The battle was finally over and Earth was saved. After what seemed like an everlasting excruciating fight against Sendak and his armada, their home planet was saved from imminent danger. That did not mean Shiro felt elated in the slightest, not when he saw his friends… his family plummet from space at alarming rates and crash catastrophically. Not when he could only watch helplessly from the bridge of the Atlas as the five flashes of colour disappeared in five different directions, as what he had recently deemed as the person he loved the most hurtle down like a comet.
Locating the lions was not hard, getting the paladins back to safety was the challenge. And the absent readings of their lions were worrying. He made it his priority to salvage them as soon as possible with the ever-looming dread that he might be too late. He would not let them down and neither would anyone within the bridge, he would save him just like he had countless times in the past.
Allura landed deep within the ocean and with her lion basically being dead weight there was a high probability of leakage into the cockpit, making her the priority. Not to mention she is an extremely important member of the Voltron Coalition and team. Therefore, Shiro commandeered the Atlas into the ocean and basically lifted her lion with the upmost delicacy onto the shore where Garrison vehicles were already waiting to extract her and transport her to a near medical facility. All while his anxiety spiked concerning the safety of the other paladins, since he still had not heard any news of the other search parties.
He was nearing his breaking point because of his previous battle with Sendak and, just like piloting the black lion, Atlas took a toll on him, so he had to dock the ship back at Garrison… or what was left of it.
Upon arrival he was briefed on the other paladins and Coran instantly left to be at Allura’s side. Hunk landed on the desert where his lion was fortunately found by survivors, amongst them his parents, who immediately helped him get out and onto the makeshift med tent that was set up, where he was stabilised and sent with his family to the now operating Garrison hospital wing.
Pidge as if by chance landed in the forest, having the least arduous landing of all but being surrounded by trees did slow down getting to her location. Luckily, she seemed to have been extracted from her lion and already in medical care, where she was unconscious with minor injuries already accompanied by her parents.
As for Lance he crashed into one of the large open spaces of the Garrison where he was quickly saved and was now being attended in the medical wing with his family close by. Shiro was glad to hear most of the paladins were rescued from the debris and now were under good care and surrounded by their loving families but he still was fixated on his thoughts about the absence of news on Keith, as if on cue the comms flared to life and informed him of the situation at hand.
Keith did not have the same luck as the rest of the paladins, unfortunately he landed into the hangar of the Atlas causing the area to crumble and explode around him burying him under metres of rubble. Upon hearing this Shiro felt his stomach drop, the amount of dread and agony that flooded him at that moment was enough for the blood in his veins to turn ice cold. He willed his legs to run towards the wreckage as fast as he could ignoring the ebbing pain on his side or the ghostly exhaustion in his limbs.
As he neared the chasm he became more horrified at the gravity of the situation by the second, the amount of metal and concrete was enough to obscure any sight of the black lion and seemed far to close to the surface to even look like the bottom of a lake. He could not bear the thought that passed through his mind, how in a stellar way this was like Keith’s grave. The mere thought horrified him to the bone and he desperately started digging carelessly through the slabs of concrete. He was going to save him… he needed to save him, not just out of diligence and payback but out of unspoken love and devotion. His thoughts were rampant and incoherent with a sole common factor…
Please be okay Keith
You have to fight like you always do
I made a promise to you
I won’t give up on you
Just last till I get there
I still need you
I love you too
I still have to tell you
You will be okay
His suit was getting ripped and gnarled but he did not care as long as he could reach Keith, eventually he had to be pulled back by three officers in order to let bigger and more effective machinery remove the excessive remains of the base. As Shiro was finally checked and treated for wounds, he could only concentrate on Keith, on all his memories and missed opportunities, on all his desire to see him again laughing with the rest of the team, on all his unshed tears and silent frantic pleas. Meanwhile the analysts could not get any readings on the black lion or Keith.
After hours of work the machinery was finally cleared and human labour started in order to avoid crushing the black lion and its pilot. As if by magic, by the hour Shiro caught a glimpse of Black’s eye and started to furiously dig with the desperation multiplying by the second as his cries for extra help continued. After half an hour of work around the lion by several Garrison soldiers, Shiro finally made it to Black’s jaws which were ajar enough for him to squeeze his way through.
The cold and stale air hit him hard as he feared further entering his old lion. What did make him extremely frightened was the undoubtful coppery smell of blood that got more intense with every step. As he neared the cockpit his fear increased tenfold and he managed pulling the doors open with all his might.
And there slumped against the pilot chair was a phantom of the Keith in his memories… He moved as fast as he could to Keith’s side as he was filled with an immense bloodcurdling feeling. His helmet was bashed in or gone at places, which left a clear view of his matted hair covered in dried blood and the clear gash the ran all through his forehead. Shiro clung to the chair as he saw the mangled arm and bloodied armour that were far too prominent to ignore. A sob caught in his throat and tears soon clogged his sight.
“Keith…?” he asks in such a voice it seems inaudible, he reaches for his shoulder that seems far too stiff under his touch and shakes him minutely.
“Keith… p-please wake up, open your eyes… You’re the only one I have… please… I love you and can’t lose you too… Not you, not again” He sobs an pleads in a heart-breaking voice.
He tentatively removes the helmet and looks for a pulse on Keith’s neck.
Earth was saved along with the hope of its people but the light within Shiro was extinguished as quickly as the blink of an eye upon hearing the dooming silence in the empty room and feeling the still frigid skin under his fingertips as he fiercely clutches to his chest the corpse of the man that defied death for him but could not do it for himself bawling over the face he loves.
He was after all too late to even say goodbye.