Riassunto: The first time Shiro meets Keith, is like Keith already knows him.
Note: Scritta per la M7 della 7° settimana del COWT9 per "Tempo"
The first time Shiro meets Keith he's twenty, fresh out of the academy, and Keith is younger, angrier and most importantly a little lost.
Before he went to talk with these kids, he read their files and the teacher's reports and so Shiro knows way too much about all of them but especially about Keith. All the teachers had a lot to say about him it seems, from his intellect, to his talent all the way down to his terrible attitude.
Keith isn't exactly stellar student material, not because of his intelligence, but only because he's a loner who doesn't enjoy playing with other kids. He doesn't socialize with people his own age, nor does he try to make an effort - or at least so they say.
Keith's father died an year before and his mother has always been out of the picture and so he lives in a foster home with other kids, but even there he's slow to make friends.
The teachers seems to attribute this to Keith's unwillingness to try instead of shyness or maybe the inherited cruel interaction between kids.
Shiro meets Keith feeling like he knows entirely too much about him, but when their eyes' meet it's Keith's that shine with recognition so strong Shiro thinks that kid might be the only person in the world to ever know him that deeply.
Keith doesn't move to greet him, nor to talk to him, but he stands a little straighter. For the entire class, Keith's eyes never leave Shiro and he seems to be drinking him in. Like he hasn't seen Shiro in too long and he's trying to commit every detail to memory.
It's very strange, considering Shiro is 100% sure he never met Keith before in his own life.
Still, he continues with his lessons, tries to engage the students and make them dream the stars just like he always did since a long time ago. Not a lot of them seem interested, and while some seem to be thinking about the Garrison, Shiro doesn't see the spark in their eyes.
They'll be good pilots, he's sure, but they won't be great.
Keith is the only one with that intensity in his eyes, but it all seems to be reserved for Shiro. It's... unsettling in a way.
Shiro keeps away until the end of the day, when class is dismissed and the students walk away one by one, talking loudly between themselves. In contrast Keith remains at his desk, watching Shiro like a hawk.
It seems there's no way for him to avoid this.
Shiro advances, stopping just a couple of feet from Keith and asks, in his most polite voice, "Do we know each other?"
Keith doesn't seem surprised by the question and he shakes his head, quickly. Too quickly, like he knew the question was coming and he prepared himself. "No, not really. I just really want to join the Galaxy Garrison. I've seen your records. The youngest pilot to ever complete the entire program, on a fast route to having your own expedition in less than two years."
It's all technically true. Shiro has worked hard to arrive where he is now, and while he doesn't like to brag, he's not humble enough to throw away his hard earned successed. Still, there's something strange in hearing a complete stranger, a young boy, sing his praises this way.
"I... thank you. There are many good pilots in the Garrison beside me," he says, because it has to be said.
Keith nods, but he doesn't seem interested in learning about them. "I want to join the Garrison," Keith repeats then, his eyes ablaze with sheer stubbornness and future glory. He looks unstoppable, even as young as he is.
He'll be great, Shiro thinks, feeling pride fill his lungs. He'll be even better than me.
"Then, I'll make sure you will," he promises, and Keith smiles at him.
Of course, Keith's attitude problem doesn't get magically cured overnight. He studies harder than most, and trains with Shiro almost every night, but he gets into fights with his peers and seems to be at the center of every discussion.
Shiro knows that it's not all Keith's fault; that Keith might be harsh in his sincerity, and unyielding in his talent and desire to succeed, but he's not mean spirited or even interested in fighting other people. So he speaks up for him time and time again, make sure that Keith has someone speaking for him, a friendly voice inside all the chaos.
Once, Shiro speaks up and he gets reprimanded for obvious favoritism and Keith hears about it.
When Shiro finds him, the other is almost shaking. "Keith..."
"I came here for you," Keith says, out of the blue, "but I won't stay if that means you have to give up your dreams. Doesn't matter what you told me."
Shiro doesn't know what Keith means, but he crouches in front of him and makes a vow, to himself as much as to Keith. "This is where you belong, regardless of what everyone thinks. I see your talent and your passion, Keith. I'll never give up on you."
Keith looks up, then, and there's something in his eyes, a warmth, but most of all recognition similar to the first day they met each other.
The other nods and closes his eyes.
After that, life continues. Keith progresses in his studies. Shiro is appointed at the pilot in the Kerberos mission. Keith tells him to please be careful, with an haunted look in his eyes.
When Shiro laughs and says that everything is going to be fine, Keith doesn't say anything.
It's not fine, of course. They get captured. Shiro is forced to fight in the arena, time and time again. But he survives and he escapes.
When Keith saves him from the Garrison, he looks inside Shiro's eyes and then frowns. It's evident that he doesn't see what he hoped to see. "Everything all right, Keith?" Shiro asks him, confused, but the other simply nods.
"Yes, I'm glad to have you back, Shiro."
Shiro smiles at him, with all the warmth he can muster. He doesn't remember much of his captivity, but he's glad to be back on Earth and back with Keith.
Still, Keith doesn't seem at ease. "Is something wrong?" Shiro asks him, and Keith shrugs.
"Nothing. Just... remember. I'll always find you."
It's a strange thing to say, but Shiro only smiles at him.
When they fight Zarkon, Shiro feels the quintessence travel inside his body, tear him apart from the inside and he pushes forward. The hit is fatal, he knows, but it doesn't matter. They have to win this fight, for the entire universe and for themselves.
Shiro can hear Black inside his mind, frantically trying to keep him with her, grounded, but it's useless. His body is falling apart even as his consciousness is fighting to remain there, to help his friends.
When the swords cuts through Zarkon, then and only then, Shiro lets go. He might be dying, but at least he did everything he could.
Shiro opens his eyes, surprised to still be alive, and he realizes he's on the ground and on Earth. He would recognize that sky anywhere, really. He pushes himself up from the ground and looks around, trying to gather where he is.
He recognizes the place immediately, even if he hasn't spent much time here. This is Keith's cottage in the desert, the place where Keith grew up with his father, and to prove it, a couple of feet away from Shiro, is Keith, younger than Shiro ever knew him.
He looks no older than thirteen, but he's smiling. "There you are, I was waiting for you. I've found a cool place not far from here..."
"Keith?" Shiro wonders, confused, looking around. "What's going on? Where are we? Where's Zarkon?"
In a moment Keith's warm face melts and he becomes serious. "This is your first time," he says, a little surprised. You told me it would happen, but I never..." he stops, looks down and then explains, calmly: "You're drifting through time, Shiro. You keep appearing in different moments in my life. We don't know why, this is the ninth time you've appeared to me. It seems we're catching each other all out of order. I've known you since I was seven."
Oh, Shiro thinks, dumbly. This... actually explained a lot of things.
"In your present I'm looking for you, Shiro, I promised it to you when I was nine, and I'm going to keep my promise. I'll find you, Shiro, I promise." Keith looks so serious now, just like their first meeting and that time in the cottage.
I will always find you, Keith had said, and now Shiro understands a little more.
He looks into the serious eyes of this Keith, smaller than he has ever seen him, and can't help but believe him. Keith will find him, because there's no other choice.
Because Keith promised it to Shiro when he was nine and has lived his entire life trying to uphold that promise.
The first time Keith sees Shiro, he's nine, and it's the twentieth time Shiro has seen Keith. But it's the first time he had to explain who he was.
"Who are you?" Keith asks, for the first time in their life, and so Shiro smiles and introduces himself for the first time.
"I'm Shiro, Keith, and I'm waiting to be found."