Rating: R (overall)
Warning: Vampires, torture
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.
A/N: Right, as the (as always, super duper inspired) title reveals this chapter is going to be a bit gruesome. But it's probably not like you didn't see it coming... And you have thereby been warned.
WITH TEETH / Chapter IX
Minho wakes up to his worst nightmare. The smell of blood and scorched flesh invades his nostrils before he even opens his eyes.
It takes him a while to realize it’s his own blood and burned skin that he’s smelling.
He had thought the pain he felt when he crashed into that railing with his motorcycle was the worst he had ever felt. Well, before his spine cracked when he hit the ground and he could feel nothing at all, that is. And the turning was a pretty painful experience too. But it’s all nothing compared to this.
There’s a fire in his side like he’s being burned alive; his chest and left arm hurts like they’ve been stabbed through, his hands and feet feel like they’ve been mauled, his elbows and knees like they’ve been ground to splinters.
And through it all the worst is the unimaginable thirst.
He must have lost a lot of blood, because he feels like he is close to entering torpor for the second time in his life as a vampire. His limbs feel stiff and cold. So cold. And yet his whole being is on fire from the pain, wracking through him in waves.
He’s strung up in shackles hanging by his wrists from the ceiling, dangling about an inch or so from the floor. As he looks down he can see trails of blood running out from under the hem of his jeans, trickling down his naked feet and drip onto the stone floor. There’s already an impressive crimson pool forming beneath him.
“So…” says a voice not far away. “You’re finally back with me.”
He looks up and sees someone step out from the shadows close by. Xu. As middle aged and handsome as he was in Key’s memory. And Minho remembers: He remembers the hours upon hours of torture that preceded his blackout. He winces, and the movement causes a new stab of pain to course through him from his numerous wounds.
There’s a fire nearby, burning under a grate, and Xu walks over and picks up a hot poker resting on the stone ring surrounding it. It’s the same one he rammed numerous times through Minho’s side just before he lost consciousness. The glowing tip makes Minho recoil, instinctively, like a dog that fears his master’s whip.
“I must say you held out a lot longer than I expected you to,” Xu says, weighing the poker in his hands. “Seems Kibum hasn’t lost his knack for finding good targets, even after all this time.”
He walks around Minho, brandishing the poker like a spear. “Did you know he used to choose my victims? Pick whoever would come down here and suffer what you’re now suffering? He really had an eye for it – who could withstand pain, who wouldn’t faint in the first few minutes.”
He stops and runs the hot tip down Minho’s back, slow, almost like a caress, searing his skin and making him scream and twist away from it, as much as the shackles and his battered body allows him.
“You see I like it when they last a little,” Xu continues in the same conversational tone, “I like when people show a little spirit. A little spunk. That makes them so much more fun to break.”
He drags the hot poker up Minho’s side, just as slowly as before. “Just like your sire,” he says over the sizzling of Minho’s skin. “He had a lot of spirit. A lot of pride. And people were drawn to him like flies to a sugar cube because of his beauty. He never had to hunt, they came to him quite willingly. And he brought them down here, to me, so that I could have my fun.”
Minho grits his teeth against the pain. “You’re going to pay for what you did to him,” he says. He can taste the blood in his mouth as he speaks, it’s making his voice sound garbled.
“See,” says Xu, walking fully around him to face him again. He waves the poker right in front of Minho’s face, like it’s a teacher’s pointer. “This is just what I’m talking about. Kibum had a way of inspiring loyalty in his fledglings, something that goes beyond even the call of the blood bond.”
He stops in his tracks, looking down at the still-glowing poker in his hands . “Did you know, that the only two things that can make a childe go against his sire’s wishes are either deep rooted hate, or heartfelt love?” He pauses a bit, letting the words sink in.
“Now, it takes no great intelligence to see that it was the first that enabled Kibum to escape, and keep away from me for so long. And it was the second that compelled you and his other childe to come seek me out. But there stops the likeness. Other than his spirit I didn’t really see what was so very special about this Jinki. You, however…” He looks up from the stick in his hands and into Minho’s eyes. Minho gazes back levelly.
“Ryeowook tells me you have quite the special gift, making your victims enjoy your bite. They come to you as willingly as they came to Kibum, if not more. And that, paired with your good looks, is something I could use…”
Minho scoffs, ignoring the pain that shoots through him. “I will never serve you!”
Xu laughs. “You say that now… But after some more time spent with this—“ He swings the poker through the air, this time like a baton “—and being deprived of blood, I think you will come to think differently. They all do, in the end.”
He smiles pleasantly. And the torture begins anew.
The flight ride back to Korea feels longer than it’s ever felt for Key. When the plane finally lands on home soil he doesn’t waste any time: Hardly has the metal body come to a complete stop and the cargo hold been opened before he’s out, half startling the poor baggage handlers to death as he comes shooting out of the murky depths.
He takes the high barb-wired fence surrounding the airfield in one long jump. The airport security have no chance to react, and even if they did Key couldn’t care less right now about some old vampire laws that says he can’t be seen by humans doing inhuman things. It’s rather likely they wrote him off as some wild animal. Humans have a tendency to do that with the things they can’t explain.
He knows Xu won’t kill Minho, not yet; not until Key shows up and he can do it in front of him. But time is still of the essence because he also knows Xu won’t be able to keep from torturing Minho – his sire just doesn’t have that in him.
He’s probably already begun, and although Key thinks Minho is strong – Key simply doesn’t sire weaklings – he has no concept of just how much of it he can stand, where his breaking point lies, because everyone has one. Key has seen even the toughest vampires lose their minds from the pain in only a couple of days. None of them were ever the same after that. And to have that happen to Minho... Well, Key just won’t allow it.
So he runs, as fast as he can. He doesn’t even bother with a car, relying only on his own legs to carry him now.
He doesn’t know where to find the thing he’s searching for, but he knows where to start looking.
Minho soon loses track of time. He loses consciousness quicker the second time around, but Xu wakes him up after a while with some blood from his wrist. Once he’s taunted him a bit, told him more about his sire that Minho already knew or had guessed at the torture starts up again.
It’s almost like Xu wants to demonstrate to him just how much maiming and mutilation a vampire can take without dying. Minho learns things about his about his vampire condition he could really have lived without knowing; like how smaller appendages like fingers, toes and ears re-grow after having been cut off and how a leg pulled apart and twisted can heal up again, straight.
He’s been forced to familiarize himself with Xu’s vast collection of weapons and torture implements. Neither one of them enough to kill a vampire, but enough to cause serious pain. Xu seems to have his favourites, which he returns to, time and time again. One is the poker, another is a meteor hammer – two heavy spiked weights on a long chain. At one point he shows Minho a serrated dagger, which he claims was a favourite of Key’s, and he seems to delight in twisting it around in Minho’s guts until he begs him to stop.
The pattern of torture and Xu reviving him keeps repeating itself. The blood is never enough to satisfy Minho, but enough to keep him on the brink of torpor. He is kept in a constant state of blood frenzy, and if Xu didn’t keep him shackled he feels he would attack him and rip his throat out with his teeth, not because of the hate he feels – even though that is overwhelming all on its own – but because of his thirst.
He feels like he is starting to lose himself, like the torture is transforming him. Slowly turning him into an animal with no control.
Taemin wakes up with a cool hand across his mouth and the scent of danger in his nostrils. Two pale orbs are gazing down at him through the dark of the room. For a moment he’s disoriented and doesn’t know where he is. Then he feels the bed springs creak underneath him and surmises he’s in his own apartment, in his bedroom. He has no memory of how he got back here, but it seems like he made it somehow. It’ been increasingly common lately.
“Where is he?” a voice commands. It sounds oddly familiar, but it takes Taemin a while to place it, because of his condition, and because it’s not a voice he’d expected to hear ever again, and definitely not in his bedroom.
The hand disappears. Its owner must have decided he isn’t going to scream for help. Even in his addled state Taemin knows it would be no use - he’d be no match for a vampire. His throat would be ripped out before he could even make a sound – Taemin has seen it happen.
Which is why it’s usually good to be of use to them. He sits up in bed, gingerly, because doing so kind of hurts and he’s shaking all over. He seems to be fully clothed – he even has his shoes on. Which, under the circumstances, is perhaps preferable to sleeping in the nude, which sometimes also happens.
“K-Key?” he says, unable to keep his voice from trembling. “W-what are you d-doing here?”
“Where is Jonghyun?” Key asks.
“He-he’s not here, if th-that’s what you’re w-wondering...”
“I already know that,” Key says. “If I could sense him here, do you think you and I would be having this conversation?”
Right, Taemin thinks, vampire smell. He’ll never really get used to how easily vampire’s gather information based on smell, no matter how much time he spends in their company. Or how weird all the sniffing around is.
“I d-don’t know where he is,” Taemin says. It costs him some to admit, but he’s got no choice. “I haven’t b-been to the new c-camp.” He suppresses an unwilling shiver.
“You’re Jonghyun’s thrall, why wouldn’t you?” Key asks, like the thought is to him impossible.
“Well...” Taemin reaches out for his nightstand, looking for his glasses, but his hand is shaking so much he can’t seem to get a firm grip on them. His fumbling sends them over the edge, tumbling to the floor. But before they can reach them a pale hand has shot out and caught them mid-air. They’re not so gently shoved onto his nose.
“You don’t wear glasses,” Key observes, his eyes narrowing a bit as he processes this information, pulling back again. “Not lenses either.”
“Well n-normally I don’t n-need them...” Taemin says.
There’s a rush of movement and the lights in the ceiling turn on. When Taemin’s blinks a few times to get used to it he finds Key standing over by the opposite wall, near the light switch.
“You’re not lying,” he says, scrutinizing Taemin with those eerie pale grey eyes. “You’re not being fed vampire blood anymore. What happened? Where’s Jonghyun?”
“I already t-told you,” Taemin says. “I d-don’t know.”
Key’s eyes narrow. “You’re his pet. Why would he abandon you?”
The words sting more than Taemin would like them to. “He hasn’t ab-bandoned me,” he argues, but the shiver that runs through him make the words lose any edge. And still these shivers are nothing compared to what they were the first week...
“You’ve aged,” Key observes as Taemin swings his legs out of bed and gets up.
“Yeah,” says Taemin, finding support against the near wall as he wills his legs to stop trembling. “It’s what happens to humans.”
“Not to thralls,” Key says. “Your real age is catching up to you.”
“Well I don’t look fifty-seven yet...” Taemin says, making a mental note to look in a mirror soon to make sure that isn’t true. It shouldn’t be though – it takes longer than that and he’s been without vampire blood for only a few weeks. That the change is noticeable to Key doesn’t tell him much – vampires are much more observant than regular people. They’re always good at guessing human ages. It’s probably another smell-thing.
Key isn’t saying anything, it’s likely he’s waiting on Taemin to elaborate. Taemin knows he must be fighting against some deeply buried instinct to force the truth out of him somehow – probably involving his teeth and that dazzling-thing he does – but Taemin is spared because he’s viewed as Jonghyun’s possession, even still, and a vampire doesn’t mess with another vampire’s possessions. It’s probably some unwritten vampire law that Taemin is glad for now.
“After what happened in the c-camp,” he says, “Jonghyun figured I wasn’t s-safe anymore, so he left me here and told me not to go l-looking for him. I haven’t seen him in w-weeks. I don’t know where the n-new camp is.”
Key’s eyes seem to bore into him for a moment, it’s as if he can see through his soul and it worsens Taemin’s shivers, making his teeth clatter. Eventually he relents and Taemin figures he must be pleased with what he sees, or doesn’t see.
“But you have contacts at the council,” Key says. “You’re a double agent.”
“I was always m-most loyal to Jonghyun,” Taemin protests.
“I know,” Key says. “That’s the only reason I let you live and continue what you did.”
Taemin realises now how close he’s been to death, without really knowing it. He wonders now if – those times on his runs when he’s felt he’s being watched – if he really has been, by Key, looking out for his friend. The smallest sign Taemin was double-crossing Jonghyun, and not the council, and he would have been dead.
“So why haven’t they fed you?”
“They...” He takes a deep breath to get the shivers under control, managing only barely. “I t-think they were getting su-suspicious. After what happened in the w-woods the relationship between the vampire outcasts and the c-council has been more s-strained than ever. Jonghyun b-believes they ordered the attack, while the council c-claims a foreign vampire was behind it, without their p-permission. Something that Jonghyun doesn’t believe, because w-why would a foreign vampire suddenly take an in-interest in Korean vampires hiding in the Korean woods? I think he’s p-preparing to strike back, one of the last things he s-said to me was ‘They w-won’t get away with this.’ And I couldn’t tell that to the c-council, but I think they know somehow anyway. So I’m not t-trusted anymore. They know now where my allegiance l-lies.”
“So basically, because of me, the centuries long truce between the outcasts and the council is now broken,” Key says. “Well that’s just great.”
Minho learns to deal with the pain after a while, to shut it out, distance himself from it. But the thirst he can never be free of – it soon becomes worse than the other torture.
After a while he starts to hallucinate, and sometimes he’s not really sure if he’s actually in the torture room or if he’s just imagining it, reliving earlier experiences. Sometimes, alone in his cell, he thinks Key is there with him. It’s those moments he lives for, that in some weird way helps him keep his sanity, his humanity.
Sometimes it’s almost as if they’re back in that motel room again, Key’s cool skin is under his hands, his teeth piercing his flesh. He can even feel his scent around him, like the air before thunder, and it makes it easier to choose the fantasy before all that is really happening around him.
Because of his lack of reaction to the torture Xu seems to lose interest in him after a while, moving on to fresher subjects and lets him spend more and more time alone in his cell.
The isolation soon turns into a form of torture in itself. There are scratch marks decorating the stones all around him. He doesn’t know which are his.
Taemin’s apartment is a mess. It looks like a battle took place in there. If Key didn’t know from Jonghyun’s accounts this is how the place normally looks he would be worried about the boy.
There’s empty noodle cartons all over the place, dirty dishes piled up in the sink, and clothes and other stuff thrown everywhere. The TV is left on, casting a flickering glow across an otherwise dark room. It doesn’t take a tidy person to see the place is in serious need of a clean-up.
Key looks for the remote, finds it under a heap of dirty clothes cluttering an armchair, and turns it off.
“S-sorry about the mess,” Taemin says. He’s been allowed a quick change of clothes, but no shower, and he’s still shaking. It’s tempting, oh-so tempting to beg Key for some blood, but that would make him Key’s thrall, and not Jonghyun’s and he doesn’t like the thought of that. Besides, he’s pretty sure Key would refuse.
After what he’s told him – what Taemin is pretty sure is just fragments of the whole story – he understands now there’s only one person Key is willing to share his blood with.
That it was Minho who was the reason for the camp being attacked comes as a bit of a surprise to him – he never even thought of the possibility, even though he and Key disappeared after that night. A lot of vampires left that night to heal their wounds in solitude. And some died. It was just assumed that if Key managed to find Minho alive he took him somewhere safe, and if not that he wanted some time to be alone.
Key is waiting by the door, ready for them to leave. His back is slightly hunched and his posture reminds a bit of a cheetah poised to attack, or a snake coiled to spring. Taemin has seen him assume it before. It means he’s prepared to hunt.
“How will we find him?” Taemin asks, putting his jacket on. He can’t deny that he’s excited at the prospect of being reunited with Jonghyun, even if the circumstances aren’t ideal. He even saw the difference himself now when he looked in the mirror. It wasn’t much, but he doesn’t think he can pass for 18 anymore. He just hopes they’ll find him before he starts looking thirty.
“I know Jonghyun,” Key says. “He’ll be wherever the council are.”
“Where is your pretty sire now?”
The silky voice reaches Minho through his haze. He lifts his head from where he’s lying, prostrate on his bare stomach on the cold flagstones of his cell.
He can’t make out the figure very clearly, and at first he thinks it’s another hallucination of Key. But the voice doesn’t match his. It’s not Key, and not a hallucination; it’s Xu’s new bait; Ryeowook.
“It’s been four days,” he purrs with unmasked glee. “He didn’t wait this long for the other one, or so I hear... Has he abandoned you? Poor little fledgling... All alone in the dark, with no one to save him...”
There’s a sound from his long nails rattling against the bars as he moves, dragging his hand along Minho’s iron cage.
“I felt his stink all over you when I found you. You’d think if he let you gorge on his blood like that that he’d care at least a little...” He makes a tut-ing sound.
Minho thinks he hates him, that if only he could get up he would charge him and pull him clean through the bars, and drink deep until Ryeowook was nothing more than a shrivelled up old prune. The thought gives him some satisfaction and he must have smiled because next thing Ryeowook says is:
“What’s so funny?” The silk is gone from his voice and he sounds more like a petulant child now. Minho is not so far gone he can’t see a window of opportunity, and know he must use it.
“Just that I wouldn’t be so confident if I were you,” he says. “If I knew what Xu has told me.”
Ryeowook takes the bait with only a moment’s hesitation. “What has he told you? What?”
“Maybe you should ask him...” Minho says, as loftily as he can muster. “But if I were you I would be a little worried about my standing with him. I don’t think he treats ex-subjects very well, judging by what happened to Key.”
Ryeowook hesitates, clearly torn between ignoring him and asking for further information. “What are you—Has he offered you my position? You’re lying! Xu has always been very pleased with my services!”
“Oh, come on,” Minho says. “You know you’ve always only a replacement for his precious Kibum. His favourite. You even look a bit like him...”
He’s only guessing, but it seems to work from how hard Ryeowook squeezes the bars, like he is ready to tear them off with brute strength and charge at Minho and shred him to pieces for voicing his worst fears. It’s kind of what Minho is hoping for – he was so out of it when he was brought back here that he wasn’t shackled, and if he could only get Ryeowook close enough... The blood rage will do the rest, he’s sure of it.
“You’re lying!” Ryeowook wheezes again.
“Why don’t you ask him yourself?” Minho says. “And by the way, it was you that gave him the idea in the first place, telling him of my powers. He thinks they’ll be of good use to him.”
Ryeowook’s growl echoes through the dungeon, and he rattles the bars of Minho’s cell so hard Minho thinks they’ll come loose.
Then he’s gone – Minho can hear his hurried steps disappear up the winding stair, no doubt on his way to Xu - and Minho is once more alone to the darkness.
A/N: So, yes. Torture. And we're not out of the woods yet by far, Xu still has some tricks up his sleeve. But maybe Key does too...
If you're wondering what a 'meteor hammer' is, you can find a picture of it here. It's an old chinese weapon, I thought it would be fitting for Xu to use. Plus, it looks bloody hurtful.
As always I live for your comments, so give me your thoughts! <3