It’s half past one in the morning, there’s a cricket chirping really fucking loud right outside the bedroom window, and Shiro is wide awake.
Not because of the cricket. The cricket is strangely comforting right now; it’s something to focus on, something to fill his head other than the lingering remnants of the nightmare that jolted him awake a few minutes ago.
He lies very still, breathes in and out, listens to the cricket chirp chirp chirp. His heart is still going too fast, though it’s not so bad as when he first woke, when it felt like it might thud right out of his chest, like it might be torn right out of him, the way—
He grimaces, closes his eyes, opens them. Thinking about the nightmare won’t help. Except now that he’s trying not to think about it, he’s thinking about it even more—trying not to think about alien roaches infesting the cells in Zarkon’s prison; trying not to think about his lungs burning as he faces his third monster in a row in the arena; trying not to think about the precise way he earned that crisscross scar on the left side of his ribcage—
(stop, his heart whispers, stop thinking about it, stop—)
(but his brain can’t stop, it’s moving—too quick—images tumbling into it, one after the other, quick quick quick, like a movie projector going at light speed—)
He inhales sharply and sits up, tossing the blanket off him. He feels restless, too much and too little at once, and being in this small bare room doesn’t help. Garrison accommodations have never been welcoming, but before, he had possessions to make it feel like home. Now all he has is a handful of alien souvenirs and a pile of unwashed laundry and a silvery metal arm resting on the bedside table.
He reaches over for the prosthetic and pops it on, wincing at the sting in his right shoulder as it connects. The Olkari engineers said it would hurt a little every time he puts it on or takes it off—something about nerves responding to the tech—and part of him has grown used to it, has come to expect it, but it hurts anyway.
(he finds it odd, that you can expect pain and still feel it. shouldn’t habit dull it? shouldn’t habit blur the edges, blunt the severity, soften what is difficult?)
(it does not. he expects it every time, and it hurts every time, and he’s so—fucking tired—tired of what, he doesn’t quite know, but he is tired)
(tired tired tired tired, tired in a way that is not explained by half past one or nightmares or a sting in his shoulder)
(tired in a way that is soothed by only one thing)
He swings his legs off the bed. The cricket is still chirp chirp chirping.
“Thanks for the company,” he says to its silhouette in the window.
The cricket chirps.
Adam’s bedhead is Shiro’s favorite sight in the entire universe.
He’s seen dozens of planets, hundreds of moons, thousands of aliens, millions of flora, an infinite number of stars; he’s seen volcanos that erupt ice, flowers that dissolve into sparkly dust, oceans that ripple gold, the glow of alchemical magic, the strange beautiful purple nothingness of a complete bond with the Black Lion. He’s seen tens of thousands of things that should objectively be the most wonderful, breathtaking sight any human has ever laid eyes on.
—that sight is here—
—yawning as he opens the door to his apartment, wearing faded Power Rangers pajama pants and a blue t-shirt with a toothpaste stain on it, his glasses crooked on his nose and his jaw dark with stubble and his hair sticking up in more directions than Shiro can count.
“Takashi,” Adam says, once he’s recovered from his yawn. His voice is rumbly with sleep, like he isn’t quite all the way awake.
(his favorite sight, and his favorite sound, all in the span of a few seconds, and Shiro thinks he might melt into the ground)
(two happy things, in a row, uninterrupted, unmitigated—he’s forgotten what this is like)
“Can I sleep here?” Shiro asks.
Adam gives him a weird look. “Of course,” he says, as if Shiro just asked him if one plus one equals two. He turns back into his apartment, waving a hand behind him as if to say come in. “I might fall asleep right here, so come quick. It’s possible I’m just dreaming right now.”
Shiro chuckles. He shuts the door and takes off his shoes, dumping his keys and phone on the kitchen counter as he follows Adam to the bedroom. “I’m flattered I’m the kind of guy you’d dream about,” he says as he enters.
“Did I say dream?” Adam says. He takes off his glasses and puts them on the nightstand, then flops back onto the bed, flashing a grin at Shiro as he gets under the blankets. “I meant nightmare.”
Shiro wants to laugh, but there’s an odd tug in his chest, and he can feel the too much and too little building in him again, so he just goes around to sit on his side of the bed—the side of the bed that he happens to sleep on, he corrects, because he doesn’t know if it’s—his side—yet—but he sinks onto the mattress and removes his prosthetic.
(it stings. it stings, and he winces, because he still—isn’t—fucking—used to it—but that’s not right, because he is, he is used to it, but it hurts anyway—)
Adam’s hand slides along his back, soothing, the roughness of his palm catching on the fabric of Shiro’s tank top.
Shiro puts the prosthetic on the nightstand, mindful of Adam’s glasses. “Yes,” he says, then, as he lies down, feels Adam’s hand slide around to his right shoulder, “No.”
Adam hums in response. He scoots close, lying on his side. Shiro’s on his back, and he can feel the line of him, feel Adam’s warmth as he presses against Shiro, tucking his chin on Shiro’s pillow—on the pillow that Shiro happens to be using, he corrects, because he doesn’t know if it’s—his pillow—yet—but he tucks his chin on the pillow, and he traces a gentle line along Shiro’s right shoulder, and—kisses—the stump.
Shiro tenses. Adam freezes.
“Sorry,” he says.
“No,” Shiro says. He feels, ridiculously, like crying. “It’s okay.”
(he should be used to this, too. it’s been over a month; he should be used to adam saying of course when shiro asks if he can sleep here; used to adam asking if he is okay; used to adam pressing kisses to his scars, covering bad memories with butterfly touches)
(should be used to this, too, but he—isn’t—or rather he is, but it’s still—new—still strange)
(he’s so used to taking care of other people that he thinks he may have forgotten what it is like to be taken care of)
“It’s okay,” Shiro says again.
There’s a silence, though it’s soft, comfortable. There is no cricket chirping outside Adam’s window. Shiro wonders if the cricket that might normally be here has gone to join the cricket outside Shiro’s window.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Adam asks at length.
Does he? Shiro never knows. Every time he’s alone he wants to talk about how fucking awful he feels, but every time he’s with people he changes his mind. It feels rude, somehow, to ruin a happy moment with something horrible. Like he’s being ungrateful for still being alive, and safe, and with his loved ones.
He knows it’s a dumb concern—why the fuck would Adam ask in the first place, if he didn’t genuinely want to hear what Shiro has to say—but it’s hard to get over it and actually talk.
“Not now,” Shiro says finally.
He turns onto his side to face Adam. The room is dark, the only illumination from the stars and the sliver of moon visible through the window behind Shiro. Adam’s face is barely visible, but Shiro doesn’t have to see it to know it, know the freckle at the corner of his left eye and the tiny scar under his jaw and the dark sweep of his eyelashes.
(he forgot, all those years he was gone; forgot if Adam had one dimple or two, forgot if Adam’s hair curled at the edges, forgot if Adam’s crooked tooth was on the right or left)
(he forgot, but he learned it again, and he knows now, even in this darkness, that Adam has one dimple, that his hair curls at the edges, that his crooked tooth is on the right)
He knows it now, knows it again after so many years of not knowing, and for a moment he is overwhelmed with the feeling of being present in this moment, in this bed, with this person, when this had once seemed so far and so impossible.
“I,” Shiro begins, and Adam’s eyes open a bit more, as if Shiro’s voice has brought him to life, a statue made awake. “I like you.”
There is a pause.
“I like you too,” Adam says dryly, and the corner of his mouth is quirked with amusement, and god Shiro’s missed this, this dry-fond-exasperated mix of I don’t know what the fuck this is but I love you so I’m going along with it. “That’s why you’re my boyfriend.”
“I really like you,” Shiro says next.
The corner of Adam’s mouth curves even more. “I really like you, too.”
(shiro knows what comes next, but—)
(—he hasn’t said it out loud, even after a month)
(adam knows, but shiro still thinks he should say it, but he—is scared—which is stupid—but he’s scared, because saying it out loud makes it—real)
(he wishes he could say it as confidently as he says form voltron, wishes he could shout it and make everyone hear it, make everyone know how much he means it, how much he believes in it)
(because he does. his faith in adam’s love is stronger than it ever was in a ten-thousand-year-old weapon. the black lion made shiro earn their bond, but adam let him in without reservation, let him in when he was dumb drunk teenager and when he was a terrified sick astronaut and when he came home, lost and broken and tired)
He fumbles for Adam’s hand in the dark. He brings it up to his lips and kisses his fingers, his palm, his wrist.
“My mouth is up here,” Adam says, and it’s amused again, and Shiro snorts, because okay, Syed Khan, but I’m trying to be romantic.
He lets go of Adam’s hand and rolls suddenly, hovering half over him. Adam’s other hand comes up to flatten against his chest, not resisting, not pulling him close either.
Shiro lowers his head slowly, pressing his nose against Adam’s cheek, his forehead against Adam’s temple. He feels the corner of Adam’s mouth pull up in another smile; he knows if it weren’t so dark he could see the dimple, could kiss the little line of it.
Could kiss the little line of it, and he doesn’t know why, but that—settles him, somehow—makes the too much and too little in his chest, in his stomach, sink and spread into something not quite calm, but calmer.
Not quite calm, but calmer, so Shiro closes his eyes, and says, says softly into the curve of Adam’s cheek, “I love you.”
His stomach lurches—what has he done?—but Adam’s smile grows, and then he’s—kissing him—the hand on Shiro’s chest coming up to tip Shiro’s face so he can slot their lips together, soft and warm and slow. Even after a month Shiro wants to be embarrassed by the sound of it, the quiet smack of kissing, something he has not heard in years—but his brain fizzles out whenever Adam kisses him, and it’s hard to be embarrassed by something so lovely.
Adam pulls away, too soon. Shiro tries to follow, a tiny noise of protest in the back of his throat, but Adam presses his hand to Shiro’s chest again, firm but gentle, so Shiro stops.
He feels like his whole body is buzzing, like he could pass out or sing or fight a whole fleet of Galra on his own. He’s kissed Adam too many times to count over the past month, but this time feels—different.
“I love you, too,” Adam says, and, oh, that’s why it’s different— “I love you so much it’s stupid.”
Shiro knows he should say something romantic here, but his brain is still fuzzy, so he says, “You know too much about chemistry to be stupid.”
Adam blinks at him, then snickers. “Is that supposed to be some kinda line?” He makes a silly face, like he’s imitating the white boys they would make fun of in their classes, so many years ago. “You may be stupid, but you know enough to see that you and I have chemistry.”
He snickers at his own joke, and Shiro’s heart aches with how much he loves him, loves his ridiculous bedhead and his Power Rangers pajamas and his I really like you and his bad jokes.
“Okay, Mr Comedian,” he says, and Adam snickers again. “Is it okay if we sleep?”
Adam sobers. “You have a meeting tomorrow, right?”
“Seven,” Shiro says, and Adam goes ugh. “Sorry if I wake you up.”
“It’s okay,” Adam says, as Shiro rolls off to lie beside him again. “I gotta pray Fajr before seven at this time of year anyway.”
He tucks himself against Shiro, his head on Shiro’s—Shiro’s—pillow.
“Good night, baby,” he says.
“Good night,” Shiro says.
Adam drops off quickly, his breathing evening out. Shiro listens to it, listens to the in-and-out. Lulled by the sound of it, by Adam warm next to him, his eyes start to droop shut, when—
Two crickets chirp, loud, right outside the window.
Shiro blinks his eyes open. Adam makes a displeased noise.
“Fuckin’ bugs,” he mumbles into Shiro’s shoulder. “Can’t let a man sleep…”
He seems to fall back asleep as he speaks. Shiro huffs, shifting so he can kiss Adam’s cheek and wrap his arm around him as he closes his eyes. Adam curls even closer, one hand clutching at Shiro’s tank top.
There’s a lot to deal with. A lot still to come. But it’s okay.
He’ll be okay.