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Beneath the fancy dinner table, Keith bounces his leg nervously.  He’s not sure how he got here, stuck in the corner of this monster of a dining room, clinging desperately to a glass of wine and praying the clock’s stubbornly slow hands will speed up a bit.  No one looks at him, but it's only because no one notices anything beyond their own selves and that’s one thing that Keith really can’t stand. The sharp, self assured smiles. The pissing contests.

He’s uncomfortable.  The set-up is too much.  The cutlery itself is so intricate, Keith’s afraid to touch it.  There’s a chandelier overhead that could probably feed half a nation for a month, sparkling above their heads like it’s made from shards of actual stars.  The brightness in the air seems thick and unreal, like there’s flecks of gold dust hanging around them in place of real air.

Keith had started off this night trying to be polite - stuffing his face into his phone and ignoring everyone else didn’t seem the way to do it, but that was ten minutes ago and this is now.  He reaches into his pocket and pulls it out, eyes scanning the wall of messages from his roommates.

“I’ll give him ten minutes,” Lance put.

“Aw,” Hunk’s message says.  “Give him a bit more credit; he has the heart of a warrior.  Twenty minutes.”

“Forty-five.”  Pidge is confident.  “Shiro’s there.”

Oh, right.  That’s why he’s here, suffering, while his roommates lounge around at home in comfort.

Keith had come home late the other day to see Shiro uncharacteristically hanging over the furniture in their shared apartment, moaning about how miserable he was going to be at this family get together he definitely didn’t want to go to.  The dinners come every year; they’ve all been suckered into going at least once before, so they’re not stupid.  They know it’ll be a miserable time. Bad company equals a bad time, of course.

But Keith, taking one look at Shiro’s sad little face, got temporary memory loss and forgot how horrible it could be.

“We’ll come,” he said.  “You don’t have to go alone.”  That’s what friends did, right?

Only, Pidge suddenly had a very urgent stream she had to watch.  Hunk needed to see a baking show that he couldn’t record, and Lance said he was definitely doing something very important but he wasn’t fast enough to think of what exactly it was.

“You guys suck,” Shiro moaned, pressing his face into the couch with a groan.

And Keith, heart tugging at such a pitiful sight, took a gentle seat beside Shiro and said, sweetly, “I’m not busy, Shiro.  I’ll go with you.”

Shiro's responding smile was like a thousand suns as he sat up and grabbed Keith’s hands in his.  “Thank you, Keith,” he said earnestly.

And now, Keith’s here, trying to remember that the people in the room aren’t necessarily predators.  Somehow it makes it hard to remember from the way people keep tossing looks at him like he has two mismatched socks on, a backwards shirt, and no pants.  He guesses his nicest outfit doesn’t quite reach their standards.

Well.  He tried.

“Hey,” Shiro breathes, slipping into the empty seat beside him.  “Sorry it took so long. There was a line.”

Keith lets out a sigh of relief and shoves his phone away.  “Finally. I was ready to go hide in the bathroom for the rest of the time.”

“Well, that wouldn’t have worked out since I was in there.”

“The more the merrier.  We could’ve both enjoyed the bathroom scenery together.”

Shiro snorts, smoothing out the front of his shirt antsily.  Perfect.  He wants everything to look perfect. He always has, always trying to impress these people.  “It was pretty nice...” he hums lowly, tossing uneasy glances around.

Shiro has always wanted a family.  He hasn’t said it out loud lately, not in years, but Keith can tell by his expressions sometimes.  It’s in the way he gets quiet, eyes going distant. Or how he stops in front of his dresser, where his grandfather’s photo rests, and just stands there in static, mourning quietly the only family he’s ever had.  The orphanage wasn’t easy on him, Keith saw it all firsthand, and Shiro has never felt complete since then.

There was a glimmer of hope for a moment when Shiro was finally adopted, but that’s where Keith and Shiro are now, gathered around a table full of the people who Shiro calls family.  And it looks like a family should - warm lights, hearty meals, bottles of wine - but this couldn’t be further from what he’s searching for.

It’s strange to Keith how Shiro shifts uncomfortably, like he’s out of place, even though he's a king.  Has always been a king. To Keith, at least.

“Oh, Shiro!”  His cousin calls from across the table.  “You decided to actually come this year. How wonderful.”

The way they always say things sets Keith’s teeth on edge.  They’re all pleasant words with a smile and a hug, but that’s all.  The way they look at Shiro, their tones of voices, like he’s just Shiro and not Shiro, the person Keith knows.

“Who’s this?”

“This is Keith.  We grew up together.”

“Ah, so you met him at the orphanage,” he says.

Keith sniffs in irritation.  The tone: the orphanage, like they were just abandoned trash.  He knows Shiro would never admit it, but Keith knows him well enough that he can see it in his face - the words he won’t say; the belief sometimes that his cousin is right.

Keith knows Shiro was not abandoned.  His grandfather loved him very much. And Shiro is Keith’s family too.  Abandoned? Never.

When Shiro’s grandfather died, there was no one to care for him, so he was stripped of his home and sent away to the orphanage, where Keith was waiting.  They had gone to the same school and knew each other.  Keith had visited regularly, but suddenly, it was gone.  He and Keith spent many nights sneaking out of their bedroom and climbing out onto the roof to watch the stars together, talking about the families they remembered, the families they wished for when they got older.  One day. Maybe one day soon.

Though his grandfather’s memory remains, his body is gone now.  This is what Shiro has left, the family that adopted him like he’s some sort of toy to entertain.  A monkey that should clap his hands when they say to so they can laugh at the entertainment.  People that Shiro still clings to, though Keith can’t understand why.

As Shiro’s cousin inspects Shiro’s shirt through a critical eye, Keith has to crush the urge to reach up and smack his eyes away before Shiro can take notice.

He says exactly what Keith fears he’ll say, “If you come again, feel free to ask to borrow one of my shirts beforehand.  I wouldn’t want you to embarrass yourself in front of company. Your friend from the orphanage too.”

“...Ah.  Thanks.”

“Of course,” his cousin says with a smirk like he just committed the greatest act of kindness.  He turns to engage in another conversation.

Keith sighs, patting Shiro on the back.  “I like your shirt.”

Shiro hums as he turns a small smile down at Keith.  “Thanks, Keith. I like your outfit too. You always look nice.”

Keith doesn’t understand why you’d choose to bring yourself to this sort of torment at least once every year when they could be eating pizza with their friends in the flat instead.  But if Shiro wants to be here, it’s not Keith’s place to say no, so he stays quiet about it.

Keith drinks instead.  He’s Shiro’s shadow, watching, observing...filling his glass again.  And again. He hates it here. He hates seeing the way Shiro has that fake smile plastered over his face when his heart is being stabbed with little needles.  They way they talk to him, like he’s not the king that Keith knows he is. He hates how they look at Shiro, do that once-over, and then have that little stupid smirk on their faces like Shiro’s beneath them.  Shiro!  Ridiculous.

And Shiro just bites his lip and takes it.

Keith feels a little tipsy by dinner, but it’s all good.  Shiro’s seated beside him and they get a corner spot. No one notices him still and he wants to keep it that way.

“Oh, and you just got your doctorate and now you’re newly married.  Can your life not be more perfect?”  Shiro’s aunt is gushing over his cousin.

He shifts his tie and sticks his nose in the air.  “She’s a model from another country. You’ve probably seen her; her face is on all the best billboards and magazines.  She’s going to be part of a that fashion show in France next week. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Who hasn’t?”

“Amazing. Tell everyone how you met.”

“At my last conference, of course.”

“Wow,” they hum in admiration.  “See?  You work hard and you get places.  It’s something not a lot of other people seem to understand.  You’re a perfect example of hard work paying off.  You’re incredible,” Shiro’s aunt says.  “I always knew you were meant for good things.”

And then she turns her head to Shiro, her eyes already taking that shape of superior disdain, looking down at him from the tip of her nose.

Keith grits his teeth.

No one should look at Shiro that way, especially family.  Shiro loves them. He tries so hard to impress them. They’re all that’s left of his family.  He wants them to approve of him, to appreciate the work he does. And they just look at him like...  Like...

“What about you?”  She says, trying to keep her tone pleasant, but Keith can hear the sneer in it.  “Have you finally found a real job yet or are you still trying that photography?”

Shiro chuckles and rubs the back of his head in a nervous gesture.  “The photography is going well, actually. A client of mine knows an art curator and they saw some of my work and said -”

“- You do wedding photography, right?”  Her voice drops on the wedding.  “How much does that pay?  Can’t be much for a decent living.”

“Yeah, I can do weddings, but I’m more of a landscape photographer.  Keith and I will go backpacking sometimes and -”

“- With your friend?  You don’t have a girlfriend, do you?  Still?  In your twenty-something years?  Not once?  You need a decent steady job is why.  Your looks are such a waste. You’re not a child anymore.  You need to start looking for an actual career.”  Everyone looks down into their meals, feigning politeness, but there’s an air of laughter about them.  Someone snorts into their bowl. “Is this really the life you want to lead?  You’re getting older now.  Your time’s running out.”

Shiro laughs nervously, the spotlight on him.  “Um...well...”

She scoffs.  “It’s true, isn’t it?  A grown adult without a girlfriend.”

“Um...no girlfriend,” Shiro says quietly.  He musters up the scraps of his positivity and says, "but really, it's okay.  I don't need -"

His cousin laughs under his breath, tilting his head.  “Or do you have a boyfriend?  Whichever you prefer.  It’s a new age.  Not our place to judge.”

“...No,” Shiro murmurs, smile finally defeated from his face.  Keith looks down and sees Shiro’s ribcage expanding slightly longer than usual, taking deep breaths to center himself.  “...No boyfriend.”

“Hm.  What did I say?  Not surprised.”  They all snicker to each other.  They can afford the chandelier that glows like stars, they can afford the cutlery that’s probably worth more than everything Keith’s ever owned, but they cannot afford a shred of kindness.  Shiro’s the best person Keith knows.

A king.  All he does is give to others and see the good in the world and these people with their awful wicked hearts -

Keith’s mad.  Family is supposed to look out for other family.  This isn’t it. They’re monsters.

Shiro shifts in his seat uncomfortably, eyes down, his usual warm energy fizzled out.

Shiro doesn’t deserve this.  Shiro deserves the world.

The aunt’s attention slides over to Keith, who forgets his social anxiety for a moment and glares back.

“Who’s this?  Another photographer?”

“Oh, Keith is -”

He’s going to say best friend, which would be the truth.  And they’re all going to roll their eyes and snicker amongst themselves, looking down their noses at Shiro’s hopeful heart.  Judging him.  Persecuting.  But Keith is sick of that.  Keith wants to see that smile back on Shiro’s face, where it belongs.  Shiro is a king.

They’ve mocked Shiro one too many times.  Over the table, Keith snatches up Shiro’s hand, holding it tightly in clear view, where everyone can see.  He says as loudly and as possessively as he possibly can, voice cutting through the room, “I’m Shiro’s fiancé.”

The whole room goes quiet, every head swinging around to pin their eyes right on Keith.  They see him for the first time that night, and boy, do they see him. Shiro’s eyes blow wide and he whips around to Keith in shock.

Shiro pulls Keith in close to murmur in his ear.  “K-Keith,” he says on a whisper, breathless. “Are you drunk...?”

“What?”  The aunt squawks.  “I thought...  Didn’t you both grow up together at the orphanage?  Or are you a different one?”

“We did,” Keith says, aware of all the eyes turned on him.  He checks Shiro’s expression one more time - who just looks stunned and not mad, so he allows himself to proceed.  “It just developed into more recently.  But Shiro does amazing work. You should see all the offers he gets.  He’s been featured in several big name magazines.  Art shows.  If you’d give him a chance and see it, you’d be impressed.  I know you would.  We’ve traveled around the world and when you do that, when you see what’s out there -”

“-When’s the wedding?”  She asks, completely ignoring him, brow still furrowed in confusion.  “How long have you been together?  Shiro?”

“Uh...”  Shiro breathes.  “Um?”

Keith says, “The wedding’s next month, would you like to come?”

“Uhh...”  Shiro says, voice going higher.

It’s funny how easily Keith can lie right now, in the face of Shiro’s aunt’s horror.  He leans his cheek onto his fist and smiles at them. “How long have we been together?  That’s not really a fair question. The answer’s forever. He’s always been beside me. But we’ve started dating almost two years ago.”

 “Why wasn’t I ever made aware of this?”  She demands at Shiro.  “Two years and no word?  We’re your family!  And you dare treat us like -”

“I...”  Shiro looks to Keith one last time before turning slowly to her.  “...I wasn’t sure how you’d take it.”

Keith blinks.  He can’t believe it.  Shiro’s actually following his lead on this.  Shiro never lies.

His aunt is still offended for some reason.  “Why?  Because he’s another male?  You think I’m afraid of the homosexuals?  I’m not a monster.”

“N-no, not that.  I just...  I...I’m sorry.  I wasn’t expecting to talk about this...tonight...  We’ve sort of...kept it to ourselves.  Keith’s special to me,” he says softly.  “I don’t want him to get wrapped up in some argument because of me... I...”

Shiro looks down at Keith for help, but he stops when he takes in Keith’s warm expression.  Some of the things they’re saying aren’t lies and they both know it. A slow grin breaks across his face as he takes in the laughter in Keith’s eyes.  And Keith grins right back, squeezing his hand.

Keith says easily, “We were thinking a small wedding by the ocean.  Just our family and our friends.  Something quiet, something cozy.  We don’t need a big production.”

Shiro’s aunt is watching them.  “...Huh,” she says eventually. “Married.  I never would’ve thought.  Not you.”

“I don’t really think you know him,” Keith says, tilting his head dangerously as he leans forward on the table; there’s bite to his words and a sharp glint in his eyes that the others shy away from.

Shiro gives Keith a look halfway between amusement and a gentle reprimand.   We don’t want a fight, his expression says.

His aunt tenses and hisses out, “Well, it’s not like Shiro visits often since he’s always hanging out with his artist friends like you.”

Shiro looks up at that.  “Please don’t ridicule my friends.  I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t use that tone when speaking about Keith.”  His voice is firm. His voice is sharp.

She’s taken aback.  Keith is too.  All the shit Shiro took about himself and he didn’t say a word...  Keith's heart floods with warmth.

His aunt rises in her seat a bit, pursing her lips as she looks between the two of them.  Surprised.  Inspecting. “...How interesting,” she murmurs.  To Keith, she says, “Maybe you’re right.  Maybe there’s more to my nephew than meets the eye.  I’m excited to see this...wedding.”

His cousin leans forward with interest, “Was he the one to propose?  took my girlfriend out to one of the most extravagant restaurants in the world.  There was a live orchestra.”

Keith says, “Well, Shiro - you know how he can’t ever do things halfway...or maybe you don't.  But there’s this author that I’ve idolized since I was younger. The last bit of my father was a book he left behind.  What was the title of that again?”  Keith snaps his fingers.

Shiro blinks.  “Oh. Galaxy’s Greatest Adventures.”

“Yes, that one.  I lost it at the orphanage.  You wouldn’t believe how many hours Shiro and I spent looking for it, but it was gone.  They didn’t sell it anymore. It wasn’t in bookstores or online. I thought it was gone forever.  But Shiro...he went to the author himself - a total recluse I hadn’t managed to get into contact with no matter how hard I tried - and got him to sign it.  He wrapped it up and gave it to me as a present.  I went to open it and, god, that was surprise enough...I never thought I’d see it again.  But, on top of it, lodged in the middle of this book, were two plane tickets to my hometown, where I hadn’t been in...ages,” Keith hums lowly, eyes growing fond with memories.  “So we go there. And he rents this most gorgeous hotel. And there, already laying on the bed is a map. A hike, just like we always do together, at the first trail we ever went on together.  Ever. At the end of the trail is the most gorgeous secluded waterfall... The way the blue water cascades over the pools below it, dropping down like the tier of a wedding cake... There’s nothing like it in the whole world.  We climb up to the top of the waterfall, looking out over the desert plains - our home .  He gets down on one knee...and...”  Keith smiles fondly as he swirls his drink.  “...I would’ve been happy even if we had just gone to the pizza place down the street using an old dirty giftcard and three different coupons.  It didn’t matter the place.  Shiro’s Shiro.  He’s the best person I know and I know I'm the luckiest person in existence to be here, right at his side.  ...But god, it was the most beautiful thing anyone’s done for me...”

Everyone’s staring at them with varying degrees of disbelief on their face, even Shiro, who looks stunned, frozen to the spot.

Keith grins back up at all of them.  “Shiro is beautiful, inside and out, no matter what kind of clothes he wears or passion he decides to follow.  It’s part of his soul; it’s something that can’t be replicated or copied. It’s him and it’s special.  Shiro is a king.”

“Hm...”  They all press their lips together uncertainly.  There’s still disbelief there, but at least they’ve shut up.  And, peeking over at Shiro hesitantly, Keith can see the divot on his brow and the shadow over his face has been smoothed over.  He’s trying to press down a smile; his eyes are dancing. He’s back.

Mission accomplished.

It’s Keith who bursts out laughing first.  He can’t believe what they’re doing.  It’s so stupid.  He doesn’t know what came over him. And Shiro actually going along with it...  Shiro can’t resist when he sees Keith’s face and he starts laughing too.  Their hands are still clasped together on top of the table for all to see.

Keith,” Shiro presses his other hand to his face and laughs into it.

“What’s so funny?”  The aunt asks. “Why are you laughing?”

Keith gathers himself, grinning.  “It’s just... Shiro’s so amazing.  He can do anything, he has so much talent in this one pinky alone.”  Shiro laughs as Keith wiggles it, holding it up for them to see.  “Those few days were some of the best in my life.”  Keith hums softly. “ He’s amazing.”

“Yes,” his aunt says icily.  “I believe you’ve already said that.  Several times.”

They bust up laughing again.

Everyone else is frowning at them, but Shiro’s eyes are shining brighter than any star.  And Keith couldn’t be happier.

 

“What did you do?”  Shiro asks, pressing his face up close to Keith’s as he dumps him into the passenger seat of his car, warmth in his eyes and grin on his lips.  He’s still flabbergasted after the dinner.  A little concerned, a little elated.  He walks around the car to the driver’s seat and gets in, shutting the door.  He sits there for a moment, staring out and up into the night sky with Keith.  He lets out a small laugh.  “An engagement, Keith?  A wedding?  That proposal?!  Who does stuff like that?”

Keith laughs loudly, pressing his hands over his face and groaning.  “You, apparently.”

“Oh, god,” Shiro breathes, but there’s still laughter on his voice too.  “Why would you tell them that? We can’t possibly lie our way through this.”

“I dunno,” Keith snorts, leaning his forehead against the window as Shiro pulls away from the hell house and gets back on the road to home.  “I think I just did.”

Shiro sighs, pressing his lips together and shaking his head.  “You are insane.  I mean, I already knew that, but you’re even more insane than I initially thought.”

“Mm, I know.”

Shiro looks over at Keith fondly, looking at his happy profile, smiling with innocent joy.  “...It’s one of my favorite things about you.”

Keith hums.  “I might also be a little drunk.”

“You think?”

Keith laughs.  “I’m sorry, Shiro.  Really.  I’ll go to her and tell her the truth if you want me to.”

Shiro is quiet for a moment.  He says fondly, “No.  That’s alright.  I get why you did it and it makes me really happy you care so much.  Thank you, Keith.  I was kind of drowning out there.”

“You would’ve been okay,” Keith says, because Shiro is strong.  “But I couldn’t take them saying shit like that anymore.  You’re too good for them.”

Shiro smiles, his face warm with light.  “Wow.  Engaged.  I have a fiancé.  He’s such a talented liar too.  How did I get so lucky?”

Keith laughs.  The blush in his cheeks warms his entire face.  “Me too.  I didn’t even have a boyfriend yesterday.”

“You work fast.”

“You too, especially since it’s your first relationship at thirty.”  Keith laughs again, leaning over to poke Shiro on the nose.

“I am not thirty yet, okay?  And it just goes to show how much she’s ever paid attention to me.”  The divot in his brow is back.  He bites at his lip.

“Don’t worry,” Keith breathes softly as he leans on the center console and keeps himself close to Shiro.  “It’s just for fun, okay?  We won’t have to do anything.”

“I think you seriously misjudge my crazy family.  They’re going to want receipts, a ceremony, cake, invites.  Oh god.  Pictures - professional, not just mine -”

“-Yours are professional.  Have you seen them?  Are you listening to yourself?”

“They’re going to want a wedding, Keith.”

“Then we’ll give them a wedding.  It’ll be the best wedding you’ll ever see.”

Shiro chuckles, looking over at Keith fondly.  The longer he stares, the more he eases.  “Could be fun.”

“We have money saved up.  We’ll hire Hunk to make the cake.  We’ve got to get him before he gets too famous and we won’t be able to afford him anymore, so now’s a good time.  We’ll dress up all fancy.  Get flowers.  What else is part of a wedding...?  Well, you know, the whole thing.  Music.  Appetizers.  Some person to be like ‘I do’.”

“Really?  You’d really do all that...for me?”  Shiro asks softly.

“They’re awful,” Keith frowns and shakes his head.  “Family’s supposed to support each other. But they just -  saying those things about you...  They don’t know you. Not the real you.  Not how awesome and sweet and kind and - mmm...” Keith trails off, smiling contently as he stretches like a cat across the seat.  “Shiro, you’re too good for them. I’m serious. You could have any boyfriend or girlfriend you ever wanted.  We’ll show them.”

They’re quiet for awhile, bathing in the soft companionable silence.  Finally, Shiro laughs. It starts low in his chest and then blossoms out over his face.  He holds his stomach, laughter catching him. “God.  Yeah,” Shiro says. “...Yeah, let’s do it.  Let’s get married.  You and me.”

“Yeah?”  Keith breathes, eyebrows raising in surprise.  He didn’t think he’d get this far.  “You and me.”

“You and me.”

Keith and Shiro share a warm smile between the two of them.  This feels right.

 

It’s late morning when Keith finally wakes up.  Shiro went out at the crack of dawn for some sunrise shots and probably won’t be back for awhile, so Keith takes his time, stretching across his bed from the tips of his toes to the stretch in his neck, purring happily.

Last night.  God.  Half of him still thinks it’s a dream, but the burn in his cheeks is telling him it’s not.  He can’t believe it.  Any of it.

It’s ninety-five percent comedy, but five percent embarrassment.  He’s already dreading how he’ll tell the others, trying to figure out a way to make it possible for him to just keep it a secret this whole time.  Ugh, he doesn’t want to think about it.

Keith pushes his door open and heads into the loft, scratching at his belly and yawning.

“Morning, Sleeping Beauty,” Pidge calls from her place on the couch, feet kicked up on the table and laptop balanced on her knees.  “I was wondering why you were sleeping in so late this morning and then I figured out Shiro wasn’t here, so...”

Keith goes to grab two bowls for cereal.  “Ha ha,” he laughs dryly, just as the main door swings open and Shiro comes in.

And there he is,” Pidge mutters.  “It’s creepy how you guys do that.”

“Hey, you two,” Shiro says, setting his gear down and walking over.  He leans over Keith’s shoulder.  “Is that for me?”

“Mmhmm.”  Keith pushes the bowl over toward Shiro as he sits.

“How was the dinner last night?”  Pidge asks.

“Good,” Keith hums casually as Shiro chuckles under his breath.

Pidge waits.  When Keith says no more, she looks up from her laptop, frowning.  “‘Good’?  What do you mean ‘good’?  Where are your usual rants?  The horror stories, the emotional trauma, the evil aunt.  Did you even go?”

“We went,” he says, trying to inconspicuously move his bowl of cereal to another corner of the table so she can’t see his face.  “I wouldn’t just leave Shiro to go by himself.”

“No...I know you wouldn’t do that.”  She starts chuckling to herself as she thinks.  “Please tell me you both got super drunk and decided to get eloped instead.  A drunken Vegas wedding, married by an Elvis impersonator. Matching tattoos full of regret and a wedding certificate with both of your sad, sad signatures on it.  I want pics.”

Keith chokes on his cereal, milk flying everywhere.  Lance snorts as he comes out, wearing a bathrobe and slippers.  “Ew, Keith, god, learn to eat.”

“Hmm,” Keith says, swallowing down his mouthful as Shiro pats him on the back.  Dangerous. This is dangerous.  “Did you get to watch your stream last night?” He asks Pidge.

She laughs.  “Nuh-uh, no way, you’re not changing the topic.  Your reaction is way too suspicious.  Where did you guys go?”

“We went,” he insists.  He scoops a huge spoonful into his mouth so he can finish up and escape faster.

Pidge shoves her computer away and gets up, walking across the room to get in his face.  She frowns up at him mischievously.  “...What happened then?”

“Yeah, how’d it go?”  Lance asks from the kitchen.

“Uh...”

Keith,” Pidge leans closer, hands on her hips.

When he keeps his mouth sealed shut, she turns on Shiro, who goes red as a tomato.  “Shiro?”  Pidge narrows her eyes and smiles wide.  “What did he do?”

“Keith was just trying to defend me,” Shiro says, like it was a totally rational move.  “It wasn’t his fault.”

She’s going to find out eventually - they all will - he’s just got to get it over with.  Like pulling off a bandage. The faster, the better.

Keith buckles beneath Pidge’s sharp gaze.  “Okay!  If you had been there, you would’ve done the same thing.  They’re horrible!”  Keith throws his arms wide.  “You know how they are!  All laughing and patting themselves on the back.  And I was really mad and maybe a little drunk and I just wanted them off of Shiro’s back.  That’s it.”

Her amusement turns to a frown as he starts getting riled up.  “...What happened? You didn’t finally deck the pompous cousin, did you...?  Oh, god, Keith...”

She turns concerned eyes to Shiro who shakes his head.  “No.  No, Keith was awesome.”  He has amusement in his face and Keith almost wishes Shiro would just tell the story, but he turns his twinkling eyes to Keith, waiting to hear him tell it himself.  Keith sighs.

Now, she’s really confused.  She turns back to Keith.  “Awesome?”

“Ugh.  I didn't fight.  I...I sort of maybe somehow ended up telling Shiro’s family that he and I are...”  His voice fizzles down to nothing at the end.  “...Engaged.”

Pidge blinks in surprise, eyes going wide.  “What?”

Lance drops his phone in shock.  “What?”

Pidge leans in and tilts her head like she didn’t hear properly.  “Married?  Like...two rings and a ceremony?  You and Shiro?   Married?”

“Uh...  Yeah...”  He tilts his neck to get his face out of hers, face blushing red.  Shiro lets out a small chuckle as he continues eating his cereal.

A small smile creeps on her face.  “Are you serious?”

Married?!”   Lance squawks.  “Like a wedding?!  Rings?!  Babies?!”

“Well - wait -”  Keith says.

“Hunk!”  Lance cups his hands over his mouth and yells on top of his lungs.  “Hunk! Get your butt out here! The day has come! They’re finally doing it! They’re finally getting married!”

Hunk, who usually takes forever to get out of bed, pops his sleepy head from his door in two seconds flat.  His eyes sparkle as he races over to them, tackles Lance and grabs everyone into a big group hug, hooting and hollering with excited laughter.  “You are?!”  Hunk gasps. “Congratulations!  Who asked?  Was it Shiro?  It was him, wasn’t it?”

Keith is trying to breathe beneath all the celebrating.  “Wait -! Guys - ”

“Um?”  Shiro’s floundering, bowl of cereal sloshing out and going everywhere.

Lance lets them go and holds his hand out to Hunk.  “You owe me twenty dollars.”

“I thought it was ten.”

Lance nods to his hand.  “Twenty of them, cough it up.”

Wait! ”  Keith cries, repositioning his disheveled shirt.  He holds his hands up.  “What were you betting on?!”

“Oh,” Lance says casually, happily collecting all of Hunk’s ones he dishes over.  “I thought you guys would get married this year, but Hunk said next.”

It’s not like that.”  He looks desperately to Shiro, whose face is bright red as he stammers.

Lance pauses mid-exchange.  “But - Wait.  So you’re not getting married?”

No!  I mean - Well, we are, but not for real.  You know how they are.  They were being their usual asshole selves and trying to belittle Shiro.  And they started making fun of him and saying he’d never get married because of his ‘shitty job’ and how he was old and time was wasting and...I might’ve accidentally snapped a little and...said I was his fiance.  Anyone would’ve done it.”  He shrugs and when no one seems convinced, he admits meekly, “I was a little tipsy...”

What?”  All three says, faces wrinkling in disbelief.  “Fake?”

“I told them we’re engaged and they believed it so Shiro and I decided we’re going to do it.”

He looks to Shiro for help and they both nod to each other.

“Are you serious?  You’ve got to be kidding me,”  Lance whines, frowning at the dollar bills as Hunk takes them back with the world’s biggest groan.

“We’re literally all living in the same house together; how could you not know this?  What’s wrong with you guys?  Shiro and I are friends, not boyfriends.”

“Uh,” Hunk says as he pockets his money.  “...Have you guys seen yourself?  You’re kind of already married.”

Keith crosses his arms and shakes his head.  “What?” He grunts, rolling his eyes.

“You fed him grapes from the vine the other day.   Grapes.  From the vine.  It was the most disgustingly intimate thing I think I’ve ever seen.”

Keith shrugs in indignant confusion.  “He had been working on his car; his hands were dirty.”  Shiro nods, raising his eyebrows like it makes sense.

Lance and Hunk exchange looks.

Lance tries.  “You guys share the same shampoo and conditioner.”

Shiro says with a shrug, “It’s cost effective.  He buys the conditioner one week, I buy the shampoo, and then we switch.  We don’t use as much that way.”

“That’s...not how it works,” Pidge mumbles, scratching at her temple.

“Or that weird thing you guys do every morning when you get ready?”  Lance says, gesturing to his milk bowl.  “I’m pretty sure you guys are capable of getting your own meals.”

“It’s not weird.  Friends do that all the time.”

“It’s weird.  You don’t do that for me.”

“You’re not Shiro.”

“That is exactly my point.”

“Look,” Keith holds up his hands and pushes past them.  “Think whatever you guys want, but we’re just good friends, just like all of you are to us.  I’m just trying to help him out; that’s all.”

Lance and Hunk giggle to each other at Keith’s obliviousness and Pidge has a very tired, very amused expression on her lips.

"It's true," Shiro tries, backing Keith up.  "It could be fun.  Why not?"

“Whatever you say, you two.”

“Don’t do that,” Keith says, pointing at all of them slowly, in turn.  “I’m serious. You all know how awful his aunt and cousin are.  Don’t pretend this is crazy.”

“Well,”  Hunk allows as he puts a finger to his lip and thinks.  “There was that one time they smacked my hand away once when I tried to eat an extra croissant.  That was pretty evil. That sort of calls for intervention, right?”

“And they did tell me that I was an idiot for following my passion,” Pidge harps.  “I was pissed for like a week and that’s nothing in comparison to what Shiro has to go through.”

“And you don’t even want to hear my story,” Lance says, sitting up, getting ready to tell it anyway.

“That’s alright,” Keith says, holding his hand up.  “We’ve all heard it a million times.”

Shiro’s eyes are sparkling.  “You guys really missed out last night though.  You should’ve seen Keith. He was like my knight in shining armor.  I’m actually really excited for this. It’ll be a lot of fun. For all of us.”

“Hell, yeah,” Keith grins and crosses his arms over his chest.  “Let’s show your aunt,” Keith turns a toothy grin to Shiro.  “Let’s have a wedding.”

“Yeah,” Shiro says breathlessly, grinning from ear to ear, looking totally enchanted as he watches Keith’s face.  “...Yeah, let’s do it.  Let’s get married.  You and me.  A fake wedding.”

The others all share very amused, very tired expressions as they push down laughter.  “Okay,” they all say, eyebrows raised and laughter pressed down.  “Just friends. Having a fake wedding.  Alright.”

“Well, if we’re doing this, there’s no time to waste!  Let’s all get to work on this wedding, people,” Hunk says, clapping his hands in the air.  “Let’s go!”

 

They have a month, which is insane, but it’s more time than they’d have if they’d just eloped in Vegas, so Keith considers anything more than that extra time.

Planning goes easily.

Pidge works at a flower shop and her boss, Allura, is incredibly fond of all of them, so she’s offered them a deep discount in exchange for an invite.  It’s also ultra convenient that her uncle, Coran, has the power to marry people, and he cried when they asked him.

Hunk didn’t even want to let them pay for the cake he’s crafting for them, but Shiro made Keith with his ninja skills sneak the payment into Hunk's wallet the other week and he hasn’t said anything yet, so they’re hoping he hasn’t noticed.

And Lance, of course, is the DJ.  Keith is wary of his music choices, but Shiro assures him Lance can handle a playlist just fine.  And he should be able to, right?  It’s just a playlist.

It all comes together smoothly.  They’re a team made in heaven.

 

Three weeks before the wedding, Keith’s sitting on the couch in their loft, reading through a glowing review of Shiro’s photos in some fancy magazine that just came through the mail.  There are gorgeous shots on the next page that Keith keeps finding himself looking at.  He’s so impressed by Shiro everyday.

The door opens and Shiro comes in, arms full of several different flower arrangements and five full bags hanging off each arm.

“Hey,” Shiro says behind the faceful of flowers.

“Shiro,” Keith snorts, getting to his feet and walking over in order to unload some of the weight from him.  “For the hundredth time, text me when you get home and I can come down to help you unload the car.”

“It’s fine, it’s fine.  Arms are for carrying, right?  What do you think?” Shiro asks brightly around purple flowers.  He nods to them. “These little ones are peruvian heliotropes. They mean ‘devotion’.  And these over here are sweet peas. They mean...erm...’blissful...pleasure’. Pidge picked them out,” he coughs into his hand.  “And these? ...These are just roses. I think they dyed them over,” Shiro laughs warmly, “but I like them. What do you think?”

Keith leans in to get a better glimpse of them and then he turns his eyes up.  He can’t help but smile at Shiro’s radiance; he’s lighting up the whole room with how bright his grin is.  “You’re excited,” Keith chuckles. “Come on, let’s set this stuff down.”

He leads Shiro over to the table.  Shiro has barely set everything down before he starts sorting through it all immediately.

He pulls out a few cake boxes.  “I love this. Look. Hunk sent over some cake samples with me and then he’ll be bringing more later.  They’re all new; he’s been experimenting. He thinks we’ll like this one.” He lifts one bag off the table and digs through it.  “But then we have raspberry filled over here...red, get it?  Since you like red.  He says it’d be easy to make it galaxy themed on the outside.  What do you think?” He shows him a sketch of Hunk’s plan.

Keith opens the box and pulls off a corner to taste.  He nods to himself. Delicately sweet. Not too much sugar, not too little.  It’s perfect, of course; it’s Hunk making it, after all. He smiles. “I think we need to sneak Hunk some more money.”

Shiro laughs.  “My thoughts too.”

“What are the red flowers for?”  Keith says, going to grab the other bouquet.

“I thought you might like them, but let me know what you think.  I like them all.  Honestly, I can’t choose.”

Keith leans in to feel all their soft petals and delicate leaves.  “Hm... Me too. They’re all beautiful.”

Shiro stares after Keith for a long moment.  When Keith realizes the silence and looks up curiously, Shiro blinks back to himself and clears his throat with a sharp grunt.  He whips out his phone.  “L-Let’s get them all then. No reason not to.”

“Can we afford them all?”  Keith chokes.

“I’ll pick up the extra.  I still have some of my grandfather’s money leftover.”

“Oh - Shiro -  Don’t use it on something like this.  Save it for something important.”

“This is important,” Shiro insists, still distracted by his phone.  “My grandfather would be beyond elated knowing his money went to this.  He always said he wanted to see us getting -” He stops, the breath leaving his lungs in one short gust.  His head snaps up from his phone, a deep red slowly spreading across his neck, over his cheeks, and onto his ears.  Turning quickly, Shiro shoves his phone away and starts cleaning up the bags from the table.  “Anyway.” He clears his throat roughly.  “I’ll put the cake away.  Would you mind putting the flowers in water?”

“Sure,” Keith says, following Shiro into the kitchen.  “What were you going to say about your grandfather?  I don’t get what you meant.”

“Oh.  No.  Nothing.  He was such a sap.  He was so fond of you.  He’d be so amused by all of this.  This whole thing just screams ‘Keith’.”

“Mmm,” Keith chuckles.  “‘Drunk Keith’ you mean.”

“Drunk Keith is a force to be reckoned with.  Give him my regards.”

Keith laughs again.  “...Yeah...it’s been pretty fun.”

“Yeah,” Shiro breathes as he watches him.  “Um.  I forgot to tell you... Your mother called today.”

“Oh, I’ll call her back,” Keith says, digging in the cabinets for a glass vase.  He dusts off the top of one and coughs as it goes right back into his face. He rubs at his nose with a groan and puts the vase in the sink to wash.

It’s still weird to hear Shiro call Krolia his mother.  Keith’s lived without her for so many years; he’s still getting used to her return in his life.

“Okay, but...uh...”  Shiro cringes, sympathy in his grimace.  “She knows about the wedding.”

Keith gets thrown back into his coughing fit.  He clenches his hands onto the side of the counter and shakes his head roughly.  “What? ”  He chokes out.

Shiro steps across the kitchen to place his hand on Keith’s back, looking down into his face with concern.  “Keith.  Are you okay?  I’m sorry. I was surprised too.”

Krolia?  How?”

“I guess Coran saw her at the marketplace the other day...  You know how excited he is.  I’m sorry, Keith.  I wasn’t sure what to say.”

“Does she know it’s fake?”

“I don’t...  I don’t know.”

Keith pinches the bridge between his eyes.  “Oh, god... No...”

“She sounded really happy, Keith.  Close to tears.”

“...Really?”  Keith finally lets his eyes rise up to Shiro’s.

“Yes, completely enthralled.  Call her.”  He holds his phone out for Keith.  “I’ll be right here.”

It hasn’t been long since Keith’s met his long lost mother.  He’d be a liar if he were to say he’s still not a bit self conscious about certain things around her.  He wants to impress her. He wants to win her trust, her attention. He’s always afraid where to step next.

But if she doesn’t care about this, then his heart’s at peace.

He lets out a sigh of relief and puts his hand on Shiro’s phone.  “You talked to her yourself?”

“Yeah.  She called me actually.  ...Should we invite her to the wedding?”

Keith looks down into the bouquet of flowers in front of them, a small smile pressing its way on his lips as he cups a rose in his hand.  This is supposed to be a fake wedding and inviting her makes it feel real.  ...But when he looks up at Shiro’s hopeful grin, he simply cannot resist.  He wants to share this happiness with all those he cares about.

“...Yeah,” he says softly, his heart thudding hard at the smile that blooms across Shiro’s face at the words.  “Yeah, of course.”

 

“Earth to Keith,” Pidge is saying, waving her hand in his face.  “Earth.  To.  Keith .”

“Stop that,” he wrinkles his nose and pushes her hand out of the way.  “What’s up?”

Two weeks are left and they’re at Allura’s flower shop, in the back, sitting on the patio.  They’re surrounded by a lush variety of thriving flowers; Keith’s helping them put bouquets together for their shop as Shiro explains to Allura the kind of decorations they want for the arbor.

“I was wondering how the fitting went.”

“Oh...”  Keith presses a hand to his nose in an attempt to hide his face.  “It went well,” he says, but that’s only half the truth.

The two of them had gone together but Keith hadn’t needed as many adjustments as Shiro had, so when he finished early, he took a seat and watched.

It might’ve been a mistake, Keith thinks, because now he’s confused for some reason.

Shiro had looked good.  Trying to stand still for the tailor, fiddling with the edge of his sleeve as he stood above Keith, looking at himself in the mirror.  And then he’d smiled down at Keith with that warmth of his and...

Keith’s not sure what this feeling is in his gut, but it hasn’t left him since then.  Kind of sticky, kind of hard to breathe, like an oncoming stomach ache maybe. He bites his lip as he tries to understand himself.

That breathless feeling that caught in his chest at the sight of Shiro in his tuxedo.  The way his throat tightens with emotion.  What’s wrong with him...?

“I don’t get what you two are doing honestly,” Pidge says.  “I mean, I get you want to protect Shiro, but do you really have to do a whole fake wedding?  It’s so much money... Can’t you just say you eloped?  Everyone would buy that.”

Pidge looks over when Keith doesn’t respond.  He’s not even paying attention to her.  His gaze is locked on Shiro, who’s just come out the back door with bundles of flowers in both arms.  Allura grabs a step ladder and he uses it to reach the top of the arbor, weaving strands of flowers carefully through.  He has a grin a mile wide, eyes sparkling.  He’s having the time of his life.

Keith doesn’t even look at what he’s doing as he puts down the half-finished bouquet, flowers slipping from the table’s edge and falling to the ground.  He has his eyes on one thing only, making his way over to Shiro.

When Shiro turns and sees Keith, his face lights up like a star.

“Hey,” Pidge can hear Shiro say breathlessly as he bends down to gently thread a flower through Keith’s hair.  Keith leans over to pluck a flower from the collection in Shiro’s arms, stealing it with a mischievous grin, and Shiro gives chase, petals flying through the air as they laugh together.  They run through the patio like children, laughing and shoving flowers in each other’s faces.

Pidge watches for a moment...and then smiles to herself.  She gets it.  She gets what this is...even if they don’t.

 

The week before the wedding, no matter how small and casual they claimed it would be, is crazy.  They thought they had it together, but it turns out to be another story a few days ahead. There are still the tux’s they need to pick up, Keith needs to redo the entire playlist that Lance had chosen, they need to pick up their fake rings, and they have to write out their vows.  Keith’s never had the patience to write anything and he can’t seem to put into words something that’s worthy of Shiro and everything that he is, even if it is a fake wedding.  Nothing feels right.

He sits in his room, face pressed into his notebook, writing things out and then scratching them into oblivion with a tired groan.  He presses the eraser end of the pencil on his forehead and purses his lips, staring down at the mess of paper in front of himself. All he can hope is that Shiro’s vows are an equal sort of disaster, but, knowing, Shiro, they’re probably perfect.

There’s a soft knock on his door and Keith slowly lowers the pencil from gnawing on it and looks up as Shiro presses the door open gently.

“Hey,” Shiro smiles.  “Busy?”

“Ah, no.  I’m just trying to write out our vows.  Come in, listen to the sound of my suffering.”

Shiro laughs.  “You still haven’t done them?  I finished those ages ago.”

“Oh, yeah?  When? The night we became engaged?”

“Yep,” Shiro laughs again, sitting down on Keith’s bed beside him, looking down into his notebook.  “Wow,” he says at all the scratched out sentences. “You weren’t kidding.”

“It’s a disaster.  I’m bad with words.”

“No, you’re not.  I’m sure the right words will come to you.  Give it time.”

“Mmm,” Keith hums as he pushes the notebook away and lays out on the bed.  “You’re up late.  Everyone else asleep?”

“Um, yeah...”  Shiro says, turning away, hiding his face.  “Pidge just went to bed.”

“Amazing, seeing as she never sleeps.”

“I know,” Shiro chuckles, but his heart doesn’t sound in it.

Keith pushes himself up to get a look at Shiro’s face.  He’s frowning at the wall, biting away at his lip.  “What’s up?”  Keith says.  “Getting cold feet?”

Shiro turns back to him, laughter in his eyes again and warmth on his smile.  “No.  I was just...thinking.”

“Uh-oh.”

“I know.  Dangerous.  But... I mean, there’s not much time now...”

“Oh my god, you do want a bachelor’s party after all,” Keith points the end of his pencil at him, laughing.

No,” Shiro snorts.  He shifts on the bed, folding his legs together and facing Keith entirely.  He licks his lips nervously.  “Have you ever been to a wedding before?”

“Well, no.  I’ve seen them on TV though, isn’t that enough?”

“Right.  Well, how it usually goes, people are waiting in the audience, everyone walks down the aisle, they say their vows, they go, ‘I do’, they kiss, and then they’re married, right?”

Keith nods.  Everyone knows this.  He doesn’t get what Shiro’s leading up to.  “Sounds right.”

“Well...  Do we kiss?”

Keith freezes.  Oh, right, that.  The kissing.  The holding hands, the walking down the aisle, the hugging - that’s all fine with Keith.  But kissing.  He bites his lip.  “I mean...everyone will expect it...right?”

Shiro says firmly, “It doesn’t matter what other people expect from a wedding.  If you don’t want to do it, we’ll find a way around it, okay?”

Keith presses his lips together and frowns up into the ceiling thoughtfully.  “What do you want?”

“Me?”  Shiro blinks, looking lost suddenly.  “Oh... I don’t know. What do you want?”

“Whatever you want.”

“I’m fine with anything.”

“Well, me too.  It’s just a kiss.”

“Right.  Just a kiss.  Then...then I guess we should do it if you’re okay with it.  I mean, if you don’t want to, I’m fine with that too.”

Keith feels a smile slowly growing on his lips as he watches Shiro stutter and brighten, red as a tomato.  Keith laughs, nodding. “We’re adults.  We can kiss if we want.  Right?”

“U-uh.  Yeah.  Yeah, we can.”  Shiro clears his throat and rubs the back of his hand across his face nervously.  “...Then...I mean...should we....practice?”

Keith blinks in surprise.  “Right now?”

“O-oh!  That was bold, wasn’t it?  No. We don’t have to.”

Keith slows and bites at his lips.  Thinks about it.  “...Well.  It is a week before.  We probably need the practice.  ...Since you’re twenty-something and have never been in a relationship.”

Shiro falls back and lets his face fall into Keith’s pillow as he groans, long and drawn out.  “Will you let that go?”

Keith laughs, grabbing Shiro by the arms to drag him back up.  “I’m kidding, I’m kidding.  Um.  How should we do this?”  He looks down at Shiro’s face, who’s still hunched over, peering up at Keith from below.  His eyes are shining in this light.  They’re a little dazed, a little vulnerable.  It makes Keith’s heart flutter.

Keith has always admired Shiro.  It’s the sturdiness of not just his face, but his personality.  He’s unyielding in his belief in people.  He’s beautiful inside and out.  Keith’s always known this, always had faith in this.  It’s why he can trust Shiro wholly in this crazy stupid situation Keith’s got them both tangled in.  It’s why he can trust Shiro to fake-kiss him when Keith’s never been one to kiss at all.

He’s nervous suddenly.  This is Shiro, someone he’s looked up to since forever.  And now, Shiro’s the one beneath him, looking up.  Keith shifts, leaning down a little so they’re even.

“...I...”  He says the words quietly in the full silence, afraid to speak too loud in case he’ll break it.  “Tell me if you want me to stop.”

Shiro parts his lips and his eyes widen a bit.

They’re not ready for this, but they have to do it.  It’s necessary...for some reason...  Keith’s starting to forget the reasons why as he looks down at Shiro’s lips and realizes, with a warm tug in his gut, that he wants to.

They’ll stay here forever, trapped in this hesitance before the moment if neither makes a move.  So Keith leans in quickly, almost startled himself, and presses his lips to Shiro’s.

Their noses bump.  It’s more of a face hitting against another face than a gentle press, but they’re touching.  They’re kissing.  It’s so warm and soft and -

Shiro pulls away, already gasping for breath.

His eyes are wired, alight with energy, cheeks bright red from blush.

“Oh -”  Keith breathes out, pressing his fingers to his lips.  “I’m sorry.  That was bad.”

Shiro shakes his head quickly, taking in another deep breath before he lifts his head, grinning at Keith.  He reaches his hand up to gently pull Keith’s fingers from where he’s still covering his mouth.  He’s quiet for a little while as he thinks, the soft night air settling softly over their shoulders.

“It wasn’t bad,” he says softly, words small and edged with nervousness.  “Not at all.  But for a wedding, is that...I mean...maybe it’s a little too...uh, chaste?”  He watches Keith’s face closely for his reaction.  “I don’t know.  What do you think?”

“Oh...”  Keith breathes out again.  “I... You’re right.  Of course.  I forgot.”

“How about...”  Shiro leans in, warmth meshing together with warmth, but then hesitates right before they touch.  He’s still for a moment, thinking, before he whispers quietly, the sound hanging only between the two of them.  “...How about something like this...?”

And without another second of his sweet hesitancies, he swoops down, closing the distance between them.  He tilts his head to the side and kisses Keith full on the mouth.

It is not the chaste press of lips that Keith had gone for.  It’s not the soft warm graze of skin coming into contact with skin.  This is a joining.  An interweaving of two people, once separate, now slowly melting together in one blissful union.

Keith goes tense with surprise at first, eyes flying wide, and then he sees the way Shiro’s eyes are softly closed, the way that his brow is filled with emotion and care...and he melts into Shiro’s touch.

Keith has kissed before.  He didn’t really get what all the fuss was about.  He didn’t feel changed or better for it.  He didn’t feel much at all.

This is different.  This is so different.

This is Shiro - his Shiro - touching him, admiring him, even though he knows all the shitty things Keith’s done, all the pettiness, the hurt, the ridiculousness that Keith can play into sometimes.  Shiro knows all of Keith - how he can go days without taking a shower just because he’s tired or how he can eat an entire tub of ice cream in one sitting until his belly’s bursting.  There isn’t a time Keith can recall when Shiro wasn’t there, smiling beside him, loving Keith for who he is, encouraging in his small little voice, “I believe in you ” even when Keith couldn’t bring himself to believe in himself.

Shiro doesn’t overlook the undesirable that’s in Keith.  He sees it and cradles it, holds it like it’s something desirable to him.  Like now.

Just practice, Shiro had said.

Just a fake wedding, Keith had told him.

But it feels different now, in this kiss, both of them leaning into the other.  This doesn’t feel like pretend.  This feels like Shiro reaching up and over, pulling Keith onto his lap with one hand, his other reaching up to tangle in Keith’s hair, to support his head as the kiss deepens, as Keith moans softly in his mouth.

Just practice.  It could be fun.

But Keith’s panting in Shiro’s lap, breaking away for a split second to kiss along Shiro’s jawline, to press as many kisses as he can into Shiro’s neck as he leans deeper into Shiro’s hold.  He reaches up to tenderly hold the other side of Shiro’s head in his palm, caressing his fingers through Shiro’s hair.  He had no idea how soft it could be.

Shiro’s holding Keith steadily by the waist, both of his big sturdy hands pressing into his hip bones.  “Keith,” Shiro breathes, tilting his neck to the side to give him better access.

There’s no little voice inside of Keith’s head to tell him wait, stop, this isn’t what you guys are supposed to be doing.  And even if there was, Keith probably wouldn’t listen.

It’s like he never realized it, but he’s wanted this.  Shiro’s unconditional love and acceptance has always been something Keith has admired and adored.  He never realized though, that it could blossom to feel like this.

There’s a loud shatter just outside Keith’s door and a dismayed, “oh, man , that was my favorite mug.”

Lance.  In the kitchen.  Only a few feet away.

Keith breaks away from Shiro’s warmth with a shock.  They sit there, faces inches away, staring at each other with wide eyes.

And, slowly, they both come back to themselves.

What are they doing?

What are they doing?

Shiro’s the one to move first, slowly running a hand through his hair, eyes dazed and distant.

Keith clears his throat roughly, tries to speak, clears his throat again.  “...Wow,” he chokes out.  His voice is low and husky and he burns with embarrassment.   “...M-maybe...maybe not like that.  For the wedding.”

Shiro nods slowly, still looking blankly at the space between them.  “I think...  I think it’ll be fine.  We probably don’t need more practice.”

“Y-yeah,” Keith bites his lip and, very carefully, crawls off of Shiro’s lap.  “I don’t know what came over me...”

“Me too.  I’m sorry, Keith.”

“No, uh...it was for practice, right?  It’s fine.”

“Right.  Practice,” Shiro says, pushing himself off of Keith’s bed and stumbling to the door as he looks back at Keith, eyes still full of a strange brightness Keith’s too wired to understand.  “Um... I... Yeah,” he breathes out, grabbing the door handle and pushing it open.  “Practice.  Goodnight, Keith.”

He can hear Lance laughing from outside.  “What’s this?  A secret midnight rendezvous?  Shiro, you dog.

Shiro laughs nervously and Keith, seeing his mortified expression, can’t help but laugh too.

“Goodnight, Shiro,” he whispers softly, raising his hand.

Shiro looks at Keith, fondness overtaking his face and, for two seconds, they forget the rest of the world.  They forget Lance laughing at them in the background, they forget that this whole thing is fake, and they forget that this might be one of the few kisses they give the other.  Because this isn’t real.  None of this is real.

But, as Shiro finally gives one last warm wave before closing the door gently behind himself, Keith thinks one thing only.  He gently presses his fingers to his lips again, feeling the soft way it gives beneath touch.  He stares blankly into his sheets as he conjures up the memory, still fresh in his mind.

Of all the things he might forget one day, surely, he’s never going to forget that kiss.

 

Krolia reaches down and fixes the bow on Keith’s collar.  “You look so handsome, Keith,” she whispers, tearing up.

“...Thanks, Krolia,” he says softly, feeling as his stress slowly unknots itself from his chest.  “It’s all just fake though.”

“I know, I know,” she says patiently, patting at his shoulder again as she looks him over.  “...You look so much like your father sometimes.  ...He would be so proud of you.”

“Fake wedding,” Keith tries to remind her, but the words croak out of his throat.  Nervous.

Shiro’s out in the hall, entertaining his aunt who doesn’t deserve it.  Doesn’t deserve any of this.  But that’s what this whole thing is for, after all.

Keith turns back into the mirror, fussing with his hair one last time.  The door’s thrown open and Keith, unprepared, becomes the pitiable victim of a group hug.

“Today’s the day!  Fake wedding!  Fake wedding!”  Hunk and Lance chant.

“Stop that!  What if she hears?”  Keith hisses, elbowing at them.

“Oh, sorry,” they whisper.

“God, Keith,” Pidge says, tears in her eyes as she rubs her nose roughly with a tissue.  “You look so good.  Have you seen yourself?  I can’t believe how good you look.”

Allura steps forward and grabs the lapel on Keith’s suit, pinning a small charming boutonniere of red roses to it.  “I made Shiro a purple and white one to match,” she hums happily, taking a step back to assess it.  “What do you think?”

“Thanks, Allura,” he says gently.  “It looks amazing.”

It really does.  When they talked about this day back at their loft, none of this seemed real.  But now it is, the suit, the flowers, the altar, everything.

Keith breathes out and tries to breathe in smoothly.  Nervous.  “Ha...  This seemed like a good idea a month ago, but now I just...”  He frowns at himself in the mirror, poking at the divot in his brow.  It stays.  He sighs again.

“Getting cold feet at your fake wedding?”  Lance finds this particularly funny.

No.  It’s nothing like that.  I wouldn’t just abandon Shiro, you know that,” Keith sneers before turning his worried expression back to himself in the mirror.  “...But I just...”

It doesn’t feel right suddenly, all this fake business.  It’s like a lie but he’s not sure who he feels guilty lying to.  He’s alright with tricking Shiro’s family.  They suck.  And it's not like Shiro didn't want this too.  But lately, he’s just been thinking...

And the more he thinks, the more he realizes.

And he just...

“It’ll be okay,” Pidge says, patting him gently on the back.  “You guys have been having a lot of fun with this. It’s good for him.  Good for you.”

“Yeah...”  Keith murmurs.

Now is good.  He can’t deny that.  Now is sparkling with gold and flowers and stardust.

But after.  That’s what he’s worried about.  The ‘divorce’.  Having to remember the feel of that kiss, the memories of this wedding, and then realizing it all meant nothing in the end.

“It’ll be okay,” Pidge assures him again with a little amused glint in her eyes.  She leans in, opening her mouth to say something more just as Shiro bursts into the door.

“Okay, okay, what are you guys still doing here?  It’s time. Everyone but Keith, out.  Go sit on the beach.”

“Bridezilla,” Lance mutters to the others and they all snicker to each other.

Krolia gives Keith one last hug.  She pulls back, hands still gripping his shoulders, and smiles at him again, like this is real, even though he’s told her so many times it’s not.  “See you out there,” she whispers, patting his cheeks.

“F-fake wedding,” he breathes, but even he sounds confused.

She chuckles one last time and then it’s just Keith and Shiro in this room right on the beach.  Soft silence falls over them and, for the first time in his life, Keith feels almost awkward in front of Shiro.

“I’m glad we chose the ocean,” Keith murmurs.  He feels embarrassed suddenly and can’t meet Shiro’s eyes.

“Yeah,” Shiro says.  “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

He’s quiet for a moment.  They can hear the music playing outside beyond the walls around them, something funky that was definitely not on the playlist.  Through it, Shiro whispers, “...You’re more beautiful though.”

Keith’s neck snaps up to stare at Shiro.

And ah - yeah...  Just as Keith thought.  Shiro looks even better in a tux on this day than Keith could’ve ever imagined.  The way he’s so broad in the shoulders, but slims down at the waist, like some sort of superhero come to life.

Keith smiles softly.  “You too, Shiro...”  He clears his throat and rubs at his nose.  “Whoever you get to real-marry is going to be one very lucky person.”

Shiro chuckles and reaches both of his arms out for Keith.   “Come here, you,” he hums fondly. He gathers Keith close to his chest and rocks them both back and forth gently.  “I think I’m one very lucky person right now.”

“Psh,” Keith snorts, but he’s so warm and soft in Shiro’s hands, he can’t even retort.  He leans into Shiro, lets himself pretend that this is real, if only for a moment, as Shiro keeps swaying them back and forth.

Yes, he realizes.  Yes, this is what he’s wanted all along.

“I guess, with this, your aunt will finally leave you alone, hm?  I hope she can finally accept you, Shiro.  You deserve that and so much more.”

Shiro is quiet for a long while.  “You know, I kinda forgot about that,” he says, softly.  “...I'm not worried about them.  I've had so much fun with all of you. That's what matters. You guys have stayed by me through everything, never judging, never condemning...  You're the people who matter."

Keith takes in a deep shaky breath.  He closes his eyes and lets himself be held.  “...I’m glad, Shiro...  I’ll always be here for you, like you always have been for me.”

“I know, Keith,” Shiro whispers, the both of them still swaying like the ocean.  “I know.”

They could probably stay like that forever, just the two of them held together in the others arms.  The moment is so intimately theirs.

“Okay,” Shiro says eventually, patting Keith on the back and pulling away only slightly.  He lets his hands fall to Keith’s waist as he stares into his face, tenderness there in his eyes.  “They’re probably getting tired of waiting. You ready?”

Keith steps away, but Shiro holds his hand out.  Keith looks down at that outstretched hand, reaching for him, trying to cross the distance, just as he always does, and takes it firmly in his.  “Yeah,” he says, smiling brightly. “Let’s go.”

It was a bit of a drive to get here, but the ocean view is worth it.  As Shiro pushes the door open and the sunlight pours in, Keith can’t help but stare in awe.  They wanted it simple: the sand stretches out before them, lined with shells that lay out a trail before them.  Everyone waits at the end of it, turning in their seats, grinning.

Whatever this is, fake or not, Keith’s entire being is pure joy.  This is the day he’s always wanted and never knew, with the person he’s always loved right by his side.  Their family waits for them at the end.

All Shiro has ever wanted was a family.  That’s all.  Somehow, today, it feels like they’re getting one.  Everyone they need is here for them, turning in their seats, waving excitedly as they see Keith and Shiro, hand in hand.  Family.  Keith’s wanted this too, of course, but it’s Shiro’s face that gets him. The emotion that swells. The unbreakable smile.

The ocean sways ahead of them, spanning far out into the distance, beautiful and blue, catching the light as the tide rolls in, getting dangerously close to the altar where Coran waits, tears in his eyes.

“We forgot about the tide,” Keith chuckles, looking up into Shiro’s face, the light warming his features so that he looks surreal, painted in this golden moment of time.  Both of their hands are still intertwined and they hold onto the other firmly.

Shiro leans down into him, murmuring from the corner of his mouth, a twinkle in his eyes.  “Or did I just want to see everyone squirm as it approaches?”

Keith laughs outright.  “You are so awful.”

“Is that so?  Then why are you marrying me?”

Keith laughs again.  It’s all he’s doing as they walk down the aisle.  He thought it’d be awkward with everyone staring at them, judging them, watching them, but it’s not.  It’s really not.  He grins up at their friends...at his mom...  Sees how happy they are...feels how happy he is himself.

He loves this.

He’s never been more in love with a moment than now.

At the end is their arbor.  It’s a pretty delicate thing that they had way too much fun decorating in the end.  Flowers and vines curl through a lattice. The air is filled with the scent of jasmine.  Hands held tightly, they stop before it, never letting go of the other’s hand as they turn to face one another.

God, Shiro’s so beautiful.  Keith always thinks it and then he sees Shiro again and he’s blown away even still.  Especially when Shiro’s warm and happy, like now, his smile so radiant it’s like his brightness can touch the sky.  Keith just wishes Shiro could have one more person in those seats.

“Hey,” Keith whispers, giving Shiro’s hand a squeeze.  “Your grandfather would’ve loved this.”

“He really would have.  He loved you.”

“He loved you too,” Keith says warmly.  “And I know, wherever he is, he’s so proud of you.”

Emotions well up in Shiro’s face and he nods sharply, letting out a small laugh.

“Keith?”  Coran breaks into their conversation.  “Shiro?  Your vows?”

“Oh...”  Keith blinks over.  His were a horrible mess.  He had tried and tried and tried all week.  He’s about to just spew out as much of his heart as he can and hope for the best, when Shiro beats him to it.

“It’s private,” Shiro says.  “We’d rather keep it between us.”  Shiro nods toward his breast pocket when he meets Keith’s eyes.  “It’s here,” he says, smiling down at Keith. “But... It’s for your ears only.”

Keith chuckles, tilting his head down.  “Okay.  Me too.”

Coran shrugs easily.  “I guess we’ll skip to the good bits then.  Husbands!  How exciting. Keith, do you take Shiro to be your lawfully wedded husband?  To love and to hold for the rest of your days, for as long as you both shall live?”

Keith grins up at him.  He sees the emotion there on Shiro’s face and chuckles softly.  “I do.”

“And do you, Shiro, take Keith to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

Shiro’s voice is low, rough.  His eyes glisten in the sunlight.  “I do.”

“Alright then!  What are you waiting for?  Kiss already!”

Keith had dreaded this moment.  Everyone watching, judging their kiss.  But as Keith looks up into Shiro’s eyes, he feels all the nervousness melt away.  Shiro watches him, knows him, doesn’t ever judge.  And he’s the one who matters most.

Keith smiles crookedly and like a flower to the sun, presses himself up on the tips of his toes to catch Shiro’s mouth with his.  He wraps his arms around Shiro’s neck and pulls him in, breathing in his warmth, his smile, his kindness.  A real kiss.

It’s perfect.

There’s a small shocked pause from their friends that neither even register, too wrapped up in their kiss, and then everyone’s clapping, hooting and hollering.  “Yeah!”  They’re calling, grinning their faces off.  “They’re finally married!”

Coran proclaims excitedly, “I now pronounce you, Mr. and Mr. Shirogane!”

Keith pulls back only slightly, eyes flicking up to Shiro’s.  “Mr. Shirogane, huh?” He laughs into Shiro’s mouth.

“I told him to say that.  I like how it sounds,” Shiro grins back, reaching a hand up to push a stray piece of hair that’s blowing in the wind, getting in Keith’s face.  He weaves it behind Keith’s ear.

“Me too,” Keith breathes and, with one last warm smile, tilts his head and goes in for another kiss.

 

Keith’s in the bathroom, hand pressed over his mouth as he paces back and forth.  He stops in front of the mirror to glare again.

“There’s something I want to tell you,” he whispers vehemently to his reflection.

No.  No, it doesn’t sound right.

Shit.

“Okay,” he says with false brightness.  He gives his cheeks a few sharp slaps and nods to himself.  “Shiro,” he rehearses to the mirror.  He reaches up to press the frown out of his brow.  “Can we talk for a bit?  I think... I think there are things that need to be said.”

He swallows hard and presses his hands into the counter.  “Important things,” he whispers, clenching his eyes shut.  “Like...like maybe I actually don’t want this to be fake after all...”

There’s a knock on the door and Keith squawks.  He coughs, turning on the faucet to wash his hands even though all he’s done is pace and worry at his lip.  “What is it?”

“It’s just me,” Shiro says through the door.  “You okay in there?  You’ve been awhile.”

“Yeah.  I’m just...all that cake the other night.  I’m still a little sick.”

Shiro snorts.  “I still can’t believe you ate that entire tier all by yourself.  I told you to stop. Drunk Keith doesn’t listen to anything.”

I do.  I didn’t eat the second tier, did I?” Keith chuckles, opening the door and taking one cautious glance out.

His heart begins to beat quickly just at the sight of Shiro.  Yep.  Still not cured.

Oh, god, he’s in so much trouble.  Why is he such an idiot?  How did he get himself into such a position?  Fake wedding...whose idea was that anyway?  So stupid.

They’re on their ‘honeymoon’ trip, resting a bit after a long drive, waiting to head out again.  Shiro’s aunt had given them an all-expenses-paid trip to France as a wedding gift and also, an apology.  Keith still hates her, but it seems to bring Shiro some relief, so he’ll take it.  It’s what Shiro wanted for so long, after all.

Their hotel is nice, really nice.  They normally just slouch around in the cheapest hotel they can find and kick away the cockroaches.  Keith doesn’t know what this is, why Shiro insisted on this place in particular.  It’s not like his aunt’s tickets covers the hotel on their way to their plane.  This is going to cost them so much.  Is Keith naive to hope that this means something?

“I ordered some soup for your stomach.  Extra vegetables to cleanse the sugar out of you.”

“Ugh,” Keith groans.  “This isn’t honeymoon food.”

Shiro laughs, but he’s already climbing up onto the bed and spreading the maps out in front of him.  “Whatever you say, Mr. Shirogane,” he hums happily as he searches through his phone.

“Okay, Mr. Kogane.”

Shiro snorts.  “That sounds nice too.  So, it looks like the little detour for my photography will take several days.  Is your stomach really alright for it?  I can reschedule the shoot another time.”

“No, no, no, it’s fine.  I want to go.”

“Okay,” Shiro hums.  He pauses for a minute, still holding the phone up to his face, but his thumb has stopped searching.  With a small little breath, he slips off the bed and walks over to his bag.  “I got something for you,” he says softly.

“For the wedding?”  Keith blinks in surprise.  “Shiro, you said no gifts. That’s why I listened to you and bought no gifts.”

“I know...but I cheated.”  He hums, holding out a small rectangular present wrapped carefully in galaxy wrapping paper.

“You’re such a stinker,” Keith chuckles as he takes it into his hands and looks down at the designs.  “Space themed.”

Shiro sits in front of him, watching nervously.

Carefully, Keith pulls the wrapping away, undoing the ribbons and setting them aside, sticking his finger beneath each piece of take to undo it.

“God,” Shiro complains, nearly bursting out of his skin in apprehension.  “You always take so long.  You’re killing me.”

“Okay, okay, jeez.”  Keith chuckles again, undoing the last piece of tape and peeling the wrapping apart.  And stops.

His hands go still as he stares down at the gift Shiro chose for him.

“...The book,” Keith says faintly, breath going funny.  He holds it with shaking hands.  “...The book from my story.  The one my father had given to me...”

“I had to kill a few people to get it,” Shiro says, keeping his eyes down as he leans forward to flip the front cover over.  He points to the handwritten scrawl on the first page.  It reads: To Keith.  Your fake husband wanted me to sign this so here.  “Signed and everything.”

Keith’s in a state of shock as he just stares at it.

Shiro leans in, eyes scoping out Keith’s face as he bites his lip.  “Do you like it?” His voice is small.

“Shiro...” he says softly, dragging his hand over the cover.  “...I can’t believe you found this.  How?  We looked everywhere.”

Shiro bows his head to hide his smile.  He rubs his hand against the back of his neck.  “Like I said, I might’ve had to kill a few people for it.  Worth it?”

“God.  You’re amazing,” he breathes, looking at Shiro, frowning hard, trying to keep it together.

“And look,” Shiro says, flipping through the pages to take out two tickets.  They’re not to France.  “I thought maybe France wasn’t really our style. What do you think?”

“Home?”  Keith whispers, stunned.

“I’ve been sort of in the mood for backpacking.  How about you?”

Yes,” Keith breathes excitedly, tossing his arms around Shiro’s shoulders.  “Thank you, Shiro. You’re the best fake husband I could ever have.”

Shiro laughs, holding Keith close and snuggling into his shoulder.  “You’re the best fake husband I could ever have.”

They sleep on the same bed.  It’s a honeymoon suite, so of course there’s only one bed.  It’s fine.  It’s not uncomfortable at all.  They’ve been together forever.

Sometimes people used to ask them how long they’ve known each other.  And they’d just laugh.

Forever.  The answer is forever.  Because they’ve known each other since before they can remember.  Longer.  In previous lifetimes, if there is such a thing, they knew each other then too.  It has to be.  It’s fate.

 

Keith and Shiro have gone backpacking a lot in their years together.  They invite the others each time, but no one else seems to get it like they do so it’s mostly just the two of them.  It’s a lot of walking, a lot of sweating, a lot of bugs.  Scratches, knicks, hungry stomachs.  But it also means the quiet of nature pressed against your ears, the feel of it just being the two of you out in the middle of nowhere together, the maternal earth always there beneath your feet, the sparkling stars checking in on them night after night, looking down with their eternal knowledge.

Shiro likes to take his camera out and point it at all the things he loves, all the things he finds beautiful.  He’ll point it toward the sky, kneel in the mud to get close to something Keith just walked right past, didn’t catch, didn’t see.

But now, as light fades away behind the horizon, he sits against a rock, still warm from the day’s sun.

Keith lays out beside him, kicking his shoes off and leaning his head back.  He groans, but he’s content. These have been some of the best days of his life and his life has been a good one.  He has the best friends. The best best friend.  Maybe it’s not a conventional honeymoon, but Keith has never been happier.  Because he realizes he’s in love with Shiro, has been for a long time, and, even if it’s just for this moment, Shiro’s officially his.  Nothing could be better than that.

Shiro grabs his bag and holds it to his chest as he leans back to look up at the same sky Keith is seeing.

“It’s beautiful out here.”

“Mmhmm.”  Keith yawns.

“...Do you remember, when we were in high school and we first ditched for an entire week to go hiking?”

Keith laughs.  “Your aunt nearly killed you.  She said she never wanted you to hang out with us again and locked you in your room like Rapunzel for almost a whole month.  I think that’s when she started acting like she had no idea who I was each time.”

“...Yeah,” Shiro laughs.  “She’s so dedicated to it too.  ‘Who’s this?'  Only the person I literally grew up with since before the orphanage.”

“If only it wasn’t for that one time you ditched.”

“Yeah,” Shiro snorts.  “That one time.  But god, was it worth it...  Our first adventure together.  The first time we ever did something for ourselves.  ...I’m glad it was with you.”

Keith tilts his head to look over at him.  “Me too.” He realizes he never even considered the possibility that Shiro didn’t necessarily have to be here all the time for all his firsts.  First trip, first car, first time buying a place together, first fake wedding.  Shiro’s been this constant in his life.  Keith knows, no matter what happens, he’ll remain here.  They both will, by each other's sides.

Shiro shifts the bag in his lap, reaching in and grabbing an envelope of a few pictures.  “...I have something.  ...I was always kind of embarrassed to show you, but...sometimes, when you’re not looking, I’ve...  I’ve taken photos of you.”

Keith blinks, looking down at the images bundled in Shiro's hands that he fidgets with.  “When we first got our loft together with everyone.  You ran through it like a tiny child,” Shiro laughs, holding the first image out.

Keith takes it from him and frowns into it.  “Oh my god, look how young I looked.  My hair was so short.”

“Yeah, you were so cute,” Shiro laughs.  “And when you first met your mom,” he whispers as he passes on that one.  “...I hope you’re not mad.  I know it was a private moment...but when I was there, I just...”

Keith’s crying in the image.  His mom is too.  There’s pain in their faces, but relief too.  Keith’s never seen such an emotive shot before.  He hadn’t even realized Shiro had taken it.

“You know I don’t mind if it’s you,” Keith whispers, holding the image in his hands, ghosting his fingers over the image of his mother.  Shiro knows how important she is to him...if it had been anyone else, it would’ve felt like betrayal, but not now.  Not with Shiro.

Shiro swallows hard and holds onto the last image.  “...I... You mean a lot to me, Keith,” he whispers before he carefully gives it up.

Keith’s looking at the camera in this one.  He’s in his room, standing in front of the mirror, hair tie in his mouth as he tries to wrangle his hair into a ponytail.  He’s laughing, eyes crinkled in the corners, mouth upturned around his bite.

It’s intimate in a soft way.  The warm light streams in through his windows across his face.

“This is my favorite of you.  In your room.  ...In the place we first kissed...”

Keith looks up at him and Shiro looks back.  If Keith were to lean in and press a kiss to Shiro’s lips, he’d be able to do it.  The moment seems right somehow.

Why is Shiro showing him these things?  Why does he look to the side, suddenly unable to meet Keith’s eyes, embarrassed?  His voice is so soft, so tender.

Keith wants so badly for this all to be real.  For this fake wedding to have just been a wedding.

He wants to ask.

He needs to know.

Shiro clears his throat and looks down, flustered, before Keith can get the words out.  “I-It’s late.  We should get to bed.”

“Y-yeah,” Keith breathes, pulling back.  “If we want to catch that sunrise you’ve been hunting.”  He hands the pictures over.  “They’re beautiful, Shiro.  ...The way you capture emotive moments with your camera...  It’s amazing.  ...You’re amazing.”

Shiro smiles, pouring water over the fire and then walking over to their tent to unzip it.  “It’s all about the subject matter,” Shiro says.

Keith snorts.

“Come on,” he says softly, nodding him toward their sleeping bags.  “Time for bed.  You keep yawning.  We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow.”

“We do?”  Keith asks.

Shiro helps Keith up and inside with a small smile.  They lay out together in their sleeping bags.  Shiro reaches out for Keith's hand and Keith weaves his fingers through his.  They fall asleep like that, warm and comfortable beneath the stars, side by side.

 

Keith wakes up to giggling and the sound of annoying clicking.

He frowns against the clear morning light, rubbing a hand over his face.  God, it’s early.

He feels someone shift beneath him and he blinks owlishly, trying to sluggishly pull himself out of it, but he finds himself tangled.

Oh.  It’s Shiro.  Sometime during the night, Keith must’ve crawled right up onto Shiro’s chest and used him for a pillow.  Shiro’s arms are around him casually, holding onto him, cheek nestled onto the top of Keith’s head.  Keith apparently made a really good teddy bear.

Keith pauses at the sight.  ...Even if it’s an accident, it’s comfortable here.  Keith is so content he doesn't even feel bothered to pull away.

He blinks up as the snickering escalates and pierces through his thoughts.  He realizes with a confused shock that it’s Lance and Pidge.

“Wha-?!”  He yelps, tossing his sleeping bag off of him and darting out of the tent, trying to grab their phones from their hands.  Pictures.  That’s what they need.

“Shiro and Keith sitting in a tree!  K-I-S-S-I-N-G!” Lance crows.

“I’m going to kill you!”  Keith roars, leaping through the air, tackling Lance to the ground and ripping his phone from his hand.

As Lance screeches in betrayal in the dirt, Keith stands over him and deletes the photos.

“What are you all doing here?”  Keith asks, pushing himself up and dusting his shirt off.  “We’re like...days out.”

“Shiro invited us,” Krolia says.

“Mom...”  Keith blinks in surprise and then catches himself.  “K-Krolia...  You too?”  He looks around at all of them.  “Why?”

“I thought it might be fun having everyone together,” Shiro hums from behind him, stepping out of the tent and rubbing at his eyes.  He yawns into his hand as he takes in the sight of Keith standing there.  He smiles fondly.  “...Good morning.”

Keith smiles crookedly.  “Good morning.  Of course you’d be behind it.  It’s fine, I’m just surprised everyone came.  You guys hate it outside.”

“Yeah, well, we had to see this,” Hunk says.

Allura and Coran are there too, their backpacks huge and their clothes a mess.  They look extremely emotional for some reason.  Keith stares as Allura says warmly, “We wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“Miss what?”  Keith grumbles.  “The fake honeymoon?  It’s not the same as a real honeymoon.”

Obviously, or we wouldn’t be here,” Lance groans dramatically.

“I need to sleep,” Pidge groans.  “We’ve been walking for so long.  I have a bugbite.  My nose is cold.  Let’s set up the tents.”

“Oh, we’re staying here?”  Keith asks as they shuffle away, giggling to themselves as they talk too lowly for Keith to hear.

Shiro steps beside Keith, crossing his arms in an effort to conserve heat.  “That okay?”

“Yeah,” Keith says, still surprised.  He scoots in closer to Shiro and leans against his bare arms, trying to help.  “Of course it is.  If you don’t mind.”

Though they’re in the desert, they’ve been following an active creek that leads deep into the crevices of the canyon.  They’ve finally made it to the peak, where there are large pools of bright blue water, edged in green, supplied by a raging waterfall.

It’s gorgeous.  The sound brings life into the peace of the desert.  Keith can’t wait to go swimming later.

“You’re going to miss your sunrise,” Keith says, nodding to the horizon that’s beginning to glow with a string of burning gold.

“Oh,” Shiro breathes, blinking up.  “You’re right.”  He dips back into the tent and then comes back out with his camera.  They’re still in their pajamas, hair a mess and that hint of vulnerability from sleep still in their eyes.  Shiro stops as he looks back at Keith.  Just looks at him, taking him in.

He holds out his hand with a small quiet smile.  “Come with me?” He asks.

Keith doesn't even hesitate before taking his hand.  “Of course.”

They travel up a small trail that curves up the mountainside, leading to the top of the waterfall.  They’re so high up.  The world below them, spread out beneath their fingertips. Keith’s breathless looking out around it as the wind rises up to meet them, pushing at them gently, weaving around them.

And then the sun rises, light peeking up and through the sky, pushing through the dusky haze of lavender to bring fire and light and life.

“Wow,” Keith breathes, keeping his eyes on it.  He feels something inside of himself, an accumulation of all these beautiful days together, finally come at a peak and he’s emotional at the sight.  At how good life can be in the right company.  “I’ve never seen a sunrise more beautiful...”

He looks over to Shiro, expecting to see him doing his thing, snapping away with his camera...but he’s not.  He’s not even looking toward the sky, he’s turned toward Keith, face dazed, in as much awe as Keith feels surprise.

“What are you doing?”  Keith laughs, tossing his arm out at the sunrise.  “This is your shot!  This is your chance!  Shiro,” he laughs.  “What are you doing?”

Shiro just breathes out.  A faint smile grows on his lips as his eyes take in Keith’s laughter and, finally, he lifts his camera.  Points.  Keith hears the familiar click of a moment being captured.

But Shiro’s still not looking at the sun.  Shiro’s pointing the lens right at Keith.

He pulls the camera down and just stares at Keith.  “You’re so beautiful,” he whispers.

Keith just stares.  “...The...the sunrise...”  He murmurs, confused.  Shiro loves sunrises more than anything.

But still, he will not turn from Keith.

Slowly, Shiro holds his hand out.

Keith looks down.  Meets Shiro’s fingertips halfway.  Gold rays bleed through and are clasped between their hands as their fingers intertwine.  He thinks he might know what this is.  ...Hopes he knows what this is.

“Keith,” he breathes.  “Keith, remember that trail we went to in high school...?  Our first adventure together.  Our first backpacking trip.”

“Of course.  Of course I do.  I’ll never forget it.”

“Do you remember which trail it was, Keith?”  Shiro is very quiet as he watches Keith’s face.

Keith just stares.

“This one,” Shiro says softly.  “This very one.”

Understanding sinks in.  Keith thinks he should say something, but he’s forgotten how to talk.

Shiro says, “This whole time...  This whole wedding thing...  I...”  He stumbles on words, cringing.  He takes his hand back and reaches into his pocket, pulling out a piece of paper.  He’s so nervous that he’s shaking, the paper quaking between his two hands.  “I...I wrote it all out.”

Keith stares down at Shiro’s trembling hands.  The way they gold from the sunrise coats them both is more beautiful than Keith can handle.  His brain is locked up. This can’t be real, can it?  He’s still in the tent with Shiro, asleep.

But he blinks to himself and he doesn’t wake up.

“My vows,” Shiro chuckles nervously.  “I...I kind of wanted to do it at the wedding, but I...  I chickened out.  Um...” He bites his lips, eyes going up to Keith’s stunned ones.

It’s happening.

It’s really happening.

“Keith -” Shiro begins, swallowing hard.  “When I first saw you, I -”

The wind picks up and Shiro, a stuttering shaking mess, doesn’t notice at first.  The wind catches the paper from his hand, pulls it right out of his grip, and sends it flying into the sky.

“Ah-!”  Shiro and Keith both look up, blinking, stunned.

It twists up and away, over the canyon, fluttering away like a butterfly.

“...Oh, shit.”  Shiro breathes, slapping a hand over his mouth.  “That was - that was my only copy.

“U-um...  Oh, no...”  Shiro mumbles to himself as he thinks hard.  “...I...I could - Maybe if we go back to camp and I can...”  Panic rises in his face.  “Oh, Keith, I’m so sorry.”

“Wait -” Keith says, catching Shiro’s wrist with his hand before he can escape.

Shiro looks down at Keith’s grip and then up into his face.

“I...  I have one of those too,” Keith breathes, taking the paper from his own pocket and holding it up for him to see.

Shiro’s eyes widen.

Keith chuckles nervously and suddenly his heart’s fluttering.  “...Do you...  Would you like to hear it?” He whispers.

Face still frozen in shock, Shiro gets himself to nod slowly.

“Okay,” Keith whispers.  “It’s.... I’m bad with words.  You know that.  But, um... I -”  Keith takes in a deep breath, looks down at the paper in his hand and realizes he’s trembling too.  He clears his throat.

“Ha...  Okay.  Shiro.  When I was younger, some of my first memories are ones of fear.  My mom was gone, my dad was gone, I was living completely alone and I thought that’s how it would always be.  I felt this horrible thing growing inside of me that was like a monster, reaching up to take away all my hope, any good I had in me.  I would’ve let it win; I had nothing else.  No family.  I was so lonely...  ...And then I met you. You had no reason to stay, no reason to be stuck dealing with me, as angry and bitter as I was...but you did anyways.  And, here you are, years later, still at my side.  You became my family.  I haven’t felt that sort of fear since I met you.  Anything that’s good about me is because you’ve been here, trusting me, and showing me I was worth believing in.  You saved me...  You make me want to spread that sort of kindness to as many people as I can.  You make me want to be a better person.”

“Keith...”  Shiro whispers.

“Shiro, no matter what happens in life, I love you.  I’ve loved you since you first came to me and I’ll love you until the day I die.  Forever.  I’ll love you forever.  You’re everything to me,” he whispers, throat going tight.  “This whole wedding thing, I thought I could do it and not let it affect me...  Everything we’ve done together preparing for it, the wedding itself, celebrating with the ones we love, and now, here...  Shiro, I don’t want this to be fake anymore.  I love you.  I want to marry you for real this time.  I want you to be mine and I want to be yours.  I don’t want to live a life without you.”

“...Keith...”  Shiro breathes, forehead wrinkled as tears start to form in his eyes.

The sunrise is golden, swallowing them up in this soft moment, the water flowing gently behind them.  Keith folds the paper back up and shoves it into his pocket, exchanging it for a small black box.  He takes a slow steady breath.  He can do this.

Holding it between two shaky hands, he gets down on one knee.

“Shiro,” he breathes, looking up into his face as Shiro nods, mouth pressed together with emotion as he cries.  “Shiro...  Will you marry me?” Keith asks, opening the box and holding it up to him.

Keith.”  Shiro sinks down to his knees beside Keith.  He stares at the ring in Keith’s hands, mouth agape, mind totally overloaded.  And then, in one quick motion, he throws himself at Keith, wrapping his arms around him tightly.  “Keith.”

“Shiro,” Keith breathes and presses his hand to Shiro’s back, holding him close.

Yes.  Yes, of course I’ll marry you.  Me too.  Everything you just said.  I’ve loved you since forever.  I wanted this all to be real too.  Oh, god, I wish I had known sooner.”

“Shiro,” Keith sniffles as tears pour down his own face.  His hands dig into Shiro’s shirt.  “I’m so glad.  All this time...”

“We’ll always been together, Keith.  Always.”

Keith laughs, pulling back gently.  He and Shiro’s faces are beaming like the sun, two stars in alignment.  He grins up at him.  “When I first told everyone about our engagement, they did say we were basically already married.”

“Yeah,” Shiro breathes, laughing.  “Yeah.”

“So let’s not get a divorce,” Keith says and Shiro laughs wetly, sounding more like a sob.  “Do we need another wedding? I mean, we just had one.”

Shiro’s still laughing, bringing Keith back into his arms so they’re basically sitting on top of each other.  “Keith .”

“I’m kidding,” Keith whispers, running his hands through Shiro’s hair and humming.  “Honestly, I’m still recovering from the last wedding.  It’s been so much fun with you...”

“I love you,” Shiro breathes, bringing his head closer to Keith to kiss him on the mouth.  “I’ve wanted to tell you for so long.  ...It’s funny.  This whole thing started because I was trying to prove something to my aunt, to try to win my way into their family somehow...  But, to the family that matters, I don’t have to do that.  You’ve been here all along...I see that now.”  Shiro breathes, bringing his head closer to Keith to kiss him on the mouth.  “You’ve always been everything to me.”

“I love you too,” Keith hums, raising his hands to cup over Shiro’s face.  “I thought that -”

He yelps as he realizes the box he was holding falls right out of his hand as he exchanges his hold for Shiro’s face.  The ring goes flying before either can catch it.  It gets caught up in the current and travels away, toward the edge of the cliff, and straight down the waterfall.

“Oh, my god,” Keith blinks, getting to his feet.  “Your ring.”

Shiro follows suit and they both look over the edge.

“I’ve got it first!”  Lance shouts from down below, already diving into the pool.

“No, I do!”  Pidge declares as she races in after him.

“Not if I do first!”  Hunk dives in and the pool is full of them, splashes and all.

They’re all down below, having watched the whole thing.  Krolia has a camera in her hands.

Shiro is laughing.

“This is so not funny!”  Keith looks back at him, but he can’t hold a glare after all that.  Not as he looks into Shiro’s bright grin and the joy radiating off of him.  He has his camera up, snapping a picture, unadulterated joy in his eyes.

Keith begins to laugh too.

Shiro holds his stomach with one hand and grabs Keith’s hand in the other, letting his camera rest against his chest.  “I dropped my vows, you dropped the ring.”

“Oh, god...  It’s dangerous up here...”

“Come away from the edge, then,” Shiro hums, walking them closer inland.  “As long as you’re safe with me, then we’re all good.”

Keith grins crookedly at him as he lets himself be led.  “...I guess you’re right.  ...I would still like to find that ring though.  It wasn’t cheap.”

“No?”  Shiro laughs.

“No.  You deserve a ring fit for royalty.”

“Neither was yours.  Want to see?  I could hardly decide.”

“Don’t take it out!”  Keith yelps as he slaps his hand over Shiro’s pocket so Shiro can’t get to it.  “We’ll lose it!”

“They’ll find it,” Shiro grins.  “I promise.”

Keith just hums.  He’s not worried.  He feels so lucky to be here, high up above this waterfall, looking out into the sunset with the person he loves most in the world, surrounded by their loved ones.

Keith looks back to Shiro, eyes welling up with fresh tears as he realizes it.  Words burn in his throat as he whispers, “...All we ever really wanted was a family, huh?”

“Yeah,” Shiro hums, thinking back.  “Ever since we were just kids, full of dreams.  They seemed so silly at the time...so unattainable.  A family...that was for everyone else but us.”

“We have one now,” Keith whispers, words burning in his throat as emotions well back up and burn his nose.  He cries.

Shiro nods, pressing his forehead to Keith’s.  He’s tearing up too.  “We do,” he sniffs.  “We’re family.  We’re all family.”

“We are,” Keith breathes, wrapping his arms around Shiro’s neck and dragging him down to kiss him full on the mouth.  “I love you,” Keith breathes between kisses. “I love you so much.”

“I’ve always been yours, Keith,” Shiro says as he cradles his head in his hands.  “Always.”

“We’re each other’s.”

Shiro nods and they kiss.

“I found it!”  Someone yells from down below, “Do I get a reward?”

“That was mine!  I saw it first!”

Keith and Shiro laugh into their kiss, going back in for another.

Family.  They’ve always longed for it.  And it’s funny how things work out sometimes because it’s always been here, all along, in the most obvious place.

Right besides themselves.

Shiro and Keith

Keith and Shiro.

They’re getting married.