Katie slipped through the doors of Voltron High, glancing anxiously at her watch. Quiznak. She was going to be late for the third time that week, and it was only Wednesday!
She blamed the new robotics project she was working on.
So caught up in a hurry was she, that she almost didn't notice the gorgeous boy down the end of the next corridor. Her heart jumped in her chest as she realised that she'd have to walk past him to get to her form room.
Him, Keith Kogane.
His black hair was slung back in a low, messy ponytail, the rest of it flopping over his face, not quite enough to conceal his mesmerising, blue-grey eyes.
(At least, she though they were blue-grey. Lance was convinced they were more purple.)
He wore a red checked shirt, unbuttoned, with a dark grey t-shirt underneath, just tight enough to show the smooth muscle of his chest. The look was completed with black jeans and red converse shoes.
Keith was beautiful, but oddly terrifying. He was technically a part of their group, but he only really spoke with Shiro, and Katie could never work up the courage to hold a proper conversation with him.
Katie wished that she could approach him now, but as usual, she wasn't brave enough. Besides, she had more important things to worry about. Like school projects, and not being late to form.
She continued down the corridor, her pace slowing as she took in Keith's posture. He looked strangely agitated, rubbing his thumb against his forefinger, tapping his left foot as he leaned against the wall outside the-
Was Keith in trouble?
Sure, he was a moody emo, but she'd never seen him do anything wrong.
The door opened suddenly, and she ducked behind a row of lockers, daring to peak out as none other than a Galra emerged.
Those from the Galra district were known for their violent nature, and radical style. The district was split into two main gangs- Marmora, and the Empire. The former could be reasoned with, and they had a fragile truce with the Altea district- Katie's home, and location of Voltron High. But the latter were ruthless and cold-hearted.
Looking at this Galra, Katie couldn't tell which gang she belonged to. Her facial tattoos- two purple stripes, one on each cheek- implied she was from Marmora, but her clothes were dark and uniform, with an empty gun holster slung across her hip, suggesting that maybe she was of the Empire instead.
The Galra turned and grabbed Keith's arm, pulling him roughly into the Principal's office, before the door was shut again. Katie hesitated a moment more before jogging to her form, her mind whirring.
Was Keith involved with the Galra?
Keith sat down in the stiff office chair, resisting the urge to rub his arm where his mum had grabbed him a little too hard. Sat across the desk, Principal Allura folded her arms, her brows creased in disapproval.
"So, Keith. Krolia informs me this is a Marmoran blade." She gestured to the knife lying on the desk, the knife that Mr Iverson had just caught him with. "Care to explain why you have one?"
Keith shifted uncomfortably. "I don't like being without it," he mumbled.
"But why do you have it in the first place?" she pressed.
"It used to be mine, but gave it to him," Krolia answered for him, and Allura's eyes widened. Ah. She'd probably figured that Krolia was Keith's guardian, not his mother.
"Weapons are not allowed here," Allura said smoothly, "Especially not weapons of the Galra. I was not aware that you were one of them." No amount of sweet smiles could hide the disgust in her tone.
Keith flinched. "My dad lived in Altea-" he started, but the principal cut him off.
"The fact that you brought a weapon into school cannot be ignored. Furthermore, you are Galra, so legally you can no longer be enrolled at this school."
"No!" Keith exclaimed, "Please, don't expel me! I-I'll be good, you can put me under observation or something just don't expel me..."
"I'm sorry, it's too late for that. Galra are not allowed here," Allura answered stiffly, standing up. "I suggest you leave now, before I call security. Hand me your student ID."
Keith's hands were shaking so bad he couldn't grasp the card properly, so Krolia had to step in, slamming the card down on the desk and picking up the knife.
"I am disappointed in you," she hissed to Allura, "Kolivan will hear about this, I promise you. Come on, Keith," she added in a calmer tone.
Keith obeyed, keeping his head low as they walked through the corridors, cringing as the bell rang and the halls started to fill with students. Most kept a wide berth as soon as they noticed Krolia's uniform and markings, but some stopped and stared, whispers filling the air.
"Why is a Galra here?"
"Wait, is that Keith?"
"Is he Galra?"
"Mullet? What's going on?" Lance called out, his voice louder than everyone else.
Keith just kept walking.
"Did you hear the news?" Lance exclaimed as they all sat down for lunch, minus one member. It wasn't unusual for Keith to skip lunch, but Katie couldn't help feeling worried about him, especially after she'd seen him go into the principal's office.
"What news?" Katie asked.
"Keith got expelled," he announced.
Katie's heart stopped. "What?" she exclaimed, "Why?"
Lance shrugged. "I don't know. But I saw him with a Galra."
"You don't think Keith's a traitor, do you?" Hunk whispered.
"Maybe. He was a bit of an enigma anyway..." Lance's voice faded into white noise as Katie stared at the burger on her tray, suddenly no longer hungry. Keith, expelled? For no apparent reason?
Something was going on, and she had to find out the truth.
It was like the time Matt and Shiro had been kidnapped by a member of the Empire gang. No-one had said anything, all the police trying to cover it up, but she'd managed to rescue them, with the help of all her friends.
What if the same thing was happening with Keith?
Katie clenched her fists, brain whirring. It's time to break out Pidge Gunderson again.
~Two months later ~
Keith ducked his head, trying to make himself as small as possible as he walked through the halls of the Marmora high school. It had hung over him for years, as both a threat and a promise, but he'd wanted so desperately to be a part of Voltron, hoping that his father's heritage would be enough to get him to fit in.
He should've known that good things didn't last.
So now, here he was, in his fifth week as a student of a high school in Galra territory. Geographically, it was closer to where he lived than Voltron, but that wasn't much consolation.
Living on the edge of the Galra district, he'd only had a mile or so of peril before crossing into the safety of the Altea district.
Now, he had a mile and a half of even more peril, as his walk took him deeper into the gang's territory. His knife wasn't concealed in his jacket; it was strapped to his belt, making a statement that yes, he was armed, he'd stand his own in a fight. A week after transferring schools, he'd gotten a tattoo to match his mother's, on his right cheek, so that he was less of a target.
Most of the Marmora students were alright, if not rather rigid in their routines.
It was the Empire he encountered on his journeys to and from the school that were the problem.
"Hey, Keith, you okay?"
He glanced up, the high voice snapping him out of his thoughts. Pidge Gunderson stood there, his messy hair in a worse state than usual, glasses crooked on his babyish face.
"Yeah," he answered, though it didn't sound convincing, even to him.
Pidge shot him a sympathetic smile. "Tough day?"
Keith rolled his eyes. "You could say that." His ribs still ached from the beating with Sendak that morning, not that he'd admit it. Pidge never spoke about his fights. Though, Keith had to wonder if the smaller boy even got into fights. Maybe it was just him who had all the crappy luck.
Or maybe Pidge was cut some slack because he was still a newbie; he'd only been at the school for two weeks, but seemed to settle in better than Keith had.
Whatever the case, Keith was glad to have a friend.
Even if Pidge seemed oddly familiar. Perhaps he had a sister that Keith knew?
Katie watched Keith carefully as he slid into his chair, grimacing as Regris knocked into him, jostling the ribs that she was sure he'd broken. Keith always seemed to get into fights here, probably because his mother was one of the main leaders of Marmora.
The Empire had extra hatred for Krolia's son.
Her disguise had held so far, but part of her wished that Keith would see through it, and see Katie Holt, not Pidge Gunderson.
One thing was for certain, though; she needed to get Keith out of there.
Yesterday, while waiting for Matt to come and pick her up, she'd overheard a conversation between Haggar and Sendak, two of the Empire gang's greatest militants.
They were planning on taking Keith. She couldn't let that happen.
When the bell rang, signalling the end of the day, Katie grabbed Keith's arm, forcing him to look at her.
"Pidge, I need to go-" he started, but she cut him off.
"No. Keith, listen, you're in danger."
He laughed harshly. "What else is new?"
"No, this is serious. You have to get out of here. Come back to Voltron, please."
Keith stiffened. "How... How do you know I used to go there?"
Katie sighed. Boys, so dumb. She reached up and took off her glasses, then shook her head, letting her hair fall into its natural bob. "My name's not Pidge."
His eyes widened. "Katie?"
Katie? Katie Holt was HERE?
Keith's heart accelerated in his chest, and he swallowed nervously, suddenly feeling rather stupid. Of course, Pidge was Katie. How had he not seen it before? They had the same hazel eyes, the same soft brown hair, the same quirky mannerisms...
Everything that had made him fall for Katie in the first place, not that he'd ever admit that.
But she was here? In this place?
"You have to go," he urged, "Katie, it's not safe for you here."
She crossed her arms. "I'm not leaving without you," she said stubbornly.
He frowned. "But why? Why do you care?"
A blush spread across her cheeks. "I... I like you, okay?" she confessed, "And I don't want you to be hurt, I want you to come back to Voltron."
"But I'm Galra," he whispered, half in a daze at her first four words.
"So? I don't care," she stated firmly, "Now, are you coming? I've asked Lance for a pickup."
Keith looked down at her, then to the knife sheathed at his hip. "I can't just leave, my mum-"
"We'll sort out the logistics later, okay? But believe me when I say, Sendak and Haggar are planning to take you. You have to get away before that happens."
He sighed. "And you'll come with me?"
Keith offered a small half-smile. "Well, I guess that's okay then. I don't want to see you hurt either, Katie," he admitted, staring at his shoes as his cheeks heated up.
"Honestly, I'm a little frustrated that you never told us about the whole Galra thing, but it's okay now. We're your friends," she said, smiling in return.
"Just friends?" he blurted out without thinking.
Katie laughed, the sound light and beautiful, warming his heart. "Well, there's opportunity for more," she grinned, "But come on! Enough talking, we've got to go!"
She grabbed his hand, and he relished in the touch, letting her lead him as they ran out of the school, making a beeline for the side road where Lance had just pulled in.
"Good to see you again, Mullet!" he quipped as they hopped in the backseat.
Lance hit the gas, and Keith glanced out the window, watching as the metal cityscape of the Galra district began to fade.
"What if Voltron won't allow me back?" he asked nervously, then froze as a soft hand slipped into his.
"Matt and Shiro are already on it. Don't worry, Keith," Katie soothed, "We'll get you back in. I promise."
He turned and smiled at her. "Thanks, Katie," he whispered, "I really owe you one."
"Yes, you do," she grinned, "How about a date when this is all settled, huh?"
Keith's cheeks flared redder than he thought possible. "S-sure," he stammered.
"Good." Katie leaned back in the seat, still not letting go of his hand as they crossed over the border into the Altea district. Keith let out a breath he hadn't realised he was holding, the threat of the Galra gone for now.
Somehow, he'd switched from targeted outcast to the boyfriend of the cutest, most determined girl he'd ever met.
If getting expelled was all it had taken, well, he should've been caught with his knife sooner.