Keith was nine, and honestly couldn’t come up with a place better than where he was now, but he was perfectly okay with that. Shiro said he deserved happiness, and something about that left a fuzzy haze over Keith’s heart and a too-sweet taste in his mouth. No one had ever told him that he deserved to be happy before. They only said that he was alone, but was what made him just like Shiro in so many ways.
Keith didn’t understand that bit, yet.
He would though, in years to come, but all of that didn’t matter now. All that mattered was his life with Shiro; the only person Keith knew he could count own. He made this life normal for Keith, it had grown customary for Shiro to drag him around everywhere, especially aboard this infamous cruise ship. but Shiro was the closest thing that Keith had to a father, so he didn’t mind much.
Especially in moments like these.
Shiro was dancing across the room, fingers wrapped around a hairbrush as he whipped the sopping strands around, singing with all his lungs had to give. It was horribly embarrassing, but when Keith was laughing, face flushed with joy, Shiro decided that he would rob all of the stars from the sky for this child.
“My heart is pierced by Cupid, I disdain all glittering gold,” he sang, face bearing the wistful smile that Keith would never tire of seeing. It was the kind that made Keith feel giddy; he liked the way it softened Shiro’s face, creasing his eyes at the corners and scrunching his nose. The tune that he sang was a familiar one, one that everybody knew whether they wanted to or not. It may have been old, and pardon his French, but it was really fucking catchy.
Keith regarded his brother with smiling eyes, grinning at the happiness exhibited by Shiro’s joyous belching. He longed to join in on his singing, but the weight on his chest prevented it, even when all he felt was a bubbling joy. Soon, they would reach the new land, where Shiro would search tirelessly for the woman Keith had never met; for the woman that abandoned him.
“There is nothing can console me, but my jolly sailor bold.”
Although he had been singing all this time, Shiro was just putting on a show and had only drug on the length of the actual words. Keith didn’t mind, he never did mind any of Shiro’s shenanigans, especially when they were amusing.
Keith knew the song’s origin, he knew that it was sung by Sirens and used to wreck ships, but Keith wasn’t scared of that.
Keith had never experienced a shipwreck, though, but the song channeled a primitive form of fear; one that resonated within his chest. It remained there, always, no matter how happily Shiro sang it. Keith couldn't shake it, he had seen the true wickedness of the ocean before; he had stared into the eyes of the beast as it reared upwards, wave after wave, devouring everything. He swallowed thickly, for that was one of his fuzzier memories
He frowned, suddenly favoring the stubs of his nails over the show being put on for him. It hurt to touch them, but Keith didn’t care like he used to.
“Whatcha thinking about, kiddo?” feet were suddenly before him, and after following them upwards, he met Shiro’s curious eyes, “And what did I tell you about doing that?”
Keith’s hands dropped from each other the moment he registered Shiro’s voice, tucking nervously beneath his thighs. He’d worry about them later, Keith decided, and that could wait.
Now, however, Shiro was looking down at him, lips turned up into an adoring smile. Keith really looked at him then, drinking in every detail from the fond expression on his face to wrinkles steadily forming along his brow. Shiro had been there for him from the beginning, or at least that’s what Keith thinks. He couldn’t recall a time B.S (before Shiro), and he had no problem with that whatsoever. Maybe there was a family out there that missed him, someone that didn't mean to give him up, someone that would make him feel like he belonged.
It wasn’t like he didn’t have the connection with Shiro, he just didn’t always feel it.
Shiro’s hands were behind his back, and Shiro was looking at him with the shiftiest expression Keith had ever seen. He could see the way his smile became a little tight at the corners, and the look in his eyes was just plain treacherous. He was planning something, Keith realized, and it couldn’t have been good.
There was silence, and then-
Keith dove for a pillow with a battle cry, yanking it from the mattress and holding it between them as if it was a weapon. The mischievous glint had returned to his eyes, and it was one that Shiro had come to enjoy seeing. The attention made Keith itch, fingers curling and uncurling in the dense fabric.
Shiro eyed it with narrowed hues, hands steady as they moved the pillow from behind his back and into Keith's line of sight. Keith rolled his eyes and Shiro grinned, carefully holding it out in a silent invitation between them.
They went at each other like animals, pillows colliding with enough force to stun each other, but light enough to avoid serious injury. Keith choked on his laughter as he took a particularly savage beating, feathers flying everywhere as Shiro rained down blow after blow.
Keith fell backward and onto one of the two beds, where he quickly rolled into the center in order to avoid an attack, but Shiro had other ideas. He followed, kneeling beside Keith while he continued the torture.
“You’re off your game today!” Shiro crooned, pressing a pillow threateningly closer into Keith’s face. White flashed over Keith’s head as Shiro raised it and hummed a low, swift tune as he brought it down. Keith’s startled squeal was muffled and he laughed, shoving the man away roughly with as much strength as he could.
But somewhere along the way, in the mass of all their laughter and fighting, Keith had fallen asleep, and he dreamt of a life that wasn’t his own. He dreamt of white- of rhythmic machinery and tanks filled with all sorts of monstrosities- things that had no business being out of the ocean.
Blue eyes turned to him, vibrant amongst the dreary white and-
Keith woke up with a sudden jolt.
Though his eyes were open, he couldn’t think of why; all he could do was feel the pounding of his heart and his inability to form thoughts. He woke up like this on most nights- without warning, eyes flinging open so wide Shiro says he looks like someone who just got punched in the gut. He moved the covers from over his face, blinking as his eyes tried to focus in the darkness.
It was strange, but Keith had grown used to it, and normally the sound of Shiro’s breathing that would lure him back into a false sense of security, but not tonight. Shiro always snored, but he wasn’t tonight. Keith listened and waited for it, trembling for a reason he could put no name to. After deciding that it wasn’t happening, he rolled his neck, moving slowly as he pushed himself out of bed.
Keith yawned, digging his finger into Shiro’s shoulder in hope that it would wake the man, but all he did was stir, swatting the child’s hands away.
“Leave me alone,” he mumbled, voice muffled by the drool-soaked pillow. Keith looked at him, disgusted, and decided that he was really, really thirsty.
Rubbing at the sleep in his eyes, Keith shuffled from their shared room, toward the hall, where the floor tipped dangerously beneath his feet. He blanched, gripping for purchase at the wall until the ship finally settled.
He thought that was the end of it.
A deep rumble sounded through the air around him, and panic briefly struck him. His nerves really kicked in, the, causing him to hesitate as he drew closer to the door. But Keith fought the urge down, twisting it open with all the strength he could muster and wrenched it open.
The entire atmosphere changed, and total darkness prevailed.
The clouds were thicker than Keith had ever seen, and the sky was stricken, blotting out the sunlight that once led them through the waves. The wind arose from seemingly the depths of hell, pushing the waters into choppy waves, ones that soon morphed into mountains high enough to dwarf even the mighty ship. Keith watched this all happen, frozen with fear as it ran like ice through his veins.
Some people were already moving, that much he could see. They rushed by the open door, slipping around on the water sloshing at their feet in the sheer haste.
The real panic set in.
Wind slammed rain into Keith's face as if it was solid matter, beating down on him until his face was raw. The water had filled his eyes, blinding him in the face of death.
Voices broke out around him but Keith kept moving, forcing himself onto the deck and into the midst of the chaos. People shoved past him and he cursed, pulling away from urgent hands as they grabbed and tugged, eager to get him out of the way.
Keith stumbled across the deck through the hectic mess, up until the point he full on slammed into the legs of some grown man.
“For fuck's sake,” a voice shouted, and Keith recognized this as the captain, “Someone get him the fuck out of here!”
Unfamiliar hands were on him in an instant, and fear exploded all around him.
“What the hell!” he cried, furious, “Get off of me!”
The people didn’t listen, instead trapping him on all sides while they herded him towards a ladder, where he had no choice but to climb. Fear gripped his heart like a vice, pumping his heart full of adrenaline until every nerve ending in his body was on fire. Shiro, he needed Shiro.
They pushed him to the top, where a vaguely familiar man shoved a flotation vest over his head and told him sternly to stay put.
Keith of course, did as he was told.
The ship still pressed on though, bravely climbing the waves, and then crashing back down in a cascade of metal and water. It made Keith's bones ache and his stomach flip, and he decided that he didn't like this ship anymore. He wanted it to be over. He wanted Shiro.
It was during one of these heart-stopping plummets that a surge of water broke onto the deck, and Keith’s heart fell through his chest. He screamed, but the sailors were already moving in a flurry, pushing Keith towards anything that he could hold onto, and anything that prevented him from feeling the blunt impact of another surge. Keith was a child, but that didn’t exactly make him a top priority in the face of danger.
A heart-wrenching sob ripped its way from his body as realization struck, and his entire body shook with the force of his emotions, beckoning him to fight for them. The sound of his owns screams ricocheted throughout his ears as he pounded fiercely on the man that held him back, broken sobs spilling from his throat.
“Shiro!” He cried, thrashing as much as possible in the arms that held him, “You have to help Shiro!”
Time became class; where each second that ticked by stretched on for an eternity. Keith was aware of his own screaming as he begged for Shiro, sobbing helplessly as he was jerked around before the man was pulling him back down the ladder. He fought it this time, but it was no use. He was bigger than Keith, and that alone prevented him from escaping.
He grappled for anything he could use as leverage to get away from them, sobbing desperately as they simply moved him. The ship tipped dangerously as black waves thrust forward in an exhibit of power, allowing Keith to catch sight of the desolate black sea that had already consumed a portion of the ship. He could hear the sirens, and the desperate shrieks of people as everything they loved was ripped away from them.
As heaven’s choirs played their sounds of death, salt burned Keith’s lungs, suffocating him.
Keith was being hoisted into the air, and a sudden jolt knocked him free of his captors and sent him tumbling over the railing and directly onto one of the escape boats. His back met the wood and he cried out, pain exploding in a violent burst of colors behind his eyelids, and he cried out as the world went black.
Keith awoke with an aching pain in his muscles that appeared almost as soon as he was awake, and it burned through his will to move with ease. A groan came from him, dragging through his hoarse throat until it was pushed past his chapped lips. Keith became aware of the salt in his mouth and opened his eyes.
A canvas of pale colors stretched over his head, gloriously brilliant in the rising sun. It made him angry, horribly angry. The sky had no right to look this nice when it laid witness to a tragedy.
A collection of disfigured silhouettes were littered along the water, still as an oil painting. Water sloshed around in his body and he coughed up whatever was plaguing it. Keith was confused, and his vision was beyond distorted.
He moved- and was falling.
The water rushed into his body like it owned him already- an empty chasm of blue and darkness. It was icy against his skin, and violent beyond his comprehension; forcing itself down his throat and robbing the air from his fragile lungs. All he could do was taste the salt as it burned its way down his throat; gulp after gulp. His limbs moved against his will, mind rapidly losing focus as everything blurred. There was no fun, only fear, a fear that was strong enough to make him fight harder as he sunk.
Fight, his blood roared, fight!
He broke the surface, limbs jerking as they were forced from their weightless state and latching onto anything he could get his hands on. Without conscious thought, without choice, his body did what it had to in order to survive, and Keith couldn’t be more thankful for it. His hands locked onto a rope, and he hoisted himself up, up, up.
Keith hit the wood with a wet slap, regurgitating whatever he could get of his system before he collapsed. Adrenaline coursed through his system, filling his limbs with an unbearable tingle. He wanted to stand, desperately, but his legs had given way to the fear, leaving them weak and unreliable. But Keith forced himself to move, pushing upwards with a muffled cry. The first thing he did was retch, and then he realized just what his situation was.
The expanse of blue water stretched in every direction to the horizon, and Keith was adrift on an ocean with no wisp of land in sight. The boat he was on bobbed on the waves as helpless as a toy in a bathtub, rolling along with the current until it finally dawned on him.
Everyone else was gone, and he was going to die out here.
A sob broke out of him, tears casting a hazy sheen over his eyes. How had his life gone this wrong, in so little time?
Sorrow consumed him, leaving him to do nothing but sit cross-legged aboard the wooden boat. In a matter of minutes, he had lost everything and everyone he had ever known. The ocean stirred beneath him, and somewhere down there was Shiro, and the rest of his family. At this point, it was safe to say that there was nothing left for him. Perhaps he should just melt away into the water; let it consume him from the inside out. Just as it had Shiro.
The thought made him cry even harder, salty tears mingling with the ocean; contributing to the cause. Keith was devastated, alone and afraid in the middle of nowhere. Without Shiro, his world was cold, even with the heat mercilessly beating down on him, Keith felt empty. He had never been alone before, no matter how far away Shiro was there, his presence shrouded Keith.
That was gone now, and Keith felt raw and exposed. All by himself in the middle of god knows where; with nothing but whatever lurked beneath the surface of the waves.
“What the fuck?”