The sharp clang of tempered metal against cold steel pulls the slumbering prisoner from his blissful unconsciousness. Bleary, but sensing a sort of urgency, he tries to pry his eyelids apart.
Where am I?
He turns toward the sound, the voice- calculated and controlled, betraying no hint of either animosity or warmth. As he blinks the fogginess out of his vision, a weight settles in his chest, pressing against his quickening heart.
“Wake up already.” Another sharp ring of clashing metal brings him to full attention, eyes snapping open as a quick “huh” of breath is pressed from his lungs. He glances around, eyes wild.
The cold press around his wrists, the vertical steal bars, the chilled metal against his knees: he’s on the enemy ship. Panic is the first emotion to offer itself in his brain, but he pushes it away without much effort. He knew what he was getting into when he entered their base, and he knew what he was doing when he let them shackle him in the prison bay. (He had no idea what he was getting into when he let them shackle him in the prison bay.)
“What’s you’re name?” The voice asks. He turns back to the source, making out the shape of an androgynous figure clad in [clothing]. They have pale brown hair, the color of the dust of the gladiator arena he used to frequent (so, so blindly).
“I asked your name.”
He shakes his head, letting the memories wrinkle and unwind like the thread of an old uniform that no longer held the scent of its wearer (why did he cling to it even then?).
“Keith.” He answers.
“Huh.” The figure says, arching an untrimmed eyebrow. “You guys actually have names, then. I was expecting just a string of numbers.” There, right there under the careful control, is a bite. It chills Keith’s heart more than the metal of this cell ever could.
“Um... what... what’s your name?” Keith stumbles through his words, thoughts only half-formed in his mind before he speaks.
“Galra filth don’t get to ask the questions on this ship.”
Keith recoils, feeling physically stung by the acidity of their tone. He opens his mouth to retort, but....
It’s only fair, he concedes guiltily.
So he shuts his trap and tries to play nice. He’s not here to start a fight. He’s here to.... (He’s not sure why he’s here.)
“You know why I’m here?”
Keith looks up, mouth open. Did they just read his mind?
“Am I allowed to speak to answer that?” He asks, each word genuine.
“Shut up.” They snap. “Don’t sass me.”
CLANG! The force of the person’s blow against the metal bars echoes throughout the hollow bay. Keith winces away from the harsh sound, but it’s coming from every direction and there’s no escaping it.
There’s a heavy silence, save for the person heaving for breath despite the simple action. Their face is turned away, but Keith recognizes the muffled hiccup of crying. He spent enough time doing it himself to recognize it anywhere.
He doesn’t know how to comfort them. (He doesn’t think they’d let him if he tried.)
The person slowly turns back to Keith. Their chin is high and proud, and Keith almost misses how it trembles. Almost misses the redness of their eyes. They’re remarkably good at pretending to be fine. Keith admired that, he thinks wryly.
“You killed my family.” They whisper, voice hauntingly devoid of any emotion. “You... you’re kind killed my brother and father.”
Keith was prepared for this. He had told himself more times than he could remember that he was walking into the enemy base, so of course there would be some negative feelings. A lot of negative feelings. (He was not prepared for this.)
“I... I’m sorry.” Is all he says, because it is all he can say.
The person scowls, then marches right up to the bars.
“You know, I know what you’re doing.” They hiss. “I know that you’re just a spy for the Galra. And when the leaders stop twiddling their thumbs and realize that, I am going to be the one to kill you.”
Keith can’t breathe. His tongue sits heavy in his mouth, dry and... alien.
Alien like him.
What is he supposed to say?
“I’m sorry. I... I’m not a s-spy.” He tries, his mouth moving faster, slower (both at the same time?) than his brain. “I’m trying to help you guys. I really-”
“HA!” The person barks out a laugh, except it’s less bark and more ripped from their throat. “I can’t believe this. A Galra trying to help us!? Galra don’t try to help anyone. They just take, and take and take and take and TAKE!”
The sound of sword against metal rings out again. Keith wishes he never came, knows he couldn’t have stayed, wishes he wasn’t in this cell, knows it was the right (the only) thing he could do.
When they speak next, it’s quieter. “It’s all your fault.”
Keith says the only thing he can think of.
“It is. I’m sorry.”