There was something off with the boy.
Kolivan had noticed that the boy had seemed…disconnected from his surroundings for most of the day, jumping at the smallest of things, ignoring orders and occasionally lapsing into long periods of dazed silence. His movements and reaction times had also been sluggish, sloppy and slow.
Now, as he watches him out of the corner of his eyes as he leads the latest intelligence meeting, he notices that the boy is not all there, his eyes fluttering and his head drooping. He thinks he can even catch the shadow of shivers racking his frame.
He feels rather than sees the pointed looks in his direction from the Senior Blades at the disrespectful actions being shown by his subordinate and clamps down on a low growl.
Leniency could only go so far. The Blades had a code of conduct and no one was exempt from it. The boy’s actions were a reflection of his own abilities and he would not have his leadership questioned. He and the boy would be having words when the meeting was over.
Momentary distractions aside, the meeting concludes smoothly and as the assembled Blades rise to leave, Kolivan notices that the boy does not move immediately. His eyes narrow as he hears a few murmurs from the dispersing Blades, and he doesn’t need to look at Antok, because he feels the inquiring stare burning at the back his neck. He nods sharply without taking his gaze off the boy, an unspoken promise that the situation would be dealt with.
He notices that one of the younger Blades, Regris, lingers for a moment at the door, his eyes shifting from Keith to Kolivan. Kolivan knows that the other Blade probably feels a degree of fondness for the boy, most likely from his actions in their mission together, but there is no room for sentiment here, not in this organization. He raises a single brow at Regris when his gaze shifts back to him and he immediately turns and exits with further prompting, leaving behind just him and the boy. Kolivan moves to stand beside the door and waits.
After what seems like a few vargas, the boy’s senses seem to finally return to him. Kolivan watches as the boy appears to literally reboot, his slump frame straightening, confused eyes taking in the empty room. With great effort, the boy pushes himself from the table and walks towards the door on wobbly legs
Kolivan grabs the boy’s arm as he passes him, resisting the urge to draw back in surprise when he violently starts in his hold. Had he really not noticed Kolivan standing beside the door? That was even more unacceptable. What could possibly be to blame for this abysmal drop in reflexes? He waits for dazed, unfocused eyes to meet his, before he rearranges his face into a disapproving stare.
“Your behavior today has been horrendous and unacceptable. I want an explanation.” Blunt and to the point, no room for sugarcoating. The boy blinks at him dumbly and for the first time Kolivan notices a small splash of pink against his normally pale cheeks and the slight sour scent that clings to his skin. Peculiar but unimportant. After a few ticks go by without the boy answering, Kolivan gives him a slight shake.
“Initiate!” He barks, patience weaning, “Answer me, now!”
“K-k-kolivan?” Kolivan scowl deepens at the scratchy weakness in that voice, his grip on the boy’s arm tightening.
“Yes. Kolivan. Your commanding officer who you have shamed today with your reprehensible behavior. I don’t know what manner of foolishness has caused you to take leave of your senses, but I suggest you fix it least I have to step in and correct your behavior myself.”
Awareness trickles back into violet eyes at the reprimand and the boy has the good grace to look ashamed. He lowers his eyes to floor, a clear sign of submission. Good.
“I’m s-s-sorry for my insubordination.” The boys voice is small but clear.” I g-g-g-uess I haven’t really felt like myself today.”
“Then see that you do what you need to remedy that.”
The boy nods and shrinks into himself at the low, harsh words, and from where he’s holding him Kolivan can feel minute shivers racing across his frame. Kolivan feels a sharp sense of satisfaction. It would appear that his message was received loud and clear. He releases the boys arm and walks back over to the head of the table to collect his papers. He throws a look over his shoulder raising a brow when he notices the boy has not moved from where he left him.
The boy starts, wincing once more as he meets Kolivan’s gaze. He nods weakly and hurries out the room on teetering legs. Kolivan feels a small niggling prick at the back of his head as he watches him leaves, but resolutely shoves it down.
The boy does not show up for training. Nor for their intel meeting nor for the nightly debriefing.
Kolivan is incensed. He cannot even imagine the expression he wears as he stalks down the halls to the Initiates’ Quarters. He thinks he must look quite frightful as one look at him sends any Blade lingering in the halls scurrying away as he passes.
To blatantly skip out on his duties and after the talk they had. Did the foolishness and arrogance of the boy know no bounds? Did the indulgent way Kolivan had previously approached their interactions convince him that his actions held no consequence? Well, he would remedy that attitude right now. Hot-headedness he could handle. Pride he welcomed. But insubordination? After a warning? Not in his base.
“Where’s the newest initiate?” His low hiss causes the nearby group of Blades to freeze, and they all turn to him, uncertainty shining on their faces. One member bravely steps forward.
“I think he went to the washro-“ Kolivan brushes past her, his destination clear.
He nears the washroom, hand raised to press the button, but the door whooshes open before he can.
A blast of cold air hit’s his face, his nose scrunching in displeasure at the icy chill. Then out steps the boy dressed in nothing more than a pair of loose shorts. He staggers precariously out of the washroom and leans heavily against the door his hand weakly clutching the frame, shoulders slumped, hair damp and skin flushed.
Kolivan opens his mouth fully intending to unleash the lecture that had been building but then the boy’s hazy eyes meet his and they’re rolling into the back of head and he is crumbling and all thoughts of anger fly from Kolivan’s mind.
“Initiate!” Years of training honed reflexes ensures that he catches the boy before he’s even begun his descent and lowers the two of them to the floor, the start of something like panic thrumming through his veins. The boy is deadweight in his arms, save for the violent shivers racking his body his skin cold. Kolivan rearranges the cold, limp form until he’s cradling him in his arms, the boy’s head lolling limply against Kolivan’s shoulder. It is then Kolivan truly sees the state the boy is in.
The boy’s face is a mosaic of clashing and conflicting colors. His normally pale skin is near translucent save for a bright splash of red splayed across his hallow cheeks and dark purple rings that circle his eyes. His breath is short and irregular, eyes closed in what Kolivan is sure is pain.
“Initiate! “ He calls again to receives no answer. “Answer me! Where are you injured?”
A groan is his only answer.
The boy seems to be delirious, unaware of his surroundings and completely incapable of answering him verbally. Kolivan growls deeply in his throat, wildly out of his depth. He has no idea what is going on with the boy or what could have brought on this abrupt collapse. Not for the first time, he curses the boy’s human heritage and the confusion it brings. He’s just about to call out to the boy again when he hears it. For a second, he thinks he’s imagined it, but it was too close and far too real. He stares down at the boy in shock and mounting realization. He growls lowly, a rumbling pitch accompanying it. A few ticks pass before he hears the sound once more, soft and weak but utterly unmistakable.
A hiccuping chirrup, the universal sound of an injured or ill kit.
Instantly, the world narrows down to just Kolivan and the kit in his arms. Deca-phoebs of dormant and buried instincts come rushing to the surface at the mere utterance of that sound. He pulls the kit in closer, buries his nose in his hair and inhales. He recoils sharply, the sheer overwhelming scent of sour sickness assaulting his senses.
Kolivan has the kit in his arms and is moving swiftly towards the direction of his personal quarters before he’s even consciously aware of what he’s doing, instincts and panic guiding his movements. He pays no attention to the scattering of Blades still lingering in the halls, has no care for how he must look. All thoughts center around the shivering body cradled in his arms. He thinks of the boy’s sluggish movements, his sudden weakness and the slight sour smell that clung to his skin. It all paints a very grim picture.
Antok awaits him at his door. The taller Blade brow furrows as Kolivan rushes past him. He follows behind Kolivan silently, his yellow gaze fixed on the kit.
“I thought your reprimand was going to be strictly verbal.” He rumbles, his tone heavy with reproach.
“He’s ill.” Kolivan says shortly, not really caring for the implication but too preoccupied to address it. He deposits the kit down on his bed gently.
“Ill?“ Antok comes to stand beside them. “He doesn’t appear so.”
“Yes.” Taking special care, Kolivan wraps the kit up tightly in his blanket. “It would seem that humans have different indicators that signal when they are ill. I believe the red in his face and his shivering are two of them.”
”Are you certain?”
Kolivan doesn’t answer. Instead, he growls softly. The resounding chirrup is even fainter than before but it’s enough. Shock paints Antok expression and he drops down next to Kolivan, eyes shining with concern.
“I was under the impression that the Red Paladin had reached adulthood.”
“So was I.”
“But his response was that of a kit.” Kolivan hears the rising anger in his old friends voice. He can sympathize.
Kolivan settles onto his bed, leans against the wall and brings the kit into his arms, blanket and all. The sickly sour smell, and the heat clinging to the kit’s skin is almost overwhelming, but Kolivan will be damned if he doesn’t offer the bare minimum of comfort to an ailing and miserable kit. He may not know all that entails when it comes to caring for an ill human, but ill Galra kits usually responded well to heat, pressure and communal cuddling. And it would appear that half-Galra kits weren’t exempt. Even unconscious and unaware, Kolivan can already see the pain fading from the kit’s pinched and pale face.
That was good. It was the least Kolivan could do after…. after their conversation earlier. Kolivan’s grip tighten on the bundle in his arms as the prickling of bitter guilt settles in the pit of his stomach as he recalls the harsh words he’d said to the kit. He thought the kit disrespectful, and insubordinate and had reprimanded him for a situation that came about from Kolivan’s own ignorance. He’d known the kit was half-galra and thus he should have made allowance to collect more information on his human half. Perhaps if he had done that, the kit wouldn’t be in the condition that he was in now.
“You are troubled.” Kolivan looks up to see Antok lingering at the side of the bed. His steady yellow gaze hold a familiar hint of understanding that usually works to loosen Kolivan’s tongue.
“I… was harsh to him after the meeting. I reprimanded him for something that wasn’t his fault. You can smell him, I’m sure, can smell how sick he is now. The scent was already on him earlier and I dismissed it too caught up in my anger. He was ill and still tried to fulfill his duties and I scolded him for it.”
“You were unaware the indicators that signal human sickness.” Kolivan shoots Antok a rueful grin.
“You and I both know that’s no excuse.”
“I didn’t intend to phrase it as such.” The simple comment doesn’t sting. It’s the exact kind of brutal honesty Kolivan expects from his oldest comrade. Because there is no excuse. Not really. Their line of work does not allot for ignorance. The fact remains, a kit suffered unnoticed due to his negligence. It happened but it would not happen again.
Antok pushes himself from the bed and moves to the door.
“I’ll go and retrieve a tonic from the medbay.” He shoots Kolivan a small smirk. “I’ll leave you to tend to the kit.”
Kolivan scoffs at the underlying humor in his friend’s tone. He knows the picture he makes, wrapped around the slumber bundle of kit as tightly as he is, he also knows Antok knew there no way he was moving from the bed or putting the kit down for anything.
A peaceful silence descends in the wake of Antok’s exit. Kolivan alternates between rubbing his cheek against the kits head and applying more pressure to his embrace, a practice that normally brought comfort to kits.
Kolivan starts at the weak, reedy call. He looks down to see hazy violet eye staring back up at him.
“W-where-,” Panic thrums through Kolivan as the kit dissolve into a short fit of strange hacking breaths. The kit’s voice is scratchy and frail when he continues. “where am I?”
“In my Quarters. You collapsed. “
A sudden flash of awareness races across those hazy eyes, followed by disbelief, then mortification and suddenly the kit won’t look him in the eyes.
Kolivan is floored by the whispered words. The kit was apologizing to him? He stares down at the kit in silent disbelief before he finally finds his voice.
“Why are you apologizing?”
The kit looks back up at him, large violet eyes shining with remorse. “I really tried to make it to training and the intel meeting, but I just- I just couldn’t. I was so hot. I-I thought if I took a cold shower it might bring my fever down so I could at least make it to the debriefing meeting, but I just- It didn’t help and I-“
“Keith,” Kolivan says firmly, cutting off the kit’s ramblings. The kit flinches and looks at him miserably as if expecting another dressing-down. Kolivan feels another pang of guilt at that. “Keith, if I had known you were ill, I would have never reprimanded you the way I did earlier. I’m apologize for intimidating you into not telling me you were ill. The fault lies with me. I neglected to educate myself on the workings of your biology and thus was not able to pick up on the fact that you were sick. As an intitate under my supervision, that was inexcusable, and had it not been for your galra instincts pulling through, I might not have know you were ill. That ignorance should never be tolerated, and I guarantee such an incident will not be repeated.”
The kit looks a bit overwhelmed after Kolivan stops speaking, eyes wide and shocked. After a few ticks of silence, he looks down shyly clearly under able to speak. Kolivan watches him play with the edge of his blanket before he speaks, voice small.
“I thought you knew I was sick. I thought I was supposed to push through it. I didn’t know you didn’t know.”
Shit. That was somehow worse than the kit being afraid to speak up. “Galra show signs of sickness differently.” Kolivan says softly. “Dry or flaked noses, lost luster in our fur and a dimming in the eyes are a few of the outward indicators of illness. There’s also a sour scent ill Galra carry. I smelt it earlier on you, but it was so faint I dismissed it as something else. I assure you, young one, I had no idea you were ill.”
At the kit’s look of uncertainty, Kolivan continues, desperate with the need to reassure him. “In fact, I would like to sit down with you and our medic later, when you are feeling better, and discuss your biology a bit so nothing like this happens again.”
To Kolivan’s relief, the uncertainty bleeds from the kit’s eyes, and he nods shyly. Kolivan watches as a small crease forms on the kit’s forehead.
“You’re, um, hugging me.”
Kolivan chuckles lowly. Had the kit really just know noticed? “I am.”
“Oh.” The kit says quietly. Really, where had this adorably shy side been hiding all this time? “It’s nice, b-but why?”
“Kits do normally enjoy being held.” Kolivan says with a smirk, squeezing him a little tighter and inciting a tiny squeak. “Especially when they are ill.” The kit suddenly looks up at in confusion.
“Kits? What do you mean by-?”
“Ah, nevermind that.” Kolivan cuts in swiftly. It probably wouldn’t do well to inform the kit of his newfound kit classification, not while he’s ill. One thing at a time. “Antok has gone to fetch you some medicine. In the meantime, it would be best if you got some more rest. You can take the medicine after you wake up”
“But the debriefing- “
“You already missed it.” Kolivan frowns at the look of chagrin that spreads across the kit’s face.” You are ill. It’s understandable that you missed it and even if you hadn’t, I wouldn’t let you attend in the first place. In fact, you will not be attending any training or meetings until you are well. I will personally see to that.”
“But you’re the leader!” The kit exclaims, “You don’t have to waste time looking after me! I’m not even feeling all that bad anymore.”
“I assure you, young one,” Kolivan says forcefully, appalled at the mere notion that looking after an ill kit was somehow a burden, “that it is not a waste of my time to look after you. In fact, it is a task I eagerly accept with no complaints. Also, your scent tells me you are still very much ill.”
“No. I promise. I’m feeling better. You don’t have to.” The kit begins to wriggle weakly, intent on getting out of Kolivan’s hold.
Nope. That wouldn’t do. Kolivan lays a hand on the kit’s head and gently scraps his nails against his scalp. Instantly, the kit’s eyes lid, his struggles creasing and with a small sigh, his head falls limply against Kolivan’s shoulder.
“Rest now, young one.” Kolivan rumbles lowly, a small smirk tugging at his lips. Really, kits were so predictable.
Bleary violet eyes slowly drift close, and only a few ticks pass before the soft sound of snoring fills the room. Kolivan purrs deeply in satisfaction. It may have been deca-phoebs since he's had actual practice but it was nice to know he could still quickly and efficiently put an unruly kit down.
The sudden sound of thudding footsteps draws his attention away from his sleeping charge and towards his door.
“Leader!” Regris’s entrance into his room is clumsy, frantic, and loud.“ Antok Informed me that there was something wrong with Keith and that you needed medicine and-“
“Quiet!” Kolivan’s hiss is low, deadly and carries just enough of an underlying threat of physical harm that Regris’s voice completely dies in his throat. The unruly Blade stares at him awkwardly for a few ticks, before walking over to bed and holding the small jar of medicine up timidly. Kolivan holds a hand out and accepts the medicine wordlessly. Antok chooses that moment to walk in, a slightly harassed expression on his face. He walks over to Regris and cuffs him over the head.
“He was on med-bay duty.” Antok explains exasperatedly at Kolivan’s inquiring stare. “When I told him who the medicine was for, he rushed out with it and ran all the way here.”
That was… interesting. Kolivan can’t really resist pinning the younger Blade with a pointed stare.
Regris has the grace to look embarrassed, his ears pressed low to his head.
“I was concerned.” Regris says, his voice noticeably lower and stemmed in worry. Antok scoffs and walks over to the bed. He inhales deeply, a small frown marring his face.
“It’s not as bad as before but he’s still very ill,”
“He was awake briefly before you two arrived. We a had a talk.” Kolivan meets Antok’s eyes. “He thought I knew he was sick. He thought I wanted him to push through it. He…thought ensuring that he recovered was a burden for me.”
Antok’s frown deepens. “No kit should think that way. We will have to remedy that.”
Kolivan nods grimly. “Agreed.”
Tentatively, Regris edges closer, his tail swishing nervously behind him.
“Will he-,“ Keith shifts a bit and at Antok and Kolivan’s furious twin glares Regris continues in a much softer tone, “ be okay?”
Kolivan takes in the younger Blade, his worry born annoyance shifting to compassionate understanding. Sentiment. It seems they were now all victims to it when the kit was concerned.
“Yes, he will be. I’ll make sure of it. In the meantime, why don’t you go and meet with the medic and tell her we need a composite list of human biology and sickness and we'll inform you when Keith awakens.”
Regris immediately brightens at that.
“Yes sir!” he whispers enthusiastically and then he’s bounding out the room at top speed.
Antok rolls his eyes before throwing Kolivian a small knowing smirk.
“I’ll lead tonight’s final training session since you obviously wont be able to.” He runs a hand through Keith’s hair, and then he’s gone, leaving Kolivan alone with his thoughts.
The Blades were a rebel group. They lived a harsh life, followed a strict code and died for their mission. There was no room for sentiment in their world. But as Kolivan looks down at his kit, snuggled so sweetly in his arms, he decides that a bit of indulgence here and there really wouldn’t hurt anyone.