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Test of limits

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It's been two weeks since the last fight. Earth is being rebuilt, and the hopes are soring high. All five of the paladins are doing well and are on their way to recovery.

When the coalition members arrived with the intent to help, the Holts were the first one's to join in the reconstruction. Lance was thankfully more inclined to rest and Hunk just wanted to spend more time with his family which greatly reduced Shiro’s worries.

Slowly but surely, everything is recovering.

 

Lance, Allura and Pidge had been discharged from the hospital a few days ago. Hunk was almost recovered as well, the only left was Keith.

He had sustained most of the damage, which according to Pidge would be because of the huge size and weight of the Black lion. Guess being the leader meant having scars.

 

"Shiro, I feel fine now. Please, let me go out." Was what Shiro got greeted with today. As usual.

The room that was clean and sterile was promptly changed over the last few days into something more home like. Courtesy of the gifts and stuffs given to Keith by the families of the paladins once they got to know about Keith’s lack of a home and the recently found family.

"Keith," Shiro began, taking a seat beside his bed. "Your injury is just not visible on the outside. You are still recovering." To clarify further, Shiro tapped his forehead, reminding him of his injury.

"Everyone is out there, helping in the reconstruction." Shiro slowly nodded his head. Knowing full well where this was about to go. "Even Hunk is allowed to move around and he was also hit on the head."

Shiro can sympathise with Keith, no one would love to sit in hospital but he was not in any condition to move about.

"Do you feel sore?" Shiro asks casually as he leaned into the chair.

"I..." Keith shoulders sagged, eyebrows knitting with each other as he bit into his bottom lip. "A little?"

Shiro straightened himself, placing his weight on his thighs. Man his shoulders felt heavier. "That means you are not fully healed yet."

Keith eyes comically blew wide when he realised that he, himself proved Shiro correct about his assumptions. "Shiro, you know how quick I recover, you can't expect me to sit idle while everyone is working day and night to build everything from scratch."

"I know how quick you heal which, trust me it's a good thing." Shiro gently pushed Keith back into a more comfortable position to sleep in. "But no matter how fast the process is, it would not matter if you don't rest and let your body focus on healing itself."

"I'm lacking vitamin D." Keith tried lamely.

"You can always sit in the window."

At that, Keith groaned into his hands, "I feel like I'm trapped here. All of you are keeping me locked in, even though I haven't felt dizzy in a week!"

"Play with Kosmo."

His suggestion was met with a seething glare.

A beep sounded off reminding him of yet another meeting about to start off. "Alright. Let's do it this way. If you stay put for the next week—

One—

Three days, I will personally take you to anywhere you want."

Silence fell upon them as Keith contemplated about the proposition. Shiro held his breath, crossing his fingers as they both stared each other down.

Keith finally eased back, tilting his head sideways "...anywhere?"

"Yup."

"Alright. Fine."

"Promise?" Shiro asks teasingly, making Keith scowl. He had always made sure to hear the echo of the word promise, it acts like a seal for the two of them.

Shiro is a man who learns from his mistakes. He is well aware of the consequences he might face if he lets Keith slip without sealing their deal.

"FINE! I promise –just get going." Keith makes shooing gesture before turning his face away from him, probably due to reliving the memories of the incident Shiro was implying at.

"That's good to hear." Shiro ruffles his hair affectionately, before reaching for the door. "Rest now, I will see you later."

 

True to his word, Keith has been resting properly for the past one and a half day. The nurses and doctors are met with silence, and he is definitely getting a bit irritated but that's to be expected. The only thing that's surprising is that Keith haven't complained once about wanting to go out like he did before.

"Shiro the medical and educational buildings are done." Pidge begins reading out the progress they have made. "Residential areas are being built as, industries, factories oh and warehouses."

Shiro’s eyes are drawn to the newly built hospital in front of him. "Yeah, it's slow, but it's definitely a progress."

"It's not slow." Pidge disagrees. "The Olkari technology is far more advanced and sufficient than the Earth's. I would say the progress is lightning fast."

Shiro smiles at that and proceeds to ruffle her hair. He knows how much work everyone is doing to get Earth back to its former glory but the damage done by the galra is severe and it's definitely gonna take years to achieve their objective no matter how much help they can get.

"Captain!"

 

"What's the situation?" Shiro asks entering the building with Pidge by his side.

The two are greeted with the sight of Sam Holt holding a tab in his hand as he listens to the chatter. "Oh, Captain."

Sam was about to salute him, but Shiro makes a dismissing gesture as he proceeds to ask him about the more pressing matter. "Where is he?"

"About that." Sam offers the tab to Shiro, ignoring about how he looks about to break into a rampage; because Keith has yet to recover!

"I have already dispatched four teams in each wing, each consisting of three members, lead by a MFE pilot expect for one. James refused to participate, so Veronica is taking his place."

Shiro looks at the screen displaying four dots, sweeping through the building in search of the runaway. He can hear them speaking through their comms and so far no one has seen Keith.

He is so focused on the chatter going on that he jolts when Sam places a hand on his shoulder. "We will find him in no time."

"What if he leaves the premises?" Pidge asks.

"We have James stationed outside to alert us."

Shiro brushes his hand through his bangs. Why would Keith suddenly disappear? He just made a deal with him, and he knows that Keith never breaks a promise. It's one of his greatest strength and weakness. So why? Shiro made sure to seal it too.

"Shiro?"

On the call of his name, he reacts instinctively, momentarily pausing his thoughts.

Pidge adjusts her glasses back on her nose while Sam watches curiously. "Didn't you said Keith promised to stay put?"

Shiro releases a breath of annoyance. "Yes. He promised me. He never breaks his promises. I- I have no idea why he is doing this! He–

–didn't break his promise." Pidge finishes causing Shiro to blankly stare at her. A quick look and Sam is just as lost as he is. Good, he is not alone.

He is still sane.

"What do you mean, Katie?" Sam asks taking the tab back from Pidge. When did she take it?

"Keith promised to stay put right?" Pidge glances at Shiro and he nods in confirmation. "He didn't leave the building. He is staying put right where he was."

Oh....

Oh God. Help him.

A bark of laughter escapes from Sam and Shiro stares incredulously at him.

"That's genius! I'm loving that boy."

Sam had barely completed the sentence when the sound of series of explosions echoed through the building. Shiro and Pidge exchanged a quick glance before breaking into a mad dash towards the stairs, leaving Sam behind.

It's a good thing the rooms are sound proof.

 

The news of Keith’s disappearance came as a shock to him but the fact that Keith was in the premises was, a huge surprise. 

Leave it to Keith to find a loop hole even in promises.

"Sir! Keith was just spotted near room 298 of the west wing."

"Team A, head to the room ASAP." Sam ordered.

"He is not here."

"Team C here, Target spotted in the cafeteria. Heading to intercept."

"We lost him."

"Sir! This is team E. Something took James!"

Keith is literally leading everyone by their nose. Shiro and Pidge had been running blindly, following the sounds of explosions for the past twenty minutes and they have yet to get a visual on the runaway.

"How is he doing that? We had him cornered!"

"This is hopeless."

"Ugh, why doesn't he just escape?"

That statement made Pidge crackle like a maniac. She looked absolutely ecstatic along with the shine in her eyes that usually meant she was having the time of her life.

At least someone is having fun.

Shiro and Pidge rounds a corner following Keith’s trail leading up to the cafeteria. They barely catches the sight of Kosmo as he teleports, leaving a body behind.


James Griffin.


The said body looks around in utter confusion. Overall, he is fine except for his image. He is sporting neon pink hair, his cheeks adorned with black lines similar to whiskers and a note stuck on his back that reads: 'Settling a score.'

The second time they come close to finding Keith is when Veronica grabs hold of his hand as he teleports again. They later find Veronica splashed with blue, warning others against touching Keith.

A few did anyways, returning with fear of darkness and unseen. Uttering nonsense about glowing eyes and predators.

It reminds Shiro of an article he read about black panthers. 'They are master of stealth. You will only see a black panther when it reveals itself to you.'

It defines Keith more than the blades.

 

A worried brother and an intelligent tech genius are lead around by a hurricane named, loved and cherished. They are both out of breath; so much that Shiro feels like his lungs are going to collapse on itself. As if on cue, his mind supplies him with a picture of a crushed juice box.

Why, thank you. If he could, Shiro would place his mind in the list as well.

Having enough oxygen, Shiro glanced around and found himself back to the starting point. Turning his attention back to the scene, Shiro can see the mess Keith created. The staff kept on glancing around the room, fear evident in their eyes as they tried not to flinch when a cadet passes by. The building that was once clean and new, now had trash littered on the floor. A few smudges of paint and mud on the walls with a note that read: 'No, its not mud. This is the food that was served yesterday.'

Of course.

If no one had told Shiro who was responsible of the destruction already in effect. This note would have wiped out any uncertainties he might have had.

No, not because of the handwriting but because it's the exact same words Keith greeted Shiro with when he joined him for dinner last night.

"Sam." Shiro said, his eyes never leaving Pidge as she not-so-subtly downloads data from the computers. "Call the cadets. I think this much training is enough for today."

"Alright." Sam agrees, sighing loudly and dramatically, to make sure his disappointment echoes within Shiro’s being.

He mentally places them in the list of people to have a talk with.

Everyone is using this as an opportunity to achieve their objectives.


Selfishness is in abundance.

 

The search teams were suffering from the same symptoms of terror of fighting something invisible. Twitchy, eyes darting frantically, anxiety, coupled with their new look.

Few of them were bathed in colours including blue, red and yellow and those that weren't, were sporting black smudges of gun powder and doodles on their faces along with new hair colours. One of them even had a line of crackers tangling behind him.

He really shouldn't have made a deal with the devil.

Veronica, one of the unfortunate souls painted in blue, straightens up upon noticing Shiro approaching them.

"What happened there?" Shiro asks, eyeing the paint and smudges all over them. Pidge curiously touches the blue paint, rubbing between her fingers.

"We underestimated him. He is armed with crackers that releases a cloud of colour powder which melts on contact with skin. Other than that, he appears to have a variety of fire crackers, smoke and paint bombs. Nothing that would potentially damage or harm anyone but are more than enough to aid him escape."

In his peripheral Shiro can see the one named James startle so badly upon seeing his own shadow that for a second Shiro thought he would be unfortunate enough to see 'someone literally jump out of their skin.'

So, maybe James and Keith were not on good terms, but that was before kerberos, why was he taking revenge now? Surely, he knows that by doing this he would be dragging Shiro as well. Maybe this is some twisted form of revenge for disappearing on him. Or- 

Oh right. He is bored.

The gasp of horror from Pidge yanked him back to the reality that he is utterly done with.

"Pidge?" Yet he still tries. He has to.

"Um..." She looks like she is torn between being incredibly awed and horrified. Whatever it is, means anything but good.

"This powder thing," Pidge says displaying her blue fingers. "Is what I may have discussed about with Keith a week ago, when we all had a recovery celebration?"

You can't blame Shiro for finally losing his battle and letting out a long sigh of defeat. He clenches his eyes so hard he swears he sees white.

"Why?" It sounds more like a wail than a question.

"I thought it would be fun to level up paintball with this?" Pidge admits weakly. He knows Pidge is not to blame. She honestly didn't have any idea about what Keith would do with such knowledge.

"Although," Pidge starts with a very upbeat voice. "It's amazing how he was able to create them. I wonder how he got the stuff to make this."

Shiro files that to ask him later when he is right where he should and silently vowes to never leave these two unsupervised again.

"Call Kolivan and Krolia this instant!" Shiro ordered, sharply or maybe yelled. Who knows? Who cares at this point?

At the tone of his voice, Pidge swings her hand, giving a mock salute in haste. Specifically using the wrong hand. More specifically it's the hand holding the tab, which in turn is connected to the computer.

Shiro watches helplessly as the computer continues to tilt forward; as realisation and horror dawns on Pidge’s face.

The tablet escapes from her hand.

It's too late.

The computer crashes, loudly, meeting it's fate and now lies broken on the floor. Further adding to the artwork done by yours truly.

Pidge stands so still that Shiro is convinced that they have a suicide on their hands. When she finally moves (breathes), she gives him a sheepish smile, while she detaches her tab from the reception computer. (The broken one.) before running off to Sam.

Should have taken him outside.

 

For once, Shiro is grateful for the blades ability to read body language. Krolia and Kolivan took one look at him and left to get the job done. Didn't bothered asking questions, didn't asked how he was doing, didn't questioned the new makeover. Didn't inquired about the mess. Didn't flinched when a vent fell down in front of them.

Krolia even hands him a painkiller along with a water bottle, wordlessly, before disappearing down the hallway. Shiro takes it gratefully.

Sounds of crackers exploding somewhere in the vents and a few floors above them can be heard. They must have spotted him.

Black, can you please withdraw me from this body? Just temporarily?

His pleas are met with silence. Like Paladin, like lion. Just like that, his mind conjures up another horrifying thought.

The doors slide open with a flourish revealing Lance, flanked by Hunk and Allura. "There you are!" Shiro internally curses as he makes eye contact. "The Black Lion is missing for the past two hours!"

Figures.

"Not missing." Allura corrects. "The Black lion is just orbiting ear-" Another explosion goes off and it's the exact moment Lance spots Veronica.

"What the hell happened to you?!" He shrieks taking in the state Veronica is in and immediately starts fussing over her.

Allura’s eyes roam around, suspiciously, bayard in hand, while Hunk's naturally rich brown skin, drains of its vitality and colour so quick that Shiro silently starts panicking about finally losing his sanity.

He is absolutely terrified, the state of the building and the sound effects are not helping. "What is wrong with everyone? Why are they covered in colour? What are those noises? Is this a warzone? Are we being hunted? Why aren't we evacuating? Is this a haunted house now? Oh no, don't tell me it's the spirit of Sendak? Are we going to be kil-"

Shiro closes his eyes and begins praying.

 

In less than ten minutes, Kolivan arrives with news that have Shiro almost sobbing with relief. 

We got him.

 

 

Arriving their destination, the team is greeted by a serene sight.

Keith is curled up against Krolia, his head tugged under her chin as she cards her fingers through his hair. The shadows cast by the evening sun rays, gives the sight almost mythical feel.

"Umm..." Shiro feels like a lost boat in the middle of the sea. Or space. The team is struck by the 180 change in the troublemakers attitude. He doesn't move a muscle.

"I apologise for the trouble and stress he put you through." Krolia says, sitting up. "Keith wasn't aware of his actions."

"Wasn't aware of his actions?'" Lance accuses. "He terrorised the whole garrison. Splashed Veronica with Blue paint, left notes-"

Lance shuts up when Krolia throws a glass bottle towards Coran, who thankfully catches it.

"What's that?" Hunk asks, peering over Coran’s shoulder.

"I suppose you gave this to him?" Krolia questions, not bothering to hide her anger.

Mothers are fierce when angered. Galra mothers; even more so. Shiro can feel the familiar chill travelling down his spine even though the anger is not directed to him.

Kolivan takes two steps back.

Shiro gets demoted to a human shield.

On the other hand, Coran doesn't seem to be affected by it. Either he is an expert at hiding his emotions or he is truly oblivious.

"Ah, yes. I remember giving this to him." Coran answers casually for a guy about to be maimed. "Poor boy was too wound up. So I figured I should help him relax." Coran twirls the remaining liquid in the bottle. "It's an excellent relaxant."

Krolia’s eyes turns into slits.

Definitely the latter.

"That relaxant acts like a drug for the Galra." Kolivan states from where he has situated himself against the wall. "It enhances the performance of an individual at the cost of their self awareness, but since he is only part Galra, the drug enhanced his galra side leaving him to run solely on his instincts."

Coran’s face pales at that. The bottle slips from his fingers while his face contorts in horror.

"Does this..." There is only one thought going through Shiro’s mind right now as he turns to Krolia for help. "Does this causes any damage to the body?"

Krolia shakes her head in denial and Shiro breathes a sigh of relief. "It might have in huge amount; but since he has only taken a glup of it he will be fine." She rubs Keith’s ear when he shifts as bit. "Thanks to it, he made a full recovery too."

"Thank the ancients." Allura breaths out, shoulders sagging as the tension drains out. A sentiment shared by everyone.

Keith stirs as everyone scatter around the room, making themselves comfortable. Shiro had just settled down in his chair, ready to wind down and relax when Lance and Hunk points at something behind him while gasping in sync whereas Coran, Kolivan and the girls are wide eyed.

Curious, Shiro turned around only find himself pinned with purple half lidded eyes that most definitely belonged to Keith but are also undeniably galra. The rest of them seems mesmerised by it or in Kolivan's case, proud.

"Galra eyes..." Hunk whispers in glee, causing Keith to avert his eyes, hiding himself by burying his face into Krolia’s side. He makes a sound that is a cross between a whine and a low growl. Krolia resumes her previous position, enveloping Keith in her warmth who physically melts in her arms.

Everyone coos at the cute display of childishness and affection from Keith. Lance is clicking photos, capturing the rare moment.

"His movements are sluggish." Shiro can't help but notice how contradictory it is. Shouldn't he be hyperenergetic?

"That's because the effects of the drug are starting to wear off. Plus, my scent calms him down." Krolia answers, a fond smile playing on her lips. Even Kolivan seems happy. "He is a handful, isn't he?"

There is a second of silence before everyone loses it. Shiro laughs loud and breathless because taking everything into account, that is an understatement.

"Yeah." Shiro answers when he is calm enough. "He is." Keith doesn't respond, gone to his own dreamland. Shiro figures he needs to rest after hunting down the garrison.

"So," Lance begins, wiping a tear off. "That means Keith was running on space steroid the whole time?"

Shiro shoots him a deadpanned look before turning to Krolia. "How did you two managed to get him?"

Krolia and Kolivan share a glance, "Actually, He found me." She taps her nose, a wicked smile on her lips. "He tracked down my scent."

Romelle blinks, "Is he a comic werewolf?" pointing both her hands towards Kosmo who is asleep on the floor.

"No." Pidge instantly denies.

Lance waves a hand in the air, "He is galra. That, makes him a space cat. No offense to the blades."

Shiro leans back in the chair, watching the team as they further devolve into a meaningless argument. These moments are his favourite. He loves how they have grown and still remain the same.

One thing is for sure, Keith is a Black panther of the team Voltron, both in soul and attitude. No wonder Black is so fond of him.

"Guys," Hunk says, peering outside the window. "The Black Lion is still not back yet."