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Hello, Daddy

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There weren’t a lot of things Keith wouldn’t do in the name of friendship.

He’d endured countless boring days spent pretending to study in the library so Lance could make heart eyes at Allura when she’s working the circulation desk. Keith had been forced to sit in the corner guarding their backpacks—and the slurpees they’d snuck in despite the No Outside Beverages sign—every time Lance had followed Allura around asking a million and one questions that for some reason never seemed to bother her. It would be really fucking annoying if it weren’t also really fucking sweet—not that Keith was about to tell Lance that. Keith had done his absolute best to avoid telling Lance anything that might encourage him to think too highly of himself since the time they were seven years old and Keith had the misfortune of telling Lance he liked his blue razor scooter. Lance had spent the next six months telling anyone and everyone that Keith was jealous of his scooter and their newly formed friendship had nearly ended. The only reason it hadn’t was because they’d lived next door to each other, and while his Uncle Kolivan was nice, he didn’t make homemade cookies and sweet tea after school or host television popcorn parties on the patio the way Lance’s mom did. Eventually, Keith had stopped being friends with Lance because it was easy, and had kept being friends with him because he liked him instead. He just didn’t need Lance to know that, or he’d be even more insufferable than usual if that were possible.

Either way, the point was, Keith had done an awful lot of things for his friend. There’d been the great Cookiegate incident of fifth grade, the plot to have the local community swimming pool filled with Jello in middle school, and his grudging support as campaign manager during Lance’s failed McClain for President campaign in senior year, during which he’d promised the entire student body half days twice a week and unlimited free condoms if he won—something their principal had seemed less than fond of.

He’d spent the last decade and a half being the world’s best fucking friend and supporting Lance through his endless stupidity and outrageous need for attention.

Until now.

“No,” Keith said, crossing his arms.

“Keith, my man, my buddy,” Lance crowed, plopping down beside him on the couch and throwing his arm around Keith’s shoulder. “You’ve got to do this.”

“No. No, I really fucking don’t,” he said, trying to wiggle out from beneath Lance’s arm. Problem was, every time he scooted over an inch. Lance scooted over two inches leaving him even less room than before, the inconsiderate fucker.

“Seriously, Keith, I need you. Please.” Lance tilted his head to the side and fluttered his eyes at Keith which was probably supposed to be endearing, but made him look like an idiot.

“I’m gay, but not for you. Stop looking at me like that, you fucking weirdo,” Keith grumbled, trying to shove Lance off the couch. Unfortunately, with too many siblings and cousins to even count, Lance was well-versed in the art of keeping his spot in the face of dethronement, and managed to keep his weight centralized as if his butt was a magnet and stuck to the couch.

“Look, we both know you’d be in love with me if I wasn’t straight. It’s okay,” Lance told him, squeezing his shoulder. “But that’s not the point.”

Keith clenched his jaw and breathed through his nose. He’d given up telling Lance that he was the last man on earth Keith wanted to fuck years ago. When he’d eventually come out to Lance in high school, he’d been surprisingly chill about it—punching the football captain when he made fun of Keith at homecoming and spearheading a campaign to get their sex education class to include more comprehensive materialfor the LGBTQ students. In fact, it’d been the reason Lance had run for class president at all and the main reason Keith had agreed to help him run. It might have failed spectacularly, but Keith had appreciated the support nonetheless. The problem, however, was that somewhere along the line Lance had gotten it into his head that Keith was pining away for him. It never mattered how many times Keith told Lance that he wasn’t his type physically or emotionally, Lance had it in his head that if he was gay or bisexual, he might have been Keith’s soulmate.

Eventually, Keith had given up denying it because Lance was like a dog who wouldn’t let go of its bone.

“What is the point then?” Keith asked despite his better judgement.

“I need you to come with me. Allura said she’s going to Pride with her best friend. Her best friend, Keith! She talks about him so much you’d swear he hung the moon. Apparently, he moved away for a few years and he’s back in town now and she wants me to meet him. I can’t compete with this guy! He sounds so perfect it’s disgusting.”

“Is she in love with him?” Keith asked.

“No!” Lance said with more vehemence than was necessary since he was still sitting so damn close. “He’s gay.”

“Well then, I don’t see why you need me. I’m not going to date Allura’s friend just because he’s a guy and he’s gay. Besides, you know I don’t do Pride. It’s too peopley.”

Lance snorted. “I don’t want you to date anyone. Besides, from what Allura has said this guy is way out of your league anyway. I just need you to be there. Just come with me, alright?”

He removed his arm from where it rested on Keith’s shoulder and dropped it into his lap. Lance’s hands rested there for a scant few seconds before he began to drum them along his thighs, plucking at the hole in his jeans as he worried his bottom lip between his teeth.

Oh. Well that was different. Lance was nervous. Lance was never nervous. At least not like this—not in a way that made him quiet.

“Why?” This time, Keith was genuinely curious. “You’ve spent the last few weekends with Allura and never been nervous.”

“That was different! I was following her around at work or helping her study. And this is just...it’s not a date but it’s closer to a date than anything else we’ve done before. She’s so perfect, Keith—smart, beautiful, funny, nice and, god, did I mention beautiful?”

“You’re not telling me anything we don’t both know already.”

Lance groaned, grabbing the cushion beside him and shoving it over his face and screaming. Taking pity on him, Keith grabbed the cushion and threw it on the floor.

“Look, dude, whatever it is you’re panicking about just spit it out.”

Lance groaned again, turning to give Keith the most pathetic look he’d seen in years. “She’s too good for me, man. She’s too good for me and I’m in love with her and I need you to come with me and keep me from doing something stupid to ruin it before I get a real chance. Please.”

“Ah, fuck,” Keith sighed, decision made despite his better judgement. “I guess we’re going to Pride.”

 

———

“This is amazing,” Lance laughed, clapping Keith on the arm. Lance wasn’t walking down the street, he was practically skipping. He was happier than anyone had a right to be while surrounded by thousands of strangers. Then again, Lance had never met a person he didn't assume wanted to be his best friend.

“This is horrible,” Keith disagreed, though without much heart in it. “It’s too crowded.”

Keith had never been to a Pride event before, had never felt the need to. It wasn’t that he was ashamed of his sexuality—exactly the opposite. He was confident in who he was, always had been. What other people thought of him had never mattered.

Keith had never been confused about his sexuality. When other little boys wanted to send Valentines to the girls in class, he’d wanted to send them to boys. When it’d come time to ask someone to his eighth grade dance, he’d gone with Lance as friends because there wasn’t a girl he wanted to take. He’d never had a single doubt about how he felt or who he liked. When he’d finally decided to tell his uncle, it wasn’t a huge coming out but, rather, something small. He’d asked his uncle to pass him a slice of jalapeno and pepperoni pizza then said Oh, and I’m gay. He’d been fourteen years old.

His uncle had blinked a few times, looking momentarily startled but recovering quickly before passing Keith a Coke and his pizza and asking him if he wanted to change the channel. It’d been his uncle’s way of letting Keith know his choices were alright with him, even if he didn’t quite have the words to verbalize it. He’d come out to Lance a few months later and, because high school was a hell hole where nothing was sacred or private, somehow everyone had known the same day.

After that, Keith had never really come out to anyone again. If straight people didn’t need to come out, he didn’t see why he needed to either. Besides, he hated the idea of strangers knowing things about him. Who he wanted to love or fuck was no one else’s business.

But as he walked down the crowded streets surrounded by people who were proclaiming their sexualities loudly—literally or figuratively—it occured to Keith that maybe he’d never had to worry about what people thought of him being gay because of people like that who took the brunt of the scrunity for him.

“Dude, you’re not paying attention to me,” Lance said loudly, pinching Keith on the arm.

“You weren’t saying anything interesting,” Keith lied, swallowing down the unexpected rush of emotions he felt being surrounded by people like him. He wasn’t about to admit to Lance that Pride was making him feel things. Not when he’d spent the last week telling Lance today was going to be horrible.

Lance made a disbelieving noise. “I said you should’ve worn something that didn’t make you look like someone from Stranger Things”

“Fuck you,” Keith shot back, self-consciously reaching back to touch his hair. Lance was constantly telling him it looked like a mullet, but it wasn’t Keith’s fault that his hair had an unnatural growth pattern.

“Not just the hair dude, everything. This is Pride and you’re dressed like...like—”

“Like what?” Keith asked.

Lance wrinkled his nose and waved his hand up and down Keith’s body. “Like you.”

Keith looked down at himself. He was wearing a plain red t-shirt, his favorite leather jacket, black skinny jeans, and his black boots. And his gloves. He really liked his gloves. He didn’t see the problem.

“Yeah, and?”

“And everyone is dressed like summer and sunshine, and you’re dressed like you’re going to an eighties rock concert in winter.”

Keith flipped him off.

“Well, you look like one of the Teletubbies.”

Lance frowned, looking down at himself and his matching tank top, shorts, and shoes which were for some reason all the exact same shade of baby blue. “I do not! There was no blue Teletubby, asshole!”

Keith smirked. “So, are you finally ready to admit that you used to watch the Teletubbies?”

“You’re so fucking annoying,” Lance grumbled. “I don’t know why—oh, there’s Allura!”

Keith’s eyes roamed over the crowd until he spotted Allura standing on the edge of the sidewalk looking like a rainbow goddess. Her long white hair was piled atop her head in two buns, her hair and face were covered in glitter, and she was wearing a flowing rainbow-colored dress. Keith watched the moment Allura spotted Lance, her face transforming into an open smile that left Keith with no doubt that somehow she was as smitten with Lance as Lance was with her.

She weaved her way across the street as gracefully as a princess, the crowds seamlessly partning for her, and then she was standing in front of Lance, blushing. It was simultaneously adorable and disgusting.

“You made it,” Allura beamed. “You look handsome, Lance.”

Lance’s cheeks pinked and instead of his usual boasting about being the most handsome man in the city, he simply said, “Thanks. You look beautiful as always.”

“Thank you, Lance. And hello, Keith.”

“Hey, Allura.”

“So, Lance told me this is your first Pride. What do you think?” She was watching him intently, an easy smile on her face.

“It’s crowded,” Keith answered with a shrug, unsure he could articulate his mess of feelings about it. Even if he could, he wouldn’t want to talk about it here.

“Isn’t it wonderful? So many people coming out to celebrate love. Have you ever seen anything more beautiful in your entire life?” Allura asked.

Keith felt like his quiet bed at home was pretty damn beautiful and worlds less noisy and sunny, but he was hard-pressed to deny the euphoric energy running through the crowd. As much as Keith had grumbled that rainbows and glitter weren’t his thing, there was something that made his heart flip unexpectedly at seeing so many people look so comfortable being themselves.

“Yeah, it’s nice,” he agreed, shoving his hands into his pockets.

“So where's the elusive best friend?” Lance asked, expertly diverting the attention off Keith. Lance was good at that—at knowing when someone else had hit their emotional limit. It was one of the things that made them such good friends. Keith didn’t like the attention on him and Lance wanted it all. They were a good balance. That, and Lance was a lot more emotionally intelligent than most people usually gave him credit for.

“Ah, missing at the moment,” Allura answered, shielding her eyes from the sun and scanning the crowd. “He texted me he was on Castle Street ten minutes ago which is only two blocks over, but I’ve yet to find him and he stopped answering my texts. So, he either lost service or his phone went dead. I’m afraid Keith’s previous estimations of the crowds were accurate. I really want to find him before the parade starts at noon though, or we’ll never get to him.”

“Right, looks like we’re on a best friend finding mission then,” Lance said, pulling his phone from his pocket to check the time. “It’s eleven thirty. That gives us a good twenty minutes before they’re going to clear the streets. Keith, you stay here and save our space and me and Allura will embark on a lost person mission.”

“Sounds good to me,” Keith said, more than done with navigating his way through the crowds. Standing in one spot and waiting was something he could definitely handle.

“Wonderful,” Allura cheered, clapping her hands.

“Right this way, my lady,” Lance said, holding his arm out dramatically for Allura who giggled and linked her arm through Lance’s.

 

——————

Ten minutes later, Keith was seriously questioning his decision to remain in one place to wait for Lance and Allura.

The sun was beating down on him and making him feel like a pig on a spit being roasted in his leather jacket which he’d been forced to remove before he died of heat stroke—laying it on the cement beside him to save Allura and Lance’s spot. Worse than that was the fact that almost immediately, some random dude in a leather harness and little else had taken Keith sitting alone as invitation to engage. Just because he was existing in a public space alone didn’t mean he wanted company, especially not someone who seemed to take Keith’s lithe stature as indication of his desire to be called baby. Not that Keith minded being called baby, or at least he didn’t think he did. He’d never actually had a boyfriend that had called him that, and the word itself was innocuous enough on its own. Coming from the right man, well...he felt pretty sure he might like it a lot. It was just that the man who’d said it to him had looked at Keith like he was dessert, his tone and gaze leaving Keith with no doubt that it wasn’t a term of endearment but a kink. Which was fine. Keith wasn’t about to judge what other people liked. It just wasn’t what he wanted. He wasn’t anyone’s good little boy. He hadn’t even been a good boy at five, and he sure as fuck didn’t want to be one at twenty-one.

Logically, Keith knew that one bad interaction shouldn’t be enough to sour his mood. But Keith wasn’t always logical. Especially not when he was hot and thirsty and kept getting bumped by strangers. Even if the strangers all seemed to be in a good mood and gifting Keith joyful smiles and asking for nothing in return. It was just that Keith found that much social engagement exhausting.

Dropping his head into his hands, he prayed Lance and Allura would come back soon with her mystery friend in tow so they could try to find a spot on the sidewalk with more shade. That, and Keith was in desperate need of an ice cold Coke.

He glanced at his watch—11:21. Fuck, he hoped they showed up soon.

Resting his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands, he let his mind drift as he began to people watch, a warmth that had nothing to do with the sun filling him as he watched couples and families and friends file into the city center for the parade. Rainbows and glitter had never been his thing—too bold, too bright—but the way everyone was smiling and laughing he thought he understood a little more the desire to shine as brightly as possible, if only for one day.

Doing what he usually did when forced to exist surrounded by too many people, Keith dissolved into intense people watching, trying to guess their names or making up ridiculous backstories for them. He was just about to decide what a girl, dressed like the sun threw up on her, might be named when he noticed a pair of fuzzy little paws at her feet. A puppy. Keith loved puppies. Dogs were smart and loyal and they couldn’t talk. They were loads better than people.

The puppy pawed at her sandals, winding its way through her legs and giving Keith a good view of its face. It was the cutest thing Keith had ever seen in his entire life—a chubby little puff ball of a golden retriever with a joyful face and the cutest rainbow bandana around its neck. The dog didn’t seem to belong to Little Miss Sunshine, since she was squealing at the sight of it, but the crowds were too thick to tell who the dog belonged to.

Keith was so distracted by watching the puppy try to lick the stranger’s toes, it took him a good five seconds to realize his phone was buzzing in his pocket. He grabbed it and read the message flashing on his lock screen—Message from Lance. He swiped up to read the message and frowned when he saw the novel Lance had written him.

Allura’s too good to be true best friend is still MIA, so we might be a little longer than anticipated. We accidentally ended up in a line for ice cream and it would be a pity to abandon the line now. I’m not a quitter. I never quit. You want a cone?

Keith frowned at his phone. Great, more time spent sitting here alone.

yes. chocolate.

Keith clicked his phone off to save the battery and shoves it in his pocket, eyes searching out the cute puppy from before, but it was sadly gone. He repressed a sigh of disappointment as his phone buzzed again, and he had his thumb on the lock button when someone’s large shadow fell over him, blanketing him in blissful shade for a moment before the stranger began to speak to him.

“Wow, you’re such a good boy, aren't you? I knew you could be good for Daddy. You’re such a good boy.”

The man’s voice was sweet as honey and twice as thick, but his words sent a chill down Keith’s spine. Fuck, not another asshole. Keith’s hackles rose, his earlier interaction at the forefront of his mind. His nerves were already frayed from being so far outside of his comfort zone today, and now this? He shoved his phone back into his pocket, not even bothering to give the stranger the satisfaction of his gaze as he stared at the man’s crisp white Converse and began to speak.

“I’m not going to call you Daddy. Whatever kinky sex games you’re looking for, you’re looking in the wrong place, so I suggest you walk away right now because if you tell me to call you that one more time, I’ll kick you in the balls so hard you’ll be crying for your own Daddy.”

“That’s not—no,” the man spluttered. He looked horrified.

Keith snorted out his disbelief. There was really only one way to take a sentence like that. “Sure, dude.”

Surprisingly, the shadow didn’t disappear immediately. Apparently, the guy didn’t take Keith’s threat seriously. He wasn’t not surprised. Most people assumed that because he’s small he can’t handle himself and then they’re proven wrong. So wrong.

“I’m not looking for a Daddy, so you can just move along,” Keith said again.

The guy made a choking noise, his voice horrified. “I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to my dog.”

Keith’s head snapped up at the words There was a bright rainbow leash held in the stranger’s hand. A leash that wasattached to a collar which was, in fact, attached to a real dog. And not just any dog, but the world’s cutest dog. The tiny puff ball Keith had been admiring across the street just a few minutes earlier. Fuck, the guy wasn’t lying. He really hadn’t been talking to Keith with some overtly sexual come on, he’d been baby talking his god damn puppy.

Keith wanted to die.

There had been a lot of embarrassing moments in his life. Times where his impusivility and temper got him in trouble because he spoke too harshly or too soon, but this one took the absolute fucking cake. Keith was so horrified he couldn’t even look at the guy’s face, couldn’t bear to see the type of judgement he might see. He knew he was an asshole.

Instead, he swallowed down his humiliation and remorse as he stared at the puppy sitting in between the guys spread legs.

“Ah, fuck. You have a dog.”

“I do,” the guy agreed. He didn’t sound perturbed or pissed off, merely amused. “His name’s Oppy. This is his first Pride.”

“It’s mine too,” Keith offered, then wanted to die again. Was he seriously comparing himself to this man’s puppy seconds after mistakenly threatening him? Maybe the heat was getting to Keith. He wasn’t usually such a disaster.

“Oh, well Happy Pride,” the guy said. “How are you enjoying it?”

Keith internally sighed. It figured he’d have the luck to insult someone so goddamn polite. He wanted to keep staring at the ground, or the puppy, or even the guy’s jean clad thighs. Instead, he forced his eyes upward to the man’s face, determined to be less of a rude asshole.

“It’s alright,” he answered, finally looking up. Except that the moment his eyes locked on the stranger’s, Keith forgot how to fucking breathe. Beautiful. The man was beautiful. Minutes before, Keith had been sure he’d never seen anything cuter than the guy’s puppy, but that was only because he hadn’t see this beauty of a man standing before him.

Unlike the hoards of people around them looking distinctly uncomfortable and sweaty in the early morning summer sun, this guy looked like some sort of sparkling Adonis. He was wearing a pair of dark wash jeans that clung to his ample thighs, along with an obscenely tight white tank top that showed off every ripple of has flat stomach, trim waist, and broad shoulders and chest. Keith was so mesmerized by the hint of dark pink nipples beneath the thin cotton, it took him a moment to realize what was written across the guy’s shirt. Daddy was spelled out in bold rainbow font. Daddy. It was like the world was being cruel to Keith on purpose.

Keith didn’t have a Daddy kink. He never had. But Jesus fucking Christ, if ever there was a man Keith might call Daddy, it was this guy. He was so fucking big. Big thighs. Big arms. Big chest. Big smile.

Smile. He was smiling at Keith. Keith had insulted him and was being an actual human disaster, and the guy was still smiling at him. Fuck.

This guy was so fucking attractive, and his smile was so damn sweet, that it hurt. It physically hurt Keith to look at him. No one should be allowed to be that good-looking. Everything about him, from the shock of white hair falling into his eyes to the gleaming prosthetic and the scar across his face, made Keith ache. There was a contradiction in the strength of his body and the softness in his eyes that had Keith’s heart fluttering in a way he wasn’t used to.

Normally, even when Keith found people attractive he could compartmentalize. Not this time. Not here. Not now. All he knew was that this guy was the most beautiful man Keith had ever laid eyes upon. He had an eager smile on his face just like his dog, and it was so fucking earnest and sweet it made Keith’s head spin.

Struggling to remember how to make polite conversation, Keith said the first thing that popped into his head. Then immediately regretted it. “Oppy huh? Bit of a weird name for a dog.”

Keith wondered if someone would do him a favor and strike him dead before he managed to insult the human puppy in front of him for a third time.

“Ah, yeah. It’s short for Opportunity.” The guy blushed—a patch of pink spreading across his cheeks in a way that made Keith wonder if he blushed that pretty in other places. Then it was Keith’s turn to blush, glad mind reading wasn’t a thing.

“Uh, cool,” Keith coughed, rubbing his hand over his mouth. Embarrassed. He was so fucking embarrassed.

“It’s really not cool, it’s dorky,” the guy laughed, squatting down to rub the puppy’s head. And no, this was one thousand times worse, because now he was on Keith’s level. Now, his face was only a foot or so from Keith’s and he could see the guy’s thick dark eyelashes and the color of his eyes, which were a smoky grey and the prettiest thing Keith had ever seen.

It was absolutely fucking obscene how beautiful this guy was. It literally made Keith want to scream.

“I dunno if you follow space stuff but...I’m kind of a NASA nerd.” He looked a little embarrassed but kept talking, his big hand gliding down the puppy’s back. “I don’t know if you heard about the Mars Rover that died a few months ago, but it hit me hard. I’d been following that stuff since I was a kid, and my dad used to take me to the observatory to look at the stars. Anyway, a few weeks later I decided to get a dog. Took me awhile to find the perfect one, but as soon as I saw this little guy I knew he was supposed to be mine and that I wanted to name him after Oppy.”

When he lifted his eyes to Keith’s there was something in his expression that made Keith want to fight anyone who’d ever made this beautiful man think anything he cared about was silly.

“That’s sweet,” Keith said, and he meant it. He vaguely recalled hearing about the space rover on the news and hadn’t given it too much thought, but the idea of a grown man being so moved by the death of a robot he named his dog after it gave Keith a strong indication of what type of person this guy might be.

“You wanna pet him?” the guy asked. Before Keith could answer, the guy had placed his hand under the wiggling puppy and held him up.

“Sure,” Keith said, hoping the guy didn’t notice the squeak in his voice. He reached out, hand hovering above the dog’s head. It let out an excited yelp, shoving it’s cold, wet nose into Keith’s palm and licking his thumb.

“Oh look, he likes you,” the guy said.

“He probably likes everyone,” Keith challenged, scratching his hands behind Oppy’s ears. He was so soft.

“Nah, he’s an impeccable judge of character. Aren’t you, Oppy? You’re such a good boy.” The puppy preened at the guy’s voice, his fat little legs kicking and his tail whacking against the guy’s forearm happily.

The man, apparently delighted by making Oppy happy, did it again. “Such a good boy, yes you are. Such a good boy,” he said in a high pitched voice someone might use while talking to a baby. He rubbed the dog’s back as he praised him, his dexterous looking fingers sliding through the thick fur.

Keith had never related to a dog in his life more, pretty sure he’d preen under that tone of voice too. It was disgustingly adorable and Keith was apparently really fucking weak for it.

“I’m Shiro by the way, I—” but his words were cut off by the sound of loud music. Shiro turned his head to glance down the street and Keith followed his line of sight, watching as people began to pack the sidewalks like sardines in anticipation of the parade coming their way.. “Oh man. I was supposed to meet my friend but I’m not sure she’s going to make it to me now. Not in these crowds.”

Keith’s phone chose that moment to buzz again and he pulled it out, glancing down at the message flashing on his lock screen—Message from Lance: Stuck on Garrison Ave, meet you at the beer garden after the parade. Sorry, dude!

“Shit, mine too,” Keith mumbled.

As much as he was finding Pride less horrible than expected—especially his current company—the last thing he wanted to do was spend the next hour being jostled by strangers as he awkwardly stood there alone and tried to pretend he didn’t feel entirely out of his element.

Shiro offered Keith a wry smile. “Looks like we’re both alone.”

“I mean, technically you have Oppy,” Keith said, eyeing the overexcited puppy as he chewed on the side of Shiro’s shoe.

“Yeah but unfortunately, no matter how much I talk to him, he won’t talk back,” Shiro said with a straight face. At the blank look on Keith’s face, Shiro chuckled. “I’m joking.”

“Right, of course you are,” Keith said, feeling stupid. “Sorry, I’m not usually this awkward. It’s just—this isn’t really my thing. I only came to support a friend.”

“Oh.” A look of disappointment flashed across Shiro’s face but he covered it up immediately with a side smile. “I mean that’s amazing you’d come to support your friend and allies are always welcome at Pride. There’s no reason to feel like you don’t belong.”

Keith blinked in surprise, mentally replaying his last words. Oh. Oh indeed. Shit, apparently he was doomed to keep making an idiot of himself in front of this man—in front of Shiro.

“Oh my god no, I’m not an ally,” he blurted out, apparently unable to stop his mouth from running. “I mean not that it would be bad. Allies are great. My best friend is one and he’s, well, actually he’s a fucking pain in the ass, but he’s a really good guy too. But uh...I’m not. I’m not an ally. Or straight. Which I just said, fuck, sorry. But uh..Im gay. God, I’m so so gay. Like I’m really fucking gay.”

Keith finally snapped his mouth shut, unable to even imagine what the fuck else might come out if he didn’t shut up now. His entire body was flushed, and it had nothing to do with the midday sun. He was tempted to look away, embarrassed that he was making an ass of himself, but the compulsion to keep looking at Shiro was too strong.

“Well for the record, me too. I am also in Camp So Fucking Gay,” Shiro said seriously, looking like he was trying very hard not to laugh. “It’s too early to tell about Oppy though, but whoever he loves I’ll support him.”

It was so ridiculous, Keith couldn’t stop the laughter that bubbled from his chest. At the sight of Keith laughing, Shiro began to laugh as well, and the melodic sound of it soothed Keith’s fraying nerves. There was something about Shiro that made Keith feel as if he’d known him forever. Keith was never at ease around strangers, but Shiro didn’t feel like a stranger. Not by a long shot. It surprised him to realize how disappointed he felt by the idea of Shiro wandering off to watch the parade.

So disappointed he found himself being braver than he felt.

“You know, since we’ve both been abandoned by our friends we could, uh, watch the parade together. If you wanted.” He patted the sidewalk beside him where his leather jacket was spread out in an attempt to save enough square feet for Allura and Lance. It was definitely enough room for Shiro and Oppy. “You don’t have to, of course. I mean it was just an idea but—”

“I’d love to,” Shiro answered.

Keith scrambled to move his jacket, balling it up into his lap and barely breathing as Shiro sat himself down on the curb beside Keith—the side of his body pressed up against Keith’s.

“Sorry, crowded,” Shiro apologized, clearly trying to find some way to make his substantial girth take up less space.

“No, you’re fine. You’re good,” Keith assured him. Really, really fucking good he thought. The heat of Shiro’s sun-kissed skin was noticeable even through the cotton of Keith’s long sleeve shirt. He wished he’d worn something else so he could have felt the warmth of Shiro’s body with straight skin-to-skin contact. As it was, he satisfied himself with the solid weight of Shiro’s body wedged tightly against his own as the street emptied.

“I’m Keith by the way,” he blurted out.

Shiro smiled. “Nice to meet you, Keith.”

Oppy yapped happily, moving to sit between Shiro’s thighs. He ruffled the puppy’s ears, lifting him up and setting him atop his thigh. Oppy seemed inordinately pleased at the change and began to lick at the inside of Shiro’s elbow, occasionally sparing a glance at Keith but mostly content to lavish his owner in love. Keith couldn’t blame him. He’d like to lick Shiro too.

“So before, when you said this wasn’t your scene,” Shiro began, unaware of Keith’s inappropriate train of thoughts, “do you just not like Pride?”

“No, not exactly,” Keith said, picking at the hole in his jeans. It was a simple enough question, but one that felt far too revealing. Keith didn’t know how to articulate that he’d never felt the need to be bold with his sexuality because he never wanted to put himself in the path of rejection. Nor did he know how to say it’s too peopley without sounding antisocial. Which, he supposed he was. At least a little bit, around strangers anyway.

“It’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. I’ve always loved it though. This is my fifth Pride and it’s nice to feel...to feel seen without feeling like everyone is staring at you. It’s nice to be here and know that to everyone around me, who I am and who I love matters and is validated and appreciated, but at the same time it's not the only thing people see about me, you know?” Shiro ducked his head, scratching Oppy’s ears. “When I’m here I feel like all the things that usually make me different are what make me the same here. It’s freeing to go unnoticed.”

Shiro’s words stole the air straight from Keith’s lungs—his throat tightening as he tried and failed to swallow his own spit. That was, fuck—that was a lot. The words resonated with Keith in a way that was unexpectedly overwhelming. He’d come to Pride as support for Lance. The last thing he’d expected was to get something out of it for himself.

“People tend to stare a lot,” Shiro continued, eyes turned out towards the crowds of people, “and mostly I’m used to it. I get why they do. I really do. It’s human nature to be curious about things that look different. But here, I just sort of blend in. There are so many more interesting people to look at than me, you know?” He laughed, his tone self-deprecating.

Keith eyed Shiro’s prosthetic—gleaming in the sunlight and being licked by Oppy—along with the scar that spread across the bridge of his nose. It was easy to guess why Shiro thought people stared. Keith knew better than anyone that people were quick to judge, especially based on appearances. But Shiro was beautiful. Not despite his scars, but because of them. Shiro possesed an energy that made Keith feel comfortable and at ease, and aesthetically he was, fuck, he was beautiful. There was no other word for it. He was breathtakingly and painfully beautiful in a way that felt out of this world.

Except that Shiro was very real, currently sitting next to Keith, and waiting for Keith to speak.

“I haven’t seen anyone I’d rather look at here than you,” Keith said, immediately blushing.

“Oh,” Shiro breathed, a matching flush on his cheeks. It was adorable. “Thanks. You’re quite nice to look at as well.”

Keith snorted. “You don’t have to say it back to me just because I said it to you.”

“I’m afraid my attempt to be polite backfired,” Shiro laughed, rubbing his hand across his cheek and fixing his gaze on Keith. “What I was thinking was more along the lines of the fact that your eyes look like they’re made of starlight, and you're the sexiest man I’ve ever seen. I just didn’t wanna come on too strong and earn myself another threat of being kicked in the balls.”

“Ah fuck,” Keith groaned, burrying his face in his hands. The flattery in Shiro’s words was drowned out by the surge of embarrassment he felt at having so wrongly misjudged Shiro’s attention. It was only Shiro's guffaw of laughter that got him to peek his eyes back out. “Some guy had just come on to me quite aggressively when I first got here and I thought you were...you know...trying to get me to call you Daddy.”

Shiro stopped laughing. “No. Definitely not. I would never”

The tips of his ears were turning red and Keith felt another surge of guilt. He hadn’t meant to kink shame the guy.

“Hey no, I’m sorry man I’m not judging you. I totally respect that it’s your scene but it’s just not mine, you know?”

Shiro made a noise resembling a cat in heat, his mouth opening and shutting rapidly. Fuck, had Keith said the wrong thing again?

“Shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“Daddy. My scene,” Shiro mumbled, seemingly talking to himself. “What do you mean my scene?”

Keith raised one eyebrow, waving his hand at Shiro’s tank top. “You know...that.”

Shiro looked down at his shirt and made another vaguely horrified noise.

“This is...no. No. I’m a dog dad. Daddy like...like I’m Oppy’s daddy,” he said, voice pitched high and slightly desperate. As if to prove his point he picked up Oppy who looked disgruntled at being dislodged and barked at Keith as if it were somehow his fault that his nap had been interrupted. “I’m Oppy’s Daddy,” he repeated, as if that might alter the situation.

Keith wasn’t sure whether the guy was full or shit or really that oblivious. It seemed impossible that it could be the latter,but if the way Shiro was currently turning into a tomato and looking like he wanted to hide were anything to go by, then there was a solid chance he might actually be telling the truth.

“So, you didn’t wear it here because you have a Daddy kink and you were hoping to find someone to call baby?”

“No,” Shiro whispered, hugging Oppy to his chest as if the puppy might shield him from reality. It probably wasn’t the nicest thought Keith had ever had, but somehow Shiro’s obvious mortification made him feel one hundred times better about his own previous humiliation.

“So what, you just really liked the shirt?” Keith asked, unable to let it drop.

“God,” Shiro groaned, sounding horrified. “I went into this indie print shop downtown last week and told them I knew it was last minute, but I’d recently got a puppy and wanted to make sure everyone knew he was mine at Pride. I told him I wanted to show off my baby so everyone knew he was mine. Oh my god,” Shiro groaned.

“What?” Keith asked, torn between empathy and amusement.

“The owner. He told me he was sure my baby was a very good boy and I...fuck I said something like Wow, how did you know? and he just laughed and winked at me. You think he thought it was something else?”

Keith couldn’t contain the bark of laughter that came out of his mouth. “Yes, Shiro. Yes I do.”

“Ah fuck me,” Shiro muttered, hiding his face in Oppy’s fur. The rest of his words were mumbled into Oppy’s head and completely unintelligible but Keith was pretty sure he got the gist—complete and utter mortification.

“I mean, for what it’s worth I think most guys were probably really into it. You uh...you can pull it off,” Keith said, face warming at the confession. Given Shiro’s embarrassment at the idea of being called Daddy, it was a risk.

A risk that paid off as Shiro lifted his face to stare at Keith. Up this close, Keith could see a single freckle on his upper eyelid and flecks of pale grey in his eyes. “Yeah?”

“I mean, you’ve seen yourself,” Keith blushed. “You’re fucking gorgeous.”

Shiro’s blush intensified, but he lifted his head even more, returning Oppy to his lap and giving Keith his full attention. “You really think so?”

“Definitely,” Keith said with conviction. It was easier to put himself out there like that when Shiro made it so abundantly clear that he flourished under praise.

“Thanks,” Shiro breathed. “Hey, do you—”

“Parade is coming!” someone behind them screamed, cutting Shiro off.

“We should probably stand up, we’ll be able to see better,” Keith said, hopping up quickly and offering Shiro his hand. For a brief moment he panicked, wondering if it was too presumptuous, but Shiro just grinned, setting Oppy down on the curb and clasping Keith’s hand. Shiro’s grip was firm, his hands surprisingly soft and unsurprisingly warm. He didn’t move at first, simply staring at their joined hands before trying to rise. Except Keith could tell he was holding back, trying to get himself up without actually pulling on Keith’s hand and Keith snorted. Everyone always underestimated his strength.

Keith tightened his grip before bracing his feet and tugging. Shiro’s eyes flew open as he was lifted into the air and onto his feet, tumbling forward at the unexpected help. Keith moved swiftly, flinging his arm out and bracing Shiro, their chests colliding as Shiro’s weight crashed into him. Shiro was heavy as a brick house but Keith could handle him, barely budging an inch under his substantial weight.

“Thanks,” Shiro whispered, his face mere inches from Keith’s.

“No problem,” Keith breathed, making no move to release his hold on Shiro’s biceps or step away. He was dimly aware of Oppy barking and the music from the parade getting louder as it neared them, but it was hard to focus on anything besides the way it felt to have Shiro’s body pressed tightly against his own.

“Out of the street, now!” Someone in a bright orange security jacket yelled.

“Right, sorry,” Shiro said softly as he righted himself, offering Keith a bashful smile as they jumped back onto the edge of the curb. Oppy appeared to be studying Keith and though he was just a puppy, Keith had never felt more judged in his entire life.

“You alright there, big guy?” Keith asked, clapping him on the arm. He’d only been teasing but, to Keith’s surprise, the blush on Shiro’s face intensified and a flare of arousal swept through Keith. He’d never had someone react so viscerally to him and it was hot. So fucking hot.

“I’m good,” Shiro insisted, clearing his throat. “Just...you’re really strong.”

“Yeah, I am,” Keith said with a shrug of his shoulders. He didn’t see the point in pretending he wasn’t when he knew very well that he was. Most of the guys he’d dated in the past had felt threatened by the fact that Keith could kick their ass with one hand behind his back, and he’d eventually gotten tired of trying to pretend he was less than he was to bolster someone else’s ego.

“Really strong,” Shiro repeated, sounding breathless. Oh. Shiro liked it. Like he really liked it. It was Keith’s turn to blush, unused to his unexpected physical prowess turning someone on. Fuck, Shiro was good for his ego.

“I work out at a boxing gym.”

“You ever spar?” Shiro asked. He wrapped Oppy’s leash around his hand to shorten it, and the sight of the rainbow cord winding around the thickness of Shiro’s palm made Keith’s heart race.

“Sometimes. When I can find someone who can handle me,” Keith said, waiting to see how Shiro reacted.

The effect was instantaneous. “I bet I could handle you.”

“Yeah?” Keith all but yelled, the noise around them increasing to a frenzied pitch as the parade came down the street. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the first brightly-colored float covered in men and women dancing in very little clothing and rainbow wings, but all he had eyes for was Shiro. He tried to imagine facing off against Shiro, pinning him or being pinned by him—the rush of euphoria that would come from going against someone he didn’t have to hold a single thing back from. It was enough to make Keith wish they weren’t in public.

Shiro looked like he wanted to say something else, but the first float was so close now—the music almost deafeningly loud—and instead he shot Keith an excited smile and nodded his head towards the street. Keith watched, transfixed as the float moved in front of them and the people atop it danced as if no one was watching. It was hypnotic to see so many people looking so comfortable with themselves and free—people of all body types and genders cheering for themselves and the crowd.

The energy was undeniable and when Shiro laughed happily, letting out a cheer and a whistle, Keith found himself joining in.

Keith wasn’t entirely sure what he’d expected Pride to be like, but whatever it was, it wasn’t this. Somehow, Keith had convinced himself that things like this were mostly performative. In the same way social media presented a falsehood, he’d assumed Pride would too. He hated how every June, companies and people who normally didn’t give a rat’s ass about the queer community suddenly proclaimed their tolerance with rainbow merchandise.

Except this wasn’t performative. This was...this was real. This was people like him. People who supported people like him. And it was beautiful. His thoughts must have been showing on his face because Shiro leaned in close and began to speak.

“I had that same reaction to my first Pride,” Shiro said, breath warm against the shell of Keith’s ear.

“It’s nice,” Keith said, unable to put the complexity of how he felt into words.

“It is nice,” Shiro agreed, bumping his shoulder against Keith’s softly. “Make sure you watch closely. The Paladin Dance School is coming up, and they’re always incredible.”

Shiro rested his hand on Keith’s lower back as he pointed out the group of people marching down the street behind a large float packed full of people dancing and smiling. Shiro removed his hand a moment later, and Keith’s skin tingled with the loss.

On and on it went like that—groups of people on foot or on floats packed to the brink—passed them by, everyone looking unabashedly happy and proud. It made something tight in Keith’s chest unfurl. He’d spent so long thinking he didn’t need anything like this, he’d never stopped to allow himself to wonder if he might want it.

Throughout it all, Shiro proved himself to be more than just a pretty face. He occasionally offered commentary on the history of certain floats, or gave his opinion on costumes. He pointed out things Keith might have otherwise missed and talked to Keith as if they were old friends and not acquaintances of only an hour.

Shiro wasn’t just polite, he was also funny in a ridiculously over-the-top bad joke kind of way, keenly observant and easy to talk to. Somewhere between a float throwing out free condoms and a choir group, Keith found them trading coming out stories with a kind of ease Keith hadn’t thought possible. When the most beautiful drag queen he’d ever seen placed a paper crown on Keith’s head, Shiro was there jokingly asking how he might serve his new prince, making Keith blush all the way down to his toes. When Keith missed out on catching a string of rainbow beads—which he lied and insisted he hadn’t wanted anyway—it was Shiro who passed him Oppy’s leash before chasing down the float and whispering to someone in the back who took off her entire store of necklaces and draped them around Shiro’s neck. Once Shiro returned, he looked so fucking pleased with himself as he removed the cheap plastic beads from his own neck and put them on Keith as if they were the crown jewels, insisting he would do anything to serve his prince.

Shiro had smiled at Keith, a blinding smile so wide it spread across his entire face and made the corners of his eyes crinkle up, and Keith was helpless to do anything but smile back. At the beginning of the day, Keith had felt entirely out of place. Yet somehow, standing in the middle of Pride with enough necklaces to tip him over, a paper crown stop his head, and glitter on his jacket, Keith had never felt more like himself.

By the time the last float was passing them, Keith could feel the beginnings of a sunburn on his face, somehow had glitter falling out of his hair, and had smiled so much his cheeks hurt. As much as he’d loved the parade, he knew it wasn’t just that. It was Shiro. Shiro had made everything better. Shiro with his smile and his laugh and his kindness

Shiro was incredible, and dread pooled in the pit of Keith’s stomach as the last group of people passed them by with a banner signaling the end of the parade, and people began to flood into the streets once more.

It was over. It was over and Shiro was going to leave.

He turned to look at Shiro and was struck by an unexpected wave of affection. It was ridiculous—Keith barely knew him. And yet, the idea of not getting to know him more, or never hearing the deep rumble of his laugh or seeing his wide eyed smile, was utterly unthinkable.

Surrounded by a sea of rainbows, Shiro shone brighter than them all.

Keith was smitten. Completely and utterly smitten. Shit.

He didn’t have a damn clue what to do next. On the most basic level, he knew Shiro liked him too—that was impossible to miss from the way he kept finding ways to touch Keith, or smile at him, or the way Shiro stuttered and blushed every time Keith flirted with him despite Keith being absolute shit at flirting. Problem was, none of that helped Keith know what to do next. He was wholly out of his depth. Most of his past relationships were things that had awkwardly evolved because they’d been classmates. He’d never been in the position of trying to date someone he didn’t know at all.

Shiro’s reactions to him were bold enough, but he hadn’t said anything about potentially seeing Keith again or getting his phone number. Granted, neither had Keith, but it still nagged at him. Maybe Shiro was only in town for Pride and looking for a bit of fun, or maybe he was getting over a bad breakup and Keith’s attention just made him feel good. Just because Shiro thought Keith was cute didn’t mean he wanted to date Keith.

Besides, there was no way to say I feel a connection to you that I’ve never felt with anyone else before to a man he’d only know less than two hours without coming on strong.

All around him the crowds began to shift, bumping and jostling him, and Keith knew he needed to make a move now or lose his chance. Standing on the curb in the midst of ten thousand people trying to leave wasn’t exactly a great place to try and figure out if the person you just met felt the same kind of connection you did, but it was that or nothing.

Shiro was still smiling at him, and something about that bolstered his courage. He opened his mouth to say something when his phone buzzed. Keith thought about ignoring it, but realized it was probably Lance panicking about where he was. His hesitation was just enough to break the moment as a large group of girls holding hands bumped into him. Keith stumbled backward, phone flying out of his pocket.

“Shit,” he grumbled, dropping to his knees and scrambling to grab his phone before someone accidentally stepped on it.

The screen flashed repeatedly with messages from Lance but he ignored them. Lance could wait.

“Hey, sorry do you—” but he bit off his words when he realized Shiro was gone.

Keith thought he saw a shock of white hair halfway down the street, but it disappeared behind the masses of people carrying balloons and flags. For a moment, Keith thought about following him, but the crowds were too thick and he wasn’t even one hundred percent sure if it was Shiro. Even if by some miracle Keith did manage to find Shiro again, what was Keith supposed to do—chase Shiro down and say I know you left but I didn’t want to not see you again. That was sure to be too much.

Keith stared at the spot where he thought he’d seen Shiro and tried to push down his rising disappointment.

Shiro was gone and Keith had missed his chance.

 

———

“Thank God, there you are! I was—wait a minute. What in the fuck are you wearing?” Lance yelled, jogging towards Keith.

Keith looked down at himself and shrugged. Somehow, in the chaos of losing Shiro and spending forty-five minutes trying to reconnect with Lance, he’d completely forgotten he was still wearing enough plastic beads to look like a gay pirate and his paper crown.

“You...you look like you had fun.” Lance said, as if it were the most shocking thing he’d ever seen.

“I can have fun,” Keith protested, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jacket.

“Yeah, so what kind of fun did you have? Did you meet someone? I see lipstick on your cheek.”

Keith swiped at his cheek in a vain attempt to wipe it off. He wasn’t about to tell Lance that, while in line to buy a Coke, a sweet drag queen had found him scrubbing at his face trying not to cry at how overwhelmed he felt by the day’s activities and had given him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. He wasn’t about to tell Lance that he’d met someone who made him believe in love at first sight and lost him just as quickly. It wasn’t that he was going to pretend he’d never met Shiro— exactly the opposite. If all Keith was ever going to have was a memory, then he wanted to keep it to himself—protect it. If he kept it safe, kept it to himself, then no one could tarnish the memory.

“It’s nothing,” Keith bit out with more anger than the situation warranted, feeling guilty for snapping at Lance. It wasn’t Lance’s fault that Keith was hungry, grumpy from being bumped into so many times, and still nursing his missed chance at someone like Shiro.

“Nothing. Sure,” Lance sing-songed, seemingly unbothered by Keith’s grumpiness. Lance licked his thumb and tried to wipe the lipstick off Keith’s face in an eerie impression of his mother, who often did the exact same thing to Lance even though he wasn’t a kid anymore.

“That’s disgusting,” Keith yelled, swatting Lance’s hand away.

“It’s just spit,” Lance said.

“Well, I don’t want your spit anywhere near me asshole.”

“Well, whose spit do you want near you asshole?”

“None of your business,” Keith grumbled, cheeks heating as Shiro’s face flashed before his eyes.

“Ho ho ho, you did meet someone!” Lance exclaimed with all the enthusiasm of a creepy Santa Claus.

“This is why I can’t tell you anything, you’re insufferable,” Keith groaned.

“On the contrary, this is exactly why you tell me everything. Because I’m your best friend and the person you trust most in the world. Now spill. What did he look like? Did you kiss? When are you going to see him again?”

Keith sighed. That was exactly why he hadn’t wanted to tell Lance. Unfortunately, Lance was right and Keith did usually end up telling him everything. “I’m not. It was nothing. Just a nice guy I met during the parade. We watched it together.”

“I’m sorry. Nothing. Keith, Mr. Grumpy-as-a-Porcupine-Who-Stepped-on-a-Lego, just happened to meet a stranger and enjoyed the parade together? Are you shitting me? Did some golden pigs fly by too? There’s more to this story, and you better tell me now or I’m going to force this story out of you if it kills me.”

Keith grimaced, all too familiar with Lance’s inability to ever let anything go. There was a good chance he would tell Lance the full story, he just didn’t want to yet. There were too many people around them, and Keith wasn’t about to spill his guts with strangers listening.

“So where’s Allura and this mystery friend?” he asked, well aware that the only thing likely to distract Lance was talking about Allura.

“They’re coming,” Lance answered with narrowed eyebrows. “Apparently he got a little turned around so she went to find him. But she texted me right before I finally found you that they’re on their way, so they should be here any minute.”

“Good, that’s great. Can’t wait to meet him,” Keith lied, wanting nothing less. The last thing he wanted in his current mood was to have to spend the next hour or two making polite small talk with someone he didn’t know.

“You’re being really weird,” Lance said, jabbing his pointer finger into Keith’s chest. “You didn’t drink anything a stranger gave you did you? Do you need a check-up? You weren’t switched with an alien while we were separated and replaced with a Keith clone were you?”

“If I was I wouldn’t tell you,” Keith laughed.

“Damn, that’s true.” Lance crossed his arms over his chest, tapping his fingers across his forearm as he stared at Keith intently. “What did you give me for my twelfth birthday?”

“Blue Power Ranger costume,” Keith answered easily.

“Hmm, that proves nothing. If you were a clone, you could’ve had all of Keith’s memories and—Allura!” Lance crowed, easily distracted. He waved both his arms frantically. “God she’s pretty.”

“The prettiest,” Keith agreed, partly because it was true and Allura was beautiful, and partly because the more Lance focused on Allura, the less likely he was to bug Keith about what happened.

“Okay, they’re coming this way. Quick, be cool and remember to talk me up. Focus on all of my good points.”

“That won’t take very long,” Keith teased, trying not to laugh at the look of indignance that passed across Lance’s face.

“Oh fuck you. Just be nice.” He lifted his hand and peered behind Keith, presumably to watch Allura’s approach. “Jesus Christ, her friend looks like he walked right out of a magazine cover. Thank god he’s gay—I could never compete with that.”

“I’m sure he’s not that handsome,” Keith said.

Keith turned around to see Allura’s friend for himself and immediately ate his words.

Allura’s best friend was the most beautiful man Keith had ever seen—a halo of sunshine reflecting off his white hair and a smile that made Keith want to fall to his knees. A smile he thought he’d never see again.

Allura waved, smiling brightly as she grabbed her friend’s arm and closed the last few feet separating them.

“Lance, Keith this is my best friend—”

Shiro,” Keith finished.

“Keith,” Shiro breathed, the smile on his face somehow becoming even wider.

“Wait, do you two know each other?” Allura asked.

“We uh...we met at the parade,” Keith said, suddenly feeling shy. Five minutes ago he’d wished for nothing more than to see Shiro again, but now, face to face with him, Keith felt unsure about their previous interactions. Especially since Shiro had him left without a word. What if whatever spark he thought had been between them had been due to the energy of Pride?

“Keith is the guy I was telling you about,” Shiro told Allura.

“Oh, oh!” She said, not at all subtly, as she clapped her hands together. She turned her eyes onto Keith with a kind of keen awareness that made his cheeks heat. Shiro had talked about him. Shiro had told Allura, his best friend, about Keith. Somehow, it meant more to him than he would’ve expected. It still didn’t explain why he’d taken off after the parade, but it seemed like a good sign. “Right. Lance, I’m absolutely parched would you please come with me to find a drink?”

“Yeah, of course I will, but what’s going on?” Lance asked, looking back and forth between Keith and Shiro like they were from outer space.

“I’m sure Keith will tell you all about it later. For now, I’d very much like the pleasure of your company to find an ice cold drink,” she said, moving to stand beside Lance. Then she did something Keith had never seen her do and leaned down to place a kiss on Lance’s cheek.

Lance’s eyes widened, his face turning red as he batted his eyelashes at Allura. “Come on, my princess! Let’s get you a drink.”

Allura grinned, shooting Shiro a wink before linking her arm with Lance’s and heading back into the throngs of people towards the middle of the street fair where Keith had passed a row of food trucks.

“Hey,” Keith mumbled, his previous confidence having evaporated.

“Keith, I’m so sorry,” Shiro told him, taking a step closering to Keith. Oppy barked, wiggling his way over to Keithand plopping down into space between his feet.

“Huh, why?” Whatever he’d expected Shiro to say, it most definitely hadn’t been that.

“For leaving you,” he said, as if it were obvious. “I was just working up my courage to ask for your phone number and someone bumped into me and fuck...I hadn’t been holding Oppy’s leash tightly enough and I dropped it. I called his name but he got so excited by the people he just took off running and I panicked. By the time I’d caught up to him, we were halfway down the street and with everyone moving in the opposite direction I couldn’t find my way back to you.”

“Oh, I uh...I wasn’t sure,” Keith said, fiddling with the zipper on the bottom of his jacket.

“You thought I just left,” Shiro said. Not a question but a statement.

“Maybe.” Keith shrugged. It sounded worse when Shiro said it out loud. Then again, Keith didn’t know him. Not really. It wasn’t his fault he’d assumed the worst.

Thankfully, Shiro didn’t seem to want to linger on the subject any more than Keith, almost immediately changing the subject. “You kept the necklaces.”

“I did, yeah.” Keith swallowed, reaching up to finger the plastic beads unconsciously.

“I’m glad. They suit you. Besides, they match the crown,” Shiro told him. Keith couldn’t tell if he was teasing or not because no one looked good in a paper crown, but Shiro’s words were dripping with earnestness. “I’m glad you kept them.”

“I mean, a worthy suitor went to a lot of work to get them for me. It would’ve been a pity to throw away tokens of such affection,” Keith said, immediately wanting to spork his own eyes out. Tokens of affection? What in the fuck had gotten into him? Apparently, a pretty man turned him into a sap. A dorky sap. He was just grateful Lance wasn’t here to witness him embarrassing himself.

“Well, a prince deserves the very best,” Shiro said with all seriousness. If the pink on the tops of his ears was anything to go by, he was either blushing from Keith’s shitty attempt at flirting or getting a sunburn.

Shiro reached out to adjust the crown, each of his thumbs brushing wisps of hair off Keith’s forehead before he straightened the crown as if it was made of pure gold. “There, that’s better. You’re beautiful.”

Shiro dropped his hand, mouth hanging open almost as if he was as surprised as Keith at the words that came out of his mouth. He looked nervous, as if he’d said too much. It made Keith want to say too much too.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again,” Keith whispered. Maybe his brain was addled by Shiro’s closeness because he kept talking.

“Me either.”

Keith licked his lips, attention riveted on the way Shiro’s eyes glistened in the afternoon sun. “I wanted to. See you again, that is. A lot. Like a lot, a lot..”

Shiro smile. “Me too. A lot, a lot too.”

Keith didn’t even have it in him to be embarrassed, not when whatever it was he was saying was clearly having the desired effect. Keith was a disaster, but apparently he was Shiro’s kind of disaster.

“So you, uh, mentioned something about asking me for my number before. You still interested?”

Shiro nodded. “Yes. God, yes. Very much. Just...don’t judge me for how I text, alright? Allura says I text like an eighty-year-old man and that no one should use so many full stops or smiley faces but...I like grammar. And smiling. And fuck—I’m messing this up.”

Keith laughed. Apparently, he wasn’t the only disaster. “You’re not messing anything up but, for the record, I’ve never sent a smiley face in my life, so if you ever get one from me I’m probably dead or incapacitated and Lance stole my phone.”

“Duly noted,” Shiro laughed, withdrawing his phone from his pocket. “So, does that mean you wanna give me your number?”

“Why don’t we switch?” Keith suggested on a whim, pulling out his own phone and holding it out to Shiro who deftly swapped them with one big hand.

Not giving himself time to overthink, Keith quickly tapped Contacts and added his phone number under the name Prince Keith, smashing his thumb against the save button and shoving it back to Shiro before he could change his mind about being an idiot.

Shiro took his time, smiling to himself as he tapped away at Keith’s phone before handing it back. Keith’s worries about his own contact info were slightly assuaged when he swiped up to check Shiro’s and saw that he had added his phone number under Oppy’s Daddy :).

Oh my god. Keith nearly choked on his tongue.

“Just for the record I’m not calling you Daddy,” Keith muttered with a roll of his eyes, cheeks heating at the word alone.

“You can call me anything you want so long as you call me?” Shiro laughed, his voice husky and low.

“Fuck,” Keith whimpered. Actually goddamn whimpered. Shiro’s sheer existence was obscene.

“Is that a yes?” Shiro asked, his hand reaching out to settle on Keith’s hip.

Before Keith could say yes, Oppy abruptly rose onto his feet, darting out between Keith’s legs and trying to run, causing Shiro to slam full body into Keith once more. Keith stumbled, one foot flying backwards to brace them as he once again found himself with a handful of Shiro.

“Oppy!” Shiro cried, and the puppy immediately whined but settled back down, plopping his butt on top of Keith’s foot and chewing on his shoelace.

“You alright there, big guy?” Keith teased. Shiro still seemed a bit surprised and had yet to right himself. Not that Keith minded. He liked the feeling of Shiro’s weight bearing down against him.

“Yeah, I, uh...sorry. He’s not used to the crowds,” Shiro apologized. There was a hesitancy in his voice and up this close, Keith could feel the way Shiro was holding himself tensely, almost as if he was nervous.

Keith licked his lips, and Shiro’s inhale of breath was audible—eyes undeniably focused on Keith’s lips. Still, he wasn’t moving.

Oh.

“You know earlier you, uh, you said you’d do anything to please your prince,” Keith said, shoving down his nerves. He could not believe he was doing this. He sounded like he taking part in some cheesy roleplay. Shiro’s lips curled up slowly in the corner, undeniably surprised and pleased, and it made something tight in Keith’s chest unfurl. Keith didn’t trust many people, but somehow he trusted Shiro—trusted him not to laugh or tease, trusted him to keep the awkward and open parts of Keith he was laying bare safe.

Keith didn’t have a fucking clue what exactly was happening between themall he knew was that he felt free to be himself around Shiro, and that made every risk worth taking.

“Yeah, I did. Is there something I could do to please you?” Shiro said, and Keith nearly fucking whimpered.

Someone like Shiro wasn’t allowed to fucking say things like is there something I could do to please you?. It gave Keith ideas. So many ideas. Ideas about what it might feel like to go out on a real date with Shiro and trying to make him smile.Ideas like impulsively buying an extra helmet just so he could get Shiro’s body pressed up behind him on his motorcycle. Ideas that had Keith’s entire body flushing as he thought about Shiro’s sensual voice whispering that same sentence to Keith in the bedroom.

“Yeah,” Keith said quietly, almost afraid to give voice to the thought, but he did it anyway. He’d missed his chance with Shiro once, he wasn’t going to let it happen again. “A kiss. I want a kiss.”

“Anything for you,” Shiro whispered, seconds before his fingers were sliding into Keith’s hair and fuck, it was all he could do to not shiver, his eyes fluttering shut as Shiro’s broad palm cradled his head. Then, Shiro’s lips were on his, and Keith madea painfully loud whimpering sound because Shiro was kissing him, and it didn’t matter that they’d only just met or that they were surrounded by people or that Keith was dressed like a knock-off Prince Charming from the dollar store, because Shiro was kissing him and it was fucking glorious.

Shiro’s lips were soft and warm, his kisses confident but gentle, and he tasted like the bag of Skittles he’d eaten during the parade. Keith wanted to kiss him forever.

All too soon, Shiro was pulling back, his fingers lingering at the back of Keith’s neck. “Sorry, I got, uh...got a little carried away.”

Keith opened his eyes to the sight of Shiro’s lips glistening in the sun, kiss swollen and perfect.

Keith’s tenuous self-control shattered as he fisted his hands in Shiro’s shirt and yanked him down. “Get carried away. Fuck, please get carried away.”

Shiro made a noise of surprise, hesitating for only a second before crashing their lips together again. Before, Shiro’s kisses had been tinged with hesitation, but the second kiss was, fuck, there was no other word for it—it was dirty.

He made sounds that Keith would never forget, letting out a quiet moan into Keith’s mouth as he dragged his lips against Keith’s and swiped his tongue out to lick into his mouth. It was erotic and desperate and nothing in the world existed except Keith and Shiro.

At least until he heard a vaguely horrified choking sound. A sound that got louder and louder until an all-too-familiar voice was screeching, “Oh my god, this is the guy you met at the parade isn’t it?”

Keith pulled out of the kiss and blushed, scrubbing a hand across his cheek as he looked over to see Allura smiling and Lance looking like he might faint.

“Hey guys,” Keith mumbled.

Lance choked again. “Hey guys. I knew you were holding out on me, mullet.”

“I’m glad to see you two boys getting along,” Allura said sweetly, passing Shiro a can of Coke. He popped the can open and drained half of it in one go. Shiro was still blushing and glancing at Keith out of the corner of his eye as if unsure how to proceed. It occured to Keith then that Shiro was waiting for a cue from Keith on how to behave in front of their friends.

“Getting along,” he echoed, sidestepping until his hip was pressed against Shiro’s. Then he took it a step further, reaching out and hooking his thumb into the back pocket of Shiro’s jeans. “We’re definitely getting along.”

“What in the hell is happening?” Lance whined, darting his eyes between Allura, Keith and Shiro.

“Don’t worry, Lance, I’ll explain it all later. I suddenly have a craving for some kettle corn though. Would you please come with me?”

“Kettle corn,” Lance echoed, looking confused.

“Yes, kettle corn,” Allura agreed, reaching for Lance’s hand and linking their fingers. “I’d like my boyfriend to come with me to get some.”

“Boyfriend,” Lance squeaked. “Yes, yes. Your boyfriend would absolutely like to come with you. Your boyfriend would go anywhere with you.”

Allura beamed, squeezing Lance’s hand and pulling him away. “See you in a little bit, boys. Behave!”

Then they were gone as quickly as they’d appeared, lost in the crowd, and once again it was just Keith and Shiro. l And Oppy, who was half-asleep on Keith’s shoe and drooling.

“So, uh, did I please you?” Shiro said, looking hopeful.

Keith couldn't contain his smile. “Oh yeah. Definitely. But you know, there’s one thing you could do to please me even more.”

“Yeah,” Shiro breathed. “And what might that be?”

“Kiss me again.”

Shiro grinned, moving to stand in front of Keith once more. “I can definitely handle that.”

“What else can you handle?” Keith asked, hands skimming down Shiro’s sides to rest at his hips.

“Guess you’ll have to find out,” he whispered, twisting a finger in the beads at Keith’s neck and gently urging him closer.

“Guess I will,” Keith agreed, leaning forward to meet Shiro in the middle as they kissed again.

That morning, Keith had grudgingly come to Pride expecting to be hot, cranky, and mostly miserable. Instead, he’d found a bit of himself he hadn’t even known was missing, and found someone he hadn’t even known he’d wanted. He’d found Shiro, and Keith wasn’t going to let him go any time soon.