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The low glow of streetlights passed him in perfect rhythm as he drove. Their orange hue brought back memories of being a child, lulled to sleep in the back of a car as his dad drove them somewhere. Always somewhere new, and his five, eight, ten, and thirteen-year-old self only ever had the vaguest of understandings why.

 

Now the only difference was that he fully understood why he was leaving, and where he was going, but his dad wasn’t here to squeeze his hand, and tell him everything would be okay. His dad hadn’t been here for a long time. He didn’t like to think about that.

 

He was different now. Changed. Not by choice, but in his experience, little change in life was by choice. It had been another case of bad luck. Wrong place, wrong time meant being in the forest in the dead of night…okay so maybe a bit of bad decision making was to blame, but how was he supposed to know that the only vampire to ever visit Garrison Valley was going to be out that night.

 

It wasn’t his fault that the thing had been what the hunter had dubbed a ‘blood junkie’. It also wasn’t his fault that the hunter had killed the vampire, and then left town, before Keith could ask a single question about what the fuck he was meant to do now.

 

He’d tried staying, but he was different, too different, and he didn’t know how to live. Things were getting worse, both personally, and within the town. Which was why he’d had to leave.

 

His headlights shone onto a sign that said ‘Welcome to Altea’, but someone had crossed out Altea, and scrawled ‘Vampire Territory!’ in bold letters.

 

Keith snorted, wondering if that was done as a welcome, or a warning. This was where the dead were sent to metaphorically rot, unless you were a zombie, in that case it was literal.

 

His fuel light blinked on, making Keith grip the wheel in barely concealed irritation. The city of Arus was still 200 miles away, and he didn’t want to stop at a gas station run by some middle of the nowhere vampires. It didn’t matter that he was one, he was still sure they were going to try and eat him.

 

Not that he had any choice. It was stop or run out of gas on a near deserted road, which was much worse.

 

Unfortunately, a gas station quickly reared its head, florescent lighting glaring at him, cutting through the sleepy night, demanding his attention, and patronage. He glared back, as if he could win a contest, and slowly turned in.

 

There was one other car there, a blue hatchback sedan, battered, and dirty. It was empty, and Keith couldn't see far enough inside the glaring station to make out her owners. Topped with the complete silence, it gave the place a deserted feeling.

 

Keith stopped the car, waiting and watching, but nothing happened, which was worse than something. His fingers thrummed in the wheel, he needed noise.

 

As if answering his prayer, and of all the ones to answer this was the shittiest one, plinks of rain hit the gas station, and concrete surrounding it, quickly turning from light, to heavy as the sky darkened. Keith sat watching it, changing his mind about the need for noise. The area between the pumps and the station was uncovered, which meant he'd have to run through it.

 

Grabbing his coat form the back seat, he pulled it on. It was a big thing, heavy, padded, with an oversized hood. He hadn't bought it, but he loved it. Once, a long time ago, it had been his dads. From the glove compartment he pulled out a knife. His mums, or so his dad had told him. Regardless of the truth, he kept it sharp, and on him at all times, especially now that he'd changed.

 

The rain grew heavier, and Keith pushed open the door, ready to get this over with. No one jumped out at him as he left the car or snuck up behind him as he filled the tank. Still, his on-edge feeling didn't leave him. A single car passed as he returned the nozzle to the pump, and for some reason that made him feel better. There were people out here, and even if they weren't really 'people' it meant he wasn't alone.

 

That's why he'd come out here, apart from the whole being driven out of town thing. He wanted someone like him to talk to, to tell him that everything was normal, because at the moment every change felt like it was the one that was going to kill him.

 

Feeling a little braver, Keith headed towards the gas station. As he pulled his hood up he caught a glimpse of a person and smiled.

 

The doors opened for him with a jingle. At first glance the inside was normal. Bright lighting, random crap on shelves, and a guy behind the till looking utterly bored. At a second glance, Keith realised that the lighting was turned down to be the perfect level for his nocturnal eyes, and he didn't recognise anything on the shelves. 

 

There were 'Blood Jellies', and 'Wolf Crispsnow with extra bone!" Plus, plenty of raw meat to the back left of the shop, but what made him stop, and contemplate if he was hallucinating, or had simply lost his mind, was a vending machine. It was next to the counter, where the plainest man he'd ever seen flipped another page of his magazine.

 

The thing was red, with a mascot sticker on it shaped like a drop of blood with arms and legs. A little speech bubble urged him to 'Try our new turkey blood. Exclusive to the festive season!'

 

"It takes cash and card."

 

Keith's heart missed a beat as he swivelled his head to the speaker. The cashier hadn't looked up from his magazine, but he repeated himself anyway.

 

"Cash or card." When Keith didn't reply he finally looked up. "You ever used one of these before? Just put in your money." He pointed at the coin slot. "Then press these buttons, you seen the numbers on them? They-,"

 

"I've used one before," Keith interrupted, his heartbeat returning to normal as curiosity replaced fear. Who, in this age, hadn't used a vending machine?

 

"Oh." the cashier squinted at him, trying to get a better look under his hood. Suddenly, as a hot flush, Keith felt very self-conscious. His appearance had changed a lot since his turning, and it was still changing. He didn't like the way people stared now, like there was something not quite right with how he looked, but they couldn't put their finger on it. He wanted to rip that finger off.

 

"Oh," the cashier repeated, "you're a baby." He straightened up from the counter, closing his magazine. Keith blinked at him, surprised and uncomprehending. 

 

Tapping the side of the metal box, he said, "it's a blood machine. You'll find them everywhere here. No human stuff tho', just animal. Farms bleed 'em, ship 'em to us, and you buy 'em. Gotta drink the blood within three hours of taking it outta the machine, or it starts clotting, and tastes rank." He scrunched up his nose, and then un-scrunched it. "That's about it."

 

Keith nodded, belatedly realised that it might be hard to see under his hood, and said, "thanks."

 

He turned his eyes back to the machine as he stepped up to it. His stomach churned with an empty pit of hunger he'd been ignoring. The last time he'd eaten was...he still felt guilty about that, best not to dwell on it.

 

Inside was the promised turkey blood, along with chicken, cow, and lamb. They were labelled with pictures of their animals, and the names in five different languages down the side. Chicken was in the centre, and the cheapest, number 34. He punched in the numbers, and a bright $3.00 came up.

 

"That's it?" He breathed. The machine answered yes as he slotted in the coins, and a bag of blood popped out. Delicately, he picked it up. The plastic around it was thick, but smooth against his fingers.

 

"You rip the top," the cashier said, startling Keith for a second time. After glancing up to see the cashier watching him, he looked closer at the bag. There was a bit poking out of the top with an indent and little letters that said 'tear here'.


He tugged harder than necessary, nearly spilling the bag, but caught it, and then stared in almost wonder at the blood. It was right there for him to drink, from a vending machine. The world had never been quite as weird as it was in that moment.

 

Pulling his hood off his head, he lifted the bag to his lips, and tipped it back, first drinking slowly, and then gulping it down. Some spilled past his mouth, likely soaking his shirt, or coat, but he didn't care. He was starving. Finishing the bag, he licked his stained red lips, and punched in the same number for another bag. 

 

As the numbers shone $3.00 the cashier mumbled, "kiddo."

 

Keith half looked at him, ready to go back to his blood, but the man’s wide eye, and open mouth stopped him.

 

"What?" He asked. It came out harsh, but inside he was anxious. 

 

The cashiers mouth snapped shut and seemed to compose himself slightly.

 

He worked his jaw, clearly thinking out his next words, and finally settled on, "where's your alpha?" which Keith thought was a poor choice as he had no idea what that meant. 

 

From the stern, wide-eyed look he was getting, Keith guessed that 'what the fuck does that mean' was the wrong choice, so instead he said, "not here."

 

The man started to lose his cartoonishly shocked expression as he asked, "not here as in 'in the car', or not here?"

 

Unconsciously, Keith chewed his lip, only realising he was doing it when one of his fangs scraped skin. He hissed, raising his hand to wipe away his blood, it came back covered in chicken.

 

As he shook it, trying to get the blood off, but not wanting to stain his clothes, the cashier spoke, "not here, then," he surmised, and Keith didn't deny it, "alright, you stay there, I'll call the sheriff."

 

Keith stilled, hearing the words, then understanding them, and as his mind caught up, his first thought was 'shit'. Was that a crime? Shit. Shit. Shit. The cashier was picking up a phone. He needed to get out of here. He could run, he'd probably make it to the door before the cashier could jump his counter, but, shit, his gas bill.

 

"Hey, everything okay?" A voice called from behind Keith, but he didn't turn to look, instead he kept his head down, and dug deep into his pockets for his wallet. He found wrappers, receipts, and coins first, then his hand brushed leather, and he grabbed it.

 

"Fine," the cashier replied, typing a number into his phone, "just, ah, don't worry about it."

 

Keith pulled out his wallet, rooting through it for cash. He didn't know what he'd done to warrant the police, but he wasn't going to deliberately commit a crime.

 

A shadow fell over him, and the man behind him asked, "who's this?" At the same time, a smell filled the air, reminding Keith of coffee in curdled milk, although he wasn't sure he'd ever smelled that before.

 

Not now, he told himself, he needed to concentrate. The phone was dialling, and in frustration Keith gave up counting. He fisted a bunch of cash he knew was enough and gave one quick look to the man behind him as he slammed the money down onto the table.

 

The words, "leave 'im alone," echoed vaguely as Keith's blood went cold. The largest man he'd ever seen towered over him. He hunched in what felt like a cage to better look at Keith. With a grin on his face that Keith could only describe as slimy he leaned down closer, white teeth on show, pulled back so Keith could see large fangs designed to tear open flesh.

 

"Gas," Keith wheezed, letting go of the money as he stumbled back away from the man.

 

"Hey sweetheart, what's your name," the man asked, not seeming to sense Keith's instinctive fear.

 

“Branko,” the cashier warned.

 

In the moment the man, Branko, looked away to answer him, Keith ran. His body hit the door, and then rain. Hood down, he was quickly soaked before he found the cover of the pump station.

 

A "wait!” Follow after him, but no one touched him. The car door refused him entry as he forgot he'd locked it. Looking up, he pulled his key from his pocket, spilling coins to the floor, and saw the cashier in the doorway, yelling again.

 

The car door opened, he scrambled in, and slammed it shut behind him using enough force to make it rattle. Now the headlights illuminated the cashier, standing out in the rain, as Keith went straight into reverse. His car hit the curb, jolting him before he turned back onto the road, and left, going well over the speed limit.

 

They were gone.

 

Breath. Calm down. They’re gone.

 

It was only when he hadn't been able to see the gas station for a good five minutes that the fear began to ebb from his body. His grip on the wheel relaxed, finally letting blood back into his white knuckles, and his jaw unclenched from its wired shut position.

 

He had freaked, and he didn't know why. Yes, the threat of police had forced him to run, but it had been frantic, not one of his usual thought out escapes. As he thought about it in silence he realised he knew the cause. That other man, with his teeth, white, curdled milk. He'd planned to hurt Keith. Some part of him was certain of that.

 

The orange lights were disappearing now. Dwindling as the road became smaller, and trees took over. He had to slow down, for safety. The road curved more, and more, hiding what came next behind branches and leaves.

 

He almost missed the woman.

Chapter Text

He almost missed the woman. She was waving frantically, nearly standing out in the road. Her appearance so sudden that he had to slam on his breaks and swerve so as not to hit her. His tires shrieked in protest, and the whole car jolted him forwards hard enough to make him breathless against the seat belt as it stopped.

 

He took an angry second to catch his breath, before shoving the door open, and yelling, "what the fuck!"

 

"Sorry! Sorry!" The woman called, running towards him. She didn't look sorry. Taking off his seat belt, Keith stepped out of the car to glare at her.

 

She smiled brightly, making barely a wrinkle on her small, perfectly painted face.

 

"I'm so glad you stopped," she said, and Keith held back a contrived 'I didn't have a choice', instead rolling his eyes, "I needed help," she pointed one hand back towards the roadside, glittered nails shinning in Keith's headlights, "my car broke down."

 

A car sat nose nearly in a ditch a few paces away from them. It was the same car that had passed the gas station earlier.

 

"I don't know anything about cars," Keith said bluntly, ready to leave this airhead.

 

She giggled, "aren't we just a pair?" And Keith stared at her blankly, but she didn't seem to care, "you got a phone? Mines dead. I need to call my Sire to come pick me up," clasping her hands together in fake prayer she added, "pleeease."

 

With a sigh that reeked annoyance Keith muttered, "yeah."

 

She made tiny jumps that barely disturbed a hair and squealed, "thank you."

 

He held back an eyeroll, and turning to his car, reached back into it for the bag he kept in the backseat. It held his phone, along with some clothes and wash junk. He strained to get it as he leaned in from the driver’s door, losing sight of the woman in the process. Finally holding the bag, he looked back to her, and she was gone.

 

He froze, then movement caught his eye. She was back by her car, leaning against the boot. Her fingers thrumming on the metal, sparkling in the low light as she grinned at him.

 

Not stopping to think, he hefted his bag strap onto his shoulder, and with phone in hand, walked over to her. As he came closer her smile grew.

 

"You know their number?" Keith asked, looking down at his phone. Five missed calls from Lance stared up at him accusingly from the bright screen. After a moment that he used to frown, he swiped to get rid of the reminder, and looked up to ask his question again.

 

Without warning, the world rushed upwards, his only clear image was of the woman grinning wider than ever, then his face hit the floor along with the crack of his phone. It skidded to the woman's foot, and Keith looked up at her to see her standing there, hands still resting on the car. There were hands on Keith, large sharp one that had pulled him to the ground. They cut into his legs, gripping painfully tight.

 

Fear coursed through him, but it was nothing like the terror that made him scream as what was holding him began to drag him backwards. His nails dug into the pavement, chipping as they left no mark. His coat rode up, scraping his belly across the asphalt, and the pain gave him a fleeting clarity. His knife. It was tucked into his jeans, against his back.

 

One bloodied hand went for it. Grabbing, and with the courage of adrenaline running through his veins he rolled, knife slashing down to his leg, to face the monster.

 

Glowing red eyes stared at him from the face of a man. His knife went through skin, and muscle, cutting his own leg, and his attackers hand. Flesh burned. The knife glowed. It howled.

 

The wounded hand let go, but the other gripped tighter, pulling him in closer as the howl turned to a growl. It was dark, sending ice chills of fear over his skin, and then it stopped.

 

Unknown hands had gripped the monsters head on either side and pulled up. With a sound Keith never wanted to hear again, the head was ripped up into the air, and the body slumped down, into the ground.

 

Silence soundtracked the sight of blood gushing from an open neck, and then the woman shrieked. Her heeled feet clicked past Keith's body as she ran for the head, her perfect hands outstretched as if to catch it.

 

Then she was stumbling past it, hands still out, with no head of her own. It arched, hitting the floor, and rolling onto its side. Her eyes stared openly at him, still shining with life.

 

Keith stared back until the thud of feet snapped him away. Their attacker, his attacker’s attacker, was walking towards him, first head still in hand. The man - it looked like a man - was just as big as the thing that had grabbed Keith, but he was scarred all over, on his hands, and most prominently on his face.

 

The man stopped, looking down at Keith on the floor, and asked, "What's an Omega doing out here near sunrise?"

 

Keith opened his mouth to answer, or plead for his life, but with the adrenaline in him dying, his lack of sleep from driving for so long, hoping that no one was coming after him, and his hunger, barely sated by the packet of blood, all toppled together he instead said, "how the fuck am I meant to know?"

 

His heart beat loudly in the silence as he waited to lose his head, but the scarred man just cracked a lopsided smile, and said, "okay then."

 

Keith didn't know how to respond to that, so the man turned back to the woman's head in silence. He walked the last few steps to pick it up and seemed to contemplate them.

 

"Hey, you got a phone?" He asked.

 

Dazed from the lack of his own death, Keith looked around as he absently felt his pocket where he'd always kept his phone back when he was alive, and not trying to ignore people. He spotted it on the ground near the car and pointed mutely.

 

The man followed his finger, giving Keith a, "thanks," as he turned his back on him. The urge to run sprang up, but Keith wasn't sure he could use his leg. He tried anyway, feet slowly getting under him.

 

As he moved the man put both heads on the car boot. He lined them up so they faced outwards, resting against each other in open eyed silence. He bent picking up Keith's phone, and for one frightening moment it looked like one of the heads blinked, then the man was standing again, blocking Keith's view.

 

He turned the phone over in his hand, frowning.

 

Keith was finally on his feet when the man said, "it's one of the new ones, isn't it? I don't know - can you use it for me? We need to call the police."

 

"No!"

 

Keith flinched, he wasn't the one who had spoken. Looking up, and down the road, he couldn't see anyone, the darkness was heavy, the furthest he could see was at the end of his headlights. Which a little voice at the back of his mind muttered were draining his battery.

 

"Don't you, I will fucking bray you if you try." Another, harsher, male voice said, and Keith looked to the trees. That was entirely futile as he could barely see past the first few branches.

 

Finally, with complete resignation, he had to look to the only living things here.

 

The scarred man was facing the car, and as Keith took some shaky steps see around him, the same voice yelled, "you'll regret this you fucking cunt."

 

"Yeah, sure I will," the scarred man said, turning to Keith with an amused 'can you believe this' smile. No. Keith couldn't believe it, but for very different reasons.

 

The head. It was talking. Eye's blinking. Mouth working. Alive. A Head. Keith suddenly felt very dizzy. He needed to sit down, or he was going to faint, he was sure of that.

 

Blood was rushing through his ears as the world went dark – darker – at the edges.

 

Blurring in his vision the scarred man was stepping towards him, a concerned look on his face as he asked "you okay?"

 

Keith wanted to say ‘absolutely not’, but talking took precious air, and one of the heads kindly answered for him.

 

"Who gives a shit," it said, as Keith's legs gave out. His ass smacked the hard ground, stinging, but the world kept tilting, wanting to disappear entirely.

 

"Hey," the man was next to him, hand on his should, slowly taking more of his weight, "look at me,” he said, but Keith didn’t, or couldn’t comply, “look at me,” now his voice was stronger, drowning the blood rushing through Keith’s head, “Stay awake. Slow down your breathing."

 

A spark shot down his spine feeling like it was forcing his head to snap up and look straight at the man. The creeping darkness in his vision receded, and his breathing slowed. He hadn't realised how fast it was going until then.

 

"Better?" The man asked, and Keith nodded slowly, his eye's never leaving him, "ah, right, you don't have to look at me anymore."

 

Another spark, and Keith looked away. One more thing he didn't understand, but it was one too many, and right now he couldn't bring himself to care.

 

"They talk," he rasped, voice hoarse from a dry mouth. He was staring up at stars, concentrating on constellations, naming them like his dad had taught him. They made sense, even in the dark, in Vampire territory with a talking head on a car, they were the same. The stars didn’t care for life’s insanities, and tragedies.

 

A small laugh came from the car. It quickly turned into a cackle, high, and mocking that brayed continuously. Keith didn't look down to see which head it was.

 

"Hold on," the scarred man said, and out of the corner of his eye Keith saw him leave. There was a thud, the laughing stopped, then the man was back at his side.

 

"You new to this?" Keith nodded. "Ten years?" That cracked a smile on his face, and he shook his head. "Five?" He shook again. "Three?" Another shake. "Two?" Shake. "...one?" Shake. "How many months?" The man’s voice was strained before Keith held up two fingers, and he fell silent.

 

Keith was glad for it. He needed a break. A second for things to just not be a living nightmare. There was Ursa Minor.

 

"Okay," the man said eventually, voice sounding like he was forcing the concern out of it, "I'm Shiro. I live around here, have for a long time. Any of the local would vouch for me. If you know someone around here you can ask them,” he paused, Keith didn’t move. He didn’t know anyone outside of Garrison Valley well enough to trust their opinion. “I know this is asking a lot, but would you get in a car with me? Can I drive us to the police station?"

 

"No."

 

Shiro didn't ask for an explanation, or press for Keith’s name, he just continued, "That's fine. None of this is going to make sense. I get that this is terrifying, but we need the police. I'll explain everything. I promise, but.” He held out Keith’s phone. “I need you to unlock this so I can call them." Keith saw it out of the corner of his eye, and thought about not taking it, but that meant staying here, like this, which right now that was worse than anything the man wanted to do, so with a shaky hand he grabbed it.

 

The thing had a number lock. 1023. It opened, and Shiro waited for Keith to hold it out for him before taking it. Letting Keith see what he was doing, Shiro pressed 666, and the phone rang.

 

"Hello, Black Forest’s Sheriff department, what's you're emergency?" A professional voice spoke, almost sounding automated.

 

Shiro lifted the phone to his ear, illuminating the side of his face, and replied, "hey, it's Shiro. I've got a bit of a... situation." His eye's strayed between the heads and Keith.

 

"Oooh boy." The line said, and Keith could just about make out the voice on the other end. It sounded male, with an accent he couldn’t place. "You've got a situation. Not sure I want to hear about this."

 

A smile slipped onto the edge of Shiro's mouth, and he said, "yeah, well, good news, I got those blood junkies that were haunting the roads."

 

“Well you can’t say that’s not the cat’s pyjamas.” What on earth did that mean? “Alive I hope, new rules, and all that malarkey,” the voice sounded pleased, jovial even, and Shiro’s smile became fond in response, like the officer’s disregard for the law was an old joke.

 

“Yes, alive-.”

 

“Just checking,” the voice quickly cut in, “You’ve had incidents in the past, and it costs us a lot of money to put them in pine overcoats.” That earned an eyeroll, but there must have been some truth to whatever it was they were saying because he kept Shiro mouth shut on the matter. “We’ll send some fella’s out, but where’s the snag? You said it was a situation, unless that means something good now. New slang? I’m trying to keep up.”

 

“No, no,” Shiro was near laughing now, “we’ve got the traditional kind of situation, but there’s not a lot traditional about it.”

 

“Stop confusing me,” the voice grumbled. Shiro glanced to Keith, and his smile faltered.

 

“I've got a baby vampire out here with no Sire," he finally admitted, and the line was silent.

 

Then they asked, “how baby?”

 

Shiro grimaced, phone light highlighting the shadows of his face, making his frown appear deeper, “two months.”

 

Keith could practically see the sharp intake of breath from the noise on the phone, "hoooo, someone’s going to be up the shit creek."

 

“Yeah,” Shiro shot him an apologetic look, before adding, “, and they're an Omega."

 

"No." The other end breathed, unbelieving.

 

Shiro nodded even though the other person couldn't see him, "yeah."

 

There was a beat where neither of them spoke.

 

"Fuck a duck, we'll be right there."

 

“We’re not going anywhere.” Shiro answered, and the called ended. To Keith he said, “they’ll be here soon.”

 

“That pretty much the only thing I understood from that conversation.”


Shiro chuckled, “yeah, Coran’s been around a long time, and he likes being hip, that’s the right word isn’t it?”

 

"Close enough," Keith replied, finally able to smile. It was wan, but after the rest of the night just being able to do it felt like a miracle. Shiro was smiling back, his face no longer illuminated by the phone as it had automatically switched off.

 

There was only so long they could sit there smiling at each other, and eventually their gazes dropped. Keith could see Shiro looking around, thinking, but he couldn't bring himself to do the same. It might mean having to look at the heads, or their bodies, which he wasn't ready for yet.

 

"Hungry?" Shiro asked whilst Keith had been counting the cracks in the concrete. It made him jump as the night was pure silence, no birds or crickets to be heard. He didn't like the implications of the question as the only blood-filled things here were him and bodies.

 

Shiro was standing, patting down his legs, and then his ass when he continued, "I'd offer you my arm, but these guys pretty much drained me dry, so yeah, I'm hungry too. There's some blood bags in my car." He nodded his head in its direction, waiting for Keith to answer. Keith copied his motion, up and down.

 

"Thought so, you must be starving all the time at your age, I know I was," Shiro was walking towards the car as he spoke, "one time, think I was about fifteen - vampire years - when people ask your age they're going to mean that. Yeah, so I was fifteen, or seventeen," Shiro's voice grew fainter as he opened the car door and leaned in, rummaging around, "and my Sire had taken me to Scotland. I was born in Japan, so major culture shock. Got a preference?" Shiro had popped his head back out of the car, a few bags of blood in hand.

 

Keith hadn't been looking at him, so gave a startled, "what?"

 

Shiro shook one of the bags, and repeated, "preference? Cow? Chicken? Sheep?" He grinned to himself whilst saying the last animal.

 

"Uh, no."

 

Shiro threw back some of the bags, and headed to Keith with two in hand, "right, so, my first time in Scotland my Sire disappears for about a week." Shiro sat down next to him. "I didn't know this was going to happen." He held out one bag. "It's sheep."

 

Keith took it. A cartoon sheep stared at him from the label. It was the same kind that had been in the gas station vending machine.

 

"And I run out of blood and get this great idea that I should go hunting on my own." Keith looked up at Shiro, startled, having momentarily forgotten the story. "Stupid, right? I'm like... well less than twenty. So, what has Scotland got a lot of? Sheep. I sneak out into a field covered head to toe in blankets because of the vampire thing. Don't ask me why I did it in the day time, I don't remember." Shiro tore open his own packet of blood and took a swig. "So, I find some sheep, and let me tell you, they are not as easy to catch as you would think. I end running around this field for ages."

 

Shiro laughed and his smile spreading from ear to ear. Keith couldn’t help but notice how it lit up his face, highlighting his eyes with moonlight white.

 

After a second where he seemed to be thinking back fondly, Shiro continued, "I'm literally this big blanket, and it's brightly coloured, like red, and blue, and white. You couldn't miss it. I'm this big ass blanket running around a field trying to jump on sheep, and I miss. Every. Time. I just end up flat on my face, and no surprise, the farmer sees me, and he, seeing that I'm not going anywhere anytime soon, calls the cops, or whatever they were called back then. We didn't spend long there after this. Anyway, they turn up, and ask " Shiro puffed out his chest, squared his shoulders, stuck out his elbows, then putting on the worst Scottish accent Keith had ever heard, he said "What's gonnae oan haur 'en."

 

Keith snorted, and covered his mouth, looking at Shiro with ears turning bright red. The other man grinned at him, and carried on "Ye tryin' tae ned some sheep?" Keith wheezed behind his hand. "and I go, 'no, no, no, I'd never! And he goes 'Sae whit ur ye it haur daein' in 'at rug?' And me, knowing from local tavern talk that stealing a sheep would get me executed, but fucking one wouldn’t, goes 'I just wanted a shag." Keith couldn’t hold back his laughter, he let out a near that had him gasping for air.

 

Shiro grinned even harder, waiting for Keith to calm down slightly before he continued, "then he goes, 'alrecht, yoo're comin' wi' me,' and grabs me by the arm."

 

Keith was wheezing again as lights rounded the far corner of the road, and Shiro stopped, squinting. Keith couldn’t see anything beyond the glare, his tears of laughter didn’t help.

 

"Looks like Coran's here," Shiro said, before downing the rest of his blood in a few gulps. Keith’s own bag sat still unopened in his hands.

 

As Shiro stood up Keith asked, "wait, what happened?"

 

Grinning down at him, Shiro answered, "I'll save that for later."

Chapter Text

The cars headlights swung, forcing Keith to shield his eyes from the glare as it blinded him. He could hear the car’s engine, and wheels on the road as it slowed, dissipating into silence. The glow through his fingers vanished, and he lowered his hand to see that it had pulled up alongside his car. They stood out in contrast to one another. Keith’s was old, paint chipping around the wheels with a chic look of dust grime covering everything that wasn’t mud. The other car was new, black enough to melt into the night, with the words ‘Black Forest Sheriff’s Department’ painted on the side in clean white letters.

Its door swung open, cutting the sentence in half, and long spindly legs burst out, followed by two hands, each grabbing either side of the opening with bony fingers that curved onto the metal. In one fast haul, the creature pulled itself out of the car, and at its full height, which it achieved with a few creaks and cracks of limbs, it looked a little bit like slender man had decided to dress up as a middle-aged man for Halloween, with a vibrant orange moustache for added effect.

“Evening fella’s,” the man(?) said bobbing his moustache as he spoke, using same accent as the man on the phone.

“Evening Coran,” Shiro replied, raising, and flicking his hand in greeting. The man, Coran, gave him a wide spindly grin, that went far beyond his moustache.

“So, where’s our little situation?”

Keith couldn’t see Shiro’s face properly on the near lightless road, but it felt like something was exchanged between him and Coran. Maybe it was their silent staring contest, or the way Coran raised an eyebrow, but when Shiro inclined his head towards Keith, he was sure something had happened.

“This is-,” Shiro stopped, turning to fully look at Keith, who was still on the ground.

“Keith.”

“Keith,” Shiro repeated, “and the blood junkies are on the car.”

Coran hunched over, squinted as Shiro spoke, to first look at Keith, give him a nod, and then look at the car. He burst into laughter as soon as he saw them.

“Aren’t they a painting!” He chortled, head bobbing on an outstretched neck.

Shiro shrugged, body casual, but face hiding childish glee, “I’ve only got two hands.”

Coran barked out another few laughs, sniffed longly, and then clapped his hands together into a rub.

“Alright, alright,” he said, straightening, “Enough fooling. I say we get the bodies into the back of my car and put the heads in my trunk. Now,” he was looking at Keith, “what on earth do we do with you."

His voice was stern, but there was a sympathetic shine to his eyes, although that might have been from the glare of the headlights. Either way, it made Keith uncomfortable enough to drop eye contact in favour of staring at his still unopened blood bag.

"Allura?” Shiro suggested as Keith fiddled with the label. A childish, rebellious voice inside Keith’s head said ‘no’.

“Aye, Aye, but right now? I’m sure he doesn’t want to be in a car with some headless bodies.”

Oh, that’s what he’d meant.

“I can drive,” Keith said, to which Coran head-bobbed laughed again, leaving Keith in momentary confusion.

“At two months? Aye, no driving till your five. That the law.” Coran winked at him, “so no driving where I can see you.”

Keith stared at him, trying and failing to figure out if he was joking, so he asked, “seriously?” Voice more than slightly incredulous.

“Positively,” Coran replied, using his other eye to wink, and Keith tried not to shudder, but he didn’t succeed. He wasn’t sure if Coran noticed, but the other man didn’t react.

Saving Keith from further weird interaction, Shiro cut in, “he can ride with me,” and addressing Keith he added, “right?”

"Yeah,” Keith mumbled back. To which Coran added squeezing to his hand rubbing.

“Lovely dovely, now, who wants to move a headless body with me?” He looked at both of them expectantly, and when neither of them acknowledged him he pointed at Shiro and said, “wonderful! A volunteer!”

Shiro rolled his eyes, but he was smiling.

“Okay, Keith, why don’t you get your stuff from your car? We won’t be long.”

Keith nodded, and looked down at the bag he’d already taken out. In truth, there wasn’t much more in there. He’d never had many possession, and his packing had been so hasty that he’d left a lot behind. Even the car technically wasn’t his. It wasn’t stolen, it belonged to his dad, but since he hadn’t seen the man in two years he’d presumed it wouldn’t be missed, much like him.

On shaky legs he got up and went to his car, ignoring the concerned side-eyes he was getting. There was a rucksack in the back with wads of cash, and a laptop in it. Those were his. He’d emptied his bank account before he’d left.

With his bag in one hand he pulled the rucksack onto his back and waited for the other two to finish their job. They were carrying the bodies to the car. Keith watched until one of them started kicking, and the he suddenly found a tree that was very interesting.

He heard a “fuck,” and a car door slam, then some feet walking about. Belatedly, he realised that both the heads had been very quiet for a long time. Even now that they were being arrested they didn’t say a word. It made him curious, but not curious enough to look at them. His tree had very nice bark.

There was another slam, this one harder, then the footsteps got closer to him.

“Ready?” Shiro asked, and Keith looked away from his tree. Shiro didn’t look out of breath, or tired in anyway. There wasn’t even a pink to his cheeks, but then again, he was low on blood. Keith wondered about that. How low could they get without dying? Shouldn’t there be some kind of detriment to being bloodless? They lived on it, and if TV was to be believed, went mad without it, but Shiro looked fine. Health wise, not… he was fine, more than fine, but also a stranger, and, not now.

Shiro had said something that Keith didn’t catch and was walking towards his car. It was still nearly in a ditch. Before Keith could ask how he planned to get it out the man had grabbed it by the underside and was lifting it. The whole thing creaked in protest as it rose off the ground. He then pushed the car backwards, and the wheels rolled with it. On the road, Shiro let go, and the car thudded down, suspension bouncing.

Keith tried to snap his mouth closed before Shiro could see, but he suspected from the grin he got that he’d failed.

“So, you can do that, that’s a thing,” he said, and Shiro’s grin flickered.

One hand tapped nervously on the car, just once, before he asked, “I know this might be hard for you to talk about, but how much did your Sire teach you?”

Keith considered him, and his own answer, thinking back to the gas station. Lying was an option, but he’d never been a very good bullshitter. The police were already here, and Shiro knew that he was alone. Most of all, he needed answers.

“Well, I don’t know what a ‘Sire’ is-,” Keith started, but stopped when Shiro made a similar intake of breath to the person on the phone, which Keith suspected was Coran.

“Okay, I-,” he agitatedly tapped the car again, “I’ll explain.” Two more taps as he watched Coran get into his own car. A flash of beady purple eyes told Keith that the Sheriff had been watching them.

Then Shiro continued, “In the car. It’s a few minutes’ drive, and it’s,” he seemed to be searching for some words, “cold out here.”

Keith shrugged. The rain had petered out into a drizzle, and he still had his big coat on, so he wasn’t really cold. Still, being out here at night surrounded by blood wasn’t somewhere he wanted to stay. Especially if everyone was leaving, it was creepy enough with people, he didn’t want to be alone.

Shiro nodded like something had been decided and tapped the car one last time before opening the driver’s door. He slid in using one surprisingly graceful movement, and when Keith hadn’t moved he turned back to look at him out of the open door.

He didn’t need to ask, Keith quickly hurried to the door, and pulled it open to see that the car was messier than he’d expected. Not dirty, just not clean.

“Sorry,” Shiro muttered, wiping some crumbs off the dashboard.

“Have you seen my car?” Keith joked, although a small part of his mind protested that it wasn’t his car, and his bike – his personal bike that he’d worked for and bought with his own money - was a polished mirror clean, with a regularity hoovered seat, but Shiro would never know that.

“Yeah,” Shiro said shortly, and Keith wondered if he was being judged, which was rude.

With him now in the car, Shiro started the engine.

He waited for Coran to pull away before following him, and there was a bit of silence before Shiro asked, “where’d you get it?”

“Huh?”

“The car,” Shiro clarified, eyes on the road, “you- I’m sorry if I’m judging, but you look rather young to be driving. In human years.”

“I’m eighteen,” Keith answered curtly, creating an awkward silence.

“Sorry,“ Shiro paused to give him a quick glance, "Human ages get sort of confusing when you’re a Vampire. We have different age markers,” he explained. Keith didn’t reply, still a little annoyed. "What I mean is, to me, you look young, really young.” More silence. “Your cheeks are red from cold. You ever seen a Vampire with rosy cheeks? And you have tiny baby fangs. They’re adorable-.”

Keith snorted, “really? My fangs are cute.” He gave Shiro a disbelieving look as the man pressed his mouth into a line and nodded emphatically.

“Yeah, they are. It’s like…,” he took one hand off the wheel to gesture vaguely, like it would conjure up an idea, “you know when you look at baby shoes and they make you go all coo-y, it’s like that.”

That crack a half smile on Keith’s face, and with mocking in his voice, he said, “no, I don’t go around looking at baby shoes.”

“God, you are so young,” Shiro muttered, emphasis on the ‘God’, “do you even have your full set of second teeth yet?”

Keith paused, then, “I get a second set of teeth?”

“Yeah,” Shiro said, nodding some more, “why am I even surprised.”

Keith pulled himself up in his seat, having unconsciously slouched whilst he was miffed.

“When do I get my teeth?” He asked, whole upper body turning to face Shiro.

“Oh,” he grimaced, “soon.” That sounded ominous. “It’s-it’s not something to look forward to.” Great, that sounded worse.

“So far there hasn’t been anything worth 'looking forward to’” Keith muttered, turning back, and slouching. They drove in silence for a while, tree’s flying past, unchanging. No signs of a town getting closer.

“It doesn’t sound like you’ve had a typical experience,” Shiro said, breaking the quiet, “most Sire’s-,” Keith side-eyed him, “right, a Sire is the person who turned you. They’re meant to guide you through your change and look after you until you’re ready to leave them, if you ever do want to leave them.”

“Mine’s dead,” Keith said, answering the unasked question.

Shiro took a deep breath, “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

Keith kept staring at the road, “it was scary, yeah, he…he just came out of nowhere. I didn’t know what he wanted.” Why was he telling him this? “I thought he was going to kill me. I guess that’s what he intended to do."

"He won’t hurt you, we’ll make sure of that. Do you know if he’s still out there?”

“Like I said, he’s dead,” Keith answered with a sigh.

Softly, “I meant your attacker.

"Yeah, dead.” Keith could see Shiro half looking at him.

He seemed confused, then his eyes went wide and he whispered, “your Sire was your attacker.”

“What did you think I meant?”

Shiro looked back at the road, his face turning to stone, “don’t worry about it. So, who killed your Sire?”

Keith chewed the inside of his mouth, wanting to press, but he’d seen that look before, on others, on himself. It meant he cutting himself off.

“A hunter,” he finally said, “he came out of nowhere, and just, I dunno, staked him I think.”

“And then?”

“He left. Next day I started noticing changes, but I had no idea where he’d gone. Things just spiralled from there.” Keith fiddled with the hem of his coat as the car fell silent.

Then out of nowhere Shiro slammed his palm into the wheel of the car, and yelled, “fuck!”

Keith jumped, startled, and pressed back against the car door.

“Sorry,” Shiro muttered, glancing to him, then louder, and with more sincerity, “sorry. I’ve been trying to keep my cool, but,” he took a breath, then stressing every word said, “that. Is. Fucked. Up.”

“It’s.” Keith started, then stopped, unsure of what to say. He hadn’t expected whatever this was. Sympathy? He let out a bark of laughter.

“It is fuc-messed up,” Shiro said, seeming to misinterpret his laughter, “we don’t go around changing every human we meet. Choosing to change a person, it’s like getting married. You don’t marry every person you meet. You find the right human that you want to spend hundreds of years with - the rest of your life if you’re lucky - and you change them. There’s a ceremony. Traditional outfits. Terrible dancing. We don’t jump people in the middle of the night, turn them, and just leave them to fend for themselves.”

A strange churning went through Keith’s stomach. One he didn’t understand. So, his experience wasn’t universal, that didn’t make him happy. It also didn’t make him sad. He didn’t know what it made him.

“In his defence, he died,” Keith said, unsure of why he was saying it.

“He’s got no defence,” Shiro snapped, more heated than ever, “He fuc-screw-.” Each half word seemed to build his frustration.

As a kind of joke, Keith interrupted, “you can swear in front of me.”

Shiro paused, mouth half open, and then he sighed, “he fucked you over.” His shoulders sagged, and his whole face changed, a tired expression sinking in, “no one deserves that,“ he finished.

Keith rested his elbow on the door and pressed his palm into his face whilst he looked away, out at the trees.

In a mumble that he hoped Shiro wouldn’t hear Keith answered, "not everyone agrees with you.” Iverson had certainly thought he’d deserved.

“Well they sound like a shitty person.” Shiro replied, making Keith smiled at his reflection.

“Yeah… they kinda are.”

The trees were starting to thin as Shiro took a left off the main road. They didn’t say anything else as a sign passed them saying ‘Welcome to Lionley’, and houses began to appear. The first thing Keith noticed was how low they all were. Not a single house was above one story. The second was the amount of people out in the dead of night. Although, with a bit of reflection, he realised that wasn’t surprising at all.

In front of them Coran pulled into the parking lot of a building that looked like one massive concrete brick, and Shiro followed him. He parked next to the single lamp in the centre of the lot. They were the only cars there, but it didn’t feel deserted as people were walking down the street that ran adjacent.

There was a big guy, broad shouldered, and big bellied in retro clothing topped with a headband. Walking in tandem to him was a… something. It was small, long, and he wasn’t sure how many, but it had a lot of arms.

Keith heard the car door click, and Shiro got out. He followed after, slowly. Outside he could see the words 'Black Forest Sheriff’s Department’ written in identical letters to Coran’s car on the front of the concrete block.

Coran was leaning on the top of his car looking at them as he called out, “why don’t you take Keith inside, there’s some okay-ish chairs in the waiting room. Narti can get him a drink whilst you help me get these two inside.”

Shiro nodded, “alright,” and to Keith said, “Keith,” inclining his head towards the building.

Coran went to his trunk as Shiro and Keith walked the small path up to the building.

Just past the last parking spot Keith asked, “why doesn’t Narti help him with the bodies?”

Shiro looked back over his shoulder with a knowing smile, “I have never seen Narti do anything resembling work before.”

Keith frowned at that, but Shiro had turned back, and they were nearly at the front door. He held it open for Keith to go in first, and they entered a tiny room with nothing but another door in it. As Shiro closed the door behind them there was a buzzing sound.

“That means the door’s closed. The next one won’t open till it is. It’s a system to keep all sunlight out,” Shiro explained, going to the next door.

“Why’d you need it if you’re all Vampires? Who’s using this place in the day?” Keith asked as Shiro opened the door.

“We’re not all Vampires,” he said, “there’s werewolves, zombies, a human, and,” he made a disgusted face, “whatever Slav is.”

Keith made a mental note to never meet Slav.

Inside was a walled desk with a woman sitting behind it. She had on a near identical uniform to the one Coran wore, and looked comparatively normal, if you ignored the fact that she had no eyes. Not empty sockets, just skin where they should be. Which wasn’t creepy at all.

“Night Narti,” Shiro greeted, “this is Keith. Coran asked if you could look after him for a bit whilst we move some bodies.” That didn’t sound like something you should say to an officer, but the woman didn’t react. She sat unmoving, and unspeaking.

“Great, thanks,” then turning around he added, “we won’t be long,” before leaving.

The door buzzed behind him as Keith said, “hi.”

She still didn’t respond. Feeling awkward standing there, he took a seat in one of their waiting chairs, which had the retro upholstery you usually saw on coach seats. Okay-ish had been an overstatement, it wasn’t anything near comfy, and he shifted constantly in it, although that was partly due to the awkwardly silent atmosphere.

He only stopped when a sudden throbbing went through his jaw. It quick, going along both sides, and up along the top of his teeth. Then it was gone, and Keith was left surprised, one hand feeling along his jaw for any pain or changes.

Nothing happened and eventually he gave up without a clue to the cause.

They sat in silence until the door buzzed, and Shiro came back in, no body in hand, but it was quite a while later, which meant he must have taken them somewhere else.

"Hey,” he said, as Keith’s whole body went rigid with pain. It burned through his jaw far stronger than before.

“Hey, hey.” Shiro was in front of him, kneeling, his voice soft, concerned. The throbbing suddenly went, and Keith gasped out shakily.

“I’m okay,” he said, which didn’t seem to calm Shiro at all.

“What happened?”

“My jaw, mouth. I got a sudden pain,” Keith answered.

“Ah,” Shiro made an understanding noise as he touched one hand lightly to Keith’s cheek, “teething."

“What? I’m not-,” he was going to say ‘a baby’ but stopped himself as technically he was.

Shiro took his hand from Keith’s cheek, and used it to pull at his collar, revealing the long line of his neck. As Keith watched the movement with unusual intensity he almost missed how Shiro pushed one of Keith’s legs away from the other and slotted himself between them.

“You probably guessed,” Shiro was saying as he moved, “teething is your new teeth growing, and these sudden pains tend to come in waves.” Keith nodded as he pressed back into the chair, face going red. “The only way to get them to stop is to get your fang into something fleshlike.” Shiro was moving in closer. “And flesh is pretty fleshlike.”

He was now pressed up against Keith, between his legs, with his neck on show. Keith tried to swallow but there wasn’t any saliva in his mouth.

“Bite along here,” Shiro said, trailing a finger in a line down his neck. When Keith didn’t move he added, “you never done this before?”

Keith managed to nod, making Shiro give him a small sympathetic smile. With the hand that had been on his neck, he guided Keith’s head down. Shifting himself, he lined up Keith’s mouth, and gently stroked the back of his head as he waited.

“It’s okay, bite.”

Keith still hesitated. His fangs were out, straining to be free, and sensitive to even his breath as it puffed past them in quick bouts. Slowly, hesitance in every creak of jaw, he opened his mouth, and with teeth shining in the artificial light placed his fangs along where Shiro had shown him. His lips rested over Shiro’s flesh in a way that felt embarrassingly sexual, and still he didn’t bite till another jolt of pain ran through him, and his mouth automatically tried to slam shut.

His tiny teeth sank into Shiro’s neck, and immediately the pain ebbed away. He nearly groaned in relief when the coppery taste of blood filled his mouth, forcing him to swallow it down. The red liquid wasn’t anything like the packet of blood he’d had earlier. It was stronger, warmer, alive and he wanted more.

Blood continued to flow past his teeth, and he gulped it down. His hands fisted into Shiro’s clothes, as the alpha rested his hand on the back of Keith’s neck.

The warmth of the blood spread past his mouth, and his stomach, filling him. It tingled in his belly, fingertips and toes, creating the urge to move, and unconsciously he followed it, rolling against Shiro.

Keith barely noticed when Shiro pressed a hand into his hip, griping tight to hold him still. It didn’t stop him from pressing in closer, and trying to bite down harder, but he couldn’t get any more blood, his teeth were too small. Shiro didn’t complain, he just let Keith drink, and drink.

The warm feeling coursed through him, and then without warning it flipped in his stomach, and a sickness filled him. Without warning he pulled his teeth out of Shiro, gasping and coughing on blood. Tiny splatters were left on his neck, but the holes were gone as quickly as his teeth left.

As he coughed, covering his mouth with one hand, Shiro move little strands of Keith’s hair out of the way. Slowly, his coughing died out to heavy breathing, then calmed down to normal.

“Better?” Shiro asked, and Keith gave him a wan smile along with an agreement.

He waited a while more before moving out from between Keith’s legs. With stiff legs he stood and turned to look to the side. Keith followed his line of sight and saw Narti standing next to them in complete silence, a bag of blood in each hand.

“That’s kind of you,” Shiro said, tugging at his jeans as he stood, and Keith blushed. There was a clear bulge at his crotch. He dropped his eyes, pretending not to see, and noticed, very belatedly, that he had his own bulge.

With a tiny embarrassed groan as he glanced up through his lashes to see if Shiro had noticed. He was smiling brightly at Narti, and tearing open one of the packets of blood, which gave Keith hope, but then he remembered all the grinding, and pressing up he’d been doing, which destroy his hope.

It also explained why Shiro had one too, but it didn’t explain why the sight of Shiro drinking down a packet of blood was suddenly entrancing to Keith, when he hadn’t cared out on the road. It was creating a warmth in his groin, and-

He stood up abruptly, gaining everyone’s attention. Well, he thought he had Narti’s attention, her head was slightly in his direction, or had it been that way already? Either way he was certain he had Shiro’s as the man had lowered his blood and was looking at him expectantly.

“Where’s the bathroom?” Keith asked, face red.

Shiro pointed past the reception desk, “down there, first door on your right.”

“Thanks,” Keith mumbled, and shot past him. He nearly ran down to the door. Bursting to an empty room, he went into the first stall, and locked it.

After quickly clanging the toilet lid down, he sat on it, and stared down at his erection. With a louder groan, he put his head in his hands.

This was the third worst day of his undead life, right after the day he got turned, and the day he left Garrison Valley…which was yesterday. Great.

His erection poked up at him, undeterred by his misery. Reluctantly he reached down and undid his zipper to give himself the most unenthusiastic hand job of his life - unlife, death, whatever. It annoyingly long as there was no lust to it. The feeling that had bought it was gone, and he couldn’t conjure it back. Sure, the thought of Shiro with his kind smile, and tall, muscled, bulging body helped, but the embarrassment that came with it kill the mood.

When he finally squirted into the toilet roll he left with nothing but a feeling of dissatisfaction. He was missing something, and he didn’t know what.

Standing, he lifted the toilet lid, chucked the tissue in, flushed, and went out to wash his hands. Stopping at the mirror he stared into it. He could still see his reflection. His messy hair, and dark bags stared back like always, but they were accompanied by porcelain white skin when he’d always been an outdoorsy guy, and violet flecked eyes. They used to be a mix of blue-grey, but that was fading more and more each day.

Slamming the tap off in misplaced frustration he shook his hands dry, and went back out to see Mr Muscle, and Mrs Creepily silent. He found that they’d been joined by Mr Eldritch horror with a moustache, and an unknown woman.

Everyone looked up as he opened the door, they’d clearly been waiting for him. It wasn’t intimidating at all.

Coran quickly took the lead, stepping forward with one hand behind the new woman’s back.

“Keith, excellent timing, my boy. This lovely lady has come to see you.”

The woman also stepped forward, and with a completely blinding smile that lit up her face, bringing sparkles to her eyes, she greeted, “hello Keith, my name is Allura. Like you, I am an Omega, and I’m here to answer any questions you have.”

“Hello,” Keith replied, feeling a little lame at his lack of response. He’d never seen a woman so…so floaty. She looked like she walked on air, the earth was too afraid to touch her.

Undeterred, Allura moved towards him, completely silent, and took one of his hands. Her skin was silky smooth.

“I understand that this must be very hard for you, but I promise you, I will personally gut anyone that tries to harm you,” she said. Keith smiled at her kind words…wait, gut?

Coran placed a hand lightly on Allura’s shoulder, and added, “why don’t we take this into my office. We all have questions that need answering.”

“Yes,” Allura said, squeezing Keith’s hand tighter, “that sounds like a good idea,” then tugging him along she instructed, “it’s this way, follow me. Narti, guard the desk whilst we’re busy. I’m sure anything else can wait.”

Narti didn’t respond, which seemed expected. Everyone else followed Allura further into the building, around a corner, and through a door marked ‘Sheriff Hieronymus Wimbleton Smythe’. There were only three chairs inside. Two were the ugly coach seats from the waiting room, and the other was a large leather one that looked like it could spin and had wheels. Coran turned the chair, revealing that it could indeed spin, whilst Allura gently forced Keith into one the ugly chair, and then took the other for herself. Shiro was left to lean against the desk that sat in between them.

“Now,” Coran said, hunched up in his chair, knees showing over the desk, “do you mind if we start with a few questions?”

“I-,” Keith started, but made the mistake of glancing to Allura, and her bright nay dispelling eyes, “no, that’s fine.”

Coran leaned forward in his chair, resting his razor-sharp elbows on the desk, as he asked, “could you tell us exactly how you became a Vampire?”

After a moment of hesitation, he said, “Sure, I was out in the Forest surrounding Garrison Valley. It was night, and I heard a snapping sound behind me-

-it wasn’t the first snapping sound of the night, but it caught Keith’s attention because of how loud, and close it was. He stopped, listening for the rusting on an animal. Nothing. That was what set him on edge. He hadn’t been making enough noise to frighten another animal, but perhaps he was wrong. The animal could have seen him or smelled him. If it was a frightened animal it was best to move away.

Keeping quiet, and an ear open for noise, Keith started walking again.

Snap.

Louder. Closer. His heart was pumping. That was not an animal.

Snap.

Keith ran. He hit twigs, and trees, and tree stumps, but didn’t stop.

The snapping turned into continuous thuds of feet. They were running after him. His heart had taken his stomach contents and settled in the back of his throat. It turned his blood into a roar of sea in his ears, but still he could hear the feet behind him.

They weren’t slowing. They weren’t fading. They were getting closer.

A fallen tree caught his foot, and he stumbled. He caught his footing. Then slammed into the floor as a body hit him. There was no air in his lungs to scream. A tearing pain shot through his neck. For a second Keith thought he was dying. His throat ripped out to choke on his own blood. He pushed, rolled, throwing his attacker off with more pain tearing at his neck. Then he breathed. There was warmth, definitely blood, trailing down his neck, but he wasn’t dead. Not yet.

Gasping, he watched the - the man lifted up from the ground, blood coated around his mouth. It growled, low, guttural, full of hate.

Then, as suddenly as he was there, he was gone. He body went grey, grainy, and fell into a pile of ash. It lay on the forest floor, almost hidden in the night, and behind it stood another man. A wooden spike was in his hand, placed where the bloody man had been.

“Count your blessings,” the next man said, and Keith stared at him dumbly. Straightening up, the new man dusted off his clothes, and walked away. Just walked away like this was all nothing. Keith sat there on the damp ground, and watched him, unable to utter a word.

Slowly, feeling began to come back into his body, and his first sensation was pain. With a wince, he raised his hand to his neck. He felt the wet of his own blood, torn flesh, and something hard. It came loose at his touch and fell into his hand. Pulling it away into his line of sight he saw a white tooth glinting at him. It was covered in blood, his own, and more stemming from the root where it had been ripped out of his attacker. The blood ran down the tooth, mixing with his at the tip-

“-after that I looked for the hunter but couldn’t find him. He wasn’t staying at any hotel, but I probably started looking too late. It took me a few days to realise I was turning,” Keith finished.

Coran and Shiro were frowning unhappily, whilst Allura had taken Keith’s hand into her own.

“I see,” Coran said, drawing out the words, when he realised Keith had finished talking, “well, we should be able clear some things up for you. Where would you like us to start?”

Keith had a lot of questions, but he’d never thought about which one he wanted to ask first.

“I guess,” he said after a frown filled pause, “why would be a good start.”

“Why?” Coran echoed, “we can’t tell you for sure, but-,” he glanced to Shiro, who took over.

“They were probably a blood junkie. It’s a term we use for Vampires who get addicted to hunting down and draining humans of their blood. The two who attacked us on the road were blood junkies.”

“They were Vampires?” Keith asked, aghast.

“Yeah,” Shiro replied, giving him a joyless him a half smile.

“But they- so I’ll live if I get my head ripped off?”

“No,” Coran said quickly, and Keith could see Allura giving both the men a disproving look, out of the corner of his eye.

“Not yet,” Shiro amended, “you’re too young, too human to survive that.

"Oh…when do I?” He didn’t need to finish his question.

Allura jumped in, clearly not impressed by the others explaining ability, “there are stages. Changing takes time, so that you can adjust. You won’t be a full Vampire for at least another five years, and we’ll be here to guide you through it.” She squeezed his hand with her words.

Instantly Keith asked “is there a way not to change?” He knew the answer from her face.

“No. There’s no undoing this. We can only do everything we can to make this easier.”

Keith sank back into his chair, and after a moment Coran asked, “what else would you like to know?”

Everything. He knew so little he didn’t know where to start asking, but at the same time, he didn’t want to know. He was barely processing that there was no way back. So, instead of asking ‘what’s an omega’, or 'what are the vampire stages’ or 'was the person who killed that vampire a hunter’ or 'am I going to be killed by a hunter’.

He asked, “where am I staying tonight?”

There was a taken aback silence, then Allura patted his hand, and said, “where do you want to stay? You can stay here,” with Narti, definitely not, “with one of us,” a complete stranger, a possible cryptid, or a man who beheaded two people tonight, not great options, “or there’s a small bed and breakfast around the corner.” That one.

“A B&B sounds good,” Keith said, and Allura smiled at him sympathetically.

“Okay, why don’t you rest up. It is almost sunrise. We can talk some more tonight.”

Shiro and Coran took that as their cue to stand, and Allura tugged Keith up out of his seat.

“Coran has work to finish here,” she said, “but we’ll both be taking you.” Both being Shiro, and Allura. Keith nodded, accepting his escorts, and allowed Allura to guide him to the door.

Coran gave them a cheery goodbye with a wave, and the words, “don’t have fun without me,” and the door closed.

They went back out. Narti was sitting behind the reception desk doing nothing. She didn’t bid them goodbye as they went out through the buzzing doors.

Outside light hadn’t yet hit the town, but the streets were deserted, and there was a crisp morning feeling to the air.

“It’s not far,” Allura said, pointing past the parking lot to the end of the street. Just like all the other buildings it was one story, but outside hung a sign. It was too far away to see the words and looked as empty as the rest of the town. As they got closer Keith learned that the name was 'Yellow Lion’, and saw that on the door was a large, clearly home painted lion. Yellow, but with no mane.

Shiro went first, pushing aside the lion, and holding the door out for Allura and Keith to follow. Inside was warm. Low, sinkable chairs dotted the room, and a fire crackled in one corner. A few people sat around, drinks in hand, and on tables. They created a soft murmur that mixed with the sound of the fire.

Behind the bar a big guy - the same one Keith had seen on the road earlier - turned around. He had a glass and rag in each hand.

“Welcome,” he said cheerily.

“Morning, Hunk,” Shiro answered, and Allura gave him one of her blinding smiles.

“Bit early for you two - three - to be out and about.”

Shiro sighed, hand rubbing the back of his neck as he replied, “yeah, we’ll be heading home soon, but first we’ve got a customer for you.” Shiro gestured in Keith’s direction.

Hunk turned to him, and his face brightened.

“Welcome. What can I get you?”

Before Shiro could answer for him, because he wasn’t a child, Keith answered, “a room, if you’ve got one.”

Hunks smile went even wider, and he put his glass down with a clink.

“We do. Are you a fan of traditional British or American style coffins?” He already was reaching behind him for a set on keys that hung up in a row.

“A bed,” Keith said forcefully. He had yet to sleep in a coffin and had no plans to start.

Hunk paused, “really? Are you sure?” He asked.

“Yes.”

With a shrug he moved his hand along the row and grabbed a key with the number 2 carved into the attached wooden block.

“So, how long are you staying for?” He asked as he turned around.

“Toni-” Keith started.

“Let’s start with a week,” Allura interposed. Keith glared at her.

Before he could snap, Shiro said, “why don’t we take it one day at a time.”

Allura looked like she wanted to argue, but Hunk loudly agreed with Shiro, “one day at a time it is.”

She pursed her lips, but kept quiet, and Shiro gave her an appreciative smile.

Hunk came out from behind the counter, passing through a small gap between the wall, and the bar. He headed towards the back of the building, and everyone followed, starting with Keith. He expected Hunk to lead them outside to another building with room, since this one had no upper floors, but when he opened a door it revealed stairs leading downwards.

Hunk must have seen his face, as he chuckled and said, “not what you were expecting?” He started down the steps as he spoke, “yeah, you won’t find a lot of high rise buildings here due to the whole dying when coming into contact with sunlight thing. Everything’s underground. You go to the big cities and you’ll find people who haven’t been outside for years. They’ve got underground roads, and parks - artificial lighting. We’ve even got an underground road between the police station and the local clinic.”

At the bottom was another door, this one locked. It opened using the number 2 key, and past it was a corridor that went left. Hunk locked the door after them once they were all inside.

“Please keep it locked,” He requested before starting down the corridor. The floor was a carpeted browny-red that stood out against the beige walls. Overhead the lights hummed softly, at a pitch that was easy to forget. On their left was a number 1, then 3, then 5. Hunk pivoted right, to a door with the number 2 on it in cast silver.

“Your abode,” he said dramatically opening the door, and stepping aside to let Keith walk past. He dropped his bag on the floor before looking around. Inside was surprisingly normal. A double bed -which was nice - took up most of the room. There was also a desk and chair, along with a small wardrobe, and another open door that led to a bathroom with a shower. The only noticeable difference was the lack of windows.

Unsure of what to do after circling to look at the room, Keith said, “it’s nice.”

“Great, good. Breakfast is at 8 tonight-.”

Keith cut him off, “breakfast? I’m a Vampire.”

Hunk raised his eyebrows at him, and said, “you can still have breakfast. I can’t imagine not having breakfast, and I’m a Vampire.”

“Oh,” Keith said in a small voice. He’d eaten roughly four times since his change, and whilst he had been starving the entire time, he had presumed that Vampires ate less than humans.

“There’ll be blood sausages, black pudding, and duck blood soup,” Hunk told him, and Keith stomach growled at the sound of it all. A packet of blood was one thing, but actual food, that sounded like heaven on earth.

Hunk was grinning at him, and Keith had to look away consciously.

“So, I’ll see you at breakfast then.”

Keith nodded, as Hunk handed him the room key. Then he turned to Shiro, and Allura.

“We’ll be around at 9,” Allura said.

“Both of you?” Hunk asked, looking at Shiro.

“Apparently so,” he answered jovially.

“I’ll keep something for you,” Hunk said, patting Shiro on the shoulder before he passed him and went back towards the stairs.

“Keith,” Allura said as he stood awkwardly in the centre of his room, “tomorrow we’ll talk some more about what’s going to happen next. There’s a lot of things you need to learn, and we’ll try to fit it around any plans you have.”

“Sure,” Keith answered. He didn’t have any plans other than go to Arus and find someone who might be able to help. He’d hoped that there’d be a cure, or at least some kind of facility for new Vampires. He’d presumed that there’d be one, because how else would new Vampire become a part of their world. Well, that was looking less and less likely due to the whole Sire thing.

“If you need anything, there’s always someone at the station,” Shiro said, “and I live at the end of the Town, near the forest…which isn’t really that helpful, but Allura lives a couple of roads over. It’s the biggest house here, hard to miss.”

“And you’re welcome anytime,” Allura added.

“Thanks,” Keith said, not really meaning it.

There was a pause, and finally Allura said, “Goodnight then.”

“Night,” Keith replied, not moving.

“Night,” Shiro echoed, and went to leave, nudging Allura along with him. She didn’t look pleased, but she went, and finally Keith was alone.

He rushed to the door, closed it, and locked it. Knocking his head against the wood he let out long sigh and closed his eyes. He needed to sleep. Five years should be enough. Then he could be done all this changing crap… but that meant he’d miss breakfast, and breakfast sounded good, really good.

With a groan he lifted his head up. There was grime on his hand, and under his nails, along with other more unusual places. He needed a wash, but that seemed like a lot of effort, so instead, he kicked his boots off, falling into the wall as he got the second one off. Then he dropped his jacket to the floor, pulled his top off, and undid his belt to peel off his jeans. He left them all in a pile on the floor as he crawled into the bed.

The lights were still on, but he didn’t care. Lately, he’d found it easier to sleep in the light. He didn’t need to wonder about the cause.

Snuggling into the surprisingly soft bed he closed his eyes, and in almost seconds he was asleep.

Chapter Text

Keith hadn't set an alarm, and the lack of windows left him disorientated when he awoke. One hand groped for his phone before he remembered that he'd left it in his coat pocket, which was on the floor too far away to reach from the comfy bed. He groaned unhappily, eyes still closed, and sleep nearly pulled him back under, but his stomach growled, and the thought of food forced him to get up.

Crawling out of bed, he stumbled to his coat, and fished out his phone. The battery glowered an angry red from its corner where it said 7%.

There were two notifications. One told him he had five more missed calls from Lance, and the other told him he had eight texts, all from Lance.

For a while he just stared at it, then the screen went black, so he turned it back on again. This time he noticed the time, 19:12. That had been a long sleep. If he got up now he could have a shower and make it to breakfast on time.

His bag lay in the centre of the room. Reaching across, he snagged the handle, and pulled it over to him. Inside was a mess, but he quickly spotted the white cord of his recharger, and pulled it out, taking some underwear with it in the process. Grabbing them both, he plugged in his phone, set it on the wooden nightstand, and took the underwear with him in to the shower.

There were already towels in there, white and fluffy. He dropped his dirty underwear and put the clean one next to the towel on the rack.

Then he stepped inside the shower, and yelp as he turned it on and it came out freezing cold. He had to turn it off, and fiddle with the handles, figuring out how it worked before he could turn it back on. When it was finally warm he stood with his eyes closed and let it wash over him.

It ran over his skin, over his throat. Down his throat, warm, like blood. Like Shiro's blood. He licked his lip, hoping to taste copper, and then blinked, coming out of his daze. His eyes turned down, and with a groan he realised he was hard, again.

Muttering, "for fucks sake," he wrapped his hand around his cock, and began to jerk himself off. Annoyingly, more images of Shiro poked their way into his head, and after failing to suppress them, he let his thoughts run over Shiro's muscles. How they strained in his clothes. How they felt against his skin. How warm he'd been. How warm his blood had been.

With a grunt he came onto his hand. The water washed it away.

Now, his throat felt dry, and he tried to keep his thoughts on breakfast, and not Shiro. He succeeded until a throb of pain shot through his jaw, and he had to use one hand to steady himself on the shower wall. The pain, with searing intensity, built, and built, and built until he thought his teeth were going to splinter from force of his clenched jaw.

Then, like before, it disappeared, and he gasped for air. Stumbling, he tried to get out of the shower, hand going for the towel, but before he could grab it the pain came back worse than before.

His arm blurred in front of him as it began to build, and for a moment he couldn't take any worse, but he didn't know how to get it to stop. All he could think about was Shiro's neck. He needed something to bite into. He needed flesh.

Without thinking, he sank his teeth into his arm. The taste of copper filled his mouth, and instantly the pain ebbed and died. It was warm, and his stomach grumbled, but he was too relieved to drink. He just sat there breathing heavily, his teeth still in his arm.

It took a few minutes without pain for him to feel brave enough to pull out. As removed his teeth blood gushed out, running rivets down his arm to drop onto the tiled floor, luckily not hitting the shower mat. Keith hurried for the toilet roll, ripping a handful off and pressing it onto his arm. The wound didn't heal like Shiro's had, and blood quickly soaked into the tissue, forcing him to pressed harder.

"Shit," he cursed as the paper became soaked through. Frantically, he grabbed more, and then more as that didn't work. He pressed hard enough to bruise, but still blood splattered into a mess on the floor. His body shook with nerves that masked the pain of his grip and arm. He kept going, using more tissue, and force. Eventually, when only a single unsullied square of toilet roll was left on the cardboard, the blood flow slowed, and stopped.

Heartbeat slowing, Keith finally relaxed, posture slumping, but hand still firmly gripped on his arm. He surveyed the bathroom in its bloody mess, and decided he could salvage it alone, but before that he needed something more permanent on his arm.

Carefully, he peeled back the tissue. It didn't bleed again, but it looked like any jolt could get it started. Trying to avoid the blood, Keith worked his way out of the bathroom, leaving bloody hand prints on the door.

In the next room he went for his bag. Rooting around was hard with only one hand, but he managed to find some plasters, which whilst clearly not enough, were better than nothing. He'd accidentally bought a plaster roll instead of the individual ones, and for once that seemed like good luck.

Forgoing scissors, he ripped open the packet, pulled off as much of the white non-sticky paper as he could and began to wrap the whole roll around his arm. It got easier around halfway through, and once he was done he thought it didn't look that bad.

Now no longer panicking, he went back to the bathroom. The shower head was detachable, so he could use that to wash the blood off. Luckily the drain was the same height as the floor, which meant he didn't need anything to soak up the bloody water.

First, he washed his hands, then pulled on his clean underwear that was sitting next to the towel, flushed away the bloody toilet roll and set about drowning the bathroom. It seemed to take forever. Every time he thought he was done there was always another little patch he'd missed.

When he was fairly sure there wasn’t anything left, soaked, and too fed up to keep looking, he grabbed the towel, dried off his legs, and went back out to get some clothes.

On the night stand his phone had lit up. Keith paused, contemplating ignoring it, it was on silent for a reason. A few steps closer told him that his notifications had changed, he now had six missed calls from Lance. With a groan he turned it off and ignored it in favour of getting dressed.

He needed something long sleeved to hide his arm. There was a black t-shirt, a red t-shirt, and white t-shirt, all short sleeves. It was winter. How could he have not packed anything warm?

On his second look through, he pulled on a piece of dark purple, nearly black fabric, and a jumper came out. Finally.

Shoving it on along with a pair of jeans he went back to look at his phone. Still six missed calls, and now ten missed text. It was also 20:30, which meant he was late for breakfast. Pulling it off the charger, he hoped that there was still plenty left to eat, and shoved it in his pocket, then paused.

The door key. Where had he put it? With a groan that was almost a sob he turned back around and searched. First his coat, not there, then his bag, not there, then yesterday’s clothes, not there. Another check of his phone told him 20:40.

He was starving. How long did blood food last?

With a noise of pure frustration, he went back into the backroom. Not there. 20:47.

Forget it. He wouldn't lock the door, he could come back and look for the key later.

Hand reaching for the door he looked down, and there sitting in the lock was the key. He almost screamed. Jaw clenched he pulled the key out and slammed the door behind him loud enough that any of his neighbours would hear, and he marched off to get something to eat.

By the time he'd reached the top of the stairs he'd calmed down. When the door opened a smell of food hit him that made him forget all about his morning fiasco.

Keith remembered the way from last night, down the corridor to the bar. Hunk was there again, a couple of empty plates in his hands.

"Evening," the man said cheerily, "late start?"

"Yeah," Keith mumbled, looking for a free table, and finding he had plenty of choice, "had some trouble with the shower."

Hunk chuckled, and put one plate down, "I guessed," he said, raising a finger to his head, "your hair's still wet."

Absently, Keith pressed a hand against his neck, feeling a few loose strands. It was damp.

"So, what can I get you?" Hunk continued as Keith chose a chair near the fire. It had a good crackle going, warming his toes and fingers.

"What do you have?" Keith asked stretching out, feeling his bones click.

"Plenty left. You missed some of the regulars, and our other guest isn't much of a blood drinker.”

"Oh." Keith wasn’t sure what that meant.

"Human.” Hunk elaborated without prompting, “Cute tho'. Pretty blue eye, and he loved my cooking." There was some clattering that sounded like plates, but Keith couldn’t see what Hunk was doing.

"That's great,” he said, lacking anything else to add.

"And a flirt, he said-."

"Hunk," a deep chiding voice said. They both turned, and saw Shiro was walking towards them, a knowing smile on his face. He had a long grey coat on, which meant it must have been cold outside, and Keith’s long jumper didn’t look out of place.

"Evening," Hunk replied, "I didn't hear you come in."

"Too busy gossiping?" Shiro teased, eyes wrinkling with a smile as Hunk rolled his eyes.

"Do you want breakfast?" It was part question part threat.

Shiro held up his hands in defence, saying, "sorry, sorry," as he walked closer.

Hunk snorted at him, walking away as he called out, “I’ll get you two a little of everything.”

Shiro called back, “thanks,” as he reached the chair across from Keith, who was trying very hard to concentrate on anything other than him as every look bought back memories of blood and bathrooms.

"Can I sit?" Shiro asked, already sitting, his coat folded over the back of the chair. Keith fiddled nervously with the sleeve of his injured arm.

He didn’t seem put off by Keith’s lack of response as he continued, "I know I'm early. My apologies, I thought you'd be finished."

"Shower," Keith muttered, looking into the fire, and Shiro nodded, sniffed, and shifted in his heat, looking suddenly perturbed.

There was a moment of silence before he asked, "everything okay?"

"Yes," Keith said far too quickly, then slower, "why do you ask?"

The fire popped in a short silence, then Shiro said, "a lot of reason," he paused again, watching the flames. They danced in his eyes, a darker red due to the grey. It was surprisingly pretty. He caught Keith’s eye as he finished, "but mainly because you smell like blood. Your blood."

Shit, right, Vampire, but how could he even tell it was Keith's? Never mind.

"It's just a scratch." Keith lied, quickly turning his head away.

"Okay...," Shiro said softly, leaving a longer pause, "can I have a look at it?"

Keith sank into his chair, ready to say no, but he made the mistake of looking back at Shiro. He looked so... so worried, that Keith couldn't deny him.

"Fine." He wasn’t pouting.

Pulling back his sleeve, he stuck his arm out, and Shiro's eyebrows rose to his hairline, as he gave him a clear 'that doesn't look like a scratch’ look. Keith ignored it and began to unravel his copious plastering.

When he finally got to the wound Shiro let out a small sad sounding sigh, and Keith stopped.

"What?" He asked.

"No, I'm sorry," Shiro said, waving his hand like he was trying to get rid of something.

Keith was about to ask what for when he continued, "you were teething this morning, weren't you?" Keith nodded and Shiro used the same hand to scrub at his face, "I thought you'd be okay for one night. It-it gets worse the more you drink. Mine only ever came every few days."

"It's fine," Keith said, meaning it, but Shiro didn’t look convinced.

Keith started to cover his arm back up when Shiro said, "wait." His fingers lightly brushed Keith's wrist as he spoke, "I can heal that for you."

Keith looked at him suspiciously but didn’t pull away. It wasn't that he didn't believe Shiro could do it, it was that he didn't trust how it could be done.

"How?" He asked word coming out slowly.

Shiro gave him a bashful half smile, like he’d read his mind, "a bit of my blood, a bit of saliva, and it'll be gone."

Keith didn't move, a sudden flush appearing on his cheeks at the thought of his last meal.

Clearing his throat, a little awkwardly, Shiro added, "you could drink from my arm this time."

He glanced down to Shiro's arm, then back up to his wide worried eyes.

"Fine," he said again, unable to win.

Shiro's smile lit up his face, and Keith was starting to hate it.

He shifted forwards in his seat to bring his mouth to Shiro's arm, but Shiro quickly stopped him, one hand against his shoulder.

"Wait," he looked around Keith's chair, towards where Hunk had disappeared to, "does Hunk know?"

Keith glance back, and said, "no," unsure if that was good or bad.

"Okay,” Shiro seemed pleased with that, “this is going to sound weird, and I'll explain, but you probably don't want him seeing that,” Keith was fine with that, he didn’t want Hunk seeing anyway, “so we should take this to the toilet." He hadn’t been expecting that.

"Seriously?" He asked, mouth slightly open.

"Yeah,” Shiro jerked his head to the right, “it's just around the corner."

Part of Keith felt like changing his mind, but another louder part said he'd already committed. So, when Shiro stood he stood too. He followed the older vampire around the corner, and Shiro pushed the door open for Keith to enter the tiny one-person toilet first. He had to squeeze back against the bowl I order to leave enough room for Shiro.

The door clicked behind them, and Keith was suddenly aware of how very tall and broad Shiro was. That was until he knelt down and began to roll up his sleeve.

Feeling awkward standing there with Shiro knelt suggestively in front of him, Keith flopped down onto the seat, and as he watched Shiro slowly reveal his white skin with a prominent blue vein that was begging to be bitten...what was he thinking about again?

This time was less embarrassing as Shiro moved to Keith's side, letting him keep his legs squeezed closed. He lifted his arm to Keith's mouth, and not needing any guidance Keith bit down. Sweet, warm copper filled his mouth, and he gulped it down. Just like last time, it filled him, warm and tingling, pooling in him and sating something, but unlike last time Shiro gently pulled his arms away after only a few gulps, and that sick feeling didn't hit him. Instead he was left wanting more.

"Now your arm," Shiro said, and dejectedly Keith raised his arm as he licked every last bit he could from his lips. Shiro held it up, bringing his mouth down to the wound. His breath tickled over Keith's hairs, and he lightly pressed his lips into the skin. Then, his wet tongue swiped up over the wound, making Keith wince.

As he moved back down, Keith's skin glistened, and the dark red holes of his wound were almost gone. Pink groves remained as Shiro bent to lick again. This time, when he moved away the wound was gone, like it had never been there.

"How did you do that?" Keith asked, staring at his arm in bafflement.

"Saliva," Shiro explained, straitening up, "there's some kind of - I think they're called enzymes - in it that speeds up the healing process. You haven't started producing them yet. Takes roughly a year for your body to start, but they won’t do," he waved his hand at Keith's arm, "that. It'll be slower. The longer you're alive the more your produce. Ulaz - he's the town doctor - he said it varies a lot, but people tend to reach the max amount between 100-200 years."

"So... it’ll be a while before I get insta' healing."

Shiro snorted, "Yeah."

Keith finally stopped staring at his arm, and let it flop down onto his lap as he said, "that kinda sucks, it's one thing that I'd actually want."

Shiro stood, stretched his back with a small groan, and replied, "hey, there's plenty to look forward to."

"Like?"

He paused, thinking, then with suspiciously cheery smile he said, "like turning into a bat,"

"What?" Keith spluttered, but Shiro had turned to the door and was opening it to leave. "Wait!" Shiro stopped and looked back at him. "We can't actually do that can we?"

"Hmmm," Shiro mused, before heading out of the toilet, and letting the door swing back behind him, "who knows?"

Keith jumped up, catching the door before it closed, "hey!" He called.

Laughter drifted back to him, and he huffed.

Easily catching up to Shiro he leaned into him with his elbow out for a jab, and muttered, "you ass."

Shiro grinned at him, eyes flashing with mischief as he said, "I'm being serious."

Keith rolled his eyes.

They rounded the corner to their table and saw that Hunk had set out their breakfast. The big man was placing two sets of cutlery down when he looked up to see them.

"Very subtle," he said, waggling an eyebrow before straightening and walking away. Keith felt heat sneaking up his cheeks despite the fact that they hadn't done anything particularity...naughty.

Trying not to look at Shiro, he took his seat, and reached out a hand for some food. There were sausages, dark, almost black in colour, but clearly not burnt, and two small bowls of soup also black. Next to them was a plate of some kind of large circular food.

His curiosity made him forget his embarrassment, and he asked, "what's that?" As he picked up his soup bowl.

Shiro had a fork in his hand, and was skewering a sausage as he answered, "pancakes. Blood pancakes."

"Bullshit." Keith accused, his bowl halfway to his mouth.

Shiro chuckled, "not this time."

Keith put his bowl down so fast he was nearly dropping it and grabbed a fork. He pulled a chunk off one of the supposed pancakes, and shoved it into his mouth, eyes going wide as he chewed. It really was a pancake.

After swallowing, and as he went back for more, he asked, "what genius came up with this?"

Before biting down on a piece of sausage Shiro answered, "They come from Sweden, Finland…” he paused, “or Norway. Hunk could tell you more."

Keith was barely listening, too concentrated on the fact that he could actually eat pancakes. He thought he'd have to give up all food, forever, because of his transformation, but he was eating pancakes, really truly, honestly eating pancakes.

He shoved another three bites into his mouth, making his cheeks bulge with food, and tried to swallow it down as he pushed another bit in. Looking up, he saw Shiro watching him, chin resting on one hand and a smile on his face.

Keith stopped, fork in mid-air, and after glancing at it, said, "oh, uh, you want some?"

There was half a pancake left on the plate.

Shiro lifted his head up, still smiling, and shook it.

"No, no, I'm fine, thanks. I was just happy that your realising there are still things you can enjoy."

Keith impaled the last of the pancake on his fork before Shiro could change his mind, and answered slowly, thinking as he spoke, "yeah, well, I just don't really know what to expect. It's not like - like the movies. Y'know in those one day you're human, the next you’re not, and you know what's going to happen because it's the same thing that happens in every other film, book, show, whatever, but they were all wrong, because that's not what happened, and," Keith sighed, "I just want to know what’s next." He shoved the pancake into his mouth and shut up.

Shiro leaned back in his chair, food abandoned on his plate, "I can tell you now if you want."

Keith nodded, mouth still full of food.

"Alright," Shiro looked around the room, clearly thinking, "I guess we'll start with the basics. Every Vampire is split into one of three categories called dynamics. Alpha, Beta, and Omega."

Keith gulped down his pancake, and interjected, "you called me an Omega."

Shiro nodded, "that's your dynamic. I'm an Alpha, and," he stretched around in his chair, "Hunk's a Beta."

Keith followed his eye line to see Hunk standing behind the bar not paying them much attention. They both un-stretched, settling back into their chairs at roughly the same time. Keith picked up his soup, cradling it, and asked, "so what's that mean?"

"Well,” Shiro started, “it's all tied to hunting. What's the best way to hunt a human? Be the big bad monster that prowls the shadows, and drags children, old ladies and grown men off into the night. That's an Alpha. All size and," he flashed his teeth, every one canines, sharp, and set like a shark’s, "power."

A small shiver ran down Keith's back, and the hairs went rigid on his arms, not going down even after Shiro had put his teeth back to normal, retracting them back into his gums. Part trying to warm himself, part trying to hide his reaction Keith took a long sip from his blood soup. It was thick, and surprisingly spicy.

"Or," Shiro continued, "Is the best way to blend in. Sneak up and attack whilst the person hasn't really noticed you and get away with it because no one can remember anything about you."

He was looking away towards the bar as Keith guessed, "beta."

Shiro nodded, "and then there's Omegas. You're designed to lure. You flatter and flirt with your prey, leading them away to somewhere secluded, or convincing them to let you drink from them."

"I don't flatter, or flirt," Keith argued, a frown hiding behind his bowl.

Shiro half smiled, "your dynamic doesn't always fit your personality. No one’s really sure what it's based on, but everyone's got their own theory. I've been told it's due to the time of year you're born, the weather when you were turned, the true nature of your soul, and what blood type you are.”

"Okay," Keith put his bowl down, "but what does that actually mean?" Shiro cocked his head to the side, inquiring. "I mean what's going to happen to make me all...," Keith struggled for a word, "lure-y."

With his smile now turned on full Shiro answered, "the most noticeable thing will be that you'll get pretty - prettier. Adult Omegas are," Shiro let out a soft sigh, "they're beautiful in a way I can't really describe."

Okay, getting pretty, that Keith could live with.

"What else?"

Shiro paused, "this is going to sound weird,” and scratched his nose, “but your scent will change."

Keith looked at him sceptical again. "Right..."

"Look," he said, leaning forward, forearms on the table, "a lot of being a vampire has to do with smell. Yours is going to get a lot better in the next few years, and Omegas have a particular scent that they learn to control."

Keith squinted at him, trying to guess if he was joking again, but he looked entirely serious, and with no way to dispute anything he gave in and believed him.

"So, I'll be smelly, but when I get older I can control how smelly I am?" He half joked.

Shiro pouted at him, then sighed and leaned back, "yeah basically."

Not sure what else to say, Keith asked, "can you do that?"

"Yes, and no, I'm not going to do it right now." Keith raised an eyebrow at him. "My scent has a different affect from yours. It's not exactly nice."

Shiro let the implication set in, and eventually Keith asked, "okay, is there anything else?"

In the background the door opened, and Hunk called, “welcome.”

Shiro glanced over, smiled, and then said, “yes, but maybe we should leave that for later.”

Heels clicked closer, and Keith leaned out to see who had come in.

Allura beamed at him, light sparkling in his eyes and hair, face untouched by a wrinkle of joy. It reminded him of the woman in the woods.

“Leave what for later?” She asked, coming to stop between Shiro and Keith’s chairs.

"Just explaining some of the changes," Shiro replied, an easy smile on his face, but there was a nervous edge to it.

"Really?" She raised one perfectly shaped eyebrow and looked to Keith.

"Yeah, some Omega stuff," he corroborated, which made Allura's face shine with delight.

"Oh! That's wonderful. It's always so hard to bring up, and explain, especially with men." Keith gave Shiro a confused glance as she was talking. "And, well, you seem to be taking it very well."

Shiro's mouth had been drawn into a line, but at that moment he cut Allura off, calling her name, "Allura. Let's save it for Ulaz."

"Why?" She asked, not getting whatever hint Shiro was trying to give. "If he knows then it's best to explain it to him now. He must have plenty of questions about pregnancy."

"About what?" Keith interrupted, eyebrows up and eyes wide.

The something Shiro had been trying to share seemed to dawn on Allura.

"I see," She said, no longer smiling.

"We hadn't gotten to that yet," Shiro added.

"Gotten to what?" Keith asked, a small amount of horror lacing his words.

Allura clasped her hands in front of herself, seeming to gather her nerves, and said, "Omegas-."

"Maybe we should leave this for Ulaz," Shiro interrupted, repeating himself.

Allura gave him a long look, and turned back to Keith, although she was still addressing Shiro when she spoke, "I think we should leave that decision to Keith."

"What decision," he prodded, getting unhappier by the word.

Shiro sighed, body slumping, "alright, you're right."

"Keith," Allura began again, no hint of a victory smile on her face. She looked as unhappy to do this as Shiro was for it to be happening, "there is a certain aspect of Omega biology that can be very distressing for those who class themselves as men. We can go through it with you if you want, but there's only so much we know. I'm a female Omega, and Shiro is an Alpha, so whilst we understand the basics we don't have the knowledge to explain anything in depth. There is a local doctor called Ulaz who I contacted last night and booked an appointment with. He would be able to explain everything properly."

Keith glance between their serious faces, and asked, "when's this appointment?"

"Ten thirty."

"Tonight?"

She nodded.

"Do I have to go?" He asked, surprising them both. Allura opened her mouth but looked back to Shiro as if unsure of what to say.

Taking over, Shiro answered, "We won't force you to do anything you don't want to, but everything we are doing is with your best interest in mind."

"My best interest," Keith repeated. He'd heard that before. It was always self-serving. Either people trying to get him to do what was easiest for themselves or using it to justify what they were doing to him.

"So, you know what I want better than I do?" He snapped, not meaning to.

"No," Shiro said slowly, clearly realising that he was treading thin ground, "but we know what's going to happen to your body, and how to help you through that."

Keith glared at the table, and they let him do it in silence.

“Fine, I’ll see this doctor,” he said, voice still clipped. He wasn’t even sure who he was angry at, but there was a boiling in his chest he couldn’t explain. It made him want to lash out at something.

With his hands in fists he stood up, anger still swirling in him unexplainably, and he didn't want to take it out on Shiro or Allura. So far Shiro had only been kind to him, and Allura was trying her best. He needed to remember that.

"We need to leave, don't we? We'll be late," Keith said as the other two stared at him. They both smiled, each in their own way. Allura's was happy, and a little triumphant. Clearly stemming from getting what she wanted. Shiro's was softer, sympathy masking worry.

Regardless, they both stood, and Shiro grabbed his coat from the back of the chair. Allura was already wearing hers, which made Keith stand out as significantly coat-less.

Shiro was the one to mention it, "it's cold outside, we don't mind waiting while you get a coat."

"No," Keith responded without really thinking about it, "I'm good."

"Are you sure?" Shiro asked, buttoning up his coat.

"Shiro," Allura said, a scolding inflection to his name, "if that's what Keith wants we won’t push him."

Keith frowned. There was nothing in the tone or words, but somehow it seemed mocking in nature.

Shiro shrugged, "Alright."

With a regal tilt of her chin, Allura called out to the bar, “put us on the list for tonight. We’ll be back at five.”

“Yes ma’am,” Hunk called back, and Allura turned, heels clicking.

“Shall we go?” She asked, making it more of an order than a question. They followed her out into the night.

Outside it was cold enough for Keith to see his breath, and he instantly regretted not going to get something warmer, but like anyone who’s told a parent they don’t need their coat, he refused to voice his change of mind.

That didn't stop his body from voicing its own complaint as a shiver ran though him, making him hug his arms in closer to his sides, and shove his hands into his jean pockets to try and hide it.

The look he got from Shiro told him that it didn't work. Ignoring that he went after Allura, who was walking on ahead down the pavement. She'd tucked her hair behind one ear, and had her phone out, screen bright as she typed something.

When Keith caught up to her she turned it off, and quickly shoved it back into pocket, smiling with the words, "just updating Coran."

Keith didn't care and dug down deeper into his clothes as a chill hit him from between two houses.

"Where is this place?" He asked.

Without looking at him she replied, "on church street, "as if that meant anything to him, "It'll take us about 20 minutes."

"Great." Keith mumbled, regretting his clothing choice even more.

From behind, Shiro gave him a nudge, and Keith looked back at him, first at his face, then down at what he was holding out, which small and black. Curiously, he took the fabric, and realised that they were gloves.

He turned them over, pulled out his other hand from his pocket, stretching it in the cold, and slipped on the glove. They were fingerless, and he gave Shiro a 'really' look.

The man shrugged, "it's all I've got." Keith pulled on the other glove, liking the tight feeling of the leather as Shiro added, "if it’s not enough you can have my coat, but just know that you'll be making me veery cold."

He was already taking off his coat as he spoke, but Keith shook his head.

"It's plenty, thanks." He was still cold, but he liked the gesture. This time he only pushed his fingers into his pockets as they walked.

The town starting to get active, with people wandering down the streets, and coming out of their houses. There was the occasional car, but most people seemed to get about by foot.

One woman was stepping out of her house in sequin blue leggings, and what looked like a leather poncho. Looking around after she locked the door behind her she spotted Keith staring and raised a hand to wave at him. Embarrassed, Keith gave her a wave back, and moved in closer to Shiro.

"Who's that?" He asked, and Shiro looked over his head towards the woman.

"Plaxum," he replied, "she's a selkie, harmless unless you steal her sealskin."

"Not a Vampire?" Keith confirmed, then paused, "is that what Slav is?"

Shiro made a disgusted face, and asked, "how do you know about Slav?"

"You mentioned him," Keith answered with a shrug, eyes trailing back to the Selkie, trying to spot anything inhuman about her other than her fashion sense.

"Oh, he's... not a selkie. I try not to think about him."

Intrigued Keith asked, "What is he then?"

Shiro wrinkled his nose further and muttered, "annoying, that's what he is."

Keith snorted, "okay, I'll guess."

"Please don't."

"Really? He asked, taking the scowl as a response, "okay, sorry."

"No, it's-," Shiro's frown turned into a look of guilt, and his shoulders sagged, "you don't need to apologise. Why don't we," he pointed to across the road, "guess someone else."

On a bench by a patch of open grass sat a small person. They were curled up, computer in their lap, coffee cup on the seat next to them, and wrapped up a green coat with black scarf that covered most of their lower face. All Keith could see was brown unruly hair and round glasses.

"Vampire?" Keith guessed.

"Nope."

"Werewolf."

"Try again."

"Selkie."

Shiro laughed lightly, "Nope."

"Zombie."

This time Shiro paused, and didn't answer till Keith glanced at him, "no."

Sensing unease, Keith tried to lighten the mood by guessing, "leprechaun."

The smile was back on his face as Shiro snorted, "no!"

The person looked up from their laptop at the sound and seeing them instantly snapped the computer shut.

"Shiro!" They called, getting up in a hurry, and leaving their coffee behind.

"Morning Pidge," Shiro greeted, light attitude not matching their frantic one.

"I went to your house, you weren't there," they said, glasses slipping as they ran over, "Coran told me you caught those blood junkies out in the woods."

Shiro nodded, "that I did."

"Well?" Pidge asked expectantly.

Shiro seemed to understand the question, "I didn't interrogate them, Pidge. There were other more important problems."

A sudden anger gripped Pidge, making their hands fist around the computer, as they yelled, "nothing is more important than my family!"

Shiro move slightly, his body now angled to Keith, "it wasn't as simple as that.”

Pidge's grip on the laptop look strong enough to crack it, "it is simple," they hissed, "my brother is missing, and that person might know where he is."

Before Pidge could continue Shiro said, "there were two of them."

A flash past over their eyes, "two?"

"Yes, and Keith was there too." Shiro inclined his head to him. Pidge instant turned their attention to him.

They gave him an up and down that was frankly rude, and then asked, "what were you doing there?" Did you work with them?"

"Pidge-," Shiro started, but Keith was fully prepared to defend himself.

Leaning down to their level he hissed with just as much anger, "I got tricked, attacked, and nearly dragged off the road to be eaten, so no. I wasn't fucking working with them."

Pidge glared back, refusing to back down, and it took Shiro putting a hand on each of their shoulders and physically pulling them apart for them to look away from each other.

"That's enough," he said, voice of authority, "Pidge, I don't know any more than I did yesterday. You need to ask Coran. He's got them locked up for all the interrogation they need."

At that Pidges anger finally dissipated.

They looked put out as they muttered, "I already talked to him. He shut me out when I asked to be a part of the interrogation."

Shiro raised an eyebrow, and they wilted further.

Sighing, and letting go of the both of them Shiro promised, "I'll talk to him, see if I can get anything more."

Pidge nodded and after an awkward silence where Pidge didn't seem to want to say anything, Shiro was waiting for someone to say something, and Keith refused to speak, Allura cleared her throat.

"Good morning Pidge," she greeted, "it's lovely to see you, but we must be going. We have somewhere to be, and we are late." She stressed the last word.

"Ah, right," Shiro said, then to Pidge, "This is Keith, Keith this is Pidge."

"Hi."

"Hi."

"Wonderful," Allura said, clapping her hands together, "introductions are over, now let’s go."

Pidge and Keith both glowered at her, and then noticing each other they shared a small smile.

Shifting their weight and pushing their glasses further up, Pidge said, "sorry about what I said. You don't seem so bad."

Keith snorted, "neither do you."

They flashed him a grin, and then turning serious, addressed Shiro, "call me when you've spoken to Coran. Don't forget. I'm waiting."

"I will," Shiro said, nodding. Pidge paused, appraising him. Apparently satisfied they turned around, and went back across the road to the bench, and presumably now cold coffee.

As soon as Pidge had left Allura carried on walking. Keith and Shiro followed after her a few paces behind. They passed a corner shop in which Keith spotted another blood machine, a library that was far too big for a town this size, and looked like it was falling apart, and a town hall, much smaller than the library, with an immaculately thatched roof.

The clinic was on set in the middle of a dead-end road. Its L shape made it stand out from the surrounding houses. There was a sign, bolted into the ground, that said 'Marmora Medical Practice' with a strange squiggly line next it, a little like a lightning bolt gone wrong.

Allura led them inside the door, which was a normal automatic one. Inside the walls were lined with medical posters, a lot of which looked like they belonged in a vet’s office. 'Is the itching back? Speak to your doctor about the latest defleaing treatments!" "No energy? Tired all the time? Are you drinking from an anaemic? More likely than you think." "Skin super glue! For that body part that just won't stay on!"

Allura went up to the pristine white reception desk to speak to a receptionist that had less face showing than Pidge as the word teething caught Keith’s eye.

The poster said, “teething got your young Vampire in tears? Try VampireCare’s newest teething tool ‘ladies thigh’” The words “soft” “sturdy” and “almost real flesh” were splattered around the image of a round object that looked horribly like a teething ring babies use. Except this ring was designed to look like a woman’s leg, and you could tell it was meant to be a woman because there was a tiny stiletto on the foot.

Shiro moved up next to him, also eyeing the poster.

“Great taste,” he joked, before leaning across and pulling a leaflet out of one of the plastic holders dotted around the entrance, “this is a bit more medical.”

He held it out and Keith took in. On the front was a person baring their teeth, which were almost human, apart from the two small fangs poking out from the top gums. They looked a lot like Keith’s teeth.

The word teething was printed across the top, and nothing else. Flipping it open Keith saw three diagrams, each with a second set of teeth getting progressively longer. Above the first diagram was a paragraph that told him “Secondary teeth start growing from the first day of turning but teething can start anywhere from two weeks to two months.” So, he was a late bloomer.

He skimmed over the rest. It was a lot of technical stuff about what healthy teeth should look like. His eyes stopped at the part labelled ‘Pain Management’. It was mainly a list, with a couple of sentences of extra explanation.

Top of the list was 'feeding on Sire', then 'teething toy', 'ice', 'teething gels', and ‘anti-inflammatory medication'. A little star at the bottom had the words 'soft foods do not work' next to it.

"Keith," Allura called, and he shoved the leaflet into his pocket, "he's waiting for you."

That was good service, but Keith wasn't sure if it was due to this being a small-town clinic, or the fact that Allura had made the appointment. Something about the way she held herself, and the way others treated her told him she had some influence.

The room was to the left of the reception desk, and the nearest one to the waiting chairs. Allura showed him which door it was, but didn't follow him in. Likewise, Shiro stayed near the posters they'd been looking at.

As the door clicked behind him an older man, Keith would have guessed in his 40's but he was bad at that kind of thing, swivelled his chair around to face Keith. The man had white hair, clearly gained from age, and shaved either side to make a wide mohawk. Not what he expected of a doctor.

"Keith?" He asked and Keith nodded, "please have a seat." He pointed a hand towards the chair next to his desk.

He did as asked, feeling nervous, like he was in a hot seat.

"Hello, I'm Dr Ulaz, but please don't bother with the doctor part. Allura has given me the basics, but I'd like to hear it all from you, if that’s okay."

Keith nodded, then finding his voice, added, "yeah."

Ulaz smiled at him, the same sympathetic look Shiro sometimes gave him.

“Please,” Ulaz made a hand motion for him to start, “when you’re ready.”

Licking his lips, Keith started telling Ulaz everything he’d told the others. Ulaz listened quietly, nodding at some parts, and frowning at others.

When he was done Ulaz leaned back in his chair, not in leisure, but rather seeming to need space.

“Well,” he said, “it seems we have a lot to talk about.”

Chapter Text

The room was like any other doctor’s office. A plain padded seat next to a fake wooden desk with a not-so-fake computer on it. A sink. An exam table. A body poster on the wall that was human so long as you ignored the missing and new organs that Keith was sure people weren't meant to have.

Dr Ulaz - Ulaz - was no longer looking at him with that sympathetic intensity, thank fuck. Instead he was clicking things on his computer, looking for something. It made an awkward silence.

"Here," he said after a while, not showing Keith anything.

A few more clicks, and then the printer on the other side of the table whirred to life. It flashed and made noises of work as Ulaz turned his attention back to Keith.

"Now,” he started in the professional manner of someone who had to explain something they’re sure the person they’re talking to won’t understand, “Shiro's explanation may have given you questions, but there's another area we need to cover first.”

Keith would be fine with that if it weren't for one detail, "I want to cover the pregnancy thing again."

Ulaz nodded as if he'd been expecting that, and Keith was certain that he had.

"We can, if that's what you really want," he said, which to Keith sounded like a professional way of saying ‘I’d rather not’, "but I find people deal with it best when they think of it as an option and not a conclusion. All noticeable changes can be suppressed, but there are other changes, the ones I want to talk about, that cannot."

Keith chewed the inside of his mouth as he weighed up the options.

"We'll come back to it?"

"Of course," Ulaz assured.

"Alright."

Ulaz smiled, turned briefly to collect the paper from the printer, and held them out to Keith.

"I want to start with some changes that will happen to you imminently," he said, tapping the first piece of paper which had the word teething on it.

Keith smiled, and used one hand to dig into his pocket and pull out his leaflet. That bought the quirk of a smile to the corner of Ulaz’s mouth, which the was most emotion the man had showed so far.

"Prepared I see,” he said, and then the near smile diserpeared, “let’s move on."

The second page had the words 'Mortuus est Muscæ morientes' printed at the top.

"Better known as Baby Vampires," Ulaz explained, "there is something we need to go over before anything else. Keith, Vampires are the undead, and you are not yet dead. Your body is dying." He stopped, assessing Keith's reaction, for which there was little, the words not yet sinking in, "you will not die in the traditional sense, but once your body has finished growing all its new Vampire traits your body will - to put it one way - stop."

"Stop," Keith repeated.

"Yes, you will not age, grow, or be able to change. Your heart will not beat. You will not need to breath. Sunlight will kill you for good. Many Vampires liken it to being frozen."

Keith didn't know what to say or feel. He was going to die, but not die? He was going to freeze to death? Some part of him had already though that he was dead, but in truth not enough had changed for that to have happened.

Death. Not the blurry image standing down the end of life’s tunnel, but a looming figure reaching out with its cold grabbing hands as it stared down at him with blank reflectionless eyes, was terrifying. And freezing. There was something so isolated, so helpless about it.

Ulaz’s words didn't match up with the ideas behind them. Leaving Keith blank and cold.

His first clear thought was, "will it hurt?"

There was a beat of almost appropriate silence before Ulaz replied, "no, it’s like falling sleep. You will be cold, yes, and lethargic for many days beforehand, but it will not hurt."

Keith scratch at his jeans, his mind acting out the motions of thinking without the words to make it real.

Thoughtlessly, "what happens?" Escaped him before he was sure he wanted to know.

"You will sleep for roughly sixty hours. During which time your body will shut down, and when you wake up you will be dead.”

‘That’s it’ he wanted to laugh, but all that came out was a small, shaky breath, and when his snark failed him he asked, "when?"

"Five years," Ulaz answered as he discreetly pushed a box of tissues towards Keith, who pretended not to notice.

"Okay-," Keith trailed off.

"Take your time, think about it. We can continue whenever you're ready," he assured, but Keith wasn't sure that a few minutes was going to make him ready for anything, let alone death.

Still, he did sit and think. Trying to wrap his head around it. It wasn't really death, he kept telling himself, but the words rang hollow. It was his humanity, and as abstract as that concept felt, he still didn’t want to lose it. Like how he didn’t want to lose his life.

This was unavoidable, but Keith wasn't ready to deal with the emotions that came with it, at least not out here in the open, in front of Ulaz.

He blinked quickly, took a deep breath, and said, "I'm ready."

Ulaz, Keith hadn't realised how closely he's been leaning in, moved back, and gently took the top piece of paper out of Keith's hands, placing it on the table next to them. If he noticed Keith’s hands shaking a little he didn’t say.

Instead he moved on, "the next thing I wanted to talk to you about is a choice." Keith looked down. The word 'Sire' stood in bold letters at the top of the page.

Keith's eyebrows pressed down over his eyes along with a frown, "I told you, he's dead."

"Yes," Ulaz agreed, "but a Sire is more than the person who changed you. It is...a concept. The person who raises you through your first years as a Vampire is also considered your Sire."

"Oh," said Keith, face back to an emotion burying neutral as he forced his hands not to claw the paper into a ball.

Ulaz rolled his chair closer before continuing, "there's no practical experience in leaflets. Having someone there to guide you through things is the best way to handle this, and you can choose who that is. This isn't something beyond your control."

"I don't know anyone," Keith bit back immediately, not meeting Ulaz's eyes. He wasn't sure how he'd react if he did.

"Shiro can take care of that. He's… well liked, and well known, but that's not surprising considering his age. Look,” Ulaz paused, Keith could feel himself being assessed, “you don't have to make this decision yet, or for a while. It's important. Take your time to think about who you like best, and," Ulaz hesitated before saying the next part," if you don't like anyone you don't have to choose anyone."

Keith nodded, mentally picking that option, but knowing better than to express it. Words made people more argumentative.

Ulaz seemed to get the right impression as he sighed and finished with, "alright. That won't be easy, think things over first, but if it's what you want we'll do our best to support you."

"We?" Keith asked, now looking up to see Ulaz's frowning face.

"Me, the town, Shiro, Allura, Coran," he listed. They expected him to stay he realised. Keith didn't have anything against that, not yet, but he didn't have a permanent place. He couldn't live at the pub for his whole life. In fact, he didn't even know how much that would cost. Last night he'd been too tired to ask.

Voicing that could end in an argument, or lecture, so Keith continued to keep his mouth shut.

"Any questions?" Ulaz asked. Keith thought about it, there were things he wanted to ask Shiro, but nothing for Ulaz.

He supposed that the only other thing he wanted to know right now was, "what change is going to happen next?"

Ulaz relaxed, clearly thinking the hardest part was over.

"Other than your teeth? A slow improvement to your eyesight, and sense of smell. Stomach cramps, and nausea from the changes to your internal organ, and small changes to your appearance."

He'd definitely skipped over the internal organs bit.

"What do you mean 'changes to my internal organs'?" Keith demanded, a small part shocked and a large part horrified.

“Ah,” he made an ‘you noticed that’ noise, “Nothing to worry about. You'll barely feel it for the first few years. Doesn't hurt. It's simply your body changing so it can properly process the blood you’re consuming. You might throw up a few bits of dead stomach, but that will be the worst of it."

Keith couldn't stop his mouth from dropping open as he nearly yelled, "that sounds pretty – pretty fucking bad. Why the hell does my stomach even need to change if I'm going to die?"

Ulaz's frown deepened as he answered, "no need for that language-,"

"Yes, there is!"

"-as I said, it is more like being frozen," he went on, "It's impossible to be both dead and alive. Any human medical examinations would class you as dead, but the changes to your body will keep you alive, in a way."

“Wait- just wait. Don’t act like this isn’t a big deal. I’m going to throw up organs and die.”

Ulaz sighed, clearly disliking his outburst, “it is not nearly as dramatic as you’re making it out to be-,” he started, but Keith interrupted him.

"You know what," he snapped, standing up from the chair, "fuck this."

The paper in his hands crinkled and tore as they fisted and he turned, feet stomping, to storm out the room. He made sure to slam the door behind him.

"Keith!" Came after him, cut in half by the door hitting its frame.

Outside Shiro and Allura were both in waiting chairs. They looked relaxed, almost bored until Keith’s appeared had them looking up in surprise.

"What happened?" Shiro asked instantly, body halfway out of his chair.

Keith glared, hissing, "I've had enough," before heading straight for the door. Shiro was standing instantly, and Allura although slightly slower, was right behind him.

The door to the doctor’s office opened as Keith reached the reception desk, and again Ulaz called his name, "Keith!"

"No!" He shouted back, reaching the door and seeing Shiro's reflection in it. He was within touching distance, but didn't try to grab Keith, for which he was grateful somewhere deep under his anger.

Half a second later the door hissed open, letting Keith storm out into the night. His boots stomped on pavement as he headed back into town. The chill bit harder now as the lack of sun had washed out all of the days heat, but he didn't care. He knew where he was going and had a vague idea of how to get there. If need be, he had Shiro behind him, following but still not stopping him. It was reassuring in an irritating way. He still hated being outside alone, and that was more annoying than anything any doctor had to say.

"Keith!" Allura called, right, she was there too, "stop!" No, "Shiro, make him stop!"

"Do it yourself," Keith snapped, subconsciously walking faster as he was sure Shiro could force him to go back.

Instead, Shiro asked, "Keith, where are we going?"

That almost made Keith stall from sheer surprise, but he kept going, mind turning over the words, constantly coming back to the 'we'. Shiro had no place pushing himself into Keith’s business. It shouldn’t be productive for either of them, and yet Shiro was still doing it, and a small part of Keith was grateful for it.

He chewed the inside of his mouth, contemplating telling them. They expected him to stay, so they wouldn't like his answer, well he was sure Allura wouldn't like it, Shiro...probably wouldn't like it either…probably.

"Keith!" Allura, again, much closer now. There was a brush over his sleeve, and jerked away, pure reaction, only realising that it had been Allura afterwards.

He glanced back to see her angry face, eyes shining unnaturally bright, and sharp teeth flashing out of the corner of her mouth. A small butterfly of perverse satisfaction fluttered in his stomach for a moment, then turned away and started walking faster.

"Oh for-," she sighed, frustration seeping the words, "forget it," her voice grew fainter as Keith walked, "I'm going back to Dr Ulaz. Shiro please keep an eye on him."

"Will do," Shiro replied as he continued to follow Keith, he could hear the man’s footsteps, heavy and slow on the pavement.

"I don't need babysitting," Keith growled. Shiro didn't answer, which made Keith a physical growl.

And prompted Shiro to ask, "wanna talk about it?"

It was Keith's turn to stay silent. Shiro didn’t seem to mind as he murmured, "okay," in the same steady, calm voice as before, which only made even Keith more frustrated.

"Why would I want to talk about any of this?” He snapped, throwing his arms out but not stopping. “It's no big deal if I start vomiting organs because I'm going to fucking die!"

"Okay," Shiro said, and Keith could have sworn he sounded relieved, "well, I thought you'd want to talk about it because it sucks."

Keith shoved his hands back in his pockets, anger simmering out into irritation.

"Yeah," he muttered, "it does."

There was more silence. Keith wasn’t if Shiro was waiting for him to say more or giving him space.

As he spied the bench Pidge had been sitting on, now empty, Shiro said, "having no control sucks."

In a smaller voice Keith agreed, "yeah, it does."

"Becoming a vampire sucks," Shiro continued, "vomiting sucks, losing organs doesn’t even sound real, and the whole dying thing? How is it even dying if you're still able to walk about and think?"

"It's not!" Keith interjected without thinking, instantly snapping his mouth shut.

"It's not," Shiro echoed, and added, "but it's a lot of shitty change, and sometimes it helps to talk about it."

They were well past the bench, and Keith was sure he knew the way now. Part of him wanted to talk, or more specifically yell, but that meant stopping. That meant maybe being convinced to go back, and that meant finding out more. He didn't want that right now, so he kept walking, and kept his mouth shut.

Shiro didn't push anymore, but he did come up to walk beside Keith, and he didn't mind that. They didn't say anything else, which was nice, until they turned onto the road with the pub, and the sheriff’s station on it, and Keith turned towards the latter.

"Really? Coran?" Shiro asked.

Keith mumbled, "yeah," in response but that was only partly why he was here. He wanted Coran, yes, but he wanted him because he wanted to know where his car was. When he'd stormed out he'd been planning to find it and drive away anywhere, probably to Arus, but he hadn't had a clear idea at the time. Now his idea was even vaguer, and he wasn't sure if he was going to leave, but he just wanted the option, and his car.

On the way up the steps, everything looked the same as yesterday, or technically early this morning. Shiro held the first door out for him, and it buzzed before they opened the second one.

This time no one was at the reception desk, prompting Shiro to say, "that's weird," speaking more to himself than to Keith.

He didn’t care and asked, "where's his office?" Not quite able to remember.

Shiro looked away from the desk, as if coming out of his thoughts, and "ah, that way, turn right, second door. I'm going to look for Narti."

"Sure," Keith replied, burying the small amount of disappointment that had crawled into his gut. For some reason he'd thought that Shiro would come with him. It didn't matter, he wouldn't have helped anyway. No reason to be disappointing.

Shiro was distracted again, going over to the desk, and looking over it, then to either side. Keith left him to it, going down the corridor, and trying not to look back.

Second door, second door, there. The plaque marking 'Sheriff Hieronymus Wimbleton Smythe'. It was slightly ajar, and Keith pushed it wider, opening his mouth to called out 'Coran'.

The words never left his mouth as sitting on the Sheriff’s desk was Coran's disembodied head.

Blood covered the entire office. Splattered up the walls, across the floor, and some had managed to reach the ceiling.

Next to Coran's head was a booted foot, missing its leg. The leg lay on the floor in front of the desk. A hand was on top of his chair, and a piece of torso could be seen poking out from behind the desk. It was worse than a horror movie murder scene.

"What the fuck," Keith said without thinking before clamping a hand over his mouth as another head popped up from behind the desk. This one had a body and looked exactly like Pidge.

"Oh, Shit," the non-disembodied head said, raising their hands, palms towards Keith as if to stop or calm him, but in one hand they held a blood-soaked machete. Pidge glanced to where Keith was staring, which was the bloody weapon, and quickly dropped it.

"This isn't what it looks like," they said, then stopped and swore, "fuck, okay, I know that's what everyone says, but this really isn't what it looks like."

"Okay," Keith said, backing out of the room.

"No!" Pidge yelled, scrambling over the table, and knocking the foot off in the process.

At that Keith moved faster, turning to run, and yelling, "Shiro!"

Pidge's little body collided with him as the words came out, knocking them both to the floor. Keith swung an elbow back as his attacker tried to climb his body, hand going for his mouth. Fingers scrapped across his face, and dipped into his open mouth, making Keith taste blood.

"Gross!" Pidge yelped, pulling their hand away.

Keith shoved at them again, and then a voice yelled, "you two! Keith, is that you, are you there? Stop this! Stop fighting!"

They both froze, heads turning towards the Sheriff's office where Coran's head sat facing away from them, but from one corner they could see his lips moving. He was yelling at them. What the fuck.

"He's not dead," Keith breathed out.

And Pidge answered in an equally stunned voice, "how the fuck?"

"You two, get in here!" Coran yelled. Practically tranced, the two of the stumbled up in stiff movements. Pidge looked somewhere between lost and confused. Their mouth hanging just a little open like they hoped an explanation would spring forth from their own lips. No such miracle happened forcing them to follow Keith in Coran’s office. They both went either side of the desk, mistrust not broken by confusion.

Coran’s head was facing towards his chair, and as Keith slowly walking around the room, delicately stepping over scattered body parts, he saw Coran's eyes, which were empty. The carved out type of empty.

Instantly, he recoiled, bile rising in his throat as his foot hit another body part, making him stumble. His back slammed into the wall with a thud and he let out a frankly embarrassing yelp.

"My boy, are you alright?" Coran asked as Pidge snorted at him, his embarrassing noise somehow breaking them out of their stupor, "young lady, now is not the time for ridicule."

Seemingly unaffected by the gore of Coran’s face, which Keith realised she must have seen before, Pidge pouted and crossed her arms. At the same time, Keith peeled himself off the wall, noting with disgust the blood now smeared across the back of his shirt.

After a grimace, he said, “Coran,” and stepped over the body part that had made him stumble, "what happened? Did Pidge?"

"Hey!" Pidge yelled indignantly, hand balling into fists as Coran chuckled.

 

"You'd make a stuffed bird laugh,” he said, which was met with silence.

"...what?" Keith asked, entirely lost.

"Oh, right," awkwardly Coran cleared his throat, which Keith wasn't sure was possible since he only had half his neck, "Pidge isn’t the criminal we're looking for. I'm sure of it."

Pidge unscrunched herself, hands falling to her hips in a power pose that screamed ‘I told you so.’

Rolling his eyes at her, he asked, "you saw them?"

"Well, no," Coran said, and they both gave him an annoyed deadpan look, "But!" He continued cheerily, "I do know the angle of attack," then his voice dropped as if he was telling a secret, "someone came up behind me, and beheaded me. It was a clean straight cut, as you can see from the fact that my head sits nicely on the table, and doesn't fall over," his voice returned to its usual cheer, "couldn't have been Pidge."

"Waait," Pidge said slowly, her power pose falling away, "are you saying it wasn't me because I'm short?"

"Exactly!" Coran confirmed.

To which Pidge grumbled, "if you weren't so gross I'd hit you."

Keith tried not to smile at her comment whilst Coran seemed to - in a rare show of tact - ignore it.

"That's great and all," Keith said, trying to get the conversation back on track, and instead managing to earn Pidge's glare, "but it's not very convincing."

"Hey!” Pidge barked slamming her hand down on the bloodstained desk before Coran could speak, “I didn't behead him!”

"You're covered in blood!" Keith shot back.

"So are you!" Pidge countered just as quickly. He couldn't exactly argue that he wasn't, but it didn't negate his points, which only irked him more.

"Lads! Ladies! Stop this!" Coran barked, "you're hurting my precious ears, they're all I've got right now." They glared at each other but deferred to Coran and stopped yelling. "Good. Now there's no need for this. I'm not dead, and I'm certain it wasn't Pidge. I heard her come in after the scallywag left."

"Please don't call them that," Keith muttered. His plea was ignored.

Now no longer shooting mental daggers at Keith, Pidge lifted her hand up off the desk, grimaced, and wiped it on her coat. Keith could still see blood her hand, so she'd only managed to spread the stain.

After sighing, she asked, "how long before I got here did they leave."

"Hmm," Coran contemplated, scrunching up his face, which made his sockets stretch. Keith wasn't sure he could look at that much longer.

"I'd say about ten minutes, but no need to worry. Narti will have seen them on the way in and out!"

Keith wanted to ask why Narti wouldn't have stopped them or checked on Coran if they were covered in blood, but his question got side railed by Pidge.

"She wasn't here when I came in," she said, looking to Keith in silent question.

"Wasn't here when we came in either," he answered, then after a pause, "actually, Shiro was with me, and he didn't come when I yelled." He turned to the door as if expecting to see someone there.

"Fuck," they all whispered in unison, as Keith’s heart sped in fear. Realisation coming quickly to him. Suddenly, he ran for the door, knocking into the frame before bursting out into the corridor which was empty, apart from the bloodstains he and Pidge had smeared along the ground in their struggle.

"Shiro!" He yelled, voice hitching, but only got silence in return.

Pidge's body collided with him for a second time. He kept his balance, and as he spun his head to yell at her, she yelled, "move! We need to find Shiro. What if he's hurt?"

He bit his tongue, pain stopping his words. She was right. Shiro could be injured, he could be-. Keith glanced back to Coran. Honestly, he had no idea where the horrors Shiro could be in ended.

"Move" Pidge snapped, now shoving him to get past. She managed it, heading straight for the reception, but Keith was close behind. Hurtling off down the hallway, they skidded around the corner, and were at the front desk in seconds.

It was devoid of Shiro.

Into the disquieting silence Pidge yelled his name, "Shiro!"

No answer. A sickness, bought on by churning fear, rolled in Keith’s stomach.

"Where is he?" She asked, voice hushed by the stillness of the room. Keith thought she was talking to herself until he saw her looking straight at him, eyes shining with water.

He didn’t know what to say, eventually all he could muster was, "I don't know!" His words full of desperation.

It sparked a frustration in Pidge, which she took out on Keith.

"Can't you – you smell him or some shit?"

Not bothered by her attitude, and barely noticing it, Keith answered "No," his eyes scanning around the room as if it would somehow change or reveal a clue.

His brain stalled. Think. Think. Where was he? Where could he have gone?

"He's got to be inside," Pidge answered for him, "if he's looking for Narti, he'd be in here."

A dark voice inside his mind - the one whispered how no one like him, and that his father was never coming back - muttered if he's even still looking. If he hasn't been caught. If he isn't dea-

Keith cut off his own thoughts, "What does Narti do? Where would she be?"

In answered, Pidge frowned, a wrinkle appeared between her eyebrows that showed she was thinking.

"I... we should have taken Coran with us," she muttered.

With unconcealed incredulity Keith asked, "you want to carry his head."

"No," Pidge stopped, "never mind. Staff room. Cells. I'd check there first, so Shiro probably did too."

Keith nodded. Letting the Coran thing slide since she seemed to want it dropped. Her reasoning made sense. Narti could be on her break, and she had to check up on prisoners at some point.

"I'll check the cells," Keith said, and Pidge instantly looked annoyed, "what?"

"I was going to check the cells," she grumbled, arms crossing as she glared.

Keith snorted, reading her before she'd even spoken.

"We're finding Shiro, not interrogating prisoners." Her scowl deepened, and she looked like she had an argument, but Keith carried on, "don't even try to lie."

Eye's narrowing further, she muttered, "fine," and wheeled around to stomp away. Keith took a second to watch her, before realising he had no idea where the cells where.

"Which way do I go?" He called to her back.

She raised one middle finger with the words, "back that way."

Keith rolled his eyes back at her, whishing she could see, before he looked in the opposite direction. It housed a corridor which seemed to run along the exterior wall of the building and looked to be the only option other than going back past Coran. He took it, heart suddenly pounding out the only sound he could hear. Pidge's presence had been unexpectedly calming.

Now alone, the silence seemed to scream danger. Murder was around every corner, and ill intent lurking behind each step. The door that the corridor ended with hid horrors within, and didn't want to be opened, despite how when Keith tried the handle he found it unlocked, and willing to swing open.

The creek seemed loud enough to echo through the whole building but nothing, other than dust, was disturbed. Inside was another empty desk in front of empty chair in an empty room that stretched out into a much wider corridor, blocked off by a barred door.

The place looked as empty as the rest of the building, which was somehow...off.

He walked towards the bars. Dust swirling into the air, making him sneeze, and glance down, then pause. Lifting one foot up he looked closer. On the floor his shoes had left imprints set in grey dust. His eyes followed the trail up beyond the bars, and into to the single cells. He couldn't see inside, but his body seemed to be telling him what was there through the pounding of his heart.

The blood junkies. They'd been Vampires. Dust.

One hand gripped a door bar and pulled. It screeched and opened.

The dust was thicker in here, caking his shoes as he walked. It drifted through the air, and something felt wrong about breathing it in. He held his breath, telling himself that was the reason.

The first two, then four, then six cells were empty. Seven and eight, set against the walls, were heaped high with ash, and nothing else. It sat in two little piles, like it was announcing 'we used to be here'. Something was sad about that. Like they didn't want to disappear.

Despite the quiet sorrow that drifted through the room, Keith's heart began to settle. The fear of finding a killer gone. He'd just found their remains. The closest thing to living in here was Keith.

He turned back to the rest of the room and stopped cold. The door, beyond the bars, the one he'd entered through was closed, and he definitely hadn't left it that way.

His ears strained in the silence as he stopped dead, waiting for a movement, a sound, something to tell him whether death was coming or going. Nothing happened, and then nothing happened. Death must have left, but he still he stood there surrounded by its aftermath, so long that his muscles began to cramp.

When they'd screamed long enough for him feel safe he moved. Slowly, partially because of the pain, he edged towards the door. The dust was settling heavier on the ground, covering his old tracks and making his new ones deeper. He slipped through the barred door, making sure not to touch it, and with an outstretched hand pushed his fingertips into the room door. It didn't budge.

Next, he tried the handle, it turned, rattled, and then didn't move. It was locked.

Keith let out a shaky breath, not sure if he was relieved or not. It meant he was safe, but also trapped.

He dug into his pocket for his phone. He could call, oh, wait, no. He didn't know anyone's number. Okay, he could just break down the door, like in the movies.

Taking a couple of steps back he raised a foot and slammed it into the door. All he got was a jarring pain in his ankle. That should have been all the info he needed to do the sensible thing and stop. It wasn't, and he slammed his foot into the door again, using more of a jumping force to bring it down. It just hurt more.

"Fuck," he muttered, and tried again.

This time the pain shot up into his knee. He finally felt the signs and stopped. With a huff he hobbled back, thinking. There wasn't much in the room, but he didn't like the idea of waiting when he had no way of knowing who was going to open that door.

His next thought was the desk. There could be a key, or something to help him get out. Limping over, he found that the desk was clear. One of the draws was locked, and the other two contained pens and paper. Nothing he could use, unless he could figure out how to open that third draw.

After a glance at his foot he decided not to try kicking it, and pens didn't work when trying to pry it open.

A thought hit him as he was crouched at desk level. He didn't like it, but it was his only idea. The Vampires, now piles of dust in their cells, must have had stuff on them. That couldn't have turned to dust as well. Might be something there he could use.

His knees clicked as he pushed himself up, and his ankle ached, dragging in the dust and leaving strange footprints as he walking down to the end of the room.

He looked left and right. Nearly all he could see was the ash, but as he peered a little closer some flashes of colour poked out. On instinct he went left.

With one hand he pushed away some of the dust whilst muttering, "sorry."

Unable to see exactly what it was, he tugged at it, pulling it from the ash. A top slid out. No pockets, but as he held it up something fluttered to the floor.

A small piece of paper, or more accurately, a post-it note landed on the ground. Keith picked it up and read, '20th 2 humans, 1 Little Rock Lane, 907 494949'. Not helpful. On the back was a single large number 1. He scrunched it up and shoved it into his pocket.

After shaking the top to see if anything else would fall out he discarded it, and with another, "sorry," he plunged his hand deeper into the ashes. Something soft and fabric-y brushed his fingers, and he grabbed it, pulling it out whilst collapsing the pile of dust.

He grimaced, but still dug through the clothes pockets. A wrapper for some random sweet, otherwise empty. Great. Turning he looked at the other pile. It looked unhappy, if that was a thing piles of ash could be.

Trying to be at least a little respectful and reminding himself that these two people had tried to kill him, he folded the clothes, and put them to one side. Then he creaked back up and limped over to the other mound.

The clothes in this one were bigger. Nothing fell out as he pulled them free, and the pockets were empty. Giving up he folded the clothes and put them aside. About to leave, a glint caught his eye, and he reached back into the pile to pull whatever it was out.

Between his fingers appeared a key. Big, familiar in a way he couldn't place, and silver. He turned it over in his hand, wondering what it was for. The stupid answer said the draw, and the hopeful one the door. More likely, it was just a random key to a thing not in the room.

Still, there was no one around to judge, so why not try. It didn't fit in the draw, and it wouldn't turn in the doors keyhole. After all that nothing had changed.

Absently, he swung his stinging foot back and forth, testing it against the air. Kicking would hurt, but maybe he just needed more momentum. He eyed the desk. Jumping off it was an option...

"Th!"

His head snapped back to the door, and he inched closer, listening.

"Keith!" His name, and he knew that voice.

"Shiro!" He shouted back, heart racing with delight. He was okay, or at least sounded okay, and looking for him.

"Keith?" Pidge this time. She'd found him.

"In here!" Keith yelled, pausing to listen. For a moment there was silence, then some faint shuffling, and a thud against the door, which made him flinch back instinctively.

"Keith?" That was Shiro, right outside.

"It's locked," He called as the handle rattled.

The rattling stopped and Shiro called, "Step back. I'm going to break it down."

Keith was about to say that he'd already tried when he remembered how Shiro had lifted the car in the forest, and done some...other stuff, that he didn't want to think about in too much detail. The point was that Shiro was strong, stronger than Keith, so he stepped back, and then rethinking, stepped to the side, out of the way.

There was some muffled talking on the other side of the door before it fell silent, and without another warning the door splintered. It cracked inwards, and then exploded into hundreds of pieces that littered the floor whilst a few stuck to the door frame at hinge placed intervals.

Shiro stood where the door had been, his should in front, and a stern look on his face. Seeing Keith, it brightened into a smile full of relief.

"Are you alright?" He asked, relaxing his stance before he hurried over. His eye's assessed Keith, looking for injury or distress. They paused on his face and leg, then seemed to see something as he stopped and slowly looked around the room.

"I'm fine," Keith answered and then asked, "what's wrong."

"Ash."

A cough came from the door as Pidge followed Shiro in.

"Why's it so dusty in here?" She asked, one hand covering her mouth.

Keith gave her a grimace, and pointed towards the end of the room, "back there. The two that attacked us."

Shiro nodded, but Pidge didn't understand.

She strode past him with the words, "they're here?"

Keith reached out a futile hand for her, but he was far too far away to touch her. Shiro, although closer, didn't need to.

"Wait," he said, and Pidge stopped, another annoyed look on her face.

"What?"

"Ash, Pidge. They're Vampires,” he explained. The words ticked over in her mind, and then she let out a small 'oh' sound.

A small moment of sadness crossed her face before rage overcame it.

"How?" She demanded, looking at Keith.

He hadn’t been expecting that, and certainly wasn't in the mood for her temper, so he shrugged, and brushed her off with "I don't know."

"You don-" She started, venom in her voice.

"Pidge," Shiro cut her off with a warning.

She glared at them both, but sucked in a breath, trying to calm herself.

"They were like that when I got here," Keith explained, trying to help calm her. He felt like he’d done something wrong by dismissing her.

She kept her mouth shut, rage clearly ready to bubble over at the wrong word, but she either had enough respect for the dead, or respect for Shiro to not start an argument.

There was another silence, almost awkward, and Shiro seemed in his own head.

Keith felt like something needed to be said, and asked, "did you find Narti?" Before anyone could question further about the bodies, ash piles, dead Vampires, whatever they were called.

"Yes," Shiro nodded, voice distant, and still looking to the end of the room, "we sent her to look after Coran."

Before another word could be said, Pidge butted in, clearly having lost whatever was holding her back for those few seconds.

"Did you see anyone?"

Keith levelled her with an unimpressed look but gave it up when he saw the frantic look in her eyes. For some reason she needed to know this.

"No, I didn't see anything, or anyone," he said, then trying to be helpful he pulled out what he'd taken from them from his pocket, "the only things I found on them was this key and paper."

"You looked through their stuff?" Shiro asked, snapping back to attention with utter surprised whilst Pidge grabbed for the objects in his hands.

Keith shrugged, feeling awkwardly self-conscious about his actions.

"I needed to get out. Thought they might have something on them to help."

They looked at each other for a moment, then Shiro sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, "fair enough."

Pidge was muttering to herself as she read over the small piece of paper.

Keith caught the words, "two humans, two humans. Who else?" Then her head snapped up and she asked Shiro, "is there a road called Little Rock Lane here?"

Without thinking Shiro answered, "Yes, why?"

She held out the paper for him. He took it, reading slowly before turning it over to see the large one on the other side.

"How did they miss this?" He asked to no one.

A light flashed in her eyes as she grinned in a disturbing way, "told you they should have let me in on the investigation."

"I found it," Keith pointed out, earning himself a pointed look.

"Doesn't matter. This is a clue! They took my brother. He could be in that house!" There was glee in her face, but Shiro didn't share her enthusiasm.

"It's a possibility,” he agreed, clearly gearing up for a let-down, “but be ready for any outcome."

"Why?" She asked, glee quickly vanishing.

"I've walked past this house recently. I couldn't hear anything," he answered, which didn't seem to convince Pidge, so he elaborated, "I can hear a heartbeat from the other side of this building if I try. I didn't hear anything."

"You weren't listening for it," Pidge argued, refusing to give up her hope even if the excitement was gone.

"True," he conceded, thumb rubbing over the paper in a thinking motion, "why not try the number first?" Keith thought it was a good point.

She shifted her weight, still looking upset, but quickly muttered, "okay."

After shoving one hand into her pocket she pulled out an iphone, and unlocked it using that needless face recognition. Then she held her hand out for the paper. Shiro handed it back, and she tapped in the number, giving one glance up to Shiro and Keith before pressing the call button.

There was a moment of silence, and then it rang. From somewhere distant another phone rang.

"Is that?" Pidge asked looking out of the door. Keith was already following the noise with Shiro close behind.

The sound got louder the further down the corridor they went. It led him back to the reception room, where it reverberated loudly throughout the room. He stopped not sure where to go next. It sounded like it was here in the room. Shiro stopped next to him, in Keith's comfort zone and pointed towards the reception desk.

“There."

Pidge came in running, her little legs making her slower. She saw where Shiro was pointing, and nearly threw herself over the table, phone still in hand.

Seeing her nearly careen off the end, Shiro shot after her, grabbing her by the top before she could crash into the ground on the other side.

As she lay held to the table, she muttered, "thanks."

Shiro pulled her back to her feet as Keith reached the desk, and they both leaned over to see black landline on the table clearly ringing.

"Coincidence?" He offered.

Pidge grabbed the phone, and said, "hello."

Her voice echoed through her own phone, and she gave him an 'I told you' look.

He ignored it in favour of looking at Shiro, who's face had gone tight with what looked like concern and something else.

"So," Keith asked, "what does this mean?"

Pidge put the phone down before she answered, "it means I've got a lot of questions for Coran."

She sounded angry in a specifically vindictive way.

Keith expected Shiro to try to reason with her. Say it could be nothing, or something misleading, but he didn't.

Instead he said, "as do I," in a voice that sent a little chill down Keith's spine.

Chapter Text

Coran's office was the same bloody mess that they'd left it in, but now Narti sat in the stained red, black leather chair with Coran's head cradled in her lap.

"Ah! You're all back," Coran greeted, clearly pleased, "Narti, are any of them hurt?" She patted the top of his head, "good good."

Either he couldn't tell the mood of the room, which wouldn't be surprising considering the fact that he was blind, or he was wilfully ignoring it.

Pidge stepped into the room, and puffing out her chest declared, "you've got a lot of explaining to do."

"I do?" Coran asked, eyebrows rising.

Behind Pidge, Shiro let out a long sigh, and ran a hand through the dark part of his hair.

"Coran, the prisoners are dead," Shiro paused, and Keith could see a gleam in his eyes as he watched for Coran's reaction, "and we found a number on one of them was the front desks phone."

"I see..." A controlled answer. He wasn't going to give away anything, if there was something to give away. Pidge clearly thought so too, as in response she marched up to the table, and leaned over it to stare into Coran's socket-less face.

"We know you have something to do with my brothers disappearance," She hissed, which might have been more intimidating if Coran could see her.

"Me?" he gasped, not managing to sound surprised, "I would never!"

Immediately, Narti pulled his head in closer to her body with one arm, the other was free to react.

"Coran," Shiro interrupted, voice cold in a detached way that made Keith sure he could hurt someone, "why don't you get healed up, and then we'll have a good talk about this."

Silence. A reply in body language. Every muscle in Narti's body now tense, ready to run or fight, Keith couldn't tell, maybe she hadn't decided yet. Whilst Pidge backed off, posturing diminishing.

The movement was a second, two at most, but it felt like much longer when Coan finally muttered, "yes, yes, that's a good idea."

Without so much as a glance, Shiro instructed, "Pidge, Keith, go get some blood from the Kitchen,"

Leave? That didn't seem like a good idea.

Pidge agreed, "what? No! I-."

Her words died as Shiro smiled at her. It was dark, eyes as glassy as a corpse.

"It's okay, I'll make sure he doesn't go anywhere." The reassurance rang hollow - no - superficial enough for even Keith to detect. He'd keep his word, but that wasn't the issue. Keith's eyed the two of them, watching the cogs turn in Pidges head. She made a weighted decision, as Shiro looked on, undisturbed by the mistrust. At least, that was how it looked, but the blank, almost serene expression he held left a seed of doubt in Keith's chest.

Eventually, as the moment was turning eerie, Shiro added, "it'll be faster this way. I promise."

Some tension broke, making Pidge huff, a laugh in a sigh, and mutter, "fine," as she eyed Coran.

In one quick movement she grabbed Keith by the sleeve she pulled him out of the room. As soon as they'd left the door clicked closed behind them, and Keith realised they were being kicked out because there was something Shiro didn't want them to see or hear. He didn't mention this to Pidge, but he didn't need to.

"Kitchen's this way," she yanked him along, making his steps stumbling and awkward as they went down to the end of the corridor. At an open door with a small plain room inside they stopped, Pidge still gripped to him. Keith surveyed her, then the room. A fridge, sink, table and two chairs sat unassuming inside. When his eyes fell back on Pidge she had spun around to face him.

"What side are you on?"

"What?"

That caught off guard. He wasn't on anyone's side. Made a habit of that his whole life. If anything, he was on his own side, which had been the 'getting out of town' side, but now he wasn't sure what he was doing. Investigating disappearances? He had sympathy, and if he didn't have his own problem he's be happy to help, but right now he just wanted to get through his days with as little craziness as possible.

He'd been so close to his breaking point in Ulaz's office that he'd stormed out. His walk here had calmed him down...or maybe he was just past breaking. For a second Shiro's face flashed through his mind, and then it was gone without a formed thought. So much was happening, and he was following along with Pidge's investigation because he didn't know what else to do.

How could he explain this? He wasn't good with words, or feelings. His dad had once told him that he buried his feelings, but he felt so much that they spilled out anyway. That was after he'd punched someone. He'd always had an odd way of scolding people, and Keith's lip twitched up at the thought.

"I'm not kidding." She scowled. A look which was slowly becoming her default expression when dealing with Keith, like Lance.

"I'm not on any side," He answered, not knowing what else to say. The different sides weren't clear to him yet. Yet, Pidge stood her ground, arms crossing as she looked him up and down. His answered hadn't pleased or displeased her.

"And if we find out that Coran does have something to do with my brothers disappearance? What side are you on then?" Her tone was the least accusatory it had been in the past few minutes, and that, coupled with its contents, threw Keith.

"Not his side," the truth fell from his mouth, and he had the sudden urge to snap it shut as soon as it was out there. The words couldn't come back, and he didn't want them back, but that didn't stop some trace of guilt coiling in his throat. They watched each other, not in anger, but assessment. The sparks of the atmosphere between them left an odd warmth.

"...Alright," she nodded accepting it as her shoulders sagged, and Keith wondered if she felt alone. Was that why she'd asked? He knew that feeling all too well. A part of his heart tugged to her. He wished he'd said he supported her, but that was a lie, and from the way she's watched him, he knew that she'd have known.

He remembered as a child the look all adults had when they lied and said they were on his side. That awful sympathetic look hiding exasperation and want, a want for it all to be over so they could have some peace. He'd hate himself if he ever wore the same expression.

Pidge turned away, her questioning over, and went to the fridge. His eyes followed her until she opened it and it struck him how big it was, especially compared to her small frame. It was bigger than one you'd expect in a staff room, silver, with a temperature in large lettered on the front of it.

Keith glimpsed past her as she opened it to see it stacked full of blood bags, all the same brand as the one from yesterdays vending machine. Pidge grabbed a handful of them, and slammed the door shut with much more force than necessary. As she turned back her face was tight with thought, and raised her head to make eye contact with Keith.

"I have nothing against anyone here, but you have remember that these creatures have been alive too long to be good people. They've lived through slavery, and genocides. When most of them were born women were property. They were raised with different morals, and not everyone has changed with the times."

"And Shiro?" Keith asked, not sure why he was the first one to come to mind.

Pidge broke eye contact, glancing down to her shoes, "he tries to be a good person," she paused, "but even the cruel and monstrous think they're good people."

He didn't know what to say to that. A lump in his throat stopped him from swallowing, and the silence stretched out as Pidge walked past him out of the room.

For a moment he didn't turn to follow her, his mind going over the warning.

"I just meant, be careful," she said, making him jump. He swivelled to look at her. There was a new sadness in her face, and but a light in her eyes. He didn't know how to read it. Fear? Concern? Maybe, or some mix of emotion that made her frustrated and erratic. He knew that feeling.

"I will be, thanks."

That pulled the ghost a smile to her mouth, and she nodded, and turning away, back to the room. After a few steps Keith followed her out. The walk back felt longer, and he was surprised when she knocked before opening the door.

Shiro's voice called, "come in!" Before Pidge opened the door.

Instantly, Keith's stomach dropped. The desk was broken in half, wood splintered in every angle and littered on the floor.

His mouth was the next to fall as a question he failed to ask got stuck, and Shiro, noticing his reaction, gave him a wan, apologetic smile.

Pidge was the one to speak, "so?"

"He doesn't know anything," Shiro answered, darkening Pidge's face.

"And you believe him?" Her tone was terse, but not disbelieving. An anger re-tightening its grip on her again.

"I do," he said as he held out a hand for the blood bags. At first Pidge didn't move, like she wanted to bargain for them. Information for blood, but at Shiro's silent insistence, she gave in.

After taking the bag Shiro gripped the edge of it with his teeth and ripped it open in one swift movement. A few drops splattered the floor, but considering the rest of the room, it didn't matter.

Instead of going to Coran’s head Shiro went to his torso, which was currently on the floor. Kneeling down, he propped it up against one leg, and tipped the bag over the open neck.

From Narti’s arms Coran coughed, and then spluttered, “not down the wind pipe!”

As Shiro halfheartedly apologised, Pidge stalked closer to Coran, and hissed, “confess or we do it again.”

“Pidge,” Shiro scolded, word nearly a sigh. Her posture didn’t back down, but she didn’t say anything else, the cogs turning in her mind again. Keith was sure she was trying to figure out a way to use 'down the wind pipe' as some kind of leverage. Torture, threat, or something new. The thought almost made him laugh, and that made him fell dark.

He didn’t watch what Shiro was doing, but the Alpha must have changed how he was pouring since Coran didn’t splutter again.

Slowly, the atmosphere began to feel awkward as they waited. Pidge kept trying to make herself look intimidating to a still blind Coran, and Keith felt like a spare part in a horror film argument.

Then, in the most disgusting display Keith had ever seen, Coran began to heal. First his eyes, blood and what looked like pus filled each socket before parts of it shaped and hardened, smoothing out to form two eyes.

“Ew,” Pidge muttered, face scrunching up.

Ew indeed. Keith swallowed the bile in his mouth as Shiro stood up cradling Coran’s torso. He brought it to the mans head and carefully lined it up, pressing the severed edged together. Blood welled up, and then subsided back into the body leaving a line of pink skin that faded back into Corans normal, pale, skin colour.

Narti supported Coran’s body as Shiro stood up to get the rest of his parts.

“Keith, could you get me his foot?” he asked, pointing to somewhere near his foot. Keith blanched, not looking, but not wanting to say no.

“Oh... nevermind,” Shiro added a moment later before crossing the room to Keith. He patted him on the shoulder and bent down to pick up the foot. His touch lingered, or maybe that was Keith's wanting imagination.

“Thanks,” Keith mumbled, not looking as Shiro turned back to Coran. Out of the corner of his eye Keith could see Pidge deliberate hiding the other foot. That made him smile as he snuck a glance at Shiro to see if he'd noticed, and their eyes met with an understanding. The same bemused expression had invaded Shiro's features. Keith decided he liked it. Without knowing it, Pidge had somehow managed to defuse most of the tension in the room.

An almost hysterical laugh bubbled up in his chest, but he squashed it. There was enough sanity left in him to know that he wasn't ready to deal with the emotions that followed that catharsis. Instead he forced himself to watch Shiro reattach Coran's leg. The horror scene from science fiction was enough to quell any humour he felt, and a disturbed part of him thought he might be getting used to this. Another voice to lock away whilst fully aware this was a bad coping strategy, or perhaps it wasn't. Enough of his common sense had been turned inside out that he wouldn't be surprised if that damned doctor popped out of nowhere and told him this was exactly what he should be doing. Okay, he'd be a little surprised, but the point still stood. His world had become fucked to high hell.

Not that hell held much of a candle to this horror show in front of him. Shiro had retrieved Coran's other leg from its excellent hiding place of under a piece of wood. Pidge was voicing her dissatisfaction with strongly worded glares and equally scathing huffs. At least now Coran had eyes to see her complaints, which he was pointedly ignoring as any longstanding public servant was trained to do.

"So," Shiro started, finally breaking the loud silence, "what's your next move?" He didn't make it clear who he was talking to until his head turned from the blood he was pouring to Pidge.

The question caught her off guard as she opened her mouth to answer, and let it hang there longer than it took to form a word.

"I have ideas." A non- answer. Might as well say she wasn't sure, but she appeared far too proud for that.

Shiro nodded as if she'd given him some sagely advice. Coran was nearly whole, still largely held by Narti. Only a hand left. Don't you hate it when you lose your hand?

"Ideas? Shiro echoed.

"Yeah"

"Like?"

Pidge shrugged, and Shiro sighed like an old man who'd been through this far too many times before and had decided this was not the hill he was going to die on.

"Like going to an abandoned house house on Little Rock Lane?" His voice flat with acceptance as a light flashed through Pidge's eyes.

 

She bounced up to the balls of her feet and asked, "So you know it's abandoned?"

He gave her a long look, "yes, everything on that road is, and you're not going alone."

"I never said I was going," the answer was so fast it was almost a reflex. The stubbornness of it made Keith smile. He remembered being like that as a teenage.

"And you never said you weren't going," Shiro answered. He'd clearly dealt with this type of thing before. Before Pidge could make another clever remark, Shiro addressed Keith, "what are your plans? Coming with us?"

After a pause, as Keith gave the room another glance, he answered, "no," body horror and mysterious kidnappings were fine on TV and in books, but real life was a bit much for him right now. "Screaming into pillow sounds a lot nicer." Ah. He hadn't meant to say that out loud. Shiro was grinning at him.

 

"Got to say, I'd love to join you, but," he inclined his head to Pidge, "we'll drop you off back at the pub."

 

"And Coran?" Pidge asked.

 

"He's coming with us," Shiro answered, hauling the gangly man up onto his feet, the last of his body parts now attached, "aren't you?"

 

"Yes! Of course." A long grin plastered his face as the two stared at each other, "Narti, be a dear, and look after the station. Excellent. Let's get going? Yes lets."

 

He stretched out his long arms, herding everyone out of the room with equal glares from Pidge and Shiro. Keith shuffled out, content to be leaving. Narti followed them out to the entrance and watched silently as Coran continued to herd.

 

It was still night outside. Shapes shuffled along the lamp-less streets, shifting subtly enough for their in-humanness to be taken as a trick of the eye. The pub, one of the only sources of light, was visible not far off, and the sight of it suddenly made Keith feel very tired.

 

He felt Shiro's body next to him before the hand touched his shoulder. There was no physical warmth to it, but it was still a comfort as he squeezed Keith's shoulder.

 

"Looking forward to the scream?"

 

"Yeah," the word was like letting the air out of a balloon.

 

"C'mon." Shiro's hand brushed over Keith's bicep and slipped away. The urge to run after it welled in his chest as Shiro stepped away. He took a breath to steady himself, and then followed. Chasing after the closest warm body wasn't going to help. He needed...something, and he had to know what that was before running off.

 

Shiro kept in step with Coran as they headed back, Pidge following behind, watching like a hawk as Keith trailed further back, keeping enough attention to not get lost. The pub radiated warmth as they got closer. An inviting rest.

 

The front door swung open, spilling light out into the night as a familiar silhouette stood in the doorway. It turned back minutely, just enough to light its face as it called out.

 

"Thanks for the help," in a gut-wrenchingly familiar voice.

 

Lance. Fuck.