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Strike Match

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Lance always dreads the emails that pop-up in his inbox around the last week of break. Particularly bad are the ones from professors that send you the course syllabus and expect you to be familiar with it before you even step into their classroom, but even worse than that is the list of textbooks and other materials he needs to buy before classes start then use for 12 weeks and never touch again. College is a financial pitfall that Lance most of the time can’t believe he’s putting himself through willingly, and he’s only in his second out of four years of it. The looming reminder of another semester drawing near elicits a groan out of him and he pockets his phone.

A quick mental budgeting calms his nerves somewhat—he’s been taking on a crazy number of hours at work for a reason after all— but he was hoping to have more wiggle room in his finances than he would end up with at this rate. He almost curses himself for choosing psychology as a major, considering it requires some of the thickest and most expensive textbooks out there, but his next choice would be astrophysics… and that couldn’t be any better. He hangs his head along the back of the couch.

A familiar weight jumps up next to him with a trill and climbs onto his lap. Lance looks down and smiles as he strokes his favorite companion.

“Hey girl, are you worried about me too?” Lance laughs to himself. His cat kneads her clawed paws into Lance’s thigh and her owner winces. He has so many tiny red scratches from this little monster making him her personal cat toy, but really, it’s his fault because he never has the heart to be mad at her when he knows it’s just a show of affection. He picks her up off his lap, her paws stuck in the fabric of his pants until he pulls them out one by one, and carries her towards the kitchen. “How about we get you some dinner, huh, Blue?”

The cat wrestles out of his arms and rubs back and forth against his ankles when she lands on the ground in a much less painful display of appreciation.

He gets her food set first before searching for something to fill his own stomach: looks like it’s leftovers from work again. He landed a job last semester at the only “fancy” restaurant near campus and has spent more of his time there than at his own apartment ever since. Really you could only call it fancy in comparison to the dive bars and fast food joints that comprise the rest of the eateries around campus, but located anywhere else it would be pretty standard.

Still, it’s a classy enough place that his uniform requires a dress shirt and pants combo. He irons both before he puts them on like his mother taught him until the wrinkles from being on his floor since last night sufficiently unnoticeable. He goes a step further and throws on a touch of makeup to breathe an attractive glow into his skin, not exactly a part of the dress code, but he’s noticed people tip better for a pretty server, and honestly if he can get some extra cash by dolling himself up a bit, he absolutely will.

He bundles up for the early January weather once he’s done and says goodbye to Blue before heading out. The crisp air is frigid on his face as he walks but he doesn’t have to withstand it for long, the restaurant is only five minutes away by foot. It’s pretty quiet around town as it usually is during breaks considering most of the business around here is from students, but it’s also a Friday evening and Lance isn’t surprised to walk through the door and into a crowd of people waiting to be seated. He immediately knows the kind of night he’s going to have and it feels a little like willingly lowering yourself into a shark chamber. He has to excuse himself around all of them, to make his way to the back.

“Lance!” a voice calls over to him just as he gets to the kitchen. His supervisor, Allura, comes whizzing past him, tray full of food in hand. “So glad to see you! Can you take table 4? They’ve been waiting to order for ten minutes so be extra nice, then table 8 needs to be seated. Oh, and I’m giving you table 6 as well. Thanks!” she has barely enough time to say it all before she disappears out the swinging door. His hopelessly romantic heart knows better by now than to think she’s actually glad to see him personally, that she’s actually just relieved to have more help.

“Nice to see you too!” he calls back sarcastically even though she’s already gone. The cooks in the kitchen look up from their backed-up orders to share a knowing look with him and he heaves a sigh. It’s probably going to be even busier than he expected… at least the tips will be worth it. He finishes tying his apron, grabs a note pad, and follows Allura into the chaos.

 

 

 

The tips were not worth it. Not even Lance’s famous smile and dashing charm was enough to keep the angriest customers happy, and most of his tables only left a couple dollars after a large tab. He heaves a sigh while he clears his last table of the night and glances over to where Allura is just serving desert to hers. The customers are an interesting looking pair, pretty obviously on a date if Lance had to guess by the way the one woman is gazing at the other so hungrily it was like she was the cake they were just served. The one woman has still barely touched the dessert by the time Lance is done cleaning his table, he notices, and he sidles up to an annoyed looking Allura back in the kitchen to be nosy about it.

“What’s the deal with your table out there?” he asks. The two of them share customer stories frequently whenever they’re interesting enough, or as a way to preserve their sanity when they were insufferable. He’s guessing this one will be a mix of both.

“Well the one on the right is definitely a vampire.” Allura starts off by saying. Lance cranes his neck to look back through the kitchen window but he doesn’t even have to be subtle about it, the pair is still busy gazing longingly at each other.

“Really? How do you know?” He asks. They look like normal people to him.

“You can see her fangs when she talks.” Allura explains and then joins Lance in looking through the window. “Ugh do you see the way she’s looking at that poor girl like she’s going to eat her?” she adds. The distaste in her voice is obvious and she turns away with a deep frown. Lance looks on in awe.

“I’ve never met a vampire before.” he muses out loud and turns back to Allura who is folding napkins in a huff.

“Consider yourself lucky.” Allura responds and Lance raises an eyebrow in her direction.

“What, why?”

Allura gives him an exasperated look.

 “You shouldn’t trust vampires, Lance. They can take your life in a moment’s notice if they chose to… that was the fate of both of my parents years ago…” she elaborates. Lance feels a wave of sympathy pass over him watching Allura as her hands stop her work and she lowers her eyes. But a moment later she grits her teeth and continues wrapping silverware with a renewed fervor. “I’ll never forgive them for that.”

“Allura… I had no idea.” Lance begins softly. “But I mean… aren’t we supposed to get along with them now? You don’t really hear of any vampire attacks these days.” Allura shakes her head.

“I’ll treat them like anyone else, but I’m still not going to trust them.”

Lance sits with that mentality for a moment. It doesn’t feel right. Vampires live amongst humans, it’s a fact that everybody knows. There have been laws and regulations put into place for both human and vampire agendas that were years in the making and have allowed the two species to co-exist in a widely unchallenged harmony for quite a while now. Lance knew there were plenty of people who still opposed it all, but he never realized Allura was one of them. 

“Okaaaaay, so what about those two out there? Kinda weird but they just look like they’re on a date.” He jumps back to the topic on hand.

“They’re not. Well… maybe they are but there’s more to it than that.” She denies quickly. “I heard them talking about meeting on that new app that’s been everywhere. I don’t know what it’s called but you know what I’m talking about, right?”

Lance groans in thought and looks around like he’ll find the answer somewhere in the sink full of dishes.

“Lance, I swear, you need to watch the news more often. It’s this new… service or whatever you want to call it, where humans can match up with vampires and sell feedings of their blood. It’s ridiculously dangerous in my opinion.” She explains.

“What, seriously? You can sell your blood?” Lance can’t hide his intrigue.

“Lance,” Allura draws out the syllables of his name sternly. “Don’t get any ideas, the whole premise is just asking for trouble.” She warns.

“Yeah, okay.” he waves her off. “Well I’m all done with my tables; do you want me to stay?”

“No, thank you, Lance. You may go home.” She replies.

“Alright, have a good night then, don’t let the vampires bite!” He sings as he leaves. 

“That’s not funny Lance!” she yells back.

 

 

 

Like a lot of the questionable decisions he’s made so far, this one starts at 1 am, the start of those late night/early morning hours when the concept of time feels like a lie and most reasonable people are asleep. He should be asleep too, but he’s lying in bed, covers pulled up around him while a new app starts downloading on his phone. Its icon is bright red and much too attention grabbing so he hides it away in the folder he uses for the multitude of dating apps he’s tried and never uses anymore, all of which are also a series of late-night decisions. He was just looking it up online to find out what it was called and he swears he’s just downloading it to satisfy a curiosity. If it happens to lead to something promising then so be it, but seriously, he’s just checking it out. 

His thumb hovers over the newest addition for a few long moments after it’s ready to open, his own lingering hesitation now the only thing that’s holding him back.

 “Fuck it.” He mutters out loud and taps the icon.

He’s greeted by a welcome screen in that same bright red as the icon with the name of the app displayed in elegant writing across the screen.

Blood Lust

‘Dramatic’ is Lance’s first impression. Maybe it’s all because of his apprehension going into it, but as he stares at that red screen it elicits a chilling feeling of peril in him, like he’s venturing into the wrong part of town but the adrenaline makes you feel alive. Lance keeps going.

A series of prompts follows.

Are you a vampire or a donor?

Donor. Though the use of that word throws him off… there’s nothing altruistic about why he’s on this app.

What is your blood type?

He doesn’t know.

A pop-up fills the screen when he checks off ‘unknown’ and warns him that donors are more likely to find a match when they list their blood type, he dismisses it.

How often are you looking to donate? (No more than twice per week is recommended)

Once a week.

Set your rate.

That one really stumps him. He puts $50 as a ballpark just so he can move on.

The next part makes him laugh. He’s asked to fill out a short get-to-know-me bio for his profile and it feels like exactly like those dating apps sharing the rest of the folder this one is in.  

                ‘Name’s Lance, I’m a broke college student. I work a lot to pay my tuition so I don’t have much time for hobbies but I like being outdoors. Uhhhh I have a cat named Blue. Nice to meet you?’

He deletes the question mark, uploads his favorite selfie and calls that part done.

A list of possible matches displays in a list across the screen of the main interface and makes it really feel like he’s using a dating app. But when he gets past that, his primary reaction is just shock at how many vampires come up within his area. He starts to realize he’s more than likely just been oblivious to interacting with them.

He scrolls through the pages, giving just a glance to each profile. They’re… pretty weird, some less so than others, but a lot of them showcase nothing but their fangs in pictures, dripping with blood and peering out from lips turned up at the corners in a sadistic smile or a menacing snarl. A good deal of them are primarily sexual and Lance’s eyes widen when he finds one with several pictures of their partners tied up and covered in bite marks, advertising for a submissive partner.

If he’s being honest, it’s pretty much what he had been expecting and it’s nothing he’s looking for. His itch is scratched. He gives a like to a few of the profiles that seem tamer than the rest for the hell of it before he exits out and puts his phone down for the night.

 

 

 

Continuing his pattern with 1 a.m. decisions, Lance might have forgotten all about the one he made last night if it weren’t for the screen full of dozens of notifications that he wakes up to. He stares with wide eyes as he lazes in bed for a while scrolling through a generous amount of likes on his profile and quite a large number of messages. He can’t even tell if it’s flattering or not, what kind of standards did these vampires look for with this kind of situation? He honestly isn’t planning on figuring it out. A lot of them are bizarre, but he gets a laugh out of the couple that ask to see a picture of his neck, like the vampire version of a dick pic.  

He’s about to move on when one of the messages catches his eye. Or rather the thumbnail of the sender’s picture does. It’s a man, probably a good couple of years older than Lance, he’s dressed in classy, studious-looking attire with a pair of rectangular frames resting on the bridge of a well-built nose, but his physicality is broad and powerful, definitely someone with a dedicated gym routine. All of it could have spelled fuckboy, but the expression on his face is so genuinely pleasant that Lance who has never even met this man before still doubts he could ever be rude. 

 His message is just one simple word.

                Hi.

Lance chuckles at the brevity, but he actually wants to know more about this guy so opens his profile eagerly.

                Hi, my name is Shiro. I teach for a living. My friend told me about this app so I figured I would give it a try. I really don’t want anything weird, I’m just trying to live a normal life.

Well that’s respectable, incredibly more so than a majority of the profiles Lance has seen so far.  This guy seems like a good person, and good-looking too… Lance decides with little hesitation that this one is worth messaging back.

                Hi, I like your bio, I thought I was the only one who didn’t want anything weird.

He keeps his phone open for a bit to see if he’ll get a fast reply, but moves on after a couple of minutes with no such luck. Not even ten minutes ago he had been ready to delete the app and forget about it altogether, but this Shiro guy… he’d stick around a little longer for him.

If he ever answers.

He doesn’t get a reply before he has to leave for work, a fact he feels surprisingly disappointed about.

He almost forgot about Allura’s involvement in all of this until he sees her that night. They’re busy again but he manages to catch her for a second as they’re going in and out of the kitchen door.

“Oh hey, Allura, I looked at that app you were talking about.” He mentions casually.

“Lance! You did what?” she stays put in the doorway so she can yell at Lance, her pitch rises with shock.

“Yeah, but can’t talk, gotta work!” Lance yells back with a laugh over his shoulder. He can hear her frustrated groan as he walks away with a tray of food. He can feel Allura’s distasteful glare radiating towards him every time she walks by for the rest of the night, but he feigns blissfully unaware of it.

It’s not until after the restaurant is closed that Allura approaches him again. A long shift of work has both of them infinitely more exhausted than hours before and perhaps that’s the only reason that Allura’s ragingly threatening aura has dissipated into one of pitiful disapproval.

“Lance, I’m just worried about you.” She sighs while they both undo their aprons. Her brows rest low and scrunched on her forehead. “The whole thing just seems so risky to me, it’s not worth it.”

“Aww you worry about me?” Lance shoots back with a sparkle in his eye.  

“Ugh! Lance must you always be that way? I’m trying to be serious here!” She huffs out and crosses her arms. Lance laughs and waves his hand.

“Alright, alright, you don’t have to worry. I only answered one guy cause the rest are weird but he seemed really chill. Here, I’ll show you.” He digs his phone out of his pocket.

“Oh hey! He answered me!” he exclaims when the screen turns on and clears his throat when Allura frowns at him. “Uh ok, here, this is him.” He pulls Shiro’s profile up and passes his phone to Allura. Her eyes widen when she takes it.

“Oh my god, I know him!” she gasps.

“What? No way! How?” Lance looks over her shoulder like somehow the guy on the screen would be different and he would recognize him too.

“Well I don’t really know him, but I’ve had him as a customer before! I didn’t know he was a vampire! And a teacher too? I wonder if he teaches for the university.” Allura’s face is glued to the screen with a mixture of shock and fascination. Her newfound intrigue on the situation is comically ironic.

“What was he like? Was he creepy?” Lance asks with an excitement that’s only amplifying more and more with hers; if he wasn’t all on board for this before, he certainly is now.  

“No, he was very polite actually, and he left a generous tip.”  

“Yes!” Lance cheers. “See I told you it would be fine.” He grins over at Allura whose expression shifts back to serious. She hands him his phone.

“I didn’t mean to encourage you. I still don’t think it’s a good idea, Lance, I couldn’t live with myself if anything happened to you since I’m the one who told you about it in the first place.” she says.

“It’ll be fine.” Lance sings as he claps Allura on the shoulder and heads for the door. “Good night, Allura!” 

“Ugh fine! Do as you wish then!” Allura yells back.

 

Lance crashes face down onto the couch the minute he gets back and Blue wastes no time in joining him, curling right up on the small of his back.

“Got some pretty good money in tips today, girl.” He tells her. Blue just purrs loudly. “Oh, that’s right, I got a message too.” He has to maneuver quite awkwardly to get his phone out of his pocket without disturbing Blue, a feat which he manages not thanks to any graceful method but solely because Blue is stubbornly comfortable where she is.

There are several new messages from other profiles when he opens the app, but Lance ignores all of them and navigates straight to his chat with Shiro.

               Sorry, I’m really bad at checking this thing. I get so many weird messages believe it or not...

Oh, Lance believes it. He types a response quickly.

               It’s been the same for me. But you seem pretty normal so far.

Lance hasn’t even closed out of the app yet before a new message pops up.

               Thank you, I like to think that I am. So, you said you’re a student, what do you study?

               Psychology. I’m in my 2nd year… hope to be done in another 2 but finances are tough.

               That’s why you’re here then, I guess?

               Yup. Gotta pay for books and keep dinner on the table somehow.

               That’s admirable of you.

               I think it’s more like I’m just doing what I gotta do but thanks. You’re a teacher, right? So you know what I’m talking about.

               Yes, so I certainly appreciate a student’s hard work.

Lance smiles to himself. He’s in the middle of typing when Shiro beats him to another message.

               I don’t mean to seem forward, I don’t really know how this should work, but I’d like to be able to meet you before we make any sort of agreement.

Lance’s eyes widen. He can practically hear Allura’s stern voice yelling at him in the back of his mind. But like Shiro said, he doesn’t know what “normal” is for this sort of thing either. Is there anything “normal” to begin with about selling your blood to vampires? Another message pops up again before he can answer.

                Somewhere in public of course. And feel free to say no of course.

A wave of apprehension is the first emotion to course through him, but he shakes it off. It’s a reasonable request, and Shiro proposed it so politely too… How different could this be from going on a date with someone you met on Tinder? And people do that all the time. But then again, how often do people go on Tinder dates with vampires…? But, this vampire in particular seems very safe and respectable, what could the harm be in just meeting up in public somewhere where the risk would be especially low? It takes Lance a minute or so to make up his mind.

                No that’s fine, it’s a good idea. I should make sure you won’t eat me alive ya know? haha

Lance realizes immediately that probably sounds offensive, but he’s relieved when Shiro doesn’t seem to take it that way.

                Understandable :) How about we talk in a coffee shop then?

                Yeah that works.

                Great, I’ll give you my cell phone number then so we can get off this app. We’ll work out a day and time.

It’s Lance’s schedule that makes it the most difficult to arrange a time for them to meet, but they work it out. He has two shifts of work between then and now, but this time he doesn’t update Allura on the situation. Shiro texts him on the day-of to make sure nothing’s changed, and Lance, nervousness amplified now that the date is so close, gives the go-ahead none the less.  

Maybe it’s because of how handsomely put together Shiro looked in his profile picture, but Lance dresses himself in the collared shirt and sweater combo that he reserves for more special occasions and looks himself over in the mirror before he heads out. His stomach is full of butterflies for the entire walk to the meeting place.

The coffee shop is considerably less bustling with people than Lance remembers it to be during the semester. The generous seating arrangements, free Wi-Fi access, and most importantly close proximity to caffeinated beverages, the café is a popular spot for students to study in for hours at a time. But even in the height of business it would’ve been easy to spot Shiro in a sea of college kids. Lance barely has to glance around the entire café before he spots the broad-shouldered professor he’s looking for. His breath catches in his throat when Shiro notices him too and waves over. Lance takes a grounding breath as he makes his way to the table.

Shiro is just as good-looking in person as he was in his pictures. Maybe even more good-looking because it’s all real and right in front of you. He gets up and extends a hand when Lance approaches and Lance’s curiosity is piqued to see it’s an intricate metal prosthesis. He stares for a moment shy of rude before shaking it and taking a seat; Shiro either doesn’t notice or doesn’t mind.

“It’s nice to meet you.” Shiro greets him. They both sit down. “You don’t live far away, do you? I should have offered to pick you up.”

“It’s nice to meet you too. And no, not far at all, don’t worry.” Lance replies and waves the concern away. Shiro’s expression lightens.

“Good. Well I took a chance and got a coffee for you… but you don’t have to drink it if you don’t want to, or I can get you something else if you’d like.” Shiro pushes a cup closer to Lance. Lance takes it with both of his cold hands eagerly.

“Wow thanks! I’d never pass up free coffee, I practically live off the stuff.” Lance tells him.

“With that work schedule I’m not surprised.” Shiro replies with a breath of laughter. “I’m just glad we could arrange a time to meet.”

“Yeah, me too. I know I literally just met you but I feel better about all of this already.” Lance takes a sip of his coffee. It’s straight black and Lance makes a face.

“No good?” Shiro looks concerned again.

“Oh no it’s just strong!” Lance laughs awkwardly. He has to excuse himself to fix it with some milk and sugar until the color looks more like a latte. Shiro gives him a polite smile when he gets back. “Uh, anyway… what were we saying?”

“Well I was about to ask you what questions you had for me about me, or what you’d be doing.” Shiro begins. Lances smiles to himself. He can hear the tone of a professor in the way Shiro says it.

“To be honest you’re the first vampire I’ve ever officially met.” Lance admits.

“Oh, well, I assume that title comes with a lot of questions.” Shiro replies.

“Kind of, yeah.”

“Go ahead then.” Shiro prompts. Lance has heard so many myths, he doesn’t even know where to begin.

“How come… you can be awake during the day?” he asks first. The corners of Shiro’s mouth turn up just slightly, like he finds amusement with the question.

“Because only being awake at night is extremely inconvenient if you’re trying to live in a human society.” Shiro shrugs.

“So, the sun doesn’t like… burn you to ashes?”

“Not if you’re careful.” A playful smile appears on his face as he says it and Lance can’t quite tell if he’s joking or not.  

“Do you still sleep in a coffin then?” he moves on.

Shiro laughs at that and long, twin fangs peak out of his mouth. Lance stares, mesmerized.

“No, I don’t. I enjoy sleeping in a bed very much.”

“What about garlic?”

“Just a myth. The smell is unpleasantly strong but I think you’ll find that the answer to most of your questions is that Hollywood likes to make things very dramatic.” Shiro explains.

“How long have you been 17?” Lance quotes dramatically and earns another laugh from Shiro.

“I see you know what I mean.”

A moment’s silence passes over them and Lance takes a long sip of his coffee.

“Ok but actually… is it rude if I ask how old you are?”                                            

“I don’t find it so, but I can’t speak for everyone. I think it’s an understandable curiosity.” Shiro says. “Biologically I guess you could say, I’m 30, but I’ve been a vampire for about half a century now.”

Lance tries not to gawk as he plays with those numbers in his head. So, this guy is… really old? Or…? How did vampire age even work…? He blinks to clear the thoughts from his head.  

“Well I’m 21 in all regards.” he says to lighten the mood.

“Fascinating.” Shiro returns the joke with a smile. There’s another pause during which they both turn to their drinks. 

“And you don’t have to… kill the people you drink from, right?” Lance asks, serious once again.

“No, we don’t. And any respectable vampire doesn’t keep company with those who do.” Shiro replies. Lance nods.

"Yeah, I mean I trust you on that. My friend still thinks I’m crazy for doing this though.” he picking at the sleeve on the cup as a distraction.

“And do you think you are?” Shiro asks. Lance peels a strip of paper off the top of the cardboard and rolls it with his fingers as he thinks.

“Maybe a little, yeah.” he admits.

“Good.” Shiro says firmly. Lance looks up again with furrowed brows; he wasn’t expecting that. “It’s important to be careful, I’d be concerned if you weren’t thinking about your safety.” Shiro elaborates. Lance scoffs a laugh thinking about how Shiro and Allura would probably get along despite Allura’s opposition to it.

“Trust me, I got messaged by so many weird people that I was about to quit the idea altogether before I came across you.” Lance admits.

“It’s the same for me.” Shiro agrees. “So, my question for you then, is why are you doing this?” Lance gives a non-committal shrug.

“Money.” he says simply then expands on the idea when it’s clear that Shiro was expecting more. “College is expensive and my parents could only put me through one year. I need to make up the rest somehow.”

“It didn’t always used to be that way.” Shiro sighs thoughtfully and the implication that he’s talking about something he lived through is Lance’s first tangible understanding of Shiro’s age.

“Yeah well it sucks now, you do all sort of crazy stuff to manage.”

“Like selling your blood.” Shiro smiles.

“Like selling your blood.” Lance agrees. There’s a comfortable silence between them and Shiro looks off to the side, studying the mural on the wall before looking back at Lance.

“What’s your most expensive textbook this semester?” he asks. Lance doesn’t even have to think it over.

“Definitely abnormal psych.” He answers.  Shiro nods like he’s familiar with it.

“I’ll buy it for you.” Shiro offers, as though it were nothing more than the two-dollar coffee he’d bought for him earlier which Lance is glad he wasn’t taking a sip of or else he would have inevitably choked on it.  

“What?! It’s a new edition, it’s like $300!” he plants both hands on the table and leans forward, practically crossing over into Shiro’s side of it.

“That’s fine. Consider it a down payment.” Shiro says. Lance sits back in his seat once more, but his incredulous expression remains. “I never make my students buy expensive texts, I hate that my colleagues do.” Shiro offers another explanation as though Lance might be more inclined to go along with that one.  

“You’re being serious right now?” Lance stares at Shiro looking for some sign of a joke, but Shiro stares calmly back and splays a hand, palm up through the air.

“Completely serious.” He confirms.

Lance blinks a few times before shaking his head.

“I’m like still waiting for this to be some kind of a trap but hey if I get a free text book out of it… who am I to say no?” he says and then finishes the rest of his coffee. Shiro seems glad to hear it.

“For the rest of the time I was thinking about $100 a week, maybe more depending on frequency.” He offers. Lance is baffled once again.

“How often is usual?” Lance asks.

“Like once or twice a week.” Shiro says.

“Ok yeah that’s uh, that works.” He stumbles to say. It’s like having the income of a second job without any of the work. If everything actually pans out like it seems it will, Lance feels extremely lucky.  

“Good.” Shiro smiles and leans back in his chair. “So, do we have an arrangement?”

A wave of anxiety passes over him at the question he’s had all day.

“Wait this is kind of a weird question but… does it hurt? I mean obviously I’m like literally getting impaled but… I guess I just mean can I feel what it’s like first?” he asks tentatively, gauging Shiro’s reaction carefully but he seems just as amused by Lance as he’s appeared the entire time.

“Yes of course, but we might want to get out of here first. How about I drive you home?” he offers.

“It’s only like a 3-minute drive but sure.” Lance agrees and they both get up and pull their jackets on.

Lance doesn’t know if it’s because Shiro is practically a foot taller than him or because already he’s anticipating the pain of a vampire bite, but it’s strangely exhilarating to walk out of the store next to Shiro. He leads them through the parking lot to a sleek black sports car and Lance is, once again, stunned. Between the car and the casual manner with which Shiro had just thrown around $300 on a charitable whim, Lance wonders about the lifestyle of the man he had just made a deal with.

It’s honestly unnecessary to drive the short distance to Lance’s apartment, but Lance spends the ride gawking over the interior of the car and the smooth way it drives. He laughs to himself at the irony of pulling into his worn-down apartment complex in a car worth more than any of its residents could likely afford, but it feels kind of nice.

“This is me right here.” Lance points out the parking spot next to where his car is that somehow manages to seem in even worse condition next to Shiro’s. “So, uh how does this work?” Lance asks nervously as Shiro puts the car in park.

“Can I see your wrist?” Shiro requests. Lance rolls up his sleeves and offers his arm out. His heart pounds as Shiro holds it with both hands and runs his thumb over the veins. “Ready?” he asks and holds Lance’s gaze steadily.

“Yeah, go for it.” Lance replies and prides himself when he manages to keep the nerves out of his tone. His gaze is locked onto the pair of fangs protruding from Shiro’s mouth as Shiro grips his forearm and opens his mouth.

The bite stings; the delicate skin of his arm gives way easily to the two sharp points and its accompanied by a quick, sharp pain. Lance shrieks but it’s more out of shock than anything else. He doesn’t dare recoil, the sight of Shiro buried in his flesh even down at his wrist is too mesmerizing to stop it. For a moment he’s reminded of the name of the app, and he realizes that Blood Lust is probably more of a double entendre than he recognized, but he drives the thought away.

Shiro only lingers for a moment before he picks his head up and studies Lance intently.

“Are you okay?” he asks. His mouth is remarkably clean for its previous activities.

“Y-yeah, sorry, it was just a shock.” Lance explains and then looks down at the blood starting to pool on his wrist. Honestly, he registers quickly that he’s feeling more okay. There’s an undeniable rush of endorphins flowing through him, not terribly unlike what he imagines a drug could do, and he has half a mind to ask Shiro if he wants to start their deal right now but he just sits quietly in the moment. Shiro moves back in to clean the wound up with his tongue and a blush grows on his face when he looks up to see there’s one on Lance’s.

“Our saliva has healing properties; the bite should be gone pretty quickly.” Shiro explains and straightens up.

“That’s… kind of awesome.” Lance replies as the feeling of his head is in the clouds starts to fade.

“So, what do you think?” Shiro asks again. “Do we have a deal?”

“Yeah, I’m good with this.” Lance confirms as he pulls his sleeves back down.

“Wonderful, I’ll see you soon then.” Shiro says with a smile.

“Yeah, you know how to find me.” Lance answers as he gets out of the car. Shiro gives him a wave and Lance returns it before the car is pulling out of the lot and after everything that’s happened in the past hour, Lance is left watching it go in disbelief.

Chapter Text

Lance gets a text from Shiro two days later with a picture of the textbook he was promised.

                All yours : )

                Oh my god it’s a brand new one too! You didn’t have to do that ya know

                I know, don’t worry. When can I drop it off?

                Uhh I have work in a few hours but I have some time now.

                Sounds good, I’ll be over shortly.

Lance scrambles off the couch so fast he startles Blue into doing the same. He doesn’t know what to do first; there are dirty dishes, piles of mail, cat toys, socks, and general clutter littered about, Blue’s litterbox could definitely use some attention, and he’s still in sweats and a t-shirt.

“Oh my god, Blue why did I tell him now is fine!?” he yells to his cat who he can’t even find anymore. Getting dressed is the first priority. He has to take his shirt off and put it back on again when it’s inside out the first time then nearly steps on the cat as hes tugging it over his head on his way out of the bedroom and goes for the dishes next. 

Once the majority of them are cleaned, albeit hastily, and left to dry, he takes a moment to find Blue and apologize for the ruckus. She rolls on her back in front of him, and a moment of belly rubbing later, he knows he’s forgiven.

He manages to kick some of the clutter on the floor into his tiny storage closet before the doorbell rings. Embarrassingly out of breath but with his clothes confidently right side out, Lance opens the door to let the handsome, not-so-much-a-stranger anymore in.

“Hi, hope I’m not intruding.” Shiro greets him politely. He’s wearing a pair of sunglasses with lenses so dark that Lance can’t see his eyes. It might have been an intimidating effect but with the gentle smile on his face it just made him look even more handsome.

“Nope, come on in.”  Lance moves to the side.

His guest steps inside and pushes his sunglasses to the top of his head. Maybe it’s because of the host in him, but Lance doesn’t know why he feels color flood his face as Shiro glances around his unimpressive apartment. Shiro, the one who very clearly as the money between the two of them, couldn’t possibly have any interior decoration related expectations for his apartment and yet Lance still fights back a compulsion to apologize for the state of his place.

“This is for you,” Shiro says as he procures the textbook from where he was cradling it under his arm. Lance takes it and flips it over in his hands, examining the book like he’s waiting for it to evaporate into thin air.

“I still can’t believe this,” Lance says half to himself. “Thank you.” He adds, looking up so Shiro knows for sure he’s talking to him this time.

“Don’t mention it.”

The way Shiro says it feels like he’d just reached out and patted Lance’s head.

Lance places the book on the coffee table and turns back around to see Shiro standing in the same place, hands in the pockets of the coat that he hasn’t taken off, like he’s ready but unwilling to head right back out. 

“Do you want to stay and uh…” Lance fumbles around for the right terminology. “have a drink?” he settles on. It’s not the most eloquent of phrasing but it gets a chuckle out of Shiro and lightens the tense atmosphere.

“Yes, actually.” Shiro admits.

Lance is rather proud of himself for identifying the elephant in the room.

“Here, let me take your jacket.” He scrambles back over to Shiro to follow up on his offer and hopes his guest isn’t watching when he hangs it up in the closet where he’d hastily shoved a majority of the mess from before.

Shiro, having apparently decided he was officially welcome now, sits down on the couch.

“Oh, that’s right, I forgot you said you have a cat.” Lance hears Shiro say. He turns to see Blue jump up on the couch. Shiro offers his hand in greeting and Blue sniffs at it before rubbing the side of her head along it. “Hello,” he says as he runs the hand along her back.

“Yeah that’s Blue, sorry, hope you don’t mind cats.” Lance apologizes and picks her up before she can climb onto his lap and get her fur all over Shiro’s nice pants.

“She could’ve stayed, I don’t mind.” Shiro chuckles.

“I’d have to send you home with a lint roller if she had.”

Lance deposits his cat on the ground. He swears Shiro almost looks like he had been pouting when he straightens back up. They’ll have to be practically on top of each other soon, but Lance chooses to take a seat a polite distance away from Shiro for the time being.

“You know… I never asked you this, but why were you on that app?”

“I guess you didn’t.” Shiro takes a breath to stall as though he doesn’t know where to begin. “I had a situation change recently,” he says simply and takes another pause. “I used to have a good friend to be my… blood supply, I supposed you can say, but that’s not the case anymore. With the new semester coming up, I needed to find someone dependable.”

Lance nods his understanding, taking pride in the implication of Shiro calling him dependable.

“It’s a lot of work to find a new blood source every time you need one. Some vampires do it, but I don’t like that lifestyle.” He continues and seems momentarily lost in thought before looking back over at Lance. “So that’s why I’m doing this.”  

“That makes sense, I never really thought about it like that.”

“So really, you’re doing me an even bigger favor than I’m doing you.” Shiro adds with a smile.

“You need blood more than you need money… and I need definitely money more than blood. It works out doesn’t it?” Lance laughs.

“Exactly.” Shiro nods. “Can I see your wrist again?”

Lance rolls up his sleeve and moves in closer to offer his arm. Shiro takes it and examines his wrist closely.

“It healed well,” he points out.

“Yeah it was gone in like, a couple of hours.”

“That’s good to hear.”

The only time Shiro wastes is the moment it takes for him to draw a breath before he’s biting down into Lance’s wrist. Lance still flinches, but it’s much less dramatic than the first time. He’s fascinated, once again, by the sight. Shiro’s breathing is controlled and his grip on his arm is hardly forceful, but Lance can still tell he’s much more absorbed in the act than he was the other day. His eyes are closed, and Lance studies his face in quiet appreciation. There’s a long scar across the bridge of his nose that Lance hadn’t particularly taken note of before. For a man who seems so keen on living a low-profile life, Shiro looks like he’s been through a lot.

He realizes as his curiosity of Shiro’s past grows, that he has no idea how vampires even come into existence. He doesn’t dwell on it for long, a familiar feeling of content haziness begins to wash over his mind and he knows now for sure he wasn’t imagining it the first time. The effect mellows his thoughts down to nothing but the enjoyable sensations happening on his wrist. It doesn’t quite reach dizziness before Shiro releases his hold and raises his head. A tiny bit of red drips down the corner of his mouth which he promptly wipes away with the side of a finger.

“Are you doing okay?” Shiro asks after studying Lance for a moment. It takes Lance a moment to register that he’s supposed to answer.

“What? Oh! Yeah!” he stutters. The corners of Lance’s mind come back to him quickly once Shiro is gone from his arm and it eases back slowly into an unhindered sense of awareness. “Does that… happen to everyone?”

“Are you referring to the intoxication?”

“Yeah the like whole… lowkey feels like I’m drugged up thing.”  

“I’ve heard it has different levels of functionality on people, it seems like for you it might be quite high,” Shiro muses. “Pardon the pun.”

Lance laughs once he gets it.

“My lucky day I guess?” he replies because he doesn’t know how he should react to that information.

“Does it scare you?” Shiro frowns.

“No! No, I don’t mind it. It’s not scary its actually… kind of really nice. God sorry, is that weird?” Lance, who was more so thinking out loud, reigns himself back in.

“No, Lance, don’t worry.”

It’s the first time Lance has heard Shiro say his name, and the cadence of it resonates sweetly in his ears. He can tell, now that he’s observant again, that Shiro seems much calmer. The air of nervous energy he had before is replaced by the laid-back nature Lance remembers from the first time they met. He suspects already that Shiro employs a great amount of self-discipline in his daily life, and a sudden respect for the man he’s only known very briefly starts to take hold in Lance’s chest.

Shiro takes a breath and gets up from the couch.

“I should get going,” he says.

Lance jumps to his feet with a yell to retrieve Shiro’s coat after a moment of him glancing around awkwardly.

“Thank you, good luck with work today.” Shiro smiles and lowers his sunglasses back into place.

“Yeah, no problem! See you around!” Lance waves. He closes the door after Shiro’s gone and throws himself right back onto the couch like he’d just run a marathon. His body feels fine, Shiro hadn’t taken enough blood to compromise him physically, but his mind is left feeling overwhelmed.

It’s not uncommon for Lance to fall in love easily with people he just met. Well, it’s more accurate to say he’s a flirt by nature and it’s not uncommon for him to find people attractive, but he’s pretty damn sure he’d give his heart to any of them. From the start of all this he knew that he found Shiro extremely attractive, so it’s no surprise that his heart is still racing even after he’s gone. Plus, he would be lying if he said he didn’t enjoy the feeling of being spoiled.

He heaves a sigh and looks over at the textbook on the coffee table.

“I dunno, Blue, I think I might be in trouble.”

 


 

Lance doesn’t hear from Shiro again before classes start, which is something he realizes on a whim seeing as he barely has time to think about anything while he spends his last 3 school-free days practically living at work. In spite of seeing so much of Allura to the point where she’s starting to feel like family, he makes the bold decision to keep her out of the loop of Shiro-related matters. Allura doesn’t bring it up either, perhaps because she forgot or perhaps because she assumed her warnings would be enough to ward Lance away from potentially life-threatening means of earning money. Either way, Lance is surprised by his ability to keep his big mouth shut for once.

His work schedule will slow down to an acceptable part-time amount for a full-time student in a couple of days, and with the assurance of another chunk of income from Shiro each week, he’s actually looking forward to studying more and serving less. Plus, he’s taking a course he’s really interested in this semester.

Being in the second half of his second year means Lance is officially halfway through his college career, and as a result the classes he’s taking are becoming increasingly more tailored to his field of study. He spent the first year of school as an undeclared major and after getting most of his general education requirements out of the way, he has significantly less room for more electives, but he’s been saving one until he can finally get into one class in particular, introduction to astronomy. He likes psychology, he has a genuine interest in studying it, but if he’s being honest, his real passion has always been among the stars. It wasn’t until he was forced to make a decision about what degree he was pursuing that he declared as a psych major, opting to go into the one, and potentially only, thing he knew he was good at and could make money with: helping people with their problems.

The first day of the new semester rolls by without any bumps in the road, Lance is already figuring out which textbooks he can get away with not buying, and, after three semesters, he finally feels confident enough about navigating campus to manage not to get lost at all on his way to his new classes. The second day is a bit more of a headache for one reason; he has to re-take calculus. And he hates calculus. It was quite the heartbreak for him when he found out how many advanced levels of math and physics stood between him and any job involving the study of space. As he leaves the lecture, he already knows where he’s going to need to devote most of his study time in these next few months if he wants to get a decent grade.

But he can’t completely dread his Tuesday/Thursday schedule, because right after calc is astronomy, and there’s an excitement buzzing in his chest as he makes his way to the one class about stars he can take. It’s a refreshing end to his afternoon of formula-memorizing torture. The astronomy classroom is in a building he’s never been in before, the one where the rest of the physics department resides. Even so, he manages to ends up in front of the right door a couple of minutes before the class starts. It’s a small, half-moon lecture hall and a good number of students are already filling up the seats when he walks in. There must only be room for 30 or so total, a fact which triggers Lance’s memory of how frustratingly difficult it was to get into the class.

By the time he’s settled in, there’s only five minutes before the start of class and the instructor still isn’t there yet. He isn’t surprised though; he’s come to learn it isn’t unusual for college professors to be strict with tardiness but always running late themselves. Some of the students start to look around the room when the time hits the hour and there’s still no sign of the professor, but then the door opens before it’s even one minute after and a tall, broad figure strolls through the aisles to the front of the classroom.  

Lance’s jaw drops when he sees the dark hair streaked with a familiar tuft of white, and a prosthetic metal hand gripping the handle of an elegant leather computer bag.

“Good afternoon, class, welcome to introduction to astronomy.” Shiro greets from the podium in the front. Lance doesn’t even hear what he says after that because he’s too busy digging out his phone to scroll through his class list.

Astronomy 100… Room 208… Instructor: Takashi Shirogane

Shirogane? Is that Shiro’s full name? Lance never pays much attention to the  names of his instructors before the class starts, and in the brief recollection he has of them, he hadn’t thought anything of the now clear resemblance in surname. He looks back up to see Shiro addressing the room calmly, stack of papers in hand and a laptop set up in front of him.

“I’ll start with attendance then,” Shiro says after handing off the stack of what Lance can only assume is the syllabus because he wasn’t paying attention. Shiro starts reading each name off a list with a professional cadence. Lance heart beats faster with each name that’s called, waiting anxiously for Shiro to call his. Should he say hi? How would Shiro react? Maybe Shiro figured it out before he did somehow? It was unlikely he’d know his last name but… finally Lance hears his name called, and when Shiro looks up from his laptop it’s clear that he was just as surprised as Lance. There’s an obvious break in his scholarly demeanor, a moment of raw shock that’s brief but noticeable and Lance can feel the gaze of dozens of students turning around to find out what the problem is.

Lance waves the hand that he has raised in the air. Shiro looks back down again and the lapse in his countenance is gone, he calls out the next name and the students return their attention to him. There are no more curious interruptions for the rest of the class, Professor Shirogane goes through the syllabus without any show of being phased by what happened, and he makes no further indications of recognizing Lance. Lance, on the other hand, can barely retain what’s being said to him. He can’t believe never thought to ask Shiro what he taught. There had so many opportunities for it, but he’d been so busy asking questions to satisfy his curiosities about vampires, that the obvious topic of conversation didn’t occur to him.

That’s right… do any of Professor Shirogane’s students even know he’s a vampire, or is Lance the only one?

He has a lot of questions for Shiro by the time the class is over, which isn’t very long because Shiro dismisses them after he finishes going through the class introduction. Lance simply stays put while a handful of students approach the front to introduce themselves or ask Shiro a question. He gets up with his things and heads towards the professor himself after the last student has filtered out. Shiro watches the door close behind them before dropping his head and laughing under his breath.

“Hi, professor,” Lance says, putting a sarcastic emphasis on the title.

“You know, it was my worst nightmare to think one of my students would find me on that app.” Shiro shakes his head. “I thought I was safe because you told me you were a psychology major.”

“My bad, I’m taking this as an elective,” Lance explains. “I’d say I’d switch out but I’m actually really looking forward to this class. And do you know how hard it was to get into? I tried every semester since I started.”

“I’ve heard so from others as well…” Shiro replies. “I didn’t mean to make you think I want you to drop the class, I just… well frankly I’m just surprised.” There’s a far-off smile on his face, like he finds amusement in the situation now.

“Yeah, I mean, same. I never knew you taught astronomy.”

“I’m in the physics department mostly but I teach this course as well.”

“And your students, do they… know?” Lance asks carefully.

“About my being a vampire? I’m only guessing some of them must notice but no, it’s not something I talk about to my students. It hasn’t exactly been seen in a favorable light at places I’ve taught in the past.” Shiro explains.

“If you’re worried that I’m going to tell everyone, I won’t.”

“Thank you, I appreciate it.” Shiro nods.

“Although I might have told one person about you like, a while ago, but she doesn’t even go to this school anymore so you’re still fine.” Lance adds, leaving out the part about Allura’s aversion to his species.

"I trust you keep good company.” Is Shiro’s response. “Do you have class after this?” he asks after a moment.

“Nope, this was my last one for the day.”

“Well then, do you mind if I take some of your time?” Shiro slings his bag over his shoulder.

“Sure, you mean for uh… the usual?” Lance asks. Shiro chuckles.

“No, not this time, I’ve actually been meaning to talk to you.”

“Oh ok! About what?” Lance’s tone is chipper as usual, but his stomach drops at the sound of those words.

“Why don’t we walk you home as I explain?”

“Sure.”

Lance follows Shiro out of the classroom.

“How are your classes so far?” Shiro starts.

“Is… that what you wanted to talk about?” Lance watches Shiro carefully as they walk; he stares ahead, looking as calm as ever, but there’s an anxious energy about him.

“I’d just like to know.” Shiro replies.

“Well I’m taking calc again this semester so… not great there, but otherwise I can’t really complain.” Lance shrugs. “Plus, my astrology professor seems pretty cool I guess.” He blushes because it’s the closest he’s come to outright flirting with Shiro.  

Shiro just laughs but the sound is… different. Strained. There’s something heavy weighing on his mind, but Lance doesn’t have the slightest clue about what it could possibly be. What could have happened in the span of a couple of days? Maybe he wants to cancel their arrangement? That would be pretty awkward now that Lance is in his class…

“Shiro, I mean Professor?” Lance corrects himself.

“You can keep calling me Shiro.”

“Ok, Shiro then, look, whatever is it that you actually want to talk about you can just bring it up and get it over with. I promise I won’t freak, or scream, or whatever.” Lance stops in place to face Shiro as he cuts to the chase. Shiro pauses with his hand on the exit for a charged moment before pushing it open.  

A burst of cold air rushes towards them and makes Lance shiver. It’s late in the afternoon, and there are hardly any students walking about, a fact which Shiro makes sure to check and double check carefully before speaking up.

“Do you remember when you asked me why I was on the Blood Lust app in the first place?” he starts. Lance nods.

“Yeah and you said something about a ‘situation change.’”  

“Yes, exactly. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” Shiro confirms.

“Alright, I’m all ears.”

“My friend that I mentioned, that I used to feed from, well he’s-“

It’s Shiro who stops in his tracks this time. Lance turns around with knotted brows to find him looking down in concentration.

“Shiro? Is everything—”

Just then the loud roar of an engine cuts him off and Shiro straightens up to attention. The racket gets louder over the course of a couple of seconds before a large motorcycle speeds past them down the long stretch of road. It’s gone within seconds down a branching street and all Lance can remember of the encounter is the shining red paint of the vehicle and the full face helmet the driver was wearing. Even over the volume Lance can still hear the practical growl that emits from Shiro’s throat.

“Lance, I’m very sorry, I have to go take care of something,” Shiro says as he starts to backtrack toward the building. “I’ll explain everything later, I promise.”

Lance doesn’t have a chance to protest before Shiro is already gone, walking quickly towards the parking garage with his cellphone to his ear.

 


 

Back home for the night, Lance makes himself dinner with the groceries he bought from Shiro’s first payment. He doesn’t even mind preparing it and, as simple of a meal as it is, the act of cooking real food for himself is a welcome addition back into his life. The prospect of a semester full of getting to have more than just microwavable macaroni and cheese for dinner makes the upcoming months seem a lot friendlier.

That is… if Shiro isn’t breaking off their deal.

It’s already hours after the strange motorcycle incident that had Shiro running off in a hurry, and Lance hasn’t heard any word from him yet. It’s given him enough time to consider every possibility he can come up with, which is admittedly not many, and all of them end up the same way; as an excuse for Shiro to end their arrangement.

He is, of course, worried about that from a financial perspective, but he realizes as he considers the possibility of not getting to see Shiro outside of class anymore, that’s he’s maybe equally as interested in keeping their deal as a means of getting to know Shiro better.

“Ugh, maybe Hollywood was right, maybe vampires always come with their share of drama,” he says out loud as he strokes the soft fur of Blue’s back. He sighs and switches the TV on to get his mind off of things.

He’s lying awake in bed, eyes shut but body not obliging his desire sleep, when his phone finally lights up with a call. He props himself up against the pillows and answers.

“Hello?” his voice is groggy with weariness.

“Lance, I’m sorry to call so late, I hope I didn’t wake you,” Shiro’s voice says over the line. He’s speaking so softly that Lance has to turn up the volume on his speaker to hear him clearly.

“No, it’s fine, I’m glad you called. I couldn’t fall asleep anyway.” Lance admits.

“I’m sorry about earlier, I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“You were acting pretty fishy.”

“I was, but I think you’ll understand when I say no one is supposed to know about what I’m going to tell you.”  

Lance’s eyes widen.

“But you’re spilling the beans to me?” he asks in clear disbelief.  

“Yes, let me explain.” Shiro begins and takes a breath. “My friend that I mentioned, I can’t feed from him anymore because I’m the one feeding him now.” The words fall off his tongue easily this time, like he’s finally had enough time to prepare for it.

“I don’t... understand.”

“He was turned into a vampire.” Shiro clarifies.

“Ohhhhh… wait vampires can feed other vampires?”

“Yes well, that’s the problem, it’s technically doable but it’s not… practical.” Shiro explains.

“You lost me again.”

“Vampires can survive off of the blood of another vampire, but it’s not nearly as satisfying or sustaining as human blood.”

“I guess that makes sense.”

“And my friend, his name is Keith, is recently turned so he needs even more blood than usual and…” Shiro pauses and lets out a sigh.

Lance can hear the stress in his voice. Even over the phone he can tell that Shiro is probably frowning deeply. Whatever Shiro needs from him, he must truly have come to as a last resort.

“I can’t keep up anymore.” Shiro finishes.

“Right, so, you want me to do… what exactly?”

“I was going to ask if you would let him drink from you instead.”

“But what about you? I don’t think I have enough blood in me for two at once.” Lance points out, making sure the concern is clear in his voice.

“I’ll be ok or I’ll work something out.” Shiro responds. Lance frowns, partially because of how self-sacrificing that sounded, but also out of disappointment that it would mean wouldn’t be Shiro drinking from him anymore. He can’t just come out and tell Shiro he’s been enjoying when he sucks his blood though, so it doesn’t stand as a valid excuse.

“Ok… but I still don’t understand why all of this has to be a secret.” Lance points out.

“I’d like to tell you but even revealing what I have is more than I wanted anyone to know about right now.”

“You sound pretty sketchy right now, I’m not going to lie.”

“I know, I’m sorry, you don’t have to agree to it, I just needed to ask.”

There’s a pause as Lance thinks it over.

“And you trust me enough to let me do this?”

“I do.” Shiro replies firmly and the absolution in his voice sends a rush of pride through Lance.

“I don’t know what I did to make you think that but, I mean not that I’m an untrustworthy person! I’m definitely trustworthy! I just…! I’m trying to say I’ll do it,” Lance stutters out. Shiro laughs quietly on the other end.

“I’m very lucky to have found you, Lance,” he replies with clear relief in his tone and Lance can feel the heat bombard his cheeks.

“Yeah, well, if I end up dead in ditch somewhere, I’ll blame it on your sweettalking.” He grumbles. Shiro laughs again and Lance is relieved to hear the sound, clear and airy and back to normal again. It’s easy to trust Shiro, or at least it’s easy to want to trust Shiro. He doesn’t know who Shiro’s friend is, doesn’t really care either, he just knows that this is a way he can help Shiro, and to hear his voice reflect some of the weight taken off his shoulders is worth it.

“Not to sound even sketchier after you’ve already agreed, but you’ll have to come over to our apartment seeing as Keith isn’t supposed to leave the house,” Shiro says and the bitter way he enunciates has Lance putting the pieces together.

“That was him on the motorcycle earlier, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, which I hope you now understand is why I had to leave so abruptly.” Shiro explains.

“It sounds like you have a lot on your hands.” Lance notes.

“You could say that, yeah. But I don’t want to keep you from sleep any longer, thank you for hearing me out so late at night.”

“It’s fine, it’s not even that late.”

“Sometimes I think college students are more nocturnal than even I am,” Shiro replies lightheartedly. Lance chokes a laugh.

“Well I’ll see you soon.”

“Yeah, good night, Lance.” Shiro says right before they hang up and the sound of it lingers in Lance’s mind even after the line is cut.

 


 

“It’s just a bit of a trial today,” Shiro begins to say as they’re driving to his apartment together, it’s a walkable distance from campus but much faster by car. “Like I was telling you, Keith has a rather insatiable appetite, not that you need to be worried, I just think it would help him to have some real, human blood.”

Lance can still hear the hint of exhaustion in his voice and see it in his face as he studies Shiro’s profile. He’d been assuming before that the stress on his features was just the result of being an overworked, underpaid college professor, but he knows now there’s clearly more to it than that. Lance is going through with all of this to pay for school but he can’t deny part of the reason is also a desire to help this tired, handsome man.

“Keith can be a little rough around the edges, just don’t take it personally.” Shiro continues when Lance goes quiet.

“Don’t worry, my friends always say I’m a people person. Besides, I’m a waiter, I’m used to some pretty bad table manners.” Lance boasts with a cheery attitude that makes Shiro chuckle. Lance wonders for the rest of the ride what kind of person Shiro’s friend Keith is. He pictures a man in his thirties like Shiro is, big and impressively strong like Shiro is, maybe someone in academics like Shiro is… basically an analogous version of Shiro that is apparently lacking in his social tact. Lance was joking on the phone with Shiro the other day when he talked about ending up dead in a ditch somewhere, but the fragment of a possibility that it could be true and he’s currently being driven willingly into some sort of vampiric sacrifice with two intimidating men has him just anxious enough to be on edge.

The apartment complex they pull into is pretty comparable to his own, although notably nicer in exterior. It shouldn’t be surprising considering all of the housing around campus is so in demand that the landlords get away with jacked up prices for mediocre units, but considering Shiro’s well-to-do financial situation, Lance was expecting his living arrangement to be much more… frivolous. Shiro parks next to a familiar red motorcycle and now that it’s not racing past him at 20 miles above the speed limit, Lance can see there are huge dents in the frame of its bright red body. He moves on, following Shiro to the door of an apartment just as unassuming as the rest of them.

“Make yourself at home, can I get you anything to drink?” Shiro asks as he closes the door behind them. His first impression of the place is just ‘dark’. The blinds are all tightly pulled down and covered in curtains, giving the place a feeling of night even in the late afternoon hour. It takes his eyes a while to adjust before he can make out the rest of the apartment. It’s small, made up of one open concept room separated into a kitchen/dining room and living area by a couple feet of wall and one additional hallway leading off to the left.

“Uh, just water thanks.”

“Keith, come meet our guest!” Shiro calls while he fills a glass with water.

 “I’m right here.”

Lance yelps when the voice comes from a lot closer to where he’s standing than he expected.

“God, sorry, I didn’t see you there,” Lance fumbles awkwardly. There, standing a few feet away, and blending remarkably well into the rest of the dark apartment, is a boy who looks strikingly different than the Shiro-copy Lance had pictures. He’s approximately his age, with overgrown hair and an average build. Between the black shirt and the equally jet-black hair, it’s no wonder Lance didn’t notice him standing there silently. Shiro gives his roommate a disapproving look before setting Lance’s drink on the table.

“What? I was waiting for you to introduce us.” Keith explains, he looks genuine enough about it as he takes a step forward. Lance’s mouth hangs open when he gets a better view of Keith in the dim glow of the overhead lighting.

“Wait a minute, I know you!” he exclaims. Keith looks over at him with furrowed brows.

“What? How?”

“We had calc together one semester!” 

Shiro looks over at him with just as much shock as Keith.

“I… don’t think I remember you.” Keith admits. He doesn’t even look convinced that Lance is telling the truth.

“Aw, come on, we were always neck and neck with answering the professor’s questions!” Lance pushes the subject with a bit of a stretch of the truth. He did awfully in that class. A look of faint recognition passes over Keith’s face.

“That sounds kind of familiar... I think.” 

“I had no idea you were a—oh well I guess you weren’t then huh, that’s right.” Lance averts his gaze uncomfortably. He wants to know so badly why Keith isn’t human anymore, but he remembers Shiro’s secrecy on the subject before his big mouth can get the question out.

 "Yeah. That’s a new thing.” Keith says and takes a seat at the small table in front of them. Lance breaths a silent sigh of relief that he doesn’t seem offended.

“Well uh the name’s Lance. It’s nice to meet you for real this time.”

Lance sits down next to him. Something about Keith eases Lance’s lingering anxiety about the whole situation. Maybe because they’re so close in age, like Lance could have just as easily been the one to find himself a college student one day and a shut-in vampire the next. Although he has no idea what happened to move him from point A to point B.

He can feel eyes on him as he swallows a sip of water, and he catches Keith’s gaze dart away when he looks over. Putting the glass down carefully, he clears his throat.

“I… wasn’t expecting you two to know each other, but I suppose it doesn’t affect the situation at hand.” Shiro chimes in from where he stands a few feet away. Keith looks unconcerned. “Well, do you have any questions, Lance?”

Lance is glad he doesn’t seem affected by the awkward atmosphere at the table, and that he’s still taking control of the situation even as a bystander. If the mood weren’t so tense, Lance might have laughed about feeling like chaperoned kids.

“I don’t think so,” Lance replies, with a look back over at Keith.

“And you’re still okay with the wrist, right?”

“Oh yeah uh, yeah, that’s fine.” Lance starts to roll his sleeve up.

“Alright then. Keith, don’t get greedy,” Shiro says sternly. “And Lance, I’ll be right here making sure you’re okay.”

“I know,” Keith replies, sending a frown in Shiro’s direction. Lance nods, and extends his arm for Keith who takes it in both of his hands. His heart races as he waits for the pierce of fangs, he wonders if Keith can feel his pulse pounding against his skin. Keith’s mouth opens and Lance’s eyes widen as he watches the two long, pointy canines disappear into his skin. He still can’t help but flinch at the sting.

Keith’s body stills and two questioning eyes peer up at him from under his long, dark bangs.

“Sorry, I’m okay, just still getting used to that.” He explains. Keith’s eyes don’t linger for long before they close again and Lance feels him start to draw the blood out of the wound. His heart is still pounding and he takes a series of controlled breaths in attempt to calm it down. The same wave of pleasant, dazing bliss he’s felt before creeps up on the corners of his awareness, it’s less powerful than he remembers, but he finds himself melting into his chair all the same.

Lance doesn’t know how much blood can he lose before his life is in danger, but he’s suddenly less inclined to care. Even without recalling Shiro telling him there was no need to be worried, his sense of danger is diminishing. He wouldn’t mind if Keith got closer, he almost makes the move himself, but whatever logical part of his mind remains prevents him from following through with it.

Shiro stands a few feet away, and Lance can feel his watchful gaze as he looks over at them intently. He seems calm superficially, but there’s an intensity to his stare underneath it, like he’s on high alert.

Lance attention turns back to Keith and he watches in a fascination that’s only slightly compromised by fear as Keith’s face scrunches up with a new-found enthusiasm and he pulls Lance’s arm closer. Blood wells up around the corners of Keith’s mouth as his fangs sink even deeper and streaks of red run messily along Lance’s arm before dripping onto the floor. He can feel Keith’s uneven breathing against his skin, sees him looking like he’s off in his own world, and Lance almost wonders what’s going through his mind.

“Are you doing okay, Lance?” Shiro interjects from across the kitchen. Lance shakes his head and blinks his eyes a few times, readjusting himself to the physical world before he answers Shiro.

“Yeah just, a little dizzy I think?” he says.

“Keith, hold on a moment.” Shiro calls over to him. Keith’s eyes snap open but his fangs remain buried in Lance’s wrist and Shiro has to say his name again in a louder, more intense voice before Keith releases his hold on Lance. Bright red stains collect around Keith’s mouth, on his teeth and all the way down his chin, the same red that’s pooling out from the tiny wounds on Lance’s arm and threatening to spill over the edge, into even more red that has already dripped on the floor.

“Are you… okay?” Keith asks quietly. Lance takes a second to assess that before he answers. Honestly, he doesn’t know what the danger zone is for this sort of thing, how long has it even been since they started? He lost track a while ago. The funny feeling in his head is probably lightheadedness, he should probably tell Keith to stop, but instead he gives the go-ahead.  

“Yeah, you can keep going if you… uh need.” he replies. Keith spares a glance at Shiro before resuming his previous endeavor.

His world turns from red to complete blackness quickly after.

 


 

The first thing he’s aware of is that is body is resting horizontally on something soft, and then next of a cool, damp weight on his forehead. There’s a quiet shuffling of someone moving around him and then his memory comes back in full, vivid detail. His eyes shoot open to peer into an almost equal amount of darkness.

“You’re awake,” Keith’s voice says, and when Lance’s eyes finally adjust, he can see the kneeling form of Keith next on the floor to him. Lance props himself up on his elbows and his head spins.

“What… happened?” he stammers. He looks down at his wrist where Keith’s fangs were just buried in his last available memory and finds the area covered in a large wad of cotton and held in place by some tape.

“Shiro says we both weren’t careful enough,” Keith tells him, Lance still doesn’t understand.

“What do you mean?”

“He said I should know when I’m taking too much, and that you should tell me to stop before you start to feel like you’re going to faint,” Keith elaborates. Lance notices he seems much calmer now, his expression is relaxed, his breathing regular and unlabored. He gets up to sit on the couch next to Lance and looks down at his hands. “He went to the store to get you some candy by the way.”

“What? Candy?”

Lance sits up all the way, catching the washcloth that was resting on his forehead as he does.

“To help your blood sugar level, and he said you need to finish this.” Keith reaches over to the coffee table to grab the glass of water from before.

“Oh, thanks.” Lance takes it and downs it entirely in a few generous gulps. There’s a moment of silence as Lance stares into the bottom of his empty glass. “Shiro’s a really nice guy,” he says quietly without really thinking about it. Keith looks over at him with an expression Lance can’t quite place before it’s gone and then exhales an amused breath.

“He is.”

There’s a silence that follows, filled undoubtedly on both sides by thoughts of the man they were just talking about.

Lance can’t help but reflect on the fact that he’s sitting next to someone whose existence can’t be known outside the walls of this apartment. He’s met Keith now, exchanged conversation, but he’s still entirely an enigma to Lance. There are so many questions that he wants to ask hanging in the air, but knows he can’t ask them. For a moment he wonders if Keith would be more willing to share his story than Shiro, but dismisses the thought.

 “Hey, thanks for not killing me,” he speaks up after a minute. It gets a laugh out of Keith.

“God you’re weird,” he says through a peal of laughter.

“Hey! What’s that supposed to mean?” Lance yells back and turns his body to face Keith.

“I really don’t think I have to explain.” Keith is still laughing.

“I literally just let you drink my blood till I passed out, I think you can owe me an explanation!”

“You just explained it for yourself.”

Keith hangs his head in between his shoulder and shakes his head. Lance huffs in response. He’s about to ask Keith if he’s never done anything ridiculous for money before when the apartment door clicks open and Shiro enters with a plastic shopping bag in hand.

“Oh good, Lance you’re up!” he exclaims with relief and shuts the door quietly before making his way over to the two of them. “How are you feeling?”

Lance tilts his head side to side noncommittally.

“Kind of weak, bit of a headache,” he answers. “A little judged.” He adds, shooting an accusatory glance at Keith who just shrugs in response. Shiro’s expression grows stern like he’s going to press the matter, but then scrunches his eyebrows and shakes his head, opting to pull out the contents of the bag instead.  

“Anyway… I got these for you,” he presents Lance with an array of snack bags from pretzels and potato chips to hard candies and fruit snacks and smiles as Lance’s eyes glimmer with excitement. Lance takes all of them and digs into the pretzels first.

“Thanks, man.” he says around a mouthful of the crunchy snack.

“Sure thing. I’ll get you more water too.”

Lance is already halfway through the first bag by the time Shiro gets back.

“Your color is looking better than when I left.” Shiro points out. Lance swallows this time before answering.

“Yeah, sorry about what happened… I didn’t realize I was going to faint like that.”

“I didn’t either.” Keith adds, looking rather remorseful.  

“You don’t have to apologize, Lance, it was a learning experience for all of us.” Shiro tells him sounding exactly like the professor that he is. “Although… I’d understand if you wanted to end our arrangement there.”

 Keith joins Shiro in looking over at Lance. 

“Oh no I uh…” Lance stammers over his words as he processes everything that’s happened in the past hour or so. Seeing Shiro’s apartment, meeting his roommate, also a vampire, who he knows but didn’t know was a vampire and who’d drained his blood almost to the point of danger, all for the sake of extra cash… and yet, until Shiro brought it up, Lance hadn’t even been considering putting an end to this strange but exciting side job. From an outsider’s perspective, Keith probably had a point before when he called Lance weird. He looks between the sets of eyes studying him intensely before speaking up again. “I wasn’t thinking about doing that,” he finishes.

Keith’s expression turns to shock, Shiro’s dissolves into a smile and he walks closer to the couch to place a hand on Keith’s shoulder.

“Well we’re happy to hear that,” he says. Lance almost forgets that he’s doing this for money; he can only think about how Shiro is so genuinely appreciative of what he’s agreed to.

He smiles back at the two of them and turns his attention down to the snacks in his lap again before the exchange lasts too long.

“I think I’m feeling better enough now,” he says and pops a handful of the little hard candies into his mouth just because they taste good.

“I can drive you home if you’re sure,” Shiro replies.

“Yeah, thanks.” Lance says. He gets up from the couch and has to steady himself for a moment when his vision pixilates.

Shiro sends Lance home with rest of the snacks and Lance has to assure him he doesn’t need anything else before he finally drives off.

A deep breath fills his chest as he processes everything.

Lance, the serial loudmouth, has never kept so many secrets before in his life.

Chapter Text

Initially when Shiro brought up the idea of having Keith drink from a human, Keith had immediately shot him down. It didn’t matter that Shiro had met this human and was selling him hard, promising tall claims that Keith, too young in his new life, didn’t understand could be true; things like human blood tasted better, human blood kept the thirst away for longer, this human’s blood in particular was very good, and the human himself was a kind young man. Keith’s ignorance just left him stubbornly insistent on continuing to drink from Shiro. It wasn’t until Shiro, just as stubborn and perhaps even more so considering his motive to get Keith adjusted to his undead lifestyle, started looking so worn down from Keith’s near daily need for blood that Keith had agreed to try.

And now, as he sits on the couch just minutes after the human of the hour left, he realizes just how naïve he’d been.

The taste of Lance’s warm, rich blood is still vivid in his memory. It feels unfair to compare the sensation of drinking from Shiro to the same from a human when the former was an entirely different experience, but for the first time in his albeit short life as a vampire, the perpetual burn in his throat is entirely gone. It was like… getting a home cooked meal after a week of nothing but TV dinners; Lance’s blood was savory in a way the blood of another vampire just couldn’t add up to.

His mind feels freed, able to keep on a train of thought without thirst commanding his attention back to his next meal with pressing urgency. He should be totally sated, completely at peace with his physicality and yet… he feels incomplete. The only thing his mind can wander to…is Shiro.  

When he drank from Shiro, it was just as much of an act of intimacy as it was a means of survival. Keith’s body would flood with heat while his fangs were buried in Shiro’s throat, his lust shifting focus from blood to something much greedier, something he’d wanted in the past but never to such an overwhelming degree. The first time it happened, Keith was shocked that Shiro obliged him, but it became a routine that Shiro would satisfy his body in every way it was asking whenever he drank.

So… what did this new change mean for that part of their relationship?

The door to the apartment opens and the only person who ever walks through that door enters again.

“Hey, Keith,” Shiro greets, heading right over to the couch where Keith has not moved from.

“Hey.” Keith looks up at him, arms crossed, mouth in a tight line.

“I dropped Lance off, he’s fine.”

Keith just nods. Shiro continues after a moment.

“How are you feeling? Any different?”

“Yeah I’m… not thirsty at all anymore.”

“I figured that would be the case.” Shiro smiles but Keith meets his gaze with a frown and lowers his eyes. Shiro’s expression shifts quickly. “What? Isn’t that a good thing?”

“Yeah, it is, don’t worry about it,” Keith replies.

“Are you just mad because I was right?” Shiro laughs, still not sensing the gravity of Keith’s sour mood.

“No, I don’t care about that.”

“Are you… okay?”

Shiro stills and for a moment there is nothing but a tense silence between them.

“Keith, I don’t—” Shiro starts again and stops when Keith stands up abruptly.

Keith can feel his patience start to boil over, adrenaline coursing through his system like it does when he’s about to do something dumb and impulsive. He thuds a fist against Shiro’s chest and hangs his head to rest against the broad torso in front of him.

He doesn’t know what’s going on in his head, just wishes Shiro would fuck the frustration out of him, but he doesn’t know how to ask for that. They’ve never talked about their desire for one another outside of the heat of the moment, and the sex has only ever been prompted by some weird vampire-shit that Keith doesn’t even understand. He’s been skirting around bottled up feelings for his best friend for almost as long as he’s known him.  

“I just need to get out of this place,” he lies. His fists tighten and he steps back to look up at Shiro with fervor in his eyes.

The excuse is easily believable considering he’s already broken the rules once and taken his bike out for a ride, an insurgence that he was scolded for profusely.

Shiro places a hand on his shoulder and sighs deeply.

“We’ve been over this. You can’t leave it’s too—”

“’Risky, what if someone sees me,’ right?” Keith finishes the argument he’s heard one time too many. “You can’t just keep me walled up in this apartment forever though, Shiro, I’d rather have died than be trapped like this forever.”

Shiro stiffens, the pain of guilt flashes easily recognizable in his eyes and Keith instantly regrets pulling that card. His attempts to deflect one situation just crash landed him in another poorly handled conflict.

“Keith… I’m sorry. I… you won’t be trapped forever, I promise, I’m trying to figure something out, I just need you to stay put for now,” Shiro pleads, the guilt still present on his features.

Keith leans back on the arm of the couch and holds his head in one hand.  

“I know. I’m sorry too… I just… have a lot on my mind,” he replies in a much softer voice.

Shiro is silent. For a moment Keith thinks he might have to make some other excuse up, but then Shiro speaks up again, “come with me,” he says.

Keith’s brows furrow as he watches Shiro head over to the front door.

“What are you doing?” he calls after him.

“Just come here.” Shiro looks both ways down the walkway outside their apartment before venturing out and peering expectantly back at Keith.

Keith hops off the couch eagerly to follow. The smell of crisp evening air fills his lungs and brings a smile to his face as he steps outside. The sun is set, but everything around him is as visible as if it were midday. He knows logically the night time winter air should be cold and unwelcoming, but it doesn’t bother him anymore which is at least one nice perk of being undead.

Shiro closes the door behind them before hoisting a leg up onto the walkway railing.

“Alright, hurry up,” he says before pulling himself onto the overhanging roof and disappearing from sight.

Keith grins to himself before following behind. It’s been so long since he’s been able to put his physicality to use that it feels nice to give his muscles a test. It’s still easy enough to hoist himself onto the roof, and he joins Shiro where he sits reclining near the top.

“You got a secret up here or what?” Keith asks, cocking an eyebrow. He settles back to lay his body against the shingles, one leg propped up for stability, but otherwise in complete relaxation.

“No, no secret, I just like to look at the stars when I need to clear my mind sometimes,” Shiro explains.

“What, so it doesn’t count if you break your own rules?”

  “I’m not breaking my rules, just bending them. We are on the house, just not in it.” Shiro shoots Keith a grin and Keith shoves him back with his shoulder.

“Yeah, well, thanks, this is a lot better than being cooped up inside.”

A silence falls over them as they both look up at the night sky sprawled out in front of them.  Even with the lights of the town he can still see the tiny speckles of light twinkling down on them. Shiro’s right. It is therapeutic in its own regard, or maybe it’s being out in the open and gazing at the sky with Shiro that has Keith most at ease. It’s kind of normal activity that he never appreciated enough until it was suddenly unobtainable to him.

His days since the accident that kickstarted his second life have been nothing but a whirlwind of chaos that he never could have been prepared for, but like anything else he’s lived through, he’s learning to deal with it as he goes, some days better than others.

He can’t resent Shiro for his part in any of what’s become of him. No matter how thirsty he gets or how frustrated he becomes at all the inconveniences of being a vampire, the fact is that Shiro saved his life by ending his human one. After all that’s happened, Keith’s glad to have more days to spend with him, there’s just so much that he feels out of control of, the stress of it all gets to him.

He looks over at Shiro who’s smiling gently as he gazes skyward. The soft light from the lamps below casts an attractive illumination on his features and gives the night sky fierce competition for Keith’s attention. His muscles ignite with the desire to move closer, to put their bodies in contact and hold Shiro close. He wants to kiss him under the moonlight, climb on top of him and feel his powerful chest expand and relax with breath while he runs his hands all over his body and under his clothes…

His heart starts to race and he knows he’s getting ahead of himself. But if Shiro felt the same…

His hands clench on his stomach as he braces himself with a deep inhale.

“What exactly did you tell Lance about me?” he asks.

Shiro turns his head, meeting Keith’s eyes with a curious expression, trying to read something in Keith’s face before answering.

“Only as much as he needed to know, why?”

Keith holds his gaze, studying the wrinkled lines that appear between his brows, wanting to reach out and soothe them. But he holds his hands to their best behavior.

“And much as he needed to know is…?” he presses.

“That you were my previous blood source, but the situation changed and I wound up being yours. And that he’s not allowed to mention anything that involves you.”

It isn’t what Keith wanted to hear. There’s a pause before he continues.

“What did you tell him about us?” He sits up as the question leaves his mouth in a careful tone. Shiro’s eyes narrow for a moment, studying Keith closely.

“That’s the extent of what I told him,” he concludes and sits up to meet Keith’s eyelevel. “I didn’t think I needed to say any more than that.”

Keith’s stomach drops. It definitely isn’t what he was hoping to hear. He turns away while the weight of Shiro’s words hang heavily in the air. The tranquility of the moment is gone, the fresh air and the stars no longer enough to soothe the way his chest feels painfully tight.  

“Yeah, I guess not,” he replies.

Shiro’s anxious gaze burns into the side of his face.

“Keith, I don’t—”

“It’s fine, Shiro, I’m fine.”

“No, I need to—”

“I’m going back inside.”

Keith, wait .” Shiro calls as Keith gets up to leave. Keith freezes. It’s that voice. He can’t disobey Shiro when he uses that voice, it’s part of the unwritten contract that bound him to Shiro the minute he granted Keith an undead life. He’s forced to stop his retreat but doesn’t turn around, he’s sure that Shiro can feel the irritation radiating off him anyway.

“Tell me what’s wrong.”

Keith is silent for a long while; he doesn’t have to say anything, Shiro didn’t command him into admitting the truth. What’s the right way to answer? With the truth? Out of the corner of his eye he can see Shiro sitting up, poised to run after him, the distress on his face clear as day.

“I was just hoping…” Keith starts and Shiro, patient as always, waits for him to find his words. “…hoping for something I shouldn’t, Shiro, just forget it.”

He lets the thought sit for a moment before jumping down from the roof.


The day after his encounter with Keith, Lance does the thing he usually does when he needs answers and doesn’t know where to get them: he calls Pidge up.

“Hey Lance.”

Lance smiles at her voice. He hasn’t seen his friend in weeks, and the texts and snap chats they exchange just aren’t the same.

“Pidge!” he cheers. “How’ve you been man, I miss you.”

“Swamped, I’m taking 20 credits this semester and they made me vice prez of the robotics club.”

“Woah dude, take it easy on yourself.”

“You should learn to take your own advice.” Pidge shoots back. Lance’s swallows nervously because she doesn’t even know the latest mess he’s added to his plate.

“Yeah so uh, you know how I have those theoretical questions sometimes that I need answers to, so I ask you about it and we never bring it up again?”

“Lance…” Pidge drags his name out in warning.

“It’s just hypothetical! But also, I would really appreciate it if you don’t tell literally anyone.”

“Is this like the time you wanted to know if you “hypothetically” could eat two-week old leftovers?”

“Yes. I mean no, I mean just listen, ok?!”

Pidge chuckles on the other end of the line. Lance composes himself with a huff.

“Do you know much about vampires?” he asks.

“Oh,” she says and by her tone she very obviously wasn’t expecting that. “A little bit, yeah, why?”

“Why would one need to be in total hiding from everyone?”

“Lance, dude, are you smuggling a vampire, cause that’s really dangerous and you could get in trouble for that.”

“I’m not smuggling a vampire! I told you this was all hypothetical!”

“Uh-huh, well this is a lot more serious than the time you asked me if you could train your cat to say I love you.”

“Pidge, I swear to god man, I thought we had a thing going, I thought we’d never talk about these things again.”

“You never said I couldn’t bring it up to you again.”

“Ok, ok, whatever, just… work with me here. Vampire, house arrest, why?”

“Okaaaaay.” Pidge replies in what Lance can tell is her thinking voice. “There’s probably a lot of reasons, like maybe they were being harassed for one. Allura’s pretty chill for the most part, but there’s still people out there that wouldn’t think twice about hurting a vampire.”

“Mhm...” Lance mulls it over. It would be a possibility if Lance wasn’t damn positive that Keith wouldn’t ever let someone get away with bullying him.

Pidge continues.

“Maybe they killed someone by accident?”

Lance’s eyes widen.

“Shit, I didn’t think of that.”

There’s a pause on the line before Pidge speaks up again.

“Lance, seriously, don’t get yourself into trouble for no reason.”

“I’m not, I swear, I’m just… trying to figure something out,” he reassures her. “Hey last question but, do you know how vampires get turned into uh, vampires?”

“I don’t know exactly , but from my understanding the human’s body has to die first.”

“Oh damn, that sounds pretty traumatic.”

“I can’t imagine it would be an enjoyable experience.”

“Yeah…”

“Look, do you have any more purely hypothetical questions? Cause I have to get back to work.”

“No, that was it, thanks, Pidge.”

“Sure thing, Lance. Try not to do anything irrationally idiotic, ok?”

“Aw come on, that’s my middle name.”

“Yeah, yeah. I gotta go, I’ll talk to you later.”

“Alright, bye man, tell Hunk I said hey.”

“Will do.”

Lance heaves a sigh as he hangs up. The call just ended, and he already misses the sound of his friend’s voice. Seeing someone every day in high school and then going to talking to them once in a blue moon was the hardest part out of Lance’s entire transition to college. Hunk and Pidge, his two best buds, the two people he was inseparable from for four years straight, are now a plane ride across the country at a highly ranked school that Lance definitely didn’t have the grades or money to go to. It’s not like he isn’t happy for them and the super impressive looking degree they’ll end up, but he’d be lying if he said he didn’t feel left out most of the time.

The thought that Pidge and Hunk would find cooler, crazy smart friends, and completely ghost him was his greatest worry for his first year, aside from flunking out of school. But, like the true friends Pidge and Hunk are, they proved to him time and time again that Lance was a permanent member of their squad, and when break came and they all saw each other again, everything was just like old times. He doesn’t worry anymore that the three of them will drift apart, the thought hasn’t even crossed his mind in months, but he still can’t help the loneliness that overwhelms him on occasion when he thinks about his lacking social life. Shocking, considering Lance’s extroverted personality, but it proved hard to foster new friendships when he lives off campus and spend nearly all his time at work.

Which probably is why, despite their difference in age and even after an entire year of Lance’s bad flirting and failed attempts at asking her out, Allura, over all his classmates, is the closest friend he has right now. He’d like to consider Shiro a friend too, or at least a friend in the making which, humorously enough, continue the streak of befriending his bosses.  

He heads out the door and into the gently falling flakes of snow with a huff of breath that he clouds the air in front of him.

Shiro… He has so many questions about Shiro and his roommate… vampire… friend, but a frustrating lack of answers. He keeps coming up short, first when he was fishing for answers on the internet, and then through Pidge, and those are the two smartest search engines he knows. Allura would probably be his next best option but asking her was just asking for an earful of chastisement and he’s already gotten that from her once.

He’s shit out of luck unless either of the involved parties in this strange mystery decide to open up to him, and that possibility, ironically, is the most unlikely of all.


 

Sitting in a lecture for an hour has a way of wiping your mind of anything and everything but scribbling down notes and trying to absorb it all, or maybe that’s just Lance. He’s never been good at focusing on more than one thing at once. Any vampire-related questions are thoroughly swept from his mind by the time he’s walking back from class, replaced with the mundane college things he should actually be worrying about. The first week isn’t even over yet and assignments are already piling up on his to-do list, mandating textbooks he hasn’t even bought yet with money he was hoping he didn’t have to fork over.

A trip to the bookstore would be his next big errand.

After his next paycheck, of course.

He’s nearly home when somewhere around the beginning of north campus a flash of something catches his attention from the corner of his eye. Nerves shoot through him when his vision settles on a motorcycle.

Lance recognizes it right away; the deep red paint job and the body full of dents is a dead giveaway. It’s propped up on the side of a building, possibly in an attempt to be inconspicuous but not succeeding very well. His eyebrows furrow together as he goes to get a closer look. Glancing around for its owner yields no luck, that wild head of jet-black hair isn’t anywhere around the front of the building. Reflexively, a hand reaches for his phone, the idea to call Shiro seeming like the best thing to do right now, but he pulls his hand back and heads around to the back instead to look for Keith himself.

He almost misses him completely amongst the brick exterior, but on closer look his eyes settle on a familiar figure sitting on the ground, leaning against the building. He’s facing away, his head is down and a hat dipped low on his forehead covers his face, but the unmistakable flip of the back of his hair sticks out from under and gives him away. Lance rushes over.

“Keith?”

Keith’s eyes are blown wide as his head shoots over in Lance’s direction. Realizing his mistake with a twinge of guilt, Lance brings down the hand he had it waving in the air and covers his mouth. Keith flinches at the sun in his eyes, but relaxes once he recognizes the person walking towards him.

“Hey, sorry, didn’t mean to scare you like that,” Lance apologizes once he’s within normal conversation distance.

“And Shiro said he trusts you,” Keith laughs.

“Hey! You’re the one putting yourself out in the open like this.”

“I guess you’re gonna go tell Shiro on me, huh?”

“No,” Lance draws the word out and puts his hand on his hip. “I wasn’t going to.”

“Sounds like a double strike on the trust issue.”

Lance frowns.

“You’re really living out that brooding vampire stereotype, aren’t you?” Keith scowls but doesn’t answer. “What’re you doing out here anyway?”

Keith lets out an exasperated sigh and tips his head back.

“Shiro and I got into a fight.”

Lance’s eyebrows shoot up in shock over the fact that he got a genuine answer out of Keith.

“That’s… not surprising to be honest,” he replies and sits down next to Keith who shoots him a confused, maybe offended expression. “No one can spend that much time cooped up with someone without tensions getting high.” Keith averts his eyes, but not before Lance can see emotion flash in them. “Especially someone like you,” he adds just to be snarky.

Keith rolls his eyes.

“You don’t even know the half of it.”

“Yeah, no, I don’t,” he admits. “You and Shiro keep a tight lid on that one.”  

Keith goes silent.

Lance shifts uncomfortably. He remembers what Pidge said, how he could actually be sitting next to a murderer right now. But could Keith… actually kill someone? The guy’s hotheaded to a fault, yeah, but he doesn’t think Keith would actually kill someone. Unless it was an accident? A vampire, recently turned, hungry for blood and not knowing how to control it… it was possible. It almost happened to him after all.

Lance looks over at the subject of his contemplation with scrunched brows.

“Hey so uh, what would happen if you got seen or whatever Shiro keeps you on house arrest for?”

There are students, teachers, just everyday people walking past where they’re sitting, perceiving Keith as part of their surroundings, and sure they’re paying him little to no attention, but Keith doesn’t seem the least bit concerned about any of them. It doesn’t add up, especially not with the sense of urgency he gathered from Shiro’s telling of the situation. Either Shiro is over-cautious or Keith is just outright doesn’t give a damn about throwing caution to the wind… Lance has a feeling it might be a combination of the two.

Keith crosses his arms.

“I dunno, honestly.”

“You don’t know?” Lance repeats with disbelief. “Is that why you don’t look like you give a shit?” Was that really it? Just ignorance on Keith’s end?

“I mean I don’t know exactly .” Keith growled. “Shiro said I could be like… taken in or something.”

“Taken in…? Like to jail?”

“Look I told you, I don’t know.”

Lance pauses.

“Is there like… a specific person you’re hiding from?”

“You’re asking a lot of questions, you know.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, just trying to figure out what I’m working with here. I mean did you like… kill someone or something?” he asks just to get it out of the way. Keith makes a sound like he’s choking on something.

“No! I didn’t kill anyone, Lance, what the fuck.”

“Ok I just wanted to make sure!”

Lance looks back ahead, relieved to not be sharing the company of a convict, but also completely out of ideas. Any hope he had of prying answers out of Keith is just as unlikely as he guessed.

“If you won’t quit, then you’re just gonna have to trust me.” Keith speaks up and Lance is surprised by the seriousness of his tone.

“Yeah, ok, I’m not quitting, but I really hate the sound of that.”

Keith grins.

“What? I’m too invested, dude,” he says simply and then out of some unknown push of motivation, continues.  “Listen do you want to come over my place? I don’t know what’s going on but I think you’d get in less trouble if Shiro knew you were there and not in the middle of campus.”

“What? So not being a murderer is your standard requirement for house guests?” Keith says with a laugh.

Lance narrows his eyes, his lips thinning into a line.

“You might be the biggest asshole I know, but your bark is worse than your bite, blood sucker,” Lance shoots back.

“I literally almost killed you yesterday.”

“Yeah well, you didn’t.”

“Honestly I think something’s definitely wrong with you.”

“Take my offer or leave it.” Lance crosses his arms, he’s so sure he has Keith cornered, talked him out of all of his bullshit, but then Keith gets up and turns to head away.

“Thanks, but being cooped up in another apartment is not my idea of a getaway.”

Lance heaves a groan, rolling his eyes and shooting to his feet to keep Keith’s attention.

“I don’t get it, Shiro tries so hard to keep you safe and you just throw it all away because of some anger management issues.” Lance presses more. He’s really not surprised that Keith got into a fight with Shiro, not with his infuriatingly difficult personality. Shiro and his seemingly endless composure probably couldn’t keep the lid on his patience anymore, and Lance doesn’t blame him.  

Keith shoots him a look, mostly annoyance but also… something else. Guilt?  

“Why do you care?” He snaps.

Lance stills.

It’s a good question really. On the surface, this whole relationship between the three of them is just business, a deal between someone who can pay and someone who needs money. Looking after Keith, or caring about either of them really, is in no way part of the hypothetical contract he signed when this all started. Lance could easily just dish out his blood for money and leave it at that, forgoing all of this extra drama, yet here he is willingly putting himself through it.  

“You might be an asshole, but Shiro is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and he’s stressing himself out over whatever it is you need to be saved from just so you can act ungrateful towards it all!” He stands his ground firmly, his hands tightening into fists.  

Keith scoffs and takes a step closer until the two of them are nearly chest to chest.

“Look, you really don’t know what you’re talking about.” Keith says in a low, but controlled voice that is somehow scarier than when he raises it to a yell. Lance’s heart start to pound.

“I already admitted that I don’t,” he says sharply.

Keith is silent, and for a charged moment the two of them just frown at each other in a standoff. Keith may be difficult, but Lance is stubborn, and butting heads with Keith isn’t going to chase him away so easily. He doesn’t know if this is going to end in thrown fists, but Keith, surprisingly, relaxes his posture and takes a breath.

“Fine,” he says as he fishes a set of keys out of his jacket.

“Wait, what, really?”

“Yeah, I’ll go over your place.”

“Oh! Ok, hah! Yeah, good!”

Keith shakes his head and starts back through the alleyway, not turning around to check if Lance is following. When he reaches his bike, he pulls it up by the handlebars and gets right on.

Lance, pleasantly surprised and proud of himself at the outcome, keeps up with him. With the anger diffused, his emotions easily settle back to an agreeable calm, maybe even optimistic. But he realizes as Keith climbs onto the seat, that he’s expected to get behind him.

“Uhhhh…” he mumbles from where he stands a few feet away and stares at the damage on the bike. Keith looks over.

“It can fit two,” he says nonchalantly. Lance blinks a few times.

“It can kill two,” he mumbles and something flashes in Keith’s eyes before he rolls them.  

“Well I almost killed you once and you’re still coming back for more so, I don’t see why that’s a problem now.”

“Good point.” Lance shrugs and approaches the motorcycle. Keith hands him a helmet and puts his own on.

“Have you ever ridden one before?” he asks while Lance gets on behind him.

“Uh, yeah, a couple of times.”

It’s a lie.

“Well, hold on tight then.”

He might have had a chance to pass off his lie if he didn’t yelp and squeeze his arms tightly around Keith as soon as the bike lurched forward. The roar of the engine is too loud to hear it, but Lance can feel Keith’s stomach contract with laughter.

It takes him a bit to get adjusted to the feeling of it, and eventually his death grip on Keith loosens till he straightens up on his own and manages the balance by himself. Once he’s past fearing for his life, the feeling of racing wind on his body is exhilarating. He goes from apprehensive to disappointed that the ride back to his apartment is so short. Keith doesn’t say anything, just listens to Lance’s directions and pays attention to the road; he may be a fast driver, but he’s certainly talented at following the curves of the road, like the bike is just an extension of his person.

His heart hasn’t stopped pounding by the time Keith brings the bike to a stop in Lance’s second parking spot. He gets off the bike carefully, still almost losing his footing somehow, and takes his helmet off as Keith does the same. A muffled laugh breaks in his throat at the sight of Keith’s hair.

“Wow, your mullet looks even worse after it’s been in a helmet.”

“You’re one to talk, scaredy cat.” Keith shoots back with a self-satisfied grin. Lance gapes and scrambles to dart ahead of Keith, running his hands through his hair before fumbling with the door.

He’s much less concerned at the thought of Keith witnessing the state of his chaotic apartment than he was with Shiro, though out of the two, Keith would definitely be the one to say something about it.

“Well uh, here we are. Make yourself at home and stuff I guess,” Lance says as they walk in. He flicks on a light and Keith, who was surveying the place, flinches and his eyes squint. “It’s not the sun, it won’t kill you.”

“It still hurts my eyes,” Keith replies.

“Oh,” Lance remembers back to the darkness of Shiro and Keith’s apartment. “Ok well I can’t see in the dark soooo…”

“It’s fine, I’ll get used to it.”

It’s the first time Keith is being reasonable, but Lance feels a twang of guilt. He pauses a moment before heading to his room to put his things down, and when he walks back out into the living room, he sees the back of Keith’s head peeaking over the couch.

“Do you want anything to eat?”  he calls over.

“No, thanks, I don’t eat,” Keith replies. Lance stops on his way to the kitchen and turns to face his guest.

“What?! You don’t eat at all?”

“Nope. Everything just tastes gross to me now.”

“Even like… pizza?”

“Yeah, Shiro’s tried to get me to eat just about everything.”

“That sucks man.”

Keith shrugs.

“He said I’ll get used to eating again one day, but I doubt it right now.”

“Well I’m gonna chow down, hope that doesn’t like… offend you,” Lance says as he makes his way to the fridge.

“It’s your house,” Keith points out. Another surprisingly reasonable answer.

Lance throws something in the microwave and turns around to lean against the counter. He looks over to the living room to find Keith staring at nothing.

It’s not like Keith was ever one for conversation; if it hadn’t been for Lance picking stupid fights with him, he probably wouldn’t have gotten more than two words out his old classmate, but Keith’s secluded personality was even more dramatic now. As rude and hard to get along with as Keith is, the curiosity of this mysterious story is starting to eat away at Lance from a different angle; one of something akin to pity.

“So, do you like… hate it?” he asks casually as he brings his food over to the couch.

“The not eating thing?” Keith makes a face at Lance’s plate.

“No, the whole being a vampire thing.”

“Oh,” Keith replies and then turns quiet. Lance wonders if he touched on something that came up between him and Shiro. “Parts of it are pretty shitty, yeah.”

“Do you wanna… talk about it?”

“No.” Keith shoots back without hesitation.

“Holy cow, ok.” Lance puts his hands up innocently and an awkward silence falls over them. Keith shifts uncomfortably.

“I’m gonna… go,” he says and starts to get up.

“No! Wait ok I swear we don’t have to talk about you. Or me. Or anything.”

Keith raises a skeptical eyebrow.

“We can just… I have movies… no wait, video games? Do you like video games?”

Keith muffles a laugh and it breaks in his throat like a sort of snort.

“There’s no mercy in this house when Mario Kart is on.” Lance tries again.

“Fine, I’ll kick your ass though.”

“We’ll see about that.” Lance grins, both happy to have found a solution for entertaining Keith and excited for a challenge.

Keith is actually more of a challenge than Lance expected. The living room fills with exclamations of expletives and taunts, and Keith is pissing Lance off all over again but this time in some… potentially debatable… friendly competition.

“Hah!!” Lance yells when Keith’s avatar falls off the map and he’s able to pass him, but he turns his head to see Keith yelled not about being hit with a shell but because a furry purring creature jumped up on his lap.

“Hell yeah, Blue, thanks girl!” Lance cheers and passes Keith to take the lead.

“I’m allergic.” Keith replies and Lance drops his controller to scramble for his cat.

“Fuck- sorry I didn’t even think of that.” He pulls Blue from Keith and drops her back down on the floor.

“Not really.” Keith admits with a smirk of his own and resumes the game.

“Dude! Not fair!” Lance yells.

“Dude, I don’t think I can even be allergic to anything anymore.”  

“And here I thought we were bonding.” Lance frowns, not even trying to get back to his controller at this point.

“Bonding? You’re the one who said there’s no mercy in Mario Kart.” Keith passes the finish line with a smirk still printed on his face. Lance pops his hip and gives Keith a disappointed look.

A low vibrating noise wipes the satisfaction off Keith’s lips and brings his attention down towards his pocket. He puts the controller aside to drag his phone out of his pocket. Lance has one guess for who’s name is lighting up the screen.

“Hey,” Keith greets casually.

“Keith! Where are you?!”

Lance can hear Shiro yelling through the phone from a foot away. Keith pulls it from his ear.

“Calm down, I’m fine,” Keith replies and then pauses while Shiro says something. “I’m at Lance’s place.”

Lance wishes more than anything that he could still hear the other end of the line.

“Yes, he’s here too! …….. No! He’s fine.” Another long pause. “I won’t…… it’s fine…… okay…. okay bye.” Keith hangs up and looks down at the black screen before pocketing his phone again.

“Is everything alright?” Lance asks hesitantly.

“Yeah.”

“Is he… making you go home?”

“No, I guess he trusts you to babysit me or something dumb.” Keith rolls his eyes.

“Well I have work later but you’re uh... welcome to stick around.”

“Alright,” Keith agrees and looks forward.

“Just don’t like, eat my cat or something.”

“I’m not going to eat your damn cat.” Keith shoots him a look. Lance holds his hands up innocently.

“Well I’m actually gonna go get ready, you can look through my other games if you want.”

Keith just nods and says thanks and Lance leaves it at that.

It’s a weird feeling to have to close the door behind him to get changed, and a weirder thought that it’s Keith that’s lounging around on his couch while he gets ready for work.

Why did he agree to come over in the first place? Lance can pretty confidently disregard the possibility that he agreed just to spend time with him, it was obvious he wanted little to do with Lance. But did he get into a big enough fight with Shiro that it made being cooped up with Lance a better than going home? Or did something Lance say actually get through to him?

Keith kept reminding Lance that he understood so little of what happened to him, and Lance is admittedly guilty of forming opinions on the matter anyway, but he wants to know. Shiro and Keith, though they seemed so different to him, had one infuriating similarity and that was their tight lips when it came to their past.

Lance sighs and puts his makeup away, finished dolling his face up, and searches out his cleanest pair of slacks. He leans his ear against the door when he’s over there.

The living room is silent. Lance almost wonders if Keith left like a bad date while he wasn’t paying attention, but he would have heard the roar of his bike driving away.

He leaves his room to find his guest right where he left him, flicking casually through the channels on TV. He looks over when Lance approaches and his face scrunches up with uncertainty.

“Are you… wearing makeup?” he asks.

“Yeah, and you should try it sometime, maybe it could even make you look pretty.” Lance shoots back defensively.

“I wasn’t saying it’s a bad thing…” Keith frowns, but the effect feels more like a pout. He looks away and Lance is glad because he can feel the heat rise to his cheeks. It’s the closest thing Keith has paid him a compliment, or even anything generally nice. Lance’s assumption had just given away his own insecurity...

His mind races for a quick way to backpedal the conversation from this awkward turn of events but the only thing that leaves his mouth is ‘oh...’

He pauses at the door before opening it.

 “Blue uh, my cat gets half a cup of dry food around 6:00, I’d usually feed her before I go but… if you don’t mind, could you do it?”

“You want me to feed your cat?”   

Lance rolls his eyes and huffs. “Fine, I’ll do it now so you don’t have to b—”

“No, it’s fine, I got it.” Keith interrupts him.

“Oh, thanks,” Lance can’t keep the surprise off his face. “She likes to lay on people after she eats so… don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“I can handle a cat.”

“Alright, well if I come back and you took a bite out of her, I’ll spread your secret to the entire police department or… whatever.”

“Your cat will be fine. ” Keith replies firmly. Lance gives him a stare down and Keith just thins his lips and raises a brow.

“Well, see ya.” Lance turns around to close the door behind him and catches Keith giving a half-assed wave with the back of his hand.

The red bike looks foreign parked next to his car as he walks by, not because of any substantial difference in quality like with Shiro’s, but because of the physical reminder that he’s leaving his apartment with Keith inside. As he leaves he wonders if he'll have a guest overnight. 


It’s around midnight by the time Lance is trudging up the street to his apartment. The red bike is gone from its spot next to Lance’s sedan, and Blue is curled up on the couch where Keith was sitting earlier. She’s deep in sleep, a solid guarantee that Keith remembered to feed her and gives a small, surprised chirp when Lance sits down next to her.

“Weird guy, huh?”

Blue stretches her limbs out and curls back up.

“I’m gonna sleep now too,” Lance says with a yawn. “G-night girl.”

He pulls out his phone to an empty screen, and some part of him feels a tinge of disappointment at the lack of notifications. Should he send Shiro a message? Ask if Keith made it home or took another detour? He has no idea how long Keith decided to stay, or why he decided to leave, though he's not particularly surprised. Lance hadn’t technically explained his offer extended to an overnight stay should Keith want it to, but he had assumed the idea was implied. 

He stares at his phone for a while, eventually heaving a sigh and switching it off for the night. 

His mind has been full of nothing but unanswered questions since meeting those two elusive vampires, and he has a feeling he's just going to have to get used to it... or maybe... he just needs to be patient.