It’s been five gut-wrenching, numbing, horribly lonely years in the depths of an unforgiving universe. Five years since, after years of promising to never give up on each other, Keith was forced to give up Shiro to an engineer he didn’t know the name of until the announcement of their engagement. To their credit, the wedding had been beautiful. Floral pieces and banners adorned a white altar, the melodies of classical piano music echoing in the background. Shiro had looked happier than he’d been in many, many painful years.
Keith wishes he felt the same. A scar on his face went unaddressed, a friendship became distanced by war and unresolved conflict. He thinks Shiro wouldn’t look the same at him because of what happened, or worse that he didn’t return the admission of love during the climax of their battle. Regardless of whether or not the latter assumption was true, it became clear that Keith’s existence had taken the back burner in Shiro’s life. He noticed the change following the battle with Honerva’s first robobeast, waking up in the hospital to only his mother and Kolivan. Shiro never came to visit while he was recovering.
So he drew the line at the wedding. He had the bravery to sit through it, to even give a speech to the two groomsmen, congratulating them on their marriage and years of happiness to come. He fooled nobody with his fake smile and forced words. Nobody but Shiro and Curtis. And as soon as the celebration died down and light faded into night, Keith packed his things and vanished as fast as the sunlight did. The only people who knew of his departure were his mother and Kolivan, since his fastest out was working far away from Earth on Blades assignments.
Attempted transmissions and calls fell flat, never to be answered. Katie begged for a response, Lance threatened to come find him himself, Hunk was at least kind enough to tell him that he hopes he’s happy off doing whatever he’s doing. Allura left only one message, telling Keith she understands why he left and hopes to see him again soon. Naturally and ironically, Shiro left the most messages out of all them. Ones that pleaded for him to come visit, ones where he was forced to hear Shiro say that he missed him. Funny how he’s only noticed once he’s disappeared for good.
Eventually, the transmissions taper off into nothingness as the years pass. Keith’s never able to decide whether or not he likes the silence.
Keith is eventually promoted to a senior Blade, now addressed properly as Captain Kogane. He has his own ship, his own crew, his own fleet. On the corners of space, they do humanitarian work and save struggling planets and colonies from the grips of rebel Galran rule. He’s highly respected as a half-Galran, one that stands for peace and tranquility across the universe. At one point he was even offered a position as the leader of Daibazaal, but ultimately he turned down the opportunity to stay with the Blades. Now he’s one of their top diplomats for important meetings and negotiations.
He always skips and sends someone else to the ones that have diplomats from Earth attending, knowing he’d run into people he didn’t want to see. People as in Takashi Shirogane.
The heartache had been nearly unbearable. He drowned it out by sleeping around mostly, filling the fiery void in his chest with one night stands he never remembers and drinks laced with heavy liquor. Until he got a stern lecture from his mother, Keith was a disaster. Night after night of panic attacks and tears kept him from moving on, until finally one day his confusion and hurt and tears turned into hate.
How dare he? Keith had gone to the ends of the universe to find Shiro. Fought a clone with his best friend’s face trying to kill him, admitted his love for him, decided that he’d rather die than live in a world without him again. Had practically smacked himself into the astral plane to see Shiro again, to ask for his help. Screamed him back to life once his consciousness had been transferred back into his body by Allura. Took Sendak down before he even had the opportunity to so much as swipe a cut into Shiro. All of this, only to be left scarred emotionally and physically. Only to lose to a random engineer off of the Atlas.
Fuck him. Fuck Takashi Shirogane. Fuck him for never understanding, for pushing him away when he needed him most. For going back on years and years of promises and loyalty and a bond that Keith assumed to be practically unbreakable. He didn’t deserve the mercy Keith had craved to give him for breaking him like this. Shiro had been the only one to break his walls down, and now he’s the very reason Keith has built them back up. He can have Curtis, his happy life, his picture-perfect stupid cliche marriage, and everything else that comes with it. But he’ll never have Keith again, never have that loyalty, and somewhere in his mind he hopes that’s enough to make him regret.
Keith has turned cold again. He’s become an empty shell of himself, a constantly stoic man with little to say and more to direct. Someone who was once a blossoming man with soft smiles and gentle encouragement, now retreated back into the serious and bitter facade he’d been putting on since childhood. Someone who was once surrounded by a family, now back to being surrounded by nothing but an empty blackness. He’s worked himself into sickness more times than he can count, keeping himself distracted in order to avoid reality. Reality that he’s still not over it.
“Set the coordinates for Zaxra,” comes a stern voice. Keith takes his place at the control panel as his bridge cadets comply, eyeing the digital screen before him. They’re galaxies away from Earth, undetectable and off the radar. Zaxra is a small planet that’s experienced years upon years of oppression from rebel Galra forces. Maybe it had been sheer luck, but they were able to send out a cry for help. Keith was the first to answer, seeing their struggle and misery.
The colony is small enough to where just his ship is enough to face the Galra in battle. Keith has a cruiser in the ship hangar he can fly himself, leaving his secondhand to captain the larger vessel. That secondhand just so happens to be Acxa, the one person he’s regularly kept in contact with. Mostly because she’s with him in person now. They’ve grown close, but not close enough to where Keith discusses his feelings. Acxa is the only person nowadays who can ease a smile out of him. Nobody really sees those from Keith anymore.
Keith knows Acxa can see right through his stone cold stare. Like an xray, she sees beneath it all. Right into his hurt, anguish, and resentment. But she never says anything. She avoids the fight, just tries he best to be there for her Captain when he needs it most. She knows Keith well enough to accept that he may and will probably never open up again. Truthfully, she doesn’t blame him. She knew of his relationship with Shiro on a surface level, and even that was enough to understand how heavy of a loss it had been. How heavy the weight on Keith’s shoulders became.
Agents deploy smaller vessels to fight the space forces while Keith’s ship darts for land. He commands them to fly in slow and steady, to land somewhere easy for them to hide. Thankfully, much of the planet is covered in greenery and it’s easy to hide a ship with a stealthing option. Once they land Keith assigns groups based on their tasks, and pulls Acxa along with him to go straight for the rebel group’s central base on the planet.
They use the geography to sneak their way in, taking down robotic guards protecting the doors. It’s no surprise that the alarm immediately sounds but they ignore it, blowing through the hallways with record speed straight into the central command. This time real Galran guards block their entry, and it’s a fire fight between two agents and at least ten guards. It’s a difficult battle but with the years of skill Acxa and Keith have accumulated, they come out successful. The final door whirs open and they’re met with more guns, more soldiers.
What they don’t expect is the security measures that are in place. Motion-tracking blasters greet them, too. They’re left trying to dodge fire from not only the blasters, but the members of the bridge, too. Acxa takes over taking down the machines while Keith activates his luxite blade and fights through the crowd of soldiers. It’s way too many painstaking seconds that pass until they’re left face-to-face with the leader of the rebel group, Olrak. Olrak wears a sinister grin, wielding double blasters.
“Come to play hero, today?” The man asks, and Keith’s eyes narrow in suspicion.
He points his own gun at him, flicking the safety option off. “Not hero, peacemaker,” he sneers. "You’ve lost.”
Olrak laughs, and Keith’s close to gaping. What’s funny? They cleared out nearly his entire base of guards, leaving only him to battle. Then he watches as Olrak reaches over to a nearby panel, slamming his fist down on a fluorescent orange button. “What did you just do?” Keith questions in a commanding tone, placing his finger on the trigger threateningly.
The howls in the background answer Keith instead, and he realizes that this man not only has Galran men as guards, but monsters. He has just enough time to make surprised eye contact with Acxa before four bear-like monsters are barreling down on them, pouncing and attacking without mercy. They’re lucky enough to take down two right away, and Acxa shouts to Keith to tell him that she can try to handle the other two. Keith turns on the ball of his foot and charges towards Olrak, leaping and tackling him to the floor. They end up in hand-to-hand combat, throwing well-aimed punches and kicks at each other. Years of battles and training left Keith with better experience, but Olrak is at least three times his size and overpowers him when Keith’s stamina begins to falter.
He ends up pushing back on Olrak’s hands when he tries to drive a dagger into Keith’s neck. Acxa is far too preoccupied trying to fend off the monsters to help him, and he can’t risk something happening to her, too. He tries to look around for a way out, a way to gain control of the situation, but nothing comes to his mind. Keith growls under his breath, shoving into him harder.
“Who’s lost now, peacemaker ?” Olrak mocks, and it makes the blood in Keith’s veins begin to boil. He’s about to resort to a desperate act of activating one of the explosives in his utility belt, until he hears a boom from somewhere else. The monsters pause, Acxa pauses, even Olrak pauses, looking off into the direction of where the blast came from. There’s multiple beats of silence as all eyes fall on the entry door to the room. It feels like the beats drag into minutes, until a figure donning white and grey armor, a helmet accented by orange steps in.
There’s still a moment of nothingness, until suddenly the mystery person takes down the two monsters attacking Acxa with shots in quick succession. Olrak responds immediately with a yell, pushing Keith into the floor and charging towards the man. The man doesn’t even flinch, whipping out a blade and impaling the rebel leader in a single, swift movement. Olrak’s body falls to the ground sloppily, and the deafening quiet returns. Out of fear Keith turns his gun on the intruder, unsure of his loyalty. He could be from a different alliance fighting for control.
Axca is closer to him, can see better. He doesn’t like the way she’s looking at him, it makes his blood go from boiling to ice cold. She’s gaping, jaw dropped and eyes wide. What’s surprising her so much? Why is this person causing her to make an expression like that? Frustration and confusion sink in, and his eyes narrow on the man. “Unhelmet yourself! Drop your weapons!” he shouts, and he’s not met with compliance right away. Keith places his finger on the trigger again as a warning. Finally, the man reaches up to his helmet and there’s the sound of air releasing as he removes it.
Keith now understands why Acxa reacted in the way she did. Five years down the drain suddenly feel like absolutely nothing. His weapon clatters to the floor, being the only thing that fills the silence. Standing in front of him is a face both unfamiliar and all too familiar at the same time. He feels like he can’t breathe, can’t think, can’t hear. He’s been under this impression all of this time that he’s put enough distance between himself and his past, that he’d never have to face it again.
But his shocked expression is short-lived, and it quickly twists into absolute fury. Keith shoves his gun back into his belt, instead opting for his blade. He activates it again, barely registering the sharp glow it gives off. He can feel himself becoming more feral, more likely to act on Galran instincts more than his own. He still hasn’t learned to control that side of himself yet, but with the way his vision suddenly hyper-focuses, he knows he’s partially shifted. A dirty, hateful sneer is forming on his lips.
“Leave.” Keith’s voice cuts like his blade as he approaches the man, positioning his weapon and steadying it at the man’s throat. “ Now . I won’t ask you twice, Admiral Shirogane. You are not welcome here. Your men aren’t welcome here. The Blade of Marmora has this mission under control. Stand down.” He says his name like it’s venom on his lips, slitted eyes staring daggers right into his very soul.
“That’s a horrible way to greet an old superior,” Shiro comments, almost in a mocking tone, at least that’s what he thinks when the edges of his lips curve up into a sly grin.
Keith snarls, pressing the tip of his blade against Shiro’s throat, almost enough to draw blood. Shiro barely flinches and he hates every bit of it. "Fuck you. We don’t need your help. Gather your shit and leave, I am not asking you again. This is your last chance to get the fuck out.”
Shiro reaches up with one finger, pushing Keith’s blade to the side. Keith hates how he just lets it slide away, because he knows Shiro knows despite all of the anguish he’s been put through he’d still never harm him. “I came alone, Keith.”
“ What? ” Keith asks incredulously, nearly dropping his weapon to the floor. “Why are you here, then? To be a bother? To taunt me?” His fists clench, his teeth clench, his everything is practically clenching at this moment. He hates himself for taking a glance at Shiro’s left hand. A ring is missing, and his heart stops while he’s looking back up. “Haven’t you done enough?”
“No,” Shiro responds. “I came to talk. To you.”
“ Talk ?!” Keith shrieks, high-pitched and broken, and he’s right back to being furious. All of the regret, anger, and pain suddenly come bubbling back to the surface like a pot of water boiling right over the rim. “You’ve had five fucking years to talk , Shiro! Five fucking years to fucking talk to me, shit even six if you want to count the entire year you spend pretending I didn’t exist. And no, the goddamn transmissions begging for me to come back to Earth don’t fucking count.”
“ Leave. You’ve had your chance, and you ruined it. You got what you want. A happy life, a happy marriage, a happy whatever . I got the message, you don’t need me,” Keith barks. “I’m fine now. I don’t need you either.”
“I, um,” Shiro pauses, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly, and for a moment a thought intrudes Keith’s mind. He’s missed the way Shiro gets flustered right before an awkward admission or something he doesn’t quite know how to word. He shakes the thought immediately, cursing himself for even thinking it. “I took a pod. I can’t take it back.”
“Are you kidding? ” Keith knows he can’t just leave Shiro here, as much as he resents him. He has no other choice. He digs his teeth so far into his lips that they’re almost bleeding. He turns to Acxa as his blade shrinks, stuffing it into its sheath. “Escort him to the ship. I’ll have the hangar prepare a pod, and we’ll send him back to right where he came from.”
“ No . This conversation is over, Shiro. Go with Acxa and get on the fucking ship. You’re going home.”
He doesn’t look back as he storms out, doesn’t give Shiro a chance to see the absolutely miserable look on his face. He needs a moment to collect himself. Needs a moment to recover from the five years he spent shoving away his feelings, his memories, his love. Keith requests over an intercom for a group of Blades to stick around for clean-up and returning the planet to a place of freedom. There will be a lot of supplies and rebuilding to do, and he has a fleet of members specifically meant to execute those tasks.
As he takes the long way back to his ship, he realizes all of the bullshit between miscommunications and lectures and attempted adult-level mothering from Krolia he’s dealt with since leaving Earth will never compare to something like this. This is a level of bullshit he doesn’t know how to deal with, and his first instinct is to run from it. To cut the problem at its roots before it has the opportunity to grow. He can’t go through this again. He won’t go through this again.