He wasn't sure if this was an abuse of his equipment or not, and he sure as hell wasn't used to sneaking around through the Castle. Allura or Coran most likely already knew he was on board and that it was him, considering no alarms had been triggered. He was good, but not quite that good. Yet.

His sensors had told him Shiro was in his quarters, and he dropped down silently in front of the door, knocking quickly a couple times.

Shiro answered seconds later, towel draped over his shoulder and bare-chested. He looked surprised to see him at first, and then concerned when he recognized who he was. "Keith?"

"Can we talk?" he asked. He reached up and deactivated his mask.

Shiro's brows furrowed in concern as he took in his near-brother—eyes wild, skin pale, and he looked exhausted, like he hadn't slept in days. "Is everything okay?" He backed away from the door and let Keith in, watching as the younger closed the door and leaned back heavily against it. "What happened?"

"A mission," Keith breathed.

"Are you hurt?" Shiro demanded, switching modes quickly, but Keith shook his head and pushed the hood of his uniform back so he could rake his hands through his hair.

"No, I'm fine, I just…" Keith let out an angry groan. "This is just…"

"What happened," Shiro pressed slowly.

"I found my mother," Keith blurted, watching Shiro's face for…he didn't know what. Maybe he was trying to see how Shiro felt about it so he knew a little about what he should feel about it?

"You what?" Shiro watched as Keith slumped a little, then carefully guided Keith to the desk chair before sitting on the bed in front of him. "You're sure it's her?"

"Yeah," Keith confirmed. "Positive. She can use my knife." He pulled the dagger from its place at his back and played with it in his hands. "It's her…"

Shiro shifted uncomfortably, watching Keith's careful pokerface and waiting patiently for it to crack. He knew how he felt, but he knew Keith wasn't exactly one with his emotions like anyone else aboard the Castle was. "Did you talk to her?"

Keith ran a hand down his face, elbows on his knees. "I yelled at her. A lot."

The memory of it made his stomach twist for so many different reasons.

"You're my…" Keith trailed off in disbelief, taking a step away from her without even realizing, but he found he appreciated the distance between them if only to make it harder for him to take a swing at her. "You're lying."

Krolia lifted an eyebrow at that. "Trust me," she sighed. "I'm not."

Keith's jaw dropped in disbelief for a second, and then he was filled with anger. "Trust you?" he snapped. "You want me to trust you when you left me? When you abandoned me and Dad?"

"Keith," Krolio tried, taking a step towards him with her hands up in a non-threatening gesture. "You don't understand."

"What I understand is what you subjected me to by leaving," Keith spat between clenched teeth. "Dad died when I was eight. I cycled through foster home after foster home until I finally made my way into the Galaxy Garrison where I was labeled a problem child. I didn't know what a family was until I met—"

"Keith, I'm sorry," she whispered, frowning.

Keith shook his head. "You made me an orphan. You made me believe I had no one in the world that wanted me. Now I know I was wrong." Keith took another step away. "No one in the universe wanted me."

Shiro let out a breath as Keith finished. "Well, in hindsight, Buddy…"

"Yeah," Keith breathed, sinking down in his chair. "I know. And I feel bad yelling at her like that, but I just…"

"This stuff has been building in you for years, Keith," Shiro said. "I don't blame you for exploding on her like that, and she probably doesn't either. You had a rough childhood."

Keith leaned forward and dropped his face into his hands. "I don't know. You're the only family I have and I just…"

Shiro squeezed Keith's shoulder. "And I'll still be here, always. That won't change, Keith. You're still my hot-headed little brother."

Keith pushed Shiro away and moved down the room, beginning to pace. He let out an angry breath. "But I just can't help thinking—overthinking—why? Why did she leave me?" he ranted, gesturing wildly. Concern settled in Shiro's chest at the sight, not used to Keith babbling. That was usually Lance's coping mechanism. Keith's was to clam up.

"Clearly she felt her work with the Blade of Marmora was important," Shiro supplied. "When she left you, Zarkon was still in charge, his empire was still growing."

Keith froze and turned to Shiro. "More important than her son? Zarkon hadn't touched Earth in the last 10,000 years, why would she think he would now?" Keith returned to pacing, averting his eyes after hearing the way the emotion in his voice cracked his words. "The Blade of Marmora hadn't been able to dent Zarkon's plans over the last ten thousand years, so why would she think she would make a difference?"

"Why do you think you make a difference?" Shiro countered, voice gentle, urging him to think critically.

"She didn't even scratch the surface, but she could have change my whole—"


He kept pacing, mumbling to himself too low for Shiro to hear.

"Keith, listen to me." Shiro caught Keith's hand as he passed and forced him back into the chair in front of him. "If you'd brought a new life into this world, but you knew there was an overwhelmingly large force out there threatening this new life, wouldn't you do something, anything, to stop it? Wouldn't you try to do something to keep that away from that new life and keep it safe?"

Keith narrowed his eyes at Shiro. "Are you telling me she didn't even want me in the first place? That I was a mistake?" Shiro rolled his eyes. "Because if this is how you help out people now, I'm not sure—"

"No," Shiro interrupted, a smirk on his face. "What I'm saying is you probably were not a planned baby. But you were—are wanted. Me, the other paladins, Allura and Coran—we are your family now. Whether or not Krolia fits into that picture for you, we're still here." Shiro let Keith go and stood. "But you should hear her out at the very least."

"I don't know if I can ever forgive her," Keith mumbled, standing.

Shiro thumped him on the back once. "Not asking you to. Just asking you to talk to her, maybe get to know her enough to make an informed decision about having her in your life. Don't do something you'll regret later."

Keith watched in silence as Shiro pulled a shirt out of the dresser at the foot of his bed and tugged it on. "How are things going here?" he asked quietly, not missing the way all good mood fell from Shiro's face for a moment.

"Things here are fine, business as usual," Shiro shrugged, clearly brushing it off.

Keith's eyes narrowed at his friend. "Are you lying to me right now?" he accused. "Seriously? I just came in here and basically Lanced all over the place and you're seriously going to try to lie to me?"

Shiro pressed his lips together into a line and looked away. "There's just been some…tension lately."

Keith nodded, but knew this was only half the story. "Are you okay?" Shiro flinched and Keith knew he hit the nail on the head. He hadn't been around as much as he'd have liked since he'd joined the Blade. But he could see now that he was calmer about his own situation that something was off about Shiro.

"I've felt…off for a little bit now."

"Off how?"

"Like I'm just not myself sometimes," Shiro explained, crossing his arms. "Just some things Lance said happened in our last team fight, and I've just been…angry. Impatient. A lot."

Keith nodded slowly, calmer. "I mean, it's to be expected," he mumbled. "You've been through a lot over the last two years, no one expects you to be at one hundred percent."

"I just…" Shiro's jaw worked as he tried to find the words to voice his thoughts. "I didn't feel this way….before."

"Before what?"

"Before I got lost during the fight with Zarkon," Shiro admitted quietly. He'd had the thought, the theory since the weirdness Lance had told him about when the team was in the void space, but this was the first time he'd gotten the nerve to voice the theory to anyone else.

"Have you talked to Allura or Coran about this?" Keith asked, crossing his arms as he thought. "Maybe they could do some scans—"

"And what then?" he interrupted.

"We deal with it," Keith said definitively. "Whatever happens, happens, and we deal."

"You don't understand," Shiro ground out lowly, Keith raising his eyebrows in surprise at the sudden hostility he'd never seen before. At least not aimed at him….

"Why don't we go spar for a bit before I head back," Keith suggested instead, jerking a thumb in the general direction of the arena. "I've learned a few new things, I think I could take you now."

Shiro lifted an eyebrow. "Oh, really?" And just like that, the Shiro that Keith was used to snapped back into place, the confusing, darker man vanishing like he'd never been there in the first place.

Shiro was right, Keith decided. Something about him was off. Great. Just what he needed. More family drama…