Chapter 1: Messy Beginnings
At’Chatch’a Maro’ala: Exotic Beauties
Shiro is gonna need a stiff drink after this.
Scantily clad or nude aliens of a variety of species are everywhere, and the dim lights of the nightclub are giving Shiro a headache. The alien equivalent of techno is blaring out of unseen speakers, and an Olkari speaking in broken English is cooing in his ear, hand halfway up his thigh.
‘’I’m sorry, I’m waiting for someone,’’ He says, in the best Okarian he can manage. They seem to get the idea, slinking away and muttering a slew of unsavory things.
He’s really not, because you can’t wait for someone who doesn’t know you’re coming. And honestly, Shiro really hopes his waiting is pointless, because if he’s actually here, in a place like this —
Shiro hears the hooting and whistling before he actually sees Keith.
It takes a good second to register.
Keith is topless, golden chains and ornaments dripping down to the defined V of his hips, gauzy purple sash wrapped around his waist loosely. In fact, Shiro actually doubts it’s Keith, at first; his chest is...flat, normal looking, and he’s smirking in such a way that his younger self couldn’t hold a candle to. He looks like he hasn’t aged a day since the last time Shiro had seen him, and...well, the idea of Keith like this, it’s...Surreal.
He seems to be the star of the night. The regulars of the club make a path for him, and newcomers quickly follow. Keith struts through the crowd confidently, long black hair swaying in a loose braid down his back, hips following.
He doesn’t notice Shiro.
The stage, which previously, Shiro hadn’t been paying attention to, is drawn into his line of focus by Keith elegantly climbing up on it. A pole, sleek and black, slowly rises from the floor, and club goes dark. The cheering is deafening.
Shiro feels breathless.
When neon lights illuminate Keith’s lithe frame again, the sash is gone, and in its place are skin-tight ‘shorts’ of the same rich purple as its predecessor. The crowd goes wild, and Keith begins to dance around the pole slowly, sensually, and a music that matches his pace kicks up.
He’s amazing at it.
It’s like someone’s dipped Shiro in acid, then liquid nitrogen, before sticking him at the depths of the ocean. That is to say, he’s dizzy, confused, and his skin is prickling in goosebumps. From his seat at the bar, he has the perfect view.
He’s conflicted about it.
Keith ends the song with a showy crowd-pleaser, slowly stepping off the stage. The patrons bubble and crowd around him, chittering each in their individual languages, and Keith smiles and powers through them effortlessly. It’s impressive; and so far away from the Keith Shiro knows, it would be funny if it wasn’t so damn confusing.
They lock eyes.
Keith visibly falters for the smallest of seconds, eyes wide and smile sliding off his face. He quickly recovers, though, pushing through the crowd impossibly quickly. His violet eyes are glinting dangerously.
Shiro hadn’t really known what he was expecting, but it most definitely wasn’t to find his lap and arms full of Keith, warm breath tickling his ear. He startles.
‘’ Play along.’’
His ingrained instinct to trust Keith takes over, and his shaky, human hand and steady metal one settling on distractingly grinding hips. Keith hisses.
‘’What the fuck are you doing here?’’ It’s harsh, whispered, and Keith’s voice is deep and unfamiliar. Shiro stutters.
‘’I—I was, um, sent,’’ He hears Keith’s sharp intake of breath, and he’s distantly trying to fight off so many things that would make this even more awkward. Keith stands.
‘’Follow me, baby.’’ He says, waving Shiro forward, all seduction and smirk. Confused, and a tad scared, he follows. As they walk, Keith says something over his shoulder, presumably to the bartender, that halfway translates to ‘secret room’.
Shiro swallows thickly.
He’s led through a set of dark-red pneumatic doors, and the music fades behind them as they close.
‘’What the fuck, Shiro!?’’
The room, all things considered, isn’t that bad.
It’s smaller, but not cramped, large bed in the middle purple and red silks. Armchairs and a couch line the walls, along with a bedside table with a soft lamp glowing on it. A variety of equipment hangs on the walls, and Shiro doesn’t look at any of it for long.
‘’Um, I don’t, I, uh—’’ He replies intelligently. Keith scowls.
‘’Who the hell sent you here? What’s going on? How did you find me?!’’ He pokes at his chest with his finger, eyes glinting dangerously. Shiro clears his throat.
‘’The, uh, Earth. Earth sent me,’’
‘’We need Voltron, Keith.’’
The silence hangs heavy and shocked.
‘’What?” Keith goes entirely rigid, eyes wide and mouth parted in a silent gasp. Shiro blinks.
Shiro winces. He had a whole speech planned, hell, he had even written it down, but his throat is dry and the words have vanished. Keith looks scandalized, scared, and angry.
This isn’t going well.
‘’We think that Lotor is back. We don’t know how, but we have to beat him somehow, and Voltron—’’
He doesn’t expect the punch, that's for damn sure.
‘’You fucking come here, after I left, and come asking for my help? After everything that happened, you have the damn audacity to come and say you all need fucking Voltron? What the hell makes you think I’m gonna fucking go back? !’’
Shiro stares up at Keith in awe, cradling his already-sore jaw.
‘’But we need—’’
‘’I don’t give a shit about what you ‘need’! Find a new Paladin. I’m through with fucking Voltron.’’ The last words are bitter, and it’s clear that Keith is done talking.
He’s halfway to the door when Shiro opens his mouth.
Keith whirls around so fast, Shiro doesn’t really have time to process it.
‘’We need you, Keith.’’ He pauses, taking in the cold stare Keith’s throwing him. ‘’Red’s not letting anyone it. You’re the only one who can, Keith.’’
''I don't care, Shiro.''
Chapter 2: the sword of damocles
Keith doesn't like to face himself.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Planet X765 : Xhetua
It would be funny, he thinks, if he didn’t feel like throwing himself off this ledge.
It’s dark, on this planet. The daylight cycles are faster, though, so it won’t be for long. The stars are beautiful.
Keith’s finished crying, lamenting the impossible and mourning the nightmares. He’s done with Shiro, Voltron, and earth. He’s made resolutions, moved on, steeled himself—he doesn’t need any of this
He never has.
But Shiro had shown up, by the will of whatever malicious deity that hates him this time, and that merited some thought, regardless of how unwilling their host was. Shiro had shown up, dropped a bomb ( bomb didn’t cover it. Maybe Castle Bravo did.), and then left Keith with his stupefied expression left burned into Keith’s retinas. That was that; Keith’s hates pitying himself, and this is just a waste of time.
One massive, painful, long-standing waste of fucking time.
The wind rustles dully through the grass-not-grass behind him, and waves lap gently at the sharp rocks below him. Keith swings his legs a bit where they hang off the ledge of the cliff, the dual moons of the planet reflecting off green-blue water. Somewhere in the distance, a ship lands.
There’s a word for this feeling, Keith’s sure of it.
Had he been living the best life? Hell no. But it’d been something, and it’d been his. No great destinies or paths pre-determined, no great mission, nothing . Just sex and drugs and fuck it all, he was bound to die young anyway, so it’s gonna be on his terms.
Shiro represented everything he had forced behind him; a life that was War’s, not his, Love, and a painful, sad, unexpected-expected death. Earth, a life alone, and the piteous existence of a boy who never learned to live .
There’s more rustling behind him, and the soft coo of some kind of animal. Birds-not-birds flutter.
In retrospect, Keith can say he has regrets. But that's what life is. Regrets, trying to escape them, fix them, forget them, expect them, respect them, rinse, repeat. Use your regrets as the fuel to be better, or you’re the tinder to a short-lived blaze, Keith’s father had told him, with sad eyes, once.
Shiro was a regret, the Garrison was a regret, Voltron was a regret, and here he is, feeding the fuel to a candle flame that's burning his damn mind down. He’s done with all of it. Period.
Keith blinks, and realizes that the sun is peeking over the horizon. He’s cold, and the wind has died down. The crickets have stopped chirping.
It’s too quiet.
The fabric is pressed over his nose and mouth harshly, strong arms twining around his waist and neck. He struggles, but his muscles are sore and stiff from sitting still for so long, and whatever is on the cloth is already working.
Adrenaline slows, and black builds at the corners of his vision. Something muffled happens behind him.
Keith goes out with a perfect view of the sunrise.
Earth: Interplanetary Voltron Coalition HeadQuarters, Arizona
‘’Something to add, Captain Mcclain?’’
Really, Lance does have something to add; but because of its implicit non-mention throughout this entire meeting, it’s not going to make Iverson happy. There's a reason Shiro’s not here right now.
‘’Yeah, actually. So, tell me if I’m getting it wrong here, but are you suggesting that we... um, don’t look for Keith? Cause that’s not really an option.’’
Pin drop silence, and Hunk sends him the, ‘’ you idiot’’ look. Lance can’t disagree with it.
‘’And why is that?’’ Lance is most definitely not the person who should be explaining this, because he can’t. Shiro could, easily; that’s why he’s not here.
Somewhere in the room, a vent kicks up, and Lance clears his throat.
‘’Well, you see, Red’s not opening for... anybody. And, I can feel it, she’s still connected to Keith. I mean, he has a connection with both Red and Black, sure, the only way she’s gonna open is if Keith makes her. So—’’
‘’We’ve spent a lot of resources on Kogane already. We can find other ways to—’’ Lance scowls, mimicking Iverson and standing up out of his chair.
‘’But we can’t! It’s not going to work,’’ Lance should really shut the hell up. ‘’We need Voltron, and we need Keith. He’ll come around. We just have to find him again.’’
Iverson blinks, before sighing wearily like one would when dealing with a particularly petulant child.
‘’Mr. Kogane is incredibly adept at hiding, Mcclain. We’ve spent too much time on him already. If he doesn’t want to be found, we won’t find him—’’ Pidge clears their throat. Iverson glares.
‘’Something to say, Holt?’’
Pidge nods. ‘’We can’t do this without Keith. I agree with Lance, we have to find him.’’ Pidge pushes their glasses up. ‘’As Paladins of Voltron, the innate connection we have with our Lions makes up the team itself. Even if we were to find a new Red Paladin, the team would be out of practice and unfamiliar with each other. We can’t fight this war without Keith. It’s impossible,’’
Looking at Pidge, you wouldn’t take them to be a persuasive speaker. But one look around the room makes it clear that they’ve made their point, and it’s effective; Iverson scowls.
‘’All in favor of continuing to look for Kogane?’’
All but three hands go up.`
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Not gonna lie, y'all, im not too proud of this. eh. whatever. i'll post it anyway.
Chapter 3: Brokeness in Breathing
She's far to sympathetic to be a Galran Soldier.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Star System N8: Galran Prison Ship 6xc.
The creature is small, pale, and shaking.
It had hyperventilated itself into oblivion for the third time, small, weak chest heaving and eyes wide. It reminded her of one of the small omegas back on Meris, bellies always swollen and small frames always overshadowed by their owners. Xorial can’t lie; it sparks something protective in her, too, but she has orders.
It wakes up with a groan that’s muffled by the muzzle, and again, it’s violet eyes go wide with fear. It struggles against its bounds weakly, looks up at her pleadingly.
It hadn’t done that before.
It’s eyes are rolling into the back of it’s head again, tears gathering at the corners of its eyes, head hitting the cold cell floor below it.
She’s always been to sympathetic for this, anyway.
Xorial kneels, picking up the small creature gently. It startles a bit, but she pays it no heed as she carefully unbuckles the muzzle, and it sucks in the oxygen the cruel device had deprived it. It doesn’t wake up.
‘’Shh,’’ She cooes, letting her instinct to comfort, protect take over. ‘’You are okay, little one.’’
It isn’t dressed in anything, and it is startlingly warm against her gloved hands for being practically furless. It whimpers, nuzzling further into her armored chest. She knows that the metal must be cool against it’s bare skin, but it must be better than the floor it had been laying on.
It blinks its eyes open slowly.
Recognition flashes in deep violet.
‘’No!’’ it screams, voice hoarse as it struggles weakly. ‘’Get off of me! I’ll kill you! Get off!’’ It’s voice is startlingly deep for its smallness, as is it’s ferocity. She hums.
‘’You are safe. There is no need to struggle. I will not hurt you,’’ Xorial sets it down, anyway, and it scoots itself back against a wall, bringing its knees up to its fragile little chest. It’s bared teeth scream, don’t touch me and danger, but its eyes whisper desperation and fear.
She unholsters the prod they had provided her with, and the creature whimpers and braces for pain, but she simply sets it down beside her, beside the muzzle. Its chest heaves, but it eyes her curiously.
‘’I will not hurt you, little one,’’ its eyes narrow. ‘’I swear by the stars.’’ She crouches, pushing the prod further away from her. It tries to push further back in the wall.
‘’Don’t fucking come near me! I’ll kill you, stay away!’’ She frowns beneath her mask. It seems so terrified of her. Xorial doesn’t like that.
‘’I will not come any closer. Do you have a name?’’ It glares at her, baring its small teeth again, small, shaky growl rumbling from its chest.
‘’Fuck you!’’ It spits, and she blinks. Why is it being so aggressive? Did she do something wrong?
Carefully, projecting her movements, she takes off her mask, before shucking her gloves. It shivers. Its eyes are wide with fear, oddly dilated in the sterile, bright lights of the holding cell.
‘’There. I am not here to hurt you. I am to guard you. They will not hurt you, either, so long as you cooperate. What is your name?’’ Xorial speaks gently, voice a rumble in her chest that’s designed by decades of evolution to calm an omega. This creature might not be that precisely, but she can see it working.
‘’I— no, no, stop! Leave me alone!’’ It’s hysterical, she realizes, hopped up on adrenaline, sedatives, and whatever else they must’ve given it to keep it docile. ‘’Don’t touch me, leave me alone!’’ It makes sense, now. Glazed over eyes, trembling, and the sweat that's beginning to bead on its skin. She blinks.
‘’Shh, kit. I will not hurt you. My name is Xorial, and—’’
‘’ No!’’ It shrieks. This isn’t good. Somebody else might be assigned to it if she doesn’t de-escalate this, and something deep, primal, and far too kind for a Galran soldier in her doesn’t like that idea at all.
Quickly, but carefully, she moves to cover its mouth with her large hand, careful to leave its nose uncovered, and picks it up swiftly. Its scream buzzes against her hand emptily, and she presses it against her chest, stopping its struggling to an extent. Her scent floods the room, calming and even, and the small thing screws its eyes shut. She cooes.
‘’I’ll remove my hand if you will be quiet. If I cannot handle you, someone else will, and they will not be gentle. They will hurt you.’’ She doesn’t like it, but that’s the reality of the situation. This small, pale creature has sparked something deeply, instinctively protective in her, and Xorial doesn’t want that taken away. She wants to protect it as much as she can.
It whimpers quietly, but goes limp. Carefully, she removes her hand.
‘’Don’t hurt me, please, please,’’ it whimpers, trying to tuck it’s knees back up to its chest. She hums.
‘’I will not, I swear by my being. Do you have a name, little one?’’ The pheromones and voice seem to be working, the small thing relaxing, it’s deep violet eyes going hazy.
‘’Keith, Keith. My name is Keith.’’ It looks up at her, calmness a sudden, but not unwelcome change from its aggression and fear. Xorial nods.
‘’Keith?’’ It sounds forign on her tongue. ‘’My name is Xorial. How do you feel?” It tips its head back in her arms, shamelessly exposing its neck, eyes closed, and she dials back on her scent a bit. It’s working too well.
‘’Cold. I’m cold, and tired. I want to sleep,’’ It blinks a few times. ‘’Where am I? Why does everything feel...floaty?’’ She rocks it a few times in her arms, encouraging the calm fragility and sleepiness. She doesn’t want it, Keith, to realize what’s going on. They must’ve given it something strong, in case the oxygen deprivation didn’t work. The lack of adrenaline must be what’s causing it take effect.
‘’You are on a ship. You are tired. You should sleep, Keith,’’ Paternal instincts. That’s what she names the soft, fuzzy feeling blooming in her chest. Oh, that's not good. ‘’Can you do that? Sleep?’’
Keith blinks tiredly, a small noise rising in its throat. ‘’Don’t leave,’’ It pleas, quietly. She startles a bit at the tears dripping down it’s fragile little jaw. ‘’I’m scared,’’
‘’I...I won’t, Keith, I swear.’’ It’s eyes drift close. ‘’I won’t.’’
Xorial knows she can’t keep that promise.
I smell future heartbreak. And forshadowing. Lots of forshadowing.
:)))) get ready to cry.
Keith is high as balls, btw. This was new, to me, because, well, im not used to writing parental shit. Also, a scared, desperate Keith. So, yk. Tell me if ya'll like this or no.