Shiro felt the pull. A squire was going through the Accolade to receive his knighthood. Not just any knight. His Knight. He could feel it just as sure as he felt his own wings settled against his shoulders. He closed his eyes and breathed out slowly, feeling the silver cord that was connecting them as it formed and slowly thickened.
He snapped his wings to their full extension and threw himself into the winds, letting the forming bond draw him to his destined partner.
It was Yule. He'd heard most Accolades on this little world were held during the Yule or Ostara season, when the kingdoms were most likely to have the resources and time to permit the ceremony and resulting celebrations. The hill fort he entered was decorated with lights from well-tended fires roasting generous feasts and fresh evergreen branches were displayed prominently and hung with small baked goods for the questing fingers of children.
He flew on, the silver cord of the bond drawing him to a lower chamber, paneled with dark wood and hung with scarlet banners. It was late, and despite the revels above, these halls were empty.
In the center of the chamber knelt what could only be his Knight. He looked small in the cavernous room. He must be young. A new Knight would be. Dressed in pure white, his head was bowed in meditation, letting black hair fall around him in a damp curtain, small locks of it curling around his ears and neck as it dried from the ritual cleansing. It was early in the ceremony, and likely would be hours before he could hear Shiro's voice. Maybe even see him. Shiro had heard some partners saw their Guardian Angel, if only for a few moments, during the Accolade's ceremony. It was rare, and it shouldn't matter, but a private part of him wanted it.
He shook his head. He had hours before the Knight would even be able to hear him, but they would be bound together from now until death, both of theirs.
He could wait.
He took up a comfortable stance before the kneeling knight-to-be, and smiled softly at him, "I hope we get along."
The knight's head snapped up, purple galaxy-colored eyes wide, "Who said that?"
Shiro's eyebrows shot up and his wings mantled around him in nervous reaction. This was early. Far too early. They must be destined to have a strong bond. "I did."
The man's eyes tracked back and forth across the chamber, clearly searching for the source of the voice... and not finding it. Dark eyebrows narrowed with suspicion, "This is not a time for one of your pranks, McClain."
Shiro relaxed his shoulders and forced his wings to settle back into place. Being seen was little better than a rumor. He shouldn't have even considered it. "I'm not McClain. How much were you told about achieving knighthood and the Accolade ceremony?"
"A lot," The knight hedged, still watching the room suspiciously. He wasn't overly trusting, which was good. He'd live longer that way.
"I'm your Guardian Angel," Shiro knelt to look closer at his Knight's sharp features and dark eyes, memorizing them. It also had the advantage of making it clear his voice was coming from too close by to allow for him to be a human hiding somewhere in the chamber. “You were told you would start hearing my voice during the ceremony, yes?"
"It was," The Knight looked down, obviously checking for a grate in the floor. "Mentioned. I was also told it would not happen so early in the ceremony and would be difficult to hear."
Shiro chuckled. Clever. "I'll admit I was caught off guard by that too. I didn't expect you to hear me until we were closer to dawn, and once the ceremony ends, you may not be able to hear me so clearly as you do now."
"The ritual cleansing. Meditation. It's all to allow the bond to form. The inherent strength of the bond will determine how much we can communicate once you receive your knighthood. I am here to aid and protect you as best I can."
Eyes the colors of galaxies searched the air between them, unseeing, "Will I be able to see you?"
"But it's possible."
"It's rare, if it's possible at all. It's best not to think about it."
"You're a Knight. Every Knight has a Guardian. We are bound at our very souls during the Accolade. It is the way of things."
"But you chose me?"
"Fate chose us."
"You didn't though," The Knight leaned backwards, putting space between them as a scowl formed on his face. "I chose to become a Knight. I want this. What about you? Did you choose this? Did you want this?"
Shiro blinked, letting his confusion seep into his voice, "This is why Guardian Angels exist."
"That seems unfair. What do you get out of it?"
Shiro didn't have to think about that, "I get to walk the Earth. Fly in the winds. Explore."
"You couldn't do that before?"
"Angels stay in the cosmos unless they have reason to be on Earth."
"So when I die, you have to go back?"
"When you die, I'll die too."
The Knight looked horrified, "That's wrong."
Shiro shook his head, "It's a while before we have to worry about that. Do you have any other questions for me?"
"I," The Knight shook his head. "This is... I..."
"It's the way of the worlds, Knight. If it were not you, it would be another."
"You said we're bound until death, seems strange to not call each other by name. I'm Keith, first son of house Kogane, Blade of Marmora. You should call me Keith."
"Alright, Keith." He felt something in his chest flutter as he edged closer, wings mantling around both of them as if he needed to guard against being overheard, "You should call me Shiro."
Shiro swept the arrows from midair with ease, glancing back to his charge who had abandoned his horse, again he thought with a huff of frustration, to join the combat on foot, his blade clashing with opponents.
The scarlet tunic with its embroidered golden lion was his house’s color displaying his designation as a Paladin of Lions. Everything about it suited him. Suited the conviction and passion with which he did everything. The fire.
It was admirable.
When it wasn’t about to get him killed.
“On your left!” Shiro yelled, too far to get to his side before the man rising from the mud would be able to swing his axe.
No one could hear him, save Keith, who shifted without even looking, sliding the blade of his opponent down his sword toward the ground instead of chasing the parry he normally would, and skipping backwards several vital inches as the battle axe dropped through the space previously occupied by his shoulder.
Shiro breathed a sigh of relief and moved to close the distance with his Knight.
Some days, he was certain the man would end their partnership far too early the way he would recklessly throw himself behind a cause and into a fight. He might as well leave him to his own devices and fly as far as he could and appreciate the winds for however long he could have them before the firebrand got them both killed.
Other moments, he saw something more there. The passion that would inspire others to follow him. The intelligence to choose where to extend himself and to avoid being misled. He was young, but if he lived long enough for that clever and passionate streak to be tempered with wisdom, he would lead men.
Lead them to greatness beyond any other Knight they had encountered. Beyond lords and kings.
If he lived.
Shiro grit his teeth as he used a wing to block a sword coming in from a blind spot on Keith’s right. It stung, the cold iron biting at him like acid.
He heard more than saw Keith dispatch his opponent with a wet squelch and the scrape of metal against metal. Then his voice was closer, clearly having turned to his invisible companion.
“Shiro? Are you alright?!”
He must have grunted at the impact. He growled out a response, “I’m not the vulnerable one! Watch your front!”
He felt Keith’s frustration as though it were a physical thing when he turned back to the fight, “I am!”
The battle ended what felt like hours later, soldiers clapping Keith’s shoulders as they passed through the camp together. Invites to join various campfires and share in spoils of fresh game meat and drink came and all were turned down as he trudged back to his own tent pavilion.
Inside, Keith began removing his armor and outer tunics, sharp inhales of breath through his teeth punctuating each injury. Shiro scowled at each newly revealed harm. He'd tried so hard to prevent it, but some of them were bad. Today had been closer than he liked, and he wished that Keith would remember it wasn't just his life that he took in his hands on the battlefield.
Keith hissed at the brush of cloth over a shallow slash on his side as he donned a fresh tunic, and Shiro stepped in close, voice tense with frustration that his Knight was so injured, "Get to the healer's tent."
His eyes widened as if he was surprised by Shiro's presence, before narrowing as he pulled the collar of the tunic closed, toggling the bone buttons into place, "I'm fine."
"No, you're not. You need stitches."
"I just need to rest," Keith turned towards his bunk. "Leave me alone. Go see some of the world."
"What," Despite himself, it wasn't a question. It was a snarled expression of anger that just happened to take the form of a word.
Keith sat gingerly on the cot, head drooping to look at his feet, hands white-knuckled where they gripped the bedding, "You don't have to worry about me making you vulnerable for a few hours. I'll stay right here. Go do something for yourself for once."
He ground his teeth, "You think I want to be somewhere else while you're hurt?"
"I didn't think you were still here," Keith murmured, and if not for their bond, maybe Shiro wouldn't have even heard the admission. "Seeing the world is all you get out of this. Don't let me stop you. Who knows how much time we'll have."
"You're my partner," Shiro moved to sit next to him on the travel bed, arching one wing around the Knight protectively. He seemed so small like this. His armor discarded, hurt and hunched in on himself. "Keith, half the point is that you're meant to be there with me."
Keith looked up at that, bright galaxy eyes searching the space where Shiro perched, "You haven't called me by name in months. You've barely talked to me off the battlefield. I thought..."
"You thought what?"
"I thought that you went off exploring whenever I wasn't dragging you into human conflicts." He turned his head, looking away and towards the pavilion entrance. "I thought you didn't want to be around me more than you had to."
"We've been travelling with the army." Shiro spoke softly, realizing he'd hurt Keith unintentionally, "I did not wish to make you seem unreliable by having conversations with thin air in full view of everyone."
"People in this kingdom know Knights have Guardian Angels," Keith glanced back to him sideways, the beginning of a smile playing at his lips. "They expect me to be odd and talk to the air. It's how you know you have a real Knight."
"So I should talk to you more," Shiro felt something warm kindle in his gut, and was suddenly glad he couldn't be seen by his Knight. "Outside of emergencies."
"Please." Keith's tentative smile faltered, "I've missed you, Shiro."
"I'm always close by," He assured. "Now please, let us go to the healers." He paused, letting a mocking smile leak into his voice, "I can't live without you, after all."
Keith snorted in response to his tone, wincing when it pulled at an injury, "Was that supposed to be a joke?"
Keith turned to the army commander, one hand on his horse's harness, the other mid gesture from his interrupted conversation with Shiro, "Lord Griffin."
"Join us at the great hall at the hill fort. My family is putting forth a feast and would be honored to host our cohort's Knight within the guest apartments for the week we're stationed here."
"What of the soldiers, Lord Griffin?"
"James," The commander smiled warmly. "The soldiers have all been invited to partake in the feast and as many as find it comfortable to bed down in the great hall. For the rest, the tents have been given leave to set up in the fallow field next to the stables."
"That is very kind of your house to offer."
Griffin blushed at the mild compliment and Shiro raised an eyebrow, fluffing his wings as he reconsidered the young commander. James Griffin was near the same age as Keith, a respected commander within the kingdom’s armies, and the second son of a minor noble family whose lands bordered the Kogane’s. Had Keith not become a knight, they likely would have walked a very similar path as close allies, James possibly becoming a steward of house Kogane once their military commissions ended. Possibly more. But Knight was a lifetime posting, and one of Keith’s younger siblings would be the next Lord Kogane instead of him. That Kogane would choose their own steward and partner from close allies. Keith would…? Keith was his partner. From the Accolade until death. His Knight. But Knights had allies of their own, and partners in other senses. Shiro would always be with him, no matter what, but he was going to be a leader. An amazing one. And that meant he needed to foster his human relationships, build alliances, choose other kinds of partners. None of that would change or replace their bond, but…
Shiro shifted, flapping his wings to gain some height and distance from the conversation. There was an uncomfortable churn building within him, and he did not want to fan whatever flames had sparked to life there by listening in further. If circumstances were different, he might have called it jealousy, but that was impossible. As Angel and Knight, he had the only and the strongest bond with Keith that could be had between them. Nothing could usurp that. There was nothing to be jealous over.
Raucous laughter caught his attention as Commander Griffin and Keith were joined by a third armored soldier who clapped Griffin’s shoulder with a heavy hand, “You should know better James! Our Knight has better plans than the likes of us after a battle!”
Griffin was bright red now, “Shove off, Rizavi.”
“Here’s that thing I promised you,” The woman handed Keith a folded parchment. “Have a good night and take the Griffins up on that apartment. You’ll regret it when we’re sleeping rough again in a week.”
“I won’t be back until late,” Keith hedged.
“It’s fine,” Griffin jumped. “You have your duties, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy our hospitality when you’re done.”
“Thank you, Lord Griffin, Lady Rizavi,” Keith smiled, tucking the parchment into a belt pouch and exchanging a few more pleasantries with the pair before they left him, heading back to the hill fort.
Shiro lowered himself back into easy conversing distance, looking over Keith carefully, “What duties have we missed performing?”
“Griffin called it that, not me,” Keith shook his head. “No duties. Only spending some relaxing time with you. You still wanted to see the faery pools around here, yes?”
“Of course I do,” Shiro settled in closer, flying alongside so he could watch Keith’s expressions more carefully. “But Keith, I can do that alone. You don’t have to miss a feast and trudge around in the dark and cold just to satisfy my whims.”
“We’re partners,” Keith’s entire expression softened at the word, becoming that private thing that he never seemed to show anyone else. “Shiro, what’s the point if we don’t see it together?”
Shiro let the warmth he felt bleed into his voice, “True.”
“Besides, it’d be a waste of the map Rizavi brought me if we didn’t go now.”
Shiro laughed at that, and Keith matched him, climbing onto his horse's saddle and examining the map before turning the beast in the proper direction and setting off at a fast pace. Shiro flew alongside, heart light and a smile plastered across his face.
Shiro sat by the bedside, thankful the Garrett castle had been nearby and willing to host the army encampment. The nobles, they had put up within the castle walls.
Griffin and Rizavi exchanged quiet words with the young Lord of the house, before he bustled them away and shut the door behind them. The man was clever and had the best healers on hand Shiro had ever encountered, although he insisted that they be called doctors. Another young lord who would lead men to great things.
Like his Knight.
If he lived.
Shiro leaned forward, eyes tracing the way dark hair fell across Keith's face, checking the bandage for the burn that had come far too close to his eye. He was wrapped in bandages everywhere, and he had only briefly woken when the hea—doctors of Garrett Castle had started stitching him up. They couldn't say whether or not he'd survive. If he'd wake again.
Shiro trembled, leaning over him.
He couldn't lose his Knight.
It wasn't about wanting to see the world or avoiding dying anymore. At least not just that. It hadn’t been for years now. He wanted Keith to live. To grow to his full potential. He wanted to be there to see him laugh and smile and the spark of fire in those galaxy-colored eyes as he achieved great things. He wanted more of the quiet, peaceful moments where they went to some new place together and Keith listened to his quietest comments and smiled softly as if he could see the joy it brought him. As if he shared in it.
He couldn't lose Keith.
His wings spread out with barely a conscious thought, mantling around both of them. Blocking the world from Keith. Protecting him like he had failed to do on the battlefield. No one here could see him to know how his shoulders shook and feathers shivered with emotion. No one would see or ever know if he cried over the prone form in the bed, praying to whatever power in the universe that had made both of them, that had bound them together, for Keith to open his eyes and live.
Many of the Humans associated Angels with their gods. He didn't know about that. Angels lived in the cosmos, watched the galaxies and planets and stars. Flew between them, never landing unless there was a bond and a call that brought them planet side. It wasn't allowed otherwise. And a bond meant death, eventually. If that was the work of a god, he didn't know.
But whatever fate that had given him Keith, he prayed wouldn't take him away.
With a startled intake of breath, Shiro opened his eyes to Keith's galaxy-colored eyes. Eyes open and searching for something they both knew he couldn't see. His voice was shaky as he answered, wings tightening their arch around them with the need to keep him safe, "I'm here."
Keith's brow furrowed, looking straight up into Shiro's face, "Are you hurt? Your voice sounds... strange."
Shiro swallowed the lump in his throat, shaking his head minutely, refusing to look away from Keith's open eyes, "I'm fine. Just been worried for you. I'm sorry, I didn't..."
"Hey," Keith reached up, then stopped, the motion aborted. Shiro could stop arrows and swords, but he couldn't be seen. They didn't touch. They never tried. It was an unspoken boundary between them. "I'm fine. I'm still here. We're both still here."
"You're not fine."
A smirk played across Keith's lips and he dropped his hand to lay over his torso, "Insulting my looks is just uncalled for."
"Shiro," He closed his eyes, looking resigned and tired. "You can't be everywhere at once, and I know you do everything you can to protect me. Sometimes I'm going to get hurt. It's the way of things."
"I should have been better."
"You're amazing Shiro," Keith worked his eyes open again. "Neither of us are going to be perfect, but I'm glad you're my partner. I couldn't have dreamed of anyone better."
Shiro was silent for a long moment, staring into eyes that mirrored galaxies they would never see, "I'm glad you're my partner too, Keith."
"Good." Keith closed his eyes again, letting himself droop further into the pillows and bedclothes, but a small smile stayed on his lips, "Good."
Shiro lifted one arm, carefully placing his hand over Keith's, letting himself feel the rise and fall of his chest beneath. He was asleep again, but it seemed more restful now, and less like someone teetering at the edge of life. He was in too deep. He was sure a partnership wasn't supposed to make him feel like this, but he couldn't bring himself to regret it either.
He closed his eyes, letting the last couple of worried tears fall, "Thank you for being alive."
"Shouldn't you be dancing?"
Keith snorted, "With who? Half the nobles here find me terrifying, between the scars and being a Knight. The rest could care less what I look like or what my personality is, so long as they can weasel their way into the good graces of Kogane or just are just after any Knight at all to form an alliance."
Shiro let his eyes drift over his Knight where he stood to one side of the dancing hall, attired in a formal doublet in the scarlet of house Kogane, delicately embroidered with gold and black. Breeches in a darker shade of red and high soft black leather boots with gold fittings completed the ensemble and his hair was carefully cleaned, oiled, and pulled back in a low ponytail. He had his scars of course, the most prominent being the burn across his cheek that stopped only an inch away from his eye, but it only drew attention to his eyes. He couldn't imagine many folk found him terrifying, but intimidating perhaps. He stood out amongst all the Humans here. Or perhaps Shiro was just biased.
"I'm sure they're not all that way," Shiro spoke softly, stepping closer so he could see the same view of the room Keith did. "You're the first son of house Kogane. You're still a noble. You should be making alliances here."
"I'm a Knight," Keith groused.
"I'm aware," Shiro chuckled at his shoulder. "And Knights need allies too. You have no problem forming bonds out in the field, what's so different here?"
Keith turned his face to raise a skeptical eyebrow at the space where Shiro stood, "In the field, they're my comrades. Everyone's goals are straightforward. Here..."
Shiro thought that perhaps Keith was missing some things if he thought everyone was completely straightforward with their intentions in the field. Commander Griffin's awkward pursuit of Keith's good graces sprang to mind.
Still... He smiled, "'Here' what, Keith?"
"Here, too many of them are looking to use each other to secure familial alliances. For partners." Keith's cheeks reddened, and he looked back out to the milling crowd with a scowl, "For marriages."
Shiro swallowed down a lump in his throat despite himself. He'd known what had Keith so uncomfortable. Had teased it. He may have realized how he felt, but he also knew Keith had his own expectations and obligations to fulfil because of who and what he was in a world Shiro had no standing in. Knowing it was true and actually talking to Keith about accepting it were two different burdens. "It's to be expected. The privilege of your birth."
"I don't want it."
"Don’t say that. Your status as a Knight means you won't be the next Lord of Kogane, but it doesn't absolve your family ties or expectations." Shiro bit his lip and paused for a long moment before continuing, letting the tightness in his chest settle. "I knew this would come up one day. You choosing a partner, maybe starting a family of your own."
His scowl deepened, "I have a partner."
"It's not the same thing to them."
Keith didn't seem to catch his slip, "How could anyone else ever measure up when I have you?"
"Keith, you can't see me. You have no idea what I look like."
"What does that have to do with love?" Keith froze, seeming to belatedly realize what he'd said, his jaw worked a couple of times, and fists clenched in the fine fabric of his doublet as he crossed his arms over his chest. His expression softened to a frown instead of the petulant scowl he'd worn moments before, "It doesn't matter what you look like; you're Shiro. I know you better than anyone else in the world. I couldn't ever love someone else the way I... It would be cruel. You're all I want."
Shiro felt like he'd just hit an air pocket, the expected air current suddenly ripped away, leaving him in freefall, "Keith..."
"I don't expect anything." Keith's head dropped, steadfastly examining his fingers as they dug nervously into the embroidered fabric, "I love you just as you are. You don't need to change or reciprocate." He laughed softly, "It's just the way things are."
With that familiar phrase, so often muttered between them, Shiro felt like the wind came rushing back. He couldn't not let Keith know. Couldn't let that sad expression stay on his face. "Keith." He stepped closer, letting his hand come to rest on Keith's shoulder, touching him for the first time when he was conscious, something that had felt forbidden for so long, for years, "I love you too."
Keith's head swiveled to his voice and his hand rushed up to cover Shiro's, unseen as it was. His galaxy eyes were wide with wonder and hope, "You... I can... Thank you." His fingers tightened over Shiro's invisible hand, and he squeezed his eyes shut. "Thank you."
Shiro lost track of how long they stood there in the hall bustling with nobles as music played and wine was served. The world had narrowed to the space where their hands touched, holding on to each other like the world was ending. Or being made.
“What does it feel like to fly?”
Shiro shifted in his place to look over at Keith where he laid out in the grass, hands pillowed behind his head. The sunlight played across the reds of his tunic, creating rich shadows in the folds like crimson pools and warm hills where it bunched up. A rich sunset tapestry framing midnight hair and that smile he loved best.
“I don’t know how to explain it. What does it feel like to run? To ride a horse?”
“Running and riding a horse are tiring. Don’t you fly everywhere?”
“Mostly, but I have practice. I used to fly between the stars.” He hummed thoughtfully, “Wind is challenging. It’s different, but it’s fun too.”
“You gave up the stars to come here?”
“To meet you,” Shiro said warmly.
Keith blushed, eyes sliding to the side, away from Shiro’s voice, “I’m lucky.”
“Did I ever tell you that your eyes remind me of up there?”
Keith sat up at that, turning to face him, “No. How?”
Shiro shuffled closer, until he could arch a wing around Keith, and place a hand against his cheek, letting his thumb stroke over the scar, “Where I come from, there’s groups of stars. Countless gatherings of them like a field of wildflowers, spinning together and surrounded by clouds and cosmic dust they create the most amazing lights and colors, spinning together through the darkness, sparkling with light and life. They’re called galaxies. My favorite ones were this amazing color, and there it is, on this small planet, echoed in your eyes.”
“That’s hard to imagine.”
“I wish I could show it to you.”
“I wish I could see where you came from,” Keith leaned back, breaking the contact and tilting his head up to the sky. “You make it sound magical. I can’t imagine living in such a peaceful way.”
“I wish you could have more peace.”
Keith shook his head, “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.”
“Fly,” Shiro said fondly. “Race with me between the cosmic dust.”
“Might be nice,” Keith smiled. “Do you miss it?”
“Sometimes,” Shiro admitted. “But I’d miss you more.”
“You can go back?”
Shiro blinked, not liking the tone in Keith’s voice, “I can.”
“Would it save you? If you went back?”
“Keith,” Shiro stopped him with a sharp tone. “I wouldn’t leave you.”
“Shiro, I’ve been thinking,” Keith dropped his head, fingers pressing against the grass and earth beneath him. “The war’s getting worse. I’m a Knight. I’ll be on the frontlines for most of whatever comes. Chances are good I won’t live that many more years. If there’s a way, I don’t want you to die just because I do.”
“There’s not. Even if there were, I wouldn’t take it. Nothing’s definite. However long I get to have you, I don’t want to miss any of it.”
“When we first met, you asked if I chose you. I didn’t then. I didn’t know. I trusted fate.” Shiro leaned in closer, “And I was right. I’m choosing you. I chose you, a long time ago. I want you to live, and I have a direct hand in making sure that happens. Maybe the war ends and the kingdom finds peace. Maybe you get to retire and live to old age, bossing around squires in house Kogane for decades. Maybe you fall in the next battle, or the one after that. If I lose you, I don’t want to return to the cosmos alone.”
Keith closed his eyes and leaned forward towards the voice until his head came to rest on Shiro’s shoulder, “None of this is fair.”
“It’s the way things are.” Shiro wrapped arms around Keith, brushing fingers through his hair in a comforting gesture, “I don’t regret any of it.”
Clanging metal and the cries of the injured and the dying were all around them.
The tide of the battle had taken a bad turn.
Beneath their feet, blood and sweat and the passing of hundreds of feet had churned the earth into something close to mud.
Shiro snapped his wings out, forcing a half dozen arrows to fall while Keith pivoted behind him, ducking and whirling, parrying the blades of three opponents. He spared a glance back, to see a crouch turn into a lunge and Keith’s sword bit through the core of one of the enemies and then out, the spray of crimson creating dark valleys of color on his tunic.
One down. They just had to keep this up. Keep fighting.
The battle might be lost, but they could live.
Keith could live.
Keith seemed to find an easier tempo with only two opponents, and there was breathing space as the volleys of arrows relented.
Shiro knew better than to interfere with the current interplay and endanger Keith by changing the flow of the dance, so instead his eyes scanned the field, looking for new threats, looking for something else he could do.
Clouds moved lazily overhead, uncaring of the carnage below it. The winds sang to him, ruffling his feathers and tossing his hair. It was too beautiful a day for this.
A pointing finger down the hill drew his attention. A man beside a trebuchet was gesturing frantically at Keith’s position. Knights were always a priority target, between the extra training they received and the aid of a Guardian Angel, they were terrifying forces on the battlefield. The loss of a Knight lowered moral and could turn an otherwise successful battle. And they were nearly all noble-born, a political target as well. It wasn’t difficult to believe that, unable to kill Keith by traditional tactics, the enemy would resort to the newer weapons of war. He wouldn’t allow it.
“I’ll be right back!” He warned Keith that his side would be unprotected for a few moments and launched himself into he air, swooping towards the trebuchet before they could steal the world from him.
It wasn’t easy, but a few snapped lines, pulled pins and the trebuchet was a misaligned disaster of parts. Useless. It wouldn’t fire again. He ignored the cries of its operators as he turned, winging his way back to his Knight.
Even from here he could see that Keith had dispatched the second opponent and was quickly overwhelming the last one. He breathed in a sigh of relief. They could do this. They would see another day.
Keith’s scored a fatal blow across the man’s chest, sending him staggering backwards.
Relief flooded Shiro’s heart as he closed the last yards.
Then from the corner of his eye he saw movement. Arrows released from bows, streaking across the blue sky over the gory ground.
He was so close, but too far to beat the arrows there.
Shiro cried out, desperate, “Behind!”
Keith was fast. Always so fast, but the arrows were faster. He saw the moment he registered Shiro’s voice, and then the arrows were there, plunging into his unguarded back. One pierced all the way through, shaft blossoming on his chest in a pool of darker red against the scarlet tunic. His front was a macabre parody to the sunset colors of peaceful days lying in the grass.
Keith looked down at it, empty fingertips coming up to brush the arrowhead in disbelief. His own blood painted his palm. His sword was still gripped in his other hand, as if the wounds hadn’t yet registered as pain.
Shiro didn’t stop flying for him. His Knight. His, “Keith!”
Keith looked up to his voice and galaxy eyes widened with an expression Shiro didn’t know.
Keith’s fingers loosened, and his sword dropped heavily to the ground, eyes locked onto Shiro as he descended before him.
He reached out with one hand, eyes still wide, ignoring the battle that continued to mill around them, “Shiro?”
Suddenly Shiro understood, the rumors of one moment when your Knight would see you. It hadn’t been the Accolade. It had never been the Accolade. Keith could see him now. Only at the end. He spread his arms out, reaching back, feeling the tears spilling over his cheeks.
Keith raised his other arm in answer and wrapped them around Shiro’s shoulders the moment he was within reach, pulling him down and against him. Shiro returned the gesture, heart full and breaking in the same moment, wrapping himself around Keith for whatever time he had.
Whatever they had left was only for each other.
Keith pulled back slightly, pulling Shiro’s face up to look at him, thumbs brushing back the tears he couldn’t stop, “You’re beautiful. How could I be so lucky? After everything, you’re beautiful too.”
“Keith,” Shiro forced himself to smile, meeting Keith’s eyes through the tears. “I love you.”
The smile that spread across Keith’s face was radiant, despite everything. “I always wondered what expression you made when you said that. When I,” He chuckled. “I love you, Shiro.”
Hands drifted to cup his chin, pulling him forward, and Shiro went where Keith led. Always had. Always would.
“I love you.”
Their lips met, and Shiro knew whatever came after, they’d be together, and that was worth it all.