Looking back on events later, Hunk wouldn’t be able to clearly articulate why he was hiding in the kitchen on the castleship, coughing up purple petals that smelled faintly of garlic, even though he clearly knew the why behind it. Things were stressful -- they had always been stressful for the anxiety ridden paladin, but it had been somewhat manageable . They were fighting the Galra, day in and day out, but he knew where things were, he knew where he stood with everyone in his universe.
But his universe was quickly changing.
Before, Lance was the center of things. Lance was his best friend, his first friend. Then, it expanded to include Pidge, because they were set up as a three person team. Almost immediately after, there was Keith and they were saving some guy and heading into space and things got so confusing but so wonderful at the same time.
Shiro. His universe tilted and changed and while Shiro wasn’t the entirety of his universe...he was pretty important, as a friend, as a leader, and then later as a lover. And his family? Was still important, but they were so far away and he never knew when he’d see them again. So he had to do what he could for those he was with.
There was only one thing with Shiro -- something that truly, Hunk himself had never minded before. He was of the mind that love was something meant to be shared, never withheld. So when Ulaz was found, and Shiro had felt torn between remaining at Hunk’s side and seeing what he could have had with Ulaz...Hunk did everything he could to encourage his lover.
Shiro had times he was away, spending time with Ulaz and the Blade, especially during the short time that Black wouldn’t let him pilot her, and then he had times with the team -- with him -- and that was just fine as far as Hunk was concerned. Everything was perfect.
...until he really got to meet Ulaz, looking up at the Galra and seeing the ways war had ravaged his body, how time spent in the space pocket (space taco, heh) had worn him down, but yet.
He still stood tall, and proud, his arm tentatively around Shiro’s shoulders, holding him close, Shiro’s head just gently touching the padding on Ulaz’s shoulder, and between the sight and knowing that Hunk would be just slightly shorter, fit more snugly into that shoulder if he let himself get close. Thin lips curled into a soft smile for Shiro, eyes turning to glance at Hunk…
...and Hunk had coughed up wild garlic, panicked, and fled.
Hanahaki was a disease that was incredibly easy to be stricken with -- arguably one could have it as often as or even more often than the common cold, depending on how their hearts were. Hunk loved, and loved often. But he loved in many ways, and those ways he knew were reciprocated, and thus it had been months since the last time he had coughed up anything, and even then? It had been for Shiro. (It had been incredibly embarrassing to try and hide yamazakura petals in all their light pink and white glory from his team leader and friend. Especially given they didn’t have medicine for Hanahaki in space.)
Thus when he began feeling the tickle in his throat, he quickly excused himself so they wouldn’t see him. Wouldn’t see just how he felt about Ulaz, about the Galra his lover was with and that he...he should respect. He did respect. It took a lot to be able to stand against the Galra Empire when surrounded by those who were loyal and would turn in a traitor at the tip of a pointy ear.
There was absolutely no way he could fall for Ulaz. Absolutely none, it was wrong, and he didn’t want to disturb what it was that he had with Shiro…
...so in the kitchen he hid, his thoughts racing and circling about, refusing to stop even as he put his hands to work, carefully turning away from what he was baking to cough, leaving petals falling to the floor, a small trail of purple petals revealing just where he was at any given point.
If Shiro needed him, he’d know to come to the kitchen. But… Shiro had Ulaz. Shiro didn’t need him.
...maybe Shiro never had needed him.
His throat tickled again, pink and white joining the purple.
Shiro felt his heart drop as Hunk turned and quickly walked away, retreating into the bowels of the castleship. When he’d heard that Ulaz was going to be able to spend some time on board, as a liason of sorts for the Blades, he had hoped to let his two loves get acquainted.
Instead, Hunk had awkwardly fled, coughing as he’d gone out of view. There was a thought, brief, of what that had meant -- and he had wanted to go after Hunk, to help reassure and comfort his anxious lover, but the sounds coming from within Ulaz’s chest were distracting, more immediate.
Looking up, he saw as Ulaz’s head turned away from him, opposite hand reaching up as he coughed, the sound of something coming up alongside air and saliva. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what was happening, but if there had been any doubt, the appearance of small, bright yellow flowers moving past his hand and floating towards the floor all but spelled it out for him.
“ He doesn’t hate you ,” Shiro was quick to say, voice soft as he turned himself, his body moving to press against Ulaz’s side, one hand reaching up to cup at the side of Ulaz’s scarred cheek, thumb rubbing against the thin layer of fur there. “Hunk is easily startled. I should have thought about that before. It’s nothing to do with you, he’s just…” The paladin trailed off with a sigh and a shrug, the arm not reaching up to Ulaz’s cheek wrapping around the Galra’s waist, holding him close.
“It...is fine, migadye ,” Ulaz’s eyes turned to focus on Shiro’s face, relaxing into the hand pressed against his cheek. “He does not have to have affection for me. This is temporary -- it will pass.”
Letting out a deep breath, Shiro shook his head, giving Ulaz a gentle squeeze. “We can’t function well if you and he are avoiding each other, though -- and you can’t tell me that you wouldn’t be avoiding him. That’s what you do when feelings are involved.” Lips quirked up into a small smirk. “That’s what I do when feelings are involved, until determined men chase me down and force me to see what’s there.”
Licking his lips, Ulaz had to pause to think. What Shiro said wasn’t entirely incorrect. It had taken Ulaz hunting Shiro down before to talk to him for them to grow into what they were now. “Are you saying that I should give chase and speak with him?”
“I’m not saying that you should, or that you shouldn’t...but he is likely to be in the kitchen stress baking if you do decide to go look for him.” Shiro held onto Ulaz for a moment longer before leaning up to press a perfectly chaste kiss to his cheek. “I don’t want you to do anything you’re not comfortable with, though. So, please, do what you feel okay with...okay?”
Ulaz’s expression softened, leaning down to press his forehead against Shiro’s, a soft purr rumbling in his throat. “I am a fighter and a spy, and you worry about my comfort? I am grateful everyday for you, Shiro. I will be fine, and I will see you this evening.” Tilting his head, their noses brushed together before Ulaz pulled himself back, moving towards the doorway, heading in the direction Hunk had gone before.
Shiro could only hope things would work for the both of them. He loved them both dearly, and wanted the best for them all…
Hunk could hear feet approaching the kitchen, not knowing distinctly who they belonged to -- but he could make a reasonable assumption given they stopped and came into the kitchen, entering behind where he stood, mixing batter together in a bowl as he coughed to the side, keeping flower petals from getting into the batter.
“You know, Shiro? I’m sorry I ever teased you over coughing up those foxgloves while we were training. I still agree he’s a great guy, but holy shit, I never realized how tall he was.” Taking a breath, he began scooping the batter into a cake pan, scraping along the edges and still not looking back. “I mean, someone that can make us feel short? Not all that common -- either we’re like, not near them? Or we’re in the lions so we seem bigger because well, we’re in something bigger.”
The silence that came from the other only caused Hunk to pause a moment before continuing, moving to the side to put the bowl in the sink, running water over it and rinsing it out, getting it somewhat clean before putting it in the fancy Altean dishwasher. “I know, I know, I’m sorry I just, walked? I couldn’t handle it -- I’m happy for the two of you but, I felt like I was...intruding on something that wasn’t meant for me. Like I wasn’t...wanted? Needed? And yeah, it’s dumb, and I’m dumb, and this will all pass like it always does and you don’t have to worr--”
His voice sharply cut off as a large hand rested on his shoulder, turning him around and pressing him back against the sink. Hunk caught a glimpse of blue-grey fur and yellow eyes before feeling thin lips pressed to his own, his heart leaping in his chest as the tickling feeling built up in his chest once more, the Galra’s tongue quickly darting into his mouth, even coming close to reaching all the way back in there.
He was being kissed by Ulaz, arguably one of the smartest members of the Blade of Marmora, and Hunk? Was horribly confused. Hands reached up to quickly press against Ulaz’s chest, pressing him away and forcing the kiss to break, though the Galra remained right where he was.
“I -- Ulaz? What was that? You know you don’t have to do anything like that right? I -- I thought you were Shiro, it’s, why, what?” The more Hunk talked, the higher his voice rose, until Ulaz gently pressed a clawed, furred finger against his lips.
“Shiro and yourself, both concerned with what I wish to do,” there was a soft laugh in Ulaz’s voice even as his lips remained downturned. “It seemed the quickest way to quiet you, so that we could speak. My migadye was worried about you when you left so quickly.” There was a brief pause before he stepped back about half a step, still crowding Hunk slightly while pulling his arm back and standing tall. “...and so was I. I wanted to be certain you weren’t hurt by seeing us together.”
Hunk blinked, eyes quickly looking up (and up, and up) towards Ulaz in confusion even as he felt the familiar tickling in the back of his throat once more, forcing him to clear his throat, turning his head to the side. Thankfully, nothing came up this time. This time. “I’m not a child,” he said, his voice soft, unwilling to lift his head to look up at Ulaz again, for fear of more of the tickling coming back to haunt him. “Shiro is happy with you , and I want him to be happy. I just -- I don’t know, we never got a chance to really talk before, so I just, I was caught a bit off guard, is all. A-and I didn’t want to make things awkward , so I...walked away.”
There’s a thoughtful hum from Ulaz’s throat before he clears it, leaning down so he is at Hunk’s level once more. “Your absence is the only thing that made things ‘awkward’ as you put it,” he smiled slightly. “I admit, I had hoped that you would come sit with us, at the least. I’ve heard much about you, between Shiro and Keith, that I had hoped to get to know you better now that I’ve been assigned here. I hadn’t anticipated my presence startling you so.”
“It wasn’t your presence, it was just...how well Shiro fits with you.” ‘How well I wish I could fit with you.’ “It looked as if you fit like two pieces of a puzzle, making a complete picture, especially with how much he...well, adores you.” If Hunk were Galra, he would be visibly wilting beneath Ulaz’s attention, ears flattening and tail curling around a leg and all. As it was, he did somewhat seem to be shrinking in on himself, his body tensing. “He doesn’t have to say much, or say it often, for it to be clear as day. I mean, not to say he hasn’t talked about you because he has? Just not like...a lot or anything. He’s always excited talking about what you did together when he gets back, or talking about what you’re going to do when he leaves, and I just…”
As Hunk trailed off, a look of understanding flitted across Ulaz’s face. “You feel less necessary, perhaps, now that I’ve relocated to the castleship?”
Silence was the only answer Ulaz got.
Leaning over, his body pressed against Hunk’s as his arms reached over to turn the oven off, before gently resting his hand between Hunk’s shoulders, moving his body to the side so that he was gently guiding the paladin rather than crowding him. “Let me show you something in my quarters, Hunk, something I think you need to see.”
Hunk allowed himself to be led down the hallway, knowing the kitchen wouldn’t explode even as he felt more tickling in his throat, causing him to clear his throat. Just behind him, he heard Ulaz cough, but didn’t see as Ulaz wiped his mouth with his free hand, holding small petals in his hand to keep from making a mess.
For all that the castleship was large, it was almost no time at all before they arrived at Ulaz’s quarters -- quarters that Hunk himself knew would also house Shiro occasionally, given how Shiro had spoken about it, but Hunk had...not really paid much attention to that aspect of things.
Surely Shiro wouldn’t want him involved in that part of his life, after all, no matter how much he talked about it, how excited he seemed for it.
The door opening in front of them, it took a moment for Hunk’s eyes to adjust to the lower lighting in the room. Everything within looked...almost soft. No, not almost soft -- it was soft. There was carpet along the floor, and there wasn’t really a bed per se. Instead, in the back corner was what looked to be a collection of pillows and blankets arranged specifically, wide enough it could easily fit at least three Galra.
‘They must want plenty of room,’ Hunk thought to himself, distracted and not realizing that the room had not been empty of people. Shiro quietly approached the pair, his prosthetic gently resting against Ulaz’s arm questioningly. By way of answer, Ulaz wrapped his free arm around Shiro’s shoulders, pulling him closer to himself and to Hunk -- Hunk who turned his head and let out a soft yelp upon seeing Shiro there, there and so close.
“Sh-Shiro, hi, I’m -- I didn’t mean -- I’m sorry I--” Hunk’s stammering was stopped with a gentle finger pressed against his lips, the expression on Shiro’s face soft -- resulting in the rest of his protest coming out in a soft whine in the back of his throat, eyes wide and looking over at Ulaz briefly.
Shiro cupped Hunk’s cheek, turning his attention back to himself. “Hunk, it’s alright. We want you here.” He gave the other paladin a small smile before leaning in, bumping their foreheads together. “ I want you here. If you don’t want to be here, then that’s...I can understand that. But I want to share all of this with you.”
Ulaz’s hand moved from where it rested on Hunk’s back to instead give his shoulder a small squeeze. “We had wished to speak with you about this, to let you know you are more than welcome to join our nest, but...we startled you.” Ulaz’s face warmed slightly in what could only be embarrassment. “At least I can only presume such with your abrupt departure.”
Swallowing, Hunk nodded, leaning into Shiro’s hand and closing his eyes, actively telling himself to relax. “You really want me here?” His voice was full of quiet wonder, one of his hands reaching to brush against the back of Shiro’s, keeping his hand where it was on his cheek. “I -- it seemed--” Cutting himself off, Hunk took a deep breath, opening his eyes to look at Shiro, to look over at Ulaz, a faint smile on his face.
“Hunk, you’ve been there for me just as long as Ulaz has -- even longer in some ways,” Shiro’s voice was soft, as were his eyes. “If I ever thought for a moment things weren’t working, I would tell you directly. I love you , and I’m not expecting that anything happens between you and Ulaz. If it does, then it does, but I just want the both of you with me, and happy. Okay?”
Leaning down, Ulaz gently bumped his head against Shiro’s, and against Hunk’s. “As long as you are happy, migadye , I am willing to make the best of what comes our way. And I believe things will work out very well for us all. Wouldn’t you agree?” With the last word he spoke, Ulaz nudged Hunk.
Hunk who had slowly stopped feeling the ticklish feeling in his throat the longer they spoke, clearing his throat one last time, this time visibly coughing up two last petals -- one small purple, and one white and pink, his face flushed as the other two saw and recognized the intent as they fell to the floor between the three of them.
“I think things will work out just fine,” his voice was soft as arms wrapped around waists, the three standing together and enjoying the company they shared.