A/N: Written for the:

Ficletchap Competition
Diversity Writing Challenge, h10 – a multichap with at least six chapters
Advent Calendar 2016, day 22 – write an AU

the keeper

Taiki is always getting in over his head, so Akari can't find herself too surprised to discover the stubborn anaemia that won't stay off his blood tests has a secondary cause.

Of course, running himself into the ground because it's the normal thing to do probably doesn't help matters, but orange juice and kale smoothies don't seem to be helping all that much and Akari's tempted to strap him to the bed the next time they go to the doctors because either something's wrong or Taiki just needs to slow down.

Turns out it's just Taiki being Taiki and not telling her about it.

Though she can't blame him for not mentioning he's a vampire snack as well. She can't say she's happy about it, though, especially when he's got a thin trail of blood from his arm running into some other girl's lap.

Girl with fangs and lips still stained with blood.

She might be inhumanly gorgeous, but still…

Focus, Akari. That's Taiki with blood on him. And that girl with blood on her lips and you can guess who's it is.

Her eyes shoot back to the girl who holds his arm in her lap. 'It's okay,' she laughs. 'If we kill him, we'll have to find someone else that will keep our secrets.'

There's a distinct lack of urge to pull out a heavy textbook to bash someone's head in with, and that has Akari concerned… but she can't do much about it without some driving force.

In any case, she's pretty sure the girl's teasing. Pretty sure.

'It's not exactly hard to do,' another snorts – male – and Akari spots him only now, leaning against the back door. 'We've got mountains of blackmail on people with much more blood than this loser.'

'But it's not as tasty,' the girl grins, 'or as nutritious. Nothing beats the kind and innocent strength of starry-eyed youth.'

Akari grimaces at that. Not only were they chatting about the taste of Taiki's blood but Taiki isn't innocent or starry-eyed. He only looks it because he's asleep.

'He's an idiot,' the boy by the back door snaps, 'but his blood does taste better than those losers.'

'Such high standards,' the girl teases.

Akari's eyes flitter between the pair.

'Ah, we've forgotten ourselves,' the other girl laughs. 'But what should we do with you?'

'I'm Taiki's friend,' Akari offers… because if they need Taiki, then maybe they won't do anything to her. Though they don't look threatening, really. No claws out, and girl's licked the blood clean off her fangs and lips now and there's only the trickle down Taiki's arm, and the boy's got his arms crossed and looks more grumpy than anything. 'That could get infected.'

The girl looks at the blood. 'Ah, true. We've got strong serum compared to humans but it's not a hundred percent.' She sets Taiki's arm down and gets up. 'I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere, Akari-chan.'

Akari blinks. How does the vampire know her name?

The reasonable answer is Taiki. The unreasonable one is that those rumours of vampires being able to mind-read is true.

Well, better that than the rumour that some humans in society are actually genetically modified clones used specifically for feeding vampires. Because this would make Taiki vampire-cattle instead of a live human being and she can't quite wrap her head around it.

'Is the whole genetically-modified clones farmed for vampire food thing true?' she blurts out.

The boy, still leaning behind the door, snorts. 'If it were, we wouldn't have to be so secretive about getting a bite to eat.'

Akari groans. That's the second time, and these guys have extended lifespans, don't they?

'More like reduced.' The boy snorts again. 'Humans make up a lot of crap, you know, and are made up of a lot of crap as well. Blood's just not as pure as it used to be, and it's killing us slowly.'

'Well, oxygen kills humans slowly, though we kind of can't live without it either,' Akari offers… then snorts herself. Is she trying to comfort a vampire whose name she doesn't even know and who she caught feeding off her best friend?

'Unfortunately.' The boy doesn't snort this time, at least.

Taiki doesn't wake up either, which is good because while they haven't been particularly loud, they're not exactly quiet either.