Written for day 5 of Keith's Genuary event on Tumblr. Coincidentally also fills one of my slots of the Bad Things Happen Bingo, Buried in Rubble. Enjoy!
For a long, unsettling moment, Keith didn't know where he was. In fact, for the first few seconds he barely even knew who he was, but that knowledge, thankfully, came to him soon after he'd regained consciousness.
It was- dark. And, yes, that made sense, because his eyes were closed. Opening them proved to be a much bigger challenge than anticipated. Once they were open, he blinked a few times because he was pretty certain they were open now, but it was still dark.
There was someone with him, Keith realized. Breathing slow, steady. Were they asleep? It sounded like it. Well. He hoped that, whoever it was, they were one of the good guys, and if not… they'd better remain asleep, then.
Except now the other person shifted and- oh. Not asleep after all. Or just woken up, maybe. Keith really hoped they were friendly, he didn't feel like fighting at the moment, which was pretty unusual, he had to admit.
"Keith," a voice rumbled close to him, likely belonging to the person who was with him. No... not just any person- Kolivan.
"Keith. Are you with me?"
"Yeah," Keith tried to say, but it came out as a groan as his voice refused to cooperate. "Mmm…"
He turned his head to where Kolivan's voice came from, and that was when the pain hit. Pain everywhere. It exploded in his head triggered by the movement, spread through his entire body that he only now realized felt like one giant bruise, and burnt inside his left leg that hurt a lot worse than the rest of his body for some reason. Worse than most of the rest, at least, the splitting headache was enough to make him want to curl up and die on the spot. Unfortunately, not even curling up was granted to him because his body just wouldn't move. Maybe it was better it didn't because more moving realistically meant more pain, but there was just that tiny glimmer of hope that whispered to him that he would feel better if he just got to make himself as small as possible.
"-talk to me. That is an order, child." Kolivan's voice was calm when it finally reached Keith again, but it was firm and left him no room for disobedience.
"Not- a child-" Keith gasped with a lot more effort than expected.
At least it satisfied Kolivan who grumbled in acknowledgement. "Good. Do not fall asleep again."
"That… an order too?" Keith asked, the ghost of a smile on his split lips. If only he could remember why everything hurt…
Kolivan sounded kind of amused, Keith thought. Could Kolivan sound amused? Could he feel amused?
"Keith, focus," Kolivan reminded him, and only then Keith realized he'd gotten distracted again. There was something wrong with his head, he was sure, with how much it hurt, and how hard it was to think straight, to keep track of his thoughts, and to focus on Kolivan's voice.
"What happened?" Keith inquired because thinking and trying to remember just made his headache worse.
"You do not remember?" Kolivan asked in return. "You did hit your head pretty hard… what is the last thing you remember?"
"Hmm…" Keith muttered, frustrated. Did Kolivan really have to play the guessing game now? "We were… on a mission?"
It was more of an educated guess than a memory. There were only a few blurred images he remembered but every time he tried to cling to one of them they disappeared. But Kolivan was there, and Keith was in pain, so a mission was the most logical answer here.
"Correct. Do you remember what the mission was?"
"No," Keith admitted. "Can you just tell me, please?"
Kolivan's voice was as calm and collected as ever. "There was a distress signal from a fellow Blade. It was deemed a low-risk operation so we decided to collect the Blade, as there appeared to be no enemies around. I assumed the Blade had simply crashed on that planet and needed rescuing."
Keith smiled a little even though it made his lip hurt. So Kolivan had decided to help a fellow Blade instead of keeping to his usual mission-before-the-individual bullshit.
"Upon entering the cave the signal came from, you realized it was a decoy. The Blade in question was long dead, someone had used their communicator to broadcast the distress signal and lure us in. Before we could escape, the cave collapsed."
Kolivan fell silent, and Keith almost thought that was the whole story. A collapsed cave definitely sounded like something that could have caused his injuries.
But then, Kolivan continued. "You pushed me out of the way, little one."
"...what?" Too confused by Kolivan's statement, Keith didn't even react to the embarrassing nickname Kolivan seemed to insist using for him even though Keith had repeatedly told him not to.
"You heard me. I was going to be crushed beneath a rock, but you pushed me out of the way. You saved my life, but we're trapped, and you are badly injured."
For a long moment, Keith didn't know what to say. "Was there anyone with us?" he asked eventually. If there had, and now it was just him and Kolivan, then…
"No. Just us. Everyone else is safe," Kolivan confirmed without missing a beat as if he'd read Keith's mind.
Keith exhaled, relief flooding through his body and letting him forget about the pain for a moment. "What about you?"
"Nothing to worry about, little one."
Frowning, Keith tried to turn his head again, a little slower than before so he wouldn't feel like he was going to die again. His eyes had adapted to the darkness by now, and his Galra genes probably helped too. He'd always been able to see quite well in the dark, and so, he was able to make out Kolivan's face to his right. Unfortunately, the rest of his body was hidden from Keith's view though, leaving him unable to check Kolivan for injuries.
"Do not give me orders," Kolivan reprimanded but caved when Keith just continued to stare at him. If Keith was able to see in the dark despite being only part Galra, then a full Galra like Kolivan must definitely have been able to see his pointed stare, Keith thought, and he was right. "My arm is most likely broken, and a couple of ribs are bruised. As I said, nothing to worry about. You are far worse off."
Keith wanted to argue, but even he could tell there was truth in Kolivan's words. He still ached all over. The throbbing in his head, albeit very uncomfortable, was manageable as long as he held his head very, very still. His body was sore, but that was something he was used to and had no problem dealing with. His leg, though… now that he knew about their unfortunate circumstances, he realized that the reason why he couldn't move his leg wasn't just because of the intense pain like he'd originally assumed. No, his leg was, in fact, trapped between two rocks. Or one rock and the ground. Whatever. Point was, it hurt a lot and he didn't need to be a doctor to know that it was pretty badly broken and he probably wouldn't be walking on it anytime soon. That was the downside of being with the Blades, they didn't have the healing tech the Alteans had. Healing had to be done the old-fashioned way at the Blade headquarters, and for him, it took about twice as long due to his human genes.
...if they were going to get out, that was.
"How are we gonna get out of this?"
Kolivan released a slow breath, and for the first time, Keith could make out emotion in his voice. "To be frank… I do not know."
I don't know if we're going to get out at all went unspoken. Keith felt a sudden heaviness settle in his chest that had nothing to do with his beaten up ribcage.
But it wasn't. It wasn't okay. Keith didn't want to die here. He didn't want Kolivan to have to die here with him. Keith wanted them both to live. But this was the Blades. The Blades didn't look back, didn't come for its members if the risk was too high, and with the whole thing just being a trap, the risk definitely was high.
Voltron would have come, Keith knew that. In fact, they knew about this mission even, as he suddenly remembered, he and Kolivan had informed them of the changed plans because… Keith had been supposed to visit. But because of the mission, because he'd been determined to help a Blade in distress, he had postponed his visit until after the mission. Except, now there wasn't going to be an after the mission.
Voltron knew about their destination, and Keith had no doubt that they would search for them when they didn't return like planned, but by then, it would be too late. His head was bleeding sluggishly, and it would only be a matter of time before he bled out. And even if he didn't, they were trapped in a very small space and oxygen was going to run out eventually. And they couldn't do a damn thing about it.
Keith didn't notice his breathing had become faster until it hitched and he had to bite back a sob. There were tears running down his face, steadily, and he was starting to tremble.
Kolivan didn't comment on it, but he noticed because he shifted a little, as much as their position and the rocks around them allowed it, and carefully settled the hand of what Keith assumed was his uninjured arm on Keith's head.
"I'm sorry, little one."
Keith didn't tell him to knock it off with the nickname. It didn't matter anymore, and if he was entirely honest with himself, it brought him a sense of comfort he'd rather not let go of right now, even if it meant putting up with that ridiculous pet name.
Instead, he took a few slow, measured breaths, ignored the tears trickling steadily down his cheeks, and the way his voice shook when he spoke.
"Aren't you gonna yell at me for pushing you out of the way? You always go off about that."
"You know fully well that you risked your own life unnecessarily today. You would have gotten out had you not wasted time tackling me out of the way," Kolivan agreed. His tone gave nothing away. "Two Blades could have died instead of just one."
And now they were gonna die anyway, Keith didn't say because it would just make Kolivan right. "I was thinking about the future of the Blade of Marmora," he said instead. "You're our leader, we're lost without you. Your life matters more for the organisation."
A blatant lie. Keith hadn't been thinking anything. Tackling Kolivan out of the way from the boulder that had been about to crush him had come to Keith as easily as breathing air - although, the air around them was getting harder to breathe already. Kolivan didn't need to know about that, though… but he probably knew anyway.
"I am just as replaceable as everyone else."
Maybe it was the horrible head injury that was messing with Keith, but he was suddenly feeling very frustrated and very done with the conversation, which was stupid because he was the one who had initiated it. He was in pain and Kolivan was arguing with him and they were going to die, and before he'd thought he wanted to curl up in a ball and die but now all he really wanted to do was to curl up in a ball and sob and not die.
"Saving me was reckless and foolish, and you should not have done it," Kolivan said into the silence because Keith had stopped answering.
Keith gritted his teeth. Why did Kolivan have to keep rubbing it in?
"Fine, I get it," he bit, but it came out a lot less aggressive than he would have liked, and a lot more defensive instead.
"You should not have done it," Kolivan repeated solemnly, "But I appreciate that you did."
"Thank you for pushing me out of harm's way, little one." Kolivan's voice was gentle now, soft and comforting.
Keith hated how much it sounded like a goodbye.
Keith sniffled quietly, but the sound was impossibly loud in the small space. He held his breath and hoped Kolivan hadn't heard, but then, something else caught Kolivan's attention.
"Yes, this is Kolivan," he said, not looking at Keith anymore.
For a second Keith thought Kolivan had officially lost his marbles now, but then it dawned on him that someone was talking to Kolivan through his comm.
He strained his ears to catch what the other person was saying, but the comm must have been damaged because the other person's voice sounded choppy and static and Keith's head hurt too much to try and make sense out of it, so he gave up on it rather quickly and just listened to Kolivan's side of the conversation.
Except, Kolivan just listened for quite some time as well, and Keith had nearly lost his focus and drifted off - it was getting increasingly hard to stay awake, and while he knew Kolivan's order not to fall asleep was to avoid him losing consciousness and never waking up again, he really wondered what the point was now. He was probably going to ask Kolivan for permission to just let go after he was done with whatever conversation he was having - when Kolivan finally spoke.
"Are you absolutely certain?"
Silence again while the other person replied.
"Then I cannot stop you. It is your decision. Do be careful, though. That is an order, do you understand?"
The comm clicked as the transmission cut off and they sat in nothing but silence once again.
"Who was that?"
"One of my subordinates. They… they are coming for us."
Kolivan sounded stunned, and rightfully so. The Blade of Marmora had that whole thing going on, no risky business, if a life must be lost then so be it, all that bullshit, and suddenly they were going to rescue them?
That sounded too good to be true, so Keith just had to ask, to make sure. "We're not gonna die here?"
"No. It seems you have inspired a few of the Blades, little one," Kolivan said, and the hand on Keith's head stroked over his hair once. "You did well."
Just for the record if it had just been Kolivan trapped in that cave you can bet your ass he would have forbidden his subordinates from coming for him. But he has Keith with him, Keith saved his life and the life of many others and he'll be damned if that kid doesn't get to live. Thank you for your attention.
Hope you enjoyed it, and comments give me life y'all.
Come find me on Twitter as Butterfly_OnIce or on Tumblr as thisfairytalegonebad! And here's the event: .com