Keith knows he’s an idiot. He’s been tangentially aware of that fact for years, but it has never manifested itself in such an obvious way until this very moment.
It’s just— Adam’s been through so much already, and it really irks him to hear someone reducing all of his pain and accomplishments down to mean nothing in the face of his relationship status.
He’s standing outside of Adam’s hospital room, milkshake in hand, and it’s taking everything in him not to squeeze the poor cup to death before he has a chance to deliver it.
“Adam, lamb, this wedding has been postponed for five years already. How much longer are you going to make us wait? You know I don’t have much longer to live.”
Adam heaves a long-suffering sigh. Keith’s heart goes out to him, because he is acutely aware of how much patience Adam truly has, but he also know that Adam has been having this same conversation since he was recovered from the war camp and reunited with his family almost three weeks ago.
But now… Now it’s the perfect storm. Adam is supposed to be released tomorrow. Shiro is slammed with work and hasn’t been able to come by for a few days, and Keith has the rare afternoon off and is using it to bring Adam his one and only vice.
“Don’t say that, Bubbe.”
Adam’s grandmother scoffs. “How can I not? My only grandson doesn’t want his old grandmother to see him happy.”
And his grandma is on Keith’s last nerve.
Keith takes a deep breath, counts to five, and then plasters on a smile as he breezes in and makes himself comfortable at Adam’s bedside. Adam looks up and smiles in relief — something Keith’s seen him do too many times now, always while in the company of his nosy grandmother.
Keith pays her no attention as he presents the milkshake to Adam. “Thought you could use a pick-me-up today.”
Adam grabs for the shake and takes a giant sip, then sighs blissfully. “Amazing. I can’t believe you remembered. I can’t believe this place is still standing!”
“What’s that, lamb?” Adam’s grandmother demands. “What has this boy given you?”
“It’s a milkshake, Bubbe. Vanilla with cinnamon and crushed pecans.” He takes another big sip and gives Keith a small, grateful smile. “Thanks, Keith.”
Keith risks a glance over at Bubbe and sees her judgmental glare shifting back and forth between the two of them. He can’t parse the scrutinizing look she’s giving them both, but he can work with it.
He reaches over a lays a hand on Adam’s knee, letting his thumb stroke gently where it rests. “Any time,” he says. Then, just to make her think a little harder, he says, “I was thinking I could take you out tomorrow night since you’re finally getting out of here.”
Adam splits into a true grin. “Yeah? Where are we going? And please don’t say hoverbike racing. I know you love it, but that’s really you and Takashi’s thing—”
“What’s this about another man spending time with your husband?!” Bubbe wheezes. Adam’s eyes snap back to her, and Keith can physically see the self-control it takes to stop Adam’s eyes from rolling out of his head.
“He is not my husband, Bubbe. We aren’t even together. I’ve been trying to tell you, the wedding isn’t postponed, it’s off. Completely.”
Keith tries not to read too much into the sadness he can detect in Adam’s voice. It’s no secret that Adam and Shiro have been dancing around each other since he came back. Admittedly, it stings — it’s also no secret that Keith has been holding a torch for Shiro for half a decade — but before their breakup, Adam and Shiro had been good together, and Keith wouldn’t take the opportunity to get that back away from either of them.
“No,” he says. “Not hoverbike racing.” He forces a laugh to keep the conversation lighthearted. “Just something easy. Maybe dinner at a nice place and then a movie night? Like old times?”
He’s acutely aware of his hand still resting on Adam’s knee. He’s made even more aware when Adam seems to finally clue in to what’s going on. There’s a brief moment of intense eye-contact. Keith can practically hear Adam scolding him for trying to pull something like this, but Keith silently argues back with a look that says, Just go with it. I’m helping you!
Maybe he gets the message, or maybe he doesn’t, but one way or the other Adam somehow comes to the decision to agree with Keith’s plan. He lifts his free hand and sets it over Keith’s, which has stilled on Adam’s knee. Keith doesn’t look to see where Bubbe is looking. It would be too much of a dead giveaway to start gauging her reaction now.
“That sounds perfect,” Adam says, laying on the gooey tone and lovey eyes — and damn, no wonder Shiro fell for him so hard. “Thanks again for the milkshake, babe. I’ll see you later?”
It’s a clear dismissal, and although Keith truly had intended to spend his afternoon with Adam, he knows not to push it.
Besides, he’s just left Adam with a dumpster fire to put out with nothing but a squirt bottle.
”You unbelievable ass,” Adam tells him the next day when Keith and Shiro pick him up from the hospital. “My grandmother wants to get to know you now.”
Keith groans. “Why? Couldn’t you tell her we’re not that serious or something?”
Adam looks at him incredulously. “Have you met her? She’s already wondering when the new wedding will be!” He shakes his head and lets another rough sigh. “I appreciate the help, but now you’ll be stuck attending Saturday brunch for the rest of your life.”
Shiro says nothing, obviously baffled, as he glances back and forth between the two of them.
“You know Bubbe?” He asks Keith.
“Oh, yeah,” Keith says. “She’s been there a lot when I’ve gone to visit Adam for the past few weeks. Thinks very highly of you, apparently.”
A light pink blush creeps up Shiro’s neck and ears. “Ah, yeah. We got along back when we— when Adam and I were—” He clears his throat and tries again. “Back before Kerberos, I spent a lot of time with Adam’s family.”
Keith snorts. “Shiro, I knew you were dating. Did you think I didn’t? I was there when you broke up.”
He knows it’s the wrong thing to say as soon as he says it, but it’s too late to take it back. They’ve been Not Talking About It for the past three weeks, but now it’s out there: Adam and Shiro had broken up, and it hadn’t been pretty, and Keith had been there to witness the whole thing.
“No, I know,” Shiro mumbles.
Adam sighs again. He’s going to have frown lines at the ripe old age of thirty-one if he keeps it up. “It’s fine, Takashi. The past is the past.” To Keith, he says, “Bubbe and Takashi were close. I swear she loved him more than me. Maybe still does.”
It makes something inside Keith squirm a little to be reminded in excruciating detail how much history lies between Shiro — the love of Keith’s life — and the former love of Shiro’s life.
“But anyway, I guess that doesn’t really matter now, does it, Keith?”
Adam says it pointedly, and it makes Keith feel a little sheepish.
He knows he’s an idiot, okay? He just… hates when people mess with the people he cares for.
“So… what?” Shiro hedges. He looks fidgety like Keith rarely ever sees him. “She think you two are…?”
“Yeah,” Keith and Adam say together. Keith continues, “If you know her, you should know how she is, Shiro. She was acting like Adam’s personal life is a direct reflection on how much he loves her. I didn’t think about it, I just…”
He trails off, but Shiro is already nodding sagely. He sighs.
“Oh, Keith. You and your savior complex.”
Keith almost wants to be offended, but he knows that Shiro is right.
“Well, now that savior complex has gotten me into a relationship with your ex-boyfriend,” he deadpans.
He thinks Shiro will laugh at the utter ridiculousness of it — not just because of the objective situation, but because, subjectively, Keith knows that the idea of him and Adam together is probably the least feasible thing in the world. Adam is brilliant, talented, strong, and attractive, but even without all of that, he’s also older than him by a lot, already older than Shiro back before Kerberos and now even more because of the time differences experienced in space and on Earth. And even if not for that, he knows that he’s been a bit of nuisance to Adam for a very long time. There’s no situation in which someone like Adam could ever actually fall for someone like Keith. It’s even less likely than Shiro falling for Keith, which is already pretty solidly implanted in Keith’s “Never Gonna Happen” mental box.
But Shiro doesn’t laugh. For one horrible second, he’s not able to hold back the sour look that crosses his face, and Keith immediately feels that old self-consciousness and self-hatred bubble up inside himself. He can’t believe he could continue to go along with something that makes Shiro’s face look like that.
It makes sense, though, he guesses; it had taken some awkward conversations and fumbling get-together for Shiro and Adam to get to where they are now, and Shiro’s finally come back around to the idea of starting their relationship again. So of course he’d been irritated by his best friend getting in the way of that.
An unwelcome thought crosses Keith’s mind at that: what if, subconsciously, he had inserted himself between them to try to prolong the inevitable? Could he really be the kind of person to do that to the person he loves most in the universe? Maybe. It only makes the negative feelings swirl stronger.
“Relax, Takashi,” Adam says, and Keith realizes he must have been judging Shiro’s reaction, too. “It’s just pretend, and only when Bubbe is around. You won’t even noticed a thing.”
Shiro does his best to perk himself up, but all three of them know it’s fake. “You’re right,” he says. “There’s no reason this has to be weird.”
They make their way to the restaurant, all three of them, and enjoy a totally-not-awkward totally-not-date to celebrate Adam’s release.
As it turns out, both Adam and Keith both greatly underestimate Bubbe’s dedication to their budding romance. Before Keith knows it, he’s going to dinners twice a week and tea in the afternoons, and, as promised, Saturday brunch three Saturdays in a row. It’s probably more time that he’s spent with Adam than the entirety of their relationship at the Garrison.
Shiro has grown sulky. It hasn’t escaped Keith’s notice that Shiro suddenly has a lack of interest in hanging out with them at the same time. He’s not naïve — he knows that Shiro wants to spend some time alone with Adam to get reacquainted after a lot of time and heavy life events spent apart, and it’s not always easy to do that with a third person around… especially a third person whose feelings are apparently very obvious, as Adam tells him one afternoon after tea.
“Did you ever stop?” He asks, seemingly out of the blue. Keith doesn’t immediately understand, so Adam elaborates, “Having feelings for Takashi. Is this something new since coming back to Earth, or have you had them this whole time?”
He’s massively uncomfortable with the questioning, though he supposes its fair. Adam should know what he’s getting into if he and Shiro decide to make this official after Adam and Keith’s eventual “breakup.”
He doesn’t say anything at first, unsure how to say, “I always have and I probably always will,” but Adam must understand anyway, because he just hums and nods.
“I worried about that,” he says. “You know, I’ve been talking to him quite a bit since everything calmed down…” He trails off, obviously trying to tread lightly. Keith’s heart drops into his gut. He’s known this conversation was coming, but he’d been hoping it would be a while longer before he had to face the reality of it.
“I know,” he says. Then, because it feels necessary, he adds, “Don’t worry about me. I’ve always known it wasn’t an option for me. I’ll be fine.”
He needs Adam to know that he’s not delusional. That he doesn’t expect anything from Shiro, or feel like Shiro owes him anything, or that he’s competing for Shiro’s affection in any way.
Adam hums again, thoughtful. “I see.”
Keith doesn’t really understand what he sees. The answer should have been obvious, the way Keith’s poorly-concealed emotions are.
Soon after, Bubbe becomes even nosier than before, if at all possible. She’s already learned about the majority of Keith’s life, including everything there is to know about his dead father and his previously-absentee mother (except for the part that she’s an alien — he’d decided to tell her that they’d “reunited in space” but left out the part about how she belongs to the race that enslaved her grandson, the one he’s supposed to be in love with). She’s ground more details about his life out of him than he thinks any person should reasonably know, which of course means that Adam has begun to learn about Keith, too.
And in turn, Keith learns about Adam.
Much of what Keith learns is a shock. He’s known Adam for years — even before Keith was kicked out, he and Adam had gotten to know each other for the almost three years he was at the Garrison, and somehow, they’d kept enough distance between themselves for Keith not to know big parts of Adam’s life.
“Why didn’t you ever tell me that you were in foster care?” Keith asks. It’s a rare night that Shiro has agreed to see them both together, so Keith’s next question is directed at him. “Why did you ever mention it?”
Shiro shrugs. “I didn’t think about it, I guess.”
Keith looks over at Adam. A weird realization overcomes him, and it makes Keith feel… weird. It’s the knowledge that there’s something Keith and Adam share now that Shiro doesn’t understand.
Adam explains, “It was only for about two years. My parents died when I was fourteen, and at the time my grandmother was too sick to take me in. She was in a twenty-four-hour care facility, so it wasn’t an option for me to stay with her. Eventually she was able to leave, and about six months later was deemed well enough to take care of me. So I went back to live with family.” He pauses, making eye contact with Keith that feels deeper than anything they’ve experienced together before. “It was a hard two years, coming to terms with never seeing my parents again and being forced to move in with families I didn’t know who weren’t always the nicest people. I got lucky with my third home and was able to stay there most of the time, but the first two homes were bad.”
He doesn’t need to say what was bad about them; Keith can guess. He still has trust issues hung up on his experiences in foster care.
Shiro is looking at Adam now, too, with an expression of concern and wonder on his face.
“You never told me any of that,” he says. It’s not accusing, it’s just further acknowledgment that Shiro will never fully understand this thing that they share.
“It’s heavy stuff,” Adam says with a shrug. “When we first got together, it wasn’t something I was comfortable sharing. Then things got really good, and it wasn’t baggage I wanted to bring into a great relationship. And then things were… not so good, and at that point it didn’t seem important anymore.”
Shiro nods. “So why now?”
“Well,” Adam hedges, “I guess it finally seems relevant.”
Because it’s relevant to me, Keith thinks.
“Sometimes I wonder if I should have tried to talk to you more, back then,” Adam says. “I wonder if it would have been better for you to know that there was someone there who understood.”
Keith blinks. It probably would have, though there’s no point in dwelling on what-ifs.
“So what was stopping you?”
Adam laughs. “You were the other man. I was always competing with you for Takashi’s attention. I didn’t need more reason for you to hang around.”
“Hey!” Shiro’s face looks like it matches how Keith’s feels. “That’s not true. We spent lots of time together.”
Adam waves him off. “We did. But at the time, it felt like someone coming in and hijacking my precious boyfriend’s time.” He laughs again. “You tease Keith for his hero complex, but have you ever looked in a mirror?”
Keith nudges Shiro in the ribs. “He’s right, you do have a habit of picking up strays. Remember the rabbit?”
“You don’t have to bring up the rabbit,” Shiro mutters petulantly.
“The rabbit!” Adam exclaims. “Oh, I’d almost forgotten about that. Thanks for reminding me.” He’s grinning wider than Keith can ever remember seeing. It’s nice, both because Adam deserves to be happy and because it shows off how handsome he truly is.
“Guys,” Shiro groans. “Come on, I really loved that rabbit.” He’s full on pouting now.
Keith puts a hand on his leg and squeezes, both teasing and comforting. “We know, Shiro. We know.”
“Sadly, the rabbit didn’t share Keith’s undying loyalty and commitment to your happiness.”
Now Shiro’s ears are bright red, though Keith can hardly imagine why. It’s maybe a little embarrassing for Keith, but only because he knows he can be intense, but why should Shiro be embarrassed?
He squeezes Shiro’s knee again. “It’s okay, Shiro, I’m sure the rabbit loved you too. It just needed to run free.” He gives Shiro a teasing little smile and receives something soft and heart-fluttering in return.
Keith pulls his hand away and makes an excuse to get up and stretch his legs. There’s not far for him to go— they’re in Adam’s quarters, having stayed to hang out after Bubbe dropped them off (she does that— walks them both back to Adam’s quarters and waits until they’re settled before she leaves, as if she wants to make sure they’re still spending time together), and the walking space is limited.
He’s getting a glass of water when there’s a knock on the door. All conversation stops.
“Who’s that?” Shiro asks.
He exchanges a look with Keith, and then Adam, and then Adam with Keith. It’s late, and aside from the two of them, Adam doesn’t really have any more friends.
Keith goes to the door because he’s closest. When it whooshes open, he has to actively suppress a groan. It’s Bubbe, armed with what looks like a knit blanket and a pair of slippers.
“They changed the locks on my doors!” She announces. “I went to dinner with my girlfriends and we got to talking, you know how it is.” She shuffles inside and sets the blanket on the counter, then begins riffling through Adam’s cabinets. “So I had a glass of wine, which of course went straight to my head, my old age, an old woman like me should not be drinking wine. Let that be a lesson to you,” she says with her head stuck in a low cabinet. “Wine is a young person’s game. Enjoy it while you can.”
Eventually she comes out with what looks like the world’s most ancient teapot and places it on the counter, then goes riffling around some more. “So I called a cab to take me home, and I walked up to the door and the locks were changed! The key wouldn’t even go in, wouldn’t you know it.”
Oh, wouldn’t you know it, Keith thinks. How the hell did Shiro ever survive a relationship with both Adam and his grandmother?
Adam finally gets his wits together and stalks into the kitchen area. “Bubbe, what are you doing? It’s late, you should be home.”
She pulls her head out of yet another cabinet and turns to him. “Haven’t you been listening? They changed the locks! They locked an old woman out of her own home!”
Keith can practically feel Adam’s eye twitch. “Who, Bubbe? Who changed the locks? Why would someone do that?”
She shrugs. “Who knows? The world isn’t the same as it used to be, lamb! Let that be a lesson, too!”
“What are you looking for?”
Finally, finally she turns around, and Keith watches as she spies Shiro sitting on the couch where Adam had just been.
“What in God’s good name is he doing here so late? What’s the meaning of this? Is the wedding back on?”
And, hell if that doesn’t hurt, that she would ask that question with so much hope while Keith is standing right there, fake relationship or not.
He has no idea what his face must be showing, but whatever it is, Adam sees it, and it makes him mad.
“No,” he snaps. “It is not, and I would appreciate you never asking me that question again. Keith and I are very happy together. He doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.”
To add further insult, Adam’s grandmother actually scoffs. “Please, I know you two have been playing pretend. I can see it in your eyes. I don’t know why you’re doing it, but you’re not fooling anyone.”
Something flashes in Adam’s eyes, and the next thing he knows, Keith has two strong arms wrapped around him and he’s up close and personal with Adam.
Quietly, so quietly that Keith barely hears him, Adam asks, “This okay?”
Keith nods as minutely as possible and swallows. His heart is pounding. He’s never been this close to anyone but Shiro before, and even then, it’s never been like this. He can feel Adam’s breath puffing across his lips. He can see little gold flakes in Adam’s eyes that he’s never noticed before. He smell the faint lingering scent of Adam’s cologne, all but gone after an entire day.
But it’s not an unwelcome feeling. It would have been nice, Keith thinks, to have his first kiss with Shiro, but he’s known for as long as he’s known Shiro that a kiss has never been on the table.
Then, suddenly, Adam is kissing him. And boy, does it feel nice.
Although he doesn’t have anything to compare it to, it feels like a really good kiss. Maybe it’s the way one of Adam’s hands has crawled up his back to tangle in his hair. Maybe it’s the long line of contact between them, chest to hips, where Adam is firmly holding him close. Or maybe it’s the soft way they come apart after the first kiss, and Adam kisses him again, gently, and it doesn’t feel like it’s all for show.
“Whoa,” Keith breathes. It was… whoa.
“Yeah?” Adam mumbles, still close enough to feel the ghost of his lips. Keith nods, causing their noses to bump.
Keith opens his eyes and Adam smirks just a little, just enough that Keith knows he must look nearly as flustered as he feels. He doesn’t know what he expected from a first kiss, especially with someone very much Not Shiro, but, wow, it was nice.
A disgruntled “hmph” snaps Keith out of his daze long enough to remember that there are other people in the room.
“You have a pullout sofa?” Bubbe asks Adam.
Adam nods. “I’ll sleep on the sofa, Bubbe. You take my bed. Come on, I’ll change the sheets.”
If Keith hadn’t gotten to know Adam so well recently, he might mistake his calm for indifference, but he can tell now by the way the back of his neck has darkened and the hand not leading his grandmother is shoved into his pocket that he’s only playing cool. It does something to Keith to think that kissing him could fluster anyone, but especially someone as unflappable as Adam.
From the couch, Shiro says, “I think I’ll just take off.”
He looks upset. Suddenly, Keith is crashing down from Cloud Nine, hitting every branch on the way down.
“Tell Adam I’ll talk to him later, okay?” He stands to leave, hesitating only for a moment when it seems like he’s going to say something else, but then chooses not to say whatever is on his mind and starts toward the door.
“Keith, I’m fine. I’m just a little tired. A hot shower and my own bed are really calling my name.”
Just as he says it, Adam comes back from helping his grandmother change the sheets on his bed.
“So, um,” he says. “She expects you to stay…” It’s directed at Keith, and he realizes with horrible clarity what’s about to happen. “I’d say you could just come back in the morning, but she wakes up at like four every day, so…”
“So…” Keith echoes.
Shiro tries to hide his sigh, but Keith sees it anyway. He looks utterly defeated. Keith has never wanted to punch an old woman so badly.
“Do you need any help getting the couch set up?” Shiro asks like the gentleman he is.
Keith can’t speak, so he just drops his gaze and shakes his head. It’s Adam who responds, “It’s fine, Takashi. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. I’m sorry our evening was cut short.”
“It’s fine,” he says. “See you tomorrow.” And then he’s gone, and Keith feels a bit like a homewrecker, standing in best friend’s boyfriend’s (ex-boyfriend, he reminds himself) kitchen.
Adam waits a few beats after the door whooshes shut behind Shiro before he comes up and puts a finger under Keith’s chin.
“Are you okay?” He asks.
Keith swallows and nods. He knows he’s transparent.
Adam sighs. “It’s okay, Keith. We can call this whole thing off. I’ll just tell her she was right about us, that I lied to protect her feelings about my former engagement, and that I don’t want to lie to her anymore.”
“Is that how you really feel?” Keith asks, looking up into Adam’s eyes. Adam just shrugs.
“I don’t really care, I guess. She knows we’re lying, but at this point I’m in it to out-stubborn her. But if it’s going too far, really, Keith, we don’t need to do this anymore.”
But, well, if anyone knows anything about being stubborn, it’s Keith. It’s not like getting closer with Adam has been terrible. Actually, it’s been amazing; for the first time since Shiro, Keith feels seen and understood for who he is. Sure, it started out as a game, and it still is, but Keith would lying if he said it didn’t have some unexpectedly pleasant side effects.
Except, of course, for the way it’s affected his relationship with Shiro.
“Shiro seemed upset tonight.” It’s a non-answer and he knows it, but he also trusts Adam to understand what he means.
Adam’s hand falls to his shoulder, solid and warm, so similar to how it feels when Shiro does it but not quite the same.
“He’s always been the jealous type,” Adam answers. “But he doesn’t have any reason to worry, does he?”
If Keith had ever doubted how this would end, he doesn’t doubt it anymore. He shakes his head.
“Exactly.” Adam gives his shoulder a squeeze and steps away. “Come on, help me make up the pullout.”
Keith wakes slowly, fading in and out of consciousness, enveloped in the warmth surrounding him. He burrows into it, nuzzling his face against the firm pillow beneath his cheek. He allows himself to drift off once again. It’s cozy, and nice, and he doesn’t think anything about his situation until the warmth nuzzles back.
Keith freezes when he finally realizes the position he’s in. He’s wrapped up in Adam’s arms, head resting on Adam’s chest, and he feels Adam hug him close as he wiggles closer.
Adam drags one eye open to look at Keith before placing a kiss on the crown of his head.
“Morning,” Keith mumbles, relaxing again. He feels warm inside and out. Here, like this, it doesn’t feel like putting on a show. It feels like waking up in the arms of someone who knows him, who truly cares for him, and Keith thinks in some other life, he could really get used to this.
Keith’s eyes fly open at the unwelcome sound. His face flames — he hadn’t realized they had an audience. He feels more than hears Adam sigh above him.
“Good morning, Bubbe.”
Bubbe is standing above them, eyes assessing, with her blanket once again bundled in her arms.
“I made breakfast, but it got cold,” she accuses.
Adam ignores the comment and sits up. “Did you sleep well?”
“It was fine,” she says. “My locks are fixed.”
Adam huffs and exchanges a quick look with Keith. “Is that so?”
“Yes. Turns out, my key still works. I’m going home.”
“Okay,” Adam agrees quickly. “I’m glad it worked out.”
Bubbe glares at them again wordlessly. She sweeps her eyes across the two of them, both sitting up now but clearly sleep rumpled, having woken up wrapped up together.
“Yes,” she agrees, and to Keith it sounds a little ominous. “Well, I’ll go, then. Don’t get up on my account.”
Before Adam can finish throwing his legs over the side of the bed to see her out, she’s sweeping out the door. Keith has never seen such an old woman move so fast.
Adam watches the door close, probably trying to decide if he needs to chase her down, then ultimately makes up his mind to come back and sit on the edge of the pullout. He leans on his knees and lets the silence wash over them. It gives Keith too much time to think about the night he’s just spent and the way he feels now.
The next night, he stands in front of his own bed, in his own room, procrastinating. It should feel comforting being back in his own space — hell, his bed is a thousand times more comfortable than Adam’s creaky sofa bed — yet he only feels dread faced with the prospect of falling asleep and waking up alone.
He’s tired in so many ways, but mostly, he’s tired of being by himself. He has Shiro, of course, and he will always have Shiro, but not in the way that he wishes for late at night, when his thoughts are harder to control and his imagination runs wild with fantasies that he doesn’t dare acknowledge in the light of day.
But something has cracked inside him now, and he’s tired, and looking at his stupid empty bed just isn’t working for him.
Keith turns and makes his way to the couch in his living area instead, turning on the TV and plopping down to make himself comfortable there instead. He’ll make it to bed eventually, just… not yet. Besides, it’s not even that late.
He’s watching some stupid late night programming, not even bothering to channel surf to find something good, when it hits him. Before he can even think about what he’s doing, he’s sending a text to the only person who’s ever been able to make him feel better: Can I come over?
He’s getting up to head over to Shiro’s rooms, not even waiting for an answer because he knows what the answer will be, when his door whooshes open.
“Shiro,” Keith says, surprised.
“I was already out,” Shiro sheepishly explains. His expression grows concerned. “Is everything okay?”
Keith hesitates for a moment before saying anything. He doesn’t even know exactly what he wants to say, just that he doesn’t have the energy to put on a brave face anymore.
He wilts, allowing himself to lean into Shiro, and whispers, “I don’t want to be alone anymore.”
“Oh, Keith.” Shiro wraps his arms around Keith and holds him close, rubbing his back and nuzzling into his hair. “You’re not alone. You have the paladins, and Adam. You know he’ll be there for whatever you need. And you have me. You’ll always have me.”
Not always, Keith thinks before he can stop himself. Maybe that’s not fair to Shiro, but Keith knows; eventually, Shiro will have someone else, a real partner, and his relationship with Keith will have to change.
For now, though, he’ll take whatever he can get.
“Do you want me to stay?” Shiro asks.
Keith nods mutely into his shoulder.
“Okay,” Shiro murmurs. “Of course I’ll stay.”
Together they move to the bed. Keith crawls in first, safe against the wall, and Shiro crawls in after him. Already, the bed feels warmer, cozier, less daunting than before. When Shiro scoots closer and wraps him up in his big, strong arms, Keith falls asleep quickly. It’s the best night’s sleep he’s had since… well, the night before, and that had been the best night’s sleep he’s had ever.
It’s almost torture waking up with Shiro after that night. In fact, it’s almost torture in the weeks after when he seems to be in some sort of casually intimate relationship with both Shiro and Adam, and at some point, Adam’s grandmother had stopped coming around. It’s torture because he can’t for the life of him figure out what he’s supposed to feel.
He knows he’s in love with Shiro — he’s known that for nearly as long as he’s known Shiro — but his feelings for Adam are more confusing. Is it okay to feel his heart flutter when Adam pulls him close? To feel shy and vulnerable when Adam confides in him late at night, or pleasantly flustered when Adam kisses his temple?
Is it okay to feel all of those things when he already loves someone else?
Is it even okay to participate in those things when he knows that Adam and Shiro were at some point heading toward reconciliation, and now it seems like that’s been put aside? Is it okay to let Adam flirtatiously play with his fingers at lunch, and then sleep curled up next to Shiro at night?
If it’s torture, it’s the absolute sweetest kind, but it’s still torture. He’s more confused than he’s ever been, and it’s covered in a heavy layer of guilt for coming between two people and for maybe possibly doing something that resembles cheating on both of them, or at least feels like it, even if he’s not in a relationship with either of them.
Truthfully, Keith has just been waiting for one or both of them to get sick of him altogether, but that has yet to happen. In fact, he’s spending more time with both of them. Recently, he’s even started spending more time with both of them together again, though it isn’t like it had been before he and Adam had started “dating.”
It’s on one of the days that they all have lunch together that it begins to come to a head.
Adam has his hand on Keith’s thigh under the table, tracing little circles on it with his pointer finger. It’s low-key enough that it doesn’t draw the attention of onlookers, but he knows that Shiro has noticed. He knows this because Shiro has been white knuckling his fork since he noticed, and the smirk Adam is shooting his way isn’t helping.
It’s not exactly a new reaction. Since this whole thing started, Shiro has been getting more and more… well, jealous, though Keith still can’t figure what he really has to be jealous about. He and Adam don’t need to put on a show for Adam’s grandmother anymore, but it’s still not real. Mostly Adam teases him and gets extra affectionate with him when Shiro is around — sure, it’s happened a couple of times in private, but since that first kiss, it hasn’t gotten any more intimate than the occasional kiss to Keith’s hair or some cuddling and hand-holding during movie nights. But Shiro’s been getting more and more tense, and Keith knows Adam has noticed, but he doesn’t let up. And in a way, it’s kind of fucked up, because Keith has grown used to the feeling of being cared for and wanted, and it’s sort of starting to feel like he’s just being used so that Shiro will finally stake his claim on Adam and make a move.
Keith doesn’t know if he can take being a pawn in this weird game that they’re playing for much longer.
“The mashed potatoes aren’t as lumpy today,” Adam remarks mildly. He’s really not doing anything, just sitting there with his hand on Keith’s leg, but Shiro won’t look at him.
Shiro hums noncommittally.
Keith can feel himself tensing. It’s weird. It feels weird today, and he can’t figure why today is any different from any other day, but today he feels weird and tense and like he’s being stretched too thin. The last couple of months have been really nice for him, but really bizarre for the two others involved, and he’s always known it couldn’t last forever. He feels it in his gut today: something is about to change.
“Broccoli’s mushy, though.”
Shiro huffs. “Broccoli’s always mushy.”
Keith looks down at the mushy broccoli on his own plate. Why are they even talking about this? The broccoli has been mushy for as long as Keith can remember.
Adam’s hand moves a little closer to the inside of Keith’s thigh. It makes his heart lurch and his dick twitch. He wantshim, god, he wants Adam, and he doesn’t know how the fuck that happened or how to deal with it.
Keith looks up at Shiro, then, who’s looking back at him with his signature concerned expression, and Keith’s heart does another little acrobatic flip. He’s always reacted that way when faced with Shiro’s care for him, but now, with Adam touching him and Shiro reaching over the table to brush his fingers across the back of his hand, it feels like way too much.
“Are you feeling okay?”
In the midst of his growing panic, he realizes he hasn’t touched his food in too long. “I’m not hungry,” he mumbles, and sets down his fork, which has been hovering above the slightly-less-lumpy mashed potatoes.
From beside him, he hears Adam. “Keith?” The hand has stilled on his thigh. Shiro’s fingers are still brushing his own hand. His eyes are locked with Shiro’s, and he can’t bring himself to look away. He wants Shiro so badly, wishes it was Shiro touching him like that, casually dropping kisses on his head and face, twining their fingers together when there’s nothing else to do with them.
But he also wants it to be Adam. He can’t imagine this stopping now that he has it. Shiro is the love of his life, but Adam… well, Adam gets him. He gets him, too, because Shiro also gets him, but it’s different. He’s grown into his feelings for Adam completely by accident, stemmed from a relationship that began completely differently, but they don’t feel any less real than the ones that have been blossoming inside him for Shiro for so many years. Newer, yes, but still very, very real.
“Hey.” Shiro’s fingers touch him with a little more purpose, like Shiro is trying to get his attention, and he probably is, but Keith can’t think of anything except that this is going to be over so soon, and then he’ll have to watch them together again and now it’ll be a thousand times worse because he wants both of them and he can’t have either.
He stands, because he can’t think of anything else to do, and there’s no reason to sit in a crowded mess hall when the elastic holding him together is reaching its breaking point.
“I’m not hungry,” he says again, and then he picks up his tray, drops it at the designated tray spot, and walks out.
There are plenty of Blade missions he could take. His mom and Kolivan have been okay with him hanging out here for a while since the war ended, but he knows there will always be space for him there. Maybe he can just go off planet for a little while. Take some time for himself. Help some planets rebuild, spend some time with his mom, give his heart some time to remember what it’s like to be alone.
In a little while, he’ll have to leave the comfort of his quarters and go back to work, but for now, he can spend some time checking logs and catching up on Blade news. He’d call his mom, but he knows that she’s still away for a couple more days, and there’s nothing she can do for him right now in regards to finding something for him to do. He wouldn’t mind talking to her anyway, but he doesn’t want to bother her with more of his boy drama — she got enough of that on the space whale.
He sighs, pulling his legs up onto the couch and resting his chin on his knees while he scrolls with one hand. The TV is droning on in the background, just the news, which he already saw earlier that morning and only has on to help drown out the silence.
He’ll probably have to go back to sleeping by himself, soon. It’s been indescribably good sleeping wrapped up in Shiro’s arms; it’s something he never dared dream of before. But there’s only so long he can expect Shiro to give without receiving anything in return, and Keith knows that’s exactly what this is. He stays because Keith is pathetic and lonely without him, but he’ll survive. Shiro will have Adam again, the familiar embrace of someone he’s actually chosen (twice), and there’s no space for Keith there.
Movie knights will be weird for Keith now, if they continue at all. He wants them to, he really does, but he may have to skip a few. Though that will probably be easy when he’s off planet. He thinks about what might have happened to his old stuffed hippo. He hadn’t been able to find it when he got back to Earth, so it’s probably gone for good. His heart twangs unpleasantly at the thought. Maybe he’ll get a new hippo. Or maybe he can bring Kosmo back with him when he gets done with whatever Blade work he’s going to do, and Kosmo can come to movie nights, too, and Keith can cuddle up with him on the floor.
He’s being pathetic, he knows he is, but he’s in the safety of his own quarters, in his own mind, and no one can judge him if no one can read his thoughts.
There’s a mission coming up a few days after his mom is due back that maybe they could take together. That would give him time to put in for leave and maybe get things settled between Shiro and Adam before he takes off.
He hasn’t put in for the mission yet, but he has the leave forms pulled up on his pad. He’s mulling it over, just starting at it, not quite committed to leaving when the two men he’s been avoiding come knocking. He knows it has to be them because literally no one else knocks on his door — not the mention the fact that he just got up and walked away without saying anything like some kind of weirdo.
He sighs and sets his pad aside. “Come in,” he calls, and braces himself.
“Hey,” Shiro says. Adam stays quiet. “What, um.” He looks nervous, rubbing at his undercut with his flesh hand. “What happened back there?”
Keith shifts uncomfortably. He appreciates that they gave him a little bit of time to himself, but he’d really thought he could put this conversation off for a while longer.
“Just wasn’t feeling well,” he says. It’s bullshit and they all know it.
“Keith. Come on.”
Shiro speaks sternly, but he’s just concerned. It seems like he’s always concerned these days. All Keith does is worry him, and then steal his warmth and comfort at night.
They come and take a seat on either side of him. Shiro wraps an arm around his shoulder and rubs up and down his arms. It’s soothing, and Keith lets himself lean into it.
He can see Adam fidgeting beside him. He knows Shiro is letting him take his time; he’s prodded enough, and now it’s Keith’s turn to be honest and explain himself. And he would, maybe, except that he really doesn’t know what to say.
Adam takes a breath and lets it out. A few seconds pass, and then he asks, “Is it me?”
Keith turns to look at him. He looks so vulnerable and insecure, like he really believes he’s done something wrong, and Keith can’t stand it.
“What? No. Why would you think that?”
“It seems like I’ve been making you uncomfortable with all of my, um, attention.”
He shoots a glance over at Shiro, which Keith catches. Oh. So Adam is definitely still aware of Keith’s eternal love for Shiro.
“Oh, no,” he murmurs. “Of course not. It’s just, um.” He stops, unsure of how to continue.
Shiro’s arm stills. Keith feels Shiro about to pull away as Shiro asks, “Is it… Is it me? Have I been coming on too strong?”
Keith whirls on Shiro before he can even make sense of that sentence. Just… what?
Shiro blinks. “What?”
Adam heaves a long-suffering sigh next to them. “Oh my god,” he mutters. “That figures.”
They both turn on him with what Keith can only assume are matching expressions of incredulity. Adam looks between the two of them. Keith doesn’t know what he’s looking for, but when he finds it, he rolls his eyes and pushes his hand through his hair, ruffling his usually neat coif. He puts his face in his hands and rests his elbows on his knees, and he doesn’t even bother clueing either of them in on whatever idiocy he has discovered.
“Adam?” Shiro finally prompts.
Adam sighs again. “You two… I can’t believe I didn’t see this from a mile away.”
Keith can almost see the vein threatening to pop out of Shiro’s forehead. This is something he remembers from when Adam and Shiro were together before the Kerberos mission — Shiro has always hated this vague speak.
“Takashi,” he says. It’s his no-nonsense tone. It’s how Keith knows he’s been missing something big. “You never told him?”
Keith watches as Shiro’s face slowly pinks — starting on his neck, creeping up around his ears, and then spilling across his outrageously high cheekbones.
“Told me what?”
Adam doesn’t speak, just pointedly looks at Shiro as if to say you better.
“Well, I just didn’t think it was really pertinent, Adam.” And oh, that was pointed, and Keith wonders what the fuck he’s missing now.
“You’re an idiot if you really believe that.”
Keith looks back and forth between the two of them, frustration mounting. “What are you guys talking about?”
Adam looks hard at Shiro again. “Takashi.”
It hits him then, with unmistakable clarity. How stupid can he be? He’s been bracing himself for this exact outcome all this time, and when it’s right in front of his face, he’s somehow missed it.
“Oh,” he says. He tries not to sound as miserable as he feels, because truly, he’s happy for his friends, even at the expense of his own feelings. He’s not sure he succeeds. “You’re getting back together, right?”
They both break their staring contest to bring their attention back to Keith.
“What—” Shiro starts. “Well, we had talked about it a while back, but—”
“It’s fine, Shiro.” Keith does his best to offer a sincere smile. “I’m happy for you guys.”
Adam looks like he’s going to strangle someone. “Takashi,” he hisses.
Shiro just looks confused. He points between Keith and Adam. “But you two… you have feelings for each other.” He says it with so much certainty, Keith believes it for a second, and his stomach flutters with the idea of Adam returning his feelings.
The elation leaves just as quickly as it came.
Keith knows he looks and sounds as awkward as he feels when he says, “No, um, you don’t have anything to worry about. Adam definitely doesn’t feel that way about me.”
“Oh, I do,” Adam says. “But you still love Takashi. That’s always been clear.”
Keith’s heart hammers in his chest. He never intended to tell Shiro how he feels, not after the first time when they never talked about it.
“Clear to who?” Shiro demands, incredulous.
Adam groans. “Oh my god.”
Shiro turns to Keith, then, a warm hand coming to rest on Keith’s knee. Shiro’s eyes are imploring, and Keith feels like he’s looking directly into his soul. It’s both incredible to have Shiro’s attention so singularly focused on him, and terrifying to feel so seen.
“Keith? Is that true?”
Keith nods. What else can he do? He loves Shiro. He loves him. And he can never, ever lie to him.
“Oh,” Shiro breathes. “But—” His eyes dart over to Adam. “What about Adam?”
Keith’s stomach sinks, but it’s nothing he hadn’t expected. “I told you, I’m happy for you guys. You both deserve happiness.”
Shiro pauses for a moment, then shakes his head. “That’s not— Keith, I’ve seen you two together these past couple of months. It’s obvious that you, um, really care about each other.”
“Keith?” It’s Adam who asks this time. He looks vulnerable again, and it’s only then that Keith finally registers that Adam has already admitted his feelings for Keith. “It’s really okay if you don’t. I won’t stand in the way. I just want you to know that… I’ve grown really fond of you. You’re an amazing man, Keith. Anyone would be lucky to have you.”
“I— I do, of course I do,” Keith replies, entirely too tender and he knows it. “There’s so much more to you than people know. Of course I do.”
He shares a smile with Adam. He’s happy, but he’s also sad, because he doesn’t know what this means for any of them.
He turns to look back at Shiro, who is once again pink up to the ears.
“Me, too. Just so you know. I, um. I love you, too. I have for a long time.”
Keith can’t believe this is happening. It’s the best and worst case scenario. He has two incredible men to choose between, and two and a half minutes ago, he thought he’d be watching them run off into the sunset together.
He’s not sure what his face is doing, but it must be doing something funny, because both Adam and Shiro share an amused look. Objectively, there is absolutely nothing funny going on at all. Keith’s heart is so torn, and if anyone had asked him before this moment who he would choose, his answer would be Shiro in a heartbeat. Shiro, a million times over. Shiro for the rest of his life.
But now he has Adam two consider. Because he loves Shiro, truly, but there are some parts of himself that Adam just understands in a way that Shiro never will. There’s something to be said for shared trauma and getting through tough times together, but he shares those with both of them now, and although he came to love them for different reasons, it’s impossible to think about leaving either one of them behind.
“You know,” Adam says when the silence has stretched on for slightly too long. “You were right that Takashi and I were considering getting back together. My feelings haven’t changed, and I don’t think his have, either.” He looks to Shiro for confirmation, and Shiro nods for him to continue. “But we both really care for you, Keith. We both want to be with you. And it sounds like you might want to be with both of us, too?”
It comes out like a question, a little unsure, giving away Adam’s nervousness that he’s been hiding so well so far.
“Yeah,” Keith breathes. “I can’t imagine my life without either one of you.”
“So, then, maybe… why not give this a try? All three of us, together?”
Keith balks. “Can we do that?”
Shiro shrugs. He looks pink and flustered, but not upset, so that’s definitely something. “Why not? We both love you, Keith. And you feel the same way about both of us. Why choose? It might be hard, but we can make this work. I know we can.”
Keith doesn’t know anything about relationships, but he knows his own heart, and he knows these two men. They’ve all been through hell and back, individually and for each other. If anyone could make this work, through love or through stubborn force of will or some combination of both, it’s the three of them.
“Yes,” he agrees. His heart soars. He feels dizzy from the euphoria. “Yes, I want that. I want you both. Please, yes.”
Shiro grins. Adam puts an arm around Keith’s shoulder and gives him a squeeze. Keith has never been happier.
“Let’s do this,” Shiro says.
“Let’s do it,” Adam agrees.
Keith has visions of a future more full of love than he has ever dared imagine.