I finally watched Ready or Not and uh...not to make everything a Sheith AU but Sheith AU where rough around the edges Keith marries heir to the Shirogane fortune Takashi Shirogane & discovers on his wedding night that Shiro REALLY wasn’t lying about his family being THE WORST
Keith (like the protagonist Grace) came from a long string of foster families & KNOWS he doesn’t fit in with the blueblood Shiroganes, but he’s so excited to finally have a solid family & he loves Shiro so much, he seems like the perfect guy & Keith couldn’t not propose to him.
Of course Shiro said yes, but he’s been really weird about the whole wedding, keeps telling Keith they don’t HAVE to go through with this, warning Keith that his family is REALLY a mess & Keith doesn’t deserve having to deal with them, but Keith is unmoved. He’s marrying Shiro.
The wedding is lovely. It’s on the Shirogane estate, of course. Shiro looks too handsome to be real. Keith is overjoyed.

The Shiroganes, however...honestly give him the creeps. At least he knows where Shiro inherited his good looks; the whole family is beautiful. And terrifying.
As far as Keith can tell, those present include Shiro’s dad, mom, grandma, great aunt, cousins, and of course, his two brothers: Ryou and Kuro.

Ryou seems nice, even though he laughs nervously a lot. Kuro, though...Keith is already sweating through his tux & Kuro isn’t helping.
Shiro is a very good distraction, however, & by the time they make it to the bedroom, they’re both tipsy and Keith has almost totally forgotten about Shiro’s mysterious family.

He’s giggling his way through undoing Shiro’s buttons when Shiro suddenly freezes under him.
Keith gives him a quizzical look — then sees, in the floorlength mirror beside the bed, someone standing in the doorway. He swears & whirls around.

“Enjoying yourself, little brother?” Kuro’s smiling. It’s not a nice smile.

Shiro swallows, hard. “It’s — it’s not time yet.”
Keith sits up & glares at him. He doesn’t know WHY his brother in law is here, but he knows a bully when he sees one. “Get the hell out,” Keith snaps.

Kuro’s grin widens. He leans against the doorframe & raises an eyebrow. “I like this one, Takashi. Little spitfire, isn’t he?”
Shiro’s brow lowers, his jaw tightening. Keith blinks at him. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen Shiro so angry before.

“You should leave,” Shiro warns. “Now.”

Kuro taps his wristwatch, which probably costs more than Keith’s damn life. “Don’t forget, Takashi. It’s tradition.”
“What?” Keith looks from brother to brother. “What’s tradition? Walking in on us on our wedding night? Why are you still HERE?”

“You have until midnight,” Kuro murmurs. “Meet in the music room. Don’t make this harder than it has to be, Takashi.”

Shiro says nothing. Kuro leaves.
“Uh,” Keith says when he’s gone, “Shiro? What the fuck was that?”

Shiro slumps against the headboard. “I’m so sorry, Keith,” he whispers.

“Hey, hey, talk to me.” Keith snuggles up to his side & frowns at him. “What’s the tradition?”

Shiro closes his eyes. “It’s...a game.”
Keith’s brow furrows. “A game. What, like Monopoly?”

Shiro cracks a weak smile. “Maybe. God, I hope it’s Monopoly.” His expression wavers & his grip on Keith’s waist turns bruising. “I never should’ve married you, Keith, but I — I was selfish, & -“ He shivers. “I’m so sorry.”
Keith’s eyes widen, pulse climbing. “What? Shiro, it’s - I guess game night on our wedding night is weird, but - but, I mean, who am I to say what’s normal for families?” He shrugs. “I have no idea.”

Shiro shakes his head. “This,” he whispers, “is not normal. It’s sick, Keith.”
The expression on his face is awful & Keith’s confusion gives way to fear. “Shiro,” he whispers. “What’s the game?”

Shiro curls closer to him. “They don’t want me to tell you. They think, if they break tradition, the family will die. We do it whenever someone joins the family.”
“Do WHAT.”

Shiro swallows. “You have to draw a card...from a box. The box given to us by the man who gave us fortune centuries ago.” Shiro hesitates. His eyes are a little manic. “Just a heads up, pretty sure that was the actual Devil, or some equivalent. He made a deal.”
Keith stares at him. “Your family made a deal with the Devil to play card games on every family member’s wedding night?”

“Yes,” Shiro says, “but one of the cards isn’t a real game. It’s a hunt.”


“No,” Shiro whispers. “It’s hide & seek. And if they found you-“
Keith sits up, eyes wide. “Oh, what the fuck? They - you’re joking. You’re not joking. WHAT THE FUCK?”

“It’s only if you pull that card,” Shiro tries, “but you won’t, it’ll be okay, we’ll play Old Maid or smth & then leave & never come back again -“

“And if I pull Hide & Seek?”
Shiro’s face crumples. “Then they would tell you to hide,” he whispers, “& they would come after you with the weapons they keep in the room with the box, & when they found you - bc they would, there’s no way to stay hidden from them ‘til dawn - they would kill you in the ritual.”
“The Devil ritual,” Keith says, just to make sure they’re on the same page, here. “Your family would SACRIFICE ME TO THE DEVIL.”

Shiro nods miserably. “But - Keith, I won’t let that happen. Okay? I won’t let them -“

“Why did you bring me here, if you knew?” Keith whispers.
Shiro is quiet. Keith’s lips part. “You believe it,” he whispers. “You think if you don’t play the game, the Devil is will actually destroy your family -“

“There were other families,” Shiro says, head in his hands. “They - they fucked up the tradition. They all died, Keith.”
“Shiro,” Keith says, shaking his head, “that wasn’t the Devil, because the Devil’s not REAL, that was just - coincidence -“

“Keith, we have to play the game,” Shiro says grimly. “If you want to be my husband, anyway. You could - you could still leave. It’s not midnight yet.”
“Fucking REALLY?” Keith hisses. “That’s my choice? Divorce you or stay married & potentially get sacrificed to the Devil?! No!”

“Odds are, you pull a normal card,” Shiro sighs. “But if not - & if, knowing this, you still want to stay w me - then I won’t let them go thru w it.”
Keith stares at him frantically. “What, even knowing - or thinking - your whole family is gonna die because you pissed off the Devil? Shiro -“

Shiro shakes his head. “Keith, listen to me. None of this - this life, is worth anything, if it’s built off of losing you. Not to me.”
“But if it’s true,” Keith says, “won’t you also die?”

Shiro’s shoulders slump. “We’ll cross that bridge if we get to it,” he sighs. He looks at the clock. “Well...10 minutes to decide. Divorce paperwork’s not too bad, I think. We’d never have to see each other again - oh!”
“Shiro,” Keith mumbles against his lips before breaking the kiss, “don’t be an idiot. I’m not divorcing you. I also don’t want to DIE, & I don’t want you to die, but odds are this Devil pact is bullshit. Right? I don’t want to give you up for that. I love you.”
“I love you too,” Shiro whispers, eyes wide, “but — you’re sure...?”

“Is this why you were so freaked out when I proposed?” Keith asks.

Shiro hesitates, then gives a small nod. “Keith, if not for this mess, I want you to know I would’ve proposed after our first year together.”
Keith smiles weakly. “So...was your plan for us to just keep dating for eternity, or...?”

“Honestly?” Shiro rubs his temple. “I kinda thought you’d come to your senses sooner or later & find someone who could actually give you what I couldn’t. I didn’t think you would propose!”
Keith snorts & strokes his husband’s chest. “Like I was gonna let anyone else have this. I had to lock that shit down, Takashi.”

Shiro splutters at him, blushing, & slowly leans into him, wrapping Keith up in his arms. “I’m glad you did. Just sorry there are strings attached.”
“Oh, no big deal,” Keith mumbles into his shoulder, “just some murder and Devil worship. Could be worse.”

“Could it?” Shiro asks doubtfully.

Keith grimaces. “No. Probably not.” He eyes the clock. “Rude of them to not even let us fuck before this, huh?”

“We have 6 minutes...”
Keith gives him a look. “Wow, you’ve come a long way from Mr. Five Hours of Foreplay on our Second Date, huh?”

Shiro’s mouth twitches. “I’m just saying, if you need something to take the edge off, we probably have enough time for me to blow you —“

“Not really in the mood now.”
Shiro winces. “Right. I guess I’d be a little worried if Devil rituals got you in the mood.”

Keith shrugs. “I’m sure there could be kinky Devil rituals. Is this one kinky?”

Shiro purses his lips. “I guess...they gag & cuff you.”

“Hot,” Keith deadpans. “Minus the murder part.”
The door creaks open & Shiro’s eyes widen before he half-tackles Keith to the bed. Shiro nuzzles into his jaw & hisses, “You can’t let them know that you know ANYTHING.”

That’s how Kuro finds them.

“Didn’t even manage to undress?” Kuro clicks his tongue. “Sad. Come, it’s time.”
“Time for what?” Keith asks, sitting up & smoothing down his hair. Shiro avoids his gaze & Kuro smirks.

“Just a little bit of fun,” Kuro drawls. “The whole family is waiting, Takashi. Wouldn’t want to let them down again, would you?” There’s no mistaking the threat in his tone.
Not for the first time, Keith wonders how Shiro got the scar across his nose. He frowns & hops off the bed, offering Shiro a hand. Shiro takes it, & squeezes once before turning to Kuro. “We can find the music room ourselves, brother.”

Kuro’s eyes narrow. “Just don’t get lost.”
Thankfully, Kuro leaves, & the two of them descend the stairs together. Keith tries & fails not to stare at the grandeur of the mansion around them, though admittedly, he also finds himself looking for hiding places. “I can’t believe you have an evil twin,” Keith mumbles.
Shiro sighs. “He wasn’t always that bad.”

“Oh? Was this before or after his first Devil sacrifice?”

Shiro makes a face. “It’s...complicated.”

“And what about Ryou? The youngest brother, right? Seems nice.”

“Don’t let him fool you,” Shiro warns. “He or his husband.”
“Ryou is married?” Keith asks. He doesn’t remember seeing anyone with Ryou at the wedding...

Shiro grimaces. “Yes. His name is Curtis. He’s insufferable. He’ll try to chat with you tonight, I’m sure.”

“What’s his deal?”

Shiro shakes his head. “He’s so boring it’s unreal.”
“Boring is better than psychotic, right?” Keith says.

“Eh,” Shiro mutters. “One of the few things Kuro & I agree on is how annoying that man is. He acts like Ryou can do no wrong, tho, so it’s no surprise my little brother keeps him around. My whole family has an ego problem.”
Keith eyes him. “You don’t.”

Shiro flushes. “Well, I...”

“It took me six months before I even found out you were rich, Shiro, & a year before I found out who your family was.”

“I didn’t want that to change anything,” Shiro sighs. “I wanted you to like me for me, somehow.”
Keith eyes him. “You say that like it’s a hard thing to do and not like you’re the best man I’ve ever met.”

Shiro clears his throat. “Thanks, Keith.”

Keith frowns. “Are you saying you’ve dated gold diggers before?” He pauses. “Wait...when you told me you were engaged before...”
“Let’s not talk about this right now,” Shiro pleads, squeezing his hand again. “Here’s the music room. Remember -“

“I know nothing,” Keith says innocently. “We’re doing game night. That’s all.”

“I love you,” Shiro whispers. He’s trembling. “It’s gonna be okay.”

(It won’t be.)
Keith stares at the box. It’s a small, ornately carved black box w a pearl inlaid in the lid.

He’s sitting at a table, around which are gathered the Shiroganes. Shiro is on his right, & Kuro is on his left; Keith can feel his gaze on him as he draws the card from the box.
There’s a weighted, anticipatory pause. Keith slides the card from the box to the table.

“Well?” Shiro’s father demands. “Let’s see it.”

Keith has never had a worse gut feeling about anything as he does when he flips the card.

“Huh,” he says faintly.

The card is Hide & Seek.
Keith sits up straight, his mouth dry. Under the table, Shiro fumbles for his hand, catching it in a bruising, sweaty grip. On his other side Kuro is smiling, resting his chin in his hand & eyeing Keith in a curiously calculating sort of way.

“Finally,” Shiro’s grandma mutters.
“Wow,” Keith says, his voice sounding distant & odd to his own ears, “it’s been ages since I played that.”

He’s never actually played hide & seek. The closest instance he can think of is hiding from bullies at recess & in foster homes...but maybe this is closer to that, anyway.
“Well, our house is the best place for it,” Shiro’s mom declares, her eyes bright. She’s a beautiful lady, but in the dimly lit room, her red lips & shiny black hair cut thru w the distinct white Shiro & Kuro share seems more sinister than elegant.

“Lucky me,” Keith says.
“Can’t we play something else?” Shiro asks, his voice very small. Ryou looks at him with something like pity. Kuro scoffs & leans back in his chair. “Dad?” Shiro tries. “Something, anything, just not -“

“You know the rules, Takashi,” his dad says firmly. “This is tradition.”
“It’s okay,” Keith says, giving Shiro a pained smile. “I like hide & seek.”

“Hear that, Kashi?” Kuro chuckles. “Fun for everyone. As long as you follow the rules...”

Shiro’s dad nods. “We count to 100. You hide in the house. It’ll be locked down to make sure you don’t cheat.”
“I won’t cheat,” Keith says.

“Better not,” Kuro says under his breath.

“How exciting!” Curtis exclaims. “What a fun honeymoon idea.”

Shiro glares daggers at him from across the table.

“Shiro, you don’t look well,” his mom says. “Perhaps you should stay in here.”
“No!” Shiro exclaims, panic slipping into his voice. Keith digs his nails into Shiro’s palm under the table. Keep your cool, Takashi, he thinks desperately. “No,” Shiro repeats, steadier. “I...I want to share this special moment with him.”

Shiro smiles, & it looks like Kuro’s.
“Sounds good to me,” Keith says, trying & failing to not be unnerved by Shiro’s expression. “When do we start?”

“In a moment,” Shiro’s dad says, rising from the table & going to the record player in the corner. “There’s a special song we play - it’s tradition.” Everyone laughs.
Shiro catches his wrist and leans in to kiss his cheek & whisper, “Under the bed. I’ll find you.” He lets Keith go & Keith tries not to let his bewildered smile falter. He trusts Shiro. He does. Of course he does. Shiro will help him get out.

Even if he’s now smirking at Kuro.
The next few minutes are strange. Everyone is in high spirits, drinking champagne & casting delighted looks upon Keith. Shiro stays near him, but feels far away, because when Keith tries to read his expression, he can’t.

When the count begins, Keith goes to hide in a daze.
As the record counts to 100 in a singsong voice, the Shiroganes get ready. Shiro’s mom touches his shoulder. “You’re sure, Takashi?”

Shiro exhales. “Yes. I...I was wrong to try to run from this, from our family. Maybe this is for the best. What if Keith turned out like Adam?”
His grandma shakes her head while she takes the old shotgun from the wall. “You’re too sweet for your own good, Takashi. Attracting those greedy little lowlifes like flies.” She pauses. “I kind of liked this one, though. He seemed different.”

Shiro shrugs. “Too late now.”
Shiro takes his rifle from the wall and no one stops him, but Kuro is watching him.

“78, 79, 80!” the record sings cheerfully.

Kuro sidles up to him, battle axe in hand. “Your acting skills have gotten better, but you can’t fool me.”

Shiro stiffens. “Shut up,” he hisses.
Kuro leans in. “What are you gonna do, shoot grandma so you can run away with him & doom us all? I thought you were supposed to be the smart one.”

Shiro narrows his eyes. “Don’t,” he warns. “Just bc your happily ever after got ruined doesn’t mean ours has to be, too.”
“Everything alright over here, boys?” Shiro’s dad asks, eyebrows raised.

For a long painful second, Kuro stares at him, a deep & heated rage in his eyes. Then he turns back to their father & says w a smile, “Fine. Just making sure Takashi still remembers how to use that thing.”
Under the bed, Keith lays still, listening frantically for any creak of the floorboards, any shadow out of place. The music drifting through the house has stopped, & it’s only a matter of time, now.

Keith adjusts his grip on the fireplace poker he stole on his way. Just in case.
Then he hears it — a crash in the distance, & the sound of running feet. Keith holds his breath, heart pounding, blood roaring in his ears.

Then someone behind him whispers, “Don’t scream.”

Keith kicks out, his foot connecting w the person’s gut before he’s yanked against them.
Keith is dragged out from under the bed, scratching the floor & struggling to slash with the poker at his attacker, to no avail. Their hand clamps over his mouth and he ends up shoved against the bedpost, writhing in their grasp. It’s not Shiro. Their cologne is cloying, choking.
They fumble behind him & he hears a faint dial tone, then, “Curtis, honey, I found him. He’s in their bedroom, come quick, before the others get here & say they found him first.”

“Fuck you, Ryou,” Keith wheezes, & bucks against him, poker trapped between his chest & the bedpost.
Ryou’s arm tightens where it’s wrapped around his middle. “Quick, Curtis. I can’t hold him forever.”

“Damn right you can’t,” Keith snaps, managing to twist his body at the right angle to get the poker free & jab it as hard as he can against his captor. Ryou screams & lets go.
(cw for graphic violence bc this is based off a horror-ish/thriller movie)

Keith tries to stand with the poker, but encounters resistance, because the poker is stuck in Ryou.

“Shit,” Ryou moans, slumped on the floor & staring at the poker in his side, “Takashi told you?!”
Keith glares down at him, still holding the other end of the poker. “Of course he fucking told me,” he snaps, “he’s my HUSBAND AND WE LOVE EACH OTHER.”

There are footsteps & shouts down the hall & Ryou opens his mouth. Keith narrows his eyes & yanks the poker out viciously.
Ryou SCREECHES. There’s a lot of blood. Keith feels sick, but there’s no time to be sick, so instead he hefts the poker & searches for an out. He finds it the way Ryou must have come in — a doorway in the back wall.

Ofc they have secret passages in this damn house. Keith runs.
The door leads to a dim passageway, something that must have been a servant’s hallway at some point. Keith runs down the narrow stairs, desperately searching for an exit.

In the bedroom, the Shiroganes find Ryou clutching his side & spitting curses, staining the rug w blood.
Shiro stops short in the doorway, eyes wide. Ryou sees him, and points w a shaky finger. “YOU told him,” he gasps, “you told him about the ritual! He was armed!”

Shiro’s parents, Curtis, Kuro, his grandma, & his cousins turn to him. Shiro takes a step back.

Run, Kuro mouths.
“Takashi,” his mother warns, “not a single step further. Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”

Shiro isn’t listening. He sees the open servants’ door & knows where it leads. Heart in his throat & rifle in hand, he runs — Kuro is faster than him, but he has a head start.
Keith tears down the hallway, afraid to look back. Flashlight beams cut through the darkness behind him, & voices echo, & he doubts his poker is gonna do much against whatever the Shiroganes are armed with.

The hallway abruptly ends in a single white door. GREAT, Keith thinks.
Well, he hasn’t got much of a choice. Keith shoves the door open, & finds himself in a kitchen, standing face to face with a very large dog that looks like a WHOLE WOLF.

“GRRRR,” the too-scary-to-be-a-dog says.

“Good puppy,” Keith whispers, edging along the wall. “Shhhh-“
The wolfdog, he realizes, is chained to a hook on the wall. It tugs at the chain, growling & straining, & as Keith edges towards the door, whining frantically.

The door, sure enough, is locked, the electronic keypad beside it glowing a mocking red. The wolfdog whimpers at him.
“Shit,” Keith sighs, kicking the door & turning to the door he came from. They’ll catch up soon enough. There’s another door, back to the main house, but he’ll have no chance...unless...

Keith’s gaze drifts to the knife block.

“Grr?” says the wolfdog as Keith slowly grins.
Keith doesn’t know much about dogs or wolves. But he does know that, theoretically, they like fetch.

“Hey, buddy,” Keith says, approaching the wolfdog slowly. It tilts its head at him. “Wow, does this family suck or what? I’m sorry you’re stuck here. Do you wanna get out? Yeah?”
“Awoo woo,” the wolfdog says, sniffing the air warily. Its ears perk & it stares at the bloody fireplace poker.

“Oh?” Keith waves the poker teasingly. “You want this?”

Its giant fluffy tail slowly begins to wag, thumping against the tile. It whines.

“Please don’t bite me...”
Holding his breath, Keith shuffles forward and reaches for the chain where it’s secured to the hook. The wolfdog leaps up & stares desperately up at him. “Wuff?”

If he survives this, Keith is taking this guy w him & Shiro. Slowly, he unfastens the chain, & it slips free.
The wolfdog does not attack him. The wolfdog looks at him like he is its hero & drools gratefully all over his dress shoes.

Keith gives it a pat & whispers, “Can you do something for me, bud?”

“Woooof,” it says. This roughly translates to: Human, I would give you the world.
“Cool.” Keith takes a deep breath and goes over to the door. The voices are closer. Too close. He opens the door and raises the fireplace poker. The wolfdog stares at it intently, poised to strike. “Okay....” Keith exhales, draws back, & hurls the poker down the hallway. “FETCH!”
He hears the Shiroganes shout as the poker clangs off loudly, but that’s nothing compared to the racket the wolfdog makes as he joyfully howls and bolts down the servants’ hallway at full speed after the poker.

Keith grabs 2 knives from the knife block & runs for the other door.
He throws the door open & runs straight into somebody else. Keith doesn’t think; he snarls & slams them with all his strength against the nearest wall, the smaller of the knives to their throat & the bigger raised threateningly.

“Babe,” Shiro wheezes, eyes huge. “Fuck. Hi.”
Keith stares up at him. “Shiro,” he whispers, & then, helpless, “Shiro - I - I didn’t know where you were, I thought - I don’t know what I thought -“

He lowers the knives, slumping into Shiro in relief. “Sorry,” Shiro whispers, “Ryou found you first. Nice job with stabbing him.”
“Shiro,” Keith says. “Shiro, this is fucking crazy.”

“Yep,” Shiro agrees. “Welcome to the family.”

Keith pauses. He peers at the weapon slung over Shiro’s shoulder. “You have a gun. A very big gun.”

“Had to pretend to want to kill you for long enough to get it, yeah.”
Keith searches his face anxiously. “I’m glad you were pretending,” he whispers. “I...for a minute there, I wasn’t sure if you were coming for me.”

“Keith,” Shiro whispers. “I’m not leaving you. Okay? It’s you & me now. And we’re getting out. Now.”

“Lead the way, Takashi.”
“We won’t have much time,” Shiro says as they run thru the halls together. “I’ll have to shoot one of the doors open, which the rest of the family will hear, and -“ He pauses. “Wait a second, did you meet Kosmo? He was in the kitchen, right?”

“The wolf?” Keith nods. “He’s cute.”
“Cute,” Shiro repeats. “Keith, he mauled the butler.”

“You don’t have a butler.”


Keith considers this, then shrugs. “Butler probably deserved it. Anyway, I unchained him & sent him off to say hi to your folks.”

Shiro opens his mouth. Closes it. “Huh.”
They continue jogging towards their escape, side by side. “Shiro,” Keith says, “if it comes down to it - if you have to hurt your family...”

“There’s a reason I got the gun, Keith.”

“Yeah, but -“ Keith shakes his head. “You shouldn’t have to do that for me.”
“It’s not just for you,” Shiro murmurs. “This family...they gave me a lot. But they’ve also taken a lot away.”

Keith frowns. “Like what, Shiro?”

He can’t help but glance at Shiro’s right arm, burnished titanium under his suit jacket. Shiro sighs. “A lot,” he repeats. “Cmon.”
They reach the door out to the garden, & Keith watches Shiro’s back while Shiro aims at the lock, finger tightening on the trigger.

“How many times have you used that before?” Keith asks quietly, struck by how natural Shiro’s stance is & how easily he handles the weapon.
Shiro grits his teeth. “Way too many,” he admits, and fires.

Keith knew it would be loud, but HOLY SHIT IS IT LOUD, the shot ringing out through the silent hallway, & ringing, & ringing. The busted lock smokes & a distant alarm goes off as the lock clicks open. They run for it.
The night air is bitterly cold. “Should’ve had a summer wedding,” Keith mutters, running after Shiro as he jogs down the steps & thru the looming topiary hedges.

“Then we’d have to deal with mosquitoes AND murderous relatives,” Shiro counters. “Look on the bright side.”

Shiro winces. “I’m sorry,” he says in a small voice. “I know that doesn’t even begin to cover it, but...”

“No,” Keith sighs, “this is all horrible, but...I’m not mad at you. Somehow.”

Shiro gives him a small, sad smile. “Promise I’ll give you a way better wedding night later.”
Keith snorts. “Better than a 6 minute blowjob?”

“God, so much better,” Shiro vows fervently. “What’s your wildest fantasy? I’ll do it. Anything.”

Keith looks at him in fond exasperation. “What if it’s something SUPER weird? What if we’re both freaks, huh?”
“I think we already established that,” Shiro points out. “I was raised by psychopathic Devil worshippers, & you’re a wolf tamer, apparently.”

“Those aren’t even comparable.”

“You clearly know how to use knives.”

“Yeah. I cook. Vegetables.”

“Do you cut the throats of carrots?”
Keith gives him a sideways glance & walks faster thru the garden, the gate to the main grounds in sight. “Can’t a man have his secrets?”

“Guess so,” Shiro relents. “I certainly kept too many from you.”

“Were you scared I would leave?” Keith murmurs.

“Of course. Terrified.”
Keith pauses beside the rose bushes, brushing his hands over the first spring blooms, & looks up at Shiro. “I wouldn’t have left,” he says quietly. “Maybe that would be the wise thing to do, but...” He shakes his head. “I’d do a lot of things to be your husband, Shiro.”
“Keith,” Shiro whispers, shaky, “I...”

“Later,” Keith says gently, & plucks one of the red roses, tucking it into Shiro’s lapel pocket, where the original white rose has come unpinned. “Anyway, you’re not a freak. For someone raised by Devil worshippers, you’re really vanilla.”
Shiro gawks at him. “You take that back, I am not! I’M not the one who didn’t know what shibari was!”

Keith shrugs. “I knew about handcuffs, same concept. Anyway, you don’t know how to DO shibari.”

Shiro pauses. “Do you want me to learn shibari for our wedding night do-over?”
Keith grins. “I’m surviving tonight just for that.”

“JUST for that?” Shiro sighs dramatically. “I knew you only loved me for my body.”

“It’s a definite perk,” Keith agrees, “but trust me, no dick would be good enough to convince me to stay in this mess.”

Shiro nods sagely.
“Probably better, much more risk-free dildos out there, honestly,” Shiro says.

“Definitely,” Keith agrees, hurrying out of the gardens w him, “but none of those are my best friend.”

Shiro stumbles. “Wow,” he says. “That may be the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me.”
Keith laughs - then they freeze as a flashlight beam cuts across the lawn. Shiro grabs Keith’s hand & tugs him behind the nearest tree, one of the great oaks dotting the estate grounds. They huddle against it as Shiro peeks around & swears. “My cousins are guarding the gates.”
Keith looks at him frantically. “Then what do we do?”

“We can try to go around the house, there’s another exit, maybe, or we just have to face my cousins & try not to get shot - “

“Shiro,” Keith whispers, staring in horror at the flashlights in the garden, “we need to move.”
“Shit,” Shiro agrees. “Well...into the goat barn it is, then. Come on, hurry.”

“Sorry,” Keith hisses, “the WHAT NOW?”

Shiro shakes his head. “Follow me.”

They run from tree to tree, headed - to Keith’s dismay - away from the gates, & towards a small, low building.
It’s a goat barn. Keith doesn’t know what he expected.

“Back here,” Shiro says, “there’s an empty stall.”

“Baaaa,” the goats say.

“Why,” Keith whispers, “do you have goats?”

“Move, Lucifer,” Shiro tells a goat in their way. It’s white with beady yellow eyes & sharp horns.
“You did NOT name the goat Lucifer.”

“What? That one’s Belphegor, that’s Beelzebub - Bub for short - & that one is Leviathan -“ Shiro shrugs. “Gotta have some fun with the Devil sacrifices.”

Keith stares at the goats. “Oh,” he whispers. “I thought you made, like, cheese.”
“We do make cheese,” Shiro admits, “at least, we did when my mom had lots of wine & cheese parties - nevermind. Hide behind here, there’s a bunch of old wheelbarrows & things...”

Keith goes, then sees the cellar doors in the middle of the barn. “What’s in there?”

Keith hides, crouched w him in the straw & smell of goats. “What’s in the cellar, Shiro?” he whispers. The Shiroganes’ shouts carry far. Shiro holds his rifle firm, but Keith sees the sweat on his brow.

“The others,” Shiro says, voice low. “I won’t let them put you in there.”
Keith stares at the cellar. He imagines the smell of rot, then isn’t so sure if it’s just his imagination. He looks at Shiro, his dark profile & the gleam of moonlight on his hair.

There’s a smudge of dirt on his cheek. Keith reaches up to rub it off, & Shiro catches his wrist.
“Listen,” Shiro whispers.

Footsteps. Close.

There’s the crunch, crunch of dead leaves & then — the sound changes to the crunch of straw. Keith’s breath hitches. A shadow falls across the barn. Shiro shakes his head. Keith stays tucked into his side, covering his own mouth.
“The bastard’s gotta be somewhere around here.” Ryou. And he doesn’t sound happy. Keith’s brow lowers. He should have aimed a little higher with the poker.

“Don’t worry, sweetpea, we’ll find him,” Curtis says.

SWEETPEA? Keith mouths to Shiro.

I HATE HIM, Shiro mouths back.
“Both of them,” Ryou growls. “We still have to take care of Takashi, too.”

Keith tenses. Shiro is very still. “Surely he can be reasoned with,” Curtis says. “He’s not STUPID, right?”

“That demon of a husband makes him an idiot,” Ryou retorts. “That’s what “love” does to you.”
“You have to wait for your parents to make a final judgment before doing anything to Takashi -“

“Shut up,” Ryou snaps. “Look. Footprints.”

Keith’s heart skips a beat. He looks at Shiro. He looks at the approaching shadow. Shiro’s gaze slides to him. He’s shaking.
Ryou chuckles. “Think we found the little piggy. Wonder if he’s all alone or hiding in goat shit w my poor, idiot big brother...”

“Shouldn’t we call the others over?” Curtis asks nervously.

“No,” Ryou snaps. “Just ONCE, I want to have this honor. Besides...it’s payback time.”
Shiro’s gaze flickers, & his jaw sets as Ryou approaches their hiding place. There’s no way he won’t see them if he reaches the last stall. Keith tastes bile. He doesn’t want to see what’s in that cellar.

He sees Ryou’s shoe around the wheelbarrow.

Shiro’s rifle lifts slowly.
“Nice of you to return that poker to me,” Ryou calls out, & Keith’s heart sinks, seeing it in his whiteknuckled hand. “I hope Kosmo gave you a proper greeting, asshole.” He scoffs. “Thankfully, the ritual says you need to be alive, but not in one piece...”

Shiro cocks the rifle.
Ryou turns. Keith sees the whites of his eyes as his smug expression transforms into one of shock, staring down the barrel of the antique Winchester.

“Thankfully, the ritual says nothing about you, little brother,” Shiro retorts, & pulls the trigger.

Keith chokes on a scream.
Ryou falls. Nobody could survive that. Keith sways as Shiro drags him to his feet.

Curtis is in the middle of the barn. He stares at them for a long moment, then he screams at the top of his lungs, “THEY’RE IN THE GOAT BARN!”

Shiro swears & tugs Keith down as Curtis shoots.
“Shiro,” Keith gasps, gripping his knives, one tucked in his belt & the other in hand, “we - we need to run-“

“No,” Shiro says, face grim & pale & blood-splattered, “YOU need to run. Now. Go.” He kicks the side of the barn, where rotting planks give way to a hole in the wall.
“I’m not leaving you,” Keith gasps, “Takashi - don’t make me leave you.”

More shadows fall across the barn floor & more shots are fired. The goats cower in the straw, others run out in a panic. They’re cornered, trapped, but Shiro’s given him an out. Of course he has. Fuck.
“They’re my family,” Shiro whispers, “I’ll - I’ll be okay, Keith.”

It’s a lie. It’s a fucking lie & they both know it.

“Don’t forget,” Keith whispers, “about our wedding night do-over. Swear to me. It’s gonna happen.”

“Yes,” Shiro says, his voice breaking, “I promise - go -“
“I love you,” Keith whispers, and then, softer, “goddammit, Takashi,” as he turns away & breaks thru the boards, sprinting free of the barn & across the grounds.

Unfortunately, his escape does not go unnoticed. A lone figure slips from the barn & breaks into a run after him....
Keith doesn’t see them, running thru the trees & almost stumbling when a shot rings out, followed by Shiro’s unmistakable cry.

Tears stinging his eyes & blurring his vision, Keith struggles to run faster, only for another volley of shots to ring out, this time close behind.
Keith has to either keep running & risk getting caught in the gunfire or cower behind a tree & hope they somehow don’t find him. He’s never been very good at cowering.

Lungs burning, Keith pushes onward, gasping hard as heat races past his shoulder, followed by burning pain.
He’s been shot, he realizes dizzily, or grazed at least — his left side is wet w blood dripping down from his wounded shoulder, staining through his suit jacket to the white button-up beneath. Numbly, Keith falters, another shot barely missing his ear. It can’t end like this.
He’s far away from the goat barn, but his pursuer is relentless, & when he glances over his shoulder he sees it’s fucking Curtis, & that gives him the anger he needs to keep running, bc there’s no way in HELL he’s gonna die via Curtis.

Another shot fires — then a wolf howls.
Keith stumbles into cover as Curtis stops short, turning away from Keith to fire frantically into the darkness. One of the shadows is moving & it’s barreling towards him. Keith peeks out from behind the tree as Curtis shrieks & turns to run, too late. Kosmo lunges for his throat.
Keith watches, eyes wide. He rethinks his previous assessment of Kosmo. He doesn’t think there’s any dog in there, actually — bc he’s pretty damn sure he’s witnessing a wolf attack & it is BRUTAL.

Keith won’t admit to squeaking when Kosmo leaves Curtis & pads over to Keith.
“Good wolf,” Keith whispers, slowly standing bc it seems like a bad idea to kneel before a wolf. “Uh - what are you - um. Thanks, Kosmo.”

Kosmo licks his hand. The wolf’s entire muzzle is bloodied & Curtis isn’t moving anymore. Kosmo says, “Whuff.” It means, I OWE YOU MY LIFE.
Crouched behind the tree w Kosmo, Keith peers out & sees the Shiroganes emerging from the goat barn, dragging someone in tow. He tenses, every fiber of his being telling him to run to Shiro, but knowing to do so would be certain death. Kosmo whines & noses his shoulder gently.
"I know," Keith whispers, "we gotta get out of here, buddy." And as for Shiro - Keith will figure that out as soon as he has some advantage here, bc for now, he's a sitting duck.

He scans the grounds, gaze wandering back to the gates, where the Shirogane cousins stand guard.
Kosmo cocks his head as if to say, More mauling?

Keith nods & hurries towards the gates with him. "We gotta be smart about this," he warns. "If they shoot, the others will hear the gunfire, so..." He presses a finger to his lips.

Kosmo's tail wags. Quiet mauling, he can do.
The gates are not far from a large oak tree, & Keith eyes it, noting the low-hanging branch that one could feasibly swing up onto. Kosmo eyes him curiously as they near it, & Keith points to the cousins.

“Go on,” Keith whispers, “say hi. Be as distracting as possible, please.”
Kosmo does the wolf equivalent of a shrug & bounds over to the cousins, tongue lolling, thankfully not going straight into attack mode. Shiro’s cousins are somehow even bigger & broader than him & Kuro, and also seem to be identical twins. What are the chances of that?
“Hey! Eiji, someone let Kosmo out!” the cousin with a crossbow exclaims.

“Don’t blame me, Taichi, you know you couldn’t pay me enough to go near that thing after what it did to Alfred - oh, shit. Why is the wolf covered in blood?”

“WUFF,” Kosmo declares, tongue lolling.
While the twins cautiously debate why Kosmo looks like he just committed a murder (the answer is simple: bc he did), Keith creeps over to the oak tree & tucks his other knife in his belt w the first to swing himself up onto the branch & into the tree. It creaks but holds firm.
Keith crawls along the branch conveniently located over the cousins. Kosmo notices him and lets out a joyful bork, leaping up to try to give him a kiss. Keith winces as, slowly, both cousins look up.

So much for finesse & stealth. Keith grabs both knives & leaps from the tree.
“What the SHIT,” Eiji manages a moment before Keith lands on his head, anchoring himself w a knife buried deep in Eiji’s buff-&-very-useful-as-a-target shoulder.

“Takashi married a fucking psycho,” Daichi snarls, reaching for his crossbow.

Kosmo bristles. Keith is FRIEND.
“Daichi,” Eiji manages, clawing at Keith uselessly, “look out-“

Kosmo closes his jaws around Daichi’s arm, ripping it from the weapon & his body. Kosmo doesn’t think that was very quiet. Oops.

Eiji opens his mouth to scream for help & Keith stabs his neck. It’s kind of a mess.
Kosmo dutifully goes about making sure Daichi stops screaming, then pauses, bc his new friend is still stabbing Eiji. Kosmo tilts his head. He’s p sure the other human is definitely dead, & Keith is now covered in arterial spray, but he doesn’t stop til Eiji topples facedown.
Keith’s shoulder is still bleeding, & smth is torn in there, but he feels numb when he yanks the knife from Eiji’s shoulder & scrambles away from his body. Daichi is in a similar state to Curtis, & Keith may not be a wolf, but damn if Eiji doesn’t look like he’s been mauled too.
“Fuck,” Keith gasps, slipping in the blood on the grass & stumbling upright, bracing himself on the tree. “Oh, god.”

Kosmo huffs at him, looking at the house, where shadows are spilling out to search the grounds again. “Yeah,” Keith pants. “I know. I know. Let’s go, buddy.”
Kosmo is impressed. His small new friend is ferocious. But he also smells very, very afraid. Kosmo blinks up at him & trails him as he runs to the gate, watching as he yanks desperately on it — but it’s locked tightly.

“No,” Keith gasps, “no, there has to be - a way - PLEASE..”
Keith tries to heave himself up to climb the wrought iron fence like he did the tree, but his left shoulder screams in protest, & Keith realizes his attack on Eiji must have aggravated the wound, bc he can’t keep his grip on that side. Furiously, Keith yanks at the iron bars.
One of the bars is bent, & as Keith eyes the space between them, he thinks if he can bend it back far enough, it might be just enough to get through. The issue is that the wrought iron is decorated with sharp spikes at the top of each bar.

Keith grits his teeth & pulls the bar.
It takes every bit of strength in him to wrench the wrought iron slowly, painfully backwards. Kosmo helpfully bounces around him, yipping in agitation - the Shiroganes are nearing the goat barn, & soon Keith will be within their line of sight. Keith strains against the metal -
- & he can feel the wound on his shoulder tearing, but it doesn’t matter, he can’t think about the pain, bc if he doesn’t get out, doesn’t find a way to help Shiro, then they’re probably both going to die here.

The wrought iron groans & at last gives way.

“Look! At the gates!”
Keith tries to wriggle thru the gap between the bars, but it’s too tight; he not gonna make it - but he has to. The pointed tips of the bars are in his way, but not impassable. Keith takes a deep breath, grits his teeth & presses forward, the iron slicing across his chest & back.
Kosmo barks, sniffing the air, smelling the blood & whining anxiously. Keith squeezes his eyes shut, drawing in shallow lungfuls of air. It hurts because he’s alive. As long as he’s alive, he’ll feel the hurt, & as long as he feels that, he’ll be okay. “Kosmo, run,” Keith hisses.
Kosmo doesn’t want to leave his ferocious friend, but the approaching humans also frighten him, & he doesn’t want to be chained in that cold dark room again.

He whines, tail curling between his legs & ears pinned, & bounds away just as Keith shoves thru the fence with a gasp.
The Shirogane home is in the middle of nowhere, because of fucking course it is. Keith looks desperately on the road for any sight of any cars, but it’s perfectly silent save for the chirping of crickets & a distant owl. Before him lies dark woodland. Keith swears, & runs for it.
Keith doesn’t know how long he runs for, but he does know that he’s losing blood, or maybe he’s just in shock, or both, but either way he has to stop eventually, panting, pressing his palm to his torn shirt & feeling the shallow gashes from the gate. It’ll scar, probably.
He doesn’t even want to see the ones on his back, bc he knows those are even worse. He can’t even feel his shoulder anymore, & he’s starting to wonder if he was really grazed or actually shot. His chin quivers, & he wipes furiously at his eyes. He’s NOT gonna cry rn. He refuses.
He’s not gonna cry, even though what was supposed to be one of the happiest days of his life has turned into a living nightmare.

& god, part of Keith wants to blame Shiro. He wants to be furious with his husband for dragging him into this, but...takes two to tango. Keith sighs.
Keith struggles upright again w a pained grunt, then looks at his belt & sees he’s lost a knife. Cool. Great.

As he trudges thru the woods, he tries not to imagine what might be happening to Shiro right now. He killed Ryou, & Keith doubts the Shiroganes are the forgiving type.
But if this stupid curse is real, if this tradition is more than an excuse for murderous bullshit, then Shiro will die anyway if Keith gets away, right? Keith swallows. Shiro’s expression when Keith proposed to him 6 months ago makes sense, now. He’d looked so conflicted, pained.
Keith had mistaken it for rejection, & had been sure he was about to lose the love of his life, but then Shiro’s face had crumpled & he’d hugged Keith so tight & whispered, “Yes,” & Keith never wanted him to let go.

That was a fairytale...& this? This is a horror movie.
If Keith were a luckier man, he would have pulled any of the other cards, not the ONE CARD that would doom him. But Keith’s never been very lucky.

Maybe Shiro hasn’t, either. Keith has no pity for the rich, but he knows Shiro’s actively avoided his family for years. Until now.
Keith pauses, breathing hard & looking around him. The trees all look the same. Overhead, the moon is a widely grinning crescent. His head hurts. His body hurts. His heart hurts. He focuses on these hurts & keeps walking — then pauses at the sound of an approaching car.
The road. He’s found the main road! Keith breaks into a run, then pauses again, confused — the car isn’t passing. The engine is stalled, humming just up ahead. Keith takes a step back. What...?

A familiar shape comes bounding towards him. It’s Kosmo.

“...How did you get out?”
“Awooo!” Kosmo stops short of him, head tilted & golden eyes bright.

Keith gulps. “Kosmo,” he whispers, “who let you out?”

Car headlights flood through the trees with light, framing the silhouette of a man w a crossbow. Keith turns to run. The man sighs & the bow /clicks/.
Keith muffles his cry in his fist as he stumbles & falls, the crossbow bolt protruding from his calf. He can’t put weight on it. He can’t run. HE CAN’T RUN. Frantically, Keith crawls through the undergrowth, clawing the loose soil & dry tree roots. Leisurely footsteps follow him.
“Well, you made it pretty far,” the man says. Keith falters, pulse thudding. It’s Kuro. “Farther than any of the others. For whatever that’s worth.”

“Kosmo,” Keith gasps, “get him-“

Kuro laughs. “Oh, come on. He’s not YOUR wolf. He’s such a good boy, he led me right to you.”

“Oh, yes,” Kuro chuckles. Kosmo pads over & gives Keith a lick on the cheek. His breath smells like steak & Keith shudders, turning away. Kosmo whines, huffs, & pads away.

When Keith looks over his shoulder, the wolf is sitting obediently beside Kuro, head tilted.
“Fuck,” Keith says, & stops crawling. There’s nowhere to go. “Traitor,” he mutters to Kosmo.

Kuro clicks his tongue. “Don’t be mean. He knows who is master is.” He smiles & gives Kosmo a scratch behind the ears. Kosmo drools happily. “Anyway....you & I need to have a talk.”
“A talk,” Keith snaps. “That why you SHOT ME IN THE LEG?”

Kuro shrugs. “Can’t have you running off. That habit of yours is very annoying.”

Keith holds still as he approaches, but slowly reaches for his remaining knife. “Your habit of trying to sacrifice me is also annoying.”
Kuro chuckles. “Yes, I imagine it is.” He glances down at his wristwatch. “Oh, dear. We don’t have much time if I’m getting you back there before dawn.”

“Wait,” Keith gasps, hand closing around his knife, “I thought we were talking -“

Kuro shrugs. “Maybe. If you’re good.”
“I’ll be good,” Keith whispers. Kuro steps closer. Keith eyes the exposed patch of skin between his hairline & shirt collar. “Whatever you want.”

Kuro rolls his eyes. “Oh, save it. Lying thru your teeth w a knife at the ready? Classy.” He raises the crossbow & loads a new bolt.
Keith shakes his head, releasing the knife. “No, don’t, I’m sorry -“

“No, you’re not,” Kuro drawls & fires the crossbow again. Keith stares at the bolt in his arm. It’s capped w red.

The tranquilizer works fast, & Keith hears Kosmo’s worried whine before everything goes black.
Keith wakes up in bleary stages, face smushed against a car window. It’s still dark outside, & Kuro is in the driver’s seat across from him. The radio is off. Kosmo is taking up the whole backseat of the Mercedes & yawns at him.

Keith is hogtied, but...his shoulder is bandaged.
As he takes stock, he realizes the crossbow bolts have also been removed, the wound in his leg staunched with gauze. Bewildered, Keith blinks at the eldest Shirogane.

“Took you long enough,” Kuro says. “Less than 2 hours to sunrise. Time flies when you’re having fun, hm?”
Keith wets his dry lips. “Where are you taking me?” he whispers. The road is quiet, long and dark.

“That depends,” Kuro replies, leaning back.

“On WHAT?” He’s frustrated & scared & apparently hungry, bc his stomach grumbles.

Kuro eyes him. “Should’ve had more wedding cake.”
Keith’s eyes narrow. “Shiro never told me his twin was such a dick.”

“Really?” Kuro sounds genuinely surprised. “Is that bc he never talked about me at all?”

Keith frowns. “He did...sometimes.”

“Yeah. Sure. Tell me, what were you & Shiro doing 5 years ago?”
Keith stares. “Uh - I didn’t know Shiro then, but - wasn’t that when he got engaged the first time?”

“Bingo,” Kuro says. “Adam. Not a bad man, no, but practical. He knew who Shiro was, knew we had money. And poor, naive Shiro thought his insistence on marriage was just ~love~.”
Keith’s brow furrows. “So he broke off the engagement?” Kuro nods. “Okay. That’s not - that has nothing to do with me, why -“

“You know,” Kuro murmurs, “you remind me of someone. I hate that you do, I really do. But Takashi & I always had...similar taste.” He sighs.
Keith swallows. He doesn’t understand what’s happening, but the look in Kuro’s eyes has shifted to something like grief.

“Something else happened five years ago,” Kuro says, quietly. “A year before Shiro’s doomed first engagement, I got engaged. It was such a beautiful wedding.”
Keith’s breath hitches. Oh, fuck.

“But then, you know, things went downhill from there.” Kuro’s smile is sharp & tight. “Takashi wasn’t there, anyway. I believe he & Adam were in the Bahamas, pretending he wasn’t part of a Satanic fucking cult family. And where was I?”

“Nice of you to ask. While Takashi was sunbathing, I was watching my husband die horribly. I didn’t tell him about the ritual. I didn’t tell him because I didn’t think he would choose the one goddamn murder hunt card. But it’s funny how these things turn out, isnt it?”
Keith exhales. “I...I’m sorry.”

Kuro’s mouth twitches. “You weren’t the one who quite literally stabbed him in the heart, that was Ryou. I heard Takashi shot his head off? I’m impressed you have that much influence over him, to make a man like Takashi turn to fratricide.”
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