The day after a Galran pod crashes on Earth for the second time, the Blue Lion meets its second paladin and takes its first flight in millennia.
Across the desert, in a quiet hospital room, a man opens his eyes for the first time in seven years.
There had been too much fussing, in Tex’s opinion, but he had felt drowsy and weak, and the nurses were very nice, so he had tried to be patient. He was conscious and then not, for what seemed like days. His memories were a blur, but he remembered asking questions that got mostly unclear answers. Several doctors came in and out, twice that number were the nurses who poked and prodded, all saying something about tests. On the few times he had been awake enough to make out their expressions, they all had a look of awe.
More than once, he heard the word ‘miracle’ thrown about.
Now, finally, his thoughts are lucid enough. With some help, he is able to sit up. The nurse tells him that the doctor is on the way to talk to him. Tex nods and only asks her to draw the curtains.
The view of the city outside looks both familiar and not, and the Garrison-... Has it always had those two other buildings? Is that a rocket? And the desert-
He turns to the nurse to ask if she somehow has any news about his son, but the doctor arrives and starts asking him questions.
‘What’s your name?’
He tells them.
‘ What year is it? Do you have family?’
He answers those too.
‘ What do you remember last?’
That, he answers much slowly.
He distantly remembers going to work, he remembers the fire, going back because there were still people inside. He remembers finding them, then feeling pain, and then nothing.
He doesn’t tell the doctor that he woke up to the sound of a lion’s roar.
Then the doctor tells explains everything, patient and clinical.
He had sustained severe injuries, including a head injury and several burns. He knew that much, he’d touched the burn scars on the side of his neck, on one of his arms. He’s only grateful they weren’t worse. According to the doctor, he had been comatose for years, and even as his physical condition had stabilized after the first few months, he simply remained unconscious, asleep. It was a very rare case, they couldn't find anything different in his recent tests, or any indication as to why he had woken up now .
Tex tries his best to remain calm, nodding, trying to work out what to do first.
It’s not that difficult. He’s only ever put one thing first.
“Keith. My son, do you… do you know what happened to him, doc? Does he know I’m awake?”
The doctor looks tentative, but he answers nonetheless. “I… I’m newly assigned to your case, sir, but I believe he’s been visiting you regularly. I’ve talked to him, once or twice. He seemed like a decent young man. He’s listed as your next of kin, and we’ve tried contacting him, but we couldn’t reach him. We’ll keep trying, but for now, we think it’s best that you interact with someone familiar, so we’ve reached out to the City Fire Department. We hope they can provide a reliable reference, one of your old colleagues, perhaps.”
Tex nods. Keith is alive , and well. Keith had been visiting him. Keith had been eleven when Tex fell into a coma and now-
“What… what date is it again, doc?”
The doctor tells him.
Tex lets out a sigh that is halfway a sob. Keith is eighteen .
The first acquaintance to visit him is an old friend and colleague, whose initial reaction to seeing him awake is awed disbelief. Just like the hospital staff. They catch up, awkward at first but warm and familiar again by the time the other man had to leave. His old friends send their greetings and regards, then they come and drop by too, all offering whatever help they can provide.
He hears about their families - partners new and old, children new and older - he’d missed all of those, like he missed his own son.
While he recovers, while he waits for someone to reach Keith, he pieces whatever information he can gather, both from his old colleagues and the doctors and nurses who had cared for him through the years.
“One of my girls went to school with him, she said he’s a bit of a troublemaker, but he was picked in one of those recruitment things the Garrison did.” a friend had said.
“He’s a quiet boy, but very polite. He visited when he can, you know. Always looked hopeful when he asks about how you’re doing.” an elderly doctor tells him with a fond smile.
“I asked him once, and I believe he said he’s on the fighter pilot course. Not a talker, that one, a bit awkward, but he’s a good kid. Looks very good in that orange uniform.” another nurse says. She claims to have looked after Tex for the past two years.
“When was the last time you saw him?” Tex asks.
“Oh, a few months - almost a year ago? Come to think of it, that’s longer than usual, he usually came every three, four months…” she muses, fussing over his IV, doing her routine check. “He was quite upset, if I remember right… oh, but we all were, I think. Really unfortunate, that Garrison business…”
“Why? What happened?”
“It was… I think it was called Kerberos? The Kerberos Mission, big event, first trip to Pluto or something, the Garrison really built that one up.”
“Huh.” Tex’s eyes widen. “Pluto, you say?”
“Yes, but it failed, apparently. All three members of the mission were declared dead. Pilot error, they said.”
“I see. And Keith was upset about it?”
“Can’t be sure, but it was all the buzz at the time. Whole nation mourned, there was a father and son in the mission, and the pilot’s apparently Garrison’s golden boy. I think your Keith knew him. Saw the fella drop your boy off here a couple times.”
Tex frowns. “He knew the pilot.”
“Friend. Teacher. Something like that, maybe. The kid looked like his whole world fell apart.” she sighs, sympathetic. “Anyway, I do hope he gets the news soon. I’m sure he’ll be over the moon when he sees you up. It’s a real miracle, you know. We still couldn’t believe it, really.”
She gives him a friendly and sincere pat on his shoulder, and he thanks her again for everything she’s done.
After that, he asks to borrow a data-pad and proceeds to read as much recent news about the Garrison as he could until he falls asleep.
He had taken his doctors by surprise with how fast he regained all his physical faculties. He’d been told some long-term coma patients take more than a year to recover, yet while he still tired easily, he could stand, walk and move without difficulty.
While he undergoes the final round of his tests, Tex calls in favors. He knows he’s in no position to be too proud to ask for help.
He had little to no cash in his bank account, and his properties were all over the place. His hospital bills had only been taken care of by the generosity of the state. Old friends lend him some cash and most tell him not to worry about paying back, though he still promised to do so.
He didn’t dare ask anyone to go visit his old house for fear of what they might find in there, but he has a friend who rented out small apartments offering to house him while he got back on his feet. He thanks the man and says he’ll consider it.
He asks someone with connections to the Garrison to inquire after Keith, and he fears the worst when the woman comes in with a grim expression on her face.
He reads the file she hands him.
“Dismissed due to misconduct.” he mutters. “Nine months ago. Do… do we know where he went, after?”
“I took the liberty of contacting the foster home listed on his file. I also reached out to his social worker. They haven’t heard from him. They didn’t even know he’d been dismissed. I’m sorry, Tex. Maybe we can go back to the Garrison, ask his teachers, find some friends who might keep in contact? Do you want to check your old house?”
Tex shakes his head. “No. No, I mean-... I’ve troubled you enough. Thank you for this. I’m getting discharged tomorrow. I can pick it up from here.”
He barely had anything - just a small borrowed bag of meager belongings he’d acquired as simple tokens over the past month of recovery. He didn’t even consider dropping by at the apartment offered to him. Instead, straight from the hospital, Tex finds the nearest hoverbike rental.
The doctors had warned him to take it easy, to rest and let his body and mind reacclimate to his surroundings.
Well. Tex had never been good at following rules.
After a deep breath, and a quick prayer to the powers that be for him not to faint or crash while driving a hoverbike after seven years asleep, he drives off to the desert.
His house is gone.
His shack is not, and his seven year-old memories tell him that the hasty and messy repair work done to the roof and porch were recent. Someone had been here.
He knocks, but doesn’t wait to be let in. He opens the creaky door and takes in his surroundings. The place is a lived-in mess but with a thin layer of dust and sand - a blanket strewn on the couch, electronics and gadgets scattered around the place, half-eaten snacks on the table. There was a sloppily hung piece of cloth obviously covering something-
Maps, documents, news clippings, drawings, notes, photos. Connected by pins and strings. An investigation. By who? He takes one of the notes and chuckles. The scrawl is messy, changed over the years but still vaguely familiar. He knows his son’s hand.
Tex eyes each of the items in the board with growing trepidation, laced with pride. His son has done a lot of work here. But what was he looking for? It can’t be-
Before his thoughts could go there , he saw a photo that stood out in the board. It had been frayed at the edges and is smaller than the blown up photos of caves and desert canyons.
This is how Tex first sees his son’s face again after waking up from a seven-year sleep. Through a photograph of two young men, smiling at the camera, one shy and one giddy, but both clearly happy. Tex recognizes the young pilot Takashi Shirogane from the news articles, and there’s Keith, all grown up, eighteen , looking so much like his mother it makes Tex’s heart ache. Shirogane’s arm was draped around Keith’s shoulders, while Keith kept his arms folded across his chest but was leaning comfortably against the other man.
Tex takes the photo from the board and turns it over to find a handwritten message:
I look forward to coming home and hearing that you’ve broken all my records.
Next time, we’ll fly together.
“Oh, kid.” he sighs, shaking his head. His son must have been heartbroken to hear about the mission failure. He remembers the nurse’s words - that Keith looked like his whole world fell apart. Tex closes his eyes, wishing he could turn back time and be there for his boy when he needed someone the most. “I’m so sorry.”
It takes him several moments, but when he looks up, his eyes land on another photo, one of familiar cliffs, and right beside it, overlapping, a line graph matching the exact shape of the cliffs.
Those cliffs - those canyons ...
Tex takes a step back and looks at the entirety of the board again. No. Keith couldn’t have- Why was Keith even looking for-
There’s something written in the graph - in red ink, circled, a date. Roughly a month ago. The night before he woke up.
Tex’s eyes land on another note, and this time there was only one word, followed by a question mark:
Voltron - ?
That’s enough to get him rushing outside and hopping on his hoverbike.
It’s easy to spot the red and white hoverbike from afar, even half-buried in the sand. Tex lands on the entrance of the familiar cave and studies the other vehicle. It’s a much newer model than the old and cheap one he rented and was familiar with. It’s dirty from the desert but the engine otherwise looks well-maintained.
The hoverbike is cold.
There is a backpack strapped in the seat. Tex pries it open. Some cash, several snack bars, bottled water, some tools, various little gadgets and lots of papers and maps. Then he finds a familiar item. A leather sheath, worn out and mended several times but currently torn again, beyond repair. He had made it himself, years ago. It was empty of its dagger. He searches the bag further. No sign of the knife.
Bracing himself, Tex turns around and walks inside the caves.
“I hope you’re there, old friend.”
The Blue Lion of Voltron is gone.
So is Keith.
So is Krolia’s knife.
He searches online. If the Lion had woken up and left Earth, someone must have spotted it - he searches from news sites to conspiracy forums - footage, photos, accounts, something. He doesn’t find anything on the lion, but finds an account of something crashing in the desert on the date indicated in Keith’s board.
After that, it’s a dead end.
Without any other choice, he goes to Garrison to take his chances. Perhaps he could play the sympathy card - "I've been in a coma, I've been separated from my son for seven years" - get whoever is in-charge to tell him if they had any information that might lead to Keith's whereabouts.
That's how he meets Colleen Holt.
He keeps scarce as he hears the woman's frustrated shouts and a man's disgruntled sigh.
"First, you lie about my husband and my son, and now my daughter?! What did you do to her?! She was just trying to get to the truth! Sam and Matt believed in that mission with all they had-"
"Mrs. Holt, we told you, it was-"
"Don't you dare say 'pilot error', we all know Shiro is better than that! You lied about Kerberos, and you're lying again now. Something crashed in the desert last month and we both know what it is! Where are you keeping him? And my Katie, what did you do to my daughter?" The woman's voice cracked, and she released a strangled sob. "Iverson-... Mitch... Please... You were Sam’s friend-"
"Please escort Mrs. Holt out of the premises."
Tex changes his plans.
He approaches Colleen Holt outside the gates and doesn't bother sugarcoating or small talk. This woman has dealt with enough.
"Mrs. Holt." he says. "I'm Tex Kogane. My son used to go to Garrison until the Kerberos Mission failure."
"It wasn't a failure." she grits out, not even looking at him, busy wiping her tears. "There was proof that they landed safely. Then, they-... Something happened to them. In Kerberos."
He nods. "The Garrison covered it up and blamed the pilot-"
She shakes her head frantically, almost sobbing again. "Shiro doesn't deserve that... He already went through so much..."
"He was a close friend of my son's." Tex says. "I heard what you said earlier. Your daughter is missing. Since when?"
"It's been a month now, give or take." she answers, wary, this time risking a glance at him. "She had herself admitted into the Garrison to get more information on what happened and she sends me updates, scheduled twice a month. After the latest update, and the date on the footage, I had to contact her, but I couldn't reach her. And when I went to look, I couldn't find her..."
"My son is missing too. Same as your daughter, for a month now."
Finally, she looks up at him, eyes wide with emotion. "Oh... I'm sorry to hear that-... You don't think...?"
"You have footage. I may have... information." he regards the Garrison premises with a long frown before turning back to the woman with a small sympathetic smile. "You show me yours, I show you mine?"
They are two people completely alone with their families practically scattered to the winds. It doesn't take much for Colleen to say yes.
Katie Holt had managed to send her mother the footage of Takashi Shirogane arriving back on Earth, being detained by the Garrison personnel and shouting about aliens, albeit it came weeks late. It came with jumbled notes about something called Voltron, and a hasty note that she and her friends got involved with someone called Keith, that they managed to break Shiro out and were going out to the desert to look for something called a blue lion.
Tex makes a mental note to thank the girl if he ever met her in person.
Colleen doesn't know what to make of it, besides the Garrison covering something up again.
He doesn't want to lie to this woman who had lost so much already, so he tells her most of what he knows. He tells her about the Galra, about the Blue Lion and Voltron. He tells her that his son seemed to have been searching for the Blue Lion by himself, although Tex doesn't know why on Earth he would do so. Tex had never mentioned or even written anything down about the Blue Lion, so how did Keith even know about its existence?
He and Colleen were in the middle of discussing how to decode the frequencies that Katie had sent with the other information when it hits him.
"What... what's the date today?"
Colleen blinks. "October 23rd. Why?"
Tex sighs, slumping down the Holts' dining table that is now littered with Keith's papers and maps. He looks at the lone photograph of Keith and Shiro again. "Keith's nineteen today." he says, voice breaking. "Nineteen. I've missed eight birthdays."
He feels Colleen's hand on his shoulder, and when she squeezes his rough hand, he can practically feel the determination emanating from her. "We'll see them again. I know it."
He nods, composes himself and tries to focus back on the task at hand. Colleen withdraws and turns back on the cave drawings from Keith's pictures.
"This... Blue Lion... you've never attempted to pilot it yourself?"
He chuckles. "I'm a fireman, Colleen."
"What about the Galra woman? Krolia? She can pilot..."
"She can, but there was a particle barrier around it. Only its paladin can get through and pilot it, at least that's what Krolia told me- Huh. "
"There were no signs of forced extraction in the cave." Colleen says, slowly looking at him. "And obviously, the particle barrier went down, otherwise anyone who wanted to take the lion would have to take the entire cave. So, does that mean…?"
“One of those kids is the Blue Paladin.”
Tex stands on the old rickety shack's porch and looks down at his hand, at the time-worn leather sheath of his old lover's blade.
"Your son found the Blue Lion all by himself, Kro. Found its paladin too. Probably took 'em home, or wherever they need to go. And he brought your blade with him." he lets out a laugh. "You'll be proud."
Then, he looks up at the starry night sky of the desert and whispers a prayer.
"I hope you're having a good birthday out there, kid. Be safe."
He politely declines his friend with the apartment and instead takes up Colleen's offer to use the Holts' guest bedroom.
God knows the woman could use some company.
This is how, when the Garrison calls Colleen almost another year later, he is there with her to welcome Sam Holt back to Earth.
He's also there when Sam Holt introduces the Galra Empire and its intergalactic war to a set of baffled and terrified Garrison higher-ups and government officials.
Someone asks who he is and why he was authorized to be in the Meeting About the Evil Empire Threatening All of the Humanity.
He shrugs. "I'm family."
"Of the Holts?"
"Of the aliens."
Colleen almost spits out her coffee and they high-five.
Sam tells him that he unfortunately didn’t get a chance to personally meet Keith, but that he is safe and is with the Blades.
Tex clasps the man’s shoulders and nods. “Thank you. That’s all I need.”
“I know what it’s like, Tex, to be a father stuck here on Earth while your child fights on the frontlines of a war in space.” Sam smiles. “Thank you, by the way. Colleen told me she wouldn’t have known what to do if you hadn’t reached out to her.”
Tex grins. “Hey, same here.”
"You're... you're Keith Kogane's father?" one of the Garrison officials ask, much later.
"Yes. You know my son?"
"Everyone does! Very young, very skilled pilot, he was on his way to breaking all of Shirogane's records but... after Kerberos... well, he kind of… um, his performance..."
Tex leans in, friendly, conspiratorial. "He was dismissed due to misconduct. Do you know what that was about?"
"Well..." the officer audibly swallows, but braves on. "Uh, after Kerberos, he barged into Iverson's office, calling pilot error a load of bullshit, which it was, oh God, we all knew Shirogane and-"
"That's it? He called you out on your cover up and you kicked your best pilot out?"
"Uh. It's also. Um. He kinda... See Iverson's eyepatch?"
Tex looks toward the man in question, talking to a very serious Admiral Sanda. He raises an eyebrow and looks back at the officer. "Yeah? What about it?"
The officer gives him A Look.
"Oh... Oh." Tex draws back, looks at Iverson again, then at his new friend - they're friends now - "Oh? Really? HOW? "
The other man - Ryu, if Tex remembers correctly - nods, as discreetly as he can. “It was a particularly… strong… punch.”
Tex whistles, and eyes Iverson again as he sniggers under his breath. "That's my boy."
Iverson catches him looking, and Tex only nods and grins and waves a friendly wave.
Iverson bristles before he turns to talk to Sanda again.
Admiral Sanda issues an order to keep the imminent Galra threat a secret from the public.
"They can't do this." Colleen says through gritted teeth. "Again!"
Sam rubs his wife's arm and shakes his head in frustration. "The public deserves to know. It's their lives, their home at stake..."
And then they both look at their guest.
Tex, pausing midway sneakily feeding Bae Bae some bacon from the table, shrugs. "Hey, I already sleep in your house and eat your food. Of course I'm in. And if it pisses off that Admiral Sanda person, all the better, eh?"
Earth and the Garrison prepare as best as they could. They work on particle barriers and new bases. They start building the Atlas and the MFEs. They gather their seasoned pilots and train new ones. The people's spirit was most admirable as they came together to stand against whoever threatened their planet.
Despite it all, they still lose.
The Garrison tries to stand tall as the last defensive point on Earth, but they all knew the particle barrier won't keep them safe forever.
Tex finds new purpose, helping however he could. He tags along on minor rescue missions, old training kicking in. His skills on emergency aid proved useful whenever they brought in wounded fighters and stragglers.
They wait. They hold on. They try not to lose hope.
Voltron arrives in a repurposed Galra ship, and Tex is hit with the reminder that all this time, humanity had been placing their hopes on teenagers . They were hardly trained soldiers or seasoned war heroes - they were a group of hungry, tired and homesick teenagers.
He watches as Colleen catches the green paladin who literally jumps into her arms. Katie Holt couldn't be any older than sixteen. Sam envelopes his wife and daughter in a hug and Bae Bae dance around them. There were other parties for the blue paladin, and the yellow one was talking to one of the Garrison teachers.
His eyes finally find... there. The Red Paladin. Keith, looking even older now, a scar on one cheek. His boy stands beside a taller man with white hair and a scar across his nose. It takes Tex a while to recognize the face of Takashi Shirogane from the pictures he'd seen over the past year. Behind them are the Alteans - a middle-aged man and two young women. Keith and Shirogane make way to introduce the white-haired Altean - Princess Allura - to Iverson, Sanda and the other Garrison higher-ups who welcome them.
Finally, Tex steps out from the crowd and calls out to his son, "Keith?"
Keith blinks once and looks around, eyes widening when he sees him. "D-Dad...?"
"Keith!" Tex calls out, opening his arms as his son breaks from his little group to run to him. When Keith crashes into him, it’s not quite like Colleen and Katie, but it’s very close. Tex has to take several steps back to not fall over. "Oof! Wow." He laughs, full and breathless as strong arms wrap around his neck and hold on so tight his bones almost break. Keith is still shorter than him, but not by much now. "Take it easy on your old man, kid."
Keith sniffles against his shoulder and draws back to look at him, eyes stormy with emotion. "You were a lot taller last time I saw you, pop. And you were sleeping."
Tex laughs again, and Keith sobs as his father ruffles his hair fondly and tries to take in how much he had really grown. His sobs turn into awkward laughter when Tex leans down and peppers his forehead with kisses. "Stop it, Dad! I'm not ten anymore! And your beard tickles!"
"I don't care if you're ten or nineteen, kid." Tex says, and then rubs his rough chin against his son's forehead for good measure, prompting Keith to snort and giggle.
"I'm twenty one!"
He draws back, raising an eyebrow. "I slept for seven years. Plus two. You're nineteen."
"Time's weird in space. I had two extra birthdays. You can ask mom. She was there."
Tex's expression softens. "You found her, then?"
"Yeah." Keith smiles sheepishly. "She's coming back soon, Dad. She's just... picking up some friends on the way."
Tex only nods. He’ll take what he can get. Having Keith back is enough of a gift. He ruffles his son's hair again, just looking at him.
They are interrupted when a furry head butts in between them. Tex yelps as he steps back, while Keith simply laughs and scratches the strange wolf-like creature’s chin.
"Dad, meet space wolf."
"You named it space wolf?"
Keith pouts. "No. He's a space wolf. I'm waiting for him to tell me his name."
Tex pauses for a second before nodding sagely. "I'm guessing your mom thought that was the logical thing to do, too."
Keith raises an eyebrow. "Yeah. Why?"
"Nothing." Tex waves it off, then crouches down to offer let the wolf sniff his hand. "Nice to meet you, space wolf. Keith finally got that puppy he was always askin' for, eh? I'm just glad you're not a space hippo."
"Hey..." Keith whines, embarrassed. "Space hippos are cool. Mom showed me pictures."
"Of course she did." Tex sighs again. When he stands back up, he couldn’t help but notice the blonde Altean hovering giddily by Keith's shoulder, clinging to his arm. "You found a girlfriend?"
Keith splutters before answering. "Whu-... N-No...? Who- Oh. This is Romelle. She tagged along with me and mom for a bit."
"Hello, Mr. Keith's Father!" she greets happily. "Krolia told me a lot about you!"
"Oh? Pleased to meet you, Miss Romelle. Call me Tex." he says, raising his hand for her to shake. She looks delighted as she slaps her palm against it instead, and then Keith is watching as his dad and Romelle awkwardly try some sort of secret handshake that neither of them really know, ending with finger guns.
Keith shakes his head, taking Romelle's hand so she'll stop pointing and making weird laser noises. He whispers, "You're not riding with Lance again."
Romelle only blinks before she says, "The others wanted me to get you so they can introduce you to their families."
Keith looks smaller all of a sudden, as he looks toward the rest of the paladins and their families, all beckoning him to come over. "They... do?"
Tex grins. His boy might have grown, but he's always been a shy kid, especially with strangers. Grinning, he slaps a hand to his son's shoulder and gives it a reassuring squeeze. "C'mon, kiddo, let's go over there so I can brag about my boy. Leader of Voltron! Hah!"
Keith rolls his eyes, bashful. "Dad!"
"Let's just goooo~" Romelle whines, pulling at his arm. Together, they manage to drag Keith towards their bigger, newfound family.
The arrivals of the paladins see a new surge of activity in the Garrison. Between plans, meetings, repairs and various other preparations being done, there had been hardly any time for anyone to breathe, but gradually Tex and Keith manage to catch each other up on things. They talk about the time Tex woke up and how he came to be in the Garrison. The talk about how Keith ended up in space, how he met his mother again, the two years in the space whale.
Those were enough to tell Tex what sort of things Keith did , but not enough to tell him what kind of person Keith is .
With so little time, Tex gets to know his son better not through conversations, but through observations.
Keith is a leader now. He has his own team, and it’s obvious that this team knows that they are one. When Pidge and Hunk come up with a technical solution to things, they turn to Keith and Shiro first and then rely on either of the two to pass it on to Iverson and the rest of the Garrison. Keith is a reluctant authority, not used to so many people conferring with him, but he is confident when he makes up his mind.
Keith is fair, well aware of his own limits and never too proud to step down when things are out of his league. He doesn’t miss a chance to highlight Allura’s expertise and Coran’s guidance. When he has doubts, he consults with Shiro.
Keith is protective, he had defended Pidge when someone questioned her capabilities due to her age. More than once, he’d glared at people whose remarks made Romelle uncomfortable.
Keith is sensitive, Tex knew that Keith let Lance skip meetings or leave early more times than necessary because the latter was eager to spend time with his family.
Tex also learns that Keith has become a formidable fighter. He watches as Keith easily wipes the training room floor with some of the Garrison’s finest when they challenged him to a sparring session.
“They really shouldn’t have challenged a Blade.” Lance says, expression a mix of awe and disdain. “Look, he’s not even tired.”
“Keith.” Shiro sighs as Keith walks up to them, after no one else came forward. “You didn’t have to throw that guy that far…” He scolds, and maybe it would have come across more honest if he didn’t have an amused smile on his face as he offers Keith his water bottle.
Keith shrugs as he accepts the drink. “He said not to hold back.” He leans down to allow Shiro to drape a towel on his head. “And you said to be civil with the Garrison. So. I did what they asked.”
Tex makes note of the sheer domesticity of that little exchange for later - they haven’t talked about that part yet - instead he focuses on something lighter. “I know that last move. Your mother teach you that?”
“We didn’t have much to do on the space whale.” Keith answers. “You know, I can read Galran now? Speaking is a different story though. There was just… so much time...”
“So…” that comes from one of the MFE pilots, Rizavi, who had been hanging nearby their little group and enjoying the show. “Is there anyone in this entire facility who could possibly beat you?”
“Shiro probably can.” Hunk says, with absolute certainty.
Almost instantly, both Keith and Shiro freeze. Hunk doesn’t miss this and quickly hunches over himself, mumbling an apology under his breath.
Rizavi doesn’t notice, only perking up in interest. “Really? Can we see a demo?”
“No.” Keith answers, stone cold. “Show’s over.”
Shiro attempts a strained smile as he shakes his head. “Sorry, cadet. I’m forbidden from strenuous activity at the moment, I’m getting equipped with a new arm soon.”
Tex jots that down for later, too.
He first lets Colleen rant about Sam and Katie-call-me-Pidge being too engrossed in their latest work to join her for lunch. When she had let it out and calmed down, he asks, “What can you tell me about this Shirogane fellow?”
Colleen narrows her eyes at him and takes a bite of her food. Then she says, “You’ve had more than a year to inquire about Shiro. Why ask now?”
This woman is too sharp it’s terrifying.
“Why now, right after the paladins’ return? Could it be because you finally have a reason to be concerned about him? Hm?”
Again - terrifying.
He can’t wait for her and Krolia to be friends.
Tex shrugs, feigning innocence. “I’m just curious.”
Colleen laughs, not looking the least bit convinced. She steals some of his dessert and pops it in her mouth. “He’s a good man, Tex. Without him, I probably would never have gotten my husband and kids back. One of the kindest, most hardworking and honest young men I’ve met. It’s a wonder he’s still the way he is after everything he’s been through.”
He nods. Shiro, Keith and the other Paladins, even the Princess… they all took on too much, too young.
Colleen tells him what she knew about Shiro’s illness, about Adam, about taking Keith to the launch. By the time they’re finished with lunch, Tex had a better knowledge of Shiro than what he had gotten from news articles and passing mentions.
“They’re good for each other, I think.” Colleen says.
Tex belatedly realizes that she had eaten the rest of his dessert while he’s lost in his thoughts, and he blinks up at her. “Who?”
She looks at him, unimpressed. “Tex, please. I have eyes.”
They finally get that rare day off, and for the first time since the paladins arrived, Tex finally sees his son truly calm down. In the plush couch of their living quarters, Keith lies face down, hair a mess and wearing only a worn Garrison hoodie and boxer shorts. The wolf sniffs at him before climbing up and settling on top of him like a giant furry blanket. Keith groans at the weight but doesn't move.
He looks every bit like that growing boy that Tex had imagined him to be, during those years they both lost. Perhaps he knows his son better than he thinks, after all.
"Nothing to do today, kiddo?" Tex asks.
"Nothing. Finally." Keith groans. "Nobody wake me unless Sendak is here."
Tex hums, sitting on the smaller couch and propping his feet on the low table. He leans back and takes a sip of hot coffee. "Not gonna hang out with your friends then?"
Keith groans again. "I see them everyday. We all need a break from each other. Seriously, last time we spent too long together, we all almost killed each other."
"Then... what about Shiro?"
This makes Keith pause. Slowly, he echoes the question. "What... about... Shiro?"
"You don't want to spend time with him?"
"I... Why... He doesn't... Should I? I mean, I could, but... does he want to? I-... What? Why are you singling him out? What-... Wait, is Shiro okay?"
Tex had to hold back his laughter at that. "No, I just... I mean... You two seemed close, I guess."
"He's my best friend." Keith says, almost grudgingly. Or perhaps it was his voice muffled by the pillow. "We're okay. We don't have to spend every second together, it's not like we're-..."
Keith cuts off abruptly. Tex sips some more coffee.
Keith turns his head to face him and glare. His face is red and sleep-marked, his hair is sticking up to every direction. "Okay. Shut up, dad."
Tex laughs. "What? I didn't say anything."
"Mom is now my favorite parent. I've decided."
Tex frowns, heartbroken. "Hey, now."
"It's not like that with Shiro, okay?"
"Again. I said absolutely nothing."
"You didn't have to."
"I'm really not saying anything, kid."
Keith glares harder. He looks so much like Krolia after eating "bad" Earth food.
"But if I was-"
"-can you blame me? My son, lounging in our own home, wearing another man's clothes-"
"I'm not-" Keith pauses, looks down at his hoodie, then growls. "Yes, but it's not what you think."
"Okay, Keith." he concedes, laughing lightly. "By the way, I kept whatever valuables I could find from the shack and from your backpack I found outside the Blue Lion's cave."
Keith blinks, looking confused until Tex reaches into his own jacket and takes out a single photograph and a pair of dog tags, then places them on the table.
Keith takes a long, surprised look at the items before snatching them from the table. He shoves the items on the hoodie's pockets and buries his face on the couch again.
"It's really... not like that, you know."
"If you say so, Keith."
"Stop it with the voice, dad."
Then he hears his son mumble, "Thank you."
Later that same day, Keith puts on some pants and tells his father that he's going out to get some fresh air.
Tex spends a good hour with the space wolf draped across his lap, tapping aimlessly at his data-pad before he gets bored and asks the wolf if he wants to go for a walk.
He is walking along an empty corridor with a good view of the desert, the wolf trotting leisurely ahead of him, when he catches sight of two people on the balcony of an adjacent building.
Keith is perched on the railings, while Shiro is leaning on the railings beside him, the two facing opposite directions. He sees Keith take the dog tags out from the hoodie's pocket and hand it to Shiro, who looks surprised but pleased. From his view, Tex could only see Shiro's expression, and he observes the man's fond smile as he says something before closing Keith's fingers around the tags and pushing his hand away.
He's letting Keith keep it.
Keith is still for a moment before he surprises Shiro by pulling him into a hug. Shiro melts into it, letting out a long sigh as he wraps an arm around the other's torso.
They're talking, and Tex is not a lip-reader, but he knows comfort and contentment when he sees it.
"I'm just saying, Keith. Friends don't cuddle for an hour on balconies."
"That's it. I'm moving out."
"Ooohhh... Moving in with Shiro? That was fast."
Tex already missed a decade of his son's life. He's grateful that he gets to be here for this.
Sendak and his forces arrive on Earth. The paladins call the lions and Earth witnesses the might of Voltron. Sanda betrays them, but they make it out. The Atlas flies. Shiro faces off against Sendak and Keith delivers the finishing blow. A mysterious new enemy appears. The Atlas transforms to aid Voltron. They defeat the enemy but the battle was far from over.
The next thing Tex knew, he was standing in the Atlas' bridge watching the five lions of Voltron fall from the sky.
Captain Shirogane's voice cracks as he issues the order to compute the lions' trajectories, and then the crew scramble to assemble rescue teams and get to the crash sites as fast as they could.
There was no question as to which team Tex joins, and he wasn't surprised when Shiro passes command to Iverson to follow them.
The find the Black Lion beaten and unmoving near Garrison grounds. The first batch of rescuers were at a loss as to how to get inside, and clear a path for Shiro as he walks with purpose.
He lays his hand on the lion's jaw and doesn't even get to finish his plea before its eyes glow weakly and it opens its mechanical maw.
Shiro rushes inside and Tex follows. They find Keith unconscious, fallen from the pilot's chair, cracked helmet on the floor nearby. The wolf was already there, whining as he nosed at Keith's hand. He steps back when Shiro and Tex arrive. Shiro gathers Keith in his arms, shuddering as he takes in how pale Keith looks, how much blood there is-
"Oh, God. Keith...? Keith, Can you hear me? Keith- He's not- He's not moving- Keith- Please, no, not you-"
It takes everything in Tex to remain calm at the sight of his only son bloody and bruised. He wants to scream, to punch something, but Shiro is shaking and pleading, sobbing against Keith's limp body, and Tex knows he needs to be the strong one here.
"Shiro- Shiro, listen to me. I need you to calm down- Keith needs you to calm down. Now."
Shiro tries to nod, but he's shaking too much and can't seem to let go of Keith. "I can't-... I can't lose him-"
"I know. So you have to move back and let me help him, okay?"
Tex tries to not think of the worst of his fears as he gently pries Keith from Shiro's arms and lays him down on the cockpit floor and tries frantically to search for a heartbeat, for a breath-
He finds both, and quickly barks orders for the medical team hovering behind him.
They perform emergency aid, load Keith on the stretcher and rush to their fastest vehicle. He pulls Shiro upright and hauls him out the lion to follow.
He doesn't breathe easy until the doctors tell him that Keith is in stable condition.
Tex does a quick check on the other paladins and stays up with the other parents and families to hold vigil. Sam, bless the man, had been the one to take Shiro aside to clean up and get himself checked for injuries as well. With all that’s happened, most of them had overlooked the fact that the young Captain had gone head-to-head with Sendak himself that day.
Allura’s condition stabilizes first, thanks to her Altean constitution. Hunk suffered minimal injuries, protected by his lion's unique bulk. Pidge and Lance were on their way to recovery as well and have both regained consciousness for a bit before passing out again due to fatigue. As for Keith… his Galra side made things more difficult to predict, and the doctors were unsure as to when he’ll be waking up.
When Tex comes back to his son's room, he finds Romelle on the chair by the bed. She had fallen asleep with her head on the bed, her hands gripping one of Keith’s, tear tracks on her cheeks. The wolf lies by her feet, awake but quiet, yellow eyes glowing in the dark. Tex takes the spare blanket and settles it snugly around the sleeping girl.
There’s a soft knock behind him and he turns around to see Shiro standing uncertainly at the doorway. The man looks tired, his undershirt untucked, uniform draped loosely on his shoulders.
“Shiro.” Tex says, voice quiet so as not to wake Romelle. “You coming in?”
Shiro takes a shuddering breath before stepping inside and standing beside him, at the foot of Keith’s bed. He sees Romelle and smiles softly before he says, “Krolia is on her way.”
Tex looks at him in surprise and waits for him to continue.
“She was already on the way. Her blade flickered, that’s how she knew something happened to Keith. So she contacted us as soon as they got within range.”
Tex nods. “How did she sound?”
At this, Shiro lets out a sheepish chuckle. “Like she’s going to tear apart the universe if that’s what it takes to get here right at this moment.”
He grins. “That’s her, alright.”
Shiro falls quiet for a long moment as they just stand there, watching Keith breathe.
When the silence starts bordering on awkward, the kind of I’m-standing-next-to-a-guy-looking-longingly-at-my-sleeping-son-and-he’ll-probably-stand-here-all-night awkward, Tex clears his throat.
“You can come closer, you know that, right?”
“I… actually don’t.” Shiro says, voice soft like a whisper, and Tex knows he’s talking about something else. “Would he want me to?”
Oh, good riddance.
They are both dense as bricks.
This explains a lot .
“You should ask him, when he wakes up.” Tex says, giving the younger man’s back a firm pat. “But what I know for certain is that he always appreciates you being near.”
Shiro looks at him and smiles. “Um… I meant to do this sooner, but I just wanted to say that I’m really happy for both of you. I used to drive Keith to the hospital to visit you, and he had nothing but good things to say about you. He never lost hope that you’d wake up one day. And Keith… Keith was always so strong and brave. I admired that about him, and I know it’s because of the man who raised him. So… I really am honored to have the opportunity to meet you, sir.”
Tex stares, and it takes him several moments to take all that in, and several more to formulate a proper answer. His hand is still resting on Shiro’s back, so he just gives him another pat.
“Boy. Stop talkin’ like you’re about to ask for my son’s hand because I’m startin’ to think that’s what you’re tryin’ to do here.”
Shiro turns red and ends up a spluttering mess, and Tex had to muffle his laugh at the last second when he saw Romelle stir slightly.
“I-... I-It’s not like that! I’m just- I’m just really happy for Keith, and you, uh, sir-”
“And stop with the ‘sir’, you’re a Captain . Call me like everyone else does. What do you call Krolia?”
“Ma’am? Before she scared me into calling her Krolia?”
“Then I’m scaring you into calling me Tex.”
“Good. Now are you going back to the bridge or your quarters, or do you want to take the couch?”
“Uh- I’m-... I feel like… I feel like I’m intruding?”
“Nonsense. I know you’d sleep on the bed if Romelle hadn’t beat you to it.”
Shiro seems to have nothing to say to that, but his blushing cheeks are enough of an indication for Tex. “P-Please take the couch, Sir- Tex. I’ll… get another chair.”
When Tex wakes up in the morning, Shiro and Romelle are both gone, while the space wolf had transferred to lie at the foot of the bed, still wide awake, a guard. Tex checks up on Keith, then tells the wolf that he’s gonna go out a bit to go get breakfast for both of them. The wolf blinks once and Tex takes that as understanding.
He gets a tray of breakfast, adds a healthy serving of meat for the wolf, makes himself a cup of coffee and heads back.
When he returns to the room, he almost drops his tray.
Sitting on the bed, back turned towards him, hovering over Keith and tenderly stroking his hair, is Krolia.
She is wearing what must be a Blade of Marmora uniform - Tex has never seen it before, but it’s an uncanny match to her knife, strapped to her hip.
“I’m here now, my star.” she whispers, voice shaking as she caresses her son’s cheek. “You were so brave. So strong. Rest and heal, I’ll be here when you wake up.”
He says, “He’ll be alright.”
Krolia jolts and whirls around to look at him. She looks just as young and beautiful as the last time he had seen her. Her eyes were wide, and the tears that had been forming in them finally fall when she breathes out.
“Welcome back, gorgeous.” he says.
“You-... Keith told me you were-... I saw it, you were unconscious-”
He shrugs as he sets the tray of food aside. “I woke up. ‘Bout time. Had a very ugly headache when I did, let me tell you.”
He walks up to her and takes her hands in his. Her eyes trace his face - the start of wrinkles around his eyes, the stubble, the new scars, and then she smiles her beautiful smile and he knows none of them matters.
So he goes ahead and kisses her knuckles. “I always knew you’d come home.”
“I almost thought I’d never be able to.” Krolia admits, chuckling. “But Keith found me.”
Tex grins, leaning forward, pressing their foreheads together. “That’s our boy.”
She nods and cradles his face in her hands as he wraps her in his arms. He kisses her teary cheeks first, and then her lips.
He doesn’t notice that he’s crying too until she says so, and he only laughs through it and kisses the woman he loves some more. It’s been too long. They’ve missed so much, but they’ll be able to make up for it starting now.
They part from each other to look at their son in the bed. He hugs Krolia from behind, resting his chin on her shoulder while she tucks strands of hair behind Keith’s ear.
“He’ll be alright. We have to believe that.” he says.
“I know.” she replies, leaning against him and tilting her head when he presses another kiss to her cheek.
“I didn’t hear you arrive. I would’ve met you in the hangar.”
“I went ahead of the others. The wolf came to get me as soon as my ship entered the atmosphere.”
Tex looks shortly at the wolf currently licking at Keith’s hand. “He knew ?”
“Somehow.” she says, not particularly concerned. “I’m still not connected to him as much as Keith is, though.”
There’s a soft knock on the door, and they turn to see Shiro, smiling awkwardly. “Um… Can we… come in now?”
Tex blinks. “How long have you been there?”
Shiro rubs his neck, not meeting his eyes. “We tried not to intrude, but the door was wide open...”
A tall Galra who Tex had never seen before also peers inside. He is wearing the same uniform as Krolia's. “Greetings.”
“Ah. You’re here.” Krolia smiles as she and Tex both straighten up and face their guests.
“Yes, thankfully we didn’t crash when our pilot suddenly disappeared.”
“I set it on auto-pilot before I left.” Krolia shrugs. “Tex, this is Kolivan. Keith’s mentor. Leader of the Blade of Marmora. Kolivan, this is Tex, Keith’s father.”
“Your mate.” Kolivan says, stepping inside the room. He had to lean down a little to not hit his head on the doorframe.
“My mate.” Krolia confirms, smiling.
Kolivan extends a hand towards Tex. “It is an honor to meet you. Keith and Krolia are valued members of the Blade. They saved my life.” he looks to Krolia first, and then Keith. “I cherish them as my own family.”
“Took the words right out of my mouth.” Tex grins, shaking the Galran’s hand.
Kolivan tilts his head, brows furrowing. “Pardon?”
“It’s a human expression.” Krolia says, patting his arm as she walks past him. “It means that you just said what he was intending to say himself.”
“Oh.” Kolivan nods in understanding. Then he looks past Tex, towards Keith, and his expression softens. “May I?”
“Of course.” Tex says, moving aside.
Kolivan is too tall to be comfortable leaning down, so he gets on one knee beside the bed to look properly at Keith. He lays a hand on top of Keith’s head, very carefully.
“Wake up soon, kit.” he says, his deep voice sounding almost too soft for someone his size. “I can’t scold you while you’re unconscious. And I have to, or else everyone will think I have a favorite.”
Tex wants to tell him that he might as well have admitted to the fact himself, but lets him have his moment.
Also, he decides that he likes Kolivan.
When he looks to the side, he sees that Krolia has pulled Shiro into a hug, which Shiro almost melts into. When she draws away to look at him, she immediately asks if he’d eaten anything, or slept, or rested at all. Shiro is quick to reassure her, looking touched at her genuine concern.
They are only interrupted when Romelle arrives and launches herself at Krolia, who chuckles and hugs her back.
“Allura is awake! Coran is with her now. Hunk woke up too, but he fell asleep again after eating. Veronica said they found his parents and they’re coming soon. I tried to visit Lance but his room is full of children. He looks okay. Pidge is barely awake but she wants me to tell Shiro that she has a list of enhancements for the Atlas. An ‘arr-kade’? Whatever that is. I can’t understand properly, she was talking like someone who’s had too much nunvil.”
“Thank you for the report, Romelle.” Shiro says with a smile.
Another knock on the door. This time it’s Veronica, with at least a dozen other Blades of various shapes and sizes hovering behind her.
She tries not to sound awkward. “Um… More guests?”
“Are we allowed to see Keith?” one of the Blades ask.
“Has he woken up yet?” another says, and that is followed by various chatter from the others in the crowd.
“Is Leader there?”
“Of course Leader is there. Keith is his kit.”
“Keith’s father is Terran. That’s why he’s so tiny and pink.”
“Keith is not pink. He told me he’s white.”
“But he’s not white. He’s yellow-pink.”
“Wait… Keith is not purple?! He’s never been purple?!”
“Have you never seen him? Or did you just forget?”
“Of course I have! But I’m colorblind!”
Kolivan groans, and bows his head apologetically when Tex turns to him. “Please pardon their manners. They are young Blades, and are simply concerned for Keith. They… bonded with him, I suppose, while he was training with us.”
Tex only nods, taking that in. “I guess this is Keith’s version of joinin’ a sports team and bringin’ them all home, huh.”
Kolivan eventually succeeds on herding the other Blades away from Keith’s room and to their own allocated quarters.
Romelle goes to stay with Allura, and Shiro returns to the bridge to attend to his duties.
Tex finally gets to eat his now-cold breakfast, while Krolia sits on the bed again to fuss over Keith.
“So… what do you think of our son’s friends?” Krolia asks, tucking a fresh blanket neatly around her son.
Tex sips his also-now-cold coffee and decisively says, “I need them to wear name tags.”
Krolia laughs, turning towards him with a fond smile.
Tex grumbles. “At least the paladins were color-coded.”
They watch the live broadcast of Shiro’s inspiring commemorative speech from Keith’s room. The Captain of the Atlas talks about their victory against their Galran invaders, about striving for peace, and about a new era ushered in by Earth’s place in the Intergalactic Coalition.
“So, he can talk.” Tex remarks. “And he’s good at it.”
“Shiro is a very reliable diplomat. He always does very well in talks with other Coalition representatives.” Kolivan says from his perch on the windowsill. He had said that he spent most of his life in space, in ships, so he is very fascinated by the desert and the open sky.
“Well, when he’s talking to me, he’s either falling over himself, or extremely polite to the point that I can’t understand what he’s talking about. He once called me ‘Sir Mister Kogane’ and didn’t even notice.”
“That’s quite sweet.” Krolia says. She is sitting at Keith’s bedside, as she has been for the past days, holding her son’s hand. “Not many people can make Shiro nervous. I suppose he wants your approval.”
Tex throws his hands up. “He’s literally my superior officer!”
“You’re literally Keith’s father.” Krolia deadpans.
“Keith literally has a headache and he’d like some quiet.” Keith says.
Tex, Krolia, Kolivan and the four odd Blades sitting on one corner of the room all look towards the bed and exclaim, “Keith!!!”
“Kid! You’re awake!”
“How do you feel, Keith?”
“I’ll get the doctor.” - a pause - “The doctor is scared of me. Ilun, you’re smallest, get the doctor.”
“Aw, but Leader!”
“Why are you all so loud. ” Keith grumbles, lifting up an arm to cover his eyes, then blinking up at it and frowning at the IV in the back of his hand. “Take this off, I’m fine.”
“Now, now, kiddo, I see we’re waking up cranky.” Tex says, taking Keith’s hand in his before Keith could decide to rip the needle off himself in annoyance. “How are you feeling?”
“Like I’ll throw up if I try sitting up. Is this what a hangover feels like? I’ve never been drunk before but I think this is what that feels like.” Keith babbles, eyes fluttering. He feels a warm hand stroke his hair and blinks up at Krolia. He smiles sleepily. “Hi, mom.”
“Hi, little star.” Krolia says, voice soft in consideration of Keith’s earlier request. She leans down and presses a kiss to his forehead.
“Look. Dad woke up.” he says.
Krolia chuckles. “Mm-hm. I figured as much.”
“Did we win?”
“Yes, kid. We won.” Tex chuckles, giving his son’s hand a gentle squeeze. “Good job.”
“Are the others okay?”
Krolia nods. “They’re okay.”
“He’s okay too. He’s delivering a speech right now. Do you want to hear it?”
Krolia doesn’t have to ask as Kolivan takes the initiative to turn up the volume of the live broadcast.
Keith pauses to listen and nods. “Y’know, he hates doing speeches. Tell ‘im to rest.”
“We will, Keith. Do you want to go back to sleep? You can, if you want to. The doctor can come back again.”
Keith closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, then shakes his head lightly. “I’ll wait.” He looks down when the wolf noses his arm, then tries his best to scratch the creature’s head. “Hey, boy.”
The wolf only whines and nuzzles his side as gently as he could.
Romelle enters the room and gasps when she sees Keith. “Keith! You’re awake!” She plops on the floor next to him, perching her elbows and head on the bed. “I was so worried! I came here to give you this.”
She hands Keith an indecipherable bunch of pink and white balloons twisted together. Keith accepts it and stares.
“I wanted to make something nice for you and I looked up what Terrans give their loved ones when they’re sick, and I found your balloon things very interesting.”
Keith keeps staring, then he sniffs. “It’s a hippo…”
“Yes! Your favorite Earth animal!”
Keith hugs the balloon sculpture weakly and smiles at her. “I love it. Thank you.”
Romelle giggles and kisses his cheek.
Tex leans towards Krolia and whispers, “I don’t-... Do you see the hippo part?”
Krolia swats his shoulder lightly. “Hush. If Keith can see it, that’s good enough.”
The doctor arrives, and the crowd clears out to make way for him. He asks Keith the customary questions, and while still weak and a bit out of it, Keith gives pretty clear answers. The doctor congratulates him and tells the room that they might be keeping Keith for another day or two for tests, but otherwise, he is on his way to a nice recovery.
On the broadcast, Shiro finishes his speech to resounding applause, and Kolivan turns the volume down again.
After greeting Kolivan and the Blades shortly, Keith finally gives in to the urge to go back to sleep. Krolia and Romelle help ease him to lie on his side, a more comfortable sleeping position.
“If Shiro drops by, can you tell him it was a nice speech?”
“But you only caught that last part.” Tex points out, amused.
“It’s Shiro.” Keith says, looking miffed.
Krolia laughs, stroking his hair, getting him to close his eyes. “Alright. I’ll tell him when he drops by. He’s been worried sick over you.”
“When is he not.” he grumbles under his breath. “Worry ‘bout everythin’. M’okay. Ol’timer. Love ‘im so much.”
There’s a collective ‘aww’ among the others in the room and Keith only mumbles about keeping quiet and letting him sleep.
Tex wakes up on the couch slowly, to two voices in a quiet conversation. He squints to look across the room. The lights were dimmed but he could see Keith’s face in the light glow from Shiro’s arm. Shiro is sitting on the chair and Tex squints just enough to see Keith’s hand move to cradle the man’s cheek, and Shiro laying his own hand over it.
“I really thought-” Shiro says, almost inaudible. “I didn’t know - still don’t know - what I’m gonna do if I-... lost you, Keith.”
Keith’s voice in still tired and rough from disuse when he speaks. “Well… in the words of someone I know, it takes more than a fall from the upper atmosphere and crashing into a hard pan surface... to get rid of me.”
Shiro chuckles wetly. “Cheeky.”
“Learned from the best. Was taking notes that day. Definitely not falling off cliffs.” Keith replies, grinning. “Seriously. I’m not that easy to-... Are you crying?”
“Don’t cry. I’ll cry if you cry.”
“I just-...” Shiro takes a deep breath first. “Keith?”
“Hm?” Keith asks, trying clumsily to wipe the tears from Shiro’s cheeks.
“That… That time. That time we… fought… because of Haggar...”
“What about it?”
Keith had told Tex about that, in clipped sentences, pain in his eyes. Tex knew that took a lot out of Keith, and when he asked if things were okay with him and Shiro after that, Keith only said that yes - things were okay - but they still had some healing and talking to do.
This is it, perhaps.
And Tex knows that he shouldn’t be here for this.
So he interrupts with an exaggerated yawn, sitting up, making his presence known. He pretends to be surprised when he sees Shiro. “Oh, hey, Shiro. Good, you’re here. Krolia’s s’pposed to stay here tonight, wanna take her shift?”
Shiro quickly does his best to hide his tears as he nods. “Oh, I-... I- Sure, sir- Tex. Sir. I- Yes, I can… stay here… with Keith. Tonight. Yes. Uh- You and Krolia should rest.”
“You’re really doin’ us a solid, Captain. Thank you.” Tex says, picking up his jacket and his things. He walks over to them and ruffles Keith’s hair. “Kid - get some rest soon, okay?”
“Yes, dad.” Keith says. His eyebrows are drawn in a way that told Tex that he knows he’s up to something. “Good night.”
“Night. Don’t stay up too late, kids.” he says, and with a quick wave, he is closing the door behind him.
There. That should, hopefully, give them enough privacy for this long overdue conversation.
Tex knows that he should probably hurry back to their quarters, now shared with the rest of the Blades. He should catch Krolia before she leaves for Keith’s room to stay there overnight.
Still, he couldn’t help but make a quick stop - to somewhere he’s been meaning to go to for sometime now.
The Voltron Lions stand proud in their own hangar. Most of the repair staff had gone, but somehow Tex is not surprised to see Princess Allura standing in front of Blue.
“Late night, Princess?” Tex asks in greeting as he stands beside her.
Allura turns to him with a surprised but pleased smile. “Oh! I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure - you’re Mr. Tex, right? Keith’s father? I’m sorry, I don’t know why we haven’t talked before.”
“That’s right, Your Highness. And I understand. You guys just got here and everyone was just… busy. Regardless, it is nice to finally talk to you. I want to thank you for everything you did for Keith.”
Allura shakes her head. “Keith did so much for me, too. He’s been a wonderful paladin and friend, and he is family to me, now. How is he?”
“Well enough. You know he woke up earlier today. He’s up again, but I figure I’d let Shiro have him for now. Looks like they both need a little quiet time, just the two of them.”
“Ah.” she nods, knowing. “I think they do, too. And you? You came to… visit the lions?”
“Yeah, you can say that.” he says, and this time he looks up at the Blue Lion. “It’s really different, to see them all together like this, in the light.”
“You were only familiar with Blue.” Allura says. “And she was… in a cave, if I recall correctly?”
He nods. “This one here kept me company for a lot of years. Krolia left, and I couldn’t tell Keith about her. There were days when the Blue Lion was the only thing that reminded me that it’s worth it, the woman I love is out there, fighting for us, for something bigger than I can ever imagine.” He turns to Allura with an easy grin. “Call it silly, but she’s kinda like an old friend to me.”
Allura looks at him in open wonder, then smiles. “No, it’s not silly at all. I can’t begin to think about what it was like, to raise your child alone, not being able to tell him about his brave, wonderful mother. I’m sure Blue appreciated your sacrifice, to protect her.”
“You know, when I woke up, after seven years in comatose, I heard a lion’s roar? At that moment I opened my eyes, I could’ve sworn I heard it. Probably just me, though.” he says, sheepish. “You know, the meds, my head…”
Allura’s brows furrow thoughtfully, and her gaze travels from him, to the Blue Lion, and back to him again. “Keith said you woke up the same day the Blue Lion left Earth, is that right? After seven of your Earth years asleep from an injury. You stayed unconscious as your body recovered?”
He blinks. “Yeah, that’s about it…”
“This is just a thought, and I can’t be sure, but… Perhaps it might have something to do with the Blue Lion?” Allura says, still thoughtful.
“What do you mean?”
“Perhaps you two have a connection of some sort. The Blue Lion is the most emotionally open among the lions of Voltron. She may not think of you as her paladin, but she might have seen you and Krolia as, at the very least, allies. Protectors. And as you said, for a time, it was just you and Blue.”
“Huh… So you think… when she found her paladin, she woke me up too?”
“Something like that. You do know about how the Black Lion held Shiro’s soul for a time? I wouldn’t be surprised if Blue had done the same for you, or something close to that, just to keep you connected to her over the years. Perhaps she only let you go when she absolutely had to, to protect her paladin.”
Tex stares long and hard at the lion again. Blue is unmoving, but he thinks he sees some flicker in her eyes. That, or he does need to get some sleep. “That’s… Is that possible?”
“The lions work in mysterious ways, Mr. Tex. Up until now, I don’t believe we’ve really unlocked all their potential.” Allura says, then all of a sudden she giggles, as if tickled. “Oh, she is feeling particularly warm at the moment. I think she appreciates you coming to see her.”
Tex chuckles. He raises his hand and presses his palm to the Blue Lion’s paw. For the first time, after years of just looking through a barrier, he touches her. She feels cool to the touch, not in the way of cold metal, but more like a river running in peace.
He feels a sense of closure, laced with something else - a sense that something is just beginning. There’s a deep purr at the back of his mind, one of fond agreement.
He gives the Blue Lion an affectionate pat.
“Welcome back, old friend - and look how far we’ve come.”