It started, as many things in Keith’s life did, with a bet with Lance.
Keith learns very early on in their working relationship (Keith refuses to call them friends out loud just because he knows it bothers him) that making a bet with Lance is the definition of a bad idea. Nine times out of ten it ends in disaster - Keith still remembers the Halloween Party incident from a few months previous and he’s almost 100% sure Allura still hasn’t completely forgiven them - and despite his confident behavior when making the bets, Keith doesn’t actually always win them.
In hindsight, Keith should have known something like this would come up at some point. Or maybe the better term would be some one.
“I’m just saying Keith. There are only two types of people who wear sunglasses inside: assholes and FBI agents. So he’s either a real dick or a wanna be fed.” Lance says as he balances on the back two legs of his chair, his feet propped on the table in front of him. He rocks dangerously far back on the chair’s legs as he speaks. Keith hopes he falls.
“Lay off Lance, Shiro’s a good guy. Just because you’re jealous he’s been in Allura’s good graces ever since he got here doesn’t mean he’s a jerk,“ he says as he scratches Kosmo behind the ears. The dog sits with his head lolled on Keith’s knee as he drools and stares at him with large eyes. Keith, knowing exactly what he wants, subtly pushes back the remnants of his lunch from where it sits on the breakroom table in front of him.
Lance is suspiciously silent and Keith glances up to see his eyes narrowed in focus on him. Hunk and Pidge exchange a look from where they sit across from him that he generally only sees when Lance is about to make a fool of himself, as though they are watching a great tragedy about to take place. Keith understands the look a little too well - it just isn’t usually aimed at him.
“You like him,” Lance says with a sharp grin blooming on his face.
“I mean yeah, he’s a nice guy. He’s just being polite, why shouldn’t I do the same?” Keith replies, playing dumb.
And seriously, what wasn’t there to like about Shiro? The man was kind, smart, and extremely handsome to boot. Everybody knows this. He stopped on his patrol route just the other day to help get a little girl’s cat out of a tree for crying out loud. He’s like, the model citizen. A model citizen that fills out his uniform so well and in so many ways that Keith has an itemized list.
If anyone on this earth was considered perfect, it was Shiro.
“Oh buddy,” Hunk says sympathetically. Or maybe that was pity. “You’ve got it bad.”
“What do you mean? Got what bad?”
“Keith, I don’t think you’ve been ‘nice’ to a single partner you’ve been assigned. Ever. You’re not even nice to me half the time and I’ve known you for years.”
“I can be nice if I want Lance, just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean anything,” he says as he rolls his eyes.
“I don’t think that’s the point Keith,” Pidge comments. “Besides, Lance is just pushing you so you’ll get frustrated and spill,” Lance gives a squawk of betrayal but Pidge just steamrolls on. “We’ve all been watching you and Shiro dance around each other since he got here. You two are really not as subtle as you think. It’s kinda gross.”
Keith immediately goes red in the face and opens his mouth to no doubt give himself away like Pidge was warning him about but is saved from answering by Lance.
“ My point, ” Lance butts in with his eyebrows furrowed, jerking in his seat as he gestures wildly with one hand. The legs give an ominous creak in defiance. “Is that it’s weird. What’s he hiding? Are they super secret spy glasses that let his secret tech wizard partner communicate with him? Is he a robot and the only way you can tell is through his eyes so he hides them? Does he go terminator when-”
“So let me get this straight,” Keith cuts off his rambling mid sentence. He can still feel the heat in his cheeks but chooses to ignore Pidge to instead focus on Lance. Of the two Pidge is definitely the more dangerous one. “You think Shiro is hiding something because he wears sunglasses around the office?”
“It’s not that I don’t trust him,” Lance says and for once he looks serious. “I don’t think he’s going to betray you out in the field or anything, I just think it’s strange that he hides part of his face like that.”
“And avoids the staff room like the plague,” Pidge adds.
“And only talks to you and Kosmo,” Hunk pitches in. Kosmo lights up in excitement at his name, his tail beating a rhythmic whacking noise against the table leg in response. Keith feels betrayed. “I mean, he talks to us sometimes but it’s nothing to the way he gets when it’s you. It’s almost magical to watch.”
“He’s only been here for like, two months and I’m his partner. He’s just not completely comfortable here yet. It doesn’t mean anything.”
Keith still remembers the day he met Shiro. He had been working at his desk near the front of the office when tall dark and handsome walked in and shyly asked where Commander Allura’s office was. Keith had dumbly pointed in the direction of her office and then unashamedly stared at the way his slacks clung to his thighs as he walked in the direction Keith had pointed him to.
It wasn’t until Allura called him into her office not even ten minutes later that he realized that this must be the new partner that he had been expecting. And would be sitting across from for the foreseeable future. Not to mention the daily car rides and late nights in the office, the cases they’d work together and the lunch breaks they’d take at the same time and…
He can admit to himself that he was a train wreck that first week working together. He still is a train wreck, two days ago he choked on his own spit when Shiro threw back his head and laughed at a joke Keith told him. He had just hoped it wasn’t as obvious as it had been that first week, something that Pidge just obliterated.
But the entire time he’s been here, even when Keith first met him, he’s worn a pair of thick, dark Aviators. Keith’s never seen Shiro take them off in the months they’ve worked together, even when inside. Something that Lance wanted to theorize about constantly.
“It is a little off, the glasses thing. I mean… they say the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Hunk contemplates, nodding wisely.
Keith doesn’t even deign that with a response. He grumbles under his breath about golden souls and beautifully kind men and how they correlate in the positive direction despite their choice in eye wear when the dreaded words are spoken.
“Fine. Keith, I think it’s time we made a wager.” The sound of the chair legs hitting the ground are a gavel that seals Keith’s fate.
Pidge and Hunk look immediately interested - well Pidge does, Hunk just looks like he knows this is something that is going to end up blowing up in their faces and is just along to watch it happen. Like a train wreck in slow motion trundling along merrily until it meets it’s unfortunate and early demise.
With a sigh he says, “Okay Lance. Let’s hear it.”
“I think it’s weird that Shiro wears glasses inside the office. You don’t think he’s trying to hide anything. I bet you can’t get him to take them off though.”
Lance seems to think for a moment before grinning evilly.
“Winner gets to create a new hairstyle for the loser. A permanent one.”
Keith narrows his eyes in consideration. On the one hand, one week was not a lot of time and both of them knew that. On the other, Keith had never actively tried to get Shiro to take off his sunglasses before and he’s fairly confident he can do it despite his friends thinking he will get distracted.
From the corner of his eye he sees Hunk open his mouth to comment and Pidge elbow him roughly in the side. Coming to a decision Keith holds out his hand and Lance takes it, giving an enthusiastic pump as Pidge watches in glee and Hunk watches in horror. Lance leans back on two legs again as he crosses his arms behind his head in satisfaction.
“Ha. Be prepared to shave that mullet, Mullet. I think you’re too in love with the man to be able to-”
“Hey Keith, I think I got some new info on the Davenport case. If you’re almost done eating we can-”
Shiro comes in at that moment and interrupts Lance mid sentence who, in his shock, loses his balance and goes toppling backwards. Keith doesn’t know whether to snicker in derision or glare at him for saying something like that where Shiro could possibly hear. But Shiro just gives Lance a strange look at where he sits in the overturned chair before actively deciding not to ask about it.
“Yeah, I’m done. Why don’t you tell me what you’ve got on the case and we’ll see what we can do from there,” Keith says as he gets up to lead him out of the room before his so called friends could do more damage, Kosmo trotting at his heels.
Keith learns very quickly that this bet isn’t going to be as easy as he thought.
They get wrapped up in the case they’re working on and for the first couple of days he’s forced to focus on other things as they try to track down Shiro’s lead. It’s not the first case they’ve worked together since becoming partners - they proved to Allura very early on that not only do they do well on the cases themselves but they work well with each other. She takes the opportunity to keep their caseload full.
Despite them being busy as hell, it doesn’t distract Shiro from his regular routine and Keith walks in everyday to a fresh cup of coffee from an actual shop instead of whatever sludge is made in the breakroom every morning (Keith still doesn’t know how Shiro learned his coffee order but is too grateful to ask because by the time he gets to work it’s his third cup and he honestly needs that last kick to function properly).
Then they start for the day, whether that be to go out and interview people or sift around evidence in the office. Though they’re working a case right now, they still have to keep up with their patrol routes and it’s a nice excuse to take a break from the stuffy bull pin and answer a few house calls, Kosmo thoroughly enjoying himself from where he hangs out of the backseat window.
He tries to be subtle and hint about the sunglasses but either Keith is really bad about dropping clues or Shiro is really bad about picking up on them.
He tries listening in when Shiro interviews a little old lady after they’ve been invited inside and offered a glass of lemonade, to see if she’ll mention it at all. Maybe he can just springboard off of someone else bringing it up. She doesn’t say a thing and they end up taking cookies back to work.
He tries commenting about how dark it is at their desks (he may or may not have slipped the janitor some of the cookies so he would twist the bulb just enough for the light above them to blink out) to see if Shiro will acknowledge them or in the best case even take them off. But Shiro just hums and continues on the work in front of him. Keith misses the cookies.
He tries waiting to go home late at night, forces himself to stay later than he needs to so it’s dark (Shiro stays with him as Keith knew he would because Shiro would “never let someone suffer alone late at night Keith, come on”). But Shiro just struts out into the inky blackness like someone who has had much practice with the combination of dark sunglasses and a night sky.
On the morning after their late-night-office excursion, Shiro falls asleep in the breakroom and Keith has just enough time to briefly think about taking the glasses off and claiming they fell when he wakes up and Keith is immediately guilty for even considering something like that.
Keith gets distracted by the sleep-mussed ruffle of his hair and the adorable way he pushes his glasses up just enough to rub his eyes, like a child who insists they’re not tired an hour after bedtime. The soft and groggy “Keith?” Shiro utters when he blinks awake will visit Keith’s dreams for the rest of his life.
But the more Keith thinks about it the more he starts to think that maybe Hunk was right about something, that the eyes really are the windows to the soul or some sappy shit like that. He doesn’t realize how hard it is to read the emotions of someone until you can’t see all of their face, can’t see that glisten in their eyes when they’re joking or the softness that matches their voice when they talk to you or the frustration when things are starting to get overwhelming.
You never know for sure what they’re really thinking and if there’s anything Keith is dying to know, it’s what Shiro looks like when he’s looking at Keith.
The thing that Keith hates the most about being a cop is the paperwork that comes with it. Before Shiro was his partner, before Kosmo, his one true savior was his police bike. Whenever the bureaucracy side of his work came into play, whenever it was enough to cause headaches and clenched fists, he’d take his bike out to the long stretch of desert right out of town and let go. The dirt flying under his tires as he pushed past the speed limit easily and cut corners made him feel more alive than anything else. Nobody would pull over an officer speeding down deserted streets.
But then he was chosen to pair with Kosmo who couldn’t ride with him like that. So he traded in his bike for a cruiser and though he misses it most days he wouldn’t give up Kosmo for anything. The dog brightened up his day constantly and saved him from the loneliness that threatened to drown him most of his early life.
Then Shiro came along. Normally he wouldn’t pay any attention to his new partners. They came and went like a revolving door - none could put up with him for more than a couple of weeks. Which wasn’t his fault, no matter what they say. He just likes to do things his own way and most don’t appreciate that.
Shiro though. For some reason Shiro trusts him. He marched in there with his stupid muscles and his stupid Aviators and his stupid charming smile and he settled into that little piece of Keith’s heart that grew every time someone would come and stay. Which in Keith’s experience happened so extraordinarily rarely that he learned to appreciate it when it did happen.
There was only one problem with that. Shiro was hot.
Normally Keith would be able to handle that. He’s met many handsome officers in his work with the department - he’s even been paired with a few, despite their terrible personalities. But he has never been matched with someone who is hot and who treats him like an actual person. It just doesn’t happen, Keith’s life doesn’t work like that.
But every time Shiro brings him coffee after his morning runs or plays with Kosmo or lets him choose where they’re going for lunch that day or trusts him when he says he can handle something out in the field, Keith just comes to appreciate him that much more until his heart pounds every time he so much as looks at the man.
It’s incredibly distracting.
There was just something different about Shiro, something that Keith couldn’t quite put his finger on. Shiro has worked his way over Keith’s walls quicker and more efficiently than anyone else Keith has ever known. Keith wants to climb him like a tree - that is undeniably true - but Shiro is the first person he actually wants to get to know better.
For the first time in a long time, he thinks there might be someone who wants that as well.
But that doesn’t excuse the fact that now more than ever does he wish he had his bike back. If he has to sit in this stuffy bull pin with the equivalent of a Greek Adonis across from him and do paperwork for one more minute he was going to either go insane or do something he’s going to immensely regret.
Then again, he thinks to himself, he does need to figure out how to approach this bet with Lance. The week is already half over and he’s made no progress yet. Not for lack of trying but he’s definitely approaching the deadline quicker than he’d like and he refuses to let Lance win this one.
Maybe the direct approach would be better, he contemplates as he studies Shiro in consideration. Then, before he gives himself time to consider it more and decide it’s a horrible idea, he goes for it anyway.
“Why do you wear those all the time?”
“Hmm?” Shiro hums absently as he continues to work on the paperwork in front of him. He pauses for a moment to bite the tip of his pen, a furrow on his brow as he concentrates for a moment before going back to writing. God he’s cute.
“The sunglasses. Why don’t you ever take them off?”
The scribbling stops as Shiro pauses in writing and glances up at him. The overhead light glints off the sunglasses Shiro wears and Keith can faintly see his reflection staring back at him. Then his mouth lifts in a smile that’s small and private and all for Keith and all of Keith’s breath leaves his body and abort abort abort mission what was he thinking why did he make this stupid bet with Lance in the first place he can’t even talk to Shiro without getting distracted by something as simple as -
“You know, you’re the first one here to ask me about them. I’m kind of surprised actually.”
He snaps out of it enough to stutter, “O-oh really? How so?”
“A lot of people think it’s strange. I can’t tell you how many times I got teased for it at the last precinct I worked at.” Shiro says it lightly but there’s a sudden tenseness to him that Keith doesn’t like and that is what brings Keith fully back to the present.
“What? Who do I need to beat up?” Keith asks with narrowed eyes.
Shiro gets like this sometimes when something bothers him, like he wants to pretend it’s not a big deal so he doesn’t have to talk about it. It’s something Keith learned very early on and he wishes he knew who hurt Shiro so bad that he didn’t feel comfortable enough to share.
But Shiro just gives a fond chuckle in response to Keith’s threat and says, “There’s no one you need to beat up Keith. I’m here now, aren’t I? But if I ever need someone to defend my honor, I’ll be sure to give you a call. Besides,” he says with a snort, "we wouldn't want you to be arrested for assault would we?”
“That only happens if you get caught,” he sniffs with his nose in the air to hide the blush he can start to feel darken his cheeks at the thought of Keith being the first person Shiro would come to. “Kosmo and I have your back. It’s what partners are for.”
At the mention of his name, Kosmo’s head pops up from where its been resting on his paws next to Keith’s chair. It draws both of their attention and Shiro smiles as he offers his hand, palm up. Kosmo immediately takes the invitation for what it is and stretches languorously before trotting over to Shiro, who scritches him behind the ears before he cups Kosmo’s muzzle and talks in that high voice you use when speaking to small children and animals.
“You’d defend me against the mean ol’ people wouldn’t you? Yes you would, because you’re a good boy aren’t you.” Kosmo gives an excited yip in response, his tail going a million miles an hour and Keith has never wanted to be a dog more than in this moment as Shiro laughs and bumps their foreheads together.
“He’s a good dog you know. How did that partnership happen?”
“Oh,” he says, blinking at him. “We’ve had the same people working here for so long sometimes I forget you weren’t here before I met Kosmo. He’s just so comfortable with you...”
“I’m sure you say that to all the guys,” Shiro says with a wink but he looks pleased. Keith dies a little inside.
“No actually, Kosmo doesn’t like most people. He’s hated nearly all of my other partners.” He’s hated all the people who hated me, he doesn’t say. “The only people he likes, or even tolerates, other than me is Pidge, Hunk, Allura, and Lance. And that’s mostly because they’ve been around since he got here.”
Shiro looks surprised and they both glance down to where Kosmo is nuzzling into the hand petting him with his eyes closed and his tongue lolling. “You’re kidding me right? He’s never been anything but sweet around me.”
Keith hums before saying, “When the department decided to invest in more K9 units, they adopted in the dogs to see who worked best with the training officers. Usually quite a few dogs will stay with us until we find the right pair. The rest are adopted out, usually to less fast paced jobs or in some cases to civilian families.”
Watching Shiro absentmindedly pet Kosmo lights something in him that he can’t ignore. He knows his smile is probably sappy as hell but he honestly can’t find it in himself to care.
“So let me guess, it was love at first sight and here you are today?”
Keith snorts in response and at Shiro’s raised eyebrow continues, “I wasn’t even in the running to work with the unit, you have to apply for that. And I didn’t have the best track record at the time,” he says the last part with a wince. “But everyone in the office took turns helping to take care of them, there’s a mini paddock out back with a little outbuilding that acts as a shelter.”
“So that’s how you met then,” Shiro murmurs. He doesn’t say anything further, just waits for Keith to continue. Keith likes that about him.
“They knew Kosmo was the best one there and had the most potential. But he hated everyone who tried to work with him. I honestly think he was just lonely. To get moved away from the only thing you’ve ever really known and not get a say in it? And then be forced to follow commands all day? Doesn't seem very nice. So I’d sit with him every night when I got off shift and just… talk to him.”
He remembers how it had been at the time and his gut still clenches when he thinks about how different his life had been. He had been trying to make his way by himself just like Kosmo had been and whether Kosmo could sense this or he just appreciated Keith’s dedication, they clicked so fast that Keith hadn’t known what to do. He had been so afraid that once Kosmo had accepted him he’d be paired off and Keith would have to watch from afar as his new friend worked with someone else.
“Allura noticed and pulled some strings. He wouldn’t even acknowledge anyone else but for me he’d do whatever I asked. Allura says we were kindred spirits just waiting to meet. He chose me,” he finishes proudly and achingly fond. Even thinking back on it now fills him with a radiant warmth that feels like it could burst out of him, residual pride and love for being the dog’s first and only choice.
“He’s a good judge of character,” Shiro observes quietly.
Keith hums in agreement and watches the way Kosmo drapes himself over Shiro’s lap.
It isn’t until he’s getting ready for bed that night that Keith realizes Shiro never answered his question.
Shiro’s lead finally takes them to a Ms. Carol Stone’s house, an old building right smack dab in the middle of town. It’s not a very nice looking neighborhood and Shiro seems to notice this right away as he takes in the overgrown lawns and peeling paint on the sides of the houses. He doesn’t seem to judge though and he’s relaxed as he observes the house in front of them.
Keith might be more uneasy if he hadn’t grown up right down the street. But maybe that’s not true, maybe he is nervous but for a completely different reason. He hasn’t been back to visit his old neighborhood in a long time after all.
They unload from the car and approach the dilapidated building, the fence squealing loudly as they push it open. Kosmo trots at his heels as they lead the way to the front door.
Ms. Stone answers the door when they knock and after brief introductions that include showing her their badges, she allows them to come inside and ask a few questions. Despite the outside looking less than pretty, the inside is warm and homey. Ms. Stone directs them to the couch in the living room and they sit down with Kosmo laying at their feet.
They don’t learn much. Ms. Stone has an eight year old son whom she loves dearly and whose father died not even a year ago in a car accident. They hadn’t been married and had been living separately ever since the boy had been born. She had only started seeing Mr. Davenport recently, so recently that she hadn’t even introduced him to her son yet. “A good thing too,” she says as she stares at them over the rim of her coffee mug. “He disappeared right after I broke it off with him.”
The boy - David - comes home from school halfway through and his mother pauses to greet him with a gentle smile lighting her face. He talks animatedly for a few minutes before his mother nudges him to go do his homework. She worked the night shift at the local hospital, Ms. Stone explains, and she didn’t get as much time as she wished she had with her son.
They might not have learned much more than they already knew but what she does give them, at Keith’s request, is an old shirt she claims he left at her house right before he vanished. Keith runs out to the car to grab an evidence bag to put it in and thanks her as they leave.
Keith is fully prepared at that point to go back to the office and attempt to sort through what they’ve just learned. Maybe it’s the proximity to his old house or maybe it’s Ms. Stone’s story hitting a little too close to home but he pauses outside the house to stare down the street in the direction of where he spent the early years of his life.
Shiro notices his hesitation but he doesn’t say anything, only stops beside him. He doesn’t ask, he just gives him time to figure it out on his own. And suddenly he wants to share this with Shiro, wants to give him this little part of himself that he knows the man will keep close and protected like a small flame cupped in the palm of his hands.
It’s only with slight hesitancy that he turns back and looks Shiro straight in the eyes. Or… where he knows Shiro’s eyes are hiding. He’s clutching Kosmo’s leash almost as tightly as his stomach is clenching in on itself as he asks, “I um… I grew up right down the street from here. Do you think we could go by there for a few minutes?
“Yeah. Yeah, of course.” Shiro says as he stares back. Even though he can’t see them Keith can feel Shiro’s eyes burning into him. He gives a short jerk of a nod and starts leading the way through the gate and down the street, stopping just briefly to throw the evidence bag into the trunk of the car.
As they walked down the street a thick and heavy silence settles over them, smoke that reaches down his throat and chokes his lungs. He knows he should say something but he’s nervous dammit. He hasn’t shared this part of himself in so long, if ever. He doesn’t think anyone else would agree that confiding in his dog counts in this case.
They arrive to crumbling stonework and overgrown bushes that block most of the front of the house. The tree that Keith used to climb as a kid stands bare of leaves, its branches like brittle bones that reach for the sky. He can see the wooden swing he had helped his father hang from a branch rocking gently with the wind. A little girl’s tricycle sits on its side towards the front porch.
Shiro doesn’t push and Keith knows that he could turn around and walk away right now without explaining a single thing and Shiro would never bring it up again. It’s this more than anything that settles Keith enough to start talking.
“I lived in this house for the first couple years of my life. It wasn’t much but it was home. One of the only solid homes I can ever remember having. I… haven’t been back here in a long time.”
“My dad was a firefighter,” he interrupts. He knows if he stops, if he doesn’t get this out now, he may not while they’re here. “One of the best they say. I wouldn’t really know, he died in a house fire when I was eight. Wasn’t really old enough to talk in depth about his work. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up but I couldn’t do fires, not after that. Becoming a police officer seemed like the next best thing.”
He rests a hand gently on the metal fence in front of him and once the words start flowing it’s like a dam inside him has been released. He doesn’t look at Shiro, can’t look at Shiro, so he stares at the house in front of him.
“He did everything for me. My mom was gone for a long time. She found me a couple years ago and we’re good now, great even, but my dad was all I had for so long. I guess when he died I shut myself off. Even now… I’ve had many partners over the years. Nobody likes the hothead who doesn’t know how to say what he’s feeling. I’ve hurt people, I know I have, but I don’t mean to. The good thing about Kosmo is that there’s nothing I could say or do that would turn him away.”
He feels a nudge at his leg and glances down to see his dog staring up at him with liquid eyes, as if knowing that Keith is talking about him. Maybe he does - he’s a smart dog. Keith reaches down with fond eyes to pet him on the head and Kosmo pushes up into it. He swallows hard before he continues.
“There’s something about you, Shiro, that makes me think the same thing.”
There’s silence for so long he doesn’t really expect a response and is just starting to kick himself for putting Shiro in this position when he feels a hand land lightly on his shoulder. He can’t help but lean into the touch. “I’ll be around for as long as you want me to be. Thank you for sharing this with me.” When he glances up, Shiro is smiling gently at him and Keith is helpless. “It really means a lot to me that you trust me with this.”
“Yeah. I do trust you.” Keith hadn’t really realized until he decided to show Shiro his childhood home just how much he trusts the man standing beside him. How much he cares about him and felt cared for in return. He only hesitates for a moment before adding, “You can trust me too, Shiro. I may not be the best at giving advice but I do know how to listen.”
“I do trust you Keith, more than you know. You’re better than all of the other partners I’ve had in the past,” he says honestly as he gives Keith’s shoulder a light squeeze before letting his hand fall away. Keith can feel that they’re on the verge of something, can see it in the way Shiro hesitates and seems to war with himself for a moment as if he wants to say more.
“Come on, let’s go get something for lunch. We can go to that diner you like on 7th and Pine, my treat.”
Keith barely holds back a sigh.
They both attempt to start walking to the car and when he says attempt he does mean it - almost immediately they both stumble into each other as he feels something tighten around his legs, both reaching out to steady the other. Glancing down, he sees Kosmo’s leash wrapped not only around his own thighs but Shiro’s too. He looks up, maybe to laugh, maybe to make a comment about nosey dogs walking in circles and freezes when he realizes what position they’re in and just how close to Shiro he is.
They’re standing practically nose to nose with their arms clasped together tightly, a fact that Shiro seems to register at the exact same time as Keith. A brilliant blush flushes his face - one that matches the one Keith can feel heating up his own - but they can only stand there frozen as they stare at each other.
He doesn’t really know what comes over him in that moment. There’s nothing else but Shiro right there, right then. He doesn’t want to be anywhere else but right here with this man, this beautiful, amazing man, in this old neighborhood in front of the house he grew up in as he spills his heart out.
He reaches up slowly, his hands trailing from Shiro’s elbows up to his shoulders. He makes the jump from shoulders to face and Shiro’s breath hitches as his fingers skim his cheeks before coming to rest on the pair of sunglasses on his face. Shiro’s hands are still clasped around his elbows and he does nothing to move away. If anything he leans into the touch and it gives Keith the courage to raise his hands, to pull the Aviators up and away to see the eyes underneath. He doesn’t care about a stupid bet at this point, just wants to see what his eyes look like when they’re looking at Keith and Shiro isn’t stopping him -
A car door slams a few doors down and they both jump in alarm. The movement pulls at the leash and they stumble again but they’re both obviously careful not to lean too close and Keith feels so stupid…
“Sorry about -”
They’re both still blushing something fierce but somehow find it in them to huff a laugh as they both try to talk at the same time. Keith wants to take ten steps back and remove himself from the situation. Keith never wants to be out of arm's reach of Shiro again.
“Here,” he says gently. He clicks his tongue and guides Kosmo around enough to loosen the leash so they’re not practically tied together. He has to reach around the bulk of Shiro and it puts them chest to chest for one glorious moment as Keith continues to lead Kosmo around them in a circle. He can feel Shiro’s breaths, not just in the chest pressed to his but in the warm puffs he can feel across his face. He can feel Shiro’s heartbeat rabbiting against his own.
When they’re finally free, Shiro takes a hasty step back almost instantly. Keith immediately mourns the loss although he doesn’t think his face will ever stop glowing as brightly as it is right now. Shiro avoids looking at him at all costs.
“Come on, we still need to eat before heading back to the office.” Keith watches as he starts striding down the street towards their patrol car leaving him and Kosmo to follow along behind.
“This is all your fault.” Keith says as he glances down at where Kosmo is sitting at his feet. Kosmo just looks at him with what can only be classified as smug before pulling Keith along after him.
“So, how’s Operation: Sunglasses coming along? You’ve only got two days left before you’re saying bye bye to the long hair. I hope Shiro hasn’t gotten too attached or -”
“Lance? Shut up.”
They finally get a break in the Davenport case in the form of an anonymous tip that leads them to an old, decrepit warehouse on the edge of town.
Keith arrives at the inconspicuous brick building in his black patrol car, Kosmo panting from where he sits in the front seat. Shiro hasn’t shown up yet but Keith knows he should be here soon and Keith is getting antsy. The tip that had come in was brief and to the point - a grey sedan matching the description of Davenport’s car had been seen parked at the warehouse for the past couple of days. Keith can’t see the car from here and they don’t know when or if he will be back.
Things have been… not exactly tense but definitely strained since the day before. Keith doesn’t know whether to attribute that to him basically telling Shiro his life story, the way Keith had touched his face and almost taken his glasses off, or how close they had found themselves throughout it all. Or some combination of the three. But Shiro can’t even look in his general direction without a bright flush spiking his face, a fact that Keith only knows about because he can’t stop staring at the man and has accidently made some weird form of eye-to-sunglasses contact on multiple occasions.
Not to mention when Keith ran into Shiro, literally crashing straight into his broad chest as he was coming out of the break room. Shiro had spluttered out some excuse about needing the bathroom before skirting as close to the wall and as far from Keith as possible and hightailing it out of there, practically leaving a trail of smoke in his wake like some saturday morning cartoon character.
It’s very frustrating but Keith chooses to write it off as Shiro being weirded out by Keith’s forwardness and call it a day.
It shouldn’t hurt as much as it does.
He turns to look at Kosmo and as soon as their eyes meet (because Kosmo has no problem actually looking at him eye to eye) his tail starts wagging and he pushes forward into Keith’s space. Keith reaches forward to scratch him behind the ears, smiling slightly as he licks at Keith’s wrist.
“I think we can manage checking this place out by ourselves, don’t you think?”
He gets an excited bark and another slobbery lick in answer.
Keith pets him one last time before hooking his leash and they unload from the car. When they get close to the entrance, Keith kneels down and pulls a piece of cloth out of the sealed plastic bag from Ms. Stone. He holds it out to Kosmo who immediately bends forward to give it a few long, drawn out sniffs.
“Okay boy, let’s go. Kosmo, apport .”
And then they’re off. The doors open with an ominous creaking noise that Keith winces at. So much for sneaking in. Once the doors shut behind him, he unclips Kosmo’s leash and allows him to take the lead.
Keith follows Kosmo as the dog leads the way with his nose in the air, his service weapon drawn as they walk down a darkly lit hallway. Better to be safe than sorry, he thinks to himself, especially when they don’t know what to expect.
There are a few doorways that line the walkway and Kosmo stops at each one before moving on to the next. He pauses at one near the end of the hall and sniffs at it curiously before giving a low wuff and sitting down. Keith faces the closed door, carefully shifting his weight. The wooden slats creak underneath his feet. The light overhead flickers.
Well. Nothing for it. He pushes the door open and steps through.
Inside is a large, open space decorated with boxes and crates. It’s dark and musty and has been abandoned for what seems like a long time. The skylight above and the windows that line the upper walls let weak beams of natural light float through the room. Old, rusted pipes line the wall in crossing patterns and lead up to places Keith can’t see. There’s dust everywhere but neither he nor Kosmo see anybody in the room. Kosmo leads him to a desk situated near the far wall with papers and schematics for who knows what.
Now Keith knows he probably should have waited for Shiro. He one hundred percent knows he’s going to get a lecture later about ‘proper protocol’ and ‘not making rash decisions by himself’ later. But he’s not by himself, he’s got Kosmo right here. Besides there’s only one guy they’re looking for and from all the interviews they’ve done and all the evidence they’ve gathered, all signs point to him being non-violent. He’s a runner not a fighter and Keith knows he can handle him on his own if he were to run across him.
But even as he thinks it, his phone rings in his pocket and he holsters his weapon before fishing it out.
“Keith? Keith where are you?”
“What do you mean where am I? I went to check out the warehouse. Where are you?” he says as he watches Kosmo start sniffing around some boxes. Keith lets him slowly move between the rows as he turns his attention to his phone.
“You need to get out of there now,” Shiro says, ignoring his question. There’s a jangling noise on the other end followed by a curse. “Davenport is not who we thought he was - Pidge found some stuff on his old computer and you need to get out of there before he comes back.”
“What are you talking about?”
“He’s been involved in some pretty serious stuff out of state - aggravated assault, robbery, battery, he’s even a suspect in a homicide investigation! Apparently he’s been hiding out here for awhile to avoid getting caught. But that doesn’t matter! What matters is he’s more dangerous than we thought and we need to -”
Something hard hits him on the side of his head and his phone goes careening out of his hand as he stumbles to the side. A second blow has him on his knees as a hand goes rifling at his belt. It all happens so fast that Keith, someone who prides himself on his speed and agility, is stunned. Or maybe that has to do with the blows to the head. He goes to stand up, stumbling, when a hand shoves him back down and a sharp click makes him freeze where he is and look up in horror.
He’s sitting here flat on his ass staring down the barrel of a gun, his gun, and all he can do is blink at it in astonishment and think this is where I die . He thinks about how much he still wants to do and see and experience. How much he wants to hang out with Pidge and Hunk and yes even Lance. How much he wants to know Shiro more, better, intimately. God he wants to see Shiro one more time.
But then Kosmo comes flying out of nowhere, moving so fast he may as well have teleported. He latches onto the man’s gun arm with a terrifyingly ferocious snarl and the gun goes wide, bullet ricocheting somewhere far off in the warehouse as the gun itself goes spinning out of the man’s hand. The man shrieks in pain and tries to wrench his arm away but Kosmo isn’t letting go, dragging the man down towards the ground with his full weight as he shakes his head back and forth aggressively.
Keith is in motion as soon as Kosmo appears but just as he’s about to enter the fray himself, he sees the man whip his other hand from where it had been reaching behind his back and Keith registers everything a moment too late. His eyes widen, his mouth half formed over a command to get back, when there is a flash of silver and Kosmo gives a high yelp. His dog is good at what he does, has been trained well and knows how to push through, but you don’t train a dog using methods that could physically harm them and Kosmo has no experience with this. His jaws loosen just a fraction, just enough that the man is able to rip his arm away and in the process sling him hard into a stack of crates.
Keith is frozen in place long enough to register that this man just hurt his dog.
Oh fuck no.
The man - Davenport - is looking in the direction that Kosmo landed and breathing heavily with his injured arm cradled close to his chest, long knife held in his other hand. Keith takes the opportunity to go on the offensive by swiping the man’s feet out from under him in a move that sends him careening to the floor. He’s instantly scrambling in the direction his gun disappeared to, lunging for it, and he’s mere inches away when a hand around his ankle stops him and he goes tumbling down as it’s pulled out from under him.
He tries to pull his foot away but he’s uncoordinated, his head still throbbing in a way that is extremely distracting. He manages to kick out and connect with Davenport’s face though, a sharp crack that echoes through the air as his nose breaks. Davenport lets go of his ankle to cover his nose and howl as blood pours down his face.
It gives him enough time to scramble forward but Davenport gains his bearings much faster than Keith thought he would as he crashes bodily into Keith. They both go sprawling, tumbling one over the other as they each try to gain the upper hand. For one brief moment Keith thinks he has him when he manages to loosen his hold on the knife and kick it far, far away. Then he lands a solid punch on Keith’s jaw that has his head whipping to the side. His returning punch splits knuckles.
Throughout it all Davenport doesn’t say a single word even as their grunts echo in the empty space.
He’s able to get Davenport in a choke hold then, knows just where to apply pressure and for how long to avoid permanent damage. He kicks and grapples at Keith’s arm from where it sits around his neck and Keith knows he’s going to have gouges in his arm after this. They crash into a wall together and Keith’s back hits it hard but he doesn’t let go.
Then one of Davenport’s hands releases from where he’s clawing at Keith’s arm and retreats. Keith thinks momentarily that the man is finally going to pass out but he has never been more mistaken when that arm fumbles with something and then jerks backwards suddenly, causing a sharp pain to bloom in Keith’s left side.
He cries out and almost slackens his arm but manages to retain enough sense to hold on. Davenport’s arm comes forward to thrust back again and Keith braces for impact when there’s a fast clicking of claws on concrete and suddenly Kosmo is back, snarling as he bites into the man’s arm once again. Davenport gasps in pain and there’s a clatter as whatever had been in his hand drops to the ground.
After a few more seconds of struggling, he finally goes still and Keith wastes no time at all in getting shakily to his feet before he slaps a pair of handcuffs on him and around one of the pipes on the wall. He glances down to see the three inch knife on the floor where their struggle had been and goes a little woozy as he presses a hand over the wound from where a steady flow of blood is streaming.
Jesus, Keith thinks as he stares at the blade with his blood on it. How many knives did this guy have on him? And then with a dazed, delayed realization, Fuck.
His back hits the wall some distance away and he slowly slides down it, his hand clasped to his side. It comes away red and tacky when he looks down to asses the damage and he grimaces before reapplying it to the wound. He goes to reach for his phone before realizing it could be anywhere on the warehouse floor at this point and groans.
His phone is who knows where, his radio won’t work unless there’s someone nearby to pick up the signal, and there is no way he’s making it out of here on his own. His head is pounding something fierce, his vision starting to go fuzzy so he closes his eyes and tries to breathe deeply.
He feels a nudge at his cheek accompanied by a low whine and opens his eyes enough to see Kosmo, limping but otherwise unharmed. Keith grins wearily and reaches up to scratch his head.
“You did so good buddy. So, so good.”
Kosmo leans into it until he is practically laying over Keith’s legs, staring up at him with baleful eyes. He whines again.
“I know, it’s going to be okay.” He’s starting to get light headed, colors swirling around and around in dizzying patterns. He’s still got a chance, even if it’s not a very big one.
“Get Shiro, Kosmo… I need you... to find Shiro. Go get Shiro… Shiro…”
Shiro’s name is the last word on his lips before he passes out.
Keith jolts back to semi-consciousness when there’s a loud slam from nearby and voices flood the warehouse. He tries to open his eyes to see what’s going on but they’re just so heavy, like lead weights are dragging them closed. There’s a jingling noise followed by heavy panting and then a cold wet nose against the bare skin of his neck. Whines followed as the nose turns to nudge at his cheek. Kosmo. He groans and tries to lift his hand to push him away but it barely goes up halfway before it’s falling limply back to the ground.
There are more pounding footsteps and then from far away, as if through a tunnel, “Keith? Keith! ...hey, hey come... You’re okay, you’re.... Somebody get a medic in here... bring some lights, I can’t see a damn thing!” He is jostled suddenly as hands appear on his face then move to shift him so he is lying on something warm and solid.
“Come on Keith, you’ve got to open your eyes. Look at me, let me see those gorgeous eyes of yours. Keith, wake up. ” There is a snarled curse and then a sharp clattering noise nearby before hands come back to cup his face, thumbs stroking his cheeks.
It dawns on him then that he knows that voice, knows those hands that oh so gently touch him as if afraid he’ll break. Then again, when would he not be able to recognize Shiro? He doesn’t want to open his eyes, thinks the struggle will be more than it’s worth, but there’s a panicked quality to Shiro’s voice that Keith doesn’t like and the need to see what has him so worked up outweighs Keith’s exhaustion.
It takes him a moment to realize he’s making direct eye contact with Shiro.
If Keith was in his right mind, he might have been able to process the fact that he is staring into the most gorgeous pair of gunmetal grey eyes he has ever seen in his entire life. Who is he kidding, even if he wasn’t currently bleeding out on a warehouse floor he’d still be questioning how a human being could have such beautiful eyes. But Keith is delirious from blood loss and pain and as such, his first thought is: Wow his eyes are pretty followed immediately by: I want to wake up to those eyes every day for the rest of my life.
There is a wet chuckle above him as Shiro replies, “You stay awake long enough for me to get you out of here and I think we can come to an agreement.”
Huh. He really said that out loud then.
“Yes, you did.” Shiro agrees as he continues to stroke Keith’s face and it feels nice, so nice, and warm too like sunshine on his face after a cold winter’s day, and he’s just so tired…
“Hey, come back to me. Gotta stay awake for me Keith,” Shiro says jostling him slightly and Keith can only groan in response. Sharp light suddenly floods the area and Shiro gasps as he finally gets a good look at Keith. His hands immediately leave Keith’s face to check his injury and Keith whines at both the loss of the warmth and the pain at fingers prodding his side.
“Shhhh, it’s going to be okay Keith. Everything’s going to be just fine, okay? You did such a good job, just hang in there a little bit longer for me.”
He can’t see what Shiro is doing but it hurts. His next groan is cut off when fur fills his vision and something nuzzles against his face. Rough wetness drags across his cheek and he tries again to bring a hand up and manages to somewhat succeed, hand scrunching into the fur of Kosmo’s neck.
“See? Kosmo’s worried about you too. He did such a good job finding us, he needs you too. Not much longer and you can rest.”
There’s a flurry of movement then, a group of people rushing in as Shiro starts rattling off information to them. Keith can’t follow and he doesn’t really care to, he’s getting tired again and all he wants to do is sleep. Something light presses to his forehead and he cracks his eyes open enough to see that someone has taken Shiro’s place while the man himself has leaned down to rest his forehead to Keith’s.
He has a tight hold of one of Keith’s hands, the other stroking his hair back from his face, and he says, “This is going to hurt but I need you to stay with me Keith. Just hold on.”
The last thing he sees is watery grey eyes.
The first thing he registers is a steady beeping sound that cuts through the fuzz in his brain and causes his head to throb in time with the beat. He fades in and out like this for a while, his mind trying to come to an agreement with his body on the course of action to take and eventually the pounding in his head becomes a bit too much to ignore. As he becomes aware of this he slowly takes stock of the rest of his body, heavy as it is, and even the thought of moving makes him want to go back to sleep for the next ten years. There is a warm weight around his wrist, something tickling the back of his hand, and after awhile it makes him curious enough to crack his eyes open.
He looks down to see Shiro’s head pillowed against his hip, his fringe brushing Keith’s hand. His own hand is curled around Keith’s wrist with his fingers pressed into the steady badump badump badump there.
He tries to sit up and immediately flinches back, gasping in surprise and pain. The movement jolts Shiro awake, who shoots up almost immediately as he glances around as though trying to detect whatever threat had woken him up. Then his eyes find Keith and it seems to take him a moment to process what he’s seeing, giving first one then two blinks to clear the sleep from his eyes, before they widen in realization and Shiro is diving towards him.
“Keith! You’re awake!” he says as Keith is enveloped in his arms, careful not to pull at the IV in his arm or touch the spot on his left side where he can feel the bandages. He closes his eyes and allows himself to sink into the offered warmth as Shiro buries his face in Keith’s shoulder and it shouldn’t take as much effort to move his arms and return the hug but it does.
“You scared me Keith, Jesus Christ what were you thinking?” Shiro asks, his voice muffled.
“I’m sorry,” Keith rasps and wow he must have been under a long time because his throat is as dry as a desert on a hot summer’s day.
Shiro immediately sits up to go for some water taking the warmth and comfort with him and Keith silently mourns the loss as Shiro helps him sit up long enough to take a drink, the water soothing on his throat, before helping him lie back down.
That’s when Keith realizes that he’s staring into Shiro’s eyes, his actual eyes and not a pair of sunglasses. They’re nothing short of beautiful - a dark, stormy grey with long lashes framing them as he looks softly at Keith and if this is how Shiro has been looking at him all along then he has really been missing out. Shiro looks at him like it’s a privilege, like he doesn’t deserve to look Keith in the eyes, like he’s special and important. Like he’s worth more than all the stars in the night sky.
He has never wanted to kiss someone more than right there in that very moment with Shiro looking at him like that. In fact, he’s already made the decision and is halfway to figuring out how to execute it when the events leading up to him waking up here flood his mind in their entirety and he freezes.
“Where’s Kosmo?” he asks so suddenly that Shiro jumps slightly. It takes him a moment to realize what Keith said but the pause is long enough to send Keith spiralling into a fully fledged panic as he struggles to sit up.
“Shiro. Where. Is. My. Dog.” Shiro rushes to reassure him but despite Shiro telling him that yes, Kosmo is fine and no, he’s not allowed in the hospital so he can’t visit Keith right now, Keith doesn’t let up and threatens to bust out and walk home on his own until Shiro video chats Hunk and he sees Kosmo for himself.
There’s white bandages wrapped around one leg where Keith knows stitches reside underneath but as soon as he sees Keith through the screen he starts going crazy, barking up a storm and hopping around in excited circles that are more dulled than usual but convey no less happiness. He can hear Pidge and Lance in the background and as soon as they know it’s him on the other end he is suddenly bombarded with screeches as they both try to talk to him at once. Shiro must notice how overwhelmed he looks because he convinces them that it’d be worth it to hold off on the chiding until they can do it in person.
They promise to be there in an hour.
Then a nurse comes in while doing her rounds, sees that he’s awake, and instantly calls for a doctor to come check on him. Everything speeds up after that as he’s bombarded by tests and questions and explanations. He learns that he had come in with a concussion and a stab wound to the left side of his abdomen along with a multitude of bumps and bruises. The stab wound had nicked a kidney and caused it to bleed a worrying amount but after a round of emergency surgery he had come out okay. He’ll make a full recovery, he’s told.
Shiro stays by his side the entire time.
By the time the doctor leaves he’s exhausted but he doesn’t want to sleep, knows that there’s so many things he wants to talk to Shiro about. He takes a moment to just breathe deeply and settle with Shiro sitting next to his bed, still staring at him like he’s the earth and Keith is his sun. The light in his eyes dims a bit as he speaks but he looks at Keith no less fondly.
“You seriously scared me Keith. Whenever the call dropped and you didn’t answer when I called back I thought the worst had happened. And then when I got to the warehouse there was just so much blood… Kosmo came limping out with it all over him and when I realized it wasn’t his …” Shiro shudders. He doesn’t seem angry just exhausted, black rings starting to show under his eyes that no amount of coffee will banish on its own.
“I really am sorry,” Keith replies.
And he is. They had had no reason to believe that confronting Davenport would have been as dangerous as it ended up being but Keith can admit that it wasn’t the best idea in the end. And to be fair, he did get the jump on Keith, got two good blows in before Keith even realized someone else was with him. It still fills him with guilt when he realizes how much pain he probably put Shiro through. Seeing a partner hurt is not an easy experience.
“I didn’t think that it would be that dangerous.” He has a sudden, nasty thought that maybe this will be the thing that finally drives Shiro away. He’s had partners leave for way less before. His voice is small as he asks, “You’re - you’re not planning on transferring after this are you? I swear I didn’t mean for anything like this to happen. I’ll try harder next time, I promise I will.”
“Why would I transfer?” Shiro asks with his eyebrows scrunched down in confusion. He takes one look at Keith’s hunched posture and his wide eyes and it seems to click.
“Keith,” he says gently, leaning forward like he wants to touch but settling for resting a hand against the bar on Keith’s bed. “I’m in this for the long haul. Unless someone forces me out, I’m not going anywhere. And even then I’d never leave you. You’re too important to me for that.”
Keith’s not tearing up, he’s not. There’s just something in his eye, that’s all. He sniffles and nods as he clenches the blanket under his hands.
“You know, if I would’ve known that all it would’ve taken to get you to take those glasses off would be to end up in the hospital…” Keith says, trying for levity.
Shiro flinches almost imperceptively but Keith notices the tiny movement and instantly backpedals.
“Shiro? Hey, it’s okay. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.”
“No no, it’s not you Keith I promise,” Shiro immediately rushes to reassure as he holds his hands up in front of him.
“I swear if this is some form of the ‘it’s not you it’s me’ talk we’re going to have words,” Keith tries to joke and it’s dumb, he knows it is, but Shiro snorts weakly and that’s enough for him.
“Shiro,” he says softly and waits until Shiro looks up to meet his eyes. “You can tell me. What is it?”
Something seems to settle in Shiro as Keith watches him. He glances down at the clenched fist of his prosthetic, his other hand coming to rest at the inside of his elbow.
“When I was only a couple years out of the academy, I got into a bad accident during a car chase. It… wasn’t good, laid me up for a really long time. I came out of it with no right arm and a bunch of scars. I worked hard to get back to where I was before and it took more than a little bit of persuading for them to allow me back at all. It doesn’t help when people are constantly asking where you got ‘that freakishly huge scar’.”
Keith immediately has to tamp down on the rush of anger he feels on Shiro’s behalf before it bubbles up and over. He has a feeling that Shiro needs to get this all out on his own, that this may be one of the first times he’s telling someone the complete story. It still burns in a way he can’t even begin to describe.
“My eyes aren’t usually the first thing someone notices about my face,” he says quietly as he gestures to his face. To his scar.
“What the hell? That’s stupid, your eyes are fucking gorgeous.” Comes out before Keith can stop it and he doesn’t know whether to hit himself for what he said or for going back on his self imposed gag order. It’s worth it though to see Shiro blush and glance shyly to the side, the red making his scar stand out brilliantly.
“Th-Thanks Keith,” Shiro says, clearing his throat before continuing. “For a while everything was fine - most of the people in the department I worked for knew what happened and how I got it. And the town was small, everybody knew everyone so they didn’t ask either. I’m not saying I’m vain by any means - frankly I think the scar is kind of cool.”
He grins and it lights up his face with a boyish charm that Keith thinks should stay there for forever. It adds a certain glint to his eyes that Keith can’t help but love and it honestly makes him melt a little. He’s sure his face is doing something embarrassing but frankly Keith can’t bring himself to care. Shiro seems to wilt though as he continues.
“I had some friends in high places who offered to upgrade my prosthetic and the one I had was good but… I moved and nobody in my new department knew about the scar or it’s story. Every time I was out on patrol or on a call someone would ask about it. Being a cop and having a scar usually equals a really cool story, people think. It wasn’t easy, being constantly reminded of something like that every time somebody was overly curious.”
Shiro doesn’t look at him as he says the last part but Keith can tell it takes a lot for him to admit this. In all the time he has known the man, Shiro has not admitted to any sort of weakness and for him to bare himself to Keith now is just… humbling. Honestly, Keith doesn’t think he deserves it but he’s not going to say anything.
Shiro looks like he could use a hug honestly but since Keith is a little laid up right now he settles for reaching out a hand. Shiro glances up at him and gently reaches forward to grab it and Keith threads their fingers together. He feels warmth spread all over at the contact and gives Shiro’s hand an encouraging squeeze. He can’t help smiling softly at the returned pressure.
“I had eye surgery not too long before my transfer here. Nothing major but it was recommended to wear sunglasses even inside if the light bothered me… After awhile, I realized that at least when people are asking me about the sunglasses or even staring at them they weren’t asking about the scar. At least this way I’m choosing what they’re staring at. And then Allura offered me a job here and I thought, might as well start off like that from the beginning...”
“Shiro…” Keith breathes and this isn’t something he can fix in a day but it’s something he can at least make his opinion about known. He gestures Shiro forward and he comes instantly and without question, scooting the chair forward and leaning into Keith’s space. Keith brings the hand not clutching Shiro’s up to gently cup his face and as soon as he makes contact Shiro sucks in a sharp breath as though he didn’t think Keith was actually going to do it.
Keith takes the opportunity to truly look at the scar, the way it spans across the top of one cheek and over the bridge of his nose to mirror itself on the other side. He knew Shiro had one, you can see it where it crosses his nose even with the glasses on, but he didn’t know the extent of it and how it truly stretches all the way over on both sides. He gently moves his hand to run his thumb over the scarred tissue reverently but he can’t reach the other side without letting go of Shiro’s hand and both are unacceptable.
With a light tug he pulls Shiro forward before he leans up and in until he’s close enough to brush his lips over the other side of the scar, the place where his thumb can’t reach. Shiro inhales a sharp breath and then seems to stop breathing entirely as Keith presses a kiss there, trying to convey his thoughts on the matter through his actions.
“This is as much a part of you as your eyes, Shiro,” he whispers to him honestly, his lips brushing the apple of his cheek. He leans back slowly and tries not to notice how Shiro looks like he’s ten seconds away from either melting down or chasing Keith as he retreats.
“I’ve wanted to tell you about it for awhile now,” Shiro breathes lightly with his eyes glistening, like it’s a relief, like he didn’t know what Keith’s response would be. “I was going to, I swear I was because you’re important to me and nothing like any of those jerks in the past.”
“Why didn’t you?” It’s not accusatory, just curious. With one last smooth stroke of his thumb he lowers his hand away from Shiro’s face.
“I may have uh… overheard you making the bet with Lance,” he winces as though afraid Keith will call him out for eavesdropping. “I didn’t know what to do after that, if I should just let you win and not say anything, but then it wouldn’t a fair bet. And then I was going to tell you when we stopped by your old house and…”
Keith’s brain screeches to a halt because Shiro had heard everything, Shiro knew, and he let Keith continually attempt to strip him of something that brought him comfort. He isn’t angry or upset - it couldn’t have been a fun situation to be in - but he’s kicking himself now for bringing it up before Shiro was ready. And even as he thinks that, a suddenly horrible thought comes to mind.
“Shiro,” he begins hesitantly, cautiously. “You don’t think I tried to take off your glasses that day because of the bet did you? Was that why you were avoiding me?”
Shiro hesitates just long enough that Keith feels shame bloom bright and hot in his chest as he tries to remove his hand from Shiro’s grasp. Shiro doesn’t let him go anywhere though, tightening his grip in response as he closes his eyes and says in one big rush, “I don’t think that Keith, I swear. I was avoiding you because I didn’t think I could be professional around you and I didn’t want to make things awkward because I couldn’t handle myself.”
Shiro opens his eyes and just flat out stares at him like he’s joking which Keith is not, not about this. Shiro’s eyebrows scrunch down in confusion.
“Keith, I’ve had a thing for you since the day we met. I thought that was obvious.”
And yeah, okay, maybe Shiro is nice to him, brings him coffee in the mornings and stays late at night so Keith doesn’t have to be by himself in the office when everyone else goes home and buys him lunch on occasion and listens to him complain endlessly about Lance and makes him laugh and smile and loves his dog and he hasn’t left yet, hasn’t gotten tired of Keith and -
Keith can only sit there with his mouth opening and closing like a fish, unable to simply respond. He glances down at their linked hands, thinks about Shiro’s voice saying, “And even then I’d never leave you. You’re too important to me for that.”, and realizes how stupid he’s been.
All this time it was right under his nose and he didn’t even think, too wrapped up in his own infatuation with the beautifully wonderful man sitting across from him to realize that he in fact does not treat all of his coworkers like that.
“It… wasn’t obvious? Or,” and here Shiro gets a dawning look of dread on his face, “you didn’t know how to tell me no, did you? Oh my god I’m so sorry Keith. I’ve probably made your life terrible these past couple of months...”
It’s Keith’s turn to hold onto Shiro’s hand as he tries to retreat, clenching tight and drawing Shiro’s attention to him.
“I,” he breathes, “am an absolute moron.”
“A moron,” he repeats. “An idiot. A fool. Take your pick. Shiro I had no idea. I thought… well I thought you were just being friendly to me because we were partners.”
“So it wasn’t obvious then. I was always too afraid of overdoing it, I guess I didn’t consider that I wasn’t doing enough.” Shiro says as he rubs the back of his neck with his free hand. He looks frustrated with himself and Keith is having none of it.
“Nu-uh, nope. You’re perfect and I like you just the way you are,” Keith replies, meeting Shiro’s gaze. “I’m the one who didn’t get the hint. Besides, you could literally never buy me coffee again and I’d still be into you. I like you because you’re you Shiro, not because of what you do for me.”
“Wait wait, just so I know we’re on the same page,” Shiro says cautiously but Keith can see the beginnings of hope in his eyes. “I want to go out with you in a totally non-platonic ‘come home to you at the end of the day’ kind of way. Like partners times two. Partners squared.”
“I’d like that,” Keith replies and he can’t help the goofy grin that is spreading across his face. He honestly wouldn’t stop it even if he wanted to. “I’d really like that.”
They both just stare at each other, dumbfounded and coming to terms that yes, their feelings are reciprocated, helplessly locked in each others’ gazes. Keith doesn’t think he will ever get tired of looking into Shiro’s eyes.
“You know, it is Valentine’s Day next week. Or, I guess this week,” Shiro begins hesitantly and then he is off to the races as he rambles. “I was thinking about asking if you wanted to do something with me and then I thought that maybe Valentine’s Day wasn’t the best idea for a first date and I didn’t want you to feel weird so I was just going to surprise you with some flowers and maybe some candy but I didn’t know what flowers you would like or if you even would like them and what if you were allergic -“
“Shiro. I would love to go out on Valentine’s Day with you.” Shiro’s eyes widened at the sincerity and softness of Keith’s voice before he all but melts before Keith’s eyes. “And for the record, yes, lilies, and no I’m not allergic.”
“Cool! A-awesome, that’s awesome! We can make plans when you’re out of here, it shouldn’t be too much longer and I just… thank you.” He pauses with his eyes closed and takes a deep breath to center himself. “Can I… I really want to kiss you now.”
Keith goes breathless in response and he can’t help it. If he was standing he’s sure he’d be weak at the knees right now at just the thought of kissing Shiro. He’s able to give a breathless nod before Shiro leans forward to cup Keith’s face with his free hand and finally capture Keith’s lips in a kiss.
It’s slow and tender and conveys such warmth and affection that Keith actually gets emotional about it (though he blames that on the drugs he must be on). Keith doesn’t have the best coordination right now but Shiro doesn’t seem to mind, just keeps kissing him with that soft earnestness. The kiss is a promise of more to come and of something simmering just under the surface that has been there since the day they met. He can feel where Shiro is stroking a thumb along his cheek from where his hand cradles Keith’s face and he’s never felt more precious and dare he even think it… loved.
It’s an intimidating thought, that intensity.
As far as first kisses go, it’s more than Keith has ever allowed himself to want.
“Don’t you ever do that to me again, Keith. You almost died. If Kosmo hadn’t found us when he did…” He whispers against Keith’s lips and Keith presses forward one last time in reassurance.
Shiro sighs in response before leaning back slightly and threading a hand through Keith’s hair, smoothing his bangs off of his face. He sets up a quiet rhythm that makes Keith melt, leaning into the touch and closing his eyes in bliss. He could seriously fall asleep like this.
Then he remembers.
“Better get used to it while it’s still here. Lance is going to make me shave it since he won the bet.” Keith says mournfully.
“You know, technically you won the bet. You saw me without the glasses before you passed out and that was still within the one week time limit. From what I remember, you didn’t say anything about having physical proof I took them off or him seeing it.”
Keith’s eyes shoot open and he stares at Shiro for all of five seconds before he blurts, “God, please marry me” And then promptly snaps his mouth shut and buries his face in his hands with a groan.
Shiro looks taken aback for just a second before he laughs and gently pulls Keith’s hands away from his face. He goes starry eyed as he meets Keith’s gaze, that brilliant grey beautiful in every way. He looks happy, so unbelievably happy, and Keith is proud that he is the cause of it. He wants to keep doing that for as long as Shiro will allow him to.
The next time he sees Lance, he thinks he’ll inform him that bleach blond would be a good look on him.