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Retroactive Brilliance

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Keith was out of ideas.  None of his extremely subtle hints seemed to be landing; he had to try a different tack.

The source of all knowledge—or at least more knowledge than anybody had any right to have—sounded like a good place to start.

“Hey, Pidge,” he said.  “What does Shiro like?”

Pidge neither glanced up from the screen nor stopped typing for a second.  “Why don’t you ask him?”

“It’s…” Keith groped around in his brain for a way to explain this situation that did not involve saying the words I feel like ‘Hi, Shiro, I’m trying to seduce you, any suggestions?’ would be a little too straightforward for this sort of thing to his genius sort-of-sibling-friend.  “…kind of a surprise.”

“Oh,” Pidge said, still without looking up.  “For his birthday?  Um, I think he needs eyeliner.”

Two threads of possibility connected and went ping in Keith’s brain.  “He likes makeup?”

That actually pulled Pidge’s attention away from the laptop for a whole quarter of a second, which was apparently how long it took to raise a dubious eyebrow.  “Have you ever seen him before in your life?”

“Of course I have,” Keith said.  He did not say Kind of too much, actually, because once he’s walked past you in the hallway with just a towel around his waist, apparently you’re never going to be able to think about anything except licking his abs ever again.  “Y’know, here and there.”  And just about everywhere, ’cause Lance came skidding around the corner out of nowhere, and he was so surprised he dropped the towel.

“Okay,” Pidge said in a tone that made it pretty clear that this was the natural end of the conversation, and it was going to get super awkward if Keith tried to carry it any further.

“Cool,” he said, which it was not.  “Thanks.”

“Sure thing,” Pidge said.  The reflection of the screen in the glasses lenses displayed a somewhat frightening amount of threatening-looking symbology Keith didn’t recognize, so maybe it was a good time to make his escape.

He had work to do, anyway.

He crouched down to get to the level of his next assistants.

“Hey,” he said to the mice.  “Can you do me a favor?”

The mice looked at each other—in every permutation, which took a couple of seconds—and then up at him.  Slowly, they all nodded in unison.

“Thanks,” he said.  “It’s… I guess it’s kind of weird.”

They all had a distinctly interested gleam in their eyes.

It took him four tries and the majority of an hour, and he was pretty sure these weren’t the right colors, but it would have been extremely rude to ask the mice to go back and borrow more of Allura’s things after they’d been so nice to him in the first place, so he did his best to work with what he had.  Probably that was going to count for something on its own, right?  Right.  People always said ‘It’s the thought that counts,’ and right now Keith had both the thought and a valiant attempt.  Now all that remained was executing the final stage of this brilliant plan.

Maybe brilliant as a bit steep.  Whatever.  If it worked, it would become brilliant retroactively.  He was pretty sure that was what brilliance was, when you got down to it.

His instinct was to pull his jacket up over his head so that the shadow would at least half-hide him if anyone else happened along, but the risk of running into Shiro first and ruining this was too great, so he left it where it was and tried to force his shoulders to relax.  This was fine.  Everything was fine.  He was about to be retroactively brilliant, as soon as he reached Shiro’s door.

One upshot to having a giant castle inhabited by a grand total of seven people and four rodents was that you almost never ran into anybody else in the hallways—except for Lance, who had a tendency to be everywhere and underfoot at the least-convenient possible times, but Keith had deliberately planned this for the early morning in the hopes of reducing the odds of that.

Well.  Early-space-morning.  Early-morning-by-the-clocks-despite-the-uniform-void-outside.  Conceptual-morning.  Relative-morning.  Whatever it was.  He tried not to think about that too much.

He released a deep breath he hadn’t noticed he was holding onto when Shiro’s bedroom door came into sight.  This was it.  All of this anticipation; far, far too many hours spent thanking some sort of benevolent universal presence for Shiro’s pecs—

He knocked.


He knocked again, louder.


He knocked again, louder still, and faster, and with perhaps the slightest edge of panic.

Still silence.

Oh… quiznak.

He weighed his options, trying to talk himself down before he broke into a cold sweat, since that would probably make all of his hard work run.

Maybe… maybe Shiro had just popped out to go grab a bite of one of food-like items that lurked in the kitchen, and he’d be back any second now.  Yeah.  Any second.

Keith leaned against the doorframe, folded his arms, crossed his legs at the ankle, and tried to look as nonchalant as humanly possible.  Bulletproof.

He just had to wait a couple of… seconds.  A handful of seconds.  Possibly a few handfuls.  Possibly enough handfuls to fill a substantive container, but that was really okay; he was patient, and this was worth it, and the thing that he had put on his mouth only tingled a little bit.  Maybe that hadn’t been meant for his mouth.  Was it supposed to do that?  Mice weren’t psychologically capable of pranking people, were they?

Footsteps in the hall made him tense up from scalp to toes, inclusive of everything in between.  If it was Lance, this was probably the last precious moment of his un-humiliated existence, so he should savor it, but—

A familiar, practically unreal shoulder-to-waist ratio slash ambulatory drool-magnet turned the corner.  Relief flooded Keith’s vital systems, which was good practice, since it would prepare them for the other endorphins he was hoping to send through them soon.

Shiro paused in mid-stride, and his eyebrows did a fascinating little undulatory thing.  He looked at Keith, and then at his bedroom door, and then at Keith again, and then at his right hand for some reason, and then at the door, and then at Keith.

“Hi, Keith,” he said.  “Is everything… okay?”

Oh, crap.  He’d been so focused on the physical presentation that he hadn’t planned out any of his dialogue.

“Oh,” he said, as sultrily as possible, trying to roll his shoulders against the doorframe without falling over.  “Yeah.  Definitely.  Y’know.”


Shiro looked down at his right hand again.  He flexed the fingers.  Was it—was that a reality-check thing?  Did he remember himself, or dream about himself, with two arms in flesh and blood, so he knew that if he could see his Galra hand, whatever was happening was real?

Keith wanted to say something about that.  Keith wanted to say a lot of things about that.  But Shiro was walking towards him, and he was still half-draped across the doorway, which was about to be a problem.

“Sorry,” Shiro said.  “You look really comfortable, but—can I get i…” His eyes narrowed.  Which was hot.  Shiro’s existence was definitive proof that the universe could, occasionally, be a generous place.  “What happened to your face?”

“Oh… this?”  Keith wanted to flip his hair over his shoulder with one hand like he’d seen people do in commercials, but it wasn’t quite long enough, so he just sort of batted at it a little bit.  “Do you like it?”

“It looks—good,” Shiro said.  So did he, even though he was doing something weird with his mouth.  “But you always look good.  You don’t need…” He gestured towards Keith’s handiwork.  “…whatever… that… is.”


That changed the topography of the playing field quite a lot.

“Really?” Keith asked.  “I mean… I thought—you like makeup, don’t you?”

“Uh,” Shiro said.  “Sure.  In… moder… you know what, never mind.  Do you want some help getting that off?”

“I’d rather get something else off,” Keith said.

Shiro blinked.  “You mean… your… jacket, maybe?”  He looked around the hall and then fanned at himself with his hand.  “It is a little warm in here today.”

“It wasn’t until you got here,” Keith said.

Shiro blinked again.  He raised his right arm and smiled, slightly bitterly, as he pointed at it.  “I do seem to make the climate-control systems go haywire sometimes.”


Keith despaired.

At least if he couldn’t get Shiro to strip naked and embark on a marathon horizontal-tango session with him, having his face touched a lot sounded like a pretty good consolation prize.

“You know,” he said, “I think I do need some help with…” He pointed at his face.  “Whatever this is.”

“No problem,” Shiro said brightly.  Keith tried to shuffle out of the way to let Shiro go through the door first, but Shiro touched the small of his back instead to usher him through, and that… well, that wasn’t half-bad, either.  “Allura gave me the best makeup wipes; they’re aloe-scented.”

“I didn’t know aloe was Altean,” Keith said, because that was about the most intelligent thing his brain could muster with Shiro’s fingertips grazing his spine.

“Neither did I,” Shiro said.  “The universe still has a couple of mysteries left for us, I guess.  Here, c’mon.”

Funny thing about plans was, sometimes they worked out pretty well, even if it wasn’t at all in the way you expected.