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A Cord of Three Strands

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"Keith!" Curtis drops the tablet he's holding and braces himself for impact. "I missed you," he sighs as he gets an armful of Keith. "How have you been?"

"Busy." Keith relaxes and turns pliant in Curtis's arms. "Where's Shiro?"

"You missed Shiro but not me?" Curtis laughs as Keith nibbles at his jaw, making a soft, content sigh. "If you had comm'd us, you'd have known."

"Stupid," Keith says and kisses Curtis on the mouth. "Where is he? I wanted to be here for his birthday."

"He informed me that he doesn't have one, and he was very determined to go."

"What do you mean, he doesn't have one? Yeah, I know why, but— and go where?"

"He's on a peace-keeping mission with Princess Allura. Our man didn't think that his non-birthday was anything to celebrate."

"He's hopeless." Keith pouts. Curtis finds him adorable. It's no wonder Shiro fell in love with him, because Curtis did too. Even now, a hardened warrior with years of work with the Blades behind him, there is something young and somehow sweetly innocent about Keith that makes Curtis smile. He loves Shiro so much, for other reasons. With a lot of love to go around it's not a miracle that they sorted it out, made it work. Strangely enough, it was easy. Maybe they were just done fighting wars, and instead let love take its course.

"You didn't plan to do anything for Shiro?" Keith inquires. "You can't possi—"

"Not what I said," Curtis interrupts. "If you think I'd let our lover sit alone on his non-birthday, you are very, very wrong."

"Okay, so what's the game plan?" Keith asks. "Other than me and you getting some alone-time right now? I missed you, babe."

Curtis missed Keith too. God, did he miss him!

He uses the next couple of hours to show Keith how much.

*

"So, what are we gonna do for our boy?" Keith asks.

They are curling up on the couch, Kosmo draped across their intertwined legs. The TV is humming in the background, some old movie. Curtis is trailing patterns on Keith's naked back, content but for the fact that Shiro is in space and not here, with them. Usually it's Keith who is off by himself or with Kolivan so he can't really complain; that'd be so very hypocritical.

"Princess Allura." Curtis grins. "We are conspiring. The princess and Shiro will be close to an habitable little dwarf planet by tomorrow evening. Incidentally, that's when we can get to it, too. I'm talking Iverson into letting us have one of the MFEs; that should give us ample time to set up camp. We're going on a date."

"I'm listening," Keith says. "We can take my ship. No need to ask permission."

"The planet is uninhabited. Too small to hold more than a few hundred people, so not worth the hassle for any nation which is lucky for us. Earth-like atmosphere, safe environment. There's a lake. Very romantic."

"A camping trip?"

"A luxurious one. Hunk agreed to make the food. Pidge and he have been working on some kind of tent-structure that doesn't look like it's out of the Garrison supply. Hunk is an incredible engineer; it's going to look fantastic. Lance… You know, I have no idea what Lance is doing."

"Lance has no idea what Lance is doing," Keith says with a smirk. "I bet it's something weird."

*

"It's not weird," Lance says. "I mean, dude! You can't invite your man on a romantic date and not have a romantic environment. It's like… duh!"

"Okay, so it's not that weird," Keith admits. He knows nothing about romancing anyone; in that regard it's a miracle that he has boyfriends. Good thing that Shiro's a softie, and Curtis is the type that cries when they watch old movies. "Shiro deserves the best."

"Like I said." Lance shoves the big box into Keith's arms. "Tent. Hunk made the thing that makes it pop up, I made sure it looks good. Let me tell you, I could have been a famous interior designer, had I not been shoved into a lion and dragged out to war."

"You walked into Blue like she was yours to begin with," Keith contradicts. "Nobody dragged you anywhere. You jumped in, creamed yourself in joy when Blue made off with us, and you never looked back."

Lance waves a hand. "Pfft, details. To be fair, I didn't have much of a say with Blue—it was instant connection between us. I'm just that hot. Besides, Red was—" Lance huffs and glares at Keith. "If you roll your eyes at me again, I'm gonna punch you. As I was saying: Red was always more… yours. Even if Allura took over, Blue belongs to me, and I to her. That is, I belong to both my girls. Belonged." His smile fades and his eyes look at nothing, like he's recalling his time with Blue with deep nostalgia.

"Yeah," Keith agrees. He sighs. "I miss them too. Red mostly. Black was… Shiro's."

"True," Lance says and puts an arm around Keith's shoulder. "The switch was necessary, but we all know that we'd have preferred to stay with our first lion." Lance sighs, but bad moods never stick with him for long. His face lights up in a smile. "At least you're back. I'd never tell you this, but I missed your grumpy face."

"Yeah," Keith says and thinks that perhaps he missed Lance too. A little. Enough to drop the box he's holding and give Lance a hug. He's getting used to hugging people who aren't Shiro.

"Anyway, you're going to dine with your men in style. Think lush fabrics; soft, luxurious pillows; golden candlelight. Everything you hate, Mullet. In the tent."

"Nah, you're not coming, so not everything," Keith says and shoves Lance away, just to make sure Lance doesn't think that Keith truly likes him. Which he does, but Lance doesn't have to know that.

*

"Hey, man!" Hunk is almost bouncing from excitement and his enthusiasm is contagious.

Not that Curtis needs encouragement; he misses Shiro like mad. They are usually on assignment together. This time around, Shiro went alone. With Keith away as well, Curtis has been… not alone, but missing his husband and boyfriend. He's enthused. Oh, God, he's enthused.

"Hi, Hunk!" Curtis receives a warm hug, happy to reciprocate. "Thanks for doing this; I'm sure Shiro will be very happy with the result."

"Mac and cheese de luxe. Home-made pasta, three different kinds of cheese, salad… you need to taste the olives—and there's a cake too, it's gonna be death by chocolate. Salty caramel filling, raspberry coulis on the side— I— oh. I—" Hunk sighs. "I talk too much. When are you leaving?"

Hunk doesn't talk too much. Hunk is Hunk. He talks exactly enough to stay who he is and always were. "Tomorrow morning at dawn," Curtis tells him. "I've checked with Princess Allura. Coran sent the coordinates to all of us. They will be at the meeting point an hour before sunset. Should be more than enough time to set up camp and prepare."

"Great. The food's going to be perfectly fine; the stasis will last at least a week if you need that long, after that it's no better than food goo."

"We'll bring some dry and canned foods too." Curtis hates Garrison rations, just in case they want to stay a little longer. The Garrison has okayed the vacation. Why Shiro insists that it's good enough for him is a riddle. It's not good for anyone, except if the alternative is to starve to death. Curtis leans over the gigantic tub of gourmet mac and cheese, breathing in the scent of fresh herbs and melted cheese. It's delicious. Maybe he can talk Hunk into letting him have a taste?

Hunk's a mind reader. "Nu-uh. I'm going to put it in the stasis box now, untouched by human hand and uneaten. But I can whip up an omelette with cheese and—" Hunk purses his mouth and picks out a small sample of fresh spices. "basil, oregano, and maybe some chopped bell-peppers and mushrooms?"

"Please!" Curtis begs; the mere description is mouthwatering. "Chow hall food isn't too bad, but this is better. Your food is always incredible."

Keith drops in with Pidge and Lance at the exact moment as Hunk puts food on the table. Good thing that Hunk never scrimps on the ingredients; there's enough omelette for everyone.

*

It's too early. Curtis groans when the sun hits his face, brighter and warmer than it should be. He makes a discontent huff, unable to turn because Keith has draped himself all over him. Kosmo is not helping; he's taking up the side of the bed that is Curtis's when Shiro's not here. When Shiro isn't in bed, Kosmo doesn't give a shit about sides and pops in to shed all over the bed and on the people who are in it. He does that when Shiro's home as well, but then he usually flops down on top of Keith's feet and stays there.

"I hate you," Curtis says affectionately and rubs Kosmo's ears as well as possible, since Kosmo is leaning against his back.

"Turn off the damned light," Keith growls, burying his face at Curtis's chest. "Did the alarm go off? I didn't hear the alarm," he continues, clinging to Curtis like he's about to be shoved out of bed.

The alarm didn't go off. Being the only responsible person in the room (since Keith seems entirely disinclined to move) Curtis realizes that he has to get up and close the curtains if they are going to get any more sleep. He squints at the clock. 5:59am. They have to get up anyway. Doesn't explain the bright sunlight, though. He is sure he closed the curtains when they went to bed.

Curtis walks over to the window. There are two suns, and they are closing in on Earth quickly.

Except they are not suns. They are eyes.

"I don't think we need to worry about transportation," Curtis tells Keith, "but I think you need to get up. There's a Voltron Lion about to land."

*

The entire Garrison is up. Pidge and Hunk are there, of course they are. It has been years since the lions have been seen last, and not even Princess Allura has been able to contact them. Now Black is outside, sitting calmly near the spaceship launch area, utterly unimpressed with the crowd that has gathered around it. Curtis steps out, hesitating the moment his feet touches the asphalt.

"Shiro," he says, and stops, frozen as the thought hits him. He forces a deep breath into his lungs.

"What," Keith inquires, his voice turning thin and sharp. "What does—"

"What if Black is here because something happened to Shiro?" Curtis can hardly speak, sudden anxiety sitting like a lump in his throat."What if—"

"You're a comm officer." Keith doesn't elaborate. He doesn't have to.

"True," Curtis croaks, releasing a shaky breath as Keith takes his hand. "Of course we would have heard from them." The crowd separate as Keith decides to walk closer, Curtis in tow, like he has no choice but to follow.

"Hi. Remember me?" Keith asks, a hand on Black's gigantic front leg. "And Curtis. He's our… " Keith pauses. Curtis knows why. They have an audience, and Keith is better at showing than telling. It's not shame; a triad is if not common then not unheard of, and theirs have the support of all their friends. "Curtis is our husband and lover. Ours. We're Shiro's."

There is no response.

Keith's shoulders sag. "You think Black disapproves? Since he doesn't want to let me in?" he whispers, barely loud enough for Curtis to hear.

Curtis is not sure what to say. He knows how deep Shiro's bond with Black ran, how intertwined they had been once. "No. No, of course not." Black has seen Shiro's innermost thoughts, saved him, just like Keith had. Because they were connected to him. Curtis doesn't know whether the lions feel such complex emotions as love, but he thinks they might. "There is a reason, I'm sure," Curtis says, wanting to reassure Keith. As usual, he is easily shaken when the possibility of rejection is on the table. "There was always a reason when the lions wouldn't do what you wanted, right? Maybe he has other plans?"

"Yeah," Keith says, dragging out the word. "I suppose."

The whirring of hydraulics and wheels is loud in the silence. Curtis looks up just to have Black's head just above his, like he is being examined. "Hi," Curtis says nervously. "Nice to see you."

This time, there is a response. Black gets up, head raised as it looks to the sky, and roars. The ground shakes and Curtis squeezes Keith's hand so hard it has to hurt. "What does it mean?"

They both look up, Black hovering over them, the cadets and officers who came out to see what was happening retreating to what they might perceive to be a safe distance. As if.

And there, against the rising sun, four little dots grow bigger, taking form and color.

The Voltron lions are back.

Red lands next to Black; Yellow and Green behind her, Blue on her right.

"Kitty!" Keith cries with the enthusiasm of a three year old kid. He looks like he'd want to hug the lion, and Curtis laughs. It's adorable. "Red! You came too!"

Red dumps her butt on the ground with a short grunt, her maw opening, the gangway dropping right in front of Keith. So that's why Black wouldn't let Keith in?

"Okay," Keith tells Red. "I get it. But what about Lance?"

"Yeah, what about me?" Lance is up and out, surprisingly; prone as he is to sleeping in, oversleeping, and being late for anything that's happening in the Garrison before noon. "Red, why are you like that? Don't you love me anymore?"

Curtis turns to look at Lance, who in turn look sad and down-trodden. Keith is not the only one who doesn't do rejection well.

Blue makes a growl that sounds very much like a sigh. She too drops her gangway in front of her chosen paladin.

"Yeah, that's more like it!" Lance suddenly sounds so happy. "I missed you, girl. Did you miss me too? You sure you're here for me? Allura is on a mission with Shiro. If you'd—" Lance pauses, like he's communicating with Blue. He turns. "Keith can have Red. Me and my girl here—we're back together and we're going to be very happy! She's my first love, so it was meant to be. Allura has Atlas. Blue says that Red will take you both. To Shiro."

Keith nods. "I know. Red showed me. Black is coming with us."

"You okay?" Curtis whispers. He's not sure how Black's dismissal sits with Keith, but his guess is: not. Rejection always hits Keith hard and this is no exception.

"Let's buckle up."

"Sure?"

"Red… she saved me so many times. I—" Keith sighs and turns into Curtis' embrace. "It's like with Lance and Blue. Red…" He raises his head, squinting at Yellow and Green who are both reconnecting with Pidge and Hunk. "Those two… there was never any doubt, no need for them to change. They belong together. Maybe it is like that, that Lance and I… it was necessary at the time so we could do what needed to be done, but this is where we belong."

"You can belong with more than one," Curtis says quietly. "And be no less loved for that."

"Mmm." Keith makes a soft little sound. "I know. It's more… what if they expect me to lead again? Red's still my kitten. I don't—"

"Don't worry. We'll sort it out. The lions know best. They'll decide." Curtis nuzzles Keith's hair, offering him the comfort he needs, distracting him with a kiss until Keith sighs and breaks for air. Curtis kisses him on the nose, making Keith huff and glare at him. Curtis just laughs. Sometimes Keith is like his lion; a small but dangerous kitten with claws that may or may not leave scratches. "Let's get the things we need to bring and let's go meet our birthday boy."

*

The alarm blares loudly and Shiro jerks, startled by the sudden alert. This is supposed to be a quiet quadrant. He swipes the screen, zooming in on the source. It's a small planet close to their path. "Allura?"

"Change course and let's go see what the problem is. It's probably nothing." She pauses. "Uninhabited, but habitable. Odd. Might be a glitch."

"Should we send out a drone?"

"If there's a ship on it we can see it from afar; it is a very small planet," Allura replies with confidence.

Shiro checks the spot again. The planet is small, barely more than a dwarf, orbiting the two suns in the small solar system they are passing through. It's been registered and classified as habitable, but too small for it to be more than the space equivalent of a paradisiacal but deserted island. There is a possibility that someone stranded there and needs their help. The call they picked up is not a distress call, though. Might be a glitch as Allura suggested. Shiro is still wary. For obvious reasons.

"Coran can take the bridge, we'll go explore," Shiro suggests. "Stretch our legs."

"No, I have to, erm, wash the mice," Allura says merrily, fiddling with the bun on top of her head. There is not a mouse in sight. "I was just about to run them a bath," she continues, the lie evident in the way she averts her eyes." I'm feeling… Blue," she admits with a smile that contradicts her statement. "You go. If we pick up anything suspicious, I will join you before you land."

"You have to bathe—" Shiro stares at Allura. She looks very innocent, despite the lies. He decides not to ask. She probably has her reasons and he knows better than to argue with her. Last time he did, he was thrown into a pod and sent into space, leaving her in Zarkon and Haggar's cruel hands. He smiles at the memory even though it certainly isn't a fond one, but he is fond of Allura's strength and determination. Whatever her reasoning, it sure isn't one that is meant to harm or to leave him in danger. If she's having an off day, she could just tell him.

"Right. I'll get ready." At least it's not his birthday. He never really liked them much, rare as they are, but it would have been sad to putter around on a desolate planet on one of them.

*

The planet is bathed in the purple light from its setting suns. The vegetation looks a little like what Earth offers, at least seen from above. It's a tiny little planet.

Shiro hones in on the spot where the signal comes from. He rubs his forehead; it's like the signal is connecting with him directly. He has a nagging feeling that he knows it. It is far too familiar for it to be a coincidence.

There is nothing to see. The forest is undisturbed. The meadow that follows the river bears no trace of a crash or even of life, other than the flocks of birds—maybe not birds, but things with wings—that flutter into the sky at the sound of his EMF. He goes down a bit further. The river lies calm, the low suns painting it golden. It's beautiful. He follows it, the fighter an ominous dark shadow looming over such a peaceful place.

At the edge of the forest he sees the glimmer of light. He slows down. Hovering a few feet across the trees he scans the signal, wondering whether it is merely sunlight, playing games with him.

No, he decides. The signal is getting stronger. Maybe it is all they have, the stranded, this small light and the distress signal. He decides to check it out.

He hesitates a moment. It's not like his experience, landing on assumingely uninhabited planets, is good.

He'll be fine, he decides, against all caution. Allura is but a call away, and no one, not even the Galra, would want to mess with the queen of the universe. Well, princess. Shiro doesn't care. Allura is royalty no matter how you turn it.

He concentrates, using the fighter's scope to check the surroundings. The heat sensors count three large targets, a smaller one, and a multitude of tiny, tiny sparkles. Shiro has no idea what they could be, but unless there is something here that he cannot detect, he should be good. It's not an ambush; if someone had wanted to attack the Atlas, they'd have known better and brought an army. Two, maybe, just to have at least something that looks like a remote chance against Allura and Coran's formidable ship.

Carefully, Shiro sets the fighter down on the surface. He waits, checking the readings. Nothing happens. The suns are almost gone, sinking below the horizon. They'll be up again in six hours, Shiro knows. Maybe he should wait? Nah. He squints to see something in the dim light that is left, anything.

There, between the trees, are more lights. Clear little stars hang from some kind of structure. Fairy lights on a tent? Shiro grins. Is that what he came here for? Saving stranded space hikers?

Sure, not all of it can be about saving the entire universe. Space hikers get saved too. He is not one to discriminate. At least they are too few to present any threat. Shiro is done being dragged off by aliens.

He gets up, calling Allura on the comm.

"Doesn't look like anything serious. Three entities. I'm going in now."

Allura confirms it with a voice that is still cheery. Odd, since she said she was feeling blue. Shiro wonders what she's up to. Maybe she's just having fun bathing the mice?

Shiro swings open the canopy and slides to the ground. The forest is quiet, not eerily so, just like a forest winding down for the night, a few birds or other creatures twittering as they find a branch to sleep on.

He looks around. The warm golden light from behind the trees pulls at him, like his curiosity turned into magnetism. He walks closer. Still nothing. Taking cover behind the huge trunk of the trees as he sneaks closer, Shiro tries to see more. The signal echo that has been buzzing in his head all day suddenly stops. Huh?

He shakes his head, then moves forward, slinking from one tree to the next, until he is right outside the small camp.

It's a tent, all right, but not one that Shiro has seen before. It's big and like something out of a desert dream or a fairy tale, light fabrics waving softly in the breeze, soft rugs spread on the ground. Fairy lights seem to hover cordless around the tent like fireflies. It's beautiful. There's a fire burning. Someone is cooking. It smells distinctly like fresh basil and melting cheese. Shiro's mouth waters. He'd give his right arm for a portion of Hunk's mac and cheese right now. After a week of dry-freeze and goo, he's missing real food; fresh produce doesn't last long in space.

Out of the dark behind the tent comes a beast. Shiro takes a step back, suddenly happy he didn't hypothetically swap his arm for food.

The beast charges with a growl.

Shiro prepares to defend himself, halfway baffled that anyone is actually attacking him. He's about to counter when the light from the camp hits the beast. It halts, whining, almost curling around itself, tail eagerly wagging as it throws itself on Shiro's feet, tongue lolling, growling and whining.

"What the— Kosmo?"

"That's right, baby."

Shiro's head snaps up. "Curtis?" Shiro gasps, looking around, trying to make sense of the sudden development. "But—"

"Happy birthday, babe." Keith comes out from the tent. "And down, wolf!"

Shiro stands there, unable to move, unable to process, hands buried in Kosmo's fur. It dawns. Husband. Boyfriend. Wolf.

Love.

"There's another one here who wants to congratulate you," Keith says with a smirk. "Light it up, lions."

The forest suddenly vibrates, a roar so loud and deep it goes to the bones.

"It's… It's…" Shiro starts, then stops, looking up, mouth hanging open, a less than charming expression of the wonder he sees unfold before him. He frowns, tears welling up in his eyes. He sinks to the ground on his knees. "Black?"

Another set of eyes light up behind Black, Red joining them with a roar of its own.

"They…" Shiro can hardly speak. He is not sure whether he is happy or terrified; if the lions are back, there could be another war coming.

Instead the pictures that hit him, courtesy of his bond with Black, are of calm waves, of peaceful planets, and content nations. Of longing and bonding.

"Thank you." Shiro breathes out, shoulders relaxing. He hadn't realized how tense he had become. "You came for my birthday? Really?" It feels like Black is laughing, and then Shiro senses a distinct displeasure with the Garrison space suit. Shiro joins in, a low, happy laughter. "I promise I won't wear it if— if you are back to stay. Besides, I like the Voltron suit better. Faded orange and baby poo beige aren't really my favorite colors."

Black lowers his head, barely avoiding the decapitation of several innocent trees. It huffs softly.

"Yeah, me too. I'm glad you came. Thank you." Shiro gets up from the ground, reaching, barely able to touch the bottom of Black's chin. "I'm glad you're gonna stay. I never stopped being your paladin."

"I'm back with Red," Keith says casually. "Not complaining. You form the head. I'm better at being the right hand man. Right-hand Galra. Whatever. Black's all yours. Always was."

"You're more than that," Shiro says and reaches for his lover. "You are everything to me."

"Love you, too," Keith murmurs into Shiro's shoulder, hiding his face there, strangely shy. "Missed you so much."

"Does Red's return mean you'll be here more?" Shiro asks, unable to keep the hopeful tone out of his voice. "You are doing great work with the Blades, and I— I know why you—"

Shiro feels happy and sad at the same time. He'd like Keith to be home, to say yes to making their relationship a full marriage. Curtis longs for it, too, having Keith there. They are both deeply in love with him, like they are in love with each other. They love him and it means that they would never pressure Keith into something he's not ready for. They would never ask him to stay on Earth if he wants to travel in space. That kind of conditioned love never goes well.

But Shiro is never in doubt that Keith loves him. Never. There is love enough between the three of them to last them a lifetime, several lifetimes, no matter if one is with the Blades and the other two are not.

"I was thinking that I wanted to stay on Earth for a while," Keith murmurs, clinging to Shiro. "I decided before Red returned. I don't think I want to leave you again. I'm gonna miss my mom and Kolivan, but I miss you more, both of you. I've done what I needed to do. Now I want to fly with you again."

Shiro bites his lip, pain to distract himself from the burning in his eyes. "That would be the best gift you could give me. This. Black." Shiro smiles through unshed tears. "Best birthday ever. And I don't even have one. Not until next year."

"You haven't seen what's for dinner," Curtis says as he steps up to them, kissing Shiro on the cheek, squishing Keith between them. "It's going to get better."

Keith laughs softly, a content sigh leaving his chest.

"Dinner?" Shiro asks hopefully. "I thought I smelled food."

"Hunk."

"Oh, mmm!" Shiro can't think of anything better than Hunk's food when it comes to dining. Whatever it is that Hunk made. Doesn't matter.

"Mac. Cheese." Curtis's smile is more like a smirk. Damn him.

"Be happy I love you, because that grin is so unbecoming," Shiro laughs, kissing Curtis and laughing at the same time. "I'll forgive you if you take me to the food."

"Go swim in the river while we make things ready. It's safe. We brought fresh clothes." Curtis still looks smug.

"Are you telling me I stink?"

"I'm telling you that dinner isn't the only thing we planned for the night, and what we planned will be more fun if you don't smell like feet and recirculated spaceship air."

Shiro looks from Curtis to the tent. It does look very nice and inviting. Clearly he's in for the luxury treatment tonight.

Keith makes another content hum, tightening his arms around Shiro.

Yeah, he'll go clean up.

*

Refreshed by the cool water and a nice, relaxing swim, Shiro walks back to the tent, feet bare. He's carrying his spacesuit under one arm. The kaftan he's now wearing is white and thin, the fabric soft on his body. The evening is pleasantly warm and Shiro finds that, for once, he is looking forward to celebrate. He has everything he loves right here. His husband, his lover, his lion. His mac and cheese. Can't be much better. If Allura, Coran, and the rest of the paladins were here, sure, but a guy can't have it all.

Almost having it all works for Shiro, too. It's more than he had before the war, having to choose between his love of space and… well, love.

Kosmo pops out of thin air, wagging and whining, pulling Shiro back to the present, to a time of unconditional love, to this moment, to warmth and longing and care. It makes Shiro laugh, just because. Even Keith's wolf is in on this surprise.

"On my way. I'm sure there's mac and cheese for you too," Shiro tells him. "Hunk always makes some for you. You're spoiled, you know." He pats Kosmo on the head, the giant wolf continuing his impersonation of a puppy, making Shiro stumble as he throws himself at his feet for a belly rub. "Get up, you silly mutt. Or I'll eat your share. You'll regret it," Shiro threatens. Apparently Kosmo understands because he whines and woofs and runs into the tent, like he's making sure that there will be treats for him too.

The sky is starlit and the tent lies like a small oasis in the night, a small space of warmth and light in the dark. Shiro steps inside. The sight makes him smile. Keith is lounging on a pile of pillows, wearing nothing but a flimsy piece of pale blue fabric that may be a kaftan, maybe just fabric that's arranged to make him look absolutely gorgeous. His neck is adorned with jewelry, long chains of a dark gold metal Shiro doesn't recognize. It looks like something of Altean making. It makes Keith look like gorgeous, a cherished, pampered, spoiled courtesan.

Curtis is kneeling in front of a fire bowl, putting food on plates. He is naked apart from a pair of loose pants, made from the same fabric as Keith's apparel, only white, held up by a heavy silver belt that hangs low on his hips. He could just as well be naked. He looks mouthwatering. Shiro wouldn't mind being the one on his knees if the dish he gets is Curtis.

Shiro licks his lips. He would very much like a taste.

"Put your suit away and come here," Keith demands as he pats on the pillow-pile. "Food's ready."

"Dessert, too, I see," Shiro laughs. "You both look amazing. What did I do to deserve all this?"

"We love you? Apart from that, nothing yet, but I'll let you know when we wake up tomorrow," Curtis teases. "We both missed you."

"Very much," Keith says and sends Shiro a gaze that could have set the tent on fire. "Just lie down and enjoy. We're going to take care of you."

"M-hm," Curtis agrees. He looks hungry.

*

"Quiznak, I'm sore." Keith groans and turns in Shiro's arms. Shiro squints at the light. The stars are gone and the sun is up for the second time. They all missed the first sunrise, no wonder since the nights here are only six hours long. "You really did miss me a lot," Keith says. "You wore me out."

Behind Shiro Curtis makes a triumphant "Yes!" Shiro shakes his head, as much as he's able, squeezed in between his lovers, the pillow mountain they lounge on doing nothing for his ability to move. Not that he wants to move; he's sated, tired, exhausted in that way one is exhausted after making love almost all night. Nights, to be precise. Giving as well as he got, Shiro sure isn't complaining.

"You all right?" Shiro asks, nuzzling Keith's ear, biting at the lobe.

Keith makes a soft mewl. "Yeah, but my ass is a restricted zone for a week. If I didn't love you both so much…"

"Sorry," Curtis and Shiro say at the same time. Shiro is worried for a moment that they have been too rough for Keith. It has been a while.

Only Keith grins and pulls Shiro even tighter. "No, you aren't. But my next boyfriend… I'm checking the size of his dick before I pick one. Why I have to be saddled with two guys who are hung like horses is beyond me."

"You sure don't mind riding us, so stop complaining." Curtis leans over and kisses Keith on the nose. Shiro can't help but sniff at his armpit. They all smell of sex and sweat and Shiro loves that. It reminds me how lucky he is, having his cake and eating it too, having both the men he loves so much. Keith giggles, amused, the giggle turning into a groan. They did get a little rough with him.

Shiro makes an empathetic sigh, pulling Keith even closer.

Squirming out of their embrace, Keith is not having any coddling. "Stay. I'll get us breakfast. Birthday boy gets to be pampered, not me."

Shiro sighs happily and wonders why he never really liked his birthday, or more like the lack of them. He takes a deep breath, rolling over, halfway on top of Curtis. He stays there, in Curtis's embrace, watching Keith clean himself, unashamed of his body, something that makes Shiro wish they could go another round.

Curtis litters Shiro's face with kisses. "Our boy is so beautiful," he murmurs against Shiro's mouth, and Shiro agrees.

Keith dresses (if one could call those flimsy, transparent kaftans clothes) before he lights the fire, unpacking boxes that probably came out of Hunk's kitchen.

Shiro watches as Keith puts the food on low tables, allowing them to eat as they lounge on the soft pillows. He feels like a prince, cherished and doted upon.

Curtis is humming softly, stroking Shiro's back, his lips forming a smile in the midst of another kiss. The pavilion smells of coffee and bacon, strangely homely in this foreign environment. The wind send in a series of grass-scented little gusts, teasing Shiro's nose with the perfume of flowers he doesn't recognize. His limbs feel lazy in that heavy way that only comes with being utterly, entirely content and relaxed.

Keith leaves the food for a while, instead kneeling next to the pillows with a huge silver bowl and washcloths. The water is warm and scented with something that smells fresh and green. Shiro wishes he could purr. It turns out that Keith is very good at this, carefully wiping Shiro clean. Curtis helps himself and takes great pleasure in helping Keith too, despite his earlier use of both water and washcloth.

Shiro moves closer, hand on Keith's naked hip, eager to reward Keith for his attention. It comes for free, of course, but Keith is warm and naked. Alluring. Outside the sun is still shining but the trees rustle as the wind sends a cool breeze into the tent. Shiro makes a content sound and grabs a thin blanket, attempting to spread it over them, with very little success. Curtis just laughs at him and gets up to help when he stops, blanket in hand, staring at the tent's opening.

Kosmo is up, suddenly awake, the lazy cur, wagging and whining even before Shiro hears steps.

"Oh my Quiznak!" a familiar voice exclaims. "He's wearing his birthday suit! Shiro, dammit, cover yourself up! There are things I don't wanna see, like ever!"

There's a moment of panic. Shiro grabs the corner of the blanket and places it strategically over his own groin, instead revealing more of Curtis than strictly necessary.

"Happy birthday!" It's Hunk and Pidge, jumping into the tent behind Lance, arms full of neatly wrapped parcels.

"Please tell me I'm dreaming," Pidge says. "I really want my eyes to fall out, but not for real."

"I think I— erm." Hunk. "Let me get you your clothes." With his eyes carefully averted, Hunk makes a beeline for the piles of clothes they discarded during the first night.

Coran and Allura steps in. Allura makes a decidedly un-Allura-ish squeal.

"Close your eyes, baby," Lance cries and twirls Allura around. "I know size doesn't matter, but… no. You don't need to see this. I'll have an inferiority complex for the rest of my life."

It's too much. Shiro leans back in Curtis's arms, laughing so much his entire body shakes. He's still laughing when Hunk hands him a tunic and the things that Curtis wore, pants of some kind, which makes it a little difficult to dress without exposing his entire team to his still-enthused private parts. He should feel embarrassed, even though close quarters at a space ship leave very little to imagination. But Shiro doesn't. He feels happy and loved, if slightly surprised by the sudden influx of friends.

"Thank God," Pidge says as Shiro finally gets dressed and manages to get up from the mattress. "I hope you have something to cover that bed with because I'm not sitting there."

"We have clean blankets. Let's take them outside," Curtis suggests. "Keith is just done unpacking—"

"Yeah, we saw," Lance teases. "Good thing you all managed to pack it up again. Scarred, I tell you. I'm scarred."

"Shut up and help me get the food outside," Keith says and shoves Lance in the direction of the trays piled high with Hunk's delicacies. "Or I'll make sure you're scarred."

"Hah-hah," Lance says and grabs a tray. "Only because you ask nicely, Mullet."

"I didn't ask ni—oh." Keith snorts out a laughter. It took him some time, but Lance grew on him, just as the jokes and sarcasm. "Come on, Shiro. Curtis, grab the coffee, Shiro's gonna follow it anywhere we take it."

There is a truth to that. Shiro prefers, now that he has a say in it, to get at least two cups before he does anything else, except if 'anything else' means that he can have the two men he loves in his bed. Not an option now, but that's fine. There is coffee and friends—an tolerable substitute for morning cuddles with his lovers.

Allura steps up to him as Shiro gets outside. "They wanted to wish you happy birthday too." She holds out her hands. Four squeaky clean mice in bowties sit there, chattering excitedly as he holds out his hands for them. They are towing a large piece of Shiro's favorite chocolate, neatly wrapped in cellophane.

"Awww!" The mice always provide entertainment and companionship much larger than their size, but this is adorable, even for them. He takes the gift carefully. "Thank you, little guys." He looks at Allura. "You really did need to wash the mice."

"Yes." Allura nods. She smiles as the mice run back into her hands and up her arm to perch at her shoulder. She looks at the paladins and Curtis who are done setting up the breakfast table before she turns to Shiro again. "Gifts. You deserve them." She wiggles her finger. "Don't even dare say you don't."

"There's a lot," Pidge says, stating the obvious, since she's holding on to the mountain of packages. "Please take them."

"And when you're done unwrapping, Green, Yellow, and Blue are here too. They've all returned." Hunk smiles widely and warmly. "If you wanna. I mean—" He waits, looking happier than Shiro has seen him in a long time.

So that's why there was these sudden gusts of wind? The lions landing? As such it is not unexpected since Black and Red are here, but it makes Shiro's heart soar to hear it confirmed. He looks up, stretching, able to see his lion and a line of something yellow: the back of Hunk's lion. "Black," Shiro says happy that all the lions are back. "I missed him. I missed the lions. I missed all of you."

"But we're here now," Curtis says. "Lions, Keith, friends. Can't get any better."

"I know what Shiro wants to make it better," Lance says with a smirk. "But I'm seriously taking Blue back to Earth if I'm exposed to Keith's naked ass again. Or Curtis showing off. Once a day has to be enough."

They all laugh and Keith blushes. Shiro laughs too, sitting down next to Curtis and Allura. Lance's got a point, but that can wait. It's morning. The suns are shining. The lions are back, and he's back in Black. His friends and family are here. The universe is at peace. Shiro too. He is loved.

It's true—what Curtis said. It can't get any better. Today he has everything.