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The Lion's Vessel

Chapter Text

When Yorak had been offered the chance to accompany Prince Alfor on his quest to find Oriande, he had been ecstatic. To be handpicked by the future king for such an honorable expedition was almost every Altean’s dream. And despite the fact that Yorak was a knight and not a scholar, he too was excited for the chance to show his worth.

It was a small group only consisting of six Alteans; the prince, a medic, two knights, and two scholars. The expedition had lasted nearly seven phoebs, the hope of finding the mysterious Oriande decreasing as time dragged on. However after finding ancient texts from their ancestors, they were able to make a breakthrough.

Their journey led them to the Patrulian Zone, a literal ship graveyard. The wreckages of past attempts at entering the white hole littered around them in a grim display. From the knowledge they gathered during their expedition, Alfor believed they had to journey into the white hole. It was a mad idea, a literal death sentence. Yet they would not be deterred. At the suggestion of one of the crew mates, they embarked on a smaller ship meant for quick navigation instead of their main ship. One of the six man team stayed behind for precautions, dwindling them down to five.

The journey to the white hole took longer than anticipated and by the time they reached it, they were entirely unprepared for what they saw. Before their eyes the head of a massive lion appeared, the sound of the roar echoing in their little ship and blasting them back.

Their power was knocked out by a bright beam from the lion’s maw and like that they were drifting amongst the wreckage. Once the shock of the sudden attack dwindled, everyone scrambled to try and get the ship running again. In the faint glow given by the emergency lights, the Alteans on board made a shocking discovery. Out of the five of them, three appeared to have their marks glowing. Yorak was one of those three, his crimson markings now glowing alongside Alfor and Ukora.

“What…?” Ukora reached out, brushing his fingers against Yorak’s markings. “Your marks are glowing…?”

“Yours as well.” Frowning, Yorak looked at the other Alteans on board. He tilted his head, “My prince. It appears only Ukora, you, and I have glowing marks.”

Alfor was holding his chin, brows scrunched as he thought hard about this. Suddenly realization dawned on his face, his eyes widening and his face lighting up. “The Mark of the Chosen! Of course!” He turned around in order to face the direction of the white hole. “What we just encountered! It was the Guardian of Oriande, I’m sure of it! Do you not recall those texts we read? Only those with the marks are worthy of entering Oriande, all others will be cast out.”

“S-so does that mean… I’m worthy?” Ukora’s eyes widened in panic and he placed his hands to his cheeks. “B-but I’m no scholar! Or a warrior! I’m a simple medic how can I…?”

Yorak reached out and grasped Ukora’s shoulder. He offered the skittish Altean a small smile, “Medic or not, you’ve been deemed worthy. You shouldn’t question the Guardian’s decision.”

 Alfor laughed and gave a hearty smack to Yorak’s shoulder. “Well said! If you have been deemed worthy by the Guardian of Oriande then that is that! There’s no use trying to decide if you’re unfit or not. It wasn’t up to us to decide, it was up to the Guardian. And the Guardian deems you worthy.”

And that was the end of that argument. With newfound determination, Alfor and the other two donned on suits to survive the harshness of space. Then with little fanfare they embarked towards the white hole using transport pods. The compact devices were not intended for long-ranged flying, but hopefully they would get them in and out of the white hole without a problem.

When the lion’s head appeared once more, Yorak was convinced that it was going to change its mind. That it would deem him unfit to learn about the ancient alchemy of Altea simply because he was rasher than his fellow Alteans. Yet Yorak found himself letting out the breath he had been holding when the endless white around them gave way to a pinkish hue. As their surroundings finally registered, Yorak couldn’t believe it. They had done it, they had successfully made it to Oriande.

They didn’t use the transport pods to take them to the Temple of the Alchemist. After all, if their only means of transportation ran out of juice, they’d be stranded. So instead they had to settle on one of the floating pillars of land and make their own way across the unique terrain.

By the time they made it into the temple, Yorak, Ukora, and Alfor were breathing heavily with sweat trailing down their faces. They only had a few doboshes of rest before a deep rumbling caught their attention. At the end of the hall was the Guardian, standing tall and proud and staring at them with glowing eyes. When it turned and descended down the flight of stairs, the trio knew to follow.

The end of the stairs led them to a wide room with an unbelievable sight. Ukora gasped, rushing forward and standing at the base of one of the large statues. “Oh my!”

“The Sages of Oriande…” Yorak and Alfor both looked at the statues in disbelief.

Tossing a grin at Yorak, Alfor chuckled. “Not just a story anymore, now are they?”

Yorak gave a begrudging grin, rolling his eyes instead of responding. However the sight of the statues beginning to move instantly wiped the smile from his face.

“Look out!” Yorak rushed forward, tackling Ukora and knocking him out of the way from an oncoming stone staff. Yorak grabbed him by the back of his suit, hauling him up and out of harm’s way. Yorak and Ukora both looked up at the sound of another statue moving, the two shouting out a “your highness!” just as they caught sight of Alfor.

Said prince was dodging a staff swung at him, rolling under the feet of the Sage and sliding across the floor. Yet the statue moved as if it was a living creature. It turned sharply, staff brought up to strike down at Alfor once more. However before it even got the chance to, Alfor reached into one of his pockets and held up the compass stone they had found during their expedition. Suddenly the statue froze, as did the others that moved.

Gradually its aggressive stance diminished and it instead leaned down. When the Sage held out its hand, Alfor instantly knew what it was asking for. He gave up the compass stone, the little object glowing before it projected the map that had led them to Oriande. Seemingly satisfied, the Sage closed their hand and stood. They returned to their throne just as the other statues did.

All was silent as the three Alteans processed what had just happened. Alfor was the first to break the quiet, whistling low and laughing. He ran a hand through his hair and pushed his bangs from his face. “Well that was thrilling. Good thing the compass stone worked! I honestly didn’t think it would. It’d be pretty disappointing if we were killed before we even discovered the secrets.”

Yorak sighed and rolled his eyes at Alfor’s casual brush off. Despite this he found himself nodding, “It would have been shameful indeed.”

By his side Ukora lightly touched Yorak’s arm, staring down at his feet and stuttering. “Y-Yorak, thank you for saving me. If I had known that the Sages could move, I wouldn’t have stood so close.”

“Think nothing of it,” Yorak bit the inside of his cheek to refrain from further comment. In his youth he might’ve said something sharp and uncalled for, but he was better than that. It wasn’t Ukora’s fault. Though if such things happened again in the future, Yorak knew he couldn’t save Ukora again. His main focus would have to be on protecting Alfor. He had moved instinctually this time, but next time he couldn’t afford such a mistake. If Alfor died while Yorak was too busy protecting someone else, he’d never forgive himself. He would be unable to face the people of Altea and tell them he had failed in protecting their future king.

“Well come on then! We’re already this far! Might as well keep going.”

Alfor’s enthusiasm was infections. He powered forward, Ukora and Yorak having no choice but to follow. They once again descended another flight of stairs, this time coming into a room bereft of anything but two pillars on the far end.

“Be careful.” Yorak instructed, eyes darting around for any possible traps.

In front of the pillars the lion appeared, chuffing once before it nodded its head and faded just as quickly as it had come. Suddenly the door slammed down behind them and the ceiling began to fall at a slow yet threatening pace.

“Another trap?!” Ukora exclaimed, eyes wide as he looked at their encroaching doom.

Despite his initial panic, it was Ukora who realized the pillars were in fact quite similar to a teludav. Because Alfor was the only one of them that had experience using a teludav, he was the one that stood and placed his hands atop each pillar. His eyes scrunched up in concentration, casting out his energy and feeling for something.

Suddenly a pool of white light appeared above them, swallowing up the room in a matter of ticks. Yorak closed his eyes as the light became too bright to bare. He didn’t know how long his eyes were closed for, but by the time he opened them, he realized that he was now in an entirely different place.

The endless realm around him glittered faintly and seemed to be made up of water and clouds. The sky blended into the ground and nothing significant stood out against the horizon. The one thing Yorak noticed first was that he was alone.

“Your majesty?! Ukora?!”

As he twisted around for what seemed like the hundredth time, Yorak suddenly found himself facing the Guardian. It stared at him just as he stared back, the two of them unmoving. Suddenly it crouched, growling threateningly. Yorak’s heart was pounding and his hand moved towards where he always kept his sword. His first instinct was to draw his blade and fight. Yet Yorak knew deep down that it would be foolish to even try. He could not win, there wasn’t even a chance.

In a realm of infinite clouds with him and the lion being the only occupants, Yorak knew nothing of his surroundings or his opponent. He was at a clear disadvantage no matter how you looked at it. And besides, Yorak didn’t have his weapon to begin with. Alfor had felt it would be better if they didn’t bring weapons into a sacred place, so Yorak had left his saber back on the ship.

Gritting his teeth, Yorak broke eye contact with the lion and instead lowered his gaze. He forced his muscles to relax as he slowly kneeled. Though he didn’t see it, the lion’s ears angled forward as if it was curious at his actions.

Yorak squared his shoulders and spoke in a clear voice, “I am Yorak of Altea. I find myself in your domain, ready to face your judgement.”

He could sense when the Guardian began moving. Yorak tensed and held his breath as the entity walked on silent paws. When the ghostly white legs of the lion finally entered his field of vision, Yorak lifted his head to look up.

His eyes locked with the lion’s and he felt his breath catch. The Guardian rumbled low in its throat and closed its eyes. Then ever so gently it leaned forward and pressed its forehead to Yorak’s. He gasped and a moment later the strain on his muscles loosened.

Violet eyes slipped shut and Yorak pressed back against the lion’s fluffy white head. Each breath in felt like he was inhaling the crisp air of falling snow. It hurt his lungs but also sent a soothing chill, leaving a confusing duel of sensations.

Words filtered into Yorak’s head, hundreds of voices both male and female overlapping in perfect harmony. Yorak couldn’t discern what they were saying, they were speaking an old form of Altean, too old for him to dare try repeating.

As if sensing he couldn’t understand, the voices gradually died down and instead were replaced by images. They formed words without sound, offering Yorak an understanding through sight and feeling alone. It felt like phoebs had passed but in reality it had only been a few ticks.

When the onslaught of visuals finally died down Yorak raised his hands in order to hold the Guardian’s face. He breathed out slowly and opened his eyes.

“I accept.”

///

Yorak was the last to leave the temple, Alfor and Ukora already standing in the center courtyard. Ukora was bouncing excitedly as he babbled about what he’d witnessed, his eyes wide and shining bright. Alfor seemed to be just as hyped, quickly tossing back his own excited ramblings. The two of them paused and looked up at the sight of Yorak, their eyes widening.

“Yorak… Your hair!”

“And your marks!”

When Yorak had entered Oriande, he had looked as he usually did. Skin slightly darkened from his time spent training under the sun and his hair blacker than the void of space. His crimson Altean marks were bright and complimented the swirling purple of his eyes.

Yet now things were different. Yorak’s appearance had changed thanks to the blessing he received from the Guardian. His hair and markings had lost their colour and were now a snowy white, matching the glowing lion standing at his side.

Blinking slowly, Yorak pet the lion as it pressed its head to his hip. He offered a small smile to Ukora and Alfor before bowing at the waist. “My prince. It would seem that… I have been given a far different blessing than you and Ukora.”

The lion seemed to realize that Yorak needed time to speak with his fellow Alteans. It let out a small rumble before disappearing from sight. Yorak moved down the steps and stood before Alfor and Ukora.

“The Guardian spoke to me… Or well it tried to. It asked me to carry out a mission. I am not too sure as to what the mission is, but it said I would know when the time comes.” Yorak looked down at his hands, slowly clenching them into fists. “The Guardian cannot leave Oriande. It is tied to this realm so it personally cannot interfere with the outside world. It asked me to be a vessel for it, to carry a piece of it and fulfill its will. I was honored to even be given such a chance, so of course I accepted this request. And in doing so it bestowed upon me a piece of itself. That is why my hair and marks have changed. It is to signify my status as the Guardian’s vessel.”

Alfor had listened in silence with a frown growing more prominent the longer Yorak spoke. He crossed his arms and sighed, “So the Guardian decided you were to act as its living puppet? And you aren’t even aware of what the Guardian wants?”

Yorak shook his head, “No. But I want to trust the Guardian. It found me worthy enough for such a task, I want to prove that it did not make the wrong choice.”

Ukora hesitated a moment before he stepped forward, glancing between Yorak and Alfor. “So… What does that mean? Is it sending you somewhere to find the mission?”

Once more Yorak shook his head. He took a step back and clenched his hands tightly. “No, I will not be leaving Oriande. Not yet anyways. The Guardian said that my mission has not even begun to exist yet. I am to stay here until I am needed.”

Yorak bit the inside of his cheek before he knelt on one leg and bowed deeply to Alfor. “My prince and future king, I beg of you to forgive me but I cannot join you on the journey home. I ask that you let my mothers know that… I’m sorry I could not return.”

Alfor’s expression grew complex for a moment before a small smile appeared. He walked to Yorak and reached down, clasping a hand over his shoulder. “Stand, Yorak. There is no need to kneel.” He waited for Yorak to rise before placing both hands on his shoulders, squeezing Yorak and smiling brightly. “You have been granted a chance to do something I’ve never even thought possible! This is a grand honor, one I am delighted to see you take, my friend. Though I wish you could join us, I understand that this is indeed where our paths have to part. You are a good warrior and a good man, Yorak. I am proud to see you be granted such a chance and I know your mothers will be as well.”

Yorak smiled, “Thank you, your majesty.”

Ukora rushed over and placed his own hand on Yorak’s arm. “Yes! Prince Alfor is right! Do not worry, Yorak! I know you’ll do great things with this gift! And whatever your mission is, I’m positive you’ll succeed with flying colours!”

That prompted Yorak to grin even wider. He nodded his head, lifting a hand and brushing it along Ukora’s markings and then to his ears. Ukora returned the gesture before stepping back, his eyes watery. Alfor patted Yorak’s shoulder before repeating the same gesture Ukora and Yorak did. Yorak hesitated for a moment before he touched Alfor’s markings and then his ear.

Yorak swallowed heavily and took another step back, “You will do wonderful things, my prince. And Ukora, the knowledge you’ve gained here will surely help you in your research.” Yorak said, offering his own watery smile to the two. “I thank you for everything we’ve been through.”

It was hard to say goodbye, but there was simply nothing else keeping Ukora and Alfor from staying. They had their own things to take care of, just as Yorak had his. He watched as they gradually disappeared from sight, his chest aching the whole time. With a heavy sigh he turned around and returned to the temple, the Guardian appearing beside him and offering a comforting rumble. Together the two of them disappeared inside, the doors closing behind them.

///

Yorak gradually opened his eyes, consciousness drifting in bit by bit. A quick flash in his mind told him that it had been quite some time since he last awoke. Shuffling off the raised platform, Yorak seemed to misjudge the height of the thing he had called a bed for the past… Who knew how long.

Standing, Yorak also realized that his robes that had previously fit now hung around him like a sea of fabric. He was utterly confused at this predicament and struggled to pull himself from the folds of white and red. Yorak kept a cloak around himself to protect his decency and stumbled over towards one of the walls. They were extremely reflective, polished till they shined. It wouldn’t be hard to see his reflection and discern what was going on with him.

However what he saw had Yorak stopping in his tracks and blinking in surprise.

“Oh.”

Yorak was no longer his full 25 deca-phoebs, he barely looked to even be a full 5. “Guardian?” Even his voice was as squeaky and high as when he was a child! Just what was going on?

Beside him the Guardian appeared. It now towered over him like a colossal titan. Bending down its head and nudging Yorak’s, the lion stuck out its incorporeal tongue and brushed it over his cheek. Despite the Guardian being transparent, Yorak still felt the sensation of a lick.

He blinked at the onslaught of images that passed through his mind. “You made me younger by warping my quintessence? I didn’t know you could do that! But why would you…?” Yorak frowned and stared at the Guardian as it communicated silently. “So I could learn? Does this have to do with my mission…? But I thought it already started!”

The Guardian tilted its head, Yorak pursing his lips at its response. “My mission really didn’t start at that time? What does that even mean? ‘They weren’t born yet’?” Suddenly his eyes widened, realization dawning just as fast as he had asked the question. “You mean… The new Paladins?”

The nod he received had Yorak reeling, “So you made me younger in order to go to their planet and learn? Why?”

He was met with silence, the Guardian not responding. Yorak knew this meant that the Guardian also didn’t know the reason, only that something it saw in the future indicated that Yorak had to be younger. Already used to the Guardian’s sporadic ability, Yorak merely sighed and resigned himself to dealing with his youth all over again. The Shifting was going to be a pain to deal with though. Yorak was not at all looking forward to it.

He gathered up his robe and left the room. Behind him the Lion trotted after, not going as fast as it normally did simply to keep pace with Yorak’s shorter legs. He emerged from the temple and into the courtyard. Around him the eternally pinkish sky still shone as bright as ever, this realm never knowing the darkness of night.

He walked briskly in order to reach the construct in the middle of the courtyard. It was crouched low to the ground, the gleam of its white frame reflecting the light and giving it an ethereal glow. Before him was a mechanical lion, the appearance quite similar to the Guardian beside him. From the blue and yellow markings to the bulky frame around the neck resembling a mane and the ear tips being longer and tinted violet, everything was to mimic the white lion.

In his time on Oriande, Yorak had woken from his slumber a total of five times. Three of those times were when Alfor came to visit. Yorak could see from him alone how time outside of Oriande was beginning to pass. The first visit he was prince, the next he was king. And by the final visit he was a father on the brink of a glorious creation.

From Alfor’s visits Yorak had learned all about what had been happening during his time away. He’d learned of the marvelous feats Ukora had done for healing, about Allura, his parents, and about the comet that had landed on Daibazaal. From there Alfor began describing his intentions for the comet and how he was going to use the Guardian as inspiration for their designs.

That had been the last time Yorak had seen Alfor.

 Yorak closed his eyes, images flashing before his mind. From the visions the Guardian had given him, he knew that the Voltron lions Alfor created were far larger than the ship Yorak built. The White Lion would barely come up to the other lion’s shoulders. If anything of his visions were to go by, the only lion closest to its size was the Red Lion, and even then Yorak had a feeling it was still smaller.

Yorak moved over to the machine and stood in front of it. He felt something press against his back and Yorak sighed. “I know… Even when I am out there, a piece of you will always be with me, even if I cannot hear you. Let us hope there never comes a time where I will need it.”

It wasn’t a farewell, there was no need for one. Yorak would always be connected to the Guardian no matter the distance. Even if the piece of the Guardian inside of him were to disappear, there would still be a link. Without looking back Yorak walked his way up to the lion and placed a hand to its muzzle. From his palm a soft glowing light arose and spread out across the machine. With a deep rumble it opened its mouth.

In the cockpit of the lion the only things of note were a single chair and an outcropping for the controls. However instead of buttons and levers, there was nothing but a flat panel. Though similar to the lions Alfor built, this one was made to be quite different. It was designed without any of the ore Alfor gained from the comet, it did not have a “spirit” of its own. It was not made to be independent, it was made to simply exist. Yorak would not be controlling a machine, he would become the machine.

Yorak wrapped his robe tightly around himself before settling into the chair. He frowned when he realized that the panel was not at all close to him. He let out a sharp sigh in frustration. Honestly he didn’t see the reason he needed to be so young to “learn”.

Standing up from his seat he leaned forward and smacked both of his hands down on the panel. Instantly the smooth platform lit up in a bright white hue. Blue text appeared on the screen and flittered past before disappearing a moment later.

Yorak took in a deep breath and closed his eyes. He called forth his quintessence and pushed it into the cool panel beneath him. It spread out to every part of the machine like the tide washing over. The next moment he opened his eyes, Yorak was standing up as the lion. He shook out his body and looked down at the small form of the Guardian. Yorak dipped his head, the action mimicked before the Guardian disappeared like mist.

Taking that as a sign to leave, Yorak stood and leapt from the ground. He had learned to fly as the White Lion back when he had finished building it, so Yorak was very used to maneuvering in his new “body”. Likewise, he was also keenly aware of the few abilities he had while piloting. Though they weren’t much, Yorak still considered them to be quite useful.

His jaws parted and a roar ripped through the air. Suddenly a white wormhole appeared in front of him. The moment Yorak flew through it, he found himself in an entirely unfamiliar solar system.

Now where to?” He thought as he floated along.

Not a moment later a small tug on his mind had Yorak looking past the ringed planet. He followed the sensation, knowing it was the Guardian telling him where to go. The feeling increased the closer he got, Yorak’s heart beating wildly in his chest when it took him to a planet spotted in various shades of blue, white, and green.

The pull guided him down into the planet and over the vast lands, Yorak remaining high enough so he wouldn’t be spotted past the clouds. Yorak didn’t want to alarm the people of the planet, not knowing how advanced they were with alien races. The last thing he wanted to do was cause a panic and then have to deal with the fallout.

However Yorak longed to fly low enough to see the surface. It’d been so long since he saw an environment other than Oriande. He had the strong urge to explore this new place and learn all he could. What were the inhabitants like? What were their architect like? Their military? What about animals? Plants?

An image appeared in Yorak’s mind before it quickly disappeared. He paused mid-air, tilting his head to the side. “The Blue Lion? She’s here?”

He pushed his ship to move faster at the sudden flare of quintessence he felt. It was like the Blue Lion had sensed his presence and was calling out to him.  

Yorak was a white streak through the sky as he followed after where the quintessence was flaring. At this point he’d gone lower, needing to see if he could spot Blue from where he flew. He made note that he was above a desert, lights only appearing in the distance and not even in the direction he was going in.

 Eventually he landed at the edge of a wide canyon that seemed to hum with energy. After he crouched down and opened his jaws the light in the Lion’s eyes faded as he relinquished control. Yorak blinked a few times before he moved to step down from his seat, once again forgetting that he was no longer as tall as he used to be.

Yorak’s foot caught in his robes one moment and the next he was sprawled out on the ground with aching limbs. Suddenly overwhelmed with emotions at the unexpected bout of pain, Yorak felt his bottom lip trembling and his face scrunching up as large globs of tears welled up in his eyes.

He tossed his head back and wailed. If Yorak had been his previous age he’d never have cried over something as simple as falling down. Yet currently he was in a small body and his emotions were too big for him to handle. The small amount of pain seemed far more pronounced to the former guard. He didn’t know how long he cried for but he was aware that he was calling out his mothers’ names, wondering why they hadn’t come to comfort him yet.

It was a very sobering thought and Yorak found himself crying harder when he realized that his mothers wouldn’t be coming for him. He curled up on himself and hiccupped, pulling the robe over his head and trying to bury himself under the fabric.

He had no clue how long he laid there and cried. The only thing snapping him out of his own pity party was the sound of a vehicle approaching. Yorak quieted down almost instantly when he heard whispering and then footsteps outside the cockpit. He watched the door with wide eyes, pulling his robe tighter around his body and biting his lip to hold back a whimper.

The door opened and someone stepped through, their posture tense and ready to counter any attack. From where he lay mostly blocked by the chair, Yorak could peek at the newcomer without them noticing him right away. She was tall, her skin having a violet hue and her hair matching in a similar vibrant shade. He must’ve made a sound, for eyes flickered down towards Yorak, the yellow of their sclera glinting in the light.

Both of them showed signs of visible surprise at the sight of each other. Yorak didn’t hesitate to duck back behind the chair when a voice came from further behind the Galra.

“Krolia? Did ya find the pilot?”

While Yorak couldn’t understand what the voice was saying, he could pick out a name that was Galran. The one Yorak assumed was Krolia looked over her shoulder at whoever had just spoken and talked in that weird language as well. “The pilot seems to be a… Child?”

“What? A child?”

Krolia nodded, facing back towards Yorak and slowly lowering herself down to the floor. “Wait there for a moment, we don’t want to crowd them. I will try and coax them out.”

She then shuffled slowly towards Yorak, hands raised in an unthreatening gesture to show she held nothing in her hands. Still that didn’t stop Yorak from scrunching up and hissing at her, his skin flashing an array of different colours in hopes to ward her off. He glared from his cocoon of robes, a very unintimidating look leveled at the stranger.

Krolia seemed more surprised at the reaction, her eyes widening a fraction. Despite shaking terribly, Yorak attempted to straighten up from where he sat. He was in no place to fight should she make a grab at him. Yorak was small and weak, his natural Altean abilities unreliable until he went through Shifting. Even now he couldn’t control how his body was flashing colours. So long as he was still scared and panicked, his skin would act like he was a colour wheel. There was no way Yorak could do anything with how vulnerable he was. Though he didn’t like feeling so exposed to a stranger, Yorak knew he needed to communicate with this Galra. She seemed able to understand what the other person was saying so his best bet at getting around this planet was by talking to her.

I am Yorak, son of Ilor and Atka. What planet is this?” He mumbled in Galran.

Of the few languages Yorak knew, Galran and Altean were the only ones he was fluent in. However apparently his words caused Krolia to grow even more confused.

She spoke back in Galran, though now it was Yorak’s turn feel befuddled. Her pronunciation was different and a few words sounded odd. Despite this, Yorak was still kind of able to understand what she was saying.

Your Galran is… Strange. It sounds quite old and far more formal than a child of your age should know.

Frowning Yorak sat up further and let his robe fall from his head. “I would say your way of speaking is odd too. But I’m…” Yorak reached a hand up and ran it through his hair, pulling at the white strands. “I’m not from this current age.

I’m afraid I don’t understand.

Yorak bit at his lip before he felt something brush against his conscious. He gasped when he realized he knew just how to tell her what he couldn’t put into words. He held out his hands, hesitating for a moment.

Um… I know a way to explain to you… If you’d let me.

Krolia’s eyes narrowed as she debated the pros and cons of this request. When she finally came to a decision, Krolia nodded and shuffled closer to Yorak. He reached up and placed his hands to her cheeks, the both of them closing their eyes. Yorak’s markings began to glow as he showed Krolia bits and pieces of his life from before he arrived to this planet.

When the two of them finally came back to the present, there was a sense of understanding swirling in the depths of Krolia’s eyes. She offered a smile to Yorak and placed her hands over his.

Welcome to Earth, Yorak. My name is Krolia. The man outside is named Tex. If you’d like, you are more than willing to come with us. Tex is human so he knows a lot more about the planet then I do. I’m sure he’d be happy to help you.

Yorak hesitated, looking down and shifting uncertainly. “But I can’t understand him. I was never injected with a translator like yours.

Krolia hummed and pursed her lips in thought. “That would be a problem. But you don’t need to worry, I can translate for you. And we can have Tex teach you how to speak the language here so that you don’t have to always rely on me.”

She made a rather good point. Yorak was used to learning languages from his time in school, so how hard could this be? Then again it’s been over 10,000 deca-phoebes since he last went to school, so maybe it wouldn’t be as easy as he thought.

Well no matter, Yorak would deal with it when the time came. He took a deep breath and finally nodded to Krolia. She offered him a smile, standing and backing up in order to offer him space. Yorak would’ve appreciated the gesture if it didn’t suddenly fill him with anxiety. He looked up at her with wide eyes before quickly dropping his gaze to the floor. With a minor whine, Yorak lifted his arms out towards Krolia in a silent demand to be picked up.

Though she was shocked by the action, she quickly schooled her expression. Without another word Krolia bent down and picked up Yorak. She settled him on her hip and made sure his robe was tucked around him securely. “Well need to get you a change of clothes too…

Yorak nodded in lieu of a response, not having any words to add. Instead he clung tighter to Krolia and faced the door to the cockpit like he was facing an enemy. Krolia, Yorak guessed, was able to smell how nervous he was. The Galra dipped her head down and nudged his cheek with her nose in a gentle gesture.

Don’t worry, kit. It will be fine.”

Despite not knowing her for long, Yorak felt that he could trust her. So with resolve he took a deep breath and nodded. Krolia took that as a sign to continue and without a pause she walked through the door with Yorak in tow.

Chapter Text

“Keith?” A knock at his door had the young teen turning to look over his shoulder.

In the doorway was the man Keith, formally Yorak, had come to know as “dad” for the past 10 deca-phoebes. The man was watching Keith with a concerned smile, hand resting against the open door to Keith’s room.

“Ya ready to go?”

Keith fought a grimace and turned his attention back to his bag. “As I’ll ever be.”

“Ya got everything you need? Your hair dye? Foundation?”

“Yes,” Keith had triple checked to make sure he had those things. It wouldn’t do for his secret to be exposed on the first day after all.

“Your ma’s knife?”

Keith paused, fingers twitching before he looked towards where the wrapped blade lay atop his dresser. “I didn’t think I’d need it…”

Tex sighed, pushing off from the door and walking into the room. He picked up the knife, brushing his fingers over its cloth-covered edge before holding it out to Keith.

“Take it. Krolia gave it to ya for a reason. Ya never know if you’ll be needin’ it or not.”

Keith rolled his eyes but dutifully took the knife and slipped it into one of the many pockets on his bag. “It isn’t like I’m going around expecting to be attacked. And even if I did get into a fight, I could win it without the knife.”

Tex chuckled and reached up to ruffle Keith’s hair, “Now I never said ya couldn’t. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. I ain’t sure how Altean kids are, but human kids can be mighty cruel to each other. Some like to start problems just for the reactions.”

“Then I’ll just ignore those kinds of people.” Keith stated with a huff, “Besides I’m not there to make friends. I’m using the Garrison to find the right quintessence signature. The Guardian saw that the Garrison would somehow be involved, so it’s better to be in their ranks instead of an outsider.”

“Right right, your mission. Just try not to forget to have fun while you’re there, alright? I promise it won’t hurt your mission to enjoy yourself.” Tex paused before he placed his hands on Keith’s shoulders and looked deep into his son’s eyes. “And Keith? I know you said you aren’t there to make friends, but please try and socialize? I know you ain’t used to being around other humans your age, that’s my fault, but I promise not all of em bite.”

Keith scrunched up his nose, “And what about the ones that do?”

Tex snorted at Keith’s look and shook his head fondly. He pulled him in for a tight hug. “Oh I’m going to miss your humor, bud.”

Though he was a little miffed at not getting a response to his question, Keith sighed and returned the hug. “It isn’t like I’ll be going up into space right away. The Garrison is just a two hour drive from home.”

“Yeah, but you’ll also be surrounded by military people trying to answer the question ‘is there life out in space’. And if they find out you are indeed an alien, I won’t fault you for hightailing it off of Earth.”

Keith scowled, “I wouldn’t leave without you.”

“I know you wouldn’t.” Tex tightened his grip around Keith for a moment longer before he sighed and pulled away from him. “Alright. Come on, don’t wanna be late for your orientation day.”

A frown seemed to be permanently etched onto Keith’s face as he left their little home and climbed on the back of his dad’s hover bike. He only had one bag with him, his suitcase of clothes having been shipped to the Garrison just yesterday. All he had with him was his bag of essentials like his knife, hair dye, foundation, and a few other things.

Keith had started dying his hair black around four years ago. It was to avoid people asking questions on why his hair was white. To go along with this Keith had even begun to use foundation to cover up his Altean marks. They were both temporary solutions that Keith was reluctant to do, but he knew he didn’t exactly have a choice. It was either this or go around with white hair and markings that looked like tattoos. That was sure to turn heads and land him in the spotlight.

By the time they rolled up to the gates leading in to the Garrison, Keith was already lost in thought on how this whole thing might play out. While Tex did the talking to the security guard, Keith weighed the pros and cons. Best case scenario he finds what he’s looking for without any hiccups. While on the other hand, worst case scenario is they find out he’s an alien and then they cut him open to see how he works. The thought drew a barely repressed shudder from Keith.

They were passed through and Tex followed the road to where quite a few vehicles were parked. There were kids wearing the junior cadet uniforms like Keith dotted all over the place. Near the thick of it was a very long table that had several lines of cadets and parents standing in front of them. Behind the table were a few junior officers handing out schedules to the kids after their names were given. They were then directing the new cadets to separate groups for tours.

Tex stopped his bike and turned it off away from the crowd of students and parents, knowing Keith would need some time to get used to the large crowds of people. While he waited for Keith to settle, Tex took to gently patting the hands gripping tightly to his jacket. It felt like phoebes before Keith finally let go of Tex and slid off the bike. Despite his best efforts Keith couldn’t keep the grimace off his face. Tex smiled sympathetically at his son’s stressed look.

“Hey, look at me.” He coaxed softly, waiting for Keith’s violet eyes to flicker up at him. Tex smiled, “You’re going to do great, Keith. I know you don’t want to stand out, but try not to hold back too much, ok? Someone’s bound to notice if you do.”

Keith snorted, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. Tex chuckled and ruffled his hair affectionately, “I’m being serious. Go out there and give em a show. And who knows? You might just find who you’re lookin’ for. They could even be someone right here in this crowd.”

“I’m searching for specific quintessence signatures, not Waldo. They won’t just suddenly pop up.”

Tex sighed through his nose and smiled softly. “I know, but it ain’t gonna hurt to remain optimistic.” Tex glanced up and saw that a few of the tour groups were already leaving with their collection of students. Taking this as his cue to start his goodbyes, Tex pulled Keith into a tight hug. “You remember to call, ya hear? Especially when your… Shifting thing starts. I’ll pull ya out so you can go through that at home where it’s safe. ”

“I will.” Keith mumbled into his dad’s shoulder.

As he returned the embrace, Keith subtly pushed some of his quintessence into his dad out of habit. ‘Keep him safe’, He whispered internally, hearing a purr in return before the Guardian fell silent.

Keith and Tex leaned back, Tex reaching up a hand and lightly brushing where Keith’s markings were before touching his ear. Keith had taught him the gesture and its meaning years ago. The touch was an Altean form of farewell to close friends and family. In order to honor Keith’s roots, Tex took great care in learning about Altean culture and repeating them.

Keith offered a strained smile to his dad and despite the fact that Tex had no markings of his own, Keith repeated the gesture. He breathed in sharply before nodding his head and turning around. Keith forced himself not to look back as he trudged onwards. Behind him Keith heard his dad start the bike and he took in an extra breath as the sound of the engine began to fade off into the distance.

Keith fell into line at the sign-in table, standing in the section for last name’s K-N. By the time he reached the front, Keith had his shoulders hiked up to his ears and was grinding his teeth. The peppy smile flashed his way unintentionally aggravated Keith’s already frayed nerves.

“Name please!” The girl in the grey uniform chirped enthusiastically.

“Kogane, Keith.” He said through clenched teeth. It wasn’t that he was actively trying to appear hostile, he was just out of his comfort zone and talking to a stranger wasn’t helping.

She seemed unconcerned by his tone, scrolling through an orange tablet before she seemed to get to his name. “Ah-ha! Here you are! Keith Y. Kogane.” She looked behind her through one of several boxes before grabbing a tablet similar to hers. When she handed it to Keith, he noticed that it had a sticker with the number 52 stuck to the side. “You don’t hear a lot of middle names starting with a Y. At least I haven’t. Can I ask what it is?”

Her question had Keith’s head snapping up to look at her. He hesitated, “Yorak. It’s… Foreign.” He glanced away as his grip tight on the little device. Thank the stars his full strength hadn’t developed yet or he’d have cracked the stupid thing by now.

The girl laughed, “It sounds like! Well Keith, that device there has everything you’ll need during your time here at the Garrison! It has a map of the base, a list of all your current classes, and the emails of all your teachers built in! You’ll be required to take it with you, as it’s your pass that signifies you’re allowed to be here! Especially since it’s got your ID built into it. You’ll need it to get to places like the library, gym, training fields, and so on! At the end of the year you’ll turn it in so that the Garrison can update your information, your schedule, restrictions, and anything else they decide to mess with! Any questions?”

Keith blinked, looking down at the little device in his hands. He quirked an eyebrow, “Can it make calls?”

“No, I’m afraid not. It’s only able to send emails to those in the Garrison. If you want to make a call to someone outside, you’ve got to head to the communications office and request permission to place a call.”

“Uh-huh. And what do you mean by them updating restrictions?”

The girl chuckled, “For those just joining the Garrison, restrictions are given to make sure no one does something they shouldn’t. So like no junior cadets attempting to show off by entering the plane hangars and taking off for a joy ride! Things like that. Also certain labs and areas of the Garrison are closed off to junior and senior cadets. Some places even restrict junior officers.”

Flipping the little orange device back and forth, Keith nodded before he stuffed it into his pocket. “And what about leaving the Garrison? I’m guessing I can’t just wonder off base for a family visit?”

“Nope, sorry! Your family can come up and visit without warning, but you personally need to request a form in order to leave the grounds. And even then you can’t be issued a Garrison bike since you’re still a junior cadet. However if you have a junior or senior officer accompanying you, then you don’t need to worry about getting a request! Oh but during school breaks and summer you’re free to leave the Garrison whenever you want! And on weekends you’re allowed to head to the nearby town. Though you have to return by curfew or else you’ll get in trouble.”

Keith nodded once more. Though he had a few more questions he could tell that the person behind him was growing impatient. So Keith bid the girl farewell and followed her instructions as she pointed him towards where a junior officer was standing and awaiting more people to join their tour group.

Keith kept to himself as he waited for the tour to start. The few that seem interested in saying hello were quickly discouraged by the fierce glare he supported. It wasn’t like Keith was doing it on purpose, this was just his resting expression. Keith had been raised by Krolia, a Galra. While that didn’t overwrite all he had learned form his own Altean parents, Keith found himself relying more on what Krolia had taught him. Maybe it was because the knowledge was so fresh in his mind. Or perhaps it was because he agreed with how his mother went about things. With caution and suspicion.

The tour was simple and straightforward. Don’t go here but you can go here, this is this building and that is that building. From the very start Keith was actively memorizing the route they took and everything of interest, even rooms that would seem insignificant. If his secret was exposed, Keith needed to know where to run and where to hide till he could find an escape. Maybe when they were given time to freely roam he’d go exploring for other potential escape routes.

Keith glanced up when they passed a sign that said dorm area. The guide in front began speaking over their shoulder, not bothering to turn around to address their group. “So the dorm area is where the junior and senior cadets all stay! The junior officers and senior officers have their own separate rooms located on the other end of this hall. But you technically shouldn’t have any reason to go there, so don’t really mind that. Anyways! The dorms are co-ed but the showers are not, so don’t get any ideas.”

Keith tuned them out after that, eyes flickering around the large room they entered. It was a lounge area, tables placed for people to study or work at, couches to sit on, and other miscellaneous items. Many of the couched and tables were already occupied by groups of senior cadets. They were chatting casually and a few were even pointing at the gaggle of fresh meat.

“The ground floor is the cadet lounge. You’re able to come down here at any time except after curfew. You can do almost anything here. Study, nap, whatever! You’ll notice that there’s a set of stairs on the far right and the far left of the lounge. They all go to the same place, don’t worry. The first floor is the senior cadet’s dorms and the second floor is the junior cadets. You all got your tablet at sign-in, so check out the number of the sticker on it. That’s going to be your dorm number. You’ll all be getting a roommate with the same number.

“There’s bathrooms on each floor and the showers are located on the third floor. There’s specific times you’re allowed to shower so make sure you check your schedules!” The junior officer turned around, waving their hands in a shooing motion. “Alright now I know you all want to explore, but we’ve got other places to be. I promise you can come back and look around when we’re done with our tour!”

Keith, still at the edge of the group with a clear distance between them, was still tuning out everything being said. Most of this stuff was practical knowledge and already in the handbook they received with their acceptance letter. Keith understood that they were repeating everything since not every 14 year old was interested in reading the thick little book, but Keith was not like most kids.

Suddenly there was a faint flare against his senses, the sound of loud laughter breaking through the air at the same moment. Keith stiffened and his eyes instantly flickered towards where the spark of quintessence he felt was. The feeling was coming from an older teen sitting on one of the many lounge chairs, three other senior cadets with him. From what Keith could tell he was tall even when sitting. His undercut was neat and tidy, all except for the long forelock in the front. The senior cadet was grinning wide and trying to hold back giggles at something his friend said, his cheeks stretched wide to accommodate his smile.

Keith felt the Guardian take interest, the spirit chuffing and nudging insistently against his mind. Keith’s heartrate picked up and his breath caught in his throat. Amazing. Not even an hour at the Garrison and he already found a quintessence signature that was very reminiscent of the lions.

Steel grey eyes slid over to Keith and suddenly their gazes clashed. Keith knew he was staring and maybe if he’d been around humans other than his dad, he would’ve felt embarrassed at being caught. But instead Keith continued to stare up until his group was leaving the longue. Because he never bothered to look back, Keith missed the confused look directed his way.

One down, four more to go.’

///

“Hey, why are your ears so pointy?”

Keith was really beginning to hate his roommate. He’s only been in the room for all of ten minutes and already the guy had bombarded Keith with intrusive questions.

Keith’s roommate was short with sandy blond hair and brilliant brown eyes. A splotching of freckles dotted his face and gave him an innocently soft look. Yet Keith could tell from the way his mouth always seemed to be twisted into a sneer that he was anything but innocent.

The moment he had entered the room Keith lay claim to the bed and desk pushed to the left of their little Spartan room. His suitcase had been delivered before he even arrived so all he had to do was move it from the wall and place it on the bed. Keith had begun to unpack not long after that. He placed his casual clothes and spare uniforms in their respective drawers of his desk, any other articles of clothing pushed to a third drawer.

Keith slipped his knife from his bag and expertly hid it within the folds of his uniform. At this point he hadn’t met his roommate and he didn’t want to risk being set with a kleptomaniac. If his mother’s blade was stolen, Keith would be out for blood. There was no way he’d let some grimy kid get their mitts all over it.

And it seemed Keith’s paranoia had been right after all. Though he had no proof his roommate liked to steal, Keith could just tell that the other wasn’t a pleasant person. He’d burst into the room nearly twenty minutes after Keith did and instantly bombarded the Altean with questions. Keith wasn’t even sure if the guy introduced himself yet.

Breathing in deep, Keith barely tried to keep the chilliness out of his tone. “I was born like this.”

“Yeah, but yours are really sharp. I haven’t seen anyone with ears like that. Did you get them surgically made to be that pointy?”

“Everyone in my family has ears like mine.”

Scrolling through his tablet, Keith’s eyes darted over the screen as he memorized the map laid out in front of him. He had already remembered his schedule, now it was only a matter of studying the map and committing it to memory. He made it through the first and second basement levels and was now on the ground floor. However it was proving hard to focus with his roommate’s damn questioning. Even as Keith blatantly ignored him he still felt the need to ask things.

Keith would’ve gone down to the lounge, but he didn’t want to risk running into that guy with the unique quintessence. Keith hadn’t formed a plan yet on how to talk to him. What would he even say?

Hi I’m an alien and I’m technically over 10,000 years old and I’m here to help you and a group of others end the reign of a tyrant who has killed my people and my home planet and has essentially left me homeless and to do this you’ll need to find five giant robot lions and become their pilots and then combine together in order to form one bigger fighting robot. By the way did I mention my name was Keith?’ Keith tried not to snort at his own thoughts. Of course he could prove he was an alien by trying to change colours, but that was unreliable until he went through Shifting. Maybe he could wait to talk to the guy after that?

No, that’d be bad. Keith had no clue how the guy would react. Suddenly learning that someone who looks kind of human was actually an alien? Yeah that’s a one way ticket to a dissecting table.

The grating sound of his roommate’s incessant talking cut through Keith’s concentration. At this point it honestly made him want to stab out his ears with his knife. So without even saying anything Keith stood and left the room. He pulled out his map, scanned it quickly, before stuffing it back into his pocket and taking the stairs two at a time. No one stopped him as he left the lounge area but he did feel the sensation of eyes on him.

Keith managed to find a quiet spot on one of the many roofs dotting the Garrison. It was tucked away from any windows and placed more in the center of the roof, perfect for avoiding detection. Keith settled in against the wall and began the task of memorizing the map.

When he was done Keith folded his legs underneath himself and closed his eyes, calling out to the Guardian. The next moment Keith opened his eyes to see that he was sitting on one of the pieces of land in Oriande. In front of him was the lion, its head dipped down with its tail wrapped tight around its paws.

That person we saw, his quintessence was different from the others around him. It reminds me of what Blue kind of feels like. Do you think it was her Paladin?” Keith’s voice had an echoing quality to it that reminded him of a dream.

Shaking its head, the Guardian sent Keith an image of all five Voltron Lions, their heads thrown back in a roar. Keith blinked and his brows furrowed, “Ok… So not her Paladin specifically… But one of their Paladin’s. Do you know which?”

A nod.

Will you tell me?”

A shake.

Keith rolled his eyes, “Figured. I’ll keep my eye out for him then. Do you think when the time comes I’ll just have to… Kidnap?” Though the lion didn’t change expression Keith had known it long enough to tell that it was amused with him. Keith glowered, “Hey I don’t see you coming up with any ideas.”

Chuffing at him the lion stood and brushed its muzzle over his cheek. Keith sighed, deflating at the placating purr vibrating against him. Soft voices filtered through his mind and Keith pressed himself closer to the lion, a hand reaching up to bury itself into its mane.

The words spoken radiated affection, soothing Keith despite him unable to pinpoint their actual meaning. When the lion pulled away Keith didn’t resist. He kept his eyes closed as a tongue brushed his cheek in farewell before the hum of Oriande disappeared and was instead replaced by the buzzing of the desert bugs.

The sun had already begun to set and a quick look at his tablet showed that he had about 10 minutes left to make it to the cafeteria before dinner was up. With a heavy sigh Keith pulled himself up and stretched out his stiff limbs. It wasn’t bad for his first day at the Garrison. Of course Keith would’ve enjoyed a better roommate, but he could manage. He’s dealt with far worse in his time training for the Altean military.

The only good thing so far had been the fact that he’d already encountered a potential Paladin for Voltron. That wasn’t to say he actually “met” the guy. Keith had no intention of actually going up and talking to him, not yet at least. He’d introduce himself when he had a plan and was far more comfortable dealing with his fellow classmates.

Which… Was easier said than done. Keith tried, he honestly did. But social expectations here were a lot different than what Keith was used to. He had experience in many different cultures from many different worlds. He had learned some human things from Tex and the grocery store owner! Krolia had also been an influence on him. Though she taught him current Galra habits, a good chunk of their social interactions were still the same as they were 10,000 years ago.

However none of his past experiences and current teachings could prepare him for this. The adults demanded many things from Keith, things he could usually handle without any issue, but had to pretend to struggle with just keep up appearances. That was the easy part. What wasn’t easy was dealing with the humans in his classes. Their actions meant one thing while their words meant another. Sometimes even their words didn’t match up with what they were really feeling! And that was just the head of the Weblum! Keith was entirely confused in dealing with them! They were literal walking paradoxes.

So to save his brain the stress, Keith simply decided to distance himself. There wasn’t anything wrong with not talking to his fellow classmates. Keith wasn’t here to make friends, after all. Keith was here to “learn”. And while it might’ve been lonely to others, Keith was perfectly fine. He was never alone. Not with the Guardian always being a part of him.

However because of Keith being antisocial and generally cold to anyone that attempted to talk to him, this painted him as the black sheep of the bunch. His roommate, Keith having learned was named Dylan, was particularly antagonistic. With Dylan as the ring leader, it seems he dubbed Keith as the perfect candidate to pick on. From then on Keith had a target on his back for ridicule.

It jumped around on how others would try and heckle Keith. For Dylan specifically, he would rub his higher scores into Keith’s face. Sometimes he’d even make a mess on Keith’s side of the room and not bother to clean it up. In the classroom Keith would have paper balls tossed at his head or he’d be tripped in the hall. At lunch a couple of times people tried to fling food at him. However after being caught by a teacher the hostility took a quieter note to avoid punishment.

Through all the harassment from his classmates, Keith kept quiet. Sure their actions angered him but Keith couldn’t afford to make a scene. If he actively tried he could crush Dylan’s test scores, the algorithms they were learning nothing compared to Altean math. And their scores in the flight simulation? Child’s play. Keith could have beaten everyone in his grade if he wanted. He could’ve surpassed the officers too if he felt so inclined! But the truth of the matter was Keith simply couldn’t. If all eyes turned to him, he was afraid he’d slip up on hiding his secret. Plus it would make slinking around that much harder. So Keith ignored the aggravation. He dealt with the name calling and paper balls hitting his head.

Despite the seeming isolation, Keith wasn’t alone in this. The Guardian acted as a silent pillar of support. And when his father had learned of what was going on, he hadn’t been pleased. In fact he was downright livid. Tex kept insisting on either Keith doing something about it or he would. And though Keith appreciated the sentiment, it simply wasn’t an option he could entertain.  

“I told you dad, I’m handling it.”

By keepin’ quiet and lettin’ em walk all over you? Keith-.”

“Dad,” Keith cut in sharply, pinching the bridge of his nose and sighing. “Look… I know you want to do something about it. I do too! But if I lash out now and get labeled as a “problem student” in my first year, that’s something that’ll follow me my entire time here. It’ll end up putting restrictions against me before I even get my foot in the door. I can’t afford to get kicked out for fighting, not when this is the place where a potential Paladin is!”

Tex was quiet for a moment before he too sighed. “I get your reasonin’ Keith, I really do, but I don’t like it. And you know if your mother was here, she wouldn’t like it either.”

Snorting, Keith smiled at the mention of Krolia. “Yeah, she’d probably encourage me to break noses.”

That she would. Your ma don’t like no one messin’ with her kit.”

Keith nodded, eyes flicking up when people passed the little phone booth he was in. It was the weekend and Keith was out buying some more hair dye in order to hide his roots. Though he could’ve avoided spending money in making a call by using the Garrison’s phones, Keith didn’t trust them for a second. It could be his paranoia talking but Keith swore that the calls were monitored.

“Alright dad. I’ve got to go. I need to dye my hair before I head back to the Garrison and it’ll take a while for the dye to set in. I’ll have to do it now so I don’t miss curfew.”

Tex let out a small hum, “Ok, I’ll talk to ya later. Do ya want me to pick you up for your break? Or do ya want to stay out there?

“No, no staying here. Please pick me up for break.” Keith rushed out. He dreaded the thought of staying at the Garrison for a week without classes to occupy his time.

The laugh it got him had Keith smiling. He could already imagine the way his dad was grinning in amusement. “Got it. I’ll be there around three. That should be after your test, right?

“Yeah.”

The test was his final for the flight simulation. If he passed then he would be granted permission to actually use real crafts to fly. For that class Keith had been passing with an average score. Not brilliantly good yet not entirely poor either. However because he was “average”, this was fuel for Dylan and a few others to pick on him. As it currently stood, Dylan was the best in class, leading to his obnoxious superiority complex.

Keith shook his head, pushing the obnoxious blond from his mind. He had to focus. A week from now he’d be taking the test and all he had to do was fly just a little better than usual. There was no need to try and surpass Dylan. He knew in his heart that he had more experience in flying anyways.

By the time Keith made it back to the Garrison, dinner was being served and he was among the few stragglers getting the last of their food. Just as Keith was walking to his usual lone corner, someone walked past him and very purposefully hit the edge of his tray.

Keith’s food sloshed dangerously and the soupy substance he thought might be mashed potatoes were now suddenly all over the front of his uniform. He stiffened, mouth drawing into a thin line as sharp eyes turned to stare at the mocking smirk of Dylan.

“Oops.” Came the oh-so-innocent reply.

Keith narrowed his eyes and took a purposeful step around Dylan. He barely resisted the urge to smack shoulders like a petulant child. Instead Keith stomped to his seat and slammed his tray down with more force than necessary. He furiously rubbed the potatoes off his uniform with a handful of napkins and then tore into his meal like it was the one to personally offend him. He may have also stabbed it a couple of times.

Feeling eyes on him, Keith’s gaze snapped up with a glare already in place. Violet locked with grey and Keith stiffened. That guy with the bright quintessence was looking at him. Of course Keith had seen him every now and again, but it had been a while since Keith felt those eyes on him.

Next to the guy was his dark-skinned glasses wearing companion. Whenever Keith would see him, his friend wasn’t that far behind. If Keith didn’t know any better he would’ve said they were joined at the hip.

The man with the glasses noticed his words were no longer being paid attention to and he glanced from his friend to where he was staring. When he noticed Keith he looked back and frowned, seeming to say something that got a sheepish laugh from the taller cadet.

Keith took his moment of distraction to flee. He dumped the rest of his food in the trash and returned the tray before slipping out of the cafeteria. Though he was far from those piercing eyes, Keith still couldn’t shake off the feeling of them on him.

Chapter Text

The last thing Keith expected was to run into that guy as frequently as he did. Sure they shared the same dorm area, but Keith very rarely lingered where it was densely populated. He would either sneak away to the roof, the library, or stay in his room if Dylan wasn’t there.

Keith made it a point to try and avoid the guy, yet he’d somehow show up whenever Keith least expected it. There were times it even seemed like he was going to approach Keith. Those moments were where Keith would panic and either dive into the nearest crowd in order to escape or he’d be thankfully saved by someone catching the guy’s attention. Yet Keith knew his luck could only last for so long and soon that guy would have him cornered. Keith couldn’t say he knew why the guy was trying to talk to him, but Keith hoped he’d eventually stop. Keith was content not having to stress over what to say to him.

But because Keith was now super aware of the guy’s quintessence, he was extremely surprise to feel the familiar flare during gym class. His eyes snapped up from where he was crouched in a stretch and he spotted a class of senior cadets filing into the room. They were all decked out in the standard gym uniform of the Garrison, just as the junior cadets were. Among the group was the one Keith had been keeping an eye out for.

“Holy crow!” Whispered the boy stretching out near Keith. He had stopped in order to stare at the older teens talking to their gym teacher. “That’s Takashi Shirogane!”

Keith raised a brow and couldn’t stop the “who?” from falling past his lips.

The kid whipped around so fast Keith was afraid he might’ve gotten whiplash. “How could you be studying here and not know who Takashi Shirogane is?! He’s like a legend! He’s only 16 but he’s already breaking records and making a name for himself! The dude’s the best role model there is! Top in flying and top in academics!”

When he gestured towards the guy with the bright quintessence, Keith blinked in surprise. Huh. It was easy to tune out his classmate’s continued rambling as his eyes trailed Shirogane. His quintessence was so bright that Keith honestly didn’t need to visibly watch him. He could simply stretch out his senses and follow wherever the older teen went.

Keith’s attention was stolen however when his teacher began speaking. “Alright everyone! As you can see we’ve got some senior cadets here! That’s because we’re going to be doing a joint exercise. This is something we do often so make nice with your seniors, they’re going to be showing up frequently. You’ll be paired off with a senior and then the two of you will go through a few sparing sequences. This is simply to see how far along you are, so feel free to go all out. Though don’t worry, the senior cadets will be holding back since they’re more experienced than you. Now I’m going to read off names. Seniors, please go and greet the juniors you’re being paired with. Feel free to start at any time.”

Keith huffed and pushed himself up to stand when his teacher began listing off names. He folded his arm behind his back and stretched out the limb while he waited. Keith found himself dreading whoever it was paired with him. Hopefully they weren’t too chatty, Keith didn’t know if he could hold a conversation when he was trying to concentrate on acting like he was inexperienced.

“Dylan Keetley, you’re paired with Matthew Holt.”

Keith watched with disinterest as Dylan saluted to a casually smiling senior. Matthew offered a laugh and patted Dylan’s arm, loudly proclaiming that saluting wasn’t really necessary and he shouldn’t be so stiff.

“Keith Kogane,” Keith’s eyes snapped to the teacher when his name was called. “You’ll be paired with Takashi Shirogane.”

Keith dropped from his stretch and huffed out in a way that could be taken as annoyance but was really just the air being punched from his lungs. In the short span of a dobosh he managed to recover. While Keith ignored the panicked thoughts racing in his head, he halfheartedly raised his hand. Shirogane’s eyes landed on Keith and he seemed surprised, but the look instantly gave way to a smile.

“So you’re Keith?” He asked when he walked up to the shorter teen. He offered a hand, “I’m Takashi Shirogane, but I usually go by Shiro.”

Keith took Shiro’s hand and shook it stiffly. “Nice to meet you.”

If Keith hadn’t been too busy trying to ignore the meltdown he was internally having, then he would’ve noticed the daggers being glared at him. It would seem a few of his classmates were envious that he was being paired with Shiro.

Keith let his hand fall and moved with Shiro towards their own space on the large mats. While Shiro started on his stretches, Keith focused on finishing his.

“So how are you liking the Garrison so far?”

The break in silence wasn’t what surprised Keith, it was the fact that the question was directed at him. He was so unused to someone talking to him that for a moment he was left speechless.

Keith’s brain jump started and he stammered as he realized he’d been quiet for a little too long. “A-ah um… It’s fine. I like… The space flight simulations.”

Despite Keith’s heavy pauses, Shiro had patiently waited for his answer. He smiled wider and laughed, “Yeah I can understand that! But the simulations can never beat flying the real thing.”

That was something Keith knew quite well. The simulation wasn’t bad but actually flying through space was something Keith would forever prefer. However he was supposed to be inexperienced in flying, so he couldn’t voice his agreement. Keith could only shrug and say, “Well hopefully I’ll be able to find out one day.”

Shiro finished up his stretches not a moment later and bounced up on his feet. He smiled at Keith and the young Altean was beginning to think it was a permanent fixture for the guy. When Shiro crouched down into a battle ready pose, Keith instinctually followed.

“So, how good are you at sparring?” Shiro asked with a quirked brow.

Keith shrugged a shoulder, “I’m not terrible.”

“Well ok then. I’ll let you make the first move to set the pace.”

Now that got a snort of amusement out of Keith. “You sure you want that?”

Interest sparked in Shiro’s eyes and his grin widened. “Yep! Hit me with all you’ve got. No holding back!”

Now Keith honestly shouldn’t have listened, but for some reason he couldn’t remember why it was he wasn’t supposed to show off. All he knew was that he wanted to answer that challenging glint in Shiro’s eyes. Keith slid down lower, falling out of the standard Garrison fighting form and taking on something completely different. His fingers twitched like they were missing something but Keith ignored the vacant feeling.

Around them people were already beginning to spar, the sounds of people crying out in surprise or pain accompanied by bodies hitting the mat. Despite their peers already starting, Keith and Shiro remained frozen in place, the two quietly assessing each other.

As quick as a viper Keith darted forward and struck out. Shiro’s eyes widened at the unanticipated quick movements, barely dodging out of the way. Keith kept up the sharp jabs, giving Shiro no chance to breath. Mixing up the punches he twisted and struck with his foot. Shiro’s arms braced against the attack and he pushed back, Keith sliding with the force and putting some space between them.

“Wow, you’re pretty fast!” Though his tone was praising, Shiro’s face was narrowed into a serious look.

Keith fought a smirk, “You said no holding back, so give me the same courtesy.”

The next time they moved it was Shiro throwing a swing. When Keith blocked it, he could tell Shiro didn’t put his full force behind it. Flames of annoyance were instantly lit and Keith’s eyes narrowed. Shiro had told Keith not to hold back, yet here he was doing just that. What a hypocrite. Keith had grown up sparring with Krolia, retraining his body to be that of a warrior all over again. She had only held back in the first few years of his youth, but after that he dealt with the full force of a Marmora member. So to have someone hold back because they didn’t think Keith could handle it was insulting.

Gritting his teeth, Keith twisted around Shiro’s arm and aimed high. Just as he expected Shiro ducked to avoid it, landing him right where Keith wanted. Using his speed to his advantage, Keith rushed into Shiro’s space. He reached out lightning quick and grasped Shiro’s wrist and shoulder, darting a foot underneath his feet and pushing back.

A gasp left Shiro as he was suddenly thrown off kilter. His back hit the mat rather hard and the air was punched out of him with a strangled wheeze. Shiro laid there for a moment, staring up at the ceiling in surprise. His silence was what had Keith registering that the rest of the gym was equally quiet.

His head snapped up and Keith instantly paled when he saw almost every pair of eyes on him and Shiro. Quiznak! He let his annoyance goad him into showing his skills! Ok maybe Keith didn’t do much to put a lid on his irritation, but he didn’t have to down the guy so fast!

Keith was quick to duck his head and offer a hand to Shiro. He forced out a clipped “sorry”, hoping his body didn’t start changing colours because of embarrassment. Then again humans turned pink and red when nervous, so maybe he could just pass it off as a full body blush? One that made him turn blue or something?

Shiro accepted the hand and laughed when he was finally standing. “I wasn’t expecting that! Nice moves, where’d you learn them?”

The easy way Shiro rolled over Keith’s nerves was both soothing and unexpected. It was like Shiro’s laugh was what jump started everyone into focusing on their own tasks again. With the spotlight no longer being directed their way, Keith found himself deflating in relief.

“I… Sparred with my mom a lot. She’s…” Keith hesitated for a moment before glancing off to the side. “In the military.”

“Oh? What branch?”

Keith shrugged and flexed his hands, settling back into a competitive crouch. “Don’t know. My mom can’t risk telling us without being exposed.”

With a small “ah” Shiro nodded in understanding. “Covert ops, got it. So did she teach you that move in order to take down bigger opponents?”

Ducking to avoid a swipe, Keith leapt back before jumping forward and aiming a blow at Shiro’s side. He grunted when his fist was blocked and the attack returned. The force behind it wasn’t too bad, Keith and Shiro no longer actively trying to spar and instead merely going through the motions while holding a conversation. Keith’s little stunt earlier proved he had some skill in combat, yet he made no effort to flex his expertise anymore. He was content pretending like that just hadn’t happened. Shiro, thankfully, didn’t comment on the lack of energy behind Keith’s hits.

“No, that was for taking down coyotes.” Keith jumped and kicked, catching Shiro in the shoulder.

Shiro rolled with the hit and dropped to the ground, darting his leg out in order to knock Keith off balance. It managed to work though Keith rolled out of range before springing right back up.

The senior cadet laughed in disbelief, “Coyotes? You’re telling me your mom seriously taught you how to trip a coyote?”

Keith hunched his shoulders and glowered, his voice taking on a defensive hint. “You’ve got your way to bond with your parents and I’ve got mine.”

“I’m not trying to judge, I’m just curious. I’ve never met someone who bonds with their parents by going out and wrestling coyotes.”

Keith took a hit in the side and returned it with a kick of his own. “Not both of my parents. My dad is what you can consider normal. It was just me and my mom that bonded over catching wildlife and fighting. My dad and I bonded over fixing up his bike and racing.”

Ignoring the fact that by racing, Keith meant Tex was on the bike and he was running in his lion. Keith would win quite often but Tex was very good at giving him a run for his money. It was mainly when an obstacle couldn’t be cleared too easily. Flying was banned since it was technically “cheating’. So sometimes Keith had to climb over canyon walls since he was too big to fit through them. It was during those times that Tex would usually win.

“Sounds exciting!” Shiro laughed and blocked one of Keith’s punches.

The two settled into a rhythm of swapping hits and dodges, conversation flowing easily between them. By the time the class was over the two were breathing hard and sweating. Shiro excused himself to go and get his water bottle, yet by the time he turned around Keith had already disappeared.

///

I can’t believe I knocked him on his ass like that! And in front of everyone!” Keith growled, pressing the palm of his hands deep into his eyes. “And I talked so casually too. This wasn’t how I thought I’d introduce myself to him.

Keith was once more mentally connecting to the Guardian in the dream-like version of Oriande. He was lying on his back and blocking out the light by digging his hands into his eyes till he saw stars. Next to him lounged the white lion, a lazy purr filling the air.

No, it’s not really a bad thing…” Keith huffed, letting his hands drop. He turned his head to look at the dozing spirit. “You have a point… But it’s risky. What if he finds me weird? I’m not exactly an expert on human interactions. There’s a reason I decided to be a warrior and not a scholar. Diplomacy was just never my thing.

The Guardian chuffed and rolled so it was no longer facing Keith. It rested its head on the grass and flicked its tail dismissively. Scowling, Keith clicked his tongue and stood.

What a helpful answer. Since you’re not bothering to offer any other tips, I’m going to head back.” And with that Keith awoke on the roof once more.

He stretched out his neck and took a quick glance at the time. Once again he had meditated past free time and all the way into dinner. Keith slipped from his quiet place and made his way down to the cafeteria.

After getting over his initial panic Keith had decided it would be best if he simply went with the flow. Things have gone well for him so far because of his lack of a plan, so maybe in this situation it’d work too? But Keith was the type who hated not having a plan. To go into things unprepared was just asking for failure. But by making “go with the flow” his plan, Keith found some form of compromise. He wasn’t happy with it, but beggars can’t be choosers.

However no matter what, he wouldn’t go out of his way to approach Shiro. Since he didn’t know how to start a conversation with the other, Keith decided he wouldn’t even attempt to. But he wouldn’t actively try and avoid Shiro anymore. If Shiro was the one to come and start a conversation with Keith then he’d go along with it.

Of course with this in mind, Keith didn’t really think Shiro would go out of his way to talk to him. Sure he managed to knock Shiro down in barely under a dobosh, but Shiro was a full two deca-phoebs older than him. From what Keith saw, the senior cadets didn’t really interact with the junior cadets. So in all honesty Keith expected it to be the same between him and Shiro. Oh how the universe loves to prove him wrong.

“Hey Keith!”

The sound of someone calling his name had Keith tensing. He was currently digging into his mac and cheese, the only decent thing the Garrison tended to put out. Keith stuck his fork back into the cheesy noodles, eyes slowly trailing up to lock with Shiro. The elder teen was grinning at him from the other side of the table, his own tray of food in hand.

“Mind if I sit with you?”

A simple nod was all Shiro needed in order to take the seat across from Keith. He flashed another beaming smile before pulling his fork from its plastic wrapping. “The mac and cheese here is my favourite. How’re you liking it?”

Keith shrugged, pushing around a few noodles. “It isn’t the worst thing I’ve tasted.” That title belonged to the bug meals on Tynaozi-3. Just thinking about the things had Keith suppressing a shudder. “My dad can make better mac and cheese though.”

“Oh? What does he add to it?”

“Mmm a lot of different cheeses, spices with weird names, and then this crumbly stuff that isn’t croutons but looks like ground up croutons.” Keith’s brows furrowed as he tried to explain. He never really had an interest in cooking before and so he didn’t bother to learn much about it while on Earth. So long as the food tasted good and wasn’t still moving, Keith didn’t care.

Shiro laughed at the simple yet confusing description. He nodded along and ate a few bites before speaking. “Well if it has your praise then I’m sure it must be good. You don’t seem like the type to compliment things so easily.”

Keith’s grip on his fork tightened and he flashed a cautious glare towards Shiro. “How would you know? That’s just an assumption you have."

If Shiro was offended by Keith’s tone, he didn’t show it. Instead he held his fork in his mouth and looked off to the side as he hummed in thought.

A few seconds passed before Shiro removed his fork, “True, it’s a simple guess on my part. I could be wrong and I could be right. But something in my gut is telling me I’m probably right.”

Keith scoffed and stabbed at his noodles. “That’s stupid. You don’t even know me.”

“Again, you’re right. But that just means I’ve got to get to know you to see if I’m right, now don’t I?”

Shiro’s easy tone had Keith’s eyes snapping up to stare at him. The Altean frowned in confusion, completely bewildered by Shiro’s thought process. He makes an assumption about Keith and now wants to get to know him to see if his guess was correct? What was Keith? A science project? Was Shiro now going to test his hypothesis??

“Why?” Keith found himself blurting, too dumbfounded to stay defensive.

A light chuckle was his answer before Shiro shrugged. “Who knows? Do I need a reason to make a friend?”

Alright now Keith was floundering for a response. Shiro wanted to be his friend? What?! How did he come to the conclusion that would be the best idea? After talking to Keith a total of two times—this interaction included—he decided he wanted to be Keith’s friend? That was all kinds of suspicious and instantly had him on the defensive.

However before he could even say something, another voice cut through the silence. “Hey Shiro! No Adam with you today?”

Shiro glanced up and grinned as someone sat down next to him. Keith remembered this person from earlier today at the gym.

Chuckling, Shiro shook his head. “Nah. He took time off to go and visit his family for his mom’s birthday.”

“Oh? You didn’t go with him?”

“Nope. I’ve got a test coming up that I can’t afford to miss.” Shiro paused mid-bite, glancing between Keith and their newest table addition. “Oh right! Keith, this is Matthew Holt. Matt, this is Keith.”

Matt pushed up his glasses and stared at Keith for a moment before he blinked and a wide smile lit up his face. “Keith! Right you were Shiro’s training partner today!! Man let me tell you, seeing you knock Shiro on his back like that was the funniest thing! I had to try so hard not to bust out laughing at the way he looked laying there! Great job with that!”

Shiro rolled his eyes at the cackling coming from his friend. Keith, on the other hand, was tense from the new person. He pursed his lips, “Thanks?”

“Ok, ok. It wasn’t that funny.” Shiro knocked his shoulder against Matt’s, his frown not at all believable with the amusement sparking in his eyes.

“It was very funny. I’m almost sad I didn’t get a video of it. Adam would’ve laughed his ass off.” Matt stated matter-of-factly before shoving a pile of mac and cheese into his mouth.

Shiro groaned and buried his face into a hand. “Please don’t tell him. I’ll never hear the end of it.”

“Too late, already did.”

While Shiro and Matt talked, Keith had curled up on himself more and more. He was no longer interested in eating his food and was content to simply play with it. Keith honestly had no clue who they were talking about and he wasn’t in any position to ask who this “Adam” was. Maybe it was the guy Keith always saw Shiro hanging around. Either way he found himself feeling suddenly excluded from the conversation, making him clam up.

When the two senior cadets began talking about a previous event that happened on Mars, Keith perked up and began paying attention. Matt was animatedly talking about something between mouthfuls of food, hands flapping wildly.

“And they still haven’t found out what made that huge indent near the rover! Until Oath makes its way to its sister, all we’ve got is that video! By the time it gets there whatever made the impact will probably be long gone!”

Keith blinked, head tilted to the side. “What happened on Mars?”

Matt’s eyes widened and he choked on his food. Swallowing down a mouthful of milk, he slammed the little carton on the table before wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “You don’t know what happened on Mars?! Have you been living under a rock?! It was the biggest thing to happen a year ago! It was all over the news!”

“My dad doesn’t have a TV. And our house is in the middle of nowhere.” Keith huffed, setting his fork down. No point in trying to force himself to eat the rest.

“Oh geez that sounds absolutely horrible. No offense.” Matt smiled sheepishly and laughed for a moment. Then he suddenly turned serious and leaned towards Keith, waving his hand in a gesture to get the other to lean in too. Keith did, though hesitantly. “Ok so get this. A year ago one of the rovers on Mars, a new model named Promise, went offline. Now you might be thinking, ‘what’s the big deal about that?’ Well I’ll tell you! Promise was new, only been on Mars for three months! Yet without warning it went offline. The last transmission it gave was a video of a large shadow growing over it and then the sound of something hitting the ground. Just like that Promise went offline! They say it was probably an asteroid hitting it, but I say different!”

Shiro chuckled and rolled his eyes, “Matt here thinks it might’ve been an alien.”

“An alien ship! There’s no way a shadow that big would’ve been just one single alien! It fell out of the sky, Shiro! You’re telling me you don’t think it was an alien?!” Matt paused before he reached into his pocket and pulled out a device. He typed away at it for a moment before setting it on the table. Keith knew for a fact it wasn’t Garrison issued, especially when Matt made a great effort to secretly slide it across the table towards Keith. “Here, watch this and tell me what you think.”

Keith took the device and pressed play. Though the audio was extremely quiet to avoid detection, Keith was still able to hear it without a problem. It was a video of the red and rocky terrain of Mars, the little rover chugging away over the dusty hills. Suddenly there was a loud rumble and the ground the rover was looking at was quickly swallowed up by a looming shadow. There was only a moment for the rover to attempt to look up before a loud boom sounded and the screen went black. Keith winced and couldn’t stop the hiss of air from leaving his clenched teeth.

“I know, right??” Matt said as he took back the device.

The two humans probably assumed Keith’s response was from the poor rover that was destroyed by something unknown. The problem was that it wasn’t unknown. Keith knew exactly what had destroyed the rover.

Before Keith started school at the Garrison, he’d sometimes take his Lion out and fly around through space. He never wondered too far from Earth and he never did anything to attract unwanted attention. During one of those little expeditions last year, he’d been curious enough to go and check out Mars. Tex had overheard a few people talking about the rover while he was at work and had relayed the information to Keith. He’d thought his son would find it fascinating, completely unaware that Keith would be curious enough to fly to Mars and try to find the rover.

And at first all Keith wanted to do was watch it from a distance! He made sure to stay out of sight from the little thing! And when Keith had had his fill of watching it putter about, he fully intended to leave without a sound.

Matt hadn’t been wrong about an asteroid crashing into the rover. Too bad no one knew it crashed into a Lion first. Keith had been hit in the back by the rather large asteroid and the surprise had caused him to plummet with the large hunk of rock. By the time Keith hit the ground he quickly realized that he’d gone and smushed the little robot. Keith had gone out of his lion to see if it could recover, but the poor thing was nothing but scraps. Totally irreparable.

“That looks like it was a pretty big asteroid. If it was one, anyways.” Keith said.

“So?? Do you think it was an alien ship or an asteroid?” Matt asked, eyes wide and staring at Keith like the fate of the world rested on his answer.

Keith pursed his lips while he thought about his response. On one had he could dismiss it and say of course it was an asteroid. But then on the other hand… Who’d be there to call him out if he believed it was an alien? Keith knew the truth and Matt unwittingly knew it too, so why would it be weird if Keith said it was an alien?

With his mind made up Keith flashed a grin, “Totally an alien.”

Matt let out a cheer and slapped a hand down onto the table. He gave Shiro a very smug look. “See? Even Keith says it’s an alien! That’s 2-1!”

Chuckling good naturedly, Shiro raised his hands in mock surrender. “Ok ok, fine. You guys win. An alien was the one to crash into Promise.”

“I’m glad you see it our way.” Matt nodded his head and grinned at Keith. He stuck a hand out, “Good to see another believer! We alien-enthusiasts gotta stick together!”

Keith was trying very hard not to laugh hysterically. Instead he nodded and shook Matt’s hand. “Yep. It’s naïve to think there isn’t life on other planets. This solar system is only one. It’d take deca-ph—er… Decades just to try and explore a small piece.”

“Right??? And even then space is still growing!!” Matt picked up the remainders of his meal, stuffing them in his mouth before mumbling around the mouthful. “I like you Keith. I always appreciate someone who believes in life on other planets.”

Smiling lightly, Keith found himself growing a bit more relaxed as dinner carried out. He and Matt talked about potential life on other planets, Keith letting nothing slip that would incriminate him. That still didn’t stop him from dropping a few hints here and there though. It wasn’t strange at all since even Matt and Shiro offered their own opinions on what kinds of aliens might be out there.

Shiro, while more neutral on the belief of aliens, was still willing to add his own opinion into the conversation. By the time dinner was done with and people were making their way back to the dorms, the trio were knee-deep in a heated discussion on if human lore tied into aliens.

It was a fun conversation until Matt brought up elves and their mystical qualities. At that point Keith decided it was high time he turned in for the night. So with a rather stilted and awkward farewell, Keith left Shiro and Matt in the longue before taking the stairs two at a time in order to get to his room faster.

Dylan wasn’t there, thankfully. Keith changed out of his uniform and moved to his bag. Yanking out a makeup wipe, he rubbed at his cheeks as thoroughly as he could. When he felt satisfied that the foundation was gone, Keith tucked himself under his blankets and turned so that his back was facing the rest of the room.

As Keith thought back on the wild events of the day, he found himself smiling. Despite the fact that nothing went according to the barebones plan he had, Keith couldn’t find any reason to be upset over that. In the long run it all turned out ok so far. Shiro had talked to him of his own accord and so did one of Shiro’s friends. Though Keith had no clue if Shiro would continue talking to him in the future, he found himself looking forward to what tomorrow would hold.

Chapter Text

Keith grunted as he was forcefully shoved into the wall, mocking laugher thrown his way as his assailants moved past. Huffing, Keith rolled his eyes and bent down to pick up his dropped notebook. Making sure that none of the lose pages had been scattered, he let his shoulders sag in relief. Though on the outside it appeared to be a simple notebook, the inside was notes upon notes written in Altean. They ranged from device schematics to planet charts Keith made based off memory alone. It wasn’t anything special, just something Keith took to making when bored in class.

“Yo Keith!” Matt’s cheery greeting had Keith perking up.

He let the arm getting flung around his shoulder drag him closer. The past few days Keith had spent time getting used to Matt’s friendly nature. At first he would shy away from the contact and pretty much curl his lip at it, but gradually Keith had come to expect it. Matt never clung to him for too long, seeming to know when Keith was getting fed up with the touching. It was something that he was extremely grateful for and it led to Keith allowing more clinging from the tech wizard.

“Off to your next class?” Matt asked as he let Keith lead them down the hall bustling with people.

“Yep. Last class before lunch and then the simulation final.”

Matt blinked, pushing up his glasses. “That’s today?”

“Mmm.”

“Right, because break technically starts today.” Matt chuckled, “Can’t believe I forgot that. I’ve been too busy studying for my own exams. I tell ya, some of these assignments are completely crazy! I bet you they’re only giving them to us just to keep us out of their hair. Listen well to this senior cadet’s wisdom, Keith. Do not take an animal study course! It may sound fun to learn about the animals that’ve been to space, but it isn’t! It’s sad! Every fieldtrip to the zoo my class goes to, I leave crying!”

That caught Keith’s attention real quick. “We have a zoo near here?”

Quirking a brow at how Keith seemed to ignore everything he just said except for the zoo part, Matt pouted. “Yeah? It isn’t that big but it has a lot of different animals.” Matt gave Keith a confused look and frowned. “You’ve never been to it before? Don’t you live out here?”

“I do, but I didn’t get to go to the zoo growing up. I had… Problems when I was a kid and it made it hard to go anywhere.”

The problems Keith was specifically talking about were his chameleon-like abilities. Keith, when he was younger, didn’t have a good grasp on keeping his emotions in check. Because of this he was always at risk of changing colours. And as Keith got older, there was never really a good time to go to the zoo. So despite Keith wanting to see the animals of Earth, he was content to settle for their pictures in books and videos.

Matt gave a sympathetic pat to his shoulder and grinned in excitement, “I just got the best idea!!! Let’s go to the zoo during break!!”

The suggestion instantly caught Keith’s attention, the Altean visibly perking up. “Really?”

“Yeah!” Matt swung his bag around, pulling out a pen. He then handed it to Keith and stuck out his arm, pulling back the sleeve. “Quick! Write down your address! I’ll put it on my tablet later! Oh and I’ll bring the idea up to Shiro so he can come along!”

After having obtained Keith’s address and remarking “wow you really do live out in the boonies”, the two parted ways. When Keith sat down in his class, a small smile managed to work its way onto his face.

Honestly speaking he was beyond excited at the prospect of going to the zoo. It was hard to keep from grinning widely at the idea of seeing all the animals there, but he managed to pull it off somewhat effectively. Rationally Keith knew that there’d be a lot of Earth animals, but he’s never seen them in person before. Not the particular ones housed in a zoo, anyways. After all, it wasn’t like he could take his Lion and go see them in their natural habitats. So going to the zoo was almost like a dream come true for the Altean.

Keith’s enthusiasm followed him all the way through class and into lunch. Just as he started digging into his food with gusto, the loud sounds around him suddenly fell away into a muted cacophony. Keith froze mid-bite, his fork slowly lowering and his body tensing. A cold sweat broke out along his back as a familiar dragging feeling washed over him.

In a single moment Keith was no longer in the Garrison’s cafeteria but was instead in space. Around him large hunks of Xanthorium crystals floated dangerously close. The edges of his vision were fuzzy, almost making the surrounding world look like a poor quality film. He took note that he was in what appeared to be a lion, the red motifs decorating it not lost to him.

We might not be strong enough to beat this thing!” Came a panicked voice. It sounded like they were speaking directly into Keith’s ear.

Violet eyes snapped up towards where a purple light was shining at him. A hideous creation hovered in front of Keith, its maw open and a beam of energy being directed his way. It dragged him forward, struggling doing nothing to break free of its grip.

Hang on!”

Ulaz?!” A voice Keith could instantly pinpoint as Shiro’s had him quickly realizing what this premonition was.

He didn’t have time to linger on that as around him the vision continued to play. Keith watched in shock as the person he assumed was Ulaz zoomed past them, his words ringing loudly in Keith’s ears.

Voltron is too valuable. The universe needs you.”

The ship disappeared into the creature despite the outcries of protest spilling over the coms. Just as the beast began charging at what Keith knew was Voltron, it suddenly froze. The robot began to collapse in on itself like a deflated balloon, limbs crumbling and metal body denting.

Ulaz opened up the space pocket from inside! It’s falling in on itself!”

Keith wasn’t stupid, he knew what opening a space pocket did. Which meant he also knew what it could do if one opened it trapped inside of another object. It would be like having your own personal black hole sitting in your pocket. But without any stabilizers, you’d be swallowed up endlessly till nothing left existed.

The scene Keith had just witnessed was from the point of view from one of Voltron’s Paladins; the Red Paladin, to be exact. He’d seen the death of someone named Ulaz to a creature he’d never seen before. Holding his head in a tight grip, Keith’s breath came in short panicked bursts.

Why had the Guardian shown him such a scene? It had to have been for a reason. Did it want Keith to do something about it? But what?! What could he do?! He didn’t know when that vision would happen but apparently Voltron would have all of its Paladins at that point in time and would be fighting some kind of robot. But where was Keith? He didn’t see White anywhere. Was he even there?

“…Eith? Keith!”

His name being called and his shoulders being trapped in a tight grip was what pulled Keith from his vision. He sucked in a strangled breath and practically collapsed forward. Another pair of hands were suddenly on him, helping keep him propped up.

“We’ve got you buddy, deep breaths.” That was Matt’s voice.

“Are you ok? You were having a panic attack.” Shiro.

The cafeteria’s lights were too bright so Keith deigned to keep his eyes closed. Taking a few deep, shaky inhales, Keith focused all his concentration on Shiro and Matt. The familiar feel of their energy was grounding and helped Keith get a better grasp on his surroundings.

Nodding slowly, he managed to get out a shaky, “Yeah. Yeah I’m ok now… Sorry.”

He opened his eyes to see the concerned faces of Matt and Shiro. The two offered duel smiles of sympathy and after a moment they returned to their seats across from Keith.

Matt poked at his questionable slice of turkey and tilted his head to the side, “Any idea what set off your panic attack?”

Right. To someone unfamiliar with Keith when he gets visions, it might end up looking like a panic attack. He becomes unresponsive and he gets lost in the vision. Sometimes depending on what he sees, he gets overwhelmed by so many emotions and his body ends up reflecting it. A quick glance at his hands showed that he thankfully hadn’t started changing colours.

With another shaky exhale Keith cleared his throat, “No idea. Was kind of just sitting here and then it… Well showed up. It happens from time to time. They usually aren’t that bad.”

Shiro, still not taking his eyes off Keith, frowned. “You have them often?”

“Yes and no? I wouldn’t say often, but they’re something I’m used to.” Which wasn’t technically a lie. Though the Guardian’s ability was sporadic, Keith himself never saw all the visions it had. Whenever the Guardian would have a premonition it thought Keith needed to see, only then would it relay the vision to him. But just like its ability, the Guardian never took in the time or place and simply let Keith sit through the visions. It had caused Krolia and Tex so much panic the first few times it happened.

“Is this the problem you had when you were younger?” Matt asked, sparing a glance at the confused look Shiro gave him. He shook his head and mouthed a “later” before looking back to Keith.

With a grimace Keith looked down at his food, “Er… Kind of. As a kid I didn’t do well in… Public places. I’m still trying to grow past that.”

Understanding slowly seemed to don on Shiro and Matt. They both nodded solemnly and Shiro reached over to pat Keith’s shoulder in sympathy. “I’m sorry to hear that Keith. But your social anxiety seems to be doing a lot better, especially if you’re in the Garrison. It’s very brave of you to have joined.”

Matt was quick to add in his own words of encouragement. “Yeah! So what you had one panic attack? No biggie! Doesn’t mean all your progress has been knocked back. You just had a bad day!”

Shiro and Matt were so sincere that Keith couldn’t help but let out a guilty groan inside his head. On the outside he merely smiled meekly and nodded. Keith ducked his head and mumbled a thanks while screwing his face shut and apologized internally.

Thankfully they didn’t linger long on Keith’s supposed social anxiety and instead switched to much safer topics. Matt spoke around his mouthful of food about the trip to the zoo, Shiro entirely onboard with the idea.

“I’ll invite Adam along too! It’ll be a fun group trip!” Shiro paused before smiling sheepishly at Keith. “Oh right. You haven’t met Adam yet. Ah, but no worries! I can introduce you guys after lunch! Or sometime after your exam!”

Keith pursed his lips and frowned, “Well I’m kind of going to leave right away when I finish the exam. My dad’s going to be picking me up pretty much right away since it’s a two hour drive to our house. He doesn’t like riding his bike at night.”

“Makes sense,” Shiro chuckled, “Alright. Then how about before your exam? Matt and I were already going to come watch to support you, I can just bring Adam along with.”

For the junior cadet simulation exams, they were mostly treated as an open spectacle for people to come see. Those who weren’t taking the exam because flying wasn’t their main area of study or older Garrison personal that were simply curious were allowed to come and see the exam. There would be a wide screen projecting to observers everything that went on inside the simulation.

Keith was surprised at the fact that Shiro and Matt wanted to come and watch him fly. It wouldn’t be all that exciting in Keith’s opinion. And he had honestly expected them to have better things to do. They’ve barely known Keith for a week yet already they were acting so chummy.

Keith found it odd not because he wasn’t used to friendly aliens, it was simply because Matt and Shiro were human. From what he’s learned during his time on Earth, very rarely were humans ever just “kind”. Then again he hadn’t met that many humans before coming to the Garrison, so who knows? Maybe he’s wrong and there’s a lot more people like Shiro and Matt.

“Alright. Do you know where he is?”

“Probably the cadet lounge? He was going to come to the cafeteria, but he still has leftovers from when he went to visit home so he chose to eat those instead.”

With a grunt of acknowledgement, Keith pushed his tray of untouched food to the side. “Well I have to go and finish packing. So if you want to come back with me…?”

Shiro nodded at him, “Yeah! Just lemme finish my food.”

While Keith went to go dump his own food and return his tray, Matt took this chance to smile around his mouthful and hum. “Have you even told Keith that Adam was your boyfriend?

Tensing, Shiro stared at his fork with his mouth parted slightly. “Oh.”

Of course Matt knew Shiro forgot. He was simply too excited at the thought of introducing his boyfriend to his new friend that he never bothered to see if Keith was alright with homosexual relationship.

With a roll of his eyes Matt nudged Shiro, “Don’t worry. Keith doesn’t seem like the type to care about those kinds of things. And if he does… Well he’ll just have to learn to grow out of those archaic thoughts.”

Shiro wanted to have faith in what Matt was saying but he couldn’t help and be worried about Keith’s stance on the matter. It’d be painful to hear that someone exceptionally bright was homophobic.

Suddenly no longer feeling hungry, Shiro bid Matt a farewell and went to go dispose of his remaining food. Keith had already returned by the time he got up so he settled against the side of the table and waited for Shiro. When he got back, Keith was idly chatting with Matt about something, Shiro only catching the tail end of the conversation.

“The signals definitely got near M13.” Keith stated matter-of-factly, arms crossed over his chest.

Matt snorted, “But they were sent with archaic tech! There’s no way it reached that far already! I could’ve built a better frequency modulated radio when I was in primary school! My sister can build a better one and she’s 8!”

Keith would’ve been surprised if he wasn’t aware just how intelligent Matt and his family were. Keith had been shocked to learn that Matt was actually a year younger than him and not 16 like Shiro. After inquiring about this, Matt had merely grinned and proudly proclaimed that he’d skipped some grades thanks to his superior intellect. So the concept of Matt’s little sister being just as gifted, if not more, wasn’t a far stretch. Needless to say the Altean was impressed. If they had been on Altea, Keith knew Matt would’ve been popular with the scholars.

Nodding to Shiro, Keith bid farewell to Matt with a vague promise to continue the conversation later. As they began walking out of the cafeteria and back to the lounge, Shiro glanced at Keith from the corner of his eye and smiled.

“So what was that about?”

“Hm?” Keith blinked, turning his head to glance up at Shiro for a moment before shrugging and looking forward. “Just about the Arecibo message. Matt doesn’t think it went as far as it was supposed to, I say it did but just fell short by a few lightyears.”

Shiro chuckled at that. Keith and Matt usually debated back and forth on things involving space. Shiro had learned quickly that Keith was far more skilled than he let on. He was able to grasp what Matt was saying when he went on his mathematical tirades and theories, plus he could keep up with Shiro when sparring. Shiro had a feeling that Keith had the capabilities to surpass him, but he hadn’t found the chance to prove it yet.

 Nodding, Shiro found himself asking, “And what makes you so confident?”

At this Keith paused for a long time. From what Shiro could see, his face flashed with that familiar closed-off look. Though Shiro hadn’t known Keith for long, he was quick to pick up on some little ticks Keith had. Whenever he was holding back on something, Keith’s brow would furrow and his face would pull into something that looked like a grimacing scowl.

Keith finally said with a shrug, “No reason. Just find it hard to believe that no extraterrestrial life didn’t pick up on the message yet.”

“Oh? Then how come we haven’t gotten a response?” It was a valid question that everyone probably had at some point. But of all the answers Shiro had been expecting, he was never anticipating Keith’s next words.

“Sometimes it’s safer to be ignored than to be noticed.”

While the answer itself wasn’t strange, it was the way Keith said it that had Shiro pausing mid-step. Keith had said it with such a haunted, weary tone that for a moment Shiro thought a soldier had been walking beside him and not a young 14 year old junior cadet. Shiro watched Keith walk, his shoulders pulled back and eyes trained forward. It was a little too perfect of a stance for someone supposedly new to military life. But then again maybe Keith had picked it up from his mother?

Keith, noticing that Shiro was no longer by his side, stopped and turned to look at him. “You ok?”

Shiro blinked out of his daze and a smile easily appeared. He laughed and trotted to catch up to Keith. “Sorry, got lost in thought for a moment there!”

Keith merely grunted and continued onwards. They reached the lounge before Shiro could formulate a question on Keith’s tone earlier. With a cursory glance Shiro easily spotted Adam, telling Keith quickly to wait right there.

As he waited, Keith stuffed his hands in his pockets and leaned against the wall. His eyes trailed over the people in the lounge, making note of who was there. He spotted Dylan standing in a corner, grinning and chatting with his small group of friends. On occasion they’d glance at Keith, snicker, and then go right back to whispering. It was odd but Keith didn’t pay too much attention to it.

Instead he thought back on the vision he had, still feeling the familiar dregs of fear and shock. The emotions were influenced from whoever he had been seeing the vision from. The bleed over was something that always left Keith with a headache and feeling all kinds of out of it. They didn’t always shake him up and this had been the first time in a long while that he had actually seen a premonition of someone’s death. The last time had been…

No.

Keith closed his eyes and fought back the sting of tears and swallowed hard. He wasn’t going to think about that day. It was a day that hurt with every recollection and never failed to break down all of the walls around Keith’s heart. His grief was still raw and every time he thought back on it, the wound was scratched open again to bleed out in heavy torrents. So Keith wasn’t even going to go there, it just wasn’t safe to be that vulnerable in a place like this.

Violet eyes opened when he sensed Shiro’s quintessence getting closer. He gave a quick onceover on who he guessed was Adam, committing his appearance to memory. It wouldn’t do to forget someone who was obviously important to Shiro.

“Keith, I’d like to introduce you to Adam.” Shiro said once they stopped in front of Keith.

Adam held out a hand and offered a polite smile to Keith. “Adam Waterfield, it’s nice to meet you. Shiro’s told me a lot about you.”

“Keith Kogane,” Shaking his hand, Keith glanced wearily at Shiro. “And what’s he told you?”

“Nothing bad!” Shiro was quick to say before Adam could talk. He had the decency to look a little sheepish, cheeks tinted pink.

Adam chuckled and crossed his arms over his chest in amusement. “He’s right on that. If anything he’s praised you quite a bit.” He ignored Shiro’s soft whine of “Adam!” next to him and continued talking. “Matt was also kind enough to tell me about the time you knocked Shiro down. I’ve gotta say, in the two years we’ve been dating, I’ve never seen someone knock Shiro down like you apparently did. You’ll have to show me sometime, I’m sure it’ll be funny.”

Shiro stiffened and looked at Adam with wide eyes before snapping his gaze to Keith. The boy’s brows were furrowed and he let out a sound that could be taken as confusion or surprise.

“You guys are dating?”

Now it was Adam’s turn to look at Shiro. He quirked a brow, “You didn’t tell him?”

Shiro ducked his head and winced, “I was… Going to?”

Adam sighed and rolled his eyes. Looking back at Keith, he nodded his head towards Shiro. “The two of us are dating. Shiro’s Gay and I’m Bi. Does that bother you?”

Now Keith’s face was scrunched in a way that was very obviously confusion. “’Gay’…? ‘Bi’? What do those mean?”

The dread that had been slowly filling Shiro gave way to its own dumbfounded confusion. He and Adam stared at Keith, then each other, then back to Keith. It was shocking to hear that he didn’t know what those words meant. Practically everyone Keith’s age had some kind of awareness on what they were. Only really small children didn’t know, but that was to be expected.

Hesitant, Shiro started slowly, “Being Gay is used to refer to someone who’s homosexual. It’s… Usually a term for men but anyone can use it? The female term is Lesbian.”

“And Bi is a shortened term of Bisexual. It’s used to describe someone who’s interested in both men and women.” Adam added, a slightly guarded expression in his eyes.

Keith blinked and instantly the confusion morphed into astonishment. He let out a small sound, “There’s words for that???” It was the smile that pulled at Keith’s face which had Shiro and Adam letting out small sighs of relief.

Adam was relieved Shiro’s friend wasn’t homophobic and Shiro was relieved that Keith’s confusion had nothing to do with the fact that he never thought two men could be in a relationship, but just by the fact he never heard those words before.

“You seriously didn’t know what Gay or Bi was? Didn’t you hear them at school or from your parents?” Shiro couldn’t help but ask.

Keith shook his head, “No. I was homeschooled all my life. And my dad didn’t feel the need to talk about relationships. He just told me whoever I decided to spend my life with was going to have a handful to deal with. My mom... Her… Family,” Keith glanced to the side and scrunched his face up in that familiar way. “They don’t really care about gender. If the feelings are mutual that’s all that matters.”

Adam and Shiro digested the information with surprise. Adam tilted his head and smiled, “Sounds like a very loving household.”

Keith nodded, hands stuffed into his pockets. “Yeah. I’m fortunate it was them that found me.”

Now that was something that caught Shiro’s attention. However before he could even ask the question that sprung on his tongue, Keith’s tablet began beeping. He pulled it out, dismissing the alarm before stuffing it back into his pocket.

“I’ve got to go. Simulation starts in 30 minutes and I still need to pack.” Keith said, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder at the direction of the stairs.

Swallowing down his question, Shiro nodded. “Alright. We’ll wait here to go with you.”

Keith grunted in confirmation and sprinted up the steps two at a time. As he made it to his room, Keith pushed down the brief twinge of hurt in his chest. Why hadn’t Shiro told him he was dating someone? Was he ashamed? Wasn’t that an important thing to humans? Did he not think they were good enough friends for Keith to know who he was dating? Or was he just afraid that Keith wouldn’t accept a same-sex relationship? It’d have been hypocritical of Keith not to accept such a thing. Ilor and Atka had both been women, after all. Maybe it was human custom to not talk about who you were dating till you’d been friends for a certain time?

However much Keith wanted to try and decipher Shiro’s way of thinking, all of his thoughts were promptly chucked out the moment he opened the room door. Keith froze, sensing something was off but unable to pinpoint it. It wasn’t till he moved further into the room that he realized what had him so on edge.

His bag, the one he put his makeup and dye in, was sitting where he’d left it this morning. However the peculiar thing about it was that it was facing the opposite direction of how he had put it. Keith wasted no time crossing over to his side of the room and grabbing the bag from his bed. He yanked it open, eyes and hands darting around inside of it. With a strangled sound of anger, Keith threw his empty bag down onto the floor.

Keith was breathing hard and his hands were clenched into tight fists. His emotions were already strained thanks to his vision earlier. And now the fact that his things had been stolen just pushed Keith’s anger up to the point he was shaking. He turned sharply and slapped his hand down on the keypad with more force than necessary. Keith knew exactly who took his stuff.

Shiro and Adam were startled to see Keith stomping down the stairs and baring his teeth like an animal. His skin seemed to be flushed a very angry red and as he stormed past, the two could hear him growling indecipherable words.

“Keith?” Shiro’s concern was brushed off, Keith not even acknowledging him. Shiro and Adam could do nothing but follow as Keith made his way right up to Dylan’s group that were currently getting ready to head to the test.

Dylan and his friends didn’t even seem surprised at Keith’s appearance. One of them looked a little nervous at the murderous glare being directed their group’s way, but the others smiled with fake innocence.

“Give. Me. My. Stuff. Back.” Keith hissed each word out one at a time between clenched teeth.

Tilting his head to the side, Dylan raised a brow. “What makes you think I have your stuff? Maybe someone else stole whatever you’re looking for.”

“Cut the bullshit!” Keith snapped, “You’re my fucking roommate, so unless it’s a higher-up going through rooms and taking things, then it’s you.”

Dylan snorted and made a show of rolling his eyes. “Well I personally didn’t touch your stuff. But Gary here went up to the room, so maybe he took it? Why don’t you try asking him?”

The guy next to Dylan sneered at him, “Though you’re gonna need to say clearly what it is you think I took. Could’ve been anything!”

Hissing an expletive that sounded like a garble of noises to the humans present, Keith made a threatening step towards the group of boys. Shiro’s hand darting out and grabbing his upper arm was the only thing keeping him back.

“Excuse me, but if you lot have stolen someone else’s property then you are in a direct violation of the Garrison’s standard rules.” Adam stepped forward, pushing up his glasses and leveling the junior cadets with a powerful glare.

That got a few of them to lose their smile, but not Dylan and Gary. They merely laughed and Dylan cheerily replied. “Well how can we know if we took something of his if he won’t tell us what’s missing? And how do we know he isn’t lying?”

“They were in my fucking bag and now they’re gone!” Keith was seething, his body tense and poised to spring the moment Shiro’s grip went slack.

“What was?” Here Dylan’s smile turned downright malicious. “Your… Makeup? Or was it your hair dye?” The group of boys laughed and though Keith had valid reasons for those things, no one here knew that. He felt himself turning red from something other than anger.

“What kind of guy wears makeup?!” Gary laughed loudly, nudging one of his friends.

“Or dyes his hair?!”

“He’s not even a natural raven!!”

“You know maybe that’s why your mom left.” Dylan said with a contemptuous smile. “You say she’s undercover and part of the military, but what proof do you have? Maybe you’re lying. Maybe she abandoned you because her only son puts on makeup. I know I wouldn’t want a kid like that.”

Keith’s eyes were visible pinpricks and he snarled, lunging at Dylan with the intent to maim. Shiro barely managed to grab Keith and bodily hoist him away from the other kids.

“You are way out of line!” Shiro snapped, glaring his own daggers.

Sounds spilled from Keith’s mouth that could’ve been a language, but they were nothing Shiro or Adam heard before. As if realizing no one here knew what he was saying, Keith took in a deep breath and forced himself to get a grip on his emotions. Thankfully the red of his skin was taken as being flushed from anger and no one was paying attention to the fact there were faint darker stripes on his neck. He forced himself to breathe through his nose, though from the way his nails were unconsciously digging into Shiro’s arms it was clear he wasn’t growing calm anytime soon.

Adam moved between Keith and the other boys, trusting Shiro to keep the former back. “I will not say it again. You all are violating one of the Garrison’s rules. ‘Stealing of any kind is not permitted of Garrison cadets. Any violations will be met with a strike’. If you do not return Keith’s possessions to him, I will be contacting Iverson and you all will be severely punished.”

Gary, having been the one to flinch the hardest when Keith took a dive towards them, looked at Dylan in a panic. “Dude, I don’t wanna be kicked out of the Garrison for this! My mom’ll kill me!! Just give him his stupid shit back!”

His other friends quickly gave their own agreements on not wanting to get any strikes on their records. Dylan, seeing that he was losing support, glared angrily and clicked his tongue. He crossed his arms over his chest. “Fine! I’ll give him his stupid beauty supplies back.” Suddenly he seemed to get an idea, his eyes lighting up. “But… He’s gotta beat my score for the simulation final.”

Shiro let out an incredulous sound. “Are you serious??”

He opened his mouth in order to protest further and demand the kid give back Keith’s stuff, but suddenly the weight in his arms relaxed. Looking down at Keith he saw that the red was receding from his skin and the anger on his face was being replaced by a sense of calm. On the outside it would look like Keith had finally quelled his anger, but from the tense line of his shoulders Shiro could tell he was anything but pacified.

“Fine.”

He shook off Shiro’s grip, pushing past and heading towards the lounge exit. Their entire spectacle had garnered a lot of looks, people watching Keith leave with wide eyes. And like a moth drawn to a flame, those curious enough to see how this turned out abandoned their seats and rushed from the room. Dylan and his friends were much slower at leaving the lounge, all of them now supporting the same confidently smug smiles. They knew Keith usually had an average score, they had no doubt that this would be an easy win for Dylan.

Shiro didn’t hesitate in going after Keith, Adam hot on his heels and sharing Shiro’s concern. Though he didn’t really know Keith, Adam knew he was a friend to Matt and Shiro. And from what he’s seen of Keith so far, he seemed like a good kid. A kid who didn’t know about labels like Gay and Bi and seemed to be wearing makeup and dying his hair. Adam knew all too well what it was like to be bullied for things other people didn’t understand, even if his experiences weren’t exactly the same as Keith. Though he didn’t know the reason for Keith to possess those items, it did little to stop him from sympathizing with the young teen.

By the time they got to the simulation room, the doors to the testing area were already closed so no unauthorized testers could be on the ground floor. Adam and Shiro had to climb the stairs and squeeze their way into the observation room, Shiro grabbing a hold of Adam’s hand to not lose him. They ended up running into Matt as they tried to find their own seating. He’d been one of the first to arrive, saving two seats for Adam and Shiro directly in the front row. Any other time Shiro would’ve been grateful enough to threaten to kiss Matt, but right now he was kind of freaking out.

Matt instantly saw the looks Adam and Shiro were supporting and after learning what had just happened, he too was worried. If there was one thing the three of them knew well, it was that flying while angry was dangerous. Keith could very well tank his score hard enough to be barred from advancing onto actual flight drills.

On the ground floor in front of the platform that would take them into the large bulky contraption for the flight simulation stood the junior cadets of Keith’s class. They were all standing at attention as Iverson walked in front of them, explaining what would be going on.

“This is not a timed simulation. Your job is to fly as far as you can for as long as you can. The moment you crash or the moment you land your ship is when the test ends. You won’t know your score until you step out of the simulation. It will be posted here,” At this he gestured to the large screen on the wall showing the list of cadets and the order they’d be flying in. “Points are gained from a variety of different ways. From obstacles avoided, shot down, and so on. Every hit you take will result in a deduction of points. Crashing your ship will also result in a deduction. Additionally, you can end up getting shot down from one too many hits, which will result in a crash. All points are automatically tallied and the higher the score, the higher your grade. Above 5,000 is the only way to get a grade; anyone who gets this or lower will be held back and not allowed to advance.

“For this test you do not need to stay till all your classmates are done. If you want to leave when you’ve finished, feel free to. This is a one chance final, meaning you can’t retake the test! So do your best and get the highest score you can! Do I make myself clear?!”

Iverson was met with a loud chorus of “yes sir”, the cadets all saluting. Nodding in satisfaction, he looked to one of the observation windows reserved specifically for the test administrators. He waved his hand to signal the start. The screen on front flickered to what looked like an empty space station, a student’s icon at the top right corner along with a blank timestamp and score.

“The test will be in alphabetical order! Armstrong, you’re up!”

And just like that, the test began.

Keith didn’t focus on any of his classmate’s scores, nor did he look anywhere but forward. His back was ramrod straight and his face was eerily vacant. However Keith’s eyes gave away the torrent of emotions boiling away inside of him, waiting for the final straw before he exploded.

When Dylan went into the simulation, he cast a smirk Keith’s way before the doors closed. The look was ignored as Keith stared up towards the screen. The visuals were from the pilot’s point of view, the only sound being the ship’s thrusters, the firing of the guns, and the points being added or removed.

By the time Dylan stepped out, he clocked in at 3 doboshes and 12 ticks with a score reaching 15,320. It was the highest so far and would’ve been higher had he not taken so many hits and got his “ship” exploded. Still that smug look didn’t drop and instead he sauntered back in line next to Keith.

Under his breath he whispered a “beat that” with an air of superiority. When Iverson called his last name and the score was wiped to make way for his, Keith felt a sense of calm fury. He didn’t bother with a response, he’d let his score speak for him.

Keith knew how this simulation worked, he’d been using it since the start of his classes. Every time Keith felt he’d been in it long enough, he’d slow the ship and land it on an asteroid. It was either that or he’d pretend as if he’d go further and would then deliberately crash. It was simply to keep up the illusion that he was advancing but only at a gradual pace.

The moment Keith took a seat in the pilot chair and grabbed the controls, he threw all his pretending out the window. He was angry, his grip tight and causing them to creek from the force. With a firm jaw Keith went through the motions of starting the “ship” and was soon off flying through space.

The first minute was always the easiest, only a few asteroids and “enemies” coming out. Keith dodged and fired effortlessly, getting lost in the motions. With each ship he took down Keith’s anger was fanned like a wayward flame. He narrowed his eyes and snarled as he was hit, his screen flashing in warning and telling him the percentage of the ship’s “health”.

With an almost vicious efficiency, Keith swung his ship around and fired till his opponent exploded. He then twisted around an asteroid hurtling towards him, bobbing around several more, and lighting up the next string of enemies that came close.

Keith pushed the ship faster as his irritation rose. How was this for skill? Huh? How dare Dylan take Keith’s stuff. How dare he insinuate Krolia left because Keith put on fucking makeup. What did he know?! What did any of them know?! Krolia didn’t want to leave!! It killed her to leave her mate and child! But she had to or else the Empire would learn about Blue being here. It was to keep this stupid fucking planet safe and no one but Keith and Tex knew that! So ungrateful!

Keith tilted the ship and slid between thin gaps between two asteroids, only taking a minor scrape of damage. Still he kept going, ignoring the familiar flare of the Guardian in his mind. It sent him a brief flash of Keith landing the ship, he shoved the thought away.

Who did Dylan think he was? Did he think Keith wouldn’t retaliate because he got his stuff stolen? Maybe because he didn’t react to the other forms of harassment, those asshole kids were left with that impression. But despite it being petty, Keith was mad and he was going to show those smug quiznaking bastards just who they were messing with.

Dylan had been so lucky Shiro had held him back. Keith didn’t care in that moment if he had been kicked from the Garrison, he wanted to break Dylan’s jaw! Serves the damn kid right! If Keith didn’t know Dylan and his toxic attitude wasn’t a common thing for Earthlings, Keith would’ve gladly said “fuck you” to Earth long ago and demand the Guardian send him somewhere else to search for Voltron’s Paladins.

Speaking of the Guardian, it sent him another vision of Keith landing. This time it was more insistent and was followed by an urging growl. Keith growled right back and continued flying. By now he was constantly spinning and diving just to avoid collisions while also firing like a one-man army.

Fleet after fleet of enemy ships began showing up and Keith let out a cry of battle. He’d show them. He’d show them all. Keith was a proud survivor of the Altean race, re-raised by Krolia and Tex. He would not let a damn stupid human insult someone so important to Keith. He’d die before that happened!

Suddenly the Guardian pressed into his mind with such force it was like it had bodily slammed into him. The Lion’s roar was mixed with the overlapping voices all screaming a single word that Keith, in his haze of rage, realized with a start that they were trying to get him to stop. Like a string snapping Keith’s mind was clear. With a sharp gasp he abruptly jerked the controls right and smashed the ship into an enemy flying towards him, exploding the both of them.

The screen before him went black and Keith didn’t even register that the simulation had ended. He simply sat there, staring in horror as the realization of what he’d done. The doors behind him opened as a signal for him to exit. He didn’t want to go out there, but he had no other choice.  

Exiting the simulation was met with heavy silence. Keith’s heart was in his throat and sweat was beginning to drip down his back. He didn’t even register the wide-eyed petrified look on Dylan’s face. No, Keith was too busy staring at the ground and trying to ignore that the ringing in his ears was caused by the dense silence and not because of adrenalin.

Keith didn’t want to look at the screen but he knew he had to. He had to see how much damage he had done to his reputation of being an “average” flyer. So with his entire body shaking, Keith lifted his head and turned to look on the screen. The numbers next to his name were bright, words printed below them along with an image of another cadet. A very familiar cadet.

Keith Kogane—Time: 00:09:38, Score: 45,093. New Record. Previous Score: Takashi Shirogane—Time: 00:07:53 Score: 38,645

Keith was pale as he read the score. With his blood frozen in his veins he did the only thing he could think of. He turned, pushed his way past his stunned classmates, and booked it out of the testing room. Keith ran as fast as his legs could take him, panic re-sparking the adrenaline in his body.

A low keen left his throat and if Keith took a moment to look at his skin, he’d see that he was beginning to change colours. Thankfully no one was there to see him even when he burst out of the Garrison’s front doors. Keith almost choked on a sob of relief as he saw his dad’s bike.

From where he stood Keith could see Tex was startled at Keith’s sudden appearance. He hadn’t expected his son to be out so soon. The test ended at 3, but it was only 2:45. However his question died on his tongue when Keith sprinted at him. Tex saw his son changing colours and knew something had happened. He turned on the bike and drove the extra feet to Keith so the boy could simply jump on.

The moment Keith’s hands were clutching at Tex’s clothes, he revved the engine and booked it from the Garrison. The roar of the machine was so loud that they completely missed the panicked shout of Keith’s name from Matt and Shiro. They had followed after, Adam coming with but not calling out like the other two.

“What the Hell was that!” Matt exclaimed. His eyes were wide in awe, excitement and concern battling across his face. “He blew Shiro’s score out of the water!!”

Shiro bit his lip, nervously crossing his arms over his chest. “That crash just now…”

“It was intentional.” Adam finished, sharing a look with Shiro.

They watched the dust Tex’s bike kicked up settle, worry for the young boy hanging heavy in the air. Shiro ran his hand through his hair and let out a sigh.

“He didn’t even get his stuff back…”

Matt hummed and pushed up his glasses, “We could always get them back and drive out to give them to Keith.” He looked to his two companions when his suggestion was met with silence. Matt chuckled at their confused looks and pulled his personalized tablet from his pocket. “He gave me his address so we could take him to the zoo during break.”

Shiro’s face lit up and he laughed, “Matt you beautiful genius!”

Adam let out a small sigh of relief before he nodded and patted Shiro’s shoulder. “You two go and collect Keith’s things from his classmate and then get his stuff from his room. I’ll talk to Iverson about the harassment Keith’s had to put up with. Hopefully Iverson lets me see the class roster so I can point out the kids.”

With a nod of agreement the three went back inside to complete their given tasks. They would have to head to the same place in order to get Keith’s roommate, but after that they’d split off. Matt was already sending a message to his dad requesting permission for him and Shiro to be excused from heading back to the Holt’s house. After getting the confirmation he sent Shiro a thumbs up and a grin, the look shared.

Chapter Text

Keith barely waited for the bike to come to a full stop before he was leaping off and dropping into the dirt. He pulled at his hair and settled his head between his knees as he took in erratic gasps of air.

“Damn!” Tex didn’t even turn off the bike before he too threw himself off. He dropped to his knees in front of Keith and gathered his son into his arms.

“Breath, Keith. Follow my breathing. That’s it, deep breaths now.” Tex kept his voice even as he tucked his green and orange striped son’s face into his neck. Keith clung to him with shaking hands and let out choked sounds.

“I-I fucked up! I didn’t mean to! B-but I was so mad and I wasn’t thinking and I just couldn’t stop myself and-!” He took in a shuddering breath and clung tighter.

Tex laid a kiss to Keith’s head and ran a hand up and down his back. “I know buddy, I know. I ain’t sure what you did, but I know ya had your reasons. I trust ya Keith. And whatever happens, I’m here for you.”

They fell into silence for a long while, Tex never once pausing in saying words of comfort to his son. Eventually when Keith’s breathing began to slow, Tex eased his grip in order to look at him.

He touched Keith’s cheek and smiled softly, “Your skin’s still a little pink.”

That was an understatement. Just looking at his hands revealed they were a headache inducing shade of pink. Closing his eyes and breathing in deeply, Keith let out a shaky breath.

“Dad… I need… I need to go calm down.”

Tex nodded and ruffled Keith’s hair, “Alright. Don’t stray too far and be back by dinner. I’ll make your favourite, alright? Just pick me up some rabbits on your way back.”

A small smile managed to find its way on Keith’s face. He nodded, hesitating a moment before letting his eyes drop and whispering. “We can… Talk about what happened when I get back.”

“Good. Stay safe.”

With one more hug Tex stood and watched Keith climb onto the bike. He nodded farewell before revving the engine and peeling off into the desert. Tex watched him go till he was nothing but a dot on the horizon. Then with a heavy sigh he pushed his sleeves past his elbows and trudged back into the house. He’d best get started on the stew base while he waited for Keith.

//

Keith didn’t know how long he’d been sitting in the little crater on the moon. One moment he was curled up staring at Earth, the next he’d fallen asleep. A beeping on his screen seemed to have been what roused him. It was an incoming call from Tex.

With a yawn Keith checked the time, humming. Only three varga have passed since Keith took off into space in his Lion. It wasn’t the longest he’d spent out in space before dinner, so he knew Tex shouldn’t be too worried. But maybe he was more concerned than usual since Keith just went through a panic attack and all.

Years ago Keith had made Tex a rudimentary device he could use to contact the White Lion with. The signal never reached past Saturn so Keith vary rarely strayed too far in case his dad needed to place an emergency call. It was also because if it reached too far, Keith was worried passing Galra ships would be able to pick it up. The last thing Keith needed was to ruin all his mother’s hard work.

Tiredly Keith accepted the call, watching Tex’s face appear on screen. He looked to be in the kitchen, his back to the wall and his eyes occasionally flickering up to look at something.

“Dad?”

Tex let his eyes drop and he smiled at Keith, “Hey bud, how’re ya feelin’?”

“… Better. I took a nap after enjoying the view.” Keith let a wistful note enter his tone as he took in the sight of Earth.

Mmmm…” Tex trailed off and his silence let Keith pick up the sound of faint chatter in the background. He frowned in confusion and watched his dad. Apprehension suddenly gripped his chest as thoughts suddenly sprouted.

Had Tex called because he wanted to warn Keith? Were the Garrison there asking for him? Were the government? Secret agents that kidnapped aliens and probed them?!

Tex was quick to read the growing panic on Keith’s face and smiled reassuringly. “Now now, none of that. You nip those thoughts in the bud. About 30 minutes ago a couple o’ your friends showed up. Said they had your stuff and wanted to see if you were ok. Does a Matthew Holt and Takashi Shirogane ring a bell?”

Keith felt instant relief and he slumped in his seat with a sigh. Running his hand through his hair, Keith snorted. “And you’re calling to tell me to hurry up and come home?”

Correct.”

“Alright. Did you invite them to dinner?”

Well I ain’t goin’ to send em on their way without a meal. ‘Sides, it’s growin’ dark and I’m not gonna let a couple o’ kids with no experience in the desert go drivin’ around at night.” Tex visibly quirked a brow as if he was daring Keith to argue.

Rolling his eyes, the young Altean placed his hands on the panel. His marks glowed from beneath his makeup, which was slightly smudged, and he pushed off from his little rock bed.

“You and your desert hobo hospitality. Ok, I’ll pick up some rabbits and be back in 20, 30 tops.”

It’s good hospitality and ya know it. Also don’t be takin’ any rabbits from bobcats again!”

Keith clicked his tongue and scowled at the image of his dad. “That was one time!”

Tex’s laugh was answer enough and Keith glowered further. It was hard to try and keep up an expression of disgruntlement, but he somehow managed. With his concentration now on flying back to his hiding spot on Earth, Keith bid Tex farewell.

True to his word Keith arrived home within 30 doboshes. He opened the door and walked in, making note of Shiro and Matt both sitting on the only long couch in the living room. They’d already stopped their conversation when they heard the bike’s engine outside. Both boys smiled wide at Keith’s appearance while the dust-covered alien merely raised a brow.

“It’s a little late to be going to the zoo.”

His deadpan words made Shiro and Matt freeze for a moment before Matt burst into a peel of giggles. Shiro followed, keeping his laughter light. Matt seemed to take that as a sign that Keith was feeling better so he allowed himself to relax. Though he still wanted to know why Keith had fled like that after getting such an amazing score, Matt knew that if Keith wanted to talk about it, he would.

Shiro, on the other hand, still appeared pretty worried. He looked like he wanted to say something but Tex appearing in the open doorway leading from the living room to the kitchen had him holding his tongue. Tex chuckled at Keith’s appearance, the Garrison uniform covered in red sand, mud, and had a few thorns of cactus. Keith’s hair and face were in no better shape.

“Those rabbits give ya some trouble?”

Keith clicked his tongue and offered Tex the three rabbits. “No.”

“Uh-huh. Well why don’t ya go and wash up while I get these ready for ya to skin em?” When Keith started up the stairs to the second floor, he heard his dad address Shiro and Matt. “Ya boys ever skin a rabbit before?”

Oh now that should be fun. Keith tossed his uniform in the pantry, took a washcloth and scrubbed down his face and hands, then tossed on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. He’d take a better shower after dinner. Right now he wanted to see if his dad could convince the two senior cadets to try and prep a rabbit.

The simple answer to that was no, they could not. Shiro at the very least wanted to attempt it, but eventually chickened out. Matt could only handle Tex explaining the process before he proudly proclaimed he was thinking of trying veganism. Keith had laughed as he entered the kitchen.

Honestly he couldn’t blame the guy. Before Keith came to Earth, he, like most Alteans, were what Earthlings would call vegans. However after being raised by Krolia, Keith had picked up a taste for meat.

Tex gave him a disapproving stare, reaching up and pulling at some of Keith’s hair that was still caked with mud. “This ain’t clean, mister.”

“I’ll take a shower later.” Keith ducked out of range from his dad and moved to the kitchen sink to wash his hands thoroughly. “I’m surprised the Garrison doesn’t teach you guys how to catch and gut your food.”

Shiro grimaced and resisted the urge to feel bad for the dead rabbits. “They do… Teach a course.”

“But it’s a lot more information based and not hands on.” Matt pushed up his glasses and pursed his lips. “They teach you how to forage and run simulations on… Skinning prey. But that’s about it. My guess is, is that they don’t think of it as a practical need?”

Tex clicked his tongue and shook his head as he picked up one of the knives laid out. “Absolutely stupid. That’s treatin’ it like there ain’t nothing you’ll need to hunt and eat on an alien planet! The Garrison don’t know what’s out there! Why should they decide what’s practical and what ain’t? I may not be a hunter, nor do I enjoy pointless killin’, but even I know that knowing things like this can mean the difference between life and death. Computer simulations mean absolutely jack shit when applied to the real world. Now granted I didn’t always catch rabbits and cook em. I still don’t even catch them, that’s Keith’s job. But when I met his ma, she went out and would catch her own kinds of food because she was curious on the taste. Was fine at first, but then I had to lay down some rules the first time she brought home a coyote to eat.

“And then Keith came along and that sparked all kinds of new rules.” Tex tossed the knife to Keith who deftly caught it by the handle. Ignoring the blush growing on his cheeks, Keith instead took the rabbits and walked towards the screen door at the back of the kitchen. “He was such a little thing! Head barely went past my knees! Shy and curious, followed me and Krolia around like a baby duck.”

“Dad! You two were literally the only ones around! And do we really have to talk about this??” Keith did not whine. No matter what anyone said, his voice was not a whine.

Matt waved a hand and made a series of shushing noises, watching Keith’s dad with a wide grin. “No no, keep going Mr. Kogane sir!”

Looking to Shiro for helped proved to be fruitless. Shiro offered an apologetic smile to Keith before looking back at Tex. “I agree. I wanna hear about this too.”

Two against one, some friends. Keith hissed out a “traitors” before turning up his nose and leaving the kitchen. Tex rolled his eyes at the dramatics. While Keith went out back to handle the rabbits, Tex remained in the kitchen finishing up the preparations for the soup. He gestured to the table for Matt and Shiro to take a seat while he continued to talk.

It wasn’t lost on him that it was kind of risky to talk about Krolia, but Tex figured so long as he left out key things it should be fine. But Tex wasn’t too worried about slipping up. He had had nearly 12 years to perfect the art of pretending he wasn’t living with an alien. And whenever his friends down at the station asked about his “wife” and kid, Tex would tell them vague stories like he was doing with Shiro and Matt.

“Krolia started teachin’ Keith how to hunt and fight right outa the gate. Of course I tried to talk her out of it, told her Keith needed time to adjust, but she wasn’t havin’ it. Krolia’s more stubborn than a mule and tougher than a goat. Keith picked up those traits pretty quick. ‘Course it wasn’t like I didn’t do anything. I helped Keith learn to read, write, and anything else Krolia would call ‘normal’. She would’ve taught him to speak her language, but it was a moot point since he was already speakin’ it when we found him.” Tex chuckled and shook his head fondly.

It continued on like that, Tex affectionately talking about Krolia and some of the childhood antics Keith got up to. By the time Tex finished up telling the story of how a little 6 year old Keith tried to fight a bobcat for a rabbit, said wild boy kicked open the back door and came inside with the freshly skinned and cleaned rabbits. He didn’t do much other than scowl at his dad, face flushed a brilliant shade of red. Clearly he’d heard everything even when outside.

Though Matt didn’t seem to notice it, Shiro could see little markings underneath Keith’s eyes that he never saw before. It was then that he remembered the specific makeup that had been taken from Keith. Had he used the foundation to cover up the marks? And if so, what were they? Scars?

Shiro had a lot more questions growing in his mental folder eloquently labeled “Keith”. During dinner he didn’t want to ruin the jovial mood by asking about things, so he held his tongue and instead enjoyed the meal. He’d never had rabbit stew before and he was very impressed with the taste. When Tex mentioned it was Keith’s favourite, he could definitely see why.

After dinner Tex offered a pair of shorts and a shirt for Shiro to change into, his clothes a little too big for the teen but still a better fit than Keith’s clothes. Matt, on the other hand, borrowed from Keith since they were more similar in sizes. Keith was the first to take a shower, then Matt, and finally Shiro.

When he got out Matt was in the living room making himself very comfortable on the couch. He grinned at Shiro and gestured to the pile of blankets laid out on the floor. Shiro rolled his eyes and ignored Matt. He instead went into the kitchen where Tex was cleaning up from dinner.

“Um… Thank you for the meal, sir. And for letting us stay the night.”

“Ain’t no problem. And ‘sides, Keith would’ve probably skinned me if I’d sent you boys back and ya got eaten by a cougar. But next time be sure to call ahead before droppin’ by, alright? We may not have a TV but we do have a phone.”

Shiro sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck and laughed. “Right, sorry. We’ll be sure to do that next time.”

Tex nodded, not looking up from the dishes he was washing. “Tell Keith to leave ya our number before you go tomorrow. I’ve got work early in the mornin’, so I won’t be here to see you boys off.”

“Thank you, I will… Um… Where is Keith by the way?”

Biting back a snort of amusement, Tex took a hand towel to dry his hands. “If ya wanna talk to Keith, he should be on the roof. He likes to be outside under the stars when he’s processin’ difficult things. Just go to his room and out the window. Up the stairs, first door on the left.”

With another quick thank you Shiro followed Tex’s directions. Keith’s door was already slightly cracked open but Shiro still knocked regardless. Keith’s room was surprisingly different from what Shiro had imagined. There was a desk littered with all kinds of papers written in a weird font Shiro couldn’t discern. Perhaps it was a code? That wasn’t the only thing Shiro could see. On the walls were pictures of star maps, drawings, and photos of landscape. There weren’t any band posters that he could see but there was a rather large picture of… Was that Mothman?? With hearts drawn on it? Ok… Questionable, but not the weirdest thing he’s seen.

The bed was neatly made, the only out of place thing being a rather interesting dagger resting on the pillow. Though Shiro wanted to take a moment longer to study its design, he instead turned back to the attention at hand. He was here to talk to Keith, not ogle his room.

Walking further in, Shiro saw that the window near the bed was open and a faint cool breeze was blowing in. The moon was bright in the sky and provided ample light for him to see. Sticking his head out, he looked for Keith.

He was sitting to the left of the window, knees drawn up to his chest and eyes gazing up longingly at the sea of stars hanging above them. Then he was blinking and turning his head to look at Shiro.

Shiro quirked his lips, “Hey. Mind if I join you?”

Keith shook his head and scooted further down the side of the roof. It took a bit but eventually Shiro was able to sit down next to him. Instead of shifting his legs to copy, Shiro let them dangle over the edge of the roof. Together the two of them looked back up towards the sky.

“So…” Shiro was the first to break the silence, “When you said you lived in the middle of nowhere, you weren’t kidding.”

A snort had Shiro smiling. Though he wanted to ask the questions brewing in his head, he decided to hold back for a bit. He wanted to put Keith at ease before possibly asking such hard questions. Better to stay with safe topics.

“You’ve lived out here your whole life?”

“… No, not my whole life.” Keith’s voice was so soft Shiro almost missed it.

The smile on Shiro’s face slipped not a moment later. So much for safe topics!! How could he forget that Keith was apparently adopted or something?! He looked to Keith, “You… Mentioned something like that before. About how you were lucky it was your dad and mom who found you. Does that mean you were…?”

“An orphan?” Keith nodded, “Yeah. I guess you can say that. Krolia and Tex found me in the desert. That was ten years ago.”

Shiro quickly did the math and his frown deepened. “You would’ve been about 4 then, right? What were you doing out in the desert??”

Keith barked out a laugh and looked off towards the canyons in the distance. “I couldn’t tell you even if I wanted to.”

Though Shiro was taking that as Keith had forgotten the reason, the truth of the matter was that Keith really couldn’t answer without exposing himself. How does one say “I was landing this giant mecha lion that I pilot with my mind and when I was trying to climb out of my seat I tripped and then just sat there and cried till my parents found me” without sounding crazy? The short answer was is that there isn’t a correct way.

Since the mood was already a little sullen, Shiro decided to just continue on with the harder stuff. “Hey Keith…? How come you ran when you saw your score today? I figured you’d be… Well excited to get such a high score. You even beat my record! It’s amazing!”

Keith grit his teeth and mulled over potential answers. He could lie, tell Shiro it wasn’t any of his business. But then where would that leave him? With a clear wall between the two of them. And honestly? That wasn’t an option. If he was going to have to eventually tell Shiro about Voltron, he needed Shiro to trust him. So in order for that to happen he needed to take the first step and open up to Shiro.

“I was… Scared. I didn’t want to break anyone’s record. That isn’t what I came here to do.” Quiznak, this was harder than Keith thought.

Shiro seemed momentarily stunned at the confession and, as if sensing Keith was having trouble formulating a response, helped get the ball rolling with more questions.

“Is that why you’ve been holding back? In the simulation, wasn’t that you deliberately crashing?”

The young Altean visibly flinched and let out another string of curses inside his head. Had it been that obvious? So far all of Keith’s instructors hadn’t been able to pick up on the fact he’d been crashing on purpose. Not to say that they were bad flyers for not catching it, just that Keith took great care in making sure it looked believable. Heck most of the time he let go of the controls and let the ship crash on its own.

So how had he been able to tell?? Keith must’ve asked that out loud because Shiro laughed. The easy smile he wore made something loosen in Keith’s chest. He wasn’t judging Keith for pretending to be average, he was simply curious.

“Well you were flying straight when all of a sudden you were turning right at an oncoming ship. The quick way you moved towards it was a dead giveaway that you’d been aiming to crash and end the simulation.”

Keith groaned and leaned forward. He buried his face into his knees and pulled on his hair. “I got too caught up in being angry that I slipped up.”

“So I was right in the fact that you’ve been holding back?” Shiro didn’t really need to ask, but he still wanted to give Keith the option to answer him or not. When he got a disgruntled nod, Shiro chuckled. “Can I ask why?”

Silence reigned supreme for a while as Keith thought of his answer. Shiro, ever patient, simply sat there and stared up at the sky. He knew that if he looked at Keith as he waited for an answer it might be taken as him pressuring Keith to respond. So if he made it look like he wouldn’t mind an answer or not, hopefully Keith would be comfortable enough to give him one. And if he didn’t? Well that was ok too.

Keith’s soft voice had Shiro finally turning to look at him. He was so quiet his words might’ve been lost to the desert if Shiro wasn’t giving him his full attention. “I… Don’t like to be in the spotlight. I didn’t join the Garrison to stand out. Being the center of attention isn’t my thing. There’s too many expectations and everyone’s eyes are on you and it just makes it hard to do anything! I hate it! I don’t like to be stared at like I’m a freak.”

Shiro’s mind instantly jumped back to words Keith had said earlier that day and he found himself unintentionally repeating them. “’Sometimes it’s safer to be ignored than to be noticed’.”

The way Keith jerked his head up to look at Shiro told him that he hadn’t expected Shiro to remember his words. Taking the shocked look in stride, Shiro smiled and lifted a hand to pat Keith’s back.

“I get it. Being on everyone’s radar is overwhelming. They’re breathing down your neck and you never really know if the people around you are there to support you or are just waiting for you to slip up.” Shiro took a deep breath and sighed, looking down at his arm for a moment before squeezing his hand into a fist. “Believe me I understand. But… Personally I can’t get far if I’m not the best. I have to have the best scores or I’m going to be overlooked. You know the Garrison almost rejected my application when they got ahold of my medical records?”

Keith’s eyes widened in shock and he twisted so that he was facing Shiro. “Seriously? Why?”

“BMD.” Shiro chewed on the inside of his cheek. It was taking a lot of effort for him to talk to Keith about this. But Keith was opening up to Shiro and he wanted to give him the same courtesy. “BMD is Becker Muscular Dystrophy. It means that as I get older, this disease is going to make my muscles get weaker and weaker. Medics can do as much as they can but it’s something without a cure. I use this to keep track of my muscle condition. Matt made it for me when I was diagnosed a couple years ago.”

Shiro offered his arm to Keith for him to see the band around it. Keith frowned as he took Shiro’s arm and gently twisted his wrist this way and that. The device was simple and unobtrusive, easily overlooked and mistaken for a watch if one didn’t look closely.

“I’m guessing the disease doesn’t just target the muscles in one part of your body.” Keith raised a brow and let go of Shiro’s arm.

“You’d be right on that.”

Biting his lip, Keith crossed his arms over his chest and stared off into the desert. Now that Shiro was actually paying attention, it seemed that Keith was always looking off in a certain direction. Any other time he would’ve written this off as drifting eyes, but since he was actively studying Keith it was something he picked up on. His head was always tilted somewhere towards the left, eyes boring at a ridge of canyons they could barely make out from here. Even the moon’s light didn’t help much and just made it look like blotchy shadows.

“Weaker muscles means your body is basically deteriorating. And you said it was without a cure…” Keith’s voice drifted off as he began muttering, Shiro only picking up a few things that made him kind of confused. Words like “archaic medicine”, “Earth”, and something called “Altea”.

Shiro decided it’d be better to just sum it up as another “Keith” thing and instead looked up into the sky. “I know that this thing will eventually make me unable to do most of anything. I get that. But I’m not going to let my disease hold me back. There’s no way I’ll let myself sit around and waste away when I could be up doing something. I’m going into space if it’s the last thing I do.”

The look Keith gave him was a mixture of respect and something else Shiro couldn’t put a name to. With so much conviction Keith said, “You’ll get to space.”

Though the words were more of a statement than anything, the blunt way Keith said them made them far more reassuring than anything else he’s heard. Not even trying to keep his smile from showing up, Shiro reached a hand up to tousle Keith’s hair again.

Over Keith’s protests Shiro laughed out a thank you. Keith swatted away his hand and stubbornly tried to smooth out his hair. It wasn’t really effective since the breeze picked up and seemed to ruffle it even further. Grumbling in defeat, Keith settled back against the roof and once again returned his eyes to the stars.

Like this Shiro was able to make out the marks he had seen on Keith’s face earlier in the night. Unconsciously he reached out and ran his finger along them. The moment his fingers touched the marks a spark of static went off between them. Two things happened at once. Shiro jumped back in surprise and Keith, in his own shock, had slipped and quite literally almost fell off the roof.

“Shit!” Shiro darted forward and grabbed Keith’s shirt before yanking him back.

The two of them hit the roof with a whump of air and simply lay there for a moment. Shiro’s heart was pounding because he’d almost been the reason his friend had fallen off the roof. Keith’s heart was also doing its own summersaults, though that was because he’d been so startled at someone other than family touching his marks that he’d unconsciously jerked away.

Keith swallowed down the momentary rush of adrenaline. He was laying partially on Shiro and mostly on the roof. At first Keith wanted to pull away and put back the distance between them, but for some reason he didn’t feel the need to move. Shiro must’ve felt the same way because he didn’t try to get out from underneath either.

“Sorry.” Shiro said after a moment.

“’s fine.” Keith mumbled, raising a hand to push back his bangs. “You just kind of startled me. Um… Yeah. I cover them up. I don’t really like people asking about them. Same with my ears.”

Shiro tried not to wince, “Oh. Sorry I didn’t know they were a sensitive subject.”

Shrugging, Keith twisted his head so he could look up at Shiro. “Like I said, it’s fine. You didn’t know.”

“Right.”

The silence was suddenly pretty awkward and neither Keith nor Shiro had any idea on how to fix it. Thankfully their savior came in the form of Tex. He knocked on Keith’s door, voice loud enough to be carried outside.

“You boys alright? Heard a thump.”

“Yeah,” Keith called back, a grin pulling up the corners of his mouth. “Shiro just tried to push me off the roof.”

Shiro sputtered and really did shove Keith, though not at all hard enough to budge him. “Jerk! I did no such thing! He’s lying, sir!”

The two boys laughed and Tex let out his own snort of amusement. “Well alright. But if y’all wanna tussle and try chuckin’ each other off the roof, ya best do it in the mornin’ when I ain’t here so I can’t be charged for “reckless endangerment”. Don’t stay up too late.”

“We won’t. Night dad.”

“G’night.”

The sound of Keith’s door closing was what signaled the fact that Tex had left. Humming, Keith finally picked himself up off of Shiro and stepped over him. He expertly walked back to his window and paused before going inside.

“You coming?”

Shiro nodded and followed Keith inside. He closed the window and then, standing in the middle of Keith’s room, awkwardly scratched the back of his head. “I better go downstairs before Matt decides to take my blankets as well.”

Keith let out a large yawn and grunted his affirmation. Sitting on the edge of his bed, he took the knife from his pillow and slipped from sight. “Night, Shiro.” He said as he yanked back the covers.

“Night Keith.” As Shiro opened the door, he found himself pausing for a moment. He looked over at Keith and stared far longer than necessary as he tried to think of how to word his thoughts. The boy noticed Shiro’s gaze and paused in his endeavor to bury himself in blankets. With only his face visible in the cocoon of fabric, Shiro was able to see the questioning look being sent his way.

“Hey, Keith?”

“Mm?”

Taking a deep breath Shiro decided to just go for it. “Don’t worry about being in the spotlight. I’ll be there to keep their eyes off you, so let lose.”

If anyone else had said those words Keith might’ve thought they were trying to declare they’d be better than Keith. But because those words were coming from Shiro, he knew exactly what the other was getting at. He was proclaiming that he’d be the best of the best so that Keith wouldn’t have to worry about standing out. Shiro would be the Garrison’s golden boy so Keith could continue keeping his much desired anonymity while he no longer tried to hold back as much.

With a wide grin stretching across his face, Keith let out a short laugh and nodded. “Got it.”

Returning the smile, Shiro bid another farewell before leaving Keith alone in his room. Though Keith still hard to return to the Garrison and deal with the fallout of his test, the idea wasn’t so daunting anymore. Maybe it was because he had Shiro’s support and understanding on why he didn’t like to be the center of attention. Though he didn’t know the full reasons why, Shiro still made an attempt to understand based off what Keith told him. And the fact that Shiro was still trying despite all the unanswered questions made Keith inexplicably happy. No matter what happened at the end of break, Keith knew he could handle it.

Chapter Text

It’s funny how fast deca-phoebs can pass. When Keith had been asleep he didn’t wake till countless deca-phoebs later. Out of the five times he’d woken up—excluding the start of his mission, only two of them had a gap of time between them. Between the fourth and fifth time he woke up, nearly 900 deca-phoebs had passed. It might’ve been more or maybe it was less. The numbers were a little off to Keith. After all it wasn’t like he had a clock on Oriande. And the Guardian really had no concept of time.

Either way he knew that time could pass so fast it would seem like a blink. But no matter how much of it went by, things always managed to take Keith by surprise. Right now was a fine example. One moment Keith was a brat just starting out at the Garrison and trying to find the universe’s future saviors, the next he was a junior officer acting as mediator between two feuding exes. No, Keith never thought he’d be here. Not in a millions deca-phoebs.

“I just can’t believe how pigheaded you’re being!”

“Me pigheaded?! Are you even hearing yourself right now?!”

“I can hear myself loud and clear, the question is can you??!”

“Well I might be able to hear you if you weren’t yelling!!”

“You’re yelling too!!!”

Keith took in a deep breath, pinching the bridge of his nose and failing to ignore the two. At any point he could’ve just gotten up and walked away so that he didn’t have to listen to Shiro and Adam fight. But seeing as how this was his room they were fighting in, he had to stay here and be mediator.

“I can’t believe you!”

“Me?! What about you! You aren’t even listening to me!! You know how important this is to me!”

“And I thought I was important to you too!”

“Oh now it’s back to being about you!”

What did Keith do to deserve this? He was a former warrior to Altea. Handpicked to be a personal guard for Prince Alfor. Vessel for the Guardian and finder of Voltron’s Paladins. When did he become a councilor to two fighting ex-fiancés?

“Keith, try and talk some sense into him!”

“Don’t you dare bring Keith into this!”

Yeah no, Keith was not going to spend another movement hearing them squabble. Shiro would be leaving for four phoebs but with the way they were fighting, it was like Shiro was moving to the other side of the galaxy. Keith didn’t want to hear them fighting every single moment they were with each other. And the fact that they shared friends made it even harder to be around them. The tension was so palpable Keith felt he could physically touch it.

Shiro and Adam were too busy arguing with each other to notice when Keith stood up. They also didn’t even see when Keith went to one of the small counters located on the far side of his two-room dorm. He watched the two spit insults at each other for several ticks before taking out all the fruits from a glass bowl. Then, after picking it up and testing the weight for a moment, Keith chucked it at the two.

It flew past the space between Adam and Shiro, cutting them off mid-yell. They visibly flinched when it hit the wall and shattered on impact. Keith wasn’t torn up about losing the bowl, it was something he’d bought when sprucing up his little dorm room. He was glad however that because he was now a junior officer, the room he was given was pretty much soundproof so there wasn’t a worry about someone coming to investigate the noise.

Now that they were both quiet and staring at him, Keith leveled the two with a cold glare, “Both of you shut up, right now.”

“Keith-!”

Holding a hand up to stop Shiro from speaking, Keith hissed. “No, quiet! One month. It has been one month since Shiro got accepted to the mission, one month since you guys broke off the engagement, and one month of listening to you guys fucking fighting!! Between your bickering, have you noticed that Matt has started to avoid hanging out with you guys? It’s because whenever you two are in the same vicinity, all you do is fight!”

Keith crossed his arms over his chest, “You guys can’t even go five minutes without going for the throat! How can you expect to communicate with each other if you’re always screaming?! Have you even realized where you are right now? In my room!! Do you know why I let you guys into my room today despite knowing you’d argue?? It’s because I thought you’d both tire out and then you could actually talk. You know, like adults! But an hour in and I’m about ready to launch myself into space and never come back.

“Matt told me to let the two of you handle it, that you’d work it out on your own. But I don’t want to do that because clearly it isn’t working! So we’re done with his way and we’re done with your shitty way, we’re doing it my way!!” Keith felt dizzy from talking so much but he ignored his own discomfort. Slightly breathless, he moved around the couch, grabbed Shiro’s arm, and shoved him onto one end of the seat. Then he took Adam and forced him to sit on the other end. There was a large space between them yet Keith made no move to sit there.

Adam looked tired, rubbing at his forehead. “Look Keith, I understand what you’re trying to do and I’m sorry we’ve put you in a situation where you feel the need to act as a counselor. But-.”

“If you’re going to tell me that you two will eventually work it out and that you don’t need me to interfere, you can just can it.” Keith glared down at the both of them, “This is quite literally the last week Shiro is going to spend on Earth before he leaves for four months. Do you two honestly wanna spend it fighting? I don’t think so, so this is what we’re going to do. Adam is going to talk first and get everything he wants to say out. Shiro, you’re going to sit there, look pretty, and listen. You aren’t allowed to speak until Adam is done. Then it’ll be Shiro’s turn to talk and Adam to shut up. Got it? Good.”

His tone booked no room for argument and he clearly looked ready to throw one of them across the room if they even attempted to refuse. As Keith got older and more comfortable being around Shiro, Adam, and Matt, he let himself open up a lot more. With that came a brutally blunt personality and the instincts of someone always ready for a fight.

Keith may be lean in the muscle department but that meant nothing when he showed off his hidden strength. If the three didn’t know him that well they might’ve assumed Keith was on steroids. Many times he’d bodily chuck Shiro, someone both taller and bulkier in the muscle department.

In his mind Keith felt the Guardian brush along his senses and chuff in amusement. ‘Humans. For a species that wants to get out there and talk to alien life, they sure have a tough time talking to their own species.’ Keith thought with a roll of his eyes. He prayed to the Astrals to give him strength before leveling Adam with a pointed look.

Adam frowned before he shuffled till his back was straight and he could look at Shiro without having to twist his body so much. “Shiro. For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve been ambitious in everything you do. It was one of the things I loved about you. How you wouldn’t give up and strive to do better than what others expected of you. It was amazing! Inspiring! But then I learned about your medical condition and I realized just why you were pushing yourself so much.”

Shiro’s lips drew into a thin line and his hands clenched in his lap. He looked like he wanted to speak but a sharp look from Keith kept his mouth shut.

Adam let his eyes drop, “At first I thought it was incredible what you were doing. You’ve broken so many records, gained so much attention, got a reputable job teaching future Garrison pilots! I didn’t think you had anything left to prove. But… I was wrong. What do you think going to Kerberos will do for you? Do you want to be put in the history books? You’re already in them! So what is it for?! Your own self-satisfaction? To prove to yourself “yeah, I did that”?? Shiro you don’t know what prolonged exposure to space will do to you! What if it speeds up your disease? What if you don’t even make it back?! Fuck Shiro, what if you die out there before you even reach Kerberos?!!”

Choking on a sob, Adam pushed up his glasses and ground his palms into his eyes to stop the tears threatening to spill. “I couldn’t handle it if you died out there!! For all we know going into space will kill you! Say you go to Kerberos, manage to make it back, but die soon after. That’s four months left to live Shiro. As opposed to staying here where you might live for another ten or more years! Call me selfish all you want, but I wanted to spend our lives together, however long I had left with you! And up till now, I thought you wanted the same.”

All at once Adam appeared to deflate, his shoulders slumping and his hands dropping to rest in his lap. “Shiro, I can’t… I…” He threw Shiro a pleading look, “I still love you, really I do. But I can’t support you, not on this. And I’m sorry if it makes it seem like I’m making you pick between this mission or me, but I’m not going to let myself become a widower before I even get married. I just can’t, Shiro.”

Keith waited a tick to see if Adam might continue before he nodded at Shiro. The larger man had a look that was tied between hurt and resignation. His breath was shaky as he exhaled and it took several ticks before Shiro licked his lips and slowly found his words.

“I… Can understand that you’re scared that I might not come home. And I know it sounds harsh to say it, but you’re not the only one worried about that. We’re also worried we won’t even make it home. And I know that no matter how he acts, Keith’s worried about us too.”

Well he wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t right either. Keith was worried for Matt and Sam, for Shiro he at least had the comfort of knowing he was destined to be a Paladin of Voltron. He had the foresight to know that no matter what happened out there, Shiro would come back. And if he didn’t? Well Keith had his own ship he could track them down with. And even if it meant exposing his secret, Keith would do it. He would bring those three home.

“This is my chance to get into space; Hell it might be my only chance at this rate. I’m at my prime, in a year from now I might already start deteriorating. I’m not going to just sit around and wait for my body to shut down on me.” Shiro grit his teeth and gathered up his resolve. “I know you don’t like this but Adam… It was never your decision to make.”

Adam visibly flinched at that, more tears spilling down his cheeks. He clicked his tongue and muttered something under his breath, glaring off to the side. “Of course it isn’t… And what about the people you’re leaving behind, huh? What about us?! You expect us to be ok with letting you go up there?!”

“It’s my body, Adam!”

“Hey!” Keith snapped, cutting off what would’ve no doubt been another yelling match. “Knock it off. Take a breather for a moment and then Shiro, continue.” Honestly this whole thing reminded Keith of when he’d break up fights between other knights. Except those were less headache inducing by far. Keith honestly envied the fact that Matt had the excuse of packing to avoid dealing with these two.

Breathing through his nose a couple of times, Shiro closed his eyes and internally repeated his mantra of “patience yields focus”. He couldn’t blow up at Adam right now, not when Keith had somehow managed to get them to have something like a civil discussion.

When he finally felt calm enough he continued. “I know you’re worried that when I come back, you won’t be celebrating my return but my funeral. I’ve already come to terms with the fact that I might die out there. But honestly? The idea of dying out there amongst the stars isn’t a terrible way to go. I’ve dreamed of going out into space, Adam. And this might be my only chance. I have to take it, there’s no other option. I… I love you, so much. And I know it’s selfish of me to even ask you to support me when my decision is clearly hurting you. But while you want to be selfish and have me stay here, I want to be selfish too and do something I want to do. And I want to go out there.

“I won’t expect you to be here when I come back, you’ve made your stance clear. I want us to work Adam. I’ve always wanted us to work! But this… We can’t work if we can’t even seem to move past this. You want me to stay but I want to go. I won’t be changing my mind and I know you won’t change yours. I’ve accepted that. I simply ask that you come to accept my decision too. And when I come back—because I will be back—I ask for you to find it in your heart to be there for me? Maybe not as a lover, but at least as a friend? Before we were dating we were friends. Is it too late for us to even have that…?”

Done with his long speech, Shiro chanced a glance at Adam and offered him a small smile. He would’ve reached out to take the other’s hand if he didn’t think it’d be met with vicious backlash. So he settled for giving the other an earnest look. Though Shiro knew he shouldn’t hope for much, he still truly wanted Adam in his life. And even if it wasn’t anything like what they formally had, he’d be fine with that. So long as he didn’t have to say goodbye to someone so important to him.

Adam sucked in a breath and held it. Then exhaling shakily, he cleared his throat and adjusted his glasses. “I… Will need some time to think about it.”

Despite Adam neither saying yes or no, he was still willing to give it some thought. That was far more than Shiro assumed he would get so he was visibly relieved and happy.

He couldn’t suppress his bright smile and nodded. “Right. Ok. Thank you, Adam.”

Keith was satisfied with this turn of events and tucked his hands into his pockets. “Shiro can stay here for the remaining week so that you two can have your space.”

The plans were made with only slight reluctance from Shiro before he eventually caved. Since most of his stuff was packed already and waiting to be loaded onto the ship, he only brought a few change of clothes to Keith’s room. That still didn’t stop Keith from cleaning out an entire drawer and letting Shiro put his stuff into it.

When Keith found a moment of free time he stopped by Matt’s room to relay the discussion to him. The young genius had been relieved to hear Keith had finally managed to get them to at least talk to each other instead of yell. He called Keith a saint and vowed to worship the ground he walked on.

The promise was promptly ignored and Keith returned to his room. He honestly wished he had some nunvill lying around because he needed a cup or two. Maybe a full pint. There was no one here to judge him so he should be allowed to enjoy the sweet ambrosia to his hearts content.

Shiro seemed relatively fine as they got ready for bed that night. He was lying on the couch with a pile of spare blankets and pillows that Keith had left him. Just as Keith was prepping to head to his own room and sleep, Shiro’s soft voice drifted up from the heap.

“Hm?” Keith slowly picked his way around the couch, the faint light from his room being the only thing to illuminate the dorm. It wasn’t much light so Keith had to be careful. When he was finally able to see Shiro, he hesitated a moment before sitting on the arm of the couch closest to Shiro’s head.

Peeking out at him from under a blanket, Shiro smiled apologetically. He reached out and grasped Keith’s hand tightly. “I’m sorry for putting you through today. Adam and I should’ve handled it like adults, but we didn’t. And we didn’t even notice that we were alienating you and Matt with our fighting. Also sorry you had to destroy your fruit bowl just to get our attention.”

Keith shrugged a shoulder, “Don’t worry about it. I could’ve just gotten between you two to get your attention, but I live for dramatics. And I got involved because you guys are my friends. I hate it when you fight and I knew if you went into space without any of this resolved, you two would regret it for the rest of your lives.”

“Aren’t you worried?”

“What? About you not coming back?” At Shiro’s slow nod, Keith sighed and squeezed his hand tightly. “Not per say. I trust your skills as a pilot, Shiro, and I have faith in your promise to come home. I’m not worried about losing you out there because I know if it really comes down to it, I’ll fly out into space and bring you back myself.”

Shiro barked out a laugh at that. His smile grew wider and he shuffled up a bit so he could rest his cheek against their clasped hands. “Of course you would. But I’m pretty sure your dad would kill me if you got lost out in space thanks to me.”

Keith returned Shiro’s grin with one of his own. “Then you just have to make sure you come home.” His eyes by this point had adjusted to the darkness, so he could see when Shiro’s smile slowly began to droop. Keith quirked a brow and nudged him with their joined hands. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

Grey eyes flickered up to look at Keith before quickly darting away. Chuckling wryly, Shiro shook his head. “Nothing bad. Just thinking about what kind of life we might see out there. Though that’s if we see anything. Adam could be right about the mission. That it’s all pointless and we might encounter nothing but ice.”

“Ah, I see.”

For a fleeting moment Keith wondered if he should go to Kerberos ahead of them and pretend to be an alien. Change his height a bit, make himself blue or something. Maybe stripes that look like he’s trying to blend into the ice? No, Keith couldn’t do that. He had to let them go on this mission without shadowing them like an apprehensive mother.

Keith had been supporting Shiro’s decision to go from day one. And when the Guardian had hinted at the fact that Shiro missing Kerberos was not an option? Well that just cemented his conviction even further. So Keith had to accept the fact that they had their mission and he had his. Keith already found two of Voltron’s Paladins, the second one being Matt’s sister, the others couldn’t be that hard to find.

“Well,” Keith licked his lips, trying to find something to say. “Hopefully if you do meet some aliens, they don’t probe you.”

Shiro suddenly snorted and he ducked his head to try and hold in the sudden peel of laughter. “K-Keith!! Come on! I’m being serious here!”

“I am too!” Keith found himself laughing along, “For all we know aliens saw some Earth films and were convinced probing was how Earthlings wanted to be greeted by aliens!” His smile got impossibly wider as Shiro’s valiant attempt to hide his snorting failed. It was honestly adorable. Keith instantly knew the biggest things he’d miss about Shiro was his laugh.

However when Shiro turned his wide, delighted smile up towards Keith, the Altean found himself momentarily breathless. He mentally corrected himself that no, maybe Shiro’s laugh wasn’t going to be the biggest thing he missed about the other. Maybe it was his smile Keith would miss the most. Or was it his voice? The breathy quality to he currently had was something Keith found himself liking more than he recalled.

“Seriously, Keiiiiith!” Shiro wined, smiling so brightly his cheeks hurt. “You’re gonna kill me before I even leave for Kerberos! And I really wanna meet an alien! Maybe they’ll be teal and have six legs.”

Now it was Keith’s turn to snort. Without even thinking about his next words, Keith offhandedly said. “Too late, Shirogane. I’m the first alien you’ve met and I’m none of those things.”

Shiro freezing was literally as impactful as if he’d used his full strength to smack Keith upside the head. Tensing, Keith opened his mouth to try and back pedal. “Um... I… Er I meant –”

Keith couldn’t stop from jumping when Shiro suddenly started laughing again. Kicking himself into gear he also mimicked Shiro’s laugh, though it sounded strained and kind of awkward.

Wheezing, Shiro pulled on Keith’s hand. “I seriously don’t know how I’m going to last four months without you. Maybe I can just slip you into one of my suitcases and take you with.”

Despite his heart still pounding away like he’d run a marathon, Keith found himself letting out a more genuine chuckle. He hesitated before raising his free hand and brushing it over Shiro’s bangs. Over the years he’d gotten used to physical contact from his friends. And when he was feeling even more comfortable he’d go out of his way to initiate the contact.

“You’ll survive. You’ve got Matt there and he makes puns just as bad as you.”

Shiro gasped in mock offense, “Rude. I recall a time where you snorted milk out of your nose thanks to my jokes.”

“Oh geez,” Keith turned from petting Shiro’s head to tugging on the forelock. “Can’t you just forget about that already? It was so gross!”

“But it was so funny! Like a chain reaction,” Shiro said, his smile turning wistful. “I told a joke, you snorted out milk, then Matt did, and then Adam choked on his food and almost passed out. It was magical.”

In the darkened light of the room Keith gave Shiro a very long look. “You’ve got a very funny version of magical.”

Eyes brimming with obvious crocodile tears, Shiro pouted and faked a sob. “Sure, dismiss my fond memories like that. Just leave me so I can hide my tears in my pillow.”

“What a dramatic princess.” Keith tugged on Shiro’s ear before he stood up. “But yeah we should head to bed. Unlike some people, I’ve got early classes tomorrow.”

Like a switch being flipped Shiro was back to smiling at him. He laughed, “In my defense I’ll be in space by next week.”

Keith resisted the urge to roll his eyes and mention that he made time to go to classes and space. There was only so many times he could let it slip that he was an alien before Shiro started connecting the dots. It was a wonder he’d managed to keep his secret for this long. Though maybe that attested to how oblivious Shiro could be with some things… Especially since Keith hard a hard time being subtle around Shiro.

Patting his shoulder, Keith swapped goodnights with Shiro before retreating back to his room.

“Keith?”

Pausing just outside his door, Keith glanced over at the couch. “Yeah?”

“… Thanks for today. And for… Just now. I really needed the laugh.”

Keith smiled, “Anytime Shiro.”

The next day Keith went through the motions of his classes a little absentmindedly. As he was walking past the flight simulation room, something tickling his senses and stopped Keith in his tracks. He snapped his head towards the group of junior cadets and stared intently from one of the observation windows. Keith had felt flares of two unique quintessence signatures. In his entire time at the Garrison, Keith had only managed to pinpoint two potential Paladins for Voltron. Could two more really be here at the Garrison? In the same place at the same time??

Yet before Keith could try and match a face to quintessence, a hand on his shoulder snapped him from his concentration. “Hey, Keith.”

Keith only flinched slightly at the unexpected touch, eyes darting from the gaggle of kids to the person beside him. Adam gave Keith a curious and mildly amused look. He glanced at the cadets, “Is there a reason why you’re glaring hard enough to scare the kids?”

Lip jutting out in a pouty scowl, Keith clicked his tongue. “I wasn’t glaring.” Though if he did look at the young cadets, he could see a few of them staring at him in apprehensive fear. Damn. Looks like his staring wasn’t as subtle as he thought. Then again he wasn’t trying to be sneaky about it.

Keith grunted and turned away from the window. “Doesn’t matter. Though I saw something… Familiar. I’ll try looking later. Anyways, what’s up?”

Adam was obviously still curious but he had enough knowledge about Keith to know he wouldn’t be getting an answer. So he politely refrained from asking further and instead brought up what he’d come to Keith for. “Can I talk to you about yesterday?”

Despite his reluctance, Keith found himself nodding. “Follow me.” He said, knowing Adam would probably want a private place to talk.

He led Adam down a familiar hall, twisting this way and that before exiting from a window. Adam seemed skeptical about it but he knew to trust Keith when it came to finding isolated places. Keith had to help him climb a few parts of the roof but eventually the two of them settled down in Keith’s secluded area.

Adam sat down across from Keith, folding his hands into his lap and staring off out into the desert. “The view is pretty. Is this where you go to when you disappear for hours?”

“I come here for meditation.” Keith said in ways of explanation. There’d only been two people other than Keith to be brought here. The first was Shiro and this time it was Adam.

Adam accepted Keith’s words with a nod. Sighing, he bit his lip and looked at Keith. “Keith, I know you care for Shiro like I do. Hell, sometimes I think you might care even more than me. So how can you be ok with this? We might lose them up there. Doesn’t that scare you?”

“They’ll come home.”

“I didn’t ask if you believed they would come home or not.” Adam ran a hand through his hair in blatant frustration. “I want to have faith they’ll come home! God, I envy how unshakable you sound. I can’t have blind faith like you. I wish I could, but I just can’t. I’m a practical man Keith. I look at the facts and then make my decision. And all logic points to the fact that it’s a risky mission that might not even bring results. And what then? What if it was a pointless mission and Shiro just chipped years off his life? What if going to Kerberos just makes his body rot faster? Because that’s what it’s doing Keith! It’s rotting! Maybe not how a corpse would, but his muscles are basically evaporating and there’s nothing we can do about it! He didn’t need to accept this mission! What more does he have to prove?? Everyone knows how amazing he is!”

Keith frowned, looking down at his hands and clenching them. “I… Don’t think Shiro’s doing this to prove to others how great he is. That’s not the kind of guy Shiro is. This… Reminds me of a story I heard ages ago.”

Adam visibly deflated and he let out a sigh of disbelief. “A story Keith? Really?”

“Just listen, ok?” Keith clicked his tongue, “The story was about a prince. He… Was adored by his people. Smart, strong, kind, and someone everyone wanted in a ruler. Everyone admired him and would follow him simply because they trusted him so much. If he asked them to fight, they would. If he asked them to follow him to the ends of the universe, they would. They were so loyal to him because he’d given them every reason to believe in him. They believed he could do the impossible because up till that point, he always did the impossible.

“One day that prince stumbled upon ancient texts of a mystical place his ancestors would visit. When he set off on this expedition, there was no guarantee he’d even find it. There wasn’t even much hope that he’d survive if he went looking for it. But this prince, he couldn’t give up. He knew he didn’t need to find the place. His people wouldn’t see him as a failure, they couldn’t care less if he found it or not. But the prince left his people with a small team because he knew if he really found this place, the knowledge he gained could benefit his people for generations. He did it not for the fame and glory, but for his people. Everything was for his people. He risked his life day after day to just find some piece of information on where the mystical place was. He searched for months and months with barely any results. Just when he was starting to lose hope… He found it. He found it and returned with knowledge that helped his people in ways you couldn’t fathom.” Keith swallowed hard, closing his eyes and hoping his voice wasn’t shaking as he continued speaking.

“So I know what you’re thinking. There’s no point because the risk is too great and you aren’t even sure if the payoff is worth it. But I’m telling you now that even if we told him just that, Shiro wouldn’t care. He isn’t thinking about his health. Not about if he can or can’t do this. He’s thinking that if he doesn’t do this, who will? The potential of finding life, no matter how small, is what Shiro is aiming for. He wants to help the future of mankind by being the first step towards that goal. Shiro isn’t in it to prove something. And even if he was, he’d only be trying to prove to himself that nothing is impossible. So yes, I’m scared and worried about what’ll happen out there. Its space, anything can happen. But I would rather let Shiro go out there and do what he wants then force him to stay here and watch him waste away while looking up at the stars with that damn longing look of his. I wouldn’t be able to stomach it. Not in this lifetime or any others. I want Shiro to live with no regrets. If he stays here, he’ll have one big regret for the rest of his life. If he stays here, he’d be waiting to die. But by doing this, he’s going out there and being a part of something greater. He’s going to be able to see the stars like never before. He’s going to see what he’s been training his whole life to see. And it’s no one’s place to take that from him. Not yours. Not mine. And certainly not fucking Sanda’s. This is Shiro’s decision. Doesn’t mean we have to like it, but we can support him through it.”

After his long speech Keith honestly felt tired. He never did enjoy talking so much and his “story” from earlier threatened to rip open wounds he was still recovering from. No matter how much time passed there would never be enough to finish mourning. And every day Keith had to push down that grief and continue onwards. He had a mission to do, he could find time to process his grief when it was over.

Adam had watched him through the whole thing, eyes slightly wide. With a breathy exhale he studied Keith in a new light. He knew that there was a lot about Keith none of them, not even Shiro, knew. But for some reason Adam had a feeling that he had caught a glimpse at the man Keith tried to keep under wraps. The one that would sometimes get a haunted look in his eyes as years of regret seemed to weigh on his shoulders. He sounded like he was talking from experience. About having something to regret for the rest of your life. Whatever it was Keith regretted, Adam couldn’t begin to grasp.

He reached out, placing his hand on Keith’s shoulder. “You really care for Shiro, don’t you?”

That earned him a wry chuckle, “It wasn’t intentional. But Shiro’s like a giant puppy. You can’t help caring about him.”

Laughing, Adam removed his hand and shared a grin with Keith. “You’re right about that.” With a gentler smile he added, “Thanks Keith. You’ve… Given me some things to think about.”

And just as he said to Shiro last night, Keith smiled and said “Anytime.”

The week went by faster than Keith would’ve liked. Before he knew it he was standing with Matt’s family, saying goodbye to the three people he could maybe call family. Sam was like a second father to Keith, treating him just as he did Shiro and his own kids. He’d met Sam at the Garrison first, Matt introducing them and later on inviting Keith to his house for dinner. That was when Keith met Colleen and Katie. He’d been amazed upon sensing Katie’s unique quintessence. And just as he’d been trying to figure out a way to say hi to the young girl, Shiro let out a stray comment about Keith’s Mothman poster. Their friendship bloomed like crazy after that.

Katie stood with her mother, both of them holding tight to Sam and Matt as they said whispered goodbyes. Keith had already said his own to the two, Matt promising to try and bring him back an alien girlfriend if he meet one. Keith had laughed at that and said nothing to neither encourage nor deny his offer. Keith highly doubted they’d run into any aliens while out on Kerberos but he didn’t want to spoil Matt’s excitement.

Off to the side Shiro was seemingly attempting to try and hug the life out of Keith. Of course not one to be out beat in a competition, Keith hugged back just as fiercely.

“I’m going to miss you, Keith.” He whispered, squeezing tighter to punctuate his statement.

Keith chuckled and purposefully ignored the stinging in his eyes. He never did well with goodbyes. The last time he’d had to say goodbye was to Krolia. And before that, Alfor and Ukora. Keith didn’t want to say goodbye again. Not when every time he said it, he never saw those people again. At least with Alfor he knew his king to be dead. With Krolia, only the blade he constantly carried gave him any semblance of relief that his mother was still living. But with Shiro? He had nothing to tell him.

“I’ll be here when you get back.” He said, pushing those thoughts down into the depths of his mind.

Shiro leaned back so that he could look into Keith’s face. Smiling sadly at the misty-eye look Keith was supporting, Shiro pulled the younger back into his arms. “Looks like I’ll have to come back then so I don’t keep you waiting.”

Keith clung to Shiro and swallowed past the lump in his throat. Despite knowing he was destined to be a part of Voltron, Keith couldn’t stop from worrying. For a split moment he thought of giving Shiro something to ensure he survived whatever was out there. Something Shiro wouldn’t even realize he had. Keith’s piece of the Guardian.

The piece wasn’t what marked Keith as its vessel, it was simply like a “second life”. A portable defibrillator if he ever encountered a situation where he might die. It wasn’t a big piece and using it didn’t hurt the Guardian in any way. It was simply like borrowing some of the Guardian’s quintessence to give him a chance to survive.

This wouldn’t have been the first time Keith gave the piece away. He’d given it to Tex so many times since he started living with the other. And one time it had actually come in handy. Keith had known the piece had been used when the Guardian told him he needed to return to Oriande to receive another. The piece, being so small, could only be used once before Keith had to go back and get another. And even then he could only carry enough of the Guardian’s quintessence for one “revival”. Any more and it would become unpleasant for Keith.

Keith was tempted to give the piece to Shiro. He could and no one would know but him and the Guardian. And even then the Guardian rarely interfered with Keith’s decision making so he had no worries that it’d try to stop him. But… No. Keith couldn’t do that. He couldn’t give Shiro a way to cheat death and not give one to Sam and Matt. It wasn’t even debatable.

Just as Keith made his resolve to not give Shiro such a helping hand, he felt the body in his arms stiffen. A quick glance at Shiro’s face showed that he was looking over Keith’s shoulder at something. His expression was that of tentative hope and instantly Keith knew who was behind him.

“Adam?”

The past week Adam and Shiro had been avoiding each other. Shiro out of respect for Adam’s request, and Adam out of his need to think things over. In all honestly Shiro had been convinced that Adam wouldn’t show up today to see them off. He’d been disappointed, but he reasoned with himself that it was to be expected. Adam didn’t exactly support his decision, after all. So seeing him here now was kind of a shock.

Adam stepped forward, holding a hand up just as Shiro began speaking. “No, let me talk first.”

Keith, out of courtesy to the both of them, excused himself to go over to the Holts. However even with the distance he was still able to hear the two. Sometimes Altean hearing was useful, but during personal moments? Not so much.

“Shiro, I’m not happy with you leaving, you understand that, right? But I spent the week thinking and… I’ve decided to support your dream. Only because it means so much to you. However me being here is not a sign that I agree with it. I’m here as your friend, nothing more.”

Despite Adam’s words, Shiro still smiled brightly. Relieved and happy this mission hadn’t entirely ruined their relationship, Shiro nodded eagerly. “I understand. And thank you for being here. It means a lot to me that… You still are willing to be friends with me."

Adam chuckled and crossed his arms over his chest, “You can probably thank Keith for that. He helped me come to a decision.”

Thankfully Keith was dragged into conversation by Matt, so he wasn’t unintentionally listening to Shiro and Adam talking anymore. However he didn’t get time to enjoy the moment, as all too soon Iverson and a few other decorated senior officers came up to escort the Kerberos team to their ship, Persephone.

Collen dragged Sam and Matt into a hug, kissing their cheeks and forehead before moving over to do the same to Shiro. Tears were shed and eventually the four stood and watched Shiro, Matt, and Sam disappear inside the ship.

They stood there during countdown, liftoff, and even when the ship was no longer in sight and only a trail of smoke remained. Adam left several minutes after the ship had departed. He offered a pat to Keith’s shoulder and wiped away what might’ve been tears. On Katie’s side, Collen mentioned that Keith was invited to join them for dinner tonight and could stop by whenever he was in the neighborhood. Keith made sure to thank her before she took her leave.

That left Keith and Katie, the two staring up at where the Persephone had broken through the clouds.

“Do you think they’ll be back?”

Katie’s eyes remained fixated on the sky like she could still see them even from this distance. Keith wasn’t any better though, eyes pointed in the direction he knew Kerberos lay. He forced himself to nod, “They will.” He said with as much conviction as he could muster. “And if they don’t…”

He trailed off, sharing a look with Katie. She grinned at him, “We’ll go up there and drag them back.”

“Exactly.”

Katie chuckled, lightly punching Keith in the arm. “Then you’d better climb those ranks so no one can argue with you bringing civilians on a retrieval mission.” Not bothering to reply, Keith simply snorted and ruffled Katie’s hair. She let out a cry of protest and moved to escape his hand. Katie laughed, “You’d better show up to dinner! Mom’s making hotpot!”

“I will,” Keith sighed, dragging his eyes away from the sky and following Katie back into the Garrison.

It was painful to simply let them go like that. They didn’t know space like Keith did. A black hole could suddenly appear and swallow them up! Keith knew it wasn’t a rational thought but could he be blamed?

For the first few weeks after their departure it was hard. He’d find himself going to Matt’s room for something only to be greeted by a locked door, something completely different from Matt’s “always open” door policy. And when he was in the mood for a sparring partner it took the Guardian’s soft nudging to remind him that Shiro wasn’t there. Mealtime was always quiet between him and Adam, the two lost in their own heads more often than not. It got to the point that Keith wanted to take White up there and try to stalk their ship just to make sure they were ok. He had to physically restrain himself most days. But eventually it got easier. Keith learned to relax and let time pass.

Then, five months after the launch, Keith went home for a week long break. He had originally been planning to stay at the Garrison, but the stress of waiting for news on the Kerberos mission was getting to him. And after a single phone call with his son, Tex had asked Keith to come home for the break. And in hindsight? He was glad his father had made the request.

Keith had gotten up early, military schedule practically drilled into him. Making his way downstairs, he turned their TV on to the news and switched the volume on mute. He wasn’t really in the mood to listen to voices this early in the morning but he still wanted to see if the Garrison released anything yet. The high-tech television set had been built and installed into their little shack courtesy of Matt. Sometime in their 9 deca-phoebs of friendship Matt had gotten fed up with Keith’s lack of a TV. So steamrolling past Tex and Keith’s halfhearted protests, he’d gotten the thing installed and may or may not have given them illegal cable. But so long as Tex didn’t have to pay extra to get cable out in the desert, he wasn’t complaining.

Keith busied himself in the kitchen making two mugs of coffee, one for him and one for his dad. For both of them he added a heavy dose of cream and sugar, absentmindedly mixing it. From a glance at the time on the analog clock hanging above the stove, Keith knew his dad would be up in maybe half an hour. Even if he had no work today, that still didn’t stop his dad from getting up early.

As Keith left the kitchen with both steaming mugs in hand, he glanced at the screen before freezing in his tracks. A cold chill swept through his body and Keith didn’t even register the cups slipping from his hands. He didn’t register when they hit the ground and shattered, nor did he even register the burning coffee soaking into his sweats and feet. Keith couldn’t comprehend anything except for what was on the screen.

In bold bright letters the phrase “Kerberos Mission Disappears Pilot Error” flashed by along with a picture of Shiro, Sam, and Matt. In that moment Keith felt his heart stop and his world collapse.

Chapter Text

“Yorak, stop picking on the Lugalu’s and come get cleaned up! Your mother’s award ceremony is starting in a varga and we need to be there early!”

Yorak looked up from where he was tipping the little animals onto their shelled backs. Pouting, he righted the creature before standing up and rushing to his mother. He collided with Ilor’s legs, the Altean chuckling warmly at her son.

Ilor crouched down, her white and red robes spilling around her like rippling water. Her ebony hair hung down her back and shoulders, braids woven and held in place by gold bands. Her lips were painted with a glossy sheen and a flare of glittering red and orange circled her large brown eyes.

“Mother! Is ma going to get more medals?”

The dark-skinned woman hummed, “That’s what we’ve been told.”

“What kind of medal is ma going to get?” Yorak asked.

“I’m not sure,” Ilor tilted her head to the side and smiled. “What kind of medal do you think Queen Holira should give, my little Juniberry?”

Pursing his lips, Yorak thought for a moment before he threw his hands up and exclaimed. “Award for the best warrior! And mother! Oh, but then you should get that award too!”

Ilor chuckled warmly and pulled Yorak close, placing numerous kisses against his cheek. “That’s very sweet of you, I’m happy you think so highly of me. I’m sure Atka will be just as delighted to hear you say that!”

Taking his mother’s words to heart, Yorak nodded vigorously and sprinted into their house. He ran around the first floor, yelling for Atka while Ilor followed him with a fond smile.

Atka came down the stairs decked out in her formal military attire. With whites and golds making up most of her outfit, Atka looked as pristine as ice. Her sharp scowl didn’t help dispel her frosty appearance. The blue marks were just as chilling as the violet eyes they sat under.

Her short, sandy blond hair was combed as well as it could, though with the way she kept trying to run her hand down the top of it, it was clear she was having trouble. Atka stopped just at the base of the stairs, cold eyes thawing at the sight of Yorak running up to her.

“Maaaaaa!”

“Mm?” Atka bent down and scooped Yorak up without hesitation.

With all the importance a little child could muster, Yorak placed his hands to his mother’s cheeks and said, “Ma you should get an award for being the best mom warrior.”

Atka nodded seriously, treating Yorak’s words like direct orders from the Queen. “I understand. And what of Ilor?”

Yorak paused for a moment before he looked over his shoulder at his other mother. “Best mom doctor!”

Ilor chuckled, moving over to stand beside the two. She kissed Yorak’s cheek, nuzzling against the markings that were as red as hers. “Such a sweet boy.”

“Mmm.” Atka nodded in agreement, kissing Yorak’s forehead. “Are you both ready to go?”

“No, Yorak still needs to change.” Ilor said, slipping past Atka in order to climb the stairs. “And you need to get your hair in check! I told you to use the gel, my love.”

“It smells like a Yelmor’s rectum.” Atka clicked her tongue in distaste.

“You’re overreacting. Now come on, I want to get there so Yorak and I can get nice seats.”

Atka sighed, looking after her wife for a moment before looking back down at Yorak. She tilted her head, a ghost of a smile pulling at the corners of her lips. “Shall we get you ready, my fierce Klanm ü irl?”

Grinning, Yorak nodded eagerly. “Mmm! Can I put the Juniberry’s in mother’s hair?”

“You’ll have to ask her. Though I’m sure if you let her add some to your hair, she might say yes.” Atka said as she began carrying Yorak up the stairs.

“Ok!”

///

Keith opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling. He did nothing to acknowledge the stray tears slipping down his cheeks as the last dregs of his dream slipped by. It’d been a while since he dreamt about his childhood.

Closing his eyes, Keith held tight to the mixed feelings raging inside him. On one hand he missed Ilor and Atka terribly, on the other he was content to dream of the past. Keith honestly believed he could almost feel the ghost of his mothers’ kisses on his forehead. And if he concentrated, he felt like the combined smells of Ilor’s herbal scent and Atka’s spear polish were hanging around him. It was completely nostalgic and sent a deep pang of homesickness through Keith.

His breath hitched and he rolled onto his side. Keith swallowed down his grief and blinked past the stray tears gradually forming in his eyes. Thankfully his little bubble of sadness was popped just as quickly as it had formed. Beside him on his nightstand, his phone beeped with an incoming call. Without even guessing he already knew who it was. Keith sighed, sitting up and running a hand through his hair before taking the phone.

“Pidge.” He said in lieu of a greeting.

Hey. You just woke up? You sound terrible.”

Keith sighed and ran a hand over his face, “It’s nothing. Just got lost in memories.”

Ah,” Pidge paused, “Good or bad?”

“Good ones this time.”

There was silence for a moment before Pidge hummed in understanding. “Well just called to confirm that today is really the day.”

Keith stood from his bed and moved to the window, looking towards the sky. “That’s what the cave writing said.”

Uh-huh. And the Guardian?”

“Silent.”

Pidge snorted, “That’s helpful. Well whatever, sometimes no news is good news. I’ll keep my ears opened for anything on my end. If something’s arriving then the Garrison is going to try and get their grubby hands on it. Let me know if anything happens with you.”

“Got it.” Keith paused for a moment, “How’s Adam?”

Humming in thought, Pidge debated how to answer. “Doing better. He seems like he’s starting to move on. Word around the Garrison is that he went on a date a few days ago. I don’t know how well I trust rumors, but I can’t exactly go and ask him without blowing my cover.”

Keith nodded despite the fact Pidge couldn’t see it. “Got it, thanks. I’ll let you go so you can deal with your classes. I’ll keep you posted.”

Thanks Keith.” And with that the call ended. Keith sighed, setting his phone down before getting dressed for the day.

Keith had left the Garrison about three months after Shiro, Matt, and Sam were announced dead. He’d fought tooth and nail insisting that the Garrison knew they weren’t, even tried to convince Adam, but the other had demanded Keith stop. He said he knew letting Shiro go on that mission was a mistake, and now they both were paying the price. Keith, in that moment, wanted to tell Adam that Shiro wasn’t dead. That he would come back because Keith had seen him being a pilot for Voltron. But Adam was too deep in grief. He would think Keith was going crazy and if Keith revealed he was an alien just to prove his words, he was afraid of what might happen.

So Keith had put in his resignation to leave the Garrison and basically dropped off the face of the Earth. When he’d been cleaning his stuff out to take home, he’d stumbled across Iverson tossing out a young Katie Holt from his office. Keith had overheard her declarations and in a short second he had made his decision. She was going to be a potential Paladin anyways, so Keith would eventually have to reveal his secret, right? What’s the harm in doing it a little earlier than he anticipated?

With a decision made, Keith had called out to her, took her with him back to his house, and sat her down while he and Tex explained things. At first Katie had worried Keith went off the deep end, but when she was shown proof, there was no refuting the truth. After Katie’s initial freak-out, Tex had talked about Krolia and when she came to Earth, Keith talked about when he came to Earth.

Katie had mixed emotions at first, both parts angry and excited. Excited at the undeniable proof of life outside their solar system, angry because Keith had every opportunity to go out there and try to find her family and Shiro, but he hadn’t. It had divulged into an argument match between the two, Keith insisting that he couldn’t do anything despite his “opportunities”. He’d gone to Kerberos, he’d scoured the entire moon for days. But the only evidence of them being there was the abandoned ship. Keith had no clue where the Persephone’s crew was.

Katie was fuming and shut down Keith’s attempts at changing the subject from ‘taking your freaking flying cat and finding them’. But thankfully Tex had stepped in. He sent Keith out to go and catch lunch while he talked to Katie. By the time Keith came back, Katie was much calmer and finally willing to listen to Keith and what he thought they should do.

It was a struggle to get her onboard with his plan of waiting. She didn’t like it, she wanted to go out there and find her brother and dad. But Keith had made a good point. They had no leads on anything, nor did they have a plan. If Keith went out there in his Lion it’d turn attention to them. It would be dangerous to have his Lion out there when the only known Lions were Black, Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green. An unknown White Lion would cause unnecessary interest from the Empire. The last thing they needed was to be put on the Empire’s radar.

So Keith and Katie, with the occasional help from Tex, began working on a plan. Keith had told her about the cave housing the Blue Lion and how the wall writing described something arriving on a certain day in the future. They’d set that as their starting point. Whatever arrived most likely had something to do with the Blue Lion. They had reached this conclusion since the text had been inside her cave.

With a kind-of-solid plan formed, the two had split off to do their own things. While Keith worked from the outside, occasionally dipping out into space to check the surrounding planets for any changes, Katie snuck back into the Garrison undercover as Pidge Gunderson. And during breaks, since she couldn’t go home without alerting her mom, Pidge stayed over at Keith’s house.

If he was being honest, it was nice to have someone other than his dad know about him being an alien. And though Keith didn’t want to admit it, he was a little soft on Pidge. How could he not be? They both had important people missing, people that they cared for and wanted back no matter the cost. So Pidge and Keith had a mutual bond that strengthened their friendship.

Keith stood in front of his mirror, checking to make sure he was ready for the day. He had his mother’s knife strapped to his hip, jeans stuffed into practical hiking shoes, and an old red and black Jacket his dad had found at a swap meet.

Taking a hair tie from his desk, Keith quickly brushed and braided it. Keith’s hair had grown a little past his shoulders since he left the Garrison and he had never felt the need to cut it. The locks were stained black once more, Keith having reapplied the dye yesterday out of preparation for today. Keith finished getting ready by rubbing foundation over his markings.

Satisfied with his appearance, he left his room and made his way down the stairs. Tex was already in the kitchen, having woken up earlier than usual. He yawned, pouring two mugs of coffee and adding twice the amount of sugar to both of them.

“Today the day?” He asked tiredly, taking a generous sip of his mug.

Keith hummed in confirmation, taking his own. “Yeah. Pidge is ready on her end. Well as ready as she can be.”

Tex nodded, “Ya got everything ya need?”

“I don’t even know what I’ll need, dad. I’m just gonna… I don’t know wing it? Pack a few harmless explosives, a Taser maybe.”

Leveling him with a deadpan look, Tex crossed his arms over his chest. “In what universe are explosions classified as “harmless”? It ain’t no flash grenade, son.”

Keith finished off his coffee and put the mug in the sink. “I know! Look, I’ll figure it out when the time comes. Now I’ve gotta go. I want to check on Blue and then get White ready in case what comes today isn’t… Friendly.”

Tex shook his head in protest, “Nope. Not without breakfast. We’ll leave when you’re fed.”

’We’?” Keith echoed as he moved to the fridge. If it was anyone else telling him to eat, Keith might’ve protested saying he didn’t need it. But because it was his dad issuing the order, Keith dutifully listened.

“Well o’ course I’m goin’ with ya to check on them Lions.” The smile on Tex’s face was tinged with sadness. “There’s no knowin’ what’s comin’ today, Keith. I want to spend at least one more day with my son before it all might go to shit.”

Keith felt his throat tighten and he smiled. “Yeah… You’re right.”

After eating Keith and Tex spent most of the day driving from the Blue Lion’s cave to the cave where White was being kept. After some deliberation Keith moved it so the Lion was partially out of the cave, ready to fly at a moment’s notice.

When they returned home it was now a matter of sitting around and waiting. Dusk found Keith and Tex sitting on the roof staring up at the sky. The two were obviously antsy with anticipation, Keith arguably more so. This reminded him of when Tex would take him to go see meteor showers. Or back on Altea waiting to see Roga’s Comet. Too much waiting, not enough action.

Just as it was reaching half past 9, the sky lit up as a fiery ball plummeted from the clouds. Keith stood and watched it with wide eyes, the both of them jumping into action when it hit the ground. He and Tex moved through the house, Keith grabbing things he thought he’d need while Tex did his own thing. He eventually tossed Keith a bandanna to cover his face and the bike keys. As they stood outside, Tex placed a hand to Keith’s shoulder and gave him a firm look.

“Be safe.”

Keith nodded, “I will. I’ll be back soon.”

With that Keith was off, riding towards the crash site. In all honesty he didn’t know what he was expecting to find. The thing that crashed could’ve been anything. From where he was hiding to observe the situation, Keith could tell the ship was of Galra design. Over the deca-phoebs they kept the purple motif, so Keith had no problem recognizing it.

It wasn’t till he saw them pulling someone out of the ship that he sprang into action. Keith had no clue who the pilot was, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to save the other. The Garrison was not a safe place for a potentially injured alien. Keith was a far better candidate, even if the other ended up being Galra. At least with Keith he stood a far better chance than the Garrison at taking down such a threat.

Keith laid out the explosions in a row, making sure to put decent space between them. He set the timer for five minutes, drove his bike in a wide berth around the site, and waited. The explosions went off one by one and Keith wasted no time in driving in and parking the bike behind a large rock.

Sneaking in was no problem, there was barely anyone there to act as security. Keith rushed down the hall with his heart pounding incessantly. It was near painful to wait for the door to slide open. Yet when they did, Keith’s eyes zeroed in on the person strapped to the bed. In that moment it was like time stopped. Keith couldn’t hear, couldn’t even breath. He wasn’t sure, he didn’t want to hope, but Keith swore the person looked achingly familiar.

“Hey!”

Keith narrowed his eyes at the three Garrison medics dressed in hazmat suits. Darting forward, he made quick work incapacitating them. He stood there for a moment after the third man fell in order to make sure none of them were able to get back up to stop him. Satisfied, Keith dropped from his fighting stance and practically sprinted to the cot. He nearly tripped in his haste, hands shaking as he reached out to touch the sleeping man’s face.

Keith felt his breath hitch and could barely believe what he was seeing. He brushed his fingers across the scar bisecting the man’s nose, touching the familiar forelock now stained white.

“Shiro?” Keith’s voice quaked, brows furrowed and his heart clenching.

He swallowed hard, shaking his head and forcefully pushing down the sudden swell of emotions. Now was not the time for this, he had to get Shiro out of here. There would be time to process everything later when he was safe. Making quick work of the bindings, Keith dragged Shiro from the bed. It was no struggle for him to lift Shiro and sling him over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. Keith was once more glad he’d been born Altean. Carrying Shiro by himself would’ve been difficult otherwise because honestly, did he get buffer out in space?? What the fuck??

There was a spike in Keith’s senses and his head snapped up to look at the door. Not a moment later it opened to reveal two strangers and, surprisingly, Pidge. It took a moment, but eventually Keith’s eyes widened as he registered what had set off his senses.

“Hold on just a—,” The guy in front cut off, looking quite dumbfounded at how easily Keith was carrying someone visibly bigger than him. Shaking his head, the guy powered forward and moved to stand in front of Keith. “I’m saving Shiro!”

Keith quirked a brow, “And you are…?” A quick glance at the door showed the larger guy was extremely nervous while Pidge was offering Keith an excited grin.

“The name’s Lance!” At Keith’s blank look, the guy—Lance—looked a little putout. “You know, Lance?? I beat your high score in the flight simulation when I was a junior cadet! It was a huge thing!!”

Really? It took a moment but then Keith vaguely remembered something. Back in the Garrison during a break or whatever, Shiro had mentioned that he heard a junior cadet beat his score by a couple hundred points. Not anything mind-blowing, but the fact he’d been able to reach Keith’s score had been something noteworthy. Keith didn’t really care about things like that so no wonder he forgot.

“Ah, I remember you.” Keith said, quirking a brow. “Well nice to meet you… Lance? I’d love to hang around and chat, but I’m kind of preoccupied at the moment. So if you’ll excuse me I really need to get Shiro out of here.”

And without waiting for a response Keith marched out of the quarantine unit. Lance had squawked out something like “hold on!” but Keith, of course, didn’t listen. He really didn’t want to risk the Garrison coming back and preventing him from getting Shiro.

Lance stuck to his side, arms partially raised like he would catch Shiro if Keith ended up teetering. Unnecessary but Keith wasn’t going to tell him that. They rounded the large rock obscuring his bike and Keith didn’t even bat an eye when Pidge rushed past and climbed on.

“Uh, do you mind if we catch a ride with you?” The big guy was polite enough to ask.

Keith grunted an affirmation, handing Shiro over to Pidge. The two other Garrison cadets climbed on as well, the bike creaking as the weight suddenly went all towards the back. Keith grit his teeth and climbed on, powering it up and only sparing a glance to make sure Shiro was being firmly held between Pidge and Lance.

“Hold on.” Keith grit out, starting the bike just as the Garrison’s jeep lights cast over them.

As the chase was on, Keith found a moment to reflect on the past few doboshes. So much for going out to look for the remaining three Voltron Paladins! Quite literally two just found him! And he was now currently kidnapping them. It wasn’t really kidnapping for Pidge since she knew him, but the other two? Keith was practically a stranger to them. And here he was effectively stealing them and Shiro away from the Garrison. Gods he hoped this didn’t come back to bite him or his dad in the ass.

Speaking of Tex, he was waiting outside by the time Keith pulled the bike up to the house. Pidge was the first to slip from the bike and she made sure to hit Keith in the side, grumbling about his crazy piloting. That caused some of the tension to leave Keith’s body as he turned off the bike and pocketed the keys.

“Looks like you brought more back with ya then I thought you would.” Tex said, coming over to ruffle Pidge’s hair in greeting. She snorted, ducking from his reach.

The big guy seemed a little confused at how familiar Pidge was acting around Keith and Tex, but Lance apparently didn’t notice. He was too busy watching Keith hoist Shiro up like a sack of potatoes.

“Holy crow dude, how much do you lift?!”

Keith smirked, ignoring the exclamation and instead moving to his dad. Tex gave Keith a onceover to check for injures before glancing at his unconscious passenger. He frowned for a moment, staring at a face so familiar yet just as different. Then, like a lightbulb going off, Tex realized who it was.

His eyes widened and he whistled, “Well butter my backside and call me a biscuit. The boy’s home!” Tex laughed in surprise and gestured towards the house. “Ya go on and get him laid up in bed. I reckon he’ll be out for a while. I’ll make sure your other stowaways are comfortable.”

With a nod Keith left, Tex turning and smiling to the three cadets. “Come on in. Ya don’t wanna be out here at night. Rattlers like to come out and cause trouble.”

Before Pidge could follow Tex inside, her bag was snagged and she was yanked back. Pidge turned to glare at Hunk and Lance. “What?”

“Uh hello! Doesn’t this set off all your warning bells?!” Lance whisper yelled at her. “Let’s break it down so you can see how whack this all is! Keith, second best pilot in the entire Garrison, was kicked out because he went crazy obsessive over Shiro’s death. He then disappears off the grid and nearly a year later shows up and somehow knew Shiro would be there at the crash! Then he kidnaps him and not to mention us, then takes us to a house in the middle of nowhere and there’s another guy already waiting outside and he acts mega friendly and you’re just going along with it?? Where have your survival instincts gone?! This has all the makings of a horror movie!!”

“I agree with Lance,” Hunk was quick to interject. “I mean like sure he saved Shiro, but none of us really know Keith? Or the other guy. I mean maybe. Pidge you seem to kind of know them?”

Pidge rolled her eyes and pushed up her glasses. “I do. Keith’s… A family friend. And Tex is his dad. They’re who I stay with during breaks.”

Lance’s eyes widened, “Wait really??”

“Yes,” She shrugged off Lance’s hold on her bag. “And Keith didn’t go crazy. He wasn’t kicked out either, he resigned. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going inside where it’s warm and safe from snakes.”

She stomped inside, tossing her bag onto the couch and making a beeline for the kitchen. From the sound of the front door opening and closing, it was evident that Lance and Hunk had followed. They also walked into the kitchen and saw that Pidge was confidently moving around like she owned the place.

“You guys are out of sugar.” She huffed, closing the cabinet.

“Keith and I used the last of it this mornin’.”

Pidge groaned, “You guys always use too much sugar in your coffee.”

Tex took her by the shoulders and began ushering all three of them out of the kitchen. “And you’re too young to be drinkin’ coffee. Ya wanna stay short forever? ‘Sides, it’s late and y’all need your sleep.”

“Uh sleep? Where?” Hunk asked as they stood in the living room.

Tex dipped into a closet, rummaging around as he responded. “We got a couch, an air mattress ya just gotta inflate, and a spare room with a bed. Keith cleaned it out ages ago for when his friends would stay over.”

Pidge nabbed her bag and sprinted to the stairs, “I get the spare room!”

“What! No fair! We didn’t even draw for it!” Lance yelled, rushing after her.

They could hear Pidge yelling, “I get dibs because I know the home owner!” Before a door was slammed closed.

Tex seemed amused, closing the closet door with his foot and coming back to the couch with blankets and the folded up air mattress. “Well kid, ya got the choice of the mattress or couch.”

Glancing between the couch and the inflatable mattress, Hunk smiled sheepishly. “Um the mattress please, sir.”

Tex nodded, hooking up the little pump and turning it on after setting out the mattress. While he waited for it to inflate, Tex offered a hand to Hunk. “By the way, name’s Tex Kogane. Hope my son didn’t get y’all into too much trouble.”

Hunk chuckled, shaking Tex’s hand. “We were probably going to get in trouble anyway since we kinda broke curfew, then helped someone kidnap a person the Garrison clearly wanted if their chase was anything to go by, and then ran away with said person and basically became fugitives. Though I don’t know if fugitives is the right word for it. Traitors maybe?”

“Best not to think about it right now.” Tex chuckled, passing Hunk a blanket. He glanced at Lance as the other begrudgingly marched down the stairs. Tex smiled and ruffled Lance’s hair as he went past. Lance, not expecting the contact, stood there in surprise. “I’ll get you boys some pillows. Bathroom’s upstairs, has a little toilet sign hanging from it. If ya need anything in the middle of the night, feel free to move about. Ya can help yourself to anything in the kitchen if ya feel hungry or thirsty. My only rule is to keep it quiet and try not to go outside without any light. There ain’t just rattlers ya gotta worry about out here.”

The warning was unnecessary but Tex wanted to make sure they weren’t crazy enough to try going outside. He learned the hard way raising Keith that it was better to be safe than sorry. Any kind of precaution was a necessary precaution in his book.

And just like that the night passed by without any further events. As dawn slowly approached, the first thing Shiro registered when he began to regain consciousness was that he was extremely comfortable. Not only was he warm and on something soft, but the toasty sweet smell of burning flowers was so achingly familiar Shiro thought he might’ve been hallucinating. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d felt this safe. He couldn’t pinpoint why, but Shiro was almost afraid to open his eyes.

Still, no matter how much he wanted to stay in bed, Shiro was an early riser by default. Not only that, but he knew there was something important he had to do. Shiro couldn’t remember what exactly since his thoughts were a jumbled mess, but he knew just trying to think about it filled him with anxiety. And besides, if this truly was just an illusion created by his brain, then he would have to face reality sometime.

Slowly Shiro peeled his eyes open, staring up at a ceiling covered in plastic glow-in-the-dark stars and drawings of a foreign solar system. The familiar weird scribbling of names were on the inside of the lumpy planets and it took a moment for his brain to register what he was looking at. Suddenly Shiro’s breath hitched and his eyes darted to his surroundings.

To his left leaning against the wall was a lumpy stuffed hippo. Shiro recognized it right away, especially when he caught sight of the faded red ribbon tied around its neck. He had won the thing at a carnival for Keith one summer. Keith had said he’d never been to a fair before, so Shiro had wanted to show him what he’s been missing. Keith’s smile when he’d been handed the hippo was the brightest Shiro had ever seen. It was one of his fondest memories.

When Shiro turned his head and looked out into the rest of the room, he felt his heart clench and a knot form in his throat. He was hit with a wave of relief so powerful Shiro was left shaking. He knew this room, he’d spent a lot of time hanging out in it. This was Keith’s room back on Earth.

Shiro had done it. He was home.

He wasn’t sure how long he lay there taking it all in. He didn’t even register when the tears had started sliding down the sides of his face. Shiro didn’t know why he was so relieved to be back. How long had he been gone? His brain was a mess and he couldn’t remember much no matter how hard he tried. All he knew was that he had been on an alien ship, escaped somehow, and… Voltron.

He sat up with a gasp, eyes widening as he realized that’s what was so urgent!! He had to get to Voltron before the Galra!

Shiro flung the covers off and practically leaped from the bed, pausing as he was hit with a wave of dizziness. He groaned and sat back down, holding his head in his hands. As Shiro blinked away the black spots, he finally noticed a pile of folded clothes on the nightstand and a pair of boots on the floor next to it.

Slower this time, Shiro stood and changed from his rags into the well-worn clothes. He knew the offered garments were from Tex thanks to the sandalwood smell clinging to them. He felt the sting of tears once more and sniffed, wiping at his eyes. Now was not the time to start crying again.

From the faint light spilling inside, Shiro could tell that the sun was beginning to rise. Filled with an indescribable feeling, Shiro rushed to the window and stared towards the horizon. He had the perfect view of the sun as it slowly climbed its way into the sky.

Shiro watched the sunrise with new tears dripping down his face and a wide smile hurting his cheeks. He’d missed seeing the sunrise like this. Shiro felt like he hadn’t seen the sun in eons. Maybe he had? Maybe he’d been gone for years and just didn’t know it. Either way Shiro was enjoying every moment of the new day.

After he’d stemmed the flow of tears and had his fill of staring at the sun, Shiro glanced down towards the ground. With a soft gasp he saw the familiar form of Keith and Tex. Both were standing several feet from the house staring towards the sky. Shiro was instantly filled with the strong urge to run down there and hug both of them.

Despite his desire to sprint outside, he kept in mind that he just woke up from a drugged sleep and was still shaking off the effects. As he moved down the steps Shiro was glad he’d decided to go slow. He didn’t know who the two people sleeping in the living room were, but he didn’t want to rudely wake them.

Shiro relished in the warm desert air the moment he stepped outside and it hit his face. He was content to just linger there for a moment or two longer. Unbeknownst to Tex and Keith, Shiro was able to pick up some of their conversation from where he stood.

“And that’s really the plan?”

“So far, yeah. We don’t really have that much to work with. All we’ve got are the videos and the date. Don’t forget it, by the way.”

Tex snorted, “Hard to do that when ya keep repeatin’ it every chance ya get.” He ran a hand through his hair, “You sure it’ll even work?”

“Maybe? Like I said, dad. Not a lot to work with.”

“Well ain’t that just peachy.”

Only once there was a lull in conversation did Shiro decide to make his presence known. The gravel crunched underneath his boots and both Tex and Keith turned, duel smiles appearing when they caught sight of him. Shiro offered his own in return and stopped when he was in front of the two.

Shiro hesitated, unsure what to say other than a lame “hey”.

Thankfully Tex seemed to understand. He placed his hand on Shiro’s shoulder and brought him in for a tight, fatherly hug. “Good to have ya back, kid. Place just hasn’t been the same without ya lot out here causing a ruckus.”

Choking on another swell of emotions, Shiro relished in the warm contact. “Good to be back.”

When Tex pulled away Shiro felt his mind scream in protest. He had been enjoying the hug, almost like he hadn’t had one in years. When was the last time Shiro had contact with another human? He couldn't even remember.

Tex pat his shoulder, frowning slightly at Shiro’s lost expression before humming thoughtfully. Tex was quick to smile and patted Shiro’s back.

“I’ll get breakfast ready since you’re up. Won’t be long before the others wake too. Keith suggested makin’ your favourite since you’ve been up in space for a while. How does mac and cheese sound for breakfast?”

The suggestion had a small yet warm smile blooming on Shiro’s face. He nodded, “Sounds good. Thank you, Mr. Kogane.” Any other time Shiro might’ve wondered how Tex was taking this all so well. Shiro had just come back from space and Keith had stolen him from the Garrison. By all accounts he should have some questions! Or at the very least be something other than happy! Why was he so calm??

Tex patted Shiro jovially like he couldn’t read the confusion in his eyes. Chuckling under his breath, Tex took his leave and went inside. Keith and Shiro were silent as the door swung closed. Now it was just them outside in the growing light of dawn. Both stood and stared at each other. It was obvious they were studying the differences in their appearances and linking them to what they remembered.

“Your hair’s longer.” Shiro mumbled, reaching up to touch the strands. He hesitated when he realized he’d done it with his right hand. His cybernetic hand.

Keith narrowed his eyes slightly at the expression that passed over Shiro’s face. It looked like he was either disgusted or scared of his own hand, Keith couldn’t tell which. Whatever it was, he didn’t want that kind of look on Shiro’s face. Keith wasn’t going to let him start being ashamed of what happened out there. It wasn’t in his control to prevent it, so Shiro should seem guilty at what happened to him.

With his mouth set in a determined scowl, Keith took Shiro’s robot hand and squeezed it. Grey eyes snapped up to Keith at the action. To combat the look of shock being directed his way, Keith smiled gently and manually lifted Shiro’s hand so it could brush against the strands hanging over his shoulders. Without words Keith wanted Shiro to know that it was ok, that he wasn’t bothered by the arm.

“Yeah, I don’t like strangers touching me so I don’t get it cut. And dad is useless with a pair of scissors.”

Shiro chuckled, his fingers threading through Keith’s hair now that he’d been given permission. Though Shiro’s new arm had plenty of sensation in it, Shiro wondered if the feeling was duller compared to his real hand. Like a child attempting to test this theory, Shiro raised his other hand and began playing with Keith’s hair. He didn’t know why he was so enraptured by this silly task. All he knew was that Keith’s hair was really soft and he wanted to continue petting it.

Keith didn’t seem like he was at all bothered. He continued to let Shiro play with his hair, silently glad he’d forgotten his hair tie inside. Keith wasn’t inclined to stop Shiro anytime soon. The Altean was relishing in the touch. His heart ached from how much he’d missed Shiro and he was going to take any moment he could to reaffirm that this wasn’t a dream and that Shiro really was here.

Plus, as Shiro’s fingers began trailing from Keith’s hair to his ears, Keith had a feeling he knew what Tex’s look had been about earlier. Shiro seemed absorbed in touching Keith’s hair and face, looking happier than one really should when doing something so mundane. He had a feeling Shiro might be touch starved and that’s why he was seeking contact like this. It wasn’t a fruitless theory. Keith knew plenty of Alteans who would leave for expeditions and come back craving contact. Though Keith could only guess how severe it was for Shiro. He had been out in space for little over a deca-phoeb after all. And who knows how bad his time out there was. Judging from the arm Keith assumed it wasn’t an entirely pleasant experience.

Keith decided not to dwell too much on that and instead said, “I’m glad you’re back.”

“Me too.”

Reaching up, Keith placed a hand over one of Shiro’s. “What happened out there? Where were you?”

Shiro stopped his exploring of Keith’s face and sighed. He frowned, looking down at the ground. “I wish I could tell you. My head’s still pretty scrambled. I do remember a few things though. I was on an alien ship and managed to escape somehow. Then I crashed and the Garrison showed up. Next thing I knew I’m waking up here.” Shiro’s brows furrowed in confusion as he looked at Keith, “How did you know to come save me when I crashed?”

Taking a deep breath and sighing, Keith glanced towards the house. “Let’s… Go inside and eat first. I’ll tell you when I know you’ve been fed.”

That did sound like a good idea. Shiro’s mouth was practically watering at the thought of food. When was the last time he even ate? Shiro had a feeling he was going to be asking questions like that a lot.

With a nod he let Keith lead them back into the house. Shiro felt a flood of nostalgia wash over him at the delicious smell coming from the kitchen and smiled so much it hurt. Keith glancing over his shoulder showed he too was grinning wide. Despite the day barely starting, Shiro somehow felt like it was all going to be ok. Though the urgency about Voltron was still in the forefront of his mind, he selfishly wanted to take a moment to enjoy the peace of breakfast. Surely the universe could wait for a moment, right?

Chapter Text

“So let me get this straight. You decided to go hiking one day and just so happened to like trip and stumble on this cave? And the cave had all these drawings about a blue lion and they talked about some kind of arrival which is how you found Shiro? Am I getting this all?” Hunk asked as their little group followed Keith down a slope.

Keith momentarily glanced back, “Yeah, pretty much.”

That morning when everyone had been at the table and had finished introductions, Keith had explained how he managed to find Shiro. Of course he didn’t have any pictures to offer as proof, so he simply said he’d take everyone to go see the cave. This had been purposeful, Keith wanting to see if any of the four here could pilot Blue. Keith had a feeling deep in his gut that something was going to happen, and soon if what Pidge told him was anything to go by.

Her radio had picked up chatter about Voltron. She didn’t know why the Galra were talking about it, all she could understand was that single word. Concerned by what this could mean, she had told Keith about it last night when the house was quiet and everyone was asleep. Keith shared her worry and so the two spent all night planning for the day ahead. Keith made sure to pack a bag with supplies on the off chance they ended up leaving Earth for some reason.

Before they left Keith had hugged his dad and whispered farewells. Tex, pretending like he didn’t expect Keith and the others to disappear into space, said he’d see them all for either lunch. It was hard to smile and agree to that, but Keith managed to pretend.

And so the group of five set out into the desert. Keith had packed plenty of water since he wanted them to go on foot. They could’ve taken Tex’s bike, but Keith knew that his dad would end up having to go pick it up if Keith’s hunch ended up being right. So the best idea would be to just leave it behind and hike there. Plus it’d do Shiro some good to walk around and enjoy the scenery.

Eventually they found the cave and Keith moved to the side to observe these potential Paladins. And if Keith was being a little honest, everything went a lot better than he anticipated. Of course he really didn’t think the ground falling out from beneath them was necessary but it wasn’t like Keith designed the cave. Plus when Lance went up to Blue and she accepted him? He was even more ecstatic! Until Blue invaded his head and basically told Keith that Lance wasn’t her Paladin but he’d “do for now”.

Excuse me?? What did that mean?! ‘Do for now’. Could she be any more cryptic???

Keith couldn’t even ask what she meant, Lance was already running into Blue’s maw and they had no choice but to follow. As they stood in the cockpit, Blue was apparently talking to Lance and helping him learn how to pilot her. In a matter of ticks they’d launched from the cave and out into the sky.

Everyone clung to Lance’s seat as they were promptly knocked around the cabin, screams from Hunk and Pidge the loudest of the bunch. Keith wanted to be sympathetic because this was the first time the Cuban boy was piloting a giant mecha Lion, but was it really so hard to fly in a straight line??

“I thought you were a pilot!!” Keith yelled in an accusatory manner as his grip on the chair slipped.

He was flung behind Hunk and hit the wall of the cockpit, grunting on impact. Keith’s head hurt but he had enough sense to see that they were no longer running along the ground and instead were launching up into the sky.

The Altean felt his heart stutter to a stop, “Where are you going?!”

He must’ve missed what Lance said earlier because he replied in a rather snippety tone. “I just said it’s on autopilot! It says there’s an alien ship approaching Earth.”

At that point Keith once more tuned out everything being said, staring up towards the approaching space. His previously still heart was now beating in his ears and a cold sweat had broken out along Keith’s back. The moment they exited the atmosphere and the Galra cruiser came into view, newfound fear found its way into Keith’s chest.

His eyes quickly darted over the gawking cadets and landed on Shiro, a complicated look on the man’s face. He whispered a soft, “They found me” and Keith’s mind worked overtime in a matter of seconds.

Found him, the Galra. Shiro had been a prisoner to the Galra. And the moment that thought settled in Keith’s brain the Galra cruiser began to fire at them.

Pidge lurched forward, “We’ve got to get it out of here!”

“Hold on!” Lance exclaimed as he yanked back on the controls.

Keith’s heart was beating like a jackrabbit and he was suddenly filled with apprehension. There were currently five people in Blue. Of those five only two had any field experience. And of those two, only one knew how to pilot a mechanical Lion.

When it came down to it, these four didn’t know what they were doing. They would die if Keith didn’t do something. Keith couldn’t let that happen. They were to be Paladins of Voltron. They couldn’t perish when the universe needed them!

With no other option in sight, Keith decided he would use his permanent backup plan. He breathed in deep and reached out his senses for White, ready to call it into action. However before he could, Blue let out a gentle growl inside his head.

Keith froze, ‘Are you sure…?’ He thought, staring at the back of Lance’s head in apprehension.

A purr of confirmation. Blue really wanted to let Lance try. Ok, fine. Keith would follow her plan. He settled his palm against the wall and gathered his quintessence. While he couldn’t say he trusted Lance, he did trust Blue. So if she had a plan then he’d go with it.

Turns out that Keith really didn’t have much to fear. Lance seemed to be a natural, firing off Blue’s lasers and clawing down the flank of the ship with ease. Keith could honestly say he was impressed by the quick learner. He was glad when Lance suggested they bring the cruiser away from Earth. The moment they reached the edge of the solar system Blue roared in his head.

Keith held his breath and released the gathered quintessence into the Lion. Suddenly in front of them a wormhole appeared, the markings a brilliant blue. Keith was struggling to keep the wormhole open, Blue not made like the White Lion or like a teludav. She wasn’t supposed to create her own wormholes. But Keith was feeding her his quintessence directly, giving her this ability while she focused on where they’d end up.

It was hard and thankfully only Pidge seemed to notice what he was doing. She stared at him with wide eyes, gesturing to her hand and then her face. Keith glanced at his hand and saw it was visibly glowing from the transferring of quintessence. He took a guess and assumed his markings were managing to shine through his makeup. Hopefully everyone continued facing forward and avoided looking at Keith.

“This may seem crazy, but I think the lion wants us to go through there!” Lance grimaced, unease rolling off of him in waves.

“Where does it go?” Pidge may have had her head turned to Lance, but her eyes were on Keith. He knew the question was directed at him but Keith had no clue where they were going. He was basically acting as a live battery pack for Blue right now.

“Shiro, you’re the senior officer here. What should we do?”

Could they honestly ask questions later?? Just go in the damn portal! Keith felt like he was going to pass out. Don’t get him wrong, giving quintessence wasn’t hard to do. In fact thanks to the Guardian, Keith knew how to give it in abundance without harming himself. But since he was basically giving a sentient being an ability it shouldn’t have, Keith was being drained faster than a bucket with a hole in the bottom.

Aaand they were still talking. Why where they still talking?! Just make a decision already!! Keith wanted to yell at them to fly through, but thankfully they reached a conclusion. The moment they entered the wormhole Keith could’ve cried out in relief. He cut off the flow of quintessence, Blue having enough of his energy to keep the end point of the wormhole open.

He slumped against the wall and proceeded to tune out everything around him as he regained his bearings. His headache was gradually starting to subside and he was left feeling wrung out. Keith didn’t know how much time had passed but he only opened his eyes when he felt the Lion jerk in its landing.

Keith’s sight returned and left him looking up into the concerned face of Shiro. When had he gotten closer? “Hey, you ok?” He asked with a frown.

Snorting, Keith pushed off the wall and ignored the minor dizziness. It’ll pass eventually, Keith just had to tough it out. “I’m fine. Lance’s flying just made me almost pass out.”

“Hey!” Lance exclaimed with a pout, glaring over the back of his seat. “You try and fly a giant lion, then see who’s talking!”

Keith rolled his eyes and finally took in the sight before them. Once again he felt his heart stop and Keith had the fleeting thought that this couldn’t possibly be good for his health. Still, no time to worry about long-term cardiac problems, he was too busy staring wide-eyed at the structure in front of them. This architecture… No… It couldn’t be.

“Where… Are we?” He whispered.

“Hm?” Lance frowned, turning forward. “Dunno. It’s home maybe? When we got closer parts of this castle-thing in front of us turned on. Kind of like when you press a button on a key fob and the car lights up.”

With no one having an answer to Keith’s question, Shiro advised them to be cautious before they exited the Lion. They filed out one-by-one, Keith and Pidge being the last down the ramp. Before she went down, Pidge stood next to him and touched his arm. She could see that Keith was looking stressed and was concerned as to why that was. He could see her silent question and instead of saying anything, Keith merely shook his head. He gave a pointed look to the three in front of them who were too busy staring up at the building to notice the silent exchange.

Pidge caught on quickly, nodding once before exiting the Lion. Keith took a deep breath and followed after her. He made sure to stand at the back of the group just in case he did something he couldn’t explain away.

They all jumped when Blue stood and roared at the large doors. When they opened Keith was extremely reluctant to go inside. He was afraid of the memories that might come out to hurt him. But if he stayed behind then it would just draw attention to himself. Shiro would probably get concerned and Keith didn’t think he could lie to Shiro, not now anyways. So Keith pushed past his apprehension and powered forward. He stared straight ahead, not letting himself look around despite how much he wanted to.

Suddenly above them a light flashed and a device turned on. “Hold for identity scan.” Came a robotic voice.

It had been so long since Keith had heard Altean that he was almost thrown for a loop. His head snapped up and he didn’t even register Shiro yelling questions at the AI. None of the humans here knew what it had said so they were extremely nervous. And Keith looked just as uneasy as they did, however he was silently panicking for another reason. It was an identity scan. Meaning if the AI still had him registered into the system, it’d remember him. When the scan started Keith held his breath and waited for the inevitable. Yet when the AI spoke it left him both confused and relieved.

“Welcome home.” The AI said in perfect English before the wall lights around them turned on and the castle began to illuminate itself.

“Holy crow! It just spoke in English!” Hunk exclaimed in awe, “It was speaking some alien language and now it’s speaking English!”

Keith coughed, “Maybe the scan downloaded the language from Shiro’s mind since he spoke English at it?”

Pidge’s face scrunched up in disbelief. “What? No way. Languages can’t be downloaded like data on a computer.” She paused, realizing just who she was talking to. Pidge frowned, tilting her head and looking back at Keith. “Can they?”

He shrugged because honestly he had no quiznaking clue. That whole identity scan thing wasn’t new, Keith had experienced it before. What was new was the fact it spoke in English. Maybe some updates were added to the castle’s system since Keith last saw it? It wouldn’t be that hard to believe, especially since Alfor learned a lot of things on Oriande.

They followed the path illuminated to them, the echoing of their footsteps grating on Keith’s nerves like nails on a chalkboard. He had no clue what to expect here. The Guardian was no help in that department either. It remained quiet inside his head and only provided support in the feel of its presence. Just like usual the Guardian was taking a backseat and watching everything play out.

And then they entered the medical room. Keith nearly dropped to his knees when two of the sleep chambers rose from the ground. And when they opened? His breath was brutally punched from of his lungs.

The girl inside the first pod gasped, eyes flying open as she reached out. “Father!”

Everyone was shocked into silence but thankfully Lance managed to catch her before she fell onto the floor. Keith’s heart clenched and he knew breathing was important but currently he couldn’t remember how lungs worked. But could you blame him?? This girl… She resembled Melenor so much they could’ve been twins. But Keith knew Melenor had no siblings, she only had… A child.

When the girl grabbed Lance by the ear and forced him into a submissive hold, Keith felt it was ample time to tune back into the conversation and stop letting the memories cling to him.

“Who are you? Where is King Alfor? What are you doing in my castle?!”

Each question was a stab to Keith’s heart. He had the answer to every single thing she was asking. But he couldn’t speak about them. Not here and not now. The time wasn’t right. So he remained silent, hands crossed over his chest and nails digging into his palms.

Keith made sure he wasn’t looking at the princess when her eyes traveled over them all. Thankfully she was too caught up in trying to grasp everything happening around her that she only spared a glance at Keith. She didn’t show any sign of recognition which meant either Alfor never told her about him or Keith really did perfect looking human with his marks covered and his hair somewhat hiding his ears.

“I am Princess Allura of planet Altea. I’ve got to find out where we are and how long we’ve been asleep.” She moved through the group and placed her hands on the pedestal, activating it.

As this went on Keith moved further from the center of the room and attempted to perfect the art of being a wallflower. He needed a moment to breath or else he feared he might break. Yet the remaining pod decided then would be an ample time to open. When the person inside came into view, Keith once again felt his heart both break and weep in joy.

Never did Keith think that this journey into space would lead him to reunite with a familiar face. Coran Hieronymus Wimbleton Smythe, acting just as spunky as Keith remembered him. The exuberant and absolutely ridiculous Altean gasped at the sight of Lance. He leapt from the pod after yelling “enemy combatants!” and attempted to land a kick at Lance.

Keith watched their exchange and felt the urge to laugh hysterically. Holy fucking shit Keith needed to sit down. Or take a nap. Maybe both. He was really craving that nunvill now.

And then Allura mentioned how long they had been asleep. About Altea falling and Zarkon’s monstrous deeds. Hearing Shiro recall that he was Zarkon’s prisoner hurt. More emotions welled up inside Keith and he was struggling so hard to keep them locked down. He knew for a fact that if he let one thing slip right now, his walls would collapse like a flimsy Jenga tower. And then all his hard work would go to waste.

Keith’s nails bit savagely into his hands when Shiro brought up how incredible Altea must’ve been. And to hear Coran say he and Allura were the last Alteans alive? Keith wanted to stomp his foot and scream. He wanted to yell “I’m here too! You’re not the last!” but instead he held his tongue and worked on glaring holes into the floor.

But it turns out it wasn’t just them that was left of Altea. Genuine Altean mice! Keith hadn’t seen them in deca-phoebs! It was honestly amazing that they had managed to even get in the pod. However the happy atmosphere was instantly broken by an alarm sounding.

Coran gasped, turning to look at the screen. “A Galra battleship has set its tracker to us!”

“How did they find us?” Allura frowned, stepping closer as she cradled the mice to her chest.

“I’m not sure. Think they tracked us from Earth?” Lance asked with a glance towards Keith.

Thankfully Coran and Allura were too busy looking at the screen to glance at Keith when he responded. “Not likely. We went through a wormhole. So unless they went through it after us then it’s not the same ship.” Keith said. Of course he knew the Galra battleship hadn’t followed them through the wormhole. Didn’t mean he could let everyone else in on the fact he knew how wormholes worked.

Shiro crossed his arms over his chest, “We can figure out how they found us later. For now we should plan on what to do. How long before they arrive?”

Now Keith may have been out of the loop on things involving Altea for quite some time, but unless they changed their entire math system in the deca-phoebs he’d been gone, Keith had a feeling Coran’s numbers were a little off. But once again he couldn’t exactly say something without drawing attention to himself. So Keith bit his tongue and kept his back glued to the wall.

As Allura began talking about finding Voltron and beating Zarkon, she led them out of the medical chamber and down a hall. Coran lingered to take up mantle at the back of the group. As people passed he let his gaze bounce over them in an assessing manner. Keith pushed from the wall and made his way over towards the tail end of the group. His heart was pounding in his throat and Keith both hoped and dreaded Coran’s reaction to him. If he was recognized would Coran make a scene? Or had it been so long that he simply forgot what Keith looked like?

Keith didn’t get time to linger on the possibilities as Coran’s eyes glanced over him for a moment. But quicker than lightning they snapped back to Keith. Violet clashed with violet, one pair growing impossibly wide.

Coran opened his mouth and the sharp intake of air was Keith’s only warning that Coran was about to say something very loud. So he darted forward and slapped his hands over Coran’s mouth. Both then stood there staring at each other with varying emotions on their face.

Despite the hands over his mouth Coran was making a valiant attempt to ask questions. He looked confused and in disbelief, hands making aborted motions to reach up and touch Keith.

Thankfully no one had noticed that they were both lagging behind. So Keith, after doing a double check to make sure they were indeed being ignored, flashed a small smile towards Coran.

I’ll explain later. For now just pretend you don’t know me.” He whispered.

Coran sucked in a sharp breath and his eyes began to water. But he managed to nod and clasped a hand to Keith’s shoulder. It was a quick, fleeting touch but Keith was grateful for it all the same. Together the two of them broke apart and went after Allura and the others.

It wasn’t long before Allura explained to them that they would be the Paladins of Voltron. At her alluding to him piloting Red, Keith almost snorted and said not likely. Because really?? Keith already had a Lion, thank you very much. And Red would surely reject him when and if they found her.

But he couldn’t complain so while everyone else was sent off to do their own things, Keith stayed behind on the ship. Allura was focused on keeping the wormholes open, so Coran was working on the castle’s defenses. He had disappeared into the mechanics room and that’s where Keith found him. Waist-deep in a chest struggling to find a specific box of tools.

Need a hand, oh mighty ‘Coranic’?” It honestly felt kind of good to speak Altean again. Keith… Really missed it.

Coran froze and whipped around, tears springing back to his eyes. "Yorak…? Is it really you?”

Keith chuckled, licking his thumb and wiping away the makeup under one of his eyes. Letting his quintessence flare just a bit, his marks glowed in response.

Yeah… It’s me.”

Just like Keith’s markings, Coran’s eyes lit up like stars. He choked on a sob and rushed forward. The two collided in a bone crushing hug. Keith never thought he’d get the chance to experience the strength of an Altean hug again. Though his eyes were threatening to spill tears he managed to keep them down. Coran wasn’t so lucky, his emotions shining through like always.

They simply stood there hugging, the only sounds being their shaky breath and Coran’s soft sobs. Gradually they slid down and ended up kneeling on the floor. Coran leaned back, holding Keith by the shoulders and searching his face.

What happened to you? Alfor said you would remain on Oriande! How are you here? Alive! It’s been 10,000 deca-phoebs!”

Nodding his head, Keith sniffed and wiped at his eyes. “It’s… A long story. Kind of.”

Chuckling, Coran wiped at his eyes. “Well as much as I want to sit down and listen, we need to get these defenses online!”

Keith grunted his consent and stood, offering a hand to Coran. He yanked him up and patted his shoulder. “I’ll help as much as I can. And Coran? Could you keep pretending that this is our first time meeting? I promise I’ll explain later.”

Coran didn’t seem too bothered by the request, happily agreeing. Then, after locating his grandfather’s tools, he and Keith went back to the bridge and began working on getting the ship up and running.

It was a relief for Coran to know that he and Allura really weren’t the only Alteans that survived. And for Keith, he was happy that at least one of his friends managed to make it through the xenocide. The feeling settled warmly in his gut and he found himself having the ghost of a smile. Too bad the feeling didn’t last.

Chapter Text

 

The silence aboard the Galra cruiser was barely broken up by the monotonous footsteps of the patrolling sentries. The Galra battleship had arrived sooner than they anticipated. With the plan to retrieve the Red Lion from their clutches, a team consisting of Shiro, Pidge, and Keith were able to sneak aboard thanks to Lance and Hunk acting as decoys. And when they had arrived onboard, everything had been fine! Or as fine as things could get in that situation.

Shiro had a minor flashback and realized he’d been aboard the ship before, then Pidge had insisted on searching for prisoners, and at that point Keith was starting to get stressed worrying about several different things. He honestly understood where Pidge was coming from, really he did. If Krolia or Tex had been a prisoner on the ship Keith would’ve done everything to find them. Granted he would’ve had White rip into the side of the ship while he searched it from top to bottom, but the feeling still stands.

Keith was more than willing to put in the effort to go help Pidge search for the prisoners. Who better to find them then someone who could read Galran? Plus if any information about Matt and Sam came up then Keith would be able to translate it right away. Yet the annoying truth of the matter was Keith couldn’t go with Pidge. He had to go and find the Red Lion because he was her “pilot”. And ok maybe Keith was a little too bitter at Shiro telling him to go by himself to find Red, but he had his reasons!

For starters finding out that the Castle of Lions had an AI system that was basically Alfor threw him for a loop. Then the pressure of everyone, sans Pidge and Coran, expecting him to be able to pilot Red was weighing down on him. And not only that, but the idea of disappointing not only them, but Shiro specifically, put a lot of pressure on the Altean!! He could handle being a disappointment to Hunk and Lance, he didn’t know them. Maybe he’d feel a little bad about disappointing his Princess, but none of that amounted to how it’d feel to disappoint Shiro. He had no doubt Shiro would be gentle about it, but Keith didn’t think he could stomach the idea of seeing Shiro disappointed in him. Yet Keith couldn’t just force Red to let him pilot her! Maybe he could just try begging?

“Red, come on!!” He hissed, placing his hands against her particle barrier. “Do you want me to ask on my knees? Because I just might!”

Finding her had been easy. Sneaking around the ship was child’s play and tracking a stationary hunk of quintessence even easier. But trying to convince a giant sentient Lion to let him be her temporary pilot was like trying to wrangle a Weblum with a piece of string. 

“Look, I know I’m not your pilot. I get that! But we don’t have a choice right now!” Keith tried not to shout, he really did, but the stress of the situation was getting to him. 

And suddenly Keith didn’t need to worry about being found anymore because he was suddenly being fired at from behind. He quickly dodged to the side, holding up his arm to summon his shield and block the bullets. 

With a frustrated cry he looked over his shoulder at Red, “Come on!! Are you really just going to sit there when I know you can hear me?!”

Silence was his answer and Keith ground his teeth in frustration. He could now see what Allura had meant when she said Red was the most temperamental. How in the stars did Alfor pilot the beast?!

Still, no time to try and coax the giant cat. If she refused to budge then she wouldn’t budge, simple as that. Keith held out his hand and summoned his bayard. With a flick of his wrist the glowing light around it dispersed and in its place was an Altean-style short sword. 

He rushed forward and cut down two of the closest sentries, blocking the blasts from the remaining three. Despite being unused to the armor and its abilities, Keith was a quick learner. However he knew that time wasted here meant bad things for his inexperienced teammates outside. He needed to think of a way to get him and Red out fast or else he was going to have to summon the cavalry. And wouldn’t that just put a damper in his plans?

From the corner of his eye Keith saw the controls for the airlock. Without hesitation he dissipated his bayard, activated his mask, and then slammed a hand down onto the button. In an instant the bay doors below them opened and everything in the surrounding area was sucked up into the vacuum of space. Keith was no different, not even getting a chance to grab an anchor before he was propelled out. 

His breathing was harsh and his eyes darted around in an attempt to get his bearings. Thanks to his momentum he was being sent in a single direction with no signs of stopping. That’s fine, Keith didn’t need to be standing still in order to summon his Lion. Although he really didn’t want to summon White, he didn’t exactly have another choice, did he?

When Keith closed his eyes, he willed himself to calm down. He cleared his mind and focused on the Guardian’s quintessence inside of him. Then, just as he was about to make the reach and connect to White, a loud roar echoed inside his head.

Keith’s eyes snapped open in confusion and he had the fleeting thought ‘I didn’t summon White that fast’ before he was promptly swallowed up by Red. Keith was scowling when the cockpit seat pushed forward and settled him in front of the controls. Was this going to be a reoccurring thing? Just as he’s about to summon his Lion in order to solve a problem, something else comes along to fix it? Apparently he wasn’t the only one in a snippety mood. Keith got the impression that Red was rolling her eyes in exasperation. Oh good, the feeling was mutual.

“Glad we can come to an agreement.” He griped before grabbing the controls.

And then from there everything was a blur. They went back to the Castle of Lions, got Black out who practically sang the moment Shiro took up her controls, then went out and formed Voltron. It was intense and Keith was pretty sure he blanked for a few moments in the excitement, but everyone else was happily chittering about what happened so he didn’t lose out on much.

That night when the castle had dimmed and rooms were distributed, Keith waited till the castle was deathly silent before he slipped out of his room unnoticed. He made his way through the castle and retraced from memory the necessary steps to lead to the room Allura had gone into in order to seek conference with Alfor. Maybe he shouldn’t do this, maybe he should just continue pretending the AI didn’t exist. But no, Keith couldn’t. The moment he had heard about the AI he’d wanted to go and see him. His former King, his friend. It had taken Coran holding his wrist in a death grip to prevent Keith from just storming in there and seeing if the AI truly had all of Alfor’s memories.

Yet now there was no one here to stop him. Keith had every opportunity to go and see to his heart’s content. And if the AI didn’t remember him? Well… No harm done. It wasn’t the real Alfor anyways.

Keith stood in the dark room, blood roaring in his ears and heart pounding in his throat. He swallowed past the lump and walked along the bridge up to the platform in the center. Hesitating far longer than he should, Keith finally reached out for the little glowing orb.

Suddenly it rose and seemed to explode right before his eyes. Keith’s breath stuttered to a stop as he fleetingly thought ‘Oh Quiznak I broke it’ before the surrounding area was instantly washed away in colour. Where once there was darkened walls now stood an achingly familiar sight. 

The area around Keith was surrounded by trees of purpling hue, their golden flowers budding and scattering down into the wide lake behind him. Sitting right next to the lake was a pitiful shack that looked slanted to the side, a cheap looking swing attached to the large tree hanging over it. Against the shack’s door was a sign that was a little too hard to read yet Keith knew by heart what the words scratched onto it were.

Secret Royal Hideout

He felt his eyes sting, his heart clenching as he gazed over the sight. Keith could just make out what appeared to be a training area behind the shack, wooden swords stuck into the ground and crude dummies held up by poles erected from the dirt. The ground beneath his shoes were soft and slightly damp, patches of grass popping up here and there along with crystalline blue flowers that glowed silver. Even the stems of the flowers shined, yet only in the shadows of the trees did the light emit from the flowers. Any blossom in direct sunlight lost its ethereal glow.

Keith took in a shuddering breath, blinking past the burn in his eyes. A sound beside him stole his attention from the familiar scenery of his childhood hangout. That ball of light on the platform had transformed into the transparent visage of Alfor, the former King looking tired beyond his years.

Without hesitation, moving from habit he had not used for deca-phoebs, Keith dropped to one knee before his King and bowed his head.

My King,” He croaked, emotions welling up inside and threatening to overwhelm him.

Do not kneel, my friend. There is no need for that here.”

Keith chuckled, wiping at his eyes before lifting his head and smiling. “If not now than when? I’ve lost all my chances to properly salute to you now that you’re dead.”

Alfor inclined his head towards Keith and gave him an apologetic smile. “That may be so. But even if I had not perished I would still ask you to not kneel. Must there be such formalities between friends?” 

Sighing, Keith gradually pulled himself up to stand. “No, I suppose not.” Finally Keith managed a crooked smile. “It’s good to see you, Alfor. I wish it could have been under better circumstances.”

Alfor shrugged and lowered himself to sit on the platform. Keith mimicked him, digging his hands into the dirt beneath him and taking a moment to enjoy his surroundings. He couldn’t tell if it was delusions or not but Keith swore he could smell the sweet nectar of the Silver Moon blossoms. And if he strained his ears Keith swore he could hear the buzzing of the water insects and the cries of the animals that resided around the hidden lake. 

You look different.”

Alfor’s words roused him from his musing. Looking up towards his friend Keith chuckled and shrugged a shoulder. “Yeah… That’s a long story.”

Quirking a brow, Alfor gestured to his podium. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Keith rolled his eyes at the rather tasteless joke. It seemed even after becoming a King, Alfor’s humor hadn’t changed in the slightest. Keith had originally intended to offer his own jab at the joke, yet the whooshing sound of the door opening had him practically jumping out of his skin.

Keith’s head whipped around in barely concealed fear. How was he to explain his presence here?! Was his secret going to be exposed so soon?!

Yet the moment he registered who it was Keith visibly relaxed. Coran gave him a knowing smile, his mustache curving up.

Thought I’d find you here.” He said, glancing around the room. His eyes were quick to crinkle in affection when he recognized their surroundings. 

The visage the room had taken on was a memory that the three of them shared. It was a hidden area near the local forest that they would often sneak away to when they were young boys. There they’d play, swim, and train from dawn till dusk. Many times they’d get in trouble for shirking their duties just to hang around the old shack. It wasn’t till they got older and gained more responsibilities that the daily trips gradually decreased. Even so, this was a place the trio remembered fondly.

Coran let himself reminisce on the scenery for a while longer. Then finally his gaze settled on the glowing silhouette of his King. He breathed in deep, blinking past the tears before bowing low at the waist. “King Alfor.”

Coran,” Alfor’s voice was warm, the smile on his face beyond soft and appearing to wipe away the fatigue etched into his being. “I’m happy to see you’re well.”

Straightening, Coran kept his hands folded behind his back. “Physically yes! Emotionally not so much.”

A lot has happened since you’ve woken up.” Keith pointed out, patting the spot next to him. Coran smiled and didn’t hesitate to take Keith on his offer. 

Yorak is right. You have much to process and rushing it will do you more harm than good.”

Coran waved a hand dismissively, “Yes yes, I’m quite aware! But I’ve got plenty of time to sit around and work through my feelings. Right now I’m much more interested in hearing why Yorak has to pretend he’s human. I’ve been sitting on pins just waiting to hear why!”

Alfor sighed and refrained from trying to coax Coran into taking time to rest and process everything. Unless it was a direct order then Coran would be stubborn enough to refuse. It’d just be better to indulge him in the long run. And if the AI was being honest, he too was interested in Keith’s appearance.

The duel looks of inquiry he was receiving made Keith sigh long and hard. He raised a hand to run through his hair. “Like I said it’s a long and complicated story.”

Something was suddenly held in front of him and Keith had a fleeting moment of surprise. Staring down at the dusty canteen, he looked between it and Coran. The orange-haired man smiled, shaking it slightly. The sound of thick liquid sloshing around inside had Keith perking up.

Is that?” He daren’t hope.

Coran’s grin turned practically mischievous. “Indeed it is! Found the castle’s old nunvill storage! Snatched a bottle and figured we could share it while you regaled to me the glories of being the Vessel to the Guardian of Oriande!”

Keith snorted but didn’t refuse the bottle offered to him. He uncapped it and the burning sweet smell instantly had the both of them hissing between their teeth.

Oh yeah,” Keith coughed out, “That’s definitely been fermenting for like… 10,000 deca-phoebs.” 

So you know it’s going to be a treat!”

The AI of Alfor let out a heavy sigh, resting his chin in his palm. His expression twisted into something that could be considered a pout yet on Alfor’s face it looked more like a regal frown. 

One of the things I regret about being dead, the lack of nunvill I can drink.”

Both Coran and Keith looked at Alfor with complicated expressions. Keith shook his head, “Too soon, Alfor. Too soon.”

Coran sputtered, “Y-your Highness! Is that any way for a King to speak??”

Alfor quirked a brow and leveled the two of them with a firm look. “I may be a King, but must I put on airs amongst friends? I am dead, we can come to terms with this. Acting like it’s a taboo subject to bring up only implies that it’s wrong to acknowledge. I’m not asking you to accept it right now, but I only wish that when you both speak with me you don’t have my death be a constant reminder that I am not physically here with you all. While my original body has long since faded from this world, my conscious has not. I am here right now, so enjoy this moment we have, my friends. It’s been so long since we’ve all been together, must we weigh ourselves down with needless things like formalities and the like?”

Silence fell between the three as Coran and Keith processed Alfor’s words. It made sense in the grand scheme of things. Alfor was dead, this was a fact. Of course they’d miss and mourn him, but was he truly gone? His consciousness was in this AI, this AI was technically Alfor. It wasn’t a clone or a copy, it was quite literally his conscious being put into a computer. 

Nodding his head, Keith silently agreed. Coran seemed to draw the same conclusion as he sighed and slumped his shoulders. Keith passed Coran the bottle of fermented nunvill and he gratefully took a large gulp of it.

To Alfor Keith smiled and inclined his head, “So I’ve met Allura. She looks so much like her mother.” He said, changing the subject.

A gentle smile lit up Alfor’s face and he chuckled warmly. “She does indeed. I’m glad that you’ve had the chance to meet her. Please, Coran, Yorak, be there for her as much as you can. Allura is suffering right now. The most I can do for her like this is offer advice and keep up a strong, unmovable front.”

Keith offered a strained smile while beside him Coran nodded solemnly. “I will try as much as I can, my King. But currently Princess Allura views me as a human. She probably won’t confide in me like she would to Coran. And even if she knew I was Altean she still might not. A royal can’t show weakness, remember?”

But perhaps if she knows that you are the Guardian’s vessel, she might feel she can talk to you without the reserves of a royal!” Coran said with a frown, “A kinship, of sorts. Both of you have your own weight of responsibility, after all!”

But I can’t let her know, that’s the problem.”

Tilting his head, Alfor frowned. “Does this have to do with your mission given by the Guardian?”

Sighing deeply, Keith’s lips pulled down into a grimace and he nodded. Coran kindly offered him the nunvill and Keith made sure to take a hefty swig of the sweet ambrosia before he began his story.

He glossed over certain details with the promise that when the time came, he’d elaborate further. Since Keith had been asleep for a good chunk of those 10,000 deca-phoebs, he rather quickly got to his time on Earth. Both Coran and Alfor were greatly invested in what he had to say. The topic of Krolia and the Blades of Marmora were an especially juicy piece of conversation. Both Alfor and Coran asked intensive questions about the organization and if it truly was established to stop Zarkon’s reign. It didn’t take much to convince them, they trusted Keith and his judgement, after all.

By the time the nunvill had been finished off, Coran and Keith were leaning against Alfor’s AI pedestal in a buzzed stupor. Fermented nunvill truly was glorious to drink. Perhaps if it had been in the past, they might not have been this affected by a single bottle of nunvill, however the two of them hadn’t drunk in ages, so they kind of had an excuse.

And no one but me, you two, Pidge, Krolia, and Tex know about the White Lion! I can’t let it get out that there’s potentially a sixth Lion! If Zarkon finds out then that’s just an even bigger complication to the already complicated plan of taking him down. Even sightings of White are dangerous if the wrong people see it! So I can’t expose myself as being an Altean without having to explain to everyone that I’m a vessel for the Guardian and I’m technically over 10,600 deca-phoebs old! Which means I can’t tell Allura that no, I’m not Red’s pilot and Lance isn’t Blue’s either!” Keith finished with a huff, thumping the back of his head against the pedestal. 

Well that puts a damper on things,” Coran twisted his mustache and hummed. “Red and Blue both have the wrong Paladins yet won’t go out of their way to tell Allura. And she was so sure that you and Lance really were their Paladins. Have the Lions said anything to you about who their actual pilots are?”

Keith shrugged a shoulder, “Haven’t had the chance to ask. But I doubt they would.”

All three of them sighed in unison. Stroking his beard, Alfor pursed his lips, “Well no matter. For the time being continue piloting Red. She may seem disagreeable, but I promise she always comes through in the end.”

Yeah, I noticed when she refused to let me in till I was hurtling through space.” Keith stretched out his arms and groaned at the sudden pop.

Coran chuckled, standing up and twisting his body this way and that in order to stretch out. “Alfor’s right. Nothing we can do till the time comes! We’ll keep on pretending you’re a human that’s meant to pilot the Red Lion. You said one of your visions of the future was you in Red while someone named Ulaz sacrificed himself, right? Then we can assume that we became acquainted enough to learn the chap’s name! We can then discuss options when we meet someone named Ulaz! Till then we should probably head to bed. Allura intends to run drills tomorrow.”

Keith’s lips curled into a grimace, “Greaaat. It’s a good thing I’ve been running drills almost all my life. First for the royal guards, then growing up with Krolia, and then the Garrison.”

Coran slapped his back a couple times in comfort. “Cheer up! After tomorrow’s drills, we can figure out ways to keep your identity a secret! I’ll draw up some plans before bed!”

With newfound ambition sparkling in his eyes, Coran bid a quick farewell to Alfor and Keith so he could hastily go and start brainstorming. Keith chuckled fondly. He sincerely hoped the other wouldn’t stay up all night thinking up ideas. Though knowing Coran he probably would. Keith might have to encourage the other to take a break sometime tomorrow and catch up on sleep. That was going to be a battle all on its own…

Smile slowly faltering, Keith continued to stare at the chamber’s entrance. “Hey… Alfor?”

Yes?”

About Coran… Did you and Melenor ever get the chance to…? I know you said you had wanted to wait till a while after Allura was born before you both started, but then everything with Zarkon began happening and just…” Here he finally turned to look at the other. “Did you both ever get the chance to start?”

Alfor’s smile turned forlorn and he shook his head. “No. Melenor and I had intended to start the courting process… But as you said things got in the way. And after she passed… I could not find the courage to.” Alfor closed his eyes and his brows furrowed. Keith kept quiet, knowing what Alfor looked like when he was thinking hard about something. Finally his patience paid off. Alfor opened his eyes and leveled Keith with a pleading look. “Please do not mention this to Coran. I do not want him to be left agonizing over what could have been and what was lost. Not now when he already has much to mourn over.”

Keith frowned at the request but in the end he nodded. It wasn’t his place to tell Alfor what should and shouldn’t be kept from Coran. Even if he wanted to tell, Keith couldn’t. Though Alfor’s request hadn’t been worded as an order, Keith acknowledged it as one. Keith was loyal to the crown no matter how much time had passed.

With his own farewell, Keith made his way through the winding halls back to his room. However as he was passing the door that lead towards one of the observation lounges, Keith felt a very familiar presence of quintessence. 

Confused and curious, Keith waited for the lounge door to slide open before he walked into the spacious room. From where he stood he could see the hulky silhouette of Shiro hunched under a blanket and staring out of one of the windows at the sky glittering with stars.

He visibly tensed at the door opening, only relaxing when a glance showed it to be Keith. Shiro offered a lopsided smile, “Hey.”

“Hey,” Keith parroted back. He picked his way past the plush chairs scattered around till he was next to Shiro. “Mind if I sit?” He gestured to the empty space on the little two-seater Shiro was perched on.

Shiro shook his head, attempting to scoot over further for Keith. “Not at all.”

When Keith sat down it was like the events of today finally hit him. Exhaustion rolled over him in waves and he felt like he was only a push away from passing out. Shiro smiled knowingly at Keith and held up one end of his blanket.

“Want some?”

Keith nodded with a grunt, thankfully accepting the fabric being wrapped around his shoulder. He had to scoot closer to Shiro in order for the both of them to fit, but he wasn’t complaining. And if the way Shiro leaned into his side was anything to go by then he too didn’t mind. Instead he seemed to relax even further against Keith with an almost inaudible sigh.

Biting back a yawn, Keith nudged Shiro with his shoulder. “Can’t sleep?”

Shiro’s soft chuckle was heavy in exhaustion. “Yeah. My mind’s working overtime.”

Shiro didn’t elaborate and Keith didn’t pry. Instead he nodded and let a comforting silence settle between them. One would’ve thought that after finally getting the change to just sit alone with each other after more than a year apart, that they would’ve started chatting endlessly. Yet surprisingly they didn’t feel the need to talk. The silence between them said more than words ever could. The warmth pressed against their sides was a gentle reminder that they were there and they were together. That this was real.

It was grounding for Shiro just as much as it was for Keith. Unconsciously the two of them began letting more of their weight rest against each other. It was gradual, the two not even noticing as they stared up at the sky lost in their own thoughts. It wasn’t clear who the first to fall asleep was. But not a moment after the other was quick to nod off as well. The two slept there, leaning against each other, sharing warmth and silent comfort throughout the rest of the night.

Chapter Text

The following days were relatively easy. They were training to get better as a team and to expand their combat experience. The training was no problem for Keith and Shiro, the two falling into step faster than the others. Pidge wasn’t lagging too far behind though. She had some experience in combat thanks to Keith. He’d taught her the basics of what he knew as a precaution to what the future might bring. Turns out it came in handy for the relentless drills Allura was pushing them through.

However despite Keith being used to Altean training, even he knew Allura was asking too much. She was trying to get them ready faster than they could handle which was causing more problems than it was solving. You couldn’t just force a group of people to become better fighters and a better team. It required time and effort, something Allura didn’t think they had. Though bless the stars that her overbearing attitude didn’t last long. After they came to an agreement things got easier and there was much more breathing room.

During their training Keith was growing antsier the longer they spent on Arus. He didn’t trust the Galra to not keep sending more goonies after them and the longer they waited around, the worst it would become. He was tense outside of training and more often than not someone would find him in one of the observation rooms staring out into the sky. He could sense something coming and as if to reinforce the feeling, the Guardian was restless inside his mind. It would linger far longer than usual these days. Keith wanted to believe it was because it was curious at the new Paladins, but he also knew it might have something to do with the ominous feeling.

That feeling finally came to a head when the monster fell from the sky. At first Keith had assumed it was a different kind of Galra fighter. And while he wasn’t wrong Keith still found himself frozen at the sight of the thing. All kinds of warning signs were blaring in his head the moment he saw it. It freaked him out in ways he couldn’t express. He just knew something about it was… Wrong.

It reminded him of the thing that killed Ulaz.

Throughout the battle Keith was sweating and barely keeping his trembling under control. He didn’t like the feeling it gave off and the quintessence oozing from it was making his skin crawl. Even from the safety of Red he could still feel it baring down on his mind. The Guardian shared in his deep feelings of repulsion and Keith couldn’t blame it. And when he learned that this monster was a prisoner that Shiro had fought? He finally realized why the thing sent off all his warning bells.

Who would do such a thing?? Transfer someone’s consciousness, their entire being, into a giant hunk of metal that did nothing but follow orders. It was disturbing to tamper with quintessence like that. By the time the battle ended Keith wanted to lock himself in his room. He needed to process this. But of course when one problem ends another just has to arrive.

They threw a party for their last night on Arus. Despite his mixed feelings about the earlier fight Keith forced himself to push his thoughts aside and instead focus on the party. And about an hour in he finally found himself having fun. Keith was mingling near Hunk and Lance, the latter surprisingly not being annoying for once. Keith assumed it was the high from winning another battle.

 The Blue Paladin had a glass of Nunvill he hadn’t touched yet, having gotten his when Coran deposited a glass into Keith’s. The two of them were too engrossed in their conversation to bother drinking though.

Furrowing his brows Keith his head to the side. “I just don’t see the point in splitting up the word!”

“Keith that’s the whole point of a cheer!” Lance pinched the bridge of his nose with his free hand. “Didn’t you do cheers in like school or something? You know “Go Wild Cats” or “Go Bull Dogs”? School mascots are used in cheers! Or sport teams!!”

Keith shrugged a shoulder, “Homeschooled. And I don’t watch sports.” Any sports, really. Not unless they were combat oriented. Keith was an Altean of simple tastes, after all.

Lance made a tsking sound, “See that’s your problem! You never participated in the comradery of a school cheer! That’s why you’re so unsociable!”

“Hey! I social just fine!”

Hunk smiled sheepishly at Keith. “Sorry buddy but you… Kinda don’t? I mean don’t get me wrong you seem to talk to Shiro and Pidge just fine, even Coran. But to the rest of us you’re… I don’t know a little frozen?”

At Keith’s slight frown Hunk quickly waved his hands as if to remedy the situation. “That’s not a problem though! I know getting along with strangers isn’t easy. I mean Coran is kind of a stranger but he’s got that weird uncle vibe going on so it’s hard not to get along with him. And you’ve known Pidge and Shiro for like… Ever. So totally understand that you’re comfortable with them. But hopefully in the future maybe you’ll get along with us too?”

“Yeah man!” Lance exclaimed, pointing a finger at Keith’s chest. “And you can start getting along with us by learning the team chant! When I say ‘Vol’, you gotta say ‘Tron’!”

Keith rolled his eyes, “It’s still confusing to me. What’s the point of breaking up ‘Voltron’? It’s one word!” Though Keith still didn’t understand what it was Lance was trying to push, he at the very least filed away Hunk’s words for later. Had he really been that unapproachable to his other teammates? Perhaps in the process of trying to keep his secret hidden, he ended up hiding more of himself than he thought. Hmmm…

Lance placed his hand on his hip and gave Keith a pointed look. “Never mind the reason why! Just chant! Soooo! When I say ‘Vol’, you saaaay?” He made a gesture towards Keith as he dragged out his words.

Gritting his teeth, Keith mumbled out “… ‘Ltron…”

Clearly he’d whispered the first part of Voltron and said the rest louder. But thankfully the other two didn’t call him out on it. Hunk merely gave him a firm pat and a thumbs up while Lance just pursed his lips and said “we’ll work on it” before finally turning his attention to his drink.

Keith watched as he basically gulped the entire thing down. Wincing internally at what was no doubt Lance’s first time drinking Nunvill, he and Hunk watched as the Cuban boy made aborted attempts to either expel the liquid from his body or go back in time and stop himself from drinking it. Neither of those two options happened so Lance was instead left with demanding answers from Coran who was only several feet away.

“Coran, what is this?!”

Coran paused in his sip, “Oh, this is Nunvill, the nectar of the Gods.”

Keith gave a silent nod at Coran’s words, raising his own cup to take a small sip of the drink. Better make it last since getting absolutely smashed before intergalactic flight was never a wise choice. At Lance’s description of the drink, Keith found himself smirking. He made sure to keep direct eye contact with the other before taking another long drawn-out and very loud sip from his glass.

“Tastes pretty good to me.”

The competitive spark in Lance’s eye suddenly flared to life and he glared at Keith. “I bet you aren’t even drinking it!”

Keith reaaaally shouldn’t. Someone’s gotta be the mature one here. And he’s technically over 10,600 years old, he really shouldn’t be acting like a child. Buuuuuut…

With his mind made up Keith knocked back the glass and with an over exaggerated sound of satisfaction he showed the empty contents to both Hunk and Lance.

“Like I said, tastes pretty good.”

Lance clearly took that for the challenge it was. He grabbed another glass off the nearest floating tray, Keith doing the same. The two, having swapped their empty glasses for freshly filled ones, glared each other down before Lance began to count. All the while Hunk was trying to deescalate the sudden competition behind them.

“Come on guys, we don’t know what too much Nunvill can do to you! And besides you don’t wanna make yourself sick!”

Of course he went ignored. Keith knew for a fact he could drink Lance under the table, Nunvill or not. Let him try some of Altea’s hardest liquor, then he could see what Keith grew up on. Nunvill was easy, pure child’s play. It was comparable to human’s Champaign!

“3… 2… 1!” The two said in unison.

They both gulped down their drinks and by the end of it Keith was standing proud while Lance was hunched over coughing up a lung. He shook his head and stuck out his tongue, making fanning motions.

“Nope, yeah, not doing that again. Beating you is so not worth destroying my tongue. Geez dude how can you handle this stuff?? You’ve gotta have taste buds of steel or something.”

Keith snorted and smirked at the guy, offering a hand to help him up. “’Or something’.” He echoed.

As the party wore on and other people began mingling with the Paladins, Keith noticed Pidge approaching him from the corner of his eye. He and Coran both paused mid-sentence, glancing at the younger human with duel looks of concern.

Pidge stopped next to them, glancing at Keith and then the crowd around them. “Hey Keith? Can I talk to you for a moment?”

Keith shared a look with Coran, the latter nodding his head and excusing himself. Keith placed a hand on Pidge’s shoulder and led her to a corner of the ballroom that was mostly secluded.

“What’s up?”

Pidge looked like she was struggling to find the words. She was fiddling with her hands and staring at her boots like they held all the answers. Finally after a few agonizing moments of silence she finally begun speaking.

“I’ve managed to decrypt the information from the Galra ship. It told me where Matt and dad might be. Or where they were, at least. And… I want to leave to go and find them.”

Keith frowned at her words. He quickly realized the implications of what she meant and what she wanted to do. “Pidge…” He bit his lip, crouching down so they could be at somewhat of an eye level. “Pidge, look at me.”

It was a struggle but finally those hazel eyes looked up into his. Keith offered a sad smile, “I know how you’re feeling right now. You know I do. You’ve got the chance to go and find Sam and Matt! And you’ve got your own Lion! Traveling all over space would be no problem now. But… I know that you know you can’t. At least not yet. It’s just like why I told you we couldn’t take White out to go find them.”

Pidge looked like she already expected that answer, but hearing it didn’t make it any easier. She grit her teeth and though her eyes stung with the threat of tears she refused to let any shed. “I know! But I just… I’ve been waiting so long to try and find them. And now I’m in space, I’ve got a Lion to take me through it, and I’ve got a general idea where they might be!” Pidge breathed in hard, “I just… I don’t want to risk missing them. What if this is the only chance I have to find them?”

The “alive” went unsaid. Keith knew Pidge’s biggest fear wasn’t not finding them, it was finding them dead. Them still being missing had the sliver of hope that they’d still be alive. But if a body was found then what hope left was there?

Keith tugged Pidge into a tight hug and let her hide her teary face in his shoulder. “Hey don’t talk like that. We’ll find them. We just need more time. Once we get a foot in this war then we can put time aside to help find Matt and Sam. You’ve got my support Pidge. I’ll even summon White so we have our own wormholes if it really comes down to it.”

Pidge’s snort of amusement had Keith relaxing slightly. He pulled away so he could look her in the face, sharing the little smile she had. “We’ll find them Pidge, have faith. You’re not alone out here. You’re a part of a team. And this team is going to help you find your family no matter what, I promise. We’ll keep an eye out for any signs of Matt and Sam. And whenever we meet up with my mom or her organization, I’ll try and see if they know anything as well.”

Her smile turned more genuine at that. Launching herself at Keith in a hug that might’ve toppled them over, she squeezed around his waist as hard as she could.

“Thanks Keith.”

“No problem,” Keith chuckled, ruffling her hair and smiling warmly. “What do you say we try and enjoy the rest of the party?”

Before Pidge could even respond, the entire castle suddenly started shaking from the effects of an explosion. Both pilots stared at each other with wide eyes before breaking out into a sprint towards the source. Along the way they ran into Hunk, Allura, and Shiro. And from there it was just one problem after the other.

Keith’s apprehension was slowly mounting from the time the explosion went off to when they split up to do their own things. It was so bad he didn’t even realize the trick they’d walked right in to. Keith honestly felt so stupid when they reached the Arusian village. Sure it looked like they were being attacked but upon a closer look?? The mounting need to shout every curse he knew grew the moment the particle barrier dropped in front of them. He slammed his fists against the wall, panic pumping through his blood like a sick poison.

“Fuck! How are we going to get in?!” They had no access to the Lions. There were still people inside that could get hurt! Or worse. Keith had to get in, he had to.

A soft voice broke through his communicator and effectively put an end to Keith’s potentially bad decisions.

Keith, are you there?”

“Pidge!” He nearly gasped in relief, “Are you alright? What’s going on?”

I’m fine, but things in the castle aren’t looking so good. Sendak’s taken over and he’s preparing for launch. He’s got Lance and Shiro!” She hissed. “They haven’t found me yet, but I don’t know how long that’ll last.”

Allura and Keith shared an apprehensive look, the Princess biting her lip. “Pidge, listen. If they’ve started the launch sequence, then there isn’t much time to stop it before liftoff. You have to get down to the main engine control panel and disconnect the primary turbine from the central energy chamber. Sendak will have to reset the whole system if you can do that!”

Got it.”

“Pidge, be careful.” Keith clenched his hands tight.

Even though Pidge was trying to keep them updated it did little to quell the tension from Keith’s frame. He was pacing back and forth in front of the particle barrier without a moment of rest. The sun on Arus had already risen and still Keith didn’t stop. There was no worry of feeling tired. He was too busy plotting murder to feel exhaustion.

Keith was going to kill Sendak. There were a lot of reasons as to why. He was going to kill him for hurting Shiro. He was going to kill him for trying to hurt Pidge. Keith didn’t even think twice on the idea of him taking a life. It wouldn’t have been the first time it happened and it wouldn’t be the last. Keith was not going to lose any more people important to him. He wouldn’t allow it.

When the particle barrier finally went down Keith didn’t even hesitate. Like a wild animal let lose, he ripped through the castle with a one-track mind. Allura’s yell for him to wait fell on deaf ears.

Keith already had his bayard drawn and transformed into his sword. He dived around corners and slid down the hall till he was finally in front of the main deck. His eyes practically shrunk to pinpricks when he caught a quick glimpse of what was in the room.

Gritting his teeth and snarling loud enough it would’ve made Krolia proud, Keith took his bayard and flung it with precision. Sendak turned at the rather animalistic sound and had just enough time to see a sword flying right towards him. There was no room to dodge the blade and it was suddenly imbedded into the joint where shoulder met torso in his cybernetic arm.

Sendak let out a guttural cry and dropped Pidge. She was quick to scurry away as Sendak focused on removing the blade from his body. Keith didn’t give him the chance to recover and charged forward. He leapt up, kicking out and catching the larger Galra in the jaw.

The force of his kick had Sendak stumbling back but his other hand launched out and grabbed Keith before he got too far. Keith cursed as he was suddenly vaulted over Sendak and chucked into the far wall, his bayard following right after. Keith rolled out of the way just in time to avoid being skewered by his own weapon.

“Insolent whelp!” Sendak snapped, his growl reverberating through the air.

Keith fixed him with an icy glare and bared his teeth in defiance. Sendak’s growl deepened at that and he made advancements towards the Altean. However from behind he was suddenly struck by a blaster fire. Sendak stumbled before whipping around just in time to notice Shiro charging at him. Keith darted from his place on the ground to come up around Sendak’s other side.

Shiro was knocked back by Sendak’s cybernetic arm and Keith took this chance to leap onto Sendak’s back. His legs wrapped around the larger Galra’s upper torso while his arms forced Sendak into a headlock. Quick like a viper Keith bit into one of Sendak’s ears and held on like his life depended on it.

Roaring in rage and pain, Sendak reached behind him and scrambled for a claw hold on Keith. Hooking the tips of his claws under Keith’s Paladin armor, he dug in and audibly ripped Keith from his body. Another pained cry erupted from Sendak’s throat as hot blood splattered against the side of his face. His ear was torn from Keith’s teeth and yanking him off had only deepened the injury.

He glared at the Altean clutched in his grip, Sendak’s purplish blood painted around his mouth in a grisly fashion. As if to add insult to injury, Keith spat some fur and blood directly into Sendak’s face.

“You-!”

Sendak cut himself off and instead chose to raise Keith up high before slamming him into the ground. As if to further emphasize how pissed he was, he raised Keith up once more and smashed him back down. Keith choked on his own gasp of pain, feeling something crack and hoping silently that it was the floor and not something internal.

“Keith!!”

There were several voices yelling his name as Sendak picked him up once more. Pidge let out an enraged cry and rushed to Sendak’s side, bayard activated, and leapt into the air. Slicing at the beam connecting his arm together, it dropped like led and with it Keith.

The two hit the floor and Keith easily tossed it off while Pidge kept Sendak’s attention. He quickly picked his forgotten bayard off the ground and activated it before joining in the fray. Together he and Pidge began herding Sendak back towards the ominous purple crystal.

As Keith swung his sword Sendak managed to catch it in a bruising grip. Not even hesitating Keith leapt up and smashed his head forward. Altean strength combined with a high-class helmet truly left a punch. Blood spurted from Sendak’s nose and he dropped Keith’s blade and took a few steps back.

“Keith, now!” Allura shouted from where she stood at the control panel.

Keith noticed a ring on the floor light up just above where Sendak was standing. With a silent nod he leapt forward and placed a firm kick to Sendak’s sternum. The Galra was knocked back just as a barrier was erected around him and the crystal.

With blood streaming down his nose and ear, Sendak slammed his only working hand against the barrier and glared daggers at Keith. His lip curled back into a snarl and he made no more attempts to try and break out. He knew he’d lost this battle. And from the look on his face, Keith knew it was a heavy blow to his pride. The Altean tried not to look a little too smug as he turned away to check on his team.

While stealing quick glances at Shiro and Pidge he knelt down beside Lance and gently helped the other sit up.

“You ok?”

Lance coughed slightly, “I’ll live. What about you? You were being swung around like a chew toy.”

Shrugging a shoulder Keith smiled wryly, “I’ll live.” He echoed back Lance’s words.

That caused the Blue Paladin to blink in surprise before laughing lightly. “Nice job with the whole… That.” He gestured to the blood on Keith’s face and helmet. “Remind me not to get on your bad side.”

Keith helped him stand and slung Lance’s arm over his shoulder. “Don’t worry, we’re on the same team. There shouldn’t be a reason for you to even get near my bad side.”

“Small miracles.”

Allura, having moved to Pidge and Shiro’s side in order to help him stand, was giving Keith somewhat weary looks. She managed to school her expression as the two got closer. Clearing her throat, Allura rested a hand against Shiro’s back. “We need to get you all to the infirmary. Keith, I’m sorry but we’ll have to wait for Coran to come back before we can give you an x-ray. I’m afraid I don’t know how some of the tools work and I’d hate to exasperate your wounds.”

Internally sighing in relief, Keith instead nodded his head to the princess. “Its fine, I can wait. Besides I don’t think anything’s broken.”

Shiro was giving him a very pointed and unhappy look at his words. As if to placate the scolding look being directed his way Keith raised the hand not holding up Lance. “I’ll still get patched up. But first you two are getting looked at.”

Together the group made their way to the infirmary. While Keith helped get Lance suited for a pod, Pidge and Allura focused on tending to Shiro’s wounds. Only when Lance was safely in a pod did Keith take off his helmet and sit down on a cot in order to clean himself up. Before he could do anything Pidge took the first aid kit from him and plopped herself down on the cot with him.

She crossed her legs and set the kit on her lap before pulling out the necessary tools. Keith didn’t bother to put up a fight and simply let Pidge angle his head how she wanted. As she cleaned away the blood from around Keith’s mouth, she hissed softly between her teeth.

In order to avoid catching Shiro and Allura’s attention Keith refrained from speaking. However Pidge easily saw the question in his eyes. She dabbed at a spot beneath his nose before showing the stained cloth to him.

Most of it was covered in Sendak’s dark purple blood, yet the small spot Pidge had dabbed was stained by a deep blue colour. Keith stiffened at the sight and held his breath as Pidge quickly cleaned off the rest of his blood before tossing the soiled cloth away.

It had been hard to tell because of Sendak’s blood covering his face, but at some point Keith had been bleeding. Either from his nose or from his mouth, maybe both. Now that things were settled and adrenalin wasn’t pumping through his body, Keith could pinpoint the sharp taste in his mouth. Turns out it wasn’t just Sendak’s blood he’d been tasting. He must’ve bit his cheek sometime during the fight.

“How are you guys doing?” Shiro asked.

Him suddenly appearing right by Keith’s side had both Pidge and Keith jumping. Pidge cleared her throat and shrugged a shoulder, “Keith seems fine. Not exhibiting anything that would imply he’s concussed. I’ve only cleaned up his face though. And other than me being sore I’m pretty sure I’m fine.”

Shiro nodded and placed a hand on Keith’s shoulder. “How about you? Anything feel broken?”

Keith grunted, taking in a deep exhale and not hiding his slight wince. He rubbed at his sides, “Ribs hurt but not enough to be considered broken. Maybe fractured at the most.”

“Mind if I check?”

Ah. Casting a pointed look towards Pidge, the young Holt rolled her eyes and slipped from the bed. She patted Keith’s knee and bid him farewell before moving to Allura’s side and herding her from the room. Maybe she shouldn’t have said Keith was going to “strip” but it got Allura moving so what was the harm? Keith would like to protest the choice of words but by the time he opened his mouth they were already gone.

He huffed, rolling his eyes and reaching up his hands to slowly unclasp his chest piece. Though he winced every now and again he politely protested Shiro’s help till he got to the inner suit. He allowed Shiro to unzip the back for him and slowly Keith shuffled out of the upper part. As it pooled around his waist Keith sighed at the cool air hitting his heated skin.

He flexed his back, rolling his shoulders and hearing a pop. “Damn… I’m probably going to bruise, huh?”

Shiro chuckled, “Maybe. Turn so I can check your ribs?”

With a grunt Keith slowly turned on the cot so his back was to Shiro. Keith couldn’t stop from jumping slightly when Shiro’s fingers brushed against his skin. He was dressed down to his Paladin uniform’s inner suit so one of hands was still gloved, but the other one was cool to the touch and seemed to be quickly warming up from Keith’s body heat.

Shiro was gentle as he pressed against Keith’s sides. His voice just as soft as he spoke to him. “You fought pretty brutally back there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like that…”

It was easy to grimace when Shiro wasn’t looking at his face. “Er… Yeah. My mom… She told me that she had a little brother she’d spar with. And since he was a lot taller than her she had to learn how to take down bigger enemies. She taught me how to as well. Fighting brutally is just… How she was taught to fight.”

Shiro hummed, “Well she taught you well. I’m glad it came in handy.” He obviously still had his own questions but he knew Keith enough not to push.

Even after all his time gone Shiro could still find his way around Keith’s many secrets. It was kind of comforting to know that Keith was still an enigma. Shiro hoped one day he could find the answers to what made up this being called Keith. But then again he might never make sense of the mystery that was Keith. But Shiro guessed that’s what made him so intriguing.

After a while of pressing against Keith’s skin he finally let his hands settle against the Altean’s sides. “Nothing seems broken. But I’d rather you get a more thorough checkup from Coran when he gets back.”

Keith grunted, “Yeah, I know. Pidge will kill me if I don’t.”

“Speaking of Pidge…” Shiro’s tone had Keith looking over his shoulder at him curiously. “Did you know that Pidge was…?”

“Katie? Shiro, I was the one who helped her create a backstory for her cover as Pidge. I’m surprised how long it took you to learn. She looks like a smaller Matt!”

Smiling sheepishly and rubbing the back of his neck, Shiro laughed. “Yeah… Even I’m a little ashamed at myself. But a lot’s been going on. I’ve been trying to work through it all.”

Keith frowned and twisted around so he was partially facing Shiro. He grabbed a hand still resting against his side and squeezed till Shiro looked up at him.

“Hey… Are you doing ok? If you need to talk, I’m here for you.”

The small, gentle smile his words got him managed to leave Keith feeling a little breathless. Shiro returned the hand squeeze, “Thanks Keith. Ever since I got my memories back I’ve been trying to put everything together and make sense of it all. There’s still some gaps but I know it’s only a matter of time till they come back.” He frowned, his large shoulders slumping as he looked to the side. “Maybe not now but… Later we can talk? When I’ve cleared up my head a bit.”

Keith smiled and squeezed Shiro’s hand once more before letting go. “Whatever you need, Shiro.”

There was a lull in conversation after that. Keith didn’t have much to say so he let Shiro tend to the rest of his wounds. Other than some heavy bruising and scratches on his skin, Keith looked fine. The scratches were tinted blue but coupled with the rest of the discoloration on his skin they just looked like long bruises. However now that Shiro was done inspecting Keith’s body for wounds, he found his eyes tracing what looked like a scar near Keith’s waist.

However on closer inspection he realized that it was a little too precise and thick to be a scar. The swirling white lines started curing from his abdomen down his sides and disappearing beneath the folds of the inner suit. Shiro unconsciously traced the mark with his fingers. It elicited another shiver from Keith and a small gasp.

Shiro unintentionally flushed and yanked his hands away as if he’d been burned. “S-sorry! I just noticed the mark on you and well uh… I didn’t know you got a tattoo! When’d that happen?”

Keith let out a silent “fuck” before he looked down and touched the markings. “Ah… Yeah. Those.”

“Those?”

“Yeah, there’s two. One on either side.” Keith scratched at his cheek and looked at the wall like it held all the world’s secrets. “I um… Got them when I resigned from the Garrison.” Technically speaking Keith had them for longer than that. These were his “mature” marks. When an Altean passed through their Shifting they got new markings on their body symbolizing that they’ve matured. Each Altean received different markings after Shifting. Keith’s were simple curving lines that went down his hips and stopped mid-thigh. Before he became a vessel his markings had been crimson. Yet after going through Shifting again his markings had reappeared, only this time they were as white as the ones on his face.

“Ah I see. Wait. What?!” Shiro grabbed Keith’s shoulders and made him turn to face him. “You resigned from the Garrison?! Why?!”

Right. Forgot Shiro didn’t know.’ Keith might’ve felt bad about leaving the Garrison but if he was being honest? He couldn’t care less. He had no loyalty to the Garrison, he’d just been using them to find the Paladins. And after Shiro disappeared and they tried to cover it up? Keith lost any trust in them that might’ve grown over the years.

He took a deep breath and sighed. “After they announced you guys as ‘dead’, I confronted the Garrison about it. I knew they were covering something up. Pidge did too. And when I was cleaning out my stuff I ran into her getting tossed out of the Garrison. We both knew they were lying. But because I resigned after snooping, they wouldn’t trust me enough to give me the same clearances again. And “Katie Holt” was barred from the Garrison premises.” Keith frowned and crossed his arms over his chest a little defensively. “I don’t regret resigning. The Garrison seemed more content covering up shit about aliens instead of actually learning about them. So I left.”

Shiro had listened silently while Keith explained his reasoning’s. By the end of it a smile of understanding was what greeted Keith when he looked up into Shiro’s eyes.

The taller man put his hand on Keith’s shoulder and sat down on the edge of the cot. “From the sounds of it you had your reasons. And I don’t really blame you. Even I’m not too happy with what they did when I landed. But I’m sure they had their reasons.”

“Shiro.” Keith gave him a firm look, “You know they were just going to cover it up again. They wouldn’t have listened to you about the Galra, about Voltron. They’d stick you in a lab and study what over a year of space exposure has done to you. They’d pick apart your arm, your brain. You’d be a fucking science experiment if the Garrison still had you!”

From the expression on Shiro’s face it was obvious that he had thought the same thing at one point. His frown was more prominent, the shadows under his eyes seeming more pronounced. Shiro sighed long and heavy. His shoulders slumped and he unintentionally found himself leaning against Keith’s shoulder.

“You’ve got a point there… But I’d like to believe the Garrison will come around. If the war continues we’ll have to warn Earth eventually. And by then maybe they won’t have any other choice but to listen.”

He had a point. Keith leaned more into Shiro’s side and huffed, “They’d better.”

The barely there threat didn’t go unnoticed by Shiro. He snorted, reaching up and ruffling Keith’s hair. “You can’t force people to listen, Keith.”

“I wasn’t going to.” Maybe he’d just have both Red and White roar at the Garrison’s doorstep. Hard to ignore life past Earth if evidence was literally on their front lawns. But Shiro was right even if Keith didn’t want to admit it. He just had to hope the videos his dad had would be enough to convince them when the time came.

///

It was the painful ringing in Keith’s ears that had him gradually opening his eyes. It was a struggle but eventually he managed to blearily take in his surroundings. He could hear yelling, though it was muffled and sounded distant. It was like he was being talked to underwater.

He blinked hard, his breath coming fast and brief as he tried to clear his vision enough to make sense of what he was seeing. The dim green light around him had him pausing in confusion. Was he... In the Green Lion?

Before Keith could question why, something suddenly slammed down in front of him. He jumped and despite the strain of seeing, he could easily make out the hulking form of the White Lion. It towered over Green, its eyes glowing an eerie purple. Then in the span of a second it opened its jaws and lurched forward. Keith’s arms instinctually went up to protect his face, fleetingly seeing the green on his armor just as a piercing scream broke through the white noise.

Keith sat up in bed with a lurch, heart lodged in his throat and practically suffocating him as he gasped for air. He didn’t register tossing his covers off and rushing to the door, nor did Keith register rushing down the hall and stopping in front of Pidge’s. He only gained some awareness when the door slid open and a very annoyed Pidge squinted at him.

“Keith…?” She rubbed an eye and yawned.

Just as she was about to ask what the heck was his deal, she suddenly found herself pulled into a crushing hug. It was when Pidge placed her hands to Keith’s back that she realized just how badly he was shaking. Pidge instantly snapped awake and began running soothing hands over Keith’s back.

“H-hey, what’s wrong? Keith?” She pulled away slightly and tried to read his face. Her quick mind instantly came to a conclusion based on what she’d seen. “Was it a vision?” At Keith’s stiff nod Pidge visibly softened. She glanced up and down the hall to make sure no one was up before looking back at Keith. “Wait here.”

She dipped into her room before coming back out with a pillow and a pile of blankets. “Come on. We can make a crappy blanket fort in your room and try to sleep, ok?”

Pidge didn’t ask Keith to tell her what the vision had been about. If he felt it was important enough to tell her then he would. Till then she could only offer her support. It's what Tex would do whenever Keith had bad visions. And since he wasn’t here, it was up to her to fill up that roll. Pidge placed a comforting hand on Keith’s arm, smiling at him before heading back with him to his room.

Chapter Text

“You need to be more careful!”

“I know.”

“Your little stunt with Sendak has Allura on edge. She came to me saying ‘Keith’s fighting is so strange for a human! He fights with the ferocity of a Galra but with the swiftness of an Altean!’ She’s growing suspicious of you, Yorak.”

“Did you have to do that voice?”

“Yorak.”

A sigh.

“Ok yes, I understand. But I couldn’t help it. He had Pidge, he hurt Shiro and Lance. I just… Acted. I’m used to integrating my Altean training with my Galra. I did it subconsciously and I wouldn’t have been able to get the same results if I relied on what the Garrison teaches. Their fighting is basic and going against Sendak would’ve landed me on my ass faster than a Klemor going against a Mulma.”

“You did end up on your ass like a Klemor going against a Mulma. Plus you even cracked your armor. I had to lie and say your ribs were cracked as well just to avoid suspicions.”

“Yeah I noticed. Shiro’s been giving me worried looks all day.”

“But of course. Human bones aren’t as dense as Alteans! They can’t take too much before they break like bread. It’s rather sad.” A momentary pause before the scolding continues. “But I’m serious Yorak! There’s only so much Number 5 and I can cover up!”

“I know, I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful.”

Keith said that but when it came to the Guardian, sometimes he had to do some reckless things. On that particular day it woke him up with flashes of a potential future that left him reeling. Then the scene changed to a specific area of space and the insistent rumble that Keith had to journey there. So with a heavy sigh he rolled out of bed and donned on his armor. 

He tucked his helmet under his arm and then snuck down the hall to explore the castle. It was early, early enough that no one but Shiro and Coran should be awake. After the previous day’s battle against the Robeast and liberating the Bulmera, almost everyone was taking this day of rest to sleep in. So even with the potential to be discovered at an all-time low, Keith would rather be safe than sorry. 

It took the better part of ten doboshes to find Coran while steadily avoiding being spotted. Without explaining anything other than a short ‘follow me’ he led Coran back the way he’d come and to Pidge’s room.

When Pidge opened her door to his knocking, she looked like she had just rolled out of bed. She glared at him, his armor, then sighed heavily. Pidge turned around and walked back into her room, letting the door remain open as a sign for the two to enter.

Keith waited till the door was firmly closed before he said, “I need you two to make a cover for me. I need to return to Oriande to set up some things.” That wasn’t the real reason Keith was going out but he felt like saying that instead of a vague “Guardian vessel business” would ease any potential worries Coran and Pidge might have.

Coran frowned, “But how will you get there? It’ll be hard to cover up if you take Red.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Keith waved a hand dismissively, “I’ve got White on standby. I’ll summon it when I’m out of the castle’s view.”

Now it was Pidge’s turn to frown. She pushed up her glasses and crossed her arms over her chest. “So you’re going to jettison yourself into space, summon your lion, and then what? How will you get back?? Deposit yourself in front of the castle and hope we don’t hit you?” 

“Already prepared for that. Trust me guys, I know what I’m doing. I just need you two to make sure no one finds out I’m not on the ship.”

They were clearly reluctant to agree seeing as how Keith didn’t give them much confidence in how he’d return. If Keith ended up stuck off the ship and they happened to run into another Robeast or Galra battleship, there’d be a lot of explaining to do on all three of their parts. Keith’s secret about being Altean might even be revealed earlier than he wanted.

Originally Coran had tried to ask Keith why he didn’t just come out and say he was an Altean. At least that way he wouldn’t have to continue sneaking around while carrying out the Guardian’s wishes. However to that Keith had given his friend a deep frown and said that none of them were ready to learn about his secret. That so long as they believed all Galra were the same bloodthirsty monsters as Zarkon, they would not be ready. Voltron needed to learn that not everyone was like Zarkon even if they were Galra. And until they could come to terms with their prejudice Keith was going to remain silent. 

Coran didn’t need to ask to know that he was indirectly speaking about Allura. Even Coran knew that she, while justified, was getting a little too blinded by her hatred. Still it wasn’t like Coran could say anything about it without raising suspicions. He just had to keep silent and trust that Keith knew what he was doing.

Keith made his way to one of the less used airlocks of the castle. A quick glance up and down the hall showed no one around so Keith went through the necessary steps to exiting from the airlock. Pretty soon he was being sucked out into the vortex of space and left hurtling away from the ship. 

For careening through space aimlessly, Keith was rather calm. This wasn’t the first time he’d been launched out into a void and he knew it wouldn’t be the last. With the knowledge that no matter where he went he’d have the White Lion to catch him, it left little room for panic to settle in. 

He used his suit’s jetpack to right himself somewhat and then remained floating there, watching the ship gradually disappear. Only when he was satisfied it was far enough away did Keith close his eyes. Suddenly behind him a portal opened up and, with a small smile gracing his features, Keith propelled himself backwards and disappeared along with the portal.

//

“Hey, where’s Keith?” 

Shiro’s question had both Coran and Pidge sharing a look. They were all gathered in the detainment room after Coran had called them over the intercoms. So far everyone but Keith had arrived, Lance being the last one to show up.

Coran cleared his throat and twiddled his mustache, “No need to worry about Number 4. He’s taking care of some things for me. I’ll give him a brief the next time I see him.”

Shiro still seemed bothered but there was no room to ask further questions the moment Coran started his explanation of the procedure. Eventually with the start of transferring Sendak’s memories, time gradually passed till one by one everyone left to do their own things.

It was nearly three varga later before Keith returned. A small portal had appeared and Keith floated there for about thirty doboshes before the castle came into view. He then used his jetpack to get closer to the ship and guide himself into one of the airlocks. 

Keith opened the first door and slipped in, waiting for the door to firmly shut behind him and stabilize before he moved for the second door. He pressed his hand to exit the stabilizing room yet was met with an error buzz and a flashing red light. 

He frowned, pressing down on the panel again. After a few more tries of that not working he looked up towards where he knew a security camera to be placed. “Alfor, open the door.” 

The silence that greeted him had his frown deepening. Keith pressed his hand to the panel again and ignored the buzz of protest it made. “Alfor. The door. Open it.”

More silence.

He took a step back and forced out a strained laugh. “Alright, you got me. Is this because I left without saying bye? I wasn’t going to be gone long and I was short on time. There was no opportunity for me to say bye.” The silence was starting to worry him. “Alfor? Look if you want an apology just let me in and I’ll go apologize to you directly.”

Suddenly the intercom clicked on and Alfor’s voice filtered through. His voice was chilling in how devoid of life it sounded. “Opening airlock doors in 30 ticks. 30… 29… 28…”

Keith visibly paled, “Alfor this isn’t funny.”

27… 26…”

Alfor!”

25… 24… 23…”

Keith rushed to the door, slamming his hand down on the panel. When that met with the same results as before, he pounded his fists against the door. “Alfor open the door! Alfor!”

As Alfor continued counting down, Keith began slamming his entire body into the door in an attempt to force his way through. But Keith knew better. This was Altean-made. It was designed to withstand an Altean’s full strength and then some. There was no possible way Keith would be busting down this door without a little help.

Something was wrong. Something was terribly wrong.

Alfor!! My King! Please!!” He slammed both fists into the door, panic eating away at him and making his heart pound deafeningly against his ears. Was he going to be shot out into space? Sure he could summon White to fetch him but what then? Try to get into the ship again through the airlocks? That probably wouldn’t work. Alfor seemed intent on launching him out. There was nothing stopping him from continuously trying to eject Keith out into space with every attempt to get in. 

He could try going through the docking bay with White. But then he’d have to explain everything and that’d ruin his plans and everything he’d just begun to set up! Plus there was no guarantee the docks would open for him.

What about Red? Would she even listen to him? Would she answer his call?

As Alfor’s voice got down to 10, Keith knew he didn’t have long to think. If he didn’t come up with a plan soon then he was going to have to rely on Red to graciously safe him or risk foiling his own plans.

Just then Keith saw Lance sprinting down the hall, one of the training bots hot on his heels. Keith slammed his fists against the door, shouting and hoping to be heard through the reinforced glass.

Lance’s back hit the door and he ducked just as the bot’s blade swiped at where he’d been. It was then that he noticed Keith out of the corner of his eye. 

He sputtered in confusion, “Wuh- The heck you doing there?!”

“Picking daisies! What does it look like I’m doing?! I need you to—Duck!” He cut himself off in order to direct Lance into dodging the blade still coming at him. “I need you to open the door! The airlock is going to open!”

Lance dived away just as the bot swung its blade down. He looked at Keith and then the bot before grimacing and nodding his head. Because Lance had dodged right, he’d ended up on the wrong side of where the button to open the door was. Which meant he needed to figure out some way to get around the bot and open the door before the airlock opened.

Easier said than done.

Keith shouted out directions for Lance to dodge. In any other situation he might’ve been annoyed and snapped that he didn’t need Keith’s commentary, but right now he was pretty grateful for the insight. Lance ducked left, then dodged right before sprinting towards the bot and dropping into a slide. 

The slick floors carried him past the bot and to the other side of the door where he was quick to scramble onto his knees and slap a hand down on the button to open the door. It was in the nick of time too. The airlock doors opened almost exactly at the same time as Lance opened the bay doors.

Keith’s feet had already been taken off by the ground by the vacuum of space and with a yell he activated his jetpack. It shot him forward and he aimed to slam directly into the bot. Lance pressed the button and the door closed just as Keith and the bot hit the wall. 

Quicker than lightning he activated his bayard and drove the blade through the top of the bot’s head. He only removed it when the bot’s light’s died and it went limp. With a heavy sigh he dissipated his bayard and plopped on the ground.

Both he and Lance were panting for different reasons. Lance from exertion, Keith from nearly being chucked into space by a seemingly angry AI.

“What… Were you doing in there?!” Lance exclaimed, wiping away the sweat on his brow. “And why do you have your suit on?!”

Keith huffed, yanking off his helmet and shaking his head. “I was cleaning something on the side of the ship.” He sincerely hoped Coran didn’t give him an alibi that would contradict what he’d just said. Quickly Keith changed the subject, “What the heck is with the training bot?”

“It was trying to kill me!” Lance exclaimed. “I didn’t even activate it! I was walking past the training room and it was already there! Tried to tell it to deactivate and then it just came at me!! How come you couldn’t get out of the airlock?!”

“The door wouldn’t open no matter what I did!”

Both Lance and Keith shared a look of panic. Keith swallowed hard, more sweat accumulating on his brow. “I think that the castle…”

“Is trying to kill us?”

Lance took the words right out of his mouth. Keith’s nod was stilted, cold dread coiling up in his gut and leaving a sour taste on the back of his tongue. What did this mean? Was something wrong with the castle? What about Alfor’s AI? It was his voice Keith heard in the airlock. Was something wrong with him?? The uncertainty of everything was making Keith’s anxiety spike.

He stood up and tucked his helmet under his arm before holding out a hand to Lance. “Come on. If the castle is really trying to kill us then we’d better check on everyone else. Who knows what trouble they might be in.” 

Lance nodded and accepted Keith’s offered hand. “Right.” 

Together the two of them rushed through the castle, running into Coran along the way and explaining what just happened while making their way to the Green Lion’s hanger. It was alarming to see them floating for a moment before hitting the ground hard once gravity was turned back on. Keith rushed over to help Pidge stand, his fretting causing her to slap his hands away in annoyance.

“I’m fine. The gravity just shut off on us for some reason.”

“Oh man, I’d so rather take floating around in Zero G over dealing with a killer robot!” Lance bemoaned.

Keith shot him a glare, “We can leave you floating out in space later. For now let’s get to the bottom of why the castle is going nuts on us.”

Lance scowled at Keith’s comment but pivoted on his heel and sent his petulant look towards Coran. “Look, don’t try to deny it! Even Keith says this castle’s going apples and bananas on us!”

Coran tilted his head and glanced at Keith. The other Altean shrugged a shoulder, “Earth fruit.”

“Ah, makes sense. Well never mind your apples and your bananas. If what you say is true then that means something is wrong with the internal workings of the castle. Sendak’s Galra crystal… Perhaps it did more damage than previously thought…” 

“Can’t we just get rid of it?” 

Coran shook his head at Hunk’s suggestion, “It’s already too late. When Sendak plugged it into the ship, it most likely corrupted the entire system.”

“Sendak…” Keith frowned for a split second before his eyes widened in realization. His head snapped up, “Wait, where’s Shiro?”

Like a bomb went off the group of them rushed out of Green’s bay and sprinted towards the detainment room. Keith was at the front, a glare tossed over his shoulder at the people behind him.

“I can’t believe you let Shiro stay alone with Sendak like that! What were you guys thinking?!”

“Hey, he said he was fine! How were we supposed to know the castle was gonna go AWOL on us?!” Lance yelled from the back of the group.

Keith growled, “And you believed him?! Shiro bottles things up! Of course he’s going to say he’s fine! But did you forget that he just got out of Galra captivity?! Leaving him alone with someone who probably contributed to his trauma is the last thing you do!!” 

He was the first to reach the door, the others falling in behind him. They wooshed opened to reveal a slumped Shiro next to Sendak’s cracked, empty pod. Keith only spared a moment to connect the dots before he rushed to Shiro’s side.

Both he and Pidge stood on either side of him, the others crowding around. Keith, the most used to dealing with fellow soldiers, gently spoke to Shiro as he tried to assess what state of mind Shiro was in.

“Shiro, what happened?”

Shiro’s eyes darted from side to side as he held his head, brows furrowed in mild panic. “I… I had to get him out of here. Sendak—H-his voice. I was hearing his voice. H-he can’t be trusted on this ship. We couldn’t—I couldn’t—.” 

Keith reached out, placing a hand on his shoulder and giving it a comforting squeeze. “Shiro…”

Lance cut off whatever heartfelt thing Keith was about to say. “It was the ship making you hear him! The ship is going crazy! I got stuck in a cryo-pod, then chased around by the training bot. Keith got stuck in the airlock and was almost sent out into space, and Hunk and Pidge got attacked by food. It’s been a wild morning.”

Keith rolled his eyes at how much of an understatement that was. These guys couldn’t even begin to fathom how “wild” Keith’s day has been. He’s going to be walking off those kicks for the next few quintants at least! Not to mention getting on that quiznaking warship had taken almost an entire varga.

Keith was snapped from his thoughts when a screen on the wall appeared with an alarm. The text beneath it read that the ship had activated a wormhole. Both he and Coran, having read the text, had looks of confused horror.

“That… Shouldn’t be possible.” Coran frowned.

Keith, to keep up appearances, asked. “What is it?”

“The ship is starting a wormhole jump! But Allura should be resting… Who else could…?”

With a deep breath and a sigh, Shiro pushed off the wall and straightened his shoulders. It seemed he was able to gather himself together in the short time they’d been here with him. 

He squared his jaws and his eyes narrowed in determination. “Whatever’s going on, we’ll get to the bottom of this. Let’s head to the bridge and see what’s going on.”

Together as a group they made their way through the castle and to the bridge where they were met with a chilling sight indeed. And when Allura said they were going home to Altea, Keith felt the colour drain from his face. His hands clenched into tight fists and his heart stung like it was being pricked with thousands of needles.

Shiro was the first to run towards Allura in an attempt to stop her. Alfor’s face appearing on screen had everyone freezing in their tracks, Keith and Coran both visibly flinching at his booming voice. 

Coran frowned, brows furrowing in growing concern. “The crystal must have corrupted King Alfor’s artificial intelligence. It’s taking over!”

Just as he said that they exited the wormhole and came face-to-face with a star boiling in flames. The raging fire dyed the space around it a brilliant red. Like a blooming flower in the cosmos, the star was beginning to unfurl in an explosion which would no doubt take them and everything in the vicinity with it.

“We need to shut that thing down!”

Both Keith and Coran rushed to the barrier separating them from Allura and Alfor. While their friends crowded around them trying to find their own ways to break into the barrier, Coran attempted to reason with Allura, Keith whispering pleas of his own under his breath.

“Allura, what you’re seeing isn’t real!! Wake up!”

Clenching his hands into fists, Keith stared directly at the back of Alfor’s AI. His voice was soft, nearly drowned out by the shouting of Coran and his friends yet in his heart Keith knew the AI could hear it. He knew just from the minute twitch to that holographic frame.

My King, please. Don’t do this. Don’t kill your daughter. Don’t kill Coran.”

Somehow Coran managed to get through to Allura. He managed to remove the veil shielding her from reality and open her eyes to their oncoming demise. He didn’t want to leave the ship. Even as he left the bridge, he kept glancing back at Alfor’s AI. He didn’t want to leave, he still had so much left to say. He wasn’t ready to let go. The mounting pain in Keith’s heart reached a new level and continued mounting higher and higher. Until finally… It reached a breaking point.

From the cockpit of Red, Alfor’s voice trickled in. Ever so soft and ever so apologetic. “Yorak. I’m sorry. Please… Take care of them for me.”

Red’s controls creaked from the force of Keith’s grip. He swallowed the lump in his throat, closing his eyes and refusing to acknowledge the stinging behind them. With a shaky breath he whispered a final farewell to his King. His friend.

Goodbye, Alfor.”

In the castle, Coran was receiving his own form of a goodbye. The holograph of Alfor cupped his cheek, Coran believing he could almost feel the fleeting touch of Alfor’s thumb brushing against his markings. Coran wanted to close his eyes, but he couldn’t. He held back his tears so as to not blurry the final image he would see of Alfor. He wanted to remember every single thing about this moment. The tears threatening to spill, the way his heart clenched in on itself like a collapsing star, the gentle way Alfor held his face with his eyes brimming in an endless wave of adoration and sorrow. Coran wanted to remember everything.

Goodbye Coran. Stay strong and live well.”

Take care, Alfor. Give my greetings to Melenor when you see her.”

I will.”

And like a light winking out, Alfor was gone. And in his place was a vacant hole threatening to turn into an aching chasm.

///

It was quiet in the Castle of Lions. The night cycle had been engaged who knows how long ago. Silence stretched endlessly as both Coran and Keith stared off into the cosmos, a nearly empty bottle of nunvill passed between them. The other three bottles at their feet went ignored even when Keith’s boot accidentally knocked one over. The sound didn’t even seem to register over the sorrow permeating the air.

Finally, like he couldn’t keep it in anymore, Coran blurted out the words he kept tucked away in his heart. “I loved him, you know? Him and Melenor both. They were my everything.” 

I know.”

And when Allura was born? She also became my world.”

I know.”

Coran sucked in a deep breath, closing his eyes and holding back another stream of tears. His face was already splotchy and red from the nunvill and from the tears he shed. Keith leaned against him so their shoulders were pressed together for comfort. 

The silence stretched on once more before Keith found himself being the one to break it this time. “How were they…? When I didn’t come back from Oriande?”

Keith didn’t need to elaborate for Coran to understand. This time it was Coran who was putting his weight against Keith in comfort. No doubt this conversation was going to be a heavy one. 

Ilor and Atka… They weren’t happy. Ilor had half a mind to fly to Oriande herself and demand the Guardian return you. It took a lot of convincing on Alfor’s part that this was an honor of the highest degree and that they should be proud of you. But… It didn’t make it any easier. It was obvious Ilor and Atka still missed you. And the times Alfor returned from Oriande made the longing to see you grow even stronger. They never forgot about you.”

Keith nodded like he expected that answer. He could almost imagine his mother threatening to locate Oriande and drag him back to Altea by the ear. He wondered what would’ve happened if she did. Would she have been able to convince the Guardian to let him go? Would he have left with her? Probably not. Keith had made a vow to the Guardian and his ma had taught him to always honor his word.

The next question Keith asked was soft. Soft enough that Coran almost missed it. Soft enough that Coran wished he had missed it.

How did they die?”

Coran took a swig of the nunvill, passing the remainder to Keith. “Atka was Melenor’s personal guard. It was… During an attack.” Coran’s hands shook and Keith found himself grabbing ahold of his friend. They clung to each other, grips impossibly tight. The shaking was so bad that Keith couldn’t tell if he was contributing to it or if it was all Coran.

The older Altean’s voice shook as he spoke, “Allura was with them at the time. If it wasn’t for Atka… Allura might not have been able to escape. Melenor had taken a blow for Allura and had… She…” He sucked in a pained breath and wiped away his tears. “She begged Atka to take Allura away. To keep Allura safe. Atka got Allura to a pod and sent Allura off despite her protests. She stayed behind to give Allura enough time to escape.”

Keith’s heart clenched impossibly hard and he found himself taking two large gulps of the remaining nunvill. But Coran wasn’t done talking.

Ilor was distraught. But there was nothing we could do… And then the planet… The planet fell soon after. Ilor was one of the doctors tending to the wounded on Altea. She was there when it… When it happened.”

There was no more that needed to be said. Keith closed his eyes and finished off the rest of the nunvill. He sighed, too tired to even cry. His heart ached for his mothers. What was the last things they thought of before it all ended? Did they think of him? Did they think of each other? His mothers were always overly sappy when it came to each other. At least… At least they could find each other at the end of it all. And maybe when the fighting was done and the universe was saved… Maybe Keith could find them too.

So…” Coran sniffed, wiping at his face and sitting up. He made a valiant attempt to straighten out his clothes and hair but it didn’t do much. “What is it you needed to do for the Guardian earlier today?”

Keith pursed his lips and accepted the change in conversation. He dug in the folds of his clothes and pulled out a flash drive that was quite clearly Galra in origin. “I went to check in with a friend. Picked this up while I was there to avoid certain… Things that lie in our future.”

Oh?” Now Coran’s interest was piqued. “And just who is this friend?

Finally Keith smiled, the first one all night. He twirled the drive before putting it back in his pocket. “If all goes according to plan then you’ll meet them soon. But in order to skip some things… There’s still some things I have to do.”

Keith stood with a sigh, only swaying slightly and somehow managing to keep his balance through sheer determination. He took a glance at Coran, his hand going to his shoulder.

You going to be ok?”

Smiling sadly, Coran nodded and patted the hand on his shoulder. “I’ll be alright. You go do what you have to. I’ll see you in the morning.”

With a nod and a brief hug, Keith left Coran in the lounge. He wound his way through the halls of the castle and ignored the memories threatening to creep up on him. He ignored the sounds of teens laughing as a shadow of three lanky boys ran past, the white haired one in the lead looking over his shoulder and encouraging the black haired one and the orange haired one to catch up.

The entire trip from the main lounge to the Paladin quarters was plagued with memories that Keith couldn’t seem to push away. His heart was heavy and his steps were just as weighted. He felt like he was wadding through mud, each step forward harder than the last. Finally by the time Keith stopped in front of a door he was exhausted both physically and emotionally.

He raised a hand and knocked once. Twice. He didn’t want to keep knocking. It was a tiring day after all. Surely Shiro was asleep.

But like he too was being plagued by memories, Shiro was awake. He opened the door and seem surprised that Keith was there if the way his eyes widened was anything to go by. Keith didn’t care so much really. He smiled at Shiro, vaguely wondering if he looked as gross and as miserable as he felt. Good thing his foundation was waterproof.

“Keith?” Shiro’s brows furrowed and he raised a hand. He hesitated before he touched Keith’s cheek, fingertips brushing near his swollen eyes. “You’ve been crying.”

It wasn’t a question more so an observation.

Keith let out a humorless chuckle. “Yeah. This whole day has been… A roller-coaster of emotions. Kinda overwhelmed by it all.”

Realization dawned in Shiro’s eyes and he let out a soft coo. “Oh Keith… Don’t worry, you’ll see your dad again.” As he said that he pulled Keith into a tight hug.

The Altean blinked, his confusion lost as his face was smothered into Shiro’s chest. Uh excuse me? How did Shiro get to the conclusion that he was missing Tex?? 

Oh…? Oooooh. It’s because of Allura and her dad. Right. Got it. That made sense. Probably best to roll with it.

Though it wasn’t for the reasons Shiro thought, Keith still found himself leaning into the hug and accepting it. His arms came up to wrap around Shiro and return the hold. 

“Are you ok?” Keith’s words came out muffled against Shiro’s chest.

“Hmm?” 

Keith pulled his face away so he could rest his chin against Shiro and stare up at him. “Are you ok? Today couldn’t have been easy for you either. I saw how you looked after the thing with Sendak.”

At the placating smile Shiro gave him Keith knew what he was going to say. His eyes narrowed as if daring Shiro to lie to him. And judging from the way Shiro instantly closed his mouth it was clear Keith’s silent threat was understood. Good. Shiro was still able to read Keith’s expressions.

This time his smile was a little more honest, “I’m kind of shaken up. My brain is still a little foggy and I get the feeling I’m forgetting something important. But thinking about it makes it hard to sleep and when I do sleep… The dreams aren’t always pleasant.”

Keith closed his eyes, hands tightening their grip on Shiro’s shirt. “You deserve some proper sleep Shiro.”

He laughed softly, “Easier said than done…” However almost like Keith’s words held a magic of their own, Shiro found his eyelids drooping. He struggled for a moment to try and keep his eyes open but it was growing harder by the second.

Shiro felt Keith’s hand brush against his cheek, his lips moving and Shiro only barely hearing the gentle words.

“Sleep Shiro…”

And like a puppet with its strings cut, Shiro collapsed into Keith’s waiting arms. Keith had expected the sudden increase of weight so he wasn’t taken off-guard. He dipped down, picking Shiro up in a fireman’s carry before moving into the room and tucking him on the bed.

Only once he was sure Shiro was comfortable did Keith place his hands against Shiro’s face. They began glowing and he watched Shiro’s tensed brows slowly ease out.

“Just show him what he needs to see. I’ll come back to get you in the morning. Don’t you dare do anything else, understand? You’re only allowed to root around in my brain.”

The fading purr of the Guardian was his only answer before the sound disappeared and Keith’s head was emptier than he was used to. With a sigh he patted Shiro’s chest, made sure he was properly wrapped in his blankets, and then left his room. Then he walked to Pidge’s and knocked on the door. This time he was much less accommodating and continued knocking till she opened up.

When the door finally swept open the first words out of Pidge’s mouth were “You look like shit.”

“And you look like a Gremlin. Hope you didn’t eat, its past 12.”

“Oh ha ha.” Pidge rolled her eyes, “What do you want exactly and can this wait till tomorrow?”

“Can’t wait, especially if we want to avoid losing one of our teammates.”

That got her attention. Her eyes widened and she pushed up her glasses. “Excuse me?!”

Keith merely smirked at her, gesturing to her room with only an inclination of his head. She scowled darkly and let him through with only a small grumbling about stupid Altean secrets and stupid magic Guardian bullshit. And with her grumbling the door closed behind the two of them, cutting their conversation off from the rest of the castle.

Chapter Text

Keith waited patiently outside of Shiro’s door and tried hard not to let his apprehension show. Last night had been… Difficult for him, to put it lightly. First he had to convince Pidge to lie about what she’d find when searching through Sendak’s memories and his ship’s log, then he had to pass through the night without the comforting presence of the Guardian residing in his mind. 

After spending thousands of deca-phoebs with a constant companion occupying his thoughts, suddenly being left alone always made Keith feel weird and lonely. 

So without his long-time mental roommate, the dark corners of his mind usually kept at bay from the Guardian’s radiance finally managed to take hold. Keith dreamt about a lot of things. The past, old premonitions of future events, recent events. He dreamt of Alfor and the last time he actually saw his friend alive. How time had slipped by unknowingly as he stayed on Oriande.

The one thing that Keith dreamt of that forced him to awaken long before the morning cycle of the ship started was a vision he had many years ago. He had still been on Oriande, of course. He’d been put into a slumber by the Guardian in order to await the times it was necessary for him to be awake and carrying out the Guardian’s wishes.

It was during that dream that the Guardian had shown Keith a vision. But who exactly that vision’s point of view was from left Keith waking up in tears. He’d spent a good varga after that simply holding himself and trying to will away the intense amount of grief building up inside his heart. 

So after putting himself back together and trying to appear somewhat presentable, he left his room and made his way to the training deck. There he spent the better part of three varga waiting for the rest of the castle to awaken.

Pidge had been the one to fetch him after that. She mentioned that Allura had called them all together to see if Pidge could find something with Sendak’s memories just like Keith had predicted. After relaying the message Pidge asked for Keith to get Shiro as well. Apparently the Black Paladin hadn’t been seen all day.

The Altean had a feeling that Shiro was still in his room most likely because of what the Guardian had helped him to remember. And also because of the things it allowed him to see. Hopefully it wasn’t too much information that put Shiro in a catatonic state. Keith really didn’t want to have to explain that to the team.

“Shiro, you up? Allura’s called a meeting to root through Sendak’s memory juice.” Keith said as he tapped his knuckles against Shiro’s door. 

It took a moment before Shiro’s door slid open. A quick assessing look showed that while he looked well-rested, Shiro’s brows were furrowed in deep thought. However at the sight of Keith the expression eased slightly.

“Ah, right. We should probably go then.” Shiro stepped out of his room and smiled at Keith. 

As the two of them began walking down the corridor Keith tried to figure out a way to initiate contact with Shiro in order to get back the Guardian’s quintessence. He could always just… Reach out and touch him. But that’d be a little awkward wouldn’t it? Though yes he and Keith have been a little more… Touchy-feely since Shiro got back. But that was only because Keith knew how touch-starved Shiro must be. And he only initiated contact with Shiro when the situation called for it! He couldn’t just randomly go out of his way to touch Shiro without it being awkward and called into question, right?

In order to avoid continuing that train of thought Keith decided to speak about the first thing that came to mind. “So what do you think we’ll find from Sendak’s stuff?”

The unusual silence from the taller man had Keith frowning. Did Shiro not hear him?

“Shiro?” Still no response. “Shiro.” Keith said a little louder.

Shiro jolted at the second call of his name, turning startled eyes over to Keith. The expression quickly morphed into an apologetic one. By now the two had stopped in front of the doors leading to the ship’s bridge and were staring at each other.

Realizing this was his moment to strike, Keith reached out and gently placed a hand on Shiro’s shoulder. “Hey, you ok? Kinda zoned out there…”

Shiro visibly shivered at the touch and though a small part of Keith hoped it was from the contact between them, an even larger part squashed that hope by way of the Guardian’s essence flowing back into Keith. Even the Altean had to suppress a shiver so he knew exactly the feeling of it leaving Shiro’s quintessence was what the human had felt. Vaguely in the back of his mind Keith wondered why he even had that hope in the first place.

It took a moment before Shiro flashed a blindingly warm smile at Keith. He nodded, patting Keith’s back reassuringly.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I just had a dream last night that left me… Thinking.”

Keith wanted to ask about it but Shiro was already turning away and opening the doors. As he followed him into the room Keith did a mental check-in with the Guardian. However the thing was silent, merely giving Keith a purr in greeting before settling down as its usual vague presence. 

Keith felt like he rolled his eyes hard enough for them to fall out of his head. Of course the Guardian wouldn’t tell him anything and would just expect him to wait for events to play out. Typical.

Inside the bridge everyone was surrounding Pidge’s seat, watching as she jumped through data faster than anyone’s eyes could catch. The information she went through was translated from Galra to her own cryptic code, a precaution she took just in case anyone were to attempt to backtrack her search and see discrepancies. 

“There’s not much good information here. Nothing I can see anyways. And the logs on his ship were too damaged for me to make out anything. All I got were stops the ship made and their future destination. But even that’s scrambled and hard to make out. Sendak’s mind isn’t any help either. It may not be him directly but it’s still as twisted as the real thing.” She pushed up her glasses and paused mid-type on her computer. “If we had someone who knows how to translate Galra code then we’d maybe have something useful. I could try and make a decoder but that’d take time and it might not be accurate. If anything the information we get from here could become outdated in the time it takes for me to make a decoder.”

Allura frowned, biting her bottom lip as she crossed her arms over her chest. “That may be true, but if you can make a decoder then that would be more beneficial to us in the long run. This attempt now may not bear fruit, but that does not mean we won’t have opportunities to gain information in the future. Please get to work on building a device to translate Galra code.”

“Princess Allura.”

Everyone looked towards Shiro, confused at his rather serious tone and expression. Pidge gave Keith a subtle glance and he returned it with a barely noticeable shrug. Even he had no clue what the Guardian had told Shiro. Hopefully it was what they had planned beforehand and nothing more.

Allura gave Shiro an inquiring look, “Yes? What is it?”

Shiro hesitated for a moment, looking as if he was reluctant to ask the question clearly on the tip of his tongue. Then, with a firm set to his jaw, he came to a decision.

“Princess Allura, was Zarkon the Black Lion’s first Paladin?”

The silence in the room was deafening. You could hear a pin drop from how stunned everyone was. Keith, having perfected the art of feigned shock, didn’t look out of place amongst the group. Of course he knew the original Paladin for Black was Zarkon. He didn’t even need to see it in a vision to know. Alfor had told him directly that he was going to let Zarkon pilot Black back when the Lions were still being worked on.

Allura looked stricken, her delicate brows furrowed. “H-how did you know…?”

“And he still has the bayard, doesn’t he? That’s why you didn’t have it when we first came here.” Allura’s stunned silence was more than enough of an answer. 

“Ok wait what?!” Lance shouted. He looked between Allura and Shiro with wide eyes, “Zarkon, the big baddy we’re fighting who is the sole person that stands between the galaxy and eternal peace? That Zarkon?? He was the Black Paladin?! I thought he was the bad guy!”

Coran grimaced, “Well he is. But he didn’t start out that way…” 

“No one starts out bad, Lance.” Keith spoke up from where he stood by Shiro’s side. “My guess is that he was part of Voltron then something happened that made him turn against his team. Which then led to the war.”

Both Allura and Coran shared a look. Allura then sighed, turning back to the new Paladins of Voltron. “That is the short version, yes. I originally wanted to keep quiet about Zarkon being the Black Paladin in order to give you all time to strengthen your bonds. However it seems you found out sooner than I anticipated.”

“Though how did you find out about it?” Coran’s asked, looking to Shiro expectantly. 

With the way he squared his shoulders it was obvious he expected this question. Shiro frowned thoughtfully, “To be honest I’m not quite sure. I think it was Black that showed me. I remember waking up on a planet, I think. There were floating rocks and most of it was a purple colour. Then I heard a lion roar and suddenly I was seeing a memory… At least it looked like a memory. It was from Black’s point of view. She was crouched in front of Zarkon and he was dressed in the old Black Paladin armor… It wasn’t hard to connect the dots after that.” 

“I see…” Allura paused when it looked like Shiro still had more to say.

“That wasn’t the only thing I saw. Near the end of that dream a white lion appeared before me. it walked past me and then stopped like it was waiting for me to follow. And when I did, I suddenly remembered everything from my time in captivity. I even relived how I escaped. And… I had help… From a Galra.”

As Shiro finished his statement, it was like a bomb went off in the room. Everyone was buzzing with questions, crowding around Shiro like he had all the answers. Allura looked stricken, pale and confused like she couldn’t believe that a Galra had helped Shiro escape. Coran was giving Keith apprehensive looks that the Altean made a point to ignore, staring off into the distance while internally he was screaming.

You showed yourself to him!!! I told you not to do anything unnecessary!! I know you could’ve shown him his memories without having to appear!! You did that on purpose!

Of course his accusations went ignored by the Guardian.

“Woah woah, hold on,” Hunk held up his hands, being one of the few somewhat calm enough to not shout. “You’re telling us that you escaped from being a prisoner because a Galra helped you? Why would they free Shiro if he was their prisoner? I thought they were all bad and stuff?”

“They are bad,” Allura spat, her form shaking in barely contained rage. She shook her head, “I don’t believe for a moment that this… Galra saved you without a hidden motive. Perhaps they are the reason why Zarkon found the Blue Lion on your planet.”

“Not all Galra are bad.”

This time all eyes turned to Keith. He had his arms crossed defensively, signature scowl in place. 

“You can’t lump an entire population together like that. It would be like saying if one Altean was bad, then all Altean are bad.”

Allura’s soft gasp was full of offence, “How dare-! The Galra have destroyed countless planets! Countless lives were lost thanks to them!”

“But not all Galra advocate for the empire. Unless they have a hive mind, then you can’t say they all think the same way Zarkon does.” 

Before Allura could say more Pidge cut in, leaning back in her chair and pushing up her glasses. “He has a point. I’ve met some slimy humans on Earth but that doesn’t mean all humans are trash. Just look at Hunk! He’s as sweet as they come.”

Hunk’s coo of “aww Pidge!” went ignored. Shiro stepped in between the glaring match between Allura and Keith in order to defuse the situation.

“Keith’s right. Zarkon was already aware of the Blue Lion’s location. That’s what Ulaz told me before he helped free me. While I can’t say clearly what his reasons were for helping, we can always track him down and ask. He said he put coordinates in my arm where he’ll be hiding. I know you don’t like the idea of trusting a Galra, princess. But allies of any kind, Galra or not, are valuable in this war. We can’t lose out on potentially having an ally within Zarkon’s ranks.”

Allura seemed even more displeased by this. She shook her head, “It’s far too risky. We could be walking into a trap.”

Coran stepped forward and placed a hand on Allura’s shoulder, “This is the only lead we have. With no information to go off of from Sendak, we’ll need all the help we can get. If this… Ulaz can help us then I say we should take that chance.”

As Lance and Hunk both offered their own agreements, Allura found herself outnumbered by those advocating to go and follow these coordinates. She clicked her tongue, turning her head away and sighing heavily.

“Fine. I don’t like it… But we don’t have any other lead.”

Pidge grinned and stood from her chair. She went over and grabbed Shiro’s arm, “I’ll get to work on extracting the coordinates then. I have a space cleared out in Green’s bay for something like this.”

“Well let’s all go then!” Coran said, already ushering everyone towards the door. “Let’s hope it isn’t written in Galra code or else we’ll just be stuck in the same situation!”

Of course that wasn’t really the truth. Pidge already had a program made that deciphered Galra code. Meaning she had directly lied to everyone about being unable to read what had been on Sendak’s ship and his memories. However only Keith was aware of this little piece of information. Even though Coran knew Keith was pulling strings on behalf of the Guardian, he didn’t know how deep Keith’s meddling went. 

However unbeknownst to Pidge and Coran, this is where Keith’s knowledge ran out. The Guardian, as always, only gave him enough information to carry out tasks it deemed important. The moment Keith was done meddling for it, the Lion left him in the dark. So while Keith was aware Shiro was supposed to regain memories of someone and they were to go find that person, he never anticipated that it’d be Ulaz. 

The last time Keith heard that name was back in the Garrison when he had a vision of Ulaz’ death. At the time Keith had made some potential plans to save the other but none of them were fully fleshed out. He had simply forgotten about the matter entirely at one point under the guise of “it won’t happen for a while so I can think of a better plan later”. Who knew that it was actually meant to happen so soon?

From the coordinates Pidge found it directed them towards the Thaldycon system. And so off they went. It wasn’t much trouble jumping to another galaxy with the help of wormholes. However from what they could see there was nothing of note that would indicate the area was occupied. Despite Allura’s unease, Shiro made the suggestion that they wait. And so they did. While everyone was somewhat tense, Keith was the only one to show visible signs of agitation.

To those who weren’t as familiar with his mannerisms it looked like he was brooding more so than usual. However to those that knew him, they could see he was wound tighter than a band ready to snap. He chewed on the inside of his mouth, shoulders hunched and eyes narrowed as he glared at the screen in front of him. His gloved fingers tapped against where he gripped his arms, the hold tight enough to make the leather creak.

Coran wanted to go and comfort his friend. Clearly he was having hang ups about something. But because Coran was supposed to be somewhat of a stranger to Keith, he couldn’t saunter up to him and act like he knew Keith was stressed about something. That only left Pidge and Shiro to try and talk to him. To express his growing concerns, Coran passed by Pidge before tapping her shoulder and not so subtly nodding towards Keith. He then made his way back to his station at the front of the ship.

Pidge glanced to Keith before she typed a message on her screen and sent it to Shiro’s. He was distracted from his hundredth scan of their surroundings from the little message popping up in front of him. “Keith looks tense enough to crush coal into diamonds.”

Shiro pursed his lips at that. While the message was really crude, Pidge had a point. Just a quick glance at Keith proved her comment was right on the nose. Shiro turned back to look at her, nodded once, then stood from his chair and made his way over to Keith’s.

“Hey, you doing ok?”

Keith visibly jumped, violet eyes snapping up. He blinked, “Huh? Oh… Yeah. I’m just… Trying to figure out what Ulaz’ motives might be? He freed you for a reason. I just don’t think he’s as sinister as Allura is trying to make him out to be. Not all Galra are like Zarkon.”

He said it with so much conviction that Shiro couldn’t find room to doubt his words. He smiled, leaning against Keith’s chair and doing nothing to stop their arms from brushing. The contact, no matter how small, was comforting.

“You sound so sure of yourself.” He was quick to add when Keith’s opened his mouth, “I’m not doubting you. I also think Ulaz can be trusted. But that’s because he saved me. You don’t have a reason to trust him.”

“It’s because he saved you that I trust him.”

The admission had Shiro pausing. Keith himself didn’t even seem to realize what he’d said until it had left his mouth. However while anyone else might’ve been embarrassed by admitting such things, Keith found no such issues. It was the honest truth. Why should he be self-conscious about it?

Before Shiro could formulate a response a buzzing alarm went off. Coran gasped, looking over his shoulder at the occupants in the room. “There’s an intruder in the castle!”

“How can someone just sneak aboard the ship?” Lance exclaimed just as Allura pulled up a screen.

“I knew coming here was a mistake!” She flicked her hands across the transparent blue screen before stopping, pulling up surveillance cameras of the entire ship. “There he is. Level five.”

Shiro pushed off of Keith’s chair, his tone taking on that commanding lit as he addressed his team. “Alright everyone, suit up.”

With the command set everyone rushed to comply. Keith’s heart was pounding in his ears as he pulled on his Paladin uniform. In the midst of his mounting apprehension, a sudden wash of calm cut through like a breath of chilled air. Keith felt his anxiety disappear as the Guardian pressed against his mind. Instead of his heartbeat deafening him, it was instead a gentle purr that drowned out everything. The tension leaked from him and only once Keith sighed in peace did the purring die down.

I got him.”

Lance’s voice in his ear brought Keith back to the present. He clenched his hand, heeding Shiro’s indirect order that they were all headed towards them. 

The next thing he knew the intruder was headed towards Pidge. While Keith knew she could handle herself that still didn’t quell the worry he had. It seemed no matter the situation Keith would always worry about her.

However not long after she and Hunk were unable to stop the intruder. It was Keith’s turn. He activated his bayard and crouched at the ready. While he could just charge straight towards the intruder, something told him to wait. And the moment the other rounded the corner Keith realized why.

He knew this uniform. Krolia showed him a similar uniform. It was in her lessons when she taught him about… The Blade.

Keith instantly dissipated his bayard and reached behind him. The Galra kept charging towards him while dragging Pidge along but seemed to be preparing for whatever it was Keith planned to do.

When Keith pulled out his mother’s blade it caught the Galra’s attention. The words that fell past his lips had the other freezing in his tracks.

Knowledge or Death.” 

The Blade dropped the hold he had on Pidge’s bayard and stared at Keith. It was unknown what kind of expression the other had while his face was shrouded by his mask. However, like he understood Keith’s predicament, the Galra lifted his hand and pushed back his hood. 

The mask disappeared to reveal a lilac coloured Galra with off-white markings. He was staring at Keith in visible confusion, lips pulled into a frown.

How do you…?

Keith couldn’t answer his question as by this point, Hunk and Lance caught up to them, Shiro arriving not a moment after. Keith quickly tucked his blade from sight and side-stepped just as Shiro rushed next to him. He stared at the Galra, realization dawning in his eyes.

“Ulaz?” 

Now this surprised Keith. Ulaz was a Blade of Marmora? He suddenly felt a sense of relief. This was going to be a lot easier than he thought! However first they had to handle the problem at hand. And that was convincing Allura…

Who was now pinning Ulaz to the wall with just one hand. Thankfully Shiro was able to convince her to relent her hold. Though they still ended up cuffing Ulaz’ like a prisoner. 

As they bunkered down in one of the debriefing rooms, the entire time Ulaz kept his eyes trained on Keith. It was clear he was trying to figure out just how a human was able to get ahold of a luxite blade and speak the Blade’s motto in perfect Galran. Though because Keith was standing just a bit behind Allura it gave the appearance Ulaz was looking towards her.

On the way here Pidge had dragged Keith to the side in order to demand answers. Keith gave her a brief explanation that Ulaz was a part of the resistance organization Krolia was a part of and that he said their motto to Ulaz while showing his blade. 

With the excitement died down, all that was left was the “interrogation”. And honestly Keith was getting a headache from Allura’s attitude about the whole thing. He made a note to apologize to Ulaz once this was over. This was probably as far from a warm welcome as they could get.

“Are your Galra threats supposed to win my trust?” Allura scoffed, eyes narrowed at their prisoner. 

Honestly Princess? Keith fought not to roll his eyes. Ulaz was a trained Blade of Marmora member. It wasn’t a threat he made, he was simply stating a fact. Though maybe Keith was a little biased in his admiration of the Blades. Krolia was the only blade he knew and he already idolized her as any son would. The childish mindset of “she’s already so amazing so all the other Blades have to be just as amazing” never left him even now. It was… A little embarrassing.

Ulaz seem unperturbed by Allura’s hostility. Instead he merely said, “I’m not trying to win your trust. I’m trying to win a war,” He finally turned his gaze away from Keith, “And, because of Shiro, we are closer than we’ve ever been.”

Shiro hesitated, “When you released me, you mentioned that there were others working with you.”

“Yes. We are called the Blade of Marmora.”

As Ulaz revealed the location of the Thaldycon base, Allura was once again being stubborn to the suggestion of flying forward. She refused to listen to anything Ulaz was saying. It was like she saw every word out of his mouth was lies being spewed. It only added to Keith’s mounting frustration. If there was anyone that could be trusted it was the Blades. 

Keith knew Allura was letting her biased viewpoint get in the way and it was dragging on his nerves with every passing second. Shiro wanted answers, Keith knew Ulaz could provide. He’d cooperated with them so far. So why was Allura refusing to entertain the notion that he was being genuine?

“Ulaz freed Shiro,” Keith was surprised he managed to keep his voice even. He stared at Allura, maintaining some level of respect for his Princess by not outright glaring like he wanted to. “He wasn’t wrong when he said he could have killed us. He managed to bypass Lance, drag Pidge down several halls, and dodge Hunk’s bullets while he was at it. He had every opportunity to turn around and kill Pidge if he wanted, but he didn’t. Do you really think if he wanted us killed he’d willingly let himself get captured? And say he does have backup waiting to ambush us, what then? We’re fighting the Galra either way. What’s one ambush now when we’ve faced ambushes from Robeasts before? Besides, aren’t the Galra too prideful to die by suicide? They seem like the type to keep fighting till the very end.”

Keith didn’t really intend to say so much but it was out there now. And from his little speech it seemed to have worked. Lance still looked unsure but he clearly couldn’t deny Keith’s logic. He even said so, much to everyone’s mild surprise. Hunk still seemed on the fence, anxiously muttering about the potential outcomes just based on the information they had alone.

It wasn’t hard to feel the suspicious glare being directed his way. Allura clearly believed there was something fishy going on with her Red Paladin. He was the first to speak up about not all of the Galra being like Zarkon. And here he was jumping to the defense of another Galra. If it had been Shiro, she could somewhat understand since Ulaz saved him. But this was Keith. He had no connection to Ulaz other than the fact that they both knew Shiro. Unless… That wasn’t the only connection they had…

“Why do you so strongly believe that he isn’t trying to harm us? The only Galra you’ve met is Sendak! And even then you only fought him! Certainly not enough time to get a reading on the amount of pride he has.”

Keith crossed his arms over his chest, “I was just making an assumption. You even said yourself the Galra are prideful. I was just reiterating that.”

Allura’s glare darkened and she mirrored Keith’s posture. “That still doesn’t answer my question on why you think he means us no harm. Do you honestly believe he can be trusted?”

“I do.”

“He’s Galra!”

Ah, there it was. Keith’s eyes narrowed and he clenched his jaw. This time he really did glare at Allura. “Not all Galra are like Zarkon!” He spat out angrily.

“How would you know?!” Allura was shouting now.

She took a step forward, visibly fuming and ignoring the others attempts to calm her down. “How could you possibly know what the Galra are like?! You know nothing about them! But I do, I’ve personally dealt with them! They killed my mother, my father! They’ve destroyed my home, slaughtered millions more! You know nothing of what that feels like! So don’t you dare act as if you know how the Galra are!”

The anger in Keith’s chest suddenly turned cold. His expression closed off and his eyes became empty. 

Keith didn’t know what that felt like? He didn’t know what it felt like to lose family? A home? How fucking hilarious. Keith knew. He intimately knew what it felt like! But unlike Allura, Keith had no idea his mothers were dead until after it had happened! Keith hadn’t even been able to say goodbye!! He didn’t get to see his mothers one last time. Allura got to see Alfor. She got to talk to him and tell him goodbye. Keith would never get that closure. He has to carry on for the rest of his life knowing that he wasn’t there to spend the final moments with his mothers. That Ilor and Atka probably died alone wondering how he was and if he was safe. 

Maybe it was because of how painful Allura’s words were that made Keith snap. Perhaps it was the fact that she dare to believe he wasn’t going through just as much pain as her. That her pain somehow excused her nasty viewpoint of Galra. How was it that Keith, having gone through the very same things she did, was able to set aside his pain and anger in order to see that not all Galra were like Zarkon? Was it because of the Guardian? Or was it because that he had lived with a Galra for most of his second childhood. Was raised by a Galra like he was her own kit. 

Keith may be Altean in blood, but by the stars he was Galra too. Krolia was Galra, she raised him like her own. So because of that Keith would defend Galra’s that did not deserve his Princess’ ire. Because Krolia was Galran. And Krolia was Keith’s mother.

He stepped forward, matching Allura toe-to-toe. “You’ve been asleep for 10,000 deca-phoebs! Things change over time! Galra too! Not all of them follow Zarkon!”

“And how would you know this?!”

“Because my mother is Galra!”

Chapter Text

The moment those words were said, all sound seemed to have been sucked from the room. Everyone was staring at Keith with wide eyes. No one dared to make a sound, Keith wasn’t even sure they were breathing. Still he didn’t waver, didn’t take back what he said. He knew what kind of misunderstanding his wording would cause. He didn’t specify that Krolia was his adopted mother, he didn’t clarify that he was Altean and not Galra. But there was a reason he did this. There was a reason Keith didn’t fix the misunderstanding.

Slowly Allura’s anger seemed to leave her. Her frown deepened and her eyes sharpened. “I see. I knew there was something different about you.”

“Keith…” Shiro was staring at him, they all were but Keith didn’t dare to turn and look. He never let his eyes stray from Allura.

“I know that Ulaz won’t hurt us because I know the organization he’s from.” Keith reached behind him, retrieving his mother’s blade and holding it out so that everyone could see. He made sure the obvious Galra symbol was visible, the same symbol that was on Ulaz’s confiscated blade.

“My mother’s name is Krolia. She is from the Blades of Marmora. Krolia had been undercover when her platoon landed on Earth and found the Blue Lion. She risked compromising herself just to make sure that Zarkon didn’t learn about the Blue Lion’s whereabouts. Krolia ended up stranded and met my dad there. I was raised with my mother till she went back into space to be sure Zarkon wouldn’t find the Blue Lion for as long as she could. I trust Ulaz because I trust Krolia.”

The moment Ulaz heard Krolia’s name, his eyes had widened in shocked recognition. However no one was paying him any attention. It was like they couldn’t tear their eyes away from Keith and his confession. Quite literally the only one in the room to know the actual truths Keith was omitting were Pidge. And she promised not to say anything about his secret so she remained silent. 

However Keith seemed to forget that there was someone else here who heard a bit about his past of being adopted. Meaning they knew exactly that Krolia wasn’t his biological parent. 

And that person was Shiro.

The Black Paladin stepped forward, brows furrowed and looking like a confused puppy. He faltered the first few times he tried to speak, searching for words that eluded him. “Keith… Back then you said that Krolia and Tex f-.”

Keith cut Shiro off from unintentionally clearing up his purposeful misunderstanding. “I know. And I meant it. Shiro, everything I told you was the truth. I never lied to you.” 

Shiro blinked at that. The weight Keith put into his words seemed to mean more than one would gleam from an outsider’s point of view. It was confusing and Shiro struggled to understand. Keith was an orphan. That much he knew to be true. Krolia, his adoptive mother, was Galra. Also somewhat believable. And if he thought back to the stories Tex told about her and the fact there was no pictures of her around the house then it was more plausible. But… Why wasn’t Keith clarifying that his adoptive mother was Galra? Why was he wording it in a way that made it sound like he was part Galra?

Taking in a deep breath, Keith slowly exhaled and let his flaring temper settle. “You believe that all Galra can’t be trusted. However I, someone raised by a Galra, am considered worthy enough to pilot the Red Lion. If Red didn’t think I was valuable then she would have let me die out in space.

“I’m not saying you don’t deserve to be angry at the Galra. I understand they took away so much from you. I’m not telling you to forget and forgive. But you can’t let your anger convince you that all Galra are bad. If you do then you’re just going to turn away valuable help you could’ve used in the long run. Help you need if you want any hope of winning this war.”

Allura’s darkened expression only grew as Keith kept speaking. Then when it seemed like he was done, she resolutely turned her head away like she didn’t even want to look at Keith. Instead of commenting on his words she instead said aloud, “Coran, did you head all that?”

The intercom clicked and Coran hesitated a moment, “Um… Yes, Princess.

Allura took a deep breath of air and held it for several seconds. Then with a barely discernable sigh she closed her eyes in resignation. “Proceed forward with caution.” She gave Ulaz a sharp glare, “Make no mistake this does not mean I’m putting my trust in you.”

Ulaz inclined his head, “I would not be so bold as to assume.”

And with that the castle gradually inched its way towards the cluster of Xanthorium crystals. Keith was sweating the entire time, fingers twitching at his side and a twisting feeling opening in the pit of his stomach. He wasn’t nervous that Ulaz was lying to them. He knew Ulaz could be trusted. He had the visions. No, Keith was feeling nauseous for a different reason. It was because his fellow teammates were now giving him appraising looks. 

Hunk and Lance didn’t know him well. They didn’t know he was adopted and most of their knowledge came from rumors and the journey so far. They’d seen how brutal Keith could fight. They saw how defensive he got when Allura let her prejudice get in the way. All the little things Keith did that they found peculiar now collected in their mind with a single conclusion. “So he’s like that because he’s Galra”.

It wasn’t true, mind you. But they didn’t know that. They were assessing Keith in a different light now. They were looking at him not like a fellow human, but like an alien.

Keith couldn’t stomach looking towards Shiro. He didn’t want to see the expression on his face. Would he also be looking at Keith like a stranger? Would he be confused? Hurt? This is what Keith feared happening back at the Garrison. He was afraid everyone would find out he was an alien. That they would look at him and not see Keith, but an outsider. Someone that doesn’t belong on their planet. A freak.

The spiraling pit of dark thoughts was making it harder to breath. He stared resolutely at his feet and tried to ignore what was going on around him. He needed to focus. He needed to calm down. He couldn’t risk breaking. Not now when there was still so much he needed to get done. He needed to slip Ulaz the flash drive and convince him to give it to Allura under the pretense the Blade had gathered the information. He had to make sure the relations between the Blade and Voltron had a foundation to stand on. He needed to ensure that everything went according to plan and Ulaz left alive and whole. Keith had so many things to do. He had to remain focused.

The Altean didn’t even notice they’d entered the secret pocket of space. Nor was he even aware of when Allura gave out orders and left them with pointed orders to “watch him”. He didn’t even notice she’d been glaring at him when she said that. 

He was so lost in his own head that when a small hand grabbed his, Keith nearly jumped out of his own skin. He blinked into awareness, looking down into the strained face of Pidge. She was smiling crookedly at him, brows furrowed in worry. It was obvious she knew Keith was having an internal freak-out. She’d seen them before and this situation clearly warranted one.

“Come on, space cowboy. You’re flying us in.” 

Pidge walked by his side as they made their way to Red’s hanger. Almost like a silent guardian her presence stated that she stood beside Keith, Galra or not. And from the sharp glare she sent to everyone, that protective stance went acknowledged. It was heartwarming and Keith felt the anxiety clenched around his heart lessen ever so slightly.

During the flight over to the base, no one talked about the obvious elephant in the room. Keith was grateful for that. Though he had a feeling it was partially due to the fact that they were all captivated by Ulaz’s explanation of how the entire base worked. However the moment they disembarked, that’s when it started.

Yorak.”

Keith visibly flinched. He froze mid-step just like the rest of their small team. They looked to Ulaz in slight confusion at the guttural sound he made. Their confusion only grew as he continued speaking.

Krolia had mentioned that she came across a boy by the name of Yorak during her time on Earth. However she was quite clear in her distinction that he wasn’t human. Nor was he Galra.”

With a sigh Keith finally turned and looked to Ulaz. The older Galra wasn’t giving him a suspicious stare nor did he look like he was judging Keith. If anything he was smiling lightly and had a brow quirked. He looked Keith up and down, humming in thought.

She was always quite proud when speaking of her son. Krolia would talk all of our ears off expressing how amazing he was. It is finally nice to meet the boy from her tales, Yorak of Altea.”

Finally a small smile broke out along Keith’s face. Though he should’ve been concerned at Ulaz so blatantly revealing his identity, Keith couldn’t find it in himself to care. They were the only two here that could speak Galra after all.

Keith chuckled softly and rubbed the back of his neck. “Likewise. Mom didn’t talk a lot about the different Blades she knew but she did tell me bits and pieces about her brother. I hope to meet him someday.”

Ulaz nodded and moved to pat Keith’s shoulder. “I’m sure you will.” He then turned his attention to the rest of the humans with them. “Come,” he said, no longer speaking Galran. “Let us reconvene at the stations control center.”

As he walked on ahead to lead them, Hunk rushed to Keith’s side with wide eyes. “Wow you just spoke alien. He just spoke alien. Did you understand him? Of course you did you just spoke back to him! But so you weren’t joking about your mom being Galra? That’s so cool! But also terrifying. And interesting? Do you like, have a different diet then humans because of your mixed blood? More cat-like tendencies? Can you turn purple? Do you purr?”

“Ok enough big guy!” Pidge gave Hunk a pointed shove in the direction Ulaz went. “It’s rude to ask people if they can purr. Keep the questions for a better time.”

The two of them moving ahead left Shiro and Keith to take up the back. Though Keith didn’t want to, he couldn’t stop himself from stealing a quick glance at the older man. He nearly jumped out of his skin when grey eyes locked with his. 

Shiro was biting his lip in obvious reluctance. Though as to what he was hesitating on, Keith didn’t know. So out of reflex he offered Shiro a crooked smile. 

Apparently that seemed to be the deciding factor for Shiro. He returned Keith’s smile with one of his own. “So Krolia’s Galra, huh?”

“Yeah…”

Shiro nodded, “Makes sense now that I think about it. The stories Tex told about her were quirky out of context. But now that I know she isn’t from Earth, it makes sense that she’d do things out of the ‘norm’.” He paused and his smile grew to an all-out grin. “Like teaching her son how to wrestle coyotes.”

Keith sputtered and shoved Shiro for lack of a better comeback. The lack of force behind it had Shiro laughing and shoving Keith right back. Hearing Shiro’s boisterous laughter was something Keith didn’t realize he needed to hear. He felt thousands of times lighter than just before. It was as if Shiro’s easy laughter blew away the remaining fear gripping tightly to his heart and left him breathing easier.

Shiro wasn’t treating him any differently than normal. He was still treating Keith as Keith. The instant relief he felt made him slightly lightheaded. 

As they all gathered in the base’s control center, Keith moved to stand beside Ulaz. He kept his tone casual as he spoke, not wanting his fellow Paladins to assume anything was out of the ordinary. He was simply asking innocent questions that anyone would want to know.

“So, you knew my mom? Did she tell you anything about me?”

Ulaz gave Keith a pointed look as he nodded. “Indeed. She spoke about how strong you were and how quickly you learned things. She also mentioned you being quite goal oriented. Of course Krolia did not speak but to a select few about your existence. I had the privilege of being one of those that she told before I was assigned a new post.”

Keith nodded. He already knew that Krolia told Ulaz of his origins. He had used Keith’s actual name and home planet, after all. Keith just wanted to know how much Krolia actually told the Galra before him. From the sounds of it she told him a good portion of Keith’s mission. He couldn’t fault her, especially since she seemed to only tell a few Blade members. This meant Krolia only told those she trusted, right? He wondered who the others were. Perhaps he’d find out sometime in the future.

A quick glance around showed his team were distracted with inspecting the room around them. Quickly he reached into his uniform and slipped out the flash drive. He subtly handed it to Ulaz, the Galra slipping it away just as discreetly.

That’s vital information I got from one of my own confidants. Most of my team are currently unaware of my origins so there’s no way I can present this to them without it being suspicious.” He whispered, eyes darting to his team to make sure they didn’t notice the exchange.

Ulaz nodded, “I will see to it that they think this comes from me. May I ask who your informant is? I’m guessing they are not Blade.”

You’d be right.”

Keith couldn’t elaborate more on that as his fellow Paladins finally decided to gather around him and Ulaz and ask their own questions. Ulaz was quite patient and willing to answer, all things considered. He didn’t even seem too bothered that just doboshes earlier he’d been held prisoner by these very people. 

“So you really do have agents working within Zarkon’s ranks?” Hunk asked when there was a lull in conversation.

Ulaz nodded, “Yes. They are scattered throughout Zarkon’s army with varying positions. I was a prime example. Before I freed Shiro I was undercover as a medic. It gave me access to prisoners so I could search for Blades who might have been captured, among other things. There are many of us that are working in the shadows.” As an afterthought Ulaz added, “For example take what happened recently with Zarkon’s command center.”

That easily grabbed everyone’s attention. For the team Shiro asked what they were all thinking. “What happened to Zarkon’s command center?”

“Sabotage,” Ulaz turned to regard the humans, “An undercover blade risked discovery in order to destroy the shields for Zarkon’s command center. Apparently he saw an opportunity and had to take it. He only rigged explosives in certain areas, but it was enough to cause a chain reaction. It was incredibly risky, foolish even. Yet from what I hear he succeeded and even managed to pin the blame on someone else.”

The way Ulaz spoke made it sound like he personally knew the Blade who did it. It was hard to pick up the fond tone he used to insult the nameless Blade but the evidence was there in the small quirk of Ulaz’s lips. However it was gone just as fast as it appeared. He turned back to the console just as a red light suddenly began flashing along with an alarm.

Everyone looked up as a screen appeared before them. It showed the field of Xanthorium crystals looking undisturbed till the screen circled in on an approaching object. 

As it got closer Ulaz let out a low growl, “You were tracked!”

“What? Us?” Pidge exclaimed in shocked confusion. 

Keith’s head snapped to Shiro, his eyes wide. “If Zarkon knows we’re here then he must’ve tracked us through his connection to Black. It’s the only way he could’ve known!”

Shiro’s face was grim and, though he didn’t verbally acknowledge what Keith said, his eyes did flicker to him momentarily. Then on the screen as the casing of the vessel unlatched and revealed the monster it held inside.

It felt like someone had punched the air directly from his lungs. Keith felt winded, shaken. His eyes were wide and he stared unblinkingly at the screen. It was that Robeast. But… No. How? Keith changed the timeline. It shouldn’t be here. It shouldn’t exist yet! He cut down the time on getting information from Sendak’s ship and that hidden base. Keith avoided getting Allura kidnapped. They met Ulaz far earlier than they should’ve, didn’t they? Things had been different! So why was it here now?!

Then Keith recalled what Ulaz had mentioned earlier. Zarkon’s command center had their shields damaged. However in Keith’s vision, it had been the Lions trying to rescue Allura that had led to their destruction. No Lions meant it shouldn’t have been destroyed. But it had. Why had that happened? Why?!

Keith didn’t realize he was having a panic attack. He couldn’t hear anything past the white noise filling his ears. Time seemed to slow. All feelings left his body. He was going numb, the tingling overtaking his body. Keith felt like he was falling and being crushed simultaneously. His eyes were unseeing, his breath coming in broken gasps. Keith couldn’t think. His head was swimming and his stomach rolled in nausea. 

Just when he felt like he was going to vomit, a chilling air blew past him with such force he had to close his eyes. The moment he opened them he was no longer at the base and was instead standing on a floating island overlooking the purpling skies of Oriande. Around him the familiar overlapping voices of the Guardian echoed, calming the storm raging inside.

Yorak, be at ease.” They said.

Keith swallowed, his voice coming out dry and raspy. “Why?” Afraid they wouldn’t understand, he took a step forward and continued with a desperate tone. “Why is that Robeast here?! I changed the timeline, it shouldn’t exist yet! It shouldn’t be here!”

Yorak. Though fates hands have been shifted, not everything can be changed. It is not of any fault of yours, young vessel. It is simply the ways of the universe. Things destined to happen will always happen.

Closing his eyes, Keith sucked in a deep breath of air. He held it for a moment and simply let the calm of his surroundings wash over him. After a tick he asked, “Will Ulaz have to die here?”

The voices hummed and Keith swore he felt the brush of hands against his cheeks. “That is for you to decide. As we have said, ‘things destined to happen will always happen’. Not everything is set in stone. You will never know if something is meant to happen unless you try.”

And with that the image of Oriande melted away and Keith was back in the moment. It looked like only a few ticks had passed since Keith’s impromptu panic. He tuned in just in time to hear Ulaz giving Shiro both the coordinates to the Marmora base and the flash drive Keith gave him.

Then with firm words and brief farewells they split in different directions. On the way back they contacted the Castle of Lions in order to relay the encroaching Robeast to Allura. 

She did little to hide her frustrations on the matter. “I knew he could not be trusted!”

Keith’s eyes narrowed but before he could even say anything Shiro was the one to speak up this time. “It wasn’t him. It was me.”

“What?!” Allura was flabbergasted, “How can you be sure?”

Coran effectively put an end to that conversation with his panicked exclamation. “It doesn’t matter right now! What are we going to do?!” 

It didn’t take long before Shiro was giving orders for a plan and the team split to their Lions. Keith was in step with his fellow Paladins all the way despite only half-listening. He was already forming his own plan on how to handle the Robeast. From his vision all those years ago he knew they didn’t take it down. The Xanthorium clusters didn’t seem to even damage it. Voltron couldn’t take down this Robeast. Not how they were now. So what could Keith do to make sure this fight ended differently? 

He didn’t have time to think anymore as the Robeast quickly discerned their location and they were given the orders to launch. Voltron emerged from the space pocket just in time to deck the Robeast and send its laser off kilter. 

As the fight against the Robeast dragged on, Keith bit his lip till it bled. He needed to come up with a plan! They were running out of time. The battle was proving to be a hopeless endeavor as nothing they did worked! Keith growled as they slammed into the Robeast and sent it sailing a few yards.

“This is going nowhere!” He shouted, finally letting his frustrations take hold. 

Hunk groaned over the coms, “Keith’s right. We’re getting knocked around like a pinball.”

It will work, we just have to keep pushing!” Shiro’s determination might’ve been inspiring if Keith didn’t already know the outcome. He’d seen the future, he knew how this song and dance ended.

He grit his teeth and tried to shake off the wave of dizziness that washed over him when Voltron was pelted by another string of lasers. Keith’s grip on his controls was tight and his anxiety was once again mounting at an alarming rate. Honestly today was just one stressful situation right after the other. At the end of this Keith wouldn’t mind taking another 10,000 deca-phoeb nap. Maybe longer if he could get away with it.

Lance, ever the helpful one, added his own two cents after they dodged some crystals. “Maybe it’s got an off switch! If we hit it from different angles it might shut off!”

We need a different plan other than just ‘hit it harder’! And who would be stupid enough to install something that could turn off a giant killer robot where anyone can reach it?” Pidge snapped.

Their bickering faded to the background as Keith digested Lance’s words. An off switch. Something to turn off the Robeast. It was a machine, wasn’t it? Therefore if they found a way to disrupt its systems it should stop working.

Keith suddenly had a plan. 

It could potentially backfire but… Keith was tired

Keith was tired of hiding his pain, his history. He was tired of hiding his mission and his role as the Guardian’s vessel. He was tired of his anxiety spiking and being forced to act like nothing was wrong, that he wasn’t having a breakdown. But most of all, Keith was tired of hiding himself. He was tired of hiding who he really was.

Keith had tried so hard to keep it under wraps that he was an Altean. That he was well over 10,000 deca-phoebs old and worked for what could pass as a vaguely omniscient God. Yet here he was planning to expose himself for the sake of one person’s life. Was he really going to do it? And in such a way that would no doubt cause him more stress in the long run? Honestly speaking… Yeah. He was. 

It was either this or let Ulaz die. He couldn’t fathom any other kind of plan that would work. He was the only one who knew where to place the wormhole, after all.

So with a heavy sigh, Keith closed his eyes and swallowed hard. “I’ve got a plan. But you guys are going to have to trust me.”

Spill it, dude!”

Totally trusting you super hard right now. Any kind of plan would be appreciated!

Ditto for me.”

Keith?” The final voice. Shiro’s voice. “What’s the plan?”

It was their consent he needed so he didn’t even bother waiting to hear Allura’s answer. It was Voltron that would be doing the brunt of the work. With his eyes still closed, he reached out his senses.

“When the wormhole appears we need to push the Robeast into it!”

What?!” Lance voiced everyone’s confusion, “What wormhole?!”

“That one!”

True to his word a wormhole did suddenly appear. It was large and glowed a brilliant white, almost like its own personal star. The wormhole was nearly as big as Voltron. The perfect size for the Robeast to slip through. 

Who… Who made that wormhole?” Allura’s shocked voice had everyone equally as stunned.

Shiro’s frowning face appeared on their screen, “Princess, you didn’t make it?”

N-no! I didn’t even have the teludav at the ready to make one!”

Keith nearly growled in frustration, “Ask questions later!! Push the quiznaking thing through!!” 

That effectively shut everyone up. But the clear question still thrummed through everyone’s mind. ‘Who made the wormhole and how did Keith know it would appear?’

Shiro pushed aside his own overwhelming thoughts and once more focused on the battle at hand. They had their plan and it was time to execute it. “Alright team! You heard Keith! Let’s do this!!”

And so they charged forward with a battle cry. Voltron dodged the beams shot their way before slamming into the Robeast and forcing it backwards.

Hunk, Lance! Get me more thrusters!”

We’re giving it all we got!” 

Almost there! Just hold on!”

With one final, forceful shove the Robeast was pushed through the wormhole and disappeared from sight. Voltron flew backwards and put some distance between the strange wormhole while they waited for any sign of the Robeast returning. After several ticks of uneasy silence everyone let out collective sighs of relief. Though they didn’t celebrate too soon, especially since the wormhole had yet to disappear.

Is that it?” Hunk asked, hesitant. “Did we win?”

I… think so?” Shiro’s face appeared on Keith’s screen. His brows were drawn and he was frowning so hard Keith vaguely wondered if he’d get permanent wrinkles. “Hey, Keith? How did you know a wormhole would appear like that?”

Lance’s face also suddenly appeared next to Shiro’s. “Yeah! You called it out before it even showed up!”

Keith sighed through his nose and opened his eyes. He leaned back in his chair, “Because I called it here.”

What?” Then suddenly Lance’s eyes widened and he exclaimed, “Holy crow!”

Their faces disappeared as the screen was suddenly overtaken by something else emerging from the wormhole. With a flare of bright light a White Lion appeared just as the wormhole closed. It floated before Voltron and the castle ship, staring at them in what could only be described as a languid manner.

Allura’s face appeared on everyone’s screens, her brows drawn and her complexion a few shades paler. “Why… Why is there a White Lion? Father only made five… This one is not his creation…”

Coran came up beside her and placed a hand on her shoulder. He looked to her, then towards the Paladins shown on the castle’s screen. “I’m sure we’ll find answers if we allow the Lion to dock.”

What?! Are you crazy?!” Lance threw his hands up in a gesture towards the floating Lion. “We don’t know anything about it! It could be another trick from Zarkon or something!”

The Princess shook her head, “That’s impossible! Zarkon does not have the knowledge to construct a Lion! A-and this Lion’s design is that of a High-Blood Altean Lion! Why would Zarkon make an Altean Lion? And how could he make a wormhole?!”

Coran sighed and locked eyes with Keith on screen. “We won’t get answers if we don’t let the Lion dock. Perhaps if we do then we can meet the pilot?”

Keith tiredly slumped in his chair before giving a subtle nod. Coran took that for what it was and slipped from Allura’s side after giving her a small pat. The Princess looked stuck between several potential options. It was a long while before she finally came to her own conclusion. Allura squared her shoulders in determination before nodding her head. 

“Alright. I’ll hail a frequency to let them know they are allowed to dock. Voltron, head back to your hangers and make your way to the main bay. I’ll want us all to be there to meet this Lion’s pilot.”

Got it!”

Allura waited for Voltron to break apart and fly back towards the ship before she moved her hands and attempted to hail a frequency. However it was rather… Odd. Though the call went through no one spoke up. The only thing heard over the connection was a low humming that could be mistaken as a Lion’s rumbling purr.

“This is Princess Allura of Altea hailing the… White Lion. You are cleared to land in the main bay of the ship. Know that any hostility shown will be met with equal force.”

She was given no response other than the mechanical Lion flicking its tail and rumbling over the com. Then it dipped down and flew towards the ship. The connection was promptly cut and the humming with it. Allura frowned, turning to look at Coran who was surprisingly absent. Perhaps he went down to the bay before she did? Well… No matter. Allura took a moment to breathe in deeply and center herself before she turned and made her way down to the docking bay.

Everyone was surrounding the large White Lion by the time she got there. It was sitting with its tail wrapped around its paws and looked like a relaxed mechanical cat. The soft hum coming from the machine and its glowing eyes let the Princess know it was still on. 

Coran was indeed down there. He had his arms crossed over his chest and was holding a wet cloth still dripping with water. Why was he carrying such a thing? She shook her head to dismiss the question. Coran did plenty of strange things, this was probably another of those moments. 

Allura stopped beside Shiro and looked up towards the Lion. “Has it done anything other than sit there?”

“Not since we got here.”

That caused her frown to deepen. Allura took another step forward and raised her voice. “Pilot, please exit your Lion so that we may be able to converse!” 

When there was no change in the Lion’s posture Allura deflated slightly. “Did… Did they not hear me?”

Lance pursed his lips and stared up at the Lion suspiciously. “Can they even understand you?”

That possibility caused Allura to bite her bottom lip, “Perhaps if I speak a little louder?”

Behind them someone let out a heavy sigh. Heads turned to stare at Keith who was giving them all an exasperated look. Did they all just forget that he said he called it here? He swore they all had selective memory or something. 

Keith stepped forward, walking past their little line of people and making his way up to the Lion. “The pilot can hear you just fine and yes, he can understand you. Speaking louder isn’t going to make anyone come out though.” 

Before anyone could question what he was meant, the Lion shifted. They watched in shocked awe as it uncurled its tail and lowered its body so that it was now crouching low to the ground. The Lion’s eyes dimmed the moment Keith stood in front of it and placed his hand on its muzzle. “No pilot is going to come out because he’s already out of the Lion.” 

With that said Keith turned to face the stunned faces of his team, “I’m the White Lion’s pilot.”

Chapter Text

“What?!”

Keith ignored the collective shout and instead nodded his head to Coran. The Altean gave him a small smile and tossed the towel. “So much for keeping it secret.”

“I didn’t have a choice.” Keith shrugged a shoulder. He caught the towel and wrinkled his nose at how soaked it was before using it to scrub furiously at his face.

Everyone looked between the two at the exchange. Allura sputtered, “Hold on just a moment! Coran you were aware off… This?!” She gestured towards Keith and the Lion.

Coran cheerfully laughed as he pulled at the edge of his mustache. “But of course! There’s not much that can get past the great Coranic! I’ve known about this ever since I laid eyes on Keith. I never forget a face, after all. No matter how many deca-phoebs it has been.”

“What do you mean?” Allura’s tone was grave, expression drawing in suspiciously. She looked back to Keith, her gasp spurring everyone into looking back to the other.

By this point Keith had lowered the towel to reveal his damp face. Unperturbed by the staring, Keith reached up and pushed his bangs away from his face. They slicked back a little haphazardly thanks to being wet from both sweat and the towel. His furious scrubbing had washed away all of the makeup and left his Altean marks on full display. And, with him purposefully shifting his hair so that it wasn’t covering most of his ears anymore, there was no doubting what Keith really looked like.

“You’re… You’re Altean?” Allura’s voice was soft and shaky. She, along with everyone unaware of Keith’s true origins, were staring at him in confused shock. Just what was going on?!

Hunk sputtered, hands flailing as he tried to work through this new revelation. “Ok so Keith’s mom is Galra, but he’s also Altean? But the only remaining Alteans were Coran and Allura so unless Keith comes from a secret underground colony of Alteans then that means he’s also 10,000 years old. But that doesn’t make sense because when we joined the Garrison Keith looked younger there than he does here. Unless Alteans can shapeshift to look a different age? Then holy crow Keith is old.”

“That is impossible,” Allura stepped forward. Her eyes were searching Keith’s face desperately like it would hold all the answers if she just looked hard enough. “Altea was destroyed, my people slaughtered. Coran and I are the last…”

Keith shook his head, “Not the last, Princess. Far from it.” With a deep breath Keith stepped forward and placed a fist over his heart. Then in a swift and practiced movement Keith dropped down to one knee and lowered his head.

Yorak of Altea, humbly greeting Her Highness, Princess Allura of Altea. I’m sorry for keeping my identity a secret but in the long run I believed it was the better option.”

Allura looked stricken as she heard fluent Altean spill past Keith’s lips. She was shaking, face pale and eyes impossibly wide. Allura took a step back and a hand came up to cover her mouth.

Yorak…” Her eyes lit up in recognition before narrowing. “I want an explanation. Now. For all of this.”

With a nod Keith stood from his kneeling position. “Can we talk about this somewhere else, though? The ship hanger isn’t really the best place, especially with how long the explanation might be.”

“And after we shower, please!” Pidge suddenly pipped up, “We all smell like the rear end of a camel and there’s no way I’m sitting in a room where that stench is going to collect!”

From her expression alone it was clear to see that Allura was not in the mood to put this off. However she couldn’t deny that her Paladins did kind of… Reek. Plus the soft murmurings of agreement to Pidge’s statement only bolstered her decision. So with a firm sigh and nod, Allura waved her hand dismissively.

“Fine, go shower. But afterwards everyone is to head to the debriefing room. There you are to explain everything.”

She didn’t wait for a response before turning sharply on her heel and leaving. Coran gave Keith a small thumbs up before scurrying after his princess. One by one the remaining Paladins slowly trickled out of the bay. Lance and Hunk were very blatant in their staring though Keith was just as obvious in ignoring them. Pidge merely flashed him a grin before she was rushing to her room’s shower.

Keith should’ve expected Shiro to wait back with him. If anything he owed him an explanation more than anyone. Shiro had been by his side throughout most of the Garrison. He’d seen Keith at his worst and at his best. He was one of Keith’s closest friends and this was a big part of Keith’s identity.

So he squared his shoulders and looked up to Shiro. The older man was visibly struggling to process everything that had just been revealed today. Perhaps he was thinking back to all their interactions. Every single thing Keith had done in the past that Shiro had filed away in his mental “Keith” folder. Everything he thought to be odd or add to the mystery that was his friend all condensed and flashed through his mind at lightning speed.

When the slideshow finally ended the only thing Shiro could think to say was, “Wow. I’m really dense, aren’t I?”

Keith blinked for a moment before he let out an incredulous sound. “Huh??”

Shiro looked to the ceiling and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well just think about it! I’ve seen your markings before and knew your ears were pointed. But even when meeting Coran and Allura I still didn’t make the connection. Hell, I even forgot about them. And then there’s your room back on Earth. I watched you draw some of those planets and write in that weird code! But it wasn’t code and you weren’t making up a solar system! You were writing in Altean and probably drawing Altea’s solar system!!”

Now that Shiro started, the ball just kept rolling. Each little moment springing to mind like a furiously waving red flag. “And when I first met you I thought you just had really bad social anxiety! Turns out you just didn’t get close to people because you were just trying to hide you weren’t human! Oh gosh I probably didn’t help with that, did I? And the stories Tex told about you also make sense now! Like who doesn’t know not to try and fight a bobcat for rabbits?! And you were always on board with Matt whenever he started talking about aliens being real! Of course you’d know if aliens existed or not because technically you were among aliens when at the Garrison!” Shiro suddenly gasped, his eyes wide as he stared at Keith with a horrified expression. “Oh my God. You even told me you were an alien. And I laughed at you!”

Did he? Keith’s confusion must’ve shown on his face because Shiro was now flailing in shocked excitement.

“Before I left for the Kerberos mission! It was right after you had me and Adam talk it out and I was sleeping on your couch!! I was talking about potentially meeting an alien and you said you were already the first alien I met!!! Oh my God you were and I didn’t put the pieces together. Of course Matt didn’t either but that’s beside the point! I was the first friend you told you were an alien and I just laughed in your face! God that was such an asshole move! Like just taking your entire existence and spitting in your face! Oh God I’m so sorry Keith!! I didn’t mean it I swear!”

Keith was getting lost in Shiro’s frantic rambling. He raised his hands and slowly approached Shiro like he was a wild animal. “Ok, ok, no need to apologize. I wasn’t offended then and I’m not offended now. More importantly, let’s stop for a moment and take a breath. Have you breathed since you started talking, Shiro?”

Shiro paused, face bright red from a lack of air. He sucked in a deep-lungful before he suddenly grinned. Now don’t get Keith wrong, he loved Shiro’s smile. The way his whole face lit up and his eyes sparkled like brilliant gems. It was breathtaking. Beautiful. However when Shiro’s smile was mischievous and his eyes danced with mirth, Keith would always feel a small sense of apprehension.

And rightfully so.

“So… Were you the alien that saw Earth movies and thought probing was a collective Earth kink?”

Keith groaned and made a grand show of stomping away from his cackling leader. “Not funny, Shirogane. Not. Funny.” He said without much bite.

Shiro merely continued laughing as he trailed after Keith. His breath was coming out in broken wheezes and he even took a moment to lean over and brace his hands on his knees. Shiro coughed between laughs and tried valiantly to take in breaths between his dying.

Though he wanted to keep going and ignore Shiro, Keith really was getting worried. Shiro was taking this a little too well. Albeit his laughter was beginning to border on hysterical, but it still wasn’t the reaction Keith expected. Shouldn’t he be confused? Hurt? If their positions were switch Keith might’ve felt betrayed even.

“Keith…”

Shiro’s laughter abruptly cut off and he was now frowning at Keith in worry. Crap had he said all that out loud? He must’ve been more out of it than he thought if he was speaking his thoughts like that. No matter now. It was already out there and Shiro was now standing in front of him with concern painted clear across his face.

Shiro raised his hands, hesitated, then continued on and rested them on Keith’s shoulders.

“Keith,” Shiro waited till he had his gaze before smiling crookedly. “Don’t get me wrong I am confused. Maybe a little hurt. But I’m mostly just so overwhelmed to the point that I can’t really process what I’m feeling. Humor is the only thing that makes sense for me right now. I have questions, sure. But you already told Allura that you’ll explain things so I just have to be patient. Patience yields focus, remember?”

That managed to get a small snort from the Altean. He nodded, “Yeah, I remember. And I promise I will explain things. Or as much as I’m able to. There’s still some things I can’t talk about.”

Shiro nodded and patted Keith’s shoulders. “I trust your judgement Keith. I always have.”

And with that the two went their separate ways to go shower. Despite Shiro appearing to be fine, Keith knew that probably wasn’t the case. How does one react after learning their friend was an alien the entire time? Keith couldn’t fathom what Shiro might be feeling right now. And Keith still had more shit to dump on them. Really that 10,000 deca-phoeb nap was looking more and more enticing as the day dragged on.

Keith didn’t spend too long showering and changing into his street clothes. However before he left his room there was a knock at the door. Opening it revealed a smiling Coran with a jar of peculiar goo in his hands. A brow raised in question was all Coran needed before he began a longwinded explanation.

Figured you’d need this to fully come clean. You mentioned you’ve been dying your hair, right? Well this should scrub that right out! Of course it was meant to wash out dye from clothes but I’m sure it’ll work just as well! Though I’ll apologize in advanced if it makes you go bald prematurely.”

And without waiting for Keith to voice his protests he was already grabbing him and dragging him to the adjacent bathroom. Coran shoved his head under a sink and turned it on, holding Keith under there despite the flailing and gurgling coming from his friend. Coran only let go when he needed both hands to remove the jar’s lid.

Keith flung his head back from the faucet and gulped in lungful’s of air, his wet hair soaking a good part of his and Coran’s clothes.

C-Coran! What the Quiznak?! You trying to drown me?!”

Coran didn’t even seem mildly bothered at being covered in water. He merely hummed, dumping some of the white goop onto Keith’s head.

Oh nonsense! If I really wanted to drown you I’d do it in your sleep! Less of a fight that way.” He scrubbed at Keith’s hair, humming the entire time. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you with your hair this long. Last time was when you were just getting assigned to Alfor’s personal guards.”

Really? I think it was longer back then.”

Maybe!”

The paste in his hair turned from white to gray, Keith’s hair doing the reversal. It took two rounds of washing before the black had been washed out of Keith’s hair and he was left with damp white strands. The only signs his hair had been dyed was the smoky grey still clinging to parts and giving his hair a duel tone look.

Coran had wanted to run through one more wash in the hopes it’d get it all out but Keith dismissed the notion. They’d already wasted enough time as is. So Keith wrung out his hair and pulled it away from his face into a high ponytail. His shirt had plenty of damp spots and Coran’s clothes were no better, alas as Keith said, they’d wasted enough time. There was no point in going for a change of clothes now.

The two of them were the last to arrive to the debriefing room. Coran went in first, a skip in his step as he tugged at his wet mustache. “Sorry ‘bout the wait! Turns out washing out dye is a lot more time-consuming than I thought it’d be.”

His words made sense the moment Keith entered. Though everyone, sans Pidge, was clearly stunned it was only Lance that verbally voiced it.

“You’re not even a natural raven?!”

Keith rolled his eyes, “I used to be.”

With a heavy sigh Keith stood at the center of the room, arms crossed over his chest as he looked down at the people seated before him. He stared at the group with a gravely serious expression. “Alright before I even begin, a few rules. For starters, no interruptions.” At this he gave Lance a pointed stare that was met with a squawk of protest. “Second, I’ll answer questions after but keep in mind certain things I can’t talk about so I may refuse to answer. And third, please don’t treat me any differently after what I tell you. That’s all I ask.”

He waited to make sure everyone looked agreeable to his terms before starting. “Right… So my real name is Yorak. I was born and raised on Altea long before its fall. Way back when Alfor was still a Prince, he took a select number of Alteans to journey across the galaxies in search of the legendary realm, Oriande.

“Oriande is a hidden place that contains the history of Altean alchemy. It is where Altean alchemy originated from. I was part of Alfor’s entourage that left in search of Oriande. We found it, however only three of us were allowed to safely enter Oriande. From there we faced certain trials before meeting the Guardian. It was during this meeting that I was given my task.”

As Keith spoke he watched the way his team’s face changed. Pidge and Coran had heard this story so it was merely a refresher for them. For the others however, this was new information that they were eagerly soaking up like sponges. Allura specifically looked awed at the mention of Oriande. Keith fought not to grimace as he already predicted what she was bound to ask him after this.

“The Guardian of Oriande is what you could call omniscient. Personally I don’t know how far its power extends or how it works, I just know what I’ve learned so far. Anyways, the Guardian is physically tied to Oriande. It can’t leave without Oriande collapsing in on itself. So no matter how much the Guardian sees it can’t do anything about it. Which was where I came in. The Guardian gave me the task of being its vessel, its hands to work with. So I stayed on Oriande while Alfor and the others returned back to Altea. And it was there I stayed for 10,000 deca-phoebs.”

Keith hesitated, gaze lowering and his voice softening. “I was put into a sleep for most of it so I didn’t feel time passing. However there were certain moments the Guardian woke me up. Like when Alfor would visit or when it would show me an important vision. I-The Guardian… One of the visions it showed me was Altea’s fall.” Keith closed his eyes and ignored the burning flame of grief piercing his heart. “However it only showed me the vision hundreds of deca-phoebs after it had happened.”

At the time Keith had been furious and hurt to know this. He had screamed and cried. Broke the skin off his knuckles punching craters into the ground and made his head bleed from the handfuls of hair he ripped out. Keith had been a mess, wailing his throat raw and not stopping till he was spitting up blood. During that time Keith had been in no sound state of mind to even use the White Lion to fly to find what remained of Altea. And even if he had, there would have been no point.

It was only till after his ire had quelled that Keith realized why the Guardian hadn’t shown him its vision till after it had happened. It was to prevent Keith from flying out of Oriande and trying to prevent Altea’s fate. Keith had never really understood why the Guardian did that. However after the most recent event with Ulaz, Keith now realized why the Guardian didn’t let him know right away. As the Guardian said, “things destined to happen will always happen”.

Blinking a few times, Keith didn’t even realize he’d fallen silent. Too lost in his own thoughts and the wave of memories threatening to overwhelm him. Perhaps after this he could talk about his baggage without the fear of being discovered looming over him. Air out some more of his grief. He hadn’t gotten the chance to really unwind even when it was just him and Coran. And though Pidge tried to understand, sometimes it was hard to find the right words to comfort someone who lost so much.

Though… Not now. Not when he still had to explain so much.

So Keith sucked a deep breath and began to explain the last time he woke up and the official start to his mission. How the Guardian regressed his age so he could assimilate better and “learn” how to be an Earthling. He was very sure to mention Krolia and Tex, not being subtle in his pointed phrase of calling Krolia his adoptive mother despite her being Galra.

When he reached explaining his reasons for going to the Garrison Keith faltered slightly. He ended up mumbling a good chunk of it out of embarrassment for his younger self. Specifically about how he first acted when meeting Shiro and Matt. It was only when he quickly rushed over how he and Matt bonded that someone interrupted.

Surprisingly it wasn’t Lance, it was Pidge. She was standing and pointing an accusing finger at Keith, eyes narrowed. “So I was right! It was you that crashed into Promise!! You asshole you lied to me!”

Keith almost flinched at her accusation. Pidge had indeed asked Keith about Promise one time when the two of them had used White to fly to Mars for her to get samples. It was an offhanded question, Pidge telling Keith about how Matt had been obsessing over it for years and wondering aloud if Keith knew what happened since he was the local alien. Keith, in a desperate attempt to cover up his embarrassing accident, was quick to say that it surprisingly had been a huge asteroid. He even went so far as to say he saw it happened and even removed the chunk of rock to see if the robot could be salvaged.

Clearing his throat and waving away the memory, Keith not so subtly avoided eye contact. “I said no interruptions, Pidge.”

“Oh fuck you. I’m so telling Matt when we find him that your dumb Lion squished Promise. He’s going to riot.” She grinned smugly like the little gremlin she was.

“Anyways!” Keith snapped quickly so there was no chance for anyone else to interrupt. “Through Matt I met Pidge who I sensed was also a potential Paladin. I was down to finding the remaining three.”

Here he waved his hand and grimaced. “Then everything with Kerberos happened. I tried looking for Persephone’s crew but it was a lost cause. Eventually I resigned from the Garrison. I ended up running into Pidge and after explaining to her my origins we both formed a team. She would watch the Garrison from the inside and I would monitor everything off planet. Through Blue and the Guardian I learned that something would arrive on Earth a year or so after the Kerberos mission. We had a timeframe so Pidge and I made a plan around it. I didn’t really expect the thing arriving to be Shiro. Nor did I really plan to run into two more Paladin’s when rescuing him.

“A short while later we left Earth in Blue and I helped her make the wormhole that took us here where Allura started naming Paladins. Imagine my surprise when I was given the task of being the Red Lion’s Paladin. I was never meant to pilot one of Voltron’s Lions, the Guardian had been very clear on that. I was simply meant to find them and help them put an end to this war.” Keith ended his statement with a halfhearted shrug, “And that’s basically it. So… Questions?”

Lance’s hand shot up and he wagged it furiously. “Yeah so I’ve got two!! First one is, did Pidge really know the whole time you were an alien?! And the second one is if you’re just as old as Coran and a really experienced flier then doesn’t that mean at the Garrison I beat the score of an advanced alien?!”

Keith blinked in mild surprise. One of those questions he expected, the other he did not. “Kinda? Like I said, she’s only known for about a year. As for the second question… Yes?” Keith said almost hesitantly, “Good job on that, by the way? But flying a simulation is nothing like the real thing. Though by this point you should know that.”

That must’ve been the right thing to say because Lance’s face broke out in a brilliant grin. He almost looked as pleased as he did whenever Shiro praised him. Odd.

Next to ask questions was Hunk. He had the decency to wait for Keith’s nod before asking. “So the whole reason why you revealed that you’re an Altean was because you needed to change the future somehow? And I’m guessing it had to do with our fight against the Robeast? I mean since you told Coran you had no other choice and all, I figured that had to be the reason? Or at least part of it?”

Keith nodded, “Yeah. Good deduction. When I was still at the Garrison I had a vision of our battle against that Robeast. In the original timeline, if I hadn’t changed anything, it would’ve ended with us unable to beat the thing. We would keep failing over and over till Ulaz returned in our moment of desperation. Then he’d launch his ship into the Robeast and open the space pocket from the inside; effectively causing it to collapse in on itself and kill the Robeast along with him. Since that didn’t happen though, Ulaz has no reason to return so we most likely won’t run into him for a while.”

The reveal had a momentary somber air dampening the room. Allura, having been silent the entire time, finally raised from her seat. She faced Keith with her head held high and the air of a ruler about her. When she bent forward and offered a bow to Keith, everyone was stunned into silence.

“Yorak—Keith. Your mother, Atka, sacrificed herself in order to save me. I owe a life debt to her that I know will never be paid. I am sorry for the things I said to you. I did not know that you too have suffered just as I have, if not more. I have been cruel, blinded by my own pain to see that my words were hurting others.”

Keith moved forward as if to raise her from her bow, “Princess it’s alright. You didn’t know—“

“It does not matter if I knew or not!” Her voice was sharp and so was her gaze when she lifted her head. Allura stared hard at Keith, shoulders shaking from anger directed towards herself. “Even if I did know you were Altean, it still did not give me the right to belittle and undermine any pain you might have gone through. I do not know you well enough to make such a judgement. How could I dare say you did not know my pain when I myself never wondered if you have suffered? I acted as if I was the only one to know heartache, grief. A true ruler takes into consideration the feelings of their people and how their words can affect them. I did neither and instead treated you not like a teammate or a friend, but as someone not to be trusted.

“When you said your mother was Galra, I… I felt like you could no longer be trusted. And now that I think back on how I acted I am… Disgusted with myself. I have battled alongside you for a while now. I’ve seen you laugh with our team and bond slowly. I put my trust in you before learning of your adoptive mother. Yet all of that seemed to not matter when I heard you were raised by a Galra. I… I realize now that I have indeed let my prejudices get in the way of seeing the bigger picture. As a ruler that is something I must not do. To be blinded by my own personal hate.” At that she clenched her hands into fists and swallowed hard. “I cannot say that I have let go of all my hate. I admit that I still do not trust the Galra. Yet everything you’ve said, and I mean what you said after telling us your mother was Galra and everything you’ve told us now, it makes me want to let go of my… Preconception of all Galra. I cannot move forward as a ruler if I allow my bias to keep me back.”

Allura squared her shoulders and raised her chin proudly. “Keith, I vow to you that I will try my hardest to look past my prior views on the Galra. I shall endeavor to keep an open mind when dealing with them and try not to believe every single one of them is a replication of Zarkon.”

The vow she made had everyone around her smiling. It wasn’t clear who moved first, perhaps it was Coran or maybe Lance, but somehow they were all crowding around Allura in a large group hug. They all shouted words of encouragement and praise to the Princess for moving forward and making such a decision. Perhaps on the outside it might seem like an overreaction to something so small. However for this little motley group of oddballs, there was no other perfect way to react.

Keith chuckled at the sight and smiled warmly. Of the group, he’d been the only one not to join the hug. “That’s all I ask, Princess. It’s important you learn to accept and work with the Galra that don’t share Zarkon’s views… No matter what their origins may be. Once you manage that,” Here his smile turned almost wistful, “Then you will be ready to find Oriande.”

Allura’s eyes widened and she gasped softly, “Y-you mean I get to go to Oriande?”

Keith tilted his head from side to side as he mulled on what to say. “Short answer? Yes. Long answer? Not for a while. Maybe. I don’t exactly have a proper schedule I’m reading off of.”

“Could… Could you tell me about Oriande? Or at least what to expect for my journey there?”

“No,” Though he was blunt his tone was still light. “That’s one of the things I can’t tell you. And not because I don’t want to. I honestly have no clue what your journey to Oriande will be like. And as for what Oriande is like… Well it’s better to leave that for a surprise? Right?”

Allura huffed a sigh but still found herself smiling. “I suppose you’re right.”

The lull in silence was comfortable with only the slightest tinge of awkwardness. After all everyone but Keith was still a part of the group hug. Though that didn’t last for long. Suddenly several pairs of hands grabbed him and pulled him close.

With an ‘oof’ Keith found himself in the middle of the group hug surrounded on all sides by clinging friends.

“What’s with that lonely kicked puppy look, dude?!” Lance exclaimed with a wide grin, “You’re part of this team too! Which means you’ve gotta suffer the mandatory group hugs like the rest of us!”

Keith snorted, “I don’t remember signing up for those.”

Though it was kind of hard not to feel satisfied and warm in such a tangle of limbs. Hell this might’ve been the safest Keith had felt in quite a while. Which was… Kind of sad. Keith really needed some therapy.

When he felt his head begin patted, Keith looked up over Coran’s shoulder at a softly smiling Shiro. “So what’s the plan, Keith? Do you have any more visions we’re meant to follow?”

The corner of Keith’s mouth quirked into a grin, “Yeah actually. Because of my tampering, we ended up having to skip a whole battle that would’ve left us scattered and shaken. However this means that there’s still some things that need to be taken care of. And thankfully the Guardian has given me enough insight onto what one of those things are.”

With that the group hug disbanded. At Keith’s insistence they made their way to the ship’s bridge so he could pull up the hologram of their surrounding galaxy. There he made his way through the clusters of stars and gaps in space before settling on a planet.

“This is the planet Merium. Also called M3 for the fact that there are two other planet just like it.” He said, pointing out the sister planets.

Pidge frowned as she pushed up her glasses and stared at the display. “’Just like it’? M3 looks different though.”

Keith nodded, “That’s because it’s covered in ice.” He zoomed in on the planet, “The planet used to be a living ocean brimming with life. However something happened that caused the temperature to drop and turn the planet into a huge chunk of floating ice. Lance, Hunk, after you both rest you need to make your way here and figure out what went wrong.”

Hunk looked aghast at this, shaking his head in protest. “Hold on dude, you’re telling us to figure out why an entire planet suddenly changed climate? And after that do what? Fix it? Do I really have to be the one to go? I don’t do well with the cold. Can’t Pidge or Shiro go? Or you? Maybe use Red to melt the ice?”

“No because Shiro isn’t going anywhere,” Violet eyes turned to regard their leader, “Not till he severs Black’s connection to Zarkon. Or at the very least make his connection greater than Zarkon’s. We’re not safe so long as Zarkon knows where we are. That paints a huge target on our backs and could potentially hurt anyone we’re around. So Shiro’s on standby till him and Black bond.”

“Any suggestions on how I can do that?”

The Altean shrugged a shoulder, “Talk to your Lion. It’s her you’re bonding with, after all.”

It was then that he turned to regard Pidge, “As for you, gremlin,” She stuck her tongue out at him and Keith’s serious expression morphed into one of amusement. “We’re going to be working on your hand-to-hand combat. I’ll teach you a few things Krolia taught me on taking down opponents twice your size.”

“Uh and how are you going to do that?” Lance squinted as he pretended to measure up Keith’s height, then moving to measure Pidge. “She’s only a few feet shorter than you. Not enough to be considered ‘twice your size’.”

Though it was a valid point, it meant little in the face of an Altean. As Keith’s skin began to tint purple and he grew in size, he made sure to not break eye contact with the Blue Paladin. The gaping look of shock he got was highly amusing.

Lance blinked before smacking his forehead, “Oh duh! Altean shapeshifting powers!”

With another round of nodding Keith let himself turn back to normal before looking to Allura. “Princess, I’d also like for you to join Pidge in training. I know you have experience but it doesn’t hurt to brush up on skills. Plus I have experience actually running Altean training drills. No offense Princess but that isn’t your strong suit.”

Allura was surprisingly quite agreeable to having Keith lead the training. As he said, he did have experience. Keith was an Altean warrior raised by the leader of the Royal guards. Atka was as fierce as they come in training her warriors and Keith was no different, learning directly from her. So Allura had no doubt that Keith would be extremely valuable to helping the team with their drills.

Once the plans for the next few days were firmly in place, Allura dismissed everyone to go back to their rooms and rest up. They’d be needing all the sleep they could get while they took care of things.

It was when he was walking with his fellow Paladins to their rooms did the reality of today finally hit Keith. The relief he felt at revealing his longest kept secret was large enough to knock him off his feet. And it really did. One moment he was walking beside Lance and rolling his eyes and a stupid joke the other made, the next his legs were crumbling out from under him.

Lance’s yell of surprise instantly had everyone’s attention. They rushed around Keith, hovering in worry while Pidge and Hunk helped pull Keith up so he was leaning against the bigger man.

“Keith, buddy you ok?” Hunk asked as he worriedly put a large hand over Keith’s forehead. He momentarily wondered if Altean’s get fevers like humans do. Maybe he should ask Coran about that when he found the chance.

Keith nodded shakily, his entire body slumping into Hunk’s hold. His eyelids felt heavy and he was exhausted down to the bone. It was like the relief had opened the doors for the flood of enervation to take hold.

In a daze he nodded, “’M fine. Just a little sleepy…”

“That’s an understatement if I ever heard one. You look like you’ve got one foot in the grave!”

“Not the time, Lance.”

“I dunno Shiro, he might be right. We might wanna start looking into coffin prices at this rate.”

“Pidge!”

Hearing his friends bickering good-naturedly and being surrounded by warmth made for an odd yet comforting situation. Keith found it harder and harder to keep his eyes open. Before he knew it he had passed out encircled by friends and feeling safe.

///

Wow! Blue moves so great in the water!! This is amazing!”

“Focus, Lance. The deeper you go the harder it will be for the Lion’s to connect to the ship. Let’s take this time now to go over the plan once again before connections get cut.”

Whaaaat? But we’ve already went over it like 40 times!”

“Humor me.”

Lance grumbled petulantly, his pouting face glaring on the screen. “Fine fine! Alright so M3, like M2 and M1, has a main thermal vent that was used to regulate the planet’s temperature and keep it an actual ocean and not a frozen wasteland. We guessed something might be blocking it. So Hunk and I are to sink down to the bottom and try to find out what’s blocking the vent.”

And if we can then we have to try removing it!” Hunk added just as his own face popped up next to Lance’s screen.

Keith nodded from where he stood in the center of the bridge. Originally this would’ve been Shiro’s spot for when he dished out orders, but currently Keith was in charge for this mission. The only ones in the room with him were Pidge and Allura. Shiro was down in Black’s hanger trying to bond and Coran was off making sure the ship was running at full capacity.

“Good,” Keith glanced between the two Paladins, “Remember, there’s most likely life down there. Don’t lose sight of each other. You’re stronger in numbers and it’ll take the both of you to complete this.”

Got it.” The two said in unison.

“Good luck you two.” Allura called from where she sat.

“Try and send a signal if you need backup!” Pidge added quickly.

Keith uncrossed his arms over his chest and placed his hands on the control panel. “Alright, you have your mission. Watch your backs and trust your Lions. They’ll help you when you really need it.”

The screens then closed and communication was cut. Keith remained standing there for a while longer before he sighed and nodded. He then turned around and addressed the other two.

“Head to the training deck and start your stretches. I’ll meet you there, I just wanna check up on Shiro first and then find Coran to tell him to wait up here in case Hunk and Lance send a distress signal.”

Getting to Black’s hanger was a simple journey. Along the way he’d run into Coran and the other Altean was, of course, happy to oblige. With that out of the way Keith could cut directly to where Shio should be and not have to worry about tracking down his eccentric friend later.

Keith had honestly expected Shiro to be in Black’s cockpit already. So when he opened the hangar door and saw him standing in front of her, he was a little surprised. As Keith got closer he noticed that Shiro wore a complicated expression. His brows were drawn and his nose was scrunched up while his mouth was twisted in a frown that could be taken for a pout. Keith was struck by how familiar that scene was. Shiro usually got that look whenever he was trying to work out complex puzzles. Concentrating so hard that everything around him was drowned away.

“Hey.”

Keith had to stifle his snort when Shiro jumped three feet in the air with a curse. He whipped around to look at Keith and blushed in startled embarrassment.

“Keith! I didn’t hear you come in!”

“Understandable. You were staring so hard at Black I was worried you were going to start melting her frame.” He raised a hand to pat at the Lion’s massive paw. The small contact was still enough to spark a tingling line of quintessence between them. He heard the Lion purr in greeting before he pulled his hand away and the sound faded.

“What’s on your mind?”

Visibly grimacing, Shiro hunched his shoulders and rubbed at the back of his neck. “I’m… Not really sure where to begin. Do I take Black out on a joyride to bond? Or do I sit down here and talk to her about my life? How does one bond with a giant mecha Lion?”

A valid question. Keith kind of wondered why no one asked that before. Then again he probably wasn’t the best person to ask about either. His White Lion wasn’t sentient, it was all Keith. And while he and Red worked well together, they had a begrudging agreement that this was a temporary thing. Really the only possible example he could think of would be the bond he shared with the Guardian. Which… Might help.

“You don’t really need to talk to Black. The moment you became her Paladin you let her have access to your mind. She knows your past, your feelings, everything. It’s a two-way street though. You let her into your mind, now she has to let you into hers.” Keith placed a hand on Shiro’s shoulder and nudging him towards the Lion. “Let her speak to you. That’s the best way to start bonding.”

Shiro smiled at that, “Very true. After all it’s how we bonded, wasn’t it? Through talking?”

“Pretty sure it was because I kicked your ass in sparring, Shirogane.”

“Oh?” Shiro grinned at him and crossed his arms over his chest. “Well I think we’re in need of another bonding session then, Kogane.”

A quick fluttering in Keith’s chest gave him the strange feeling of being tickled. He ignored it in favor of grinning right back at Shiro. “After you bond with Black.”

“Alright, after.”

Keith laughed and didn’t think before opening his mouth to speak. “Then it’s a date.”

A pause. Both stood there frozen as they slowly processed Keith’s words. Then one right after the other their faces flushed a brilliant shade of red. Keith sputtered, taking a step away as he tried desperately to backtrack from what he’d just said.

“I-I mean like you know… A friend date. Yeah friend date. Between friends. Like friends do. Just a simple friend… Date.” With each word Keith’s blush grew darker and darker. His heart squeezed and that fluttering feeling migrated from his chest down to his stomach. He continued stepping backwards, momentarily congratulating himself for not tripping over his own feet. “I-I’m going to go and check up on Pidge and Allura. Make sure they’re done stretching.”

He scurried away before Shiro could form a response. Voltron’s leader was left there, mildly stunned. The only thing knocking him out of his stupor was the soft rumbling echoing in his mind. He turned his head to look up at Black and sent her a scolding look.

“Don’t laugh at him.”

The rumbling only continued.

Chapter Text

Yorak?

Keith looked up from where he was lounging. In his hands was one of the several Altean books Coran had gifted him. It’d been refreshing to finally read in Altean again and not struggle to make sense of Earthy scribbles. There was only so much he could try to translate before the strain hurt his eyes.

Allura was smiling at him and standing in the doorway. She had her hands tucked behind her and looked to be brimming with barely contained excitement. Instantly Keith’s interest was piqued.

Ever since he revealed his true origins as being Altean, the team had taken to calling him a combination of his real name and the name Tex had gifted him. At first they had been unsure if he had a preference. They wanted to accommodate their friend and make him feel even more welcome. And if that meant calling him by his original name then that was but a simple matter they were more than willing to comply with. Keith, for the most part, was touched by their efforts. Though he had quickly made note that he didn’t mind what name they called him. Either way he was Keith just as much as he was Yorak.

So while his human friends continued to call him Keith, Allura had taken to calling him Yorak. Keith had a feeling it might’ve been Allura constantly reaffirming to herself that this wasn’t a dream. That there really was another Altean with them beside her and Coran. Whatever the reasons Keith wasn’t one to get in the way of someone else’s coping mechanisms.

Yes, Princess?” Keith stuck a piece of paper into the book before closing it and setting it on the lounge’s little table. He stood and moved over to her when she gestured for him to get closer.

I’ve recently stumbled upon something that I need you to see!

Her grin eased any potential concern that might’ve grown in the older Altean. So with a nod he followed after his Princess as she grabbed his arm and eagerly pulled him through the halls.

In no time at all she stopped in front of a hallway that was clearly marked as the guard’s barracks. It was in an area of the castle they didn’t frequent and was relatively closed off. However because of the castle’s self-cleaning system it would always be free of dust.

In here,” Allura turned and pressed a hand to a door panel before pulling Keith in. It was a room that was very familiar to Keith. It was a debriefing room meant for soldiers. Nothing fancy and usually only used to assign daily rotations for patrols and other such simple things. But it was familiar all the same.

Keith had a feeling what Allura wanted him to see wasn’t the room itself but the thing she’d no doubt laid on the only table in the room. Allura stepped to the side and gestured for him to move forward. Her grin was impossibly wide and lighting up her face like a burning star.

I remembered that there were spares down in this wing of the castle. I’m afraid it isn’t one for your rank, however I figured we could just have the Fabricator remake your original uniform later. For now I thought perhaps you would like to wear something Altean? I do believe it has been some time since you last did.

Keith’s hands were hesitant, pausing heavily before he reached out and ran his fingers along the uniform. It was an Altean uniform meant for a Captain, not exactly Keith’s rank but close enough. Though the colour was predominantly white, the accents on it were a mixture of burning red and shining gold. Folded to the side was a short crimson cape that was meant to settle over one shoulder and would be held in place by a broach that attached to the uniform.

He sucked in a deep breath, head bowed as he clutched to the hard lines of the armor. “Allura—Princess…” He was at a loss for words. How could he express how much this simple gift meant to him? And the prospect she would use the Fabricator to remake his actual uniform?

Like she could understand the words he was trying to find, the Princess’s smile turned gentle. She walked over to place a hand on Keith’s shoulder. “I will give you a moment to dress. Then we can see to it your hair is styled neat and orderly.

She left Keith alone in the room so he could change from his Earth clothes into the old Altean uniform. It was a little stiff from not being used in 10,000 deca-phoebs but surprisingly it still held up. It even altered itself so that it would fit Keith perfectly. That’s Altean engineering for you.

The next time the team saw Keith, they were left in awe by his appearance.

Allura was walking at the front while on one side of her was Coran, the other Keith. One had been Alfor’s personal advisor, the other his personal guard. Now both filled those roles for his daughter, the last remaining royalty of Altea.

Coran and Allura looked as they usually did, the one standing out was Keith. He wore his new uniform with pride and his head held high. The short cape draped over one shoulder and cut off mid-thigh. It caught the draft of air as he walked and gently lifted to dance behind him with each step forward. His hair, now completely white and washed from any colour, was pulled from his face in a low ponytail. It showed off his markings and ears in a way that seemed like a declaration.

As his friends stared at Keith and his updated look, a fleeting thought passed through all of them. They wondered, ‘Was this what Keith looked like when he’d been on Altea?’ It was like they’d been given a glimpse into the past on who Keith had been before any of them had known him.

“Nice uniform!” Lance exclaimed with a grin, his chin propped up on his hand. “We all gonna get new looks?”

Allura rolled her eyes, “No. This uniform is for an Altean Captain. Of course that’s not Yorak’s rank, however we made due.”

“Oooh?” Lance tilted his head, “So you’re not going to wear the Red Paladin uniform anymore?”

Keith shook his head, “Only when I need to.”

He had already explained to his team that he was never meant to be Red’s Paladin. However as the questions rose, he had to explain several more things. Like how he wasn’t ever meant to pilot a Lion of Voltron but he couldn’t reveal who was meant to pilot her. That would’ve opened up a can of worms Keith couldn’t afford to. So he’d placated them by saying it wouldn’t matter until later. That they’d know when the time came. It wasn’t the best kind of assurance and Keith could agree with them. Even he didn’t know when that moment would be. All he knew was what the Guardian showed him. And those plans were already set into motion. All Keith had to do was wait for them to play out. Till then he was in the dark as much as his team.

“Well I think you look great. And plus it still has red on it so it still technically counts as a uniform for Red. Sorta.” Hunk offered a happy smile.

Keith chuckled at that, “Well thanks for the compliments.” He paused as he gave a cursory glance around the room. “Where’s Shiro?”

“He’s still trying to bond with Black. Apparently it’s a slow-going process.” Pidge pipped up from her seat.

Allura frowned and looked to the red-clad Altean. “Perhaps one of us should step in and help?”

“No,” Keith shook his head, “Shiro’s bond with Black is strong. Maybe not stronger than Zarkon’s, but it’s still the strongest bond on the team. He was able to see through his Lion’s eyes the first time he tried. Right now there’s nothing any of us can do to help.”

“Number 4’s right! Bonding with a Lion is a personal thing. Us interfering would be like my great aunt Yeloma trying to ask about my personal life! Painful for both sides and not the least bit productive.” Coran said wistfully.

Keith visibly grimaced and rolled his eyes at Coran’s words. “Ugh don’t remind me. I’m never going to recover from her prying.”

The team smiled at Coran’s hearty laugh and the way he struggled to wipe a stray tear between his chortling. Clearly there was a story behind that. Perhaps later they could ask about it and listen to tales of Coran and Keith’s youth.

When Coran’s laughter subsided Keith crossed his arms over his chest and looked to his fellow Paladins. “Alright, you guys make your way to the training deck. We’re going to run through some drills while we can.”

Lance groaned in protest but he dutifully peeled himself up from his seat and trudged with Hunk and Pidge out the door. Allura smiled after them, inclining her head towards Keith in farewell. He returned the gesture, leaving her and Coran in the bridge while he went after his team.

Once everyone was set up in the training room Keith split them into teams. He had Pidge and Hunk on one team, him and Lance on the other. Keith wanted to see how well Pidge had grasped the few moves he taught her while also helping to correct Hunk’s form.

While the two legs began their stretching, the remaining arms of Voltron stood off to the side. Lance turned his head to look at Keith as he bent at the waist to touch his toes.

“So I’ve got a question.”

“And I might have an answer.” A small quirk of Keith’s lips, “What’s your question?”

Lance rolled his eyes and snorted before raising to stand. “So you and Coran are the same age, right?”

“Mmmhmm. Roughly. He’s about 5 deca-phoebs younger.”

“Right ok, but basically near the same age. So if that’s the case how come you aren’t as…,” Here he paused and made a swirling motion near his head, “As Coran?”

Keith frowned, “What? Coran’s not crazy?”

Grunting, Lance flailed his arms. “No not crazy! I mean scrambled!”

“Uh yeah, I kinda noticed that too.” Hunk pipped up from his place on the mat. “Coran seems absentminded at the best of times and forgetful at the worsts. Is it like an Altean thing?”

Aaaah right. Humans. That clarified things a bit. Keith found himself chuckling and shaking his head in something akin to fond exasperation. “It’s not technically an “Altean thing”. It’s more of a… Older Altean thing. Coran’s got over 600 deca-phoebs of knowledge rattling around in his head. Sometimes it takes a while to sift through it all before he finds what he’s looking for. It’s like a huge filing cabinet. He has to open it up and pick through every folder looking for that one topic. That’s why it takes him several ticks just to remember. So it isn’t that he’s absentminded or forgetful, it’s just that he’s got so much in his head he has to push some things back.”

The three human Paladins all nodded slowly in understanding. Lance gave him a contemplative look, “So is it because the Guardian made you younger that you don’t act the same way?”

“Nah. The Guardian may have made my body younger but that didn’t change my mind at all. If I was made to recall something that happened like… 200 or so deca-phoebs ago then yeah I’d probably get a little slow on things. But most of what I need to remember is directly on the forefront of my mind.”

Pidge sprung from her stretch and gave her signature thinking look. “Oh I get it! Kind of like a fresh memory? You’re more likely to recall things that happen like… Say 20 years ago instead of something that happened 200 years ago! Like how humans remember things that just happened more clearly than something in their childhood!”

“Speaking of childhood!” Lance flashed a grin, “What did Coran look like when he was younger? Did he have a rebellious phase? What’s the Altean equivalent of a teenage human’s rebellious phase? Did he always have that mustache?”

Keith rolled his eyes, “We’re getting off topic. I’ll answer questions about the past later. For now it’s time to practice. Hunk, Pidge. At the ready.”

The three groaned at Keith’s party pooping but still acquiesced. Hunk and Pidge stood on either side of the mat, crouched and ready to start once Keith gave the signal. For the first few rounds he wanted them to try fighting without relying on shields or bayard’s. They never knew if they’d end up in a situation without such things so it was better to be overly prepared than under.

It only took a moment before Keith told them to begin and Pidge was springing forward. She’d taken well to Keith’s lessons of ‘short stature, fast movements’. The goal of it was to move quickly and always be one step ahead of your opponent.

Pidge struck out with her foot at Hunk’s side and was quick to spring away before Hunk could retaliate. Keith frowned once Hunk swung a punch, the Altean’s sharp voice barking out.

“Hunk you’re holding back. Pidge isn’t going to learn anything if you aren’t putting actual effort into it.”

Keith watched for a while longer with only a few comments here and there. Thankfully after only a second reprimand and assurance from Pidge, Hunk was no longer holding back his swings. They were a little uncoordinated and usually hesitant but Keith didn’t pick at that too much. He knew that it was simply Hunk’s way of being careful with his friends. Even in a spar he didn’t really want to hurt them. Keith was fine letting it go in these instances. Especially since he knew Hunk probably wouldn’t hold back when going against the Galra. That provided some form of comfort for Keith.

The match ended when Pidge made an attempt to recreate one of the complex moves he had shown Allura and her the other day. The main part of the move was to catch your opponent’s fist and use your own momentum to jump and swing yourself up onto their shoulders. Then using your legs you wrap around their neck and cut off their airway till they either pass out or you break their neck. Keith had been quick to point out that under no circumstances was Pidge to try and break necks. He had a feeling she wouldn’t but it was better to be safe than sorry.

Pidge had managed to catch the side of Hunk’s wrist however when it came to jumping up and trying to reach his shoulder she fell short. And by short he means she kind of ended up throwing herself over his arm and hitting her back against the mat with a thud.

“Oof!”

The two on the side visibly winced from the sound of her impact. That didn’t sound pleasant.

Keith sighed and placed a hand on his hip, “Pidge. Don’t try executing moves you aren’t ready for. Especially since your legs aren’t strong enough to boost you up to reach Hunk’s shoulders.” He frowned thoughtfully, “Next time try it with your jetpack on. The extra burst will probably get you where you need to go.”

“You just said not to try things I’m not ready for.” She grumbled from where she lay on the floor. Hunk smiled sympathetically at her and offered a hand.

Keith grunted, “You won’t get ready for it without practice. We’ll use the training bot as a test dummy. Until you can get it down without fail you aren’t allowed to use that move on a living person.” He moved over and began shooing the two off the mat. “Alright get some water and move to the side. Lance, come over here.”

Soon it was him and Lance facing off on the mat. Lance was bouncing on the balls of his feet in obvious excitement. It was a little… Strange really. Keith wasn’t used to someone being excited to spar against him.

“You… Ok?” Keith found himself asking.

Lance sputtered, “Uh yeah?? Why wouldn’t I be ok??”

Keith pursed his lips and instead decided not to respond to that. Instead he merely nodded his head and gave the signal to begin. He let Lance make the first move, the other rushing at him in a way similar to Pidge’s. However he was leaned too much forward so his core’s center was off.

Keith reached out and snatched the fist aimed at him before knocking Lance’s feet out from under him and dropping him to the mat.

“You were trying to move faster by getting closer to the ground. If I didn’t stop you, you would’ve tripped on your own.” Keith held out a hand and yanked Lance to stand. “Don’t overcompensate or try to mimic others. Stick to what you know as your foundations and we’ll build from there.”

This went on for a while longer. Keith and Lance would clash, Lance would take aim and then Keith would knock him down before giving him constructive criticism and helping him up. Though Keith could tell Lance was getting a little frustrated the other still didn’t get snippety with Keith. He instead would nod and take what the Altean said seriously. Keith could see that Lance was smart, he processed Keith’s instructions and worked on improving himself the next moment he rushed the other. Though his moves weren’t perfect Keith could still see visible improvement.

During their last spar Lance even managed to land a hit on Keith. It had been an accidental misstep on his part. Something neither he nor Lance had anticipated. They both realized it the moment Lance was in mid-swing and it was too late for him to stop. With a loud crack Lance’s fist connected with Keith’s cheek in a rather weighted punch.

Keith stumbled back, eyes wide in shock and mouth parted slightly. The look was mirrored by Lance and their two spectators. Then when a stream of deep blue began trickling from one of Keith’s nostrils the tension in the room was broken and everyone began rushing around in utter pandemonium.

“I’m so sorry oh my God!” Lance cried, hands flailing as he tried to figure out what to do. “Are you ok?! Of course you’re not you’re bleeding. Holy crow I’m so sorry!” And then faintly, so faint Keith didn’t hear it over Pidge and Hunk’s concerned words, Lance whispered ‘I just decked my hero!

“Guys,” Keith held up a hand, the one smeared with his blood since he tried to wipe it off. “It’s fine. Just a bit of blood.” To Lance he said, “Nice hit. You’re improving really well.”

Lance’s earlier panic was washed away in wake of Keith’s compliment. His eyes lit up and he grinned, “Really?!”

Keith nodded, “Yeah. I bet even Allura would be impressed to know you managed to land a hit on me.” He said the last part with a teasing grin that instantly had Lance flushing and his friends laughing.

Standing at his side Hunk offered a towel for Keith to hold against his still bleeding nose. With a quick thank you Keith took the offered cloth before nodding to his team. “Alright guys. Back to work. This time we’ll mix it up. Lance, Hunk, you’re going against each other next. Lance, get some water and take a breather before getting back on the mats.”

They ended up sparing for the better part of two hours. By the end of it the three humans were exhausted and bemoaning Keith’s abundant energy. When he offhandedly suggested another spar he received two pairs of glares and one kicked-puppy look. With that he decided maybe it was time to give them a break. So he ended the sparring session and let them off to do their own things.

Keith himself stayed in the gym for another hour training with the bot before he called it quits and left. After he was done with his own shower he took to wondering through the halls. He hadn’t seen Shiro all day and he was kind of worried about the other. Perhaps he should stop by Black’s bay and check up on him?

He was just passing by the kitchen contemplating what he should do when he heard someone calling out for him. Keith stopped, looking in the room and spotting Hunk wearing what looked to be a yellow apron with the Yellow Lion printed on the front of it. Keith raised a brow at the sight. Clearly Hunk had found out about the Fabricator. Either that or he asked Coran about it after the Altean gave them all their little Lion slippers.

“What’s up?” Keith moved into the room and curiously looked at the trays the other had set up on the counter.

There was a few mixing bowls with cooking tools laid out next to them and ingredients of various shapes and hues. The ingredients had been found in one of the castle’s many storage rooms. Thanks to the way Alteans preserve their foods nothing had gone bad even after 10,000 deca-phoebs. It was the small miracles.

Keith picked up one of the many preserved fruits. A pinkish thing that was the size of a pear and nearly as hard as a melon. Keith wasted no time in biting into it and chewing on a mouthful. The blue flesh of the fruit on the inside was practically flooding with juices. Keith had to wipe his mouth and chin with the back of his hand in order to avoid dripping all over himself.

Hunk blinked, staring at him for a long moment. “I totally thought that was a nut or something.”

With a snort Keith shook his head and offered it to Hunk. “Nah. It’s a fruit. A Nuku berry. Though not really a berry by… Berry standards. I mean human berry standards anyways.”

Hunk always enjoyed trying new foods and alien foods was no different. So with only little prompting he was eagerly biting into the Nuku berry. He coughed a bit, squinting at the sour taste that suddenly flooded into a sweetish tart flavor.

“Interesting taste! I like it!” He nodded his head and cleared his throat. “So right, I called you in here for a reason. I really need your help with making authentic Altean dishes.”

“Me?” Keith quirked a brow, “Why not Coran or Allura?”

Hunk smiled, “Well I did ask Allura. She was a bit too busy to help me. And Coran suggested I ask you. He said you knew a lot of recipes thanks to your mom.”

Ah, that explained it. Keith sighed softly and he allowed himself to have a somewhat fond smile. “Yeah… My mother, Ilor—She liked to make up recipes. Not all of them were really… Good. More liable to kill you than anything. But she still liked to cook. It was Atka, my other mom who could actually cook.”

Hunk laughed at that as he set out a plate of sliced Nuku berry. He nodded, “I totally get that. Cooking in my family is a bonding thing. Every day someone was cooking something.”

Together the two chatted about different dishes they helped make or things they made on their own for the first time. With Keith’s help he instructed Hunk on what ingredients were what and equating them to things similar on Earth. It was severely helpful and Hunk was verbally grateful for the help.

Off to the side was a little bowl filled with iridescent white seeds. They were seeds from the Nuku berries. Hunk had said he wanted to try making a little greenhouse to grow some of the fruits and vegetables they had.

Wouldn’t wanna run out of these authentic Altean fruits and vegetables, after all!” He had said. Keith had been deeply touched by the action.

The two had spent the better part of an hour crouched over several different dishes. Hunk was hunched over a plate of tarts adding in the filling to the little divots while Keith was finishing the sauce for a rather colourful dish. The tarts Keith had mentioned were a favourite of Alfor’s. He didn’t know if Allura liked them but hopefully it would bring up some good memories.

The other dish that Keith was working on was one of Coran’s favourites. It was a simple dish that consisted of several kinds of fruits smothered in a sauce. The sauce was the important bit. When made just right it reacted to the fruits and caused the parts touched by the sauce to change colour. It was a fun and colourful dish that Coran had loved since they were kids.

Then there was a third meal that the two had just crammed into the oven. It was a purple dish covered in glittering red flakes. The heat from the oven only made the flakes look that much brighter. It was a spicy dish that was one of Keith’s favorites. He’d told Hunk that he only ate it on special occasions, specifically his birthday. He’d wanted to make it just so he could share something important with his friends.

As the cooking continued the kitchen was already beginning to smell tantalizing. Chatter between the two was soft and light, perfect for the warm atmosphere bubbling away like the pot of sauce Keith was boiling.

One by one the smells of the kitchen attracted the attention of their friends. Like hounds tracking down prey, the smell of Altean cooking had Allura sticking her head in the kitchen with impossibly wide eyes. Right below her Coran’s head appeared, his eyes closed and sniffing at the air inquisitively.

“Is that Chameleon Ribbon Wrap I smell??”

“With Dori Spice Tarts as well.” Keith hummed, pouring the sauce over the proper dish.

Hunk grinned over his shoulder at the two in the doorway, “Don’t forget about the Primala Pepper Roll!”

Just as he said that the oven timer dinged and Hunk was already pulling it out. Keith nodded and patted the Yellow Paladin on his shoulder.

“I’ll go and gather everyone to the dining room. You fend off those two.” He gave a pointed look to the two Altean’s still hovering in the doorway with obvious looks of hunger on their faces.

It was hilarious to see and Keith’s smile just didn’t falter as he made the rounds to find his friends. One by one he tracked them down and sent them to the dining room. Soon the only one left to find was Shiro. And since no one has seen him all day Keith assumed he was still in Black’s bay. And turns out he was right.

The Lion was standing up with her eyes alight, a growl rumbling in Keith’s mind the moment he placed a hand to her paw. He smiled up at her, “Hey Black. Mind letting Shiro out? He deserves a break.”

She purredd in agreement and Keith took several steps back to watch as the Lion lowered herself and opened her mouth. Several minutes later a very tired looking Shiro stepped out. He looked a little surprised to see Keith and offered a wane smile.

“Hey.”

“Hey yourself. Did you get any sleep last night?”

Shiro laughed wearily and rubbed the back of his head. “I look that bad, huh?”

Keith merely shrugged a shoulder, “I mean you don’t look ‘terrible’. But you do look like you need a nap.”

“Oh? You willing to give tips, oh champion of napping?”

“Shiro. A 10,000 year sleep isn’t a nap. That’s a coma.”

The two burst out into laughter that quickly turned Shiro’s smile into one that looked more genuine and less sleepy. He inclined his head to the other, a curious light in his eyes.

“So, what brings you here?”

Keith flicked his head towards the doorway and began moving towards the dining room. Shiro was left with no choice but to follow. A particular smell wafted over to him and he paused for a moment in order to sniff Keith’s way.

“You smell kinda like fire? And food? Where you cooking?”

He quirked a brow at Shiro and snorted. Keith pointedly ignored saying anything about Shiro sniffing at him. “Yeah. Hunk and I were cooking for the team. He wanted to make Altean dishes and he asked for my help.”

 “Oh?” Shiro’s eyes widened in mild surprise, “So did you make dishes you like?”

“Well I’m not going to make something I wouldn’t eat. Of course they’re dishes I like.” Keith flashed a smile at Shiro, “The main dish is my favourite, the starter is Coran’s, and the desert was Alfor’s.”

Shiro seemed to grow excited at hearing that. His smile turned brighter and his eyes were practically shinning. Keith was momentarily stunned enough that he couldn’t even think of forming a sentence.

“So I get to try authentic Altean dishes that you made? And that are your favourite? Well what are we waiting for! Let’s go!”

Thankfully Keith didn’t have to respond as Shiro was already taking his hand and picking up the pace. Soon they entered the dining hall and were met with a visibly excited Allura and Coran. They were dutifully sitting down but from the way they were wriggling around in their seats it was clear they were impatiently waiting for the remaining two members so they could start eating.

Keith and Shiro took the last remaining chairs and right away Hunk began serving food. The first thing to be eaten was the Chameleon Ribbon Wrap. Their human companions had been fascinated that the sauce changed the meal’s colour. It was entertaining to see them coat certain spots in the sauce before happily munching away.

Sadly since they didn’t exactly have every ingredient known to Altea, certain things were omitted. Thankfully the taste was relatively the same despite the missing ingredients.

Each meal was met with high reviews. Allura and Coran were the ones to dish out the most compliments. They ate every single bite with enthusiasm and if there were tears gathering at the corner of their eyes, no one said anything. Even Keith wasn’t exempt from the sudden burst of feelings.

The moment he took a bite of the Primala Pepper Roll it was like he was sucked into the past. For a moment it wasn’t his friends around him, but his mothers. Atka was lovingly feeding a slice to Ilor while they shared a gaze full of adoration. And then that look was directed his way and Keith couldn’t breathe.

It wasn’t the food getting lodged in his throat that had him choking up. Keith sucked in a deep breath of air, lips growing numb from the tingling spices. He blinked hard and tried to clear away his blurry vision.

Suddenly there was a warmth enveloping his hand and holding tight to him. Keith blinked, looking down and seeing a metal hand holding his. He looked up and locked eyes with reassuring grey. Shiro was smiling lightly at him with only a slight furrow between his brows.

Keith’s fingers twitched minutely when Shiro’s thumb began drawing comforting circles into the back of his hand. He felt the weight in his chest lighten significantly and he returned a watery smile. Keith sniffed and returned his attention back to his meal. This time the memory of eating with his family didn’t overlap with what was going on now. Instead Keith was in the moment. He was enjoying the feeling of sharing a piece of himself with his friends and the comfort given to him from the man by his side. And if Shiro held Keith’s hand throughout the meal? No one seemed inclined to point it out anytime soon.

///

“Hey, Shiro. You heading back to Black’s hangar?”

Shiro paused mid-step, inclining his head towards the red-clad Paladin. “Yeah. I don’t think I’ve been making any progress with Black… I want to give it another try before lights out.”

A single brow rose and Shiro was suddenly faced with a rather incredulous look. He had half a mind to be offended by the level of doubt Keith was showing him. He rolled his eyes in fond exasperation.

“I do intend to sleep, Keith.”

“I never said you wouldn’t,” Came the response followed by a knowing smile. “I just expected it to be far after lights out. I know you, Shiro. When you get focused on something you’re too stubborn to quit.”

Shiro chuckled, “You got me there.”

Keith’s smile dampened slightly after a moment. He wasn’t necessarily frowning but he didn’t look as teasing as before. “Hey… Why don’t you take a break? Walk away for a bit and then come back with a fresh pair of eyes?” Shiro opened his mouth to probably protest but too late. Keith’s eyes suddenly narrowed in determination and he raised a hand. “No you know what, come with me.”

A hand grabbed his wrist and suddenly Shiro was being tugged through the halls. His protests went ignored and as they passed a curious Pidge, Keith tossed over his shoulder, “I’m taking Shiro sightseeing.”

She hummed, pushing up her glasses before continuing on her way with a halfhearted wave over her shoulder. “Have fun.”

“Wait Keith!” A soft laugh escaped Shiro and gave away that he wasn’t really protesting the abrupt decision. “What sightseeing? Red’s hangar isn’t even this way.”

Violet eyes turned and Shiro was suddenly subjected to a teasing smirk that momentarily had his heart skipping a beat. Then Keith’s smirk turned somewhat smug, “Who said anything about going in Red?”

And like that Shiro found himself being led into the main bay and up into White’s cockpit. Only when they were inside did Keith hesitate for a moment.

“Sorry, there’s only one seat so you’ll have to stand.”

Shiro smiled at that while his eyes trailed over the interior of White’s cockpit. It was completely different from the inside of the other Lions. The main colours were white with accents of soft purples and blues that matched the outside of the Lion. It was quite easy on the eyes despite the large amount of white.

“It’s fine,” Shiro said when he remembered he should respond. “The other Lions don’t have two chairs either.”

Keith blinked, “Right. Well… Hold on then.”

And so Shiro watched as Keith took a seat and placed his hands on the screen. He’d never seen how the other piloted White before so he was unashamedly staring. If Keith noticed he didn’t seem to mind the gaze on him.

Keith’s eyes and markings suddenly flashed white and then the lights in the cockpit got brighter. The Lion powered on with a rumble and it stood, shaking out its body before charging towards the bay doors.

Before they had boarded White, Keith had opened the doors so that they could get in and out without any problem. It would be annoying if they had to wait for someone to come and open the door once they returned, after all. Especially since they weren’t bringing their spacesuits so them going out to jump ship wasn’t an option.

White shot out from the Castle of Lions and flew a decent distance before Keith’s breath hitched. Then on his exhale the Lion let out a roar. A white wormhole appeared before them and not a moment later Keith was flying right through it.

“So… I’m guessing controlling White is a lot different than Black or Red? I mean from the looks of it, anyways.” Shiro said as they flew through the wormhole.

Keith hummed, “Yeah. This Lion doesn’t have sentience like the others. It’s all me. Anyone can pilot, really. So long as your quintessence is pumping through it then you can control White. Though my control always overpowers anyone else’s. Since I made White, I added that feature as a failsafe.”

“Failsafe?”

“In case someone stole White. I wouldn’t put it past Zarkon to be greedy enough to try and get a sixth Lion.”

Silence eventually descended upon the group and they soon left the colourful wormhole. With an inaudible whoosh a new arm of space was suddenly before them. Galaxies of purple, green, and blue swirled around them in a mixing pot of glittery hues. Stars shined bright and some pulsed rhythmically.

Where they had shown up looked to be in the middle of a sea of blueish powder. It was dense and light at the same time. Particles floated up before sinking down and clumping together, only to then break apart after hitting other chunks. It was thick enough that it was hard to see beyond the field of blue. The only stray colours were the bright white and gold that winked every other moment, adding more splashes of colour over the wave of blues.

Shiro let out a small breath of awe at the sight, “Wow… It… Kinda looks like an ocean? In space.”

Keith nodded, “Exactly. I’m honestly glad it’s still here after 10,000 deca-phoebs.”

“Oh?” Curious eyes turned down to look at Keith. His hands were no longer on the panel and his face wasn’t glowing. He instead was leaning back against the chair with his head tilted in order to smile up at Shiro.

“Yeah. This is the Polapopa feeding grounds. It’s was always a fun treat to come out here and watch them.” Before Shiro could ask what the heck a Palapopa was, Keith raised his hand and gave him a knowing look. He then turned his eyes towards the window. “Don’t speak, just watch. From the looks of it they haven’t started feeding yet.”

For several long moments nothing happened. However Shiro, as always, trusted Keith. So if he said something was bound to happen then that meant something would eventually happen.

They felt the vibrations before they heard anything. The subtle tremors climbed up Shiro’s legs and had him involuntarily shuddering before a long drawn out hum was heard. It sounded almost like the creaking of steel beams yet a few octaves deeper.

Then suddenly something gigantic erupted from the field of blue flecks. A large, leathery brown body burst from the cloud with its mouth wide open. As it passed by the skin shimmered and seemed to change into a darkish blue when the light of space hit it just right. Along its back was glittering white, almost like stars had been scattered against its horned skin.

Protruding from its back were a row of crystalline fins that rose and fell depending on the angle the creature’s head was facing. Suddenly it rolled onto its side and flashed four large flippers, eight in total when counting the other side. Its underbelly moved like a mirror, reflecting everything beneath it and giving it the illusion of being made entirely from space when looked at from below.

In another moment several more large forms broke the surface and swallowed up mouthfuls of the blue dust. As Shiro watched them breech the surface of the sea of blue and disappear back under, only one thought flashed through his mind at what these things resembled.

“Space whales!”

Keith snorted at that but indeed nodded his head, “Yep, space whales. The Palapopa are kinda similar to whales on Earth. Just more massive and the thing they eat is basically little flecks of radiation dust and not krill. And that their insides are so caked in radiation it could cook the freaking Sun.”

“Damn, sounds intense.”

“Hell yeah it is. And their call is so loud that you can literally feel the vibrations through the ship.” Keith cracked a small grin, “I’ve ridden one before.”

That instantly got Shiro’s attention from the giant glowing space whale. His eyes were wide and he barked a laugh, “No way, really? One of those?”

“Yeah! Though in my defense it wasn’t my idea.” He cracked a grin, “I’ve done a lot of crazy things when I was younger.”

Shiro moved forward so he could sit on the arm of the pilot’s seat. Now that he wasn’t standing he could give Keith his full attention. Without much prompting Keith took that as a sign to begin some of his more wild tales of youth.

“Ok, so this happened just before Alfor, Coran, and I entered the academy. A week prior we had seen the Royal tailor dying clothes and so I made the suggestion that we try doing that too. And it just went downhill from there…”

Chapter Text

Just loosen the blaxums on the somoflange.”

Hunk hesitated, “Could you be more specific?”

Sorry, Hunk,” The team could practically imagine Allura’s apologetic smile. “He means the poklones on the agroclams.

Hunk blinked once before shaking his head. “No, that doesn’t help.” He turned to look over his shoulder, “Keith? Mind giving us a hand? I can’t make heads or tails on what they’re saying.”

Keith sighed, uncrossing his arms and using his jetpack to scoot himself closer. “They both are wrong. You can’t access the poklones or the blaxums without first disabling the luvapirs next to the somoflange.”

As Keith worked he made sure to explain each step to his fellow Paladins. He even translated the Altean text that crossed the screen while he was at it. They never knew when they’d have to make this kind of repair again and it was important that everyone here knew how to fix it just in case.

Pidge let out a happy sound and her eyes practically shined like the stars around them. “The tech on this ship never ceases to amaze me. It’s all so mathematically elegant. Its fit is a hundred times more frictionless than any exoskeleton we have on Earth.”

As the Green Paladin continued to wax more poetics about the beauty of Altean technology, Keith allowed himself to float back and settle right by Shiro’s side. He made quick note of how the other was staring off into the cosmos with slightly furrowed brows. While he was indeed present with the group, Keith couldn’t really say he was mentally.

“Shiro?”

A gentle touch to his arm had Shiro jolting. He blinked, ripping his eyes away from the breathtaking view and instead turning to look at something equally as stunning, maybe even more so. Despite being decked out in the Red Paladin’s armor, Keith still looked beautiful. His white hair framed his face and made his violet eyes stand out all the more.

Shiro shook his head once again and forced those thoughts from his mind. Not out of embarrassment or anything. It was totally normal to think your best friend was beautiful. Nothing wrong with that. People did it all the time.

“Sorry,” He said after a moment, “Got lost in my own head there.”

A small quirk of Keith’s lips, “I noticed.”

Shiro chuckled at that and even without Keith asking Shiro could easily read the question in his eyes. “It isn’t anything important. Just… Thinking.”

Of course Keith wanted to know what Shiro was thinking about. However if he wasn’t going to talk to Keith about it then he wasn’t going to pry. It’d be hypocritical of him to demand Shiro openly tell him about his baggage when Keith has only started to unload his. So instead of asking a follow up question Keith merely nodded and turned back towards his team.

It was then they noticed the little blue spheres that they were flying past. The cluster must’ve been in the thousands, easily overwhelming the ship by how many there were. If they’d been more packed together instead of sparsely scattered then they might’ve had a serious problem.

The moment Shiro summoned his shield Keith was one step behind. If there was one thing he knew from all his time out in space it was that you never messed with anything if you didn’t know what it was. That’s how you get the spotted pox. Or green smorpa. Keith shuddered at the thought of getting green smorpa again.

However while Shiro and Keith might have been protected on the front, never would they have expected to be attacked form behind. The little goop ball hit the back of Shiro’s head and cut him off midsentence. He sputtered, looking over his shoulder in confusion.

“Wha--?”

Lance, smiling in a way that might’ve been slightly apologetic but was ultimately not, straightened up. “Oh, sorry, Shiro. I was trying to hit Keith.”

Keith quirked a brow and thought ‘I’m not even that close to Shiro? How bad is his aim that he can’t even hit me?’

If Keith was a smarter Altean he would’ve just ignored Lance’s comment. However as the human’s say, the first stone has been cast. So it only made sense that Keith return the favor, right? An eye for an eye and all that.

So Keith threw aside his caution against mystical space balls just like he threw said mystical space ball at Lance. It promptly exploded across his face and instantly wiped away the Blue Paladin’s grin.

Keith snorted, “Like that?”

With Hunk’s delighted cry of “squishy asteroid fight!” the battle broke out. Keith instantly dropped to Shiro’s side, defending his flank without needing to be asked. Together both he and Shiro fought against Hunk and Lance. They tossed and dodged, getting hit in the face and other parts of the body.

At one point Keith put a little too much strength into his toss. It hit Hunk in the shoulder and got him spinning from the force. He smacked into Lance and the two yelped as they were sent back several feet. The next moment they righted themselves and came at the two with a new strategy.

“Take out Keith!” Came Lance’s cry before he began aiming most of his shots at the other.

Suddenly Shiro darted in front of Keith and blocked the onslaught of squishy space balls. He then threw an exhilarated grin at the Altean behind him.

“I’ve got your back!”

Keith cracked a smile and laughed, pushing his feet against the side of the ship and boosting himself up to float over Shiro before chucking a few more of the glowing spheres and hitting both Hunk and Lance square in the face.

Off to the side not bothering to get involved in the brawl was Pidge. She was busy studying the floating orbs, face drawn in contemplation. “Mmm I don’t think these are asteroids.” She grabbed one, looking up. “Coran, I’m going to need a containment unit.”

It took a few ticks but eventually Pidge got the spore in a containment unit and they were then sent off to decontaminate. They sat through the hot shower, overabundance of soap, practical flooding of the room, and then the overpowered blow-dryer. For that Keith had had to snatch a hand out and grab Pidge just so the smallest Paladin wouldn’t get blown away.

The team then broke up to do their own things while Pidge ran tests on the spore. Only when she had found something did they all reconvene. What she discovered was that there was a message encoded in the spore.

Under attack. Galra. Help.

All it took was them uploading the coordinates into the castle’s ship and then they were off. As the ship began careening through space with a destination set, Allura felt it was best to check in quick with their local foreseer.

“Yorak? Has the Guardian revealed anything about these spores?”

Keith shook his head as he reclined in his seat. “No. My visions never included the spore codes. And the few leftover visions I have from over the years won’t happen anytime soon.”

“So you’re in the dark as much as us.” Coran pulled at his mustache, “Well no worries! That just means we’re all running blind.”

Lance grunted, “Like chickens with our heads cut off.”

That earned a slightly confused and horrified look from Allura and Coran. The Princess sputtered, looking from Lance to Keith for an explanation. “What is this ‘chicken’ and why would you cut off its head?!”

The poor vessel grimaced before waving his hand. It was a little hard to try and explain the idiom in English so Keith midway through switched to Altean. He then compared it to an Altean idiom that was somewhat similar. The understanding gradually dawned on Allura and Coran and they both nodded.

Allura landed her fist in her other hand in an ‘ah-ha!’ moment. “Oooh I see now! Like a plorka acting like a myoxsadl!”

The few humans around them made confused faces of their own at that. “Er… Right.”

Thankfully the planet appeared just in time so Keith didn’t have to bother trying to explain that. There was only so many translations he was willing to do in a day.

“This signal came from Olkarion, home to the Olkari, a proud class of engineers, builders of vast cities that could change shape at the whim of their creators.” Coran explained as their ship drew closer to the planet.

Allura added more of an explanation of the Olkari and Keith himself couldn’t stop from smiling at the reminder of the innovative people.

“An Olkari once gave me this!” Coran exclaimed as he revealed a black floating cube with a green line bisecting it.

Keith snorted, “Only because he thought you were cute!”

Coran pointedly ignored that in favor of explaining what the cube was. “Watch! My name is Coran and I’m a gorgeous man.”

The cube beeped before repeating “My name is Coran and I’m a gorgeous man.

“So Coran got this cube because an Olkari thought he was cute?” Lance quirked a brow in obvious disbelief. Oh if only he knew how Coran was in his youth. The Coranic was a fierce stealer of hearts when he was younger.

Coran looked rightfully offended at Lance’s skeptical look. He snatched his cube away from Lance’s poking fingers and humphed. “Yes, indeed! However I’m not the only one who got gifts from admirers! Just ask Keith how many little trinkets he’s gotten!”

That earned him a sharp look that Coran returned with a slightly smug one. “Don’t even start, Coran.” Keith was quick to change the conversation to something of more importance. “The Olkari are peaceful by nature, they don’t like to get involved with conflicts unless absolutely necessary. However if they’re sending out coded spores in an attempt to get help then that means they’re in a dire situation. We need to be vigilant, especially since we don’t know what we could be facing.”

Allura nodded, “Yorak is right. Besides, the signal is not coming from the city’s center. It is instead coming from the forest near it.”

Pidge visibly deflated at that and groaned in disappointment. Keith could understand and sympathetically patted her shoulder. At Allura’s behest they departed for their Lion’s hangars. As they flew Pidge made it quite clear to everyone how she felt on this whole matter.

I hate the outdoors. Nothing but sunburn and poison oak.”

Chuckling softly, Keith rolled his eyes. “Not unless you wear sunscreen and avoid poison oak.”

You know what I mean, Keith.”

Before he could respond he noticed arrows flying past their ships. A jolt in his mind and he stared down at his controls in confusion.

What was that?” Hunk asked.

“Guys,” Keith frowned, “Whatever that was it’s messing with my Lion’s quintessence.”

What? You can feel that?!”

Shiro grunted, “Keith’s right. Whatever it is, it’s dragging my Lion down to the surface.”

Yeah, something’s pulling Blue down, too.

As they landed before a cluster of aliens and their wooden mech suits, Keith’s eyes widened when he looked closer at the people. Of course after 10,000 deca-phoebs species were bound to change in some ways, however the distinct qualities that made the Olkari, Olkari had remained the same.

Are you kidding me? We got taken down by a bunch of tree people?!

Lance’s exclamation had Keith rolling his eyes and snapping, “They’re not just any ‘tree people’. These are the Olkari!”

What?!

Trusting Keith’s judgement, Shiro activated Black’s speakers and stated a firm but simple “we come in peace!”

Probably not the best of times but Keith was suddenly reminded of the Earth movies Tex would let him watch. Where the aliens would land on the planet and say “we come in peace, take us to your leader”. If one of his friends dare say something along those lines Keith is going to rupture an organ from wheezing.

After providing proof they meant no harm by Pidge showing the distress spore, they were hailed as friend, not foe. They were then led to the main camp in the forest and told the situation the Olkari were in.

Their current leader, Ryner, was kind enough to show them around their camp while also telling them about her people and what happened in the past deca-phoebs. Seeing Pidge’s fascination with the planet and her people had Keith sharing a small smile with Shiro. They were both happy to see Pidge so excited about something. If only her father and brother were here. They too might’ve been just as excited, if not more at the sight of such an advanced society. But the warm merriment didn’t last for long.

After learning that their leader Lubos was being held captive Voltron set out on a rescue mission. They split up to go in different plant mech’s towards the edge of the forest. There they formed a plan on how to sneak in while also discovering the giant cube being built. It was deeply concerning to say the least.

After nearly a varga of planning they finally launched the mission to save Lubos. It was almost too easy to get in and make their way through the halls. The moment they entered the room he was being confined to they suddenly realized… Something wasn’t right.

Seeing the Olkari’s leader gorge himself on food while one of his own people stood next to him cuffed and emaciated, it instantly sparked a rage in Keith. His eyes narrowed and he ground his teeth in mounting anger.

Are you kidding me?

His hissed words were low enough that only his team could hear. And while they themselves didn’t speak Altean, they could easily sense the heat behind his words.

And the moment Lubos raised the alarm when they said they were here to rescue him? Keith instantly realized just what was going on. There was no rescue mission because there was no “prisoner”. King Lubos was here willingly. He let his people be enslaved. He was working with the Galra and sitting on his happy fat ass letting his people think he was being tortured so that they would waste away like mindless drones. It was infuriating. It was disgusting.

Shiro turned his attention away from the sentries and their Galra commander in order to look at the Olkari King. “You turned your back on your people to save your own skin?” He was baffled and disturbed at the selfish action. What kind of leader does such a thing?

Lubos clicked his tongue, arms spreading out as he said, “I’m doing this for my people! They wanted to fight the Galra, but they are too powerful! The Galra could destroy us!”

“So you helped enslave your people to build some super weapon? That’s messed up!” Lance glared at Lubos in obvious disgust. Though he hadn’t known the Olkari for long he’d found them to be an interesting lot. They had talked about Lubos with such warmth and devotion. It was shocking to see the sentiments weren’t shared. Lance was offended on their behalf.

Keith’s hands clenched and he took a step forward. He spit out a strange garble of sounds that had Lubos flinching and the Olkari by his side widening their eyes in surprise and obvious delight.

Lubos’ face flushed a deep ashy green and he sputtered, hand on his chest in offense. “H-how dare you! To use such words against a King--!”

“You’re no King! Just a piece of scum pretending to be one!” Keith darted forward and made a grab for Lubos. The King was unable to dodge as the Olkari by his side slammed their shoulder into him and knocked him into Keith’s grasp.

The Altean bared his teeth, bayard raised threateningly. “You’re not getting away with this. You’re going to show your people just how you were taking advantage of their suffering.”

His team were slightly alarmed by how angry Keith was. However in a situation like this they could understand. They too were angry on behalf of the enslaved Olkari. So while Keith might’ve been the first to jump into action, the others weren’t concerned in the slightest. They trusted Keith and his judgement. Even if his actions seemed rash, they still knew he’d do the right thing. Therefore they saw no reason to try and get him to ease up on the situation.

Lubos stood frozen, betrayal painted clear across his face. “L-La-sai, what are you doing?” He asked the Olkari who had pushed him.

La-sai‘s hands clenched and he hunched his shoulders, “You betrayed our people. I can’t live this lie anymore.” He spit at Lubos’ feet, repeating the same garble of sounds Keith had made.

Lubos’ ashy complexion paled further as he was rendered speechless from La-sai’s disdain filled words. By this point the team had already surmised it was probably a slew of curses. Something deeply disrespectful to say to anyone, let alone royalty.

Seeing that he would be getting no help from his own people, Lubos quickly turned to look at the Galra. “W-wait! You’re not going to just leave me to them, are you?! W-what about our deal?!!”

The Galra snorted dismissively, “Oh, be my guest and take him if you want. His work is done. The cube is complete. I have no more use for that useless oaf.”

“What?!” Lubos wailed, something like sweat beginning to bead along his face.

“Guards! Put them all out of their misery.” The Galra said with a sneer.

Just as the sentries’ guns were powering up, a bright blue beam shot out directly between where the two factions were standing. From the maw of the hole Green’s head appeared.

Your ride is here!” Chirped Pidge’s voice through their helmets.

“Let’s go!” Keith grabbed Lubos and quite literally hoisted him up and over his shoulder. He wasn’t going to give the other a chance at escaping.

Shiro was momentarily stunned by the show of Altean strength and as a result his voice wavered slightly. “Y-you heard him team! Get to the Lion!”

Thankfully no one seemed to notice his unintentional stutter as they were too focused on rushing to Green. Breathing an internal sigh of relief, Shiro raised his shield and acted as Keith’s defense while the other totted their flailing cargo to the ship.

It was a rush to get back to the Lions so they could form Voltron and stop the cube. However that didn’t mean they should wait to reveal to the Olkari that their leader had betrayed them. So the moment they touched ground again Keith had yanked up Lubos and unceremoniously dumped him before Ryner and the other Olkari.

A wave of shocked whispers rose up from the gathered people. Here was their leader looking unharmed and just as plump as always. Strange. Shouldn’t someone who is being tortured and held prisoner be a little less… Well fed?

Ryner was confused, looking up from Lubos and to the Paladins of Voltron. “What’s going on?”

“While your countrymen starved, King Lubos was well taken care of by the Galra.” The hard edge to Shiro’s voice expressed his barely concealed rage. From the grave faces worn by the rest of the Paladins it was clear to the Olkari that it was a shared feeling. “He willingly helped them build that cube, willingly helped to enslave his own people.”

Keith watched the varying expressions play over the gathered Olkari’s faces. Ryner looked stricken and confused. Clearly she was as deeply hurt by this revelation as the others. However though she wanted to know why he would do such a thing, she was not interested in listening to any of his excuses. She cut him off midsentence, turning back around and addressing the others with an air of authority.

“We must free our people!”

From there it was the same song and dance. Form Voltron, fight a giant robot of sorts, and win. The only difference was this time they had help from the Olkari and instead of a Robeast they were going against a giant cube.

However this cube was just like Coran’s echo cube. Anything that was given to it, it returned with just as much power. Voltron twisted and turned in an attempt to try and dodge the lasers shooting right at them but that proved to be just as ineffective. Splitting up was the only option. Yet that just arose more problems.

The moment Pidge went down Keith felt his heart stop. He yelled over the coms, desperately staring at where she had fallen in hopes that Green would come springing back up. They had no choice but to continue fighting in order to give her and Green enough time to recuperate. It would be fine. Pidge would be fine. She could come back from this no problem.

The battle, at this point, was growing to be heavily one-sided. As the remaining four Lions were knocked to the ground, Lance let out a groan. “Hey Keith? Think you could open up a wormhole and send these cubes wherever you sent that Robeast?

Keith tightened his grip on Red’s controls, “Ships are one thing but these cubes?? I don’t even know if it’d work.”

No worries!” Suddenly Green darted from the trees and sprung into the air. She darted around like a buzzing wasp. Whooshing past the cubes and spiraling out of the way from oncoming lasers.

Woah Pidge, what’s going on?! You’re booking it!

I’m not sure, but I feel more connected with my lion than ever! I know what I have to do!

The team watched as their smallest Paladin charged up into the air and summoned a rifle-type weapon on the back of her Lion. Suddenly a bright green beam shot out and hit one of the cubes directly. The green on the cube faded for a moment before out from the side burst a barrage of enormous roots.

They blossomed out like a blooming flower and wrapped tightly around the cube. One by one each cube was struck and broke out in overgrowth. They dropped like leaded weights and caused plumes of smoke to rise up from the impact.

Cheers instantly erupted from the coms, everyone shouting praise to Pidge and her Lion’s newfound ability. How ironic that the Green Lion have a weapon that makes nature sprout. Lance’s cheeky, “Does this mean your Lion has a green paw and you’ve got a green thumb?” was met with a mixture of groans and suppressed snickers. It wasn’t even a funny joke yet the team still enjoyed it.

With the battle over and the Olkari now in control of their planet it was time to say goodbye. It was exhilarating to know they now had an ally in the fight against the Galra. Just one of many they were bound to have, Keith mused. He wondered who else they would join forces with. If what the Lion showed him in his vision was anything to go by, then it was going to be an exciting group of rebels for sure.

///

It had been barely two varga after they helped liberate Olkari when the alarms went off. Out the merriment went and was replaced by cold dread. A tick later they all realized what it was that set off the alarm. Zarkon’s command center suddenly appeared, dwarfing the castle ship. Around them several dozen battle cruisers also appeared to flank them.

“Quiznak!” Keith bit out a curse the moment the screen lit up and revealed the encroaching threat.

His exclamation spurred the team into action. “We need to wormhole, now! Everyone to your stations.” Shiro’s orders were heeded without hesitation and they all quickly rushed to comply.

Above them a shower of laser fire rained down relentlessly. The ship quaked from the impact of the fighter’s blasts. Each hit left the team jostled with grunts of surprise.

As they used the castle’s remote drones to provide cover fire, Keith was suddenly gripped by a familiar feeling. The sound in his ears deafened for a moment before suddenly exploding in volume.

The next he blinked Keith was no long on the castle ship and was instead in a place that was no doubt Galran. He didn’t appear to be seeing this vision from anyone’s point of view. Meaning he was seeing it from a third party perspective, as most of the Guardian’s visions tended to be.

He could see Allura standing beside two Blade members as they faced off against a strange woman and several Druids. Keith was confused, apprehensive. Why was the Guardian showing him this vision?

It wasn’t till several ticks later that Keith received his answer. And by that point he was blinking away the vision and settled back into the present. It took a moment before he realized where they were and what was going on.

The ship was currently in a wormhole yet the alarms were still flashing. What was going on?

“Keith, you back with us buddy?”

He jolted at Lance’s question and looked over to him. The Blue Paladin offered a reassuring smile that Keith couldn’t help but return with one of his own.

“Yeah. Sorry about that.”

Hunk huffed, “That Guardian really doesn’t care for the time or place, huh?”

“I’ll say. One time Keith had been riding his dad’s bike with me on board and he got hit with a vision. I nearly died!”

Keith rolled his eyes at Pidge’s dramatics. “We were barely going 10, you were fine. Anyways what’s happening? What happened to Zarkon?”

“We managed to escape via wormhole, however our problems don’t end there!” Coran quickly pressed away at his screens in mounting concern. “The teludav is malfunctioning! We’re going to be exiting this wormhole a lot sooner than we’d like!”

True to his word they were abruptly shoved from the wormhole out into an ice graveyard. Then Allura was collapsing because she had overexerted herself. The team crowded around her in concern, unsure of what to do.

Coran, while they were at a moment of rest, decided now was the perfect time to see what was wrong with the teludav. “I’ll go check on the main turbine and figure out what’s going—Waaah!”

Everyone jumped in shock when Coran suddenly slid into the wall with an audible crack.

Lance took a step forward, hands raised like he wanted to help peel Coran off the wall but decided against it based on the obvious slime trail coming from the older Altean. “Are you alright?” He still deigned to ask.

Coran groaned, scraping himself off the wall and shaking his head to clear the stars. He blinked and tried to nonchalantly lean against the wall. “Oh, I’m fine! Look, I tell you what, I’ve probably hit a slipper spot on the ground there.” He straightened up and stuttered, “S-someone please wipe that up there!”

By this point Allura had twisted around so she could sit facing Coran on the raised dais. Her brows furrowed, “You’re sweating. You might have a case of the slipperies.”

“What?!” Coran vehemently shook his head in protests, “No! No, that’s an old person virus, and I’m not old. I’m young! Well… Young-ish.”

The team weren’t convinced and looked towards Keith and Allura for an explanation. However looking to Keith proved to be a fatal mistake.

The young Altean’s face was blue from barely restrained laughter and tears were gathering at the corners of his eyes. He wheezed, struggling to stay standing. In the end he slumped over and supported himself with his hands on his knees. All the while he was making that gasping-dying sound in the back of his throat that would’ve been concerning if it wasn’t for his pained smile.

Coran looked at Keith in mounting horror before he stuck out a finger. “Don’t you dare--!”

But his warning came too late. Keith sucked in a deep breath of air before he suddenly burst out in the loudest laughter anyone has ever heard from him. He hunched over, pointing a finger at Coran as he desperately tried to form words between his frantic wheezing. Keith covered his face with his hand, garbled Altean coming out and causing Coran to flush.

“Ooooh!!! If the Guardian hadn’t messed with your size then you would’ve gotten the slipperies before me or Alfor! So I don’t know what you’re laughing about!” Coran humped, crossing his arms over his chest and turning away with a stomp that only produced a wet “splat” sound.

Blinking slowly, Lance pulled his eyes away from Keith who was now kneeling on the ground. “Oook. What are the slipperies?” He asked the only sane Altean at the moment.

Allura watched Keith crumble to the ground in a mess of gasp. Though she was worried if he was breathing or not, she did feel like an explanation on why their Red Paladin was dying was more important.

“It’s a common Altean virus that occurs later in life. It’s not harmful and usually only lasts a couple of days, but it causes one’s body to secrete extremely slick fluid.”

There was a collective sound of disgust from the group of humans. While they did shy away from Coran a bit, Shiro at least had the decency to quickly move over and check on Keith. It was a little concerning because he had stopped moving and Shiro was worried he’d passed out from lack of oxygen. Could that happen to Altean's?

“Ok that explains Coran. But why is Keith so…. Like that?” Hunk gestured to the Altean that was currently dying in Shiro’s arms. Pidge was even over there fanning him with her hands like that’d help.

Coran grumbled petulantly, wrinkling his mustache in annoyance. “Because of a bet we made when we were younger. However!! I would still win that bet because he cheated! And t-this doesn’t count because it isn’t the slipperies! I do not, and I repeat, I do not have the slipperies!”

With more words of protest Coran left to go complete his task. By this point Keith was back to standing though he was leaning a little heavily on Shiro. His eyes were also red-rimmed and he looked dazed.

“That’s the hardest I’ve laughed in ages. I think I ruptured my zolm.”

“Oh Yorak, I wish you wouldn’t tease him. It’s a completely natural thing!”

Keith gave the Princess a lopsided grin, “It’s exactly because it’s Coran that I’m teasing him. If it was anyone else I would be respectful. Coran knows I’m not being mean on purpose.”

The assurance of his words did little to deter Allura’s scolding look. Keith gave a hearty sigh and a roll of his eyes. “Fine. I’ll apologize.”

“Good.” Came the pleased response.

They received communications from Coran where he explained that several of the scaultrite lens-stones were cracked. Without them they would be unable to use the castle’s teludav to teleport anywhere. At least not without some serious problems.

“Can’t Keith just use the White Lion to make wormholes for us?”

Lance’s suggestion was plausible and everyone seemed on board with the notion. However not a moment after Keith shot down that idea.

“It won’t work. White isn’t built to make wormholes big enough for the castle ship. The largest I can go is maybe one big enough for Voltron itself to fit through. But anything bigger is going to strain my reserves and I won’t be able to control the exit point. Plus it might even backfire.”

The team all let out sounds of dejection. So much for that idea.

With nothing else to do the team split off to do their own things once again. While Coran worked, everyone took this moment to rest up in ways they saw fit. For Keith he was taking this chance to make use of the castle ship’s indoor pool. He hadn’t gotten the chance to soak since he learned about the dang thing and he was craving the healing properties from the mineral water. It was times like these that Keith really felt his age. He was pushing a little past 600 after all. Never mind the 10,000 deca-phoebs of sleep and the de-aging the Guardian put him through.

As he made his way to the elevator, Keith noticed that he wasn’t the only one with the intention to soak. Lance was in the elevator looking just as exhausted as he probably looked. The Blue Paladin was decked out in a pair of swimming trunks coloured to match his Lion, a lone towel draped around his neck. Keith looked similar, if not identical. The only difference was that his swimming trunks were predominantly white with only accents of red. That and he’d forgone wearing shoes.

“You heading to the pool?” Lance asked with a tired sigh.

“Mmm.”

“Don’t expect me to save you if you fall asleep in the water. I was fired from being a lifeguard for a reason.”

Despite being tired Keith still found the effort to snort at Lance’s joke. “What, really?”

“Of course not,” Lance rolled his eyes, “I never worked as a life guard.”

“But you let someone drown?”

Blue eyes narrowed, “I have the right to remain silent.”

Lance’s serious look melted away a tick later and the two were left snickering at the obvious joke. However suddenly the elevator screeched to a halt and the light’s cut out. The two stood there in absolute darkness for a moment before Lance squawked.

“Are you kidding me?!”

Keith groaned and there was an audible bang as he hit his head against the wall. “Guess this is what Coran meant by cutting power.”

His companion clicked his tongue in obvious distaste. “Just great. We’re stuck in an elevator! Can you pry open the doors or something with your Altean strength?”

“This ship is made to withstand Altean strength. Can you imagine how dangerous it’d be if I was able to accidentally punch a hole in the ship?”

Lance hissed between his teeth, “Yeah that would be bad. So I guess we’re stuck here till the power goes back on? Or… Something?”

By this point their eyes had slowly adjusted to the darkness. Keith could make out the elevator’s walls and Lance standing beside him. Looking up he could also see a faint outline on where one of the elevator panels lifted to the top. He froze, a light bulb suddenly lighting up in his head.

“I have an idea. I saw it in a movie once.”

Lance threw him a curious look that was lost to the darkness. Yet he only asked the bare minimum of questions as Keith explained his plan to him. Then the Altean was lifting him up so he could reach the panel and knock it open.

The other sputtered a bit at suddenly being lifted and thanked the stars the darkness hid his flustered expression. “I do not appreciate being manhandled—although if it was Allura maybe… Hey are all Altean’s this strong or is it just the men?”

“Are you kidding me? Have you seen Allura’s arms?? Hell her mother could bench press Alfor and Coran when we were Allura’s age. It doesn’t matter the gender on Altea, all of us are far sturdier than a human. So yes, Allura could very well break you like a twig if she wanted.”

Lance was quiet for a moment before his voice squeaked out, “That’s kinda hot.”

“I swear to all the deities in the cosmos I will kill you and make it look like an accident if you ever say that around me again.”

Keith ignored Lance’s petulant whine and instead shoved him the rest of the way out of the elevator the moment the lid was off. Then it was just a matter of Lance helping pull Keith out and then they were executing his plan. Halfway up the elevator shaft the talking between the two finally picked back up.

“I seriously can’t believe you’ve seen that movie!”

“Hey, it’s a classic!” Keith said with a scowl, “My dad showed me a lot of old animated movies when I was first learning how to speak Earth languages. It was the best way to learn.”

“Do Alteans have any movies like Earth?”

Keith blinked, brows furrowing as he thought about it. “Yes? Though I don’t know if we have any on the ship. I remember seeing a film player in one of the lounges. I’ll have to ask Allura about it though.”

Lance grunted as he stretched out his foot in an attempt to reach the wall. “Sounds fair enough. Think they’ll have subtitles?”

“No, but I’m sure Pidge can program some in or something. Either that or we can do the translating.”

The Cuban boy tossed his head back in a laugh, ignoring the way his action accidentally caused him to smack into the back of Keith’s head. “I’m soooo making you translate any of the rom-coms we might have on the ship. I can’t wait to see you translate ‘Oh I love you!’, ‘I love you more!’, ‘Hold me, my love! Let us smooch till our faces fall off!’.”

While it would indeed be very amusing to hear, Keith would rather die than translate a romantic comedy. Those movies just weren’t for him and he would only willing watch one if he was held at gun point. Even then he might have to be tortured a bit beforehand till he acquiesced. Maybe.

A quick glance up showed a panel in the wall of the elevator shaft that Keith had been looking for. He jostled his shoulder which in turn nudged Lance.

“Look, up there!”

Following his line of sight, Lance turned his grin on the Altean. “Well what are we waiting for? Let’s get to that pool!”

After knocking in the panel and sliding down the shaft, the two of them where unceremoniously dumped onto the floor of the pool room. Lance blinked at the sight and sputtered, jumping to a stand. “What the heck?!”

He looked over at Keith and waved his hands to the pool that was currently on the roof. “How are we supposed to get to that?! It’s defying gravity!! Is this another Altean ability I don’t know about??! Earthlings can’t just generate their own gravity so they can float!”

Keith had been rolling his eyes so much he feared they’d get stuck in his head at this rate. “Altean’s can’t do that either. We’re not Xotalan.”

“Xo—what??”

Ignoring the question, Keith instead waved his hand in a signal for Lance to follow. He made his way to one of the pillars protruding from the roof down to the floor. Up close one could see that it didn’t fully connect to the floor and instead cut off elegantly in a slope. Keith shoved Lance towards one pillar while he stayed in front of the other.

“What you’re going to do is go inside the pillar and press your hand on the only button inside. Hold your breath because it’s going to suck you up and launch you under the water. The moment you’re under you’ll be settling in on the special gravity made to keep the water suspended on the roof. To exit you just gotta do the same thing in reverse.”

“Ooook,” Lance trailed off, lips pursed. “But question. Why is your pool on the roof instead of on the ground like a normal pool?”

Keith gave him a deadpan look. “Your definition of normal is not universal. Altean’s suspend their pools above ground to keep it clean. Anything not meant to be in the pool like trash or dirt or whatever gets swept up by the pool filter and dropped to the floor. Then down on the ground the automatic cleaning drones come in and clean it up. Altean pool water is cleaned vigorously in order to keep the pure mineral quality as high tier as possible. And because of how good it’s cleaned, this water can pretty much be used indefinitely with no side effects.”

At this point Keith had pulled out his hair tie and shook out the white locks. They spilled over his shoulders and down his back in a cascade of white. Satisfied at the band no longer pulling at his scalp, Keith tossed his towel and tie to the floor before stepping under his tube and pressing his hand on the blue panel.

With a “schwoop” Keith was sucked up and deposited under the water. He swamp up, springing from the surface with a satisfied gasp. Keith then deigned to float on the surface of the water with his eyes closed and the hum of the castle lulling him a state of relaxation. Even the sudden splash of Lance surfacing did little to disturb him.

“Holy crow this feels so nice!” The other exclaimed before there was a minor splash. Lance had dived under the water before resurfacing several feet away. “I almost forgot how great it was to be in the water! The Garrison’s pool is only used for underwater drills. It’s seriously annoying because you aren’t allowed to use it in your free time. Why is it so big if they don’t intend to let people mess around and have fun?!”

“The Garrison was stupid on a lot of things. Like making it a contest to see who the best flier is. That just puts too much pressure on people trying to be the best and in the long run it’ll cause more physiological problems. Instead of decent fliers you’ll get a bunch of kids thinking if they aren’t above average then they’re not worth anything.”

Lance gasped and he swam over to Keith, eyes wide. “Are we gonna talk shit about the Garrison? Because oooooh boy do I have a lot to get off my chest!”

Keith cracked open an eye and smirked. Without much hesitation the two instantly began ranting and raving about the shitty moments in the Garrison and the stupid decisions made. Keith even went into a tirade on the poor training and how it hindered personal growth rather than helped nurture it.

Abruptly their animated talk was interrupted by the castle alarms. Keith’s curse was turned into a drowned gurgle as the shaking of the ship dragged him under the water. Then suddenly he and Lance were shot up out of the water towards the floor. They yelped and slammed into the ground along with some globs of water. Apparently the shaking had been enough to knock them from the pool’s generated gravity.

Keith coughed and shook his head, white hair wrapping around his neck like a tacky scarf.

“What’s going on?!” Lance exclaimed, slipping in a puddle of water but still managing to keep standing. He reached out a hand and helped pull Keith up.

“I think the ship is under attack!”

“W-well what are we waiting here for?! Let’s go!!”

The Blue Paladin spun around and led the way out of the pool room. However because the pool was located on a different floor they were forced to take a detour. Eventually they did make it to the ship’s bridge. Since they were still wet from the pool and hadn’t had time to dry they practically slid into their seats.

“They found us again?!” Lance exclaimed in shock, “I thought Shiro was working on breaking Zarkon’s bond with Black!”

One by one the rest of the team rushed in to take their seats. Their screens rose and they began preparing for this surprise attack.

Allura’s voice was hard, brows drawn. “We can deal with that later. Right now, we must figure out a way to get out of here.”

The castle was heavy with tension and it only rose with every passing moment. As Pidge and Coran began diverting power, Keith found himself truly worried for what the future might hold. He wasn’t concerned about himself. If he died he had a failsafe with the Guardian. However what about his friends? They didn’t have Keith’s revival ticket. They could very well perish and never return.

It was frightening realizing just how susceptible his friends were to dying. The only comfort Keith had was seeing them or hearing them in his visions. He knew Voltron lived past this for sure. Yet even with his reassurances literally written in prophetic visions Keith still couldn’t shake off his worry.

The grip Keith had on the arms of his chair didn’t abate until they were out of the wormhole. And even then he was still somewhat stressed. He didn’t stay in his seat long, standing up and pacing like a caged animal.

He bit at his thumb, pushing his wet hair out of his face. From their stations the team watched him with their own mounting anxieties. For a long while no one spoke. Then Shiro broke the silence, voice unusually tempered. It instantly set Keith on edge. “Sorry guys… This is because I’m not bonding with Black. If I was then this wouldn’t be happening. It’s my fa—“

“Don’t even finish that.”

Grey eyes shot up to lock with violet. Keith glared at him, a finger pointed threateningly. “Bonding with your Lion isn’t like walking through a park. It’s going to be like interacting with a person. Your Lion is sentient. She has her own opinion and way of going about things. But you’re trying to reach her and that’s what matters. You might not see results at the moment but they’re there. Every tick you spend with Black, fighting with her, simply letting her in, you’re bonding. You can’t rush it. So don’t act like this is all your fault.”

“Yorak is right,” Eyes turned to Allura. She inclined her head towards Shiro and smiled. “Bonding with a Lion isn’t something just anyone can do. Already you’ve all made great strides. Compared to your first time flying Black, you are far more adept now. This I can attest to. So please understand Shiro that none of us are blaming you for this.”

“Yeah! Zarkon’s just being a dick and putting pressure on us! What else is new?”

Hunk grinned, “Lance has a point. We’re just going to be playing a serious game of tag for a while.”

Though it was clear Shiro was touched by his friends words, his concern was still palpable. “But what if Zarkon manages to catch us?”

“But nothing.” Keith crossed his arms over his chest and huffed. “If we truly can’t escape Zarkon then I’ll just have to take us someplace he can’t follow.”

There was no need for him to clarify where he meant. They already heard how Oriande only allowed certain chosen to enter. The requirements for that had been “worthy Altean’s only”. Though Keith had mentioned offhandedly that the Guardian was willing to make exceptions if he asked. So everyone more or less had a guaranteed pass into the mystical Oriande.

It took a moment but eventually Shiro sighed. Then a small smile blossomed over his face. “Thanks guys…”

“Think nothing of it. We are here for you, Shiro.” Allura flashed him a smile before turning a serious look to Keith. “Yorak? Do you think it’s possible that there could be a block between Black and Shiro?”

“Maybe? There’s bound to be something interfering. Shiro’s been doing all he can to try and get through to her. He’s opened up, so I think the problem might lie on Black’s end. She could be hesitating.”

“Any idea as to why?”

Keith shook his head, “No. But the next moment we have to rest I can try being there with Shiro to see what might be wrong? Maybe she just needs a little push?” He paused, looking over to their Paladin leader. “That fine with you?”

Shiro shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck with a sigh. “If you think it might work then I’m willing to try anything.”

Another sudden appearance from Zarkon put an end to whatever conversation might have followed. They were practically sitting ducks being out in the open. Allura quickly gasped and rushed to dive into the metallic storm’s eye. At the very least it’d prevent Zarkon’s command center from following given its massive size. However not a tick after Galra fighters were flying in after them in an attempt to flush them out.

W-what do we do?!” Coran yelled as he slid past the screen. “Wormholing is impossible at this rate and we’re running low on options!

Shiro bit the inside of his cheek before standing from his chair. “We’ve got no other choice. Team, we’re going to form Voltron and cut through the storm. Coran, I know you said it was impossible but we need to make another wormhole jump. We’ll play as a distraction till then.”

What?! B-but are you sure?! The chances of this actually working might damage the teludav even further! And that’s not even mentioning how much power it’ll take--!

“Coran!”

Shiro’s firm voice had the Altean falling silent. He looked apprehensive and clearly unsure on the outcome of this stunt. Yet the confident way Shiro was looking at him seemed to spark something in Coran. And when the Black Paladin gave him a firm, “I know you can do this” that spark turned into a raging fire.

He grinned and pulled on his mustache, ignoring how the slick mucus on his body made it stick out at an odd angle. “I guess I can’t let you down then! You can count on me!

With a plan devised, off they went in hopes that they would succeed. In a matter of ticks Voltron formed and flew into the storm. It did quick work on destroying the Galra fighters however this left Voltron unknowingly open for attack. Perfect for them to be trapped in that purple tractor beam.

Shiro’s pained groan over their communicator had Keith’s heart lurching. “Shiro!” His yell was drowned out by the groaning of the ship around them. Voltron was rattling as they were dragged up and up closer to the command center.

Z-Zarkon is taking control of the Black Lion!!” Shiro gasped in barely veiled pain.

Keith froze, a roar sounding in the back of his mind. He didn’t know who it was coming from. Perhaps it was the Guardian, maybe it was Red. There was also to possibility that it was Black trying to fight Zarkon’s hold. Either way the sound was near deafening to Keith’s ears.

No.

He was not going to let Zarkon get his hands on Black. He’d die before that happened.

Keith’s eyes flashed white and his markings flared even brighter. The glow condensed on Keith’s hands till it was spreading down Red’s handles and over her controls. Keith fed his quintessence into the Lion and instead of meeting resistance in its place he felt a deep rumble of approval.

Like her acceptance was all he needed, suddenly the floodgates opened. Keith poured his quintessence into Voltron itself. Suddenly Red’s console turned from its usual fiery glow into a burning white. It was like a wave had come to wash out all the colour and leave nothing behind.

If he’d been paying attention Keith might’ve heard the sounds of shock pouring in from his team. Inside their own ships they too watched as the colour was yanked away and was instead replaced by the glowing white.

What’s going on?!

What’s happening??!

Is this Zarkon’s doing?!

The moment the white light flooded Shiro’s console the pain in his head suddenly lessened. Each heartbeat no longer felt like someone was taking a hammer to his head. And every time he breathed his lungs no longer felt constricted. Instead it was like he was being shielded from Zarkon while trying to fight for control.

I don’t think this is Zarkon’s doing…” He trailed off, blinking in surprise when the white suddenly increased in intensity outside of their Lions.

On his end, Keith had bitten through his lip from how much of a strain he was under. He was used to constantly feeding his quintessence into one Lion, not five. This was putting a lot of pressure on his mind just to try and lessen the burden against his team. If Zarkon wanted the Black Lion then he was going to have to get through Keith’s blockade.

The young Altean grinded his teeth together and let out a cry of battle as he sent out another flood of quintessence. This yell was heard by his team and instantly they realized what was going on.

Lance was the first to react. His face appeared on Keith’s screen and blue eyes widened at the sight. “Woah Keith?! Are you doing this?!! What’s happening?!

One by one his team’s faces appeared on the side of his screen. Each of them watched his face with growing concern. Pidge, ever the diligent one, was quickly typing away at her screen before letting out a gasp.

He’s directly feeding his quintessence into Voltron! Like a plug in battery!

What does that mean??

Shiro hesitated, “From the feel of things… He’s preventing Zarkon from getting full control of Black.

Ok so wait. He’s like, using himself as a living shield against Zarkon’s mind?? Can he do that?” A valid question from Hunk.

He’s Altean! Who knows what he can do?!” Another valid point from Lance.

However their little moment of awe was interrupted the moment the devices forming the beam ruptured with explosions. The laser from the castle ship tore through the metal of Zarkon’s command center like butter. Explosions bloomed like balls of fiery flowers and suddenly Voltron was no longer being pulled up.

Paladin’s now’s your chance! Get out of there!!

Right!!” The group shouted.

Their faces disappeared from Keith’s screen. Perhaps if they’d lingered a moment longer they would’ve seen the light dim and Keith’s eyes roll into the back of his head. He slumped forward, hitting Red’s controls with a heavy thud.

He wasn’t unconscious, not entirely. Keith could hear the muffled voices of his team around them. He couldn’t understand what they were saying though. They sounded far, muted. Almost like he was trying to hear them from underwater. Perhaps he might’ve pushed himself too hard when flooding Voltron with quintessence.

Through the link in Voltron Keith could sense that his friends were panicked. Why was that the case? Then the next moment the link was gone. Ah, they disbanded. Keith needed to grab Red’s controls. He needed to fly back to the castle.

Just as that thought crossed his mind he suddenly felt Red lurch. Then a breathy voice heavy with distress broke through the buzzing in his ears. “I’ve got you, buddy. Just hold on.

Keith blinked, still in a daze. Ah, Shiro.

It was a struggle but Keith managed to drag his eyes up in order to look out Red’s screen. From his slumped angle he could make out some of Black’s frame. Was he being carried in her claws? Keith rumbled, patting a hand against Red’s console.

“Red… You… You have to get to your hangar…” His words were slurring and his throat ached.

She rumbled in response, clearly reluctant to move. However even Red knew the situation was dire so being petulant was not an option. With a shake she dislodged herself from Black’s grip, butting her head ever so gently against the larger Lion’s. Then she was darting off towards the ship, indisposed Paladin in tow.

Red could easily tell how drained Keith was. He was barely running on fumes and was one step away from passing out. So with a huff the inside of her console suddenly flared brighter for a moment.

Keith blinked in surprise when he felt the sudden rush of energy flooding his body. He found himself able to sit up and the pounding in his head was now only a dull throb.

Slowly a strained smile spread out across his face, “Thanks Red.”

It wasn’t a lot of energy. Probably only enough for Keith to scrape by for a bit. Yet it would have to do.

He clenched his fist and left Red’s hangar in order to join the team. As they rushed to meet up with Coran someone fell into step beside him. Keith glanced to the side, locking eyes with Shiro.

“You doing ok? You were unresponsive for a bit.”

“Ah, yeah…” Even Keith’s voice sounded scratchy and tired. Very much not a reassuring thing to hear. “I’ll be fine for now.”

’For now’?” Shiro echoed with a frown.

Despite how tired he felt Keith still couldn’t resist letting out a small laugh. “Yeah. Don’t worry I’ll let you know the moment that changes.”

“You’d better.”

And that was that. Soon they were gathered around Coran as he analyzed the cookies Hunk made and gave the affirmation that yes indeed these would work. They just had to be set up in a specific way or else they’d be shit outa luck.

Which now led to the predicament they were currently in. Keith was quite literally hanging from the ceiling holding a miniature scaultrite lens in his hand. The rest of his teams were in similarly awkward positions.

However Coran’s very reassuring words left little room for comfort. And even then Keith was giving him a glare from where he hung.

You liar. We’ve done far more dangerous things than this!

Sorry can’t hear you! The slipperies seem to have muffled my ear canal. Oh well!” Coran then dutifully saluted the rest of the team, “Good luck, gentlemen and gentlelady. It’s been a pleasure. Don’t touch the lasers!”

The door closed and left the team shrouded in dim light. Hunk hesitated, “Uhhh… Hey Keith? Coran was joking, right?”

“Of course.”

A relieved sigh, “Oh thank the stars. Because I was—“

“This is probably the second most dangerous thing he’s ever done. Fifth for me.”

Hunk choked on his air. Sensing that his words might’ve had a negative effect Keith gave him a glance. “Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll be fine. Just… Don’t touch the lasers.”

The chamber gradually brightened as the teludav was activated. This time it was Lance’s turn to have a minor freak out and for Pidge to console him. However just as quickly as it started it was soon over. Something had gone wrong.

Keith’s brows furrowed when the door opened and Coran came sliding in. Allura began audibly counting down as the team watched Coran twirl over the lenses and coat them in a sheen from his slipperies.

As Coran passed by, he very deliberately slapped a glob of slick against Keith’s head. Even with his helmet on that still didn’t save the lower half of his face from getting hit. He couldn’t exactly protest the treatment without opening his mouth and Keith was not about to let that happen. So he could only settle on glaring holes into his friend’s face.

In the next moment the teludav was once again active. Here’s hoping this time it worked. The light got so bright that eventually it was impossible to keep his eyes open. When he was finally able to open his eyes again he felt cooked and certainly smelt like it. A quick look around showed he wasn’t the only one.

The door to the chamber opened and there Allura stood with a brilliant smile. “Great job Paladins! We managed—Wuh?”

She cut-off midway the moment she saw the state everyone was in. Then Lance dropped to the ground and she jumped into action. “Oh dear! Everyone are you alright?!”

Lance groaned, “I suddenly know what it likes to be a fried chicken.”

Allura was confused and concerned. She seemed worried that the other was going deranged from the teludav’s energy. Allura picked him up, shaking him. “What? Lance I still don’t know what a chicken is! Why would it be fried?! Lance!”

While that little… Moment happened… Keith found himself having a conundrum of his own. He felt drained and already his vision was growing spotted. Seems like the energy Red lent him had finally run out. Good timing.

Shiro stood underneath Keith, looking up at him in concern. “Hey, you ok?” He’d noticed that Keith continued hanging from the lens even after everyone had started moving again. Now that he was looking up into Keith’s face he could easily tell that something was wrong. The other looked ashen and his eyes were unfocused. “Keith?”

Keith’s lips parted, the inside still stained a splotchy blue from when he’d bitten through the skin earlier. “Shiro…”

At Keith’s croak everyone jolted and looked over to him. Shiro frowned yet before he could speak Keith was once again opening his mouth. “I think I’m going to pass out.”

And like a prediction come true Keith’s eyes rolled backward and he was dropping. Shiro gasped, catching Keith at the last minute and saving him from smacking into the ground. Shiro bent down and swept up Keith’s legs and carried him out of the chamber so that they could get a better look at him.

Allura was the first to come to his side the moment he was out, her hands flittering around checking Keith’s face and pulse. Behind her the rest of the team crowded around with eyes wide in worry.

Finally after a tense moment she sighed in relief. The pinch in her brow eased and she smiled. “He’ll be fine. Keith just exhausted himself by using a lot of his quintessence. He’ll be fine after some rest.”

That caused a ripple of relief to wash over the team. They shared grins before Shiro inclined his head towards them all. “You heard her team. Let’s follow Keith’s example and get some rest.”

One by one they filed out. Coran lingered back, brows drawn as his hands darted in aborted movements like he wanted to reach for Keith and take him from Shiro. In the end he settled for just pulling off the other’s helmet. He set in on Keith’s chest, tucking some white hair behind his ear before brushing along Keith’s mark.

“You’ve got him, then?”

Shiro nodded, “I’ll get him out of his armor and make sure he’s comfortable.”

Coran nodded, taking a step back and offering Shiro a tired salute. “Then I’ll leave it to you, Number 1!”

He continued to watch as Shiro walked past, smile still lingering. Coran was honestly happy to see his best friend being cared for so softly. There was no doubting the look he’d seen on Shiro’s face. The way he gently held Keith in his arms. Yes, truly he was in good hands. Coran grinned, twisting his mustache. Oh the potential fun he would have at Keith’s expense. He couldn’t wait for the teasing to begin.

Chapter Text

It seems that the damage done to Zarkon’s command center was enough to prevent him from tracking Black down. Either that or he was merely hanging back in order to lull the Paladins into a false sense of security. Keith highly doubted that was the case given the fact Zarkon was such a stubborn brute. Like an annoying tick that’s dug in and refuses to budge.

However because of the sudden gap in attacks everyone took this moment to rest up and prepare for the next fight. Which led them to the planet Taujeer and helping the people escape their shedding planet. Amidst the battle Hunk even unlocked his Lion’s special ability. Which meant out of the five of them, already three had their hidden abilities unlocked. Now it was only a matter of time for Red and Black to join the lot.

The fight this time wasn’t as difficult as the previous ones. More like it was just a rush against time to save the people of Taujeer from taking a bath in hot acid. No problem for team Voltron. 

Only after the people were safe did the team finally sit around and have a talk.

“I think now that we have a moment to breath, I’m going to try and bond with Black again.” Shiro said to the group.

They all shared a mild look of concern, Allura the one to speak first. “Are you sure, Shiro?”

“I’m sure. I’ve been giving it some thought and I now have an idea on how we might be able to bond. Hopefully this time it’ll work.”

“Well while you’re working on that, the rest of us will need to find new teludav lenses… Otherwise we won’t be able to travel via wormhole.” Coran said garnering everyone’s attention. 

They all frowned at that. How were they going to get the lenses? Only Alteans used teludav’s so the market for lenses were a little… Nonexistent. However as everyone was racking their brain for possible ways to get the needed materials, both Coran and Keith suddenly got an idea.

Their eyes lit up and they shared a look. 

“I think I’ve got an idea on where we could get some.” Coran said slowly.

Keith grinned, “You thinking what I’m thinking?”

The shared conspiratorial look had the team taking a step back in apprehension. In the next moment Coran was pulling up a few images and text on the castle’s main screen. 

One image was a picture clearly taken by a relatively young Coran. In the back they could see a four armed Alien looking annoyed and waving at Coran like she didn’t want him taking a picture. Further back they could see two Altean’s inside the shop. One was Alfor. He was turned to the side and was laughing at his companion. The other Altean had his back to the camera, fluffy black hair held in place by a pony tail that ended about mid-back. It was simple deduction to figure out that the third Altean was probably Keith.

Allura crossed her arms over her chest and looked at the screen in barely contained disdain. “Surely you’re not suggesting we go to one of those filthy swap moons, are you? Coran, the last time you went those space pirates took you for everything you had!”

Like he could sense the oncoming scolding building up, Lance cut in and managed to derail whatever that conversation would’ve been. “Uh space pirates??”

The screen changed to enlarge the pictures of the four armed aliens that had been on the far side of the screen. “The Unilu were traders and pirates that roamed the galaxies and dealt in black market goods. Umvy spice, by-tor water, little bottles of infinity vapor.” Coran wagged his finger as he explained, “Of course you had to bargain. No one could bargain like the Unilu. Last time I ended up giving away three quarters of my shipment of lango in exchange for a used pogo oscillator.”

The three Alteans all laughed at that, Allura shaking her head fondly. “Father was not pleased about that.”

“Oh that’s nothing! One time Keith traded an earring for a bottle of powdered flight! Turns out it wasn’t powdered flight at all but a bottle of sweet siren!” Coran nearly interrupted himself from how hard he was trying not to laugh. However after getting across what he wanted to say he no longer held back his giggles and slapped the console in his mirth.

Allura covered her mouth with her hand, chuckles muffled as she looked to Keith. “Oh Yorak, really? How did you find out?”

Keith looked grim, his eyes slightly haunted. “I drank it.”

That made Coran and Allura laugh even louder. Coran wheezed, hunching over as he waved a hand in Keith’s direction. “Alfor and I nearly died when Keith transformed on the ship! We had to book it to the nearest water planet before he suffocated! Alfor practically dumped all our meager water supply on Keith just to keep him breathing!!”

A dark glint flashed through Keith’s eye as he crossed his arms over his chest. The Altean smirked, “After the potion wore off we went back to the shop. I made sure I was… Greatly reimbursed.” 

Lance pursed his lips, “Riiight. Well while Coran is picking up his lenses,” At this he slid up next to Allura and flashed her a grin he probably assumed was charming. “I’ll take you to buy something sparkly.”

However Coran sprang between them and shouted in annoyance, “This isn’t shopping! You’re not wondering around saying ‘ooh what a lovely pink hat! This is so becoming.’ No! I can’t allow Allura to get anywhere near those filthy, lowballing—“

“I think she should be allowed to go.”

The interruption had Coran freezing and turning betrayed eyes towards Keith. He sputtered, “What?! Keith! B-but the Princess--!”

’But the Princess’ what? Coran she’s already almost 80, she’s fine.” 

The three Altean’s didn’t seem to notice the shock on their companion’s faces at the knowledge that Allura was almost 80. Instead they seemed to disappear into their own world. Which then led to them falling back into speaking Altean. And, as Pidge was the only one who was learning how to speak Altean, she roughly translated a few things being said.

Yorak she is still young! Too young to be going to such a dangerous place! Besides she’s the only one that can control the castle!

Who cares if she’s young? We were far younger than her when we started getting into crazy shit! Do you not remember the oko-oko?? Or what about that week we spent in the Yri Forest?

Allura’s eyes went wide and she gasped in minor awe, “Coran! You went into the Yri Forest??

Coran flushed at the memories but still crossed his arms over his chest in refusal. “She’s not going.

She’s allowed to make her own decisions.

As her reigning guardian I forbid it!

I’m as much of a guardian to her as you are!” 

At this point they were both standing in each other’s faces and glaring. The humans on the team looked apprehensive, Shiro appearing one step away from getting between the two. Allura herself stood off to the side with an expression of amused endearment. It was only because she didn’t seem worried that the others hadn’t stepped in yet.

Finally when it seemed neither Keith nor Coran would back down they both gave a firm nod. Coran leaned away and twiddled his mustache. “I see. Fine. Usual rules then?

Usual rules.” Keith turned, nodding to Allura. “You’re referee.

That managed to change her expression into one of shock. She blinked in confusion and could only follow after Coran and Keith. Behind them trailed the rest of their team. They watched as Coran pressed a few buttons and a table rose from panels on the floor. Both Keith and Coran took up stance on either side of the table before resting their elbows on it and locking hands.

Hunk blinked, brows drawing together in blatant confusion. “Are they really going to arm wrestle to see if Allura can go or not?” 

Pidge snorted and nudged him with her elbow. “Have you tried to arm wrestle an Altean?”

“Uh no because I’ve seen how Keith ripped that door off its hinges that one time we were on a Galra battle cruiser. I want my arm to stay attached, thank you very much.”

Allura stood near the edge of the table, hand raised. “Ready? And… Begin!

Suddenly both Coran and Keith’s hands tensed and they were straining with brows furrowed. Neither sides moved yet the obvious force being put into the match was visible from the way their hands were slightly shaking.

The team of humans, after glancing at each other once, suddenly erupted into goading cheers. Most of them were for Keith simply because they too didn’t want their princess to be left out. Even Allura looked to be cheering for Keith to win. She really didn’t wanna get stuck doing practically nothing on the ship after all.

Suddenly Keith’s eyes narrowed and he bared his teeth. With a low growl he clenched his fist tighter and in the next moment Coran’s hand was slammed into the table. The sound was so loud it caused everyone around them to jump in surprise. 

Coran clicked his tongue, shaking out his hand. “You warriors always going overboard.” He sighed, “But alright. I admit defeat.”

Keith grinned and the two clasped hands good naturedly. Coran laughed and patted his friend’s shoulder before nodding to Allura. “Alright Princess, you can come.”

“Yes!” She pumped her fist in the air and practically vibrated in excitement.

And with that everyone was rushing for the ship hangar. Shiro, on the other hand, lingered back. He smiled, “You guys have fun.”

After some quick farewells they were on their way to the swap moon. Before docking, however, both Coran and Keith insisted they change into disguises. When asked why, Coran had proudly proclaimed it was to blend in. If only they realized their information was about 10,000 deca-phoebs out of date.

Keith could tell the moment they entered the mall that they really should’ve sent a scout or something first. These swap moons seem to have… Evolved in the past 10,000 deca-phoebs. Hm. Well no matter. Keith had no intention of switching out of his clothes. If they were going to get strange looks then they were going to get them together as a group. 

Or so he thought. They ended up splitting off into different directions so really it was just him, Coran, and Allura that looked out of place.

Allura was dressed in a hooded cowl with a mask over her face to help obscure her identity. It wouldn’t do to have people recognize the Princess. Even if the chances were slim it was better to be safe than sorry. 

Underneath the cowl she had on a tunic with muted colours. Her pants were darker and a lot baggier than she was used to. Various pouches and a pair of grungy boots adorned in spikes completed the look. Compared to Keith and Coran, she looked almost dull. Like your eyes were meant to drift over her. This, as well, was intentional.

Coran’s outfit looked flashy no matter where he went. Though his eccentric look gave off the feeling that he was the leader of their little oddball trio. Keith, on the other hand, was the one meant to draw eyes.

His white hair had been styled so that a good portion of it hung down his face and covered one eye. The bangs on the other side had been gelled back so they were tucked and pinned behind his ear by a golden clip. That ear, being the only visible one with the way his hair was styled, had spiked earrings along the helix and a single hoop on the lobe. 

The outfit he wore consisted of a thick cape and a scarf that covered the bottom half of his face. He’d worn some of his street clothes he left Earth in and had added an extra pair of pouches and wrappings around his forearms. At his waist Keith strapped his dagger’s holster so it was directly on his hip. This way any time he parted his cape the weapon would be visible. 

All in all Keith was meant to look like one thing. The intimidating body guard. A.K.A: The Muscle. He’d even changed his height to be several inches taller than Coran and the others just so he could complete the look.

Allura stood at Coran’s side, practically bouncing with every step. She was extremely excited to be here and learning all that Coran knew about trading with Unilu. Keith, playing his part, walked a few feet behind and kept quiet.

Whenever the three of us would go out to swamp moons in disguise, we’d use fake names to conceal our identities!” Coran explain in a conspiratory whisper. “Your father used the name Alo, I was Coa, and Yorak was Kar. I acted as the main leader to our band of pirates and Keith over there was the muscle.”

And father? What was his alias?”

He was our brains, mostly! Was always the one making the deals on my behalf! And if we ever felt we were getting jibbed we’d have ol’ Kar step in and do the talking! He always knew how to either intimidate or enrapture the Unilu to get a better deal.”

“’Enrapture?’” Allura looked over her shoulder and gave Keith a sly look. Keith pointedly looked away.

Indeed! Keith was quite the charmer in his youth. Could flirt his way out of a wumblox’s nest and still get a few cubes in the process! However the charm only seemed reserved for those he had no interest in. When faced with someone he liked he stuttered more than a skipping record and looked bluer than a moon fern!

Coran.” Keith hissed, fiercely jabbing Coran in the ribs.

The other managed to reign in the yelp that wanted to escape. Coughing into his fist, Coran lifted a hand and adjusted his eyepatch. “Right. But never mind the past! Right now we just need to try and find where the black market might be.

With Coran in the lead he led them to an information desk in hopes that it’d have the knowledge they needed. However Coran, social ineptness and all, simply didn’t understand why the young Unilu was so confused with his roundabout way of talking. It was when he pulled out the Grogery that Keith decided to step in. 

Coran, let me handle this.

He easily scooted his friend out of the way and took his place in front of the information desk. Keith had to bend slightly in order to be fully visible yet that still had him towering over the poor girl. Though from the sudden flush on her face she didn’t seem too put-off by it. If anything she leaned a bit closer over the counter.

“Do you happen to have any swap shops here? Specifically ones run by Unilu?” 

The girl straightened up at the question and suddenly she was nodding fervently. “U-uh yeah! Like my grandpa owns one. It’s how I managed to get a job here.” She suddenly scowled, “Though his shop is like, totally lame! It’s all old and musty and smells like feet. Seriously gross. He says it’s a family shop and it’ll be mine one day. But like I don’t want it?? Who wants such a trashy looking dump?”

Keith nodded at her mini rant, watching the young Unilu cross her arms over her chest and glare off to the side. He hummed and tapped a finger against the table. “Nothing wrong with wanting to do your own thing.”

She seemed to perk up at that. All four of her hands slammed against the counter and she leaned even more into Keith’s space in her enthusiasm. “Right?! But my mom is totally lame about it and keeps insisting I go there to work. I don’t see her helping out so why do I have to??! She’s also been totally on my case about my hair. It’s what’s in style! She just needs to lay off, you know??”

Again Keith nodded along, “Understandable. Though… What’s keeping you from changing up the shop?” Keith elaborated when he received a confused look, “If you own the shop then it’s yours to do with as you please. Fix it up so it doesn’t smell bad. Change the contents you sell. What matters is that the shop has stayed in the family. But where is it written that you have to keep it a swap shop? Sell what you want to sell.”

At the end of Keith’s speech her eyes had grown impossibly wide. The greenish blush on her cheeks has grown even darker at this point. She stuttered, looking down at her hands and fidgeting before darting her eyes back up to Keith’s. “U-uh yeah! You’re right! M-maybe I could… Sell something I want?”

Keith chuckled, “And for the record I think your hair looks nice.”

Now her blush was turning an alarming shade. She ducked her head and instantly began messing with the purple locks. “O-oh really?? T-thanks, Mr… Uh?”

“Kar.” Keith paused, noticing that the bulk of her hair seemed to fall over one of her eyes. If how she kept trying to shove it out of the way was any indication, then it probably wasn’t meant to do that. Keith reached up and plucked the golden clip out of his own hair, showing it to her. “May I?”

“Hm?? Oh!! Y-yeah, sure!” Her voice was practically a squeak at this point. And when Keith clipped her fluffy hair out of her face she was nearly a goner. 

The disguised Altean took a moment to make sure the clip was on correctly before nodding in satisfaction. “There we go. Now, would you mind giving us the direction of your grandfather’s shop?”

She nodded quickly and pointed down one of the mall’s many paths. “Y-you’ll wanna stick on this side of the mall for a bit. Then when you see the Yoll shop take a left. It’s set between Molk Diner and Olkari Books.”

Keith nodded appreciatively, “Thank you.”

“N-no problem! Thank you for the clip Mr. Kar!!”

It wasn’t till they were a good distance away from the information desk that Allura sent Coran a sly look. “I now see what you mean by Yorak’s charm.

Keith rolled his eyes and didn’t bother to form a rebuttal. Anything he said would’ve just dug himself into a deeper hole. So he remained quiet as the three of them followed the directions towards where the shop would be. 

Inside was just as cluttered as Keith remembered the swap shops being. With rare items stacked here and there, boxes towering high, and items obscured by cloth.

“Oh wow! It really is a genuine Unilu swap shop!”

Suddenly one of the items on the counter shifted before falling over the edge. The one who had pushed it off was an older looking Unilu. He smiled slyly, two of his hands rubbing together in a stereotypically suspicious way. “Good eye, friend! This shop’s been in my family since before the empire began.”

“How interesting!” Coran looked over his shoulder and nodded to Keith. “Kar, check around the shop. See if you can find what we’re looking for. Arul you’re with me.”

Arul, that name being the alias Allura chose for herself, was supposed to be a “new” pirate. Still learning the trade and all that. So she nodded and rushed to follow Coran up to the counter.

Coran leaned in, flicking his head towards her. “She’s new. I’m showing her the ropes just in case.”

The Unilu blinked before he nodded, “Oooh I see, I see! Yes very important indeed! Well if that’s the case, can I interest you in a butcher barrel? Or perhaps a set of window breakers?” As he spoke he pushed aside a clothed object. Unintentionally the movement caused the fabric atop it to slip off. And underneath? The very things they came here looking for.

Coran gasped, “Teludav lenses yes!!—U-uh I mean, I don’t have any idea what these pieces of junk are.” He then gestured towards the lenses being held by their silver frame.

The Unilu blinked for a moment before grinning. He reached over and pulled the lenses so they were directly in front of him. “I see you’ve got your eye on these antique glass table toppers here.”

Allura opened her mouth in confusion, “What? But those aren’t—“

One of Coran’s hands shot up and he stared at her meaningfully. She got the message, clamping her mouth shut and ducking her head. The Unilu pointedly ignored her outburst. At least one thing about the swap shops haven’t changed. The Unilu running the shops always focused on the person they thought was the leader. After all it was usually the leader that held the money.

Coran cleared his throat, sitting on the item that had been pushed off the counter previously. He unslung his bag from behind him and dropped it on the counter. “Well they are rather ugly. But I do have an empty curio cabinet for grotesqueries. How much do you want?”

“How much have you got?”

Keith, from where he stood further to the back, grimaced. And so it begins.

“Oh,” Coran started offhandedly, “I have a handful of pocket lint.”

“I’ll take your first-born child.”

“I might be able to throw in a used handkerchief.”

“I could accept your left foot.”

“I’d be willing to sing you a song!”

“One of your crewmates must work for me for a year!”

“I’ll give you a rock from the planet Arus!” 

As the potential deals got more and more outrageous, Allura gradually took steps back till she was standing beside Keith. She hesitated, looking over to him. “D-do Unilu deals always go like this?

Sometimes. Depends on the Unilu you’re dealing with.

And this one…?

He’s considerably tame,” Keith shrugged his shoulders, “But this is Coran’s strategy.

Even though most of her face was covered Keith could easily tell she was giving him a look of disbelief. He snorted, “I’m serious. By himself Coran can sometimes make poor decisions. But when it really counts he can handle himself. What he’s doing now is a common strategy Alfor would use. You raise the stakes higher and higher till the next one is more outrageous than the last. Then when the Unilu are extremely vexed or excited you offer them something simple but seems grandeurs.

Just as Keith said that Coran suddenly reached into one of his pockets. “Well how about this?!” He exclaimed as he yanked out the echo cube. “One Olkari flying cube!”

The Unilu’s eyes widened and he let out a mild gasp. When on Olkari they had learned that they no longer made cubes like that. So from an outsider’s standpoint such a thing was practically priceless. For Coran, on the other hand, he had nearly a dozen of them. Not to mention that since they were allies with the Olkari they wouldn’t mind making him more if he asked. However the Unilu didn’t know this.

“Deal!” He shouted, all four of his hands snatching the cube and cradling it close.

Allura’s mouth dropped in shock and Keith sympathetically patted her shoulder before moving past. Coran laughed haughtily, tugging at his mustache.

“Pleasure doing business with you! Kar, carry these back to the ship!” Coran said as he pat the top of the lenses.

Keith grunted in lieu of a verbal reply. Coran passed him his empty bag and Keith slipped the lenses into it. Then he slung the bag over a shoulder and followed after Coran and Allura as they exited the shop.

They were barely over the threshold before Allura exclaimed, “That was brilliant Coran! And so exciting! I can now see why… Uh… Huh.

She trailed off as all three of them stood there and stared. Flying past on a hover board riding a cow were their fellow Paladins. For a moment Keith had the thought, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t have left three humans alone in an alien mall.’ 

Pidge pointed at them, Lance shouting “We’ve gotta go guys!!”

Keith shoved at the backs of the other Altean’s and prompted them to sprint after the flying trio. It was a bit of a struggle but eventually all three of them somehow found a way to fit. They clung on tight as they floated past jumps and down several flights of stairs. Behind them they could hear shouting for them to stop. As Keith took a moment to look at who was tailing them, he found himself nearly spitting in shock.

“Wuh—Why is there a Galra… Mall… Cop? Following you??!”

“I really don’t know! The guy called me a space pirate and then started chasing me!” Hunk yelled from where he sat.

Keith cursed, looks like the disguises backfired. Oh well no point in getting bugged by it now. They had a mall cop to outrun. Or well… Out fly. Which wasn’t exactly hard once they passed over the mall’s threshold.

After a minor mishap of Lance smacking his head and tumbling off the cow, the group found themselves back aboard the ship. They all collected in the bridge, the excitement between them palpable.

“I can’t believe we managed to find lenses so easily!” Allura exclaimed with a laugh. “Now we just have to replace them and we’ll be right as rain!”

“That’s the idea!” Coran puffed out his chest and twiddled his mustache. “Aah it does get the blood pumping after making a deal with the Unilu.”

Keith snorted, pausing for a moment as he glanced around the room. “I wonder where Shiro is.”

As the old Earth saying goes, “Speak of the Devil and he shall appear”. The moment Keith voiced his question the door whooshed open and Shiro was there. He smiled at the group, clearly interested in their rambunctious expressions.

“I take it the mission was successful?” He froze for a moment when he stared at Keith. It took his brain several long seconds to process that the Altean in front of him was indeed his friend. His brows drew together and Shiro had to crane his neck up in order to look at Keith. A light dusting of pink darkened Shiro’s cheeks as he asked, “Uh Keith… You get taller?”

It was only then that Keith remembered he hadn’t bothered to change back to his actual height. He shook his head, reaching up and ruffling his hair so it’d fall back into its regular style. Then his form gradually shrunk and he was left being the one having to cant his head back in order to look up at Shiro.

“Sorry, forgot I shifted.”

Thankfully Shiro’s face was no longer flushed as he gave a reassuring smile. “No worries. Just surprised me.”

Then he blinked and finally addressed the elephant in the room. Or more accurately the cow. He honestly struggled to come to terms with what he was seeing.

“Uh… Is that a cow?”

“Mmm-hmmm, his name is Kaltenecker.” Lance sounded like a proud mother when introducing it. Kaltenecker mooed in what was taken as a greeting.

Crossing his arms over his chest and cocking a hip, Keith smirked. “At least we finally have meat aboard this ship.”

The horrified gasp that left Lance sounded like his soul was being sucked from him. He instantly stepped between Kaltenecker and Keith. Pointing a finger, the Blue Paladin leveled him with a dark glare. 

“Take one wrong step towards Kaltenecker and it’ll be your meat we serve, space boy!”

Keith blinked and raised his hands to clap. “Wow an actual decent threat. I’m impressed.”

The Black Paladin beside him finally pulled his stupefied look away from the cow in order to chuckle and stare at Keith. “Come on, be nice.”

Instead of offering further comment Keith chose to change the conversation. “So, did you find a way to bond with your Lion?”

Suddenly Shiro’s expression turned serious and he was frowning. “Yes, and we need to get moving. We’re heading to the Blade of Marmora’s headquarters.” 

Chapter Text

Keith was visibly tense. If it wasn’t from the way his back was painfully straight and his jaw clenched, then it’d be the way he was marching back and forth that revealed his internal freak-out. Everyone, minus Coran, was watching him with mounting hints of concern.

“Coran,” Shiro spoke up after seeing Keith turn sharply and retrace his steps for the 80th time. “How soon will we get to the Blade of Marmora’s base?”

He was asking for the sake of everyone’s sanity. Just watching how agitated Keith was, was making them all apprehensive. But no one was willing to call out his obvious excitement. They could understand why he was acting this way. They were headed to the Blade of Marmora’s base. A place his adoptive mother might be. Keith hadn’t seen Krolia for nearly 17 deca-phoebs and already he was beside himself with concern and delight.

Would she be there at the base? Or was she out on a mission? Could Keith finally introduce her to his friends? Show that there were humans willing to accept him? Would he be able to introduce her to Coran and Allura? Keith had so many questions and hopes winding him up like a spring that it was hard for him to stay still. Hence the pacing.

Coran hummed as he moved his fingers across his consol. “Based on the coordinates that Ulaz gave us, I say we should be there within a few doboshes.” He took a moment to yell over his shoulder, “And Keith! Stop pacing like you’re a caged Xznly Squiwl!” 

His shout had said Altean jumping. Keith blinked, eyes wide like he hadn’t even noticed he was pacing. He dutifully moved to sit back in his seat but it wasn’t long before his leg was bouncing from restless energy. Coran sighed and rolled his eyes, muttering something in Altean.

Pidge snorted before she clasped her hands behind her back and swayed back and forth. “I’m also excited to go to their base. I mean, they were able to fold space-time, and that was just at an outpost!”

Beside her Hunk hummed in agreement, “Mm, the space taco. It left us too soon.”

“Well sure…” Pidge pursed her lips before grinning and waving her arms excitedly. “But my point is, imagine how amazing their home base will be! Keith, did your mom ever tell you what it looked like?”

“No. She didn't want to risk compromising anything important. Even on Earth we never knew who was listening. Though she did tell me a few things that she felt were fine for me to know.”

The team all stared at him expectantly. Yet when no answer was forthcoming Lance made a “continue” gesture. “Liiiike…?”

Quirking one white brow, Keith frowned. “I know their code word.”

There was a collective groan and a few head smacks. Shiro smiled at Keith’s obvious confusion. “I think they were hoping for something more... Substantial?”

“Juicy, Shiro! We wanted something juicy!”

Now Keith was outright glaring, “What do you mean by ‘juicy’?? Like their training regimen? Or their leader’s name?”

“Oh, I would like to learn their leader’s name!” Allura said with a raise of her hand. 

Just as Keith opened his mouth to answer, Coran said. “Their base is in range.”

The next instant Keith was off his seat and standing at Coran’s side. It was with a fond shake of his head that Shiro asked Coran to take them in slowly. However Coran grimaced at the request. “That might prove the tiniest bit of a challenge.”

And indeed he was correct. The sight before them was breathtaking in how beautiful and dangerous it was. A giant blue star sat directly between two black holes. The sheer intensity of the black holes’ vacuum was enough to keep the star suspended without either side gaining the upper hand and sucking it into oblivion. And the base itself? Directly between the three deadly celestial objects. The absolute perfect cover.

“Hail a frequency.” Keith demanded while everyone was still trying to wrap their brains around the sight before them.

Lance huffed a sigh, “Keith, chill dude. It’s not going anywhere.”

“Lance is right,” Allura’s smile was apologetic, “Yorak I know you’re very excited but we need to take things slow. I’m sure the Blade will contact us when they’re ready.”

Of course she was probably right. But it was hard to agree with such a notion when Keith was ready to launch himself at the base. He wanted to see Krolia. He needed to see her. To hug her and tell her everything that has happened since she’s been gone. To show her how much he’s grown over the deca-phoebs. And to tell her how much Tex loved and missed her. How much Keith had missed her.

“Keith,” A familiar hand settled on his back. Violet eyes turned to regard silver, understanding and warmth clear in their depths. “I know you’re excited. But remember, patience yields focus. We'll get in eventually. You just have to be patient.”

Those words seemed to help. Keith sucked in a deep breath of air before exhaling ever so slowly. He nodded, “Right… Patience yields focus.”

Shiro seemed satisfied and he let his hand linger for a moment longer before dropping it back to his side. Just then a large screen popped up before them. It beeped for a moment, Galra lettering appearing in purple slashes and squiggles. 

The voice of the ship’s AI translated it not a moment later. “Identify yourself.”

When a hailing frequency was opened Shiro spoke loud and clear. “We are the Paladins of Voltron, sent here by Ulaz.”

They were met with such a lengthy silence that Keith was tempted to speak up as well. Perhaps if he says something it might tip in their favor? If Krolia had told certain members about him then surely they’d advocate on Keith’s behalf. 

Yet there wasn’t a need to. The text suddenly changed and the AI dutifully translated. “Two may enter. Bring the blade and the kit.”

And with that the screen closed.

Everyone was left momentarily stunned. 

“Anyone know what they’re referring to by ‘blade’ and ‘kit’?” Hunk asked, voicing the question on everyone’s mind.

“Well ‘kit’ is a common word used by Galra to refer to one’s offspring or a young child. In this case they no doubt mean Keith. And as for the blade they speak off…” Coran trailed off as he turned to look at his friend.

Keith huffed, “They probably mean my mother’s blade. It’s the undeniable proof that I am who I say I am.”

“Of the two allowed to go, one must be Keith. They made it sound nonnegotiable.” Allura crossed her arms over her chest and frowned. 

“That’s because it probably is. The Blade of Marmora has no reason to trust Voltron. Just because Ulaz says we’re trustworthy doesn’t mean they’ll actually believe him. Especially since Ulaz only knows Shiro and not really personally at that.” Pidge pushed up her glasses and they momentarily glinted in the ship’s light.

Lance tossed her a look of confusion, “Ok but then why would they trust Keith enough to personally request him?”

“That’s because he was raised by one of their members.” Pidge suddenly looked thoughtful as she deduced the potential reasoning’s. “Think about it. Who are you going to trust more? Someone you raised or someone you’ve known for at most a varga? Ulaz freed Shiro from prison, sure. But just because he freed Shiro and knows he leads Voltron doesn’t mean he knows Shiro as a person. With Keith, he was raised by Krolia. And if we factor in her potential rank then maybe what she says has influence. Or maybe she has someone with sway backing up her claims. So while the Blades might trust Ulaz they have no reason to put their trust in Shiro, someone even Ulaz doesn’t know very well. But Krolia had years to get to know Keith and learn about him and his cause. She’s got more substance to go off of.”

Around her the team began to collectively nod. She really did make a point. This still didn’t stop Allura from frowning. “I don’t like how they already decided for us who one of the people heading over should be.”

“We’ve got no choice, Princess. They set the requirements and we have to follow.” Coran looked from the screen he was hunched over. “They also just sent us a route to the base, but we’ll have to move quickly. Because of the solar flares, it’s only open for another varga. Then it will be closed for two quintants.”

With such a limited amount of time they had to be quick. It was at Allura’s suggestion that Shiro tag along with Keith to the base. She felt it would be a lot better if the leader of Voltron went to speak on their behest along with Keith. Allura was humble enough to admit that she was still having trouble trusting the Galra, so Shiro would be the better option.

Before they departed Keith made sure to throw a smile to his team. “Don’t worry. If anything goes wrong I’ll just use White to summon a wormhole for us.” Hopefully nothing went wrong and it didn’t come down to that. Keith didn’t think it would, but the reassurance was more for his team than for him.

The flight to the base was mostly traveled in comfortable silence. Between the two of them there wasn’t really a need to fill the room up with words. They could simply bask in the other’s presence and it would be fine. However Shiro could see the way Keith’s eyes were wide and nearly sparkling the closer they got to the base. He tried to hold in his mounting laugh but eventually his urge won out.

Keith nearly jolted at Shiro’s soft chuckle. He spared a quick glance at him, “What?”

“Nothing, nothing. It’s just been a while since I’ve seen you this excited.” 

If Shiro didn’t know any better he would say that his words caused Keith to blush. The Altean huffed, “Can you blame me? I mean I know the chances of Krolia being there are slim. But the Blade would probably have some idea on how she’s doing, right? She’s bound to check in. Maybe they can find a way to slip her a message to let her know that I’m here.”

“Well if she is here then I’m excited to meet her.”

At Shiro’s admission Keith found himself smiling a lot more widely. He laughed, glancing towards Shiro. "She'll love you. Mom admires good leaders.”

That caused another laugh to spill past the Black Paladin’s lips. “Well then I better do a good job so she approves of me more.”

The conversation gradually died into another comfortable silence after that. The two remained in their own thoughts as Keith navigated them around the winding path towards the base. As they got closer to the asteroid Keith made note that it looked quite similar to the symbol on Krolia’s blade. He wondered if the rocky formation was naturally like that or did they manually shape.

It was only a couple of ticks after exiting Red that the ground before them rumbled and split. A platform arose and on it were two Blade members. One was considerably tall, perhaps bordering on seven feet. He was bulky with a wide set of shoulders. The Blade member towered over his companion, the other being slimmer and nearer to Shiro’s height in stature.

The platform stopped rising with a hiss and soon they were at an impasse. Neither side moved forward. Instead they continued standing there like frozen statues. Then the shorter Galra clicked their tongue and shook their head.

They mumbled the first part of their sentence, the distance between them making it hard to hear even for Keith. Then the next part they spoke louder, a hand raised in greeting. “Shiro, Keith! I am happy to see you doing well!

Though the voice was somewhat robotic thanks to the mask, the two could still pinpoint who was speaking. Instantly their tense expressions melted away and they stepped forward.

“Ulaz! Great to see you’re doing well.” Shiro said with a smile. He held out a hand to the other when they got close enough. 

Ulaz chuckled and clasped forearms with Shiro. “Indeed. I have not heard word from Voltron in so long I had assumed you’d lost the coordinates. I am pleased to know this was not the case.

“Yeah… A lot of things happened after you left. So we’ve been a little busy.” Shiro said as the two Paladins shared a look.

When they dropped hands Ulaz took a step back. “Never mind the details, I am sure Kolivan will have you brief him if it is necessary.” He paused, turning to look at his companion. The other Galra was staring down at Keith. Behind him his tail was flicking back and forth restlessly. Keith was momentarily surprised at that. He didn’t know Galra could have tails.

Ulaz seemed to be able to tell that Keith was growing uncomfortable with the staring. However Ulaz's sharp nudge did nothing to phase the hulking Galra. Sighing in defeat, he merely introduced the other. “This is Antok. Please don’t mind him, he’s almost always this quiet. He means no harm. Krolia has simply spoken about you quite a bit and so he’s very curious.

That made sense. Keith inclined his head towards Antok, “Uh… Hi.”

The taller Galra merely hummed in response and took a step back. Ulaz nodded in understanding at whatever he meant from that simple sound. 

Antok is right. Kolivan is expecting you now. We’d best get going. Step upon the platform, please.

Both Shiro and Keith stepped onto the platform and with a click it began to descend. Once it was down far enough the ground above them began shifting back into place. The lights inside the elevator shaft made it so that they weren’t shrouded in darkness for too long.

It was unknown how far down they went. While it was only a couple ticks timewise, that didn’t mean it wasn’t a few hundred meters or so. The moment the platform did stop they were placed in front of a large steel door. 

Inside was a giant room with familiar Galra colour motifs. Near the end was a set of stairs that led up to a long dais. Atop the platform was who the Paladins assumed was the Blade leader. Flanking in a row from the stage to the elevator were Blade members. They stared forward with their hands at their sides. Deceptively calm and unassuming even when Keith knew that was never the case when it came to a Blade member.

Shiro and Keith walked down the stretch of tile side by side. Though all he wanted to do was look around like a kid at an amusement park, Keith knew he had to keep some form of decorum. Any of these Blades had the potential of being his mother underneath the mask. He didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of her by acting like a giddy youngling. He was far more mature than that.

When they were close enough the two Paladins stopped and regarded the Blade leader. He was dressed somewhat differently than the others. Probably to symbolize his rank within the order. And not a tick later he even confirmed his status.

I am Kolivan, leader of the Blade of Marmora.

“My name is Shiro and this is Keith. We are Paladins of Voltron.”

Kolivan’s digitized voice sounded unimpressed as he spoke to Shiro. “I know who you are. However,” Kolivan’s head turned slightly as he looked at the Blade behind Shiro. “I still find Ulaz’s choice in divulging our location to you to be foolish. Though he does indeed have a penchant for disobeying orders and following his impulses. But there is no changing that now. Do you have what you were asked to bring?

Keith nodded and reached behind him to pull out his mother’s knife. Once it was free of its sheath he held it out for Kolivan. The leader made no move to take it, instead flicking his head towards Antok.

Inspect it.

Antok slid up next to Keith far quieter than one of his size should. He held out his hand and Keith hesitated for but a moment before giving it to the other Galra. Even though he knew he could trust them, that didn’t make it any easier to let them have his mother’s blade.

The larger Galra brought it up to his mask and twisted it in different directions as he inspected it. After several long ticks of silence he finally handed the blade back before looking up to Kolivan.

It is Krolia’s blade.

Kolivan focused his attention on Keith. Despite his face being shrouded by a mask Keith felt pinned by his stare. “If that’s the case then are you her kit?

This was it. Keith subtly exhaled the breath of air trapped in his lungs. Standing straight with his chin held high, Keith spoke with all the pride he felt. “I am Yorak of Altea. Son of Ilor and Atka of Altea. Adopted son of Krolia of the Galra and Tex Kogane of Earth.

And then before Keith could even blink he was suddenly surrounded by massive arms and lifted into the air. Beside him Shiro jumped, hand raised like he would activate his arm the moment Keith showed signs of distress. However that wasn’t what happened. Instead Keith was simply held several feet off the ground while behind him Antok was making this rumbling scratchy sound. It was extremely familiar because Krolia did it for Keith sometimes when he had a bad episode. It was the Galra’s way of purring.

So this is my nephew. So very small. Still like a kit.” The deep voice behind him uttered.

Keith blinked.

Then he blinked again.

Uh what??

The other Blade members around them didn’t even react to Antok’s actions. Keith had his suspicions that they might’ve even expected this. Especially since he saw one slipping another a handful of GAC. 

Kolivan’s head slumped slightly and from the minute way his shoulders moved Keith assumed he was sighing. “Antok. Put the kit down. His feet aren’t even touching the ground.

It is because he is small. Krolia’s absence proves Earthlings cannot feed their young properly.

“Uh no… I’m Altean. My height is about average…” Keith mumbled from the confines of Antok’s arms.

Kolivan placed a hand to his temple and shook his head. After a while of internal debate he finally lowered his hand. “Fine. Let us move this discussion somewhere more… Appropriate. We can then wait till the path reopens in order to head back towards your ship.

However just as Kolivan was beginning to turn around Keith spoke up. “Actually we don’t need to wait. I can probably make us a path.”

And that was how Keith, Shiro, Kolivan, and Antok made their way out of the base and back to Red. Originally it would’ve just been Kolivan that joined them but Antok had outright growled when Kolivan told him to stay behind. That and he also squeezed Keith tighter so there was no prying him off anytime soon. At least he let go long enough for Keith to sit and pilot Red.

But then Antok had refused to sit in the cargo hold along with Kolivan. Sensing the hidden glare being directed his way, Shiro had humbly offered to sit in the cargo hold with the Blade leader. Keith would’ve been annoyed on Shiro’s behalf if he wasn’t so eager to have a moment with his adoptive uncle. He had quite a lot he wanted to ask him.

"How come Krolia didn't come with? Is she not on base?"

"She is not."

Keith tried hard to not visibly deflate at that. However it was a doomed endeavour. His shoulders drooped and he frowned slightly. She wasn't here? Then where...

Antok hummed, garnering Keith's attention. The Galra was looking down at him and his large hand came up to pat his head comfortingly. "Krolia is currently undercover. She has been for the past 5 deca-phoebs. Her updates are short but consistent."

It was as if Antok could sense what Keith was feeling. He knew just what to say to ease the tension squeezing away in Keith's heart. Feeling marginally better the young Altean allowed himself to smile up at the larger Galra. Krolia might not be here at the base but Antok had said she gave them updates from wherever she was stationed. Meaning for the time being she was safe and well. 

Krolia's whereabouts aside... Keith had more pressing matters to focus on.

So you’re Krolia’s little brother?

Correct. Your mother is my elder by six deca-phoebs.

Huh,” Keith was silent for a moment as he powered up red. “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but if you’re siblings why doesn’t she have a tail?” Keith would like to think that he’d notice if Krolia had a tail or not.

Antok seemed amused and he chuckled past the rumbling purr that had been vibrating in his chest since he first held Keith. “I find no offense in any of your questions, kit. Your mother does not have a tail because it is a rare trait amongst Galra. An old strain of DNA that generally lies dormant in all Galra these days. Not many are born with the trait awakened.

So like a one in a million chance you’ll get a tail?

More or less, yes.” Antok watched as Keith piloted Red off the asteroid and into the air. Then the Lion simply floated there while Keith closed his eyes in concentration. Yet the moment was broken when he felt a large hand once again patting his helmet-clad head.

Uhh…?

Apologies, kit. I am simply very eager to get to know Krolia’s child. From her stories alone I have already begun to see you as my own kin. Though I understand the sentiments might not be shared.” 

Honestly Keith didn’t understand what Ulaz had meant when he said Antok was usually quiet. Of course the guy had that tall imposing thing going on for him. But with how chatty he was to Keith it was a wonder that anyone would refer to him as “quiet”. But perhaps the reason why he talked so much to Keith was because he was also just as excited to meet him? It seemed like the case.

Smiling at the thought, Keith flicked his eyes up so he could look at the mask towering over his chair. “I don’t mind. I’ve been wanting to meet you for a while now too. Mom’s only told me a couple of things about you. She didn’t want to compromise anything too much. Though mom’s stories about me might be a little outdated. So maybe if we have the chance, then later we can get to know each other? You know, family bonding?

Antok hummed for a moment in thought, “Would you be against my mate joining us?

I don’t see why that’d be a problem. If they’re your mate then they’re family.

Seeming pleased with that answer Antok nodded and let silence fall. Keith used this as his chance to concentrate once again. It took another tick before a white wormhole had opened up in front of them. Keith wasted no time in sending Red through and emerging on the other side.

The wormhole quite literally was stationed for them to appear right next to the castle. Floating just to the side of it was White, the Lion’s eyes glowing for a moment before it turned around and shot back towards its spot in the main docking area. 

Is that your Lion, kit?

Yeah. Built it myself.

Very well done.

The smile on Keith’s face didn’t seem like it was going to come off anytime soon. They docked in Red’s hangar and exited the ship without much fanfare. Outside of her hangar in the Red Halls—as this section of the castle was named because it housed the Red Lion and as a results the lights on the walls were red—stood the rest of the team. 

“Is everything alright?” Allura asked the moment Keith and Shiro stopped in front of her. “When we got an alert that White had left the ship, we were all a little worried.”

“It wasn’t anything bad. Just didn’t feel like waiting two quintants.” Keith turned just as Antok and Kolivan stepped up behind them. “Allura, this is Kolivan. He’s the leader of the Blade of Marmora.”

She quirked a brow, “And his companion?”

Kolivan spoke before Keith could, “This is Antok. My second in command.” Suddenly his mask shuddered with static before it disappeared and revealed the scarred face underneath.

Kolivan appeared a little different compared to the Galra they’ve encountered so far. While markings weren’t an uncommon thing to see, Kolivan’s were different. He had red markings along with ridge-like bumps along the center of his forehead.

As he pushed back his hood the Marmora leader took a knee before the Princess. Behind him Antok followed suit. “Princess Allura, it’s good to see that the rumours are true. You’re still alive after all these years.”

“So is Zarkon. Can we consider you our ally in the fight against him?” Allura, despite her frown, truly did keep any hostility from bleeding into her tone. For that Keith counted it as a win. He sent her a thumbs up that, from the softening contours of her face, showed she saw the action.

However the little moment of warmth was shattered as Kolivan said with a grave voice, “Yes, but we have little time to discuss this. I just received word from our spy inside the Galran hierarchy. They have become aware of our presence, so the timetable for our plan has been moved up.”

“How soon do we need to begin?” Shiro asked as his frown was mirrored by his team.

Kolivan looked down at Shiro, “Now.”

The team jolted at that as a wave of unease washed over them. Clearly they hadn’t been anticipating such an abrupt answer. However given the circumstances it was understandable that they were short on time.

With a nod Allura turned around, “Perhaps it would be best to discuss this somewhere other than a hallway.”

The others began following Allura as she led them to the castle’s bridge. There the team settled in for what would no doubt be a long discussion. Predictably, three varga later they were only just beginning to wrap up the entirety of the plan.

“Yorak, has the Guardian given you any visions of the future that might interfere with the plan?” Allura asked once there was a lull in conversation.

Keith shook his head, “I’ve seen nothing that’ll get in the way. Though I do have one vision that ties to what I think will happen sometime during the plan? But don’t worry, I’ve already mentioned it to those that need to know.”

Or to be more accurate he mentioned to Antok that there was something they needed to talk about. So the intent was there Keith just needed to find the time to actually sit with his uncle and talk about it. 

“Good.” Allura nodded her head and placed a hand on her hip. “In the meantime we’ll need to gather the key items for this plan.”

When everyone split to carry out their specific tasks it was another moment where Antok looked ready to follow his adopted nephew. Antok’s tail had twitched restlessly and he looked one second away from making a grab to hug the smaller male. 

Keith huffed almost fondly and reached up to place his hand on Antok’s shoulder. “It’s fine. We can talk later."

After a tick of hesitation Antok finally sighed. He ruffled Keith’s hair, “Be safe, Kit. Your mother will skin my hide if anything should happen to you.

“Then I’d better come back safe so that won’t happen.” Keith said with a laugh.

With that said Antok finally allowed Keith to depart. He and Hunk had been given the task of collecting the scaultrite. Which meant going directly to the source. Coran had felt it was the best option seeing as how he and Keith were the only ones with experience collecting scaultrite. Though it has been a few deca-phoebs so Keith’s memory was… Spotty.

While Hunk drove Keith tried hard to remember the full method on dealing with a Weblum. Though it was a little hard to think when Hunk kept talking. 

“I always get stuck with the worst jobs. Go to a Galra occupied planet to get my lion. Go to a Galra occupied Balmera to get a crystal. Go into a belly of a beast with one of the three aliens on the team.” Hunk paused, looking over his shoulder at Keith. “Do you even remember how to collect the scaultrite from the Weblum?”

“Of course I do. Kind of. I remember the important parts.” Keith could see that his words only dampened Hunk’s assurance. “It doesn’t matter. It’ll come to me eventually. Let’s just focus on finding their feeding grounds first.”

Thankfully Hunk listened and turned his attention back to flying. However that didn’t last for long. He side-eyed Keith when the Altean moved to stand beside his seat.

“Soooo… What was with you and Kolivan’s second in command? I think his name was Antok?”

That caused Keith to smile lightly, “Yeah, Antok. You know how I said when on Earth I got adopted by a Galra?”

“Yeah?”

“Well Antok is her little brother. So I guess that makes him my adoptive uncle?”

Hunk let out a sound of shock, “Wait, wait! ‘Little brother’?! Holy crow how tall is your mom then?!”

Now Keith had to really think about that. When Krolia had been living with them Keith barely went up to her hip. Maybe a little past if he was being generous. But he was physically 7 at the time so it wasn’t that much of an oddity. 

“Mmm well I know she was taller than my dad. And both Shiro and my dad are relatively the same height? I think she’s a good head taller than them. Give or take a few inches.” Keith said with a shrug.

Hunk whistled, “Dang. I mean like I’ve met your dad and he’s already pretty tall. So your mom being taller is wow.” Hunk seemed to think of something and it made him look out towards space with a faraway look. “Do you think your dad has any advice? About dating an alien?”

Ok so Keith really didn’t want to have an answer for that. The last thing he needed was to think about his mom and dad’s dating life. He already had enough scars as it was. No need to add that to the growing pile.

“Look when we return to Earth and we aren’t fighting for our lives you can ask him yourself. Till then you’ll have to sit and wait.”

The Yellow Paladin turned his head to look back at him. “Ok but do you have advice? Have you dated a human before? Or an alien that was physically different than you but not like entirely different?”

Keith could choose to avoid the question. But Hunk seemed like he was earnestly looking for an answer. What was the harm in talking about his own past relationships? It’s not like his ex’s were still alive. Which… Was a morbid way of thinking about it but it was the truth.

So with a sigh he rested his weight against the back of Hunk’s chair. “Let’s see…. Mmmmm one of my ex’s were from a race that’s extremely tall. Like really, really tall. My ex was pushing 9 feet if I remember correctly. And their race could grow up past 11 feet.”

“Mega height difference, got it.”

“Right. So he was about 9 feet and was humanoid in shape? But his kind are covered in really short fur that was kind of fuzzy to touch. And around their neck they’d have a thicker ring of fluffy fur. They also had wings that left this powdery residue when you touched it. I always looked pretty shiny after dates which was embarrassing when my moms would tease me.”

Hunk laughed at that and grinned at Keith. “Sounds like you dated a giant moth.”

Now Hunk honestly expected Keith to laugh at that. Or maybe roll his eyes. What he did not expect was for Keith’s cheeks to flush a light blue and for him to slowly look away.

Hunk was openly gaping at him and he sputtered, “W-woah wait was I right?! You actually dated a giant moth??”

Keith not so subtly coughed into his fist. “I won’t deny that their species looks like a… Moth. With a few differences. Like bioluminescent markings and eyes.”

But Hunk no longer seemed to be listening to Keith. Instead he was staring out into space with enormous eyes. 

“Holy crow you dated Mothman. That’s amazing.”

It was Keith’s turn to sputter at that, “I did not date Mothman! They just happen to be the same species.”

“Wait really?!” Hunk’s head snapped back to look at Keith, “Mothman is an alien?! Oh wow!! What other cryptids are aliens?? Have you ever met them? What are they like??”

Keith’s eye twitched and he reached forward to slap at Yellow’s controls. "We're not having this conversation. Let’s just watch the video Coran uploaded for us. Hopefully it jogs my memory on how to collect scaultrite.”

Starting the video shows a relatively young Coran. Keith snorted at the sight. He almost forgot that Coran had that hairstyle. And that look! Keith remembers when he and Alfor first saw him dressed that way. Alfor’s mouth had dropped wide enough for his food to spill out. It was equal parts gross and hilarious. Coran, in his usual fashion, was none the wiser to the dilemma he’d caused.

Hunk snorted, “No way. Is that Coran?”

Keith cracked a smile and nodded in confirmation. It was a little nostalgic to see this video. Keith had honestly forgotten about it. Which was ironic seeing as how he was the one helping Coran film it.

The video suddenly started glitching and Keith frowned. Despite Hunk suggesting that it was probably corroded after 10,000 deca-phoebs Keith knew that probably wasn’t the case. The ship, while old, was built to last. If anything was the problem then it would have to be how the video was uploaded. Perhaps Coran uploaded it as the wrong file?

Either way relying on the video was pointless at this rate. Keith really had to start wracking his brain. Once again he was truly feeling his age. Sifting through 600 plus deca-phoebs of knowledge really was a pain.

“Like a rhyme… Stay away from its…” Keith frowned and cupped his chin as he tried to recall the tips. He knew them! Everyone in the academy was taught how to harvest scaultrite. 

“Uh Keith?”

The Altean looked up and caught sight of what Hunk was looking at. It almost looked like a planet graveyard. But that was… Odd. His frown deepened as Hunk read off Yellow’s scans.

“The charts I’m looking at show these planets should still be thriving. What do you think happened?”

Keith pressed his hand to Yellow’s side. There was a flush of quintessence through his system as the Lion rumbled in his mind. Its own opinion helped Keith narrow down his.

“Their deaths were unnatural. Yellow can sense something strange with them.”

Their attention was suddenly pulled when a massive creature drifted past the Lion. It was a Weblum. Just as they drew closer to the creature it suddenly hit Keith like a ton of bricks. He remembered what the rhyme was!!

“Stay away from its face!!” Keith yelled.

Hunk jerked the controls and pulled Yellow back just before they could fly any closer to the front of the Weblum. He dived in a tight loop and managed to jettison them towards the Weblum’s tail. 

“Land on its back just beneath the gills. That’s its blind spot.” Keith said. Most of it was coming back to him. At this rate it was only a matter of time before he remembered everything. Perhaps he’d recall the rest of the steps when they got inside.

Keith gave Hunk a quick rundown on what to do once they were in the belly of the beast. He made sure to warn Hunk about the dangers of the Weblum’s internal defences. However that still didn’t stop them from getting separated. Hunk was knocked into the circulatory system so Keith said to meet him in the third stomach. And along the way he ran into something rather interesting.

Hunk was, of course, surprised that Keith had found a Galra soldier inside the Weblum. But because they were short on time there wasn’t really a chance for a debate. Only a brief assurance on Keith’s part that they meant no harm. 

Now that they were inside the third stomach it was only a matter of figuring out how to collect the scaultrite. As they fought the Weblum’s digestive cells Keith wracked his brain. When the top and bottom ports of the Weblum opened Keith suddenly remembered what to do.

“We have to get it to activate its laser!” Keith yelled as he clung to the Weblum’s moist frame.

“What?!” Then Hunk paused, thought it over, and suddenly gasped. “Oh wait you’re right! You said activate its defences! The laser is its defence! Got it!”

Which was how Hunk made the decision to be ejected from the Weblum’s body and get to his Lion. The moment the Weblum’s insides began to glow Keith knew they didn’t have time to delay.

Soon the laser had been fired and Keith was left to collect the scaultrite. Once all the bags had been filled he grabbed one of them and tossed it to the solider. “Hey,” Keith smirked at their visible surprise. “Next time you’re going for scaultrite, remember to be more careful.”

And with that he gathered the remainder of the bags, tethered them together with a rope, and left the Weblum. Keith made sure they were secured in Yellow’s cargo hold before making his way to the cockpit. 

“Where’s your buddy?” Hunk asked with a grin.

Keith returned the smile, “Long gone by now. But its fine, it doesn’t matter.”

“Oh well then I hope they do fine, I guess? They must be glad they aren’t going to die in a Weblum!”

“Most likely. By the way,” Keith leaned his weight against Hunk’s chair as he looked down at his fellow Paladin. “Hunk, good job getting the Weblum to react back there. We couldn’t have done this mission without you. Not bad for your first Weblum. I’d say you did almost as well as an experienced Altean.”

Hunk’s small smile turned even wider and he laughed jovially from the compliment. “Aw, thanks Keith! But no need to exaggerate on my end.”

It was Keith’s turn to laugh. He nudged Hunk’s shoulder, “I’m not exaggerating. Alteans learn how to harvest scaultrite during their time in the academy. They get several classes dedicated to learning about the Weblum, its anatomy, behaviours, and what not. Even then harvesting the scaultrite has an entire lecture dedicated to ensuring success. So yeah, with only a glitchy video and an old ass Altean as your teachers you’re doing fine, Hunk.”

Now Hunk’s smile was bordering on painful. He scratched his cheek and chuckled shyly from the praise. Then with another more tapered smile towards Keith he nodded.

“Thanks, man.”

Keith chuckled, “Don’t mention it.”

///

The day couldn’t end fast enough. Just after Hunk and Keith collected the scaultrite they had to book it over to the Balmera in order to help the Princess fight the Robeast they trapped there. By the end of it Keith was ready to pass out. Yet somehow he found himself tucked into one of the castle’s lounge chairs with Shiro curled up next to him. 

At this point it’s become a habit to hang out in this lounge after a long day. The only difference now was that Keith had a cup of nunvill and was sharing it with Shiro. Though after the first taste Shiro curled up his nose and was simply content to let Keith drink it. The taste was, as Lance frequently said, acquired.

“And he just kept going on and on about different realities. If I have to hear him talk about quantum realities one more time I’m going to rip my hair out.” Shiro groaned in a slump.

Keith tried not to snort into his cup. The last thing he needed was a nose filled with nunvill. He didn’t think a trip to the medical ward this late into the ship’s night cycle would be fun.

“Just keep it together till this is over. Then you never have to see Slav again.”

“True…” Shiro trailed off and his smile gradually fell. His brows furrowed and he looked over at Keith. “Hey… Back there… Were you serious? About what you said?”

Keith paused mid-sip and frowned into his cup. What Shiro was referring to was their conversation earlier back on Olkari. When the team had gathered and watched the sun set. They had reminisced about all that has happened to them since they found Blue and went up into space. They laughed and joked, Hunk being the one to bring up the fact that Keith knew the entire time they’d be going up into space. That caused a round of teasing and a playful shove from Lance with him exclaiming “A warning that I’d be meeting the prettiest girl in the cosmos would’ve been nice! I might’ve worn better clothes!” which got the rest of the team laughing as well. 

Then Shiro had said that once Zarkon was defeated there would be no more need for Voltron. That had caused the team to pause in wonder before Lance mentioned returning to Earth. Then Pidge said she could look for her family. Keith at the time had said he would stay with Allura and Coran. That had surprised the team. Each one of them had turned to look at Keith with wide eyes. It seems they had forgotten that Keith wasn’t from Earth. He didn’t belong there.

Keith shrugged his shoulders and began tracing the rim of his glass with a finger. “I mean yeah. She’s my Princess. And once this is all over Coran and I intend to hold a coronation ceremony for her. Then she will be our Queen.” Keith pulled his eyes away from the glass and instead stared out into the void of space. “Once this is over my mission for the Guardian will come to an end. I don’t know if it’ll let me go or if it’ll give me a new mission. All I know is that no matter its choice, I will stay beside my people.”

Shiro probably should’ve expected such an answer. Keith was one of three remaining Alteans. Of course he’d want to stick close to the last of his people. But still… The idea of no longer seeing Keith. Of him being thousands of lightyears away and Shiro unable to see him, talk to him. It… It was a little hard to think about. It made his chest clench painfully and his throat would feel like it had a fist in it. Once this was all over… Would he really have to say goodbye to Keith?

Almost like he could sense Shiro’s thoughts, violet eyes flickered over to look at his silent companion. Keith tried to crack a smile as he nudged Shiro with his shoulder.

“Hey,” He waited till Shiro was looking at him before he continued. “It’s not like we’ll be cutting communications. We’re going to need a place to stay till we figure out where to go. And besides, Allura and I have been talking. We think it’s about time Earth gets its head out of its ass and put an end to the debate on if there’s life or not out in the cosmos.”

Shiro burst out laughing and tried to cover his snorts by shielding his mouth with his hand. It did little to stifle them and more kept spilling out. Keith soon joined in on the laughter and nearly jostled the remainder of his nunvill from the force of his delight. When a little beep from his pocket sounded he downed the rest of his nunvill and set the cup to the side before reaching for the little black device.

It was a simple communicator. Standard issue, nothing fancy. However while it looked unassuming the truth of it was that this was a special communicator. A Blade of Marmora communicator, to be exact. Kolivan had given it to Keith before they left to carry out their own part of the mission. He didn’t say what it was for other than that Antok insisted Keith have it. The password to unlock it was also simple.

Knowledge or Death

After navigating the device a purple screen appeared. There was a wall of Galra text that Keith read over languidly. Then he snorted, his smile turning fond.

“Who’s it from?” Shiro asked curiously.

He’d been there when Keith got the device. The whole team was, actually. But there hadn’t really been any time to question what it was so it was pushed to the backburner and promptly forgotten. 

Keith hummed as he began typing out a reply. “It’s from Antok. He’s asking if everything went well on our end.”

Now it was Shiro’s turn to chuckle lightly at that. He tilted his head to the side, “He’s really living up to this whole uncle thing, huh?”

“Yeah. Kolivan said he’s been excited to meet me ever since Krolia spoke about me. And apparently showed some photos of me.” Keith tried hard not to frown in embarrassment at that. “Antok’s been wanting kits of his own for a while now. But since he and Kolivan are busy with the blades they don’t exactly have the time care for their own.”

Shiro nodded along for a moment before he froze. He blinked and was quiet long enough for Keith to send a response back before the man beside him began sputtering. “W-wait hold on a second. Antok and Kolivan?? Kits??”

“Yeah. They’re mates. I was a little surprised too but it isn’t that hard to figure out since when I was seeing them off they both nuzzled me. Only family really scents each other. So ergo Kolivan is Antok’s mate. Therefore my other uncle.”

“Ok that makes sense but the kit thing? Is adoption common for Galra?”

Keith quirked a brow and tried hard not to smile. He definitely knew where this was going. Aaah humans. So adorable. “It is but only in rare cases. Galra are notorious for not abandoning their kits.”

Now Shiro was looking truly befuddled. His shoulders slumped slightly and his brow furrowed in obvious confusion. “Then how…? They’re both male.”

“And they’re Galra.” Keith purposefully pressed a finger between Shiro’s brows in order to smooth out the wrinkle. “Not everyone is bound by human anatomy. There are Galra that are known as Carriers. They’re able to give birth.”

Realization dawned on Shiro’s face and he let out a soft sound in acknowledgement. “Ah… Right. Alien biology.” He stared at Keith when the other lowered his hand. Keith could see the curiosity brimming in his eyes. He couldn’t just mention Galra biology and then not bring up Altean. 

However as if sensing how awkward that conversation would be Shiro decided not to say anything. For that Keith was grateful. If Shiro wanted to know about Altean biology then he could ask Coran. 

Silence descended and eventually both Shiro and Keith found themselves huddled close under Keith’s tiny little blanket. It barely covered both of them yet somehow they made it work. Even if Keith had to throw his legs over Shiro’s and press close enough for his head to rest on the other’s shoulder. It was surprisingly not at all strange to be this close physically. Shiro seemed to enjoy the contact and even began dozing from how warm and comfortable he was. 

“Hey Keith?” Shiro mumbled softly.

“Mm?”

“Do you think we’ll win?”

Keith hesitated for a moment, frowning in thought. “I believe… The plan will work. I want to have faith that we’ll win.” Then more firmly he said, “I believe in us. We can do this.”

When his eyes flickered over towards Shiro’s face, Keith felt his heart stop and his breath escape his lungs. Shiro was giving him one of his dopey tired smiles. With his eyes half-lidded and the lines of his face so impossibly soft. His grey eyes sparkled and caught the dim light coming from outside the ship. Even the white of his hair glittered from the casting. 

Shiro was turned towards him with a tacky red and white quilt pulled up till it was tucked just below his chin. Hair rumpled from running fingers through it and visible bruising along his jaw from where he took the brunt of a hit. He shouldn’t have looked as ethereal and as gorgeous as Keith thought he did. But there was no denying how stunning Shiro was. In this moment Keith truly thought he was beautiful.

He stumbled from his own thoughts when Shiro closed his eyes and tried to muffle a yawn. “Mmm we should probably head back to our rooms and sleep. We’ve got a long day ahead of us tomorrow.”

“Yeah…” Keith mumbled though he made no move to get up. Shiro didn’t seem to notice as he too was very reluctant to leave the warmth their bodies had created.

“Oh!” Like an afterthought, Shiro’s eyes suddenly lit up and he turned his attention back to Keith. “Did Pidge tell you? She found evidence about Matt!”

It was Keith’s turn to smile lazily at Shiro. He was too busy looking out the window to even notice how his appearance had also stolen Shiro’s breath away. 

White hair in a loose ponytail that spilled over his shoulder. Blankets pooled around his waist and simple red Altean sleep robes clinging to his slim frame. The starlight hit his lightly smiling face and made the violet of his eyes shine even brighter. Even the little flecks of purple deep in Keith’s pupils were enhanced. Seeing Keith now, highlighted from the gentle light of space, Shiro wondered how he had never realized Keith wasn’t human. He was so… Ethereal. Otherworldly. How had he not noticed?

“It’ll be nice to see Matt again.” Keith murmured softly. He blinked, eyes flickered over to his companion. “Think he’ll forgive me for Promise?”

Shiro nodded, voice soft as he continued to stare unabashedly at Keith. “Y-yeah I think he will…”

Keith snorted, “Good.” He then sighed and pulled his legs off of Shiro’s lap. The moment Keith stood the blanket fell away and the cold air hit Shiro like a brick wall. He instantly shivered and wrapped the blanket tighter around his shoulders.

“Keith seriously!” Shiro tried to scowl but it turned more into a pout.

A laugh was his only answer as Keith slipped back on his Red Lion slippers and tugged at the end of the blanket. “Come on, Shiro. Time for bed.”

“’Time for bed’.” Shiro echoed with an eye-roll. He reluctantly relinquished his old on the blanket and allowed himself to be pulled up from the couch. “You make it sound like I’m a kid with a bedtime.”

“Well I mean you are six and I’m well over 600. So who’s really the child in this situation?”

Now Shiro actually scowled at that. He gave Keith a half-hearted shove and tried to ignore his laughing. “Oh ha ha, using my age against me.” Then he suddenly grinned as he got an idea.

He took the blanket and wrapped it around Keith’s shoulders. Then he took one of Keith’s hands and placed his other on the small of Keith’s back. He proceeded to lead the bemused Altean out of the room.

“Come along, old timer. I’ll escort you to bed. Need help being tucked in? I wouldn’t want you falling and breaking a hip.”

Keith rolled his eyes and stuck his tongue out at Shiro. “Aren’t you just hilarious? Will you help me take out my dentures while you’re out it?”

Shiro burst out laughing and finally let his hands drop from Keith’s frame. He instead reached out and wrapped an arm around Keith’s shoulders and pulled him into a one-armed hug. Keith snorted but wound his own arm around Shiro’s waist to return the gesture.

They kept their arms around the other as they walked through the halls of the castle. It was… Almost soothing. Keith always had the constant threat of memories ready to wash over him. Yet now that he was no longer hiding his origins he didn’t have to try and repress the memories. He was able to reminisce. And so he did.

As they walked Keith pointed places out and would tell Shiro about them. How he helped Coran’s uncle put a panel here or that he, Coran, and Alfor went stair sliding there. Little stories that brought a nostalgic smile to his face and left him feeling light and content. It wasn’t a bad way to spend the remainder of his night. The calm before the storm, as they say. For come tomorrow Keith’s day would go from bad to worse.

Chapter Text

“Where’s Keith?”

Lance slipped on his helmet before looking over his shoulder at Shiro. “He went out this morning.”

“What? Why?”

“Said he had to do something.” Pidge said from her seat.

Allura frowned, hand tapping at her screen. The camera for Red’s hangar turned on and showed the Lion was still there. “He did not take Red.”

“Yeah. He took White.” Lance made a dismissive gesture with his hand, “You know, White Lion business or whatever. He said he’d be back in time to help lift the teludav. He just needed to do something.”

“Did he say what?” Shiro asked as he crossed his arms over his chest.

Pidge snorted, pausing mid-type on her screen. “What do you think? Calm down. It didn’t seem too urgent. He’ll tell us if we really need to know.”

Though it was clear Shiro was still concerned he had to admit Pidge had a point. There wasn’t anything he could do so Shiro was left with no choice but to focus on the task at hand. Later on after everyone had gathered on Olkari for final farewells, true to his word Keith did return. A wormhole opened up and the White Lion emerged just as the other Paladins were climbing into their Lion’s.

Hey guys,” Keith said over the coms, “Sorry about that. I had to take care of something.

Oooh? What something? Is it a celebration? Are you planning on throwing a surprise party for us after this is all over?” Hunk asked with a teasing laugh.

Keith snorted fondly, “No, no party. Just checking in with a friend.

Wow Keith has friends outside of us! I’m shocked!” 

Lance’s comment had everyone laughing over their coms. Even Keith laughed though his was more sarcastic. Still it was all in good nature and the Altean knew that. 

Shiro tampered his chuckles down to a manageable level before clearing his throat and taking a hold of Black’s controls. “Alright you guys, focus. Everyone lock into positions, we’re taking this thing up.”

Can White even lift it? No offense but compared to the other Lions, White’s pretty small.” Lance said, side-eyeing the Lion across from him.

Keith rolled his eyes and clamped his jaws into the side of the teludav. “I can lift it just fine. I won’t be staying in White for long anyways. I’ll switch to Red when I need to.

You’d better. We don’t want Zarkon thinking there’s a sixth Lion.” Pidge said with a snicker.

But what if there was? Hey Keith can White transform? Like not into a part of Voltron since we’ve already got legs, arms, and a head. But can White turn into a weapon?? Maybe a sword because you like swords? Or a gun? What about—

Keith quickly cut into Hunk’s rambling so they could focus on the task at hand. “No White can’t transform. It doesn’t have a piece of the comet the Lions were made with so it’s just a normal mecha cat. Nothing special. Now come on, we’ve wasted enough time.

And so the five of them began to hoist the massive teludav into the air. It was only after they got it into location that the Lions all departed for the castle ship. Once inside they gathered in the bridge and Keith made a beeline for Antok and Kolivan. He clasped arms with Antok before being pulled into a hug. Kolivan, on the other hand, merely patted Keith’s head.

Kit,” Antok rumbled as a greeting.

Keith smiled at him, “Uncle. Do you remember what I told you?”

Of course. I will remember.

“And I will watch his back, do not worry, kit.” Kolivan reassured from Antok’s other side.

“Good.” Keith said with a firm nod.

He then split from his uncles and moved to stand around the main viewing platform. There Shiro pulled up a screen and began the debriefing to make sure everyone was on the same page. 

“If anything should happen then Keith will use White to open up a wormhole for the Lions to make a hasty retreat. Only if the plan fails will our objective switch into getting the Lions away from Zarkon.” Shiro said as he moved the little hologram of the White Lion onto the screen.

Keith nodded, “If it really comes down to it then I’ll open a wormhole to Oriande. Zarkon’s ship won’t be big enough to go through and even if some fighters follow after us they won’t last long.”

“Good. What about Thace?”

“He should be getting into position now.” Kolivan said from the side-lines, “We received his last communication three quintants ago. We should hear from him soon.”

With the confirmation that things should be going according to plan, the battle began. However before Shiro could go to the chute that would send him to Black’s hangar he was stopped by Keith. The Altean was giving him a complicated look and visibly hesitating. After much internal debate Keith finally placed a hand on Shiro’s shoulder and squeezed.

“Be careful out there, ok?”

At Keith’s touch Shiro felt a small shiver go down his spine. Like a wash of cold water cascading over him. It was odd since Shiro thought he was used to Keith’s touch by now. Was he so touch-starved that he was still jumping at physical contact?

Shiro pushed the sensation from his mind and smiled. There was no time to be contemplating such things. His voice was warm as he returned the gesture. “You too, Keith.”

There was another squeeze to his shoulder before Keith cracked a smile and let his hand drop. Then he was moving to the side and watching with the rest of the team as Shiro went off to carry out his part of the mission.

Shiro’s heart was pounding the entire way. He had to resist calling the team on the flight towards Zarkon’s command center. He needed to throw all of his concentration into this if he wanted to avoid getting caught. If he failed here then the whole plan was a bust. They were relying on Shiro to make sure the baiting went off without a hitch. He couldn’t afford to make a mistake now.

As he shot forward through space Shiro let his senses brush against Black’s. She responded with a soothing croon in return. Shiro exhaled, flexing his fingers against their white-knuckled grip on Black’s controls.

“Alright girl, time to let him in.”

Black hummed in understanding and Shiro could physically feel the walls around her conscious lowering. Then not a moment after an oppressive and all-consuming presence was pressing down on both of them. It was Zarkon. The next moment the presence turned muted but was still distinctly there. Shiro felt himself smirking and finally hailed a link to the castle.

Zarkon took the bait. He’s got my location.” Shiro said the moment the call was answered. “Is everybody in position?”

“We have not heard from Thace. He was supposed to contact us two vargas ago.” Kolivan looked to the side as he grit his teeth. He didn’t want to think about the implications this brought up. However, trust his mate to say what he himself could not.

He could have been captured.

Kolivan’s frown deepened at that. “Or killed.” Just as he was about to say they needed to pull back, Keith suddenly stood from his seat and moved forward.

“Don’t even finish that thought.” Keith said with a pointed look. He might’ve not known Kolivan for long but he was good at reading people. That and his mother had frequently mentioned the mind-set of the Blades. So Keith had a rough idea on what Kolivan was thinking. Still he wasn’t going to allow it. Not now. “If Thace isn’t responding then we need someone else on the inside to slip the virus into the system. I’ll do it.”

“What?!” Came the collective cry.

If Kolivan’s frown was deep before then now it was bottomless. “Yorak, you are not Galra. You cannot interact with the technology aboard the ship.”

“I have a way around that. It’s what I went to go and get this morning in case something happened.” Keith reached into his pocket and pulled out what looked like a robotic glove. It was black with blue and orange markings, the Galra motif located on the palm. “This will allow me access onto the ship. Pidge, can you put a cloaking device on one of the pods?” 

Pidge looked up from her screen with a slight crease between her brows. “Yeah.”

Kolivan’s brows furrowed further, “I forbid it. Going aboard Zarkon’s ship is a suicide mission!”

“It’s not your choice to make.”

Kit,” Antok moved to stand beside his mate. His masked face looked down at Keith and his tail twitched restlessly. “Do not risk yourself for something you cannot guarantee will be successful.

“I don’t care what the success rate is, we need someone to do this. I’m going on that ship.” Then after a moment his voice and stature softened. “Uncle… I’ll be fine. I know what I’m doing. Trust me on this.” 

Antok shared a look with Kolivan before the Blade leader grimaced and sighed. He clicked his tongue and shook his head. “Fine. But you had better return in one piece, kit. Least Krolia rip out my spine and beat me over the head with it.”

Keith let out an inelegant snort and nodded. “Don’t worry, I’ll come back. I promise.”

The Red and Green Paladin made their way down to the main hangar of the ship. As Keith was getting ready to board their upgraded pod, they were interrupted by the door opening. Both Allura and Coran stepped in, similar looks of apprehension on their faces.

“Pidge? Mind if we have a word with Keith?” Coran asked with a polite smile.

She blinked before realization dawned on her. Then with a nod of understanding and a soft farewell to Keith, Pidge left the three Altean’s alone. Keith stood there for a moment, back straight and shoulders squared. Then he lowered himself into a partial bow.

Princess.

Allura huffed, coming forward and pulling him into a hug. “None of that right now. We can worry about decorum once the fight is over.

He smiled at that and once Coran’s arms wrapped around them in a hug, Keith found himself winding his arms around the both of them. They hugged impossibly tight. A moment shared between the three Alteans. Feelings plentiful but going unspoken. 

Eventually it was Keith who pulled away. He reached out, hesitating for a moment before brushing his hand along Allura’s markings and trailing his fingers over her ear. He then reached out to do the same to Coran.

I’ll come back.” He promised.

The two Altean’s raised their hands and mirrored Keith’s actions on either side of his cheeks. Their eyes were soft and swam with so many different emotions. Despite how much faith they had in Keith returning, it did little to quell their worry.

Coran sighed and the corners of his moustache twitched up into a smile. “We know that you will. But be careful out there, understand?

Coran is right. Yorak… The time we have spent together has been wonderful. Your presence has had a profound effect on me. Without knowing you I might still be untrusting of Galra. We might still have been asleep.” Allura hesitated, hands reaching up so she could caress Keith’s markings. “When I learned you were Altean… That you knew my father. That your mother was Atka… I… I was beyond amazed. I’ve only known about you through stories. Never before did I think I’d get the chance to meet you. And now that I have I can see why my father thought so highly of you. Why Coran always spoke fondly of you. Why your mother was so proud every time she spoke of her son.” 

At this Allura smiled and her eyes looked to be shining with tears. “Yorak. We are the last of Altea. And while that may be painful to bear, we must remember that as long as we live so too does Altea. It survives in us. And we may not be related but from our time spent together I have come to see you and the other Paladins as my family. And I dare not think of losing my family again. So… Come back to us? Alright?

Keith swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded. He raised his hands to cover hers, “I promise to return. You have my word.

Good. Because I’ve committed it to memory!” Coran tapped the side of his head, “So I’ll be holding you to it.

Keith laughed and reached out to once again pull the two of them into a tight hug. Then they were letting go and Keith was flying off towards certain doom. But he had made a vow to return. And by the stars Keith would honour his word. 

Outside the ship Zarkon and his fleet arrived. While Shiro distracted Zarkon’s men, Keith engaged his cloaking device and charged towards the command center. He had to bank a hard turn that left him literally crashing into one of the fighter’s exits, but otherwise he was fine.

Keith ejected from the screeching pile of metal and activated his bayard just as he swung at one of the sentries. It was cut in two and the remaining ones suffered a similar fate. Keith snatched one of the guns off a destroyed sentry before rushing further into the ship hangar. 

He stuck low to the ground with the gun at the ready. Thankfully there were only a few sentries patrolling which were easy to avoid. It wasn’t till Keith came up to the panel leaving the hangar that he allowed himself a moment to pause. He reached into his pocket and slipped the glove over his hand. Then he pressed it against the panel and sent a silent prayer that it’d work. If it didn’t then Keith would just have to force it open.

When the panel beeped and glowed Keith’s breath caught in his throat. Not a moment after the door opened and granted him access. Keith exhaled the air he’d been holding and silently slipped through the door. Looks like the glove really did work.

Keith waited for a moment to make sure there were no approaching enemies before hailing a connection to the castle ship. 

Keith!

Yorak!” 

Came the collection of shouts. He tried not to wince at the sudden loud noise that cut through the previous silence. Keith quirked a smile, eyes keen as they looked up and down the halls.

“Hey. I made it through just fine.” He whispered.

Pidge can you get a read on his location?

Already on it.

Yorak,” Kolivan’s voice rose louder than the others. “Currently you’re in the lower communication deck. You’re going to head left down that corridor.” 

If he was giving Keith directions then that meant Pidge had a lock on his location in the ship. Good. It was comforting to know they’d be able to find him if he needed an escape. 

As Keith ran down the halls Kolivan continued talking, “Based on the schematics from Thace, there should be a large door up ahead. This is the central hub for the Galra fleet.

“Got it.” Keith hid behind a wall, avoiding a few patrolling sentries before moving on. 

Eventually he came upon the door like Kolivan said. Inside was a room that was overflowing in bright red light. Keith rushed forward along the bridge and towards the control panel at the end. 

He pulled up a screen on his arm and attempted to type in the password used to shut down the system temporarily. However what appeared on the screen was an error. Keith frowned, brows creasing.

“Kolivan, something’s wrong. The password won’t go through.”

What? Try again!

Before he could the door behind him hissed as it started to open. Keith stiffened, rushing to hide behind one of the extra consoles. He held tight to the gun in his hand, ignoring Kolivan’s concerned call of his name. 

The Galra who entered was breathing hard and looked extremely banged up. He had bruises and cuts decorating his face in deep purple splotches. One side of his armour was even cracked and the wound underneath it was pulsing an unhealthy purple glow. Keith felt his senses shrink back at the feel of corrupted quintessence. What the hell happened to this guy??

Not a second after Keith wondered that, the door opened once again. This time two Druids stood there. The corrupted quintessence surrounding them was nearly overpowering. Keith’s skin felt like it was crawling just from looking at them. Then one of them spoke to the Galra at the panel.

And now we know you were attempting to shut down the system.

The two Druids rushed into the room with the clear intent to attack. Yet by the time they were halfway across the bridge the Galra whirled around.

You’re too late!” He hissed out between breaths.

The Druids stopped, neither appearing concerned over the situation. “No, Thace. You’re too late. We already changed the code.

Thace’s eyes widened and he looked over his shoulder just as the panel began beeping in error. In the moment he looked away the Druids used that chance to spring on him. Yet just as they leapt into the air Keith darted from his hiding space and chuckled Krolia’s blade at one of them and his bayard at the other. 

Krolia’s blade struck one of the Druid’s first and imbedded deep into their spine. They let out a choked sound of surprise before in a purple flash they seemed to implode in on themselves. Almost like a dying star.

The other Druid had seen Keith move from the corner of its eye and managed to avoid a direct hit from his bayard. It dodged to the side and only part of its arm was sliced. The Druid skidded back several steps before a swirl of black and purple energy condensed into its hand. 

The Druid struck out at Thace who dodged the attack. Together both he and Keith avoided the blasts while rushing to strike the corrupted figure. Keith rolled from an attack and his head snapped up just in time to see the Druid materialize in front of him. It raised its hand and the blast rushed at Keith like black lighting.

However something the Druid never anticipated happened. The attacked did indeed hit Keith. Yet instead of getting knocked off the bridge they were on, something different happened. Keith had his hand raised and was actually repelling the attack. Or more accurately, converting it.

The tainted quintessence suddenly turned into a soft, golden white the moment it reached Keith. He grit his teeth and under his helmet his markings glowed. His quintessence itself spiked and wrapped around the blackened energy sent his way. It overwhelmed the other and easily began purifying the moment it got close enough.

This all happened in the span of a few ticks. The Druid instantly cut off its attack with a stunned gasp.

Impossible! How?!

But it was a question that went unanswered. In its moment of shock the Druid didn’t notice Thace sneaking up on it. He swung, the Druid barely managing to stumble out of the way. Yet a second blade was suddenly plunged into its chest. The Druid looked down into the glaring Altean’s face before it too erupted in a flash of purple like its companion. 

Now that it was just the two of them, Keith and Thace stood there for a moment to catch their breath. Keith cleared his throat and nodded his head towards the Galra. “Thace? I’m Keith, or Yorak. I’m a Paladin of Voltron.

Thace’s brows furrowed for a moment before his eyes suddenly widened. “Yorak…? You mean Krolia’s little kit?

Keith smiled at that, “Yeah. Guessing she told you about me?

Of course she did! Every chance she got she was showing me photos of you and her mate.

Despite the tense situation Keith found himself laughing. The two of them kept the conversation brief as they moved to find a way around the changed password. While Thace dealt with the controls Keith moved to the door’s panel and slashed into it.

Just as he finished Lance’s voice spilled over the coms. “How you doing, Keith?

He grimaced, “The Galra switched the codes. We’re trying a work-around.”

’We’? Who’s ‘we’?

“Thace. I found him. Or well he found me.”

Thace?” Keith heard Antok hum, “Ulaz will be pleased to hear he is fine.

“Ulaz?” Keith raised a brow, “What’s he have to do with Thace?”

Later, kit. I am sure you will witness the earful he intends to give Thace.

Keith knew what that meant. He held back a sympathetic look as he made his way over to Thace. But from the confused look the injured Galra gave him Keith knew it was a failed endeavour.

So what exactly are you doing?” Keith asked in order to avoid answering Thace’s obvious question.

I’m using the main power to overload the system.

Violet eyes widened, “You’re turning the room into a bomb?!

It’s the only way.” Thace said resigned.

And Thace was right. They didn’t have long to work with before they were going to be under fire again. Even with the short amount of time they did have it wasn’t enough. Soon sentries were rushing in one by one and on the other side of the melted door Keith could sense an even larger, more powerful bundle of corrupted quintessence. Zarkon’s witch if he had to guess.

Keith managed to shoot down a piece of the architecture so it could block the door. However that left them with no other exit. Or so he thought. Yet just what the Hell was Thace saying?? He wanted Keith to go alone??? No, not happening. Not when Keith knew there was someone out there waiting for Thace to come back. If he just let Thace die here how would Keith be able to face Ulaz? 

You just need the system to overload, right?

As he spoke Keith walked up to the panel and placed his hand on it. Thace was confused as he watched Keith’s hand start to glow. Then his eyes and markings lit up a moment later. 

The white light from Keith’s hand slowly began spreading over the panel. Like its colour was being bled out, the white overwhelmed the purple and red. Around them the red lights of the room began to wash away into that bright golden white that emanated from Keith. He pushed as much quintessence as he could into the consol. Even if it made him dizzy he dumped all he had in order to make it overload faster.

Alarms began blaring and a high pitched metallic shriek began leaving the room. Suddenly behind them there was another explosion and the piece of wall that was blocking the door was blown away. 

Thace turned around and cursed, “Yorak you need to go!

No, we need to go!” Keith said as he grabbed the front of Thace’s armour and leapt over the side. 

Yorak what--?!

Thace had no chance to finish his sentence before they were falling. Thankfully Keith was using his jetpack to soften their descent down the shoot. Above they could hear the warning beeps fade as they got further and further from the room. Even down below the red had been sucked away and replaced with white. 

With wide eyes Thace looked around in wonder. Keith, at this point, was practically carrying him since the other was so heavily injured. Not that it mattered to Keith. Thace wasn’t nearly the heaviest thing Keith had picked up.

What did you do…?” Thace asked a little breathlessly.

Keith grunted, “Basically I flooded the systems with my quintessence. Now they have no chance of stopping the system from overloading. It’s a brutish method but it gets the job done a lot faster than your way!

Meaning we don’t have a lot of time before it--!” Just before Thace could finish his revelation there was a series of explosions behind them. 

The two of them spat out curses and Keith summoned his shield, “Red!! Could use a pick up right now!!” He yelled out. Hopefully the Lion answered his call.

Keith used his jetpack to propel them as fast as he could through the winding paths out the duct. Yet from behind them they could see the light growing brighter as the explosion rapidly caught up.

“Fuck! Hold on!!” Keith yelled as he lifted up the shield. 

The force of the explosion slammed them against the wall and had enough of an impact that they tore through it. Keith kept a tight hold on Thace throughout the entire thing and he only felt the weightlessness of space for a moment before steal jaws were snapping close around him.

Both Thace and Keith hit the ground with a thud as gravity came to greet them. Keith forced himself to stand despite the pain flaring through his body and grabbed Thace. He took him into Red’s cargo hold and reached up to press his hand against a button. A long panel on the wall opened up and a cot emerged. Keith deposited Thace on it and strapped him in so he wouldn’t roll about the cabin.

“Stay here.”

Thace snorted but nodded his consent. With his passenger situated Keith rushed back into Red’s cockpit and took up the controls. She had been flying for him but now that he was seated she settled for purring against his mind. 

Keith cracked a smile, “Thanks for the save.” Then he opened a line to the rest of the team and spoke, “Thace and I have gotten out. Ready when you are!”

Good going, Keith!

Better late than never!

Get out of there, kit. We have just uploaded the virus!

Keith dodged attacks and twisted Red out of the way from heavy fire. Thankfully Pidge and Lance dived in from the sides in order to give Keith a chance to get his bearings. However it was unneeded as not a moment after the fighters began shutting off by the handfuls. Soon Zarkon’s command center even lost its glow.

Allura used this chance to bring the Teludav above the massive ship and activate it. The gigantic wormhole appeared and slowly it was dragged down. The Lions and the castle ship went chasing after the command center and emerged with it on the other side. Now it was just them verses Zarkon. This was it. This is where the battle ends.

With Shiro’s order they formed Voltron. They had their list of targets to hit. And with only a window of 20 doboshes they had to act fast. They activated Voltron’s sword and dragged it across various parts of the construct. They put as much force as they could into every attack. An explosion here followed by a slice there. Chunks and pieces fell off to float away in space while hot bubbles of fire danced across the purple metal before being snuffed out by the cold grips of space.

Suddenly beneath them something happened. The tips of the command center glowed a bright purple and condensed into a black mass that sparked with purple light. It looked like a black hole. A void that threatened to swallow everything around it. However Voltron was completely unaware of the impending danger. They were too focused on the task at hand to prepare for an outside attack.

It wasn’t till the black energy hit them that they finally noticed. The scream they all shared was pure agony. It felt like their nerves were being set on fire one by one. It raced through their body and tore at them like a vicious animal. There was an eruption of white as a ring of pure quintessence exploded from Voltron and dispersed out into the cosmos. By the end of it when everything had calmed what remained was Voltron. It floated aimlessly with purple tendrils of energy licking away at its hulking frame. Other than that there was no sign of life.

“Paladins!!” Coran called, “Can you hear me?!”

“Kit!!” Kolivan yelled as the image of Voltron appeared on the castle’s screen.

Antok took a step forward, hand coming up to grip Kolivan’s forearm. “We need to get out there. Yorak needs us.

Coran’s brows furrowed and his head snapped over to the two Galra. “I thought you said the virus would shut down Zarkon’s power!” 

“That blast was not from the ship’s weapons.” Allura frowned from Coran’s arms. She struggled to lean further up, breathe coming out a little laboured from her spent energy. “It was magic.”

Kolivan’s hands clenched hard enough that his claws dug into his skin. He grit his teeth as he said, “It must have been the komar. Zarkon has been trying to develop a device that extracts the quintessence from planets. It appears… He succeeded.”

That caused both Allura and Coran to look stricken. Their gazes turned back towards the image of Voltron. “If it destroys planets… Then what did it do to the Paladins?”

“I don’t know.” Kolivan said grimly. By this point his nails had broken the skin of his palms and blood was beginning to well up. Galra’s had thick skin meant to endure casual scrapes from their claws. So to have broken skin with pressure alone was a testament to how much force Kolivan was exerting. 

Concern gnawed at his heart like a relentless yupper. It tore at his throat and threatened to overwhelm him. How was he already so attached to that little Red Paladin? He’s barely known him for a full phoeb but somehow the little kit had wormed his way into Kolivan’s heart. Perhaps it was thanks to all the stories Krolia told them. Or maybe he grew attached because Antok was. Either way Kolivan didn’t have an answer. And at this point he was too far gone to want one.

Allura struggled to stand and with Coran’s help she managed to get on her feet. “Paladins, can you hear me? Shiro!” She yelled at the screen, eyes flickering as she searched for any sign that Voltron had heard. As the static continued the tension in the room grew in desperation. Then, softly, a voice broke through.

Yes, Princess. We’re alive.” Shiro whispered. He sounded exhausted like he hadn’t slept in days.

The Paladins all struggled to move. Each attempt to lift their arms and move their body felt like they were trying to shift bricks. Even Keith found it hard to use his arms. His fingers twitched against Red’s controls. Just what happened to them?? What did Coran just say? They were hit by witchcraft?? 

But there was no time to even think about that. Let alone try and attempt escaping. Lance spotted something opening in front of them and that alone stole their attention. They watched in horror as that thing fully emerged from the ship. It looked like… A giant robot? But not at all like the ones they’ve previously faced.

Over the coms Shiro grunted in pain for a moment before he panted, “It’s Zarkon.”

Keith cursed. Zarkon was in that thing?! And he was rushing right towards them. No, they had to do something. They had to move. But Voltron wasn’t responding. Voltron wouldn’t move!!

With more energy coursing through him Keith began shaking his controls. He growled, begging Red to respond. Please! The castle managed to distract Zarkon while the Paladins struggled to awaken their Lions. Yet the help didn’t last for long.

Soon Zarkon reflected the castle’s laser. Allura shrieked and an array of explosions lit up over the castle. The Paladins of Voltron sat there, stunned with disbelief. It had all happened so quickly yet it felt like everything had been in slow motion.

No…” Keith’s voice was shaking softly. The team listened to the raw grief that suddenly welled up in their Red Paladin. In the next moment they heard him scream like he was being tortured.

Shiro closed his eyes at Keith’s pained cry. Though the other was shouting in Altean it wasn’t hard to deduce what he was probably yelling about. Shiro sucked in air, wishing he could be there to hold Keith. To let him know that Shiro was there. That he had his support. But… He couldn’t. Not yet. Maybe once this fight was over he could hold his friend tight. However right now they needed to focus. They had a war to win.

“Everybody, listen. We have to fight. We have to channel all our energy. Visualize five becoming one! We have to focus everything we have into moving Voltron.”

It was hard for Keith to push down the sudden vitriol threatening to spill out. Chants of “I’ll kill him” were forced into the back of his mind. He had to focus. For Allura, for Coran. For his uncles. He had to stay in the present. Keith couldn’t afford to lose his head no matter how much he wanted to rip Zarkon’s throat out with his teeth.

So Keith bit the inside of his mouth till he tasted blood. He used the pain to center himself in the present. He inhaled deep, focusing on the Lions around him. Keith flexed his hands and felt a spark from Shiro’s words. Yes. They all shared the same consensus. They were going to see this battle through to the end. They were going to take Zarkon down together. Because they are Voltron.

With a collective roar the Lions all awoke and Voltron shot forward with a breath of new life. They dodged Zarkon’s swipe and were propelled backwards before lifting their blade and blocking his swing. In sparks of hot fire their swords clashed over and over. The impact sent tremors down Voltron’s arms and were felt directly by Pidge and Keith. It fanned the flames of battle raging in their heart. Together the two of them yelled as they shoved forward their controls in perfect synch.

As they were firing at Zarkon with the shoulder cannon that same black tendril shot out at them again from the komar. This time they were prepared for it and dodged just before it could reach them. However the moment their attention was diverted Zarkon used that as a chance to strike. They were kicked in the side and sent hurtling like a meteor. They managed to right themselves just in time to block an attack from Zarkon’s sword before Pidge shot at him with a blast from Green.

They flew around like a shooting stars. Darting left and right, up and down. Voltron twisted and turned as it danced between firing lasers and slashing with their sword. Yet Zarkon continued to go toe to toe with them. He slammed into them relentlessly. Each slash was with a single-minded focus that left Voltron reeling.

Yet no matter how hard they were hit they wouldn’t back down. They would continue getting up no matter what. They are what stood between Zarkon and the rest of the universe. This ends here! Today!!!

While Voltron continued fighting Zarkon like two celestial stars, three transport pods were darting through the wreckage towards the komar. The moment they entered the main chamber from the open floor Kolivan let his transporter fly. It shot up and slammed into one of the platforms and caused an explosion. The Druid atop it didn’t even have a chance to dodge before it was killed.

The Druid floating beside it looked from the cloud of smoke to the Blade that just landed on its platform. However as it readied to attack a sturdy pole was smashed directly into its neck. The Druid was tossed off the edge and fell through the open floor and into the void of space.

Now atop the platform stood Kolivan, Allura, and Antok. They all had their weapons drawn and were glaring at the remaining Druids and Zarkon’s witch, Haggar. The fight was on.

Allura and Kolivan worked together to take down one of the Druids while Antok battled his own. Despite his size Antok was known among the Blades for his speed. However in this fight he was moving a tad bit slower than normal. And this was purposeful.

A while back Keith had messaged Antok about a vision he had. Specifically about something that happens to Antok. Keith had seen Antok fighting against a Druid just before he was attacked by Haggar. And then, with his dominant arm being rendered useless, the Druid would take him out from behind.

Keith had stressed to Antok how important it was he remembered this. As a promise to his nephew Antok vowed to make sure his vision did not happen. So he formulated a plan on how he’d avoid dying by the Druid’s hands. And as he continued this dance against the creature his trap was laid out with each step.

The moment the Druid disappeared and reappeared in front of him on the other end of the platform Antok struck. He moved as fast as he could and dived to the side. Clearly the Druid hadn’t been expecting this as it was unprepared for the shock of black magic to hit it directly in the chest. The Druid choked on a gasp at it was flung to the side and disappeared into the void like the others.

Antok clung onto the side and panted with adrenalin. Looks like his plan had worked! He swung from his hold before pushing off and jumping towards Kolivan’s platform.

Antok!” His mate yelled, rushing forward and catching his hand just in time. 

Kolivan pulled Antok up and even with his mask on the other could tell he was giving him a quick onceover. Antok snorted, his tail flicking against Kolivan’s leg. “I am fine. The kit saw to that.

Allura hopped up onto the platform with them and smiled. Leave it to Keith to plan ahead for things. She momentarily wondered just what else the Guardian’s vessel had planned for.

“Alright,” She said to the two of them. Glaring up towards the platform Haggar was on, Allura brandished her staff in a white-knuckled grip. “Let’s end this.”

///

Back outside the fight against Zarkon wasn’t going so well. The four Paladins all struggled to make sure the warlord didn’t get anywhere near Black. They shot their second abilities, slammed into him in teams of twos and threes, did everything they could to draw Zarkon’s attention away. But with each attack that sent the massive Lions sailing he was slowly but surely closing the distance between them. It was only a matter of time before Zarkon’s mech body reached Black.

Keith gritted his teeth, righting Red after a particularly heavy slash of the energy sword left her staggering. The growl inside his mind was echoed by Keith as a burning fire lit up in his chest. He would not let Zarkon get to Shiro. No matter what. Even if he had to put himself in the line of fire over and over again, he’d do it. For Shiro.

Activating Red’s jaw blade, Keith darted forward and twisted around Zarkon’s attack. He flew past and nicked the shoulder of his armour but that did little to stop him. A large hand shot out, grabbing a hold of Red’s tail and yanking.

Keith gasped as he was suddenly lurched forward from the force of Zarkon’s pull. He swung Red and smashed her into an oncoming Blue, the two of them being sent off into the distance.

Crap!” Hunk flew over and his claws caught onto the back of Blue, his jaws closing over Red’s tail. With the help of Yellow’s hulking strength he was able to stop the two Lions from continuing their reckless spin.

Lance groaned, “Thanks man. I was about ready to vomit from all that flipping!

“Look alive!!” Keith yelled just as Zarkon shot over. 

He was momentarily distracted by a string of laser fire from the Green Lion which granted enough time for the other three to scatter. They put distance between them and Zarkon and continued to try and shoot him down while waiting for Black to recuperate. 

Let’s hit ‘em high and hit ‘em low!” Lance yelled just as Blue activated her jaw blade.

Keith instantly knew what he meant and rushed forward with the Blue Paladin. Red was faster than Blue so he used this to his advantage. Keith pulled ahead and aimed high on Zarkon. Predictably he moved to block such an attack. And while Keith’s jaw blade scrapped against the back of Zarkon’s raised arms, this left him exposed for Blue.

The sea-coloured Lion darted down and slashed at Zarkon’s side. It caused a visible scratch of purple to appear in the armour and Lance whooped out a cry. “Yeah! Take that!

Suddenly Zarkon twisted around and snapped out his hand. The energy sword twisted into its whip form and slammed into Blue. Lance yelled out as he was hit, Lion jerking as tendrils of electricity darted along her frame.

Lance!!” Pidge yelled before once again shooting her plant beam at Zarkon. It went about as well as the last time though that wasn’t her goal. She wanted to distract Zarkon long enough for Blue to get out of his range of fire. Which he did, only now Zarkon’s attention was on her.

He moved to attack and Pidge darted away trying to avoid. She cried out, throwing Green into a desperate spin as she dodged his slashes. 

I got ya Pidge!” Hunk yelled just as Yellow came crashing from above and slamming into Zarkon.

Hunk!

They continued this battle of offense and defence. When one was being solely targeted the others would rush to take the heat off them. They worked as a team to try and keep each other safe. Yet it was clear that even with the four of them Zarkon was still winning. But they weren’t fighting Zarkon with beating him in mind. Their goal was to keep him away from Black long enough to recover. And after what felt like ages of fighting, their attacks finally paid off.

As Zarkon used his whip in an attack that scattered everyone away from him, they saw as he started booking it for Black. Yet Black wasn’t stationary. She too was charging right for Zarkon with her eyes blazing a brilliant yellow. The rumble of battle was heard through all the Lions as their leader let out the call. And in reply growls of support rose within each of the coloured Lions.

They watched, stunned, as the wings on Black’s back suddenly began to glow before unfurling like a bird taking flight. Her mouth parted in a roar and her speed picked up just as she reached Zarkon. Then with a flash Black darted past and her wings retracted. Zarkon, on the other hand, floated there like he was physically stunned. 

Woah…” Lance’s voice broke the awed silence, “What’d you do?

Shiro exhaled, voice a little shaky in disbelief. “I’ve got Zarkon’s bayard…

Keith found himself smirking at that. “You mean you’ve got your bayard.”

We’ve only got a few minutes left before power returns to Zarkon’s ship.” Shiro said as he glanced away from the Black bayard in his hand. “Form Voltron!

Let’s give ‘em Hell!!!!” Lance yelled as all five Lions darted forward to combine into one.

//

There had been another Druid lingering in the shadows apparently. So while Antok and Kolivan worked together to take it down, Allura used her platform to fly up and confront Zarkon’s witch. 

She ran fast and dodged the magic thrown her way. The sizzling in the air as it flew past had Allura wrinkling her nose in disgust. While not as attuned to quintessence as Keith, even she could feel how corrupted the magic being shot at her was. 

Allura rushed forward, mentally repeating Keith’s teachings over in her head. Close combat forced opponents who relied on distance to go on the defensive. Haggar relied on her magic for long-ranged attack. Therefore Allura’s best option was to get as close as possible.

The moment Allura was close enough she stabbed at the witch and twirled her staff in a second swing. Haggar disappeared at the last second and barely missed getting the blunt end of the attack. 

Allura quickly sensed Haggar appearing behind her and she moved on instinct. She swung up harshly, catching Zarkon’s witch in the chest just before she could shoot magic at Allura. The force of Allura’s swing would’ve sent anyone flying. Being hit by an Altean’s brute power combined with a pole made from metal meant not to bend from Altean’s strength was a deadly combo.

The witch hit the floor hard and rolled several feet along the dais. It took a good moment before she recovered. With a groan the woman slowly pulled herself up into a crouch. Then her yellow eyes turned to glare at Allura.

It wasn’t the look that left Allura feeling stricken. It was the woman’s face that left her gasping. Allura felt confused, hurt, betrayed as she whispered out, “You’re Altean?”

How could this be? One of her own people was working with Zarkon. The monster who slaughtered their entire race. Why was an Altean working with him?! Why?!!

Millions of questions shot through Allura’s mind in that instant, yet she had no chance to voice any of them. Haggar yelled as she extend her hand and a burst of magic shot forth at Allura. She gasped as she was struck, her staff going flying not a moment after.

However Allura herself did not fall. She continued to stay standing with her arms braced in front of her. Clouds of dust billowed around her before suddenly the stream of dark quintessence evaporated and what was left coating Allura was a shield of pinkish light. It glowed in a way that brought a wave of comfort over Allura. 

She stared down at her hands in shocked wonder. And it seemed she wasn’t the only one in awe.

Haggar looked stricken, “Impossible!” With a cry bordering on desperation she shot out another sludge of magic at Allura.

Allura grit her teeth and fortified her stance as she blocked the next attack. She was more prepared for the second one and began pushing back. Allura grunted and gasp with the effort, feeling the strain as the corrupted magic tried relentlessly to lash out at her quintessence. Yet the hue surrounding her provided a solid defence that appeared almost impenetrable. 

With each step Allura took towards the traitorous Altean she could feel her power growing and Haggar’s waning. It almost felt like Allura’s quintessence was swallowing up the magic Haggar shot at her and converting it into energy she could harness. It left her feeling rejuvenated, energized. 

The magic dispersed just as Haggar dropped to her knees. While she was exhausted, Allura was the complete opposite. She stood tall with her shoulders back and her face hard. Allura spoke with authority befitting the title of Crown Princess.

“You will never destroy another innocent world!!”

And Allura gathered up all the energy she had harnessed before preparing to unleash it. She drew her body in tight like a coiled spring and let out a yell just as she slammed her palm down onto the dais. Pink tendrils of electric energy erupted from her and lashed out at the surrounding area. They licked like crackling fire and destroyed the platforms they touched. Debris rained down like a shower and still Allura kept pumping out the energy. 

A bubble had surrounded her at this point and protected her from the chunks raining down and crushing the platform around her. Haggar looked between Allura and the destroyed room. Her golden eyes caught sight of Kolivan and Antok skewering the remaining Druid between both of their blades and she knew she was outnumbered. Without hesitation the witch disappeared in a shroud.

Allura glared at where the witch had been as the bubble around her slowly faded. One thought went through Allura’s mind as she rose to stand. ‘Coward

Her breath came in heavy pants as around her mini explosions lit up and caused the entire room to shake. Behind her Kolivan’s yell snapped her from her glaring match with the empty air. Together the three of them quickly made an escape from the crumbling structure.

Outside, Voltron was still going strong against Zarkon. It was like they gained newfound energy the moment Shiro got back his bayard and they formed again. Now they were striking back with powerful vigour and darting around space with new breath beneath their wings.

Suddenly over the communicator a cheery voice called out, “Hello, Paladins!

The sob that threatened to break free from Keith’s throat was hard to supress. The force of it left the Altean shaking and a little dizzy. Yet that didn’t matter as relief was washing over him and the connection between the other Paladins. He felt more than heard the collective gasp of relief.

“Coran!!”

You’re alive!

Is everyone ok?

Over the coms they heard Slav’s unhelpful, “Yeah, I’m fine! Don’t worry, guys!

Lance spoke for everyone when he let out an almost fake, “Oh, great. Slav made it.” 

Tragically the sarcasm in his voice went unnoticed by the genius. Instead that just unlocked another tirade about how “see I knew in this reality the chances of us surviving that blast were higher!” which went promptly ignored by the rest of the team. Still it was wonderful to hear that everyone was ok. This helped fan the flames burning away in Voltron’s chest and only made them fight all the more harder.

However their 20 doboshes were up and already the ships were turning on as the virus’ life ended. While Coran worked on retrieving Allura and the others, Voltron focused on its fight against Zarkon. 

They slammed their swords together before breaking apart. Not a moment after they repeated this motion only at a different angle. They twisted and turned, dived and dodged. Voltron attacked as one and defended as one. Their minds were in synch as they raised their arm to block with the shield before slashing with the sword.

This is our last chance! Let’s finish this!” Shiro yelled to them.

As a group they all let out cries of battle. The noises were echoed by their Lions into a cacophony of sound that ringed through their minds and their bond. The vibrations travelled across their body and made goosebumps break out along their skins in the span of seconds. Then, as they yelled together, they slammed their controls forward and struck through Zarkon’s armour.

There was only a moment of triumph before Zarkon let go of his weapon and grasped Voltron’s head. Purple light flared and the team could practically hear the Galra’s bloodthirsty snarling. Shiro’s own pained cries rose and his eyes flooded with tears from the torture raking along his nerves. Through the pain he could blearily see a section on Black’s console rise. It blinked at him and Shiro wasted no time in slamming his newly acquired bayard into the port. 

Suddenly Voltron’s sword was engulfed in flames and the entire team used it shred through Zarkon’s armour like butter. The effect was instantaneous. A powerfully bright explosion shot outward and engulfed everything around it. Shiro had only a second to gasp before his vision was swallowed up by the blinding light.

The moment the light cleared Shiro realized quite quickly that he was no longer in his Lion. Around him was a beautiful landscape consisting of cotton candy pink clouds with swirling bits of purple and large pillars of land that had glowing blue cracks twisting up over them. Beneath the floating chunks of earth was an entire planet. The beautiful land stretched on for miles and Shiro almost felt lost looking at it all.

The breeze smelled sweet and practically sparkled from the dense magic hanging in the air. It caused the hair on the back of Shiro’s neck to rise and left him confused. Why was he here? What happened to the battle? Voltron? And why did this place look familiar to Shiro?

Like his silent questions were the catalyst into summoning it, a rumbling chuff suddenly sounded behind him. Shiro whipped around and nearly gasped at the Lion that stood before him. It looked almost exactly like Keith’s White Lion. Was this the Guardian it was modelled after? But then… Why was it here? Or better yet why was Shiro here?

The Lion stepped forward till it stood directly in front of Shiro. It was nearly as tall as him, far taller than an Earth lion. Yet while Shiro should feel fear at having a massive alien lion standing literally two feet away from him, he couldn’t find it in himself to worry. Perhaps subconsciously he knew that the Guardian wouldn’t harm him.

As if to prove his subconscious right the Guardian leaned its head down and nudged his hand. Shiro hesitated for a moment before he began patting the large head. Instantly the lion began purring.

The bizarreness of the situation nearly left Shiro laughing in hysterics. He managed to reign in his thoughts and spoke after he was sure it wouldn’t squeak. “Um… Hey. Mind helping me out?”

The Guardian blinked at him lazily in response. Taking that as the ok, Shiro bit his lip and looked at their surroundings. “Is this Oriande? Why am I here? Did you bring me here?”

Huffing at his questions, the Guardian pulled its head from where it was being pet and instead butted at Shiro’s chest. He stumbled back in confusion as he was nudged again. 

“O-ok! Hold on!” Thankfully the Guardian listened and waited. Since it was nudging him backwards then did that mean it wanted him to turn around?

He looked over his shoulder at the long stretch of land behind him before turning his eyes back to the Lion. “You want me to… Walk that way?”

When the Guardian dipped its head in a nod Shiro exhaled shakily. Alright. Message received.

As Shiro began walking in the direction the Guardian wanted he once again wondered why he was here. Did Keith send him here? The Guardian? Why? How?

Suddenly out of the corner of his eye Shiro saw something materializing. He turned and grey eyes widened in shock. Shiro stopped mid-step and watched Keith appear beside him. Even before he’d fully formed the Altean was already walking in the opposite direction Shiro was. His helmet was off and his hair wasn’t in its usual braid or ponytail. The white strands cascaded down his back and trailed after him like wisps of mist. His purple eyes were narrowed and trained forward on where the Guardian sat. Shiro and Keith were so close that all he had to do was reach out and he would be brushing Keith’s hand. 

“Keith…”

Violet eyes finally turned to him. They were sad, the smile on his face more so. Keith reached out and patted Shiro’s shoulder, his touch lingering for but a moment.

“Keep walking, Shiro.”

Keith’s hand slid from Shiro and he was suddenly struck with the urge to catch it. And maybe he should have.

Keith continued walking away from Shiro and towards the Guardian. As he looked back, Shiro saw that the Lion was no longer alone. Beside it stood Red, or well a transparent, ethereal version of her. She was extremely short compared to the Guardian. Almost looking like an actual Earth lion’s size. 

She was sitting beside the Guardian and her tail was flickering impatiently while she watched Keith. The Guardian, on the other hand, had its eyes trained on Shiro. It watched him as it sat there, ignoring the way Keith drew closer and closer. 

Shiro faltered, turning to chase after Keith. “Wait…” The words had barely left his lips before a black form was moving in front of him and blocking his path.

Standing in front of him was Black, her size nearly as large as the Guardian’s. She stared at Shiro, eyes brimming with more emotion than he thought possible for an animal. Then, with a nudge of her head, she began pushing Shiro back.

“Wait!” Shiro said as his voice grew more firm. He pushed against Black and stared desperately at Keith’s back. “Keith!!”

Keith didn’t look even as Shiro kept yelling for him. He merely continued walking with his shoulders squared and his head held high. Shiro couldn’t understand why he was so desperate to get to Keith. He only knew that he had to do something. He had to stop the other from going forward. 

“Black, stop!” Shiro yelled as she continued shoving him back. It was like his strength didn’t even matter to her. She was pushing him further and further away from Keith.

By this point the Altean had finally reached Red and the Guardian. Red moved to brush against his side while the Guardian still never took its eyes off Shiro. Now at the two Lions, Keith stood there. His shoulders raised like he was taking in a deep breath before he slumped. Then, finally, Keith turned to look over his shoulder at Shiro. He smiled sadly, hands brushing against the fur along Red’s back.

“Keep walking, Shiro.” His voice carried on the wind and the Guardian opened its mouth in a roar.

The next thing Shiro knew, he was jolting forward in Black’s cockpit and gasping like a drowning man. Sweat was collecting along his brow and his hands were shaking. His ears still rang with that roar and only as awareness began to trickle in did it fade. 

It was then he realized what had felt like minutes to him had only been seconds for everyone else. Around them he could see the other Lions of Voltron. Slowly their lights began to flicker on one-by-one. And then the voices of his teammates started to trickle in. 

Did we do it?” Lance asked almost hesitantly.

Hunk twisted Yellow so she was no longer flipping aimlessly. “Is it over?

He looked at the wrecked remains of Zarkon’s mechanical body. It floated there lifelessly, shredded shrapnel surrounding it. There was no way they didn’t succeed. The explosion had been strong enough to force Voltron apart, after all. Surely Zarkon couldn’t walk away from this?

I have Allura, Kolivan, and Antok. We need to go!” Coran said urgently over the coms.

As everyone started heading towards the ship Shiro realized that they were short a Lion. His eyes searched and amongst the wreckage he spotted the familiar crimson colour. Red was curled up floating near large scraps of Zarkon’s ship. Her lights were off and she was unresponsive.

“Keith!!” Shiro yelled as he booked it towards the comatose Lion.

Keith!” Pidge’s Lion was closer and the moment Shiro called out the Red Paladin’s name she froze and her eyes tore through the debris before spotting him. Pidge rushed over, claws hooking onto his back and pushing him towards the ship.

I got him. You go on ahead.” Shiro said as he took over for Pidge.

Black had no problem clinging onto the small Lion and totting her back to the ship. Despite Shiro assuring Pidge he had Keith, she still kept her Lion close. Even Hunk and Lance flew back in order to flank their leader and their downed comrade. 

The moment they were all on-board Allura opened up a wormhole and rushed to get them out of there. It was only once they were safely away from Zarkon’s command center that the four of them, minus Slav, rushed to Red’s hangar with not a moment to spare. Surprisingly Coran was booking it faster than the other two Galra. But that might’ve been because Antok was supporting a limp.

By the time they reached the Red Halls they’d already run into the other Paladins. They too were sprinting straight for Red’s hangar in concern. 

“What do you think’s wrong??” Pidge asked as she ran beside Shiro.

“I hope he’s just knocked out!” Hunk panted from behind. 

Inside her hangar Red was collapsed on the floor in a heap. Her eyes were dark but her mouth was parted like she was expecting them. The group wasted no time in running across the hangar and into the Lion.

The first part they reached after the doors opened was the cargo hold. They could see on the wall someone strapped down to the cot. Both Antok and Kolivan moved over and assessed their fellow Blade. After a quick check Kolivan removed his fingers from where they’d been pressed against Thace’s neck.

“He’s just unconscious.” The relief in his voice was apparent.

If Thace was only passed out then that meant the same for Keith, right? Shiro tried hard not to think about the vision he had after they dealt the final blow to Zarkon. Surely it didn’t mean anything? Right? It must’ve been a trick of the mind. A delusion from the exhaustion. Keith was fine. He had to be.

Yet as the doors to Red’s cockpit opened the team were met with only emptiness. There was no Keith, no indication he had even been in the room. The only sign of his existence was Red’s bayard still jammed into the console from when he activated Voltron’s sword. But that was the only thing there. Everything else was empty.

“He’s… Gone.” Pidge whispered, voice shaking. Desperate eyes shot to Shiro and her hand snatched out to grab his. Her voice rose in pitch, fear and confusion making it break. “Shiro, where’s Keith? Where did he go?!”

And Shiro… He didn’t have an answer. Not one that made sense, anyways. His mouth opened and closed yet no words spilled out. Even as Pidge shook from her overwhelming emotions he couldn’t find words. Shiro has never felt more useless than he did in that moment. Keith had disappeared and they had no sign of where he'd gone.

 

 

-End of Part 1-