I will honestly never know why we moved; whether it was fate, destiny- or a horse- I may never be able to tell. But what I do know, is that I gained something invaluable through a situation I would have given anything to leave behind. ~ Keith Kogane, April 15, 2025.
April 14, 2017
It was early, too early for anyone to be awake, more or less Keith Kogane. The sun wasn’t even above the hill yet, for christ’s sake!
Similar thoughts happened to cross Keith’s mind as he thunked his head back against the sad and dying tree behind him. Ok, it wasn't really dying, nor was it particularly sad, but it damn well looked like it- as did every tree in Kansas, so….
Keith’s eyes caught the first glimpses of sunlight just as Shiro burst out the front door, frazzled and with at least one suitcase under each limb.
His “Keith! Buddy, let’s go!” was followed by indercernable mumbles and obvious cursing at what Keith guessed was the sun and its ability to rise on time. Keith sighed and made his way to the truck, complete with a bungee-corded truckbed filled with furniture and boxes.
Keith settled into the seat and rested his head on the headrest as he turned to watch Shiro load be back of the cab. A bead of sweat ran down the older brother’s head as he placed the last box in the seat next to the dog bed. Red, their labrador retriever, sat on said bed, tongue lolling and tail wagging.
“At least you’re happy about this, Red.” Keith mumbled, half-under his breath.
Shiro opened the driver-side door and spotted Keith.
“There you are. All ready to go?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be.” Shiro’s smile faltered at the pure hate that seemed to radiate from Keith.
“Look, I’m sorry, Keith, I really am. I know you like it here, but… You know… I mean- I can’t just turn an offer like this down! This college is going to give me the skills I need to get a job and finally start taking care of you, damn it!” Keith’s eyes grew wide. You could almost see the gears in his head turn as he realized Shiro wasn’t only thinking of himself in this move…
“Besides, we can come back,” Shiro’s tone was lightened and he didn’t seem to notice Keith’s half formed apology. “No one’s gonna want to rent out this old place in the middle of Podunk, Kansas.” Keith couldn’t help but snicker at that.
Shiro turned the key and Keith settled in for the long drive to North Dakota.
Keith was sent forward, chest catching against the seatbelt. Very effective at waking him up, to be completely honest.
“Sorry, Keith, light turned red on me. But, good news is that we’re here.”
“Wha…. what? I stopped counting miles around the border…” Shiro chuckled.
“Me too, Keith, me too.” He watched as the town passed his window. Frost danced across the glass and coated the power lines that led…. Somewhere. After a few minutes of following many roads, much more compact than Keith had ever seen them before, mind you, they turned down a street with a couple houses lining it. Almost immediately, Shiro turned left down a short driveway. At the base of the driveway was a 2 story house, made of brick, with a short chimney on the left side. Keith would never admit it, but he liked the look of it. Shiro turned the key and sighed.
“Well, here we are. Unpack? Or leave it ‘till tomorrow?”
“Let's just get it over with.”
“I guess you’re right. How ‘bout this: we unpack only the things we need for tonight and then do the rest tomorrow?” Keith nodded. They both got out of the truck and began unpacking the boxes from the bed, placing the less needed ones just inside the door. Red barked happily from the cab door, head sticking out the window and paws on the door.
“Here, Red!” Keith called, and the retrievor was happy to oblige, jumping out the window and onto the cold ground without hesitation. He nuzzled Keith affectionately as snow swirled around them before trottin over to the house to explore. Working together, they finished unpacking for the night fairly quickly, loading sleeping bags into their rooms and putting snacks from the drive into the empty fridge.
When Keith walked back into the house with the last box, he found Shiro in the kitchen, sitting at the breakfast table with a cup of hot chocolate in his hand.
“I microwaved some water. Want one?” Keith nodded. Shiro pushed a mug filled with powder over to Keith and motioned to the pitcher full of slightly steaming water. Keith poured his cup and swished it around slightly, dissolving the power almost all the way.
“So, did you want to look around town?” Keith didn’t answer and instead took a long sip of his coco.
“I’ll take that as a ‘no’”
“Come on, Keith. You might find something interesti- oh! I saw something you might enjoy on the way in…” Keith looked up from his mug. He saw Shiro rummaging through his bag, looking for his phone. He suddenly found it and flicked the screen to unlock it. He held it up for Keith to look at. He squinted and read the website header.
“Altea Ice Palace,” Keith read. It was a rink, an ice rink. “...and what makes you think I’m interested in that?”
“Ah, c'mon Keith! It’ll be cool.” Shiro chuckled slightly and repeated ‘cool’ in a light tone. Ha Ha very funny pun, Shiro.
“Well, you have fun with tha-”
“You're coming too, keith”
The next day, shiro grabbed his bag and called out for Keith, who in turn rolled off the green dust-covered couch and shuffled to the front door. Red barked happily as he sat by the door-windows.
“Sorry, Red. Not today, bud. I’ll walk you when I get back.”
No you won’t.
“Yes I will, Keith. Don’t doubt me already.” Shiro smiled as the drowsy boy’s thoughts passed right through his lips. He always did that right after he woke up. A good way to monitor his mental state, Shiro had realised years go. The amount of things Keith has said to him over the years unwittingly… it was almost sad, really. But today’s mood: Snark.
The pair hopped, or in Keith’s case shimmied, up into the tall truck.
“Keith, adjust the mirror to the right a bit, will ‘ya?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Keith mumbled as he shifted the passenger side mirror slightly to the right.
“Great, thanks,” And the drive began.
Keith huffed and stared out the window, watching as fog began to clear from the nearby houses. The sun broke through, and highlighted small white dots falling from the sky. That's when Keith realized, it wasn’t fog at all… but snow. Real snow. A smile caressed his face. Small, yes small, but just large enough for it to transfer right onto Shiro’s.
The rink wasn’t far from their house. About a ten minute drive at most. When they pulled up, Keith’s smile had all but disappeared, quickly replaced by his signature scowl. Shiro beeped the car locked as Keith passed in front of the grill, causing a start out of the boy. Shiro snickered as Keith attempted to body check him and missed, stumbling forward. Despite his glower, he felt a smirk tug at his lips. He quickly forced it down, though, like always.
The rink was cold. Obviously. But like, really cold. Keith shivered and wrapped his arms around himself. Shiro shrugged off his jacket and out it around Keith’s shoulders. Keith protested, but watched as Shiro put one finger to his lips and pulled his thick sweater around himself, providing more than enough warmth.
That bastard… Apparently that thought managed to stay inside his head, judging by the lack of reaction from Shiro.
There was a small arcade and cafeteria separate from the rink itself. They sold the usual, such as soda, pizza, chips, and burgers. A couple vending machines littered the walls next to a Pac-Man game and a claw machine, as well as a ping pong table. A pro-shop was behind the ping pong table and it seemed to be closed, judging by the sign hanging on the door.
“Hey, Keith, I’m ‘gonna go ahead and try to find Coran, you good here by yourself for a bit?” Shiro asked, on autopilot, before shaking his head and smiling, remembering Keith’s age. “Here, take it.” He said, handing him a few five dollar bills. “ I hear this place has the best meatballs ever.” Shiro leaned in closer. “Rumor has it, even vegans eat them!”
Keith cracked a smile and pushed Shiro away. He was gone without another word, but possibly with one more laugh on his record. Now, the rink seemed a bit more open and a whole hell of a lot more interesting. The smell of food radiated from the small cafe, but Keith didn’t have much of an appetite. What he could go for, though, was any sugary drink within a ten mile radius. He stepped up to the counter and looked at the drink list, posted on the top of the countertop.
A larger man with brown hair and a strange orange bandana turned around just in time to see him walk up.
“Haven’t seen you before. New around here?”
“How did you-”
“Hunk knows everyone around here,” Keith whipped around to see a small girl sitting at a table in the corner of the “Starbucks” section of the mini cafe. Keith stuttered before turning back to ‘Hunk.’
“I guess you could say that…” The big man raised a hand to the back of his head and shrugged, seeming to try and make himself just a bit smaller. “That's Pidge, by the way. Oh, and I’m Hunk, as she has already said…”
The air became slightly awkward, but honestly not uncomfortable. Like a safe, friendly awkward... if that even exists.
“I’m Keith,” He paused before deciding to add, “Kogane, my name is Keith Kogane.”
“Well, it's nice to meet you, Keith!” A smile graced his face as he leaned across the counter. “Sorry, about the awkward introduction, what can I get for you?”
“Just a coke, please,”
“Coming right up!” Hunk turned around and grabbed a cup from the holsters underneath the counter. He filled it at the station and handed it to Keith. Keith, in turn, thanked him and held out a five dollar bill.
“Please,” Hunk smiled again. “You insult me. On the house, special.” Keith opened his mouth to protest, but quickly snapped it shut at the playful ‘don’t even try it’ look that Hunk sent his way.
“Thank you.” Hunk smiled at that. Keith turned to leave, but stopped short.
“Have- have you seen my brother, I mean where he went?”
“The tall one?” Keith nodded. “I saw him head into the icebox.” Keith was confused, and it showed.
“Oh, I mean the rink section of the building, over there.”
“No problem. See you later!” Hunk called after Keith as he walked away, into the rink section of the Palace, the “icebox”.
No harm in exploring, right? Yeah...
Little did he know, but the conversation between Pidge and Hunk didn’t cease after his departure.
“Oooohhh, you think we should tell him its private ice?”
“Nahh,” came Hunk’s reply as he stepped out from behind the counter. “Let’s let him figure it out on his own…”
“Oh, God, Hunk, what are you planning?” Pidge shook her hair as she watched his smile turn devious. He set a plate of pizza between them.
“Nothing.” He slowly replied as the look settled on his face comfortably. Pidge shivered and looked after Keith as he opened the divider and stepped into the rink.
It was cold. Obviously, but, like, really cold. A girl passed him in a tank top, puffy hair bobbing as she walked, and Keith couldn't help but stare.
The cold was stinging his face, more than he had ever experienced before, even considering the many times he stuck his head in the freezer (You would too in kansas’s fuck all weather).
He could see his breath rise in front of him and yet she was wearing a tank top.
Keith was done. He couldn’t understand the people here… to fucking cold . And it wasn’t just the rink... He sighed, shaking his head before looking up and around.
There were a few skaters on the ice.
One stuck out. With his tanned skin, dark hair, and long physique- he was a sight to see. A bright yellow belt trailed behind him as he glided to the center of the rink and struck a pose. Music began to fill the building.
He was beautiful, timing each movement with the beat and flow of the music. Each string, each note , resonated throughout his body. Then, he jumped. It seemed almost impossible that someone could do something like that on ice. Keith left his drink on the floor, forgotten, and nearly pressed his entire face against the hockey glass before composing himself and merely watching the boy.
He nearly flew across the ice, gained speed, and jumped, landing flawlessly. He continued, connecting complex footwork into a whirling, mesmerizing spin. It was beautiful; keith had to admit.
He landed another jump in the corner farthest from Keith and began to skate toward him. Their eyes met and the skater flashed him a smile… which seemed to much for his concentration. As keith blushed and jumped back, the boy stumbled on his next step and slid across the ice, crashing into the boards in front of him.
A groan came from behind the barrier and Keith ran to the opening, about a foot from where the boy had landed. Peaking around the corner, he saw him struggling to his feet and brushing the snow off his chest and pants.
A flash of white caught Keith’s eye before a voice came out of nowhere-
“What the hell, Lance?! What was that? You call that skating?” Tank Top Girl had pulled her long white hair into a ponytail as she skated over to the fallen boy, and Keith, spraying them both with ice as she stopped. “And you! Ever heard of private ice? Huh? Privacy? Ring a bell?” Keith just stared, confused as hell. The woman continued to birate him as the skater just shot him an ‘I’m really sorry about this’ look.
“Allura…” He began to speak, voice soft and slightly breathy due to the fall.
“Quiet, Lance! Seriously! Do you not have any common sense?”
Lance, huh? The name caught in Keith’s mind.
“Allura! Sweetie, It's ok!” A third voice came from behind Keith. He whipped around and used the distraction to hide behind the boards. A man with orange hair and a… mustache? Like a full blown stereotype mustache, ran up to the trio.
“That’s Keith! He’s Shiro’s younger brother. Remember Shiro, the scholarship kid?” Allura’s face loosened and she looked Keith up and down and saw Shiro behind the other man. She huffed and skated away.
“Sorry about that, Keith. Hello, by the way, I’m Coran!” He smiled, teeth bright and mustache flouncing upward.
“And I’m Lance, nice to meet you.” Keith turned to see Lance stepping off the ice, putting his purple skate guards on. “How about some of Hunk’s famous meatballs, on me, to apologise? Unless you don’t eat meat, then…”
“Uh, I do, but you don’t hav-”
“Great!” Lance’s smile lit up the room. Keith couldn’t help but follow him as he walked out of the rink door. “I really am sorry for Allura back there… she’s getting a bit stressed because of nationals, you know? So don’t blame her too much, ‘K?”
“Anyway! Keith, right? I’m Lance!” He stopped and looked down, face tinged red. “I already said that, didn’t I? Sorry, I can repeat myself sometimes… Right! Meatballs it was! Or, is, I guess. Will be...” He trailed off as they walked across the lobby to a table in the cafe. Lance waved to Hunk, who sent him a wink and turned to shuffle through various pots and pans.
“So, you new around here? I’ve never seen you before.”
“Yeah, Shiro just got accepted to that college Coran works at.”
“Ohh, Galrani University. I’ve heard about it- supposed to be good.”
“Well, glad to have you at Altea Rink, M” He sat back in his seat and winced slightly, discretely putting an arm around his side. Or at least what he considered to be discrete.
“Are you alright?” Lance perked up, tilting his head.
“What do you mean?”
“You… fell, remember?”
“Ohhhh, yeah, that. It’s fine, I’m used to it. I mean, if I couldn’t take a fall like that, what kind of skater would I be?”
Keith sat back, and mumbled, “Still, I’m sorry. It was my fault, after all.”
“No, No! Don’t sweat it, man. I just lost… concentration, is all.”
“Well that's… good? Wait no,” Keith wasn’t sure how to respond and considered his attempt an utter failure.
But then, Lance laughed and it was all worth it.
“Welcome to Garrison, South Dakota, Keith. You’ll fit right in!”