“I love you!”
Keith watched something in the clone’s eyes shift, watched him hesitate, and hope bloomed in his chest. When Shiro didn’t move, didn’t keep attacking, he tried again. “Shiro, I love you! I love you, please.” His voice was wrecked, desperate, and tears were forming in his eyes. If he could just get through to him, he knew he could save him. He knew!
Far away, Haggar was weighing options, calculating risks. After a few long moments, she narrowed her eyes. Her voice in the Kuron experiment’s mind was cold. “Change of directive. Pull back. You love him.”
“Shiro, please!” Keith choked out another plea, and gasped when Shiro actually started to back away, lessening the pressure on Keith’s blade.
Shiro stumbled a little as he pulled away, and looked at Keith with confusion. “You… love me?”
Keith’s heart ached at the doubt in Shiro’s voice, and he forced himself off of his back and onto his feet. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, so much.”
“You… love me.” It came out like a statement this time, but there was still hesitation there as Shiro lowered his sword.
Hesitation that Keith had none of. He lurched forward and fell into Shiro, wrapping his arms around the other man’s neck and burying his face into his shoulder. “I love you,” he repeated, reassuring.
Shiro’s sword clattered to the metal floor and he slowly closed his arms around Keith’s waist. But then Keith felt those hands on his hips, and they pushed him away so he could see those gray eyes narrow and flash violet. “Like a brother?”
There was an edge to that voice that made Keith shiver, and he shook his head quickly. “No,” he said, swallowing nervously. This was more of a confession than he’d intended to make.
But Shiro’s response was swift and removed all doubt, as the hands on his hips pulled them snug against each other once more, and lips that had moments ago been calling him worthless met his own in a kiss that simultaneously filled him with relief and joy.
Shiro was okay. Shiro was going to be okay. And… Shiro was his.
He was Shiro’s.
It happened so slowly. It had started out so good. So good.
They came back to the castle together, and together, and Keith couldn’t quite believe that this was how the event had ended.
The team was ecstatic to have Shiro back with them, and back to the Shiro that they knew. Shiro didn’t complain about the precautions they had to take to ensure that there would never be an encore of what had happened; in fact, he had encouraged them.
“I don’t ever want to be that person again. I can still feel him, in my head, and I need your help to make sure that doesn’t happen.” And then his voice had gone soft, and he turned to Keith, and added, “You especially, Keith.”
And Keith was happy to help him. Proud to help him. Had already shown that he would do anything to help him. Shiro didn’t even need to ask.
Keith was always there when Shiro needed him, always aware.
The first time he saw those eyes flash purple had been when Lance placed a hand on Keith’s shoulder, leaning in close as he made a sweeping gesture with his other hand, going on about some girl he’d met on the last planet who Keith could not care less about.
Lance was talking about a girl. It was a casual touch. It was nothing.
But Keith’s eyes widened when he saw that glint of color in Shiro’s gray eyes, and he shoved Lance away quickly.
“What the quiznak, dude!”
He ignored Lance’s protest and stood, swiftly leaving the room. Shiro followed close behind.
“Are you okay?” Keith asked as soon as they were alone in a hallway a few turns away from the common area. He reached up a hand to Shiro’s cheek, touching softly while he searched his eyes.
Shiro pushed forward, moving them closer to the wall. “Yeah, just--” His voice was rough and desperate, and he lowered his face to the junction of Keith’s neck and shoulder. “Need you.”
Keith wrapped his arms around Shiro to pull him close, and rubbed soothing circles on his back.
But that wasn’t what Shiro was looking for. He breathed in deep the scent of Keith, and with another, darker “Need you,” he lifted Keith by his thighs, pressed him into the wall, and began to suck dark, bruising kisses into his neck.
The second time it happened, Hunk had lost control of a blender, and flour had gone spraying through the kitchen. Keith had laughed, and Pidge had laughed, and Hunk had laughed and reached out to wipe some of the errant powder from Keith’s face.
Shiro hadn’t laughed, and when Keith saw his dark expression, his levity faded and his smile fell.
“I gotta go, buddy. Excited to try your cake later!”
They tried to talk about it. Shiro didn’t understand why it bothered him so much. He knew Hunk hadn’t meant anything. He didn’t know what was happening to him.
Keith thumbed the tears from his love’s face, and kissed him soft and slow, and told him that he understood. He was recovering. It was okay. Keith would do better, he wouldn’t touch the other paladins anymore without Shiro’s permission. It was gonna be okay.
The sex that night had been rough, and possessive, and Keith had felt claimed, owned. He felt a little guilty for having liked it so much.
It was almost two months after Naxela when Allura finally cornered him alone in the training room.
Without thought, just on instinct now, Keith searched around the room for Shiro, feeling anxious and nervous when the man couldn’t be seen.
“Shiro’s not here, Keith,” Allura assured him, and put a hand out to stop him when Keith tried to leave. “I need to talk to you without him.”
Keith swallowed. “You can’t. Does he know you’re here?” His gaze flitted around the room, searching for an exit. Then the finally landed on Allura, and it was clear from her stony face that Shiro did not know about this little rendezvous. The anxiety turned to anger, and Keith glared at her. “He trusts me, Allura, I can’t do this!”
Again, when Keith tried to move past her, Allura stopped him, but he put a little more force into it this time, pushing back against her hand on his chest. “Can’t talk to your friend?” Her voice is a strange mixture of regally calm and righteously furious. “Why, Keith? That’s not healthy.”
Keith swiped a hand up to knock her arm away. “He’s not healthy, Allura, but he’s trying. I’m just trying to help him. He needs my help.”
He stepped to the side to move around her, but she followed suit and blocked his path. “You grow more distant by the day, Keith,” and her voice and face are so sad that Keith pauses. “We never see you unless you’re with him, and even then he’s like a shadow looming over you, hiding you, keeping you from us. Your team misses you.”
And Keith misses them too. So much. He opens his mouth to respond but finds his throat too tight, so he closes it, swallows, and tries again. “He didn’t ask me for anything, Allura. He’s not a bad guy. He’s trying so hard for me. He’s trying to get better. I’m only doing what I can to help him get there.”
When Allura speaks again, her voice is a whisper, and there are tears in her eyes. “I’m so worried about you.”
And Keith’s trying not to cry, because he knows that this has been hard on everyone, and his team is like his family. He doesn’t want to hurt them, but it can’t be about them right now. He’s all that Shiro has, all that’s keeping him sane, it feels like, and he has to put Shiro first. That’s never been a question.
But he can see that his distance is causing more problems than just distance. He can see the distrust for Shiro growing in everyone’s eyes, and the resentment. He can see the way conversations halt as soon as the two of them walk into the room. It’s getting more and more difficult to form Voltron. Missions aren’t going as well, they aren’t working as a team. He loves these people, and he wants to make things right, but…
But he loves Shiro more.
“I have to go,” he chokes out, the tears he’d been holding back finally starting to fall.
“Keith.” Allura’s voice is a desperate, watery plea, but as he pushes past her, she doesn’t try to stop him this time.
When he tells Shiro about the incident, crying and apologizing and assuring Shiro that he would never hurt him on purpose, Shiro’s face gets dark, but he pulls Keith to his chest, and murmurs in his ear that he loves Keith so much, and that he’s so wonderful for telling him right away.
It’s five weeks later that the deteriorating balance finally breaks.
After Shiro had found out about Allura trying to go behind his back, he’d pulled away from the team even more, and Keith had loyally followed suit.
They didn’t interact with anyone outside of missions, and those were painful for everyone.
They couldn’t form Voltron anymore, at all.
It’s late at night when Shiro wakes Keith and tells him that he can’t do this anymore. That he’s been thinking about leaving for a while, because he can’t get better while he’s here with those people.
He tells Keith he has to go, and that he won’t force Keith to come with him.
“But I don’t know what’ll happen if I go alone, baby. I don’t want to go back to the way I was before Naxela.” Shiro’s choking out the words like they’re painful. “I’m so- I’m so scared, baby. I don’t know if I can do this without you.”
The only thing that had gotten through the Shiro when he’d been like before was Keith, and Keith, well… “I would never let you go through this alone, Shiro. I love you. We can go. Just us.”
Shiro buries his face in Keith’s hair, and sniffles. “Just us.”
“I’m all yours. Just yours.”
Black won’t let them in. It’s never happened before, and Keith slams on the particle barrier, furious and betrayed. She won’t tell him why.
And for a moment, it almost feels like there’s something else - someone else - there, trying to tell him something. And Keith closes his eyes, focused, determined to get through, to listen, to understand. And he hears Shiro’s voice say, “Keith,” and it sounds so quiet, so distant.
And then again, “Keith,” but right next to him this time, panicked and scared. “It’s not working, Keith. We can take a pod. Please.”
Keith bites his lips, hesitant to abandon Black.
Until Shiro cuts in again. “They’ll try to stop us if they find us, Keith. We need to go.”
Keith presses his forehead to the shield for a moment, then turns to take Shiro’s hand, and they leave.
As they get into the pod, he turns back, looking one last time at the empty hangar behind him. How did it come to this? How can he leave his team like this? Leave Black? Leave the mission? Leave the universe to the Galra? Leave Hunk, and Pidge. Lance, and Allura, and Coran.
But when he turned back to the pod, there was Shiro. And there was no question.
He would always choose Shiro. Always.
As many times as it takes.