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Midnight Crusade

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Lance didn’t usually work early shifts at the shop, but ever since recently, he feels weird about going outside after dark. It’s strange, he can’t remember when he began to feel that way. He suspects if might be from after his co-workers death, who worked a closing shift and was attacked by some type of animal on her way her. It had been over a week and still no more news came out about what happened.

 

“Earth to Lance?” A voice hang in his head, blue eyes moving from their dazed position to look at Pidge, his other co-worker who still happened to be alive. “You’re going to burn yourself.”

 

“What?” He replied, gaze moving from green eyes to the paper cup in his hand, boiling coffee dangerously close to the rim as it flowed out of the pot. “Oh, shit.” Lance spat out next as he quickly cut off the stream, a few drops stinging his hand in the process. He could hear laughing from beyond the counter. “You could have said something earlier!”

 

“I could have said nothing at all!” Pidge yells back, not even bothering to turn around as they walk out the front door, heading to clean the tables out front.

 

Lance only rolls his eyes before lidding the coffee he was pouring and calling the name out. “Nyma!” He watches as a tall blonde walks towards the counter, hair in a high ponytail with a yellow turtleneck hugging her small frame. What was even weirder, Lance thought, was she wore a blue bralette over the turtleneck. Still, the outfit worked for her and she was 100% cute.

 

A smirk grew across Lance’s face as he leaned on the counter as the girl approached. “You come here often?” He asked as slyly as he could. It made his heart swell when the girl giggled, taking the coffee from his hand.

 

“Oh, aren’t you cute? I bet that works on all the ladies.” She replies, instantly shooting Lance down. He couldn’t help but feel a slight sting as she turned and walked out of the shop.

 

“Can’t win them all Lance.” A deep, warm voice spoke from behind him. Hunk walked out of the back with a sheet full of fresh croissants. “My mother did always say cooking is the way to the heart.”

 

“I thought it was 'the stomach is the way to the heart'.” Lance responds, leaning against the counter before crossing his arms. “But whatever, have you heard any new news about Iris?”

 

Hunk pauses for a moment, one hand delicately holding a croissant while the other held the baking sheet up. “Nothing yet.” The large boy quickly finishes placing the croissants in the display shelf before hurrying back to the kitchen.

 

It wasn’t strange, given the odd circumstances of their co-workers death. What made it even stranger was that Lance had been working a closing shift too that night, but he doesn’t remember anything past a certain point. He’s been scraping and pulling apart his mind trying to figure out the missing information, but he always comes back blank. At least when he’s awake.

 

Dreams have been plaguing him, more like nightmares though, of shadows and blood, of Iris and some other figure with red eyes and sharp teeth. A shiver runs down his spine as he thinks about it, shaking it off literally before turning back towards the front, watching as Pidge walks in with a tray full of glasses and mugs.

 

“Lance?” The boy turns to look at his manager, the woman sporting long white hair despite being in her twenties. She was beautiful, her expression always gentle looking with hairs falling out of her loose bun framing her face. “How are you doing?”

 

It took Lance a moment to realize exactly what Allura was asking about. It had been a little over a week since Iris was killed in the alleyway besides their coffee shop. He had been working too that night, even coming in before Iris had. Still, the ending of the night goes from cloudy to black quickly. “Oh, I’m doing okay I guess.”

 

“Any progression?” She inquired, and he knew what she was referring too. She also wanted to know what happened that night. Still, he couldn’t offer her answers when he had none himself.

 

“No… I… I still don’t-.” Lance begins, averting his eyes as if he felt ashamed of himself which he did slightly.

 

Allura cuts him off with a wave of her hand though. “It’s okay, you shouldn’t rush things like this. Just let me know if you need anything, okay? You’re more than welcome to go home if you need to.”

 

A smile grows on Lances face as he can feel the sincerity radiating off of his manger. “Thank you Allura, I really appreciate that. I’m okay for now though. I know this place would set itself on fire without me.”

 

“I think we should be worried about him setting the place on fire.” Pidge chimed in as they walked behind the counter, clean mugs and plates in hand.

 

Lance shoots a look at Pidge, the dirty blonde only returning a smug look as they put away the dishes. “I am very well versed in handling fire, thank you very much. I even staged my own firework show when I was ten!”

 

“You mean the one where you set Ms. Olettes cat on fire?” Hunk decides to add in from across the cafe, Lances eyebrow twitching at the comment.

 

“Almost, don’t forget the word almost!” Lance yells out, but the group around him was already dispersing as a customer walked in, all four of them chiming in to welcome them.

 

The rest of his day went by smoothly, his shift ending around three with the sun still at a good point in the sky. He didn’t live far from the shop at all, so he walked to and from work on most days.

 

Altea rested against a large lake with forests surrounding the whole area. There was only one road in and out of town on the far southeast side of town, the road stretching into town and eventually ending right at the edge of the forest. Even for such a small town, there was everything you could ever need right in town. It made leaving Altea something that people living here didn’t do often, and could be a hassle with the next town being a two hour drive.

 

Walking into his apartment, Lance instantly felt all his stress vanish as he door closed behind him. He was met with the sound of water outside and the wooden wind chimes he had hung up in a window. Plants were scattered across his apartment, some in little racks, some sitting on banisters and tables, and some hanging from the ceiling in either pots or different shaped terrariums. Even though his studio apartment was small, he made sure it felt like his home.

 

A short walk from the front door and Lance flopped onto his bed, face pressed into the plush blanket that was thrown across. He wanted to nap, the stress from the past week making his bones ache and muscles sore. It wasn’t really a conscious decision to fall asleep, but it happened nonetheless.

 

He floated in blackness for a while, his mind and body numb. But then a chime sounded, similar to a bell, and he was suddenly standing in the coffee shop. The edges of his vision were blurry, but everything seemed to come into focus when he looked. A glass bakery case to his left, a long counter with various drink making machines to his right, and in front of him large glass windows that looked out to the lake, the moon just peaking through the top of the window.

 

Lance’s body tensed as Iris walked right past him, amber hair pulled into a tight bun atop her head. She still had on the cafes apron, the name Cafe Of The Lions in script across the top with a a cup of coffee under the last word. Purple, that was the color of her apron, and it moved like a blur across his vision as Iris walked past him and to the back door leading to the alley way.

 

Don’t go out there! “Have a good night Iris!” Lance spoke instead, unable to control his voice. He could only watch as she turned around and smiled.

 

“You too Lance.” Her voice was warped, almost like they were underwater, and then she was gone, the closed door making his chest feel empty.

 

Suddenly a sensation ran up his body, his toes going cold at first until it traveled up his legs, into his fingertips and past his throat. No time past and he was in the alley beside the cafe, feeling darker then it should with the moon in the sky. A sharp shriek pulled his attention back to a dark figure standing in the middle of the alleyway, the only thing Lance could see was blood dripping down what could be the figures face, and sharp fangs where lips should be.

 

“Lance…” Blue eyes moved down to a figure on the ground, Iris. Her neck was covered in blood, soaking her apron and clothes, and a pool of blood on the ground where she lay. He wanted to say something, he wanted to scream or run, but he was frozen where he was. Then the figure lunged at him.

 

Lance awoke with a sharp gasp, the sudden movement of his jolting up causing him to fall of the bed, landing hard on his ass, blankets and a few pillows following. He didn’t move from the spot, chest heavy and vision spinning as he tried to focus on the ceiling above him. A thin layer of sweat covered his body, yet the cold air flowing in from the open windows makes him shiver.

 

Faintly, he hears the buzz of a phone, but he doesn’t move from his position until he realizes its his phone buzzing. Sitting up was a slow motion, the room spinning as he did so. The first thing he noticed was that the sun had set and darkness had taken its place. It unsettled him, Lance pushing off the ground onto weak legs before wobbling over to the large window of his apartment and closing it.

 

Silence filled the small apartment and it somehow made Lance feel even worse. Still, having the window open made him anxious, the recent nightmares he’s been having revolving heavily around the dark. And blood. And death.

 

Lance remembers his phone buzzed and moved towards the counter where he left his phone when he first got home. First, he saw that it was just past midnight, second, he had a few texts from Hunk and Pidge. It seems they were trying to make plans for tonight, which Lance had already slept through. He hopes they were able to still have fun without him.

 

After turning on all the lights in his apartment, which wasn’t a lot, Lance sat down on his bed and turned on the small TV he had sitting on his dresser. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to sleep easily, he already had a lineup of shows to watch in situations like this.

 

So he got comfy, making himself a cup of hot chocolate before curling back in his bed and sipping while he watches the prime episodes of The Office. A tinge at the side of Lances neck makes his head swing to the side, eyes wide as he looks out one of his windows into the inky blackness of the night. It almost felt like someone was… watching him?