“You’re my -”
The word feels foreign on his tongue, yet it’s not a complicated word, and certainly not one he hasn’t said before. Still, as he says it, he finds himself in disbelief as it settles strangely in his ears. He stares forward at a face that seemed more familiar than it should have.
He says the word, voice cracking as it forms it. He doesn’t mean for it to, and he doesn’t know where the crack came from, either. Eighteen years of bottled up emotion was flooding him, and for a moment, he felt like he was suffocating as he stared at his fellow Blade. His mother .
It’s the wheeze that escapes his throat that pushes her forward. The wheeze that isn’t quite from lack of breath or fear, but from pure, unadulterated confusion of what to feel. It’s the tears that slip from his eyes that have her wrapping her arms around him. It’s the sob that tears itself from his slightly parted lips that have her squeezing him tightly, and it’s that hug that somehow proves his previous words to him in the back of his mind.
This was his mother. This was his mother that abandoned him when he was young, this was his mother that his father left to find. This was his mother that was standing in front of him, his mother who had just saved his life at the cost of everything, his mother who had just blatantly disobeyed what the mission was aiming for instead of playing it safe.
Keith’s head reeled at the thought, but come to think of it–it made a lot of since. He was a carbon copy of her in a lot of ways.
For now though, he found himself unable to be angry like he should be–like he has a right to be–especially as she held him in her arms and he felt so… at home, for once in his life. He couldn’t say he’d felt like that in years.
So, when the two let the ship autopilot itself back to the Blade of Marmora headquarters while they held each other, it was them trying to silently make up for eighteen years of lost time. It wouldn’t erase what had been done, but it was comforting for now.
They were home.
As the ship docked itself, Krolia and Keith parted in silence, standing in the ship for a long, silent moment; finally, they met each other’s gazes once again. Krolia was the first one to speak, as if she’d been holding this in from the beginning.
“Keith, if you want to ask me anything… I will answer. I don’t want to leave you again. I’m aware I left you once, but it’s not happening a second time. I promise. I swear.”
It was a simple promise, but something in the tone of her voice told Keith she was sincere. He didn’t pick up on these things often, but… maybe it was because he wanted to trust her. However, he didn’t answer at first, instead finding himself taking a step away from her. A moment later, he rushed out of the ship; Keith darted past Kolivan, who made a grab at his shoulder–only to miss.
Krolia exited briefly afterward, a worried expression etched on her features. But, Kolivan put a hand on her shoulder. “You have not been around him for long–you must let him go. Let him come to you.”
The advice was simple, but painful all the same. She didn’t want to watch her son practically flee from her, yet there he was going–disappearing down the hall.
Once he was in his dedicated bunk, Keith found himself swarmed with anger. Yet, all at the same time, he didn’t want to show her that. He’d spent years hoping she’d come back, hoping his father would find her and they would return to him. Those days never came, he never got answers. He was conflicted.
It wasn’t until he’d met Shiro in the Galaxy Garrison that he’d felt like someone cared about him again. His shoulders shook quietly as he curled in his bunk, pushing his fingers into his hair and holding on as his entire body quivered.
He wasn’t going to cry. He wasn’t going to cry.
Besides, the last time he saw Shiro face to face, actually interacting… Keith had disappointed him. He’d abandoned the team. He couldn’t expect Shiro or his friends to help him make it through this when he wasn’t there when they needed him.
Curling over his folded legs, Keith found himself crying despite his attempts to stop it. He was just glad he hadn’t been followed.
The next time he saw Krolia, it was several days later. Keith had been the one to approach her, though he’d been very tempted to just stay away from her–despite the consequences. Yet he found himself moving toward her as she stood near Kolivan, listening in. Keith had been late to the coalition meeting, knowing Krolia would be there, and thus earned a disapproving stare from the leader of the Blades when he finally stopped to stand in frame–next to his mother.
“Keith! Finally,” Lance’s voice echoed from the other side of the communication, waving a hand with a little grin on his face. Keith took the time to study the holographic screen that showed the members of Voltron for a moment with a small frown on his face. Where was Shiro?
Keith waved slightly to Lance, though said nothing as Allura and Kolivan continued to speak.
“I’m glad you could join us, Keith. We actually… need your help on something. Lance has mentioned Shiro acting… strangely lately. I don’t believe it’s cause for too much concern; the stress of war can always wear us down, but I thought we might ask you to stay in the com after the meeting is over. Lance can explain some of the details.. we just know you’ve known Shiro for a good amount of time. We’ve already discussed this with Matt, and he says he’s unsure where the behavior came from, but he also placed it on the stress of war. We could always use a third opinion nonetheless,” Allura’s voice spoke, kind and official as usual, but with some hint of worry. While she said it wasn’t cause for concern, it was clear to Keith that it was somewhat concerning.
“I can do that. It’s not a problem,” Keith replied easily, though his shoulders were tense. Now he figured it was less from the fact that he was standing inches from his wayward mother, and more from the fact that Shiro was ‘acting strangely’. Well, and the fact that it was very clear that most of the tea were looking between him and Krolia like they knew something was up.
The hair on the back of his neck rose in anger and the former paladin gritted his teeth, only to jump as Krolia put a hand on his shoulder. His gaze shot to her and he stared for a moment, thought he got no gaze in return. Instead Krolia’s hand briefly squeezed his shoulder, before dropping once more. In some sense, it was comforting–apart from the initial scare it had given him.
As her hand left his shoulder and the meeting continued, Keith found himself focusing on the words more than his friends’ suspicious glances or even his mother’s presence. Despite this focus, Kolivan had to get his attention when the meeting was over.
Shaking himself out of his daze, Keith stood up a little straighter and moved to step into Kolivan’s place as the commander left. However, Krolia only stood behind him instead of leaving. Keith offered her a vaguely curious–and knowing him, mildly offended–look, before Lance was stepping forward to speak up.
“Okay, we gotta talk quick. I think Shiro’s gonna be waking up from whatever day long nap he’s chosen to take this time, so… Uh, well–a good start is his attitude recently. He armed Lotor with the black bayard without discussing it with us first.
“We discussed more later, and he ended up yelling at me–I mean, come on! I’m supposed to be his right hand, right? The one flying Red? Yeah, well, apparently he doesn’t think so. He said that he was the leader of Voltron, that it was his decision.
“That’s not the weirdest part, though. We had to connect… like, in Voltron’s… spirit, right?” Lance glances over to Allura for confirmation, who gives a nod and shrug of affirmation, “Right. And Shiro was super late, even though I’m postitive we all put our bayards in at the same time. I mean, I did the countdown! Before we all left, he was trying to talk to me. I couldn’t hear him–I mean, I heard him say my name but then we were gone before he could say anything else.
“He didn’t remember anything that happened in Voltron’s spirit afterward. He apologized for yelling, but… I don’t know, it was just really weird. Then he just rushed into the Kral Zera like a nutcase, despite us all deciding that we couldn’t afford to go there. We even told the Blade that we wouldn’t be there!”
“I know. I was one of the three on a mission there. Is that why he and Lotor were there?” Keith asked, concern laced in his voice. None of that sounded like the Shiro he knew.
“Yeah, that’s why we were late. We didn’t realize he was gone until like, halfway through. I mean… his plan with Lotor worked, but still .” Lance said, arms crossing. The paladin had a look on his face that Keith had come to know as one he wore when he was concerned about his teammates. “Later he came to me, and confessed he didn’t feel like himself… I didn’t know what to do. I kinda brushed it off,” Lance admitted, this time more quietly–he felt guilty.
Keith fell silent for a long moment, clearly considering what he’d been told. Finally, he spoke up: “That doesn’t sound like the Shiro I knew. But–Black is responding to him, right? I mean, it should be fine. Lance, you need to take more control of the situation. Don’t just… back down when someone snaps at you. You didn’t do that for me .” Keith spoke, tone harsher than it necessarily needed to be.
It showed on Lance’s face–the reaction to the harshness–but the other teen grew steely and nodded regardless. The communication ended after goodbyes, and Keith found himself turning toward Krolia, who was still standing nearby.
“Why are you here?” Keith asked, crossing his arms as he looked to his mother, before clarifying, “Why are you still here? Kolivan left earlier, shouldn’t you have done the same?” Keith demanded.
Krolia shook her head, “I wanted to try to talk to you. Kolivan didn’t think you’d actually show up,” Krolia admitted, rubbing her arm. “Kolivan brought up something to me yesterday, actually. He wants Blades members within the Castle of Lions, for more direct contact between meetings. Kolivan believes you’d put the paladins at ease if you were there, but wanted to ensure you went with someone else to keep you on track,” the Galra explained.
Keith kept his face steely, but stayed silent until she elaborated, “I offered to be the one to go with you. What I said before wasn’t a lie, Keith. I left you once, and I won’t leave you again. I understand if you don’t feel that i’m a mother figure, but I’m not abandoning you twice. You’re still my son, no matter what you feel I am to you.” Krolia’s voice was determined, and Keith found himself at a loss for words.
It would let him keep a better eye on Shiro, that was for certain. But–he’d have to introduce Krolia to his friends. Was he ready to do that? He’d been avoiding her the past few days. But–perhaps it would be better to have someone somewhat familiar around; someone who was the least like the Blade of Marmora.
“... Let me think on it,” was Keith’s final answer, and he promptly turn to leave once again. This time, without Kolivan to stop her, she reached out and pulled him into a hug.
“Thank you, Keith. For giving me any chance to get to know you.”
It took Keith almost a week to consider his options. In the end, he decided it would be best if Krolia was the one to come with him. The team would find her familiar in some way, even if Keith didn’t tell them exactly who she was. Besides… after about a week and a half of knowing who she was, he decided that he did want to get to know her.
Admittedly, he was exhausted from battling with emotions. Not only was he worried about Voltron, but he felt like he was wading through a never-ending sea of emotions: anger, grief, confusion, longing, fear, and happiness. It felt like they just kept coming, wave after wave.
Finally, he decided on something simple–he wanted to try to get to know his mother, and Voltron had brought a pseudo family close to him before… Maybe it’d work the same here.
It wasn’t long before he confirmed he was willing to take Krolia with him and the two begun their voyage. The plan was for Allura to open a wormhole once they were closer to the Castle–no member of the blade wanted to wear the Princess out by that much. Not even Keith did, despite the fact that it meant sitting in silence with Krolia.
As the ship left the Blade of Marmora’s headquarters, Keith glanced over to where Krolia was fiddling with an Earth pocket knife in silence, a stony expression on her face. He took a quiet, deep breath, before looking back toward the front.
He could do this.