Keith was so tired. He felt like very last drop of energy had been harvested from him like an infection, slowly sapping his strength. He had to stay awake. He didn’t deserve rest.
“Come on, you can stay awake another hour. You’re no weakling. You can… do it.” Keith snarled at his reflection, staring wide-eyed at him in the mirror.
“Wake up.” Keith growled again, slapping his fresh cuts. He stared at the mirror before breaking down into tears, crumbling onto the floor like a paper doll, fragile, broken. He was broken. Left alone for years with nobody but you and your own self-hatred destroys a person, chewing and eroding you from the inside out.
Keith looked like a mess. If anybody came in, he couldn’t pass it off as a nightmare. He was shirtless, his whole army of cuts exposed, crying on the floor, bleeding, and about to pass out. That’s why when he heard footsteps, his heart dropped.
Keith was dead silent as the footsteps stopped.
“Keith? Are you ok?”
Keith flew into the shower, turning it on, the water boiling hot. Shiro. Any of the paladins could have found him, but it just had to be Shiro, didn’t it? The one person who trusted Keith, who would have his heart shattered by the fact that Keith cared nothing for himself.
The boy fought back tears, letting the water pour over him as he curled up into a ball.
“Keith, please answer me.” Shiro called, pounding on the door.
“I- I’m in the shower.” Keith choked out.
“Can I come in?” Shiro asked.
Oh god. Keith was in his pajama pants. In the shower. How was he supposed to explain this? He needed a shirt.
“Yeah, come in.” Keith lunged across the bathroom for his shirt, pulling it on just as Shiro walked in. Time to come up with a damn good story.
“Are… you ok?” Shiro asked, looking at a crying boy fully clothed in the shower.
“Do I look like it?” Keith grumbled.
“Want to talk about it?
Keith looked up at the sweet, loving, intimidating leader of Voltron and decided that he would rather be chased by wild Altean Varkhogs than talk about it to Shiro. He couldn’t bear to break his heart.
Shiro leaned over and turned off the water, handing Keith a towel. “Do you want to take off your shirt?”
“No!” Keith yelped. Oops.
“Are you ok, Keith?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just… cold.”
“Keith, you don’t have to, but I’d feel a lot better if you just lifted up your shirt so I could check that nothing’s wrong.” Shiro put his hand on Keith’s shoulder, smiling at him.
Keith thought about it. He could say they were from when he was younger. He could say he was better now, healed. He looked down, ashamed. Then he saw it.
A trail of blood leaked from his arm. Just as he noticed it, Shiro did too. Before the Black Paladin could say a thing, Keith slammed his head against the shower wall and cried, tears seeping down his face like a broken dam.
“Keith, Keith. I’m so sorry. You’re ok. I’m here for you.” Shiro stroked his head like a baby. His mind snarled in the back of his mind how weak he was, he was caught, useless.
Keith didn’t care, he weakly tried to wriggle out of the wet shirt, Shiro’s strong arms did the rest. Pulling off the fabric to reveal the damage on his skin. Hundreds of crisscrossing scars danced over his waist and back. Shiro buried his face in Keith’s shoulder, hugging the wet boy tightly to him.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m-”
“No, don’t apologize.” Shiro cried. “This isn’t your fault.”
“But it is! I had 5 years to stop… I was too weak.” Keith punched his leg in anger.
“Keith. Please. Never say that again.” Shiro pulled up his shirt, revealing the line between his metal arm and his flesh. “Do you see that scar?” He pointed to a line, right above the metal. “I stabbed a kitchen knife into my arm and tried to cut it off.”
“Really?” Keith mumbled, glancing up at him.
“You’re not alone.”
Keith closed his eyes, conscious of his hunger again.”
“When was the last time you ate?” Shiro asked, running his hand over the skinny boy’s stomach.
“A little… yesterday morning.” Keith squirmed slightly under the strong touch.
“Let’s get you some food and clean you up, ok?” Shiro smiled.
“Do you still love me with my scars?”
Shiro ran his hand over the rough lines on Keith’s back. “Keith, look at me.”
Keith’s wide eyes stared up at Shiro.
“No matter what problems are inside of you, I love you, inside and out.”