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Circumstance is key

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“Shiro…please…” Keith croaked out as he strained to keep his knife from slipping against Shiro’s. The purple glow of the galran blade inching closer and closer to his face with every syllable.

“You’re my brother…”

There was no emotion besides loathing behind those eyes.

“I love you.” The red paladin finally managed.

Shiro looked taken aback, like Keith’s words had somehow gone past the clone’s highjacked psyche and reached what was left of the real Shiro. He drew back his blade ever so slightly, letting Keith push forward more. But the relief didn’t last for more than a second, as Shiro pushed back against the blade with even more force than before. The purple glow wasn't the only thing Keith began to feel inching closer, now he felt the blistering heat edge dangerously close. He felt the sweat on his face sizzle.

After another moment of recuperation, Shiro’s face contorted with blinding rage. His blade shuddered within centimeters of Keith’s face.

“Just let go Keith… you don't have to fight anymore.”

The iridescent purple was all Keith could see.

“By now… the teams already gone… I saw to it mys-”

With that last syllable, Shiro’s senses heightened, and he suddenly realized he didn’t have sights on Keith’s other hand. With one kick of his foot, he stomped violently on his wrist, pinning it before he could reach his bayard. The pain that exploded up his arm told him that the blow was unrestrained and merciless.

“Please… Shiro!” Keith wailed.

The pain made his other arm shudder, giving up the last bit of distance between Shiro’s blade and his face. The sizzling blade touched his face only for a second before it completely burned through the fleshy cheek. Shiro couldn't hear anything but he could assume that Keith was screaming, as his mouth was violently thrown open and tears streamed down his contorted face. He struggled against the oncoming attack, but couldn't react fast enough, and pain clouded his coordination immensely. He kicked his legs vigorously, but there was virtually nothing he could do now.

Once through the cheek, the inertia of the blow led the blade to meet Keith’s shoulder, burning through his paladin armor like it was paper. Up until the shoulder, the attack had happened within only seconds, but a shoulder didn’t give as easily as a cheek. The tendons, muscles and bones decelerated the attack down to an agonizingly pace, and with every millisecond that passed, the more Keith’s struggles became less frantic. Eventually the blade pierced the metal ground beneath him, thoroughly bisecting his shoulder from his torso. The skin continued to sizzle and the surrounding blood grew to a boil. Keith stopped moving altogether after that.

Shiro hoisted himself up to his feet, haphazardly yanking at the blade to retrieve it from the wound, and after finally using his foot as leverage against Keith’s chest, he managed to tear the blade out, leaving a gaping mess in its absence.

Shiro looked down at Keith like he was trash, like he was nothing, and he honestly felt nothing. The void of emotion that the clone had didn’t occur to him, as he couldn't feel anything when Haggar was controlling him, but he truly could when he was with the paladins for that short time before. He recalled the honor he felt to be a part of such a team, the pride he felt when the paladins would complete a mission, but the feelings were like faint, throbbing scars in his mind. He couldn't remember feeling, but he could remember THE feeling.

Without a moments warning, the echoes of those memories became deadening, and he felt his head become lighter, like a burden had finally lifted. Then, like floodgates, emotions came flooding back into his arsenal. He didn’t understand why, perhaps because he had completed his purpose, Haggar’s hold seemed to melt from the depths of his mind. Her presence behind his eyes completely evaporated and left him the same person he was before he began his mission to capture Lotor, a clone that truly believed he was Shiro. A clone with every memory of the real Shiro. A clone that loved Keith like a brother.

“Keith…” Shiro almost whispered.

Bile immediately rose in his throat, and he fell to his knees. His galran arm reverted, and he covered his mouth before anything could escape his stomach. He couldn't look at Keith. He refused to look at what he did, but his wide eyes worked against his shame, and he looked at his brother.

His eyes were heavily lidded, but the white that he could see was cloudy and yellowed. His left shoulder was in shambles, almost completely amputated from his body if not for a few remaining tendons in his armpit. The white paladin armor had melted onto his exposed skin, and yellow liquid bubbled under his stretched skin, a tell-tale sign of third-degree burns.

Shiro knelt by his head, and gently scooped him into his lap, cradling his bad shoulder as to not strain it any more. He brought his ear to his mouth and was intoxicatingly relieved when he felt hot breath meet his cheek. Tears fell from his lashes and onto Keith’s face as he tried to assess how he could escape with Keith, how he could fix what he did.

But the base was shattering around them, and the blinding light below them seemed to be getting closer, and with one last coherent thought, he prayed to whatever higher power there was.

Then.

Freefall.