Keith’s comms blinked, helmet spitting out static in a pathetic attempt to relay whatever message it had received. He sighed. It had been little over a day since he’d left the castle ship, he hadn’t told anyone where he was going or when he’d be back. Honestly, he didn’t know if he wanted to go back. It was fun, at first, being a paladin of Voltron. He’d gotten along well with his teammates (after some trial and error) and really felt himself bonding with them.
And then Shiro disappeared. And Keith became the black paladin. And everything went to shit.
Keith wasn’t like his teammates. He wasn’t human, not fully, and he wasn’t even Altean like Allura and Coran. No, Keith had to get stuck with the half-Galra heritage, his Marmoran blade a living monument, a badge of honor and shame, a nametag that showed everyone in the galaxy that he should be feared. It was whatever, he thought that he’d dealt with it, but apparently, he still had shit to work through. If only that damn ambassador…no. This was exactly what he’d been trying to avoid.
The desert stretched out before him, miles and miles of uncharted land, miles and miles of sand, grit, and pain. The wind bit at his clothes, his hands ached from carrying his stuff, his legs ached from walking nonstop, and yet he couldn’t shake the feeling rising in his chest. He smiled despite the whirlwind, warmth flooding his tired limbs at the sight of his old hut. He didn’t pick up his pace, didn’t think he could’ve if he tried, but he stood a little straighter, walked a little surer. He was home, after all these months, he was home.
The first thing he noticed was the layers of sand and dust piled up on his doormat. His little homestead had weathered many a sandstorm, and there was something comforting about knowing it had even when he wasn’t there to watch it. He pulled a lever, blowing the sand away, and creaked the door open.
The second thing he noticed was the absolute disarray of things. He’d left in a hurry, sure, but he hadn’t left it like this. His closet doors were torn off their hinges, clothes scattered on the ground, mixing with the loose pens and torn apart bedding. His wall of papers and red string was all but ransacked, only a few pins left standing. His minifridge was unplugged and sparking, and a puddle of mold was spreading out from where it had been tipped over. Keith let himself stare for a moment, taking in the damage. Clearly, just because he had left, doesn’t mean no one else came in.
Cleaning up was a monstrous task, one he completed in the same dedicated way he did everything. He tackled the mold first, scrubbing the floorboards to the best of his ability, then the clothes and bedding, and finally the loose pens and kitchen utensils. He was picking up the last few stray pencils when he noticed the third and final thing; a feather, long, gray, and barbed at the tips, had fallen from the ceiling.
Keith looked up, and felt the air leave his body.
Hunched over the ceiling support beams was the most terrifying creature Keith had ever seen. It was large, larger than Keith, with a bulky, smoke-colored body, glistening carapace, and haunting red eyes. Those eyes seemed to pierce into Keith’s soul, cataloging his emotions until only the ones related to fear and dread were left. Instinctively, he reached for his knife, only to realize he couldn’t move his body at all. His breathing quickened, all rationale had left him, leaving him a panting, shaking mess.
And then, in the most horrifyingly majestic movement he’d ever seen, the creature was gone, swooping from the ceiling and out the door, leaving a gasping Keith behind. He shuddered, body going limp as he fell into his ravaged bed. He was trembling, but his mind had already recovered. There was no doubt about what that was, who that was. When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth; and the truth, however improbable it sounded, was that Mothman, the Mothman, was living in his house.
The sand crunched underneath his boots, the only signal besides his soft breathing that he was there. Keith sent a silent thank you to Kolivan for teaching him Marmoran stealth techniques, he had always been quiet, but now he was nigh imperceptible. He reached a cave, one of the ones he’d been planning on checking out before he’d been swept away by the blue lion. It was the last one on his list, the final one he had to check before admitting that maybe the Mothman could stay hidden when it wanted to.
His ears rang as he travelled deeper and deeper, and it wasn’t until he was over fifty meters in that he considered it might not be due to air pressure. His heartrate spiked, adrenaline leaking out as sweat and being replaced by a bone-chilling sense of wrong. He smiled, albeit shakily. This was a good sign. He was on the right track.
He kept walking, forcing his shaky limbs to respond, testing out different paths, and doubling back when his fear began to ease. He knew what to expect, he was prepared this time. Mothman would not catch him off guard again.
There was a noise behind him, low and shrill, like a deflating blimp. The hairs on the back of Keith’s neck stood up, his blood ran cold. He smiled.
“Gotcha,” he said, turning around despite his body’s protests. Before him stood Mothman, in all its glory. it was smaller than Keith thought, just over six feet, but that was the only underwhelming thing about it. It stood with an air of pride, no, confidence. Its armored thorax and shiny carapace twinkled under the cave crystals, filling Keith with awe and dread. There was more power emanating off this creature than Keith had ever felt in his life. And yet…Mothman wasn’t as scary as he’d expected it to be. The feathers (fur?) around his neck fluffed up, trailing down his chest and tapering off at his hips. His wings, large and looming, rested behind him. Keith didn’t know when he started referring to Mothman as a “he”, but it felt right. After all, Keith was attracted to masculine things, and Mothman was…certainly more attractive than Keith had expected.
He shook his head, blushing as he rid himself of the thought. It was Mothman, a creature of darkness, bringer of tragedy, the scourge of the night! And yet, Keith couldn’t help but feel a twinge of pity when he looked into those hollow eyes. It sounded like a lonely way to live.
Mothman shifted, turning away from Keith, and pulling his wings around his body. Keith could see his antennae recede into his form, shrinking alongside the rest of his body until they were the same height. Mothman’s wings shrunk too, though not disappearing completely like his antennae did. When he turned back around, Keith was hit with yet another wave of dizziness, this time due to the image of the boy standing in front of him.
Mothman was hot, Mothman was very hot, oh god, Mothman was saying something, oh god Mothman’s voice was also very hot, fuck.
“Um, sorry,” Keith sputtered, “could you, uh, could you repeat that?” Mothman looked at him, blank expression twitching into bland amusement. Good. That was good, right?
“I said, my name is Misato Ryoya, why are you in my house?”
“Your…your house?” Keith asked. Mothm- no, Misato’s mouth twitched again.
“More like cave, I guess…” he trailed off, squinting at Keith. Recognition flashed in his eyes before fading into a sheepish humiliation, “ah…you’re the conspiracy theorist, then?”
Keith’s voice caught in his chest.
“Uh, yes? I’m-I live in the hut a few kilometers down? The one you, ah…”
“The one I destroyed?”
“You-yes, that one,” Keith sounded almost apologetic. The poor boy was blushing redder than Keith’s- than Lance’s lion, obviously embarrassed.
“I’m sorry about that, I was…” Misato paused, searching for the right word, “nesting? Hibernating? Resting, I guess. Moth aren’t…cleanly creatures, but I’m usually better than that,”
Keith nodded like he understood, which he obviously didn’t. He wasn’t sure what to say to Misato after that, but he didn’t want to let the conversation trail off, either.
“Do you, do you fly often? With your wings, I mean?” Keith winced. Flying? Really? That was the best he could come up with? Misato probably heard things like that all the time, what kind of-
“Yes, I do,” Misato cut off Keith’s train of thought and oh. Misato was blushing. He met Keith’s eyes shyly, smoothing his hands down the leg of his pants, pants that looked shockingly familiar, almost like- “would you…like me to show you?”
“What?” he choked out, causing Misato to blush even harder.
“I mean, if you’re not afraid of heights, or anything, the view is,” he let out a breathy chuckle, “it’s great, especially at night,”
Keith stared at him, brown-black eyes meeting sclera-less garnet ones. He felt himself nod before he could even consider what he was agreeing to. Misato’s sharp smile was worth it.
The view was great, the clouds curled above them, swirling around the two as they swooped through the sky. The air was thin and cold, sure, but Misato gave off a surprising amount of body heat, his feathers doing more to warm them up than any electric blanket Coran could offer. It was unfair, Keith supposed, comparing the two. Coran, all of the others, really, had always tried their best to make Keith feel at home. Still, there was something about Misato, something about not being the weirdest one speaking, that comforted Keith. He thought of his teammates, how worried they must be. They’d find him eventually, track him down with one of Pidge’s gadgets or find the location of his hut on google. They’d be coming back for him, he couldn’t stay hidden from them, from Voltron, forever.
Misato could, though. They didn’t know where he lived, they didn’t even know who he was. Misato was at the mercy of his whims, a truly free creature. If only Keith had that luxury.
They touched down a few moments later. Misato didn’t let go, giving Keith time to readjust. Keith didn’t let go either. He didn’t want to. Subconsciously, Misato represented Keith’s agency. As silly as that was, letting Misato go…
“Keith?” Misato said, quietly drawing Keith from his thoughts.
“Hm?” Keith hummed, caught up in the sensations that came with being so close to the creature before him. Misato may look more human now, but he was still undeniably wild. Maybe Keith envied that too.
“Nothing, you just seemed…distracted? I guess?” Misato’s red eyes flashed in concern. Keith bit his lip.
“I don’t-I’m not staying here for long, I can’t,”
Misato was quiet for a moment, his feathers fluffing up and settling as he processed Keith’s words.
“I don’t understand,” he answered, keeping his voice low, “I thought you just came back?”
“I did,” Keith sighed, pulling away slightly, but not all the way. “It was more of a break, I guess. My teammates will come looking for me soon,” he grimaced, “they probably already are,”
Misato tilted his head. “Teammates? Do you play a sport?”
“Not quite, we’re…it’s complicated. We’re kind of…soldiers? I guess? I don’t really know the specifics. We’re fighting these guys, or we were, now we’re working with some of them, it’s-”
“Complicated?” Misato guessed, earning an amused huff from Keith.
“Why did you leave, then?”
Keith furrowed his eyebrows. He didn’t really want to talk about it, but Misato sounded so earnest. He could trust him.
“We were meeting with this ambassador, trying to recruit him to join our cause. It was a standard dinner party, things were going well until…” he trailed off, clenching his fists in Misato’s feathers. The boy brought one of his hands up, cupping Keith’s cheek and turning his face towards him.
“Until…?” he prompted, words ghosting over Keith’s skin, making him shudder. Keith swallowed.
“He, um, he saw my knife and…well...”
Misato’s eyebrows wrinkled.
“Your knife? I don’t understand,”
“Right, yeah, sorry,” Keith pulled away, head swimming from their proximity. He gathered his thoughts, parsing out the easiest way to explain this. “I’m part Galra, which is the species my teammates and I were fighting against. There’s a group of people, most of them half-Galra, called the Blades of Marmora. I’m a member of that group-”
“And your knife symbolizes that?”
“Yes, exactly,” Keith smiled. Misato was smart, Keith liked that about him.
“So, the ambassador judged you based on your race, then?”
“Yeah, it was pretty shitty, huh?”
He’d meant it as a joke, but Misato’s eyes flashed. A shiver ran down his spine, reminding Keith that despite their camaraderie, he was still in the presence of an apex predator. Somehow, though, he didn’t feel scared.
“I’m sorry, that’s…that shouldn’t have happened to you.” Misato said it so matter-of-factly that Keith couldn’t help but believe him. That was another thing he liked about him.
“Honestly, I kind of expect it at this point,” Keith placed a placating hand on Misato’s shoulder, calming the feathers, “I mean, that doesn’t mean it’s okay, it’s not, I just…no, never mind, it’s stupid,”
“What is it?” Misato pressed, turning Keith’s face with the hand still on his cheek. Keith sighed.
“I just…he was perfectly polite until he saw my knife, they always are. I wish…I wish I looked more Galra, then I’d at least know who the assholes were when I first meet them, instead of finding out hours down the line,” or months, a tiny voice inside him said, conjuring images of Allura’s stony expression when his heritage was revealed. He pushed it away. Allura had apologized and he’d…he’d forgiven her.
“that’s not stupid,” Misato said, shaking his head. He dropped his hand to Keith’s waist, making no move to separate them. “I wished the same, after my teammates and I got close. Mostly so I wouldn’t have to tell them, though,”
“Your teammates?” Keith asked, eager to change the subject. He had a lot of feelings on the current topic, more than he was comfortable sharing all at once.
“Yes, I was on a men’s rhythmic gymnastics team in high school, my teammates and I…we were very close, especially in our first year,”
“You- men’s rhythmic gymnastics?” Keith was bewildered, to say the least. Misato nodded.
“Yes, we won first place in our national tournament our first year, and second in our second and third,” Misato didn’t seem to understand the bizarreness of his statement. The Mothman, a men’s rhythmic gymnast? Go figure.
“I-okay?” Keith blinked again, coming to terms with this new information, “that’s, I mean, that’s cool?” it was more of a question than a statement, but Misato understood.
Things were quiet for a while after that, neither one bothering with small talk. Keith soon found himself relaxing into Misato’s hold, resting his head on his feathered chest. He was beginning to doze off, swaying on his feet, when he became distantly aware of his feet leaving the ground. He didn’t open his eyes, he trusted Misato to take care of him.
Misato did take care of him, if his sleep was any indicator. Keith woke up refreshed, more so than he’d been in years. He didn’t know what time it was, half of his face was buried in Misato’s feathers, and they were back in the cave, but his thoughts had that distinct woken-up-at-midnight haze to them. He sighed, curling in closer to the living heater that was Misato. Misato shifted, pulling him in with the arm he’d thrown over Keith’s waist. Keith felt a cold nose nuzzle into his hair, followed by a low buzz, almost like a content kitten. Cute, he thought, before shutting his eyes.
When he woke up the second time, he was alone. He sat up, wiping the sleep away from his eyes and looking around. The cave was empty, but Keith heard a low buzzing a few meters away. He followed the sound, trying hard not to trip over his feet. The mixture of darkness and fatigue didn’t help, but he eventually reached the source of the noise, finding Misato sitting at the cave entrance, trilling at the moon. His eyes were wide and blood red, and Keith could see a slightly lighter spot in each eye dilate with every hum. He sat down next to him, leaning into his now-familiar warmth.
“it’s pretty, huh?” Keith asked, shutting his eyes. Misato shifted, probably just tuning in.
“Mhmm,” he hummed, buzz increasing, “I wish I could be closer to it, but flying’s too dangerous,”
“Really?” Keith asked nuzzling into Misato’s feathers.
“I get too dazed, don’t pay attention to my surroundings,”
“Like you’re drunk?”
“Yes,” Misato nodded, resting his head on top of Keith’s, “like I’m drunk,”
They sat in silence, the two of them swaying under the chilly night breeze. Eventually, the moon sunk beneath a cloud, and Misato’s attention shifted.
“When will your team be here?” he asked, loosely wrapping an arm around Keith. Keith shrugged.
“I dunno, a week, maybe? A few days?” Keith didn’t want to talk about it, didn’t want to think about having to leave Misato behind. Misato didn’t seem to take the hint.
“Why do you have to go with them? Can’t you stay longer?”
“What’s wrong, you’ll miss me?”
Keith had meant it as a joke, the sort of teasing dismissal that Lance so often employed. Misato had taken it seriously, though, had answered it seriously. Misato was going to miss him. Oh.
“You-” Keith didn’t know what to say, what could he say?
“You seem lonely, Keith. I think, I think I’d like to help with that. I think I could,”
“You think I’m lonely? You-you live in a cave! In a desert!” Keith could hardly believe what he was hearing, Mothman was pitying him?
“And you live in a hut in the desert, we’re not that different,” Misato responded, blinking the red from his eyes until only a human pupil and sclera remained. It was pity, it had to be, because the only other option was… “I know what it’s like, Keith. Even when you’re with others, you’re still alone, right?”
Keith felt himself nodding, agreeing, because what else could he do. Misato was right. He loved his friends, Lance, Pidge, and Hunk. He’d miss Kolivan and Coran, he’d even miss Allura, but he wouldn’t be lost without them, not like he was when he was with them alone.
“I…I guess you’re right; I’ve never really thought about it but…” he trailed off, meeting Misato’s eyes. They stared back at him, full of emotion and…and longing. Longing for the moon, maybe? Longing for companionship, for solidarity? Or…or perhaps, Longing for Keith himself?
He felt himself drift closer, pulled in by Misato’s invisible orbit. He would’ve agreed to anything just then, anything, and he did.
“Stay with me, just for a little while. If you want to go back, you should, but…” Misato didn’t have to finish, Keith was already nodding, falling headfirst into him, pressing their lips together.
They kissed again, and again, and again, moving closer with each until they were practically one, absorbing each other’s spirits and finding them kindred. Keith pulled back first, resting his forehead on Misato’s. They exchanged no words, but words weren’t necessary. This was where he belonged, this was Keith’s home.