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Different, not Less.

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The sound of guitar music filled the small house. Just barely noticeable, a noise of small feet slapping against the wooden floors. A young boy, about four years old, ran down the hallway. His socks left him sliding across the floor as he pushed open the door to his brothers room. He pulled himself up onto the bed, bouncing up and down. The boy’s adopted brother paused the song he was playing. He turning from where he sat on the bed, smiling softly.

“Hey, Keith. You wanna watch me play?”

The toddler nodded, sitting on his hands as he eagerly watched his 11 year old brother, who adjusted the guitar. “Alright. Here we go.” Shiro smiled at Keith, before starting to play again. Keith grinned, bouncing up and down on the bed as Shiro continued to play, the music once again filling their small, rickety house.

 

Weeks passed, and the toddler watched, confusion on his face, as his mom and dad shouted at each other in the other room. Shiro slipped into the room behind Keith, crouching down beside him.

“Hey, Keith, why don’t we go see if we can find some paper and crayons, alright?” Keith nodded, reaching for Shiro’s hand, and the two left the room, Shiro glancing at his parents behind him.

 


 

 

“Keith, please ,” Shiro hissed, looking around at the eyes on them as Keith dragged his feet, sobbing. He shook his head, sitting down in the middle of the room, dragging Shiro’s arm down with him. With his free arm, Keith pressed his thumb against his chin, palm open in the sign for Mom. He kept sobbing, repeating the sign over and over again. Momma, momma, momma, momma. Shiro crouched in front of him, grabbing Keith’s hands. “Mom’s not here, Keith.” He dropped Keith’s hands, signing as he spoke. “Mom’s gone.” He ignored the whispers and stares of those around as Keith rocked back and forth, making quiet noises to himself. “It’s just us and Dad now. I’ll take care of you.” He stood up, reaching down and picking Keith up into his arms. “I will always take care of you. And now we go to school.”

 

Shiro set Keith down in front of the doors, and Keith immediately grabbed his hand again. Shiro sighed, crouching down again. “Keith, I have to go to school too,” he mumbled. “You go in there, and I’ll come get you later.” Keith grunted, shaking his head, clinging to Shiro’s arm. Shiro was about to stand up, when the door squeaked open.
“Ah! This must be Keith.”

Shiro paused, looking up at the source of the voice. Keith shifted to tuck behind his brother.

“Yeah, this is Keith.” Shiro reached around behind him, gently pushing Keith out from behind him. “He’s nervous.”

The teacher smiled, crouching down to Keith’s level.

“Hey there. Why don’t you come in with me so your brother can get to class? We have lots of toys in here and paper to draw on. I hear you like drawing.” Keith hesitated, glancing up at Shiro, who nodded in encouragement. After some time, Keith sighed, letting go of Shiro’s arm and peeking into the room.

Shiro stood up, brushing his pants off, holding a hand out to the teacher. “I’m Takashi Shirogane.” The teacher smiled and she reached out to take his hand.

“It’s nice to meet you, Takashi. If there’s nothing else, I can handle Keith from here.”

“Um...I just wanna make sure he’s okay.” Shiro bit his lip and shifted a bit. “I’m in the 7th grade, Ms. Lewis.” He glanced at Keith, who had moved into the room, and taken to playing on his own. “He can’t talk. He uses sign language. Also sometimes it gets too loud and he cries,” he paused “and he screams because he doesn’t know how to talk.” Shiro sighed. “Just...come get me if anything happens? I can calm him down.” The teacher gave him a small smile.

“Well I’m sure we’ll be just fine, but I’ll send someone if we need anything, alright?”

Shiro nodded a little, adjusting his backpack.“Okay….thank you.”

She nodded, smiling, and Shiro turned and headed to class.

 

 

“Takashi Shirogane, please come to the main office.”

All eyes in Shiro’s 7th grade classroom turned to where he sat in the back of the room. He swore he could hear his heart beating in his throat. A blush rose up his neck. He scrambled out of his chair to get his backpack, slinging it over his shoulder before moving to the front desk.

“I’m sorry, it’s probably my brother. I’ll go get him.”

The teacher frowned, but nodded. “I’ll have someone bring your homework if you don’t come back.”

Shiro bit his lip, but nodded, slinging his backpack over his shoulder and jogging out of the room, and down the hall towards the main office.
“DON'T RUN!”

 

Shiro pushed the door to the office open, peeking in. “Uh...Hi, they called me in?”

The secretary looked up at him, frowning.
“Yes...You’re Keith Kogane’s brother?”

Shiro nodded, adjusting his backpack as he stepped in. “Uh, that’s me.”

She nodded, writing for a moment before looking up at him. “He’s with the principal. You can take a seat.”

Shiro set his bag on the floor, sinking into one of the uncomfortable, plastic chairs. He sat there for about thirty minutes, watching the time tick by on the clock, the only sound in the office that of the second hand. Eventually, the door to the principal's office squeaked open, and Keith came trotting out, arms crossed. Shiro looked up, frowning as he stood up from the chair. “Keith, what happened?”

Keith huffed, shoving his hands into his pockets. He kept staring at the ground as the principal stepped out.

“I’ll answer that for him. Mr. Kogane here pulled another child’s hair, and caused quite a disturbance in class.”

Shiro sighed, scooping Keith up. “I’m so sorry. I’ll take him home.” Shiro adjusted Keith in his arms, as Keith tucked his face into Shiro’s neck. “I promise he’s a really good kid…..it’s just his first day.”

The principal sighed, adjusting her skirt. “Alright. I’ll see the both of you tomorrow, and I trust Keith will be better behaved.”

Shiro nodded quickly. “He will, I promise. Thank you.” He picked his backpack up, slinging it over his shoulder. Adjusting his hold on Keith again, Shiro carried him out of the school. Once they were outside he set him down and took his hand. The two walked home down the bumpy and cracked sidewalks. Keith kicked at the pieces of grass growing up between them, flapping his hands as they walked.

 

 

Shiro tucked Keith into his space blankets once they got home, before hanging his own backpack up on the wall, beside Keith’s favorite poster. “Get some sleep, Keith. I’m gonna go talk to Dad, okay?” Keith nodded a little, curling his tiny hands around his blanket, reaching up with one hand and waving softly.

Shiro smiled, waving back a bit before leaving the room, quietly shutting the door behind him. He jumped at the sight of his dad standing in the hallway, arms crossed. “Dad! I was um….just coming to talk to you.”

“Yeah? Why don’t we go to the living room, sit down.”

Shiro nodded and his dad reached out. He gently lead him into the living room. When they got there, Shiro crawled onto the black, tattered couch.

His dad, Ken, took a seat in the chair across from him. “I got a phone call from the school. Keith got sent home early.”

Shiro nodded, biting his lip. “He got in trouble for pulling someone’s hair,” he mumbled. “I think you should take him to that appointment you and momma used to talk about.”

Ken Kogane paused, leaning forward a bit in the chair. It creaked from the movement. “You heard momma and I talking?”

Shiro nodded a little. “Uh huh. She said she thinks...somethin’ is wrong with Keith.”

“Listen here, Shiro. If there’s one thing you need to remember, no matter what happens, there’s nothing wrong with Keith. Okay?” Shiro nodded quickly, and his dad sighed. “But I suppose….it couldn’t hurt to try. I’ll schedule him an appointment, you make sure he behaves in school until we figure it out, okay?”

Shiro nodded again. “Okay, Dad. I’ll take care of him.”

Ken smiled, standing up and ruffling Shiro’s hair. “Good. He’s your brother, blood or not. And he always will be, okay?”

Shiro nodded quickly. “Okay. Can I order pizza?”

His dad laughed, nodding a bit. “Sure, kid. I’m gonna go make some phone calls. Get pepperoni.”

Shiro nodded, jumping off the couch and running to grab the phone. His dad chuckled, and pulled out his cellphone, walking into the other room.

Chapter Text

Keith took a large bite out of his pizza, eyes glued to the TV. Shiro sat beside him, pizza box in his lap. Once he’d finished his slice, Shiro glanced at Keith. “So….besides getting sent home, was school fun?” Keith shrugged, taking another bite of his pizza.

Boring.

Shiro frowned. “Come on, Keith. There had to be something fun about it?” Keith shrugged again, but set his pizza down.

I like blocks and the drawing.

Shiro grinned, ruffling Keith’s hair. “See? It’s not so bad. Did you bring any art home with you?”

Keith shook his head. Not done.

Shiro nodded, and shifted so he was facing Keith better. “Can you try and do better? Dad’s gonna try to make it easier for you, but until then you gotta keep calm so they don’t make you leave.”

Keith frowned, staring at his lap, nodding a little. Shiro ruffled his hair again. “Good. You want another slice?”

--------

“Autism.” The therapist handed a stack of papers to Ken, adjusting her own stack. “It’s a developmental disorder, present from birth.” She pulled out a pen, leaning forward and circling a few paragraphs on the dad’s papers. “This explains what it causes, and this,” she circled something else, “is my number. We can set up a team for him at the school. Counselor, Speech-Therapist, a plan for what to do if he’s overwhelmed.”

“And….will he talk?” He shuffled through the papers, looking through the list.

“He may….or he may not. He’s already 6, it’s pretty late, but we can always try.” She pulled a card out of her bag, handing it to him. “If you need anything, call or email me. I’ll get in contact with the school as soon as possible.”

“Uh….alright. Thank you.” He stood up, grabbing the papers and his phone. “Thanks a lot.”

 

“Takashi Shirogane to the main office, Takashi Shirogane to the office.”

Shiro sighed, getting up from his desk. “Uh...I’ll be back.”

His teacher ran a hand through his hair, but nodded. “Alright. Hurry up, though.”

Shiro pulled his coat on, walking as quickly as he could get away with through the halls and to the office, pushing the door open. “Hi, you called for me?”

The secretary looked up from her desk, smiling a bit. “Yes, we did. Your dad is on his way to pick Keith up for an appointment, he wants you to accompany them. I’ll ask your teachers to send your homework to the front desk, and you can pick it up on your way home.”

Shiro frowned. “Why do I have to go?”

 

She paused, setting down the papers she was sorting. “I don’t know, ask your dad when he gets here. Go get your bag, and come back here to wait.”

Shiro huffed, turning and stomping to his locker, tossing his books into his bag and zipping it up. His finger caught in the zip.

“OW!” He pulled his finger back from the bag, dropping it onto the floor, glancing at the bead of blood. “Owwww,” he whined, sucking on the tip of his finger, hoisting his bag over his shoulder with his other arm. He trudged back to the office, dropping his bag in the chair beside Keith. He then moved to the front desk. “Can I have a bandaid?”

The secretary raised an eyebrow, but opened a drawer, pulling one out and handing it to Shiro. “There. Your dad will be here any minute, have a seat.”

Shiro stuck the bandaid on his finger, dropping his bag onto the floor and grumbling as he sunk into the chair. “This is stupid. I wanted to stay here.” His voice was barely audible. The secretary shot him a glare anyway, and he shut up.



Daaad ,” Shiro groaned, leaning his head against the window. “Why do I have to come to Keith’s stupid thing? I wanted to stay at school with my friends! I’m supposed to go to Matt’s house after school. It’s not fair !”

 

His dad pulled into the parking lot and turned to look at him. “Shiro, this is important for Keith and I have no idea how long it’s gonna take today. So until we figure out how long his appointments take, you come with me. You can go to Matt’s house when this is over, but only if you fix that attitude . Understood?”

Shiro groaned, unbuckling his seatbelt and slinking out of the car. “I’ll get Keith.”

His dad got out of the car as well, putting the keys in his pocket. “Much better.”

Shiro rolled his eyes, opening the door to Keith’s side of the car, unbuckling him and lifting him out of the car seat. “Okay, Keith, here we go.” He set Keith down on the street, reaching for his hand. Keith took his hand, rubbing his fingers together on the other hand.

Their dad locked the car, giving them a smile. “Alright, boys, let’s go.”

 

Shiro clamped his hands over his ears as Keith’s shrieks rang through the building.
“Stop yelling!” he groaned, burying his face in the waiting room chair as their dad scooped Keith off the floor, where he’d been flailing his limbs.

“Keith! Come on , this is good for you!” Keith shook his head, screaming and pounding his fists against his dad’s back. Shiro sunk down on the floor, peeking around at the other family staring at them from across the room. He couldn’t tell if they looked mad or sad. His guessing game was interrupted when the therapist pushed through the door, walking in.

“I’m so sorry for the disturbance,” their dad started, struggling to hold Keith still as he turned to the therapist.

She shook her head, stepping forward. “It’s no worries. This is what I’m here for. What does he like to play with?”

Shiro stood up at that, moving forward. “He likes to build with blocks!”

The therapist smiled at Shiro, holding a hand out to him as Keith’s screams died down into strangled sobs. “You must be Shiro. It’s nice to meet you.”

He shook her hand, smiling a little. “Nice to meet you, too.”

She dropped his hand, turning back to Keith. “Hey Keith? I hear you like blocks. Why don’t you and Shiro come back and see what you can find to build with? He can stay with you the whole time.”

Keith paused, glancing at her, and then at Shiro. Stay?

Shiro nodded. “Yeah, I’ll stay.”

Keith sighed Okay , squirming to get on the floor. Ken set him down. Once on the floor, Keith instantly grabbed Shiro’s arm.

The therapist smiled, adjusting her jacket. “Alright. All three of you can follow me back. Let's get started.”

--------

“Well, Keith, looks like I have everything I need. You did fantastic today. We’ll have a speech therapist come visit you at school sometimes, is that okay?”

Keith clung to the building block in his hand, nodding a little bit.

She smiled, putting the papers into her file. “Good. And I’ll see you again in a couple weeks. I’ll bring more toys for you.”

Keith grinned, nodding again.

She smiled, ruffling his hair. “Alright. I’ll see you later.”

Shiro looked up at his dad. “Does this mean I can go to Matt’s house now?”

Ken glanced at his watch, sighing. “Yeah, you can. I’ll drop you off at the Holts’ on the way home.”

Shiro grinned, pumping his fist into the air “YES!”

Ken laughed, picking Keith up. “I’m dropping you off to work on your homework, Shiro.”

Shiro huffed, but nodded. “Yeah okay, we will. We will.” He pulled his backpack up, jumping up and down. “Can we go now?”

Ken smiled, nodding. “Yeah, we can go now. You ready to go, Keith?”

Keith nodded, grinning, and the three of them left.

Chapter Text

“So they figured out why Keith can’t talk?” Matt looked at Shiro over his books. “Are they gonna teach him how to talk now?”

Shiro shrugged, sighing and leaning back against the floor. “I dunno. They’re gonna try but he’s already 6….they don’t know if he’ll ever talk.”

Matt frowned, tossing his pen to the side. “Well you don’t sound very hopeful. He’s your brother, aren’t you excited?”

Shiro shrugged again, sitting up so he could see Matt. “I dunno….I guess it’d be weird. He’s never talked yet, I guess I’m kinda used to it.”

Matt nodded a bit, sitting cross legged on the bed. “Yeah...I guess that makes sense. Katie can talk a little but it’s mostly gibberish. To be fair, she’s only two.”

Shiro rolled his eyes. “Yeah, no shit, Matt.”

“LANGUAGE!” Matt’s mom’s voice rang through the hallway. Shiro’s eyes widened, and Matt doubled over in laughter, falling off the bed. His laughter paused, and Shiro burst into a fit of giggles, snorting and rolling around on the floor, which lead Matt to start laughing again.

--------

“Alright, Keith. I think that’s all today. You’re doing great.” The woman stacked the cards, giving him a smile. “Do you want me to walk you back to class, or can you do it?”

Keith shook his head. “I will.”

She smiled, putting her stuff in her bag “Alright. I’ll see you in a couple days.”

Keith nodded, grabbing his backpack, heading to the door. He paused and turned to wave before pushing the door open, heading back down the hall to his classroom.

It took him ten minutes of wandering around the school before Keith realized he was lost. He started moving with more urgency, running through the halls, looking for a classroom he recognized. His breathing became urgent, tears streaming down his face as he gasped for air. His tears blocked his vision, and he was running blindly until someone caught him in their arms.

“Hey….Hey slow down there, kiddo. You lost?”

Keith screamed, wrenching out of the grasp, sitting down on the floor.

The man backed away, raising his hands up. “Okay, okay take it easy. You got any brothers or sisters?”

Keith stopped yelling and coughed, nodding.

“Good. Good, alright. Names?”

Keith paused, before signing. S-H-I-R-O.

“Sign language, huh?” The man crouched down in front of Keith. “Shiro? Takashi Shirogane?”

Keith nodded, sniffling and wiping at his eyes.

“Alright. You wait here, I’m gonna go back in my classroom and call the office, okay?”

Keith nodded again, pulling his knees up to his chest and hugging them there. The man watched him for a moment, before heading back into his classroom, the door clicking shut behind him.

Ten minutes later, Shiro came running down the hallway, bag slung over his shoulder.

“Keith? What happened, are you okay?” He dropped to his knees in front of Keith, frowning. “Are you hurt at all?”

Keith shook his head, leaning forward into Shiro’s chest as Shiro wrapped his arms around him.

“Hey….Hey it’s okay, I’ve got you.”

Keith stayed there stiffly for awhile. Eventually Shiro leaned back, unzipping his bag. “Here, I brought something to help you.” Shiro pulled a stuffed hippo out of his bag, handing it to Keith. “He’s your new buddy. So when I can’t come get you, he can help until I can.”

Keith hesitated, before reaching out and grabbing the toy, hugging it to his chest.

He sat there for a moment before looking up at Shiro. “A name?”

Shiro blinked, hesitating for a bit. “Um….How about you name him! Anything you want.”

Keith thought for a bit, looking the hippo over, before looking at Shiro again. “Kai.”

Shiro smiled a little. “Kai? That’s a good name. And now he’s all yours. You think if I walk you back to class, you and Kai can handle it?”

Keith hugged Kai close, nodding.

Shiro smiled, standing up and holding his hand out for Keith. “Good, then let's get going, yeah?”

Keith nodded again, grabbing Shiro’s hand and getting up. Shiro led him through the empty hallways, their shoes squeaking against the floor as they headed back to his classroom. He stopped in front of the door, knocking on it. Keith tugged on his sleeve before the door opened and Shiro glanced down at him. “Yeah?”

“Love you.”

Shiro bit his lip, heart swelling. “I love you too, Keith.”

--------


“NO!” Keith shrieked, throwing a pillow across the room, where it knocked one of Keith’s drawings off the wall and onto the floor. “SHIRO STAYS!”

Shiro bit his lip, moving towards the bed. “Keith, I have to switch schools.” He sat on the edge of the bed, moving carefully. “I’m in high school now, I have to go to a different building.”

Keith shook his head, screaming again and kicking at the blankets. A few fell to the floor in the chaos. “NO! DON’T LEAVE!”

Shiro sighed, standing up and looking down at Keith. “Keith….I’ll be really close. You’ll have Kai the whole time and the school knows my number and dad’s number if you need anything.” Shiro pushed a lock of hair out of his face. “I’ll pick you up and drop you off every day, okay?”

Keith huffed, sniffling and wiping his eyes.“Kids are mean.”

Shiro bit his lip, leaning back a bit.“I know, I’m sorry. You can tell a teacher, Keith. They’re supposed to help you.”

Keith huffed, sitting up and hugging the hippo to his chest. “Don’t wanna.”

Shiro sat beside him, their arms just barely touching. “I know you don’t wanna, Keith, but sometimes things have to change. I have to go to high school, and then I have to go to college and you have to go to high school, and then you go to college. Okay? It’s always gonna change and I’m not gonna be here all the time.” He adjusted as Keith laid his head on Shiro’s shoulder. “I’ll always talk to you if you need to, but I can’t always be with you, okay?”

Keith took a shaky breath, sniffling a bit. “Okay.”

Chapter Text

Keith held his backpack tight to his chest as Shiro dropped him off at his classroom. “Okay. I’ll see you after school, yeah?”

Keith nodded a little, leaning against the door frame. Shiro gave him a small smile, stepping back a bit. “Alright. Bye, Keith.” He turned, heading out of the school. Keith stood in the doorway, watching until he was gone. The teacher stepped forward, crouching in front of Keith.

“Why don’t you go put your backpack on a hook and find your seat?”

Keith frowned, nodding a little. He shuffled to the cubbies, hanging his backpack and coat up, pulling out his pencil case.

“My desk?” He looked around, furrowing his brows.

The teacher looked up from where she’d moved to her desk, setting her pencil down. “Third row, closest to the windows.”

Keith nodded, moving to the desk, putting his pencils away, and sitting down. His eyes were glued to the clock as he drummed his fingers against the desk. After a while, the other kids started trickling in, taking their seats. A skinny kid sat beside him, glancing over at Keith.

“Hi. I’m Lance. We just moved here.”

Keith looked at him for a moment, before turning his attention back to the paper in front of him, as he continued to draw.

Lance frowned, glaring at him. “You’re gonna be my rival,” he mumbled under his breath, pulling his own pencils out as the teacher called attention to the front of the class.

Keith jumped as the bell rang, looking around frantically. There were muffled giggles around the room, as the teacher sighed.

“That’s recess. Don’t run in the halls!” She called, as kids hopped up from their seats heading to the door.

Keith blushed, embarrassed, as he shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket, trailing behind the other kids as he followed them onto the playground. He moved towards the school building, sinking down against the wall, watching the other kids. After about five minutes, a ball flew, hitting the wall beside him and falling to the ground. He jumped, looking over at the source of the toss, where a group of boys were laughing at him.

“Hey, Freak . Toss me the ball, or is that too scary for you?” The boy high fived his friends, who laughed, making ghost noises and wiggling their fingers at Keith.

Keith blinked back tears, throwing the ball towards them. It missed the boys by several feet, and they laughed at Keith again, one of them running to get the ball before resuming their game.

 

“So? How was school today?” Shiro asked as he and Keith walked through the halls of the school towards the exit. Keith shrugged, hugging Kai close to his chest, adjusting his backpack with his other arm.

“Fine,” he mumbled, putting Kai in his other hand and reaching for Shiro’s. “Pizza day?”

Shiro nodded, pushing the exit door open with his shoulder. “Yeah, pizza day. Matt’s gonna come over, he’s bringing Katie. Dad’s babysitting her.”

Keith huffed. “Katie’s a baby,” he grumbled, as they walked down the sidewalk.

Shiro stopped in his tracks, crouching in front of Keith. “Hey...Katie’s four now. You can hang out with me and Matt if you wanna, but their parents have stuff to do today and Dad offered to help them out. He might let you have some of the babysitting money if you help.”

Keith thought for a moment, before nodding.“Okay.”

Shiro smiled, standing up. “Okay. Let’s go home.” He took Keith’s hand again, leading him to their house.




Keith clamped his hands over his ears, glaring at Katie. She kept slamming her tiny hands down against her toy piano and Keith huffed.

“Not music!”

Matt laughed, sitting down on the floor beside Katie, reaching for the piano. “Okay Katie, that’s enough piano for today.” He took it, tossing it to Shiro who caught it as Katie shrieked.

“Matt, no!”

Matt grabbed her as she reached for Shiro.“Matt, yes! Let’s find a different toy to play with, okay?”

She pouted, sitting down on his lap. “Meanie.”

Keith unclamped his hands from over his ears, looking at Katie. “I have toys.”

Shiro smiled, hiding the piano behind a couch pillow. “That’s a great idea, Keith. Why don’t you and Katie go play in your room?”

Keith huffed, standing up and holding his hand out for Katie. Matt let go of her, letting Katie get up, taking Keith’s hand. As he led her out of the room, Keith glared at Shiro.

“I’m 8.”

--------

“Alright. Five dollars for each of you for watching Katie.” Sam handed Matt, Shiro, and Keith each five dollars.

“Thank you for all your help.” Colleen smiled, picking Katie up. “We really appreciate it. Matt, are you ready to go?”

Matt groaned, pulling his backpack on. “Yeah, I’m ready to go.”

Colleen smiled, ruffling his hair. “Thanks again, Shiro. You too, Keith.” She gave him a small smile. “We’ll see you both later.”

Shiro waved. “Bye Mrs. Holt, bye Mr. Holt!”

He elbowed Keith, who jumped a bit. “Bye.”

They smiled, before leaving. Shiro locked the door behind them, turning to Keith. “You wanna eat the rest of the pizza?”

Keith nodded quickly, running to the kitchen. Shiro laughed, racing after Keith. “Hey! No fair!”

--------

“I don’t wanna go back to school.”

Shiro frowned, glancing at his dad, before looking back at Keith.

“Keith…..you have to go back to school. I know it’s hard….with me going to college and Dad getting sick, but listen. I’m gonna still live here. It’ll be just like when I went to high school.”

Ken nodded, reaching for Keith’s hand “You’re gonna be just fine, Keith. Shiro’ll take you to school every day, and Colleen will bring you and Katie to her house after. Shiro will come get you as soon as he’s done with school every day. It’ll be okay.”

Keith shook his head, crossing his arms. “Kids will make fun of me,” he mumbled. “I have to go home with a baby.

Shiro frowned. “Keith, Katie is 9. She’s not a baby, you like the same stuff. What’s really wrong?”

Keith bit his lip, staring at the ground. “I don’t like school. They make fun of me and call me a freak and Lance hates me and I don’t have any friends besides Katie and she’s a third grader .”

Shiro sighed. “Come on, Keith. Lance doesn’t hate you. And you have other friends! What about Hunk? And Lacy?”

Keith crossed his arms, leaning back. “Hunk is friends with Lance, and Lacy only sits with me because she doesn’t have any friends either.”

Ken sat up a bit, turning to face Keith. “Keith…..you’re gonna be okay.” He took Keith’s hand, giving him a small smile. “You’re not a freak, you’re so bright and amazing, and you’re going to do amazing things someday. Kids are mean when they don’t understand things, but you’re an incredible person. You’ll make friends, and you’ll do something great with your life, okay?”

Keith bit his lip, nodding a little bit “Okay….I’ll go back.”

Shiro gave him a small smile, setting a hand on his shoulder. “That’s the spirit. And I’ll be here after school every day, alright?”

Keith nodded a little, crossing his arms. “Yeah, alright.”

--------

Keith flinched as a wad of paper hit him in the back of the head, turning around to look at the boy behind him, who was shooting spitballs at him. He hid his straw, giving Keith an innocent look and shrugging. Keith huffed, turning his attention back to the papers on his desk, resuming his drawing. Another spitball hit him in the back of the head, and Keith crumpled the paper into his hand. He spun around, slamming his hands onto the desk of the kid behind him.

“STOP IT!”

The teacher paused, setting his papers down and standing up. “KOGANE! Get up here, now!”

Keith jumped, turning back around to the front. “B...it’s not my fault!”

The teacher shook his head. “ Now, Kogane.

Keith turned around, glaring at the kid again, before getting out of his desk, stomping to the front of the class.

“This is not fair,” he grumbled, as his teacher wrote him a note, handing it to him.

“Principal's office. Now.”

Keith groaned, taking the note and storming out of class, letting the door slam behind him.

 

Shiro pushed open the door to the office, sighing. He didn’t bother introducing himself, carefully shutting the door behind him. “Where is he?”

The secretary pointed to the left. “He’s waiting for you with the principal. Good luck.”

Shiro ran a hand down his face, before pushing open the door and stepping into the principal's office.

“Mr. Shirogane. Have a seat.” The principal gestured to the empty chair beside where Keith sat. “As I’m sure you are….fully aware, this is not your brother’s first offense.”

Keith huffed, staring at the ground.“I didn’t do anything.”

Shiro shot him a glare, sitting up a bit straighter. “Yes, I’m aware. But I’m sure this is a misunderstanding. Keith has an IEP in place, and he’s been improving greatly.”

The principal sighed, leaning back. “Apparently not as “greatly” as you would think. We’ve given Mr. Kogane plenty of chances, but at this point I believe it’s best he find…..other schooling.”

Shiro paused, furrowing his brows. “Excuse me?”

The principal sighed, sitting up a bit. “Keith Kogane is officially…..expelled, from our school.”

Chapter Text

Keith kept his head down as Shiro unlocked the door to their house, pushing it open.
“Shiro….”
Shiro shook his head, tossing his keys down. “Not….not right now, Keith.” He sighed. “Please, I need to figure out what to do about this. Go talk to Dad, okay?”
Keith bit his lip, nodding and trudging into the other room, as Shiro sunk down onto the couch, running a hand through his hair and pulling out his laptop. He was there for about thirty minutes, before Keith’s scream got his attention.
“SHIRO! HELP!”
Shiro tossed his laptop onto the couch, running through the house, pushing into Ken’s room. “Keith? What’s wrong, what’s going on?”
“H…..He stopped moving.” Keith coughed, wiping at his eyes. “He won’t move, Shiro. Dad won’t wake up.”
Shiro rushed towards the bed, as Keith stepped out of the way, reaching down to take Ken’s pulse.
“Keith, go get my phone, okay? I’m gonna call an ambulance.”
Keith nodded quickly, running out of the room as Shiro bit his lip, taking a shaky breath. “Please be okay….I can’t do this alone.”

Keith and Shiro sat side by side in the hospital waiting room, Keith’s head against Shiro’s shoulder, hippo clutched to his chest. The two looked up when the door slid open, Matt, Colleen and Katie walking through the doors. Shiro stood up, taking a deep breath, as Matt stepped forward, pulling him into a hug. “I’m so sorry, Shiro.”
Shiro wrapped his arms around Matt, sobbing into his shoulder. Matt rubbed his back, mumbling reassurances.
Katie stepped forward towards Keith. “I’m sorry, too. Do you wanna come get ice cream with me and Mom?”
Keith frowned, glancing at Shiro, who nodded a little from where he stood in Matt’s arms.
“Okay.” He stood up, shoving Kai into his bag and slinging it over his shoulder. “Shiro and Matt are staying here?”
Colleen nodded. “They’re gonna stay here and wait for news. You, me, and Katie are gonna go find the food court around here and get you guys some ice cream. That sound okay?”
Keith nodded a little. “Okay.”
Colleen nodded again, taking Katie’s hand. “Alright then, let’s go.”

Keith licked his ice cream cone, leaning back in the chair. “School’s dumb anyway. It doesn’t matter.”
Katie scooped her ice cream into her mouth, nodding. “I wish I got kicked out of school.”
Colleen glared at her. “Katie...you love school.”
Katie shrugged, leaning back. “Yeah, cause at school they actually call me Pidge. Unlike some people.”
Colleen rolled her eyes, smiling a bit. Her phone dinged and she pulled it out to check, smile fading.
“You two wait here. I’ll be right back.” She got out of the chair, heading to the other side of the room, answering the call.
Keith watched her for a moment, before looking at Pidge. “So...you go by Pidge now?”
Colleen walked back over to them after a few minutes, shoving her phone into her pocket.
“That was Matt. Keith, we’re gonna go back upstairs now, okay? Shiro’s gonna explain stuff to you.”
Keith frowned, holding up his ice cream cone.“I’m not finished.”
Colleen sighed. “I know, and I’m sorry, but this is an emergency. Can you finish it while we walk?”
Keith frowned, staring at the ice cream for a minute before nodding.
“Okay, good. Come on, kids. Let’s go.”
Keith tossed his empty cone into the trash, as they pushed through the doors to the waiting room. Shiro stood up from where he’d been sitting with Matt, as Colleen nodded at him.
“Come on, Katie. Let’s go talk to Matt.” She led Pidge away from Shiro, as he moved towards Keith.
“Hey….how about we take a walk?”
Keith frowned, but nodded, clutching his bag as Shiro started to move towards the hallway.

“What happened to Dad?” Keith asked after a while, looking up at Shiro. “Why won't you tell me?”
Shiro sighed, pausing in his tracks. “Okay….Keith, listen. I’m always gonna be here for you, you know that, yeah?”
Keith nodded, biting his lip. “I know.”
Shiro nodded a bit, crouching in front of him. “Okay…...Dad didn’t make it. The doctors did everything they could, but it was just too late. I’m sorry, Keith.”
Keith furrowed his brows, shaking his head. “No…..that’s not fair. It’s not fair, why’d he have to go?”
Shiro blinked back tears, reaching for Keith. “I don’t know….I’m sorry.” Keith sniffled, moving forward into Shiro’s arms, hugging him tightly.
“I don’t want him to go.” he sobbed, clinging to Shiro’s shirt.
Shiro tucked his face into Keith’s hair, crying softly as well. “I know….I know.”

--------
Keith shifted uncomfortably, scratching at his neck. Shiro reached for his hand, shoving his arm down. Keith huffed, pulling his arm away from Shiro’s grasp.
“It’s itchy!” he hissed, but left it alone, turning his attention to the front of the room as the pastor continued to talk. Keith leaned against Shiro, looking around the room. There were lots of people he didn’t know, crying and sniffling. He furrowed his brows, tugging on Shiro’s sleeve. Shiro sighed, leaning down so he could hear Keith.
“Who are all these people?”
“They’re people who knew Dad, or Mom, or me, or you. They’re people who care about our family.”
Keith frowned while messing with his tie. “I don’t know them all.”
Shiro pulled his hands down again. “They just wanna pay their respects, Keith. Just tell them you’re glad they came, and pay attention.”
Keith huffed again, but leaned against Shiro until it was Shiro’s turn to go up and speak. Shiro took a deep breath, standing up and walking up to the front, pulling the notecards out of his suit pocket. He straightened them, clearing his throat, looking up at the crowd. Matt gave him a thumbs up, and Shiro gave him a tiny smile, before starting to read.
“My dad was an amazing man. From all the trouble I caused in school, to raising me and my younger brother on his own, to always making sure we had pizza Fridays, no matter how tight money was, he was always there for us.” Keith sniffled, wiping at his eyes, and Shiro nodded in his direction, before continuing his speech. “It was never easy, raising me and Keith. We weren’t the easiest kids, and being a single parent having to deal with us was far more difficult than I will ever be able to understand. No matter what he was going through, and no matter how sick he got, we always had an amazing life, and a great dad who supported us. And even though he’s gone now, the things he did for us, and the love and respect everyone in this room had for him, will last forever.”

“Thank you for coming,” Keith repeated in a monotone voice for the 13th time, shaking the hand of another person he’d never met before in his life. He flinched as the woman squeezed his shoulder.
“I’m so sorry for your loss.”
He nodded numbly, jerking his shoulder out of her grasp. Shiro glanced at him from across the room, excusing him from a conversation with a friend from high school, moving through the crowd to Keith’s side.
“Excuse me, ma’am. I just need to borrow my brother a bit. Thank you for coming.”
She nodded a bit, giving him a small smile. “Of course. If either of you kids ever need anything, let me know.”
Shiro nodded quickly, wrapping an arm around Keith’s shoulders, steering him into a back room. Keith sunk into a chair as soon as the door shut behind them, pulling his knees up to his chest and taking shaky breaths. Shiro sat across from him, waiting quietly while Keith calmed down. A while later, Keith was calmed down, and lowered his legs, looking up at Shiro.
“Thank you.”
Shiro gave him a small smile, nodding a little bit. “You doing okay? We’re almost done here, just food and then the burial, and then we can go home.”
Keith huffed, running a hand through his hair. “That’s a lot. I don’t wanna.”
Shiro nodded a little, standing up and squeezing Keith’s shoulder. “How about I go back out there and have Pidge sneak you some food? Then all you have to do is stand with me at the graveside.”
Keith bit his lip, and then nodded a little.
“Yeah? Alright. She should be in here in about fifteen minutes. I’ll see you in a little bit.” Shiro turned, pushing the door open and heading out.

Chapter Text

There was a knock on the door before it was pushed open and Pidge stepped in, balancing two plates.

“Hey. Shiro said to bring you this and also sit in here with you so you don’t get bored or whatever.”

Keith snorted, standing up and taking his plate from her. “Well thanks, or whatever.” He sat down at the table in the room, stretching a bit.

Pidge set her plate down across from him, sitting down as well. “Are you doing okay? For real.”

Keith sighed, looking up from his plate. “No. I already cried though. I’m done now.”

She raised an eyebrow, taking a bite from her plate. “Are you sure? You can cry as much as you need to, ya know.”

Keith shrugged, eating his own food. He swallowed, before responding. “I’m fine. I just want to go home.”

--------

Shiro sighed, getting into the car and shutting the door behind him. He leaned back in the chair and glanced at Keith. Keith had been there for a while in an attempt to avoid talking to any more people than needed at the graveside service.

“You wanna grab something to eat?”

Keith buckled his seatbelt, pulling his tie off and tossing it in the back of the car. “Can we drive through? I want to go home.”

Shiro nodded, giving Keith a sad smile. “Of course we can. Your pick, and we can watch whatever you want at home. How’s that sound?”

Keith nodded. “That’s good. Thanks, Shiro.”

“Of course. So where do you wanna go?”

“McDonald’s? I just want something quick.”

“McDonald's it is.” Shiro gave him a small smile, starting the car and turning on the radio, before driving away from the cemetery.



--------

“I don’t want to switch schools again , Shiro!”

Shiro groaned, leaning back against the couch. “Keith….it’s not that far from your old school, and Lance and Hunk will be there. You guys are friends now, yeah?”

Keith huffed. “Yeah, I guess….”

Shiro sat up, leaning forward a bit. “Keith, high school is gonna be better for you, okay? All new kids, you’re going in with friends, and you’re doing so much better.” He squeezed Keith’s hand. “You can handle this, alright?”

Keith sighed, nodding a little bit. “Yeah…..fine.”

Shiro smiled, ruffling his hair. “Good. You wanna go back to school shopping with me or do you wanna go with Lance and Hunk?”

Keith shrugged a bit. “I uh...I think I’ll go with Lance and Hunk? I don’t hang out with them enough, and Lance keeps going on about some stupid rivalry from first grade or something.”

Shiro grinned, nodding. “Alright. Let me know if you need me to drive you anywhere.” He glanced at his watch. “And now I need to get to work or Coran will kill me. Have fun, Keith.”

Keith nodded a little. “Yeah….I will.”

--------

Lance grinned, knocking on the door.

“Keith! It’s your favorite people! Lance and Hunk!”

Hunk rolled his eyes. “Lance, don't scare him.”

Keith moved towards the door, pulling it open, shoving his hands in the pockets of his cropped jacket.“Hi,” he mumbled, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet.

Hunk grinned at him.“Hey, Keith! You ready to go?”

Keith nodded, stepping out onto the porch and shutting the door behind him. Lance held a hand out.

“Wait wait wait wait. What’s that on your arm?”

Keith furrowed his brows, glancing down at his arm and pushing his sleeve up.  “Oh. I draw on myself sometimes, when I run out of paper.”

Lance raised his eyebrows, looking from Hunk to Keith’s arm.  “That’s….really good, Keith. You like drawing a lot?”

“Yeah. Where are we going?”

Lance flipped his keys in his hands, grinning, pretending not to be ruffled by the swift topic change. “Well...first stop is the mall to get some sweet new back to school stuff. Then we’re going to Hunk’s place to play video games.”

Keith frowned, watching the keys. “You’re not old enough to drive.”

Lance glanced at the keys, looking back up at Keith. “Oh! No, these are my sister’s keys. She’s driving, I just like to carry them around. Makes me look cool.”

Hunk shook his head. “They most definitely do not.”

Keith smiled a little, as Lance protested. His complaining was interrupted by the car horn, as his sister stuck her head out of the window.

“Lance, Hunk, Keith, let’s go!”

Lance jumped a bit, glancing over at the car.“Right! Okay, shotgun on three. One, two, SHOTGUN!” He took off running towards the car, and Hunk rolled his eyes.

“You can sit by me, Keith. Come on.”

Keith nodded, shoving his hands back into the pockets of his jacket, following Hunk to Lance’s sister’s car.



Hunk pushed the door open, kicking his shoes off and flicking the lights on, showing a nicely kept house and an awesome gaming system, with snacks sitting on the coffee table all ready for them.

“Uh...you can just leave your bags over there by that lamp.”

Lance nodded, setting his bags down, and then taking Keith’s and putting them down as well.

“Don’t forget to take your shoes off.”

Keith glanced down, frowning and kicking them off. Hunk gave him a thumbs up, sitting down on the couch.

“Hey Lance, what game do you wanna play?”

Lance shrugged. “Mario Kart?”

Hunk’s eyes widened.

“Mario Kart?! Keith is new here! We cannot expose him to Mario Kart Lance this early in the game!”

Keith raised an eyebrow, sitting down on the couch. “I like Mario Kart.”

Lance grinned, sticking his tongue out at Hunk. “See? Keith likes Mario Kart. It’s fine!”

Hunk sighed, putting the game in and tossing controllers to Lance and Keith before sinking back down onto the couch.“Fine, but it’s at your own risk, Keith.”

Keith smiled a bit, taking the controller and running his fingers over the buttons. “You’re on.”

 

“AND ROUND 5 GOES TO LANCE!” He cheered, jumping up off the couch, starting a victory dance, swinging his arms around, singing horribly out of key, and knocking several cheetos on the ground in the process.

“I WON, I WON, I WOOOOON .” Keith and Hunk groaned in unison, as Hunk threw a handful of cheetos from the bag at Lance. Keith rolled his eyes, leaning back against the couch. “Come on! That’s three in a row! Can’t we do something else now?”

Lance huffed, sinking into the chair. He glanced at the clock on the wall, groaning.

“It’s time to go home now anyway. Mama will kill me if I miss dinner again. Keith, do you want me to take you home?”

Keith glanced at his watch, frowning. He listened to the second hand tick for a bit, before remembering what he was doing, and looking back up at Lance.

“Shiro won’t be home for several hours…”

“You could stay here! One of my moms could take you home after dinner. We’re having pasta today! I’m cooking!” Hunk offered, and Lance nodded quickly.

“Dude, that’s a great idea. Hunk’s moms are the best . And his cooking? AMAZING.”

Keith stared at the floor. “I don’t wanna overstay.”

Hunk shook his head, pouting.  “No! No, I want you to stay. It’ll be fun.” Hunk wrung his hands, and he and Lance both looked at Keith eagerly. Keith stared at them for a moment, before sighing, accepting his defeat.

“Alright, I’ll stay.”

Hunk grinned, passing him the bowl of pretzels. “Awesome! We’re gonna have so much fun.”