"Blade or Paladin"
Everyone was gathered on the Castle Ship after the battle of Naxzela. The Paladins were celebrating, giving high fives and fist bumps to members of the coalition. Pidge noticed Matt wasn't as excited as everyone else was at such a huge step.
"Matt, what's wrong?" Pidge asked her brother.
"Guys, I need to tell you something that happened during the battle," Matt whispered to the Paladins. Kolivan discreetly listened in on the conversation.
"Keith was going to sacrifice himself by crashing his ship into the Galra cruiser."
Kolivan was enraged. Keith was prepared to kill himself for the mission?! He contained his anger and stalked over to the kit, who had just entered the bridge. He picked him up, slung him over his shoulder, and left the bridge. He carried him to Keith's room.
Keith was quiet during the trek. He was still coming to terms with what almost happened. He almost died. He didn't know what was going his mind at the time. He didn't actually want to die; he would've missed everyone a lot. He was sure at least someone would miss him; he just couldn't come up with any names. His mind was so numb it was coming up blank.
Keith was dropped onto his bed, and he scrambled to sit up. He looked at Kolivan curiously. What was his leader doing?
Kolivan took a deep breath and leveled a glare at the kit, who shrank back a little. Apparently being a Blade these several months did little to curb his Galran instincts. "I heard about what you almost did, kit. Why would you even consider that an option? Did you not think you would be missed? Your sacrifice would have devastated many of our forces!"
Keith couldn't meet his gaze. "I thought the mission was more important than an ex-Paladin's life. I'm just one of many Blades. The lives of Voltron, the rebels, and the rest of the Blades including you were at stake. I figured it was an acceptable risk."
Kolivan was shocked. The one thing he kept drilling into the kit's head completely backfired. The kit thought he was completely replaceable! Kolivan reached forward and grabbed Keith by his shoulders, pulling him close. He stroked his hair. "Never say that again, kit. You are important to many people. I would never forgive myself if you died on my watch. You are more than just another Blade to me. You are MY kit."
Keith was shocked at Kolivan's words, tears springing to his eyes. He was important. Keith leaned against his leader's chest, enjoying the hug. Without even meaning to, Keith let out a whine. Kolivan rumbled to him. Keith could feel his tears starting to fall. He couldn't help but cry and whine.
Kolivan just held his kit and rumbled to him, trying to calm him down. Apparently Keith was just as much a kit as he was a Blade. He needed to treat Keith like a kit outside of missions. He stroked his hair and resolved to do better regarding his kit, who was starting to calm down. He wasn't whining anymore, and his tears had slowed.
Suddenly, there was a pounding on the door. "Keith! We know you're in there! Open the door, or we'll open it ourselves!"
Keith flinched at Lance's yell. Kolivan growled softly at the interruption. Kolivan released Keith and guided him to sit on his bed. The leader of the Blade of Marmora walked over to the door and opened it as Lance went to knock again. The Blue Paladin ended up knocking against the Galra's armor. There was zero humor on Kolivan's face, which scared Lance. Kolivan leveled a glare at the collected group, which comprised of Lance, Hunk, Pidge, Allura, Shiro, and Matt. "I know what you are here to do. It is not necessary. He won't be doing that again. There's no need for you to scold him or yell at him. He is one of my Blades. As such, he is my responsibility."
"He is still a Paladin of Voltron. He is also my responsibility," Shiro countered.
"When was the last time you made him feel like he was still part of your team? He referred to himself as an ex-Paladin. That tells me that he doesn't feel like he belongs to your team."
The Paladins were shocked. Did Keith truly not feel like a Paladin anymore? Matt looked at Kolivan. "May we see him please?"
Before Kolivan could answer, the doors opened, revealing a red eyed Keith. No one said anything for awhile. Keith simply ran into Shiro's arms, and his tears started anew. The rest of the team plus Matt crowded around Keith, hugging him.
"You will always be a Paladin no matter where you are. You are the Red Lion and the Black Lion too. They both still have a bond with you. Lance and I can feel it," Shiro said. "You are not expendable. We love you, Keith."
Keith's tears dried up, and for the first time in months, he heard two roars in the back of his mind. He looked up at the ceiling. Allura smiled. "You can hear them, can't you?"
"Yes. They want to see me."
"You should go see them," Shiro urged.
Keith looked up at Kolivan as if seeking permission. Kolivan nodded. "But I think I'll freshen up first."
The group watched as Keith went back into his room. He splashed water on his face and changed into his casual clothes. He was wearing his black pants and shirt with his red fighter pilot jacket and his black fingerless gloves with his utility packs and knife sheath on. Shiro patted Keith on his shoulder as he passed on his way to the hangars. He went to Red's hangar first, but surprisingly she wasn't there. He went to Black's hangar, and both lions were there. He approached both lions, who knelt down in front of him. He reached up and placed one hand on each of the lions' muzzles. "Hey."
"Cub, why would you try that?"
"As one of our Paladins, you are connected to us. Your death would have hurt us."
Keith hadn't thought that the lions would have missed him since they had Shiro and Lance as their Paladins. "I'm sorry, you two. I had no idea that my sacrifice would have affected so many including you."
"Cub, please don't leave us again. We understand that you like being with the Blade of Marmora, but I miss you being my Paladin," Red pleaded.
"But there are too many Paladins. If I go back to you, Red, then either Lance would have to take Blue from Allura or not be on the team at all."
"Easy, little one. Blue would rather have Lance back. She and the Princess are a good fit, but Blue and Lance were an exceptional fit. The Princess and Lance need to go talk to Blue together. This will all work out," Black soothed.
"If you say so."
"I think this needs solved now." Black let out a mighty roar, which brought the other three lions into Black's hangar. A few minutes later, the rest of the Paladins came rushing into the hangar. Blue immediately scooped up Allura and Lance and pranced over to a corner.
Shiro walked up to Keith. "What's going on?"
"Black just called a meeting. She wants to solve this too many Paladins problem, even though I had solved it," Keith replied, flinching as Red roared at him.
"That's not an acceptable solution anymore, Cub," Red spoke directly in Keith's mind. The Red Paladin looked around the hangar at the lions. Pidge was sitting on top of Green on her lap top, typing away furiously. Hunk was lying on top of Yellow; both lion and Paladin seemed relaxed. Shiro was reclined against Black, watching the others as well (mostly Keith). Blue was sitting in the corner with her defensive shield up and her two Paladins in her cockpit.
It was several minutes before her shield came down, and the two remaining Paladins came out. Allura looked relieved, while Lance looked shocked. He kept repeating, "Blue wants me back."
"Apparently, Blue, Black, and Red want Lance, Shiro, and me back, respectively," Keith said.
"Are you coming back to us?" Allura asked.
Keith paused. "I don't know. I would have to talk to Kolivan about that. I am still a member of the Blade of Marmora."
"You should still able to but also be a Paladin as well," Shiro commented.
"Still one too many Paladins," Keith murmured.
"No. We have five primary Paladins with three secondary Paladins," Shiro corrected.
"Three? I only see two," Keith replied.
"Because you're not looking into a mirror," Lance quipped.
"Allura's the secondary for Blue, Lance is the secondary for Red, and you're the secondary for Black," Shiro responded.
"That way no matter who's here we can always form Voltron," Allura stated.
"That way I can still go on Marmora missions and be a Paladin again." Keith sounded like he was in disbelief.
Shiro held his hand out to Keith, who clasped it. They pulled each other forward into a hug. "You were always a Paladin, Keith, whether you were piloting a lion or not."