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Keith is stuck in a supply closet. A fucking, alien , supply closet—on a spaceship, with alien cleaning supplies digging into his ribs and everything. There is a suspiciously dirty mop staring at him from the corner of the room. It’s sitting in a bucket and Keith hasn’t dared investigate the contents yet. Maybe he can drown himself in it later, if he’s still stuck in this damned closet.

Of all the dangerous missions Keith’s completed in his brief time as the Black Paladin—all the rickety, abandoned research centres, the high security military camps and the heavily guarded weapon facilities he’s infiltrated—it’s a fucking closet that traps him.

Him, and the tallest fucking Galra that Keith has ever seen.

And Keith can smell him.

It’s not a bad smell, per se—in fact, it’s a sweet, heady, smell—but it feels thick. The smell is trapped and rolling around the small space, and Keith can’t remember ever being so aware of another person’s scent before.

It’s probably got something to do with all the time he’s been spending around Galra lately. He’s been getting to know his Mom, and Kolivan, but Keith barely knows the others. Even though he’s been living in close quarters with the rest of the blades these past few weeks, sleeping and eating amongst them as he learns the skills required to become a fully-fledged member, he doesn’t really know any of them. Not in any way that matters. Regardless, he enjoys the companionship. It’s a feeling of belonging, and of kinship, that he never quite managed to grasp back on Earth.

Keith swears his teeth are getting just a little bit sharper, day by day. His Mom says it’s his latent heritage, or something.

The man shifts and Keith is hit with another wave of his scent. It catches in his throat and makes his stomach feel warm.

Keith has seen this man around the base before. Though he hasn’t really met him, not really. All he knows is that the man is called Shiro, and that he is some sort of golden boy. One of the best agents the Blades of Marmora has ever seen—asides from Kolivan, of course. He’s one of their longest standing and most respected members, and Keith’s Mom seems to think he’s something special.

So far Keith has yet to see any evidence of his brilliance. It was Keith that had taken down the sentinel guarding the entrance to the research facility, not Shiro. The fight had pushed his sparring knowledge to the limit, but Keith had done it. He had neutralised that hulking monster of a non-cog, and Shiro had done absolutely nothing to help. Just stood there, watching, one hand resting on a cocked hip as though Keith taking down an 8-foot Galra-zombie-creature was something he saw every day.

“Try it again.”

Keith breathes in slowly. Tries to remember what his Dad taught him about losing his temper in times of crisis.

“I’ve tried it a thousand times already old timer, it’s not moving. We’re stuck.”

He clenches his fists, tells himself that that kicking the door would only draw unwanted attention to them. He doesn’t know how this mission could have gone so badly, so quickly. He just wanted to be in and out—get this fiasco over and done with so that Allura and his Mom finally stop pestering him. He is already the Black Paladin, he is already the leader of Voltron. He doesn’t need to learn restrain— or whatever it is that Allura has an issue with. What Keith needs is to take down Zarkon—to kill that bastard of an emperor so that they can get on with the business of restoring peace and preventing more families from being ripped apart at the seams.

He tries the door handle one more time. The metal is slippery to touch—the room is getting hotter and hotter the longer they are trapped, and Keith is still sweaty from the effort he put into that fight—he turns the knob and—nothing.

They really are stuck.

Keith hisses air through his teeth. Tries to count to ten.

At five, he jumps backwards when a clawed, large, hand closes over his fist.

“Patience, little one.”

Keith bristles— little one? —and shakes his hand free, whipping around ready to confront this useless, giant, Galra, and smacks face first into Shiro’s stomach. It’s surprisingly painful.

“I really don’t think you’re one to be giving advice right now.” Keith says, rubbing his jaw.

“Oh? And why’s that?” Shiro asks, amusement lilting through his voice. Keith narrows his eyes.

Why? Maybe because you’re the one that got us into this mess?” he spits.

Keith cranes back so that he can glare more effectively. Though it’s dark in the little room, his half Galran eyesight allows him an almost black-and-white vision of the body towering over him.

Shiro barely fits in the closet. His neck is hunched forward, and his head is tilted awkwardly to the side to avoid taking out the solitary light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Even though he's gotten them trapped like animals, Shiro still manages to sound smug. Keith reckons that Shiro is smirking under that helmet and the thought curls hot rage through his belly. It twists with the warmth that has settled into his skin since Shiro’s scent filled the room, and Keith feels his cheeks flush.
Suddenly, Shiro shifts forward and Keith’s eyeline is entirely full of uniformed pecs. A fresh wave of Shiro’s scent hits Keith like a brick wall and he blinks and stumbles backwards, trying to get away from the powerful sweetness of it.

He absolutely does not squeak when Shiro catches him around the waist. Shiro’s hand feels bigger than when it was closed around his fist, and for a second Keith thinks he’s losing his mind. The hand is cold to the touch—Keith can feel it even through his uniform. He realises with a start that it’s made of metal.

“Stay still little one—you almost stepped in that bucket of muck. I need some space to take this helmet off.”

True enough, Shiro reaches up with the arm that is currently not wrapped around Keith and pulls off his helmet. He shakes his head gently; tufted ears wiggling slightly as they are freed.

Shiro huffs a few breaths up towards his white shock of bangs. The hair is a little bit tacky from being under the helmet and sticks up in several directions. Unusually for a Galra, Shiro’s hair is dark and cropped close at the back, making his large ears seem even more prominent. For a fleeting moment, Keith thinks about how they might feel under his fingers— he wonders if they're soft.

“You should take yours off too.”

Keith just stares. Shiro sighs and reaches to grab Keith’s helmet.

“I can do it myself,” Keith snaps, batting claws away.

Keith takes off his helmet. It allows the smell of honey and firewood to completely engulf him and impossibly, Keith swears the room gets a few degrees warmer.
Shiro backs off abruptly,at last, and tries to stand up, nose flaring as he rears out of Keith’s personal space. The tips of his ears fold over where they touch the roof. Keith finds it extremely irritating. He does not find it endearing.

“That’s better.”

Keith wonders if he should be offended or something but gets distracted taking in the full picture that is Shiro’s face. There is a stark, white stripe of scar tissue painted across Shiro’s nose and Keith wants to know how it got there.

Shiro seems to be looking for something in Keith’s face.

Keith isn’t entirely sure what he’s looking for, but whatever it is, he doesn’t seem to find it. His brows come together and a fang pokes out to worry his lower lip. Keith feels a little unsettled under the intense scrutiny, and the anger from before comes back to him in a hot wave. Before he can say anything, Shiro speaks.

“Do not engage.”

Keith blinks.


“Do not engage. Those were our orders.”

Keith shuffles on the spot but refuses to break eye contact.

“Our orders were stupid. This whole mission is stupid.”

He sticks his chin out and pushes down any guilt that might be threatening to rear its head.

Shiro only sighs.

“This is a reconnaissance mission.”


“So, our orders, were not to engage with the enemy.”

And like I said, Old Timer, our orders were stupid.”

Shiro just looks at him. Sighs.

“Your mother did say you had an attitude problem.”

Keith’s mouth falls open. He snaps it shut quickly, but for the first time during this mission, he doesn’t know what to say. He feels betrayed.

“Are you recovered from the fight, little one?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” he snaps, “Don’t call me that.”

“Good, then we’ll need to get a move on,” Shiro says, seemingly ignoring Keith’s protest. His calm and unaffected demeanour is really beginning to piss Keith off.

“And how exactly are we supposed to complete the mission when we’re stuck in a janitor’s closet?”

“Agent, the mission has failed.”

Keith stomach drops.


“The mission has failed—our cover is blown. We must leave undiscovered and return to base.”

“What?” Keith repeats, but the word escapes him in nothing but a whisper. Panic starts to claw its way up from his stomach, gets stuck in his throat.
This mission supposed to be over with quickly. He was supposed to return triumphant, so that he could take Voltron and go after Zarkon. His success was supposed to finally prove to everyone—Allura, the team, his Mom—that Keith was the right person to be leading Voltron.

He doesn’t realise he’s closed his eyes until he opens them again and is faced with two, slightly concerned, cat-like ones staring back.
It’s quite disconcerting. With Shiro's face taking up the whole of his vision, it's altogether impossible for Keith to ignore how beautiful he is. Up close, Keith sees that the very tips of Shiro's eyelashes are white, like they've been dipped in milk.

The tip of a clawed finger gently tilts Keith's chin up.

Keith is suddenly very aware of his own heartbeat—he can feel it, thundering in his rib cage, making his blood beat hot.

If he could move, turn his back on this situation and walk away, Keith would do it.

He would wrench himself an escape, pull out of Shiro's grasp and get himself out of there fast.

If he could run, then he would. Then he wouldn’t reveal how affected he is by this stupid mission, and its failure—his failure. He could leave before it becomes obvious how affected he is by Shiro. This Galra, this strangely gentle man who is staring at Keith intently and making him feel things he doesn't know how to deal with in the slightest. For a fleeting moment, Keith wishes he was in the garrison training pod, beating the shit out of a punching bag.

"You shouldn't be so hard on yourself, Keith."

Keith startles at the sound of Shiro's voice. He's about to protest—tell Shiro that he has no idea what he's talking about—but his words are cut off abruptly as a thumb strokes delicately over his cheekbone, brushing at the edges of his scar.

He expects Shiro to say something, ask the same question that everybody else does, but he doesn't. Instead of entitled curiosity, his eyes reflect only concern.

Keith swallows. Licks his lips. For some reason his throat feels dry.

"I got it in a fire," he says carefully, watching Shiro closely, before continuing, "the one my dad died in."

Shiro still says nothing. Just continues to stare, eyebrows drawn together and fang poking out to worry his lower lip.

Usually, any sign of pity would have Keith spiting fire. He’s not entirely sure what Shiro is feels towards him right now, but it doesn’t seem like pity.

The tip of Shiro's tongue slips out to dampen his lips—he must be feeling the heat too—and for a brief second, Keith pictures himself kissing this man.

It makes him want to run away even more.

"Shiro, I ... ah!"

A jolt radiates from Keith’s shoulder where Shiro has decided to try and squeeze the life out of him. Shiro’s face somehow gets even closer and Keith is going to go cross-eyed soon, but he can’t move back because Shiro’s other hand is still gripping his jaw, thumb gently tracing Keith’s scar.

“You are very brave, little one,” Shiro says, with an earnestness that Keith doesn’t think he’s ever encountered before. He feels Shiro’s breath, ghosting over his lips. Keith’s gut twists sharply.

“You are very brave,” Shiro continues, ignoring Keith’s jerky attempts to escape, “but you must learn to listen to those around you, Keith. Recklessness and bravery are not the same thing. There are people who would miss you, if you gave up on yourself so easily.”

And then Keith can't breathe. It takes him a moment to figure out why he can't breathe, and when he does figure it out it has him scrabbling at Shiro's stomach to make himself a little air pocket. It would be mortifyingif he died from an over-sized Galra hug. Lance would never let him forget it.

Said over-sized Galra is now petting him. Honest to god, petting him.

Shiro is slowly running his fingers through Keith's hair. It’s no easy feat—his hand keeps getting caught on all the tangles, and every time it snags Keith can’t help but let out a slight hiss. Even still, Shiro keeps petting. A low rumbling sound shakes through Keith’s body, and they must be losing oxygen in here, because Keith refuses to believe that Shiro is actually purring right now.

It's the straw that breaks the camel's back and Keith finally gathers enough strength to push Shiro away.

He ignores the flash of hurt that flits across Shiro's face when his head knocks back against the wall. Instead of apologising, Keith puts his helmet back on.

"Enough of this bullshit, Old Timer," he spits, “If you're really as good as they you are, then you can get us out of here."

Shiro lifts his helmet up as if to put it back on but stops half way. For a minute, Keith thinks Shiro will challenge him— but he only shakes his head a couple of times before saying;

"Alright then. We can talk about this when we get back to base."

Keith blinks.

"Right, sure. Whatever."

If they make it back, there is no way in hell Keith is talking about this mission again. Ever.

"What's the plan then?" Keith says, the end of the sentence tapering off into a yelp. Without warning, Shiro has decided to lean right over him and Keith has to squat dramatically, or face being squashed into Galra armpit. A shiver runs down his spine at the thought, but Keith avoids ruminating over why that option might be so appealing.

"What are you doing?!" he yells, pushing at Shiro’s hips for emphasis.

Shiro ignores him.

"Do you actually have a plan? Or are you just going to beat the door down with your giant head?" says Keith hotly, trying to crane his neck around to get a look at what Shiro is actually doing.


He doesn't have much time to process the sound before his tailbone hits the ground and god knows how many kilos of Galra fighter and metal prosthetic land on top of him. It knocks the wind right out of him.

Shiro wriggles on top of him gracelessly, pushing himself up onto an elbow and looking sheepishly down at Keith. He has Keith completely pinned to the ground.

"Sorry about that," he says.

"What," Keith wheezes,"happened?"

Shiro dangles something above Keith's head. Unfortunately, he holds whatever it is right between Keith's eyes so that the image won't focus.


"I picked the lock," says Shiro, looking for all the world like a puppy expecting praise.

"You what?" Keith shouts, pushing up with all his strength in his outrage. Shiro scrambles out of the way to avoid being headbutt.

"I picked the lock," repeats Shiro, leaning back on his heels.

"You mean we were stuck in there for god knows how long, boiling alive! and you could have picked the lock this entire time?"

"Yes?" Shiro says, uncertainty beginning to creep into his features.

"I don't believe you."

"Well no time to argue about it," says Shiro, his face settling into a completely different expression, "get up – we've got company."

Keith doesn't waste any time looking. He springs onto his feet straight into a defensive position, his hand poised to draw his knife, and turns around.

Three—no four guards are making rapid progress down the corridor towards them. Keith’s hand closes around his knife but–

"No time."

"What are you talking about? We have to fight!"

"No, not this time," Shiro says, a calmness laced through his voice that Keith would not be able to replicate right now.

"You usele—argh!"

The room suddenly spins, and Keith doesn't understand what has happened until he realises that his feet are no longer on the ground and the four soldiers that were after them are getting smaller and smaller.

"Put. Me. Down!" Keith shouts, attempting to escape in Shiro's hold.

"No can do, little one. Stay still and I'll get us out of here," Shiro says, voice still calm, even though he is running at an impressive speed and carrying Keith— Keith, who may be small for a half-Galra, but still weighs enough that carrying him one handed ought to be a struggle for the average man.

The scenery is changing rapidly—Shiro can move fast, and before he knows it Keith's stomach is dropping away from him as they bounce down the supply hatch they had climbed earlier. Shiro completely ignores the rope they had left in place and instead jumps from one wall to another, descending in careful little hops. He braces himself with his mechanical arm and takes great care not to hit Keith’s head off the sides of the chute.

"Shiro!" cries Keith, as he spots the faces of the guards peering over the edge of the hatch. Shiro doesn't, he can't do anything—his arms are literally full—so Keith reacts on instinct. He withdraws his knife—the blade he inherited from his father—and uses it to shield them from the lasers.

The weapons are powerful, and he feels the force of them pushing against his knife, edging the blade closer and closer to his face. He growls, feels his features start to shift, his battle instincts forcing his teeth to elongate as adrenaline floods through him. He cries out, putting all his strength into keeping his blade steady.

As they descend into the escape pod, Keith feels hot wind whistle past his ear. He hears a deep cry and then he’s abruptly rolling across the steel floor.

He pulls himself onto his knees and sees Shiro at the entrance to the pod, slamming the button that seals them in. On his arm, a large and bloody gash shines bright against the contrast of his uniform.

Keith scrambles for the pilot’s chair. He knows what he needs to do.

"I'll take over from here."



After the mission, Keith can't stop watching Shiro.

He doesn't know how Shiro could ever have escaped his attention before. He's huge, for one thing. Whenever Shiro enters a room, everybody notices. Yet he carries himself in such an unassuming manner. It's not that he doesn't want to be noticed, its more that he doesn't care much either way. The quiet way he commands a room doesn't leave most people much choice but to pay attention. Keith certainly can't look away.

So Keith has finally noticed Shiro. And it’s becoming a bit of a problem.

It's only been two days since they returned from the mission—sweaty, a little tired, and mostly free from injury. Both days, despite Keith's best efforts at evasion, Shiro has tracked Keith down and asked to spar with him. Both days, Keith has refused.

It's been an absolute pain in the ass. Keith knowshow to spar. But Shiro keeps insisting in that infuriatingly calm tone of his, that Keith should spar with him. Even if he didn't already know how to spar, spending so much time in close quarters with Shiro again would be… troublesome, to say the least.

His eyes keep following Shiro around the room. They keep zoning in on Shiro's shoulders—on the planes of muscle that ripple when Shiro points something out during strategy meetings. Or on the stretch of Shiro's legs, and the long, long, length of them—they come almost up to Keith's chest! Even the sound of Shiro's voice, the low timbre of it, sends shivers down Keith's spine and make his head snap up from whatever he’s working on.

Sometimes, Keith even gets stuck watching Shiro's ears. They are oddly expressive.

On top of the failed mission, this new fixation is far too much for Keith to deal with. So, he’s been avoiding Shiro as much as possible—and he's done a pretty good job of it so far. Today, Keith has seen Shiro once, at breakfast, but he made a swift exit half way through his meal—running for it when Shiro began making tracks for him across the mess hall.

He's not proud of it. But he doesn't think he'd be able to keep his attraction contained during another conversation. Especially if Shiro smells like that again. Somehow, Keith knows, he would give himself away.

Usually, he's quite good at hiding his feelings. There have been enough well-meaning but completely useless adults in Keith's past— teachers, care-workers, and the like—that have totally failed at reading Keith's personality, his motives. But if they wanted to label Keith as a delinquent—a no-good trouble maker with nothing in his future, then Keith could do little to convince them otherwise.

He knows things would be different with Shiro. It terrifies him.

Keith pushes it all to the back of his mind and grabs a towel. Scalding hot showers usually distract him enough that he can clear his head before he goes to sleep.

He makes it to the communal shower pod, expecting to have the place to himself at such a late hour.

Instead, he opens the door and runs straight into Shiro's stomach. Again.



He steadies himself, hands coming up to contact warm, slightly damp skin. Shiro is shirtless, and Keith just slammed straight into his still wet torso. Keith's stomach twists violently. He can't tell if it's uncomfortable or exciting.

"Um. Hey, Shiro."

And Keith suddenly finds himself awkwardly fidgeting on the spot, totally unsure of himself. He seems to have lost his words completely. He realises his hands are still on Shiro's chest and snaps them back quickly, as though burned. He risks a quick glance. As soon as their eyes meet, Shiro's ears flick upright and forwards to face Keith.

The way Keith’s stomach twists this time is definitelyfrom pleasure. Keith makes to get past Shiro, but he's so impossibly huge that his shoulders span the whole doorway.

"So, I was wondering," asks Shiro, oblivious to Keith's struggle, “if you'd had time to think about that sparring session?"

The smile on his face is so earnest that Keith gives up his attempts to push past.

"Shiro I... appreciate the offer, but I don't need any sparring lessons."

The smile falls. Shiro's eyebrows draw together and his ears flip backwards all at once. A hot spike of panic runs through Keith, along with the immediate desire to remove that expression from Shiro's face.

"Oh…Um. Okay. It's just that—"

"Really Shiro. I'm grateful, but I don't need your help."

"Who said anything about help?"

Keith crosses his arms. Stares blankly.

"Really Keith. I just want someone to practice with."

Keith can't help but think there must be someone else that Shiro wants to spar with. If it were anyone other than Shiro, Keith wouldn't trust the offer for a second.

"And I'd like to see what you're like."

Keith raises an eyebrow. A dark, reddish-flush spreads across Shiro's cheeks.

"I-I mean—. It's just that—you were so good at piloting us out of there the other day," Shiro splutters, scratching at back of his neck, "I'd like to see you fight, too."

Keith considers him. Takes in the sheer size of the Galra in front of him, the unsheathed power of his muscles, the sharpness of his claws and teeth. It couldbe interesting. Provided Keith can keep a hold on his... problem.

"Alright," Keith says, Shiro's expression instantly brightening, "But no teaching!"

Shiro nods, his ears flapping with enthusiasm. Keith wonders how this overgrown kitten of a man could possibly be the infamous Champion, notorious amongst the Blades of Marmora.

"I promise. No teaching, instructing or educating of any sort! Meet me tomorrow morning in the training room?"

Keith nods his head in confirmation and Shiro beams.

"Great! I'll see you there"

Shiro turns on his side to escape the door frame, and Keith is hit with a wave of that smell as he brushes past. Keith is reminded of why he needs that shower to distract himself.


Keith has a long shower but refuses to let his mind wander. The heat of the water helps distract him sufficiently, easing the tension in his shoulders and soothing the aches left over from the mission. He thinks he may be able to get some well needed, uninterrupted sleep tonight. He shucks on some sleeping pants and begins absently drying his hair when he realises there is another person in the locker area.

They’re not trying to hide. Shiro is sitting on a bench, hunched over his arm and fiddling with a poor attempt at bandaging. His fingers are too big for the cloth, and he’s clearly struggling to tie the bandage closed. He must have stuck around whilst Keith showered, and Keith is very grateful he didn’t let his mind— or his hands—wander after all.

Unfortunately, the sight of all that muscle he’s been imaging the past two days causes the millions of thoughts he’d avoided successfully in the shower to assault him at all at once. Shiro's ears twitch in frustration, and Keith makes a decision.

“Do you need help?” he says, dropping the towel and approaching Shiro on the bench.

“Oh!” Shiro jumps, and the cloth slips through his fingers. He attempts to grab at it, but the strands evade his grasp. They both watch as the bandages lazily unravel on his arm.

Shiro sighs and looks up at Keith sheepishly.

“I would appreciate that, little one.”

For some reason, the nickname doesn’t bother Keith so much today. It might have something to do with the smile Shiro flashes at him as Keith settles down on the bench.

He picks up the cloth but inspects the wound before beginning.

“You’ve at least cleaned it well.”

“Mmm.” Shiro replies, as he watches Keith begin to methodically wrap the cloth around the partly healed wound. The skin around it is hot to the touch, and Keith is grateful his own is still flushed from the shower.

“It’s a bit tricky to do alone,” Shiro says, nodding towards his prosthetic arm.

Keith eyes the arm in question. It’s a dark, almost black metal that stops nearly at Shiro’s shoulder. He doesn’t know what to say, so he carries on wrapping.

“It’s quite good for some things,” Shiro says, flexing his fingers in the light, “such as fighting, or wielding a weapon.”

Keith pauses. Shiro is watching him carefully, a smirk spreading across his face.

“It’s also good for carrying little half-Galrans,” he says playfully, and Keith feels himself smiling in return.

“I’m not that little, Old Timer.” Keith punches his shoulder lightly, and Shiro hisses through his teeth.

“And I’m not weak.”

They stare at each other for a moment. Keith thinks he can feel every heated particle of space between them.

Shiro shuffles closer on the bench so that their thighs are pressed tight together and they share the same air. The bandage lies forgotten between them.

“No, little one,” he says softly, “You’re not weak.”

Shiro’s eyes dart down, glancing at Keith’s lips, and Keith is hit with the overwhelming sensation of how much he wants this.

His eyes shut of their own accord, and he can feel Shiro’s breath ghost across his lips.

“In the bag.” Shiro says.

“What?” Keith says, still processing the words even as he leans forward to run his nose along Shiro’s neck. His scent is fainter than usual—Keith wishes he’d made up his mind before the shower—but it’s still strong enough to elicit a low groan from him.

“Ah! In my bag, look in my bag!”

Keith pulls back confused, worry beginning to creep into his gut. But Shiro smiles at him and briefly leans down to bring their foreheads together. They stay like that for a moment.

“I brought you a gift,” he says quietly.

Keith is still confused.


Shiro pulls back and though he is still smiling, he seems nervous. He turns to rummage in the bag behind the bench.

He pulls out a small, red, velvet box.

Keith swallows.


“I’ve been talking to Lance about earth customs.” Shiro says, running his fingers gently back and forth across the velvet, the texture changing with every swipe.

“Oh?” Keith says faintly, because that can’t possibly be good, and he really doesn’t know what else to say.

Shiro nods, still looking at the box.

“And, um. What has Lance been telling you about our customs, exactly?” Keith asks.

Shiro keeps running his fingers back and forth across the velvet. He licks his lips and flicks his eyes briefly towards Keith.

“Shiro?” Keith prompts.

“Just, earth traditions,” Shiro says, his words leaving in a rush, and all at once “regarding mates, and--”


“—and romance, and dating, and sparkly things, and your saint of valentines and so on.”

“And so on…?” Keith says, the words barely audible.

Shiro nods, his confidence seemingly returned, and thrusts the box at Keith.

Keith figures he has no choice but to take it.

He flips it open.

“You got me…” Keith feels the heat of Shiro’s stare acutely, but he’s really not quite sure what Shiro has given him.

“It’s…” He lifts the gift out of the box. It’s not a ring, at least, and Keith feels his nerves settle somewhat with that realisation.

“Is it not sparkly enough?” Shiro asks, ears drooping as he takes in Keith’s reaction.

Keith holds the trinket up to the light. It seems to be some form of jewellery, but Keith doesn’t know enough to identify it. It’s a beautiful design of twisting black metal that reflects shining violet in the light. There’s a clip at the back, but Keith still isn’t sure what it is.

“No Shiro, it’s beautiful.”

It is beautiful. Keith has never owned anything like it before. Shiro’s ears perk up again, and he gestures towards the gift.

“May I…?”


Keith nods, handing the gift over.

Shiro takes the box from him, but instead of fixing it upon Keith, he gestures for him to turn around.

Keith wrinkles his brows but does as he is asked. When he feels Shiro shuffle in behind him, he doesn’t regret his decision.

He flinches when Shiro’s claws start combing through his hair. Something about the fact that he can’t see Shiro, can’t predict his actions, has Keith feeling light headed.

“You are quite attractive, Keith.” Shiro murmurs, as he begins to pull Keith’s hair into a simple plait. "And you smell...good."

Keith doesn’t know what to say, so he says nothing. He hears Shiro fiddling with the gift box, hears a click as he opens the hair clip, another as he fastens in the plait into place.

“And you're brave.”

Keith turns so that he is almost in Shiro’s lap and looking up into his eyes. Shiro brushes a loose strand of hair back from his face.

“And you’re lonely.”

He pulls the plait round so that it rests on Keith’s chest. Keith lifts it up to inspect Shiro’s handiwork, admires the glint of the hairclip against the dark of his hair, and utterly fails to understand why Shiro is paying him so much attention.

“What makes you want to prove yourself so much, little one?” Shiro asks.

Now Keith doesn’t want to say anything. He lets go of the plait and looks up at Shiro. Keith doesn’t understand his own feelings right now, but he hopes Shiro does.

“We don’t have to talk right now,” Shiro says, slipping his hands around either side of Keith’s face, “we have plenty of time tomorrow.”

He kisses Keith softly, the touch barely there.

“Plenty of time to talk—” another kiss, “—and fight—” another, deeper this time, “—and work on that temper of yours."

The last comment is delivered with a smile, and for once, Keith feels no anger. Instead he pulls Shiro towards him, hands finally getting to run over those ears. Shiro grunts at the touch, and yanks Keith fully into his lap. Keith gasps – he can’t believe how tiny he feels nestled in the lap of this gentle giant. Shiro coaxes his tongue into Keith’s mouth, and Keith parts his lips willingly, fuelling the kiss with all the disappointment, anger and confusion from the past few days.

When they finally pull away from one another, panting heavily and lips shining, Keith is fidgeting with discomfort in Shiro’s lap. He makes to kiss Shiro again but is stopped by Shiro carefully standing them both up. Keith is half tempted to wrap his legs around Shiro’s waist and refuse to let go.

“It’s late, Keith.” Shiro says, as he gently lets Keith’s feet touch the ground, “We can continue tomorrow after our sparring date.”

Keith wants to continue now but Shiro is already gathering his things. He tilts Keith’s chin up for one last kiss, and then leaves the room.


Keith stands in front of the mirror for at least ten minutes after Shiro has left, tracing the pattern of the hair clip and trying to remember the last time he had smiled this wide, or trusted this deep. He has a feeling that if he has Shiro by his side, he’ll be a better paladin, a better leader than any of them ever thought he could be.