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Off Balance

Chapter Text


“ There is a destiny which makes us brothers;

none goes his way alone.

All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.”

– Edwin Markham



Keith was ready to spend his Christmas eve right. He had done everything his mother had asked of him, they had put up the tree in the corner of the living room and decorated it from top to bottom, hung garland on the fireplace mantel with candles and a wreath centered on the wall and put up the stockings. He had helped spiral garland up both of the stair railings which had been more difficult than Keith had expected. The christmas train circled the gifts under the tree. He even helped cook the Christmas Eve dinner. Well, he’d made cookies. He was an active host when the family came, he took their coats and he played with the other kids. The whole nine yards and once the party died down and everyone slowly made their way home, Keith prepared himself for his first official christmas present. He had showered, put on his comfiest pjs and made himself a plate of those Christmas cookies and a cup of hot chocolate. It was time to do what he did best, which was sit in front of the tv nestled up in blankets and watch one of his scary movies.

“One movie keith. I mean it.” His mother called after him as he scampered up the steps with his plate.

“I know, I know!”

Only one and he and his dad picked out a good one from the $5 bucket at the store. It was called Black Santa, something about a killer on Christmas in a house full of girls. Classic horror trope. No sooner than he’d pressed play on the the remote did he hear the front door open up downstairs. Weird, did someone forget something in the closet? Keith was sure he had given everyone back their things before they’d left. He shrugged out of his blankets and ambled out into the hall and stopped at the top of the stairs. His mother had pulled their unexpected guest into the tightest hug. A mom hug. And Keith recognized that undercut and tuft of dark hair. Keith’s mouth stretched into a wide grin.

Shiro was home.

Keith sprinted down the stairs, nearly tripping over his own feet and falling. Shiro parted from their mother and turned to the steps and opened his arms wide to catch Keith and pull him into a strong embrace. Shiro was supposed to be home hours ago, but with the weather being what it was, the tracks were covered in snow. Mom and dad had warned him not to be too upset if Shiro couldn't make it in time for Christmas. “Mom and dad said you wouldn't make it!” Keith’s voice was muffled into Shiro’s chest.

“Of course I’d make it. I told you I would.” Shiro pulled Keith back and playfully ruffled his hair. “You need a haircut.”

Keith glared and pushed Shiro’s hand away. No one was going to touch his hair with a pair of scissors. Not ever.

Shiro laughed heartily and stood with a satisfied smirk.“I got a surprise for you, go get dressed. We’re going out on the town tonight.”


This was not a part of Keith’s plan. Sure he was always happy to spend any amount of time with Shiro. With the elder brother being away at college, they didn't get to see each other so much anymore.

But to go see a ballet?


Keith nuzzled deeper into the warmth of his red coat and pulled his scarf up over his nose. This sucked. Bad. He stood before what was a grand castle converted into a school building. The front of the second story of the building had a beautiful elaborate balcony and on the front of it engraved in the stone in a graceful cursive was the name of the school. Altea Academy. It was the biggest place he’d ever seen, he could only imagine how much money it took to even walk in. He was suspicious, but he knew Shiro was a lot of things, but he wasn't rich. Shiro grabbed his hand and lead him through the glass double doors.

Holding hands with your big brother is embarrassing, but Keith allowed himself to be tugged through the lobby. Shiro walked with a sense of urgency and Keith could only figure that they were running late. That was Keith’s fault for pitching such a fit at home that they’d nearly missed their train. He tried his best to keep up but he was in awe at the largeness and grandness of the place. There were people everywhere dressed even nicer than mom and dad on their anniversary.

“Come on, Keith.” Shiro pulled him into the elevator just before the doors closed.

“Do we really have to?” Keith groaned.

“The Nutcracker is a classic, it’s very good and you’re going to love it.”

“Not likely.” Keith muttered. He rested his elbow on the metal rest and held his chin, looking as broody as ever. The elevator deposited them on the correct floor and a usher took their tickets and directed the to the appropriate seats. Shiro made sure Keith was in the right place before leaving back out into the hall despite Keith’s protests. He sank into his seat and crossed his arms over his chest while he surveyed the arena. It was full of people, there were even little kids dressed in tutus. Wasn't it too cold for that? How did they even manage to sit still for something like this? There was a thick red curtain covering the stage. He felt underdressed with his sneakers, jeans, and hoodie. Too late now. Moments later Shiro returned with goodies in his arms. He made his way into the open seat to Keith’s right and handed him a big warm blue mug full of hot chocolate and topped with whipped cream and a chocolate wafer stick. Keith took it carefully into his lap as Shiro handed him a poodle shaped chocolate on a stick.

“And look what I got for mom.” Shiro whispered as he showed Keith a little box. Inside sat a little nutcracker with a sword and a red painted suit. His mom would love that. He could almost forgive Shiro for throwing a monkey wrench in his initial plans for the night. Keith put the chocolate to his lips and bit off the ear. Shiro had also gotten them seats pretty close to the front row. The lights dimmed and he felt Shiro nudge his arm excitedly.

The music swelled, the curtains parted, and the show began.




Keith didn't quite understand it and he wasn't going to be able to ask his questions until after the show was over. Why weren't they talking? What kind of music is this? Why did the girl shrink? Color him confused, but he didn’t get what made the show a “classic”. They were still in act 1 and Keith was growing restless.

Maybe if he begged his mom, she would let him watch his movie still.

Just maybe.

The rats and their king danced, crept, and leapt about the stage under the tree and harassing the little girl, a group of toy soldiers entered stage left. The king  of the rats danced close to the front of the stage, so he didn't see the soldiers or the canon they had pointed at him until he spun around and gasped. One of the smaller rats went over to investigate and the soldiers shot the canon and the rat flew back dramatically. A small smile tugged at Keith’s lips.

More soldiers entered and separated into two lines facing the crowd before turning about face. But there was a space empty, like someone was missing. A boy, smaller than the others, came running from backstage, scrambling like he was late for something. He held tightly to his hat to keep it from falling off, he ran to the empty space and pointed his gun as the others did at the rats. The crowd laughed at his comical movements and the boy flashed them a bright sheepish smile before turning his attention back to the impending battle. Keith felt his heart flutter and a warmth filled him from his toes all the way to his tips of his ears.

Keith couldn't tell if the boys actions were purposeful or not, but they made even him snicker. The king and the nutcracker stepped forward in a showdown and the battle started. There was so much information on that stage it was a little hard to keep track of it all, but he watched the smallest soldier being chased by one of the rats, they weaved through the battle. After a moment, the boy seemed to have had enough and he spun around on his toes and he faced the rat with his hands on his hips. The rat stopped and stared at him and then the boy stomped on the rat’s foot. The rat jumped around holding the wound tenderly. The small soldier sneered and took his too large rifle in his hands like a baseball bat and hit the rat over his back. The audience, Keith included, roared in laughter as he beat the rat into submission and it lay curled up on the ground.

Then he kicked it for good measure.

The battle ended with the the boy soldier and his comrades bringing in a large rat trap lead by the girl and using it to catch the rat king’s foot so that the nutcracker could stab him. Finally the rat king crawled to the edge of the stage ever so slowly and pulled himself into the pit and “dying” in the most dramatic display.   





Keith rolled his eyes. “Yeah .” he huffed.

“Be honest, it wasn't so bad.” Shiro smiled. In fact it really wasn't, once Shiro had explained the story to him. The battle between the nutcracker and the rat king was his favorite, and even though it was ballet it was still kinda cool they could have action scenes and funny bits like that in it. He wondered about that boy with the dark skin and brown hair. Keith didn't know kids danced like that too, especially boys. Ballet always seemed like a thing girls did.

“Well I’m quite happy to hear you enjoyed it.”

Both Keith and Shiro turned around. Behind them stood a beautiful ballerina, Keith recognized her from her role in the show as the Sugar Plum Fairy, she even still wore her costume and having seen her from a distance in the play was nothing compared to seeing her up close. Her tutu was a beautiful silver and it shimmered when the light hit it, the corset was a soft blue accented with golden swirls. Her long white hair (that couldn't be natural right?) was free from the tight bun she’d worn it in and it hung loosely over her shoulders. Keith glanced at Shiro and his older brother, bless his heart, looked absolutely wrecked. Jaw hanging and a soft pink blush across his cheeks.

Keith’s eyes narrowed, so that was why… Keith rolled his eyes. They only reason he got dragged out into the cold was so Shiro could make puppy eyes at a girl? Keith muttered something behind his scarf. It wasn't clear what he’d said, but it did bring Shiro’s attention back to him.

Shiro pulled Keith close in a tight side hug that was unexpected and made Keith’s eyes widen. Oh god… not The Move ™. Shiro sometimes used his relationship with his brother to make pretty girls think he was a great guy for hanging out with his adorable baby brother and it worked more often than not. “Yeah, how could I not?” Shiro managed, though a little flustered. “Uh, T-This is Keith. My little brother.” he shook Keith’s shoulder. “Keith, this is my friend Allura.”

The two brothers exchanged a look. Shiro owed him for this, he was going to make sure Shiro got their mom to let Keith stay up later tonight. Allura knelt down in front of Keith and asked “How did you like it, Shiro said you’ve never been to a show like this before.”

He smiled at her warmly “It was great, I loved the fight scene with the rats and soldiers.” he lifted the nutcracker that Shiro had purchased before the show. “You danced beautifully too.” gotta lay the little kid charm on thick. All in all, it worked. She seemed thoroughly satisfied as she thanked him. She stood and resumed her conversation with Shiro and they became so engrossed in whatever they were talking about, they didn't notice Keith sneak away. He wasn't going to stand there and listen to that. He’d rather go have a look around. The lobby was filled with people, families greeting and congratulating the dancers on a job well done. He liked being able to see them and their costumes up close, even one of the rats were there with his mascot head in his arms. Keith really wanted to see the little soldier though.

It took him a few moments but a loud voice chirped. Keith peered around a wall corner and there he was. Still in his little soldier costume he stood in front of three female dancers, all a little taller and likely older than him. “Look at what I can do.” He smiled widely before crossing his feet one in front of the other and turned outward, he then opened his arms and brought them together while simultaneously lifting his knee and resting his pointed toe against his opposing inner thigh and spinning in a single turn. He stopped himself and extended one leg behind himself and one arm outstretched in front of him. It was a shaky stop, but he did it and it was otherwise graceful. The girls all clapped eagerly for him and he bowed.

“Your pirouettes are getting much better!” The shortest girl ruffled his mop of brown hair

“Yes, very very good!” The second girl jumped slightly as she clapped

The little soldier snickered. “Really? I’ve been practicing a lot!” He beamed.

Keith didn't have a proper word for the warmth blooming in his chest, or the weakness in his legs that stopped him from coming out into the open. He wanted to ask the boys name, to tell him how funny he thought he was on stage, but his legs refused to budge and at this point he probably just seemed creepy the way he was standing there. Keith swallowed hard and tried to will himself to step forward but a large hand on his shoulder spun him around.

“I’ve been looking for you Keith.” Shiro’s blush had gone from his face and he looked like regular old “Big Brother” Shiro again. “It’s getting late, we gotta catch the train.” Shiro grabbed Keith’s hand again. Keith glanced back at the little soldier again as he followed Shiro back out into the night.  

“So, who were you ogling at?”  Shiro looked down at his little brother with a most amused smile

“Huh?” Keith scoffed.

“Don't play dumb, I saw you. Your eyes got all big and sparkly.” Shiro lifted his fingers to his eyelids and made a motion akin to prying them open widely as he laughed “So who was it?”

“I didn't look like that, stupid.” Keith muttered and nuzzled into the warmth of his coat. He quickened his pace so that he was a few steps ahead of his brother.

“Uh-huh. Sure. Can’t wait to tell mom about your crush .” Shiro called after him.
“Shut up!”

Chapter Text

When I was a child

I heard voices

Some would sing and some would scream

The front door slammed, jarring Keith from his daze. As he inhaled deeply, a painful spasm in his ribs cut him short. He winced and propped himself up on his forearms and looked around his bedroom. The afternoon brightness has been replaced by a warm evening glow and he could tell that his nap had extended well past what he had promised himself. Damn. Keith sat up fully and reached for the small bottle of Advil on his bedside table and popped two in his mouth before taking the last few sips of water in the glass he had left next to them earlier that afternoon.’

He turned and reached for his phone that rested next to his head and brightened the screen. 7:30p. Late indeed. Something cold and wet pressed into the spaces between his fingers and it startled him a bit. He tore his gaze from the clock to look down at his hand as he pulled it towards himself and away from what had disturbed him, but he quickly relaxed. Laying ever so patiently was little Chaiko with his head resting between his front paws and his back leg hanging off the bed. He scooted across the covers carefully and pressed his little wet nose into Keith’s side touching a bit of exposed skin. The 10 week old mini aussie pup had been given to Keith as a gift from his older brother not long ago..

Shiro blocked the kitchen and cradled in his arm held a small brown and white ball of fluff with light brown eyes locked on Keith. Shiro lifted the animals paw and waved it at Keith. “Look! I got you a little friend!”

“Shiro, no…” Keith threw his hands up and groaned

“I went grocery shopping and there was a lady and her kid giving them away. I got the last one! Isnt he cute?” Shiro snuggled his face into the puppy’s fur before pushing him into Keith’s still open hands. Keith couldnt refuse because Shiro didn’t give him the option or else the pup would fall. Keith scoffed at his brother before looking down at the newest member of his family…

Keith smiled down at the little dog and stroked his ear, Chaiko’s eyes closed and he nuzzled into his touch and huffed softly. “Are you hungry, buddy?” Keith murmured. Chaiko lifted his head and opened his muzzle wide in a yawn and shook his head before nuzzling into Keith again. Chaiko, with his white and red patches speckled with dark brown, Keith had never loved a living creature more and it showed. In fact, one could almost consider Keith just a little jealous whenever Chaiko warmed up to another person. Which, with him being a puppy, happened to be everyone who saw him. Then again, how could you not just adore the little thing?

With all the affection he received, Chaiko was becoming spoiled. And a little heavy around the middle. Keith rolled the puppy onto his back and began to rub his tummy. Watching his tongue flop out of his open mouth made Keith chuckle. In any case, it was dinner time for the both of them at this point; but before he could even get his feet on the ground, there was a soft knock on the door.

“Yeah?” Keith croaked, his voice still heavy with sleep.

The door opened revealing his older brother. Shiro wore his typical work khakis, a dark blue collared polo under his black parka and a very tired smile. “Hey,” he sighed before wiping his hand over his nose and mouth. “What are you up too?” he walked in, cracking the door behind him.

Keith shrugged silently. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and stretched his arms high above his head. Shiro’s brows knitted together and he cocked his head. “Wha- were you sleeping?” he questioned.

“Just for about half an hour.” Total lie.

“Oh yeah?” Shiro saw right through it. He casually walked around the room “What else did you do today?” he mused. His eyes roamed the walls and the various posters that decorated it. Star Wars, Nessie, The Mothman and a very much out of place poster from a movie with a ballet dancer and a med student. He stopped at the bookcase against the wall at the foot of the bed with the entire Star Trek series of DVDs Keith borrowed from Pidge but conveniently never gave back. The computer desk next to the window at the farthest wall looked untouched and the computer was off. Keith watched Shiro pluck one of the many figurines that sat on the bookcase, a small BB-8 that easily fit in his palm. He turned it over in his hands.

“Nooot much? I hung out, did some cleaning?” Keith nervously twisted a loose string on the hem of his black t-shirt..

Then Shiro saw it. The medicine on Keith’s side table. A look of disappointment crossed his face as he sighed heavily. “Bull, Keith.” He tossed the figurine at Keith who quickly raised his hands to protect his face. The toy hit Keith in his side and he winced.

“Ow, what the hell?!”

“Did you get into another fight today, Keith? Be honest.”

“No, actually I didn’t.” Keith dropped his arms a bit and puffed out his chest. “I was at the gym, just a work out.”

“I admire your dedication to taking care of your body, what about that brain of yours?”

“What are you even talking about?”

“Did you fill out any job applications today?” Shiro’s eyes narrowed. “What about the college brochures on the kitchen table? Have you even looked at them?” With his thumb he motioned towards the hall in emphasis.

“I’ve look-“

“Getting them out of the mail and then putting them on the table doesn’t count. Keith you have got to start thinking about your future!” Shiro could see Keith physically shutting down, tuning him out in that way that teenagers did. He looked away from Shiro and hunched his shoulders while he petted Chaiko with a lack of affection and more as a distraction. The last thing Shiro wanted was for his message being refused. This conversation wasn’t going to go any further with Keith shutting him out like that. Shiro sighed in defeat and scratched the back of his head “Keith, I love you but I can’t take care of you forever.”

“I’ll figure it out.” Keith’s voice was barely above a whisper.

Shiro leaned back against the bookshelf with his arms folded over his chest. A thought crossed his mind and he opened his mouth to verbalize it then paused. No. He was just nagging now. He sounded like their father and it nearly made him cringe. Had he been so difficult at Keith’s age? How did mom and dad do the whole parent thing? Granted he wasn’t Keith’s parent, but he was his guardian for now. His house had rules. “Alright. Well, until you figure that out you’re going to work. With me. In the truck.”

Keith whirled around, his eyes wide. “You’ve gotta be kidding?”

“Deadly serious. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. You start Monday.”

The two stared at each other intently for a few seconds. Neither blinked. Keith felt his eyes begin to sting and he squinted. “I surely wont be wearing that uniform.” He caved.

Shiro’s lips twitched in a smirk. He was glad the tension was gone, that wasn’t the way he wanted things to be with Keith. Next to Keith, the little aussie sat back on his haunches and he tilted his head back and lout out a high pitched bark that seemed to shake it’s whole body. “Did you at least feed the little one?”

“I was on my way-“ Keith picked up Chaiko and sat him in his lap. The pup began to cover his face in kisses “before you burst in here and gave me the third degree.” Keith’s face broke into a small smile as he tried to stop the assault by gently pushing Chaiko’s snout away, but that only seemed to make him more determined.

Gasping in mock horror, Shiro gripped his chest. “You haven’t even fed the baby. God, what would you do if I weren’t around?” he rushed over to Keith and scooped up Chaiko in his arms and made kissy noises. “Come here you.” He cooed. “Are you hungry? Is it time for you to eat?”

“For one, my dog would be so fat.” Keith rolled his eyes and rested his elbows on his knees  “And would you stop that? He cant even hear you.” Chaiko was fully deaf in both ears, and Keith figured that was another reason Shiro decided to adopt him. Keith titled his head slightly and eyed Shiro’s prosthetic.

“You talk to him too, I’ve heard you. You like this don’t you? Yes you do, of course you do!” he made his voice reach an even higher pitch.

“Not in that stupid baby voice! And no treats, Shiro!” but Shiro was already out the door and out of earshot. Or maybe he just didn’t want to hear. Keith groaned and fell back onto his bed. He's going to get so fat, I'll have to roll him when we go for walks. A dull tapping captured his attention. He turned to find the source and out on the fire escape with her nose pressed against the glass was Pidge who lived in the apartment above his. When he saw her, Pidge stretched her mouth into a face splitting grin, and the light from Keith’s room glinted off her big glasses. What a creep. She tapped all 10 fingers against the glass. Keith rolled his eyes and got up to let her in.

Keith turned the latch over the window and lifted the sash. “What the fuck, Pidge.” he grumbled as she stepped into the room.

“Did you forget tonight was marathon movie night?” Pidge slid her backpack from her shoulders and walked it to Keith’s bed before unzipping it.

“No, but did you have to sit at my window like an ax murderer?”

“Don't be such a baby, you knew it was me.” Pidge waved dismissively.  Spring Break Shark Attack, Rottweiler, and Piranhaconda.” each movie was pulled from the bag and laid out for Keith to see. “I also brought Flu Birds. Just finished downloading it. The trailer is great, giant monster birds eating some teenagers in the woods.” Something she figured would be right up Keith’s alley. He loved crappy monster movies, but when he didn't voice any kind of opinion, she turned to him. “Hey, space cadet. Yoo-hoo? What’s up with you?”

“Just the usual.”

“Yeah, I heard the shouting match while I was getting ready.” She adjusted her glasses “He’s not wrong though.”

“Not you too.”

“I’m serious. All you do all day is laying on your butt or go out and act  like a character from street fighter 3.” She sneered. “By the way, because Im picking the first movie and it’s the shark one.” She opened the case and put the disk into the playstation.

“You’re one to talk.” Keith groaned pulled up his sweatpants before dropping back down on his bed, bouncing slightly.

“Hey I maybe don’t leave my room to often, but at least I got accepted by several colleges.” She turned on the tv and grabbed the controller and went to the main menu. “Anyway, where is Chaiko I wanna cuddle him, movie night is not complete without him. He’s like, the only reason I come over here anymore.”

Keith cocked an eyebrow “Wow, nice to know our friendship means soooo much to you.” He retorted jestingly. “Shiro’s got him in the kitchen. Bring some snacks with you when you come back.” He laid back on his bed for the 3rd time that night and hopefully the last.

“I’m not your maid, get your snacks yourself!” Pidge screeched.

“If,” Keith lifted his arm and pointed His index finger to the ceiling and moved it as he talked. “you’re going to mooch my dog, you’re going to get me some chips.”

“Fine fine,” she grumbled and sat the controller back down on the shelf of the tv stand. “By the way, cant wait to see the new uniform on Monday.”

Keith shot up in his bed. He hadn’t said anything about working with Shiro and had done so intentionally. In fact, he hadn’t intended to tell her for as long as possible. “How did you?” he could swear that her glasses gleamed devilishly every time she did something worthy of her gremlin title.

“I see all and know all.” She smirked  as she grabbed the knob and pulled the door open.

But she didn’t see Keith’s pillow until it smacked her right in the face.