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The Clashing of Swords (is louder than the beating of my heart)

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Every athlete has a defining moment in their career. That moment comes in the form of besting your time or making a goal or getting that touch. Every human being alive has that moment. For Keith Kogane, that moment was when he punched Lotor in the face.

 

Keith was always hot tempered. He always had this fire in him that couldn’t be tamed. There was this primal need to fight, to be aggressive. That might have something to do with why he was so good at saber. The fast, aggressive nature of saber suited Keith’s attitude very well. That or he just really hated his opponents.

It was certainly the latter in the case of Lotor. Lotor was a pale, skinny guy who was incredibly entitled. He believed he deserved the world because his father was the head coach of Galra Fencing Club. Keith hated him with every fiber of his being. The guy was a prick, and Kieth dealt with enough pricks in general. He didn’t need them at practice too.

Keith generally avoided Lotor as much as possible during practice. It wasn’t that hard, they were a pretty big club so he had lots of partners to choose from. But since they had the same national ranking they were almost always in the same pool during pool night. Pool night in general was the bane of his existence. Keith hated doing five touch bouts and pool nights were always five touch. They went by too fast for him. Of course they were also peer refereed and no one wanted to make a call against Lotor.

Except for one scrawny, black haired kid (why were all fencers scrawny? It was like a rule or something) who was either the bravest or the stupidest person in existence. Keith liked to think it was a mix of both.

The kid, who’s name Keith could never remember, had given Keith the winning touch. It was clearly Keith’s touch, a perfect parry riposte done fast and efficiently. Lotor did a counter attack and scored as well. He didn’t agree with the call, because how could the referee give that point to someone other than him?

“What was that call you imbecile? That was clearly my counter attack!” Lotor shouted at the small kid after he threw down his mask. Keith rolled his eyes and tucked his mask under his arm.

“I-um... he did a parry riposte? And that makes it his?” It came out more as a question than a answer.

“Lotor, drop it,” Keith said. Lotor turned to face his glare on Keith. At this point it didn’t scare him.

“And why should I Kogane?”

“Because anyone with two eyes and brain could tell that it was my touch. You can’t yell at the ref for making a fair call.” Lotor stalked up to Keith.

“And I hold the most control in this club. If I think it is my point it is my point. No questions asks.” Keith scoffed.

“Don’t be such a dick.” Lotor snarled in response.

“Remember your place Kogan. We can Kick you right back out to the trailer park where we found you.”

Keith had always been quick to anger. So it was no surprise when he pulled his right arm back, and socked Lotor in the eye. Lotor stumbled back, holding his eye. “You’ll pay for that Kogane,” He said and then leaped at Keith. They scuffled on the ground for a minute with Lotor getting a solid punch to Keith’s nose, before they were pulled apart by Coach Zarkon.

“What is the meaning of this?!” He shouted. Coach Zarkon was broad and pale and very, very Russian. He was a strict no nonsense coach that tolerated absolutely no bullshit. Keith didn’t like him that much. But Zarkon had been to one to get him a solid national ranking, so Keith stayed. Keith also stayed because GFA was also a boarding school, and Keith needed a place to stay after his parents died and he had a falling out with his brother. GFA was better than foster care. It was the best (read: only) place for him to stay.

But he might not be staying for much longer.

“Lotor, explain!” Coach Zarkon shouted at his son. Lotor stood up and readjusted the hem of his lamé.

“Kogane didn’t like the referee’s call, Father. He got aggressive with the referee and I. When I defended my point he just punched me. I had to defend my self of course so I—,” Zarkon cut him off.

“Is this true?” He asked turning to the small ref. The poor kid looked terrified, he had the head coach staring him down and Lotor was giving him the stink eye.

“I-um-I...” the kid looked between Keith, Lotor, and Zarkon. “Yes, yes that’s true.” Keith sighed. He knew that the kid would lie to protect his spot. If Keith was in the same position he would too. Galra Fencing Academy was one of America’s best, losing your spot was almost like losing your chance.

Zarkon turned to Keith. “Assaulting another student is grounds for expulsion. Considering you are one of our top saber fencers I would have let it slide. Except that it is your third warning this year. I want you and your things packed and gone by morning. Is that clear?” Zarkon’s voice left no room for argument. Keith knew that this would happen eventually. He was never wanted for longer than necessary. Once people knew of his temper they would cast him aside, calling him a lost cause or leave him.

It’s always been like that. Even with his parents and his brother. They would always hate his temper and leaving him to stew in it for hours on end. But they would come back, and they would sit and talk to him. They tried.

They were the only ones who tried.

Maybe it was time for him to try too.

Keith gave a small, sharp nod to Zarkon. “Yes sir.” He replied. Keith then unhooked from the strip, grabbed his equipment, and made his way back to the dormitories.

 

The rooms at GFA were small, cramped things. He was lucky enough that his roommate disappeared at the beginning of the semester so he had a room to himself. It was still cramped though. A bunk bed, two small desks, and virtually no closet space. Also one window that couldn’t close that well and always made the room extra cold in the winter. But it was all that Keith had.

Keith pulled his old ratty suitcase from underneath the bed and began throwing his meager belongings into it. His cloths consisted of a few pairs of jeans, a pair of shorts, some t-shirts, socks/underwear, and his cropped red jacket. GFA required uniforms so Keith normally didn’t have to worry about his regular clothes. His fencing knickers were already in a bag with the rest of his gear.

Keith continued to purge the room of himself, grabbing all the items scattered about. He stuffed his old laptop into a backpack as well as the few novels he owned. As he grabbed one of the books, a photo fell out.

It was him and his brother, Shiro. He was about eight and Shiro was fourteen-ish. They were both holding up medals from a tournament. It was Keith’s first big tournament. He had come in second place in the Y-10 Men’s Saber. Shiro came in first in first in Junior Men’s epee. Their parents and been so proud and insisted on taking dozens of photos.

Keith smiled a little as he gazed at the photo. He missed his brother. It had been almost two years since they had last spoken. Keith missed having someone to annoy and torment. Of course, Keith would never admit it to Shiro’s face but he had been too hard on him. Way too harsh.

Keith snapped out of his daze and finished picking his things. He grabbed his three bags and made his ways through the hallway of the dorms. Every once and and a while someone would peal their head out to stare at Keith. It was common knowledge that he would get kicked out at some point. No one thought that it would be within the second week of school though.

It was about 9pm and the sky was completely dark outside. Keith slowly made his way towards the bus stop just outside of GFA grounds. He saw some people staring at him through their windows, but that was to be expected. He was the first person to be kicked this year, so it was hot gossip.

He approached the uncomfortable silver bench for the bus stop. He had three options on what to do. First, he could go back into the system. ‘Yah that’s not happening,’ he thought to himself. It’s not that he hated the system, it’s that people don’t like him. They never want to keep him. They only stay for a paycheck or two and then they dump him onto the next family.

The second option was to become homeless. That was not happening. Keith wasn’t going to become a beggar.

The third option was to go live with Shiro on the other side of town. Keith sighed when he realized his only reasonable option was to suck up his pride and apologize to his brother. Great.

Of course the bus ride was as melancholy as ever. He got a few looks from the others on the bus. He’s sure that a seventeen year-old kid with all of his stuff is not the weirdest thing that they have seen on the city bus.

As the bus pulled up to his stop, Keith’s hands began to shake slightly. There was the ever present voice at the back of his wondering “what if Shiro won’t take you?” “What if he doesn't want you after your fight?”

Keith shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. He walked on the city side walk until he came across a slightly nicer apartment building. He walked inside and double checked Shiro’s room.

There it was, T. Shirogane, at room 826. Shiro had moved into this apartment building after their parents died. He had sent Keith the address one day in hopes of them talking it out and forgiving each other. Keith never showed up.

For the longest time Keith never had anything but his pride. It always takes a lot for him to apologize.

He sighed. “I’m really doing this aren’t I?” He didn’t get a reply. Keith walked through the expensive looking lobby and into the elevator. He pressed the eight button. There was another woman there who gave him the side eye.

“What are you looking?” Keith snapped at her. The lady looked away. She got off on the fourth floor, so he sat the rest of his ride in silence.

As the elevator dinged, Keith accepted his fate and walked through the hallways. Room 826 was at the end of a hallway lined with geometrically designed carpet. Keith stared at the door for a minute. He knocked before he lost the nerve to.

Shuffling could be heard on the other side; some shouts too. The door swung open to reveal someone who was most definitely not his brother.

“You are not the pizza guy,” the guy said. He was tall, with a deep tan, short light brown hair, and the prettiest blue Keith had ever seen. Keith took a moment to process.

“Yah I’m not the pizza guy. Is Shiro here? I-i need to talk to him,” the slight stutter in his voice betrayed his nerves. The guy looked him over with those pretty eyes. Before he had time to wonder about whether or not he was checking Keith out, the guy shouted.

“Shiro! There’s a guy with a mullet at the door for you,” Keith scowled.

“I do not have a mullet.”

“That’s something someone with a mullet would say.”

Keith was about ready to fight this guy but then Shiro appeared at the doorway. “Keith,” he murmured, “What are you doing here?” Keith sighed, he would have rather done this without anyone else around. Obviously that wasn’t happening.

“It’s a long story,” he muttered while looking at the ground.

“I’ve got time.” Shiro then shooed the mystery guy inside, closed the door and stood staring at Keith. Keith stared back. Then he looked to the ground and began talking.

“I was kicked out of Galra Fencing Academy, and I need a place to stay for a while. Just till I turn eighteen and then I’ll leave. You only have to deal with me for eight months. I can pay—,” Shiro cut him off with a hug.

“Shut up you idiot,” He said. Keith sunk into the hug, having missed his older brother a lot. They stayed their for a moment. Shiro was the first to pull away.

“You may be a pain in the ass, but I still love you, okay,” Shiro said to Keith. Keith gave a small smile to that. It was a small relief to hear that after two years.

“Well you’re a pain everywhere.”

It wasn’t an apology, nor was it forgiveness. But it was a start.

Shiro laughed at Keith and ruffled his hair. Keith swatted his hand away. “Come on, lets get you settled.” Keith followed Shiro into the apartment. Inside were a scattering of people. They all seemed to be pretty comfortable in Shiro’s apartment, like they knew the space well. One person caught his eye.

It was a tall, lanky woman with dark skin and bright silver hair. She was gorgeous and if Keith wasn’t gay he would probably be head over heels in love. But Keith already knew her.

“Why is the saber coach from Altea Fencing Club here?” Keith asked Shiro with a raised eyebrow. Shiro sighed.

“It’s a long story, that I will tell you tomorrow after you settle in and sleep.” Shiro lead Keith to the guest room. Keith deposited all of his stuff into the floor by the bed. Shiro left him alone and Keith day in his mind for a while.

In the span of what? An hour and a half? His entire life had changed. He finally punched Lotor, he lost his place at GFA, and he moved back in with his brother. The same brother who might still hate him after their fight two years ago.

Fuck.