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Keith Kogane Finds His Pack

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Not many people knew Keith's true secondary gender. At the Garrison, people could only guess, but most agreed he was probably an alpha.

Everyone in the garrison was on suppressants. Throwing that many newly presented, horny teenagers together would be a disaster, so everyone had their rut or heat suppressed as well as their scents. This allowed for mixed gender dorms, and with no other indications as to secondary genders, people turned to gossip.

There was one old, outdated myth that people sometimes talked about though. It said that alphas took on a more dog or wolf like appearance, while omegas were more like cats. This rumour never mentioned betas however, so most people didn't consider it. It wouldn't have applied to Keith anyway, since he had fox ears and a bushy fox tail. His ears were burnt orange at their base, darkening to black. His dad used to joke that he looked like a black fox when his unruly hair covered all but the tips. His tail was similar, orange to black except for the shock of white at the very top.

So, when Keith found himself launched into space with three cadets and an Officer from the Garrison, he never bothered correcting them when they assumed he was an alpha.

After their disastrous first meeting with Zarkon, and the subsequent separating of the team for several quintants, the team had changed. Allura was worried that they wouldn’t work together as well as before. So, she had decided that they all had to reintroduce themselves, give each other their basic information, as a "bonding exercise". Keith, unfortunately, seemed to be the only one with an issue with this.

"I'm McClain, Lance McClain, alpha, 19 years old," Lance said, shooting a wink at Princess Allura. His ears perked up as he looked at her eagerly. "Hunk, you go next."

Hunk glanced around the circle, before hesitantly introducing himself, "Umm hi, I'm Hunk Garret, yes that's my real name and I'm a beta. Oh! I'm 19 as well, Pidge you should go next."

"I'm Pidge, not yet presented, I'm 16 and I have better things to be doing," Keith ducked his head to hide his smirk, although Pidge noticed anyway. They made eye contact and grinned. Although Keith had kept his distance from the team, he got on fine with Pidge. What they both lacked in height they made up in snark and sarcasm.

Shiro sighed, he had a bad feeling about letting those two get close. "Guess I'll go next then. My name’s Takashi Shirogane, but you can just call me Shiro. I'm 23 years old, and I'm an alpha."

"No way, man! That's not fair! That means there's three and possibly four alphas on the team! This is going to be some much work!" Lance spluttered, glaring at Keith as though this was his fault.

While Pidge and Hunk looked confused, Shiro nudged Keith to introduce himself. His ears pinned themselves to his head. "I'm Keith, and depending on how long we've been in space, I'm 17 or 18. I think I'm still 17 though."

Pidge, Lance and Hunk launched into a debate about how long they estimated they'd been in space. Shiro, however, wasn't going to let Keith off so quickly. "You never said your secondary gender," he said giving Keith a serious look. Luckily, the proximity alarms went off, and Allura started urging them to their lions. Keith had so far managed to avoid divulging that information and he was going to try his hardest to keep it that way.

Saved by the bell Keith thought, as he raced to his lion.

 

Several hours, later Keith collapsed into his bed. The battle had been a hard one, but they all were.

Just as he started to take off his armour, the door slid open. Keith froze, hand automatically going for his knife, before he recognized Pidge in front of him. He stared at them for several long seconds, before they shuffled over and flopped onto his bed.

Keith felt that he must have missed some social cue or something, because this had never happened before. In the (possible) months they had been in space, none of the paladins had ever actively sought Keith out, just to enjoy his company. None of them had even been in his room!

So, he stood there, armour partially off and stared, perplexed, at Pidge, until finally they huffed and patted the spot next to them. "Geez Keith, you look like I just asked you to solve an impossible riddle, just sit down."

Hesitantly, Keith lowered himself onto the bed. His mind raced through the past couple of days, as he tried to remember if Pidge had any reason to interact with him. Had he accidentally eaten their food goo? Maybe he somehow broke their earphones? Oh god, what if, when he tripped and fell onto Greens paw, he accidentally damaged her?

He was getting lost in his thoughts, but Pidge's voice snapped him out of it. "You're an omega, aren't you."

Keith gaped at them, struggling to put his thoughts together. While he never really planned on hiding his gender from the paladins, he was scared of them treating them differently. "How did you figure it out?" He asked, instead of the hundred other questions rolling around in his head.

Pidge smirked, "Well, it was pretty easy, once I started looking. Firstly, everyone mentioned their gender at least once, except for you. Lance always talks about how you're an alpha, but he doesn't have any proof, just gossip and rumours. Then I noticed that you cover your scent. The rest of us did too, but the suppressants from the Garrison are wearing off. You clearly had another source. And lastly, no matter how much you try not to, you always end up in the middle of the group. In training, while we're eating, hell even in battle! You always try to move to the edge, but everyone subconsciously follows you. And people are always trying to get your attention! Hunk bakes specifically for you all the time. Lance has his made-up rivalry. Shiro is always showing you his new moves for training. Even I do it! I always ask you about mechanics and engines, even though Hunk was the one training to be an engineer!"

Keith looked at them, before taking a deep breath to calm his heart. "I guess some things can't stay hidden for too long, am I right Katie," he said smirking. Although he looked calm and collected, inside he was shrieking.

Pidge gasped, before turning a deep red, "Okay so you got me there, I'm actually a girl, or um, I’m biologically a girl? I kind of identify as non-binary. How about a pinkie promise not to rat each other out?"

Keith grimaced, but interlocked his pinkie with theirs anyway. "Wait, what pronouns do you want me to use?" he asked.

"She/her or they/them, although use they/them in front of the others please," they replied. Their tail flicked lazily behind them. They were pleased that someone had been considerate enough to ask them that, it hadn't happened before.

The pair glanced at each other, before bursting out laughing. And Pidge would be the first to say that Keith had the cutest laugh they'd ever heard.

Chapter Text

Lance notice Keith and Pidge seemed to be all buddy buddy all of a sudden.

It started after those introductions. The next morning, Pidge took Lance's usual spot besides Keith at breakfast, and Shiro took his other side. With Hunk directly across from Keith, Lance had no choice but to sit facing Pidge. He didn't understand why he felt to put out by this. Maybe because they seemed to pick the other alpha over him.

Still, at least by sitting near the head of the table he was closer to Allura. So, he distracted himself by flirting with her throughout the meal.

He glanced at the pair a few times, and he couldn't help noticing how close they were sitting. Keith had his head ducked down, while Pidge whispered something in his ear. Suddenly his shoulders started shaking, and Lance jumped from his seat, thinking he was choking. That is, until Keith lifted his head and Lance realised he was laughing! Lance had barely seen Keith smile before never mind laugh!

Everyone in the room froze as they heard Keith's bell like laugh for the first time. Pidge grinned, as though he was proud of having made him laugh. Shiro had heard it before, but the sound never failed to amaze him. Allura, Hunk and Lance all stared in disbelief, blushes staining their cheeks. He had the cutest laugh they'd ever heard!

Once Keith had stopped giggling, he noticed everyone looking at him. "Why's everyone staring at me? Did I do something wrong?"

Pidge just smirked, before leaning in while making eye contact with Lance and said, "don't worry about it, Keith, you just have a very attractive laugh."

That did it for Lance. Turning beet red, he mumbled some excuses before sprinting out of the room. He nearly collided with Coran on his way out. Coran tried to say something to him, but Lance had already left.

 

Over the next few days, Lance bumped into Pidge and Keith everywhere he went. They were in the lounge, curled up together as they did research. They were in the training room, improving their teamwork. They were in the Lion’s hangars, working on their lions. The Arms of Voltron were rarely seen without each other.

And it annoyed Lance to no end.

"I just don't understand! Since when are they pals! I never see one without the other anymore! He's taking my friend from me!" Lance cried, sitting on the kitchen counter while Hunk cooked. His ears had flopped inside out but he wasn't bothered to fix them.

Hunk sighed. He had been listening to the same rant for two days now, and frankly it was getting on his nerves.

"Lance, you're getting territorial. Pidge isn't yours, and he isn’t an object. If you want to spend time with him so badly, then just ask him. I think being in close proximity to the other alphas is messing with your head. We should have a meeting to sort some things out." Hunk tried to rationalize.

As the only beta, he had to try and keep the alphas from ripping each other apart, especially since they weren't a pack yet. Pidge wouldn't be much use, since he hadn't presented yet and therefore would still qualify as a pup. Although if there was an omega on board, they'd be fiercely protective of Pidge.

"Yeah, maybe we should do that. Then we can lay out some territories so that we don't keep fighting. It would be nice to have somewhere where no Mullets are allowed," Lance said, hopping off the counter, "We should have it right now!" Lance ran off before Hunk could stop him. Sometimes alphas were just so excitable.

 

Lance jogged down the corridor, intent on finding his teammates. As he rounded a corner, he saw Pidge and Keith hugging, or, maybe more accurately, holding each
other. Pidge made eye contact with Lance, smirked and then reached up and kissed Keith's cheek.

Lance saw red. He understood now why he had a bad feeling about Keith and Pidge. Keith was taking advantage of a pup! Trying to claim him before he presented, so that he would allow him to scent him after. If Pidge presented as an omega, he would trust Keith explicitly and would probably let him bond them. Keith may as well start grooming him for sexual slavery. It was disgusting.

With a growl, he sprinted at Keith, and ripped him away from Pidge. His rage quickly burned off the last of the suppressants in his system, allowing his scent to flow freely. His usually calm, beach like scent, thickened with his anger, until both Pidge and Keith were choking on it.

Keith glanced between him and Pidge, before darting forwards, grabbing him and sprinting. Lance didn't understand why he didn't challenge him, but he gave chase anyway. He was not letting Keith take Pidge away like that!

However, after a few turns, he lost them. Keith didn't have a distinct scent to follow, and Pidge's pup scent was very faint, and he lost it quickly.

Instead he stormed to the control room, looking for Allura and Coran. "Princess, Coran! I need you to call a meeting! Right this minute! And get Keith in here! I want to challenge him!"

Allura and Coran didn't know much about human dynamics, but they heard the urgency and anger in his voice. Allura made the announcement and three minutes later Shiro and Hunk arrived. Lance was getting angrier and angrier the longer it took for Keith to show up. He was probably keeping Pidge hostage somewhere.

He decided, ten minutes later and still no sign of the two, that there would be serious hell to pay the next time he saw Keith.

Chapter Text

Pidge realised they might have made a mistake the moment Lance ripped them from Keith. While Lance thought he was protecting a pup from an alpha, he actually just separated a pup from an omega. And that was a Very Bad Thing.

Omegas are highly protective of pups; sometimes alpha fathers don't even get to see their pups until they are a few weeks old. And no alpha in their right mind would forcibly take a pup from an omega.

But that's exactly what Lance did. Pidge knew this could go one of two ways. Either Lance would challenge Keith and Keith would fight him (and probably win, let's be honest) or Lance would challenge Keith and Keith would run.

Surprisingly Keith chose to run. Although there wasn't much height difference between them, he cradled Pidge to his chest and sprinted away, before ducking into a supply closet. The sound of his ragged breathing filled the quiet room. He stood with his back straight, tail puffed and ears alert. A few seconds later, Lance barrelled past, not noticing their hiding spot. Once he turned the corner, Keith crept out and ran in the opposite direction. His tail had puffed up to twice its width, and his ears were pinned so far back, his hair completely covered them.

His instincts had completely taken over. He wouldn't respond to Pidge with words, but when they whined, he responded with a chirp. He was taking them to a part of the castle they'd never been to. He entered a room that looked like an observatory and made his way over to a wall. There he pressed a button and a ladder appeared.
He hoisted Pidge above him, and they climbed through the trap door.

Pidge gasped when they saw through the other side of the door. It was a nest! Pidge hadn't seen a nest since they left for the Garrison a few months ago. The pup part of them was delighted, although Pidge tried to stifle it. They were close to presenting; they weren't a pup anymore! All that went out the window when Keith dragged them into the nest. He immediately started scenting them, purring up a storm. Although his movements were frantic, they knew he'd calm down in a few hours. Pidge felt themself relaxing into the comfortable nest. Although it didn't smell like Keith, it did smell like lavender and cinnamon, and while it was an odd combination it was comforting in its own way. Pidge drifted off to sleep with Keith's purring in the background, feeling familial warmth and love for the first time in what felt like forever.

 

Pidge woke up several hours later, to Keith sitting at the entrance to his nest, still purring madly. They were worried about him as he must have been more shaken up then they realised. They noticed the way he held his arm, the one Lance grabbed as he separated them. Lance must have accidentally hurt Keith.

Once he noticed they were awake, he chirped and began searching through the walls of his nest. He must have hidden non-perishables in the walls of his nest. While that wasn't exactly a common thing to do, he was in an unfamiliar castle, without a pack to protect him. Although he had his teammates, they weren't pack, not yet anyway. He brought out a packet of goo as well as a bottle of water and shoved them in their direction.

Pidge thanked him, but he didn't respond, instead returning to the entrance. Pidge knew this was turning out to be more serious than they thought. At this rate he'd never let them leave the nest! After finishing their goo and water, they brainstormed what to do.

Deciding that words right now were useless, they fell back to their pup instincts. Chuffing lightly, they pounced on his back, hoping their playfulness would ease him.
It worked, although instead of play fighting with them, he just held them close purring lightly. Thankfully his purr was one of contentment, rather than fear. Pidge imitated him, as some pups do with their parents and older siblings.

After half an hour, Keith purring tapered off, before he opened his mouth to speak. "Pidge, what am I going to do?" His voice was hoarse from constant purring, and his eyes watered as he contemplated his situation.

An alpha challenging him was nothing to take lightly. Keith couldn’t hide from him forever, and he wasn’t confident he could take him in a fight. The rest of the team were bound to become Lance’s pack. Keith had fought Sendek hand-to-hand, but the prospect of being trapped in a castle with a pack that didn’t accept Keith terrified him.

Pidge sighed, "Keith, I'm sorry, this is partially my fault. I was trying to make him jealous of me, because I get to spend time with you, but instead he got jealous of you. I should have thought that out better, I was only messing with him."

"I'll admit, you shouldn't have tried to mess with him, but he shouldn't have reacted that way. I forgive you, of course but now you have to help me get out of this mess." Keith's shoulders slumped as he thought of his admittedly bleak choices.

"Come on Keith, you haven't slept in ages, what time even is it right now? Let's go to sleep and in the morning, we will try to figure this out. Everything will be okay, I promise," Pidge said, while pulling Keith into the nest to lay beside her. Keith relaxed, and quickly fell asleep.

Pidge knew they had a certain McClain’s ass to kick tomorrow.

Chapter Text

When Shiro hadn't seen either Keith or Pidge in well over twelve hours, he really started to worry. He asked Lance, for the fifth time, to repeat exactly what had happened.

Twenty-four hours later, he asked him to repeat it again. "Shiro, come on, I've told you already! I walked down the corridor and saw Keith and Pidge kiss, so I separated them, and then Keith kidnapped him and ran! He was obviously being territorial, which is what I wanted to talk about in the first place!" Lance exclaimed.

"So, you saw Keith and Pidge kissing? On the lips? That doesn't sound like either of them, and Keith wouldn't take advantage of a pup like that." Shiro questioned.

"Yes! That's what I said! Ugh, why are you taking Keith's side too! Everyone is picking him over me!" Just as Lance finished his sentence, a quiet growl reverberated from behind him.

"You want to tell them what really happened Lance?" Pidge growled, tail lashing as he stepped into the room. "You want to tell them how I kissed his cheek, because I see him as a big brother? Or how you ripped us apart, hurting Keith in the process and then challenged him? And when he ran, you chased us down six hallways before you lost us? Are you sure Keith is the one being territorial? He had a panic attack because of you! Grow up and face the truth McClain, you were in the wrong here."

Hunk stepped forward, sensing a fight about to break out. "Pidge, calm down. Lance is this true?" He held his hands up placatingly.

Lance at least looked ashamed of himself, before he blurted out, "Well, Keith still shouldn't be claiming Pidge, he isn't his! Keith could never belong in a pack, he’s too much of a lone wolf and he certainly will never be in mine."

That did it. Pidge launched himself at Lance. Hunk grabbed him by the arm and waist as he passed. He tried to wrench himself from his grasp. "Lance! Go take a time out!" Shiro barked. He looked like he was two seconds away from losing it.

Then they heard a broken-hearted wail. An omega’s wail. Shiro, Hunk and Lance froze, while Pidge was the only one unaffected. He turned to them and sent them the most hateful glare he could.

"Now look what you've done, don't expect to see us for a few days." And with that he marched out of the room.

The rest of the team caught a glimpse of Keith on the floor of the corridor, before the door slid shut.

"Oh Quiznack," Lance muttered, everything starting to make a bit more sense now.

Just then Coran and Allura burst into the room. "What was that awful sound!" Coran exclaimed.

"Are we under attack?" The Princess cried. None of the boys had regained function in their limbs yet though, so they could only stare at them in shock.

It only took Hunk two more minutes to move, but Lance and Shiro were stuck for another five. While they waited, Hunk explained what happened to the alteans.

"That was an omega’s wail," he started, "Usually they only make that noise when they are in great distress. None of us knew that Keith is an omega, although looking back on it he never did say his secondary gender. We all just assumed he was an alpha."

Hunk turned to look at Lance and Shiro. "Pidge obviously figured it out, and that must have been why they were spending so much time together. Also, omegas are naturally drawn to pups, so Keith must have wanted to protect him."

Lance had started gaining the use of his limbs back. He furrowed his eyebrows as he thought over what Hunk said. "Quiznack, I made a huge mistake. I ripped a pup away from an omega! No wonder he was so upset! And then I challenged him!! He must have been terrified; I have to apologize right now."

Coran, who had been listening intently, interrupted him, "Lance, my boy, if this omega wail is as bad as it sounds, and you had a part to play in it, I believe it would be best to give Keith time to calm down. He is probably very distressed, and an alpha barging in on his space would probably make things worse." He glanced at Shiro and Hunk for confirmation.

"What I don't understand is, why did he wail now? That incident happened nearly two days ago," Allura questioned.

Both Hunk and Shiro turned to glare at Lance. Lance looked away; he was so disappointed in himself. "I said that he would never belong in a pack, and definitely not mine. It was a horrible thing to say, even if Keith was an alpha. I didn't mean for him to hear it though! I never would have said it if I had known!"

"I confess I don't understand you humans and your packs, but is that a very bad thing to say?" Allura glanced at Coran, as though to confirm that she wasn't the only one who didn't quite understand.

"Alphas usually are the ones to lead packs, however they almost always defer to the pack omega. There is a complicated system, but omegas are to be protected and are precious to us. Alphas usually do the protecting, while leading the pack with their omega. Betas keep the peace and hold the pack together. For an alpha to say that an omega will never belong in a pack, well he might as well have told Keith that he is a bad omega. Something that is soul destroying for omegas to hear." Shiro explained.

"Look Lance, I'm disappointed in you. You lied to us, and you said something horrible about a teammate that you never should have even thought. But I can see that you already know all of this, and you feel guilty about it. So, you are going to spend the next few days figuring out how to apologize to both Keith and Pidge," Shiro continued. He felt bad for the kid, but Lance needed to mature if he wanted to be a pack leader one day and mistakes like these will get him there.

Lance sighed, and still looking at the ground, replied, "Yeah, you're right Shiro, and I'm sorry for lying to you and Hunk. I don't know why I did, but I'll do better in the future, I promise. I think I'm going to go to bed though. Good night." He left the room, his mind already spinning with ideas of how to apologize to Keith and Pidge.

Chapter Text

"Well, Keith still shouldn't be claiming Pidge, he isn't his! Keith could never belong in a pack, he's too much of a lone wolf and he certainly will never be in mine."

Keith had been following Pidge's scent when he heard those fateful words. He froze, not quite believing he had heard such cruel words about himself, from Lance of all people. He always thought Lance was one of the kindest alphas he had ever met, even if he could be annoying. Apparently not though. Or maybe Keith was just such a bad omega that the alpha naturally hated him.

Then it hit him like a brick. Lance didn't want Keith, the only omega on the ship, to be a part of his pack. Keith's heart broke as he replayed those hurtful words in his mind. His eyes watered and his breathing rapidly increased. A horrible pressure built in his chest, he felt like he was going to burst. It over flowed, and along with it came a horrible warbling sound. He was wailing.

He had never felt so heartbroken and distressed before. His heart literally hurt, and he couldn't breathe. He had no one to comfort him, so he desperately curled in on himself. His eyesight was blurry, but he thought he saw a door open and close, bringing the faint scent of Pup with it.

Pup was here, he had to be strong for Pup. Reaching shaky hands to his face, he wiped his eyes and stood up. He grabbed Pup and carried them to his nest. Alpha didn't want Omega, but Pup did. Omega would protect Pup.

 

Pidge could tell that Keith was out of it when they rushed to him in the hallway.

Despite his awful shaking, he managed to pick them up. For the second time in two days, Keith had reverted back to his instincts, completely losing himself in the process. If Pidge wasn't so preoccupied with helping Keith, they'd love to spend the next few hours teaching Lance a lesson, a nice, long, painful lesson.
Pidge didn't do well with others. Technology was just way easier to understand. Social situations never made sense, sometimes they felt like they were in a play, and everyone else had the script except them.

But with Keith it was different. He didn't care if they wanted to be a him, her or them. He didn't care what genitals they were born with. He didn't care what they wore, as long as they were comfortable, warm and felt good about themself. He let them rant for hours about technology, even when he didn't understand it. He was like a second older brother, and Pidge could honestly say that they felt 100% comfortable and safe with Keith.

So, see him so distressed over something a teammate said made them so angry. Keith deserved the world, and Pidge was going to make sure he got it.

 

Once again, Keith brought Pidge to the nest. They didn't try verbally speaking with him, knowing that they would get no response. Instead they settled in and let Keith scent them to his heart’s content.

Unfortunately, Keith was still using scent suppressants, so his scenting hads very little affect. His lack of scent made him nuzzle harder against Pidge's scent glands, to the point where they started to feel raw. Pidge knew they had to get him to stop, so they took out a can of deodorant they had in one of their pockets (men's clothes were so much better than women's, Pidge had a collection of stuff that might be useful stashed in their pockets) and sprayed both themself and Keith. Now they smelt the same, even if neither had a strong scent.

Thankfully it worked, and Keith calmed his frantic scenting. Pidge pulled him close and started to purr. They could feel him start to relax against them, and soon enough he drifted off to sleep.

Pidge worked on their data pad for a few hours, until they heard Keith start to stir in his sleep. When he woke up a few minutes later, they had a protein bar and a bottle of water waiting for him.

Keith stared at the bar before opening the water and taking a sip. Pidge noticed but decided not to comment. Keith didn't look the best. His grey shirt clung to his figure with sweat, and he had the worst case of bedhead they had ever seen.

"Keith, do you feel okay enough to leave the nest? Just to have a shower and stock up on supplies?" They asked, although they were fairly certain he'd refuse.

He hesitated, his ears lowering slightly, before asking for the time.

"I have no idea, but it's the middle of the night cycle, everyone should be asleep," they replied, hoping this would entice him to agree.

Luckily, it did, and half an hour later found them sneaking into the kitchen to grab some snacks. Keith's ears flickered like crazy, as he tried to hear if they were alone, while Pidge watched in amusement. They loved his fox ears and tail, having never seen anyone similar to him before.

Thinking about it, Pidge realised just how true that was. Shiro was wolf like, Lance and Hunk were dog like, while Pidge themself was cat like. "Keith, have you ever met another fox before?" They asked, before they realised just how intrusive that question could be.

Thankfully he didn't seem offended. "Actually, I am the only ever recorded fox on earth," he replied. "My dad was a wolf. I never met my mother, but Dad told me she was a cat. Somehow I kind of ended up in between them."

Pidge stared at him in wonder. They could only imagine how lonely that must be. And he spoke of his father in the past tense.

Before they could say anything, he continued, "That's actually part of the reason I got my scholarship into the Garrison. I guess they saw how talented I was and couldn't pass up the chance to have a rare one-of-a-kind as the poster boy for the Garrison. Luckily for me, I had too many disciplinary issues, so that little idea of theirs never worked out."

If Pidge hated the Garrison before, they absolutely loathed them now. Keith didn't deserve to be treated like that, as if he was some kind of experiment, or rare specimen. He was a person, just like anyone else! Pidge could see that Keith had had a hard life, but they were there to back him up now. Nothing like that was going to happen to Keith again, not if Pidge had any say in it.

Chapter Text

Keith and Pidge spent the next few days in the nest, only leaving to shower and restock. Keith insisted they practice hand to hand combat together, so they didn't fall behind.

Pidge was happy to stay in the nest for as long as Keith needed, but they knew the others would be getting antsy by now. Luckily, Keith seemed to have the same idea.

"I think it's time I faced the others," he said, on the evening of their third day. "I really don't want to see them, especially Lance, but if we stay away any longer it'll start to affect our teamwork."

While Pidge was proud of Keith, and how he handled the situation, they couldn't help but worry. They had grown even closer and were fiercely protective of each other. Pidge reminded Keith of his many little foster siblings, lost and confused, but trying their hardest. Keith remind Pidge of Matt, and of better times. The sun setting over the desert. The smell of a home cooked meal. They were pack now and meant the world to one another.

 

The next morning, they took the nest apart. It was in constant use for nearly a week, and the blankets and sheets desperately needed to be washed. Pidge was sad to see it go, but Keith promised to build another, after he confronted the rest of the team.

When they walked into the dining room, everyone paused and stared at them. Keith seemed to wilt under their gaze, ears flattening and tail sinking between his legs.

"Welcome back Keith, Pidge," Shiro said, "Team, we have training after breakfast, make sure you don't eat too much."

Everyone groaned and the atmosphere relaxed. Keith sent Shiro a thankful smile, before moving to sit at the end of the table. Before he could though, Hunk grabbed his arm and lead him to the free seat in the middle. He didn't say anything except "I'm glad you’re okay Keith."

Pidge glanced at Keith, glad to see he looked comfortable enough being surrounded by people again. They turned towards Lance, who had been suspiciously quiet this entire time.

They could immediately see that he had been stressed the entire time they were gone. His messy hair was flattened on one side and he gazed at Keith as though he couldn't believe his eyes. The man looked like a train wreck, and honestly, Pidge was kind of glad. He had hurt a pack member of theirs, and they weren't going to let him off until Keith got a proper apology.

 

When Keith and Pidge walked into the dining room, Lance nearly had a heart attack. He was glad to see them, and happy that Keith was okay, but he wished he had more time to organize his thoughts into a proper apology.

Keith seemed to be absolutely fine. His burnt orange ears and tail looked sleek and well groomed. His shiny hair was pulled into a little ponytail, and his violet eyes shimmered in the light. Part of Lance wondered how he thought Keith was ever an alpha, he was too pretty! But then he remembered Keith's attitude, and how he could kick anyone's ass.

Lance had spent a lot of time recently thinking about stereotypes. He knew that not every omega was timid and obedient. He knew every alpha wasn't big and assertive. But he had still assumed Keith's secondary gender based on those facts. Lance was going to spend a lot of time thinking about himself, and his attitude towards others, and do his best to correct it.

Before he knew it, breakfast was over, and training had begun. Lance was unsurprised to see that Keith and Pidge were working together better than ever. Their
fighting styles weren't the most compatible, but they made it work. However, as a team they still had some issues.

It was clear that neither Keith nor Pidge fully trusted the others, especially Lance. Lance felt hurt, but he probably deserved it; he did lie to the team about them after all. There were several instances where they pulled a stupid move when they should have trusted the others.

Allura was waiting for them after training and she did not look impressed. Her eyes narrowed as she observed them. "Meet me in the control room when you're done here," she said, before turning on her heel and leaving the room. The team shared uneasy glances, but they all knew what this was about.

 

After showering, they headed to the control room. Allura stood in the centre of the room. She didn't turn to face them as they entered.

"I am very disappointed in your performance today. Your teamwork was appalling, and you showed clear favouritism. Had that been a real battle, at least three of you would be dead. I cannot have the Paladins of Voltron fall apart because of a small dispute. You are going to fix whatever is wrong, now, and go back to doing more bonding exercises. You are dismissed."

 

Keith felt awful. It was clear that Allura was talking about him. He was the one favouring Pidge, he was the one with the issue. He just didn't know how to fix it. He shared a look with Pidge as they left. They didn't seem to have any ideas either.

The problem was that you can't trust someone just like that. Lance hadn't apologized yet, and Keith doubted that he ever would. How could he trust someone who wanted nothing to do with him? His ears twitched nervously, and his tail sunk between his legs. When he realised what he was doing he forced them to stop. He wasn't going to cower in fear over some bonding exercises!

Shiro lead them to the lounge. "I think we should have a talk about what has happened recently." He gazed at everyone and indicated that they should sit down. "Let's just start at the beginning. Keith, why did you pretend to be an alpha?"

Keith's heart stopped. He swallowed nervously. "I didn't pretend to be an alpha," he replied, "I just didn't tell you I am an omega. You all just assumed so, and I didn't want to correct you in case it changed your attitude towards me. Pidge figured it out without my help though."

Lance, Hunk and Shiro all realised that Keith was right.

"Actually, before we go any further, I have something to confess," Pidge said, standing up. "My real name's Katie Holt. I was born a girl, but I identify as non-binary."

Chapter Text

Keith grinned, "Proud you told them, pup." He reached out and pulled them to his chest before letting them go.

"Yeah well, I thought the less secrets we had between us the better," they looked at the other paladins. They seemed surprised, but not disappointed or upset with them.

Keith was glad Pidge opened up, only partially because the attention was off him now. He wasn't sure if they did that on purpose, but he was proud nonetheless.

“What pronouns would you like us to use? Do you want us to still call you Pidge? Or is Katie better?” Hunk asked.

“They/them or she/her please. Pidge is fine as well, I never really liked Katie,” Pidge said.

Shiro sighed, "Does anyone have anything else they'd like to confess? Any secret evil twins? Or maybe you're actually an alien? No? Okay let's move on. Lance, I believe you still owe Keith and Pidge an apology for your behaviour."

Both Keith and Lance stiffened at the mention. "Shiro, it's fine, you can't force him to apologize, it wouldn't mean anything then. And you can't fault him for speaking the truth," Keith said.

Lance gaped at him. Was that how Keith saw him? Some unapologetic alpha with no regard for his feelings? "What? Keith, no. I just- the reason I haven't apologized yet is because I've been trying to work out how to say it. Of course, I owe you an apology, we're friends, aren't we?"

When Keith said nothing, Lance frowned harder. "Keith, we're your friends, everyone here. And Allura and Coran. Why wouldn't we be?"

"You're the one who always goes on about our rivalry? You constantly tease me and push me away. Why would you do that if we were friends." Keith said. Although he desperately wanted to avert his eyes, he maintained eye contact.

Lance honestly felt like the last few days had changed his life. First, he realised he believed in stereotypes. Then he found out that he's an asshole, and now this. Honestly, when had he ever tried to prove Keith wrong though. Ever since day one, Lance has treated Keith like an object. Just a result on a scoreboard to beat, or something to take his frustrations out on.

"Jesus Christ, I'm an asshole. I'm so sorry Keith. I meant it as a friendly rivalry, but I took it way too far. And of course, I want you in my pack, I was just being stupid and jealous. Even if you were actually an alpha like I thought that wouldn't have been okay to say. Honestly, I don't know what to say to show you how much I regret saying that. And Pidge, I apologize to you too, I lied to the team about both of you, and I got jealous when you spent time with Keith instead of me. I should have asked to hang out with you, instead of treating you like an object. Can you forgive me?"

Keith stared at him with wide eye. His ears couldn't seem to decide between flattening or peeking up. He shared a look with Pidge, who nodded. After what felt like an eternity for Lance, he sighed and said, "Apology accepted Lance, but that doesn't mean I'm just going to trust you again. That's what Allura sent us here to sort out."

"I don't know about you guys, but it takes a while to build trust, it's not just going to happen overnight." Hunk said, "Why don't we have a sleepover in the lounge? We can try to find some movies; I can bake treats. Oh! Maybe we could build a pillow fort! And we can play games!!"

The other paladins all looked excited at the idea. Keith had never been to a sleepover, and he wasn't really comfortable sleeping around the others, but he didn't want to kick up a fuss.

Hunk immediately took charge by giving everyone their roles. "Pidge, Lance, you two get as many blankets and pillows as you can and start construction. Shiro, you find Coran and ask about movies. Keith, you're with me."

With a playful "Sir, yes sir!", the paladins ran off to start their tasks. Hunk lead Keith to the kitchen. "Hunk? You didn't ask me to help you baking because I'm an omega, right? Because sorry to break it to you, but I suck at baking, and also that's kinda sexist."

Hunk just laughed, "Actually, I just wanted some company, you don't have to do any baking if you don't want to."

He turned around, pulling ingredients out of the cupboards. "Well, to be honest, I wanted to apologize to you. I feel like I failed my duty as a beta by not stopping Lance sooner or intervening or something. I just-"

"Hunk, whoa, it's okay. Seriously. I forgive you. Actually, I don't even think there is anything to forgive. We aren't a pack yet, and even if we were Lance’s problems aren't your responsibility. Yeah, if the guy had physically attacked me and you just stood back and let him, I would have been upset, but you can't control what he says or does, especially when you aren't even present."

Keith hadn't spent a lot of one-on-one time with Hunk, but he was happy they were now. He was glad he got to talk to Hunk about this before it started to eat away at him.

"Let's make those cookies, you can direct me since I have no idea what I'm doing, alright?" Keith said, taking his hair out of its ponytail, only to put it up again, neater this time.

Hunk smiled. He definitely was going to make more time for Keith. He was actually pretty sweet, once you get past his tough exterior.

 

Once the snacks were ready, they headed to the lounge to see the pillow fort. Pidge and Lance were arguing about the arrangement of the pillows and cushions.

"Keith!" Pidge yelled when she saw him, "Where should we put the cushions? Lance thinks we should put them here, but I think they should be over here." She was gesturing wildly, "Keith's nests are amazing, he'll know where to put these."

Keith blushed at her praise, "Actually I think I'd put them around here, like this."

"See! I told you Keith’s were the best!" Pidge yelled before diving into the fort.

"Alright pup, settle down," Keith said.

Hunk, Lance and Pidge looked at each other before bursting out laughing.

"Oh.. oh my god!! Keith!!! You- you sound just like a Mom!!! I can't!!!! Mama Keith!!!" Lance had tears rolling down his face, and he felt like he was going to pass out he was laughing so hard.

Shiro and Coran walked into the four of them giddy with laughter, rolling around and crying in a massive fort. They knew the team would be okay.

Chapter Text

The next few weeks were spent bonding with each other. Keith was finally starting to feel at ease with the team. He could see them slowly becoming pack.

He had rebuilt his nest, this time in his room. Keith ended up dragging Pidge there when they had been working too hard and not looking after themself enough. It reminded him a bit of his foster siblings, but he was happy to help wherever he could.

Lance was still a bit subdued after the whole incident. Keith was learning to trust the team, but he felt responsible for the way Lance was acting. Keith wanted to improve his relationship with Lance, but he was finding it difficult.

With Hunk, they spent a lot of time just talking about food. Keith had lived in a lot of different places and had tasted a lot of different food. His senses were also sharper than the alphas on the ship, so he could help Hunk by taste testing things.

Shiro and Keith bonded over fighting techniques and training. They had known each other before Voltron, and Keith saw Shiro as a big brother.

Pidge was obviously his best friend and little sibling. They talked about anything and everything.

He even spent time with Allura and Coran, explaining the gender dynamics, and Earth’s culture in general.

But with Lance he had nothing. Their whole relationship so far had been one of assumed dislike. They teased and bickered and argued over everything. Keith honestly thought Lance hated him. And now that he realised Lance didn't, Keith had no idea what to say to him.

 

One night, Keith was battling his insomnia by walking around the castle when he heard someone speaking in the control room. He peeked in the door, but he couldn't see who it was. They had the star projection up though and had zoomed in on Earth.

"-how long it's been since I last saw you, but I think it's been at least three months now. I miss you so much and miss everyone else as well." The person’s voice broke as they started to sob.

They were speaking Spanish, the only person Keith was aware that could was Lance.

Pushing the door open, he called out to him, "Lance? Is that you?"

"Keith?? Are- are you speaking Spanish?? Wh- how?" Lance spluttered. He had been sitting in the blue pilot’s seat, but he nearly fell off when he heard Keith.

"A few of my foster families spoke it at home, and I learnt it at school. I've always been good at languages anyway." Keith sat on the floor, gazing at the constellations around him.

Eventually Lance joined him. Neither said anything for a while, lost in thought.

"I'm scared that I'll forget how to speak it." Lance said. "What if I wake up and it's just gone. It's my only connection to my family up here. I don't even have a picture of them."

Keith paused for a second before speaking, "I could help with that, talk to me if you feel like you're forgetting. That's what Shiro and I do if Shiro feels like he's forgetting Japanese."

"You speak Japanese too?"

"My dad was half Japanese, half Korean. I speak both, as well as French and Spanish. I've lived with a lot of different families and I picked up a few things from them."

Lance only just realised the implications of living with foster families. And he spoke of his dad in the past tense. Had he ever mentioned his mom? Lance felt awful, he had been complaining about not seeing his family, but Keith didn't even have one. His scent turned sour, as he started getting even more upset.

Keith had no idea how to cheer Lance up. He thought he was doing okay, but he must have done something to set him off again. "Why don't you tell me about your family? You have nieces and nephews, right? What are they like?"

Thankfully, that was the right thing so say. Lance immediately went on a long rant about his family; how much he loves them, what they were doing when he last saw them, explaining his extended family to Keith.

"I miss my family, man. This morning I couldn't remember the word for chicken in Spanish. It freaked me out. Like what else could I forget? It kinda just hit me, what if we never get back? This war has been going on for over 10,000 years, how are we, a bunch of teenagers, supposed to stop it?"

Keith couldn't lie, he had the same thought himself. "I think the only thing we can do is know that we are fighting out here for them. We are keeping Earth safe. Maybe we'll never see them again but at least they won't be slaves of the Empire. We have to fight our hardest to stop this war, to stop that from happening."

Lance, surprisingly, found himself comforted by the words. Keith had a blunt, direct way of consoling people. He didn't fill their heads with pretty lies and reassurances. He spoke the truth and nothing but the truth. And that was exactly what Lance needed.

"Thanks Keith, that was exactly what I needed to hear. The thought of never seeing my family hurts, but it's better than them being captured. You aren't the worst at this comforting business."

Keith laughed, long and hard. "You're probably one of the only people to think that, except for maybe my little siblings. But anyone could comfort them. You know Lance, you're not so bad. I'm sorry it took all that drama and me finding you crying in the control room to realise."

"Hey! I wasn't crying!! Take that back!!"

"Nope, now I'm going to bed, and I suggest you do the same. You need your beauty sleep if you ever want to beat me on the training deck." Keith stood, and placed his hand on Lance’s shoulder.

"We'll be okay Lance, I'm sure of it." With that he left the room, uttering a soft goodbye.

Lance stayed there a few minutes longer, thinking about home and thinking about Keith. He stared at the projection of Earth. "I'll protect you; I promise."

Chapter Text

Keith woke up with a sore throat. He told himself that it wasn't really anything to take note of. He was probably just dehydrated.

Later that day he had a sneezing fit. Luckily, he was alone in the training room, so nobody was witness to it.

Then he started coughing at dinner but managed to play it off as swallowing goo the wrong way.

After the sore throat, sneezing, coughing and now a pounding headache, he couldn't run from it anymore. Keith was sick.

He couldn't let the others know though. They had been getting on so much better now, they accepted him despite being an omega. He didn't need to ruin it with another sign of weakness. No, the best thing to do would be to avoid them as much as possible and pretend he was fine.

And that's exactly what he did. He turned up for meals and group training, but besides that spent a lot of time 'busy'.

 

He decided to learn more about altean and galran cultures, even though any information he could get was 10,000 years outdated. Although he was interested in the altean customs, he focused more on the galra. Know thy enemy, right?

He refused to believe that all galra were mindless, bloodthirsty beasts anyway. Sure, maybe that could describe Zarkon and his higher command, but every single galra in the universe? No. That's blatant racism.

 

When he wasn't in the library, he was bonding with Red. She wasn't going to let anyone in without his permission, so he knew he was safe to be his weak, sickly self there.

 

At first, the team didn't notice Keith was avoiding them. They were all busy and hadn't been able to spend a lot of time together. After the third day it became clear when he missed their training session.

"When was the last time anyone saw Keith?" Shiro asked.

"I saw him at breakfast, but he just grabbed some goo and left," Hunk replied, his eyebrows furrowed, and his ears drooped. "He didn't say anything to me. Actually, he seemed a bit out of it."

"I haven't really seen him in a few days," Pidge said, "He hasn't even been nagging me to take a break."

"He's avoiding us. Did we do something wrong? Was it his birthday and we forgot? Ay, dios mío, what if he wanted a party and we just-"

"Lance! Calm down. I'm sure he has a good reason for avoiding us. That's if he even is." Shiro cut Lance off, knowing he would only stress himself out.

"We should try look for him, just to make sure he's okay." Hunk said.

The team split up, searching all of his favourite areas.

 

It was Allura who found him in the Red Lion. Or rather, realised he was in the Red Lion. Red had her particle barrier up and growled softly when the Princess entered.
"Red? Is Keith with you?" She called.

Red didn't reply but did lower her head. As she didn't remove the particle barrier, Allura assumed Keith was coming out.

Allura gasped when she saw him. His deathly pale face was painted a bright red over his cheeks and nose. His bleary eyes barely seemed to recognize her.
"Red! Take you barrier down! Something is wrong with him."

Red, however, didn't move. Allura got the distinct impression that she was not going to be letting her cub out of her sight anytime soon.
Allura called for Coran and the paladins over the intercom, hoping they would have some idea of what to do.

Keith had sat himself down at Red’s feet. He looked as though he was going to fall asleep any second. "Allura?" he called out weakly, "M'fine, promise. Jus tired."
Keith's attempts at soothing Allura only panicked her more. She could barely understand him. Finally, Red let down the barrier. Allura rushed to his side, just as Coran and the others arrived.

"Shiro!" she cried, "He's so hot! He’s burning up, humans aren't meant to be this hot, are they?"

Shiro ran to them, his tail raised and ears forward. However, when he got to them, he calmed down slightly. "It looks like he's just got a bad cold or something, maybe the flu. How long have you been sick, Keith?"

Keith didn't answer, and they realized he had fall asleep.

"Let's bring him to the med-bay, just to be safe," Coran said.

Shiro picked Keith up, smiling when Keith nuzzled into him. He started coughing half-way to the med-bay, but thankfully he fell right back asleep.

 

"Looks like he's just got a case of this flu you have described. It certainly isn’t anything I have encountered before, but it doesn’t seem to be fatal," Coran said after a quick examination.

"Let's build another fort so we can look after him!" Lance said, keeping his voice low so he didn't disturb Keith. The younger paladins ran off the to gather materials and start building.

"I must say I was quite worried for Keith. I don't understand why he didn't just tell us he was sick; this whole thing could have been avoided." Allura said, gazing at the sleeping boy.

"It's not really my place to say, Allura, but Keith has had some... issues in the past with 'showing weakness'. He was probably just too scared to talk to us about it. Especially since most of us don't really know him." Shiro brushed Keith's hair away from his sweaty forehead.

"Let's just let the lad rest for now, get him healthy again. Then we can talk about hiding illnesses from us." Coran said.

They brought Keith to the lounge, where the others had just finished constructing the fort. Everyone settled down, cuddled up to Keith in a pack pile. Pidge put on a
movie they had on their laptop.

They would have a rough next few days, trying to make sure Keith got better, but they would make it, as a pack.

Chapter Text

Looking after Keith at first was easy. Alarmingly easy. He slept most of the time, and only really awoke for food and to go to the bathroom.

The team took turns looking after him, two of them with him at all times. Shiro and Pidge offered to take the night watch as they were both light sleepers. Allura and Lance took evenings while Coran and Hunk took mornings.

They stayed in the nest, since Keith seemed most comfortable there. The first night, he had horrible fever dreams. More than once he woke up screaming and crying. Pidge and Shiro agreed to never speak of that night again.

In the morning, Hunk and Coran came to wake him up and feed him breakfast. Keith was compliant, doing whatever they asked. They knew he was too exhausted to really protest.

Then, after lunch, Allura and Lance took over. Keith was awake by then, so they tried to do something to keep him occupied. Lance suggested treating it like a sleepover and ran to get his face masks.

They braided Keith's hair, and then Allura’s. Lance made sure to get some pictures of them both, as he never knew when this opportunity would arise again. Then they used the face masks. Keith seemed to like the cool mask against his heated skin. Unfortunately, he fell asleep, so Lance had to carefully wipe it off without waking him.

Lance really enjoyed the quality time with Allura as well. They spent so much time being paladins and diplomats and princesses, that sometimes they forgot to just be teenagers. It was nice to see Allura as a person, with her own set of quirks and flaws, not just as an ethereal goddess.

Although he still flirted with her, Lance realised that they wanted different things for their lives and would probably have drifted away from each other if they ever became a couple.

After two days in the nest, Keith was well enough to be conscious for most of the day. That's when the real problems began. Keith couldn't sit still. He was dying to move; to do literally anything. He wanted to go to the library and read, or go to the training room, or fly Red.

But he was stuck. He wasn't allowed leave the nest without supervision, and even then, it was only to use the bathroom. He could see their point of view, of course training wouldn't be good for him, but this was ridiculous.

He knew his best source of entertainment were his books, but he selfishly didn't want to show the library to anyone else. It was his quiet space, somewhere he could go to get a break from the others. Yes, they were a pack now, but constantly being surrounded by others was always difficult for Keith, and that was before he lived in the desert by himself for a year.

So that left Keith here, starting phase one of his prison break. He decided to wait for Allura and Lance’s turn. He might be able to distract them long enough. He'd never get away from Shiro or Pidge, maybe Hunk but never Coran, he was pretty attentive despite his general attitude.

Allura was a risk he was going to have to take. Lance though, Lance was someone Keith could distract.

 

Lance was doing his usual, bragging and flirting. Something about being able to bench press the princess.

"I bet you couldn't run five laps around the castle carrying Allura."

"What?! That's easy! Allura hop on, we're doing this right now."

Hook, line and sinker.

Allura gave Keith a suspicious glance, but Keith tried his best to look sleepy. She seemed to buy it, as she perched on Lance’s back, and they took off.

Keith waited ten seconds, listening to Lances footsteps fade away, before leaving the nest. He took off, in the same direction before turning down a different corridor.
He jogged for all of five seconds before realizing it was a bad idea. Instead he settled for walking slightly faster than normal. That would have to be enough.

He finally arrived at the library, only to see Allura standing in front of the door.

"You ain't slick, Kogane."

Keith choked on his own spit, before doubling over laughing. He might have underestimated the Princess, also overestimated himself. He couldn't tell if his laughter
was genuine or a result of his lack of oxygen. He felt like his lungs were collapsing.

When he finally regained his composure, he saw Allura holding the library door open. "Come on, let's get you some books," she said, smiling at him.

"Who taught you to say that?" He questioned, glancing at her.

"To say what? ‘You ain't slick’? That is the ultimate form of scolding on Altea. It means you are in deep, deep trouble."

Keith paused, staring at her. Allura broke down giggling, "I'm joking, Pidge has been teaching me some Earth phrases."

Keith couldn't stop smiling as he gathered some books up. "How did you know where I was going?" He asked.

"I knew only one of the paladins had found this place, and since it hasn't been in use since you fell ill, I made an assumption. I was, thankfully, correct. I understand you must be bored, but we only want you to recover and return to full health. I'm glad this is where you were going, instead of the training room. We would have been having serious words if that was the case."

 

Allura carried most of Keith's books back to the nest for him, despite his protests. When he got back, he found the entire pack waiting for him. The scent of unhappiness and disappointment was thick in the air. Before they could say anything though, Allura stepped in front of him.

"Don't. I have already spoken with him about it, and he has promised not to do it again. He understands, right Keith?"

Despite doing no such thing, he nodded. The team looked disgruntled but didn't say anything to him. Allura set his books down next to his spot. Before he could curl up and start reading, Pidge announced that they were having another movie night.

"You owe us this Keith, we were worried sick about you," they glared at him, but ruffled his hair playfully.

He looked mournfully at his books before agreeing. It would be nice to spend time with his entire pack anyway.

Chapter Text

Now that the team had built more trust and considered themselves a pack, they decided to try the mind meld.

Most of them weren't exactly comfortable with the thought of everyone seeing into their minds, but they knew it was important for forming Voltron.

They sat in a circle and tried to focus on Voltron. Shiro was surprisingly very relaxed about it, he thought he would be more anxious. Maybe it was because he himself couldn't remember the last year of his life, and he doubted the pack would actually see anything.

After a few minutes, Coran told them to explore each other’s minds, but to be careful with sensitive topics. Everything was going well until Shiro felt a stabbing pain through his head.

A bright light was shining into his eyes.

"I want him conscious enough to feel this." A deep voice spoke, somewhere near him.

He tried to move, but he was being held down. The room was awash with purple lights, the ceiling and walls a deep and cold grey. There was scuffling, grunts of pain and a slam. The noises stopped except for ragged breathing. A face looked over him. A galra.

"Quickly Shiro, my name is Ulaz and I work for a resistance force. I'm breaking you out. I have planted the coordinates to one of our bases in your arm. Find Voltron."
Shiro could barely walk, so the Galra dragged him to the escape pods. Alarms were blaring, and Shiro's vision was blurry. He was fairly certain he passed out multiple times. His ears folded down, trying to stop the ringing. The galra used a knife to swipe at any sentries that came too close.

Ulaz placed him in the pod. "Remember Shiro, find Voltron."

 

Shiro gasped, yanking the head piece off. The others making similar motions. They were all sweating; the scent of distress was thick in the air.

Pidge wailed, "Shiro! I'm- I'm so sorry! I thought you might have remembered something about Matt and Dad! I didn't mean to push you so far!!" Tears rushed down their cheeks and dropped to the floor beneath them.

Keith seemed stuck, like he couldn't decide who to comfort first, Pidge or Shiro. He eventually moved to Pidge, which Shiro was thankful for. He wasn't sure how he would deal with physical contact right now.

Lance was staring at the ground, before looking at Shiro. "I guess not all Galra are bad then."

Shiro appreciated Lance’s attempt at normalcy. "I think I'm going to take a nap, guys. Pidge, I forgive you, I understand. Don't beat yourself up." He said, before rushing out of the room.

 

The other four all stared at each other with wide eyes after Shiro’s exit.

"Did we just unlock some of Shiro's memories? I can't tell if that's good or bad." Hunk murmured.

"I think we're all in shock, maybe we should make something to cheer ourselves - and more importantly Shiro - up." Keith suggested. "You two go to the kitchen, I'm going to talk to Pidge for a moment."

Pidge was still clinging to him on the floor. Their sobs had subsided, and now all he could hear were quiet whimpers. Even if he wasn't an omega, he was sure the noises would have broken his heart.

"You're okay pup, Shiro isn't mad. Everyone makes mistakes." He murmured, sweeping some of their hair from their forehead. He gently pulled their glasses off and wiped their tears away.

"Pup, can you look at me please?" He asked, trying to keep his voice as gentle as possible. He knew how delicate a pup in shock could be and he needed to pull them out of it before it got bad.

When they finally looked up from the floor, they had calmed down enough to speak. "Keith! I didn't- I wasn't- I'm sorry! I didn't mean to dig in his memories! I thought he might have heard something early on! I'm so-"

"Pup, it's okay. Shiro already said he forgave you. You don't need to prove yourself to me, I know you would never do something like that purposely. I'm here to make sure you’re okay."

They looked at him, taking in all his features. Keith Kogane didn't seem like a kind, warm hearted person at first, but once you found away into his family, his pack, you were there for life. Keith loved fiercely.

"What about Shiro? He's the one who just relived a traumatic life event." They asked, tearing up again.

"He has his own ways of dealing with things, I'll check on him later. I'm sure he's taking his nap, or maybe doing some work outs. Either way, Shiro always sorts things out on his own first, before he needs comfort and company. Let's give him some time to process."

Clearing away the last of the tears, he delicately put their glasses back on, before placing a kiss on their forehead. "Come on Pidgey, let's make him some cookies, maybe Hunk can find a way to make chocolate chip, they're his favourite. I'm sure he'd appreciate them in a few hours."

Pulling Pidge up, he began to walk to the door before realizing they weren't following him. He jogged back to them and scooped them off their feet. Pidge screeched as they were launched in the air, but thankfully they landed on his shoulders.

"KEITH!!! You scared me, you soggy noodle! Put me down! Now!" They cried, yanking his hair when he started to move.

"Nope! You're not allowed down until you cheer up." He said as he walked to the kitchen.

Hunk and Lance just looked at them when they entered, then at each other, before shrugging and deciding not to comment.

 

The four started making cookies, Pidge on Keith's shoulders the entire time. Sometimes he'd pass something up to them to taste, but besides that they had nothing to do but think about the past few hours. Although they did their fair share of teasing since they were finally taller than Hunk and Lance. (Barely Hunk though, Keith is actually pretty short they realised.)

 

After they had made the cookies, they settled into the lounge to wait for Shiro. Keith had been pretty quiet since he cheered up Pidge.

"What's on your mind Mullet? You know you have to share these things; we aren't mind readers." Lance said.

"It's probably nothing really, but did anyone else notice the knife that guy had, Ulaz, is really similar to mine?"

Chapter Text

"I didn't really see it. Are you sure Keith? I mean a knife is a knife, you're probably mistaken." Hunk said, glancing around wearily.

"No, I'm positive. Look at it." He pulled the knife out, "I've never seen anything like this on Earth. I don't even know what metal it's made from! And look, this symbol on the handle glows. Just like Ulaz's knife."

Pidge looked at the knife, "If you want, I can do a test to see what metal it is. But where did you get it?"

Keith shifted uncomfortably, his ears drawing back. "It was my mom’s."

Pidge debated pushing for more information, but decided against it. "Well, do you want to come with me to Greens hangar? It won't take too long to get a small sample to test, but you probably don't want to be separated from it."

Keith nodded gratefully. They headed down to the hangar, leaving Lance and Hunk to think it over.

"That's weird isn't it? How would Keith have a knife that's similar to a galran’s? I think we'd know if the galra had been to Earth!! And what about the rebel group? Should we try to get in contact with them?" Lance said.

Hunk seemed lost in thought, "I don't think there's anything we can do about this right now. Let's go update Coran and Allura while we wait for Shiro to wake up."

 

Lance couldn't tell how Allura took the news of Shiro's memories and Keith's knife. She smiled and thanked them for telling her, as polite and diplomatic as ever, but she clenched her fists and looked like she was restraining herself from punching something.

 

An hour later Keith and Pidge finished the tests. When they found Lance and Hunk, they were quiet. Pidge let Keith break the news.

"The knife isn't made from a metal found on Earth. Pidge ran it through the castle database, and it’s an extremely rare metal called Luxite. Queen Marmora of Daibazaal ensured her royal guard used blades made from it. That was about 14,000 years ago. Apparently, she also had several on her person at all times." He said, not making eye contact.

Pidge, Hunk and Lance shared a look. "Okay buddy, what exactly does that mean. Where's Daibazaal?" Hunk said.

"It's... the galra’s home planet."

A deafening silence filled the room. Keith steadily shrunk more and more into himself as the seconds ticked by.

"I'm going to go train," he said, standing up quickly.

"Nope, no no no no no," Lance grasped Keith's arm, gently pulling him back to his seat. "We aren't upset or mad at you, Mullet, we are just processing. You have a knife from your mother, that is made from a rare metal from space. That could mean anything."

Keith looked at his pack mates. Lance was trying so hard to make up for his previous attitude. Pidge had supported him when he thought nobody else would. Hunk had apologized for something that he had nothing to do with. They had accepted him, looked after him. They had his back. He could trust them.

Taking a deep breathe, he said, "I.. I think I might be part Galra."

"Get off this ship right now."

They had been so caught up with the knife, none of them heard Allura, Coran or Shiro come into the room.

"Allura! What's that supposed to mean? Keith's staying right here." Lance said, moving to stand in front of Keith and Pidge.

"I won't have an enemy wandering around this castle. He's probably selling information to the galra." Allura said, her voice ice cold.

Lance growled. "If you're kicking Keith off the team, then I'm going with him." His scent was strong; the scent of a protective alpha.

"I'm going with them too. You can't treat Keith like this." Hunk said. Usually he would stay in the background and do damage control during fights, but he couldn't let this happen to Keith.

"I'm leaving as well. You can't fight the galra with only one lion, Allura." Pidge exclaimed.

"Actually, no lions. The Empire have done terrible things Allura, but Keith isn't one of them. I know for a fact that he was born on Earth. He isn't a spy, or a traitor. He wasn't the one who destroyed Altea. I stand by my pack." Shiro interrupted.

Keith was in tears behind his pack. They were willing to leave Voltron for him, a possibly Galran omega. He had never had a pack before, or a family. Was this what love and support felt like?

Coran gently grasped Allura's shoulder. "I know this is a shock Princess, but Keith has proved himself trustworthy so far. And you heard him, he isn't even sure if he is galran. You can't let the hatred and fear that ruled Zarkon's heart to control yours. By abandoning Keith - and by extension Voltron - you are no better than the Empire themselves. Take some time to get used to the idea."

With a huff, Allura turned and left the room.

"Thank you, Coran. I thought you'd be just as upset with me," Keith said.

"My wife was galran. She stood with Voltron until her last breath, and our son too. I understand that the Empire controls the galra and that not all galra are bad, my boy. Don't worry about Allura, she is still grieving, but she will come around." Coran was unusually solemn, but he quickly smiled again. He scooped Keith up in a hug, surprising him.

"Cuddle-pile!!" Hunk cried, wrapping his arms around them.

The others joined in, rumbling to their distressed omega and scenting each other. Although Keith's scent suppressants still hadn't worn off, he enjoyed smelling of his pack. As he calmed down, he started to purr.

"Thank you for supporting me," he whispered, although he was sure they all heard him.

"Anything for you Keith, we always have your back. That's what family's for." Lance said, nuzzling into Keith's neck and under his jaw, ensuring he was thoroughly scented.

"If you'd like, I could run some blood tests for you, number four." Coran said.

"That'd be great Coran, thanks. Although they'll probably have to wait. I don't think the pack is going to let me go anytime soon." Keith said, his voice soft and fond.

Chapter Text

Coran ran the blood tests and confirmed that Keith was half galran. The team, as a whole, were taking it surprisingly well. Hunk was a bit nervous around him, but that was due to being afraid of hurting his feelings, rather than of him being galra.

Allura was the only one who had an issue. She was ignoring him. Keith understood though; she had lost everything to the galra.

About a week after the discovery, he was, once again, plagued by his insomnia. He went to the control room and pulled up the projection of the stars. The blue lights twinkled solemnly, reflecting his mood. He felt lost and confused.

How was he supposed to feel about Earth now? Everything felt like a lie. He wasn't who he thought he was. He was half of a race that had destroyed worlds. A few months ago, Keith hadn't even known aliens existed!! And now he was one.

He gazed into the void, as if waiting for it to give him answers. The distant light of the stars brought him comfort, but also made him feel incredibly small. He was just one tiny, tiny being, in the vast universe. His problems and self-identity issues didn't matter in the long run.

The door slid open behind him, but he didn't break his gaze. The scent of juniberries, sweet and sharp filled the air. Keith looked up, surprised to see Allura willingly enter the same room as him. She looked awkward and hesitant - for once unsure of herself.

"May I sit?" she asked, voice soft, as if afraid to break the stillness of the room. Keith paused, before hesitatingly nodding yes. She didn't seem to have ill intentions, but maybe this was the moment she finally snapped and launched him into the nearest sun. He would understand.

After seconds, minutes, months, years, she finally spoke. Keith tensed, waiting for the inevitable argument about to arise. "Your scent," she began, "this is the first time I've been able to smell you."

Keith sat up, and sure enough he could smell himself. His scent suppressants had finally worn off then. Or maybe he was more distressed than he realised.

"It reminds me of a flower we had on Altea. I believe its translation is "Firey love". It smelt... Smokey and warm, with spices and sweetness. Similar to the spice – cinnamon, was it? - That Hunk showed me. It was exchanged at bonding ceremonies, to show the love and passion between a couple."

Keith’s silence hung between them. He had no idea what to say. It was the first time she had spoken directly to him in a week, and it was to talk about flowers. Or maybe she was trying to tell him something.

"Keith," Allura turned to him and hesitantly reached for his hand. "I'm sorry. I can't apologize enough for my behaviour towards you. I was hurt and confused and upset. I was angry at the galra for all that they have done, but I can't blame you for that. As a team we have been through so much, already. And I trust you with my life. Even when all I wanted to do was scream and yell and maybe punch you, I trusted you. Because I'm really angry with Zarkon. I know that I have betrayed your trust, and that I don't deserve your forgiveness, but please, can we try to put this behind us. I will do everything in my power to right my wrongs, but I just want my team - my family - back."

Keith watched her for a moment, searching for the lie in her face. Finding none, he replied, "I forgive you, Allura. Of course, I forgive you. You have been hurt by the Empire, you have every right to be upset and scared. You didn't treat me fairly, but willingly coming to apologize shows your true colours. You are just as much - if not more - a part of the team as I am, and we've missed you dearly."

Sobbing, Allura launched herself into his arms, taking him by surprise. Neither of them were very tactile with touch, but they clung to each other, letting go of the stress and worry of the week. Keith's eyes watered, and then he was crying as well. He hadn't even realised how much he missed Allura until she was there with him.
Soft sniffles filled the air as they quietened down. Allura pulled away from him weakly, her eyes still watery and cheeks wet. "I apologize, that was quite untoward."

Keith chuckled, "Don't worry about that Princess, everyone needs a good cry every now and then. And a hug, hugs are good."

Allura smiled softly at him. "Why has your scent changed? If it isn't rude of me to ask."

Keith grinned, happy to explain human biology to her. "Well, it's part of my omega instincts. You were upset and my scent changed to comfort you. Our scent changes all the time, in different situations. We know instinctively what each scent means, but I suppose you don't."

Allura and Keith stayed up til the early morning, talking about Earth and Altea, all the things they missed from home. When they finally said goodnight, Keith felt like he actually knew Allura. She was no longer a Princess, an ethereal, untouchable being. She had as many flaws and quirks as the rest of them.

 

The next morning was tense, like all the mornings since Keith's heritage was discovered. However, when Allura and Keith walked in together smiling, the whole room let of a sigh of relief. Keith sat down, but Allura remained standing.

"Everyone, I must apologize to you all for my behaviour this past movement. I have already apologized to Keith, but I feel I owe you all an apology. I am truly sorry for my attitude and behaviour towards not just Keith but all of you. I am proud of you; for not following me blindly and choosing to protect and stand by your teammate. I know this is not something you can forgive easily, but I am willing to try to right my wrongs."

The team all looked at each other, stunned at the lengthy apology. "Thank you Allura, that means a lot to us. We accept your apology, and we are glad to have you back on the team." Shiro said, looking proud.

Chapter Text

Shiro had fallen asleep on the floor while Pidge tried to find the coordinates in his arm.

"Should we wake him up?" Hunk asked.

"No, leave him. He barely gets any sleep as it is, and he's been stressed out recently. It's better to just let him nap." Keith replied, watching fondly as Shiro twitched in his sleep, tail wriggling. "Maybe we should get him a pillow and blanket, though. That must be uncomfortable."

Pidge pulled their glasses off, wiping them on their sleeve. "This is so tedious. I've been here forever, and I can't find anything," they groaned. Their ears lay flat on their head as they tipped backwards to join Shiro on the floor.

"Maybe you should take a break," Lance suggested, glancing at Keith who nodded. "Come back with a fresh perspective and a clear mind."

Pidge whined but relented. They went to the kitchen to get some snacks with Hunk.

"You're worried about him, aren't you?" Lance asked, voice soft as to not disturb Shiro.

"Always," Keith sighed. "He's like a brother to me. He puts himself under so much pressure, and he doesn't realise the team is there for him like he is for us."

"So that's where you got it from." Lance said, nudging Keith with his hip. "How about this, we try to do whatever we can to help Shiro, and you let us do the same for you. The team is here for you as well, Keith. Where would we be without our Red Paladin?"

Keith smiled softly at him. "Yeah, I can try. Thanks Lance."

Lance quickly looked away, his face heating up. "Uh, yeah, no problem man, anything for yo- a teammate. Yeah." Lance spluttered.

Thankfully, Hunk and Pidge arrived to save Lance from further embarrassment. Hunk caught his eye, and noticing his blush, sent him a knowing look. A look that said you are telling me everything. Damn Lance’s inability to say no to Hunk.

 

The break seemed to do Pidge good, as less than fifteen minutes later they found what appeared to be the coordinates. Keith asked everyone to head to the bridge while he gently woke Shiro up.

"Shiro, wake up, we've found the coordinates." He whispered, making sure not to touch Shiro.

Shiro stirred but settled back down.

"Come on Shiro, you have to get up. We have work to do."

Shiro bolted upright, fear making his whole body tense. He was poised to attack. He calmed once he recognized where he was.

"We found the coordinates, and you had a long nap," Keith said, "Let's go meet the others on the bridge."

 

"The coordinates are in the Thaldycon system." Pidge said as they entered, "We're opening a wormhole there now."

"Hey guys, I don't see any bases here." Hunk said, once they'd passed through the wormhole.

"This feels like a trap. Paladins, to your lions." Allura said, glaring fiercely at the monitor as though she could blame it for their misfortunes.

"Hold on Princess, we don't know that for a fact." Shiro interjected, "Coran, can you run a scan? These rebels seem secretive, we've never heard of them before. It doesn't make sense for them to have a base in open space."

"I am detecting an anomaly," Coran said, just before alarms start blaring.

"There is an intruder on the castle!" Allura cried, "Paladins, you must stop them."

 

The paladins split up. Hunk found him first, but the intruder easily evaded him. "Guys! This dude’s good! He's heading towards you Pidge, be careful."
Pidge managed to slow him down a little. They hooked their bayard to him, hoping to trip him up. "Ugh, he's pulling my body weight easily. We're heading towards you, Lance."

 

Lance took up position. He set his bayard to stun mode. Hopefully, he could get this guy in one shot. He heard footsteps drumming down the corridor, along with grunts from Pidge.

Taking a deep breath, he aimed at the corner he knew the guy would appear at and fired.

It was the perfect shot. The guy tripped, but he was on his feet again in less than a second. He managed to lose Pidge, and then continued down the hall. Lance fired shots at him, but he evaded them. "Keith! He's on his way!" Hunk caught up with them and the three raced after the intruder.

 

Keith stood in the middle of a long hall. He was not letting this guy past. His tail fluffed up and flicking from side to side in agitation. He had his bayard in one hand and his shield in the other. His knife was on his belt, at the small of his back. He was ready.

The intruder charged down the hall towards him. Neither of them had long range weapons, so all Keith could do was wait. They met in a clang of blades, neither willing to back down. The guy was huge. Keith wouldn't be able to beat him with pure strength. He'd have to use his small size to his advantage. Ducking down, Keith twisted his bayard away from the intruder, hoping to hit his blind spot.

The guy also twisted, blocking Keith from getting the hit. They exchanged blows. Keith knew he needed back up; he was tiring quickly. The guy locked his blade with Keith’s and rotated his wrist. Keith’s bayard hit the wall with a clang. The guy managed to cut Keith's side. It hurt, but Keith could worry about that later. Growling, Keith pulled his knife out. He could hear the others approaching, he just needed to hold out for another few seconds.

The intruder froze. Keith took the opportunity to tackle him to the ground. He twisted his arm behind his back and pinned him down. The guy gave very little resistance. Keith frowned, but decided that this was something he could consider later, capturing this guy was more important.

 

The others rounded the corner to Keith putting all his weight on the guys arm, keeping him in place. Shiro arrived with handcuffs a few seconds later. Lance was in awe. Not only was Keith incredibly brave, but he actually managed to take down this guy who was nearly twice his size down.

Shiro cuffed the guy. "Tell us who you are and why you broke into our ship." He demanded.

The guy’s mask flickered away. "My name is Ulaz, and I work for the Blade of Marmora. Keith, you should get that cut checked out, your mother would have my head if she knew I hurt you."

Chapter Text

"My- my mother?!"

"How do you know Keith's name?" Shiro said, pushing Ulaz against the wall with a growl.

"His blade. Each agent for the Blade of Marmora has a distinct blade. Krolia’s was shaped like a knife. It is tradition to pass our blades down to our kittens. She told us she had a kitten named Keith on Earth but left him to protect him." Ulaz glanced around, "Although that didn't work very well, did it?"
Keith stood frozen, staring at Ulaz. His mother? The knife? Kittens? His brain was slowly turning to mush. He jerked. "Okay, okay, that's perfectly fine. Just my mom, that's great."

"You doing okay there, Keith?" Hunk asked hesitantly.

"Yup, I'm great, perfectly fine, cool. Let's just- take Ulaz to the control room." Keith decided to forget the last five minutes of his life. He wasn't ready to think about his mother right now, possibly ever.

The rest of the team shared a look but decided to do as he suggested.

 

Allura and Coran were waiting for them when they arrived. Allura's face was pinched, decidedly not happy that someone had broken in so easily. Shiro introduced Ulaz before she could say anything though.

"Ulaz, do you think you could get us in touch with your leader? We would like to combine forces. We need as much help as we can get in the fight against Zarkon."

"I can bring you to HQ, but our leader will not be pleased. I trust you Shiro and therefore your team, but Kolivan will not. He was against me rescuing you in the first place. Secrecy is what has kept us alive for so long and combing our forces with Voltron is the exact opposite." Ulaz said. He tried to catch Keith’s eye, but Keith was looking anywhere but at him.

"I understand. However, I think we need to at least discuss this with him." Shiro said.

"Very well, I will send you the coordinates," Ulaz agreed.

Allura and Shiro had a silent conversation. Allura wasn't impressed with Ulaz so far and didn't want to trust the Blade. Shiro thought that they could at least check them out. The rest of the team watched silently. They all agreed with Shiro, but they understood Allura. Tearing her gaze away, Allura opened the wormhole.

"The base is about a quintants journey from here, I could not allow you wormhole there directly." Ulaz said, giving Allura the coordinates.

Shiro sighed, but he understood. "Team, go take a break. Gather your strength. You are dismissed."

 

The younger four left the control room. Keith headed straight for the training room. His muscles were tense, energy crackling underneath his skin. He needed to release it before it consumed him.

When he reached the room, he realized the rest of them had followed him. Turning to face them, he arched an eyebrow.

"Hunk and I want to upgrade the settings." Pidge said.

"I just wanted to practice my shooting, you know, in case there are some pretty galra I need to impress at the base." Lance said shooting him a smirk.

“You already have a pretty galra to impress,” Hunk muttered. Keith frowned. What pretty galra? Was Lance into Ulaz? Pidge snorted and tried to disguise it as a cough. Lance turned bright red.

Keith sighed and rolled his eyes. He knew what they were doing, and while part of him was annoyed, he also appreciated it. He didn't really want to be alone with his thoughts right now.

 

After an hour of training, Keith called it quits. Lance had kept up with him, destroying just as many bots. They could be a good team when they weren't squabbling. Hunk and Pidge has given up pretending to upgrade settings long ago and contented themselves with watching Keith and Lance.

Keith sank to the floor with a sigh. As he sipped his water, he watched the three of them as they decided who would approach him first. Evidently, Hunk lost.

"How are you feeling, buddy?" He asked.

Keith smiled, "Seriously guys, I'm okay. Just a bit shocked, I guess. It's not every day you find out your mother is even closer than you imagined. Honestly, I'm just not trying to think about it."

Keith knew he would have a few sleepless nights about this in the near future, but right now he didn't want to worry about it. "I'm going to shower. But we should find something to keep ourselves occupied. I don't want to spend the next day hanging around."

 

When he left the room, the other three turned to each other. "He seems surprisingly okay. Like, obviously he's shocked, but besides that he's fine." Hunk said.

Pidge grimaced, "I think he's just shoving it down. Can't see it and it can't bother him, right? I think we should keep an eye on him."

"I agree, this is probably going to come crashing down. We need to keep an eye on him and be there when it does. Your mom leaving you, no matter how good her intentions were, is going to leave scars." Lance said.

"When did you get so mature?" Pidge said, smirking up at him.

Lance squawked, "Excuse you! I've always been mature! I just chose not to show you." He grabbed Pidge around the waist and hoisted them over his shoulder. "Come on, Mullet wants something to keep his mind occupied. We better try to figure something out."

 

The day passed quickly, and soon they were approaching the base. Keith had managed to avoid Ulaz completely. Maybe that was unfair to the guy, but Keith just couldn't bear to even think about his mother.

The base was in between two black holes and a blue supergiant star. Red was the fastest lion and was built to withstand extreme heat, so Ulaz, Shiro and Keith took her.

The Blade were cold and impersonal. They stood still as statues, in two neat lines. At the end, three Galra waited. One was easily twice Keith's height, towering over even the other galra in the room. They had a long thin tail that flicked steadily behind them. The other had a thicker tail but was smaller. This one was around Shiro’s height. The last Galra stood in between them and had a different uniform. This must be the leader, Kolivan. He was taller than Shiro but didn't reach the height of the first Blade.

"Ulaz, what is the meaning of this. You have compromised not just your own mission, but this base as well. How dare you bring two outsiders into headquarters." Kolivan said. His face betrayed no hint of his emotions or thought process. Keith supressed a shudder.

"Please," Shiro interjected, "I convinced him to bring us. I am Shiro and this is Keith, we are Paladins of Voltron."

"You were told to come unarmed." Kolivan accused.

"The Red Lion is the only mode of transport we had that would survive the trip in." Keith said, not liking their open hostility.

Suddenly, the biggest Blade sprang forward. Caught unaware, Keith was knocked off his feet. The Blade pinned Keith to the floor and yanked Keith's knife from its sheath.

"How do you have this? Who did you take it from?" Kolivan demanded.

"It's mine! My mother gave it to me! Shiro please, tell them." Keith struggled underneath the weight of the Blade.

"Keith has had this with him the entire time, he speaks the truth." Shiro was being restrained as well.

"Please, I just want to know where I come from. My mother left me this blade; you must know her."

"Kolivan, I-" Ulaz tried to interrupt.

"Silence. The only way to gain knowledge is to pass the trials," Kolivan said. "Knowledge or death."

"I'll do it." Keith said, rising to his feet once he was released.

Chapter Text

"You are not meant to go through those doors."

Keith's ragged breathing echoed off the walls. More Blades rose from the floor. He clutched his right shoulder, the wound gushing blood. His ears lay flat on his head. The tangy scent of iron was heavy in the air.

Keith knew he couldn't take much more of this, but he couldn't give up. He desperately needed to know more about himself, while somehow wanting nothing to do with his mother. The hurt she had inflicted by leaving was etched into his soul. Keith had questions but he wasn't sure he wanted the answers. Part of him yearned to know her, his mother. Wanted to know a mother’s love, and everything that came with it. Were they similar? Physically? Mentally?

He tried to push that part of him as far away as possible.

Keith launched himself at the Blades, giving as good as he got. They had a distinct advantage over him, most of them probably weighed twice as much as Keith did. Thinking fast, he threw his knife at the hatch in the floor, successfully preventing it from closing. He jumped down the hatch with a smirk.

"Guess I wasn't meant to go through those doors."

He landed awkwardly. His leg twisted and Keith collapsed onto his bad shoulder. Keith's tail was crushed painfully beneath his back. The cold of the hall floor seeped through his thin suit. His vision blurred and he promptly passed out.

 

When he awoke, he was standing in his Dad’s bedroom. The air was warm and smelled like sand. Something wasn't right. The thought lingered at the edge of his mind, never close enough for him to grasp.

"Dad?" He called out.

"In here, son."

Keith followed the voice to the kitchen. His heart clenched when he saw his Dad. His eyes watered, and he was overwhelmed with grief. Why was he feeling like this? He only saw his Dad a few hours ago.

"Help me get the house ready, kiddo. Your mom is on her way." His Dad smiled and carried on doing the dishes.

"Mom’s coming? I thought she was getting home next week," Keith said, grabbing a towel to dry them with. He couldn't shake the overwhelming feeling of wrongness.

"She wanted to surprise us. Said she's bringing something home."

Suddenly, the whole room shook. Explosions went off outside, and lights flashed.

"Dad? What's happening?" Keith felt like he was eight years old again, watching the house burn down, calling for his father who he would never see again.

"That's your mother son, she must have brought that present."

With a gasp, Keith remembered. His father was dead, this house burned to the ground. He never knew his mother. His team were waiting for him.

He looked at his father, "I'm sorry Dad, I have to go. I love you." Keith turned and sprinted out of the house. He missed the quiet, "I love you too, kiddo."

Keith ran up a hill. The longer he ran, the taller the hill seemed to get. Soon, the small hill became a mountain, overlooking a steep drop. At the top, his team waited for him. "Keith," Shiro said, "You're late."

Keith frowned, "I'm sorry, but I'm here now, let's help those people."

"No, Keith," Lance stepped forwards, "You're too late. We needed you and you left us. Everyone's dead. My family..." Lance choked on a sob.

Hunk moved in front of Lance, blocking Keith’s line of sight. "You got distracted. We should have known this would happen."

Keith stepped back, "No! I- I didn't! It's not too late!"

Pidge looked at him. "It is. Everything we love is gone now. You could have stopped them, but you didn't. You sided with the Galra and now everything is gone. Soon we will be too. You got your wish, Keith. You'll be alone forever."

The scent of his pack’s grief, hurt and anger permeated the air. He shrunk back into himself. He did this to them.

Keith's throat closed as he gasped for air. He had sided with the Galra. He stepped forward, reaching for his pack but they all moved backwards. He fell to his knees, sobbing.

When he looked up, his family were gone.

 

Keith woke up again, this time back in the Blade’s base. Shiro was running down the corridor to him, Ulaz hot on his heels. Keith's body refused to move, exhaustion making him tremble.

"Keith!" Shiro cried. He pulled Keith's head into his lap, trying to be as gentle as possible. Ulaz put pressure on his largest wound. It was still bleeding sluggishly. Shiro brushed Keith's dark hair out of his face.

"Keith, you're going to be okay. That wasn't real, we believe in you. We know you would never do that." Shiro whispered, cradling his head in his lap.

"His wound isn't too bad, but we should bring him to the med bay." Ulaz said, "Can you move, kit?"

Keith nodded, pushing himself up with the help of Shiro. He was too exhausted to process what had just happened. Just as he was standing again, Kolivan and the large galra appeared at the end of the hall.

"Ulaz! He hasn't awakened the blade. He is not entitled to any of our facilities. Go back to where you came from, and do not expect the Blade to aid you in this war. That blade does not belong to you."

Shiro growled, pulling Keith closer to him. Ulaz stepped in front of them. "Kolivan, it is my med bay, and I will treat Keith if I so desire. He is just a kitten; I shouldn't have allowed him to attempt the trials. That was my mistake, and now he is paying for it."

Kolivan paled at those words. "Keith, how old are you?" He said, voice much softer than Keith had thought possible.

"Seventeen years old, I think around twenty decapheobes?" Shiro replied for him. If Keith had more energy, he would be grateful, his mind was too fuzzy to do the mental maths.

The large galra behind Kolivan gasped. He rushed towards Keith. "Oh no! You poor kitten! Let me carry you to the med bay, everything will be alright."

"Antok, careful. He's still hurt."

Keith’s brain had officially shut down. "I'm fine. I'll leave if that's what you want, Kolivan. Take my blade. I know who I am."

He held his blade out. His heart broke at the thought of losing the only peace of his parents he had left, but if it meant securing an alliance then he would do it.

The knife began to heat up in his hand. It flashed a blue-white and transformed into a sword. Energy thrummed through the blade and into Keith's very core.

"He has awakened the blade, " Ulaz said faintly, "The youngest Blade to ever do so."

As the light died down, so did Keith's energy. "Shiro," he muttered, "Think I'm gonna pass out again."

He slumped in Shiro's grasp, out cold in seconds.

 

The next time Keith awoke, he was lying in a hospital bed. His eyes felt like they had been glued shut. He shifted, wincing as pain ran through his shoulder. His whole body ached.

As his senses came back to him, Keith heard voices speaking outside the door.

"You should have listened to me when I tried to protest. Instead, you ran ahead with your ideas and a kitten ended up hurt. Thankfully, Voltron is still willing to ally with us. If it weren't for the altean’s cryopods, it would take Keith many, many vargas to recover from an injury like that. Multiple base rotations." A voice, that Keith now recognized at Ulaz, chastised.

"I apologize. I was not aware of his age. He looks nothing like a Galra kitten. I feared Krolia’s kitten had been hurt, or worse, and an imposter had stolen her blade." Kolivan said.

"You would have been aware if you had stopped and listened to me for once in your-"

Shiro’s voice cut Ulaz off, "That doesn't matter now. Keith was hurt because of you."

Keith chirped when he heard Shiro. He didn't like the cold room he was in. He wanted his pack.

A large hand ran through his hair, a deep rumbling accompanying it. Keith startled, wincing as his injuries were jostled.

"Relax, kitten. We are taking you to your pack now. Ulaz, Kolivan and I will accompany you. You have much to learn. Shiro will be back in a moment. Sleep, and when you wake, everyone will be with you."

That was all Keith needed before he closed his eyes, relaxing to the rumbling coming from nearby. He was asleep in seconds.

Chapter Text

Seeing Keith carried out of the Red Lion unconscious was probably one of the scariest moments of Lance’s life. Shiro held him protectively, while Ulaz fussed over him. A large galra hovered in the background, looking worried. Coran rushed them to the med bay. Everyone followed, anxious to make sure Keith was okay. Once Keith had been safely placed inside a healing pod, the galra introduced themselves.

"I am Kolivan, leader of the Blade of Marmora and this is my second-in-command, Antok." Kolivan gestured to the larger galra, who was staring at Keith's pod. His tail flicked from side to side.

"I am Princess Allura, my adviser Coran, and these, are the Paladins of Voltron."

Lance gathered that that was supposed to be in impressive statement, but to be honest, they didn't live up to it. For one, they were only four fifths of the Paladins. Two, it was the middle of their night cycle. Hunk was in his pyjamas and yawning widely. Now that the initial adrenaline had faded, he looked as though he was going to fall asleep. Pidge, on the other hand, looked as though they hadn't slept, or even showered, for days. Lance wouldn't be surprised if they hadn't. Shiro had blood on his armour and a pinched look on his face.

Lance himself wasn't looking his finest either. He had been more worried about Keith going to that base then he cared to admit and had lost precious beauty sleep over it. They had gotten closer okay! Sue him for being worried about a teammate. Lance had deep bags under his eyes, and had sloppily applied his face mask before bed, hoping it would rejuvenate him a little bit. Needless to say, it didn't work.

At least Allura managed to look decent. She too, had been caught unaware, but she still looked as beautiful and dignified as ever, even in her nightgown. Coran as well, actually. Maybe it was an altean thing.

Lance zoned out for the rest of the introductions and initial greetings, which suited him perfectly. He fiddled with the hem of his pyjamas. Lance wondered what had happened to Keith. How had he gotten injured?

Allura led Kolivan to the control room, but Lance noticed Antok was still hovering in front of the pod. "Are you okay? If you're hurt Coran can treat you."

Antok startled, "Oh, no. I'm just worried about the kitten. He was not too badly injured, but a kitten should not be injured at all."

It took Lance a moment to realize that Antok was talking about Keith. That was something Ulaz had called him before - kitten. It must be some cultural thing, or maybe the translators were messing up again. "I was planning on waiting for him to come out, I can keep you company if you want?"

Antok made a sound, similar to a chuff, but didn't say anything else. Lance notice Ulaz was staying as well. "What happened?" Lance questioned, "How did Keith get hurt?"

Ulaz sighed, "He wanted to find out more about his heritage. He had to pass the trials. However, kittens aren't allowed participate in the trials as they can be gravelly injured. He accepted before I could explain to Kolivan that he is only a kitten. Once you accept, you can't back out. Knowledge or death."

"Knowledge or death," Antok replied solemnly, from where he stood in front of Keith's pod.

Lance was furious but somehow, not surprised. Of course, Keith would somehow find a way to participate in a trial he technically wasn't allowed to attempt.
Lance felt weary. The weight of the world - the universe – was on his shoulders.

"If the injury wasn't too bad, why was he unconscious?" Lance asked. "I thought he was nearly dead!"

"He was sedated so that he wouldn't cause himself distress. There is no need to worry, my boy." Coran answered.

Well, that was a relief. Lance didn't know what he would do if it was worse. Allura and Kolivan returned shortly. Lances heart fill with joy to see everyone waiting for Keith. They were an odd bunch, two alteans, three galra and four humans. When the pod hissed open, surprisingly it was Antok who caught Keith.

"You're okay, kitten. You're safe. Look, your pack is here." Keith slowly melted into Antok’s embrace. The team held back, not wanting to overwhelm him while he was so vulnerable. When he was steadier on his feet, he pulled back, giving Antok a small smile. Lance couldn't believe his eyes, Antok practically melted at the sight. Shiro stepped forwards first. He pulled Keith into a tight embrace.

"Don't ever, ever scare me like that again. We need to talk about what happened. I'm glad you're okay."

Pidge hugged him tightly, burying their face in his chest. They murmured something too muffled for Lance to hear. Whatever it was, it made Keith smile.

After Pidge reluctantly let him go, Hunk swept him up into his embrace. "I'm so glad you're okay. Oh my gosh, I was so worried. I'm making your favourite dinners for the next month."

After Allura, Coran and even Ulaz gave Keith hugs, it was finally Lance’s turn. Lance smiled softly at him. He pulled Keith close. "You scared the bejesus out of me. Never do that again please. I don't need to go grey so soon." Keith snorted and started to pull back.

Lance held him at arms distance, his hands on his shoulders. "I'm serious, I was really worried about you. We wouldn't be the same without you. I'm glad you're back," Lance smirked and leaned forward, "kitten."

Lance would never know what came over him in that second, but Keith's face turning fire truck red was worth the giggles and conspiratorial looks the others gave him. Kolivan looked distinctly uncomfortable. "If you don't mind, we have some information we would like to share with Keith, after he has eaten of course."
Keith nodded, and after a quick breakfast, joined the galra in the med bay. Lance turned, facing the matching smirks on Hunk, Pidge and even Shiro's faces. "So, Lance, mind telling us what that was about."

Lance groaned; he knew they would never let it go. Still, when he remembered Keith's face, he felt something soft and hopeful flutter in his chest.

 

Keith wasn't really sure what the Blades wanted to share with him. He didn't know how he would react if it was information about his Mom. Ulaz gestured for him to sit down on one of the beds. Kolivan looked as though he was planning his escape. Antok, like he was hyping himself up for a fight. Ulaz, at least, seemed to be in his element. Keith’s ears press against his head, whatever was about to happen couldn't be good. He nearly wished he had his blade with him. Could this be a second part of the trial?

"This is important information, kitten, so we need you to listen closely. We are going to explain galra biology to you." Ulaz said, pulling up a graphic picture of what Keith thought were galra genitals.

Keith choked, "Oh no! That's okay! You don't have to do that for me! I umm, I can just like figure it out myself. Anyway, I'm- I'm all human down there." Keith's face burned with embarrassment. He wished the ground would swallow him whole.

"Nonsense, kit. This is important." Ulaz launched into a speech about galra genitals. Keith sunk lower and lower into his seat. Part of him was curious about his galra side yes, but this isn't what he meant! After describing one set, Ulaz swiftly moved onto galra courting.

"Wait, wait, wait!" Keith interrupted before he could stop himself, "You only described one set, what about the others?"

The galra looked at him incredulously, "Galra only have one set. How many do humans have?"

That was how Keith found himself explaining all six different types of human genitals and the different dynamics to them. Once he got over the initial embarrassment, it was actually fascinating to compare species like this.

"So, all Galra are the same sex? All of you can impregnate and carry offspring?" Keith asked, "Then do you identify as different genders?"

"Most of us present as male, however there are a portion who present as female, neither or both. Galra can increase or decrease our hormone production, once one decides to present as a gender the body takes care of the rest. It’s not as easy for people who identify as both as our bodies take months to adapt to the changes, but they make do."

Keith was in awe. If only it was that easy for humans. "Could that possibly be why I am an omega? I can get pregnant and impregnate, although it is much easier for me to carry children."

"It is possible, kit. However, it is very difficult to know without extensive testing. You are the only human-galra hybrid, and we have no idea how your galra genetics affect you. Physically, it seems, all of your galra genes are dormant."

"Well, maybe they just didn't present themselves the way we expect them too. Humans are all technically hybrids. Pidge is a cat-human, Shiro a wolf, and Hunk and Lance are dogs. These are the most common hybrids, although there have been a few variations. They are similar to animals on Earth. There was some kind of disaster, several hundred years ago, and that is where we believe these hybrids came in, as well as our secondary genders. We don't know what the disaster was, but we believe it was nuclear. Almost all of our information from before was lost. Only a small portion of human survived, while all the animal and plant life thrived. I am the only recorded human-fox hybrid, ever. Maybe that is where my genetics kick in?"

Ulaz seemed to take this information in. "It is possible," He said thoughtfully, "However without more human-galra hybrids we will never know. I think that is enough for today, kitten. Get some rest and we can speak about this some other time."

"Wait!" Kolivan, Antok and Ulaz paused where they were walking to the door. "Why do you call me that? Kitten?"

Antok frowned, “Because that is what you are. A kitten. Galra have very long lifespans, a couple of hundred years. If you were a full galra you would still be in your mother’s nest. They would take care of your every need."

"Oh, thank you." Keith said, deep in thought. It took him a couple of seconds to realise they just told him that he is basically a toddler to them.

 

Outside the door, Antok turned to face Kolivan. "I believe it would be more beneficial if Ulaz carried out these ‘Introduction To Galra Biology’ lessons without our presence, Leader." Antok said.

"Agreed." Kolivan shuddered at the thought of ever going through a talk like that again.

Chapter Text

Keith was really enjoying the Blades’ presence on the ship. At first it was awkward; he didn't know how to act around them, but then as he got used to them, Keith found that he had a lot in common with them. And, thankfully, they had told him that they wouldn't speak about his mother until he was ready to. Kolivan, Ulaz and Antok decided to stay on the castle until they had finalized the plans for – hopefully - the last battle against Zarkon. The plan had to be perfect and already the Blades had been with them for two weeks with no end in sight.

Whenever Keith got the chance, he talked with them about the differences in galra and human culture. At first, he was uncomfortable with the fact that he was basically a toddler to them, but he realised that it wasn't so bad. They respected that he was still nearly an adult by human standards.

They did, however, show themselves to be very similar to what Keith imagined uncles to be like. Ulaz was probably the most parental, while the other two had no problem teasing Keith, especially once he got a bit more comfortable with them.

"Aww kitten, is this your first crush?" Antok said teasingly.

"No! It’s not my firs- I mean, it's not a crush at all!" Keith said launching himself at Antok. One of the best things about galra culture was that wrestling and roughhousing was completely acceptable and even encouraged. Keith took advantage of this whenever the galra started to embarrass him.

"He's my friend, there are no feelings here, nope, none, nada," Keith yelled as he clung to Antok’s back. Antok fell to the ground, managing not to crush Keith.

"My, you're awfully defensive, kit. I wonder why that is?" Kolivan laughed from his spot at the edge of the training deck.

"I just don't want you to get the wrong idea, that would be really, really bad. I don't like Lance, and he doesn't like me. Please drop it."

Sensing his spiralling mood, Antok and Kolivan shared a look. "How do you know he doesn't like you kit?" Kolivan asked gently. He joined Antok and Keith on the floor.

"He just... doesn't," Keith muttered. They stayed silent, waiting for Keith to elaborate.

"Why would he like me anyway? He's basically been in love with the princess since the moment he met her. I could never compare to that. And yeah, we've gotten closer, but he'll never see me as more than a friend. Lance could have anyone in the universe, why would he settle with me?" Keith didn't look up from the floor.

"Kit, you can't presume you know how he feels without asking him. Maybe he does love the Princess, but if you don't ask, it'll bother you for the rest of your life. And if he doesn't love you, it's not a reflection on you. You are one of the bravest, fiercest people I have ever met. And you're still a kitten. That makes you even more amazing." Kolivan said, stroking Keith's hair gently.

Tears welled up in Keith’s eyes and quickly overflowed. "Thank you, I don't think anyone's said something so nice to me in, well, ever." Keith pressed his face into Antok’s shirt, embarrassed about how easily he started crying.

"It’s okay kit, I'm just speaking the truth. How about after we defeat Zarkon, or even sooner, you could talk to Lance about your feelings."

Keith suddenly felt too hot pressed between the two huge, furry Galra. He squirmed away from them. "Sorry, it’s just really hot," he said, pulling at his shirt.

Antok pressed a clawed hand to Keith's forehead. "Do you feel okay? It’s actually cold in here," he said concerned.

Keith took stock of his body. He felt flushed, tired and emotional. He started crying two minutes ago because Kolivan said something nice about him! "God dammit," he groaned, "I'm in preheat."

Keith fell onto his back. "I should have realized this was going to happen. My suppressants wore off a while ago, and I haven't been able to track anything because space time is different."

"Do you need anything kit? I'm afraid Ulaz might have more of an understanding about what is happening, but we are willing to help anyway we can," Kolivan said.

"Umm, could you get me an unwashed shirt form each of you? Maybe one you worked out in? Also, as many water bottles and ration bars as possible, I don't know how long this is going to last. Meet me in my room please. " Keith slowly stood up. As he reached the door he turned, "Also knock before you come in, omegas are very protective of their spaces and I don't want to accidentally hurt anyone."

The door slid shut behind him and he walked as quickly as possible to his room. He had already raided a few linen closets for nesting materials, but his nest had been dismantled a few weeks ago and he never got around to rebuilding it. He also needed some items from everyone in his pack.

Keith was surprised with himself. He wanted the Blades’ scents in his nest just as much as he wanted everyone is team Voltron’s. He didn't think they were that close yet, but his body obviously disagreed. He stopped in Pidge's room on his way. They weren't there and he didn't have the energy to hunt them down, so he left a note.

"Pidge,

I'm in preheat. Do me a favour and get some items from everyone in the pack? Just leave them outside my door. Be as discreet as possible please, I don't want everyone to know just yet,

Keith"

 

Keith headed back to his room. Once there, he began building his nest. He wasn't really comfortable with having it in his room, where anyone could find him, but his heat was going to hit quickly and having a nest somewhere a little more public was better than no nest at all. He built it in the back of his closet for a little more protection.

A few minutes later, Ulaz knocked on his door. "Kit? Is it okay if I come in?" he called. Keith chirped weakly, a sound he didn't make often as it never sounded like other omega’s chirps. Ulaz seemed to know what it meant though, and let himself in.

"I have two t-shirts each from myself, Kolivan and Antok. And as many water bottle and rations as I could get. I hope this is enough for you. I know what having someone’s scent in your nest means to you, kit, and I know I speak for Kolivan and Antok as well when I say how flattered I am. It truly means a great deal to us." It was clear Ulaz had no idea where Keith was in the room, although he could smell that Keith was there.

"I'm going to take my leave now, but you know how to contact me if you need anything."

Keith crept out of his nest when the door closed. The t-shirts and rations were in a neat pile on the ground, the water bottles by his bed. He brought everything to his nest, working the shirts in with everything else. He hid the water and bars in the walls. Satisfied, Keith settled down for a quick nap while he waited for Pidge to bring everything else he needed.

 

Keith woke up a few hours later to blaring alarms. Groaning, he tried to bury himself farther into his nest. His mind was so fuzzy, and everything was too hot. His clothes rubbed against his sensitive skin. He was definitely in heat now. The suppressant must have really messed up his cycle, usually preheat lasted a day or two not a few hours.

Something was at the edge of his mind, something he needed to do. Gasping, he sat up. The alarms! The castle must be under attack and his team needed him.

It was the last thing he wanted to do, but Keith managed to drag himself out of his nest. Thankfully, the fear for his team overwhelmed the anxiety about being in the open like this. He pulled on his armour, wincing as it rubbed his overheated skin. Keith knew he was taking too long, but he needed to reserve his energy for the actual battle.

Leaving his room was unbearable. The only thing keeping him going was the adrenaline pumping through his veins. Keith's room was, luckily, one of the closest to the lions, so he didn't have far to go. He could only hope that being in Red would sooth his anxiety.

He stumbled down the corridor, his legs shaky and weak. The further he went though, the stronger he felt. His instincts were kicking in. He wasn't safe, and more importantly, his pack wasn't safe. He went on high alert. Keith knew he was vulnerable like this, but his pack was in danger.

Red had her particle barrier up. "Red, please let me. The team need us." He didn't have to energy to argue with her.

A wave of reluctance washed over him, but Red slowly lowered her barrier.

Keith settled into his seat as quickly as he was able. His comms connected to the other lions as he joined them.

"Keith! Where were you? We're getting our asses kicked out here!" Lance cried.

Keith realized that Pidge never got his note, which meant that the team didn't know he was in heat. There was no point worrying them about it now though.

"That doesn't matter now. Team, let's form Voltron!" Shiro called.

Keith felt his bond with the other paladins and lions grow as they joined together. "Let's do this," he whispered to himself.

Chapter Text

"That was incredibly reckless of you! What were you thinking?"

Keith groaned. He got pretty banged up in the last ten minutes of the battle. Unfortunately, he wasn't in his right mind and may have made some reckless decisions. Throwing himself in front of an ion cannon rather than just destroying it being one. Luckily, Lance managed to divert it so it just grazed Keith instead of completely obliterating him.

At this current moment though, Keith kinda wished the cannon had hit him, at least he'd be unconscious and wouldn't have to listen to the ridiculously long lecture he was about to receive.

The paladins stood in front of Allura and Shiro, lined up like misbehaving schoolchildren. Or maybe pups about to receive a scolding from their parents. Allura’s voice was bouncing of the walls of the hanger, like a thousand ghosts whispering about how much of disappointment he was. He couldn't really focus on much else right now.

Since the danger had passed, Keith’s body was reverting back to heat mode and all the fun things that accompanied it. He longed for his nest, to bury himself inside and hide for the rest of the week. Maybe he would be able to convince everyone to cuddle with him in between waves.

"Hey man, are you doing okay?" Lance's sharp elbow to his ribs broke him out of his daydream.

"Hmm?" Keith turned to look at him. His heart stopped at the sight. Even though they had just come from a gruelling battle, Lance still managed to look gorgeous. His skin was so much darker than Keith’s. Keith wanted to hold his hand, admire the contrast their bodies created. Lance’s hair had curled, probably due to the high humidity in the lions during battles. The light of the hanger highlighted his freckles. Cute, Keith thought. Keith's gaze dropped to his lips, which were moving as he spoke. His eyes fell lower, looking at his graceful neck.

Lance’s hand startled him out of his thoughts. "Dude, seriously are you okay? Have you heard a thing I just said?"

Keith shook his head, not really sure what question he was answering. He leaned forward. He wondered what his nest would smell like if it only had his and Lance’s scents in it. His alpha’s scent.

"Keith, kitten, look at me." Keith looked up from where he had been nuzzling Lance’s chest. How had he ended up here?

"You're in heat, and you're not thinking properly. Do you want me to take you back to your nest?"

Keith tried to battle through the fog in his brain. Each thought was stuck in quicksand and molasses. There was something wrong with this, wasn't there. He wasn't supposed to be doing something, or maybe he wasn't supposed to be here? But he was with his alpha, so everything was okay right? His alpha would protect him.
He gasped, pushing himself away from Lance. No. Lance was not his alpha. Keith's legs felt like jelly, weak and unstable.

"What’s wrong with him?"

"Whoa! Keith? Everything okay buddy?"

"Is he coming down with something again?"

Voices clamoured for his attention, but he couldn't think straight. He couldn't comprehend what they were saying. Were they even talking to him? It was too loud; he was too vulnerable. His suit rubbed over his skin, leaving it raw and oversensitive. The hangar smelt overwhelmingly salty and sweet, from the groups drying sweat and his own heat scent. The metallic scent of the lions reminded him of blood. He fought the wave of nausea crawling up his throat.

"Guys! Guys! I think he's in heat. You're freaking him out. Please for the love of god, shut up." One voice rose above the rest. The only thing Keith could hear now was his own ragged breathing.

"Okay, thank you," the voice spoke again, much softer this time, "I'm going to take Keith to his room. Hopefully, he has a nest there already. Pidge, can you gather some of our things for him? Hunk, can you get water and rations? Shiro, talk to the Blades please, let them know what’s going on. Allura, if you could try to find us a relatively safe area to stay for the week. The less battles we have the better."

"Lance, are you sure you're the best option? I mean, no offense but-"

"We'll be fine Hunk. You guys won't be far away. And I would never dream of taking advantage of him. I'm just going to make sure he has everything he needs and leave."

There was a pause and then footsteps echoed through the hanger, doors sliding open and closed.

"Okay kitten, you can open your eyes now." Keith wasn't sure when he had closed them in the first place.

Lance stood in front of him, alone. "Do you think you can walk? I can give you a piggyback if you want."

Keith took a hesitant step forward but decided the piggyback might be the better option. He held his arms up. If he had any energy, he would be mortified by how childish he was acting.

Lance just laughed, turning around and hoisting Keith up. Keith tried not to immediately bury himself into Lance’s scent gland on his neck. He dozed off.

He woke up again when he heard voices. Pidge was standing at his door, bundles of clothing in their arms. They were clutching a piece of paper in their hands. Lance opened the door and set Keith onto his bed. Pidge placed the clothes next to him. He gave them a pointed look. Thankfully, they got the hint and turned around so he could nest in peace.

 

Lance turned to face Pidge. Their pup scent had soured with frustration and disappointment. Their ears were pinned to their head and their tail was unnaturally still. Pidge was trying not to look as upset as they were. They handed him a piece of paper. "I found this in my room. Keith didn't just randomly go into heat, he was in heat, or at least preheat, before the battle even started."

Lance read the note quickly, confirming that it was true. "Pidge, when was the last time you were in your room?"

Pidge shrugged, looking incredibly guilty, "I haven't been in my room since yesterday evening. I fell asleep working on Green again."

Lance pulled them close, "Well, he had breakfast with us, didn't he? And he seemed perfectly fine then. Actually, I saw him training with the Blades just after lunch. I think it probably hit him fast. Don't feel too guilty about it. He's fine, listen to him."

Pidge and Lance listened for a second, taking in the sounds of cloth rustling, purring and weird half-chirps.

Pidge giggled, "I have no idea what those chirps are though, I wonder if they're a Galra thing?"

"I'd guess so, I think they're pretty cute though."

Pidge wiggled their eyebrows, "Oh, pretty cute huh?"

Lance rolled his eyes, "Yeah, yeah, tease all you want. You can't deny it's true though."

The noise quietened down. "You alright, kitten?"

Keith chirped from his nest. Lance and Pidge shared a look. They weren't really sure what that meant, but it didn't sound negative.

"Okay, well Pidge and I are going to leave now. We'll be in the lounge with the rest of the pack, and one of us will come check on you in about an hour okay? You should probably take a nap; you must be pretty tired huh?"

Keith chirped again. Pidge and Lance headed towards the door. "Sweet dreams, kitten," Lance whispered as he turned off the light.

He smiled when he heard the faint "Thank you, Lance" from the nest.

 

Hunk checked on Keith an hour later and reported that he seemed fine. Shiro checked again the next hour and Lance the next.

"When I checked on him, he made this kind of chirping sound, but not quite there. I have no idea what it means, but man, was it adorable," Hunk said from where he sat on the floor.

"See Pidge! I'm not the only one who thinks Keith's cute!" Lance crowed triumphantly.

"Sorry buddy, but I'm pretty sure no one else thinks Keith's cute the same way you do, at least not anymore anyway." Hunk butt in before Pidge could reply. Pidge smirked at Lance, who frowned.

"Wait, what’s that supposed to mean?"

"Well, I thought he was objectively attractive when I first met him, of course. And he is cute, but I'm not romantically interested in him. Now, I think he's cute the same way I think my baby cousins are cute, or kittens, or puppies." Hunk said.

"I agree. Although, I never thought he was attractive, but I can see why others would think that. He is aesthetically pleasing." Pidge pulled their glasses off to rub some dirt off them.

"He was younger than Pidge is when I met him, so I never saw him as attractive either, but he was adorable. I wish I had my phone so I could show you picture of him when he was a kid." Shiro sighed wistfully.

"Yes, I definitely thought he was attractive, but he isn't my type exactly. He would remind me of a baby yupper though, those are quite adorable," Allura chimed in.

Lance sighed, "Yeah, I agree with all of you. I don't see how that makes me any different though."

"Oh my god Lance! You have a crush the size of Jupiter on him!" Pidge shouted.

Lance spluttered, "What!? No, I don't! He's just a guy that I happen to admire very much."

Hunk and Pidge rolled their eyes, "Lance, buddy, my bestest friend, would I ever lie to you about this?"

"Well no, but I just don't see it. Yeah, I like talking to him, and training with him. And I like that he isn't super submissive like other omegas, and his eyes are amazing and his hair, god his hair and ay Dios mío, I have a crush on Keith Kogane."

Hunk wrapped his arm around Lance, "We know buddy, we know."

"This is awful, Keith's way too good for me. He could have literally anyone in the universe, why would he ever like me? I can't form Voltron with a crush on him! That’s it, I'm going to have to retire. Allura, you can take Blue in my place. Keith can never know about this. He'd be disgusted."

"Whoa, whoa, Lance calm down. It’s not that bad. I'm pretty sure Keith wouldn't be disgusted by you. I think you should talk to him before you retire from Voltron." Shiro said consolingly although he was failing to hide his amused scent from them.

"Who's retiring from Voltron?" a disgruntled voice came from the door.

"Keith! Buddy! My man! I mean, not my man, the man? No, that sounds stupid. Hey man?" Lance had a fake smile plastered to his face as he rambled on. Pidge sharply elbowed him in the ribs, satisfied when he cut off with a wheeze.

"How are you feeling? Did the first wave pass?" Shiro said, ever the concerned older brother. Keith just grunted before standing in front of Lance.

"Cuddle me," he muttered, practically collapsing into Lance’s lap. When Lance made no move to hug him, he growled.

"Cuddle. Me. Now." Keith moved Lance’s arms until they were around his back, and he buried himself in Lance’s scent.

Keith rubbed his cheek against Lance’s, before offering his neck. Lance carefully scented him, their scents mixing temporarily.

Lance tried to calm his racing heart, afraid that Keith would hear it. How was he supposed to react when the grumpy omega he just realized he had a crush on demands cuddles?

Keith muttered something unintelligible. Lance leaned down, asking him to repeat himself.

"Everyone, cuddle, please dear lord y'all are so slow."

Everyone took their turn scenting Keith. By the end they had a very happy and satisfied omega in their hands. Keith smelt like pack, like family.

That's how Lance found himself in the middle of a cuddle pile. Keith even convinced the Blades to join in. (Although Lance had a sneaky suspicion that Keith could ask them to throw themselves out of an airlock and they would. The boy had them wrapped around his little finger.)

Lance would have to postpone his inevitable breakdown until later, for now, it’s nap time.

Chapter Text

Hunk, Lance and Keith landed on the planet Mar'ghal. Keith was the designated pilot for the mission, seeing as the planet was father away and he had the fastest lion. Allura, Shiro and Pidge had gone to visit a different planet, while Coran and the Blades stayed on the castle nearby.

Hunk and Lance would be handling most of the talking, which Keith was immeasurably grateful for. He just had to stand there and look intimidating. Coran had given them some information on the mar'gans, and Keith himself had done as much research as he could. Unfortunately, the castle’s information was ten-thousand years old, so it didn't give him much insight into modern life.

They seemed to be a matriarchal planet, led by the females of their species. In fact, Keith wouldn't have known there were any males of the species if he hadn't read one small paragraph about their reproduction. Apparently, the darker the skin tone, the more fertile the males were.

Keith wasn't sure if sending three males down to create an alliance with them was the best idea, but he didn't want to undermine Allura. She was way better at this diplomacy stuff then he could ever dream of being.

As the three walked down the ramp to meet the Mar'gans, Keith couldn't help but compare them to what he already knew of them. They were taller than he thought they'd be, around seven feet tall. They did have one short antenna sticking out of their forehead with two longer ones on either side like the books described. Their longer antennae were slicked over the back of their heads. They had varying shades of green skin, with white eyes. They didn't have irises either. Keith suppressed a shudder, their eyes seemed to be staring into his soul.

One of the smaller mar'gans stepped forward to greet them. Surprisingly, she approached Keith first. "What a pleasure to meet you, ma'am, I am President Feleagh, and this is my government. I will introduce them in due course. We look forward to settling this alliance with yourself and Princess Allura."

Keith frowned, he hoped that that was just the translators messing up, "It's nice meeting you too, unfortunately Princess Allura won't be able to join us as she has pressing matters elsewhere." God, Keith hated this wishy-washy diplomacy stuff. Why can't people just say what they mean in as little words as possible?

"Oh, that is disappointing. We will have to make do with just you then, ma'am."

Keith had been here for all of twenty seconds and he hated it. He tried (and failed) to smooth his frown out and force his face into a more neutral expression.

"I'm Keith, the Red Paladin. I'm not sure where you got your information from, but I'm a man. And these are the Blue and Yellow Paladins, Lance and Hunk, also male."

Keith was relieved when Hunk stepped forwards to speak to the President. Hopefully, that was his entire contribution to the meeting. Keith congratulated himself. He managed to introduce himself and the other Paladins, and even corrected the President on her mistake, without accidentally declaring war on anybody. He was improving.

The President, however, didn't seem to agree. "What do you mean you are a man? We can clearly see you are a female, granted your anatomy is slightly different from ours. Are these not your mates? We cannot allow these men to accompany you if they are not your mates."

Keith felt a blush creep up his neck and burn his ears. He had never felt so humiliated in his life. He resisted the urge to cover his crotch. What did they mean they can "see" that he was female? Don't even get him started on Hunk and Lance being his mates.

"I assure you; I am a male. Humans have more than two genders. I am an omega. Yes, I can bear children, but I am not a woman."

President Feleagh looked suspiciously at him, "And these are your mates?"

Keith glanced at Hunk and Lance, who looked just as uncomfortable as he felt. He couldn't risk doing this meeting on his own. "Yes, these are my mates."

"I apologize for the confusion then. Let's proceed to the meeting room, yes?"

 

The President held Keith's arm, guiding him towards a tall building. He shot an apologetic glance at the other two, who seemed to have several mar'gans watching them closely. Hopefully, they would be able to speak at the meeting, because Keith barely knew what was on the agenda.

They entered a large room, with a long table in the centre. There was a gap between each seat, large enough to seat several other people. Keith was led to his chair. Hunk and Lance were moved to stand behind him. He turned to share a look with them. Were they not going to be seated?

Just then, several large mar'gans entered the room. They were blue, and only had two antenna, one short, one long. Keith had a sinking feeling in his gut. Each of the new mar'gans approached one of the females. Some sat at their feet, some beside. Most of them were naked or wearing what could barely be described as clothing. Several of the women adjusted their postures to allow the men between their legs.

Keith's face burned, please don't let this be what I think it is, please don't let this be what I think it is.

"Well, Red Paladin? Are you not going to get comfortable? Your mates are here to service you are they not?"

God, Keith wished the ground would open underneath him. The men on this planet were sex slaves. Sex slaves. And he just told them that Lance and Hunk were his. He grimaced as questionable noises filled the room.

"Ah, that's... against our culture I'm afraid," Keith laughed nervously, "We only mate in the privacy of our rooms. Forgive me, but this is something I cannot join you on."

 

By the end of that meeting, Keith felt like he was going to puke. It was like trying to work while people were filming porn on your desk. Trying to maintain eye contact (which was very important to the mar'gans) with the President was probably the most difficult thing he's ever had to do.

Keith didn't risk looking at Hunk or Lance the entire meeting. He couldn't face them after this. At least he had something to do to distract himself, they were just standing there! This whole meeting was a mistake. And to make matters worse, they didn't even come to an agreement. They had to stay the night and have more meetings tomorrow.

A mar'gan led them to their room. "I have been informed that you only mate in private. Don't worry, the room has been suitable prepared."

Keith didn't know what to say to that, so he just nodded gruffly. He thanked her and stepped inside, Hunk and Lance following closely. They all stood in silence, taking in the room. It was like walking into an alien sex shop. Keith didn't even know what half these things were. The only actual piece of furniture was the bed. It was in the centre of the room with only a meter’s space from the wall on each side. At least it looked big enough for all of them, although that was probably their intention.

"Guys, I am so so sorry. I shouldn't have told them that you were my mates. I didn't realize it was going to be this bad." Keith couldn't even look at the other two. This was the most humiliating experience of his life. Between being misgendered, and all public sex they had just been exposed to, he wasn't sure if he could ever face them again. He wouldn't blame them if they felt the same.

Neither of them said anything for a long minute. Lance coughed, "Honestly, I'm glad we're here. I don't like the thought of you facing this alone. Who knows what they might have tried to get you to do." Lance’s face was stained a bright red, but he seemed sincere.

Hunk nodded, "And you're not doing so bad at the diplomacy part either. I don't think I could have kept my cool while all of... that was going on. Maybe this will be a learning experience for you. And this wasn't your fault, you don't need to apologize."

Keith laughed, "Yeah, because discussing strategy in the middle of an orgy is so useful in everyday life."

Lance nudged Keith with a smirk, "You never know man, you never know."

Hunk gagged, "Please Lance, it's too soon. Let us get over the trauma first."

The boys spent the evening relaxing, or as much as they could with all the sex toys seemingly staring at them.

Unfortunately, dinner went much the same as the meeting did. At least Hunk and Lance were allowed to eat a small meal. Keith managed to choke down some food, trying to drown out the moans from all around them.

Later that evening they received a transmission from the castle. Pidge, Shiro and Allura had managed to secure an alliance with their planet and wanted to see how theirs was going.

"It’s been uhh.."

"They kinda.."

"I mean, it’s going umm..." The three boys said at the same time.

"Okay, what’s with those faces. Are you safe? Blink once if you're being held captive." Shiro said.

"Shiro, we're fine really, just a bit uncomfortable, I suppose," Hunk said, a blush creeping up his cheeks. "They refused to let Lance and I onto the planet unless we were Keith's mates, and they also thought Keith was a woman. Keith corrected them of course, but I think they are only speaking to him because he uhh- shares some anatomy with them. It’s pretty messed up; the men are basically sex slaves."

There was an awkward silence as the rest of the team tried to take that in. "Well, at least you guys can kind of see how Keith felt on Earth now." Pidge said with a grin.

"Pidge! This is way worse! Yeah, omegas are treated like crap sometimes, but these guys have it way worse. Sex toys get treated better than they do in this place." Keith frowned, although he could see what Pidge was saying, he didn't really feel comfortable with the comparison.

Pidge winced, "Sorry, I didn't think that through. That place sounds horrible. When are you coming back?"

Keith sighed, "Tomorrow at the earliest, unfortunately. We couldn't settle on a few aspects of the agreement."

"Yay, another sexy meeting." Lance said dryly.

Keith's lips curled. He refused to give Lance the satisfaction of laughing.

"Then, if it doesn't make you too uncomfortable, you may as well finish the meetings. Sorry, boys, for putting you in this situation. I would have insisted on the meetings be over the comms if I had known." Allura said, looking guilty.

"It's okay Princess. And it’s not too bad. We only have a few more hours of meetings left." Keith said.

 

That night, Keith ended up sleeping between Hunk and Lance. Their reasoning was that if anyone were to check on them in the night, this would raise the least suspicious. Keith was loathed to admit that they were right, although he didn't want to think about people checking in on them while they were asleep. It’s not like there was really enough space for them to sleep on the floor anyway.

Keith tried to keep a respectable distance from the two, but it was impossible. Hunk took up nearly half the bed by himself, which pressed Keith closer to Lance. Keith didn't want to know what it was like to sleep next to Lance. He didn't want to wake up surrounded by the alpha’s scent. He tried, and failed, to think strictly platonic thoughts. Despite his anxiety about the whole thing, it was strangely comforting to sleep between his teammates. Sure, they'd had sleepovers before, but Keith always kept to the edge of the cuddle piles if he could help it (the exception being his heat of course, but Keith didn't want to think about that, he'd die of embarrassment.)

Keith let himself be lulled by the gentle sounds of his friend’s breathing, their soothing scents settling over him as he fell into a deep sleep.

Chapter Text

The second day was just as awkward as the first. Hunk concentrated on the food throughout breakfast, hoping this would be the last meal he had on this planet. Lunch was the same. By the time dinner rolled around, Hunk was suspicious. These negotiations should not be taking this long. Hunk would have said that maybe Keith's inexperience was slowing them down, but Keith was much better than he made out to be. Sure, he was reluctant, but he got things done. Hunk's gut told him that something else was going on here.

After dinner, guards poured into the room. They were separated, and there were so many guards that Hunk couldn't see the others. He could hear them both growling and what was probably Keith thrashing, trying to free himself. Hunk was led to a separate room by two guards. The guards were two heads taller than him, huge even by their species standards. He didn't see where Lance and Keith were taken.

The guards either didn't have translators, or they were ignoring him. Neither of them even acknowledged his questions, just roughly shoving him into the room and closing the door behind him. The ominous click of the lock echoed from behind him. Alone, he took the chance to look around. Maybe he could figure out what was going on.

One wall was made completely from glass, while another was a mirror. The window had an amazing view of the city, but Hunk didn’t stop to admire it. There was what looked like a huge wardrobe on the wall next to the door. The last wall had another door. Hunk checked the second door first. He already knew the other was locked.
Inside was a spacious bathroom. There was a bath sunken into the floor, which looked more like a small pool than anything else. There were jars and jars of ointments and other beauty products on a counter. Hunk's translator didn't work on most of those things, and even if they did, he doubted he would know what they were for. At least they smelled questionably nice. Lance would probably know. There was no other way out through this room, so he went back to the main room.

He checked the wardrobe next, which was full of clothes. As he was rooting through them, his comms crackled. "Hunk? Lance?"

It was Keith. "Keith! I'm so glad you're okay? Where are you? Did you see where Lance was taken?"

"I'm in a bath right now, I have like twenty girls trying to pretty me up. I had to fight to get them to let me bathe in peace. I haven't seen or heard from Lance yet, do you think he's okay?"

"I'm sure he's fine, I mean we are right? You're having a bath, I'm locked in a room by myself, but I have a bath as well and lots of clothes. Lance is probably relaxing somewhere and forgot his comms." Hunk wasn't sure how much of this he believed, but he had to keep calm. "Have any of the girls said anything to you?"

"Not really, there are so many of them and they are talking so fast my translator's having a hard time keeping up. They mentioned a ritual though. I think so anyway. I'll keep listening though, once I'm out of the bath."

Hunk sighed; he knew there was something fishy going on here. "Yeah, that's probably the best idea. I'm going to keep trying to find a way out of here. Keep me posted."

"Will do."

 

Hunk decided to recheck his room and bathroom. There must be something somewhere. As he was finishing checking the closet, the two guards entered.

"Bath," one said.

"Now," said the other.

So, they do speak, Hunk thought. "Can you guys, like, explain what's going on? Why do I need to take a bath?"

"Your mating ritual will begin soon. You must be ready."

"Whoa, what mating ritual? I haven't planned any mating rituals! Who am I mating?" Hunk spluttered, wringing his hands nervously.

"The Red Paladin, of course." Hunk turned to see the President enter the room. "We realized that you have no offspring yet, and therefore you must never have completed the mating process. We do not know much about human culture, but that is the only logical conclusion. You didn't mate last night, either. We accepted that you do not mate in public, but you were given a perfectly good, private room and you still did not mate. We realized that you must need outside help. We wish you a plentiful brood by the end of your courting."

"Wait, me? Lance is the alpha! He's probably a better choice. Wait, no, don't force him into that- I just meant-" Hunk sighed, "Why me?"

President Feleagh gave him a look, "Your dark skin tells us that you are more fertile than the other Paladin. None of our breeding males are as dark as you are, it is truly a gift. It is a shame Paladin Keith has not taken advantage of it yet."

Okay, the dark skin must be mar'gan thing. But if just Keith and Hunk were needed for the - Hunk shuddered at the thought - mating, then where the hell was Lance? Oh god, if they actually had to do this Lance would be so upset. He was just getting used to the idea of liking Keith only for Keith to be ripped away from him. Never mind how Keith himself would feel! Hunk liked Keith, a lot, but he didn't want to be bonded to him. Sure, they were friends, but it would really suck to have their freedom taken away from them. Of course, there were ways to undo, or reverse, a mating bond, but it was incredibly painful. Some died before the process was even complete.

Hunk shook himself; he didn't want to go down that train of thought. He needed to focus on the here and now. He didn't have any kind of plan right now, so he decided to play along. Hopefully, he could contact Keith again, and Lance.

Hunk was unbelievably worried about Lance. Lance was much smarter than he let on, but he had a bad habit of antagonizing the wrong people. Hopefully, he was okay, wherever he was.

"Okay, I'll go take a bath. Thank you for the information, President Feleagh." Hunk sent her his most flattering smile as he headed for the bathroom. If he seemed enthusiastic about this, maybe they would let their guard down enough to give him a chance to escape.

It took him a moment to figure out how the bath worked, and he dumped what he hoped was bubble bath - or the alien variety - into it. He prayed the sound of running water would cover his voice.

"Keith? Lance? Do either of you copy?"

"I'm here Hunk, still haven't heard from Lance or found out anything new."

"Well, I have good news and bad news. Good news, I know what's happening. Bad news, they are trying to get us to mate, Keith. Oh, and more bad news, I have no idea where Lance is because his lighter skin means he is less fertile than me on this ridiculous planet and therefore he isn't needed for our bonding. God knows where he is, what he's doing. What- Keith, what if they've... disposed of him. What if he whined and blabbered so much, that they just got rid of him? I couldn't live with-"

"Hunk! Jesus! Too much information, my brain can’t' keep up. Lance is smart, I'm sure he found a way to convince them he's needed. Let me see if I’ve got this straight. They are setting us up, you because of your skin, and me for, well, obvious reasons. Lance is currently MIA. I haven't been able to contact the castle. Red said she could do it, but it would involve leaving this planet’s atmosphere, which might alert them to what we are doing."

There was silence for a few moments.

Hunk heard Keith sigh, "I'm sorry to say this Hunk, but I think our best bet is to just go along with this, at least for now. We can't risk trying something when we don't have any information on Lance. Worst case scenario, we end up mating and I get pregnant. I trust you Hunk and you're a good guy. We can share custody of the kid or something. And I won't stop you pursuing other people. We can look into reversing the bite as well. Honestly, I don't love you, not like that anyway, but it could be a lot worse. I never really thought I'd be in love with whoever I end up bonded to anyway, so this is a much better outcome. At least I actually know and like you."

Hunk’s eyes watered, "Are you trying to make me cry, cause I'm crying man. Don't think like that. You deserve a loving relationship. I know it's harder for omegas, but I won't stop you pursuing another relationship either. And I'm pretty sure I know at least one great guy who would be more than happy to have you, mated or not. Don't sell yourself short."

There was a loud knock on the door. "Yellow Paladin, what is taking you so long! The rituals start soon!"

"Umm, I'll be there in a second!" Hunk called, "Shoot, sorry Keith, I have to go. I guess I'll see you at the alter- or whatever the mar'gan version is."

"Yeah, I guess I'll see you there."

"And Keith? I love you too buddy."

Keith laughed, "Get out of here big guy. Over and out."

 

Hunk felt a little bit better knowing he had Keith's consent (kind of? They were being forced into this, but at least Keith had talked to him and he seemed kind of okay? Ugh, it's complicated.) for what was about to happen. His heart sank though, when he remembered Keith's words. He always thought he'd get forced into a bond.
Hunk quickly bathed, and when he exited, he found an outfit hanging on the door. It was mainly sheer but had enough layers to just about cover his groin. It was a golden colour that sparkled in the light. The whole thing felt like it would blow away at the slightest puff of wind.

Hunk was led to a hallway with a large set of double doors. The guards turned to face to doors, so Hunk presumed that that was where he was going. Hunk had absolutely no idea what was behind them. He was guessing Keith would be there but besides that, he was lost. Zarkon could be lurking behind the doors and Hunk wouldn't know any better.

A loud horn sounded, and the doors opened. Hunk gulped, ready to face his doom.

Inside was a small table with two seats and a few candles. Hunk paused, this actually looked nice. He saw Keith approaching from the opposite side, and gave him a tentative smile, which he returned. Hunk sighed with relief.

"Paladins, we have already discussed your need for privacy, so you are alone in this room. We do, however, have cameras on you, for your own security. We also have someone, an expert apparently, giving us advice on your courting. He has guaranteed that you will be mated, and hopefully egg heavy with your first brood by tomorrow." President Feleagh spoke over the intercom.

Hunk mouthed, "Egg heavy?" at Keith, who just mimed a chicken flapping his wings. That... told Hunk absolutely nothing. Did the people here lay eggs? Maybe he should have paid more attention to that booklet he was given before coming here.

"Hunk," Keith hissed, "I don't like the sound of this expert they have."

Before Keith could reply, a new voice came over the intercom, "Don't you worry about that Kitten, I'll take good care of you both."

"Lance?!"

Chapter Text

"What the hell do you think you're doing, McClain?" Keith growled. Hunk gulped. Lance better have a plan or else he wouldn't make it out of this encounter alive. Keith looked ready to scale the walls to find and kill him.

Lance chuckled nervously, "Well, I told the President about how finicky human courting is and recommended that I give her some help. All the rituals are just so long and complicated, I didn't want anything to go wrong, of course. I also told them how your entire pack must be present, or else your body would not recognize Hunk as your official mate and would not produce offspring."

Hunk frowned, before he realized what Lance was doing. He saw Keith about to retort and jumped in before he accidentally said something that gave the whole plan away. "Thank god Lance! I wouldn't have wanted to go any further without the pack, that would have been a disaster."

Keith's brows furrowed, looking at Hunk then up at the security camera, as if he could see Lance through it. Hunk shot him a meaningful glance. Thankfully, he seemed to catch on.

"Oh, umm, thanks Lance, I guess."

Hunk winced; Keith wasn't even trying to act enthusiastic.

"No problem, buddy. Anyway, you two just enjoy your nice romantic meal, before the second part of your courting begins."

Hunk was so nervous he didn't get to properly appreciate the food. Keith was quiet and subdued, although Hunk couldn't blame him. They had no idea how long Lance could stall for, if the others would even be able to get onto the planet at all. Keith had already said he was okay with going through with this, but that didn't mean he was happy about it.

Thankfully, dinner passed quickly, and before they knew it servants were coming into the room and taking the cutlery, table and chairs away. Three of them moved a couch into the room. Hunk caught a glimpse of guards posted at regular intervals down the corridor. No chance of them making a break for it then.

They were left standing in the room facing each other. Hunk expected Lance to come over the intercom and tell them what to do, but he never did. They stood staring at each other for a few minutes, too nervous to look directly into each other’s eyes, but to wary to look away.

Keith fiddled with a bracelet anxiously, "I guess we should sit down? I don't know about you, but I feel like I'm going to accidentally flash you wearing this outfit. Seriously, all it takes is one wrong move and the whole thing will fall off."

Hunk laughed as he sat down, but a solemn thought hit him. "Mine’s the same, they were probably designed like that."

Keith sat next to him, pressed up against the arm and as far away from Hunk as he could get. Hunk tried not to feel hurt, this was an extremely awkward and humiliating position for them both. He prayed that Lance had a plan to get them out and wasn't just messing with them.

Hunk took a moment to take stock of both himself and Keith. Physically, Hunk was fine. Emotionally, not so much. Nothing that couldn't be dealt with once they get out of this place though. Turning his attention to Keith, he tried to see if he could figure out what he was thinking.

Keith didn't have any visible bruises or cuts. His ears were held close to his head. His outfit was similar to Hunk’s, but red of course. Flecks of gold shimmered in the gauzy material. While Hunk’s outfit only covered his groin, Keith's twisted and wrapped itself over his chest and shoulders. The sheer material didn't leave much to the imagination, but it also gave Hunk the opportunity to ensure that Keith was okay, at least physically. Hunk tried not to think about how much of a creep he felt, but then he started think about how - if Lance didn't get them out of here soon - he might end up seeing more of Keith than he'd ever wanted to.

He sighed, "We’re just going to have to get comfortable I guess."

 

Lance watched as his crush and his best friend made painful small talk on the couch. He tried to smother the small part of him that wished it was him there instead of Hunk. Would Keith still agree to do it? Maybe they could just bond and live happily ever after.

No. Keith, no matter how strong his feelings were for someone, would never tolerate being trapped like that. Lance didn't want to be some creepy alpha who traps their omega and thinks that everything is fine. Lance was better than that, and, more importantly, Keith deserved better than that. Lance wanted to do it the right way. Hopefully Keith would accept his feelings for him.

Lance could feel the President hovering over his shoulder, watching Hunk and Keith. "How long does this stage usually last? They don't seem to be getting any closer to bonding." Lance could hear the scepticism in her voice.

"Well, it usually lasts a few hours. I think they're just shy. I could give them a little push if you'd like? Remind them that we're on a time schedule?"

"Yes, that would probably be for the best."

 

The next few 'rituals' went by quicker than Lance had planned. He had managed to contact the Blade, who were on the next planet in this solar system, but they wouldn't be arriving for another few vargas. Lance was running out of ways to stall and President Feleagh was getting suspicious.

Currently, Lance had them doing couples yoga, which wasn't working out too well. Hunk was twice Keith's weight, and while Keith was ridiculously strong for his size, he couldn't possibly manage to lift Hunk. And where Hunk had strength, he lacked flexibility. They managed to do some of the most basic poses, but Lance had decided to push them a bit. Since he didn't have any pictures on him, he was describing the pose from memory to them while they tried to recreate it. Lance tried not to laugh when Hunk's clothes got caught and started coming loose, prompting him to drop Keith as he tried to shield himself.

"I fail to see how this will improve their chances of a successful mating."

Damn, Lance was hoping she wouldn't ask questions. He fought to keep his tail and ears neutral, those damn things were too expressive sometimes. There was only so much bullshit Lance could come up with on the spot, and he was rapidly running out of ideas.

"Well, you see, this is all for a... dance that they have to complete... together."

"A dance! Why didn't you say so? Many species in this solar system preform mating dances, although this is one of the more complicated ones I've seen."

"This isn't the actual dance itself, just a warmup to get them used to working together."

That seemed to please Feleagh, for now. He turned his attention back to the screen, only to see Keith take a dramatic fall from where he was perched on Hunk's back.

"Lance!!!! I'm going to quiznacking kill you once I find you!!" Keith growled from where he lay on the floor.

Lance gulped, "Hahaha, good one buddy. Let’s move onto the next thing, shall we?"

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the next one would take about a varga to set up. Lance described it as well as he could to Feleagh before he turned to his next task; convincing Keith that this was the best thing to do. Luckily, he was allowed into the room to explain it to them.

"Hey guys, how are you doing?"

"Just peachy," Keith muttered from where he lay face down on the ground. Lance raised an eyebrow at Hunk, who just shrugged, looking as lost as Lance felt.

"I think this is the last one you have to do, so hang tight. Our pack will be here in about two vargas to see the ending."

"Oh, thank the void, I'm so tired. Please tell me the last one is that we get to nap together. That sounds like a brilliant bonding exercise, right Keith?"

Keith grunted, not bothering to move from his floor. His scent had turned sour, and it caught in the back of Lance's throat.

Lance was getting worried about him, "Keith, are you sure you're okay? You know you can talk to us, right?"

Keith jerked upright, whipping around to face them, "Can I? Really? Cause it doesn't quiznacking feel like it. You have us prancing around doing this bullshit and I'm about to sell my soul and body to someone I don't love. My heat was only a week ago, I'm probably going to get pregnant and then I can't pilot anymore and who the hell is going to take over for me? If I get pregnant the war is over, and you have us doing quiznacking couples yoga off all things. Just fucking leave me alone, Lance."

Lance stepped back at Keith's outburst. "I'm sorry, I'm just trying my best here. But this is not my fault."

Keith looked away, curling up with his forehead on his knees. "I just want to go home," he whispered.

Lance's blood was pounding in his ears, but he forced himself to breathe and relax his muscles. The last thing Keith needed right now was an alpha posturing in his face. Lance knew this would be difficult for Keith, but he obviously underestimated how bad it would be. He felt way out of his depth.

"Look Keith, I know this sucks, and I know that it doesn't really feel like we are doing anything to get us out of this situation but trust me when I say that we are trying our best here. Kolivan, Antok and Ulaz are on their way, the rest of Voltron aren't far behind. I'm not going to let anything happen to you, or to Hunk."

Lance smiled at Hunk before turning back to Keith. It was difficult to comfort him when all he wanted to do was bundle Keith up in the softest blanket he can find and get him anything he could ever want. Lance carefully sat down near Keith, close enough to touch if he wanted to but not crowding him. Hunk also sat on the floor, but closer to the door.

"We are Voltron. Voltron! The greatest weapon in this universe. We can handle anything that gets thrown at us. You aren't going to get pregnant, but if you do, we'll manage, okay? We will support you, no matter what. And you literally couldn't ask for a better baby daddy than Hunk. Yeah, maybe you guys aren't in love, but any kid you have will have all the love in the world. They'll have an amazing father and mother, two uncles, an aunt and I have no idea what Pidge would be to them, maybe a cool older sibling? I don't know, doesn't matter, the kid will be loved. And old Grandpa Coran of course! We'll find someone to pilot for you, but you'll always be a part of the team Keith. Right now, we have to focus on getting you two out of here."

"For what it’s worth Keith, I agree with everything Lance said - except please never call me baby daddy ever again, like ever. Please. Just don't do it." Hunk looked like he was going to puke, and Lance couldn't help the giggle that escaped him.

That managed to draw a laugh out of Keith, just as President Feleagh opened the door. "It's all set up for you now."

Lance gulped, he never actually got to talk to Keith about this. "Okay, okay, Keith, remember that thing you told me that one house made you do while you lived there? The one that you hated but actually kind of liked? When you threatened to castrate me if anyone found out because I was the only one, you'd told?"

Keith furrowed his brows, before his eyes widened, "Lance, no."

"Well I might kinda sorta need you to teach Hunk how to do it."

"Lance no, please tell me you're joking."

"And you might have to perform this before your mating."

"Lance! Is nothing sacred? How long do I have to teach him? Oh my god, you're going to be the death of me."

Hunk coughed weakly, "What exactly is it that you'll be teaching me?"

Keith sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Aerial silks."

Hunk gaped at him. "Come again?" He asked weakly.

"You heard me. Aerial silks. The silks hanging from the ceiling, with the aerobatic, mid-air stuff."

"Oh god, I'm going to die," Hunk muttered.

"Well, you and Lance both. Looks like Voltron will be needing two new legs once we get off this planet."

Keith pulled himself off the floor. Reaching the door, he turned around and with a "It’s been a honour flying with you boys" and a wink, he was gone.

"I'm going to be the death of him?" Lance groaned, "More like he’s going to be the death of me."

Hunk sighed, "I get it, you're both disasters."

Chapter Text

Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. Why did he do that? Why did he wink? What the hell was wrong with him? He's spending too much time with Lance.

Keith pressed himself into the wall outside the door, trying to get a grip of himself. He just panicked okay? Lance was there, and he smelled really good, and he was comforting him, and Keith just wanted to launch himself into the sun because he was like a varga away from mating with Hunk and this was not the time to be having Alpha Problems. He's a Defender of the Universe for Christ’s sake, he needs to get it together. Keith took several deep breaths, trying to calm his racing heart. He pushed himself from the wall and followed the two guards that were posted outside and waited for Hunk and Lance to catch up.

 

"Hunk! Be more careful! You're going to hurt yourself." Keith cried. He lurched forwards as if he could catch Hunk.

"Keith, I can't do this. I'm literally going to die. This thing is never going to take my weight, never mind doing any fancy moves. Are people going to be watching? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, not doing it. Not today, or ever if I can help it." Hunk landed on his own two feet. His legs were trembling, as though they could no longer support his weight.

"Do you seriously think I want to do this either? We don't really have a choice. Lance is a dumbass, but at least this buys us time. I promise I won't make you do any fancy moves; you just need to get up onto the silk at least." Keith immediately regretted the harsh tone. He knew Hunk was just scared; he'd been the same when he first started.

Hunk paused, but took a deep breath, "Okay, you're right. Can you show me again?"

Keith sighed, but relented. "Hold the ribbon in the 'okay' signal, like this, so the ribbon is between your index finger and thumb. Got it?"

Hunk nodded, copying Keith as he explained.

"Now, lift yourself up, using your arms. Then, you wrap the fabric around your leg and push it down into a single foot lock. Open the fabric, and then that's it."

Hunk tried it again, and he actually got it. "Keith! I did it! Wait, where am I supposed to go from here?"

Hunk tried not to panic, but he was just standing in the air on a ribbon. Hunk wasn't a fool, he knew he was heavy, and he doubted the fabric could take his weight for long.

"Don't worry about your weight Hunk. It’s not a problem. These ribbons can easily take your weight. Or at least on Earth they can. I'm not actually sure about here, but they are doing good so far?"

Hunk frowned, and Keith winced. "Right sorry, not helping. Umm, well I was thinking I could show you some of the most basic moves, but focus on your strength rather than flexibility? I can do some more complicated ones around you and turn it into some kind of performance? I don't know this whole thing is stupid."

"Keith, I literally don't care right now. How do I get down? I'm standing on ribbon, get me down."

"Okay, okay, just pull yourself up so that your arms are taking your weight and I'll unwrap the ribbon."

Hunk lay on the floor, "Sorry Keith, but you are the worst teacher. I'm never going up there again."

Keith sighed. This was going to be the longest varga of his life.

 

After their disastrous lesson, Hunk and Keith were led away to separate room to prepare for the ceremony. Keith's stomach rolled and he squeezed his eyes shut. He didn't want to see his breakfast again. There was a reason Keith hated his aerial silk lessons when he was a kid. He enjoyed the actual act itself, it made him feel strong and in control, something that he lacked in his life back then. But he hated the performance part of it. The thought of so many eyes on him made his throat close up.

If Keith was already feeling awful, he'd hate to see how Hunk was doing. Guilt sunk low in his gut. Keith knew he was a bad teacher; he tried his best, but he just couldn't explain himself properly. Hunk was already anxious enough as it was, he didn't need Keith and his horrible teacher ruining his confidence even more. But they had a time limit, and Keith knew this dance had to be a least somewhat believable.

A dozen girls flitted around Keith, pulling at his clothes and hair. They were the same ones from earlier, or was that yesterday? He had lost all sense of time, and with no windows in the room, he would just have to guess.

They pulled him into a seat and started doing his hair. They pulled it into intricate braids, looping over each other and setting them on the crown of his head. His hair wasn't very long, but they managed. Thankfully, they left him in the same clothes he was in. He didn't want to have to change again, the first time was bad enough.

The girls chatted to themselves before finally letting him go. Two guards appeared at the door to escort him to wherever they would hold their performance. Keith felt sick with anxiety, from both the dance and the mating. Were people going to watch that too? Keith's breath quickened. He couldn't do this, where were the Blades? They weren't going to get here in time. Keith had tried to make their dance as long as possible, but there was only so much he could do. Hunk couldn't just stand in the corner for the whole thing.

Keith's mind went to Lance. Keith wished he could have gone back and said something to him earlier. Even though Hunk had said that Keith could pursue anyone he wanted, Keith didn't think he could do that. He couldn't confess to Lance after this because Lance was too good. He deserved someone who would be one hundred percent committed to him. He deserved someone who wasn't used goods. He deserved someone better.

And Lance was too nice. He'd agree to go out with Keith purely out of the kindness of his heart. He could be an insensitive dick sometimes, but Lance always pulled through when it mattered. He wouldn't want Keith to feel bad about himself, so he'd say yes, even if he didn't actually love Keith. Keith couldn't let that happen.

As the guards ahead turned a corner, a hand grabbed Keith and yanked him into a closet. Keith let out a startled yelp but was quickly cut off by a hand over his mouth. He was pulled into someone, his back to their chest. Keith struggled, elbowing the person in the ribs before their scent registered. Kolivan.

Keith quickly relaxed, turning in his arms to face him. "Kolivan," he whimpered.

"Shh, kit, you're okay. Antok and Ulaz have gone to get your friends, then we'll get off this planet." Kolivan pressed his forehead to Keith's.

"Kolivan, I was so scared, and they were-" Keith's eyes watered, he cut himself off with a sob.

"Keith, kit, look at me. Everything is going to be fine, okay? I won't let anything happen to you. We're getting off this planet. Come, climb up onto my back. I'll get you back to your lion."

Keith sniffled, but latched himself onto Kolivan’s back. "Hold on tightly, I'm going to scale this wall and into the ventilation system. It's a bit of a tight squeeze for me but we don't have far to go."

Kolivan pulled himself into the ventilation system, and gently nudged Keith off. "You go ahead, and I'll direct from behind. Take the first left for now."

 

Climbing through the vents was slow going. Since Keith was ahead, he had to wait for Kolivan to catch up every time he came to a junction. They also had to be as quiet as possible, as they could hear the guards below them making a commotion. Apparently Keith's disappearance had been noticed. Keith hoped that Lance and Hunk had gotten away before this, as there was no way they'd that manage it now.

Keith came to another grate, and after a confirmation from Kolivan, he popped it out. He quickly climbed down, surveying the area. They were in a storage room. Keith could see a window to the outside world.

Kolivan landed next to him with a huff, "That's it, kit, now we wait for the others to catch up."

Lance and Antok arrived next, Lance looking stressed out of his mind. "Oh, thank god you're here Keith, we weren't sure if you made it out yet."

Lance scooped Keith up in a hug, subtlety scenting him to see if he was distressed. Although Keith did have a lingering sour smell to him, he smelt mainly of adrenaline.

Keith wriggled out of the hug when Ulaz and Hunk joined them. He wanted to check if Hunk was okay, but he felt to awkward to approach him. Instead he sent him a shy smile while Lance bounded over and pulled Hunk into a hug.

"Princess Allura and the rest of Voltron are meeting with President Feleagh as we speak. We have approximately ten doboshes left. Let's go."

The next few minutes were a blur. They managed to get to their lions without being spotted and waited inside for the others to leave.

"What are they talking about?" Keith asked curiously.

"Their treatment of the males of their species and obviously their treatment of you, kitten. They have agreed that if they do not change their ways, they are not welcome to join the coalition. You three will never have any interaction with them regardless." Kolivan lay a hand on Keith shoulder, squeezing gently.

Keith felt like a balloon with all the air let out. He slumped into the pilot’s seat. It was over. This whole disgusting disaster was over. He didn't have to stay here. He was with his pack. He was safe.

Chapter Text

Keith was curled up in his nest. He had a blanket thrown over his head, the lights down low and the door locked. It was three quintants since 'The Incident'. Luckily, Allura and Pidge had managed to convince them to change their ways, but unfortunately that meant staying on the planet longer. The Blades had forbidden Keith from helping, something he was entirely too happy to do. He nearly wished they could have stuck to their sexist ways, at least he'd never have to see them again.

(But then he felt horrible for wishing that fate on others just so he could feel better. He was so selfish.)

He hated how powerless he had felt. How weak and dependent. Without Lance and the Blades, he'd probably already be pregnant by now. Lance and Hunk had seen Keith at his worst, five seconds away from an anxiety attack. He was snappy and rash, rude and abrasive. He yelled at Hunk for god's sake. Hunk, the purest person on this ship, possibly the universe.

And Keith was ashamed to admit it, but he was avoiding them. He was a coward. He couldn't avoid Hunk and Lance without the others questioning it, or worse, questioning how he himself was feeling. So here he was, curled up in bed, hiding from the world. The team were working their asses off to make this planet a better place - for everyone - and he was throwing himself a pity party.

He buried himself further into the soft blankets and sheets. He had removed everything that smelled like his pack from it, leaving only the Blades things. The team’s scents just reminded him of them, which brought up his guilt, which sent him spiralling further into bad thoughts. So, he removed them. His nest wasn't right though, without them. He couldn't fully settle down, his inner omega worried where the pack had gone without him.

After an indistinguishable amount of time, a knock sounded from his door. He held his breath, hoping whoever it was would just go away. He didn't want anyone to see him like this.

"Kit? We know you're in there, we can hear you breathing. Let us in please."

Antok.

Keith waited a few more seconds, hoping he would just leave but it soon became clear that he had no intention of doing so. Keith groaned, dragging himself from his pathetic nest to open the door. He was met by all three of the resident galra. Keith immediately regretted getting up. He tried to close the door, but Kolivan stuck his foot in the way. Keith winced, but slowly cracked the door open.

The three Blades didn't say anything as they slipped past him. Ulaz was carrying a bundle of cloth, Antok had snacks and drinks and Kolivan had books. Without a word, they started setting up a poorly constructed nest on the floor near his. Keith nearly cried when he realized what they were doing. Silently, he pulled one side of his nest down and started incorporating the two together. It was awkward, Keith's nest was on the bed while theirs was on the floor, but Keith wanted to share his nest with people he loved. He couldn't help but giggle when the wall of their nest collapsed. He pulled the whole thing down, his included, and started afresh.

He built the foundation, strong but soft with the roughest materials they had (not that it was rough at all, just by comparison). Then he wove the next few layers together, Ulaz handing him some blankets form their collection. Everything smelt so strongly of them. He added pillows and blankets to the rim, to make it sturdy, and then added the final few layers, the softest materials he had on hand.

He climbed in and burrowed around a little, before patting the blankets beside him and chirping. The Blades clambered in, trying to be careful of the delicate walls. They all settled down around him, close enough for him to touch, if he wanted.

Keith let the silence settle over him. He tried to think of anything other than the planet, but his mind kept coming back to it. At the time, he knew that he'd do what he'd have to do, and he was genuinely okay with that. And he wholeheartedly believed what he said, Hunk would be an amazing mate, even though neither of them consented properly. And maybe, over time, Keith could fall in love with him. Keith stopped his train of thought there. It was over now, over and done with. Keith would never let himself be caught in that situation ever again.

Keith rolled over, nuzzling under Ulaz's arm. He let the heavy weight settle over him, inhaling Ulaz's scent. He smelt clean and fresh, with a faint undertone of some antibacterial spray. Probably from spending so much time in the med bay. Would Ulaz have been there for Keith if he actually became pregnant? Would he have been with him through all his check-ups, the birth itself? Maybe he would have taken Keith's health into his own hands and became Keith's doctor.

Keith muffled a whine into Ulaz's ribcage before sitting up. He pulled his datapad closer, looking at the team's schedule for the day. It looked like everyone was planet side at the moment, so Keith decided to head to the training deck. Clearly hanging around in his nest wasn't distracting him enough.

"Where do you think you're going, Keith?"

Keith's shoulders hiked up as he froze. Kolivan was using what Lance would call 'his leader voice', firm, commanding and positively oozing 'don't fuck with me' vibes.

"To the training deck." Keith didn't dare turn around. He knew if he did he'd be faced with not one, but three 'Disappointed Dad Stares'. Shiro had nothing on these guys.

"I don't think so. You are exhausted, when was the last time you slept? Or ate a decent meal? You don't look well, and I am not going to let you risk your health over this. If something is bothering you, you can talk to us, kit. We're here for you." Ulaz said.

Keith opened his mouth to protest but one look from Antok silenced him. He sighed, resigned to his fate. Slowly, he crawled back to his spot in the nest. Ulaz, Antok and Kolivan were important to him. He knew they were trustworthy but opening up was hard. He was afraid. Afraid that they'd see what a flawed person he was and decide he wasn't worth the effort. Afraid they'd think he wasn't galra enough, or that the Paladins would think he wasn't human enough. Afraid that he'd wake up one morning and they'd be gone, vanishing without a trace like so many people in his life.

He knew, logically, that that probably wouldn't happen. They were good people, but years of broken trust had made him wary. If he opened up to them now, there would be no going back. Thankfully, the Blades didn't push him. They trusted him and he decided that he should show them the same courtesy.

He took a deep breath, exhaling with a whoosh. Steeling himself for the inevitable breakdown that was about to come, he began. "Back on that planet, I nearly... I nearly had to mate with Hunk. I was scared. I don't want to be bonded to someone I don't love for the rest of my life."

Keith paused, trying to gather his thoughts. He wrapped his arms around himself. "I- We... I panicked, I guess. I snapped at Lance. Hunk too. I didn't even consider how they were feeling. Hunk was also about to bond to someone he doesn't love, and Lance was the one aiding the mar'gans, even if he was just stalling. He was pushing his best friend and teammate to mate. Th-they were trying their best, and I was a jerk to them."

Keith whimpered as he tried to stop himself form crying. He was fine! Nothing happened! He had no reason to be feeling this upset. Hunk and Lance - the whole team actually - had been there for him, had looked after him and made sure he was okay. And here he was, three days later, still crying about it like an idiot. He was the one who had landed them in that situation, he knew something was wrong the moment they landed but he didn't say anything.

"I shouldn't even be on the team. There are better pilots, better swordsmen, better omegas in the universe. They should have someone on the team who can function in a difficult situation without needing to be babied for three days later. They deserve someone who can look them in the eye and apologise. Hell, they need someone who wouldn't have snapped in the first place."

Keith buried his head in his knees. "Maybe I should just leave the team," he whispered.

Silence filled the room in the wake of his outburst. He was surprised the Blades didn't immediately leave. They were fighting a war and had been for years. They didn't need to sit here and listen to some kids - some kits - problems.

Keith startled when a hand was laid on his back, but the touch was gentle. It ran in soothing circles up and down his back. Keith risked a peek, surprised to see that it was Kolivan. Kolivan wasn't the most... caring of the three.

"Kit, everything you're are feeling? It's valid. I'm not going to tell you that it's wrong. And that was an incredibly tense and stressful situation for all three of you. But there is a simple solution to all of this guilt you are feeling. Apologise to them, talk to them. Explain how you are feeling, what you are thinking. If you truly, truly believe that the team would be better off without you, then you are welcome to come back to the Blades with us. But only if you are sure. You are a good kit and a fearsome fighter. When I was your age, I was still clinging to my mother's skirts. My biggest problem was deciding what colour candy I wanted. You are strong, and brave. I think your team would be lost without you."

Antok and Ulaz nodded in agreement and Keith lost the battle with his tears. How could they make it seem so easy? Just apologise? That's it? That's all he has to do? Would Hunk and Lance actually forgive him?

"You're alright, kit. It's over now. We won't let anyone hurt you. We'll work through this, the four of us." Antok murmured, pushing Keith's hair back from his face.

 

A few hours later found Keith nervously waiting for the team to arrive. He had sobbed and cried and whimpered for a solid hour and then fell into a deep sleep. When he woke up, Ulaz had helped him sooth his swollen and red eyes, while Antok fetched him a bottle of water. He was so scared that they'd leave him once they saw how weak he was, but they hadn't. They stayed, gave him advice and looked after him. He had practiced his apology with them, and he was feeling, well, not confident exactly, but better. Crying really did help you feel better. Or maybe actually having some semblance of a support system would do that to you.

The moment he saw them, everything he had practiced went out the window. He felt weak, physically weak. His hands shook and his knees nearly buckled. Hunk and Lance seemed to notice he was waiting for them and waved the rest of the team off. Pidge glanced curiously as they passed, and Keith knew he'd have to explain to them later.

"Hey buddy, how ya doing?" Hunk pulled Keith into a side hug. Keith selfishly wanted to hide there, bury his face in his chest and drown in his comforting scent.

"Umm," Keith started, his ears twitching, "I- Uh, I wanted to apologize." Yeah, that's a great start Kogane, real great.

Lance looked confused but motioned for him to carry on. Keith stepped away from Hunk. He needed to see their faces, judge their reactions.

"I'm sorry. For everything. I snapped at both of you and - wait Lance, please just let me say this - I snapped at both of you, when you were just trying to help. I was... scared. I was terrified. It was my fault that we were trapped there, I shouldn't have told them that you were my mates. The moment I knew something was wrong I should have gotten us off that planet. I'm supposed to be Shiro's right hand man, and I can barely look after myself, never mind the rest of the team. So, I'm sorry. You didn't deserve that treatment."

Keith glared at the ground, wishing it would swallow him whole. Hunk was the first to move. "Thank you for your apology but I really don't think it's necessary. Like you said, you were scared. I was scared too. And stressed, and anxious, tired, you name it, I probably felt it. But we made it out, and honestly? I think you handled it pretty well." Hunk pulled Keith into another hug, and his scent was genuine. There was no lingering sadness, or resentment. He smelled as earthy and clear as he always did. Keith wanted to sigh with relief, but Lance hasn't spoken yet.

When Hunk let go of Keith, Lance stepped forward. "Keith, we're a team. You don't have to take care of everyone on the team, we take care of each other. I forgive you, of course I do. I nearly snapped as well. And I wasn't the one about to sell my soul. Neither of us hold it against you. You know what I'm thinking? We haven't done a pack cuddle in a while, let's go rebuild the lounge nest!"

"Woohoo!!! Pack cuddle time!! I'm going to go make cookies, or as close as I can get anyway." Hunk said, already stalking towards the kitchen.

Keith watched him go, before shyly smiling up at Lance.

"Seriously man, we're cool. Don't tell anyone I said this, but I was scared too." Lance grinned, nudge Keith with his elbow.

Keith gasped dramatically, "You? The Great Lance McClain? Scared?"

They both giggled as they headed to the lounge. Keith was glad he apologized, apparently it was that easy.

Chapter Text

The lounge was quiet. Too quiet. Keith was tense, shoulders drawn up and eyebrows furrowed. He was waiting. He grasped his tail firmly, to stop its flicking. He felt energy thrumming through his veins, compelling him to move, to do something. Unfortunately, Shiro had banned him from the training room. And the Blades were on a separate mission, so they couldn't distract him.

"Okay, I can't watch this anymore. Keith, what the hell is wrong with you?" Lance was hanging upside down, legs over the back of the couch. Keith bristled, tail puff to twice its size and ear lying flat. Lance winced, back tracking quickly.

"Sorry, sorry I didn't mean it like that. I meant like, are you okay? What's wrong?" Lance held his hands up in a placatory gesture.

Keith sucked in a deep breath, holding it before letting it slowly. "It's just weird okay? It's too q-"

"Ah bup bup bup bup, don't you dare finish that sentence, Kogane." Lance glared, "You are going to jinx it."

"I'm not going to jinx it! It's true, I can't relax. I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop. And something is different about the castle recently as well. It's putting me on edge. And now Shiro has banned me from the training deck."

Keith's ears flicked as he heard footsteps down the corner. A soft scent filled the air before the door to the lounge opened. Keith glanced up, belatedly identifying it as Pidge. Their scent was off, something else underlaying it. Keith wondered if they were coming down with something. Or maybe they had been rolling around in engine oil again. Keith made a mental note to subtly (or not so subtly) remind them to shower, and maybe check their temperature while he's at it.

Pidge sighed loudly as they sat on the floor. "Anyone else feeling weird?"

"Yes! Thank you. Somethings up, it's too- "

"Quiet, yeah we get it. Seriously, what do you do in your spare time? Fuss over Pidge? Sharpen your blade? Read?" Lance said, sitting up properly.

"He doesn't fuss- "

"I don't fuss over Pidge! And Luxite doesn't need to be sharpened, I just polish it." Pidge and Keith said simultaneously.

Lance just waved his arms, "Semantics. I know for a fact that you read, although I don't know where you got those books from. Try that and stop whining."

Keith huffed, glancing at Pidge before standing up. He tried not to feel like a kid that just been dismissed by their parents, but he had to admit that Lance was right. He should be using this time to catch up on reading and not worrying about their next battle or mission. That's why Shiro locked him out of the training deck in the first place. He just couldn't shake the feeling that something was different, that something was coming.

He put that thought out of his mind as he approached the library. He hadn't visited since he was sick, which felt like forever ago. He laughed, remembering all the research he had done in the name of knowing the enemy. Now he was the enemy, or at least half the same species as them and he had three uncle/father figures who were also galra. He wasn't in the mood for more research, although he knew that the galra had a whole culture that he knew nothing about. He wanted to read something fun, to help calm him down. A novel would be better.

Unbeknownst to the team, Keith and Pidge had started learning both Altean and Galran. Pidge picked up Altean quicker than he could comprehend, and would probably be fluent in no time, while Keith was better at Galran. Some of the sounds were difficult to make, guttural and deep. Keith could imitate them, but Pidge had no hope. Human vocal cords just weren't designed for those sounds.

Pidge originally started learning Altean because they were frustrated with having to translate everything before they could do any work with the castle, but when Keith joined them, they decided to keep it a secret to surprise Allura and Coran. They all missed home, and they couldn't imagine what it must be like to know that they will never see it again. Their entire world, the people and its culture, was gone.

Keith picked up what looked like an altean adventure novel. The words were fairly basic, so it was probably for children, but Keith didn't mind. Despite this room being labelled as 'The Library' there was no comfortable seating, only a hard-wooden table. Previously, Keith had made a small nest for himself, back when he was sick and hiding from everyone. He had dismantled it after the disastrous trip to Mar'ghal. He realised that he needed to stop hiding from his friends - no, his family. They were a pack, something that Keith hadn't had in a very long time, not since his Dad had died.

Keith trusted them with his life on the battlefield, so he could trust them with his innermost thoughts and fears off it. Or that was the logic anyway, it was easier to say it than to actually do it, but he was trying his hardest. He would probably always get overwhelmed in huge social gathering, he would probably always need alone time, where he could decompress after stressful situations, but that was okay.

He decided to head to the observation deck, it was usually quiet there, but it was easy enough for someone to find him if they needed. And, more importantly, it was comfortable. There were several seating areas sunken into the floor, almost like nests. They were lined with a soft material, similar to the material their mattresses were made with. When he had asked Coran about it, he had shown him a closet in the room filled with pillows and blankets.

Coran had a wistful smile on his face as he explained that many families lived in the castle, and they used to all gather here in the evenings to tell stories and sing under the stars before retiring for bed. Keith pretended not to notice as Coran discreetly wiped away tears, before announcing that Keith was welcome to use this room whenever he felt like it, and that the invitation was extended to the other Paladins as well.

So far, Keith had only seen Shiro, and once, briefly, Allura, in this room. It seemed to be an unspoken agreement between them all not to break the silence here. To allow people the privacy that came from the separate seating areas. That suited Keith fine, as he had no clue how to comfort people anyway. Kids? Yeah, sure. Adults? No way. Keith wasn't sure if that was his omega side or if that was all Keith though.

Today, Keith spotted Shiro sitting in one of the areas close to the windows. Keith walked a little heavier so that Shiro knew he was there but otherwise didn't speak. He settled into the blankets in his chosen spot at the back of the room. Here he could keep an eye on Shiro without invading his privacy.

Keith immersed himself in his book, and soon forgot that he was actually reading. Time slipped by and before Keith knew it, several hours had passed. Keith sighed and rolled over. He was a bit sore from staying in one position for too long, but it was so worth it. The alteans were amazing story tellers, and this plot was like nothing he had ever read.

Keith startled when he felt a heavy weight sink into the mattress behind him. He tensed but recognized the pine scent as Shiro's. He had been so focused on his book that he didn't even hear Shiro approach him. Keith rolled over to face him.

"Shiro?" he questioned quietly.

Keith took a deep breath of Shiro's scent. It was heavy, with fear and grief. "Oh, Shiro," he whispered, cuddling closer to his older brother. Shiro was lying flat on his back and slipped his arm around Keith's shoulder. He pulled a blanket over them. Keith waited patiently for Shiro to speak his mind.

"Sorry, I- What do my family think? What do they think happened to me? What did they Garrison tell them?" Shiro said. "Were Chichi and Haha upset? Angry? They were always so supportive, and I feel like I let them down. What about Koharu and Hina? I won't be there to see them presenting, hell I wasn't even there when you presented. I promised to protect them, and I'm all the way out here light years away." He took a deep breath.

"I miss them," he whispered.

Keith wondered how he always managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (or was it the right place at the right time?). First Lance, and now Shiro. He paused, knowing that Shiro would wait for him to gather his thoughts and organise them into something coherent.

"The Garrison said it was pilot error. That that's what happened on Kerberos. There was a funeral for you held about a month later. I didn't really get a chance to speak them, but I did talk to your Dad. She was upset, obviously, but she agreed with me. It was not pilot error. She knew that you wouldn't have made a mistake, and that your disease wouldn't have progressed so far so quickly to the point where it would have caused it. They had hope; hope that you were still alive, somewhere out there and I promised to find you. As for your sisters? They are proud of you, always, no matter what. And they are still young, only thirteen. They still have at least three more years before they present. Who knows, maybe we'll get back before then. And, I'm not going to lie, presenting without you sucked. I missed you, but I got through it. And I'd do it a thousand times if it meant I could get my big brother back. I've already told Lance this, but we are protecting Earth. Even from all the way out here. We are stopping the Empire from advancing any further. As long as we do our jobs, Earth will be safe."

Shiro was silent for a long time, before he started giggling. "God, when did you get so mature and grown up, Otouto? Look at you, comforting me and being responsible. If something ever happened to me, I want you to lead Voltron in my place."

"Oh my god, shut up Shiro. Nothing's going to happen to you, you're fine. And somehow, I've become the group’s homesickness therapist or something, so I need to be somewhat mature. Even if I am pulling this stuff out of my ass."

"Keith!" Shiro squawked, "Watch your language young man!"

Keith snickered as he rolled away from Shiro, pulling the blanket with him. His ear flipped the wrong way as he went, and he got tangled in the blanket and couldn't fix it. After desperately struggling for a few minutes, he eventually gave up with huff.

"Shirooo," he whined, "Help me."

Shiro laughed, "Ah, sweet, sweet karma. Since you're so wise now, I think you are well capable of getting yourself out of this mess."

Keith's struggling intensified as Shiro stood up. "No, no Shiro! Don't leave me here! Shiro!! Takashi Shirogane get back here!! The moment we get back to Earth I'm telling your sisters what a loser you are! Shiro!!" Keith resigned himself to his fate, collapsing back onto the pillows.

 

A few minutes later, Keith heard footsteps from the corridor. "Kitten!! Here kitty, kitty!! Pshh shshshsh. Kitty!! Dinner’s ready!! Do you want your din-din?"
Keith groaned, and sank lower into his blankets. Maybe they would take mercy and smother him already so he could get away from this infuriating idiot who he happened to have a crush on.

The door opened and Lance stepped in. "Kitten, there you are! Aww, is poor Mr Shnukums all tangled up? Oh, poor baby. Don't worry, Lancey Lance is here to save you."

Even though he knew he was only teasing, Keith couldn't help but blush. Lance calling him 'baby' was... nice. Not that he'd ever admit that. Keith shook his head, there was no time to contemplate his unrequited crush now, he needed to escape.

Lance burst into a fit of giggles when he saw Keith ear folded in on itself. Keith shook his head again, trying to flip it and Lance just laughed harder.

"Lance, stop standing there and save me!"

"Ah ah ah, what the magic word?"

Keith glared at the ceiling. Lance was going to be the death of him, if Keith did kill him before then. "Please?"

"Huh, I didn't think that would actually work." Lance flipped Keith ear back, before trying to unroll him from the blankets. "How did you get stuck here anyway?"

"Shiro," Keith muttered mournfully. There was no escaping this encounter with his dignity intact. By this evening everyone in this castle will have heard about this, and by the end of the movement the entire Galaxy will have heard. Keith Kogane, Red Paladin of Voltron, bested by some blankets.

"Seriously though, Shiro sent me to fetch you for dinner. How was your day? Did you manage to relax?"

Keith stretched, his back and neck popping. He laughed at the expression on Lance’s face. "Yeah, yeah I did. I started a new book; it was actually pretty good. And then Shiro ruined it by leaving me to suffer. He such an ass. Thanks for telling me to relax, I needed it. And for freeing me from the blanket, I guess." Keith muttered the last part, refusing to make eye contact.

"Aw Kitten, it’s no problem. I'd be happy to save you from the big bad blanket again." Lance swung his arm around Keith shoulders, pulling him closer.

Keith blushed furiously, ducking his head. This was fine, Lance was an affectionate person, even more so since they had become pack. Keith pushed any thoughts of what it would be like if he could cuddle up to the alpha in a not-so-platonic way. Keith tried to relax his shoulders; he didn't want Lance to think he had any problem with affection.

Luckily, the dining room was in sight. Keith tried not to be too disappointed when Lance pulled away. Strictly platonic Keith, strictly platonic. Keith sat in his usual seat at the centre of the table, but he pulled Lance into Shiro's seat, with Pidge on his other side and Hunk in front of him. When Shiro entered, he snickered when he saw the new arrangement but didn't say anything.

 

After dinner, everyone retired to the lounge to watch a movie on Pidge's laptop. The greatest thing Hunk and Pidge had ever managed to make was a way to connect the laptop to the castle ship so they could watch things on the projector. Keith was still ignoring Shiro, so he plonked himself between Lance and Pidge, leaning against the couch where Hunk was sitting.

Halfway through the movie though, he moved to cuddle with his big brother, he couldn't stay mad at him for long.

Chapter Text

Keith felt like he hadn't had a break since ‘The Incident’, which was several weeks ago, or whatever that was in 'space time' as Lance called it. It had been a while. One of Kolivan's best infiltrators, who had been station directly in Zarkon's Central Command, had found a flaw in the system. The Blades were quick to jump on it, and Voltron were thrown into a whirlwind of planning and preparations.

Keith knew, objectively, that it took a lot to plan the demise of such a powerful Emperor. How many people have attempted to defeat a dictator - who had literally been ruling for thousands of years - and managed to get out of it relaxed and carefree? The answer was none. The last time they had a direct confrontation with this guy they ended up in four separate places, Shiro nearly died, Hunk was hypnotised, and Coran was turned into a baby. But this was ridiculous.

In the past twenty-four hours alone, he has witnessed three people crying for completely separate (but all stupid) reasons. At 11:47 (according to their 'space watches') Lance dropped a bowl of food goo on the ground. After a full minute of staring, he lay on the floor and cried. They were in the middle of a meeting. Hunk escorted him out for another bowl and a nap.

At 14:16, Shiro broke a nail while blindly reaching for his cup of 'space coffee'. ("Just because we’re in space doesn't mean you have to put 'space' in front of everything, Lance." "You're just jealous that I get to use the 'space headphones' and you don't!" "Those are from Earth!") Everyone ignored the silent tears that streamed down his face, even as he valiantly continued his speech.

And last but not least, was Keith himself. At 20: something-or-other, Keith failed to beat a level-one bot and broke down in tears. The Blades watched in horror as their kit was beaten by the easiest level. Keith watched as his dignity, his fearsome and tough persona, and his pride were washed away by his own tears. The worst part was that Keith wasn't even in that many of the meetings. He was in the most important ones, but so many of them were going over tiny details. After catching Keith doodling for the third time, and Hunk falling asleep at his seat, Shiro dismissed them. Keith tried to rationalise that it was his omega instincts, latching on to the stress of his pack and causing him to get stressed.

(Seriously though, did they really need so many plans? Even the backup plan's backup plan had a backup plan!)

The whole castle smelt like someone had open a bottle of old milk mixed with onions. Keith could barely distinguish anyone's scent anymore, everyone just smelled overwhelmingly bad. The alphas, alteans and Pidge didn't seem to notice too much, but Keith and Hunk had much more sensitive senses of smell. Hunk tried to mask it by baking in his free time, while Keith just resigned himself to breathing through his mouth (not that that was any better).

And to make things worse, Pidge's scent was still off. It was driving him nuts. He'd seen them come out of their room with wet hair and smelling like soap. If they were coming down with something, it would have happened by now. There was only one other explanation, but it literally couldn't be worse timing. They were about to present.

 

Currently, Keith and Hunk were waiting outside the Control Room for the meeting to be over. Keith had probably spent an unhealthy amount of time training, but he was just so restless. He wished they could just fly to Central Command, blow the whole thing up and fly out. There, easy, with the added bonus of taking out The Witch too. Two birds with one stone. But no, the last time had ended badly. They had to spent weeks planning out every minute detail, every tiny thing that could go wrong.

And, (Keith didn't want to admit it) he was lonely. With the exception of Hunk, Ulaz, Coran and Keith, everyone was pretty much always at the meetings. Hunk was stress baking, and Keith couldn't help with that. Ulaz and Coran were busy running the ship and updating it. Again, something Keith couldn't really help with. He couldn't wait until he could actually do something, get in on the action.

The doors to the Control Room swished open, and Keith straightened up. Shiro exited first, followed closely by Lance and Pidge. All three of them had tired smiles on their faces. Keith's ears perked up, taking note of Shiro and Lance's wagging tails. He held his breath.

"We've got it!! Kitten, we've got it!!! We are going to kick Zarkon's ass!!" Lance cried, pulling Keith into a hug. Keith sunk into his embrace, noticing that his scent had cleared up a little, settling back into its usual cheerfulness, or close to it. Pidge latched themselves to their sides, snuggling into their warmth.

"I'm so glad that the planning stage it over, now we can actually begin. I'm so tired from constant meetings." They yawned, leaning into Keith.

Shiro laughed, "I think we all deserve a rest, tomorrow we are taking the first steps towards defeating Zarkon."

Keith let out a breathless laugh, "I'm so glad we can actually begin now. I've been going stir crazy over here."

"Why don't we have one last sleepover before we get stuck in? Hunk has baked enough treats to last us a lifetime." Lance grinned.

"Yeah, that sounds good," Keith said shyly.

 

Hunk and Keith were going to retrieve scaultrite from the belly of a Weblum (whatever that was), while Pidge, Lance and Shiro are going to a retrieve a genius, Slav, from a galran prison. Keith had his reservations about sending Shiro to a galra prison, you know, the place where he had been held and tortured for a year, but Shiro didn't voice any concerns so Keith decided to ask Pidge to keep an eye on him.

The Blades were heading back to headquarters to inform the rest of them, while Coran headed to Olkarion and Allura to the Balmera. The team would be separated, if everything went well, for just under twelve hours, but Keith couldn't help the anxiety rising in his chest. The omega in him screamed not to let the others go after finally finding a pack, but he knew that this was necessary. At least this gave him a chance to actively participate, and also to talk to Hunk about Pidge.

The ride over was uneventful, but it took them four hours to find the Weblum. They passed by the remains of planets. Shivers ran down his spine. He could tell that something unnatural had happened here. It was nearly the same feeling he got out in the desert, but sinister and ominous. Whatever had happened Keith could tell caused a lot of pain and suffering, even death. The only good thing was that they managed to find the Weblum. And then they discovered that Coran's video was corrupted, eroded from time. They would have to go in blind.

The inside of the Weblum was disgusting, but then again, what did they expect? They kept getting attacked by what they could only guess was bacteria. Hunk was scared and Keith tried his best to reassure him, he even told a joke! (Granted, he'd never actually admit that.) They got separated pretty early on, but Keith was confident Hunk could take care of himself.

As he was falling from the first stomach to the second, he noticed a small ship trapped in the lining of the digestive track. He knew he had to save whoever it was, even if it did slow him down.

"Hold still, I'm getting you out!" he called, using his bayard to break the glass. However, as soon as he'd pulled the person free, he realised they were galra. Keith had made his peace with his galra side, but that didn't mean he wanted to interact with the Empire. Part of him wanted to just leave the soldier, but he knew he couldn't do it. This galra, whoever they were, probably had a family to return to. They hadn't started this war, and they possibly didn't even want it. Keith knew it was a stretch, but he couldn't leave this person here to die. If they ended up being an asshole, they could just leave them on the Weblum, but at least they tried.

Keith did want to be safe though, so he disarmed the galra. The galra turned their ship into a bomb, which took out the majority of the bacteria chasing them. Keith was glad to see Hunk again in the third stomach, even if it did mean fighting more bacteria. Hunk was wary of the newcomer, but honestly, Keith couldn't blame him. He just wanted this whole experience over, if they stayed in the stomach for any longer the fur on his tail would get singed off.

Thankfully, Hunk used that big brain of his, and they managed to secure the scaultrite. The galra pulled a gun on him and stole a bag, but Keith couldn't even say he was surprised. Just disappointed (was he spending too much time with Shiro? He's starting to sound like a dad.) The whole experience put him in a bad mood, but he refused to admit that he was sulking. He was just thinking... in the corner of the cockpit... by himself... okay fine, he was sulking. He had just hoped that maybe this galra would prove that not all galra were evil.

At least on the way home, he managed to have a conversation with Hunk about Pidge. After he was done sulking of course.

"You're sure you haven't noticed anything?"

"I mean, it might be there under all that grief and stress. They've been working hard to find their family as well as sort out all this Zarkon stuff. You know omega's sense of smell is much better anyway."

"Yeah, I'm just nervous. So many things could go wrong, what if they present in the middle of the battle or something? None of their family are here to help them, we're basically going in blind. And it's not like we can just ask them what they think they'll be. Maybe I am imagining it, but I want to be safe you know? If they present as an alpha and we aren’t prepared? You know Shiro and Lance could tear them apart."

"I dunno man, I think you're getting ahead of yourself. Pidge's scent hasn't changed enough for me to notice, so I think it's safe to say that it won't happen for a few weeks yet. And whatever happens happens, we just have to deal with it."

Keith sighed and crossed his arms. "I guess. I just worry about them. They're so... small."

Hunk laughed, "That how the rest of us feel about you, Keith."

"I'm not that small!!" Keith huffed.

"Oh my god, what if you like, turned galra and grew seven feet. That would be hilarious. You'd probably still be the smallest galra in existence."

Keith groaned, "For the last time Hunk! I'm not going to turn purple!"

Chapter Text

The team stood in the hangers, getting ready for their separate missions. Hunk and Keith were almost ready, while Shiro and Pidge were just waiting for Lance. He was giving Blue one final polish so that "her sparkles would blind the enemies" despite the fact that Blue herself wouldn't be in any combat situations.

Once Lance was finished, the whole team gathered around to say their goodbyes. Hunk pulled Pidge into a smothering hug, sneaking them a few snacks "for the road". Pidge squeezed him tightly, enjoying his calming scent. Seemingly fed up waiting, Lance separated them and pulled Hunk into his own crushing hug. Pidge moved over to Keith just as Shiro finished saying goodbye.

"Hey pup," he said, ruffling their hair. Pidge rolled their eyes and latched onto his waist. He laughed, but it sounded bittersweet. His tail lay limp behind him, nearly dragging on the floor.

"Everything's going to be fine, Pidge. Promise.” It wasn’t clear who he was trying to reassure, Keith or Pidge. “And keep an eye on Shiro and Lance for me, will you? God know what those idiots will get into without someone watching over them."

Pidge giggled and released him. "I know you're worried about Shiro, but I'll do my best. I think he can handle it though."

"Yeah, I just can't help worrying. Can you blame me? Lance just spent half an hour polishing his lion and he still hasn't realised he doesn't have his helmet with him! Once he realises, let him know I put it in Blue’s cockpit after our last mission."

Pidge turned their attention to the other three. "I'm glad you found us in the desert Keith, imagine if I was stuck here without you? Who would I talk to about Mothman? Actually, when this is over, we need to have a cryptid sleepover, no non-believers allowed."

"Yeah, yeah no problem, Pidgey. Be safe, I'll see you tomorrow if everything goes well." Keith gave them one more hug and started walking to Yellow. Hunk joined him while Shiro and Lance headed towards Blue.

This wasn't the first time they had been separated, but it felt significant. Maybe it was the gravity of the situation weighing on them, maybe because they'll be whole galaxies away. Maybe it was the sense of foreboding looming over Pidge. For a moment, Pidge desperately wanted to run back to Keith and never let him go. Instead, they looked back one more time, to see him already looking at them. His ears flicked back when he realised they were watching but they perked up quickly. He smiled and saluted before Yellow’s jaw closed and took off.

 

Breaking into Beta Traz wasn't easy. First Pidge and Shiro had to get in. Lance had to scan the whole base and then he had to get both himself and the lion inside in less than sixty ticks. Every step they took was planned and calculated, timed to an exact millisecond. Once they got inside though, they had a bit more freedom.

"I've compiled the data from the Blue Lion’s sonic scan and created this map. It appears the prison is comprised of three concentric levels. Each level is showing different types of security." Pidge said, flicking through the data. "That's weird. The Blade of Marmora said this prison was made just for Slav but I'm showing two cells. Who else would be held here?" Pidge said, quickly scanning all the data showing from their gauntlet.

"I'm guessing a space ninja, or maybe someone with magical powers. You know, just spit balling here. I don't know. Let's just keep tossing out ideas." Lance said, waving his bayard around. Pidge glared at him, not impressed with his antics.

"Can you get a visual on the cells?" Shiro asked, before an argument could start.

Pidge shook their head, "No, not form here. And even if I could, we don't know what Slav looks like."

"Then we're just going to have to check both."

Pidge didn't like it, but ultimately, they had to complete this mission as soon as possible. "I'll go up to the Command Centre to try and access the security system."

"Let's get moving." Shiro said, nudging Lance in the direction they were supposed to be going in.

 

While they're doing that... Pidge thought as they set the database to search for their brother. It used facial recognition software, comparing a picture of Matt from the Kerberos mission launch with all footage from the Empire's security cameras. The software wasn't fool proof yet, but Pidge was hopeful. If it gave them even the tiniest hint that Matt was still alive, then Pidge would be grateful.

Right now, Pidge had next to nothing about either their Dad or Matt. From what Shiro remembered, their Dad was sent to a work camp at the edge of the Empire, but Matt was sent to the Arena originally. Even though Pidge didn't want to, they had decided that Matt would have to be the priority. Dad would be (relatively) safe where he was, but Matt was completely lost in the system. God knows where he could have ended up.

 

Lance held the 3D render up to the scan, praying that it would work. He nearly exclaimed, "Yes!" when it did. He glanced down the hallway, before smoothly rolling into the cell. He winced when he landed awkwardly and pulled his own tail. Maybe not as smoothly as he thought then. The cell was too dark to see anything at first. His ears perked as he heard something shifting in the darkness. Suddenly a pair of glowing yellow eyes appeared a few feet above his head. Lance nearly noped his way out of there. Surely the Blade would have mentioned if Slav was galra?

"Are you-" his voice cracked, and he coughed before try again, "Are you Slav?"

The prisoner took a step into the light. Lance was right, this thing-person-alien was huge. It easily over towered him. "Yup," the prisoner said. Lance sighed; he was glad he was the one getting Slav after all.

"Don't worry Slav. I'm here to rescue you. I'm with Voltron. Do you know Voltron?"

"Yup," Slav said.

"Great, then you know what the Blue Lion is." Lance leaned forward. He was eager to hear what this genius had to say about the best Voltron Lion.

"Yup," Slav said.

Lance grinned before turning his comms on. "Pidge, I've got Slav." He said, just as Shiro said the same thing.

"What?"

"I said I have Slav." Shiro said.

Lance frowned, "No, I have Slav. Wait, hold on." He turned to Probably-Slav. "Tell me the truth, are you Slav?"

"Yup," Slav said.

"We don't have time for this,” Pidge snapped, their voice strained. "You're just going to have to bring them both back."

"Okay, give us a route to get out of here." Shiro said.

"Yeah, we're ready to go too," Lance chimed in.

"Yup," Slav said.

But Pidge didn't reply. Both Shiro and Lance called out to them, but they got no response.

Shiro sighed, "Lance, looks like we're on our own. We gotta get back to Pidge."

Lance started to panic. He didn't know the way back! He cursed his own short attention span. "Wait, what? I have no idea where I'm going!"

Luckily, he had a genius with him. "Slav, do you know how to get back?"

"Yup," Slav said.

Lance frowned, for a genius, they didn't speak much.

 

Lance followed Slav down several corridors, but he was starting to get the feeling that Slav didn't actually know where he was going. "Are you sure you know where we're going?"

"Yup," Slav said.

Suddenly, a floating drone appeared before them. Lance materialised his bayard, but before he could take the shot, Slav growled and launched himself at the drone. He crushed it in his jaws, growling the whole time.

"Whoa, you really are savage!" Lance said. All that extra security made sense now. If Slav could bite through metal with his jaws and was like the smartest person in the whole universe, breaking out of prison must be child's play to him.

"No wonder the Marmorites think you're so awesome." Lance grinned, "That what I'm calling the Blade of Marmora, 'Marmorites'. That sound good?"

"Yup," Slav said.

"Great minds."

"Yup."

 

Somewhere between the 12th and 16th corridors, Lance started talking about the team. Slav was so quiet, Lance found himself trying to fill the silence. Lance thought he was getting better at his need to talk constantly, but something about Slav made him nervous. He told him all about how smart Pidge was, how Hunk was their mechanic and the best chef Lance had ever met. How Shiro was their amazing leader and Space Dad, and Coran, their Space Uncle. How Allura was their Princess. And last but not least, Keith.

"Keith is the Red Paladin. At first, we fought all the time. I guess that was kinda my fault. At the Garrison - that's the school we all went to on Earth - all I heard was 'Keith this' and 'Keith that'. The only reason I got into the fighter class was because Keith got kicked out. And I thought he was an alpha like me, so I had to compete with him. Again, my fault."

"But he's super cool, and kinda awkward. Even before I knew he is actually an omega, I admired him. And he super good with a sword, he's really pretty and - don't tell him I said this - he's the best pilot I've ever met in my life, even better then Shiro. And his little fox ears and bushy tail! Man, they look so soft, and he always smells so great. Like camping on the beach just before a storm or something. Maybe that's all our scents combined but that's what he reminds me of. Family. I mean, the guy has his flaws and all, he can be grumpy and snappy, but overall, he's just a really great guy. He always does the right thing, the heroic thing." Lance sighed dreamily.

"Yup," Slav said.

"Anyway, if you haven't noticed, I have a super big crush on him. He's like a 12/10, but me? I'm like a 6, max. I guess I'm okay looking, and I'm an alpha, but I don't really have much else going for me. I thought I was the team's sharpshooter, but I guess nobody else agrees. Maybe I don't have a thing."

"Yup," Slav said.

Lance frowned, "You didn't have to agree with me so quickly! They wouldn't keep me on the team if I didn't contribute in some way. Would they?"

"Yup," Slav said.

"Maybe you're right. Maybe I'm just a fifth wheel, seventh if you count Allura and Coran. That's a horrible wheel to be."

"Yup," Slav said.

Suddenly, Shiro's voice came over the comms. "Pidge are you there? We need an alternate route."

A pause.

"Pidge?"

"Okay, sorry about that. I'm back. I'll find you a new route Shiro."

Lance figured it would be a good time to interject, "Yeah, can you tell me where I am?"

"Just a tick, pulling it up now."

While they waited, Lance reflected on what he had just told Slav. He nearly didn't realise he felt like that. He wasn't the pack alpha, or the team leader. Pidge was the hacker/genius, Hunk the mechanic, Keith the fighter/pilot, Shiro the leader. He wasn't special. Why would Keith ever choose him? Keith could have any alpha he wanted, hell he could have anyone he wanted, alpha, beta, omega, even alien. Lance was just a boy from Cuba. He had his big family and that was it. He couldn't even take Keith to visit them.

What would his parent think of Keith? He was sure his Mom would absolutely adore Keith; he'd love his fire. Lance's Dad might be a bit more reserved at first, but once she’d realise how skinny he was she'd immediately try to stuff him with food. Lance was sure his siblings would try to give him the shovel talk, the only exception being Veronica.

Lance was the baby of the family after all (well, if you ignore the actual babies but they were niblings not siblings), his siblings better want him to be treated right. Veronica would either love or hate Keith once she realised who he was. Since Veronica worked at the Garrison, Lance may or may not have done his fair share of complaining about him to her. This was before he realised that he might not have hated Keith as much as he thought, the opposite really. She'd never taken him seriously, maybe she knew before he even did.

"Uh, I don't see an alternate route Shiro." Pidge's voice snapped him out of his thoughts. "Lance, look out!"

Lance quickly dived into an alcove, "Quick, somebody’s coming!"

He crouched down, before realising that Slav had made no move to join him. "What are you doing? Are you trying to get us caught?"

"Yup," Slav said.

A galra turned the corner, "I've found you!"

Lance realised that it was the Warden of the prison. He didn't seem too upset, but then again it didn't look like he had spotted Lance either. Lance debated just staying where he was, but he knew he couldn't leave Slav behind. He jumped out in front of Slav, who hadn't yet made any move to get away from the guy.

"Stay away from my friend!" he cried, aiming his bayard at the Warden.

"There's your kidnapper," he growled, "Put the prison on lockdown."

Shoot, Lance thought, maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Alarms started blaring, and before Lance could even think Slav was rushing at the guy. Lance started firing, following Slav. The Warden had extra hands that were just sitting on his back that came out to shield himself. Lance got momentarily distracted by them, because cool, before he realised that Slav wasn't going to wait for him.

Slav was several feet ahead of Lance when the immobilising foam started firing. Lance had his shield, but there wasn't much he could do about Slav. The dude was way too big, but he seemed fine without it. He was dodging expertly and made Lance wonder if there was some obscure pattern that only a genius would be able to figure out.

"Pidge, you've gotta shut off this foam for me!" he cried. A shot brushed his tail, pulling a few hairs. He mourned the loss.

"On it!"

Lance waited but after thirty seconds he called out to them again, "Pidge!"

"Sorry! Just reversing the targeting system and... this ought to slow him down."

The cannons changed direction, firing on the Galra instead. Lance was sure the guy was a hairs breadth away from snatching Lance, but the immobilising foam stopped him.

"What? No!" the Warden cried.

"Heh, stick around!" Pidge smirked. Lance giggled to himself before booking it, making sure Slav was in tow.

"Pidge, any chance you could turn the gravity off?"

"Oh, that's a great idea! Then the sentries won't be able to manoeuvre but we have our jetpacks. Its genius!"

Lance scoffed; he was the one who had the genius! Whoever was with Shiro was obviously a fraud.

As soon as the gravity went off, Lance grabbed Slav by his collar and started his jetpacks. Soon, they reached the junction where Shiro and Lance separated. Shiro had a small alien with many arms wrapped around his shoulders. They smiled at each other.

"Oh wow, you have Laika. The warder will not be happy about that," the alien with Shiro said.

Lance frowned in confusion, "Whose Laika?"

"She's the Warden's pet yupper." The small alien who was definitely not Slav said.

"Wait, what?" Lance gasped, "You're an animal?"

"Yup," Slav-Laika said.

"Oh, I see where the confusion was for you." Lance flushed. He did not like the condescending tone this guy used.

"Gravity's back online in three, two, one. I'm headed for the hanger."

 

Lance, Shiro and the two Slavs (Lance was not ready to admit defeat yet.) reached the hanger before Pidge. The doors opened and they were immediately bombarded by sentries. Lance screeched and pulled up his shield.

"Get to the Lion!" Shiro cried.

Slav-Laika ran at the sentries like a beast (okay Lance was getting tired of this now) and took them out, hopping from one to another. Shiro ran and jumped into the fray. Lance decided to stay at the side-lines and back them up. Just as Lance was lining up his last shot, Shiro barged in and took him out.

"I had him!" Lance whined, his ears and tail dropping.

"Let's go. Slav!"

"Be right with you!" Slav called from the back of the room.

"Slav!!" the Warden cried as he stormed into the room. Looks like he got free from the immobilising foam, Lance thought. Slav screamed and dived towards Shiro.

The Warden jumped from the ledge he was perched on, landing several feet below. Lance had to activate his jet pack to avoid being crushed. Rude. But now the guy was standing between them and the Blue Lion.

"You steal my yupper and my prisoner?" he said. He pressed a glowing disk on his suit, and the two glass tubes on his neck started emptying. Lance could only guess where the liquid was going. He started grunting and groaning and grew to twice his size. Naturally that was the moment Pidge decide to show up.

"Okay, I'm ready—what is that?"

The guy’s extra arms came down off his back. He towered over them. "You're not going anywhere, and neither is that Lion!"

He lunged forward, taking them by surprise. Despite his size, he was fast. He threw Lance and Pidge to the side, before striking Shiro. Just as they were getting back in their feet, he tried to punch them with fists nearly bigger than their whole body. Lance saw Shiro launch himself off a wall to try and hit him with his Galra arm. The Warden met Shiro's punches, before flinging him into some crates. At least Shiro had manged to distract him while Pidge and Lance got their bearings.

Lance started firing at the Warden, trying to find any weak spots in his amour. The guy used his robotic arms as a shield, deflecting every shot. Using his flesh arms, he picked up a crate, bigger than car, and fired it at Lance. Using his jet pack to his advantage, Lance jumped high and began shooting again. Before Lance could blink, the Galra had jumped straight up at Lance and grasped him in his arms.

Lance struggled, but he tightened his grip. Lances ribs were being crushed, and his arms were held firm against his sides. His tail was also crushed at an unnatural angle.

"Lance! No!" Pidge cried, firing their bayard at the galra. The Warden grabbed the green rope, and pulled, flinging Pidge across the room and into some boxes. Their scream rung in Lance's ears. He didn't see if they got back up. Lances head started to feel light. He couldn't breathe properly with the grip this guy had on him.

He saw Shiro stand up from where he had fallen and power up his arm. He sprinted towards the Warden. The Warden turned and caught Shiro's fist in his hand. The force from the impact sent Shiro flying backwards. Lance struggled while he was distracted but couldn't get free.

Pidge jumped in front of the galra, blocking him from getting to Shiro. They yelled as they jumped onto his back. They yanked the glass tubes on his neck but couldn't get them free. The galra grabbed Pidge and pulled them off his back, but they were upside down.

Lance screamed as he was thrown straight into Shiro. Another scream and an impact into his back let him know that Pidge had gotten the same treatment.

Suddenly, the hanger's doors opened, pulling everything into outer space. The galra anchored himself to the floor and managed to grab Slav-Laika as well. Lance couldn't see Slav-Slav anywhere. Then, he saw him. At the very back of the hanger. Slav let himself be pulled out of the hanger, but as he passed the Warden, he grabbed him. Slav screamed and Shiro cried out, "No!"

"Wait! I got this!" Lance, in fact, didn't have this, but he knew he was the only one who even had a chance. He aimed his bayard. "Come on..." Once the joint of the Warden's arm was in sight, he took a deep breath and fired on the exhale.

The galra cried out when the laser hit, and let Slav go.

"Nice Lance!" Shiro exclaimed, "That's why we bring our sharpshooter!"

"Yup," Lance said. He could resist doing his signature smirk and wink, before following his team to the Lion.

 

On the way home, Pidge told them about the information they found on their brother. Lance couldn't wait to see Keith and Hunk, he really wanted to tell them about that awesome move he pulled off. He hoped Keith would be impressed at least. Maybe he did have a place on the team after all.

Chapter Text

Keith groaned in pain as Red landed in her hangar. Every muscle in his body hurt, every bone, every ligament. He could feel his blood pumping through his veins, he could feel every individual hair follicle on his body. All the hairs on his body, ears and tail were standing upright.

Taking two hits of raw, supercharged quintessence was not advisable. Hunk and Yellow had absorbed most of the first hit, unconsciously protecting Keith from the worst of it but the second shot, that was much worse.

Keith had made the - admittedly stupid - decision to jump from Yellow to the castle. He tried to go as fast as possible, but the Robeast managed to hit him. The worst part was that he was so small to the Robeast, he probably didn't even come up on its radar. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The force of the hit sent him careering into empty space, far away from the other paladins. None of them even noticed his pained cry over the comms, all too preoccupied with the monster before them. Luckily, Red had his back and launched herself into space to save him. Kitty Rose was the best.

That left him here, now. Once they formed Voltron it only took one hit to defeat the Robeast, a far cry from where they were the first time they battled it. Red had flown herself into her hangar. Once the adrenaline wore off, the pain came back. He felt like someone had injected several gallons of caffeine straight into his blood stream, but also tied his body weight worth of dumbbells to each limb. Then herded an elephant stampede right over his prone body. He knew he probably had some kind of quintessence over-exposure, but he didn't think he could actually do anything about it.

The others were probably all on their way down to Olkarion already. He could drag himself to the healing pod, it wasn't that far. (Keith wondered if there was a reason the Red Lion’s hangar was by far the closest to the med-bay.)

Keith took a deep breath. Honestly, he had been in worse pain, but he felt so overwhelmed and weak. He had too much energy but not enough at the same time. Red had thankfully lowered herself so that her jaw opened right at the door leading to the med-bay. He slowly walked down the ramp, having to pause every few steps.

It took him close to fifteen doboshes to walk the same distance that would usually take him two. He wondered if the healing pod would even be able to do anything, since he wasn't really hurt. His arm was the worst off, but he could easily wrap it up and be on his way. He collapsed onto a seat in the med-bay, all of his nerves on fire.

The white and blue lights were giving him a headache, aided by the constant thrumming of the castle. He closed his eyes and waited, trying to catch his breath.

A hand gently grasped his shoulder, shocking him out of his doze. He jumped then flinched when the move jostled his arm.

"Apologies, Number four, I didn't mean to startle you."

"Coran? Wh- What are you doing here?" Keith thought Coran would still be on Olkarion with everyone else. He had been stationed there building the teleduv, Keith was sure he would have been eager to show everyone all his hard work.

"Well, a certain fiery paladin didn't arrive on Olkarion within the agreed varga, so I came back to make sure he was okay. Seems like I made the right decision huh?" Coran set about gathering medical supplies.

"It's been a varga? Sorry Coran I must have fallen asleep." Keith sighed; he didn't want to make this a big deal. The team had bigger worries right now.

"It's quite alright, my boy. Truth be told, I was getting anxious being so far away from the castle ship. Now you hold still while I scan you. How did you manage to obtain these injuries? They look more painful than a Belya burn!"

"Oh, I umm, might have flown from Yellow to the castle to get Red and took a hit from the Robeast. It's not that bad, I just feel really weird." Keith tried to hold himself as still as possible. He noticed his hands shaking. His ears and tail wouldn't stop twitching either, moving at every miniscule sound.

"Well, it seems you have an overload of pure energy in your system. Your body is unsure how to process it. I think you should pop into the pod for a varga or two, then maybe go for a nice jog? Don't do anything that could further injure yourself, we need you in tiptop shape for the Big Battle!"

Keith smiled weakly, "Thanks, Coran." He lifted himself off his seat and crossed the room to the pod. He paused with his arm supporting his weight on the frame.

"Could you not mention this to the rest? I don't want to worry them."

Coran frowned briefly before quickly smiling. "Righto my boy! Not a word shall pass my lips!"

Keith stepped into the pod and let the darkness overcome him.

 

True to Coran's word, Keith was only in the pod for a varga, but he spent the next two vargas sprinting through the castle halls and then aggressively nesting. He felt so energised and it was creeping him out. He could take Zarkon on single handily! Maybe even the entire galra Empire! That would be great. The only reason Keith wasn't in the training room was because Coran asked him not to injure himself. Still, if he was allowed Keith knew he would be able to beat level 57, the one he had been stuck on for a week.

Shiro was at level 46, so he was catching up. The rest were all late thirties, but Keith spent way more time training then they did. Part of the reason he trained so much was because it was harder for omegas to build and maintain muscle mass. So, Keith and Lance could do the exact same routine for months and Lance would gain more muscle than Keith and keep it for longer, even if he stopped exercising right after that.

It was ridiculous. The only thing Keith was glad about was that this wasn't really common knowledge. Most omegas wouldn't need the muscle mass that Keith did so not many people would notice. Keith wasn't sure if Lance would tease him about that or not.

Lance was confusing Keith recently. They still bickered, but it was friendly, maybe even playful. Lance really had been trying his hardest to step up to the plate and it was showing. Keith was almost disappointed, his damn feelings just got more intense the more Lance showed that he could be mature. Keith was prepared to just stew in his feelings and never mention it to Lance, but he's noticed both Hunk and Pidge giving him eyes. Was he that obvious?

Lance was insanely handsome, and clever. Why the hell would he want a fucked-up omega like Keith?

Keith flopped back into his nest. He had finally burned off some of that energy. He had reverted to his omega instincts and aggressively cleaned the most used rooms in the castle. Then he deep cleaned and reorganised his room, washed and polished Red, messed with the fabricator to find a new outfit for himself and then dusted the library.

Keith generally stayed far away from the typical 'omega' chores and jobs, like cleaning, cooking, and general housekeeping. He was terrified that if he started doing those things, soon they would become solely his responsibility and then he'd just become some sort of team Voltron house-omega. It was dumb, and he trusted and loved his pack, but who knows what deeply ingrained sexism they have? It was probably an issue he should work out with a therapist, if he ever got one. He'd pity that poor therapist; Keith's list of issues was endless.

 

Keith fell asleep. His dreams were restless. Flashes of colour. Impressions of people. Different scents. Loud noises. They never lasted long enough for Keith to figure out what they were. He was sure of one thing though. Someone was following him. There was a dark shadow flickering in the corner of his eye. Every time Keith turned to see it, it disappeared. The shadow was large and predatory. Keith knew that if it touched him, he would be in unbearable pain. He tried to run, but time slowed. He was moving through molasses. The shadow got closer and closer and bigger and bigger. Keith screamed, crying out for his pack to help him.

There! He could see their silhouettes! A beautiful cherry blossom pink, a royal blue, a sunshine yellow, a mint green, a deep violet purple and a burnt orange.

He ran as fast as he could to them, but for every step he took, they moved two away. Tears rolled down his face. The shadow got closer. His family were now just coloured specks on the horizon. The shadow behind him took up three quarters of his vision. Keith was stuck in one spot. It reached a cold dark limb for him, and Keith cried in agony. He struggled. No matter which way he moved, he stayed stuck. He was frozen. The limb was inches from his face. A single clawed finger stretched out and brushed against his cheek. Oh god the painthepainthepai-

Keith woke up screaming. He twisted, trying the get a bearing for where he was. Something was wrapped around his legs and torso, trapping him in the dark. He kicked out, and the darkness fell, smothering him. Keith ripped something from his legs and scrambled to stand upright. His eyes burned as his motion sensor lights turned on. Keith backed himself into a corner, sobbing.

He stayed there until the lights brightened, signalling the end of the night cycle.

 

The next morning was the last day before they took on Zarkon. Keith dragged himself to his shower to try and wash the scent of distressed omega off of him. He glanced in the mirror as he changed and sighed. Deep, dark bags, eyes red, swollen and bloodshot, he was paler than usual too. He looked like a zombie. Lance would have a field day. Or a heart attack, Keith could never tell at this point.

Keith and Coran were the only ones on the castle, so it was easy enough avoiding seeing other people. Keith creeped through the hallways, peering around corners and into rooms. He made it to the kitchen without bumping into Coran, so he quickly got some goo before bolting back.

Keith wanted to make another nest after he destroyed his last one while thrashing during his nightmare, but he was scared. Waking up in total darkness was terrifying. Instead, he gathered the most strongly scented items and lay them in a small circle on the floor before sitting in the middle. No restricting his movements, he can see everything from here and he has his pack’s scents.

Keith dozed off fairly quickly, his lack of sleep getting to him. He woke up to Coran's voice over the intercom, "Number Four, please report to Hangar 6 please, the Blade of Marmora are here."

Keith whimpered then growled at himself. He forgot the Blades were coming to the castle in preparation for tomorrow. He knew that they would know something was wrong the moment they saw him. But if he didn't immediately go to see them, they would still know something was wrong. He was caught. He just hoped they wouldn't take time out to fuss over him when they could be doing more important things.

He reached the hangar quicker than he'd have liked. Luckily, it was only the three Blades of his pack waiting for him. Coran must have taken the rest to their rooms. He paused at the doorway, unsure how to proceed. Kolivan was the first to notice him.

"Kit!" he called, drawing Antok and Ulaz's attention. Keith gulped and walked towards them slowly before launching himself into their arms. He had missed them. He snuggled into them, trying to inhale as much of their unique metallic scent as he could. Slowly, he relaxed. They drew away, making sure to keep some point of contact with him. Kolivan had his hands cupped around Keith's face, sweeping away tears Keith didn't even realise he was releasing. Antok had his tail latched around Keith's forearm, Keith gripping a part of it himself, and Ulaz had a hand buried in his hair, scratching around the base of his ears.

"Tomorrow," Kolivan said, "There is someone we would like you to meet."

Chapter Text

Shiro stared at the castle ship from his room on Olkarion. He sighed as he watched the dawn. It was nothing like the sunrises at home. This one was greener in colour, none of the pinks and oranges. If everything went well tomorrow, he would actually have a chance to go home, to see Adam again. There would still be work to do but they could justify a visit to Earth, even if it was just to make them aware of what had been happening in the rest of the universe.

He knew Lance and Hunk were eager to go back. Pidge, to see their mom and dog too, but they would want to stay out here to find Matt and Commander Holt. Allura and Coran would undoubtedly stay here, rebuilding all the planets destroyed by Zarkon. And that just left Keith.

Keith, who didn't have anyone left on Earth. Maybe he would stay with the Blades, he had accepted them so easily. Maybe he would search for his mom. It hurt Shiro to think about being separated from his little brother, but he couldn't force Keith back to Earth. He was sure that Adam would be happy to see him too.

Keith never really told him what happened after he left, just that be was expelled and about Shiro's funeral. Was Adam even there? Why hadn't Adam helped Keith? Keith spent so much time with them, he was nearly like their own kid. It had been awkward after they broke up, but they still seemed to get on well.

Their breakup had been awkward and messy. Adam wanted Shiro to stay, but Shiro wanted to get as much time with the stars as possible, while he still could. Adam had been his flight partner. He thought that out of everyone Adam would understand that. Kerberos was supposed to be his last mission. He was cutting it tight, but he was confident he could do it. He thought Adam was too. But Adam disagreed.

Looking back, Shiro could see his point of view better. He was scared. Scared that Shiro would go to space and never come back. Scared to be mated to a man who was seemingly more in love with the stars than himself. And it turned out he was right to be scared. Shiro was announced dead and that was that. Did Adam move on? Maybe he finally had the family he always wanted, the one Shiro was too afraid to give him.

Keith hadn't come down to Olkarion yet, Coran sent a message that the Blades had arrived earlier than expected. Part of Shiro was always twitchy when Keith was out of his vicinity. Maybe it was his alpha older sibling instincts. Maybe it was Keith's bad history, the moment Shiro left, Keith fell apart.

What if Shiro returned to Earth and Keith did something astronomically stupid and got himself killed? Or worse, what if Shiro was killed, for real this time. The battle tomorrow was going to be dangerous. There was the possibility that they wouldn't all make it out alive. Hell, there was the possibility that they wouldn't even defeat Zarkon. If that happened, they would need Voltron, more than ever.

Shiro was serious when he said that he wanted Keith to lead Voltron. Despite Keith's recklessness and disregard for his own safety, he was incredible in the battlefield. He could make split second decisions quicker than the rest could even process the options. And he cared, so much, about his teammates. It might not seem like it sometimes, but Keith cared about their safety. They were his first real family in years. Sure, he could be grouchy and grumpy, and he could definitely do with toning down his anger - or at least expressing it differently - but he would do anything for the team. That was the kind of person Shiro knew Voltron needed, in his absence.

Keith would struggle with the social aspect of it, the boring meetings, the teams mental, physical and emotion health would rest on his shoulder as well, but he knew that as long as the others were patient with him, he'd get there. And hopefully, whoever stepped up as pack leader would be able to support him in that aspect.

A knocking on his door shook him out of his musings. "Shiro?"

"Come in Lance," he called.

Lance shuffled in, lacking all of his usual posturing and exuberance. He looked serious, which wasn't something he had seen on Lance's face too often. It was a shock to the system, a reminder that despite Lance’s comedic and flirty façade, he was just as capable as the rest of the team.

"Everything alright?" he asked, gesturing for Lance to sit on the bed next to him.

Lance fiddled with his fingers, not making eye contact, "Um, I just wanted to know if you've heard from Keith yet."

Ah, he should have guessed. While Shiro had initially been wary about Lance's intentions towards his brother, he had proved himself. There were ample chances for Lance to make a fool out of Keith and break his heart, but he hadn't. He'd stopped flirting with the princess and others. He wanted Keith to be healthy and happy but didn't hover or control him. They weren't even together yet, and they were so good for each other. He was happy that Keith had someone who loved him as he deserved to be loved, even if Lance was a bit slow to admit it.

"Coran messaged, something about the Blades arriving early. Keith'll probably be down around lunch."

It was nearly comedic how quickly Lance deflated at that. Shiro suddenly knew, that on the tiny chance that tomorrow didn't go well, he needed Lance to know what Shiro thought about him. Lance wasn't as confident as he portrayed himself.

"You know, I am so proud of the team, but you especially. When I first realised your feelings for Keith, well I'm not going to lie to you, I was wary. You come across as such a stereotypical alpha at first. Someone like that, god I could not imagine a worse person suited to Keith. And yeah, you've made your fair share of mistakes, but you've learned from them. You've been there for him, and the rest of the team. You always do the background work, so sometimes it's hard to notice. But you are no ordinary alpha. You have helped Keith when he was at his most vulnerable. When he was sick, even his heat! How many alphas on Earth would take care of an omega, one that they weren't related or mated to, with no expectations. You could have easily taken advantage of him, and it’s sickening to think, but he would have been powerless to stop you. But you didn't." Lance started to protest, but Shiro waved him off.

"I know you're going to say that that was just what any decent human would have done, but it's not. Humans aren't as selfless as we wish we were. But you are. You are so good, Lance. A good man, a good alpha, a good person. You're brave, intelligent, caring, kind. You know how to calm Hunk down when he's stress baking, how to get Pidge to take a break from coding, to get Keith to stop training and keep hydrated. That's why, if something were to happen to me tomorrow, I want you and Keith to lead Voltron."

"Shiro, no don't talk like that, nothing’s going to happen."

"We can't say that for certain. It's just as likely that we'll all be killed as it is that we'll succeed. I want you to become the pack leader. Leave Black to Keith. He has the potential to be an amazing leader, but only if he has the support of those near and dear to him. And that's where I need you to step up. Keith is good on the battled field, but not so much off. You two make a good team, and more importantly he trusts you." Shiro paused, but he knew he had to say one last thing.

"I know this is a bit old fashioned, but when you're ready, you have my permission and approval to court Keith, if he agrees of course. I couldn't wish for someone better to lead the team, and to court Keith. You lift each other up."

Lance stared at him in shock. His blue eyes were wide and watery. Shiro laughed, pulling him into a hug. He let the kid quietly sob into his jacket.

 

Later that evening, the team stood outside watching the sunset. Lance thought about all Shiro had said earlier. Tomorrow could make or break them. He was terrified. Him? Pack leader? It didn't seem possible. Sure, he had wanted to be originally, but now that there was a possibility of it, he was scared.

"What's everyone thinking about?" he asked, trying to distract himself.

"Calzones," Hunk said at the same time everyone said "Zarkon."

Lance smiled; you could always count on Hunk to be thinking about food. Not that he could blame him, what he wouldn't do for a taste of his Mama's garlic knots. Even a bowl of cereal he made him would be nice.

"You realise that tomorrow could be the end of this. The universe won't need Voltron anymore." Shiro said solemnly.

"I could go home," Lance murmured. The thought didn't feel right anymore though. Just go home? Pretend nothing happened? Who would he be? He glanced over at Keith, surprised to see he was already watching him with a soft smile on his face. His ears were facing back though.

"I could search for my family," Pidge said.

Keith glanced down, pulling his knife out. "I guess I could search for mine."

Keith didn't seem too excited about the prospect and Lance wasn't either. Yes, he wanted to see his family again, but he loved what they did. Visiting new planets every week, helping people in need. He couldn't give that up. What was on Earth for him besides his family? Would the Garrison take him back, so he could spend the rest of his life as a cargo pilot? No, that wasn't what Lance wanted. He had family in space too.

Maybe he would stick with Keith.

Chapter Text

The command deck was quiet. All the important figures for the battle had gathered, waiting for Kolivan's word. Shiro was already in Black's hangar, waiting for the signal. Ahead, they could see Zarkon's ship, lit up in an ominous purple glow. The seconds ticked by, the minutes. Coming up to an hour, Kolivan stood. "We must abort the mission."

He was met with silence, and then uproar as several people questioned his judgement at once. "What do you mean abort the mission?"

"We can't stop now!"

"We've put all this work in, who gave you the right-"

"Quiet!!" Shiro yelled from the comms. "Kolivan, I trust you wouldn't back out with no good reason. What's happened?"

"Our liaison inside Zarkon's ship as not checked in. He had clear instructions to report back to us before releasing the virus. He has missed it by two vargas. We must fear the worst."

The deck was silent. Keith knew what he needed to do. He stood. "I'll go." After everything the Blades had done for him, he owed it to them. And, without the virus, their entire plan was lost. All the backups were 'Get as many people out of here alive' kind of backups not 'We can still take down Zarkon' kinds. They couldn't fail before they'd even tried.

"No, we cannot risk another soldier on this mission. I will not order a kit to infiltrate the main ship." Kolivan maintained his impassive façade, but Keith could see the real fear in his eyes.

"Good thing you're not ordering me. I'm going."

"Keith, we can't risk losing a paladin of Voltron on this. I forbid it," Allura spoke from her platform.

"Look, it makes the most sense, okay? I'm part galra, so I'll be able to get in easiest. I'm the best at hand to hand combat on the team, so if I run into any trouble on the ship, I'll be better equipped to deal with it. We've made it this far; we can't give up now. All I have to do is install the virus. I'll be in and out before you know it. I'll even take an Altean pod, so Red won't be at risk."

Ulaz stood from his seat. "You can't fault his logic. And the kit will do it whether he has your permission or not, Princess, Leader."

Both Allura and Kolivan gave a resigned sigh before agreeing.

When the Blade came to the castle, they had told Keith all about Thace, the Blade that was now likely dead. He was part of their pack but had been on a long-term mission. He was kind, intelligent, caring. He loved to cook traditional galran meals, when he could find the ingredients (or their equivalents).

When he was thirty decapheobes old, still practically a teenager, the Empire executed his family for crimes they didn't commit. Thace, who was out when their home was stormed, ran and spent a few phoebes hiding from the Empire. Kolivan found him and extended an offer for him to join the Blades. He meant a great deal to the Blades. Kolivan, Antok and Ulaz were putting on a brave face but would mourn him later. He was important to them and they loved him dearly. Keith planned on finding him, if it was possible. He knew they would disapprove, but Keith couldn't let a person die if there was no reason for it. They needed all the hands they could get.

Pidge set him up with an Altean pod that was equipped with their camouflage tech. As they finished setting everything up, Lance came down. "Hey, can I talk to Keith for a tick?"

Pidge looked between them before smirking, "Take all the ticks you need." They quickly hugged him and whispered, "Be safe." Once Pidge reached the door, they saluted, winked and left. They still smelled odd, but Keith had bigger fish to fry.

Keith waited for Lance to say something. He awkwardly stared at his feet, wondering what Lance could possibly want to say that couldn't wait until later. His tail twitched.

"Keith," Lance whispered. His voice was soft and tender. "I- I just wanted to say, that I umm, I have something I want to ask you when this is over."

Keith frowned. He looked up, taking in Lance's solemn face. His chocolate brown ears were limp, and his eyes were filled with worry. He wasn't sure what kind of question couldn't just be asked now, but he agreed anyway. "Okay. See you on the other side, Sharpshooter." He wasn't sure if it was appropriate for him to hug Lance, so he held his hand out.

Lance, who had blushed a brilliant red, looked at his hand for long enough for Keith to start retracting it. Then he grinned and grasped it, pulling Keith into a crushing hug. Keith gasped but pressed his face into his neck, suddenly not caring what was appropriate or not. Lance's scent made Keith feel safe, Lance made Keith feel safe. Keith wanted to freeze time and be able to properly enjoy the hug.

Eventually they pulled apart, both as reluctant as the other. "Be safe out there, Kitten. We wouldn't be team Voltron without our grumpy galra paladin."

Keith huffed, but couldn't pretend to be annoyed. "You too, Lance." Keith reached up and pressed a kiss to his cheek. "Let's kick ass," he climbed into his pod as quickly as possible, not wanting to see Lance's reaction, although the scent of happy alpha followed him into the pod.

Once he had taken off, he allowed himself a moment to regret all his life decisions. 'Let's kick ass'? Keith really? He groaned but put the memory in a box labelled 'Cry Over Later'.

"Okay Keith. I'll clear a path for you to the ship, but after that you're on your own. Good luck, buddy." Shiro said over the comms.

"You too, Shiro."

He shot forward, following underneath the Black Lion. Shiro, true to his word, cleared a path as close to Zarkon's ship as possible. Keith slipped his pod into a hangar that was empty of fighter ships. He waited a second to make sure his landing went unnoticed and hopped out. He had been on plenty of galran ships before, but this one oozed evil. Like the feeling the destroyed planets near the Weblem gave him. He shuddered, trying to shake the feeling. He feared that if he stayed here too long, the energy would infect him. It would turn him into one of Zarkon's mindless minions.

He crept down the hallways lined with purple light. Keith's visibility on galran ships was better than his teammates. Galra could see ultraviolet light, which Keith had inherited. Another reason Keith was the best choice for this mission. Their helmets were capable of improving their visibility, but Keith didn't want to put his full trust in that.

Ulaz had downloaded a map of the ship for Keith, but he barely needed it. Most galran ships had the same foundation. Once you know your way around one, you know your way around all. He found the room quickly. The door opened onto a platform, with the console on it. Keith rushed to it once he made sure the room was clear.

"Kolivan, I'm in. What exactly do I need to do?"

"I've sent a code to your device. Input it as quickly as possible and get out of there."

Keith's gauntlet pinged with the new information and he quickly transferred it to the console. It flashed red and a pop up appeared. He grunted and tried again.

"It's not working. Are you sure this is the right one?"

"Keith, you have to get out of there. If the code isn't working, they must have been changed. Thace's cover was blown."

Keith's ears flicked back. He could hear someone rushing to the room. He turned his comm off and tried not to feel guilty. He quickly hid behind a pillar. There was only one set of footprints, Keith felt safe in presuming it was a galra commander rather than a sentry. He held his breath as the door opened. Ragged breathing filled the room. Keith peeked around the corner of the pillar. A tall galra man was limping inside, a hand pressed to his ribs.

He reached the console and inputted something. The console lit up the same red colour, with the same pop-up appearing. He slammed his hand down, growling.
The door opened behind him. "Commander Thace, you are too late. We have already changed the code. Whatever you have planned will not come to fruition."

The druids backed Thace into the console. Keith pulled his knife from its sheath and launched it at the first druid. It shrieked, a high pitched, horrifying sound and exploded into a fine grey sand. The other druid turned its attention from Thace. Keith jumped from his hiding spot and slashed his bayard at the druid. It disappeared before he reached it. He spun around, back to the door.

It tried to hit him with purple electricity, corrupt quintessence as Allura called it. It hit the door behind him. The wave of heat nearly singed the hair on his tail. The door had been sealed closed by the heat. They were trapped.

Keith rushed towards the druid, striking out with his bayard again and again. It was playing with him, disappearing and then reappearing just out of reach. It didn't seem to have the same aversion to his bayard that it did to his blade. He striked out again, a horrible cry following it and the druid exploded into ash, coating Keith in a fine layer of it.

Thace stood where it had before, his blade outstretched. He had taken advantage of Keith's distraction to finish the druid off.

"The Red Paladin of Voltron, and a fellow Blade, I see. I am Thace."

"Keith." Thace beckoned him forward and turned back to the console.

"We must hurry, this console has to be shut down."

"They changed the code, Kolivan wants us to pull back."

"No, there is still a way to turn it off." Thace flicked several switches and pressed what seemed like random buttons. The whole room started to pulse with energy. A deep groaning came from the machine as it struggled to deal with the energy input.

"What are you doing?" Keith cried over the noise.

"I'm turning this place into a bomb!" Keith couldn't deny the brilliance of the idea, except for one fatal flaw.

"We can't turn this place into a bomb! We're needed outside, I'm needed for Voltron and you for the Blades!"

"There's a chute at the very bottom of this drop, you will make it fine if you leave now."

Keith stared at Thace, "I'm not leaving you!"

Thace smiled, a small heartbroken thing. "You don't have a choice." Thace pushed him closer to the ledge. The room was heating up, and fast.

"Yes, I do." Keith shoved Thace off the platform. Thace's eyes widened in shock and he reached out to hold onto something. He fell. Keith activated his jetpack, catching up to him quickly. "Hold onto me!"

He saw the chute Thace had mentioned and tried to aim for it. The jetpack struggled under the extra weight. They lurched, smashing painfully into the side of the chute. The air was getting thicker, making it harder to keep his heartrate under control. He activated his mask and noticed Thace do the same.

The room exploded, a powerful wave of corrupted quintessence washing over them followed by the heat of the flames. The jetpack was straining under the weight and speed, but Keith pushed it further. Flames licked the back of his calves and feet.

The exit was in sight. Keith put in one last burst of speed and rammed them straight through the door. The pressure from the heat propelled them further along. His shoulder twinged as it had taken the brunt of the force, but he was okay. They were okay.

Keith reached a shaky hand up to turn his comms back on.

"-EITH! Answer us this quiznacking instant, kit! What is happening? The base shut down! Where are you? Are you hurt? Report back this instant!"

Keith winced at the immediate assault to his ears. "Kolivan! Antok! I'm fine, I'm okay. I found Thace, I'm bringing him with me in the Red Lion."

"Don't you ever pull a stunt like that again!"

"I'm sorry, I just forgot to turn my comms back on. Look, Red is here and I think we all have bigger problems right now. Can you save the lecture until after we beat Zarkon?"

There was a huff, followed by murmuring voices. Kolivan came back on, "Okay kit. Don't think we'll forget about this. Stay safe."

Keith rolled his eyes, but he was secretly pleased. "Okay Dad, fine. Gotta go!"

Keith would forever deny loving the Blades mother-henning, but it was nice to remember that he had people who loved him now. He spotted Red in the distance, no doubt flying as fast as possible once she realised he hurt his shoulder.

He turned back to Thace, "Hope you don't mind a detour before we get you back to the castle ship."

Thace grinned, "Not at all."

Chapter Text

Red scooped Keith and Thace up a few seconds later. Thace followed him into the cockpit. Keith settled into his seat before directing Red to take out more small fighter ships.

The teleduv above them was revealed and activated, Keith and Shiro making sure that none of the ships tried to get away. The wormhole was jarring as usual. Thace had the back of Keith's chair in a tight grip. The rest of the lions joined them as the wormhole closed behind them.

"Come on team, let's form Voltron!" Shiro cried, pulling ahead as they flew into formation. Forming Voltron was always an exhilarating experience. The pure energy that flowed from the five lions and five paladins was overwhelming at first. The five lions became one, as did the paladins. It was difficult to discern who thought what, who felt what. It was easy to forget that they didn't all exist within the same body; that their own bodies were in separate parts of the same giant robot.

"Okay team, we have our target. Let's end this once and for all!"

As one, they moved forward, slashing and hacking at the nearest engine. They formed their sword which sliced through the metal like butter. Explosions and fire trailed in their wake. They felt a brief flicker of guilt; Who knows what kind of people had just been killed in that explosion. Prisoners? Innocent bystanders? A wave of fury washed over them; No, there are no innocent bystanders on Zarkon's main fleet.

With renewed vigour, they launched themselves at the other engines. They formed their shoulder cannon and fired. The force sent them back a few feet, but the blue and yellow lions quickly corrected it. Equations of the best angles to hit were flowing through their minds, quicker than most of them could count.

The last engine proved to be a bit more difficult. They stabbed at it with their sword, trying to slice through the protective shielding. They held their shield up to protect their sides from incoming shots. The shield wasn't giving under their sword, so they backpedalled and fired up their cannon again. The cannon decimated the shield, allowing them to finish off the engine.

"Good job team, one last target now."

They flew up underneath the ship to have better access to the hull. They simultaneously shivered, a cold shadow passing over them. Nevertheless, they continued forwards, too concentrated on their mission to notice the impending danger.

A hand landed on someone's shoulder, a voice in their ear.

"The Komar..."

"Paladins! Watch out!"

A dark beam encompassed them. They screamed as their consciences were ripped apart. Voltron shut down. Keith groaned against the pain and pressure. He grew steadily weaker. Black spots clouded his vision and he desperately tried to stay awake. Just as soon as it came, the beam was gone.

Keith floated in the darkness for a while until a warm hand pulled him back into his seat. "Keith, can you hear me?"

Keith desperately fought against the darkness surrounding him. He needed to do something. He subconsciously reached out for Red and flinched away when he was met with her absence. Like a tongue roaming over a lost tooth, he reached out again and again. Something miniscule flickered in their bond.

It took Keith more effort than he was willing to admit to open his eyes. His vision was blurry, but he could make out a purple figure crouched in front of him.

"Keith, wake up." Keith grunted and weakly raised his arm to the swat the hand pressing to his chest away. He coughed as his lungs struggled to take in enough air.

"Thace?" He grimaced. His voice was wrecked, his throat felt like it had been shredded. "Wh 'appened?"

Thace frowned, "You were hit by the Komar. It is used to rid whole planets of their quintessence. It is a miracle you are even alive."

Keith’s memories of the last few minutes rushed back. He gasped, "The others! Are they okay?" He frantically tried to sit up straighter and flicked his comms on.

"We haven't heard from them, but if you survived then they had the chance to as well."

"Guys!" Keith cried, "Come on, come on, answer!" He paused, "Lance, Shiro? Pidge, Hunk! Come on, answer me, please!"

Silence.

A weak cough.

"Keith?"

"Hunk! Thank the stars, are you alright?"

"Yeah, I th'nk so. S'tired though."

"I know but you have to stay awake, okay? How's Yellow doing?" Keith flicked through his screen to see if he could get a visual on the ships outside. Voltron was immobile and vulnerable.

"Mff, no. Yellow’s not r'sponding."

"H'nk? Keith?"

"Lance! Are you injured? Red isn't responding either, that beam took all our quintessence." Thace silently handed Keith a ration bar from god knows where. He reluctantly ate it, even though his stomach rolled with anxiety.

"M'fine. Blue's down."

"Okay, that's okay. Keep trying. Pidge? Shiro? You there?" From the position Voltron was in, Keith could see out his dashboard to behind Voltron. However, the threat was in front of them. He hoped the castle would be able to warn them of any imminent danger.

"I'm awake, Keith." Shiro groaned.

"Me too."

Keith felt some of the tension in his shoulders release. At least he knew that all his pack were still alive.

"Whoa, what the hell is that?" Lance said.

"What's what? I can't see that direction! What is it?"

"Zarkon," Shiro breathed. The name and the obvious fear in Shiro's voice sent shivers down his spine.

 

Lance snapped awake when he heard Shiro's tone. His voice trembled. Despite how tired he was, he moved Blue’s throttle and pedals. "Come on, come on, wake up Blue girl," he muttered.

Zarkon was slowly getting closer. He was as big as the robeasts they had battled previously and just as terrifying, if not more. Zarkon was more than just a mindless minion with one mission. He was intelligent.

He felt Blue stir from her forced hibernation. Their minds felt sticky and slow, but they persevered to reach each other.

"Pack, don't panic. Remember your training. Remember all the battles we've been through. We are true paladins now. We have to fight! We have to channel our energy. Visualize five becoming one. We have to focus everything we have into moving Voltron. We are the last thing standing between Voltron and Zarkon's total universal domination. I'm not giving up the fight! Are you, Hunk?"

"No." Yellow roared to life.

"Pidge?"

"Never!" Pidge cried as Green came back online.

"Lance?"

"Let's go down swinging!" Lance smirked as he felt Blue’s conscience join his completely again.

"Keith?"

"I'm all in."

"Then let's get Voltron back in this battle!"

Voltron jolted awake as the lions gained their quintessence back. The castle ship was firing on Zarkon and gave them the chance to reconnect.

"Alright team, let's give it everything we've got!"

Zarkon formed his sword and launched himself off his ship. He flew towards them at full speed, terrifying face pulled into a smirk as he got closer. Voltron formed their own sword and braced for impact. The force of their collision pushed them backwards and Zarkon followed.

They slashed and parried, neither one of them willing to give up. Voltron were stuck on the defensive, Zarkon taking advantage and hitting them with everything he had. They activated their boosters in the wings to give them a bit more space to manoeuvre. Zarkon's wings lit up purple to follow them.
Zarkon moved to long range weapons, firing beams at them as they tried to create some distance. Voltron fired back, moving backwards away from him.

"Alright, let's hit him with the big guns. Hunk! Form shoulder cannon!"

They pushed the yellow bayard into its slot. The shoulder cannon materialised. They aimed and fired, but Zarkon's shield protected him. Suddenly, a bolt of dark quintessence shot towards them. They dodged, barely, but more kept coming.

While they were distracted evading the quintessence, Zarkon slammed into their side. Voltron was sent careening into open space. Somebody yelped as they slammed their head into their chair. They straightened themselves and started firing again. Zarkon flew towards them. Terror rose in their chest as they formed their sword again.

Their blades met in a clash of metal, sparks flying. All they could do was hold Zarkon off. They grit their teeth and pushed back. They felt their sword give away as Zarkon overpowered them. They gave one last desperate shove and retreated to a safer distance. They fired again, but he used his wings as a shield.

Frustration rose through the bond. No matter what they did, Zarkon overpowered them.

"We've never faced anything this powerful before!"

"One way or another this might be our last battle. We've got to give everything we have. Dig deep and fight!"

The longer the battle went on, the more their adrenaline wore off. Fatigue was catching up to them and they knew it. They desperately traded shots and blows with Zarkon, but he didn't faulter. They were locked together as they clashed swords. A flash of pain shot through their bond. A foreign presence.

"Zarkon's trying to control the Black Lion, I can feel him in my mind."

"Fight it, Shiro!"

They pulled back and activated their thrusters to propel them towards Zarkon. They yelled as they aimed their sword at his chest. He moved at the last second, but their blade still sunk through his armour and into his arm. His sword extended and pushed them back. It stayed hooked onto them and pulses of quintessence ripped through it. They screamed as Voltron was ripped apart.

One by one, the lions righted themselves, leaving the Black Lion to last. "Shiro, Shiro!" Keith cried, but Shiro didn't reply.

"Something’s wrong with Shiro," Keith said, "Guys, we can't let Zarkon get the Black Lion!"

Lance pulled Blue to stand protectively in front of Shiro, the others joining him. He would not let Zarkon get to Shiro or the Black Lion. Zarkon flew towards them, terrifyingly fast. Lance held steady and fired his cannon, hoping to deter him. They could barely hold their own when they had formed Voltron, but separated and down a lion? They had no chance. All they could do was delay the inevitable.

"Hunk!" Lance cried as Yellow was slammed into Zarkon's shield. Lance flipped in his spot and fired his ice cannon at Zarkon. Keith came in from the other side with his lava cannon. Zarkon flung Yellow away and turned his shield to face Lance while aiming his sword at Keith. Lance's heart constricted when Keith barely missed impaling himself.

Lance turned his attention back to Shiro, but the Black Lion wasn't there. He panicked, searching across the battlefield for him, but he was nowhere to be seen. Could someone from Zarkon's ship snuck out and captured Black?

A flash of light caught his eye. The Black Lion was rushing towards Zarkon, but it now had wings. Zarkon turned his attention from the other paladins and flew to meet them. The world seemed to slow down as they passed each other. Blue triumphantly roared in his head.

"What did you do?" Lance wondered. He flew closer to Shiro.

"I've got Zarkon's bayard," Shiro murmured, the awe evident in his voice.

"You mean you got your bayard!" Keith said and Lance could practically hear the smirk in his voice.

Shiro quickly brought them back to the matter at hand. "We've only got a few minutes left before power returns to Zarkon's ship. Form Voltron!"
Just after they reformed Voltron, Coran's voice drew their attention. "Paladins! We're back!"

"Is everyone okay?"

"Yes, we're fine! The power on Zarkon's ship is returning, we need to get out of here!" Coran cried.

"This is our last chance! Let's finish this!"

Voltron felt stronger than ever. They threw themselves at Zarkon, all of the Lions at full throttle. They aimed their sword and braced themselves for impact. Their sword pierced the midriff of his armour. They grinned, but Zarkon grabbed their head. They cried out as dark quintessence was pushed from Zarkon to Voltron. They watched as the Black bayard's slot rose from the console and they pushed their bayard into it. Their sword ignited, powerful flames licking up the metal.

They thrusted the sword into him again and again. Zarkon's armour crackled with electricity and quintessence. It was hot enough for Voltron to feel, even through the freezing cold of space. A ball of quintessence encompassed Zarkon and expanded, pushing Voltron away from him. The explosions forced them to separate.

Being forced apart again was disarming. Lance's mind felt frayed, but they had done it. Zarkon couldn't have survived that blast.

"Did we do it?" he asked. He felt vaguely empty. He didn't feel the relief or pride he had expected.

"Is it over?" Hunk asked weakly. The Yellow Lion righted itself and floated over to Blue.

"I have Allura, Kolivan and Antok, we need to go!" Coran urged, prompting both Red and Green to straighten themselves out. They headed towards the castle, knowing that they had to leave as quickly as possible.

"Shiro!" Keith cried, "Shiro! Guys, we need to get Black back to the castle."

Keith and Hunk, who were closest, turned back. Lance watched as they grabbed her and put on a burst of speed to catch up. He landed in Blue's hanger and rushed to Black's. He was the farthest away, and he was so, so tired, but he had to make sure Shiro was okay. The talk from yesterday kept playing in his mind, over and over again.

"If anything were to happen to me tomorrow, I want you and Keith to lead Voltron."

But nothing could happen to Shiro, Lance wasn't ready, Keith wasn't ready. The loss of his big brother would destroy him. Lance could only pray. He was two feet from Black's hangar when he heard it.

A painful wail. A horrible, ear-splitting shriek. An omega's shriek.

Keith.

Lance burst into the Black Lion's cockpit to find Keith on his knees. He was sobbing, head pressed to the ground.

Shiro was gone.

Hunk rushed into the room after them. "Guys! Something's wrong with Pidge, get Coran and Allura!"

Chapter Text

Keith sat on the floor with his head pressed to his knees. He was outside the med-bay, waiting for Coran's diagnosis on Pidge. As far as they could tell on the trip over, Pidge wasn't physically harmed, but there was something wrong. The smell wafting off them was intense, as it was with the rest of them; fear, worry, pain, stress, and now grief had been added. All their scents had stressed Pidge even more, so Coran had not so politely kicked them out. Now, they were left to wait in the hallway.

Keith was exhausted, but he stood up and started to pace. "One of us needs to go back. We have to check if Shiro is there."

Lance sat with his eyes closed and his arms crossed. "We can't do that Kitten, and you know it."

"Why the hell not? Zarkon is dead! Dead! The galra Empire is probably falling apart as we speak! Now is the best time to go back. It's already been a varga, if we leave it any longer Shiro won't survive. Who knows what kinds of injuries he has sustained!" Keith exclaimed.

"Keith, Lance is right. Pidge needs us right now. I think they're presenting. You are the person they feel closest too, you can't abandon them now."

Keith closed his eyes, trying to fight the tears. "I don't understand! They shouldn't have presented so early. You hadn't even noticed their scent changing yet! I couldn't even tell if it was an alpha, beta or omega scent! Why did it have to happen now of all times!!"

"There's something called a Stress Presentation for alphas," Lance said, "It's not so common now, but it was very common during war time, especially the world wars. Pups, nearing the age of presentation, would get incredibly stressed and present early as a way to protect their pack. There is nothing we can do now except let it run its course. Kitten, Pidge needs you and Hunk more than ever. This is going to be incredibly rough for them."

"Stars," Keith muttered, "What the hell are we supposed to do now. Shiro isn't dead! I refuse to just sit back and say that he is. He's still out there! The longer we wait to start searching, the harder it will be to find him."

"We're a team, Keith. You can't forget. You and Hunk are needed to stay with Pidge, but it'll probably be better if I keep as far away as possible. The castle is huge, but it is still an enclosed space. I'll take Blue and start to look for him, then when Pidge is feeling better, we can continue together."

"Yeah, Allura and Coran can help to. You don't have to do everything by yourself anymore. We'll find him."

Keith stared at the ceiling, but the tears streamed down his face. "Why does he keep doing this to me? Why does he always leave when I need him?"

Keith sank back down to the floor, ducking his head to hide the tears. He knew it wasn't intentional, but every time Shiro left, Keith thought it was something that he had done. Was he a bad brother? A bad friend? Had Shiro finally seen that Keith wasn't good enough, that he was nothing but an orphaned omega?

Two sets of arms encompassed him, and he tensed, startled, but relaxed when he recognised the scents. Hunk's was unobtrusive, fresh cotton and clean laundry, while Lance’s reminded Keith of the beach; saltwater and hot sand. Both were layered with grief and fear, but they comforted him, nonetheless. Their armour was bulky and uncomfortable, but Keith rested his forehead on Hunk's shoulder. He wrapped an arm around them both and the three sat there while they waited. They didn't smell quite like pack, two major scents were missing, but it was enough to provide comfort. Keith found himself unwillingly relaxing, and his eyes slipped shut - just for a short while.

A cough startled him out of his daze, and he sprang to his feet. His body was stiff and tender; they must have been on the floor for longer than he thought. "I don't quite know what is happening to Number Five, I was wondering if I could refer to one of you? They keep calling for you, Keith, so I think you might be the safest option."

"That's alright, Coran, we think we know what is happening anyway. Maybe I could have a look at the more technical and medical stuff while Keith comforts them?" Hunk offered a hand to Lance and pulled him up. Coran eyed them critically but relented.

"I'm going to go have a shower and pack some stuff. I'll be out of your hair as soon as I've had a nap in Blue." Keith suddenly felt like he wouldn't be able to cope without Lance. He didn't want to send him out on his own, but he didn't feel like he had any other choice. Keith was being pulled in too many directions, and he should trust his team to relieve at least some of the pressure.

"Call us if you find anything or get in any trouble please. I can't- I can't lose you as well. Don't do anything stupid." Keith hesitantly pulled Lance into a loose hug. Lance squeezed tight. Keith squeezed harder as well, wishing he could split himself into two or even three so that he could be there for everyone at once.

"Don't worry about me, focus on Pidge for now. You'll be the first to know if I find anything."

Keith stepped back and didn't even try to hide the tears gathering in his eyes. He ducked into the med-bay after Coran to give Hunk and Lance a moment of privacy. The freshly-presented-alpha stench smacked him in the face as soon as he entered, and he tried not to gag. He loved Pidge, he did, but it would be hard to be around them when they smelled like this for the next week. Coupled with the distress and fear rolling off them in waves, it was pretty intense.

Newly presented alphas' scents weren't used to attract mates just yet, but rather to repel other alphas. So, often times their smell was unbearable, even for those it wasn't intended for. He couldn't even imagine how it must smell for Lance, the only 'rival' alpha in the vicinity; no wonder he was so eager to get away.

Keith tried to temper his own scent, but he knew the grief and weariness were heavy in the air. He wasn't sure if Pidge was aware of their loss, but he knew he couldn't bring it up. The added grief could be detrimental to their development. It would hurt Pidge deeply when they recovered, but he would do it for their own good. Even if it meant their own relationship would never be the same. Pidge would probably never trust him after he hid the fact that their leader and brother figure was missing, and possibly dead.

Coran led him to a small corner of the room, but Keith hardly needed the guide. He could practically feel the air buzzing around it, Pidge's newfound hormones bringing along with them intense emotions on levels they probably had never dealt with before. Alphas were the most volatile of the three presentations, followed closely by omegas. They could switch moods at the drop of a hat, and it was even more apparent during presentations, heats and ruts. The next couple of days would be incredibly rough, he only hoped his presence would be enough to sooth them for the next couple of minutes.

"Alpha? May I come in?" Keith asked quietly. Pidge would know he was there, whether they heard or smelled him, it didn't matter. He could not enter what had been established as their territory until he had permission. The med bay was not the best place for this, but they had little choice now.

Pidge rumbled, a scratchy and rough sound, not at all like a mature alpha's would be. They seemed to realise it as they broke off with a cough before they began again. This time it was smoother. Keith knew better than to laugh, but he couldn't hold back the small smile as he hesitantly stepped forwards.

Coran had hung a curtain to block off this small section of the med-bay, likely to provide Pidge with a sense of privacy. More people would be turning up soon to be treated for their more extreme injuries and Pidge would have to be moved before then. Keith could only hope that they hadn't gotten too settled here yet.
Keith slowly pulled the curtain aside, allowing a sliver of light to shine through. Pressed against the two walls was several sheets and some clothes, all with the sterile scent of the med-bay. A tuft of brown hair peaked out from it. Keith's heart constricted at the sloppy nest, Pidge's attempt to reassure themself.

"Hey alpha," he cooed, "How are you feeling?" He let the curtain slip closed behind him but didn't move closer to the nest. Pidge grunted.

"Why don't we move to a better place? We can build a nice nest with our scents, easy for you to keep us safe, right?" Pidge grunted but didn't move.

"Hunk will help us. You like Hunk, right alpha? He smells so clean and soft, like a beta should. He'd be safe with us, wouldn't he?"

Finally, Pidge lowered the sheet covering their head. Their glasses had been lost somewhere, affording Keith an uninterrupted view of their eyes. Their pupils were blown wide; they were bloodshot and red-rimmed. Their pale face made their inflamed scent glands even more noticeable. Keith winced at the vibrant red highlighting their cheekbones and underneath their jaw.

On Earth, they had a special cream that could be used to ease the inflammation and irritation of newly presented scent glands without damaging them or affecting their scent, but he doubted they'd find anything like it here. Since Pidge had presented suddenly, their body hadn't had the time to slowly prepare their scent glands. A normal presentation was painful enough, he couldn't imagine how Pidge must feel.

"Beta?" Pidge asked hesitantly. Keith smiled, making sure to keep his lips closed as he didn't want Pidge to mistake it for a snarl or him baring his teeth in the dim light.

"Beta," he confirmed, "and omega." He pointed to himself.

"No alpha?"

A flash of pain stabbed through him and he tried not to show it in his face or scent. "No alpha. Just beta and omega."

Pidge hesitantly crawled out from their nest, the whole structure collapsing around them. They watched it fall, forlorn, but didn't move to rebuild it. He held his hand out.

"Come on, let's find a better place."

 

Pidge insisted on walking in front of him. They paused at doorways and junctions, sniffing for threats with their heightened sense of smell. Their ears were constantly moving, flickering back and forth as they tried to make sure the area was safe. They met Hunk outside one of the lounges. The beta had an armful of his, Keith's and Pidge's bedding.

Pidge pushed Keith back protectively, and Hunk slowly lowered the bedding to the floor like an offering. Nobody said anything for a tense moment, but Pidge accepted the bedding and allowed Hunk to follow them. Keith flashed him an exhausted smile but stayed silent.

He wasn't sure where Pidge was taking them, he only hoped it was far away from Lance and Shiro's territories.

Eventually, Pidge led them to a small closet, deep in the ship. Keith wasn't sure he'd ever been this far down, but Pidge had obviously already scoped the place out. He wondered if they subconsciously knew they were about to present and had been searching for a safe place.

The walls and shelves were covered in dark sheets. There was a thick layer of dust around the edges of the room, disturbed where Pidge had been stockpiling rations and water. Hunk stepped in behind them, and the door slid shut. Small fairy lights flickered to life, illuminating their faces. It was a tight fit, just enough space for the three of them to lie down. Hunk and Keith glanced at each other.

Pidge had a blanket from their bed on the floor already, and they dumped the rest of their collection on top of it. They started to rearrange the blankets and pillows. Keith and Hunk stood back, content to watch unless they needed help. Keith gently pulled back a sheet from the shelf he was leaning on, surprised to see it full of memory disks like the ones Coran had shown him holographs of his family from. He gently picked one up, startled when it spluttered to life.

It showed a picture of King Alfor, and a woman who looked remarkably like Allura but with red markings. Keith could only guess that she was her mother. They were smiling and standing next to a couple. One was an altean with similar colouring to Allura's mother, but with dark hair. She was looking up at a tall galra man, who was caught in the middle of a laugh. Keith smiled, melancholic. These people seemed so happy; little did they know their planets would be destroyed in a war in just a few short deca-pheobes.

Keith flicked through some other holographs, most of Allura's parents; their wedding, a coronation, shaking hands with the galra man from the first picture, the wedding of the altean and galra couple. A tiny baby with lavender skin and white hair, asleep in a crib. Keith even found a few of baby Allura; chubby cheeks squashed up in a laugh; pouting at Coran; playing with a galra boy. Once Pidge's presentation was over, he might bring Coran down here to look at these. He would know if it was something that Allura would like to see.

Pidge's frustrated growl brought him out of his musings. He carefully placed the disks back and turned his attention to them. They were sitting in, well, a disaster of a nest to be honest. They looked upset; tail flicking in agitation and ears pressed flat to their head. Pidge tugged on a sheet, and half their nest fell apart. They whined.
Keith couldn't help the chuckle that slipped past his lips. "Come on, alpha. I'll teach you how to make a proper nest. And Hunk can help as well. First things first, you can't sit in the nest while you build it, at least not for the first few layers, which are, frankly, the most important."

Despite his exhaustion, Keith could feel a tiny flicker of hope bloom in his chest. They could get Pidge through this. They would find Shiro. They had taken down Zarkon, and they could do so much more. They just had to take things one step at a time. He looked up at Hunk, who was helping Pidge lay out the heaviest blanket. He just needed to trust his teammates. They were Voltron, they could do anything they set their minds to.

Chapter Text

Every moment Keith wasn't spending with Pidge, he was doing one of two things; being updated by Lance on his search for Shiro or throwing himself at training bots. He hadn't seen anyone beside Hunk and Pidge in nearly a week. He had no idea what state the universe was in. He had no idea what state the Blades were in. Hell, the castle ship could have been attacked and he'd never know any better. Coran could have contracted the slipperies again, maybe Allura as well. The mice could have defeated a planet with their own paws. Maybe they were supersized now.

Keith shook himself out of those thoughts. The point was that he hadn't slept since before the battle with Zarkon. Not properly, at least. The few times he managed to drift to sleep, he was haunted by dreams.

 

"Shiro?" he called.

"Shiro? Shiro? Shiro? Shiro? Shiro? Shiro?" echoed back at him.

He stood in a pool of water so still the sky above him reflected perfectly. It was difficult to tell if the stars above him were real or a reflection. Was he upside down?
The sky was a swirl of purples and blues. He didn't recognise a single constellation.

"Keith!"

"Keith! Keith! Keith! Keith! Keith! Keith!" echoed around him. He spun, trying to track where the voice came from. It was impossible, he couldn't see anyone.

"Shiro? Where are you?" he cried.

"Shiro? Where are you? Shiro? Where are yo.. Shiro? Where are... Shiro? Where a... Shiro? Where... Shiro? Shiro? Shiro? Shiro?"

Keith covered his ears. Was that voice his? Where did he stop, and echo begin?

"Keith! Be careful!"

"Keith! Careful! Careful! Careful! Keith! Keith! Keith!"

The echoes bounced off each other, reverberating off nothing, around and around, louder and louder until he was surrounded by overwhelming noise.

Keith screamed, trying to stop the voices swirling around in his mind. The sounds all blended together, and the sky spun. He fell forward, only to land on his back and face the sky once again. He clenched his eyes shut and curled into a ball.

"Please! Pleas- stop- st'p, stop, s'op, st'p, st'p, please." The noise got louder and louder. Colours bled through his eyelids, staining his vision in shades of blue and purple. Could he hear the colours now?

"No more- no more. I can't." he sobbed. Tears dripped down his cheeks, leaving a trail of blue. It sounded like Lance hopelessly flirting with Allura; a purring reassurance in the desert; the ocean.

Silence.

"Keith."

The colours fled from his skin; the noise retreated into the darkness. He slowly opened his eyes to a smiling galra woman. They stood in a desert. A moon as pale as the sand they stood on dominated the red sky.

"It's nice to see you again."

Keith frowned. She laughed fondly. "Don't worry about that now. Shiro is safe. Protect Voltron. Haggar is coming."

"Shiro? Where is he?" Keith exclaimed.

"I can't tell you that, it's too soon."

"That's bullshit, just tell me where he is!"

White bled into the edge of his vision. He panicked. "Tell me where he is! Tell me where to find him! Shiro!"

The woman smiled sadly, more a grimace than anything.

 

Keith woke with a scream blocking his airways. It was the same star-forsaken dream every time he fell asleep. He couldn't get himself to say anything else. He couldn't react any different way. The galra woman haunted his waking moments just as she did his dreams.

He pretended the training bots were her, as he beat them to submission. She knew where Shiro was but refused to tell him, night after night, day after day.

He wanted to check the star deck. Wanted to find the constellations, but he was hopelessly overwhelmed. Where did he even start?

 

Pidge demanded near constant attention, and although he knew this was of the utmost importance for their development, he found himself about to snap. He had too many things to do and not enough time. Never enough time.

Pidge was plagued with waves of horniness, possessiveness, aggression and a whole spectrum of other emotions. Keith couldn't leave their sight unless they were taking care of their urges, or when they were sleeping. He felt so guilty every time he left, but he had to do something. He couldn't sit around while Shiro was missing.

Hunk, bless his soul, was Keith's saviour. He looked after Pidge when he saw Keith was wearing himself ragged, or when he knew he was barely holding himself together. He got between them when Pidge tried to assert their dominance and Keith almost attacked them. He helped Pidge set up their first territory, letting Keith trail behind them.

When Keith wasn't with them, Hunk kept him updated so he'd know what kind of mood Pidge would be in when he got back. Usually, they were delighted to see him and gathered him close to scent him, but sometimes they were upset that he left. Once, they refused to let him into the nest. His guilt and frustration poured down his face in the form of tears, and he angrily scrubbed them away.

He couldn't cry over something he deserved.

He didn't see Pidge again until the next morning, when he dropped Hunk’s breakfast over for him. He was prepared for the worst; for Pidge to get so furious that he had entered their territory that they went into a fit of blind rage and attacked him; for Pidge to refuse to acknowledge his presence; for Hunk to politely remind him never to speak to either of them again. He wasn't prepared for Pidge to throw themself at him, tears streaming down their face.

"I'm- I'm sorry! Please don't leave, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I'll be a good alpha, I promise!" They cried into his shoulder.

And, well, didn't that just absolutely shatter his heart. He was moping and crying while they were going through one of the most confusing and trying times in their life and they were apologising to him.

 

Later that night, he threw himself at the training bots again. He couldn't bear to stay in Pidge's nest any longer. They deserved someone better to help them through this, someone who's attention wasn't constantly divided between three different things at once.

He cursed as one of the bots caught his shoulder. Its blunt blade slammed into the scar from his Blade trial. His right leg buckled under the force of the hit, and he collapsed onto his side. The bot raised its sword to take a final blow. Keith tried to scramble away but couldn't get his legs under him. He weakly pawed at the ground, trying to reach for his bayard, which he had dropped as he fell.

"End Training Sequence!" a voice cried. The bot powered down, and the ground beneath is opened up. Footsteps rushed towards him. A shadow covered his vision, and his eyes took a moment to adjust. A gentle hand brushed his hair away from his face.

"Lance?" he murmured weakly.

"That's my name, cariño, don't wear it out. Are you hurt?"

"No, I'm fine." Keith tried to sit up, but his hands slipped out from underneath him. Strong arms prevented him from face planting into the floor.

"Sure you are. Come on, let's get you to the med bay for a check-up. Then you can go have a nap." Lance gently started pulling Keith upright, but he struggled against him.

"No! I can't! I have to look after Pidge and find Shiro! Why are you even here, you should be looking for him?" Keith twisted in Lance's grip, trying to get away from him. He was not going to take up valuable resources because a training bot got the better of him. They needed to save them for someone more important.

"I came back because Hunk messaged me. He's worried about you."

"Well, he shouldn't be! I'm fine, he should stick to his job and look after Pidge!"

"Keith! Calm down! He is looking after Pidge. What's going on with you?"

"Nothing's wrong with me, you fucking dickhead! Stop forcing yourself into my business and do what you're supposed to be doing!" Keith screamed.
The training room was silent. Lance let go of Keith's arms. Keith immediately felt guilty, but he couldn't bring himself to apologise. Maybe Lance would realise he was wasting his time now. Tears gathered in the corners of his eyes, but he couldn't let them fall. He did this to himself.

"I know exactly what you're doing Keith, and I'm not going to stand for it." Keith's eyes widened but he didn't look up. "You are coming with me to the med bay."
Tanned hands reached for his own, and this time he didn't pull away. "I don't understand," he whispered, "Why are you wasting your time on me? Shiro is more important, Pidge is more important."

"You're my friend, Keith, and I'm not going to let you run yourself ragged for no good reason. The Red Paladin is just important as the Green or Black ones. We can't form Voltron without any of them. Please, just get yourself checked out." Keith slumped as Lance guided him towards the door. He didn't bother arguing.

 

The med bay was deathly quiet. Multiple pods were up with injured Blades filling them. Keith tried to catch a glimpse to see if he recognised anyone, but Lance firmly steered him away. Coran was organising supplies in the back corner of the room – the same one Pidge hid themself in earlier in the week, he noted dimly.

"Boys! What can I do for you!" Coran called, cheerful as usual. Keith idly wondered if his exuberance was a façade, or if he genuinely was that happy all the time.

"Keith," Lance glared at him, "hurt himself on the training deck, and I'm guessing he hasn't been taking care of himself either. Could you check him out?"

"Coran, seriously, I'm fine. It just caught me off guard," Keith protested.

"We better check either way, my boy. What harm will it do, either your fine and I send you off or you're not, I fix you up and send you off."

Keith looked down at his feet, reluctant to answer. Coran gently guided him towards an empty bed.

"Would you mind taking your shirt off so I can assess the area please?" he asked.

Keith begrudgingly pulled his shirt off. Lance gasped at the sight of his torso. His ribs were covered in a smattering of bruises, all dark purples and blacks. He knew it was bad, but it wasn't something he couldn't deal with himself. He was sure his shoulder was a bright red already.

"Oh dear, that doesn't quite look 'fine', Number Four. These are old injuries, as well." Coran didn't say much more, just set about poking and prodding each bruise. He pulled out a little jar. "This should help clear these up quicker, I'll apply the ones on your back for you but I'm sure you would rather do the rest yourself."

"Thanks," Keith muttered.

The cream was cool against his skin. The bruises instantly felt better, not as tender as before. He sighed.

"Keith," Lance whispered, "Why didn't you tell anyone you were hurt?"

A flash of irritation rose in his chest. "It's not your job to worry about me, Lance. I have a few bruises, we all do. We have bigger things to deal with."

"Apparently it is my job to worry about you, since you seem incapable of taking care of yourself." Lance stood and took a step closer, towering over Keith.

"I don't need a fucking babysitter Lance. I already told you, we have more important things to be doing." Keith clenched his fist. He tried to stand up to meet him, but Coran pressed on his shoulders.

"And how are we supposed to do these important things with you in a healing pod because you don't know when to stop? We're already down two lions, how are we supposed to cope without another one? You'll never find Shiro at the rate you're going, and you won't have any help either."

A small part of Keith wanted to soothe the angry alpha in front of him, but he furiously squashed it back down. "Don't you dare say that. I will find Shiro! He is still alive, and I'll prove it. If you want to give up on him then fine, be my guest."

"You're a real fucking piece of work, Kogane. If Shiro is more important to you than Voltron is, you're more than welcome to leave."

Lance stormed out of the room, leaving Keith with his head in his hands. Why couldn't Lance see that Voltron couldn't continue without Shiro, that Keith couldn't continue without Shiro. He had been trying to work through his anger on the training deck and now he was even tighter strung than he was before. Fucking Lance.

Keith couldn't believe this was the guy he had a crush on. Way to pick them Kogane, he thought.

"All done my boy. And if you don't mind me saying, I think Lance is just worried about you."

"Yeah, sure, Coran. Thanks." What a joke. The guy just told him to leave Voltron, as if he was worried about him.

Keith slipped his shirt back on and took the jar with him. He needed to check up on Pidge, then maybe he could go back to searching the star maps for the constellations in his dreams.

 

As he neared the closet Pidge had holed up in, he heard a loud crash. He picked up his pace, racing to the room. The door opened, and a teary-eyed Pidge stepped out. Keith frowned. Their ears and tail were limp. Their scent overpowered him. He gagged as it caught in the back of his throat.

"Pidge, what happened? Let's get you back into the nest." Keith pressed his hand to their forehead, worried they were getting sick.

"How could you?" they whispered. They jerked away from his touch.

"What?" he asked, bewildered.

"How could you! Shiro's been missing for a week and you didn't even bother telling me!" they shouted. Keith flinched at the sudden volume. He abruptly realised their presentation must be over.

"Pidge, how could I tell you? Who knows what that would have done to you?"

"Did you even think about how I would feel after? Shiro is like a brother to me too, and he's been missing for a week and I didn't even know! I can't lose someone else; I can't do it. This is all your quiznaking fault!" They shoved against him, jerking out of his grip. Keith let them. He didn't try to stop them as they sprinted away.

He did this, after all.

Chapter Text

Keith found himself back in the med bay after Pidge left. He knew he shouldn't be there, but some part of himself couldn't resist the torture. May as well kick himself while he's down, right?

The first few pods were filled with masked Blades; people he didn't really recognise. The Blade was a lot bigger than he ever realised, and they had thrown their all into that battle. Unfortunately, that meant a lot of people got hurt.

He was surprised to see Kolivan standing in front of a pod. He always tried to keep a professional level of distance from his subordinates, besides his own pack, of course. He couldn't get emotionally attached, although Keith knew that that didn't work out for him as well as he had hoped. Keith pressed himself up to Kolivan's side, revelling in the easy way he slung an arm over Keith's shoulder. It was nice.

Keith didn't recognise the Blade in the pod; not at first. He had a long scar down his face, opposite to Kolivan's. It had healed badly, ugly and ragged through one eyebrow and down all the way to his neck. The Blade was lucky he didn't lose his eye. But the more Keith studied him, the more familiar he became.
Keith slipped out of Kolivan's grip and stepped closer. He pressed a hand to the pod and turned to face Kolivan, eyes filled with unshed tears and a whimper on his lips.

"Antok?" he whispered.

Kolivan's silence was answer enough.

Keith staggered back from the pod. He had done it again; he had been so selfish that he didn't even notice one of his packmates in trouble. Antok had been in a pod for a week and Keith hadn't even noticed. And what was worse, Keith felt hurt that Kolivan or Ulaz, even Thace didn't tell him, despite the fact that he did the exact same thing to Pidge earlier.

He collapsed onto his knees and fell forward, face pressed into the ground, sobbing and sobbing. The metal floor felt cool against his heated cheeks, tears pooling underneath him. A warm hand rubbed gently against his back in a bid to comfort him. He pushed them away, pushed the scent of home and comfort and Luxite away. He didn't deserve it; he didn't want it.

He staggered to his feet and ran from the room.

There was only one place he could go, one person who he hadn't hurt or upset. Yet.

Red.

Red opened her maw for him the moment he stepped into her hangar. Her particle barrier came up behind him, protecting him from the outside world, although that wasn't where his demons lay. He collapsed against the pilot’s seat and cried and cried until he couldn't lose any more tears. His throat was dry and sore, a migraine pounded through his head. His eyes were irritated and red, and the bright lights in the lion didn't help.

He sighed as Red lowered the lights in the cockpit easing the pressure behind his eyes, even if only a tiny bit. Red sent him an image of a bunk in the back of her storage bay, along with a soothing sense of protection and warmth. Red would watch over him while he slept.

He wearily dragged himself to the bed, but he had no intention of going asleep. He couldn't bear to see the galra woman again, couldn't bear to hear Shiro's voice calling for him. Red had lowered the lights down back here too, and he settled onto the thin mattress.

He only had one pillow and one worn blanket, but it would make do while he rested. Red purred to him, sending vibrations throughout the bunk, luring him closer to sleep. He tried to resist, but the exhaustion of the last few hours caught up with him. Maybe he'd close his eyes. Just for a few seconds.

 

When Keith awoke, he had the sense of being, well, moderately rested. Which was better than he had felt in a long, long time (Had it only been a week since Zarkon's battle? How could everything have gone wrong in such little time?). Keith had no way of telling how long he had been asleep, but he estimated that it had been a few hours at least.

He had had that dream again, the same damn thing as always, but the memory of it was blurred and faded. Like if he hadn't had had the same dream a hundred times already, it would have already slipped from his mind, like sand through his fingers.

Red purred to him, and he wondered if it was her influence. The sleep had helped to clear his mind a little, and he knew he needed a plan now. Pidge was back in action, so they could afford to lose one lion in the search for Shiro.

Since Lance seemed to have no intention of doing so, Keith would have to do it himself. Red roared in his head, and he knew she was excited to get back out again. Excited to find Shiro. Black had completely shut down since he went missing, and Keith could feel the worry Red and the others felt for her. They missed their sister.

Keith stood up and twisted to crack his back. He had a few uncomfortable kinks in his neck and shoulders, but it was worth it for just a few hours of peace. Red had an emergency supply of rations that Keith had no problem digging into as he went to the pilot's seat.

"No time like the present, right Red?"

Red roared, the sound reverberating off the walls of the hangar, and took off. As she left the castle, Keith got a notification for an incoming call. He gladly pressed decline before sending Red into full speed. He had no idea where he was going, but he had a good feeling. He would find Shiro.

 

Three hours and sixteen missed calls later, Keith had had enough.

"What?" he snapped as soon as he answered the call. A very unimpressed Allura appeared in front of him, Coran hovering in the background.

"Where do you think you are going? How dare you take so long to answer my call. You have no idea what was happening back here, what if we were attacked?" Her voice was cold and unforgiving.

"You're obviously fine or you wouldn't be wasting your breath yelling at me. What do you want?"

"I demand that you come back to the castle right this instant. We need to discuss our next steps, and to discuss the next Black Paladin."
Keith's eyes hardened. "Shiro's only been missing for a week, Princess. You've already given up on him? Would it be the same for all of us? Just replace us and be done. Nice try, but Voltron can't be formed without Shiro. He never gave up on me and I refuse to give up on him."

"I have no problems replacing the Red Paladin as well."

Keith laughed, humourlessly. "I have no problems being replaced. If you want to use us as your pawns, if Voltron’s loyalties only matter as long as you can fly a lion, well, I want nothing to do with that. I'll look for Shiro by myself and gladly watch the universe burn."

Keith hung up before he could give Allura the satisfaction of a reply.

He got three missed calls before Allura gave up.

 

Keith stayed in Red for as long as he could, until his rations were gone and he was in desperate need of a shower, before he went back to the castle. Lance met him in the hangar, but he didn't say a word and left as soon as Keith stepped out of Red.

Keith was gone again as soon as he restocked.

 

A few times, Yellow joined him on his search, an unspoken companionship that made Keith feel a little bit better about himself. He was glad he hadn't completely fucked everything up with Hunk at least.

 

Every time he saw Allura for more than a second, she would try to bring up finding a new Black Paladin. He learned to turn in the opposite direction if he saw her coming down the hallway and left the room as soon as she entered.

 

One evening, Keith stayed on the ship for longer than usual. He passed by Black's hangar, and he could almost hear Shiro calling for him. Black lay on her side, like a poor imitation of the Lion she used to be. Gone was her regal and powerful air, replaced only with sadness and grief. He stepped into the room, and stood there, frozen for an indistinguishable amount of time.

He startled when a hand was placed on his shoulder, thinking it was Shiro. He was sorely disappointed when he turned to face Lance instead. Allura, Coran, Hunk, Pidge and Kolivan stood behind him. Keith sighed; this was the overdue intervention, wasn't it. This was exactly why he had been avoiding the castle ship as long as possible. His ears pressed themselves into his head, and he made no effort to hide his displeasure.

"Hey man. Listen, we all miss Shiro. I remember what a thrill it was to meet him for the first time when the two of us carried him out of that Garrison hospital." Keith clenched his fists but otherwise didn't react.

"I grew up with my dad and Matt telling me stories about him. He was a legend in our house." Pidge stepped up beside him to stare at the Black Lion.

"The guy taught me everything I know about being a pilot. Which isn't much, but that's more on me," Hunk laughed nervously.

"You're not the only one hurting, man. We're all right there with you. But-"

Keith burst into laughter, so hard and so sudden that he dropped to his knees and clutched his stomach. The others were shocked into silence. After a minute of hysterical laughing turned sobbing, he eventually pulled himself to his feet.

"I'm- I'm sorry. That's just fucking hilarious," he gasped, "That's your attempt at consoling me? 'Get over yourself, we all knew of Shiro so that means our grief is equal to yours?' That's just fucking brilliant isn't it. Have you stopped for one second, pulled your heads out of your asses to consider what I've lost?? Have you??? Shiro means everything to me! I would have died a long time ago in that shitty foster home if it weren't for him!! He's the first and only person to love me since my dad died in that fucking fire!! He's been with me through everything, and now he's gone missing! Again! So, I'm sorry if your idol, your mentor went missing, but that's my fucking best friend!!" Keith screamed.

The rest of the team took a step back while Kolivan inched forwards. Keith didn't notice or care. "Shiro is my whole fucking world, and while I'm trying to process everything, while I'm trying to find him, all I get is you actively trying to make sure he's gone. The longer he's missing, the less likely we are to find him! So, stop trying to talk to me about the new Black Paladin, I won't fucking do it!!" Keith was screeching by the end, his voice cracking and growing hoarse.

He glanced up, and he had never seen such cold fury in Allura's eyes. Kolivan stepped forward, blocking his line of view. "You're okay kit, just let it-"

"I'm not fucking okay!!! Stop saying I'm- I'm okay!" Keith's voice broke at the end, and he choked on his own tears. Kolivan pressed forwards, wrapping him up in a hug. He struggled and beat at his chest, but soon collapsed into the embrace.

"I can't do it without him, please don't make me do it without him. Please Kolivan, don't do it," he whimpered.

"I can't promise you anything kit, but we'll try out best. You're tired, come back to the nest, we've missed you. Despite what you say, Shiro isn't the only person to love you."

Keith was too weak to put up a fight and let Kolivan sweep him up in his arms. He dimly noted that the rest of the team had left. A pang of regret stabbed through his chest, but he also felt relieved.

Kolivan wrapped Keith's legs around his waist, and gently pulled Keith’s head to rest against his shoulder, nose buried in his neck. He patted Keith’s back and began to walk to the nest that Keith had built the Blades, what felt like eons ago.

Keith was asleep before they left the hangar.

Chapter Text

Keith woke up pressed in between two bodies. He had slept with minimal dreams or nightmares. Keith yawned and wiggled in place, deciding that he was too comfortable to move. A quiet chuckle rang above him and he blinked one eye open.

Antok pressed a hand against the crown of his head, and Keith suppressed a shudder. He leaned into it with a purr.

"It's nice to see you, kitten," Antok whispered.

"Nice to see you too," he replied. He tried to think; why hadn't he seen Antok? He gasped and sat upright, shaking the last of his sleep from his mind. He frantically pressed his hands to Antok's side and front. Keith needed to prove to himself that Antok was alright.

Antok hissed, and Keith backed away with a guilty chirp. His ears folded back, and he wasn't sure if he was going to get scolded. Antok held a hand out to him with a grimace turned smile.

"No, I'm okay, kit, promise. I'm just a bit tender there, but you didn't hurt me."

There was a sleepy mumble from behind Keith, and a large arm dragged him back to press against someone's chest. Keith tried to twist to see who it was, but a second and then a third arm came to join the first. Antok laughed at the confused expression on Keith's face.

Keith looked at the arms, two with dark violet fur, one with lavender. The lavender hand was well tended to, their talons kept cut short and clean. Their fur smelt vaguely like antiseptic. Ulaz.

The second pair of arms weren't familiar to Keith, and for that reason alone he guessed that it was Thace directly behind him, with Ulaz behind Thace. Despite not really knowing Thace, the rest of the Blades were obviously comfortable with him, so Keith trusted him. Keith snuggled back into his embrace with a sigh.

Antok chuckled and rolled so he was a bit closer to Keith. "Kolivan was behind you, but he had to leave for a meeting early this morning." He answered Keith's unasked question. Keith nodded, pushing down the bitter disappointment.

The four of them lay there like that for a while. Keith took in the sights and scents of the room. The nest smelt well used, with all four of their scents, although Antok's was understandably the weakest. Pride blossomed in Keith’s chest, happy that they had used the nest he so painstakingly built for them.

The only sounds in the room were their gentle breathing. Keith's mind quickly diverged into recent events. He felt awful for blowing up on his pack when they were just trying to help, but he'd been close to a meltdown for weeks now. He felt incredibly hurt that they had all given up on searching for Shiro. He knew Voltron was still needed. He knew, realistically, that they needed a new Black Paladin, whether that was Keith or not, but that didn't mean they had to give up on Shiro.

Shiro was still alive – somewhere – and Keith was going to find him.

If Shiro was here, he'd be disappointed in Keith for the way he treated his team. Keith was disappointed in himself. He just didn't know how to come back from this. Keith knew he was the least liked member of the team, and if they so easily gave up on Shiro – well, it didn't bode well for Keith.

Keith sighed and rolled over, pressing his face into Thace's furry chest. He wondered if Thace would be weirded out when he woke up. Keith couldn't explain it, but he felt like he knew Thace all his life despite barely having held a conversation with the man. He was familiar in ways Keith couldn't describe. Keith had never felt so at ease with someone he didn't know, not even Shiro.

The door of their room slid open and Keith blinked against the bright light filtering from the hallway. Kolivan stepped inside, and Keith gently pushed Thace and Ulaz away to greet him. He loved all the Blades, but Kolivan had quickly became the one Keith went to when he was upset and needed advice.

Kolivan sat at the edge of the nest, behind Antok, who had fallen back asleep. He smiled when he saw Keith sit up, and gestured for him to move closer. Keith crawled over the others and settled himself in Kolivan's lap. He buried his face in his neck and relished the weight of Kolivan's arms around his back. Kolivan leaned down and pressed his face into Keith's hair. They didn't say anything, just basked in each other's company.

Eventually, Keith sighed and pulled back. He searched Kolivan's face for any trace of disappointment for his behaviour earlier (or was that yesterday? He didn't know how long he was asleep.) "Are you angry with me?" he asked, hating how timid his voice sounded. Tears welled up in his eyes.

Kolivan sighed, "No, kit. Do I think your friends deserved that blow out? No. Do I understand where you were coming from? Yes. They had good intentions, but they could have executed that conversation better. You have been extremely stressed and upset these past few weeks, so I understand that it all had to come to a head at some point."

"I don't understand why they just gave up on Shiro. Why would they do that? He is our leader. He is everything to me and they haven't even searched for him!" Tears dripped down Keith's face and he furiously wiped them away.

"Maybe, just maybe, you have been so caught up in your own grief that you haven't seen the effort the others are going to. Lance has your tracker up whenever you leave the castle, running programs that search for life from the Red Lion. Pidge is searching through every database they has access to for any information. Hunk goes out to search, usually in the opposite direction as you. Lance asked Coran to show him how to access the Red lion, and he has your vitals up at all times. He's looking after you, making sure that you have whatever you need, whenever you need it. They haven't given up yet kit, but they know that they can't run themselves to the ground searching for him. We can't let everything we worked so hard for to go to waste."

The dam burst. Keith sobbed and sobbed, pressing his face into Kolivan's shirt. It was soon soaked through with tears and snot. Kolivan ran his fingers through Keith's hair, pressing against the crown of his head and the base of his ears. A second pair of hands rubbed up and down his back, while someone went to fetch some water. A warm blanket was wrapped tightly around him, calming him more than he thought possible.

He hiccupped as his tears dried up. He didn't lift his face, too embarrassed by his own hysterics. He was sure he looked like a complete disaster, eyes swollen and red, dried snot and tears crusting on his face. Someone pressed a water packet into his hand, and he greedily gulped it down.

He slowly pulled his face away, cringing at the state of Kolivan's shirt. He wiped his face with his sleeve, but he was sure it did next to nothing. Nobody pressed into his face or bombarded him with questions and for that he was grateful.

"Sorry, I-" he coughed to clear his throat and started again. "Sorry, I didn't mean to ruin your shirt, or wake everyone up."

"That's okay kit," Ulaz said, handing him another packet of water and tucking the blanket tighter around him. "Sometimes you just need to let things out."

"Thank you for, well, being here for me. I should talk to my team."

 

Keith stopped by Black's hangar before he met up with the rest of his team in the lounge. He had called a meeting, one that they desperately needed. He was ready to accept a new Black Paladin, as long as they didn't give up on Shiro. And he needed to apologise for his behaviour these last few weeks.

Black was still laying on her side where she had fallen. Red sat in front of her protectively. Keith approached them cautiously. He wanted to visit one last time before he faced his team. He wondered if they could give him more courage.

Red knelt down to his level, gently butting him with her maw. He smiled and pressed a hand to her nose. She really was just an overgrown housecat. Her purrs rumbled through the hangar, making the floor beneath them vibrate with their intensity.

Suddenly, the creaking and rumbling of machinery long fallen out of use filled the air. Black was moving, pulling herself up into a better position. Red nudged him towards her. Keith hesitantly stepped forwards.

Black hadn't started to heal in the weeks since Zarkon. It looked like Pidge and Hunk had done what they could, but they only had access to a few parts of her. Whatever she lay on was left raw and unattended. Keith briefly wondered if the lions could get infections before shaking the absurd thought away.

Black's right shoulder was completely exposed, her outer casing having been ripped away. Her chest was a mess of wires and metal parts. She leaned heavily on her left leg, her right one buckling under any amount of weight. Red moved to sit next to her, and Keith felt like he was about to be scolded by his parents. He felt so small in front of their imposing figures.

Something tentatively brushed against the outer reaches of his mind. Keith flinched away from it, but Red soothed him. Her warm presence surrounded his soul, encouraging him to reach out to this new presence.

The new presence was vast and cold, similar but opposite to Red. Keith gasped once he identified it as Black. If Red was a warm fireplace, Black was the snowball fight before it. Red was the sun, but Black was the entire solar system. Where Red comforted and defended, Black pushed and protected. She was simultaneously vast and empty like space itself, a whirlwind of different emotions and sensations. Keith felt a rush of adrenaline just from being in her presence. She was old, much older than he could have ever imagined. She was wise, and she was trying to impart her knowledge to him now.

Red and Black encompassed him, so much so that he lost all feeling in his body. He was completely and utterly focused on the two beings before him. The hangar smelt of hot metal and oil, his own sweet scent engulfed in it. His body began to heat up. The air turned humid, his hair curled around his face and plastered to his forehead with sweat. Black filled every crevice of his brain with her wisdom, until it was too much for his mortal body. Red did her best to offset the consequences, but there was little she could do.

Keith blacked out.

 

He awoke with a gasp, jolting upright. He was in the med bay, his entire pack surrounding him. Hands reached to steady him, but he swatted them away.

"I know what we need to do."

Chapter Text

Lance was on his way to the meeting that Keith had so suddenly called, when the alarms blared. He panicked; they couldn’t form Voltron; the team were crippled. He wasn’t sure they could hold off a galra fleet at the moment.

“The Black Lion is moving!” Allura cried over the intercom. Black hadn’t moved since Shiro disappeared. Lance turned and bolted towards her hangar. He turned a corner and met Pidge, who obviously had the same idea as him. They burst into the hangar at the same time, Hunk and Coran seconds behind them.

Black and Red were hunched over a small figure, which was glowing a vibrant red with purple flickering on the outer edges. For a moment Lance thought that the person was on fire. He rushed forwards, ready to call out to whoever this was, when the figure turned to face them.

It was Keith.

His eyes glowed completely white, no hint of his purple irises. His face was blank. Lance could feel the waves of heat radiating off him from where he stood a few feet away. Lance gasped and turned frantically to face the others. They all wore similar expressions.

Allura burst through the doors, having been the furthest from the hangar. She gasped and cried out, “His quintessence! It’s overloading! He’s going to drop!”

As though he was waiting for her word, Keith fell like a limp ragdoll. Lance sprang forwards and caught him, but Keith’s weight pulled him to the floor. The cold metal floor sizzled where it came too close to Keith’s skin.

Lance pressed his fingertips to Keith’s pulse, hissing at the heat but pausing once he realised that Keith’s skin was actually cool to the touch. It was like there was a shell of heat around him but not touching him. Keith’s pulse hammered underneath Lance’s fingers. Lance sighed and pulled him closer.

The heat was making Lance sweat, drops of it rolling down his face and evaporating before they could fall to meet Keith’s skin. Lance became aware of shouting all around him. He was so focused on Keith he had zoned out.

“What is happening to him?”

“What does that mean?”

“Everybody quiet!!” Lance yelled. The hangar fell silent except for the sounds of their breathing and the sizzling where Lance’s sweat was evaporating from the heat.

“Allura, what do we do.” He asked, although it was more of a command.

“We need get him to the med bay so we can monitor his vitals. The pods won’t be able to help him, and I don’t think there is much else we can do.”

Lance nodded, gazing down at Keith’s pinched eyebrows. He shifted but couldn’t bring Keith’s body any closer to his own. “I’m going to need help; Keith is too hot for me to be close to.”

Hunk stepped forwards and looped Keith’s arm around his shoulder. He gasped at the heat, but he was wearing his armour and had a better resistance to it then Lance did. Together, they pulled him up and started walking to the med bay. Keith was completely limp and unresponsive between them, feet dragging on the ground and head tipped towards his chin.

“His body feels so cold compared to the air around him,” Hunk muttered. Already, Lance could see sweat gathering on his brow, only to disappear once it came too close to Keith. Allura and Coran ran past to set up the med bay, while Pidge held doors open for them. They moved as fast as they could, but Keith was impossibly heavy, and seemed to get heavier with every step they took.

Ulaz and Antok met them halfway, and swiftly took over carrying him. Even Antok struggled, and Lance had to lean against the wall and pant as he tried to regain his strength.

“We can’t put him in a pod. I’m not sure they would be able to withstand the heat,” Coran muttered as he pulled out equipment. “All we can do right now is make sure his vitals are okay.”

They started attaching wires to Keith, but he suddenly stood and pushed them away. The air around him burned hotter and hotter until it was too bright to look at. Keith’s eyes had shifted to a deep and dark black, specks of white freckled throughout like stars.

Allura and Coran cried out and stepped back as the heat waved over them. And then, just as suddenly as it came it was gone.

Keith fell backwards onto the bed.

 

The med bay was silent, everyone trying to process what had just happened. Coran had finally managed to hook Keith up to a heart and brain monitor. Lance watched his heart rate rise and fall. Considering he just turned into a human supernova, all his vitals were good. His brain was working harder than it should be for someone who was unconscious, but at least it meant he was still alive.

Allura placed her hands on his head, trying to see into his soul. Apparently, she had never seen anyone have a reaction like that before, and they don’t know what Keith was doing at the time. Pidge was scanning through the security footage.

“His quintessence is almost a perfect match for the Black Lion,” Allura whispered. Lance straightened up in his seat by Keith’s side.

“But it wasn’t always like that, right? You would have made him the Black Paladin from the start if that was the case,” Lance pointed out.

“You’re right. Keith has always been closer to the Red Lion. His quintessence showed he had the potential to pilot the Black in a pinch. You all share similar quintessence but are closest to your own Lion. Now though, Keith’s is almost identical to Black’s. Quintessence is a difficult thing to understand, but everybody has their own unique signature. All red paladins share aspects with the Red Lion, but they are all different. For Keith’s quintessence to suddenly change to match the Black Lions… I can’t even begin to theorize what happened.”

“The security footage isn’t much better,” Pidge said, “It just shows Keith walking into the hangar, Red pushing him towards Black and then he starts glowing. He was only there for a few seconds before Lance burst in. Overall, he was glowing for a little under three minutes.” Pidge turned their screen around so everyone could watch the footage. They were right, nothing happened.

“Do you think that it was some kind of changing lion ceremony?” Hunk asked. He pulled his headband tighter. “I mean, none of the initial paladins ever changed lions so maybe that was it?”

Coran and Allura shared a look. “You might be right, my boy, but we just won’t know until Keith wakes up. Maybe not even then.”

 

Slowly, everyone filtered out of the room. Pidge and Hunk went down to check on Black and Red, to see if there might be any clues as to what happened. Allura and Coran retreated to the library, with Kolivan and Ulaz accompanying them. It left Lance and Antok alone to watch over Keith.

Antok was very quiet, and usually Lance would try to fill the silence, but not today. He thought back on the past few weeks. Keith had been so upset and volatile recently. Lance tried to imagine what it would be like if Veronica went missing. Twice. Would he refuse to stop searching for her? Would he have reacted the same way when his friends tried to console him?

But Keith had the extra pressure of being at war. Keith couldn’t drop everything to find Shiro. They had been lucky in that there hadn’t been any attacks recently, but that wouldn’t hold out forever. Just because they took Zarkon down didn’t mean the Empire were suddenly going to free all the planets. The universe still needed Voltron. And Voltron needed Keith.

But maybe, Keith needed Shiro. It wasn’t fair of them to expect Keith to give up searching for him. Pidge was still looking for their dad and brother, even after all these months. They had to give him time to grieve. There was a chasm growing between Keith and the team, a chasm Lance was going to have to do his best to close over.

 

Antok and Lance stayed with Keith through the night, with the others filtering in and out. Everyone was trying to keep busy, trying not to linger on the fear and stress of the past couple of hours.

Eventually, in the early hours of the morning, Keith stirred. Antok rushed to comfort him while Lance ran to the intercom.

“Everyone! Keith’s waking up!” he cried before rushing back to Keith.

Everyone made it to the med bay before he woke up. Coran and Allura hovered over him as he shifted and stirred.

Suddenly, with a gasp, he sat upright, eyes unseeing and whole body tense. Lance pushed forwards to steady him, while Allura and Coran did the same on the other side. Keith swatted their hands away.

“I know what we need to do.”

Chapter Text

The team followed Keith as he speed walked back to the hangars. Lance was weary of letting Keith near the lions, considering what happened last time, but Keith was insistent. Lance wouldn’t be surprised if Keith broke his arm just to get past him.

Lance was practically on his heels, as Keith still seemed wobbly. His cheeks were flushed with excitement though. This was the most hopeful Lance had seen him since Shiro went missing.

The hangar doors opened before him, and Keith paused at the threshold. Lance stopped quickly to avoid colliding with him, but Pidge and Hunk weren’t so lucky. They both slammed into Lance, sending all three hurtling forwards and to the floor. Coran and Allura behind them stepped delicately over them, and Keith hadn’t even noticed the commotion.

Lance watched as Keith stepped forwards, a look of absolute and utter awe on his face. Lance had the feeling the Keith wasn’t seeing the same thing he was.

“Each of the lions have an element,” he started, voice barely above a whisper, “Red, fire. Blue, water. Yellow, earth. Green, nature. Black is space and time. She showed me the future. Hundreds of possible realities. Every tiny decision we make affects it, I can’t be sure of the outcome, but I have a good idea where to start.”

Pidge and Hunk exchanged glances, probably doubting the science of it all, but Lance believed him. Or at least that Keith believed it. Keith had seen… something, and Lance wasn’t going to be the one to shoot that down.

“So, what are we going to do?” Lance asked, finally disentangling himself from Pidge and Hunk and stepping up besides Keith. His scent was different, pull of an emotion Lance couldn’t describe.

“I’m going to take the Black Lion. She has made it abundantly clear that she wants me to lead. It was Shiro’s wish too. And, Allura,” Keith turns to face her, “You are going to take Red. It’s not a perfect match, but Red thinks that you resemble your father, in heart and soul, enough for it to work. You would do extremely well as my second-in-command.”

Lance turned to look at Allura, she seemed so proud. Lance was happy for her, but he couldn’t help feeling a little bit put out. A small part of him had hoped he would take Red, not that he necessarily wanted to leave Blue behind, but he thought he would work well as Keith’s second-in-command.

“Congratulations Allura, I’m so proud of you,” he said instead of voicing his feelings. Keith wouldn’t have put her in Red for no reason.

“Thank you, Lance, I will do my best,” she replied. Coran stepped forwards to pull her into a hug.

 

Keith turned to Lance with a smile. “Lance, I know how you must be feeling, but you haven’t been put in Red for a reason. I need you to focus on leading the pack. I know Shiro wanted you to take over for him, and it is much more important than it seems. I’m trusting you with this.”

All-knowing Keith was a bit creepy, Lance thought, but he appreciated the sentiment. Pride bloomed in his chest, a bouquet of amaryllis in his lungs. He had gladly conceded defeat to Shiro, all those months ago, but he was happy - and more importantly - ready to lead his own pack now.

“Thank you, Keith, I’ll make you proud.”

The smile that graced Keith’s cheeks made Lance think that he already had.

 

The team spent the next few days practicing working together, relearning each other in this new dynamic before they ever tried to form Voltron. As time passed, Keith came back into himself, losing that unnerving, all-knowing edge to him.

He came back to his grumpy self, but Lance didn’t mind. He seemed more hopeful than ever, eager to use his newfound knowledge to find Shiro, but willing to listen to his team this time. He hadn’t divulged what he saw exactly to them but asked that they trust him. It was harder than Lance would like to admit. Not that Lance didn’t trust Keith, but part of him doubted that he wouldn’t go off on his own again.

It was jarring, to work under Keith. He was different to Shiro, obviously. He focused on their individual strengths and weaknesses, encouraging them to work hard at what they were weak at and finetuning what they were good at. Keith organised individual training times for each of them. He was brash, and quick, and sometimes forgot that the others couldn’t keep up with him.

Their first few attempts at Voltron were disastrous, with Keith storming off in frustration. His scent, however, wasn’t necessarily angry. Closer to scared, upset, worried.

Allura and Keith had their fair share of arguments at first too. Allura wasn’t used to not having the paladins under her control and clashed with Keith several times when she tried issuing orders. Never mind their different leading styles. They managed though, through necessity.

 

Before Lance knew it, months had passed by. They were no closer to finding Shiro than they were in the beginning, but Keith still had hope. Lance had fallen naturally into his role of pack leader. Sometimes, he still felt the sting of not being chosen as the Red Paladin, but he knew his role as pack leader was important, and it was something that Keith had entrusted to him.

Lance had never realised the work that went into keeping a pack healthy and happy. He was constantly reminding his pack to eat, drink, sleep and bathe. He had to set up relaxing nights when things got too much, he had to manage each packmate, and their relationship with each other. He was teaching Pidge how to be an alpha. How to manage their instincts, what was overstepping the line, what was too possessive, what they could and couldn’t do as the non-dominate alpha.

It was difficult, since Lance himself was still learning. Usually, an alpha is taught by their seniors on how to look after a pack, so that they could either take over, or go out and start their own. Lance was only taught the basics by his father, but he left earth before he could learn anymore. Shiro had tried as well, but the war made things difficult and it was soon forgotten.

Although, Lance often wondered if the team would ever have become pack, if they had never left earth. Shiro and Keith, probably, but Hunk, Pidge and Lance wouldn’t have ever really known them. Maybe Pidge would have, through their brother. It was a sobering though. Lance often wondered what would happen when and if they finally got back to earth. Would the pack disband? It wasn’t unheard of, but sometimes packs thrown together in stressful situations had stronger bonds than most.

Chapter Text

“We apologise for this sudden meeting,” the quirrl said, leading the group to a large oval table. “Something quite urgent came up, and we wanted Voltron’s opinion as soon as possible.”

The quirrl, Shlrel, turned to gesture for Keith to sit at the head of the table. He did so reluctantly and checked with the rest of his team. Allura raised her eyebrows and nodded towards Shlrel.

“Ah, it’s no problem really,” Keith said, trying not to fidget in his seat, “That’s what Voltron is for.”

“Good,” Shlrel smiled, horrifying black and sharp teeth bared. Keith barely restrained his flinch. “We have someone to introduce to you.”

A line of guards entered the room and Keith’s heart sank. His hand inched towards his blade, which was strapped to his back, and his other flexed, ready to summon his bayard at a moment notice. Four people entered the room, a tall man sweeping in after them. Most of them shared traits with the galra, and Keith guessed they were half breeds.

The man who entered last was the most unnerving of them. His skin was a light purple, with long white hair. Allura’s reaction was the worst of them. She gasped and launched to her feet. Keith followed her; blade already drawn. “Prince Lotor,” she said, distrust evident in her voice.

“Princess Allura, I’m delighted to see that the rumours of your survival are true. Although I have heard nothing of you being a paladin. And the red one, no less.” The man took a seat at the other end of the table, the four others flanking him. Keith drew his eyes over them and paused at the smallest one, still much taller than him. He recognised her, and based on her reaction, she recognised him too. She leaned forward and whispered in Lotor’s ear, and Lotor’s gaze shot directly to Keith. His eyes raked up Keith’s body, and Keith barely hid his shiver of disgust. Keith felt like he had met Lotor before, vaguely, but he couldn’t put a time or place to the feeling.

“What is this,” Keith said, still standing. His team all stood with their weapons draw too, even as the quirrls present settled into their own seats, seemingly oblivious to the tension radiating from team Voltron.

“Your Highness, this is the Black Paladin, and half galra, Keith. The Red Paladin, Princess Allura, as you already know, the Blue Paladin, Lance, the Green Paladin, Pidge, and the Yellow Paladin, Hunk. Paladins, this is Prince Lotor of the Galra Empire and his generals, Axca, Narti, Ezor and Zethrid.” Each general nodded as they were introduced. The biggest one cracked her knuckles and growled. Keith’s grip on his weapons tightened. He held his tail stiffly to his back, so it wouldn’t give away his unease.

“Please sit, Paladins,” Shlrel said. When none of them moved, the guards at the edges of the room stepped forwards. They shared looks and reluctantly sat down, Keith and Allura leaving their weapons out.

Keith felt a tugging in the back of his mind, drawing his attention. He zoned out of whatever spiel Shlrel had just launched into and focused on Black. A series of images flashed through his mind, a reminder of what he had seen when she joined their quintessence together.

That’s right. He had seen Lotor before. In the brief images of the future, Lotor had almost always played a major part in the war. Keith’s eyes slipped closed as he tried to remember how it played out. He had seen so many futures, the tiniest thing could have a major affect on the war, but Keith had no definitive answers.

A sharp elbow dug into his side, jolting him from his thoughts. He opened his eyes to see Shlrel frowning at him, and Lotor’s face stretched in a wide grin. Keith’s ears flicked back, and he glanced at Allura.

“If we could have all attention on the matters at hand, please,” Shlrel said, shooting Keith an unsubtle glare and turning to back to speak. Keith sighed and focus back on the meeting.

 

“It’s a load of bullshit!” Pidge cried, dropping onto the circular couch. “How can they expect us to just blindly trust him?” Hunk settled beside them, a frown marring his usual friendly and open face.

“I don’t like it,” he said, turning to look at Keith and Allura. “You knew who he was.” Allura sighed and moved to stand in front of the couch. Lance sat beside Pidge and Keith stood next to Allura.

“Yes, I knew Price Lotor before the war. I did not think he would have survived so long, or I would have brought him to your attention. He was always a weak and sickly child, his half breed status only harming him rather than aiding him. We were never close, only meeting on a handful of occasions. I’m afraid I do not know him well enough to have an insight into his motives.”

“Why can’t he just take the throne though, why drag us into it at all?” Pidge questioned. Keith had been wondering the same.

“The Galra don’t have a line of succession, not the same way Altea do - did. Lotor may be a prince but he is not guaranteed the throne now that his father is dead. They will host a Kral Zera in a few phoebes, and whoever lights the flame gains control of the empire. As prince, Lotor should have the most support, but his half breed status will be a disadvantage to him. I can only presume that he wants Voltron on his side to heighten his favour with the galra people.”

Black had shown Keith the Kral Zera, and he knew it was important. But he couldn’t figure out just how important. Would Lotor win with Voltron? Would he win without? Would he betray them the moment he had control?

“Keith, you’re the leader, what do you think?” Lance spoke up for the first time.

“I don’t know. There’s a lot to wrap my head around. So much could go wrong, but so much could go right as well. You have to admit, having an alliance with the Emperor would be a huge advantage to us,” Keith paused, trying to gather his thoughts, “I think we need a few days to think this over. We need a solid plan before we go any further.”

 

Keith slammed the blunt side of his blade into Lance’s chest, pushing him away and giving himself a chance to breath. Lance circled him, keeping in a defensive position. Keith wanted Hunk and Lance to get more experience with fighting in close quarters, and sparring was the best option. Pidge and Hunk were battling on the other side of the room the quirrls had lent them, with Allura supervising. Lance was holding his own surprisingly well, especially considering he had no experience with blades. He still wasn’t at a satisfactory level yet, but Keith was proud of his progress.

Keith saw Lance had accidentally left his left side open and twisted, kicking out and knocking Lance off his feet. Keith wasted no time pinning Lance’s arms down. Lance panted and squirmed and Keith pushed against his wrists harder.

“Yield,” he growled, fangs bared, and ears pressed back. Lance growled right back, and his struggling increased.

“Yield, Lance,” Keith growled. Lance suddenly went limp and sighed.

“I yield.” Keith released his wrists and grinned.

“You di-“ Clapping interrupted Keith’s sentence, startling him and Lance both. Before he knew what was happening, Lance had pushed Keith up and off and stood protectively in front of him. His growl reverberated through the room. His scent was that of an angry alpha and a part of Keith wanted to calm and sooth him. To bad he was too busy being furious at their interruption to do so. Keith shivered as Lotor’s eyes locked onto him.

“What are you doing here.” Keith demanded, stepping up next to Lance. He could smell the rest of their pack moving closer behind them, and they smelt furious.

“Can I not admire my future allies form?” Lotor asked, a sleazy grin plastered to his face.

“Not when we haven’t agreed to anything,” Lance said, hands twitching to his side, ready to call his bayard.

“No, you’re quite right,” Lotor said, gaze still fixed on Keith. He hadn’t even glanced at Lance when he was talking. “I guess I better leave you to your training then.” Lotor left before they could even react.

“What a creep,” Pidge said, pressing against Keith’s side. “He was staring at you the entire time.”

Keith felt vaguely violated and dirty. “Trust me, I noticed.”

 

Lance sighed and plopped down onto Hunk’s bed. Hunk and Pidge exchanged looks, Pidge nodding towards him and Hunk frowned. They had been on the planet for three days now and were no closer to an alliance of any kind. Or being let off the planet. They were essentially prisoners until they figured something out with Lotor. And Lance’s mood had been getting worse and worse the longer they stayed there.

“What’s up, buddy?” Hunk asked tentatively. Lance had been volatile recently; one wrong word could set the alpha off.

“I think Lotor likes Keith, and Keith is going to mate him and become Empress of the galra and have lots of little galra-altean-human babies with him.”

Pidge rolled their eyes, hard. “And where did you get that from?”

“Have you not seen how Lotor looks at Keith? He’s way to interested in him for it to be strictly professional!”

“Right, but why have you decided that Keith is interested in him? Why on earth would Keith want to mate the guy and have pups with him?” Pidge asked.

“Um, why wouldn’t he? Lotor is going to rule like, three quarters of the universe! Keith could have anything he ever wanted!”

“Have you considered the idea that maybe that isn’t what Keith wants? You know Keith isn’t materialistic. What’s actually going on here?” Hunk said, leaning closer to him.

Lance sighed and stayed silent for a long enough for Hunk to wonder if he had even heard the question. “I feel… I think I missed my shot with him. Like, I was going to ask him before Zarkon, but I chickened out, and it didn’t feel right after the whole mess after with- And, we’re in the middle of a war. He’s the Black Paladin of Voltron, Defender of the Universe now. He could have anyone he wanted. I’m just the Blue Paladin. I’m just a boy from Cuba. I can’t compete with Lotor.”

“Whoa, Lance! Where has all that come from? I promise you; you haven’t missed your chance. You just have to ask him.”

“Yeah, Keith doesn’t care where you come from or how much money you have or what you can give him. We don’t know how long this war could go on for, are you really going to wait until its over to court him? What if it’s never over, not in our lifetime? If you think it’s too late now, how will you feel in a few months? It only gets worse from here.”

“I think what Pidge is trying to say, is that there will never be a right time to ask him, not really. It’s up to you to make it the right time. Yes, we’re all busy. Yes, there is a war going on, yes, Keith could probably have all the riches he could ever wish for if he mated Lotor, but Keith isn’t about that. I think Keith just wants someone to love him, and to love someone. It’s not too late, you still have a chance. More than a chance if I’m being honest. Me and Pidge support you guys. I think you should do it.”

Lance stayed silent, and Hunk worried if he had said the wrong thing. But slowly, surely, Lance’s scent brightened. “Yeah, you’re right. I just need to ask him. Keith wouldn’t mate Lotor, he thinks he’s a creep. Thank you, guys, I love you.” Lance sat up and pulled them both into his arms as best he could.

“I can do this.”

Chapter Text

Lance flattened his hair down and ran his hand through the longer fur at the base of his ears. The screen in front of him was blank, but hopefully not for long. His fingers tapped a random beat onto the table, and his leg bounced in tandem. Suddenly, the screen lit up with an incoming call, and Keith launched himself forwards to answer it.

“Blue Paladin,” Kolivan said, the rest of Keith’s pack behind him. Lance gulped at the sight of them. Even the smallest of them was a foot or two taller than Lance himself and could easily snap him like a twig. He prayed that this wouldn’t go wrong.

He took a deep breath in to steel his nerves. “Sirs.”

“To what do we owe this pleasure?” Thace had stepped forwards, and Lance was grateful. Despite not knowing Thace as well as the others, he was the friendliest of the Blades, and was the easiest to talk to.

“I had something to ask you. I’m not sure what Keith has explained to you about human biology and culture, but I would like your approval to court Keith, since you are the closest thing to family he has out here.”

Lance was met with silence, and he felt his heart sink. Kolivan frowned and murmured something too quietly for the call to pick up. Ulaz answered, and Antok replied, sounding agitated. Finally, Ulaz turned back to Lance with an apologetic smile.

“I’m afraid Keith has neglected to inform us of this particular aspect of human nature. Would you mind explaining it to us? I feel we might already have a guess as to what it pertains, but it is merely speculation.”

Lance let out a breath he hadn’t even realised he had been holding. They weren’t rejecting him, merely confused. That was okay, Lance could explain. Where to begin though?

“Keith has explained the secondary sexes to you guys, right?” At their nods, he continued, “Well, back in the day, courting was a way for alphas to show that they could provide for an omega and any pups they may have. It was a way to show the alphas interest in the omega, as well as a way to stake their claim. A kind of “back off, this omega has someone” before they actually did. To stop competing alphas from getting the omegas, I guess.” As Lance talked, the Blades slowly looked more and more horrified.

“Thankfully, a couple hundred years ago, we ditched all that old bul- I mean, we changed our ways. Now, anyone can court anyone. Traditionally, whoever is starting the courtship - in this case, me – would ask the others family for permission. I don’t think that’s really fair though, and even if you said no, that wouldn’t change Keith’s answer, so I’m asking for your approval instead.

If you say yes, I’ll go about making or buying gifts for him. Some people stick to the traditional, provide and protect kind of gifts, some buy whatever is nice, some want to spoil their partner, some get practical things. It really depends on the person.

If Keith takes my gifts, he is saying yes to courting me. We’d be a couple then, boyfriends, and exclusive. Unless that’s not what Keith wants, in which case we’d have to lay out boundaries. If he rejects my gifts, well, I will probably hide in my room for a week or so, and never be able to look him in the eye again.”

Lance took a deep breath and leant back against his chair. He hoped that was a good enough explanation.

“Ah, I see. So then, the next step would be mating? If you don’t mind, we need to discuss this,” Kolivan said, and turned to face the others. They all leaned close together, hands waving and frantically whispering. They seemed to get more and more agitated, until they fell into silence. They turned to face Lance again, faces impassive.

“Lance, we give our approval.”

 

Keith slumped into his seat, head resting on the desk. His back was sore from the amount of sitting he had been doing in recent days, and he couldn’t wait to get back to the castle where he could just let lose and run for a bit. He didn’t trust the training rooms here, not since the run in with Lotor, so he hadn’t used them. He was going stir crazy.

The door opened behind him, and he sat up quickly, running a hand through his hair in an attempt to tame it. He was sure it did nothing to hide how dishevelled he looked. His eyes were ringed with dark bags, his ears and tail were in desperate need of proper grooming. The undersuit of his armour desperately needed to be washed. He hated the quirrls for trapping them on this planet.

The rest of the paladins shuffled in to sit around him, each looking as exhausted as he felt. Except for Lance, who somehow managed to look excited for the meeting. He caught Keith’s eye and beamed, Keith returned it with a shy – if tired – one of his own. Lance quickly looked away, but Keith swore he saw a hint of a blush on his cheeks. He must be more exhausted than he thought.

The door on the wall opposite them opened, and the quirrl came in, followed by Lotor and his generals. They still creeped Keith out, and he couldn’t get a solid grasp on their intentions, but he knew they couldn’t miss this chance.

The quirrl, who were, apparently, quite fond of long and dreary speeches, launched into a monologue, and Keith didn’t even feel guilty that he immediately zoned him out. He could smell the others attention wander too, each scent to dreamy and in some cases, happy, for them to be in the present. He was suddenly glad that the quirrls, alteans and galra couldn’t scent humans the way humans could. They could smell them, but they had no idea what the emotional connection behind each scent actually was. They probably could learn, if only for an individual person.

Keith was pulled out of his thoughts, an indistinguishable amount of time later by one of Lotor’s generals high voices. Ezor, he thought her name was. She looked the least galra out of them and was terrifyingly friendly.

“We get it. You like to talk. What we want to know though, is if Voltron will accept our proposal.” Keith straightened his spine and exchanged a look with his team. They had discussed it at length and came to a conclusion that kept most of them happy. It was a huge risk, but Keith thought that it would be worth it.

“We see the benefits of aligning ourselves with you,” Keith said, watching two of the general’s victorious smirks. Lotor was too good to give his thoughts away. “However, we have some conditions of our own. I’m sure you are aware that there is a large rebellion. We want to send you to train under one group.”

Keith watched as Lotor’s lips twitched in the barest hint of a smile and knew that he was agreeable.

 

He awoke with a gasp. Air hissed around him, blocking his vision. Cold penetrated his very bones, leaving a deep ache behind. His mind was utterly blank. He couldn’t remember where he was. The glass in front of him opened, and he stepped out. The room was dark, violet light barely illuminating the space. Dark shadows stretched from the corners.

“Takashi Shirogane.” A person emerged from behind him, hunched and covered in dark fabric. Yellow eyes gleamed from deep within the hood, but he felt no fear. Only intense loyalty.
“Your mission begins now.”

 

Shiro staggered down the hallway, his consciousness slipping through his fingers like sand. He could see the door to the escape pods, he just needed to reach them. His mind was a mess, he couldn’t sort out his memories. But he knew there was something he had to do.

Alarms blared around him, lights flashing, only adding to his headache. His vision was slowly going, and he prayed he would make it. He couldn’t let the galra capture him again, not after last time.

Finally, he reached the doors, and nearly cried in relief. Freedom was at his fingertips; he just had to cross the room and start the pod. Then, he could sleep.

 

Lance slammed his head against the desk, yelped and rubbed his forehead. He couldn’t think of anything for Keith! Well, that wasn’t true, he could think of plenty of things, but nothing was right. He needed it to be perfect. Keith deserved perfect.

Another thing that was making it difficult was that, well, Lance had no money. He couldn’t buy anything, since all their money went towards the castleship’s repairs. Which meant any gift he thought of would have to be handmade.

Again, he was limited to the supplies in the castle. Allura had given him permission to dig around in the storage rooms in the bottom levels, but they had just gotten back to the castle after being stuck with Lotor for nearly a week. He was tired, and just wanted to sleep in his own bed.

So, instead of searching for supplies or sleeping, both things he desperately needed to do, he was brainstorming. And getting distracted by thoughts of Keith. And his hair. His eyes. His tail and ears. Just, everything about him.

Lance glanced back down at his list, which at the moment contained five things.

1. Jewellery – difficult to make, hadn’t seen Keith wear any before
2. A blanket of some kind – materials? Too forward?
3. A new jacket/gloves – might take as an insult. Difficult to make and seem to already have sentimental value.
4. A book – have to buy, Keith’s read everything in the castle already
5. A new knife – again, difficult to make, and where would he buy one?

The most promising things on the list were the blanket and the knife, Lance decided. He was slightly worried that Keith might mistake the blanket as Lance inviting himself into Keith’s nest, but Lance would be sure to disprove that thought. And if Lance could find enough money for a knife, then he was sure Keith would love it.

Lance’s mind a bit clearer now, he settled down to go to sleep. He would check the storage rooms in the morning.

 

It had been a few weeks since Keith last saw Lotor and his generals, but the Blades had been keeping him updated. So far, their training had been going well, and they were incredibly cooperative. The team had been kept busy since leaving Quir, as the galra empire had barely slowed down, even while mourning their emperor. There were always planets to free, people to rescue and ships to defeat.

But the team had no plans for the next thirteen vargas, something that hadn’t happened in what felt like years, so Keith was taking Black out to search for Shiro again. He had slowed down in the last few weeks, and he felt incredibly guilty about it. Shiro was still missing but Keith knew he was still alive. He had to be.

They had been out for ten vargas and Keith was ready to turn back home. He slumped in his seat, patting Black’s console. They still didn’t have the bond that Keith and Red had, and Keith doubted that they ever would, but she was still a comforting presence. The floor beneath his feet rumbled like a purr, and Keith purred back to her. His eye’s started to slip shut and he jolted himself back awake.

“Come on Black. I don’t think he’s out here. Let’s go home.”

Black didn’t turn or change her trajectory. Keith leaned forward and frowned.

“Come on, Black. Turn around.”

She didn’t move, or even acknowledge him. He put his hands on the controls and pulled, grunting when he was met with resistance. Black came into a dead stop, sending Keith lurching forwards before the magnets in the suit caught him.

“Black! What’s going on with you?”

Suddenly, the alarms started blaring, and screens popped up. Black had detected another ship in the area.

“Shit, Black we have to go!” Keith cried. They couldn’t take a galra cruiser by themselves, and they were too far away from the castle. The team would never get there in time. Instead of turning around, Black moved forwards, going faster than before. A new screen popped up, right in Keith’s face.

One heartbeat detected. A galra escape pod.

“Shiro,” Keith breathed.

Chapter Text

The glass slipped up, sealing Shiro into the pod, and the room fell silent. It beeped, and everyone let out a collective sigh of relief. Keith slumped forwards, leaning his forehead against the pod. Shiro was back. He actually found him. Shiro was back!

But Keith couldn’t relax. He took a deep breath and was reminded why.

“There’s something wrong,” he said, although he knew the others had noticed as well. Allura and Coran hurried over to him, but he turned to face the others. “You smell it too right?”

Hunk and Pidge shared a glance, and Pidge wrinkled their nose. “He doesn’t smell…”

“Right,” Lance finished, barely a murmur.

“Well, surely you can forgive the lad for not smelling quite right, he has been through a bit of an ordeal,” Coran chimed in.

“No, this- this is different. His scent is different. It doesn’t even smell like he has a scent. Like you guys. It’s not- It’s not natural for a human to suddenly lose their scent,” Hunk shuddered at the thought, and Keith couldn’t help his own wince of pain.

Coran frowned, and pulled up Shiro’s scans. “What could cause something like that to happen?”

“Nothing natural,” Lance growled, voice deep and low.

“Sometimes, if a person is sick or injured, they might lose one or even two of their scent glands, but to lose all of them. It’s unheard of. Betas alone have close to twenty, alphas and omegas can sometimes have twice that! There should be no reason to remove them all. It’s inhumane,” Pidge said, their scent growing darker as they spoke. “It’s like cutting out someone’s vocal cords for no good reason.”

“I can’t see any indication of trauma on Shiro’s body to indicate the removal of glands. Even with the latest technology, there should be some sign of scarring,” Coran said, stepping aside to let Hunk have a closer look.

Hunk took one look at the scans and gasped, growing deathly pale. “Oh my god, what have they done to him?”

Keith pushed forwards, unsure what he was looking at until he saw it. Shiro’s reproductive organs had been changed. They looked closer to Keith’s own, than to what a healthy young alpha’s should be. “Is that a womb? And ovaries?”

Pidge and Lance crowded into his space to take a look. “Jesus,” Lance breathed, air ghosting the back of Keith’s neck.

“Is it possible he was an omega the whole time and hid it? I mean, you nearly would have gotten away with it, Keith.” Hunk asked, looking doubtful.

“No,” Keith said, feeling a bit disconnected, “I’ve seen him in rut before. There’s no way he could have faked that. And it doesn’t explain his scent.” An uncomfortable feeling sunk low in his gut. “This feels invasive. We shouldn’t be looking at these scans without his permission.”

Keith turned away, stepping past Lance to look at the pod. Shiro looked the same as he always did, albeit with longer hair and needing a good shower. What had happened to him out there?

“This doesn’t make any sense. Why change his organs like that? And his scent? What, they didn’t want him to be an alpha anymore? No offense, but surely an alpha would be the best suited to the arena. Why go through all that trouble?” Pidge asked as Coran shut down the scans. The furrow in their brow deepened, along with their scent.

“What if they didn’t want him for the arena anymore?” Hunk asked.

“What else would they want him for? Information? Torture?” Allura said as she stepped closer to Shiro’s pod, as though he would be able to give them the answers. “He is unharmed, for the most part. A little under nourished and dehydrated, and, well, the obvious, but besides that he is in perfect health.”

“No,” Hunk gulped, “What can an omega do that an alpha can’t?”

Keith’s stomach dropped, and bile rose in his throat. “No,” he whispered hoarsely, “They wouldn’t. That’s archaic, even for them.”

“Keith, this is the Galra Empire. Zarkon has been ruling it for over ten thousand years, and they’re aliens. We don’t know what’s archaic for them.”

Keith turned to Pidge as they spoke. “That still doesn’t make sense!” he cried, “Alphas can sire more kids then omegas can! If that’s what they wanted him for, why waste time with him being pregnant? He could have hundreds of kids in the time it would take for an omega to have one or two!”

“I agree with Keith, even if I don’t think we should rule it out.” Lance stepped forwards and set a calming hand on Keith’s shoulder. Keith slumped forwards, tension draining out of him suddenly, leaving him weak and near listless. “There isn’t much we can do now, besides wait for Shiro to get out of the pod. Hopefully, Shiro will be able to tell us what happened when he’s out. Until then, why don’t we make a nest?”

Keith barely registered the sounds of the others leaving. He stared up at Shiro’s face, lost in thought. The whole thing didn’t make sense. Why would they change Shiro’s body like that, and how? A hand jolted him from his thoughts, and he flinched, relaxing when he realised that it was just Lance.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said, with a small smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. He was trying to put on a brave face for the pack, but Keith could see how tired and worried he really was. Keith felt guilty about that, he probably caused Lance more stress than the rest of the team combined. “What’s on your mind?”

“Shiro,” Keith answered without any hesitation. Lance grinned and rolled his eyes.

“Well obviously, but besides that?”

“I was just thinking-“

“Careful, wouldn’t want to hurt yourself.”

“Hey!” Keith elbowed Lance in the ribs but couldn’t contain his smile. “I was just thinking about what Shiro must have gone through and what happens now. Black showed me the future, but it isn’t nearly as helpful as you’d think. Every tiny thing changes it in ways you wouldn’t believe, and I have no way of telling which way we’re heading.”

They fell silent, just the whirring of the pod to keep them company. “I guess we will just have to wait until Shiro gets out of the pod. We don’t know what kind of mental state he is in, but we can only presume the worst, really. Come on, let’s go to the nest. You know the others are hopeless, we need your touch to make it perfect!”

Keith let Lance drag him away, but something about Shiro stayed in the back of his mind.

 

“What are you up to, pup?” Keith asked, leaning over Pidge’s shoulder to get at look at what they were doing on their laptop. They jolt and slam the top down, turning to face him with a sheepish grin.

“Nothing. What are you doing?” Keith raised an eyebrow and stared silently at them until they sighed and relented.

“Something about Shiro’s scans are just wrong. Besides the obvious, something still doesn’t make sense, so I was looking through them to see if they changed anything else.” They turned the screen so Keith could see. Keith sighed, but he had to admit, he had been thinking the same thing.

“Maybe we could ask Ulaz to take a look at them. He worked on Shiro when he was captured the first time, and he would have an insight into how the Empire work.” Keith murmured, leaning closer to the screen.

“Could we do that without Shiro’s consent though? It feels wrong to even be looking at these, he deserves privacy.”

Keith pressed his finger to his temples, “But we don’t know what kind of trauma he suffered. Surely we should be prepared to help him in what ever way we can? And it’s only Ulaz. We won’t let anyone else look at them.”

Pidge paused and sighed. “Yeah, okay. I still don’t feel comfortable with this, but we need to know what happened to him.”

“Trust me, I don’t feel comfortable either.” Keith’s comms lit up with the scan as Pidge sent it to him, and he forwarded them to Ulaz. “Okay, they’re sent. Now we wait. Hopefully he’ll get back before Shiro is done.”

 

Keith lay in his bed, trying to put Shiro out of his mind. He should be waking up in twelve vargas or so, and Keith both couldn’t wait and dreaded it. Shiro was unconscious when Keith found him, so Keith hadn’t had the chance to talk to him yet. He missed him, more than he wanted to admit. Despite all of Black’s help, Keith still felt like a placeholder for the real Black Paladin.

But with Shiro back, it left Keith at a loose end. Shiro would need time to recover, of course, but once he was back on his feet, he would return to Black. Keith couldn’t ask Allura to leave Red, they were finally starting to work well together, and it felt right. Alfor was the original Red Paladin and it only made sense that his daughter would be the next one.

But Keith didn’t know where that left him. He wouldn’t be able to stay in the castle with Coran while the team fought without him, the thought made him physically sick. He wouldn’t be any use. To anyone. The only option Keith really saw open for himself was to join the Blades, properly.

Joining the Blades would give him a chance to hone his skills, to do good. He was sure his small size would come in handy on their infiltration missions. And, he would be closer to Kolivan, Ulaz, Antok and Thace. Despite saving Thace’s life, he never really got to spend too much time with him, something that Keith desperately wanted to change.

Joining the Blades would mean leaving Voltron though. Possibly forever.

Any really, that was the root of the problem. Without Voltron, the team would never have met. Sure, Keith would still know Shiro, but he wouldn’t have known the others.

Would they even be friends without the ties that bind them? Was their friendship and love really only a by-product of a crazy coincidence, something left to chance?

Keith knew what he was like. He knew he came of prickly, intimating and downright rude to new people. He didn’t think the team would have given him a chance, not that he really blamed them.

Keith frowned and rolled over, pulling his pillow over his head in a bid to chase his thoughts away. He didn’t want to think about what ifs, because it didn’t matter now. Keith was here, in space, with a team and a family. Surely, if he left, their feelings wouldn’t change.

His comms rang and he scrambled to answer before they woke anyone else up. Ulaz’s face popped up. He skin was shade paler than usual, and his eyes looked heavy. He could barely muster a smile when Keith answered.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Keith asked, frantically checking him over for injuries or evidence of a fight.

“I’m okay, kit, I’m okay. I’ve just been reviewing the scans you sent me.”

Keith’s ears quirked but fell back when he realised that it probably wouldn’t be good news. “Oh, is Shiro okay?”

“I’m not sure, kit. I don’t even know if that is Shiro.”

 

“What do you mean Ulaz thinks he isn’t Shiro. Who the hell else could it be?” Lance cried when Keith explained the situation to the team.

“That’s the thing. Ulaz said that when he was undercover, there were rumours of a secret base that the witch, Haggar had set up. They were,” Keith paused, unable to believe he was even saying this, “Cloning facilities, apparently.”

“Cloning facilities? But cloning doesn’t work with humans. We barely even managed to clone Dolly the sheep!”

“Yes, but this is the Galra Empire, and more importantly, Haggar. We don’t know what kind of space magic she has going on.”

“Haggar doesn’t have magical power, Hunk, this isn’t some shitty anime. She uses alchemy.” Pidge pointed out, “She has probably been cloning people for years. But Keith, why would Ulaz think that? I mean, Shiro has been changed in some way, yes, but a clone? Why would they send us a clone?”

Keith sank further into his seat and rubbed his eyes tiredly. “Shiro’s scans showed him to be closer to galra biology than human. We know that all galra have similar biology to male omegas and female alphas. Ulaz confirmed that even with medical advancements in the past decapheobes, it still would have been impossible to do that amount of work on Shiro and not leave a mark. Combine that with the lack of scent marks, and the rumours of cloning, well, you can see why he came to that conclusion.”

“Okay, so, let’s say Shiro is a clone. What does that mean? Does he have Shiro’s memories? Is he his own separate person pretending to be Shiro, or does he genuinely think he is Shiro? Still, what is the point? Is he like a-“ Lance paused, looking startled at his own thought process. “Oh my god, is he like a secret agent? Is he going to try to take down Voltron from the inside?”

“Not if we have anything to say about it.” Keith cut in firmly. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, we need to confirm whether he even is a clone.”

“How do we do that?” Lance asked, furrowed brows sinking deeper.

“We need a sample of his DNA,” Pidge answered before Keith could. “If his biology is now similar to a galra, then we can presume Haggar substituted galra DNA for some of his own. It should be an easy enough check; it’ll only take a few seconds.”

“I’m sending Coran a message, he’ll do it for us,” Hunk said. The room fell silent while they waited for the results from Coran, each of them mulling over this new information. Keith, though, Keith already knew what the results would be. It made sense, and it fit with all the information. He had already talked to Ulaz about what would come after, but he needed to let the team decide, as one.

The door slid open, revealing Coran. He didn’t look like he had gotten any sleep, although Keith could say the same thing about the rest of them. Before Coran had even opened his mouth, Keith knew what he was going to say. His face was too grim, weary and haggard for the answer to be anything else.

“It seems your suspicion was correct Number Two. Shiro’s DNA is indeed mixed with that of a galra.”

Chapter Text

Coran came to sit beside Allura, who had been frighteningly quiet the entire time. He collapsed into his seat, looking more tired than Keith had ever seen him. Nobody knew what to say for several long seconds.

“So he is a clone,” Lance said, eventually. He slumped back in his seat, looking at the ceiling. Keith was suddenly hit with a wave of bone deep exhaustion. He just wanted one thing - just one single thing – to go the team’s way for once in their lives. When was the last time they caught a break? It was always one disaster after another, and frankly Keith was sick of it. He wanted to lie in his nest, in the dark, and pretend that nothing was wrong.

“What do we do?” Hunk asked, looking to Keith. If there ever was a time Keith wished Shiro was still here, it was now. How was Keith supposed to know what to do? Shiro would already have three separate plans drawn up in his mind and would be reassuring the team. Keith was stuck there floundering.

“I think we leave him in cryosleep,” Allura said, speaking up for the first time. The look on her face was thunderous and dark. “We cannot let that- that thing roam freely around the castle!”

“But we don’t know anything about him! He might think he is Shiro,” Keith immediately protested, “It would be cruel to lock him up.” Allura glowered at him, but he didn’t pay it any heed.

“We need to figure out his objectives first,” Pidge said, standing up, “He could be an undercover spy, like Lance said.”

“What if he genuinely broke out?” Hunk asked.

“That too,” Pidge nodded and pulled up a screen and a pen from from their pocket. “Okay, so Shiro is a clone. Either he knows, or he doesn’t. He genuinely broke out, or he was… released. He has an objective, or he doesn’t. He wants to work with us, he wants to defeat us.”

A throbbing headache began to build in the base of Keith’s skull, and he rubbed the base of his ears to try and release it. “So, we need a solution for every possibility?” he questioned.

“Unfortunately, yes. Then we need to figure out the probabilities of each possibility and the impact it would have if we get it wrong.”

Keith shared a look with Lance, who shrugged and stood up. “I’m going to get some coffee going, I think we’re going to be here a while.” Lance left, and the scent in the room dulled, even by just a fraction. It was difficult to be in a room with two upset alphas, so even one of them leaving made it just a bit easier for Keith. Keith wanted to cuddle Pidge and Lance, to sooth them and purr to them, but he couldn’t. He was the leader of Voltron now and he couldn’t drop everything to coddle his alphas every time one of them got upset. Never mind how awkward it would be.

As the door slid closed after Lance, Hunk and Pidge launched into a technical spiel of the probabilities of each outcome happening. Keith slumped further into his chair and tried to zone them out. His headache was already getting stronger, and he knew it would only get worse from here on in.

A few minutes later, Lance came back with a tray, and Keith eagerly grabbed his cup, nearly purring once he got a sip. It didn’t taste like Earth coffee, more like a strange herbal tea, but it had the same effects as it, so Keith didn’t care what it tasted like.

“Okay,” Keith said once everyone had gotten a cup and settled down a bit. “First option, Shiro doesn’t know he is a clone and he genuinely escaped. What then?”

“I think we should still lock him up,” Allura started but Lance cut her off.

“For something he didn’t do? Imagine the shock of finding out you’re a clone, and then your family lock you up. No, I think we should trust him and let him be.”

“Same, he’s been through enough as it is,” Keith said, frowning at the thought of locking Shiro up.

“But what if he thought he escaped but was actually released by the witch?” Hunk asked.

Pidge wrote some figures on the board and turned back to them. “I think that is more likely, given what we know of the witch.” Keith scowled, but he couldn’t argue with that.

Lance leaned forwards in his seat. “So, what then? How do we know if he’s genuine or not?”

“We don’t. Or at least not at first. We’d have to monitor him, without letting him know,” Pidge replied, writing that down.

“Okay, well let’s say Shiro- sorry, calling him Shiro is confusing me, can we name him something different?” Lance looked around the room, as though checking if everyone was feeling the same way he was.

“Shiro’s first name if Takashi, but it doesn’t feel right calling the clone that,” Keith murmured. Takashi was something Shiro let only the people closest to him call, namely, his parents, sisters, Keith and Adam, when they were dating. Keith didn’t call him that a lot, mainly because he wasn’t sure if it would upset Shiro or not. They couldn’t give his clone that name.

“What if we just named him “The Clone”?” Hunk suggested, “Isn’t it already confusing enough without code names or whatever?”

“But what if the clone overhears and knows we’re on to him?” Lance points out. His scent had lightened up a little bit, not as overpoweringly volatile alpha as it was before. Keith was glad that Lance had managed to reign it in, at least now Keith didn’t feel the pull to cuddle up to him and sooth him. Not as much as he did earlier, at least.

Pidge ducked down to grab their laptop and pulled up some folders. They grinned triumphant when they found the right one. “Okay, here me out. So, the castles translator has slowly been integrating each of our languages in. It’s why we can understand Lance when he starts cursing in Spanish now.” Everyone looked at Lance, who blushed bright red. “What if we named the clone “Clone” but in a different language. Not Spanish because that’s the most likely to translate.”

“Altean won’t work, obviously, since it will translate it perfectly. Galran will have the same problem,” Allura looked to Coran who nodded.

“I don’t know the word for it in Samoan,” Hunk said, regretfully.

“I think it’s bogje, or something similar in Korean,” Keith said, “Not really an easy word to remember.”

“Clone in Italian is just ‘clone’ so that won’t work,” Pidge sighed, “Okay, a different idea the-“

“Wait, what about Japanese?” Lance interrupted, “Isn’t Shiro Japanese?”

“Yeah, he is. I think it’s um, kuro? No sorry, it’s Kuron,” Keith said.

“Kuron,” Pidge murmured, then grinned, “Yeah, I like it.”

“I feel like we’re tempting fate, but whatever I guess,” Hunk said, fiddling with the rim of his cup nervously.

“Okay, back to Kuron,” Keith said, eager to get this meeting done with so he could spend time in his nest. Maybe he could even sneak a nap in.

 

By the time Kuron was due to be released from the pod, the team had come to a solution. It was dangerous, and risky, and not everyone on the team was entirely happy with it, but it was the best idea they had, and it gave them time to gather themselves.

The were going to let Kuron out of the pod.

They were going to pretend that Kuron was Shiro, and that everything was perfectly okay. There were some obvious flaws to the plan. Namely, that Keith wouldn’t be able to search for Shiro, the real Shiro as much anymore. Oh, and the fact that they were letting a possible galra spy roam free in the castle. It was better than the alternatives though, such as leaving Kuron on a deserted planet, keeping him locked up, or leaving him in cryosleep. Even though Kuron was not the same person as Shiro, Keith found he couldn’t do that to him.

Pidge had had all of their most important and secretive information that they had gathered in the last few months hidden behind layers and layers of code. Any signals sent or received in the castle were monitored now. There should be no way for the clone to contact anyone outside of the castle without them knowing. They were going to insist that Kuron take at least a few movements to recover and recuperate, which would give them more time to figure out what Kuron would be doing while they were on missions. Coran would be able to keep an eye on him, but Keith thought that it would look suspicious if he didn’t at least try to get Kuron to be Black Paladin again.

His team disagreed though, and he understood where they were coming from. They couldn’t risk having a galra spy as the Black Paladin. But Keith had made so much of a fuss about becoming Black Paladin in the first place, anyone who had known him for even a few minutes would know how reluctant he was. It would seem suspicious if he didn’t try to pass the mantle back to ‘Shiro’ the moment he was well again.

The last thing they wanted was for the clone to realise that they were on to him. Who knows how dangerous he could be?

Lance was going to stay the pack leader though, because they were only just settling in. Even if Kuron was the real Shiro, it would be dangerous – especially for Pidge, and to his own disgruntlement, Keith – to switch up the pack’s dynamics again. It would be difficult enough for them to adjust to having three alphas around, never mind changing leaders. They weren’t even sure if Kuron could lead the pack, considering he seemed to completely lack a secondary gender now.

The team gathered around the pod, ready to welcome ‘Shiro’ back. Keith and Lance were in their armour, because they were training a few minutes before hand. (Keith tried not the think about how this way, if something went wrong, at least some of them would be armed.)

The air was tense, nearly buzzing with nervous energy. The stressed scents from Lance, Pidge and even Hunk were driving Keith mad, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. He was sure his scent had the same effect on them. Keith kept his tail tucked in close, afraid it would betray his nervousness.

The pod beeped and slid open. Kuron fell forward, limp and weak from exhaustion. The pod could only do so much for things like malnutrition, and he would need time to recover. Keith stepped forward instinctually to catch him, nearly buckling under the sudden weight. Lance grasped Kuron’s other side, helping Keith bear his weight.

“Keith?” Kuron murmured weakly, his eyes flickering open. Even though Keith knew that this was not Shiro, this was not the same man who had saved him from that home and believed in him, Keith couldn’t help the tears that welled up in his eyes.

“Yeah, hey Shiro,” he said. Kuron leaned closer, pulling Keith into a weak hug. Even if he didn’t smell like he usually did, he still felt like Shiro. A large pair of arms circled around them both, Hunk babbling about missing Shiro in Keith ear, a smaller pair wiggled in to join them, followed by Allura’s Juniberry perfume, and Coran’s surprisingly muscular arms. The last one to join them was Lance, who smelt hesitant and nearly reluctant. He squeezed them tight though.

Eventually, Coran ushered everyone except Keith and Lance away, so he could give Kuron a check-up before they escorted him to his room. After he was given the all clear, Lance and Keith each swung an arm over their shoulder to help him to his room.

Kuron seemed exhausted, falling asleep on his feet. He had barely said anything besides one syllable answers to Coran’s questions. It was unnerving, the waiting, not knowing if Kuron really thought he was Shiro, or if he was merely pretending.

“Okay, here’s our stop!” Lance said, forced cheerfulness contradicting his heavy and serious scent. It made something in Keith sit up and pay attention. Keith reached forwards and opened the door, helping Shiro to the bed. He tried not to hover, but he didn’t know how much help Kuron needed or wanted and he didn’t want to overcrowd him.

“Um, I guess you just want to sleep huh?” he said, nervously plumping Kuron’s pillows. “You know where we are, if you needed anything. Don’t hesitate to call us.” Keith wanted to say more, but Lance grasped his wrist and started to pull him out of the room. “I’m glad your back, Shiro.”

“It’s good to be back,” Kuron said as his eyes slipped shut. The door closed behind Keith and Lance, and they both sighed, slumping against each other.

“This might be more difficult than we anticipated,” Lance said and Keith couldn’t help but agree.

Chapter Text

Keith sighed as the door closed behind him. Kuron was on the mend, and Keith had volunteered to be his primary caregiver until he was well enough to be on bed rest. He needed to keep an eye on Kuron himself, and he also wanted to keep Kuron as far away from his team as possible. It was Keith’s idea to let him free and act like nothing was wrong, and Keith felt it was his responsibility to make sure nothing went wrong. If something happened to his pack because of a choice Keith made he’d never forgive himself.

“Hey, Keith, can I talk to you for a second?” Keith tensed, but relaxed when he realised it was just Pidge. He hadn’t even noticed they were waiting for him outside Shiro- or rather, Kuron’s room. They weren’t meeting his eyes, instead gazing at the floor.

“Uh, yeah sure. Walk with me?” He started off towards the kitchen, sure that they would follow him. Truthfully, he was a bit wary of the conversation to come. Pidge had never fully forgiven him for keeping Shiro’s disappearance from them and he couldn’t blame them. Things had been stilted and awkward between them since, mostly staying on the professional side of things. He didn’t know what they wanted to talk about now, and he honestly didn’t know what to say to them either. How could he make up for his mistakes?

“I, um, wanted to talk about when Shiro went missing. I know Lance and Hunk already apologised to you,” they started, sounding just as hesitant as he felt. Keith sighed, but didn’t interrupt. “Can I ask why you kept it from me?”

Keith paused and turned to face them. This wasn’t a conversation he could have without looking at their face, without looking into their eyes. He tried to gather his thoughts. “You have to understand, I didn’t want to keep it from you. I knew it was cruel, and would hurt when you snapped out of it, but it was the best – or what I thought was the best, at that time – solution. You had just presented, and due to stress. I couldn’t bring myself to add more stress and grief to you, on top of that. Maybe it was selfish of me, but I just wanted your presentation to go as smoothly as possible. If I didn’t have to worry about you so much, I could worry about Shiro, you know? I know it was awful, and I am so sorry, but I can’t say that I would go back and change it.”

Pidge didn’t say anything for a long while, just followed Keith as he continued towards the kitchen to drop Kuron’s dishes back. They grasped his arm just as they came up to the doorway. “I understand. I’m sorry too, those things I said,” they shuddered and took a deep breath, “They were horrible. You didn’t deserve that, but I was too caught up in my own grief and confusion to see it. You were trying to do what’s best, you’re always trying to do what’s best, for the team, the pack, the universe. I should have seen that there was more to it than I thought. You don’t have a cruel bone in your body, you’d never keep something like that from me without good reason. I’m really, really sorry Keith.”

Keith honestly didn’t know what to say. He had never blamed them for their reaction, and what they had said was true, in a lot of ways. It was his fault. He was second-in-command; it was his job to have Shiro’s back. He was supposed to protect Shiro, and in turn protect the team and he failed. Shiro was missing, and they were no closer to finding him than they were before.

“It’s okay, Pidge,” he said, for lack of anything else to say. They sniffled and buried themself into his front, hair tickling his chin and nose. He staggered back, holding the tray up high so it wouldn’t be sent flying. He awkwardly tried to hold it with one hand, so he could pet Pidge’s hair with the other.

“I’m so sorry, Keith,” Pidge mumbled into his shirt, “It’s not okay and I’m going to make it up to you.”

 

Kuron was finally let off bedrest, and the team were jumpy, to say the least. Keith was sure Kuron suspected that something was up, but so far, he hadn’t made any comment about it. Keith hoped he would think it was unrelated, or better yet, not notice it at all.

Now that Kuron was free to leave his room, and his health had drastically improved, there was one thing Keith needed to do. He needed to get Kuron to attempt to bond with Black. He had talked to his team about it, and they were still adamant that he could not let Kuron near her, but Keith knew he had to. He felt awful, going behind his teams back like that, but he was confident that Black would reject him. It would be too suspicious if Keith didn’t insist on it.

Which is why Keith was in Black’s hangar with Kuron. Alone. Kuron was staring up at Black, and something about his gaze sent shivers up Keith’s spine. Maybe Keith was psyching himself out, but there was something different about Kuron. Creepy. Keith wondered if he would have ever noticed, if not for the scans. It didn’t bear thinking about.

“Just walk up to her. See if she recognises you. How did you strengthen your bond the first time?” Keith prompted. He also wanted to use this time to see what Kuron remembered from before. Kuron took a hesitant step forwards, looking back towards Keith, who nodded, before taking more. He walked right up to Black’s nose and placed his palm against it. Keith had asked her to lay down before they got to the hangar, to make it easier for Kuron to reach her.

“I meditated in her cockpit.” The crease between Kuron’s brow furrowed. “And she took me to see Daibazaal in her mindscape.”

Keith nodded, “Come on, let’s see if being inside will prompt anything.” Keith led Kuron through Black’s open jaw and moved over so Kuron could sit in her seat. They both waited with bated breath, but there was no movement. No flash of the consoles booting up, no rumbling purr as Black recognised her former pilot, or rather, his clone. She wasn’t even present in Keith’s mind, as though she had locked herself far, far away from them. Keith nearly sighed in relief.

“Its not working!” Kuron exclaimed and slammed his hands down onto Black’s console. His metal hand left a dent. Keith jumped back, hand already reaching for his blade. Shiro was never prone to frustrated outbursts like that. Always patient and willing to wait. His mantra was literally “Patience yields focus” for gods sake. With an animalistic growl, Kuron turned, his teeth bared, and Keith swore his eyes flashed purple before he roughly shoved past and left the lion. Keith stayed where he was, frozen in shock and, he was ashamed to admit, fear.

For a second, he genuinely thought Kuron was going to attack him.

By the time Keith had calmed down, Kuron was nowhere to be seen.

 

“Paladins, report to the control room immediately please.”

Lance groaned and pulled himself up from the floor. He was sorting through materials for Keith’s courting gift, and he’d been there for hours already. The castle was a treasure trove of fabrics and materials, but unfortunately there was too much choice, and Lance had no idea which ones to start with, never mind how to make it, colours, or even the size of it!

Lance, unsurprisingly, was the last to the control room, and he plopped into his seat. Hunk and Pidge were in theirs as well, but Allura was looking at something on her screen, Keith looking over her shoulder and Kuron standing uncomfortably close to Keith.

Lance knew keeping Kuron close was the best option. They could monitor him, figure out the galra’s intentions, maybe even use him as an inside into the galra, but it didn’t mean he had to like it. They also weren’t sure what else Haggar would try if they shut Kuron down. At least they had an edge with Kuron, even if it was just because they knew of their plan. Kind of. Kuron’s lack of scent seriously creeped Lance out, he looked so human otherwise. And Lance did not like Kuron standing so close to Keith.

Neither did Keith, apparently, as he kept shifting closer to Allura, and glancing back at Kuron with growing unease. His scent was wary, sour with worry and a little bit of fear. Allura didn’t seem to notice them, and Lance couldn’t do something without alerting Kuron to the fact that he was watching them. Did Kuron know that the humans on the team could smell Keith’s discomfort?

Allura straightened, sending Keith a curious glance when she finally noticed how close he was, and Kuron in turn, to her. Keith just grimaced, stepping away from them both, and nodded for her to start.

“The Blades have contacted us with a proposal for a training mission, with Lotor and his generals. Without their knowledge, of course. Kolivan thinks it would be an effective test of both their loyalties, stamina and possibly, intentions.”

“No way,” Kuron immediately said, before Lance had even properly digested the news.

“What?” Keith frowned, “We haven’t even talked about it yet. We don’t even know what kind of mission it will be!”

“I’m saying no, Keith. I will not let you go on some foolish mission when there are more important things to be doing!” Kuron edged closer to Keith, raising his voice and his hand as he drew nearer. Keith eyes darted to the team, but he stood his ground.

“I’m sorry Shiro, but it is not your decision to make. We make our decisions as a team, you know that.” Kuron drew to a halt, just inches away from Keith. He startled back, blinking rapidly and shaking his head.

“Yeah, sorry. I don’t know what came over me,” he said. The room fell into unnerving silence, until Allura cleared her throat and continued.

“The Blades have split Lotor and his generals into two groups, on two separate missions. Today, we will be aiding Lotor and Axca on their infiltration mission. With them will be Antok and Regris. The Empire have a small base, orbiting the planet Drahul. Voltron are to wait on standby and destroy the base once the Blades have made their retreat. Or, be able to step in if the mission fails.”

Keith stepped forwards, scanning the map on the screen in front of him. “We need to stay hidden but be close enough that we can be there in seconds. There are several small moons, just a short distance away from the base. Hunk, Pidge and I will hide there, while Allura and Lance remain in the castle, which will be in the planets orbit, a bit farther away. Since Red and Blue are the fastest lions, the extra distance shouldn’t make too much of a difference to you.”

Lance couldn’t help but watch Keith as he interacted with the rest of the team. In just a few short months, he had grown into an amazing leader. He still had his flaws, of course, but the team were there to fill in the cracks. Lance just hoped that Kuron wouldn’t throw Keith off too much. His little display earlier was strange. Like, for a second, he forgot who he was. Shiro would never yell at somebody like that, and then the way he had backed down to easily was also weird. Lance was sure Pidge and Hunk had also caught it.

Lance headed down to Blue’s hangar to wait on standby. The Blade’s comms were directly linked to the castles, so everyone on the team would be able to hear what was happening. Lance wasn’t sure about this mission, primarily because Lotor had given them the information. Who knew if this was a trap or not? Lance knew that if Antok was hurt, again, it would destroy Keith. Keith would no doubt find a way to blame himself. If Lotor’s information led the Blades directly to a trap, Lance would end him himself.

He didn’t care if the guy was a prince. He didn’t care about his generals either. Nobody hurt Keith and got away with it. Nobody.

 

“Shit! Galra fleet incoming!” Lance called from the castle.

“Dammit, Antok, get out of there!” Keith cried, “Lance, Allura, get here as soon as you can, but try keep out the galra’s radar.

“You gotcha,” Lance said, Blue powering up and racing towards the rest of the team. Red was just behind him. He dived down, keeping low in the hopes that the fleet didn’t notice them. Yet.

“Antok, how long until you’re out?” Keith asked.

“Two doboshes. We have the information,” Antok replied, slightly breathless.

“Okay, Lance, Allura, hang back, stay behind the fleet for now. Hunk, Pidge, hang tight. We can’t let them know we’re here yet. We wait until Antok and his team are ou-“

“Keith! Your team needs to move now! You’re sitting ducks where you are!” Kuron but in, startling the team. They were so used to operating under Keith now, that hearing Shiro’s voice was a shock to the system. This was their first mission with Kuron’s supervision.

“Shiro, if we move now, we’ll draw both the base and the fleets attention! The Blades are still on the base, we can’t risk that!”

“I don’t care, Keith! Move! Now!”

Everyone was shocked into silence. Despite Kuron’s lack of secondary sex, he had attempted to use his alpha voice, it was apparent in his tone of voice.

“How dare you,” Keith hissed, “You can shove your alpha voice up your ass. I am the Black Paladin, not you. I make the decisions for this team now, and I say we wait. I’m cutting contact with the castle; the Blades will inform you if we need your assistance.”

“Keith, I-“ The comm fell into white noise, and everyone let out a sigh of relief.

“What an arrogant prick,” Pidge said, “I can’t believe he tried that.”

Keith sighed, “Let’s just focus on the mission, we can discuss Kuron after. How long until your out Antok?”

“About thirty ticks.”

“Allura? Lance? How far away are you?”

“We’re following the fleet as close as we can, about twenty-five ticks.”

“Okay, Pidge, Hunk, lets get ready to go. Antok, get your team to the castle as quick as you can. We need to take down both this base and the fleet now. Allura and Lance, you focus on the base, we’ll deal with the fleet as best we can. We shouldn’t need Voltron for this mission.”

“Copy that team leader,” Lance said, veering off towards the base. He saw a small ship blast off, and sped up, powering up his weapons.

 

The team met with the Blades in the hangars. They were tired, but the mission was successful. Lance wasn’t keen on seeing Lotor and Axca again, but Lance had to admit that the information they had attained was invaluable. Keith and Allura were talking to Lotor and Antok, while Axca and the rest of Voltron hung back. Hunk had attempted awkward small talk at first but had soon given up. Axca was not a chatty person, apparently.

Lance was too busy watching Lotor and Keith to notice Kuron’s entrance, but Keith was not. His tail stiffened suddenly, his ears pressing back and then twisting forward, as though Keith was trying not to let them give his thoughts away.

Kuron approached them, but Keith didn’t turn from his conversation, even if he was acutely aware of his presence. Keith didn’t acknowledge him when he stopped next to him either, resolutely turning his back to him. Even from here, Lance could smell his scent’s sharp twist, anger and frustration and fear all combined into one overwhelming smell.

“Keith,” Kuron said, fondly exasperated, like Keith was just playfully ignoring his best friend for a silly prank, and not a huge breach of trust. Lance could almost see his playful eyeroll. Keith did not turn around.

“Keith, come on, you’re overacting,” Kuron said, hand reaching for Keith’s elbow. Keith whirled around, hissing, and backed up a few steps. He bared his teeth, fur on his tail puffing up to nearly twice it’s size and ears pressed flat against his head. Lance instinctually stepped forwards, but Pidge placed a hand on his elbow to stop him. Lance looked back, and they shook their head.

“Overreacting!” Keith cried, voice cracking, “Overreacting! You tried to use your alpha voice on me! You do not do that to an omega. You don’t do that to your best friend! You were the one who wanted me to be the Black Paladin, you do not get to override my decisions like that!”

This time, Kuron actually did roll his eyes with a playful smirk, as though Keith wasn’t two seconds away from ripping him apart. A low growl built up in the room, and it took Lance a moment to realise that it was him. The hand on his elbow tightened.

“Keith, I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry, you know I’d never do that to you. But you have to admit, my decision would have worked this time. Face it, you got lucky this time, but next time you have to listen to me.”

“I don’t have to do anything you tell me! I’ve been leading the team nearly as long as you were,” Keith said, taking a step back. His tail was thrashing wildly behind him now, a sure sign that he was about to either attack or run away. It killed Lance that he couldn’t step in, but Keith didn’t appreciate people attempting to fight his battles for him.

“Oh, come on, I’m sorry to say this Keith, but I have much more experience than you will ever have. I was leading my team at the Garrison, while you were barely managing to go to your classes! You can not honestly tell me you think we are on equal grounds here!” Kuron said. Gasps echoed around the room, and Lance could nearly see every wall that Keith had come rising up. He stilled, to suddenly to be natural, and his scent took on a bitter taste, hitting the back of Lance’s throat.

“If that is honestly what you think of me, then I have nothing else to say to you,” Keith said, slowly, carefully, “Antok, I haven’t visited the base in a few movements, would you mind if I visited?”

Before the team could even blink, Keith was walking away, towards the Blade’s ship. Lance darted forwards, wrenching free from Pidge’s grasp. He caught Keith’s hand and halted him in his tracks. He didn’t turn around, although his shoulders hunched in and his back shuddered. Lance had acted before he had even thought about it, and now he was lost for words.

“Keith, um, just stay safe out there. Contact us if you need to,” Lance said, and squeezed Keith’s hand before slowly letting go. It swung limply back to his side.

“Thanks Lance,” he said quietly, and he was gone.

Lance turned around and stormed out, roughly bumping his shoulders into Kuron’s.

 

Lance had eventually settled on a material similar to wool on earth, but softer. There were three colours, a sky blue, gold and white, very reminiscent of Coran’s uniform. Lance had hoped for something red or even purple, but he could work with those colours. Since alteans didn’t have knitting needles, and Lance didn’t know how they made their blankets, he was going to attempt to knit it without needles.

It was easy enough, actually, once he got used to it. The three different strands created a think thread, making a chunky knitted blanket. The gold shimmered and shone against the background of blue, and the white stood out like stars. The most important thing was just how soft it was though. Once Lance was finished with this blanket, he was seriously considering making himself one, it was so perfect. It reminded him of his mamá’s hugs, of puppy piles with his siblings, of summer mornings on their back porch, facing the sea, cuddled up in papá’s lap.

And, the wool was easily absorbing his scent as he made it. He prayed that Keith would like it and accept his proposal. He couldn’t wait for him to get back.

Chapter Text

Things without Keith had been tense. He had been gone for around three days, and Lance was starting to wonder if he was ever coming back. He had messaged them a few times, just how he was doing, asking if the team needed him, but never any mention of when they could expect him back.

Keith had been stressed to the max for months now, pulled taut like an elastic band, and Kuron had been that last stretch. The thing that finally made him snap. Keith needed time away from the team – and more importantly, Kuron. He needed time to just exist, without any expectations or responsibilities. He needed to spend time with the rest of his pack and let himself be taken care of.

Lance understood all of that, but he desperately wanted Keith back home. Lance had finally built up the courage to give Keith his courting gift, and now he just wanted to do it. The blanket sat in his room, on his desk, taunting him every night. Lance just wanted to give it to him already. He wanted to know, once and for all, yes or no?

Lance hated this waiting around. Their lives were so hectic, they lived floating from one planet to the next, going where they were needed. Lance - who had spent his entire life in the same house, with the same people, near the same beach – missed the stability. He wanted that with Keith. He wanted to know, regardless of how their day went, what battles they fought, people they saved, that he could come home to Keith. That, at the end of the day, Keith would be there, to celebrate their victories, to grieve their losses.

And maybe that was too much to ask from Keith. Too much, too soon. But it was something he desperately craved. He wanted to be able to cuddle someone when his nightmares got too much. He wanted to be able to comfort Keith when his nightmares got too much. Lance wanted that comfort of home again. He wanted to share a room, to do laundry together, to playfully argue over who got to pick the movie before bed. He wanted to be able to sit with Keith, and not need to share words, just easy kisses.

Lance sighed and pulled out his data pad. Hunk and Pidge had been working hard to make them so that the team had a way to contact each other, no matter how far apart they were. Lance insisted on calling them PUNK phones, but Hunk and Pidge had adamantly disagreed. That was fine though, they would always be PUNK phones to Lance. They weren’t perfect, but it gave Lance a way to check up on Keith, without the possibility of Kuron interrupting their conversation.

Lance opened his last conversation with Keith, from yesterday. Their messages had been slow to get through to each other, and Keith had seemed distracted. Lance turned his data pad off, and stood up, picking up the blanket. He unfolded it, admiring the colours and its soft texture. He had finished it a few nights ago, and he had to say, it was gorgeous. Thick, and chunky, it would be sure to keep Keith warm. While it probably wouldn’t be the best thing to have in his nest during his heat (the wool would just absorb all liquids, and hold the smell), Lance hoped he would at least have it in his nest the rest of the time. If he accepted it, that is.

“Paladins, report to hangar D please.”

Lance groaned and folded the blanket back up. God knows what Allura wanted them in the hangars for, but it was probably some brutal form of training. As second-in-command, she had taking over while Keith was gone, and if Lance thought Keith’s training was tough, Allura’s was hard as bone. She seemed to have no concept of what the human body could withstand, or just to regards for it. She pushed them to their limits, and then somehow further and further, until Lance was sure his body was going to fall apart.

At least Keith knew that humans required some breaks, even if he was less inclined to actually give them to them, unlike Shiro was.

The door to hangar D opened with a whoosh, and Lance stepped into the room. A very familiar ship sat inside, with a group of people exchanging hugs in front of it.

“Keith!” Lance called, racing to give him a hug. Keith looked much better than he did last time Lance saw him. The dark circles under his eyes all but faded away, his ears and tail sleek and shiny, and his scent soft and sweet. “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming back today! We could have planned a welcome back party!”

Lance felt Keith’s laugh vibrate through his chest, where they were pressed close to each other. Keith pulled back, and Lance was reluctant to let go, choosing to keep a hand on Keith’s arm.

“That’s exactly why I did tell you!” Keith said, his face serious except for the twitch of his lips. Lance laughed, and Keith’s smile grew wider, until he stopped pretending to be stern.

“Okay, what a touching reunion, we get it. Stop hogging Keith all to yourself!” Pidge but in, and slung their arms around Keith’s waist, pulling him into a rib-crushing hug. Keith wheezed and awkwardly tried to pat them on the back but gave up once he realised his arms were trapped to his sides. Hunk joined them soon after, pulling Allura and Coran with him. Lance threw himself on top of them all, glad that his entire pack was back together.

The door opened, and the room instantly grew colder. Lance stiffened and drew back from the hug, placing himself between Kuron and the team. It was difficult, when Kuron looked so much like Shiro, a bashful smile on his face, awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck.

“Sorry, I was in the training deck and couldn’t get out of the level. How was your trip Keith?” Kuron asked, stepping closer but making no move to hug Keith.

“Fine,” Keith replied curtly, moving out from behind Lance and stepping closer. He walked straight past Kuron and too the door, completely ignoring his presence. “Sorry guys, I’m exhausted. I’m going to go have a shower and a nap, could one of you wake me up for dinner?”

“Yeah, no problem. Get some rest, Keith,” Lance said softly. Keith smiled, and the door shut behind him.

Everyone’s attention turned back to Kuron, who stood with his mouth agape. “Is he okay? Did I say something?” Kuron asked, hesitantly. Lance scoffed and stepped closer to him.

“You know exactly what you said Shiro.” Lance stepped around Kuron, unable to bare his presence any longer. Just seeing him made Lance nearly black out with fury.

The doors slid shut behind him, and he missed the tiny “I don’t know if I do” that followed him.

 

Lance volunteered himself to call Keith for dinner, much to the amusement of the rest of the team (bar Kuron, who sat, frowning, in the corner of the room). Lance escaped their teasing quickly enough, and he walked down the quiet corridors to the Paladins quarters. It’s unnecessarily far from the kitchen and dining room, but Lance used the time to think things over.

He felt a bit off kilter with Keith’s sudden arrival. He was banking on having a few hours to prepare what he was going to say to him in greeting, then he was going to whisk him away somewhere quiet, maybe get Hunk to cook them a nice meal, and then he was going to present the blanket, and ask. Now, Lance had to figure a different plan out, and quickly, before Keith gets sucked back into the stress of running the team, and before Lance loses confidence.

Lance reached Keith’s door before he knew it. He took a deep breath and raised his hand to knock, surprised to see that it was shaking. He was just calling Keith for dinner, no big deal! He sighed, shook his head, and knocked, softly. “Keith,” he called, keeping his voice low in case Keith was still sleeping, “Dinner’s ready.”

He waited a few seconds but got no reply. He knocked again, a bit louder this time. “Keith? Come on, man, dinner’s ready!”

Still no reply. Lance swallowed down the rising panic. Keith was probably in the bathroom, or maybe he snuck away to the training deck. He was fine, Kuron had been with the team for most of the afternoon. Still, Lance couldn’t help but slam his hand down on the pad next to the door. Keith could be hurt in there, and Lance just needed to check.

The door opened to reveal the dimly lit room. It was sparse, not even a nest set up in the corner like Lance would have expected. In fact, there was nothing to really show who lived in the room at all. If it weren’t for the obnoxiously red door, and the red stripe around the walls of the room, Lance would wonder if he had knocked on a spare room.

A soft noise drew his attention to the bed, and he stepped forwards, the door closing and taking all the light with it. Lance turned the lights on to their dimmest setting and stepped closer to the bed. Keith lay sprawled out on his stomach, wearing only an oversized purple t-shirt. Even from here, Lance could smell the luxite on it. His blankets were tangled around his thighs. One bare leg was hitched up, revealing an expanse of pale skin, leading up and up until the hem of the shirt. Lance flushed and looked away, unable to cope with that much bare skin on display.

Instead, he turned his attention to Keith’s head. It was pillowed on one arm, the other clutching a pillow to his chest. He looked younger, in sleep. Soft, in a way Lance had never seen before. Even his scent had mellowed out, calmer and cleaner now. One ear was pressed to his pillow, but the other twitched, listening to something in his dream. His hair spread out over his pillows, eyebrows soft and eyes closed.

He was unbearably cute, and Lance was going to die.

How was he supposed to wake Keith up when he looked so, so vulnerable? What kind of monster would be able to do that? Still, they were expected at the dinner table in a few minutes, and Lance didn’t need people teasing them for taking so long.

He leaned forwards and gently brushed Keith’s hair from his face. His brows furrowed, just a tiny movement, but he didn’t wake. “Keith,” Lance whispered, reaching out to shake his shoulder, “Wake up b- Agh!”

Before Lance had even seen the movement, he was on the floor, a heavy weight settling on his chest and a knife to his throat. He wheezed, the air knocked out of him and flailed. The body on top of him stilled, and leaned forwards.

“Lance?”

“Yeah! It’s me buddy! Just getting you for dinner is all!” Lance chuckled nervously, too scared to make any sudden movements lest the knife accidentally plunged into his neck. Keith didn’t move for a long second, until he suddenly started scrambling off of Lance, kneeing him in the groin as he went.

“Oh, shit, I’m so sorry, I did mean to, here” Keith grasped Lance’s hand and hauled him upright, too fast for Lance to properly get his balance. Their forehead’s slammed together, and they both hissed and stepped away from each other quickly.

“Fuck sorry! Hold on a sec-“ The lights flicked on, and Keith and Lance stared at each other. Lance supposed he must look quite a sight, hunched over with one hand covering his groin from any more wayward knees, the other rubbing his no doubt red forehead.

“Dinner’s ready?” he said weakly, prompting Keith to burst into giggles. He was rubbing his own forehead, his hair pushed back from his face for once. Lance realised he had never seen it like that before, and then wondered if it was a little weird to be admiring his leader’s forehead so much.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to near stab you. I just got a shock,” Keith said sheepishly, tugging on the hem of his shirt. He seemed to realise that he had no pants on, as his cheeks suddenly bloomed red. “I’m- I’m just going to change, wait for me?”

“Yeah, sure,” Lance replied, trying to seem casual as he watched Keith dart into his closet and then into his bathroom. He was sad to lose the sight of those legs though. His heart was still thundering, slowly coming off the adrenaline after almost losing his life. What a way to go, killed for waking Keith up from a nap. Well, there were far worse ways.

Keith was back quickly, shrugging on his red jacket and strapping his knife to the small of his back. Lance followed him out of the hall, struggling to find something to say now that that disaster was over.

“So, how were the Blades?” he asked, when he couldn’t let the silence go any longer.

“They were fine,” Keith replied, “I missed them a lot, so I spent most of my time with my pack, but I actually got to spend some time with Acxa and Lotor too. They’re interesting.”

Lance felt his hackles raise at the mention of Lotor, and he was sure Keith could smell the twist in his scent. “That sounds nice,” he said carefully. If Keith had no problem spending time with Lotor, then Lance wasn’t going to say anything. Keith was smart and had good instinct. He could take care of himself.

Keith hummed but didn’t say anything else, and Lance let the conversation drop.

 

Dinner was nice, Hunk putting extra effort into it to celebrate the fact the Keith was back, and even Kuron was on his best behaviour. Keith ignored him mostly, not sure what to say or how to act around him. Keith still felt bile rise in his throat ever time he thought about that argument. If there was any doubt in Keith’s mind that this wasn’t the real Shiro, it was long gone now.

After dinner, Lance asked him to meet him in observatory, so Keith headed straight there. He wasn’t sure what to expect, whether Lance had important news for him, or if it was something pertaining Kuron. He had hoped that he could at least wait until tomorrow morning before diving back into the whole ‘saving the universe’ deal, but he guessed whatever it was couldn’t wait. He wondered why they were meeting in the observatory though, rather than the control room.

Keith settled into one of the sunken couches at the front of the room, closest to the glass. The cushions were just as comfortable as he remembered them to be, and he sunk into them with a sigh. Despite his nap earlier, he was still dead tired. The journey over was long and boring, but Keith was too anxious about seeing Kuron again to get any sleep.

A sudden weight settled besides Keith, and he turned to see Lance smiling at him. He had something behind his back and was fidgeting, his scent turning tangy with nerves. It instantly set Keith on edge and he pulled himself up to sit straighter.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” He asked, eyes raking over Lance to check for any signs of injury. Lance blushed, and glanced away, before taking a deep breath and making direct eye contact. Keith felt pinned by his gaze, and his own eyes widened, unable to look away.

“Nothings wrong, I just have something to ask you,” Lance said, and paused. “Keith, I have known you since I was fifteen years old, despite the fact that you – apparently – didn’t know me. I’ve always felt, useless, I guess. I was the baby of the family; all my siblings did great things and I was supposed to match up to that. The Garrison was supposed to be my big break, even if Vero went there too. But then, day one, and I saw you. It was over for me then; I knew I could never compete with you. It sucked at first, and I was bitter about it for a long time, but you were too amazing for me to be properly mad at.”

“Even though you were an alpha, or that’s what I thought anyway, I was still so attracted to you. Alpha-Alpha couples aren’t looked down on so much nowadays, I thought we could make it work. So, I started to work my ass off, so I could be in the same class as you and so you would finally notice me. And the Kerberos happened, and you were gone.”

Lance looked down at his hands, messing with his fingers. Keith had no idea where this was coming from, and he felt awful. Was that how the rivalry began? But why bring it up now?

“Lance, I don’t know what to say,” he started, softly.

Lance looked up again, and smiled, “Then don’t say anything, I’m not even done yet.” He took another deep breath. “Finding you in the desert was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. You just showed up, looking hot as fuck as you took down those guards holding Shiro. I thought, in the year that had passed, that I was over you. Boy, I was so so wrong.”

“Every day since, has been a whirlwind of adventure. I’m so sorry for how I treated you, in the beginning of all this, then again that time with Pidge, and yet again when Shiro went missing. At first, I just didn’t know how to act around you without completely revealing myself. I went to harsh on the ‘teasing bro’ thing and came off as a jerk. Then, well, I don’t have any excuse when it came to that incident with Pidge. I was a genuine jerk that time, and I learned from my mistake. And with Shiro, I didn’t want to see you destroy yourself. I should have realised sooner how deep your grief was, and I’m so so sorry about that.”

“You don’t have to apologise, I’ve already forgi-“ Lance held a hand up, shocking him into silence.

“Just let me finish this incredibly long, roundabout way of asking you something, okay?” When Keith nodded, Lance moved, tucking Keith’s hair behind his ear and cupping his face.

“What I’m trying to say is that- ugh, why is it so hard to say! I like you! There! I like you. I like you so much it scares me sometimes, and I’m always thinking about you and worried about you. I’ve liked you for probably longer than I ever realised. I know that now probably isn’t the right time to start a relationship – that’s if you even say yes – but well, when is? I’m tired of waiting, of holding back. I want to love you, loud and proud. And there’ll never be a better time.”

Keith sat frozen in shock, trying to take in all of Lance’s words. Lance pulled out a beautiful blanket from behind his back, think and soft, and absolutely drenched in his scent. He handed it to Keith, who took it gently, hands shaking with realisation.

“I know this might be awkward if you reject me, but I’m willing to take the risk. If you do though, just know that I’ll never mention-“

Keith launched himself at Lance, cutting him off by grabbing the front of his t-shirt and slamming their lips together. It was awkward and messy, teeth clacking together and noses ramming into each other until Lance gently grasped Keith’s face and titled it, smoothing it out. Keith pulled back, just enough to look Lance in the eyes.

“Of course, I’m accepting you, you dork. How could I ever say no?” Keith pulled him in for another kiss, pretending that it wasn’t wet from his own tears, and possibly Lance’s as well.

Somehow, they found themselves laying back with the blanket covering them. They traded lazy kisses and Keith snuggled in closer. He couldn’t believe that Lance had actually presented him with a courting gift, and a beautiful one at that. It was so well made, with obvious love and care put into it. Lance had explained how he made it, and all that went into it.

Traditionally, the one being courted didn’t return the gifts, but Keith said fuck that. He was in space for gods sake, who cares about being traditional. He was going to get his alpha (his alpha!) the best gifts he could find.

He rested his head on Lance’s shoulder, staring up at the stars above them, just taking it all in. “Hey Lance, what are we?”

“Well, I’d love to call you my boyfriend, if that’s okay with you?” Lance replied, pulling Keith a little bit closer.

“Boyfriends,” Keith murmured, “Yeah, I like that.”

Chapter Text

Lance honestly felt like he was floating on cloud nine. He had only let himself dream of Keith accepting his courting gift on the darkest of nights, dreams that were tucked away in the safety of his own mind. Now they had become a reality.

They had spent far too long cuddled up together under the blanket in the observatory and ended up falling asleep there. They still had to talk about boundaries, what was moving too fast, or too slow, whether they wanted to tell the team right away or give themselves a chance to just enjoy their new relationship in private, but Lance couldn’t be happier.

Waking up to Keith cuddled into his side, the blanket saturated with their scents, was nearly too much for Lance to handle. He spent far too long just staring at Keith, absorbing every minute detail. Keith had faint freckles on his nose and cheek, and Lance wondered what they’d look like after a summer in Cuba. His dark eyelashes fluttered against his cheeks as he woke.

Seeing Keith open his eyes, expression going from bleary to bewildered to shocked to happy, was something that Lance would never forget. Lance hoped there would be many mornings to come where they woke up together, but that first time was special.

All too soon though, duty called.

Just before they left for the control room, Lance grasped Keith’s hand and gently pulled him back. He wasn’t sure how to approach this, and he didn’t want to give Keith the wrong idea, but he also needed to ask, just to make sure they were on the same page.

“Hey,” he said, letting his hands settle on Keith’s waist.

“Hi,” Keith looked up at him from under his fringe. Lance couldn’t help but lean down and kiss him. He limited himself to just one though, no matter how put out Keith looked when he didn’t get a second.

“How are we- I mean, are we going to tell the team? About us?” He asked, tightening his grip on Keith’s waist. Keith frowned, but from the pull of his lips Lance knew it was his thoughtful frown rather than his upset or frustrated one.

“Well, Hunk and Pidge are probably going to smell that something happened between us last night, we can’t really hide it from them. But they won’t know what, exactly, it was. This is my first relationship, I kind of want to get used to it a little bit before announcing it to the team,” Keith said.

“Oh, thank god. I feel the same. I know Pidge and Hunk are going to ask questions, but I think they’ll have more if they know we’re going out now. I don’t really want to deal with that.” Lance said, glad that they were on the same page. “Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely want to show you off - I mean look at you! – but at a later date. Once we get a little more comfortable.”

Keith blushed a beautiful red and leaned forward to hide his face in Lance’s chest. He mumbled something, but it was too muffled for Lance to hear.

“Say that again Kitten?” And god, Lance had free reign now to use any cheesy nicknames he wanted. He was going to test out as many as possible, just to see which ones flustered Keith the most. Keith turned his head, just enough so Lance could hear him clearer.

“I said, you can’t just say things like that!” Lance could see his blush creeping down the back of his neck and couldn’t suppress his laughter.

“So, we’re on the same page then sweetheart?”

“Yes, we’re on the same page!” Keith cried and stormed out of the room, but not before Lance saw the furious blush burning his face and neck. Lance laughed as he followed him.

 

With Keith back training was a bit easier. Not to say that Keith went easy on them, quite the opposite, but at least he wasn’t as harsh as Allura. Today they were trying to do group training, letting one person lead the entire team through the maze, which was full of different obstacles. Lance was the first to be in the box, and man, it was difficult.

The team followed his directions easily enough and listened out for his warnings about traps and bots. No, the part that made it difficult was Kuron hovering over his shoulder, seemingly try to offer advice. Advice that was completely wrong.

Kuron had a hand clamped on Lance’s shoulder, grip nearly painfully tight. He kept pointing out inconsequential things right at a critical moment, effectively distracting Lance and forcing the team to deal with whatever attack with no warning. It was horrible and frustrating, and every time Kuron spoke it got harder and harder for Lance to stop himself from growling at him. He hoped the team knew Kuron was distracting him and it wasn’t just Lance doing an awful job. At least Coran was there to back him up.
Once everyone had a go at leading the team through the maze, with varying levels of success, Keith decided that training was over. The team made their way to the communal shower and changing room. The team were uncharacteristically quiet, all keeping their thoughts to themselves.

Lance felt like he needed to explain himself to the team. He knew they had all taken hits that he should have been able to prevent if he could have just warned them properly when he was supposed to.

“Guys, I’m sorry for training today. I swear I can do better. I’m… not trying to push the blame off myself or anything, but- well- Kuron kept ‘giving me advice’” here, Lance made air quotes with his hands. “I don’t know if it was on purpose, but it kept distracting me. I shouldn’t have let him get to me, I’m sorry.”

The room was silent, letting Pidge’s sigh be heard by all. “He did the same to me. He kept asking me if I was sure my math was correct, if I was sure that that was the fastest route with the least amount of traps. I had to keep redoing the math in my head just to make sure, and while I was doing that you guys would take a wrong turn or get caught with a bot.”

“Yeah, he did the same for me,” Hunk admitted, “He just kept questioning everything I was doing, over and over again. It was horrible. Like he was sucking every drop of confidence I have managed to gain in the last few months right out. I wasn’t going to say anything, I thought it might have been just me.”

“Rest assured Hunk, it wasn’t just you. He attempted to do the same with myself, however I have been trained, if only for a short period, on how to combat situations like that.” Allura said, gently patting Hunks knee.

As one, the team turned to face Keith, how was nearly uncharacteristically quiet. He didn’t turn to face the team for several long seconds, and when he did, he looked haunted. All the happiness and joy that was present from earlier was long gone, leaving only despair behind.

“He’s trying to isolate us,” he said, “He thinks he can scare us into not talking to each other. We can’t let that happen. The moment we’re separated, the moment we lose. Keep talking to each other, tell us every little thing he says and does to you. We can’t let him win.” Keith closed the door to where his armour was stored and dropped his undersuit down the chute to be washed. Lance noticed that Keith hadn’t told them what, if anything, Kuron had said to him, and that was worrying. He was sure the others had noticed it as well.

“I’d try and stay in pairs as much as possible,” Keith continued, “I know that sucks, and everyone enjoys their privacy, but just so that there is always a witness, to prevent Kuron from trying anything like this again.” With that, Keith left, leaving the room in silence behind him.

“That didn’t stop him today,” Lance said, even though Keith wasn’t there to hear it, “Coran was right there the entire time.”

“Maybe he thinks Coran won’t stop him,” Pidge wondered.

Lance frowned, “Yeah, maybe. I’m going to catch up with Keith, make him stick to his own advice. See you guys later.”

“Yeah, see ya Lance.”

 

By the time Lance made it out of the changing rooms, Keith was already long gone. His scent was powerful though, and Lance easily followed it to his room. He knocked on the door and waited to be let in. The sound of ruffling, of cloth on cloth and footsteps, came from behind the door before it finally opened. Keith stood with a blanket – Lance’s courting gift – around his shoulders like a cape. He was scowling, but it softened when he saw who it was.

“Hey,” Lance said, slipping his hands into his pockets. “Mind if I come it?”

Keith assessed him before stepping aside and going back to his bed. He collapsed on his back, staring up at the ceiling. Lance sat down beside him.

“What’s the matter?” Lance asked, tentatively. He knew Keith could be somewhat… volatile at times, and the last thing he wanted to do was make him more upset.

“Nothing,” Keith said gruffly, pulling his blanket tighter around himself. Lance sighed as he realised he wasn’t going to get the answer out of Keith easily.

“What you said before you left was good advice,” Lance started, taking a more indirect approach, “Kuron knows that we get our strength from each other. We’re a team, that’s what teams do. We fill in the gaps each person has, to make us stronger. Just because you’re our leader, doesn’t mean you can’t confide in us. We can’t let you be isolated either.” He paused, giving Keith a chance to say something - anything - but he continued when he was met with silence.

“You know Keith, ages ago, I asked my Papi how come she and Mamá are so happy together. They got together when was Papi twenty-one, Mamá was almost twenty, and had their first kid three years later. They’ve been together for what, probably just over thirty years now? And I’ve never seen them argue, I mean seriously argue, they squabble like all couples do. And she told me that she and Mamá always communicate. They tell each other everything, little fears, embarrassing things, what they like and dislike. If they’re scared or anxious, annoyed, angry. If they don’t like something the other is doing. And, they listen. If Papi doesn’t like something Mamá does, she tells him, and together they try to sort it out.”

“All my life, I’ve wanted to have a relationship like theirs. They’re the real relationship goals, fuck whatever people say about celebrities. They’re been together through deaths and births, when they had no money, when Mamá had problems getting pregnant. They’ve been through a lot, and they’re stronger than ever. I want that kind of relationship with you Keith. I know I come off as a flirt, but I’ve never courted anyone before, because I’ve always wanted a real relationship. Maybe this is too soon, and maybe I’ll scare you off, but I want to be with you for the rest of my life, Keith. I’m serious about this, I wouldn’t have made that gift for you for nothing. I think, you’re it for me.”

“But, if you can’t communicate with me, it won’t work. I don’t want to spend the next few years with you, only for us to break up because of something we could have easily changed. And, I know it’s a lot. It’ll be difficult, even for me, to be one hundred percent honest with you, but I want to try. I just want to know, are you willing to try too? Or am I just wasting my time?”

Lance didn’t dare look at Keith, scared he had revealed too much, too soon. But he couldn’t regret it. He didn’t know if he could be in a relationship with Keith, if Keith wasn’t willing to talk to him.

“I- I want that too, Lance. I want to be with you, forever. But I’m not the same as you,” Keith pulled himself to sit upright, and face Lance. His eyes were dewy with tears, and the sight made tears well up in Lance’s own eyes. “I need space, and time to think things through. I’ll try my hardest to always talk to you, but sometimes it might be hours, or even days before I do. I need to get my thoughts straight before I talk, and that’s always something I’ve needed. I can’t promise that I’ll always get things right, especially at first, but I’ll try my hardest.”

Lance reached out and pulled Keith closer, pressing a kiss to his forehead, “That’s all I can ask for, Kitten.”

Keith pulled back a bit so he could wrap Lance in his blanket, cocooning the two in the small space. Lance lay down, so Keith was lying completely on his chest. They stayed like that for a bit before Keith spoke up again.

“Well, after that emotional speech, I guess I have to tell you now. Kuron didn’t say anything at all to me. In fact, he completely ignored me the entire time. When I heard everyone talking about how he made them feel, part of me felt… grateful that he hadn’t said anything to me, and then guilty for feeling like that. But then I realised that there had to be a reason for it. Did he not try to distract me because I was already doing a bad enough job? Am I such a bad leader, that I’ve already isolated myself from you guys?”

Lance clutched Keith closer, wishing he could take every painful thought from him. “No, Keith, no, don’t ever think that. You’re not a bad leader. You’re an excellent leader. Yeah, you kind of sucked at first, but you were grieving, and only learning. Now, you’re so much better. We trust you with our lives, I trust you with my life. This is just another tactic Kuron is using. Another way to isolate you. Please, don’t let him get into your head.”

Keith buried his head into Lance’s chest. Lance could feel his sigh through his shirt. “Yeah, you’re right. Thank you, Lance.”

“Anything for you, baby.”

 

The next few days were tough. Kuron kept up his isolation tactics - or whatever they were - while simultaneously ignoring Keith. Despite Lance’s reassurances, Keith couldn’t help the creeping self-doubt. It was one thing for Keith to talk about sticking together and not letting Kuron’s words get to them, but it was another for him to actually apply that to himself.

He just wanted to know, why had Kuron chosen Keith to isolate in such a way? Why blatantly ignore him? Keith was the leader, he was supposed to be the one holding the team together, surely, he should be the most important target?

Instead, Kuron left him alone to his thoughts.

Keith had kept true to his word and brought his worries up with Lance, but he didn’t want every moment they had together to be drowned with his own worries and fears. Lance wasn’t his therapist; Keith couldn’t just unload his own mental issues onto him without any worry for Lance’s own mental health.

Luckily, Keith had a group of people who had sworn to always listen to and protect him. He hated bringing up the same issues to Lance again and again, but with the Blades it was different. For one, Ulaz had actually trained to be a ‘Mind Doctor’ (what Keith came to realise was a therapist and not a neurosurgeon) before switching instead to be a medic. That training had stuck with him though, and while the human mind was a little bit different, he did give good insight into what Keith should or shouldn’t be doing.

Keith couldn’t hide how he was feeling from the Blades, no matter how hard he tried anyway.

During one of their regularly scheduled catch ups, Thace, who had been stationed at the communications centre due to a shortage of Blades at home base and thus unable to attend the video call, burst into room looking like he had simultaneously seen a ghost and just had his greatest wish come true.

“Kolivan!” he cried, drawing everyone’s attention to him. “ I just got word from Kr- the agent that went offline a couple of months ago. We weren’t able to speak for long, but they are safe, and mentioned three other being’s accompanying them!”

Both Kolivan and Antok straightened up, Ulaz casting and uneasy glance at the holoscreen. Keith watched them, bewildered, as he hadn’t even known an agent had gone offline.

“Three other beings? Did they mention species? Or alliances?” Kolivan questioned, slipping into his leader role as easy as breathing.

“Yes,” Thace replied, pausing to shoot a look Keith’s way, “They mentioned an- an altean, Kolivan, and two humans.”

The group were shocked into silence for several long moments. “Your agent must be wrong,” Keith said quietly, not letting himself believe for even a second that two humans had been found so far from Earth. “There are only two Alteans left, and they’re right here in this castle.”

“No, kit, this is worth looking into. This agent, well, she’s one of the best. She’s one of our own. She wouldn’t lie about this, nor would she be easily mistaken,” Ulaz said, “We’ve actually been meaning to talk to you about her for a whi-“

“Ulaz,” Antok cut in sharply, “Perhaps now isn’t the best time.”

Ulaz easily acquiesced, “No, you’re right. We must check this information out first. There will be time for all that later.”

“I fear we will have to cut this call early, kit. Be safe, we will talk again as soon as we can. Good night, kit,” Antok said, already leaning forward to cut the call.

“Goodnight,” Keith echoed.

His mind was racing through the possibilities. If there was one altean, surely there were more? Where were they, though? How had they stayed hidden for ten thousand years? And what about the two humans?

There were currently three humans (and possibly an unknown amount of clones) lost in space. Matt, Pidge’s dad, and the real Shiro. What were the chances of Shiro finding either of the other two? It was much more likely that Pidge’s dad and Matt had managed to stay together somehow.

Still, even if this agent was giving false information, Keith felt he had to tell Pidge. He owed it to them, after hiding the truth from them last time. He’d rather get their hopes up for no reason than break their trust again.

The only problem was if he told Pidge, they would immediately want to go rescue them. They had been searching for months, hell possibly over a year now, with no luck. Even if there was only a slim chance of Shiro being one of the humans, Keith wanted to be on that mission too.

Their biggest obstacle was, of course, Kuron. How could they break away from the team to rescue the real Shiro without Kuron finding out? Hell, what would they do with Kuron if they actually found the real Shiro? Keith didn’t want to leave the rest of the team short though. He didn’t want to weaken them or leave them vulnerable.

Keith sighed and flopped back into his bed, spread out like a starfish. Being a leader sucked. It meant he couldn’t just take off and do things his own way. Now he had to actually stop and think.

He sat up and gathered his new favourite blanket. He needed to talk to Pidge and Lance about this.

Chapter Text

Keith sent a message to Lance and Pidge, asking them to meet him in his room. He didn’t want Kuron accidentally overhearing them, and considering he was still ignoring Keith, his room was the best bet. It wasn’t too long before there was a knock, and the door slid open.

It was funny how Keith and Lance had only been dating for a few weeks, but already Lance’s presence was enough to completely relax Keith, in a way that no one else ever could. Just the sight of him was enough to make Keith go boneless, all the pent-up tension draining out of his system. His body trusted that Lance would take care of him, and Keith was hopeless to it.

“Hey, Pidge here yet?” Lance asked, stepping closer to where Keith was seated.

“No, not yet. Why?”

“Just means I can do this,” Lance said, and pulled Keith up into a kiss that stole his breath away. It was warm and loving, passionate but also tender. Keith gasped, and Lance pulled away, smirking. Keith leaned up for another one, but he heard footsteps in the corridor and stepped away, just in time. Pidge entered and looked around curiously. Keith prayed his blush wasn’t as visible as it felt.

“Sorry, was I interrupting something?” Pidge asked, an all too innocent smile on their face. Behind them, their tail twitched mischievously. Keith cleared his throat and tried to get his mind back to the matter at hand.

“No, nothing,” Lance replied easily, “What are we here for, Keith?”

Keith sighed. He had tried to come up with different ways of approaching this subject but had ultimately decided that being blunt would be the best. “Earlier, I was on call with the Blades when they got news that an agent that had gone missing got back in contact with them. She was with three other beings. An altean, and two humans.”

Pidge’s gasp reverberated around the room. They grabbed the nearest object, which happened to be Lance, as though they needed support to keep from buckling. Lance guided them to sit on Keith’s bed, and Keith settled on the floor in front of them.

“They need to confirm it before they go on a rescue mission, and we don’t know who exactly these humans are, but I think it’s safe to say that they’re probably Matt, your Dad or Shiro,” Keith continued, glancing up at Lance.

“And you want to go on this rescue mission,” Lance said, “Pidge too.”

Keith nodded and glanced away, “If there is any chance that it is Shiro, I want to be there. I know you must feel the same about their family, Pidge. But I don’t want to leave the team vulnerable, especially since I have no idea how long this mission could take.”

“We have to go, Keith. We have to. I’m not missing a chance like this,” Pidge said, tears glistening in their eyes.

“I know, Pidge, I know,” Keith tried to sooth, “We just have to make sure we have a proper plan in place. We don’t even know for sure if they actually are human, and we can’t let the team down. We’ll figure something out, I promise. Its why Lance is here, as pack leader.”

“If we settle in a remote part of space, or a small unoccupied planet, that would significantly reduce our chances of running into a galra fleet. That would leave our main problem, Kuron,” Lance said.

“That’s what I was thinking too. But what do we do if Shiro is one of the humans? Kuron doesn’t know that we know he’s a clone. Hell, we don’t even know if he knows! What are we supposed to do, just show up with Shiro like ‘Hey, Shiro, turns out you’re actually a clone and we’ve been calling you Kuron behind your back, since we think we’re funny and we’re also stupid. Anyway, we know you’re like a spy or something, please don’t kill us! Xoxo Voltron’?”

That got a snort from Lance and a smile from Pidge, which Keith counted as a win. His heart did a little flutter in his chest, glad he could make his alphas happy in this stressful moment.

“Xoxo Voltron? Really?” Lance said, rolling his eyes.

“Oh, shut up,” Keith said, blushing, “You get the point. I don’t feel comfortable leaving the team down two lions anyway, and especially not with Kuron.”

“What if we only took one lion? Green has cloaking technology and is significantly smaller than Black, she is much more suited to that kind of stealth mission than Black is,” Pidge said, pulling their glasses of to whip their eyes. Their expression steeled into something more serious. They meant business now.

“That’s a good idea,” Lance said, “And you don’t need to worry about Kuron. Between myself, Allura, Hunk and Coran, I think we can handle him for a few days. We just need to make sure he doesn’t get suspicious.”

“Are you sure your okay with this?” Keith asked, staring into Lance’s eyes. In truth, he wasn’t only asking if Lance was okay with handling Kuron, but also with the pack splitting up, and with Keith leaving so soon after they got together.

“Positive,” Lance said with a decisive nod, “We all want Shiro back, and I can’t wait to meet the legendary Sam and Matt Holt.”

 

The next few days were a whirlwind of secretive activity. Keith got word from the Blades that they were launching a rescue mission for the agent and her companions. They were as confident as they could be that there actually were two humans with her, so Keith and Pidge started planning.

Keith carefully filled Hunk, Allura and Coran in, while Pidge and Lance kept Kuron busy. Between them, they decided to set down on a remote planet to fix some repairs (that actually needed doing, according to Coran) while Keith and Pidge would be sent off to ‘collect supplies’. The team would be able to keep an eye on Kuron, while also staying safe from other potential threats.

The idea of splitting the team up still left Keith uneasy, but there was nothing they could do. Keith had to be there for Shiro, just as Pidge had to be there for their family. At least Kuron didn’t seem suspicious.

Yet.

The night before Keith and Pidge left was a quiet one. The team all gathered in the lounge to make a huge nest to lay in while they watched a movie. Even Kuron joined them, and while he seemed subdued, he wasn’t trying to make any trouble. Keith snuggled up next to Lance, not caring if anyone saw them.

They still hadn’t officially announced that they were going out yet, but Keith was sure Pidge and Hunk, at least, knew. Both Keith and Lance smelled significantly more like each other now, just from spending so much time in close contact. Keith was grateful that they hadn’t launched into a barrage of questions about their relationship, he wasn’t sure he could survive the embarrassment.

 

Keith woke Pidge up early the next morning, and they crept down to Green’s hangar. They had already said goodbye to everyone last night, and Keith wasn’t sure he could handle it again. It was ridiculous how much he’d miss his team, and they were only going to be gone for a movement, two max!

They settled into the cockpit and took off. Allura had found a densely forested planet to set down on, landing in a clearing. Keith watched as the castleship grew smaller and smaller behind them. Soon, even the planet was just a speck behind them.

Keith’s heart panged as he thought of Lance, far away. It physically hurt, the distance between them. It scared Keith, just how quickly he was falling completely and utterly in love with Lance. They had only been courting for a few movements, but Lance had already settled into Keith’s heart. He owned a large part of it.

Keith couldn’t tell Lance how he truly felt though, not yet. He was scared of chasing him away, or worse, making Lance feel like he had to recuperate.

“So, you and Lance, huh?” Pidge asked, out of the blue. For a second, Keith worried he had said all that out loud. He decided to play coy.

“I have no idea what your talking about,” Keith said, twisting his head away from Pidge. He hoped they wouldn’t notice his furious blush, but nothing escaped them.

“Oh? What’s that blush about then?”

“You’re embarrassing me, that’s what!” Keith’s face was on fire, his tail tucked between his legs and ears hidden in his hair without how flat they lay.

“Really? You’re not convincing at all! Come on, Keith, you know you can tell me anything!” Pidge said, twisting around to look at him properly.

Keith sighed, but decided that the truth was going to have to come out at some point. At least it gave them something to talk about for the next few hours.

“He, um, he gave me a courting gift and it was really sweet and he asked me out and I said yes, so we’re going out no and-“ Keith said in one rush of air.

“Whoa, whoa, breathe! I didn’t even get all that!” Pidge exclaimed.

Keith took a deep breath and smiled. “Lance gave me a courting gift. It’s a super soft blanket that he made himself, it’s so sweet. He asked me out, and well, I had to say yes,” Keith said, ducking his head to hide his soft smile.

“Aww, I’m so proud of him. And you! You guys both seem really happy recently, even with all the drama going on,” Pidge said, smiling wide.

“Thanks, Pidge. He makes me really happy.”

“Good. You both deserve the best.”

 

Alarms broke Lance out of his training, and he hurriedly shut down the simulation. He dumped his training sword, making a mental note to come back and cleaning up after, and sprinted to the control room. There, he met Allura and Coran, who were pulling up screen after screen after screen. Alerts popped up, flashing red and adding to the chaos. Hunk burst into the room, still wearing his apron and with a small pastry in one hand, a piping bag in the other.

“I’m here! What’s happening?” he cried.

“Just what I was wondering,” Lance murmured, “What, where’s Kuron?”

Hunk scrambled to his station, pulling up more screens. This wasn’t Lance’s area of expertise, he hated hovering uselessly.

“Oh man,” Hunk said, enlarging one screen so everyone could see it, “I found Kuron.”

Lance focused on the screen, nearly going blind with rage. Kuron was in Black’s hangar, striking her leg again and again, while she sat motionless. He picked up some tools from her repair station, and flung them at her, aiming for her head and eyes. Hunk hooked up the audio, and his screaming filled the room.

“Let me in you beast!” Kuron cried, activating his galra arm. The purple glow rebounded of Black’s casing. “Open up! I am your true paladin and you will respond!” Kuron roared, and started hacking at her paws. He was too small to do any real damage, but the image was brutal. Sparks flew through the air, settling in Kuron’s clothes and hair.

Lance turned and ran, sprinting to Black’s hangar. He couldn’t let Kuron do damage to her while Keith wasn’t here. Even if Black and Keith didn’t yet have the same bond Red and Keith had, she still meant the world to Keith.

Hunk and Allura were on his heels, all three of them bursting into a bloodbath. Black’s paws were mangled, wires and parts spilling across the hangar floor. Even then, she refused to move away from him.

Kuron turned to face them, looking like a mad man. His face was streaked with soot, part of his clothes were smoking. His eyes reflected the violet glow of his prosthetic arm.

Lance braced and summoned his bayard. “Shiro, step away from the lion.”

Kuron sneered, turning his back to start hacking at Black again.

“Shiro! I demand you power down your arm, and step away from the lion,” Allura cried, her bayard transforming into a stake. She crouched and aimed, ready to fire at Kuron if he refused to give it up.

Kuron ignored her, and it seemed like his arm glowed even brighter, sinking further into the lion’s paw.

“As pack leader, I demand that you stop!” Lance cried. That finally got Kuron’s attention. He turned with a smirk that sent shivers down Lance’s spine. He focused his attention on Lance, making direct eye contact.

There was a crazed look in Kuron’s eye.

“Pack leader,” Kuron scoffed, slowly stepping forward. “You really think you’re worthy of being pack leader? I should be Black Paladin and pack leader. Those titles belong to me! If Black won’t open up to me, pack leader will have to do.”

Kuron’s steps sped up, until he was moving faster and faster, until he was sprinting full speed at Lance. Lance squeaked, but held steady, holding up his bayard, set to stun. He started firing, but the shots did nothing, only glancing of Kuron.

Hunk stepped up besides him, firing as well. His attacks only slowed Kuron, not hindering. Allura pushed Lance back, none too gently.

“Lance, run! You can’t win this with fire power, get to the armoury! You need a sword! We’ll hold him off!”

Lance hesitated but knew that what Allura said was true.

“Go, Lance! We got this!” Hunk cried as Kuron took a swing at him. Allura blocked the hit with her stake, and Lance ran.

 

It took Pidge and Keith over a day to reach the Blade’s base, where they would be debriefed and would pick up some agents to assist them with the rescue mission. The Lion’s had quarters where they could rest, as well as autopilot, but the journey was long and boring. There were only so many times you could talk about your new boyfriend, no matter how much you love him.

Keith nearly wept with relief once the base was in sight. He wasn’t good with sitting still and waiting, the last few hours had him nearly bouncing off the walls.

“This is the Red and Green Paladins Of Voltron, permission to enter the base?”

“Permission granted. It’ll be good to see you again, Keith, Pidge.”

Keith grinned, he would recognise that voice anywhere, “Can’t wait, Antok.”

They had timed their arrival perfectly, as the pathway had just opened up, and should be open long enough for them to pick up the other members and get out again.

Pidge handled the entry easily enough, if not a bit slower than Keith would have liked. Soon enough, they were landing, with four familiar figures waiting for them.

“Kolivan! Antok!” Keith cried launching himself into their arms. They caught him, and rumbled.

“We missed you, kit,” Kolivan said, gently setting Keith down on his feet.

“I missed you too, and you, Ulaz, Thace,” Keith said, reaching out to be swept into their embrace as well.

“You are also welcome here, Pidge,” Kolivan said, holding a handout for Pidge to shake. His sheer size and bulk absolutely dwarfed them, but they shook his hand with confidence. “Let’s head inside, we don’t have much time.”

Chapter Text

“These are the Blades and trainees chosen to accompany you on your mission. Thace, Ulaz, Lotor and Regris,” Kolivan said as he entered the debriefing room, gesturing to the Blades in question. “Ulaz is there to lend his expertise, should anyone be injured. Thace has a… personal connection to the agent. Lotor and Regris are going as trainees and as a test of trust and loyalty.”

Keith wasn’t sure about Lotor coming, but he knew his pack wouldn’t let him near if he was any danger. He had been with the Blade’s for months now, and it was evident that he was beginning to gain their trust.

“Great, Lotor’s coming,” Pidge muttered, loud enough for the galra, with their sensitive hearing, to notice. Lotor, to his credit, didn’t rise to the bait. Still, Keith elbowed them in the side, warning them to be on their best behaviour.

Kolivan stood at the head of the table and gestured for the others to sit down. Once they were comfortable, he pulled up a hologram. “The agent, Krolia, was stranded on this moon,” Kolivan zoomed in on a small moon, “about three phoebes ago. She was on a long-term mission, so didn’t have regular contact with us. We only realised she was MIA about a phoebe later. She got in contact with us a movement ago, giving us her location, as well as letting us know that she was with three trustworthy people.”

“This is where the Paladins come in. As far as we know, there are only three humans currently lost in space. A Matt Holt, a Commander Sam Holt, and the previous Black Paladin, Takashi Shirogane. There are two humans with Krolia, of that she is sure, and an altean. Lotor, have you any knowledge of alteans surviving the attack on their home planet?”

“None, sir. It is not impossible, however. The alteans were diplomats, and as such, many of them lived off world. It would be foolish to say that every one of them was killed. However, the question remains of just how altean this person is. It would be extremely rare to find a person of full altean blood so many deca-pheobes later.”

“Yes, my guess is that this person is only partly altean. Regardless, that doesn’t change your mission. You will be taking the Green Lion, and a Blade’s ship. It will take you approximately thirteen vargas to reach your location. The coordinates have been sent to you, paladins. Good luck.”

With that, everyone stood and began to file out of the room. “Keith,” Kolivan called. Keith nodded at Pidge to go on without him and turned back around to face Kolivan.

“This mission,” Kolivan started hesitantly, “It might be more personable than you think. Don’t let your emotions overrule you. Be safe out there.” Kolivan stepped forwards and pulled Keith into a hug.

“I will.”

 

Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. Lance panted, sprinting down the hallway. Already, he could hear Kuron’s footsteps pounding behind him. He couldn’t bear to think about where Allura and Hunk were. He had to focus on putting one step in front of the other.

The armoury was only a few hallways away, he could make it. He could make it. He was halfway down the next hallway when something slammed into the wall beside him. He flinched and picked up the pace. Given the head start Lance had, it should have been nearly impossible for Kuron to have already caught up. Kuron was moving inhumanly fast.

Lance skidded around the next corner, his heart in his mouth, when he caught sight of Kuron out of the corner of his eye. He had a smirk on his face and was running as though he were on a leisurely jog. Kuron was nearly on top of him, and Lance didn’t know how much longer he could keep this up.

Just one more hallway, Lance chanted in his head, just one more, just one more. He could see it coming up, the doors stood out like a beacon in the dark. He couldn’t afford to slow down yet.

Something slammed into his back, sending him crashing into the floor. He slammed his face off the ground, blood immediately gushing from his nose. He flailed, trying to get out from underneath the heavy weight. Hot breath ghosted his ear and neck.

“I wouldn’t move so much if I were you,” Kuron whispered. Lance whimpered, then growled and struggled harder as he felt the cold, sharp press of a small blade against his jugular.

Lance kicked out and twisted away from it, trying to scramble backwards. He still had his bayard in his hand and he lashed out, hoping its heavy weight would knock Kuron off him. Kuron grabbed his wrist and squeezed. Lance felt the bones crack. His bayard clattered to the floor, deactivating to its dormant state.

Kuron pressed his knee too Lance’s torso. Lance gasped, but Kuron pressed harder. Lance struggled to breath, flailing his hands out trying to grab his bayard. Lance choked. His lungs didn’t have the space to expand, each breath too shallow.

“G-get, get off of m-me,” Lance tried to yell, but it came out in a hoarse whisper. He could sense his bayard, just out of reach. His fingers were nearly there, just a little bit farther.

“I will become pack leader, even if I have to kill you,” Kuron hissed, pressed his knee and knife deeper. Black spots danced across his vision. Lance didn’t know if the knife or lack of oxygen would kill him first.

“N-never,” he croaked, as his fingers finally, finally, grasped his bayard. Even if Kuron was too close, and his sniper rifle wasn’t much use, but it was something. He swung with all his might.

Kuron screamed. It echoed off the walls of the corridor. Blood sprayed, coating Lance’s face. His eyes widened in shock.

His bayard had transformed into a sword.

A beautiful blue and silver sword, perfected weighted in his hand. The metal was as cool as a river and flowed through the air like it too.

A deep cut gouged Kuron’s chest, and he fell backwards, giving Lance the space to breath. He pulled himself up, staggering against the wall, coughing. “I will not let someone like you take pack leader from me.”

Kuron sat up, pressing his left hand to his chest. Lance pulled his new sword up, getting himself into a defensive stance. He wasn’t quite comfortable with a sword, but Keith had made sure he knew enough to defend himself at least. His chest was heaving, and he was sure the knife had left a cut on his neck.

Kuron moved, so quickly that Lance nearly missed it. Lance flung his arm up, Kuron’s arm clashing with his sword. The heat radiating off his prosthetic was intense. If Lance had managed to grab an ordinary sword, he was sure it would have melted. It was all Lance could do to press back, trying to get Kuron as far away as possible.

Kuron pressed forwards too. Lance was forced to step back. He was being pushed to the wall. From this distance, Kuron’s eyes had a faint glow to them, an unnatural purple. With every inhale, Lance thought he would catch the acrid scent of pure hatred, but, like missing a step, it wasn’t there. It still caught Lance by surprise, even so many months later.

Lance’s attempt to twist his wrist ended in failure, Kuron catching his blade in the palm of his hand and pulling. It was only the fact the Lance’s fingers got caught that the bayard wasn’t flung from his hand. Still, he screeched as his fingers were wrenched in their sockets, some twisting and cracking. Broke and dislocated, for sure.

Lance kicked out, hitting Kuron in the chest and sending him back a few steps. He swapped to his sword to his other hand, cradling his right to his chest. His left arm was even worse than his right, but he refused to give up.

He would fight until his very last breath, to the very end. For the universe, for Voltron, for his family, his pack. For Keith.

He straightened up again, wiped the blood from his face and help his sword as best as he was able.

“I’m not giving up.”

 

The only thing keeping Keith from going absolutely insane was Thace. He had joined Pidge and Keith in Green for the journey, leaving Ulaz, Lotor and Regris in the Blade’s ship. Keith hadn’t had as much time to get to know Thace as he had the other galra in his pack, so he was glad for the opportunity. Even if he did spend every ten minutes checking how far away they were from the moon. He needed to know, was it Shiro?

“Kolivan said you have a personal connection with the agent, Krolia, right?” Keith asked, after a long pause, about halfway into their journey. Thace shifted in his seat, before sighing.

“Yeah, I – well, Kolivan didn’t want me to tell you, thinks it might compromise the mission or something, but she’s a blood relation. To the both of us,” Thace made some gesture that Keith could only assume was the alien equivalent of air quotes.

“A blood relation?” Keith blinked, “Wait, we’re related?” Keith knew, logically, that his mother was part of the Blade’s at some point in their life, but he hadn’t thought he had any other family among them.

“Yeah, bit of a shock right, you’re so small, and your ears are orange! Compared to me, you’re basically a pipsqueak!” Thace exclaimed.

“I’m not a pipsqueak, you’re just freakishly tall!” Keith cried, ramming his shoulder into Thace’s ribs. Thace caught his head in a lock and ruffled his hair fondly. When he finally let him free, the small area had fallen into a sombre atmosphere. Keith was glad Pidge was still in the cockpit.

“How closely related are we?” Keith asked, unsure if he even wanted the answer.

“I’m your uncle. Your mom and I are twins. Not identical, thankfully, I couldn’t bare looking like her, or her me.”

“Oh,” Keith said. Twins, huh? “And the agent?”

Thace rubbed the back of his neck, and the action alone was enough. “She’s your mother, kitten. We didn’t want to disrespect your wishes by talking about her when you weren’t ready, but I’m afraid now we don’t have that luxury. I thought it would be better if I gave you some warning. Krolia will recognise you, and I didn’t want to, how do you humans say it? Throw you in the steep end?”

“Deep end,” Keith murmured, but he was barely listening. After all these years, he was finally going to meet her. He had spent so long dreaming of this moment, wishing, when he was a kid, that she would knock on the door of the foster-family-of-the-week and whisk him far, far away. And the resenting her when that never happened. She left him and Dad alone in the desert and for what, the war?

Was one soldier really going to make that much of a difference that she would abandon her mate and child?

Suddenly, Keith wished the Lion was moving just a little bit slower. He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t ready to see her face. Did she look like him, or rather, did he look like her? He didn’t know what to say to her, whether to scream and yell, to ignore her, maybe even fall into her embrace.

He wished, more than anything in the world, that Lance was there. Lance would know what to do. Lance would reassure him, he would stand by him. He would whisk Keith away if it all got too much. What Keith wouldn’t give for a breath of his salty sea-air scent.

The rest of the journey was silent, but Keith pressed up against Thace’s side. He didn’t want him to think that Keith was upset with him, because he wasn’t, really. He was shocked, and nervous, but ultimately grateful, because Thace was right. He might have punched Krolia when they first met, if she introduced herself as his mother, without the prior warning.

All too soon, they were landing.

Keith was hit with an intense feeling of déjà vu as he stepped out of the lion.

The colours fled from his skin; the noise retreated into the darkness. He slowly opened his eyes to a smiling galra woman. They stood in a desert. A moon as pale as the sand they stood on dominated the red sky.

"It's nice to see you again."

He blinked and the women was gone.

“Come on, the meet up point is only a few minutes away from here,” Pidge bustled past him, already moving off. She didn’t appear to have seen the galra women. When Keith slowly stepped closer to where she was, the sand was completely smooth. Keith shook his head, now was not the time to lose it.

Thace dropped a med pack next to Keith, patting him on the shoulder. Keith hiked it over his shoulder, surprised by his weight.

“Let’s go,” Thace said, following Pidge. Up ahead, the Blade’s ship landed, Lotor, Regris and Ulaz stepping out, each carrying their own packs of equipment. They paused in the shade of the ship. One of the suns was high in the sky, and the moon reflected the light from the other one. The white sand was blinding, and the heat radiating off it was powerful. Even with the paladin’s suits heat regulators, it was still almost unbearably hot. Keith hoped the walk wouldn’t be too far. He let his vision slide down, hoping it would help shield the sun.

Thankfully they were only in the sun for twenty doboshes, although that was about fifteen doboshes too much in Keith’s opinion. Soon they caught sight of a lone figure. The heat waves shimmering above the sand made it difficult to tell if the person was real or not.

The person turned around when they got closer. Keith’s gut clenched at the sight of purple skin and hair. He hoped his visor would hide his identity, at least for a little bit.

“Krolia,” Thace cried, stepping closer. The galra – Krolia, his mother – frowned, but held her arms open. It was obvious the height difference between them at that height. Krolia was one of the smaller galra Keith had ever met.

“Thace? I thought you were still at Central Command?” she asked.

“Nah, you’ve missed a lot,” Thace grinned, “But we’ll have to catch later. Where are these humans you mentioned? And the altean?”

Krolia’s face fell, and she turned and started walking. “Yes, the altean and one of the humans had to leave briefly, the last one is, well, he’s this way. He’s sick. He was injured a week ago, and despite our best attempts he got an infection. I didn’t want to leave him alone, but the other two desperately needed to gather supplies, and I needed to meet you. I hope you have a med kit with you.”

“Even better,” Thace said, pulling Ulaz forward, “We have Ulaz.”

“Good,” Krolia nodded, “We need to move then, and quickly.”

The group moved off, picking up the pace until they were jogging. Pidge dropped back to be next to Keith and slipped their hand into his. Keith had told them about Krolia. There wasn’t any doubt about whether these people were actually human or not now. Krolia, out of anyone, would know.

Which meant either Shiro, Matt or Commander Holt were sick at this very moment.

They didn’t have a second to lose.

 

Hunk slung Allura’s arm over his shoulder. Kuron had beaten them in minutes and sprinted off after Lance in an embarrassing amount of time. Hunk had changed a lot since leaving, he had grown smarter, and braver, but Kuron’s easy win was a reminder. There would always be a bigger and strong enemy.

Voltron just had to keep changing and improving to keep up.

“We have to catch up, the two of us together weren’t enough to stop him, I don’t want to leave Lance to face him alone,” Allura said, wiping the blood from her face. A stray scrap of metal had deflected off Kuron and cut above her eyebrow.

Hunk was sure he had a few broken ribs, but they couldn’t focus on their injuries right now.

“Let’s go,” Hunk nodded, determined. He had promised Keith that he would take care of the team in his absence, and he wasn’t going to give up now.

They could hear the fight long before the reached it. It was a gruesome sight, blood smeared on the walls and floor. Most of it seemed to be coming from a nasty wound on Kuron’s chest, but Lance had some of his own too.

Allura’s bayard transformed into a lance, and Hunk stepped back. He wasn’t too much use in a fight close quarters. He would hang back and try to stun Kuron if there was a opening. Allura launched herself into the fray, while Hunk transformed his bayard and steadied himself. He needed to be ready to take the shot, if the chance came.

He planted his feet and followed Kuron’s movement as best he was able. Everything was moving so fast, Allura swung, Kuron dodged, sending a hit of his own at Lance, Lance dodged and swung his sword. Hunk managed a few shots, but they barely even distracted Kuron.

Hunk didn’t want to do this, but he was going to have to switch his shots from stun to something more… powerful. It ran the risk of seriously injuring his teammates, but he was confident he could hit Kuron. And only Kuron.

Both Lance and Allura fell back, and Hunk saw his shot. He fired, hitting Kuron in the shoulder, and sending him slamming into the wall. He didn’t stand up again.

“Oh my god, did I kill Shiro?” Hunk cried, running over to him.

“Hunk, wait!” Lance cried but Hunk was already at him. Kuron didn’t move. Lance pulled Hunk back.

“Looks like he’s unconscious, not dead,” Allura said, “But he could have been faking it. That could have ended badly.”

“Yeah, sorry. Are you guys alright?” Hunk asked, hovering over the both of them.

“Few scrapes and bruises, nothing too bad,” Lance replied, “Most of this blood is Kuron’s. We need to figure something out before he wakes up.”

“Healing pod?” Hunk suggested.

“No, we don’t want to heal his wounds so fast. The castle isn’t designed to hold people for extended periods of time regardless.”

“Wait, but what about you and Sendak?” Lance asked, leaning over Kuron to make sure he stayed asleep.

“The castle was, well, asleep, so we were trapped. We can’t do that now. And Sendak was just a short-term solution. We do have a few cells on the lower levels.”

“Right, Hunk, mind helping me lift him? Allura lead the way.”

 

The cave was dark, and thankfully, cool. It took Keith’s eyes a moment to adjust. There was a stifling sour scent in the air. It was familiar though, underneath. It was..

“Shiro!” Keith cried, and raced forwards. Shiro lay on the ground, in a restless sleep. His brows were scrunched, face flushed an almost unnatural shade of red. He whimpered, shaking his head from side to side. He was clearly incredible ill.

“Ulaz, help!” Keith called, Ulaz already reaching his side and gently pushing his hands away. He rummaged through Keith’s med kit, pulling out a thermometer and a few other instruments.

“Krolia, show me where the wound is.”

Krolia pulled back the blanket to reveal a mass of bandages on his leg. They looked fresh, but were already dark with blood. Krolia pulled out a blade and hastily cut through the bandages. The wound was hideous, puss and blood oozing from it. Ulaz ran the thermometer over Shiro’s forehead. It beeped.

“His temperature is way too high,” Ulaz muttered, “But we need to focus on that wound. Keith’ pass me that disinfectant, and the liquid wound seal. We need to flush the infection from his wound, and then we can treat whatever got into his blood.”

Ulaz worked diligently and quickly, and soon Shiro’s wound was flushed clean and sealed closed. Ulaz injected some fast-acting antibiotics and a fever reducer into his bloodstream. Shiro settled down and fell into a peaceful sleep. His scent relaxed too, finally loosing that sharp edge.

Keith grasped his hand. He could hardly believe it was real. This Shiro was the real Shiro. He smelt right, he looked right – even if he was sick – he felt right. This was the real Shiro, and Keith was never letting him out of his sight again.

Tears dripped down his face, gathering in the bottom of his visor. He released it, letting more of the cool air reach his face. There was a gasp behind him, but he paid it no heed. Shiro was finally back, and that was all that mattered to him.

“We’re back!” a voice called from the entrance to the cave, another chiming in with it.

“Matt!” Pidge screeched and launched themself at him. He yelped and dropped what he had in his arms, instinctually catching them.

“Wh- Katie?” he cried, “Oh my god, I missed you much! But what are you doing here? You’re an alpha?”

“Matt, don’t do that to me ever again, you jerk!” Pidge sobbed, clutching him tightly. Keith stood and moved away from them, wanting to give them some space. Shiro was still asleep, so Keith could have his own reunion with him later.

Lotor and Regris stood outside the cave, along with an unknown person. The altean presumably. Just as Keith was about to join them, someone called out to him. He turned to see Krolia.

“Wait!” she called, “It’s Keith, right? Keith Kogane?” Keith nodded.

“I-I’m sorry to spring this on you, but… I’m your mother.”

“I know,” Keith said, and turned away.

Chapter Text

Getting Shiro into Green had been relatively easy, once Pidge had flown her a bit closer. The altean, who had briefly introduced herself as Romelle, and Krolia were going back in the Blade’s ship, with Lotor, Regris and Thace. Ulaz and Matt were going back in Green. Keith was glad for the moment’s peace.

Pidge and Matt were in the cockpit, catching up, while Ulaz sat in the hold to keep an eye on Shiro. Keith had a tight grasp on Shiro’s hand. Shiro’s hand in his was the only thing holding him to reality. Keith wondered if he was going into shock, or if he was just mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted.

Keith wondered how he could possibly be feeling so much, yet nothing at all. He was happy that Shiro was back, and glad they found Matt, scared that if they had been a moment later they could have lost Shiro, angry that his mother had suddenly turned up out of the blue, hurt that she had ever left in the first place, and most overwhelmingly, tired.

So, so tired.

Nothing felt more appealing in that moment than collapsing into his nest, burying himself under several layers of blankets and having a long, long nap. Maybe he’d even invite Lance to join him.

That sounded like a good idea actually. Just lying in bed with Lance. They were both still learning about each other and figuring out that they sometimes need very different things. When Lance is tired or upset, he wants to talk to someone. When Keith is, he just wants quiet company. It had been a bit rough, at the beginning, before they realised, but now Lance was getting better at knowing what Keith needed, and Keith liked to think he was getting better too.

Keith sighed and leaned forward to press his face to Shiro’s hand. This close to the scent gland on his wrist, Keith was surrounded by Shiro’s scent. Stars, it was something he didn’t even really realise he missed.

He had missed the heat he was supposed to have in the time since Shiro went missing, but that was relatively normal. Something about stress, and grief. If one pack member disappeared suddenly, the body immediately thought that it wasn’t safe, meaning that the omega wouldn’t be safe during heat, or pregnancy. Any babies wouldn’t be safe either.

Keith was glad for it though. He didn’t know how he would have reacted without Shiro’s scent in his nest. The one heat Keith had had after Shiro had been pronounced dead was one of the worst things he had ever experienced. It didn’t help that he had cut off ties with Adam, and Shiro’s family. Keith had no pack and had felt insanely paranoid without someone there to protect him. His nest was made of a few of his dad’s old jumpers, but none of them carried his scent anymore. Keith shuddered as he remembered that awful time.

A hand landed on Keith’s shoulder, jolting him from his thoughts. He glanced up, to see Ulaz’s concerned face.

“Why don’t you go talk with the Green Paladin and their brother? You knew him before, didn’t you? Shiro will not be waking anytime soon, and if anything changes, I’ll call you.”

Keith was reluctant to leave, but he knew that it was Ulaz’s way of trying to draw him out of his thoughts. It would be good to catch up with Matt regardless. They were roommates in the Garrison for a few months and knew each other through Shiro. It was something Keith had mentioned briefly to Pidge, but he wasn’t sure if they remembered.

They were both omegas too, although Keith had never directly told Matt that. He suspected that Matt knew though. Matt and Pidge, although both geniuses in their own right, were very different. Matt was much more of a people person than Pidge was. He came off as a dumbass most of the time, but he was incredibly observant.

Keith knocked gently on the wall as he entered the cockpit. Matt and Pidge had been talking for a few vargas, but he still didn’t want to interrupt. Both looked up from the datapad Pidge had in their hand, smiling when they saw them.

“Keith!” Matt grinned, and the ground beside him. “How ya doing? Man, you’ve grown since I last saw you!

“Oh, shut up,” Keith scoffed, settling down. He knew it was true, he had grown since he last saw Matt, he’d filled out too, but it was Matt’s favourite way to tease him.

“Seriously though, how are you? Pidge has been filling me in on everything that’s happened and,” he paused, “they were telling me that you’re the leader of Voltron now?”

“Ugh, yeah, not voluntarily. I’m,” he paused, struggling to find the right word, “Tired. Really tired. So much has happened, I don’t even know where to begin.”

“Yeah, I get that,” Matt said, his gaze on Pidge. There was something sad in his eyes.

“Never mind me though, how are you? And where have you been? Pidge’s been looking for you for months now. God, probably over a year,” Keith said.

“You know, surprisingly well. It’s kind of a long story, but the short of it is that a group of rebels broke me out of prison after I was separated from Dad. I was working with them for a while, trying to find Shiro and Dad on the side, when I got sent on a mission to a galra base. I got separated from my group and wasn’t able to get to the meeting point in time. I escaped, but ended up wandering around random planets and stuff trying to find a way back to the rebel base.

Then, I bumped into Romelle and Krolia, and the three of us banded together. About a month ago, we were travelling through this system when a ship appeared from literally nowhere, right in front of us. When I say nowhere, I mean nowhere. It wasn’t on any of our radars, we couldn’t see it, and then it appeared to close for us to avoid. We collided, and both ships crashed on that moon. Romelle recognised the ship as altean, so we went to see if the person was still alive. Turns out it was Shiro. We’ve just been trying to survive ever since.”

“Wait,” Pidge, twisted in their seat to look at Matt properly, “A month ago? Are you sure?”

Matt frowned, “Yeah, give or take a week. Times a bit difficult here, but Krolia had a working datapad on her.”

“That doesn’t line up with or timeline though. Shiro has been missing for at least four months now. Where the hell was he all that time?”

“And where did he get an altean pod of all things?” Keith murmured.

“Yeah, he was hella disoriented when we found him. He didn’t know how he got there either. The last thing he remembered was the Black Lion and Zarkon.”

“That was the last time we saw him too. Or well, the real him,” Keith muttered.

Matt raised an eyebrow, “The real him?”

“Yeah, it’s a long story. Basically, Shiro was cloned, and one of the clones lives on the castle with us. We named him Kuron, and he’s a dick. We don’t know if he knows he’s a clone though.”

“Jesus, you named a clone ‘clone’?”

“That’s the part you have an issue with? It was a lapse of judgement, okay? And it stuck.”

“I’m just saying, Pidge, you’re supposed to be a genius and you didn’t think that Kuron might catch on?”

“It’s not like we use it in front of him!”

Keith watched the siblings playfully argue and couldn’t help the near manic giggles that rose from his chest. Even though the future was unclear, he could enjoy this moment of genuine joy.

 

Keith slumped as the pod accepted Shiro. The galra, as a species, weren’t very healing or nurturing. More emphasise was put on avoiding injury than healing it. Their medical technology still hadn’t caught up with the altean’s. Coran and Allura had been kind enough to give the Blade’s a pod though.

Keith had been going nonstop since he and Pidge had heard about the mission, hardly taking a moment to rest. He staggered as it caught up with him. He rubbed a hand over his tired eyes, sweeping back to run through his hair. Keith couldn’t rest yet though. He needed to debrief and talk to Pidge about Kuron.

Keith turned to head to Kolivan’s office. He startled as he caught sight of someone watching him from the shadows. He dropped into a defensive stance, hand straying to his knife. He kicked himself for letting his guard down.

“Keith,” the person stepped out, voice soft and hesitant. Keith sighed. He knew she would want to talk to him, of course she did.

“I’m sorry Krolia, but I have to debrief,” Keith stepped around her, heading to the door as quickly as he could.

“Wait, Keith, please. Let me just explain,” Krolia said. Keith paused, he wondered if he just let her talk, would she leave him alone? Maybe he could avoid her for the rest of his life.

“Fine,” he sighed and turned to face her. He brought his arms up to cross over his chest, his tail swinging wildly behind him.

She stood still, as though she didn’t believe he would actually stop to listen.

“Well?” he asked, eyebrow raised, and ears pressed to his skull.

“I- I don’t know what your father told you about me, from your reaction, either too much or too little. I was sent to prevent to Empire from taking the Blue Lion. I crashed, and that was where your father found me. He saved me. We had you a year later. Keith, I never wanted to leave you or your father, but the Empire were getting closer. They were going to find the Blue Lion and destroy Earth in the process. I had to leave, for the ones I love most. I never wanted you to get caught up in this war, but I’m proud of you and I’m sure your father is too, on Earth.”

“Dad’s dead.” Keith ducked his head, hiding under his hair.

“W-What?”

“Dad. He’s dead. Has been for a long time now. I’m- I’m sorry I can’t do this.”

Keith turned tail and ran.

 

Keith wandered through the halls, heading towards Kolivan’s office. He was late for his debrief, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t going to go in with tears streaking down his face. As he turns a corner, loud voices echo from the other corridor.

He paused, curious. The Blades were a quiet bunch, with Keith easily being the loudest person on base. As far as he was aware, Matt and Pidge were still in Green, catching up. He somehow doubted it was Lotor or his generals making such a racket. He crept closer, peeking around the opposite corner.

“You filthy quiznacking liar! You’re a murder! Murder!” Keith’s translator glitched, spew words that were no doubt curses.
Regris was struggling to hold the altean, Romelle, back. She was practically frothing at the mouth, straining to get to Lotor. For once in his life, Lotor’s face showed something then boredom; complete and utter bewilderment.

“What’s going on?” Keith asked, stepping into the corridor. Romelle barely spared him a glance, hurling insult after insult at Lotor.

“She claims to have met me before, but, as you know, I’ve never met another altean, bar the princess and her advisor, before, so I don’t see how she could possibly know me.” Lotor said, seeming relieved that someone else had turned up.

Keith frowned. Romelle was so furious, it was hard to believe that she could be faking it, but, at the same time, Lotor had become a valuable ally.

“Romelle, right? Look, we’re going to get this sorted out, okay? Please calm down,” Keith said. She huffed, and yanked herself out of Regris’ grip, but made no move to attack Lotor. Keith gestured for Lotor to walk beside him, with Regris pushinig Romelle to follow them, and led them to Kolivan’s office. As much as he wanted to just deal with this himself, Lotor was one of Kolivan’s agents, and Kolivan needed to know about this. He knocked on the door, and waited to be called in.

“You’re late, kit. I kn- Lotor, Regris. What’s this?” Kolivan stood from his desk, watching the four of them curiously.

“You have a murdered and a traitor in your ranks,” Romelle spat. Kolivan raised a brow, and glanced at Keith, who shrugged. Lotor was in no way a perfect, or even a good, man, but according to their accounts, he had never outright murdered before.

Kolivan gestured to the meeting table, Lotor, Regris and Keith all took seats. “Do you care to explain?”

Romelle explained how after altea was destroyed, the altean’s who had been off planet were left without homes. Zarkon turned the hunting of them into a sport. To survive, their people had to split up, staying in small groups and blending in with the locals. After many decapheobes, Lotor started hunting them down, but for a different purpose. He had built a colony, safe from the galra, and he wanted to transport them there.

The alteans agreed, haggard from the constant hunt. Their new planet was beautiful, and soon enough, they had a growing population. The planet could no sustain so many alteans, however, so Lotor built a second colony, on a moon a short distance away.

Alteans began to be transported over, but none of them were ever seen again. Lotor promised that the second colony was thriving, and the alteans believed him.

Until Romelle.

Her brother was taken, a few pheobes ago, and she gave him a small communicator. She was the only one of their family left on the first colony. However, her brother never contacted her again. Until a small ship crashed onto the colony.

Romelle was the first on scene, and she pulled a frail old man out of the pod. He was incredibly weak and sickly. It took Romelle too long to realise that it was her brother. He pressed a small chip into her hand, and died in her arms.

Lotor had been using the alteans for their quintessence, since the beginning.

The room was shocked to silence as she finished her tale. Keith didn’t know what to say. To use people like that, the thought made him physically sick. He glanced at the others to see all three of them frighteningly pale. Even Lotor looked ill at the story.

“Please, believe me. Whoever did that to you, it was not me. The thought of doing such a disgusting deed makes me ill,” Lotor whispered.

“He’s right,” Regris spoke up, “Whoever did those horrible things to your people, it couldn’t have been Lotor.”

“What? I have known this man my entire life! I know what he looks like!” Romelle cried.

“No, it couldn’t have been. You said you last saw him two phoebes ago?” Regris asked. Romelle nodded, “Lotor and I were in training then. He couldn’t have had the time to sneak away. It would have been impossible.”

“What? But-“

“I’m afraid that I lied to you earlier Keith, when I said I had not met another altean. The truth is, I did set up that altean colony. But shortly after, Haggar came to me with the news that it had been discovered and destroyed. She even brought me some of their bodies. The castle has mind melding technology, does it not? Please, if you can’t believe me, use that to verify everything I am saying. I haven’t been near that colony in many decapheobes.”

Keith made eye contact with Kolivan, who nodded once. “Okay. But, if it wasn’t you who visited the colony, then who was it?”

 

Keith collapsed face first into the nest he had set up in Kolivan’s room. Today, hell the entire movement had been nonstop. Keith couldn’t remember the last time he slept. Just as his eyes slipped closed, his datapad rang. He groaned and pressed it blindly, praying to god that whoever it was would just leave him alone.

A chuckle rang from the other line, “Sorry baby, you must be exhausted. How did your mission go?”

Keith’s head shot up, so see Lance peering down at him from the projection.

“Lance? What happened to your face? Is everything okay?”

Lance had several cuts on his face, along with bruises on his neck. He looked like a wreck, although Keith was sure he looked similar, minus the injuries.

“Ah, that. Well, you see… Kuron kind of lost it. He attacked Black, and when she didn’t open, me. We’re all okay though! He’s in a cell now. Did you know the castle had cells? I didn’t! How nuts is that? Oh, and my bayard can transform into a sword now too!”

“Kuron attacked you?” Keith exclaimed. Any tiredness he felt evaporated in the wake of his pure rage. How dare he attack the pack leader!

“Keith, I swear, I’m fine. I wouldn’t lie to you, you know that. Now, how was your mission? Did you find Shiro?”

As Keith explained the last few days to Lance, he couldn’t help but think. Kuron’s attack was a blessing in disguise. It made reintroducing Shiro to the pack easier. And, it had helped Lance unlock his sword.

They still didn’t know who was using the alteans. They didn’t know what to do with Kuron. Keith didn’t know what to do about his mother. The galra still had control of the majority of the universe.

The fight wasn’t over, far from it, in fact. But Keith was confident, that with Lance and his pack by his side, he could face anything.