It was supposed to be a simple mission. Map the layout of an empire ship and get out. Easy, and yet so very difficult at the same time.
Difficult because the layout was a new one, some sort of new model of ship. Perhaps it was to deter rebel forces like the blades or the paladins, but no one could really be sure.
The moment Keith entered the ship, he could tell it was hastily built. The metal felt flimsy and unsafe under his feet, and he could see a few bolts missing from the panelling. Whoever's ship this was must've been desperate if they didn't want to wait for it to be properly built.
Keith never had enjoyed flimsy architecture. His heart was racing in the same way it did when he went over an old, creaking bridge on Earth; the way it felt like it could collapse under his feet at any moment.
One of the other blades on the mission, an older Galra named Vakratz, headed to the second floor of the ship. Keith sighed and grabbed the device in a secure pocket in his uniform; it was small, easy to conceal and used to digitally map out the spaces he walked through.
Keith made his way slowly through the first floor, dipping into hidden corners and alcoves whenever he heard footsteps coming his way, holding his breath as sentries walked by. He made sure to scan every detail of the ship, his heart racing at how unsteady it felt under his feet.
The second floor was likely even more unsafe, and he was forever grateful that was not the area he was assigned to scan. In their regular check-ins every few minutes, Vakratz always reported how awful and nerve-wracking the second floor felt.
"Keith, little one? Everything okay? Why aren't you responding?" Vakratz's worried voice sounded in Keith ear. Keith knew it was check in time, but he was just barely hidden from sight from three sentries. Instead of answering, Keith slowly reached up and turned on the camera on his uniform, sending his fellow blades the footage of the sentries just feet in front of him. "Oh, alright. Stay safe little one."
Keith glanced up at where he was, seeing someone walking around upstairs. He could tell because the flimsy flooring dipped under every step. Just then, Keith gasped as the panelling below and around the person walking upstairs came loose, crashing down on top of him.
"Keith?! Keith!" Vakratz called out, looking around the rubble for the kit that he had seen when the flooring below him caved in. He spotted a blade uniform nearby, mostly buried, and he whimpered, pulling Keith free from the rubble. To his relief, Keith was moving and seemed to be awake.
However, that relief was cut off when he realized that Keith was trying to shove him away.
"Keith, it is me, Vakratz!" He said, and Keith relaxed slightly.
"I can't see!" Keith shrieked, clawing at the eye holes in his mask.
"You can not see? What do you mean?" Vakratz asked, thumbing off the thin mesh of the eye holes in case something was obscuring Keith's ability to see.
"I can't see! I can't see anything!" Keith said. Vakratz nodded and messaged the other two blades on the mission to report to the pod, hoisting Keith onto his back and going to the pod himself. He laid Keith down on one of the cots, pulling down the hood to check for head injuries. Brelula, a motherly female blade that was on the mission, took over checking Keith for injuries while Vakratz guided the pod back to headquarters.
Keith was freaking out, and no one could blame him. They were sure they'd have a similar reaction if they suddenly couldn't see anything.
"Shh, young one. We are landing soon, and we will take you straight to your Papa, I promise you. He will heal you." Brelula said quietly. Everyone knew what Keith called each of his guardians, and referred to them as such when Keith was distressed.
True to her word, it was only about fifteen minutes before Vakratz was guiding the pod into the hangars of the blade headquarters. Brelula could see Keith's pack gathered to take him back to their nest, and she gently guided Keith off of the pod, making sure he didn't run into anything.
"Leader, I do believe Keith needs medical attention. The ceiling of the empire ship caved in on him and he cannot see anything." Brelula explained. "The building was flimsy and unsafe." She explained further, handing Keith off to Ulaz. Ulaz frowned and lifted Keith into his arms, rumbling to him quietly as he carried him to the medical bay. He laid Keith onto one of the beds, rumbling quietly to him. He motioned for another doctor to come over to them, speaking to him in low voices that Keith couldn't make out.
Ulaz gently checked Keith's head for injuries, frowning when he saw a large bump. He hummed lightly and gently probed at it, earning a yowl of pain from his kit.
"Shh. I think I have found the cause of your temporary blindness, kit." Ulaz said.
"This… this isn't permanent?" Keith clarified.
"No, not at all. You see, kit, the part of your skull that was hit was protecting the part of your brain that controls eyesight. In Galra, when a part of the brain is at risk of injury and does not control vital functions, it will temporarily shut down to prevent irreversible damage. As the injury is healed, you should have your sight back in a few days."
"Oh thank God." Keith said.
"I am unaware of this God person. Is he an Earth figure?" Ulaz asked curiously.
"Uh… kind of? According to a few religions, God created the world and man and animals and such." Keith explained.
"I was not aware you were religious. We do have a place of worship here that is open to all religions." Ulaz said.
"I'm not religious. It's just an expression people use." Keith explained. Ulaz nodded and sat Keith up as the rest of the pack came in with Cosmo in tow.
“Keith? Papa, is he alright? Why isn’t he looking at us?” Acxa asked worriedly.
“Do not fret, my kit. Keith will be just fine. He has gone temporarily blind for right now, but that will be restored in a few days as his injuries heal.” Ulaz explained easily. “Keith, kit, look to your left. That is where your pack is.” Ulaz urged, smiling when Keith looked in their direction. “Good job.” He said.
“Just because I’m blind doesn’t mean you have to praise me for everything.” Keith pointed out.
“Alright, kit. I apologize for offending you.” Ulaz said. Cosmo jumped onto the bed and laid down at Keith’s side, licking at his arm. Keith laughed and gently scratched his wolf’s head, gasping when he came up with an idea.
“Can Cosmo be my guide dog until I can see again?” He asked curiously. Thace and Ulaz looked at each other, tilting their heads. Kolivan and Antok looked at Keith with furrowed eyebrows, while Krolia smiled softly.
“That sounds like a wonderful idea, kit. I am confident he would be up for the job.” Krolia said.
“What is a guide dog?” Regris became the first one to voice the question going through everyone else’s minds.
“A guide dog is a Earth way of helping those who cannot see find their way around.” Krolia explained with a smile. “They lead their people around to ensure they won’t run into anything.”
“Oh. Well, I guess Cosmo would be good for it, then.” Thace said easily. He sat down and gently ran his hand through Keith’s hair with a small smile. “If that is all, is Keith free to go back to the nest room and relax, my mate?”
“Indeed he is. I will retrieve some medication to keep the pain in his head as minimal as possible and I will be there soon.” Ulaz said. It was common practice in the medical bay for a doctor to leave for the remainder of the day when a member of their pack returns from a mission, and will only be called back in on the same day if there is an emergency that requires their immediate attention.
“Alright. Come on, kit, let us see how well Cosmo works as a guide dog.” Krolia said, guiding Keith down from the bed. Well, she didn’t really guide him, she was just prepared to help Keith as her kit found the edge of the bed and eased himself down. He held onto Cosmo’s collar, letting the wolf lead him to the nest room. Cosmo walked at Keith’s pace, but kept up with the rest of the pack.
“Good boy, Cosmo!” Keith praised when he climbed into the nest and laid down. He curled up against the first body he encountered, humming tiredly. Antok chuckled quietly and wrapped his tail around the kit.
“Stay awake for a few more doboshes, little one. Ulaz will return soon with your medicine, and I would like you to take it before you go to sleep.” Antok said. Keith nodded and curled up, purrign quietly.
“Is everybody here?” Keith asked curiously.
“Indeed they are.” Antok said. “Everyone except Ulaz. And he will arrive soon.”
When Ulaz arrived, he gave Keith the medicine and set the rest aside, curling up against Thace and smiling. Thace wrapped his arms around his mate and hummed in thought.
“How was your day, my mate?” Thace asked, wrapping Ulaz in a blanket. “Need me to make you a cup of tea? Back massage?” He offered kindly. Ulaz hummed appreciatively.
“A cup of tea sounds absolute divine right now.” Ulaz said quietly. “I’ve been doing inventory all day until Keith arrived. We’re rather slow today, a few mild illnesses here and there but nothing that didn’t take more than a few minutes to treat.”
“On it. One cup of tea coming up.” Thace said, getting up. Keith could feel Kolivan on the other side of Antok, the leader of the blades clearly fast asleep if the snoring was anything to go by. It was comforting to Keith to hear all of the usual domestic going-ons in the nest. It made him feel safe even though he was shaken by not being able to see.
It was these familiar sounds that allowed Keith to relax enough to fall asleep.
When Keith woke up, he startled when he couldn’t see anything. He shoved his fingers into his eyes because he swore he had them open, but he was stopped form actually making eye contact by Krolia.
“No, no, kit, do not do that. You will not be able to see for a few days, remember?” She said. Acxa curled up against Keith and tried to rumble to him, causing Keith to relax.
“Keith, you’re okay.” Acxa said quietly. Keith nodded and sighed quietly.
“Is papa here?” He asked.
“Indeed I am, what is the matter, my kit?” Ulaz asked, pulling Keith into his lap.
“My head hurts.” Keith said, burrowing into his father figure. Ulaz nodded and rubbed his back, reached over and grabbed Keith’s pain medicine, and gave it to him. Keith took them easily, relaxing. “I’m hungry.” He said.
“Would you prefer to go to the dining hall or would you prefer to stay here instead?” Ulaz asked gently, Keith shrugged and stretched out with a content hum.
“I wanna stay here.” He said easily.
“Would you like your usual lunch, kit?” Thace asked, already moving to get up. “While I am on that train of thought, what does everyone else want? Regris, Acxa, you two want to come with me to get everybody some lunch?” He asked, gathering requests for food while the two other kits hurried to his side. Keith ordered his usual lunch before he heard Thace and his siblings leaving the nest room. He settled down on top of Ulaz, sighing quietly and running his hands through the doctor’s fur. He made his way up Ulaz’s face until he had successfully latched onto the white tuft of hair on his head. Ulaz chuckled and wrapped an arm securely around the youngest kit.
“My, you are adorable, my son.” Krolia said with a fond smile when Keith gave a wide, sleepy yawn. Keith frowned and rubbed at his eyes, looking a bit indignant at the phrase.
“I’m not adorable.” Keith protested. “I am a mighty warrior.” He insisted with a small pout.
“Oh, yes, such a mighty little warrior. Why, I fear for my life around such a person!” Ulaz said, unable to withhold his laughter as he ruffled Keith hair. Keith gasped before dissolving into laughter. “Yes, yes, the mightiest of warriors. A warrior who just so happens to have some very protective parents and guardians.”
“Indeed, kit. You are a valiant fighter, but it is time for you to take a nap after you eat your lunch.” Antok said, tickling Keith’s side with the tuft of his tail, prompting another round of laughter from his kit. “See, there is food now.” He added, taking the to-go boxes for his own and Keith’s food from Regris, thanking him. He handed Keith’s food to the youngest kit, smiling. Keith felt around the rim of the container until he found the two protruding knobs to slip the holes through to undo the box, flipping it open.
Surprisingly, Keith actually handled himself quite well in navigating eating. It took a few tries for him to manage to actually spear food onto his fork, but after that he was perfectly content.
"Is there any way I could train?" He asked curiously.
"Kit, we would prefer if you-" Ulaz began.
"Actually, there is. While you may not want him to train, Ulaz, you must admit this offers quite the opportunity. He could learn how to rely on senses other than his sight, which would be beneficial for him. It will be simple training programs, however, involving no weapons. Mostly stealth training." Antok spoke up.
"I want to do that." Keith said firmly. Ulaz gave a small sigh, but ultimately nodded.
"Then you shall. But after your nap."
After Keith had a nap for a few hours, he found himself in a smaller training room with Antok and Thace.
"The objective is to avoid being caught by Thace for as long as possible. You are expected to rely on your sense of smell and hearing to determine where Thace is and how to avoid him." Antok instructed gently. He had chosen Thace because he was not busy, plus he was familiar enough that Keith could easily track his scent if he so wanted to.
"Alright. I'm ready whenever you are." Keith said, looking in the direction that he heard Antok's voice coming from.
"Alright. Time starts… now!"
The first round was over in under a minute as Thace snuck up behind Keith scooped him up. Keith yelped in surprise and latched his arms around Thace's shoulders to avoid being dropped on instinct.
"A valiant effort, kit, but keep in mind that Galra are extremely light on their feet, large as we may be. You need to focus hard on your surroundings, not just what you think humans would sound like." Antok said. Keith nodded and took his place in the center of the room once again, a small smile on his face.
And on and on it went.
Keith's time without being caught kept being extended with every round of practice he got. He was learning to rely on his sense of smell and hearing at the same time, managing to dodge Thace for a long while. His longest run was close to fifteen minutes, earning him a pleased rumble from Thace when he was finally caught.
"Are you tired, kit?" Thace asked quietly. Keith slowly nodded and felt himself being hoisted into a more comfortable position.
"You did a fantastic job, kit!" Antok said, catching up with his two pack members. Keith looked in his direction and smiled lightly. He grappled blindly in Antok's direction, finally snagging the man's tail and holding it tightly.
Kolivan's datapad rang soon after Keith returned to the nest.
"Hello, Lance. Is everything okay?" He asked when he answered.
"I should be asking you that! I've been trying to get ahold of Keith all day and he hasn't been picking up! Is he okay?" Lance asked worriedly. Kolivan smiled and nodded.
"Yes, yes, your mate is fine. There was a small incident on a mission that we are still working with. You see… he is temporarily blinded. It is due to a Galran evolutionary instinct, and he will have full sight in a few days."
"Oh… may I see him?" Lance asked.
"Of course. Keith, come here, your mate wishes to see you." Kolivan called. Keith got up and tried to make his way to Kolivan, his steps careful to avoid stepping on any of his pack members. He sat down next to the leader of the blades, smiling at the datapad.
"Hi, Lance." He said quietly.
"Hey, babe. What happened? Kolivan told me you were blinded by some Galra instinct."
"Oh, uh… I hit my head really hard… the way Ulaz explained it, that part of my brain controlled my sight, and it shut it down because it deemed it an unnecessary function so I wouldn't lose my senses permanently." Keith tried to explain.
"Oh, babe… I wish I could come visit you."
"I wish I could come see you, too, Lancey. I miss you. Cosmo is being a good seeing-eye dog for me."
"Really? What a good dog! I hope you'll stay safe for the next few days until you can see again." Lance said. "I only have time for a short visit. Coran wants us to do some sort of team bonding or something."
"I love you." Keith said.
"I love you too, babe. I'll call you tomorrow, okay?" Lance answered. He blew a kiss to his mate, who recognized the sound and blew one of his own before Lance ended the call.
Keith's days passed just as they would normally. He woke up, ate breakfast, had training with Antok, except this time it was more relying on senses other than sight rather than sparring. Then lunch, a nap, relax time with his mom and siblings, dinner with the pack, and then bed.
Cosmo remained steady at Keith's side whenever his owner had to go somewhere, Keith's hand wrapped around his collar as he let the dog lead him. Cosmo would nudge Keith to the side if it seemed as though he was going to run into something.
Slowly, day by day, Keith's eyesight returned. On the second day, it was extremely fuzzy blobs of color (which was not helpful in the slightest given that 95% of the blade headquarters were done in extremely similar shades of dark purple and black.) By the fifth day, the vision was just slightly blurry but otherwise completely normal.
Every day, Keith’s pack were careful to avoid accidentally harming their kit’s pride. Keith was still a rather independent person, and his pack generally let him handle things himself. They drew the line at Keith handling knives or other potentially harmful objects. At that point, they took over so Keith didn’t lose a finger while cutting his food.
Every night, Keith would video chat with the paladins. He could sit and talk to his friends for hours at a time, at least until a pack member declared it was late and he should get to bed. At that point, Keith would say his goodnights and hang up, curling up in the cuddle pile to sleep with his pack members surrounding him, keeping him safe.
“I can see!” Keith cheered on the sixth day when he awoke, his vision just the same as before he had been injured. Ulaz grinned and gently kissed his kit’s forehead.
“That is wonderful, my kit. And certainly good news.” He said. “Although, we would all very much appreciate it if you avoided harming yourself in a similar fashion again.” He added.
“I’ll try.” Keith promised with a smile, sitting up. He was immediately tackled by an over-excited Regris, playful growls leaving the eldest kit’s mouth. His tail whipped back and forth as he batted gently at his youngest brother.
“Good to see you up and ready to go, Regris.” Keith said, rolling out from under Regris with a grin. Regris chuckled and settled down, waiting patiently for Acxa to awaken so they could all go down to breakfast together.
It was a tradition the kits had started together, going to breakfast. They would wait for everyone to be awake before they went down to the dining hall for breakfast before training with Antok.
“Good to see you back and ready to go.” Acxa said when she saw Keith. Keith grinned at her and laughed.
“I just can’t wait to get back to sparring training, honestly. But at least I can decimate you at stealth training.”
“Doubtful, but I’ll humor you and say you can.” Acxa responded, laughing loudly.
Regris watched Keith with a smile, ushering his two siblings down to the dining hall so they could get a good breakfast in before training.