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Pause and Wait

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They make a fire, after Keith was able to get Black parked and retrieve Red; Red was easy to grab, having recovered enough to make the trek by himself, but he still needs time to recharge some more besides the Black Lion. And Black continued to let Keith maneuver her until she was in a safe place, shutting down to let Keith know he wasn’t welcome as warmly anymore.

Keith makes the fire, gathering what he can and putting his boy-scout garrison training to use; Shiro leans against the rock Keith had settled him by, sweat dripping down his temple but he shivers still, letting out a suppressed groan.

Keith gets the fire going, leans down and blows until the flame crackles to life, and once that is complete he joins Shiro in resting.

“How’s your wound?” Keith tries to keep his voice steady, easy and supportive, knowing he needs to be strong and levelheaded to support his leader.

And then Shiro makes the ill-timed joke about his wound. “Growing larger by the second,” he chuckles breathlessly and Keith gets momentarily distracted by his shallow heaving. “Sorry, just trying to lighten the mood.”

“Hang in there,” Keith speaks. “Allura and the others will come for us soon.”

The time ticks by, the sun begins to set, and the noises of this barren planet seem louder for a moment; Keith alternates between checking on the lions, fanning the fire, and eyeing the sky. He takes a knee by Shiro and peels the older man’s hands away from his side, checking the glowing wound; he frowns, glancing up at Shiro’s drooping gaze, and then gently settles his hands back over the wound.

“It looks perfectly fine, doesn’t it?” Shiro’s smile is wan in the setting light; it looks far from fine. The scratches are deep and ragged, glowing alien like, with blood drying between his fingers.

Keith still tries to be supportive, tries to crack a smile through his worry; but Shiro sees through it, wheezing out a laugh that turns into a cough, and Keith is there to steady him when he starts listing to the side.

“Easy, Shiro; breathe! Just breathe…”

When the episode has passed, Shiro lays back exhausted; he gulps air quickly, noises of discomfort and pain accompanying each breath, and Keith presses his hand to Shiro’s brow. Yes, he’s still burning up; Keith wishes they had water, because Shiro could really use it. But the water beneath the dirt on the flat plane Keith came over is labeled TOXIC, or at least what Keith can only assume by the red flashing outlined Altean words that show up when he tested it. And the lions weren’t equipped for this sort of desertion, so Keith can do nothing but sit and wait and hope.

“You should get some rest,” Keith says quietly, glancing around for any of those lizard creatures coming close; but the night around them is quiet and cold, the temperature dropping as the sun vanishes to a sliver. “I’ll keep watch.”

Shiro got pretty beat up by those creatures too, Keith remembers, and he tacks that on to the list of things to worry about; he worries about Shiro, first and foremost right now, and then the other paladins, Allura and Coran, and finally how they’re going to contact the Castle, how long it will take Red and Black to recuperate, how long for the castle to reach them, if Shiro can hold out that long…

“You need rest too,” the older man murmurs, and Keith scoffs, brushing a hand through the white tuft sticking to Shiro’s brow.

“I’m not injured; come on, rest.” Keith sweeps his eyes around their darkened spot once more, considers moving them inside the lions but there isn’t enough space for Shiro to comfortably rest nor enough room for both of them to stay in one lion; and he’s not leaving Shiro alone. With no dangers in sight, and his bayard pulled close, Keith settles besides Shiro with a deep calming breath.

They sit shoulder to shoulder, Shiro shivering in pain and cold to the left and Keith finds he too trembles; the night is quiet, wind curling about, the stars bright above. Keith passes the time by creating constellations and naming them; that one is Lance’s Foot, and the other one is Hunkitchen and Pidge Green. There’s Shiro’s Bayard and Allura’s Earrings and the ‘Stache of Coran, and Keith tries to find others.

Shiro moves, shifting uncomfortably, and he curls over his wound on his side; Keith tenses, leans forward, and rests a hand on Shiro’s shoulder.


Through gritted teeth, he answers “I’m okay; just stings a little.”

He doesn’t think when he tugs Shiro towards him, maneuvering the older man to lay down on his back with his head pillowed in Keith’s lap; Shiro keeps his hands pressed over his wound, eyes tight, and they peel open to reveal a foggy gaze. Still, always, he tries for a smile.

“Heh, thanks, Keith…”

He doesn’t think either when he scrubs his nails through Shiro’s damp hair; “close your eyes; even if you don’t get sleep, it’ll be good for you.”

He fights it; “Keith… If I don’t make it…”

“Shut up,” he bursts out, unwilling to even entertain that thought. “You’re going to be fine.”

Shiro smiles, so kind, so patient, so warm; even after all he’s been through, he’s still the same person Keith has always known. “If I don’t make it…I want you to lead Voltron.”

“Just…” Keith looks away, blinks and blinks. “Just rest; you’re going to be fine.”

Shiro’s smile fades as does his consciousness; his eyes do flutter shut and Keith counts his breaths; breath in for a count of three, out for a count of two, in for three, out for two… It evens out, and Keith feels Shiro grow heavy; good. He finally fell asleep.

Keith glances over at the lions, frowning. “Please; I know you’re tired and hurt, but Shiro needs help. He needs to be back on the Castle. Please…”

They don’t respond, though there’s a hurried buzz at the forefront of his mind, Red answering in his own way, as if to say I’m trying. Keith glances back at Shiro; they stay like that, with Shiro’s brows still furrowed in sleep and sweat still trickling down his temple, resting in Keith’s lap. With his wound still pulsing, hands curled over it, and there’s the softest noise in his throat that makes Keith’s heart lurch; it’s not right.

The night wears on; at one point, Keith thinks he spots eyes out in the darkness, but then they are gone and he’s left to rub at his eyes. They burn, but he checks on Shiro and stokes the fire from where he’s sitting; Red shifts behind them and Keith glances over only for the lion to still once more.

He reaches out to hold Shiro’s hand when the older man shifts, his face pinching; Keith keeps the pressure on the wound, but still wants to have a connection to his friend. When he couldn’t get ahold of Shiro, in those first twenty minutes or so of them crashing, calling out practically constantly he had been scared of the worst; hoping for him to respond, to be alright… Frightened he had been hurt, or worst...

And when he had answered Keith had nearly stuttered to a stop in his hurry to get to the other paladin; directly after the near stop he’d renewed his pace. Shiro had been waiting for him, needing him, and Keith had already failed him once.

He squeezes Shiro’s hand tight; “We’re going to make it out of here,” he whispers; Shiro shivers, and Keith hopes.

Behind them, the lions come to life, their eyes lighting up the darkness and the sky; yeah, Keith thinks as he holds onto Shiro’s hand tighter, they would make it.