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We All Must Go

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The night is space-cool and badly illuminated, even on the castle ship. Shiro knows this even before he steps out of the safety-prison-safety of his room, because lately all he seems to do is wander around during the night cycle.

That’s unfair, of course, not like Allura and Coran were idling back when Shiro used to be the one flying out towards danger, but Shiro can’t be Allura and he can’t be a paladin anymore either. It sure feels like all he does is roam the ship aimlessly.

His room is. He can’t sleep there.

The first time he tried, he woke up Hunk with his screams and their rooms didn’t even have any connecting walls. Hunk had been concerned, but kind enough to not tell anyone and drop the subject quickly. Probably the best possible person to hear it, if anyone had to, though he still feels the concerned stares from him sometimes.

The second time he tried, he woke up a few hours later in the dark, locked into his own bathroom, shivering and without any idea how he got there or how long he’d been sitting there with his back pressed into the corner. He kept seeing flashes of yellow for the rest of the day and his muscles felt over-strained.

All in all the living quarters have reasonably well insulated walls, but he doesn’t feel like testing them against his own nightmares, mostly because he doesn’t want to talk to anyone about it.

There isn’t anything to talk about, really, because it’s nothing new. He doesn’t remember anything more than he did before, not about his first time as a Galra prisoner, and he remembers nothing at all about the second time, so the new and improved nightmares aren’t about that.

Well, they’re not about anything, because Shiro doesn’t sleep long enough to get any. He nods off sometimes on the floor after working out or, if he’s unlucky, in the shower and always wakes up what feels like only moments later and with a racing heart.

He did this before, too, but not nearly as much as now. It’s like being gone for the second time made all the old memories he’s gotten back come alive. They’re suddenly more intense and insistent and he doesn’t know what to do with that except wait for it to stop.

Here’s another thing he doesn’t know what to do with: the moment he gets to the training deck, Keith appears out of the cool night cycle shadows, quiet and almost smiling like they’d arranged this meeting beforehand and look at that, Shiro, here I am just in time.

They don’t talk much, not that Keith ever does at first, and step into the training room together.

Like this, trading half whispered words about each other’s stance, pulled blows turning into glancing slides of skin sometimes against skin it’s kind of romantic. More than anything it makes Shiro feel like it’s a real night and not just everyone deciding to turn their lights out at the same time. If he doesn’t think about it, the cold feels less like the endless emptiness of space and more like a cooling desert.

“Your stance is shit, Shiro, what the hell,” Keith says, “It’s like you’re dropping both your shoulders at the same time, how are you even doing it, you scrub?”

So, maybe not romantic. Except Keith is smiling at him softly, laughter in his eyes, and Shiro doesn’t know what to do with that at all.

He never asks what Keith’s doing here, how he knows exactly when to come. How he knows to come at all, except that’s easy, because Keith’s always been just as likely to hide in a gym and work out his everything by punching things as Shiro, maybe more. He never ever asks if Keith’s as sleepless as him, if the walls swim and flash yellow ever more often for Keith, too, or what it is that keeps him awake, is it all the same things that keep Shiro up.

Probably not, because Keith’s never spent a year fighting for his life, killing enemies and sometimes other prisoners, being experimented on and-- Fuck, that’s unfair and Shiro knows it’s unfair the moment the thought materializes. He can’t deal with people on a good day anymore, and he hasn’t had many good days lately, when the only arguably useful thing he does is try to give orders to people that don’t need any. Keith never mentions that here, either, and Shiro can’t decide, if he’s grateful for it or disappointed they can’t bring all of it here and work it out by punching bots and maybe each other.

None of this is Keith’s fault, Keith whose nightmares are probably at least half Shiro’s fault and who’s here for Shiro now.

So Shiro never asks what they’re doing. Even against all the things Shiro yearns for, the chance that the answer would not be what he wants is too daunting. He can’t lose this last piece of comfort as well, so he says nothing. And yet. What are they doing?

“Ugh, Shiro, what’s with you tonight?” Keith asks and strikes Shiro’s elbow with an open palm. Shiro’s stance is, in fact, so shit that a damn elbow strike ends with Shiro sprawled on the floor. He’s been feeling unsteady all night, light like a strong wind would blow him away. He looks up at Keith’s smiling face, hair escaping from the ponytail and eyes shiny in the dim light, hand reaching down for Shiro.

And Shiro.

Shiro reaches up and slides his fingers against Keith’s, up to his warm wrist.

Sees the shadows rearrange around them and Keith’s eyes flash yellow, smile wide and full of sharp teeth.

It’s the last thing he sees for a while.

 

The worst part is, Keith doesn’t say anything about it. Anything bad, at least, because he does track Shiro down the same day he gets out of the healing pod and declares it wasn’t Shiro’s fault-says it in that intense way he has, in the hallway outside the control room where everyone can hear it and also awkwardly pretend they didn’t.

Shiro might be forced to say something, anything, if Keith was bothered by it or avoided him or reacted in any kind of sane way, because he’d have less to lose then. He’d have to maybe say it wasn’t a memory, that he wasn’t-- That he didn’t fall into a flashback at all, because that would be normal for someone like him, fuck, so everyone assumes that’s what happened. That he didn’t know who he was fighting-attacking-trying to kill.

(Sometimes he stands in the observation bay and instead of stars sees himself and Keith, in that cavernous room, covered in blood maybe, but doing something else. He’s afraid he’ll have to explain this too, if he starts talking.)

No one out-stubborns Keith, though. He turns up like called every time Shiro comes near the training deck, still. They keep doing the same thing(but what are they doing?) and Shiro can’t even tell if Keith’s stupidly brave or bravely stupid and good at pretending, or if he is really, insanely not bothered, not afraid of Shiro at all.

So Shiro keeps turning up, same as always, and of course he has more practice at pretending he’s okay.

He starts wondering ever more often which one of them will be killed here first, and he still can’t stop.

Soon enough he doesn’t have to close his eyes to see all the ways it might go next time, and he always always hopes it’s going to be him, and always always shows up at the training deck on time.