Pairing: Minho/Key, ninja!ShiMin, tiny hints of JongTae
Rating: PG-13 (as of yet)
Disclaimer: I am not associated with SME in any way. I do not own SHINee. This is just for fun.
Summary: Minho is dying. But from the shadows watches a creature that will change his future forever.
WITH TEETH / Chapter IV
It’s the sound of screaming that pulls Minho from his slumber. He sits up and finds the trailer is filled with smoke; he can hardly see through the haze. If he’d still been human he would have trouble breathing.
In no time he’s at the door, wrenching it open. But the dark interior of the trailer offers no clue if it’s morning or night and he’s forgotten to check his wristwatch for the time - so when he opens the door, sunlight wells in, scorching his bare arms and his face.
He scrambles to close it again. But before he does he has time enough to see the whole camp is on fire, vampires running for cover, screaming, burning. There’s no time to reflect on where it came from and Minho’s survival instincts, so much stronger in his vampire self, are already taking over. But at the same time as his vision narrows, it also becomes so much clearer.
He looks around him for another exit. The hatch to the roof won’t do, he decides, because it will still expose him to the sun, so he looks to the floor instead. There’s no hatch there but he thinks it might be weak enough for him to punch through.
He hasn’t had opportunity before to test out his new vampire strength yet, though he has known instinctively since he woke up to his new life that he’s a great deal stronger than he was before.
It still surprises him though when it just takes three punches to break through the metal of the hull. As a human he wouldn’t have managed it with an infinite amount of punches.
His hand stings as he grabs hold of the metal and rips it back, creating a gap big enough for him to jump through, but the pain is not from hitting metal, but from being burned by the sun before. His arms are badly burned up to the hems of his t-shirt, the skin is red and glossy, turning black in places where it seems as thin as paper. It looks bad and feels even worse. He pulls his leather jacket to him from the bed for extra protection before jumping through the hole.
Momentarily safe in the shadow underneath the trailer he watches the camp burn. He sees Jonghyun and Taemin coming out of Jonghyun’s cabin. Jonghyun is holding what looks like a heavy wooden table over their heads as a shield from the sun and the heat, and they’re running for the shelter of the nearby trees.
There’s a patch of light between the trailer and the forest, but Minho estimates that he can make it across. He hasn’t really got much of a choice. It’s either stay here and get roasted by fire or brave the strip of sunlight that separates him from the shadows cast by the tall trees.
He thinks he understands now why Jonghyun chose an old pine forest to camp out in, because the darkness among the tall-standing trees is pretty dense, even in broad daylight. It won’t matter though, once the whole forest becomes an inferno of fire…
He leaps out from under the trailer, crosses the light in one long jump and finds himself in the shelter of darkness again. His hands and face stings afresh but he doesn’t waste time stopping to check for damage at he sets of running, deeper into the woods.
He keeps to the shadows under the trees, dodging the pools of light as best as he can. Sometimes, when jumping across a spring or a cleft, he is unable to and he hisses from the pain it causes him every time. His skin is smoking through his clothes so it’s apparent the thin layer doesn’t provide that much protection.
He only has it in his head to escape the fire, to get as far away from it as he can and seek shelter until night settles. He’s lost track of Jonghyun and Taemin long ago, and he doesn’t know where the others that he knows by name are, if they even got away at all.
He finds temporary shelter in the shade of a big rock and checks his watch. The skin of his hands still looks black and papery - in some places it’s been completely burned off, showing the raw red flesh underneath. It smells awful. It’s one thing sensing that smell, and something altogether else knowing it’s coming from you yourself.
The clockface shows a quarter after two, which means there’s still six more hours of daylight to outwait. He decides to go looking for a more permanent shelter because the shadows are moving with the sun and he can’t rest here for too long in case the fire finds him.
Following the mountainside for another kilometre or so he eventually stumbles on a cave. The entrance is barely noticeable, hidden behind a fallen rock and a large, bent fir and if it wasn’t for his heightened vision and sense of smell he might never have found it.
The small cave reeks of wild animal. It looks to have been the winter shelter of a bear once. The smell also tells him it’s been empty for a while now. It’s perfectly dark and no sunlight can reach through the narrow opening no matter how low it gets. And even if the fire reaches this part of the woods he should be safe in here. It might be a little hot, but there’s nothing in here that can catch fire. And it’s not like he needs the air to breathe anyway.
Sitting on the cold cave floor, waiting for evening to come, he finally has time to reflect on what’s happened. He knows that trailer and it’s metal walls probably saved his life. He wouldn’t have been so lucky in a tent. As to the cause of the fire… He supposes it’s possible someone knocked over one of those used up oil barrels, but he thinks the vampires, who know to fear fire, would have been more careful than that.
He also weighs the option that Siwon might have had another attempt at offing himself and having something go wrong in the process. Or maybe he meant to take the other sinners with him... But somehow that doesn’t ring true. He doesn’t think Sungmin, who’s kept constant watch on the young vampire ever since Minho met him, would have let it get that far. Unless Siwon killed him first...
He sits with these thoughts for a long time, without finding any good explanation to how fire could overcome the whole camp, and so quickly. The time on his watch ticks away extremely slowly. He’s expected his wounds to start healing up by now, but he can’t tell any visual difference from now and one hour ago. The open wounds now covering a great part of his body still sting and throb, and coupled with that the ache in his throat is only burning stronger by the minute.
It feels like it was ages since he last fed, even though it was not even 24 hours since he went hunting. He knows, even if it was animal blood, that it should last him longer than that. Jonghyun told him that draining a human could last you a full week, sometimes more – though draining someone isn’t to be recommended of course, which is why most vampires need to feed a bit more often.
And vampires feeding on animals more often still. But draining as many animals as Minho did last night it should have been enough to last him at least a couple of days. But it might be that his injuries make him consume the blood in him faster than normal.
It’s when he’s starting to turn as cold and stiff as the rock around him that he knows he’s in actual danger. Because Jonghyun also told him what happens when a vampire doesn’t feed: They enter torpor. A petrified stage they cannot escape from unless someone offers them blood. Jonghyun described it as being totally aware but completely numb at the same time. Your brain will still function but you can’t talk, can’t feel, can’t smell anything, see or hear anything; you’re trapped within your own body.
And the likelihood of some unknown stranger finding his petrified corpse in this cave one day and popping open their veins for him to feed on strikes Minho as rather unlikely. Which mean he has to get out now, quickly, and find something to feed on, before this permanent stage of rigor mortis sets in.
But it’s already become difficult to move. The vampire strength he had before seems gone with most of the blood and he feels like an old man as he gets slowly and unsteadily to his feet. His body feels heavy, and cold as ice. It’s even begun to be difficult to see in the dark: He can hardly make out the clockface anymore as he brings it up before him to check the time, when before he could make it out as clear as in daylight. It’s still an hour before darkness settles, but he can’t wait that long. He needs something, right now. Even if it’s just a rat or a squirrel.
He stumbles out of the cave. The sun is still there, though somewhat weaker, it’s finally starting to disappear below the edge of the trees. His vision in light is even worse than in darkness however, it stings in his eyes even among the shadows of the trees, like someone pointed a searchlight straight into his face or forced him out into a snowstorm.
Hunting in this condition, even for rodents, proves almost impossible and he has to return to the cave son again, mission unaccomplished, to lay down on the cave floor, in even worse condition now than when he set off.
There’s no difference in temperature between the cool rock and his skin and he feels himself becoming one with it. He can’t move anymore, his limbs are locked, still burning dully from the pain and he waits for the blackout to come. But it never does. He finds himself faced with an eternity of constantly being aware in a cave full of nothing.
Key stands on the hill overlooking the remains of the camp. It’s just past midnight and he’s been running ever since the sun went down, running as fast as he could. It still took him four hours to get here. He wishes now he’d learned how to drive. If Minho is still alive he’s going to have to swallow his pride and force him to teach him.
If he is still alive.
He feels he should have known now that leaving the woods and going into town was a bad decision. Like this he only ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it was all done, the information planted, to get him away from Minho, he knows that now.
Once again he’s underestimated his foe and been outsmarted and he hates himself for it. Hates himself because he cannot afford to lose, not again. Not this time. He just can’t.
The camp and the valley beneath him lie in total ruin. The ground is scorched well enough a mile in each direction. There’s not even a sign of any houses or trailers, or even trees; the fire was that intense. The ground is still smoking in places. It’s been a relatively windstill day, and it’s nearing autumn so it wasn’t particularly warm either, which hindered the fire from spreading and consuming the whole area. The human authorities helped too with their waterbombing.
Guess those airplanes have their uses after all, he thinks.
He reaches out with his senses, the ones which allow him to sense Minho’s presence and read his thoughts if he desires, but he feels nothing. Either he’s too far away or he’s dead.
Key curses. He wants to stay for a bit and search the remains, just to make sure, but he can’t. The one that ordered the attack might be here any minute, to check up on the damage, and he can’t be here then.
Key hates running, but it’s all he can do. It’s all he’s been doing in this life. And he thinks with some bitterness the vampires of this camp – wherever they might be now – probably wouldn’t treat him like such a legend if they knew that. If they knew the real reason why he can never stay in one place too long, why he can’t ever really belong anywhere, or with anyone.
If they knew he was the one who brought this destruction on them…
Because even if he’s been trying to avoid it, he must have been linked to them one too many times for this attack to happen. He never thought it was completely safe, that’s why he stuck around for a while, even though he said he’d leave, but he thought it his very best option to leave Minho with Jonghyun and his pack. He thought they would be able protect him.
But he was wrong again.
He turns and walks away from the edge of the hill, starts running west because it feels like a direction as good as any to start his search in.
After a few kilometres he picks up on a familiar scent, and it leads him to a cave on the outskirts of the forest. Inside it he finds a couple of vampires, some worse for wear than others, huddled together, healing their injuries. Among them are Siwon, Sungmin (of course, since the latter never seems to leave Siwon’s side) and Heechul. But no sign of Jonghyun or Minho.
Siwon looks least worse off for once and he and Sungmin keep a little to the side from the others. Siwon sitting on a rock and Sungmin is trying to force a cup of animal blood into his hands (where he’s found the cup is anyone’s guess). They’ve been hunting to heal quicker and the empty carcasses are piled on the floor in the middle of the cave, probably brought there to facilitate for the vampires who weren’t well enough to chase for blood themselves.
Key can sense in the other vampire’s accusing glares they all think it was Siwon that caused the fire. Key wishes he could tell them the truth but now is not the time – there will be too many questions. Neither Sungmin nor Siwon has seen Minho when he asks. Siwon expresses some concern when he hears he’s missing which causes Sungmin to look at him fondly because to Key’s knowledge it’s the first time Siwon has ever openly shown care about another vampire. But then:
“You should just have let him die under that bridge,” he says sadly and looks down at his arm with the scar. “It would have been better than this life.”
“So why did you save me from the fire then, you stupid oaf?” Sungmin says, his voice dripping acid. “Why did you pick me up and run? Why didn’t you just walk us both into the flames and have done with it?” Siwon just looks up at him with wide surprised eyes like the thought never even occurred to him. Key decides to leave them to question the other vampires before they start to argue for real; he can certainly see that Sungmin is willing.
Some of the other vampires have seen Jonghyun and Taemin take off east from the camp and Key thinks Jonghyun has probably brought Taemin to his home, because it’s what he always does when he’s in danger. It’s possible Minho has followed them, and that’s why he can’t sense him. Though Key hopes he didn’t as that would lead him back into the city. Key didn’t give him that warning just for fun: If there’s only one place more dangerous than the forest right now, it’s the city.
He sets of again, this time south. He’s spent a great deal of time in the forest and therefore he knows it pretty well. He checks every cave and every crevice big enough to hold a vampire. He’s come so far from the camp he think he has gone too far and is about to turn back when he finally picks up on his childe’s scent.
He feels relief flood him, then gets angry at himself for feeling it. Because it’s part of why he’s in this mess. Again.
Smell is still the only thing he has to go on and he feels blinded by this. It still worries him that he can’t seem to hear Minho’s thoughts or pick up his presence; it means that when he reaches the end of the trail all he might find is a pile of ash.
And he thinks deep in his mind that it wouldn’t surprise him…
The scent leads him to a small cave he hasn’t visited before. It’s hardly visible, even with vampire eyes and he thinks he must give his fledgling some credit for finding it after all.
What he finds inside isn’t a pile of ash, thankfully, but a badly burnt vampire in the first stages of torpor. He hasn’t turned into a living statue just yet and his eyes still move in Key’s direction as he enters. The burns on his hands and face look bad and the cave is filled with the stench of singed flesh, it stings in Key’s oversensitive nose and he has to bite back on a comment on how much it reeks. It’s hard to tell if the burns are from fire or the sun, they look similar, but it doesn’t really matter.
With a tired sigh he sinks down next to his vampire, using one hand to flip him onto his back at the same time as he bites into the crease at his elbow, just enough to puncture the skin. He pulls Minho, who is cold as ice, up into a sitting position, leaning him against his chest as he puts his arm against his mouth and presses. The first few drops has to be forced into Minho’s mouth, but as soon as the blood touches his lips Key can feel him twitch to life in his arms.
He rolls his eyes at how stupid Minho is to get into this mess, even though a voice in his mind tells him he’s young and it’s difficult to measure in the beginning what’s just regular thirst and what’s a sign you’re soon to enter torpor. That’s one of the things a sire needs to be around to teach…
He keeps Minho where he is, pressed against his chest, and forces more blood down his throat until some colour returns to his undamaged skin (“colour” is relative - it becomes ivory white instead of ashen) and his pupils go from lifeless and milky-looking back to pitch black. Key gives Minho as much as he can spare and watches the skin on his hands and the scorched side of his face begin to reform and heal.
Minho gasps like he’s been deprived of air and just gained it back and falls back with his head against Key’s shoulder. For a moment Key thinks he’s fainted, although that would be extremely silly because vampires do not faint, but then he realises Minho is just resting, regaining his strength by leaning on Key for a bit.
It feels strange. Key hasn’t had anyone lean on him for centuries - not like this - and he has half a mind to push him away, but he doesn’t. He isn’t really sure why. Maybe because he knows Minho would fall to the ground if he did.
Minho is warm again, and it’s difficult not to lean into that heat. It’s what a vampire desires most of all after all: To feel warm again. It’s why they drink blood, Key thinks, to gain back some semblance of life, if only for a little while. But it’s all a big joke, because it never lasts, and the craving is neverending. In a way vampires are no more than junkies, constantly on the hunt for their next fix.
He waits until he is sure Minho is just resting against him for comfort and not out of necessity until he finally pushes him away and stands up. Minho makes a sound of disappointment deep in his throat which Key ignores because he knows Minho didn’t mean to make that sound, or for him to hear it. It’s an unwilling reaction – the instinct to stay close to your sire is always stronger for a vampire than anything, stronger even sometimes than the will to feed.
Key, of all people, knows that: Blood creates a strong bond, and it’s not something that should be shared lightly. Not because you were stupid enough to be intrigued by someone who thought it was a splendid idea to cross a bridge at 150 mph, unprotected, on the back of a motorcycle… You’d think after 600 years he would have learned something, but apparently not. He rolls his eyes again, this time at himself.
Minho is looking up at him from the floor with huge eyes. It would be endearing if they weren’t also glimmering so unnaturally in the dark.
“You came?” is all he says.
“Well someone had to come and save your ass,” Key says.
“What about the others?”
“I don’t know. I only met some. Siwon, Sungmin and Heechul. They were hiding in a cave, like you, though far better off by the looks of it.”
“Do you know what caused it?”
Key makes a face and turns away from Minho’s inquisitive gaze. He thinks for a moment about not responding, about lying, but eventually decides against it. It will be difficult to explain to Minho why they have to run very soon if he doesn’t.
“Me,” he says, with another sigh. “It was me.”
He can feel Minho’s eyes burn a hole in his back and he doesn’t need to read his mind to know how confused he is right now.
“I didn’t physically do it,” Key says with some annoyance. “But it was my fault it happened. Or,” he shrugs. “One could also say it was yours…” He turns around and rivets his eyes on Minho. It gives him some amount of satisfaction of pinning the blame on his childe. He knows it’s juvenile and hardly worthy of a 600 year old vampire, but sometimes, sometimes he just wishes he could get rid of the guilt weighing on him, just for a second.
“What?” Minho has risen to his feet now. He look a bit unsteady, but Key deems that in a moment he’ll be able to run again. Because he’ll be damned if he’s carrying him while he’s conscious.
“The camp was burned down because you were in it,” Key says.
Minho frowns. “Me? Why? I’m nothing special.”
Key resists taking a jab at that. He wishes Minho was nothing special, but he knows it isn’t true. They wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t. He sighs. “You were targeted because you’re my childe,” he says. “That’s how it’s my fault. I knew the risks: I shouldn’t have created you.”
Minho frowns, like he’s offended, but Key doesn’t know how to put it any other way. It’s the truth. Then Minho’s forehead evens out again and he asks:
“Is that why you’ve never sired before?”
Key flinches. “Did Jonghyun tell you that?” he asks.
“Well it’s not true,” Key says. “I did sire. Once. A long time ago.” He swallows, pushes the onslaught of memories back. A vampire’s greatest curse is you never forget anything. “And… he was killed, by the same vampire that is now trying to kill you.”
He figures that’s all Minho needs to know right now, because they really need to be going, leave the area, maybe even the country, tonight. Though Key knows they won’t be entirely safe anywhere. They’ll eventually be found and have to run again. It’s happening all over again, just like before. And part of him just wants it to stop. But staying is not an option. It never was.
“Who?” Minho asks.
Key takes a deep breath, not like he really needs it, and pushes out: “My sire.”
A/N: So... Some stuff about Key's past finally revealed. How about that? More information is to come in the following chapter (because you can be sure Minho won't let the matter rest XD), but for now I'm leaving you with this little cliffy. Let me know your thoughts :)