It had been a long time since Keith had gone to anything resembling a New Year’s Eve party.
He’s certainly never attended one while cruising through deep space on a former warship turned humanitarian exploratory vessel.
By a bit of unfortunate fate for the human members of Atlas’ crew, Earth’s first New Year after freeing Earth from Galra control and helping Voltron defeat Honerva in the final fight for universal peace occurred while the Atlas was traversing galaxies and solar systems, dealing with rogue Galra factions and helping to stabilise former Galra-colonised planets. There was always the option of a wormhole but near everyone had come to the agreement not to interrupt their journey so soon after it had begun.
Lance had took it upon himself to spearhead an onboard New Year’s Eve party for the crew, human and alien alike, and had managed to transform the Atlas’ minimalist cafeteria into something that more resembled the high school discos Keith could remember from ancient romcom movies.
Pidge and Matt had fashioned something that one could technically be referred to as a disco ball. It was large, round, and it sparkled with reflected light - it did also, however, emit the occasional, slightly nauseating laser show. It was also apparently programmed to drop confetti at the appropriate time - midnight on the 31st December back on Earth, according to the Garrison’s timezone. Allura had worked with several Balmerans to create a beautiful array of crystal lamps that bathed the room in the cool blue light of Altean energy. They reminded Keith of the rock salt lamp his dad had had, the one which glowed pink and sweated in the desert summer heat. The MFE squad had turned themselves into a creative enterprise of paper decorations, though Nadia’s rainbow chain loops that swung from the ceiling contrasted with Ina’s expertly folded origami table pieces. Said tables had been laid out with Hunk’s specially curated New Year buffet menu, of which Keith could verify was delicious and that Hunk had outdone himself.
Party planning wasn’t one of the skills Keith had ever picked up in his life, even before he became a Paladin and a Blade, so he’d largely contributed as a pair of strong hands capable of lifting and carrying things.
Sipping on his mixture of orange juice and nunvil, which everyone but Coran agreed was almost unsettlingly delicious, Keith glanced over the crowd of party goers but couldn’t spot the head of silver hair he’d lost at some point during the party. It turned out that even in downtime, people wanted the attention of the Leader of Voltron and Captain of the Atlas, and him and Shiro had gotten slowly separated as crew member after crew member wanted to talk to them. He spotted Lance and Allura dancing among cafeteria tables to the old school indie rock song playing over the Atlas’ intercom speakers. Keith wondered if Shiro would dance with him if he asked and he gulped down the last of his drink to distract himself from the flustering thought.
Setting down his empty cup on a tray that floated by, Keith nimbly dodged through the crowd and slipped through the automatic doors, which had the Garrison’s current time projected in orange across it. 23.45.
He had an inkling of where Shiro might have drifted off to.
Keith folded his hands into the pockets of his red leather jacket as he made the walk from the cafeteria to the Atlas’ observation deck, which sat below the ship’s bridge. There was a warm simmering sensation building underneath his breast bone and he wondered if it that was the nunvill or the return of the strange anticipation that been ebbing and flowing in him since this morning. Like the moment before he willingly flung himself out of an airlock and into the vastness of the cold, merciless universe.
He stepped into the elevator that would take him to the observation deck and clenched his fists against the surge of nerves fluttering around inside him. There was nothing to be nervous about - it was just Shiro. Yet Keith knew that Shiro was never just anything. Shiro had always been above and beyond anything Keith could have asked for in his life. It seemed unfair that there was still that unexpressed desire for more that gnawed at Keith’s gut whenever he glanced too long at Shiro’s handsome face, indulged in Shiro’s solid warmth whenever his best friend stood close, or when his face flushed at Shiro’s casual, comforting touches.
The elevator doors opened with a pneumatic hiss and revealed the dimly lit expanse of the observation deck. Shiro was seated on the cushioned bench facing the large reinforced window that revealed the bright burn of unfamiliar star clusters, his silver hair almost aglow in the simulated dusk light. The Earth clock was lit up along the ceiling edge of the observation window, shouting in Garrison orange at Keith that it was 23.49. Shiro’s broad back was tightly embraced in a black button-up and suffused with the blue light from his prosthetic forearm.
“Though I’d find you here,” Keith said quietly, approaching the bench Shiro had taken refuge in. Shiro turned his head towards Keith, his sharp profile like a painting against the turning universe beyond the window. The long part of his hair had been slicked back at the start of the evening but little flyaways had started to spring forth from whatever hair product Shiro had used. Keith somehow found it both startlingly endearing and breathtakingly handsome.
“Just needed a little time alone,” Shiro replied, the corner of his mouth shaping itself sheepishly.
“S’okay,” Keith shrugged and sat down beside Shiro. “Y’know I like the quiet more than anyone.”
Keith took his hands out of his pockets and clasped his hands between his knees, subtly leaning into the warm line of Shiro’s left side. He didn’t even run particularly cold yet Shiro’s body heat was infinitely enticing. They sat in comfortable, warm silence for awhile, both of them content to stare out into the stars. There was a binary star system in the galaxy they were passing through and it burned glorious blue and orange in the distance.
The clock read 23.55 when Shiro spoke.
“A part of me still can’t believe we’re here,” Shiro said softly and Keith switched from observing the wider universe to observing his own. “That we’re all here and alive and that the universe isn’t pieces seems like a miracle, doesn’t it?” Shiro continued, meeting Keith’s gaze with his own at the conclusion of his question.
“That’s the power of teamwork for you,” Keith replied wryly and Shiro breathed a small but sincere laugh, grey eyes swimming with something tender Keith couldn’t quite place.
“I definitely wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you,” Shiro said in a low voice, the planes of his face shifting softer, mouth curling into a smile Keith wasn’t yet brave enough to call adoring.
His breath caught in his chest when Shiro’s large biological hand reached for his own, so overtly closing the distance between them in a way that they hadn’t done before. Shiro’s hand was warm like the rest of his him, like his body heat, like the expression on his face. Keith glimpsed at that glaring orange clock - 23.57. Three minutes until midnight hit on Earth.
A lot can happen in three minutes, Keith couldn’t help but think. Keith screwed his courage tight - the courage that had taken him from a heartbroken and lonely orphan in the desert to one of the leaders of a universal coalition - and spoke the words he’d been waiting months, probably years, to say.
“Guess I wasn’t willing to have a universe without you in it,” Keith said gently and fitted his slender fingers alongside Shiro’s. “Not after Kerberos, not after losing you against Zarkon, not on that facility…” Keith trailed off when Shiro’s prosthetic floated up towards his face, his metal thumb touching the burn mark that lay on his right cheek, forever a reminder of the relentless dedication Keith housed in his heart for Shiro.
“We saved each other, isn’t that what you said?” Shiro asked, his prosthetic fingers now cradling the right side of Keith’s head, white metal burying into dark hair. Keith remembered the dizzying relief that had flooded him at the sound of Shiro coughing awake and nodded.
“Yeah,” Keith smiled around the words. “That’s what I said.”
“Before everything, New Year’s was always a little bittersweet for me,” Shiro confessed, voice still that low murmur that trembled itself through Keith, “another year gone by, counting down against the state of my body, my life. But now...now everything’s different. There’s a...life, ahead of me. Because of you,” Shiro smiled, eyes creasing at the corners, and pressed his forehead against Keith’s, another point of shared contact that had Keith reeling.
“Because of you, Keith, there’s me, and I don’t want to spend the life you’ve helped me keep with any regrets.”
The words were breathed against Keith’s mouth, Shiro so tantalisingly close Keith almost couldn’t stand it. There was the hint of Hunk’s mini chocolate souffles on Shiro’s breath. He chanced one last glance at the clock, though he was quickly losing the ability to care.
“New Year’s is about new beginnings, right?” Keith asked breathlessly. “Resolving to do the things you’d never thought you’d do?”
“How about we start with this?” Shiro murmured before pressing his lips against Keith’s.
There was a moment where their lips simply touched, savouring that first moment of new and wonderful affection. Keith couldn’t stop his gasp of breath but there was no time to be embarrassed before Shiro took advantage and used the slight opening of Keith’s mouth for what it was. Keith pressed back into the kiss, letting Shiro’s hand on his head guide him, and allowed himself to shudder against the feeling of Shiro’s lips moving so hot and perfect against his own.
The clock on the window hit four zeros and commenced the digital display of fireworks that superimposed itself over the lights of the universe. Neither Keith or Shiro noticed, as their kiss had progressed into something that moved with heat and tenderness, and were too happily preoccupied to care.