If there was a sound for sunlight and starlight and the roar of a supernova; it existed in Shiro’s head.
When stars collide and entire universes shimmer into existence, he’s right there watching them. He can hear them, see them - sometimes almost touch them in his dreams. It’s unlike anything he’s ever known.
To think he’s gone the last ten years without it -
He feels as though he robbed himself of something beautiful and infinite and utterly irreplaceable for so long.
And even if he spends the rest of his natural life unable to find the source of his song - it’s enough to know it will always be with him.
Shiro wakes in sluggish increments. His brain is hazy with sleep and it grasps uselessly at the song fading away with his subconscious. There’s a scent in the air, cedar and smoke, and it curls around him as he struggles to pull himself back to the waking world.
His eyes blink open, clearing his vision enough to see a wisp of white smoke drifting towards the ceiling. Its source is a small obsidian platter with a pile of ash in the center, red and orange embers glowing.
He blinks again.
He’s not in his hotel room.
Adrenaline spears through him as he shoves up on his hands, heart pounding as the strange room comes into focus.
It’s tiny and barren. With a worn wood night table holding the smoldering ash and a tattered fur rug covering old flooring. The bed is small as well, big enough for only one person, but covered in the softest sheets Shiro’s ever lain in.
His memory is a swirl of bone chimes and a gruesome murder scene and hypnotic violet eyes above a mask of black. He remembers sitting on Keith’s couch and discussing the history of Kumiho - but -
Shiro squints around the room and listens for any sign of life outside it. It’s eerily silent beyond the bed and there’s no window for him to gauge the time or how long he’s been asleep.
He’s been stripped of his jacket and his boots, leaving him in only a white undershirt and his hiking pants. Said jacket and boots are resting on a small wicker chair by the door to the bedroom, as if in wait of him waking.
He gets out of the bed hesitantly, instincts on red alert as he pulls on his boots and tosses the jacket over his arm.
The cottage is quiet as his feet creak across the old wood floors.
There’s a small fire in the hearth and the remnants of their coffee mugs and Shiro’s research are still scattered on the table in front of the couch. He circles around and picks up the mug he drank from and finds it empty.
The small flecks of black at the bottom catch his eye and he brings the ceramic to his nose and sniffs once. He smells only coffee. The mug goes right back on the table and Shiro leaves the living area and finds the kitchen.
It’s smaller than the bedroom and an herbalists dream. A high window above the sink overflows with shelves of greens and reds and purples. He recognizes some of the plants, but not all of them.
A steaming teapot rests on a tiny, two burner stove and a cutting board boasting a thin knife and a bright green stem sit on the counter beside it. Shiro picks up the stem and brings it to his nose as well.
Shiro doesn’t usually meet many Hunters, but the knows Keith isn’t a normal one.
Hunters use herbs as deterrents, but never as remedies. Never as boosts. They take too long to cultivate and weapons are significantly easier to manage when it comes to taking care of business.
A hunter with a home is also - unusual.
Shiro sets the peppermint stem back on the cutting board and twists to face the rest of the house.
Where is the other hunter?
He heads for the front door and pulls it open.
It’s mid-morning, judging by the shadows of the trees. A cool breeze sweeps across his cheek bones and drags a chill down his spine.
Keith is sitting on the railing of the porch, bundled up in the same dark red hoodie from the market and weilding a knife against a piece of wood. His hair is braided over one shoulder and the dark leather gloves are back on his hands. There’s a furrow between his brows and white teeth dig into his bottom lip as the tip of the blade moves with a practiced motion.
Unknown emotion blooms in Shiro’s chest as he watches Keith work.
The chimes clack and roll with the breeze and birds sing praise from deep within the woods. His senses heighten the sounds, the smells, the sensations. He struggles to remember what happened before he passed out on Keith’s couch.
A heavy gust of wind causes hair to fall into Keith’s line of sight and he huffs and shoves it away with the hand holding the wood.
It causes his gaze to rise and meet Shiro’s.
And Shiro -
Shiro has the overwhelming urge to tug all of that dark, dense hair from its braid and sink his fingers into it. Yank it back to expose that pale throat. Fan it out across cream-colored sheets. Bury his nose in the scent of it.
“You’re up.” Keith’s voice interrupts that startling line of thought.
Shiro narrows his gaze, “You drugged me.”
A dark eyebrow shoots up, “Valerian root isn’t a drug.” He blows across the wood and little chippings flutter down to the porch.
“You -.” Shiro steps into his space, “ Drugged me.”
Keith meets him scowl for scowl, “I put a natural sleep aid into your coffee because you were dead on your feet.”
“Without permission.” Shiro hisses.
Keith says nothing for a moment before shrugging, “Fair enough.”
“You see nothing wrong with that?” Shiro asks incredulously.
“Would you have have slept if I asked you to?” Keith flips the pocket knife closed, eyes staring up into Shiro’s.
No. He wouldn’t have. Not in a strange place, with a man he’s only know a few hours at most. Who threatened him with a knife and dragged him into the middle of the woods to stay in a cottage surrounded by omens.
“You’re not like any hunter I’ve ever met.” Shiro takes a step back as Keith drops down from the railing and shoves the wood and knife into the back pocket of his jeans.
He slips past Shiro and into the house, giving him no choice but to follow.
“Hunters don’t usually stay in one place.” Shiro waves around the house, motions to the kitchen, “Or keep plants or carve out wards. Who are you?”
Keith’s back tightens, “It doesn’t matter who I am.” He turns just enough to look at Shiro, “Let’s just find the Kumiho so you can leave.”
Shiro bristles at the dismissive tone, but can’t find it anywhere inside himself to say anything. Because Keith is right. This isn’t his town and these aren’t his people. A hunter with a territory is a dangerous thing. It means they’re fortified. They’re trusted.
Shiro is just passing through.
He’ll be gone long before the blood dries after the slaughter.
“To behead a Kumiho -.” Keith’s boots are up on Shiro’s dashboard and the large leather book is spread across his thighs, “We’ll need a special heated blade. The beheading has to be cauterized and the body burned.”
Shiro turns neatly off of Keith’s dirt path and onto the main road, “How are we supposed to get a blade hot enough to cauterize?” His brows furrow, “And then what - carry it around?”
Keith’s finger glides down the length of the page, but doesn’t reply.
Shiro taps his fingers around the steering wheel, “Will a machete work? An axe?”
“A blade of meteorite with an ivory handle.” Keith murmurs, gloved finger following a line of text Shiro can’t read.
“You said you’ve done this before.” Shiro huffs.
“I said I’ve killed a Kitsune before. A Kumiho is the same machine, but with different instructions.” Keith informs irritably, “And besides, this blade is incredibly rare and difficult to forge.”
“I don’t suppose you have a blacksmith who specializes in rare metals on hand?” Shiro asks with a laugh.
Keith is quiet long enough that Shiro shoots him a glance, “Wait - do you?”
“I do -.” Keith snaps the book shut, “But he’s not going to like it.”
Keith groans, “Hunk, there’s a Kumiho on the loose. I need this.”
“I can’t just pull a meteorite from my ass, Keith.”
Shiro watches the exchange with carefully masked surprise. The man refusing Keith’s request is big, bigger than Keith and almost as tall as Shiro. He’s dressed in muted yellows and a white apron stained with various food coloring is wrapped around his torso. He looks normal at first glance.
He almost fooled Shiro.
But Shiro’s been at the hunting game long enough to recognize the dark circles under the man’s eyes. The red welts on his arms and under the sleeve of his shirt. The dark, feral slit of his eyes as he stares down at Keith in exasperation.
Keith doesn’t seem to be at all fazed by the fact that he’s arguing with a werewolf two days out of the full moon cycle.
“Does anyone else have what I need?” Keith blows out a breath.
The werewolf - Hunk - whines irritably, “Keith.”
“Hunk.” Keith meets him head on.
Hunk’s eyes dart up from Keith’s visage and land on Shiro’s, hands twisting at his stomach, “You brought a hunter, Keith. I can’t just tell you who has our stock.”
Keith waves a hand and drags Hunk’s gaze away from Shiro, “He’s with me.”
“Yes.” Hunk comments drily, “I can see that.” His nose wrinkles, “You reek.”
Keith rolls his eyes, “He’s here to kill the Kumiho and leave.” Keith turns to him, “Right?”
Shiro holds up his hands in a placating gesture.
Hunk squints at him suspiciously and lets out a world-weary sigh, “Lance and Allura might have what you need.” He wiggles a finger at Keith, “ Might .”
“Do you want a Kumiho wandering around our area?” Keith pulls a slim phone from the pocket of his jeans and starts typing away.
“No.” Hunk mutters, “Are you sure that’s what it is?”
“Pretty sure.” Keith puts the phone away.
“I feel like I would have -.” His eyes find Shiro’s again over the top of Keith’s head and the nerves are obvious on his features as he lowers his voice, “Noticed.” He clears his throat.
“She’s unfamiliar with her feeding ground.” Shiro speaks up, “But she’s probably old enough to mask her features and scent.”
Keith sends him a curious look before patting Hunk on the arm, “Thanks.”
Hunk starts wringing his hands, “Anytime. Just - uh - clear the hunter out soon?” He manages a weak smile in Shiro’s direction, “No offense.”
Shiro lifts an eyebrow, “None taken. But Keith being here doesn’t make any of you uncomfortable?”
Hunk’s brow furrows in confusion, “Why would he -?”
Keith twists around and grabs Shiro by the elbow, “Time’s wasting. Let’s go.”
As they approach Shiro’s car, Keith finally releases his elbow and heads for the passenger side. He has his phone out as Shiro climbs into the driver’s seat and is typing a reply into a text messenger.
Shiro waits patiently for directions and Keith mumbles them and shoves the phone between his thighs.
“Is there a community of creatures here?” Shiro asks softly.
Keith bristles, “Mind your own business.”
Shiro bites his lip, “I’m not going to tell anyone.”
“You won’t.” Keith’s tone is threatening, “And if you do - I’ll know. It takes a lot of effort to keep this place under wraps.”
“You are -.” Shiro searches for the right word. A perfect word that would describe the burning urge to learn everything Keith knows and to wake up in his bed again and to be so unerringly comfortable in a town full of monsters, “Odd.”
Keith’s eyebrows go up.
Shiro resists the urge to bang his forehead against the steering wheel cover.
“I just mean, Hunter’s don’t usually go around making nice with werewolves.” Shiro sighs heavily.
Keith is quiet for a moment, “You’re only used to hunting them.” Shiro can feel those intense eyes boring into him as he takes another turn, “You only see the bad ones because the good ones found a way to fit in.”
“Not all of them can just ‘fit in.’” Shiro replies bitterly.
A hand curls around his forearm and Shiro’s eyes dart to it, throat contracting as gloved fingers squeeze the muscle, “I’m sorry, Shiro.”
Because Shiro doesn’t need to say anything else for Keith to pick up the distress in his tone. He doesn’t need to spill his past all over the interior of his car, to a stranger who calls to his baser instincts. Keith’s a hunter. He already knows the price of being one.
The rest of the ride is silent, save for Keith guiding him through the local streets. Eventually, they arrive at a modest blue and white two story at the peak of a circular drive. It’s encased in large, overhanging oaks and gorgeous bushes slowly turning brown with the winter weather.
A sign hangs from a post to the left of the driveway as Shiro turns in.
“A bed and breakfast?” Shiro wonders aloud.
Keith grunts in affirmation, “Allura and Lance run it together.” He waves a hand, “They’re married - I think.”
“You don’t know?” Shiro asks on a laugh.
“Well the customs are different.” Keith hesitates, “Allura isn’t exactly -.”
Shiro parks in front of the steps and turns off the car, “Human.”
“Lance is.” Keith whispers, “Allura is a vampire.”
Shiro takes in a slow, steady breath, “A vampire.”
“She’s been here for hundreds of years.” Keith says, “She’s never hurt anyone. She only feeds exclusively from Lance.”
“I feel like I walked into the twilight zone.” Shiro rubs at his temples and sighs, “Are there any humans besides you in this place?”
Keith is quiet, “A few, yea.”
“God.” Shiro pops the latch on his door, “Let’s just see if they have what we need.”
Keith leads the way up a small set of stairs and onto a porch decorated with white rocking chairs and potted plants. The front door is made of pale wood and frosted glass windows carved with moons.
Keith doesn’t bother knocking, he opens the door inward and drags his booted feet across a rug in the foyer.
A bell dings above them and hurried footsteps follow.
“Keith? Is that you?” A posh, female voice calls out.
“Yea.” Keith replies.
A tall, stunning woman in pleated beige pants and a pale pink blouse slips through an archway from the left. Her face brightens when she sees Keith, but freezes as her sharp eyes find Shiro standing behind him.
Her footsteps falter and Shiro knows that look.
He’s seen it a hundred times on the faces of creatures caught by him.
Her fingers tremble around the dishcloth in her hands, but her stare hardens into something lethal, “You did not mention a - hunter - was in our midst.”
Keith takes a step between them, “Allura, there’s a Kumiho here. He just followed the trail.”
She sniffs irritably, “That seems like something we can no doubt handle without him.”
“He’s good. I’ll need him.” Keith offers.
“Oh, I’m sure he’s quite good at his job.” Her frown deepens, “How on earth did you find him anyway?”
Shiro feels like an outsider as they talk. There’s an easy familiarity between them that feels like an intrusion on his part. Keith’s shoulders relax and he uses his hands to explain what they need and the circumstances of Shiro’s arrival.
He finds his eyes wandering over the tasteful decor and the startling lack of keys hanging behind the reception desk.
The inn is obviously a popular place to stay.
“Do many of the hikers stay here?” Shiro finds himself wondering aloud.
Allura pauses mid-sentence, “Some, yes. Most prefer to camp.”
Shiro turns his gaze to her, “Do you have any who have stayed longer than a month? Or come frequently?”
“Our longest resident is a woman in her 90’s.” Allura tosses the dish towel over her shoulder, “Her son pays for an extended stay here and a local nurse lives in a guest room beside her. Other than those two, just weekend travelers.”
“Any new residents?” Shiro asks.
Keith peers up at him, “You think it’s someone new?”
“Could be posing as someone new.” Shiro murmurs, “But she's taking familiar forms. She's observing and finding ways to get her meals out into the woods.”
“Allura,” Keith says, “Have all the hikers stayed here?
She shakes her head, “Only one, I think.”
“Allura!” Footsteps stumble on the floor above them and they watch as a man in blue jeans and a parka comes running down the stairs.
Allura barely catches him as he hits the bottom step and his socks skid across the hardwood, “Lance!”
Lance waves a cellphone above his head, “There’s been another murder.”
Shiro straightens instantly and Keith steps forward as Lance twists the screen around to face them.
Keith’s eyes narrow, “That’s near my house.”
“Shit.” Shiro swallows, “She knows I’m here.”
“You practically ooze hunter.” Allura wrinkles her nose, “And you reek, but I suppose we’ll need your instincts and expertise.”
“Her killings are getting closer together.” Keith snaps, “We need to lure her out soon.”
Allura hums, “I’ll get you what you need.”
Hunk the werewolf needs 18 hours to forge their meteorite blade. He’s considerably less nervous around Shiro the second time and even manages a light-hearted joke before Keith is dragging them back out of the small bakery/supernatural blacksmith shop.
The sun has long since sank beneath the trees when they drive up to Keith’s little cottage in the woods. Something howls in the distance as they travel across the stone pathway to the stairs. Wind knocks the chimes around from the rafters and the haunting melody sets Shiro's teeth on edge.
Keith is eerily silent as he unlocks the door to his home and sets the large leather tome on top of the coffee table. Shiro watches him slip into the kitchen, never giving Shiro a backwards glance. He opens a drawer beside the sink and retrieves a pair of scissors and a velvet sack.
He snips carefully at the plants in his window, spreading the leaves and sprigs across the counter. The leaves are plucked from a few and the stems crushed from others. He shoves them into the bag and twists around to face Shiro.
There’s something in his gaze that keeps Shiro from asking questions. A thousand of them race through his brain as Keith takes his hand, gloves warm and smooth, and sets the black velvet in the palm. Keith makes his fingers curl over the bag.
“Keep it with you.”
“What is it?” Shiro murmurs.
“Protection.” Keith replies, “We’re going out.”
Shiro’s eyebrows climb towards his hairline, “Out into the woods?”
“The new murder was less than two miles from my house.” Keith grits his teeth, “If she thinks for one second that I’m going to let her encroach on my territory. She’s wrong.”
“I have some flashlights and a shotgun with salt rounds in my car.” Shiro offers.
Keith huffs with a half smile, “Salt rounds won’t do anything to a Kumiho.”
“Nope.” Shiro grins, “But it’ll hurt like hell.”
They enter the woods armed with a shotgun and the one flashlight Shiro could find in his trunk. The nightlife sounds swell around them the deeper they travel and the trees above are too thick to allow moonlight entry.
Keith seems to know where they’re going, so he mans the flashlight, while Shiro follows close behind.
Their boots crunch across dead leaves and twigs, a few rodents dart across their path and scurry into the underbrush. It feels identical to the night he arrived. Except this time Shiro doesn’t need to worry about pretty hunter boys tackling him into the mud.
Keith pauses, dragging the light across the ground, “We’re close.”
“How do you even know where we’re going?” Shiro whispers wondrously.
“I’ve lived here long enough.” Keith replies cryptically, “I know the woods better than I know the town.”
That tidbit of knowledge doesn’t surprise Shiro in the least.
Keith’s secluded home, his heavily clothed exterior; they point to a man more in tune with nature than with humanity. Someone who may know the earth better than the gods themselves.
“You’re really something.” Shiro chuckles.
Keith sends him a strange look over his shoulder, “You say that a lot.”
“You surprise me a lot.” Shiro admits, “I’ve been hunting for almost ten years and while you have the determination and ferocity of a hunter down pat, you’re not exactly standard.”
“You’re not exactly standard yourself.” Keith dips under a low-hanging branch and Shiro follows.
“Really?” Shiro asks, “I’ve made quite a name for myself.”
Keith scoffs, “You look like someone who was raised in a nice little white picket neighborhood and never missed a day of school.”
In a past life, Shiro thinks solemnly, “A long time ago, yea.”
Keith slows to a halt and the flashlight illuminates the bloodbath before them.
“What makes a good boy decide to become a hunter?” Keith’s wrist moves as he guides the light across splattered trees and leaves and dirt.
“Something killed my parents.” Shiro replies, stomach tightening at the scene.
He meets Keith’s gaze, “You don’t seem like the type for revenge, Shiro.”
No, he wasn’t.
Shiro rubs a palm over his sternum and laughs bitterly, “It wasn’t just the death of my moms. It was -.” Thinking his soulmate was one of the creatures who took them from him. It was sleepless nights fighting music he didn’t want to share. It was anger and despair and desperation that drove him to entering the Hunter network.
Ten years later and revenge is not the motivator. Routine is.
Once you get in, you never find a way back out.
You hunt or you die.
The flashlight flickers.
Keith taps it against the heel of his palm and it stabilizes.
“It’s definitely the Kumiho.” Keith scans the scene again, “Messy. Why isn’t she making this neater?”
“She’s -.” Shiro eyes the high spray up the side of a nearby tree, “Desperate. She’s in a hurry.”
“Like she’s not at full strength?” Keith mutters.
“Exactly.” Shiro steps over a branch, “The killings are growing closer together. Meaning she’s almost there. So she’s speeding up the process, but for what?”
“What any creature wants in a new feeding ground.” Keith hisses.
“Territory.” They say as one.
“And a hiking town?” Shiro waves around the wooded area, “Mostly male campers wandering around in the dead of night? It’s practically thanksgiving dinner all the time.”
The flashlight flickers again.
Keith frowns and hits it.
It doesn’t work. The light disappears and darkness swallows the small area up within the span of a second. Shiro’s nerves flare to life and he instinctively clutches his salt-loaded gun closer to his body, eyes squinting into the darkness.
Shiro tries to reach out, but only catches air.
He can hear the sound of metal shaking and a frustrated sigh.
“We should head back.” Shiro insists.
“Yea.” Keith’s voice sounds far away.
Shiro can feel goosebumps spreading across his arm and the hair on the back of his neck stands on end. The chirp and hoot of the nightlife has almost faded to a point, like he’s hearing it through water. He can barely make out Keith’s back in the muted moonlight and each step sounds like a bell toll.
“Keith.” Shiro whispers.
The darkness creeps in around him the further they walk.
“Follow my voice.” Keith replies, “Your flashlight is shit.”
Shiro laughs nervously, “I just put batteries in it before I went out the other night.”
Keith’s movements stop and Shiro runs into the back of him with a soft ‘oomf’. He puts a hand on Keith’s shoulder to steady the both of them and can feel when Keith’s smaller body twists around to face him. Shiro can barely make out his face in the darkness.
“Shiro.” Keith whispers.
Shiro can smell the shampoo from Keith’s hair and the sweat from the long walk. Can hear his own heartbeat steadily thumping inside his chest.
But that’s the only thing he can hear.
Shiro inhales sharply.
Gone are the hoots. The chirping of winter crickets.
“She’s here.” Shiro murmurs, gripping both hands around the gun.
Faint, hoarse female laughter echoes from all the dark corners around them.
Keith takes a deep breath and meets Shiro’s eyes, “I’m going to give us some light. Follow it. Don’t look back.”
Shiro frowns, “Follow -?”
Keith moves quickly, arm flying up and then the quick snap of fingers. A flare of purple fire bleeds from his hand and darts ahead.
Shiro recoils in confusion, “What the hell?”
“Run!” Keith shouts.
Adrenaline and fear course through him in equal measure as the laughter turns to a shrill war cry. He follows Keith’s outline as the violet light shimmers ahead through the dense encasing of trees. It casts haunting shadows, but gives enough light that Shiro won’t trip over fallen logs and inconvenient stumps.
It doesn’t stop the Kumiho from snatching him by the waist.
Claws scrape clean through his jacket and into the soft skin of his abdomen and hip. Shiro shouts and hits the ground, shotgun landing a feet away.
He can see Keith swivel around in the distance, “Shiro!”
Shiro twists around onto his back, hand clutching at the heavily bleeding wound in his side. He scrambles backward, patting furiously for the shotgun.
He makes the mistake of looking up.
He’s seen vampires newly turned and werewolves and shapeshifters and wendigo in their natural forms. They are all ferocious and terrifying in their own rights. But Shiro’s seen them so often in his ten years as a Hunter, that no part of them scares him any more.
But this -
This Kumiho is probably older than any Wendgio he's ever hunted. She’s still covered in the blood of her last kill and wearing a tattered, ripped robe that drags the ground around her equally clawed feet. Her hair obscures half of her face, long and white and clumped with blood and dirt.
“Lost little hunter.” She cooes. The hand she scored him with is dripping onto the toe of his boots.
Time slides to a crawl. His vision is wavy and pain sears up his side, blood oozing between his fingers as he tries to use what’s left of his jacket to stave it off.
“Lost little boy with a song in his head -.” Her smile shows teeth, sharp, pointed teeth that could rip out a man’s throat - or his liver, “Let me show you what you desire. What you’ve lost.”
Shiro shakes his head.
Where the fuck is his gun -
It goes off above his head and the Kumiho stumbles backwards with a shout.
Small, frantic hands pull at his shoulders and under his armpits, struggling to help him stand.
“Come on we need to run.” Keith hisses.
Shiro’s vision goes twinkle twinkle little star upon standing. He wobbles and Keith absorbs his weight and pushes back.
“Shiro -.” Keith says, “I need you to run. We’re almost there.”
Shiro blinks, “Where -.”
“Follow the light.”
He can see it, hovering in the air amongst the trees.
The Kumiho rounds on them with a shriek. It tears through Shiro’s head and rattles out an instant headache that makes him as nauseous as the wound in his side. He almost keels over right there.
Except, Keith is yanking him forward and they’re off again.
His heartbeat pounds in his ears and he can hear the Kumiho chasing close behind. The light flickers and bounces up ahead, Keith’s grip is tight around his wrist.
They break through the trees in a stumble.
Keith’s small little cottage rests in the center, no lights in the windows. Just a circle of bushes and wind chimes lining the rafters.
It looks haunting and foreboding the closer he gets.
It’s not safe harbor, his mind tells him.
“Get to my house.” Keith orders.
Sharp pain spears through Shiro’s side and he grabs uselessly at it. It’s bleeding even more now. He can barely breathe through the pain.
“Shiro -.” Keith is trying to pull him along, eyes wide as his gaze jerks to the woods behind them, “Shiro get to my house.”
“It’s no use.” Shiro wheezes, “Your house isn’t safe - we - we can’t -.”
Keith snarls and grabs him by the back of his jacket, tossing him through an opening in the bushes, “Just shut up and trust me!”
Shiro hisses in pain as he hits the ground. He can barely see. He tries to pull in lungfuls of air, but he’s lost too much blood.
He’s going to pass out.
Keith takes a running leap over the bushes and lands at Shiro’s feet. Shiro can see the Kumiho running full speed towards them, hair flying behind her and face twisted with fury.
“Keith -.” Shiro tries to stand up.
Keith twists around, boots pulling up grass and dirt with the motion. He faces the Kumiho head on, with no weapons, no way to stop her from killing him right there in front of Shiro. His gloved hands curl into fists at his side and he braces himself.
Shiro wants to thank him - stop him -
“You want him?” Keith snarls, “You’re going to have to go through me .”
Her cry is shattering and edged with hysterical laughter as she leaps into the air.
Keith raises his hands, palms to the sky and determination etched into the sharp lines of his face. The bushes around them shake and rattle, leaves shriveling up and falling to the ground.
The Kumiho hits a barrier of white light. Lightning and sparks burst out like fireworks around her and she falls to the ground, smoke pouring from her skin and voice crying out in pain. Foolishly, she tries it again.
The barrier sizzles and sparks like a welding gun. She rears back with a hiss, red welts forming on her skin and tattered robe black with burns.
“WITCH!” The Kumiho screams.
“You’re in my territory, fox.” Keith snarls.
Shock and pain flood through Shiro like a high. He mumbles something, but he doubts Keith can hear him.
The word witch, witch, witch , echoes around inside his head.
He blinks twice and the Kumiho is retreating towards the treeline. The bushes surrounding them are completely empty of leaves, the branches scorched.
Keith turns to him, face worried, hair completely loose from its braid and looking like an avenging angel in the moonlight, “Shiro - Shiro stay with me.” He slides to his knees, hands hovering above the wound on Shiro’s side, “Fuck.”
Shiro’s vision is going wavy, but he can still see Keith tearing off the leather gloves with his teeth. Shedding his hoodie and pressing it against the wound. A hand curves along his jaw and there - there -
Keith’s arms are bare and his neck is exposed and there are constellations coming to life across his skin. There’s an entire galaxy blooming to life right before his eyes. He wants to trace every star with his fingers and press his mouth to whatever lucky cluster covers the space above Keith’s heart.
“Takashi, look at me.” Keith’s voice is low and soothing, thumb caressing over the rise of his cheek.
Shiro lifts his gaze, but it’s whiting out around the edges - the pain is excruciating -
And - there are waves crashing against a cliff side. The scream of a rollercoaster as it comes to a stop. Metal grinding and fireworks bursting in the night sky -
Shiro winces and instinctively tries to block out the sudden song. Now is not the time for his soulmate to -
“No, no -.” Both of Keith’s hands are on his face now, “Don’t block me out. Let me in. Takashi, let me in -.”
The song starts again and Shiro shudders. His soul blooms like a flower in the morning sun and his skin tingles everywhere Keith touches him.
“I can’t heal you if you don’t let me in -.” Keith presses the words against his temple, over his eyes, and finally against his lips.
Shiro lets out a wounded sound.
“It’s you -.” He slurs, “You’re my - You’re a -.”
“Don’t fight it.” Keith insists.
“No.” Shiro struggles to stay conscious, “I’ll forget again -.”
“You won’t.” Keith promises, “Rest.”
He doesn’t want to rest. They have a Kumiho on the loose and Shiro is bleeding out in Keith’s front yard and he just found his soulmate .
His soulmate. Who is probably thousands of years old.
Keith murmurs Shiro’s name against his mouth. It’s reverent and pleading and Shiro wonders how long Keith’s known him.
And how long he’s been waiting.