The thing about trying not to think about something, as Keith soon found out, was that the “not thinking” occupied your brain so much that you ended up thinking about it. He’d learnt that the hard way.
Because he had tried. Every time he looked at Call-Me-Yumi – the girl claiming to be his and Shiro’s daughter from the future – he couldn’t help but wonder how. Not logistically, of course, he knew enough about procreation to know how in that sense, but the other how. The ‘how did perfect Shiro the Hero get together with loser loner orphan boy Keith?’ how. It was, as he’d told her earlier, the most unbelievable part of her story because with all the weird shit he’d seen he could rationalise time travel or whatever, but him and Shiro? A couple?
Problem was that, since being stuck on a space whale, Keith had a lot of time to think, and that translated to a lot of time to think about the how. And as much as he didn’t want to admit it – because it made him sound crazy, it really did – the idea of Yumi being his and Shiro’s daughter was … becoming more solid for him.
If she wasn’t so much like Shiro, perhaps it wouldn’t, but the fact of the matter was that she was. The way pursed her lips before saying something particularly heavy, the arch of her eyebrow when unimpressed. The smile that always seemed to tug at her lips. Her eyes. It was all Shiro.
Well. Not all Shiro. And that’s where the idea became more solid because she looked like Keith. The nose, the high cheekbones, the slenderness. The way she was always humming under her breath. That spark in her eyes that told him she was always three seconds away from doing something stupid.
And that was Shiro too, the part of Shiro that hadn’t drawn him in, exactly, but it had shown Keith how alike they were despite appearances. It kept him there, that daredevil spark, and had created a kinship between them that evolved into something he’d never felt with anyone else.
Keith was fairly certain he’d never feel it with anyone else either. He couldn’t imagine wanting to.
To see someone claiming to be his and Shiro’s daughter was … confronting. So, despite his misgivings, despite the fact that he was trying to keep his
hopes down imagination from running wild, he found himself giving in to that little voice that begged he ask.
“How is it even possible that you’re mine and Shiro’s daughter?”
It had been said abruptly, cutting through the light conversation between Yumi and Krolia, who both turned to look at him. Krolia’s expression was as neutral as ever, a mystery, but Yumi’s? Christmas had come early, it seemed.
Suddenly, Keith was struck by the worry that she was lying and was actually Lance’s kid.
“Well, when two people love each other very much–”
“That’s not what I meant,” Keith said quickly, all too aware of how his face was heating up. “I just meant– look, Shiro sees me as a little brother. I don’t see how us having a kid together is even possible.”
She snorted. Next to her, Krolia raised an eyebrow, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Listen, I don’t know you very well here,” said Yumi. For a brief moment, her lip curled in disgust. “But, uh, are you asking me how you and my Pa start fucking? Because that is … that’s too much, even for me.”
If he thought his face was warm before, it was nothing compared to the fire it had turned into. He spluttered, his mind blank of anything other than a constant stream of fuck until it seemed like Krolia took pity on him. She turned her raised eyebrow on Yumi, who shrugged.
“What? He’s the one asking!”
“Stop teasing your father,” said Krolia. She paused, a familiar glint in her eye that set off alarm bells, then continued, “Can’t you tell he’s sensitive about these things?”
Well, it had seemed like Krolia took pity on him. Clearly, it was nothing more than a farce to keep poking fun at him.
“He’s shy,” giggled Yumi, garnering a soft laugh from Krolia as Keith wilted. “Aww.”
“Yumi,” Keith snapped, and she dropped it.
It wasn’t until later, when they’d eaten and Keith was contemplating going to sleep, that Yumi said something. She’d watched him quietly for the night, brow furrowed, and instinct had told him she wanted to say something, although he wasn’t sure if it would be something serious or more teasing.
“Why is it so hard for you to believe that Shiro loves you?”
Keith shifted in place, his previous contented state dissipating as he took in Yumi’s steady gaze. Beside her, Krolia frowned too, arms crossed at her chest. The resemblance was truly uncanny, and Keith had to blink for a second before he could even consider what Yumi had said.
It wasn’t that he didn’t believe Shiro loved him. He did. But what Yumi was saying was that Shiro was in love with him and that– that was a whole other ballpark, because he couldn’t be. In the whole time he’d known him, he’d never let on that he thought of Keith as anything more than a brother and besides, as far as Keith knew, he still had feelings for Adam. Granted, the last thing Keith wanted after seeing Shiro so hurt by their break up was them getting back together, but he of all people knew that love was messy and unpredictable. And if there was a chance that Adam made Shiro happy, he wouldn’t say anything on it.
So he said as much, only for Yumi to look at him like he’d grown a second head.
“What?” he said defensively, rubbing the tops of his knees.
“Are you talking about Adam Rawlins?” she said, her voice pitching with what he only could assume was incredulity. “The pre-Kerberos ex Adam Rawlins? You still think he’s in love with him?”
His hackles rose.
“Don’t tell me I’m being stupid. They were going to get married,” he said, that last word cracking on his tongue, “you don’t just stop loving someone when you have a connection like that.”
“You’re right,” she shot back, “but that doesn’t mean that they’re getting back together. Or that it stops Pa from wanting to be with you. The only reason I know about Rawlins? Pa told me about him.”
Despite himself, Keith’s stomach churned uncomfortably. Yumi appeared not to notice, although the tightening of her eyes told him that perhaps she saw more than she let on.
“He told me about how he left. How when he needed him most, he didn’t wait. And that’s–” She shook her head. “That’s a decision he made, whether you agree or not, it is what it is. And yeah, Pa said it was good while it lasted, but the fact of the matter is, Rawlins didn’t stay.
“But you did.”
It wasn’t jealousy. Or at least, that’s what Shiro tried to tell himself.
Tried, because the green dragon in his chest that he’d spent years taming into something less dragon-like reared its ugly head the second he saw Keith and the time traveller laughing together. Growled when Keith levelled her with a smile. Absolutely flew into a rage when she put a hand on his shoulder.
“Yumiko,” he called out impulsively. From across the hangar, the group of paladins looked up at him, their smiles fading. His chest twinged uncomfortably, but he ignored it in favour of clearing his throat. “Can we … talk?”
She nodded, something dark and guarded in her eyes, but it was Keith’s reaction that closed his throat. The younger man – and he was a man, Shiro’s brain stuttered, Keith’s body grown out of the last of its lanky teenagerhood by two years spent in a time warp and imploding parts of his brain that had never seen him like that before – shot him a look, wary and full of meaning Shiro couldn’t comprehend. His chest tightened again. He’d only ever seen that look directed at others, not him.
But otherwise, no protest was made, either by Yumiko or by Keith. In a split second, Shiro decided to go to the observation deck, where it was unlikely he would be overheard, and so that was where they headed when they branched off from the hangar. It wasn’t long before they were there, and by that point, all words had escaped him.
Yumiko appeared not to mind. Her attention had been grabbed the second they walked in by the massive windows showcasing the spectacular view of the space outside. Not that Shiro blamed her. Far too often he found himself looking out into the unknown, entranced by the sheer vastness of it, at a loss for words. Like he was then.
An apology wouldn’t go astray, murmured something from his conscience. He straightened up.
“I’m sorry,” he said, breaking the silence between them. She looked back at him, an eyebrow raised in askance, and he clarified. “For the other day. I didn’t mean to make you upset, I just … I’m not used to having other people on the ship, it’s–”
He hadn’t expected her to cut him off, and certainly not in Japanese. He fell silent, mouth ajar until the swallowing-a-lemon look on her face registered in his brain, then he snapped it shut.
“Don’t,” she repeated, softer, her grimace twisting into something confused. “I get it. I was just … emotional. I was expecting something and I … it was stupid of me. It wasn’t your fault.”
Shiro paused, unsure of what to say. Part of him wanted to reassure her with a hug, like he would with any of the other paladins when they were having problems, but another part of him wondered if she’d even let him. In their admittedly limited interaction, she hadn’t exactly seemed open to his presence, but with how badly he’d hidden his wariness, he figured that was on him.
And there was another part of him that … just didn’t like how close she was with Keith. He didn’t know what it was but he just couldn’t stand how they stood in each other’s personal space. The way they grew hushed when he approached. The looks they exchanged, the silent conversations. He always felt breathless when he saw that.
It wasn’t jealousy, he told himself again as he hesitated about what to say. Not jealousy.
And so in the spirit of being not-jealous, he tried. Emphasis on tried, because it devolved quickly.
“So, uh, you and Keith are close?” he said. At her raised eyebrow, he backpedalled slightly. “Not that you wouldn’t be after so long on that mission together. Of course, you would be. It’s good, really, that he has you.”
“Yes,” she said slowly, before shaking her head. “Was that all you wanted to say? Sorry, and that its good Da– Keith and I are friends?”
“I mean, not all, uh.” He frowned down at his feet, trying to gather his thoughts before blurting out, “Look, I’m just keeping an eye out for him. You are from the future and, if it all works out how you want, you will go back to your life, but he’ll be here and I just want him to be happy.”
She blinked. And again.
“Are you saying–?”
“I just saying please don’t hurt him,” he cut her off. “He’s been through a lot and I know I haven’t helped with all of that, and I don’t know if he can lose another person. I won’t stop him from being with you, if that’s what he wants, I wouldn’t even if I wanted to, but please … try not to hurt him.”
Yumiko mouth opened and closed like a fish’s. Then her face did something complicated and her aloof persona, the one she’d been wearing the entire time he knew her, cracked.
“Are you giving me the shovel talk?!” she hissed. “Are you shitting me right now?!”
He shook his head, continuing, “Keith’s clearly important to both of us and the air’s unclear here. I just thought I’d clear it so we’re both on the same page. For his sake.”
“You do a lot for his sake, huh? Wonder why…”
Shiro’s face burned.
“I don’t know what you’re implying,” he said, “but Keith thinks of me like a brother so I owe it to him–”
“And do you see him as a brother? ’Cause I gotta tell you, your reaction to his glo up was hardly brotherly. Neither is that mad jealousy you’ve got going on.”
He faltered. Her eyes narrowed.
“I see you, Shirogane. Don’t think you’re fooling anyone but yourself.”