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Wildhearted

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The creature is cute. That will be the majority of Shiro’s defense much later.

But it’s true. Small and furred, it sort of reminds Shiro of a hamster or mouse, except it has ears and tail like a cat and is powder pink in color. Shiro’s picking up some sort of crystal that Pidge needs on a small, outer planet when the animal hops up.

Shiro’s had enough strange creature interactions at first to be cautious, but the little thing is only interested in sniffing and then rubbing against his gloved hand. Shiro grins and finishes putting the crystals into the transport bag. He gets up to return to his ship.

The animal hops after him a while until Shiro just can’t stand looking at the cute little thing anymore. He turns the plops back down on the ground.

The animal hops onto his thigh, his knee, his boots. It sniffs and it’s tiny paws tug or dig at the fabric. It's not aggressive, just curious. Shiro wishes he had some snacks with him, anything he could offer the little guy.

Instead he snaps some photos with his helmet cam.

It’s so cute that he can’t wait to show Keith. Shiro knows Keith has a soft spot for alien animals, even if he tries to play it off when they’re in the field. Keith’s not fooling anyone these days, Shiro once saw him put a jerky stick between his teeth and offer it to Kosmo, happy and proud his overgrown space wolf could take it so carefully from him. Keith loves animals, big and small, scary and adorable.

Scrolling through the photos now Shiro can’t help but think it would be cuter if he was holding it. The perspective and his gloves just doesn't do justice to how adorable the creature is.

Shiro tugs off the glove for his human hand and then places it palm up next to the animal. There’s a moment of curious sniffing, then it hops onto his hand.

It’s so soft. Like velvet or merino. It feels like a plush blanket you just want to roll in. The animal plops over on his palm, nuzzling against his hand.

Shiro grins, “is it the smell or the warmth?” It is a little cool on this planet, so he must feel very warm to the creature.

Shiro pulls his hand up closer and snaps a photo. Perfect.

Then there’s a sharp pain in his palm. Shiro looks down to see the little thing that was sniffing him has latched onto the meat of his hand.

“Ouch!” He lowers his hand back to the ground and gently tips it. The animal lets go and slides to the ground. It’s not a major wound by any sense, similar to the bite of any small Earth mammal, but it’s broken the skin and Shiro can see the blood welling up.

“I’m not food,” Shiro chides it, reaching into his belt for a cloth. The animal stares up at him mournfully about it’s unseating. “Uh huh.”

He gets up then, feeling chastened. Cute things still bite, even accidentally. He should know better, he's gotten Kosmo's teeth a few times in the wolf’s eagerness for a treat.

Shiro shakes his head and takes up the bag of crystals. He better he going.

##

By the time he gets back to the Garrison, Shiro is surprisingly exhausted. He dumps the crystals in Pidge's lab and then excuses himself to his room.

He should shower, should bandage the bite that’s gotten a little pink at the edges, but Shiro’s just so tired all of a sudden. The second he sees his bed it’s all he wants.

He collapses into the sheets, basking in their cool softness. Shiro’s sure there’s something on his calendar that needs attending, but at that moment he can’t be bothered. He's so, so tired. He closes his eyes.

##

Shiro wakes overheated and gasping as he pushes away the sheets. He paws at his own chest and there’s… some sort of confining material. He needs it gone.

It tears easily beneath his hands, and the cool air on his skin is amazing.

Then the rest of his senses tune in. He’s awake in a dark room. His room. He can tell by its well worn smell. He’s alone. Shiro listens, but after a moment there’s no other sound, he’s sure of it. He frowns.

He shouldn’t be alone, not here in his den. Someone else should be here… someone…

Keith.

Everything unlocks then in is head. Keith. His mate. Where is he?

Shiro hoists himself out of bed ignoring the heat and wooziness and heads out into the living room. A quick sniff proves Keith is nowhere to be found. His scent isn’t even lingering. Shiro frowns again and heads out the door.

It’s not hard out in the hall to find Keith’s scent though. It’s strong there, alluring, and Shiro follows it quickly down the corridor and to another silver door with a hand scanner.

He knows enough to place his hand there and wait for the door to open. When it does the smell of Keith is heavy from the darkened doorway. His pulse jumps in anticipation, but also worry. Does his mate not know he can stay in Shiro’s den? Has Shiro not made that clear?

It’s hard to think about. Hard to think in general. Shiro pushes it aside, finding the slow foggy cogs of that part of his brain frustrating. It’s no matter, Shiro will just go in and tell him and they can go to bed and it can be good. Perfect.

Shiro steps quietly through the apartment, following the smell of his mate to the bedroom. It’s hard to see, but his eyes adjust as he nears the bed just enough for him to see Keith sleeping. He’s on his back, blankets askew, and hair adorable tousled.

Shiro has a thought to just scoop him up and take him back.

Except when Shiro leans closer, he gets a headier scent of his mate. There’s sleep sweat and a woodsy deodorant, but right beneath that, just tugging at the bottom of Shiro’s belly is something spicier. Something that flushes his skin and makes his cock throb.

Perhaps before they go Shiro could spend some time here. His mate is spread out on the sheets like an offering, and who is Shiro to deny him? Surely Keith would be much more agreeable to a middle-of-the-night relocation if Shiro woke him up with a little something pleasant.

The moment the thought comes, the lust tumbles through him and Shiro is powerless to fight it. He climbs up the bottom of the bed stealthily, slipping himself beneath the covers and between his mate’s legs.

It’s hot under the sheets, but that spiciness is so thick here Shiro can almost taste it. He licks his lips and settles, hands wrapping around each of Keith’s thighs. They’re slender but strong, and Shiro just wants them wrapped around his head while he licks into –

There’s a sound of alarm from above, and Keith squirms in his hold. Shiro only holds tighter, making a rumbling sound of pleasure to calm his mate.

“Fuck—Shiro?” The sheets are pulled off as Keith tries to tussle with him. That would be fun any other time except now, when the scent has intoxicated Shiro beyond everything else, and he only wants to get his mouth on Keith.

He bends his head and nuzzles the fabric over his mates cock.

“Shir— what! What are you doing?!”

Shiro tilts his head to look up at that tone. The words don't make any sense to him, but his mate sounds alarmed.

They stare at each other in the near dark. Then Shiro’s attention flickers back to the sweet prize between his mate’s legs. Fabric is in the way. His fingers reach up and dig into the waistband.

Quick hands slap down on Shiro’s, stopping him. “Wait, Shiro wait, we should talk about this!”

Shiro makes a sound of inquiry. He can’t understand why his mate still sounds so distressed.

One of Keith’s hands move away and click something. The lights of the room come on. Shiro blinks owlishly at their harshness.

“Shiro,” Keith is looking down at him, his expression still alarmed and confused. Shiro chirps at him and then nuzzles Keith’s thigh to make his intentions clear.

“Are you… high?”

The words are just sounds to him. Shiro’s hands creep up back to the edge of the fabric. He knows he can make his mate happy again if he can just—

“Hey! Woah!” Keith snatches his hands up and then scrambles up from under Shiro and onto his knees.

Shiro takes in this shift, the way Keith is still watching him intently. The smell of him has only gotten stronger in the room. Arousal.

Delicious.

Shiro doesn’t want to play then, but his mate is clearly in the mood for it. Shiro gets up too, a wicked smile taking over his features. He has memories of prior tussles, the electric energy of them circling one another, his mate pushing him on and on until Shiro was good enough to pin him down. His mate wants to be won, because his mate is strong and quick. Shiro must prove himself. He will.

“Shiro— hey wait ah—!”  

Shiro pounces and they roll over and off the bed. Shiro growls playfully and Keith shouts, but then they’re wrestling. Shiro’s cock was half hard when he came in the room, but as they grapple and slide against one another is becomes a throbbing ache. At every opportunity he grinds himself against his mate, excited and heart thumping.

His mate makes delicious sounds as they tussle. Some are of effort and some are barely repressed groans. Shiro drinks them in, trying to pin Keith.

He almost has it for a moment too. For one glorious moment he has Keith on his back, their hips pressed together in a filthy grind, Keith’s wrists pressed into the floor. His mate’s eyes are almost glowing, alight with the game.

But the second Shiro goes to lower his teeth to his mate’s throat and claim his prize, he’s thrown off in an impressive show of strength. The next thing he knows Keith is on him, pinning him to the floor.

Shiro will take it any way Keith will give it. He bares his throat, needing desperately to get the rest of the fabric between them off.

“Fuck, fuck. You’re not you. You can’t even talk can you?” Keith’s breathing hard above him, his eyes yellow, fangs bared. Shiro whines, so hot for it he can’t stand it.

Keith’s eyes dip down his body and then back up. He swallows hard. "Are you being controlled? How can this be, Pidge checked you're-you're clean!" He makes a sound of anger and then barks some loud order. At first Shiro thinks it to him, but then something in the corner of the room lights up and starts making a trilling sound. Shiro looks at it, then back at his mate who is trying very hard now not to look at Shiro.

Something is wrong, and he doesn’t know what, but he has the sinking feeling that the thing Keith is conversing with in the corner of the room is putting an end to their evening.

Shiro goes slack in the tight hold, a fear creeping into his belly. Has he done something wrong? Offended his mate?

His mate wasn’t in his den, and from this current outcome, he clearly doesn’t want to fuck. Shiro thought he was playing hard to get but maybe…

Maybe his mate doesn’t want him.

##

Keith doesn’t let him up until there’s a knock at the door, and even then it’s with a cautious reluctance. He needn’t be afraid though, Shiro’s gotten his point, and it sits like a cold stone in his belly. He curls himself up and out from the middle of the room.

Keith frowns and steps toward him, “Shiro?”

Another knock interrupts though and Keith goes to attend it. He comes back with a beautiful dark skinned woman. The sudden implication is crushing.

Shiro looks away, a mournful sound escaping his throat. He needs to leave.

They talk quickly, watching him. Then the woman walks over and crouches beside Shiro. He knows he knows her. There’s a vague sort of recognition in the back of his head. He meets her eyes and then casts them back down, feeling foolish. Perhaps she is going to challenge Shiro for touching her mate? It would be within her rights.

“Shiro can you tell me what happened?” Her voice is soft and kind. Too kind.

He makes a sound he hopes is apologetic.

She turns back to Keith and they talk some more in that rapid fire way. Then she takes out a device that begins to trill.

Someone answers, a small girl that Shiro can just barely see from his vantage point. He knows her too, but can’t remember her name.

It goes on like that. Words and words and words. Shiro looks to the door that neither of them are blocking finally. Slowly, he begins to creep toward it.

“Shiro!” Keith is there beside him suddenly, a hand wrapped around his wrist. Shiro’s eyes snap to him, still dressed in that tiny scrap of clothing, still smelling utterly delectable.

Now is only makes him sadder. He tugs against the hand holding him, and when Keith doesn’t let go, Shiro flops back onto the ground dejected. Perhaps they are calling more people to bear witness to his punishment. Perhaps they all must come to shame him.

But of course Keith isn’t his mate. Keith is wonderful. Too wonderful for Shiro.

“Hey, hey, Shiro what’s wrong?” Keith folds down beside him, concern written on every inch. Shiro pulls in tighter, ashamed.

There’s more words then from the woman, words like planet, Yewn Burs, poisonous bite. It doesn’t mean anything to Shiro, but Keith tenses.

Those slender hands reach for his own, and Shiro makes a noise of dissent even as Keith takes his hands. He looks over the back of them carefully, and then turns them over. Keith gasps and the woman comes over. They both look at his palm that has a reddened and swollen wound. It looks like a bite. When did that happen?

Both of them fuss over it then, talking to the girl on the glowing device, voices ratcheting up in distress. Shiro lowers his head and tries to take his hand back but Keith holds him strong.

In the end they manhandle him out the door, down the corridor and into a sterile white room. There the girl from the screen appears, as well as another person in a uniform that Shiro doesn’t know. Shiro doesn’t understand what’s happened, except that Keith looked distressed and there is a lot of talking happening. Then the woman in the uniform barks at them and they all fall back, leaving Shiro on the bench alone.

When the unknown woman reaches for his arm, Shiro growls.

Keith says something and then is at his side, taking his hand and speaking softly to Shiro. Shiro looks from him to the dark skinned woman, as if to ask, what about your mate?

Keith only makes a calming sound and squeezes his arm. Shiro decides not to question it, but he keeps his heart locked down. He can’t afford hope. The stranger takes his other arm and wraps something around his bicep. Shiro growls again, but is cut off by a soft nudge from Keith.

There’s a bunch of strange and invasive things after that. The stranger touches him with her hand and tools and once something sharp and stinging. Every time Shiro tries to pull away or defend himself Keith is there, making disapproving noises or distracting him. It’s hard not to think of it as mate behavior.

It makes up for all the other discomforts.

Finally it wraps up. The woman turns to him and says, “Yewn Frenzy,” which means nothing but Keith’s hand on him tightens.

“We’ve treated him so it won’t get worse,” this she directs at the rest of them, “but the poison will have to run its course. Five to seven days is the average.”

“But it won’t hurt him?” Keith says.

The woman shrugs. “Most Frenzy injuries are due to just that… the frenzy. It’s sort of like having a toddler, he’ll need to be monitored. He’s unlikely to be able to communicate or function on any higher level, so seriously, treat him like a toddler who doesn’t know better.”

The small girl snorts. Beside him Keith sighs.

Then, thankfully, they leave.

Even out in the corridor though Keith doesn’t let him go. His hand is a warm weight around Shiro’s wrist, and Shiro doesn’t know what to do about it. “I’ll take him,” Keith says. “He responds best to me.”

“Are you sure?” The dark skinned woman looks concerned.

“Yeah,” Keith says. “Now that I know what I’m up against, I’ll be okay. Just glad it wasn't some druid thing.”

The small girl yawns then, adjusting her glasses. “Tell me about it. Well that was a 2 AM adventure I was glad to be a part of, but I’m wiped. Call me if you have any troubles and I’ll make a pen to keep him in.”

“He’s not a dog,” Keith says at her retreating figure. She laughs.

“Seriously though,” the other woman reaches and touches Keith’s shoulder. Shiro watches the contact with a keen eye, trying to understand its meaning. “If you need any help with him, call me.”

Keith steps back, tugging Shiro along by the wrist. Shiro’s heart trips with the possibility of it. “Don’t worry, I will. Thanks for all your help.”

She says something after that, but Shiro tunes out even the sound of her voice. Keith is pulling him away and down the hallway, headed unmistakably for his room. A fragile something blooms inside Shiro’s chest, and he tries desperately to contain himself.

Is Keith giving him another chance?

##

Back in Keith’s den, Shiro holds tight to his self-control. He tries to think about everything that’s happened, and how to use this rare second chance.

The realization he comes to is easy: Keith is not yet his mate, though he clearly has interest. Shiro’s earlier attentions, therefore, were much too aggressive.

If Shiro wants to make Keith his mate, then Shiro must court him and court him properly. Simple. Easy. Shiro’s chest fills with the bubbly potential of it. Courting Keith!

“So uh,” Keith turns to him when they’re in the bedroom again. Shiro looks around it with new eyes, noting the lack of an arranged nest. Keith also has no food or items of Shiro’s in here. He should start there.

“…sleep here if you’re not going to try and maul me again.” Keith gestures to the bed.

It’s an invitation, but now Shiro knows what kind. It’s an offer to start nesting with Keith, but certainly not to mate. He hops up onto the bed and then sits primly and looks at Keith.

Keith eyes him warily and slowly gets back onto the bed from the other side. Shiro makes a show of lowering himself to the sheets, curling up on a pillow and tucking his hands beneath him. Keith is watching to see what he’ll do, and Shiro will not fail a second time. Keith is safe with him, Shiro will show him.

On the bed Keith gets a hold of the blankets and slips under them. He’d put on more clothing when they went out, and he does not remove it now. Shiro’s still wearing his own band of cloth around his hips, and although the feeling of it annoys him, he keeps it in place. It seems important to Keith, so it’s important to him.

And then Keith is lying down beside him on the bed, looking at Shiro. Shiro makes a low sound of comfort and then, shuffling, offers his hands to Keith.

Keith looks at them and then reaches out and takes them. “Okay,” he says, curling his hands around Shiro’s. Shiro trills and rubs his cheek against the pillow. His insides are butterflies, and he wants to reach for Keith, wants desperately to, but can’t.

“So you’ll settle for me? Sleep?” Keith lays their hands down on the bed between them and then closes his eyes.

Sleep. Keith wants them to sleep. That one’s easy, Shiro is already feeling worn down from all the excitement.  He closes his eyes and after a moment Keith says something and the lights dim.

In the room Shiro can still smell him, the residual spiciness of Keith, but he turns that urge inward and calms it. He wants to mate with Keith, but more importantly he wants Keith to be his mate.  

For that, Shiro will do whatever it takes.

##

Shiro comes awake to the morning light and a very wonderful warmth tucked into his chest. He’s still on his side of the bed, but Keith in the night has scooted over and tangled himself in Shiro.

Shiro purrs and can’t help rubbing his cheek against the top of Keith’s head. He figures if Keith came to him, then a little more touching must be okay. Plus Keith is so soft and so good against him, it's so hard to resist just the barest of touches. Everywhere they're touching Shiro feels like a hot intensity.

And then Shiro notices that Keith is hard, that they’re both hard. The flimsy fabric is doing little to hide it when they’re so close. Shiro takes a deep breath and takes in that smell, faint beneath the sheets, but present. He can’t, won’t, but still his hips shift ever so slightly. It’s electric, the slide between them, and Shiro nuzzles down into Keith’s hair. He tells himself over and over not to do anything, not to ruin his chance.

But just holding Keith like this is torture. 

Then Keith makes a small, hungry sound.

Shiro’s hand that’s curled around his waist tightens. He remembers the night before and that woman who had come. She’d been beautiful, soft, and Keith had looked at her with such loyalty and thankfulness. Shiro knows if he touches when he shouldn’t, he could chase his to-be mate right back into her arms.

That’s a tempering thought. Shiro holds it tight, does nothing more than hold Keith.

Keith wakes slowly after that, and Shiro stays still to observe it.

“Shiro?” The voice is thick with sleep, but in his arms his whole body has gone stiff.

Shiro untucks his hand and pulls back, offering his hands up to Keith as if to bring attention to the fact that he is not doing anything. He is not even on Keith’s side of the bed.

Keith takes all this in immediately, because his mate is quick and smart. “O-oh!” He shuffles further from Shiro, eyes wide and cheeks pinking. Shiro stares at him lovingly; head tilted a little to bare his throat.

“Uh that wasn’t. I wasn’t. Um. You still can’t speak can you?”

Shiro just blinks at him.

“You don’t even understand what I’m saying, do you?”

Shiro offers his hands again, palms up.

“I don’t know what that means.”

Keith copies the gesture then, holding his hands out, palms up on the bedding. Shiro perks up immediately and then scoots closer and puts his cheek against Keith’s hand and nuzzles.

“Oh,” Keith’s fingers twitch and then move slightly to pet Shiro’s hair. “You… this okay?”

Shiro chirps happily, nuzzling Keith’s hand as it pets him. Progress! Such progress!

But Shiro is ever greedy, so when he pulls back he offers his own hands again.

The coloring on Keith’s face becomes darker, and then he’s stumbling up off the bed. “Breakfast!” he says as he flees the room. “We should go get breakfast!”

Shiro has no idea what the words mean, but the flash of scent and adorable bashfulness of his to-be mate makes up for it. He flops back over into the bedding, pulling Keith’s pillow close just to bury his nose in the scent.

He starts to think of his plan to court his mate.

##

Most of the day doesn’t give Shiro much opportunity. They go from place to place to place. There’s a lot of talking and loud noises and harsh scents, and they never really end up doing much.

The bright spot is that for the most part Keith keeps a hand on him. It’s not particularly intimate, but it is claiming, and Shiro preens about it every time another person’s eyes look upon it curiously.

“So we’ll just go by yours and get you some new clothes,” Keith is saying as they walk the corridor toward Shiro’s den. He doesn’t know why they’re going to his den, but he tries to tamp down on the anticipation and glee that springs up in him at the idea of it. Keith’s been friendly with him all day, but that familiarity hadn't at any point indicated that Keith was ready to go back to Shiro's den and stay with him.

So that's not what this is, and Shiro needs to focus. Clearly he needs to do more to win his mate’s approval, and surely in his den there’s something he can use to this end.

As they get to Shiro’s door, the perfect thing comes to him. He gets so excited about it, he smacks his hand down on the scanner and then pulls away from Keith to bound into his den.

“Hey! Wait!”

Shiro doesn’t heed Keith’s cry, but instead heads right to the kitchen and for the cold box. He has a fuzzy memory of something sweet in the cold box, and he knows Keith likes sweets.

Sure enough near the back is a small opened bag of chocolates. He snatches them up. Behind him he can hear Keith, so he turns and presents them eagerly.

Keith looks at him, expression adorably confused. Shiro shoves the sweets in his hands.

“I’m not hungry?” Keith says, and offers them back.

Shiro’s belly swoops with dread. Keith didn’t even try one, and now he’s trying to return the offering. But Keith likes sweets... doesn't he? Does he just not like Shiro’s? Are they not good enough? Shiro has a horrible thought then of Keith throwing down the sweets and leaving, unimpressed by Shiro’s offerings.

He has to do better. He’s already messed up once, he can’t afford anything less than his absolute best.

“Oh hey, no. Don’t be sad! Shiro, Shiro this is great!” Shiro’s gone to step away and mourn his new failure when Keith catches his arm. He’s speaking rapidly, but then let’s go of Shiro to dig out a sweet and pop it in his mouth.   

A cautious hope takes hold.

Keith smiles then, shoulders dropping in relief. He takes another sweet and eats it. “Really good, thank you Shiro.”

It’s the warm tone that really does it. Shiro can just tell that whatever was said was good. He grins back at Keith, stepping into his space.

Keith freezes, but before Shiro can question his own boldness, Keith’s shoulders drop once more. Then, to his ultimate surprise, his mate shyly offers a sweet from the bag.

Shiro hums, overcome with happiness, and opens his mouth.

The sweet is given with a quick darting of fingers, and Shiro eats it watching that fluttering of Keith’s eyelashes. His mate looks both nervous and delighted. Shiro can relate.

They share a few more chocolates like that, standing in his kitchen. Keith feeds him each, but Shiro’s keeps his own hands relaxed at his sides. He’s found the less his own hands come into the equation, the more likely he is to get positive feedback.

When Keith’s finished with the sweets though, Shiro can’t help taking up those lovely fingers that fed him and bringing them up to his own mouth. The sweets melted a little while Keith was eating them, and there’s chocolate smeared just on the tips. Keith squawks when Shiro starts to lick his fingers clean.

There’s a small amount of resistance as Keith tries to take his fingers back, but Shiro makes a sound of calming and holds tight. He’s getting a sense for how shy his mate is, and while he respects that, he also thinks a little pushing could be good.

Shiro remembers their whole relationship was built on prodding and challenging each other. He knows they both thrive on it and expect it from each other, so Shiro tries to walk the line. He licks Keith’s fingers clean, but then let’s go and steps back.

By that time Keith’s very pinked, and for the first time since the morning Shiro can smell the spicy scent of him wafting in the air.

He takes a deep breath to enjoy it.

“Uh, we should—“ Keith gestures behind them and back to Shiro’s room. Shiro holds tight to his wilder fantasies, and just follows him in that direction.

The smell of his bedroom is a comfort to Shiro. He loved being in Keith's den, but that space had been so full of Keith with nothing of Shiro's. It had been unbalanced. Now Shiro luxuriates in being back in such a familiar space.

Shiro takes one lap of it just to make sure everything is how he left it, and no one has infringed on his territory. If he wants Keith to stay here one day, he needs to prove he can defend and maintain a territory so his mate will feel safe. He does his rounds and finds all is well. He looks back at Keith then, proud and a little puffed up that his territory is good and safe and Keith can see that. There’s a small lift to Keith’s mouth where he’s leaning against the door frame.

“All good here?” His voice sounds approving, so Shiro walks back to him, right into his space and gently bumps his head into Keith’s shoulder. “And so affectionate like this,” Keith says softly.

Shiro stays just a moment and then backs off and watches Keith’s expression. He looks wary, but quickly relaxes when he sees Shiro is going to do nothing further.

Shiro turns around and looks at his space thoughtfully.

“We need some clothing for you, if you’re staying with me. And I guess you should. I don’t really trust you alone.” Keith walks around him and heads to the dresser. Easily he begins to help himself to Shiro’s fabrics. The familiarity of it makes Shiro's throat rumble.

Stacks of clothes are set on the top of his dresser, with Keith then moving to his closet and coming back with a bag. He packs them all up easily, and then goes to the bathroom.

“Will you shower, I wonder?”

Shiro follows him to the doorway, tilting his body a little to the side so he doesn’t block the exit and spook Keith. Keith’s pushes the shower curtain back and looks over his shoulder at Shiro. He says something then, but it’s the hand gesture Shiro understands. Keith wants him to bathe.

Shiro steps forward, trying to look agreeable.

Keith nods and starts up the water, fiddling with it a moment. “Okay, I’ll uh… wait out in your room. Please be careful.” He motions from Shiro to the shower, his face serious.

Shiro nods because it seems like the right thing to do, then he offers his hand to Keith. It’s a long shot, Shiro knows bathing with a mate is pretty far along on the courtship meter, but he wants to make his long term intentions clear as well. He wants Keith to know that Shiro is open to whatever Keith wants.

His mate stutters some words then, looking away from the shower bashfully. He flees.

Shiro’s chest rumbles pleasantly, suffused with happiness. He may be clumsy in his courting, but it’s clear from even Keith’s blushing retreats that the offers are working in his favor. He turns to the shower, and begins to strip.

##

After, Shiro walks bare into the bedroom. Keith makes a sound of shock, and Shiro pretends not to notice. There was a small stack of cloth just outside the bathroom door, but Shiro also pretends not to see it as he walks through the room to the dresser. Shiro knows he’s well-made, and this is a perfect opportunity to show his mate.

His cock is half-hard at his own daring, but he thinks that only works for him. Certainly he catches Keith’s eyes dipping down the length of his body.

Shiro bends gratuitously to find clothing, spending too long but enjoying the intensity of Keith’s gaze. By the time he heads back into the bathroom to dress, the room smell spicier. It's hard to ignore that kind of interest, but Shiro does. He knows if he goes to Keith then, there will be rejection. Keith wants to be courted, to be teased and slowly gathered, and Shiro will do it.

For now he just enjoys the way their scents weave together in his den. He enjoys the curling anticipation in his belly of what it will be like when Keith finally agrees to be his mate.

Once dressed Shiro plays at innocence, keeping plenty of space between him and Keith to cool them both down. Keith made some sort of comments to him, his voice a little too deep, but Shiro hadn’t paid them much mind. Keith hadn’t looked or smelled angry, and he hadn’t fled to the living room, so Shiro considers it a win.

Before they leave, Shiro gathers some of his own bedding, stacking it on top of his bag of clothing. Keith, seeing his arms full, tries to help him carry some of it, but Shiro pulls away with a shake of his head. He knows Keith is strong and capable, but this is Shiro’s time to shine. This is Shiro's time to prove what a capable mate he can be.

Shiro carries all of it back to Keith’s den, hardly feeling the weight through his own pride and those affectionate little glances Keith keeps giving him.

In Keith’s room Shiro walks straight to the bedroom and then dumps the stuff. Keith tries to follow him, but Shiro turns around and raises his hands to guard the door. He mimes a motion for stay.

“What?”

Shiro just motions again and Keith, despite giving him a look of confusion, does.

Shiro goes to work then with the bedding from his room. He takes it to Keith’s, rearranging everything, pulling up sheets and blankets. There are a few more blankets in Keith’s closet that he finds Keith… isn’t using? He takes them back to the bed and works them in as well.

He works hard weaving their scents together, fluffing pillows and pinching blanketing. It’s obvious that Keith’s never had this, maybe never even thought of making himself a proper nest. It’s soothing to Shiro’s possessiveness that this will be Keith’s first, but it’s also a little sad. Keith deserves all the care and comfort in the world; he hates that up until now he hasn’t gotten it.

What was Shiro even doing before this? Biding his time?

He bites his lip at his own stupidity. He not only wasted time, but he’s allowed Keith to go without for so long. It’s no wonder Keith is guarded about him now, no wonder he wants to take it slow.

Shiro finishes the nest and then steps back to look over it with a keen eye. When he’s satisfies, he turns to Keith who’s still waiting at the door.

“You…” Keith steps into the room, looking at Shiro’s work with wide eyes. “Is this for me?”

Shiro walks closer to him slowly, telegraphing his movements. While earlier there was some playful teasing, now all Shiro wants to do is provide comfort. A nest is a delicate subject, and Shiro wants Keith to know that he provided it now for rest, not to get between Keith’s legs.

Delicately he takes Keith’s elbow and guides him forward toward the bed.

“Shiro… we can’t…” Keith’s voice is soft when he looks back at the nest.

Shiro only gives him a gentle tap on his elbow, and then steps back entirely. He lowers himself to a crouch away from the bed, and relaxes his posture.

Keith observes this and then seems to understand. “Okay, this is just a bed?” The moment stretches and then Keith climbs up into it. Shiro grins, doesn’t move.

“Comfy.” Keith says, flopping back into it. There’s a gentle laugh then. “A nest,” he says. “You made me a nest.”

Shiro’s ears perk at this happy tone. Still, he remains crouched on the floor. He’ll stay there all night if he has to.

Then Keith’s head pops back up. “Are you coming?” He looks pleased, flushed. “You can if you don’t—“ there’s some sort of vague gesturing with his hands, then he sighs. “Come here.”

He pats the bedding expectantly, and Shiro rises. Slowly he walks forward, watching Keith intently the entire time to check his approval.

Keith stays steady and Shiro climbs into the bed beside him. He doesn’t touch Keith.

They sit there quietly until Keith tilts into his side. “This is nice,” he says.

Shiro croons a soft sound, and then turns his head to nuzzle Keith.

They settle after that. Keith takes it slow, getting them both to lie down. Shiro can tell he’s wary that Shiro will try something again, so Shiro keeps every touch simple and caring. He lets Keith do most of the touching, only reciprocating when it seems appropriate, and pulling away when Keith starts to shy.

It’s nothing short of magnificent, lying in a nest with Keith with their scents heavy around them. It’s a cocoon just for them, and Shiro feels such joy watching Keith relax into it. As the lights of the room dim, Keith is lying on his side very close to Shiro just gazing at him. Occasionally he lifts his fingers to card through Shiro’s hair. Shiro skims a claw tip in circles on Keith’s shoulder, and doesn’t let it go further.

“You’re strange like this,” Keith says softly. “It’s you, but not you.” Shiro makes a low purring sound. “I shouldn’t be allowing this, it’s bad for me, but…” His eyes flutter closed.

Shiro continues those little circles until Keith’s hand falls onto the sheets and his breath becomes deep with sleep. For a while longer Shiro just watches him, memorizing all the little details of his amazing mate.

And then, snuggled so sweet and warm together, he too falls asleep.

Chapter Text

The next day is a lot of the same. They wake up tangled, but instead of fleeing immediately Keith just languishes there. He looks a little bashful as he hides his face in Shiro’s chest, but Shiro just wraps him in a hug and does nothing.

When they do crawl out of the nest, Keith goes to shower and Shiro heads to the kitchen. It’s Keith’s food, but that doesn’t mean Shiro can’t set something out for breakfast.

At the table Keith is delighted to find a spread of fruit that Shiro’s arranged. They eat and when finished Keith once again coaxes Shiro into some more confining fabric. He frowns when it's on at the tightness of it across his chest. Keith laughs, “I know, I never understood why your uniform was so tight either, except to torture the rest of us. At least it’s come full circle now.”

They do the walking then, Keith does the talking, and they go to a lot of different rooms. Some people try to talk to Shiro, both people he recognizes and some he doesn’t. Shiro growls at a few that come too close, but Keith’s look of disapproval stops him quick.

At lunch he even puts up with the dark haired woman finding them and engaging Keith in a lengthy discussion. Shiro reminds himself of their nest in Keith’s room. He reminds himself where the day started and, catastrophe notwithstanding, where it will end: with Keith cuddled up with him in a nest he made.

And perhaps all of this is even its own test. Maybe Keith’s wants to know that his mate can be agreeable and calm even when circumstances are challenging. That’s a good quality, the ability to keep one’s head clear. Shiro straightens his posture and lets the anger roll off him. He will be the mate Keith deserves. He will.

A break in the tedium comes just before dinner though. Instead of heading toward another sterile smelling room, Keith leads them another way.

Shiro knows where they’re going as they get nearer to it. The gym! He likes the gym. Shiro has a lot of positive memories with this space, most of them involving Keith. His heart starts beating faster at the promise of some playfighting. Finally they'll be doing something fun!

When they get there Shiro breaks off and heads for a familiar mat. They’re not alone, but the other people in the gym are far enough away that Shiro pays them no mind. Turning around to face Keith, he finds his mate still across the gym, leaning against the doorway. There’s a smirk on his face.

“Gonna spar me in that uniform Captain?”

Shiro tilts his head, and makes a motion for Keith to come. Keith laughs and shakes his head motioning to Shiro.

“Absolutely not, come on, you have to change.” Then Keith tugs at his own clothing and gestures as Shiro. “Change,” he says.

Shiro looks down at himself. Oh! His mate is absolutely right, the cloth is far too restrictive for playfighting. Quickly he starts undoing the buttons on his jacket.

“No! Shiro!”

He gets only as far as removing the jacket before Keith is by his side with that cute nervous energy. He manhandles Shiro, swiping up the jacket Shiro tries to dump and then dragging Shiro back to the door.

“We will absolutely not be giving the cadets a strip show today,” Keith hisses as he hauls Shiro down a hallway and into an adjacent door. Shiro doesn’t mind any change of plans so long as Keith keeps his hands on him.

The next room is crowded with metal dividers and smells of sweat and soap and people. Keith takes him down a row and then opens two boxes.

“Here,” he says, shoving a bundle of cloth into Shiro's arms. “Now you can change.”

This order is much clearer to Shiro. These clothes smell like him, smell like the gym. Shiro puts them down and starts on the button at his hips.

“Okay!” Keith chirps, “We are just not shy at all. I’m—“ he makes a vague gesture which Shiro doesn’t understand. Shiro’s only really interested in how his mates eyes drop down as Shiro pushes the cloth down and off.

“Be right back!” Then Keith flees. It’s almost predictable at this point, but it still makes Shiro grin with mounting pride.

He can’t wait to get Keith down on the mat.

After they change Keith returns looking more put together, and he marshals them back to the gym. This time when Shiro breaks away to get to their spot Keith only laughs and follows.

“I have no idea how this is going to go,” Keith says. “It’s probably a bad idea, but if we don’t get this energy out I’m afraid you’ll actually bite someone,” whatever he’s saying it’s good-natured and amused. Shiro loves to see it on his mate.

He also loves the cloth his mate has changed into. It covers a lot of skin, but it covers in such a sleek manner that it only accentuates his slim figure. Shiro eyes the trim curve of his muscles with hunger. It’s such a treat to look at that Shiro can’t help wondering if this is a purposeful display. If his mate is trying to tease him back. Shiro is not at all opposed.

He half crouches then, showing Keith he’s ready. In his chest his heart has started beating harder, excitement crackling in his limbs.

“Ready?” Keith takes a position.

There’s a beat of nothing but tension stretched between them, and then Keith moves.

His mate is fast. This Shiro knows from their years of sparring. All his strength is compact and it makes him dangerous, able to slip in under blocks and take down opponents before they even realize it’s coming. But Shiro is good too, and he has years of watching how Keith uses his body.

When Keith comes for him, he knows to expect close combat because Keith's advantage is cutting off Shiro’s main asset: his strength.

So at first they parry and circle. Keith tries him for openings and Shiro keeps him at bay. His instincts are thrumming high, his body moving often before he even thinks it. He acts and reacts, eyes watching the minute muscle movements that are the only things that can telegraph Keith’s attacks.

Keith laughs as he comes around the side and Shiro’s already turned, already blocking.

“You’re better like this,” Keith says. He’s already winded and Shiro watches it covetously. “Not by much, but you don’t hesitate.”

He comes at Shiro again and Shiro blocks, then swings low to get Keith to back off. His mate does, skirting out of range, face alight.

It goes on like that for a while. They dance, landing small blows and pushing and pulling at one another. Shiro’s body sings with it, and he breathes in the scent of their exertion.

He’s starting to think it might be time to push a little more.

The next time Keith comes close, Shiro blocks and swings high. Keith can easily block it, so he does but misses the toe of Shiro’s boot slipping back and behind his heel.

Keith tries to compromise for it immediately, but Shiro steps forward to crowd, forced him to block high again and use that otherworldly strength against his metal arm.

His clever mate instead of going down on his back, uses the momentum to fall into a backwards roll.

Shiro follows him down, allowing no ground.

Keith grunts when they clash on the mat. They tussle, almost equal with Keith’s speed and Shiro’s strength lessened without full use of his legs. Tumbling, they grapple and twist. Keith flips him with a grunt of triumph, but Shiro rolls away from the pin and grabs at Keith instead.

It’s getting handsy between them as the space separating them quickly dwindles. All of Shiro’s senses sharpen at the promise of his sweating, fierce mate beneath him. Shiro wants to make him yield, to impress him with his strength and prowess.

There’s another near hold and Shiro gets out of it with the metal hand. Keith hisses something at him, but his eyes are dark and dangerous and Shiro never wants them move off him.

And then finally, there’s a tiny slip. Keith tries to get a chokehold and Shiro doesn’t even see it, but the hairs on his neck raise and he ducks. Keith falls through the space he was only milliseconds ago.

But then Shiro is already on him, pressing him stomach down to the mat, hands banding around Keith’s wrists. He presses them solid but not painfully into the ground and when Keith tries to use his legs to kick out, Shiro knees them apart and twines his own on top to hold him down.

He growls, pressing his cock against Keith’s ass, pining him. It’s almost a mounting position, and it gets Shiro’s blood hot.  They’re both heaving for breath.

“Sh—fuck,” Keith says. He pulls at his wrists and then pushes back into Shiro’s hips.

Shiro makes another low, possessive sound and grinds him back down.

“You’re— we can’t— “ Keith makes an absolutely gorgeous sound then and Shiro can smell his arousal in the air. It’s gutting to hold the position, to stay just barely on the line of courting, but Shiro does it. He does it and he waits for his mate to yield.

“And of course you’re fucking huge. Ah—“ Keith tests his holds again and Shiro doesn’t budge, even as the scent of his mate gets stronger. “Okay,” he takes a deep breath. “Okay, get it together Keith. Be responsible. Shiro off!”

This last part is barked at him and Shiro almost cedes. It confuses him because his mate sounds stern, but he also hasn’t yet yielded. Shiro doesn’t know if the right move is to still hold, or if this is just a trick. He makes a sound of inquiry, leaning down just to gently nuzzle Keith’s hair.

It’s taking almost all his strength to push away the throbbing urge in his belly. All Shiro’s thoughts are muddier than usual at the strain. He only knows how this is supposed to go. His mate must yield.

“Shiro?” Keith sort of nuzzles back. Then there’s a deep breath. “We’ll try calm then.”

Beneath him, Keith’s body relaxes all at once. Shiro’s heart nearly bursts at the sudden change. He yields!

He lets Keith go immediately, moving regretfully off him and then sitting primly on the mat just a foot away. He feels like bright sunshine inside, beaming as Keith gets up and fusses with his clothing. His mate's cheeks are pinked.

He watches Keith’s eyes look him over, and Shiro straightens up for inspection, proud of the way his mate is looking at him. He chirps a sound of pleasure at Keith and Keith blinks at him.

“Well don’t you look proud of yourself.”

Shiro does nothing. He’s still painfully aroused but he doesn’t hide it, just waits to see what Keith will do.

In the end it’s not much. Keith looks him up and down and then drags a hand over his face and laughs to himself. Then he readjusts his clothing again. “What am I going to do with you Shiro?”

Shiro’s beginning to recognize that one sound that must be his name. He looked interestedly at Keith.

“Should I take you back to the showers? I’m sure that will also go just great. “ He starts to get to his feet then, offering Shiro a hand. “C’mon, let’s go. You shower, I’ll suffer.”

Shiro takes his hand and gets up. From across the gym there’s a whistle.

Keith’s eyes snap to it immediately, the good humor disappearing off his face. “Somethin’ to say Blithly?”

It’s a blond man across the way that starts stuttering nervously. Keith rolls his eyes and tugs Shiro away.

“Not one word!” Keith shouts as they leave.

##

After Shiro’s victory he doesn’t even get a kiss. Instead Keith takes him to a shower cube and puts him under cold water. He gazes as Keith sadly at this turn of events.

“Oh don’t look at me like a sad puppy. You deserve that cold shower,” Keith grins at him and stalks away to his own shower cube.

It’s a clear signal not to look or peek, so Shiro doesn’t. He just strips off the waterlogged fabric and starts to clean himself.

Before leaving Keith puts him back in a fresh set of clothing, which Shiro grumbles about. But upon finishing Keith’s hand wanders up to his wet hair, messing with it. “You’re worse than Kosmo with those big eyes.” Shiro leans into the hand and Keith pets him further.

All through dinner Shiro sits beside his mate, preening from his successes.

The short girl with the glasses comes by and points at Shiro. “What’s he so happy about?”

Keith laughs and nudges Shiro. “Beat me at sparring, now he won’t stop doing that.”

They chat a while longer but Shiro doesn’t mind, especially not when toward the end Keith’s hand creeps over and squeezes Shiro’s knee beneath the table. Shiro doesn’t respond, just smiles into his dinner and continues to eat. His reward is Keith’s hand in the center of his back guiding him out when they leave.

Back in Keith’s den, Shiro has an urge to walk the territory. His skin is buzzing with happy energy, and as they will likely not be having a spirited romp tonight, he needs to burn it off.

“Shiro what are you— “ and then there’s a laugh. “I’m going to give you so much shit later, so much. “

Shiro doesn’t pay his mate any mind though, Keith sounds affectionate so he’s clearly not bothered that Shiro is doing his territory check.

Keith’s den isn’t big, so it doesn’t take long. Shiro checks every room before winding back around to the bedroom where their scents are still present in the bedding.  Then he takes a moment to puff the pillows and tug the nest back into shape.

“Hey,” Keith says just as Shiro goes to climb in. “It’s a little early for sleep.”

Shiro looks at him, gesturing to the bedding but Keith shakes his head. In return he waves for Shiro to come. “C’mon, let’s watch something on the holoscreen.”

Although it’s not the nest, Shiro settles into the couch with Keith and finds it satisfactory. Keith brings a blanket in and puts something loud and flashy on the screen, and then sits down right beside Shiro. Shiro looks at him and tries to decide how much cuddling is acceptable outside the nest.

There’s none at first and Shiro tries not to take that too hard. He’s had a wonderful day, and he does want Keith to go at his own pace. He wants his mate safe and happy and confident in Shiro’s affections, and in all likeliness it’s his own fault that Keith is so skittish in the first place.

As the night wears on though, Keith leans further and further into him. Tentatively, Shiro reaches an arm back and over Keith’s shoulders. He sets it down carefully, looking at Keith. Keith looks away from the screen and gives Shiro a small, private smile. Then he turns back to watching. Shiro curls him further into his side, nuzzling the top of Keith’s hair.

His mate sighs softly and relaxes.

It’s perfect.

By the time they make it back to the nest Shiro is all but floating. They curl up facing each other in the soft bedding, but this time Shiro’s arm is around his mate’s waist, holding him close. It’s cozy and intimate, the room already darkened and silent except for their breathing. Shiro wants to capture the moment so he can stay in it forever. He wants to forget those rooms and all those other chatting people, because all he needs is his mate, safe and here.

“I wish…” Keith says, petting his cheek. Shiro turns and nuzzles into it. The softness is a current under his skin that intensifies when Keith doesn’t pull away. Shiro lets Keith’s fingers run across the planes of his face and then through his hair. He purrs happily at the lines of sensation running through him.

When Keith’s hand comes back to his face Shiro turns his head and presses his lips into the skin of that slender palm.

Keith gasps.

There’s a slow heat gathering between them, and Shiro leans into it. He kisses again Keith’s hand.

“Shiro,” It’s his name, so soft on Keith’s lips. It draws Shiro’s eyes, those pink beautiful lips. He wants to taste them, wants to make his mate feel good.  Keith’s thumb slides over and traces the bottom of Shiro’s mouth.

A staggered breath pushes out of Keith. His finger wanders slow over the bow of Shiro’s lips. When Shiro looks, Keith’s eyes have dropped, a covetous look on his face.

He shouldn’t, but Shiro can see how much Keith wants it, and the knowledge is dizzying. Shiro leans forward and—

Keith turns his head away. “We can’t,” he says, breathy as Shiro nuzzles instead his cheek and down to his ear. He doesn’t kiss, just nuzzles, taking the turn of Keith’s head as a compromise.

And it is, the way Keith’s hands then dig into the stupid cloth Shiro is still wearing on his chest. His hands tug on Shiro even as he keeps his mouth out of range.

 Shiro’s powerless to such a summoning. He rolls just a little onto Keith, nuzzling his neck and licking at that salty, warm skin.

Keith’s hands clench tight in the fabric, a cry falling from his mouth. His hips shift in the bedding. “This is— stars forgive me. We can’t, we can’t.”

There’s some kind of conflict in his mate, so Shiro settles to stillness. He’s hard, but so far he’s kept it off Keith. They’re touching only at chests and where Shiro’s mouth is puffing hot breaths against Keith’s throat. Keith smells spicy again, like the most delectable of treats and Shiro can only imagine how it must smell between his legs. It would be so good if he were to slip down and bury himself in that hot space. Keith would squirm and moan as Shiro lapped up his cries, taking him hungrily until his mate was forced to spill thick on Shiro’s tongue. He would taste amazing, Shiro already knows.

“You’re not you,” Keith says, his voice agonized. His claws scrape against Shiro's skin. “This isn’t you.” There’s another huge breath, Keith’s own hips shifting. He wants it just as Shiro does, Shiro can practically taste it in the air.

And then Keith's hands unclench from Shiro’s clothing.

Shiro makes a rumbling noise of protest.

“I shouldn’t be allowing this. It’s wrong. Fuck.”

The last bit is distressed. Shiro pulls out of Keith’s throat, propping himself up on one hand.  Below him Keith’s a gorgeous spread of dark hair, flushed cheeks. Shiro makes a soothing sound and then pets at that dark hair.

“You’re so good,” Keith says. “So good, and I—”

He frowns then and a glossy look comes into his eyes. Shiro croons a sound, not understanding why his mate is suddenly so upset. Is this because of Shiro? Does his mate still worry that Shiro is not committed?

If it were possible, he would fight himself for putting such doubts in Keith. He hates every single moment for which Keith has suffered due to his own idiocy.

Keith shakes his head then and slowly pushes Shiro back. It’s only when his back hits the bed again that Shiro notices some kind of whine in his own throat.

“Hey, hey it’s okay Shiro,” Keith draws him in with hands looped around his neck. They come together just touching foreheads. “It okay, we’re okay.”

That precipitous feeling is beginning to wash away, and Shiro lets it go. His mate is trying to gentle him, maybe gentle them both, and maybe they need it. Maybe it’s too soon. He focuses on where his mate is touching him, and the soothing way Keith is speaking.

They lay like that for minutes upon minutes, Keith humming softly as he pets Shiro’s neck and the back of his hair. Eventually it takes all that accumulated heat out of Shiro and his body relaxes completely into the sheets.

“That’s it, we’re resting. Just resting. We’re caring for each other, but we’re not crossing lines, okay? Okay.” Keith takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.

When sleep comes to claim Shiro that night, it’s between one breath and the next where the warmth of Keith is close, but still out of grasp.

##

The next morning when Shiro awakes, Keith isn’t there. The scent of him is still heavy in the sheets and after a moment Shiro can hear someone moving in the other room.

“Ah, you’re up,” Keith says when Shiro wanders out. “Thought I’d make breakfast for us this morning.”

He gestures to a table where a spread of food has been set out. Shiro frowns, unsure of what to make of it.

While it’s nice that his mate wants to provide, Shiro is supposed to be doing the courting. Seeing the food laid out makes him instantly worried.

Was Shiro’s breakfast not up to snuff? Is this Keith showing him how it’s done? Or does Keith just want to court a little back, and is using a strange method to do so?

Looking at Keith provides no answers other than he doesn’t look upset, so Shiro takes a seat at the table. They eat together, but there’s something strange in the air, and Shiro doesn’t like it.

##

They do a workout for most of the morning, but this one does not involve sparring, and Keith deters him from any partnered exercise. Mostly they take a lap outside, then do push up and sit ups and sprints. They shower separately and Keith doesn’t touch him when they leave. This time instead of glowing, Shiro leaves the area feeling cold and wrong.

By dinner Shiro is starting to get the shape of the wrongness, even if he doesn't know why. He only understands that there’s now more space between him and his mate instead of less. Keith is working hard to not only avoid touching him, but avoid looking at him as well.

This would send Shiro into a panicked spiral except that Keith doesn’t abandon him. Keith, in fact, very clearly directs Shiro to stay with him.

So Shiro knows that all is not lost, even if something definitely has been.

Shiro watches it all over that evening and into the next day. He’s on his best behavior, but none of it catches Keith’s eye. He makes sure to get up early and set up breakfast, at lunch Shiro finds a plate of sweets in the eating den and growls away a girl trying to get the last one so instead he can give it to Keith. He walks their den territory, keeps the nest organized and comfy, and once when they’re running outside he spies a flower and makes a quick detour to snatch it up.

Keith takes it all, giving Shiro a controlled smile, and turns away.

It hurts. At several points Shiro tries to make it known, tries to get through to Keith so maybe he will tell him where he messed up, but there's no reaction from Keith. He knows his mate isn’t done with him, that Keith doesn’t actually let him go from his side, but the lack of feedback leaves Shiro directionless.

They pass two days like that, Shiro hoping that respecting this boundary will yield him results, that maybe Keith just needs time and will once again warm to him.

But nothing changes and nothing changes and Shiro just can’t stand it. He’s all for patience and taking his time, but he can’t know where they’re going if his mate isn’t even looking at him. They share a nest and since that night Keith’s been distant, sleeping and staying on the other side. Shiro respects him, but he also figures after two horrible nights like that, he’s due some sort of explanation.

He waits until they get back to the den that evening, and then swiftly turns Keith around and pins him back against the door.

“Wha— Shiro!” It’s the first change in Keith’s tone in two days, and Shiro gets a certain amount of satisfaction from having shaken it out of him. Shiro holds his wrists, firm but careful. He looks Keith straight in the face and growls his displeasure.

“Let me go,” Keith orders.

Shiro tries to make the same sounds back, then puffs a breath of air in Keith’s face.

“Shiro!”

Shiro leans in then, telegraphing what he’s going to do, but Keith tilts his head away. Shiro nuzzles his ear instead and makes a sound as if to say, you want or you don’t?

Keith makes a growl of his own. “Yeah I get it, you’re annoyed.  Join the club!”

The anger is new. Shiro pulls back to look at it upon his mate, tilting his head curiosity.

“Oh, you want to know why! Even if I explained it to you, you can’t understand me!” He snipes these words at Shiro. “Every little thing with you is fucking butterflies, but you’re not you and this isn’t even real, and if I let it happen I’m worse than trash, and when I don’t you’re pissed or sad and I can’t even look at you because it just makes my heart hurt.”

He sucks in a breath then, his face a righteous fury. Shiro sinks his own anger, chirping sadly at Keith.

“Yeah,” Keith says, his shoulders slumping. “Yeah. So I know you’re trying to like… do this, but you don’t know any better. I have to be responsible for the two of us.”

Shiro leans closer to nose Keith’s cheek. He doesn’t understand what Keith’s mad about, but it seems to be winding down and Shiro wants to be there for him. Whatever it is, whatever needs to change, Shiro will do it. If Keith just needs to rail at him for all his prior shortcomings, then he’ll take that too. Anything, anything for Keith.

Keith’s head tilts just the slightest toward Shiro. There’s a strange tension, then Keith kisses him, chastely, on the cheek.  “Understand?”

Shiro’s eyes goes to his lips. They’re a little red like Keith’s been biting them.  Keith shakes his head.

Slowly, so slowly, Shiro leans in and kisses Keith’s cheek.

“Okay,” Keith says, his voice throaty. “And that’s the line.”

He flexes his wrists then and Shiro lets go of them. He doesn’t step away. He still needs direction from Keith. A kiss on the cheek is what? Shiro can’t tell if Keith just wants more time, or if this is a parting. It doesn’t feel like a parting, but Shiro’s heart is still thundering with the worry of it.

Keith’s hand comes up and cups his jaw then. It’s been days, and Shiro’s eyes just fall shut in bliss.

“You should be better soon, and I can do this. A little, and not any more.”

Keith takes his hand then and draws them into the room and into the nest. Shiro hasn’t had an opportunity to fix it up, but Keith doesn’t seem to mind. Keith, in fact, falls into the nest and then gathers Shiro up and hugs him tightly.

The rest of the tension just drains from Shiro. Keith’s arms banded around him are strong and warm and Shiro feels something thick in his throat about it. He hadn’t realized the last two days of distance had been so wearing, but he’s glad to have this now. Glad that Keith seems to have done what he needed to do.

They lie there for a long time just bundled together. It’s too early for sleep, but Shiro doesn’t have any issues with it. Usually Keith has them watch the flashing images when they come home, and although that had grown on Shiro, he much more prefers this.

Eventually they pull apart and Keith just starts petting him over and over again. Shiro, desperately needing every ounce of comfort his mate will give, snuggles closer, pressing his face into Keith’s belly where his scent is strong and lulling.

There’s a soft laugh from Keith and a dragging of nails carefully across Shiro’s scalp. “Okay you big puppy.”

It’s quiet for a long time after that. Shiro focuses only on the feeling of Keith petting him, breathing slow and deep lungfuls of Keith’s scent. He’s so happy for it he doesn’t even think of moving or pushing or wanting. How can he when Keith has given him so much? How can he when he is so, so lucky for all of this?

Eventually the lights begin to dim in the room as the evening wears away. Keith’s hands slow where they pet him, but Shiro doesn’t mind. Keith doesn’t make him move, and eventually his arms stretch out to rest against Shiro’s back.

Shiro’s been two nights without Keith in his arms, and he never wants to do it again.

He rumbles his love into Keith’s belly, and hopes and hopes and hopes.

Keith’s nails scratch once against his shoulder blades, slow and already half asleep. “Me too,” Keith mumbles.

They sleep.

Chapter Text

Shiro awakes the next morning with a headache to rival his worst drinking nights. Still, he feels weirdly clear and hyperaware of even the air pressing down on him.

He blinks his eyes open to the bright morning light, and—

He remembers.

 

Everything tumbles into his head too fast. The animal. The bite. He‘d gone to Keith and then— Allura. A doctor. He’d been poisoned.

And then days of muteness. Of acting like—

Shiro takes a desperate breath of air and takes in that spicy scent. It's a scent that he shouldn’t be able to still pick up on.

Keith.

They’re still in the… bedding, but they’ve shuffled around in the night and Keith is tucked up against him now, drooling against his shirt.

Holy fuck.

They—

Shiro has horribly embarrassing memories of himself invading Keith’s space, touching him. And Keith, wonderful Keith, keeping him at bay, chiding him, petting him when he didn’t understand why Keith was drawing boundaries.

He remembers the shower, the chocolate, the sparring. He remembers wanting, no, needing to court Keith. To give him food and shelter and safety. He remembers Keith holding his hand, petting his hair, the way they twined together and slept cuddled together.

He remembers Keith saying, every little thing with you is butterflies.

It flares hot all the way down Shiro’s spine, and he’s dizzy at the idea of it. The dozen of comments Keith made when he thought Shiro couldn't understand him pour into his head. Keith wants him. Wanted him even at his most ridiculous and crude. Keith had been patient and responsible in keeping their interactions mostly above board. Never once had he left Shiro, even when it was clearly painful to stay.

For an entire week Keith had taken care of him, sun up to sun down. And that was still only the tip of the iceberg of their friendship, only a tiny fraction of what this man has done for Shiro.

Everything Keith said and did over the last week piles up as irrefutable proof. It’s astonishing Shiro’s never come to the painfully obvious conclusion, how neither of them have.

But he finally gets it. The bone deep realization just settles inside him, more solid than anything else he's ever known.

They’re both—

The scent of Keith hooks him again, pulling his thoughts away. Shiro can tell the poison still lingers in his system, he can practically feel how it plucks at his higher brain functions. He’s processed enough not to lose himself as completely as before, but it’s certainly... distracting. His arms tighten around Keith.

Gorgeous, wonderful Keith is pressed up against him warm and soft and smelling like that. Shiro was a little hard just from waking up, but now his body begins to lean harder in that direction. His skin feels tight and hot, and he has a keen awareness of everywhere they’re touching. The memories run back through his head on loop, the gasping moan Keith had let out when Shiro had rolled on top of him. Keith had wanted it, had wanted it in scent and body and words. He’d responsibly pushed Shiro off because he had to.

Now though…

The moment the thought comes, Shiro is almost completely swept away by it. That animalistic thing in him rises up, spurned on by the poison and the idea that his mate is right here. Before, his mate had turned him away because they couldn’t communicate. Shiro can now.

He doesn’t realize what he’s doing until he’s tilted Keith back into the nest and propped himself above him. Immediately he presses his face into Keith’s throat, gorging himself on the scent.

It’s addicting to be so connected to his senses. Shiro’s skin is like fire where they're touching, his ears can pick up the slight shift in Keith’s breathing as he wakes. Shiro opens his mouth and licks Keith’s throat, tasting the salt of him. It’s a shade of that spicy scent, and Shiro wants to drown in it.

The poison won’t last, but for a moment Shiro wishes it would, that he could always experience Keith this intensely.

He grinds his hard cock into Keith’s belly, mouthing at his throat to wake him.

There’s a soft, pleasured sound. “Sh—?”

Shiro could speak, but he holds his tongue a second longer. He’s been teasing Keith for nearly a week, and something in him wants to draw it out just a bit more. The dark thing in his belly yearns to know first hand how much Keith wants him, and how good Keith is to then deny them both. A game of sweet and stinging teasing.

Shiro nibbles at his throat.

Keith’s hands come up to his shirt, a wanton cry falling from his mate's lips.

“Shiro, we can’t. Fuck. Mmm,” still Keith’s hips shift against his. His mate is hard.

Shiro nips and sucks, moving his hips with Keith’s. He drags his hands down the sides of Keith’s flank, stopping just at the band of his waist.

Okay,” it’s a gasp of breath and Keith’s hands lay on top of Shiro’s. Shiro can practically hear how his heart pounds, how wound up he is with just this little bit. It's intoxicating. “You can do this Keith. You have to,” still his head tilts to offer Shiro more of his throat when his kisses get down toward his collar. “It’s— wrong. Can’t— ah—“

Shiro bites down right where his neck and shoulder meet, and Keith moans and curls into him. His thighs come up on either side of Shiro’s hips and it slots them together obscenely.

“Shiro, Shiro no. Can’t.” The hands then grasp Shiro’s tightly and pry them off.

At that limit Shiro makes a crooning sound, and moves back to Keith’s ear to say softly, “why can’t we?”

Keith’s whole body stiffens. Before Shiro knows what’s hit him, he’s suddenly on his back with Keith on top, pinning him to the bed.

“You can speak!?”

Seeing his face again Shiro almost laughs. He looks adorably ruffled, hair messy and cheeks pinked, but mouth in a strict line. Those eyes are watching him intently.

“I can,” Shiro says with a small smile.

“You’re you?!”

“Yeah.”

Keith collapses down into him, shoving his hands under Shiro and hugging him tightly. It’s such an endearingly Keith move that Shiro’s heart sticks in his chest. He winds his arms around Keith.

“Sorry for worrying you,” he says into Keith’s hair.

Keith laughs then and it sounds like relief. “I’m just glad you’re okay.”

“You made sure of it, you took very good care of me.” Shiro expects the shift then, and holds tight even as Keith tries to pull back.

“O-oh! Shiro, about that—“

“I know,” he says to spare them both. “I remember everything.”

Keith’s body doesn’t move at all then. There’s a shallow breath of air against his ear. “Fuck, I’m sorry, I’m so—“

Shiro slackens his hold just enough for Keith to sit back. When the man tries to put space between them, Shiro catches his arms. He can see the devastation on Keith’s face. “No,” he says cutting off the needless apology. “Nothing you did requires apology,” and then because the root of their problem is so much deeper and Shiro seeks to get there as quick as possible, “Keith, I’m in love with you.”

Keith’s mouth had opened to argue, but this clears away the words. He looks stunned, and Shiro knows at once what a fool he’s been. He’s wasted so much time not seeing them for what they are, being to blinded in the war and the rebuilding and the work.

“I’m in love with you. This week was..." the words are cluttering and Shiro shakes his head to find something simpler. "I courted you because I want to court you. I wanted you because I want you.”

Keith’s still staring, wide eyed and open mouthed.

“You…?”

Shiro smiles then with every ounce of love he has for this man. “Yeah,” he says softly and takes a hand up to Keith’s cheek. “Every little thing with you is butterflies for me too.”

This shocks Keith out of his stupor and he tries to turn away, embarrassed. Shiro tilts his head back, unwilling to let them turn away from this any longer. Gently, so as not to spook, Shiro draws him back down.

“So you do remember,” Keith says, his breath puffing against Shiro’s cheek.

“I do.” He tilts Keith’s head and their lips are so close. He remembers how badly he’d wanted to kiss Keith, how Keith had looked at him and telegraphed the same. He wants it now more than anything else. “Can I kiss you?”

Keith’s answer is just a closing of the space between them. Shiro’s hand slips back to cup his neck as their lips meet.

It’s a swoop of bubbly feeling in Shiro, kissing Keith for the first time. He’s soft and warm, impossibly gentle against him.  They kiss, chaste little things between the two of them that suffuse Shiro’s whole body with light. That then rolls in him from warmth to heat. Shiro guides Keith further with his hand, tilting his head and—

Keith opens.

Shiro licks into his mouth with a slow control, meeting Keith’s tongue and sliding against it in a sensual movement. Keith makes some cut sound and Shiro feels as though he can taste it. It’s delicious and all he wants is more.

Between them the heat gathers and with it, the scent. Shiro kisses him deep, clawing at his own reigns to keep it slow. He explores, worships, hums chest-deep love sounds so that Keith can know. All the while that smell thickens.

He has a sudden fear of his own loss of sense.

Shiro pulls back promptly, dragging in a breath of air that only makes him feel more like a drowned man. Above him Keith looks equally as dazed, eyes hooded and lips red. Shiro’s hands, which have fallen to Keith’s waist, tighten.

“Keith,” he says, gravel in his throat. “I should warn you now that the poison is still in my system. It’s— I can still think, but uh…”

Keith blinks, some clarity coming back to his own face. He frowns. “So—“

It really is a testament to his own poisoning that for a moment Shiro doesn’t understand why this would upset Keith. Then, “wait! No! Doing that was not because of the poison. It’s not. I meant what I said before. With it or not, it’s you. It’s always been you.”

For this he gets an abrupt kiss from Keith, this one absolutely searing. Shiro’s hips shift under Keith, and he’s suddenly aware of how hard and wanting he is as Keith’s tongue slides into his mouth.

“It’s,” he gets the word out when Keith pulls back. “Just more like everything’s turned up. I want…” he squeezes at Keith’s hips. “But I think I could still lose myself. I just needed to tell you. Warn you.”

Keith’s head tilts to think this over. Then his hands are on Shiro’s chest, tracing idle patterns. “So you’re saying if we…”

His nails drag down and over one of Shiro’s nipples. The strike of sensation is astonishing, and his whole body jerks. Shiro inhales another breath of that cloying scent and feels woozy.

“Ah, I see.”

It takes Shiro a moment to get clear enough, but when he looks back up at Keith, the man is watching him avidly.

“We could stop,” Keith offers.

Shiro keeps his hands holding tight to Keith’s waist. “We could.”

They both watch each other, something fiery and challenging blooming between them. Shiro feels acutely that week of foreplay. In the state he’d been in, he hadn’t even thought to get himself off. It had been a right for his mate only, and Keith had put him off.

Now all of that is tangled up in his belly, undercutting all his higher thoughts. Surely they need to do a lot of talking about this, about the last week, but it’s so hard to focus on that now. Keith’s sitting astride him, boxers tented and completely flushed.

Shiro wants to devour him.

“Or…” Keith says, leading.

“You’d have to make sure I didn’t,” the push past your boundaries goes unsaid.

“I managed you just fine this week.” There’s a spark in Keith’s eyes now that bolsters Shiro’s confidence. Keith all week had been constrained by not knowing where Shiro stood, and now that he’s made it clear, the change in Keith’s demeanor is amazing. Keith even looks excited by the prospect.

And Shiro would be lying to himself if he said he didn’t want it too. He would be back to normal soon enough, but it had in some ways felt good to be that animal-brained. His thoughts had been simple and straight forward, the physicality of his existence had been pleasurable. He can’t even imagine how good it would be to actually be with Keith like that now.

He could just fall into Keith’s hands and languish in the sensations. He could finally feel that exquisite pleasure of having a mate.

“Is that a yes?” Keith asks then.

Shiro blinks out of his thoughts. “Getting good at reading me?”

Keith laughs, low and warm. “The week was certainly a crash course in it, that face of yours hid nothing.”

It’s a playful tease and Shiro tries not to feel embarrassed about it. He remembers how Keith had looked at him during all those moments, soft and amused.

“It’s a yes.”

Keith grins then, but it’s a wicked one. “Anything off the table?”

A kind offering that Shiro doesn’t need with Keith. He wants anything, everything. “No,” he says with solemn honesty, his eyes never leaving Keith’s.

Keith’s mouth opens and then shuts. Then, “I love you too, you know.”

Keith says it so low, as though still uncertain of its acceptance. The thought almost breaks Shiro’s heart.

He drags Keith back down for kiss to put all the others to shame. It’s hard, hot, and soaked in need. Keith makes a sound as Shiro plunders his mouth, and Shiro swallows it covetously. He lets go of his own reigns and throws himself into the headspace of feeling.

It’s amazing how quickly they move in sync. Shiro paws at him, licking into his mouth, sliding his tongue against Keith’s in a facsimile of fucking, and Keith follows as though he’s danced this with Shiro a hundred times. They kiss until they need breath, and then they break and Shiro starts once again on that delicate throat.

Keith absently grinds into him when he starts to suck bruises there.

“Shiro,” Keith’s hands clutch at his shoulder and waist.

Shiro hums against his skin. “You taste so good like this.”

There’s a sound of inquiry.

Shiro scrapes his teeth down. “It drove me crazy, the smell of you. I just—“ he takes his fill of it now, working lower as he licks and sucks it off Keith’s skin. Then the position stops working with Keith on top.

“You just?” Keith sound breathless already, his head tilted to offer Shiro more area.

He’s such a vision above Shiro, dark eyed and red mouthed, that Shiro is almost sorry to disrupt it. “I just,” he says, grabbing Keith’s waist and flipping them easily. Shiro props himself above Keith then, “I wanted you so badly,” he says, earnest and lovesick.

Keith blinks at him, an adorable crook to his mouth. “You have me.”

He kisses Keith at that, still shocked that he can, shocked that it’s so welcome.

This time when the kisses break off and Shiro gets to his throat, there’s much more opportunity. His hands slide down to the hem and Keith makes a sound, raising his arms. Shiro makes quick work of divesting them both of their shirts.

Then Shiro has his mouth on Keith’s collarbone, and his hands greedily mapping down Keith’s body.

“Fuck,” Keith gasps when Shiro gets to a nipple. Shiro licks it to peak and then sucks, riding the arch as Keith tries to get more.

A pleased rumble comes from Shiro’s throat. His mate is offering himself up, laid open on the sheets like the best thing Shiro has ever seen. Shiro kisses down his belly, practically vibrating with need. The scent of Keith is heavier every moment, luring him to where it’s thickest. He laps it up, letting it take him deeper each time.

By the time his mouth is at the last band of fabric, it’s difficult to get words. Shiro's fingers dip under the edges and he looks up and makes a sound.

Keith’s chest is heaving, but he tilts his head down to look. “Yeah,” he says to whatever is on Shiro’s face. “Please.”

Shiro drags the cloth down and casts it away.

Bare, Keith is a buffet for Shiro’s senses. His mate is hard, cock red and dripping filthily where it’s laid against his lower belly. The smell here is heaviest as Shiro knew it would be. He remembers that first night then, when he’d nuzzled in between Keith’s legs. It was a shade of what Shiro has now, offered willingly by a mate that wants him, and he shudders at the power of it. He licks down Keith’s belly, avoiding his cock but nuzzling at the dark pelt of hair. The spicy scent is overwhelming, and for once Shiro doesn’t hold back.

Keith cries out when Shiro noses down to between his legs. He pushes them apart and gets his mouth on Keith’s balls.

His mate says his name again wantonly, and Shiro takes it as the encouragement it is. He licks and sucks and nuzzles there, losing himself in the physicality of it. Keith’s legs come up around his ears and Shiro croons happily, swiping his tongue lower at his mate’s hole.

Keith’s body is electric at that first touch, crying out. Shiro pushes his hands beneath Keith’s ass and lifts, getting a better angle.

His mate calls his name, but it doesn’t sound urgent. Shiro licks again at that part of his mate, delighting in how the legs around him clench and then release.

It’s all so heady that Shiro doesn’t even try to hold himself back. He presses in, his tongue at the rim, teasing its way in. Keith pants and cries, hips almost grinding on Shiro’s tongue. The moment he gets inside Keith there’s a gorgeous sound, and Shiro can hear the sheering of bedsheets. Their nest is going to be in ruins by the time they’re finished. It pleases that dark thing inside him.

Instead of stopping then, Shiro becomes ravenous. He fucks his tongue into his mate’s hole, shifting his hands to hold Keith more securely. He makes it messy, keeping Keith's sweet little hole pressed to his mouth.

“Sh— I’m gonna— fuck,” Keith’s voice is low and desperate. There’s an edge to it that warns, and that excites Shiro.

He wants his mate to come like this, on his tongue. Shiro wants to please him over and over again, and as Keith’s moving now, it's as good a start as any. The smell of Keith swamps him pressed so close, and Shiro languishes in it, lets it incite him further.

Despite Keith’s squirming, it’s a slow build. Shiro’s only really touching him here, and he can tell Keith’s still got his hands in the bedding instead of on himself. Shiro likes it that way, that his mate is trusting him completely to bring him to pleasure. Shiro gets messier with it, fucking in and out of Keith's clenching hole, kissing and sucking. He listens to his mate’s cries, feels his body language as it waxes and wanes as Shiro eats him out. Slowly, so slowly it's nearly torturous, he builds Keith toward his finish.

As it nears Keith’s body is a tight line under his hands. The legs around him are tense, heels nearly digging into his side. Shiro uses it, staying as deep as he can, and follows the rising sounds of Keith’s pleasure.

“Oh,” Keith says a few seconds later, then, impossibly his body tightens further, clutching at Shiro's tongue. “Oh.”

The sound runs down Shiro’s spine like fire and he keeps fucking his tongue in, smearing wetness and sucking at him. Just a little more, a little further—

And then his mate makes a punched out sound, like all the air escapes him. He clenches tight on Shiro.

His mate comes.

Shiro can feel it even here, he tightens and pulses, making nonsense noises as the pleasure ripples through him. Shiro keeps at his fluttering hole, drinking it all in. It’s gorgeous, the feeling of his mate coming. It's the best kind of high.

When Keith begins to go lax in his hold, Shiro pulls back and carefully lowers him to the bedding. He wipes his mouth as he comes up.

Keith is a vision there in the nest. Eyes closed, mouth open as he gasps for air, Shiro takes it all in. He’s sweaty and spread out, more beautiful than anything Shiro’s ever seen. Across his belly is his own sticky, white spill.

Shiro’s eyes go to it. He’s still so hard, and he can’t help how he salivates over it. How long did he hope to have this one day? How much did he doubt it could be?

He crawls up Keith’s body and then lowers his mouth to the come, lapping it up.

There’s a loud breath and then Shiro can feel Keith’s eyes on him.

“You’re filthy,” it’s said like he likes it.

Shiro’s eyes flick up to meet his as he licks up the next bit. It’s salty but with that spiciness that is Keith.

“Fuck,” Keith says. Shiro agrees.

Shiro dedicates himself to the cleaning, giving them both time so that Keith can recuperate and Shiro can get some semblance of thought back. When he finishes under Keith’s watchful gaze, he licks his own lips. They stare at each other then.

Something in the back of Shiro’s head pings for his attention. A courtesy, a warning.

“Still with me?” Keith asks.

Shiro feels the urge to go to him. He wants to kiss that mouth once more, and begin to work them into another romp. But something makes him pause. He needs to…

Clean. His mate would like that.

Shiro grunts and then stumbles up off the bed. He’s hard and his body is awkward with the strip of clothing he’s still wearing, but Keith’s bathroom is close so he focuses on the task.

“Shiro?”

“Clean.” Shiro says, the language unwieldy in his mouth. There's something muffled from the bedroom, but Shiro can't catch it. It’s difficult to think still in the bathroom, but his hand reaches for something on the counter, and Shiro doesn't fight it. He rinses and then swishes his mouth with something minty. He does it twice more and then spits.

When he comes back into the room Keith laughs at him, but beckons him back to the bed fondly. “You’re so ridiculous,” he says as Shiro lays back down beside him. “I love you so much.”

Shiro kisses him.

They’re slow once more, the mood having shifted with the break. Shiro doesn’t mind. He cards his hand through Keith’s mane, kissing the minty taste away until he can get back the alluring one Keith has.

Keith’s hands trace over him while they kiss. They’re careful, intimate touches that spread the warmth back into Shiro’s limbs. His cock is a low-grade throb, but Shiro thinks he could stay like this forever. The room smells heavily of Keith and sex, and it soothes Shiro. Keith is here in their nest, kissing and touching him. Wanting him.

His mate.

Eventually he trails back to Keith’s throat.

“Really obsessed with my neck,” Keith says even as he tilts to give Shiro room.

Mate,” Shiro says. It’s the only word he thinks to summarize with.

Keith hums, petting his back as Shiro begins to nip at the darkened skin. “Yeah,” he says, “you drove me crazy too with this.”

Shiro sucks hard then and Keith makes a caught moan. “Ghh— going to mark me?”

The idea of it hits Shiro. He could mark his mate. Really mark him.

Then everyone would know Keith was his. They would know Keith was his, and no one else could have him. Not short girl with glasses, not that dark-skinned beauty. None of those people in the halls or rooms that looked at Keith with interest could have him.

Keith was his.

His mate.

Shiro nuzzles his throat with a whine. Keith catches his chin and pulls him back to a deep kiss. His taste is so good Shiro can't get enough.

“It’s what you want, isn’t it?” Keith breathes when they part. The electricity revs up between them, sharp. His mate's eyes are molten when he looks at Shiro. “You’ve been courting me to be your mate, hm? Then, I accept.”

It takes a moment for the words to unscramble in Shiro’s head.

I accept.

Shiro rolls back on top of Keith, arousal flinting to fire in his veins. Savagely he pushes down the cloth on his hips, near tearing it to get it off. There’s a low laugh from Keith, and then they both make sounds of pleasure as Shiro pressed back down on him bare. All of it between them, bare.

“I got this, while you were in the bathroom,” Keith offers him a small bottle. At Shiro’s dazed incomprehension Keith opens it and pours some out onto his own hand. Shiro lifts back up as Keith reaches down. He can’t quite see, but the implication of where Keith’s fingers go is clear.

Slick. Slick for—

Shiro’s had fuzzy imaginings of this, of being inside Keith, but he hadn’t been able to get farther than that. It had seemed too impossible. But here is his mate, offering all of himself.

Keith,” he grinds out the word, and Keith’s returning smile is dazzling.

Shiro takes the slick from him then, messily getting some on his own fingers before discarding the bottle. As he reaches down, batting Keith’s hand away, he kisses those smiling lips.

“You’re pretty cute like this,” Keith says between kisses. He gasps as Shiro’s fingers find his rim and touch. His legs widen to make more room. “And hot.”

Shiro makes a low sound and then pushes one finger in.

Keith tugs at him ineffectually then, eyes fluttering shut, expression lost. Shiro just presses in deeper.

It takes him little time to find where his mate is most sensitive. As soon as he touches it, Keith curls into him with a high cry. “There,” he gasps, “more.” Shiro can sense the urgency in his voice. He pulls back and pushes back in with two fingers.

“Shiro!” Keith’s hands are grabbing at him then, beginning to claw. Shiro takes in that change and wants. He’s seen his mate lost in that side of himself before, but it was done before in stress and anger. Shiro wants to see it now in pleasure. Wants his mate undone beneath him. He wants them to lose themselves together, so tangled up it’s impossible to tell where one starts and the other ends.

Shiro fucks in with two fingers, teasing at that spot inside Keith. He watches Keith’s body, taking kisses off his mouth as he winds him up.

His own arousal is near thundering. He’s held off so long, but still he makes it wait. Shiro knows once he lets go completely that it’ll be an unstoppable force. Before that he needs to make sure—

“Kei—” his tongue is clumsy in his mouth. Shiro pulls his fingers out, then takes them to his own cock to wipe the excess slick there.

Keith pants and then looks to see what the pause is. His eyes flicker to between Shiro legs, over his hard cock. “Yes,” Keith says, sliding back down on the sheets like honey. A hand beckons Shiro forward.

Shiro bunches the nesting beneath Keith to tilt him and gets himself proper between those legs. Keith wraps himself around Shiro’s hips and urges him closer. Shiro lowers down, inches from a Keith’s face.

Keith’s arms fall over his shoulders. “Shiro,” he mumbles, kissing Shiro’s ear. “Fuck me.

Then those hands really do claw across the back of Shiro’s neck, dragging lines of fire on his skin. The dark thing in Shiro’s belly leaps up, hungry at the taunting. A growl rumbles from his chest and his mate grins, teeth a little too sharp.

His mate is taunting him.

Shiro bares his own teeth then and shifts up to heft Keith's muscled thighs higher against his hips, forcing his mate to bend further. He watches in satisfaction as his mate’s expression folds to something much less smug. Shiro drinks it in, moving his cock to his mate’s wet hole. He pauses then just a moment to drop a kiss on Keith's inner knee. A small spot of tenderness against the building pyre. When he meets Keith's eyes, there's a delicious hunger there.

Shiro then pushes hard into his mate's heat.

The desire spirals immediately, pulling him deeper into it's depths. He drives his cock all the way in, tasting his mate cry on the air. Claws clutch at Shiro to keep him in, and so he stays, buried deep.

It’s a tight clutch around his cock, absolutely perfect. Because of course his mate is perfect. Lithe but strong, built to take everything Shiro can give him. They’ve come so far just to get here, in a nest, finally one.

Stars,” Keith’s head rolls back against the pillow, “that’s— you’ll just ruin me for anyone else, won’t you?” There’s a high strained laugh and then his mate relaxes fractionally. Shiro leans in to lick his cheek.

The thrust, when he finally moves, is slow. It’s the very last of Shiro’s patience. His mate feels amazing around him, and all Shiro wants to do is to rut him into the sheets until they're both ruined.

But then Keith’s words filter into something he can understand. The anyone else catches like a barb at the edges of Shiro's mind. Why would there be anyone else? How could there be, after this?

He snarls, seeing red.

The next thrust is animalistic and brutal, and Keith lets out a low wail. “No,” Shiro growls, nosing at Keith’s purpled throat. Keith is his. mate. HIS. Not anyone else's.

He fucks in again. Again. His teeth drag dangerously across the tender skin. “Mine,” he grits, pace ever quickening.

His mate, if anything, curls further into him with want. “Prove it,” Keith hisses between pushed out moans.

The challenge of his tone incites Shiro. He knows this well about his mate, knows that he must be conquered to prove that Shiro is worthy.

He will not fail.

In a moment he scoops Keith out of the sheets, hands sliding up the man’s back for leverage as Shiro hauls him savagely up onto his lap. The next drop onto his cock is devastatingly deeper, and in exactly the right spot.

Keith shrieks, claws raking Shiro’s shoulder as his spine dips back. It’s half a backbend, an attractive pose entirely supported by Shiro’s strength. Shiro grins viciously then and fucks him, controlling Keith’s body to keep the thrusts deep. Keith writhes in his hold, clutched tight on his cock with the pleasure scent just dripping off him. Shiro devours it all, eyes greedy on the slender body bouncing on his lap. Keith is his. His.

There’s only one thing left to make it so, and Shiro salivates at the idea of it. His mate’s neck is still on display to him, smeared in bruises.

Keith’s head tilts back toward him, eyes fluttering open. He looks hazy, but his yellow eyes stick on Shiro. Instead of a moan, his next cry is sharp and warbling. A mating cry. It sends an hot shiver down Shiro’s spine, awakening something in him. He leans in, teeth bared to take and—

There’s a dramatic shift then, the momentum thrown off, and then suddenly they’re sliding sideways and off the nest. It’s almost a tumble if not for the padded bedding and pillows that come with them. Shiro twists to protect, but he need not have bothered with how gentle the landing ends up being.

They’ve come apart in the fall, but in a moment his mate has shoved him onto his back, tearing away the bedding separating him from his prize. Keith is a fury to behold as he climbs up and drops back onto Shiro’s cock. He’s sweat drenched and wild, his yellow eyes glare hotly down at Shiro as he begins to move brutally on Shiro’s cock.

Claw tips prickle at Shiro’s shoulders, and his mate makes that sound again, the one that means—

After that it really is a tussle. Shiro tries to rise up to take control and Keith growls, pinning him down, his hips continuing in that sinuous, obscene fuck. He croons at Shiro, almost mocking as he displays his throat.

Shiro reads it for the challenge it is. He tries to rise again, but that Galra strength presses him down. His hips move down, a slick slide Shiro can hear clearly.

He takes in everything then quickly. Keith's working him dedicatedly to the edge, keeping him down and away from his neck. He watches Shiro with hot pleasure, lips quirked in taunt. Shiro knows his mate is pushing him, and he responds to that. He can't lose here, he can’t. He must prove himself.

He still has use of his hands, so he reaches for Keith’s hips. He uses that grip to fuck up into him, ruining that mesmerizing rhythm and dragging a moan from his mate’s lips. Shiro does it again and again, staying deep and angling for that spot. When he hits it Keith’s eyes flutter closed and his grip slackens. It's not much, but it will be enough.

On the next thrust Shiro shores his strength and flips them. His mate clues in too quick, and they come apart in a lewd sort of grappling. It reminds Shiro of sparring, and he grins widely with the thought of it.

He knows how he’s going to win.

Keith’s quick with his Galra instincts on full display, but that sharp mind has been dulled by Shiro's cock. When he comes for Shiro, Shiro performs the same move as in the gym, sliding right out from a hold, and Keith fumbles. Immediately Shiro pounces, pressing Keith down into the messy sheets, trapping his wrists to the ground tightly. He uses his weight to hold him arched beneath him. This time when Shiro presses forward, his cock slides against Keith’s slicked backside.

“Yield,” Shiro snarls, nose on the back of Keith’s neck. The scent is heady, threatening at any moment to subsume him. His mate breathes hard beneath him. There’s a systematic testing of Shiro’s hold then, and a following needy whine when he can't get free.

“Yield,” Shiro says again. The word is gravel in his throat, he can barely focus with how Keith feels so taut and hot, so ready to be taken the way he should be.

Then, magnificently, his mate yields.

Beneath him his mate folds, tipping his hips more alluringly up, and laying his cheek against the sheets to bare his throat. Something pleased croons in Shiro's throat. Tentatively, he removes one hand off Keith's wrist to reach back and angle his cock. His heart is thundering, body tight with anticipation. Keith doesn’t move, but makes that mating cry sound again. Shiro's cock throbs.

This time when Shiro mounts, it shatters something between them. Some barrier that had been holding him back falls away, and he buries himself to the sound of his mate's moan, full-bodied and sweet.

Their bodies move in harmony then, Keith pushing back as Shiro fucks him. Throaty noises keep falling out of his mate, and they drive Shiro to new peaks of pleasure. He folds himself across Keith’s back, losing everything else in the rhythm as they work, together, toward the end.

Shiro’s hands glide back to Keith’s, intertwining their fingers in the sheets. He snuffs at his mate’s neck, licking and kissing the spot to mark. Keith croons between low, abandoned moans. They’re feeding into each other now, coiled too tightly for anything else. It's amazing, perfect. Unlike anything—

Shiro opens his mouth and grazes his teeth against the skin. He fucks Keith like a mate should, slick and deep and taking his pleasure to it's conclusion. He wants— wants—

And then Keith is tightening beautifully, full body a sensual wave. A word tries to spill from his mouth, but even that is then overwhelmed. He comes on Shiro’s cock with a devastating sound of pleasure, sheering into Shiro's chest. Shiro couldn’t stop himself even if he wanted to—

He bites down on his mate’s throat. Hard.

The clutch on his cock pulses, and he fucks his mate through it. There's only the physical now, the absolute bliss of claiming his mate trundling over all else. Shiro comes to that not a second later, the iron and spice in his mouth, tightness milking his cock.

It’s like nothing else. The sweetness of his mate beneath him is better than anything else could ever be. The pleasure of it, the hard won victory, the sweet yielding. He nuzzles into the hot wetness on Keith’s throat, feels his come spilling into him.

His mate makes a humming, fucked-out sound. Gorgeous.

Slowly, carefully, they collapse down into the ruined nest.

##

Consciousness takes its time coming around. When it does Shiro blinks his eyes open, his whole body an overheated ache. Shiro looks down to find a messy spill of black hair tucked up under his chin.

Keith.

The grin that splits his mouth then is saccharine.

Like before, the memories are within easy reach. Shiro lets them fold over him, cataloging his arm wrapped tightly around Keith, his soft, warm breathing against Shiro’s neck. The bedding around them is destroyed, both shredded and smeared and—

They’re on the floor. He looks up at the bed and then around them again. It looks like a massacre happened. Complete with—

Blood. Keith. His neck.

A terrible fear and guilt swoops in then. Shiro rolls a little back from Keith, hand coming up to move his hair out of the way.

Keith groans when some of the strands stick to the blood. He swats at the hands, but Shiro’s already seen it. His throat is a horror, bloody and bruised. Shiro did that. He couldn’t control himself, he—

This time it’s Keith’s hands that catch him before he can pull away. “No,” Keith’s voice is rough. “Whatever it looks like, it’s not that bad.”

Shiro laughs a little wildly. “Keith, I—“

One of Keith’s hands slide up then to palm his back, and Shiro feels the wetness before Keith shows it to him. “And I clawed you too. Are you upset about that?”

Shiro doesn’t even recall when that happened. It’s a sting now that he’s tuned into it, but he can tell it’s nothing. It’s actually a little hot that Keith did that.

Went Galra.

Fuck.

He gets a little shiver just remembering it. He’s going to be remembering this one for a very, very long time.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Keith says, picking the thoughts right off his face. “Same for me.”

“But—“

Keith cuts him off with a kiss. “I know what I was asking for,” he says when he pulls back. “I wanted you to mark me.”

Shiro blinks at that equally stunned. His eyes drop again to Keith’s neck. He can’t believe it.

And then Keith is crawling over him and getting up. “Come, let’s get cleaned up and you’ll see.”

That’s an invitation impossible to ignore, especially seeing Keith, nude and dripping of him, swanning toward the bathroom. Shiro’s just had a romp to end all other romps, but watching that sway of Keith’s hips, knowing he’s full of Shiro's slick, marked as Shiro’s… well, it’s almost enough to rouse him again.

“Less staring, more standing,” Keith says.

Shiro scrambles up, obediently.

##

In the shower Keith lets Shiro pamper him. He affords Shiro just one unimpressed look at the careful attendance, then relinquishes himself to Shiro’s hands.

Shiro keeps him under the warm spray, taking soap first to his neck. The red washes away easily, and when Shiro leans in to inspect he does find there’s barely any breaking of the skin. Keith’s neck is certainly bruised, but the bite is just pricks, done in such a place to avoid all major injury areas.

“I told you,” Keith hums. “You don’t have the teeth for it.”

Shiro’s thumb hovers at the edge of it, a little dazed. Now that the danger has passed and Keith continues to indicate his pleasure at it, Shiro allows himself to experience a little pride. He remembers those final moments where they were joined and moving together. There had been clawing and biting and bleeding, but Shiro also remembers the strange intimacy of it. They’d been scored down to just their honest desire for each other, and it had been indescribable.

He’d come tasting Keith on his tongue, buried deep in him. He’d come knowing Keith had accepted him as his mate.

Shiro can’t connect with that instinct outside of the haze, but he remembers how final it had felt. It had been something stronger and more sure than what humans did. It had been like a marriage but… forever. The real sort of forever.

He flushes now to think of it in such terms, to think of Keith in such terms.

Because he knows now seeing that mark on Keith, that Keith is his. That what they have is it for him. Forever.

“I marked you,” he says softly.

Keith steps closer then, bringing their foreheads together. “You did,” he whispers, barely audible over the shower spray. His hands come up and loop over Shiro’s shoulders. “Mate,” he says.

The word is sparklers across Shiro’s skin. He’s not in that frame of mind, but still it gets to him. He likes it.

“Mate,” he says.

Keith tilts and kisses him then, so soft every other thought just falls by the wayside. They curl into each other, the hot water making it hard to breathe.

Or maybe that's Keith, kissing him smooth as silk. "Mate," Shiro says again, into the corner of his mouth.

Keith smiles, and his nails prickle across Shiro's own unblemished throat. It's an offer of reciprocity, a question that Shiro doesn't even have to think about. Shiro smiles, radiantly, and tilts his head. He bares his throat in return.