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 VI
They don’t stay in L.A. for long. Key thinks it’s best the stay on the move, so over the course of the next few weeks they travel as far as they can get by night and find cheap motels to spend the sunny hours of the day in. They never pay and leave before their daily sleep-in routine can cause suspicion and any questions can be asked. They steal a new car now and then to hide their trail and feed largely on the people who are unlucky enough to ride in said cars. A few hitchhikers, motel guests and cleaning ladies also become quick, light snacks on the way.
Minho finds on the few occasions his sire doesn’t use his powers to get what he wants, that his English is near perfect, although it sounds like he learned it in another century. Which is probably why he doesn’t want to use it unless he has to. Minho knows only a few simple phrases, but he finds pretty quickly not much talking is required to lure in prey. Often all that’s required is a smile and a nod to get the men and women to follow him into dark street corners and dingy motel rooms.
Key still watches how easy it is for his childe to feed with some unease. He is still unable to put his finger on what it is about it that unsettles him, more than that it shouldn’t be that trouble-free for one so young. It’s a strange gift, making your victims enjoy the bite, and an unusual one. Time will only tell what it will evolve into.
Key was himself nearly two-hundred when he found he could not only stun his targets, render them numb and unable to defend themselves, but get them to do his bidding as well. At least for a short time. And when he was four-hundred it was the first time it worked on another vampire. Just recently he was able to do two at a time. It still only works on younger vampire’s though. But there’s no telling what he’ll be able to do in another two-hundred years.
Key never sleeps during the days. In the beginning he pretends to, but once he understands Minho has noticed he stops trying to keep the charade up. A vampire doesn’t really need sleep – it’s just a good way to spend time, because time can sometimes move so infuriatingly slow for a vampire.
Minho hasn’t asked him why yet and it’s a relief. Because how could he possibly make him understand?
The memories of the past are always there, under the surface. Key can recall everything in minute detail, without even closing his eyes. All he has to do is summon the memories and it’s like he’s transported back in time, like it’s all happening around him again. Sometimes it’s something in his surroundings that calls them back; a sound or a smell reminiscent of the past. Sometimes a touch. Lately they memories have been coming to him more often. And he knows why.
It’s because of Minho. Lying in that coffin he had to fight against an onslaught of memories. Because last time he shared a coffin with someone, it was with Jinki.
Lee Jinki was born in the 17th century. A simple, but intelligent man with a good heart. In 1621 when Key met him he worked as a city guard. By that time Key had spent nearly eighty years on the run from his sire, after his first escape. Around this time there weren’t a lot of vampires in the world, and even less in Korea, and Key was getting lonely. He was still a relatively young vampire, only two-hundred years old and hadn’t completely learned to let go of all aspects of human life yet. That and his time in Xu’s service had deprived him a few things he was still keen to explore. One of these was companionship.
Being with Xu had never been a true partnership. Key had been his assistant, his lapdog, his slave and they had never had anything in common. Xu had chosen him for his good looks, and when he discovered his powers he had decided to use him as bait instead of making him a victim. A position Key had had presence of mind to hang on to, making sure he was useful to Xu in every way so he wouldn’t lose it.
For nearly a hundred years Key was the one who kept Xu’s underground chamber well-stocked with new victims, who assisted him in all his wicked doings. Sometimes he even took part in the torture, on Xu’s request. Because Xu took pleasure in corrupting him, he enjoyed the sight of Key covered from head to toe in some poor soul’s blood and he loved it the most when Key showed he enjoyed it too. So Key pretended that he did, until the opportunity came and he fled.
For a long time his sire searched for him far and wide, and it was a close call at times. But then he seemed to lose interest. Key figured he’d gotten a new favourite and he got a little braver; a little more reckless.
Key followed Jinki around at a distance, in close fascination, for a long while. He had never met anyone so selfless, so kind and good-natured before. It all came in stark contrast with what he had lived through in Xu’s service, which has so nearly deprived him of all his humanity.
It would be Jinki that awoke it in him again.
He had never intended to bite him – Jinki had a loving wife and a small family and seemed perfectly content with his life – but fate wanted otherwise. One rainy night he was lured into a trap and cornered by a gang of ruffians who had a bone to pick with him after he had imprisoned their notorious leader the week before. The leader had died from torture in jail, though it was not through Jinki’s doing, Key knew that from following the man. But to the men attacking him it might not even have mattered. They left Jinki barely alive in the pouring rain in a dirty, dark back-alley.
Key closes his eyes as the memories wash over him, as if it were only yesterday:
He can smell the blood several blocks away, even through the pouring rain. He’s running over rooftops, already knowing he will be too late. That much blood… he won’t stand a chance.
The men stop kicking the body at their feet and attempt to scatter when he lands among them. He hears them call out: “Demon!” before he starts ripping them to shreds. It doesn’t even take a minute: Four men are no match for a furious vampire. The scent of their blood sting in his nose, tickles in his throat and he has to summon all his will to turn from the molested bodies, back to the one he came here to save.
Jinki is lying on the muddy ground, barely recognizable as his features have started to swell from the beating. There isn’t much blood but Key can hear his heartbeat getting weaker. It may not show on the surface, but his lungs are filled with blood, Key can tell from his garbled breathing. He’s seen men and women choke on their own blood all too many times. Though most of them were vampires, and wouldn’t die as easily. Jinki’s however, is human, and his life is hanging by a thin thread that’s about to break.
If Key wants to save him he hasn’t got any time to lose. He hesitates only a second, before picking Jinki up in his arms. He whispers a barely audible “I’m sorry” and then sinks his teeth into his shoulder. The man is so far gone he hardly reacts. The blood is rushing through Key. It tastes so much better than the lowlife he’s lived off of for weeks. It's not because of the goodness of his withered heart that he's been feeding off thieves and whores and vagrants, but so that he wouldn’t raise the city guard’s suspicions. To see a drunkard or a prostitute stumble out of a dark alley, clutching their neck, is nothing new to them.
And then, through the haze, an image reaches him. For a second, it’s like a window opens up in his mind and he’s eye to eye with his sire once more. Xu is standing in his dungeon – Kibum easily recognises the dark stone walls around him. He’s dressed impeccably as always, standing there wiping blood off his hands with a napkin. He looks up as if he’s made aware of a presence and smirks.
“Well, well, well, Kibum,” Key hears his voice in his mind even though Xu’s lips doesn’t move. “You waited long enough, but I knew you’d succumb eventually. No vampire could ever resist sharing their precious gift.”
Key struggles to close the window, and at last he manages, but not before he hears Xu say. “Gwangmyeong, Kibum. Now isn’t that place a little beneath someone like you?”
When Key is done draining Jinki, just close enough to the point of death, and then forcing his own blood down his throat, he lifts the body up and takes it to a sheltered place underneath a bridge (this one smaller, and of stone, but the irony is striking) where he watches Jinki go through all the stages of dying, only to come to life a second time.
As soon as he opens his eyes again, to take in life as one of the undead, they’re on the move. Together.
Key had expected Jinki to be angry with him afterwards. For forcing him away from his family and into a new life, constantly on the run. But even though Jinki grieved losing his family he never once blamed Key for it. Instead he thanked Key for his second chance, that let him scrounge up a little money from time to time, and send them anonymously back to his family, who never learned what had become of him, but were grateful for their unknown benefactor.
Jinki didn’t even seem to blame the men that had beaten him and left him for dead. Key felt he would never truly understand him. They were so different, and yet he would come to really appreciate his company for the near-century they spent together.
Jinki was the only one who knew his real name, from before he was a vampire.
Key stirs a bit but doesn’t open his eyes.
“Kibum… What if we just stopped?”
Key opens his eyes and lifts his head off of Jinki’s chest. He has been afraid of this conversation. Of when Jinki will tell him he doesn’t want to be a fugitive anymore, when he tells him he wants to go off on his own. He doesn’t need to follow Key around anymore, because Key has taught him all he knows. There is no way Key could or ever would stop him if he chose to leave, but he doesn’t like the thought of being alone. He has gotten used to having company after all this time. It’s nice, having someone to share stuff with. Not just thoughts and things, but time… To lie, like this, together on a beach in the middle of a starry autumn night, and stare up at the full moon.
He watches Jinki in silence, waiting for him to continue.
“What if we just stopped running?” he says.
Key sighs a bit. Relieved because of the “we”, exasperated because of the question.
“You know we—”
“But what if we turned the tables for once?” Jinki interrupts. He sits up a bit, and Key is forced to sit up too or he’ll fall off Jinki’s chest. “What if we went after him instead?”
“That is madness, you know we can’t—”
But Jinki is fired up now. There’s a glow in his eyes, he believes in this idea, Key can tell. “But have you ever really tried? I mean before, before you didn’t have me, did you? There’s two of us now…”
“Jinki…” Key hesitates just a beat too long.
“Wouldn’t the risk be worth it?” Jinki says. “Just to finally enjoy freedom? We can’t keep running like this forever.”
Key looks away. He knows it must be tiring for Jinki, although Jinki has never complained. Not even back when he had to leave his family behind. They’re dead now, since a long time ago, but Jinki never has been the running sort. His greatest wish is to settle down somewhere, and Key knows it, even though he’s never voiced the wish out loud.
He wants to live just like he did as a human, or as close to it as possible. Key knows he’s got it all imagined in his mind; the house, somewhere far away from civilization, maybe on a cliff, a small garden with plants that bloom after dark.
A little piece of vampire heaven.
Key would laugh at the absurdity, if deep down he didn’t wish he could give Jinki all that. If it was possible for a vampire to live that way, even if they didn’t have a crazy sire on their tail.
What they’re living now is a dream too, Key knows it. There’s no telling how long they’ll be able to keep it up before they’re found. It’s been a close call more than a couple of times already. But he just wants to extend it all for as long as possible. Before it all has to end. Because he knows it will eventually.
Really, he should push Jinki away from him, force him to go off on his own, and go deal with his sire himself, once and for all. But he’s afraid. He’s not ready to let go of Jinki. Not yet.
He didn’t know then that it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. He knew when he sired Jinki that Xu was on his tail again. But he still thought his sire’s focus was on him, not his childe. That if he left Jinki somewhere and went off on his own, Xu would come after him, and not Jinki.
Oh how wrong he was. He should have known from all those endless hours in that torture chamber:
“Never kill when you can cause pain instead.”
And pain there would be… Key can still recall that evening when he woke up to find Jinki gone, can still feel the sense of panic he felt when he lets the memories flood his mind.
They had been travelling through 18th century Europe at the time. It had been a risky venture, because two pale, handsome asians easily attracted attention in an all-white Europe at the time, but after roaming around Asia for 80 years, they had run out of places to hide there, and they eventually had no other choice but to leave.
Key looked all around London, even knowing he wouldn’t find Jinki anywhere in the dark, filthy, smelly streets (Really, you’d think Europeans would have invented a system to take care of their waste and learned to bathe regularly by now…). Knowing exactly where he was, but hoping, hoping until all hope ran out, that he would find him just having gone off to feed in a dark corner somewhere.
It’s not until it’s verging on morning that Key returns back to their shared flat and finds the note Jinki has left him. In his fear and panic he had completely missed it where it laid on the desk among a heap of Jinki’s correspondence. (Even when he no longer had a wife to care for he never seemed to run out of charity cases).
It’s short and reads:
“I’ve gone off to find and challenge Xu. To set you free once and for all. It is the only way because he will never stop hunting you. I decided this a long time ago, and keeping this from you has been hard. I couldn’t let you know because I knew you would have tried to stop me. Please forgive me.
If I don’t return... Kibum please, don’t stay lonely. Find someone. Find someone to love you just like I have. Just because we’re said to be damned it doesn’t mean we have to act like we are.”
The last line was something he often used to say, when Key made fun of him for acting human, or caring too much for humans. It wasn’t that Key didn’t agree – being in Xu’s service might have dehumanized him faster than what was normal for a vampire, but he wasn’t without a heart, even if it no longer beat out a pulse – he just thought there were limits to what a vampire should do, how much they should get involved in human affairs. Especially as some humans seemed so hell bent on their own destruction no matter what you did…
Jinki though, was complex. He accepted that he had to feed on humans (though Key suspected that without his talent of numbing the victim, Jinki would have starved), and that he had to live separate from them, but not that he couldn’t still watch over them. He seemed to consider it his duty: Eternal life in exchange for aiding the less fortunate. And if a little blood here and there from the people he helped allowed him to help more, then so be it. With Key’s talent no one ever got hurt (or at least they didn’t know that they did).
And Key admired him for how he tackled his fate, as much as he resented him for it. He never understood how Jinki could claim to love him, he wasn’t sure he himself knew what love was. (Could a vampire even feel love?) With his past he surely had never done anything to deserve it, and still Jinki’s affection was unconditional.
It annoyed Key at times, and he tried to provoke him, push at him while at the same time being incredibly afraid to lose him. But Jinki always just smiled at him and none of Key’s harsh words about his charity cases ever seemed to stick, because he knew he didn’t really mean them.
It didn’t stop Key from regretting every bad word he had ever said that morning however. Because going up against Xu could only mean one thing: Jinki would get killed, or worse.
He hated that he was right.
The dungeons underneath Xu’s mansion look the same, smells the same as they did two-hundred years ago when he was in Xu’s service. Nothing seems to have changed.
If you think humans are twisted sometimes it’s nothing compared to how twisted a vampire can get after a few hundred years. Torture devices no human could ever even conceive off line the walls. There are meat hooks and chains hanging from the ceiling. Usually there’s barely conscious bodies hanging from them, like strange bloodied fruit, but not today.
Today there’s only one person in the room where Xu brings his victims to make them suffer and that is Jinki.
It’s like something out of Key’s worst nightmare: Jinki strung up on a wall, bruised and bleeding, in a mockery of Jesus Christ the Saviour on the cross.
“He put up a good fight, I’ll give him that,” Xu drawls and steps out of the nearby shadows. “But not good enough. Didn’t you warn him about my guard? Or did you forget?”
“Let him go,” Key says. “It’s me you want.”
“Is it? I figure someone selected by you must be almost as sweet to mould as you were. In a way you brought him to me. Just like in the old days. Only took a little longer this time…”
“Don’t you dare…” Key warns through gritted teeth.
“Do you remember?” Xu continues, like he doesn’t hear, or care. “How innocent you were? Just a young noble boy. I taught you well, didn’t I?” He turns to Jinki with a leer. “Did you know he used to dance around, covered in the blood from his victims? Oh, what a sight that was. You’ve haven’t really experienced beauty until you’ve seen that.”
Jinki makes no sign of having heard him. Though Key knows he’s still alive, he can feel it through the bond they share. And through him, Xu must feel it too. It makes Key mad, that he must taint everything Key holds dear, just like he once made Key murder his whole family, to “break him in” as he said.
He let his apprentice starve to the brink of madness, to the point where self-preservation took over, locked in, cornered like an animal, and then presented him to the members of what had once been his human family, one after another. For each kill more and more of Key’s resolve and humanity died.
If Key does one thing in life, it’s making sure the same fate does not befall Jinki.
“Let him go,” he says again. Louder.
Xu seems to think it over, like he hasn’t already made the decision long before Key showed up.
“Alright. I’ll offer a trade. His life, for yours.”
“Hasn’t that always been what it’s about?”
“I think you misunderstand me.” Xu leers and that has never been a good sign. “I don’t wish for you to serve me again. No, I want you as a part of my collection, as you were always meant to be. But don’t worry, you will have a very special place in it. You were my finest after all.”
If it was possible for a vampire to have chills, Key would have them now. He knows what his sire is suggesting. An eternity, spent in torpor, brought back to consciousness occasionally, only to suffer torture at Xu’s hands. He has no doubt his sire will delight in making him suffer in the most inventive ways, over and over again. After all, no one leaves Xu’s service and gets away with it unpunished… Key has seen what he’s done to mere guards who thought they could decide to just leave when the paycheck didn’t suit them anymore or the job turned too much into hiding dead bodies for their liking. And it’s nothing compared to what he will suffer, he’s sure.
“Don’t. Don’t do it,” he can hear Jinki’s whisper in his mind, but he knows he hasn’t got a choice. There’s never really been one, he realises that now. It’s always only been a question about time. How much time and happiness he and Jinki could steal before fate and Key’s past eventually caught up with them. And now it has, it’s all over.
“Take me then,” he says. He hears Jinki scream, still inside his mind, but ignores it. “But let him go.”
Xu looks pleased. He makes a sign in the air and guards appear, bearing shackles strong enough to hold a vampire. There’s crosses scratched into the metal as an extra warding. Key knows they’re on the inside too – it’s gonna burn.
“Let him go first,” he says.
“As you will.” Xu makes another gesture and the guards approach Jinki instead. As soon as they open the shackles he falls to the ground on his hands and knees.
“Run!” Key commands him, but Jinki doesn’t obey.
“He’ll come to in a moment,” Xu says, sounding very bored. “I wouldn’t worry about him. He’s strong.” He signals the guards near Key with the shackles again. “Shall we?”
Key rivets his eyes on him. “Promise you’ll let him leave when he does.”
“Kibum… Please…” Jinki croaks.
“I’m sorry,” Key tells him. “I’m so sorry.” He holds out his hands.
As soon as the shackles are around his wrists, burning crosses into his flesh, Xu steps forward, and grabs Jinki’s head between his hands. Key has no time to scream. The sharp sound of a neck snapping echoes throughout the dungeon. Jinki falls forward, on his stomach, his head twisted at an odd angle. His voice has forever silenced in Key’s mind.
A single red tear falls down Key’s cheek, born out of frustration, hate and sorrow. It’s the only tear he’s shed since he was human. It’s the only tear he’ll ever shed.
“You really should have seen it coming,” Xu scolds him. “Really. Have I taught you nothing? I could never let him live, he knew that as well as I. That’s what he tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen. The pain you feel now is worth more to me than anything. You should have learned by now not to defy me. You were, and always will be mine. Perhaps now you will finally understand it.” A last gesture for the guards.
“Take him away.”
And so Key would come to spend the next hundred years, bound in torpor, only allowed a brief moment’s respite in the torture chamber. Quite frequently in the first years, then a little more seldom. But his sire never completely forgot him, even if it took almost a decade between the sessions in the end.
Always, at the end, Key was carried back into his cell in the dungeons. But he wasn’t kept there – as soon as torpor claimed him he was moved into a glass-lidded coffin in his sire's study. Xu liked keeping him close, constantly under surveillance.
What he didn’t understand though was that Key drew other gazes to him as well.
A young servant girl, maybe no older than eighteen, was let into the study to clean from time to time. She had strict orders not to go near or open the coffin (such a strange decorative piece for an office!) but of course her curiosity would get the better of her one day. And since that day she always used to pause beside it for a while, staring down longingly at the strange statue of a man, lying inside it with his eyes closed. Like he's sleeping.
For a piece of art, didn’t it seem amazingly lifelike? Sometimes she could almost swear she saw a faint reddening of the cheeks, or that she saw it move from the corner of her eye while she dusted the shelves. But she was never afraid, instead she was fascinated bye the statue's beauty. Her friends would have called her entranced, and no living man could ever really compare.
It took her a while before she dared to open the lid and touch him. His alabaster skin was as hard and as cold as ice beneath her hands, but didn’t feel entirely like stone. There was a pretty black velvet cover drawn up to his chest, and she lifted it a little to find his hands folded across his chest underneath. There were thick bands of iron clamped around his wrists, and there were crosses carved all over them. Such a strange thing to put on a statue.
She couldn’t keep from reaching out and running her fingertips across the rough, cool surface.
As she did her finger caught on a sharp edge of metal. When she pulled it back a single drop of blood fell from her fingertip to land on the statue’s hand. She watched in fascination, and horror, as the blood-drop vanished, as if absorbed by the stone, right in front of her eyes.
There was a beat of silence, the only sound heard was her heart beat picking up, her breath catching in her throat.
Then the man in the coffin opened his pale grey eyes and focused on her.
It was the last day of the poor unfortunate girl’s life. She saved Key but paid dearly with her own life. Key didn’t stop feeding until the girl was drained of the last drop. Only then did his frenzy end and he ran, never looking back.
He never even learned her name.
And this is the reason he fears sleep. Having been kept unwillingly in a state of torpor for a hundred years would make anyone dread it. Sleeping also enabled Jinki to leave and that can’t ever happen again. This time he intends to keep them both running, for as long as he’s able. He won’t let history repeat itself any more.
Another evening descends in the land of hope and dreams and on the bed behind him Minho wakes. Key can hear him shuffle about, trying to get up. It draws to mind memories of Jinki, moving through a different hotel room in a different time. Key can almost feel the ghost of him move up behind him and put his arms around his waist, leaning in and whispering in his ear:
“What are you thinking about?”
Key nearly jumps out of his skin as Minho asks the same question. Losing himself in memories is disorienting, distracting at times and Minho is much closer than Key had anticipated. Too close for comfort. Key has early on decided to keep him at a distance: No need to repeat all the mistakes of the past. Even though it’s hard. (Lying in that coffin, listening to Minho’s thoughts before was torture, even though he knows half - maybe all of it - comes from the bond. But it’s there and a part of Key wants desperately to take advantage of that).
Key sighs and takes a step away from him. “Get your stuff,” he says. “We’re leaving.”
A/N: Ok, this chapter proved to be a real struggle to get out, so I hope you like it. I'm still not sure what to think of it, it's not all that I wanted it to be, but it's as close as I could get right now.
Huge thanks to elirian_19 for helping me get some of my confidence back. You rock, babe <3
And please let me know what you all think! Remember comments are love, and since this fic has proven such a struggle to get out of my system I really appreciate them as they tell me there's readers out there interested in me continuing the struggle to finish it :)
ATTENTION READERS: Part 7 is now member locked, since it contains smut (sort of), which means you need to join this comm to read it. Sorry for the inconvenience.