Keith’s pack is behaving weird. It’s nothing major, just little things -Thace especially seems more… energetic, as if he was waiting for or looking forward to something. The others are behaving slightly less odd but still a bit off, exchanging looks, and Keith isn’t sure but he thinks they’re… preparing for something, maybe. When he asks, Ulaz hums.
“Sa-Vrepit Hor,” he explains. “The day to honor the dead. You couldn’t know about it, since you haven’t been raised Galra; it’s a very important holiday for us. The most important one, to be more precise.”
Keith frowns a little. “The day to honor the dead?” he asks. “Isn’t that… depressing?”
Kolivan shakes his head. “To us, it is not. To remember and honor the dead is something we take pride in. It’s something we celebrate, nothing to be mournful about.”
“We believe that the ones who fight, live and die honorably take their place among the stars,” Antok adds. “They’re not gone, but watching over us. So once a year we celebrate. It’s the one day where all fights are in abeyance; not even the empire will dare to attack us and breach that holy peace.”
Thace grins. “The best thing is the food, honestly,” he says. “We find a nice place to sit and eat together -not food rations but real, traditional food- and look at the stars as we remember and honor the dead; that’s why some call it The Stargazing, too.”
Keith hums. “So that’s why you’ve all been behaving so weird?”
Thace growls playfully and ruffles his hair. “We’re not weird. Just excited. It’s only once a year, you know?”
As the day approaches, the Galra get busier with the preparations. Thace and Ulaz go shopping for ingredients, returning with colorful but unfamiliar fruits and a lot of meat. Antok, when Keith asks him, sits down with him in the common room and tells him more about the whole thing, and Galra culture in general. Which quickly gets Pidge’s attention and she joins them, curious as ever, Hunk following soon after. Lance sees all of them and sits down quietly at first, but then starts to ask questions, fascinated at the idea of “Galra culture”. Seeing his human friends and a member of his pack like this gives Keith a kind of contentment he hasn’t even thought of before, even though some of Lance’s questions are obnoxious. Antok answers them anyway, with the patience of a saint -or maybe a father.
“Hey,” the blue paladin asks at some point. “Is that Sa-Something thing only for Galra or can, y’know, humans do it too?”
Antok hums at that. “Sa-Vrepit Hor,” he corrects. “And it’s a Galra tradition, but seeing as we’re all living here together, maybe you could join us… I’ll talk to Kolivan about it.”
Lance cheers as if that was a definite yes and grins at Hunk. “We get a holiday!” He does a little dance in his seat and Hunk beams. “I’ll cook something special, too, then! And we can decorate! It’s gonna be like Christmas!”
At which they have to explain to a somewhat confused Antok what “a Christmas” is, and a Christmas tree and how it’s actually not like Sa-Vrepit Hor at all, since there’s presents, too, and they kinda celebrate the birth of baby Jesus and not the actual people that died. Keith is not sure if they get the message across.
That evening, during pack time, Antok talks to Kolivan about the whole thing. Keith doesn’t look up from the book he’s been reading, but he listens anyway, a little hopeful, having come to like the thought of celebrating with not only his pack but the rest of the team as well.
“It might be a good idea,” Kolivan hums. “We should further our bond to the paladins and the princess, since they mean a lot to Keith… That way if we ever need to leave again-“ There’s a quiet, disapproving sound from Keith at that, which Kolivan meets with a reassuring rumble, we’re not intending to, youngling, before he continues as if nothing happened, “it might be easier on him.”
“Even though we won’t do that,” Antok clarifies. “We’re all in agreement about not leaving any pack member behind on their own anymore.”
“Of course,” Ulaz chimes in. “But what if it becomes necessary? This is war after all… None of us likes the idea, but at a time of need our personal preferences might have to come second to the fate and freedom of the entire universe.”
Keith honestly hopes that will never happen, but he knows it might, and he’s mature enough to deal with it should it come to that, and Antok lets it be, knowing Ulaz is right.
Still, the decision stands to invite the rest of team Voltron and Keith falls asleep that night with his head on Antok’s chest and all of them touching each of the others in some small way somehow as always, feeling some kind of anticipation for the first time. He hasn’t ever celebrated Christmas or any other holiday, but this might be fun…
The day approaches with Lance and Pidge going overboard decorating the castle. Heaven knows where they’ve found all those garlands and tinsel (Keith strongly suspects Coran has something to do with it) but it keeps them occupied. Antok is following them; Keith thinks he’s a little concerned they might get hurt, seeing all the stunts they pull to get up the decorations and that maybe he’s a little amused to see their eagerness, too. Hunk and Thace are in the kitchen, preparing the food for the evening, and Shiro, Kolivan, Allura and Coran are having a last strategy meeting. This leaves Keith with Ulaz. Not that he had anything against his company, he just thinks he should be doing… something. Just what that would be, he has no idea.
Ulaz hums. “What’s bothering you, youngling?” he asks.
“Nothing, just… I feel like I’m lazing around when everybody else has a job, y’know?” He sighs. “That’s not what I usually do… I just don’t really know what needs to be done, either. I’ve never celebrated anything… and everybody else is busy.”
“You have never celebrated? Not even… Christ-Mess?” Antok has told them about it, what little he understood.
Keith grins. “Christmas,” he corrects. “And no, not really. I moved so often when I was a kid, I guess nobody ever really thought about it. And then I didn’t want to celebrate anything either, especially when I was on my own. I mean, for what reason?”
The Galra sighs. “I see…” he says. “Well, you have people to celebrate with now, and it seems they have it all under control. Which is why we get to laze around like this.” A hum. “Though, if you want to do something, we could always spar.”
And that’s how Keith ends up in a very rare training duel with the Galra doctor. When he reaches for his bayard, though, Ulaz shakes his head. “We’ll take our blades, youngling. You need to get used to it sometime…” So Keith takes out his knife and lets it grow until it’s the saber he’s familiar with by now, earning an approving nod from Ulaz.
“A good form,” he praises, drawing his own blade.
After that there’s not much more praise. Not because Keith was doing especially badly, but because there’s not many words at all. Ulaz is as good a fighter as the other blades, even though he’s their doctor, too. He would probably lose in a direct fight with Kolivan or Antok, but he can hold his own just fine against others. He might lack his leaders’ size and strength, but he’s more agile, faster, and he makes use of his knowledge of anatomy to aim for the points that are weak, easily broken or hurt. Of course he doesn’t try to hurt Keith, it rather feels like he’s playing with him, but Keith has seen him fight before. This is for training, and at least for Keith it’s difficult enough to be just that bit more of a challenge that he has to go to his limits.
Ulaz ends it once he deems it enough, always concerned for Keith’s health. They both go to take a shower and afterwards visit Hunk and Thace in the kitchen in the hopes of maybe getting their hands on something small to eat. Thace hums and hands Keith one of the weird fruits; it’s about as big as an orange but light blue.
“Try this,” he says. “You’ll like it, trust me.”
By this time Keith has eaten green space goo, drunk… whatever that purple stuff was Coran called Nunvil and a lot more weird things, so a light blue orange really isn’t that disgusting or even noticeable. He takes a bite and hums. This is good. Better than many other things he’s eaten, and not only in space but back on earth as well. It’s kinda juicy, and tastes like a combination of fruits Keith can’t exactly make out. His surprised half-hum-half-purr gets him a grin from Thace.
“Good, huh?” he asks and Keith nods. The Galra throws him a second one from where he’s standing and Keith catches it, too focused on savoring it to notice Ulaz’s calculating look.
Hunk and Thace rope them in for minor kitchen jobs after that, something Keith is more than okay with, considering that he wanted to help somehow anyway. The fruits (and some more little tidbits Thace slips him from time to time) tide him over most of the rest of the day. By the time they land on an unoccupied planet that reminds Keith of Arus and the beginning of their journey there’s little left to be done for him and Ulaz in the kitchen so they go to help the others with setting up outside.
The other Galra have taken the lead and instruct them to put several blankets, courtesy of Coran, on the ground. One or two pillows that Keith is pretty sure come from the nest find their way onto the blankets, too, though nobody seems to know who put them there. They just sit there and talk quietly for a while, paladins, Alteans and Galra alike and Keith watches from his place between Antok and Shiro and feels a new kind of warmth at all of them getting along so well.
Pidge and Lance are bombarding Ulaz with questions, well, mostly Pidge. Shiro and Allura are talking to Kolivan, Coran chiming in every now and then and Thace and Hunk are still in the kitchen. Antok, Keith realizes, is the only one who isn’t really participating at all. He’s looking up at the stars with a longing the young paladin has rarely seen. At some point he raises his glass to the sky in a subtle gesture the others don’t even notice and murmurs something that sounds like “Da Sa-Vrepit hor, Arah, Dek, Ila.” He looks lonely so Keith scoots a little closer and leans against his shoulder with a questioning little sound in the back of his throat. Antok doesn’t look at him but puts an arm around his shoulders in acknowledgement of his presence and squeezes a little, rumbling quietly in return. They’re silent for a while.
Then, “Arah was my wife. Her fur was the most wonderful shade of violet and she was always up to some mischief. Dek was our son; he was quiet but always kind. Ila was our daughter. She was fighting before she could even walk properly… Da Sa-Vrepit hor; today I honour you.”
At this sad explanation Keith whines for him and his loss, not caring for once if the sound his heard by the other paladins, Coran or Allura. If they do they don’t react to it. Antok smiles at him, if a little sadly, and starts carding a hand through his hair. “Do not worry, youngling. Their lives were short, too short, but honest and good and I’m sure they have taken their place among the stars. I shall join them once my time has come.”
Keith doesn’t like this idea and he lets him know with a little growl. “We’re not talking about you joining them for a long time,” he emphasizes for good measure and Antok bows his head a little.
“Of course not, youngling.”
Lance chooses that moment to sit down directly opposite of them, bored by all that scientific lingo Pidge and Ulaz are throwing around by now. Keith tenses imperceptibly, not sure if his fellow paladin is going to make fun of him (or rather, the position he’s in right now), but Lance just grins at them and does the unexpected.
“Maaan that looks so damn comfy… Hey Antok, d’you think us others could get some Galra cuddles, too?”
Before the Galra can answer, Keith lets out a growl. The meaning is clear, at least to every Galra, but Lance is a human so he says it just in case he didn’t understand, because this is where he draws the line. “No way. That’s a Galra thing.”
Antok’s rumble sounds like silent laughter at their antics. “Sorry, paladin, you heard the k-“ he stops mid-sentence and says “Keith,” instead but the half-Galra in question is pretty sure he was about to say kit. Lance just pouts and whines about how it’s not fair that only Keith should get awesome cuddles, but it doesn’t carry any malicious intent or even real jealousy. This is just Lance bickering, and Keith can keep up with that even with Antok’s somewhat distracting hand in his hair.
They go back and forth for a while, as they do so often these days, Antok listening with an amused expression.
“That’s so unfair,” Lance complains, mock-hurt. “You have a pack and are, like, super close to them, and what about us? I thought we were friends, man. We’re basically family, too!”
Keith hums. “Well, you’re not pack, and you can’t be because you’re not Galra.” Which is the truth, but for a second there’s real hurt in Lance’s eyes Keith just rolls his eyes at. “It’s obvious, isn’t it? You guys are a pride.”
Lance thinks about that for a moment, blinking as if he’d never thought it before -which he probably hasn’t, but Keith has. “Wait, but you’re a part of it, right?” his fellow paladin asks.
“Sure I am. I’m piloting one of those lions, am I not?”
Lance opens his mouth to reply something to that, but right then Hunk and Thace come outside, carrying bowls, plates and glasses and everybody hurries to help with the rest so they can all sit and eat together. Keith ends up between Antok and Shiro again, everybody helping themselves to the food when Ulaz thrusts a full plate into his hands. Keith raises an eyebrow; he’s used to the Galra fussing over him but he hasn’t gone that far before.
“Trust me,” Ulaz says. “I have a theory and if it’s true you will like this even more than the fruits from before…”
So, because Keith trusts him and because all he wanted was some food anyway, he shrugs and starts eating. The first bite makes him freeze. The second makes him look up at Ulaz with wide eyes.
“What is that?” he asks. He’s never eaten something this good before.
“Traditional Galra food,” the other replies with a quiet sigh. “I guess I was right then…”
“Right with what?” Pidge asks, having noticed the little scene.
“Galra are very sensitive to some things,” Ulaz explains. “Our senses are better than yours, for one; with that comes seeing, hearing, smelling but also touching -as you might’ve noticed, we’re very tactile with each other- and of course, our sense of taste. There is just something to the foods from our home planet that is different to us, much better. The younger kits will usually not eat anything else until they’re older. The problem is that Keith grew up on earth; he never had anything like it, so everything must have tasted like military rations at best… This might very well be one of the reasons he never eats more than he absolutely has to, apart from the fact that in the past sometimes he just didn’t get a lot of food in general.”
Keith looks up from where he’s been cleaning his plate quicker than even Hunk does when he’s starved and shrugs. “I didn’t know food could actually taste good. It was always more of a survival thing, y’know?” He shoots Hunk an apologetic look, knowing how much pride their human cook takes in his cooking. “Sorry.”
The yellow paladin just shrugs. “Hey, man, you can’t change it if it’s something about the whole Galra thing…” He grins. “I’m just glad you’re getting good food now. I didn’t know that was a thing, but we can get you guys something of that Galra food from now on, right?”
“It’s difficult,” Thace chimes in. “Since we’re considered a terrorist group. Just visiting our home planet outside of the time of the holy peace is dangerous… The good thing is, eating this once a year has a lasting effect on everything else we eat. Of course it’s not as good as the real thing, but it just tastes a lot better.” He grimaces. “I don’t even want to imagine what it would be like to live without that… Everything must’ve tasted like dust…”
Lance cringes. “Eww.” He looks at Keith. “And you still ate?”
The paladin in question shrugs again, accepting another full plate from Antok. “I didn’t know anything else and I couldn’t just… not eat, y’know?”
He ends up cleaning that plate, too, and another he gets from Kolivan. After half of his last plate, this time from Thace, he feels as if he might burst and has to stop, feeling so very, very tired that he just doesn’t really care about what the others might think and leans back against Antok. Almost immediately there’s an arm pulling him closer and a hand in his hair and Keith lets out a quiet huff and a purr before he passes out. He doesn’t wake for the rest of the night and in the end Antok has to carry him back to the nest, but nobody makes any fun of that and Lance can’t, because he’s in a food coma, too, as dead to the world as Keith is. Kolivan carries him to his room and tucks him in before he joins the rest of his pack in the nest and Keith purrs in his sleep, subconsciously aware of his arrival and content with his whole pack where they belong. He’s hugging one of the pillows they had with them on the blankets; it smells of all of them, Galra, Alteans and humans alike, which might have been the reason it was there to begin with. Right now, however, Keith is fast asleep and he doesn’t think of any of that, content to lie here with his pack and this pillow that smells of more than just the pack, surrounded by the warmth of the other Galra and more than sated for once.