The sun had finally gone down, and not a moment too soon. Keith felt like he was about to shake apart with the sheer force of his hunger. He didn’t know why this always happened. He could feed on pigeons all the livelong day, but he would eventually, inevitably, end up in the same spot. Shaking, unable to hide the glowing eyes or the sharp teeth, insides twisting and writhing as though his guts were rotting inside his skin.
This is the point where he always gives in. He could push past it, he knows he could, but he’s afraid of what comes after. The bloodlust. The haze. Adrenaline. No control.
He could never let it happen again.
So once the sun disappeared behind the derelict buildings he finally emerged onto the street, looking for someone he could kill without it weighing on his soul too much. If he even still had one.
He kept his hood up to cover his face, letting his bangs fall over his eyes and hoping the glowing wasn’t too noticeable.
Keith made his way towards 15th Street, hands in his hoodie pockets and worn sneakers scraping on the pavement. Twilight was rapidly fading into full darkness. People would be scurrying home now, locking themselves in with their warmth and light and families, hiding away from things that dwelt in the shadows. Things like him. Though the things they were thinking of probably had a few less fangs.
As he came up on 13th, he caught sight of two forms leaning up against a building. One was big and brawny, making Keith immediately dismiss them as too much effort. The other, however, was rather lanky. Maybe if he could separate them…
Keith stepped into the shadows of an alleyway, barely poking his head out to listen to their conversation. If he heard something that painted them as douchebags, he’d go for it. If not, he’d move on.
“We haven’t found anything, Shiro.” huffed the lanky one. “They’ve probably moved on. If anyone was even here.”
“Someone was definitely here.” answered another male voice. He was talking much more quietly, too low for a human to hear at this distance. Good thing Keith wasn’t human anymore.
“We found a corpse 2 blocks from here barely a month ago with no blood in it. What else could it be.”
Keith froze, as much as his trembling body could. That had been him. He thought he’d hidden it well enough, but clearly he’d been wrong.
“This is my territory.” The other voice, assumedly Shiro, continued. “No one else is allowed here.”
“How do you know it was another vamp?” drawled the first voice. “Could’ve been a nut job human, or someone from the Blade.”
“It wasn’t a human.” Shiro insisted. “And if the Blade was sending someone else, Kolivan would have told me. That leaves two options. Either Zarkon is pressing into Blade territory, or it’s a rogue. Either way, I need to take them out.”
Keith stepped back. He had no idea who these guys were, but somehow they knew about him and they wanted to kill him. He had to get away.
Keeping his head down, Keith stepped out of the alleyway and headed back in the direction he’d come from. Then a voice rang out behind him.
Keith went stock still. If his heart still beat, it would have been drumming in his ears. As it was, there were only footsteps, approaching and circling in front of him. He kept his head down, stubbornly staring at the two pairs of boots. The yellow light from the street lamp was completely blocked by the larger man, Shiro, drowning Keith in his shadow.
“Hi, sorry to bug you, but do you know the way to tenth street?”
Keith shook his head wordlessly. Then, suddenly, he was struck by something. Or rather, something’s absence.
He couldn’t smell any blood. Usually if he got this close to a human the scent would be overwhelming. And there were no thrumming heartbeats coming from their chests.
Shit. He had to go, run, now . He’d never met another vampire (minus the one that did this to him) and based on what he’d just heard, he didn’t want to.
“Sorry.” he muttered, lisping slightly over the fangs that refused to retreat, and tried to push past the pair. He felt a cold hand wrap around his wrist, and before he could react he was being yanked back into the alley and shoved face first against the wall.
Keith let out an instinctive hiss, knowing his eyes were flaring an unholy red, and struggled against Shiro’s grip. He couldn’t break free, and that all but sealed the deal. They weren’t human.
A hand yanked his hood off, letting his black hair fall around his neck, and Keith glared over his shoulder, catching his first real glimpse at his adversaries.
The one holding him had short brown hair, crowned by a tuft of white, and a pale scar across his nose. He was glaring at Keith, unafraid of his fighting and hissing. Standing behind him with a vaguely interested expression was a man with chin length tawny hair and red line on his jaw. Keith still didn’t know what his name was.
“You’re sloppy.” snarled Shiro, pressing closer. Keith couldn’t help but wince when his shoulder twisted. “Not even bothering to hide your eyes or your teeth.” Keith bared said teeth at him.
Shiro frowned at him, grey eyes clearing, as though an idea had just occurred to him.
“How long ago were you turned?” he questioned, cork screwing Keith’s arm just a little bit more. Keith choked on a whimper. He felt hollow inside; awfully, terribly hollow. He needed to feed. If he answered their questions, maybe they’d let him go.
“Twenty years.” he ground out through a clenched jaw. Somewhere behind him there was a gasp, and Shiro swore.
“Shiro, man, he’s just a baby.” murmured the other man. Keith was too hungry to be offended.
“You’re way too young to be hunting, even with supervision.” Shiro chided, though Keith couldn’t tell who he was upset with. He stopped twisting his arm, but didn’t let him go, either.
“Where’s your sire?”
Keith, not knowing what to say, didn’t answer.
“Speak up.” Shiro jostled him a little, an unspoken threat, and Keith closed his eyes. If either of them had been human he would’ve been on them five minutes ago, morals be damned.
“I don’t know what that means.” he admitted.
He practically felt Shiro’s frown press into his back.
“The person who turned you. Where are they?”
“I don’t know.” Keith was practically choking now. “I never met him, never even saw him, he bit me and I woke up alone, now will you please let go of me. ”
Shiro, apparently moved by his prisoners frantic tone, released him. Keith spun around, only to find himself still hemmed in by the two men. He slumped against the wall, knees weak.
God he was so hungry.
“You think he’s one of Zarkons?” the other man murmured to Shiro, not taking his eyes off of Keith. His look was almost concerned.
“Must be.” Shiro answered. He was frowning still. “But usually we catch them within a few years. They have no self control. But this kid…”
“Please.” Keith said, hating himself for it but not having any other choice. “Let me go. I’m hungry.”
Shiro crossed his arms, regarding Keith thoughtfully.
“No.” he said eventually. “This is my territory. You can’t hunt here.”
“I’ll go somewhere else.” Keith tried.
“No. What’s your name?”
“Keith.” He was starting to realize he wasn’t going to be getting out of this easily, but he gave it one last try. “Please let me go. I didn’t know this was your territory.”
“No.” Shiro said for the third time, then reached out to grab Keith by his bicep. “You’re coming with us.”
Well, I’m fucked.
Keith went limp, letting Shiro lead him out of the alley and back onto the street. The other man followed behind and flipped Keith’s hood back up.
“Are you going to kill me?” he asked after several minutes of silent walking. Shiro sighed.
“No.” he answered, voice softer than before. “We’re going to help you.”
For half a second, Keith considered making a run for it. These two older vampires had no reason to tell him the truth. Besides, Shiro had already been talking about killing the person he found trespassing in his territory.
Shiro shot him a look and tightened his grip on his arm, as though he knew what Keith was thinking.
“Chill out.” counseled their companion. “We won’t hurt you.”
“Why not?” Keith was unable to keep his suspicious growl out of his voice. “You seemed pretty adamant about killing me before.”
“That was before we understood the situation.” said Shiro, steering the three of them down a thin alleyway.
“And what situation is that?”
Shiro let go of his arm, though casting him a look that said stay put , and moved towards the dead end of the alley. The other man answered his question.
“A sireless baby vampire roaming around on the edge of starvation.”
“I’m not starving.” Keith muttered, though it certainly felt that way. “I ate yesterday.” It had only been a pigeon, but still.
The other man quirked an eyebrow at him, but before he could say anything there was a series of metallic clangs, and Keith turned to see Shiro pulling down a ladder from a fire escape. This is when Keith decided to start digging his heels in.
“I’m not going up there.” he said, crossing his arms stubbornly. “Not until you tell me what you’re gonna do.”
Shiro let out a heavy sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. He looked like an exasperated parent.
“Matt, go in and wake up your sister. Fill her in, get Lance and Hunk out of the way if they’re here already.”
“You got it.” Matt answered quietly, casting Keith only one more look before climbing up the ladder. For a long moment after he left Keith and Shiro just looked at each other, staring each other down.
“Look.” Shiro said eventually, voice soft and quiet. “When was the last time you fed?”
“On a human.”
Keith shifted cagily on his feet. “A month ago.”
Shiro openly gaped at him. “A month a- Jesus Keith, you can’t-”
“I was trying to hunt when you cornered me!” Keith spat at him. Shiro closed his eyes and took a breath, like he was physically restraining himself from getting worked up.
“Why did you go so long?”
Keith looked down at his shoes. “I was trying to wean myself off of it.” he admitted. He hated drinking human blood. He hated hurting people. More than that, he hated not knowing anything about what he’d become, what he’d been forced to be for the last two decades. During the first year he’d tried killing himself, but nothing he’d done worked. Eventually he’d given up.
Shiro’s eyes widened. “You can’t.” he said, keeping tight control over his tone. “Keith, vampires drink human blood for a reason. It has all the nutrients we need to stay alive. Animal blood can supplement it, help you go longer between feedings, but you can’t cut it out completely. You’ll die.”
“Why do you care?” Keith countered with narrowed eyes. “Why did you bring me here?”
“The first thing I’m going to do is feed you.”
Keith bit his lip, forgetting that the motion exposed his fangs. “I don’t want to hurt anybody.” he muttered.
“You won’t be, I promise.” Shiro reassured him. “I’m not trying to hurt you or anyone else.”
“Then what are you trying to do? I still don’t understand.”
Shiro gave him a smile so sad Keith felt it punch in his chest.
“How many vampires have you spoken to since you were turned?”
“Uh, besides you and Matt? None.”
“So you don’t know anything about what it means to be one.”
It wasn’t a question, but he answered anyway.
“No, I don’t.”
“That’s what I want to help you with. Keith, most vampires aren’t abandoned by their sires right after turning. A sire’s bond with their progeny is supposed to be like a parent and their child. They’re supposed to stay at their side, teach them, provide for them. Normally a new vampire wouldn’t be hunting until they’ve been turned for at least 50 years, and even then their sire goes with them for a couple of decades.”
Keith’s mouth twisted into a scowl. Of course his afterlife would follow the pattern of his actual life; the universe must have a sense of fucking humor.
“So, what, you wanna be my...sire, or whatever?”
Shiro’s expression became a little pained. “Unfortunately that’s not how it works. You can’t change your sire, just like how you can’t change your biological parents. But someone else could fulfill the responsibilities of that role. It doesn’t have to be me, there are other people I can introduce you to. Right now my main priority is getting you fed and off the streets.”
“But why? Why do you give a fuck? What are you going to get out of this?”
That sad look returned, and Keith wanted to punch it off of his face.
“Can’t you believe I just want to help?”
Because no one ever did. No one just wanted to help him, not when he was alive and certainly not after he grew fucking fangs. Keith wasn’t buying this, wasn’t buying any of it, but fuck he was so hungry and soon he wouldn’t be able to keep upright anymore. If he went back out on the street now there was no guarantee he would be able to control himself. So it was either this or risk hurting someone who didn’t deserve it.
“Fine.” he growled, glaring at the ground. “I’ll go.”
“Alright. Follow me.”
Shiro turned back towards the fire escape ladder, and Keith followed him. Up the rungs, rust coming off on his hands, and following the fire escape to the fourth floor. There, Shiro slipped through an open window.
The moment Keith’s sneakers sunk into the stained carpet he just wanted to leave again. The whole place reeked of human; it was so overwhelming that he had to press a sleeve over his mouth just to keep from drooling. And catching sight of the two humans sitting on the sofa (the only piece of furniture in the small living room) so did not help.
Shiro, apparently, agreed.
“Matt!” he yelled angrily, and the man in question poked his head out of one of the three doors on the far wall.
“I’m pretty sure I told you to get Lance and Hunk out of here!”
“Aw, come on Shiro.” whined one of the humans as he got to his feet. “We just wanted to meet the new guy.”
The human was thin, barely taller than Keith, with tan skin and blue eyes that sparkled mischievously when he grinned in Shiro’s direction. He looked pretty young, probably not even 18 yet. Still, Keith took a step back, ramming up against the windowsill in the process.
The human noticed.
“Lance.” Shiro said in a warning tone, but the human just waved him off.
“Hi, I’m Lance.” he said, taking a few steps closer to Keith, blissfully ignorant to how close Keith was to ripping his throat out. He pressed himself up against the window.
“Don’t be scared of us.” Lance continued. “You could probably rip me in half.”
I just might.
“Not scared.” Keith hissed from behind his hand. He saw the other boy’s grin loosen a little when his eyes flared deeper red. “ Hungry. ” It was as much a warning as it was a threat.
“Oh.” the human squeaked before beating a hasty retreat back to the loveseat, where the other was eyeing Keith anxiously. He was bigger than Lance, with darker skin, darker eyes, darker hair. Darker everything really, though offset by his bright clothing and orange headband. He didn’t make any move to speak to Keith, and he was grateful for that.
“This is why I asked you not to be here.” Shiro said in exasperation. “You should know by now how dangerous a starving vampire is.”
“Sorry, Shiro.” said the bigger human. Lance didn’t look sorry at all.
Shiro just shook his head and sighed before gesturing for Keith to follow him as he crossed the room. Keith obeyed, though Shiro went for the leftmost door and that was just a little too close to the loveseat for comfort, but he got into the room without mauling either boy and Shiro closed the door behind them.
It was a pretty simple room. A queen bed against a wall, a mini-fridge in a corner, a dresser against the other wall. Judging by the door next to the dresser there was an attached bathroom, and blackout curtains covered the only window. Shiro started to reach for the lightswitch.
“Leave them off?” Keith asked. Shiro paused, but complied. Not like they needed light to see anyway.
“Go ahead and sit down.” said Shiro. Keith obeyed, but he still had some more questions for his host.
“You mentioned someone earlier.” he said, watching Shiro dig through the mini-fridge. “Zarkon. Is he my sire?”
“That’s… a possibility, yes.” he answered without raising his head.
“Do you know him?”
“You could say that.” Shiro straightened up and knocked the fridge door shut with his heel. In his hands he held three bags of red liquid that looked like they’d just come from a hospital. Keith had no idea how he got those, but he got the feeling he didn’t want to know.
“Zarkon is the leader of the largest coven of vampires in North America.” he continued as he came over to sit next to Keith on the bed. He set the blood down and stripped off his jacket. “I was once part of that coven.”
“Was he your sire?”
“No, but my sire was one of his progeny. That’s how he runs the coven, he has his progeny turn others so he can keep control of everyone.”
Keith felt a little sick.
“So… why do you think he’s mine?”
“He’s been doing this for centuries.” Shiro sighed. “Turning people against their will and leaving them, in hopes they’ll go on a rampage. Most do without a sire to guide them.”
“Why would he do something like that?”
Shiro was busy fiddling with the blood bags and didn’t look up at him.
“He has some sort of vendetta against humans.”
“So if he wanted to, he could control me?”
That got Shiro’s attention, and his gaze softened when he saw the apprehension on Keith’s face.
“A sire’s call is difficult to resist.” he said carefully. “But I don’t believe he’ll be calling for you. He created you specifically to leave you alone.”
Keith didn’t have anything to say to that, so he just looked down and picked at the black sheets on the bed.
“Here.” Shiro pressed one of the bags into his hands. “Eat first, and then I’ll answer more questions.”
Keith hesitated for just a moment longer before his insides twisted again and he couldn’t keep waiting. His fangs punctured the thin plastic with a pop , and the taste exploded over his tongue and rushed down his throat. He couldn’t help the whine that left him (it had been so fucking long) and he tilted his head back as far as he could. The drops were cold when they escaped the corners of his mouth and dripped down his chin, and he didn’t even care.
Next to him Shiro let out a chuckle, and he placed his hand on the back of Keith’s neck to keep him from falling over in his eagerness. The gesture was strangely familial, and it was only then he realized no one else had seen him feed before. And it wasn’t until the moment after that he realized how goddamn lonely he’d been since he’d been turned.
If Shiro felt the shudder that followed that thought, he didn’t say anything.
Keith drained the entire bag in a minute and a half, and didn’t even have to ask before Shiro was handing him the next one. He drank this one slower, savoring the taste and the feeling of what passed for life returning to him. The shaking stopped, the hollow feeling in his torso receded, and the chill pushed back as much as it ever did. Shiro kept his hand where it was and let him take his time. His touch wasn’t warm, and Keith hadn’t expected it to be, but it almost helped with the revulsion that always welled up when he fed.
“Do you want the third one?” Shiro asked after he’d finished the second. Keith eyed it for a moment and then shook his head. He felt sleepy and satisfied now, no need to keep going. Shiro smiled and got up to put the remaining bag away and to throw out the empty ones.
“Alright, what else do you want to know?” he asked when he returned, settling into a comfortable position on the bed.
“Everything.” was what Keith answered, and Shiro laughed again.
“Everything, huh? Alright.” he leaned back on his elbows. “My name is Takashi Shirogane. I was born in the year 1702 and turned by a man called Sendak when I was twenty five. He was one of Zarkon’s progeny, and I spent one hundred and twenty five years as a part of Zarkon’s coven.”
“Didn’t like it?” Keith guessed. This time, Shiro’s laugh was a little bitter.
“No, I didn’t. Both Sendak and Zarkon were cruel sires, and they treated humans even worse. So when I turned 150 I killed Sendak.”
Keith’s eyes widened. “You killed your sire?”
“Yes.” Shiro said evenly, not looking at him. “And I don’t regret it.”
Keith said nothing else, so Shiro resumed his story.
“After that I drifted for a little while until I found a different coven. It’s called the Blade of Marmora. It’s mainly for people who also left or were exiled from Zarkon’s. It’s how I met Matt. Matt and his sister were born vampires, not turned, so Zarkon couldn’t control them, which meant they were never very friendly to their family.”
“How old are they?”
“Matt is 200, and Pidge is 157.”
“Ok.” Keith said, humming a little. He turned, sitting cross legged on the bed and leaning his cheek into his hand. “What about the humans? Why are they here?” His eyes narrowed. “You aren’t-”
“No.” Shiro answered quickly. “They’re Pidge’s friends. She met them online ages ago, and eventually they found out the truth. They didn’t freak out though. They come over most days after they get out school.”
“And they’re fine with all the vampire stuff?”
“Yes. Well, mostly. Hunk gets a little squeamish around blood.”
Keith stared at him, astonished. “Why the hell is a squeamish human hanging out with a bunch of vampires ?”
Shiro shrugged. “He really cares about Pidge.”
Keith took a moment to process all of this information, staring down at the duvet. It was still pitch black in the room, but vampire eyesight was a real gift.
“So… what are you going to do with me? I don’t suppose you’ll just let me go.”
Shiro shook his head a little regretfully. “No. I couldn’t morally make the choice to let someone as young as you wander around alone. There’s a reason most vampires stay with their sires for so long.” Upon seeing Keith frown, he changed tactics. “Besides, even if you were older, I couldn’t. Covens divide up territory amongst themselves, I was given this area by the Blade of Marmora. I can’t just let you go wherever. I’ll have to tell them about finding you, so they can adjust accordingly.”
“And what, don’t I get a say in what happens to me?”
“Of course you do. If you don’t want to join the Blade you’ll probably have to move, but be warned, there aren’t a lot of places left that aren’t claimed by some coven or another.”
Keith scowled at his lap. “Why? People can’t just be left alone?”
“We’re very hierarchical creatures, Keith.” Shiro said gently. “And contrary to popular belief, quite sociable. It’s why being abandoned by your sire is so cruel.”
Shiro had said it earlier, Zarkon had created him to be alone. And the more time passed, the more he was starting to think the universe had done exactly the same thing. He’d been alone since he was five, excepting one blissful year. And then he’d been turned and everything had fallen apart and he was alone again. For twenty years.
Cruel didn’t even begin to cover it.
“It’s not a big deal.” Keith heard himself saying. “He’s not the first one.”
That gave Shiro a pause. “Keith, how old were you when you were turned?”
Shiro sat up straight and ran a hand over his face, looking unspeakably tired and sad. “Just when I thought I couldn’t hate Zarkon anymore.” he said, forcing a wry chuckle. Keith looked away.
There was heavy silence for a long moment, one Keith didn’t have the energy to break. All he wanted to do was curl up under a blanket, be warm for freaking once, and stay there for as long as he could manage it.
Of course, none of that was going to happen.
For one thing, his body no longer gave off enough heat to be trapped by a blanket, so it wouldn’t work anyway. For another, he was in an apartment with five new people which guaranteed he wouldn’t be able to relax. Long story short, he was essentially a fanged ball of misery right about now.
“Shit, I didn’t even think- Do you have anything you need to get?”
It took Keith way too long to realize Shiro was speaking to him again.
“No. Nothing important.” he grumbled. Shiro picked up on his change in mood easily and lowered his voice again.
“Where were you staying?”
Keith shrugged. “Street. Sometimes I had money for a shitty apartment, but not very often.”
Shiro made an angry hissing sound between his teeth, sounding exactly like a pissed off cat. Keith understood he was angry for him, not at him, but his shoulders hunched inwards out of habit. Shiro got up, Keith didn’t bother to look and see where he was going, and he returned barely a minute later. He handed something to him, a towel (?), and Keith looked up at him with a furrowed brow.
“Remember how I said Hunk got squeamish?” Shiro said with a gentle smile. “You should probably get cleaned up before we introduce you to everyone properly. You can use my shower.”
A shower? As in, an actual shower, with warm water? Holy shit .
His excitement must have shown on his face, because Shiro laughed.
“Through that door. Take as long as you want.”
“Come on, Pidge, just tell us a little bit!” Lance whined, leaning heavily on the shorter girls shoulder. “I know Matt told you about him.”
Pidge just grumbled and shoved him off, reaching for her cup of coffee. She really wasn’t a morning person (or evening in her case) and usually Lance could respect that. But today was special. There was a new person, and Lance wanted to know everything about him, pronto.
“Lay off, Lance.” Hunk counseled from the loveseat where he was doing his homework like a dutiful student. Lance ignored him.
“Pleeeeeeeease.” he wheedled at Pidge until she hissed at him and bared her fangs, and only then did he relent, slinking from the kitchen back into the living room. He was about to go annoy Hunk, but his friend was saved from him when Shiro’s bedroom door opened. Shiro emerged first, shooting him a warning glance before heading towards the kitchen himself. The new vampire tagged closely behind him, practically glued to his back.
The first thing Lance noticed were his eyes. They weren’t glowing red with hunger anymore, and it turned out they were a pretty indigo-violet color. He’d apparently just gotten out of the shower because his hair was wet and sticking to his neck and his cheekbones, and there wasn’t a drop of red anywhere on him (probably for Hunk’s benefit). He’d also changed out of his dark clothes from before and was now wearing a pair of Shiro’s sweatpants, the drawstring around the waist pulled all the way taut, along with a white tank top that was way too big for him.
Lance tried to give him a smile, but the vampire wouldn’t look up at any of them. His gaze was firmly focused on his feet, swamped in the legs of Shiro’s sweatpants, and followed the older man into the kitchen. Lance tried not to look too visibly disappointed.
“Leave him alone.” Hunk hissed from the sofa. “He looks pretty jumpy.”
“I’m just trying to be friendly.” Lance retorted, not taking his eyes off of him. He was hovering near Shiro while he prepared drinks at the counter. Shiro said something to Pidge and received a hiss for his trouble, making him laugh under his breath.
“Maybe he doesn’t want you to be friendly.”
Lance continued to ignore him, and Hunk rolled his eyes. Shiro picked up a mug and pressed it into the new vampires hands, nodding in the direction of the living room. The new vampire shook his head. Shiro gave him a look, and after a moment he relented. Unfortunately he swept right past Lance and dropped himself into a corner, drawing his knees up in front of his steaming mug as though he could hide from the other people in the room. Hunk dutifully didn’t pay him any attention. Lance would not be so easily deterred.
“Feeling less bitey?”
The vampire looked up at the human that had appeared in front of him, and his lips peeled back from his teeth.
“Keith!” Shiro called from the kitchen. “Play nicely.”
The vampire glared, but a little bit of tension left his shoulders nonetheless.
“So, Keith huh?” said Lance, plopping himself down cross legged in front of the other boy. He nodded very, very cautiously. Lance grinned.
Still, Keith looked incredibly uncomfortable. His eyes flicked everywhere, from Lance to the doors to the window, as if numbering off escape routes. His knuckles turned white around the mug he wasn’t drinking from. He just held it to his chest, like he was trying to absorb its heat. He didn’t say anything. And that was fine. Lance could talk enough for the both of them.
He started with how he met Pidge.
“We met her playing Overwatch. She was always on at the most ridiculous hours, like she never slept. Me and Hunk joked about her being a vampire, and obviously Pidge found that horrendously amusing.”
Then he moved on to Hunk.
Then Shiro and Matt.
Then he started talking about school, his family, anything that popped into his head. Over the course of his seventeen years on this earth, he’d learned that a lot of shy people preferred to just listen and let the other person carry the conversation. So he did, especially since Keith wasn’t about to start providing personal information. He had no idea how long he’d been talking before Shiro interrupted.
“Lance.” he said, finally stepping out of the kitchen. “I think that’s enough.”
Lance glanced back at Keith, and was surprised to see him staring straight down into the mug he hadn’t taken a single sip from, avoiding Lance’s eyes as hard as he possibly could. A low sound was rippling out of the back of his throat that he couldn’t seem to help, and Lance was pretty sure it was a growl. Keith was growling at him.
He immediately scooted back several feet. He’d heard that sound before from Pidge-- the overwhelmed sound. Guilt twisted in his stomach.
“Sorry.” he said as genuinely as he could. “I get carried away.”
Keith didn’t look at him. He abandoned his now cold mug on the floor and bolted for Shiro’s room- a blur of grey and dark hair. As soon as the door shut behind him, Shiro let out a heavy sigh.
“Sorry.” Lance said again, this time to Shiro. “I just wanted to make friends.”
“I know.” Shiro answered, giving him a tired half smile. “But take it easy on him, ok? He’s been alone for a long time. He’s not used to being around people yet.”
Lance cast one last frown at the door, and then returned to the sofa to start his homework.
“--I don’t know what’s happening--”
“-- help me, please help me--”
Keith jolted awake, drenched in cold sweat and trembling. The faint glow behind the curtains said the sun had come up, and Shiro slept away on the floor beside the bed.
He’d spent most of the previous night hiding in Shiro’s room, only drifting out a couple of times after the humans left. Pidge and Matt seemed nice enough, but Lance was just too much. One does not simply not have a single conversation for twenty years and then throw themselves into the deep end with the extrovert to end all extroverts. When bedtime had rolled around and Shiro offered him the bed, he hadn’t even argued. Ok, so it felt nice to sleep on a mattress for once, sue him.
But now he was regretting it, because deep sleep meant nightmares (daymares?) and he wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway.
He lay on his side and stared at the wall, trying to unwind the tension that had coiled in his gut, but it was a losing battle. There was a slight rustling of blankets, and then Shiro’s voice was coming from behind his back.
“Keith? You ok?”
He had no idea how Shiro knew. He didn’t make any noise, he knew that. He said nothing, hoping Shiro would go back to sleep, but instead he got up. The mattress sank on the far side when Shiro sat down on the edge of it.
“Hey, talk to me.”
Keith huffed. “It’s nothing.” he mumbled. “Just dreams. About the night I turned.”
“Tell me about it.” It wasn’t a request. For a second Keith considered refusing, and then remembered how he’d demanded Shiro’s entire life story the night before, and figured it was only fair. Shiro put a hand on his shoulder.
“I went to a concert.” he had to pause for a breath. This was the first time he’d ever said any of it out loud. It was nerve wracking. Shiro squeezed his shoulder.
“Some guy cornered me in the parking lot. Guess that was Zarkon, but I never saw his face. He shoved me down, bit me before I knew what was going on.” His fingers came up, lightly brushed the scars on the right side of his neck, and then snatched themselves away. “I screamed, but nobody came.”
“Do you remember the actual turning?” Shiro asked softly, moving his hand off of his shoulder. Keith curled up into a tighter ball, surprised to find that he actually missed the contact.
“No. I passed out. Why?”
“That’s good. It’s supposed to be painful.”
“It hurt when I woke up.”
“Everything. Blood was everywhere. I could hear everything for miles, smell everything, and I was so hungry. I had no idea what was happening, I thought he’d drugged me or something.”
“What did you do?”
“I tried to call my best friend, but it was the middle of the night, and I wasn’t making any sense.”
“Keith? Keith, what’s wrong?” His voice was still thick from sleep. He yawned, and Keith flinched away from the phone. Something was drumming-- it was his heartbeat-- he could hear his heartbeat through the fucking phone what the fuck--
“Tanner, please, I don’t know what’s happening.” Keith’s voice was thick too, but with tears and pain rather than sleep. He was still on the ground where he’d been pushed and he could feel every little rock and bump pressing into him through his jacket and he was cold and there was blood and everything hurt and his stomach was all in knots and and and--
“What happened? Are you high?” Tanner was sounding more awake, and his heart was beating faster. Louder. Pounding in his head, beating all of his thoughts away until he couldn’t think of anything but the sound.
High. Was he high? Maybe. If he was, he didn’t like it. He wanted to come down.
“Please help me.” he hated how his voice came out in a whimper, but he couldn’t-- nothing-- god it just hurt.
Tanner’s heartbeat picked up even more, and Keith made some sort of a hissing sound.
“Ok, where are you?”
The heartbeat was too much. Too loud. Too fast. He couldn’t handle it. His fingers trembled when he hung up and made the sound finally stop. He left his phone on the ground when he forced himself up.
“So I went to his house instead.”
Shiro’s hand was back, pressing in between his shoulder blades. He knew how this story ended.
Had the doorbell always been this loud and shrill? He had no time to ponder that question, as the door was being yanked open before the bell had even finished echoing through the house.
“Keith?! Jesus Christ, you scared the shit out of me, what did you do-”
This had been a terrible idea.
There was so much noise, and the smell… what even was that? Whatever it was, it was overwhelming. It was awful-- thick and cloying-- made it hard to think.
Tanner grabbed his arm and every nerve ending he had lit up.
“I… I wound up killing him.”
Shiro’s hand pressed down. Keith kept talking.
“I didn’t mean to. I didn’t want to. But I- I couldn’t stop.” He curled tighter into his ball, and Shiro started rubbing his back.
“It’s alright.” he was murmuring. “You’re not the first vampire to accidentally hurt someone, and you won’t be the last.”
Keith huffed. Yeah, he’d had just about enough of this, thanks. He’d spent the last two decades trying to forget that he’d killed the only friend he’d ever had, and he’d like to go back to forgetting.
“What was his name?”
But Shiro wouldn’t let him forget.
Keith shuddered, and Shiro responded with a low rumbling sound. It was strange, almost like a purr, coming from deep within his chest. Keith felt something between his ribs loosen at the sound.
“What was that?” he asked quietly. Shiro shifted behind him.
“It’s something older vampires do for their progeny, meant to soothe. It’s not as effective if it doesn’t come from your sire, but all young vampires have an instinctive reaction to it regardless of where it comes from.”
“Are you a sire?”
Shiro chuckled a little. “No, I’m not. I’m old enough to be one, but I guess I never saw the appeal in it.”
Keith stared at the blackout curtains, eyeing the glow coming from around the edges. He missed the sun, being warm. He wasn’t ready to go back to sleep.
“Well, getting to know humans can be difficult. You can’t be sure you can trust them, that they can handle the information, and even then they might not want to be turned. And the way most vampires do it-- chasing someone down and turning them against their will-- I don’t like it. It forces them to be dependent on you. It’s like kidnapping. No thanks.”
“Hmmm.” Keith pondered that for a long moment. For some reason, knowing Shiro wouldn’t have done what Zarkon did made him feel better. “What about Lance or Hunk? If they asked, would you turn them?”
“No.” Shiro answered immediately, and then softened his words. “Not right away. I’d make them wait until they were at least thirty, make them live properly. Then if they still wanted it, I’d consider it.”
“Hm.” Keith said again.
“But they wouldn’t ask. They like Pidge, and they like me and Matt, but they have families that they love. They wouldn’t want to leave them.”
Wonder what that feels like.
Shiro took his hand away again, and it took Keith a long time to return to sleep.
It took three days for Keith to finally start warming up to the other vampires, but once he did the atmosphere in the apartment grew much livelier. He and Pidge got on like a forest fire, and at the moment they were wrestling on the living room carpet while Matt and Shiro made coffee.
It was fairly early for them to be awake, the sun hadn’t even gone all the way down yet, and they were all still in their pajamas with bedheads and lidded eyes. Normally Pidge would still be in bed, refusing to move until someone brought her caffeine, but it seemed Keith’s energy was infectious.
Matt leaned over to murmur quietly into Shiro’s ear. “Out of all of us, I never thought Pidge would be the one to start playing with the baby vampire first.”
Shiro just smiled and shook his head. “We both know she cares way more than she lets on.”
In the living room, Keith rolled and pinned Pidge beneath him, leaning down to barely brush his fangs against her throat to indicate he’d won. Then he sat up and crossed his arms.
“You’re going easy on me.”
Pidge sat up as well and shoved him off of her hips. “Uh, duh? Of course I am. I’ve still got 13 decades on you, if I didn’t go easy you’d be squashed like a bug.”
Keith pouted, and Pidge lunged in retaliation, wrapping one arm around his neck and taking them both back to the floor.
The sound of them laughing filled the room, and Shiro felt… some kind of way. He wasn’t sure.
“Have you told Kolivan about him yet?” asked Matt, yanking him back to reality where the coffee maker was beeping obnoxiously.
“No.” Shiro answered as he busied himself pouring. “I’m going to call him today.”
“You sound worried.”
Shiro glanced back at the two younger vampires just as Pidge pinned Keith to the sofa and started tickling him mercilessly. Keith shrieked and batted at her hands, flashing his fangs, but Pidge was relentless.
“I am worried.” he admitted, keeping his voice low so the others wouldn’t hear. “Keith is different from most new vampires, and I don’t want him to end up with someone who’ll hurt him.”
“You could always ask Kolivan to let him stay here.”
“I could, but it’s also up to Keith.”
Shiro picked up two mugs and left the kitchen before Matt could continue their conversation.
Keith had just managed to get away from Pidge, rolling both of them off the couch and onto the floor and then darting to his feet. He was making a run for it when he almost ran smack into Shiro’s chest. He looked up, and Shiro was very pleased to see how his eyes sparkled.
Then Pidge bit his ankle, and he practically threw her off with his kick.
“You little demon!” he half yelled, half laughed. Shiro smiled.
“Pidge, I brought your coffee.”
It was another week before he went near the humans, and thankfully for all of them, Lance seemed to have learned his lesson. He would offer a smile whenever Keith glanced his way, but didn’t make any more attempts to speak to him. But one evening, after several nudges from Shiro and a great deal of hovering, Keith finally approached them.
The two humans were sitting on the living room floor, textbooks and notes spread out between them. Pidge sat on the couch where she normally did, doing something or other on her laptop. She glanced up when Keith shuffled into the room, but only shot him a supportive smirk and went back to what she was doing.
“Hey. Um. What are you guys working on?”
Both of them looked at him with pleasantly surprised expressions. Lance bit his lip, probably trying to hold back his word vomit, while Hunk eyed him a little anxiously. Keith didn’t necessarily blame him; he admittedly hadn’t made the best impression.
“Physics. Practicing measuring force.”
“Basically just solving practice problems.” Lance chimed in, though he kept his voice down. “Plugging different numbers into the formula.”
Keith hesitated for a moment, and then dropped to the floor beside them and peered curiously at Hunk’s notebook.
“I remember this.” he murmured. “I think. Force is mass times acceleration, right?”
Hunk gave him a tentative smile. “Yeah, that’s right.”
Lance was looking at him with an eyebrow raised, and Keith immediately shifted into defense mode.
“What? I went to school in the nineteen nineties, not the sixteen nineties.”
Both of the boys laughed, and another knot between his ribs came undone.
It got easier after that. Lance was surprised by how loud and snarky he was underneath the initial suspicion, but that shock didn’t last long. The two of them fell into a pattern of banter and bickering that gave Shiro headaches that he put up with for Keith’s sake. The word friend wasn’t quite accurate for them. Rivals, maybe, though what the rivalry was based on was anyone’s guess.
Hunk confused Keith. Sometimes he was almost as sarcastic as Pidge, sometimes he told awful puns that made even Lance groan. Sometimes he seems almost afraid of Keith, and other times he wasn’t afraid to tease and poke and prod. Once he crushed him into a hug so tight he felt his bones creak, and the next day he was eyeing him like he might pounce at any moment.
Keith didn’t get it, but got along with him well enough.
It was two weeks after they found him in the alley that someone from the Blade finally came to discuss the situation with Shiro. He came at midnight, after Lance and Hunk had gone home; an ancient vampire with laser blue eyes and thinning blonde hair. Shiro knew him- smiled when he opened the door and invited him inside.
“This is him?” the vampire asked, glancing at where Keith sat on the couch next to Pidge. Keith looked him firmly in the eye and didn’t miss how they flickered red in response.
“Yes. Ulaz, this is Keith. Keith, Ulaz. He’s the one who recruited me to the Blade of Marmora.” Shiro seemed relaxed enough around him, but Keith still didn’t like how Ulaz was looking at him- dominating, like he needed to take Keith down a peg.
Neither of them said anything.
Pidge elbowed him and Shiro cleared his throat, but Keith didn’t move. Ulaz turned to Shiro.
Shiro could feel the tension in the air and led Ulaz into the kitchen as he launched into the tale. As soon as they ducked behind the cupboards, Pidge grabbed Keith’s collar and yanked him down.
“What are you doing?” she hissed, though her eyes looked amused and her lips quirked upwards.
“What?” Keith snapped in return. “What did I do?”
“You’re not supposed to look leaders in the eye like that.” Pidge explained. “It’s disrespectful. Especially for a baby.”
“How am I supposed to act, then? It’s not like anyone taught me.”
Pidge sighed and released her hold on his shirt. “You’re supposed to be subservient. Don’t speak up, do what you’re told, let them decide.”
Keith scowled. “I don’t think so. That’s bullshit.”
“That’s what I thought you’d say.” Pidge responded with a chuckle. “Just hope they let you stay with Shiro. Any other foster sire would beat the shit out of you.”
Keith glanced at the kitchen, wearing a heavy frown. He couldn’t see their faces, and they were keeping their voices low enough that he couldn’t hear, but he still made a decision.
The Blade of Marmora could get fucked. Either he stayed here with Shiro or he ran. He had more than enough experience with foster families when he was alive, and he’d die before he dealt with that bullshit again.
“I don’t need a foster sire.” he grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest. “I was doing fine on my own.”
“You were starving yourself.”
“I never asked for this.” he snarled with his eyes flaring red. “I never asked for any of this. I never wanted to be this way.”
“I know you didn’t.” Pidge murmured with a sympathetic frown. “Look, if it makes you feel better, Shiro wants you to stay. And he wouldn’t expect you to act that way.”
Shiro was sticking his head out of the kitchen, calling for him.
“Can you come in here please?”
Keith went. He looked up at Ulaz’s face, though didn’t quite meet his eyes, walking a fine line between respect and pride.
“We were just discussing your living situation.” said Shiro, watching their interaction carefully. “I wanted to ask your opinion.”
“I want to stay here.” he answered immediately. Ulaz’s jaw twitched, but he just looked at Shiro and sighed.
“Very well. If you’re so set on it, you can keep the fledgling. Just don’t come crawling back to me when you get sick of his attitude.”
Shiro smiled, though it was strained, and thanked him before leading him to the door.
Keith wasn’t sorry to see him go.
Shiro bought him a bed.
It was a twin that he shoved into the opposite corner from his, the bottom jutting in front of the window. It was a necessary addition if he was going to be living with them, but for Keith it was one of the nicest things anyone had done for him.
It made Shiro sad.
One day he was sleeping restlessly, and awoke several times. One of these times he rolled over to find the curtains open. Keith was curled up in a ball at the foot of his bed, covered completely in a blanket to protect him from the light while he enjoyed the warmth from the sun beam.
A few days later Shiro presented him with an electric blanket, and Keith reacted as though he’d been given a diamond. He spent hours at a time coiled up beneath it, making happy purring sounds that made Lance tease him for sounding like a cat and caused Shiro’s chest to tighten.
As he’d told Keith, he wasn’t a sire. But he was starting to think this is how it felt to be one. That strange protectiveness that had welled up when Ulaz flashed his eyes at Keith in a sign of dominance. That tightness whenever he saw him happy. The sadness that wreathed his heart whenever Keith let slip some painful detail about his life before. The anger whenever he thought of how alone he’d been for so long.
Matt teased him about it, calling him “vampire dad” and such things. But beneath the snarky remarks he understood, and one day he discovered something he just had to tell him.
“I borrowed this old book from my dad.” he explained. Shiro read the title with skeptical eyes.
“Is there anything you won’t read?” he asked dryly.
“Listen, if you have everlasting life and you don’t take the opportunity to read every book in existence, you’re doing it wrong.”
“Alright, if you say so. What did you want to show me?”
“It’s about rituals that covens from millenia ago used to practice.” Matt dropped the book into Shiro’s lap and hopped onto the bed next to him to turn the pages rapidly. “And I found one that I thought was really interesting.”
Shiro’s eyebrows nearly flew off of his face when Matt found the correct page.
Shiro read it again, slowly, blinked, and bit his lip.
“Are you going to tell Keith?”
Shiro shook his head.
“No. Not yet. This sounds… pretty dangerous. And there’s no guarantee it’ll work. I don’t want to give him false hope.”
Matt shrugged, but left the book open on Shiro’s lap.
“Whatever you decide.”
It was three months of living in the apartment when he felt it. At first he had no idea what it was, just a compulsion to go somewhere. Anywhere. Get out. But then it got more specific, and he realized what it was. He ran for Shiro.
He was in the kitchen, discussing something with Matt, and his laugh was ringing off the walls when Keith rushed in.
“Woah!” he exclaimed when Keith slammed into him, fastening his arms around him like an iron vice. Shiro was immediately apprehensive. Keith was never this touchy.
“Don’t let go of me!” Keith demanded, and Shiro automatically wrapped his arms around the shorter boy’s shoulders.
“Alright, alright, you’re alright. What’s going on?”
“I can feel him.” Keith choked out, arms tightening around Shiro. “He’s calling me.”
Shiro and Matt exchanged a horrified look, the former only ripping his eyes away when Keith shuddered.
“I don’t wanna go.”
“It’s ok, Keith, I won’t let you.” He ran his fingers through Keith’s hair in a way he hoped was comforting while he looked back to Matt.
“Matt, I’m gonna take him to his room. You lock the door and don’t open it until I tell you to. Understand?”
Matt swallowed hard before he answered. “Yeah. Yeah I understand.”
Keith let Shiro lead him. He was beginning to tremble as he kept his fingers twisted into Shiro’s shirt. It was getting worse, this tugging his chest, pulling, willing him to forget about everything else and just follow. But he wouldn’t.
Shiro sat them both down on his bed, the older vampire letting the younger curl into his side and hang on for dear life. The door clicked shut behind them and the lock turned, and for a long moment everything was quiet.
Keith jumped violently at the new voice, and Shiro tightened his grip.
“Keith? What’s wrong?”
You know who I am.
“What is it?”
Why do you resist?
“I can hear him.”
“What do you mean?”
Come to your sire.
“He’s talking to me. Oh god, Shiro-”
“Shhhh, it’s alright Keith, just hold onto me.”
You know it’s where you belong.
“No no no no no.”
“Shhhhhhhhhhh, it’s ok, it’s alright, I promise, I won’t let you go.”
He could feel tears welling up and pressed his face into Shiro’s shoulder in an effort to hide them. He didn’t want to go, he didn’t want to leave, he wanted to stay here with Shiro who he knew by now wouldn’t hurt him.
Give in, you know you can’t keep me out forever.
“No, shut up, I won’t go. I won’t go I won’t go I won’t. ”
Fine. We can do this the hard way.
Then his nerve endings lit up like a painful Christmas tree, and Keith cried out, his fingers scrambling at Shiro’s shoulders.
“It hurts-- Shiro, it hurts-- f-fuck--”
Shiro swore low in his ear. “I didn’t think he could use that on you from so far away. Damnit.”
Keith bit his lip-- only realizing his fangs had emerged when they sliced the skin open-- and felt a couple tears sneak out. The pain was only ramping up the longer it went on.
Shiro was panicking. He was usually so calm and composed, but now he had no idea what to do. Keith was in pain, writhing and clinging to him with his fangs digging into his lip and his eyes glowing, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Well, there was one thing he could try, but…
Keith let out a scream, and Shiro could feel his breath puffing against his neck as he finally gave in and sobbed.
“Fuck, why can he do this?” he asked, clinging to him so hard Shiro’s shirt threatened to rip. “Why can my sire hurt me?”
Shiro shushed him again and rubbed his back soothingly.
“Keith, I have something I can try, but it’ll hurt, and it might not work-”
“Do it.” Keith cried. “I don’t care, just make it stop. ”
“Ok, ok, just breathe. Where did Zarkon bite you when he turned you?”
Keith reached up and tore his shirt away from his throat, exposing the scars on the right side of his neck. Shiro brushed his fingers over them until Keith smacked them away.
“Whatever you’re gonna do, do it!” he snapped, glaring at him through wet eyes. “It fucking hurts!”
Shiro didn’t waste anymore time, swooping in and burying his fangs in right on top of the scars. Keith yelled, but Shiro didn’t let up.
Vampire blood didn’t taste nearly as nice as human, and it didn’t slake the thirst at all. But Shiro forced himself past it and kept going. He would have to take a lot for this to have even the slightest chance of working.
Gradually, Keith’s squirming began to slow. His breaths followed suit, and he slumped more and more into Shiro until eventually he went completely limp. That’s when he finally detached himself from Keith’s throat, laying him back carefully. Thankfully he was still awake, but just barely, skin practically grey and eyes flickering pink.
“I can’t hear him anymore.” Keith whispered, and Shiro’s heart swelled in his chest. “What did you do?”
“I’ll explain in a second.” said Shiro in the quietest voice he could manage. “You need to eat something.” He got to his feet, moved away from the bed, and then Keith made a sound that froze him in his tracks.
It was high pitched and keening, sad, scared, longing. It was a very specific call, one that Shiro responded with instinctively with the same grumbling purr he’d made the first day Keith had been with them. And this time, instead of just relaxing a little, Keith practically went boneless.