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daylight doesn't make it right

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Keith’s numb as he shoves his way through the door to his room, tossing his helmet aside and trying to get his gloves off. He can’t seem to get a grip on anything, because his hands are shaking so badly, and this is by far the most pathetic he’s ever been.

The fight hadn’t even been that complicated, but Keith had managed to screw everything up. His complete inability to listen to directions had reared its ugly head, and Pidge had almost died when Red knocked their lion towards an energy field thats damage is only lessened by Pidge’s own quick thinking. (Pidge is surprisingly gracious about it, brushing it off with “Yeah, I needed to test my emergency stop upgrades, no worries,” but even as the team is breaking up to head to bed, they look shaken. Keith still isn't ready to think about the distrustful gaze Allura kept on him the whole time, he’s not letting himself dwell on that for now, he’s already on the verge of a breakdown without that particular observation, he doesn’t need to dwell on the fact that big consequences are coming his way.)

He doesn’t deserve to sleep after what he’s done, so he just finishes taking off his flight suit and heads to the training deck. He’s very careful in the halls as he passes his teammate’s rooms, because Shiro especially has terrifyingly good hearing, but there’s no noise from any of them as he inches past. Which is good, because he doesn’t know what Allura would do if she caught him alone.

It’s impossible to tell how long Keith spends slashing his way through training bots on levels three and four. The bots’ movements get repetitive, it’s getting too simple.

There aren’t any clocks on the training deck, there isn’t much way to tell time at all, but Keith can tell by the way his arms are drooping that it’s been awhile since he was supposed to go to sleep. He’s shivering with how much sweat is covering his neck and face, and he can’t even feel his hands gripping his sword. He should stop before someone finds him here.

Then he remembers he almost killed Pidge, he remembers their terrified shriek before the brakes kicked in, and any thought of stopping leaves his mind. Maybe he can make up for it by showing Allura that he’s trying, that he’ll work to make sure it doesn’t happen again (he knows that she won’t care, she’s angry at him for jeopardizing a teammate). Keith says to the ceiling, “Start training level twelve.”

The robot that’s deployed is fast, and Keith is doing everything he can to keep up, but then he loses focus in a dizzy spell and the bot smacks him in the chest so hard he goes flying, slamming into the ground, everything is rushing at him and Keith can’t get up and--

Someone’s shouting “Stop the simulation!” and there are steps running towards where Keith is lying on the ground. “Keith, what the hell are you doing?!”

Keith can barely comprehend that it’s Lance before Lance is crouched next to him and trying to coax him into a sitting position against the wall. The training bot must have thrown him pretty far, which is probably why sharp bolts of pain are lancing up Keith’s back.

Lance is still talking at a million miles an hour, sounding confused and angry, but Keith can’t keep up. He doesn’t have his sword anymore--had he dropped it? Where is it ?--and he’s in a whole lot of pain, but he can’t find energy to do anything about it.

“Shut up,” Keith manages, and Lance, miraculously, shuts up. For a whole two seconds.

“Have you been in here all night?” Lance demands. Keith doesn’t answer, which seems like enough of an answer for Lance. “I’m getting Shiro.”

No .” Keith reaches for the last of his strength, tries to get to his feet, ends up blacking out for a split second as soon as he tries to straighten his legs. It’s possible he should have eaten before training. It’s also possible that wearing his binder for more than fifteen hours is a health concern.

“Why are you doing this to yourself?” Lance doesn’t know when to quit. Keith dimly realizes Lance is supporting him by gripping both of his elbows, the only thing keeping Keith from falling.

Keith’s eyes feel hot with tears, though it’s most likely from exertion and not from guilt or pain or embarrassment or anything stupid like that. He tries not to look directly at Lance, who’s attempting to engage in some very intense eye contact and slowly lowering him until he’s lying down again. “I can’t mess up again, Lance.”

“And training at level however-high is going to help.” Lance rolls his eyes. “You’re so dumb.”

“I almost killed Pidge!” Keith snaps, even though he can hardly get coherent words out and he’s clutching at his abdomen as the pain in his ribs spikes over and over every time he breathes. “That can’t happen again, I can’t lose any of you!”

“We can’t lose you either,” Lance says, and it feels like he’s gently pushing Keith’s hair back from his forehead to help him cool down. When had Lance become so levelheaded, anyway? “Listen, I’m gonna get Shiro. You’re not looking so good, and I don’t know, like, any first aid.”

Keith’s next few breaths are borderline wheezing, which probably doesn’t help his cause, but the only thing worse than Lance finding him in this state is his older brother finding him like this (well, Allura finding him like this wouldn’t be a picnic either, but Lance doesn’t dislike Keith enough to go get her). “He needs to sleep, leave him alone.”

“I’ll be back in a few minutes, don’t go anywhere.” Lance disappears from Keith’s immediate line of sight, and there’s not much strength left in Keith to do anything about it.

He curls up on himself and shivers, slowly getting his breath back, but he’s barely recovered at all by the time Lance returns with Shiro in tow. Shiro kneels down next to Keith and yanks him into a somewhat upright position, making his head spin. “What were you thinking ?”

Keith glowers and pushes Shiro’s hands off of him. “I know what I’m doing.”

Despite the fact that he’s half-conscious and ready to accept death with open arms, he feels a rush of gratitude when Shiro lowers his voice, speaking in Korean instead of English so that Lance can’t understand--Keith thinks about asking when the fuck Shiro had learned Korean, but he’d better not get off-topic--Shiro can apparently tell that Keith’s not telling any sort of truth when Lance is around. “Sure you do. You’re still wearing your binder, it’s been hours, and you haven’t eaten. You want to see what happens if I catch you doing this again?”

“I almost killed them,” Keith says, the Korean coming much easier to him than finding the words he needs in English. He tugs at his binder ineffectively to prove to Shiro that he heard him, he just doesn’t have the capacity to act on it. It never ends well if Shiro thinks Keith isn’t listening to him. “How can any of them trust me when I'm Galra? They’re scared of me, I need to do this--”

“You’re okay, Keith. You need to rest, then apologize to them. No more of this.” Shiro goes back to English to say “Okay, let’s get you to bed,” and Lance is looking between them suspiciously, but he nods at this.

“C’mon, I can help,” Lance says.

Keith doesn’t trust his legs, so he elects to be obnoxious. “Isn’t it past your bedtime?”

“Shut up, mullet-brain, you can’t walk by yourself.”

Shiro gives a ghost of a smile at that, like that’s exactly what he would have said, and suddenly Keith feels very ganged-up on. “Do you need help, or are you good, Keith?”

There’s no way for him to back out of this without both of them seeing how pathetic he is. Keith glares at Shiro, electing not to answer that and instead mutter under his breath about how Shiro’s a traitorous bastard. Lance grabs his arm and pulls him up to his feet again, and Keith does his best to seem like he could have done it on his own while also trying not to throw up on Lance’s socked feet.

“Thank you for getting me,” Shiro says.

“Sure thing, Space Dad.” Lance stops to give a jaunty salute, but the brief lapse in his focus causes Keith to stumble. Keith shouldn’t be relying this much on Lance, he should learn to stand on his own two feet--Lance is saying something and Keith isn’t listening. “--Should I carry him?”

“Can you lift him?” Shiro responds, and Keith wants to badly to push both of them away, to scream at both of them that he doesn’t deserve this, but then Lance is attempting to sweep him off his feet and Keith finds himself throwing an arm around Lance’s neck and trying not to yelp.

“See you at breakfast, Shiro.”

“Don’t you dare drop him,” Shiro says, and he sounds like he’s laughing.

Keith is torn between being terrified that Lance is going to drop him and being annoyed at being carried like he’s Pidge after too many all-nighters catch up to them. “I can walk,” he grumbles, his tongue feeling too heavy to let him speak.

"Sure.” Lance kicks the door of the training room open, staggers a few feet back with the force. “I thought you knew better than this, Keith.”

“What?” Keith is shivering while trying not to shiver. “Better than what?”

“I don't know! Aren't you supposed to know your own limits, and what's going to help the team? You're the ace pilot, right?” Lance turns around and uses his back to push through the set of double doors leading to the barracks. “And here you are, only thinking about yourself. There are other people here who care about you.”

Keith snorts at that, but that's obviously a wrong move, because Lance stops moving and looks down at him.

“We care about you,” Lance says forcefully.  

Fairly uncomfortable now, Keith just rolls his eyes. He doesn't want this to go on any longer than it has to. “Okay. Whatever.”

“I'm not kidding around.”

Whatever ,” Keith repeats. “Can you put me down now?”

“Can you walk like an actual person now?”

Keith finds himself on shaky legs, like a baby deer, and feels Lance wrap an arm around his waist to help him stay up. “You don’t need to help me,” Keith says.

“You don’t want help, or you don’t think you deserve help?” Lance asks, and it’s so weirdly insightful that Keith just decides to ignore it entirely. Lance is on some next-level shit this morning.

The rest of the trip back to Keith’s room is uneventful, and once he’s there, he turns and nods to Lance. “Thanks, I guess.”

“You going to be okay by yourself?” Lance asks, suspicious.

“Uh, yeah?” Keith fixes him with his most stern look, but it probably turns out a little more exhausted and ragged and pathetic, because Lance furrows his eyebrows. Giving up on convincing him, Keith just shuts his door, barring any further discussion.

 

In the morning, Keith’s stomach is too full of anxiety for him to want anything to eat, but he puts clothes on and heads to the kitchen anyway. He needs to find Pidge to apologize; that much of Shiro’s advice is true, and he hopes-prays that Allura isn’t going to be at breakfast this morning.

A glance at his reflection on the way there tells him that he’s not going to do anything but worry or upset his teammates further, with the dark bags under his eyes and bruises travelling up his arms and the fact that he’s wearing casual civilian wear instead of his uniform. It’s apparent that he isn’t ready for a fight.

When he enters the kitchen and Allura’s gaze locks onto him, he thinks maybe he should be.

“Oh, good morning, my man!” Hunk says, he’s feigning how casual he is and they all know it. “Rough night?”

“He tried level, like, gazillion on the simulator,” Lance says, his words light but his tone anything but.

“Cut him some slack, he put up a good fight.” Even Shiro’s calm voice has an edge to it, like he can tell that Allura’s aura is ten shades of pissed off. He can always tell when something’s going to happen (he was there with Keith when they learned this skill, it kept them alive for years).

“You okay?” Pidge asks, and that’s what reminds Keith that he has a mission here, he can’t let Allura scare him out of it.

He goes against every instinct in his body and breaks eye contact with Allura, looking to Pidge and clearing his throat. “Uh, Pidge, could I talk to you for a second? Out in the hall--”

“I don’t think that’s wise,” Allura says, her voice like a knife.

The sudden heavy silence in the kitchen pushes down on Keith’s shoulders, his words dying in his mouth (something about her being furious with him scares him, she has a look in her eye like she’s out for blood this morning. Keith’s been around adults who get like this, he knows it doesn’t end well for him). He stares at nothing, his next words sound mechanical and rehearsed. “I just need a second,” he says tonelessly.

“Allura, it’s fine .” Pidge moves, Keith sees them come up and take him by the elbow and steer him into the hallway (he also sees Allura start to get up and follow, but hesitate because someone says something to her, Keith doesn’t have the capacity to process who it is or what they say, he just hopes they hold her off long enough). They give Keith a smile, looking up at him through those big glasses. “What’s eatin’ ya?”

Keith wraps an arm around his stomach, trying to give himself the moral support he needs to have this conversation. “Pidge, I’m so sorry for yesterday, there was no excuse for--”

“Are we still on this?” Pidge waves their hand. “Dude.”

“I risked your life and that’s--that’s not okay !”

“We all make mistakes, Keith-y. If you’ll recall, last month I blew up the entire east sector of the science wing!”

Knowing his time is running out, Keith gets more urgent. “But you’re not a science wing , you’re one of my only friends, and I’m working on it, I promise it won’t happen again--”

“Keith, I trust you.” Pidge smiles, but after a moment of quiet passes, it’s clear they can tell that their words haven’t eased how much Keith is tearing himself apart. “‘It won’t happen again’ is good enough for me,” they insist.

“Pidge, can I speak with Keith?” Allura has joined them in the hallway. Time is up.

Keith is prepared for Pidge to nod and desert him, but they don’t. They take Keith’s hand in theirs and turn to Allura, more confident than Keith has ever seen them. “If it’s about me, you can probably say it in front of me,” they say cheerfully.

Allura frowns. “It’s not about you.”

Pidge tilts their head to the side, voice still sweet. “Then it’s probably going to be more of your thinly-veiled racism, in which case I would still like to keep Keith company.”

“Pidge,” Keith hisses, heart pounding.

If she wasn’t angry before, Allura definitely is now. “Pidge, leave, or you’re grounded.”

“Oh, sure, ground me, Mom.” Pidge rolls their eyes, deliberately provoking Allura at this point. Usually, they stop at teasing or pranks, but this feels like more and Keith has no idea how they’re even able to do this without freaking out. “I’m trying to comfort my friend right now, can you try again later?” They turn to Keith, putting their back to Allura, and Keith is terrified out his mind (he doesn’t even know why, he doesn’t know why he’s so scared of Allura getting angry, he doesn’t know why he’s shaking. She can’t hurt him or Pidge, she’s not allowed to).

“After yesterday, he’s no teammate or friend of yours,” Allura snarls, making only the smallest movement forward, but it’s enough. It’s sudden and angry and it’s enough.

Keith grabs Pidge and bolts.

Someone behind him is yelling, he thinks, he can’t hear much. He goes around a corner, rebounds off a wall and keeps going, running for somewhere to hide, anywhere she isn’t going to come after them.

“Keith, it’s okay,” Pidge is saying. They’re tripping over their feet trying to keep up with Keith’s pace. “What are you doing?”

“We have to hide,” Keith says. He doesn’t know why he needs to explain this to them, but he figures that Pidge had a much more loving household atmosphere growing up.

Keith finds himself at the training deck door, and he finally releases Pidge’s arm. He puts his hand on the scanner, but it beeps red instead of green. He tries again, but it still rejects him. Did she really--? Keith just wants to get inside where he can be safe, he can hear footsteps pounding down the hallways he took to get here.

“We don’t have to hide,” Pidge is saying to him, three or four times. Seeing that they aren’t getting through to him, they say, “Hey! I’m going to get Shiro. Okay? I’ll be fine.”

They’re gone before Keith can reach out and keep them here. He ignores the fear in his throat, telling himself that they can fend for themselves, even though they’re like, ten .

He tries the keypad again, and when it doesn’t work, he punches the door with all his strength.

It doesn’t yield, but Keith is so full of panic-frustration-desperation that he tries again and again, trying to hit his way through the door, until tears and pain cloud his vision and he can hardly see which way he’s swinging his fists.

Keith ,” someone says, and that must be Shiro wrapping his arms around Keith from behind and dragging him backward, but Keith keeps struggling, trying to get back at the door. Looking at it now, it’s slick with blood and Keith can feel that his knuckles are the same.

“I have to hide ,” Keith says, his voice desperate and shrill. “She’s coming to get me, she’s locked me out of the system because she hates me --”

“Nobody’s coming to get you.” Shiro turns him around and holds his arms firmly so that Keith can’t get away. “We locked you out of the training deck for now because we didn’t want last night to happen again. Keith, you’re safe here.”

Keith wants to believe Shiro so badly, he knows that Shiro is just as experienced in telling when someone’s getting ready to hurt him, but he’s too panicked to think this through. He pushes against Shiro’s chest, trying to get away from him. He hiccups, swallows a sob, looks down the hallway Shiro came from and sees Pidge coming back, with Lance in tow. He’s so certain Allura’s going to be there too that he tries to run again. “Let go !” Keith screams.

Shiro lets go, surprised. Keith stumbles back, gets his feet under him, and takes off down the hall again. Red will keep him safe. His feet take him there, he gets into the hangar, he knows Red can tell how upset he is because she opens her entrance immediately and lets him run in before closing up behind him.

Keith stumbles through the ship, ends up collapsing into the chair, and finally, he stops. Everything is quiet for the fifteen minutes he sits there, getting his wits about him.

Examining his hands, they look bad. The fraction of skin left intact is already beginning to bruise. It looks like something Shiro’s going to have a Talk with him about, along with his training habits, but Keith can deal with that later. Keith can hide out in here until this has blown over.

He takes a deep breath of the dark, still air in the cockpit, and gets himself to take a look outside. Nobody has followed him into the hangar yet, but he knows at least Shiro is going to (he’s well aware of Keith’s tendency towards being not-good to himself when he’s upset). That’s fine, he’ll deal with that when it happens.

Allura’s been upset with him before, but never to this extent. Maybe it’s because there had been a life-threatening error on his part, or maybe because he’s Galra now, or maybe Keith’s freaking out and blowing everything out of proportion because he has a history of getting his ass handed to him by people who are supposed to care about him.

Either way, he’s made it into a big deal, and he can either continue to avoid it or leave the lion and let Allura do whatever harm to him she wants to.

Keith chooses the former and rests his chin on his knees, slowly calmed by the quiet mechanical humming that Red is making around him.

 

“--Let me check those hands of yours, alright?”

Keith blinks, slowly sitting up and feeling his back protest. How long has he been out? The hangar outside is dark, the only light coming from the ones in the console that seem to have been activated by someone who isn’t him. “Sorry, what?” he mumbles. Trying to discover who’s there, he turns his head, stopping when he feels the crick in his neck protest. “Coran?”

“Indeed.” Coran crouches in front of the chair, holding his hand out. “I would like to make sure your hands have no severe damage to them, if you don’t mind.”

Keith holds one hand out for Coran to examine. “How did you get in here?”

“Oh, me and Red are old friends. She’s quite the lion!” Coran says. He produces some kind of swab from a small medical kit on the ground, begins cleaning the cuts along Keith’s knuckles. “You really did a number on these, paladin.”

Keith looks away. “Yeah.”

Unlike he would have done a year ago, Coran doesn’t force conversation. He seems to have become able to read a room better than anyone on the ship, and he’s gotten to know Keith and his preference for quiet, too. He uses a weird goo to accelerate the healing of Keith’s left hand, which he’s informed is fractured in two places, then when he’s finished cleaning and bandaging the other hand, he stands up to leave, all without a word.

“Thanks, Coran,” Keith manages to say.

Coran gives a jaunty little salute. “When you’re ready, Shiro would like to check in with you.” And he’s gone, leaving the lion and heading back out of the hangar. Keith watches him go, feeling a little less alone (and a little less in severe pain).

It takes him a while to get up the courage to leave his secure hiding spot, but Keith eventually unfolds himself from the chair and ventures out. He checks both ways before entering the hallway, and creeps through the halls until he reaches Shiro’s room. He’s ready to knock when he hears voices inside.

“I didn’t think he would react so strongly,” says Allura, and Keith freezes. She sounds upset, and he’s not going to get in her way. “It wasn’t my intention to--”

“Yes it was,” Shiro cuts her off. He sounds tired . Did Keith do that? “You wanted to scare him off, because you were worried about Pidge.”

“He endangered a fellow paladin--”

“He made a mistake. ” Shiro sighs. “He’s just a kid, Allura, Galra or not. Even you have to admit your behavior was unacceptable.”

Allura lets out a long breath. “I was just--rattled, I suppose. He’s still erratic out in battle, you know that.”

“I don’t think shouting at him is going to help anyone , especially not Keith. You saw how he reacted--he’s not going to bounce back from this very easily.”

"Keith?” someone whispers from behind him, and Keith startles, jerking his head up and putting his hands up to block his face. It’s just Hunk, who looks really fucking worried. “Holy cow, dude, you look bad.”

Keith wants to laugh. He feels his face crumple instead, and Hunk swears. “Shit. Sorry, that was--please don’t cry. Let me just,” he says, and wipes Keith’s tears with one thumb, in the most awkward way possible. “Do you want to come hang out in my room?”

Hunk is so sweet .

Keith wants to lash out and reject the offer. He knows that in the past, he would have, and he would have hated himself for the vindictive pleasure he got, and would have accepted the loneliness he thought he deserved. But Keith is exhausted, and not being alone sounds really nice, even if it’s only for safety in numbers--and Allura wouldn’t expect him to be with the others, most likely (Allura wouldn’t attack him in front of the others, either). He nods, swipes more tears from his face, lets Hunk put an arm around his shoulders.

He’s guided to Hunk’s room, and the door slides open to reveal Pidge and Lance perched on the bed, looking through several holos to find the one they want to watch. There’s a couple plates of snacks balanced on the bedside table. Both of them look up with big smiles when the door slides open, and Pidge waves Keith over and pats a spot next to them, indicating that he should sit. “Hey, loser! Are you feeling better?”

“Were you just--did you just camp out and hope Hunk was going to find me?” Keith manages to choke out a laugh, except instead of stopping his tears with the shift in mood, they just get worse. “Sorry. I’m--sorry.” He curls his shoulders in, trying to shield whatever emotions are running through him from his teammates. “I should...” He turns to leave, but Hunk blocks his way with one arm and turns him back towards Pidge and Lance.

“This is a team-mandatory sleepover,” Lance says, and slams his hand into the bed at least four times more aggressively than Pidge had. “Sit your ass down.”

Keith decides he doesn’t want to fight right now, and sits his ass down. Hunk sits next to him, and puts an arm around his shoulders, which are sort of shuddering--oh, right, he’s still crying.

The others don’t say much to him, but they keep up cheerful commentary of the movie, and over the course of a couple hours, they slowly pull Keith out of the panic he’s been in for the last day or so. Keith finds himself with his head on Hunk’s shoulder, with Pidge dozing on his other side, and Lance sprawled across all of them, sort of drooling in his sleep.

“Feel better?” Hunk asks.

“Yeah. Thanks.” Keith’s nose is stuffy, but he’s calm. Somewhere around the first hour mark, his hands had stopped shaking, and he’d eaten at least half of the snacks, not having eaten since lunch the previous day. “Sorry for having a total breakdown.”

“You’re fine. Sorry Allura’s being the worst .”

His chest twinges at the mention of Allura, but he reminds himself that Shiro talked to her and that he doesn’t need to see her for a few more hours, at least. “She’s just doing what she thinks is right. That doesn’t give me an excuse to be a fucking moron.”

“Keith, you’re not a moron.”

“Yeah, I am! I can handle going out into space and shooting aliens with my big lion warship but I can’t talk to Allura for more than ten seconds at a time? She’s not supposed to hurt me, I know that--” And here, Keith clamps his mouth shut, because he might as well have just shot himself in the foot.

He feels Hunk turn his head to look at him. There’s a beat of quiet, and then Hunk says slowly, “Allura would never hurt any of us, dude.”

Abruptly, Keith sits up, displacing both Lance and Pidge. Thankfully, neither of them stir. “I’m gonna head to bed.”

Hunk doesn’t push the issue, but Keith knows that millions of gears in his head are quickly turning towards a conclusion. Hunk knows Keith well enough to know that Keith has a lot of baggage, and there are only so many places this particular baggage could come from. “Sure. Sleep well, pal.”

"You know me,” Keith says. He extricates himself from the cuddle puddle and is gone.

 

He wakes up and he doesn’t know what time it is.

Pidge has rigged a clock to run on earth time, and it’s sitting on his bedside table, but he doesn’t know if it’s five AM or five PM. Not that it matters, really. He just feels disconnected from everything when he can’t orient himself in space.

His hands feel worse than they did yesterday. They’re swelling a little, but the bandages look fine, and Keith isn’t interested in getting them changed right now. There’s probably something the healing pods could do for him, but the idea of being unconscious and completely vulnerable for long periods of time in a castle with Allura makes him shudder.

He should get up. He doesn’t know what time it is.

Someone knocks on his door an hour later, and he just pulls his blankets over his head. It’s about six now. Whatever that means.

“Keith?” Shiro asks. Keith wishes he didn’t owe Shiro his life about a hundred times over.

“Yeah,” he mumbles into the pillow, and wishes Allura had just shot him into space like she’d wanted to. He’s wishing a lot of things this morning.

“You wanna get breakfast before everyone wakes up?”

Keith knows that’s the safest option, but he can’t get himself to sit up. Every inch of his body has been conditioned to think that he’s a target as soon as he steps outside his safe zones, and the safe zones he has established right now do not include any of the hallways of the castle.

“No,” he says. “Allura’s mad.”

“She’s not mad.” Shiro sounds patient, which is a good sign. “Can I come in?”

“Are you alone?”

“Yeah. It’s just me.”

“Are you armed?”

Shiro pauses, and Keith hears a clunk against the floor outside. “Not anymore.”

“Okay.” The door slides open, and Keith fights the urge to tense up. “Hey, bud,” Shiro says, and Keith feels him sit down on the edge of the bed.

“Hey,” Keith mumbles into his pillow.

“Bad day?” Shiro asks, his voice a little wry.

“Not great so far.” Keith pulls the blanket down, and breathes in fresh air and turns his head to look at Shiro with dull eyes. “How are you?”

Shiro’s mouth twists into a sympathetic smile. “I’m fine. Let’s go get breakfast, alright?”

“Fine,” Keith says, and sits up and rubs his eyes and feels a big comforting Shiro Hand on his back. A sharp pain lances through his head from front to back, though he guesses that’s probably just because he’s dehydrated and hasn’t eaten. He figures his hands look pretty bad to someone who isn’t him, but he sees Shiro side-eye them and figures Shiro would speak up if something was terribly wrong.

Breakfast is quiet. Keith picks at his food. Shiro drinks space coffee. It’s sort of nice.

“You headed back into your room?” Shiro asks when Keith stands to leave.

“Yeah, I don’t…”

“Don’t want to see Allura.” Shiro nods. “Okay. I can tell her to steer clear.”

Keith nods affirmative, knowing that Shiro knows he’s thankful and he doesn’t have to say anything. “I’ll see you.”

“Have a good nap,” Shiro says.

Keith turns, and runs directly into Allura.

After he processes this, he backs up fast enough that he almost trips over his feet, but gets stopped by the edge of the table at his back. There’s a scrape of a chair as Shiro presumably stands behind him.

There’s nowhere for him to run. He just watches Allura and tries to think of an escape plan.

Allura doesn’t step forward, thankfully--she can probably tell that Keith already feels cornered, pinned to the table by her gaze. “Good morning, Keith,” she says, exaggeratedly calm.

“Hi,” Keith says.

“Did you sleep well?” She doesn’t sound like herself. She sounds like she’s doing everything in her power to sound normal, talking to him like a caged animal.

“I slept fine,” Keith says in a monotone.

“That’s good,” she says.

They stare at each other for a few more seconds.

Allura sighs, and glances downwards. She doesn’t make eye contact again. “I was out of line yesterday.”

Keith waits.

“You’re my...teammate. I’m sorry that I overreacted.”

“You didn’t overreact,” Keith forces out. He wants to be anywhere else in the universe right now, but he keeps talking--it’s a survival instinct. “It’s understandable. I forgive you.”

“Keith,” Shiro says behind him, warning him not to take the easy way out.

Allura doesn’t look super reassured, either. “No, you don’t have to--you don’t have to forgive me. Pidge is fine, and I overreacted. It’s alright to be angry with me.”

Keith doesn’t know what to do--he’s unsure how to even process this. Allura doesn’t seem to be on the verge of anger, but his forgiveness hadn’t gotten her to let the matter go, either. Usually, the easy way out worked. “I don’t understand,” he says, studying her body language carefully. She doesn’t look like she’s about to jump him, but he’s been wrong about her before.

“I should have been more aware of how you were reacting.” When Keith still doesn’t really react, she sighs and says, “Keith, I’m apologizing.”

Oh. “I told you it’s fine.”

“I don’t think it is,” Allura insists, and steps forward suddenly. Keith knows that both she and Shiro see him flinch backwards, his hand coming up halfway to block his face before he realizes what’s happening and he forces it back down. “See?”

“Don’t do that,” Keith pleads.

“Okay.” Allura holds up her hands, a gesture of nonaggression, and Keith steps to his left so he can move around the table backwards. Eventually, he bumps into Shiro, where he feels safer, and Shiro puts a hand on his shoulder.

“You don’t need to respond, but I’m extremely sorry for how I acted yesterday,” Allura says again.

Keith nods tightly, aware that he’s not supposed to answer.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” she says. Which is exactly what someone would say if they were going to hurt Keith, but, fine.

“I know,” Keith lies.

Behind him, Shiro half-sighs, half-laughs in the way he does when he’s frustrated and out of his depth at the same time. “Can we just sit down and talk this out, please?”

“Okay,” Allura says, and has a seat at the table.

Keith reluctantly sits across from her, hands clenched together in his lap. Shiro sits next to him.

They talk about it. Keith’s contributions to the conversation are stilted, awkward. He doesn’t know how much to share with Allura, and Allura seems wary of setting him off again, so they work through the issue slowly. The conversation ends with Keith having shared little-to-nothing about his childhood, and Allura making no concessions to stop hating Galra (possibly including Keith), but there’s at least a non-aggression treaty in place.

Shiro looks exhausted from having negotiated all of this, but he finally says, “Alright, good talk. You can go now, Keith.”

Keith doesn’t need to be told twice, and unashamedly bolts from the room.

 

It’s going to take weeks for Keith to feel at ease walking through the castle again, but the talk at least gets his heart rate back down to normal. Shiro still hasn’t let Keith back into the training area, except for team practice, so Keith just kind of sits in his room. It’s pathetic, really. He should be able to speak up for himself.

Lance finally barges in one day, without knocking, and says, “Hey, come fight me.”

Keith looks up at him blankly. “I’m not allowed in the training--”

Not waiting for him to finish that sentence, Lance has already grabbed his arm and yanked him to his feet and out into the hallway. “I’m sneaking you in, because you look so incredibly sad right now.”

“Fair,” Keith concedes.

“Can you pick up the pace? Someone’s gonna see us if you don’t hurry.” Lance tugs on Keith’s arm. “I’ll race you.”

It’s no doubt a ploy to cheer Keith up, but Keith just rolls his eyes and does it anyway. He takes off, Lance hot at his heels, and calls over his shoulder, “You can try!”

They skid around a corner, almost toppling each other over in the confusion, and then keep going. On their way, a door hisses open and Shiro comes out, followed by Allura, but Keith keeps going. He spins around Allura, and Lance crashes right into Keith, and they both tumble to the ground.

“That’s sabotage,” Keith says, struggling to all fours and ignoring that his ribs still hurt from last week.

“What are you two doing?” Allura asks.

“Definitely not sneaking Keith--I mean, uhh I don’t know,” Lance says, like an idiot, but he’s already to his feet and going down the hall, and Keith charges after him (and away from potential consequences for their actions).

They hit the training deck door at the same time, and then ricochet off with the force it took.

Lance says, gasping for breath, “I definitely had a millisecond on you.”

“Okay,” Keith says, and laughs. “No you didn’t. Plus you cheated.”

“WHERE!” Lance demands. He keys in his code to the training deck and the door slides open. “You’re the worst sore loser.”

“Uh, I didn’t lose , though.” Keith follows Lance in, and the door closes behind them. “I can rematch you right now.

“Pass,” Lance says. He’s still kind of wheezing. “I know you hate being the slower one, but it’s okay. You can try again next time.”

“I’ll kill you,” Keith says, and finds a staff on the ground to swing at Lance. Lance cackles and moves out of the way.

“Not if I kill you first!” Lance says, and straight-up lunges at Keith to tackle him, making wiggly-hand motions like he’s going to try and tickle Keith or some shit.

Keith leaps out of the way, saying, “What the fuck is wrong with you!” but he’s laughing again. He feels secure and grounded, and only partly because he knows that the attacks Lance is throwing at him are all out of friendship. Friendship violence.

He’ll be okay, is the main thing. He’s feeling safe. Even though Lance has found a large sword to swing at him.