Actions

Work Header

Toast the Snow That Fell

Work Text:

“What’s your name again?” Keith asks.

“Oh my god,” Pidge groans. “I hate you. Shiro, don’t tell him, he doesn’t deserve it.”

The man whose name Keith’s forgotten twice already snorts. “You just told him, Pidge.”

Shiro.” Keith draws his name out, turns it over in his gross cottony mouth. It’s a good name. Feels good on his tongue. Feels kind of good being stuffed in his underarm too. It’s fucking cold out. “Shiro, Shiro. Shiro.”

Keith realises gradually that it’s started snowing again when a few flakes gather on his fringe and begin to melt, a generous layer already crunching and squeaking under their three sets of feet. He stares down and watches them. His and Pidge’s are dragging and stumbling a little, but Shiro’s are straight and heavy between them. Keith tries and fails to match his even pace, and after a moment he starts to feel dizzy, swinging his head back up and meeting the solid wall of Shiro’s shoulder.

Keith steadies himself with a hand on his equally solid waist. “Why don’t I know you?”

Shiro hums. “Because we’ve never met?”

“No, I know, I know.” The words trip out of him, and he pauses to regain control of his tongue. “But Pidge knows you.”

“I’ve spoken about him several times by name directly to your face,” Pidge chants from Shiro’s other side, stuffed slightly lower against his body. “You believe me, don’t you, Shiro?”

“It’s so not important,” Shiro assures. “But yes, I believe you.”

“He’s the worst.” Pidge says.

Keith’s pretty sure he isn’t. “I’m not the worst.”

“He’s not the worst.” Shiro parrots.

Keith giggles to himself. He thinks he’s quiet about it too, until he feels Shiro’s chest quaking against him, and cranes his neck up to see a poorly hidden smile across his pursed lips. Keith quickly looks away, riskily down at his feet again to watch tiny plumes of snow kicking off the tips of his boots with every step.

To no one in particular, he murmurs, “Shi-ro.”

Keith!” Pidge shouts. “Shut up!”

Shiro laughs. “It’s okay.”

“Don’t defend him,” she wails, words slightly slurred. “He’s embarrassing.”

She sounds so drunk. Does he sound that drunk?

He tries again. “Shiro –”

Shiro’s chest rumbles when he speaks, buzzing in Keith’s ear. “I can’t tell if you actually want my attention or not.”

“No…” Keith says slowly, thinking it through while staring at Shiro’s bare muscled forearm where it’s slung over his shoulder. The artless droop of his large hand and blunt fingers. It’s heavy and warm and he likes how familiar it feels. “I mean. Yes?”

That hand comes down once to tap against Keith’s chest. “I’m all ears.”

He’s all something. He’s more than half head taller than Keith, wider in every way. His ears are pretty cute though.

Keith wraps his fingers around Shiro’s wrist just to see them side by side. It’s amazing. “You’re so big.”

Pidge giggles, high and woozy. “He eats his spinach. Whoops.”

Shiro easily snatches her by the collar with his bionic hand and rights her as she trips on nothing and attempts to faceplant into the fresh snow.

Keith frowns. “I eat spinach.”

“Not as much as me,” Shiro chuckles and his arm tightens a little around Keith’s neck as he guides Pidge back into a straight line.

“Hey.” Keith’s gaze lands on Shiro’s baby pink t-shirt, and a conspicuous damp dark shape staining its front. “Hey, did someone throw up on you?”

“Yeah, bud.”

Keith has a sudden realisation of the sour taste in his own mouth and paws at Shiro’s collar, clutching and stretching it out. “Did I throw up on you?”

Shiro shakes him gently, rattling his hazy brain in his skull. “Don’t worry about it.”

Keith groans, mortified, his breath condensing in front of him in a wispy white cloud. It’s really getting cold now, he can feel it in his toes through the leather of his Docs, and the tips of his ears. And poor Shiro’s only wearing a tight, damp t-shirt, shepherding the two of them through the streets like trashed lambs.

“Aren’t you freezing?” Keith tugs at Shiro’s hem this time. “Where’s your jacket?”

“I’m wearing it,” Pidge flaps her arm at him, a whole foot of powder blue sleeve dangling from its end. “Stop asking questions. Shiro, he’s usually so quiet, I swear.”

Keith pulls at Shiro’s collar again. “Do you want my sweater?”

“We’re almost back at your place.” Shiro’s apparently unbothered by Keith endlessly yanking at him. “And that’s my sweater.”

“Oh.” Keith looks down, becomes aware of the crotch length fuzzy cream fabric he’s swimming in. “Do you only wear pastels?”

Pidge groans again. “Idiot.”

“Pidge.” Shiro’s tone is endlessly patient.

“Sorry, Keith,” She drawls. “You’re not an idiot. Your brain’s an idiot.”

“Dear God,” Shiro whispers, bringing the three of them to a stop in front of a set of snow-covered stairs that Keith belatedly realises lead to his and Pidge’s apartment building. “Please tell me one of you has your keys.”

Pidge does, and after what feels like approximately three hours of stair climbing, Shiro lets them inside their tiny third floor apartment and parks the two of them at the door.

“Shoes off, or you’ll hate yourselves later,” Shiro orders, kicking his own brown leather boots off with far more ease than Keith feels even remotely capable of. “Tell me where you keep your extra blankets now before you both pass out and I freeze to death.”

“Hall closet, next to the bathroom.” Keith gives up on trying to balance, flopping down on the floor to wrestle his laces, and pushing the sleeves of Shiro’s sweater up to his elbows for the dozenth time. “You’re staying?”

Shiro’s voice comes muffled from behind the open closet door. “The wind’s picking up out there. I’d rather just wait until morning. Does this work?”

Shiro pokes his head around the closet door with their spare space heater dangling from his hand.

“Yeah.”

He emerges with the heater and a poorly folded pile of sheets and blankets that probably smell like the ghosts of moths. “I’ll give you a twenty for electricity.”

“Decadent.” Pidge finally forces her second shoe off, sending it skittering across the room.

Keith uses her shoulder and head to haul himself back to his feet, stumbling out of reach of the punch she aims at him and wandering into the kitchen to aimlessly stare into the fridge, then pantry, then turn to watch the far more satisfying view of Shiro shaking out a flat sheet over their beat-up sofa.

The view is even better from a distance. His strong brow and his strong jaw, and his grey jeans clinging to his thick thighs, tight all the way down to graze his ankles. His feet are socked on the wooden floor, and he looks like he belongs there.

Keith plants an elbow on the counter dividing the kitchen from the living area and props his chin on his palm, his stooped body swinging a little left and right as he stares.

“You don’t look like a junior.” Keith’s erratic sex life would be a great deal more appealing if they made junior’s like Shiro.

“Grad school.” Shiro neatly tucks the sheet around the edges of the couch. A junior would just drool on their cushions like an animal. That’s what Keith would do.

“Aren’t post grad parties supposed to be all – I dunno. Cheese plates and gross sweet wine and those weird crusty brown fruit?”

Shiro snorts. “Dried figs?”

“They look like dog shit.”

“True,” Shiro concedes. “But, no. It’s still mostly just cheap beer and taking care of drunk friends.”

“Friends?” Keith smirks, makes it wicked.

“Friends of friends.”

Keith leans forward a little further, puts his weight on his arms and kicks his socked feet in the air a few times, like paddling water. “I’ll be your friend, Shiro.”

Shiro pauses where he’s bent over the couch, meets Keith’s gaze dead-on and stares. “Aren’t you generous.”

“I’m so good,” Keith chirps.

“So drunk,” Shiro mumbles. He’s not wrong.

Keith lowers himself back to the floor as Shiro guides a sad old cushion into a pillow slip two sizes too big for it. “So, is that why you were at some shitty house party? Damage control?”

“Pretty much. Matt wanted to go, I wanted to make sure he stayed out of trouble. He was doing shots at our place before we left, it didn’t bode well.” Shiro straightens up with his hands on his hips, moving his attention to Pidge where she’s sprawled out on her back by the door. “Turns out I was worried about the wrong Holt.”

“I’m the right Holt,” Pidge rolls over and her glasses slide off her face and clatter to the floor. “Where did Matt end up?”

Shiro’s nose twitches. “I don’t think you’d appreciate the answer to that.”

“Ew. Lie to me,” Pidges whines, then conspicuously freezes in place on her hands and knees, eyes widening. “Oh no.”

Shiro cocks his head. “You okay?”

She scrambles to her feet and sprints to the bathroom, door slamming behind her.

Shiro’s spent a third of the night watching over them now, and he still hasn’t chewed her out once.

Keith and Pidge may be in the same year of study, but she’s young enough that even Keith feels kind of guiltily conscious of the blind eye he turns whenever the two of the drink with the express purpose of getting unwisely fucked up. So far, the closest thing to open reprimand that Keith’s heard from Shiro was a mumbled I wish you guys wouldn’t do this to yourselves while they were practically crawling up their stairs with Shiro following behind.

One thing Keith knows, hammered or not. If a stranger barfed on him and ruined his night by climbing all over him and stealing his assorted soft-hued clothes, he’d be fucking livid.

Shiro is either the patron saint of moronic college kids, or he’s far more than Pidge’s brother’s roommate. Given how easy going he’s been on Keith’s goblin ass, he’s quite possibly both.

Pidge’s muted coughs fill the apartment, and Shiro just looks up at the ceiling and closes his eyes, rubbing his forehead and heaving a colossal sigh. He pads over to the front door to retrieve Pidge’s glasses from the floor, then crosses to the bathroom, rapping his knuckles twice on the door.

“Hey, don’t lock this,” he shouts, nose an inch from the frame. “I’ll check on you in ten, if you don’t answer I’m coming in.”

The only response is a muffled, guttural heaving, and Shiro turns on his heel to face Keith with a vaguely panicked expression.

He hisses, “I’ve needed to pee for like an hour.”

Keith coughs on his laughter and splays forward on the kitchen counter, cheek mashed to the cool surface.

His delight is cut abruptly short when a flat wall of nausea presses at his throat and he’s similarly forced to contemplate Pidge’s monopoly on the toilet bowl. He purses his mouth shut, stands, and makes a wooden exit to his bedroom as calmly as possible, knowing his discomfort is glaringly obvious, and hoping Shiro doesn’t mention it. He doesn’t think he could survive puking on another human being twice in one night, let alone the same one.

He leaves his light off and the door open, and very delicately lowers himself onto his back on his unmade bed, breathing slowly and carefully as it lists and sways beneath him. Sometime later when the world has righted itself marginally, he hears quiet feet pad up to and stop at his door.

“Have you had any water?” Shiro keeps his voice mercifully low.

“Nuh.” Keith manages, eyes shut.

“Do you have a trashcan?”

Keith flings his arm in the direction of his desk, and wrenches it back to drape across his face.

He hears Shiro enter, then retreat, then enter again by the time Keith’s found the wherewithal to open his eyes and tilt his head to watch. Shiro’s carrying a large glass of water in one hand, and his newly emptied trashcan in the other. The latter he places on the floor by the head of the bed, and the former he holds out in offering.

“Can you sit up?”

“Hang on,” Keith grinds out, swallowing and steeling himself for any signs of rising trouble.

Shiro perches on the edge of his bed to silently wait, and when it feels safe to do so, Keith slithers upright and hunches over his own knees.

Shiro hands him the cool glass. “Kill this.”

He does, hating it, dreading the idea of putting something in his stomach to come back up again. It’s too flavourless. As he swallows, all he can taste is his own garbage mouth. When he finishes, Shiro pries the glass from his fingers and leaves again, appearing with it refilled, and lowering it into Keith’s palms.

Keith stares up at him, affronted. “More?

“You’ll feel so bad tomorrow if you don’t.” Shiro’s voice is gentle, and Keith really shouldn’t feel as bullied as he does.

No. What’s the opposite of bullied? Persuaded?

Charmed.

He drinks it. Shiro takes the glass and leaves. He places the third full glass on Keith’s nightstand.

“You’re good at this,” Keith hums, settling back down on his side and gazing up at Shiro silhouetted in the soft light from the living room.

Shiro raises an eyebrow. “Depressing, huh?”

“It’s sweet.”

Shiro huffs a laugh and dips his head. “I was your age once. I’ve had more than my share of hangovers.”

“Is Pidge okay?”

“She will be.”

Keith blinks owlishly up at him, grey jeans, pink shirt, ruffled soft grey hair, the sympathetic smile gracing his face, and says, “You know those fancy soap shops in the mall? The expensive colourful ones that look good enough to eat?”

Shiro’s thick eyebrows furrow, smiling quizzically. “Yeah?”

“You look like they smell.”

Shiro’s head sinks even further, shaking slowly, and he plucks at his t-shirt. “I smell like vomit.”

“Hey,” Keith levers himself up on an elbow, and it feels very important that Shiro knows this. “Pidge was right. I don’t think I’m usually this annoying.”

“You’re fine,” Shiro assures, patience incarnate.

“Hey.”

Yes, Keith.”

“There’s a sharpie on my desk.” Keith points, sitting up further. “Can you get it?”

Shiro doesn’t move, instantly suspicious. “Why?”

“I don’t want to forget your name again.”

“Keith –”

“If you don’t get it, I’ll get it myself.”

“Okay, okay,” Shiro relents, picking under sheets of notes to find it, and placing the pen in Keith’s outstretched palm.

Keith bites the cap in his teeth and yanks it off, pushing the left sleeve of Shiro’s borrowed sweater up to his elbow.

Shiro takes a step towards him. “Oh god, don’t do that.”

“Too late,” Keith mumbles around the lid, writing on the pale inside of his forearm in messy block letters.

S H I R O

When he’s done he caps the pen again and tosses it blindly across the room with a clatter, flopping onto his back.

“Well,” Shiro sighs. “That’ll be fun to wash off.”

“No drama, Shiro,” Keith murmurs, wriggling and kicking to get his blankets around himself. “It’s just ink. Go to bed.”

“You took the words out of my mouth.” Keith closes his eyes as Shiro turns. “Don’t forget your trashcan.”

 “Thank you,” Keith yells as the door clicks shut.

 

--

 

Keith’s head is full of mud. And wasps. Wasps nests.

Something smells like sandalwood.

He sniffs curiously and opens his eyes and finds himself fully dressed and tangled in a fuzzy cream sweater that’s hiked halfway up his stomach. He buries both sleeve covered hands in the collar and pulls it up over his nose.

Apparently Shiro smells warm and expensive.

When Shiro’s name comes to him without need for a reminder, he rolls his sleeve up and blinks down at the black letters on his arm. When he goes to push the sleeve back down, he feels something tug on his bicep, and rolls it up further. There’s a Band-Aid on the inside of his arm, just above his elbow, but he didn’t put it there, and his arm definitely doesn’t hurt. He peels it off with furrowed brows and finds nothing underneath, no scratch or scrape, and balls it up to drop in his trashcan, content to live with the mystery. Then he remembers the glass at his bedside and gulps the stale water down gratefully, hauling himself out of bed and lurching to his door.

He peers out, bangs in his eyes, and isn’t overly surprised to find Shiro cocooned on the sofa. He’s sitting up, legs criss-cross underneath himself with a blanket tucked around them, eating a bowl of cereal with a second blanket draped around his shoulders. His short hair is sticking out in all directions, and he’s about the cosiest thing Keith’s ever seen in this apartment.

He looks up when Keith steps into the room, and a smile splits across his face. “Hi. You’re surprisingly vertical.”

Keith just scowls and displays his arm with the offending sharpie on it, thrusting it in the air in front of himself, and escaping to the bathroom without a word as Shiro’s laugh chimes in his wake.

His reflection in the mirror is pale and shadowed and frankly ghoulish, but he doesn’t even have it in him to shower yet. Just washes his face and hands and brushes his teeth, then squats to dig around in the cupboard under the basin, triumphant when he finds a brand new, unopened purple toothbrush buried behind rolls of toilet paper. He’s totally an adult.

When he emerges again, he diverts to the kitchen for a fresh glass of water, then stops in front of Shiro to drop the toothbrush on the coffee table like an offering.

Shiro swallows a mouthful of cereal and grins up at Keith. “Thanks.”

Keith nods once, then narrows his eyes, zeroing in on the conspicuously bare triangle of chest peeking out from Shiro’s blanket shawl.

“Are you naked?” he asks, inflectionless.

Shiro looks down at himself, then back up at Keith. “I mean. Technically, I guess. My clothes are in the drier.”

Keith grunts, unequipped to deal with that information, and retreats to the darkness of his room and the rat’s nest of his bed.

He kicks his jeans off and leaves the sweater on, drifting back to sleep immediately.

 

--

 

The next time he emerges it’s well after midday and he still feels subhuman. Pidge is nowhere to be seen, but Shiro’s still there on the sofa, laying on his back in his freshly cleaned clothes from last night, and scrolling through his phone.

“You’re still here,” Keith says. He’s by no means unhappy about this development, but he’s suddenly keenly aware of his state of half dress, tugging the hem of the sweater down to cover his boxers.

Shiro lowers his phone. Keith sees his eyes dart to his bare legs. Keith knows they’re skinny, and his ankles are bony. He knows there are small purple and yellow bruises on both of his knees and calves, and he stands defiantly still.

Shiro clears his throat, and pointedly meets Keith’s eyes. “Have you looked outside lately?”

Profoundly no, but he’s curious enough to risk direct sunlight, and crosses to the door of their postage stamp sized balcony.

Keith’s never seen so much snow.

It’s still falling. The street looks impassable, parked cars coated in unblemished marshmallow layers of it, and the doors of the opposite apartment buildings partially blocked by tall banks. There isn’t a soul in sight. It’s as dazzlingly beautiful as it is intimidating.

“Shit,” he breathes, fogging the glass in front his face.

Shiro looms beside him and wipes it clear with the heel of his left hand. “They’ve cancelled classes tomorrow. Apparently the power’s out on campus. Trains are down, buses aren’t running.”

Keith presses his nose to the glass to peer towards the end of their street. The snow is undisturbed all the way down in either direction as far as he can see.

“I guess an Uber’s off the table.”

“They’re urging folks to stay off the roads. Emergency vehicles only,” Shiro explains. “Understandably. You’d have to sedate me to get me in a car in this weather. Looks like you’re stuck with me.”

Keith glances up at him and shrugs loosely. “Or you’re stuck with us.”

“I don’t mind.” Shiro’s half smile looks effortless. “Do you?”

It’s probably the chilly air making the hair raise all down Keith’s arms. It probably isn’t that he can see a myriad tiny brown flecks of colour speckling Shiro’s pupils in the cold white light.

“We’d probably be out there buried in it if it weren’t for you.” Keith scratches his stomach and gestures over his shoulder with a thumb. “I’m gonna go shower. Help yourself to anything in the kitchen.”

“Thanks.” Keith turns to leave, and Shiro adds. “Good luck.”

Keith freezes, head whipping back. “What?”

Shiro laughs. “With the sharpie.”

Huh.

Shiro’s name doesn’t wash off.

 

--

 

Sometime in the afternoon there’s a knock at his door.

“Yeah?”

Shiro pokes his head in, and his body follows, but not far. Keith’s sprawled on his stomach, and it doesn’t seem worth sitting up once Shiro’s seen him in all his idle splendour.

“How’s your stomach?” Shiro asks.

Keith shrugs, arms straight by his sides. “Better than my head.”

“Need an aspirin? I can probably pry them away from Pidge if I’m sneaky about it.”

Keith grins, warped by the way his cheek is squashed into the pillow. “Sounds dangerous.”

“I’ll risk it.” He leans against the doorframe and slides his hands in his pockets, so gracelessly handsome that Keith’s empty stomach feels like it flops onto its back in submission. “Think you can handle a tea?”

Keith mumbles, “Shouldn’t I be offering you drinks?”

“Yet, here we are.” Shiro doesn’t sound particularly bothered either way. “Are you usually a gracious host?”

“You could pretend I am?” Keith ventures.

“I can do that.” Shiro nods, and smiles down at his feet for just a second, long enough to stir Keith’s stomach again. “So, tea? Milk, sugar?”

“Yes.” Keith’s voice comes out quieter than intended, and he clears his throat and quickly adds, “Please. Just black.”

“Coming right up.” Shiro strides across his room and collects his empty water glass, then leaves.

While he’s gone Keith drags himself up and scrubs his hands over his face before running them through his tangled hair. Shiro’s been doting on the two of them since he tipped them into the apartment last night, and Keith can’t tell if Shiro’s flirting back, but he’s almost certain Shiro knows he’s being flirted with. Keith wouldn’t say he’s good at it, but he’s at least practised at flirting by now. He generally doesn’t feel this self-conscious about it, but he is usually significantly less sober.

When he’s drunk his approach probably falls somewhere in the realm of slightly belligerent, slightly defensive, and very straightforward, because who has time for confusion and mixed messages when you know exactly what you want. It probably isn’t particularly alluring, but apparently enough guys go for that. Enough for him to get off when he wants, which is irregularly, but hard to ignore when he wants. That itch for shallow company. He assumes some of them are interested in no strings attached, some of them like how tight he wears his jeans, and some of them really are just attracted to assholes. Keith likes guys he could take in a fight. Also, guys who look like they have clean sheets, but he’s tragically yet to pin down a formula for that.

Keith doesn’t think he could take Shiro in a fight, but that doesn’t seem germane. He bets Shiro’s sheets smell like fucking roses. Pink ones.

Sober now, he’s uncomfortably aware of how alluring he may or may not be. He wants to be alluring. He wants Shiro to be allured. Is this what wooing feels like? Is he wooing? He’s a dehydrated husk of a man and his eyes feel like they’re full of sand, he’s probably about as alluring as day old French fries.

Everything about this is unfamiliar, uncharted waters, but he can’t bring himself to steer the boat around. He’s already managed to embarrass himself in front of Shiro about as much as humanly possible, and there’s something oddly safe in that. Shiro’s seen the spidery cracks in Keith façade, and at this point he couldn’t plaster over them if he tried. With every one of Shiro’s smiles, they feel less relevant. Still visible, but like they blend in with the whole. Like he’s just Keith. A perfectly tolerable hot mess.

An unusually besotted, hungover hot mess.

Shiro shoulders his way back into the room with a glass and mug in each hand, and asks, “Which first?”

“Tea.” Shiro hands it to him, setting the glass and two aspirin on his nightstand as Keith tries to artfully toss his hair out of his eyes with a flick of his head. It hurts, but he resists the urge to wince, and asks, “Are you bored?”

“I’m fine,” Shiro shrugs, hovering beside Keith’s bed. “I didn’t expect to be sitting around doing nothing today, it’s kind of nice.” He swivels a little on the spot, shoulders swinging back and forth, and takes a step back towards the door. “Just yell if you need anything, okay? I think I’m getting a taste for this whole butler thing.”

And he leaves again. Keith frowns into his tea, and lifts a hand to mutinously ruffle his hair back into a suitable state of ruin.

 

--

 

He’s a disaster, so he naps into the evening. Shiro left his door cracked open, and he’s woken from his light slumber by the quiet sounds of Pidge emerged from the grave, chatting with Shiro in the next room.

He rolls over on his back and straightens his legs out long, feet contacting with the soft fabric of Shiro’s sweater where Keith had dumped it in a pile on his bed. He wriggles his toes, hooks them in the collar and scoops it up, stretching one leg high in the air and watching as it dangles above his head. He doesn’t move when it slips off and falls on his face in a heap. Just breathes into it until the air grows hot and damp, then shoves it off onto his pillow.

There’s a brisk knock on his door, followed by Pidge entering before he can reply. She’s swimming in a hoody and sweatpants, and he hopes he looks better than she does.

“Shiro wants to know if you’re hungry.”

Keith peels himself off the mattress to sit. “Are you his messenger?”

“I told him you don’t like people in your room,” she sighs, swinging off the door handle. “He’s being polite.”

“Tell him to come be polite in here.”

She glares at him, glances furtively back over her shoulder, then closes the door behind herself. “Be nice to him.”

“I am nice,” he protests as she stalks across the room and throws herself on his bed.

“Yeah, sure.” She bounces the two of them as she settles at his feet. “But our standards for nice include excusing ourselves to the balcony whenever we need to fart, so.”

Keith throws his arms up. “That’s so nice!”

“I know,” she hisses. “But it’s also nasty as hell. I don’t think Shiro’s nasty.”

Keith worms one of his feet towards her and jabs her in the hip. “How do you know him so well?”

“Oh, cool conversation starter.” She snatches his ankle and traps it against the bed. “Ask him yourself. He probably likes it when guys do their own legwork.”

He lets her hold him there, and wheedles, “You do know him, right?”

She groans and gives an inch. “You know that undergrad who lived at my house like a million years ago?”

Keith jerks his head towards the door. “Him?”

Him,” Pidge shoots back. “Only shorter and skinnier and way worse at life.”

Keith snorts. “You probably came up to his knee.”

Keith starts to move his leg away and she adds her second hand to keep him pinned. “Short jokes are my favourite because I’m the exact right height to headbutt you in the throat.”

Keith smiles. “Is he single?”

“I don’t know, I think so.”

He easily breaks free from her grip and pokes her again. “Is he gay?”

“Fuck off.” She swats at him, hard.

Help me, Pidge.” He pushes her harder, sending her a few inches down the bed.

“Fuck. Off.” She throws herself onto his legs and lays there like a starfish. “I’m saying this now so there’s no confusion later. You’re both family to me, but if I have to choose between the two of you, your ass is grass.”

Keith lets out a bark of laughter and gives up, overcomes the sharp zap of current that passes through him at family, and collapses on his pillow. “Like I’m the heartbreaker.”

“If you think Shiro is, then you really don’t know him at all.” Her face is disturbingly close to his crotch, and Keith thinks better of goading her again.

He’s never had a crush before. Not once.

He’s never had a boyfriend. The risk and reward just never seemed equitable. All the guys he’s fooled around with and all of their bodies and mouths and the stupid things they said to get in his pants and the stupid things he said back, and he’s never wanted any of them after the fact. Cute guys, fun guys, boring guys. Guys who made him see God, they were so good in bed. They all gave him something, they all taught him something, even if it was just something he didn’t like. Like the guy who wouldn’t stop chewing on his ear or the dirty prick who called him a slut when he came. He’d swiped that guy’s letterman just because he could, and thrown it in the first dumpster he’d seen. He should have burnt it. He wishes he’d spat in his face.

That was all fuelled by some form of desire – desire for pleasure, desire for the new, desire to feel desired – but when push came to shove the idea of pursuing any of them was never exciting enough, never rewarding enough, never anything enough to make it worth soaring over the edge of that cliff. Even the nice ones who coaxed his number out of him. The second they asked him out for ice cream, all he ever wanted to do was get a new phone.

So, maybe he’s not nice, but he’s never set out to make anyone feel unwanted. Well, except that varsity pig, he can fucking twist, but Keith’s never consciously led anyone to believe that he’s interested in anything more complex than sex. He’s made a point to stay the hell away from hearts.

He looks across at Shiro’s sweater and groans. “I’m fucked.”

“Yeah, you are.” Pidge sounds far too happy about it. “You still want me to send him in here?”

“Of course I fucking do.”

“Wild.” She pushes herself off his legs and makes for the door. “I can’t believe I’m seeing this, I feel like an anthropologist. I should start taking pictures.”

“I know where you sleep.”

“Ditto, lover boy.”

She flips him a very disquieting thumbs up and leaves the door open as she exits, and a few moments later Shiro strides in with a plaid blanket around his shoulders.

Keith rolls like the tide to face him, propping his chin on his hand. “Pidge said you’re cooking.”

Shiro rests himself off Keith’s desk and crosses his arms. “I’m making toast. You don’t want me to cook.”

Keith paws blindly behind himself and snags Shiro’s sweater, balling it up and tossing it in Shiro’s direction. It hits him high in the chest and falls into his waiting hands.

“Sorry it smells like drunk boy.”

Shiro lifts it to his face for a cursory sniff, and stuffs it under his arm. “It’s fine. You going to come out and eat?”

“Nah.”

Shiro shifts his weight, stretches a socked foot in front of himself. “Want me to bring you something?”

Keith chews on his chapped bottom lip and lifts his chin. “Would you?”

Shiro pauses, his eyes searching Keith’s. “If you’re so opposed to our company, sure.”

That yanks Keith up, then down. Thrill, then guilt, and he makes himself sit instead of sinking onto the bed like he wants to. “I feel like a corpse, Shiro. Unless you want me to lay on the floor and collect flies, you don’t want my company right now.”

“If you say so,” Shiro says, airy as anything, and pushes off Keith’s desk. “I’ll be back in a bit. Try not to rot while I’m gone.”

Keith’s the one who’s gone. He’s glad Shiro’s blanket is covering his ass, because Keith’s a wretched perve and his traitorous eyes immediately sink to watch it as Shiro walks away.

Shiro is absent long enough that Keith’s almost psyched himself up to take the bait and follow him out just to lurk in the kitchen and watch him burn bread. When he does return he places a plate into Keith’s hands, and Keith stares at it, bemused.

There is toast, but it’s cut into four little squares. There are also four neatly pared wedges of apple, and a little pile of lurid yellow cheese cubes.

Keith doesn’t look up from it when he finds his voice. “Is this a cheese plate?”

“Yeah,” Shiro confirms, still standing above him. “My supplies were limited, though. No figs.”

“I’ve never had one,” Keith admits. His mouth has gone completely dry. “A cheese plate, I mean.”

“No?”

He finally wrenches his gaze away from the plate and up to Shiro’s passive face. “I don’t think I’m welcome at those sorts of parties.”

Shiro’s tone is as unvarnished as his expression. “Why not?”

A life long precedent, but Shiro doesn’t need to know that. Keith just shrugs.

Shiro’s mouth curls up at one corner. “I’d invite you.”

Keith’s fingers tighten on the plate, and he steels his jaw. “Well, I’d only talk to you, so you might as well just take me somewhere alone.”

He’s trying to make Shiro blush under that scar on his nose, and it doesn’t work, but it does win him a little amused huff of breath. “You don’t want to meet my friends?”

“I don’t even know you yet.”

Shiro tilts his head to the side. “Do you want to?”

Keith shrugs again, and pokes a cube of cheese from the top of the pile. “Maybe.”

“Maybe,” Shiro repeats, giving nothing away. “If you figure that out, Pidge and I are playing cards. You’re welcome to join.”

And he leaves Keith alone in his room to discover the magical marriage of cheap plastic cheese and tart green apple.

 

--

 

The sun has set by the time Keith prowls into the living room with his empty plate. Shiro and Pidge are jammed into opposite corners of the sofa with an unruly pile of cards on the cushions between them. It doesn’t look like any card game Keith’s ever played.

“He appears,” Pidge drones as Keith passes them, flicking a card at him and missing completely.

“He’s thirsty,” Keith imitates, kicking the card across the floorboards.

Shiro hooks an arm over the sofa and twists around, muscles stretching taut in his neck. “How was it?”

“How was what?” Pidge asks.

“Cheese plate.” Keith holds it up before dumping it in the sink.

“You didn’t make me a cheese plate!” Pidge cries, this time flicking a card at Shiro.

It hits him square between the eyebrows and he blinks once and freezes in place as it flutters into his lap. “Do you. Want me to?”

“Ugh,” she flops back against the sofa and sends cards skittering to the floor. “Not if I have to ask.”

“It was good,” Keith offers, heading back the way he came with a glass of water, feeling his stomach swoop south when Shiro beams up at him. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” This time Shiro does blush, and it’s the exact same shade of pastel pink as his t-shirt.

Good to know.

 

--

 

It’s midnight and he can’t sleep, and it isn’t just because he’s been sleeping all day. He can see the soft glow of light filtering in from under his door, and he drags himself out of bed.

He has legwork to do.

He leans around the door. Shiro’s up to his neck in blankets, one hand poking out as he scrolls through his phone, and his legs possibly folded in half several times to fit on the sofa.

Keith hisses, “Hey.”

“Is for horses,” Shiro whispers back, not glancing up. “Do you have any idea how often you say that?”

Fair enough. “Shiro.”

Keith.”

“Are you straight?”

Shiro ejects an extremely undignified snort, and leans around his phone to look at Keith. “No.”

Keith nods twice. “Cool.”

Now he can sleep.

 

--

 

The next morning, the snow hasn’t cleared.

For the moment it’s eased though, and the wind is down. Scant flakes drifting soundlessly to earth, feigning innocence of the havoc they’ve wrought. Shiro finds Keith where he’s wrapped in a coat, scarf and gloves on the balcony, perched on one of the plastic crates that serves at their outdoor seating, and cradling a furiously steaming mug of coffee in his hands.

Shiro’s holding a coffee of his own, and he lingers at the door and asks, “Are you spending time with us today?”

Keith resists the urge to stick his tongue out, and pats the crate next to him in invitation.

“Just a sec.” Shiro hands Keith his mug and ducks back inside.

Keith grins to himself while Shiro’s gone, feeling like he’s won something. Triumphant in being tempting enough company for Shiro to brave the weather.

He returns with two blankets that he doubles up and flicks over both of their legs as he sits. He fishes a pair of tortoiseshell sunglasses out of his jacket pocket, and puts them on before retrieving his coffee. It’s devastating. Keith doesn’t even have it in him to feel bad about the fact that Shiro’s reclaimed sweater looks so much better stretched across Shiro’s broad chest than it did hanging from Keith’s.

Shiro takes a tiny sip of coffee and lounges back against the wall, left knee bumping Keith’s. “I spoke to Matt this morning, he says our place is still snowed in.”

Keith doesn’t move his knee away. “Did he end up with a stray of his own?”

That earns Keith another bump. “No. Thankfully.”

“Have you ever seen this before?” Keith nudges the snow at the edge of the balcony with his toe and listens for the patter of it landing below.

“Never this bad.”

Keith realises they’re talking about the weather too late to stop it.

Small talk. The worst.

It’s why he never goes to parties at casual jobs or for coffee after study groups. He hasn’t had a professional haircut since he moved here and there wasn’t anyone left to force him to. It’s why he’s content calling Hunk, Lance, and Pidge his only close friends. He knows he comes off as cold, but he just thinks he’s boring. There’s nothing he could possibly say about himself in five minutes or less that’s interesting enough for him to make another person sit through it, and there are few more involved things anyone would want to ask him about himself that he particularly wants to share. So he just says nothing at all, and dodges out of rooms like a freak. He’s an artwork of aloofness.

He doesn’t want to dodge away from Shiro, and he’d just dread the small talk more if he left it fermenting for later.

Keith lifts his coffee under his nose and lets it warm his face, and ventures into the awkward. “Did you grow up here?”

“No. West Coast.” Maybe Shiro hates it too.

“Are your parents there?”

“Nope.” Shiro looks down, twitches the blankets higher. “I’m an orphan.”

Oh. “Shit.”

Shiro’s head whips towards him, and Keith wishes he could see his eyes behind the lenses. “What?”

“Me too.”

Shiro keeps staring at him, mouth a straight line, and even without a view of his eyes Keith can feel the wary energy radiating off of him in waves, mingling with his own in the icy air between them.

Nothing small about it. Keith hates this. He hates it. He doesn’t want it. He wants flirting and teasing and drawing Shiro’s smiles. He knows what happens now, because it’s what always happens. People always take this as a stop sign – go no further. Keith closes off and they retreat because they think it’s something they said, and not Keith’s preservation of his own exhausted fucking heart, and he has to see the look on their faces as they write him off. They don’t get it.

But. Maybe Shiro will.

He presses his leg to Shiro’s, harder this time, and he doesn’t pull away. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t really feel like digging up my trauma right now.”

Shiro’s breath is visible as it leaves his mouth and blows the barrier between them away. “Ne neither.”

He doesn’t think he needs to say thank you out loud for Shiro to know it’s implicit.

Shiro clears his throat over the rim of his mug. “So, I take it you’re not from here either.”

“Nope. South.”

“Which south?”

Keith shrugs. “The kind with more snakes than people.”

That gets a small laugh. “Do you miss it?”

Keith looks across at Shiro in profile, the way his silver hair matches the unbroken white around them. “Nosy.”

“Interested,” Shiro amends, and Keith actually believes him.

“Not really.”

He can’t miss how repressed it had felt back there. Like a fence around him, and a fence around every person he ever met, all of them trapped inside with themselves and kept apart from each other. He grew in that parched soil, and it shaped him accordingly. Stunted and starving and too aware of the harsh sunlight, torn between craving more nurturing and flinching away for the shade.

It was tranquil, though. Big plains, big sky, big hills, big rocks that looked like they’d been dropped by gods. All that nothingness stretching on to the horizon made it easier to see the trivial mark he made in it. When he looked at it he felt small and he felt connected. If he didn’t matter more or less than the earth beneath his feet, then his maybe failings didn’t matter either.

The sympathetic, endlessly open landscape, warm and dry and silent like prayer. “Parts of it, I guess.”

“Which parts?”

If Shiro’s interested, he wants to be interesting. He aches with how much he wants Shiro to want to talk to him.

“I worked at a family cattle ranch a couple of Summers,” he lands on, methodically pushing more snow out into the void with his feet, clearing a line in front of them. “It was mostly just shovelling horse shit and moving feed for the cows, but I loved it. No one had to tell me what to do. You got there and there was work, and you just did it until there wasn’t any left. There wasn’t any waiting around wasting time looking for things to stay busy.”

Shiro hums. “That’s a good attitude.”

Keith latches onto that and smiles, takes it as his opening to tease. “Are you a TA?”

“Yes,” Shiro chuckles, and joins Keith in kicking powder. “Shut up. Tell me about your horse shit.”

Keith leans closer, joins their bodies from shoulder to elbow. “Tell me about my good work ethic.”

“I’ll put snow down your neck.”

Now he knows he’s being flirted with. In the snow-covered street Keith’s laughter sounds like it travels for miles.

“I never learned to ride,” he says, settling into Shiro’s side. “But they kept a few older horses in one pasture near the house. They looked so bored all the time, so I always went to visit them after my shifts. There was a pinto who always came over to see me. I wanted to take her home.”

He loved that horse. She had sleepy eyes and her nose felt like velvet. She remembered him.

Keith sinks further into Shiro and lets his head rest on his shoulder. In his periphery he sees Shiro look down at him, and Keith closes his eyes.

“It’s cold, Shiro. You should put your arm around me.”

Shiro doesn’t move, and his voice is so quiet. “You know what you want, don’t you?”

“Now?” Keith smiles and nods. “Yeah, easy.”

Shiro shifts, and Keith sits up a little as Shiro’s arm comes down around him and pulls him snug to his warm breathing side, fingers gripping Keith’s bicep.

“I shake when I’m nervous,” Shiro murmurs. “I can’t stop it.”

Keith can feel it. A constant tiny shiver quavering through Shiro’s whole body. He could have just pretended he was cold. It makes something shift in Keith’s chest. Something growing, making room for itself. “Then don’t be nervous.”

Shiro’s fingers squeeze on his arm. “You’re not making it easy.”

“I’m just some boy you rescued from the snow,” Keith says, as light as he feels. “Nothing to freak out about.”

Shiro’s shaking doesn’t stop, but his fingers do start to move on Keith’s arm. The tips trailing up, and the knuckles smoothing down, and silence is so much better than small talk.

The chill of the air is beginning to burn on Keith’s nose when Shiro says, “My coffee’s cold.”

Keith lifts his own mug for a sip. “Mine too.”

“You want another one?”

Keith takes another tepid sip as he thinks about it, and asks, “Do you know how to make soup?”

“In theory?” Shiro’s tone is even less sure than his words. “Why?”

He wants to find something to do with Shiro, something to occupy them and keep himself moving in Shiro’s space that isn’t just grasping for things to talk about when they don’t know a thing about each other. Soup feels safe. How do you fuck up soup?

“Just kind of seems like the thing you should do in this weather.”

“Hang on,” Shiro leans away, twisting his body to slide open the balcony door, trailing his cold hand to rest on the back of Keith’s neck and yelling, “Pidge!”

“What?” her voice carries out.

“Do you know how to make soup?”

A few seconds of silence stretch out, followed by a more perplexed and even louder, “What?!”

“Never mind.” Shiro clicks the door shut again and turns his whole body to Keith, tragically taking his arm back. “How hard can it be? Three of us. We’re smart.”

 

--

 

They’re idiots.

They find a recipe on the internet, potato and leek, except they don’t have any leeks.

“I think I’ve seen a picture of a leek,” Pidge offers, reading the recipe over Shiro’s shoulder.

“I’ve seen a picture of the Loch Ness Monster.” Shiro’s leaning in close to the screen, a knot forming between his brows. “Doesn’t mean I believe they exist.”

Keith likes him so much.

It’s Frankenstein’s soup. They open multiple tabs, flicking between them to figure out what they can substitute where. There are so many beans.

“What the fuck is a bouquet garni?” Keith asks.

Pidge prods the screen. “There’s a glossary, look.”

It takes Shiro a full five minutes to dice an onion, tears streaming down his face, rearing back every few slices to sniff and wipe them with his wrist while Keith and Pidge tease him mercilessly.

“Careful, you’ll brunoise your fingers.”

“What does that mean?!” Shiro wails.

“Yeah, Shiro. Don’t bleed in our mise en place.”

Help me.”

Pidge grates a quarter of a block of cheese to sprinkle on top, and it doesn’t matter if the soup sucks because Shiro leans around Keith at the stove to take the spoon from him for a taste test, and his hand rests on Keith’s hip like that’s just where it’s supposed to land.

 

--

 

He can’t believe they’ve had this sofa for so long without knowing how much better it looks with Shiro on it.

Snow or not, Keith and Pidge still have reading for class, so they gather in the living room where it’s warmest. Shiro and Pidge on the sofa, and Keith on the floor between them with his back to the cushions and his legs tucked under the coffee table. Shiro fiddles with his phone and silence falls.

When Shiro’s fingers tentatively brush the ends of Keith’s hair, he doesn’t move.

Keith feels him twist a lock around his finger and pull it straight, let it loose, then twist it again. When his hand brushes his ear, Keith leans ever so slightly in to it and holds his breath. His socked toes curl against the floor when Shiro’s finger grazes back and forth across his jaw and up his cheek.

He ignores Pidge’s toe where it’s insistently jabbing into his shoulder on his opposite side.

 

--

 

Keith waits fifteen minutes after they’ve all gone to bed to leave his room.

It’s dark in the living room, lit by one lamp. Shiro sits up without a word when he sees him emerge, rests his back against the arm of the sofa, pulls the blankets up, and makes room for Keith at the opposite end. Keith climbs in and slots one foot between Shiro’s, their tented legs making a suspension bridge of the blankets between them.

“You want to know a secret?” Shiro asks, voice low and conspiratorial.

Keith nods, twists the blanket around his hand and pulls it up over his mouth. “What?”

“I would have waited up for hours if you hadn’t come out here.”

Keith pulls the blanket higher, covers his nose and the heat he can feel filling his cheeks. “Am I that predictable?”

“Nope.”

He’s staring at Keith, up and through his eyelashes in a way that makes Keith feel like the blanket isn’t hiding anything at all, so he lets it drop and sinks into the back of the sofa.

Shiro mirrors him, and whispers, “Yesterday I thought you’d wake up hating me for all the things you didn’t mean to say to me the night before.”

“And now?”

“I don’t think you say anything you don’t mean.”

Keith’s painfully aware of his own breathing. “Do you like that?”

Shiro nods.

Keith gives in and covers his mouth again, and Shiro smiles like honey, slow and sweet. Keith shifts his foot between Shiro’s and Shiro brings his knees together, trapping it in place.

Maybe he’s glad he’s never had a crush before, because he doesn’t know if he could handle feeling like this all the time. He kind of likes that he really doesn’t know how handle it now. It’s like he’s perched at a great height, wind blowing at his back. He wants to know everything about Shiro. He wants to climb inside his head behind those drowsy eyes and pick him apart one piece at a time. It’s the strangest thing he’s ever felt in his life. It’s like he’s breathing it, like it’s sustaining him, filling him like perfumed air.

He bites his lip, then bites the bullet and asks, “How much of an idiot did I make of myself last night?”

Shiro shakes his head in dismissive little jerks, and laughs. “Keith, I saw two guys trying to chug beers out of their snapbacks. You’re little league.” When Keith just narrows his eyes at his evasion, Shiro sighs and continues. “You and Pidge found a hammock out in the yard. One of your other friends was pushing you. Luke?”

Of course. “Lance.”

“Mm. Well, I think that was your downfall.” Shiro lifts a hand and rocks it back and forth in a wobbly gesture.

“Fuck.” Keith pulls the blanket all the way over his eyes this time. “Me.”

“Yours isn’t the first hair I’ve had to hold back.” Keith is so glad he can’t see Shiro’s face when he adds, “You seemed much happier once you’d got it all out.”

“On you,” Keith groans.

“Only some of it.” Keith’s never heard someone sound so cheerful recounting a horror story. “I’m glad I was there, Pidge wasn’t much help. We went to the bathroom and she raided the medicine cabinet and stuck Band-Aids all over you while I was rinsing my shirt off.”

“Oh!” Keith pops his eyes back up, mystery solved.

Shiro laughs. “Did I miss one?”

Keith nods, and descends again. “Were you even drinking?”

“I nursed a beer all night. I’m a cheap date these days.” When Keith remains hidden, Shiro squeezes his knee between both of his. “Don’t be embarrassed. You looked like you were having fun. We got cleaned up and came straight back here. You didn’t do anything worth wasting time worrying about.”

Keith takes one last breath of stale blanket air and swallows his pride, emerging to Shiro smiling fondly back at him. It’s almost enough to compel him to agree. He stretches his free leg out, sliding it to rest beside Shiro’s hip, and Shiro covers his calf with his prosthetic hand.

Shiro squeezes, and whispers, “Ask me something.”

His hand is heavy, laden with prospect. “Pidge said you’re like family to her.”

Shiro’s smile turns softer. Keith likes that he did that. “I feel the same.”

“Is it because you lived with them?”

“Yes and no.” Shiro’s hand smooths up to Keith’s knee and back down to his ankle. In a perfect world Keith would be wearing shorts. “The Holts have done a lot for me.”

“Tell me.”

Shiro’s silent for a moment, eyes boring into Keith’s. “It’s kind of heavy.”

Keith finally looks away, stares at a spot on the kitchen wall far behind Shiro’s head, fights that old familiar instinct to raise his shield in front of his heart. “This morning. I didn’t want to talk about my parents because I don’t want that to be all you see. I want you to know me. I don’t want you to just see a lonely boy who misses his dad.”

“How do you feel now?”

“I don’t want you to think you have to tip toe around me.”

“Okay.” Keith forces his gaze back to him as Shiro pushes himself off the arm of the couch. “You’re too far away. Sit up. Sit next to me.”

Keith scrambles out from under the blankets as Shiro rearranges himself. When Shiro settles again it’s with an inviting arm stretched open to Keith. Keith crawls towards him, shamelessly burrows into his side as Shiro covers them both up and closes Keith in a one-armed hug.

Shiro isn’t shaking anymore.

Keith doesn’t know what to do with his hands, so he balls them into fists in his lap and stares at Shiro’s plaid wrapped knees.

But Shiro doesn’t speak. Just breathes beside him as his fingers travel in little circular paths on Keith’s arm. When silence stretches on, Keith wriggles his shoulder at Shiro’s side.

“Shiro?”

“Sorry.” He hums. “Trying to decide whether to just bring the mood down, or kill it completely.”

Keith’s brow furrows. “For your sake or mine?”

“Mm.” Helpful.

“Hey.” Keith prods Shiro in the side with one finger. “Don’t hurt yourself.”

Silence for a moment longer, and then Shiro exhales and slumps a little further into the cushions.

“Okay,” Shiro begins. “I almost flunked out. Freshman year.”

Keith can’t help the small surprised sound that leaves him. “You don’t look like a delinquent.”

“I’m not. I wasn’t.”

“What happened?”

“When I was a kid,” Shiro’s voice is barely above a whisper, puffing against Keith’s temple, and his pause stretches on long enough that Keith thinks perhaps he isn’t going to continue. “Both my parents died in a car crash.”

God. If this isn’t what Shiro considers hurting himself, then what the hell is?

Keith finds his metal hand under the blanket, and Shiro closes his fingers around his. “Were you in it?”

“Yeah.” Shiro’s hand squeezes, then laces with Keith’s. “They were killed instantly. I made it out okay. Lucky me.”

Keith’s so outstandingly unequipped to respond to that. His own loss never armed him with the means to cope with someone else’s. It barely armed him with the means to cope with his own. He turns his head to Shiro’s chest. Rests his cheek on it and lets Shiro’s deep breaths move him where they want.

“My grandparents raised me,” Shiro continues, bringing his own cheek down to lay on the crown of Keith’s head. “And every vacation they’d send me off to visit family. Aunts and uncles and cousins. My other grandparents. I guess they wanted me to know where I came from even if my parents couldn’t show me.” He shakes Keith’s hand a little. “When you were a kid, did you ever go on a plane by yourself?”

Keith’s been on one plane, and it brought him here. Bore him away from that silent place. “No.”

“They put a little tag on you and you’d just accept that a bunch of strangers in uniforms would take you where you were supposed to go.” The arm around Keith shifts and Shiro’s fingers trail onto Keith’s neck, stroking up and into his hair, sending goose bumps down his body. “I cried every time, right in the middle of the airport. I’d hug my grandmother’s legs and hide my face in her and every time I’d pray that it’d be the time they listened and didn’t make me go, but they never did. There was nothing I could do, I could never cry enough. I was alone and scared and it didn’t matter.”

Simply holding Shiro’s hand doesn’t feel acceptable. Keith lets go and lays his arm across Shiro’s stomach, wrapping around his side and bunching in his t-shirt. Feeling the fabric move against the smooth skin underneath.

Shiro’s newly freed hand holds Keith there, cupping his elbow. “You know I’m in aeronautics now?”

Keith dips his head in lieu of a shrug. “Matt is. We are. I assumed.”

“My original plan was to major in aviation. I was going to be a pilot.” Shiro laughs, entirely unamused. “Commercial airline.”

Keith looks up, but he can’t see Shiro’s face from this angle. “Why?”

“Because I fucking hated it and I wanted to beat it.” His fingers tap restless on Keith’s elbow, and Keith tightens his fist in Shiro’s shirt, tension tangible in his body. “Which went about as well as you’d expect. Why did you decide to study aeronautics?”

Keith’s dad loved the stars. It was some time after he died that Keith learned to love them for his own reasons. They seemed boundless. Unimpeded. More vast silence, more unknown improbable space, more perspective for Keith to gaze on and wonder at the breadth of existence.

“I like that we go out there just because we can. Because we might learn something we don’t already know. It’s my favourite thing about us. Humans, I mean. That hunger.” He shrugs. “I guess want to be a part of that.”

Shiro’s breath almost sounds like a gasp. “Is that your dream?”

Keith nods. “One of them.”

“I was so busy trying to feel bigger than my fears that I didn’t let myself have one,” Shiro says, like a confession. Like Keith’s being allowed to know something no one else does. “It’s like I dared myself to ruin my own life even though I knew I was the only one who was going to be left cleaning it up. I took on too much and went out too much and drank too much and woke up in a lot of stranger’s beds.” He takes a deep breath and lets it out again, his muscles flowing loose with it. “I was miserable and I treated other freshmen like my only support network, and by the time I burned out I didn’t even know who I was trying to stick it to anymore.”

Keith puts two and two together. “And Pidge’s dad is a professor.”

“Sam.” The name sounds so fond in his voice. “He vouched for me. Got a few other professors to vouch for me. He and Colleen helped with paperwork and interviews and a probationary period and got me on track for aeronautics the next year. My grandparents are dead.” Shiro swallows and falls silent for a moment. “Keith, the Holts paid for a lot of things. They already have two kids’ educations to worry about, and they let me stay in their guest room for over a year. They fed me and learned my interests and watched out for me and bought me birthday presents and had me for Christmas.”

“They believed in you.” Keith barely knows Matt, has only met Pidge’s parents a handful of times in passing, but in that moment he thanks them all so fiercely.

“They said I had potential,” Shiro murmurs. “I was just some kid, and they treated me like a son.”

Keith smiles. Feels vicariously proud. Feels honoured on Shiro’s behalf. “How old was Pidge?”

“She was literally a child.”

Keith tugs at Shiro’s t-shirt. “Was she smarter than you?”

Shiro laughs loud and then quickly lowers his voice again. “Probably. She used to sit with me while I studied. I love her.”

Keith tightens his arm around Shiro, a kinship in this. “I’d die for her.”

Shiro grips Keith closer to his body. “Me too.”

A silence falls between them, cocked and loaded. Keith loosens his fist at Shiro’s side, flattens his palm and lets it skim across Shiro’s flat stomach. His muscles jump under Keith’s touch, and Shiro’s long fingers unfurl on Keith’s neck, stretching out to cover his throat.

“Shiro?” Keith breathes, and tilts his head up. “Do you want to kiss me?”

Shiro flows beneath him, leans back and angles Keith’s chin up for Keith to look at his face for the first time in minutes. His eyes are hooded and his lips are parted as his tongue darts out to wet them, and Keith’s been wanting all his short starving life, but it’s a long time he’s ever wanted anything new. Since he’s wanted anything that feels this steady, this stable. A long time since he’s wanted anyone so bad.

Shiro leans down and Keith closes his eyes, and he’s surprised when he feels Shiro’s lips press firm against his cheek, soft and warm and lingering.

Keith’s eyes open again, and he levers himself up with a hand on Shiro’s hip, brows creasing as he searches Shiro’s calm face. “You know you can kiss me anywhere.”

Christ.” Keith’s hair moves with the force of Shiro’s breath. His eyes close and his forehead falls to meet Keith’s, and his voice comes out in a helpless whisper. “Does it help if I tell you I want to? I don’t want to do anything that’ll make Pidge uncomfortable, and I don’t want to start something we won’t want to stop.” He at least has the good grace to sound apologetic. “She can’t leave here either, Keith.”

“Okay.” It’s a fair point and frustratingly not worth arguing. “Fair warning, she knows I’m gunning for you.”

“I know,” Shiro deadpans. “She’s even less subtle than you are.”

Keith bumps his forehead off Shiro’s. “Can I at least kiss you back?”

Shiro’s hand slips to Keith’s waist. It’s so casual that Keith feels it like claws in his throat. “Of course you can.”

Keith hooks his hand around Shiro’s neck and pulls himself up to his knees, moves in close, as close to the corner of Shiro’s mouth as he can get without touching it, and pours all his newly woken affection into Shiro’s cheek, drinks in the sigh that spills from Shiro’s lips.

Keith stays there, hovering a kiss away from his face, and Shiro asks, “Are you always this competitive?”

Keith’s lips brush Shiro’s skin when he replies. “I don’t think it counts as competition if I want to lose.”

Shiro urges his hand at Keith’s waist, gets his other under his thigh and easily manoeuvres Keith’s body to straddle his lap. It does nothing to help with the whole desire situation, and Keith’s careful to settle pointedly back from Shiro’s crotch, aware of the heat between his own legs and the slippery slope that Shiro’s made clear he doesn’t want them sliding down. He drags both of his hands through Shiro’s hair as both of Shiro’s grip his waist, and with his eyes closed under his touch he feels safe to stare at his lips like he wants to.

Shiro’s large hands move up and down. Over his ribs, over his hips, down his thighs to squeeze above his knees, and Keith contents himself with picking over Shiro’s smiling face. He traces his eyebrows, trails his fingers over the smooth scar dissecting his nose, drags a thumb across his lips. He’s like nothing Keith’s ever seen. Like he’s walked across a desert barefoot and found Shiro waiting at the other end.

Shiro’s lips make the shape of a kiss over Keith’s thumb, and he moves his hands to rest over Shiro’s collar.

“Sorry we made you babysit us the other night,” Keith whispers, nose wrinkling. “I never said that.”

“You didn’t make me do anything.” Shiro’s hands link behind him at the small of his back. “Do you even like those parties? I could be wrong, but It doesn’t strike me as your scene.”

“Not really.” Keith shrugs. “Pidge and the others do, so it’s usually fun. It’s almost always worth seeing what’ll happen.” At Shiro contentedly blinking up at him he far too easily admits. “I like dancing.”

Shiro looks delighted. “Yeah?”

“Uh huh,” Keith smiles, bouncing a little on Shiro’s thighs to keep his mind off the strange sensation of this unfamiliar kind of candour. “I like dancing alone with other people. I’m too chickenshit to do it sober.” His hands creep back into Shiro’s hair. “You didn’t see me?”

Shiro shakes his head, leans it back into Keith’s questing fingers. “I wouldn’t have been able to keep my eyes off you.”

Keith wants to growl at that. Has to push it down as it tries to rise, an animal in his chest. The idea of Shiro’s eyes on him as he loses himself.

All his life he’s been belligerently aware of other people watching him. Judging him. Clothes too small or too big, shoes too old, five-dollar haircut, black eyes from getting into fights. Weighing him up like an orphaned kid has any autonomy over the way he doesn’t fit right in the world. The knowledge that Shiro wants to watch him because he likes what he sees, and the knowledge that Shiro would look away if Keith asked him to is feverish vindication.

“You’re allowed,” Keith breathes, tightening his knees around Shiro’s thighs. “It’s for me. It isn’t for anyone else. I wish they couldn’t see me right in front of them, not unless I wanted them to.” Even now he can’t believe that anyone staring at him is doing it for a good reason. He doesn’t want women to see him that way, and most guys are straight or creeps. Or jerks like he is, just looking for a lay, bothering him when he’s made no indication he wants to be bothered, and not seeing a person behind the body. He wants to know every impossible thing held inside Shiro’s body. “I’d make myself invisible if I could.”

Shiro squeezes his hips. “But I’m allowed?”

Keith covers Shiro’s hands with his own, squeezes back. “Yeah.”

Keith can see Shiro’s chest rising and falling, hear his full breaths. “Would you let me dance with you?”

Keith bites his cheek and sways on Shiro’s lap. “Would you let me dance on you?”

Shiro swallows. “Yes.”

“I’d let you dance alone with me, Shiro.”

A low sound punches out of Shiro’s chest and he tears his hands away, catches Keith’s jaw between them and surges up to meet his mouth, hard and closed and crushing, and then slower, panting into Keith’s lips as Keith gasps back, catching Keith’s bottom lip and tracing it with the wet warmth of his tongue.

Keith runs his hands down Shiro’s chest to rest on his heaving stomach, and between kisses he breathes, “You’re fire.”

Shiro pulls away with an audible smack, and immediately darts back in kiss Keith’s cheek again, chaste, like he didn’t just break his own rules. “I got weak. I’m so into you.”

Keith rises up a few inches in Shiro’s lap to look down at him, bold with Shiro’s face gazing up with open want. “Does it count as going slow if I tell you I want to suck your dick?”

Shiro groans and pulls him back down, buries his face in Keith’s neck, thighs spreading and hands resting just above Keith’s ass. “You’re so hot. And you should go to bed.”

Keith holds Shiro’s head in place with both hands and offers more of his neck. He starts when Shiro’s tongue grazes his skin. “I wish you could come with me.”

Shiro breathes in deep, nudges his nose into Keith’s hair. “I know.”

Keith worms a hand under Shiro’s collar, covers his bare shoulder and splays his fingers over his hot skin. “I want to touch myself, but I won’t”

Keith.”

Shiro bodily wrenches Keith up and off his lap and onto his back with a palm safe beneath his head, half on, half off the sofa, one leg still hooked over Shiro’s knees. Shiro bows over him, flushed from his cheeks to his neck, and shushes Keith as he laughs, covering his mouth with a hand and leaning down to kiss the back of it.

Keith takes Shiro by the wrist and peels it away. “I hope it snows more.”

Shiro’s so close Keith can see every wrinkle when he smiles. “We’re out of milk.”

“Shiro, say it,” Keith urges, hugging Shiro’s arm to his chest. “Say you hope it snows more.”

Shiro sits up and brushes Keith’s hair off his forehead, obliging and sincere. “I hope it snows more.”

Shiro hoists his arm up with Keith clinging to it, pulls Keith’s body with it like it’s nothing, and Keith takes one more chance to frame Shiro’s face in his hands, to soak up the warmth of it and memorise the square angles of his jaw before leaving for the night.

Keith doesn’t let go as he stands. “Come and wake me if you’re up before me.”

Shiro lays back, leaving Keith’s hands clutching air. “I will.”

 

--

 

He does.

Keith feels the bed spring, and a hand on his shoulder.

“You awake?”

Keith hums and rolls over, blinking the morning blur out of his eyes to the sight of a ruffled Shiro looking down at him. Bright sunlight filters in around his blinds, and it lures a cloud of nerves to his stomach that he hadn’t felt the night before. He isn’t practiced at shared mornings. Isn’t used to caring whether or not people think kindly of him after he walks out the door. He’s never woken up in bed with a guy who hasn’t seen him naked, and he’s never felt so naked. It’s terrifying and it’s thrilling, and even more so that he wants to chase the feeling instead of sprinting away.

Shiro smiles drowsily. “It snowed more.”

He moves his hand to Keith’s chest, fingers splayed, warm like a creature settled over his heart. As nice as it is seeing him staring down at Keith like this is a regular occurrence, he can’t kiss him while he’s all the way up there, so Keith hauls himself to sit, blankets pooling in his lap.

“Can I?” he asks, assuming Shiro will get the gist.

Shiro nods.

He’s still as Keith leans in and presses his mouth to his cheek again. One, because it’s what Shiro wants, and two, because Shiro doesn’t deserve his rancid morning mouth.

He feels the prickle of stubble under his lips, and he reaches a hand up to scratch at Shiro’s chin.

Shiro tilts his head into it like a cat, and Keith asks, voice croaking with sleep, “Do you want to borrow my razor? I use it for my pubes more than my face.”

Shiro snorts. “Delightful.”

“I’ll change the blade,” Keith assures, flattening his hand to rub at Shiro’s cheek. “My body doesn’t think hair grows on faces.”

Shiro reaches up and closes Keith’s hand in his own. “My body thinks hair grows everywhere.”

“Yeah?” Keith squirms in closer. “Do you have a hairy back?”

Shiro wiggles his eyebrows. “That’s for you to find out.”

“Do you have hairy toes?”

Shiro closes his eyes and laughs. “I don’t like where this is going.”

“You’re scared to check, aren’t you?”

“Terrified.” He lifts Keith’s hand to his lips and holds Keith’s eyes as he kisses the heel of his palm, and it somehow feels so much less safe and neutral than if he just leaned in and kissed him on the mouth. When Shiro pulls away his gaze falls to Keith’s forearm and he straightens his elbow, laughing at the black letters of his own name still staining Keith’s skin. “I warned you.”

Keith juts his chin out. “I still don’t care.”

Shiro kisses the inside of his wrist then, over the faded h and Keith feels like a can of soda shaken up and put away.

Shiro’s thumb smooths over the spot where his lips just branded. “Do you think you have any t-shirts that’d fit me? I hate to ask, but I don’t have a lot to choose from.”

Shiro could shred Pidge’s closet with a glance. “Maybe. You can check. Second shelf. Nothing’s folded.”

Shiro crosses to his tiny closet and his shoulders sink at the tangle of clothes within, beginning the process of sifting through and setting aside those he apparently deems unworthy.

Without turning around, he asks. “Where do you keep your cowboy boots?”

“I left them behind,” Keith drawls. “With my assless chaps and my ten-gallon hat.”

Shiro hums. “Shame.”

After a minute he turns around with a pair of tight red bathing shorts hanging from his fingers, and asks, “Are these Pidge’s?”

Keith smirks. “No.”

Shiro groans and turns away. “Please tell me I’ll get to see you in them in Summer.”

“Maybe.” Keith stretches out long and rests his head on his arm. “Stick around and find out.”

“Okay,” Shiro says, no hesitation. He lifts a too-small black t-shirt for inspection, and folds it before putting it back. “This is a mess. Just tell me which one’s your favourite.”

“Rude.” Keith stands and lifts his arms above his head, sighing at the series of pops in his back.

He lets one arm snake around Shiro’s thick waist when he reaches him, and leans into him to fish inside with the other. He pulls out a dark grey heather t-shirt. It’s a plain crew neck, but it’s so soft. Keith likes the way it hangs. How it drapes off his shoulders and makes his chest look broader.

He places it in Shiro’s waiting hands. “This one. Put it on.”

The look Shiro gives him is witheringly shrewd.

“I’ll be good,” Keith promises, walking backwards away from him and sinking into the mattress, pulling his legs under himself and linking his hands in his lap.

Shiro stares at him a moment longer, and Keith just gazes back like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. Finally, Shiro shakes his head, and peels his pink t-shirt up over his messy hair.

It’s so good. Keith resists the urge to fall back onto the bed, but it wouldn’t be for drama’s sake if he did. Defined muscles and smooth skin, and Shiro’s waist disappearing into his jeans, that little trail of pale hair. Keith tears his eyes back up to Shiro’s face and finds a bouquet of pink across his nose and cheeks. A man that hot flushing that shy makes Keith want to jump his bones and make him feel as incredible as he looks. He lifts a finger and twirls it, and Shiro rolls his eyes and spins on the spot.

No hairy back.

“Exactly how much effort do those muscles take?” Keith asks as Shiro finishes his revolution.

Shiro looks down at himself and smooths a palm over his stomach. “If it wasn’t for all the beans and carbs you’re feeding me I’d be bouncing off the walls.”

Keith nods. “And exactly how long does it take for you to shave your back?”

Shiro’s laughter barks out of him and he stalks across the room with determination, planting a fist and a knee on the mattress and looming large over Keith’s where he sits, unflinching. “You little – ”

Keith tilts his head up, smiling all the while. “Little what?”

Shit,” Shiro whispers, closing the space to kiss his forehead. “You’ve got me all figured out, don’t you?”

Not even remotely. “You seem to think so.”

“Feels like it.” Shiro stands up, dragging his fingers through Keith’s hair once, from his forehead to the base of his skull. “I’m going to shower. Before you kill me.”

He extricates his fingers from Keith’s hair and tugs his t-shirt on as he walks towards the door, and Keith doesn’t miss the way it stretches tight across his back.

Apparently everything looks better on Shiro.

 

--

 

Keith meets Pidge in the kitchen, and she narrows her eyes at him as he snags two slices of bread from the open bag beside her.

“I tried to talk to Shiro about you,” she says, and Shiro’s right. She’s as subtle as a chest wound. “He went all pink. Are you gonna go pink, too?”

Keith leans around her to slot the bread in the toaster. “I didn’t know you when you were a baby.”

“I was a tween, asshole.” She elbows him in the stomach, but there’s no force behind it.

“Kind of feels like you could have introduced us sooner,” Keith says, pulling two mugs from the dish rack.

“Whatever. It all worked out.” She turns around to lean against the counter and crosses her arms over her chest. “Maybe I would have if I’d known you’d lose it for him.”

“You’ve seen him, right?”

“Gross,” she wrinkles her nose, turning back to her own toast and buttering it more furiously than Keith thought possible. “Don’t. He’s a Ken doll. You both are. Nothing downstairs.”

Keith laughs. “I’m really not.”

Gross,” she yells, and Keith lets her punt him in the ankle. “Besides, maybe he only likes guys who’ve yarfed on him.”

She picks up her plate and leaves with one last glare, and as she disappears into her room Keith shouts, “You can’t ruin this!”

 

--

 

It kind of feels like playing with fire having Shiro in his bed, sitting across from each other, knees touching and hands restlessly linked between them.

“Will you tell me if I ever make you uncomfortable?” Shiro asks, eyes on his fingers where they’re moving with Keith’s.

“What?” Keith shakes Shiro’s hand to make him look up. “Yeah.”

Shiro’s expression is more serious than he’s ever seen it as he asks. “Have I made you uncomfortable?”

The very concept seems ridiculous. “Are you kidding?”

Shiro shakes his head, eyebrows lowered. “I’m really not.”

“You haven’t.” Keith closes one of Shiro’s hands in both of his, and leans in closer. “Why?”

Shiro bites his lip, lets it go. “I’m older than you.”

“Hardly.” It comes out more defensive than Keith wants it to.

“Still.” Shiro looks down again, draws a finger from Keith’s wrist to his middle knuckle. “There are things I want to ask you. But I don’t want you to think I’m patronising you.”

“Ask me,” Keith says, pulling his hand free with some effort to tilt Shiro’s chin up. “Are you scared that I’ll drag you?”

“No.” Shiro’s smile is sheepish. “Not that I don’t think you will, but I’m not scared of it.”

“You’re right. If you offend me I’ll fucking tell you, so just ask.”

“Okay.” Shiro’s face visibly unknots, and he covers Keith’s knees with both hands. “Have you had sex?”

Keith told Shiro to ask, so he doesn’t roll his eyes. “Yes.”

“More than once?”

“More than once,” Keith confirms, and if having Shiro in his bed was playing with fire, talking about this with him in his bed is downright reckless. “Several times. I can tell you what I like if you want.”

“I do want.” Shiro bites his lip. “So, you probably shouldn’t right now.”

Keith knows the answer, but he likes a level playing field, so he shoots back, “Have you had sex?”

“Fair enough,” Shiro murmurs. “Yes. More than several times.”

Keith slides a hand down Shiro’s forearm. “I bet you’re good, too.”

Shiro lets out a wounded groan and topples over backwards like a felled tree, rolling onto his front to hide his face in Keith’s pillow, his voice coming out muffled. “No. I’m shit. I’m the worst lay and you should have absolutely no expectations.”

Keith raises up on his knees and straddles Shiro’s thighs, laying both of his hands on the small of his back. “I don’t believe you.”

“Keith.”

Keith bunches Shiro’s shirt, Keith’s shirt, to reveal a tiny sliver of skin, trailing his fingers across it whisper soft. “You’re so pretty. I bet you have a pretty cock.”

Shiro’s breath ceases under his hands, and his stifled voice says, “I want you to know that I heard that. And I want you to know that I’m pretending I didn’t. And thanks for calling me pretty.”

“You are.” Keith pushes Shiro’s shirt a little higher, more skin. “Hottest guy I’ve ever touched.”

“The feeling’s mutual.” From any other man Keith might not believe it, but from Shiro he does.

He exudes honesty. He stirs conviction and makes hard things easy to say. Makes him want to poke at the edges of the things he’s accustomed to sharing, and risk the possibility of discomfort.

Keith wrinkles his nose, twists his lips a little and watches the back of Shiro’s neatly clipped head. “I’ve never dated anyone before.”

Shiro’s head tilts to the side, one eye visible, and half his smile. “Go out with me.”

Keith’s heart feels so firm, caught as it falls. “Okay.”

Just like that.

He traces his fingers over Shiro’s back, sketching constellations in the dips of his muscles and the knobs of his spine. Shiro makes a happy sound beneath him, his body spilled out, relaxing under Keith’s touch.

Keith flattens his hands, pushing them up under Shiro’s shirt to cover his shoulder blades. “Feel good?”

“Never stop,” Shiro hums, and without altering the calm timbre of his voice, he says, “I wanna eat you out.”

Keith makes a sound like a dog toy, nails scraping Shiro’s skin as they form helpless fists and he lets his weight fall onto them, elbows locking.

The mattress shakes with Shiro’s silent laughter. “I can play dirty too.”

Keith’s never done that. Doesn’t know if he would have let anyone even if they’d asked. Doesn’t know if he’d even like it. He’s never been able to decide if the thought of it is startlingly intimate or simply invasive, but something about it feels so.

Serious.

More than someone sucking his dick or fingering him open. The give and take of it in which the giving feels so much more pronounced. There’s something about asking for it that feels selfish, but something about it being offered that seems so alarmingly selfless. Nothing casual about it, and nothing he’s ever sought from sex.

It trickles from the back of his neck to the base of his spine and coils around his axis at the waist of his jeans and down below. Shiro giving that. Shiro wanting that. Keith’s hands are on his bare back and his thighs are pressed to the curve of his ass, and his bed feels like a minefield.

Shiro wants to know if he makes him uncomfortable, and knelt against him in the dim of his room he profoundly, hazardously doesn’t.

He draws his hands away slowly and smooths Shiro’s shirt back down, lingering at his waist for one longing squeeze before he moves off his body. “I’m gonna go do the dishes.”

“Good idea.” Shiro laughs again, and doesn’t move.

 

--

 

It’s barely snowed all day, and Keith doesn’t have to ask Shiro to put his arm around him against the cold on the balcony.

Keith reaches up and slips Shiro’s sunglasses off his nose, putting them on and hiding his own eyes behind them, leaning heavily into Shiro’s chest. Shiro’s other arm crosses over his waist, rubbing absently at his side, warmer than any blanket.

Keith closes his eyes. The sunglasses aren’t nearly enough.

“I’ve never met my mom.”

The pace of Shiro’s hand doesn’t alter, up and down and grazing the base of Keith’s ribs, keeping time like a metronome. “Do you know where she is?”

“I don’t know who she is,” Keith murmurs, consciously syncing his breaths with Shiro’s behind him, even and slow. “Dad didn’t tell me much about her, but I think he loved her. He didn’t hate her. I always figured he’d had something he wanted to tell me when I got older. Didn’t work out that way.”

Shiro’s mouth is so close to Keith’s ear and his voice is low to compensate, like a secret. “Have you ever tried to find her?”

“I probably could if I wanted to.” Keith opens his eyes, blinking against the dry air, blinking against any moisture that threatens to form, unwilling to allow any more tears in his eyes for this. “She never has.”

It’s so easy for Keith to envy something so many people take for granted. It’s harder to hate someone who doesn’t exist. There’s a woman out there somewhere who gave birth to him. For all intents and purposes, she doesn’t have a son, and he can’t know if she considers herself a mother. If she’s ever held him, he can’t remember it. Her motivations are a wraith.

Keith twists his head to the side, feels Shiro’s bare throat on his cheek. “I don’t think I know how to have a mom.”

Shiro doesn’t speak. He doesn’t apologise. But Keith feels his breath draw in deep and hold for a moment before letting out through his nose with a slight waver. It ruffles his hair as Shiro rests his face on the crown of Keith’s head and tightens his arms around him.

 

--

 

Keith wouldn’t say that Shiro’s body is a comfortable place to lay, but it is comforting. Held pillowed to his chest with his legs caged between Shiro’s thighs, streetlight barely gracing Keith’s bedroom.

He likes the way Shiro’s voice growls through his bones when he’s held this close. “Did you ever want siblings when you were a kid?”

Keith’s cheek is squashed against Shiro’s collarbone, and he can’t help but mumble. “Not really.”

Other kids were unkind, and to compensate, so was he. When he was in the home he ached for space of his own, and when he was with foster families he felt like a spare. If foster siblings were an example to go by, they were a shitty one. Shared toys, shared room, shared attention, he always felt like he was taking something away from them that didn’t belong to him. He always felt disposable, even to the ones who tried to include him. With hindsight he can’t tell if he was the one driving the wedge, or them.

Shiro’s hands have been still on his body so long they feel like they’re making molds for themselves. Places for them to remember they belong.

“I know they were trying to help, but every adult around me always wanted to know how I was feeling,” Shiro whispers. “Sometimes I just wanted one other person around me who wouldn’t ask, because they were feeling it too. I know that’s selfish.”

He hates the idea of Shiro alone. Is grateful to whatever led to him being so present and open in spite of it, and defensive of however hard he had to fight to get that way. Wishes Shiro had had someone standing between him and the brutalities of the world.

He thinks of Pidge. He’s yet to discover the level of indiscretion he’d have to commit for her to write him off. There’s a constancy to her that’s lacking in so many other things. Maybe if he’d had her by his side growing up he’d have had an equal holding him back from fights or throwing herself into them on his behalf. Dual smiles and dual split lips. Someone in his life at an earlier age to teach him that he deserved friendship and was capable of it. An ally on the battlefield.

He smiles, small, lets it melt away, rubs his cheek on Shiro’s chest. “Brother or sister?”

Without hesitation, Shiro answers. “Both.”

Of course he has a spacious heart. He smiles again and closes his eyes. Lets the minutes trickle down in comfortable, lethargic silence. He wants Shiro to fall asleep so he can, but he knows what’s coming.

Shiro pats his shoulder. “I should go to bed.”

There it is. He keeps his eyes closed. “Or you could not.”

Shiro loosens his hug on Keith, leaving cold phantoms of his fingers and palms on his shoulders. “Keith, I think my knees bend backwards now.”

Keith tries to make himself heavier. “I’ll sleep on the floor.”

Shiro snorts. “No, you won’t.”

“Fuck off,” he mumbles with no feeling whatsoever.

“I’m not stealing your bed.” Shiro breathes in deep and exhales, squeezing Keith’s shoulders once. “If you want to keep talking, I’ll sleep on the floor.”

Keith still doesn’t move. “Why is that less stupid than my idea?”

“It isn’t,” Shiro chuckles, firm hands rubbing Keith’s arms. “It’s so stupid. I’d just feel better about it.”

“Fine.” Suitably placated, Keith peels himself away from the warmth of Shiro’s chest. “Come on.”

They steal the cushions from the couch, gather the blankets, and retreat to Keith’s room to make up an incredibly threadbare nest on the floor by his bed.

“You look sad down there by yourself.”

“Nah.” Shiro spreads out, stretches his arms above his head, eyes closed and smiling broadly. “I’m a king.”

It looks so uncomfortable and so desirable.

Keith settles as close to the edge of the mattress as he can, one arm dangling down, letting his fingers graze lightly through Shiro’s fringe as Shiro watches on amused, vaguely cross-eyed.

“I like your hair.”

Shiro shakes his head. “It makes me look old.”

That hits Keith like a personal affront, unthinkable. “No, it’s –” like moonlight. “You glow.”

Shiro’s face melts. The smallest sound escapes his lips and he catches Keith’s hand and presses a hard kiss to his knuckles, squeezing once without releasing.

Keith feels so warm. Content. Like everything’s right for once. Like he looks right and acts right and doesn’t have to edit himself. Nothing’s changed except Shiro’s looking at him and holding his hand, and he’s still the same person, but different.

“You make me feel good,” Keith whispers, his whole body boneless and unguarded. “Like I’m a good person.”

Shiro tilts his head. “Are you not?”

“I dunno,” Keith confesses. “I’m kind of mean.”

Shiro tugs his arm gently. “You don’t feel mean.”

“I think I am though.” Keith closes his eyes, lets himself feel Shiro’s fingers and nothing else. “I rub people the wrong way, even when I don’t mean to. And I’m kind of needy. I want things too much. And I think maybe I don’t want other things enough. People. All of them, and not just parts of them.”

Shiro squeezes his hand again. “Are you talking about sex?”

“Mostly, yeah,” Keith breathes, safe in the darkness behind his eyelids. “The easy parts. The parts I don’t have to deal with later. I know I’ve used people. Maybe I’ve taken advantage of people. I’d know if I ever bothered to ask them after.”

Shiro still hasn’t let go. “But consensual? Both sides?”

“Yes. Drunk, but yes, always. Yes.” He asks every time, because the alternative is unthinkable, but he still feels sick at the thought. “I’d never if it – if it wasn’t. If they didn’t want it, I’d never –”

He feels the danger of falling again, of honesty, and he prays Shiro’s arms are open.

“Keith?”

Keith opens his eyes, urgently squeezes Shiro’s hand back. “Can I come down there, please?”

Shiro sits up wordlessly, snags Keith’s blankets and pulls them off the bed, and Keith follows them down, waits for Shiro to lay back under the ungainly heap before settling in the crook of his arm and his neck and the grounding weight of his hold.

Shiro fidgets the blankets around them both and tucks Keith under his chin, laughing weakly as his says, “We’re bad at this.”

Keith buries his nose behind Shiro’s ear and whispers, “I’m sorry.”

“Oh god, Keith, no.” Shiro smooths a hand through Keith’s hair, and keeps it there. “Don’t apologise to me.”

Another sorry almost breaks free from Keith’s throat before he manages to stop it. He lays there, pays attention to the thud of Shiro’s heart and the rise of his chest and the smell of his skin. Just soap now, same as Keith, just a bare hint of sandalwood clinging to his sweater. Shiro’s fingers pick through his hair, twisting and combing, soothing his muscles to relax.

“I know I’ve let guys use me too.” Keith never thought he’d meet someone he’d feel compelled to confess this to, but his voice doesn’t even shake as he admits, “I think maybe I kind of liked it? Being used how I wanted to be. On my terms. Being wanted on my terms. I guess it turned me on or – or made me feel like I was in control.” Keith turns his head, drags his nose across Shiro’s throat and frees his eyes. “And I think I’m realising I’m not okay with it anymore. I don’t want to do it anymore.”

“Then don’t, baby.” Shiro gently shakes his arm around Keith’s waist. “It’s your mind, it’s your body. You don’t have to keep doing things a certain way just because it’s how you’ve always done it.”

Keith wanted all the sex he’s sought, wanted it with all the brief partners he’s had it with. If he put his mind to it, he might be able to bring himself to regret some of the men he chose to sleep with. The ones he endeavoured to give pleasure who didn’t seem invested in his enjoyment. The ones who he couldn’t pretend were using him on his terms who he pushed to the back of his mind and refused to acknowledge he felt bad about allowing. But he can’t bring himself to regret any of the sex. If he tried, he could. If he started, he might not stop. He won’t do that to himself, not when the most probable outcome would be self-loathing rather than indictment of them. He may not be kind to himself, but he refuses to do that. They all taught him something. Even if it was something he didn’t like. He hopes he taught them something too.

He wriggles down, settles his head on Shiro’s chest where it likes to rest. “I’m not – I don’t know how this is supposed to feel. Being a –” it zings through body when the word comes to him, and he tries it out, “—a boyfriend, and having a boyfriend.” It feels good, almost as good as Shiro’s name. “Actually being with someone instead of just sleeping with someone is new to me, all of this is new to me.” He licks his lips, and presses his face to Shiro’s collar. “I don’t want sex with you to mean the same thing to me as it usually does.”

“It doesn’t have to,” Shiro murmurs, his fingers playing along the hem of Keith’s shirt, sparking with every brush against his skin. “It can mean what you want. I know I want to make you feel good, and I want to do what you want to do. I want to talk to you. Like this.”

“Me too,” Keith whispers. “It’s scary.”

Shiro laughs once and inhales, shaking Keith’s body with it. “It is.”

Keith brushes his lips against Shiro’s throat. “I like it.”

Keith can feel it when Shiro swallows. “So do I.”

It’s like something unspooling inside him. Something infinitely long and tangled that Keith didn’t know could be unravelled until Shiro reached in and pointed it out, and Keith tugged the first knot free. His tongue feels looser in his mouth, the urge to talk and to learn and to understand. Both himself and Shiro. A strange brand-new kind of arousal, edged sweetness like cinnamon gum, sugar and spice.

“I didn’t ask you.” Keith brings a hand up to the crook of Shiro’s neck to rest beside his own mouth. “Have I ever made you uncomfortable?”

“Never.” It’s said without hesitation and without artifice, quiet and private. “When we kissed last night, I told you I wanted us to wait, and you didn’t give me a hard time. I wanted you so bad and it only made me want you more.”

“Yeah?”

“So.” he kisses the crown of Keith’s head. “Bad.” he kisses it again, warm breath in his hair. “I like – I like so much about you. The way you move. You’re so graceful.” He punctuates the last word with a broad palm gliding down Keith’s back, and Keith lets him push their bodies closer. “You always look like you know what you’re doing. It’s like you’re always going somewhere you need to go and it makes me want to go there too. And the way you speak to me.” He squeezes Keith’s hip. “The things you say to me, Keith. You make me feel more sure of myself. You make me feel more confident. You make me – you make me unafraid.”

Keith pulls himself up with Shiro’s shoulder so he can graze his nose along Shiro’s jaw, and whisper there, “You make me want to run my mouth. I want you too.” He splays his hand over Shiro’s cheek, fingertips brushing his undercut. “You could ruin me if you want to. I’d let you.”

Shiro groans on his exhale, he sounds like there’s no breath left in his body. “Things like that, you’re so –” Keith can feel himself hardening in his sweatpants, lazy warmth spiralling as lets his thighs slip wider over Shiro’s hips and Shiro’s hands tighten on his waist. “Sexy, Keith, if you stay there, you’re going to get something impolite poking you in the stomach.”

“Something like this?” Keith grinds down once against the crease of Shiro’s pelvis, represses a groan, and rises onto his hands and knees as Shiro gasps beneath him, his bangs hanging down and brushing Shiro’s, his pupils so wide and so close. “Come to bed. Sleep next to me in my bed. You’re gonna get me hot no matter where you are.” He lowers himself to press a kiss below Shiro’s eye. “I don’t want you down here. We’re big boys, we don’t have to do anything we don’t mean to.”

Shiro reaches up and brushes Keith’s hair off his forehead with a steady hand, gazing up at him with what Keith imagines must be a reflection of his own face, something close to awe. “No, we don’t.”

Shiro begins to sit and Keith rises onto his knees to accommodate him, getting the welcome idea from Shiro’s unbroken gaze that he’d very much like to sink his teeth into him. He sets his hands on Shiro’s shoulders to help himself stand, and instead finds himself tugged back down into Shiro’s lap by firm hands at his waist that glide up to his back to splay at his shoulder blades. He noses at Keith’s collar and lays a kiss to the base of his throat and, yes, nips gently, and Keith tilts his head back and blinks at the ceiling as he feels that something impolite resting innocently under his ass. Only he wouldn’t call it impolite. Hard and distracting and inviting, and far too easy for Keith to lower his weight onto if he wanted.

Shiro kisses further up under his chin, and Keith sinks a hand into his hair and tugs gently. “What’s your plan here?”

“No plan,” Shiro mumbles into his skin. “Almost done.”

And he presses one last kiss to Keith’s jaw and loosens his hold on him, watching engrossed as he stands, and allowing Keith to pull him to his feet.

They barely touch as they toss two sets of blankets back on the bed, hands brushing, eyes meeting, small smiles trading. Keith knows his neglected dick is tenting his sweatpants, but there’s nothing he can do about that now. It hardly seems worth being bashful about it in front of the man who wrought it.

Keith climbs into bed first, and Shiro pauses at the edge. “I wanted to take my jeans off, but I ditched my underwear this morning.”

Keith raises an eyebrow. “What did you do with them?”

“I threw them out.” When Keith snorts, Shiro hisses, “I couldn’t just keep them in my pocket!”

“You’re so weird,” Keith laughs, falling back on the pillows.

“No, this would have been weird.” Shiro leans back on an elbow, and chants, “Hey, Keith. Can I keep my dirty underwear in your room, incidentally I’m not wearing any, oh, you’re leaving the apartment, you’re walking into the snow, you’re –”

Stop.” Keith covers his face with a hand. “You can borrow some of mine, my boxers will fit you. I won’t look.”

Shiro’s silent for a moment. “You can look. I don’t mind.”

He does keep his back to Keith while he changes. Keith curls on his side, blankets pulled high, and the whole act feels far more intimate than Keith nudging his erection against Shiro’s body. It’s dim, but as Shiro wriggles his jeans off Keith can see the thick hair peppering his thighs, a slightly darker shade than his head, and as he bends to step into Keith’s boxers, he catches a glimpse of the swell and the shadowed length of him between his legs. Keith keeps watching as he rolls his right sleeve up and fiddles with something at the join of flesh and metal, and his prosthetic slips off, deposited on Keith’s desk. When he turns it’s more obvious outside the confines of his jeans that Shiro’s still battling the dregs of arousal, and Keith tears his eyes away and lifts the blankets for Shiro to slide in and under.

“Comfy?” Keith asks as Shiro settles.

“So much better.”

This is better, face to face, not kept apart by the notion that they aren’t in control of their actions. Better, but not best, because their bodies still want to sing to their own tunes, and they’re only touching at the hands and arms and knees.

“Do you think Pidge will be okay if I’m in here when she gets up?” Shiro whispers, thumb grazing the heel of Keith’s hand. “You’d know better than I would.”

“She’s an adult.” Keith shrugs one shoulder, bumps Shiro’s knees with his own. “Besides, we could be in here reading the bible to each other with the door closed and she’d still make her own assumptions.”

Shiro bites his bottom lip, works it between his teeth. “I guess.”

Keith furrows his brows, studying Shiro’s troubled face as he wriggles a little closer. “You really don’t want her to think about you that way, do you?”

“I don’t want her to have to.” Shiro frowns and releases Keith’s hand to drag his own across his face. “I know she’s not actually my sister, I know she doesn’t have some puritanical view of me, it just isn’t a part of my life that’s ever had to cross with hers like this before.”

“She’s an adult,” Keith repeats. “And I’m still going to be living with her once it stops snowing. I’m not saying we fuck on the kitchen counter or anything, I’m not saying it might not be uncomfortable for a while, but we’re going to have to work this out eventually. I want you here.” He prods Shiro firmly in the chest. “I don’t want my bed to be off limits to you.”

Shiro sighs. “Me neither. I’m just picturing so many potential future conversations where everyone involved wants to blast into the centre of the sun.”

“Please stop,” Keith urges, so unwilling to follow Shiro down that rabbit hole. “I know you kind of watched her grow up, but she’s way more feral than you give her credit for. One time I saw her eat an egg salad sandwich off the kitchen floor.”

“Okay.” Shiro tilts his head a little. “Yuck.”

Keith smiles, relishing in the change of tone. “And one time – no, twice, two times I saw her eat a bean burrito while sitting in a stall in a Taco Bell bathroom. I was peeing like six feet away. Oh, and one time –”

Shiro interrupts, “You’re just making me worried about her food hygiene standards.”

Keith shrugs. “Makes more sense than worrying about her knowing where you’re sticking it.”

Shiro snorts and tugs playfully at Keith’s hand, drawing their bodies closer. “I haven’t stuck it anywhere.”

Keith lifts his chin defiantly. “You gonna?”

Shiro screws his eyes shut, body shaking a few times with silent laughter, long eyelashes fanning across his cheeks. “There’s pretty much no chance of me waking up next to you without a hard on, is there?”

“We can match,” Keith drawls, and brings his face inches from Shiro’s. “Now can I kiss you on your damn mouth?”

Shiro’s eyes open, blinking twice at Keith’s proximity and parting his lips to fan Keith’s skin with his warm breath. “Yeah. Kiss me on my damn mouth.”

Keith hums and closes his eyes as he wraps a hand around the back of Shiro’s neck and reels him in easily. Shiro’s lips are warm and open, pliant for Keith as he takes the lead and closes Shiro’s bottom lip between his own. Their noses bump as Keith tilts his head to deepen it, and Shiro takes a deep breath against his cheek and slides his hand around Keith’s waist, giving back, giving his tongue, giving a small unfocused sound as Keith’s head fills with cotton and his thighs tingle.

It lasts for minutes, not a means to an end, but the end itself, indulgent and unhurried. When it finally breaks, Keith’s lips feel swollen and Shiro’s are slick and rose red, the only splash of colour he can bring himself to focus on in the dark of the room.

When they finally sleep, it’s with Shiro’s thick arm around Keith’s waist and his body pressed to his back, ankles twined, warm, warm, warm.

Keith sleeps easily, like it isn’t the most unusual thing in the world to be so effortlessly careless.

 

--

 

As promised, Shiro’s poking Keith in his ass when he wakes up.

He yawns and wriggles his hips a little, and Shiro gasps and cants away from the pressure with a sleep thick, sarcastic, “Surprise.”

Keith chuckles as Shiro hooks his chin over Keith’s shoulder and lifts the blankets for the two of them to gaze down at Keith’s own dick where it’s happily doing whatever the hell it wants. It wants to stop being ignored. As often as not it’d be doing this whether Shiro was here or not, but if Shiro wasn’t here he’d either tamp an impatient hand into it and get on with his life, or slide his fingers past his waistband and take care of himself.

Which is suddenly the only thing Keith’s sluggish morning brain can think of.

He twists his head back and his cheek meets Shiro’s, and before he can think it through any further, he states, “I’m gonna go shower. I’m gonna go jack off in the shower.”

Shiro’s hand tightens around his waist and his breath hisses through his teeth.

Keith turns further in his arm to face Shiro’s wide eyes, and he offers, “Or you could go first? Or –” oh, the best idea, the best. “Or you could to it in my bed.” Shiro’s face looks stricken, and an impish smile creeps across Keith’s face as he urges, “Are you going to? Shiro?”

Shiro breaks out of his daze and bats at Keith’s hip. “Go. Go, go, go.”

Keith smiles, sits up, and darts in to press a kiss to Shiro’s flushed cheek, whispering, “Think of me.”

Then he laughs breathlessly and wrenches himself up, vaulting over Shiro’s body and detouring to the nightstand to dig his lube out and toss it blindly towards the bed.

Before he can dash out of the room, Shiro hisses, “Arm.”

Keith swerves back, fetches his prosthetic from the desk, and steals a significantly more untidy kiss from Shiro as he returns it to him.

He practically sprints to the bathroom, turning the water on and swiftly stripping before stepping under the warm spray.

The first close of his fingers around his length is bliss, and he leans forward on the tiles to hold himself up on one arm and let the water flow down his back. He squeezes, trickles running through his bangs and over his lips, and closes his eyes as he gives the first slow stroke.

He wants to think of Shiro, wants to imagine himself sinking his mouth over his cock and unravelling him, but he doesn’t know what it looks like and he wants to do it justice, so he imagines himself instead. He imagines Shiro’s large hands on his body where they belong, skin on skin, roaming wherever they want. He imagines him parting Keith’s thighs, taking his cock between his pink lips, his fingers questing back and finding his rim, pressing firmly, wanting in, wanting to open Keith up, wanting him like Keith knows he does.

He pictures Shiro in his bed right now doing this, sweater rucked up and boxers shoved down, one hand at his mouth and the other gripped around himself as he fucks into his fist and comes in Keith’s bed with Keith’s name on his lips, at the thought of his body, of their bodies together, moving.

He tightens his grip and quickens his pace, planting his feet further apart and pressing his forehead to the cool tile, heat building behind his navel, pulsing and boiling as he gasps and doesn’t make a sound. His head clears of all thought as he comes, eyes flying open to watch himself spill over his fingers in quick spurts, shuddering and catching his breath as his knees quake.

He cleans himself quickly, humming as his soapy hand passes between his legs and over his sensitive softening dick, his skin shower-hot and singing.

While he’s drying, he glances at his face in the foggy mirror. He likes what he sees. Eyes hooded and bright, cheeks dark and alive, towelled damp hair slicked back from his face. He wants Shiro to see him. He wants Shiro, far too far away from his satisfied body. He pulls his sweatpants up and doesn’t bother with his shirt, stepping out of the steam into the cool dry air of the apartment.

He raps his knuckles once before opening his bedroom door, and at the first glimpse of Shiro spilled out on the blankets, he moans and snaps it closed again, leaning back into it with a thud of his head on the wood.

When Shiro calls his name, he takes a breath and plunges in, this time leaning his forehead to the door as he closes it and seals them both inside.

“I’m gonna die.” He groans.

Shiro laughs, and his voice is low and ragged. “Come here.”

“If you touch me, I’ll die.”

“No, you won’t. Keith, come back to bed.”

It’s like a spell, and he turns and strides towards him where Shiro’s laid flat, a strip of stomach on display and his bare legs tangled in the blankets. He sees a ball of tissues in the trashcan as he sits on the edge of the mattress, and he’s pretty sure he is in fact going to die.

Shiro winds his arms around Keith’s waist without sitting up, pulling him back and curling around his seated body, burying his face in Keith’s bare stomach. Keith sinks his fingers into Shiro’s hair, holding him there and watching as Shiro rubs his nose on Keith’s belly and presses a kiss on his hip.

Shiro kisses him again, Keith’s muscles jumping, and whispers, “What did you think about?”

Keith trails his hand down, traces his thumb around Shiro’s jaw. “Your mouth. Your hands. You were so good to me.”

Shiro hums and drags his lips across the trail of hair leading down under Keith’s waistband. “So were you.”

Keith squeezes the back of Shiro’s neck. “What did you think about?” When Shiro just tightens his arms and lets out a low sound, Keith smiles and prompts, “Not sharing?”

Shiro mumbles into his skin, “Fantasy me is fast.”

Keith laughs, his cheeks pleasantly heating again at this bashful, clingy Shiro. “Real me doesn’t care.”

Shiro breathes into his skin for a few moments longer, then confesses, “You riding me. Sitting in my lap and taking me. Coming with you all around me.” He glides his hand up Keith’s side. “Baby, you’re so hot.”

Keith bends further over Shiro’s head and wills his breath not to shake, fingers winding deeper into his hair. “Did I love it?”

Shiro tilts his head, one eye visible and trained on Keith. “You pulled my hair.”

Keith takes a harsh breath at the scorching flames that flash down his back, and does just that. Twists his fingers gently but firmly, and tugs. The broken sound Shiro makes in response is pornographic, and he rises up, unfolds himself so he can push Keith very willingly back into the bed with a hand to his bare chest, and kneel over him as Keith arches up to meet his messy kiss.

It would be so easy for Shiro to slide one of his big hands into Keith’s sweatpants and work him to hardness again as Keith squirms beneath him, but Keith knows he won’t, so he settles for holding Shiro’s head in both his palms, drinking in every noise Shiro makes and adoring the sizable figure he cuts curving above him.

When Shiro’s thumb brushes across Keith’s nipple he chirps and smiles, and breathes, “I like that.”

Shiro pulls away a little, tousled hair in his eyes, and presses his thumb more purposefully. “This?”

Keith could just melt away. “Mm.”

Shiro responds by lowering his head and replacing his thumb with the flat of his tongue, then his lips, sucking lightly as Keith’s feet rise to the tips of their toes where they’re still planted on the floor. Shiro licks once, twice, then trails the tip of his tongue to the base of Keith’s throat while his hands skate down his side to rest around his waist, metal and flesh.

“You’re skinny.” He presses an open-mouthed kiss behind Keith’s ear, inhaling. “You smell good.”

Keith laughs breathlessly, feeling half wild, pinned beneath a hungry wolf. “You’re tall. Your hair’s grey.”

Shiro puffs quiet laughter into Keith’s wet hair. “You’re making fun of me.”

Shiro’s hand travels down Keith’s thigh and hooks under his knee, lifting and bending it towards Keith’s body.

He writhes, has no control over the way his body twists in reply to Shiro’s attention, and digs his fingertips into Shiro’s shoulder blades. “If you keep this up, I’m gonna lose my fucking mind.”

“You’ve got me so good,” Shiro mumbles between loose kisses at his neck.

Keith swallows, eyelashes fluttering beyond his control. “Right where I want you.”

Shiro folds Keith’s knee up further. “Wanna fuck you.”

Keith moans, and with herculean willpower rakes his fingers into Shiro’s fringe and pulls his head away. “But you won’t.”

Shiro’s eyes fall shut, and Keith can see him actively collecting himself, breaths coming longer and deeper, easing Keith’s leg back down and moving his hands to the safety of the mattress to hold himself up.

“Kiss me,” Keith orders, an insistent ball of warmth growing in his chest, separate from his arousal. “Then go take a shower. I’ll make us some coffee.”

Shiro obeys, slow and longing, and the heat by Keith’s heart grows two sizes.

When Shiro finally draws away and stands, he makes a beeline for Keith’s closet and states, “I’m stealing another shirt.”

Keith stays where he’s left, lifting a hand to his face and smiling helplessly into his fist.

 

--

 

The snow has stopped.

Keith pokes his head out the balcony door to gaze down the street to the intersection. The road adjacent has been recently ploughed, a few cars passing carefully in either direction as he watches. He slides the door closed with a click, and heads towards Shiro to join him on the sofa, but before he can sit Shiro’s hands catch his waist pull him down to sit heavily on his lap.

Keith regains his balance and perches on his knees, peering around to look at Shiro’s upturned innocent face.

Keith settles a little stiffly, and asks, “So, this feels normal?”

Shiro shrugs, hands still on his waist. “Sure, why not? You can get off if you want.”

Keith contemplates that for a moment. There’s something about it that feels a little – cutesy. He can’t say he’s a fan of the concept, but he is pretty taken by Shiro’s amused face as Keith wiggles and makes up his mind.

“No, I’m good.”

Shiro takes that as permission to wrap his arms around him fully and pull him until his back is leant to Shiro’s chest, and Shiro settles down into the corner of the sofa.

Keith brings one foot up to rest on the cushions, and covers Shiro’s hands where they’re joined over his stomach. “You can probably go home today.”

Shiro hums. “Probably.”

Pidge’s door opens across the room, and she emerges with a dirty bowl in her hand, cutting a glance at them where Keith is intensely aware that he’s currently being cuddled.

Voice dry as bone, she asks, “Room for one more?”

Shiro cranes around and immediately extends an arm in her direction with a smile. She narrows her eyes at them, dumps her plate at the sink, pivots on her heel and leaves.

Keith watches her door snap shut, and asks, “So, are you leaving?”

“Guess I could. Classes are still out, though.” Shiro’s hand returns to Keith’s waist. “Eager to see me go?”

“You’re fishing, Shiro.”

“Yep.” Shiro weaves his fingers through Keith’s. “Bite me.”

Keith is so fucking easy. “Don’t go yet.”

“Okay,” Shiro agrees before Keith’s even finished speaking.

He tries so, so hard not to let on how much that affects him. Shiro’s done nothing to indicate that he doesn’t want to be here, that he doesn’t want to be with Keith, but the reality of it, of hearing Shiro say it, is still hard to believe. Even with the friends he now has, reliability in any form in Keith’s life is still more an exception than a rule. Anyone choosing to stay gives him pause, Shiro choosing to do it knocks him flat.

Loathe to ask, but equally loathe to waylay Shiro from study or friends or literally anything that doesn’t involve Keith greedily dominating his attention, he urges, “You sure?”

“Mhm.” Shiro rests his head beside Keith’s. “I’m barely behind on marking, and I can cram if I have to. I feel like I’m on vacation. One more night.”

“Then I’ll get to see your place.” Keith runs a hand up the sleeve of Shiro’s sweater, snags a handful of it and tugs. “I’ll get to see if you own any other clothes.”

Shiro smiles down at Keith’s hand and jiggles his arm in his grasp. “You want it?”

Since the very first night. “So bad.”

“It’s yours. As soon as I have something else to put on, you can have it.”

Keith leans back heavily. “Is this your way of telling me I’m not getting my favourite t-shirt back?”

“What’s that?” Shiro’s tone is braided with feigned innocence. “You mean my t-shirt?”

Keith doesn’t care. He just so incredibly doesn’t care.

 

--

 

There’s a gorgeous man napping in Keith’s bed.

Keith just assumes that it’s normal for his chest to feel like it’s straining at the seams.

Pidge has commandeered Shiro’s jacket again, and Keith has commandeered his sunglasses, a bowl of deeply mediocre two-day-old soup in his hands. There’s an attempt at a snowman on the still hidden sidewalk below them, a sign that residents have begun escaping the confines of their homes.

Pidge’s voice is teasing, but not snide when she observes, “I’ve never seen you so domestic.”

Keith needlessly blows over a spoonful of soup, already halfway to cold. “You’ve never seen me any kind of domestic.”

“Feels like it should be weirder.” Pidge balances her tea on the crate beside her and crosses her legs, resting one ankle on her knee and fastidiously tucking her sock into her sweatpants when a strip of skin is exposed to the air. “Like a dog walking on his hind legs.”

Keith is rude in kind and makes sure to speak with his mouth full. “Feels like you want it to be weirder.”

“No, it’s just like,” she waves one hand in the air in a totally indecipherable gesture. “Peanut butter and jelly, you know?”

Keith shoots her an unimpressed glance. “I do not know.”

“Well, you were both just there,” Pidge holds her palms up and then clasps them in front of herself. “And now you’re together, and it’s like –”

“A sandwich,” he mumbles under his breath.

“Yes, like a fucking sandwich, that’s exactly what I’m trying to say to you, Keith.” She expels a frustrated little growl, and Keith reaches down to steady her tea where it wobbles beside her. “Don’t be obtuse.”

Aloof as possible, suddenly fairly eager to derail whatever the fuck Pidge is leading to, he asks, “Which one of us is jelly?”

“Forget it.” She throws her hands up and thumps back against the wall, crossing her arms like a cage.

He regrets it the second the train goes off the tracks, and lets out an audible sigh. “Pidge.”

“He looks happy,” She says, probably more forcefully than necessary, and has the decency to not look at Keith when she adds. “You look happy.”

He doesn’t say anything. The warmth that that remark kindles in him meets the cold now washing off Pidge and generates something decidedly tepid in his stomach. He feels like a fraud assuring Shiro to cope with how uncomfortable this might be when he suddenly feels it so acutely himself. He is happy. He’s so happy. It’s easy to admit, but it’s hard to talk about. With Shiro it’s simple, shared. As new for him as it is for Keith, undisturbed as unploughed snow. With Pidge he feels observed. That old sensation of eyes on him, staring. Something’s growing between him and Shiro, and whether Keith likes it or not, that something – and him, and Shiro – are on display for others to critique, even within the confines of their snow swaddled apartment.

“It’s nice.” Pidge continues, picking up her tea again with a hand now swathed in Shiro’s jacket. Her tone has softened somewhat, but her posture hasn’t. “Seeing him unwind. I think he has a hard time letting himself relax. I think he worries too much that he’ll fuck up again, or that he’ll disappoint my parents. Which is so stupid.” She takes a sip, and adds, “Doesn’t seem to be a problem around you.”

“Can’t be much on his plate while he’s stuck here,” Keith murmurs casually, still trying to deflect, and trying not to let on how cautious he is of talking about this when neither he or Pidge ever shy away from each other.

“I doubt that’d stop him.” She leans forward over her mug, glasses fogging and shoulders rising against the cold. “He used to make me nervous, the way he’d stress about things. He’d try to hide it, but he’s bad at it. Sometimes when he was living with us, he’d get sad and he’d barely talk to any of us for days.”

Keith knows that game. The one where opening your mouth feels like it’ll split you open all the way down.

He stirs his soup, scraping it off the sides, and quietly says, “You gonna tell him about all my low points, too?”

“Do you even know his name’s Takashi?”

His head snaps up, and he can feel the colour flooding his face. “Fuck you.”

She doesn’t turn to face him. “Should I just tell him all your good parts and pretend you aren’t an actual person with real flaws like the rest of us?”

“What are you doing?” he spits. He feels ashamed, angry that that may have been her intention, and hurt that she knew how. “Actually, you know what? I don’t care.”

It’s my story too.” Pidge looks across at him then as he begins to stand, just for a moment before looking away, but it pierces Keith with the ferocity of it, pins him in place. “I was just a kid. He came into my life out of nowhere, he was a fucking stranger to me, and he was so hard to be around sometimes. For the first couple of months before I knew him, I always felt like I was tip toeing around my own home. I hated it. When he got like that, he could feel so fucking cruel. Just, you know. Cold. Matt always got the worst of it because they were the closest, and I hated seeing him making my brother sad too, so I didn’t want to like him, and I let him know it. I made him call me Katie. I made him feel like he was a problem. And it didn’t matter anyway, because it only made Matt mad at me for being so rude to him.” She pauses for a moment, glasses slipped to the tip of her nose as she gazes into her drink. “I think Shiro still feels bad about that, and I feel worse because I was just a kid and I didn’t care that he couldn’t help how sad he was. I’d complain to my parents about him, and I took weeks to let go of it when he started trying to be my friend.”

Keith stares somewhere around her knee, unsure what to say or how to react, resentment still simmering under his skin. “Pidge –”

“Just, shut up, okay? Let me finish.” She’s looking in the direction of the crappy snowman below, mug clutched to her chest and foot bouncing where it’s crossed over her knee. “He was distant and his mood changed with the weather, but he always showed up. He took the time get to know me at my pace, even after I made him feel so unwanted. Even when you could tell he was barely holding it together, and even when you could tell how hard it was for him to be smiling. He came to my high school graduation. He got a haircut and wore a nice shirt and sat with my family. He gave me the biggest bunch of yellow roses, and I felt so fucking special. I’ve never tried to censor myself to fit in, and Shiro didn’t care. He’s like Matt. They’ve always been proud of me for being smart and they’ve never wanted me to change. Matt’s always loved me, but Shiro didn’t have to bother. I don’t think I’ve ever told him how much that means to me.” She takes a short breath, lets it out. “I’ve never told you that, either.”

Oh.

She’s never had to. It’s unspoken. She buys him breakfast when she’s up before him on their shared mornings off. She doesn’t call him out when he leaves hairs all over the basin or when he leaves dirty dishes all over the living room. She texts him when he doesn’t come home at night. She leaves notes to communicate with him when he’s locked himself in his room to avoid the world with a panicked urgency.

It’s all just so fucking weird. He feels a longing for intimacy with Shiro that he’s never felt with anyone, but Pidge has still known Shiro longer, and Pidge still knows him better. Keith wants to take all of Shiro’s clothes off and run him ragged and lay with him for hours, but Pidge slept under the same roof and shared meals with Shiro for over a year. Shiro knows Keith has experienced loss, but Pidge has seen him weep for it, chest wracking sobs where she hugged Keith’s vodka-soaked head to her chest in his bed and didn’t make him speak about it the next morning. Shiro met Pidge at an age when Keith was still realising just how inarguably gay he is, and how that changed the way he saw his place in the world – the magnitude of things he didn’t know about himself. It’s a triumvirate of weird, and they’re all shoulder to shoulder in this apartment rubbing each other’s noses in how staggeringly not-simple literally anything is.

Keith’s gained Shiro, and Pidge has gained the responsibility of having to figure out how to react to that. Maybe he should feel obliged to be embarrassed for how hard he’s fallen for a man he’s just met, and how much he likes the idea of Shiro feeling welcome to his fortified affection.

He doesn’t want to care. He doesn’t want to care if anyone else does.

Things Keith does know, conditions notwithstanding, fucking weirdness notwithstanding. He’s wild about Shiro. He fucking loves Pidge.

She’s his first best friend and she’s everything to him.

“Pidge.” Keith reaches out and plucks at her elbow to make her look at him again. When she does her lips are pursed and her brows are drawn. “You aren’t losing anything.”

She sighs deeply, jaw unclenching and shoulders sinking. “Just my pride, apparently. I know I don’t own you. You make up a considerable percentage of my friends, though. Double digits.”

Like it isn’t the same for Keith. Like she doesn’t constitute a majority of his conversations. Like she isn’t his family too.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he assures, sliding his hand into the crook of her elbow and linking their arms together. “As long as you’re happy about seeing more of Shiro, that’s kind of all the plan I have right now.”

She raises an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t say I’m seeing more of him now.”

Yeah, okay. Keith wants to break the ice, so he smashes a sledgehammer through it. “Don’t read into it, I haven’t even touched his dick yet.”

“Holy fuck, Keith.” If she’d had a mouthful of tea, Keith would be wearing it. She shoves at the side of his head with an open palm and lets out a harsh bark of laughter. “I want you and Shiro to have everything you want in life, but feel free to spare me the gory details.”

Keith smirks. “Want me to buy you some ear plugs?”

“If you’re offering.”

Blunt honesty has always been a primary ingredient in the glue that binds them. Keith wants her to understand. He doesn’t want her to feel uncomfortable. He doesn’t want her to feel so strongly just how weird this all is, but pretending it isn’t and pretending that she doesn’t know exactly what’s going on was only going to alienate her and make it weirder for longer. She’s always made it easy for Keith to forget he isn’t good with people, but sometimes he forgets that there are situations that no one knows how to handle.

“I am. Glad that he’ll be around more.” Pidge cautiously leans into him a little, and an ominous smile creeps across her face. “I hope you like shitty third wheels.”

Keith meets her halfway, the sturdy buttress of their joined shoulders. “You’re good at everything.”

She rolls her eyes and settles her arm more securely with his.

A snow plough rumbles in the distance, and a door opens across the street.

 

--

 

“You weren’t at the Holt’s Christmas lunch,” Shiro states, slicing cheese in the kitchen as Keith lays out the last four slices of bread for sandwiches.

It isn’t phrased like a question, and Keith knows Shiro must have been there himself. “Nope.”

“You were invited?”

“Yeah.” Keith opens a jar of mustard and turns to pull a butter knife from the drawer. “Didn’t really feel like being the only person at the table who didn’t know everyone else.”

Shiro grunts. “Guess I don’t really help there.”

Keith shrugs. “Pidge knew why I bailed. She was cool with it.”

Christmas alone isn’t a big deal to Keith these days. He’s actually managed to work some of his shit out over the years. A select few things he’s funnelled so much energy into being disappointed by, only to wake up one day and realise they just weren’t worth the effort anymore. Clouds clearing to blue sky. Being alone on Christmas doesn’t mean he can’t stock the fridge with festive food or get a kick out of the little plastic tree he and Pidge set up in the corner. The fairy lights still twinkle just the same. Hunk and Lance were out of town, but he and Pidge still exchanged their paltry gifts on Christmas eve morning before she left to stay at her parents’ place for the night. If Christmas is people, then this last one just fell a day earlier for Keith.

Shiro sets the cheese aside and starts on a tomato. “Next time they ask us all for dinner, would you come?”

He asks it casually, but it does nothing to alleviate the significance of the question. They may not be Shiro’s parents, but there’s no one nearer.

Keith busies his hands arranging rectangles of cheese like puzzle pieces. “Maybe. If they wanted me there, I’d think about it.”

“They will.” Shiro sounds like he’s choosing his words carefully. “Would it help if I told you I wouldn’t leave you alone with them if you didn’t want me to?”

Keith swallows in a desperate attempt to clear the hard shape forming in the back of his throat, and doesn’t look up at Shiro when he murmurs, “I hate that you know that I’d like that.”

Shiro puts the knife down. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Keith exhales. He rests his hip off the counter and claims Shiro’s newly freed hand in his own, picking it up and staring at it as he turns his palm to the ceiling. “You see a lot. Sometimes too much. It’s kind of hard to get used to.”

Shiro watches as Keith fidgets with his fingers. “I don’t want to push you. Don’t let me.”

“You aren’t.” He knows he’s guarded, but up against his defences Shiro’s never done more than knock politely at them, requesting entry. When he looks up at Shiro’s face, his expression trained cautious on Keith, he adds, “I won’t.”

Shiro twists to face him, lays his hand in the crook of Keith’s neck and smooths it over his shoulder, down his arm to where their hands are joined, closing Keith’s in both of his so he’s the one doing the holding.

“I know it might not help, but they really are harmless. They’d probably just ask you about school and dig for stories about Pidge. They wouldn’t pry.”

Keith lets Shiro knead his knuckles with his thumb, and looks up at him dolefully. “I guess coping by getting catastrophically drunk is off the table.”

“Probably not ideal.” Shiro’s brows knit in an apologetic knot, and he easily spools Keith closer until their thighs are inches apart. “We could have a beer beforehand, if it helps.”

Keith tips forward, his temple thudding against Shiro’s collar. “Pre-gaming a family dinner.”

“A hypothetical family dinner.” Shiro laughs, deep and slow. “You don’t have to pretend these things are easy.”

“I want to meet them properly,” Keith admits, gazing down at their two sets of feet. “I do. They seem like good people. They are good people. Just – maybe let’s try going for dinner alone a few times first. Ask me again later, if it comes up.”

Shiro’s hands envelop his shoulders and tilt him back slightly, and when Keith looks up, Shiro’s smile is blindingly bright. “Do you like curry? Have you ever had Burmese?”

It’s contagious. He can’t help but smile back. “Nuh uh.”

“You don’t like it?”

“I’ve never had it.”

“You want to? This weekend?” Shiro asks, an unmistakable flush of pink across his nose. “There’s a hole in the wall near my place. They serve like seven things, and they only have three tables. I’m always scared I’m gonna break their chairs, It’s amazing.”

Keith tamps his smile down to stop it from growing even wider, and instead of saying you’re so fucking cute, he says, “Take me there.”

Shiro hums happily and cups Keith’s jaw in his hand, tipping his head up as he leans down to cover Keith’s mouth in the softest kiss.

Keith’s breath whispers out of him, and he rises up onto his toes, exalted by the way Shiro fingers ease back into his hair. He leans heavily into Shiro’s body as he reaches up to trail his fingertips down his cheek in wonder.

“Look at you, kissing me in the light of day.”

Shiro shakes his head, kisses him again, short and gentle. “You’re not funny.”

“I’m a riot.” Keith’s lips part involuntarily, tingling, chasing the sensation of Shiro’s against them. “Do it again.”

He does, hand avidly gripping Keith’s waist, urging Keith to push back against him as his tongue brushes Keith’s, drawing guileless sighs and filling him with anticipation.

 

--

 

When Keith was a kid, a little one, five or six, his dad would take him out to stargaze in his pyjamas before it was too late for him to keep his eyes open anymore.

He’d sit in a careless heap on his dad’s lap, trying to follow the line of his finger as he pointed out planets visible to the naked eye. Orange Mars and bright white Venus. Giggling as his dad tickled his side and swore up and down that a random selection of dots was supposed to look like a dog. He remembered the brightest star was called Sirius, but he still asked him to point it out every time. One day they’d get a dog, he’d said. Maybe a pair so they have company when the two of them weren’t there.

He’d pretend to fall asleep so his dad would carry him inside, tuck him in, and kiss his hair. Such a small thing, a joy so simple he wonders if he’d even miss it if his dad were still alive. If they’d had more time to form enough memories and traditions to fill his heart as it grew.

After he died, Keith didn’t pay attention to the night sky for a long time. It was all just noise. Too dazzling, too spectacular. Obnoxiously blinding against his dry eyes, too tired to cry any more. He barely knew anything of the world, and he was already overly familiar its arbitrary cruelty. The cosmos couldn’t help him. But all that wonder ground against him trying to get his attention, and eventually it did. There was Mars, there was Venus, there was Sirius and that stupid stick figure dog, like a child’s drawing. There was his dad’s finger tracing messy crayon lines, and directing Keith to the comfort of the unknown.

Stargazing with Pidge is an excuse to avoid responsibilities more than it is about constellations. Sitting out on the balcony with takeaway pizza and a six pack of bad beer, trying to make each other laugh, and trying to keep their voices low to not piss of their neighbours. Staring out into the darkness and pointing out shooting stars as they curve to the Earth. So many of the constellations Keith knows lost to the haze of the city. Sirius still brighter than all the others.

Out on the balcony with Shiro, patchy clouds chase each other across the sky, stars only visible in small windows of luminous freckles splashed across the heavens, and Keith kisses Shiro like he imagined people kissed when he was a teenager. Greedy and playful, his hands grasped in the collar of Shiro’s jacket, chasing Shiro’s mouth when he moves away, and smiling into small kisses peppered in between. There are blankets draped around both of their shoulders, and Shiro’s hands are warm and heavy on his thighs, thumbs tracing the inner seam of his jeans.

When he huddles into Shiro’s side, he waits for a gap in the clouds to find Orion’s belt, the three neat bright dots cinching his waist, and point his finger at the sky to trace down to glowing Sirius. There’s no way Shiro couldn’t find it on his own, but he still leans in to Keith’s arm and closes one eye to follow his finger’s course before the clouds swallow Sirius up again.

Keith wants to do this every night. Wants to sit with Shiro and watch as the dark landscape alters above them with the passing weeks and months. New planets showing their faces, stars waxing and waning with their endless orbit. Sometimes joined by Pidge and pizza and bad beer to try to make each other laugh and try to keep their voices down. New memories, new traditions.

Keith isn’t tired, but he wants to go to bed anyway, hand in hand with Shiro, leading him behind him to the darkness of his room.

 

--

 

Shiro comes to his bed without convincing now, takes his jeans off without preface now, lays forehead to forehead with Keith in the dark.

“Your name’s Takashi,” Keith whispers.

Shiro makes a quizzical sound. “Pidge?” Keith nods. “It’s a long time since she’s called me that.”

Keith closes his eyes, and confesses, “I felt stupid for not knowing.”

He feels Shiro’s fingers brush his hair off his face, and opens his eyes as they come to rest spanning his cheek and jaw and behind his ear.

“I barely use it anymore,” Shiro explains, thumb sweeping back and forth below Keith’s eye. “Only when I have to, official stuff, you know. My parents used it, and my grandparents. The rest of my family still use it.”

“You don’t like it?”

“No, it’s fine. They gave it to me, and that’s important.” Shiro exhales through his nose, is silent for a moment, like he’s thinking. “Shiro’s short for Shirogane. They left it with me. It belonged to them too. It’ll always be something of theirs and I’ll always carry it.” He shrugs one shoulder. “Shiro’s just how I see myself.” His palm slides firm around to the back of Keith’s neck and the fall of his hair. “You’re just Keith, right?”

Keith nods, temple grinding softly against Shiro’s. “Yeah.”

“I’m just Shiro.”

Keith smiles, small. “I like Shiro.”

Shiro closes the gap between them and kisses him once. “I like Keith.”

That spring of honesty that fills to the brim around Shiro wobbles and spills over its side. He’s never had a crush, he’s never had a boyfriend, he doesn’t know how this should feel.

“I’m scared I like you too much.”

Shiro doesn’t move away, or startle, or leave him alone in his bed. He just gently squeezes the scruff of his neck. “What’s too much?”

“I don’t know.” Keith licks his lips, recalls the bitter shame Pidge had stirred at Keith wanting Shiro so much and knowing him so little. “I feel so good when I’m around you, like maybe it can’t be real. I feel like I feel too much, but I don’t think I can feel any less.”

“Then I like you too much, too.” His voice is solemn and steady, and he brushes his nose against Keith’s. “But I want to be with you. That’s real. I think you’re beautiful, and you make me feel sexy, and you make me laugh, and I feel so proud when you smile at me.” Keith has to hold his breath, he feels so much. “That’s all real. The way you make me feel.”

Keith keeps finding himself letting go around Shiro, letting his guard down, baring his vulnerable throat and the pulse pumping beneath. Every time it doesn’t go poorly, and every time he doesn’t find himself lying in a pool of his own blood, he wants to do it again. Tell Shiro more, let him in more, feel that clandestine rush of Shiro knowing something about him that he finds difficult to share. It feels almost erotic. The way Keith’s blood travels to his face and the hairs stand up on his body and his voice dips intimately low.

His skin prickles, knowing it’s about to get a fresh hit.

“You make me feel weak.” Keith murmurs, and lays a hand on Shiro’s chest. “I don’t let people do that to me, but you make it feel like it isn’t a bad thing.”

Shiro covers his hand with his own, sighs out a long breath, is silent for so long, then confesses, “I am scared of that.”

Keith leans back just a little, better to see Shiro’s eyes. “Of feeling weak?”

“Of showing it.” Shiro laughs, short and jagged. “I feel weak a lot. I know there’s nothing wrong with that, not in me or anyone, I do, it’s just.” Shiro’s thumb moves against Keith’s skin, back and forth across his knuckles. “Easy to know, harder to reconcile.”

Keith knows what trust feels like to him, because it’s a rarity. A four-leaf clover. It feels like this.

He leans in, all the way, kisses the corner of Shiro’s mouth. “Can I help?”

“You think I share these things with anyone?” Shiro kisses him back hard, close mouthed and fierce, and exhales unevenly against his cheek. “You help.”

They both kiss each other then, nothing unsure or daunting about it, the most clear-cut thing in the universe.

Keith knows no one can help you up if you don’t let them see you when you’re down, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Not for him and not for Shiro. It makes his throat feel thick, knowing Shiro’s neck is bared too, unafraid of Keith’s fangs. Knowing with certainty that he isn’t the only one who knows the feel of the hard earth under his back.

He doesn’t beg Shiro to be careful with his heart, because he doesn’t think he needs to.

 

--

 

Keith wakes to Shiro’s hands dipping the mattress on either side of him, and his body settling heavy onto his back. Keith makes a curious sound and reaches behind himself to find warm, dewy skin. Shiro’s bare arm, his bare back, and further down the soft terry cloth of a towel at his waist.

Shiro kisses him behind his ear, and murmurs, “Pidge has gone for groceries. She’ll be out for a while.”

Keith’s body instantly wakes, instantly interested, and Shiro eases himself off Keith and swings his legs over the edge of the mattress to let Keith sit and process and stare. Shiro’s hair is shower damp, and he’s beautiful, all skin, skin, and grey eyes watching him with equal parts fondness and intent.

He takes one of Keith’s hands to pull him closer, and Keith goes so willingly as Shiro leans in and kisses him right on his morning mouth.

Turns out Pidge was wrong. Shiro’s so nasty.

He rests his forehead off Keith’s, and whispers, “What do you want?”

God, what doesn’t he want, the list is so much shorter. He doesn’t see the sense in preamble at this point, so he tucks a finger into Shiro’s towel at his waist, and murmurs, “This off.”

Shiro silently obliges, grabs a handful of cloth and tugs it away and out from under himself, leaving him perfectly naked. He isn’t hard yet, pale curls, heavy and thick and a little bigger than Keith. Faded scars pepper him, some of them alarmingly long, purple or puckered white. If Shiro feels exposed with Keith fully clothed beside him, he doesn’t show it, and Keith places a hand on Shiro’s flawless marked chest as he leans in to kiss him again, and trails it down, down, then down the length of Shiro’s dick before closing it in his hand.

His foreskin moves with his fingers as he strokes once, and Shiro offers a short brittle groan, and asks, “Have you been with an uncut guy before?”

Keith strokes again, finally looking down at the heady sight of his hand around Shiro. “I’m not either.”

Shiro laughs breathlessly, and grunts as Keith twists. “Am I patronising you yet?”

Keith hums. “You have a nice dick, Shiro.”

“Oh my god.” Shiro laughs again, a slight frantic edge to it, and slides his hand under Keith’s shirt. “Do you want to get undressed? I wanna take this off.”

Good idea. He strokes Shiro one more time before releasing, and stands beside the bed, promptly finding himself manoeuvred between Shiro’s thighs by the hips. Keith loves it, being handily moved where Shiro wants him to go. And apparently Shiro is impatient, because Keith barely has his shirt around his ears before Shiro snags his sweatpants on either side and drags them down to fall at his ankles. Keith steps out of them and tosses his shirt aside, heat in his face, but strangely unembarrassed by his hardening length now directly in front of Shiro’s face.

Shiro’s hands find his hips again, travelling down Keith’s haunches, then around to knead the curves of his ass as Keith’s settle on Shiro’s shoulders.

His breath catches as Shiro leans in, pressing an open kiss to his thigh, and announcing, “I like these.”

Shiro’s lips graze up an inch. “My legs?”

“Mm.”

One more kiss, and he gives Keith just enough time to brace himself as he grips him around the base, draws his skin back a little, and unhurriedly, almost casually covers the head of Keith’s dick with his lips.

Keith can’t deny that the sound that escapes him is a whine, Shiro sucking lightly, his tongue flicking out and then flattening as he dips his head and takes more. He doesn’t go too deep, short bobs, tighter on the off stroke, the hand still bracing Keith from behind grabbing flesh and squeezing. Keith can already feel his breath running away, sagging more heavily on Shiro, his hair tumbling in his eyes where he can’t look away from Shiro’s lips sealed around him.

When Shiro pulls off, it’s with one last lingering suck at his head. He looks up at Keith with his eyes and lips and chin shining, and he asks again, voice low, “What do you want?”

Keith actually thinks this time, fills the silence as his brain ticks over by laying his palm to Shiro’s cheek and tugging in wonder at his slick bottom lip with his thumb.

He finally decides, already climbing on the bed with slightly unstable legs, and hooking Shiro by the arm to lure him along, “How you imagined. I wanna ride you. I want you to fuck me, Shiro.”

He stretches out on his back so Shiro will come to him, will finally cover Keith’s body with his own. They both make their own satisfied sounds as they slide together, Keith’s dick bumping against Shiro’s hard stomach, Shiro’s nudging off the inside of his thigh, their mouths meeting. Shiro’s hands won’t stop moving, exploring Keith’s chest and arms and stomach as Keith grabs at his back. His right hand brushes Keith’s nipple how he already knows Keith likes, slightly cooler metal making him hiss elated breath into their kiss.

Shiro breaks away to stretch over to the nightstand for the bottle of lube there, and Keith happily occupies himself pressing his mouth to Shiro’s jaw and neck, the hollow of his breastbone. He spreads his legs as Shiro sits back on his heels, dedicated to putting on a show, to feeling bold and unabashed under Shiro’s attention, lifting his arms above his head and biting his lip through a very meant smile as Shiro coats his fingers.

He braces his hand by Keith’s head and draws him into another kiss at the first touch of his fingertips between Keith’s legs, and Keith spreads his knees further for him, plants his feet flat on the bed. He circles slowly, a slick slide that Keith hums and pushes into, and when Shiro’s first finger slips past his rim he grasps the back of Shiro’s neck and falls out of their kiss, lets his head drop back, and exhales a shuddery breath at the headboard.

He slides his finger in, twists and crooks it and draws back, then in again. “You feel good?”

“Mm, yes.”

“You look amazing.” A second presses beside the first, stretches to fit, and Keith tries not to squirm too much. “You feel amazing.”

Keith opens his eyes and looks down. Shiro’s head is craned to watch himself as he works Keith open, his own dick hanging flushed and fully hard, and Keith wants it. Knows he’s going to get it, Shiro’s going to give it to him, and lightning flashes in his abdomen at the thought.

“I feel—” Keith gasps as Shiro’s knuckles bump at his entrance, moving deeper. “Oh, I feel like you’re doing all the work.”

“Doesn’t feel like work.” Shiro laughs softly and meets Keith’s gaze, hungry and determined. “Don’t worry about me.”

“I’m not – worried, I want to take care of you too.”

Shiro’s breathing is so gratifyingly as uncontrolled as Keith’s. “You’re taking care of me now.”

“Shiro.” Keith lets his legs drop, too much effort to focus on keeping them up right now. “Shiro, I wanna fuck you too, not now, but – but later, next time, will you—”

Shiro’s clever fingers twist. “Yes.”

Shiro kneels, his free hand following one of Keith’s legs down to close all the way around his ankle. He lifts it up and kisses the sharp bone of it, sending his busy fingers on a sweet new course that has Keith practically vibrating.

His hand tucks up behind Keith’s knee, fingers slipping in sweat and sending a bead sliding all the way down Keith’s thigh.

He smiles a little and pushes Keith’s knee gently toward his chest. “How far does this bend?”

Keith’s back bows off the bed, ass spread on display, stuffed full of Shiro’s fingers and leaking on his own belly. “Try me.”

Shiro’s smile quickly melts into endearing attentiveness as he leans a little harder, not even a strain. “More?”

Keith laughs breathlessly and hooks his arm beside Shiro’s hand to pull his knee to rest at his clavicle. “Want them around your shoulders? Your neck?” He brings his free heel around to rest on the small of Shiro’s back. “Would you like my thighs even better around your face?”

Shiro blinks and sweeps his splayed hand down Keith’s chest, dragging through the sticky pool on his stomach and brushing his dick as it goes. “I’d like them anywhere.”

He almost pulls out to begin pressing a third finger inside, and Keith bears down, awkwardly shuffles his ass to meet it, greedy for the stretch he knows is coming. Shiro’s fingers are thicker than his own, can turn at maddening angles Keith can’t achieve himself, and he groans and squeezes his eyes shut, savouring the pleasant burn. He could come like this, the steady build in his abdomen punctuated by devastating sparks and pulses, small blissful samples of what’s to come.

Keith releases his leg to tangle his hand in his own hair, heart drumming a tattoo behind his bones. “This isn’t your lap.”

Shiro’s mouth lands on his in an off-centre kiss, half lips, half cheek, and he whispers against Keith’s panting mouth, “No, it isn’t. Think you can go twice, baby?”

God, if only to see what happens next, he’ll manage anything. “Yeah, yes.”

Shiro mouths at his neck, his chest, his stomach, closes his lips around his cock again, and Keith cries out into his own hand and arches, hips pinned in place like they’re nothing by Shiro’s free arm, fingers pumping slowly and mouth taking so much more than before. He feels himself hit the back of Shiro’s throat and his eyes blink rapidly open, unseeing, scrabbling at the sheets now as Shiro finds that perfect spot inside and delights it when Keith spasms in response.

He bats at Shiro’s shoulder, unable to say a thing over the freight train rattle in his head, and Shiro has the sense to draw almost fully off as Keith loses it, all sound cutting off, the clean toll of a bell in his ears as he comes in Shiro’s open mouth.

Shiro works him through it, soothes him down, and Keith refrains from the high squeak that tries to leave him as Shiro slowly draws out of him, pawing at Shiro’s head when he comes back up to meet him, as he tastes himself bitter on Shiro’s tongue.

“Thank you,” Shiro breathes, a low rasp in his voice, and Keith is still too out of it to ask him what for. “You’re so fucking beautiful.”

Keith’s head rolls giddily, chainsaw buzz in his limbs, all over his skin. “You are.”

Shiro lets Keith hold him down, lets Keith thank him without words, Shiro’s neglected cock catching and dragging wet on Keith’s body with every twist and turn. Before Keith can gather the initiative to do something about that, one of Shiro’s hands squeezes under Keith’s shoulder.

“Roll over, honey.”

Keith does, rag doll limp and unquestioning, heart pounding, and asks, “How to you do that?”

Shiro’s palms skate down his back. “Do what?”

“The pet names.” Keith flattens his cheek to the pillow, fists closing loosely on either side of his head. “You make them sound so—” perfect, meant for him, as right as his name. “—normal.”

Shiro’s hands pass over the swell of his ass and tighten on his thighs below. “I don’t know. It’s just how you feel to me.”

Keith smiles lazily, so comfortable and so at ease. “You feel like a darling.”

Shiro hums happily. “I like that.”

“I knew you would,” Keith mumbles, warm all over in the cool room. “I’ll work on it.”

Keith feels Shiro drop a kiss on his tailbone, hot and damp, as his thumbs gently spread his cheeks apart. “Is this okay?”

Oh god, Keith holds his breath, and lets it tremble out again. “Fuck. Yes.”

Shiro starts with a lick, tongue flat, beginning behind his balls and laving up over his hole. Keith twitches, makes a sound like a bird, and holds onto his pillow for dear life. Shiro’s nose nudges his skin, all tongue first, then kisses, sucking and wet, before he breaks through, dips inside and sets Keith on fire.

He can’t stay still, face grinding into the pillow, knees bending, breaths clipped, his soft dick trapped beneath him already desperately trying to perk interest again. Shiro chuckles and traps one leg to lay a kiss on his thigh before diving back in.

Shiro.”

“Mhm?” He doesn’t stop, he sounds like he’s fucking loving it.

Now, want you in, I want you inside.”

Shiro’s mouth leaves him, and he catches Keith’s waist with both hands and effortlessly lifts him up to kneel, crossing one arm over his chest as Keith feels his erection nudge at his back. “Tell me where you want me.”

No question. “Facing me, I wanna see you.”

Shiro grips his jaw and tilts his head to kiss him clumsily over his shoulder, the plasticky taste of lube joining the taste of Shiro and the taste of Keith. Keith turns in his hold, folds his arms around Shiro’s neck and his legs around his waist, lets him hook a strong arm under his ass and lift him long enough to slump back against the pillows with Keith finally in his lap.

Shiro kisses him again once, and admits, “I don’t think I’ll last long.”

“I don’t care.” Keith shakes his head, hair plastered to the cold sweat on his forehead. “I want you to come, you’ll get me hard again. I want to watch. Just go slow.”

Shiro groans. “Condoms?”

“In the drawer.”

Keith watches as Shiro rolls one onto himself, arms still looped around Shiro’s neck, trying to level out his breathing and put some semblance of a leash on how much his body wants this. Shiro retrieves the lube and coats himself, reaches behind Keith to wipe the excess down his centre and pump one finger into him.

“You ready?”

Keith nods. “Go so slow.”

He raises a little on his knees as Shiro grips himself and lines up, let’s his dick glide past Keith’s balls and catch on his rim, and Shiro inhales at the touch, beginning to splinter apart like Keith already has. The first press of the head feels huge, and Keith somehow manages to hold himself up on foal weak legs with his face buried in Shiro’s shoulder as he pushes in with an almost soundless moan by Keith’s ear, and Keith sinks down to take him all, nails digging into Shiro’s back.

Shiro ends up doing most of the work, setting his hands under Keith’s straining thighs and then his ass, hard and soft, flexing and tightening as Shiro’s length simmers in him, stoking the crackling embers behind his navel. Shiro does as asked, and keeps an agonisingly measured pace, scarcely thrusting, hips stuttering with each drag. He barely makes a sound, pants and breathes and hisses, reverently silent, broken by an occasional hallowed grunt at the involuntary constrictions of Keith around his cock.

On one inward thrust Shiro pauses and holds Keith down, eyelashes fluttering. “You’re so tight.”

“You’re big.” Keith waits him out, savours the whole length of him buried inside. “Big all over.”

Shiro holds his unfocused gaze. “Am I hurting you?”

“God, no.” Keith groans. “You’re perfect.”

“Can you touch me?” Slowly, Shiro begins moving again. “Talk to me, let me hear your voice.”

Yes. He pets his chest, his stomach, scrapes his short nails up his side, and starts babbling.

“Wanna do more than put it in you. Wanna taste you, Shiro, want my mouth all over you. I bet you’re so sweet, I—” Shiro drags over that perfect spot inside him, and he cries out, almost laughing. “I bet you taste like bubblegum.”

Shiro tugs him down harder, and Keith cries out, lowers his head to suck at the skin below his jaw.

He licks at the salt of Shiro’s sweat, and asks, “How do you want me to do you first?”

Shiro jolts beneath him, speaking fast and slurred. “I dunno, however you want.”

Keith squeezes around him. “No, however you want, stop thinking of me, you’re so good to me, think of yourself. I’ll give you anything you want, what’s your favourite?”

Shiro breathes through his nose, almost whimpers. “Behind. Hands and knees, or over—over the bed, wanna feel your hands on my hips.”

It spirals in Keith’s stomach, his lower back, his balls. “I wanna give you that so bad, I’ll make it so you love it, I’ll make it so good for you.”

Shiro mouths at his chest, finds a nipple. “I know you will.”

He’s so full, aware of every inch, of every quaver in Shiro’s muscles, and every aborted buck of his hips beneath him. He doesn’t touch himself, and doesn’t ask Shiro to. Not until Shiro’s had his turn and Keith’s left him fucked out and satisfied and liquid in his arms. He knows Shiro will take care of him.

Keith palms Shiro’s hair off his forehead, pressing their brows together and puffing against his cheek. “Tell me when you want to come.”

Shiro moans, sending shocks through Keith’s mantle. “I might not – ngh, have much say in that.”

Blood pounding in Keith’s ears, he twines his fingers in Shiro’s hair and hears him gasp. “Go faster, Shiro.”

Shiro slumps down further, and his hips snap up, skin slapping against Keith’s ass he shouts and arcs the rope of his spine. Shiro holds him in place, white-knuckled on his skin, and Keith tries to let his whole body fall loose for Shiro. Not used, but offered, dreamlike. Laid at Shiro’s alter for him to do with as Keith wants. For him to feel as good as he makes Keith feel. Revered and treasured as Shiro thunders towards his peak.

Given and taken, submitting as Shiro serves.

Keith feels Shiro’s thrusts meaningfully falter, hears his breath catch and watches his mouth fall open, and Keith clenches around him, twists his fingers in Shiro’s hair and yanks. Keith wants to see his face when he reaches the edge, so he holds him there as Shiro gulps air and shakes, eyes squeezed shut, the image searing itself in Keith’s memory, a holy relic. Then he releases, and Shiro’s body lurches forward, his head falling into Keith’s chest as a long moan pours out of him, and Keith feels him pulse inside, frozen in place as he comes.

“You’re so good.” Keith cradles his head as he catches his breath against Keith’s skin and shudders with aftershocks. “Oh—Shiro, tell me how good you feel.”

Shiro makes a low indecipherable sound, and Keith leans further in and smiles against his cheek. “What was that?”

Shiro’s hands squeeze once on Keith’s ass. “I don’t think I can move.”

Keith mouths a kiss by his ear, still full of Shiro’s length and lazily churning with constant low-level pleasure. “No hurry.”

Shiro butts his head further into Keith. “I wanted to make you come again.”

“Then make me come again.”

He reaches behind himself, loosely grips Shiro by the base and lifts up, letting Shiro fall out of him. Shiro rumbles, and Keith shuffles back and carefully pinches the condom off, leaning over to drop it in the trashcan by the bed. Before he’s even settled again, Shiro has his hand around him, stroking him to hardness, easily fuelling him towards orgasm.

Keith whines, swaying a little with the effort of staying upright. “Shiro, your—your face when you came, I wish you could see how good you look.”

“That was you,” Shiro purrs, holding Keith’s chin in his hand and breathing against his open mouth. “You did that, sweetest thing.”

Keith’s breath sobs into him, head rolling on his neck and eyes barely open. “Fu—uck.”

He fights his failing muscles to hold himself up, and Shiro licks at his shoulder. “Do you want my fingers?”

Keith sighs, he feels drunk. “Just—don’t stop, just keep doing that.”

Shiro twists his fist and smoothly slides two fingers inside. And that does it, has him tipping into Shiro’s chest and shivering as he’s unmade, emptying weakly onto Shiro’s hand and stomach, seismic tremors ripping through his body.

Shiro falls flat as he falls forward, splayed out on top of him, warm and wet as one of Shiro’s arms drops heavy across his back.

Keith catches his breath, drags his nose across Shiro neck, and giggles feebly into his hair.

Shiro’s chest shakes as he laughs as well. “What?”

“Cowboy killer.”

Shiro groans then snorts, and somehow has the strength to roll Keith off and pin him down, licking into his mouth, dirty and greedy.

As the kiss slows and regains some liquid rhythm, Keith asks, “Is your bed bigger than mine?”

Shiro hums, fingers playing a melody up his back. “So much bigger.”

Keith smiles, heartrate spooling down in Shiro’s arms. “How often do you change your sheets?”

Shiro lets out a shock of laughter, and nips at his jaw. “Are you vetting me right now?”

“Nope.” Keith tips his head back and offers his neck. “You already passed.”

“What a relief.” Shiro drawls. “Every other week.”

“Good enough.” Keith tries and fails to keep his tone nonchalant, wriggling back as Shiro growls playfully in his ear.

He drags a finger through the drying mess on Keith’s stomach. “I guess napping in this is out of the question.”

“You guessed right.” Keith wrinkles his nose. “Save water with me. I’ll hold you up if you hold me up.”

Shiro groans as he sits. “I’ll try.”

They’ll have to shower, they’ll have to swap the bottom sheet for a spare, but Keith has no intention of letting Shiro leave this apartment before falling asleep beside him once more. He’s never been a big spoon, and he’s pretty sure he’d kill at it.

Maybe not today, though.

 

--

 

Keith wakes from napping with the top of his head wedged in Shiro’s underarm. It’s fine. It’s not the first time he’s been here.

It is the first time he’s slept with his naked body glued to Shiro’s though. He thought he could have anticipated what it would stir in him, but he didn’t have a clue. This isn’t just an urge for physical contact. This feels possessive. Mine. Possessed and owned. His. Keith has black hair, he dreams of space, his knees click when he climbs stairs, and he’s Shiro’s, if he’ll have him.

He traces a long jagged white scar under Shiro’s ribs with the tip of his finger, and Shiro’s hand meets his and covers it, holds it there.

“It’s been twenty years.” Shiro murmurs above him. “Sometimes I think I should have been born with them.”

Keith can see at least half a dozen more without moving his gaze. “Do they hurt?”

“Not so much. A lot of my joints aren’t the best. I still get physio for my shoulders and back, it’s all manageable.” He taps his finger gently on Keith’s temple. “Here can be harder.”

“I get that.” Does he ever. He’s trying to get better at this, wants to, so he asks, “Does talking help?”

“Mm, depends.” Shiro shrugs. “I’ve spoken to professionals, I’ll speak to them again, but there’s a limit to what I want to put on people I care about. I don’t know when it becomes damaging. I’ve lost people that way. It’s—” he clicks his tongue, and his tone never swerves from perfectly matter-of-fact. “It’s hard to live with someone you love looking you in the eye and telling you your pain is too painful. Who am I to say it isn’t? But it was a choice. To not put myself in that position anymore. It’s fairer on me, it’s fairer on other people. It is what it is.”

Keith frowns. He knows how it feels to be a burden because he has been so often. He tries to transpose that to Shiro and it sours in his mouth. He isn’t a paragon of anything, and he doesn’t need Shiro to be. He just wants him to be Shiro.

He slides his leg over Shiro’s, slots his foot beside his. “You can talk to me.”

“You’re sweet.” Shiro’s stomach tightens as he bends to lay a single kiss on Keith’s hair. “But I’m okay. Older I get, the less I care about myself. That probably sounds bad, but it doesn’t feel bad. It’s cathartic. These days I mostly just want to be a better person more than I want to be a happy one. The two seem to overlap a lot, so it usually works out. There are things I can change, and things I can’t, and it’s easier focussing on action than just looking back all the time.” He sighs. “Some days are still bad. Some weeks are still bad, but as long as I just keep moving and keep trying to do better, I can make myself see the end of it. All manageable.”

Keith wiggles a finger where it’s still under Shiro’s hand, over his scar. “Is talking about your parents too hard?”

“No.” Shiro taps back on Keith’s wrist. “It’s mostly just nostalgia now. I can’t separate the happy parts from missing them, it’s all one big feeling.”

He looks up at Shiro’s chin. “Can you tell me about them?”

“I’d love to.” Shiro shifts, rolling to face Keith, but still above him, both his arms around him now. “My dad studied geology, but he became a teacher. Our house was full of really boring looking rocks that I never understood the significance of. Whenever we went to the beach, he was more interested in the cliffs than the water.”

An unexpected weight lowers itself onto Keith’s chest, and starts to press. He’s overstrung from the best sex of his life with a man he cares about more than he can understand. He’s drained and sore, and he has no will to stop the uncommonly vulnerable sensation that creeps behind his eyes. It’s like something inside of him falls to its knees and lowers its forehead to the ground.

“Mom was an engineer.” Shiro’s voice lilts so warm, Keith can hear his smile. “She built bridges. Even as a kid I was so proud of her. I wish she could see me now.”

There’s nothing Keith can say. He can’t say I’m sorry I wasn’t there to protect you before I even knew you. He wraps his arm around Shiro’s waist and holds on.

“After the accident, my memory was all messed up.” Shiro’s voice is calm and steady, his other hand restless on Keith’s arm, smoothing up and down. “I was totally out of it for a while, but there are a couple of weeks before and after that just aren’t there. It’s like I skipped them. It’s like they didn’t happen, except they did, because I came out the other end and my family was gone.”

Keith can’t say I’m sorry we were broken apart instead of healing together. He can feel a deluge of emotion welling at the base of his throat, something too big and ominous to wall, and all he can think to do is be there and listen and let Shiro voice something that Keith doesn’t know if he’d ever have the strength to say out loud.

“I can’t remember the last thing either of them said to me.” Shiro sinks a little further down the bed, pulls Keith a little tighter, and he desperately rolls into him. “Apart from the crash, it was just another day, it was probably nothing. I used to poke my toes in the back of my dad’s seat without thinking, and it annoyed the hell out of him. It was probably just him telling me off for it for the thousandth time.”

It hurts. It hurts Keith, and it’s not even his hurt, not a hurt he can measure. They’ve both lost so much, and Keith won’t equivocate, but hearing Shiro’s for the first time, it’s like it’s fresh and new, not decades old and worn in, worn out. His breath wants to hitch, but he holds it in.

“I can still remember my mom’s voice. I guess I spent more time with her than dad.” When he speaks again he only sounds wistful, not chokingly bereaved like Keith suddenly is. “When she laughed hard she snorted like a piglet, it always set me off. I spent so much time trying to make her laugh.” Shiro takes a deep weary breath, lifting Keith’s head with it. “I can’t remember my dad’s anymore, though. Did you know artichokes are just thistles? He told me that. I can’t have been more than five years old, and I’ve still never even eaten one. I just saw them when we were at the market and got obsessed with him buying one because they looked so strange. I can remember some nothing factoid about a big green flower, but I can’t remember the sound of my name in his voice.”

Keith gives in, closes his eyes and presses his face to Shiro chest. “I’m sorry you were so alone.”

“Hey.” Keith feels Shiro move above him, his shoulders lifting off the bed. “Keith, It’s okay.”

Keith shakes his head. “You have too many people to miss.”

Shiro makes a small shocked sound. “So do you.”

Shiro extricates himself, untangles from Keith’s helpless cling, keeps an elbow cradled under Keith’s head as he moves to hover above him. Keith opens his eyes to take in Shiro’s pinched brows. His face is dry, but Keith’s isn’t, and Shiro offers a pained smile as he reaches out to wipe his tears off his cheeks with the tips of his fingers.

“This is what I don’t want, I don’t want to make you cry.”

Keith steadies his breathing, and reaches up to wipe his nose on his hand before he can realise how gross that is and stop himself. “It’s not your fault.”

Shiro brushes his bangs off his forehead, tucks the longer strands behind his ear. “I’m alive, I survived. I’m fine. I’m not alone anymore.”

Keith balls his fist and brings it up to rest on Shiro’s shoulder, knocking it there softly a couple of times. “It’s so sad.”

“I know.” Shiro nods, and sighs impossibly long, his eyes closing for just a second. “I know it is, and it doesn’t go away.”

Grief. Forever and ever and ever.

Keith slides his hand down over Shiro’s beating heart. “It’s—like there’s a hole.”

Shiro closes his fingers around Keith’s elbow. “Yeah. And you can’t tell what’s supposed to fit there anymore.”

Keith nods back in short jerks. “Uh huh.”

“We know that.” Shiro peels Keith’s hand from his chest, closes it in his and kisses it. “We cope.”

Keith sniffs, and nods again.

Shiro pulls him into a hug and Keith folds his arms over him and curves into him and closes his eyes, both of them naked in every way, Shiro’s heart beating with his, his breath hot on his neck.

“Are you okay, sweetheart?”

“Yeah.” His eyes fall closed. “I think I’m just tired.”

“Of course you are. I’m sorry.” Keith didn’t know he needed Shiro to hold him tighter the way he does, and he never would have asked. “My big mouth.”

“Don’t.” Keith shakes his head, focuses on the meet of their bodies. “You don’t have to do that.”

Shiro’s hand moves up and down his back, comforting Keith for a rift he didn’t suffer and a harm he doesn’t know how to comfort himself. “Do you want to get up and eat something? You want to go back to sleep?”

Keith nods. “Sleep.”

“Okay.” Shiro strokes the back of his head. “I’m gonna get up and get us a juice first, and then I’m coming right back, okay?”

“Okay.”

He pulls Keith’s too-short sweatpants on before leaving the room, and returns with a box of apple juice that he hands to Keith with the gentlest kiss, accepting a sip from the straw when Keith offers it to him. Then he loses the sweatpants again, twists his prosthetic off to leave on the desk, and returns to Keith’s side where he’s feeling somewhat less capsized.

Shiro moves to hold him again, and Keith fights him for it until he has Shiro draped over him, his head safe and grounding on his chest.

It’s a sharp pain that Shiro ever had to learn to be so strong, let alone so young, let alone so alone. Keith knows he did too, he knows he’s suffered, but that doesn’t change anything. Shiro being comfortable showing perceived weakness in front of him slits some intimate part of Keith. And even though it looks nothing like weakness to him, that doesn’t lessen the bittersweet pain of being allowed to hear what hurts Shiro the most. The things he taught himself not to hurt other people with for fear of losing more.

He still hasn’t told Shiro about his dad. About the day a trio of strangers came to tell him he’d lost everything. That the universe was different now, but only for him. He knows it isn’t fair to his dad for Keith to keep his memories of him to himself, but he was Keith’s whole world. Inadequately conveying his significance would feel like a betrayal, and he doesn’t think he could bear seeing anyone looking back at him like his dad was any less important than the most important thing in Keith’s life. It’s part of the reason he can’t bring himself to find his mom. He doesn’t know if she even knows he died, and if he found her, he couldn’t live with her being any less devastated than Keith still is. He may only resent her if she wasn’t. His dad is the only man he’s ever loved, and he thinks about him every day. He can’t say with certainty that he isn’t the only person on Earth who does.

Keith doesn’t want to make Shiro cry either. Doesn’t want to secretly require him to grieve on Keith’s behalf for a man he’s never met. Maybe someday, maybe sooner, maybe later, he’ll be able to tell him about the hole in his heart that nothing, not even Shiro, will ever be able to fill. There’s time for them to get to know each other. To become truly comfortable, instead of just feeling it intuitively like Keith does now.

Keith isn’t going anywhere, and miraculously, Keith believes that Shiro isn’t either.

 

--

 

He wakes before Shiro, thirsty but a vaguely restored, and when he feels Shiro stirring and stretching against him, he plays his fingers over his ribs and says, “I don’t even have your number.”

Keith feels Shiro's laugh as much as he hears it. “Shit.”

He gives no indication that he intends to change that right now, or shift from his spot joined at Keith’s side, so Keith slots his fingers into his soft hair. “How soon is too soon for me to get you back in this apartment?”

Shiro rubs his cheek on Keith’s shoulder, eyes still closed. “Try keep me away.”

Keith pets his hair the wrong way, then smooths it back down, smiling at the ceiling. “I could leave a saucer of milk out. Lure you back in from the cold.”

“It’d probably work.” Keith feels Shiro’s lips curve against his bare skin. “You’re more than tempting on your own, though. Just buy me a collar already.”

Keith laughs, and traces a finger around Shiro’s neck. “A pink one.”

“Perfect.”

Keith keeps his touch feather light on his skin, over his Adam’s apple and up behind his ear, and takes a deep breath. “Do you have any idea what time it is?”

“God.” Shiro snorts. “I’d forgotten about time.”

Shiro leaving this small bubble they’ve been existing in together is a beginning, not an ending, and not worth feeling unsettled by, but Keith can’t help but feel nervous. Not of what’s to come, not of anything between them, but of the outside world. Keith’s wired how he’s wired, and it’ll take time for him to stop assuming they’re being watched even when they aren’t.

Shiro represents, among so many things, a slew of experiences he’s never considered. He tries to imagine holding his hand in public, side by side, and finds that he likes it. Shiro’s too striking a figure not to draw attention, and he imagines letting it known that Shiro belongs to him, and finds that he likes that too. Not out of jealousy, but out of the knowledge that Shiro could have the pick of the litter, and he chose Keith. That Keith chose him, and Shiro wants him back. Only him. He can’t walk around with his middle finger constantly raised if it’s gripped in Shiro’s hand.

Well. One of them, at least.

But of all the things he doubts, he doesn’t doubt Shiro.

Shiro shifts beside him, sits and then stands from the bed, and Keith doesn’t beg him back, because he knows he isn’t leaving. He’ll come back without asking.

He walks to his clothes where they’re draped over Keith’s chair, and fishes his phone from his pocket, unlocking it and handing it to Keith with a smile.

“Hey, pretty boy. Give me your number.”

Keith snorts, and begins typing his name. “Slick.”

Shiro shrugs and walks back to his desk. “Looks like it’s working.”

Keith saves his details and moves his gaze to Shiro’s naked back where he’s fixing his prosthetic on. There are a few small pink scrapes on his shoulder blades and dark spots on his neck from Keith’s enthusiastic attention. He grins and opens the camera app, framing Shiro from the waist up and taking a shot.

At the sound of the shutter snap, Shiro drones, “Delete that,” without turning around.

“You delete it.” It’s a good photo. Shiro’s head a little turned and dipped, beautiful in profile, his lashes and the corner of his lips. Keith sits back and admires his handywork, and thinks, darling. “Can I send it to myself?”

“How incriminating is it?”

Keith narrows his eyes. “No tits or ass.”

Shiro gives an exaggerated sigh. “Go on.”

Keith’s feet kick a little in triumph and texts it to his own phone six feet away as Shiro sits on the edge of the bed.

When he looks up, Shiro has the sharpie open in his hand, concentrating as he writes on his own left forearm.

K E I T H

Keith’s heart does a nosedive, and he reaches out to take Shiro’s wrist in both hands, dragging him off balance with the sharpie held aloft, laughing into a kiss.

He makes himself break away long enough to whisper, “You dork.”

Shiro smiles for him, and nods towards his arm, clarifying, “Your dork.”