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Fire Paladin

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Keith thought it was pretty ironic that he was chosen as the red Paladin. The Paladin of Fire, Guardian of Fire, when fire was the very thing that set his world into spirals.

 He never did understand the the universe.

 Keith can still remember the day his dad died. He had been eight years old at the time. It had started out like normal, like every other day. He and his Pops eating breakfast, pancakes, sometimes eggs, and singing along to those horrible country songs his dad used to play over the radio. The desert heat prominent throughout the whole place. Their home wasn't big, as it was only a shack, but it was home, and good enough for them.

"I'll be back at five o' clock, son, don't ya' go trottin' around outside like ya' did the other day, ya hear?" His dad said, thick Texan accent coating his voice. "Ya' almost got eatin' by those coyotes, I don't wanna come home with you outta' this house." 

"I did not! There were no coyotes!" Keith whined, his voice high pitched. "I was jus' lookin!"

"Sure, buddy." His dad chuckled, ruffling his hair as he walked by. "Stay inside this time alright? When I get home we can watch the stars tonight again."

"Okay!" Keith said, happy to not go outside in exchange to watch the stars. He jumped off his chair and ran to his pops at the door, hugging his legs. Keith looked up at his dad. "Can you tell stories of how mom was like again? Can we have cake too?" 

His dad looked down at him, pulling on his boots. "Yeah, we can do that." He said, eyes soft, smiling like he always did when Keith's mom was mentioned. "I'll make sure to bring yer favorite." His dad bent down and hugged his son. "Don't ya get into no trouble while im gone, or i'll have to eat the cake myself." He grinned, standing up.

Keith gasped. He wouldn't! "No! You can't do that!" Keith said, appalled.

"Better not try an' catch no coyotes then." Keith's dad told him. "See ya later, son, love ya'." He turned and walked out the door.

"Bye!" Keith yelled in response, hoping his dad could hear him. The rumble of his dad's hoverbike sounded, and got further and further away until it couldn't be heard anymore.

His dad worked at the fire station miles from here, so he was gone most of the day, leaving Keith to himself. He wasn't in school, as he was homeschooled, so he had books of his subjects lying around the shack. Most days consisted of him studying, doing work in the books, cleaning, playing with his stuffed hippo and sometimes drawing on old newspapers if he got bored. On some days he was able to go outside and walk around the desert, searching and looking and mapping the land. He always kept his mom's knife on him when he did this, because he was responsible like his dad. Though those days were far in between because his pops didnt like it when he went out alone without anybody else with him. So he didn't do it as much as he wanted to.

When he got done reading and finishing his school work, it was after five. His dad would be getting home soon! Keith distracted himself with drawing until he got home. But when Keith looked up, it was already six.

He probably just got caught up at work, Keith thought. It wasn't the first time.

He waited.

It was a little after ten that he started to worry. His dad was never this late. He was always home by this time. Keith got an uneasy feeling in his stomach. He's fine, Keith said to himself. Maybe he just fell asleep.

Keith went to his small room and took the blankets and pillows from his bed and dragged them into the living area near the couch. It had a full view of the front door. He settled in, leaning back against the couch staring at the floor, waiting for his dad to walk through the door with cake, ready to watch the stars outside.

His dad never came that night.

Instead, in the early morning, two people did. A male, with light skin, dark brown eyes, and dusty brown hair, and a woman with tan skin, light blonde, and blue eyes. The pair slowly opened the door, the hinges creaking loudly. The noise woke the boy sleeping inside.

The boy's eyes snapped open at the sound, exclaiming a loud "Dad!" and sat up. When he saw the two adults he deflated, shoulders drooping, realising they weren't his dad, then his eyes widened in alarm and he scrambled back, reaching behind him, for his mom's knife. "Who are you?" He demanded.

The two adults looked at each other. The male held up his hands in front of himself. He looked at the boy on floor, dark hair, pale skin and violet eyes. "Hey Keith, im Dan. I..I worked with your father." He said slowly. "This is Amanda, she's," He looked back at the mentioned woman, then back at Keith. "She's a social worker."

Keith looked at the man, Dan. If he worked with his dad, he couldn't be so bad, right? "Okay, I'm Keith. Why are you here? Where's my dad?" He asked, voice wavering. He gripped his knife, knuckles turning white from his tight hold.

Dan glanced at Amanda then let out a breath. "Your dad..." His voice was soft. "He's- he's gone, Keith." He looked at Keith, looking back and forth between his eyes, then to the floor. "There was a fire, a family of three. They all got out, except for the child. He was stuck. Your dad ran in to save the kid. The building... was already in bad shape, it wasnt going to hold much longer. We told your dad not to go back, tried stop him, but there wasn't any telling him no, the stubborn mule." Dan weakly chuckled. He took a deep breath before continueing. "He went inside and got the kid. He was buried under some beams, and your dad got him out, just before the building fell on itself, but he wasn't able to get himself out. I'm so sorry, Keith." Dan raised his gaze from the floor to Keith, laying a hand on his shoulder. "Your dad was a hero, kid."

Keith looked up. His eyes were glassy with unshed tears. "No..." He whispered. "No!" Keith said, voice hoarse. "He couldn't be.." His pops was the strongest person he knew, it always seemed impossible for him to be anything but alive and there with Keith. He searched Dan's face, looking for anything, anything, that said his dad could walk through the door carrying a cake for him and Keith, saying "I hope ya' got yer' pillows and yer' blankets are set up. We got some star gazin' to do." Ready to stay up all night long talking about his mom, who he's never met. All he found in Dan's eyes were sorrow and pity.

Keith pulled his knees to his chest, sobbing. He cried and cried, mourning his pops, who he wouldn't be able to see again. His pops who he wouldn't be able to sing along with to those awful songs on the radio, dancing around their shack, his dad who he wouldn't be able to ride on the back of his hoverbike with, tearing through the desert's dry, sandy terrain with. He would never feel his pops' rough hands, calloused from work, as they ruffled his hair. His dad, who he would never see the face of again. They wouldn't watch the stars, pointing out the different constellations, his pops telling him stories about his mom, ever again.

It was two, long, tear filled hours before anyone spoke again.

The woman, Amanda, had told him that he was going to be staying with a foster family. He knew what they were of course, but he never thought he'd be going to one. So he packed his single backpack, stuffing everything that could fit. He made sure to bring his pops' gloves and belt, along with his stuffed hippo. He scrounged the shack for anything he might be missing. He saved his mom's knife for last, because he knew if he tried to take it when the two adults were around, they wouldn't let him. So he waited until they were heading out the door, made sure no one was looking and grabbed his mom's knife. It was a small dagger like knife, cloth wrapped around the hilt, covering the small symbol he knew to be there. It wasn't like any other knife he'd seen before, and he knew to keep it to himself, lest anyone take it. He looked up, and the two adults were talking to himself, and slipped his mom's knife into the bottom of his bag. 

Keith and the two adults got in their car, driving away, leaving behind the shack and all he'd ever known.

He wouldn't return until nine years later, cursing the universe.

He was kicked out of the Galaxy Garrison (big surprise) for punching Iverson, who deserved it in his opinion, and possibly permanently damaging his left eye, angry at the world, and at all the people in it. Angry at the universe for taking away everyone he cared about. Angry at the fire that had taken away his father so many years ago. Angry at the countless foster homes that didn't want him, claiming Keith to be a discipline case, unpredictable, unstable, danger to others. Angry at the kids who would whisper about him in the hallways as he'd walk by and mock and pick fights with him. Angry at his mom, for not being there.

Anger. Burning like a flame inside him, always constant and never withering. A flame that would only grow, encasing him in the bright, scorching light, threatening to burst at any moment. A flame, that only got brighter and hotter when he found the red lion in that Galra ship, became her Paladin, and became the Guardian of Fire.