Arriving out of the gate, Keith and the others immediately felt the weight of the situation bear down on them. Even coming back, no one could predict the outcome of their next encounter. The battlefield had been worn down between craters, leaving a clear path for their Lions to navigate at they reached the base – soon they’d arrive at the Galra home-planet, and there would be no turning back. A fire burn in Keith’s chest; he felt the urge to reclaim something, take revenge for what had been stolen from countless lives across the galaxy – from Shiro.
It was a risk. He was used to making risks; he’d throw his own life away in the heat of battle.
“You fight like a Galran soldier.”
Keith swallowed; the back of his neck was coated in sweat, already shaking from the cold of the solitary holding chambers. Enroute back to Zarkon’s headquarters, he only remembered a blast a blinding light overwhelming them, separating him and his Lion away from Shiro and the others.
Now, he was on his knees, forced to shift his weight over the lap of the clearly pleased head of the Galran army. Sendak gave a sharp-toothed grin that made him freeze.
"What a shame, Paladin," he told him, "But no, it's only suiting for you to return to your…genuine self. Lord Zarkon remains to be the most powerful Galran of them all. You should be honored, that the other gave you up to us. Those who can bring out your true potential. You’ll make an — extremely desirable addition to my forces."
"Speak for yourself—"
"—I’m the only voice you have here, runt."
Next thing he knew, Keith's felt his face scrapping against the jagged edge of Sendak's armor. Steam rose at a slow, continuous rate from the vents below. Pressurized heat pushed against his cheeks made Keith gasp and hurriedly bite down on his lip.
A hand stroked his ears. They were curved slightly upwards, more narrow than Sendak's, but longer, pointing in-wards rather than out. To his surprise, Keith felt an unexpected pleasure in the touch. As if he was being stroked, carefully petted and manipulated by Sendak's experienced hands.
"Don't you dare," Keith gasped, "I don't know—how—I don’t know what the hell is going on. I don’t know what you’re saying. Where are the others?"
"You’ll become used to it, in time," the commander assured.
“It must be bit shocking how new this must feel for you. So much sensation in your body." He exhaled and pulled his claws away. Keith attempted to lift his head, but Sendak cut him short, thrusting him back down in a quick, forceful gesture. His Galra tech hand pinned the Paladin down by his back, forcing him to across his lap in defeat.
"Ought to be punished for how much trouble you've been giving us, despite losing your leader. It must've horrible, losing Shirogane in combat. No fanfare at all. I'd imagine you were humiliated by your mistake. Only one slip in combat is all it takes, Paladin, for everything to become undone."
"Fuck you," Keith choked, "You don't get to say that. You don't get to say any of that. You were never involved — Shiro isn’t dead."
"As far as I'm concerned, Paladin, you belong to us. Out of all of you, you’re the most involved in our case. In that condition, you'd make a fine tribute to Galran society."
Before he could speak, Keith felt a heavily padded paw behind his head. He groaned, and bit in the steel gag freshly strapped into place. Black hair tangled into the buckles, taught against raw skin.
"Difficult to manage, aren't you? No surprise your teammates handed you over so easily. And without argument, to mention. You know," Sendak mused.
"You remind me of your commander. Shirogane. I see that same fire in your eyes. You want to maim and kill me, isn’t that right? Is that what you want to do with all that anger pent up inside?"
Sick. Keith felt sick. He twisted, but was met against with Sendak's large grasp, this time coming down as a quick strike against his upper-back. He immediately jerked defensively to the side, but the larger Galran had a firm grip on his body, clearly asserting himself as the dominant.
"You're not the first unruly soldier in my ranks, runt. Soon, you'll be tamed. Domesticated, even. Right now you're wild, aren't you? Furious, that you’re leaving so much undone? That you would lack even a failsafe for this?"
The first slap against his flesh made Keith gasp, toss his head and feel the gag grind against Sendak’s armored body. Keith felt his chest heave, realizing he'd been avoiding trying to catch his breath the entire time. Without even realizing it, he was bare from the waist down, excluding the binds he was sure Haggar had put him in into. A heavy metallic black fiber wound itself around Keith's thighs, tying his ankles together. Another set of binds ran from his collar to his wrists, while the ring placed behind his neck met down at his back.
Another strike from Sendak's palm made his thighs bruise; a dark violet mark was quickly forming on his ass, throbbing as soon as the skin broke. His face was burning. This was torture. The binds, intentionally jagged, rubbed thin bloody streaks at his sides without effort. If he stayed perfectly still, he thought, he’d survive. He could make it out of this without breaking.
"Those new appendages, especially," Sendak laughed, "They'll make you more suitable for your duties. They are coming in nicely, aren't they?" He reached between the Paladin's matted hair, brushing away the strands to pinch at the tips of slightly pointed ears.
By no means did they resemble his own, but Sendak was impressed at the rate which they were developing. Even half-breeds took a considerably longer period to mature, but it'd only been a matter of months after Keith's encounter with Haggar before they reached their current state. Almost fully-grown, they were a sign of a mature Galran, far too difficult to overlook among humans.
Sendak took Keith's ears in his palm, pausing to study its uncanny resemblance to what would eventually resemble proper Galran anatomy. The newly formed appendages were remarkably sensitive, twitching at the slightest touch.
"Somewhat disappointing, to be quite honest. The fact we couldn't capture you earlier is a detriment on our part. Although the inconvenience is far more severe on your part,” he mused. The commander rolled his thumb over the slight rise of Keith’s cheekbones to his chin, rubbing circles over the patchwork of bruises.
“Your teammates would’ve had to extract you themselves at some point; it’s too obvious. You’d make quite a controversial figure out of yourself. More potential – more than Shirogane ever had, to be frank."
“I’ll be back, Keith, don’t worry about it – don’t worry about Kerberos.”
Keith wasn't ready for this; the mission briefing had only made the situation seem grimmer. Shiro informed them – each of them individually – that returning to Zarkon to rescue Allura would be just as dangerous as last time. Everything counted on their success, surviving and outlasting forces far stronger, larger than their own.
In the hangar Keith caught Shiro aside, taking a moment to gaze at the man and how he seemed to fill out the Black Paladin uniform with no effort at all. Shiro took deep breaths, his heart clearly pounding with adrenaline, faced flushed. They both knew this could be it. Their last time seeing each other, alive, face-to-face. Here.
"Keith,” Shiro sighed, “if I don't make it out of this alive, I want you –"
"Don't say that. I can't be the Black Paladin, I can't –"
"Replace me? You're scared? Of replacing me?"
"I can't be you, Shiro," Keith cried, "You know I haven't. Pulled myself back together. I don't have that in me. Not like you, after escaping. I can never live up to that.”
"Well then.” Shiro turned around to equip his helmet. "That's your judgement call. There's nothing shocking to me about what you just said – you're as brilliant of a pilot as they come. And listen, if we both make it out of this alive –"
"We will. I never doubt you.”
Don’t go where I can’t see you – don’t leave me, Shiro – stay by my side, I can’t lose you again.
Keith felt the metal gag dig into his mouth, forcing him to bite down as the larger Galran drew out his claws. They ran silently down the corner of his back, at first pulling slightly at the skin, then coming down deeper, with enough power to draw blood. He jerked his body aside, but was immediately punished by an unexpecting slap; Keith screamed into the gag, caught off-guard by the astonishing heat of Sendak's padded hands.
"Don't concern yourself too much with the pain. It's customary. It's only necessary for me to mark you as a subordinate in our packs. Otherwise the other Galrans will tear you to shreds. Be thankful, Paladin. I am doing you a favor, of all things."
At this rate – the thought of forfeiting, giving himself up to the Galra made Keith sick, made him want to shred through the binds with his own teeth. Whatever they'd anticipated for this mission, it'd all gone horribly wrong; if the rest of Voltron was still alive, he had no idea if he'd ever see them again. The chances were too low – as if he wasn't afraid of being abandoned, dying without anyone ever knowing –
"Eyes here," Sendak barked. He forced Keith on to his knees, raising him by the chin so that he stared back into the Galran commander’s eyes. Hatred. The coldness of the cybernetic replacement made Keith flinch; the last time he'd seen it so close before Sendak had pinned him down, right before Shiro rescued him on their first failed mission.
"I got you buddy–"
"No one is here for you. No one will be coming for you," Sendak cursed, "You're left all alone again. This is exactly how they left you – in our hands, to train you into whatever we'd please. Like a pet. Did you know? They practically handed you over. Your allies knew you were the enemy, part of our ranks, a terrible liability that was better off forfeiting."
Don't let it get to your head – if he concentrated, Keith figured he'd make it long enough to at least survive this. Whatever Sendak had in mind for him. He couldn’t admit to his own fear, couldn’t open that chasm quite yet. This body felt too overwhelming, too sporadically alien. An immeasurable cognitive dissonance between him and Sendak’s invasive touches. Keith realized – he felt none of this – no recognizable sense of pain. What measure of hurt he could take before Sendak managed to crack him down? Like watching from the outside, he felt his heart pound, the swell in his throat, fighting back the bile in his chest.
A heavy paw cupped the bottom of his ass, claws protruding slightly against the exposed flesh. Keith took a sharp breath. He had to brace himself; he needed to prepare himself for whatever these alien freaks were capable of. An unexpected wetness brushed against his opening – some sort of warm, oily scented substance – it made Keith hold his head down and bite down harder on the gag. Sendak's index fingers slowly entered him, thick and heavily padded against tight muscle, stretching him open at an unbearable slowness. When Keith thought it’d end, Sendak inserted another, curving deeper and downwards.
Keith gasped, practically choked into the gag. The padded thickness Sendak’s finger rubbed deeper, revealing the softness inside, pounding repeatedly into that spot. He writhed, bucking his hips upwards, into the commander’s palm; as if something in the air was influencing him, a musk he couldn’t ignore. Greed. A vaguely metallic taste in his mouth, like blood, but more bitter and vile. Sendak laughed, pausing only to watch the Paladin’s chest rise and fall before continuing to stretch him wider, continue to hit the spot right below this stomach with perfect aim.
"There's so much we need to teach you, runt. Your new body will accommodate you in ways you could never imagine. This is only the beginning; soon you'll take one of our alphas, and once they imprint on you," Sendek took a breath and quickly pulled his fingers out "you'd never feel this much pain again. I can promise you that."
Suddenly Sendak raised his hand, grabbing hold of Keith’s bruised ass and striking down again, twice, a third time before a cry muffled from behind the gag. The Galran grinned, reaching down to rub circles into the fresh marks, instinctively drawing out his claws in and out in mild amusement.
"Don't scream, Paladin. Or we’ll be forced to put that back on as punishment."
The gag dropped to the ground with a ringing sound. Keith gasped. Forced his lungs full of musky cavern air. He saw black dots come and vanish from sight.
"You. Where's Shiro? Where's the rest of them?" His voice cracked.
As if disappointed, Sendak frowned and gripped the Paladin's thighs tighter.
"Don't go at me asking meaningless questions. We both have better things to anticipate than your team. We already captured the Black Lion; to my knowledge that Shirogane might as well already be dead. How does that make you – unless you were already expecting –"
"Never," Keith spat, "Don't you dare. Let me go. I'm going to burn this entire place down and get them the hell out of here."
Sendak smirked. Made a shiver run down Keith's spine. "That’s an admirable quality."
"Get your hands off me."
"–You fight like a Galran soldier, you know that? Your resistance is admirable."
"I said – get your hands off me or…"
The grip around his waist tightened -- Keith gasped at the amount of pressure Sendak suddenly applied on him. Would he break his back? Was he going to disable him right here? He glanced to his side, immediately recognizing the eerie purple glow of the Galra tech arm, holding him in place like a cornered animal.
"If you cooperate, we can accomplish great things. Keith. Did Shirogane ever offer you your well-deserved share? For the chance of turning this war around?"
"I don't know what you're talking about. Don't ask me about Shiro. You don't deserve to know anything."
"– Or is it that you'd rather be the subordinate? And follow your master wherever they go? Is that right? Am I coming to the right conclusion?" He tilted Keith's face towards him, touching the side of the Paladin's face, rubbing a thumb over bloodied lips.
"That's a good look on you. Damaged. Did you ever consider – how Shirogane saw you. Does he see you as a tool? Aren't you all just tools, for the Alteans?"
"Allura – where are you keeping her?"
"With the rest of them. But that doesn't concern you."
A rush of heat streamed down Keith face. He winced at the sensation of Sendak’s claws extending over his cheek, this time grabbing him by the forehead, covering his eyes with his padded palm.
"Runt, you are progeny, regardless of your resistance. The Galran's role is to serve the demands of Lord Zarkon; to spread further out into the galaxy, divide, conquer. I don't think you're stubborn enough to not realize when fighting is futile. If not, let me remind you."
The weight of Sendak' palm came down on his face without warning; Keith opened his mouth to scream, but he only managed a cracked noise from throat. Next moment, he felt a warm trickle of blood run down the bridge of his nose, on to his cheek, dripping carelessly down his torso.
“Monster,” Keith choked. “You don’t own me. You can’t own anyone. You can’t break me –”
“–And make you stronger?”
"I'll resolve any behavior issues. Only customary," Sendak purred, leaning into Keith's ears, lapping at the fresh wound. "To mark territory. Let the world know, Paladin. A declaration of mine to the world. I’ll do you in fine, like Shirogane. Trust me."
I'm so sorry Shiro.
"You will make brilliant Galran soldier. I assure you; compliance makes the best failsafe. A prodigy like you would know.”