle of the floor, okay?” Lance gently nudged the girl towards her bed. He didn’t want her too close if he wasn’t able to control his powers.

Krolia watched her daughter arrange herself as asked, excitement bright on her little face. For the moment. “She’s feeling a little better, but it won’t last. Each episode lasts longer and gets worse.”

Lance nodded, feeling helpless. He wished Keith would hurry up with the tapestry. “I’ll figure something out, Krolia.”

She nodded at him. “I know you’re trying. I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me.”

Lance turned to smile at Acxa. He then turned his thoughts inward, running through the colors of the first four chakras in his mind. Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. The swooping sensation rushed through him as all four chakras opened. It seemed to be getting easier each time. He concentrated on air, using it to push Ariel upright into a standing position.

Acxa beamed and clapped her hands.

“You’re doing it! She’s going to dance!”

Memories of his childhood flowed through him, of playing like this with the voices and how they would help him move his toys around. He hadn’t had true powers then, but the voices had filtered their massive powers through him. Shocked by the memory, Lance lost his concentration and his chakras closed, causing Ariel to collapse on the bed. He had been talking to the Alteans. Who else could it have been?

“Oh no! Ariel, get back up!” Acxa pleaded.

Lance shook his head and made himself focus. He had let the memory interfere with his magic just as Adam had warned him. He had to keep his emotions in control. He focused on the Ariel again, manipulating the air to lift him up and make her bounce and dance. While Acxa squealed and clapped, he let memories rush over him while maintaining his focus on the toy. Memories of the voices in his head playing with him and teaching him. Until his grandfather walked in and caught him.

Ariel stumbled as Lance remembered his grandfather’s horrible fury. The terrifying lonely darkness of the closet closing in on him. The fear that one day his dad, too, would stop loving him because there was something very wrong with him.

“You need more practice,” observed Acxa as Ariel listlessly swayed in one place.

Lance shoved the unpleasant memory away and instead thought of the lion that would come to him and keep him safe. His powers shifted back into his control and he had Ariel dancing again, and because he could, added a Raggedy Ann doll and a teddy bear into the mix.

A few minutes later, Lance and Acxa were both giggling. He would have never thought his powers would bring him happiness. He put the stuffed bear and rag doll down and bounced Ariel across the room to Acxa’s waiting arms. Her cheeks were flushed red from her laughter, but it only made the rest of her look paler.

“Tired, sweetie?” Lance asked her tenderly.

Acxa nodded. “Yeah,” she affirmed, nodding. “And my head hurts.”

“Want me to go get your mom?” Lance asked her as he stroked her hair softly.

Acxa scooted over to make room and patted her bed to show Lance she wanted him to sit next to her. He did, taking her small hand and giving it a squeeze.

Acxa snuggled up to Lance’s side. “Can I tell you something?” she whispered.

Lance tensed as he felt a dark slithering sensation low in the pit of his belly. He wondered if it was what Acxa was feeling. “Sure you can, sweetie,” he whispered back.

“The bad shadows come at night,” Acxa said in a tremulous voice.

Lance pulled her into his lap and wrapped his arms around her. This scared him shitless, so it had to be beyond terrifying for Acxa. “Oh, baby. It’s nightmares, bad dreams.”

Acxa wrapped shaky arms around him and shook her head. “They’re going to get me! They want to eat me!”

“No. I won’t let them,” Lance promised. He would fix this somehow, he vowed to himself. He was a witch, damn it. He had powers. He had to be able to do something.

“My head hurts,” Acxa whimpered again.

Lance put a cool hand on her forehead. This time, without even a thought, his chakras opened. He closed his eyes and concentrated. He wanted to narrow his focus to draw out pain and illness. He reached inward, looking for the dark slithery feeling he’d felt when Acxa asked to tell him something. He couldn’t break the curse without high magic, but he could try to ease the symptoms a bit with what he had.

He felt waves of feelings; Acxa’s love for her mother and Keith, and for the men and woman that were Keith’s friends, even her love for her Ariel. He could feel how much she liked to swing and have tea parties with Keith, Keith singing to her as he twirled her around, her favorite books, drawing, and there...

Something dark and painful.

Lance focused on the dark, separating it from everything else. He imagined it as a thread and slowly began tugging on it, pulling it out. He felt a vibration at the core of himself when Acxa squirmed and whispered, “Hot.”

He had to do more. So while he pulled the dark thread out, he sent back cool soothing energy. He could feel Acxa relaxing in his lap.

“Better, sweetie?” he whispered softly.

Keith’s voice broke into the quiet. “What are you doing?”

Lance’s eyes snapped open. He gasped as Keith strode into the room. Gently moving Acxa out of his lap, Lance jumped up.

“You’re bleeding!”

Keith looked like he’d tangled with barbed wire. Scratches covered his arms and his shirt was tattered. There was an angry looking scratch on his face. “Fucking beast,” Keith muttered.

“Fucking beast,” echoed Acxa with a giggle, just as Krolia walked in.

“Acxa!” admonished Keith and Krolia at the same time.

Krolia picked Acxa up and looked Keith over. “Are you okay?” she asked her son.

“Fine,” answered Keith shortly.

She lingered for a moment, looking him over to be sure then walked out with Acxa.

Lance stared at Keith.

“What beast? Where in the hell did you go to run into a beast? You look like you’ve gone a couple of rounds with a panther.”

Keith wiped blood away from the cut on his face with the back of his hand and glared at it. “That lioness from the tapestry.”

Lance frowned. The tapestry had never done anything like that before. “It scratched you? Where is it?” He reached out to touch the deep scratches on Keith’s arm. “I can try to heal-”

“Forget about them,” Keith said as he took Lance’s arm to guide him out of Acxa’s room. “The tapestry is still at your place.”

Lance struggled to understand as Keith propelled him towards the front door. “You couldn’t get it? You’re taking me home? I get to go?” He felt excitement increase his heartbeat. He would get to go outside, breathe in the fresh air and feel the warmth of the sunshine. He would see his apartment. He’d be free for just a short time.

“I couldn’t get it without damaging it,” Keith grumbled as they walked out into the front yard.

Lance breathed in deeply. The air smelled wonderful and a rush of pleasure filled him. When they got to the passenger side of the truck, Keith turned to him.

“Your birth mom must’ve put a protection spell on the tapestry. It won’t let anyone else move it,” he said.

Lance felt his heart give a little lurch. His birth mom had cared enough for him to do that. Maybe there was somewhere in the world he belonged after all. Maybe after the tapestry healed Acxa it would lead him to his birth mother. Maybe the woman who had given birth to him wanted to see him. He realized Keith was still staring at him.

“What?” he asked.

Keith’s violet eyes hardened. “I’m taking you because I have no choice. You have to have that tapestry. It’s dangerous and Galras could be anywhere. If they shield their presence, I might smell them, or I might not until it’s too late.”

Lance could feel Keith’s anxiety. “Okay.”

“Don’t fuck with me, Lance. No funny witch games. No shit with your best friend either. He’s already there at your apartment, and I’ll explain on the way. But know this; if it comes down to it, I won’t hesitate to bring you back with me by force.” Keith spun on his heel and walked around to the driver’s side of the truck.

Lance bowed his head. He tried to swallow down the thickness that suddenly appeared in his throat. He had thought they were...what, friends? That he mattered somehow? If nothing else, he had thought Keith could trust him to do all he could for Acxa.


Lance spotted his best friend in his apartment and rushed through the door, not even giving a second thought to his comforter being on the ground in his living room rather than on his bed. His eyes stung with sudden tears as the sight of him brought forth all his emotions. But a few feet away from Hunk, he slowed to a stop. He was a witch. There was no denying now that he truly was different from everyone else. What if Hunk rejects me because of what I am?

“Hunk, I-” he began, voice cracking.

Hunk’s eyes flared with fierce emotion. He closed the distance between them and hauled Lance against his chest in a tight hug. “Jesus, Lance,” Hunk said, his own voice thick with emotion. “I’m your brother. With everyone gone, I’m all you got left. Don’t ever scare me like that ever again!”

Lance’s shaking arms were wrapped around Hunk’s waist. “Your bestie is a witch, it seems. That’s not going to bother you?” He couldn’t help it. All his life he’d wanted to fit in, to be normal enough to fit in. And he knew now that he never would.

Hunk leaned back and tilted Lance’s chin up to look at him. He grinned at him affectionately. “Dude. I’m proud of you. Always. I’m proud you’re different. It’s one of the best things about you!” His face turned serious. “I made sure to close up your shop and put a sign on the door you’ll be closed for a while so you can grieve. Many of your customers stopped by the bakery and told me to tell you they can’t wait to see you again.”

Sadness crept over Lance and he lowered his head again. “I don’t know that it will ever be safe for me to go back, Hunk. The paperwork is in my office and you are on all the accounts. My shop is yours and Shay’s if you want it.”

“Screw that,” Hunk argued. “We’re partners and we always will be. And it’s you I’m worried about here. We’ll find a way to keep you safe, I promise.”

Lance shook his head. “I can’t, Hunk. Don’t you see? All witches are in hiding. Galra witch hunters are trying to kill all of us.”

A soft moan made Lance step away from Hunk to look at Shay. She was sitting limply on the couch, hunched over and holding her head. Damn it, he’d almost forgotten. Keith had told him on their way over about Shay. It was yet another incredible thing to try to wrap his mind around; Shay had married a Galra hunter.

Lance walked over to her and put his hand on her shoulder. “Shay,” he said softly.

She looked up at him. “I came home because I was scared and I kept having blackouts. My husband tried to have me committed. He told everyone I was crazy,” she said in a rushed whisper.

Lance rubbed her shoulder comfortingly. “I may know someone who can help you. I’ll be sure to check,” he said. Adam treated brain-damage victims on the side. But the fact that he was a witch was Lance’s secret for now. He would have to talk to Adam first before saying anything.

Keith broke in. “We need to hurry. The tapestry is under the comforter, see if you can grab it.”

Despite his obvious tension, Keith had given him a few minutes with Hunk. He always seemed to zig when Lance expected him to zag. Lance gave Shay’s shoulder a final squeeze and walked towards the covered tapestry. Keith was already there waiting for him and yanked off the comforter.

Lance looked back towards Shay. “Shay, I promise you I’ll call you as soon as I-”

A loud hiss cut him off. Lance jumped and whipped back around to stare open mouthed at the tapestry. “Holy shit! What the fuck?” he gasped.

He cautiously stepped towards the edge of the tapestry, staring in wonder. The lioness that normally sat placidly on the silver box, the same one he had looked at a million times before, stood with its back arched and ready to attack. It glared hatefully at Keith.

“I’ve never seen it do anything before. It’s moving! It looks real!” At the sound of Lance’s voice, the lioness turned its head to look at him. “Umm…nice kitty?” he said tentatively, prepared to duck if needed.

The lioness sat down on the silver box and went back to being inanimate. The tapestry threads shimmered with magic. Lance looked closely at the familiar scene. Were the spells in the silver box the lioness always protected?

He breathed out a deep breath and looked at the other three in the room. “Okay, now what?”

“See if you can pick it up. Be careful, though,” Keith said, holding the comforter at the ready in case he needed to toss it over the tapestry again.

Lance knelt and took the tapestry by the edges of the frame. He stood and breathed a small sigh of relief when the lioness remained motionless. No hissing or scratching. The lioness was as it had always been. Now he needed to get it back to Keith’s so he could figure out how to get to the spells.

“Hunk, I’ll call you about Shay, okay?” he said as he walked towards Keith, who had moved to stand by the door.

Hunk quickly darted between Lance and the door to stop him. “Lance, tell me where you’re going. I have to know you’re safe.”

Lance hesitated. He knew Keith would lose it if he told Hunk where his house was, so he quickly answered without thinking, “I promise I’m safe, Hunk. He keeps me locked on a level below ground so no one will find me.” He winced when Hunk’s face turned red and his eyebrows snapped together in an angry scowl.

“You mean underground? Like a fucking dungeon or something? Damn it, Lance, you’re terrified of being locked up!” Hunk’s voice rose with each word and shook with his anger.

Keith glared at both of them. “We don’t have time for this!”

Hunk’s hands clenched into fists. “This is how you treat the man who’s trying to save your sister’s life?”

Keith’s expression was hard, but there was an underlying tiredness. “I’m trying to keep him alive, Garrett. Don’t get in my way.” He took Lance by the arm and propelled him out into the courtyard, ignoring Hunk’s outraged yell behind them. They both looked around quickly. Everything looked normal, but then Keith inhaled and tensed.

“Galras. Fuck.”

Lance caught the faint scent of copper just as two huge men with knives materialized in front of them. He stumbled backwards and Keith, reacting in hyper speed, caught him to keep him from falling. He turned Lance towards the apartment and gave him a shove.

“Grab him, Hunk!” Keith yelled as he unholstered his knife.

Lance flew forward, losing his grip on the tapestry and tripping over his own feet as he stumbled. Hunk caught him by the arms as he fell and yanked him into the apartment. Lance fell to his knees with the momentum.

Danger! Hunters! Get out! Run! The voices in his head erupted into screams.

Lance could see Shay huddled on the couch quaking in fear. Hunk had moved nearby and was standing guard with his gun drawn.

Lance looked back and felt his chest tighten with fear and rage. Keith stood between him and the two Galra hunters. But what caught Lance’s horrified attention the most was the knife sticking out of Keith’s back below the right shoulder. He swore he could hear Keith’s lion roar in fury in his mind. Blood was welling up and soaking the cotton of his t-shirt. Keith twisted slightly, and Lance could see he held his own knife at the ready.

When one of the Galras made motion to strike, Keith feinted one way before striking fast and sinking his blade into the man’s chest. The Galra’s dying scream was filled with pain and terror. Keith yanked his blade out quickly and went to turn towards the second hunter just as the Galra threw his knife.

“Keith!” screamed Lance, knowing there wasn’t enough time for him to evade the knife. Ohgodohgodohgod...

A gunshot exploded from the apartment and the Galra went down. Hunk.

Lance lurched to his feet and ran to Keith.

“Keith!” he gasped. Blood was pouring from a second wound on Keith’s shoulder where the second Galra’s knife had cut him as he turned. Lance swallowed back a wave of dizziness as Hunk ran to them.

Hunk quickly pulled his t-shirt over his head. “Here. Wrap his arm,” he ordered Lance.

Lance obeyed, wrapping it around the wound and tucking it securely. “His back, Hunk!”

“No time,” Keith said as he stepped back. “Hunk, drive. Lance, tapestry. “

Hunk gestured them away frantically. “Go on! I’ll cover!” He grabbed Shay by the hand.

Lance snatched up the tapestry in one hand and took Keith’s uninjured arm in the other and hurried the, towards Keith’s truck. “Keys!” he demanded. He was going to get them back to Keith’s and get Hunk and Shay somewhere safe.

“Pocket,” Keith grunted.

Lance shoved his hand into Keith’s pocket to retrieve the keys. He opened the truck, tossed the tapestry behind the seat and motioned Keith inside. Keith heaved himself in to sit sideways with the knife still sticking out of his back. Lance slammed the door behind him and raced around to the driver’s side.

“Hunk!” he yelled, “you and Shay get the hell away from here! Away from me!” He climbed into the truck and quickly adjusted the seat. He fumbled with the keys, swearing under his breath the entire time. His bloody hands were slippery making it difficult to get a good grasp. Keith’s blood, he thought, choking back tears. Finally getting the truck cranked, he slammed it into gear.

“Doctor? Hospital? Where?” he asked frantically as he peeled out of the parking lot.

“Lance, it’s okay. I’ll be fine. Get yourself together and drive home,” Keith grit out.

Fortunately, since Keith hadn’t shielded his vision this time, Lance knew where he was going. He kept the truck at the speed limit, not wanting to attract unwanted attention. His head was buzzing, but he couldn’t make out any words.

“Turn right here,” Keith directed.

Lance made the turn and followed the directions Keith continued to give him.

Finally Keith said, “The only one following us is Hunk.”

Lance was wound so tight he was sure just one jolt would cause him to fly to pieces altogether. “I’ll take you to the hospital...”

Keith interrupted him. “I’m fine. Just drive to the house.”

“You are not fine! You have a fucking knife sticking out of you!” argued Lance. Keith reached over his shoulder and Lance narrowed his eyes. “Oh no no no no no. Don’t you fucking da-” his protest was cut short as Keith tugged the knife out. The cab of the truck turned hot and sticky as blood poured from the wound. “Are you fucking crazy?” Lance yelled in a mix of frustration and horror.

He had to stop the bleeding. He turned into a strip mall and whipped around to the back area where deliveries were made. He slammed the truck into park and yanked his shirt over his head, then balled it up and pressed it against the wound.

Keith looked around to assess if they were being followed, then turned his attention to the now shirtless witch tending him. “Damn babe, niiiiice,” he said, raking his appreciative gaze over Lance’s bare chest.

“For the love of-now? Really?” Lance asked him incredulously. “¿Has perdido la cabeza?” He was pretty sure one of them had–and it wasn’t the one pouring out blood. He pressed his shaky hand harder against the wound to control the bleeding. He was shocked to realize that Keith’s pain was flowing into him, moving from his nerve endings to his own.

His chakras had opened without him making a conscious effort. In reaction to Keith getting hurt? Out of fear? He wasn’t sure why, but it didn’t matter. What mattered in that moment was Keith. Lance struggled not to fight Keith’s pain, closing his eyes and letting his body absorb it. He concentrated on making himself breathe and letting the pain in. He had to remain calm and centered in order to control the power flowing through his chakras. As pain traveled through him, he sent energy back in exchange–healing energy that would knit together and heal torn sinew and skin.

“Lance, stop.”

Lance shook his head as fiery pain slid up his arm and edged across his neck before slamming into his shoulder blade. He sucked in a harsh breath, losing his connection to his energy. He opened his eyes. Had he done enough?

“Let me look,” he said as he gently moved his bloody shirt off the wound. It was barely bleeding now and the edges were coming together. The healing had begun. “Keep this on it,” Lance said tightly as he draped his shirt on Keith’s shoulder. He turned and reached for the gearshift. He had to get Keith home.

Keith grabbed his hand. “What did you do?” he demanded. “You took my pain, didn’t you?”

Lance was nearly dizzy with the pain, but it was starting to recede. He should probably try to heal the wound on Keith’s shoulder, but he didn’t know if he would be able to drive if he did. The voices in his head were already fretful, making it difficult for him to focus. They had been roused to fever pitch by the Galras, and the earlier presence of the lion in his mind had them agitated. Lance couldn’t feel the lion now, but his earlier screech had been real and enraged.

“I just tried to close the wound a little,” he said, hating that his voice wasn’t as steady as he would have liked.

“Your hands are shaking,” Keith said, letting go of him. He reached behind the seat and grabbed a jacket. “Put this on,” he ordered.

It dawned on Lance that he was so rattled he had fully intended to drive home shirtless. It wasn’t just seeing Keith hurt that had him shaken up; it was the realization that Keith had intentionally turned his body to protect him and allowed himself to be stabbed instead. He was protecting him, just as he said he would. Lance took a deep, calming breath and stared at his hands on the wheel, but they were covered in Keith’s blood.

His vision swam for a moment, but he gave himself a sharp mental shake. He would not panic, he would not faint. He had to get Keith home. The pain mattered little.

“Give me your arm,” instructed Keith.

Lance lifted his right hand and let Keith slide the jacket on. Keith leaned over to hold the jacket for Lance’s other arm, close enough for Lance to smell him. Feel him. His warmth stopped Lance’s shaking, and his calm breathing soothed Lance’s shattered nerves.

“You have to stop moving,” Lance scolded. “The pain, the cuts...”

Keith snorted. “I heal extremely fast. But you, sweet witch, were very stupid to open yourself up to my pain. Now you’re suffering when you don’t need to be.”

Lance huffed and put the truck in gear. He pulled around the building and out of the parking lot. The sun was moving lower. He sighed quietly, wishing he could just sit outside somewhere and feel the warmth of the sun, or the light of the moon, on his skin. He could feel Keith’s gaze on him.

“I’m fine,” Lance said, realizing it was the truth. Somehow his body was breaking down the pain and getting rid of it.

“Like hell you are. Your shimmer is full of red splotches,” Keith said as he eased back into his seat. “You are brave, compassionate, and just too damn beautiful.”

Lance’s startled gaze flew to Keith. His voice had dropped to the low rich tone that always made his heart pound. Lance was feeling confused, though. Protecting him from the Galras, wrapping the jacket around him, angry over his pain, Lance couldn’t quite understand. He knew Keith needed him alive to help Acxa, but what about the rest?

“Are you bothered by being in the truck with me?” he asked.

Keith turned away from the side mirror he’d been staring into, his gaze locking onto blue. “It’s kind of like a buzzing that grows louder and more grating. But then you touched me, used your power to call out the pain from my shoulder, and I wanted to push you down on the seat, strip off your jeans, and fuck into you. That urge is harder to control than the bloodlust.”

Lance struggled to tear his gaze away and focus on the road in front of him. He spotted the turn off, one he’d never seen in all his years of living there and turned the truck onto it. He guided it on the road that would let them into the hills.

“I won’t hurt you,” Keith said softly.

Lance’s grip on the steering wheel tightened. His skin tingled, his nipples tightened and a slow burning need pooled into his groin, making his half hard cock twitch. The worst part was that Keith would hurt him. He would fuck him until he lost himself in orgasm, and Lance would be helpless against the truth of his feelings. He would feel exactly how much Keith hated lusting after a witch–one of those that had cursed his kind. Those feelings would penetrate him as easily as any knife and go mercilessly deeper than any blade. It would kill every last vestige of self-protection he had left. He couldn’t risk that.

Even when Keith had risked his own life for his?

Lance closed his eyes for a brief moment. What was he thinking? He didn’t owe Keith sex. They were both caught up in a situation. The best way to fix it was to solve the problem and get out fast.

“Hopefully the tapestry will help me cure Acxa. Then we’ll be free, both of us.”

Keith frowned, not liking what Lance was saying. “And where will you go?”

Lance didn’t know. He shrugged. “I’ll think of something,” he said. He wasn’t Keith’s problem. Maybe he could find his biological mother. And together they could...

Keith cut into Lance’s daydream. “Hunk is still following us. He followed us behind the strip mall and waited, and he’s behind us now.”

Lance glanced into the rear-view mirror and saw Hunk’s truck. “What do I need to do?” He bit his lip and gave Keith a pleading look. “Please. I don’t want him killed.”

“I’m not going to kill him, Lance,” Keith said evenly. “And obviously he isn’t going to back off, either. You’re his family. I get it. We’ll sort it out at home. Out here, you are too vulnerable.”

Chapter Text

Keith got Lance and the other two into the house and was finally was able to take his first real breath.

When he’d seen those Galras holding their knives, seen their eyes alight on Lance bright with blood lust, something feral and possessive had taken over his brain. Mine. He would have done anything to save Lance in that moment.

But Lance was no coward. He had held it together and driven them home, and this was even after he had done all he could to heal his wounds.

Fuck. He had to get away from Lance. He knew it. His need for him had ramped from bearable to excruciating when he had touched him with his powers. Lance was still pale from the amount of pain he had pulled from him. Keith couldn’t stand it, couldn’t bear Lance’s agony and the tanned skin paling at the pain he had taken from him. He had wanted to shake him by his shoulders and command him to never, ever use his powers to ease his pain again.

More than anything, he wanted to pull Lance to him. To hold him. Take his pain, fear and shock away. Assure him that he would always keep him safe. But Keith knew he couldn’t do that. Knew he couldn’t risk it. He was losing his control around Lance inch by inch.

Krolia walked in. “Acxa’s asleep,” she began, then zeroed in on her blood covered son. “What is going on?” she demanded.

“I’m fine, Mom. The cuts are nearly closed,” Keith assured her. “This is Hunk, Lance’s best friend, and their friend Shay.”

Krolia nodded to them. “Please. Everyone come into the kitchen. I’ll get some food together and start some coffee.”

Keith said, “I’ll be there in a second, okay? I’m going to change my shirt and get one for Hunk to change into.” He needed a minute away from Lance, away from the feel of him. Sweat that had nothing to do with pain was breaking out on his back. His balls ached with lust and the need to possess Lance. The need to make him his.

He tossed Hunk’s shirt in the garbage and pulled his own off to join it. The deep wound on his back was reduced to just an angry looking red welt. Lance had done a hell of a job on that. The cut on his shoulder hardly bled anymore as his own recuperative powers kicked in. He opened the bathroom cabinet and pulled out a gauze pad and tape to put over it. His hyperactive immune system would counteract any germs, and by morning, he knew the cut would be healed.

Keith turned on the cold water at the sink and leaned down to stick his head under it.

Hunk’s words about Lance’s fear of being locked up drifted into his mind, along with the memory of Lance’s first night and what he had done to him. Lance had begged him not to lock him in, yet he had done it anyway. He’d just left him, and Lance had responded by bashing the lock with a stool and nearly breaking his damn hand. Fortunately, his mom and Acxa had gone to Lance and kept him from doing just that or even worse.

Keith’s stomach turned with regret. But he hadn’t thought he had a choice. Had Lance gotten away, the Galras would have gotten to him and brutally murdered him. Keith’s hands tightened into fists. That wasn’t going to happen. He wouldn’t allow it.

Keith grabbed a towel to mop at long raven strands, giving them a final squeeze. He took a deep breath and washed his hands. He hung the damp towel on the rack and walked into his bedroom. Crossing to the dresser, he pulled out a shirt and quickly tugged it on. He grabbed one of Shiro’s for Hunk and walked out to go to the kitchen.

Krolia, Hunk and Shay all sat around the table drinking coffee. Keith tossed the shirt to Hunk. “Where’s Lance?” he asked.

Krolia got up to pour a cup of coffee for Keith and offered it to him. “He went downstairs through the pantry. Said he has work to do.”

Down in the basement. Along again. Keith rubbed at the ache in his chest absently while he added cream and sugar to his coffee. It was starting to feel as though he was somehow incomplete. “He can eat before he goes to work.”

Hunk pulled on the loose-fitting shirt and said, “I told him I’d go down there with him, but he said he wanted to shower and clean up.”

Keith set his cup down with a thunk. “I didn’t know he was claustrophobic. Why is he afraid?”

Hunk’s eyes turned wary and he shrugged.

Protecting his friend’s secrets. Keith knew he could beat it out of him but knew there would be hell to pay from Lance. “Ok, fine. I’ll ask him myself,” he said, turning towards his bedroom.

“Keith. Leave him alone,” Krolia said in a concerned tone.

“I can’t,” Keith said, stopping to look at her.

“Most men are spooked by Lance,” Hunk commented casually.

Keith turned his gaze to Hunk. “Mortals. Cowards. They sense his power and are threatened by it.” He rubbed his hand over his face and crossed back to the counter for his cup of coffee.

“Lance didn’t like being different,” Hunk continued.

Keith knew Hunk was trying to distract him and at the same time test his feelings for Lance. “He seems to like it well enough now. He used his powers to take my knife from me.”

Hunk’s face broke into an amused grin. “Maybe you should give him some space,” he laughed.

Keith knew he couldn’t do that. So, he went to the laptop at the end of the counter and pressed a key. “Lance,” he said, and Lance’s image popped into view. He looked tired and there was still dried blood on his hands. Keith could see the tapestry propped up on the desk.

Lance looked up at the camera. “What?”

“Come upstairs and get something to eat-” Keith began.

“No. We both know I need to stay down here,” Lance interrupted. He dropped his head back down to focus on the tapestry, shutting Keith out.

Damn it witch, now is not the time to test me. I promised I wouldn’t hurt you, but you are really testing my patience “Lance-”

Lance stopped him. “I’m busy. Go away.”

Keith frowned. So, Lance was going to bust his balls, was he? “Lance, if I come down there...”

Lance raised his hand and the screen went blank. Keith slammed his coffee cup down on the counter.

Matt’s face suddenly appeared on the screen. He looked amused. “He blew the cameras in his room,” he said. “Pidge is gonna be pissed if she has to redo the entire system again.”

Hunk laughed and stood up. “Show me the stairs. I’ll go check on him.”

Krolia stood up and motioned for Hunk to sit back down. “No, you stay here. I’ll be right back.” She hurried towards the pantry.

“Let Krolia go, Keith,” Matt advised, watching Keith carefully. “You’re barely holding on.”

“But he blew out my cameras,” Keith pointed out. He needed to be able to see Lance, check on him, make sure he was okay. He needed...Lance. Fuck. Matt was right. Keith took a deep breath and turned his focus to a less volatile area. He felt along the underside of the counter until he found a button and pressed it. A large screen slid silently down from the ceiling.

“Is everyone there, Matt? We need to have a meeting.”

The screen flickered to life and the faces of the other two Paladin hunters appeared on the screen in separate squares like a weird sort of Brady Bunch. Keith motioned to the screen.

“That’s Matt Holt in the top left corner. Top right is Pidge Holt, his little sister. And in the middle at the bottom is Takashi Shirogane, or just Shiro.” Keith gestured towards the table. “This is Hunk Garrett and Shay Balmeran-Crystals.”

“Hi, guys,” Shay said softly as she stared at the screen with huge eyes. “Are you all the same as Keith?”

“These are The Paladins. They have all vowed to never become what your husband is,” Keith said, turning towards the screen. “Shay is ill. Her husband has messed with her memory. She can’t say his name and there are certain words she can’t tolerate.”

“Sounds like brain damage,” said Pidge, ever tactless and blunt, as she seemed to be fiddling with something offscreen.

Keith sighed and said, “Yeah. Lance is going to try to find a witch to help her.”

“It might be a while,” Lance’s voice came over the speakers. “Atlas hasn’t popped up as of this moment, and I need him if I want to get any further in learning what I can.”

“Ah, there’s my eavesdropping witch,” Keith said. He had figured Lance would listen in sooner or later.

“Lance, are you still mad at me?” Matt asked mournfully.

Keith’s gaze zeroed in on Matt. “What did you do?” he asked his fellow hunter with a raised brow.

“Well, you told me to keep an eye on him. Acxa came into your room and I told Lance he should go back downstairs. He disconnected the monitor with witchcraft so I couldn’t see him on the webcam,” Matt explained.

“I was only looking at Keith’s iPod! I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I just wanted to look at his music!” Lance’s voice crackled with outrage.

Keith winced. “Lance, he wasn’t accusing you of anything. No one cares if you looked at my iPod.”

Lance didn’t answer.

Hunk said, “Lance uses his iPod to block out the noise he hears in his head. I found it on the ground outside the shop the night he went missing.”

Keith looked back at the laptop where the microphone was. “Damn it, Lance, why the hell didn’t you tell me? I could have given it to you if you just asked!”

Nothing. Apparently, Lance wasn’t speaking to him.

Krolia walked back into the kitchen. “I’m going to make Lance some tea,” she said. She gave Keith a meaningful look. Keith crossed to the laptop and put his hand over the microphone that picked up their voices.

Krolia filled the kettle with water and put it on to boil. “He’s trying desperately to get something from the tapestry but nothing so far. Atlas isn’t around and Lance can’t reach him. The poor thing is on his last nerve. He threatened the lioness on the tapestry if it didn’t talk to him.”

Keith ran a hand through his still damp curls and down his neck. “Put something in it to relax him, Mom. He took a hell of a lot of pain from me earlier to heal the knife wound.” He closed his eyes. “If he’s in too much pain, he can’t center and connect with his powers. I didn’t stop him when I should have.”

Krolia put her hand on her son’s arm. “It’s more than that. He’s afraid of what he’ll get from the tapestry.”

Keith shifted his eyes to Hunk. Hunk’s expression was guarded and he looked conflicted for a moment. Appearing to come to a decision, he got up and walked over. “Can he hear?”

Keith shrugged. “I have the mic covered, but I find if nothing else, Lance is resourceful.”

“You know Lance’s adopted, right?” At Keith’s nod, Hunk continued. “His grandfather, his adoptive dad’s dad, told him over and over that he was evil. Told him his birth mother threw him away because he was the devil’s spawn. Whenever something happened to his family, whether it was a little cold or something that caused them to be hospitalized, the old man would blame everything on Lance. Said he was a curse to the family. Lance would be scared, and he would talk to people who weren’t there, or sneak outside in the middle of the night and sing to himself. Whenever his grandfather caught him, he would lock him in the hall closet, away from the moonlight, or any light, for that matter.”

Keith’s head swam with the strength of his fury and the enraged roar of his lion. They both wanted to hunt down the man who had dared to mistreat Lance. “His father allowed this to happen?”

“Matías? Hell, no. He would fight with his dad about it, which I think sometimes made things even worse for Lance. I don’t think Matías knew about the closet, though. He was usually at the hospital with another family member or out of town for work. And Lance didn’t want to tell him because he was afraid it would make him more worried,” Hunk finished angrily.

Keith believed him. He knew that Lance had repressed his powers to try to find a way to cope in a mortal family that didn’t understand him. And now he was facing a new fear. “He’s afraid he’ll find out from the tapestry that his grandfather was right,” Keith guessed.

Hunk nodded. He crossed to the coffeemaker and refilled his cup before returning to Shay’s side and giving her hand a squeeze.

Keith turned back to his mom. “No synthetic meds, okay? He can’t tolerate them. Use calming herbs. When you go back down, find out what he needs from us.”

More than anything, he wanted to go down there himself, but he was too edgy. His skin burned with the compulsion for Lance’s blood. But the need to strip him naked and claim him pounded inside of him with each beat of his heart.

He had to go to the club. For Lance’s safety, he needed to find a willing man. Possibly two. Yet he knew somehow that there weren’t enough men to be able to cool his need for Lance. He wanted, no, needed him.

Krolia crushed some leaves and added them to the steeping tea. “I’ll take care of him and ask him what he needs.”

Keith met his mother’s eyes, knew she was reading his tension and understood, at least as well as a mortal could. He took a deep fortifying breath and moved his hand off the Matt. “We need to research Shay’s husband. Pidge, find the bastard.”

Pidge grinned and cracked her knuckles. “Oh, hell yeah. Good times. I haven’t had this fun in a while.”

Shay stared at the screen. “You can do that? When I can’t even tell you his name?”

Matt said, “We’re running a search right now as we speak. We’ll see if you have a valid marriage license. If anyone can find him, it’s Pidge and I.”

“I’ll find him. It’s what I do,” Pidge added.

“Pidge’s a bounty hunter during our downtime,” explained Keith. “She hunts down scum all the time.”

Shiro grinned. “Hanging out with all that scum is why she obviously doesn’t know how to talk like a lady.”

“You’re all talk, Shiro,” stated Pidge cockily. “I don’t need to talk like a lady to be one. I get more tail than you could even imagine.”

“Alright, enough,” broke in Keith, cutting off the argument before it had the chance to get started.

Matt spoke up from the screen. “I think I have something.” He focused on Shay. “Do you think if I show you a name you can tell me if it’s your husband?”

“I’m not sure. I think...” Shay frowned and wrapped Hunk’s flannel shirt tighter around herself.

“No, no, don’t think. Just read this and tell me if it looks right,” Matt said.

SENDAK CRYSTALS popped up on the screen for a moment, then faded away back to the screen with the four men.

Shay’s mouth tightened and her nostrils flared as she breathed in hard. “Yes,” she whispered.

Hunk put his arm around her. “Shay, how old are you?” he asked, and Keith realized he was moving her mind to something she could think about and not hurt.

“Twenty-five,” she answered, a little color returning to her face.

Matt looked up from his work screen. “You were with the DA’s office in Chicago?”

Shay’s face relaxed slightly. “Yes. I was on a case involving a guy who was suspected in the disappearance of several women when I started getting headaches and forgetting things. It started getting worse and then there were the cuts...” she broke off and rubbed lightly at her temples.

Keith saw his mother walk back in. “Mom, can you show Shay a place she can rest? She’s gone through enough.”

“No. Damn it, no.” Shay dropped her hands to pound on the table once and took a deep breath. “I didn’t know where the cuts on my stomach and breasts came from. My husband said I did it to myself. But I’d never been a cutter before.” She stopped, breathing heavily.

“Easy, Shay,” Hunk said, putting his hand on the small of her back.

“I’m not a cutter,” she insisted.

Keith walked around and dropped down to face her. “You’re right, you aren’t. He did this to you. He caused the wounds, the headaches, the memory loss.”

“You believe me,” Shay whispered, her eyes sparkling with tears.

“I believe you, Shay,” Hunk said softly.

“We all believe you,” Keith assured her.

Shay nodded slowly. “I think I’ll take you up on that offer to rest, if that’s okay.”

“I want you both to stay here. It’s safer,” Keith said. He looked at Hunk. “Lance will feel better knowing you are both safe.”

Hunk nodded and took Shay’s hand as she stood up. “Want me to come with you?”

Shay shook her head. “It’s okay. I just want to sleep a little while.”

Krolia took her arm. “Come this way. There are two bedrooms downstairs you can choose from. That way Lance won’t be alone down there,” she said as she gently moved Shay towards the pantry stairs.

Once Keith knew they were gone, he turned back to the screen. “The bastard caused a lot of scarring on her brain tissue. He cut her repeatedly to force a pain memory whenever she tries to remember certain things. I’m thinking it’s got something to do with that case she was working.”

Pidge’s eyes had narrowed. “I’m going to enjoy hunting him down.”

“I’d like a piece of that action,” stated Hunk, crossing his arms.

Pidge raised an eyebrow. “You some kind of mortal badass? Like Dean Winchester?”

Hunk leaned his chair back on two legs. “Dean Winchester was once charged with attempted murder in Florida, but the judge dropped all charges because Dean Winchester never ‘attempts’ murder.”

Pidge sat up straighter in her chair. “Yeah?”

Hunk continued. “Most people would need months to recover from twenty months of Chinese interrogation. Dean Winchester needs a shower, a shave and a change of clothes.”

Pidge grinned. “When a convicted terrorist was sentenced to face Dean Winchester, he appealed to have the sentence reduced to death.”

“Dean Winchester always tests positive for steroids. Not that he uses steroids. It’s because steroids are made from Dean Winchester,” countered Hunk.

“Dean Winchester doesn’t laugh in the face of danger; Dean Winchester is the face of danger,” cackled Pidge.

Lance’s voice cut in. “What’s worse than a pissed off Dean Winchester?”

Hunk shut his mouth and sat the chair back on all four legs. He was not going to answer that question.

Pidge fell for it, however. “What’s that?”

“An extremely pissed off witch,” Lance said.

Pidge looked hurt. “You don’t like Dean Winchester jokes?”

“You like Beyoncé, Pidge?” Lance asked.

Pidge’s eyes widened in horror. “God, no! That isn’t music, that’s listening to a lioness in heat set to instrumentation!”

“Then I bet you wouldn’t like me zapping your speakers so that only Beyoncé played. And who I just so happen to like, by the way,” Lance retorted.

Pidge looked wide eyed at Keith. “Your witch is wicked.”

Keith grinned as pride swelled through him. “Hells yeah he is.”

Keith rolled his shoulders under the pulsing lights of Voltron. Already he wanted to leave and go home.

Back to his witch.

He was at the club to get some relief. Sex. He looked around. “It smells like sex in here.”

“Everyone is tense,” Shiro said. He was wearing low slung jeans, a tight vee neck t-shirt, and a vibe of anger that seemed to attract anyone with two eyes to him. He crossed his muscular arms and looked at Keith. “Rumor has it that hunters are being forced to choose.”

Keith raised his eyebrows. “To go Galra?”

“Or die,” answered Shiro, his eyes glittering with hate.

Keith turned his gaze back to the club. Hot lust pulsed along with the strobes. On one of the couches a young hunter had a woman wearing a short skirt and obviously no panties straddling him. Riding his cock while he held the base to make sure he didn’t penetrate too deeply and hurt her. Just a few feet away another hunter was thrusting into a man on a bar stool. He had him pushed far enough back to limit his access and keep his thrusts in check as he pounded relentlessly into the man.

Public sex didn’t usually happen at the bar. Keith didn’t really care so long as everyone played nice. But it was a sign of growing stress among the hunters. He kept his eyes moving, past the shirtless blond with the tattoos, past the brunette wearing leather chaps over his jeans. He saw them all, but Lance was in his head. His frantic face in the truck as he tried to heal him. Or earlier, when he had kissed him after waking him and before Atlas’s interruption. It was Lance’s skin his palms itched to touch. Lance’s eyes he wanted to watch lose focus when he came for him.

“Hell,” Keith ground out.

“Yeah, it’s a real drag having your pick of hot guys,” Shiro commented. “Or maybe you’re just getting old.”

Keith raised an eyebrow. The fucker was jerking his chain. “Not too old to wipe the floor with your ass.” Maybe a good fight would ease his tension.

Shiro gave him a cocky grin. “Bring it on, motherfucker.”

Keith had turned to head towards the warehouse to do some sparring when his phone rang. He frowned when he saw his dad’s name on the screen. He swiped his thumb over the screen, feeling annoyed on top of everything else. “What?” he snarled into the phone.

“I have a present for you. We’ll see if you’re man enough to handle it,” Richard sneered over the line before disconnecting.

Keith scowled as he put his phone in his pocket. What the fuck is he up to now? Before he could think on it anymore, his phone vibrated with an incoming message. He unlocked the screen and read SECURITY BREACH!

A loud crash sounded from the front of the club. Keith shoved his phone back in his pocket and grabbed his knife in one quick movement. He grabbed his gun with his other hand as back up.

The sound of screams, shattering glass and splintering wood was loud in the air, but then suddenly, everything seemed to halt entirely. Keith could hear the sound of an idling engine and the muffled sound of weeping and groans of pain. An occasional snap of electricity sounded from shattered lights.

Keith quickly moved past all the chaos to the front of the club where a large Escalade had crashed through the darkened security glass of the club front.

“Get everyone out!” he yelled, thinking there might be a bomb in the vehicle. He ran to the front of the Escalade to see if it had hit or trapped anyone under it. The closer he got, the more the smell of blood grew. Thick. Spicy. Intoxicating.

Fuck. Witch blood.

Keith felt sweat break out and coat his body in seconds. He tightened his grip on his knife. He had to get to the blood. Needed to feel it. His veins burned hot with the want...

“No!” Keith stumbled back and slammed into two young hunters with their knives in their hands. Their eyes burned with bloodlust. The Escalade was full of live witches. He could hear them moving and crying. Hunters were circling around the vehicle and Keith could feel his own need screaming through him.

The two hunters attacked him, desperate in their desire to get past him and to the witches. Keith had a split second to decide if he would kill them or try to disable them. He quickly spun and roundhouse kicked one into the other, sending them to crash into a heap in unconsciousness.

All hell broke loose as hunters reacted in a frenzy brought on and inflamed by the curse. Fists and bar stools flew, and knives slashed as Keith and the Paladin hunters fought back against hunters trying to get to the witches. As he fought, Keith became aware that several women were dragging the injured witches out of the vehicle. He silently urged them to hurry and get them out of there and to safety.

When the chaos finally settled, he turned to look towards the Escalade. The engine was still idling but it was empty. The scent trail of witch blood was fading as the blood inside the vehicle dried.

Shiro limped over. One eye was swollen and he had blood dripping from his nose as well as several cuts on his torso. “What a fucking disaster!” he growled.

Keith wiped his hand over the freshly opened gash on his arm and grimaced. “Where did the women take the witches, do you know?”

“No clue, but I saw Plaxum in one group helping the witches,” Shiro answered as he wiped blood off his face with the back of his hand.

Plaxum was Keith’s bar manager and the daughter of a witch hunter. Her father had secluded himself in a trailer in the middle of a desert to avoid giving into the curse and had died there. Plaxum was smart, quick and tough. She ran the bar staff like her personal army and no hunter foolish enough to cross her ever made the same mistake twice. Keith fished his phone out of his pocket, pulled up her number and hit Send.

“Keith,” Plaxum answered abruptly.

“Plaxum, you have the witches? Are they alive?” he asked.

“Yeah, I have them. They are helping each other heal. Jesus, Keith, they were sliced up bad,” Plaxum replied. Her voice shook with anger.

“Okay, listen. I’m going to give you directions to a safe house. Take them there. Get them anything they need.” His tone softened. “You and the other women saved their lives tonight, Plax.”

Plaxum gave a small huff of humorless laughter. “Sure. But for how long?”

“We’re going to keep them safe,” Keith answered, then gave her the directions. She promised to check in and they ended the call.

Keith meant it. They would keep the witches safe. But his skin still burned with the craving. His gut cramped with bloodlust. And a small voice in his head whispered There’s a witch in your house. All yours.

Keith ground his teeth and thought of his sister. Acxa. He thought of how she had looked tonight when he looked in on her. Sleeping fitfully, her hair damp and limp with sweat, dark smudges under her eyes. That damned mark on her forehead had turned an ugly shade of red. And Lance had been downstairs, doing all he could to try to pull spells from the silent tapestry.

He would not kill the witch trying to save his sister.

He would not kill any elemental witch.

Keith looked around. His club was a fucking disaster. He could hear sirens approaching. Hunters were struggling to their feet, many bloody and looking dazed. When the cops got there, a small push of their minds convinced them that the Escalade had been full of rowdy drunks that crashed into the club and busted it up, then somehow managed to escape. A tow truck showed up to remove the Escalade and, despite their injuries from the brawl, the Paladins all grabbed hammers and set to boarding up the damaged front.

Keith’s phone rang. He growled low in his throat when he saw the name on the screen and slapped the phone to his ear.

“Did you like my gift?” taunted Richard. “Did you cry like a girl and piss yourself? Or did you take back your balls and harvest the power from the witch blood?”

Keith hated his father more than ever, but refused to rise to the bait. “Why don’t you come see for yourself?”

Richard laughed maniacally.

“I bet you reek of piss. You don’t get it, do you? Your little witch is finishing the curse, turning you into his familiar. Then he’ll have all the power and all you’ll be is witch-whipped.” He laughed again as Keith snarled and hung up.

Witch-whipped was a crude way of saying a witch had bound a hunter as her familiar. Like the demon witches had tried to do with their curse. But Lance wasn’t a demon witch, damn it. His dad was fucking with his head. Furious, Keith shoved his phone in his pocket and hurled his hammer to the ground. He wanted to find his dad and confront him. Beat the hell out of the lousy bastard.

Matt shoved Keith back away from the freshly boarded front. “Stop it, dumbass! He’s taunting you, trying to get you to take his bait. You’re so tightly wound it wouldn’t take more than the smallest amount of witch blood to send you over! He wants you to come after him! He wants you at his house so he can try to turn you.” Matt got up in Keith’s face. “And if he does, your witch is dead, and so is Acxa.”

The truth in Matt’s words slammed into Keith forcefully and he sucked in a hard breath. But what if it was true? What if Lance was doing something to him? When he had been threatened by Galras at his apartment, the lion on his skin almost seemed to come to life. He would have sworn the thing tried to lift off his back. This thing is just not a tattoo, is it?

“What?” Shiro asked him as he walked over, seeing Keith obviously turning something over in his mind.

Keith knew he could tell Matt, Pidge, and Shiro anything. “Sometimes I can feel wings. Attached to my lion tattoo. I swear the sometimes I get the feeling of wings trying to lift off my skin. Like today at Lance’s apartment when those Galras attacked. And he roared; I’m sure of it.”

“How about your knife?” Pidge asked.

Keith shook his head. He had looked repeatedly. “No wings impressed on the handle. And no ring of immortality on my thumb.” Those were the known signs that The Blade had deemed one worthy of being one of his hunters. But if The Blade had changed his tattoo, why wasn’t he revealing himself?

Keith looked his friends in the eye. “What if Lance is doing something to me? The lion never did anything until he touched it.” And God, his lion wanted Lance to touch him again. Lance’s touch made both Keith and his lion feel alive.

Shiro shook his head. “Your tat isn’t charmed by a witch. I’d know it. We’d all feel it Keith.”

That was true. They would all feel the residue of witchcraft. Keith felt himself relax the merest fraction. He was letting his father’s crazed ramblings get to him.

Matt looked thoughtful. “You managed to resist the witch blood tonight, even though you were the closest to it.”

Keith snorted. “I wanted it. That was too damn close. Only the thought of Acxa kept me from going after it.” And memories. Memories he didn’t want to deal with. Memories of blue eyes and firm flesh that fit his hands perfectly.

Matt wasn’t finished. “You put the witches in one of our safe houses.”

Keith inclined his head in acknowledgement. There was no doubt that he was changing. He couldn’t allow innocent elemental witches to be killed. He had to act. Was he rising to the lion he wore, or was there more to it? He didn’t know. Feeling suddenly exhausted, he said “Let’s call it a night.”

Chapter Text

Keith went inside quickly when he got home. Just as he re-armed the alarm, he heard Acxa’s shrill cry of terror. “Make them stop!”

Keith threw off his exhaustion and took off to Acxa’s room at top speed. Acxa had scooted into the very corner of the bed and held Ariel clutched to her tightly. “Help me! Don’t let them get me!” she cried as tears streamed down her face.

Keith scooped her up into his arms. “No one’s here, baby girl. I’ve got you.”

He hugged her trembling body close to him. He scanned the room quickly, looking for any visible threat. He could see perfectly in the dark, but Krolia had plugged in a Hello Kitty night light in one corner for to help Acxa with her new fear of darkness.

“No, Keith! The shadows! Help me!” she begged, squeezing him tighter with her frail little arms. Hot tears soaked his shirt and made his gut twist. He knew she was having nightmares of being swallowed by shadows. The curse was taking hold and tormenting her mentally and physically. She shivered, but her skin was hot against Keith’s neck.

“No one’s going to get you, I swear,” he whispered as he strode out of the room cradling her against him.

Keith nearly ran over Krolia in the hallway. He reached out with his free hand to steady her, noting that she looked exhausted and thinner than ever.

“I’ve got her, Mom,” he said quietly. “Go get some sleep.”

“Is she feverish?” Krolia whispered hoarsely. Her eyes looked haunted in the light coming from Acxa’s night light and her t-shirt and sweats hung on her loosely. Dark circles of stress and fatigue smudged the skin under her eyes.

“Maybe a bit, but mostly scared from a bad dream. Go back to bed. I’ll wake you if she needs anything,” Keith promised.

Krolia looked her son over. “Keith, what happened? You’re hurt!”

Keith shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Now go back to sleep.”

“It does matter,” she argued quietly.

Keith forced himself to smile. “You know I’ll be healed before you get up in the morning. Now go back to bed. I’ll put Acxa in there with you once I get her back to sleep.” He walked past her and into the dark kitchen, taking a bottle of cold water from the fridge. “Try to drink some water, sweetie,” he coaxed Acxa.

“I don’t want it,” Acxa said fretfully.

“One drink, Acxa,” Keith said as he walked into the living room to sit in the oversized recliner.

It had been nearly a week. Time was racing by too fast. Keith had a list of five demon witches. Pidge and Matt were cross checking them to see if any of them had a child that had been killed the night Acxa had been cursed.

Keith opened the water and leaned Acxa forward gently, encouraging her to sip some. She looked up at him sadly. “Can Lance make me better now? Please?”

Keith nearly flinched. He was asking the impossible of Lance, expecting him to save his sister and his soul. Who was the coward? Wasn’t his sister worth his soul?


He brushed Acxa’s hair back gently. “He’s trying, baby girl.”

Acxa’s breath hitched softly. “Keith? Am I going to die?”

“No. I won’t let you.” And he wouldn’t. The problem was, once he went Galra, he would go after Lance and kill him. Nothing but his own death would stop him. So, he had to time it right. He would kill the demon witch and make sure the Paladin hunters killed him immediately before he went after any more witches.

And Lance would end up dead anyway, slaughtered by Galras once they found him, whispered that irritating voice in the back of his mind. He sighed and lay his head back. “Sleep, our beautiful Acxa.”

Keith sat there quietly as Acxa relaxed in his arms. He was obsessing over the witch. Was it his blood? His scent? That he wanted him so badly he couldn’t sleep? Or had he done something to him?

When he was sure Acxa was asleep, Keith stood and carried her into his mom’s room. He pulled the covers back to lay Acxa down next to Krolia and covered her back up. Half asleep, Krolia pulled Acxa close to her under the covers and fell back into an exhausted slumber.

Keith quietly walked out and shut the door behind him. He padded down the hallway to his own room and into the bathroom. He stripped off his clothes and got into the shower, rinsing away the dirt, sweat and remaining blood from the evening. He got out and dried himself off quickly. He was about to tug on a pair of briefs when he heard his phone beep an alert.

Someone had bypassed the locks and opened the front door.

Keith grabbed his discarded jeans and pulled them back on. He walked silently out the door and onto the porch.

Lance paused at the top of the steps and turned when he heard the door open. The gentle light of the moon touched his skin and made his blue shimmer glisten. It caught the caramel streaks in his hair. He wore only a thin white tank top and blue swim trunks, leaving his long legs bare.

The sight of him struck Keith momentarily dumb. He was drawn to him. He nearly took a step towards him but managed to stop himself. “What are you doing out here?” He asked instead, knowing Lance wasn’t trying to escape him in his swimming wear and bare feet.

“I’m going to try to call my familiar. I need to be in the moonlight.” Lance rubbed his hands up and down his arms before crossing them. “I can’t get anything from the tapestry. Not even a lick of sound from the damn thing. I just know the spells are in that box!” His frustration caused his witch shimmer to dim slightly and goosebumps broke out on his arms.

“Wait a second,” Keith said. He turned back into the house and grabbed a fleece throw off the back of the couch. He carried it outside with him and handed it to Lance. “You’re cold. Wrap up in this.”

Lance took the blanket and swung it around his shoulders. His eyes traveled up and down Keith and widened. “What happened to you? You’re covered in bruises and cuts, your chest...” He cut off as pink heat flooded his face.

Keith fought back the need to grab the blanket wrapped around Lance’s shoulders and pull him to himself, then strip him bare so that he wore only his witch shimmer and moonlight. He stepped out on the porch and closed the door quietly behind him. “I’m fine. The wound will close back up and everything will heal,” he said tightly.

“Here, let me...” Lance said, reaching out to touch his arm.

Keith stepped back and moved to the edge of the porch. “No,” he said, ignoring the quick flash of hurt on Lance’s face. He would lose it if Lance touched him with his powers. He had been too close to witch blood already tonight and was too on edge. He could feel the need for Lance’s blood rising. “What do you need to do?”

“I’m going to the edge of the lake,” Lance said. He paused again at the top of the steps. “Did you find out anything tonight?”

“We have the names of five demon witches. We have to determine if one of them had a child killed at the time Acxa was cursed,” Keith said, not taking his eyes off Lance.

Lance nodded. “But you’ll give me five more days, won’t you? Before you go after her?”

“As long as I can,” Keith answered him. Was Lance worried about him losing his soul? Or was he worried about being killed if Keith went Galra?

Lance turned and made his way down the stairs. He walked towards the lake, the blanket draped over his shoulders swaying with his movement.

Keith swallowed hard. He wanted his arms around Lance, not that damned blanket. If he only had a short time left as a man with a soul, why didn’t he just take him? Make love to him? For as long as he had his soul, he would stick his knife into his own heart before he would cut Lance. His gut tightened and his chest felt hollow. He wanted Lance, needed him in a way he couldn’t understand. Maybe he had just gone too long without feeding the sex part of the curse. He had been too close to witch blood that night, and he could feel that burn hovering along his skin–begging, threatening, always promising ecstasy and relief.

But it was a soul shattering lie.

Keith watched Lance as he stopped at the edge of the water. Lance stood quietly, barely moving. Then he stretched up, allowing the blanket to slide down and pool at his feet on the shore. He tilted his head back to angle his face towards the moon and extended his arms out to his sides. Curving his body back in a graceful arc, he closed his eyes and gave himself to the moon; to the night.

Keith sucked in his breath. Lance’s beauty shimmered with heat. His golden necklace reflected the pure light of the moon so that it appeared to be only moonlight weaving a pattern on his skin. His chest rose and fell, his breathing slow and steady. The moment was so personal Keith felt as though he was intruding.

He couldn’t look away.

Lance spoke in a low voice, the pitch of it rolling over Keith like a caress. Lance arched his back even further, giving himself over completely. He breathed in deeply and Keith could feel his power surge. It unfurled and wrapped around him, strong enough to send ripples across the dark reflective surface of the lake.

Keith surged to his feet, unable to stop himself. And he didn’t want to. Lance’s power, his sexuality, his very center called to Keith and demanded he answer. Now.

Keith again felt wings flutter on his back along with the movement of his lion. Animal and hunter instinct took over and he faded into the night, moving stealthily down the stairs and across the way until he stood in front of Lance. He breathed in the scent of him, the powerfully sweet ocean spice now filled with smell of exaltation and the moon. He put his hands on Lance’s waist.

Lance opened his eyes slowly. His pupils were dilated so that only a trace of blue was visible. His nipples had hardened and were visible through the thin cotton of his tank top. Keith could smell the musky cinnamon scent of his desire, his need. His rising power had filled his body and now pulsed inside him, a living thing.

“My fifth chakra opened. I begged the Alteans to grant me an animal to help me do spell magic and focus my power,” Lance whispered as his body shuddered beneath Keith’s hands.

Keith felt a wave of energy move through Lance. He felt it as though it was his own. As though he was connecting to Lance, as if unseen parts of their separate beings were fusing into one. With it came a sense of hope, real and true hope.

Lance’s eyes widened. “I can’t control it,” he gasped.

Keith was struck by how he had deprived Lance of what he needed, locking him on the lower floor and away from the elements. He was an elemental witch. He needed the elements that surrounded them. Now he was on overload as his power surged and unfurled and soaked up the earth through his chakras. Keith felt his own body respond, going hard and reaching with an instinct stronger than any he’d ever felt–stronger, even, than bloodlust. It was a drive to lock up the connection between them.

“Don’t try to,” Keith said. “Let the power have you.”

He wanted Lance drenched in power, steeped in it. Then he wanted to taste that power, touch it, feel it, and finally sink himself into it while wrapping his arms around Lance and holding him as he gave himself to the power, and to him.

Lance shook his head, the movement nearly frantic. “You don’t understand,” he said. He reached down to the hem of his tank top and pulled it away from his body with unsteady hands.

Oh, but Keith did understand. He slipped his hands to Lance’s waist and pulled the shirt up and off.

“You need to be free. You need to breathe in the night, feel the moonlight on your skin. You need to feel my touch.” He dropped the shirt and saw he was right. Lance’s skin was nearly translucent with its silver glow. His nipples were pebbled and hard and his erect cock strained against the material of his trunks. Keith raised both hands and ran his thumbs lightly over each nipple.

Lance arched as a low sound of pleasure escaped him. Keith lowered his mouth to one hard nipple and dragged his tongue over it, swirling around and flicking it before gently sucking it. Lance gasped and clutched at Keith’s shoulders for a moment before moving down to pluck at the waistband of his briefs.

“Keith,” he breathed.

Keith answered by letting go and dropping to his knees. He gently pushed away Lance’s fretful hands and pulled the briefs down, exposing Lance to the moonlight. And to him. The scent of Lance’s desire was stronger now and hit him first, spicy and tantalizing. He could see the muscles in Lance’s thighs flex as he shifted. His cock was hard and proud, flushed and jutting forward enticingly. The moonlight shimmered on him, illuminating the precome already beaded at the tip.

Grasping Lance’s cock at the base, Keith stroked up and swiped his thumb over the tip before swirling it lightly around the head, gathering the moisture and smearing it around. Lance shuddered and made a throaty noise that sank into Keith’s very bones.

He leaned forward to touch his tongue lightly to Lance’s cock. Lance thrust his hips forward and Keith moved to accommodate him. A taste wasn’t enough, not nearly enough. He ran his tongue up from base to tip and then opened his mouth a little wider, sucking in the head to tease it with his tongue before pressing forward. He drew back slowly and then pressed forward again until he felt the press of warm skin against his nose.

Lance made a strangled noise of pleasure as he felt his cock press against the back of Keith’s throat. He tossed his head back and panted for breath while he struggled to remain upright in face of the dual sensation of his power unleashing and the moist heat of Keith’s mouth. His shaking hands tangled in Keith’s hair and a moan vibrated low in his throat when Keith drew back and ran his tongue lightly across the slit before again taking him deep.

Keith increased his pace with Lance’s movements and cries. He wrapped one hand around Lance’s cock and held him close with the other on his hip. He wanted to be filled with his scent, with his flesh. More. He stroked Lance firmly as he continued to lick and suck at him, then slipped his hand down to cup his balls gently. He rubbed at them softly for a moment before moving further, sliding his fingers back until they found the heat of his hole. He stroked over it lightly, feeling the heat and clench of it. He felt Lance’s hands move to grab his shoulders, the fingers digging in as Lance’s hips began to move faster.

“Keith! I’m going to...I can’t...” Lance gasped.

Keith moved his hand away from its teasing of Lance’s hole to capture both of his hips and hold him in place, a silent indication that he should let go. His mouth and tongue teased and sucked, encouraging Lance to come. Keith hummed low in the back of his throat and the sensation around his cock was too much for Lance. He tossed his head back and keened out his pleasure as he came in hot spurts, Keith capturing all of it. Lance’s legs shook and nearly folded underneath him, and he would have collapsed had Keith not risen and caught him in his arms.

Lance tasted himself when Keith slammed their mouths together. Keith’s tongue probed deeply as his arms held Lance close. Lance could feel Keith’s tightly leashed lust pounding at him, could feel his erection thick and hard against him.

Another wave of pure energy undulated from his center outward. It pulsed hard enough to make him shiver. Keith had licked and sucked him to a mind shattering orgasm, but it wasn’t enough. It wouldn’t be enough until he had Keith inside him. Already Lance could feel himself hardening again. He had never felt these waves of agonized want before. His skin prickled with it, demanded it. It felt like he was splitting apart into a thousand pieces and needed Keith to fill him and seal his soul inside his body.

Lance broke their kiss with a growl of frustration.

Keith’s violet eyes flared in the moonlight. As if knowing exactly what Lance needed, he grabbed the soft blanket and spread it on the earth. Lance allowed him to gently lay him down on it. Keith then stood and stripped off his jeans. Lance caught his breath. Keith was magnificent. Moonlight glistened on the light dusting of hair that covered his chest. His pale skin rippled down his muscular stomach and then paled more slightly at his hips. His erect cock rose from a nest of dark strands of hair.

Huge. It made sense why the man was so cocky. He was beautiful in an untamed way. Lance knew he would fill him, make the unbearable wanting stop. He looked up into Keith’s eyes. Keith watched him, his gaze sliding sensuously down his body and back up to his face. Magic and danger crackled and danced in the air between them.

Another uncontrolled roll of power surged through Lance, forcing his body to arch, hips thrusting forward and thighs falling open. He didn’t know what this was, but it felt as though it was sweeping him away into a swirling whirlpool of sensation. Whatever it was, he wanted to surrender to its claim. He raised his arms to Keith.

“Please,” he begged, beckoning him closer.

Keith shivered once and dropped to his knees. He reached for the jeans he had tossed aside and pulled his wallet out to get the packet of lubricant he always kept in it. He tossed both the jeans and his wallet aside and tore the corner of the pouch of lube, squeezing it in his hand and liberally coating his fingers. He settled himself between Lance’s legs, lifting one slightly to run his slick fingers between the cheeks of Lance’s ass and coat the crack with lube.

“You’ll take all of me,” Keith whispered. Lance wasn’t sure what he meant, but then Keith circled the tight pucker of his hole teasingly with a slick finger before pushing in, slow and deep. And then deeper.

Lance sucked in a breath and moaned at the pleasurable sensation. “Yes,” he agreed, willing to give him anything, “I can do it.” He knew the emotional pain would come with Keith’s release, knew that it would nearly smother him with the weight of it, but at that moment he didn’t care. He just wanted to feel Keith moving inside him.

Keith worked his finger back and forth a few more times before readying a second finger.

“Ready for more?” he asked, his voice a low and sexy growl.

“Yes, more, Keith, I need more,” Lance whispered, pressing back and fucking himself on Keith’s fingers. Keith did growl at that point, the sight of his fingers slipping easily in and out of Lance’s tight asshole under the moonlight being almost too much for him. He stretched his fingers apart a few times and added a third finger as soon as he could. He thought briefly that he should really try to see if Lance could take a fourth finger to be sure he could accommodate Keith’s size, but he couldn’t wait anymore. He was on fire with the need to be inside of Lance.

Keith knelt between Lance’s spread thighs. He squeezed the remaining lube from the packet and stroked his hard cock to coat it. He circled the head of his cock teasingly around the rim of Lance’s stretched hole before guiding himself in slowly.

Lance spread his legs wider and lifted his hips to better accept him, wrapping his legs around Keith’s hips.

“Easy,” Keith growled. The muscles in his back and shoulders bunched and the tendons in his neck were corded with what little control he had left.

Hot tears of need rose in Lance’s eyes and made his voice thick. “But you said I wouldn’t have to hold back with you.” He wanted...well, he didn’t know, but he had to have it. All of it.

Keith’s violet eyes softened with a flutter of wings that disappeared as quickly as it came. “I will not be holding back, my witch. You’re tight, but Christ, you’re opening up for me just as you should be.”

His voice trailed off into a groan as he gave a hard thrust. And then thrust again, even deeper.

And again. This time so deep Lance’s body clenched and a powerful wave of witch energy rippled with the pleasure.

Keith shuddered and lowered his face to Lance’s. “Touch my lion,” he panted as his hips continued to move.

Oh, God, how Lance wanted to. He slid his hands over Keith’s shoulders to the tattoo. The tattoo felt warm and soft, and Lance swore he felt the lion’s muscles lift to his touch.

Keith slammed his mouth to Lance’s, licking hungrily at his lips and sucking on his tongue while he pumped his cock into him. Harder. Deeper. Lance felt sensations pounding him and he curled his fingers into what felt like feathers, holding on as he soared higher and higher. Energy snapped and crackled as his powers swelled and heated and his soul rose to touch Keith’s. He needed to feel Keith, needed to feel the man and the lion, needed to merge their souls.

“Keith!” he gasped as his body arched with power again.

Keith reared up on his hands to look down at Lance. His powerful shoulders gleamed with sweat. He leaned on one elbow and took Lance’s hard cock in the other hand. He stroked in rhythm with his thrusts. His eyes were clear and violet, and then they filled with the wings of his lion.

“Take what you need, Lance. Take it all.” His words were gentle, but his thrusts were hard enough to slap his balls against Lance’s ass.

The feel of Keith pounding into him, out of control for him, was too much for Lance. He dug his heels into Keith’s lower back as he drove them both towards the edge, and his eyes rolled back into his head when he came hard and hot between them. He felt Keith thrust a few more times and then shout as his own release exploded.

Lance wrapped his body around Keith’s as a sense of contentment and unity replaced the burning need. The more Keith released inside him, the more Lance felt himself calm. The twitching and pulsing of his powers eased and settled into a gentle simmer in his chakras. He felt the gentle touch of wings brush his skin. Keith’s heavy breath rustled his hair and tickled at his ear. He could feel Keith’s chest pounding against his own. Keith’s emotions were a steady stream of pleasure and triumph. And relief. Relief that he hadn’t hurt him. That he hadn’t lost control and gone for his blood.

Then suddenly the stream went icy with doubt and mistrust. What had Lance done to him? He had gone to him as though he’d pulled the strings that controlled him. A witch. He’d just fucked a witch.

Lance squeezed his eyes closed, trying to block out the suspicion building in Keith. The truth of his feelings. The mistrust. Lance knew that Keith’s self-control was how he defined himself, and he had lost that control with him.

Lance nearly snorted. Like he’d actually been in any sort of control?

But it hurt to realize he scared Keith. No matter what Keith said, Lance knew he frightened him. He didn’t trust him. Lance felt his chakras close off as they retreated from his pain.

Then he felt a sensation of wings sweeping around him, their presence comforting. What was it? Did Keith’s lion have wings? He had felt them as vividly as he had felt Keith’s body pressed against him. Was it real, or was his mind playing with him?

Keith moved suddenly, pulling out of him and jumping to his feet, causing him to gasp at the loss of fullness. Lance fought to keep from reacting to Keith’s rejection even as he felt it squeeze his heart.

Keith looked down at him. “Get dressed. Someone’s coming,” he commanded. He snatched up his jeans and stepped into them, his movements blindingly fast.

Lance didn’t hear anything, but Keith’s urgency washed over him. He grabbed his trunks and shimmied into them, then dragged his tank top over his head. He stood quickly, causing his head to swim and nearly losing his balance. Keith quickly caught him.

“It’s Hunk,” Keith said.

Lance immediately felt Keith’s tension ease and his suspicion scale back to a low, unconscious simmer. There was something strange about how clearly he was feeling Keith. Normally he only got the fear and distrust, but this was more. He didn’t have time to ponder it, though; right now he had to deal with his friend.

“There must be something wrong,” he said.

He shrugged off Keith’s arm and turned to see Hunk heading towards them. It wouldn’t be hard to see them in the moonlight, as Hunk clearly had. He had on jeans and shoes, but no shirt, and his hair stuck out at wild angles. The closer he got the clearer Lance could see the hunch of irritation in his shoulders.

“What’s wrong, Hunk? Is Shay okay?” Lance asked.

Hunks brown eyes narrowed on him. “It’s that damned lioness. It started roaring about five minutes ago. It woke me up, and when I looked in on Shay she was awake, too. I went to your room. Obviously, you weren’t there.”

“Obviously,” Lance agreed, ignoring Hunk’s pointed words as a wave of excitement washed over him. Hope and anticipation filled him. That lioness was the only link he had to his mother and her powers. “I’ll go-”

Hunk caught his arm and pulled him closer to him. “Are you alright?” he asked, his voice serious.

Lance lifted his chin and made himself look Hunk in the eye. “I’m fine.”

He wouldn’t explain any further, not that he could. Lance knew it was just sex. Keith had reacted to him because of his mega sex drive, but it had meant something to him. Keith had accepted him, told him not to fight his powers and made him feel safe and comfortable enough to expose himself physically and emotionally.

And then Keith had been suspicious of him. Like he had somehow tricked him and used him. But Keith was the one who had come to him!

Stupid witch, Lance thought to himself. It choked him, but he swallowed it back. He had other things to focus on at the moment.

Chapter Text


“Let me go, Hunk. I need to go see the lioness.”

Lance desperately wanted a connection to who he was, to his mother-needed it now more than ever.

Hunk was still scowling. “I swear to God, Lance, if he hurt you...”

Lance felt Keith’s presence with that strange feather touch, even though Keith wasn’t touching him at all. But Keith didn’t say anything. Lance kept his gaze leveled on Hunk. “He didn’t.” Lance had wanted Keith, craved him, and he wouldn’t deny it now. “I’m fine.”

Hunk hesitated for a moment, but finally gave in. He nodded and let it go, but not before glaring at Keith.

Lance rushed into the house. As soon as he opened the stairway door hidden in the pantry, he could hear the screeching wails of a lioness roaring. He cringed and rubbed his arms to dispel the goosebumps that tried to come over him. He quickly made his way down the stairs and to his room. As soon as he walked in, he came to a sudden halt, nearly getting run over by Hunk and Keith who had followed right behind him and were both pushing in an effort to get in before the other.

The lioness stood on the silver box. Its hair was on end and it stared at him with wild eyes.

“Tell me what to do,” whispered Lance.

The lioness continued to stare at him.

With hardly any effort, Lance felt his chakras open all the way to his fifth. But his powers popped and fizzed with agitation as though they had no focus. The tile floor was frigid under his bare feet and Lance shivered with cold, realizing he was still only in his underwear. A soft scent of campfire swirled around him, then warmth encircled his shoulders and he started in surprise when he realized Keith had taken the blanket from the bed and wrapped it around him.

“Thank you,” Lance said quietly, looking into Keith’s eyes. Keith shrugged nonchalantly.

Lance turned back to the tapestry. “How do I-” he began, but his words faded, and he blinked twice as the tapestry threads shimmered brighter than ever. They were so bright that they slipped from their tapestry form to circle in the lake in a swirl of colors. Lance stumbled clumsily, growing dizzy as he tried to make out the threads.

A heavy arm moved around his shoulders in support. Suddenly everything slid away. The floor, the walls, all was gone except for Keith and the tapestry.

A shape began to appear on the surface of the tapestry lake and Lance heard himself gasp as the shape of a woman formed. Just the outline at first, but bit by bit she became a solid figure on the water.

Recognition sucked Lance’s breath away. He had dreamed of this moment all his life. And now, looking at the woman with white hair and blue eyes that swirled with the colors of the elements stood before him. Her darker skin had a slight smattering of darker freckles and her full lips were pink and smiling gently.

“You’re my mother.” Lance wasn’t sure if he thought or spoke the words.

“Yes. My name is Allura. I have been waiting so long for this day to come. I have only a short time to speak to you before I must go.”

“What do you mean, go? I only just found you!” Lance’s jumbled thoughts twisted as he tried to make sense of everything. Was the image real? Or could it be a projection like Adam’s Atlas avatar? What if it was someone tricking him?

“Lance,” Allura said softly, the single word echoing a devastating mix of love and regret.

Lance slipped further, no longer able to feel the cold tile or the blanket around his shoulders. All he could feel was the weight of Keith’s arm and the new grief that was slowly washing over him. He swallowed hard before whispering brokenly, “You’re not alive, are you?”

Allura’s face was sorrowful. “No, my love. I never wanted to leave you, Lance. Please believe me, I fought to live. I ran away and hid with you, but I had a vision. I knew I wouldn’t survive, but I could give you a chance if I put you with a mortal. The McClain’s had been very kind to me and I knew they would take care of you.”

Lance felt his chest grow tighter and his lungs constrict. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to feel. Allura looked so real, as though he could reach out and touch her. “What are you now?”

Allura smiled gently. “Magic has been holding my spirit in the image of the tapestry lioness. Now I have this one chance to tell you how very much I love you, how much I have always loved you, and how I will continue to love you even once I cross over to Oriande.”

Lance closed his eyes and trembled as the loneliness and anguished longing for his mother threatened to overwhelm him. His throat ached and a single tear escaped down his cheek. He was still alone.

And yet, suddenly, he felt wings fold around him to hold him close and secure; just as they always had when he’d been a frightened boy locked in a dark closet. It gave him the strength to continue on. He had only this one chance to talk to his mother. He opened his eyes and saw that Allura was crying. Tears rolled down her cheeks to fall into the lake, causing the magic threads to ripple.

“You did this for me? Bound yourself to a tapestry all these years?” Lance asked quietly.

“Time is nothing to me now, my love. I got to watch you grow up, and I thank the Alteans for that. You are all I ever hoped for and more. I am so very proud of you.” The colors of the tapestry darkened as Allura’s eyes flashed steel. “If I had been able, I would have killed the man who was your grandfather. It was an effort not to attack that ignorant fool, but I was afraid it might take too much of the magic I had left.”

Lance sniffled but managed a small smile. Someone had been there and had protected him as best they could. “You attacked Keith and Hunk.”

“The witch hunter? I thought he was taking me from you, not to you. He had already been here once. I was terrified he would kill you. I know that Hunk loves you, but he is a mortal. I was afraid he was being controlled by the hunter,” Allura explained.

“All those years, you really were with me. I remember hearing a voice singing to me when I was a boy. And I used to talk to the tapestry...” Lance trailed off. He had a mother who loved him, who had been there for him the only way she could.

“I heard you. When I wove the tapestry, I wove some songs into the magic to play for you when you were alone. It was something I could give you.”

Lance nodded. It all made sense now that he knew he was a witch and that magic existed. “What about the voices I hear in my head?”

Allura’s smile was full of maternal pride. “The Alteans. They were shocked that you could hear them. Their voices receded as you got older and struggled to repress your magic in order to survive living with that horrible man, yet sometimes you still heard them. You are our hope, Lance.”

Lance could feel time slipping by, felt the threat of his mother leaving him forever even though he’d only just found her. “How long do you have? Why are you here now?”

“I don’t know how long, but I have so much to tell you. As to why now, you have opened your fifth chakra. That is your communication beyond the mortal realm, and your power surged enough to release me,” Allura explained.

Lance felt his cheeks burn slightly, remembering very well just how his powers had surged and what caused it. “I tried to call for a familiar,” he said softly.

Allura’s eyes turned wary. “And did your familiar come to you?”

“No,” Lance answered, “not yet. How long does it usually take for it to appear?”

“It’s complicated. Before the curse, it might be an hour or a day, depending on how far the familiar had to travel to get to you. But for you to understand how complicated things are and why you represent the hope of the witches, you need to know what happened to me.”

Lance felt his throat clench and his mouth go dry. “How did you die?”

“I was murdered.”

Lance nearly swayed but refused to let go of the magic holding him to his mother. “Galras?”

“Yes. Sweetheart, I don’t remember dying. But I remember fighting to live, to stay in that life with you. I would never have left you willingly, I swear it. We are witches. We have several lifetimes to live and learn. Our death is merely a time of rest until we choose to reincarnate. Or we can choose to become an Altean and cross to Oriande.”

It was a small comfort to Lance, but he knew it was time for him to listen. He took a deep breath and said, “Tell me what happened.”

Allura nodded. “I thought I knew a way to break the curse-for both witches and hunters. I was there when it happened. I had been one of the ones who alerted the hunters’ leader, the red lion. Demon witches were wreaking havoc all over. There were killings, families being torn apart, it was awful. Elemental witches were finally able to track the spells back to a coven of demon witches. We had to open our sixth chakra and use our third eye to see what they were doing.” She raised her hand to the center of her forehead. “The third eye is here. When you open it, regular sight leaves you and the third eye ‘sees.’ Once you learn to control it, you can have visions with it. It will show you what you summon, and before the curse it was how we spoke to our Alteans.”

“That’s how you found the demon witches?” asked Lance.

“Yes,” Allura answered him. “We found where they were hiding and called the hunters to help us.”

“And they did?”

“Yes. Three hunters were sent. They traveled separately and the demon witches found out they were coming. They used a glamour to appear as young mortal women and seduced one of the hunters. The hunter didn’t check to see if they were demon witches first, and when he had sex with them, he was captured. The other two hunters tried to rescue him, but ended up captured as well. They were held in a cave until the full moon that night. Our powers are always stronger where two earth forces meet, such as where the ocean meets the shore. These are known as ley lines, and our familiars help us control and focus the power we pull through our chakras there. When the moon faces the earth fully during the full moon, that gives us extra power as well,” Allura explained.

“So the demon witches needed the extra power of the full moon,” Lance said thoughtfully.

“Exactly.” Allura beamed proudly at him. “The demon witches conjured a magical barrier to keep us out. In order to break the shield, elemental witches had to open their chakras all the way to the seventh... And very few can do that.”

Pride filled Lance’s heart. “You could do it, though, couldn’t you.”

Allura smiled again. “Yes. I saw the demon Asmodeus. He is the demon of lust, jealousy and revenge. He has the ability to make men perform cruel acts and is the cause of trouble in relationships. His powers are tied to the earth and this makes him vulnerable to other demons who can enslave him. So he has to gain as much power as possible to prevent this from happening, and his powers grow in proportion to the amount of misery he causes on earth. It was his bidding the demon witches were doing that night.”

“How did you get into the cave?” questioned Lance.

“We knew we had to outthink the demon and his witches. That’s why it was so important to achieve the knowledge chakra. Now that we knew which demon we were dealing with we could discover his weakness. He uses lechery, jealousy, anger and revenge to stir up trouble and misery on earth, so we set up a circle of love with a ceremony of physical and emotional bonding,” Allura said.

“You mean sex?” Lance blurted out.

“Sex is a powerful force and a symbol of love. It can also be perverted by evil with rape and degradation. Asmodeus thrives on damaging, degrading, meaningless sex. We chose a witch and a hunter that had true love between them and created a beautiful ceremony. The body is just a symbol; the emotion is what is real. We pulled the love in through our chakras and with the assistance of our familiars broke through the barrier blocking the cave.” Allura stopped speaking and closed her eyes for a moment, then continued.

“We broke the barrier at moonrise. All the witches and hunters burst into the cave, and that’s when everything went horribly wrong. We realized too late that Asmodeus had set us up. He wanted us there at the precise moment the demon witches cast the curse. When we entered the cave, the curse tore out our souls and tried to bind them together. We quickly cast a spell to reclaim our souls, but then Asmodeus appeared and sealed the curse with fire. Our souls returned to us, but now they were damaged and no longer whole.”

Lance’s stomach clenched. He didn’t want to think of something so horrible. “But you know how to fix this? How to break the curse?”

Allura’s blue eyes dulled with her grief. “We stopped the demon witches from binding the hunters’ souls to themselves, but the wording of the curse left the hunters craving witch blood. A craving that drove them to killing madness. Bloodlust.”

Lance tried to keep up. “Okay, then where did the souls bind?”

“That’s my smart boy,” said Allura, gazing proudly at him. “I have a theory that when our souls were out of our bodies, witch souls bonded with hunter souls. Then the souls were halved to return to the respective body. This made us soul mirrors; each a half of a whole.”

“But how do we fix this? You said I’m the hope, and I don’t understand how that’s possible. I didn’t even know I was a witch until a few days ago,” Lance said.

His mother’s eyes were reflective. “I spent a year meditating on this, and I think there’s a loophole to the curse. I believed that if we found our soul mirror and bonded, our souls became whole again. Obviously it was dangerous. Hunters were killing witches for the power in their blood. So in order to protect myself, I had to create a powerful charm to shield my powers from hunters so they couldn’t smell the power in my blood and be driven to kill me.”

Lance was startled. “Are you kidding? We can do that? But it’s perfect! We can protect ourselves and-”

Regret filled Allura’s eyes. “No. It doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t work for long. I called my soul mirror to me by the light of the moon, just as I would call my familiar. And he came to me. He was handsome, but...” she paused with a shiver. “He had already gone Galra. He didn’t know I was a witch. But our connection was strong, powerful; so powerful that we had sex.”

Lance’s eyes widened with shock. “But-”

“I know it sounds crazy. But once I put things in motion by calling, I couldn’t stop it. Sex was part of it. Before the curse, sex wasn’t a part of calling a familiar. But this wasn’t a familiar, it was a soul mirror. And sex was a part of the curse, right?”

Lance nodded. This is all so freaking complicated.

“The charm broke as we climaxed. He was furious, jumping up and drawing his knife. But he hesitated,” Allura began.

“Because your souls had bonded?” Lance asked.

Allura shook her head. “No, sweetheart. He had already lost his soul by that time. But a part of him, I guess, recognized me as a part of himself. His hesitation let me use a sleeping charm I had stored in an amulet just in case. He dropped to a heavy sleep and I ran.”

Lance felt disappointed. “But it didn’t change anything. It didn’t work.”

Allura’s smile was soft. “One thing was changed. You were conceived.”

Lance nearly staggered in shock. My father was a Galra witch hunter. Was that the evil his grandfather always said he had in him? His mother’s words brought him back.

“From the moment I knew I was pregnant, I loved you, Lance. Something of me got in your father and he couldn’t stay away from me. He was relentless in tracking me. And once he found out I was pregnant, he was furious. He believed I had tricked him to get pregnant with you. He was desperate to kill us both. He had been tricked before, you see.”

Lance felt the blood roaring in his ears. His father wanted to kill him. It made his stomach churn and his head swim. “Tricked how?”

Allura’s face was sad. “He was one of the hunters tricked and captured by the demon witches along with his father.”

“And he blames all witches,” concluded Lance. Just as Keith would blame him if he turned out to be his soul mirror, he thought anxiously, feeling his stomach clench. Keith would believe he’d tricked him. He was already suspicious that Lance had done something to him.

“Yes. He couldn’t stand it. I knew he would never give up, and when I had the vision, I put you with the McClain family who were at the time my closest allies that hid me when I needed it. I kept running, and I hoped that I would find a way to live, that I would return to you one day. But he found me.” Allura nodded at Lance’s unspoken question. “He killed me. My last thought was that you would be safe and loved with the McClain’s. At least for a while. I wouldn’t tell him where you were, no matter what he did.”

“Oh, Allura. Mom,” Lance whispered sadly.

Her tearful smile was luminous. “Thank you for that, Lance. Hearing you call me Mom...thank you.”

Lance blinked back his own tears. “How can I lose you now when I’ve only just now found you?”

“You never lost me. I’ve always been with you and that will never change. I am choosing to stay in Oriande as an Altean, rather than reincarnating. I will always hear you, and you’ll always know I’m there.”

Lance wanted more. He wanted his mother here with him, but she had loved him enough to die in order to keep him safe. “Thank you,” he said quietly.

“I leave to you my spells and those from my family before me. This is my legacy to you. And I hope you are able to find a way to help that child.”

“You know about Acxa, then?” Lance asked.

“Yes.” Allura’s face was determined. “How can I help you?”

Lance needed to learn all he could. “Keith says I only have until the waxing gibbous moon to spell the curse off her.”

“And he’s right. Zarkon’s curse fills its victim with suffocating darkness. Fever, headaches and nightmares take over. More dark threads grow each day and the death mark darkens as the threads grow and multiply. Before the waxing gibbous moon, the threads are unorganized. We can draw them out with a high magic spell. But once the moon phase passes, the threads meld and form a bond to the demon witch.”

Lance felt the weight of the world on his shoulders. He had to succeed at this. “What happens if I don’t break the curse before then?”

Allura bowed her head. “Under the full moon the demon witch will finish the curse. The threads will slowly strangle the victim from the inside. Only killing the demon witch between the waxing gibbous and full moon will prevent the curse from happening.”

But if Keith killed the demon witch, he would lose his soul. Lance knew he had to figure something out. “But what if my familiar doesn’t show up? Can I still break the curse without one?”

“Maybe your familiar already has,” Allura replied softly. “Or it may still show up. You are a witch with a witch hunter father. You may be the one to break the curse and get a familiar. Or maybe you’ll do it another way. Maybe by a soul mirror.”

“You don’t know the future?” Lance asked her.

“No. But I believe in you, Lance.” The water in the tapestry rippled and the brilliant colors that made the image of Allura began to fade. “My time is running out, my love. I have to tell you the name of your father.”

Lance hadn’t expected that. “Who is it?” he asked. His heart crumbled as his mother faded from his sight. Her final words carried to him like a whisper on the wind.

“Lotor Daibazaal.”

Keith felt Lance’s magic flowing through him in a continuous stream, swirling and churning in his guts.

And then suddenly it stopped.

For nearly an hour Lance had stared at the tapestry. And Keith had been able to hear him talking inside his own head. That was some weird shit. He figured he was hearing Lance’s side of a conversation with his biological mother. He could only assume it was because he had touched his blood. Or maybe it was because they’d had sex. But somehow he had been pulled into Lance’s part of the conversation.

Hunk stepped tentatively towards Lance. “You were crying. Just staring at the tapestry and crying. I was talking to you and you couldn’t hear me.”

Keith was still trying to sort everything he had learned from hearing Lance’s part of the conversation. Lance’s mom was dead and had been murdered. She may have known how to break the curse. Talk of familiars and curses and Acxa.

All of it fed the dark suspicions in Keith’s mind. Why could Lance talk to the tapestry now? Why had he been able to feel his powers and hear him talking? What had Lance done to him?

Lance moved out from under Keith’s arm and walked over to the bed. He sat down and pulled the blanket around himself. He looked up at Hunk with eyes that had turned gray with deep grief. “I saw my mother. She’s dead and it was my father that killed her.”

Keith felt a prickle along his back and swore his red lion was trying to reach Lance and comfort him. He watched instead as Hunk sat down next to Lance and put his arm around him comfortingly.

“Shit, Lance,” Hunk said.

Lance gave his friend a wan smile. “You always know just what to say.”

Hunk squeezed his shoulders and drew him close to his chest. “It’s part of my natural charm, you know,” he teased, trying to lighten the situation.

Keith leaned against the worktable. There was nothing to be done about Lance’s parents or that his mother had been murdered by a Galra. “So, you can access the spells in there now?”

Hunk scowled at him. “Fuck’s sake, Kogane, he’s not a machine. Give the man time.”

Lance sat back up and stared at the tapestry with a troubled look on his face. “It’d be better if I had a familiar. Maybe it will show up soon.”

Talking of familiars brought Richard’s accusations back to Keith. How had Lance drawn him into his magic? Lance’s next words snapped him out of his thoughts.

“Who is Lotor Daibazaal?”

Keith stiffened and his eyes flew to Lance’s pale face. “He’s the son of Zarkon and current Galra leader. The one organizing them and who’s determined to wipe witches out of existence entirely. Why?”

A hysterical sounding burst of laughter escaped Lance. “Well, I guess that explains why he wants me dead so badly.”

Keith’s eyes narrowed. “What’s going on?”

Lance looked back to the tapestry and pulled the blanket tighter around himself. “He’s my father,” he whispered.

Keith felt his shoulders sag slightly. “Fucking hell,” he muttered. Things just kept getting more complicated. Lance’s father was a Galra witch hunter. Was that the bond between them? Was that why Lance could draw him into his magic? Or did that give Lance the ability to use him to increase his magic? He needed to know more. “Did he know about you?”

“Yes. But my mom put me with mortals to hide me, and she wouldn’t tell him where I was, even when he killed her.”

Things were falling into place. “He wants to kill you. You’re at the top of the kill list. Shiro said you’d registered to find your birth parents. That’s how he found you.”

Lance nodded absently. “Dad registered me before he died. All he put on there was my picture and my birthdate. But I saw my mother. I look like her. I have her coloring, her eyes.”

Keith pondered the idea. “He could easily have set something up on the sites. Something to flag your birthdate.”

Lance shrugged. “He would probably recognize me since I resemble my mom.”

Keith remembered Lance telling him about seeing Richard at the cemetery. “He probably sent my dad to double check that you’re a witch. It could have gone either way, probably. You could’ve just as easily been a hunter. That’s why he didn’t kill you at the cemetery. He wanted to report back to Daibazaal that you were a witch. I don’t know of any witches adopted by mortals. Daibazaal would have known you were his.”

Lance didn’t say anything.

“Why does he want to kill you so badly?” Keith had to know.

Lance was looking at the tapestry again. “He thinks my mother tricked him. She used a charm to shield her powers when they had sex. Then when the charm failed she still managed to get away. He believes she tricked him like the demon witches did to capture him.”

Keith frowned. An elemental witch that could hide her powers? “The demon witches hid their powers with a glamour to appear as mortal women. Your mother had that sort of magic?”

Lance bowed his head. “She said it was a charm she made. She was trying to break the curse and ended up paying with her life.”

Was that really what she’d been doing? Keith didn’t know of any elemental witches that could do that kind of magic. What had she really been up to? And Lance had talked of familiars. “Was she trying to complete the curse? Bind Daibazaal to her as a familiar? Is that how she thought she would break the curse?”

Lance’s face went crimson and his witch shimmer darkened to nearly black with his fury. “My mother was an elemental witch!” he snarled as his eyes glowed fluorescent blue in outrage. The room heated and filled with the scent of smoke. Candles melted into a waxy mess on the granite countertop. The lights flickered and the water faucets turned on and off. Lance’s rage twisted against Keith’s skin until it felt like the feathers of his red lion ruffled in sympathetic anger.

“Jesus, Lance,” Hunk whispered in shock, looking around the room with wide eyes.

Keith took in a deep breath. “Lance, you didn’t see her in real life, how can you possibly know-”

Lance jumped up from the bed. “My mother died protecting me,” he spat furiously. “She could easily have turned to dark magic and saved herself. Then she could have fought back against Lotor Daibazaal. But she didn’t. And don’t you DARE suggest anything different!” His blue eyes were ice cold as he glared at Keith. “Get. Out.” He stormed into the bathroom and slammed the door, the sound echoing through the room like a gunshot.

“Lance, I need your help.” Hunk’s urgent voice cut into Lance’s restless sleep.

Lance sat up in bed and ran a hand through his messy hair, blinking his bleary eyes. “What? What is it?”

Hunk stood near the foot of the bed. He had a worried frown on his face. “It’s Shay. She’s locked herself in the bathroom, and nothing she’s saying makes any sense.”

Lance shoved back the covers and stood, managing to suppress a wince at the touch of soreness from the previous night that had finally caught up to him. “What do you mean?”

“Can you please just hurry? I’m worried about her,” Hunk said in a rush as he turned and left the room.

Lance hurried to catch up to him. He followed Hunk down the hall and to another bedroom that had a full-sized bed, a nightstand, a chest of drawers and a television on one wall. Hunk motioned to the closed door on the opposite wall that led to the attached bathroom.

“What happened?” Lance asked quietly.

“I heard her from my room. She was having a nightmare. I came in here and got her calmed down, and she went back to sleep. I guess I fell asleep, too, because when I woke up I could hear her talking to herself in the bathroom. She’s locked the door and she won’t come out-” Hunk broke off and shuddered before grabbing Lance by the shoulders and looking at him pleadingly. “Please open the door, Lance! I’m afraid she’s gonna hurt herself!”

Lance nodded and Hunk let go of him. He walked to the door and knocked gently on the door. “Shay? Sweetheart, are you okay?”

“I have to protect him! Please, I have to...I...I can’t remember-” Shay’s voice cracked on the other side of the door.

Lance felt his heart break for her. He remembered when Shay had been a confident teenager; sure that life would always be brilliant for her. Lance had always envied her that, envied how she had always known where she would fit and what she would do. It had never been a question for Shay; she had always just known she would be a lawyer, and the best damn one at that. The frightened young woman huddled inside the bathroom was a far cry from the self-assured teen she had once been.

Lance sighed sadly. Shay didn’t deserve any of this. “Shay? I’m coming in, okay?”

“No! No, I won’t let him! I can’t...I won’t...I had to run, but he’ll find me. He’ll find...why can’t I remember?” Shay’s panicked voice rose and ended on a hysterical wail.

Hunk stepped back. “Move out of the way, Lance, I’ll break down the damn door!”

Lance shot him a withering look. “Or I could just open it.”

He placed his hand on the doorknob and opened his lower chakras, focusing the power through his fingertips. When he heard the lock disengage, he quietly turned the doorknob and pushed the door open slowly.

Shay sat on the floor, huddled with her arms around her knees and her back against the wall between the bathtub and the vanity. She wore an oversized dark blue t-shirt with red writing that made her look even smaller and lost. She flinched when Lance stepped into the bathroom. “No, don’t touch me,” she moaned, “I won’t let him...I won’t let...” Her eyes slammed shut as her face contorted in pain and she put her forehead on her shaking knees. “God, please, I just don’t know!”

Lance felt pity welling up in him. What the hell had happened to her? He glanced out at Hunk, who wore a look of mixed panic and confusion. He was useless. Lance took a tentative step closer to Shay, then another. He knelt quietly in front of her. “Shay? Queenie, who are you protecting?”

Shay looked up at him. She was pale and her hair hung limply around her face. Tears welled up in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. “I don’t know,” she whispered brokenly.

“Oh, sweetie.” Lance reached out to take her shaking hand. His chakras were open, so he would try to send her calming energy.

The backwash of emotion and images nearly caused his body to jerk in reaction. Knives. Screams. Shay begging someone to stop, God, the screams, and the blood. Pain, excruciating and razor sharp, slicing through skin. And then...Shay standing in a bathroom holding something and looking terrified. Shaking and nauseated as she stared at what she held...

The realization shocked Lance out of the connection. He forced himself to breathe through the nausea and dizziness he felt. He had somehow managed to pull some of Shay’s memories.

And now he knew who it was Shay was protecting, even if she didn’t. But sweet Jesus, the things Shay had suffered. It made Lance feel sick to his stomach and he shuddered.

“Lance? What did you do? I feel a little better, not so afraid,” Shay said, her voice sounding slightly stronger.

Lance covered her hand that he still held with his other hand and rubbed it soothingly. “Just a little witchcraft. I sent you some positive, calming energy. And now you, my dear, need to get some rest. Drink some tea and see if you can eat something.”

He needed to think, try to figure out what to do. Should he tell Shay? Warn Hunk? Hunk, who was falling hard for Shay. She made him feel alive and gave him a new purpose. That was real, true emotion and connection that was-

“I’m broken, Lance,” Shay said sadly.

Her soft words pulled Lance from his racing thoughts. His heart swelled with sympathy. He had gotten a glimpse of some of what Shay had endured. She was one of the strongest people he’d ever known. “You’re not broken, Shay,” he told her truthfully, “you’re a fighter.” He gave her a little smile. “A little cracked right now, maybe, but not broken. And not alone. You have me, and you have Hunk. Do you hear me?”

Shay’s eyes glanced quickly towards Hunk and then back to Lance. “He’s been nice to me.”

Lance nearly snorted. “Nice? Really? You think he feels sorry for you?”

Shay looked down towards the floor. “He was always nice to you. Always protected you.”

He let go of Shay’s hand and stood up. “I’m going to go talk to Adam. See if he-”

Hunk groaned and slapped a hand to his forehead. “Of course! Adam! Why didn’t I think of that?” He walked into the bathroom and reached down to take Shay’s hands and help her stand up.

Shay looked thoughtful. “That’s right. She’s some sort of hypnotist. I had forgotten about that. Do you think he can help me?”

Damn it. He had been so caught off guard by the things he had seen and felt, he had blurted out Adam’s name. Lance felt the beginning of a headache building behind his eyes. “We’ll talk about it later,” he said as he left to go back to his room.

Keith had managed a few hours of restless sleep. He had dreamed of making love with Lance, of holding him, tasting him, of feeling whole. But the memory of Lance’s hurt expression and furious voice when he’d told him to leave had awakened him.

He padded softly down the stairs. Lance was probably still asleep, and Keith wouldn’t wake him. He would just lay the iPod he held on the counter, along with the information detailing the account he’d set up for Lance so that he could download whatever music he wanted.

Because an iPod will make up for calling Lance’s mother a demon witch, scolded his mind. Keith grimaced, knowing damn well he would make anyone that said that about his mom pay in a painful way. He heard Lance talking and hesitated outside the door.

“I don’t know how to explain it. Shay was terrified and not making any sense. I tried to send her calming energy, but I got a backlash of her memories. Her terror and the pain when her husband was torturing her.”

Keith could hear the frustration in Lance’s voice. Something had happened with Shay? And who was Lance talking to? Keith shielded his presence so Lance couldn’t see him and slipped silently to the door. Lance was sitting on the bed against the headboard with his long legs stretched out and the laptop in his lap.

The sight of him made Keith want to scoop him up and carry him upstairs to his bed. He wanted to touch and taste all of him, the man and the witch.

The digitalized voice of Atlas shattered Keith’s fantasy and he listened carefully to his words. “All witches are sensitive to a degree. You have always felt people’s emotions. And if you felt it strongly enough, any of your lower chakras could have opened. Fear, for example.”

“Like when I was attacked,” Lance said, watching the screen.

“Yes. You did fear induced magic and attacked her with her own knife. Are you with me?”

Keith kept listening. He wanted to know who Atlas was. Where had he come from, and why was he helping Lance if all the witch loops refused? What if Atlas was a demon witch with his own agenda?

“So far,” Lance said. “I opened my chakras intentionally to send positive energy to Shay. But why did I get images back?”

“There’s always an exchange,” Atlas explained. “Sending energy like that requires something to leave to make room. You love Shay, her situation affects you emotionally. You may have been unconsciously looking for a way to help her.”

Lance’s eyes were troubled. “Was what I saw real?”

“You saw and felt what Shay saw and felt,” confirmed Atlas.

“Can you help her? You work with brain damage cases,” Lance asked the image on the screen.

“I would need to see her in person. I don’t work with this kind of damage much anymore, but I’ll see if there’s anything I can do. Have Hunk bring her to me, but don’t tell the hunters.”

Lance shook his head. “I won’t. They don’t know I know who you are.”

Keith clenched his jaw in anger. Lance had lied to him. He knew who Atlas was all along.

“How do you know they won’t follow Hunk?” Atlas asked.

Keith had had enough. He materialized and stalked into the room.

Lance made a squawking noise as he jumped. “Keith!” he yelped.

Keith glared down at him. ‘‘Who is the coward hiding behind the avatar, Lance?”

Lance’s surprise was quickly giving way to outrage. “You were spying on me?”

“You lied to me! You said you didn’t know who Atlas was!” shouted Keith.

Atlas’s voice boomed from the computer speaker. “Leave him alone, hunter! He was protecting me!”

Keith stared at Lance, unable to look away. He couldn’t stop wanting him. Couldn’t stop worrying about him. He had never before in his life felt more connected to a person as he had with Lance last night. But Lance had been lying to him all along, while his sister’s life was on the line. Keith felt like an idiot, coming down here with an iPod, wanting to give Lance something that would make him happy. Wanting to see Lance smile at him with those perfect lips and amazing eyes. He didn’t know what the fuck he was doing or why this witch was turning him inside out. Silently, he dropped the iPod and paper with the account information on the bed and turned quickly to leave.

The door slammed and prevented him from leaving. Only his quick reflexes kept him from crashing into it. Lance had closed the door before he could get out. Keith turned and looked toward Lance.

Lance shoved the laptop to the side and picked up the iPod. He looked at it and stood up. “Keith? What’s this?”

Keith started to feel even more foolish. He had saved Lance’s life but had ripped him from everything he knew. He’d given Lance an impossible deal; heal his sister and be protected from Galras during that time. But after that? Who would protect Lance then? The skin of his tattoo shifted and pulled, and he wished he understood what the fuck that was all about.

Lance was still looking at him with those incredible eyes. Keith didn’t know what to say, so he stuck to the obvious. “It’s an iPod. I set you up an account.”

Lance looked down at the iPod, then back to Keith. “Why?”

Keith felt helpless. He looked around the barren room and wondered why he hadn’t at least put in a TV or something. Did Lance have a favorite food he wanted? A drink he preferred? Had he ever even asked him?

Keith shrugged, not knowing what else to say. “Hunk said you used your iPod to help with the voices. If you want anything, I’ll get it for you.”

Lance gave a harsh bark of disbelieving laughter. “Want?” He lifted his chin to look Keith in the eyes. His own vivid blue eyes filled with raw vulnerability. “Damn it, what I want is your trust-at least enough to do what I need to do to take the curse off Acxa.” His voice cracked and he looked away. The door opened with a wave of his hand. “I think you should leave. Go back to the world.”

“Shit, Lance.” Keith felt the pain, hurt and anger radiating off Lance to slam into him. He couldn’t not touch him. He reached for Lance, ignoring the vibrations of Lance’s magic that streamed through himself, and drew him close. The skin of his tattoo pulled and stretched as though his red lion had spread wings and wanted to hold Lance as well with them. He felt Lance relax slightly in his arms.

“I can feel your lion…and the sensation of wings. It’s like he’s real and not a tattoo,” Lance said softly.

Keith ran his hand lightly up the graceful curve of Lance’s neck to thread through his hair. “You’ve done something to him. Until you, he was just a tattoo. But now...” he trailed off.

Lance pressed back against his hand to look up at him. “What do you mean?” he asked, strain and worry causing his shimmer to dull.

Keith looked into his eyes. “My tattoo was supposed to be a wolf. But it changed... changed into a red lion. Before the curse, if a tattoo changed to a red lion, it marked the hunter as a leader who could communicate with The Blade.”

Lance’s eyes widened and brightened with hope. “You can do that? You can talk to The Blade?”

Keith shook his head in frustration. “No. He hasn’t given me the ring of immortality around my thumb, or impressed the wings into the handle of my knife.”

“Has any other hunter had this happen since the curse?” Lance stepped back away from Keith and broke his hold. He set the iPod down on the counter and began pacing the room. “What happened to the hunters after the curse? To the men themselves, not just going Galra?”

Keith had to focus to listen to what Lance was saying instead of simply staring at his ass. The tight jeans he seemed to favor only served to accentuate the firm curves of his body and up the temperature of Keith’s. He needed to touch Lance and keep touching him, so he caught him and pulled him towards the bed. Keith sat down and pulled Lance onto his lap.

“The tattoos of wings all faded or disappeared completely once hunter souls returned to their bodies after the curse,” he said while internally cheering that Lance had come so willingly. “The hunters became mortal. A lot of them were old, hundreds of years for some. They died within a few days. The younger ones were burdened with the curse. Those of us with the curse lost our wings, a sign of the curse still present within our soul.”

Lance placed a hand on Keith’s shoulder. “And no one could talk to The Blade after that?”

Keith shook his head. “The red lions were all older. Once their immortality was stripped, they died off quickly. So, no; that’s one of the reasons the Galras insist He’s dead.”

“Who is The Blade, Keith?” asked Lance.

Chapter Text

Keith had one arm around Lance’s waist and the other hand idly caressing his firm thigh. “The Blade Hunter is half demon and half god. His father was a lower sentinel god and wanted nothing to do with him. His demon mother raised him in the underworld, and there it was discovered that The Blade had powers of justice and protection that tied him to earth. The recognition of people on earth, the hunters, brought out his god-like powers. But in the underworld, his powers were weaker, and he didn’t fit in. And the fact that he grew to be the image of his godfather, who had rejected his demon mother, made it where she couldn’t stand the sight of him. Eventually she threw him out of the underworld.”

Lance frowned. “But that’s horrible! What did he do?”

“He didn’t really have anywhere he could go, so he disguised himself as a human and lived on earth. Then one of the demons found out who he was and exposed him as a half demon to the witches. They did a banishing spell to force him from the earth,” Keith replied.

“Which demon did that?” Lance asked him.

Keith paused. “I...I don’t know. I never asked. I just know The Blade was banished from earth and the gods were even more annoyed with him. They thought he was meddling where he didn’t belong. So, with nowhere to go, he wandered for centuries until he stumbled upon Oriande, drawn by the light and beauty of the space. It was a place filled with kind souls.”

“The Alteans,” breathed Lance.

Keith nodded. “But the souls were troubled. There were a small number of witches on earth summoning demons and causing destruction and chaos.”

“And the elemental witches were kept from retaliating because of witch karma,” guessed Lance.

“Exactly. The Blade had lived on earth and had loved it, had genuinely cared. This was his chance to create a true god position for himself, one no one could take from him. He made a deal with the Alteans; He would create a race of witch hunters to work alongside the elemental witches, for protection and justice. And in return, he wanted to live in Oriande and call it home. Together, they would work for the good of the mortal people on earth. The Blade called to himself the strongest men, gave them immortality, and branded them on their bodies and knives with his wing mark. We were our own race, born of hunter fathers and mortal mothers,” Keith said.

“But what happens when a hunter dies?” asked Lance.

“As long as he had been fulfilling his duty, a hunter would go to Oriande just like your kind. But if they had screwed up, the soul had nowhere to go. No other gods or demons would accept The Blade’s men. So the dead hunter would become a Celestial. And witch hunters knew the deal. As long as they recognized The Blade as their god, His powers were significant. It somehow created a loophole of sorts, and to renounce Him could be catastrophic, as it obviously was when Zarkon and Lotor Daibazaal did. It broke the communication hunters had with The Blade, and that’s why some believe he’s dead,” Keith finished.

Lance looked into Keith’s eyes. “He isn’t dead if he’s marked you with the red lion. He’s trying to reach you, that’s obvious. You have to figure out what he wants from you.”

Keith couldn’t tear his eyes away. No man had ever affected him as much as Lance did. Usually, he had sex and moved on. He never felt anything more than passing enjoyment and temporary relief from the curse. But sex with Lance had turned into a hell of a lot more. Keith felt connected to him on the very deepest level. In Lance’s blue eyes tinted with elemental golds and greens, Keith could see the possibility that The Blade had seen something worthy in him.

But then Richard’s words sneaked into his mind. Your little witch is finishing the curse, turning you into his familiar. Then he’ll have all the power and all you’ll be is witch-whipped. Fuck. Keith didn’t believe that, but what was the deal with his tattoo and Lance? “If I’m branded by The Blade, then why does my tattoo react to you? Why do I feel as if my lion has His wings but there are none etched onto my skin?”

Lance’s eyes narrowed and he tensed. “I’m only just learning to be a witch. How am I supposed to know that?”

Keith couldn’t let it go. “What exactly is Atlas teaching you?”

Lance looked at him in disbelief and slid off his lap. He took a few steps away from him, then turned to face him. His witch shimmer had darkened to a navy blue again. “You think I did something to you,” Lance stated, not making it a question.

Keith didn’t have an answer for him. “Right now I can’t be for certain.”

Lance turned away from him to stare at the tapestry. “You’re just like all the rest. You’re afraid of me. Maybe you’re fighting it, but you are. You’re like my grandfather, like the other woman and men I dated.” He broke off and wrapped his arms around himself protectively. “God, I’m just so stupid! I was an idiot to have sex with you, to trust you!”

Keith could feel his red lion shuffling and fighting to get to Lance, as though it was trying to free itself from his skin. He got up and turned Lance back towards him so he could see his face. The raw pain he saw there tore him apart. “Trust goes both ways witch. You haven’t told me everything, have you?”

Lance took a deep breath. “I’ve told you what you need to know. I can’t tell you who Atlas is. I just can’t. I will not put him in danger.”

Keith felt himself slump in defeat. He wasn’t getting anywhere with Lance. All these years of this fucking curse had created endless mistrust between witches and hunters. “Fine. So, we don’t trust each other.” He ran his hands up Lance’s arms and gently cupped his cheeks with both of his hands, unable to stop touching him. “But there is one thing I am damned sure of. I am not sorry about making love to you. So shut up and trust me with at least that truth.”

“Hey, what’s up?” Matt asked as he walked up to Keith. The steps of his work boot clad feet rang out on the cement floor of the warehouse next to the club.

Keith held up his bottle of beer. “Calling it a day,” he said as he pulled another one from the ice filled cooler and offered it to Matt. They had all been working on repairs at the club along with a group of non-Galra hunters that had come seeking them out. Word was suddenly going around about The Paladin Hunters and Keith’s red lion tattoo. The men had come asking if The Blade was really alive, if they could join The Paladins in their stand against the Galras, and if they knew how to keep their souls.

They had started out as a group of four friends who’d made a pact to never kill witches in order to keep their souls. And if one of them went Galra, the others had sworn to kill them. Keith had opened Voltron as a place to get sex from willing mortals and to be able to kick back and relax. He hadn’t denied Galras entrance to the place so long as they didn’t cause trouble, and it was a good way to keep tabs on them and know what they were up to.

He hadn’t counted on being tagged with the red lion tattoo by The Blade. And it had never occurred to him that other hunters might seek them out.

But it wasn’t just about hunter souls anymore. Keith couldn’t ignore the damage Galras were doing to mortals…mortals like Shay. If he continued to do nothing, it made him just as guilty.

“I sent the men home,” Matt remarked as he accepted the beer from Keith and popped it open. He sprawled across the couch across from the chair where Keith was sitting. “I think we should be able to finish in a couple of days.”

“What do you think?” Keith asked. He, Matt and Shiro had all worked with the other men for hours. Hard, thankless labor was a good way to determine a man’s character.

Matt took several swallows of cold beer and sighed in pleasure. “Man, that hits the spot. Here,” he said, handing Keith a piece of paper with several notations scribbled on it. “These few impressed me.”

Keith nodded his agreement as he looked over what Matt had written. He glanced over at Pidge, who was methodically cleaning her gun. She looked up and met Keith’s gaze.

“I can start training with them. See how they work out,” she said.

“I wouldn’t mind some of that action myself,” Shiro said as he fished through the cooler before walking back over to his post at looking at the monitors. “Don’t get enough sparring.”

Keith wasn’t going to turn away hunters looking for a way to stand against the curse. “Set it up, Pidge. See what you can get a feel for on these guys.” He finished off his beer and turned towards the bank of monitors. “Shiro? What’d you get from Hunk’s GPS?”

Shiro glanced away from the multiple screens that showed the safe house from various angles. Keith had added a security detail of hard ass mortals as an additional safety measure.

“Everything’s fine at the house,” he said. “Hunk and Shay are at an address that’s being rented to a Detective Adam  Wakim. Here’s his driver’s license photo.”

Keith noted his messy dark brown hair, hazel green eyes with a witch tilt and wearing a pair of half-frame grey glasses, cut to look like a cat’s eyes, and most importantly, the golden necklace around his throat. “He’s not a demon witch, then,” he said. Demon witches couldn’t tolerate gold. Even gold plating burned their skin.

Shiro nodded, looking somewhat distracted. “He’s also got a PhD in psychology and uses it along with his degree in Criminology.”

So this was him. Atlas. Lance clearly trusted him. But it bothered Keith that Adam had never said to Lance, ‘You’re a witch and so am I.’ Then again, he had probably thought Lance was safer in the mortal world and without knowing.

Pidge killed off her beer and reached for another. “I hope the witch can help Shay. I think her and I would get along.”

Keith turned to look at his friend. “What did you learn while you were tracking Shay’s husband?”

Pidge sat sideways across the large leather chair with her legs dangling over the arm of it. “Sendak Crystals lived with Shay in Chicago for two years. According to his social he didn’t report a regular income and it seems they lived off of her salary. But people I talked to all thought he was some sort of independent computer consultant. He has separate bank accounts from the one he shared with Shay, and guess where the money comes from?”

Keith grit his teeth, knowing the answer. “Don’t tell me, let me guess. Same place as my dad’s.”

Pidge motioned at him with his beer and winked. “Right in one. He’s on Lotor’s payroll. I think he was running a small pack of Galras there in the city. Shay was working with one of the biggest firms in the city and was on a case against a guy suspected of being involved in the disappearance of several young women. Seems one of the Galras was incompetent and sloppy, somehow got caught, then wasn’t smart enough to alter memories. Sendak had to step in, it seems. I talked to Shay’s boss at the firm. Told him she was missing, and I’d been hired to find her by her family. He said she’d been one of the best he’d ever seen and had future DA written all over her, and then suddenly she started losing it. He told me she started self-harming and that her husband had planned to put her in a treatment facility. But before that could happen, she had ran away.”

Keith thought of the damaged but fighting woman he’d met. Sendak Crystals had severely underestimated his wife. The fucker hadn’t destroyed her as much as he’d believed.

“Where is the bastard right now?” he asked.

Pidge shrugged, her irritation evident. “No one’s seen him in a few weeks.”

Keith knew it wouldn’t be that easy. “His accounts?”

“Nada from what I can see,” said Pidge.

“Think maybe Sendak is one of the Galras we’ve killed? Maybe he went after a demon witch and she killed him?” asked Matt.

Pidge shook her head. “Nah. In the last couple of weeks there’ve been some pretty fucked up murders in the city. At least three women cut up beyond recognition and their bodies left out on the streets.”

Keith raised an eyebrow. He could feel his red lion stiffen. “Daibazaal runs a tight ship. No bodies left behind.”

“Exactly. So, I sniffed myself out a couple of Galras. Fuckers need to do something about that copper stink if they’re gonna go stealth. Anyway, I prowled around until I found a couple of them and got ‘em alone. Those fuckers sure did cry about going Celestial.” Pidge shook her head in disgust and drained her drink.

“They finally spilled that Sendak is the area Galra leader,” Pidge continued. “He coordinates the kills and the cleanup. If someone stumbled onto a witch and killed her, that was fine and good so long as they called for cleanup. Seems Sendak is a cold son of a bitch, ruthless and efficient and all that. But he hasn’t been around these last few weeks, and some of the Galras were getting out of control.”

Something triggered a memory in Keith’s mind. “At Lance’s apartment. Those Galras that attacked us were way more skilled than the idiots my dad usually sends around. These guys nearly got the drop on me.”

Pidge nodded. “I don’t think Sendak is dead. I think he’s here in our neck of the woods. He wants to prove himself to Daibazaal by bagging their number one kill. It’s a turf war, man. He kills Lance and displaces Richard. Boom. Bigger territory and more prestige in the end.”

“Fucking hell,” snarled Keith. He stood up and began briskly pacing to get rid of some of the fury building inside him. “Daibazaal set my dad and Sendak against each other.”

“You and Lance are the prize,” stated Shiro. “Stakes just got real for Richard and Sendak. That makes everything a lot more dangerous.”

Keith nodded angrily. “My dad, the dumbass, thinks if he turns me Galra he’ll have more pull with Lotor. Especially if I go Galra and then kill Lance. That’s why he’s pulling stunts like cutting up witches, packing them in an SUV and crashing it into my club...” Keith trailed off as his fury grew hotter and overrode any sort of witch bloodlust he normally felt when his emotions flared out of control. He thought of Lance in the moonlight, his power surging and growing more potent until he had become the most beautiful thing Keith had ever seen...until he had seen him lying naked beneath him.

I will not kill Lance. He would protect him. It was a living, breathing need inside of him.

Matt snorted. “Richard probably sucks ass at chess. His strategies are too complex and drawn out, and they all have too many outside factors involved. Instead of just figuring out a way to kill you, he plots this grandiose scheme of turning you and you taking your place by his side as he rules for all eternity.”

Keith stopped pacing to stare at Matt while his words echoed in his brain. “Rules what? What the fuck does he have set up at that house, anyway?” He turned to Shiro. “See if you can find the blueprints on the remodel my dad did of that house he’s staying in. We need to find out exactly what it is he’s got set up that drew Sendak Crystals here from Chicago.”

“Maybe he got word that Shay’s here,” Pidge commented.

“Fuck,” Keith swore, pulling out his cellphone. “I’ll call Hunk; have him get her back to the house. Sendak isn’t going to get her on my watch.”

Pidge swiveled around in her chair and stretched out her legs. “So, how’s Lance doing with figuring out how to get the spell off Acxa?”

“He’s trying to get the answers from the tapestry. It’s not easy without a familiar,” Keith answered shortly.

“You know, the Galras think witches, elemental witches included, are desperate enough to get their powers back that they’ll do anything. Like complete the curse, bind a hunter to them, and make them into a familiar,” Pidge continued casually.

Keith leaned against the pool table and crossed his arms. His eyebrows snapped together in an angry scowl and the tattoo on his back grew tight and warm. “You might as well spit it out, Katie. What’s on your mind?”

“Dude, there’s not any witch magic in the tattoo,” Matt said in exasperation. “We’d feel it.”

Pidge shrugged. “How do we know a witch can’t hide their powers?”

Fuck. “Lance said his mother used a charm like that,” Keith admitted.

“Yep. And got herself knocked up by Lotor.” Pidge kept her gaze steady on Keith. “Daibazaal wants his son dead. What does he know?”

“He knows he’s a witch and not a hunter,” Matt said. “And Daibazaal hates witches. All of them. Blames them for his getting tricked by demon witches when in truth it was his own damn fault. He was thinking with the wrong head and so worked up to get some ass that he didn’t bother to check with his golden knife to make sure he was dealing with mortals or elemental witches.”

Pidge sat up straighter in her chair. “And Lance’s mother tricked Lotor, too. We know that now.” She leveled her gaze on Keith. “I can smell the witch on you. You fucked him. Did you even feel any bloodlust?”

“Hell, yeah, I did!” Keith retorted. And he had. At least until that moment on the porch when Lance’s powers freed themselves and touched him.

“Okay, fine. So, you fucked him to control the bloodlust, then?” Pidge persisted. Keith glared at her. Pidge shrugged again and slumped back in the chair. “Well? It’s what we do. Have sex to control the bloodlust.”

Keith clenched his fists. He hadn’t used Lance like that. It had been more, so much more than sex. It had been magical and powerful, connecting them and filling something in them that they both desperately needed. His fellow hunters didn’t need to know that Lance’s power lived and pulsed inside of him, and that Keith had touched it. Tasted it. He had felt it sear his very soul. They didn’t need to know it had taken every ounce of willpower he possessed to walk away from Lance that morning, instead of claiming him again and again as he was compelled to do.

Shiro broke the building silence. “Since Lance’s father is a witch hunter, maybe that’s the reason you can control the bloodlust around him.”

Keith had considered that already. Maybe that was why they had a connection? How Lance had been able to draw him into his conversation with his mother? Keith didn’t know, but it all left him feeling uneasy and suspicious. Yet when he touched Lance he felt...whole, somehow.

Matt spoke up calmly. “I have a question, and it’s perfectly legit, so don’t go turning your laser beam eyes on me. We know Lance’s mother used a charm to cloak her powers. Do you think it’s possible Lance did the same thing to seduce you?”

“No,” Keith stated emphatically. He had felt Lance’s power. There had been no attempt to hide it. Plus, he knew how vulnerable Lance was when it came to sex and had seen the pain on his face that morning when he thought Keith was afraid of him. He gave each of his hunters an even look. “I am not going to be drawn into the same bullshit the Galras spout incessantly, blaming all witches for the curse, or believing that killing them will break it. We were born to protect elemental witches, not kill them.”

Chapter Text

Lance stared at the box full of sand in disbelief. The tapestry lioness was gone now, leaving behind the silver box on the hill next to the lake.

He had been able to open the box on his first try, using low magic. As the lid had lifted, he had felt a surge of confidence. He was a witch, strong and powerful. He could do this!

And then the lid rose completely, revealing the contents of the box.

Sand. Full to the brim with nothing but sand.

His earlier sense of triumph was choked out by frustration and disappointment. But the spells had to be there, his mom had said they were! How was he supposed to do this? How could he translate sand into spells, or whatever it was he had to do to get to the magic? And every time he opened his fifth chakra, he lost control. He needed a familiar to help him control his power.

Since the scene with Keith that morning, Lance had walked upstairs repeatedly to look out the windows, scanning the horizon hopefully, looking to see if the familiar he had begged the Alteans for would show. But deep down, he knew that it wasn’t going to happen.

Lance was terrified he knew the reason why; his mother’s theory about witch and hunter souls merging then splitting, leaving them with half a soul. Lance feared that when he had called for his familiar by moonlight that Keith’s hunter soul had responded. But then he hadn’t sealed the bond by impressing Keith’s image into his golden necklace as Adam had said he would have to do. But had sex sealed the connection instead?

His magic had crested when Keith made love to him. And at that moment, the tapestry lioness had gone ballistic, getting Hunk’s attention so that he went and found Lance. And once Lance got inside, he hadn’t been able to connect to his mother until Keith had touched him.

What if he had accidentally made Keith his familiar?

Anxiousness swirled deep in his belly, leaving him feeling nauseated. He went upstairs once again to see if maybe his familiar had shown and was sleeping on the porch or deck. Lance clung desperately to the hope that his real familiar would show, that he hadn’t done the unthinkable to Keith.

How could he face Keith? If he told him what he suspected, Keith would probably throw him out right then, and that was only if he didn’t kill him on the spot. And then he couldn’t help Acxa, either. He would have failed epically and completely. He had nowhere else he could go.

And he was frightened.

Lance walked upstairs again, hoping against hope that this would be the time his familiar had appeared. It was quiet when he got into the kitchen. Hunk and Shay had gone to Adam’s, so only Krolia and Acxa were in the house. A soft noise from Acxa’s room caught his attention and he went to investigate. When he heard her soft sniffling, he knew she was crying. The sound tugged at his heart and conscious. Acxa was growing more miserable each day. Lance peered into her room. She was tossing fitfully in the bed, her damp hair sticking to her sweaty, tear stained face. The sheets and comforter were tossed and hanging haphazardly off the mattress.

Krolia appeared at Lance’s shoulder, holding a bottle of juice to try to tempt Acxa to drink. “It’s getting worse. I’ve given her medicine for the fever, but nothing’s working.”

Lance could feel the desperation and anger simmering in Krolia. He knew she was terrified and her near panic was palpable. He placed a hand on her arm. “Can I try something? I might be able to make her at least a little more comfortable.”

At Krolia’s nod, he walked over to Acxa. He kneeled down next to the bed and put a hand on her hot forehead, opening his first four chakras and summoning healing energy. Acxa moaned and shifted under the covers, kicking her feet as though trying to escape something.

“Acxa? Sweetie, it’s Lance. Let me help you, okay?” he whispered soothingly.

He could sense darkness surrounding her. It wasn’t something he could see, but it was heavy and overbearing, taking him back to the tiny locked closet of his youth. He could feel it swirling around her. Trying to mesh together into something even worse. Lance repressed a shiver as he concentrated on sending comforting energy into Acxa. He could feel the slithery sensation of the darkness moving up his arm and had to steel himself against jerking his hand away and wiping it on his shirt to try to rid himself of the oily feeling left behind.

Acxa made a small whimpering noise and raised her hand to wrap it around Lance’s wrist as though to hold it to her forehead. Lance hummed softly under his breath as he pushed more healing energy into her small body. The positive energy pushed some of the dark sickness from the curse out, and Lance bore the exchange with a shiver, but did not remove his hand. He lost track of how long he sat like that, but he didn’t move his hand until the sensation disappeared. He leaned back, panting slightly and struggling to stay upright. His head throbbed and he felt queasy.

“You made them go away,” Acxa whispered. Her eyes were huge and she hugged her Ariel tightly to her.

Lance shook off the lethargy trying to overwhelm him and looked at the little girl. “Do you feel better, sweetheart?”

“A bit. I’m a little thirsty now.”

Lance stood and moved to sit on the edge of the bed as Krolia came to Acxa with the juice she had brought. She helped her sit up and held the juice while Acxa sipped at it. When Acxa had drunk her fill, she settled back against her pillow.

“Lance? Can I sleep with you? The shadows are scared of you.”

Lance felt his heart crumble at her hopeful face. “Sweetie, it’s too cold downstairs for you.” Besides, he was sure Keith would never allow it. He didn’t quite trust Lance. The divide between witches and hunters was fraught with suspicion.

And maybe Keith was right to be suspicious.

Acxa’s eyes filled with tears. “Will you stay here with me, then? Please?”

Lance sighed quietly. He couldn’t deny her. “Okay, but only until Keith gets home, alright? Then I have to go back downstairs.” He didn’t want her to wake up and find him gone after he agreed to stay with her.

“Okay,” Acxa yawned as she settled down on her pillow. Lance pulled her comforter up over her and watched as Krolia stroked her daughter’s damp hair and leaned down to kiss her forehead.

“Thank you,” Krolia whispered to Lance. “Hopefully she can sleep now.” Her face showed her exhaustion and she looked as though she had aged years in only a short time. “We are running out of time.”

Lance tried to shake off the remaining fatigue and feeling of repugnance that touching the curse had brought on. “I can still do this, Krolia. I’ll sleep on the floor in here for a couple of hours and then when Keith gets home I’ll go back to the spells in the box. I’ll figure this out, I swear.”

Krolia went to the linen closet in the hall and pulled out a couple of thick quilts and an extra pillow. She came back in and fashioned a pallet on the floor for Lance. “I’ll wake you when Keith gets home.”

Lance crawled onto the pallet and laid his head on the pillow. The pounding in his head was nearly unbearable and his hand trembled as he pulled a quilt over him. “Thanks,” he whispered.

He had to do this. He had to be strong. His mother had fought until her dying breath for him to live. Even when the monster who was his father found her, no matter what he did to her, Allura never told him where Lance was. Lance knew he had to have that kind of strength. He had to make his life count. He had to save Acxa, and then maybe somehow, he could live on and continue his mother’s work to undo the curse destroying witches and hunters.

Lance was awakened when something hit him in the face. His eyes flew open to find that Acxa had left her bed and had snuggled on the floor under the quilts next to him and was sound asleep. Lance carefully moved her arm away from his face and climbed to his knees next to her.

God, he was exhausted.

He leaned over to pick up Acxa and put her back in her bed before a voice stopped him. “I’ll do it.”

Lance jumped back, his heart skipping a beat as the voice registered. He looked up.

Keith. He had come silently into the room. He smelled like he had just gotten out of the shower and his long strands of hair were still damp. An adrenaline rush surged through Lance as his heart pounded in response. He got to his feet quickly.

“Acxa didn’t feel well, so I-” Lance started to try to explain his presence upstairs and in Acxa’s room.

“Mom told me,” Keith said as he knelt to gently take his sleeping sister into his arms and move her to the bed. He carefully tucked her in and put Ariel next to her before covering her snugly with the comforter.

Seeing the powerful man’s movements gentled as he cared for his sister filled Lance with sudden emotion, and he had to swallow the lump forming in his throat. For some reason he was almost ridiculously emotional right now.

Then Keith turned to look at him. His violet eyes seemed to penetrate Lance to his very core.

And that’s my queue to run away now. Keith had touched so much more than his body when they’d had sex, and now Lance felt far too vulnerable and exposed. He could feel his body responding to just that look. His heart pounded, his cock twitched, and he felt like his skin was suddenly growing too small for him. It was though he craved Keith’s touch. Needed it. He hated feeling that; needing something from someone else.

Raising his chin, he said, “I’ll go back downstairs.”

He turned toward the door and walked right into Keith. “Would you stop that?” Lance hissed, keeping his voice low so as not to wake up Acxa. He was unnerved by how Keith could move with such inhuman strength and speed. He wondered if Keith could sense that he was hiding something from him.

“We need to talk,” Keith whispered.

Lance bit his lip nervously as he pushed at Keith’s shoulder. “I need to work. I finally opened the box of spells, now I just need to figure out how to read them or make them work somehow.”

Keith reached for Lance and pulled him closer. “We’ll go outside. That might help you. If nothing else, it’ll make you feel better.”

Lance stared at Keith. Keith knew that about him. His grandfather had known it and had used it against him whenever his family wasn’t around. He took a deep breath to try to center himself, but instead he found himself surrounded by Keith’s scent. The clean scent of his soap and shampoo from his shower combined with the underlying campfire scent that made Lance want to tear off all their clothes so that they felt only the moonlight and each other’s touch. Outside; yeah, he needed to go outside.

“Alright,” he agreed. “You can let go of me.”

Keith released his hold on Lance and walked towards the kitchen. Lance followed, trying to pull himself together. When they got to the kitchen, Krolia was sitting at the table with a glass of bourbon and her iPad.

“We’re going outside,” Keith told her.

Krolia nodded, then looked at Lance with concern in her eyes. “Are you alright, Lance? You have to be feeling some sort of effect from what you did earlier.”

Lance shrugged, feeling Keith’s eyes on him. “What did you do?” Keith asked.

“Acxa said he made the shadows go away,” Krolia answered for him. “I could see something dark moving from Acxa to Lance. And Lance got more and more pale.”

Lance didn’t want to think about it anymore. “I’m fine.”

“Then the moonlight is what you need. It’ll do you good,” Keith said. He took two wine glasses from a cabinet and filled them with his favorite pinot grigio, offering one to Lance.

Lance accepted the glass and followed Keith outside. He still felt sleep rumpled, sure his clothes were wrinkled, and his hair probably stood up wildly in multiple directions rather than its normal smoothed style. But as soon as he stepped into the moonlight, that all slid away.

The night air was scented with impending rain and the moon flirted from behind a cloud cover, brushing Lance’s skin with its silver light and then hiding away. Lance could feel his blood running stronger and he grew warm as his witch energy pulsed inside him. He felt strong and powerful. Alive. They walked silently to the lake.

Keith pointed toward the far side of the house. “Over there is a hidden garage. At the end of the downstairs hallway is a mirror. It’s actually a hand scanner. I entered your palm print into its database so you can access the garage. There are vehicles in there that are always prepared. If the house is attacked and I’m not here, I want you to get Acxa and get the both of you out.”

Lance was surprised. He sipped his wine and thought about what Keith had said. The gentle noise of water lapping at the shore was soothing, and he remembered what Allura said about ley lines found where the elements met. Water meeting land. He took a deep breath and felt his body reviving as his chakras opened wide to feed on the elements around him. His awareness sharpened and he felt more connected to everything around him.

They had stopped at the place on the shore where they had made love. Lance looked at Keith. “You aren’t afraid I’ll run away anymore,” he observed.

Keith’s lips turned up in a confident smile. “No. I know you know I can protect you better than you can protect yourself.” The smile suddenly vanished. “That first night I didn’t know you were claustrophobic. I could feel your fear but didn’t know if you might be playing me. If I had known, I would have never done what I did.”

Lance saw a large rock a few feet away and walked over to sit on it. A gentle breeze rustled the leaves on the trees and cooled his warm face. “You don’t seem to be very trusting of witches.” He cringed inwardly. Now why had he brought that up?

“Witches aren’t any more trusting of us,” Keith pointed out as he sat on the rock next to Lance, close enough that their thighs touched. “If you hadn’t been under attack when I found you, I would have asked you first. I had planned to offer you a deal.”

Lance raised an eyebrow in surprise. “And if I’d said no?”

Keith shrugged. “Then I would have taken you anyway. I knew the Galras were going to be coming for you. I wouldn’t have left you to be slaughtered.”

Lance studied Keith in the moonlight. He was close enough that he could see what could only consist of the stars reflected in Keith’s eyes and feel his warm breath on his face. But it was his scent that made Lance want to lean into him and breathe in deeply. That need, that craving was tugging at his gut again. He licked his lips nervously and said, “Why did you pick me to help you? Why are you telling me this?”

Keith closed his eyes briefly and breathed in before opening them to look into Lance’s eyes again. “Lance. There comes a time when you know that things are changing. You trusted me last night. Trusted me with not only your body, but your life. You believed that I wouldn’t lose control and kill you. You believed in me when you had no reason to.” He reached out and cradled Lance’s cheek in his hand. “I think from the time I saw your eyes in the picture my…sperm donor gave me I was already in trouble. And I want you to know I’m never cruel without a reason.”

Lance felt his heart squeeze. He didn’t want to lie to Keith or hide his fears from him. But he was afraid that if he told him, Keith would throw him out and go after the demon witch. And Keith, this Keith would be gone once he killed the witch and went Galra. Lance knew he couldn’t let that happen. He had to heal Acxa first, then he could tell Keith what he was afraid had happened. He looked around desperately, hoping to see a cat or an owl, anything that a familiar might take form as, but again, there was nothing.

“Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?” Lance asked Keith, managing to keep his voice steady.

Keith shook his head. “No. I wanted to be the one to tell you. We know that the witch behind the Atlas avatar is Adam Wakim.”

Lance felt the blood drain from his face and the wineglass slipped from his fingers. Keith’s hand shot out lightning fast to catch it before it shattered on the rocks. Lance stared at the glass dumbly for a second before clumsily lurching to his feet.

“I have to tell him!” he gasped. Adam had risked so much to help him.

Keith set the glass down and reached for Lance, taking his hand. “We aren’t going to hurt him, Lance. I swear to you. The Paladins are committed to not giving into the curse by hunting down elemental witches. We had to be he she wasn’t a demon witch.”

“That again? I told you, Keith, he’s not a demon witch. He’s my friend!” Lance snapped. “One of my best friends!”

“Shh, I know,” Keith said gently, rubbing Lance’s knuckles lightly with his thumb in an effort to soothe him.

Lance was trying to figure out what had happened. “Did you see him? Scare him? Is he hurt?”

Keith shook his head. “No, nothing like that. Shiro hacked into Hunk’s GPS and found the address where he stopped when he took Shay. We found out Adam rented the house and looked up his DMV file. In his picture we could see he wore a golden necklace. Demon witches don’t wear gold. Ever.”

“He always wears gold. He has a golden bracelet he wears on his right arm that he never takes off. It was a gift from his mother,” Lance said without thinking, then wanted to kick himself. Why was he telling Keith this? He’d betrayed him. And why didn’t he pull his hand from Keith’s warm grasp? “I have to let him know. He’ll have to leave, find a safe place.” Adam would leave him, wouldn’t contact him anymore. I’ll be alone again.

Keith gave Lance’s hand a reassuring squeeze. “Lance, no. I won’t let anything happen to him. The only ones who know are the other Paladins and myself. I didn’t have to tell you that we knew, but I chose to do so. Just like I didn’t have to let Hunk and Shay come to the house and then leave today, knowing the location that we have kept secret for so long.”

“Hunk would never tell! He would never put me at risk!”

“I know. I’m trusting in that, trusting the life of my mother and sister in that. Just like you are trusting that we aren’t going to hurt Adam.” Keith tugged on Lance’s hand. “Please sit down and talk to me.”

Lance knew he could walk away, could insist on letting Adam know right away. He had enough magic now to lock Keith out of the house, at least for a time. But Keith had been honest with him. He had his reasons for finding out who Adam was, just as Lance had his reasons for keeping Adam ’s identity a secret. He sighed and sat down next to Keith again. “He needs to know. I will have to tell him. He helped me when all the other witches refused and has been patient with me as I am getting basically a crash course in ‘How to Be A Witch 101’.”

Keith reached down for Lance’s wineglass and handed it to him. “Do what you think is best.”

Unsure, Lance took a sip of wine. He felt his breathing and heart rate calming, then remembered the secret he was keeping from Keith. He pulled his hand from Keith’s grasp and scooted back to put some space between them. “Adam won’t help me anymore. Not after this,” he fretted.

Keith frowned and turned to look at Lance’s downcast face. “Surely that’s not true. He isn’t a true friend if that’s the case.”

Lance stared out at the lake, watching the moonlight play on its surface. “Adam and I became friends so fast. We met in high school, when I was in ROTC and he in the Criminal Justice Academy. We were nearly inseparable after a couple of joint class sessions.”

Keith nodded. “Shiro says he’s a detective but also has a degree is Psychology?”

“Yes. He works using a form of hypnosis to help brainwash victims as well as trauma victims from the cases he works.” Lance looked at Keith again. “He’ll be able to help Shay. He’ll know how to tell her...” his voice trailed off. He hadn’t told anyone but Adam about Shay’s secret.

“Tell her what?” prompted Keith when Lance was quiet for too long.

Lance didn’t want to remember the flashes of memory he’d gotten from Shay. “Shay’s pregnant. And she doesn’t realize it, though Adam says that a part of her knows and is protecting the baby.”

“And it’s her husband’s?” Keith’s voice was rough.

Lance nodded. “It’s why she ran. This morning she locked herself in the bathroom and kept saying she had to protect someone, but she didn’t know who. When I tried to calm her, I got a mix of her memories and saw her sick and scared in a bathroom. She was holding one of those home pregnancy test sticks that confirmed her pregnancy.” He shivered at the memory of the hellish images he’d seen.

Keith grabbed for Lance’s hand again. “You saw him cut her, Lance?”

Lance nodded, swallowing heavily. “I didn’t know what to do. I was afraid if I told her she was pregnant and that was who she was protecting that it would be too much for her.”

“So that’s why you were going behind my back to send Hunk and Shay to Adam. I’m glad you told me. This complicates things and makes them even more dangerous for Shay. It explains why Sendak didn’t just kill her. If the baby is born and shows signs of being a hunter, he’ll want to take the baby from her. And he won’t stop until he gets her back, at least long enough for her to have the baby.”

Fear jumped into Lance’s eyes and he pulled his hand away from Keith again. “I need to tell Hunk!”

“I already did,” Keith reassured him. “They will be back tonight. Hunk knows that Pidge found information that makes us think Sendak is in the area and he’s on the alert. It’s safer for them to come back here, rather than going to Hunk’s or Shay’s place. And I don’t want you worrying about them.”

Lance took another sip of his wine, wondering if Keith truly cared, or if he just didn’t want Lance distracted from trying to break the curse on Acxa.

“Do you still regret making love with me?”

Chapter Text

Keith’s words sounded almost vulnerable and drew Lance’s startled gaze to his face. Lance thought for a moment. No, he didn’t regret it. What they did…he would never regret making love with Keith. But he regretted with every fiber of his being what he may have done to Keith in the process. If Keith finds out, he would hate me so much. Lance didn’t want to answer, but it escaped him anyway. “No, I don’t. I c-could never regret it.”

Keith took the wineglass from Lance and set it down, then reached out to touch Lance’s face again. “You said this morning I was like your grandfather. What did he do to you?”

Keith’s touch was gentle, but his voice was rough. What did it matter if he knew?

“He was afraid of me and didn’t want me to touch him.” Lance tried to shrug nonchalantly. He remembered some of his favorite cartoons from when he was a kid. The grandfathers were always so loving and adoring with their grandchildren. He remembered trying to get his grandfather to love him, asking him to read to him or trying to get him to play with him. After enough harsh rejections, he had stopped altogether. He knew he would never be treated like the rest of his siblings. But he had never stopped wanting to be held and made to feel safe and loved. It made him annoyed with himself to feel that even now. He was a grown man, not a child. He could stand on his own.

“Give me an example,” Keith said.

“If he caught me doing something he thought was evil, like sneaking outside to be in the moonlight or making my toys move without touching them, he would lock me in the hall closet when my family was out.” Lance looked out across the calm water again and squeezed his hands together in his lap. “And there was the time I was at what is now my record shop when I was just a little boy. Dad had to work last minute because one of the guys was out sick and Mom with my older brother at an appointment, and he hadn’t been able to get a sitter. He had to go to the next door to get some lunch for us, and he left me there playing. Gramps was working behind the counter and an old friend came in. He had the death mark on his forehead, and the voices in my head told me it was the mark and to stay away.”

Lance realized now it had been the Alteans warning him. He continued, “I was so scared I started screaming, yelling that he had the death mark and that it would kill him. Gramps was so mad and embarrassed. He went out to the bar that night and got drunk, then dragged me out of bed when he got home. He was yelling that I was the spawn of the devil, that my birth mother had thrown me away because she didn’t want me and that he didn’t want me either. Dad came in and pulled him away and they got into this huge fight about it.” He never intended to say so much, but the words wouldn’t stop coming now that he’d finally released them.

Keith put one of his hands on both of Lance’s where he held them clasped together in his lap. “Then what happened?”

Lance blinked, surprised at Keith’s show of support. The warmth of his hand was calming, and Lance wanted to tell him the rest of the story. “Dad made him leave me alone. He put me back to bed and held me for a long time. He told me he loved me just as I was, that I was special no matter what. But I knew there was something was wrong with me. So, I tried to be more normal. I didn’t want him to send me away.” He gave a small huff of humorless laughter.

Keith squeezed Lance’s hands. “So, you were scared into repressing your powers and hid your true self from everyone.”

“So it would seem,” Lance agreed.

“And your dad allowed your grandfather to treat you like that?” Keith sounded angry.

Lance couldn’t allow that. “No. Dad would never let Gramps do anything when he was around. But Mom and Dad were both busy, they had a large family to take care. He needed his dad. And as much as Gramps hated me, he loved my dad more. He took care of us when one or both of them had to work extra hours or go out of town because of business and extended family matter. But my parents loved me and protected me the best they could.”

Lance wondered what they would have thought if they had lived long enough to find out Lance was a witch. Somehow, he felt sure they would have been just as proud and supportive as they had always been. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back to let the moonlight caress his skin. He was an elemental witch, always had been. He breathed in deeply and let the feel of the earth, the water, and the moonlight wash over him and fill his very essence with power.

“You are so beautiful when you do that.”

The husky tenor of Keith’s voice mixed with the elements and stirred Lance’s blood. Why did Keith feel so vital to him? Why did he long for him? He opened his eyes and turned to look at Keith. His black t-shirt was pulled tight over his muscles and he looked comfortable and at ease. He was both fierce and protective all at once.

“Shouldn’t you be feeling bloodlust?” Lance questioned him with a raised brow.

Keith ran his fingers into the hair at the back of Lance’s head and pulled gently, tilting his head back. His violet eyes gleamed in the moonlight. “I don’t feel bloodlust, my beautiful witch.”

“No?” Lance asked breathlessly. He felt his blood running hotter and faster in his veins, sparking fire low in his belly and groin.

“No,” Keith responded, shaking his head lazily. He leaned forward to brush his lips against Lance’s, a mere whisper of sensation that had Lance wanting more. “I don’t know what this is between us, but I know I want it. And so do you.”

Lance quirked an eyebrow at his assured words even as his body melted to move him closer. “I do?”

“Without a doubt,” Keith said, still teasing with his lips, brushing them lightly against Lance’s. “I can smell your desire.”

Lance ran his hand into Keith’s stray hair and pulled him forward to press their lips together firmly. He slid his tongue into Keith’s mouth and nearly shuddered in pleasure. He could taste the richness of the wine and pure Keith. His blood thundered through him and he wanted more.

Keith pulled back from the kiss and shifted on the rock. He pulled Lance towards him so that he sat astride his lap, then wrapped one arm around Lance’s waist while cupping his neck with his other hand and pulled him close. Keith took absolute control of their kiss, drawing Lance’s tongue into his mouth and sucking on it before pushing forward with his own to foray into the warm recesses of Lance’s mouth. He licked everywhere he could, reveling in the taste of Lance.

Lance had never felt like this. Held and kissed in a way that made him feel important and desired. As if at this very moment, he was the center of Keith’s world and he couldn’t get enough of him. Keith’s mouth was demanding and Lance met him with equal fervor. His powers ran hot and wild, making him want, scratch that, need to get closer to Keith. He could feel Keith hard against him and rocked his hips, the friction driving them both wild.

Keith groaned, breaking their kiss to toss his head back. His chest rose and fell rapidly as he panted for breath. “I can feel your powers rushing through me,” he said, voice roughened with want and need. “You are so powerful. If only you could truly tap into that untamed power that’s inside you…”

Lance could feel the current passing between them. His open chakras had focused, hot and sensual, and energy flowed from Lance to Keith and back again in the form of feathers sweeping lightly across his overheated skin. It fed his need but left him wanting even more. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back when he felt the familiar comfort and warmth of limbs and fur surround him, whispering, “Your red lion is touching me.”

Keith’s eyes blazed like fire. “You can feel him?”

“Yes,” Lance breathed. He could feel the strength of Keith’s arms around him, the heat of his body, especially where he was hot and throbbing against him. And he felt the brush of the lion’s paws everywhere all at once. Excruciating pleasure swept over him with each stroke of the lion’s paws and nails over his highly sensitized skin and he arched back in Keith’s arms, moaning softly.

“Holy fuck, Lance.” Keith’s voice was low and almost reverent. “I could make you come just like this, couldn’t I? And then I’d come from just watching you.” He stood up, causing Lance to gasp and wrap his legs around his waist, and turned to stride purposefully towards the house. “But when you come, I want you naked and in my arms while I’m so deep inside you I can feel each pulse of your pleasure around me.”

Keith didn’t understand the bond between himself and the witch he carried into the house. But when he’d gotten home from the club earlier that night, he’d seen Acxa cuddled next to Lance on the floor. He had his arms wrapped around her as they slept, and Acxa had been peacefully asleep for the first time in days. She hadn’t been tossing fitfully, shaking with a chill or burning up with fever. The most incredible thing, though, had been Lance’s light blue witch glow that had surrounded them both. His witch had drawn out the darkness tormenting his sister and protected her with the light of an elemental witch.

It had loosened the knot of suspicion in his chest. A witch that protects my sister in his sleep and didn’t try to bind me to him against my will is the epitome of the man I want in my life. Whatever this was between them was no magical lie. It was real. He had to believe there was a purpose to all that was happening.

And God, he wanted Lance. He quickly shut the door behind them and armed the security alarm before turning and carrying Lance to his bedroom. He moved to shut the door behind them, but it moved on its own, closing quietly. He sucked in a breath as he felt Lance’s power brush over his skin.

Keith raised one side of his mouth in a half grin. “I see, so it’s one thing to have you cradled in my arms. But now my witch also wants to show off hmm?”

Lance’s blue eyes sparkled with mischief as he raised a hand and made a sweeping motion, and with a wave of magic, they were both fully nude. “Now I’m showing off,” he said with a little bite in his voice.

“I see someone’s been practicing.” Keith slowly loosened his hold on Lance so that he slid down his body to stand on his own feet. The feel of Lance’s hot skin against his and their hard cocks brushing against each other made Keith’s head swim and fanned the hot coals of lust into white hot flames. He kissed Lance hard and hungrily, debating on lifting him up and directly onto his cock.

I can’t do that. That would be too rough on him, he decided.

But last night Lance had taken him completely. All of him. Every thrust had taken him deeper until he was buried completely and balls deep in the tight perfection that was Lance’s ass. Mmm. And I want that again.

Keith bit back a groan when Lance leaned forward to lick and nibble at his neck, blazing a trail of fire from his shoulder up to his ear. “Keeeeeeeith, I want...” Lance’s whisper trailed off.

Keith bit back another groan. Lance was going to kill him. He was desperate now, needing to know what Lance wanted and to give it to him. “What? What do you want, Lance?”

Lance hesitated a beat, then answered quickly, “You.”

Keith felt the lie. And he wasn’t about to allow it. “No, tell me what you really want Lance.”

Lance looked into his eyes. His cheeks were suddenly pinker with something more than just desire. “I want to feel your red lion around me. From, umm...”

Keith could see exactly what Lance wanted. While Lance stumbled over the words to try to explain what he wanted, an image bloomed in Keith’s mind. Lance wanted him behind him, wrapping around him so he could imagine the muscles of his red lion around him while Keith fucked into him from behind like an animal. A hot surge of lust rushed through him, straight to his already hard and throbbing cock. Keith raised his hand to cup Lance’s face and run his thumb lightly over his full lower lip. “From behind. You know you’re safe if you can feel my lion around you.” He knew Lance also wanted the feeling of the phantom wings that appeared from nowhere, but right now he didn’t have the wings bestowed to him by The Blade. But that didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except Lance.

Lance’s eyes widened. “Did you hear my thoughts?”

“I saw them. Saw what you need.” Keith would reach around Lance and the lion’s limbs would touch him, brushing over his balls and up his shaft to scratch across the head of his cock. And when Lance came, Keith would let the lion fold around him and hold him, his chest would be against Lance’s back and he would thrust into him until, once again, he touched the very core of him.

Lance shuddered. “Keith, God, you’re inside my head.” His voice was thick with need.

“And you’re in mine.” Keith pulled Lance to him and held him close against his chest. Against the spot there that so often felt hollow; but not now. Tonight he was complete. He closed his eyes and inhaled, needing the warm spicy ocean and cinnamon scent that was purely Lance. His cock throbbed with the need to be inside him, and he nuzzled the sensitive skin behind Lance’s ear before pressing a slow kiss there.

Lance responded by running his hand down Keith’s stomach to wrap around his erect cock. He pumped it slowly and steadily, causing Keith to lose his breath as the need inside him ramped to the next level. The need to give Lance what he wanted pounded in his bloodstream. He maneuvered Lance the short distance to his bed.

Keith shook as he arranged Lance on his hands and knees. He ran his hands possessively over Lance’s ass, gripping it tightly. The breath left his lungs as he raked his eyes over the width of Lance’s shoulders, down the line of his spine and to the perfect round globes in his hands. Mine…he’s all mine. That thought pounded through him with each thud of his heart.

Lance looked over his shoulder back at him, and Keith sucked in a harsh breath at how sexy it made him look. “I can hear you,” Lance whispered.

Keith felt the haunches of his red lion lift and flutter under his hot skin. You touch me where no one else can, he thought.

Lance’s eyes darkened in response. Red lion?

Keith’s hands moved to Lance’s hips and tightened their hold. Yes.

…You’re mine too.

Lance’s thought was just as fierce as Keith’s had been. So, his witch considered his red lion his own? And hadn’t he stared at Lance’s ass just now and thought the same thing? Yes. Mine. The possessive thought roared through him again and Keith moved his hands over Lance’s skin. He had to touch what was his, what belonged to him.

Lance arched his back and Keith leaned over him. Skin to skin. He pressed hot kisses to the back of Lance’s neck and ran his tongue along the sensual curve of it to nip at one shoulder. He worked his way down Lance’s spine, lips feather light and tongue occasionally darting out to tease. When he got to the swell of Lance’s ass, he ran his thumbs down the crack and gently pulled the cheeks further apart. His mouth went dry as he stared at the dusky pink pucker that waited for him.

Unable to resist, Keith lowered his head and dragged his tongue over Lance’s entrance. He felt Lance’s body jerk in surprise and then heard him release a breathy moan that might have been his name. Keith licked at Lance’s hole again, this time with more pressure. He ran his tongue around it in teasing circles before hardening his tongue to a point and pressing inward ever so slightly. He could hear Lance making noises that went straight to his cock. But he wasn’t finished yet. Keith continued to kiss and lick at Lance’s tight hole, exploring and tasting, mentally mapping his territory. He ran his tongue over the sensitive puckered skin again and again, reveling in each moan, each cry, each babble of words he elicited from Lance. He changed his movements constantly, one moment making long, slow strokes of his tongue, the next, rapid swirls and the quick nip of teeth. He pointed his tongue again, this time pressing inward with an insistent pressure until he was past the tight ring and inside of Lance. He darted his tongue in and out, spreading Lance a little further apart with each lick.

“Oh, my God, yes,” breathed Lance, closing his eyes as he grabbed the sheet in both fists. The hot, wet sensation of Keith’s talented tongue, lips and teeth was dizzying, and Lance was being inundated by multiple sensations all at once. He could feel Keith’s hands gripping his hips tightly as he licked him open, his tongue sliding in and out of his body as though he had done it a thousand times before. Each pass of Keith’s tongue sent fiery sparks to Lance’s groin, and the muscles of his thighs quivered as he tensed. More than anything, he wanted to reach down and touch himself, but it would be over too soon. He would have to let Keith continue his delicious torture. Lance moaned low in his throat when he again felt the sensation of feathers brushing against his heated skin.

Keith’s entire body was alive and thrumming with desire. He was tempted to try to make Lance come with just his tongue, but he had promised him his red lion. His tattoo quivered violently, as if it, too, could scent the spiced aroma permeating the air and flooding Keith’s body, and needed to touch Lance as well. Keith couldn’t believe it, but he would swear he actually felt Lance’s hot skin against the tip of the lion’s paws. It was magic, it had to be.

Lance bucked back against him. His breathing was coming in rapid pants and Keith could see Lance’s mind flash bright like the light of the moon, filled with images of them. He reached over to the nightstand and took a bottle of lubricant out of the drawer. He popped the cap open and drizzled some over his fingers, rubbing them together to coat them and warm the liquid. He pressed two fingers into Lance’s hole, which was already slightly stretched and slick from his mouth. Lance tossed his head back and moaned loudly.

More, Keith! Hurry, I need you...

Keith considered himself lucky that he didn’t come that very second. He added a third finger and stretched Lance even further in preparation for his throbbing cock. He crooked one finger upward and smiled with satisfaction when Lance gasped and shuddered. The cinnamon smell of Lance’s desire filled Keith’s senses and he stopped teasing. His need to be inside Lance took over and he took his aching cock in his hand to guide it to Lance’s stretched and ready hole.

Keith pushed in slowly, pleasure sweeping over him as he entered Lance’s tight ass. Only with Lance could he let go and just feel. He drew back and thrust again, deeper this time, feeling the pull of Lance’s power. Lance arched and spread his knees further apart on Keith’s next thrust, causing him to enter fully. Both of them moaned at the overwhelming pleasure; Keith being buried deep in the exquisitely tight heat of Lance, Lance being stretched and filled completely by Keith. The pleasure filled his mind with the white light again and Keith pulled back and thrust again. Nothing else in the world mattered, only them, their pleasure, the touch of their skin, their sex. Keith thrust again, hard and deep. His red lion stretched and folded around Lance, gently holding the gentle soul of his witch while he fucked into the wild body of the man.

“Keith,” Lance cried out in a low voice. He whimpered as his body bucked again in pleasure.

Keith held Lance tight with one arm while the other reached around to take his hard cock in his free hand. He stroked Lance firmly and the light in Lance’s mind burned brighter until it swirled in hot silver as he came. Keith thrust again and pleasure pounded through him as he lost himself blissfully in Lance. He gave him everything. He couldn’t hold back with him.

Lance stayed as he was on his hands and knees, trembling and trying to catch his breath. He could feel Keith in his head. He had heard voices in his head all his life, but nothing like this. This blending of their minds and feelings was both intense and overwhelming. And it was so intimate that it scared the shit out of him.

Keith was still pressed against his back, one powerful arm wrapped around his waist while the other helped support him. He pressed his lips to Lance’s neck and whispered, “I know.”

Keith had heard his thoughts. Lance sucked in a harsh breath as another burst of pleasure sent his power pulsing through him. “What is this?” he breathed.

“I think some sort of mind link.” Keith held Lance steady as he slowly pulled out of him, both of them hissing softly at the change of sensation. He encouraged Lance to move forward towards the pillows, and when Lance lay down, Keith stretched out next to him. Still needing to touch Lance, he wrapped his arms around him and pulled him to the warmth of his chest.

Lance froze as icy fear washed over him. He tried to roll away from Keith.

Keith tightened his grip, not wanting to let go. “Oh no you don’t, we aren’t finished here.” He rubbed his thumb teasingly over one of Lance’s nipples.

Lance felt a warm wave of pleasure swirl low in his belly, but he fought it. “No…stop.”

Keith leaned up on one elbow to look down at Lance. Confusion was evident in his eyes. “What’s wrong, Lance? I know you have the stamina to go at least four more rounds. I want you, and I know you want me. So why not?”

Lance fought back a sense of rising panic. Because he was doing something to Keith! And Keith was doing something to him. Making him want to be with him; making him want to trust him. But that was foolish. Yet, when they had sex, Keith made him feel…loved.

“Don’t, Keith. Please don’t do this.”

Keith’s eyes softened as his hand captured the back of Lance’s head above the neck. “You’re afraid to feel what you feel for me.”

“No you ass, I’m realistic.” Lance struggled to control the energy rushing through him and push it back into his chakras. But his powers were responding to Keith’s touch and he couldn’t get them under his control. That scared him even more. “It’s just sex, Keith,” he snapped. “I’m nothing to you. You’ve probably been fucking other guys while you had me locked in your basement.” Voicing that thought hurt. He had given Keith too much and Keith could easily destroy him. Still struggling for control, he continued, “We had sex and now I need to get to work.”

Keith stared at him incredulously for a moment, then he snorted. “I’ll have you know I haven’t touched another man since the night I took you from the record shop.”

Lance felt his skin prickle. “Why not?”

Keith’s violet eyes burned as they looked at him. “You. From the very beginning you got under my skin. I was sure it was the bloodlust. I had touched your blood and thought that must have been what got me addicted to you. But now I don’t feel the bloodlust. My bloodlust is gone.”

Lance froze, trying to comprehend. “And how do you think that happened?”

Keith shrugged as he traced the fingers of his other hand over Lance’s dusky nipples, causing them to harden, before lightly stroking down over his belly and back up. “Maybe we’re breaking the curse by turning our faith back to The Blade and what he believed in. The Paladins all got lion tattoos and The Blade changed mine to the red lion. We are trying to make right choices by ensuring we keep the witches safe!”

Lance shivered at his teasing touch. His powers followed the warmth of Keith’s fingers, causing his blood to spark and his body to tighten with need. But what really touched him was the hope in Keith’s voice. He hoped that Keith was right, that this was evidence that The Blade had accepted His hunter, and not that Lance would be the one to shatter Keith’s hope. “Do you think that’s why we feel wings yet you don’t have any?”

“Yes. Blade Hunters, before the curse, didn’t have wings because many didn’t trust in him even if He was our God. But The Blade does have wings, both on the hilt of his blade and the red lion tattoo that adorns his skin. So maybe that means that we will one day get our wings from Him, for those hunters who truly believe in Him.”

Or maybe Lance had completed the curse and turned Keith into a familiar. Essentially an animal. Was that what was making them believe Keith had earned wings? It was confusing enough, but Keith’s hands on him kept him from thinking clearly. He tried to think, to figure things out.

“Witches evolved. We came from special mortals and evolved into a special race. Over time, with each generation and each reincarnation, we became even more powerful. That’s what Adam told me. Then the curse happened. Witches and hunters were changed. We lost part of our powers. Hunters lost their immortality and were burdened with the curse. All of our souls were damaged. Maybe we have to evolve enough to reconnect, witches to our Alteans and hunters to The Blade,” Lance mused. Maybe his mother’s soul mirror theory played a part in all this. Or maybe he was grasping at any possibility in the hopes that he hadn’t turned Keith into a familiar against his will.

Keith’s gaze was steady on Lance’s face. He was listening, thinking. “What was it about me that got The Blade’s attention enough that he would change my tattoo?”

Lance linked their fingers together. He looked deeply into Keith’s lavender colored eyes. “You once said to me you had resisted this curse since you were fifteen. What happened then?”

All the warmth in Keith’s eyes disappeared and they grew distant and cold. Lance tightened his hold on Keith’s hand. “Tell me what happened,” he encouraged softly.

Keith took a shaky breath. “When I was fifteen, my dad tried to turn me into a Galra.”

Chapter Text

Lance stared at him for a moment before he grasped what he was saying. “He wanted you to kill a witch?” When Keith’s jaw tightened, Lance felt the rush of power moving through him and down through his fingertips to send calming energy. He knew it probably wouldn’t help much, the damage had already been done, but if he could offer just a little bit of comfort…

Finally, Keith answered him. “She was tied down in a room where no one would hear her. He cut into her over and over. The screams, God, her screams...” his voice trailed off as the backlash of memories slammed into Lance.

The witch was tied down to a table in a dirty little room. Her brunette hair was matted with blood and sweat and the smell of fear poured off her very skin to mix with the coppery scent of blood.

A large man stood next to the table next to a tall boy. He whipped out a silver knife and drew it across the witch’s white belly. Her scream echoed in the room as she twisted and struggled against the ropes. She begged for the Alteans to help her, turned her fear filled eyes to the boy and begged him.

Young Keith stood frozen next to his father. Then his dad grabbed his wrist and forced his hand down on the wound. The boy was horrified and revolted, then confused as pleasure and power tore through him like lightening. He shivered with it, but then the witch screamed again.

The boy tore his hand away, turned and ran from the room. His heart and head pounded as he ran out into the empty lot of the abandoned building. He could smell the blood on his hand and before he could react any further, he leaned over and threw up the contents of his stomach.

Richard stormed out of the building. “You miserable, cowardly faggot!” he snarled as he backhanded the boy to the ground, his head meeting gravel.

“Lance? Lance, come back to me.” Keith’s voice broke through the memory and the image shattered as Lance returned to the present. Keith’s face filled his vision, the grown and powerful man, not the frightened boy.

Tears welled up in Lance’s eyes and ran down his cheeks, but he didn’t care. “Oh my God,” he choked out. “Your dad is a monster!”

Keith gently rubbed away the tear traces with his thumbs. “I tried to fight him. I had this crazy idea that I could save the witch. But my dad was bigger and stronger, and he beat the shit out of me. He tried to drag me back in there, but I managed to get away. Ever since, I’ve built my life around resisting the curse and never letting it control me.”

Lance stared at Keith in wonder. “Keith. You stood up against your father. For a witch. It’s no wonder why The Blade chose you.”

Keith shrugged. “I don’t know if it was for her or for me. I didn’t want to be like him, like my dad. I didn’t want to be slave to the curse like that.”

Lance caressed Keith’s shoulder with his free hand. “You were born to lead Keith.”

“Fuck, Lance. You make me want to be the man you see.” Keith pressed his lips reverently against Lance’s. “What we have is more than just sex, my witch.” He rolled Lance under him and slid deep inside him, causing Lance’s gasp of surprise to break off into a low moan of pleasure.

Keith thrust deeply, shattering Lance’s defenses and stroking his body to a fiery heated need. Lance wrapped his arms around Keith’s neck and his legs around his waist, holding him close. He wanted to imprint the memory of this moment of acceptance permanently in his mind. He felt Keith’s hand stroking his hard cock and he arched his back with a loud cry as he came in hard, hot stripes over Keith’s fist and his own belly. As his orgasm shook him, he forced his eyes to open and look at Keith.

Keith was watching him, his eyes aglow with passion and hunger. He was pounding into him, his shoulders gleaming with sweat as his muscles flexed under his heated skin. Finally, he rose up on both arms and thrust one final time, head tossed back as he called out Lance’s name when he came.

To Lance’s utter shock, a huge set of pure white wings opened up in wild majestic and masculine beauty behind him. Keith, caught in the throes of his orgasm, never noticed.

Lance’s mind raced wildly. They weren’t just feeling the sensation of wings. They were real. Oh, dear God. What have I done to him?

“Keith and his men know who you are,” Lance said to Adam. He was sitting in the bed talking to him on the laptop he had found on Keith’s desk. After having sex a third time with Keith, Lance had fallen into an exhausted slumber and slept through the night.

And the red lion. Each time Lance would nearly surface from his sleep, he would feel the soothing stroke of feathers and paws on his skin while Keith held him in his arms, and he’d drift off again. It was like the red lion knew he needed the rest.

The Atlas avatar pixelated and became Adam’s face. He looked tired and his eyes were cloudy with concern. “I should have known they’d find me. They always do in the end.”

“I’m sorry, Adam. I’m so sorry. But Keith swore to me that they won’t hurt you, that they’ve all vowed not to give in to the curse. They even have elemental witches that were cut by Galras housed in one of the Paladin safe houses.” He told him about the previous night’s events at the club.

Adam sighed heavily. “I know you trust him, Lance. But it’s harder for me to do so.”

Lance frowned, hearing the pain in his words. “Adam. Tell me what’s wrong. There’s more to this than just a witch’s instinctive distrust of hunters.”

Adam’s eyes closed for a moment as he reflected. “When I was in college, I interned at a clinic that emphasized the health of the whole body and mind. We worked with a lot of mortals that had been damaged by hunters.”

“A witch run clinic?” Lance asked.

“Yes,” Adam nodded. “We were all activists. Calling for witches to stop hiding and start doing what we were born for. Helping mortals and standing against evil. We had a patient, a mortal woman with symptoms similar to Shay’s. The Galra who had done that to her tracked her to the clinic. He killed her and the three witches who ran the clinic.” His expression was haunted. “He sliced them up. Damn it, Lance, their screams, I can still hear them. He killed them all, but by some miracle I got away.” Adam turned away from the camera and lifted his shirt. A long-jagged scar marred his skin.

¡Oh Dios mío Adam!” Lance gasped in shock and horror. He swallowed hard, realizing now what his friend had gone through.

Adam turned back to face him, his face pale but composed. “I learned the hard way that day that we have no choice but to hide, Lance. Learn from my mistakes and don’t repeat them.”

Lance knew now why Adam was so careful. “Your work is still dangerous. A lot of these cults are serious threats to those who work to undo what they’ve done. Being a detective is just as dangerous.”

Adam waved a hand dismissively. “I can handle that sort of danger. Hunters are far more dangerous than the psychopaths that run the cults.”

“And yet you risked talking to me with the Atlas avatar,” Lance pointed out.

“Lance,” Adam said softly, “You and Hunk are my best friends. I’ll do anything for you two. And I’m the one who screwed up. When you told me about the guy that scared you at the cemetery, I should have come to you right then and explained everything. You have every right to be pissed at me.”

“I was a little pissed, at first,” Lance said slowly. “But not anymore. I know you did what you thought was best. And you’d been attacked yourself already by a Galra. You thought I’d be safer living the life of a mortal. That’s why my mother put me with the McClain family. You’ve taken a huge risk helping Shay. And I love you so much for it. You’re my best friend, too.”

Adam smiled and his eyes sparkled with tears. “How could I not help her? No matter what we were always together. And Shay deserves any help I can provide her.” He paused for a moment, then sighed quietly. “I told her about the baby. And she told Hunk.”

“And are they okay?” Lance asked. He worried about them both. Under different circumstances he might have hoped Hunk would find a nice, emotionally healthy woman to settle down with. But he’d known from the first time Hunk laid eyes on Shay after all the years where his heart lay.

“Shay is amazing. So very strong. I took her to the astral plane during hypnosis and planted some coping suggestions to help her,” Adam said. “And Hunk. He truly cares for her, Lance.”

Lance nodded. “I know. I just don’t want him hurt, Adam. He was so, I don’t know, disconnected when he came home from deployment.”

Adam smiled gently. “Not necessarily. He’s connected to you. And I think helping you with everything up to now has made your bond even stronger. Don’t underestimate Shay, either. She has suffered intensive torture and some severe brain damage. But pregnancy is so powerful, Lance. A mother’s protective instincts are incredibly strong. I feel certain that the pregnancy hormones are helping to rebuild some of the damaged cells in her brain, which is probably why she has been having such strong memory flashes. I wouldn’t put it past her to maybe even kick some of those hunters asses one of these days.”

Lance nodded. While he might not quite understand mother instinct, his mother had given her life to keep him safe. And now he had to be just as strong to protect Acxa. “How do I turn the sand in the tapestry box into something I can understand?”

“Transfer it into something of yours, something golden that you can keep on you the entire time. That will bring your mother’s spell knowledge to you. But remember, Lance, it’s a spell, not low magic. It will take time to transfer the spells to whatever you decide to use, and during that time, you’ll be vulnerable to demons and other dangers. You need a familiar, and you don’t have one.” Adam’s tone was concerned.

“Well, how did you do it? Don’t you have a spell book?” Lance asked him.

“Yes, but again you have to remember, my mother is alive. She gave me the spells and history bit by bit as I was growing up and protected me when I wove them into my bracelet. And your mother’s spells have been stored in a third location for all these years. We are talking using high magic to pull all those spells out all at once to fill yours. I don’t know that you’ll be able to control it without a familiar.”

Lance felt an icy chill trace down his spine. He looked around Keith’s room and knew none of the speakers or cameras were on. Just the laptop, which he and Adam were using by magic. “Maybe I already have one,” he said in a near whisper.

“Lance,” Adam breathed, his eyes lighting up with excitement. “You have a familiar? No one’s been able to get one in years. This is a huge breakthrough for us!”

Lance slumped back against the pillows. “Or it’s something worse. Let me tell you about my mother’s theory about souls. She believed that when the blood and sex curse was cast to bind hunter souls to witches as familiars that witches and hunters had their souls halved, and each of us has a soul mirror. A soul mirror can help control magic in the same way.”

Adam’s eyes widened. “You and Keith fulfilled the curse?”

“The first night we met he touched my blood. And when he was hurt, I touched his. And we’ve had sex.” Lance’s cheeks warmed with his blush. Sex didn’t really even begin to describe what he and Keith did.

“What about the bloodlust?” Adam asked.

Lance closed his eyes despairingly. “When he’s with me, it seems like it’s gone.” He opened his eyes and looked at Adam with dread forming a heavy knot in his stomach. “I’m afraid I’ve bound him to me as my familiar.”

Adam shook his head, frowning slightly. “Only animals can be a familiar dummy. To my knowledge, no witch has ever bound a hunter or even a mortal to them. You see what happened when the demon witches tried it.”

Lance thought of the wings he’d seen on Keith. They had certainly looked real. “What if I’ve turned him into an animal?”

“Wow, Lance, that is way more information about your sex life than I ever wanted to know,” teased Adam before he turned serious. “I really don’t think it’s likely. When an elemental witch causes harm with their powers, it comes back on them times three. Turning someone into an animal is definitely causing harm. But tell me more about what your mother said. What did she call it again?”

“A soul mirror,” Lance replied, explaining further. “Hunters’ souls have been looking for blood and sex from the curse. Witches have been looking for familiars. And neither can fulfill that need. She believed that when we find the right hunter, that when the souls mirror each other’s needs, that the soul would be whole again.”

“We weren’t there at the curse. But we know it has spread to all witches and hunters from that point, so all souls were pulled into it.” Adam’s brow furrowed in deep thought, then he reached up to close his hand around his ornate golden armband.

“What are you doing?” Lance asked him.

“This is where I keep my witch book. I’m looking to see what I have about familiars.” Adam closed his eyes for a short moment as he searched. “Everything I have about familiars says that the familiar has the right to reject the witch if they choose to do so. I’m sure that holds true in this case with your mother’s soul mirror idea.”

Lance felt a knot of fear settle in his belly. He remembered Keith telling him about his dad and how he himself would never be a slave to the curse. Or a witch’s spell binding him as a familiar.

“I have to find out,” he said to Adam imploringly. “We all need to work together. Can’t you get the witch circles to accept me?”

Adam’s face fell with regret. “They won’t, Lance. Not as long as you’re living with a hunter and working with him.”

Lance grit his teeth in frustration; he had spent most of his life as an outsider and this was no different. “I’m sure the fact that I have a hunter for my biological father doesn’t score me any points either.”

“I trust you, Lance. And one day I’ll be able to convince them all that you deserve to be a part of the Circles,” Adam said sympathetically. “In the meantime, I’ll be your liaison.”

Lance nodded, trying not to look hurt. He knew Adam was doing the best he could. “Sure. If you could put the word out to find out what you can about soul mirrors, that’d be great.”

“I will. There’s a lot of knowledge on the Circles, Lance. Maybe someone can shed some light. And don’t forget you have an advantage. While there is a lot of wisdom and knowledge on the Circles, you can hear the Alteans. Get your mom’s spells, then work on opening your sixth chakra. If you can, and maybe you can, if your hunter has bonded to you, then you can ask the Alteans about soul mirrors. With your sixth chakra open, you’ll be able to understand them,” Adam said encouragingly. “The hunter should be able to protect you while you’re vulnerable.”

Lance nodded absently. Even now he could hear the low murmur of voices but wasn’t able to discern any words. The only time he’d been able to was in moments of terror, like when he’d been attacked by Galras. And even then, it was only single words like run and not actual communication. But if he could actually hear and understand the Alteans...Lance felt a wave of excitement that quickly faded. He would have to lie to Keith. He’d have to use him to increase his power to open his higher chakras, then focus that magic. And not tell him what he was doing. He just knew he was headed for heartbreak.

“I’ll try,” he said softly.

Keith’s voice broke in. “Lance? Are you awake? Is everything okay?”

Lance jumped at the sound of his voice, yanking the covers up to cover his nakedness. He’d been projecting his image to Adam with magic and had projected only his head, so his state of undress hasn’t concerned him. “Keith? Where are you?”

“The desktop. I tried the laptop first, but it’s being blocked with magic,” Keith said.

Adam chuckled. “That’s my cue, I guess. I need to call Shay and check on her. Get her scheduled for another appointment and she needs to see an OB as soon as possible as well. I’ll talk to you soon, Lance.” And with that, his image faded.

Keith’s face took its place and the webcam popped on. “I wanted to check...oh. Well, hello there handsome.”

Lance blushed when he realized he had let go of the covers and they were pooled low at his waist, exposing his bare skin to Keith. Using magic, he summoned his clothing from the night before. In seconds his body was fully clothed.

“Most impressive, but I think I preferred you without clothes. I like seeing you in my bed,” Keith’s voice lowered to a sensual purr.

Lance tried to calm his heartbeat, which had quickened when he heard Keith’s voice. “You let me sleep. I needed to work on the tapestry.”

Keith’s brows snapped together in a concerned frown. “You needed the sleep. And this morning, you need to eat.”

“Now how did I ever survive living my life all this time without you?” Lance asked dryly.

The grin that lit up Keith’s face nearly took Lance’s breath away. “I’m not sure. Guess you were just lucky,” Keith chuckled.

Lance nearly swooned. Damn, Keith was sexy like this. Who was he kidding; Keith was sexy all the time. “Engreído cazador,” he said loftily, trying to appear nonchalant.

Bruja delicada,” Keith shot back, eyes dancing mischievously at the look of shock on Lance’s face.

Lance couldn’t help but smile. “You know, I could probably cast you into a wormhole somewhere horrible and just keep repeating it. Over and over. All day.”

“Oh you could, but I’d have to get even with you for that one,” Keith laughed. “Care to test that theory?”

Lance laughed, too, wondering what Keith would do. Then he sobered, wondering what exactly it was he was doing. He needed to be working on getting the spells from the tapestry and healing Acxa, not flirting with Keith. “Did you need something?”

Keith shifted, sensing Lance’s sudden mood change. “Well, no, I...I had a feeling you were worried or upset about something.” He shrugged and looked a little embarrassed.

Lance sighed. “Not upset, exactly; just annoyed that being a half breed keeps me out of the ‘Cool Witch Club’,” he stated with air quotes.

Keith’s eyes hardened. “You aren’t a half anything, Lance. You’re one hundred percent elemental witch. Fuck them and what they think.”

Lance smiled half-heartedly. “Adam’s working with the Circle witches for me. I need all the assistance I can get. I have to get those spells from the tapestry today.”

Keith ran his hand through his mullet, looking worried. “Okay. I’m at the club, so if you need anything, call me. Talk to ya later.” And the connection ended.

Lance knew Keith was worried. On top of having to do all the repairs to the club, he and the Paladin Hunters were tracking the demon witch that had cursed Acxa, as well as keeping tabs on the Galras and what they were doing. Lance sighed to himself and threw back the covers. He went into the closet to head downstairs to his room. He needed a hot shower and a change of clothes before he got started. Food could wait.

When he walked into his room, he stopped short just inside the door. Hunk was laying across the bed there watching something on the laptop. His normally genial face was troubled and it was obvious he wasn’t paying much attention to what was on the screen.

“Isn’t there a TV in your room?” Lance asked, feeling sure he knew why Hunk was there.

“Hey, bestie. I came to talk to you, but obviously you didn’t sleep here. I never guessed I’d ever catch you doing the ‘Walk Of Shame’,” Hunk said in a weak attempt at humor. He looked tired and his brow was furrowed with worry lines.

Lance didn’t offer any explanation. Best friend rights or not, there were things that Hunk didn’t need to know. He was a grown man and what happened between himself and Keith was between them. “So, what’s up?” he asked.

Hunk pushed the laptop to the side and got up to pace the small room restlessly. “Shay’s pregnant,” he said, running a hand through his already mussed hair. He paused his pacing to look evenly at Lance. “And you knew, didn’t you? That’s what you saw when you touched her yesterday.”

Lance perched carefully on one of the stools at the counter and crossed his arms. “Yeah, I saw it.”

Hunk resumed his pacing. “That’s why her husband didn’t kill her, isn’t it? He’s keeping her alive to breed his kid in hopes it turns out to be a hunter.”

Lance followed Hunk around the room with his eyes. “You care about her.”

Hunk stopped pacing and plopped down on the bed with a loud exhale. “At first it was just remembering how she was in high school. She was so hot, so out of reach.”

“The one girl you couldn’t get,” said Lance with a raise of his eyebrow.

“I guess,” Hunk said with a small smirk that quickly faded. “But then I went into the military.” Lance stayed silent. Hunk hardly ever spoke about his time in service and he didn’t want to interrupt him. “It was hell,” Hunk said quietly. “And I lost myself after a while.”

Lance moved closer to stand at the foot of the bed. He could feel emotions moving off of Hunk in waves, stronger now than they had been in ages. “What happened?” he asked.

Hunk looked at the floor and was silent for a long moment before answering. “I fell in love with a woman over there. She was a nurse with the Red Cross. And she was killed in the line of duty.”

Lance felt a deep ache in his chest at Hunk’s quiet words. He now knew the identity of one of the deeply controlled emotions he felt in his best friend: grief. He hated that Hunk had suffered with this. Suffered it alone. “I’m so sorry.”

Hunk stiffened momentarily, and then slumped over, resting his elbows on his knees and hanging his head. “I wasn’t there when it happened. I was on a mission in the field. Hell, I didn’t even find out until after they’d shipped her body home. And she died without knowing how I truly felt about her.”

Lance knelt down in front of Hunk and wrapped his arms around him. He could feel anger and grief pouring off of Hunk, and he drew the painful feelings to himself while sending back calming, healing energy in return.

Hunk relaxed in Lance’s embrace. “You’re doing something right now. Magic.”

“Yes,” Lance answered softly, unwilling to lie to him.

Hunk pulled back, causing Lance to release him from his hug. He put a hand on Lance’s shoulder. “The day I found out she was dead, everything changed for me. My world turned gray and I couldn’t tell the difference anymore between things that were right or wrong.”

Lance shook his head. “That’s not true. We may not be blood, Hunk, but you’re my brother. I know you. I can believe that your world went gray, but you have always stood for what was right when all was said and done. Don’t devalue yourself like that. I won’t allow it.”

Hunk took a shuddering breath and closed his eyes. “Thanks.” He opened his eyes to look directly at Lance. “Shay brings color to my world. I won’t lie to you, at first my feelings were old fashioned male interest and the idea of ‘the one that got away,’ like you said. But as time has passed...look. Adam said that most mortals who have been through what Shay has have lost their minds completely. Most end up killing themselves if they aren’t killed first. And then here’s Shay. Alone and afraid but fighting with everything she’s got. And she doesn’t shy away from me even after all that. She makes me want to live. She makes me want to be the man who’s strong enough to match her courage, to deserve her.”

Lance could feel one emotion surging forward to separate itself from the others inside of Hunk. “You love her.”

“Yeah. I do.” Hunk’s voice was steady and held no doubt.

Lance had to be sure Hunk was being realistic. “And now there’s a baby involved.”

Hunk nodded. “Yep, it’s a big fucked-up mess, but I still want her. I won’t walk away from her, Lance. Everything seems so crazy. You’re a witch. There are such things as witch hunters. Shay married to and knocked up by a Galra hunter. Yet somehow, it makes sense to me. And my role in this is to love and protect Shay and her baby, no matter how they come out.”

Lance nodded. He understood what Hunk was saying. He had gone through most of his life looking for a place to belong and a purpose. Now he knew he was a witch and he had the job of healing Acxa. That was his purpose right now. And if Shay was what gave Hunk purpose, then Lance supported them. “So what’s next?”

“Adam wants to see her again today. We’ll deal with each day as it comes, I guess.”

Lance had seen a small portion of just what Shay had been through. “She’s going to be skittish of you physically at first, Hunk. Any woman that has been through what she has would be. But like you said, she isn’t shying away from you, so that’s a good sign. Just make sure to take things slow.”

Hunk quirked a brow at Lance. “You’re sleeping with a man who’s cursed with a craving to kill you for your blood. But I assume you just came from his bed, unless you’d like to correct me?”

A wave of heat washed over Lance. Not of embarrassment, but heat. He trusted Keith with his body, so very much. And the emotion scared him. He had always been rejected because of who he was in the past. But he was sure of this. “Keith won’t hurt me, Hunk. Not like that. He won’t give in to the curse.”

“But how do you know?” Hunk asked him, appearing as though he was trying not to sound skeptical.

Lance considered for a moment. It was so many things. The way Keith touched him. Looked at him. Protected him. “I just know.”

“Okay. So last night, Shay had another nightmare. This time, she came to me. I pulled back the covers and she got into my bed with me…where she felt safe, where she is safe. And when she’s ready for more, she’ll tell me. I just know,” Hunk echoed Lance’s words emphatically.

Lance smiled at his friend. “Shay knows somewhere deep inside that you are a man she can trust. She is lucky to have you, you know.”

Hunks cheeks reddened as he blushed. “Well, after having two witches as best friends, Shay is almost pretty normal.” He stood to leave, then shot Lance a mischievous grin that made him look like himself again. “You’ve got some serious bed head going on, my man. And thank God the rooms here seem to be soundproof, because the last thing I wanna hear is you getting laid. Hit the shower, yeah?”

Laughing, Hunk turned to leave when he was suddenly doused with icy cold water. “Hey!” he sputtered in protest, turning to glare at Lance.

Lance grinned unapologetically. “What can I say? It fucking rocks being a witch sometimes.”

Chapter Text

Keith walked into the house late in the afternoon. Acxa was huddled on the couch under three blankets and clutching her Ariel doll. She looked up at him and he nearly lost his breath as his lungs burned with rage at how sickly she looked. Her eyes were sunken in her wan face and her hair hung in lifeless and dull tangles.

“The TV keeps blinking on and off,” she said before dissolving into a coughing fit.

Keith went quickly to her and rubbed her back to help her through it. He saw the TV flicker, then turn back on again. When he brushed back Acxa’s bangs, the death mark had darkened to a dark red color. Her lips were dry and cracked and her eyes were muddy. Keith just barely managed to keep his anger in check as he reached for the water bottle on the end table, but his hands were gentle as he raised Acxa and helped her take a few small sips of water before placing it back.

The TV flickered on and off again, and Keith looked at it curiously. “I see what you mean. How long has it been doing that?”

Acxa shrugged weakly as she settled back on her pillow. “All day, I think. Mommy says Lance’s doing it.”

“I see.” Keith guessed Lance was having trouble getting the spells from the tapestry. A familiar had never shown up, and Lance was having difficulty focusing his powers to access high magic and control it. Keith looked at his sick sister and felt an anxious twinge. Acxa needed the spell that would heal her, and she needed it quickly.

“He’s talking to himself, too. I heard him say a bad word earlier,” Acxa said, looking at him with a serious expression.

Keith blinked at her. “You snuck downstairs?”

Acxa nodded. “Lance makes me feel better. The shadows are afraid of him. He makes me tea and talks to me and Ariel. Ariel likes him a lot.”

And so do you Acxa. It was obvious to Keith that his sister adored Lance. The TV flickered again, and this time Keith actually heard Lance unleash a string of several swear words from the room he was in. Acxa giggled then coughed again. Even though her coughing this time was less violent than before, she still looked exhausted.

Keith looked up as Krolia walked in with a small mug of tea. “Here, sweetie. I made you some of the tea Lance says you like.” She helped Acxa sit up and handed her the mug. Acxa took it with both hands and took a small sip, humming at the taste.

Krolia looked at Keith. “Lance’s been working all day trying to get the spells to transfer for him into what he chose for his spell book. It seems it isn’t going well.”

Keith glanced at the ceiling as the lights went off and on. Lance’s energy must be getting wilder and less focused. “I’d better go check on him before he short circuits the place. I don’t want Pidge on my ass for having to rewire things.”

Krolia followed him to his bedroom. “You know about Shay, right?”

Keith nodded. “Yeah, Lance told me last night.”

Krolia reached out to touch Keith’s shoulder. “Her husband will come after her. And he’ll find her. I know he will.”

Keith knew she was right. Krolia had stayed with Richard until he tried to turn Keith Galra. After that happened, Krolia had taken Keith and they had run, gone into hiding. Apparently over the next several years Richard had tried to get other women pregnant to try to replace Keith, but it never happened. So, he had tracked down Krolia and managed to seduce her. It seemed crazy that such a thing could happen to someone as strong and independent as his mother, but Keith knew witch hunters gave off special pheromones to attract partners as a part of the sex part of the curse. It happened all the time.

Keith also had a suspicion that Krolia had been afraid of what Richard might do to him if she didn’t cooperate. When the baby turned out to be a normal human like her and Richard found out, he was disgusted and furious. But he left Krolia alone after that.

Shay was another matter, though. Keith was sure Krolia was right and Sendak Crystals would find her. He placed a comforting hand over his mother’s. “I hope he does. That way I can have the satisfaction of turning him into a celestial for all eternity. After what he did to her, I look forward to it.”

Krolia’s eyes shimmered with unshed tears. “That’s what The Blade wants you to do, I just know it. He wants you to protect the innocent. That’s what you were born to do.”

Keith looked at his mother. She sounded so sure. “How do you know?”

She gave him a tremulous smile. “Faith, sweetheart. Sometimes you need faith to make the right choices in life. There’s always a choice. Before the curse, your father and many other hunters were refusing to do what the fellow red lion hunters said. They were lax in their duties and making bad and selfish choices. Lotor Daibazaal wasn’t the first hunter to get sidetracked in the line of his duty, he was just the first one to get caught by demon witches. And now, here you are. Making hard choices and trying to do what’s right. Fighting against the curse. You’re no longer struggling with the bloodlust, even though you had Lance in your room all night.”

Keith wanted to believe, so much. “If Acxa survives, I’ll have faith. If we lose her, I’ll know it’s a load of bullshit.”

Krolia flinched, looking stricken. “No. She’s not going to die!”

“No, she’s not. I won’t let her,” Keith said determinedly. “We have leads on demon witches, should it come to that.”

Krolia’s face paled further and the tears that had been threatening finally spilled over. “Keith...”

“No, Mom,” Keith said, shaking his head. “You don’t have any say in this. If Lance can’t break Acxa of the curse, then I will. And if The Blade wants to take my soul for doing that, well, he’s just as bad as Galras and demon witches.” His face softened, and he raised one hand to gently wipe tears off his mother’s face. “Have faith, remember? Lance is powerful. He can do this.”

Keith turned and went through the closet to go downstairs. As soon as he got to the bottom of the steps, he was hit by a huge wave of power. It spread over his skin in a wild rush that swirled and dissipated quickly. He could feel immediately that it was completely unfocused. He strode quickly to Lance’s room and looked in. Lance was standing in the middle of a small windstorm that ruffled his already tousled hair. Small amounts of sand were scattered all over the room. Lance’s t-shirt lay rumpled and discarded on the bed and his loose-fitting swim trunks were low on his hips. His feet were bare on the tile floor, which was normally cold since the lower level was cooler than the upstairs. But Lance looked warm. And hot.

Keith could see the light sheen of sweat on Lance’s forehead and upper lip. His windblown hair curled slightly at the neck in damp tendrils and droplets of sweat clung to his toned back. Keith stared in fascination as a single drop of sweat trickled its way down to the waist of Lance’s shorts where the material was darker with soaked up moisture. Lance shifted, causing his leg muscles to flex. Keith loved the feeling of those muscular thighs wrapped around his waist, holding him tight while he moved in and out of the perfect tightness of that ass.

As though he had heard Keith’s thoughts, Lance turned around to look at Keith. He raised a hand to wipe sweat from his forehead. “Keith.”

Lance’s voice was a lower timbre than normal and throbbed with energy. Keith could feel Lance’s energy swirling around him, lightly touching and teasing, then skittering away. It was driving him crazy. All he could see was Lance, whose intoxicating scent captured him and drew him in. He moved closer to him, his feet making no noise on the sand covered tile floor.

“I’ve tried, but I just can’t do it by myself,” Lance said, panting slightly with exertion and frustration. “Adam has been coaching me the best he can, but he can only do so much. I can open my fifth chakra, but that’s where I lose the control. Maybe I need my sixth chakra, but I can’t get it open.”

Keith wanted to help him. Needed to help him. “Maybe you need a break? I can feel your powers; they’re all scattered and unfocused.”

Lance looked dejected. “No. I don’t need a break. I need you. I need your help.”

Keith felt his red lion ruffle and warm in happiness, responding to Lance as they always did. He didn’t freak out over it anymore; it just was what it was. “You know I’ll help you. What do you need from me?”

Lance looked away from him for a brief moment, then focused on him again, face and eyes determined. “I need you to touch me and help me focus. Last night when you touched me, we formed some sort of mind link. I have a feeling that somehow that will help.” He reached up to touch the golden necklace hanging around his neck.

Keith reached out to touch it as well. “It’s warm. Warm with magic,” he said wonderingly. Being this close to Lance with magic and heat surrounding them was causing Keith’s body to tighten with need, but he ignored it. His tattoo fluttered again with the desire to touch him. Protect. Help. When Lance stared into his eyes, blue and violet interlocked, Keith leaned in to kiss him. He kept his fingers wrapped around Lance’s necklace as he licked lightly at his lips before plunging his tongue in to taste him.

Lance raised both hands to Keith’s shoulders, kissing him back with enough ferocity to make him groan against his mouth. Keith’s body filled with the vibrating heat of Lance’s magic. It wasn’t something he could actually touch, but he could feel it from his head to his toes and everywhere in between, especially the raging hard on straining against his jeans. But Keith forced his mind from sex and nuzzled Lance’s ear before pulling back to look at him. “We’ll make this happen. Together. Are you ready to give it another shot?”

Lance’s eyes swirled with golds and greens, and his blue witch shimmer nearly shone in its intensity. “I’m ready. I need you close to me, touching me.”

Keith was a mere breath away from stripping Lance’s trunks down and getting as close to him as he could – deep inside him. He let go of Lance’s necklace.

Lance’s eyes widened, looking alarmed for a moment. “No, don’t let go of me!”

Keith felt Lance’s voice touch him deep inside, so deep he knew it had to be real and not just magic. “I’m not letting go. I’ve got you, my witch. Set your magic free.” He shifted to stand behind Lance and put his arms around him, crossing them just above his belly. He felt Lance take a deep breath.

“Red lion? He’s here?” Lance asked.

Keith felt his tattoo ripple beneath his skin again. “He’s here. Can you feel him?” Keith tried to open his mind and let Lance feel what he did, just as it had last night when they had been in his bed.

“Yes,” Lance breathed as he leaned back against Keith. “I don’t know the spell to use, so I am just opening myself and calling the magic.”

Keith held him tighter. Lance was where he belonged, in his arms so he could protect him. “Go ahead. Call the spells to your necklace.”

Lance raised his arms towards the tapestry. His witch shimmer brightened to a fiery glow. “Alteans, I beg of you. Help me move the gift of my mother’s spells into my golden necklace. I choose the necklace bestowed to me by my adopted family, to combine what my mother left me along with the one thing from them I will always cherish. Please, I need help.”

Keith closed his eyes as the hum of magic rose up inside him. Lance’s thoughts and memories swirled around him and for a second he saw Lance as a small boy, terrified and locked in a small, dark place. The image quickly vanished, but Keith knew that the memory was what was holding Lance back. He had always been told he was evil and wrong whenever he had done anything magical. It pissed him off, his anger being echoed by the furious growl of his red lion.

“There’s no evil in you, love. Stop thinking about that man and what he said to you. You are an elemental witch. Feel it. Embrace it. Show me, Lance. Open for me,” Keith whispered, his body shuddering with the force of magic and memory of Lance in his bed, opening for him in the most exquisite way. “Let the power have you. Don’t be afraid of letting go.”

Lance’s body jerked once with a surge of power and he tossed his head back against Keith’s shoulder. Keith stared at him, enraptured and unable to tear his eyes away until a loud clap of thunder brought his attention to the tapestry. The silver box was glowing and all the sand in it was melting into a sparkling liquid. He heard Lance gasp as his shimmery glow grew even brighter and more intense, and the entire room shivered with magic.

Keith’s heartbeat matched the throb of Lance’s witch energy rushing through him. As the magic increased, so did the sexual energy between them, growing stronger and more intense until Keith teetered on the razor-sharp edge of release. But he didn’t care. Nothing mattered to him but the witch in his arms. The sweet ocean scent of Lance was burgeoning and mixing with the spicy cinnamon scent of his desire. Keith knew that if he did nothing more than brush his fingers over Lance’s hard cock, he’d come. He made himself breathe deeply and evenly. Made himself keep his hands where they were and just hold Lance. But God, he wanted to stroke Lance until he came hot and wet over his hand.

A sudden cold shift in the heated air of the room chased away all Keith’s sexual thoughts. The light in the room dimmed and the wild wind grew even harsher. Danger screamed along the surface of Keith’s skin and his eyes flew open as every hunter instinct he had sharpened to intense awareness. A sudden stutter in the witch energy streaming through him warned him that some outside force was trying to get in. Keith looked around the room, searching or the source. In the open doorway a dark shadow was forming and growing bigger, taking form of something with three heads that had glowing red, malevolent eyes.

Keith heard the thundering scream of his red lion. Demon! He tightened his grip on Lance. Mine! I’ll kill anything that threatens him! We won’t let anything to our witch!

As Keith stared at the door, it began to tremble then suddenly slammed shut. The dark shadow vanished, and Keith felt the red lion settle on his back. The light in the room returned to its former brightness and allowed Lance’s witch energy to flow free again. How the hell had a demon appeared? With three heads...Asmodeus. How had Lance summoned any demon, much less the demon that originated the blood curse?

A loud crack of thunder brought Keith’s attention back to the tapestry again. An arc of lightening shot from the silver box to Lance’s golden necklace followed by yet another thunderous boom. It was like nothing he had ever seen or felt before.

The impact of light on the necklace was like a physical blow and Lance gasped as he literally trembled with it. He could feel Keith holding him steady as the pure, continuous beam of lightening sizzled with magic, flashing a brilliant multitude of colors. It ramped up his sexual energy and judging by the insistent press of Keith’s cock against his ass, the same was true for the hunter himself. Lance moaned as lust and need threatened to overwhelm him entirely, and he rolled his hips, desperate for more contact. He heard Keith groan and press harder against him in response.

“Soon, Lance, I promise,” Keith growled, his voice low and shaking with his own barely restrained desire. “Let the magic fill you.”

Finally, the beam of light grew thin and disappeared with a bright explosion of colors into Lance’s necklace, the blue jewel inlays where the lion’s eyes were glowing as the spells entered it. With a final clap of thunder, the lid on the silver box in the tapestry slammed shut as the gusting wind died down to nothing.

Lance ached all over. His skin was hot and tight, and he gasped for air, unable to take in a full breath. His harsh pants were loud in the suddenly quiet room. His necklace was heavier than before and hot against his skin. “It’s finally done,” he whispered.

“Not yet.” Keith skimmed a hand up to tease at one of Lance’s nipples, causing him to moan, while the other slid down his taut stomach and over his hip, then across his thigh to cup his hard cock.

Lance felt a shock of power center where Keith touched him and writhed against it. “Too much,” he hissed even as he moved to settle Keith’s hard on between the cheeks of his ass.

“You need release. And I need to touch you. I have to feel your desire, your pleasure,” Keith ground out as he shoved Lance’s trunks to the floor with both hands. Using one arm to brace Lance against him, he licked his hand before reaching down to take Lance’s hard cock in his hand.

Lance gasped as he felt Keith stroking him, wrapping one arm back around Keith’s neck while holding to the strong arm that held him. At Keith’s touch, sparks of pleasure popped all over his sensitive skin. “Keith, I can’t control it. You’ve got to stop.”

“Hush, all you have to do is feel,” Keith whispered as he moved his hand in a steady rhythm. He slid his thumb lightly over the head of Lance’s cock, taking the precum gathered there and spreading it. His hand moved easier and his tightened his grip ever so slightly as he quickened his movement. Lance’s body bucked as his hips thrust forward.

Keith pressed an open-mouthed kiss to Lance’s neck, tasting the salty tang of sweat on his skin. “Lance, baby, give it to me. Give me everything.” His aching cock throbbed against the confines of his jeans zipper, and each time Lance writhed or pressed against him, the pressure seemed to build.

Lance tightened the arm around Keith’s neck as he gave himself over to him, moving against his hand and desperate for the promised relief. The pressure inside him swirled and throbbed to a roaring crescendo, and each breath that left him was a throaty moan that grew louder as his release grew closer. His body grew tight for a mere breath of a moment before a twisting stroke from Keith caused his orgasm to crash over him and sweep him away.

“That’s it, baby. More. Let it go,” Keith encouraged, feeling the excess energy pouring off of Lance with each pulse of pleasure, each warm stripe that covered his hand. He shuddered with the force of his own desire, and when Lance melted in his arms, he scooped him up and carried him to the bathroom. He gently set Lance on the closed toilet lid and started the shower.

“Will you need my help getting in...” Keith’s voice trailed off as Lance used his powers to make the hunter’s clothing disappear. He stood naked in front of Lance, watching his blue eyes dilate and darken even more.

Lance stared at Keith. His chest rose and fell with his heavy breathing and high color was on his face. His muscles rippled as he shifted on his feet, and his cock was hard and full of need. Lance reached out to stroke it with his fingertips and felt a wave of power surge through him. Keith’s cock gave a hard twitch in answer. Lance dropped to his knees on the floor. He licked a wide stripe up the underside of Keith’s cock and drew his tongue across the sensitive tip, teasing at the slit and tasting the saltiness of precum. Keith’s moan encouraged him and set fire to him again. Lance had to have him, all of him. He wrapped his lips around the head of Keith’s cock and gave a light suck before sliding further and taking more of him in.

Keith breathed in slowly then let out another moan, louder this time. The sound of his pleasure excited Lance. But the feelings washing off of him to sink into Lance took him to another level; he could feel that Keith loved the feel of his mouth, of his hand, but even caught up in this intense sexual desire, Keith’s first thought was of Lance. His comfort. His protection.

All I can think about is just Lance.

No man from his past had ever thought of Lance first. He moved steadily, licking at Keith as he moved his mouth up and down the hard shaft. He hollowed his cheeks and sucked gently at the head. As he slid his mouth forward to draw Keith in again, he raised his hand to cup his balls, pouring his magic into his fingers and tongue.

Keith spread his feet further apart and slapped both hands on the wall behind Lance. “Fuck, Lance.”

Except Lance was positive he hadn’t said the words out loud. Inside his head, he whispered, Come on, Keith. Cum para mi, cariño.

Keith’s entire body shivered with intense pleasure. He threw his head back as he gave himself over to the magical touch and tongue of his witch. One hand moved down to tangle in Lance’s hair, and he thrust his hips. Once, twice...

“Lance...” Keith growled low in his throat as he came in hot spurts down Lance’s throat. Giving, letting him take as much as he could.

With Keith’s orgasm came the fierce need to help and protect him. Lance could feel that and hot satisfaction mixing in with Keith’s desire to drive his cock deep inside him, even though they had both just come. And deep down, so deep it hadn’t yet made its way to his consciousness, was the dark thread of suspicion. Lance knew it would work its way up. And the sorrow was nearly too much for him to bear. He didn’t want to hurt Keith, and he didn’t want to lose this new intimacy, trust and connection with him.

Keith reached down to pull Lance to his feet and pressed their mouths together in a hot, hungry kiss. Lance’s mind pushed away his sorrowful thoughts and shifted again to intense pleasure and joy in feeling Keith merged with him, body and soul.

Keith pulled away to look at Lance, eyes dropping to his lush, kiss swollen lips before raising back to stare hungrily into his eyes. “I can’t get enough of you.”

After stepping into the shower, Keith offered his hand to Lance. When Lance stepped in, he moved them both under the cascading water and began kissing him again. His hands slid easily down Lance’s back, moving smoothly over wet skin to cup the firm roundness of his ass. He moved a finger to circle at Lance’s hole before pressing in, moving in and out as water poured over them both. As Lance relaxed and his finger moved more easily, Keith added a second finger, and before long was able to add a third. He gave a little twist and crooked his fingers, smiling triumphantly when Lance gasped and shuddered in his arms.

“Again. Now. I want you. I want you so bad,” Keith whispered as he slowly worked Lance open with his fingers. He moved to suck at the sensitive area just below Lance’s ear, the combined sensations causing Lance to moan his name encouragingly. When he felt he had Lance ready for him, Keith turned Lance to face the tiled shower wall, taking each of hands and pressing them to the wall and holding them there. He thrust his hips against Lance lightly, rubbing his hard cock teasingly between the cheeks of Lance’s ass and against his stretched hole.

“Keith,” Lance groaned in a needy whisper, unsure if he had even heard him. He growled in frustration as Keith continued to tease him, nipping at his neck and licking the sensitive area below his ear as he kept rubbing the head of his cock against Lance’s stretched and ready hole.

“Please,” Lance managed to gasp. Keith was driving him insane. His fingers scrabbled against the wet tile as Keith finally moved his hips to line up to Lance and press forward with a thrust. Lance shuddered when he felt the head of Keith’s huge cock slide into him, stretching him and making him want even more, want Keith to be in him completely, so deep that Lance was filled with him. He felt Keith draw back and thrust again, harder this time and going deeper. Another thrust angled upward brushed across the sensitive spot deep inside him, and Lance saw flashes that had nothing to do with his magic.

“Oh my God, Keith!”

Keith ran his tongue across the width of Lance’s shoulders and tightened his grip on Lance’s hands when he felt his tight heat clench around his hard cock.

Mmm. Do you like that, sexy witch? Is that good? You feel amazing around my cock right now, so tight and perfect. I love fucking into you.” He looked down and watched his dick moving in and out of Lance, still amazed that Lance could take all of him. Hot water continued to pour over them and the sound of wet skin moving against wet skin was even hotter.

Lance moaned, loving the dirty words spilling from Keith’s lips. He let Keith slide their hands close together and didn’t protest when Keith arranged his hands together on the wall above his head. Keith held his hands captive as the other slid down to stroke his cock, matching the rhythm of his cock moving deep inside him.

“Fucking gorgeous,” Keith breathed in his ear.

Lance’s eyes flew open and he made a low noise of protest at the sudden emptiness as Keith unexpectedly moved back and pulled out of him completely. “What-” he began, only to cut his words off with a gasp as Keith flipped him around to face him and slammed their mouths together.

Keith ravished his mouth, their kissing sloppy with too much teeth and tongue, but incredible in its intensity. Keith raised one of Lance’s legs to wrap it around his waist, then pulled at the other, encouraging him to wrap both around him. Lance made a small noise of surprise, but quickly acquiesced. With nothing but his back pressed against the wet shower wall, Lance wrapped both arms around Keith’s neck, earning an approving groan from him, and held on tight as Keith slid back into him.

“So good, so hot for me,” Keith groaned as Lance’s welcoming body accepted him again. He braced himself and took hold of Lance’s thighs as he snapped his hips forward in a deep thrust that had them both moaning loudly. This angle was perfect for Lance as each thrust of Keith’s hips caused his cock to hit that spot over and over. He tossed his head back and moaned as Keith leaned forward to suck a deep bruise to his neck. He could feel the tightening sensation in his balls and knew he was close. Holding tightly to Keith’s neck with one arm, Lance reached between them to stroke his cock.

“Yeah, that’s it, baby. Make yourself cum. Cum for me. Fuck, you’re beautiful like this,” Keith growled, knowing he was close and wanting Lance to come first. He watched with triumphant satisfaction as a deep thrust caused Lance’s eyes to roll back in his head and he felt the heated surge of magic wash over them both as Lance found his release. Keith captured Lance’s mouth, groaning his own release against his lips. They stayed like that for a short time, Keith’s cock still buried deep inside Lance’s ass and their lips pressed together in languid kisses.

Eventually, Keith pulled out of Lance, both of them hissing slightly at the change in sensation. He supported Lance as he released his legs’ hold around his waist. Lance managed to get his feet on the floor of the tub and was able to stand on his own, though he didn’t want to admit that he felt wobbly and was lucky to not have collapsed into a boneless heap instead. They quickly cleaned themselves up, taking turns under the shower head, shampooing their hair and bathing.

When they finished, Keith wrapped a towel around his waist and took his clothes from the neat pile Lance had magically placed them in earlier. He pressed a quick kiss to Lance’s lips and headed for his room to change clothes and check on Acxa. Lance got dressed and mentally prepared himself. Now that he had his mother’s spell book, he had work to do.

Chapter Text

Lance sat on one of the stools at the worktable. He was glad Keith was upstairs, because he needed some time to think. Everything was almost overwhelming. During the transfer of magic, all the knowledge in Allura’s spell book had flooded him. Some of it had stuck with him, while some he hadn’t quite been able to hold on to as it flowed through his chakras.

Now he needed to see if he was able to access the spells in his necklace. He knew he was at a disadvantage. Witches learned magic as they grew up, and even if their mother died, another witch would take over the teaching process. As they learned, spells and knowledge were added to their witch books bit by bit.

Lance took a deep breath. He sat on the floor, wearing a black V-neck t-shirt and jeans. His feet were bare. He glanced at the candles he had placed around him, lighting each one with his fire chakra. Red for fire. Blue for water. Yellow for air. Green for earth. Moving into high magic, he lit a violet candle for communication with the spirit realm.

He felt a tickling, spinning sensation at his throat as his fifth chakra opened. His spine vibrated as low and high magic met, and he took a moment to adjust to the new and different feeling. Once he felt settled, Lance focused on the purple candle that represented the sixth chakra.

Nothing. The candle remained unlit and the chakra located in his forehead remained closed.

Lance breathed in calmly and deeply. He felt his power rising through his first four chakras and flowing down through the fifth one. He held the connection, determined to get the sixth chakra opened. Staring at the black candle, the one for knowledge, he focused on the unlit wick. With a bright flare, the candle lit. But the chakra at the top of his head remained closed.

Sighing, Lance closed his eyes and placed his hands in his lap. He focused on the golden necklace at his throat. The gold warmed and expanded against his skin. He directed more of his energy into it, remembering Adam’s words about the backlash principle when he had touched Shay. By pouring his energy into the necklace, he would force an exchange.

He saw his mother’s memory of summoning a familiar. Allura stood on an unfamiliar secluded beach somewhere. The moonlight danced on the water as waves lapped the shore. He watched as Allura raised her arms high and arched back, her long tresses blown around her by the wind as she let the power flow through her.

Lance felt his stomach knot as he watched the scene unfold before him. He already knew what would happen. Allura had told him. A man dressed in black walked toward her. He was tall with windblown hair. As he got close to Allura, Lance could see his face. He had the softer facial lines of a Galra. His eyes were dark and his lips sensual and full.

Lance’s eyes flew open, severing the connection. His hands shook in his lap. He had seen his father.

The man who had killed his mother. Who wanted to kill him.

Lance’s hands were cold and clammy. His head throbbed with a dull pounding ache. But he had to try again. He needed to find a spell to break the death curse. He looked at each candle, centering himself and touching each chakra, except those that remained closed. He closed his eyes and concentrated, again focusing his energy into the necklace.

This time, he tried to let different images move through him instead of focusing on them. It was difficult not to watch his mother, but he let the impressions of the past move by him until he came to one of a younger version of Allura standing on a beach facing a man with the dark mark on his forehead.

The death curse.

Lance turned his focus hard onto that particular image and playing it out. He watched as witches gathered behind his mother, then focused carefully as Allura did the spell to break the curse. Once he had what he needed, he pulled away and opened his eyes.

To his surprise, Keith was there, crouched on the other side of the candles and watching him. “Hi,” Lance said, his voice coming out as a dry croak as though he hadn’t used it in some time. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to check on you. You were in some sort of trance, so I waited,” Keith answered. “I don’t want you staying down here. Come upstairs, okay? I’m making stew, Acxa’s favorite and something easy on her stomach.”

Lance’s stomach gave an embarrassingly loud growl at the mention of food. “What were you doing?” Keith asked curiously, smirking at the sound of Lance’s stomach.

“Finding the spell to heal Acxa,” Lance said. He lifted a hand and closed his fingers into a loose fist. All of the candles went out.

Keith wrapped his fingers around Lance’s hand, stood and pulled to help him to his feet. He frowned in concern. “Your hand is shaking,” he said as he threaded their fingers together and tugged Lance out of the room to go upstairs.

“I was in my mother’s memory. I saw my father.” Lance shuddered as the mental image flashed through his mind again.

That’s in your witch book?” Keith questioned.

Lance hesitated for a moment, realizing he was on dangerous ground here. Until he healed Acxa, he couldn’t tell Keith about soul mirrors. “It isn’t exactly like an actual book. If my mother had lived, she would have taught me spells one by one. But since she couldn’t, she transferred her memories of doing witchcraft into the tapestry instead. I saw her memory of the first time meeting my father, which was the time she used a sleeping charm on him to get away.” He had pulled out of the memory before seeing that part. As they walked into the kitchen, the rich smell of beef broth and vegetables filled the room and his stomach rumbled loudly again.

Keith let go of Lance’s hand to cross over to the stove. A large pot was filled with water on one eye, and sauce bubbled and simmered in a smaller pot on the next eye. A box of white rice was on the counter next to a bottle of wine and two glasses. Keith took a spoon and stirred the sauce, then took a cookie sheet from a cabinet.

“Dare I hope that’s for garlic bread?” Lance asked him.

Keith glared at the pot of water on the stove and huffed in annoyance. “Yeah. It’ll probably burn because the damned water is taking too long to boil so I can cook the rice. Mom says stew is good over it.”

Lance hid his smile at Keith’s aggravation. “Go ahead and put it in the oven, then stand aside.”

Keith stuck the bread in the oven then poured the wine. He handed one to Lance, then leaned back against the counter to watch.

Lance raised his hand over the pot of barely warmed water and focused his energy, keeping a steady flow directed towards the water. A minute later, the water was in a full rolling boil. He opened the box of rice and added it, then turned back to Keith. He had moved to the butcher block and was slicing onion.

Damn, he was starving. Between sex and magic, Lance had worked up a huge appetite. Keith chuckled as a slice of onion rose off the cutting board and sailed towards Lance. He caught it in mid-air and popped it in his mouth. “Oh, my God,” he moaned as the rich flavor flooded his mouth. It was delicious, even if it would stink up his breath. He washed it down with a sip of wine.

Keith stirred the rice and the stew again before picking up his own glass of wine. “Were you able to find the spell to heal Acxa?”

Lance nodded as he handed Keith a cracker topped with a cheese slice. “I saw the spell to break the curse, but I want to study it a little more tonight. And I need to try to get my sixth chakra open so I can communicate with the Alteans. I need their help to break the curse.”

Keith swallowed after chewing a piece of meat he had taken from the pot. “And how do you do that?” he asked curiously.

Lance shrugged as he traced the rim of his wineglass. “I’m not really sure. Keep trying. Maybe it’s in the necklace somewhere. Adam is checking with the Circle witches. Some of them are old enough to remember from before the curse.”

“Okay and what about the spell? Tell me about it,” Keith said.

“It’s a ceremony. We need to do it somewhere under the moonlight and along a ley line,” Lance explained.

“And what’s a ley line?” asked Keith as he drained the rice in the colander and dumped them in a large bowl.

“It’s a power point where the earth’s powers gather. Where water meets land on the shore, or an old graveyard where life and death meet. The magic comes in bringing the earth’s power through the ley lines up through me to meet the pull of the moon. I add the power of the Alteans to that and focus all that energy on Acxa while chanting for healing.”

Keith pulled the toasted bread from the oven, adding another delicious scent to the kitchen. He fixed two plates of rice, stew, and bread, then carried them to the table. “Come here and eat. You’re hungry. Mom and Acxa is eating later once she wakes up.”

Lance sat in the chair next to Keith, picked up his fork and began eating, his appreciative noises making Keith smile bashfully. Oddly enough, Lance felt calm about the magical undertaking he would be doing. He was more worried about Keith. How had he come to care for and need him? The man who had kidnapped him and possessed the power to destroy him?

“How dangerous is the spell?” Keith asked after swallowing spoonful of rice and stew.

Keith’s question broke into Lance’s thoughts. He chewed his bite of garlic bread and took a sip of his wine. “To Acxa? Moderately dangerous, though I don’t think any more harm will come to her.”

Keith sighed and put his fork down. He put a finger under Lance’s chin to tilt him toward him and look into his eyes. “To you. During the magic transfer earlier, I’m pretty sure a demon tried to appear, but it seemed unable to materialize.”

Shocked, Lance dropped his bread, causing sauce to splatter all over the table and landing on his black shirt. Icy fear skittered up his spine and the hair on his arms rose. “You’re sure?”

“Something was there. I could only see a shadow trying to materialize, but it looked like it had three heads. I think it was Asmodeus. But the door slammed closed and broke the connection whatever it was had with us.”

Lance shivered. “I heard you in my mind telling me to shut the door. Or maybe you were saying ‘shut it out.’ Either way, I did it. But would that actually keep a demon out?”

Keith let go of Lance’s chin and grabbed a napkin to dab at the sauce on his shirt. “My red lion growled at it. Maybe that warned it away.”

“I heard it,” Lance said, taking the napkin from him. Wherever Keith touched, his powers rushed to those spots. It was an odd feeling. He dabbed uselessly at the stains, belatedly remembering he had magic. A quick pass of his hand caused the spots to disappear.

“Doing this spell is going to put you in more danger, isn’t it,” Keith said quietly.

Lance looked into his eyes. “I’ll be careful. I’ll use a consecrated salt circle; I think that will help protect me. Maybe. But Acxa is worth the risk.”

Keith looked away and picked up his fork. He toyed with the food on his plate for a few minutes then said, “I’ll be there when you do the spell. I’ll protect both you and Acxa.”

“Okay,” Lance nodded. He needed Keith there.

Keith put his hand on the back of Lance’s neck, caressing it lightly. “I need you to know I won’t stop protecting you. Even when Acxa’s well again, I won’t stop. You aren’t alone anymore.”

Lance dropped his eyes to the tabletop. Keith cared about him, truly cared. He made him feel like he finally belonged. The love and acceptance that he had craved for so long was finally within his reach. But he didn’t know if it was real, or if it was a bond forced on Keith by a curse he had accidentally completed.

“Lance,” Keith whispered.

God. Lance raised his head to look at Keith, unable to resist his call. He looked into his face. The face of the man he’d fallen in love with. His heart beat just to hear the sound of his voice. His body ached just to feel his touch. Lance knew he would sacrifice everything for Keith, even if it meant giving up his love. “What?” he whispered in return.

But before Keith could say anything, Krolia’s panicked voice shattered the moment. “Keith! Lance! It’s Acxa! She’s seizing!”

Keith jumped up and raced to Acxa’s room. Krolia was holding Acxa’s shoulders as her small body jerked and convulsed. She was unresponsive and her eyes were rolled back in her head. The helplessness Keith felt only fueled his rage at the demon witch responsible, and all he could think of was how he would rip her apart with his bare hands if he found her.

Lance burst into the room. “Get out of my way!” he commanded, shouldering Keith to one side. “Krolia, I need you to move up towards her head, please.” Lance yanked the covers off of Acxa and put his hand in the center of her chest, closing his eyes and breathing deeply. A bright glow of energy danced around his hand for a moment, then quickly faded, causing him to jerk and nearly stumble.

Keith moved behind Lance to steady him. He could feel the swirling energy inside of Lance focus and grow calm. Acxa’s convulsions slowed and her body relaxed as they finally stopped.

“Lance! Your hand!” Krolia gasped.

Keith looked down at Lance’s hand where it lay on Acxa’s chest. The tanned skin had turned a darkish gray color and the fingers looked swollen and gnarled. As he watched, the hand swelled more and pulsed as though there was something moving just under the surface.

“It’s the curse. I’m pulling out as much as I can without using a spell,” Lance gritted out. His voice was tight and sounded almost breathless. Keith felt his gut clench and his hold on Lance tightened. How much pain is Lance in, doing this? And how much pain is Acxa enduring?

Lance took his hand away and staggered back a step, breathing hard. His forehead was dotted with sweat and there were tight lines around his mouth. “The convulsions are over, but she’s getting sicker. I took-”

His words cut off as the house suddenly went dark.

Fuck,” Keith snarled as he reached back for his knife. “Mom, are you armed?”

“Don’t you know it son,” Krolia answered, her voice calm and hard as Lance swore her heard a gun get cocked.

“It’s just a power outage, isn’t it?” asked Lance, nerves apparent in his voice.

Keith moved stealthily to the door, putting himself in front of his mom, sister and Lance. “The backup generator would have kicked on by now. Galras have found us. Lance, grab Acxa and hold onto her as tight as you can.”

“I’ve got her,” Lance responded quietly, making sure the little girl was wrapped securely in his arms.

“Everyone stay behind me,” Keith ordered. Just then a thunderous boom sounded, followed by shattering glass as an explosion rocked the front of the house. “Move! Let’s go!”

They rushed into the hallway to get to the stairs. A Galra armed with a gun rushed around the corner and tried to cut off their escape. Keith reacted immediately, throwing his knife with deadly precision right into his heart. The man hit the ground with a heavy thud.

Acxa started stirring and crying at all the noise around them. Keith yanked his knife from the dead Galra’s chest and grabbed his gun. He turned just in time to shoot a second Galra coming around the corner. Acxa screamed and began sobbing in earnest. “Ariel! I want my Ariel!”

“Shh, baby girl,” Lance urged her quietly. “We’ll get her.”

Keith felt a surge of Lance’s powers as he charmed Acxa to try to calm her and keep her quiet. “Hurry up! Get downstairs!” he hissed as he quickly rushed into the kitchen to provide them with cover as they ran into his room to escape down the stairs. His hunter senses were on high alert. His vision was sharp, even in the dark, and his hearing was tuned to hear even the smallest noise. He guessed there were four Galras in the house. The kitchen was clear, but he looked into the living room in time to see two more sneaking stealthily through the gaping hole that had once been his front door. Moving silently, he went to kill the fucking assholes that threatened his family.

Terror coursed through Lance and he was positive his heart was about to beat out of his chest. Acxa clung tightly to his neck and had her legs wrapped tightly around his waist. He kept one arm wrapped securely around her as he hurried down the stairs.

Gunfire erupted upstairs, causing Lance to flinch. Acxa’s small frame heaved with silent sobs and she clung to him tighter.

“Hurry, Lance! The end of the hall!” Krolia whispered behind him, firing off her gun as they ran.

He rushed to the end where the mirror Keith had told him about hung. He placed his hand on it, and the wall in front of him glided open silently.

Krolia slipped past him. “Follow me, Lance. No light. There’s six steps up, breath and concentrate.”

They stepped into the garage. It was cold and dark and smelled like oil and gasoline. Lance could see faint lines of light coming from one wall and knew that was where the garage doors were. He stepped carefully, following Krolia’s dark shape in the faint light. Suddenly, his knee slammed into something hard and pain shot through him. He bit his lip hard to keep from crying out, tasting blood as he bit into his lip.

Acxa whimpered softly hearing the impact and patting his chest in comfort. Lance shifted her to his other arm and reached out to feel what he had run into. It was an SUV of some sort. He had hit the front driver’s side fender. Sliding carefully around it, he crossed to the other side where Krolia waited. She quietly opened the door to the back seat and moved aside to let Lance set Acxa carefully inside. As soon as he put her on the seat, she began to squirm and protest.

“Shh, baby, you’ve got to keep quiet,” Lance whispered urgently as he crawled in next to her. He wrapped his arms around her and could feel her body trembling and her rapid heartbeat.

Krolia closed the door as quietly as she could and quickly got into the driver’s seat. She locked the doors and turned to glance swiftly at Lance. “You and Acxa keep low.”

Lance laid Acxa across the seat with her head in his lap. He focused on sending her calming energy. It wasn’t right that any child should go through this and be this terrified.

Krolia started the vehicle and hit a button at the same time to open the garage door. As soon as it rolled up enough to let them through, she hit the gas. They sped out of the garage and turned left to go around the front of the house. Three Galras brandishing guns rushed at them, each taking aim and firing at the SUV. One bullet shattered the windshield at an angle and went through the back window. Lance fell over Acxa to protect her from flying broken glass. Another shot was fired and the SUV lurched as a tire blew out and Krolia lost control. The vehicle slammed into a tree with a crunch of metal.

The three Galras approached the disabled car. They held their guns at the ready as they stalked closer. Lance felt panic clawing at him. Everything was happening too fast and he didn’t want to die. But he was even more frightened that something would happen to Acxa and Krolia. He had to get them out of there and to safety. “Krolia, you take Acxa and get to Keith’s truck. Hurry! I’ll hold them off!”

“But Lance-” she protested.

Lance cut her off. “Go! Now! Get out of here!”

He took a deep breath. He would do this. He’d distract them so Krolia and Acxa could get to safety. And Keith would save him...

Or I will die here, protecting those I care about.

Lance knew he was the one the Galras wanted, and he would be damned if they got him without a fight.

Taking a deep breath to try to fight back his panic, Lance focused his energy. He wrapped his hand around his golden necklace and breathed, “Alteans, help me protect them.” Then he turned the handle and jumped out of the SUV to run toward the house. He looked over his shoulder and saw the Galras had halted momentarily, looking between him and Krolia and Acxa as they ran to Keith’s truck. He needed their attention on him.

His blood! Lance looked around frantically and saw a jagged piece of wood from the front door on the ground. He glanced up to see a Galra grabbing Krolia. She was struggling to pull her gun  from her waist and still hold on to Acxa, who was wrapped tightly around her with her face buried in her mother’s neck. Lance knew he had to act fast. Through adrenaline and sheer force of will, he grabbed the wood and violently jammed it into the inside of his arm. He felt dizzy as he dragged it upwards, opening a huge gash, but he made himself ignore the searing pain as blood welled up and spilled hot from his arm. He waved it over his head and yelled, “Hey, pendejos! Fresh witch blood! Over here! Ven y cógelo!”

Distracted by the sudden scent of power-rich witch blood, the Galra holding Krolia turned his head. She yanked her gun free and shot him point blank in the head. Acxa screamed, her voice high pitched with sheer terror.

The other two Galras turned toward Lance, inhaling deeply. Their entire attention was focused on him and their eyes gleamed with bloodlust. Suddenly, they both disappeared.

Shit, shit, SHIT. Lance knew they were running toward him, but he couldn’t see them. He turned and ran for the house. He had to get to safety, to Keith. Behind him, he heard the truck roar to life and the squeal of rubber as Krolia floored the gas to get away. He raced to the steps and reached a hand out to grasp the railing. Almost there.

The coppery scent of blood rushed over him, causing him to gag and the hair on his arms and the back of his neck to stand up. A hand grabbed his outstretched arm and jerked him to a halt. Both Galras reappeared at the same time. The Galra that had grabbed him reached quickly for his other arm, jerking them both behind him and holding him immobile.

“Oh, no, you don’t, witch,” the hunter growled in Lance’s ear. “You aren’t going anywhere. Grab your knife and slice him up!” he snarled to his fellow hunter.

The second Galra unsheathed his knife, the blade flashing in the moonlight. He moved so fast; it took Lance’s brain a second to register the cuts the man did expertly. A razor-sharp slash on his left bicep, followed in rapid succession by one to his right thigh. The shock of pain roiled through him, squeezing all the air from his lungs. Tears burned his eyes and he struggled in the iron hold, trying to fight and kick out. Another flash, and the knife slashed through his shirt to slice his side. Hot blood flowed freely, and pain sizzled along his nerves, cutting off his concentration. Lance felt his stomach heave at the thick smell of blood and his chakras slammed shut. He had lost the connection with his powers.

The Galra holding him released his arms, and Lance staggered briefly before he was caught up and tossed roughly over the man’s shoulder. The Galra broke into a run, heading toward the main road with him in tow.

Keith! Help me! Lance’s mind screamed.

The furious roar of a red lion answered him.

Chapter Text

Keith pulled his knife from the chest of another Galra. He had taken a gunshot to one thigh, and while though it slowed him down, it didn’t stop him from taking out his attackers. It had added fuel to the fire and pissed him off even further. The fucker that had shot him was lying dead in the doorway, and he had fought and killed two more besides that.

Lance’s scream ripped through his chest, causing him to whip around and race for the door leading to the side of the house. Keith rushed out onto the balcony in time to see two Galras running away with Lance over one’s shoulder. Even though his leg was bleeding heavily, Keith didn’t even hesitate. He grabbed the rail and jumped over.

The loud roar of his red lion filled his ears, and to Keith’s stunned confusion, wings burst free from his back. They spread and caught the wind, jerking him out of a jump that would have landed him on his feet. He was so shocked he nearly slammed headfirst into the ground, but he felt the muscles in his back and chest react instinctively. Before he knew what was going on, the wings were flapping powerfully and keeping him away from the ground.

Keith couldn’t believe it. He had wings, actual wings, and he was flying!

He kept close enough to the ground to use the copper scent of the Galras to track them. To one side, he saw two mortal guys from his security crew lying dead on the ground, their throats cut. Further ahead, he could see his truck speeding away. He was relieved to recognize his mother behind the wheel. Now he could deal with the motherfuckers who had his witch. He spotted them running down the road at a superhuman speed. Keith moved faster, his fury growing as he recognized the spicy scent of Lance’s blood mixed with the stench of Galra.

Mine! The blood staining Lance’s pants caused his mind to sharpen with rage as he noted that his blue witch shimmer was dulling. Keith felt his wings shift instinctively, sending him into a dive.

Lance was thrashing in the Galra’s iron grasp, struggling to free himself. When he saw Keith, his blue eyes widened in shock. Feeling the change in his captive, the hunter turned and looked up. He had no time to react as Keith shifted in the wind and slammed both booted feet into his face. The Galra’s head whipped back with a sickening crack as his neck snapped. As he landed, Keith caught Lance to keep him from falling to the ground with the dead man.

The other Galra roared as he ran at them. Keith set Lance on his feet and moved protectively in front of him. His wings folded into his back and Lance watched in disappear into his tattoo as he stood his ground against the charging Galra. The man attacked, aiming for Keith’s heart with his knife. Keith swung around with a hard kick, injuring the Galra’s hand and sending the knife flying. The Galra yelped and cradled his hand against his body, but the sight of a bloody Lance quickly distracted him. His face twisted with the fierce craving for witch blood and, with a loud bellow, he rushed straight for Lance.

Keith whipped around and tackled him from behind, taking him to the ground before he could reach Lance. He jammed one knee into the Galra’s back and roughly grabbed him by his head, giving it a vicious twist and snapping his neck. Keith got to his feet, breathing hard but slightly more relaxed now that the Galras were dead and no longer a threat. He strode to Lance and looked him over anxiously, noting that his shimmer had turned a faint gray color and blood still flowed from several wounds.

Lance was assessing Keith at the same time. His eyes widened and he gasped, “Oh Dios mío, Keith! Your thigh! Were you shot?”

“Yes,” Keith answered as he scooped Lance up into his arms. “Put your arms around my neck.”

“But your leg is injured!” Lance argued.

Shit. Lance could feel it. “I need you to close it off, Lance. Don’t think about it right now. That was Mom and Acxa in my truck, right?”

Now that his wings had disappeared, Keith wasn’t quite sure yet where they actually came from, much less just how the whole flying bit actually worked in the first place. So he carried Lance toward the cars left parked on the side of the road by the Galras.

Lance nodded. “They got away, but I don’t know where they were going. Put me down, Keith, I can walk.”

Keith ignored him, continuing to carry him until he reached the cars. He set Lance on his feet and prowled around the cars until he found a truck with an unlocked door. He reached over to unlock the other door, and then went around to help Lance into the passenger seat, paying no attention to Lance’s protests.

Lance looked up at Keith questioningly. “You had wings. Where did they go?” he asked suddenly.

“I don’t know. How many times were you cut?” he asked as he tore the ruined shirt into strips. He quickly tied one around Lance’s left bicep, knowing that meant the next cut would be his right thigh. Which would mean there would be another somewhere on the trunk of the body; most likely his side, judging by the amount of blood on Lance’s shirt. Galra hunters would cut in that way to cause confusion and disconnect the witch off from their powers.

“There’s three from the Galras, and one I did myself,” Lance answered, hissing as Keith grabbed the edges of the gaping slash in his jeans to tear it further apart and examine the injury there.

Keith stopped still for a moment as Lance’s words sunk in. He raised his head to stare at Lance’s paling face. “You willingly cut yourself?”

Lance shrugged a shoulder gingerly and winced. “I had to. They were going after your mom and Acxa. I had to distract them somehow. After all, it was me they were after.”

Keith sucked in a harsh breath. Lance had literally turned himself into witch bait, using the scent of his blood to distract the Galras from Keith’s family. He wrapped a strip of the torn cloth around Lance’s leg and then lifted his shirt. The gash on his torso was deeper, a sure sign that the bloodlust frenzy had started to set in for the Galra who been doing the cutting. It was a wonder they hadn’t just fallen on Lance right then and killed him. The thought made Keith feel sick. If he hadn’t already killed the Galras responsible, he would do it now, only slower and more painful.

“You have a gunshot wound to your thigh, Keith! That’s worse than these cuts!” Lance argued.

Keith could feel Lance’s powers weakly reaching out for him. Even though his witch was injured and having trouble connecting to his powers, he was still trying to take away the pain from Keith’s thigh. “Lance. You need to stop. I promise you I don’t feel pain the same way you do. Hunters have an exceptionally high threshold for pain. It irritates me more than it hurts me. I need you to stop wasting your powers on me and focus on healing yourself.”

“Are you telling me the truth, Keith?” Lance asked him softly.

“I swear it. We were created to be able to handle pain.” Keith didn’t smell any more Galras, so he leaned in quickly to brush his lips against Lance’s. “We need to leave. It’s still dangerous to be out in the open.”

Keith was being truthful about being able to handle physical pain, but what he couldn’t handle was seeing Lance in pain. He knew that the specially designed cut pattern the Galras used disconnected a witch from their powers, and Lance was in enough pain that he couldn’t get his chakras to stay open for him. His powers would feebly attempt to rise, then falter and slip away. Keith wrapped a long strip of cloth around Lance’s torso and tied it off, then turned his attention to the jagged wound on his arm that obviously hadn’t been caused by a Galra’s blade.

“Should I even ask how you did this?” Keith asked as he gently tended to it. He was slightly relieved that Lance’s shimmer was a little brighter, but noted it was still a far cry from its normal brilliance and was dotted with red blotches caused by his pain.

“A broken piece of wood from the house.” Lance closed his eyes and fought off a wave of nausea. He felt Keith’s strong hands stroking his upper arms with a comforting feather light touch.

“So brave,” murmured Keith quietly. “I want you to look at me, Lance. Show me those gorgeous blue eyes.” He smiled encouragingly when Lance complied. “Now, breathe. In and out, just like this,” he demonstrated.

Their breathing fell into a synced pattern and Keith felt Lance’s heart rate calm. “Good, so good for me. Now, sweet witch, open your chakras and let your powers have you. Let them heal you.”

When Lance’s witch shimmer warmed to a dull blue rather than a cold gray, Keith gave his shoulders a squeeze. “That’s better. I want you to rest now. I’ll get us out of here.” He closed the door and quickly crossed to the driver’s side. He climbed into the seat and froze on an intake of breath when he felt Lance’s fingers softly tracing his tattoo.

“Keith! The lion…he has wings folded against his back now!” Lance said excitedly as he stroked the outline of the wings that now adorned his skin.

Keith felt his red lion purr under Lance’s touch. When he looked at Lance, he was surprised to see his witch shimmer getter stronger and brighter.

“Touching my red lion makes you feel better?” he asked, heart pounding. He didn’t even care that his tattoo had changed, he was just glad to see Lance excited and doing better than he was not moments ago.

Lance jerked slightly as though he hadn’t realized what he was doing. A pink blush crossed his cheeks and turned his faint shimmer violet. “I...well, that is...yeah. Yeah, it does.”

Keith couldn’t let himself be distracted by the sense of primal satisfaction Lance’s whispered words caused. He gave himself a mental shake and reached for the ignition, cursing when there were no keys there.

Fuck. The keys aren’t here. I’m going to have to go search the bodies and see if I can find them. I’ll be right back.” Keith reached for the door to get out but stopped when Lance clutched at his arm with both hands.

“No! Let me do it!” Lance’s voice was panicked, and his blue eyes were dilated with fear. “I don’t need keys. Even if I wasn’t a witch, I could start a vehicle without them.”

Keith felt his tattoo stirring in response to Lance’s fear. He took one of Lance’s hands in his own and held it close to his chest. “Okay. It’s okay, I won’t leave you.” He watched as Lance closed his eyes and breathed deep, focusing his energy. Keith felt a hum of energy pass through him and the truck engine roared to life. He waited for Lance to open his eyes, still holding his hand and rubbing his thumb across the knuckles.

“You saved my mother and sister’s lives,” Keith whispered in awe when Lance finally looked at him.

Lance tried to smile even though his lips were trembling. “I had to. I knew you would come for me. You need me to undo the curse on Acxa,” he said, looking down at their clasped hands.

Keith took Lance’s chin in his free hand and tilted it up so that Lance looked him in the eyes. They held the gaze for a mere breadth of a moment, then Keith leaned in to nuzzle his nose against Lance’s.

“I need you, Lance. We make a great team.”

Lance glanced around the huge warehouse next to Voltron, wide eyes taking in everything. Looking forward, he recognized Shiro standing at a desk in front of a huge display of screens, appearing even larger in real life. He was flanked by two others, all who were watching as he and Keith drew closer to them.

Keith had one arm around Lance’s waist and his knife in the other hand. “Where’s Mom and Acxa?” he demanded, tightening his grip on Lance.

Shiro walked slowly around the desk, making sure to keep his hands in clear view. “Relax, Keith, take it easy. They’re upstairs in your condo. Krolia said you’d been attacked by Galras and that they’d taken Lance. But I see you got him back.” His dark eyes shifted to Lance, who tensed. “I’m not going to hurt you, Lance. I swear it.”

“I won’t, either,” said the man standing next to a smaller woman. “Of course, you already know me. Matt Holt, techie and tattoo expert. Nice to finally meet ya in the flesh.”

“No bloodlust here. I can smell the witch blood, but it’s more an annoying buzz than pain,” remarked the woman who bore a resemblance to the man standing next to her. “Katie, but you can call me Pidge. I’m this moron’s sister.”

“So, this is the witch. First male we’ve come across in I don’t know how long.” Matt said as he rubbed a hand through his hair as he made his way over to them.

Matt,” Keith growled low in warning. His body jerked and a whooshing noise filled the room.

Lance felt feathers explode past him, then curl protectively around his shoulder, holding him close. Keith had sprouted wings. Again.

Matt stopped short, his eyes taking in the entire span of the wings. The other three men stared at Keith as well, faces impassive but shock evident in their eyes.

“Well, that’s new,” Pidge broke the silence, raising one eyebrow. “Is there something you’d like to share with the class, Keith?”

Keith didn’t waver or back down. He kept Lance held tightly to his side and that wing curled in a little more, offering double protection. “Not even gonna lie, it’s been a bitch of a night. None of you are feeling the bloodlust?”

“No more than usual,” Shiro said with a shrug. “It’s not the spike and pain that normally hits when there’s a witch around, especially a witch with drying blood on their clothes.”

Matt looked Keith in the eye. “I wasn’t threatening your witch. I just wanted to look at him, I swear.”

“So, let’s hear it, Keith. When did you get wings?” Pidge asked as she leaned against the desk.

“When Galras tried to take Lance, I jumped off a balcony and found out I could fly,” Keith said, his voice flat.

Matt moved slowly around Keith’s side, then back to the front. “Holy shit, Keith. Real fucking wings! And your tat changed too! What’s that all about?” He flashed a wide grin at Lance.

Lance was surprised to feel his own lips raising in a small smile in response. There was something about this man that made Lance feel a bit more relaxed, but he didn’t quite know what. Meeting him in person was way better than talking to him on a screen.

When Keith felt Lance relax against him, his own tension eased as well. He shifted as he slid his knife into its holster at his back. His gaze was a bit rueful as he responded to Mat. “Well, they didn’t come with an owner’s manual. No ‘Wings for Dummies’ or anything.”

“I’ve never heard of a witch hunter getting actual wings,” Pidge said.

Keith shrugged, causing the wings to ripple. “Things change. Everything has changed since the curse.”

“I wonder if they’re His wings, Matt commented. “But I don’t see the thumb ring of immortality. Have you had an appearance from The Blade?”

Keith shook his head. “No.”

Lance could feel the mixtures of emotion that were swirling around the room. He could feel Keith’s remaining anger over the Galra attack, along with a mixture of confusion and a sense of hope for what the wings might represent. He could feel the deep affection among the witch hunters there. They were obviously close, like siblings. They were a family to Keith, along with Krolia and Acxa.

But Lance was worried. “Can you control the wings? Put them away?”

Keith glanced at him, violet eyes full of wonder and curiosity. “I didn’t do anything to make them come out. They just did.”

“Because you thought I was a threat to Lance,” Matt stated.

Lance felt an icy tingle of fear. He wasn’t controlling Keith’s wings, he couldn’t be. He hadn’t called them out. Or had he? “Can you try? Please?”

Keith was surprised at the strain in Lance’s voice, but supposed it wasn’t exactly unexpected, given what he had been through. “Sure. I need you to move, though. I don’t want to hit you or anything.”

Lance bit his lower lip. He didn’t want to move out of the embrace of his red lion. The feel of soft feathers against his skin made him feel more safe and secure. But he had to know that he hadn’t done this to Keith. That he hadn’t turned him into a familiar. He forced himself to step away from Keith and moved over to the side, alone.

Keith turned and took a few steps further away, moving closer to the pool table.

Matt gave a low whistle. “Well fuck me sideways. Will you look at that.”

Lance stared open mouthed, unable to look away. The wings jutted out where Keith’s shoulder blades were, huge and magnificent. The muscles of his neck, shoulders and back rippled with strength. There was no sign of the tattoo they all knew.

“Can you move them?” Matt questioned curiously.

Keith put his hands on his hips and flexed. The wings did a slow sweep, fanning the room as they flapped powerfully. Then they lifted high and folded, melting into his skin and becoming the red lion tattoo again. With the addition of white wings laid against its back, as Lance had pointed out earlier.

Lance swallowed heavily, feeling nearly dizzy with relief. He wasn’t controlling Keith’s wings, he was sure of it. The room was filled with a heavy silence. Everything was happening so quickly. With Keith’s help, Lance had been able to heal his injuries most of the way. And he had gotten the bullet out of Keith’s leg. But he felt sore and drained after the events of the night.

“You guys don’t all live here, do you?” he asked the Paladins curiously, blushing when they all laughed at the question.

“Nope,” Pidge answered with a smirk. “We all have homes, but this is where we hang if we aren’t busy. I had actually been out with a hot chick when I got the call to get my ass to the warehouse.”

Lance could see the butterfly wings tattooed on her lower back that were visible just below the tight fit of her cropped black t-shirt. “Oh,” he said lamely, unsure what to say.

“We thought we were going to have to go after you, Lance,” explained Matt. “But turns out Keith got the job done.”

Lance blinked, feeling stunned as he looked at each of the hunters standing there watching him with serious faces. “You would have done that? You’d have rescued me?”

“You bet your ass,” stated Pidge emphatically. “First of all, Acxa needs you. Secondly, I fucking hate Galras. And no Galra is gonna take a witch that’s under our protection, got me? It ain’t gonna happen.”

Lance felt nearly overwhelmed. He had been so scared when the Galras had gotten him, and he had hoped against hope that Keith would save him. It had never occurred to him that these men, all hunters struggling with the blood curse, would put themselves at risk to try to save him.

“Thank you,” he whispered. Other than his family, the only other person Lance had ever been able to depend on was Hunk.


“Oh God,” Lance gasped, whirling to look at Keith, who had snapped to attention at Lance’s panicked voice. “Keith! What about Hunk? What if he and Shay go back to the house tonight?”

Keith patted his pockets, looking for his cell phone and growling in frustration when he didn’t find it. “I need a phone.”

Matt was quickest, pulling his phone out of his pocket and tossing it to Keith, who handed it to Lance. “Here. Call him.”

Lance dialed Hunk’s number as quickly as he could with shaky hands, cursing under his breath. He tapped his foot nervously as the call connected and breathed a sigh of relief when Hunk answered on the second ring.

“This is Hunk.”

“Hunk, it’s me. Don’t go back to Keith’s house, okay? We were attacked-”

“Slow down, Lance,” Hunk interrupted, his voice sounding anxious. “Are you alright?”

“I’m okay, Hunk. I had some cuts, but I’m alive and so is Keith. Can you stay with Adam?” Lance asked, then nearly dropped the phone as another fear exploded in his mind. “Oh, shit! Adam! What if they go after him?”

Keith quickly crossed to Lance’s side and put his arm around him before taking the phone. “Hunk, it’s Keith. Lance’s okay. He’s got some injuries, but he’s mostly scared and shaken up. He has a point, though. I don’t think I can send a hunter to watch over Adam. And then there’s the matter of Shay and keeping her safe, too.”

Keith listened as Hunk spoke on the other end, his face hardening. “It’s a very strong possibility. This was a planned out, well-staged attack. Sendak could definitely have been behind it.” He listened again for a moment then handed the phone back to Lance.

“Hunk, be careful,” Lance implored.

“I will be,” Hunk promised him. “Are you okay there? I can come and get you if I need to.”

“No, no, it’s okay. I’m good here,” Lance assured. “I love you, okay?”

“Right back atcha, Lance,” Hunk said. “Seriously, though, bro, can’t you try to stay out of trouble for just a little while? You’re starting to give me really bad anxiety man.”

Lance nearly laughed. “I’m starting to doubt it.”

“Me, too. Later, bestie,” Hunk said as he ended the call.

Lance walked over to the desk where Keith and the other Paladins were gathered, studying what looked like blueprints. He handed Matt his phone back with a small smile of gratitude, then listened to the ongoing conversation.

“These are the blueprints to your dad’s place,” Shiro was saying to Keith. “I put them up on the big computer screen when we were planning to rescue Lance and possibly you. It was the first and most likely place we could think of to start looking. We were just starting to look them over when you walked in.”

They all looked at the biggest screen in the center of the wall of monitors. The blueprints showed a large house with an even bigger building behind it.

“Here’s the original blueprints,” said Shiro as he put another set on a smaller screen. “See the difference?”

Keith nodded. “He’s expanded the building behind the house.”

“Exactly,” Shiro said. “We know the house used to be a veterinarian’s office. According to the architect notes on the new prints, two barracks have been added at the end. There’s also a control room wired for high tech equipment, a conference room, and some smaller rooms. But the thing that stood out most...”

Lance felt Keith tense beside him. “What?” Keith asked.

“He kept the kennel and operating rooms and updated them,” Shiro answered grimly.

Lance wasn’t sure what that meant, but an icy shiver danced down his spine.

Keith stopped breathing for a moment, then let out a low, vicious growl. “He’s building a compound to turn witch hunters into Galra. The kennels are to hold witches until they have a hunter they want to turn, and the operating room is where they’ll slaughter them. He’s creating an army of Galras for Lotor Daibazaal,” he spat out, body vibrating in rage.

Pidge stared thoughtfully at the displayed building plans. “Sendak Crystals would want a piece of that action. Hell, he probably wants to take it from your dad.”

Lance felt his chakras suddenly snap open without warning. Power surged through the four lower chakras and slammed into the power rushing down through his fifth. The voices in his head rose to a jumbled scream. Energy swirled around his spine and there was a pounding at a spot in the middle of his forehead.

Matt glanced up and around. “Do you feel that? Your witch is doing something, Keith.”

“Holy shit. There’s power surging through the entire room,” Pidge added, sounding impressed.

Lance could hear them talking, but their words were jumbled and nearly drowned out by the roar in his head. He closed his eyes against the sensations of pain and dizziness.

“Lance! Look at me!” Keith grabbed him, trying to get him to open his eyes.

Lance tried, but he couldn’t. His eyes were closed tight as power whirled down his spine into a vortex at the base. He felt pressure inside him intensifying and gathering at the center of his forehead. Suddenly there was a huge wave of energy and his sixth chakra blew open.

Allura appeared, lying on the ground with blood running from multiple cuts on her arms and legs. Her pale face was lined with pain and her thick hair was caked with dirt and blood. The moon appeared from behind a cloud and illuminated crumbling headstones rising from uneven grass in the unkempt graveyard where she was.

Lotor Daibazaal stood over her with a cruel sneer on his face. His silver knife gleamed in the moonlight, the sharp blade streaked red with blood. “You are even worse than the demon witches, Allura. They made me want sex. Your trick was different. You made me want something that doesn’t exist.”

Allura glared right back at him, even through her obvious pain. “It would be real, had you not gone Galra and lost your soul. We were soulmates! But you had to give up the soul you had. I would have loved you and our child.”

Lotor’s smooth features twisted, looking haunted before returning to their baleful look. “All you witches are nothing but liars. You would have never loved me.”

“Yet you can’t kill me,” Allura said, her voice softening.

His gaze hardened again. “Where’s the baby, Allura?” he snarled.

“I told you already, our son is dead. He was stillborn. I cremated him,” Allura panted.

Daibazaal crouched down next to her, running a hand over her still swollen abdomen. “Lying bitch,” he hissed as his knife flashed, slashing across the tender skin.

“He’s dead!” Allura screamed, her voice cracking with pain.

Daibazaal put his hand in the warm blood, closing his eyes and shivering with pleasure as he absorbed the power in her blood. “This is what’s real. Power. And I finally have enough witch blood to summon the demon Asmodeus.”

“No,” whispered Allura in horror.

Keeping his hand in Allura’s blood, Daibazaal began to chant. “I summon thee from the Underworld, O Asmodeus, demon of lechery, anger, jealousy and revenge! By the blood of a witch, I command thee, appear!”

The earth rumbled and several headstones fell over as a huge crack appeared in the ground. Black smoke rose up and swirled to form a dark shape with three heads. The heavy smell of sulfur and brimstone combined with burned flesh filled the air.

Daibazaal rose to one knee to kneel in reverence. “Asmodeus. You do me great honor by appearing.”

The demon spoke; its voice a low, slithering hiss. “The child lives. Kill this witch and find the boy.”

Lotor’s gaze shifted from the demon back to Allura.

Allura licked her cracked lips. “Lotor, feel inside yourself. You can still do the right thing. Let me go, let me and your son live. The best part of you will live on in your child.”

Choose,” crackled the demon’s voice, coming from all three heads at once. A wind rose through the graveyard, causing trees to sway and grass and dirt to fly. “Kill the witch, and the power of the Dagger of Immortal Death is yours. With it, you can kill anything, including an immortal.” It raised a hand holding a large black knife the size of a mortal man’s forearm.

“Alteans protect us,” Allura chanted in a soft whisper.

One demon head looked balefully down at her while the other two remained focused on Lotor. “Her Alteans don’t hear her, do they, Lotor?

Lotor stared at the large knife in the demon’s grasp, his eyes shining with an unholy light. “No. You destroyed the Alteans and The Blade. That’s power, that’s what’s real.”

Take the Dagger of Immortal Death, Lotor. Kill the witch.

His eyes were dilated, filled with blue and lust for power. “At what price?”

Three things. First, you must raise an army and lead them. Kill all the witches. Second, find the whelp you sired of this whore and kill him before he becomes a threat. Whether he be witch or hunter matters not. And third, kill any hunter who takes the wings of The Blade. They could resurrect that half-breed and challenge our power.

Daibazaal looked down at Allura, then back at the dagger that shone with obsidian light in the moon.

“Lotor,” whispered Allura.

Daibazaal made his choice. With inhuman speed, he grabbed the black dagger and plunged it into Allura’s chest with a vicious twist.

Lance could hear screams.

“I’ve got you, I’m here. I’m right here. Come back to me!”

Keith’s frantic voice broke through and Lance became aware of his strong arms surrounding him and holding him to his chest. His eyes flew open as he heaved and struggled for breath. The harsh rawness of his throat told him that he had been screaming. His head throbbed and his chest ached as though he himself had been stabbed with Lotor’s dagger. He realized that he was shaking violently in Keith’s arms.

“Lotor Daibazaal summoned Asmodeus with my mother’s blood when he killed her. He has the Dagger of Immortal Death.”

Chapter Text

Keith returned to the warehouse after getting Lance settled in his condo and set up on the computer so that his witch could talk with Adam. The Paladins gathered grimly around him.

“The attack on my safe house tonight wasn’t of my dad’s doing,” Keith said. “It was obviously planned out and carefully set up. They cut both the main power and the backup generators. There was definitely a well concocted plan.”

“Sendak,” Pidge sneered.

“Where the hell is Lotor Daibazaal?” asked Matt. “What was it with your dad’s house that triggered Lance’s vision? Is Daibazaal connected to the house?”

“Lance’s vision was some sort of warning that Daibazaal has the Dagger of Immortal Death,” Matt stated.

“Like that matters. We aren’t immortal, a regular knife can kill us,” Pidge pointed out.

“But Keith has wings. Immortality could very well be next,” answered Shiro.

They all turned to look at Keith. He rubbed a hand on the back of his neck. “I just don’t fucking know. But I do know that Daibazaal is even more dangerous with the Death Dagger. He can kill anyone with it. And he’s the one calling the shots. Maybe my dad and Sendak partnered up at his command.”

“Maybe so,” mused Shiro. “But I am curious as to why you haven’t heard from Richard since that stunt crashing the Escalade full of cut up witches into the club.”

Keith frowned, trying to make sense of everything. “You think he’s dead, then?”

“I think it’s a real possibility that there’s been a hostile takeover by Sendak Crystals. In the last two days, the path I used to hack into the Galra’s computers has been cut off and new security is in place,” Pidge said, Matt nodding in agreement.

Keith grabbed the phone lying on the countertop and dialed his dad’s number. It went straight to voicemail. Richard’s phone was off.

“I think you should try to get more from your witch now that he’s having visions and shit,” Matt stated. “Show him the blueprints again.”

Keith frowned and shook his head. “Lance needs to save his strength right now for healing Acxa.”

“Crap, you’re right,” Matt was quick to agree. “Acxa was scared shitless when she got here with your mom. She looked like hell, too. Pale, shaking, and that damned death mark all red now. The waxing gibbous moon is only three days away. When is Lance going to do the spell?”

“He’s going to try tomorrow at moonrise. On a shoreline; he says he needs to be where the elements meet for better access to the ley lines.” Keith knew that Lance was exhausted and still in pain from the Galra attack and his earlier vision. His could feel the red lion’s wings fretted restlessly in his tattoo, unhappy at being this far away from Lance right now. The feeling created an itching sensation under his skin that only Lance’s touch could soothe.

“So what happens if the spell works and Acxa’s healed?” Pidge asked, sitting in her chair with her legs stretched out in front of her and casually peeling an orange with her knife. “You gonna keep the witch around?”

Keith fixed his hard gaze on Pidge. “I’m not throwing him to the Galras. And let’s not forget there’s gonna be a pissed off demon witch looking for him.”

Pidge popped a section of orange in her mouth and chewed steadily, eyes not leaving Keith’s. “Just saying those new wings of yours sprang out when you thought Lance was in danger. And now you talk as though you can’t walk away from him. It’s almost as though you were bound to him in the way of a familiar.”

Keith’s eyes narrowed and he felt his red lion rustle angrily. “I am protecting him in the way of a Paladin Hunter.”

“I’m just pointing out that we are on unfamiliar grounds here and we need to have our priorities clear. I don’t care how hot this witch is; I won’t let him use Acxa for his own agenda. For example, regaining power lost by the curse,” Pidge stated as she ate another slice of orange.

Keith bit back an angry retort. Lance wasn’t using him like that, but he understood that they were protecting his mother and sister, and now Lance, had the right to make sure his head was where it needed to be. “My priority is and always has been Acxa.”

“I thought so,” Pidge nodded as she tossed the orange peels into the trash.

Lance sat with his eyes closed on the floor in the middle of Keith’s sleek modern office in his condo, ignoring the large mahogany desk with its plush leather office chair. Adam’s image was projected on the large flat screen hanging on one wall and he watched as Lance tried to meditate and open his sixth chakra again.

“You have to stop resisting, Lance,” Adam encouraged. “You can’t be afraid of what you might see. And don’t be afraid of casting the spell tomorrow. You have to block everything out.”

Lance opened his eyes and looked at the image of his friend on the screen. “I’m trying,” he said, trying hard not to snap at him. “I hear the voices, I just can’t reach them. And hell, yes, I’m afraid. I saw my father summon a demon and murder my mother to take possession of a demonic knife. I can’t control this! What if I open my third eye again to see something else horrible?”

Adam’s face softened. “You’re doing so great, Lance. The Circle witches all say you have to get past your fear.”

Lance snorted in derision. “That’s really easy for them to say. Besides, they’re afraid of me! Tell them to get past their own fears!”

“Oh, Lance,” Adam sighed. “I know it doesn’t seem fair, but they really do have to be careful. And they do want to help you heal Acxa. The Circles plan to meet at moonrise tomorrow and send you as much of their energy as possible to help you with the spell.”

Lance’s smile was tight and didn’t reach his eyes. “Thanks. Did they say anything about soul mirrors?”

Adam shook his head. “They don’t know the answer, Lance. And since they don’t understand the bond you have with your hunter, they have to be cautious. But they did say if you could open your sixth chakra and talk to the Alteans directly, they’ll be happy to bring you into the Circle.”

“Oh, sure, if the Alteans accept me, then they’ll accept me. No other witch is held to that standard, Adam!” Lance snapped in frustration, drawing his knees up beneath his chin. “If I can do what no other witch can, I’ll finally be worthy of the almighty Circle. And what if I’ve bound Keith to me? Is that going to be okay with them? Or will that be another reason to refuse me?”

Adam looked helpless. “Lance, they swear you can’t bind him as a familiar. It’s not humanly possible.”

“Oh, yeah? He’s got wings now, Adam. Wings. Do any of the Circle witches remember any other witch hunters having wings?”

Lance’s head still pounded and he felt on the verge of tears. After his vision, Keith had helped him up the stairs to his huge bathroom and settled him into the giant spa tub with him. Keith had held his hand to each of Lance’s still healing injuries, drawing his powers to his touch to speed up the healing. He had held him in his arms and made him feel safe and cared for.

And yet it was probably all a lie. Soul mirrors. Keith hadn’t agreed to anything, he had just had sex with him. How was that any sort of agreement?


Not Adam this time, but Keith. He had entered the room with his eerily quiet ability and now stood close behind him. Lance raised his head slowly, feeling unbearably weary all of a sudden. Keith crouched down next to him. “You’re tired.”

Lance waved him off. “I need to talk to the Alteans.”

“For the spell?” Keith asked.

“For the spell,” Lance affirmed. “I can’t do it without them.”

It was the truth. If he could reach the Alteans, they would help him with the spell for Acxa. But he needed to know for sure that he hadn’t bound Keith unwillingly to him.

Keith took both of Lance’s hands and helped him to his feet. “I was with you the first time you opened your third eye. Maybe being close to me will help you do it again.” He turned his attention to Adam’s image on the screen. “I have a witch hunter outside your house tonight keeping watch. He won’t come in, he can’t be that close to you. But if something happens, he’ll be there if you need him. We decided it was too dangerous to leave you unprotected.”

“Who did you send, Keith?” asked Lance anxiously.

“Shiro. Hunk already knows he’s there. We aren’t taking any chances,” Keith replied.

Lance felt his heart squeeze. Keith was looking out for the people he loved. “Thank you,” he whispered.

Keith put his arm around Lance and motioned toward the screen. “Say goodnight. We’re going to bed.”

“I have to work on opening my chakra,” protested Lance.

“Oh, you’ll open for me, sweet witch, I promise you that,” Keith said silkily as he pulled Lance out of the office.

Keith,” Lance groaned, feeling his face turn bright red as he heard Adam’s choked laughter behind him. He let Keith lead him into his bedroom. Keith crossed over to the nightstand and pressed a button. A quiet whirring sounded, and the black drapes along the far wall parted to reveal floor to ceiling windows. Moonlight spilled in to softly illuminate the room, revealing a huge bed draped in a plush deep red comforter, accented with dark blue pillows.

Lance looked around in awe. “It’s beautiful, Keith. This is where you live?”

“Usually.” Keith walked over to capture Lance’s face in both hands and planted a hot, hungry kiss on his lips. “Use your powers. Take your clothes off.”

Keith’s abruptness surprised Lance. But he had to admit, it excited him too, damn it. He felt his jeans growing snug as his body began to respond to Keith.

Keith was still holding his face, thumbs stroking gently across his cheeks. “You’ve tried it your way, sweet witch. I see the strain on your face and I can feel how unfocused your powers are right now. Trust me. Let me help you open your sixth chakra.”

Keith stepped back and pulled his shirt over his head, muscles rippling in the moonlight. He then kicked his shoes over to one side before unbuckling his belt and opening his jeans. He slid the jeans and his boxer briefs to the floor and stepped out of them, kicking them toward his shoes.

Clothed, Keith looked strong, muscular and tantalizing. Naked, he took Lance’s breath away. “I’m waiting,” Keith said huskily.

Lance closed his eyes and retrieved his wandering powers, calling them to him. With a low rustle, his clothes magically slid off his body to a neatly folded pile on the floor.

“Show off,” Keith teased.

But when Lance opened his eyes, Keith was staring him with eyes of dark space, rich with purple and blue and filled with awe and desire. He reached out and took Lance’s hand, drawing him over to the window side of the bed. He sat down and coaxed Lance into his lap with his back pressed against Keith’s chest and his front turned toward the moonlight. Lance looked out the window at the lights and outline of buildings against the night sky.

“The windows are special. No one can see in here,” whispered Keith hotly against the sensitive outer shell of Lance’s ear, grinning when he felt his witch quiver in his arms in response. “Lean back against me and feel the moonlight.”

Lance swallowed a low moan. He could feel the strong thighs under him and the warm hands holding firm at his waist. His cock was hard and throbbing, and he could feel Keith hard and pressed into the cleft of his ass. Keith’s breath was warm on his bare skin. And he was right; Lance’s powers most definitely responded to him.

But he needed to tell Keith. “I’m afraid of what I’ll see,” he confessed in a quiet whisper. “I watched my father murder my mother. I don’t want to see that again. What if I can’t control it?”

A ripple passed through Keith and he squeezed Lance’s waist a little tighter before raising one hand to Lance’s forehead and tilting him back. “I’ll try to help give you direction. But I have to get inside your mind, and we both know how that happens.” His hips gave a small thrust of their own volition, drawing a gasp from Lance’s parted lips. A heated surge raced through his groin and Keith felt as though his cock grew even harder…if it was at all possible. He took a deep breath to steady himself.

“Once I’m in your mind and your chakra opens, you can tell me if something goes wrong and you need me to pull you out,” Keith continued his voice husky with building desire. He slid his hands over Lance’s hips to his thighs, pulling them wide so that Lance now straddled him. His cock throbbed hot and hard.

Lance shivered as his powers began to rush through him, responding to the light of the moon on his skin and the touch of the hunter beneath him. Energy pulsed as his chakras fed on the moonlight.

Mmm, yeah, baby, I feel you responding. God, your desire smells so fucking good.” Keith breathed in deeply as he ran his nose along Lance’s shoulder, pressing wet kisses along his path. The scent of power and need was sweet and intoxicating.

Lance made a strangled noise as he felt Keith’s teeth nip at his neck. It seemed as though every nerve ending in his body came to life all at once. He tightened his thighs around Keith’s and grabbed his hand to guide it to where his body demanded it most.

Keith’s dark and sensual laughter rumbled through his chest. “Such a greedy witch,” he purred. He teased Lance by running his fingertips lightly down his stomach, close to where he ached to be touched, then backed away to trail lightly back up.

A soft growl of protest rumbled from Lance’s parted lips. He could play the game, too. He reached down to take his cock in his own hand, stroking it firmly and licking his lips as a strong thrill of pleasure began to heat his blood even further. He heard the familiar quiet click of a bottle of lubricant and gasped when he felt Keith’s slicked fingers slide between the cheeks of his ass to circle his hole. His grasp on his cock tightened as the ache in his balls began to build, while a different kind of pressure began to build behind the center of his forehead as his chakras responded.

I feel something.

Don’t think about it. Think about the light of the moon. And this... Keith slowly slid a finger deep inside Lance.

Lance arched back against Keith, his entire body responding to the combination of magic and the skillful touch of his lover. A low groan escaped from the back of his throat and his mind expanded to absorb them both.

I feel you. You’re pulling me in. Keith’s breathing became harsher as he slid another finger into Lance. He knew his rhythm, knew just how to make the lithe body he held respond to him. Keith crooked his fingers, eliciting a soft strangled noise from Lance as he writhed in his arms.

Lance was panting, losing himself to the dual sensation of power and pressure racing through his chakras. Keith...

I’m right here. Let it happen, I’ve got you...

Lance could feel Keith’s mouth on his neck, hot and wet. He felt the push and pull of Keith’s slick fingers moving in and out of him. The moonlight filled him, burning hotter and brighter until the pressure in his forehead blew open.

Go with it, love, keep going...

Lance rode the golden light, pleasure cresting over him so intense he struggled to breathe. He gasped as he felt a frisson of fear try to work through the haze; but familiar white wings cradled him, soothing and calming him.

Open your third eye, Lance. You can do it...

Lance’s eyes flew open, but his regular vision was gone. His third eye took over instead. His mind filled with formless shades of light and color. He was drawn to them, feeling an overwhelming sense of warmth and safety and a need to be closer.

It’s the Alteans.

Go to them, sweet witch.

You hear us,” a multitude of voices said, the sound light and lilting.


We knew you would one day, Lance. We are so proud of you. You did it.”

“I had help. I couldn’t have done this without Keith and his red lion.” The thought sharpened the focus in Lance’s mind and reminded him of what he needed. “We need your help to save Acxa. Please, I beg you.”

Call on us when you do the spell. We will reach you through your blood. Remember that, Lance. The blood. You will need whole soul blood, don’t forget.”

Lance felt lighter as a huge sense of relief washed over him. “Thank you. Am I able to ask anything else?”

You can ask, but we cannot answer everything. And you only have a short time, Lance. This is very powerful high magic you are using right now, which can be dangerous for you.”

Lance took a deep breath and plunged ahead, getting right to the point. “Have I bound Keith to me? Are we soul mirrors?”

You are. All witch and hunter souls were merged and then halved at the time of the curse. Soul mirrors are two halves of a soul that have found each other, a true gift amongst our kinds. If blood and sex are exchanged, the two souls bond as one again and break the curse.”

Lance bowed his head. He had known it, known on some level since that first time when he had tried to call his familiar. Keith had answered his call. He had to keep his emotions in check and keep his third eye open, but he had to know what that meant.

“Is Keith my familiar now? Is that what I’ve done to him?”

No. A soul mirror is not a familiar. He mirrors and channels your powers. And you do the same thing for him. You mirror each other’s strengths. It was your call that brought out his wings tonight. He is protection, you are healing.” The souls surrounded him in shimmering lights as they explained.

But Lance was still unsure. “But have I taken away his self-control? His free will to do as he chooses?” It didn’t matter what they called it; he couldn’t live with himself if that was what he had done to Keith.

Another swirl of light moved around him. “No. The witch hunter is free. Should he choose, he can walk away from you. He will be cured of his bloodlust and never be tormented with it again. But he will never fall in love with anyone else. He’ll always be unfulfilled, always missing half of his soul, for it is you who holds his other half, while he has yours. But he can live his life in any way he chooses.”

Lance wanted to feel relief. He wanted to be able to tell Keith he wasn’t a familiar and have him believe him. But the fear of him rejecting him made his throat ache. “And what about his red lion?”

If the hunter rejects you, the red lion will die off. He will be a man, albeit one with unusual abilities. He will still be able to turn invisible, will still have enhanced senses, all of it. But he won’t have His wings…because he would no longer be one of His hunters.”

Keith wouldn’t be an animal. He would be a man. But there was something else that troubled Lance. “And what about his soul? Will he lose his soul if he kills a demon witch?”

We can’t answer you this,” the voices were tinged with regret. “It’s time for you to go.”

“No, wait...” But the colors swirled and faded to a white mist, and Lance felt the sensation of sliding away. Time lost its meaning as he moved through the fog, surrounded by the love of the Alteans that gave way to the warm security of Keith’s arms. His third eye slid closed and he could see with his normal vision once again. He realized that Keith had moved him so that he was sitting sideways in his lap. Keith held him tightly in his arms and Lance became aware that he was surrounded by his wings as well. Had he brought out Keith’s wings?

Keith raised a hand to run it through Lance’s sweaty hair. “You got scared. I knew my wings would make you feel safe.” He lifted them off Lance and folded them so that they would fade into his back and reform as his tattoo.

Lance caught his breath. Talk about powerful magic. But would Keith accept it as his own magic? The stakes were too high for him to find out just yet. “I spoke to the Alteans.”

Keith nodded. “I know. I couldn’t hear them, but I could feel the light of them filling you.”

“They are going to help me. Tomorrow at moonrise I’ll be able to heal Acxa and remove the curse,” Lance said.

Keith brightened with hope and relief, but then he tensed as worry flashed in his eyes. “But will you be safe? Asmodeus wants you.”

“I didn’t ask them about that. But I will be safe enough and I’ll be sure to use a salt circle. And my blood, they reminded me that I’d need to use my blood to bring them into the spell.” The Alteans had said he would need whole soul blood, and now that he knew he and Keith were two halves of a whole soul, his blood was whole.

Keith didn’t look convinced. “What aren’t you telling me?” he asked, his voice heavy with suspicion.

Lance blinked, trying not to tense at the sudden strain in the air between them. “I wasn’t in there that long, was I?” He had no idea how much time may have passed.

“A few minutes,” Keith answered, trailing his fingers lightly up Lance’s arm and studying the goose flesh that rose in his wake. “Your witch shimmer was almost blindingly bright while you spoke to them, and now it’s gone dull. I can feel you backing away. You’re upset and withdrawing from me. Why?”

Lance realized Keith was right. He was backing away like a coward because Keith could possibly hurt him. Yet Keith was doing all he could to help with the spell. He hadn’t even freaked out over the red lion’s wings and had used them to comfort him. Lance was angry with himself. And he was tired of being afraid. He reached out with his hands and his powers, gently pushing a wide-eyed Keith back to lie on the bed and moving to straddle him, positioning himself and sinking down to take him deep inside. Rolling his hips, Lance put his heart and body into loving Keith, riding him and watching as Keith fell apart from pleasure under him. What he couldn’t tell him with words, he told him with his soul.

Keith sat at his desk in his condo. He took a sip of coffee and put his mug on the coaster. Turning his attention to where Shiro leaned against the wall, he asked, “Was there any trouble at Adam’s?”

“No. It was quiet on my end,” Shiro responded.

“I don’t like it,” Pidge stated flatly. “It’s too quiet, if you ask me. Sendak should be looking for his wife. She’s knocked up with his kid, and he didn’t kill her when he could have. So…what the hell is he doing?”

“Being patient and waiting to see if the kid ends up being a hunter. It’s a good strategy,” Matt said as he popped open a soda.

Shiro looked at Keith again. “Have you tried calling Richard anymore?”

Keith nodded. It was surreal, thinking of the possibility that his dad could actually be dead, even though God knew he had wanted to kill him himself more than once. When he’d been a kid, Richard had been okay. He wasn’t around a lot, but when he had been, he had treated Keith decently. But from the time Richard had decided it was time for Keith to go Galra, he had become a menace that he’d had to fight against constantly. And when Richard had realized his son preferred men over women, he became even more hateful and spiteful.

So now Keith was left to wonder. Was Richard really gone? Or was this another one of his games?

“And where is Lotor Daibazaal?” mused Keith, turning his thoughts to other matters. “He can’t let the other Galras find out his son is a witch. He has built his whole rep on being a witch hater and has convinced them that they have to kill all witches to break the curse. And seeing as Asmodeus ordered him to kill Lance regardless, I have to wonder; where the hell is he?”

Pidge looked serious. “You think he’ll make a move tonight against Lance while he does the spell?”

“It’s a possibility,” Keith said with a frown.

Matt tried to soothe Keith’s worry. “We have it covered. Lance should be safe enough. The shore is a deserted stretch and there’s excellent look out points for Pidge, Shiro and me. We’ll be able to keep an eye on things but be far enough away that the witchcraft won’t bother us. Hunk will be there near Lance, and so will you. And we have more hunters for back up.”

Keith nodded. They had been over the plan several times, but he still felt anxious. “Lance says he’ll use a circle of consecrated salt, and the Circle witches will add their powers for protection. He says that should help keep him safe from Asmodeus. And now, moving on to other issues, what do we have on demon witches?”

“Only one fits,” Shiro replied. “Haggar has a daughter about our age named Honerva who disappeared the same night Acxa was cursed.”

“Okay. Pidge, I need you to find her. Don’t get too close, I just need to know where she is,” Keith said.

Pidge nodded. “Do you think Lance’s spell will work?”

Keith certainly hoped so. “He says it will. He reached his Alteans and they are going to help. He’ll bring them into the magic with his blood.”

“Then what is it that’s got you worried?” asked Matt.

Keith breathed out in a quiet huff. “There’s something he isn’t telling me. But either way, I have to have a backup plan. If for some reason the spell doesn’t work tonight, I’ll be going after the demon witch Haggar.” He looked around the room at each of them. “If this happens and I go Galra, you all made a vow. I expect you to keep it. Understood?”

“Understood,” Shiro said as the other two nodded solemnly.

Keith leaned back in his chair. His red lion tattoo warmed, but nothing else. Lance had reached his Alteans, but Keith had fallen short. There had still been no appearance by The Blade.

Shiro pulled out a small device and pressed a few buttons. “Pidge, I’m sending all the info I have on Haggar to your phone.”

Pidge nodded and tossed her empty soda can in the trash as she strode toward the door. “I’m leaving now. Expect me back in a few hours.”

“Matt, go check out my dad’s place. See if you can get close and what you can find out.”

Matt grinned. “Can we kill Galras?”

The red lion warmed again. “You find a Galra, you kill him.”

Matt grinned widely. “Now we’re talking.” He skipped to the door, where Pidge was waiting on her brother.

Keith turned to study Shiro. “You hanging in there?” he asked after the siblings had left.

Shiro’s dark eyes regarded him solemnly. “I have it under control.”

Keith could feel the turmoil in his friend. Shiro was closer and closer to the edge. “You need a few hours to get some release. Go find you a man or two to take off the pressure. I’m sorry for having you guard Adam last night.”

Shiro wiped a hand over his face and started toward the door. Then he stopped and looked at Keith. “Last night I couldn’t get him out of my mind. Adam, I mean. All I could see in my head was his picture as I walked around the outside of the house, and I could smell him. He smells like dark roasted coffee and peppermint. And even after I left I could still smell him. God, I almost feel him on my skin.”

Keith straightened up in his chair. “Jesus Christ, Shiro, why didn’t you leave?” he asked the man.

Shiro’s eyes narrowed. “Because I might not be able to have him, but there is no way in hell I’ll let a fucking Galra have him.” And with that, he was gone.

Keith stared at the empty doorway where his best friend had just been standing. He hoped against hope that he wouldn’t be forced to follow through on his vow.

But if Shiro went Galra, Keith would kill him.

Chapter Text

Everything was ready. Lance had all the things he would need to perform elemental magic placed around in strategic points. He took a deep breath, smelling the scent of water and letting it calm him. He had to be calm and in control. He had to heal Acxa.

Adam walked up to him. His close-fitting white dress shirt was a stark contrast to his loose black dress pants. With the moon just beginning to rise, he looked both sexy and ethereal, all at once, just as a witch should. Lance didn’t have many changes of clothing with him, but Adam had brought him a white shirt and pants, both made of soft, loose fitting linen. He wore the shirt open and unbuttoned, and his feet were bare. He wore no underwear. Spell work involved drawing power through his chakras, and tight clothing could tangle up the flow, so soft, flowing materials worked best. Many witches did spell work nude. Lance knew that once he was into the spell casting, he wouldn’t care, but for the before and after, he wasn’t about to stand on the lakeshore naked in front of Hunk and Adam, much less Keith’s mother and sister.

“Five minutes until the moon rises,” Adam said softly.

Lance swallowed and nodded. Adam was there to channel the energy of the Circle witches to support the spell, but he was also there as his friend. They walked together to Acxa. Keith had her wrapped in a blanket, cradled in his arms. She was too weak to lift her head. Keith rubbed her back as she coughed, the sound harsh and painful in the quiet night.

Lance looked at them both in the rising moonlight. Whatever happened, healing Acxa was what was important. Once Lance told him about the soul mirror phenomenon, Keith might turn him away, but he would still have his sister’s life. He could hate Lance, but at least Lance would have insured that Keith would keep his soul and be around to protect his family and lead the Paladins.

Keith glanced up at Lance, his eyes sharp. “What’s wrong?” the hunter asked.

Lance realized he was unconsciously projecting to Keith. Their bond kept strengthening. “It’s nothing. I’m focusing. I guess I was thinking about how much I want this to work.” He gently pushed a stray strand of hair off Acxa’s flush face.

“It’s going to work,” Keith stated.

Lance nodded. “I hope. You okay?”

Keith’s brow furrowed. “Why wouldn’t I be?” the man asked.

“Well, Adam is a witch. I wondered if you were feeling any bloodlust,” Lance said with a small shrug.

Keith shook his head. “No. I feel him, I can smell him, but it’s a small buzzing. But you.” Keith’s violet gaze swept down Lance’s form and his voice dropped to a low purr. “Your scent is tormenting me. No underwear, I see.”

Lance couldn’t help his body’s instant reaction. “No.”

Keith closed his eyes, throat working as he swallowed heavily. His cheekbones darkened with a deep blush.

Lance remembered their previous times together when calling his mother’s magic to his necklace, and then when opening his sixth chakra to reach the Alteans. “Keith, I need your help. But we have to stay in control. Your men are watching, far enough away that Adam doesn’t incite their bloodlust, but they say they can see everything.”

“Yes, they can,” Keith said as he touched Lance’s face lightly and calmed the energy whirling inside him.

Lance leaned into Keith’s touch, needing the focus he gave him. “Hunk and Shay are here, as well as your mom, Acxa and Adam.”

Keith laughed quietly and grinned. “Lance, I promise you, I’m here to protect you and Acxa, not ravish you. Do what you need to do and let me worry about the rest. And Lance,” he said, waiting for Lance to look into his eyes, “don’t fight it, okay? You’re a witch and that makes you a sensual person. Don’t fight the sexual feelings when you open your chakras. Let them have you. I’ll be right here with you. There isn’t anything wrong or evil about it. It’s part of your power, part of who you are. And when you’re done, I’ll be here to help calm your urges.”

Lance caught his breath. Keith knew him so well. For so many years he had longed for acceptance, and he had found it with a witch hunter. Unable to resist, he leaned in and brushed his lips against Keith’s, a mere whisper of touch. In return, he felt Keith’s wings brush his skin. His actual wings were resting in his tattoo, but Lance could always feel them through their mind link.

“It’s time,” Adam said.

Lance nodded and turned to Adam, taking both of his hands in his. “Thank you. You are more than my friend, Adam. You are my brother. We are bound as witches.”

“Yes,” agreed Adam, kissing Lance on each cheek before taking his place beside him. “And you are my brother.”

Keith carried Acxa over to a blanket where Krolia knelt, waiting for them. He settled her so that she leaned back against their mother.

“Is Lance going to make me better now?” Acxa asked weakly.

“Yes, space cadet,” Keith answered her as he rose to his feet. He stripped off his shirt and laid it on the ground next to the blanket. His tattoo gleamed in the moonlight, the rich colors looking vivid and real. Lance needed his red lion as close to him as possible.

“Are you ready, witch?” he asked as he approached Lance.

Lance nodded. The moonlight caressed his skin and he felt warm and full of power. His first four chakras were already open and energy was stirring and surging inside him. It was time to take control. Adam opened a container of salt that had been blessed and consecrated. Lance raised his arms to form a circle and breathed deeply of the night air.

“Pure in whiteness, born of the earth, blessed by the sea, feared by darkness, embraced by light. Salt rise and circle your protection.”

A sudden wave rose from the lake and slammed into the shore as the wind picked up. The salt rose into the air from the container and formed a circle, following the path set in Lance’s mind. It settled to the earth in a perfect circle around him and the small group.

Lance released his breath and quietly thanked the Alteans for their help in setting a protective circle to keep demons out. His senses sharpened and he could hear Acxa’s harsh breathing and Krolia’s whispered prayer. He could hear Adam chanting softly to establish his connection to the Circle. And he was aware of Keith standing behind him. They weren’t touching, but Lance was aware of every beat of Keith’s heart. He blocked out everything but Keith. The feel of his body, the smell of his skin, the cadence of his breathing as it synced with his own. He knew Keith would know when he needed him.

It was time for Lance to focus his first four chakras and connect to the ley lines. He faced toward the north. “Earth,” he commanded. Sand from the shore swirled up in a small vortex and poured into a green crockery dish inside the salt circle.

Lance turned to the east, arms wide and spirit open. “Air.” Wind swirled around him, lifting the open edges of his shirt and caressing his skin before rushing to fill the yellow balloon tied to a golden weight.

He turned to the west. “Water.” A wall of water rose from the lake, higher and higher until it blocked the moonlight. Acxa started crying softly, but Lance ignored her. He let the power of the water reach into him. His skin grew damp, his hair wet. His body was fluid as though he were one with the water. The wall of water receded back into the lake, letting the moon shine on the blue goblet that was now filled.

Finally, Lance faced the south. “Fire.” With a hiss and crackle, the red candle flared to life in its holder.

All four elements flowed to Lance. He could hear his pulse beating in his ears, growing more rapid with rising energy. His hair stood on end and he felt himself growing hard. He closed his eyes, raised his arms and opened his fifth chakra. He would draw the power of the moon down to meet the ley lines that now rose up in him. He arched back, letting as much moonlight touch him as possible.

“As ancient as time, commander of the sea, let the moon fill me with light and guide me,” Lance chanted softly. He could feel light pouring into him, creating a pull that filled his senses. It grew harder to breathe and he ached as his skin seemed to stretch as though it were too small for him. He felt a tingle in his feet. The earth was sharing more of its power and the energy thrummed through him as it rushed upward.

Lance knew he was fully hard now and his balls throbbed with an aching need. But he didn’t let himself think about that. He accepted as much as the earth and moon were willing to give him, remembering what Keith had said about the sensual nature of being a witch. As he started getting dizzy with all the pulsating power rushing through him, Lance felt Keith’s hands settle on his waist. They helped steady him and he turned his mind inward to gather all that power and funnel it through his chakras. A low pressure began to build in his forehead, and Lance closed his eyes and began to push, building more and more pressure in that spot until it felt as though his forehead was bulging. He gave himself to it all; the earth, the moon, and the power of the Alteans. Lance felt his sixth chakra fly open and his powers began moving up and down his spine. Only Keith’s hands on him kept him upright. Concentrating hard, Lance slowly opened his eyes. But it was his third eye that saw now.

Everything was bright but blurry as though he was seeing through an aura of light. He wasn’t able to see anything outside of the circle. His entire existence was right there within it. He walked over to Acxa and knelt down next to her. Keith moved with him, kneeling behind him so that his thighs cradled him. Lance could feel the warmth of his hands still on his waist and the heat of his erection pressing against him. All of it fed him more strength. He didn’t fully understand it, but he accepted it all.

Krolia reached down and pushed Acxa’s bangs back away from her forehead. The mark of the death curse stood out in all the beautiful brightness of the light like an angry black hole. It was lightless, a dark and evil smudge.

Lance reached into his waistband and drew out the small silver knife Adam had given him earlier. He pulled it out of its protective sheath with an audible swish. Raising his hand, he pricked his thumb, causing blood to well up rich and red.

“I beg the ancient souls for their healing and knowledge. I give you the blood of generations of witches. Enrich it to draw out darkness and heal this innocent child, Acxa Kogane.” He pressed his thumb to the death mark.

Keith wrapped one arm around Lance’s waist and took one of Acxa’s hands with the other. Lance felt a jolt as his powers focused and channeled through his thumb and into Acxa. He raised his voice in a strong chant. “Alteans, I beg of you, heal this child. Mother Earth, I beg of you, heal this child. Moonlight, I beg of you, heal this child. Fellow witches, I beg of you, heal this child.”

Flashes of light appeared and moved around the circle. Lance silently thanked the Alteans for their presence. The wind built up and blew around them, swirling the sand and raising waves in the quiet surface of the lake. Flames crackled and popped. Lance raised his voice louder, sending all his healing energy down through his thumb.

Darkness began to form at the tip of his thumb, moving up past the first joint and slithering up his wrist. Pain slammed into him, trying to close his chakras. It felt as though his blood was heating up and burning him from the inside. Agony wormed its way up his hand and arm to crowd in his chest.

Lance forced himself to breathe as he held his chakras open to stay connected to the earth, moon, and his Alteans. “I accept this pain and sickness,” he repeated over and over. He knew his witch energy would break it down and expel it out again. He just had to endure for now.

“It’s working, Lance!” cried Krolia, her voice thick with hope and relief. “The spot is getting smaller!”

Lance heard her, but all he could concentrate on was the sticky darkness filling his lungs and making it harder for him to breathe.

“Whole blood, Lance! You need blood of a whole soul to complete the spell!”

Lance could hear the Alteans, but it didn’t make sense. He was using blood. But suddenly everything began to weaken and dwindle.

And then, it just stopped.

The candle in the south went out.

The water in the west dried up.

The yellow balloon deflated and fell to the ground.

The sand in the green crockery dish disappeared.

The light of the ancient souls faded away.

And Lance felt exhaustive fatigue weigh him down as his third eye slammed shut, followed by all his chakras. The connection snapped off and he struggled to open it again. “No, no! Not yet! I almost had it!”

Acxa wrinkled her forehead under his thumb. “Am I better now?”

Lance didn’t know. The forces channeling the healing energy inside him were gone. The dark lines working up his hand and arm faded and vanished. It took almost all the energy he had to move his hand away from Acxa’s forehead. A dark smear of blood covered the spot where the death mark was.

Krolia wiped Acxa’s forehead with a baby wipe, her hand shaking.

The spot was still there. It was smaller and lighter than it had been. But it was still there.

Lance slumped in defeat. He felt Keith grow rigid behind him. Felt the anger and frustration building. Felt his suspicion break through. Keith jerked his hands away from him and jumped to his feet.

Adam knelt down next to Lance and looked closely at Acxa. “You pushed back the curse.”

“It wasn’t enough,” whispered Lance dully. “I failed. Something went wrong. I couldn’t sustain the forces. The Alteans kept saying blood, but I was using blood!”

“We’ll figure something out,” Adam said, his voice edged with despair.

“No,” Keith bit out harshly.

Lance struggled to get to his feet. Hunk rushed to him and crouched down, putting an arm around him and helping him up. “Damn it, Lance, you can barely stand.”

“I’ll be okay, it’ll pass,” Lance said. He shouldn’t be this weak, but he couldn’t worry about it. He took a shaky breath. “Keith, let me try again. I can do this. I’ll figure out what went wrong.”

Keith looked at him. “There isn’t any more time. You did the best you could.”

The doubt lacing Keith’s words told Lance he didn’t believe that. But the disconnection was what scared Lance the most. He knew what that meant. Keith was going to go after the demon witch. He could lose his soul, and Lance could lose him. But no. It wasn’t about him at all. Acxa and Krolia would lose Keith, his family would lose him. They all needed him.

“I’ll do better! I promise! Listen to me. Keith, there’s something I have to tell you,” Lance said desperately. Maybe if Keith knew of their soul mirror connection it would help. Or would it hurt? What had gone so wrong with the spell? And why did he feel so weak?

Keith wouldn’t even look at him. “Go back to the condo with mom and Acxa. One of the them will protect you.” He turned and strode away, moving at hunter speed.

Lance couldn’t believe it. He ran after Keith, but there was no way he could catch him, especially not in his weakened state. “No! Keith! Come back!” he yelled in a panic.

Keith materialized so quickly in front of him that he ran right into him, stumbling back and falling on his ass.

Keith towered over him, his eyes cold and blazing with fury. His wings were spread out behind him. The moonlight washed over him, showing the powerful muscles in his chest and arms, the width of his shoulders and the full span of the incredible wings behind him. His hands clenched and unclenched into fists and his wings moved with his palpable anger.

“What did you just do?” he spit out furiously.

Lance struggled to his feet. “I...I don’t know! I called out for you to come back.” Icy fear dripped down his spine. He was afraid that he had screwed up majorly this time.

“You need to start talking, witch. You called and my wings sprang out. I felt the need, a compulsion, to return to you.” Keith’s eyes hardened and his voice dropped to a deep growl. “What have you done to me?

His suspicion was like well-aimed daggers into Lance’s heart. He floundered for the right words to say. “I didn’t know, Keith, please believe me. I swear I didn’t know!” He desperately wanted Keith to believe him. To believe in him, like he had tonight before he had failed to remove the curse.

Keith crossed his arms angrily, obviously impatient. “What. Have. You. Done. To. Me!”

Lance hadn’t wanted it to be this way, he had hoped Keith would be relieved and happy after he’d healed Acxa. But he had failed, and now he owed Keith the truth. He couldn’t delay it anymore.

“We’re soul mirrors. When the curse happened, all witch and hunter souls were halved and then combined again, but each one only got one half of their soul and the half of another. It’s all complicated, but basically for years we’ve been trying to fulfill the curse. Hunters craving sex and blood, witches searching for a familiar to do powerful magic,” Lance explained dully.

Keith’s eyes blazed with molten fire. “You turned me into a familiar!?”

No!” Lance cried, trying to make him understand. “You aren’t a familiar. We’re soul mirrors, half of the same soul! It’s not the same! Keith, we’re soulmates!”

Time stood still as they stared at each other. The only sound was that of the water lapping at the shore. Everyone around them stayed back, watching the scene unfold.

Finally, Keith spoke first. “Then I’m not bound to you?”

Lance flinched, but he had to convince him. “No! You can reject me, Keith. The choice is yours. You’ll never feel the bloodlust again. But we don’t know about your soul if you do this! You can’t go after that demon witch!” Tears slipped unchecked down his cheeks.

Keith’s eyes glittered with rage and his entire face was red. “This was your plan all along, wasn’t it?” he thundered. “Keep my sister sick so that I needed you? So I would keep you around until I accepted my role as your pet, your familiar? Everyone was right. Fuck, even my bastard father was right about you.”

Lance grabbed his arm, unable to bear the huge distance opening between them. He flinched when he felt Keith’s muscles flex and steadied his feet in case Keith threw him off. “It was never a plan! God, Keith, you came to me! I never planned any of this. I wasn’t even sure about being soul mirrors until last night!” He was unable to stop his words as his heart poured out of him. “I love you, Keith! Please, you have to believe me! I would never do anything to hurt you!”

Keith’s face was cold and impassive, his eyes dark and heartless. “Go with my mom. Keep my sister alive until I kill the demon witch. When this is over, when Acxa’s better and if I’m not a Galra, I’ll find you a safe place. Somewhere far away from me and my family.”

He ripped his arm out of Lance’s grasp and turned away. With a few steps, he jumped into the air, releasing his powerful wings and flying away.

Lance wanted to drop to his knees and let the pain of Keith’s rejection take him over. But he couldn’t. He had things he still had to do. At least he had accomplished one thing. He had told Keith he loved him. Keith might not believe it now, but he at least he had heard it from Lance. Maybe one day he would believe it. Maybe he would be able to remember him without hatred, maybe even with a little fondness.

Hunk’s hand settled on his shoulder. “I’ll kill him for that,” he said in a low, deadly voice.

Lance fought off lingering fatigue as he turned to his brother. “No, you won’t. You won’t touch him. Keith didn’t deserve this. He’s right, I bound him to me. I didn’t mean to, but that doesn’t change anything. I turned him into my puppet. You’ll leave him alone. He never would have chosen me of his own free will.”

“Don’t you dare lie to me, Lance McClain. That man never was and never will be anyone’s puppet. He chose you, alright, and when things got tough and his pride took a hit, he lashed out and then turned his back. He doesn’t fucking deserve you,” snarled Hunk.

Lance managed a weak smile. “Thanks, Hunk. You’re always there for me. I can’t think of the words to tell you what you mean to me in my life. I’m so lucky to have you.”

Hunk narrowed his eyes and tightened his hand on Lance’s shoulder. “You are coming with me and Shay back to Adam’s.”

Lance shook his head. “I can’t do that, Hunk. I have to stay with Acxa. I won’t let the death curse have her and I may need to remove parts of it, depending on how long it takes Keith to find the demon witch. I’ll be safe enough. The Paladin Hunters will keep me safe for her sake, if nothing else.”

Hunk’s frown grew darker and his jaw tightened. “Please, Hunk,” Lance said softly. “I’ll be fine. I have to do this. But I need you to get Adam out of here. There are too many hunters around and everyone’s worked up right now. We can’t let anything happen to him.”

“I don’t want to leave you,” Hunk said flatly.

“I know. But you need to keep Adam and Shay safe.” Lance raised his hand to his shoulder to squeeze Hunk’s hand. “Shay’s making you happy. For that alone, I love her just as much as I love my brothers.”

Hunk’s eyes brightened in the moonlight in a way Lance hadn’t seen in a long time. “She makes me care, Lance. She makes me want to fight to make the world a better place for her and her baby. I haven’t felt like that since leaving all those years ago.”

“And you deserve happiness, Hunk. You always have.” Lance looked around into the night, feeling a sense of urgency to get everyone out of there and away from the impending danger. “Now hurry. Get Adam and Shay away from here.”

Hunk studied him thoughtfully for a moment. “You will go with the Paladins, right?”

“Yes,” Lance lied. There was too much at stake to feel guilt about deceiving his best friend. He watched as Hunk walked away with his arms around Shay and Adam.

“We need to get Acxa to the condo,” Krolia said, her voice lifeless and troubled. Acxa was asleep in her arms.

Lance turned to face her. “Yes, you need to go. Hurry and get her out of here. I’m not going.”

Krolia put a gentle hand on Lance’s arm. “Lance, I know you didn’t turn Keith into a familiar. I am not about to leave you out here. Whether you believe it or not, you’ve become important to me.”

Lance felt his heart swell with love for Krolia for that. But he shook his head. “Yes, you will leave me here because I asked you to. I’m going to make sure Keith keeps his soul. The demon witch will come after me. I’ll kill her myself. I will do whatever in my power to ensure Keith can be with his family.”

“But you can’t,” Krolia argued. “You’re an elemental witch. Causing harm-”

“That’s not exactly true,” Lance stopped her. “The cost of doing harm is witch karma, but I can do it. And I will, even if it costs me my life. Maybe having a witch hunter for a father will help. But you have to get Acxa out of here. Take Shiro, Matt and Pidge with you, tell them what you must to make sure they don’t follow me. I don’t want any of them losing their souls in this fight. I made the choice to do the spell for Acxa. I’ll deal with the demon witch.”

Krolia was pale, her eyes troubled and unsure. “But Keith said...” She was a mother who loved her children, but she was a good person and she didn’t like leaving Lance in this situation, no matter what.

Lance interrupted her, pushing a charm into his voice. “You need to get Acxa home, Krolia. Hurry. Take the Paladins and go.”

Krolia blinked slowly then nodded. She turned and walked away. Finally, Lance was alone.

Chapter Text

Keith flew through the night sky, shielding himself so no one could see him. From the information Pidge and Matt had acquired, he knew that the demon witch’s name was Haggar. She had walked in on Richard slaughtering her daughter, Honerva. Furious, she had cast the death curse, but since hunters were immune, it bypassed Richard and Keith to settle on Acxa.

Matt had found Haggar’s home, but she hadn’t been there. He followed his instincts to the abandoned house where Honerva had been killed. It was empty, but the bloodstains remained. They were surrounded by black candles that had been burned. The room was heavy with the stench of death and demons. Some sort of demon witch ceremony had been held there using the blood of the murdered witch. Keith knew it had been for the curse that was placed on Acxa.

Keith was sure he would find Haggar there. It was what he should have done in the first place. He should have hunted down the demon witch instead of trusting Lance. But even now, he didn’t want to believe that Lance had lied to him, had used a child – his sister at that – to manipulate him. Lance had turned him into nothing more than a flying monkey, and he had let him. But since he had these wings, he would use them to help him kill the demon witch.

Keith didn’t care if he survived or not. Nothing mattered anymore. Everything…it’s all been one lie after another. He had wanted to believe his wings were a gift from The Blade. He had truly believed that The Blade cared and was trying to reach his hunters once again. That he and the hunters he cared about as extended members of his family meant something to their god, and that their daily efforts, their struggle to resist the curse and turn back to the ways of The Blade meant something.

It all meant nothing.

Maybe the witches had killed off The Blade. Maybe all they needed was a hunter stupid enough to believe the wings themselves were a gift to let his guard down so their fellow witch could worm their way into his bed.

Keith spied the ramshackle old house set back in the corner of a barren lot on an empty street. He maneuvered his wings to land, sniffing the air as his feet hit the ground. He smelled death. Old blood and decay with a hint of sulfur. But there was no sign of life. The house was empty.

Keith decided to investigate to make absolutely sure. He walked carefully up the broken sidewalk lined with trash and overgrown shrubbery toward the front entrance. The door hung open with the hinges broken. Keith’s mind flashed back to the night he had rescued Lance from Galra hunters. They had been trying to force him through a door just like that.

His red lion whimpered piteously, the sound full of suffering. It was a sound of such grief and pain it nearly brought Keith to his knees in agony. He fisted both hands in his hair and closed his eyes.

Shut up,” he snarled. “He doesn’t love us.” Keith laughed, the sound bitter and mirthless. “What the fuck am I saying? There’s no us. The red lion is his creature. He turned me into a fucking animal. And he’s still lying, trying to keep me bound to him by turning me into his familiar. I will not be toyed with.”

The memory of Lance’s face when he’d said he loved him rose unbidden in Keith’s mind. He had looked so desperate and pleading. Keith had wanted to believe him, so much. But he couldn’t.

Logic told him Lance had known all along what he was doing to him. He had known when he couldn’t transfer his mother’s spells by himself. I’ve tried, but I just can’t do it by myself, he had said. Lance knew he couldn’t do it without Keith. And Keith had gotten so damned horny he hadn’t thought it out. He was just as stupid as Lotor Daibazaal.

Lance had to have known, had to have known what he was doing the night he called his familiar. There was no way he couldn’t have known. Keith had been so compelled to go to him. How was it even possible for Lance to wield that kind of power and not know? No. Lance didn’t love him. He loved using him to control his tremendous power.

Keith Kogane is no one’s familiar, damn it. He grits his teeth as his red lion fretted and moaned inside his head. Determined to ignore the stupid creature, Keith angrily kicked the busted door, slamming it back into the wall just to hear the satisfying crack of splintering wood. It was dark inside, but his enhanced vision had no trouble showing him his surroundings. On the floor of the front room, his eyes were drawn to the main puddle of dried blood. Dried wax from the melted black candles stuck to the old scarred wooden floor. There was no sound, no movement.

Keith stared at the abandoned ceremonial circle of candles, his anger and hurt over Lance’s betrayal crashing into a wave of worry. Where was the demon witch?

Lance. Even now, Keith couldn’t stop the fierce protectiveness he felt for him. But he was safe, he was with the Paladins. Keith would track Haggar to the very gates of hell if he had to in order to make sure she died tonight.

Something shifted in the atmosphere.

Keith’s senses went on full alert. Even his red lion stilled and quit its miserable keening. Keith whirled, whipping out his knife…and his jaw dropped open. Standing there was a huge man with bronzed skin and huge wings of white similar to his. He had to have been easily over seven feet tall. His hair matched the color of his wings, braided down his back. Huge bronze bands embossed with wings were wrapped around his wrists and encircled his upper arms. He wore a toga of black leather that wrapped around his hips and over his left shoulder.

The Blade had finally made an appearance.

“Haggar isn’t here,” the god said, his voice a deep vibrato.

Keith stared at him, each word hitting him deep in his chest. The hunters weren’t alone; their god lived. Keith fell to his knees and bowed his head. “Blade,” he whispered reverently.

“I chose you as my red lion, Keith Kogane. And until tonight, you have been a valiant red lion, refusing to let the curse destroy you or your hunters and living in my ways.”

“Until tonight?” Keith raised his head, feeling confused. “Because I’m going to slay the demon witch?”

“No. That is exactly what you should do. You bonded with that beautiful witch, binding your damaged souls into a whole. And your decision to slay the demon witch tonight was the final step that made it possible for me to appear to you.”

Keith tried to understand. “That’s what you wanted?”

The Blade shook his head. “No. It’s what I needed. The single rule hunters must abide by is to never deny me and always do right in my name. That’s what invokes my god powers. You had to have faith enough in me to kill the demon witch despite the personal cost to you.”

Keith was sure he was missing something. “You’ve appeared now. What is it I need to do?”

“Asmodeus and his demon witches cast the curse in order to separate my hunters from me, and the witches from their Alteans. That got them out of his way. He depends on being able to create misery on earth in order to feed him power in the Underworld. Otherwise, he can be enslaved by other demons,” explained The Blade.

Keith felt his chest grow tight. “What do I do?”

“There is a loophole to the curse. Soul mirrors,” said The Blade, anger starting to build in his voice.

Keith’s head began to spin as he remembered Lance desperately trying to tell him they were soul mirrors. He jumped to his feet as a strong sense of foreboding settled in his chest to squeeze at his heart. “Then soul mirrors really do exist? But the red lion…the wings...I thought-”

Enough!” thundered The Blade, rage trembling in his voice. “You earned those wings to protect a very special witch, Keith. The wings weren’t my gift to you, Lance was. And you rejected him. Yet he still loves you…loves you enough to do your work for you!”

What did The Blade mean, my work? No! Not the demon witch! Keith tried to speak, but his entire body was frozen. He stood helpless in the face of The Blade’s fury as the weight of what he had done slammed into him in full force. Lance had told him the truth. Lance loved him. And he had walked away from him. Rejected him.

“You wanted to be free of the curse, Keith. Here is the price Lance will pay to free you.”

The Blade stepped aside to reveal a decaying wall. Light began to shimmer in the center of it and it spread and opened, revealing the lake shore where he had left Lance.

Lance was on his knees, blood pouring from his side. Keith realized it was witch karma. Lance had tried to cut the demon witch and it had come back on him three times worse. The demon witch walked around him, taunting him by changing her glamour into the people Lance loved.

Keith could feel Lance’s pain, the physical and emotional pain he was in. He could feel the pureness and strength of Lance’s love for him flowing through him, even though his heart was shattered.

Broken by what I said…what I did.

Keith tried to look away. He had to beg The Blade to help Lance. The demon witch was going to kill him! But he was held frozen, forced to watch as Lance struggled to his feet. A familiar look of fierce determination chased away the pain on his face.

Oh, God. No. Lance, my witch, don’t!

Keith heard Lance’s voice inside his head. Alteans, I beg of you. All I ask is that you be willing to let Keith live. Let him have my soul. Make him whole. I will take his place as a celestial.

No! Keith’s mind screamed as he tried with every fiber of his being to stop Lance from doing what he was about to do. But Lance raised his arms against the pain of his injuries and let his powers unfurl in the night. A ball of light formed at the center of his chest. It grew brighter and brighter, and then exploded outward. Flames erupted everywhere.

No!” Keith’s yell fought past the paralysis. Regret and grief slammed into him in harsh waves, driving him to his knees and breaking something inside of him. His red lion roared and thrashed, desperately trying to get free and get to Lance. “Please, stop this! Take my soul, not his!”

The wings burst from his back, and with a powerful surge, lifted Keith up and through the rotted roof of the abandoned house. He flew at an impossible speed. He prayed to The Blade that he still had time to get to Lance and save him. He had to. Keith knew he had fucked up big time and it was going to cost him his soul. But if he saved Lance, it was worth it.

Because Lance was worth any price.

The moon slid behind the clouds, turning the night even more dark and foreboding. The lake lapped at the shore listlessly and the sand was cold beneath Lance’s bare feet. A cold wind blew, raising goosebumps on his skin.

He felt a weird sense of fatalistic déjà vu. Maybe this was how Allura had felt, knowing her death was coming.

“Lance. I’ve missed you, hijo.”

That voice. Lance whirled around to look behind him.

The clouds parted to reveal his father standing there. Not Lotor, but Matías, who he had buried only recently. His face was bright and full of life as it had always been when Lance needed his father.

Papi?” The word was torn from Lance. Tears burned his eyes. He missed Matías so much. But the voices surged in his head, the buzzing taking on a frantic tone of warning. His powers spun crazily and out of focus. Now that Keith had rejected him, Lance couldn’t get control of his high magic.

Matías held out his hands to Lance. “I came back for you, hijo. Vamos a casa.”

The words turned the frantic buzzing in his head painful. But Lance didn’t need to hear the actual words of the Alteans. His heart told him the truth. He was still alone. “You’re not my father.” The outfit Matías wore was the same he had been wearing in the picture Lance had chosen for his obituary. “You’re the demon witch…trying to play a trick on me.”

The creature that looked like Matías laughed low in the back of its throat. It held out a hand, palm up, and grunted a command in an unfamiliar tongue.

Lance jumped back as something slammed into him. With brutal suddenness, his air supply was cut off. The demon witch was strangling him! He clutched at his throat, fighting to take a breath.

The golden lion’s head at his throat warmed against his skin, reminding him that he controlled the elements. Lance tore his hands away from his throat and flung open his first four chakras. He was abruptly able to breathe as though he had resurfaced from being underwater.

A feminine laugh trilled in the night. “Slow reflexes. That’s what got me killed.” The clouds parted and the moon shone on the woman standing there.

Allura stood before him, her long white hair blowing in the breeze. Moonlight illuminated her blue eyes that were so like Lance’s, and she wore the same torn and bloody clothes she’d had on when Lotor Daibazaal murdered her. Wounds began to open and bleed all over her. Then her belly split open, blood gushing forth and flowing freely. “You did this to me Lance. If it wasn’t for you, I might have been able to escape from Lotor!”

A sharp pain seared Lance’s forehead as his third eye burned with the memory of seeing his mother murdered by his father. Nausea churned through him. “Stop!” he cried. The pain, the hurt and loneliness made him want to reach for Keith. His heart wept and his powers begged. But Lance pulled back. Keith had told him repeatedly that he had to learn to protect himself and keep his powers in his control.

And Keith had made his choice. He had rejected him.

Lance stared at the dying image of Allura. He didn’t want to look away for fear of what the demon witch would do next. He had to end this. If he died and the demon witch lived, Keith would have to kill her and lose his soul.

Lance couldn’t fail. No, I can’t fail again.

The only weapon he had was the small ceremonial knife Adam had given him earlier. Maybe he could use it to shock the witch into her own form. He slid the knife out of his pocket and focused his powers. Suddenly, the knife was magically ripped from his grasp and jammed into his thigh. Sharp, hot pain bloomed and blood welled up around the blade, staining his white pants with a deep crimson splotch. Lance felt dizzy, but he fought against it. He was not going to make this easy. Damn it Lance, fight harder. You’re a McClain. We aren’t quitters, no matter how hard it gets.

Lance grit his teeth and yanked the knife out of his thigh. He concentrated enough to close the wound there, grateful he was able to heal wounds caused by dark magic.

The creature leaped to her feet and melted into the image of Adam, dressed in the same clothes he had on earlier. “Lance, this is important. I need to tell you to-”

But Lance could see that this Adam was missing the golden armband that he was never without. This wasn’t his friend. A deep rage fueled by the need to end this raced through him. He had to stand for what was right. Lance pulled his powers through his chakras and blasted the silver knife straight towards the creature’s heart.

He screamed in fury and the smell of burning flesh rose, tainting the cool night air.

Lance knew gold on the silver blade burned demon witches, so he must have hit her. That was the last thought he had as the skin over his left ribcage burst open. Bone shattered and muscle ripped apart. Lance fell to his knees in agony, panting harshly as he tried to breathe.

And there it is. Witch karma.

Lance cursed under his breath. The witch must not be dead. If he was alive enough to feel this much pain from the triple punishment of witch karma, then the demon witch still lived. His powers sputtered out of his control as the pain cut through his connection to his chakras. And Keith wasn’t there to help him focus.

“Stupid boy,” snarled the demon witch as she drew closer.

Lance had to kill her. He had to make sure she died with him, or Keith would...

Don’t think about him!

Lance fought back the image of Keith, fought against the constant internal need for him. Instead he forced himself to quickly consider his options. Earth? Water? Fire? He supposed he could drown them both, or cause an earthquake to open the ground to bury them.

But fire. Fire destroyed everything.

Lance rose to his knees. He had to reach his powers, and that meant he had to accept the pain and bring it into himself. His broken ribs and torn skin and muscles filled him with red hot agony. He was growing more and more dizzy with the loss of blood. But he accepted it, as he would accept his death. He prayed one final prayer: Alteans, I beg of you. All I ask is that you be willing to let Keith live. Let him have my soul. Make him whole. I will take his place as a celestial.

Without his soul, he would be trapped between worlds, a celestial with nowhere to go. He accepted that, too.

Lance closed his eyes and reached up with a bloody hand to touch his necklace. Instantly, he felt the warm light touch him. Allura…his mother was with him. It was enough to reconnect him to his chakras and reach his powers. He knew he would not have focus and accuracy. Not without Keith. So, he had to bring an inferno of fire, enough to hit the demon witch and consume them both. As he raised his arms to summon the element of fire, he heard the loud roar of a lion.

His red lion.

Lance opened his eyes and snapped his head back as the sense of déjà vu shattered and his own destiny shifted. The clouds parted and moon shone on the massive winged shape coming down toward them from the sky.

Keith! Lance’s entire being reached for him, his heart swelling and the love he felt pushing past the pain. In return, he felt the fierce protectiveness of wings pass over him.

The demon witch screeched a word in the demon tongue and flames burst forward from the very bowels of the earth.

No!” shouted Lance as he summoned the water of the lake, extinguishing the flames before they could touch Keith. His focus and aim were true, and the flames died with a hissing sputter.

Keith landed on his feet in front of Lance. His wings were fully expanded, protecting him and shielding his view. Lance saw the blur of movement as Keith unsheathed his knife. He ducked down to be able to see and nearly gasped as the creature took on the form of Krolia.

“It’s a trick,” Lance whispered in warning.

Keith never hesitated. With lightning quick movement, he stabbed his knife directly into the heart of the image of his own mother. The image shattered as the witch screamed. The glamour faded to reveal a woman with long stringy silver hair, her face contorted with pain as dark smoke poured out of the wound and thick blood welled up around the blade of Keith’s knife.

“No one hurts my witch. No one,” Keith snarled in a thunderous growl.

The smell of burning flesh was sickening, and Lance closed his eyes as a hot sulfuric wind whipped wildly around them. As suddenly as it appeared, it was gone and all was quiet, except for Lance’s labored breathing.

Lance opened his eyes in time to see Keith’s wings fold and fade into his body, once again becoming his tattoo. Truly, it was awesome magic. Lance remained on his knees, pinned there by the incredible pain of his injuries and fighting not to lose consciousness.

Where was the demon witch?

“Gone,” Keith answered Lance’s unspoken question as he turned and dropped to his knees next to him. “When she died, the demon pulled her into the Underworld to claim what was left of her.” He frantically reached for Lance, pulling him into his arms and onto his lap. “Lance! Lance, come on. We don’t have much time. We have to get you healed quickly!”

Lance forced his eyes to stay open past the pain. He could feel his body growing weaker. His breathing was labored and shallow as he looked at Keith, trying to fill his mind and body with him to take those images with him into death.

“I can’t, Keith,” he whispered faintly. “It’s witch karma. I can’t heal it, my hunter.”

Chapter Text

Keith shook his head frantically at Lance’s pained whisper. “No. No! You have to heal Lance!” He took Lance’s hand and placed it gently on the bloody wound.

The slight touch was like burning torture. Lance groaned painfully as his shattered ribs screamed. Darkness closed in on his vision, threatening to take him under.

“Lance, please, look at me,” Keith pleaded urgently. “Come on, sweetheart, you’ve got to do this. Look at me. Breathe with me.”

Just like that, Lance felt his uneven breathing level off. His breathing fell into sync with Keith’s and he felt calmer. He knew his wounds wouldn’t heal but easing his breathing would help him stay conscious and give him a little more precious time with Keith. He couldn’t believe Keith had come back. Had saved him. But Lance was still worried for Keith.

“Please,” Lance begged softly. “They have to let you keep your soul. You are my soul mirror…our souls are bound. When I die, you’ll be whole again.”

“No! Damn it, Lance, no. You’re going to live. You have to!” Keith’s voice broke as he laid his hand over Lance’s.

Lance felt his powers react to Keith as always, even despite his pain. They rushed to his touch, moving around the devastating injuries to reach up through their joined hands and slip to Keith. Lance shuddered once, then relaxed. He was sure his soul was leaving him to join with Keith’s.

NO! Stop. Right now, Lance, pull them back. Heal yourself damn it!” Keith snapped, his eyes reflecting a fiery sheen.

Lance could feel Keith’s pain and tried to reassure him. “It doesn’t work that way. It’s okay, Keith. You’ll be free, I promise. You’ll be whole.” He closed his eyes as cold shivers wracked him, the tremors driving sharp spikes of pain through him as his ribs ground together and torn muscle pulled. He felt Keith pull him closer to him.

The heat of Keith felt good. He smelled so good; his scent of campfire that had drawn Lance in from the start was a comfort as Lance felt life slowly slipping away from him. He held tight to this, wanting to have this to draw on when he passed over as a celestial for eternity. He heard a soft swoosh and felt Keith’s wings fold around him, cradling him with their warmth. He had brought out his wings to warm and comfort him. Just like the wings from his childhood.

Keith stood with Lance cradled close to him, keeping his wings wrapped around him. “It’s going to be okay…everything will be fine. I just have to get you to Adam, that’s all. Get you to Adam and he’ll help us. You just need his help and then you need some rest.”

“Keith,” whispered Lance sadly. He flinched as another tremor took him over.

“I just have to get you to Adam. He’ll make everything okay and then you need some rest, that’s all,” Keith babbled again brokenly, sounding anguished and miserable. “He’ll fix you but we have to go, I don’t know how long we have...” His voice trailed off and he stopped walking as a large shadow fell over them.

Lance opened his eyes and saw a huge man standing there in front of them. He had enormous wings, just like the pictures of angels from his grandfather’s Bible when he was little. Lance wasn’t sure if he was hallucinating or if he was about to be proven wrong in the existence of angels after all.

The man spoke, his voice low and pleasant. “The death curse is broken. Acxa will live.”

Keith bowed his head and breathed deep. “Thank you. And you’ll see Lance safe and well?”

Lance felt new fear for Keith rush through him. “Keith? What is this?”

Keith looked at him, his face gentle and his eyes brightening with unshed tears. “This is goodbye.” He leaned down and pressed his lips softly to Lance’s.

Keith’s mouth was tender, but Lance could feel his emotions, wild and fierce and just Keith. Wave after wave of love, passion and possessiveness washed over him. And under it all, there was sacrifice. His wings stroked their feathers lightly along Lance’s skin as they kissed. Keith lifted his head and tenderly wiped tears off Lance’s cheeks with one thumb. “You are my gift from Him, Lance. I love you, and I will continue to love you for all eternity. Never forget that.”

Lance’s head spun even more with Keith’s words. Keith loves me? Even though I had accidentally bound him to me as a soul mirror? “Then if you love me, why are you saying goodbye?”

“I choose you, Lance. Your life and your soul over mine. You’ll continue to live, and when you die, you’ll go to Oriande with your mother. You can reincarnate if you want, but it’ll be your choice,” Keith said softly.

Lance’s heart was beating frantically, causing his injuries to pulse with fiery agony. Keith was going to die for him and go celestial! “No!” he gasped, struggling weakly in Keith’s arms. He leveled his gaze on the winged man standing before them. “You’re The Blade.”

The man inclined his head in acknowledgement. “I have been called many. You may call me that or Kolivan, my original name before the Alteans named me The Blade.”

Lance looked him over, noting the golden bands with wings embossed on them that encircled his massive arms. It was clear that the god cared about his hunters. Lance had to persuade him. “It isn’t fair to take Keith’s soul. It’s me that should be punished. He didn’t choose me of his own free will. He didn’t offer his soul to me from free will. I bound him to me with magic. And now I give him my soul, my life, freely. I give him everything.”

Keith was struggling to speak, but The Blade had silenced him. Lance looked at Keith and saw the pain and anger on his face, his throat and jaw working against the freeze. “Keith, I love you with all of my soul. I give you both my love and my soul freely. No spells, no magic, no compulsion. You and the Paladins have to work against this curse that’s destroying all of us. You don’t need me anymore. You’re free of the bloodlust and will never worry about losing your soul, just as it was in the past. You are the only one of the hunters that now can.”

The words and emotion behind them drained him. He was dying. He had intended to kill with his powers, and he would pay the price for that. He didn’t know what an eternity in between worlds would be like. But he was fading fast, the darkness closing in on him and taking away the light he loved. Lance figured he would never feel the moon or sun touch him ever again. But it was worth the sacrifice for Keith to live on and be free of the curse. Lance felt his heartbeat slowing as his breathing grew more faint. His eyes fluttered shut.

Keith’s agonized voice tore through the fog starting to surround Lance. “No! Save him! Please, please, I gave you my soul, my life, I’ll do anything, give you anything you want!”

Lance wanted to soothe him, tell him it wasn’t all so bad, but he didn’t have the strength left. And it broke his heart all over again, hearing the pain in Keith’s voice, because he didn’t want Keith to hurt.

“Enough!” The Blade said firmly. “Keith, cut your hand and lay it on Lance’s wound.”

Lance felt Keith drop to his knees, shifting him to lie back in the crook of his arm. He forced his eyes open and saw Keith take out his knife and slice the palm of one hand. Bright red blood welled up from the cut. He gently laid his bleeding hand on Lance’s side. “Take my blood, my witch. Let me give you the strength you need to heal.”

Lance raised his eyes to stare into Keith’s. He felt the stir of his powers in his chest, gaining strength as Keith’s blood mixed with his own. They rushed through him, filling him up and making him arch in Keith’s arms, groaning with the pain.

Keith’s wings wrapped around him, caressing him as energy grew inside him. The pain lessened enough for his powers to reconnect and surge to his control. The shattered bones and torn muscle grew hot as a pure white light covered Keith’s hand. This was what had been missing when he had tried to heal Acxa. He had needed Keith’s blood mixed with his to make the spell work. Whole soul blood, the Alteans had told him. And he hadn’t understood at the time. That’s why the spell failed. That’s why he had been so drained. He had needed the strength of both of their bloods combined.

Yes, that’s it, Lance. You’re healing.” Keith’s voice was hoarse with relief.

Lance’s eyes blazed blue fire. “I’m going to heal, Keith, and then I swear to you I am going to kick your ass. And your Blade’s ass, if I have to. I am not letting you sacrifice your soul for me!”

“Silence!” boomed The Blade, the word echoing into the night. “‘Kick my ass’ huh? What a temper,” he grumbled, sounding amused. “Do you hear that?” he said, looking up, the moonlight causing his face to glow even more. “Your witch has a fighting spirit. He brings hope to us all.”

Lance looked at him with wide eyes. Who was he talking to? The Alteans? He looked at Keith, who grinned widely.

Lance heard his voice clearly inside his head. He likes you.

The Blade sighed and shook his head. “Even now they talk to each other. Absolutely no respect towards their elders!”

Lance couldn’t help smiling. It’s because we are of one soul. Together we are whole and powerful.

The Blade turned back to him, smiling gently. “Yes, you are. Your souls have joined and bonded as soul mirrors. And tonight, you have both proven your selflessness and honor.” He stepped closer, reaching out for the golden lion’s head at Lance’s throat. “Son of a witch hunter and beautiful witch, soul mirror to my red lion. So that your power will have wings. You belong to the Alteans, but you are now my child, too. I will always hear you.”

Lance felt the gold warm and shift at his neck. He didn’t have to look to know that the head now held a pair of wings behind the head. Deep emotion swept over him and he bowed his head in thanks, unable to speak.

The Blade turned to Keith. “Keith, give me your knife.”

Keith bowed his head and handed him his golden handled knife.

Lance shifted anxiously. What was about to happen?

Easy, my love. Whatever He chooses to do, no harm will come to you. But I have taken His wings and pledged my life to The Blade. I must follow whatever he tells me to do.

“Hold out your right hand, Keith Kogane. Palm down and thumb extended,” ordered The Blade.

Keith held out his hand as ordered.

The Blade moved at such a speed that before Lance realized anything had happened, there was a half-moon slice at the base of Keith’s thumb. Even though blood welled up, Keith didn’t flinch or make any sound.

The Blade turned to Lance. “Hold out your left hand, Lance McClain. Palm down and thumb extended.”

Keith wrapped his left arm around Lance’s waist reassuringly.

Lance felt the fear leave him. There in the moonlit night, with the lake behind them rippling from power, the earth solid under them and The Blade god before them, Lance held out his left hand as directed. He never saw The Blade move, but the slice into the flesh of his thumb painlessly appeared. Blood welled up and slowly ran down his hand.

“Put your palms together,” ordered The Blade.

Reverence filled Lance, and he felt the same from Keith. He turned and raised up on his knees to face Keith, who was kneeling there in front of him. They pressed their palms together, their thumbs lining up. The cuts were a perfect match, forming a flawless circle around their thumbs pressed together.

“Call your Alteans to you, dear witch,” The Blade said as he wrapped his hand around their thumbs.

Lance felt power rush swiftly through his chakras. With Keith’s guiding force assisting him, he easily opened his sixth chakra. His third eye showed him the light of the Alteans surrounding them.

“As true soul mirrors, you are now bound as one. May you always reflect the courage, honor and strength to fight the blood curse. May you always protect the innocent and fight for what is right. We give you the gift of time eternal to aid you. It is now your duty to ensure those like you are assisted in their time of need,” The Blade boomed, his voice reverberating through them both. Lightning split the night sky overhead, arcing to the surface of the lake, followed by the explosive boom of thunder. The ground beneath them rumbled and shook, and a wild wind whipped around them.

Lance’s third eye slowly drifted closed as the wind died down and they were alone on the lake shore, hands still pressed together. The Blade and the Alteans were gone. Keith’s knife gleamed in the moonlight on the sand between them. Lance gasped quietly.

“Your knife,” he whispered softly.

Keith reached down with his left hand and picked it up. Wings made of white gold were stamped into the golden hilt. “It matches your necklace.”

They were going to live. And Keith had been given the official position of the Red Lion, Leader of Hunters for all eternuty. Lance felt happiness welling up inside him, but he had to know. “Do you forgive me, Keith? For binding you to me? I honestly didn’t know what was happening at the time, and by the time I realized what was going on, I was too scared to tell you. I was so afraid you would throw me out and go after the demon witch.”

Palms still pressed together, Keith twined his fingers with Lance’s. “You are a part of me, the best part of me. Never be afraid I’ll reject you, ever. I’m never letting you go.”

Lance felt the truth of Keith’s words, but he still wanted Keith to understand that he hadn’t known what would happen. “But when I called for a familiar...”

“I answered you. I came to you. Not because of compulsion, but because I felt your call and I answered. Deep down even then, I knew I belonged to you. Familiar, soul mirror, call it whatever you want. None of it matters. No matter what, I belong to you,” Keith said quietly as he gave Lance’s hand a squeeze.

“I saw your wings that night in your bed, Keith. They spread out just as you came. God, I had never seen anything more powerful or beautiful in my life. I wasn’t sure that I hadn’t just imagined them,” Lance whispered.

Keith smiled brilliantly, easing some of Lance’s nerves. He brought their joined hands to his mouth and pressed a kiss against Lance’s hand. “I didn’t feel them. But when we’re together, when I’m inside you, I lose control and things around me become unnoticeable. There’s no feeling like it anywhere.”

They looked at their hands. The blood from the cuts was gone and each of them had a perfect circle around the base of their thumbs. Keith’s breath hitched. “Immortal lifelines,” he said, his voice thick with emotion. “They’ve given us immortality.”

“So, you’re stuck with me for eternity?” asked Lance, arching a brow and raising his lips in a small smile.

Keith dropped his hand to cradle his face with both hands. “No, Lance. I choose you for eternity. You are my gift. My love and my life. I will protect you and love you always, Lance. Always.” He kissed Lance fiercely, a kiss full of passion, emotion and love.

Lance had been through much this evening; thinking he had been rejected by Keith, battling the demon witch and thinking he was going to die, being saved by Keith and gifted with immortality by The Blade. And now he knew that Keith loved him in return. Need and desire washed over Lance like wildfire, igniting his blood and pooling hot in his groin. He sank his fingers into Keith’s hair, tugging at raven strands as he opened his mouth to deepen the kiss.

Keith responded with a low growl deep in his throat. “Lance. Let’s go home, witch. Someone could see us here. I need to get you in my bed so I can fuck you until neither one of us can move.”

Lance smiled slyly. “No one’s around, Keith. You would hear or smell anyone before they could get too close to see too much. Besides, let them watch if they want to. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling like I’m flying through space right now.”

“You nearly died tonight, Lance, you need better than the ground,” Keith argued weakly, losing his resolve as Lance pressed against him and began licking his neck. He shuddered when Lance reached around to grab his ass with both hands, kneading the firm flesh insistently.

“Let me be the judge of how I feel and what I need, love.” Lance breathed deep as his witch energy surged through him, warming his skin even more so that it felt too tight for his body. His power pulsed deep inside him, fed by the elements of the night, touched by the moonlight and aching for the man before him. He wanted Keith right then, skin on skin.

“You have my heart, Keith. Join with me. I want you. I need you.” Lance used his powers to get rid of his torn and bloody clothing.

Keith swallowed heavily as his eyes raked over Lance standing there, clothed only in his golden necklace and moonlight that made his shimmer even more brilliant. He was gorgeous, already hard and ready for him. “You wear my wings, witch,” he growled, his voice low and husky with desire. He ran a hand up the inner part of Lance’s thigh possessively. “Mine.”

Lance felt his cock throb in agreement. Yes. He was Keith’s, and Keith was his. He could see the fire blazing in Keith’s eyes. And he knew his own eyes burned with equal intensity. This was going to be a claiming, a marking. Not making love, not having sex. Lance spread his legs slightly, steadying himself. And then he magically took Keith’s clothing, leaving his knife within reach.

God, Keith was glorious like this. He knelt before Lance, moonlight spilling over his muscular shoulders, down his toned stomach to the trail of hair leading to where his cock was thrust out between powerful thighs. He moved forward and took Lance’s aching cock in his hand, beginning to stroke it firmly.

Lance felt the touch of Keith’s tongue on his cock, teasing at the slit before moving to the base and licking his way up. He moaned loudly when he felt Keith circle the head and then take him fully, deeply. His powers rushed to meet Keith’s mouth, centering in his groin and moving between them, causing pleasure to spike within them both. Lance felt the sweep of feathers caressing his overheated skin, down his back and across his hole, causing him to gasp. He felt his world swirling around him, losing himself to the sensations of feathers and tongue and Keith. Small noises of pleasure were leaving him with each breath, and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could stand up on his own.

And then he heard Keith in his head. Mine. All mine, sexy witch. Your taste is mine, too. Come for me, sweetheart.

Lance felt the pressure that had built up in his balls surge outward as his orgasm took him, tearing a loud shout from his throat. Keith growled his approval around his cock, the vibrations milking more pleasure from him. He barely started catching his breath when Keith rose up and took his mouth possessively. Lance could taste himself on Keith’s tongue as he slid it into his mouth. Their tongues danced against each other sensuously, touching and tasting.

Lance could feel Keith pushing against him, trying to coax him down. He pulled away from the kiss and lay back on the beach. Keith moved to cover him with his body, kissing him again and moving his hard cock between his spread thighs, thrusting. Lance shivered as the head of Keith’s cock brushed back and forth against the underside of his balls and his sensitive hole. He loved the feeling of Keith inside him, stretching him and filling him. But tonight, as his witch powers swirled and crackled around them both, Lance felt a surge of wild possessiveness sweep through him…a need to claim his Hunter in return.

With a low growl, Lance flipped their position so that he had Keith on his back. Keith’s eyes were startled for a moment but grew hot as he watched Lance. Lance raked his gaze over Keith possessively, then took his hands to pin them above his head, pleased when Keith made no move to pull away.

“You’re mine, Keith,” he purred seductively as he leaned down to nip at the point where Keith’s pulse thudded in his throat. He licked the small bite, loving the salty taste. Lance breathed in deeply, smelling the scent of campfire that grew heavier with Keith’s desire. Keeping Keith’s hands held above him with one hand, Lance ran the fingers of his other hand lightly up and down Keith’s hard cock, then down to cup his balls gently. He traced his fingers around them before moving down further to circle his hole teasingly. In a moment of inspiration, he focused his energy in his fingertips as he brushed lightly over the tight pucker. When Keith jerked, gasping and then moaning low in response, Lance smiled to himself. It was heady to have this additional power, to make this strong man fall to pieces because of him.

Lance focused again and within seconds his fingers were slippery with lubrication. He rubbed his fingers around Keith’s hole, slicking it up in preparation. But he had to be sure. Looking into Keith’s eyes, he asked, “Is this okay?”

“More than okay,” Keith whispered huskily as he lifted one knee to spread his legs wider.

Lance shivered as desire sizzled along the surface of his skin. He pressed a finger in slowly, watching in fascination as Keith’s eyes fluttered shut, his lashes long against his flushed cheeks. A low growl escaped him as he began working on marking Keith’s throat. Keith tilted his head back to give him easier access.

Yes, YES. Take me, sexy witch. I’m yours, all yours.

Lance smiled against Keith’s hot skin as he worked and stretched him open. Keith was writhing under him, panting and groaning in a way that went straight to Lance’s cock. A wave of energy pulsed through him as he knelt up between Keith’s legs to position himself and wrapped around them both.

“Ready?” Lance asked, wanting nothing more than to bury himself deep inside Keith.

“Fuck, yes,” gasped Keith. “Now, Lance, I need you now!” He barely had a moment to catch his breath before Lance pushed forward, burying himself deep in one powerful thrust. Keith arched his back as Lance’s powers moved through him like a bolt of lightning, expanding out from where their bodies were joined and wrapping around him. His cock grew harder, but he didn’t move to touch it yet.

Lance leaned up to watch Keith as he continued to thrust into him. His powers swirled around them again, running like an electric current through their bodies. Waves began to form in the lake as the wind picked up, gaining strength as their movements grew more frantic.

“You own me,” Keith moaned as he wrapped his hand around his hard cock and began stroking himself in time with Lance’s rhythm.

Lance groaned low in his throat and pounded harder and deeper with each thrust of his hips. Hot energy swelled into another powerful wave to whirl around them both and squeeze. White light formed between them to grow in strength and intensity as Lance felt his control slipping. Keith writhed under him and Lance heard the joyous growl of his red lion as he came in white stripes over his hand and belly. Pleasure burst over him in heated waves of swirling colors and with a hoarse shout he lost himself in Keith, thrusting his hips deep one final time before he fell forward to collapse. He lay on Keith and wrapped his arms around his neck and was vaguely aware of Keith’s arms wrapping around his waist to hold him close. As they lay there, catching their breath and reveling in their closeness, he heard Keith whisper again softly in his mind:

You own me. I’m yours forever, my love.

“Keith! Lance!” Acxa yelled happily, running out of her room as soon as she heard Keith’s voice.

Keith grinned widely and let go of Lance’s hand to scoop her up and twirl her around. She was wearing a pink My Little Pony nightgown and her damp hair smelled like baby shampoo.

Acxa wrapped her arms tightly around Keith’s neck and squeezed as tightly as she could. “I’m all better! No more shadows! But I don’t wanna go to sleep, because what if they’re just waiting for me to fall asleep to come after me?” she fretted briefly before smiling again. “But look! Matt brought me Ariel! I still don’t wanna sleep though.”

Keith felt his head spin as he tried to keep up with her fast-paced chatter. “Show me your forehead, space cadet.”

Acxa shoved her bangs up off her forehead. It was smooth and unblemished with no mark to be seen. She kicked her legs excitedly against him. “See? All gone! Can I have hot chocolate? I want hot chocolate! And cookies!”

Keith laughed as he looked over to the couch where Krolia was sitting. She was smiling widely with tears of joy streaming down her face. He shifted Acxa and held out his arm to his mother. She jumped up and rushed to them, wrapping her arms around her children as Keith hugged her to him.

“Mommy’s been crying an awful lot tonight. She needs hot chocolate and cookies, too,” Acxa said, her little face serious.

Keith hugged them both tightly and laughed.

Lance smiled at the little group. “Hey, Acxa, how about you and I go to the kitchen and get cookies and milk? If it’s okay with your mom?” Acxa held her arms out to Lance with a smile of happiness. Lance hugged her to him tightly. “Krolia?” he asked, his voice uncertain.

Krolia let go of Keith and walked to him, taking one of his hands. “Lance. I don’t know how to thank you. I can’t believe I left you there by yourself by that lake.”

Keith saw Lance flush pink and sighed. “He charmed you into leaving, Mom. Witches can be sneaky, you know. You didn’t have a voice in the matter.”

“No, Keith, you hush right now. A part of me knew what he was doing. I chose you and Acxa over him.” Krolia squeezed Lance’s hand. “Never again, Lance. You belong to us and we won’t ever leave you alone again. You are my son, just as much as anyone else here.”

Lance smiled shakily at her as emotion threatened to overtake him.

Acxa bounced in Lance’s arms excitedly. “You can be my brother, too, Lance! Just like Keith! Do you want a cookie? I want a cookie. And maybe chocolate milk. We can both have some...”

Acxa’s voice trailed off as a laughing Lance carried her into the kitchen. Keith could clearly feel the delight and affection Lance was feeling for his sister.

His mother’s voice brought him back. “What happened, Keith?” Krolia asked.

“I’m curious, too,” came Shiro’s voice from behind them. He walked into the living room, followed Pidge and Matt. “I can see the wings on the handle of your knife.”

Keith turned to face his hunters. “First thing’s first; the next time any of you leave my witch unprotected, I will kill you.”

They nodded, their faces serious. No excuses or explanations needed.

“I went to kill the demon witch Haggar. But she wasn’t at the house where her daughter had been murdered, as we thought. She wasn’t there, but The Blade was.”

“You saw Him,” Shiro breathed, his voice thick with amazement and reverence. “He’s alive.”

“Then your wings are from The Blade, not Lance,” Pidge stated in awe.

Keith nodded, feeling the emotions radiating off his men. They had waited for this day, scarcely daring to hope. And it was here, yet there were still so many unanswered questions.

Matt cleared his throat. “So…your curse is gone, then?”

“It’s gone,” Keith confirmed. “The curse has a loophole. Soul mirrors, two halves of a whole soul. Lance is my soul mirror, the other half of my soul and together we are whole. All The Blade needed from me was a show of faith. Going after the demon witch was it.”

Pidge took a deep breath. “Then there’s hope for us. We just have to find our soul mirrors?”

“Come on. Let’s go to my office,” Keith said, knowing his hunters needed time to collect their thoughts. He took his seat behind the desk and his mom came to stand beside him. The Paladin Hunters settled into the room and gave all their attention to Keith as he recapped the night’s events.

“You’re immortal now?” Krolia asked him, resting a hand on his shoulder.

Keith patted her hand. “It doesn’t mean I can’t die, Mom. Remember, Lotor Daibazaal has the Dagger of Immortal Death, and that’s one way to kill me. But I’m even harder to kill now than I was before.” He would outlive his mother, which was hard but not necessarily unexpected. Children were supposed to outlive their parents. But he would most likely outlive Acxa, too. She would grow old while he remained the same. He could handle it as long as he had Lance. That would make it a little easier. Knowing there was an afterlife that existed was a comfort, too.

Krolia smiled at him. “You’ve become the man you were born to be, Keith. You did it. You fought the curse and won. You killed the demon witch and you aren’t Galra. Your soul is safe. And you found love.”

“That’s some deal,” Matt said. “You’re free of the curse and you get a mate, a soul mate or soul mirror or whatever. But The Blade turned your wolf into a red lion from the beginning before you even knew Lance. Ours did as well. Does that mean there is a chance we also have soul mirrors somewhere out there?”

The Paladins all looked at Keith. They all needed some reassurance that they were just as important to The Blade as he was. Keith was the leader, and he would lead.

“The Blade had the wings of each of his hunters branded on the bands he wore. Not just red lion wings, but all of our wings. You are The Paladin Hunters and you belong to Him. He hasn’t abandoned you. I think…he is holding onto your wings until He feels you are ready. The more we believe in Him, the stronger He is,” Keith stated.

“You believe our soul mirrors are out there somewhere?” Pidge asked. “How are we supposed to find them?”

“Yeah,” Shiro added. “It’s not like we can hang out with the witches. Just being near them sets off the bloodlust.”

Keith knew Shiro was struggling ever since being around Adam. Interesting... he thought. “I don’t have all the answers, but I do believe that each of you has a soul mirror.” He looked each of them in the eye. “This is all the more reason for us to try to protect elemental witches. They are our salvation, not our destruction. Daibazaal had it all wrong.”

“We’ve already started,” Matt said. “We set up the safe house for the witches that were in the Escalade. Since it’s hard for any of us to get near witch blood, we can send Hunk, you or Lance when elemental witches are attacked by Galras. Doing that can get them to safety while we take care of the Galras. Plaxum will take care of them from there.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Pidge agreed.

Keith nodded, feeling pride in his hunters swelling in him. “For now, I’ll take care of any demon witches we come across. I don’t know what might happen to any of you should you kill a demon witch before you find your soul mirror, and I won’t take that chance. I can kill them without risking my soul. And we’ll keep the club. Hunters will still need a place to control the bloodlust while we spread the word on the information I obtained.” He could see in each of their faces the hell they fought each day. While he was grateful to be free of the curse, he wouldn’t stop until each of them was free as well.

“We need to figure out a way to work directly with the witches,” Shiro said thoughtfully. “Maybe we can set up some sort of system to warn them if we get any intel that a Galra has targeted a specific witch. Do you think Lance can help us with that?”

“We can ask him,” Keith said. The flickering of the flat screen on the wall stopped him from saying anything else. He looked up and froze for a moment before a flash of fury swept over him. The image on the screen was of three steel examination tables equipped with restraints gleaming coldly under bright lights. In the background was a large cage with five crying women inside.

They had to be witches. The camera showed bright red blood oozing from several cuts on them, and their clothing was torn and covered with rust colored drying blood. Their eyes had the slight tilt at the edge’s; characteristic of all witches. Each was chanting softly, either in prayer to their Alteans or in an attempt to connect to their powers. But Galras knew multiple ways of disconnecting witches from their powers. Cuts were one way, but drugs and stun guns could create confusion as well.

“That’s my dad’s place,” Keith growled, surging to his feet. “Matt, confirm that.”

Matt quickly took a seat in the chair Keith had vacated. His fingers flew over the computer keyboard as he traced the signal.

Pidge jumped up out of her chair as well. “They’re going to kill the witches.”

Shiro narrowed his eyes as his face darkened. “They’re taunting us. Why else would they send this?”

Keith already knew the answer. “They want to bring us to them, of course. This looks like a plan of my dad’s. But I’ll be honest; I don’t think he’s alive. Otherwise he’d be on the screen gloating right now.”

“It’s definitely coming from your dad’s place,” announced Matt.

“We can’t let this happen,” Shiro stated. He started to say something else when something on the screen caught all of their attention. The double doors to the surgical room slammed open and two Galras dragged in a struggling and bloody Hunk Garrett.

Fuck,” Keith snarled. He felt his wings ripple under his skin as he realized they had Lance’s best friend. Lance loved Hunk; that was his family, he and Adam the only things left. He had screwed up, letting Hunk, Shay and Adam go back to the house. He hadn’t even given them a second thought after the spell had failed on Acxa. He tightened his jaw and watched the screen.

Pidge pounded her fist into her other hand. “He tracked her, he fucking tracked her. Sendak had Shay in his sights the entire time. That’s how he found your safe house to go after Lance, because Shay had been there. We slowed him down, but we didn’t stop him.”

More Galras carried in Adam. His mussed hair was matted with blood that smeared across his cheek and neck. His eyes were wide with terror.

Shiro jumped up, his face furious. “No! Not Adam!”

Chapter Text

Keith whirled around to see Shiro had his knife in his hand and his eyes locked on the screen. He caught the eyes of Pidge and Matt and motioned slightly with his head toward Shiro. They both moved to flank him.

Keith turned back to the screen. Sendak Crystals had strode into the room, dragging Shay behind him by the arm. “Let them go, Sendak!” she cried.

Sendak ignored her. “Put Garrett on the table and the witch on the other table. Strip them both of everything.”

Hunk fought them. He kicked out, catching one Galra square in the balls and dropping him. A punch to the face of the other Galra sent him careening into the cage holding the witches. Several other Galras jumped him, beating and cutting until they had him subdued and stretched on the table in the restraints.

What a fucking nightmare. “I’m going,” Keith said, heading for the door.

“I’m going with you,” Shiro ground out.

Keith paused, ready to object.

Shiro stood tall, his shoulders tense and dark eyes glittering with determination. “You can kill me if it happens. I want you to kill me if I go Galra. But before I go, I will take a whole fucking of those bastards with me for harming Adam.”

Keith wanted to protect his hunters. But The Blade had told them to protect the innocent. As he looked at Shiro, Pidge and Matt moved to line up with him. Keith nodded his head once.

A witch on the screen screamed. Keith turned to see her being dragged from the cage by Galras. Sendak was giving them the witches in the cage as payment for bringing him Hunk, Shay and Adam. “Let’s go.”

“Oh my God! They have Hunk! And Adam!”

Lance stood in the doorway of the office, staring at the screen in horror. Keith grabbed him by the shoulders. “I’m going after them, Lance. I’ll bring them home to you, I swear it.”

Matt pushed by them. “I have men coming here to stay with Krolia, Acxa and Lance. They’ll be safe.”

Keith kissed Lance quickly and fiercely in reassurance, then ran out, followed by the rest of the Paladins.

Lance stood in the office, eyes riveted to the TV screen on the wall. Fear churned cold in his stomach for Hunk, Shay and Adam. What was missing? Keith was immortal now. But did Sendak know that? Lance didn’t think he did, but he felt sure someone else did.

Lotor Daibazaal. His father. He was in league with a demon, the very demon who created the blood curse and had given him the means to be able to kill Keith. Daibazaal was using Sendak to lure him and Keith to him.

The voices swirled in his head and he felt sick to his stomach. But what Lance thought of was Allura. We have to outthink the demon and his witches. That’s why we work hard to attain the knowledge chakra. But what the hell can we do?

Lance stood still, breathing deeply and evenly. He let his powers work, feeling the first four open easily with the familiar swooping sensation. The fifth chakra at his throat opened, followed by the sixth at his forehead. He saw a starburst pattern of light that faded with his regular vision as his third eye took over.

Lotor Young, his father, raised his arm. The hideous blackened dagger on his arm bulged, raising and stretching skin. With a sickening whoosh, the thing burst from Lotor’s arm. Lance couldn’t see where it went.

Until it slammed directly into Keith’s chest, a direct hit to the heart. He saw his soulmate’s shock of pain and felt him reach for him mentally. Checking to make sure he was safe before he died and left him alone.

Lance fell to his knees in anguish and grief. His third eye went blind and his normal vision returned. But before he could gather his shattered thoughts together and try to focus, a violet colored mist swirled around him. The top of his head felt as though he had slammed it into a wall.

Chakra seven; the knowledge chakra. He’d done it, opened his seventh chakra. The violet mist stayed in front of him as he took him the incredible amount of knowledge there. There were spirits, demons, gods, so much more than just what was on the earth itself. Lance felt himself giving in to the seductive pull, losing control and falling into a trance of endless studying. But a warm tingle from his necklace jerked him out of the compulsive absorption.

Keith is in extreme danger! He could die!

His love for Keith kept Lance focused and he let his seventh chakra help him work it out and understand what he knew. His father had planned for Sendak Crystals to send the video to lure him and Keith to them so they could kill them.

He had to be smart and understand what he was dealing with. Why did Lotor Daibazaal need him and Keith dead?

The answer hit him, causing his eyes to widen in realization. Asmodeus had decreed it. The demon and The Blade had grown up in the Underworld, where they had both learned their powers were tied to the earth. The Blade created witch hunters to bring out his powers and give him somewhere to belong. He cared about the earth and her people. But Asmodeus needed earth to increase his own powers in the Underworld. He had cast the curse all those years ago to break The Blade’s powers and destroy witches and hunters. But soul mirrors were the loophole that would bring The Blade back to power and threaten Asmodeus and his own quest for power. That was why the demon had appeared to Daibazaal and bribed him with the power of the Death Dagger to kill Allura. He had commanded Daibazaal to kill Lance because without him, Keith, the future Red Lion Hunters’ leader, would never have been whole. There would be no soul mirror and no threat to him.

Lance understood that gods and demons were only as powerful as their subjects made them. The choices made could either strengthen or weaken them. So, he now had a choice. He could panic and lose, or he could do as his mother had done before him and outthink his enemies. He had the tools and he had the ability. He knew exactly what Asmodeus was and what he had to do. If he used his magic correctly, he would save Keith and together they would help witches and hunters defeat Asmodeus.

Lance jumped to his feet as the violet fog around him melted away. He whirled around to find Krolia coming into the room with her. He rushed to her and grabbed her shoulders. “I have to go, Krolia! He’ll die if I don’t! I saw it!”

Krolia paled but remained calm. “There are two hunters here. I’ll send them with you.”

“No,” Lance shook his head. “They can’t help and they need to stay here with you and Acxa. My blood will save Keith, Krolia. If I have learned what I should, my magic will protect me. I need salt.” He darted down the stairs.

“We’ve got that,” Krolia said in a rush as she followed close behind him. “Here are my keys, you can take my car. Do you know how to find them?”

Lance raised a hand to touch the wings at his throat. “Always.”

Between Shiro’s blueprints and the time Pidge and Matt had put in scoping the place out, they had an excellent layout of Richard’s place. Having decided to take advantage of his new capability, Keith flew over the compound, meticulously surveying it from his aerial view. Everything he could see matched up with what they already knew, so nothing unexpected so far as he was able to tell. Keith narrowed his eyes as he thought of his dad and what he had set in motion. Whether Richard was dead or alive, it would all end that night, one way or another.

Keith landed at the designated meeting place a few hundred yards from the house. Shiro’s black Hummer skidded to a stop next to him and the Paladins piled out.

“I’ve got a group of hunters on standby for cleanup,” Matt said. “First things first; we need to see how many witches are in there and if we can get them out.” He paused for a moment before adding, “Alive.”

“Once we kill Sendak and any other Galras inside, I can take care of the witches,” Keith stated firmly. He wasn’t about to let any of his men go Galra if he could prevent it. “Have them stand down until we give the direct order.”

Matt nodded and quickly sent a text relaying Keith’s directive.

Keith looked around at each of his hunters, his closest friends, and nodded his head once. “Let’s do this.”

Shielding their presence, the Paladins moved with predatory silence towards the house. They made quick work of the Galras standing guard, Matt and Shiro slitting their throats with deadly precision and dumping the bodies out of sight. Pidge grabbed a Galra that was crossing from the house to the outer building and used his face to bypass the ultra-sophisticated face recognition and retina scan security system before smashing his head into the nearest wall and stabbing him directly in the heart.

They entered the barracks cautiously, remaining invisible. There were two rows of single beds, each neatly made, but no Galras.

“I don’t like this,” Matt said in a low voice. Keith silently agreed but kept moving. “Fuck, do you smell that?” Matt snarled as they reached the end of the barracks room. They could all smell the witch blood, but it was dying blood. The pungent scent grew stronger as they approached a door to the left.

“That used to be an exam room,” Shiro growled, tightening his grip on his knife.

“They are using them to kill the witches they take from the cages,” Keith said. He had to make a decision here. If he opened the door and the witches inside weren’t dead yet, the blood smell would be overpowering to his men. “Shiro, you and Matt check ahead and make sure it’s clear to the surgery room.”

Keith knew Pidge was nearby, even if he couldn’t see her. “I’ll go in first,” he said, reaching for the door.

Before he could touch it, the door swung open and two Galras stepped out. “Let’s go hit up Voltron and...”

The first Galra’s voice cut off with a gurgle as Pidge materialized and jammed her knife into his throat. The second Galra stepped back, looking frightened and reaching for his knife. But before he could raise any alarm, Pidge also stabbed him, giving her knife a vicious twist.

Keith moved quickly past the dying Galras into the room. A grisly sight awaited him there; two stainless steel exam tables held dead witches, one with long red hair and pale creamy skin covered with scattered freckles, and the other had been a curvy brunette with short hair and a tattoo on one ankle. They were both naked, their bodies drained and marred with deep gashes and splattered blood. The desecration of these women angered Keith and doubled his resolution to end this.

“Nothing we can do for them now. Come on, Keith, we need to keep moving,” Pidge said from the doorway.

Keith nodded. Pidge was right. He turned away from the bodies, resolving to return in the end and find out who they were. He would give them the respect of letting their families know and make sure they got a proper burial, or ceremony, or whatever the witches did when one of their own passed on. The next room had three butchered witches. The Galras who had murdered them were nowhere to be seen. Keith closed the door, pulse pounding in his ears as his anger grew. He had been deeply concerned for his friends, knowing the scent of witch blood could send them into a lustful craze, but so far the blood they had encountered was only dead or dying blood, which seemed to leave Pidge unaffected. Her righteous anger probably helped to keep it at bay, as well.

They were moving quietly down the hall when a voice spoke up. “We found the control room.”

Keith turned towards Shiro’s voice. “Go on.”

“I checked the cameras. Hunk and Adam are strapped to tables in the main room. Shay is tied to a chair. There’s four guards visible on the camera and several more Galras in the kennel room that opens into the surgery room,” Shiro reported.

“A trap. We knew that,” Keith said.

“One more thing, though, Keith,” Matt spoke up. “Your dad’s body, or at least what’s left of it, is in the conference room. I would bet Sendak made his stand in there in front of an audience, and Richard’s body was left there as a message to anyone who thought they might challenge him.”

Keith snorted quietly. His father murdered in his own compound that he designed himself. Appropriate. He wasn’t going to waste any grief or pity on Richard, especially since he didn’t feel any. He had more important things to think about. There were three people inside who were deserving of his protection and they were in serious trouble. They were the people Lance loved, and Keith couldn’t bear Lance’s pain if any of them were killed.

It was time to make their stand. Time to show the world that The Blade had returned and the Paladins would kick Galra ass in His name.

“Let’s go,” Keith ordered.

Moving stealthily to the door, Keith quietly turned the doorknob and pushed the door open slightly. They needed to get a quick glance to know the lay of the room. The Galras inside were so focused on Sendak that they didn’t notice the door had opened.

Sendak had untied Shay and dragged her from the chair. He was holding one of her arms in a vise grip while keeping his knife to her throat. Blood was trickling from one corner of her mouth and her reddened eyes were wide and frightened. Hunk was struggling on the table where he was held captive, snarling and swearing.

“Let them go! Don’t hurt Hunk, Sendak! He never touched me!” Shay cried.

Sendak chuckled, the sound cruel and mirthless. “I’m sure he didn’t. Can you blame him? Who would want to touch you? You’re a crazy cutter.”

Shay’s face flushed red and she struggled in Sendak’ grip. “I am not! I never...” Her voice trailed off as her knees buckled and she nearly collapsed from the pain.

“Forget what you were saying, honey?” Sendak sneered.

Shay curled forward as though she was folding in on herself. Then she jerked upwards, slamming her fist up under Sendak’ jaw and knocking his head back.

“Shay, NO!” Hunk roared at the same time. He thrashed harder against the restraints holding him down, snapping one of them.

Keith took advantage of the resulting chaotic uproar and burst into the room, followed closely by the Paladins. They shed their invisibility, ready to fight.

With a furious snarl, Sendak threw Shay into the wall. He whirled around and lifted his knife. “Get them!” he yelled.

The Galras rushed at them, yelling out battle cries. More Galras poured into the room from the kennel room where they had been hiding. Keith whipped to one side, avoiding several Galras that were rushing him and swiftly killing the two standing guard at Hunk and Adam’s feet. He then turned back to join the battle.

Pidge and Matt were fighting back to back, killing with brutal, methodical swiftness. Shiro had worked his way to the guards at Adam’s head and killed them both. He crouched with his back to him, prepared to take anyone who came near the witch.

Matt was fighting with the group of Galras standing in protection of Sendak. He had killed several and was close to Sendak himself when a gunshot rang out. Matt stumbled back several steps before falling to the ground.

“No!” yelled Keith, stabbing the Galra he was fighting with and surging towards them. He froze to a halt when Sendak turned the gun on him.

“Where is Lance?” Sendak sneered, his eyes hard and emotionless.

Lance. Furious, Keith unfurled his wings, wiping out several Galras as they whipped outwards. He grabbed Sendak by his shirt and lifted him into the air with powerful sweeps of his wings. Galras that weren’t injured or embattled jumped onto tables to try to rescue their leader.

Sendak roared in rage and swung his arm around, firing his gun. The bullet went through Keith’s arm, which merely pissed him off even more. Lightening quick, he buried his knife to the hilt in Sendak’ chest, then threw his body to the Galras. He landed, ignoring the blood pouring from his injured arm. Pidge was hard at work taking care of the rest of the Galras, while Shiro continued to attack anyone that tried getting close.

Keith rushed to Matt and dropped to his knees next to him. The bullet had torn through his rib cage and possibly nicked his heart. Matt’s breathing was labored and his eyes were closed. He would die if they didn’t stop the bleeding. Keith tore off his shirt and pressed it to the bloody wound. Too much blood, damn it!

I’m coming, Keith! Hold on. I won’t let Matt die, I promise.

Lance! Keith could hear him in his head. He relaxed for a mere fraction of a second when he felt a new threat and stiffened. He rose quickly to his feet and whipped around toward the open door, knife at the ready.

Lotor Daibazaal stood there in the open doorway. Tall and imposing, with white hair and blue eyes, he took in the scene before him before turning his gaze back to Keith with a deadly calm curiosity. “Where is Lance? It’s sad, pathetic really, that one troublesome witch can bring down so many men.”

Lance, do NOT come here. Stay away and don’t come near this place! It’s too dangerous and I will not lose you! Keith thought frantically. He knew Lance could hear him. His nerves edged on panic when Lance didn’t answer him back.

Lotor crossed his arms over his chest. His tight shirt was short sleeved and showed the black Dagger of Immortal Death that lived in the burn mark visible on his right forearm. “Nice wings, by the way, Kogane. So, you enjoy serving a witch? Being turned into an animal?”

Keith glowered at him, mind racing as he tried to figure out how to get past the dagger on Lotor’s arm to stab him in the heart. Crossing his arms was a casual enough move, but in reality, Keith knew Daibazaal was protecting his heart with the Dagger of Immortal Death. He stood between Lotor and his men. Matt lay deathly still on the ground and Keith knew he would die if they didn’t get him out and to help.


“Lance sends his regrets, but he isn’t interested in meeting with you,” Keith stated flatly, gripping his knife tightly in anticipation of any chance to take Daibazaal down.

“He’ll show up,” Lotor said confidently, strolling casually into the room and looking up at the camera. “You know why, Kogane? Power. If he doesn’t get his gay witch ass over here, I’m gonna kill his power source. That would be you.” He dropped his arms and turned.

Keith raised his arm for the death strike with his wing embossed knife.

Instantly, the smell of burning flesh filled the air as Lotor flung out his arm. The black dagger burst forward from his skin and rocketed towards Keith’s chest. Keith hit the floor and rolled, grunting as he moved over dead Galras. He leaped to his feet, knife ready to go on defensive again as he watched Lotor warily.

The Dagger had already returned to Lotor’s hand. He controlled it enough that he could call it back to him without touching it. That could only mean high stakes demon magic. Not good. Keith kept his own knife ready and tried to figure out how he could possibly win against the Dagger. He knew Daibazaal was stalling, toying with him and using him to draw Lance there.

“We have the witch!” someone yelled out triumphantly.

No,” breathed Keith as two younger Galras dragged Lance into the room. He had three wounds that Keith could see; a cut to his bare right arm, a slice to the left thigh that was staining the denim of his jeans a dark crimson, and another through his black t-shirt that pierced his side. His face was pale with the pain, but his eyes were steely and determined. His right hand was closed in a tight fist, and Keith couldn’t tell if he was injured there or if he was holding something. Lance glanced quickly at Hunk, and the remaining restraints holding him to the table snapped.

Lance was using his powers! Keith could feel the vibration of them sweep over him as Hunk was freed.

“Lance!” Hunk yelled as he painfully pushed himself to his feet, careful to avoid using his broken hand.

Lance ignored his best friend as he drew himself up to his full height. The two Galras holding him crumpled to the floor as though they had been drugged. He narrowed his eyes on the man in the corner, his eyes turning an icy gray. “Hi, Father. Sorry I’m late for the family reunion, but I didn’t really want to meet my sperm donor.”

“How did you kill them? You’re an elemental witch, for fuck’s sake.” Lotor’s voice was tinged with irritation.

Lance grinned humorlessly. “I didn’t kill them, Lotor. I used a little sleep charm I learned from my mother. I bet you remember that one, don’t you?”

Lance,” Keith warned in a low voice. He wasn’t sure why Lance was baiting Lotor, but he didn’t like it. Lance knew Daibazaal had the Dagger of Immortal Death, he had seen him kill his mother to get it. Keith caught Pidge’s eye and inclined his head slightly towards the two sleeping Galras. Pidge moved in a blur, killing them both.

Lance didn’t even flinch, and that’s when Keith understood what he was doing. Lance couldn’t kill with his powers without suffering the effects of witch karma, but Keith and his men were more than capable of killing Galras. Fierce pride warred with fear and anger. Lance had let himself get captured to find him. Keith stood between Daibazaal and Lance, keeping his eyes on Lotor. You have to get out of here, Lance, it’s too dangerous.

I have a plan, Keith. Just shut up and trust me.


“You may be clever, but you’re still an elemental witch,” Daibazaal growled. “I learned the hard way not to be played by witches. Cleverness is nothing against real power. You won’t win.”

Lance tilted his head slightly and raised one shoulder in a shrug. “Well, I’m right here. Come and get me.”

Daibazaal smiled evilly, and in the space of time that took, he blew past Keith and got behind Lance. By the time Keith whirled around, Daibazaal was already throwing his arm around Lance’s neck. He shoved the Dagger against the bleeding wound on Lance’s side.

Lance screamed in pain, his face blanching and his shimmer dimming to a dull gray. He struggled in Lotor’s hold, pounding at his arm with his still clenched fist.

An obscene slurping sound filled the room and Keith realized in horror that the Dagger was literally sucking Lance’s blood. Feeding the demon that owned it. The knife was growing fat and glistening with blood.

Keith felt his heart stutter painfully and then kick into predator mode, ready to kill. He growled deep in his throat and the roar of his red lion reverberated through the room. He pumped his wings, lifting himself up in the air and surging forward. He landed next to Lance and Daibazaal and struck in a flash, slashing deep into the arm that held the Dagger against Lance.

“Keith, no!” cried Lance.

But it was too late. The Dagger ripped off of Lance with a wet pop and disappeared.

But where the fuck did it go?

Pain exploded in Keith’s chest, slamming him backwards and to the floor. Stunned, he lifted his head and looked down. The Dagger of Immortal Death was buried to its hilt in his chest, embedded in his heart. White hot agony raced through him and the simple act of breathing was suddenly incredibly difficult. He could feel blood running down his chest as his vision started to grow dim. The dark wings of death coming for him, but he struggled against it, determined to protect Lance to his final breath.

Lance felt Keith’s shock and pain as though it were his own; white hot and then icy cold as his life slipped away, draining along with his blood. But his love wrapped around him and kept him anchored to his powers. Keith’s love kept him strong…strong enough to fight the evil of his father.

“Looks like immortality ain’t all it’s cracked up to be,” Lotor laughed, the sound hard and cruel. His arm was still around Lance’s neck.

Pidge and Shiro rushed toward Keith with roars of devastation and fury. The Dagger rose out of Keith’s heart with a wet pop and swung at the Paladins, forcing them back. The two of them fought against it as one powerful force. Hunk had Adam on the floor by Shay and knelt down in front of them, protecting them despite his own injuries.

Daibazaal gloated as he toyed with the Paladins. “Weak. You’re all so weak without the power of witch blood to sustain you. You’re nothing against the real power of demons. We’ll change you soon enough.” His gaze hardened. “Or you’ll die. Slowly and painfully.”

While Lotor was distracted, Lance reached deep inside himself to focus. He softly whispered, “Pure in whiteness, born of the earth, blessed by the sea, feared by darkness, embraced by light. Salt rise and circle your protection.” He opened his fist and tossed the salt he had held into the air, mentally forming the circle of protection around the room and running the line between himself and Lotor.

Lotor’s arm was dragged off his neck and his entire body was shoved back several inches. He bellowed in rage and lunged toward Lance. But he bounced back as though he had hit an invisible barrier.

The Dagger was flung outside of the circle.

“What the fuck did you just do! You can’t do this, I have the power of Asmodeus! You won’t trick me with your witchcraft, not this time!” Lotor raged as he slammed bodily into the barrier again and again. He paced around the salt circle like a caged animal, unable to cross the barrier and snarling with each unsuccessful attempt to do so.

Lance ignored him, dropping to his knees next to Keith. Terror clawed at his insides as he felt Keith separating from him. He could feel their souls being torn apart. Looking around frantically, he finally saw Keith’s knife and grabbed it. He pulled it across his palm, slicing it open and letting his blood flow freely.

Shiro moved next to him, placing a hand tentatively on his shoulder. “Lance...”

“Shut the fuck up. I’m not going to let him die!” Lance snarled. He pressed his bleeding palm directly to the stab wound on Keith’s bare chest. His chakras were all wide open and weeping with him.

Please,” Lance sobbed as he begged the Alteans, “please save him. Help me.”

Adam crawled forward and Lance distractedly noticed he was now wearing a too big t-shirt that looked utterly foreign on him. He knelt next to him and placed his hands over his, adding his own power and light.

Lance reached up to the wing pendant hanging around his neck with his free hand. “Blade…Kolivan, hear me. Please hear me. I give your hunter my blood. I beg you to give him your breath and help me save his life.”

The necklace began to glow. Light bloomed around Lance and Adam’s hands, bright against Keith’s skin and the deep scarlet of his blood. His chest began to rise and fall with a regular ease and Lance sobbed in relief as he felt the heartbeat under his hand grow strong and steady again.

Keith opened his eyes, the bright violet that Lance loved shining clear and fierce.

“Thank you,” breathed Lance to both the Alteans and The Blade. He gave Keith a small smile that wobbled as tears threatened to take him over again.

Keith sucked in a deep breath and then snarled, “You won’t be thanking them, witch, when I beat your ass. What the fuck were you thinking? You risked your life coming here!”

Lance’s smile grew as he felt Keith’s life force growing to full strength. The connection between them flared and sizzled with power. “I might have risked my life, but I saved yours. And that makes it worth it to me.” He kept his hand on Keith, giving him as much of his blood as he needed. “Pidge, I need you and Shiro to bring Matt over here. Gently, okay?”

Adam wrapped his arms around Lance and hugged him tightly. “I’ll help you, Lance.”

Pidge and Shiro returned quickly, carrying Matt carefully between them and laying him down next to Keith.

Lance lifted his hand carefully, a pleased noise sounding in his throat when he saw the nearly fully healed wound on Keith’s chest. He looked around, noticing that now he only saw Pidge standing next to him. “Where’s Shiro?” he asked.

“He just ran out,” Pidge answered. She glanced at Adam and added, “He basically ripped his shirt off and threw it at Adam, telling him to cover himself up. He was in a pretty bad state, sweating bullets. The curse his him by the balls, pretty much.”

Pidge yanked Keith’s bloody shirt off of her brother’s chest. The hunter was unconscious, his skin pale and his breathing shallow. Lance shifted to move closer to him. He glanced up at Pidge.

“You should go over there by Hunk. Get some space away from Adam and I. I know this is difficult on you.” She seemed to be in control, even with Adam bleeding. But they were going to use magic. Now that his soul had bonded with Keith’s, the hunters didn’t seem to notice Lance’s blood or magic. They would be able to feel Adam’s, though, and he didn’t want to put her at risk.

Pidge nodded and moved away.

Lance drew Keith’s blade across his other palm. This time he couldn’t contain his wince or his grunt of discomfort as pain streaked through him.

“Damn it to hell, Lance, stop that!” Keith snapped as he pushed himself upright, obviously recovering and gaining his strength back at a fast rate.

Lance laid his hand on Matt’s chest, calling for the light of the Alteans to aid him. Power rushed down from his upper chakras to flood his lower chakras, low and high magic blending to flow through him and down to his hand to pour out with his blood. He felt a surge of additional strength when Adam laid his hand on his shoulder, and nearly jumped when he felt Keith’s hands on his waist. Keith settled behind him and next to Adam.

“Do you need my blood?” Keith asked, watching Matt with concern visible on his face.

Lance shook his head. “Just your strength this time. Your blood is already mixed with mine from healing you.” He braced himself as Matt’s pain slammed into him, but still nearly fell back. Keith held him tightly as Adam let go of his shoulder and grabbed his wrist to help keep it pressed to Sam.

“Give me his pain, Lance. Now!” Keith demanded.

Lance felt his energy obey Keith’s order. The pain moved between them in a circuit, lessening to a more tolerable level.

Matt stirred under Lance’s hand. “Lance…?” Matt said, his voice hoarse and weak. His eyes looked unfocused as they homed in on him. “What are you doing here?”

Lance grinned down at him. “Oh, you know...the usual. Getting in trouble. Pissing off Keith and him threatening to kick my ass. Blah blah blah.”

Matt chuckled weakly and coughed. “Well, thanks...for saving me and pissing Keith off. It’s good for him, you know. Builds his character.”

“Yep, he’s gonna be just fine,” Keith growled, sounding grumpy. But Lance could hear the relief lacing the words.

Suddenly an icy wind that reeked of burning flesh blew through the salt circle.

“This isn’t over, Lance McClain, not by a long shot. Your mother tried to run, but I found her. And rest assured, I will find you, too. By Asmodeus’ Dagger of Immortal Death, I’ll find you. And when I do, I’ll kill you, just like I did with your whore mother.”

Lance whipped around to see Lotor Daibazaal glaring at him, his eyes blazing red demon fire. The Dagger was back on his arm, cauterizing the gash Keith’s knife had made. “I’ll find you!” he howled as he spun away and vanished.

Keith wrapped his arms around Lance’s waist and held him close. “What is it exactly that you did?”

“I set a protective salt circle to keep demons out. He wears the mark of the demon, Asmodeus. It was a risk, but I had a vision. I knew that...” Lance’s voice trailed off as he shuddered in remembrance. “I can’t lose you, Keith. I won’t. I will find you every time you need me. Every damn time, do you hear me?”

Keith tightened his grip, making Lance feel safe and secure again. He pressed his lips to Lance’s neck before whispering, “I’ll always need you, Lance.”

Lance closed his eyes and leaned into Keith’s strength, feeling the heat of his skin and the touch of his red lion brushing softly against his body and in his mind. He finally knew where he belonged, and he was loved and valued for who he was and for his power and ability. He wasn’t alone anymore.

“Lance!” Hunk’s frantic cry caught everyone’s attention. “It’s Shay! Oh, god, Lance, Shay’s bleeding! The baby, she’s losing the baby!”

Chapter Text

“I miss you so much Mom.”

Lance reached out to touch the headstone that he had magically conjured for the woman who had sacrificed everything for him. Who had loved him unconditionally and been there for him and protected him to the best of her ability. The headstone bore her name, her date of birth and death, and her true legacy.

Her love was the magic that brought me my own.

“I wish I could have met her,” Keith said quietly as he wrapped his arms around Lance and pulled him back against his chest. The cemetery was empty at this late hour, but the bright light of the moon spilled over the stately headstones. “I want to thank her for loving you and protecting you until I found you.”

Lance smiled softly. “She knows.” It wasn’t his third eye or knowledge chakras telling him that, but his faith. His mother’s soul had moved on to Oriande, but her love stayed with him. He turned in Keith’s arms and wrapped his own around his hunter, smiling into his eyes.

Keith ran his thumb lightly over Lance’s bottom lip, and even that small touch was full of love and possessiveness. “It’s time to go home, Lance. You spent all of last night and today with Adam taking care of Hunk and Shay. You need to rest. Let’s go.”

Lance nodded. It had been a long night for sure. Hunk had been badly injured, but he had fought it when he and Adam tried to heal him, insisting that they focus all their attention and energy on Shay instead. They had worked hard together and gotten Shay’s bleeding to stop. Once she and the baby were stable, Hunk finally gave in and let them heal his most serious injuries.

Lance and Adam were still unsure about the baby. They had put word out on the Circles for any healing advice and hoped to hear something soon. They hoped the baby would survive to full term, but at that moment none of them were sure of anything. Lance had already informed Shay in no uncertain term that she would be on bed rest in the safe house until time for her delivery. Though reluctant, she knew it was best. The baby might have been a surprise and forced upon her, but it was still innocent and she would make sure that it was raised right.

When Lance had left, Hunk had been asleep on the bed with Shay, his body curled around hers and his newly healed hand resting protectively on her belly.

There was a long road ahead of them all. They had withstood so much pain already, and they were still at the beginning. But they were fighting to overcome the curse, to make things right. Lance knew it couldn’t happen all at once, but he believed they would succeed, he knew every choice they made counted.

They all mattered.

Lance leaned forward to press his lips softly against Keith’s. “Thank you.” He felt Keith’s lips turn up in a smile against his and smiled in return.

“For what?” Keith asked, nipping softly at Lance’s lower lip and leaning in to nuzzle at the warm skin of his neck.

Lance shivered lightly in response. “I’ve never felt as though I really belonged anywhere. Even with my family, I never felt like I truly belonged…like I was always the odd man out. But with you, I’m home. No matter where you are, you’ll always be my home. You and the others. You are my future, Keith Kogane.”

Keith buried his face in Lance’s hair, breathing deeply of the unique scent he would know anywhere now. “And you’ll be mine. I love you so much, witch. You are the love of my life and the only person I will willingly be tied to.”

“I love you, too,” Lance whispered. “Forever. Nothing can keep us apart.”

Keith kissed him once more before leaning back and grinning at him. “Wrap your legs around me and hold on.”

“And just like that you go from being romantic to crude as hell, Keith Kogane!” Lance scolded playfully. “What are we doing exactly?”

Keith let his wings burst out and unfold. “We’re going to fly.” He held Lance securely and leapt into the air, wings moving powerfully and carrying them into the night.

Lance twined his arms around Keith’s neck as he felt the air dancing past them. He laughed delightedly. “You certainly know how to sweep a man off his feet.”

Keith kept his gaze on the horizon but smiled and tightened his arms around Lance. “You are my mate, Lance. I was looking for you forever and now that I found you, I’m never letting you go. You’re my witch, for all of eternity.”