The world ends. That’s not even the worst part.
The worst part is when a walker shambles out from the shadows, and Shiro gets in its way. It’s no surprise that he puts himself between the group and the threat, he’s been that way as long as Keith’s known him, and probably even longer. Lance shoots the walker dead, quick and clean, but not before it leaves its mark. The group stares in collective horror at the ugly, oozing bite wound, just below Shiro’s elbow. Nobody says a word.
Keith doesn’t hesitate, lunging forward, a raised machete in his hand.
“Oh my god,” Lance is still muttering, sitting by the campfire an hour later, knee bouncing so fast that his whole body shakes. The fire’s a risk, but it’s one they have to take. It’s a cold October night, and Shiro lost a lot of blood.
Hunk’s sitting beside him -- he hasn’t thrown up again, but he’s hunched in on himself, and he’s not saying anything.
Shiro is pale, and still, his eyes closed, his face slack. Keith can’t look at what’s left of his arm, wrapped up in makeshift bandages. He just checks Shiro’s pulse, and thinks about choices.
“What if it didn’t work?” Pidge asks, hours later. Lance and Hunk have fallen asleep, and Shiro hasn’t woken. She has her back pressed to Keith, the two of them keeping an uneasy watch. “What if he turns?”
Keith doesn’t know much about Pidge, except that she was hitchhiking across the country, trying to get to her brother’s college, when Lance and Hunk picked her up. She only meant to stay with them a for few days. That was weeks ago.
“If he turns, I’ll take care of it,” Keith says, but the words taste like ash in his mouth.
The fever creeps in overnight, and by the time the sun rises, Shiro’s skin is hot to the touch.
“He needs antibiotics,” Hunk says. He’s wringing his hands, but keeping it together otherwise. “Without treatment, Keith, he’ll--”
“I know,” Keith cuts him off, one hand tracking Shiro’s thready pulse, the other clenched into a fist. “ I know . What can we do about it?”
“I saw a clinic,” Lance says, and Keith lets out a breath. “A few miles back. It’s probably been hit, but we can check.” Beside him, Hunk nods in agreement.
Keith breathes back in, and says, “Go.”
“I had to do it,” Keith whispers. After an intense argument, Pidge agreed to go with Lance and Hunk. Keith could defend the camp just fine, and anyway, he needed some time alone with Shiro. “There was no other choice. You have to understand.”
Keith isn’t sure what he was more afraid of -- that Shiro would turn, or that Shiro would kill himself to keep from turning. Either way -- well, Keith doesn’t want to think about it.
He pushes Shiro’s bangs out of his face, feeling the heat radiate from his skin. He thinks, please .
Shiro stirs, but doesn’t wake.
Pidge packs half the clinic into her backpack. Not just the antibiotics, but pain meds, and a dozen other medications, along with bandages and other supplies to keep Shiro’s wound wrapped and clean.
“Hey,” Lance says, putting a hand on Keith’s shoulder, as Pidge draws up a syringe, and Hunk sorts through the rest of their haul. “He’s gonna make it, okay?” There’s a compassion in his voice, so antithetical to the bickering, antagonistic Lance he’s gotten to know that Keith can hardly process it.
“Yeah,” he manages to say, and for the first time, he hopes Lance is right.
“It’s been thirty-six hours,” Pidge says, after dark has fallen again. “If he was going to turn, he would have done it by now.”
Keith hasn’t been keeping track of the time, just the steady rhythm of Shiro’s heartbeat. His pulse has gotten stronger as the fever dropped off, and he’s almost, almost daring to hope.
“How’s he gonna feel about, you know?” Lance makes a vague motion that probably means, getting his arm hacked off .
“I mean, Keith saved his life, didn’t he?” Hunk says, and Lance shrugs. Keith feels a swoop of nausea, and tries to ignore it.
Shiro wakes up swinging.
He’s too weak to fight. Keith catches his left hand, pushing it gently back down to his side, and braces Shiro’s right shoulder carefully.
“Hey,” Keith says, his voice shaking, because Shiro’s awake, Shiro’s alive . “You’re hurt, don’t try to move.”
“What--?” Shiro’s voice is rough, his eyes struggling to track Keith’s face. “What happened, Keith--”
“Do you trust me?” Keith asks, and something twists in his chest when Shiro nods. “Okay,” Keith says, and he breathes in, and he breathes back out. “You’re gonna be okay,” he promises, and it doesn’t feel like a lie.