“Oh my god, Keith! NO!”
Lance came home to find his new and aggressive houseguest trying to jamb a flash drive into his Gamecube. Keith’s hair was frazzled and puffed out like a living embodiment of his frustration, jaw clamped tight and knee bouncing. “What’s the problem?!” he snarled, throwing the robot-shaped drive to the carpet. At least his fangs weren’t showing yet. Whatever this was about wasn’t out of hand yet.
Lance groaned, letting the weight of his shopping bags drag his arms toward the floor. “Dude, you can’t put the flash drive into the controller port. It’s not for USB. They’re for different things.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Keith pointed to the poor drive on the floor in front of him. “Pidge said if I put this in a ‘computer’ it will teach me what I need to know.”
“Man, that’s my console! It’s not a computer.”
“They all look the fucking same!”
Lance set his groceries down with a sigh and padded into the tiny living room to pick up the flash drive. It was scratched and slightly dented from Keith’s abuse, but it would probably still work. “You couldn’t have just waited to ask me when I got back from class?”
Keith rolled his eyes and angrily folded himself into the couch. “I’m sick of sitting in your – what was it?”
“Right. You’re tiny, boring, tiny apartment.”
“You said tiny twice.”
“Gee. Almost like I wanted to emphasize it.” Keith’s tongue traced over his canine in agitation and Lance did his best not to gulp. “This place is starting to feel more claustrophobic than the goddamn coffin.”
Lance, tampering down the urge to bite back with something equally rude, grabbed his laptop and inserted the drive, waiting for the files to open. “I’ve offered to let you come to class with me.” He selected the first file, and then immediately closed it with a huff of laughter. The first things Keith learned about modern technology and culture were not going to be memes, Pidge.
“What? So I can listen to your teachers botch up history I already lived through? No thanks. I need to go figure out what happened to me and fix this,” he said, gesturing to himself.
Lance passed off the laptop once he found an appropriate starting subject: transportation and vehicles of the modern era. “Okay, first: I only have one history class, and it’s for Latino studies. You never lived in south or central America, so that’s irrelevant. And second: you’re just going to get into trouble if you go out on your own now.”
Keith squinted at the screen, eyes probably in pain and not used to reading off anything other than paper. “I’d be fine.”
“Yeah, totally,” Lance mocked. He got up to finish sorting groceries in the fridge, making sure to hide his peanut butter ice cream in the back where Pidge couldn’t see it. “That’s exactly why you completely freaked out when we brought you back here.”
“I did not freak out.”
Lance shrugged, putting Hunk’s favorite cereal away. “Look, it’s fine. If I just popped out of a coffin and saw a bunch of crazy technology and lights with these panicked college kids trying to take me somewhere, I might have tried to stab a bus too.” Keith didn’t deign to reply, just kept reading Pidge’s data with a scowl. Lance folded up their reusable grocery bags. “Please don’t break my laptop, alright?” Silence.
Tired from school and his part-time gig, Lance trudged into his room to faceplant on the bed. He was being nice here. He was already stressed from college and money and literally everything else in his life, and he still let Keith come to stay with him. And did he get a thank you? No.
That stupid grumpy vampire was just a pain in his ass.
It started, like many regrettable decisions in Lance’s life, with a dare. Not just any dare though. This was some serious shit, and Lance had to defend his honor. It was a reigning campus myth that the graveyard half a mile south of the language department was, like, super haunted. Ridiculously scary haunted.
Lance had just wrapped up his work-study as a Spanish tutor when Nyma and Rolo walked by, carrying flyers with a poorly photoshopped moon and ghost on them.
“What’re those for?”
“The Midnight Moonlighting,” Nyma preened, shoving a flyer at him.
Rolo chuckled. “It’s a challenge. See if you can stay out there past midnight. You know, the cemetery up north? Everyone’s got stories about ghosts, getting attacked, getting sick, demonic possession. Y’know. Creepy shit like that. University has a lineage of pseudo-ghost busters that have tried to document something there for like, twenty years now.”
Lance recalled every horror movie he’d ever seen that ended with dead white people. “Why on earth would you want to mess with that?”
Nyma bounced on the ball of her foot and rocks backward. “We wanna see if we can do a spooky promo video later if enough people go try it out.” She gave him a once over. “I’ll bet you couldn’t last half an hour.”
Well, Lance was easily goaded.
“Oooooh, I don’t like this,” Hunk said. The gates were, of course, iron wrought and super squeaky to push open, the high pitch echoing around them like a warning bell for several seconds.
“Chill, big guy. We’re not even in yet. Pidge, make sure you record. I want those jerks to know we totally made it past midnight.”
She whipped out her phone with a sigh. “You know, this would be great if it wasn’t so damn cloudy. There’s supposed to be a red moon tonight. I could have brought my telescope.”
A low-hanging mist blanketed the damp soil beneath them. The trees slowly cleared away as they climbed the hill, Hunk muttering behind them. Lance’s foot snagged on a root, sending him toppling over, only to catch himself on a weathered gravestone.
“Oh yikes! Sorry, dead dude,” he whispered. Pidge filmed his clumsiness while the moon slowly emerged from behind thick cloud cover, a vicious red tint bearing down on them. “Whoa. Pretty.”
The headstones steadily crept into view as they went along, the mist swirling between them like a river. They could see each other in the saturated moonlight, but anything beyond ten feet or so was hidden.
Pidge suddenly stopped. “Hey. Is it just me, or is this fog all moving in the same direction?”
Hunk leaned over her shoulder to watch the white swirls fold in on themselves and slither up towards the far corner of the cemetery. “The wind?”
Lance licked his finger and stuck it in the air, feeling the breeze cool the skin around his cuticle. His eyes widened as he bit his lip. “The breeze is going…the other way.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Pidge said, frowning at the ground. “Physics don’t work like that.”
“Maybe we should get out of here. I don’t like this, guys.”
Lance was somewhat inclined to agree by then, but Pidge started off ahead of them. “Not yet. This is weird, and I wanna see what’s going on.” Lance and Hunk took off after her, scrambling to keep up until they crested the hill out of breath. “This way,” she murmured, transfixed on the fog. The moon, blood red, shined heavily on them.
The mist led them to an old back section of the cemetery that looked like it hadn’t been touched in decades. Long veins of ivy stretched over the headstones and tombs that were pressed into the soil. Then, near the very end, a small stone crypt stood slightly apart from the others, all the trails of mist tickling at its edge, but stopping right at the threshold as if an invisible wall were there.
“Whoa,” Pidge mouthed, coming up to film her findings. “Did Rolo and Nyma say anything about..?”
“No,” Lance said, voice a little breathless and eyes wide as he stared at the structure. “Just mentioned typical haunting stuff. Nothing like this.”
“There’s nothing written here. No name at all.” Hunk stayed back while the two of them crept forward curiously. “Not even like it’s faded. It doesn’t look like anything was ever written.”
Lance kept staring at the line of the mist like it was a challenge. Pidge and Hunk were debating behind him, but he focused on the entryway to the crypt, the deep blackness seemed to repel the fog. Above him, the moon glinted. With a gulp, he lifted his foot to prod at the invisible barrier and stepped inside.
“Lance!” Hunk hissed. “What are you doing?”
He didn’t answer, just moved to stand completely inside the tomb, the red moon’s light at his back, like a gentle hand pushing him forward. “Who are you?” he whispered, moving further in. The air inside was heavy and stale, hardly breathable. Lance couldn’t see five inches in front of him and jerked when his shins suddenly hit an edge of stone. Lance laid his hand on it to balance himself.
Just then, a pulse of red light rippled through the entryway. Lance felt the air get sucked out of the room as the mist came crashing in behind it, the whole crypt filling up with impenetrable fog. A loud cracking sound breached his ears, and through the red haze, he saw fissures spread across the coffin lid like an earthquake.
With a short scream, he flung himself back, shoulder hitting the wall. He gaped in horror as the lid crumbled away, and two yellow dots flickered to life, piercing through the haze. They slowly rose, pinning Lance to the wall with a thrill of fear. The silhouette of a figure sat up, clutching at the sides of the coffin, breath heaving and gasping – almost a growl.
The red mist swirled around the figure violently, whipping dark locks of hair about as those glowing yellow eyes kept their focus on Lance. And just as suddenly as it came, the mist dispersed, taking the red glow of the moon with it.
The figure crawled completely out of the coffin, and just as Lance tensed his muscles, ready to run, the menacing yellow glow dimmed. The figure slouched, barely catching his weight on the coffin.
It was a boy.
Lance froze, taking him in. Black hair curled around his shoulders, which heaved and shook like he was breathing for the first time ever. He was coated in a sheen of sweat, and a drop rolled under his shirt collar – a white button up with the sleeves rolled to the forearm, complete with suspenders, tight black pants, and what honest to god looked like cowboy boots.
The boy groaned and squeezed his eyes shut in pain. “Mom?” came the broken rasp. And then he collapsed.
Pidge took shotgun with Hunk at the wheel (since it was his ride and he got car sick), leaving Lance to watch over the guy in the back. He maneuvered them so that Lance had a window seat with the boy buckled into the middle and leaning heavily against Lance’s side so that he wouldn’t smack his head into the car door.
They drove along out past the country acres surrounding campus and into the city, thankfully missing most of the red lights. Once they were nearing the medical district, the boy groaned again, eyes flickering open.
Lance tried to smile reassuringly. “Hey, you’re awake.” Bleary, the boy turned his head just enough to look at Lance. Just then, Hunk hit a bad pothole, jarring them violently. “Hunk, watch it! He might have a concussion or something!” The lurch of the car woke the guy up completely. His eyes started darting about the interior of the car, brow furrowed and breath coming fast.
“What is this?” he demanded, yanking himself away from Lance’s side only for the seatbelt to lock and leave him yanking against it. “Who are you? Where are you taking me?”
Lance made a placating gesture, the flicker of the streetlights passing over him in a steady rhythm. The boy’s eyes tracked the moving light warily. “Whoa, man. Chill. We’re taking you to a hospital. You’re gonna be alright.”
At that, he only got more agitated, tugging and grunting to get out of the seatbelt, looking out the window and squirming as far away from Lance as he could. “No! Let me go right now!” He bared his teeth, canines longer and sharper than they should be, and Lance jerked back.
“Lance, calm him down ,” Pidge called over her shoulder, phone tracking directions to the hospital in her hand. “We’ve got another five minutes.”
It was too late though. Out of nowhere, he pulled a knife from his pocket and sliced clean through the seatbelt. Everyone in the car started screaming when he lurched for the car door, Lance trying to grab his legs to keep the moron from killing himself. Hunk swerved off the side of the road, brakes squealing as they ground to a halt.
The crazy motherfucker flung himself from the car, taking a second to gape at its shape before he took off tearing down the street.
“That idiot’s gonna get himself hurt!”
In a flash, Lance and Pidge were racing after him. Lance’s longer legs pulled him farther much faster though, his eye trained on the dusty white button-down and flowing black hair as he turned the corner.
Lance turned as well, nearly ramming into the glass covering of a crowded bus stop. The boy had crashed straight into the throng of people, eyes wide and frantic, stumbling to find his grounding as he rolled off the bodies of tired strangers. Suddenly, the city bus pulled in, the pipes of its underbelly releasing a deafening hiss with the engine rumbling underneath. The boy jerked away with a startled yelp, wildly slashing his knife at the bus in fear. But it skimmed off the metal and the ricocheting force knocked him back. Lance shot forward, catching his wrist just before he tumbled into the road, traffic whirring by in a furious roar.
Lance yanked him hard back to the sidewalk and their chests crashed together.
“Dude, stop before you hurt yourself!”
But Lance’s words weren’t reaching him. He was still wheezing and sweaty, trying to take in his surroundings. Lance kept a firm grip on his arms, not that he looked like he could really fight him off at the moment, shaky on his feet and gaze unfocused.
Lance took a deep breath, watching as the other boy seemed to unconsciously mimic him.
“I’m trying to help you. I swear.”
“No doctors,” he rasped, not blinking.
“Okay,” Lance relented, loosening his hold and watching a fraction of the tension drain from his shoulders and neck. He ignored the startled onlookers boarding the bus. “I’m Lance. What’s your name?”
He hesitated a moment, then tucked his knife away in his belt. When he spoke, Lance could see the barest hint of his sharp teeth peering from beneath his lips. “Keith. It’s Keith.”
Pidge and Lance supported Keith’s weight back to the car. They were all worried, but Lance did not want to push the doctor issue and earn another freak-out. Hunk drove them back to the apartment slowly, careful not to jostle Keith on any more potholes.
When they stumbled in, Lance laid him out on the couch, propping his head under their only decorative pillow. Hunk flicked the lights on and Keith jerked, eyes swiveling around the room in confusion, squinting at the overhead light.
“Is…Is it day now?”
Lance tried to chalk that up to general disorientation and worsening health problems, but the memory of Keith emerging from the stone coffin bathed in red mist with glowing eyes slammed to the forefront of his thoughts. “No, we just turned the lights on. We can, uh, turn them off? If they’re hurting your eyes.” Keith nodded, and Hunk left them with only one dim lamp in the corner so that he and Pidge could sort through the first aid kit. Slowly settling into the couch cushions, Keith groaned, shifting in pain on the couch and looking like he was about to pass out again.
“Uh, Keith?” Lance sat up on his knees to lean over him from the floor. “Keith, what’s wrong?”
He tried to pry his eyes open, skin pallid, breath coming in short pants and the sweat returning to his brow. “…Hurts…”
“Okay, I know he doesn’t want to, but I really think we need to reconsider the emergency room option,” Pidge said, turning to Hunk to prepare to leave again or call an ambulance.
As they talked behind him, Lance kept his focus on Keith. With his mouth open, Lance could see that his canines were elongated and sharp. “Keith, hey, bro. You’re wigging me out a little. Talk to me.”
“I-I don’t know what’s… Fuck,” he hissed, throwing his head back and gritting his teeth.
“Lance, help us pick him up. He needs a hospital.”
Just as Lance reached out to him, Keith’s eyes shot open, a hint of that terrifying glow seeping into the irises. In a flash, Lance’s wrist was between his teeth. Lance let out a small cry, more surprised than hurt when Keith’s sharp fangs sank down and punctured the brown skin against his tongue.
Everyone froze for a second, even Keith. Lance then realized that this crazy nut job was fucking biting him and that it hurt . “OW!” He tugged in his arm but stopped when the teeth wouldn’t come loose, ripping the skin more. “You’re fucking biting me! Stop!”
Hunk was already pulling on Keith’s shoulders, but the boy seemed to blink back into awareness, gasping with Lance’s blood hanging on the corners of his lips. The glow vanished in an instant and he stared at the wound he’d left.
With a shocking amount of force, Hunk threw Keith to the floor. “What did you do to him?” Eyes never leaving Keith, Hunk knelt by Lance’s side, holding his wrist and pressing the gauze Pidge quickly handed over onto it. The blood immediately started to seep through. Lance was too stunned to move.
Keith propped himself on his elbows, looking just as horrified as everyone else. “I-I don’t know. I’m sorry – I swear I didn’t mean to… It just hurt and I needed the shaking to stop,” he explained helplessly. That was when Lance noticed that Keith didn’t seem to be in pain anymore, some color coming back to his cheeks.
“You hurt Lance,” Pidge spat.
“I know, I know. Fuck, I should have remembered.” Keith scrambled to his feet, only swaying a little this time. He backed away from them, heading for the door.
Keith was starting to look like he half expected another bus to ram through the living room wall. Lance gently pulled his throbbing hand from Hunk, standing. “Keith, wait,” He called. “Who locked you in that coffin?”
Keith stared at him. “I don’t know.”
“You said you ‘should have remembered,’” Lance urged. “What were you talking about? Why’d you bite me of all things?”
“I don’t know, okay?! I just needed…”
Pidge leaned against Hunk. “What?”
“…Blood,” he whispered, looking away. “It was the only thing that was gonna make me feel better. I don’t know why.” Keith squared his shoulders and faced Lance. “I’m sorry I hurt you. I should go.”
Lance pressed against his bandage and bit the inside of his cheek. Everything the mystery boy who magically emerged from a stone coffin said was starting to sound a lot like… Lance rubbed some of the pain in his wrist away, letting the dull throb fade into the background of his thoughts. Hunk was still tense behind him and Lance was kind of getting sick of all this ominous tension. “Okay, sure, but where the hell are you gonna go?”
“…I’ll go find my mom and dad.”
He sighed. Pidge shot him a look that said: Hoe, don’t fucking do it. But Lance was definitely a hoe and he was definitely doing it.
“Dude, you should just stay here.” He ignored Hunk’s immediate protest. “Okay, let’s just, like, lay out the facts, guys. Creepy pale kid pops out of a coffin with a fucking red moon in a haunted cemetery. Creepy pale kid proceeds to freak the fuck out over lights, cars, and other shit that’s modern and normal.”
“I did not freak out,” Keith muttered, crossing his arms.
“Uh-huh, sure. Creepy pale kid is dressed fucking weird,” Lance gestured, and Keith looked down at his own clothing, then to the rest of theirs.
“Can you stop calling me that? I gave you my goddamn name – use it. And what’s wrong with my clothes?”
“They’re old, dude. And then –” He waved his injured arm around.
Pidge stood and gave Lance a hard stare. “Lance, I am a scientist. I swear to the God whose existence I question, if you are suggesting that he is a fucking vampire –”
“Whoa, what ?” Hunk jumped in.
“– then you have lost every ounce of respect I had left for you as an intelligent lifeform.”
Lance didn’t get a chance to defend himself before Keith’s defeated voice cut between the three of them. “He’s right… It’s fuzzy, and I don’t remember much, but I know that part.” Keith leaned against the counter, trying his best to appear nonchalant. “I know I’m some kind of monster.”
They let that sit for a while, and for once Pidge had the tact not to keep fighting for logic. Lance cleared his throat. “Um, so yeah. That means you’re probably, like, pretty old. So, uh, I think you should probably hang tight here until you figure your stuff out.”
Keith didn’t move, eyes glued to the floor. “Why would you let me?”
Lance shrugged. “My family instilled a strong sense of hospitality in me?” He looked to Pidge and Hunk, pleading them not to protest letting an angsty vampire stay in their apartment when finals were coming up. They sighed after a minute and raised their hands in surrender.
Keith evaluated the three of them, nibbling lightly on his lip.