First of all, I just wanted to acknowledge that this is a scary, scary time for our world. This Corona virus is dangerous and frightening. But one of the most amazing things about the human race is their capacity for kindness and compassion. The way we can reach out to each other, support and encourage each other, and work together to solve a problem that's bigger than any one of us is truly a marvel.
I just wanted all of you to know that I love you, that I'm praying for you, and that this is part of a plan and it will be for our good, even if we don't understand it yet.
This story...really came out of nowhere. I was poking around on ArchiveOfOurOwn earlier (a horrible idea, really, because it gives me a thousand new ideas when I'm not even capable of buckling down and finishing the ones I've already got) and this little plot bunny latched onto my foot. I wrote this entire thing in two hours, and I am honestly very proud of myself.
So this was the original idea: "Keith is gradually looking more and more like a Galra. His eyes stay the same, but his hair is darker and a little longer, and his ears have changed. His skin is colored like Lotor's, he's taller, he's buffer. Post season six because I can, and the Castle is still around because I say so. The whole battle with Lotor happened, and the whole issue with the clone happened, but we're temporarily forgetting about the Altean colony. No freaking three year time skip, either, because that was stupid. Like, really fundamentally stupid. They're not going back to earth yet, just more of the same from the last few seasons because I am the author I am supreme. Forget canon because canon had issues."
This piece was checked over by my spectacular brother, Taegalad, who is still my best friend and I don't know what I'd do without him. I am dedicating this story to him because he is my idea generator, my beta, my best friend, my brother, and my greatest cheerleader all rolled into one huggable package and I love him so, so, much. (also if there are any issues in this piece, he was more than half asleep when he checked it over. I sorta woke him up to look at this, so it's really not his fault)
ANYONE WHO WISHES TAEGALAD A HAPPY BIRTHDAY IN THE COMMENTS GETS A SNEAK PEEK AT CHAPTER NINE OF "I'LL LEAVE THE LOVE"!
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Voltron: Legendary Defender
SPOILERS: Ya know, they're actually very vague. There are mentions of events that happen in seasons three and six, so you will need to have watched up to the finale of season six.
WARNINGS: There is a scene in this story that exhibits some very harsh racism. The racial slurs that are used are "half-breed" and the person in question is called a monster. (I'm pretty sure you all know who I'm talking about, but oh well). Please read responsibly!
I think that about covers it. So without further ado, I give you...
Brother Let Me Be Your Fortress
The battle had been one of their most difficult yet, but they had won, and the lovely planet of Varian was safe at last.
Galran warlords had been quarrelling over it for the last few years, apparently, after the original fall of the Empire, and had all but torn it apart, abusing its natural resources and enslaving the people.
It had been a hard fight. Black had taken a hard hit from an ion cannon that had rattled Keith's head thoroughly when they had been taking out the two major battle cruisers in the planet's atmosphere, and he had a thorough assortment of bruises from their ground assault. He knew that Pidge was nursing a twisted ankle, still walking only because of the braces built into the Paladin armor, Hunk had been complaining about his arm hurting, and Lance had been hysterically screaming about his imminently approaching death at one point, but twenty doboshes later he was still talking, so he was probably fine.
Allura was, as usual, perfectly fine.
She and Shiro, who had taken a pod down from the Castle once the battle was over, had already gone to meet with the rulers of the planet to organize an alliance with the Voltron coalition.
Keith landed Black beside Red and pried himself to his feet with a groan, stretching the kinks out of his sore muscles. He tapped his comms.
"Hey, Lance, where are you guys?"
"We're up with the king and the queen," Lance answered promptly, his voice sort of strained.
Keith frowned at the sound. "Are you okay? You sound…kinda off."
"I'm fine, Mullet. Hurry up and get down here, they wanna thank you personally for what you did with the cruisers! That was awesome flying dude, even for you."
Something warm unfurled in Keith's heart. "Thanks, Lance," he said.
"You're welcome," Lance answered, just as cheerful and friendly as he always was.
It made Keith grin, thinking of how far they had come.
The two of them had started out fighting like cats and dogs, as everyone on the team could attest to.
But when Keith had returned from his two years in the quantum abyss and the whole disaster with Lotor and Shiro's clone—which still gave Keith nightmares, honestly—he found that Lance had changed. He was older, quieter. He was willing to listen and follow, but also to step out and lead. Their entire team followed him with absolute trust.
Over the last few weeks since everyone had been reunited, Lance and Keith had, for all intents and purposes, started over. They really talked to each other instead of just insulting each other all the time. They still bickered, of course, but it was teasing. Keith had very nearly cried when Lance casually referred to him as his brother in a conversation with one of their rebel allies.
Their friendship had deepened rapidly after that, and Keith had learned that Lance was someone he could lean on. He was someone that would follow faithfully but was unafraid to challenge him if he was wrong. He helped bridge the gap between their teammates and Keith. It had been two years for the hybrid and sometimes he was no longer sure where he stood with all of them—especially now that his Galra heritage had been seemingly kick-started by the odd quintessence fields contained in the quantum abyss. He now looked like the ones they were fighting, and he didn't know how he fit in their team anymore. Lance helped him figure it out. He helped Keith learn how to fit back into his family again.
Their relationship now was full of trust and affection. It was Keith reminding Lance that he was so very important and valid and necessary to their team when he felt insecure. It was Keith being there to catch him in a blanket side by side with Hunk when Lance came out of the healing pods, both of their voices overlapping as they lectured the Cuban on his self-sacrificing tendencies. It was Keith sparring with Lance and training him how to use the broadsword that he had unlocked—and giving him the appropriate amount of excited praise, because their bayards had more than one form, how cool was that?! It was Keith and Lance watching each other's backs during battles, both on the ground and in the air.
And it was Lance not being even remotely afraid of him, even as his skin changed colors. It was Lance dramatically bemoaning that Keith's shoulders were broader than his now and it was so unfair and look how much bigger his hands are now and not even batting an eyelash at the claws on the tips of the fingers he was complaining over. It was Lance glaring at him and throwing pillows at his head and telling him to shrink, Lance was the tall one, not Keith, not paying a lick of attention to the undeniably Galra ears that now were clearly visible through his hair. It was Lance teasing him over the snort he got when he laughed too hard, not even seeming to notice the fangs that glinted in the light when his mouth opened. It was Lance being normal and never once treating Keith as anything less than human even when he no longer looked like one.
It was Keith and Lance, growing up and growing together and becoming as close as brothers. It was Shiro and Keith and Hunk and Lance and Pidge and Coran and Allura growing closer together as a family, a single unit that fought and lived for each other and loved each other.
Keith wouldn't have them any other way.
After one last scan of the planet, just to make sure there really weren't any more Galra at present (Pidge had already checked, but Keith could admit that he was a little paranoid when it came to his family's safety) Keith quickly bounded out of his lion's mouth. He started a brisk jog up the trail towards the others, who were waiting with the vast majority of the capital city's population in the courtyard of the palace. Which was slightly smoking, but all things considered, it was remarkably whole.
"And here comes our Black Paladin now!" Allura exclaimed, smiling widely as she held out a hand for him to take.
He did so, allowing her to pull him up on the dais beside her, just in front of the planet's rulers. Shiro and the other Paladins were scattered about the crowds below them, all smiling at him as he went by.
"Black Paladin," The Queen said, tears in her eyes, beaming at him as she gripped his other hand. "Thank you. You took on three cruisers all by yourself! You saved our city!"
Keith ducked his head, embarrassed. "It was only two cruisers, Your Majesty," he said softly. "But you are most welcome. It was my honor to be able to fight in defense of your beautiful planet."
"Might we see the face of our hero?" the King smiled at him, stepping forward to clap a hand on his shoulder.
Keith hesitated, uncertain. He glanced at Allura, who took a deep breath and nodded.
Keith pulled off his helmet, shaking his head to unfold his ears.
Instant silence fell across the crowd.
The King and Queen gasped in unison, each jerking away from Keith as though he were poisonous, the Queen going so far as to wipe her hands off on her dress.
"You're a half-breed!" the King snarled. "You're one of them!"
"A Galra!" the Queen cried, crowding behind her husband.
Keith's ears flattened to his head.
"He's a Galra!" someone in the crowd hissed.
"It's one of our enemies!"
"He's one of them!"
"What is a thing like that doing with Voltron?!"
Keith swallowed hard. Oh, he hated that word.
"Your Majesties!" Allura said, her eyes wide as though she had not had the exact same reaction when Keith first discovered his heritage. "Keith is the same warrior who defeated those cruisers in defense of your home!"
"No wonder," the King glared at Keith with enough hatred that he actually took a step back. "They probably let him. He's a Galra, Princess. He's probably a spy. They just let him destroy those cruisers to make him look good."
The Queen was in tears. "I will not have such a beast in my palace!" she cried, and her husband nodded sharply.
"We will speak with you and with your companions," he said. "But not this Galra."
Allura looked helplessly at Keith, and he smiled at her, trying to pretend he didn't see the royals flinch at his fangs. "It's alright, Allura," he said. "I'll just go back to the Castle."
"I'm sorry," she whispered, looking rather close to tears herself.
Keith turned back to the royals and bowed. "Your majesties," he murmured.
"Be gone," the King said. "We will tolerate you no longer, half-breed. I will not permit you anywhere near our negotiations."
The voice was colder than Keith had ever heard it and he saw Allura's eyes get very wide at whatever was behind him. He had no time to turn, however, before Lance was shoving his way past the Princess, his blue eyes shards of ice and pinned to the royals.
"You have misunderstood," he said, standing straight and tall and staringthem down. "Keith Kogane is the Black Paladin. He is the leader of Voltron, not Princess Allura. You will treat with our leader and you will address him as such or their will be no negotiations."
"You…you would protect such a beast?!" the Queen gasped, and Lance glared at her.
"You will watch your tongue!" he snapped.
"Who are you to speak to the Queen in such a manner?!" the King blustered.
With one move, Lance was holding his broadsword, standing tall and strong between Keith and the others.
"I am the Red Paladin, the right arm of Voltron," Lance said, his voice loud enough to be heard by all gathered in the courtyard. "Keith is our leader. He personally took down two fully manned Galra cruisers that were trying to kill him. He then risked his life in the ground charge, personally battling and defeating the warlord that had made himself very comfortable on your throne. The warlord you were incapable of unseating."
"You—" the King began, but Lance's icy eyes swung to his.
"Shut up," he barked, and the man's mouth snapped shut almost reflexively. "You are cowards. You could not fight your own battles and so you begged for our help. We gave it because that is who we are, as Voltron. But Voltron is nothing without its head, as we would be nothing without Keith. If you cannot accept the one who is the savior of your planet, there will be no negotiations. There will be no alliance, and we will be leaving immediately. Am I understood?"
"You would abandon an alliance for the sake of a half-breed Galra?!" the Queen cried.
Lance's back went ramrod straight. "Pidge! Hunk!" he barked, his gaze never leaving the Queen's, who physically shrank away before him.
Pidge and Hunk, their eyes just as furious, stepped up just behind Lance.
"Get to your Lions," Lance ordered without turning. "We're done here. Shiro, you're with Hunk."
"Yes, sir," Pidge said, not a hint of sarcasm or joking to be found anywhere in her hard, amber eyes.
"You got it." Hunk did not bow to the monarchs. He did not even look at them. Shiro's eyes were blazing, but he allowed Hunk to set a hand on his shoulder and guide him through the crowd.
Pidge stepped forward, squeezing Keith's hand tightly. She nodded her head quickly to Lance but did not acknowledge either Allura or the royals before she turned and jogged after Hunk and Shiro.
Lance raised a hand to his comm. "Coran, recall the pod, Hunk has Shiro."
The pod immediately began to rise back towards the Castle.
"Allura," Lance continued as he turned to step off the dais. "Get to your Lion. Now. We're leaving. This alliance isn't happening."
Allura, the King, and the Queen immediately began to talk over each other.
"You would not dare—"
"How could you protect—"
"Lance, we need this—"
"NO!" Lance roared, finally losing his temper as he wheeled about again, and all three of them flinched away from him. "Allura," he snapped, blazing eyes locked onto hers. "As the right arm of Voltron and your superior, I am ordering you to return to your Lion now."
She drew herself up, eyes flashing with anger, but he wasn't done.
"Do you remember the compromise we agreed upon when you became one of the Paladins?" he asked, voice deadly quiet in direct contrast to mere moments ago. "You swore to follow mine and Keith's orders because we are the head and right arm of Voltron. We work together, and the rest of you follow our lead. You are to support us, not tear us apart before bigoted, self-centered cowards who dare to scorn those they owe their lives to."
Allura clenched her fists.
"Are you challenging me for my position as right hand of Voltron?" Lance asked, the hurricanes in his eyes contradicting his calm voice.
Red rose to her feet beyond the crowds and roared, lashing her tail and beginning to stalk the perimeter of the courtyard. The people screamed and moved as one to get away from the clearly infuriated Lion.
"N-No," Allura stammered, paling and backing up.
"Then get. To. Your. Lion." Lance all but growled the words, and the Princess bowed her head in submission, all but fleeing to Blue.
"You cannot do this!" the King was beginning to sound a little panicked now. "You—you need this alliance!"
"Lance," Keith said softly, finally finding his voice. "This isn't neces—"
"Gonna stop you there." Lance turned to face him for the first time, his eyes still full of wrath but visibly softening when they met Keith's. "Your ears are still flat on your head and your shoulders are slumped like you're trying to make yourself smaller. You only do that when you're really, really upset. And as you might have noticed," he continued, turning a sharp smile on the royals. "I don't like it when my team is upset. You are the cause of this pain. Therefore, I do not like you."
"But—the alliance—" the Queen stammered. "You—you need it!"
"No," Lance said flatly. "You do. You need Voltron desperately. But we don't need you. Not even remotely. If you are going to be that cruel and biased towards someone who has done nothing but fight for you, at great risk to his own life and health, then you do not deserve our help and we certainly will not put up with the absolute garbage that is coming out of your mouths. Keith is a person, and he is in no way, shape, or form to blame for the actions of an entire race. It is beyond wrong and twisted and cruel to take out your anger on an innocent person simply because of his race. On my planet, it's called racism and it is a vile thing."
Lance was nearly trembling now, his fists clenched, and his face flushed with the force of his emotion, and a sinking feeling filled Keith's stomach. That…that sounded very personal, and he dearly hoped that didn't mean what he thought it meant for his brother.
He reached out, gently gripping the younger boy's shoulder.
Lance heaved a deep breath.
"You needed Voltron," he said, his voice much calmer, "because you were not strong enough to defeat your invaders yourself. Voltron saved your planet. But Voltron is made up of individuals. The Yellow Paladin, Hunk, is a fantastic engineer. I have yet to see a mechanical problem he was unable to fix. Our Green Paladin, Pidge, is the most brilliant technology expert I have ever met. But neither of them are pilots. Our Blue Paladin, Allura, is a fierce warrior, but she has only been a Paladin for a few months. She does not know how to work with the rest of us, not to mention she has far more training than we do. She is far stronger and has a much more intuitive bond with the Lions. It is difficult for us to keep up with her. I am the Red Paladin. I am a sniper. I am a pilot, but I am not used to fighting in such a close-knit unit like this. Keith is our Black Paladin. He binds us all together. He tempers our differences and guides us through our battles in a way that no one, not even our former leader, could compare to. He is strong and kind and inherently good. Which you may have noticed, considering that you've been spitting vitriolic slurs at him since he took his helmet off and he has not made a single move to do anything to stop you because he wants this alliance. For your sake only. Because as I said, we have no need of you."
Neither of the rulers could meet Lance's gaze, both of them staring at their feet.
"You are not the first people we have encountered to respond this way to Keith," Lance said. "And it breaks my heart every time, because every time Keith smiles and allows people who do not know him and have no idea what he is really like to attack him viciously with their words and their actions and then he goes and saves them anyway, time after time, because that is who he is. He is a Paladin and a hero, and if you cannot see that, then you have lost so much more than a simple alliance."
He turned sharply and took two steps before he turned back and met their eyes. "There are three species present within Voltron," he said. "Ask yourselves this: why did you single Keith out? We are all strange to you. You have never even heard of my species. You have no idea what my race is like, why we are out here, why we are a part of Voltron. Why, then, did you not treat me the same as Keith? Why did you not treat all of my people the same?"
The royals exchanged looks, their mouths opening and closing.
Lance straightened and held out a hand, forestalling any reply. "Think about it," he said. "If you can bring yourselves to change your minds and your hearts, we will remain in orbit for two quintents. That is my mercy to you. But do not forget." His eyes blazed once more. "We are Voltron. Keith is one of my people, as much as the Princess Allura. We are a family, and we share a bond that cannot be broken by the likes of you. If you cannot accept one of us, you shall not have any of us."
His piece said, he turned and began to walk towards his Lion.
The crowd parted before him, but he had only gone a few steps when he stopped, turning back to Keith and waiting. Keith shook himself out of his stupor, bowing deeply to the royals before he jogged down the steps. Lance fell into step with him and they strode back to their Lions side by side.
The rest of their team was waiting on the bridge.
Hunk was settled in his chair, Pidge perched on the arm of it, and Shiro and Coran were leaning against the back of it, but Allura was pacing back and forth across the room.
As the door slid shut behind them, she spun to face them, running her hands down her face.
"I don't know whether to be angry or grateful," she got out between her teeth.
"Oh, I'll save you that choice," Lance said, and Keith startled at how angry he sounded. The Red Paladin lounged carelessly against his own chair, but his fury was clear in his blazing eyes and tense body. "What the hell were you thinking?"
Coran winced at his harsh tones and rude words but said nothing. Clearly, he supported Lance's position. Pidge, Hunk, and Shiro all had crossed arms and unamused faces, all clearly on Lance's side—Keith's side—and that warmed something deep within Keith that had gone cold at the royals' words.
Allura bristled. "You will not address me so rudely," she said harshly. "I am a Princess—"
"You were not acting like one," Lance barked, cutting her off in the middle. "And until you are, I will not treat you like one. You are meant to be a leg of Voltron, Allura. You are to hold us up, support and strengthen us."
"I am a ruler—" she began again, fists balling up at her sides.
"You're not getting it!" Lance shoved off the chair. "You are a Paladin now, Allura. That does not stop when you step out of your Lion. You are to support us at all times, whether we are in a battle or not. You did not support Keith today. You undermined his authority as the Black Paladin by attempting to corroborate the royals' desire to have him removed from the negotiations. As a Princess, you allowed one of your own people to be attacked and did nothing to help him. As a Paladin, you failed us all. Utterly and completely."
Allura flinched, her face paling. "I am your leader—" she tried again.
But Lance shook his head. "No," he said. "You are not. You fly the Castle and create wormholes for us, which is such a massive help to Voltron that I have no words for it. But you are not our leader, Allura. Keith is. He is our Black Paladin. You are the Blue Paladin. And that means that you are to heal. You are to care for and protect and support. You did none of that today. You actively assisted in hurting your leader. Not only that—your friend."
Allura stopped, blinking rapidly. She inhaled sharply. "To heal," she repeated, and her voice cracked.
"Yes," Lance said softly, stepping forward and taking her hands. "That is what the Blue Paladin does. We do not hurt. We help and support. We do not tear the others down. If one of Voltron's legs is not supporting the others, Voltron collapses completely. We are all important, Allura. But we can only succeed if we help each other."
And Allura took four running steps and threw herself into Keith's arms. "I'm sorry," she cried. "I'm so sorry! I was so carried away by thoughts of the alliance I did not even think of how they were making you feel!"
"Hey, it's okay," Keith hugged her tightly. "I'm used to it, Allura. It's just…I look like their nightmares now. It's going to happen, there was nothing you could've done to stop it."
"Clearly there was," Allura said. She cupped Keith's face. "Lance did. I did not. And I cannot express my regret for that, both as your right leg and your friend. I hurt you deeply today, Keith. And I am sorry for that." She drew his head down and laid a kiss on his brow. "I swear to you, brother, it will not happen again."
Keith choked up, dragging her closer and burying his face in her shoulder. She kissed his temple and stroked his hair, hugging him just as tight on her tiptoes until he released her with a sheepish laugh. She wiped away his tears with a wobbly smile before she spun around and tackled Lance.
"Whoa!" he caught her.
"I'm sorry," she said again. "You were well within your rights to call me out and I had no right to fight you like I did."
"Oh, hey, that's…it's fine, Lura," Lance rubbed the back of his neck, eyes on the floor as she let him go. "I…really didn't mean to yell at you like that, and I was totally out of line to boss you around like that—"
"No, you weren't."
Everyone's heads jerked around to Shiro, who had risen to his feet. He strode quickly to Keith, pulling him in for a tight hug and speaking to Lance over his head.
"You are the right hand of Voltron," he said. "As far as Voltron's hierarchy goes, you are second only to Keith. The others should listen to and respect what you tell them, and you have every right to give orders in a situation like that when Keith is compromised."
"You are the second in command, my boy," Coran said from where he had wrapped an arm around Allura's shoulders. "And you are the Red Paladin. You protect and lead and advise your teammates, including your leader. That is why the right leg and the right arm must be in sync—one to protect from harm and one to heal from harm. Voltron must be in harmony."
"And with that said," Allura turned to Hunk and Pidge. "I must apologize to the two of you, as well. I did not only hurt Keith today. I hurt Voltron in its entirety."
"Yes, you did," Hunk agreed, his face unusually solemn. "We are a family, Allura, and we depend on you to have our backs like we have yours. You didn't have our backs today."
Allura winced hard, along with everyone else in the room. When you disappointed Hunk, it hurt.
Then the big boy smiled gently at her. "But we'll forgive you," he said. "Because we are a family, and we know you won't let it happen again."
"You better not," Pidge gave the princess a sharp look. "You hurt Lance, too, Allura. He's a great Red Paladin and we'd fly to the ends of this reality if he told us to, but he started out as Blue and he's always been the one to help and take care of us. Today, you made him attack you. You forced him to hurt you because you were hurting the rest of us. Understand?"
Allura's eyes filled with tears and she threw her arms around Lance again. This time he was ready and brushed a kiss over her temple.
"I forgive you," he said before she could get out a single word. "I'd do the same for you, you know I would. It's okay, Allura. Everyone makes mistakes. This one was pretty bad, but we're all willing to work together to fix it."
She pushed back, wiping her eyes and trying to smile. "Thank you, Lance."
"Of course." He smiled, kissing her forehead.
"Okay, come on guys, bring it in," Shiro grinned, herding them all into a group hug.
Laughing, they complied easily, pushing Keith to the middle. Pidge latched on around his waist and Hunk squeezed him tightly from one side as Shiro held him tightly in front and Allura and Coran pressed against his back. Lance tucked himself against Keith's other side, and Shiro squeezed the back of the boy's neck.
"You did good today, Lance," Shiro said, eyes bright and smile wide. "You did so, so well, and I am so grateful to you."
"We all are," Allura agreed, smiling warmly.
Lance blushed and ducked his head, hiding his face in Keith's shoulder. "Just doing my job," he squeaked.
Pidge lightly punched the slender teen on the arm and Hunk ruffled his hair with a wide smile.
"And three cheers for Keith as our Black Paladin!" Allura cried.
Keith turned red as a tomato as his family immediately—and loudly—did so, right there in the middle of the bridge. (They did not stop at three)
"Okay, Paladins!" Keith said when he really couldn't handle anymore without exploding. "It's been a long day. Lance gave the Varians two days to make up their minds, so let's hit the hay and see what happens tomorrow."
There was a chorus of goodnights, and Keith got so many tight hugs that he thought his face might crack from how wide his smile was. He felt so loved and it was the best feeling ever.
Lance and Keith's rooms were on the same hall, so they were walking that way together. They weren't really talking, but there was still that warm, wonderful feeling of belonging between the two of them.
They reached Lance's door first, and Keith reached out to pull him into a tight hug.
"Thank you," he said hoarsely. "For everything you did today."
Lance hugged him just as fiercely. "You are my family, Keith," he said. "You are my brother, and I will always defend you, no matter who we're facing. You're all honorary McClains now, and we take care of our own."
Keith laughed a little as they let go, wiping his eyes. He grinned at Lance and turned to head down the hall to his own room when a thought struck him.
"Oh, Lance?" he turned.
Lance was still leaning against the wall beside his door, one arm around his waist. He looked up. "Yeah?"
"I meant to ask before, but are you okay? You sounded a little weird on the comms right after the battle."
"Oh," Lance laughed awkwardly. "Uh, yeah, don't sweat it, Mullet, I'm fine!"
Keith raised an eyebrow but nodded, knowing Lance would open up about it when he was ready.
He hadn't gone more than two steps before Lance spoke again.
"Um, actually," he started, and Keith spun back with a smirk. "I, ah, got a little wrapped up in the heat of the moment, and what with all the adrenaline and all, it sorta slipped my mind for a bit…but anyway! Now that all that's over and done with, I am now remembering that I was, in fact, shot today."
"You were what?!" Keith fairly flew back down the hallway, hands hovering over his brother's shoulders. "What do you mean, you were shot, are you alright?! Where did they hit you?! Are you bleeding?! Oh my gosh, do I need to call Allura?!"
"Whoa!" Lance laughed a little breathily, flapping his hands at his friend. "Cool your jets, Mullet! I'm fine!" He pressed a hand to his side, looked down at the dark liquid staining his fingers, and winced. "Okay, so maybe I'm not fine fine, but I'm definitely semi-fine!"
Keith let out a wordless sound of despair and Lance relented.
"Okay, so at least I'm not gonna die," he said. "But I may need some assistance from the heal-y, helpful, medicine thingies whose name I cannot recall—"
"The cryo-pods," Keith filled in, fighting the urge to burst out into hysterical laughter.
"Yes!" Lance exclaimed. "Those very useful cryo-pods! I think I'll just meander on down to the infirma—whoa!" Lance swayed in place, his hand flying out to support himself against the wall as he nearly toppled over. Keith rolled his eyes, carefully picking his brother up bridal-style.
"You are a disaster," he muttered, shaking his head fondly.
Lance poked at a spot on his abdomen just below where his armor covered. He hissed and jerked his hand away. "Ow, and that was very rude."
"But it was true," Keith countered.
"I didn't say it wasn't true, I just said it was rude," Lance shot back.
Keith had to laugh. Lance let his head fall to the older boy's shoulder and they were quiet on their way to the infirmary, but it was a peaceful, companionable kind of quiet.
When they got there, Keith carefully got Lance's armor off and helped him into the white pod suit, wincing at the blistered, bloody wound that covered a good portion of Lance's upper stomach and lower ribcage.
"See you later?" Lance glanced at him as they got him situated properly in the pod.
Keith squeezed his shoulder. "Yeah."
Lance grinned widely at him before he swallowed hard, eyeing the walls of the pod around him with something like fear.
Oh, yeah, Keith remembered. He hasn't really liked these things ever since the Castle tried to kill us all those years ago.
He ruffled Lance's hair. "I'll wait out here for you, yeah?"
Relief instantly flooded Lance's eyes and made his shoulders loosen, but he still protested. "Keith! You're super tired! We had a rough fight today you need to sleep in a bed!"
"There are cots in here," Keith argued with a grin.
"A real bed, you heathen!" Lance said exasperatedly.
Keith laughed. "Okay, okay!" he said, holding up both hands. "If I go hunt down some proper blankets and pillows and take a shower first, will you consent to allow me to sleep on one of the cots down here?"
Lance narrowed his eyes at him. "You're not gonna let me talk you out of this, are you."
"Fine!" Lance rolled his eyes, but Keith could see the smile teasing the corners of his mouth. "G'night, Keith. And…thanks."
Keith's smile warmed. "You are so welcome," he said softly. "I'll see you in the morning, brother."
Lance's grin was back. "See you, brother," he echoed.
Then he tipped his head back and closed his eyes, and Keith started up the healing cycle, watching carefully for a few minutes until he had reassured himself that all was well and working properly.
Then he stretched with a huge yawn, wondering just how mad Lance would be if he just went to sleep in the bodysuit that they all wore under the armor. But he'd given his word, so he showered and then hunted down some of the thickest, softest blankets and pillows on that floor of the Castle (with the mice's help).
He tugged one of the cots out and made a little blanket nest/pile thing and double-checked Lance's pod one last time before he curled himself into it, his heart warm and full.
He had a crazy uncle who was always willing to do whatever it took to keep them safe.
He had a brilliant sister to bug him and tease him and make him laugh.
He had a brother to help him de-stress and get great hugs from.
He had a brother who was always there to look up to, who was always ready to save and guide and lead.
He had a sister who was strong and fierce, but willing to admit when she was wrong.
And he had a brother who would always have his back, who would always fight beside him no matter who they were facing.
He had a family of people who would never, ever let him face any danger or pain on his own.
Truly, he had a wonderful family, and he loved them so, so much.
Keith fell asleep smiling.
Maybe not my best work, but it's not terrible!
The world is in a pretty dark place right now, so I wanted to go for something a little more light-hearted than my usual.
Anyway! Let me know what you thought of it. Every single review I get brightens my day, even the guest ones that I can't respond to. I value every single one of my readers, and your feedback is absolutely priceless to me!
Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope I'll be back with more content soon!
So be safe, wash your hands, and remember that I love you all and I'm praying for you.
Jeremiah 29:11, y'all! Don't forget!