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Brighter Days

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Fourteen Years Ago - Age Eight

Everyday (of the last three weeks) a little boy with pale skin and pink wind kissed cheeks rode past the yellow house on his old red bicycle. The house was a little ways down the street from the beach house his family owned and he liked riding his bike over here because it was close enough to smell the water from the beach but far enough that it wasn’t so loud. He couldn’t help but look at it, it’s one of those houses that looked like a home; lived in, but not in a bad way and it had a white picket-fence and a bunch of plants in the yard.

Everyday the bike riding boy would see a boy playing in the front yard behind the white picket-fence, he had chubby cheeks and tan skin and bright blue eyes. The boy was usually playing with someone else, with enough familiar resemblance to assume they were his older and younger siblings.

However, the only company had was a small dog. An Akita, he saw a picture in book of dogs last week.  They're pretty cool dogs, well all dogs are cool. The boy on the bike thought about what it’d be like to have a dog as he stared at the boy being chased around by the puppy. He was so lost in thought he didn’t see the large rock in front of his wheel.

 

One second he was daydreaming what it’d be like to own a dog, (a husky, because those are his favorite) and the next he had lost control of his steering. The bike tipped over and his body slammed to the ground, he was left with the slow burning sting of scraped hands and knees. Luckily it wasn’t concrete, all the roads this close to the ocean were just pathways made of dirt and rocks.

"Whoa!" a voice came from behind him, "Are you okay?" The words thick with an accent the boy couldn’t place.

"That's why Mama always says to wear a helmet when riding bikes." He deduced that is was the little boy from the yellow house speaking, the biggest hint being the feeling of a cold, wet dog nose pressing into the scraped palm of his hand,  “You aren’t dead, are you ?”

In an entirely melodramatic sense, he for a short moment wished he was dead, that’d be a far less embarrassing situation. (No it wouldn’t, death from falling off a bike?)  The boy was only eight but he had enough pride to be embarrassed, he could practically see the teasing smirk and hear the snickers from his older brother already. He could play dead, like they do in the movies. They’d take him to a hospital and he’d dramatically come back to life, a true christmas miracle. The two problems with that being that it’s the middle of summer and he absolutely hated hospitals.

The boy’s family probably wouldn’t want a dead body in the street in front of their house either. He isn’t entirely sure how it works, but he’s certain there’s a lot of paperwork for finding a dead body. The dark haired boy pushed himself off the ground, his hands tingle but luckily weren’t bleeding they were bright pink and his knee was scraped open and stained with blood which made it look a lot worse than it actually is.

“Nope, not dead.” He finally responds to the boy, giving him a brief assuring look before it quickly changes to a hopeful one, “Can I pet your dog?”

“Sure, he loves to be petted.” The boy gave him a bright smile, like it was the most exciting thing he’s heard all day. (It was, his favorite thing about having a dog is when other people who don’t have a dog get to experience the wonderfulness through him.)

That was all it took for the boy to give the small yipping puppy head scritches and was awarded with kisses, which he didn’t understand why dogs licking your face are called kisses but it’s enduring in the least.

“Your dog is cool.” Socializing wasn’t really his forte but he’s pretty sure that was the highest praise he’s ever given anyone before.

“Thanks, Obi is the coolest dog I know.” He said puffing out his chest with pride, his tan cheeks flushed red with toothy grin, well sorta toothy, he was missing one of his front baby teeth.

“His name is Oboe?”

“No, Obi, like Obi-Wan,” Cause that totally explains everything, noticing the others confused face the boy continues “From Star Wars ?”

“I’ve never watched Star Wars, ” He replies, Obi now completely in his lap trying to chew on the strings of sweater, it reminded him of the cat he used to have.

“We’ll watch them together, everyone has to watch Star Wars once, I mean it’s space,” There was no arguing with that, space is cool, “And you can totally see that Anakin is better than Obi-Wan, ok?”

“…Ok.” The boy nods cautiously,  “I’m Keith.”

“Hi Keef, I'm Lance, we’re gonna be best friends now.”

"Keith. My name is Keith.” And then on second thought, “Ok. We can be best friends, but first do you have any band aids?”

“Yeah, I have stormtrooper ones.”

“What’s a stormtrooper?”

“Keith, buddy .”

 

And on that day, the boy on the red bike had met his best friend. Lance had always been a sociable kid, but there was no way he knew that asking that on that day he had met his best friend for the rest of his life.



Keith slowly became a semi-permanent resident at the McClain house, six out of the seven days of the week, Keith was there.  On Sundays Lance’s family were at church and Keith’s family had their weekly family dinners with extended family. They ended up watching Star Wars, ( with Elena, she looked a lot like Lance)  Keith agreed with Lance that Anakin was a lot better than Obi, and Elena called him totally biased whatever that meant. (Which Older Keith, totally admits to.)

Keith liked all of  Lance's family, it was slightly overwhelming from being with just Shiro and their dads, but the McClains were a really cool family. His oldest sibling Elena is thirteen and has bangs and listens to My Chemical Romance and watches movies with them. Then there older brother Alex who is eleven and skateboards and watches anime, Keith thought he was the coolest and watched Naruto with him on the rare occasion he and lance aren’t attached at the hip. There was also the twins, Malia and Mateo who are nine, they didn’t act anything like zack and cody, much to his disappointment, he didn’t even know twins could be a boy and a girl. Lance is the next born child, he's almost the same age as Keith, his birthday is coming soon, July 28th, and then he'll be eight. He also has a little brother Leo, he's only four and doesn't know a lot of English words, so he just pulls Keith's hair and points at stuff because he doesn't understand. Lance and Keith even heard Elena and Alex saying that their mom might be pregnant again.

Lance’s mom was the nicest mom Keith had ever met, she made cookies and she kisses Keith on the head before he goes to sleep and always make sure that Keith feels included. And Lance’s dad had the coolest job, he’d come home at dinner and greet all the children (after two days Keith became a part of the routine) and tell stories about his day. He flies planes, which is like the coolest thing ever.

Lance had also met Shiro, and he thought that Shiro was the coolest person ever. Keith assured him that he is in fact very lame 'He likes Harry Potter and like Doctor Who, see very lame' and that he's the coolest.

As it slowly became the middle of the summer they became as close as they could be, Lance even went with Keith's family to the zoo and Keith had stayed the night and went to church. (He met Lance's Abuelita and all of his aunts and uncles.)  True to Lance’s word the two did become best friends.

"Hey Keith," Lance poked at the boy sitting next to him, Keith was staring down at his ds screen paying the other no attention at all, "Hey, Hey Keith."

"What Lance?" He grumbled, he aggressively slams his finger down on the A button, "I'm trying to beat Bowser."

"Do you want to come to my birthday party?" Lance pokes at him again, this time his left cheek, touching one of the many fake freckles that were there. Earlier Lance had taken his sisters make-up and gave Keith a face full of freckles so they could match. It looked more like a bunch of polka dots but close enough. Keith finally looked up with the best glare any eight-year old could manage, which was surprisingly intimidating on him.  He immediately deflated at the sight of Lance giving him his big blue puppy eyes.

"Cause you're my best friend ya know, you kinda have to come." Lance added on with a big smile.

"Are there gonna be games?" Keith held a straight face, even though on the inside he was laughing, "Cause I won't come unless there are games." He was lying, he'd come to Lance's birthday party even if it was just a kiddy-pool and a single juice box.

"Well, Mama said we're going to the ocean, but I'm sure we could make up some of our own games.” He immediately perked up and slammed his fist onto his hand like he got the most brilliant idea in the world, “You could bring your swords and we can play Space Pirates in the water, that would be the coolest. And like I could be a mermaid, well a merman-”

“Whoa, whoa whoa. There aren’t any mermaids in Voltron, Lance. They’re in space.” Keith rolls his eyes, they had made their sword game a week ago - how could Lance forget that fast.

“In garden,” Lance exclaimed happily, pointing his foam sword at Keith.

“That’s not how you say that idiot,” Keith said, lifting his sword either way.

He lashes out at Lance, landing a hit on his extended arm holding the sword. It stumbles in his hand before he quickly retaliates, swinging towards Keith’s stomach but the other moves out of the way.  The two carry one carelessly swinging at each other and laughing before Lance finally calls for a break.

“Hey Keith?” Lance asks, heavily breathing.

“Ya know, you don’t have to say ‘Hey Keith’” He imitates his accent as he speaks, “every time you talk to me, Lance.”

“Fine. Hey Keef,” The younger boy says with a laugh, “Is that better?”

“No jerk,” Keith says bitterly, but he can’t help but laugh as he pushes Lance into the grass. He draws his sword and presses it onto his stomach.

“Any last words blue?”

“Tell my dog I love him.” Lance chokes out pretending he’s dying, he twitches twice and clutches his stomach just below Keith’s sword before letting out a deep dramatic dying breath .

His fake death lasts a total of 30 seconds, of Keith pretending to mourn him and then they both are giggling as Lance’s mom decided then would be a good time to let Obi out. He ran straight towards the two and jumped right on top of Lance.

“Oof, Obi werh eeetin iwr enn mai oouf” Lance yelled happily from under the dog as Keith laughed so hard his stomach hurt.

“Oh no!” The raven-haired boy exclaimed, “It’s a rare space werewolf, they can bring people back to life with their saliva. My enemy the blue paladin has been brought back to life.”

Lance had only heard half of Keith’s spiel between Obi’s happy barking and his Mama telling Obi to get off of him, but he was pretty sure he was alive again. He jumped to his feet and grabbed his sword before attacking again.

“You can’t stop me red, I will win!” He shouted and swung the foam sword into Keith’s.

The two pirates, Captain Red and Captain Blue were fighting for the coolest spaceship that had a life supply of candy and pizza. Lance named it Kaltenecker, but Keith thinks that's stupid so he calls it the Raven.

“Dude.”  Lance says breaking him out of his thoughts, he looks all wide-eyed and the most serious Keith has ever seen, “There’s definitely mermaids in space.”

“No way, they live in water. There’s no water in space.”

“Yeah, there is Keith! Mermaids are totally in space that’s why people can never find them.”

“Boys!”Elena shouts from down the hall, “Shiro’s here to get Keith.”

“You got lucky this time Lance.” Keith glares as he makes his exit.

“If there’s space werewolves then there are totally mermaids in space Keef!”



Lance’s birthday party was two weeks later, and there were in fact games, but apparently Keith wasn’t enough for Lance because there was also some fat kid named Hunk. Keith hated him. He didn’t like Lance having other friends and spent a good portion of the party sulking by Shiro.

“Stupid Lance, and his stupid friends, and this stupid party.” He grumbled under his breath arms crossed over his chest, glaring out into the ocean where Lance currently ran along the shore with Hunk. “Hunk is even a stupid name.”

“Keef is a pretty stupid name too.” Shiro says from beside him.

“Shut up Takashi, my name isn’t Keef!” He attempts to push the boy away from him, but Shiro is twelve and twice his height.

“Just because Lance has other friends doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to be friends with you anymore Keith.”

“Yes it does!” He shouts, his faces turning red as he speaks, “That’s what it always means. I’m being replaced by him.”

Shiro sighed, his parents explained to him many times how Keith’s brain works and he’s been trained for this moment. “How about we go ask Lance?”

“No Takashi!” But the older boy ignored him and was already walking towards the playing kids.

“Takashi!”

Lance looked at Shiro skeptically as he finally stood in front of him, “Why is Keith calling you Takashi?”

“Because that’s my name.”

 

“I thought your name was Shiro,” Lance says, looking even more skeptical. Hunk stands besides him shyly.

“It’s a nickname, did you really think my name was Shiro Shirogane? seriously .”

I don’t trust you .” The boy responds in spanish, seeing Keith’s visibly upset face.

Neither I, you .”

Lance gasps before pointing a finger accusingly, “Keith! Quick, my sword. Shiro is a spy!”

And just like that, the crisis was avoided. Well, for the time being, two hours later after Hunk had left and they swam long enough to look like prunes. Keith had decided that he had enough swimming experience for his entire lifetime, Lance wanted to continue swimming on the other hand but he couldn't oppose to the others offer of adventure.

“Paging Captain Red, I think I spot a cave. Over.” Lance says into a shell pretending it’s a walkie-talkie.

“Lance, we don’t need to walkie-talkie, we’re right next to each other.” If any eight year old could make you feel ridiculous, it’s Keith, but upon seeing the look of disappointment on Lance’s face he adds a horrible crackling effect and  “Over.”

They carry forth on their journey into the cave, though Lance knows he probably should've asked for permission first and it's kinda dark and wet in here, but Keith doesn't seem afraid so Lance definitely isn't afraid. Even though it's really, really dark and was that a bat?

Ok not a bat, wait are those footsteps, those aren't his footsteps, he quickly grabs Keith's arm and holds him to a stop. The footsteps continue.

"Keef I think this cave is haunted." Lance says wide-eyed and color draining from his skin, "we need to get out of here now."

"Chill out Lance, it's totally not haunted." He says rolling his eyes, there's never been an eight year old who rolled their eyes as much as Keith. It was definitely Shiro's fault. It was then that he heard the footsteps and got a little wide-eyed himself, before shaking his head.

"It can't be a ghost, they don't have feet. They float duh." He says matter-of-factly now looking smug again.

"Then what if it's like mothman or something?"

Instead of looking freaked out, like he should have and how Lance currently did, he broke into a look of excitement. He grinned wildly and turned towards the sound of the footsteps.

"Let's go find mothman!" He shouted excitedly and ran off in the direction of the footsteps.

"Keith no!" Lance shouted after him grabbing his hand and running along with him. Better to be eaten by mothman with Keith than to be lost all alone, ok maybe not.

As they got closer the slowed down, and took to walking on the tips of their toes. Lance's heart was beating wildly without abandon, he could barely hear anything else over it. But he assumed he was breathing heavily as Keith silently shushed him.

They got closer and the noise was right in front of them. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. What could be big that it made that much noise, Lance's eyes brimmed with tears and he tightly gripped Keith's hand in his own. Another crash, another step closer then

"BOO!"

The boys shrieked in terror, climbing onto each other all the while trying to run away. Resulting with them both crashing to ground, rocks digging into the bare skin of their backs but they could feel a thing except terror. Well that is, until mothman started laughing. Lance knew that laugh, that annoyingly evil cackling witch laugh.

"Elena! You-you-you big jerk!" Lance shouted as he stood up, his older sister stood less than a feet away, bent at the waist laughing to her heart’s content.

"God, you should've seen your guys faces, a work of genius." She said in between laughs, as Keith still laid on the ground. Probably embarrassed.

"You're the worst!" He pointed an accusing finger at her, "How did you even find us?"

"Please, like Mama would trust you and Keith alone in a cave." She had a point there. "Speaking of Keith, are you okay kid?"

"Leave me here to die, I wish to be eaten by mothman."

Elena quietly mumbled 'mood' underneath her breath as Lance retorted "you said mothman doesn't eat people."

"Sisters are the worst." Lance says later as their sitting in his bedroom, in pjs and sticky medicine on their back to clean the cuts. "You’re lucky you don't have a sister."

Keith stayed quiet for a moment, maybe he should tell Lance. He is his best friend right, and Shiro says it's important to tell people you love the truth.

"My sister died." Keith didn't mean for it to come out that bluntly. But he decided to trust him completely, and this was the only way he knew how.

"Hmm," Lance thought deeply, well as deep as a eight-year-old could, "You can have one of mine. I've got plenty of them."

Keith just stared at him surprised, this was the first time someone didn't give him a sad look, or ask how it happened.

"You can take Elena, I like Malia better. She's not as annoying." Lance add-on when Keith didn't reply.

After staring at Lance confused for as long as he would let him, he cautiously opened his mouth, before closing it again.

"Idiot, you can't just give someone your sister," Keith finally said, deciding to pretend this was as normal as all of their other conversations, "you only get new sisters by marriage or adoptions."

"Hmm," Lance looked stumped, before his eyes lit up with a bright idea, "I can't adopt you since we're the same age, but we can get married right?"

Lance smiled at Keith so brightly, and Keith had never felt more happy than to have him as a friend.

"Yeah, Lance. We can get married."