Monday night found Keith on the side of the road, mumbling profanities at the flat tire on his car. How the fuck he had managed to have a blowout, in the middle of a well-paved road with absolutely nothing in it, was beyond him. It was stupid, and he would be lying if he didn’t admit that it was absolutely pissing him off.
In hindsight, he should have known everything would go to shit on a Monday.
“Incredible. How? Fucking how?!” He leaned back on his heels with a frustrated groan once he realized he didn’t have the proper tool to remove the lug nuts from his wheel. He could call Lance and have him try to find one, but he was only a few minutes from home and ultimately decided to just walk back and figure it out from the comfort of his own garage rather than his current situation.
He was only a couple of blocks from home when he got jumped.
The rustling in the bushes gave him just enough time before the werewolf jumped out at him and wrapped their arms around his throat.
His fangs descended and his senses began to sharpen, a feral snarl escaping his lips. With a swipe of his hand, he felt his now extended claws connect with flesh.
His attacker let out a pained howl, giving him just the opening he needed to jump backward out of their grip.
“What the fuck?” Keith snapped, straightening up and rubbing his throat where he’d been throttled.
“Vampires don’t belong here,” his attacker replied. Even with his heightened vision, he couldn’t see much of her or tell any distinguishing features other than she was large with a shock of pink and purple hair.
She took another swipe at him and he jumped out of the way in time, but just barely. Shit, he was really unprepared for this.
And if Keith were being honest with himself, he wasn’t entirely sure he could take her on alone. He was fast but he’d spent most of his eternal life avoiding other supernatural beings for this very reason—he’d spent enough of his human life fighting; he didn’t want to keep doing this for the next several hundred years as well.
“We haven’t done anything.” Keith knew reasoning with his attacker was pointless, but he had to try. Still, he readied himself to spring into defense for when she would inevitably attack again.
His attacker’s eyes glowed gold and he realized that she was getting ready to shift into her wolf form. With a resigned grunt, Keith threw his arms up just as she tackled him to the ground. He felt his head connect with the asphalt and stars erupted in his vision. Unconsciousness was already trying to claim him, but his instincts were screaming at him to stay awake.
It was too much. He knew he was fighting a losing battle on all fronts and he was about ready to give up. I guess this is how I actually die. He thought forlornly, flashbacks to the day he was turned passing before him. The similarity of the two situations made him almost want to laugh at the irony of it all, dying the same way twice.
There was a roar from somewhere behind him. He thought maybe it was his attacker getting ready to deliver the final blow, but then he saw it.
A huge black and silver werewolf jumped out of the woods, fangs bared as it snarled viciously at Keith’s attacker. He didn’t even have time to take a look at it before it was on his attacker.
The fight didn’t last long—only a minute or so. Despite his vampire senses, Keith was struggling to keep with it as his brain flickered in and out of awareness. All he remembered was a blur of fur and fangs and blood and then his attacker running off into the night in retreat.
However, the werewolf who had come to his rescue didn’t relax. He was still snarling and his hackles raised when he turned to Keith, fangs still bared.
Keith knew immediately that it was Shiro. But when he noticed the deep slash across his nose and the bloodied stump that was left of what used to be his right arm, Keith’s stomach plummeted.
“Shiro? Shiro, what the fuck happened?”
Shiro continued to growl in response, his eyes unfocused and not seeming to recognize Keith. He must be in shock. Keith thought as he held out his hands to try and calm the wolf down. Fuck, Shiro desperately needed medical attention. If he could just get him to calm down, Lance could help him.
Unfortunately, Keith lost consciousness before he could do anything else.
Everything was dark and he was in pain. His head throbbed and as he slowly clawed his way back to the ledge of consciousness, Keith knew he wasn’t at home. The walls weren’t the right color, the sheets smelled wrong—FUCK why did his head hurt so bad?
He was vaguely aware of something pressing to his forehead—a damp cloth maybe? He tried to open his eyes but it was as if his body shut down and was outright refusing to do what his mind was telling it to.
“He’s waking up.”
Lance! I’m here! Keith tried to say, but couldn’t. Just like how he couldn’t open his eyes, his mouth also refused to cooperate.
There was murmuring in the background, unfamiliar voices, or at least ones he couldn’t place with the fuzziness in his head. One was definitely female but that was as much as he could tell.
Then a door shut and just when Keith began to panic that he’d been left alone, he felt the familiar touch of Lance’s hand to his arm. “Keith. Hey, buddy. Don’t try to do anything too fast, you took one hell of a blow.”
Finally, Keith was able to pry open his eyes. He immediately regretted it, the harsh artificial light of the room piercing his skull and it felt like his eyelids were stickers being peeled off a desk after years of being there.
With a whine, he buried his face back into the pillow and laid there for several minutes, willing the pain to pass. Mercifully, it did, and when he opened his eyes again, Lance was still there with him.
“What happened?” Keith managed to ask, his voice sounding hoarse and unused. Shit, how long had he been out?
“You were attacked by a rogue werewolf. You’re lucky Shiro was there otherwise you’d probably be just a gutted corpse somewhere on the side of the road right now.”
A very specific, graphic memory came rushing back to Keith just then as the fog was slowly lifting from his brain.
“Fuck! Shiro! Is he okay?! He was badly hurt and—“ He tried to sit up, but all he accomplished was making his head spin and a wave of nausea tore through him.
“Calm down, Keith.” Lance was already there, in nurse mode as he helped to lower Keith back to the bed. “You shouldn’t be moving too much. And Shiro is alive.”
“Alive?” Keith didn’t like the way Lance said that. “But there’s more to it, right?”
Lance looked down, not meeting Keith’s eyes. “He was hurt really bad. You saw what was left of his arm—took like five pints of blood to keep him with us. He’s recovering down the hall, but it’s going to be a while before he can go anywhere.”
Okay, the information about his arm Keith already knew. But Lance had conveniently skipped over the why of the whole situation.
Keith knew he was going to have to force the whole story soon, but his head chose that moment to feel like it was splitting open again. He let out a pained cry and fell back onto a pillow. He was aware of Lance hovering over him, rummaging around for something, and then a sharp jab in the crook of his elbow as Lance stuck him with a needle.
He wanted to ask what Lance had given him, but he was asleep within moments.
When he woke again, the room was empty. It was impossible to tell how long he had been out, but given that his horrendous pain had dulled to a persistent ache, he figured it was at least a day.
Slowly, cautiously, he sat up and took inventory of his body. Other than a mostly healed gash on his arm and some aches and pains, he seemed relatively intact. So with as much strength as he could muster, Keith pushed himself off the bed and walked over to open the door.
The hallway it opened to was unfamiliar, the walls painted a pale gray and dotted with brightly colored art. Down at the end was an open doorway, light pouring into the otherwise dim house. Voices were coming from that room so he followed them into what turned out to be the kitchen of the house.
Lance was there, a cup of coffee in hand as he spoke with Allura, much to Keith’s surprise. He could smell that other werewolves had been here recently, but as far as he could tell it was currently just the three of them in the house, plus Shiro wherever he was recovering.
“Glad to see you’re awake!” Allura smiled as she looked up at him.
“How do you feel?” Lance asked, eyes running over Keith’s body to assess for any damage he’d missed. Keith shot him a look that he hoped conveyed his annoyance of being treated like a patient instead of his friend and roommate.
When Lance rolled his eyes at him, Keith shrugged and made his way over to the small table in the middle of the kitchen. “Sore, mostly. What the fuck happened?”
Allura’s expression sobered and she looked down into the mug she grasped in her hand. “You were attacked. By one of my former pack members.”
“Former?” Keith thought back on what little he could remember of the fight.
Allura pressed her lips together in a thin line but didn’t elaborate. Lance shot Keith a look and shook his head, mouthing “not now.”
“What about Shiro? Is he okay?” Allura seemed grateful for the change of subject, though she was clearly still upset by it.
Allura and Lance exchanged a look and Keith knew it was bad news.
“He’s alive, but just barely.” Lance was using his nurse voice. Shit.
“Can I see him?”
Lance hesitated but must have decided against whatever thought he had because he pushed his chair away from the table and stood up before saying, “Come on. Might be easier to show you.”
Keith wordlessly followed Lance down a hallway, while Allura said something about how she was going to stay in the kitchen. They passed the room that Keith had come out of and stopped at the last door in the hall. Lance’s hand hovered over the doorknob, the uncertainty in his face causing Keith’s stomach to tie itself into a pretzel.
“Keith, I have to warn you. Shiro isn’t the same.”
Silence hung between them for several long moments,
“I told you he was badly hurt and barely survived. He’s not doing well, if I’m being honest.”
Although he remembered all of the blood from when Shiro rescued him, a small, foolish part of him had hoped it was a hallucination brought on by the adrenaline and the concussion.
Whatever happened, Keith needed to be strong for Shiro now. He felt himself clench and unclench his fist and forced a sharp exhale through his nose before saying, “Okay. I’m ready.”
Lance nodded and opened the door.
He didn’t know what he expected, but if Keith’s heart still beat, it would have stopped at the sight that greeted him.
Shiro was in the bed, hooked up to more wires and tubes than Keith’s eyes could follow. There were monitors Lance must have lifted from the hospital all around the room, indicating various things about Shiro’s vitals. His eyes followed Shiro’s prone form, unconscious on the bed and covered in so many bandages that Keith wasn’t sure there was any of Shiro left under there.
And then there was the arm that was no longer there.
Keith’s stomach curled at the realization that Shiro was missing his right arm. He knew it had happened before his attack, before Shiro had come to his rescue, but a nagging voice in the back of his mind was screaming This is your fault.
The soft touch of a hand to his shoulder brought Keith reeling back to reality. He looked back at Lance, the hopelessness flashing like a neon sign across his face. “What happened?”
The corners of Lance’s lips ticked down. “Let’s go get some coffee and I’ll fill you in.”
Loathe as he was to leave Shiro, Keith knew it was his only hope to find out how they had all ended up in this mess. With a great deal of effort, he turned and followed Lance out of the room and back to the kitchen.
Allura was just throwing on her coat when they arrived, hand poised over the doorknob. It seemed oddly convenient that she had to leave right when Lance was supposed to give him all the gory details of the night he was attacked, but Keith didn’t have the energy to pursue it right then.
“I have some urgent business to take care of. I should be back in a couple of hours,” Allura’s smile was weak as she pulled her hair from under the collar of the coat, the guise pathetic even to her own ears. “Look after Shiro and please don’t destroy my house while I’m gone.”
Keith grunted in response at the same time the front door slammed shut.
“Before you say anything,” Lance cut through his thoughts as they heard Allura’s car pull out of the driveway. “It wasn’t her. She’s trying to fix the shit that went down, so go easy on her.”
Keith took a seat at the kitchen table, leaning the chair back on its hind legs. He wondered when Lance had become so defensive of a werewolf, though he had a sneaking suspicion why he was making an exception for Allura. “Then start talking.”
Lance took a deep breath before walking over to the counter to grab a couple of mugs and start filling them from the warm pot of coffee still sitting in the carafe. “I’d prefer we had some alcohol for this, but Allura doesn’t have any right now.”
He slid one of the mugs in front of Keith as he returned to the table. Keith accepted and sipped at the surprisingly good brew, watching Lance carefully over the rim of his mug.
Lance settled in the seat across from Keith and fidgeted for a few seconds before letting out a shuddering breath.
“Allura hasn’t told anybody besides us outside of the pack, but Alfor died six months ago.”
Keith choked on his coffee at the news. There had been murmurings that nobody had seen Alfor in a while, but he hadn’t thought it was that bad. When he got his coffee hacked out of his trachea, he wheezed a bit and asked, “What happened after that?”
“Naturally, she took over as the Alpha. But Lotor thinks it should have been him to succeed Alfor.”
“So let me guess,” Keith cut Lance off as he regained his composure. “Lotor didn’t take that lying down.”
“Not at all.”
“So then who…?”
“Zethrid, one of his generals. She’s the one who attacked you.”
“And Shiro’s arm?”
“Lotor’s mother, Haggar. Turns out she was practicing dark magic on the side while nobody was looking and summoned a demon from hell to take Shiro out.”
Keith’s stomach turned itself in knots at the thought of Shiro, battling some hell demon while trying to defend Allura all by himself, the feeling of betrayal from their own pack. And yet Shiro had still come to save him from Zethrid, freshly maimed and missing a limb? He had no idea what he’d done to deserve Shiro’s protection, but he silently resolved himself to never stop trying to pay him back.
All four feet of the chair thunked back down to the linoleum floor with a jarring sound. His blood was boiling and it was taking every ounce of strength in him not to bolt out the door and track down the ones responsible for what had happened to Shiro.
“So you’re telling me we have to kill that fuck head, Lotor?”
Lance rolled his eyes as he looked up from the mug clutched between his hands. “Allura doesn’t think we should, but I’m inclined to agree with you on this.”
Keith snorted. “That’s a first.”
“But seriously, what does Allura think she can do without taking on Lotor? She can’t do this alone. She needs the pack to unite behind her.”
The frustrated noise that came from Lance at that startled Keith. “I’ve been having this conversation with her over and over again the last several days while you were unconscious. She’s as stubborn as they come and thinks she can still solve this diplomatically.”
Keith snorted at the fond look that brushed across Lance’s face. He seemed to be easing up on his distaste for werewolves—particularly for a certain pretty one.
“Well, I hope for her sake she’s right. But I think we should be ready to help her in case things go south.”
They finished their coffee in silence after that. Keith suddenly felt a fresh wave of exhaustion, which frustrated the hell out of him since he’d been asleep for days and said as much to Lance.
“Dude, you gotta take it easy. You really put your body through the wringer.”
Keith grumbled about being useless just lying in bed the whole time. Lance was about to go into nurse mode and Keith knew from experience that he could drag Keith’s ass back to bed and cuff him to the frame like he’d done many times to inmates admitted from the local prison. But the yawn that escaped from his mouth caught him so completely off guard that he finally agreed maybe he should sleep again for a bit.
With much more grumbling, Keith shuffled his way back to the bedroom he’d been borrowing and told Lance to wake him up if anything else happened.
He was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
The next time Keith woke up, it was to someone violently shaking him from a deep slumber. “Keith! Buddy, get up!”
Keith bolted upright, fangs bared and nails sharpened into deadly claws as he blindly swiped out at whoever was dumb enough to come after him in his sleep. His claws connected with flesh and the resounding yelp was familiar enough to set off some kind of message to Keith’s sleep-addled brain.
“Oh shit. Sorry!”
“The fuck?!” Lance swore as he slapped a hand to his cheek where Keith had swiped at him. The claw marks left bloody streaks that were already knitting themselves back together thanks to his accelerated healing. “We’re going to have to talk about your trauma once this is over, dude.”
“Why did you wake me up?” The swerve in subject was sudden enough Keith hoped Lance would drop it.
“Oh, right. Shiro’s awake and he’s asking for you.”
A pillow flew across the room and hit Lance’s face with a soft ‘thwack’ “You fucker! Now you tell me this?”
Lance didn’t even have a chance to reply as Keith was on his feet and running out of the room. He heard Lance yell something at him but ignored him in favor of sprinting towards the other guest bedroom at the end of the hallway.
The door was already open, so he slowed to a more acceptable pace as he entered the room. Sure enough, Shiro was sitting upright in the bed, propped up by a mountain of pillows. Allura sat on his left side, clutching the hand he had left, her back turned to Keith.
“Keith.” The way Shiro said his name was cautious, like he thought Keith would disappear in a cloud of smoke.
He was at Shiro’s side immediately, settling in next to Allura. “How are you feeling?”
Shiro smirked, the pain evident in the wince he failed at covering up. “I’ve uh…been better.”
Right. Duh. That was such a stupid fucking question.
Keith floundered then, unsure of where to take the conversation.
Thankfully, Allura saved him. “I’ve got Matt and Pidge out gathering intel. They’ll find out Lotor’s plan and report back to us.”
“Good,” Shiro seemed relieved at the news. “If they’re on it, we’ll know soon enough.”
Allura hummed an agreement and used her free hand to rub his shoulder affectionately. Keith almost felt a pang of jealousy at the casual intimacy the two shared so openly, but the look Shiro gave Allura was clearly one of platonic fondness and nothing else.
The energy in the room shifted then, and Allura picked up on it. She stood and said something about getting some rest herself before placing a kiss to Shiro’s temple and leaving the room abruptly so that the two of them were left alone.
Silence blanketed them, the only sounds the gentle whir of the machines Shiro was hooked up to, interrupted by the occasional beep that indicated his heart was still functioning. Keith tried not to stare, but it was hard. The gauze over Shiro’s nose was starting to turn pink with blood that was escaping from the still healing wound, and the heavy wad of bandages that started just below his right shoulder was hardly something that could be hidden in plain sight.
“How’s your head?” Shiro asked, snapping Keith back to reality.
“Fine,” Keith replied automatically. Centuries of practice couldn’t break the habit of not allowing others to know when he was suffering.
Shiro laughed at that, a pained and hollowed sound that grabbed Keith’s heart with sharp talons. It clearly said, “You’re full of shit but I’ll let it go this time.”
With an annoyed huff, Keith made his way over to the bed and sat down in the space between Shiro’s left side and the edge of the bed. He realized, belatedly, that he could reach out and twine his fingers with Shiro’s remaining hand, but something told him not to. Hell, he could bend over just a bit and kiss Shiro until they forgot their own names, let alone the trauma of the last several days. But the pain that haunted Shiro’s eyes stopped him.
“Hey,” Shiro’s voice broke through Keith’s reverie as he lifted his hand to brush a stray hair from Keith’s face. “What are you thinking about?”
Keith shook his head as Shiro withdrew his hand. “Nothing. Sorry.”
Shiro sighed and leaned back into the mountain of pillows propping him up. “Lotor wasn’t the one who took my arm, by the way. I can tell you were thinking about it.”
“I know. But he gave the order.” Keith’s voice had dropped into a growl so low that he noticed the hairs on Shiro’s arm stand up.
“Keith,” Shiro warned. “This is my fight.”
“Let me help. For fuck’s sake, you lost an arm!”
“I won’t let you get killed too. I’ve lost enough because of him!”
They glared at each other, both too stubborn to back down.
Shiro was the first to look away and the sad expression he bore stabbed Keith in the gut. He’d been through so much already and here Keith was picking a fight as soon as he woke up.
As Shiro’s shoulders drooped in defeat, Keith decided to become bold and climb into the space on the bed next to Shiro. For his part, Shiro didn’t object, and even lifted his remaining arm in an invite which Keith readily accepted, hoping the apology was evident enough in his body language.
After a minute of them shifting and adjusting, they settled with Keith’s head on Shiro’s shoulder and arms wrapped tightly around his waist. Keith closed his eyes and inhaled Shiro’s scent, a comfort to him even though they’d barely known each other for more than a few weeks. For whatever reason, Shiro was the only werewolf whose scent didn’t repulse him and he was too tired to mull that factoid over. So instead he allowed himself to be happy that Shiro was still alive and with him.
He felt Shiro’s warm breath tickling the fine hairs on his neck. “I’m glad you’re still here.”
Keith twisted to look at him. “That’s my line.”
“Hmm,” Shiro hummed as he bumped their foreheads together. “Well, regardless, stay with me for a bit?”
It wasn’t long before Shiro was asleep again. His weight leaned heavily on Keith but he didn’t mind. He might have dozed a little as well, though he wasn’t certain, but Lance was suddenly there, gently shaking Keith and telling him to come into the kitchen.
Keith was glad he didn’t react violently this time, and from what he could see on Lance’s face, his friend agreed. With much effort, Keith extricated himself from Shiro and gave his sleeping form one last, forlorn look before following Lance back down the hall.
Two new werewolves had appeared in the time Keith had been with Shiro. He didn’t recognize them, but based on the discussion they were having with Allura, he was able to piece together that they must be Matt and Pidge that Allura had mentioned earlier.
“Hey,” The taller, older one greeted. “I’m Matt.”
“Keith.” Keith wasn’t sure if he was supposed to say anything else. He was starting to wonder what it was that made all these werewolves so unaffected by having two vampires in the same space as them on a regular basis, but figured that was a question for another time.
“Matt and Pidge were just filling me on on what they’ve been able to figure out about Lotor’s coup.” Allura interrupted before any more introductions could be made. “I think what they’ve gathered will be enough to start our own resistance.”
“Count me in.” Keith ignored the shocked gasp that came from Lance at that.
The smaller of the new werewolves, Pidge, he figured by process of elimination, pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and gave him an appraising look. When she nodded, he felt a weird sense of accomplishment for having proved whatever it was she was looking for in him. “You must be this Keith I’ve heard so much about.”
He blinked at that. “You’ve heard of me?”
She gave a trill laugh at that. “You’re the only vampire I know of who would willingly date a werewolf, so yeah.”
Keith’s brain couldn’t get past the ‘date’ part of that sentence. He wanted to speak up and let everyone know that he and Shiro weren’t dating, that they hadn’t had any kind of a discussion about what they were yet, but he was cut off before he could say anything.
“Focus please.” Everyone fell silent and gave Allura their full attention. It was amazing how she could do that so easily. Whether it was because she was a natural-born Alpha or just who she was, Keith couldn’t say. But it was a trait of hers that he envied.
Within the hour, they had a solid plan in place. Allura was still insisting on a nonviolent, diplomatic approach, and it burned deep in Keith’s gut that she refused to fight back. He wanted to kill Lotor and his underlings for what they did, and Allura knew it, but she told him very firmly, “We’re taking my approach to this.”
He glared at her, and she met him with a fierce look of her own. Keith knew she wasn’t one to be fucked with, but he also wasn’t about to sit back and let Lotor get away with his crimes.
Finally, Allura ordered them all to get some rest. “We start tomorrow and I need you all in your best possible shape.”
They all bid each other goodnight then. Matt and Pidge left through the back door, telling Allura to call them if she needed them again tonight. They each waved at Matt and Lance and when the door closed behind them, Allura disappeared into her bedroom.
Lance nodded at Keith before heading to a part of the house Keith hadn’t been to, which left him to make the walk back down to his borrowed bedroom.
When he got to his door, something stopped him. Shiro was back, but just barely, and it made a piece of Keith’s soul ache to think this could be his last night with him.
Before he could stop himself, he continued to the end of the hallway to Shiro’s room, where he silently climbed back into the bed and reclaimed his spot wrapped to Shiro’s side.
Shiro let out a soft whine in his sleep, but turned his nose to Keith and nuzzled his neck. Keith startled slightly, surprised by the sudden physical affection, but he quickly relaxed and allowed himself to drift to sleep to the sound of Shiro’s heartbeat.
It was the best sleep he had since waking up from his attack.