Actions

Work Header

Kindergarten

Chapter Text

Shiro, despite his rather intimidating appearance and the prominent scar across his nose, was quite popular with children. It puzzled him, along with most others he greeted upon their first meeting. He was tall and noticeably muscled, and had a high-functioning prosthetic arm, two physical features of which didn’t usually appeal to young children.

“I bet it’s your shoulders,” Allura had said, when Shiro mentioned it, “they’re perfect for climbing.”

He’d laughed it off, but the children at Altea Kindergarten did quite enjoy using him and his broad shoulders as a climbing gym. From the first day he was hired by Allura – the owner’s daughter – he’d been a real hit among all the kids. They listened to him during lessons and he was their first choice of companion for play time. When it came to excursions or outings, they often squabbled over who got to hold his hands, and he had so many paintings and strange paddle-pop creations gifted to him that there was no more room for them on his desk or the surrounding walls.

“I’m jealous,” Allura said, as she’d watched him try to find space for a new, glitter-covered painting. “The kids just love you.”

Shiro laughed, bashful. “Well, I’m glad they do,” he said. He glanced at his metal hand, and flexed it. The joints were remarkably silent and it moved just as realistically as a flesh hand, but he could feel the difference. “I hadn’t thought they would.”

“Come now,” Allura replied, grinning that charming grin of hers that said she knew exactly why Shiro was so flustered, “what’s not to adore?”

He laughed. “I’m sure they still think I’m part robot.”

For what it was worth, Shiro loved being around the children, too. He’d always been the leader type, always been capable of taking charge and making decisions. Somehow, he’d never expected to love being in the childcare industry as much as he actually did, but he wouldn’t change it for the world. Working with children was enlightening and always lifted his spirits, even if it could be a stressful and demanding job. After the accident from which he’d lost his arm, this job was a miracle. If he were being honest, he hadn’t thought he’d ever be able to find a job again, though realistically he knew it was quite possible – and it had been.

Like most respectable adults, Shiro didn’t play favourites with the kids, but there were some that flocked to him more insistently than others. Little Pidge, with all his tinkering toys, and Hunk, with a big smile and an orange band tied around his forehead, for example. Those two were rather sweet, and he enjoyed spending time with them a lot.

There were two others, as well. They were just as sweet in their own ways, except they were a bit more… rambunctious. Shiro would even say they were downright mischievous and argumentative, even for young children. Keith and Lance just loved to fight! He didn’t understand it at all, but those two got on like cats and dogs. They were both good kids, sure, but man could they be a real handful.

Lance started it most of the time. He was very competitive, and quite forward. He liked to think that he and Keith were rivals, like they were out of some big blockbuster action movie. Everything he did, if it involved Keith, became a competition.

Keith was a pretty withdrawn kid, so Shiro hadn’t expected him to ever rise to Lance’s bait, but oh how he did. It was ridiculous. Somehow, when Lance was around, Keith could get just as fired up.

Take that morning, for example. During the break between lessons, Shiro had set up the painting tables. Plastic containers full of paint, thin paper and thick-bristled brushes sat neatly on six small tables for the kids to play with, if they wanted to. Most sat down and shared the equipment without argument, and it started off as quite a pleasant experience. Started off as being the operative words.

Pidge, Hunk, Keith and Lance all sat down around a table together. Hunk was painting something sweet and yellow, and it seemed like Pidge had gone straight into drawing schematics for some sort of machine, though it looked nothing like any schematics Shiro had ever seen. Keith took to painting like a fish took to land, but he tried.

Lance wanted Keith’s paint. After watching Keith draw for a while, Lance abruptly huffed, and reached over to dip his brush into the red Keith had hoarded. Shiro didn’t think that Keith minded at all until he did the same and his brush came back tainted blue – from Lance’s. And then world war seven hundred and forty-two erupted.

“Now, now,” Shiro said, hovering around the table, “put the paintbrush down, Lance.”

“It’s Keif’s fault!” Lance complained, scowling furiously. He could get quite pouty for a four year old.

“You can’t even pronounce my name right!” Keith argued. “You messed up the paint.”

“You didn’t share it!”

“You didn’t ask!”

“I did so!”

“Did not!”

“Shiro!” They both shouted.

Shiro pressed a hand to the bridge of his nose. “You two really should try to get along a bit better,” he said. “Lance, I don’t believe you asked Keith to borrow his paint, so apologise. And Keith, you shouldn’t say mean things to your friend. Lance wait, what are you- Lance!”

A thick splatter of paint flew across the table and landed on Keith’s jacket. Keith let out a disgusted grunt, and immediately lobbed one back at Lance.

“That’s enough,” Shiro said firmly, bending down to pull the paints out of Keith and Lance’s hands. He could see Pidge was getting a mischievous glint in his eyes, and if a paint war started then he’d never hear the end of it from Allura. She would remind him, for the hundredth time, that three paint wars was more than enough. To stop them from starting number four, he bent down and lifted Lance out of his seat. “Come on, let’s clean up. No more fighting.”

Lance squirmed for a moment, but didn’t put up much of an argument. Keith insistently reached for Shiro’s hand, only content when he was being given the same amount of attention as Lance.

Really, did everything have to be a competition?

“I secretly think they like each other,” Allura chuckled as she watched Shiro dab the paint out of Keith’s jacket. “They’re great friends, don’t you think?”

“I don’t know,” Shiro said, sighing. He’d put Keith and Lance in a corner and set them to organising the crayons and pencils back into their appropriate boxes. “They argue a lot.”

“A sign of a strong friendship!” Allura exclaimed. “Here, pass me Lance’s jacket, I’ll give you a hand.”

Shiro passed over the jacket. “I don’t know how to make them get along better,” he sighed. “I’m sure they could be great friends, but they’re just so competitive.”

Allura smiled a little. She had a very pretty smile, Shiro thought. One that could light up an entire room with only the smallest effort. “I think they’re fine,” she said, glancing over her shoulder once. “Whatever you’re doing, it’s working.”

He followed her gaze. Lance was bent over the back of Keith’s chair, his arm reached down to help Keith sort out the crayons faster. It seemed like he’d already completed his own pile, but he hadn’t left the table, even though he could of.

Shiro smiled a little. It was nice to see them getting along, even if it was just when they thought no one was looking. “They’re good kids,” he said.

“You’ve said that before.”

“I’d say it again, too.”

Allura laughed, and held up Lance’s jacket. It was completely spotless, and after nodding to herself, she set it to dry on the drying rack. “Do you want me to do Keith’s as well?”

Shiro glanced down at his own work, and sighed. He couldn’t tell if he’d made the paint stains worse, but they certainly weren’t any better. Reluctantly, he handed it over. “Please.”

She took the jacket, and set to work on cleaning up the stain. “I’ll have to teach you how to clean paint stains properly one day,” she said teasingly.

Shiro flushed. He always got stupidly flustered around Allura when she was relaxed and teasing like that. Usually she was quite responsible, and very focused on her job. He liked that side of her, of course, but this one was quite likeable, as well.

When Allura was done, she handed Shiro the wet jacket and went on her way. Shiro was so distracted by the sway of her long hair and the warm smiles she gave the children that rushed to greet her than he didn’t notice Keith and Lance coming up behind him.

“Do you like Miss Allura?” Keith asked.

“N-no, I do not,” Shiro answered, flustered, as he hung up the jacket. “Did you finish your job?”

“Don’t change the subject,” Lance said, giggling. “You like Miss Allura! Doesn’t he, K- Keith?”

Keith grinned. “Shiro likes Miss Allura!”

“Huh?” Hunk glanced up from across the room, and turned to Pidge, who was calmly continued his schematics. “Does Mr Shiro like Miss Allura, Pidge?”

“Of course he does,” Pidge said, without looking up. “Didn’t you know?”

“Huh?”

“I do not like Allura!” Shiro cried. A room full of curious eyes shot over to him, including those of Allura, who just grinned, looking oddly smug. Shiro burned red and ducked behind the sink, trying to resist the urge to hide his face in his hands. He’d never been more embarrassed and he blamed Keith and Lance.

Both children grinned. “Totally knew it,” Lance said, before he grabbed a hold of Keith’s hand. “Come on, let’s go play with the planes! I want to be the blue one again.”

“I’m the red one,” Keith said, his eyes locked on Lance as Lance paraded him across the room.

Shiro let out a longsuffering sigh. Between the children’s cheeky behaviour and Allura’s never ending, knowing looks, he’d never get any peace!

And yet, when he thought about it, he’d never want it to change.

Chapter Text

When Shiro was a kid, he could remember being quite apprehensive about storms. His father would take him out onto the front porch when one hit, and when thunder would clap, they’d both scream until their voices were hoarse. Somehow, confronting his discomfort like that had eased it, and he’d never been particularly bothered by storms again.

Of course, that didn’t mean he couldn’t understand when other children were. Storms didn’t often come while he was at work, but when they did it always promised a tense afternoon. Most children could be distracted with a movie, or an unusually sweet treat passed around on pieces of paper towel. During storms, Shiro and his co-workers were always more careful around the children, always more perceptive and watchful.

Shiro’s little band of followers were some of those who feared storms. Pidge wasn’t fussed, and was usually easily distracted by Shiro’s phone or a book. Keith didn’t like to admit that he got startled by the loud weather, but he did. Hunk and Lance were downright terrified.

Sometimes, when the storm was bad enough, Shiro would cancel their afternoon lesson and let the kids have free time instead. That often worked to soothe their worries over the noise outside the building – he’d put a movie on, and spread out a bunch of toys and books from the rewards chest that the kids got to go through when they’d done something well, and he’d be set for the afternoon. Sometimes, however, it didn’t work.

One afternoon, there was a storm bad enough that the lights started to flicker. Most of the kids were playing with toys or doing crafts with Allura, but some were curled up on the beanbags in the recreation room with a movie on. Shiro was supervising them – he’d been convinced (dragged) to sit on the beanbags too, and had his little quartet of kids sprawled out across his lap or legs, taking up most of his personal space and occasionally elbowing him in the ribs, though he didn’t complain.

“Shiro,” Lance said, tugging on Shiro’s shirt a little, “how much longer is it going to storm outside?”

“It’s really loud,” Hunk whimpered, flinching when another boom of thunder rumbled through the entire building.

Shiro put his hand – his normal hand – on top of Lance’s head to ruffle his hair. “Don’t worry about it,” he said soothingly. “We’re safe in here.”

“The storm isn’t strong enough to break a building,” Pidge said helpfully from where he was leaning against Shiro’s legs, his eyes firmly fixed on the television. “Just a few trees or something.”

“Trees?” Keith repeated incredulously. He was sitting on the same side as Lance, pressed against Shiro’s side. “Shiro, is that gonna happen? What if a tree falls on us?”

Shiro gave Pidge an unimpressed look. “A tree won’t fall on us,” he said. “You’ll be alright, so don’t worry, yeah? It’s just a bit of rain.”

Lance frowned. His eyebrows had puckered in worry, a look he didn’t often wear. His fingers were digging into Shiro’s arm. “Are you sure?” He asked.

“If Shiro says it, then it must be true,” Keith said, staring at Lance. He had a strange look in his eyes, one that Shiro thought might be something protective. “Do you want a drink? I’m going to go get water.”

“Okay,” Lance mumbled, sinking further into the beanbag. Shiro rubbed his back comfortingly, and watched as Keith wandered over to the water dispenser by the small kitchenette the building had. He was surprised that Keith wasn’t teasing Lance over his fear, but it was very mature of him that he wasn’t. Even when Keith returned with water for the both of them he didn’t say anything.

Sighing, Shiro settled back into the beanbag. Even if it was quite cold outside, he was pleasantly warm, and rather comfortable. Being buried under a pile of squirming kids wasn’t as bad as he’d thought it would be.

Eventually, with the noise of the television in the background, the kids fell asleep. Pidge remained awake, keen to watch the movie, but the others didn’t. Hunk was slumped over the other end of the beanbag, curled up behind Pidge’s back. Keith and Lance were facing each other, with Lance tucked under Shiro’s arm – he still hadn’t let go of it, and Shiro was reluctant to disturb him, so he let it be. Strangely enough, Lance’s other hand was curled tightly around Keith’s.

“You look comfortable,” Allura remarked as she peered into the recreation room. She looked pleased. “Need anything?”

Shiro flushed, and shook his head. “I think we’re good.”

Chapter Text

In the spacious yard behind the Altea Kindergarten building, there was a sandpit. It was pretty large, and they usually kept it covered with a tarp so that nothing got in the sand when it wasn’t in use. They didn’t uncover it often, mostly because sand tended to get everywhere when children were involved, but during the summers they did.

The kids loved the sandpit. They carried over plastic buckets full of water to make sandcastles and loved to play around with the matching spades, digging holes as far down as they could during the time that the sandpit was open.

Shiro’s little gang were no exception. Pidge always created the best structures out of sand, and Hunk was quite good at helping him. They made a really good team when it came to sandcastle contests. Keith and Lance, however, did not. Just like with everything else, they argued like it was going out of fashion. Shiro had never known two children to ever have a dynamic like theirs.

First they argued over who got to have the bucket when making the sandcastles – it was beside the point that there were enough buckets for everyone, because they each wanted one specific bucket. Then they argued over what to build, where to build it, and who built it better. Really, it gave Shiro head spins.

Eventually, he found them each a separate bucket and shovel. “Here, have these,” he said, handing them over. Red for Keith, blue for Lance. That usually did the trick. “Why don’t you help Pidge build his city, hmm? That will look good.”

They’d glanced at each other when he’d suggested that, and thankfully complied. Of course, he hadn’t taken into account Pidge’s competitive spirit – it was with a gusty laugh that Pidge had declared a sandcastle war between himself and Hunk, and Keith and Lance. Shiro wasn’t going to get himself involved in that.

“Having fun?” Allura asked as she wandered over. Her long hair was tied up today in a futile attempt to keep it sand free, though Shiro could already see grains sticking to her knees and palms. She’d probably been helping the kids build their castles. They liked to declare her their princess (she’d be a good princess, Shiro thought. She was definitely the princess type, in a good way).

“Something like that,” Shiro answered, laughing quietly. He was leaning against one of the padded poles that held up the overhead shade, but he straightened when Allura came to stand beside him. “They’re enjoying themselves, at least. Pidge really likes to build things.”

“I’ve noticed,” Allura chuckled. “How are Keith and Lance getting along?”

“Loudly.”

“Still arguing?”

“Like an old married couple.”

Allura laughed again. “Maybe it’s just their thing.”

Shiro nodded. “Maybe.”

In the end, the kids roped the adults into helping them finish their sandcastle walls. Shiro was, of course, with his little quartet. Pidge’s creations were well underway, and even Keith and Lance had got a nice little building going, complete with leaf flags and rock windows. Allura was helping a group of girls who decorated their castles with flowers and sticks.

Oddly enough, the winner of the castle war was Coran and his group of kids. He always was a weirdo.

Still, it was nice to spend time in the sun like they did. Shiro ended up with sand crunching between the joints of his hand and more than enough of it scattered through his clothes, as did the children, but it was worth it. Pidge stood proudly by his castle after declaring that it was a spaceship-castle while Hunk smiled on. Keith and Lance had returned to bickering over their creation (“the flower goes here, Keith!” and “No way, it should go here!”).

It was a pleasant afternoon.

Chapter Text

The kids didn’t often need to nap now that they were older. They were at that age where sleeping during the day was a rare occurrence that only needed to happen after big gala days or sporting events.

Shiro definitely enjoyed the afternoon naps. As much as they were a break designed for the children to recover, they were a break for him, too. All the kids would be given a yoga-type mat to lay down on, and a blanket and pillow. They’d make their “base” in the recreation room after pushing all the furniture to the walls and just like that, they’d sleep.

The quiet while they slept was always quite startling. Shiro had become accustomed to their noise, their chatter; when it was gone the rooms seem to echo and he never quite knew what to do with himself. Most of the time, he cleaned.

He’d generally clean up for the two hours or so that the children slept, moving from room to room to put away toys and straighten chairs. Other times he might help Coran in the kitchen, though Coran was very adamant that the kitchen was his “sacred studio” and that it was not to be disturbed. He was a strange, strange man.

That day, there wasn’t much to clean, and he instead found himself wandering around after Allura. She was chatting to herself quietly, though the conversation was for Shiro’s ears, too. He was rather content to listen to her voice echo around the building.

“My father will be visiting here soon,” she said, as she put away a stack of loose paper. “I hope he’s enjoyed his holidays. He always says that coming here is more of a holiday than going anywhere else.”

Shiro hummed. He’d heard a lot about Allura’s father from her herself; she adored him, and their close connection was very evident. Shiro hadn’t known his father that well, and he’d died when Shiro was quite young, but he got along with his mother well.

“Oh! You haven’t met him, have you?” Allura suddenly asked, turning to peer up at him. “Do you want to meet him the next time he comes here?”

Shiro flushed. Meet her father? Meet Allura’s father? Of course he wanted to meet the man she loved so much! And of course he’d never say that! “If you want me to,” he finally said. He was rather surprised his voice turned out as even as it did. “I’d love to meet him.”

Allura gave him an easy grin. If his eyes weren’t deceiving him, which they very much might have been what with his Allura-shaded glasses on, then he was sure she was blushing. “Great!” She said. “It’s a date, then.”

Shiro spluttered. “D-date-”

“Shiro?” A sleepy voice asked.

He jumped, and turned around. Lance was standing in the doorway to the recreation room, his blue blanket and matching stuffed lion tucked under one arm. “Lance!” Shiro said on an exhale, before walking over to pick the child up. “What’s wrong, Lance?”

“I can’t sleep,” Lance mumbled. He was rubbing at one eye with his knuckles, so Shiro carefully directed his hand away.

“It’s alright, you don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Shiro said. He adjusted his grip on Lance to rest Lance on his hip, safely tucked in the circle of his natural arm. “Just relax, buddy.”

He’d hardly said the words before Lance’s head was touching his shoulder and his eyes were shut. How did children manage to fall asleep so easily? It would never cease to amaze him.

Allura was watching him from across the room, one hip propped against the nearest bench. “I guess he just wanted company,” she chuckled quietly. “Where did he get that lion? I haven’t ever seen it before.”

Shiro flushed. “I- ah, that would be me,” he said. “I kind of got one for all four of them… I didn’t mean to play favourites or anything, but they just fit so well-”

Allura raised her brows. She wandered over to peer into the recreational room, where Hunk, Pidge and Keith were still asleep with the other children, though they were tucked away in their own corner. They each had a matching blanket and lion, just like Lance did. Hunk’s were yellow, Pidge’s were green, and Keith’s were red. How could Shiro have not gotten them?

“Oh,” Allura said, eyebrows going up, “they do match quite well, don’t they? Don’t worry about playing favourites or anything Shiro, everyone knows you love all the kids equally. Even they know that.”

Letting out a sigh, Shiro nodded his head. He was glad to hear that reassurance from her. When Allura said it, it really meant something. Absently, he rocked Lance in his arms.

“Did you get one for yourself?” She asked teasingly, peering up at him again.

“No?”

 

The next day, Shiro was cornered by his little quartet and Allura. The children squabbled over him until he was forced down onto one of the beanbags, and laughing, he complied. “What is this?” He asked as Allura leaned over the five of them. “Am I being put under arrest, or something?”

His words made the children laugh. Allura, too.

“No!” Lance finally said. “Allura and us all got you something!”

“That’s Miss Allura to you,” Allura said, though it wasn’t unkindly.

“Got me something?” Shiro repeated, puzzled.

The children stared at Allura pointedly. She rolled her eyes, but in a dramatic flourish, pulled out a plastic bag from behind her back. The kids each shared a handle – Keith and Lance on one side, Hunk and Pidge on the other – to pull it open and expose its contents.

Inside, sitting on a folded, black blanket, was a small black lion.

Chapter Text

From what Shiro could tell, there wasn’t much, if any, bullying going on in Altea Kindergarten. Sure, Keith and Lance argued a lot, but it was never particularly spiteful, and never physical. They had a good bunch of kids that knew none of their carers would stand for any sort of bad behaviour.

That’s why when something did happen, Shiro was always rather shocked. It had only happened one other time since he’d been employed – a younger girl had been bullied by someone from a neighbouring school, and boy if he hadn’t ever seen Allura so mad. She’d never let the children see her upset and had comforted them until they could no longer remember why they were uneasy, but she’d resolved the issue with the school within a day. She could get quite scary when she was protective.

But this time it was one of his kids. Okay maybe they weren’t his his, but he took special interest in Pidge, Hunk, Keith and Lance. They were his little troopers, his quartet. Seeing any of them upset always twisted his heart.

Kids could be cruel when they wanted to. He worried over each and every one of them because of their differences. Pidge was quiet, nerdy, and called himself a boy when he was biologically born a girl. Hunk was too kind, and soft around the edges; more so than the other children, despite his good health. Keith could be sharp with his tongue, which invited others to be the same, and his somewhat ethnic features might be cause for bullying from small-minded people. It was the same for Lance, not to mention his flamboyant personality and loud mouth could be quite startling and attention-demanding. Other people didn’t always like that.

Shiro thought it had probably been started by Lance, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong. Maybe the older boys from the other school had overheard something Lance said, or Lance had accidentally bumped into one of them in his excitement. He’d done that a few times before, even to Shiro. It wasn’t hard to imagine.

What was hard to imagine was that anyone would ever lash out at Lance for it. Accidents were accidents, and Lance knew when and how to apologise. How could anyone ever shout at him and push him over for something that he’d apologised for?

“Does anything else hurt?” Shiro asked, eyebrows drawn up in concern as he carefully lifted Lance up to sit on his desk. He had the first aid kit in hand, and crouched on one knee to open it. “Did you hit your head?”

“No,” Lance mumbled, his voice quiet. It was off-putting when a kid like him was quiet like that, and Shiro didn’t like it. He already missed Lance’s smile and it had only been an afternoon.

Shiro carefully cleaned the scrape on Lance’s knee and tried not to wince when Lance flinched. It probably stung a lot, but it had to be done. He didn’t want Lance to get an infection from it. As gently as he could, he peeled off a blue Band-Aid and stuck it across the scrape. “There, all better,” he said, offering Lance what he hoped was a confident smile. “Anything else hurt?”

Lance shook his head, and jumped down off the table. Shiro ruffled his hair and sent him on his way before turning to pack up the first aid kit. He was throwing away the rubbish from the Band-Aid when Allura wondered in, a frown on her face.

“Is Lance alright?”

“I don’t know,” Shiro admitted. “He won’t tell me what happened, but he seems a little shaken up.”

“Was he hurt?”

“Just a scrape on the knee.”

Allura’s hand fell to the small of his back. Shiro was so tense he hadn’t even heard her approach, and he jumped at her light touch, though she didn’t move away. “You’re worried that it’ll happen again,” she said.

“I guess I am.”

She let out a small laugh. “Don’t worry too much, Shiro,” she said. “I’ve already had a chat with the school, it won’t happen again.”

Shiro couldn’t help but laugh, too. Allura said “chat” the same way someone else might have said “threaten with bodily harm”. It was usually Allura that dealt with other schools and child care agencies, so Shiro was more than comfortable to leave all that business up to her. He was just concerned about Lance.

It didn’t help that Keith looked particularly upset by it, too. He moped around more than usual and kept a sharp eye on Lance, like he expected Lance to suddenly get pushed over again. Shiro didn’t think Keith had ever come across a situation like this, and he wondered if he should mention it to Keith’s parents when they came to pick him up.

The next day, when Shiro was filing away paperwork at his desk, Allura came looking for him. “I just got a call from the centre where those other boys are,” she said. That certainly got his attention. “Apparently they had another go at Lance when the boys were walking here, and Keith pushed them over.”

Shiro’s eyebrows shot up. “Keith did? Not Lance?”

Allura shrugged. “Talk to them, yeah? As much as they aren’t at fault, fighting violence with violence won’t solve anything.”

“I know.”

Keith looked rather petulant when Shiro set him and Lance down for a talk. He was scowling furiously, and had his fingers clamped tightly around Lance’s wrist. It looked a little painful, and his knuckles were going a little white, but Lance didn’t say anything.

“You know fighting isn’t the right thing to do,” Shiro said. “You shouldn’t have pushed the other boy.”

“He was being mean to Lance,” Keith muttered, his scowl deepening. “Only I can be mean to Lance.”

Shiro kind of wanted to laugh, though he didn’t. Of course that would be Keith’s reason for defending his friend. He knew there was something more to it, that Keith actually cared about Lance, but he wouldn’t say it out loud. Maybe he didn’t realise. “Even so, promise me you won’t do it again.”

“I promise.”

“You too, Lance.”

“I promise.”

Shiro sighed. “Good, alright. You weren’t hurt, were you?”

Keith shook his head.

“Alright,” Shiro said again. He stood, but bent over to bring them both into a hug. He was rather comforted when they returned it. “Off you go, then. I’m sure Hunk and Pidge are missing you.”

They wandered off to join the others and Shiro had to resist the urge to follow after them like a mother hen. He knew they’d be fine and that in a few weeks they’d forget why they were ever upset, but he couldn’t help but worry. They were just kids, after all.

A hand suddenly slapped against his back. “Stop frowning!” Allura said, smiling brightly as Shiro hunched over from the force of her hand. “You’re messing up your pretty face.”

Shiro spluttered, his ears going red. “P-pretty?”

Allura just grinned.

Chapter Text

Allura’s father arrived the next week. Mr Alfor was a tall man with much the same demeanour as Allura, which eased Shiro’s worries a little. Allura had spent the last few days comforting him regarding his nerves, and while he very much appreciated her efforts, he was still quite apprehensive.

This wasn’t just his boss he was meeting for the first time, or even just the man who had offered him a job and a place to belong when he thought there was nowhere for him. This was Allura’s dad. He was the man she idolised, the one who had raised her to be the wonderful woman she was now. How could be not be nervous when he thought about meeting a person she loved so much?

It didn’t help that his little group of kids had picked up on his nervousness. They liked to tease him about his “date” with Allura, even when he embarrassedly insisted it wasn’t a date. Their teasing, though he didn’t really hate it as much as he made it seem like he did, really ramped up the day Alfor was coming down.

“Shiro, you have to sit!” Lance insisted. His little hands were wrapped tightly around Shiro’s flesh one. He hadn’t let go for the past ten minutes. “Please!”

“I really don’t need-”

“Please!”

How could Shiro say no when Lance was giving him the biggest puppy-dog eyes on the planet? It should be criminal to look so cute.

“F-fine,” he relented. “Just don’t do anything… major.”

“We won’t!” Lance said as a grin stretched across his face. “Promise!”

The four of them set Shiro down on one of the beanbags in the recreation room. He was already regretting his decision, but the excited looks on the kid’s faces swayed him a little. Even Pidge was looking uncharacteristically enthusiastic about the whole thing.

They wanted to give him a makeover. Shiro didn’t know how they were going to do that, but they wanted to.

Hunk started by taking Shiro’s normal hand. He had one of their sand buckets filled with water, and he gently dipped Shiro’s fingers into it. “My Ma says manicures are a great way to relax!” Hunk said.

Shiro tried not to smile, but it was hard. Hunk really was the sweetest kid.

“Can I do your other hand?” Hunk asked.

Shiro hesitated. He still sometimes feared that the children would recoil away from his metal hand, and he was always sure to keep it away from them. If he ruffled their hair, or held their hands, or put a hand on their shoulder, it was always with his left.

Hunk reached for his hand before he’d answered the question, taking it in his own little fingers like it was made from skin and bone and not metal. He treated it just as gently as he did with Shiro’s other hand, and somehow Hunk’s relaxed nature calmed Shiro down. He knew his fears over his hand were irrational, but having that enforced always made him feel a little better. He wasn’t feared by the children. They weren’t frightened of his prosthetic.

From the box where all the toy dolls and accessories were kept, Pidge brought out a comb. “I’m going to fix your hair,” he declared. “Why is this one part white, anyway?”

Shiro let out a tense laugh. He did have a weird white strip in his hair, though it had only appeared after his accident. The doctors said it was probably due to stress. He thought it was just plain odd. “Just is,” he told Pidge.

With less care than Hunk, Pidge dragged the comb through his hair. It wasn’t meant for human hair and the prongs were quite close together so it kind of hurt, but Shiro didn’t say anything. Pidge looked pleased to be able to participate.

“I’ll make your hair look more presentable,” Pidge said. “You should brush it more often, Mr Shiro.”

He laughed a little. He did, in fact, brush his hair every morning. He looked a little crazy if he didn’t, even though he wasn’t that rough of a sleeper. “Thanks for helping me, Pidge.”

Pidge grinned at him. He had little dimples that didn’t often appear, but they were there, then. It was nice to see them.

Keith and Lance were bickering amongst themselves as they reappeared. It looked like they had a fluffy, pink hair tie and a bunch of colourful hair clips between them. “We’ll put this in first,” Lance said, “then these.”

Though he looked a bit sceptical, Keith nodded. “Okay, but I’m putting in the red ones.”

When they turned on him, he knew he was well and truly done for. Still, he sat still and wore a smile on his face as Keith and Lance grabbed fistfuls of his hair and turned his head around like he was an owl. They took turns pulling apart sections of hair to pin in all directions with sparkly clips and gathered the main bulk of his hair – that infuriating white part – to tie back with the fluffy hair tie, which Pidge promptly brushed again.

By the end of it, Shiro’s scalp was sore and his cheeks hurt from smiling. Hunk had cleaned his hands, Pidge had brushed his hair and Keith and Lance had somehow managed to wrangle every single strand into a decorative clip or tie. He was sure his hair had never hurt so much, but he would never complain, not when his kids looked so damn proud of themselves.

“Thanks for helping me,” Shiro said when he was finally let up. Every time he moved he could feel a different pin pulling on his hair. “What would I do without you guys?”

Lance grinned, and put his hands on his hips. “You’d be a mess,” he declared. “We made you look pretty.”

“He already looked pretty,” Keith corrected. “Now he looks prettier.”

“Oh! Good point.”

“Thanks,” Shiro said dryly. The kids didn’t notice.

When he managed to escape into the bathroom, he let out a choked noise at the sight of himself. His hair looked worse than it did when he’d had a rough night; it stuck up in every direction and seemed to be half made out of glittery pins. He’d never looked more ridiculous.

“Shiro?”

He jumped at the sound of Allura’s voice, and opened the bathroom door for her. “Please help me get this stuff out,” he begged. “I can’t meet your father like this.”

Allura covered her mouth with a hand to muffle her laughter. “What happened to your hair?” She asked, her cheeks flushed with amusement. “Did the kids do that?”

“Stop laughing and fix it,” Shiro cried. “Allura! Stop laughing! Allura!”

Chapter Text

The telltale sound of a camera shutter clicking had Shiro jumping. He turned away from the bathroom mirror he had been frantically peering into to give Allura an incredulous look. “Allura, did you just take a photo of me?”

“Not of you,” she said, as a teasing grin spread across her face. “With you! Wanna see?”

Sure enough, she’d angled her phone to catch her smug, grinning face in the bottom corner of the photo. Shiro was leaning up against the bathroom sink, his eyes wide with horror as he looked at his reflection. Sure enough, his mangled, glittery, pin-covered hair was front and center in the photo.

“Allura! Delete that!”

“No way!” She cried, darting out of reach when Shiro grabbed for her phone. “I’m saving this and making it my wallpaper!”

“Oh my God, give me the phone!”

“No!”

“Allura!” Shiro whined. He lunged at her again, gripping her waist with his metal hand to reach for her phone with the other. “You can’t save that! It’s way too embarrassing!”

She laughed as his fingers dug into her side. “I’m keeping it, I’m keeping it!”

“Give it!”

“No!”

Shiro let out a startled sound as Allura suddenly jerked in his grip, her chest heaving with laughter. His feet got tangled up beneath him and before he knew it, the both of them were toppling over. Something akin to panic flashed through him at the thought of crushing her, and his grip tightened around her waist. His hand hit the floor first and Allura was caught in the crook of his arm, safe and sound.

Which would have been okay, had she not had every single part of her body pressed right up against his.

“I-I’m so sorry,” Shiro said, frantic. “Are you okay? Did you get hurt?”

Allura was still grinning. She was so close that Shiro swore he could feel that smile of hers against his lips. Had her eyes always been so blue? “I’m perfectly fine,” Allura said cheerily. “And I’m keeping the photo.”

Shiro groaned.

“I didn’t know your arms were so muscly,” Allura remarked. “I quite like it.”

“W-what-” Shiro choked on his words.

“I’m not interrupting something, am I?”

Shiro stiffened, fearing that one of the children’s parents had caught them in such a provocative position. When he anxiously glanced up, a stranger was standing before him. He had oddly familiar white hair, and a raised-eyebrow look that reminded him a lot… of Allura...

Allura let out a happy burst of laughter. “Father!”

Chapter Text

Mr Alfor looked like he wanted to be unamused, but couldn’t hide it. He had a traitorous smile twitching at the corners of his lips, and it was an expression Shiro knew well – he’d seen it a dozen times on Allura, had admired it on her a dozen times, too. On Mr Alfor, however, it was very different.

Especially when Shiro was holding his daughter in such a provocative way.

Before Shiro could drop her in surprise, Allura righted herself. “It’s so nice to see you again!” She exclaimed as she threw her arms around her father’s neck. A bright, flushed smile had come over her face. Maybe she was embarrassed as well, though she seemed too happy to care. “I thought you were going to come by this afternoon.”

“I got here earlier than expected and came straight away,” Alfor said, as he hugged Allura tightly. “I wanted to see you again, I missed you. Is this the Shiro you’ve told me so much about?”

Shiro flushed. Allura talked about him? She talked to her father about him? What did she say? God, there were so many bad things she could say, like that one time he accidentally crushed one of the kid’s paddle pop stick sculptures or when he spilt an entire carton of orange juice all over the freshly washed floors or that one time he left a box of push pins on a lower shelf or-

“Yes, this is him,” Allura said. She held out a hand to Shiro, and he hurried to scramble to his feet, his flush deepening. “Shiro, this is my father.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Shiro said as politely as he could manage. He was aching to hold out his hand, but his right hand was his dominant one, and people usually baulked at the idea of shaking his prosthetic. Most people eyed his arm for an awkward moment before deciding not to offer their own. It was always an uncomfortable situation, but Shiro didn’t exactly see a way out of it for himself or the person he was greeting.

Surprisingly, however, Alfor held out his hand. “It’s nice to meet you too, Shiro.”

Dumbly, Shiro shook Alfor’s hand. He wondered if the metal was too cold, but Alfor didn’t even flinch. His grip was strong and confident, and he didn’t shake Shiro’s hand as though he was afraid he might accidentally pull off the whole arm. Somehow, it was a huge relief. Shiro guessed he was still quite self-conscious over his arm, even though he’d long since accepted its presence and its impact on his life.

Alfor’s eyes drifted up. “Is that your usual hair style?”

Shiro let out an embarrassed groan, his hands flying up to pull at the pins in his hair. “N-no, it’s not, I’m sorry-”

“Don’t apologise!” Allura said, grinning, as she pressed her hand to the small of his back. Recently, that seemed to have become her favourite place to touch him. “The kids did it earlier. They absolutely love giving him makeovers.”

“Do they, now?”

At least Alfor seemed entertained, despite Shiro’s evident mortification. Shiro didn’t think a first meeting with someone so important could have gone any worse. Of course, if the kids had gotten a hold of the children’s makeup and face paint then it could have gone much, much worse. Shiro was just thankful that it had all been used up by the girls last month. Imagining his kids getting their paws on something like that to use on his face was horrifying.

“Oh, the kids love Shiro,” Allura said, waving a hand. “He lets them run all over him!”

“Allura!” Shiro hissed, eyes stricken. “They don’t run all over me!”

She laughed. She was totally doing that on purpose. “Oh alright, I’ll stop teasing you,” she said. “But you’re definitely soft on them. I know you sleep with your lion!”

“Allura! I told you that in confidence!”

“Oh hush, it’s adorable and you know it,” she grinned. “Besides, Lance told all the other kids. They think you’re even more like them now than ever.”

Shiro had never wanted to hide under his bedsheets more than he did in that moment. Alfor looked like he was holding back laughter, and Allura looked so ridiculously smug that Shiro didn’t know what to do with himself. This was not how he imagined his first time meeting Allura’s father to go, and yet he was a little relieved. At least he couldn’t make any worse of a first impression, surely? It could only go up from there. Right? He really hoped so.

“Hold on, I’ll go get Coran to take the kids outside for a bit so we can chat,” Allura said. She patted Shiro’s back a few times. “You stay here, I’ll be back in a moment.”

He hesitated at that, his stomach coiling with nerves. He didn’t want to mess up, and without Allura around, he felt like he’d lost his safety net. Every step she took away from him was like a stone sinking in his stomach.

“Don’t panic too much,” Alfor said. He was watching Shiro with a rather perceptive gaze, but he didn’t seem upset or angry. Instead, he just seemed curious, and amused. He wasn’t hiding it anymore. “From what Allura has told me, you’re a good man. She speaks very highly of you. And very often.”

Shiro’s heart fluttered. Hearing that made him ridiculously happy, and he hoped it didn’t show too much. “She’s a good person,” he said. “I’m really thankful for all she’s done for me, and to you, too.”

“Me?” Alfor’s eyebrows rose. “Why?”

“Well, you’re the one that offered me this job,” Shiro said. He held up his right arm. “This kind of… limits what I can do, now. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do something I enjoy.”

“And do you enjoy this?”

Shiro smiled; he couldn’t help it. Thinking about the kids and Coran and Allura always made him smile. “I do,” he said. “I love the kids, and I love All- I love working here.”

Alfor laughed.

Shiro turned scarlet. That was too close of a call!

“Well, I’m glad you enjoy it,” Alfor said, placing a warm hand on Shiro’s shoulder. “Now let’s go find that daughter of mine before she does something over the top, hmm?”

Chapter Text

It was photo day.

The dreaded day only occurred once a year, but this year was Shiro’s first year doing it. He hadn’t been prepared for the absolute chaos that the kindergarten became. And boy did it become unavoidably chaotic.

Oddly enough, it started with the parents. When they dropped off their kids many of them left specific instructions for how they wanted their child’s picture to go. They left alternative outfits in case the first got dirty and even left hairbrushes with specific instructions on which direction to part their child’s hair. Shiro thought it was all a bit excessive, but Allura assured him it was what usually happened.

Thankfully, Shiro was only assigned to keep track of his four kids. Allura had most of the girls under wraps, and Coran had the remainder of the class. Oddly enough, he was the best at wrangling them into their proper positions, and he could produce the prettiest smiles from them with hardly any effort. Of course, that wasn’t to say he had particularly difficult kids, either.

Hunk was generally quite well-tempered, and smiled as soon as Shiro asked him to. The photographer seemed relieved to have a quick and easy session, and soon enough Hunk was returning to play with the other kids.

Pidge was somewhat more difficult. His parents wanted him to wear a dress and hair bow, but he wasn’t having any of it. It wasn’t like his parents didn’t understand his gender and identity preferences, but sometimes Pidge didn’t mind wearing more girly clothing, and he still sometimes responded to his birth name. That day, however, he just wasn’t cooperating. His parents had asked Shiro to get him to wear the clothes they left for him, but Shiro couldn’t bring himself to upset Pidge like that.

He spent a lot of time comforting Pidge while the other students had their photos taken. He carried Pidge around on his hip and carefully made sure not to mention his dress or hair bow. Pidge spent the entire morning scowling, red-cheeked but without tears. His fingers were tightly clenched in the collar of Shiro’s jacket. Shiro eventually managed to convince him to take the photo, but he left Pidge in the clothes he wore to kindergarten that morning, his dress forgotten. Getting Pidge to smile was a bit of a challenge, but Shiro eventually succeeded in doing it by showing him Allura’s framed picture of Shiro from when the kids had done his hair.

Getting Keith to smile was a challenge, too. He had a face that naturally fell into a scowl, and if that were not the case, then he always tended to look rather bored. His parents had dressed him nicely and brushed his hair neat, and although he didn’t seem to particularly mind, he just couldn’t smile on demand. It looked as awkward as it probably felt for him. In the end, it had been Lance that had gotten Keith to smile, though Shiro was still puzzled as to exactly how the kid had managed it.

Of the four, Lance was perhaps the most camera ready. He loved attention and loved to dress up, and seemed to be quite conscious of his appearance, though not in a bad way. He liked to smile and liked to entertain, and in taking photos he could do both. He had Shiro brush his hair before the photo was taken, but other than that he was perfectly fine.

It really was an eventful day. Shiro was left exhausted, and rather glad that it was over. Of course, that was before he knew that the staff had to take photos, too – and not just one, but individual photos, a group photo, and then a photo with the children.

Will it never end?

Chapter Text

When Lance’s birthday rolled around, the kids asked Shiro if they could throw a surprise party. It was Hunk that remembered the date, of course, but oddly enough it was Keith that brought up the idea of throwing a party for Lance. Shiro was all for it.

“What exactly do you guys want to do?” He asked the week before Lance’s actual birthday. Lance’s mother hadn’t dropped him off for the day yet, so they had some time to plan while he wasn’t around.

“It should be a surprise party,” Keith said. He was holding onto Shiro’s flesh arm with both hands, stood up on his toes, in an attempt to capture Shiro’s attention (though he already had it). “We should turn the lights off and jump out when he comes in.”

Shiro chuckled. He’d never seen Keith look quite so determined. “That sounds good,” he said, crouching even lower so that Keith didn’t have to stand on his toes. “Do you want to have a theme?”

Keith frowned thoughtfully. “Yeah, but I don’t know what.”

Hunk touched a tentative hand to Shiro’s other arm, drawing his attention. “What about a blue theme? It’s his favourite colour.”

“That sounds good,” Shiro nodded. “What do you think, Keith?”

“It’s good!” Keith replied, looking pleased and excited. “Can we do that?”

“Sure.”

“How are we going to get decorations?” Pidge frowned, ever the realist.

“Tell me what you want and I’ll see if I can grab it,” Shiro offered.

“But money…”

“It’s alright, Pidge,” Shio said, chuckling. “I want to throw the party, too! It will be fun.”

Pidge still looked sceptical, but didn’t argue. He was quite a worrier sometimes. It was sweet.

They set about to making a list that morning. Shiro was sure to write down everything they wanted on his phone. Keith was sure to insist that he get blue napkins, and Hunk suggested blue lollies. Pidge was more practical, suggesting blue plastic cups and plates.

Before he went out and bought any of it, he double checked with Allura that it was okay to have the party. She seemed more than excited for it, and even demanded that she accompany him on the shopping trip.

“We can go out this weekend!” She said, grinning. “Oh, and we simply must get a cake, too. They want everything blue, right? A blueberry cake with blue fondant and icing sounds so good. Or should we get cupcakes, instead? Enough for everyone!”

It sounded good, but Shiro was a little concerned. “What if the other kids think we’re favouring him?”

Allura shook her head. “They’re fine as long as they get food, too. We can make it a party for all of them, just with a birthday cake for Lance. Besides, I have a feeling the kids will believe it was all Keith’s idea and we just went along with it.”

“That’s kind of what happened anyway.”

“Exactly! Are you free Sunday? We can go and get everything then, ready for Monday. Oh! And we can come in early and set it all up! I can ask Lance’s mother to bring him in a tad later so that everyone has the chance to arrive beforehand.”

Why does that sound suspiciously like a date? Oh god, is she asking me on a date? “I should be free.”

“Great!” Allura said. “Show me the list, I’m going to add to it. Oh, I’ll put my phone number in your phone while I’m at it, hmm? So you have more than my work number.”

Shiro was too flustered to do anything other than nod.

Chapter Text

The party store was rather… colourful. Shiro had never really planned a party, not even his own, and seeing so many decorations bursting from every shelf on every aisle was quite a shock.

Allura, however, loved it. The traitor.

Shiro had picked her up bright and early on Sunday morning. She was dressed casually, more so than she did for work. She didn’t have to worry about fussy parents and the grabbing hands of children, after all. Without that affecting her choices, she’d chosen to wear a pair of shorts with lace around the edges, a pretty blouse and a stylish pink jacket that only went halfway down her waist. Shiro wasn’t all that knowledgeable when it came to clothes, but he thought that Allura was very fashionable.

She seemed quite excited about the idea of the party. She had her purse over one arm, and insisted on linking the other through Shiro’s (not that he protested much, or anything). She felt remarkably warm, and her skin was distractingly soft. Shiro didn’t know how he’d cope with a whole day of her undivided attention. Surely he’d combust before the sun went down.

“The kids want a blue theme, right?” Allura asked as she scanned the aisles with bright eyes. “Here, you hold the basket.”

He fumbled to catch the basket she thrust into one hand as she dragged him by the other across the store. “Y-yeah, blue is Lance’s favourite colour,” Shiro said. “Hunk suggested it.”

Allura cooed. “He’s such a sweetheart, isn’t he? Never gets into trouble.”

Shiro found himself nodding. He could talk about his group of kids all day, if only someone could stand to listen for so long. “He and Lance get along really well.”

“Yes, they do,” Allura agreed with a small laugh. “Oh, look over there! Everything is blue.”

And it was. Thankfully the party decorations seemed to be colour coded, and when the blue aisle came into view, Allura made a beeline for it. She was sure to keep a tight grip on Shiro’s arm, which Shiro was thankful for. He’d be so lost without her.

“Where to start?” Allura mused. “Shiro, what do you think?”

“Ah, wait a second,” he said, flustered, as he fished his phone out of his pocket. “I wrote everything down.”

Allura peered over his shoulder to read the list. “Seems like you got everything covered.”

He laughed a little. “The kids were very extensive in requests. They don’t want me to forget anything.”

Allured squared her shoulders. “Well, let’s get a move on then!”

 

Shiro carried the bags. He knew Allura was strong enough to do so on her own – the bags weren’t even all that heavy – but he felt good when he carried them, like he was being useful. The guy usually carried the girl’s bags, right? Allura seemed amused by his efforts, if nothing else.

They’d bought a lot of stuff. Napkins, straws, party hats, utensils and plates, banners and even these little pinwheels, all in a pretty blue shade, were stuffed into the bags Shiro carried. They had everything they could ever possibly need, and if he were being honest, seeing all the stuff excited Shiro. Lance was going to absolutely love it.

After they went to the party store, Allura decided to drag him to a bakery. There was one just around the corner than she liked, and who was Shiro to refuse her? It was a short walk, and the glow in her cheeks at the sight of the bakery was very much worth it.

“These are my favourites,” she said, as they browsed the display. She was pointing at cupcakes decorated with pretty icing flowers, a small smile on her face.

Shiro felt smitten. “Want to get some?” He offered.

Her eyes widened. “Can we?”

Of course they could. Shiro didn’t know what he’d do for Allura (probably anything) but buying pretty cupcakes was easy. Seeing the delight on her face as the woman behind the register handed them over was an enlightening experience. Allura looked so beautiful when she smiled like that.

They ended up ordering cupcakes for the kids, instead of a cake. Everyone got their own cupcake covered in blue fondant and icing to match with the theme of the party. After the cupcakes were ordered and paid for, they walked to a local park to finish off the cupcakes. Allura had already nibbled away half of hers while Shiro ordered the cupcakes, so he offered her half of his. She didn’t even take the cake out from his hand before taking a bite, giving him a cheeky grin all the while.

“Yours tastes better,” she said.

He wondered how much more in love one could become with a person before it became clearly written across their forehead.

Chapter Text

Getting all the cupcakes to fit into the refrigerator had been no easy task. The bakery had delivered them early that morning, along with an extra one of Allura’s favourites that Shiro had secretly added to the order. He’d hidden that one particularly well, and would give it to her when the kids had the rest of the cupcakes at lunchtime.

Oddly enough, he arrived at the kindergarten earlier than anyone. He had keys so he didn’t have to wait outside, which was good. He just thought he was overexcited, that’s all. Besides, he couldn’t wait to start decorating. They’d left the rooms extra clean at the end of the previous week in preparation for Lance’s birthday, and now he was finally getting to set up all the decorations he’d bought.

Of course, he didn’t want to do it without Allura, so he spread everything out on a table and waited for her to arrive. In the meantime, he managed to hide her cupcake and store the rest away in the fridge. He knew Coran would be horrified that he’d messed with the kitchen, but Shiro knew he’d be forgiven. Coran was just as excited about having a party, too.

Allura arrived a little while after Shiro. She seemed surprised that he was there so early, and just gave him a knowing look as she set aside her purse and jacket. “Ready to decorate, then?”

Shiro just smiled. He thought he was finally getting used to her teasing quips. “Let’s do it.”

They started with the banners. Well, Shiro started with the banners. While Allura was a pretty tall girl, she couldn’t quite reach as high as Shiro, and watching her stand on her toes to try and match his height had made him laugh. There were a few types of banners they had – some that said “happy birthday” and others that were more like bunting and streamers. They were all blue in colour, and just seeing them decorating the walls made Shiro grin.

As he was putting up the banners, Allura rearranged the main room of the building. She set up the tables in the rows they used for lunchtime, and placed blue plates, cutlery and napkins at every chair. They’d bought blue balloons, too, which had come already blown up and were now drifting aimlessly throughout the entire building. Blue party hats were also laid out on the tables, with the spares stacked off to the side.

It all looked very exciting, and after Shiro was done with hanging the banners, he helped Allura set out blue bowls full of lollies and other sweet treats. He hadn’t known that one could buy just blue jellybeans and just blue MNMs, and yet there they were, ready to be eaten.

“This looks so cool,” Allura said, smiling brightly as she stood beside Shiro to survey their work. The room was incredibly blue now, and everything looked quite festive. The sweet smell of the lollies was starting to fill the air. “I think we’ve done well, Shiro.”

“Me too,” Shiro agreed, grinning.

Allura elbowed him in the side, and laughed cheerfully. She didn’t seem at all bashful as she hugged Shiro’s arm, leaning into his side. The warmth of her skin and the soft press of her body had Shiro flushing almost instantly, but he didn’t pull away. Eventually Coran and the children would start to arrive, but for the moment, he was content to be with her.

“They’re going to love this,” Allura said. She peered up at Shiro, her blue eyes big and round. “It’s really thoughtful of you to have done this for Lance.”

“I-it wasn’t just me,” Shiro said, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. “Hunk and the others helped me, too.”

Allura laughed again. “Yes, but you are the adult here,” she pointed out. “Your dedication to the kids always leaves me feeling happy.”

“Does it?”

“Of course!”

“Why?”

Allura’s cheeks flushed, and she glanced away as she shrugged. “It just does,” she said. “Who wouldn’t be happy seeing the children flock to you? You treat them so sweetly, and spoil them rotten. The bond you have with them feels unbreakable.”

He hadn’t thought about it like that, but hearing Allura’s words made him feel oddly satisfied. He’d always admired the way she treated children, and seeing her surrounded by small, smiling faces all day always left him feeling good. The kids loved her almost as much as she loved them, and even if they weren’t biologically hers, she treated them with kindness and patience unlike anyone else ever did. He hadn’t realised that Allura had been watching him in the same way he’d always watched her, too.

Somehow, Allura had become even more charming.

Chapter Text

Getting the kids to hide and stay quiet was harder than trying to fit two dozen cupcakes into a full fridge. Coran was surprisingly fantastic at finding hiding places – under the table, behind chairs, and even behind doors. Shiro was still frantically fixing things even as Lance’s mother sent him a text message to say she was arriving now.

“Shiro!” Allura said, grabbing onto his arm as he rushed by her. “You need to hide too, you know!”

“I know, I know,” he admitted. “Is everything ready, though? What if I missed something?”

“Stop fretting, of course you didn’t,” she grinned. She patted the small of his back, and then pushed him towards the lights. “Go turn the lights off and hide with the kids. I’ll switch them back on when Lance comes in.”

“Okay,” Shiro said, exhaling, “okay, I’ll go do that.”

Keith, Hunk and Pidge were all crowded behind a lounge near the entry way, elbowing and jostling each other for the best position. Keith had a little wrapped present in his hand – it looked like he’d wrapped it himself – ready to give to Lance. Shiro’s heart had grown at the sight of it.

He switched off the lights before hunching down behind the couch as much as he could, and laughed when the kids finally stopped bickering. They didn’t like to argue around him, though Keith and Lance always did anyway. Shiro thought it was just the way they interacted, if he were being honest. He had become quite used to it now.

“Shh,” Allura whispered to quieten the children. “He’s coming now!”

Shiro could hear Lance chattering away in the foyer. “We’re gonna be late, Mama! Hurry up!” He cried. It wasn’t hard to imagine that there was a dreadfully sad pout on his face, and it made Shiro want to laugh. Of course Lance didn’t want to miss out on any of the fun.

As the entryway door pushed open, Shiro heard Lance let out a confused noise. It was dark, and difficult to see – he might have thought they were still closed. But then Allura suddenly flicked the lights on, and in a rush all of the children (and Coran) jumped out to shout, “Surprise!”

Shiro himself was so taken by surprise that he was late in jumping up, but he stood and laughed anyway. Lance had practically jumped out of his skin, but now his eyes were wide and his cheeks were flushed and he looked on the verge of tears. Hunk and Pidge had leapt forwards to wrap him in a tight hug, and Keith was quick to join them. Soon enough all the children were shouting and cheering and wishing him a happy birthday.

“Well that went well,” Allura said as she wandered over to stand beside Shiro. Together, they watched all the children play. Lance was still struck silent, and let himself be led around by the hand with Keith as Keith showed off all the decorations. “He looked quite surprised!”

“He did,” Shiro chuckled. There was a strange warmth in his stomach, one he eventually realised to be happiness. He was glad everything had worked out alright, and Lance looked so excited.

What more could Shiro have asked for?

 

At lunch, Coran served the children food at the dining table Allura had set up. Shiro wandered around to make sure everyone was happy, and even received a tight hug from Lance on his way past. It seemed that someone had told him that Shiro helped out a lot.

“Thank you, Shiro!” Lance said, grinning up at Shiro brightly. He had his cheek pressed against Shiro’s stomach and his little hands clenched in Shiro’s shirt. “This is so fun!”

Shiro laughed, and gently placed his hand on the back of Lance’s head. “Happy birthday, Lance.”

Keith gave Lance his gift after that. He’d been holding it all day waiting for the right moment, and Lance had been patient. Keith seemed particularly nervous about it, and Shiro wondered if that was because he wanted to impress Lance or not. They may have fought often, but they really were quite close.

Lance let out an elated noised as he pulled off the messily wrapped paper. “Keith, this is so cool!”

There were little boxed action figures hidden inside the tangled mess of paper and clear tape. When Shiro peered over Lance’s shoulder to have a closer look, he noticed that the figures were the ones that matched the toy lions he bought them. He wasn’t quite sure what the show was called, but he recognised the Red and Blue pilot almost instantly.

“W-we can play together, if you want,” Keith mumbled, nervously wringing his fingers. “’Cause I’m Red, and you’re Blue...”

“Yeah!” Lance exclaimed, thrusting the red box into Keith’s hands. “We can! We can! This is so cool!”

Keith’s face brightened, and his cheeks flushed. He gave Lance an absolutely dazzling grin and Shiro felt his heart melt a little.

When everyone was done, Shiro and Allura brought out the cupcakes. He’d never seen Lance’s eyes light up as fast as they did at the sight of the little treats. Kids always loved cake, and they practically buzzed with excitement as the cupcakes were evenly handed out. Shiro even put a little candle in Lance’s, and then he blew it out after they’d sung “happy birthday”.

He’d went to find Allura’s cupcake while the kids devoured their treats. She was busy watching over them when he approached her, and struck with a sudden bought of nervousness, he hid the cake behind his hands.

“Shiro?” She peered at him curiously, and tried to see behind his back. “What have you got there?”

How did she always figure him out so fast? Shiro would never understand it. After clearing his throat once, he handed her the cupcake. “You said they were your favourite.”

Allura’s eyes widened. “They are!” She said, grinning. “You remembered.”

He nodded. “Thanks for helping me with everything,” he replied. “I really appreciate it.”

“Oh Shiro, you don’t need to thank me for anything,” Allura said. She placed a hand on his shoulder, stood on the tips of her toes, and pressed a sweet kiss to his cheek. “Thank you for the cupcake. Would you like to share it with me?”

Shiro flushed, his heart racing. He could still feel the soft press of Allura’s lips against his cheek. “S-sure.”

Chapter Text

Shiro hadn’t meant to fall asleep. It was a late evening, and another storm had hit. A tree had been knocked over on the main road so a lot of parents couldn’t come to pick up their kids until it was removed. He’d had a lot of frazzled phone calls and equally frazzled children to deal with all morning, not to mention the crying. Nothing stressed him out more than seeing the kids cry.

He’d just been so tired. The day had started extra early for him because he’d opened the kindergarten in place of Allura (the rain had her coming late), and it was a Monday, and the kids had been rambunctious without time outdoors to expend their energy. The frigid temperatures sort of hurt his arm, though he thought it might have been a ghostly sort of pain, but it was nevertheless distracting.

Like they usually did during bad storms, the children were frightened, although they didn’t like to admit it. Shiro had joined them in the recreation room, and had quickly found himself buried under a pile of anxious kids. Even Pidge had found a place for himself under Shiro’s arm, which was unusual. Shiro guessed that he was worried about the storm and the tree.

The kids were warm. Children always seemed to run warmer than adults, and with the cold giving him shoulder pain, he’d welcomed their attention. He’d tried to focus on the movie he’d set up for them, but it was difficult when his eyes just refused to stay open.

He wasn’t the first to fall asleep, at least. It had been Hunk, who laid on the beanbag beside him, with his head on Shiro’s shoulder. Lance had followed right after him pretty quick, with his cheek squished against Shiro’s chest and his fingers clenched tightly in Keith’s shirt. Keith himself was lying beside Lance, and seemed reluctant to leave Lance alone. That left Pidge squished into the space across from them, between Shiro and Hunk, with Shiro’s arm around him. It made Pidge feel oddly small, Shiro thought.

Still, with the kids tired and his eyes heavy, Shiro had fallen asleep. It felt like an irresponsible thing to do, and although he woke up less than an hour later, he felt awful. He was meant to watch out for the kids, not close his eyes and rest. As gently as he could, he untangled himself from the napping kids and wandered back out into the offices.

Allura was sitting at her desk. She glanced at him when he walked in. “Shiro? Finally awake.”

He flushed, and looked away. “Sorry, I didn’t meant to fall asleep.”

Allura gave him a puzzled look. “It’s alright,” she said. “I would have woken you if there was a problem. It’s been a long day.”

Anxiously, he rubbed at his shoulder. “Yeah, I guess so.” If there had been a problem, he knew Allura would have woken him, just like she said. She wouldn’t lie about something like that. He didn’t know what he was so worried over.

“Is your arm troubling you?”

He startled at the question. He hadn’t realised he’d been making a face, and when he did, he let it fall away. “A little,” he answered hesitantly. “It’s probably nothing, just the cold weather.”

She frowned, and beckoned him closer. “Let me see.”

He hesitated for a moment before heading over to sit beside her. “It’s okay, really.”

“Show me,” she insisted.

He unzipped his jacket and let her pull down the neckline of his shirt to expose his shoulder. He’d never really let anyone see the scars he had, but if it was Allura, then he didn’t mind.

Although he was still irrationally afraid that his scarring would scare her off, deep down he knew that wouldn’t be the case.

He jumped again when her delicate fingers ran across the scars. “This looks painful,” she whispered. Her palm flattened against the back of his shoulder. “How can I make it feel better?”

“It’s okay, really,” he said again. He clenched his jacket in his hands, and tried not to flush too brightly at the feel of her hand against his skin. “It just happens sometimes.”

“I see…” She murmured, as she leaned forwards to rest her forehead against the back of his shoulder. “I’m sorry. I wish I could make it better.”

“It’s okay,” he whispered again. He’d never had anyone apologise for his pain before, and somehow it made him feel better. Allura’s affection came in all forms, it seemed.

She wrapped her arms around his waist and let out a deep sigh. He could feel her breath warm against his back, and it made the ache in his shoulder fade a little. Sure, the pain wouldn’t ever be completely removed, but comfort from the person he liked definitely helped a lot.

Chapter Text

At first, Shiro wouldn’t have thought that all the kids – particularly his own – would have been interested in having a tea party. It wasn’t because it was a typically feminine pastime or anything, but the kids usually seemed more interested in running around outside or playing in the sandpit.

However, once the tiny plates and cups were brought out and set up on picnic blankets, they were enamoured.

Allura and Shiro had spent the morning pushing the usual eating tables away from the centre of the room and stacking the chairs to clear up some space. The wide backdoors were pushed completely open, as were the windows, to let in a lot of light and the cool, afternoon breeze. It had been Allura’s idea to set up the tea parties – they had heaps of picnic blankets in the storeroom as well as miniature utensils, enough for everyone. Coran was already busy making tiny sandwiches and jars of iced tea to pass around.

His little group of kids claimed a picnic blanket for themselves, once everything had been set up. It was amazing to see how patient they became when they wanted something; they sat quietly and didn’t disturb either Shiro or Allura as they fixed up enough spaces for all the kids.

“Shiro!” Lance called, when Shiro started to hand out food to the excited children. “Shiro, you have to sit with us! We saved you a spot.”

He laughed. “Alright, I will,” he said. He hadn’t expected to sit anywhere else, after all. “Just give me a minute to hand out the food to everyone, yeah?”

“Okay!”

“They’re behaving well,” Allura remarked, as she wandered past Shiro. She had little teapots from the crockery sets filled with iced tea that Coran had made, ready to give to each group of kids. “Can I join you boys today?”

Shiro’s eyes widened. He had barely choked out an enthusiastic yes when Pidge suddenly cried, “Mr Shiro, invite Miss Allura on a date with us!”

She grinned. “I’ll be right over, boys!”

If the floor were to suddenly open up, Shiro probably would have been relieved. How could he get any more embarrassed than he was now? God, who had even taught the children that? He bet it was Lance. It seemed like a Lance thing to say.

After placing down the last tray of sandwiches, Shiro went over to join his kids on the blanket. It kind of hurt his legs to sit on the ground for so long, but it was tolerable. “You guys can’t embarrass me like that,” he whispered, hunching down to their level. “Not in front of Allura!”

Lance just grinned at him. “You like her,” he said.

“Obviously he does,” Keith snorted. “That’s why Allura is the Princess and Shiro is the Knight.”

“What?” Shiro wheezed, eyes wide. “What have you guys been playing?”

Lance shushed him as Allura approached. “Allura! Are you going to be sitting with us?”

“Yes, I am,” she chuckled. She had the last teapot in her hands, and after taking a seat she went around and slowly filled everyone’s tiny cups, even Shiro’s. “Are we going to eat?”

“The Princess has to eat first,” Lance said. The others nodded in agreement, like they’d planned this. Shiro wouldn’t have been surprised if they had.

Allura raised her eyebrows. “Princess?”

“You’re the Princess,” Pidge informed her, as he held out the sandwich tray. “Mr Shiro is your Knight.”

Allura’s grin widened. “Oh, is he now?”

“Yeah!” Lance said. “He was going to be the Dragon, but now Keith is the Dragon.”

“And what does that make you?”

“The treasure, of course!”

Shiro muffled a laugh into his hand. “I see,” he said. Would it hurt to play along? “What about you, Hunk? What are you?”

“The wizard!” Hunk smiled.

“And Pidge?”

“I’m the narrator, of course,” Pidge said.

“I’m impressed,” Shiro said. That was a big word for Pidge to have learned all by himself. “You’ve got this all figured out, huh?”

Allura seemed amused by it all. She probably wasn’t as used to the kids’ antics as Shiro was, especially considering how much they liked to tease Shiro when her back was turned. “But what if Lance was the Princess, instead?”

Lance let out a curiously happy noise. “I can totally be the Princess!”

“Then I’m the Knight!” Keith rushed to say, reaching out to grip Lance’s arm. “I’m the Knight.”

Shiro chuckled. He’d been kicked out of his own role, but he found he didn’t mind too much. “If Lance is the Princess and Keith is the Knight, then what does that make Allura and me?”

Allura laughed, and Shiro found his gaze drawn to her. “That’s a silly question!” She said, as she linked their arms and leaned into his side. She blinked up at him owlishly, her cheeks as bright as her smile. “Obviously we’re the King and Queen.”

Chapter Text

As far as education went, Shiro thought his kids were pretty smart. They each had their strengths and weaknesses, of course, but some proud part of him thought that they were among the more intelligent bunch, even if they had their silly moments.

(Most of those silly moments were Lance’s fault.)

Pidge was perhaps the smartest of Shiro’s little group, intelligence wise. He was exceptionally good at maths and problem solving, and seemed really keen on drawing things like schematics and blue prints, even if they still pertained a childish nature. He was good at taking things apart and putting them back together (like the television remote, and then a couple of the little robotic toys from the rewards chest, and then the radio from the office room).

Behind him, intelligence wise, was probably Hunk. He was good at maths too, and was interested in how things were made. He liked to help out his father in the garage, and Shiro was always told that Hunk would be a great mechanic or engineer, when he happened to have a conversation with one of Hunk’s family members. He believed it. Hunk’s sweet demeanour made him a pleasure to teach, too.

Lance was a little more problematic. He was easily distracted and quick to shout out, and despite his smarts, his behaviour was an issue. When he was focused, however, he usually got all of the answers right and was quick to solve the more difficult problems. He wasn’t as good at maths as Pidge and Hunk, but he was still pretty handy at it, and he had a lot of potential. Shiro secretly thought he had the most potential out of all of the kids.

Keith was perhaps the one that struggled the most out of the four. While he was incredibly intelligent, it often took him a moment longer to work through things, but that wasn’t because he was average in his smarts. Rather, he seemed to simply analyse every question from every angle, instead of going for the most obvious (and most often correct) option. For trick questions it worked a charm and he never got them wrong. Shiro was definitely sure that with the older Keith became, the faster his analytical skills would improve.

Overall, they were a pretty smart bunch of kids. Shiro sometimes struggled to keep up with them, just because of their energy and the way they powered through work. He had no doubt that they would pass all their classes with flying colours, and would probably do great things at university and in their careers.

Thinking about them leaving the kindergarten did make him a little sad though. He would miss them a lot when they weren’t around, and really hoped that their parent’s didn’t mind if he stayed in contact with them. He’d be excited to see where they’d go after school, but thinking about them leaving… He’d probably cry.

He’d definitely cry.

Chapter Text

There was a swing set in the backyard of Altea Kindergarten. It had two swings, and was sturdy enough to withstand the weight of an adult and the rough play of a whole class of children. Shiro quite liked the swing – it was under the shade of a cover that sheltered the play equipment from the sun, and it wasn’t uncomfortable for even someone as big as him to use.

It was at the end of a particularly long day that he found Allura sitting on the swing. She wasn’t swinging much, and her eyes were downcast. The woodchips beneath the swing had been worn clear by the children over time, and she moved around the stray chips with the toe of her shoe. She’d been unusually quiet all day, and he hadn’t found a time to see if she was alright until all the children had been taken home and all the cleaning had been finished.

He sat on the swing beside her, but he didn’t swing either. “Are you alright?”

Usually, when someone spoke, Allura met their eyes. It had startled Shiro at first, and it had taken him a while to get used to her piercing, blue stare, but she didn’t look away from her shoes. Instead, she only shrugged.

Shiro frowned. He stood, and stepped behind Allura’s swing. As gently as he could, he placed his palms flat against her back and pushed. Obligingly, she lifted her feet and let the swing move. “Want to talk about it?” He asked.

She sighed. It was a defeated sound. “It’s my mother’s birthday tomorrow,” she said quietly. “And my father won’t be in the city.”

“Oh.” While Shiro wasn’t exactly aware of all the details, he knew that Allura’s mother had died when she was young, but that they had been very close. Since then, Allura and Alfor had celebrated her mother’s birthday together, every single year. He thought it might have been for a way for Allura to cope.

She shrugged again. “I know he can’t be with me all the time, but…”

“Allura, it’s okay,” Shiro said, as he held the chains of the swing to still it. “You don’t need to make any excuses for how you feel. It’s okay.”

She hunched her shoulders. Shiro could hear her sniffle, and it pulled at his heart. He almost jumped when Allura suddenly stood, and let out a quiet noise when she turned to bury her face in his chest. She was soft, and warm, but all Shiro could focus on were her trembling shoulders and her small cries. He’d never seen Allura act vulnerable, but in that moment she was.

“It’ll be alright,” he said. When her arms slipped around his waist, he couldn’t help but mimic the action. Her hair was thick and wavy underneath his hand when he lifted it to hold the back of her head. Their height difference hadn’t ever felt more apparent.

After a while, her trembles disappeared, and she stopped crying. She seemed like she was about to huff out an apology, but Shiro’s gentle hand on her back quietened her. He didn’t want her to apologise for crying in front of him, or for being upset. There was nothing to apologise for. Absentmindedly, he brushed hair away from her forehead and placed a kiss there. He almost jerked away from her when he’d realised what he’d done, but it made her giggle, so he hid his flushed face in her hair and tried not to smile.

If he could hold her like that forever, he’d never need anything else.

Chapter Text

One afternoon, Shiro and Allura set out the craft tables. It was a slow afternoon, but not an unpleasant one, and Shiro spent most of it sitting at the table with his little group of kids. The tabletop was covered in paper and glitter and an entire assortment of pompoms, and while Shiro knew it would be hell to clean later, he found he didn’t particularly mind.

Pidge was busy drawing his schematics, like usual, when he suddenly spoke. “Mr Shiro, you like Miss Allura, right? Like like her.”

Shiro spluttered, and accidentally dropped the pencil he was holding in surprise. After picking it up and putting it back on the table, he gave Pidge and apprehensive look. “I do,” he said, voice quiet, as he leaned closer. “It’s obvious, isn’t it?”

“Very obvious,” Hunk agreed.

Shiro pursed his lips. He was embarrassed that his attraction to Allura was so obvious, even to the children, but he didn’t exactly do anything to hide it in the first place. He got way too flustered around her, didn’t he? He could hardly ever keep his cool. It definitely wasn’t like him. “Why do you ask?”

Pidge grinned. He had a glint in his eyes that promised nothing but mischief. “Why aren’t you and Miss Allura dating, then?”

“W-well,” Shiro coughed, “I don’t know if she likes me back or not.”

“She totally does!” Lance exclaimed, eyes wide and bright. “Totally, totally!”

Shiro chuckled quietly. However embarrassing the topic of the conversation was, Lance’s enthusiasm always lifted his spirits. “Still…”

“Why don’t you just ask her out?” Pidge asked. “That seems like the easiest way to find out if she likes you back.”

It was strange how mature Pidge could be sometimes. Shiro gave him another unimpressed look, and sighed. It seemed like such a simple thing to do when a kid put it like that, but he didn’t think he could actually do it. He’d been in relationships before, sure, but none of them had every really meant as much as his friendship with Allura did, and evidently none of them had ever really gone anywhere. As it was, he was content to just be around Allura. He got to see her smile and laugh everyday – what more could he wish for?

Lance hummed to himself, a thoughtful look on his face. “Everything is hard when you’re an adult, huh? Shiro, I don’t want to grow up anymore.”

Shiro laughed again. “I don’t think you get a choice, buddy.”

Lance huffed.

“But if you like her, and she likes you, why don’t you go on a date?” Keith asked. He had a puzzled look on his face, like he simply couldn’t work out what the problem at hand was.

“It’s not that easy,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “We’re co-workers, and she’s so… so…”

“So?”

“So wonderful,” Shiro sighed. “And she’s out of my league.”

Keith frowned. “What does that mean?”

Shiro flushed. Why was he even trying to explain this to children? “It means she deserves the best,” he finally said. He didn’t think he really deserved to be with someone like Allura, no matter how much he liked her. Did she really like him back? He kind of hoped he did, just so he’d have a chance. She seemed to, didn’t she? Or was he just bad at reading her signals? He was kind of like damaged goods, wasn’t he?

“I know!” Lance suddenly said, as he whipped around to face Keith. “How about we just ask Allura out for Shiro, instead?”

“No!” Shiro spluttered, eyes going wide. “Don’t do that, Lance!”

“Why not?” Lance pouted. “If you don’t, then we will for you!”

The others nodded in agreement, and Shiro groaned. He knew they definitely would, too. “Fine, fine, I’ll do it,” he said. Maybe if he waited for long enough, they’d forget all about this conversation and he could go back to pining in peace.

Chapter Text

The kids had gotten paint on their jackets again. Shiro wasn’t particularly surprised – it happened quite often, especially if Keith and Lance were involved. Shiro still wasn’t really that good at cleaning away paint stains, so Allura often helped him, like she did that day.

“I can’t believe how easily they get their clothes dirty,” she remarked as she scrubbed out a particularly large blot of red paint from Lance’s jacket. “Did they drag Hunk and Pidge into their war, too?”

It had been Keith and Lance to start the little argument, of course. They’d both been giggling in the end, their hands and face covered in paint. It hadn’t been spiteful, or really even all that argumentative. Somehow Hunk and Pidge had, in fact, gotten involved, and it had taken Allura and Shiro at least half an hour to clean the paint off of the four of them.

“They did,” Shiro said, laughing quietly. “I’m sorry about all the mess.”

“It’s alright,” Allura said, laughing too. “Kids are messy, aren’t they?”

“They certainly can be.”

Allura laughed again. It was a sound that made Shiro’s heart flutter. How could someone’s laugh be so pretty? Everything about Allura was pretty, but her laughter had to be one of her most standout qualities (aside from her smile and her eyes, of course). He couldn’t help but smile to himself as he listened to her laughter.

“Keith and Lance have been acting kind of differently though, don’t you think? Especially this week,” Allura said.

“Have they?” Shiro asked.

She nodded. “They’re very sweet to each other.”

Shiro hummed thoughtfully. He was around the kids too much to really notice, but if Allura said they were different, then they probably were. “What have you been noticing?”

Allura smiled to herself. “I think they just get along a lot better now. They’ve stopped fighting for your attention now that they know you give it to them completely equally.”

“Do I?”

She nodded again. “A lot of their pointless rivalries have been resolved. They’re much better friends, now. You know I overheard them arguing about their future wedding, yesterday? Imagine that!”

“W-wedding? What were they talking about?” The only thing that had really happened that week was when they’d talked to him about dating Allura. They couldn’t have possibly remembered that conversation, right? Knowing them, they probably remembered every word.

“Colours, mostly,” she said. “Blue and red, of course. But they were mostly talking about dating. Do you think someone they know is going to ask their crush out on a date? Lance has several older siblings, right? Wouldn’t it be cute if they helped out?”

Shiro flushed. Oh, God. “You think?”

“Of course! Who wouldn’t love those two? They’re good kids.”

“That’s true,” Shiro agreed, rubbing the back of his neck. “I wonder what they’re up to.” Though I’m pretty sure I already know.

Allura just smiled to herself. It was a knowing kind of look she had on her face, one that made Shiro a little suspicious of what Keith and Lance had been talking about. He almost jumped out of his skin when Allura unexpectedly leaned against his side, but he didn’t pull away.

“I hope whoever they were talking about works out well,” Allura said quietly. When Shiro glanced at her, she had a very soft look in her eyes, and her cheeks had turned very faintly red. At his gaze, her eyes flickered up to his, inquisitive.

He jumped, and flushed again, before setting his eyes firmly ahead. “Me too.”

Chapter Text

One of the kid’s favourite games to play was hide and seek. They were quite good at it, especially when Coran gave them tips about the best hiding spots. Shiro hadn’t really played it since he was a young child, and he was a bit too big to really hide effectively anymore, but it was still fun. He never really protested much when Keith and Lance dragged him into the game with the rest of the children and, more often than not, Allura too.

Perhaps he should have. Protest, that is. Maybe just a little bit.

Usually, when he played hide and seek, Shiro was assigned to a group with his kids. There weren’t really any groups in hide and seek, but the kids liked to stick with their friends anyway, and unless they were doing the seeking there was a good chance a whole bunch of them were hidden in the same spot.

This time, however, he found himself hiding with Allura. Oddly enough, it had been her idea – she’d grabbed him by the wrist when it was Keith and Lance’s turn to count and dragged him through the building with an excited gleam in her eyes. It wasn’t that strange for them to hide in the same room, but that was usually with the kids involved.

The kids weren’t involved this time, though. Allura seemed determined to win, and even though dragging Shiro along was certainly counterproductive to that, she was insistent. “We’re going to last this time, Shiro!” She said, laughing to herself. “We can’t let the kids upstage us all the time, you know?”

He laughed too. He didn’t think that was possible, but her excitement was contagious. “Where we are going to hide?” He asked. From the other side of the building he heard Keith and Lance call out the final number in their countdown; they’d probably rushed it.

“Ah, let’s go in here!” Allura exclaimed, as she hurriedly pulled open the door of their supply closet to push Shiro in. He stumbled over his feet, surprised by the quick change in direction, and quickly had to catch himself on the shelves to stop himself from hitting the floor.

Abruptly, Allura tripped over him. It happened faster than Shiro could keep up with, and before he knew it, he had a lapful of the most beautiful woman on Earth. He felt his breath get caught in his throat, and his hands twitched without anywhere to go. He wanted to hold her waist, and meet her eyes, but he was far too flustered.

“S-sorry!” Allura said, putting her hands on Shiro’s chest to sit upright. Her knees were on either side of Shiro’s hips, and they were so close that he could feel every soft curve of her stomach and chest. The higher she tried to sit, the closer their faces became. “I’m sorry, are you hurt?”

“N-no,” Shiro coughed to clear his throat, “no, I’m fine. Are you alright.”

She glanced at her right knee, and Shiro followed her gaze. It seemed like she’d grazed her knee on the floor, though it wasn’t bleeding. “I’m alright,” she said.

“The kids say I’m the best at fixing scraped knees,” he offered tentatively.

She grinned, and teasingly leaned a little closer. “Oh? I’ll have to test that out for myself, then,” she said.

Her eyes looked really blue close up. Really, really blue. Shiro had never seen eyes like that, especially not eyes with such thick lashes and a pretty shape. Could eye shapes even be pretty? Looking at Allura’s, he suddenly thought they were.

“You know, I was talking with Lance the other evening,” Allura said.

“Sounds dangerous.”

She chuckled, and shifted a bit to relax her shoulders and rest her chin on her folded hands, of which still rested on Shiro’s chest. She peered up at him with those big, alluring eyes and he felt captivated. “Quite dangerous,” she agreed.

He cracked a small, flustered smile. “What did you talk about?”

She tilted her head, just a little, and hummed. “His wedding to Keith, mostly. I had to inform him that to marry someone, he had to date them first. He seemed quite excited!”

“Did he, now?”

“Yes,” she nodded. “He asked me how he was supposed to get Keith to date him.”

“O-oh?”

She hummed again.

“What did you tell him?”

“Well, you have to like someone a lot to date them,” she started. “And you have to ask them on dates, and spend time with them… You have to ask them to be your boyfriend or girlfriend, too, right?”

“Y-yeah.”

“He asked me how,” she continued, staring up at him purposefully, “so I told him that he should look into their eyes and say, with conviction,” she leaned up a little more, “I like you.”

His eyes widened. She was so close he could feel the warmth of her breath against his lips. His heart was definitely caught in his throat. “If that’s true,” he said, “they’d probably say I like you too.”

Chapter Text

Sometimes, the night descended really quickly. It wasn’t as though there were any thick clouds – though clouds were often a contributing factor – or that the moon rose any faster than usual, but the day had been particularly atmospheric, and Shiro could taste impending rain on the air. It was strange for the children to be quiet, and for nothing but the wind to disturb the building, but some days were simply like that.

For what it was worth, Shiro enjoyed them. The quietness soothed his nerves and drained the tension from his shoulders. On days like that his arm hurt less, and he could almost believe his accident had been nothing more than a bad dream. He knew a night of good rest awaited him, and that the sound of rain would lull him to sleep. Days like those were good days, days that were better than usual. They were a good way for him to gather his thoughts, and his wits. They were a good way to centre himself.

That evening, after a day filled with a surprising amount of peace, Shiro found himself alone with Allura. He’d spent the day watching his kids nap amongst one another and teaching them through enjoyable lessons, and although he wasn’t tired, he was looking forward to sleeping. He was in no rush to leave the building though, and instead was content to take his time.

It started raining as they locked the front doors. Water pitter-pattered across the awning of the covered entryway, and for a moment, he stood side-by-side with Allura to watch the sky grow darker. It was a quiet, gentle moment, one he did not feel the need to break with talking. Instead, he took a moment to think, even if just briefly.

Allura really was beautiful. She stood with grace and strength unlike anyone else. She was courageous and kind-hearted, confident and humble, gentle and sure of herself. She had a serious demeanour, one that might have scared off others, but Shiro knew better. He knew firsthand just how playful her personality could be, how cheerful and uplifting. There were so many things about her that he admired that he didn’t think he’d ever be able to list them all. Of course, there were other things, things that not everyone saw about her.

Like how she sometimes fumbled when disciplining the children, fearing she had gone too far. Or when she frowned at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, touching the marks under her eyes like she was trying to rub them away. Or even when she forced herself to hold back, to avoid socialising, because she could sometimes be too nosy and she sometimes tried to fix people’s problems that weren’t hers to fix.

She wasn’t perfect, but she was as close to it as Shiro had ever seen. Allura was just… human. She was real and honest and he’d fallen for her hard, hadn’t he?

That’s why he’d said what he’d said the other day, when they were stuck cramped in the supply closet. He wasn’t too flustered to know exactly what Allura had been saying – she’d really had to spell it out for him, huh? Just thinking about it made him smile. It wasn’t a bad thing.

He almost didn’t want to leave Altea Kindergarten. Just standing beside Allura made his heart pleasantly warm.

Even more so when her hand inched across the space between them. He almost jumped, and if he hadn’t been so calm then he might of, but instead he simply enjoyed the feeling of her linking her pinkie with his.

Chapter Text

During the school holidays, Altea Kindergarten became a day care. Most parents still worked even while school was out, so the kindergarten was a good place to send their young children if no one else could watch over for them during the day. Twice a week they’d take the kids out to the local park for lunch, and every Wednesday there’d be an excursion to some sort of place where they could all have fun.

Some afternoons, when the kids had had too much sugar throughout the day, they liked to have dance parties in the recreation room. There was a decent stereo in there, and Allura had a surprising amount of pop music CDs from their childhood that the kids enjoyed listening to.

That’s what they were doing that afternoon – after a day full of activities, the kids had all but demanded that Allura put on her CDs and dance with them. Shiro wasn’t much of a dancer, but Allura was. She was pretty athletic anyway, so it only seemed fitting that she should know her way around the dancefloor, or the recreation room in this case. She swayed her hips and sung along and danced in circles with her fingers wrapped securely around the children’s hands.

The only one who didn’t really like to dance was Pidge, which Shiro didn’t find that surprisingly. When he sat to the side after pulling a chair down from the stack where they’d been left to clear some space, Pidge came to join him. Shiro lifted Pidge onto his lap to peer at the little toy Pidge was taking apart and putting back together before they watched everyone else dance.

Watching Keith and Lance dance together was amusing. They were both awkward at it, Keith considerably more so, though Lance did seem to have some sort of rhythm to him. Shiro was distinctly reminded that he had older siblings and a big, Cuban family filled with eccentric people – they probably danced and sang very frequently, and there was no doubt in his mind that Lance would grow up to be very good at it.

“Are you sure you don’t want to dance?” Shiro asked, peering at Pidge inquisitively.

Pidge shook his head. “I’m fine here,” he said.

Shiro smiled, laughing quietly. Pidge did seem rather content with himself. With all the time Shiro had to dedicate to keeping Keith and Lance civil, he guessed that he did put Pidge on the backburner. It was nice to spend one-on-one time with the kids sometimes, just to see how they were going and if they needed anything specific. Pidge was one of the quieter kids, too, and seeing what he really thought was a feat only managed when everything was quiet and Pidge was completely comfortable. Shiro was glad that Pidge liked him enough to sit with him instead of dancing with all the other kids.

Besides, Shiro thought he might really faint if he danced with Allura. He couldn’t take his eyes off her as it was, let alone if he was right there with her hips in his hands and her eyes on him. There was no way he could go through that without getting flustered and live to tell the tale.

Chapter Text

Keith and Lance were arguing.

On an average day, that wasn’t so out of place. They constantly bickered and were always trying to outdo the other any way they could. Their competitiveness was quite astounding, and if Shiro were being honest, he sort of expected it as a part of their everyday life now.

But this was different. They were arguing.

He doesn’t know what caused it. They’d been getting along so well lately that it was completely unexpected, and he couldn’t figure out how to fix it. The two of them had completely stopped talking with each other and just about refused to even be in the same room. He’d never seen them both so miserable, and it made his heart twist.

“Just talk to them,” Allura said, as she put her arm around his waist. He almost jumped at her presence, but instead leaned into her side. He’d been watching Keith and Lance make themselves more and more upset all morning, and while he didn’t want to interfere with something they could certainly work out between themselves, he thought that maybe it had gone on for long enough.

“I think I will,” he said, as he inhaled deeply. “Can’t hurt, right?”

She laughed a little, and squeezed his waist once. It was oddly comforting, and for a moment Shiro felt like he was the upset one, and not the children. Still, the lingering warmth of Allura’s hand on his waist made him feel better.

He approached Keith first, knowing that Keith brooded over these things more than Lance did. He found Keith curled up on one of the huge beanbags in the recreation room, and with a sigh he realised it was the same beanbag they always shared. As carefully as he could, he made room for himself on it, ignoring Keith’s disgruntled noises.

“You alright, buddy?”

Keith made a small, mumbling noise, and curled further into himself. He had his back to Shiro, and his shoulders hunched. He really was upset.

“Want to talk about it?” Shiro offered.

Keith rolled over, and shook his head. “Lance is being stupid,” he mumbled. He looked like he was on the verge of tears, and it made Shiro’s heart twist again.

“How about you talk to him about it?” Shiro said. “I know Lance is upset, too.”

Keith frowned, hesitating. “Will you come with me?”

Shiro gave him a small smile. “If you want me to.”

Keith nodded.

“Alright,” Shiro said, standing. He offered Keith his hand. “Come on, let’s go then.”

Keith took his hand, and together they went to go find Lance. He was sitting in the dining hall, his legs drawn up onto the chair and his arms wrapped tightly around his blue lion toy. He looked positively miserable on his own. It really was a strange sight to see him without Keith.

Shiro glanced down at Keith when he felt Keith’s hand tighten around his fingers. He nudged Keith forwards, and tried not to think about how nervous Keith suddenly looked. “Lance,” Shiro said, drawing his attention, “want to talk about it?”

Lance glanced up at him, eyes wide, before turning his head away with a dramatic huff. He looked just as teary-eyed as Keith did.

Shiro sighed. He led Keith by the hand over to the table and sat him down on the seat beside Lance. “Talk about it, alright?” He said, glancing between them purposefully. “I’ll be back in ten minutes. No more sad faces around here, okay?”

They gave him solemn nods.

He left them to themselves after that, and wandered back to sit in the office with Allura. She gave him an inquisitive look as all but threw himself down into his chair. “They’re talking,” he said. “I think. I wonder what they argued about.”

Allura shrugged, and spun around in her chair to face him. “I don’t know, I didn’t notice them arguing until they suddenly stormed away from each other. I’m sure they’ll be fine, Shiro.”

“I know, I know,” he said, smiling a little. “They always are, aren’t they?”

Chapter Text

Shiro had never really celebrated Halloween. When he was younger he hadn’t minded going to parties and letting his friends dress him up in costumes to match theirs, but as he had gotten older he’d kind of stopped doing anything other than having a scary movie marathon at home.

Working at the kindergarten, however, meant that a Halloween party was in order. Shiro come across Allura and Coran discussing it earlier that week, and although he wasn’t a big Halloween fan, their excitement was infectious. It seemed like they had a Halloween party every year, and all the kids and their parents were invited. It was a community event that everyone enjoyed.

First on the list of things to do was food. Coran was usually in charge of anything edible in the kindergarten, and he could really go all out with his crazy ideas for Halloween. Shiro helped him carry in produce they had ordered as well as shopping bags full of pre-bought snacks from Coran’s car. There was more food than Shiro had imagined, and most of it seemed sickeningly sweet – perfect for children. He was a little relieved to see fruit mixed in with it all.

After the food had been brought in, Shiro was promptly kicked out of the kitchen. He only laughed at Coran’s enthusiasm and went to help Allura with the decorations, instead.

She’d gone all out with her ideas, too. There were fake spider webs and jars with witch silhouettes lit up by lights and pumpkins stacked on top of one another. String lights hung from every wall with patterned banners, creepy-but-cute pictures of werewolves and vampires, and bat stickers. Ghosts made out of cloth with felt faces dangled from the ceiling and peeked out from behind books on shelves and cabinets. There was patterned table runners and cups and plates, too. Everything was orange and black and purple; fitting for Halloween, he thought. Allura had done really well.

Once everything had been set up and there was no more to do, Allura turned to Shiro. “Do you have a costume?” She asked, her eyes gleaming with mischief.

Shiro gave her a puzzled look. “No, I didn’t know I had to dress up...”

“Perfect!” Allura exclaimed. “I hope you don’t mind, but I took some liberties and got you one to wear in case you didn’t.”

“Y-you did?”

“Yes! Hold on, it’s in my car. You have to wear it, okay? Promise me!”

“But what is it?” Shiro asked, flushing as Allura leaned in closer and held up her pinkie.

“It’s a surprise!” She said, laughing. “Now promise me.”

He sighed. He couldn’t say no to her. “Alright…”

 

It was only after he’d gotten home to change for the party that Shiro had a proper look at the costume Allura had given him. He’d worried that it wouldn’t fit him, especially not with his arm and how it tended to make some clothes appear awkward, but Allura had assured him that it would be perfect. He didn’t know how she knew his sizes, but she was pretty fashionable, wasn’t she?

Besides, he had to wear it. He’d promised. Pinkie promised. He’d spent enough time around children to know that pinkie promises were as tight as promises could get.

When he finally did get a look at the costume, he was suddenly way too embarrassed to even think about wearing it. Allura had chosen that for him?

It was a Prince costume. At least, that’s what he thought it was – maybe it was from a Disney movie, or something, he didn’t know. All he did know was that it did, in fact, fit surprisingly well, and that he felt ridiculous in it. There were so many parts to it that it took him quite a while to even get it on, but in the end he thought he looked… okay. He hadn’t put the white gloves on and he’d only briefly brushed his hair, but it didn’t really matter how he looked as long as everyone else enjoyed themselves, right?

He arrived back at the kindergarten just before the party was scheduled to begin. He caught sight of Coran in the kitchen, and couldn’t help but laugh at the costume Coran was wearing. “A pumpkin, Coran?”

“Oh, Prince Shiro!” Coran peered out through the kitchen doorway, smiling broadly. “That costume suits you will! Allura with be pleased.”

He flushed, and gave Coran a thankful smile. “Is she here yet?”

“Yes, she’s just in the office.”

He nodded, and wandered over to the office. The door was closed, so he knocked once, before pushing it open. “Allura? Coran said you were- ah!”

Allura blinked at him, eyes wide and surprised. She had a dress half pulled on, but the side zipper was undone, exposing a good portion of her stomach and her bra. She had her hair pinned up, exposing the length of her neck and her shoulders. W-whoa…

Shiro felt his face heat up. “S-sorry!” He exclaimed, before slamming the door shut. He whipped around to face the kitchen, and pressed his hand to his forehead. “Coran! Why didn’t you tell me she was changing?”

Coran only laughed. It sounded oddly more like a cackle than anything else.

He shook his head, and escaped into the dining room. The decorations looked just as atmospheric as they had before, and seeing something familiar soothed his nerves. God, he couldn’t get the image of Allura out of his head. How could a person be so beautiful, inside and out? Her lacy bra was pretty, too.

No, we’re not going there. Get a grip, Shiro!

He sucked in a deep breath, and took a moment to compose himself. It had been an accident. He was an adult. Besides, Allura already knew he liked her, right? And she liked him too… At least, he thought so. The more he thought about it the more flustered he became.

“You’re not wearing the gloves.”

He jumped at the sound of Allura’s voice, and gave her a strained smile. The gloves were tucked away safely in his pocket, so he pulled them out, and glanced down at his hands. “They’re a bit hard to get on with…”

“Here, I’ll help,” Allura said.

She was dressed as a princess. Her dress was blue and puffy around the waist, and he could see she was wearing matching heels with little ribbons. There was a tiara in her hair, most of which she’d pulled up and wrapped in some sort of braid. She had makeup on her face – pretty eyeliner that he’d seen her do once or twice and pink powder on her cheeks – and it made her eyes seem really bright and shiny.

She looked beautiful.

“I guess these would be a bit difficult to get on,” she said, as she took the gloves. “They feel a little flimsy, huh?”

“Yeah,” he agreed, nodding dumbly. “I was worried they’d tear in the joints, or that I wouldn’t be able to grip the other one properly if I put one on my prosthetic first…”

“Good thing I’m here, then!” She grinned. Without any hesitation she grabbed him by his prosthetic hand and wiggled the glove on over his fingers. He winced when it did inevitably get caught on the metal joints, but she didn’t seem fussed at all. She did the other glove too, before stepping back to give him a critical look. She reached up a hand to smooth his hair back away from his forehead before grinning. “All done! Do you like the costume?”

He laughed. He wouldn’t have worn it if he didn’t like it. Realising that he was the Prince and she was the Princess was probably the best thing to happen to him that month. “I do,” he said. “Does it look okay?”

Her grin widened. “Looks perfect.”

 

The party went off without a hitch. All of the children and their friends came dressed up, and even some parents, too. Shiro’s little group of kids looked really good – Keith and Lance were the Red and Blue pilots they had action figures of, and Pidge and Hunk were engineers, complete with rolled up blueprints and little plastic wrenches. They looked fantastic and enjoyed themselves probably more than anyone.

Anyone other than Shiro, perhaps. He “escorted” Allura around to greet everyone, her hand on the inside of his elbow. They looked like a matching pair in their costumes, and nothing anyone could say could make the delighted little smile on his face leave. He was escorting the princess of the ball, wasn’t he? And she wouldn’t stop smiling at him. It didn’t matter than the ball was covered in spider webs and ghosts.

He was just glad to be close to Allura.

Chapter Text

Lance was a pretty social kid. He made friends quite easily and got along with pretty much everyone, and there wasn’t ever really a child that particularly disliked him (except for Keith, sometimes, but did that really count? Shiro wasn’t so sure).

In either case, Lance was really friendly. He was the social butterfly of the class, the one everyone could talk to if their friend was away or if they were lonely. Lance hardly ever said no to playing with someone if they asked – the only thing was that they usually didn’t, because he had Keith with him.

And Keith certainly wasn’t social. He interacted with Lance all day, sure, and Hunk and Pidge as well, but other than that he didn’t really like to make friends. He didn’t mind interacting with the other children and wasn’t exactly opposed to it, but if Lance was around then he certainly had a preference.

Sometimes, Shiro worried about Keith and what would happen to him if he and Lance became separated. What if they went to different schools, or if one moved to another city? It was a very real possibility, and although Shiro knew Lance could fit in at other schools, he wasn’t so sure about Keith.

At times, Shiro noticed that Keith could get a little… possessive of Lance’s attention. When Lance talked with other children Keith was always hovering behind him, or glaring from across the room at whoever dared to take his friend away. He always pandered after Lance’s attention, always wanted to be with him and talk with him and play with him. For the most part, Lance reciprocated it – the only problem was that Lance had enough room in him for other people, and Keith didn’t seem to.

When Lance figured that out, however, he started to take advantage of it. Shiro didn’t think any of Lance’s actions were intentional, for the most part, but sometimes he wondered. Lance was clearly aware that Keith was attached to him, just as he was to Keith, and like all friends they did fight sometimes…

It was after one of their little spats that Shiro thought Lance was intentionally trying to make Keith jealous. Lance joked around and laughed with the other kids, quite loudly and honestly, and even if his laughter lacked its usual vigour it was still quite impossible to ignore.

The entire situation just meant that Keith was miserable and Lance was missing his friend.

Shiro was not pleased. He watched it all happen with a frown on his face before finally decided to pull Lance to the side. He wouldn’t let this situation go on for any longer.

Lance was pouting furiously when Shiro set him down at the dining table. “You can’t be acting so childishly, Lance,” Shiro said gently, his hands on Lance’s shoulders. “I know you don’t really want to upset Keith, but you know how he is. You two have to try and be nicer to each other.”

“I know,” Lance mumbled. He seemed to deflate, and gave Shiro a wide, worried look. “But Keith is always mean and he doesn’t like to play with anyone else.”

Shiro sighed, and offered Lance a comforting smile. “Keith isn’t like you, Lance. Making friends isn’t as easy for him. He likes to just keep the ones he has, and that includes you. You shouldn’t tease him too much, okay? You’ll make him sad.”

“Okay,” Lance nodded, “I guess I was being mean… I should apologise to him.”

“Good idea,” Shiro smiled wider this time, and stood. “I’m proud of you, Lance. You’re all grown up, huh?”

Lance grinned broadly, showing off his little dimples, before he darted off to find Keith. Even if Keith became jealous sometimes, Lance would always return to him.

That was one thing Shiro was utterly sure about.

Chapter Text

One day, a stray dog wandered into the kindergarten’s backyard. Shiro wasn’t sure how it got through the fence, but it was just a small thing, and was probably little enough to slip between the bars of the back gate. As Allura and Coran rounded up the children to take them safely indoors, he was the one left to befriend and leash the dog. That hadn’t taken too long, surprisingly – he was pretty sure the dog had been well trained.

It was a pretty friendly thing, too. It didn’t bark or growl or bite, or even nip at his fingers when he picked it up and carried it to a safer place in the front yard. He wasn’t too concerned about it; the dog looked young, was very clean and well-mannered, and even had a shiny collar clipped around its neck. Besides, the only reason he’d noticed the dog at all was because his group of kids had found it first, and were rather enthusiastic about playing with it, though they were careful not to get too close or be too rough.

Oddly enough, the dog liked Keith the best. Keith seemed very comfortable around it, too. Maybe he had a dog at home, or knew someone who owned a dog he regularly interacted with, but either way, he certainly had no fear of it. Lance was pretty much the same, though Shiro had always pegged him more as a cat person than a dog person. Maybe he just liked whatever Keith liked. That seemed like a pretty reasonable explanation, all things considering with those two.

Pidge and Hunk had been more apprehensive about the whole ordeal. Pidge wasn’t pretty impassive towards the dog, and Hunk was worried that it would bite or jump or lick him. It was a pretty friendly animal and did none of those things, of course, but Hunk was still responsible about it and had gone to fetch Shiro straight away. After that, he’d bundled the dog away, contacted its owner, and that had been that. Naturally, the kids pressed against the nearest window they could find to watch the puppy play with a stray tennis ball in the yard.

In the end the dog’s owner had arrived an hour later – their name and phone number had been engraved onto the back of the dog’s tag – to take the puppy back home. Thankfully, she let the kids pet him once last time. Shiro was pretty sure they would have burst into tears and sulked all afternoon if they weren’t allowed to say goodbye to him.

Chapter Text

“Chin up, there’s always next time,” Shiro said, trying not to laugh at Keith’s absolutely scandalised expression. “Go and get the broom.”

At the end of each day when arts and crafts was the last activity they did, Shiro got the children to help him clean. The floors needed to be swept, the pencils needed to be sorted, and all the bits of paper and glitter and random other little things had to be cleaned away from the table tops and thrown out. None of the kids willingly would volunteer to help out (expect Hunk, that sweet angel) so Shiro usually made them draw labelled paddle pop sticks out of a box to delegate roles.

Keith had been the unlucky one to draw out the sweeping paddle pop. He gave the box of sticks an offended scowl before skulking off towards the supply closet. Shiro watched him fondly before offering the box to the rest of the kids. Now that the worst job had been taken, they were lest hesitant when drawing out their own paddle pop sticks.

After everyone had been assigned a role and started cleaning, Shiro put the box away and went to find Allura. One of the kids had accidentally tripped her earlier that day, and she’d ended up with a small scrape on her knee. Shiro, as the self-appointed best band aid applier in the building, was the one to disinfect and cover the wound. Although she wasn’t hurt at all, it had become evident that she was quite tired, so Shiro and Coran had used the scrape as a way to get her to take it easy for the evening.

He hadn’t expected to find her asleep, slumped against the small couch they had in the office. She really must have been tired, huh?

Before he could talk himself out of it, he quietly pulled his jacket off the back of his chair, and gently draped it across her torso. She shifted for a moment, mumbling something he couldn’t quite make out, before rubbing her face against the fabric and pulling it tighter around her shoulders. After a moment she stilled again, content. Shiro couldn’t help but coo at her.

Ahh, so she’s cute.

Chapter Text

The kids didn’t often get overly sweet or unhealthy treats while at the kindergarten. When there wasn’t some sort of event going on (Shiro cringed thinking about all the sugar consumed on Halloween), Coran usually made them sandwiches and fruit salads and a variety of healthy snacks. They were pretty delicious most of the time, too, unless Coran started “experimenting”.

One day during the holidays, however, they brought in fairy floss for the kids. It had been Allura’s idea, and Shiro was a little suspicious that she just wanted some for herself too, but neither he nor Coran protested. Besides, they both knew the children would absolutely love it.

And boy did they.

For one, none of the adults in the kindergarten knew how to work a fairy floss machine. Coran had tried and ended up with sugar all in his moustache, which he did not appreciate. Allura had tried too, and even with her hair tied up it had gathered more sugar than Shiro thought was even possible. He thought it was pretty amusing to see her covered in the pink, dust-like particles that flew out of the machine, though she wasn’t particularly impressed by any of it.

Of course, he wasn’t the best at spinning the sugar either, but he could at least keep the fairy floss mostly on the stick. He had a lot of sugar stuck between the joints of his hand that would be hell to clean out later, but he thought it was worth it. There was nothing better than seeing all the kids (and Allura) so happy, and not even the ravenous sugar highs everyone experienced could dampen his mood.

Besides, Allura was in a good mood that day. She was affectionate and loud and when Shiro, without thinking, bent to kiss her cheek, she’d only laughed and kissed his back. “I can taste the fairy floss on you!” She declared, eyes bright and cheeks red. “You taste so sweet.”

He’d wanted to tell her that she tasted sweet too, but he could only give her a flustered smile. He could taste sugar on his lips for the rest of the entire day.

Chapter Text

One day, Lance was unexpectedly tired. His mother had pulled Shiro aside in the morning when she’d dropped him off to explain that he’d had a rough time sleeping the previous night, so Shiro had expected him to be a little quieter than usual.

For most of the morning, he acted pretty normal. He played with the other kids and argued with Keith and ate his bowl of fruit for morning tea with enthusiasm. Shiro almost forgot that he’d had a rough night, but it was a small, persistent presence in the back of his mind, and so he tried to keep a close eye on Lance.

It was when Lance started to look fatigued and exhausted that he called Lance back inside. He followed Shiro quietly, and yawned more than once. Poor kid.

“How about you take a rest in the office, Lance?” Shiro offered, bending down to be at Lance’s eyelevel. Lance was rubbing at his eyes with his knuckles now. “You seem a little tired.”

Lance nodded without protesting at all, and lifted his arms up, his little fingers outstretched. Shiro hadn’t expected him to agree so quickly, and it was with a little bit of surprise that he lifted Lance up into his arms. He could feel Lance yawn against his skin, and then rest his head on Shiro’s shoulder, his arms around Shiro’s neck.

Shiro patted his back a couple of times as he took Lance to the office. He could rest on the couch in there, where it was cool and quiet. Hopefully Lance would feel a little better by the time the afternoon rolled around if he caught up on some sleep.

It must have only been a minute between the time Shiro picked Lance up and the time he entered the office, but when he did, Lance was fast asleep. Shiro carefully lowered him down onto the couch, his head resting on one of the decorative pillows Allura brought, and made sure he really was asleep before leaving him be.

For the most part, the rest of the day progressed as it usually did. Shiro only noticed something amiss when lunch time rolled around and there was not one, but two empty seats at the table. He checked outside and in the recreation room, and even in the bathroom, but Keith was nowhere to be found. Not even Allura had seen him in the last hour.

Shiro almost panicked when he couldn’t find Keith, but something told him that Keith wasn’t missing or injured. After thinking on it for a moment, he headed towards the office. It was strange, after all, to find Keith without Lance beside him. He should have expected it, really.

Keith was, in fact, in the office. Shiro found him squished onto the couch next to Lance, his hands curled around Lance’s waist like he was trying to hug him. His eyes were closed, and he was clearly asleep, as well. He’d dragged Shiro’s jacket off of the back of his chair and was using it as a blanket for them both.

It was ridiculously cute, Shiro admitted. He could feel his heart practically melting at the sight of the two of them sleeping together. Keith must have been really worried about Lance, huh? Maybe Shiro could forgive him for sneaking into the office just this one time.

Chapter Text

Sometimes, the kid’s parents were late when coming to pick them up. Shiro didn’t particularly mind staying back for a while, but it always made the child anxious. Being the last kid left at the kindergarten often stressed them out, and the sight of the empty, quiet rooms never helped. The building changed when it wasn’t filled with noise and activity.

One night, Lance’s parents were held up at an appointment with one of their older children. They would only be an hour or so late, but that meant Lance was at the kindergarten without Hunk, Pidge or Keith (even though Keith had valiantly tried to stay when his father arrived to take him home).

Lance didn’t like being alone. He sulked in the recreation room, sunken into their beanbag with his lion and his matching blanket clutched to his chest. He didn’t want a snack when Shiro offered it, and even rejected Shiro’s suggestion of reading a story to him. That was something Lance never said no to, so it was safe to say Shiro was concerned. He didn’t know how to cheer Lance up.

That is, until a phone call came in. Coran and Allura had already gone home, so Shiro was the one to answer. He was quite surprised to hear Mrs Kogane on the line.

“Shiro? Sorry to bother you…”

“No, no, it’s alright,” he said. “Did Keith forget something?”

“Not exactly…” She said, before sighing. “His friend Lance is still there, right? He won’t stop worrying about Lance, and it’s really riling him up. If it’s not too much to ask, can you put him on the phone? Keith is really insisting…”

Shiro blinked several times, surprised. Really, he shouldn’t have been – of course Keith would be worried, and of course he’d demand to know if Lance was alright. Shiro should have expected it. “Alright,” he said, “but only for a moment.” He couldn’t hold up the line after all, not in case Lance’s parents called.

“Thank you, Shiro,” she said, before he could hear the sound of her telling Keith to be quick.

As she did, Shiro made his way back into the recreation room, and crouched down beside Lance. “You’ve got a phone call,” he said, offering Lance both the phone and a small smile.

Lance blinked at him, eyes big and worried, and carefully took the phone. He used both hands to press it to his ear, and then his eyes suddenly went wide, and his smile came back. “Keith!”

Shiro smiled again, and stood. He was glad Lance was happy again.

Chapter Text

“N-no, Shiro, you have to take the lead more-”

“Sorry-”

“Put your hand on my waist. My waist, Shiro. That’s my hip.”

“W-what’s the difference?”

“It’s so you can lead me better. Ready?”

“No.”

“Great! Just relax, I’ll lead you for now until you can used to it.”

Shiro blinked several times, his face red. He knew his hand was sweaty, and he really hoped Allura couldn’t tell that through her shirt. “I really don’t think dancing is my forte,” he said, flustered.

“You can’t avoid the dancefloor at a wedding,” Allura insisted, as she led Shiro though a number of steps for some sort of formal dance she knew rather well. “Trust me, I have a lot of relatives that are going to absolutely love a man like you.”

Shiro almost tripped over his own feet at that. “L-like me?”

“Of course!” Allura grinned. “A young, strapping man for them to drool over? Not to mention you’re completely unrelated to them. You’ll be the prince of the ball.”

He laughed a little. “I hope not! That should be left to the groom, don’t you think?”

She laughed too, and continued to teach him how to dance. Her hand on his shoulder was distracting, as were the closeness of her eyes. He couldn’t help but watch her fondly, and hoped his infatuation didn’t show on his face too much.

A distant cousin of Allura was having a wedding that weekend. She’d asked Shiro to go with her, and of course he’d eventually managed to squeeze out an enthusiastic yes, but the problem of his dancing skills was quite evident. It was sort of a tradition for everyone to dance a bunch of dances at weddings in Allura’s family, and Shiro didn’t want to let her down, so when she’d offered to teach him he hadn’t turned her down.

He really hoped he didn’t embarrass her at the wedding. He wanted to impress her family, after all, and her too. It would be the first time they’d ever really gone out with the intention of going together, and while he was nervous, he was also really excited. He’d get to see Allura in a pretty dress, dancing, in a pretty dress…

Chapter Text

Contrary to popular belief, Shiro did have friends outside of work. He’d had many back during his days at the Galaxy Garrison, but after his accident he’d started to drift away from them. They were more like acquaintances now, except for one – Matt Holt.

Who was, coincidentally, Pidge’s older brother.

Matt had always been a funny character. He looked small and fragile, but Shiro knew better than anyone that Matt could lift him with no trouble, or drink anyone under the table without breaking a sweat. His dry and sometimes brutal humour had taken a while to get used to, but Matt was one of the people Shiro trusted the most, and he valued their friendship very highly.

Besides, Matt never took any of Shiro’s woe-is-me crap, and always managed to cheer him up. What more could Shiro want from a close friend?

Of course, taking Matt out anywhere meant it was going to be a very amusing day, at least on Matt’s behalf. Shiro needed to buy a suit for the wedding and without any fashion sense himself, he’d turned to Matt. His friend thought that Shiro’s infatuation with his co-worker was completely and utterly hilarious, and never failed to tease Shiro about it.

“How does this one look?” Shiro asked, as he drew back the curtain to the fitting room.

Matt was waiting on a plush looking couch in the small viewing area, and as Shiro stepped into sight, he gave him a critical look. “I think I like the other one better,” he said after a moment, with a small nod to himself. “It makes your shoulders look nicer.”

Shiro gave him a look. “How can shoulders look nice in the first place?”

Matt gave him a cheeky grin, and jumped to his feet. “Trust me, trust me!” He said, smiling cheerfully as he turned Shiro around to brush down his jacket. “There’s not much time to get tailoring done, right? So it’d be better if we could find something off the rack that fits your ridiculously muscled body as best as it can.”

“My what now?” Shiro sighed, and rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. Shopping for clothes really wasn’t his thing. “So the other one? The dark one?”

“Yeah, definitely,” Matt said, nodding again. He smoothed his hands down Shiro’s shoulders before pushing him back into the dressing room. “Get changed, and we’ll get that suit and then find you a tie. Her dress is purple, right?”

“Lilac,” Shiro corrected. “It has to be lilac. I have to match her perfectly.”

Matt laughed. “You’re so in love with her,” he said. Matt sounded rather fond, and it made Shiro pause for a moment. “I can’t wait to meet her. She sounds like a pretty cool girl.”

Shiro smiled to himself as he put his casual clothes back on. “She is,” he said. “I think you’ll like her.”

“Well I mean, if you like her this much, then I’m sure to as well,” Matt said. He drew back the curtain and ushered Shiro towards the front desk. “You’re picking her up, right?”

“Yeah.”

“This is so exciting!” Matt said, smacking Shiro on the back. “You’re finally growing up, huh? I never thought this day would come.”

Shiro tried not to laugh, but being with Matt made it impossible not to. “You’re hilarious, truly.”

“Oh, I know,” Matt grinned. “Now come on, we need to find you a lilac tie, and then you can listen to me complain about my dumb co-workers for three hours while we eat shitty takeout food on your nice couch in your nice house. How does that sound to you?”

“Wonderful.”

Chapter Text

Shiro was nervous.

It wasn’t something that usually happened. He’d been a pretty confident guy, and although that had changed a little with his arm, he’d learned to present himself in a way that didn’t make him vulnerable. Working with the children had helped, too; their unabashed sureness showed him that sometimes it was easier to let go of his insecurities than to try and hide them.

But this was different. He’d spent the entire day worrying about things that could go wrong, or saying something bad, or doing something he shouldn’t. For one, he hadn’t attended many weddings before, maybe only two or three in his life. He wasn’t sure what would be happening or where he needed to be, and that was stressful. It was not, however, the wedding itself that worried him the most.

It was Allura.

Or, more specifically, the fact that he liked her so much. What was he going to do if he embarrassed her? If he accidentally offended her family, or made a bad impression? He just wanted her to be happy, and if he messed that up, he’d never forgive himself.

It had taken him a while to get dressed, and not only because squeezing his prosthetic through the closely tailored suit arm without letting the fabric catch in the joints was difficult. He was too nervous to do his buttons up the first time, and no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t get his lilac tie to sit straight. He wasn’t even sure he’d gotten the right shade of lilac. What if it was the wrong colour?

He hoped he looked alright. Matt had helped him choose a nice suit, and he’d kept it as neat and clean as he possibly could. He’d brushed his hair and tried to part it neatly, and he’d made sure to clean his face, too. There wasn’t much more he could do, he didn’t think, other than wait and see if he met Allura’s approval.

As he was the one who would be driving them to and from the wedding, he knew he had to get a move on. He couldn’t stand in front of his mirror brooding forever. There was little doubt in his mind that he was overthinking it all, and that as soon as he was with Allura he’d be fine, like usual. Allura didn’t live all that far away from him, so he didn’t have long to wilt in his thoughts before he was nervously standing before her door, waiting for her to come down.

When she did, all his worries melted away.

Her dress was very pretty. It hugged her figure and covered her chest, and had some sort of band around the neck. It was long, and there was a slit up the left side, but it looked very classy, he thought. Allura was already a very beautiful person, but the dress made her seem even prettier.

“Well don’t you look handsome,” she said, as a bashful smile touched her lips. She looked flushed, and Shiro wondered if she had been nervous, too. After locking her door, she followed him out to his car. “Thank you for coming with me.”

“It’s my pleasure, really,” he said, because it was. He saw Allura every day, but there was not a single moment where her beauty was lost on him. He thought he’d become used to it, that one day his heart wouldn’t beat so fast just at the mere sight of her, but that wasn’t the case. “You look… you look really beautiful.”

She ducked her head, and for the first time, Shiro saw her honestly blush. She had been nervous, then. “You flatter me too much,” she said, as she lifted her head to give him a dazzling, albeit flushed smile. “Here, bend down a little, I’ll fix your tie.”

He laughed a little. “Sorry, I just couldn’t quite get it.”

Her fingers made quick work of straightening his tie. She was so close that he could smell mint on her breath, just under the sweet-scented perfume on her skin. When she was done, she leaned back, just a little, before reaching a hand up to brush through his hair, too. “There, all done.”

He smiled again. “Ready to go?”

She nodded, and took his hand. “Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

The ceremony was nice. After mingling and being introduced to more guests and family members than he could ever possibly remember, they’d sat down to watch the bride and groom be wed, and then they’d moved to the cocktail hour while important photos were taken and the reception area was being set up.

Shiro had forgotten how peaceful weddings could be. The bride and groom had invited a lovely group of people, and there was no drama between anyone. A soft, nostalgic air had settled over the ceremony area as they’d listened to sweet stories and even sweeter vows, and somewhere in between it all he’d found himself holding Allura’s hand between his own, tracing the lines on her palm with his thumb.

It was nice to see Allura relaxed, too. After they’d congratulated the couple, they’d gotten pretty coloured drinks at the bar and wandered out to sit in the garden with the rest of the guests. The wedding was outdoors; the ceremony had been held outside, in a garden lined with tall rose bushes and weeping willows that casted shade on the guests. An archway bursting with flowers had stood over the couple, and birds had flittered freely amongst them, without fear or hesitation.

The reception area was indoors, with decorated tables and seats disguised under matching covers. Shiro had been assigned a seat beside Allura at a table with her father and their close friends, which he was relieved about. He got along with Alfor – mostly because Alfor liked to tease him relentlessly just to see him squirm – and Allura’s friends were all quite friendly.

For the most part, Shiro spent the evening listening to the guests talking, which he didn’t mind. They seemed to like him, if the way they touched his shoulders and complimented his looks were any indication. He was nervous about his prosthetic, and kept his hand under the table when he could, though there was no way he could hide the scar across his nose.

But no one really seemed to notice. He didn’t know if Allura had mentioned it or not, but no one asked him about his arm, or offered him condolences, or let their eyes linger. It was strange, considering the treatment he was used to, but not entirely unwelcome.

He thought that it was nice that he had Allura looking out for him. He could feel her eyes on him when he talked to other people without her at his elbow, and she seemed unafraid to take his hand under the table when they were listening to the pleasant conversations other people were having. She never said a bad word about him, either, and never rose to the teasing they received. It made him feel like she was enforcing the idea that he was a good person, and that she liked him. He’d been doing the same thing, after all.

After eating, when the bride and groom had had their first dance and the cake had been cut, most people returned to mingling. The dancefloor was open, and scattered with flower petals from the first dance. He’d seen Allura eyeing the dancing partners for a while, and although his heart had been fluttering nervously, he’d offered her his hand.

The way her eyes lit up would never leave him.

Dancing with Allura was serene. It was like the entire world bled away, and his focus become her, and solely her. It wasn’t about feeling her against him or controlling her movements through the dance steps; it was about something more, something he couldn’t explain. Dancing was an equal push and pull, and where he faltered, she was there to guide him. He felt like he could lean on her, and that when he did, he wouldn’t fall.

Except he’d already fallen for her, hadn’t he?

He couldn’t help but sigh contentedly as he twirled her around the dancefloor. Her hand was tucked firmly in his, and he had his arm perhaps a little too far around her waist, but she didn’t seem to mind at all. When he rested his cheek against her hair, she hid a small smile against his chest. She felt unexpectedly small then, and he couldn’t help but lean closer, couldn’t help but press his palm flat against the small of her back.

He wanted to marry her one day, if she’d let him.

Chapter Text

There hadn’t been many weddings in Shiro’s family that he could recall. His family wasn’t all that big to begin with, and by the time he’d been born his parents had already been married for several years.

Attending the wedding with Allura made him think a little differently. He hadn’t expected to enjoy the evening as much as he had, and although he hardly knew anyone at the venue, he felt welcome, or like he belonged. No one treated him any differently because he wasn’t family, or because of his arm. If anything, it was like they didn’t notice anything different about him at all.

Being at the wedding also prompted him to think about Allura a lot more. He really wanted to date her, or hold her hand, or kiss her. To do something more than they were already doing. Was it appropriate, considering their jobs? He doubted any of the parents would mind, and all the children seemed aware of his crush on Allura by now…

He just liked her so much. He’d never fallen for somebody like this, never had his heart leap at the mere thought of them. Allura was so kind and beautiful, and so accepting of him and his faults that he could hardly believe she was real. Anytime his mind strayed back to the secret conversation they’d had when they were stuck in the storage closet at the kindergarten, his face turned red, and his heart began to beat real fast.

There was no doubt in his mind that he liked her; liked her a lot. She liked him too, didn’t she? Maybe it would be okay if he asked her out, then. Properly. The wedding seemed like the perfect opportunity to.

It was all about timing, and with the stars coming out to greet them, he thought there was no better moment.

Chapter Text

There was a small area outside the main reception hall that was lit by old lampposts and small ground lights, of which lined stone pathways that lead through the garden. It wasn’t an empty area, because people walked around with a quiet gentleness befitting of the scenery, but Shiro didn’t mind. He had Allura’s hand tucked into his elbow as he led her down the path, and her presence was enough to captive him completely.

The night had been good, Shiro thought. The bride and groom were happy, the guests were happy, and Allura was happy. Shiro was happy, too, especially now that he had Allura to himself again as they strolled through the gardens together. The night air was a little chilly when they were away from the reception hall, so he draped his jacket over her shoulders, and delighted in the bashful smile she gave him in return. He thought it was the little things like that that made him truly love her.

For a while they simply talked. It was easy talking with Allura, especially when they were both as relaxed as they were. They talked about their plans for the week at the kindergarten, and how Lance and Keith were getting along remarkably well at the moment. They talked about the wedding too, and how nice it had been, how pleasant the evening felt all the way through.

“Thank you for coming with me,” Allura said, as they took a seat on a bench hidden away underneath a wooden pergola. “I really appreciate it, Shiro.”

“It was my pleasure,” Shiro said. One of Allura’s dainty but capable hands was tucked away between his own, which he held on her knee. He wasn’t sure when he’d taken her hand, but he was glad he had. He was very careful with his prosthetic, and hoped it wasn’t too cold against her skin.

After a moment, Allura shifted closer, close enough so that she could rest her head on his shoulder. Shiro felt his heart jump when she did, and he couldn’t help but lean into her, too. She had a smile on her face, and while it wasn’t aimed directly at him, Shiro knew that he’d caused at least a small part of it. Who wouldn’t be pleased when Allura smiled so prettily? There was no doubt in his mind that she could captive an entire room of people if she did nothing more than smile.

“I’m really glad you’re here,” Allura said, her voice soft and quiet. “Everyone really likes you. I was worried they’d chase you off, or say something to offend you.”

“If they’re anything like you, I doubt they’ll do anything to frighten me,” he said, laughing a little. He was far too addicted to Allura to be chased away.

Allura laughed too, and turned her big blue eyes up at him. “You like me, don’t you, Shiro? That’s why you always do so much for me.”

Colour flooded his cheeks. He’d wanted to ask her on a date properly, tell her that he liked her properly, but it seemed fitting that Allura would beat him to it. He’d wanted to surprise her, to show that he was serious about liking her, and there was only one thing that came to mind when he thought about how he could still do that.

So he pressed his palm under her chin, tilted her head up, and kissed her.

It was only for a moment, only a chaste press of lips, but it made his stomach twist in an incredibly good way. He was afraid that his actions might have been too forceful when Allura made a small, shocked noise, and he pulled back to see if she was okay.

But her hand found a place at the back of his neck, and she drew him in again.

Maybe he’d made the right decision, after all.

Chapter Text

They decided not to tell anyone they were in a relationship. Shiro hadn’t been the one to bring up keeping their relationship a secret, but he’d agreed without hesitation for a number of reasons. One was that he was still unsure about what to call their relationship – calling it dating felt too juvenile, and although he was pretty sure he was Allura’s boyfriend now, that label felt too… flimsy, as well.

His relationship with Allura felt like something so important to him that he just couldn’t label it, couldn’t find the right word to fit whatever it was they had, so he didn’t. He knew that she wasn’t interested in anyone else, and that he wasn’t, either. For all intents and purposes it was a relationship, so he didn’t think they needed any labels. It worked for both of them.

Besides, they both thought it was something they should ease the kids at Altea Kindergarten into, after all. Even if the kids thought they were already together, it wasn’t something they wanted to flaunt, let alone in front of the children. A lot of people looked down on workplace relationships, and they didn’t want to make the parents uncomfortable, so anything they did regarding their relationship would be slow and careful.

At least, that was how it was supposed to be.

“A-Allura, wait,” Shiro said, as Allura’s arms slipped around his waist. “What if someone comes in?”

Allura hummed, and hardly seemed to listen to him. Her forehead was pressed against his chest, and he could feel her fingers gripping fistfuls of his shirt. The edge of the kitchen counter was digging into the small of his back, but with Allura before him, he ignored it.

“What is it?” He asked quietly, as he placed his hand on the back of her head. It was one of his favourite places to hold her, just because her hair was so soft and fluffy. She seemed to like it, too. He always made sure to use his flesh hand, though he didn’t think she’d noticed that quite yet.

“Nothing,” she said, “I just missed you.”

His face flushed. “You’ve seen me all day,” he said. “We work together.”

“Doesn’t count,” she argued, her tone light-hearted and teasing. Her hand rubbed small circles into his back almost like she wasn’t thinking about it, which she probably wasn’t. “I want to see you like this.”

Ah, that wasn’t fair. She was acting too cute and he didn’t think his heart could handle it. How could he possibly concentrate on all the things he had to do for the day when he knew she was thinking things like that? Totally unfair.

Unexpectedly, a small head appeared around the corner. “Shiro? I want to ask you something.”

Shiro jumped at the sound of Lance’s voice, and jerked away from Allura. “W-what’s up, buddy?” He asked. He desperately hoped his cheeks weren’t too red, but by the sound of Allura’s snicker, they must have been.

“I want to ask you something,” Lance repeated. He was fiddling with the hem of his shirt, and after a moment he quietly added, “In private.”

Shiro gave him a puzzled look, because it wasn’t something that Lance would usually ask for, but Allura only laughed. “Oh, I see, you need some boy talk. We’ll finish our conversation later, okay Shiro?”

“Okay,” he said, as he watched her leave. He wanted to point out that their conversation hadn’t really been a conversation, but didn’t. When she had left the kitchen, he beckoned Lance closer. “What’s troubling you?”

Lance hesitated. “It’s Keith,” he finally admitted. He looked a bit upset even just saying the words, and it made Shiro’s heart clench. “What if he doesn’t like me?”

“I’m pretty sure he likes you, Lance,” Shiro comforted. “You’re best friends.”

“Yeah, but someone else likes him, too. What if he doesn’t like me the best?”

Shiro hummed. Although the questions were coming from a child, they sounded oddly familiar. He’d thought the same thing about Allura, hadn’t he? Except he hadn’t been thinking about friendship. “Well, that depends on how you like him,” he said carefully. “You have more than one friend, right? Most people have more than one friend, and that means Keith, too.”

“I know,” Lance said, nodding. “But this is different. A girl said she likes Keith.”

“Oh.” Well, that was different indeed. Shiro knew the kids had crushes on each other as frequently as the days changed, and he wasn’t exactly surprised that the current trend was leaning towards liking Keith. Even though he was quiet, he was a good kid, and he would be a real looker when he was older. “Does that upset you?”

Lance huffed. “No.”

Shiro raised his eyebrows.

“Yes,” Lance muttered. “Keith is my friend, not hers.”

It was with an abrupt feeling that Shiro realised Lance was jealous. He’d sometimes thought that the way Lance and Keith seemed attached at the hip would be a phase; a lot of parents flippantly said the same thing, and it seemed like the easy answer. But what if it wasn’t? It wasn’t like Shiro hadn’t come across diverse kids before – Pidge was a perfect example.

“You don’t need to worry too much,” Shiro said, as he ruffled Lance’s hair. “Like you said, Keith is your friend, right?”

Lance nodded.

“Nothing will stop you from being his friend either, right?”

Again, Lance nodded.

“Then just trust that he feels the same,” Shiro said. “I’m sure you’ll always be close.”

At Shiro’s words, Lance seemed a little more reassured. He nodded again, though it seemed like he did only to comfort himself, before reaching forwards to hug Shiro. “Thanks,” he muttered. “And don’t tell Keith I said anything!”

Shiro chuckled. Now that sounded more like Lance. “I won’t,” he promised.

Lance gave him a mischievous smile. “And I won’t tell anyone about you and Allura!”

Shiro spluttered. “Not so loud, Lance!” He hissed.

Somewhere from the office, he heard Allura snicker again. Well, perhaps it was a little amusing.

Chapter Text

Although Shiro felt like the issue between Lance and Keith should have been resolved with the talk he had with Lance earlier, it probably wasn’t. Things with those two boys were never that easy, after all, so it was something he kept a close eye on for the remainder of the afternoon.

The little girl that had a crush on Keith was a nice girl. She had a sweet face, and although she was shy, she wasn’t often afraid to speak her mind, especially if prompted. She wasn’t one of the girls that was afraid to play with the boys, either, so when she and her group of friends joined Shiro’s table with his kids, it certainly caused a few of Lance’s feathers to ruffle.

It wasn’t like Lance was mean to her, but not even jealously could make him like that. But he wasn’t exactly welcoming, either. He didn’t joke with the girls, and didn’t let any of them sit next to Keith. He frowned a lot more than usual, and stuck far closer to Keith than he typically would of. It was completely obvious to Shiro, but thankfully not obvious to the children. If anything, they just didn’t seem to understand why Lance was giving them the cold shoulder.

He wasn’t exactly sure what he should do about it, if he were being honest. In the end he decided that he should probably let the kids sort it out for themselves. Lance had already approached him, after all, and there wasn’t much more Shiro could do other than force them to work it out by addressing the problem directly. And while that seemed like it would solve the problem sooner rather than later, he didn’t think it would teach any of the kids anything. They’d have to learn to fight their own battles eventually, even if Shiro wanted to do nothing more than help them.

The problem really came to a head when the girl managed to sit next to Keith when Lance wasn’t looking. Shiro knew she wasn’t doing anything to spite Lance, and that her crush on Keith really was just something fleeting and innocent, but it really was upsetting Lance. When she managed to tell Keith that she liked him, Lance pushed away from the table and all but stormed out of the recreation room.

Shiro winced. Maybe he should have intervened, after all.

But Keith was frowning, now. His eyes followed Lance leave the room, before they slowly slid over to the girl. “Sorry, but I don’t like you,” he mumbled, before he stood too. “I only like Lance.”

Shiro’s eyebrows rose. That was certainly unexpected. Although the girl looked sad, she didn’t follow Keith when he left the table. Shiro was meant to be supervising the kids in the recreation room, but he still edged out of the doorway so he could listen in on Lance and Keith, just in case something happened.

“Why are you angry?” Keith asked. He was frowning at Lance, but he didn’t look upset himself, only puzzled.

“I’m not angry,” Lance huffed. He was pouting, and almost looked like he was going to cry, and it made Shiro’s heart ache. Lance had incredibly expressive eyes, and to see them watery and confused really was heart wrenching. “I’m not.”

Shiro expected Keith to protest at that, because someone who wasn’t angry wouldn’t storm out of a room, but Keith didn’t. Instead, he threw his arms around Lance’s shoulders, and hugged him. One of his little hands was on the back of Lance’s head like he knew how comforting a gesture it was. It wasn’t the normal way he’d hug Lance, but it was still really sweet to see.

“It’s okay,” Keith said. “I only like Lance.”

Lance huffed again, but Shiro could see he was smiling as he hugged Keith back. “Why are you hugging me like this?” He asked. “It’s weird.”

“Huh? Oh, I see Shiro and Allura hug like this. Isn’t that what I’m meant to do?”

Lance snickered, and rubbed his nose against Keith’s shoulder. “Yeah! That’s true.”

Shiro pressed his palm against his face, utterly embarrassed. He was ready to hide beneath his blankets, now.

Chapter Text

Shiro didn’t often get sick. He’d always been pretty health as a kid, and his father’s tendency to dust the house regularly meant he’d never really gotten runny noses or had sneezing fits. He didn’t have allergies – he could be around cats and roll around in grass and eat peanuts just fine – and while he did get sick, it just wasn’t something that commonly happened.

As he’d gotten older, he thought that the times he did get sick were far worse than they had been when he was a kid, especially when he started living on his own. Maybe the fact that he’d had his arm amputated had weakened his immune system – he’d healed right on schedule, but the process of actually losing the arm and the procedure to attach the prosthetic had been long and painful. He thought that maybe his immunity to common sicknesses had changed, then, and although he still wasn’t often sick, he certainly noticed more when he was.

That’s why, when he felt the tingling of a migraine beginning to buzz at the back of his head, he knew he was getting sick. He was aware that he still had a full day of work ahead of him, but the idea of placating screaming children and trying to wrangle them into cooperating like he usually did was exhausting. Even though he took pain medicine, it didn’t help much.

Allura noticed his discomfort straight away. She handed him a refrigerated bottle of water – her own, if the glittery words Space Queen emblazoned across the side were anything to go by – and told him to drink up. The cool water did help for a while, but by the time the afternoon came around, he was completely exhausted.

“Why don’t you take a rest on the couch for a little, Shiro?” Coran suggested. Shiro had been helping him make afternoon tea for the kids in the kitchen, so eventually he’d noticed Shiro’s tiredness, too. Coming from him, it felt like a suggestion Shiro couldn’t ignore.

“Alright,” he said. If his head hadn’t been hurting so much, he might have put up a bit more of a fight, but as it was the couch seemed very inviting. After making sure he’d set aside everything he’d been working on, he snuck into the office, and gently shut the door.

The quiet was rather welcome. When he sunk down against the couch, he couldn’t help but sigh. He didn’t really fit on it when he stretched out, so he drew his legs up, and rested his head against his arm with his back to the door. Maybe rest would be good for him.

 

He mustn’t have been asleep for long when something woke him. He felt restless, and hot, and almost instantly he knew he was probably developing a fever. It was probably that that woke him, but there was something else, too.

“I’m sorry, did I wake you? Go back to sleep, Shiro.”

He blinked blurrily, and turned his head to face Allura. She was sitting on the edge of the couch beside him, and she had her fingers in her hair. When she pressed her palm to his forehead, no doubt to take his temperature, he couldn’t help but lean into her touch. “What time is it?”

“Don’t worry, you haven’t missed much,” Allura said. She continued to run her fingers through his hair, and trace her knuckles down his cheek and across his jaw. The motion was so comforting that he felt his eyes starting to slip shut again. “Want me to bring you some more water?”

He nodded. She was only gone for a moment, but her absence made his heart race, and not in a good way. The last time he’d gotten sick like this was a while after his surgery, and his mother had been so frightened for him that she’d spent a week by his bed until he’d been better, though he’d insisted she hadn’t needed to.

When Allura returned, she had him sit up so that she could take a seat on the end of the couch where his head had been resting. After he’d drained the glass, she set it aside for him, and let him to rest his head on her lap. He did so with some hesitation, but her legs were soft, and her clothes smelt clean and familiar. He pulled in a deep breath and exhaled once, before closing his eyes again.

Her fingers returned to his hair. “You should have told me you weren’t feeling well,” she chastised, though her voice was light, and it wasn’t accusatory. “I’ll drive you home today, okay?”

“But my car…”

“I’ll pick you up tomorrow, too,” she said, before he could gather the energy to protest. “We lock the gates, your car will be fine here. So get some rest, alright? I’ll take care of you.”

He clenched his fingers in the end of her shirt. How could he have gotten so lucky? Allura didn’t have to look out for him, didn’t have to offer to care for him, but she did of her own violation. He knew it wasn’t because she pitied him, or because she thought that he couldn’t take care of himself. She did it because she wanted to help him, and wanted to make sure he was okay. What more could he have ever asked for?

“Don’t worry,” she whispered, when she felt his hand in her shirt, “I’ll stay until you fall asleep again. Get some rest, Shiro.”

When she asked something of him so warmly like that, there was nothing he could do but helplessly comply.

Chapter Text

Shiro’s house wasn’t messy, but he was rather embarrassed to have Allura over for the first time when there were dishes unwashed and laundry that had to be done. She didn’t seem to mind too much as she curiously poked around, so Shiro put his embarrassment to the back of his mind.

Allura set her keys down on the kitchen bench. “I’m going to make something light for you to eat,” she said. “Why don’t you go take a shower?”

“Is that alright?”

“Yeah, go ahead. I’m sure I can manage.”

With no energy to argue, he did as he was told. For most of the evening he’d slept in the office, restlessly tossing and turning as his fever became worse. Towards the end of the evening he’d been surprised with a handmade get well soon card from his kids, which he’d carefully kept safe until he could put it on his bedside table at home.

A shower made him feel a little better, and a little cleaner. He made sure to towel his hair dry, even though it made his head spin, before dressing in loose sweats and a shirt he was comfortable sleeping in. Usually he didn’t wear a shirt to bed, but there was no way he could show Allura the scars on his shoulder yet.

When he wandered back out into his kitchen, he found Allura hovering over the stove. There was a pleasant smell in the air, one that made him feel hungry, even though he didn’t usually eat much when he was sick. He could see that she’d raided his fridge for vegetables, and somehow made do with what she’d found. He’d need to go shopping for groceries on the weekend.

“Ah, you’re out,” Allura said, when she noticed him standing in the doorway. “I hope you don’t mind me raiding your cupboards. My mother used to always make this for me when I was sick as a child. It’s a family recipe, you know.”

“I don’t mind,” Shiro said quietly. He wandered closer, and peered over her shoulder to see what she was making. He wasn’t sure what it actually was, but it looked as good as it smelt. He’d always known Allura was a reliable person, but he was really starting to see why the children loved her as much as they did now, too.

“How’s your head?” She asked, as she peered back up at him. Her eyes were very blue as they met his.

He startled, suddenly quite aware of how close he’d put himself to her. “Sore,” he answered honestly, but he didn’t move away from her. If he wasn’t so unsure about his weight being a burden to her, he might have curled up against her back.

“Go sit down, then,” she said, nudging him away. “This should be done soon, I’ll bring it to you. Off you go.”

“Alright…”

His couch wasn’t the comfiest thing to sit on, but in that moment he thought that he could have probably slept for twelve hours straight on it, without even waking up. He felt like he really could have fallen asleep just by listening to Allura move about his home. It had been a long time since he’d had someone over, and even longer since someone had made a meal for him.

He was suddenly overcome by the urge to hold her. Allura was doing so much for him without even being asked, wasn’t she? It would have been perfectly fine for her to just drive him home, and even doing that was going out of her way, but she was cooking for him too, and caring for him. He didn’t think his heart would ever hurt over something like love, and yet it was. He’d never loved anyone like he loved her, and she didn’t even know it.

Chapter Text

Although Shiro wasn’t quite sure what had been in Allura’s special food, it had still tasted really good. True to her word, it had made him feel a little better, and it had settled his stomach. He hadn’t really felt like eating much, but Allura’s gentle insistence had had him finishing the entire bowl.

Of course, he’d been rewarded with cuddles afterwards. Allura’s presence was welcoming and comforting as he’d wound down for the evening. He’d laid mostly across her lap, with his head resting on her chest (he would be embarrassed about that when he was lucid, but for now it was soft and he could hear her heartbeat and that’s all he could ever want).

While Shiro dozed, she’d watched television, with the volume down low. It was crazy how easy she fit into his home, how seamlessly she had found a space for herself. Even if Shiro hadn’t been sick, he thought her presence in his home wouldn’t have disturbed him at all. Quite the opposite, actually.

When his mind wasn’t preoccupied with sleep or thoughts about exactly where his cheek was resting, he wondered what she would do when evening came. He didn’t have a spare bed in the guest room, and the couch was no place for someone as important to him as Allura was to sleep. He wouldn’t have minded sharing a bed with her, but would that be going too far? And what if he got her sick? He hadn’t let the children in to see him at all that day, knowing that there was a chance they could get ill because of him. He didn’t want Allura to get infected with his fever, either.

As Shiro really started to yawn, Allura turned the television off. “I think it’s time for bed,” she said, her voice quiet and unobtrusive. “You need to rest.”

He agreed, but he didn’t want her to go. Reluctantly, he pushed himself upright, and dragged a hand down his face. His head was still pounding, and he felt hot in his skin. There was nothing worse than being sick.

“Shiro?”

He blinked several times to clear his blurry vision before glancing at her.

She seemed to hesitate for a moment, before tentatively asking, “Is it alright if I stay here for the night?”

His eyes widened. He was nodding before he’d even brought up the fact that he had only one bed in the house.

Allura let out a relieved noise. “Okay. I have spare clothes in my car, but do you have a shirt I could sleep in, or something? I want to take a shower first, I’m sure I have glitter in my hair.”

“I’m sure I can find something.”

“Alright, I’ll just go grab my things.”

If Shiro were being honest, he thought any of his clothes would have looked good on Allura. He was taller than her, and his shoulders were much broader than hers, too. Anything he gave her would hang off of her frame quite a lot, and just thinking about it was making him redder than the fever was.

He ended up finding her one of his shirts with a cheesy graphic on the front. It was clean and soft and he was sure it wouldn’t make her look like she was wearing a gown. While she showered, he’d changed the bedsheets and gotten a glass of water for them both. He took more pain meds and opened the window, just a little, to let in fresh air, before collapsing across the cool sheets.

He would be sleeping with Allura. Even thinking those words made him want to bury his face beneath the sheets. He was a grown adult and he could hardly stand the thought of sleeping with his girlfriend because it made him so happy. It was easy to just blame the fever for his ridiculous thoughts.

As he heard the shower turn off, his heart jumped. Was he meant to just wait for her in the bedroom? He didn’t think he had the energy to get up anymore.

Allura appeared a moment later, completely oblivious to his worry. She was wearing his shirt (it looked way too good on her, and it made him feel things) and a pair of short, cotton shorts patterned with strawberry slices. She’d towelled her hair dry, but it still fell in damp, tangled waves over her shoulders.

“Are you feeling okay? You look red,” she said, frowning.

“I’m fine,” he croaked. There was no way he was going to admit that it was her making him red, because he was pretty sure she already knew. When she went to slip into the left side of the bed, he reached out a hand. “Wait…”

Her eyes flashed up to his, and she suddenly looked nervous. “I- I can take the couch, if you would prefer-”

“No!” He exclaimed, flushed, as he shook his head. “N-no, but… could you sleep on the other side?” He glanced down at his arm – his right arm – and winced. “It’s just, if I put my arm around you, I don’t want it to be this one.”

Understanding fluttered across her face, and she nodded. She didn’t complain about his weird request at all as she slipped into the other side of the bed. She lay with her back to him expectantly, and it was with some hesitation that Shiro inched closer to her. He slipped his prosthetic arm under their pillows where its cold surface wouldn’t be of any bother, but he put his flesh arm across her waist. Her fingers sought out his, where they tangled together to rest against her stomach. He could feel her breathing in and out, just gently, and it was incredibly relaxing.

She fit into his arms perfectly.

“What if I get you sick?” He muttered, as he pressed his face into her hair. She smelt like his shampoo, and it was doing funny things to his heart. Would he ever get over the wonder of having her to himself? Probably not.

“It’s alright, I’ve caught the same thing before so I’ll be fine,” she said. Her thumb was rubbing soothing circles over the back of his hand. “I’m kind of nervous.”

“Me too,” he admitted in a rush. Knowing that she was feeling the same as him was reassuring.

“But I figured there’s nothing wrong with this,” she continued. “What’s wrong with me spending the night in my boyfriend’s bed? It’s kind of nice, actually.”

He closed his eyes, and nodded. He liked hearing that. Liked hearing her call him her boyfriend. Even if they didn’t want to label their relationship, it still sounded good. “Thanks for taking care of me,” he whispered.

She gently rubbed his hand again. “It’s my pleasure.”

Chapter Text

Waking up was a pleasant experience, for once. When Shiro opened his eyes, he found that he had a face full of tangled hair and an arm that was slowly losing feeling, but he wouldn’t have changed it for the world. Allura was still snuffling in her sleep, just quietly, but she looked comfortable, and had hardly moved all night.

His fever seemed to have cleared with the good night’s rest he’d had, which he was relieved about. They’d both have to get up and start getting ready to go to work, but he found himself quite opposed to the idea. He didn’t think he’d ever gotten himself into a more comfortable position, and he certainly didn’t want to leave it.

He decided to wait for Allura to wake up. It wasn’t so unreasonable for him to do that, right? She’d undoubtedly set an alarm on her phone, and they’d still have time to get ready before they had to leave. He could enjoy a small moment like this, couldn’t he? There was nothing wrong with him sleeping in for a little longer than he normally would have.

Allura was very warm. She reminded Shiro of a hot water bottle like the one he’d cuddle with during his childhood winters; pleasant, and constant. She fit easily into his arms, too. He wondered if it would work the other way around.

Eventually, Allura did wake up. Her body tensed, just for a moment, before going boneless as she shifted and stretched. It seemed to take her a moment to realise she wasn’t alone, and when she did, she turned and made a sleepy, inquisitive noise.

“Good morning,” Shiro whispered.

“Morning,” she whispered back, as a smile touched her face. She twisted back just a little further to brush her lips against his, seemingly uncaring about the possibility of morning breath.

Even just a simple, chaste kiss had Shiro’s heart going wild.

“Ah, I don’t want to get up,” she sighed, as she rolled onto her back and pressed her nose just under his chin. “Your bed is really comfortable, you know!”

He chuckled. “Is that so?”

Spending the morning with Allura was something Shiro could imagine himself doing for a long time. After he’d gotten dressed, he left her to get ready, and prepared breakfast for them both. She’d cooked for him the previous night, after all, so it was only fair he provided breakfast.

“I think I’ll tell Coran today,” Allura mentioned over breakfast. Her eyes flickered up to his for a moment. “If that’s okay with you?”

He was surprised, and a little nervous, but undeniably happy, too. If Allura wanted to tell Coran about their relationship, then he didn’t mind. Coran had helped raise Allura after all, and they were very close. He’d helped Shiro settle into his job at the kindergarten as well, even when he didn’t have to. Besides, he liked Coran.

When it was time to leave, Allura stopped him by the door. Before he really realised what was happening, she had her arms around his shoulders, and her head tucked under his chin. He couldn’t help but wrap his arms around her as well, holding her as close as he dared. “Allura?”

“I’m charging up for the day,” she mumbled.

It was so adorably innocent that he couldn’t help but laugh, just quietly. Only Allura would come out with something like that… though he could faintly imagine either Keith or Lance saying the same thing, too. It was definitely an amusing thing to imagine.

Chapter Text

The craft tables were pulled out that afternoon. Although Shiro knew he’d have to clean up mountains of glitter and paper cuttings, he knew the kids enjoyed it, and it was a fun way to end the day. A little clean up afterwards didn’t make the fun not worth it.

He sat at a table with his kids and tried not to let himself stare across the room at Allura too much. She was sitting at a different table, helping a group of girls glue feathers to the paper masks they were making. It looked like they were making a complete mess, and brightly coloured feather fluff had already found its way into Allura’s hair, but she was smiling.

Shiro sighed. She had a really pretty smile. It still did funny things to his heart, even though he’d seen it dozens and dozens of times.

“Shiro, pay attention to this!” Lance said, huffing demandingly. Their table was covered in containers full of plastic beads, which the group were using to string onto elastic thread. None of the kids, aside from Pidge, could tie a knot in the stretchy thread, so that was his designated role.

“Sorry, Lance,” he chuckled, as he took Lance’s finished piece to tie the ends together. He wasn’t sure what it was exactly, but he thought the colours were… nice. Lance certainly liked to use the clear beads full of blue glitter. “There, all tied.”

Lance’s eyes sparkled as Shiro handed him the necklace – he was going to guess it was a necklace for now – back. “Looks good, right?”

“Looks good,” Shiro agreed, smiling. He patiently waited for the necklace Keith was finishing before tying that, too. Their necklaces looked oddly similar, despite Keith’s being red, and although he should have expected it, he was still surprised when Lance and Keith gave each other their creations.

Lance insisted on putting it around Keith’s neck, too. It got a little tangled in Keith’s long hair, but Lance managed to pull the beads through the strands without making Keith fuss too much. Keith was far gentler, and took the time to stretch the thread over Lance’s head, even though Lance’s squirming made it difficult.

They really were the sweetest kids, at least when it came to each other. They got along a lot better these days, and even though they still fought, it wasn’t as bitter as it had been before. They certainly were quite a quirky bunch of children, but he loved looking after them, and he wouldn’t have changed any part of them.

Except maybe the parts that liked to stain each other’s clothes with paint.

Chapter Text

When December arrived, so too did a wave of over-the-top Christmas decorations. Shiro fondly remembered spending Christmas’s quietly at home with his parents when he was a child, and although he’d spent quite a few alone as he grew older, he still enjoyed the festivities. The Christmas parties hosted by the Garrison had been a lot of fun, especially when he had been able to convince Matt to go.

It seemed that Christmas at Altea Kindergarten was taken very seriously. Shiro was scheduled to arrive just after Allura and Coran on December first, so he was rather shocked to walk through the doors and find Christmas décor everywhere. Brightly coloured tinsel, baubles and wreaths were hanging from the ceiling and from every ledge, including the front desk and the cubby holes. It was like a Christmas explosion had happened overnight, and it certainly woke him right up.

“Ah, good morning, Shiro!” Allura said as she spotted him walking in. She had a spool of glittery tinsel in her hands, which she was using to stretch across the ceiling runners.

“What’s with all the Christmas decorations?” He asked, eyebrows raised, as he set his things down in the office and wandered over to steady the ladder she was standing on. “Is that a Christmas tree in the recreation room?”

“Sure is,” she grinned. “Doesn’t it look so festive? Coran and I have been putting up decorations all morning.”

“It does look festive,” he agreed, chuckling. “December only just stared, you know.”

“Exactly! Time to get a move on.”

He laughed again. Because he lived on his own, he didn’t really put up many decorations, so it was kind of nice to see them everywhere. He knew the kids would love it too, which was certainly exciting. If he were being honest, he kind of missed celebrating Christmas so frivolously.

They decided to leave decorating the tree to the kids. They would have arts and crafts that morning, where the children could create a whole bunch of different decorations. There was coloured felt and stuffing to make plush baubles, and Styrofoam balls they could cover in sequins and ribbon. There was sure to be a big mess again, but Shiro was still excited. The kids would really love it. Maybe the adults could make ornaments, too? He wouldn’t have minded doing that…

Just before the children started arriving for the morning, when Allura was almost finished sticking up Christmas-themed cut outs on the walls, Coran called Shiro into the kitchen. They hadn’t had a chance to talk one-on-one since Allura revealed their relationship, but Coran hadn’t treated him any differently, and didn’t seem to disapprove.

Still, Shiro was a little nervous. He really liked Allura (which was obvious) and he really respected Coran. He didn’t want either of those things to change, but he didn’t want to stop seeing Allura either, if anyone happened to disapprove of their relationship. It was probably a little selfish of him, but he didn’t want to give her up for anything.

“You know, I think you make Allura very happy,” Coran said, as they set to peeling apples and slicing up fruit for the kids to eat. “So I’m glad you’re finally together. You don’t have to look so nervous all the time.”

Shiro nodded. He already knew that, deep down, but hearing it said out loud was reassuring. “I hope I make her happy,” he said, smiling to himself. “She makes me happy.”

“I know, it’s very easy to see that,” Coran said. “I’m glad she found a partner like you, and not some riffraff I’d have to chase off.”

That made him laugh. “I can imagine that Alfor would beat you to it.”

“Oh, he certainly would. He likes you too, you know. Allura didn’t stop talking about you once during his last visit, though I doubt she noticed.”

He flushed. He was pretty sure he’d done the very same thing to Matt, at once point. He wouldn’t have been surprised if he had.

Chapter Text

Predictably, the children did enjoy all of Allura’s Christmas decorations. Seeing their excitement as they walked in was brilliant, and it was incredibly infectious. Children were usually far more excited about Christmas than adults, especially children in their age range.

Once everyone had arrived for the day, Shiro and Allura brought out the craft tables and set up the supplies. They had ribbon to tie the kid’s baubles on the tree cut and ready to go, but the rest of the crafting was completely up to the kids.

Shiro set his kids up at a table of their own, like usual. He made sure they’d have everything they need, and enough material so that Lance and Keith wouldn’t argue about having to share any of “their” supplies. He made sure to have lots of green for Pidge, and lots of yellow for Hunk, knowing they favoured those colours.

Unsurprisingly, Pidge got straight into creating quite a complicated ornament. Shiro wasn’t quite exactly sure what it was, but it was covered in green sequins and little attachments made from paddle pop sticks and fluffy pompoms. If Shiro were being completely honest, it did look quite amazing. Not very Christmassy, but very Pidge. He was sure to thread a ribbon through an eyehole glued into the main structure very carefully.

Hunk was more traditional with his creations. He used brown felt to cut out a reindeer shape – provided by a paper stencil – and very carefully sewed it together with thick thread. He stuck a little red pompom on its nose and glued star-shaped sequins to its back to give it spots. He was sure to put a lot of stuffing between the two pieces of felt so that it was soft.

Lance and Keith made more… contemporary ornaments. For a moment they seemed to be going down the right track – covering Styrofoam balls with sequins and tying hanging loops with ribbon at the top – but then they deviated. Lance started it, like usual. He stole the first bauble Keith made, but abandoned, and started decorating it with feathers and glitter and coloured paddle pop sticks. It kind of looked like a dog, and then not a dog, before Shiro decided that it was probably a spaceship of some sort.

And of course Keith had to keep up. Before Shiro knew it their table had run out of Styrofoam balls and ribbon, two things of which Shiro hadn’t thought they’d lack. Everything blue and red on the table had been used in their crafting tirade, and although Pidge and Hunk didn’t seem bothered, it certainly astounded Shiro. Everything had to be a competition for them, didn’t it? It was kind of funny if he really thought about it. At least it all looked very creative in the end.

As Coran helped the kids put their decorations on the tree, Allura walked over to him. “Shiro, how about we make ornaments, too?”

Her teasing smile told him that she knew he’d been wanting to do that. Sheepishly, he rubbed the back of his neck. “That obvious, huh?”

She laughed, and encouraged him to sit back down at the table. “I want to make one too! I’m taking the pink sequins for myself, though.”

Faced with all the crafts (minus blue and red glitter, it seemed), Shiro was suddenly at a loss. There were heaps of things he could make, but he had no idea where to start. He decided to decorate one of the Styrofoam balls Keith had left mostly untouched. Although he wasn’t that good at designing, he used all of their colours to great shapes out of paint, ribbon and any leftover decorations he could manage to glue on – blue, red, yellow and green for the kids, and then black, pink and orange for the adults. A little childishly, he was sure to put black and pink together.

Allura made a plush ornament like Hunk had done, but hers was a little pink lioness, instead. He noticed that she’d given it a black bow-tie and a Santa hat, which made him smile. Neither of their ornaments were particularly Christmassy, but it was the thought that counted, right?

There wasn’t much space on the tree, but when evening arrived and all the children had gone home, they went and hung their ornaments together.

Chapter Text

One evening, when it was his and Allura’s turn to lock up, they found themselves alone in the kindergarten. Coran had already returned home, and all the children had been picked up by their parents. It was oddly quiet without them, and felt a lot lonelier than one would imagine. Shiro still hadn’t gotten used to the quiet.

The kids had played outside during the afternoon, and inside during the morning. Allura was cleaning up inside, so Shiro found himself outside, though he didn’t mind at all. He had to sweep up misplaced sand and cover the sandpit with its designated tarp, and pack away all the buckets and shovels left along the edge. He had to gather all the loose soccer balls, tiny beanbags and hula-hoops the kids had played with, too. He even found a skipping rope, though he hadn’t seen anyone use it.

When everything was done, he sat down on the swing set, and let out a deep sigh. Sure, he didn’t quite fit on the swing, but that didn’t matter. The sun was setting now, and it was casting everything in a pretty, orange glow. He’d always thought they were pretty, no matter how many he saw.

There was nothing better than seeing a sunset from the seat of his pilot fighter. That’s when the world had truly fallen away and all he could see was the beauty of the sky. He’d loved that feeling of control he’d had when he’d piloted a plane, no matter what sort it was. Heights had never frightened him, and he’d loved being able to see everything from so high up.
Thinking about it made his arm hurt.

He’d never get to do that again, would he? Sure, he could still fly a plane, still had the skills and the knowledge, but it was different now. He wouldn’t be able to feel the movement of the plane beneath his hands, and there would always be a pilot better than him.

He remember the days when he was called the Garrison’s best, and his arm hurt even more.

“Does your arm hurt?”

He jumped at Allura’s voice, and for a moment, gave her a panicked look. He didn’t want her to think that his arm was troubling him, didn’t want her to worry over it. If he could of, he might have asked her to forget that it was anything more than a normal, human arm.

Allura came closer, and gently drew his clenched hand away from his shoulder. He hadn’t noticed he’d been holding it. “You should tell me if your arm ever starts to hurt,” she said. She stepped between his legs, and leaned against him. It had been a long day and she kind of smelt like sweat and the chocolate biscuits she’d snacked on after lunch, but Shiro didn’t care.

She was warm, and comforting, and her beauty was more than enough to replace the sunset.

Chapter Text

Shiro’s house flooded.

Well, technically, the house next door to him did, but the water leaked through and now his floor was unstable. Cleaners would have to come in and replaced the carpet with a new batch, and the wooden floors would need to be dried and polished again. It was tedious and expensive, but thankfully covered by his neighbour’s insurance.

The only problem was that he had to vacate his house for two days.

His parents lived too far away to house him, and Matt was off the grid for a Garrison training exercise, so he had absolutely nowhere to go. Even after he’d assured his things were safe and everything was in order, he still worried about where he would stay for those two days. A hotel would be expensive, and it wasn’t like he could live on the streets…

“You can stay with me, of course! Don’t even think about going anywhere else.”

Ah, she’s an angel. I can’t handle it.

Thankfully, he had the sweetest girlfriend in the world. He hadn’t wanted to intrude on Allura’s space or privacy, but she’d been pretty insistent. They’d already spent a night together, after all, so two shouldn’t have been a problem. Put logically, it was the next step up in their relationship. Shiro felt a little more at ease when thinking that.

He had a duffel bag (the one he’d been given by the Garrison back in the day, complete with branding and everything) packed full of everything he’d need for two days or so away from home. With it stashed in his car, he’d headed to work, and tried not to get himself too flustered about the impending situation.

Of course, the secret little grins Allura gave him when she caught him staring weren’t helping at all.

It was like she knew what she did to him. Come to think of it, she probably did; she’d always been perceptive like that, always been able to read him without any trouble. Of course, when he gave her a bashful smile back, she always looked rather flustered, too.

Maybe spending two nights with her wouldn’t be so bad, especially not if he got to see more of those cute expressions she had.

But she didn’t need to know that.

Chapter Text

Allura’s apartment was cosy. She had soft things everywhere; pillows on her bed, a rug on the floor, a blanket to curl up in on the couch. Her home was tidier than his, though there were things she still had to clean up, and clothes left tossed over her bed.

She let him put his bag down just inside the bedroom, and he took the first shower. It was incredibly distracting, he thought; Allura always smelt like her sweet-scented shampoo, which was in the bathroom, as were her soaps and body scrubs. It was all just very Allura, and he liked her so much. It was impossible for him not to be distracted by all these things that made her up.

He sat on her comfortable couch and channel surfed while she showered. It was with a little hesitance that he pulled her blanket over his lap, too. It wasn’t particularly chilly, but the weight of it was pleasant, and it really was incredibly soft. He felt a little awkward, at first, but the longer he spent, the more settled he became.

Eventually Allura emerged from the shower, and playfully threw herself across the couch with a loud exhale. Her head rested in his lap, and once he’d gotten over his initial embarrassment, he started to run his fingers through her damp hair.

“That feels good,” she said, as she shut her eyes. A small smile was teasing at the corner of her lips.

He hummed. That smile looked good on her, but then again, so did all of her smiles. “Do you want me to cook dinner tonight?”

“Alright, but I’ll do the dishes afterwards,” she grinned. “That way it’s fair.”

Laughing quietly, he couldn’t help but bend over and press a chaste kiss to her forehead. She beamed up at him, and hooked a hand around the back of his neck to draw him in for a proper kiss. Her affections were unbridled, and they made his face feel warm. “Sounds fine to me.”

Allura only grinned wider.

Chapter Text

“I didn’t know you had a cat.”

Allura peered her head out onto the balcony, and laughed at the sight of the sleek, black cat Shiro was petting. “Oh, that’s Panther. He’s kind of the neighbourhood cat, but when the landlord is concerned he’s mine. I feed him most of the time.”

Shiro smiled a little, and gently rubbed behind one of Panther’s pointed ear. The cat was rather large, and he had a mark on his nose that reminded Shiro of his own scar. He’d been rather surprised to find the cat sitting on Allura’s balcony while he cooked, but it was a sweet creature, and he’d been pleasantly surprised to find that it was incredibly friendly.

Allura came over and crouched down beside him. She reached out a delicate hand to scratch under Panther’s chin, making the cat let out an enthusiastic purr. “He’s a sweet guy. He gets along with all the other cats here.”

“What happened to his nose?”

“It was like that when we first noticed him,” Allura said, sighing. “I’m pretty sure his last owner must have hurt him. He didn’t like humans so much before, but everyone here is really friendly, and he warmed up to us quite quick. He’s fond of humans now, I think.”

Shiro nodded. He did seem like a sweet cat. “Does he come by often?”

“Every day,” she laughed. “He’s very dedicated, you know. He sleeps inside my house when it’s the dead of winter. I tried to buy him a cat bed, but he prefers a towel on the floor! He’s quite a simple man to please.”

Shiro laughed too, and smiled to himself. Panther looked incredibly pleased with all the attention he was receiving.

“I should feed him now,” Allura said, standing again. “Thankfully he’s not too fussy when it comes to cat food. He really likes the ones packed in jelly.”

He chuckled, and stood back up. He had to get back to cooking dinner, but seeing little parts of Allura’s life – like Panther and his preference for jelly-packed food – made him feel really warm inside. There were so many things he could still learn about Allura, and that was perhaps more exciting than anything.

Chapter Text

Shiro had always known that Allura’s birthday was approaching. He’d had it sneakily marked on his calendar since he first heard the date mentioned in a passing conversation, countless months ago. It was something that came to mind when he woke up with a face full of Allura’s tangled hair and her head nestled against his shoulder.

I could get used to this.

But birthday celebrations, first. He’d bought her a gift a while ago, on a whim – for a while he hadn’t known what he could get her, but he’d seen a piece of jewellery in a shop window that would be perfect for her. It was one of the things he’d made sure to pack after his house had flooded, and now it was resting safely cushioned in the bottom of his bag.

He wondered when he should give it to her. It was the weekend now, and her birthday was tomorrow. He was meant to go home tomorrow, but maybe he could stay for the day and cook for her. Would she mind?

“You’re thinking so hard you woke me up,” Allura mumbled around a yawn. She rubbed her nose against his shoulder and rolled onto her side to face him. “Good morning.”

“Morning,” he said, laughing quietly. “Sorry for waking you.”

She shook her head. There was a sleepy smile on her face. “It’s grocery day today,” she said. “Do you want to come shopping with me?”

“Sure,” he chuckled. “Want me to go make breakfast?”

She nodded, and yawned again. After he pressed a soft, self-indulgent kiss to her forehead, he slipped out of bed. It was such a small thing, grocery shopping, and usually quite a chore, but he found himself looking forward to it.

After breakfast – and tea too, because Allura had insisted – they made the short walk to the grocery store. He was surprised to find it right around the corner, nestled in between a florist and a bakery. He’d never been to this side of the neighbourhood, but it was very picturesque. Allura seemed to fit right in to the sweet environment.

The food in the grocery seemed to all be from a farmers market. There was the smell of freshly baked bread in the air, and Shiro was more than happy to fill their basket with such nice food. He made sure to take note of the brands Allura liked, and even managed to convince her to let him add chocolate chip cookies to their basket.

He carried most of the bags on the way home, even though Allura had protested. If he were being honest, he kind of liked being able to carry her things for her, mostly because it made him feel like he was doing something helpful. Eventually she let him, though it was only with a light slap on the shoulder and a small laugh.

Panther was sitting at the bottom of the entryway stairs to the apartment block, and he greeted them with a small chirrup when they approached. Allura stopped to pet him for a moment, before they continued up the stairs.

“Do you feel like chicken for dinner tonight?” Allura asked, as they started to ascend the stairs.

“Sounds nice,” Shiro said, smiling pleasantly. “Want me to cook again?”

“You can help me make it, if you like,” she said grinning. “If that’s not enough, then you can do the dishes!”

He laughed. She seemed to have cottoned on to the fact that he wanted to be useful, but Shiro didn’t mind. He liked taking care of people, especially after he’d been taken care of when his accident had happened. And he really liked Allura, so taking care of her made him happy.

“We can have those cookies you picked for dessert,” Allura continued, as they reached the top of the stairwell. “I’m sure I have cat treats around somewhere for Panther too…”

Shiro was watching Allura when he probably should have been watching where he was going. He would have noticed the old woman falling from the top stair if he had.

“Shiro, watch out!” Allura cried.

He’d dropped the shopping bags before he’d even realised what he was doing and thrust out his right arm. The old woman fell into his grip with no problem, and after a small moment of struggle she was back on her feet, but Shiro’s arm ached. Something in his shoulder had twisted, and suddenly he couldn’t stop his prosthetic hand from trembling.

“Are you alright?” He asked through a strained smile. He recognised the woman as one of Allura’s neighbours, but he couldn’t recall her name.

“I’m fine, thanks to you,” she said, as she took a hold of the railing. “Thank you for helping me.”

“It’s no problem. Make sure to be careful.”

Allura greeted the woman for a moment, before the woman was on her way.

Shiro reached for the bags he dropped, and struggled to hide a wince as pain shot up his arm. Something had definitely been pulled the wrong way, and it was excruciating.

“Shiro? Are you okay?” Allura asked, peering at him with a worried look on her face as he struggled with the bags.

He tried to smile again. “I’m fine, I’m fine. It was just unexpected, that’s all.”

She clearly didn’t seem convinced, and took one of the heavier bags from him.

He’d hurt his arm before. Despite the attachment surgery going well, he still experienced pain when he strained his shoulder too much. It felt like someone was trying to pull the prosthetic completely off, and all he wanted to do was curl up around it.

After managing to somehow help Allura put the groceries away, he escaped into the bedroom. He needed to get himself together before she realised he’d hurt himself. He didn’t want anything to go wrong before her birthday, especially not because of him.

But his shoulder really did ache. He sat on the edge of the bed and gripped it with his hand, dazedly watching the way his arm was trembling. This had happened before, and eventually the ache would drift away, but he had no way to tell how long that would be.

Dammit.

“Shiro?”

He jumped at the sound of Allura’s quiet voice, and fixed his eyes to the floor. “Sorry.”

She pushed the bedroom door open wider, and inched inside. “Don’t apologise,” she said. “There’s nothing to be sorry for.”

He hated all the problems his arm caused him. It made him feel weak and vulnerable, not to mention it was hideous. She hadn’t seen the scars on his skin, or the way the prosthetic looked where it was attached. How could anybody love that part of him?

Allura pressed closer, and tilted his chin up. “Does it hurt?”

Regretfully, he nodded. “I’m sorry.”

She shook her head again, and tentatively rested her hand against her shoulder. Somehow, her gentle touch didn’t hurt at all. “I already told you – if this hurts you, then tell me, alright? The thought of you being in pain upsets me.”

His eyes grew damp with frustration, and he looked away. “Why? I hate this thing.”

Allura was quiet for a moment. “Show me,” she said.

He startled, his eyes going wide a little, but Allura was already reaching for the bottom of his shirt. He felt tangled up in her actions, and before he knew it, she’d stripped off his shirt and exposed his disgusting scar. The feeling of it under her gaze made him shrink.

Allura’s hand gently returned to his shoulder. Her fingers traced the lightest lines over the place where the prosthetic met his rough skin. “See, that wasn’t so bad,” she whispered. Hesitantly, she pressed a kiss to his forehead. “There’s not a single part about you that I don’t like, Shiro.”

His heart thumped, and he hid his face in her chest. His arm was still shaking uncontrollably, but Allura’s light touches were helping a lot. She held him for as long as he needed her, and didn’t complain if her shirt got wet. Eventually, the trembles started to die down, and he drew away. “Can you bring me my bag please?”

She seemed surprised by the request, but didn’t say no, and brought him his bag. As he riffled through it with his good hand, she took a seat beside him.

“I got something for you,” he said quietly, as he pulled the gift bag out from its safe little spot. “It’s meant to be for your birthday, but now’s as good a time as any, isn’t it?”

Allura’s eyes widened. “You know it’s my birthday tomorrow?”

He flushed, but nodded his head.

Carefully, she took the bag from him. “You didn’t have to get me anything,” she said.

He shrugged, but winced a little at the jolt it gave his shoulder. When his expression smoothed out, he said, “I wanted to. Open it?”

She did. After digging through light coloured tissue paper, she found the soft box in the bottom of the bag, and pulled it free. Her eyes darted up to his for a moment as she cradled the box, before she opened it.

Inside was a silver bracelet. The chain was sturdy, but elegant in appearance, and dangling from the centre was a heart pendant. Nestled in the middle of the heart was a blue stone – blue just like her pretty eyes. It had been what drew Shiro to it in the first place, because it reminded him so much of her. If any stone could ever possibly be as beautiful as her eyes, he thought that one might be it.

“Shiro,” she said, her voice soft and breathless. “It’s so beautiful.”

A feeling of relief fluttered through him. “Do you like it?”

She nodded. Her eyes were still on the bracelet, but there was a delicate flush coming to her cheeks, and her eyes were sparkling. It was a stunning look on her.

“I’m glad,” he said. “Happy birthday, Allura.”

A gentle smile touched her face. She carefully pulled the bracelet from the box, and set the box aside before turning to face him. “Will you put it on for me?”

He wanted to, but his hand was so shaky… Still, he’d try. He took the bracelet between his fingers and slipped it around the wrist she extended. He could get a perfect grip on it with his normal hand, but his prosthetic was shaky, and the chain kept slipping from his fingers.

Allura’s hand suddenly overlapped his. “Take your time,” she said.

It was the encouragement he needed. After sucking in a sharp breath, he tried again, and somehow managed to slip the clasp together around her wrist. When it was secure, Allura drew her wrist back, and turned it to admire the pendant.

“Thank you, Shiro,” she said, as she twisted to put her arms around him. He could feel the bracelet, cold against his back. “I love it.”

“I’m glad,” he said again, as he put his good arm around her. He pressed his face against her shoulder, and took comfort in her soft scent and the warmth of her skin. How did he get so lucky? She didn’t care about his ugly scars, or how his arm sometimes didn’t cooperate. She’d always been patient with him, and never shied away from the wound like other people did. He wondered when he’d let his heart be swept away with her. “I love you.”

She startled, and pulled back with a wide-eyed look on her face. “I love you too,” she said, blinking several times. Her eyes looked wet, but she was smiling.

And he couldn’t help but smile too.

Chapter Text

Shiro stayed up quite late that night. He pretended to sleep after going to bed with Allura, but remained awake even after her breathing had evened out.

It was her birthday tomorrow. Today? He wasn’t quite sure how late it had gotten, but his mind felt too active to rest. There wasn’t anything in particular that was bothering him, either, but he thought he simply might have been too exhausted to sleep.

He hadn’t been so shaken in a while. Maybe it was because he hadn’t ever let himself think about his weaknesses for so long, let alone in front of someone else. Allura’s reassurance was comforting, of course it was, but he still felt a little overwhelmed. He didn’t regret letting Allura see him like that, because it was going to happen sooner or later, but it was still a lot to take in.

He was glad Allura had reacted the way she had, though. Somehow, she made him feel better about the whole situation. He didn’t know if he’d ever be able to see his prosthetic as anything other than an artificial add-on, but maybe Allura could show him how. She’d never treated any part of him as anything other than human, than purely Shiro.

Perhaps it was sappy of him, but he felt like he was someone special to her. She didn’t recoil at the sight of his scars and wasn’t put off by the coldness of his prosthetic. He’d never had anyone help him like she did, and he hadn’t even asked her to. It was like she’d instinctively known what she could do to make him feel better, and hadn’t hesitated to do it.

He hoped he’d be able to help her like that one day, too. Looking at her as she was, peaceful and sleeping, made that feeling in him grow. She looked so comfortable, with her head turned towards him and one of her legs tangled between his. He didn’t think she could have find a more comfortable position to be in, and oddly enough, it worked for him too. He had his prosthetic tucked under their pillows and his other arm stretched out beside him, though he could reach for her if he wanted to.

Absentmindedly, he turned his face into her hair and sighed. These late night musings were keeping him up, and he wanted to be well rested for tomorrow. He’d ask if he could stay for another night, just for her birthday, if she wanted… and cook her breakfast, too. He’d already given her the gift he’d bought, but they didn’t mean he couldn’t do other nice things. Maybe if he woke up before her, he could duck down to that florist beside the grocery store, and buy her flowers.

“Shiro?” Allura mumbled, as she sleepily blinked open her eyes. “Are you still awake?”

He hummed, and rolled onto his side to face her. “Did I wake you?”

She shook her head, and pressed against him. Their legs tangled together again, knees bumping. “Go to sleep,” she ordered. If she hadn’t had such a cute, sleepy voice, he might have thought she was ordering him around, but as it was he just chuckled.

“Alright,” he whispered, as he put his arm around her waist. “Happy birthday, by the way. It’s past midnight.”

She smiled at that, and tilted her chin up.

Obligingly, Shiro gave her a chaste kiss. “Goodnight,” he murmured.

“Goodnight, Shiro. Love you.”

His heart jumped a little. Those words still felt foreign, but they made his skin tingle pleasantly. “I love you too.”

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if he exposed the parts of himself he’d always kept hidden from others. If he gave her that trust, he felt like she’d respect it, and that she would never push his boundaries farther than he could stand. That was more than he could ever ask for.

Chapter Text

Shiro did wake up early that next morning. He felt well slept, despite his restlessness the previous night, so much so that he didn’t regret leaving the bed just about the moment he woke up. He had things he wanted to do, after all.

While Allura was still asleep, he ducked out to buy flowers. The florist was open despite the early time, and the store owner recognised him from the day before. With a delighted smile, they suggested him Allura’s favourites – a pretty arrangement of freshly cut hydrangeas – and asked him to wish Allura a happy birthday for them. He was quite pleased with the flowers as he walked back home.

Allura was still asleep when he returned, so he rooted around for a vase, left the flowers on the kitchen table and started cooking breakfast. He knew she liked pancakes, and they were the quickest thing he could think to cook, so he made those. She had a lot of fresh fruit, so he sliced up strawberries and bananas and set them aside for later.

The sleeping beauty herself wandered out just as he was pouring in the last batch of batter to the pan. “Shiro?” She asked sleepily, and she shuffled over.

He put his free arm around her waist and pulled her closer so that he could press a kiss to her forehead. “Happy birthday,” he said, grinning.

She blinked several times, as if she’d forgotten all about her birthday herself, but then she slowly matched his grin. “Thank you,” she said, as she put her arms around his waist. “Did you make all of this this morning?”

He nodded. “My mother would always cook me a fresh breakfast on my birthday.”

“Mine too,” she said. She hid her smile in the crook of his neck, and didn’t move away even when he returned to cooking. Her bare feet must have been cold against the tiled floor, but she didn’t seem to mind much. Her company was quite welcome.

When everything was ready, he took the plate of cooked pancakes and led her to the table. The strawberries and bananas were already sitting by their plates, and he’d found lemon juice, which he placed next to the sugar jar.

Allura caught sight of the flowers, and let out a curious noise as she lifted the vase and gently ran her fingers through the soft hydrangea petals. “You got these too?”

He nodded again. “The florist said you like hydrangeas.”

“They’re my favourite,” she said.

“They said to wish you a happy birthday, too.”

She laughed, and set the vase down. “I feel like a princess,” she said, as she absentmindedly ran her fingers over her wrist. She didn’t sleep with the bracelet Shiro had given her on, but it seemed that she hadn’t left the bedroom without putting it back on.

Feeling particularly confident because of Allura’s enchanting smiles, Shiro couldn’t help but cheekily say, “You are my princess.”

As embarrassing as it was, it did make her laugh. Her cheeks were red and her eyes were bright and now her fingers were playing with the heart pendant on her bracelet. She looked happy, and that made Shiro happy. There was nothing else that he could have asked for.

The pancakes tasted good, if he did say so himself. There were some left over afterwards, but he popped them back in the fridge to eat later. They did eat all the fruit, though, even if it wasn’t with the pancakes.

“So what do you want to do today?” He asked, as he cleared away the dishes for her and took a seat back at the table. “We can do anything you want.”

She wandered over, and leaned across the back of his chair to stretch her arms over his shoulders. “I haven’t thought that far ahead,” she said, as she nuzzled against his cheek. “Can we stay here this morning and figure it out?”

He laughed quietly, and held onto her arms. “If that’s what you want.”

“It is!” She said. She pressed her nose against the back of his neck where his hair was short, and laughed when he jumped.

“It tickles,” he complained.

She grinned mischievously. “Noted.”

And what a breathtaking grin she had.

Chapter Text

The kids had presents for Allura come Monday morning. Shiro had stayed over for the extra night after spending a day out with Allura, even though he could have gone home. He’d returned to his freshly-cleaned house afterwards, but he felt incredibly satisfied. He’d enjoyed his time with Allura over the weekend, and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again, if she ever offered.

Shiro was happy to step back and watch as the kids gave their presents to Allura. Even his little group had gotten her a box of chocolates and a home-made card, with a little drawing from each inside. It was good to see Allura so happy as she crouched beside the class of kids. She had perfume and necklaces and even a flower crown in her arms too, along with all the other cards she’d received.

Coran joined him where he was leaning against the wall to watch Allura and the children as well. “That’s a nice bracelet she’s got on her wrist,” he observed.

Shiro flushed, and sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck. “I thought she might like it,” he said. She was still wearing it, and seeing it on her wrist that morning had made him ridiculously happy.

“I’m sure she does,” Coran laughed. He was watching Allura fondly. “You know, I haven’t seen her look like that before.”

Shiro made a curious noise, and turned his eyes to Coran. “How so?”

“Well, her parents were very busy people when she was younger,” he said, “so I helped raise her. I was very present in her life, even more so after her mother died. She used to call me Uncle, though she’s grown out of that now.”

Shiro chuckled. He did get that Uncle vibe from Coran. He was very good at taking care of everyone, after all. Shiro wasn’t particularly surprised that Coran had been a very strong presence throughout Allura’s childhood.

“So I’m glad to see her happy like this,” Coran continued. “Don’t get me wrong, she’s always been a very resilient and joyful person, but this… is different. She’s never particularly had a relationship – which isn’t a bad thing of course – but it’s reassuring to know that there’s going to be someone who’ll take care of her if she needs it.”

A smile touched Shiro’s face. Hearing that from Coran meant a lot. He wanted to make Allura as happy as she made him, and Coran’s faith in him certainly was a confidence boost.

The day continued quite pleasantly. After lunch was served, the kids were allowed outside to play. Shiro was supervising them, so after making sure sunscreen had been applied and hats were put on, he wandered out there to watch them.

“Shiro, help us on the monkey bars!” Lance said, as he tugged at the bottom of Shiro’s shirt.

“Alright, alright, don’t rush,” Shiro laughed. They had play equipment under a covered area in the backyard. The ground was covered in woodchips, but the area under the monkey bars had been worn clean, so falling could cause a few stung feet. The kids often asked for help to get along them, if they couldn’t themselves.

As per usual, it was a fight to see whether Keith or Lance would go first. And as per usual, they both jostled and shoved as they went across the bars together. It never failed to amuse Shiro, but he was sure to stand on Lance’s side, knowing that he couldn’t always get across them by himself.

That time was one of the times when Shiro needed to put his arm around Lance’s waist to hold him to the end. Lance was pouting when both he and Keith touched ground again, before he brazenly cried, “I want a rematch!”

Pidge was next. He didn’t particularly like doing such physical activities, but he didn’t want to miss out with his friends either, so he always gave it a go. He made it about halfway before his hands started to slip, and Shiro lurched forwards to grab him by the legs and hold him upright. Pidge didn’t seem to mind too much, and kept a concentrated look on his face as he moved his hands along the bars.

Hunk went last, mostly because he was the most patient of the four. He was a strong kid and could hold himself up on the bars no problem, but he didn’t particularly like having his feet off the ground. Shiro held him up from the start, and carefully shuffled along under the bars as Hunk carefully moved his hand from bar to bar. Hunk always thanked him afterwards, which was sweet of him. He was probably the most polite out of the four, too.

Soon enough, the kids tired of the monkey bars, and moved to play on the swing set instead (though Lance and Keith had their “rematch” first). They didn’t need Shiro to help them with that, so he stepped out of the woodchip area and set to watching over the kids again.

It struck him, as he watched and listened to them laugh, that he really loved his job. There weren’t many people who would give someone with his handicap a chance to be around children straight off the bat, but Alfor, Allura and Coran had. He was incredibly lucky to have this job, because he loved it so much, loved the kids and the atmosphere.

He supposed the only challenge he really had was keeping Lance and Keith from arguing with each other.

Chapter Text

They had a movie marathon one afternoon. With Christmas approaching, every movie was holiday themed, and the children loved it. Piled together in the recreation room, they sat in their groups on the huge beanbags, peacefully sharing the healthy snacks and candy canes Coran had passed out.

Shiro was on supervision duty, so he got to sit with them. He supposed he had the easiest job of the afternoon, especially compared to cleaning and bookkeeping, but he wouldn’t complain. He liked to spend time with the kids, after all, and the movies were sweet.

Pidge and Hunk were pretty satisfied with watching movies. They sat together in front of the beanbag with their backs resting on it, each with a candy cane. Pidge had a drawing pad rested across his knees, and was busy drawing some sort of machine in between glances at the television. Shiro watched him for a while, curious, and wondered exactly what it was that Pidge was designing. Hunk was watching Pidge too, and seemed content as he was.

It was Lance and Keith that were the real noisy ones. Firstly, they’d argued about where they were going to sit. Shiro had waited patiently for a while – because they’d decided that their little group would share a beanbag again – before simply taking a seat on the edge. He left Lance and Keith up to deciding, and in the end, Lance had sat in the middle, and Keith had sat on the other side.

They really did need to make everything so difficult, but deep down he didn’t mind all that much.

Now, however, they were bickering over the position of their blankets.

“No, Keith, you have to share it!”

“But why? You have one too.”

“That’s not the spirit of Christmas!”

“Why are you using Pidge’s blanket anyway?”

“Uh? Because Christmas is red and green? Duh.”

Shiro sighed. Their conversations were amusing, if nothing else. They were lucky that Pidge was in a sharing mood, otherwise there was no way Lance would have gotten his green blanket. “How about I go get you guys a drink?” He suggested, as he stood. His voice distracted them from their blanket problem, and he immediately got “Yes, please!” from the two of them.

Hunk stood too. “I’ll help!” He said with a shy grin.

Shiro smiled. “Thanks, buddy. Pidge, do you want a drink too?”

Pidge shook his head. “No, thank you.”

After checking if the rest of the kids wanted something to drink, Shiro and Hunk made their way to the kitchen. There were small bottles of juice stored in the fridge, which he had Coran pass over the bench for him and Hunk to carry.

“How’s the movie going?” Allura asked as she peered around through the kitchen doorway.

Shiro handed her one of the juice bottles, which she took. “All good.”

“Are you enjoying it, Hunk?”

Hunk grinned up at Allura, and nodded. “Yeah! You should come watch too, Miss Allura.”

She laughed. “We will when we’re finished, right, Coran?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Coran promised.

Hunk grinned. He had a big smile, one that produced dimples and showed off his youthful face. He had quite a happy smile, because he was quite a happy child.

“Come on, let’s get back to everyone,” Shiro said, as he picked up the tray of drinks. “Lance and Keith have probably taken the entire beanbag by now!”

Chapter Text

Sometimes, Shiro wondered what would happen to the kids when they got older and became more aware of the world around them. While he had no doubts that his kids were each quite intelligent, there were things that worried him. It wasn’t any fault of theirs, of course, but as an adult, he knew there were things that some parts of society looked down on.

Homosexual relationships, for example.

The more Shiro watched Lance, the more he thought Lance might fall out of that perfect, heterosexual role many people put their children in. At the very least, he thought Lance might grow up with a heart that could love anyone, regardless of gender. In particular, he seemed quite attached to Keith.

It really wasn’t a bad thing, but some backwards people believed that it was. Lance could sometimes be susceptible to the attitudes of other people, and anyone throwing a negative light on him would surely cause him to become troubled. Shiro didn’t ever want him to doubt himself or how he loved other people, so it was a worrying thought.

One evening, while Lance was gathering his things, his mother came to talk to Shiro.

“I wanted to ask you a favour,” she said, as she gave him an apprehensive look.

Shiro set aside the paperwork he’d been filling out and gestured for her to take a seat in Allura’s desk chair. When she did, he said, “Of course. Is it about Lance?”

She nodded. “I’ve always known that Lance is a little different from the other kids,” she started hesitantly. “But he’s been a bit upset lately, and I’m worried he’s going to start developing self-esteem issues.”

Shiro frowned. “How so?”

“We were out the other day when he saw some… homophobic behaviour,” she said carefully. There was a frown pulling at her lips. “And now I’m worried that he thinks it’s wrong if he likes someone other than a girl. I know he’s young, but kids are impressionable…”

“I understand,” Shiro said. He’d had somewhat of the same concerns, and knew that parents with open minds often worried about things like that, especially if their kids were showing signs of being different at young ages. Seeing something negative might fade into nothing like it sometimes did with children, but it might have also left a lasting impression, which was something that neither of them wanted for Lance. “What can I do to help?”

She rubbed the back of her neck, and gave him a sheepish smile. “Well, I was just hoping you could talk to him for a bit? To see if he’s alright.”

“Why me?”

“He thinks of you as his hero,” she said with a small laugh. “Never stops talking about you, you know. Says he wants to grow up to be like Shiro.”

He flushed. “D-does he?”

“Of course. Don’t tell him I told you though, he’ll get upset with me.”

Shiro laughed a little. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Lance gave his mother an adorably suspicious look as she herded him out of the kindergarten. Shiro waved goodbye to the both of them before returning to the office and falling down heavily into his chair. His face felt red, and he couldn’t help but place his hand over his mouth for a moment.

He was Lance’s hero.

Just the thought of that sent a thrill of pride through him unlike any other.

Chapter Text

The next day, Shiro started to notice that Lance was a little down. Maybe he’d hidden it yesterday, or he’d been distracted by their activities, but that day Shiro keep a close eye on him. He was worried for Lance, especially after his chat with Lance’s mother.

It wasn’t like Lance was particularly… withdrawn. But he did act a little differently. He seemed more aware of his actions, like he suddenly didn’t want to come on too forwardly, like he usually did. It was like he was second guessing himself, when he certainly hadn’t used to.

It left Shiro a little dismayed. Lance was always so bright and cheerful, and he never held back with his affection, but now he was. While it was only a small change, it was enough to worry Shiro, because things like that tended to snowball as one got older. No matter what, he never wanted Lance to doubt his feelings. Shiro had done enough of that himself over the years, and there was no way he wanted Lance to experience the same thing.

During the afternoon, when the kids went outside to play, Shiro pulled Lance aside. Keith tried to follow, looking puzzled, but Shiro urged him away with a reluctant smile.

“Did I do something wrong, Shiro?” Lance asked, as Shiro lifted him onto his desk chair in the office.

Shiro pulled Allura’s chair over and took a seat before speaking. “No you haven’t, Lance. But I do want to talk, and I want you to be honest with me.”

Lance blinked at him, and nodded. “Okay.”

“Your mother told me you saw something bad happen the other day,” Shiro started. “Is that true?”

Lance glanced down, looking forlorn. He seemed a little shaken by Shiro’s question, but after a moment, he nodded. “Boys shouldn’t be with boys,” he said, voice small and miserable. “It’s not right.”

Shiro sighed, and pried Lance’s hands away from the edge of his seat. “Lance, that’s not true,” he said.

It didn’t seem like Lance believed him. He wouldn’t meet Shiro’s eyes, and didn’t move to hold Shiro’s hands like he usually would have.

After a moment of thought, Shiro sighed again. “Lance, do you know the difference between right and wrong?”

“Yeah,” Lance said tentatively. “You and Allura and Coran always tell us.”

“Can you give me an example of doing something right?”

“Maybe… helping someone clean up?”

“Good,” Shiro nodded, giving him a small smile. “That is doing something right. What about doing something wrong? Can you tell me an example of that?”

Lance was quiet for a moment, and a frown appeared in his brow. “Calling someone a name?”

Shiro nodded again. “Yes, that’s correct. You understand that when people say mean things, they are doing something wrong.”

Tentatively, Lance nodded.

“Then, if someone is saying that loving boys when you are a boy is bad, that they are wrong,” Shiro said. “That when someone says something to hurt your feelings, they are doing something wrong.”

“But everyone has a mama and a papa, not two papas,” Lance said.

“Only the people you’ve met have a mother and a father,” Shiro said gently. “That doesn’t mean other people don’t have two mothers, or two fathers. There are lots of people with two papas, you know.”

“Really?” Lance asked quietly, his eyes big and hopeful.

Shiro nodded. “Of course. Have I ever lied to you?”

Lance shook his head.

For a moment, Shiro was painfully aware that he was someone Lance really looked up to. “It doesn’t matter if you love boys, or if you love girls, or if you love neither,” he said, “as long as you’re honest, and kind, and that you consider other people’s feelings too. Okay?”

“Okay,” Lance said.

“Promise you believe me?”

He nodded again.

Shiro held out his left hand, and extended his pinkie. “Pinkie promise?”

Lance giggled, and looped their pinkies together. “Okay!”

Shiro smiled again, feeling relieved. “Good job, buddy.”

Lance stretched forwards and put his arms around Shiro’s waist. “Thanks Shiro,” he said.

Carefully, Shiro put his arms around Lance too, and cradled the back of his head. He sometimes forgot just how small Lance was, because despite his brave attitude, he was still just a child. “No problem, Lance,” he said. “I’ll always be here if you need me.” He pushed Lance away, and smiled again. “Now go and play, alright? I’m sure Keith is bored without you.”

Lance grinned, and was off, no doubt to find his friend.

Shiro leaned back in his chair, and let out a deep breath. He felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders, and really hoped that his words had gotten through to Lance, that he would remember them. He wanted Lance to be happy, no matter who he loved, because there would always be someone to love him in return.

It was impossible not to.

Chapter Text

Pidge’s building skills always came into play when the building blocks were out. Most of the kids were just a tad too old to be completely interested in them, instead preferring hula hoops or soccer balls or board games, but Pidge absolutely loved things like the building blocks.

He was good at creating things. He was always drawing up designs and had probably seen Matt’s schematics and blue prints dozens of times. When they had blocks or something similar out for the kids to play with, Pidge was always first in line. He was generally a quiet kid, so most of the other children let him have them to himself. Of course, Lance, Keith and Hunk usually hung around to play with him too, but they weren’t as fond of building toys like Pidge was.

Today was one of those days Shiro had gotten the building blocks out. Usually the kids would have been allowed to play outside, but it was raining, so they had indoor activities instead. Most of the children were content with a movie, or with dolls, or craft supplies. Lance and Keith had their action figures out, and were carefully guiding them through the block structures Pidge was making. Hunk was helping out where he could, but he was pretty handy too, and was making little sculptures to compliment Pidge’s creations.

Whenever Shiro had a free moment, he found himself drifting over to watch Pidge work. He’d been friends with Matt for years, even before they were in the Garrison, and Shiro could see a lot of him in Pidge. He knew that Pidge looked up to Matt, so it was no surprise he was interested in the same things.

Sometimes Pidge asked him about Matt, too. With work and his studies, Matt hadn’t been home for a while, and Shiro knew Pidge missed him. For what it was worth, phone calls and stories and shared memories seemed to help Pidge with that lonely feeling.

Allura came over to join him where he was standing. The kids were seated on cushions on the floor quite contentedly, and they hadn’t seemed to notice either of the adults. “That’s a pretty complex castle,” Allura observed, as she leaned her shoulder against Shiro’s. “How long did it take him to make that?”

“About half an hour, maybe a little less,” Shiro said. Pride coloured his voice, but how could he not be proud? He remembered when Pidge was born and Matt had messaged him dozens of cute pictures. Maybe he was proud for Matt.

“Wow,” Allura exclaimed, her eyebrows raised. “That’s pretty fast.”

Shiro nodded. “He’s really good at building things like that,” he said. “I bet he’ll take after Matt.”

“His older brother?”

“Yeah.”

“You know him well, right?”

Shiro laughed a little. “I guess you could say that. We were roommates when I was in the Garrison, and then we were assigned to the same squad. We went to the same school too.”

Allura laughed too. “No wonder Pidge likes you so much! He was pretty quiet before you came here, you know. I think you put him at ease.”

Shiro rubbed the back of his neck. “I sure hope so.” He hadn’t known Pidge was different before he came, but he supposed it made sense. He was a familiar person, after all, and with Pidge’s identity struggles it must have been reassuring to have him around. He’d never thought about it that way before, though.

Allura patted his arm once, before heading back to whatever she had been doing before. He watched her go with a fond look, before turning to watching the children. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to take a little break from cleaning.

Besides, even if he wasn’t interacting with the kids, he did love seeing them get along like they were.

Chapter Text

With Christmas swiftly approaching, a lot of the activities they offered the children at the kindergarten had become Christmas inspired. The kids would be baking cookies that afternoon, mostly in thanks to Coran’s suggestion of doing so the previous day.

While the kids played outside after lunch, Shiro set up tables with everything the kids would need to bake. They had equal amounts of ingredients and things like cookie cutters and chocolate buttons to decorate the biscuits. The kids would be too impatient for the biscuits to bake, so they’d also bought pre-made ones that the children could decorate with icing and sprinkles in the meantime.

He made sure to have extra blue and red icing on the table for his kids, though. He had a feeling that Lance and Keith would solely use those colours just like usual, after all.

When Allura brought the kids in, they were clearly excited. This activity would mostly be headed by Coran, who stood in the centre of the room to instruct the kids on the proper amounts of ingredients to use and when to use them. Shiro made sure to check in on the kids with every step they did, knowing that they could sometimes get the readings on measuring cups wrong.

Mostly, everything went smoothly. He and Allura had to help with mixing the dough, but as soon as it was ready, the kids happily began to make their cookies.

“I’m making a lion!” Lance said, as he showed Shiro the shapes of dough he’d created.

From the right angle it sort of looked like a lion with a huge mane, so Shiro smiled. “Good job, buddy,” he said. “Make sure you leave enough space around it on the baking tray so that it doesn’t touch the other cookies, yeah?”

Lance nodded, but he seemed too distracted to really hear Shiro. His tongue was sticking out of the corner of his mouth, and he was carefully centring chocolate chips as the lion’s eyes, so Shiro left him be.

“What about you, Pidge?” Shiro asked, as he peered over Pidge’s shoulder. “What are you making?”

“Rover,” Pidge said. He’d used one of the cookie cutters to make different sized circles, and was delicately making ears, legs, and a tail. “He’s our dog.”

“Looks good,” Shiro said. Pidge’s cookie looked pretty much like a dog, but he expected nothing less from the kid. “What about you, Hunk?”

“A snowman,” Hunk said, grinning broadly, “for Christmas!”

Of course Hunk would be the one to remember that the cookies were meant to be Christmas cookies. He and Pidge had shared the circle-shaped cookie cutters, which Hunk had used to make the body of his snowman. He was using little chocolate chips to make its face, and Shiro hoped that it would still look as good when it was baked.

“Keith?”

Keith frowned down at his creation, his head tilted to the side. “It’s meant to be a heart, but it doesn’t look like one,” he muttered.

Shiro moved around to look over his shoulder. He could see what Keith was trying to do, and hummed thoughtfully. “Maybe add more dough to this corner,” he said, pointing in the relevant direction, “and use one of the circle-shaped cookie cutters to round off the edge.”

Keith’s eyes widened, and he nodded.

Shiro smiled, satisfied that his table was doing alright. Once the cookies had been baked, they could move onto decorating the pre-made ones. He hoped the kids would be just as peaceful when doing that, too.

Chapter Text

There was icing everywhere. Honestly, Shiro should have expected it to happen.

It wasn’t like the kids intentionally made a mess. It was just something that happened, wasn’t it? At least, that’s what Shiro told himself as he watched a complete and utter mess be made. The thought of having to clean it all later was not a thought he enjoyed having.

At least the children seemed to be enjoying themselves. They all had a packet of pre-made biscuits to share around their table, and enough decorating supplies to hopefully last the afternoon. Although, Shiro was pretty sure more sprinkles had ended up on the floor than on the biscuits.

Like he’d predicted, Lance and Keith used most of the blue and red decorations their table had. While Shiro wasn’t exactly sure what they made their biscuits into, they certainly were being quite creative. Pidge and Hunk were very straightforward with their designs – polka dots made from chocolate chips and snowmen made from icing and things of the like.

The other two were less traditional with their creations. Lance’s hands were covered in icing and some had even gotten into the ends of Keith’s dark hair. Shiro didn’t even want to look at their jackets, knowing he’d need to scrub them clean again.

Shiro sighed, and leaned against the kitchen counter. He didn’t need to help the kids with decorating their biscuits, and was content to supervise them instead.

“They sure are making a mess,” Coran observed, as he wandered into the kitchen to stand beside Shiro. He leaned on the bench too, and watched the kids work for a moment.

“Don’t remind me.”

Coran laughed. “Well, at least you don’t have to clean the kitchen.”

Shiro laughed too. “I suppose you’re right. How are the biscuits coming along?”

“Almost done now. Are they almost finished with the pre-made ones?”

“Well, I think it’s more like they’re running out of them,” Shiro laughed again. “But there should be enough icing for the homemade ones.”

“Good, good.”

When the biscuits were baked, Shiro helped Coran get them out of the oven and onto the cooling racks. Most of the biscuits came out unscathed, though they had to carefully cut a few apart. Once they were cooled enough, Shiro started bringing them out to the tables.

His kids seemed excited as he laid down the tray in the middle of their table, where they’d cleared a space. “Make sure not to handle them too roughly,” he said, as he withdrew his hands. “These ones might break if you drop them.”

“They look so good!” Hunk said.

The chocolate chips they’d used to make faces had mostly melted, but it would be easy enough to cover with icing and new chocolate chips. The kids didn’t seemed fussed, either way.

While Shiro did enjoy watching all the kids decorate their cookies, he found himself watching Keith more than anyone else. Keith was playing special attention to the heart-shaped cookie he’d made, like he didn’t want to mess it up. He was using the coloured icing he’d squirreled away to decorate it, and after a moment, Shiro suddenly realised what exactly he was doing.

Half the heart was red, and the other half was blue.

Shiro watched with keen interest as Keith finally finished it. The piping bag he’d used to colour it in had left him with shaky lines, but for the most part, it looked pretty nice. He seemed quite proud of it too, if the flush on his cheeks was anything to go by.

Then, unexpectedly, he turned to Lance.

“I made this for you,” Keith said, as he held out the cookie.

Lance gave him a puzzled look for a moment. Shiro’s heart lurched, thinking that Lance might reject Keith’s sweet offering, but then Lance’s face turned abruptly red, and he held out shaky hands for the present. “T-thanks!”

Keith’s eyes widened for a moment, and then he grinned, a bright, teeth-showing grin. Shiro had never seen him smile like that, and instantly felt like someone had grabbed for his heart. These kids were so damned cute. How could kids who constantly argued be so adorable? Ridiculous.

“You look like you’re having a heart attack or something there,” Allura said, as she sidled up beside him. “Something the matter?”

Shiro groaned, and slumped against her. “Keith gave Lance a heart cookie with their colours on it.”

Allura let out a snort, and comfortingly rubbed his back. “Seems like Lance shared it with him, too. Look, he gave Keith the blue half! What a sweetheart.”

Shiro only groaned again. He couldn’t stand it. He was suddenly glad they’d decided to make cookies, despite all the mess and all the cleaning he’d have to do later. “I feel like I should be offended,” Shiro muttered.

Allura laughed, amused, and nuzzled his cheek for a moment. “Don’t worry, I made you a cookie too!”

Chapter Text

“You know, I’m sure you could reach here on your own.”

“Probably, but isn’t it more romantic this way?”

Shiro flushed, and let out a spluttering noise before turning away from Allura’s cheeky grin. He was helping her put up Christmas decorations in her home. It seemed like she’d left it to the very last minute, though he hadn’t put any up in his own home at all. If he were being honest, he enjoyed doing this. It was romantic, even if he wouldn’t admit it out loud.

Allura just smiled at him knowingly, and returned to hanging baubles on her Christmas tree. She had a whole box full of mismatched ornaments that seemed to have been collected over generations. Shiro had riffled through it for a moment, trying to take it all in. Fleetingly, he had a thought that maybe she’d done the same thing he was when she was a child. It was a sweet thought.

While she decorated her tree, he hung glittery tinsel around the house. He knew she could have done it herself – she’d probably done it herself every year previous, after all – but he hadn’t hesitated before taking her offer to do it himself. Christmas was on a Sunday this year, but he didn’t really have any plans, so spending Friday evening with her was something he was definitely enjoying.

He’d bought her a Christmas present too, though it was at his home. He hadn’t known what to get her, but he’d settled on this perfume bundle – a woman at the store had recommended it to him with a knowing smile. It smelt really nice and soft, so he thought Allura might like it. He’d also asked Coran for a picture he could frame for Allura, and Coran had given him one of Allura, Alfor and himself at a past birthday of hers. It amused him to see that none of them had really changed; Coran even had his moustache back then.

He hoped she liked the gifts, but he had a feeling that she would. He just had to find the right time to give them to her. Maybe he could drop them off tomorrow, if she wasn’t busy?

“What are you thinking about?” Allura asked, as she suddenly draped herself across his back.

He was crouching, and wobbled on his feet for a moment as he gave her a bashful smile. “Nothing much,” he said. “Are you done with the tree?”

“Almost,” she said. She pressed the cold tip of her nose under his ear to make him laugh. “I have to put the star on top, but I can’t reach.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Is that so?”

“Will you put it up for me?”

He laughed again, and carefully stood. “I can do that.”

She grinned, and herded him towards the tree. The star was in the box still, and she carefully extracted it to give it to him. It clinked against his prosthetic hand, which made him wince a little, but Allura’s evident excitement was enough to overshadow that. When she was happy, he couldn’t help but be happy too.

It was easy enough to settle the star on top of the tree. He thought it might be unbalanced, but it was perfectly even, and stayed still when he pulled his hands away from it. For a moment, he simply let himself look at the tree. It looked beautiful, with all its mismatched decorations and blinking lights. It reminded him of the trees he’d had as a kid, and he found himself missing them.

He kind of liked the fact that Allura had let him put the star on the tree. It meant that everything was finished, that they’d completed what they’d set out to do. It was a very satisfying feeling, made even more so by Allura’s presence and her gentle encouragement. She had been the one to ask him to help her, not the other way around. It meant she wanted him around, right?

“Tree looks good,” she observed. “The entire house does.”

He nodded in agreement. “It does.”

Allura regarded him with a strange look in her eyes, before reaching out to push him over. He fell against the couch with a surprised noise, and watched Allura with a flustered, confused look in his eyes. She fell against the couch with him, somehow managing to squeeze herself onto the edge with just enough room to be comfortable. She had a smug smile on her face as she rested her chin on his chest.

“This is nice,” she said.

When he caught his breath again, he nodded. “Y-yeah.”

She hummed, and closed her eyes. Shiro ran his hand up and down her back, and took her quiet moment of obliviousness to unabashedly stare at her features. Her eyelashes were long and thick, and her cheeks were slightly red from the chill outside mixed with the warmth of inside. Her hair was tied up, but strands had fallen loose to frame her face. She looked beautiful, but that was no different from usual.

“What do you do for Christmas?” Allura asked him.

Shiro shrugged. “Not much, really. My parents live pretty far away so we usually lump birthdays and Christmases together, though I do call them, and send them gifts. Sometimes Matt will come over in between his family arrangements.”

“And if he doesn’t?”

“I usually just spend it alone.”

She frowned.

“What about you?” He asked before she could say anything. He didn’t want to dwell on his situation. “What do you do for Christmas?”

“I usually have lunch with the family,” she said, glancing up at him. “My father always comes home for Christmas, and Coran joins us. Sometimes I join the family dinners we have afterwards too, though they’re usually reserved for someone’s partner’s family.”

“That sounds nice.”

“It is,” she said, smiling a little. “You’re welcome to join us, you know.”

He pursed his lips to stop the swell of want from spilling from them. He didn’t want to intrude, so he said nothing, and simply immersed himself in the feeling of having her beside him. In the warmth of the room with the glowing Christmas lights, he felt at ease. She was a warm and solid presence beside him, one so steady he found he could never doubt her.

It really was quite romantic.

Chapter Text

“Shiro! It’s so nice to hear from you!”

He smiled, and rested his elbows against his benchtop. The room was dark because it was getting late, but it wasn’t too late at night to call his parents. “Hey,” he said. “How are you?”

“I’m good,” his mother replied cheerfully. “Your father, too, though he’s off doing something – who knows what! He’s always building something these days, you know.”

Shiro laughed quietly. His mother was a sweet woman, but she tended to go off on tangents without realising what she was doing. One moment they’d be talking about his day, and the next she’d be talking about the cruise they took five years ago, and how sunny it had been. He didn’t mind listening to her talk. She had a comforting, familiar voice.

“Have your presents arrived?” He asked.

“They have!” She said. He could hear the smile in her voice. “They’re sitting under our tree, I’ll send you a picture later. We’re going to open them tomorrow.”

“You’ll have to tell me what you think.”

“Of course I will! Speaking of which, has yours arrived yet? I sent it last week, but you know how those postmen are.”

He didn’t, but he made a noise of agreement anyway. “It arrived last Thursday,” he said. “The card, too.”

“Good! I’m glad.”

He smiled again. He missed his parents, and loathed the fact that he didn’t get to see them often. They’d both retired now, and came down to visit him often enough, but he was still struggling after his amputation. He’d had to rely on them for so long after his accident that afterwards, he’d needed to be alone. His mother hadn’t understood why he’d been like that, and had probably been hurt by his actions, but his father understood.

“How have you been, anyway?” She asked. “The weather is getting colder now, right? Make sure you wear plenty of layers, and do your shoulder exercises. And put another quilt on your bed.”

“I know, I know,” he said. “It hasn’t been too cold. Depends on the day, really. Everything’s been fine, though. The kids are as cute as ever.”

“Oh? Are Lance and Keith still fighting?”

“Not as often!” He said. He still felt proud over them, though he wasn’t exactly sure why. “They get along a lot better now. I’m pretty sure Lance has a crush on Keith.”

She laughed. “How cute.”

“Mmm.”

He missed his parents. He’d started feeling less and less horrified about his arm these days, so maybe it wouldn’t be as bad travelling to see them. If he didn’t hate it so much, then his mother wouldn’t give him those pitiful looks, and his father wouldn’t turn his head away from Shiro’s suffering.

“There’s something else, too,” he said as casually as he could.

“Oh? Has something happened at work?”

“Sort of,” he said. He was already smiling, and tried carefully to think of the right way to word what he wanted to say. “I’ve met someone.”

“Oh! Really? What’s she like?”

Shiro laughed. “Her name is Allura, she’s a co-worker of mine. She’s actually the boss’s daughter.”

“That doesn’t cause any trouble for you though, does it?”

“No, not at all,” he said.

“Good, that’s reassuring. What’s she like? Is she nice? Is it serious?”

“She’s…” He sucked in a deep breath, and let it out slowly. “She’s wonderful. All the kids love her, and she doesn’t care about- about my arm, or anything.”

His mother was quiet for a moment. “I’m glad,” she finally said. “She sounds lovely.”

“She is!” He said. “She’s beautiful. And when she smiles, it’s like- it’s like everyone is suddenly drawn to her, like they can’t help it. She’s just so beautiful.”

His mother laughed quietly again. “So it’s serious?”

“I think so. I just… we don’t really call it anything, but we’re together. Is that bad?”

“Not at all. Sounds like you’re both being very responsible.”

He nodded, though she couldn’t see him. “I really like her,” he admitted quietly. “I’ve never met anyone like her.”

“Will you spend Christmas with her? I know you never do anything. You don’t even have decorations up, do you?”

He glanced around his bare home, and winced. “I don’t,” he said. “But I don’t want to intrude on her family celebrations.”

“I’m sure she doesn’t feel that way.”

Allura probably didn’t, but Shiro couldn’t shake the feeling that he was stepping out of line, so he didn’t mention it again. For the rest of phone call, he listened to his mother talking about how she was doing, and gossipy things that had been happening. He talked to his father for a little while too, and told him about Allura. He wasn’t as excitable as Shiro’s mother, but he was happy enough that Shiro had found someone he really liked.

He wondered if Allura would be interested in meeting them someday.

Chapter Text

Shiro woke up late on Christmas morning. He hadn’t set his alarm and allowed himself the luxury of sleeping in well past when he usually would have. Oddly enough, he found that he enjoyed waking up slowly. He didn’t really have plans for the day, so it wasn’t like he needed to rush.

Until his doorbell suddenly rang.

He wasn’t exactly dressed to answer the door – he’d only slept in loose pyjama pants – but after throwing on a shirt, he went to see who was ringing for him. Maybe a neighbour’s family member had gotten the wrong house, or a stray parcel was being delivered to the wrong address. It had happened before, so it wasn’t completely unexpected.

He didn’t expect, however, to find Allura standing on the other side of the door.

She was wearing a red scarf almost all the way up to her chin, and had a beanie tucked over her ears. It wasn’t too cold out, but there was a small, chilly wind. “Merry Christmas,” she said with a sweet smile.

“A-Allura? What are you doing here?” He asked, surprised. “Merry Christmas to you too.”

She grinned, and stepped inside. “Did I wake you? Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” he said. He was still surprised to see her. “Why are you here?”

“I want to spend Christmas with you,” she said. “So come with me.”

His felt his heart jump. “But-”

“Please?” She asked, before he could say anything else. “I know you feel like you’re intruding, but you’re important to me, and I don’t want you to spend Christmas alone when there’s a seat for you at our table. We’re family, aren’t we? Everyone else will ask where you are.”

Shiro’s heart fluttered. He wanted to be a part of her life like that, wanted to spend important time with her like that, but was it really alright for him to? “I-if you’re sure…”

Allura’s eyes widened. “You’ll really come?”

He nodded when he found he didn’t know what to say. Allura was offering him what he wanted, and he would have been a fool not to take it. “I should get dressed, though.”

She laughed, and threw her arms around his waist. Absentmindedly, he put his hand on the back of her neck, and pressed a soft kiss to her forehead. She turned her face into his chest, and simply stood there, happy to be in comfortable silence.

He was, too. Happy that is. He still couldn’t understand how he’d found someone like her, someone who would go so far out of her way to make him feel good. “Remind me to grab your present on the way out,” he said quietly.

She nodded. “I have one for you at home,” she said.

He smiled a little. “Let me go and get dressed, and then we can leave, okay?”

“Sure,” she said. “Need me to do anything before we go?”

He shook his head. “I’ll be back in a moment.”

While he wasn’t sure if there was any sort of dress code, he was sure he’d be fine dressed in something smart, so he put on a button-down shirt and a pair of black pants and tried not to think about how nervous he was. It had been years since he properly spent a Christmas with anyone, and to suddenly be spending one with Allura’s family…

He told himself it was okay to be nervous. He’d met members of Allura’s family before, but that didn’t make them any less important to impress.

But it would be alright. He had Allura looking out for him, after all.

Chapter Text

Shiro and Allura decided to spend New Year’s together. Well, Allura decided, and Shiro didn’t complain. He’d asked if she wanted to spend it with her family, but it had been her suggestion that they spend it together instead.

They would watch their city’s fireworks on television, and choose to stay at Allura’s home. She still had all her decorations up, and it was nice to sit amongst them. Shiro was becoming used to staying at Allura’s house, though he didn’t particularly mind that. He liked her house, but more than that, he liked spending time with her. He thought that maybe it didn’t really matter where he was, as long as she was with him.

For dinner, Shiro cooked. They’d taken a trip down to the grocery store earlier in the evening, and although it was very busy, neither of them had really cared. Shiro was surprised that the little store was still open, but they were family run, and it seemed like the market street was going to have a little party amongst themselves.

Allura seemed content to watch him make their food. They were both dressed comfortably and casually, and she had her hair down. She watched him with her chin propped in her hand, and a smug little smile on her face. He wasn’t sure what she was so pleased over, but her happiness was contagious.

“You know, I could get used to this,” Allura said, as she let her eyes linger on him. “I never knew you could cook so well.”

He laughed a little. “It’s nothing special,” he said, as he reached for plates. He already knew where everything in the kitchen was, and felt completely at ease moving around. The tiles of the kitchen floor were cold against his bare feet, and every now and then a shiver would roll up at his arms because he was only wearing a casual shirt, but those were easy things to forget.

“Food tastes better when you have someone to eat it with though, doesn’t it?” She said fondly.

He smiled to himself. That wasn’t something he could deny. Everything was better when he did it with Allura. It didn’t matter how mundane the task was, or how many times he had done it himself. When he was with her, everything felt better. No one had ever affected him like she did.

Their dinner progressed peacefully. They sat together on the couch with their legs folded and watched the early night fireworks go off. It was easy to relax with Allura, to lounge around without a care in the world. Shiro had started fearing the New Year, knowing that it was nothing more than another year of suffering, but he was starting to feel different about it. Maybe he could find something to look forwards to, instead of something to dread.

“Shiro?”

“Mmm?”

“Do you have any resolutions for the new year?”

When he thought about it, he’d never really set any resolutions. Or at least, he hadn’t thought of any in a while. Nothing seemed worth sticking to, but maybe he could think of some now. What did he want to achieve next year? What kind of person did he want to be?

Well, for one, he wanted to keep his job with the kids.

“I guess so,” he said, “but I’ve never really thought about it.”

Allura laughed. She had her head resting on his chest now, and their tangled fingers on his lap. Her couch was the perfect place to lay together, so that’s what they did while they waited for the fireworks. They’d eaten snacks all evening and had small amounts of wine, but neither were tipsy.

“It doesn’t really seem like your thing,” she admitted, “but you should try and think of something!”

He was already thinking of something, but he kept that to himself. Aside from working with the kids, what else did he want? He wanted to hate his arm a little less. That would be nice.

“Ah, listen!” Allura said, as she pushed herself upright. “I think the market is letting off their fireworks now!”

Sure enough, he could hear the pops and fizzes of fireworks not too far away. He and Allura went out onto the balcony, and followed her gaze across the suburb. A bright display of fireworks shot up into the sky before showering the area below in a colourful arrangement of embers.

“They look pretty,” Allura said. Her gaze had turned soft, and the colours of the fireworks were reflected in her eyes. They looked like stars.

Shiro smiled to himself again. He’d been doing that a lot that evening. Maybe another resolution of his should be to kiss her more. In that moment, he certainly wanted to.

He stood with his arms around her waist, and hers around his, as they watched the market street fireworks. They were going off before the main midnight ones. “Do they do fireworks here every year?”

“Most of the time they do,” she said.

“When I was a kid my neighbours did them too,” he said. “They’d set them off in the street in front of my house.”

She laughed. “Sound’s fun,” she said.

“It was.”

Her eyes drifted up to him. “Did you have fun tonight, too?”

It was a strange question for her to ask, he thought. Maybe Allura still got a little insecure about their relationship, too. With that thought in mind, he smiled, and lifted a hand to touch her cheek. “I did.”

Relief broke over her face, and she smiled. Unable to help himself, he tilted her chin up, and kissed her. He wanted to know what that smile felt like.

“Happy new year,” he mumbled, as he pulled away an inch.

“It’s not the new year yet,” she replied, blinking owlishly. She was right – he could hear the countdown just beginning to be shouted on the television, but that didn’t matter.

“I’m getting a head start on my new year’s resolution.”

Chapter Text

It was bring-your-parent-to-work day. Shiro hadn’t been working at the kindergarten when the same day had rolled around last year, but he was kind of excited to see it this year. It was a nice chance for him to get to know the kid’s parents a little better.

Besides, the children absolutely loved it. They got a special lunch they could share with their parents and they got to show off their family. It was cute.

Hunk’s mother was a baker. Shiro thought it was a very fitting role, considering how much Hunk loved food. She was a sweet woman with a broad smile, and she brought a little treat from her work for everyone. She was quite a hit amongst the children. Shiro could definitely tell where Hunk got his smile from.

Keith’s father was the one to come, though he didn’t stay for long. Shiro was busy helping in the kitchen when Keith’s father spoke about his job, but he knew that he had an important, high-paying job with a private company. He was a nice enough man, but very soft-spoken, and not very expressive. Either way, Keith seemed glad that he’d shown up, even if just for a little while. He was sure to introduce Lance to him, and made sure his father had a seat at their table.

While Shiro expected Lance to bring his father, it was actually his mother who came. It was nice seeing her again, and she made sure to thank Shiro for making Lance feel better, though he insisted it was all due to Lance’s special brand of resistance.

Lance’s mother worked at a plant nursery. She had brought in a flowering plant to show the kids, and explained how she looked after all the plants in a huge greenhouse. She had photos, too. It seemed like a job that fit her personality very well.

It was different for Pidge. While he seemed to enjoy hearing about everyone’s parents, his own had been unable to get time off work, and Matt was too tied up in his Garrison duties. Shiro had spoken to Matt earlier that day, and Matt was upset that he couldn’t come and see everyone.

Shiro hated seeing Pidge feel left out. Even though the others included him, it wasn’t the same as being able to show off someone you were proud of.

Shiro wanted to fix that.

Chapter Text

For the most part, Shiro recalled his time at the Galaxy Garrison quite fondly. He loved piloting, and he had always been surrounded by nice people. With Matt in his squad, he’d enjoyed just about every day, even if the training had been gruelling and the examinations had been beyond difficult.

He missed it, sometimes. Especially flying. He had been the best in their class, and had chased countless records, successfully breaking more than his fair share. It would have been nice to return to the sky, even if he wasn’t the pilot, but he’d never been able to bring himself to. Maybe he could this year.

As it was, he had quite a few physical memories of his time in the Garrison, too. Photos and his previous assessments and blueprints were stored up in his old Garrison account, which he knew he could still access. It wouldn’t take long to print some of it off…

“Hey Pidge, can I speak to you for a moment?”

Pidge glanced away from the table, and nodded. It wasn’t hard for him to drift away from the other kids without them noticing – they were preoccupied with their parents.

He led Pidge into the office, and gathered the papers he’d printed off. “I know your parents couldn’t come today, and that Matt is really far away,” he started, “and I know that you’re feeling a little left out.”

“It’s alright,” Pidge muttered. It clearly wasn’t, not with those downcast eyes and that small frown the child was wearing. Shiro didn’t like seeing that look on him.

“Well, I was wondering if I could talk for you instead,” Shiro said. He didn’t want to admit it, but he was a little nervous. He wanted Pidge to be happy, that’s all. “I have some old stuff from the Garrison, so I can tell everyone about Matt, and the work he’s doing. If you want.”

Pidge’s eyes widened, and he was suddenly teary. “R-really?”

“It’s only if you want me to,” Shiro was quick to say, worried that he’d upset Pidge. “Don’t cry now, it’s alright.”

Pidge sniffled, and threw his arms around Shiro’s waist. “I want you to,” he mumbled, as he clenched fistful of Shiro’s shirt in his tiny fingers.

Shiro melted a little, and comfortingly put his hand on the back of Pidge’s head. “Alright, looks like I’ve got a lot to talk about now, huh? Everyone is going to love Matt!”

Pidge beamed.

Chapter Text

On the weekend, Shiro and Allura went out to the local park to have lunch together. They were considering taking the children there sometime during the week because there was a large play area with play equipment available, but they wanted to double check it was a nice place first.

It was. There were tall, leafy trees that offered shade the entire way around the park circuit, and fences that separated the park from the road. It was a no-dogs park, and no bicycles, too. Perfect for a class full of rowdy, energetic children.

Perfect for two relaxing adults, too. They sat together under a tree and had a lunch Shiro had packed for them, and chatted freely. The sun was out and the park wasn’t too crowded, so he didn’t have to strain to hear her, or anything like that. He was content to sit beside her.

It was such an easy-flowing day that he eventually became quite a bit drowsy. He wasn’t the type of person to sleep during the day, but that day he did. He had his head cushioned in Allura’s lap, and her fingers in his hair. When he thought back on it, it was no wonder he’d fallen asleep, not with such gentle affections coming from the person he loved. It was utterly peaceful.

When he woke, he found himself covered in flowers. Allura had picked the little buds sprouting between blades of grass, and had somehow managed to weave them through the longest parts of his hair. When he sat up, some fell out, but he could feel that most remained in. She laughed at the sight of him, her face flushed, and insisted they take a photo together. He agreed because he loved her, and he wanted to see that smile of hers last forever.

He set the photo as his wallpaper.

Chapter Text

The children got fell ill than Shiro expected them to. Lance had been away once or twice with the flu, and Pidge had had chicken pox right at the beginning of Shiro’s placement at Altea Kindergarten. He remembered Keith once catching a cold, and a handful of the other kids being the same. Even he’d been sick before. The only child he couldn’t recall ever falling sick was Hunk.

Of course, it wasn’t like Hunk was immune to illness. That wasn’t possible, not even with all the shots and careful preparation in the world. Eventually, when a cold front washed in, he did fall sick.

Shiro just wasn’t prepared for the impact his absence had on the class.

When he thought back on it, Hunk had always been quite a happy, warm presence. He wasn’t a hard person to miss – his big smile drew people to him, and his kind nature kept them close. Hunk was the type of child that everyone was friends with, even though he spent most of his time with Lance, Keith and Pidge. Everyone loved him.

And consequently, everyone missed him.

“He’ll only be away for a day or two,” Shiro said as he tried to comfort Lance. Out of all the children, Lance was probably Hunk’s closest friend, and it was Lance who was giving him the poutiest frown he could. “Don’t be too sad.”

“But it’s not the same without him,” Lance whined, tugging on Shiro’s shirt insistently. “There are four seats at our table, not three.”

Shiro sighed for what felt like the fifteenth time that morning, and crouched down beside Lance. “Now I know you miss your friend, but Hunk can’t come today,” he said.

“Why not?”

Shiro hummed. “Well, do you remember the last time you were sick?” He asked. “When your head was sore and your tummy really hurt?”

Almost as if he were feeling the pain again, he touched his hands to his stomach. “Yeah,” Lance nodded.

“And it wasn’t fun, was it?”

He shook his head.

“Well, when a person is sick, they don’t really want to leave home,” Shiro said. “If they do, they could get sicker, or they could infect others. That’s not good, is it?”

Lance shook his head again.

“That’s why Hunk isn’t here today, and he might not be here tomorrow,” Shiro said. “His parents are staying home to take care of him so he can get better as soon as possible. Once he’s not sick anymore, he’ll come back to play with you.”

“He will?”

“Of course,” Shiro smiled. “Hunk loves playing with you and the others. You’re all best friends! He’ll be back once he’s better, I promise.”

Lance nodded, looking convinced. “Okay. Can I make him feel better?”

Shiro chuckled. “No, I’m afraid not, buddy. But once he’s back, how about we all play outside together? We can uncover the sandpit, if you want. Hunk likes doing that.”

“Yeah! I’ll go tell Keith!”

“Alright.” Shiro ruffled Lance’s hair once before sending him on his way. Lance’s concern from his friend was heartening, and it left Shiro feeling good. It seemed like that no matter what, those four kids always looked out for one another. He’d never seen a friendship like theirs before.

“Lance giving you trouble again?”

He startled at Allura’s voice, and turned around to face her. She and Coran had walked over to him, and were watching the children play amongst one another. There was no doubt that the atmosphere felt a little different without Hunk, but the kids seemed to manage well enough.

“No, he’s just worried about his friend,” Shio said. “He’s impatient.”

“Sounds about right,” Allura chuckled. “I bet he can’t wait for Hunk to get better.”

“The kids are always like this when their friend is away,” Coran mused. “Always so worried. To them, it’s like they’re never going to see each other again. In a way, it’s sweet, don’t you think?”

Shiro nodded. “They’re good kids.”

Coran nodded. They talked for a little while longer, before Coran went to go start making lunch for everyone, and Shiro was left with Allura. She stood a little closer to him than usual, and watched the kids with him for a while.

Lance and Keith were playing together just like usual, but it was evident to Shiro that they were trying to include Pidge more than they typically did. He supposed that without Hunk, Pidge had no one to talk to while Lance and Keith were occupied with their games. While Pidge probably wasn’t too keen on it (he preferred drawing and problem-solving games, or something like playing with building blocks) he placated the other two, and joined in.

“It’s like they’re unbalanced without Hunk around,” Shiro said airily.

Allura made a noise of agreement. “I think so too,” she said, “but they’re managing well enough. At least they’re not sulking.”

“That’s true,” Shiro said. “I think they’ll be alright soon enough.”

She nodded. “Hunk should be back in a few days anyway. Think you can last until then?”

“Me?”

She hummed again, as a sly grin touched her lips. “You miss him too, right? It’s obvious.”

He flushed. “He’s a good kid,” Shiro said. “Still calls me ‘Mr’ and everything. He makes everyone happy.”

“He does,” Allura agreed. She leaned into his side for a moment, ducking her head to hide a shy smile. “I’m glad you get along with the kids here too, you know. They all really look up to you, robot arm and all.”

Her words made him laugh. It was funny to think about how enamoured the children had been with his arm when he’d first arrived. He used to dislike it, just a little, but he was starting to feel better about it lately. That meant he could look back at those moments and smile, instead of wince. “Working with kids is different to how I thought I would be. It’s nice getting to know them.”

“That it is.”

Chapter Text

The next day, when Hunk did in fact return, the children were allowed to play outside. It was a nice day, with just enough cloud cover to keep everyone from sweltering in the heat. Shiro was supervising the kids who wanted to play outside, while Allura and Coran watched over the ones remaining inside.

Shiro’s group of kids were outside, though that wasn’t particularly surprising. Lance had had Shiro make good on his promise to open up the sandpit, so after morning tea, that was what Shiro did. He made sure to get them buckets and spades as well, knowing that Pidge would want to build a castle or track of some sort.

For what it was worth, the backyard at Altea Kindergarten was perfect for children. There was play equipment and the sandpit underneath an outdoor shade, with woodchips laid down to soften the ground. The rest of the space was a grassy field, perfect for playing with soccer balls or for running around. The entire yard was protected by a tall fence. It felt very homey.

The children never really got hurt in the yard. There’d been some falls off the monkey bars, and some soccer balls to the shins, but that was about it. Shiro hadn’t had to deal with an injury in quite a long time.

That afternoon, however, Lance skinned his knee. Shiro wasn’t sure what he’d tripped over, but suddenly Lance was on the ground. He’d fallen over on his way back outside, where the ground was still covered in pavers, so there had been nothing soft to take the impact.

Lance valiantly tried not to cry, but Shiro could see that his eyes were watery.

“Hey buddy, did you hurt your knee?” Shiro asked gently as he crouched down beside Lance. He helped Lance sit up, and carefully stretched out Lance’s injured leg. “Got a bit of a nasty scrape there, huh?”

Lance nodded, his face pinched. “It hurts,” he admitted quietly. He looked upset with himself, and it made Shiro’s heart ache.

“Don’t worry too much,” he said. “I’ll get you all fixed up.”

As carefully as he could, he picked Lance up into his arms, and carried him inside. He had Lance sit on one of the tables in the empty dining room as he went to find one of the first-aid kits. He would need to clean the scrape before he could put a band aid on it.

Lance held back a wince as Shiro carefully disinfected the wound. He was still pretty brave, and didn’t complain, or shy away like some of the other children often did. He seemed to understand that if he let Shiro work as quickly as he could, the pain would be over soon.

“Blue band aid?” Shiro offered.

Lance started to smile a little. “Yeah.”

Shiro picked a blue one, and gently stuck it over the scrape. “Feel better?”

“Yeah.”

“Good, I’m glad,” Shiro said. He stood, and helped Lance back off the table. “Be careful now, alright? And don’t press your knee down into the sand.”

“Okay!” Lance smiled up at him, all teeth and dimples, and put his arms around Shiro’s waist. “Thanks, Shiro!”

“No problem, Lance.”

He watched as Lance ran back over to his friends while Shiro packed away the first-aid kit. Keith met Lance halfway, before he even reached the edge of the sandpit. He was too far away to hear anything that Keith said, but Keith’s mouth was moving fast, and he had a worried look on his face. That look only eased when Lance waved a hand dismissively, a wide grin stuck on his face.

Shiro sighed to himself, and hung back a little to watch. Keith held onto Lance’s elbow as they both stepped back into the sandpit, even though the edge wasn’t move than a few inches high, and Lance could easily get over it himself. Still Keith helped him, and he even took his hat off so that Lance could rest his knee in it instead of in the sand.

He wasn’t quite sure what prompted Keith to be so caring. Shiro had always thought that maybe, despite his competitive nature, it was Lance that was the one pursuing Keith’s friendship, and not the other way around. Sometimes it seemed like they had become friends out of convenience – that Lance was the first person to be around Keith in such a manner.

But it was starting to seem a little different lately. Keith was always with Lance, and always looking for Lance’s attention. Maybe he liked Lance, too. It was hard not to, not when Lance gave so much of himself over to Keith. Shiro wondered how their relationship would progress as they got older.

He looked forward to seeing them all grown up.

Chapter Text

Sometimes, Coran organised incursions for the children. Excursions to other places could be expensive and tedious, and sometimes not all the children were able to attend due to the cost or their parent’s not wishing for them to travel so far. Incursions were the perfect opportunity to have a fun day without having to organise transport and permission slips.

That morning, Shiro arrived at the kindergarten early to help their incursion workers set up the enclosures. Coran was pretty much friends with everyone, and had asked the local wildlife facility bring in animal displays. Nothing dangerous – mostly insects in boxes and animals for petting, like docile lizards, baby chicks and even a few ducklings. It certainly was a strange mixture of animals, but there would be two parts to the enclosure; the insects and reptiles, and then the farm animals.

While Shiro wasn’t too fond of the insects, he did like helping move the chicks from their carriers and into a secure fencing area. The ducklings were soft, too, and more than one could fit comfortably in his palms. He hadn’t handled something so delicate in a long time, and although the incursion workers had given his arm a dubious look, a sharp stare from Allura had quietened them.

If he were being honest, he was worried too. What if their feathers or their little feet got caught between the joints of his fingers? It was an irrational thought, because it definitely didn’t happen. In fact, the little birds seemed more than content to peck away at his fingers like they were toys.

“The kids are going to love this,” Shiro said, as the last of the chicks were carefully set down by their special heater.

Allura was watching him with a small smile on her face. “They will,” she agreed. “They should be arriving soon. Come, leave the chicks to themselves. They’ll be there when you come back.”

She was teasing him, and it made him flush. He withdrew his hand from the pen where he’d been petting one of the chicks, and reluctantly followed him from the room. She was right – the children would start to arrive for the day any moment, and he had to make sure they didn’t get too rowdy around the animals. Still, it was sure to be a great day.

 

As expected, the kids really did love the animals. It was complete pandemonium as they impatiently waited for everyone to arrive. Shiro had to make sure their hands were thoroughly washed, and that they completely understood the rules set forth by the incursion instructors.

The class was divided into two groups that would rotate rooms after lunch. Shiro was supervising the first group, which had his kids in it. They would be with the reptiles and insects first, but he didn’t particularly mind. They’d have all afternoon to play with the chicks, after all.

 

For what it was worth, the kids liked the insects. The instructors carried them around on sticks and in their hands, and let the kids peer at them as closely as they wished. They even selected one random child to hold onto the safer insects, which everyone loved. Shiro made sure to take heaps of photos.

The kids liked the lizards, too. The instructors let them each take a turn to pat the lizards they carried around after instructing them on how to do it gently. It was funny to see the kids marvel over the lizards, especially because they were the kind one did see often in the wild. For the most part, Shiro enjoyed it too. He was even convinced to pet the lizards as well, courtesy of Lance.

Coran made lunch and everyone took an hour break to eat while the animals got some cooldown time. Shiro made sure the kids washed their hands again before eating, and that they didn’t go wandering off where they weren’t supposed to.

After everyone had eaten, including the instructors, Shiro ushered the children back into the room where they’d set up the pen for the chicks and ducklings. The instructors had the children sit in a circle, and after spending half an hour or so educating the kids on how the chickens were raised and how to handle them, they started letting the children hold them.

Everyone had to carefully cup their hands together to make a safe cradle for the chick. The instructors went around one-by-one to distribute the chicks, and even let Shiro hold one. While he was careful with it, he made sure to keep an eye on the children, too.

Hunk was the most gentle with the chick he was given. He watched it with a bright-eyed, flushed look on his face, and his hands were so steady that the chick fell straight back to sleep. Pidge was less enthused – he clearly preferred the lizards and insects – but he was still gentle with his chicken. His hands were steady just like Hunk’s, but his chick was peeping at him curiously, and didn’t sleep.

Lance and Keith’s chickens were noisy ones. Neither one of them wanted to sit still, and they constantly squirmed and chirped, despite the kids holding their hands steady. Keith looked a little concerned, but Lance was giggling as he leaned closer to his friend to declare that his chicken was cuter.

And of course that sparked an argument, because no, Keith’s chicken was cuter, but Shiro just chuckled and let them be. He knew that neither one of the children would dare give up any time playing with the animals to argue, and that their disagreement would fizzle out as soon as the instructors starting talking again.

Shiro was content to stand by and watch with his chick. The chick had curled up against his flesh hand, and was happily letting him pet its head with the other. He couldn’t help but smile at it; he couldn’t ever remember seeing something so small.

He was so distracted by it that he didn’t notice Allura slipping into the room until the clicking of her phone’s camera caught his attention. Although he gave her an exasperated look, he couldn’t bring himself to be fussed, not when he had the chick sitting in his hands. He even let her take a second photo.

After all, he wanted to remember all the fun times he had at Altea. He never wanted to forget a single detail.

Chapter Text

It was all Coran’s idea. With lessons and playtime usually being the only two types of activities the children had, he’d wanted to include something that didn’t revolve around food to change up their days a bit. The idea he’d had – which had ultimately been approved by Alfor – was to include a tutoring session.

The Kindergarten itself was pretty unique when it came to schooling. They were more like a day care for children too young to be in school, but they offered basic lessons and homework sessions in preparation for school. Shiro had taught the odd lesson here or there, mostly in regards to maths or writing and reading. It wasn’t hard stuff, and with his Garrison degrees he was more than qualified to teach.

But what Coran had in mind was something a little different to their normal lessons. He wanted it to be fun for the children, wanted it to be something that wasn’t straight out of the textbooks. Shiro was still a little confused by the whole idea, but if Alfor wanted it to be implemented, then it was what he would do.

Coran would be first, just to let the kids settle into the idea of these new tutoring sessions. He decided to give the kids a lesson in geology, centring on rocks, crystals and fossils. He really was friends with just about everyone – even the staff at their local museum, who had agreed to lend him things from the museum’s spare collection. It was nothing too valuable, but it was enough to excite the children. They especially enjoyed the handful of glittering crystals.

Because Shiro was still unsure about what he was going to do with the kids, it was Allura’s turn. Halfway through the week, she gathered the children for their next tutoring session – gardening. Each of the children carefully poked drainage holes into the bottoms of plastic cups with awls. She instructed them on which soils to layer in the cup, and how to arrange rocks so that plants could grow freely. When the cups were prepared and labelled with each child’s name, they were asked to pick out a seed.

“Mine is totally going to be big and strong!” Lance exclaimed, as he proudly held up his little pot for Shiro to see. They were taking a short moment to carefully decorate the cups, and of course his were covered in blue drawings.

“M-mine too!” Keith said, when he noticed Lance getting attention. His own cup was covered in neater, red drawings. “Mine will be big too!”

Shiro laughed, and ruffled the hair on their heads. “I know, I know,” he said with a small grin. “Want to decorate my pot for me too? Yours look so cool.”

When a few weeks would eventually pass, they’d each be able to see a different plant they’d grown. It was like a little guessing game, and with the horticulture books Allura had given every child, it was fun for them to try and pick which seed they’d gotten. They got to study their plants and measure their rate of growth alongside the look and texture of the sprouting leaves. Even Shiro and Coran joined in.

When the end of the week finally rolled around, Shiro finally knew what he was going to do.

Chapter Text

With his foot propped up on his desk chair, Shiro slowly tied the laces on his heavy-duty boots. He hadn’t worn them in years, not since his Garrison days, and it was a little nostalgic to be putting them back on. The soles were heavy, and although the leather was stiff, the shoes were still somewhat malleable from all the times he’d worn them. If he were being honest with himself, he found them sort of comfortable to wear again.

In fact, putting on his old Garrison uniform was comfortable, too. He’d put it on dozens of times since he was discharged, but that was only when he was particularly down, and he’d done it to make himself feel worse. This time, however, he felt excited.

The kids had never seen him in his uniform, other than in the photos he showed them on bring-your-parents-to-work-day for Pidge. Allura and Coran hadn’t, either. He was a little embarrassed to be wearing it, but he knew the kids would like it, so he put aside his nervousness.

Today, he’d teach the kids about military training with an obstacle course. Nothing like what he had to do back in the Garrison, of course, but similar enough. It was a nice day outside, and the backyard would be perfect for what he had in mind. He even had a prize prepared at the end for the team that did the best, though he made sure to have a little something for everyone.

“Oh? Is that your old uniform?”

Shiro flushed, his embarrassment flooding back as Allura poked her head back into the office. “Yeah,” he said. It didn’t quite fit as well as it used to, not with the bulkiness of his arm, but he was pleased to find that it still sat right across his shoulders and hips. “Does it look okay?”

“Looks fantastic,” Allura grinned. “You look handsome.”

He laughed a little, and gave her a grateful smile. “Thanks.”

Her compliments always gave him a little more confidence. Allura wasn’t the type of person who would just say something like that flippantly, after all. If nothing, the warm look on her face said everything – he definitely didn’t look stupid.

With a busy day ahead, he finished tying his shoelaces, and headed out to begin.

 

The kids loved his training. Shiro was so surprised by their enthusiasm that he felt like he would faint. The children were so accepting of it, even though thinking about what he was missing out on due to his injury had always been something painful. To them, anything Shiro did about his “secret spy” training was an adventure, and it was incredibly refreshing.

He had the kids split into teams of four. They would each take turns being “trained” and guided through their obstacle course. At the end of each was a hidden item they had to find, based on a series of clues and instructions he gave them. To gain more points, they had to work as a team and get through the “missions” as fast as they could. Finding the prize at the end gained them extra bonus points.

At the end of the day, their points would be tallied, and the team with the highest score would be given a prize (it was just a gift bag full of lollies and little toys, but he knew the kids would love that, too).

When their turn was over, the kids were instructed not to share details about their secret missions. It was very Top Secret, after all. By the time it came to be his group’s turn, they were practically bouncing with enthusiasm. The rules had already been explained to them, and they seemed more than prepared to follow them, but Shiro had a request first.

“When I was in the Garrison,” he began, as he lined the kids up in front of the back door, “every morning, our commander would come in to make sure we were awake and prepared. If someone wasn’t ready, or if something had been forgotten, then the whole squad was punished. Team work is incredibly important, as is following the rules. Missions don’t start until everyone is prepared.”

Pidge gave him a curious look at that. The children waiting expectedly to go outside, but Shiro didn’t budge. After a moment, Pidge glanced at his friends, and his eyebrows went up. “Ah, Hunk! You forgot your hat!”

“Oh! I’ll get it now!”

Shiro smiled to himself. Leave it to Pidge to notice the small details, right?

Once Hunk had his hat on, Shiro nodded, and led them out onto the back porch. “Alright. Ready to start your missions?”

He received an enthusiastic round of cheers, and then they were off. Shiro taught them all about the physical training he had to undergo, and even had them warm up with easy things like star jumps and stretches. While they were doing that, he made sure to correct their positions, and pointed out where each of the bigger muscles were. It was easy to talk about things he’d learned back in his Garrison days.

There were a variety of “missions” the kids had to do to find the next mission instruction. One included walking along the thin wooden ledge around the sandpit with their hands linked – they had to employ techniques Shiro had showed them on the porch to stay balanced together, because if anyone fell, they had to start again.

Another mission involved having everyone cross the monkey bars without falling. Shiro wasn’t allowed to help, and instead instructed from their side. Again, if anyone fell, they had to start over. Soon enough the kids learned that if they sent Keith across first, he’d be able to make sure Lance didn’t fall (which, this time, he didn’t) and in turn they helped Pidge and Hunk across to receive their next instruction.

His group were pretty good at working as a team. While they didn’t always get through the missions on the first try, they learned quickly, and they even found the hidden object at the end, and “rescued” it (the object was Shiro’s black lion toy, perched in one of the lower branches of a tree that the kids could reach if they helped lift Pidge together, with Shiro watching on carefully of course. It worked well enough as a civilian, he supposed).

It was an enjoyable day. He liked remembering the fun times he had in the Garrison, and even the hard ones, like training. Somehow, in the end, it had been very rewarding to receive praise and do well when one was pushed so hard it seemed inevitable that they would fail.

“Hey Shiro,” Lance said, as he reached out a hand to touch Shiro’s metal arm, “are you going to go back to the army?”

It was a surprising question, one that made Shiro’s heart squeeze uncomfortably. If he could, if he was offered the chance, if he was still intact… he probably would have. He missed flying more than anything, missed the atmosphere he’d grown up in, missed being with his squad.

Realistically, that wasn’t something he could do. Not with his arm. “No, buddy,” he said, as he patted Lance’s hand gently. “I can’t anymore.”

Lance frowned, like he didn’t understand something. “Why not?” He asked. “You’re the best, obviously.”

Shiro laughed a little. “Well, training in the army is very tough, and you have to be very healthy to be there. With my arm like this, I can’t work for the army anymore.”

“But why?” Lance insisted. By now, the other children were listening, too. “Doesn’t your arm make you even stronger?”

Again, Shiro was surprised. From a child’s point of view, he supposed the prosthetic could be seen as an upgrade. The kids had thought it was robotic when he first started working at Altea, hadn’t they? It wasn’t such a farfetched idea. “I’ve long since accepted that the army isn’t my place anymore, Lance,” Shiro finally said. “Isn’t it better that I’m here, anyway?”

“Well, yeah,” Lance said. His fingers tightened.

Keith reached forwards to touch his arm too. “You won’t leave, right?” He said. It sounded more like a demand than a question. “You have to work here forever.”

Shiro put a strained smile on his face. He wondered if the kids realised that they wouldn’t be here forever, even if he was. “I like working here,” Shiro said. “I don’t want to leave.”

“This is your home anyway,” Pidge said indignantly. “Now I just have to make Matt come.”

“I think you are a good teacher,” Hunk said. He reached out a tentative hand too, and placed it on Shiro’s arm, but only for a moment. “I like it when you work here. It’s more fun!”

Shiro smiled again, but it wasn’t as hard to this time as it was before. “Thank you, I appreciate that.”

“Besides,” Lance said with a huff, “now we have the best soldier. He’s ours now, so the army can’t have him anymore!”

Shiro laughed, and stood back up. “Alright, alright. We’ve got to head back inside now, so let’s go, officers. You’ve got a top secret mission to keep secret!”

If he took a moment to wipe at his eyes before heading back inside to grab the next group of children, then no one mentioned it.

Chapter Text

Shiro sighed around the cup of tea in his hands. Against his flesh hand it was warm, just on the verge of being too hot. It wasn’t his mug, but rather one from Allura’s top cupboard, where all cups were kept. It was slightly tea stained on the inside, and there was a tiny chip on the rim. He wondered how many times Allura had used it over the years.

There were a lot of little details about her house he liked, just like the cup he held between his hands. There was Panther on his towel bed, and the hooks where she hung her jackets by the door, and the little plant on the kitchen windowsill. He’d really come to enjoy living in her space.

“Shiro?”

He glanced over his shoulder, and spotted Allura leaning against the bedroom doorway. She was still in her pyjamas, but her shirt was twisted from sleep, and her hair was tangled. She looked like she’d just woken up, which she probably had.

“Good morning,” he said. “Do you want a cup of tea?”

She shook her head, and wandered closer to lean against his back. He was sitting on one of the tall kitchen stools, so it was easy for her to rest her head against his shoulder. “Why do you get up so early?” She complained, though she didn’t sound annoyed at all. “It’s Sunday, you know.”

“I know,” he laughed quietly, and rested his tea-warmed hand on top of the one she laid on his shoulder. “But I’m used to waking up early, I don’t mind mornings.”

Allura huffed. Her breath was warm against his skin, even through his loose shirt. “I have to teach you how to sleep in and enjoy mornings,” she declared. The vibrancy of her statement, however, was lessened by the sleepy yawn that interrupted it.

Shiro laughed again, and absentmindedly rubbed gentle circles on the top of her hand. “I enjoy mornings well enough,” he said. After all, he got to see Allura on mornings like this, and watching her sleep peacefully, was soon becoming a favourite pastime of his.

Allura simply hummed, and pressed her nose against his neck. “Sleeping in feels good, though,” she said.

“Why don’t you sleep for a little while longer?” He suggested. “It is still quite early for a Sunday morning.”

“I can’t sleep if you’re not there,” she complained. Her fingers tightened over his shoulder. “Come back to bed.”

It almost sounded like she was whining, and it made Shiro smile to himself. Allura didn’t usually act so spoiled, but she didn’t take as much care with her actions when she was tried, and he thought it was ridiculously cute. There was no way he’d deny her anything when she asked for something so sweet.

“Alright, let me just finish my tea,” he said.

She nodded, and pressed a lazy kiss to the side of his neck before wandering back off towards her bedroom. He watched her go with a fond look. After finishing his how lukewarm tea and washing out his cup, he went to join her, and found that she’d already fallen asleep once more. She had one leg hooked over the lumped bedsheets, and her face turned into her pillow. If nothing else, she certainly did look comfortable.

He sighed to himself, and pulled back the sheets a little. He probably wouldn’t sleep, but he’d doze again until Allura wanted to get up. Even if he was used to waking early, he had no doubt in his mind that he could get used to this, too.

Chapter Text

Allura and Alfor had a lot in common. Their dark skin, silvery hair and strong attitudes were a few of the more obvious traits. Their warm, secret smiles and love for children were another few things they certainly had in common with another. Shiro had only met Alfor a handful of times, but he thought he knew him well enough, even more so through Allura and the way she talked about him. Their closeness always amazed Shiro.

Their love for gardening and all forms of nature was another trait they shared. As such, Altea Kindergarten had healthy, well-maintained gardens both out the front and out the back. Most of it was contained in fences and carefully placed flower beds, and keeping the plants trimmed was easy. They could have hired someone to do the gardening, but Allura liked to take care of the plants herself every couple of weekends.

Sometimes, Shiro felt like the seasons changed instantly when the flowers bloomed. One day there would hardly be a single bud sprouting, and the next there would be fully grown flowers as far as the eye could see.

Most of the flowers didn’t really attract bees. Shiro had only ever seen a handful around, so he wasn’t too concerned about one of the kids getting stung. As long as they left the bees alone, they would be fine. It wasn’t like the children strayed particularly close to the flowerbeds, either.

But one day, a child did get stung. It was a complete accident – the bee was on the ground, maybe dead, and Lance had tripped over. The stinger had gone into the meat of his palm, and he’d instantly burst into tears.

Shiro had Lance sat on his desk chair as he held an icepack to Lance’s little hand. “Don’t worry bud, it’s not too bad,” Shiro said reassuringly.

Lance’s eyes were red, and his cheeks were still damp. His fingers had stopped shaking now, but he still looked miserable. “I didn’t mean to fall on it,” he whimpered.

“I know,” Shiro said, as he rubbed Lance’s knee. He flipped the icepack over so that the cool side was against Lance’s skin. “It was an accident. As long as you’re alright, that’s all that matters.”

Lance nodded. “Okay.”

“How does your hand feel now?” Shiro asked, as he peeled the icepack back a bit. The redness in Lance’s skin had gone down, as had the swelling. Shiro counted his lucky stars that Lance wasn’t allergic to bees.

“Better,” Lance said.

“Alright,” Shiro nodded. “Let me get you a band aid, and then you can go. I’m sure Keith is very worried by now.”

That made Lance crack a small smile. Once Shiro had stuck a red band aid over the little sting mark, he picked Lance up, and carried him back out into the dining area. Most of the children were playing outside, but Keith was impatiently waiting by the tables, a frown on his face.

“Is your hand better?” He asked the moment Shiro set Lance down on his feet.

Lance nodded, and stuck out his hand as proof. The red band aid looked quite bright against his dark skin.

Keith gave him a sceptic, squinty look, before apparently deciding Lance was fit enough to play outside again. They were off out the door like rockets, as if Lance had never been hurt.

Shiro really admired the tenacity of children.

Chapter Text

Allura was sitting at the kitchen bench, admiring the bracelet she wore around her wrist – the one Shiro had given her – as Shiro cooked dinner for the two of them. She’d been watching him with a contemplative look on her face for a while, her eyes moving between the bracelet and him and back again. She looked like she wanted to say something, but every time she went to, she decided better of it.

Shiro chose not to ask about it. He knew she was the type of person to thoroughly think things through before making a fuss over something, and if she wanted to think about whatever was troubling her for a little while longer, than that was fine with him. He was more than content to cook away while she thought over her problems.

“What do you want to drink with dinner?” He eventually asked, as he absentmindedly pulled down two glasses from the cupboard. “Is juice fine?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I’ll get them.”

“Alright.”

He dished out dinner onto two plates and carried them to the small dining table he had in his home. Allura followed with their drinks, and when she sat, she pressed her cold toes on top of his bare feet. She was always doing things like that when they were alone, was always pressing their elbows together or linking their hands. He liked her little gestures of affection.

They spoke of simple things while they ate. Allura was easy to talk to, and easy to listen to. Shiro never found himself straining to find a conversation topic, and was always more than happy to let her lead the conversation, if she so chose to. More often than not, that’s what she did. She always had interesting things to talk about, though perhaps Shiro just thought everything she did was interesting.

“Hey, Shiro,” she finally said, as they both finished their meals. “Can I ask you a question?”

He set his fork down, and reached for his glass. “Of course,” he said, smiling a little. He was sort of relieved now that she’d finally decided to mention what had been troubling her. “What is it?”

She blinked several times, like she was double checking whatever she had thought about, before finally opening her mouth to ask him a question. “Want to move in together?”

Chapter Text

Shiro set the box in his arms down by the bench, and straightened. There was sweat beading on his forehead, so he used the hem of his shirt to wipe it away. He had known this would be hard work, but he hadn’t expected to get so tired from carrying boxes up the housing block’s stairs all morning.

“You alright, Shiro?”

“Hmm?” He glanced away from the boxes, and gave Allura an absentminded smile. “I’m fine.” He was in disbelief, actually, but he wasn’t going to say that.

“Alright. Only a few more boxes to go and then we can relax, hmm?”

He hummed in agreement. Just a few to go. He walked around in a bit of a daze, doing what needed to be done. It kind of reminded him of his Garrison days, when he fell into a routine so repetitive that completing it was easy and fluid, as though he were a well-oiled machine.

As he was heading back up the stairs, trailing behind Allura, he noticed the box she had in her hands was slipping. He didn’t even think about it before putting his hand on her waist, stretching the other forwards to steady the box. “Be careful,” he said, smiling again.

She smiled back at him, and stood up on her toes to press a kiss on his lips. “Thank you, Shiro.”

He must have looked like an idiot as he watched her head back up the stairs and down the hall into her home. Like usual, she fit into the scenic housing with ease, even if she did happen to be carrying dusty boxes.

Shiro sighed to himself, and continued up the stairs. It was a nice day, not too hot and not too cold, even though he was sweating. There was a slight breeze, enough to cool his skin whenever it happened to drift by. For some strange reason, despite his absentmindedness, Shiro felt like every detail was in sharp focus, like he’d never forget it. Not the pretty sky, or the feeling of tiredness in his arms, or the way he felt when he knew Allura was watching him because she didn’t think he could tell.

Somehow, he was still in disbelief.

There were boxes stacked by the couch, and a few in the kitchen, which is where he left the one in his hands. Allura was buried in the fridge, but she re-emerged with juice, and poured them both a glass. They’d have wine with dinner, but for now, juice was enough. He drained the glass in one go – earlier that morning, he’d carried furniture in and out, too – and patiently waited while Allura refilled his glass.

“You want to start on the bedroom?” Allura said, as she put the juice away. “I’ll do the rest.”

“Alright.”

She put a hand on his arm to stop him from walking away, and kissed him once before letting him go. He watched her fondly, just for a moment, before heading to the bathroom.

He washed his hands and his face, and wiped down his arms, before wandering into the bedroom feeling oddly refreshed. He didn’t want to handle clothing and bedsheets with sweat on his skin.

He started with the bed. Allura liked her fluffy white quilt, but preferred his blue sheets and pillows so that the room would have a splash of colour. It had all been washed that morning, and was ready to be put on the bed. The frame was Shiro’s, but the mattress was Allura’s, because they both agreed that it was the comfier of the two.

When the bed was made, he couldn’t help but flop down onto it and bury his face into his pillow. It smelt like Allura’s washing detergent. It seemed like such a simple thing, but he noticed it, and knew that he wouldn’t forget. Would it ever lose its edge of delight? Would he ever become used to all those little things? It was day one, only the first day, and he was already overwhelmed.

And still in disbelief.

 

A short time later, Shiro fell asleep. Their bed was comfortable, even more so because he was tired, so it was no wonder that he drifted off. He probably could have slept straight through until the next day if something hadn’t of woken up.

It was a slow awakening. His mind became conscious before his body did, but eventually he blinked his eyes open, and found that it was Allura’s hand in his hair that had woken him. He watched her for a moment through hazy eyes, until she noticed his staring.

“Sorry,” she said, her voice quiet, “did I wake you?”

He nodded, but he didn’t mind. “It’s okay,” he said. “What time is it?”

Allura carefully laid down beside him, like she was afraid that he’d break if she moved too fast. “It’s not dinner time yet,” she said. Tentatively, she reached out a hand to run her knuckles down his cheek, over and over. It was so soothing that he felt like he could fall asleep again.

“This bed is comfortable,” he mumbled. His face was still half pressed against his pillow.

Allura chuckled quietly. “Seems so,” she said. “I was surprised to hear no noise coming from here.”

“Mmm, sorry, I’m a bit behind… I still have to do the clothes…”

“It’s alright, it can wait until tomorrow,” she whispered. Her fingers hadn’t left his cheek. “You look sleepy anyway.”

He wouldn’t deny that. He would have really gone back to sleep if he hadn’t noticed something in Allura’s expression. “Something wrong?”

She smiled then, a soft smile, as she gently flattened her palm against his cheek. “No, not at all. I just… you’re here, and I keep thinking you’ll have to go home in the morning, but…”

He smiled too, just lazily. “I am home.”

She huffed out a weak laugh, and inched closer to rest against him. Even if they were above the sheets with all their clothes on, it felt oddly intimate. “You are,” she agreed. Then, just quietly, just sweetly, she whispered, “I’m still in disbelief.”

Chapter Text

Allura’s family knew that they’d moved in together, including Coran. Shiro was a little less quick to tell his parents, just because he wanted to keep it to himself for a little longer. It was a selfish desire, but one he indulged in, just for a little while. His parents were very happy for him when he did eventually tell them.

They didn’t tell the kids, though. The children didn’t quite understand that Shiro and Allura were together, but they didn’t really need to. It was more of an ambiguous feeling for them – they knew that Shiro and Allura weren’t separate, but anything more than that was a mystery. Shiro was sure that on some basic level, the children understood. Besides, it wasn’t like that had to share their personal life, anyway.

Though the kids were starting to feel enough like family that Shiro was tempted to.

Either way, life at the kindergarten carried on like it usually did. Aside from arriving and leaving together, Shiro’s work relationship with Allura didn’t change much (it had been pretty affectionate before, he was realising. No wonder Coran wasn’t surprised they’d moved in together now. Shiro was incredibly embarrassed by it all, but in a good way).

Sometimes it was easy for Shiro to forget that he lived with Allura at all. It was still so new, but it already felt like it had become ingrained in him. When he stopped and thought to himself, I’m going home, and my home is Allura’s home, it was always with a pleasant shock. And yet, other times, it felt like they’d been together forever.

The times he forgot, however, were usually times when he was distracted by the children. It was raining outside, so they had indoor activities. Most of his group were seated around a table, playing with blocks or action figures. Like usual, Pidge had paper and pens in front of him, and he was drawing his schematics and plans and inventions. Oddly enough, Keith had joined him.

When Shiro peered over Keith’s shoulder, he found that Keith was actually drawing… something. It sort of looked like it had… feathers? “That’s a nice bird, Keith,” Shiro said.

Keith turned his big eyes up on Shiro, and proudly thrust the drawing forwards. “It’s an angel!” He corrected. “Mother says that angels actually exist, you know! They actually exist!”

Shiro smiled. “Is that so?”

Keith nodded. “Yeah! They’re out there, I know it.”

Shiro raised his brows. Keith sounded quite determined about his conclusion, and it made him wonder what Keith had seen to make him think that way. It certainly was intriguing.

Intriguing, too, because Lance seemed a little dismayed. Shiro wasn’t sure why Lance was discouraged by Keith’s evident fascination with angels, but the more the day progressed, the more it seemed obvious.

Keith really did like angels. Now that Shiro had opened up that door, Keith was all for showing off his drawing. Shiro watched from afar, most of the time, as he had other things to do and Allura was on supervision duty. He did, however, listen in every now and then – especially when he noticed Allura pulling Lance to the side for a moment.

“Are you okay, Lance?” Allura asked, as she leaned down to peer at Lance’s face.

Lance looked teary, and stood with his arms behind his back. Shiro half expected him to burst into tears any second. After a pouty moment, he turned his big blue eyes up on Allura. “Keith said he was going to marry an angel,” Lance cried, “but I wanted to marry Keith!”

Allura’s eyes widened. She clearly wasn’t used to Lance and Keith’s overtly affectionate attitudes, but she didn’t seem worried by it. Instead she wiped her fingertips under Lance’s eyes to brush away tears that had yet to fall, and gave him her signature charming smile. “Come now, if he marries you, then isn’t he marrying an angel?”

Lance turned his eyes down, looking miserable. “I don’t have wings or a halo,” he mumbled. “I’m not an angel.”

Allura hummed. “Well, you must know that I’m going to disagree with that,” she said. “You are an angel – your kindness and your willingness to support others certainly makes you one. But if it’s looks you’re going for… I’m sure I have a fix for that.”

Shiro wasn’t quite sure what she meant by that, but he didn’t interfere. He loved seeing Allura interact with the children, and the way the children followed her around so willingly. It was like they clung to every word she said, and it was very heart-warming to watch. So he went back to work, and waited until both Allura and Lance reappeared before turning his gaze to them again

Allura looked proud of herself, with her hands resting on her hips and a smug smile on her face. Shiro could see why. Lance had the feathery angel wings from the dress-up trunk in the recreation room strapped to his back, and a halo made from golden tinsel sitting on the top of his head. If possible, he looked even happier than Allura.

And boy was the flushed, adoring look Keith gave him worth inch of it. Shiro thought that perhaps Lance had been his angel all along.

Chapter Text

For every birthday that happened at Altea Kindergarten, the adults tried to do something special. The kids often participated too, as they were always excited to do something special for their friends. Birthdays were always very sweet and enjoyable days at the kindergarten, and Shiro looked forward to every single one.

Planning for Hunk’s birthday, however, proved to be a bit of a challenge.

Everyone wanted to help out with his birthday plans. Hunk was, after all, most likely everybody’s favourite person. There wasn’t a single child he wasn’t friends with, and not a single person who didn’t want to make him as happy as possible. It came as no shock that they all had their own ideas about what Hunk would like best for his birthday, and while most of them were suggested with good intentions in mind, there were just a lot of them.

“Why can’t we make him cupcakes? Hunk loves food!” Keith argued. It certainly was a good idea.

“Just because he likes food doesn’t mean that’s who he is,” Lance argued. “I know Hunk the best, after all!”

Also a good point.

“That’s why I said we should make him something,” Pidge interrupted. “Like a machine, or an invention. He’s really good at building things.”

“But that doesn’t mean he’ll love one for his birthday. We have to do more for him,” Lance stubbornly insisted. “It’s Hunk.”

“What about a surprise party?” Shiro cut in. “That was a lot of fun.”

“Hunk doesn’t like being scared,” Lance whined. “We can’t do that, Shiro!”

Sighing, Shiro rubbed the back of his neck. He was running out of ideas fast, and he didn’t want any of the children to get upset before Hunk’s birthday. It was hard enough organising this without Hunk overhearing any of it, and if his closest friends got all worked up, he was bound to notice.

If he were being honest, Shiro was a little stumped about what to do for Hunk, too. All of the kid’s suggestions were good, but he understood where Lance was coming from. Hunk was more than what people saw on the surface, and he deserved something just as meaningful for his birthday. Hunk was incredibly caring, even more so than the other children, and despite his tendency to exercise caution, he wouldn’t shy away from doing something fun and energetic.

“Ah,” Shiro said, as an idea suddenly sprung to his mind. “How about we have a water fight?”

 

Shiro spent the morning cooking food for the day with Coran. He had arrived earlier than Allura for the first time since they moved in together so he could help out a bit more. They put up yellow decorations (Shiro was proud to say they had decorations in just about every colour now) and had heaps of food for everyone, consisting mostly of Hunk’s favourites.

But what Shiro really had to arrive early for was the outdoor preparations. They’d bought a bunch of water guns for all the kids, as well as water balloons that needed filling and tying. It was a perfectly warm day for a water fight, and he knew the kids would love it. He spent the better part of the early morning tying balloons and leaving them in big plastic buckets around the backyard. He was sure to fill some buckets with just water, too, so that the kids could easily refill their water guns.

Because it was Hunk’s birthday, Shiro, Coran and Allura had decided that he would get the nicest water gun they’d bought. It was big and maybe a little bit heavy, but Hunk was a strong kid, and Shiro had no doubt that he would be able to lift and carry it without a problem. It was bright yellow, and they’d stayed back a little the previous night to paint his name on the side, just so he’d know it was his.

Shiro couldn’t wait to see what Hunk thought. Everything had to be perfect, but he was sure it would be. Either way, he knew Hunk would be happy – he was the type of person to appreciate any small gesture. He always had, always thanking Shiro for the smallest of things, always helping his friends with the simplest of gestures. Shiro had lost count of how many times he’d seen Hunk pass Pidge a drink before getting one for himself without being asked, and it never failed to make him smile when he saw Hunk holding the door open for anyone who happened to be walking through it.

A child as sweet as Hunk deserved everything they could give him.

Chapter Text

Lance, Keith and Pidge arrived before Hunk on the morning of his birthday. They all had their gifts for Hunk wrapped up and ready to be presented, as did many of the other kids. Shiro let them leave everything in the office so that nothing would get lost or damaged during the morning.

As per one of Lance’s many, many suggestions, they didn’t purposefully surprise Hunk when he came in. When Shiro thought about it, Hunk did startle easily. In either case, he seemed more than pleased to simply walk into the building and see everyone milling around the decorated tables.

“Happy birthday, Hunk!”

Shiro lost track of who said it first, though he had a feeling it was Lance, as everyone gave Hunk sweet well wishes. It was impossible not to smile when he saw how happy Hunk looked. A touch of pink had come to his cheeks and he was grinning so wide it was like someone had offered him the world. It was a very charming look on such a good kid.

At the insistence of the children (particularly Lance) they spent the better part of the morning opening gifts and snacking on the food Coran had made. Shiro was more than content to let them do as they wished, for the most part. After all, who better to plan a party for a child than children themselves?

He was sure to take a lot of photos. Allura found it highly amusing, but he saw her taking more than her fair share, too.

Once everyone had eaten and Shiro had painstakingly helped Hunk pack his new presents back into gift bags for safekeeping, the kids went outside. Allura and Coran made sure they had sunscreen and hats on, and then they were ready to play.

They loved the water guns. With the backyard as an obstacle, including the play equipment, porch and covered sandpit, they had heaps of places to run around and hide behind. The kids decided to split themselves into teams, and while Shiro wasn’t exactly sure how they decided a winning team at the end of the day, no one really seemed to care.

The most important thing was that Hunk enjoyed himself. He loved his water gun, and just like Shiro had thought, he was able to carry it around without any problems. He was on a team with Pidge, Lance and Keith, and they did very well, he believed.

Hunk was pretty handy with that water gun, when he thought about it. He shot straight, and never wasted any water. He even soaked Lance a few times, just for the fun of it, though Lance got him back with water balloons. By the end of the day, Shiro was pretty sure that the teams didn’t matter anymore, and the kids were just keen to have fun.

In the afternoon, when everyone was wrapped in towels and calmly eating their afternoon tea, Shiro wondered over to crouch down beside Hunk. “Hey, buddy. Did you have a fun day?”

Hunk turned his bright grin on Shiro. “Yeah! It was really fun!”

Shiro smiled. “I’m glad. Everyone thought really hard on what to do, you know. They wanted to make it perfect for you.”

Hunk’s eyes widened. “Really?”

“Of course,” Shiro said, chuckling. “You’re very important to all of us.”

A childish smile touched Hunk’s face again. It was a sweet look, one that made something pleasant bloom in Shiro’s chest. Hunk was very important to them all, himself included. Absentmindedly, he remembered the day Hunk had been away with the flu and how it had impacted the class so much. His presence was a warmth in the room that was incredibly missed when it was gone.

Maybe he should remind Hunk of that a little more often.

“I’m really glad you had a fun day,” Shiro eventually said. “Happy birthday, buddy.”

Unexpectedly, Hunk put his arms around Shiro’s shoulders, and hugged him tight. “Thank you, Mr Shiro! I really had a lot of fun.”

Shiro smiled, and rubbed Hunk’s back gently. “Good,” he said, as he stood and ruffled Hunk’s hair. “You deserve it.”

Chapter Text

“It’s a mockbuster Allura, it’s meant to be bad.”

“Oh, it is? Why would anyone purposefully make a bad movie?” Her nose crinkled in distaste. It was a very cute look on her. “Movies cost a lot of money to make, don’t they?”

“Of course,” Shiro said, as he passed her a bowl of freshly popped popcorn over the back of the sofa. “But mockbusters are cheap. They’re meant to be low-budget – that’s why people like them.”

“Because they’re low-budget?”

“Because they’re so bad that they’re funny.”

She huffed, and didn’t seem particularly convinced by that, but she didn’t complain, either. They were having a movie night together, but there wasn’t much on, and neither one of them could be bothered to dig through their combined pile of yet-to-be-sorted DVDs. It felt much easier to just find something on television, though the only thing they’d found was some sort of random, shark mockbuster.

“Matt loves these things,” Shiro said, as he finally joined Allura on the couch with their drinks in hand. “He made me watch them with him every month. For a smart guy, he really likes dumb things like these.”

Allura smiled to herself. She was wearing loose pants and a shirt that kept slipped off her shoulder, and she had her hair down. Once Shiro had made himself comfortable, she inched across the couch and slumped against his side. “I’ll have to meet him soon and question him about his taste in movies,” she declared.

Shiro laughed. He slipped his arm around her shoulders and took a piece of popcorn. “He’s always loved weird movies like these,” Shiro said fondly. “I don’t know where he finds them, if I’m being honest, but he always had a new one for us to watch.”

“Were you allowed to watch them in the Garrison?”

“Well… no,” he said, laughing again, “but Matt had his ways. You know he built a television for us to watch the movies on? It had a USB port that he’d used to play the movies from. He managed to hide it every time the Commander came around to do room checks.”

“Wow,” Allura said, eyes wide. “That’s some dedication.”

“He’s great at building things.”

“So you’ve told me.”

For what it was worth, the movie was exactly like Shiro expected it to be – full of stiff, computer-generated graphics and cheesy acting. It could have been worse. He didn’t know how, but it probably could have been. At least it had Allura laughing, in between her outraged cries and general disappointment in the female leads.

Sometime during the night, when the bowl of popcorn had been finished and placed aside, they’d both moved to lay down. Shiro was lying on his back, one arm propped behind his head. Allura was laying on his chest, her arms folded under her head as their legs tangled together. She’d been hesitant about her weight becoming uncomfortable on top of him, but he’d assured her that he was quite comfortable. If anything, the weight was quite reassuring – like how the first night in winter spent with a heavy quilt on one’s bed felt. He liked being able to fit her completely into his arms.

“When’s Matt coming to stop by next?” Allura asked. “You should invite him over.”

Shiro had thought she’d forgotten about their pre-movie conversation, so he was surprised that she was bringing it up again. “He should be free sometime next month. His assignments from the Garrison are really lengthy, and he lives more than an hour away…”

“I want to meet him,” Allura mumbled, as she lowered her eyes. “You talk about him a lot, and he’s important to you, so I want to meet him. Him and your parents.”

Come to think of it, she hadn’t really met anyone close to him. It would be easy to ask his parents to come over for lunch or dinner on the weekend, but it had just never occurred to him to ask them. They lived more than an hour away, too.

“After the accident,” he started carefully, “I kind of… pushed all my friends away. My parents, too. I didn’t… didn’t want to rely on anyone, and I hated seeing how they treated me differently. Only Matt didn’t change, and my parents never abandoned me, not even when I was selfish, or when I said really bad things to them. They never blamed me for any of it. Them, and Matt, they’re…”

He couldn’t get the words out, but Allura seemed to understand. She ran her thumb across his cheek, and leaned up to press a soft kiss against his mouth. “It’s okay,” she said. Somehow, when those two, small words came from her, Shiro believed them.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure we’re… ready for this, Allura? It’s a big responsibility…”

“Of course we are, don’t stress about it too much,” Allura said. She had linked their arms together the moment they’d walked through the building entrance, like she was certain Shiro was going to bolt for it. “I can tell you’re nervous.”

“That’s because I am nervous,” he said. “I’ve never taken care of another life before, you know.”

“Shiro?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s a cat.”

Shiro flushed, and fixed his gaze elsewhere. “I’ve never really had a pet before,” he muttered. “My parents always looked after them, even if I did things like feeding and walking. I feel more responsible this time.”

“It’s alright,” Allura soothed, amused, as she rubbed his arm gently. “Cats are pretty self-sufficient, you know. We’re not getting a kitten, so we won’t need to take it for shots, or teach it to use a little box, or anything like that. Think of it more as a companion than as something that needs constant care and attention.”

He nodded, though it was more for her benefit than for his. They were at the animal rescue centre, where Allura had called ahead so that they could look at the older cats. It had been Allura’s idea to adopt one – not only for them, but for Panther, too. He was staying around Allura’s home a lot more now, and it would be nice for him to have a companion. Allura’s flat didn’t have a backyard, so they couldn’t get a dog, but a cat was certainly manageable.

“Besides,” Allura added quietly, as one of the staff members came over to greet them, “you already bought a collar and food bowls for it anyway.”

He flushed again.

The staff member took them to the cattery, where the cats up for adoption were held. Shiro was more than content to trail behind Allura, watching her look through the bars of the big cages curiously. There were tags on each cage with the breed, age and temperament of each cat. Shiro felt like he could have taken them all home.

Towards the back of the room, Allura stopped. The cage in front of her held one cat with black and white fur. It looked like it was wearing socks, and it had a white strip of fur on its forehead that Shiro found reminded him of his own hair. It was an amusing thought, and it made him laugh, because clearly Allura was having the same idea.

“It says he’s about Panther’s age,” Allura said, as she glanced at Shiro. “Really quiet, not too fussy…”

“Do you think Panther would like him?”

“I don’t think Panther would mind,” Allura chuckled. She observed the cat once more, who had uncurled from his ball to blink at them lazily. “What do you think?”

“He seems laid back,” Shiro said. The more he looked at the old cat, the more his nervousness started to ebb away. “I like him.”

Allura grinned. “Me too.”

That cat’s name was Balmera. Shiro wasn’t sure who came up with the name, or what culture it was originally from, but it was odd and quirky, which somehow fit the cat. They took Balmera home that day after paying the adoption fees, and slowly introduced him to Panther. Like Allura had expected, neither cat seemed particularly fussed by their new companion. If anything, they seemed to regard each other simply as another way to keep warm on the towel (because Balmera refused to use the cat bed, too).

In the end, Shiro was glad to have him and Panther around. Their home felt a little more complete each day.

Chapter Text

“Mr Shiro, Mr Shiro!”

He startled at the sound of his name, and set aside the stack of paperwork he’d been organising. When he glanced towards the office door, Shiro found Pidge standing there expectedly, an excited look on his face. It made Shiro want to laugh. Even in his excitement, Pidge still followed the rules effortlessly.

“You can come in, Pidge,” Shiro said.

Pidge’s eyes lit up, and he wasted no time in rushing over. “Guess what?” He said, as he placed his hands on Shiro’s knees. There was a very expectant look on his face, and it made a smile twitch at Shiro’s lips.

He was pretty sure he already knew what had Pidge so thrilled, but he wouldn’t ruin the surprise. “What is it?”

A broad grin came across Pidge’s face. “Matt is coming back!”

Shiro’s eyebrows rose in feigned surprise. “Oh, is he? That’s so exciting!”

“Yeah!” Pidge nodded several times, and leaned up on his toes. “He said he’s gonna come visit me! You’ll come over too, right? It’ll be just like before.”

To Pidge, “before” meant the time before Matt was stationed more than an hour away by the Garrison. It wasn’t a permanent thing, but he had some off-the-grid work that needed to be done, so he’d moved. When he’d still lived close by, Shiro hadn’t been working at the Kindergarten. Thinking back on it, he thought it was good timing that he’d been employed by Alfor when he had, for Pidge’s sake.

“If your parents say it’s alright, I will,” Shiro said, though he doubted the Holts would mind. They were close friends with his own parents, mostly because Shiro and Matt themselves were childhood friends, so he’d known them for a while. They had visited him in hospital a few times after his accident, and although he hadn’t been very receptive to anyone’s attention, he’d appreciated their concern a lot.

“I’ll ask, I’ll ask!” Pidge said, grinning wider.

Shiro ruffled his hair gently. “Alright, buddy. Just tell me when.”

 

By the end of the week, the Holts had invited Shiro over for dinner on Saturday night, when Matt would be returning. Matt knew, mostly because he and Shiro had been talking quite regularly lately. It was Shiro that had asked Matt to come back for a weekend, though it was pure luck that his question had come at a time when Matt was, in fact, free from work.

When Mrs Holt came to pick Pidge up on Friday afternoon, Pidge looked a little concerned. Shiro had noticed it towards the end of the afternoon, but he knew Pidge would come to him if he needed something. It was only after Pidge spoke with his mother that he finally came up to Shiro.

“Go ahead, honey,” Mrs Holt urged, as she placed her hands on the back of Pidge’s shoulders, “it’s alright.”

Pidge nodded, and hesitantly stepped forward. “Shiro, can you help me find a dress?”

Shiro let out a surprised noise. “A dress?” He asked, as he crouched in front of Pidge. “I thought you liked your boy clothes.”

“I do!” Pidge exclaimed, before shrinking again. “But… but the last time Matt was here, I was wearing a dress,” he mumbled, “so I want to wear one again when he comes back.”

“I see,” Shiro said. He wondered if Pidge was afraid that maybe Matt wouldn’t like anyone other than Katie, even though he knew that wasn’t the case. It was a fear Pidge would have for some time yet, even when not in regards to his beloved older brother. “Are you sure you don’t want your mother or father to go with you?”

Pidge shook his head, looking stricken. “You have to come!” Pidge said. “You know Matt, and Miss Allura always has nice dresses, so you must know what’s pretty, too…”

Shiro gave Pidge a surprised look. He’d never thought about it like that. He wouldn’t exactly say that Allura’s tastes in clothes had rubbed off on him, or that he’d know what would look good on a child, but he wouldn’t tell Pidge that. If Pidge needed Shiro to give him a confidence boost, then Shiro could definitely do that.

After a tentative glance up at Mrs Holt, of whom he received a hopeful nod from, Shiro turned back to Pidge. He couldn’t promise that he’d really be able to help, but it reminded him of when Pidge was still very little, only just learning to walk, and Shiro would babysit him. Back then, Pidge had looked to Shiro for guidance, too. It was a role Shiro had no qualms about fulfilling. “When do you want to go?”

Chapter Text

“Thank you, Mrs Holt.”

“It’s no problem at all, Shiro,” Mrs Holt said, as she finished buckling Pidge’s car seat into Shiro’s car. “Thank you again for taking him, I know it means a lot. He really looks up to you.”

Shiro smiled a little. He knew this was important to Pidge, so he wanted to make it as perfect as he could. “We should be back before lunch time,” he said. “Is that okay?”

“Yes, that’s fine.” She hesitated for a moment, before sighing. “Are you sure this alright? I know you’re his teacher now…”

“It’s fine,” Shiro said, surprised. He’d actually thought about that a little himself, but with Pidge, it was hard to distinguish the line between teacher and family friend. If he were being completely honest, he didn’t quite mind if that line blurred a little. The Holts, Pidge included, were as close to family as anyone was ever going to get.

 

Pidge seemed smaller than usual as Shiro led him into the shopping centre. He had a tight grip on Shiro’s hand, like he was afraid of becoming lost. Of course, Shiro would never let that happen, not with how keenly he watched out for Pidge. Without Pidge’s parents around, Shiro was solely responsible for Pidge’s care, and he took that responsibility very seriously.

“You feeling alright, buddy?”

Pidge nodded hesitantly, but his tightening fingers betrayed his nervousness.

Shiro sighed, and on a whim, he reached down to lift Pidge up into his arms. “Don’t worry, we’ll find something,” he said, as he offered Pidge a small smile.

Pidge offered one in return, and settled against Shiro’s hip without a word.

“Do you have anything in mind?” Shiro asked. “Like a colour, or a pattern?”

Pidge shook his head. His fingers nervously tightened in Shiro’s shirt, so Shiro was sure to keep his facial expression neutral. It didn’t matter to him if Pidge was nervous or not, though he would have preferred Pidge to feel comfortable. Shiro would do all he could to make this a good experience for Pidge.

Sometimes, he wondered if Pidge really felt more comfortable presenting as a boy. He’d never doubt Pidge’s decision, or try to change it, but he wondered if Pidge realised he could be whatever gender he wanted to be. That even though he’d insisted on being a boy, if he felt like a girl, he could be that too. It wasn’t a permanent decision for him; he would always have room to grow.

Dress shopping, as it turned out, was not as simple as Shiro had expected. Mrs Holt had given him Pidge’s size, so that wasn’t a problem, but finding something that inspired Pidge to put it on was not easy. Shiro really didn’t have much of an eye for feminine clothing, but he was trying his hardest.

“What about this one, Pidge?” He asked, as he gently pulled a yellow sundress out from a rack.

Pidge was frowning, as he had been for the last dozen dresses Shiro had found, but he didn’t seem as disdainful now. “It’s okay,” he mumbled. “I like the colour.”

“How about I hold onto it for now and see if we can find something better?” Shiro suggested.

Pidge nodded. “Okay. Thank you.”

“It’s no problem”

And it really wasn’t. They still had hours before Shiro had to get Pidge home, and Shiro was in no rush. He knew Pidge would warm to the idea of wearing girl’s clothes as they spent longer in the shops. It was just a matter of finding the right dress at the right time.

“What about this one?” Shiro asked, as he pulled another dress off a different rack. It was blue, with white polka dots and a bow around the middle. He thought it was cute, but for some reason, it reminded him more of Lance than of Pidge.

“It’s okay,” Pidge said.

Shiro added it to the to-try-on pile over his arm. “Do you see any others you like?” He asked. He’d had to put Pidge down so he could carry the dresses, but he still had a firm grip on Pidge’s hand.

Pidge glanced around, and eventually shook his head.

“Let’s go try these ones on then,” Shiro said. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t like them, but let’s see, yeah? Maybe you’ll like a colour, or a shape, and we can work with that. Does that sound okay?”

“Yeah,” Pidge nodded.

The changing rooms were thankfully empty. Shiro was unsure about which to take Pidge into, but Pidge only pursed his lips, and took himself and his dresses confidently into the boy’s one. For some reason, it made Shiro breathe a sigh of relief.

Pidge was quick to try on his dresses. The first one, the yellow, did look cute on him, but it didn’t fit his style. The blue was the same.

“I like this,” Pidge said, as he pointed to the neckline of the blue. It was high, and straight cut – probably the least feminine part of the dress. “But…”

“It’s alright,” Shiro said, as he smiled again. “I understand. Totally not your style, huh?”

Pidge smiled too, comforted by Shiro’s words. “Nah.”

“Alright, you get changed back into your clothes, and then we’ll continue looking, yeah?”

After leaving the dresses on the rack on the changing room, Shiro carefully lifted Pidge up into his arms, and they ventured back out into the store. Pidge wasn’t as tense as before, and Shiro counted that as a win. Maybe he’d been afraid of putting on a dress for the first time after so long.

They spent some time browsing the racks before Shiro wondered if it was maybe best they ask for help. Pidge was staring at the racks the same way he stared at a particularly hard math problem, so perhaps it was a good idea. He was about to give in and find an attendant when a dress caught his eye.

It was green, with the high neckline Pidge liked. He wasn’t quite sure if it counted as a dress, because the bottom part was like shorts instead of a skirt, but it was close enough, right? And it was Pidge’s favourite colour, too.

He’d picked it up and offered it to Pidge before asking if Pidge liked it, feeling hopeful. Pidge gave the dress a wide-eyed look, before shyly pressing his face against Shiro’s neck. Shiro only smiled, and took it as a good sign as he led Pidge back to the dressing room.

The dress fit well, and even had pockets. When Pidge exited the dressing room with a grin, Shiro knew they’d found the right one.

He carried a smug Pidge to the register, the dress held in his free hand. The attendant behind the desk looked rather charmed by Pidge’s cute smile, and Shiro didn’t particularly blame her.

“Is this your child?” She asked, with a friendly smile. “The dress is going to look perfect.”

Pidge hid another shy look in the crook of Shiro’s neck. Shiro forced an embarrassed smile. “He’s not mine,” Shiro said, “I’m just in charge of dress shopping.”

“Oh!”

Shiro hadn’t ever considered having children, but if he did, he’d want them to be kind-hearted and smart like Pidge. Someone warm like Hunk, too. And adventurous like Keith and Lance.

After purchasing the dress, they exited the store. Pidge insisted on holding the bag, even though he didn’t want to be put down. He looked rather happy with himself.

It made Shiro pleased. “Ready to go home?”

Chapter Text

Pidge looked mighty pleased with himself as he carried his shopping bag inside. Shiro was busy unbuckling Pidge’s car seat, and didn’t notice Mrs Holt coming out to greet him until she was reaching in to help him with the seat.

“I see that Pidge has found himself something to wear,” she said, eyeing her child curiously. “Thank you for taking him. He looks quite satisfied.”

“We found something nice,” Shiro said with an easy smile. He glanced back towards the front door of the Holt’s house, and saw Pidge enthusiastically showing off his dress to Mr Holt. “Hopefully it makes him feel good.”

Mrs Holt sighed, but she was nodding in agreement. “You know, I’m really relieved that you became a teacher,” she said. “It took a great deal of worry off of my shoulders.”

Shiro gave her a puzzled look as he suddenly sensed a change in their conversation. He wondered just how worried Mrs Holt had been about Pidge, but when he thought about it, he knew her concerns weren’t unfounded.

But in the last year or so, Pidge had grown a lot. He had friends who cared for him dearly and a seemingly endless supply of curiosity and intelligence. Not to mention he was assertive enough to ask for a dress, even if he had needed a little encouraging. Now he was more vocal than Shiro had remembered him being, and more excitable, like he wasn’t afraid to express his opinions.

Pidge seemed confident in himself.

“I don’t think it’s all just my doing,” he said, as he cottoned on to her line of thinking. “Pidge has a lot of good friends, and they’ve really helped boost his self-esteem. Allura encourages him a lot, as well.”

“Oh, Allura too?” Mrs Holt asked. “I hear quite a lot about her from Pidge, though I’ve only met her a handful of times myself. I always catch Coran when I have meetings at Altea.”

Shiro chuckled. “Well, Allura does get quite busy at times,” he said. “She’s very popular with the children, but even at home it’s a challenge to get her to relax.”

Mrs Holt was the one to give him a surprised look then. “Are you two together?”

Shiro flushed, and rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Yeah, we’re living together now. The kids don’t really know…”

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” she chuckled, dismissively waving a hand. “I won’t tell. Does Matt know?”

“Yeah.”

“Well why don’t you bring her over tonight? I’m sure he’d like to meet her properly, too,” Mrs Holt suggested. “I’m sure Pidge wouldn’t mind, either.”

“I-if you’re sure, I could ask her.”

“Perfect! You’re still coming over at six tonight, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Alright,” Mrs Hold smiled. “I’ll see you then!”

Chapter Text

Shiro wouldn’t say he was nervous, but he was very excited to see Matt again. Even more so because Allura was going to be meeting him, too. He hadn’t taken long to get ready, but he’d done so a little early, just because he had nothing better to do.

“You fed Panther and Balmera didn’t you, Shiro?” Allura called from the bathroom.

“I did,” he replied, as he watched her walk from their bedroom to their bathroom and then back again. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she sighed, as she exited their bedroom again. “Does this look alright?”

“It looks perfect,” he said. Like usual. She was wearing dark pants and a navy blouse, and she had the bracelet Shiro had given her clasped around her wrist. Somehow, she’d managed to tame her long hair into a bun on top of her head, framed by pretty braids. It seemed simple, but looked beautiful. She always looked beautiful.

“Well, if you say so,” she finally relented, as she gave him a small smile. “I just want to make a good impression.”

Shiro didn’t bother to mention that he’d already talked about her to Matt more than a dozen times. Matt probably knew her just as well as anyone. He’d already said that he liked her, just because Shiro did.

“You’re nervous,” he said, as he rested his chin in his hand.

Allura flattened her hair down once more. “How keen of you to notice,” she said, though her voice wasn’t cold. “Of course I’m nervous. I’ve never really met the Holts aside for when they come to the kindergarten.”

“Pidge will be glad to see you,” Shiro said. He opened his arms and gestured for Allura to step closer, which she did. He put his arms around her waist, and rested his chin on her chest. The faint scent of her sweet smelling perfume reached his nose. “You’ll be alright,” he said with a small smile. “Just be yourself and they’ll love you.”

“I guess I’m just nervous,” she sighed into his hair. “Matt is a very important person to you, so I want him to like me.”

“He will.”

“But what if he doesn’t?”

“He will,” Shiro repeated. “You’re a very likeable person, you know.”

She laughed a little. “You’re just saying that.”

“Even if I am, it’s still true,” he said.

She smiled at him too, and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Alright, if you say so then. Are you ready to go?”

“Yeah.”

After double checking that they’d locked all the doors and that the cats were alright, they headed out. Shiro would be driving because he knew the way, and although they spent the drive in relative silence, Allura had her hand resting on his thigh the entire time.

“Are you still nervous?” He asked, as he pulled into the Holt’s driveway.

“A little,” she confessed.

He parked the car, and pulled the keys from the ignition. “Don’t worry too much,” he said, as he reached for her hand. “They’ll love you.”

She gave him another small smile.

They exited the car, and he moved around to her side so that he could take her hand. He was a little nervous too, because Pidge had never really seen them act as a couple.

But his nerves bled away as Pidge pushed the front door open. A wedge of light fell across the yard, and then Pidge appeared, wearing his green dress and a broad smile. “Shiro, Miss Allura!” He cried, as he came to greet them. “You’re finally here!”

Shiro smiled too, unable to help himself, and bent down a little to catch Pidge in his arms. “Hey, buddy. Is Matt here yet?”

“Not yet!” Pidge said, as he put his arms around Shiro’s shoulders. He was still grinning. “But he’ll be here soon, he promised! Are you going to come inside?”

“Of course we are.”

Pidge leaned over, arms outstretched, so that Allura could carry him instead. “Is my dress okay, Allura? Shiro helped me pick it.”

Allura seemed surprised to suddenly find Pidge in her arms, but she smiled nevertheless, and nodded. “It’s stunning, Pidge. You chose well.”

Pidge grinned again. “Thank you!”

Allura grinned too. She suddenly didn’t seem quite so nervous anymore.

Chapter Text

Mr and Mrs Holt were quite pleased to see Allura accompanying him. A round of compliments followed them entering, and then Pidge was keenly showing off his home and his dog, Rover.

It was nice to see that Rover remembered Shiro, too. He came right up to Shiro, and patiently waited to be greeted and pet. Shiro couldn’t help but smile at Rover’s overtly loyal nature. The Holts had gotten Rover for Matt about a year before Pidge was born, and after Matt left for his Garrison duties, he’d asked Rover to take care of Pidge for him.

Sometimes, Rover was more overprotective than Pidge’s parents.

“Just through here,” Mrs Holt said, as she led everyone into the dining room. “Matt should be home soon, so we can set the table.”

Shiro and Allura helped out before taking a seat to chat. He was sure to have Allura seated by him, just in case she felt uncomfortable or left out. When Allura silently reached for his hand under the table to hold, he didn’t say anything.

It was nice to speak with the Holts again. Shiro couldn’t remember the last time they’d had a conversation about something other than Pidge’s education at Altea, so he was glad to have some down time. Spending it with Allura only made it even better.

No more than ten minutes later, Shiro heard a car pull into the driveway. Rover was up from his position at the foot of Pidge’s chair in seconds, barking at the front door. Pidge was quick to follow with an excited cry. Shiro stood to follow as an eager feeling swept over him. If not for his hand clasped in Allura’s, he probably would have been right on Pidge’s heels.

“Matt!” Pidge cried, as he threw himself at Matt. Shiro watched from the front doorway, where he was soon joined by Matt’s parents, as Matt stepped out of his car.

He looked just like Shiro remembered him, if perhaps a little taller. Pidge looked so much like him that it was startling – they had the same brown hair, the same coloured eyes, and they both wore glasses. The two of them even had the exact same cheeky grin, one that never failed to remind Shiro of them whenever he saw it.

“Pidge,” Matt grinned, as he swung his little brother up into his arms. “You’ve grown so much, look at you!”

Pidge laughed, and threw his arms around Matt’s neck. He looked so happy. “You’re finally back,” Pidge said, as he gave Matt a positively dazzling grin.

“Yeah, I’m back,” Matt agreed. He carefully set Pidge down, and when he glanced back up, he caught sight of Shiro. Another grin came across his face. “Shiro!”

Shiro grinned too, suddenly feeling elated. Allura watched him for a moment before chuckling to herself and letting go of his hand. He met Matt halfway up the driveway in a hug that had perhaps a little too much oomph behind it, but he didn’t care.

Matt had always felt like home.

“It’s so good to see you again,” Matt said against his shoulder. His arms were pleasantly tight around Shiro’s waist. “You look a lot better.”

Shiro laughed. “I feel better,” he said. “I’m really glad you’re back.”

“Me too. I missed everyone a lot.”

“We missed you too.”

“Hurry up, Shiro,” Pidge whined, as he reached for Matt’s hand. “Matt has to meet Miss Allura now!”

“Oh, that’s right,” Matt said, eyes wide, as he pulled away. “Where’s this pretty girlfriend of yours, huh, Shiro? I’ve been waiting to meet her forever. Still can’t believe you finally have a girlfriend, actually!”

“Matt!"

Chapter Text

“I’m Allura,” Allura said, as she held out her hand.

Matt took it without hesitation, and gave her a dazzling grin that was exactly like Pidge’s. “Oh, I know,” he teased, “you’re all Shiro talks about these days!”

A pretty pink came to Allura’s cheeks as she gave Shiro a sideways glance. “Does he now? Only good things, I hope.”

“Of course, of course,” Matt laughed. “Only ever good things! Honestly, I had a perfect picture of you before we even met. He can get very descriptive, you know. Downright poetic, even.”

“Matt!” Shiro hissed, utterly embarrassed. He did not sound poetic when he was talking about Allura. He didn’t even like poetry all that much! And sure, maybe he did talk about Allura a little bit too much, but that was only because she overlapped with work, and he wasn’t doing much else these days.

“Alright, maybe I’m exaggerating a little,” Matt conceded.

It made Allura laugh. “Still, I’m glad to finally meet you too,” she said. “Shiro and Pidge speak of you quite highly.”

“Aw,” Matt said, grinning wide as he slung an arm up over Shiro’s shoulders. “Did you miss me that much, guys?”

They had, there was no doubt about it. Shiro owed Matt a lot more than he could give, and Matt’s friendship was one of the most important things he had to his name. He didn’t know where he would be without Matt and all the support he’d given Shiro over the years.

After Matt greeted his parents, they all returned inside for dinner. Eating was a pleasant experience, filled with tales of Matt’s recent adventures and reports of Pidge’s improvements at the kindergarten. Shiro was happy to listen for the most part. It was nice to hear Matt’s voice in person. It was even nicer to see how much Pidge was enjoying himself.

Matt did comment on Pidge’s dress, too. “It’s very pretty on you,” Matt said, as Pidge did a spin to show it off. “I thought you’d be wearing boy clothes.”

Pidge blinked several times, looking a little unsure of himself. “I wanted to wear a dress just in case… just in case…”

He couldn’t seem to get the words out, and it made Shiro’s heart clench painfully. He didn’t quite know what Pidge was so frightened and insecure about, but he wished he did, so he could soothe those worries away. If Matt hadn’t suddenly gotten a knowing glint in his eyes, Shiro might have said something.

But Matt just smiled, the same bright smile as ever. “Everything looks good on my little brother, huh?”

And Pidge smiled too.

After dinner, Matt disappeared out onto the back porch to take a breath of fresh air, and Shiro followed him. They sat on the top step, as they had done a hundred times before in their childhood. Shiro had missed it.

“How much longer until your Garrison work is done?” He asked.

“Not too much longer, a year at the most,” Matt said. “Then I can move back.”

“Will you?”

“Probably. The environment here is really good, and my family is here. The Garrison base isn’t that far away.”

Shiro nodded in agreement. “Pidge would love to have you back.”

Matt chuckled. “I know. I missed him so much. He’s grown a lot, huh?” He sighed wistfully. “I can’t believe how much I’m missing.”

“I have photos, if you want them,” Shiro offered. “Allura takes heaps, too.”

“Really?” Matt gave him a hopeful look. “Could you send them all to me?”

“Yeah, no problem.”

Matt leaned back on his hands, and sighed again. He sounded more at ease this time. “Allura is quite a woman, isn’t she? Real beautiful.”

Shiro flushed, and nodded. “She’s amazing.”

“I can tell,” Matt chuckled again. “You’re completely smitten.”

Shiro didn’t argue that.

“She doesn’t care much about this, does she?” Matt asked, his voice careful, as he flicked Shiro’s prosthetic.

Shiro shook his head. “Nah, she doesn’t really seem to realise that it’s different. I’m kind of glad about that.”

“Me too,” Matt said. “Does it give you much pain anymore?”

“Sometimes.”

Matt hummed.

They lapsed into a comfortable silence for a while. Shiro didn’t mind much. He and Matt had been really close back in their training days, and he thought they’d been a great team. While their interests didn’t always overlap, they’d always gotten along. Shiro had never had a friendship like the one he had with Matt, and he didn’t think he ever would.

“You know,” Matt started, “everyone at the Garrison still talks about the famous Shiro.”

Shiro raised his brows.

“Well you did set a bunch of flight records,” Matt reminded him. He rested his chin in his palm, and closed his eyes. “I miss having you there. It’s not the same.”

Shiro leaned his elbows on his knees, and closed his eyes too. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault, so don’t apologise,” Matt reminded him. “You’ve done enough of that in the past.”

He had. He didn’t know how many times those words had left his mouth when he was recovering, but it was far too many. Matt had even shouted at him for it once. He’d cried, too.

“Are you happy now, though?” Matt asked. “You don’t miss the Garrison anymore?”

“I’ll always miss it,” Shiro said. He opened his eyes again, and looked up to the sky. Thousands upon thousands of glittering stars stared back at him. “I want to fly again.”

But I can’t.

The words remained unspoken. “I love working at Altea, though,” he said, after a moment. “At first it was just because the kids gave me something else to focus on. If I worked there, then it was like I had no time to think about the Garrison anymore.”

“And now?”

“It’s different now,” Shiro confessed. “I love the kids, and I love Allura. It’s just… everyone there reminds me that there’s still things to enjoy. It’s hard not to get excited when a whole bunch of kids are loving the fact that there’s ants crawling in a straight line, or if there’s a bird in the tree, or something like that. Something I wouldn’t have ever noticed if they didn’t get so happy over it.”

Matt nodded in understanding. “Sounds nice.”

“It is.”

“Allura is nice, too.”

Shiro smiled to himself. “Yeah, she is. So you like her?”

“Definitely. How you managed to find someone like her, I’ll never know.”

Shiro laughed. “Me either.”

Matt smiled, and gave Shiro a fond look. “I’ll have to visit home more often,” he said. “I can come crash at your place.”

“If you don’t mind sharing it with two cats, sure.”

Matt snorted. “The more the better.”

Shiro smiled again. “I’m really glad to see you again, you know.”

“Yeah, I know,” Matt said. “Me too.”

There was a small knock on the back door. “Shiro, are you out here?”

He glanced back at the sound of his name, and spotted Allura peeking her head out of the door. “Yeah, I’m here.”

“Mrs Holt said we’re having dessert now,” she said.

“Ooh, I hope it’s sponge cake,” Matt grinned.

“It is sponge cake!” Pidge shouted from inside.

“Good, good!”

Allura gave him a puzzled look as Matt headed in ahead of them. “I didn’t interrupt anything, did I?”

Shiro shook his head, and drew Allura into his arms. “Of course not. We were just catching up.”

She gave him a small smile, and returned his embrace. “I can see why you get along with him so well. He’s a lot like Pidge!”

He laughed a little, and pressed a small kiss to her forehead. “That’s very true. He’s a good guy.”

She nodded in agreement, and took his hand. “Shall we head back in, then?”

Chapter Text

Shiro ran his thumb over the open tab of the envelope clutched in his hands. Matt had quietly handed it to him as he had left the Holt’s home the previous night, and although Shiro had waited until the next morning to open it, he already knew what it was.

The Garrison seal on stuck on the envelope was a dead giveaway.

He’d felt a little sick when he thought about opening it, and he wasn’t sure why. It was a mixture of guilty excitement and dread, because although he knew it was from the Garrison, he didn’t know what it was for. What if they asked him to come back? If they did, would he go? With a great amount of guilt, he secretly thought he might consider it. But what if it was nothing, just an old letter or piece of paperwork from his discharge? Would he be disappointed? He wasn’t sure.

When he woke up early the next morning, he took the opportunity to sneak out of bed and open the letter. He knew he probably should have told Allura about it, but he wanted to know what was in the letter now, because he was probably overreacting.

The letter was addressed to Takashi Shirogane, and it made him cringe a little. It had been a while since he’d seen his full name like that; he much preferred just “Shiro”. But the Garrison was a stickler for rules and regulations and following orders, so he should have expected it.

He also should have expected that the letter was nothing too bad, especially not if they were getting Matt to deliver it to him rather than having it mailed.

The letter was one sent to him to invite him to a reunion.

He didn’t know if he was relieved or disappointed about that.

A reunion was a… funny idea to him, though not a humorous one. Lots of the people from his class no longer worked for the Garrison, or were no longer in active duty. Matt, for example, still worked for the Garrison, but was no longer working on the front lines or flying any heavy planes. He mostly did tech work now, well away from any explosives or fighting.

While the reunion wasn’t scheduled to happen for another month or so, the letter encouraged him to R.S.V.P as soon as possible. He’d have to think about it before saying he would go, but at least the letter wasn’t anything bad.

“Shiro?” A sleepy voice murmured.

He glanced back towards the bedroom, and spotted Allura leaning against the doorway. She was yawning, and rubbing at her eyes. “Sorry, did I wake you?” He asked, as he set the letter down on the kitchen bench where he was seated.

She shook her head, and wandered over. Shiro was a little surprised when she suddenly put her arms around his shoulders and slumped against him, but it was a pleasant sort of surprise. “I just couldn’t sleep without you there,” she mumbled.

A light flush came to his cheeks, so he hid his face in her neck. Her skin was still warm from sleep, and she smelt very faintly of the fabric softener they used to wash the bed sheets in.

“What got you up?” She asked around another yawn, as she put her fingers in his hair. It was a very relaxing gesture.

“I got a letter from the Garrison,” he said quietly. “There’s going to be a reunion for the people in my training class, so they invited me.”

She hummed. Her fingers didn’t still. “Are you going to attend?”

He shrugged. It felt like a very lost gesture. “I don’t know yet.”

“That’s alright,” she soothed, “there’s no need to rush your decision.”

Somehow, her support was very reassuring. She was right – he didn’t need to rush the decision. If he wasn’t comfortable returning to the Garrison, even for something like a reunion, then he didn’t need to go, did he? He bit his lip. “If I did end up going, would… would you come with me?”

“Of course I would,” she said without hesitation.

Shiro smiled faintly.

Allura sighed to herself, and yawned once more. “Can we go back to bed?”

It was his turn to laugh quietly. “Yeah, that sounds good.”

Chapter Text

It just so happened that Shiro’s annual physiotherapy appointment happened to arrive within a week of him receiving his invitation to the Garrison reunion. It was something he usually forgot about, and this year’s appointment was no different. The only reason he remembered it was because Allura spotted it written down on a calendar he had left unpacked in a box from the move.

“Should we put this up somewhere, Shiro?” Allura asked, as she absentmindedly flipped through the calendar. “There are important things written down in it.”

“Oh, sure.”

“You have an appointment next week written in here, too,” she said, as she wandered over to greet him in the kitchen. “For… physiotherapy?”

“Oh,” Shiro said again, as he turned away from the meal he was making. “I forgot about that. Is it already next week?”

“Yeah,” she said, as she propped the calendar up beside the microwave. “It’s important, right? Is it for your shoulder?”

He nodded, and glanced back at the calendar. His own handwriting stared back at him, crudely reminding him of his injury once again. He’d never liked going to physiotherapy, especially not in the years directly following the accident. Not only did the sessions more often than not hurt, but they served as a constant reminder than he was not whole. And sure, that feeling had slowly faded over the years, as had the pain, but that didn’t change the fact that he didn’t like the therapy.

Helpful or not, it left him feeling damaged.

“Shiro?”

He glanced back at Allura. She had a concerned look on her face, and quickly stepped in between him and the calendar. “What is it?” He asked.

“You’re going to go, aren’t you?”

He nodded, and glanced away. “I am. I just… don’t enjoy them, that’s all,” he said. “They only happen once a year, just to check that the movement in my shoulder is still good, but they’re just… not fun, or anything like that. I don’t like going.”

She hummed, and gave him a thoughtful look. She was quiet for a moment. “Does anyone go with you?” She asked.

Surprised by the question, he shook his head. He’d always gone alone.

“Would it help if someone did go with you?” She asked next. “Not necessarily me, but someone who you trust. Just so you’re not alone there.”

He felt the need to reassure her that he did trust her, but he squashed it. She probably already understood that. When he thought about going to physiotherapy with someone else, he felt a little strange. He always got frustrated and angry at his sessions, and often became very withdrawn afterwards. He wasn’t sure if he wanted anyone to see him like that. The sessions had always felt like very private moments, the kind he wasn’t meant to show anyone else.

But maybe it was time for a change. He’d counted on Allura countless times before, and she’d never failed him. She’d never made him feel bad for being vulnerable, or for not being strong. She forgave him for a lot of things he’d never forgive himself for.

“If you don’t mind,” he started carefully.

“Of course I don’t,” she said. “It’s in a week, is it not? That’s more than enough time to schedule someone to cover our shifts.”

He nodded, and let out a deep breath. Physiotherapy was never something he looked forwards to, but maybe he didn’t have to dread going to it so much anymore.

“Wait a moment,” he said, as he glanced up again.

Allura gave him a puzzled look.

“I’ve never seen any workers at Altea other than you, Coran, and myself,” he said. “Will there be someone available to cover both of our shifts next week?”

Allura grinned. “Don’t worry about it.”

Chapter Text

“Do you have everything?”

“Yeah.”

“Sure?”

“Yes, Allura.”

“Did you remember to grab your shoulder sling? I saw it buried in the same box that that calendar was in.”

“Got it right here.”

“And the paperwork? From last year, as well?”

“Yes.”

Allura was quiet for a moment. “Got your car keys, too?”

Shiro glanced at the pile of things he’d accumulated in front of him, per Allura’s orders. “Actually, no, I don’t have them.”

Allura made a triumphant noise that Shiro could hear all the way from the other end of the house. “I knew there was something we’d forget,” she said to herself.

Shiro couldn’t help but laugh a little. He was tense, of course he was, but it was strange that Allura was, too. He was only advised to bring his sling, and his therapist would have a copy of all his past paperwork just in case he misplaced it, but she was adamant that he bring everything he might need. He didn’t know how she possibly remembered it all.

The physiotherapist’s office was about forty-five minutes away, so it wouldn’t be great if he did happen to accidentally leave something important behind. They would be stopping by at the kindergarten first at Allura’s request, so they really had to get going soon.

“Alright, I think we have everything,” Allura said, as she emerged from the bathroom. “I’ve got pain killers and deep heat rub just in case.”

He gave her a small smile. She was really trying to think of everything, and it must have been at least a little stressful for her, but her attention to detail was very reassuring to him. Selfishly, he let it go on for a little while longer.

 

Eventually, they did make it to the kindergarten. Shiro drove because Allura would drive back from the physiotherapist, again at her insistence. He knew he would be sore afterwards, so he was glad she’d suggested it.

“We can’t stay for long,” Allura said, as she glanced at her watch, “but I just wanted to check in with Coran and the children for a moment.”

He wasn’t complaining. He’d become accustomed to seeing the kids almost every day, and they’d been upset when he’d told them he wouldn’t be coming in for a day. He swore Hunk almost cried, even though Shiro promised a dozen times that he would only be away for one day. To them, it must have seemed like years.

Besides, he was a little curious to see who Allura had called in a favour from.

He was, however, very surprised to find that it was Alfor.

“Ah, Shiro,” Alfor said, as he spotted them walking in. He was crouched beside the group of little girls that Allura usually greeted first thing in the morning, but stood to offer his hand. The girls seemed disappointed to have his attention taken away. “It’s nice to see you again.”

“You too,” Shiro said with a smile, as he shook Alfor’s hand. “I didn’t know you worked here.”

“I used to, before my daughter took my job,” he laughed quietly. “Isn’t that right, Allura?”

Allura grinned broadly, and gave her father a hug. “What can I say? I’m a natural.”

Alfor chuckled. “Well, I’m only a substitute for today,” he said, as he glanced back towards the main room, where all the kids were playing or sitting together. “They have favourites, you know. I’m afraid I don’t make the cut with everyone.”

Shiro followed his gaze, and wanted to laugh when he saw his group of kids in their own corner. Lance was clearly pouting, his cheeks puffed out, and Keith was awkwardly trying to comfort him. Pidge and Hunk seemed to be off in their own worlds. “They’re usually a lot more energetic by now,” he said. The kids always rushed to greet him in the mornings when they arrived. He supposed it must have been very different for him not to be there when they came in that morning.

“They’ll be alright,” Allura said, as she put her hand on Shiro’s arm. Maybe she could tell he felt a little guilty about leaving the kids, even if it was only for a day. “This is important, anyway. Thanks for taking over, Father.”

“It’s quite alright,” Alfor said. “Even I do enjoy being with the children every once in a while. It will be nice to catch up with Coran, as well.”

Allura chuckled. “Don’t get into any mischief without me around.”

Alfor rubbed the back of his neck. He looked oddly chastised. “I make no promises, especially not with your uncle around…”

Allura rolled her eyes, but it was a teasing, exaggerated gesture. “Alright, alright, then if everything is fine here, we better get going.”

“Everything will be fine,” Alfor said. He turned to Shiro. “Good luck with your shoulder. If it hurts at all tomorrow, don’t feel pressured to come into work. I’m sure I can manage for another day if you need more time off.”

It was a very generous offer, one that made Shiro feel well looked after. Even though he knew he would be a little bit sore, he wouldn’t skip work. He’d miss it too much. Still, he thanked Alfor for his offer, because he really did appreciate it.

“Let’s go, Shiro,” Allura said, as she cast a last glance at the kids. “They’ll be alright.”

Chapter Text

The physiotherapist’s office felt much like a doctor’s surgery. They arrived there a little early, but the wait was only ten minutes, and Shiro was in no particular rush. He usually arrived early, and was used to waiting for a short while. This time, with Allura’s hand clutched in his own, the waiting didn’t feel as exhausting anymore.

His therapist was a nice, quiet man. He spoke in a straight-to-the-point kind of way, and never got offended at Shiro’s anger or terse words. Maybe he’d become used to it over the years – he did therapy with a lot of amputees and veterans.

Still, as much as Shiro admired his tenacious nature, that didn’t change the fact that he did still get quite frustrated during his sessions.

“Try and rotate your shoulder back,” his therapist said, as he held Shiro’s elbow up. “I want to see how far you can get it to sit in its socket.”

Shiro grimaced, and bit the inside of his cheek to stop from cursing. He didn’t want to get angry in front of Allura, but a sharp, pulling feeling was starting to build up the move he moved his arm, and it was steadily becoming painful.

“Alright, now hold your arm as high as it is now for as long as you can,” the therapist continued. He observed Shiro’s face for a moment, before asking, “How do you rate the pain?”

“Six,” he bit out.

The therapist gave him a stern look. “We’ve talked about this before, Takashi.”

“I thought I told you to just call me Shiro,” he muttered, irritated. After a silent moment, he sighed, and conceded. “Eight.”

“Alright, that’s to be expected,” the therapist said. “Your range of movement is still really good, even if you can’t rotate your shoulder all the way back.” He stretched out Shiro’s arm straight, and rotated it inwards. “Any pain in your elbow?”

Shiro wanted to point out that he didn’t have an elbow, but he refrained. He knew what the therapist was asking – that if he was getting any pains from turning in his prosthetic elbow. Still, everything left him irritated. “No. There’s no pain.”

“Good, that’s an improvement,” he replied. It had still given him some pain last year, though not a lot. “And what about the wrist? Can you still move it freely?”

Shiro nodded. “No problems with it.”

“Good,” the therapist said again. “If your range of motion isn’t too impaired anymore, other than in the back of your shoulder, then I want to test your strength again.”

He definitely didn’t want to do that, because it was the worst part, but he knew it was necessary. After his accident, he’d hardly been able to lift anything with his prosthetic. His injury meant his muscles had weakened considerably, not even to mention how hard it had been to learn to use his new arm. As high-tech as it was, it still wasn’t natural.

The strength tests were always the most painful. Shiro had spent countless hours in the gym after his accident, trying to build up muscle strength back in his shoulders. He knew he was strong, and that both of his shoulders were built with muscle, but that wasn’t the point. The exercises he had to do tested how far he could move in relation to his injury, and how deep it had went. They tested how well his body had adjusted to his prosthetic, and how strong it was in relation to the rest of him.

They hurt. His shoulders ached, his old injured always flared up, and the place where his prosthetic met whatever was left of his arm always felt twitchy, like he’d become twice as conscious of it as usual.

At least he had his back to Allura. He was probably making a frightening face.

The exercises were the same every year. Shiro ran through them feeling a lot like a machine, and tried not to let out any uncomfortable grunts as the pain slowly started to creep down his arm. It felt like hours were passing, when it couldn’t have been that long. Sweat started to build on his brow, and noises started to slip out.

“You’re doing well, Shiro,” his therapist murmured. “Better than last year.”

It felt like a hollow comfort. How many more years of his life would he need to do this? He’d never escape the prosthetic, but the pain felt like salt rubbed into his wound.

“Just a little more,” the therapist murmured.

“I can’t do anymore!” Shiro snapped, as he felt his arm start to buckle. The pain was like a hot flash down his spine, and he let out a cry as he stumbled, clutching at his shoulder. It felt red-hot beneath his palm.

“Shiro!” Allura lurched upright from the seat where she’d been nervously watching the whole time, her hands outstretched.

“I’m fine,” Shiro barked, before sucking in a guilty gasp and turning his head away. He never wanted to yell at Allura like that. “I’m fine,” he said, quieter, calmer. He only needed to do this once a year. Just once.

The rest of the session finished in relative silence.

When it finally ended, Shiro was miserable. His therapist completed the paperwork, and turned to face Shiro again. “I’m glad you finally brought someone with you this time,” he murmured. Now you can wear your sling from the moment you leave, rather than waiting to get home.”

Shiro forced a tense smile. It wasn’t like he could drive with it on.

“Okay, we’re done for today,” his therapist eventually said. “I want you to still do your exercises every day, and use pain medication whenever necessary. Try not to sleep on your arm for a week or so.”

“Just like usual,” Shiro said. He didn’t think he could even muster the strength to lift his arm anymore.

Allura hovered around him as they left the physiotherapy office. She seemed hesitant, like she wanted to say something but was afraid of worsening his mood.

He hated thinking that she was afraid of him.

“Do you have the sling…?” He asked quietly.

Her eyes widened, and she nodded. She pulled it from her bag, and helped him slip his arm into it after he bent down a little. She offered him pain medication as well, which he gratefully took.

“I’m sorry for snapping,” he mumbled, as he settled his arm in the sling. “I didn’t mean to.”

“Don’t apologise,” Allura said, as she shook her head. She put her arm around his waist, and drew him down so that she could place a gentle kiss on his lips. “Your pain is your pain, and any way you choose to express it is valid. I know you don’t mean to get angry; your guilty face says everything.”

He lowered his eyes. He did feel guilty, and that feeling wouldn’t fade for a while yet. It never did. “I just want to go home.”

She caressed the back of his neck with a soft, careful hand. “Alright, then let’s go home.”

Chapter Text

The next day, despite returning to work, he didn’t wear his sling. He didn’t want the children to worry about him, and he’d managed to stay asleep off his arm (because, unbeknownst to him, Allura had woken herself up every couple of hours to check on him, and made sure she slept with her arm latched tightly around his waist to keep him in place) so he thought he’d be alright.

The pain, however, lingered.

For the most part, Shiro managed to avoid using his arm too much. He didn’t usually have to do any strenuous lifting, other than picking up the kids sometimes, and that wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t like he picked the kids up every day, anyway.

But that day, Keith was upset. Shiro wasn’t quite sure what had him so teary-eyed, but he thought that maybe something had happened at home, but he’d noticed Keith sticking close by Lance all morning. It was only when Keith came up to him that he started to worry a little.

So he’d picked Keith up. He was sure to be careful, and held Keith primarily with his flesh arm. “You alright buddy?” He asked, but Keith didn’t reply, and just pressed his face into Shiro’s neck with a muffled noise. Shiro rubbed his back reassuringly, and tried to ignore the twinges starting to appear in his shoulder.

If that had been all he’d done, he thought he might have been alright. Allura was giving him sceptical looks from across the room, but he forced a small smile in her direction. He wouldn’t let his injury impair his work, especially not when one of his kids were upset. He knew he wouldn’t be able to forgive himself if he didn’t help them just because he was damaged.

With an injured shoulder and a child on his hip, he sort of had his hands full. Shiro would have managed alright if he’d remembered that he was, in fact, quite sore, but with the chaos of the kindergarten it was hard to remember anything.

When he spotted Lance accidentally knocking over a full cup of juice, he hadn’t thought about it before lurching to catch it. Pain rippled down his arm as he accidentally stretched too far.

“Shiro, be careful!” Allura said, as she suddenly appeared beside him to catch the cup. She put her hand on the small of his back to keep him upright.

“Shiro?” Keith asked shakily, his hands fisted in Shiro’s shirt. A distraught look was coming across his face. “Did I hurt you?”

“Of course not, Keith,” Shiro was quick to say, as he tightened his grip on Keith. “I’m just a little sore today, that’s all.”

Keith didn’t look convinced, but he didn’t protest the idea. “You’ll be alright though, won’t you?” he asked.

“He will,” Allura said, before Shiro could reply. Gently, she took Keith from Shiro. The relief in his shoulder was immediate. “You see, even adults get hurt sometimes, but Shiro will be fine. He’s very strong!”

Keith was nodding in agreement before Allura had even finished her sentence. To the children, it was like Allura’s word was law. They always believed everything she said, though it was hard not to – Shiro believed in her, as well.

After she set Keith down beside Lance, Allura turned to him. “You should put your sling on,” she said, “just for the afternoon.”

Shiro didn’t really want to, but feeling oddly chastised, he didn’t argue. Allura only had his best interests in mind, and he knew she was probably right. He was just being stubborn. He hadn’t even noticed her packing his sling in the morning, but she evidently had.

“Does that feel better?” She asked, as he settled his arm in the sling. She was watching from office doorway.

He nodded. “Yeah. Thank you.”

She put her arms around him when he pressed into her, being extra mindful of his arm. He didn’t know what he’d do without her watching out for him. Even if he didn’t like wearing the sling around the children, it would certainly help him recover a little faster.

“You’re explaining to the kids how a robot arm can get hurt,” he muttered into her hair.

Her responding laugh was infectious.

Chapter Text

The next day, Keith was still abnormally quiet. It was easy to notice, especially because he was still sticking close by Lance. He was usually quite independent, and always willing to say his opinion, but it seemed that his demeanour had completely changed.

Still, with Shiro’s arm feeling much better, he was free to follow the kids around as anxiously as he wished. He didn’t want to pressure Keith into talking about what bothered him, because he knew it would resolve itself eventually, but it did have him worried. Although Keith could be pretty tough and mature when he needed to be, he was still a child, and Shiro never wanted him to be upset when he could fix the problem. As an adult, and as Keith’s caregiver, he knew it was his duty to look out for him in any way he could.

Of course, surreptitiously following Keith around all day meant he inevitably started following Lance around, as well. Those two were practically joined at the hip these days, and he never really found one without the other. Even more so when one happened to be upset.

While he was supervising them, he noticed Lance building something odd. The children often made quite astounding creations when it was arts and crafts time, but this was something… different. It was red. Lance always made blue crafts. It truly had Shiro puzzled, especially because it seemed to come out of nowhere.

Although, as the day started to progress, Shiro thought he might have understood Lance’s motives a little bit more.

In his own childish way, Lance was always looking out for Keith. As much as they fought and bickered, they were never really apart. They were best friends. It made sense that Lance would notice the small changes in Keith’s personality far before Shiro did – and to a child, it seemed like giving a gift was the best way to cheer each other up.

Even if said gift was made from paddle-pop sticks, cardstock and lots of red glitter.

When Lance was done with his creation, he proudly slid it across the crafts table towards Keith, and gave his friend a dazzling grin. “Here!”

Keith glanced between the red gift and Lance several times, looking a little uncertain. “Is… is that for me?” He asked hesitantly, as he reached forwards.

“Yeah!” Lance said cheerfully. “That’s why it’s red, duh!”

Keith laughed a little. It was the first time he’d sounded happy in the last two days, and somehow, his small smile seemed bigger than any of the others he’d ever worn. Gingerly, he cradled Lance’s gift in his hands. “Thanks.”

Shiro wasn’t quite sure what the gift was meant to be, but it was still interesting to look at. He thought it might have been a spaceship of some sort… the children were rather fond of building things like that. He’d lost count of how many times they played with their stuffed lions, claiming them to be “space lions” – lions that were also spaceships, or something similar. The mind of a child could be quite imaginative, he was learning.

Regardless, Lance’s little gift cheered Keith up quite a bit. It was reassuring to see, and had Shiro finally feeling more at ease then he had all day. It was like Lance always knew what was best for Keith, even if he did figure it out in a roundabout, argumentative kind of way.

Perhaps it took the mind of a child to figure out what the mind of an adult couldn’t.

Chapter Text

Pidge needed new glasses. Shiro heard about it from Matt, who took Pidge out to pick a new pair on his last day off before returning to the Garrison. It wasn’t like Pidge’s eyes were particularly bad, but the glasses did help. It was something that ran in the family – their father wore glasses, and Shiro remembered that Matt had had glasses back when he was Pidge’s age, as well. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for the Holts.

Unfortunately, Shiro also remembered how many people made fun of Matt for wearing them back when they were kids. The glasses Matt wore had never really bothered Shiro (he’d thought that the glasses had looked really cool, actually, though he’d never told Matt that) and he knew that Matt had never been too fussed by what anyone else said, but Pidge was different. Shiro always worried about him.

Of course, Pidge’s group of friends wouldn’t mind. They were just like Shiro – they thought Pidge’s glasses were cool, and they weren’t afraid of saying it. When Pidge showed off his new glasses after the weekend passed, Lance, Hunk and Keith were more than happy to compliment them.

Hunk especially was quite fascinated with how they worked. He didn’t know much about lens types or anything like that, but the little screws holding the arms in place and the way the rims were shaped fascinated him. “I wonder if I’ll ever need glasses someday,” he said thoughtfully.

Shiro tried not to laugh much. Wishing for glasses perhaps wasn’t the best thing, but whatever made them happy, he supposed. If nothing else, at least it made Pidge laugh. He finally had something they wanted, didn’t he? The smug look on his face was infectious.

“Let me see!” Lance said, as he reached for Pidge’s glasses across the table they were seated at. Hunk handed them over, and Lance gave them a curious once-over before settling them on his nose. “Woah.”

“Can you see well?” Shiro asked, amused.

“Not really!” Lance said, as he adjusted the glasses a little. They must have been a tad too small for his face. “Everything is kind of… blurry. But not bad! Pidge, do you really see better with these on?”

“Yeah,” Pidge said, nodding. “They make everything so much better for me! You should try Matt’s ones, they make everything look so dizzy. His are worse than mine.”

“Really? Wow.”

Shiro laughed a little that time. He’d put on Matt’s glasses before and had been dizzy for a solid minute afterwards. He was still half-convinced that Matt was at least partially blind, considering how thick his lenses were. Still, the glasses never bothered him. They never interfered with his work, either – in fact, without them, Matt surely wouldn’t be able to do what he was doing quite so well.

None of the other kids at the kindergarten commented anything negative about Pidge’s glasses. They had a good group of kids, with no standout bully or hostile group that dominated over the others. If anything, they all got on marvellously well, even with the little spats kids naturally had here and there when they began to develop their own opinions.

He didn’t have anything to worry about after all.

Chapter Text

Allura was making a photo album. An assortment of photographs sat around their living room, which was starting to look awfully like the kindergarten when it happened to be crafts time. She had somehow managed to print off dozens of photos without Shiro noticing, and had them spread out in neat piles around her as she worked.

“I didn’t know you liked to do this,” he said, as he watched her slip another photo into the book. He was sitting on the couch behind her, his eyes flickering between whatever show happened to be on television at the time and her work (the latter of which was far more interesting).

“I usually make one for each year of kids we get coming through at the kindergarten,” she said, as she turned her head to give him a smile. “I thought I’d get an early start on this one, though. This one is going to be just for us.”

He raised his brows, and leaned a little further off the couch so that he could see over her shoulder. He was surprised to see a lot of photos of himself with Allura – and, embarrassingly, that first one taken of them, when his hair had been full of glittery pins placed in there by his kids. He looked so mortified that he still felt embarrassed by it.

Proudly, Allura flipped a few pages back to show him more. There were photos he hadn’t realised had been taken, like ones of him with the kids, and one of him when he’d fallen asleep at work with them that one time. There were photos of them from Allura’s relative’s wedding, and a photo of him with Matt from a few weeks ago. He didn’t know where she’d found so many photos, because he certainly didn’t remember them being taken, but they made him smile.

“Will all those photos fit in that one album?” He asked. It was a pretty simple album with a plain cover, and it didn’t look terribly thick. Allura had printed off quite a big number of photos she wanted to include in it, too.

“Don’t worry, I’m certain they will,” she said with another charming grin. “Most of these pages can each hold four photos, with another four on the back. I just haven’t arranged them all how I want yet.”

He laughed quietly. “Well, I’m glad to see so many photos anyway,” he told her. “I didn’t realise you’d taken so many. When were these ones taken? I can’t even remember doing half of these things.”

“That’s because you do them every day,” Allura said. “Things like taking care of the children and cleaning up and standing a certain way become routine when they’re things you do frequently. I just like to take photos of the mundane things.”

He could see the appeal in that. If he had dozens of photos of Allura smiling at the children or reading a book or even doing something simple like washing up he would certainly treasure them. Maybe that was because it would be her in the photos.

Slowly, so he didn’t mess anything up, he slipped off the couch and sat down at the coffee table beside her. “Can I help?"

Chapter Text

Every now and then, perhaps twice a year, Altea Kindergarten had a pyjama day. It was a day for everyone to relax, where they were encouraged to wear their pyjamas and bring their blankets if they so wished. Shiro did not know about pyjama day, however, until it was upon him and Allura was insisting he wear his pyjamas to work.

“Allura, I really don’t think this is-” Shiro huffed, and tried to reach for his shirt from Allura, who was having none of it. “I really don’t think this is appropriate.”

Allura gave him a cheeky smile, and kept his shirt out of his reach. “What do you mean? This is most certainly appropriate. It’s pyjama day, Shiro, not I’ll-wear-pyjama-pants-and-that’s-it day.”

Shiro groaned. He didn’t really want to wear his pyjamas to work, mostly because it was too embarrassing. He didn’t have pyjamas that looked like normal clothes, unlike Allura, and he’d always worn presentable clothes around the children. How was he meant to wear pyjamas pants and an old shirt when he was around the kids all day? Just thinking about it made him cringe. He’d relented on the pants already, but the shirt as well was just… too much.

“Honestly, it’ll be fine, Shiro,” Allura said, as she tucked his shirt under the mattress of their bed, like that could possibly stop him from getting it on. “Everyone always wears their sleep wear. You’ll feel much more awkward being the only one dressed in casual clothes.”

He sighed, and ran his hand down his face. Since he’d started living with Allura, he’d gotten to know when he was going to win a disagreement with her and when he wasn’t, and this was most certainly the latter. It was only for one day, right? Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

 

Just like Allura had said, all the children arrived for the day dressed in their pyjamas. The sight of them had their parents wearing these weird smiles, like they were embarrassed for their kids, even though the children themselves didn’t seem to mind.

Shiro felt ridiculous in his pyjamas, but work was a good distraction. They still had their day filled with planned activities, and the change in clothes didn’t particularly alter that – aside from their leisure time, of course. There would be movies and blanket-fort building, courtesy of Coran, later in the afternoon.

When his kids arrived, he was secretly pleased to see them wearing pyjamas, too. Unsurprisingly, their pyjamas were all their favourite colours.

Pidge’s were green, and dragged at his ankles a little, because they were perhaps a size too big. There was some sort of robot print on the front. Hunk’s were yellow, and had Winnie the Pooh printed on the shirt; it didn’t button down like Pidge’s did. They both looked quite comfy.

What was surprisingly, however, was that Keith and Lance had matching pyjamas featuring those red and blue pilots they loved. Even if Lance was maybe a centimetre taller than Keith, they wore the same size, and they had the same style of sleep wear with a button down flannel and a thin shirt underneath. Keith’s pyjamas were red, and Lance’s were blue. They looked quite comfy, honestly.

“They just love that show,” Lance’s mother explained, as Shiro gave her a questioning look at the sight of their matching clothes. “Keith always comes over to watch it with Lance at our home on the weekends. Lance really wanted to get him the pyjamas as a present, and I… well, I just couldn’t say no. But it’s cute, isn’t it?”

It was cute. Too cute for words, actually. Somehow, it had never occurred to Shiro that the kids interacted with each other outside of the kindergarten. He didn’t see them when they were at their homes or school, after all, aside from when he visited the Holts.

“See, I told you wearing pyjamas wouldn’t be so bad,” Allura said, as she sidled up to him after all the kids had arrived. “Look, everyone is participating! They even brought their blankets and pillows. The children love pyjama day.”

He laughed a little. “Alright, alright, I get it. You were right.”

“Now that is what I love to hear.”

Allura’s pyjamas were cute, too. At home, she preferred to wear an oversized shirt (frequently, they were coming from Shiro’s half of the wardrobe) or an old shirt and pyjama shorts, but sometimes she wore a pyjama set or a nightdress. That’s what she’d chosen to wear for the day – a long nightdress, one that was white in colour with bits of lace and ruffles. It went down past her knees and had small sleeves, so it was still appropriate to wear when dealing with children.

Somehow, Shiro just couldn’t help but think that the best pyjamas award would have to go to Coran. After all, who else would be brave enough to wear pyjamas covered in orange moustaches, complete with a matching eye mask?

Chapter Text

The kids were fighting.

Maybe he should clarify that: the kids were fighting with pillows. They were tripping over their blankets and screaming with laughter and somehow, in the middle of all of that, they were managing to hit each other with their pillows. Shiro didn’t even know when the pillow fight started, but suddenly there were brave cries being thrown about and battle charges being made. It was chaos.

Children could be downright dangerous with pillows, Shiro had no doubt of that now. He could never remember being so enthusiastic about pillow fights when he was their age.

“Take this,” Pidge cried, as he slammed his pillow into Keith’s shoulder. “Ha!”

Keith rounded on him, grinning, and gave Pidge back as good as he got. Somewhere along the way, Pidge and Hunk had teamed up against Keith and Lance. Shiro didn’t know how the winners were decided, or what the goal of the game was, but the kids seemed to understand perfectly fine on their own.

“Mr Shiro, you have to join our team!” Pidge said, as he lifted his pillow to defend a shot from Lance.

“No way, that’s cheating!” Lance gasped. “Shiro has to join our team! Right, Keith?”

“Right!” Keith nodded.

Shiro laughed awkwardly, and held his hands up in defence. “I think I’ll stay neutral this time,” he said, even when the kids all pouted up at him. “Really, I didn’t even bring a pillow-”

Suddenly, something whacked him across the back of the head. He let out a surprised noise, and turned to find that Allura had snuck up on him. She was grinning broadly, and had both their pillows from their bed clutched in her raised arms.

“Got you,” she said, as she thrust his pillow at him, “a point for team Pidge and Hunk!”

The kids cheered in agreement as Allura came to their aid. Feeling oddly outnumbered, Shiro gave her a bewildered look. “You stole the pillows off our bed?”

“I snuck them into the car when you weren’t looking,” Allura informed him smartly. She put a hand on her hip, and raised a brow at him. “Now are you going to fight back or not?”

“Please, Shiro!” Lance begged, as he tugged at the hem of Shiro’s shirt. “Now their team has more than ours! You have to play with us so we can win!”

Shiro hesitated, but a childish part of him had him quickly relenting. A smile came to his face. “Alright, if you insist.” And then, in one go, he knocked Allura’s pillow right out of her hands. “Point for Lance and Keith!”

“Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be, huh?” Allura said, as a challenging spark appeared in her eyes. “Fine then! But we’re so going to win.”

She didn’t win. They played until the kids tired themselves out and sank to the floor in comfortable heaps, where the adults soon joined them. Coran brought everyone bottles of juice and sat down too – he’d been involved in the pillow fight, and had been quite… enthusiastic. Shiro didn’t mind, even if he had received a pillow to the face quite a few times.

“We totally won that,” Lance said, as he hugged his pillow to his chest. He and Keith were sharing one of the large beanbags in the recreation room, and were seated across from Pidge and Hunk.

“No way,” Pidge argued.

“There’s no real winner in pillow fights anyway,” Hunk said, before his friends could disagree anymore. “It was just fun, right?”

That seemed to settle them down well enough. Hunk was definitely the peacemaker amongst them, when no one else would be.

Shio himself was sitting on one of the beanbags, too. Well, it was more like he’d sunk straight into it, and he was far too drained from their pillow fight to bother getting back up. Allura had collapsed next to him too, and every time she fidgeted, their knees brushed together. Even if it wasn’t hard work, keeping up with the kid’s energy certainly took a lot out of him. It was another thing he didn’t particularly mind.

As the kids chatted amongst themselves and Coran went to find a movie to put on, Allura turned to face him. She watched quietly him for a moment, until her gaze caught his attention and he gave her a puzzled look. She smiled at him. “Told you that you would enjoy pyjama day.”

Chapter Text

“There’s a new child joining our class today,” Allura said, as she swivelled in her office chair to face him. “A girl. She’s been here a few times before, so she’s not exactly new, but you know what I mean.”

Shiro glanced up from the paperwork he was writing to glance back at Allura. He’d been at Altea Kindergarten for a while now, and while there had been a few new students here and there, it was odd to get one at this time of year. Even more so if she’d been a student at the kindergarten before. “Do her parents move around a lot?”

“Yeah,” Allura nodded. “They’re lovely people, though. Her father is a geologist, and her mother is a biologist, so they go where their work takes them. They have an older son, too. He’s in high school.”

“Moving around must be hard on the kids,” Shiro said.

“Perhaps, but they’re always polite, and never seem too anxious. Well, Shay is polite. Her brother is going through his rebellious years.”

Shiro chuckled. “Shay, huh? Does she get along with the kids here?”

“Oh, marvellously!” Allura said. “She and Hunk are best friends. They’re always inseparable when she’s here.”

“Really?”

“Really. Hunk just loves playing with Shay. Last time she was here, she gave him a special crystal from her father’s collection – with his permission, of course. He brings it in for show and tell sometimes.”

Shiro nodded. He’d seen the crystal before when Hunk had brought it in, and had seen how carefully Hunk cared for it. The crystal was obviously something very precious to him. Hunk was going to be so happy to hear that his friend was returning for a while. “Do you know how long she’ll be here for?”

“A month, at most,” Allura said. “Their home is several hours away from here, but whenever her parents are doing work close by, they always enrol her at Altea. They’re not usually in this town for more than four weeks, though.”

It seemed like such a short time. Shiro hated thinking that the child was constantly being uprooted, but Shay wasn’t his child to raise, and as long as she was growing healthily, that was all that mattered. They’d have to do something special for Shay when she had to leave, though.

As the morning progressed and the children started to arrive, Shiro prepared the paperwork for Shay’s enrolment at the kindergarten. It was easy, and mostly done already, now only requiring a few signatures. He was sort of excited to meet one of Hunk’s friends too, even more so that it was because it was Hunk’s friend. Anyone who managed to gain the favour of such a happy kid must be someone special themselves.

Shay was one of the last children to arrive for the day. She was taller than Hunk, and Lance too, but she had a softness to her face and bright, perceptive eyes. When she spoke, her voice was soft and sweet. “It’s nice to meet you,” she said, as she tentatively offered Shiro her hand. “My name is Shay.”

He wondered how many times she’d said those words in her life, but they came out sweetly, and weren’t forced. Gently, he took her hand in his, and shook it. He hoped his prosthetic fingers weren’t too cold on her skin. “It’s nice to meet you too, Shay,” he said, smiling. “My name is Shiro.”

She smiled up at him too, looking oddly relieved. “Is Hunk here yet, Mr Shiro?”

“Yes he is,” Shiro chuckled. “Shall we go find him, then?”

She nodded, and uncaringly reached for his prosthetic hand to hold. He gave Allura a glance over his shoulder, and she nodded at him – she would take care of the paperwork with Shay’s parents.

Hunk and the other children were sitting in the recreation room, playing with toys from the rewards trunk while they waited for the day to start. He led in Shay by the hand, and didn’t need to even call for Hunk before Hunk noticed her at the doorway.

The way his eyes lit up with excitement was adorable. “Shay!” Hunk cried, as he clambered up onto his feet. “You’re back!”

Shay laughed, and eagerly returned Hunk’s hug. Pidge, Keith and Lance came to greet her too, and satisfied that they would be fine, Shiro let them be. It was nice to see them all reunited. He hoped that Shay would enjoy her stay at Altea Kindergarten.

Chapter Text

Shiro had always been an early riser. It was something he learned to appreciate during his time in the Garrison, where rising early and waking swiftly were things strictly expected of the cadets. His body had become used to not sleeping in, and even now, years later, that was no different.

However, waking up extra early wasn’t something he really appreciated.

Panther was a quiet cat. Sometimes he didn’t sleep indoors at night, and he never really meowed or made noise. Technically, he still wasn’t their cat, but he was their cat.

On the other hand, Balmera turned out to be… nosy. Not particularly noisy, but very nosy. Allura had a habit of mostly shutting their bedroom at night, and Shiro didn’t mind, but Balmera did. He usually slept at the beginning of the night, but always woke up during the early morning, and was never pleased to find their door shut. Somewhere along the way, he’d realised that he could slip through the gap in the door to bother them.

His meowing for food always woke Shiro up far too early. He’d jump onto the bed and walk all over them before finding deciding to sit with his tail flopped over Shiro’s face until Shiro woke up. And sure, he gave up and let them be after Shiro got up to carry him from the room and shut the door properly, but that still meant that he had to actually wake up, which was never any good.

Allura could always tell when Balmera had woken him in the morning. She’d glance at him, and laugh, and always made his morning coffee a bit stronger.

“We have a big day planned, I don’t want to be tired,” he complained, as he took his mug from her. Coran had bought a bunch of musical instruments from a garage sale, or something of the like, and they were going to give them to the kids to play with today. Shiro thought it was a great way to welcome Shay back properly, and he just knew the kids were going to love it.

“Don’t worry too much, you’ll perk up as soon as the kids start bashing around on the instruments,” Allura said teasingly, as she came up behind him to press her cold hands against his forehead. “We’ll close the door properly from now on.”

He smiled a little, and leaned back against her. Even if he woke up miserable, a single reassurance from Allura was enough to sooth all his worries.

Chapter Text

As tired as Shiro was (he blamed the damn cat), he did perk up the moment the kids started playing with the instruments, like Allura had said he would.

Coran had the box of instruments sitting at the front of the room with him. The kids were on the floor, sitting in a circle so that everyone could see what instrument Coran was showing them. Shiro and Allura were standing to the side, content to watch. This had been Coran’s idea, after all.

For the most part, Coran was pretty knowledge about the instruments. Things like the guitar, the tambourines and the maracas were easy to explain and fun to pass around. There were handheld cymbals and bell sticks too, and even a little coloured glockenspiel that the kids couldn’t manage to pronounce.

Some of the other instruments, however… utterly stumped him.

Like the triangle, for example. Coran lifted it out of the box, and gave it a puzzled look as he held it up. “And here we have…”

“It’s a triangle,” Pidge said.

“Yes, I can see that, Master Pidge,” Coran said. He gave Shiro a side-eyed glance.

“It’s a triangle,” Shiro said as he tried not to laugh too much. “That’s its name. There should be a beater for you to hit it with somewhere in the box.”

“Oh.” Coran glanced down at the triangle, then at the box, before producing a metal beater tied with the same ribbon the triangle was. The triangle chimed with a metallic tang when he hit it gently. “Oh, what a simple instrument!”

The kids laughed. Shiro and Allura did, too. Coran seemed a little embarrassed, but the grin on his face was infectious.

The only real struggle he had was with the triangle. It seemed fitting that the most well-known instrument to children was the one that Coran, the man with facts on everything, knew absolutely nothing about. At least he knew now, Shiro supposed.

Once the instruments had been explained, the kids were free to play with them. There was enough to go around, and the kids were good at sharing.

Pidge and Hunk used the small drum set first. Pidge was rather interested in the cymbals and the sounds they made, even if the ringing did begin to hurt his ears after a while. Hunk seemed to enjoy playing the drums, too – he could get a good rhythm going after a bit, though he struggled to maintain it for long.

Keith and Lance were more interested in the guitar. Well, Keith was. Lance was just interested in whatever Keith was interested in. Neither seemed like they knew how to play it, but Shiro did, so he wandered over to them.

“You have to hold it like this,” he said, as he sat down beside them and gently took the guitar from Keith. The instrument was still in pretty good condition, but it would be too big for the kids to hold properly. “Then, you put your fingers across these strings to make a note, and strum the strings over the hole in the surface.”

Keith’s eyes widened as the guitar made a noise. “Shiro, do that again!” He demanded, eyes bright.

Shiro laughed, but complied. He used to play guitar all the time, but it was harder with his prosthetic hand, and it wasn’t a favourite hobby of his, so he’d let it go. He was relieved to see that not all of his old skills had faded – there was just enough to impress his kids.

“I want to try!” Keith decided. Shiro handed him the guitar back, and spent a moment positioning Keith’s little fingers, before letting him play.

Oddly enough, Keith was good at the guitar. Really good. He could remember where to put his fingers for each of the notes Shiro showed him, and after a while, he got the hang of moving his fingers and strumming at the same time. While it wasn’t perfect, it was still pretty damn good. Shiro would have to remember to tell his parents about it later.

Lance was not good at the guitar at all. He didn’t seem particularly interested in it, which was odd, because Keith was certainly intrigued. Shiro half expected him to make a competition out of it, but he seemed just as impressed with Keith’s talent. While Shiro didn’t want to admit it, it seemed like Lance wasn’t all that musically inclined. He just wasn’t too interested in the instruments, over than for short-term entertainment purposes.

However, when Coran put on some music and the kids were encouraged to play whatever instrument they wanted, Lance decided to sing. He probably didn’t put much thought into it, and sung the first song that came to mind, but he was good at it. Shiro did a double-take when he heard Lance’s pretty voice, and could only watch, dumbfounded, as Keith played his guitar and Lance sung.

He’d lifted his phone to record it all before he’d even realised what he was doing.

“I didn’t know you could play the guitar,” Allura said, after Shiro had put his phone down. “I saw you teaching Keith. Took a lot of photos, too.”

Shiro gave her a little smile. “I used to in high school, but I don’t really play much anymore. I’m not too good at it.”

“You seemed perfectly fine at it when I watched,” she said, as she gave him a cheeky look. “You should play for me sometime.”

He raised his brows, surprised by her request. He wasn’t sure if he could remember any songs worth playing for her.

“What? It’s attractive,” she grinned.

Oh. He flushed, and looked away, which made her laugh. God, he loved this girl so much, even if she did surprise him sometimes. All in all, he thought they’d had a very successful day.

Until Coran started to play the didgeridoo.

 

At the end of the day, it was Shiro and Allura’s job to pack away all of the instruments. They did so in a comfortable silence, until Allura lifted the triangle, and gave it a little ting.

“I can’t believe Coran didn’t know what this was,” she chuckled, as she set it away again.

Shiro laughed too. It was a story they’d tease Coran about for years to come, he thought.

“I still want you to play the guitar for me, you know,” she said. “Every day I still learn new things about you. How many more surprisingly talents are you hiding from me?”

He wouldn’t exactly call it a talent, but her teasing made him feel good. He didn’t even think about it before he leaned over to give her a little kiss, not until he suddenly heard a surprised noise come from behind them.

“Shiro kissed Allura!” Lance gaped, as he grabbed onto the cuff of Keith’s jacket arm, tugging insistently. “Wow!”

Shiro turned horribly red, and groaned. He’d never been more embarrassed in all of his life.

Chapter Text

Keith arrived at the kindergarten upset again. He had a pout on his face, and stubbornly refused to say goodbye to his mother, even when she reluctantly left him for the day. Only then did he completely deflate, and become quite tearful.

“Buddy, what’s wrong?” Shiro asked, as he lifted Keith up into his arms. “You didn’t want to say goodbye to your Mother?”

Keith frowned harder, and shook his head. He still didn’t say anything.

It worried Shiro. Keith didn’t usually bottle things up like this, not unless it really bothered him or he was ashamed of it. Come to think of it, Keith had been like this a little while ago. Shiro had hoped that the problem had worked itself out on its own, but it seemed like it hadn’t. Maybe he should be a little more forceful with his questions.

“Want to talk about it?” He asked.

Again, Keith shook his head. “It’s nothing,” he mumbled.

Shiro resisted the urge to sigh. “I can’t fix the problem if you don’t give me a little direction,” he said gently. “You know you can trust me with anything that’s troubling you, right? I won’t laugh, I promise.”

Keith’s eyes watered, and he looked away. “I know that,” he mumbled. “I just don’t wanna talk.”

There was something in his wobbly voice that made Shiro relent. “Alright. But I want you to come to me if you’re ever in real trouble, alright? Seeing you upset makes me sad.”

“Okay,” Keith said quietly. He hesitated for a moment, before wrapping his arms around Shiro’s neck to give him a quick hug. For now, it was more than enough for Shiro, so he returned the embrace and gently set Keith down again.

He was sure to keep a close eye on Keith after that. It seemed like Keith really wasn’t up for playing, and instead he only stuck by Lance silently, never straying too far or speaking too much. It was worrying behaviour, and didn’t seem to lessen the more the day went on. Shiro was tempted to speak to Allura and Coran about it, or perhaps Keith’s parents, until something stopped him.

Of course Lance would notice when Keith didn’t jump at the chance to bicker with him. In fact, Shiro was pretty sure Lance noticed straight away – the startled way he suddenly stopped speaking was obvious. He didn’t, however, say anything to Keith, and continued chatting away as if he’d never stopped.

After lunch, when Shiro was busy cleaning away the plates, the Lance and Keith disappeared. Shiro was surprised to find them away from Hunk of Pidge, but the two were seated by themselves in the recreation room. Most of the other children were playing outside; that’s where Shiro had expected him to be.

As he was about to enter the room after them, he heard Lance talking.

“But why are you sad?” Lance asked.

“I just am,” Keith answered. He sounded irritated, but he didn’t get up to leave. Maybe if Shiro couldn’t get Keith to talk, Lance could, so he didn’t go in to bother them.

“But why?” Lance insisted.

A frustrated noise left Keith’s lips, but he still didn’t leave. “Are… are your parents the same?” Keith finally asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Are they both from the same place?” Keith asked.

“Well, yeah, I think so,” Lance said. “My Dad is from this place called Cuba. I think my Mamá was born there too.”

Keith’s frown deepened. He looked close to tears again.

“Is that why you’re upset?” Lance asked. “Where are your parents from?”

“My Mother is from Korea,” Keith mumbled. “But my Father is from somewhere else.”

“Oh.” Lance paused for a moment. “Is that a bad thing?”

“Of course it is!” Keith snapped. “They’re not the same!”

“But why is that a bad thing?” Lance asked. “Doesn’t that just make you more cool?”

“No,” Keith answered, upset. “If your Mother and your Father are both from Cuba, then you are too, right? But if my parents are different, then what am I?”

Shiro’s heart ached. So that was what it was. Shiro had never considered that having biracial parents might be upsetting to Keith, now that he was becoming old enough to recognise it for what it was. He felt guilty realising he should have noticed earlier – his own parents were biracial, and while it had never bothered him much when he was a kid, Keith was clearly different.

Maybe if Keith knew that biracial parents were much more common than he thought, then he wouldn’t feel so lost with himself.

“I think you’re just being stupid,” Lance said.

Shiro would have to correct that language later.

“It’s like, you have two things to call yourself,” Lance continued, despite Keith’s hurt look. “You could probably choose either one to be. Or both. Isn’t both better? Two is so much better than one, right?”

Keith’s eyes widened. “You really think that?” He asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

“Yeah, totally!” Lance grinned, and threw his arm around Keith’s shoulders to pull him close. “I’m always right, aren’t I? Plus, you could totally tell Shiro about this. He’d tell you the same thing I did! He’s super smart.”

Shiro chuckled to himself. He certainly would say something along the same lines as Lance. There was absolutely nothing for Keith to be worried about, after all.

“Anyway, I know something that will make you feel better,” Lance said, as his grin widened. “Close your eyes!”

Obligingly, Keith did.

And then, in one swift, easy movement, Lance pressed a sweet kiss to Keith’s cheek. “There!” He said, noticeably more red as Keith’s eyes flew wide open. “Shiro always does that to make Allura smile, right? And now you are too!”

Keith flushed, but he certainly was smiling.

And for some unfathomable reason, Shiro was too.

Chapter Text

“What about this one?”

“Don’t you think it’s a little… big?”

“Is it?”

“Well, there’s only two of us at home.”

“Oh,” Shiro said, “that’s a good point.”

Allura laughed quietly, and ushered him on. She had a brochure she’d picked up from the front of the store in hand. “Don’t worry, we’re bound to find something eventually. This place is huge.”

It was. Shiro had never seen a furniture store this big – Coran hadn’t been lying when he had told them it was likely the largest one they’d ever go to. He’d recommended it to them because it was where all the furniture for the kindergarten had been originally from, and everything at Altea was very high quality.

They’d decided to refurbish Allura’s living room, now that two people were living in the house. Allura said that she had the perfect excuse to change out the lounge room set now that he was living with her, and Shiro wasn’t going to argue. He’d never been too concerned with interior decoration, and he’d never been particularly good at choosing it either, so he was happy to go with whatever she wanted.

So far, they must have seen at least two dozen dining table sets, but none seemed to fit their living room. Allura’s home wasn’t small, but it still wasn’t the size of a typical house, and neither one of them were too keen on a crowded living space.

“I just want it to be perfect,” Allura finally said, as she began to look discouraged. “What if we don’t find anything here?”

“Then we’ll just look elsewhere,” Shiro said. He was unsure why Allura was getting upset, and was starting to feel a little lost himself. “Don’t worry too much Allura, there’s no rush…”

She let out a long sigh, and glanced away. “I know, I just… It still feels so much like my home, and I want it to be ours, instead.”

He’d never thought about it like that. In fact, he didn’t feel that way at all. “I feel at home where we live,” he told her, as he took her hands in his. “Anything you pick is going to be perfect, I have no doubt of that.”

Allura have him a timid look. “You really think that?”

“Of course.” He smiled, relieved that the worried furrow in her brow had smoothed out, and unable to help himself, he pressed a small kiss to her lips. “Now stop worrying about me, and pick out a dining table, alright? We still have to look at lounges too… can we get one with an L-shape? So we can lay down?”

She laughed. “If that’s what you want.”

He laughed too.

Chapter Text

One of the parents donated a few new toys to the kindergarten. Apparently it was something that happened every so often, especially from parents whose kids had previously been students at Altea. The kids always enjoyed getting new toys, even if the novelty of them wore off after a few days. As it was, the kids were currently enjoying all the new things they had to play with.

Shiro sort of wished his kids had gone for the toy phone or the building blocks. Instead they’d chosen the skipping ropes (the hard kind, made of glittery plastic that hurt a lot when one happened to get hit with it). And while he did appreciate their activeness and their willingness to play outside, he hadn’t exactly expected to get roped into it with them (no pun intended).

“Shiro, you have to do it faster!” Lance complained for what felt like the tenth time as Keith fumbled in the loop they were creating.

“Sorry, sorry,” Shiro said, trying to repress another long sigh. If he spun the rope any faster he was sure he’d send one of the kids flying. How could they want it to move faster than it already was? It was unhuman. They’d been going at it for twenty minutes now too, and how they had so much energy still baffled him.

As he started to swing the rope again, Keith, Pidge and Hunk took turns jumping in. Like usual, they’d somehow made the simple game into a competition – they had to jump in the rope and touch the ground before jumping out again without making the rope stop.

So far, Pidge was doing the best. He was small enough and agile enough to get under the rope with ease, and never really stumbled, much to the chagrin of his friends. Hunk and Keith were fairing about the same – they could get into the rope just fine, but touching the ground and getting back out seemed to give them a bit of coordination trouble.

Eventually, Pidge was declared the winner, and he switched places with Lance. Spinning the glittery rope with Pidge was much easier than spinning it with Lance. Unlike his friend, Pidge didn’t become distracted by the game, and he moved his arm very steadily. It gave Lance a chance to show off his skills, too – he was surprisingly better than both Hunk and Keith, which only seemed to fire them up more.

Honestly, Shiro was glad they were enjoying themselves. He could still supervise the kids playing in the undercover area, like he was meant to, without disappointing his little group. Besides, it was good to see the kids enjoying themselves outside while the weather was still nice. Soon summer would be gone and autumn would bring with it cold winds and rain, so he, Allura and Coran tried to let the kids go outside as much as they could.

Still, Shiro couldn’t help but wonder, as Pidge accidentally let go of the handle, when he’d be freed from the skipping rope and its hard whacks.

Chapter Text

Lance had lost his blue lion toy. He’d come up to Shiro earlier in the day, eyes watery and red, to beg for help in finding it. Seeing him so upset made Shiro’s heart ache.

He was looking for the toy when Allura found him, laid out flat on the floor with his head under a table. “I’m looking for the blue lion,” he said with an embarrassed sigh, when she snickered at him. A little self-consciously he stood, and dusted off his pants. “Lance lost it this morning. He’s really upset.”

“Oh, so that’s why he’s carrying around the red one,” Allura said, as her eyes widened in understanding.

Shiro nodded. Keith had let Lance borrow his red lion until they found the blue one. It was a really sweet gesture, one he had been sure to praise Keith for. It seemed that Keith was just as worried about Lance’s tears as Shiro was. “Would you mind helping me look for it, Allura? I really don’t think I could stand to see Lance cry again.”

“Of course,” Allura said without hesitation. “Where does he last remember having it?”

Shiro would have never thought that his little gift to the kids would become so important. Lance was really upset with himself because he’d lost it, and even if he had Keith’s to play with, it wasn’t the same. Somehow, the lions had come to mean a lot to them.

Maybe because it gave them all one thing they unanimously had in common. Despite their differences, they all had a lion. Maybe it made them feel like they were a part of something.

But Shiro couldn’t be certain. All he knew for sure was that Lance valued his lion a lot, and Shiro had to find it. He’d had it when he arrived at the kindergarten that morning, like Shiro’s group always did, so it must be around here somewhere. He’d find it eventually, that he was sure of.

For a moment, he glanced over his shoulder, over to where Lance and the other kids were sitting on the beanbags. Lance had his knees drawn up to his chest, and a miserable look on his face. He was still hugging the red lion to his chest.

More determined than ever, Shiro turned back to the main room. He’d find that lion.

Chapter Text

It was almost Valentine’s Day. Shiro loathed to admit it, but he had sort of forgotten about the romantic holiday until he’d seen the brightly coloured variety of decorations and gifts set up in storefronts. He’d never really been particularly interested in celebrating it, after all, but suddenly the idea of spoiling Allura with Valentine’s celebrations was incredibly appealing.

The only problem was that he didn’t exactly know what to do for her. Going out to dinner seemed like the obvious answer, but he thought that might be too cliché, and it was likely that all their local restaurants were booked out by now. Besides, he wanted to do something really special for Allura. Something she’d really enjoy.

But what could he do?

Food seemed like a must. He knew what her favourites were, and could most certainly cook her a delicious dinner. It was normal to have things like candles and nice wine at those sort of dinners, right? He was sure he could manage with that. She’d like that sort of romantic atmosphere, wouldn’t she?

He thought she might, but even that sort of surprise still felt too cliché. He really wanted something special, something he could impress her with. Something that would really made her feel as important as she was to him. When no spectacular idea came to him, he decided to go to someone who knew Allura incredibly well for help.

Coran.

In hindsight, perhaps it wasn’t the best idea. Coran had some very outdated ideas of romance, and some very obscure ones too. Shiro didn’t really want to “woo” Allura in the odd ways Coran had suggested, but it seemed that Coran expected as much.

“Don’t worry, young Shiro,” he said, when he noticed Shiro’s concerned look. “She’ll love anything you do for her.”

Shiro rubbed the back of his neck, and tried not to sigh. He’d gotten a few more ideas now that he’d been thinking about it for a while, but he still wanted something… special. While he was sure Allura would appreciate any effort he put into it (well, he hoped so, anyway) he still wanted her to see just how much he loved her. What could possibly convey those feelings of his, though?

Well, he started with food. He had Coran make an excuse for him so that he could sneak out and buy a box of her favourite cupcakes from her favourite bakery, as well as a box of Valentine’s Day themed ones. He hid them in the bottom of the fridge at their home, underneath light vegetables and empty boxes of things Allura didn’t eat, so that she wouldn’t accidentally find them.

When he went out to grab a few extra ingredients for dinner that night, he bought a card, and a cute little teddy bear holding a heart, too. They were ridiculously cheesy, but he thought they still had impact. If nothing, they made him smile. He stashed them both in the back of his car where he knew Allura would never look.

Even with those little things sorted, he still couldn’t decide on what to buy her for Valentine’s Day – what to get her as a proper present. He considered jewellery, but she already had a bracelet from him. He thought about maybe printing off photographs of them, or making something, but he wasn’t very good at that sort of thing.

He was sure he’d think of something eventually; something that was good enough for her. She deserved the very best that he could give her, after all.

There was one more person he could ask…

Chapter Text

“She’ll likely love anything you get her,” Alfor remarked.

“Coran said the same thing to me yesterday,” Shiro told him, as he rubbed the back of his neck, “but I really want to get her something special.”

Alfor hummed thoughtfully. “Well, I’m not exactly opposed to you spoiling my daughter,” he said with a small laugh. “Do you have any idea about what you want to give her?”

Shiro bit his lip. He’d been thinking about it for ages, turning over all his ideas in his mind a dozen times, but none seemed fitting for her. Coran hadn’t been much help, and he didn’t really have anyone else to ask, so turning to Alfor was the only thing he could think of to do. “Not really,” he finally admitted. “Not anything special enough, anyway.”

He couldn’t help but think that Allura deserved the entire world. He just wanted to make her happy.

“I might have an idea,” Alfor finally said, “if you can make the time to drive out to my office.”

It was only an hour away – Alfor was in the city for the time being; Allura had mentioned it to him a few days ago – so he thought he could manage. “What do you have in mind?”

“Well, Allura’s mother and I didn’t raise Allura in this country,” Alfor said. “Has she told you about that?”

“No,” Shiro said, surprised. “I didn’t know that.”

“Ah, well I believe she’d hardly remember it herself,” Alfor continued. “While she was born here, we did raise her in her mother’s home country until she was six, before moving back. If nothing else, I know she remembers the flowers from our old garden. They were her mother’s favourite.”

“Flowers?”

“They’re called Mountain Juniberries,” Alfor said. “They only grow in Altea.”

“Altea?”

“Ah, yes. You know, it was Allura’s mother that owned the kindergarten. It was her idea, from start to finish. She named it after her home, though I suppose you wouldn’t have heard of Altea before coming to work there. It’s a rather small place.”

He hadn’t heard of it. Come to think of it, he’d never really asked about the history of the kindergarten. If Allura didn’t mind talking about it, then perhaps he could ask her. He was certainly very curious.

“Mountain Juniberries don’t sound like something typically found in flower shops,” Shiro said, a little dismayed. If Altea was as small and obscure a place as it seemed, then its exclusive flora must have been the same. If he could find those flowers, or even their seeds, then they’d be the perfect gift for Allura.

“Yes, that’s true,” Alfor said. “They’re not sold in this country, and shipping in bouquets of them is notoriously difficult, and likely expensive.”

Shiro winced, and was suddenly glad this was a phone call and not a face-to-face conversation.

“But,” Alfor said, “I do have some seeds from when Allura’s mother was alive. If you would like, you may give them to her.”

Shiro’s eyes widened. If they were an heirloom from her mother, wouldn’t Alfor want to give them to Allura himself? He asked as much.

“Yes, I had been planning on giving them to her myself, but the right time never emerged,” Alfor said. “I believe she’d find them more heartfelt coming from you.”

Hearing that from Alfor set Shiro’s nervous heart at ease. He knew how important Alfor was to Allura, and how close they were. If Alfor was confident in him, in his willingness to make Allura happy, then he felt like he didn’t have much to worry about. And if the Mountain Juniberries would make Allura happy, then he was more than ready to make the drive for them.

“What time do you want me to come by?”

Chapter Text

The Mountain Juniberries had seeds that were unexpectedly small. They were shaped like sunflower seeds, but were a rich maroon colour, and were oddly smooth. They had been kept in a little decorative tin, one Shiro was more than happy to keep them in.

On Valentine’s Day, Shiro woke Allura with the card and the teddy he’d had stashed in his car. He quietly made them breakfast beforehand, so that when they eventually emerged from the bedroom, she was surprised with it. “Shiro, this is lovely,” she said, her face flushed. She was holding the bear to her chest, but had left the card propped open on her bedside table, so that she would be able to see it from bed.

Shiro smiled, pleased that Allura seemed happy.

“You really didn’t have to do all of this for me,” she said. “I feel so spoiled.”

“I wanted to,” Shiro said. Allura’s look of flushed excitement was more than worth all his nervousness. If only she knew what else he had for her.

As Valentine’s Day fell on a weekday, they both had to attend work. It wasn’t much of a problem, since the kids were always cheerful. As a gift from the adults, they were each given chocolate. Naturally, they were very excited over their little treats, and most of the children ate their chocolate straight away.

At the end of the day, Shiro snuck off early. Coran would drive Allura home because Shiro took their car, but it gave him a chance to get everything he needed. He’d asked ahead at the florist for a pretty bouquet full of orchids and other white flowers. He picked it up on the way, and set it in a pretty vase on the table while he started to cook dinner.

He made Allura’s favourite food, and set the table. Along with the flowers, he lit candles that he took from Allura’s not-so-secret stash. Everything had to be perfect, and only when he was finally finished did he feel completely satisfied. He was sure Allura would love this.

When she arrived home, it was with a puzzled question. “Shiro?”

“I’m in the kitchen,” he said. He tried not to sound nervous as he hovered by the table, waiting for her to come to him.

“You left early,” she said. “I didn’t notice you’d gone until Coran told me. Are you feeling alright?”

“Mmm.”

When Allura entered the kitchen, her eyes widened. “Shiro?”

Shiro smiled, his heart racing. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

A truly beautiful smile came across Allura’s face. She set her bag down by the doorway and came over to press herself into his arms. He placed a kiss on her forehead, and held her tightly, trying to hold back his smiles. She seemed happy, and that was all he wanted.

She liked the dinner. They ate at a rather leisurely pace, and chatted about anything that crossed their minds. Shiro was content to watch Allura enjoy herself, though he was rather glad to receive praise for his efforts. “I can’t believe you did all of this without me knowing,” she told him.

“I had some help,” he said.

Allura laughed. “Oh, that’s right. I did get you something too.”

He gave her a curious look, but accepted the box she withdrew from her bag. When he opened it, he found a handsome watch sitting inside. Its design was simple and unobtrusive, but there was a sort of elegance to it that he definitely liked. “It’s lovely,” he said. “Thank you.”

“I’m glad you like it,” she grinned. “It’s the least I can give you after how much you’ve spoiled me today.”

“Actually, I do have something else for you,” Shiro said. “Your father helped me find them.”

Now it was Allura’s turn to give him a puzzled look.

He’d left the little tin of seeds hidden on the benchtop, so he went to get them to give to her. “Here,” he said, as he passed the seeds into her hands. He leaned against the dining table to watch her open them.

She didn’t recognise the tin, but something about it seemed to stir something in her. She hesitated for a moment before opening it, and when she did, her expression suddenly changed. Her lips parted, just a little, and her eyebrows drew up. With a shaking hand, she ran her fingertips through the seeds, listening to them clatter in the tin. Her eyes grew teary.

“These are Mountain Juniberries,” she said, as she looked up at him.

“They are,” he agreed. He reached out a hand to touch her cheek, and rubbed his thumb under her eye. “I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

She laughed a little, and pressed a hand against her face. After a moment, she sucked in a deep breath, and wiped away her tears. “I haven’t seen any of these in years. Thank you for them, Shiro. These mean so much to me.”

“I know,” he said. When she pressed into his arms for a second time that night, he held her tighter, and kissed her warmly. “You mean so much to me,” he whispered into her hair. “I just want to make you happy.”

She smiled, and turned her face into his chest. “You always do.”

Chapter Text

Allura was quite distracted at work the next day. She spent the better part of the morning working with the kids and the little seeds they’d planted all those months ago, during Allura’s special lesson. It gave Coran and Shiro time to catch up on cleaning and paperwork, though Allura couldn’t supervise the entire class by herself for too long.

Aside from helping the kids document the growth of their seeds, she was distracted with her own. She’d decided to grow the Mountain Juniberries at work so that she was able to watch over them closely. She’d bought a decorative pot and new soil on the weekend, so that come Monday, she was able to plant them.

“What are those, Miss Allura?” Pidge asked, as he peered curiously over Allura’s arm.

Allura was sitting on her knees, the pot resting delicately in her lap. She was wearing cotton gardening gloves, and was busy patting the soil flat in the pot. Her tin of seeds was sitting open beside her. “They’re called Mountain Juniberries,” Allura said with a small smile. “They were a gift from Shiro.”

“I’ve never heard of them,” Pidge said, his interest piqued.

“They look kind of funny,” Lance said, as he peered closer. “What do they grow into?”

A small laugh escaped Allura. “It’s a secret,” she said, despite Lance’s immediate pout. “Isn’t it more fun to wait and see? It’ll be a surprise.”

Lance was too impatient to wait for that. He instead returned to Keith’s side so that they could play with their lions together (Shiro had found Lance’s lion eventually, and now Keith kept an extra sharp eye on it, so that it didn’t get lost again). Shiro watched them for a moment, just to make sure they were fine, before turning his eyes back to Allura. She still had Pidge and Hunk’s attention.

“Will they grow fast?” Hunk asked, as he glanced at the seeds.

“Not too fast,” Allura said. “They like to take their time, but the end result is worth the wait. I’m sure you’ll like them when they’re in bloom.”

“Oh, so they’re flowers?” Hunk eyes widened. “Flowers bloom, right? Are they pretty?”

“Very pretty.” After digging small holes with her fingertip, Allura pulled off her gloves and set them aside. “Would you like to help me plant some?”

The kids did, of course, and amused, Shiro watched them pick out three seeds as a team and carefully put them into the holes Allura had made. Once that was done, they covered the seeds with soil, and watered them. Allura seemed quite pleased with the results.

“These are going to grow into the biggest and most beautiful flowers,” she declared. “I’m absolutely sure of it.”

The children laughed at her bold declaration. Shiro laughed quietly, too. Allura looked so happy that he felt his heart swell. He still couldn’t fathom how he had such a wonderful person to love with all his heart. He was ridiculously glad that his gift had been well-received, and couldn’t wait to see what her beloved flowers looked like. If he were being honest, he was just as impatient as Lance to see them.

But he would be patient. If anything, Allura’s happy smiles told him that the wait would most certainly be worth it.

Chapter Text

It was starting to become colder outside, now that summer was drawing to a close. While the days were still hot, at times a cold wind would being to blow through the Kindergarten, and it definitely signified the start of autumn. Of course, that meant that winter clothes were beginning to replace the shorts and sandals most people wore, including the children. It was their parents that insisted on the warm clothes, for the most part, but that was a habit Shiro found himself quickly picking up.

“Here, Lance,” Shiro said, as he tucked Lance’s beanie down over his ears. “It’s cold outside today, so be careful.”

“Okay, okay,” Lance said, as he impatiently waved Shiro’s hands away. “I want to go play with Keith now!”

“Hurry up, Lance!” Keith, already wearing a matching beanie of his own, called from across the yard. Lance darted away at Keith’s beckoning.

Shiro sighed, and put his hands on his hips. The kids could be so impatient sometimes. What would they do if they caught a cold? Surely their parents wouldn’t be very impressed.

“Shiro, you’re mothering them too much,” Allura said, amused, as she came to stand beside him. “Perhaps more than their actual mothers do.”

He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, and sighed. He knew Allura was right, but that didn’t stop him from worrying. He couldn’t help but think back to how dismal the kids had been when Hunk had last gotten sick, and how lonely they’d been without a member of their group, and he certainly didn’t want that to happen again. Warm clothes would help prevent unnecessary colds.

Out of the corner of his eye, he gave Allura a short onceover. She had worn a jacket today, but her hair was tied up, leaving her ears and neck exposed to the chilling breeze. “If you’re not careful, I’ll start mothering you, too,” he said, as he pressed the cold fingertips of his prosthetic hand against her exposed skin.

A shiver travelled down her spine, and she darted out of his reach with a flushed look. “I left my scarf inside,” she said petulantly. “I swear I wore it today.”

Shiro chuckled. Allura’s weak excuses were heart-warming, to say the least. He had seen her loop a scarf around her neck that morning, so he knew she’d worn it, but he was just teasing. The bright look in her eyes told him that she knew that, too.

“I know the kids will probably be fine,” Shiro admitted, “but I still worry. They’ll have to start wearing warmer clothes anyway, now that summer is almost over.”

“It’s still quite warm outside most days,” Allura pointed out. “The odd stray cold day does happen, but it’s not too much to be concerned over yet. Though I’m sure the kids secretly appreciate your mothering.”

He laughed quietly. Even if they didn’t, he would be sure to keep them as healthy as possible when playing outdoors. Working at the kindergarten made him feel incredibly responsible for them, and although he had expected that urge to eventually fade or lessen, it hadn’t.

Working with children was very different from working with planes.

Allura leaned up to give him a small kiss on the cheek. “Don’t worry, Shiro,” she said, as if she could tell what he was thinking, “everyone knows how carefully you treat your job, especially the children’s parents. I doubt a cold here or there is going to change that.”

He smiled, and leaned into her embrace. He supposed she was right, though that was nothing out of the ordinary. Honestly, what would he ever do without her gentle guidance?

Chapter Text

The next week, they took the kids out on a walk to the local lake. It was less than twenty minutes away by foot, and as most of the children lived in the surrounding suburbs, they were very familiar with it. There was a small, gated playground and an area where they could feed the ducks living at the lake, too.

Shiro thought it was a lovely idea to take the kids out. They’d been meaning to for a while, especially while Shay was with them. The only problem was that it happened to be quite cold outside the day they scheduled to go. The kids were bundled up in jackets and beanies, and Shiro hoped it was enough. They should warm up once they were clambering over the play equipment.

The walk to the lake was relatively peaceful. The kids were required to walk in two straight lines, each with a buddy. Allura walked at the beginning of the lines, Shiro in the middle, and Coran at the end. Unsurprisingly, Lance and Keith had buddied up, and they bickered pleasantly as they swung their hands between them. While Pidge would typically walk with Hunk, he knew Hunk didn’t want to leave Shay on her own, so it was Shiro’s hand Pidge held.

Shiro didn’t particularly mind. He liked walking with Pidge, and listening to Pidge explain all his latest inventions. If he happened to intentionally make sure he walked on the side closest to the road, then no one pointed it out.

The park wasn’t too busy; there were joggers and a few bike riders, as well as parents pushing prams. For the most part, they had the playground and surrounding picnic area by the lake to themselves. Coran set up picnic blankets and baskets full of food and juice they’d brought from the kindergarten while Shiro and Allura gave the kids a rundown of the rules.

Allura would watch over the kids at the picnic area while Shiro and Coran watched over those who decided to play on the play equipment, where most of the kids decided to go. Shay, Hunk and Pidge were on the equipment, taking turns to push each other on the swings. Keith and Lance were kicking around a soccer ball by the water.

The day progressed fairly well, despite the cold breezes. The kids enjoyed playing out in the open, and enjoyed the food Coran made, though that was something always favourable to them. It was a nice day.

Until Shiro heard a sudden scream.

He whipped around at the sound of Lance’s voice, and saw a biker skid out on the wet pavement. Lance was beside the water, holding the soccer ball – it must have fallen in, and when he’d stood from crouching by the lake, the biker hadn’t seen him.

Lance fell back into the water with a horrifying splash.

“Lance!” Shiro shouted at the same time Allura did, his heart gripped with panic. He’d run to the edge of the lake before he’d realised what he was doing, and grabbed Allura by the shoulder as she lurched forwards. “Allura, don’t go into the water!”

If the air was cold, then so was the water. It wasn’t deep, not deep enough for Lance to be unable to stand, but even an inch of water could drown someone. He’d stepped over the brick ledge of the footpath and into the lake without thinking, and scooped up Lance’s spluttering form high out of the water. Lance was absolutely drenched, his clothes heavy and dripping. Shiro could feel that he was shivering.

The biker was apologising profusely to Allura, but Shiro could hardly hear him. He set Lance down on the ground, and ripped off Lance’s jacket. “Are you alright?” He demanded, as he anxiously wrung water out of Lance’s shirt and the hem of his shorts. “Did you get scraped anywhere, Lance?”

Teeth chattering, Lance shook his head.

Shiro pulled off his own jacket and draped it around Lance’s shoulders. “Come on, let’s go get you dried off,” he said, as he ushered Lance away from the water’s edge. There would be a spare picnic blanket around somewhere, and Shiro had his scarf in his bag, which he could put around Lance’s neck-

But Keith beat him to it. Shiro hadn’t even noticed Keith rushing over, a panicked look on his face. He’d worn a red scarf that day, and forced it over Lance’s head without a word. He didn’t leave Lance’s side as Shiro had him sit down on the grass with a blanket over his shoulders, despite Lance’s protests.

There was no way Lance wasn’t going to get sick from this.

Chapter Text

Lance was most certainly getting sick. His parents had been upset when they’d been informed about what happened at the park, though they were reasonable people, and they knew it was an accident. They were more concerned about Lance’s health, because despite Lance’s attitude returning to normal, there was a very noticeable paleness to his skin.

Still, because he had been acting normally and he showed no signs of developing a fever or a cough, he’d come back to the kindergarten the next day. His parents were worried, but they didn’t want to impede on Lance’s education or socialisation, which was something Shiro could understand. It would be hard for one of them to slip away from work too, if Lance wasn’t sick enough to require a doctor’s certificate.

He promised to watch over Lance closely, which is what he most certainly did.

For most of the morning, Lance seemed alright. He was quieter than usual, but Shiro expected no less. He didn’t run around as much as he usually did, either. It was only when Lance played with his lunch instead of eating it that Shiro started to get a little suspicious. Lance and Keith usually raced to see who would finish first.

“Lance, are you not hungry, buddy?” Shiro asked, as he crouched down beside Lance at the dining table.

Lance jumped, and gave Shiro a guilty, pale look. He was definitely starting to look sick.

“It’s fine,” Keith butted in, as he dragged Lance’s plate closer to him. “I’ll eat it instead.”

Shiro raised his brows, surprised. Were the kids worried about food? It was true that the children were encouraged to eat all of their food, and that leaving too much on the plate was something they shouldn’t do, but Shiro hadn’t thought that would have worried Lance.

Because of Keith’s insistence, he backed off. He wondered if Keith was trying to keep Lance from going home. It wasn’t such a farfetched thought, not with those two.

But Lance didn’t get better. Not even with Keith’s insistence that he stay seated in the beanbags, or with all the glasses of water Keith brought to him, or even when he was rugged up extra warm in Keith’s jacket.

When Keith was distracted, Lance slipped away, and came to find Shiro. He was so silent that Shiro didn’t notice him until Lance was tugging at the end of Shiro’s shirt, his own hands swamped in the cuffed sleeves of Keith’s red jacket. “Mr Shiro?” Lance murmured, staring up at Shiro with big, tired eyes. “I don’t feel well.”

Shiro sighed, and bent down to gently lift Lance up into his arms. “I know, buddy. Where does it hurt?”

“My tummy,” Lance mumbled, as he put his arms around Shiro’s neck. His forehead was hot when he pressed it against Shiro’s skin. “And my head.”

Shiro hummed, and comfortingly ran his hand down Lance’s back. He could feel Lance shivering, tiny tremors that ran through him every few moments. “Want me to call your Ma?”

Lance nodded.

“Alright.” Shiro carried Lance into the office, and half shut the door behind him to keep out the noise. Lance hardly stirred as Shiro called his mother to inform her that Lance was sick. She would be at the kindergarten to pick him up in less than an hour, but that meant Lance still had to wait.

For the meantime, Shiro just gently rocked Lance from side to side and tried not to jostle him too much. He knew Lance would be alright, but for the moment he was uncomfortable and hot. He hoped that his comfort fixed that, even if it was only a little bit.

“Don’t worry Lance,” he said, as he rubbed Lance’s back again, “you’ll be just fine.”

Chapter Text

Predictably, Keith was miserable. Lance had stayed home sick with a fever, and while Keith was certainly old enough to understand why Lance was unable to come, that didn’t mean he had to like it. And like it he did not.

Somehow, Shiro was reminded of the time when he had first arrived at Altea Kindergarten. Back then, Lance and Keith had not been friends, at least not like how they were now. Their arguing had been earnest, and laced with words that had been very hurtful to each other. Shiro had a feeling it had been started by Lance. It was Lance’s notion that their relationship had been a “rivalry”, after all.

He’s pretty sure it started because Lance was jealous of Keith. He didn’t know them before he began working at the kindergarten, but with as much as he knew Lance, he’s sure that’s what it would have been. Keith’s stoic demeanour usually drew people to him, despite his general reluctance to socialise, and he was smart. Perhaps those were things that a person who thrived on social approval like Lance would become envious of.

But Keith hadn’t reciprocated those envious feelings of Lance’s. Perhaps Keith hadn’t even been aware of Lance until lance made a ruckus – that was something Shiro could clearly see happening. At times, that old habit of Keith’s seem to seep back through his normal attitude. Shiro could see it in the way Keith might suddenly go quiet, without anyone noticing, or the way his eyes often glazed over when a conversation went on for too long. And sure, those moments were becoming few and far between, but they were still there.

“He’ll be alright, Keith,” Shiro said, as he reassuringly rested his hand on the back of Keith’s head. “Don’t worry too much.”

The frown that Keith had been wearing all day only deepened. He didn’t say anything, though Shiro didn’t expect him to. He’d hardly spoken a word all day, and stubbornly refused to leave Shiro’s side. He’d even taken to holding onto Shiro’s leg so that Shiro couldn’t get far.

For now, Shiro indulged him. He’d always thought that the bond Lance and Keith had was deeper on Lance’s behalf, especially with how much Lance was starting to question gender preferences. Maybe he was wrong.

Shiro sighed. Thinking about it exhausted him. These two kids were certainly unlike any of the others he’d ever met, and they didn’t even seem to know it. No one did.

“How about we make Lance a get well soon card?” Shiro suggested.

Keith turned his head up to give Shiro a sceptical look, like he expected Shiro to take the chance to escape. When Shiro met his gaze and didn’t look away, Keith slowly nodded. “Okay.”

The craft tables were already set up, but Shiro took Keith to an empty one, knowing that not even the company of his other friends was something he wanted. Keith was slow as he pulled a piece of red cardstock towards himself. He hesitated, before reaching for a blue one, too. “Which colour?” He mumbled, as he glanced up at Shiro. “Lance likes blue, but…”

That was another thing Shiro didn’t think he’d ever understand. Their fascination with the colours and the way they used them to gift each other things was a mystery to him. “How about we cut the blue one a little smaller and glue it on the red one? That way the card will be red on the outside and blue on the inside.”

Keith’s eyes widened at the solution, and he nodded. He gave Shiro the card to cut, and a pair of paper scissors. Shiro was pretty relieved that Keith was letting him do something to help, even if it was just cutting straight lines.

For the most part, Keith did the card himself. He spent ages drawing a blue lion on the front with crayons, and wrote Lance’s name in blue above it. He left writing the message on the inside to Shiro, whose handwriting was neater, though he dictated exactly what he wanted it to say.

“He’ll come back tomorrow, right?” Keith asked quietly. He didn’t glance up from his card. He’d been working on the same part for the last half an hour, though Shiro didn’t say anything.

“He might,” Shiro said, “or he might not. It won’t take him too long to get better, you know Lance. He’s got too much energy to stay sick.”

That managed to crack a small smile from Keith. “I still want him to come back tomorrow, though.”

“Me too,” Shiro said. The kindergarten was too quiet without Lance around. “You know, you two weren’t always friends.”

“That was Lance’s fault,” Keith said, sounding oddly vehement. “He wanted to be rivals.”

“I know,” Shiro said gently. “But it’s different now, isn’t it? You and Lance are very close.”

Keith nodded, his eyes lowered again. He set his crayon down. “I don’t want Lance to forget me,” he said.

Shiro’s eyes widened. “Why would you think he would?”

Keith pursed his lips.

A strange, uneasy feeling swelled in Shiro’s stomach. “Keith,” Shiro started in a firmer voice, “why would you think Lance would forget you?”

“Because I’m not funny enough,” Keith said after a hesitant moment, “and I’m not cool enough. Everyone always talks to Lance and wants to play with Lance. But Lance is my friend, and I… I couldn’t protect him.”

“Is this about the lake, Keith?” Shiro asked, as he straightened. “Because Lance fell in?”

Keith shrunk into his shoulders.

Shiro let out a shaky sigh, and turned to face Keith. “Come here for a moment.”

Keith came over to him, and didn’t complain when Shiro lifted him up onto his knee.

“What happened at the lake wasn’t your fault,” Shiro said, his voice serious. “It’s not your job to watch out for Lance, or for anyone here. It’s mine. And sometimes accidents happen, like what happened at the lake. But no one got hurt, Keith. Lance has a cold, but he’ll get better, and he’ll be back here in no time, so I don’t want you worrying over it, okay?”

Keith hesitated.

“Okay?” Shiro said again. Only when Keith gave him a tentative nod did Shiro finally relax a little. He drew Keith closer, and rubbed his back again. He never knew that Keith thought of things like that. “Besides,” he said quietly, “you’re a wonderful friend, and Lance cares about you very much. There’s no way he’d ever forget you.”

Chapter Text

Lance came back the next day, significantly better. Of course he did, and yet Shiro still find himself feeling relieved. Maybe he was too attached to the kids.

Either way, Lance was back, and Keith was happy again, and everything seemed to settle back into normality. Keith gave Lance the card he’d made, which Lance was more than excited to receive. In turn it made Keith quite happy, and all in all, it was a good morning. Shiro was relieved.

That day, while Coran was busy supervising the kids at lunch, Allura called Shiro into the office. “We’re organising another excursion,” she said, as she showed Shiro a handful of brochures on her desk. “Have any ideas where we can go?”

There were a variety of places that offered educational excursions to classes like theirs – aquariums, wildlife parks, orchids, nature preserves. There were even groups that taught things like dance or athletics for a day where they could go. He could see why Allura was having trouble choosing a place.

“The aquarium seems nice,” Shiro said, as he flipped through the brochure. “Has Altea been there before?”

Allura shook her head. “No, most of these places are new to us,” she said. “They want to attract more school-aged facilities with the new educational programs they’ve developed. I think it’d be a good opportunity for the kids to learn something a little less standard, don’t you?”

He nodded in agreement. “What does Coran think?”

“Oh, he’s not fussed,” Allura said, as she waved a hand. “You know him, he’d go anywhere and have a fun time of it. I just hope he doesn’t dress like a pirate if we go to the aquarium, or something like that.”

Shiro laughed a little. “Sounds like that’s something he’s already done.”

The flat look Allura gave him only made him laugh again.

“Alright, where do you want to go?” He asked, as he set the brochure down. “I think I’d be fine going anywhere, as long as the kids enjoyed it.”

She hummed thoughtfully. “Well, I think I’m much the same in that respect, but…” She reached for the brochure he’d put down, and flipped through it. “I’ve never been to an aquarium before.”

Shiro smiled to himself. “How about we go there, then? They have guided tours and an interactive tank for the kids to see.”

Allura laughed, and closed the brochure. “That sounds good to me. Shall I make a consultation appointment?”

“Consultation appointment?”

“Because we haven’t been there before, they’ll let staff members from our facility take a tour before we bring the children. It’s to see if the program they’re offering is a good fit to our students.”

“Oh, I see,” Shiro said with a nod. “That makes a lot of sense. I didn’t know you did that.”

“Well, we haven’t organised a new excursion in a while,” Allura said, smiling. “Not since before you started working here, anyway.” She reached for the office phone, and glanced at the calendar on her desk. “When should we organise it for?”

“It’s your choice.”

A spark flittered through her eyes. “Well, I’ll see if we can go at the same time my father returns. That way he can cover for us for a day.”

“Us?”

Allura grinned, and leaned forwards to give him a small, teasing kiss. “It’ll be a perfect date.”

Chapter Text

Shiro woke Allura up early the day they were meant to go check out the aquarium and what it had to offer. They had to leave earlier than they usually would have for work, and Allura really wasn’t a morning person. He’d learned that she could be persuaded to leave the bed, however, provided that he bribed her with a morning kiss followed succinctly by a hot cup of tea. That usually did the trick.

They’d decided to drive to the aquarium, despite it being a bit of a long way to go. It would give them the chance to see how long it would take to get the kids there. Shiro would drive them there in the morning, and Allura would drive them home. It was the same thing they did when they were driving to work, for the most part.

He hadn’t been to the aquarium since he was a child. It was by the harbour in the city, and half of it acted as a preserve and research facility. Shiro had always been iffy about aquariums, knowing how some animals were treated badly, especially the larger mammals. This aquarium, however, received very little negative feedback, and did not keep large mammals in tanks. Rather, they offered viewing shows when pods of dolphins or whales swam through the bay, without ever disturbing the animals. The only larger sea creatures they had on display where the ones waiting to be released – it was mostly sharks held in large tanks in preparation for relocation, or something similar.

The tour guide that came to greet them seemed like a nice woman. She was probably around Allura’s age, if maybe a little younger. There was something about the way she looked at him that made him a little uncomfortable, though he didn’t say anything. Maybe he was just nervous in such a crowded place. He’d worn a black, long-sleeved shirt to hide his arm, but if someone looked too closely, they’d probably be able to see the joints.

“Here,” she said, as she handed Shiro a pamphlet. “This has all the information on our displays and educational programs! Isn’t it just great?”

Shiro forced a small smile and took the pamphlet. He thought that Allura should have been given one too, especially considering she was Altea’s owner, so he handed it to her before opening it himself. She took it from him with a raised-brow look he didn’t quite understand.

The tour was… odd, to say the least. The aquarium itself was fine, and the displays were marvellous. Shiro had no doubt that the kids would enjoy themselves if they were brought here. No, it was the tour guide who was a little strange.

It seemed like she was only interested in talking with Shiro, even though it was Allura asking all the important questions. If Shiro were being honest, he was only interested in listening to Allura and watching her marvel over the aquarium displays, so the questions directed at him were a bit distracting. Most of the time they were unnecessary, or questions that the coordinator (Allura) should answer.

“So how many are in your class?” The guide asked, as she looked up at Shiro expectedly.

“About thirty,” he said, somewhat hesitant. “There are three carers though, including Allura and I.”

“Must be hard looking after so many kids,” she said, as she placed a hand on Shiro’s arm – his prosthetic one. “The kids must just love you though.”

Uncomfortable, he drew his arm away, and tried not to make too much of an awkward face as he hid it behind his back. “It’s not too hard,” he said. “They’re really good kids.”

She gave him that smile again, the one she’d been giving him all day; a smile like she wasn’t smiling for anyone else. “How about I take you around the place again?” She asked. She’d somehow made her way between him and Allura, and when he glanced over her shoulder, he found Allura broodingly staring off at the fish tanks.

“Thank you for the offer, but we’re alright,” he said, as he slipped away from the guide’s grip. “I’m sure we can manage on our own-”

Allura’s hand was loose when he reached for her, but her fingers still gripped his tightly. He was enamoured by the weak smile she gave him, and felt himself flush a little. Even when she was nervous like she was, she was still the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen.

“Shall we go see the fish, Allura?” He asked.

She nodded. “They’re really beautiful, aren’t they?” She said with a sigh.

“They are,” he whispered.

A flustered smile broke over her face. “You’re looking at me, you know, not the fish.”

“I know.”

Shiro wasn’t oblivious. He’d dated before, and had been popular amongst his classmates before. He knew when someone was flirting with him, and could see when someone was trying to get his attention.

But he was unfamiliar with this specific kind of situation. He’d never had someone like Allura before, someone he cared about so much. How could he make his feelings for her very clear without seeming rude or possessive? He didn’t want Allura to seem weak or clingy, because she was certainly not either of those things. She was strong and kind and beautiful, and so far out of his league that he still questioned how he could possibly be lucky enough to have her affections.

How did he make sure she never doubted his feelings? It certainly was an uncomfortable situation.

If he were being honest, he thought it was easiest if he let Allura control the pace of the day. They’d already been given a tour by the guide, but that didn’t mean they’d seen everything. Shiro had been looking forward to seeing the aquarium at their own pace, so he was glad to finally be doing that.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, when they were in a room surrounded by tanks on all sides. It was dark, and although there were a few other people milling about in front of the enclosures, it felt like they were on their own. “For before, I mean. I-”

“There’s no need to apologise, Shiro,” Allura said. She turned to face him, and pressed her forehead against his chest. “You did nothing wrong.”

He put his arms around her waist, and let himself luxuriate in the warmth she emitted. “I don’t want you to doubt how I feel about you,” he said gently. “You’re the most important person to me.”

Allura’s cheeks turned red. Her eyes were all warm and melty when she glanced up at him. “You’re just too handsome for people to resist,” she mumbled. “But it’s alright, because I know you’re mine.”

Shiro hid an embarrassed smile in her hair.

“Now come on,” she said, as she reached for his hand again. “Let’s go see the fish.”

He could do nothing but follow her.

Chapter Text

They organised the excursion for a fortnight after their evaluation trip, which gave the children’s parents enough time to prepare for it. Coran was rather excited to hear they would be going to the aquarium, and was quick to take over the preparations in Shiro’s place. Shiro didn’t mind.

Shiro was home alone for a while that evening. Allura was out catching up with her father, who had returned the day previous so that they could both go to the aquarium. He had become used to Allura’s presence around him, and without her, he found himself at a loss.

After feeding both the cats and making dinner in advance, which he left warming in the oven, he threw himself down on the couch and let out a long sigh. He’d never particularly been the type of person to binge watch television shows, and since he’d been working for so long, he hadn’t really had any time for his hobbies. If he were being honest, he couldn’t even remember what he used to do for fun, other than piloting and working on his aircraft.

Perhaps he could take up the guitar again. He’d never been all that good at it, but maybe he could learn. It might be hard with his prosthetic hand, but it was certainly doable, wasn’t it? There was nothing wrong with trying. He could always take up running again, too. He used to do that a lot, especially when he was trying to keep in shape. Maybe Allura could join him for morning walks.

Though, come to think of it, trying to imagine Allura waking up early in the morning to exercise just made him laugh.

He was just considering doing a load of laundry when his phone began to ring. He was surprised to see the caller I.D, but didn’t hesitate in answering. “Hi, Mother,” he said.

“Shiro! It’s so nice to hear your voice again, dear,” she said. “We haven’t spoken in a while.”

He hummed in agreement, and settled back against the couch. “How have you been?”

It was nice to hear his mother’s voice. It was true that they hadn’t spoken in a while – they were both busy with work, but text messages had sufficed for a while. Still, he missed her, and would have to make time to take the trip up to see his parents. They still hadn’t met Allura.

“And how is your lovely girlfriend?” She asked, after she’d given Shiro a rundown of all the latest gossip and all the things she’d been doing recently. “You’re still living together, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Mother,” he laughed quietly, smiling to himself. “Allura is doing well. She’s out with her Father at the moment.”

“Oh you poor thing, you’re home alone? Why, I remember when I was your age and I had just started living with your father. The house felt so empty whenever he left! Are you doing alright?”

“I’m alright,” he said. “You don’t need to worry about me so much anymore, you know. I’m all grown up now.”

“Honey, I’m never going to stop worrying about you. You’re my baby!"

Shiro groaned, but it wasn’t a particularly bad sentiment. He was just embarrassed, that was all. He couldn’t help it, what with the way his mother still babied him. Absentmindedly, he fiddled with the charm hanging from his keys – it was a little blue dolphin. He was rather comforted by the knowledge that Allura had a matching pink one hanging from her own keys. They’d bought them at the aquarium, thanks to Allura’s insistence, though Shiro hadn’t complained much.

“I miss you guys a lot,” he said, his voice soft.

“We miss you too, Shiro,” she said. “You know, your father shows off that picture of Allura you sent us to everyone we talk to. The neighbour, his friends, the checkout girl at the grocers… He’s always going on about the real beauty his son is dating. Goodness me, I think he’s more enamoured with Allura than you are! He misses you too.”

Shiro laughed. “God, that’s embarrassing. Can’t you get him to stop?”

“Oh no, I’m encouraging it.”

He could practically hear the mischievous grin in her voice. “Not you too,” he complained half-heartedly. He was still smiling.

Talking with his mother always left him happy. She was a comfort unlike any other, and had always been there for him. He couldn’t wait until she met Allura.

Chapter Text

Wrangling a class full of children onto a bus was not an easy thing to do. First, every child had to be accounted for, and Shiro had to make sure they each had their bags and their water bottles. It was also his job to give all the kids their name badges, complete with his, Coran’s and Allura’s phone printed across the bottom. He thought that pinning thirty tags to thirty restless children was far easier than trying to seat them on a bus.

Of course, once Lance and Keith had been seated together, everything else became significantly easier.

The drive to the aquarium wasn’t too eventful. Coran turned the radio on and the kids sung along to the songs they knew while Shiro watched Allura secretly record it on her phone.

The kids were excited to see the front of the aquarium come into view. It was painted with a vibrant array of fish and sea life, and they instantly knew that the drive was finally over. Shiro was happy to see them so excited.

Guides from the aquarium came out to greet them, though Shiro was relieved to see the woman from before was absent. They had the kids split into three groups, about ten to each carer from Altea Kindergarten, which meant that Shiro wouldn’t be with Allura again until the groups met up for lunch and then to leave. He was a little glad they’d gone on their date when he realised that was the case.

The guides explained the rules to the kids as Shiro went around to double check everyone had their name tags. Lance, Keith, Pidge, Hunk and Shay were all his group, which he was unsurprised about.

Once everything was explained and the groups were ready to split off, the guides began to lead them off to their sections. Shiro’s group would be doing the educational activities first, and then they would go to the normal displays, before finally going to the interactive displays after a short lunch break. The entire class would meet up again after doing their last activity was lunch was finished to see a show before they left.

The inside of the aquarium was as interesting as he remembered it being. The section they were led to passed entrances to underwater walkways and passages with glass floors. In the educational room, where a series of activities were set up for young children like those at Altea, they were surrounded by small windows into larger tanks, where fish and other sea creatures of all sizes and colours could be seen swimming about. Trying to keep the children in line as they went to the activities table was a challenge.

Compared to the temptations of the displays, the activities were kind of boring. Shiro was relieved that his group went first with them – he couldn’t imagine either Keith or Lance being able to sit through the activities when they’d already seen some of the more interesting displays.

Still, most of the activities weren’t too difficult – the kids had to match certain animals to their scientific names, or listen to the teacher explain environmental concerns, or something similar like that. There was even a part where they had to go and draw one of the fish in the tanks, and when they got to play with an interactive table that showed digital images of the habitats the surrounding fish most commonly lived in.

Shiro was more than happy to help the kids get through their tasks as quickly as possible. He passed around pencils that had rolled too far along the table tops and lifted the kids up to see higher into the tanks and pointed out the right answers when the guide wasn’t looking, which earned him a round of giggles. It was all in good fun, and it made him happy to see them enjoy themselves. Even Lance and Keith didn’t argue as much as they usually did, instead too preoccupied with all the things going on around them.

The next activity was far more interesting. The kids walked in their two lines again, though they milled in a circle around every tank they stopped at. The guide was very energetic and spoke in ways that the kids could easily understand, which Shiro was happy to see. They’d probably had a lot of experience with children like this, and even still he had a lot of energy.

When lunch time finally came, they were led to a wide room where there were seats and tables for the kids to eat at. He made sure everyone still had their nametags while he waited for the rest of the class to arrive, and when everyone was present, he sat down at a table with Coran and Allura to eat.

As much as he’d enjoyed the first two activities, he knew the last activity and the show would be what his kids really loved. He couldn’t wait for them to see it.

Chapter Text

“Are the kids enjoying themselves?” Allura asked, as she passed Shiro a fresh bottle of water across the table.

He turned his eyes away from the kids, who had finally settled down to eat, and took the bottle of water with a small, thankful smile. “They are,” he said, nodding. “They’re behaving well too, though they are a bit excited. I’m sure their energy is going to skyrocket with the next activity.”

“Oh, definitely,” Allura said, laughing. “My group loved the interactive display.” She snuck a glance at Coran. “Though I heard a certain teacher we know screamed when a starfish crawled across his hand.”

Coran huffed. “I did no such thing. It was just slippery, I tell you.”

Shiro laughed too. “Of course,” he teased, “our brave Coran would never be afraid of a tiny sea creature.”

“Exactly!”

Lunch passed with ease. Once the kids had finished eating, the guides came to collect their groups, and they were off again. Shiro was sure to give Allura a small kiss on the cheek on his way out, and delighted in the way her face coloured. Even with all the ways she teased him, he could still do unexpected things. It was a rather pleasing thought.

With all his kids rounded up, Shiro followed along after their guide. They were taken to the interactive rooms, and almost instantly he could feel a shift in the kid’s energy. The tanks were open-lidded, and low enough for all of them to see and reach into if they stood on the little steps at the edge of each tank. Little signs on the glass explained what was in each tank and how to approach them, though he doubted the kids would bother to read what was written down.

“Alright,” the guide said, as the children gathered around them, “welcome to our interactive tanks! These are the tanks you are allowed to put your hands into, and to touch. Of course, there are some ground rules we have to go through before I can let you have fun, so listen up, alright?”

Rules brought a round of impatient groans, but a stern look from Shiro had every child listening carefully. They weren’t allowed to pull anything out of the tanks, put anything in the tanks, or to pick up any sea creatures or shells they happened to find. They had to wash their hands before reaching into the water, too. The rules were pretty standard, and the kids could grasp them well enough. Once their hands had been washed, they were free to roam amongst the tanks as much as they wished.

The kids loved it. Shiro found himself taking photo after photo and video after video as the children explored the tanks with gentle hands.

“Shiro, look at this!” Lance said, as he lightly ran his fingers down a starfish. “It’s so slippery!”

Shiro laughed, and watched over Lance’s shoulder as he and Keith waved their hands through the water. Lance looked right at home, but Keith was hesitant, and kept his fingers away from the rocks and shells where sea creatures were hiding.

“Keith, you have to touch this one,” Lance said.

“Uh… I’m alright.”

“What, are you scared?”

“I’m not scared!” Keith said. He put his hands in the water, but hesitated again, wincing.

“How about we do it together?” Shiro said, as he crouched behind the two kids. “It looks like it feels gross, huh?”

“Exactly,” Keith nodded. He seemed rather relieved when Shiro offered him his (normal) hand so that he wouldn’t have to touch the starfish by himself. With Keith’s tiny fingers held gently in his, he reached forwards and pressed their palms against the top of the starfish Lance had pointed out. He couldn’t help bit cringe at the strange, almost rough texture of it, and was suddenly more sympathetic to Coran’s experiences.

Either way, Keith seemed a lot braver after getting over that initial first touch, and he had no more trouble moving around the tanks after that. He followed Lance around very closely, which was something Shiro started to notice more and more as the activity went on. It was like Keith didn’t want to leave Lance alone, which normally wouldn’t have been too strange, but felt a little odd.

It was obvious that Lance liked the water. Even with the lake incident, he still didn’t fear water, and his mother was always telling Shiro about how well his swimming lessons were going, even recently. Keith, on the other hand, seemed quite… hesitant. There was something about the way he acted that puzzled Shiro until he realised exactly what the problem was.

It wasn’t Keith’s actions that were strange, it was his reactions. Specifically, his reactions to Lance sticking his arms elbow-deep into water and leaning over the rim of the tanks. Keith almost seemed like he was afraid of Lance falling into the water, which certainly worried Shiro. While Lance had come away from the lake incident mostly unscathed, it seemed like Keith was still troubled over it.

Shiro made a note to talk to him about that later.

For now, he let the kids enjoy themselves. Lance was teaching Keith how to pet the starfish without freaking out, his arm firm around Keith’s waist so that his friend couldn’t run away. Pidge, Hunk and Shay were all enjoying themselves at a tank across from the other two, marvelling at the rock and coral formations that filled the water. The other kids were equally as happy, sectioned off in their own little group of friends.

Shiro saw no problem in letting them enjoy themselves until they had to go and be seated for the show.

Chapter Text

The show arena was outdoors under a shaded cover area. A circular tank almost as tall as Shiro dominated the apex of the space, of which a stage complete with props and a background stood behind waiting for the performers. The seats in front of the tank were curved to follow the shape of the glass, and while the seats at the back were higher up for better viewing, the ones close by the tank were eye level with the majority of the water.

While many of the seats for the show were already starting to be filled, there was an area at the front specifically for educational groups like theirs, so that’s where the kids were taken. Shiro’s group was the second to arrive after Coran’s, so he had them all sit in the front two rows before joining Coran in the third. They didn’t have to wait long until Allura’s group arrived, and then they were all together, ready to see the show.

“Shiro, what’s the show gonna be about?” Lance asked, as he twisted around to face the adults. He and the majority of Shiro’s group were in the second row, though no one was complaining. They were all quite close to the tank, after all.

“You’ll have to wait and see, buddy,” Shiro said, laughing quietly. “It’s a surprise.”

Lance pouted, but turned back to the front without any further questions. He might be impatient, but he did love surprises, and Shiro knew he was going to love this one.

There would be two parts to the show. The first started shortly after everyone was seated. A trainer came out to greet them, a microphone perched in front of his mouth as he made grand gestures. He introduced himself and his “guests” as he gave the crowd facts about the ocean and what the preservation programs at the aquarium were accomplishing. It was interesting to hear about, though the audience was clearly eager for the actual show to start.

It was a seal performance. Seals too tame to be reintroduced into the wild were kept at the aquarium, and their prowess and intelligence were showed off with a series of simple tricks that really wowed the audience.

If Shiro were being honest, even he was amazed by the performance. The seals could toss balls around on their noses with ease and spin through the water with a gracefulness that reminded him of birds. They chattered back at their trainers with real attitudes, and even pretended to ignore them, much to the amusement of the trainers themselves. He was not the only person muffling laughs when the seals dramatically howled and threw themselves into the water before sticking nothing but their noses back out, keen for a treat.

“Now, as you can see,” one of the trainers said, as she gave her swimming partner an overly exaggerated eye roll, “sometimes our seals just don’t want to listen! Maybe someone in the audience can help me. Any takers?”

Hands shot up all over the crowd, but in the end, it was Lance that the trainer chose. Lance jumped up with an excited grin and made his way to the front of the tank.

“Lovely!” The trainer said. “What’s your name, young man?”

“It’s Lance!”

“Lance!” The trainer repeated energetically. “Won’t everyone thank Lance for volunteering? C’mon, let’s clap!”

The seal standing beside her turned its head away even as the audience clapped, making Lance giggle.

The trainer put her hands on her hips and gave the seal a stern look. “Come now, is that any way to treat our beloved guests? Let’s try again everyone, and this time, let’s clap even louder for Lance!”

Another round of applause burst across the crowd, louder this time. And this time, the seal joined in, letting out excited barks as it did. The crowd was instantly awed, and the seal was more than happy to snap up a fish as a reward for its effort.

“Now then, I have a special task for you, Lance,” the instructor said. She put her right hand up in the air. “Can you copy me?”

“Yeah!” Lance said, as he lifted his hand.

“Good!” She said. “Looks like my friend here can see you, too. Can you wave? Like this!”

Lance waved his arm to the side just like how the trainer did. The seal perked up at the sight of Lance, and eagerly dove into the water to swim circles at the front of the tank.

“Now, those in the front row might get a little wet, but we have a trick we’d like to show you!” The trainer announced. “On the count of three, Lance, I want you to wave your arm in a big circle, just like this!” She waved her arm in a high arch from one side to the next. “Can you do that?”

“Yes!”

“Alright then, on three! One, two… three!”

In time with the trainer’s counting, Lance copied her wide movements. The seal reacted instantly, and swim a sharp line right across the front of the tank, one fin perked high in the air. A surge of water spilled over its edge and splashed across those in the front row, Lance included, producing rounds of applause and surprised laughter. It certainly was a pretty amazing trick.

But Shiro’s attention was on Keith. He wasn’t looking frightened, exactly, but his eyes were stricken, and he had a tight grip on the bench. Shiro leaned forwards. “Keith, can you come up here for a second buddy?”

Keith jumped at the sound of Shiro’s voice, and swallowed. He pried his fingers away from the edge and slipped away from the bench. The others were so distracted by the show that they didn’t notice, but Allura did. Shiro shot her a small glance, and she looked away, trusting his judgement.

“You’re not in trouble,” Shiro said, as he took Keith’s hands in his. The imprint of the bench had left white marks across his palms. “But you look a little tense. What’s wrong, Keith?”

Keith glanced over his shoulder once more before meeting Shiro’s eyes. “What if it pulls him in?” He whispered. “Lance will get hurt again if he’s near the water.”

Shiro tried not to sigh. He’d feared that Keith might still harbour a little misplaced guilt over what happened at the lake. Keith had really started to become protective over Lance lately, perhaps more than any of them had realised. “Don’t worry Keith, Lance will be fine,” he said. “I want to talk to you about this later, okay? When it’s just us. Does that sound alright?”

Looking oddly relieved, Keith nodded.

“Here, why don’t you sit with me until Lance comes back,” Shiro said, as he shuffled to the side. He knew Keith would have normally refused, but it would only be for a moment or so, so Keith sat. “You can squeeze my hand if you need to, okay?”

Again, Keith nodded. He took advantage of Shiro’s offer when he needed it.

Still, despite Keith’s worries, Shiro thought he was enjoying himself. Especially when Lance came back to his seat and Keith could keep a tight grip on the back of his shirt. With Lance away from the water, the tension in Keith waned, and he could return to being just as fascinated by the show as everyone else.

Shiro was glad to see Keith’s concern fade. “I hope they enjoy themselves while we’re here,” he said quietly.

Allura’s hand sought his out, and she held on tightly. “Don’t worry, I have no doubt that they will.”

Chapter Text

The second half of the show started after a short intermission. Shiro had been so busy trying to dry off Lance’s hair with his jumper that he almost didn’t notice, not until Lance let out an excited noise and jerked upright, no longer content to sit and let Shiro fret over him.

“Don’t worry so much,” Allura, as she reached for his hand. He could hear the laughter in her voice. “The kids are just fine. Won’t you enjoy the show now, Shiro?”

“I have enjoyed it,” he said petulantly, trying not to pout when she could no longer muffle her laughter. “I’ll stop hovering.”

She pressed her face against his shoulder to hide a smile, and didn’t let go of his hand as they both settled in to watch the show. A presenter had walked on stage and was eagerly explaining their next performance – one that would be put on by members of their staff. This was the show that Allura and Shiro had briefly glanced in on during their tour, and was one of the deciding reasons they’d taken the kids here today.

It was a mermaid show.

He hadn’t had even the smallest clue that they did that here. The performance tank was certainly deep enough and wide enough for the performers to swim around in, and from what he’d seen of their costumes, he knew the show had a lot of wow-factor. They hadn’t been able to watch for long during their tour, but what he had seen had astounded him. He didn’t know humans were capable of swimming so beautifully.

After the presenter had finished explaining their show, panels at the back side of the tank suddenly slid open, and the two swimmers swam their way into the tank. The first had a tail that was long and blue, fringed with lacy fins and beads and all sorts of pretty things. The second was a reddish pink with similar adornments but bigger, more solid fins. Both the tails glittered in the water like stars, and the gasps of amazement from the audience were well placed.

“They’re mermaids!” Lance cried, as he grabbed onto Keith’s arm. “Keith, Keith! Can you see?”

“I can see,” Keith said. His eyes were wide, just like Lance’s were. They were both utterly enraptured.

The performance carried on just as beautifully as Shiro remembered it being. He was so glad they were able to see the entire thing this time – it really was beautiful. The performers could hold their breaths for a startlingly long time, and when they surfaced, it was never with harsh gasps or pants. Rather, they timed their periodic surfacing to fit seamlessly into the routine, so much so that it hardly seemed like they were coming up for air at all.

It was mesmerizing to watch them perform. They swum in circles and performed tricks with their tails. It was like they were dancing underwater, like it was more natural for them to be there rather than on land.

When the show was finished, there was a quiet, speechless hush over the audience that abruptly broke out into applause. The swimmers approached the front of the tank and hooked their arms over the edge so that they could wave to everyone. When the presenter from before announced that the audience was free to go up to them, the kids jumped out of their seats.

“Wasn’t that just beautiful?” Allura said with a pleased sigh as they stood. “It was worth the drive.”

Shiro nodded. He made sure to keep an eye on the kids as they shook hands with the mermaids and admired their tails, though he knew their class would act responsibly around other adults. He was rather happy to see how in awe Lance looked. He could have called out for Lance and he was sure that Lance was too distracted to respond. He was looking at the mermaids like they’d suddenly given him the sun, and when he shook one of their hands, Shiro was sure he was going to cry.

“I think they’ve enjoyed themselves,” Allura said, smiling. “They all look really happy.”

And they did. Hunk, Pidge, Shay, Keith, Lance, and all the other kids too – they looked like they’d enjoyed the day to its fullest. Coran, as well. That alone was enough to satisfy Shiro, but Allura’s content smiles were like the cherry on top.

He almost didn’t want to leave.

Chapter Text

It struck Shiro one night when he was sitting cross-legged on the lounge room floor folding laundry just how much he loved Allura and their little home. The smell of detergent from the freshly washed clothes and the rug beneath his feet and sound of Allura typing away at her computer in the other room had all become familiar to him.

He wondered when they’d leave this house. If… if they were together in the future (which he hoped they would be) they’d probably need a bigger house, wouldn’t they? He’d never really thought about having kids or getting married, but they were both things he found he desired if he were with Allura. If she wanted those things as well, that was.

But it would be nice, wouldn’t it? Their wages were pretty decent, and if they saved up for a while, they could certainly afford a deposit on a house. He doubted Allura would want to move away from the kindergarten – it was her mother’s legacy, after all – and this area was very affordable. They would surely be able to find a house big enough for them and their pets and any future additions to their little family.

Would they keep the same furniture? Shiro kind of liked what they had. They had enough to furnish their small apartment, but a house would need more. They could buy more things for their kitchen, perhaps. Between their combined possessions they had most of a kitchen set, but they could get a new toaster, or something. If they had a house with a garden then Allura could grow more flowers, too. She’d like that, wouldn’t she? He thought she would.

Thinking about that just had him flustered. With the last of their laundry folded, he set the clean clothes aside in the basket, and flopped down on the couch. A life with Allura certainly sounded perfect. Maybe he could help in her garden and see her Mountain Juniberries bloom. They could get a dog too, if they had a yard, but it would have to be one that got along with Balmera and Panther.

He would have gotten lost in his embarrassing thoughts if Allura hadn’t come out to find him. “Finished with the laundry?” She asked, a brow perked.

“Yeah,” he said, as he gave her a pleasant smile. “Care to join me?”

She laughed quietly, and took a seat on the edge of the couch. “I dare say there’s not much room for me with you all spread out,” she said teasingly. Nevertheless, she put an affectionate hand on his chest and slouched against him, content to sit in her odd position. “What were you thinking about?” She asked.

Embarrassed, he covered his eyes with his arm. “Nothing,” he mumbled.

Idly, she traced patterns on his chest, like she wasn’t really aware of what she was doing. “Won’t you tell me?”

He shook his head.

She chuckled, but didn’t push the issue. Maybe his red cheeks were enough of an answer for her. Still, he reached down to put a hand on her thigh, and let himself luxuriate in the quietness of their evening. Though all he’d done that night was housework and dinner, he hadn’t hated it. He hadn’t dreaded doing it. That in itself was odd, but he put it down to being in Allura’s presence.

Even mundane chores became something domestic and pleasantly mindless when he was with her.

“Allura?”

“Hmm?”

“Will you go on a date with me?”

She laughed. “Shiro, we’re dating. You don’t need to ask.”

“I know,” he said, “but I wanted to anyway.”

She smiled to herself. “Well, if that’s the case, then of course I’ll go on a date with you.”

He smiled too. He enjoyed making her smile like that.

“What do you have in mind?”

“Don’t know yet,” he said, faltering. “I’ll think of something, don’t worry.”

Chapter Text

Shiro had a lot of ideas for his date with Allura. He thought he had a pretty good grasp of Allura’s likes and dislikes, and was sure he’d be able to think of something perfect for her eventually. He considered cafes and parks and bookstores, and while they were places she enjoyed visiting, he thought there could be somewhere new he could take her.

He ended up finding the place by complete chance. Sometimes in the mornings, when they got away from home on time, they’d stop and pick up coffee for Coran and themselves. It was a little treat they gave themselves every now and then, though Coran always protested that the coffees he made were much better (which, of course, they were – but he still drank the coffee bought for him at the coffee shop too).

While Shiro waited for his order, he’d noticed a stack of paper flyers sitting on the register. He took one without really thinking about it, mostly because he needed something to do while he waited, but what was on it turned out to be quite helpful.

Although he’d been living in this town for quite a while, he’d never really had the motivation to explore it. He’d been places with Allura, like the little grocer’s near her home, and they visited Allura’s favourite parks often, but there was always more to discover. The little pamphlet was featuring one such place – an orchard.

Or, more specifically, an apple orchard.

He hadn’t known there was one so close by. It was only an hour’s drive away, and apparently all the apples were still in season. He hadn’t known that either, but both were surprisingly pleasant facts to learn. It seemed like the perfect, quiet place to take her where they could both enjoy a day out in the fresh air.

Pleased at his discovery, he tucked the flyer away in his pocket, and continued to patiently wait for his order. He would be sure to ask Allura her opinion on the orchard and apple picking later in the day, but he was sure that she would enjoy it.

What better place to go now that autumn and its colours were finally beginning to show?

Chapter Text

They decided to go to the orchard on the weekend. After Shiro had proudly shown Allura the flyer the moment he’d entered the car that morning, she’d laughed, and agreed it was the perfect place to go. Shiro would reserve a timeslot for them for Saturday night so that they could have dinner at the restaurant the orchard owned, too.

With that decided, Shiro was free to focus on work. He knew the kids were going to have a show-and-tell later in the week, and that the children loved it when the adults brought in something to show off as well. It had to be something meaningful and important, and he was at a loss for what to bring.

But that was a concern for future Shiro, he thought. He had other things to worry about, like cleaning up after the kid’s latest arts-and-crafts afternoon and Lance’s recent obsession with all things mermaid. Perhaps that last one wasn’t as worrying as it was amusing, but either way, it was something on Shiro’s list of things to watch out for.

It was as he was moving the drying rack, full of freshly made paintings and glitter-covered creations, that he noticed Lance’s drawing. It looked like he’d drawn all of his close friends – Hunk, Pidge and Keith, as well as himself – as mermaids. They each had tails of their corresponding colour, too. Yellow for Hunk, green for Pidge, red for Keith, and of course blue for Lance. Each tail was covered in glitter.

“He must have really liked that show, huh?” Allura said, as she came over to peer across his shoulder. “Look at all those mermaids he’s been drawing. I heard him talking about them yesterday, too.”

“Was he?”

“Oh, quite a lot,” Allura nodded. “I think he was trying to convince Keith that they are real, though I don’t think he succeeded much.”

Shiro laughed. “That does sound like something he’d do,” he admitted, as he set the rack by the window. The drawings would dry much quicker over here, and it was more out of the way of the kids. “I guess he really did like the show. I thought he was going to cry when that performer shook his hand and gave him a big smile.”

“I thought so too,” Allura said, amused. “Isn’t he just the sweetest? He’s always been a bit of a water baby, hasn’t he?”

Shiro had heard Lance’s parents say the same thing once or twice. Lance was an exceptional swimmer for his age, and he wasn’t scared of the water. Not even after the incident at the lake did he shy away from swimming. He’d been right at home at the aquarium, and overjoyed to stand close to the performance tank and get splashed.

Speaking of which, Shiro still had to have that talk with Keith, but he was trying to wait for the right moment. He had to do it soon so that Keith would be able to clearly remember everything he felt, but he didn’t want to force Keith into it. He was pretty sure the right moment would come eventually.

“Shiro? You’ve got a thinking frown on your face,” Allura said, as she peered closer at him.

“A what?”

“A thinking frown,” she repeated. Gently, she lifted a hand, and smoothed her fingertips over the furrow in his brow. “There, all gone. What’s got you thinking so hard all of a sudden?”

He gave her a small smile. “It’s nothing bad, don’t worry.”

“If you say so,” she conceded. After giving him a small, discreet kiss, she wandered off to get back to work.

And after taking a moment to watch her, his heart heavy with affection, he followed.

Chapter Text

Saturday turned out to be a pretty nice day, Shiro thought. They didn’t have to start driving out to the orchard until around lunch time, but he woke up early anyway to get some of their usual Saturday house-work done beforehand. Allura was fonder of sleeping in, so after pressing a gentle kiss to her forehead, he shut their bedroom door and let her be.

He got a fresh load of laundry halfway down in the washing machine and all of their dishes put away before Allura finally woke. She still seemed sleepy as she watched him wipe down the bench tops, muffling a yawn with her hand. “You should have woken me,” she said, as she wandered over.

Shiro set down the rag he had been using to wipe the bench in favour of looping his arms around Allura’s waist. He was more than happy to run his hand down her back as she pressed another yawn into his chest. “I wanted to let you rest for a little while longer,” he said.

“You’re always doing that,” she huffed, but it wasn’t an aggravated sound. “You should sleep in with me too.”

He chuckled. “I’m not much of a sleep-in type of person.”

“I know,” she said, giving him an exaggerated sigh. “Have you had breakfast yet?”

“No, but I had a cup of tea.”

“I’ll make breakfast for you, then,” she said, as she patted his chest twice and pulled herself away. “Take a seat, don’t worry about anything else for a while. Once we’re done I’ll help you.”

He laughed at her insistence, but her breakfasts were usually quite delicious, so he didn’t argue. She had him sit down at the kitchen bench, which he did without complaints, before she starting to dig through the fridge to find eggs.

“With toast or as an omelette?” She asked over her shoulder.

“With toast is fine, thank you.”

He rested his chin in his hand as he watched Allura cook. It was only a simple breakfast, but because she was the one cooking it, it was bound to taste great. He usually cooked breakfast on weekdays because he was the first one up and out of the shower, but she took over on the weekend, when they could both afford to eat at a later hour.

“What else do we need to do today?” She asked, as she sleepily yawned again. “I need to shower before we go, too.”

“I’ve got washing in the machine, so it needs to be hung out to dry,” Shiro said. “We can probably fold and iron the clothes tomorrow… but the bath towels and sofa covers need to be washed today. I did the dishes though.”

She chuckled. “Yes, I can see. The kitchen is spotless.”

“If you say so,” he laughed.

They ate breakfast together in peace, and although Allura protested, Shiro washed up so that she could shower. They still had an hour or two before they had to leave, so there was something they could probably do, but he wouldn’t be opposed to relaxing.

He would leave it to Allura to decide what they did until they had to leave.

Chapter Text

The drive to the orchard was pleasant. Allura fiddled with the radio while Shiro listened to the GPS drone on with directions. He’d never driven this way before, but it was a nice drive. Soon enough the suburbs bled away into forests and growing fields. It was scenic, but nothing was prettier than the orchard as it loomed into view.

A pretty sign signalled when he needed to turn, and after driving down a lengthy but paved driveway they found themselves at the front of the orchard. There were several buildings that separated the driveway and the orchard itself, but Shiro could see the trees on either side of the property, and the sight of them left him a little excited.

He parked the car, and together they walked up the front stairs and into the reception room. The inside of the building was nicely furnished, and was very cosy – like something he’d see out of a movie. Allura seemed very impressed, and that left Shiro more than satisfied.

After they checked in at the restaurant to assure their seating later that night, a guide came over to lead them to the orchard.

“You can pick as many as you want,” she said, as she handed both Allura and Shiro a basket and a small pamphlet each. “But try not to overflow the basket, or it’ll get heavy. The pamphlet I’ve given you will show you which apples are the ripest, and which ones to pick depending on how long you’ll have them before they’re eaten or used.”

“Thank you,” Shiro said, as he took the pamphlet and basket from her.

“No problem!” She said with a friendly smile. “If you have any questions, feel free to ask me or one of the other staff members, we’ll gladly help you! And if you finish early or it gets too dark, feel free to come in and use our lounge while you wait for dinner.”

“Sounds perfect,” Allura said. “Thank you.”

They were led through the building and out into the orchard, where the guide pointed out places they could visit before leaving them be. Allura linked her arm through Shiro’s before they were off, eagerly walking through the rows of trees that much up the orchard.

“It’s so pretty here,” Allura said, as they stopped at a tree so that she could pluck a red apple from its branches. “I didn’t think so many of the trees would still be producing fruit.”

“I didn’t either,” Shiro agreed. “But it’s nice, isn’t it?”

“It’s lovely,” Allura grinned.

Walking through the rows of trees was peaceful. Shiro was content to let Allura dictate which trees they stopped at, and happily took apples from them with her. Whenever she couldn’t reach one he’d pull it down for her and she’d give him a stunning smile.

With their baskets half full each and the sun starting to set, they made their way inside. There was still half an hour until their dinner reservation – Shiro hadn’t realised the time had flown by quite that fast – so they left their baskets in cubbies given to them by the staff members and settled on a lounge to wait.

Dinner passed easily, with smooth flowing conversations and the warmth of some sort of apple-infused wine. Shiro only had one glass before he switched to chilled water, knowing that he was going to drive home. The food was outstanding, and Allura let him try some off her plate when his gaze lingered on it for a little too long.

Dessert was just as appealing. He shouldn’t have been surprised that the majority of the dessert menu was filled with apples, but he was surprised with how creative some of the dishes were. Allura was certainly eager to try something, and Shiro watched in amusement as she devoured the dessert she chose. He let her try some of his, knowing she favoured sweet things. He was unsurprised when she liked his dessert, too. It was definitely worth making a reservation at the restaurant. He was very glad he’d picked up that flyer from the café the other morning.

“This is such a nice place,” Allura said, as they lingered in the restaurant just after finishing their desserts. “Thank you for bringing me here, Shiro. Today was so enjoyable.”

“I’m glad you have fun,” Shiro said, face warm.

Maybe they could make this place a regular spot for them to visit.

Chapter Text

Show-and-tell happened early the next week, after the weekend passed. The kids had a few days to think of what to bring, and come Monday (with a few helpful reminders from their parents) they all had something with them to share with the class.

It was interesting to see what the kids brought in; their variety of items reminded Shiro of just how different their families were, and just how differently they’d all grown up. For some of the kids, the only commonalities they had with each other was the kindergarten they attended. Many of the kids brought in a doll or a photo, or a piece of jewellery lent to them by their parents.

Pidge was the first of Shiro’s little group to show off his item. “This is one of my brother’s inventions,” Pidge said, as he held up a small, triangular robot.

It was one that Shiro recognised. Matt had always been making something when they were in the Garrison, even if it wasn’t for work. Everyone knew that if they had scrap metal or spare tools or anything like that, then they could give it to Matt and he’d gladly use it. When he’d found out he was going to have a baby sibling, he’d made dozens of little toys, and sent them back for when Pidge was older.

The little triangle was one of them. He’d called it “Rover” – named after the dog, or maybe the dog was named after it, Shiro couldn’t quite remember – and it didn’t do much more than beep, flash and rove around, but it was pretty cool. If nothing else, it looked very important and very scientific, and it certainly had the other kids impressed.

“My brother made it,” Pidge said proudly for what was likely the tenth time as he finished explaining how the robot worked. He set it on the floor. “Once you press this button to turn it on, it moves around.”

Sure enough, the mechanical Rover flickered to life, its panels glowing, before it starting to buzz around the floor. It was designed to sense and avoid obstacles, including giggly children, and ended up just wandering around the room while the other children took their turns to show-and-tell.

Hunk was next. His family was Samoan, so he brought in a piece of their traditional jewellery. “This is called an Ula Fala,” Hunk said, as he held up the lei. “These red things are pieces of a pandanus fruit.”

“Are they normally red?” Keith asked, his eyes bright and focused on the necklace.

“No,” Hunk laughed. “Ma says that they’re dried and then they’re painted red.”

“Why red?” Lance asked. “Why not blue?”

“Well, red was usually a colour that only the royals wore,” Hunk said. “And in ancient times, it was to show respect. But now anyone can wear it, so we paint the Ula Fala red.”

Shiro was surprised by how much Hunk knew about his culture. It was very interesting to hear, and Hunk spoke very eloquently. Shiro wondered how many times he’d had those words spoken to him before, and found himself feeling oddly nostalgic. His own mother had whispered stories of her culture to him countless times when he was a child, and he’d loved hearing them.

Perhaps Hunk was the same with his Samoan traditions.

Lance brought in a picture of his family. It was A4 sized, and filled with all of his immediate family members and his cousins – from where Shiro was sitting at the back of the room, he couldn’t count them all.

“My Mamá says that it’s common for families to have a lot of people back in Spain,” Lance said, as he pointed at people and rattled off names. “I already have both an older brother and an older sister, as well as two younger brothers – they’re twins.”

“Do you like having a big family?” Shay asked from where she was sitting beside Hunk on the floor. “I only have an older brother.”

“I do!” Lance grinned. He reached into the folder he’d carried his photo in and pulled out another one. “Look, this is going to be my new brother or sister.”

He held up a printed picture of an unborn baby. It was only small, a barely discernible shape, but the woman – Lance’s mother – was just far enough along in her pregnancy that the shape of a baby could be made out.

“I didn’t know she was pregnant,” Allura whispered to him, surprised. “This is a nice way to find out, though.”

Shiro nodded. There was a smile on his face – he already knew Lance was an amazing big brother to his younger siblings, and that he was going to positively adore his new brother or sister. “I wonder if the baby will come here when they’re Lance’s age,” Shiro said.

“The twins are coming next year,” Allura told him. “They’ve been pre-enrolled for a little while now.”

Keith was the last from Shiro’s little group. With the other kids, Shiro thought he could have almost predicted what they’d bring in – Pidge and technology, Hunk and something cultural, Lance and a part of his family. Keith was a bit more of a mystery. He didn’t seem like the type to bring in a family photo or something Korean.

What he did have, however, was a little music box.

Made from transparent panels of glass held together by strips of gold-painted metal, the inner workings of the music box were plainly visible. A glass swan spun gently when its key was wound, and a pretty chiming burst forth from the box.

“My grandfather gave this to me,” Keith set, as he let the swan slowly spin. “It was a present for my grandmother, and when she passed away, she told him that he could give it to me. My Mother used to wind it up when I went to sleep.”

Shiro would be lying if he said he wasn’t surprised by what Keith had brought in. It seemed like a very vulnerable item, one he perhaps wouldn’t have thought about sharing six months ago. Now, though, he seemed more than fine with sharing a softer, more personal side to himself. Seeing him be so gentle with the music box was sweet, too.

After he’d had his turn, when the next child was standing, Keith didn’t immediately take his seat. Instead he carefully cradled his music box and wandered over to Shiro, looking hesitant. “Can you mind this for me?” Keith asked, as he held out the music box. “I don’t want to break it.”

“Sure thing, buddy,” Shiro said, surprised, as he instinctively held out his hands. Keith set the music box down, uncaring that it clinked against Shiro’s prosthetic, and after making sure Shiro’s fingers were curled around it safely, he was on his way.

Distantly, Shiro wondered when Keith had grown up so much.

Chapter Text

It was late one evening when Shiro was busy cooking dinner that his phone began to ring. He had his hands full, but when he saw the caller I.D, he made room for his phone. “Hey, Ma,” he said. “How are you?”

“Shiro, it’s nice to hear from you again,” she said pleasantly. “I’m well. I haven’t caught you at a bad time, have I?”

“No, it’s alright,” he said. “What can I help you with?”

“Actually, I was wondering if you and Allura would be free next weekend!” She said. “Your father and I want to come down and visit you, and we really want to meet Allura, too. We can do any weekend if that’s too soon notice for you, though.”

Shiro’s eyes widened in surprise. He hadn’t expected that, but it was a welcome suggestion for sure. “Hold on, I’ll check with Allura,” he said, hoping that his excitement didn’t bleed into his voice too much. He tucked his phone against his shoulder before hearing his mother’s reply, and turned his head back towards the kitchen doorway. “Allura?” He called.

“Yeah?” She responded from the lounge room. “Need some help?”

“No, but are we doing anything this weekend?” He asked.

“Not that I’m aware of,” she said, puzzled. “Why?”

“My parents want to come down and visit.”

“Oh, I want them to!” She said. “Tell them they can come any time!”

Shiro chuckled, and lifted his phone back up to his ear. “Allura said-”

“I heard, honey,” his mother interrupted. “Isn’t she just the sweetest? Oh, I can’t wait to meet her. So this weekend works for you two okay?”

“Yeah, come by any time,” he said, smiling to himself as he slowly stirred their dinner. “Do you want me to cook? We can order food if you want.”

“Whatever is easiest, honey,” she said. “You know your father would be quite happy with nothing more than Chinese takeaway. It’s a lot less washing up, too.”

Shiro laughed. “We’ll see. I’ll figure something out, don’t worry.”

“I’m sure you will,” she laughed too, sounding fond. “Well, sorry for disturbing you so late at night! I’ll leave you to it. See you next weekend, Shiro.”

“See you next week.”

He set his phone down, and continued making dinner. It should be ready soon, and then he and Allura would set the table and eat their meal together. Shiro would ask about Allura’s day, though he already knows how it went (he was with her, after all) but he likes to hear it anyway. She’d ask about his too, and listen to him talk about what his kids did all day and what Lance and Keith argued about this specific time.

They’d probably talk about his parents, too. He didn’t think Allura was frightened of meeting them, and he knew she would make a brilliant impression. His parents already loved her, after all. Just thinking about how his father showed off Allura’s photo to everyone he could made Shiro flush.

He couldn’t wait for his parents to meet her.

Chapter Text

Shiro decided to cook dinner for when his parents came over. While there certainly would be more washing up to do at the end of the night, like his mother had mentioned, he still wanted to put in the effort. Maybe his mother would worry about him a little less if she could see that he was more than capable of taking care of himself (and Allura).

On Saturday morning, Shiro and Allura walked down to the fresh food grocers to find ingredients. It was a nice walk, even if Allura had to wake up a little earlier than usual. She could be persuaded, however, with Shiro’s promise to buy her flowers.

They walked hand-in-hand down the store aisles. Shiro held the basket in his other hand, and had Allura place ingredients in whenever he asked for them. It was a quiet morning at the store, but pleasant. Light streamed in from the wide windows and all the fruit looked fresh and dewy and the sweet smell of baked goods permeated the air.

“Do you think they’ll like me?” Allura asked, as she slipped a punnet of bright red strawberries into their basket. “I mean, will they really?”

“Of course they will,” Shiro said. He was surprised by the question, but when he remembered how nervous he’d been around Alfor, he understood her feelings a little more. “They already love you. You should have heard how excited my mother was when she heard your voice over the phone the other night.”

Allura gave him a small smile. “I just want to make a good impression,” she said, as she glanced down, like she was nervous. “I want them to think I’m good for you.”

“They already know you are,” he insisted. “They always ask how you are and what you’ve been up to.”

“They do?”

“Yeah, quite a lot, actually,” Shiro said. “You know, I sent a photo of you to them.”

Her cheeks coloured. “Well, I hope it was a good one! You didn’t tell me that.”

“Of course it was a good one, they’re all good ones,” Shiro teased. He smiled as Allura’s cheeks went even darker. “My Ma thinks you’re beautiful, you know.”

Allura smiled too, her eyes going soft. “That’s sweet of her to say.”

“My Dad thinks the same thing,” Shiro said. “It’s kind of embarrassing, but he shows off your picture to everyone. Says, look at this real beauty. I have to scold him for doing it.”

Allura laughed, covering her face with her hand. “That’s so embarrassing!” She cried.

“Tell me about it!”

Allura’s laughter was sweet. She seemed to be feeling a lot better knowing just how much Shiro’s parents liked her, and although Shiro was twice as embarrassed as ever, he was glad he’d told her that little story.

“Trust me, Allura,” he said, when their laughter had died down, “they’re going to love you.” He leaned down to press his forehead against hers. “But not more than I do.”

Chapter Text

“Are we going to leave the cats indoors while your parents visit?” Allura asked, as she paused in sweeping the floor to bend down and rub under Balmera’s chin. “Do you parents like cats? We can always leave them outside for a while, I’m sure they won’t mind.”

“It should be fine,” Shiro said. He was folding laundry in the lounge room so that their washing could be put away before his parent’s arrived. The cats were doing what they usually did during the day – relaxing. Balmera was sprawled out in his cat bed, and Panther had wandered off outside to find a patch of sunlight for a few hours. “My mother likes cats, anyway.”

Allura chuckled. Balmera had started purring, and was tilting his head into Allura’s wandering fingers. “I’ll brush them first, just in case they come over to say hello,” she said. “Can’t have them making a bad impression!”

“Will they even let you brush them?” Shiro laughed. He set their folded laundry back into the basket and stood to carry it into their room. “I didn’t think cats really liked to be brushed.”

“Panther doesn’t really like it, but his fur is short anyway, so he doesn’t need much grooming,” Allura said. “Balmera is a little more lenient.”

Shiro set the basket of clothes down on their bed and straightened his back to stretch. His eyes lingered on the glass vase sitting on Allura’s bedside table. She’d picked a bouquet of white and pink flowers, and fawned over them after setting the flowers in the vase when Shiro thought she wasn’t looking. She’d put the flowers on their dining table after they’d set it.

While he knew his parents would probably like their cats, Shiro secretly thought that Allura would be the real star. She’d already picked out her clothes, and had them laid across their bed for later. He’d seen her nervously fixing her hair in the mirror a few times that day, though he knew she wasn’t worried about making a bad impression.

Sometimes, Shiro wondered if his parents would make a good enough impression. Allura’s father was wonderful, and she was very connected to him. And her mother… Shiro knew her mother must have been a wonderful woman. Would Allura be able to make a bond like that with Shiro’s own mother? He really hoped she would.

Maybe he was the nervous one.

Chapter Text

Shiro’s mother was a strong little woman. Her hair was dark like Shiro’s, and he’d inherited her sharp features, despite having an angular jawline like his father. Ever since he was little he’d known that it was his mother who ruled the roost, though his father had always been more than content to let her take over everything.

With that thought stuck in mind, it was no surprise she was the first one to come darting up the driveway. Shiro and Allura were seated on the balcony when they heard the car pull up into the housing block’s parking lot. It didn’t take long for a knock to resound on the door, and while Allura jerked to her feet, suddenly looking quiet nervous, Shiro had her sit again so he could go and answer the door instead.

“Shiro!” His mother cried, as he opened the door to reveal her eager figure. “Oh honey, you look fantastic!”

Shiro laughed, because she’d hardly gotten a look at him before throwing her arms around his shoulders, but he still returned her hug. “It’s so good to see you,” he said, as he held her tight. He doesn’t quite remember when he'd grown so much taller than her, because she’d always seemed like a towering figure to him. Even more so when he’d been in the hospital after his amputation and so desperate to push her away.

“Where’s your father?” She huffed, as she pulled away to glance back over her shoulder. “I thought he said he’d be coming up right behind me. He didn’t get the house number wrong, did he? Wait, there he is. Over here, dear!”

“No so loud, Ma,” Shiro groaned, embarrassed. “The neighbours will complain.”

His father came wandering up the stairs and down the porch to greet them, a warm smile on his face. Shiro liked to think he was a bit more like his father than his mother – they had the same disposition, and he had certainly inherited his father’s height; somewhere along the way he’d surpassed his father too, though only by an inch.

“Shiro, you’re looking well,” he said, as he gave Shiro a fleeting, but gentle, hug. He still wore the same cologne he’d always worn – a warm, but impressionable scent – and Shiro couldn’t help but breathe it in deeply. It reminded him sharply of his childhood, when his father would carry him to bed after he became too big and too old to be coddled by his mother.

He’d really spent too long away from them.

“Do you want to come in?” Shiro asked, as he pressed the door open a little wider. “Dinner isn’t too far away.”

“Of course, of course,” his mother exclaimed, as she hustled in past him. “Shiro, you just have to introduce me to Allura. Is she in the lounge room? Oh, I’m so excited.”

“She’s out on the balcony, I’ll introduce you,” he said, so that his mother wouldn’t run off and get ahead of herself. He wanted everything to be perfect; didn’t want his mother’s eagerness to startle Allura. He could already feel his own excitement building, because he just knew his parents were going to love her.

Still not as much as he did, though.

Chapter Text

Allura was standing by the balcony doorway, having obviously heard her name mentioned. She looked as pretty as ever – her eyes bright and blue, her hair pulled up with some sort of braid down the side, her dress smoothed down excessively by nervous hands. She seemed surprised by the sight of Shiro’s parents, but this was the first time she’d actually seen them, aside from in old photos Shiro had.

Shiro went to her side before she could fluster herself into a nervous mess, and took her hand in his to guide her in through the doorway. “Allura, these are my parents,” he said, smiling warmly as he swept a hand forwards. She gave him a thankful look before stepping forwards to extend her hand.

“It’s nice to meet you,” she said bashfully.

“The pleasure is all ours!” His mother exclaimed, as she forwent shaking Allura’s hand in favour of dragging her into a ferocious, motherly hug, the kind that felt like it could break bones. “Aren’t you just so beautiful! The pictures my son sent us doesn’t measure up.”

Allura seemed surprised to suddenly find her arms full of a small, Asian woman, but that didn’t stop her from grinning and returning the embrace.

Shiro’s mother detached herself and held Allura at arm’s length, her hands on Allura’s shoulders. “Let me have a proper look at you,” she said. “I’m just so glad to finally meet you! Shiro never stops talking about you, you know. It’s always Allura this and Allura that. He made me jealous for not knowing you!”

“Ma!” Shiro complained, as he ushered his fawning mother away from his girlfriend. “Stop embarrassing me and let Dad say hello.”

Allura and his father shook hands, and then Shiro somehow managed to get everyone into the lounge room. His mother still hadn’t stopped fawning over Allura, and as embarrassing as it was, Shiro still found himself swelling with pride over his beautiful partner. He was relieved that they approved of her so wholeheartedly, because even if he was an adult, their opinions mattered to him.

His mother seemed utterly enamoured with her. Shiro guessed that he had spoken about Allura quite a lot, so it made sense that she would want to get to know her as well. As long as his mother didn’t suddenly whip out any baby photos, Shiro thought he would be alright.

Of course, just because his mother didn’t have photos didn’t mean she was out of stories to tell.

“I think your mother is amusing Allura at the sake of your masculinity,” his father said, as he wondered into the kitchen to watch Shiro finish up dinner. He’d left his family and his girlfriend in the lounge room after Allura had assured him she’d be alright on her own, though he doubted his mother would be able to hold herself back.

“How bad is it?” Shiro asked, his eyebrows raised.

“Well, remember that time when you were little and you burst into tears because the waves washed away your sandcastle? Even though we told you the tide would rise?”

“Oh, I do remember that. Is she telling Allura that?”

“She’s also told her about that phase you went through when you only wore pink dungarees. And that obsession you had with butterflies.”

“Including that time when-”

“You burst into tears because one landed on your nose and your mother took a thousand photos of you wailing? Yeah, that too.”

Shiro groaned. “Must she?”

“She must.”

Shiro sighed. He wasn’t particularly distraught over his mother telling Allura such embarrassing things, because everyone had embarrassing childhood stories. He knew Allura would find it endearing, so at least he’d get comforted in his suffering. “At least she didn’t bring the photos,” he said absentmindedly.

“Not this time,” his father agreed, amused.

Shiro smiled to himself. He hadn’t had a proper conversation with his father in a long time – it was always his Ma who answered the phone, and while she would readily relay messages, it wasn’t the same as actually getting to hear his father’s voice. “Though I hear you’ve been doing your fair share of photo sharing,” Shiro remarked.

His father just smiled. “You snagged a real beauty.”

“I think it was the other way around,” Shiro admitted. He hesitated for a moment before asking, “So you like her then?”

“She’s lovely,” he said. “I’m glad you’ve found someone with a heart like hers.”

It was the sort of praise his father had never given Shiro before. Shiro had never really had a girlfriend he was this serious about, let alone one he’d introduce to his parents. He’d dated, but he hadn’t really loved anyone before, not like how he loved Allura.

“You really like her a lot,” his father observed.

Shiro nodded. “She… she makes me forget that I’m not… whole. She doesn’t care about my arm or my scars and she doesn’t hesitate to hold my hand or lean on my shoulder. No one’s… no one’s ever really been like that before. It’s like…”

“She sees the real you.”

Surprised, Shiro glanced up. “It’s exactly like that,” he said. “How did you know?”

“It’s something your mother has told me before,” his father said. “We were really worried after the accident, you know. We always knew you’d draw the right people to you, but you just hated yourself so much that we feared you’d never be able to see through the past. That’s why we were so glad to hear you willingly tell us you had someone you liked.”

Shiro smiled a little, glancing away again. “I really like Allura,” he said. “I love her. I just want to make her as happy as she makes me.”

“I’m sure you do. You are my son after all.”

Shiro laughed.

Dinner passed pleasantly. His mother praised his food and insisted he give her the leftovers (which he’d planned to do anyway) and Allura was more than happy to answer all the questions they had for her (where did you study? Do you like working with the kids? What’s Altea like? Shiro doesn’t slack off with the housework, does he? He always used to avoid the laundry like it was the plague when he was younger, you know).

Shiro showed his mother one of their photo albums after dinner. It was one of the ones Allura had made, and it had photos from their trip to the aquarium, both their date and the excursion. It was nice for his mother to see more photos of the kids he talked about so much, he thought.

As Shiro cleared the dishes after dinner, the house was oddly quiet. It was pleasant, and not uncomfortable – his mother and Allura were in the dining room, and his father was in the lounge room, idly flipping through the photo album now that his wife wasn’t hoarding it.

It was quiet enough that he could hear soft whispering coming from the lounge room.

“He talks about you a lot,” his mother said quietly. “I’ll ask him about his day, and he’ll start telling me about all the things you did without even realising. He’s never been so interested in another person before, aside from his friend Matt maybe, but that’s different. I’m really relieved to see that he’s got someone to take care of him when he can’t do it himself.”

“He’s a strong person,” Allura said, just as quiet. “He always tries really hard, and doesn’t like to give up.”

“Don’t I know it,” his mother chuckled. “He was the most stubborn child I’ve ever seen. But in the end I think it was a good thing he was like that.”

“I think so too.”

He wasn’t quite sure why they thought that – maybe they saw something in him he couldn’t see himself – but he thought it maybe had something to do with his accident. In differing ways, they’d both seen the extent of his injury, and how it affected him. His parents had been steadying forces after his amputation and even before it, when he’d been stuck with his useless arm, delirious with pain and misery. Allura had seen what still haunted him, and how he struggled with his scars and lingering pain. Maybe they were glad he was stubborn enough not to give up.

It was startling to think that perhaps those were the sorts of thoughts Allura had about him.

When Allura next came into the kitchen looking for fresh drinks, Shiro couldn’t help but draw her into his arms.

“Shiro?” She asked, surprised. “Are you alright?”

She didn’t know that he’d heard her, but he didn’t want to mention it in that moment. Instead he pressed his lips against her forehead and held on tightly, wondering how he’d ever gotten so lucky as to be able to hold a person like her in his arms. No matter what happened to him, or how frightened he became, or if he wanted to be a coward – she didn’t care. She never had. She let him be vulnerable and scared and weak, and she did nothing but soothe him through it and build him back up again.

For now, he didn’t say anything. She could probably tell he wanted to, could probably tell he’d been thinking hard about something, but she didn’t question him. Instead, she gave him an adorable smile, and went on her way.

He almost felt like he could collapse. She was too perfect for words.

Chapter Text

Come the start of the week, Shiro thought that it was finally time he tackled the next biggest problem on his list of things-to-fix: Keith. He almost thought that perhaps Keith had gotten over his worrying about Lance phase, but it seemed that that worry had transitioned into a strange state of possessiveness instead.

Shiro almost didn’t notice it, at first – not until that morning, when Keith bitterly guarded Lance’s attention for himself. It wasn’t anything bad, but he did stop Lance from interacting with their fellow class members, so Shiro knew it was time to step in. He had Keith join him in the office, with the door mostly closed. Coran and Allura were out supervising the kids, so he knew he had time to talk with Keith.

“Now I want you to be honest with me,” he started, as he set Keith down on his chair and pulled Allura’s closer for himself, “how are you feeling, Keith? About Lance.”

Keith’s cheeks went red. “Is this about the aquarium?” He mumbled.

Shiro nodded.

“The lake too?”

“Mhmm.”

Keith nervously fiddled with his fingers, and shrugged.

Shiro sighed, and was silent in thought for a moment. “Alright, how about this? I want you to tell me how you felt when Lance fell into the water at the lake. Can you remember that, Keith?”

Keith shrunk into his shoulders, but he nodded. “I… it was scary,” he said. “I thought Lance was going to get hurt.”

“That’s okay, Keith,” Shiro soothed. “It’s okay if you felt like that. Do you think it was wrong to feel worried for Lance?”

Keith shook his head.

“Good. Now I want you to tell me how you felt when we were at the aquarium and Lance went up to the tank.”

“Scared,” Keith whispered.

“Do you know why you were scared?”

Keith shook his head again. He looked confused, and a little lost.

“Did you remember the moment Lance fell in the water at the lake?” Shiro asked him. “Is that why you felt scared? Because you thought maybe it would happen again, and Lance would get hurt?”

“Yeah,” Keith admitted, looking teary. “I don’t want him to get hurt again.”

“That’s alright,” Shiro said. “It’s normal to feel that way. It means that you care about Lance very much, which will always be a good thing. You shouldn’t feel bad for worrying about him.”

“I shouldn’t?”

“No, not at all,” Shiro said. “But I do want you to know that you don’t need to worry about him as much as you do. Lance is a smart boy, and he’s a very capable swimmer. What happened to him at the lake was an accident, and it was in no means your fault.”

“But-”

“No buts,” Shiro shook his head. “As an adult, it is my responsibility to look after you kids. What happened at the lake was an accident, and it’s something that I and the other carers can learn from. Still, I don’t want you to fear that Lance will get hurt because of what happened.”

Keith glanced down. “I know it wasn’t my fault,” he whispered, “but I just want to protect Lance.”

Shiro reached for Keith, and set him on his knee. “I’m glad you told me that,” he said, “that’s very mature of you. But you must remember that Lance is his own person, and sometimes he needs to make mistakes so he can learn from them, too.”

Keith nodded. “Okay.”

“That goes for you, too,” Shiro said. “You’re allowed to make mistakes and grow from them.”

Keith nodded again. He looked a lot more at ease now. “Okay,” Keith said. “Thank you, Shiro.”

“It’s no problem,” Shiro said. He returned the small hug Keith gave him before setting Keith back down on his feet. “If you ever feel scared or upset, you can always come and talk to me, okay? No matter what.”

“I will,” Keith said. His hands lingered, balled up in Shiro’s shirt for a moment, but he eventually let go. Shiro watched him leave, and let out a relieved sigh. Keith wandered straight back over to Lance, but he didn’t stop Lance from interacting with others, and instead just let himself smoothly join the conversation.

It was an improvement, and Shiro couldn’t be more proud of him.

Chapter Text

That afternoon, after they’d returned home, Allura asked about his conversation with Keith. She knew he’d had a talk with him, though she hadn’t interrupted, or pried into it. When he thought about it, it was kind of a private moment – Keith likely trusted him more than Allura and Coran, despite knowing them for longer.

But Allura was the owner of the business, so it was her duty to make sure the kids were healthy and happy. If she didn’t have to, she probably wouldn’t have asked about it at all, but it was an obligation she had to fulfil. In the end, Shiro didn’t mind. He wasn’t as nervous with the responsibility of the kids’ welfare anymore, but it was still reassuring to have Allura’s more experienced opinion come into play.

“I think he’s alright now,” Shiro said, as he fished out their house keys from his pocket. He’d driven them home, but they’d stopped on the way home to get bread and vegetables for dinner, so Allura was carrying the bags. “He’s really attached to Lance, huh?”

“He wasn’t always,” Allura said, sounding oddly wistful. “They used to argue a lot more than they did when you first met them. Lance really had a grudge against Keith.”

“Did he? Do you know why?” Shiro asked, surprised, as he unlocked their front door and ushered her in.

“I think it’s because Keith is smart and popular,” Allura said. “He doesn’t like to socialise much, but the others in the class sure do love him. He’s the type of kid that all the others just want to be friends with, you know? We get kids like them every now and then, though they’re usually more eager to make friends than Keith was.”

Shiro hummed. “So Lance was jealous.”

Allura nodded. “Probably.” She set down the shopping bags on the kitchen bench and bent down to pat Balmera, who had wandered over to rub against her legs, behind the ears. “I can see why he would be. Lance is much more social than Keith, he always has been. He knew Hunk before they even arrived at the kindergarten, and although Pidge is a little younger than them, he really reeled Pidge into their group. It was rather astounding to watch.”

“I can only imagine,” Shiro chuckled. He knew that Pidge was never really one to make friends on his own; he was always the type of person that other people pulled in, and if he liked them well enough, he stayed. It must have been quite surprising for Pidge to find himself face-to-face with an energetic person like Lance, though they really did get along now. Pidge and Hunk, too – though they were a match up Shiro could see a little more naturally. “I’m glad they’re so close now, though. Keith and Lance, I mean.”

“I am as well,” Allura agreed, “but I’m starting to get a little worried about what might happen if they separate. Long lasting friendships don’t usually begin in kindergarten.”

That was true. Shiro didn’t know anyone from his own days as a kindergartener, and considering Allura had been in Altea at that age, he guessed she wouldn’t, either. But he couldn’t imagine Lance and Keith ever separating, not with how attached they were to each other. Lance seemed to like Keith a lot more than a friend would, even at their age. And even if Keith didn’t feel the same, his bond with Lance was certainly quite strong.

Sometimes, Shiro even thought that perhaps Keith would come to like Lance in the same way Lance liked Keith. “I think they’ll be alright when they grow up,” he eventually murmured. “I hope they’ll be alright.”

Allura gave him a knowing look, and stood again. She put her arms around his waist, and rested her chin on his chest so that she could look up at him. “You’re really worried about them,” she said, “but they’ll be alright. Even if they don’t stay friends, it doesn’t make their friendship now any less important.”

Shiro sighed. He knew she was right, but he still felt sad thinking that one day those two wouldn’t be together anymore. “I just want them to be happy,” he said.

Allura gave him a small, comforting smile. “I know,” she said, “and they will be. I have no doubts about that at all. Their bond is so different from any other I’ve ever seen, Shiro. I don’t know what to expect about their future, but… I think they’ll stay together. Their parents are friends, they live close by one another… anyone with eyes can see that they’re very close.”

He nodded, and rested his cheek against the top of her head. “That’s true,” he whispered. Her words were very comforting, and he felt more at ease listening to her reassurances. No one had ever had that effect on him before.

“Your attachment to them is cute, too,” she mumbled.

This time, Shiro laughed properly.

Chapter Text

Allura was having a bad day. Not only was her luck seemingly against her, but the weather, her hair and even the cats seemed to be much the same. For Shiro, the day started out just like any other (waking up to Allura was always a wonder he’d never get used to) but it wasn’t so easy for Allura – not even close.

It started with the hair. She seemed to have slept rather rough, and had neglected to brush her hair after showering the precious evening. Usually dragging a brush through it while she had conditioner in was enough to tame her thick locks, but she’d forgotten, and so she woke up with tangles unlike any other. She spent a good half an hour trying to get them all out, until her brush had gotten stuck and the handle had snapped off.

Shiro had let her borrow his brush until they could replace the broken one, but the damage had been done. Allura was never the type of person to let one bad thing ruin her day, so it hadn’t even registered to him as something that was enough to sour it mood. It hadn’t been, either.

But then she’d accidentally stepped on Panther’s tail when he’d run under her feet. It had been an accident, and wasn’t something that usually startled the old cat, but he had been quite surprised this time, and he’d swiped at her. The cuts on her leg were barely more than a nick, but it did make her suck in a sharp breath, and then Panther was too rattled to eat breakfast.

“Allura, I’m sure he’s not mad,” Shiro said, as he started to worry over Allura’s petulant frown.

“I hurt him, Shiro,” Allura insisted. “He must hate me.”

Then in rained. It was unexpected, and neither one of them had an umbrella as they stepped out of the car and ran towards the front awning of the kindergarten. Shiro was mostly fine, if a little wet, but Allura’s shirt was white, and her soft, pink bra was clearly visible where her shirt stuck to her skin. She had to wear Shiro’s wet sweater until her shirt dried, which was likely both uncomfortable and a little embarrassing (his sweater was clearly way too big for her, and the sleeves were too long, but it was all they had).

“Could this day get any worse?” Allura complained, as one of the kids’ paintings slipped off the drying rack to smear glitter and paint down the front of Shiro’s sweater. She certainly sounded miserable, and looked even worse.

“It’s alright, Allura,” Shiro tried to comfort her, but she didn’t seem any less frustrated. He wanted to ease her worries, just like she always did for him, but the right words wouldn’t come to mind.

To make matters worse, she slipped over on the way up the stairs back into their home. The ground was still wet from the rain and she was trying to juggle her still-wet shirt and their house keys when she’d lost her grip on the staircase’s railing. She’d scraped her knee against the stairs but thankfully hadn’t fallen down them, and although Shiro was relieved, Allura was just pissed.

It really wasn’t her day.

Shiro wasn’t used to Allura being so upset. She was always positive when she could be, and never let things like this get to her. And when she was sad, he was usually able to help her. So what was different this time? Why did he feel so useless? The least he could do was try to make her feel better. She’d do that for him.

So he made her a cup of tea, and brought it to her in the lounge room. “How are you feeling, Allura?” He asked, as he set the cup down on the coffee table.

“How do you think?” She snapped.

He winced. He knew she was upset and that she didn’t mean to sound so snippy, but it was just… strange, to have it from her. Not unrealistic or wrong, but strange. He wanted her to be happy, but it seemed less and less likely that he would be able to do that.

“Allura,” he started, as he reached to take her hand.

But she slapped his hand away. It certainly wasn’t a gesture she meant to do as hard as she did, but it was Shiro’s prosthetic, and the jolt it gave him made his shoulder twinge unpleasantly. The metallic sound of his hand clinking against her bracelet was almost as unpleasant.

“Shiro, I-”

“No, its fine,” he interrupted, as he drew his hand back. She didn’t mean it. Even if his shoulder hurt, he knew she didn’t mean it. “I… I made you tea. I’ll get started on dinner now, okay?”

She didn’t reply.

He made dinner in silence, too lost in his own thoughts to wonder where he’d gone wrong. His arm was aching, and his shoulder was worse, but he didn’t dare complain. He’d been in worse pain before, and he refused to think that this pain was anything more than a slight twinge. Allura would never hurt him, not intentionally.

Maybe if he didn’t have a prosthetic, then this wouldn’t have happened.

It was with that thought in mind that he decided to retire early. He left Allura’s dinner on the counter, and went to go find her. She’d holed herself up in the study, and was hunched over her laptop. It didn’t look like she’d gotten much work done.

“I’m going to go to bed early tonight,” he said.

“Okay.”

It was almost like she didn’t hear him, but he didn’t blame her. She was too down, and that wasn’t her fault.

He didn’t go to bed straight away. Something stopped him – his arm. He sat on the edge of the bed after changing and brushing his teeth so he could look it over. He’d ignored it all evening, but now it felt like a sore spot he couldn’t get rid of. The prosthetic was fused to what was left of his arm and shoulder, so it wasn’t like he could take if off when he wanted to get away from it. Just like his injury, he was stuck with it.

He’d never get away from it.

“Shiro?”

He jumped, not expecting his name to be called, and hid his arm behind his back. He didn’t want to be caught staring at it, but the look Allura gave him told him that that wasn’t the case. He glanced away.

“I’m… going to stay up for a little longer,” she whispered. “Goodnight.”

“Night,” he said. He watched her leave, and withdrew his arm from behind his back. It seemed even uglier.

He couldn’t sleep. Even if his shoulder wasn’t flaring up with pain every time he breathed in, he doubted he would have been able to rest. He was too used to Allura’s presence beside him, and the warmth of her skin against him. He missed her terribly, and she wasn’t even more than twenty feet away from him.

It couldn’t have been more than thirty minutes before he heard the lights being turned off in the house. Allura wandered into the bedroom a few moments later, her footsteps quiet. “Shiro, are you awake?”

He hummed.

She slipped under the covers, and shifted over to press against his back. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, as she pressed her cold hand against the back of his shoulder. It felt good. “I hurt you.”

He reached back to place his normal hand over the top of hers. “It’s alright,” he whispered back. “I know you didn’t mean it.”

“That’s no excuse,” Allura said. “I really could have hurt you, Shiro. All you did was try to make me feel better.”

He didn’t think he’d be able to convince her otherwise, so he didn’t answer. “Can you lay on my other side?” He asked instead.

She didn’t question his request, and slipped out of bed to go around the other side. That way she was in front of him, and they were pressed chest to chest. As gently as he could, he lifted his prosthetic over her waist, and let it rest there. He wouldn’t be able to sleep on it tonight, and this was his next best solution. He needed to convince himself that it was still a part of him, anyway.

“Tomorrow will be better,” he whispered.

She nodded, and held onto him tightly, her fingers clenched in his night shirt. She pressed a kiss to his lips, and he returned it as gently as he could, knowing they both felt a little fragile. “It will be,” she agreed.

Chapter Text

Shiro had always been an early riser, especially after his training at the Garrison. He usually went to bed early and rose early, half the time not even of his own volition. It was a routine he was comfortable with, and usually when he slept in, he found himself even more tired than he was when he went to bed. It wasn’t unpleasant, but oversleeping on a work day was a bit of a problem for him.

That’s why when he woke up the next day, tired and disoriented, he knew that he’d overslept.

There was a pain behind his eyes that he hadn’t felt in a long time. Heat seemed to have coiled over his skin and through his blood while he’d slept, and he was covered in a sheen of uncomfortable, damp sweat. He tried to sit up, but a wash of dizziness came over him, and he was forced to lay back down with a tired, pained groan.

Sometimes, back when his prosthetic was still new and it hadn’t been more than two years since he’d gotten it, he would get a fever from the pain it caused him. The ache of it straining on his back and neck muscles would give him a headache, and his temperature would skyrocket. He’d never do anything to fix it either, because he was stubborn and irresponsible. In more recent years, when his muscles had built back up and he’d taken to a more active lifestyle, the pain and fevers had stopped.

He didn’t think a single twinge was strong enough to bring one back.

The next time he tried to sit up turned out just as badly as the first. There wasn’t much light peeking in through the closed curtains but it was enough to feel blinding. Even the quiet pitter-patter of rain on the roof was hurting his head. He almost whimpered when their bedroom door was pushed open and light from the hallway spilled in.

“Shiro, you’re awake,” Allura exhaled.

He squinted an eye open at her. She’d tied her hair up messily, and her cheeks were flushed with worry. There was a noticeable furrow in her brow that concerned him. “What…?”

“It’s alright,” she said, as she rushed to his side. She had her phone pressed to her ear, and used her free hand to urge him back. “Just rest, okay?”

“Work,” he croaked. They couldn’t be late just because he’d overslept. God, why did have to get sick?

Allura shook her head. “We’re not going to work today,” she said, as she moved hair away from his forehead. “I’ve already called my father, he’s going to step in- ah, Coran! Please, I need your help.”

Chapter Text

“No, Coran, he’s not throwing up,” Allura said into the phone, her head turned away from Shiro. He watched her with blurry eyes, and tried to sit up again, but her hand on his chest kept him down. “He’s really hot.” She paused. “Yes. Yes, I know that, Coran-”

“Allura, let me up,” he whispered, as he put his hand over hers. “I just overslept, that’s all.”

She gave him an exasperated glance, and didn’t buy into his pleas. The worried frown on her face hadn’t left, either. “Alright,” she finally said to Coran, “I’ll call you if anything else happens, okay? Sorry for waking you so early this morning, too.”

After a moment she set her phone down, and leaned over to press the back of her hand against his forehead. He couldn’t help but feel that something other than his apparent fever was bothering her. “What’s wrong?” He asked.

She shook her head. “You’re sick,” she whispered. “Stop trying to get up, you silly man. You’ll make yourself feel worse.”

“But work-”

“I already told you, my father is going to cover for us today,” she told him gently. “I want you to rest up, alright? You’re really burning up, but as long as you keep your stomach contents down, Coran said you should be okay.”

She doesn’t know. Shiro pursed his lips, and shut his eyes. If Allura knew that her actions had led to his fever, then she’d never forgive herself. He knew that better than he knew anything, so he wouldn’t tell her. It would be best if she thought this was just a fever like any other. In the end, it wasn’t like it was any different anyway. He’d just get a sore shoulder out of it.

“I’m going to go get you a glass of water,” Allura said. “Stay in bed, Shiro.”

“Okay, okay.”

He watched her leave until it hurt to keep his eyes open for any longer. There was pain spreading behind his eyes, and with a tired groan, he finally admitted to himself that he wouldn’t be able to go to work in this state.

He was asleep before she entered the room again.

 

Out of all the symptoms one could experience while sick, Shiro thought he hated fevers the most. They seemed to burn through his body and linger in his head, and the sticky, sick sweat always made him feel incredibly uncomfortable. It was like the heat of the fever burned up his arm, and no matter which position he laid in, it never became any easier to bear.

Strange dreams haunted him. They had been much worse when he’d only recently received his prosthetic. He didn’t remember… remember all of his accident, but he remembered enough to give him never-ending nightmares. They always involved plumes of burning smoke and flying chunks of debris and a searing pain in the arm he no longer had.

When he was alone, it was fine if he woke up screaming or crying or throwing a fist. No one was there to see him, no one was there to get hurt because of him. He could wallow in his anguish for as long as he needed to without feeling pressured to be better.

But it was different this time. He woke up with a cry on his lips and smoke behind his eyes, and for a moment, it was like he was falling out of the sky again, suspended where no one could help him and his body could be (and would be) torn apart like a puppet on strings.

“Shiro!”

Allura’s voice brought him crashing back to the present. The heat beneath his skin had gotten worse and he was sweating all over; not even the cold face washer draped across his forehead was doing anything to cool him down. “Allura?” He croaked. He almost didn’t believe his eyes.

“It’s me,” she whispered, leaning down towards him. Her hair was still up, and she still had a worried frown on her face. How much time had passed? He couldn’t tell, the curtains were still pulled shut. “Try and calm down, Shiro. Just breathe.”

He hadn’t realised how hard he was panting until she mentioned it. Taking in deep breathes was a struggle but he managed, and eventually his chest stopped heaving. “What’s going on?”

“You’ve still got a fever,” she told him. “It’s getting worse, I called Coran again. He’s going to come over and check on you after work. Are you dizzy? Thirsty? I can get you another drink-”

“It’s fine,” he interrupted. His voice was raspy and tired, even to his own ears. “This just happens sometimes.”

Her frown deepened. “Does it?”

“When my arm gets sore,” he said without thinking. He almost felt like he was dreaming again, like he’d wake up any moment falling from the sky and Allura would just be a cruel hallucination of something he would never deserve to have for himself. “When it’s sore, it strains my body too much. Headache. Fever…”

Her eyes went stricken. “I did this,” she said, as she became teary. “I hurt you.”

“No,” he said, as he clutched at the end of her shirt. She hadn’t even changed out of her pyjamas. “No, it wasn’t your fault. It just happens.”

She wasn’t convinced. Looking pained, she stood to leave, and he panicked.

His grip on her shirt tightened. “Don’t leave me,” he whimpered. It was so out of character for him that, he even though he was sick, he was instantly humiliated. “Please, I’ll get better-”

“I’m not going anywhere.” She untangled his fingers from her shirt, and clutched his hands in hers. Her skin was warm, and it made him notice that he was shivering, even though he felt like he was burning up.

He could have cried in relief when she laid down beside him and tucked his head in against her chest. “It’s not your fault,” he said again, as he struggled to stay awake. “It just… it just happens. Because I lost it. My- my arm.”

She hushed him, and drove her fingers through his hair. It may have been short, but there were already knots building up from his rough sleep. “Just get some rest, Shiro,” she whispered, as she pressed a soft kiss to his forehead. “I’ll be here when you wake up this time, okay? I won’t leave, I promise.”

He let out another shaky breath, and didn’t beg for more reassurance. Allura wouldn’t leave him, not if he asked. It only took once. She could always tell how he felt, so why did he think now was any different? Because he was sick? Vulnerable? Trembling? It didn’t matter. When he closed his eyes and tried to focus just on the sound of her breathing, he found that he already felt more like himself.

Somehow, it was reassuring to realise that this time, he wasn’t going to wake up with only the ghostly pain of his missing limb for company.

Chapter Text

His fever broke later that evening. While he still had a headache behind his eyes, he no longer felt uncomfortably hot, and most of his dizziness had faded away. He could hardly remember falling asleep at all, but he was feeling a lot better now than he was before.

Allura was asleep beside him, her hands bunched in the sheets, breathing soft. She looked tired, and he tried not to wake her, but when he stirred, she did too. “Shiro?” She murmured, as she rubbed at her eye. “How are you feeling?”

“Better,” he said. “I need to shower.”

She laughed a little, and pushed herself upright. “Are you hungry? I can make dinner.”

“A little.”

“Alright, you go have a shower and I’ll make up something real quick.” She pressed a kiss to his forehead before she left the room. He watched her go for a moment before standing. His legs felt shaky but it wasn’t enough to hinder him, so he didn’t complain.

Having a shower made him feel a lot better. He washed his hair and his skin and let the water ease his headache. It seemed like most of his fever had passed, which left him relieved. His shoulder was sore, but that was expected, and he tried not to let it bother him. He’d become quite good at using his left hand when pain like this struck.

Allura was in the kitchen when he emerged. She had her back to him, and on a whim, he wandered over to lean against her. He didn’t put all of his weight on her, but she didn’t complain about what he did give. “How are you feeling?” He asked.

“Shouldn’t I be the one asking you that?” She replied, as she glanced at him over her shoulder. “Do you still feel sick?”

“Not really,” he mumbled. “Just have a headache.”

She hummed. She was making omelettes for them, and for a few minutes, she focused on that. When they were done, she ushered him towards their dining table, where they took a seat. She got him a glass of water and had him drain it before eating, too. It made his head feel a little bit better.

“Do you often get fevers like that?” She asked.

He winced. “Not always,” he said, looking down. “I haven’t had one in ages. I get them when my back and neck muscles strain too much.”

“Was it my fault?” She whispered.

“No,” he said, his voice firm. “It’s my fault for losing it in the first place.”

“Shiro, that wasn’t your fault,” she frowned.

He sighed. She was right about that, and he knew it. It wasn’t something he even wanted to argue, because he was just being stubborn. “It just happens sometimes,” he finally said. “It wasn’t anyone’s fault.”

She looked like she wanted to protest, but then she let out a deep breath, and she nodded. “Not anyone’s fault,” she agreed.

Suddenly, the air between them felt a little lighter. Shiro gave her a small smile, and felt his heart swell when she returned it. He hated that his arm was still causing trouble for him, but it was something that was inevitably going to happen, so he let it go. He’d just have to tackle the problems one-by-one, and hope that they never affected Allura like this again.

Chapter Text

Allura’s hair was an utter mess the following morning. Shiro noticed it when he woke up, but he found it oddly charming. She’d stayed awake until he fell asleep the night before, just to make sure he was really okay – at least, that was what she’d said when he’d sleepily asked her about it.

She probably wouldn’t be pleased with how tangled her hair had become during the night. She might have forgotten to brush it the previous day, what with Shiro being all sick and whiny. He didn’t want her to have yet another bad day, so while she slept, he turned off their alarms and quietly crept out of bed. She kept her hairbrush on the sink in their bathroom, so he went to get it before returning to their bed.

He was relieved that she didn’t wake when he sat down on the edge of the bed. Allura hadn’t moved from her previous position, except to turn her head more towards Shiro’s vacant pillow, something that most certainly worked in his favour.

He had to be very careful as he sectioned off a part of her hair and gently pulled the brush through it. Her nose scrunched up for a moment but she didn’t wake – she really wasn’t a morning person, and it made him laugh quietly. She must have been really tired to sleep through him brushing her hair like that, even if she was sleepy.

For the most part, he continued his little mission uninterrupted. He mostly kept to the ends of her hair, where she was less likely to wake up with a tug that might have been perhaps a little too rough. When she did wake up, however, it was a slow and sweet process, one that had her blinking and mumbling something unintelligible. “Shiro…?”

“Good morning,” he said, as he set the brush aside in favour of running his fingers through the tamed parts of her hair. He leaned down, and although he would usually kiss her forehead or cheek in this sort of situation, he kissed her lips, instead. She startled at the gentle pressure but didn’t shy away from him, and placed her hand on the back of his neck so that she could return the gesture.

“Good morning,” she said. “Were you brushing my hair? It felt nice…”

He laughed again. “I was. It’s like taming a wild beast.”

She snorted, and hid her face in her pillow. “Tell me about it. You should do it every morning.”

He smiled, and kissed the back of her head when she was too embarrassed to face him. “Maybe if you’re lucky.”

Chapter Text

It became a sort of tradition, after the first time he did it, despite Allura’s begrudging embarrassment. Shiro could remember seeing his father brush his mother’s hair when he was a child. They’d sit in their bedroom and Shiro would push the door open just a little so that he could see into the room, and his mother would always be seated at her vanity, his father standing behind her.

In Japan, brushing one’s spouse’s hair was a very intimate gesture. Although it seemed like a mundane or everyday action, seeing his father brush his mother’s long, black hair had shown him that it could be a very affectionate moment to share. And even if Allura remained asleep for the better part of it, he was rather glad to share such a moment with her.

She had very unique hair, he thought. It was thick and wavy, sometimes too thick to pull a brush through, though she always managed somehow. The colour was rather unique, too – not quite white, not quite silver, but a pretty mix somewhere in between the two. He could probably describe it as “starlight” and others would be able to picture its colour perfectly. The only other person he’d ever seen with the same hair colour was Alfor.

When he thought about it, she really did have quite a unique look to her. The paleness of her hair was a lovely look against her dark skin, and her bright blue eyes were truly mesmerizing. He’d never seen anyone as beautiful as her. It was a wonder to him that she had been single when they’d met, because he could imagine she’d get quite a lot of attention from people when out and about. How could others not flock to her? She was absolutely stunning.

Secretly, he was quite proud of the fact that only he got to see her when she was sleeping. That was what he was doing then – watching her sleep, as he gently pulled her hair brush through her hair. It wasn’t as tangled as when he’d first done it, but he thought that perhaps he’d become quite good at brushing long hair now that he’d done it a few times. He could feel where the knots were, and could pull them apart without Allura waking anymore.

When she did wake, it was always with a small, sweet look on her face, like she was shifting from unconsciousness to consciousness with ease. Half the time she hardly seemed like she knew what was going on, but eventually she’d feel the brush in her hair and she’d give him an exasperatedly fond look.

“Good morning,” he whispered when she woke that morning. She sat up to press a kiss to his cheek as he set aside the brush like she often did these days.

“Morning,” she said. After muffling a yawn into her hand she slumped against him and smiled when he ran his hands down her arms. “We’ve got a busy day ahead,” she sighed.

He’d almost forgotten. Coran had organised a sort of “sleepover” event for the kids where they could camp out at the kindergarten for a night. They had to write up and distribute permission notes and begin to prepare for the night, which in itself was a huge task. Despite the amount of work and planning it pertained, Shiro was quite excited for it. He hadn’t done anything like camping in years, not since his early Garrison training years.

“I’ll go get started on breakfast, then,” he said, as he gave her a hand to help her out of bed. He couldn’t help but think she was like a sleeping princess in the morning, and it always gave him a little moment of pleasure. She would be the prettiest princess of all, he thought.

It was a thought that kept him preoccupied as he went to make breakfast. They really did have a long day ahead, so he was sure to be conscious of the time. Allura would have a quick shower while he cooked and then they’d eat together before leaving for work. It was their usual morning routine, though Shiro’s fascination with brushing Allura’s hair was a recently new development.

Maybe one day he’d tell her about what the Japanese believed about the little ritual, and how much he associated affection with it because of his parents. He thought that Allura might already know he liked it, but it was still a secret he’d like to share with her, eventually. Sometimes he thought that his feelings for her had developed too fast, or maybe he was thinking too much into their relationship, but he just couldn’t help himself.

Allura made him feel things that no other person had ever made him feel.

That was also something he’d keep to himself, if just for a little while longer.

Chapter Text

While Allura supervised the kids indoors, Shiro and Coran set to cleaning up the backyard area of the kindergarten. The grass needed to be trimmed and the play equipment needed to be checked and cleaned. It wasn’t a particularly hard task, and the yard wasn’t unreasonably large, so Altea Kindergarten didn’t hire out the job. They weren’t doing an extensive job either, just enough to maintain the appropriate level of safety and presentation, so it was easier for Shiro and Coran to do it themselves.

“Help me over here for a moment, Shiro,” Coran said, as he beckoned Shiro over. He had dismantled the overhead shade that covered the play equipment so he could clean the leaves and branches off the top of it.

Shiro helped him heave the cleaned overhead back up, and they set to work securing it. “Have you done the sleepover thing before?” Shiro asked.

Coran nodded. “Oh, quite a few times,” he said cheerfully. “We have them one or two times a year. Some kids aren’t ready to stay away from home for a night, but they all come to the afternoon activities and movies. It’s a lot of fun!”

Shiro chuckled. He really admired Coran’s enthusiasm. When it came to the kids – and consequently things that Shiro was a little worried about – Coran never wavered. He had a lot of confidence to him, and he seemed to have all the right answers. Shiro knew that Allura looked at Coran as a dear family member, and maybe he was starting to see that, as well.

“You and Allura will be in attendance, right?” Coran said, as he heaved the last section of the shade into place. “She’s excited about it.”

“She is?” Shiro asked, surprised. Allura and he hadn’t really spoken much about the upcoming event, other than to organise it. That wasn’t particularly unusual though, so he wasn’t worried. He was a little embarrassed to think that she’d been talking about him to Coran, even if it was only to say sweet things.

“Of course!” Coran exclaimed. “Allura always enjoys the sleepover events. I think she’s excited to have you here this year, too.”

Shiro smiled to himself. He sometimes forgot about how Allura told Coran things she might not think to tell him. It was the same way he gushed to his parents or Matt about her, so he couldn’t complain. “As long as she’s happy, then I don’t mind what we do,” he said, as he fixed one of the padding wraps around the shade poles.

Coran laughed, and gave Shiro’s back an affectionate thump. “That’s the spirit! I think she’d be pleasantly embarrassed to hear that. You two are perfect for each other.”

Shiro couldn’t help but grin. Having Coran’s approval meant just as match as having Alfor’s or his own parent’s approval. He felt at ease knowing Coran supported them.

Chapter Text

Most of the kids decided to stay for the evening. They’d all done the same thing the previous year, with the exception of a few new students, so Coran and Allura hadn’t been too worried about kids getting homesick when Shiro mentioned it.

After the kids had gone home for the day (they weren’t due back for activities and movies until six), Shiro began to help Coran set up for the evening. Allura would drive home to get their things while Shiro moved tables and stacked chairs away. They’d spread blankets and beanbags out in the main room and later on in the evening, they’d have the sleeping bags added to the piles, too.

Eventually Allura returned, and they changed into more comfortable clothes. Coran was busy setting out snacks so Shiro lingered for a moment, waiting for Allura. She was brushing her hair, and somehow managed to twist it into a braid that she tied up at the end. He watched her hands carefully, but he still couldn’t work out how she did it. Maybe he could ask her to show him later.

“Everything ready?” Allura asked, as she brushed her braid back over her shoulder. “Coran didn’t try and sneak his blue disc lollies onto the plates this time, did he?”

Shiro laughed. He’d never seen those infamous lollies, but he’d heard a lot about them. Apparently Coran and Hunk had made them one afternoon when the kids were baking, before Shiro had started working at the kindergarten. Coran’s had turned out horribly, but Hunk’s had been perfect. Allura always laughed when she told him that Coran liked his lollies, even if no one else did. He always tried to make them for events.

“I think he’s managed to control himself this time,” Shiro said.

“Thank goodness for that,” Allura chuckled. “He always gets so pouty when no one eats them and I have to throw them away. Although, my father does like them, oddly enough.”

Shiro raised his brows. “Alfor does? I thought they tasted awful.”

“Oh, they do,” Allura said, as she scrunched up her nose. “Though I think that has more to do with the fact that they’re close friends rather than the lollies tasting any good.”

Shiro snorted. That definitely sounded like something Coran would do, though he could hardly picture Alfor going along with it, as well. They were rather close, though, so perhaps it wasn’t so strange.

At six o’clock, the kids started to arrive. Many came straight in their pyjamas, their pillows tucked tightly under their arms, much to the fond exasperation of their parents. Considering Shiro was wearing comfortable clothes he’d likely sleep in, he wasn’t too fussed. The kids were all really excited, and that feeling was contagious. He couldn’t help but be swept up in their enthusiasm.

Lance and Keith came at the same time, dressed in their matching pyjamas. Hunk was next, before Mrs Holt finally dropped off Pidge, who seemed to be in quite a bright mood.

He ran straight for Shiro’s legs and grinned broadly when Shiro swept him up into his arms.

“Pidge didn’t stay over last year,” Mrs Holt explained as Shiro settled Pidge on his hip. “But you’re staying this time, aren’t you darling?”

“Yeah,” Pidge said. He gave Shiro’s shoulder a consoling pat. “Don’t worry Shiro, I won’t cause too much trouble.”

Shiro and Mrs Holt laughed. “Alright buddy,” Shiro said, as he gently set Pidge back down on his feet, “go and find the others, okay? They’re waiting for you.”

“Okay,” Pidge said, “they better not have started without me!”

“He’ll be alright tonight, won’t he?” Shiro asked, as he watched Pidge dart inside. “He’s never really been away from home, has he?”

“He hasn’t,” Mrs Holt said, “he was too nervous to be away from home last time Allura and Coran held one of these sleepovers, but he told me he’s okay this time. He said it so convincingly that I just couldn’t help but believe him.”

Shiro gave her a puzzled look.

Mrs Holt laughed quietly. “Well, it’s because you’re here, you know! Pidge feels comfortable having a familiar adult around. Honestly, he probably sees you more as a big brother than as a teacher. Didn’t you know?”

Flushed, Shiro shook his head. “No, I never really thought of it that way.” Embarrassed, he rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, as long as Pidge is happy, that’s all that matters.”

A gentle smile touched Mrs Holt’s face. “I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

Her confidence in him was reassuring. The Holts had been like a second family to him when he was growing up, and he’d missed them almost as much as he missed his own parents when he and Matt went to the Garrison.

When all the kids had been dropped off, the adults set out the activities. There were video games connected to the television, along with board games and card games and colouring. The kids had already settled in their groups, but when they were in the same room as they were, it looked like they were one big one. Coran was passing around snacks and Allura was helping the kids set up a new game, so Shiro took the juice poppers out of the fridge and began to give them out.

Once everyone had one, he went to join his kids, who were sitting on the pillows around a board game. They looked like they were already quite into it, so he simply settled beside them, content to watch.

“I’m telling you, you have to put your piece right here,” Lance said, as he pointed to a spot on the board. “That way you can get a piece to form Voltron!”

Shiro didn’t recognise the game at first, but it looked like it was a game based off the show they all loved. Lance and Keith were leaning over the board as they took their turns, though Keith seemed puzzled by the game. Maybe they’d made teams? He wasn’t sure, but it was still fun to watch.

“Coran! Are those what I think they are?”

At the sound of Allura’s voice, he glanced up. Allura was staring across the room at Coran, who had snuck a plate covered in blue lollies out of the kitchen.

“They’re perfect this time!” Coran exclaimed. “Try one!”

“No way!”

And there was the famous Coran-pout. “Allura. Just one? For your dear old uncle?”

Shiro could see Allura cracking under the pressure, even though she clearly didn’t want to taste test the lollies. It made him laugh.

“Oh, don’t you go laughing, mister,” Allura called at him. “If I have to eat them, then you’ll be eating them, too!”

Chapter Text

“I’m telling you,” Shiro whispered, as he glanced over his shoulder, “they’re awful. Don’t eat one, even if Coran gives you that pleading smile of his. Not worth it.”

Pidge snorted, and batted Shiro away. His eyes were intensely focused on the board game ahead of him; it looked like he was winning. “It’s kind of your fault,” he said.

Shiro laughed. At least the other children seemed suitably impressed by his ominous warnings. After Allura had oh so graciously shared her lollies from Coran with him, Shiro had been given a clear indication as to why Coran was not allowed to make them anymore. He’d returned to his kids defeated, and that more than anything had seemed to amuse them.

They continued to play their game in relative peace for a while. He accepted the bottle of water that Allura eventually brought over to him, and washed the taste of Coran’s bland lollies from his mouth. When Lance wandered away to get them all a handful of actual lollies, he was more than glad to eat them instead. As much as he loved Coran, the man’s cooking was either a hit or a complete miss – there wasn’t really any room for anything in between.

There were other actives that night, ones that involved the entire class. They played pass-the-parcel, something that surprised Shiro. Coran had made the parcel without anyone else noticing, and although his wrapping of the little prizes was pretty atrocious, he’d picked out a bunch of little trinkets like bubbles, bouncy balls, and stamps that the kids adored winning.

Although Lance had insisted he stamp his entire groups’ cheeks with his little blue sea-shell stamp, and that had included Shiro. He couldn’t say no. He also couldn’t say that the ink would ever wash off, but that was a problem for tomorrow.

It was fun to play with the children, Shiro thought. Usually during the day he was focused on supervising and teaching and cleaning, but now a lot of those responsibilities were lessened. Being in an environment like this reminded him of the school camps he used to attend, and how’d they’d spend all night playing games and hanging out. He’d never done anything like this from the adult’s point of view, and although it was a bit of a struggle to get all the kids involved, it was still quite enjoyable.

Towards the end of the evening, after dinner had been eaten and it was clear the children were getting tired, Shiro started to set out the sleeping bags. They had blankets and extra pillows for the kids, and after they’d all chosen their spots, he took his own one closest to the door. It was only when Allura sat down next to him with a sleeping bag of her own that he realised they’d never really discussed sleeping arrangements for the night.

Officially, they hadn’t told the kids that they were together. Maybe some of them had realised or worked it out on their own, but that still didn’t change the fact that being so open about it made him a little nervous. He didn’t want the kids to think of him differently if they knew.

“Stop worrying,” Allura said with a small smile, as she began to dig through her bag. “The kids won’t think anything if I sleep here, Shiro.”

He let out a deep breath, and nodded. He was a little more concerned with his habit of pulling Allura into his arms when he slept, but he’d just have to wait for morning to see if that happened.

“Here,” Allura said, as she pressed a hair brush into his hand. “Can you brush my hair for me?”

He flushed, but didn’t say no. He’d done it in the mornings for her to wake her up, but not at night. Considering where they were and how the atmosphere was very camp-like, the action didn’t feel out of place, so he took the brush and set to carefully unwinding her braid. Her hair was wavy from it, and still incredibly soft to the touch.

“Hey, no fair,” Lance suddenly whined, as he appeared beside them, his brush in hand. “Do mine too, Shiro!”

The abrupt request made him startle, but Lance was already clambering into his lap, and Allura was laughing.

“Alright, alright,” Shiro relented, laughing too. He took Lance’s brush and carefully pulled it through Lance’s thin hair. Oddly enough, the motion was almost as soothing as it was when he brushed Allura’s hair. He liked brushing Lance’s hair, too.

Of course, once he’d started brushing hair, he found it impossible to stop. Keith demanded the same amount of attention as Lance and wasn’t satisfied until Shiro had tamed his dark hair, and then Hunk shyly asked for the same treatment, and then Pidge, too. He went through more than half of the class before Allura started to chip in.

Eventually it was time for the children to sleep. They brushed their teeth in the bathrooms and were given bottles of water for the night. Unsurprisingly, Lance and Keith had pushed their beds together, and were next to Hunk and Pidge. Coran was sleeping across the room so that the children had adults on either side. While they all drifted off, Shiro, Allura and Coran monitored the room, just to make sure everyone was alright. When most were asleep, they each returned to their beanbags to wait for a little while longer.

Shiro heard a rustling before he saw who it was. Pidge’s head lifted from his pillow, and his sleepy eyes scanned the room before they reached Shiro, who was quietly walking over to him before he even had to open his mouth.

“What’s wrong, buddy?” Shiro whispered.

“Nothing,” Pidge said, before hesitantly adding, “can you stay here? Just until I fall asleep…”

“Of course I can,” Shiro said. He reached for one of Pidge’s little hands and enveloped it in his own before settling down beside him. “Don’t worry Pidge, I’m right here.”

Pidge mumbled something unintelligible, and put his face back in his pillow. With a gentle hand, Shiro used his fingers to brush Pidge’s hair back away from his face. It only took a few short minutes before Pidge was just as deeply asleep as his friends, and when Shiro was sure he was truly asleep, he carefully set Pidge’s hand back down.

Pidge was a really sweet kid. Having his trust meant more to Shiro than anything, especially considering how close he was to Matt, how close they both were. Shiro knew that Pidge’s birthday was coming up, and he wanted to do something really special for him. Maybe he could ask Matt for some ideas.

He returned to his sleeping bag and found that Allura had unzipped it so that they could use it as a blanket instead. He was surprised by Allura’s forwardness, but it was a pleasant surprise. When he laid down beside her, keeping her in between him and the kids so that he was closest to the door, she curled up against him. Usually she’d put her arm over his waist or tuck her chin under his head, but out of respect for the children and their parents, they had both decided to be a little more laid back. He didn’t mind – sometimes the softness of tentative touches was just as appealing as more casual, forward ones.

He expected to have difficulty sleeping because of the change in environment, but as soon as he closed his eyes, he was fast asleep.

Chapter Text

They threw a party at the Kindergarten for Pidge’s birthday. All the decorations were green, and Coran had made Pidge’s favourite foods for lunch. They had a cake with Pidge’s name on it for everyone to enjoy, too.

Shiro was happy to see Pidge enjoy himself so much. He’d already given his gift to Pidge earlier that morning when the other kids weren’t around to see – he’d bought Pidge this little puzzle gadget, one he thought would be good for Pidge to figure out when he was bored. He had been a little unsure if Pidge would like it, but Pidge had loved it, so he was quite satisfied.

“What’s that little smile for?” Allura asked, as she snuck up behind him. “Thinking about the sleepover still?”

Shiro groaned, and hid his face behind a hand. It had been a week since the kindergarten’s sleepover, and he was still embarrassed. Just like he’d predicted, he’d woken up with Allura trapped in his arms. He’d pulled her closer in his sleep without even realising. The kids had found it absolutely wonderful, in the worst way possible for him. They never let it go.

“I’m just happy that Pidge is enjoying his party,” Shiro said as Allura teasingly put her hands on his waist.

Allura laughed, and squeezed her hands a little. “Makes all of your rigorous planning a real success, doesn’t it?”

“I wasn’t that fussed about it, was I?”

“Oh, you certainly were. Very fussy. The fussiest.”

“Allura.”

“Don’t worry Shiro, I’m just teasing,” she said, laughing again. “Your efforts are greatly appreciated by all the children, most of all Pidge. You’ve made him very happy for sure!”

Shiro couldn’t help but smile to himself. Pidge did look happy – he had a plateful of cake on his lap, and was sitting around the table with a bunch of his classmates, including Shiro’s little group. Many of the kids had given him presents, and there were a lot of green things strewn around the room. It was Pidge’s favourite colour, after all.

But that wasn’t the only surprise Shiro had for Pidge. As he checked the time again, he wondered what could be keeping his second surprise so long, but he didn’t have to wait more than another few minutes before his phone buzzed with a text message. He checked it, and grinned, much to Allura’s amusement.

“He’s here?” She asked.

Shiro nodded. “Keep the kids occupied for a moment, will you? I don’t want them noticing I’ve left.”

“Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.”

With Allura standing guard, Shiro quietly slipped out the front door of the kindergarten. He spotted the car before he saw him, and felt his grin grow wider. He lifted a hand in a wave. “Matt!”

“Hey, Shiro,” Matt said, as he threw his arm around Shiro’s shoulder – or tried to, at least. Shiro was a good deal taller (and broader) than him, but that had never stopped Matt in the past, and it certainly didn’t stop him now. “Sorry I’m late, it’s kind of hard to get away from Ma sometimes.”

Shiro snorted. “Alright, alright, let’s just go in. Pidge is going to be so surprised.”

Matt followed him in without any further delays. Shiro was sure to have him sneak in quietly, and Matt insisted on hiding right behind him, but somehow it worked out. Allura gave him a raised-brow look when he snuck Matt in, but she didn’t question him. It would all be worth it in the end.

Pidge hadn’t seemed to notice him leaving or returning. Shiro was glad to see that Pidge wasn’t deep in conversation with one of his friends. “Pidge,” he called, “I have another surprise.”

Of course, even if Shiro was broader than Matt in the shoulders, it wasn’t like his legs couldn’t be seen. When Pidge glanced over, he could clearly see his brother peeking out from behind Shiro, and his eyes went abruptly wide.

“Matt!” Pidge cried, as he jerked upright. He was across the room in the flash, running so fast he almost stumbled before he threw himself into his big brother’s arms. “You’re here!”

Matt laughed as he scooped Pidge up into his arms. “Sure am! How could I miss my baby brother’s birthday? Happy birthday, Pidge.”

Even though he looked happy, Pidge pouted. “I’m not a baby anymore, Matt!”

“You’ll always be my baby brother,” Matt cooed, as he rubbed their cheeks together. “Even when you’re all grown up!”

Seeing the two of them together made him smile. He was so glad he’d gone through the effort of getting Matt to come. No one made Pidge happier than he did, and in some ways, it was just the same for Matt. Their bond was unlike any other than Shiro had ever seen.

Chapter Text

While Matt was in town, he and Shiro decided to catch up a little. It had been a long, long time since they’d spent time with just the two of them like they used to when they were younger. Shiro missed seeing his friends – the reunion he’d gotten a letter for all those months ago had been postponed due to a few of the generals being sent away for an assignment, so he hadn’t seen anyone in a while. Postponements hadn’t really happened before, but somehow Shiro was relieved.

Back then, he didn’t think he was really comfortable attending them, not even if he had Allura. Now was different – he thought he could go, and he’d be fine. Wounded pride and all.

He and Matt went to a bar to have a few drinks and play pool. Shiro really wasn’t a bar kind of guy, and neither was Matt, but it just seemed like the thing to do in their situation. Shiro didn’t particularly mind. Alcohol always loosened Matt up, and he was pretty funny when he got rid of his brain-to-mouth filter. Even more so when he was complaining about the people at the Garrison that he didn’t like.

It was nice to relax a little. Shiro still wore a jumper to hide his arm, but it wasn’t something he was really worried about, not with Matt around as a distraction. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d gone out with a friend that wasn’t Allura, and as much as he adored being with her, being with his friends was a completely different environment.

At the end of the night Allura came to pick them up. She’d offered to do that so Shiro could drink, and although he definitely wasn’t drunk, he still couldn’t drive (and neither could Matt, who was much more of a lightweight that he was despite not being all that drunk, either). Matt was going to sleep on their couch for the night so that they could all go out for breakfast the next morning. That had been Shiro’s suggestion – he wanted Matt and Allura to get know each other a little more. They’d both readily agreed to it.

All in all, he really enjoyed himself when he was with Matt. When he was sitting on the edge of their bed with Allura standing between his legs later that evening, her hands linked against the back of his neck, he felt incredibly at ease. He told her about his night and let her assumed delight encompass him. She was glad he’d enjoyed himself, too. She liked Matt.

He couldn’t have been more relieved about that.

Chapter Text

Allura got a call from her father the next Saturday. Shiro was busy brushing Balmera, or at least trying to, in an attempt to save their sofa from developing a blanket made purely of moulted cat fur. He hadn’t thought much of the phone call until Allura had let out an indignant noise.

“He’s back in the country now?” She said, as a small frown touched her face. “Why? I thought he had gone back for good this time.”

Shiro raised his brows. He’d never heard Allura sound so… exhausted with a person before. It sought of made him want to laugh. Was this person a handful, then?

“I know, I know,” Allura said. She sighed, and drove her fingers through her hair. She paused for a moment as her father replied. “Wait, you’re letting him do work experience at Altea? Why? He doesn’t seem like the type to like kids at all.”

Shiro set the brush down and watched Balmera scamper off. Should he wait for Allura to finish her call or see if she wanted to pass the phone over? Sometimes she did.

“Okay, okay, I’ll go easy on him,” Allura said with a huffy pout. “But just so we’re clear, I so do not trust him. If he makes one comment out of line I’m gonna kick him to the curb.”

Shiro couldn’t help but laugh at that one. He’d heard from Coran that Allura hadn’t liked children when she was younger, but that seemed to have certainly changed now that she ran Altea Kindergarten. At times, she was more protective of the kids than he was. It made him feel good to see that, because he knew how much she loved those kids, and he knew how much they loved her, too.

When Allura hung up, it was with another tired sigh. It was all she seemed to be doing. She slumped against the kitchen bench and let out a long groan.

“What’s going on?” He asked, as he gently rested his hand on the back of her head. “Was that Alfor on the phone?”

She nodded, and lifted herself back up. She was still pouting. “Yes. An… old associate’s son is coming to do a week of work experience at Altea starting this Monday.”

Shiro gave her a puzzled look.

She just sighed again. “Well, he’s sort of like a cousin, but we’re not related by blood. My father and his father originally had an equal share in my father’s business, but they had a falling out, so their companies are rivals now… though ours does better.”

“Is that why you don’t like them?”

“It used to be, but my father and his father have long since patched things up. They coexist, for a lack of a better word. Considering the son didn’t do anything wrong, it’s not like I have any hard feelings against him from a business sense, but… he’s just so annoying!” She threw her arms up in exasperation. “He’s a teenager.”

“Oh, I see.” Shiro had never really dealt with a teenager, not since he was one himself. If her associate was there to learn, it should be fine, shouldn’t it?

“Even as a kid, he’d always pull at my hair and break my things and draw all over my paperwork,” she ranted. “He just doesn’t know how to mind his own damn business. Honestly, he’s a menace, Shiro. A menace!”

It was hard to hide his laughter. “Alright, alright, I get it,” he said, as he enveloped her hands in his. “It will only be for a week, won’t it? I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

She groaned, and thumped her forehead against his chest. “Your positivity is a menace sometimes, too,” she said, though it wasn’t a cold comment. If anything, she just sounded amused. “Completely contagious.”

He snorted, but was oddly touched. He hadn’t thought his words could reach her like that, but he would be sure to remember that they could. “Anyway,” he said, “what’s his name?”

“Lotor.”

Chapter Text

Lotor was not what Shiro expected, to say the least. He arrived promptly and perfectly on time, and wore appropriate (if a little expensive looking) clothing and shoes. His hair was long and lustrous, and almost the same silvery colour as Allura’s, though much darker. He was only sixteen, but he had quite a beautiful face, and he certainly seemed like he knew it.

“Oh, you must be the new beau I’ve heard so much about,” Lotor said, as he reached out to shake Shiro’s hand quite confidently. “Only good things, I assure you. I look forward to working with you this week.”

“Uh, sure,” Shiro said, a little surprised. He hadn’t expected a teenager to speak so eloquently, let alone act so confidentially in a new environment. “It’s nice to meet you, Lotor.”

For what it was worth, Lotor did seem interested in something other than teasing Allura (which he did. Excessively). His taunting expressions lightened around the children, and the smiles he gave them were pretty honest. Although the kids seemed wary around him for the morning, his jovial nature eventually won them over. Shiro was a little relieved about that.

All of the kids at the kindergarten were quite unique. They all had their own quirks and talents and noticeable traits, and Shiro wasn’t surprised that Lotor seemed to enjoy figuring out what they were. Everyone did. The kids were very sweet, and very likeable. If he were being honest, he didn’t expect anything less, even if Allura was a little wary about her cousin working at Altea.

What Shiro hadn't expected, however, was for Lotor to take an interest in one specific child. He wasn’t sure if it was because he got along with them very well or if he saw a bond he wanted in on, but…

Well, Keith had some competition, it seemed.

Lotor just adored Lance. Shiro had never seen anything like it. “Allura, look at this darling’s eyes!” He’d exclaimed, as he’d scooped Lance right up into his arms. “They’re so much bluer than yours! Isn’t he just precious?”

It was no secret that Lance liked attention, and all kids loved to have the favour of someone older than them. He had no problem being carried around and spoiled by Lotor all day. It wasn’t like Shiro could tell him to stop either, because he was still doing his job quite spectacularly.

But Keith certainly wasn’t pleased. He followed Lance around all day, pouting and grumpy. He wasn’t used to having Lance give so much attention to someone else, let alone someone else taking Lance from him. As much as Shiro appreciated Lotor’s work ethic, he really did worry for Keith. It was usually obvious to everyone how close Keith and Lance were, and even if Shiro was spending time with one of them, he never impeded on their friendship like Lotor was.

Eventually Keith got tired of chasing after Lotor and instead glued himself to Shiro’s side. As much as Shiro enjoyed Keith’s company, it was hard to work with a kid clutching at his leg, and more than once he’d had to loosen Keith’s hands from his shirt to stop it from stretching.

“It’s only for a week, buddy,” Shiro said, as he finally gave in and hauled Keith up into his arms. Keith’s hands grabbed a tight hold on his shirt, and Shiro laughed weakly. He definitely wasn’t going to be able to put the kid down any time soon. “Don’t you want to play with Pidge or Hunk?”

Keith shook his head, and shoved his face into the crook of Shiro’s neck. He let out an incoherent groan. “Lance is my friend,” he mumbled, only loud enough for Shiro to hear. “I don’t like Lotor.”

Shiro rubbed his back. He didn’t quite know what to say to that. There was no doubt in his mind that Keith was jealous of Lance’s interest in Lotor, but he didn’t believe that Lance would just ditch Keith for the teen. He thought that perhaps Lance was just unused to the type of attention that an older, unrelated teen could give him. “Just a week,” he told Keith again.

Keith just huffed.

Chapter Text

“Wow! You could totally be an artist when you grow up,” Lotor said, grinning widely as he watched Lance draw. They were seated at a table with Hunk, Pidge, and a few of the other children, and while Lotor gave them all a decent amount of attention, he still seemed enamoured with Lance.

“Really?” Lance asked, eyes wide and bright. “My older brother says I’m really bad at drawing, though.”

“No way!” Lotor shook his head. “You’re brilliant. Don’t listen to him, Lance.”

“What do you think of my drawing, Mr Lotor?” One of the little girls at their table asked, as she held up her picture.

Lotor clapped his hands together. “Why, it’s positively brilliant, too! Tell me, are you going to become an artist when you grow up, as well? You definitely could!”

She giggled.

Shiro sighed. Lotor certainly was quite talented at communicating with children; there was no doubt he had an affinity for it. Almost all of the kids loved him, and because he was new and friendly, they clamoured for his attention. Half the time Lance seemed quite surprised about the fact that he was the one Lotor was smothering in attention. In fact, Shiro was quite surprised by it, too.

“You seem to have made a good connection with Lance,” Shiro remarked, as he helped Lotor learn how to file their daily paperwork (Allura was meant to show him, but she stubbornly refused). It was the boring part of the job, and although Lotor was clearly uninterested in it, he got through it pretty quickly and effectively.

“I know, right?” Lotor said. “He’s just the cutest kid I’ve ever seen.”

“Is that why you like him so much?”

Lotor hummed. “Are you trying to sneak into my head, Mr Shirogane?”

Although the teen had only been there for a day, Shiro had already gotten used to his snarky humour. He knew better than to get defensive over Lotor’s little quips. “No, I’m just curious,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not good to favour certain kids over others.”

“I know,” Lotor said. After a quiet moment, he relented. “I’ll be more careful.”

“Don’t worry,” Shiro reassured him, “I think you’re doing well so far. Though… maybe lay off Allura a little.”

Lotor laughed. “It’s so fun to rile her up, but alright.”

As docile as Lotor seemed, Shiro knew that he couldn’t help himself. He still liked Lance the most, and still harboured most of Lance’s attention for himself. It was all innocent of course, and mostly light hearted, but it was certainly irritating Keith. He looked lonely without Lance, and although he’d tried valiantly to stick to Lance’s side in the morning, Lotor had swept Lance away like he was a Disney Prince.

Honestly, Shiro didn’t know what to think. Lotor wasn’t doing anything wrong, but he didn’t want Keith to be upset anymore, either. Maybe Keith would overcome his aversion to Lotor as the week went on, or Lance would start to miss him, and it would turn out that Shiro had absolutely nothing to worry over.

He’d have to see how it went.

Chapter Text

“You’re not really enjoying having Lotor around much, are you?”

Allura sighed, and spun around in her chair to face him. “Is it that obvious?”

“A little. I don’t think he’s notice that much, though.”

“Isn’t he just… annoying?” She asked with a frown. “He’s always cracking jokes, and he doesn’t take things seriously. Plus he’s upsetting Keith, isn’t he?”

“I think it’s unintentional,” Shiro said, hesitant. He didn’t want to upset Allura even more, but he didn’t want to throw Lotor under the bus. “He is a bit talkative, but he’s a good kid, isn’t he?”

She sighed again, and rested her chin in her hand. They’d come to work early that morning to catch up on work, and they were the first people there. Soon Coran and Lotor would arrived, shortly followed by the children. “He could be worse,” Allura conceded. “Is Keith alright, though? He’s been quiet lately.”

“He’s really attached to Lance,” Shiro admired. “I think he misses him. He’s not used to Lance getting so much attention from someone other than him or perhaps me.”

Allura chuckled a little. “Well, he doesn’t have to compete with you for Lance’s attention, because you give the same amount to all the kids. Maybe not at the same time, but they all know they can come to you. Lotor is just a shiny new toy for them to marvel at.”

Shiro laughed quietly. “He really riles you up, huh? Come here.”

Allura stood, and although Shiro was still seated in his office chair, she collapsed against him. He put his arms around her waist and rubbed her back, slowly feeling the tension leave her. “I’m just wary about him,” Allura said. “He hasn’t always been so nice, though his sense of humour hasn’t changed much. I was worried he might cause conflict between the kids, even if it is unintentional. Have you mentioned it to him?”

“I have.”

She sighed again. “Maybe he’ll get the message.”

Shiro shrugged. “He’s just a kid himself, who’s to say what part of it he actually listens to? It’s only for a week.”

“Longest week of my life.”

He laughed. “Longer for Keith.”

She laughed, too. “Perhaps that’s true.”

“I’ll keep an eye on him,” Shiro said. “Maybe I can get Lotor to pay attention to some of the other kids. We’re doing arts and crafts this afternoon, right? They love that.”

Allura nodded. “Alright, I’ll leave it to you. But I’m still serious about what I told my father. Lotor knows I don’t like him all that much, and even if I do know him, I won’t put up with any misbehaviour at work. If he pushes the boundaries too much or disrupts the children’s learning I’ll have to get him to leave.”

“Okay.”

It was a reasonable thing, he thought, but he had a feeling Lotor would still be around for the week. He was a quick learner and eager to get along with the kids, even if he did favour Lance a little. Shiro hoped that the new and shiny feeling Allura mentioned was what Lotor was experiencing too, and that after a few days he’d settled into work a little more smoothly. Teenagers were hard to predict, though, so maybe he’d be wrong.

But they did have a few activities planned for the day, so at least Shiro would be able to put Keith back with Lance for a while. Keith had become quite quiet and it was worrying, but he didn’t want to jump to conclusions. In some ways, they were all just kids trying to get along in a new dynamic. He expected a few ruffled feathers.

“Don’t worry too much about it, Princess,” he said, as he pulled Allura down to kiss her forehead. “I’ll figure it out.”

She hummed, and leaned against him. “I know,” she whispered. “You’re very reliable. I’m just… I’m not happy to have Lotor here. His father did some awful things to mine, things I was alive to see – but Lotor wasn’t. He doesn’t understand the past bad blood between them because he didn’t see it firsthand, but I did. Even if they’re acquaintances now, it’s still off putting for me to see. I’ll be relieved when this week is finally over.”

“I know, you don’t need to justify yourself to me,” he soothed, as he brushed a stray strand of hair away from her forehead. “I’ve got it covered.”

Chapter Text

Shiro had Keith sit next to Lance at the arts and crafts table. He waited until Lotor was busy helping Allura set up the tables (a move willingly orchestrated by Allura, who was far too happy about making her cousin do all the hard work while she got to boss him around) before carrying Keith straight over. Keith had been stuck to his hip all day, hadn’t even tried to fight Lotor for Lance’s attention.

Keith seemed rather surprised to find himself suddenly by his best friend’s side. He looked up at Shiro with wide eyes, before grinning. Shiro just ruffled his hair.

As much as he admired Lotor’s skills with the children, he was definitely on Team Keith.

(That was also something Allura had orchestrated.)

“Do you have everything you need?” He asked the table, as he leaned over the back of Keith’s chair. “Have enough paint? Brushes?”

“We’re all good,” Hunk said, as he waved a brush with a smile on his face. “Thank you, Mr Shiro.”

“It’s no problem, Hunk,” Shiro said. “Call me if you need anything, right?”

After receiving a round of nods, he ventured off to check on the other tables. They’d gotten all sorts of crafting materials today, from feathers and buttons and glitter to coloured paper and shaped hole-punchers. He had no idea what the kids would do with any of it, but they always loved arts and crafts time, so he just let them be and topped up their supplies when needed.

His little plan seemed to work for a while. Keith stuck to Lance’s side, and they both shared their materials with each other. Shiro had no idea what they were making, but they were using a lot of red and blue, so he knew it would be fine. Keith was definitely more relaxed with Lance around, and much louder. It made Shiro happy to see.

Eventually Allura could no longer keep Lotor occupied, and without any setting up to do, he started supervising. Shiro watched him out of the corner of his eye, and wasn’t surprised when Lotor started to monitor the kids at every table. He was good with them, and had a good sense for what to do. Still, after a few moments, he gravitated towards Lance’s table and sat himself down beside Lance.

“How’s everything going?” He asked, as he peered at Lance’s project. “Wow!”

Lance grinned, and proudly showed off his work. “Do you like it? I did it all myself!”

“It’s fantastic!” Lotor said, smiling pleasantly. “Can I help out?”

“Sure,” Lance said, as he handed Lotor the brush he was using. “Make it bluer!”

Lotor chuckled. “Wouldn’t another colour be lovely, too?” He said, as he reached for the purple paint. “How about this?”

Lance looked hesitant. He was making something matching Keith’s red like he always did, and another colour would change that. Still, he seemed enamoured by Lotor’s attention, so he nodded. “Okay…”

Keith looked crushed. He lowered his brush and turned his head away, eyes downcast. Shiro lurched upright from his spot against the wall, feeling his chest tighten at that miserable look, but then Keith looked up again. “Can mine have purple too?” He asked, hesitant. “So we can match…”

“Of course,” Lotor said, as he offered Keith the brush with purple paint he’d used to decorate Lance’s piece, “here you go.”

Keith reluctantly tried to copy what Lotor had done to Lance’s piece, but his hands weren’t as steady, and they didn’t look the same. He couldn’t have been more miserable.

Shiro hated seeing him like that, so he ventured over to the table too, and took a seat beside Keith. “Looking good, buddy,” he said, as he put his hand on Keith’s back. “Want some help?”

Keith gave him a grateful look, and passed over his project. Even with his prosthetic Shiro had a steady hand, and at Keith’s quiet instructors, he took to painting whatever it was that Keith wanted. Okay, so maybe his plan wasn’t working out so well yet, but at least Lance seemed interested in Keith’s work now. When Shiro was done with it, he handed it back to Keith, who set to painting again.

“Yours is really good, Keith!” Lance said, grinning that signature grin of his again. “Can you help me with mine, too?”

Keith’s eyes lit up. “You need more blue!” He said with a small smile.

“More blue?” Lotor asked.

Shiro gave him a pointed look, one Lotor returned with a puzzled tilt of his head. “How about we leave them to it and get back to work?” Shiro suggested, though it wasn’t really a question. Lotor followed him without issue, clearly curious. “Those kids have a thing with colours,” Shiro finally explained, when they’d moved away. “Especially Lance and Keith. It’s best to let them do what they want. We wouldn’t want to stifle their creativity, or anything.”

“Oh! I see,” Lotor said, nodding. “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

Shiro was glad to see that Lotor understood. When he was alone, he let out a sigh, and leaned against the kitchen counter to watch the room. The kitchen was separated from the living room by a wall, but there was a huge cut out that connected the bench to a bench inside the kitchen. It was where Coran usually left food to be distributed, but it was a good spot for supervising everyone, too.

He was starting to see why Allura had said Lotor was such a handful. His opinion didn’t really have anything to do with their bad history, but more so due to the fact that Lotor was still a teen and he was still learning. He felt like Lotor was hard to keep up with, sometimes. Especially when it came to Lance and Keith.

“Told you,” Allura said, as she breezed into the kitchen past him.

He laughed quietly. At least with Shiro so preoccupied with Lotor, Allura was free to avoid him all she wanted. Only a few more days to go.

Chapter Text

“You guys aren’t very lovey-dovey with each other,” Lotor said, as he rested his chin in his hand.

Shiro sighed quietly. The teen had been following him around all day, far more than he usually did. Shiro was starting to think that maybe Allura had done something positively evil, but even she seemed miffed by Lotor’s newfound fascination with him. “We are at work,” Shiro pointed out, as he gave Lotor a meaningful look. “It’s a little uncomfortable to act like a couple around the children. We’re meant to be looking after them.”

“Oh, that’s true,” Lotor said, nodding like he’d just been told the answer to life. He had a look on his face that was becoming surprisingly familiar. Shiro didn’t know what to think of it, but from Allura’s frequent glances over at them, he wondered if it meant trouble for him. “So how did you and my dearest cousin meet?”

Shiro resisted the urge to correct Lotor on the matter of Allura not actually being related by blood to him. “We met here, when I first started working,” he said. “Why?”

“Curious.”

He sighed again. “Are you usually this interested in Allura’s life?”

“She’s usually not this interesting.”

He wondered how many times he could get away with sighing within an hour. “I think she’s incredibly interesting,” he said.

“Well, you are seeing her,” Lotor said. “I’ve never met any of Allura’s boyfriends before. I don’t even know if she’s had any. This is an intriguing experience for me, you know.”

Shiro forced a weak laugh.

“Have you met Alfor? Her father,” Lotor said. “He’s a little frightening.”

“I’ve met him,” Shiro said. “I didn’t think he was frightening. He’s a good man.”

Lotor hummed. He was watching Shiro file paperwork so he could learn, but Shiro thought they both knew that Lotor had already gotten the process down perfectly. He really was a quick learner, but it was standard to have one of the supervisors do it so the work experience kid could see how it was done professionally. It seemed like a bit of a waste of time, but that was only because Lotor was so perceptive.

“Can you show me how to make the meal plans next?” Lotor asked.

“Ah, that’s something Coran is more in charge of,” he said, as he rubbed the back of his neck. “Allura and I just make sure he hasn’t put anything too crazy on it.”

“Yeah, but Coran is… odd,” Lotor said, as a frown touched his face. “He’s like that one weird Uncle every family always has. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a kind man, but did you know he had me eating all these weird blue lollies when our fathers had a business meeting together? They were awful, but it wasn’t like I could say no.”

Shiro snorted. “Yes, he’s tried to give us the same thing,” he said. “He means well.”

“Will you show me then?” Lotor asked again.

“Alright,” Shiro sighed. There he went again, sighing for what felt like the tenth time in ten minutes. “But if Coran pouts, I’m blaming you.”

Lotor laughed quietly. “Alright.”

It was strange to have Lotor follow him around all day. Sure, the teen had done similar things the last three days, but this felt different. He could feel Lotor watching him keenly, like he was studying what Shiro was doing. Perhaps he was.

“Maybe he likes you,” Allura muttered, when they had a rare moment to themselves during their lunch break.

“No, it’s not that,” Shiro said, shaking his head. There was no doubt in his mind that that wasn’t the case. “But I don’t know what it is, exactly. I just feel like he’s watching me carefully.”

Allura hummed, thoughtful. “Well, you are rather close with the kid he likes the best,” she said. “And you always give him… advice about that little group. Maybe he wants to know why those kids love you so much. Or maybe he’s already figured it out, and joined the party. Even if there’s more than ten years between him and the children, he is still a child himself. He might see you as a mentor of some sort.”

For all that Allura disliked Lotor, she really did seem to understand him. Her theories seemed to make a lot of sense, even if they did seem a tad jaded. It made him want to laugh. Allura’s petulance was adorable, because it wasn’t really spiteful. He’d be sure to tease her about this for at least the next year.

“Oh look, your newest fan is coming over,” Allura said. It was like she could sense he was doing to tease her, and jumped at the chance to do it herself instead. “I’ll leave you to it.”

“Allura,” he hissed, but she was already flittering away, smothering her laughter behind a hand. Sure enough, Lotor appeared a moment later, with a bright and eager smile on his face.

“Mr. Shirogane!”

Chapter Text

“Up we go,” Shiro said, as he heaved Lance up into his arms with an exaggerated groan. “We’ve got to have a talk, mister.”

Lance pouted at him. “But I want to go play with the others,” he said. He had his blue lion clutched in his arms, and a hat sat ready on his head for outdoors activities. All of his friends had ventured outside by now, but with a moment to spare, Shiro had scooped him up. No one else was inside anymore – including Lotor, who Shiro had managed to shake in the chaos of applying sunscreen, tying shoelaces and fixing hats on heads.

“I know, I know," Shiro said, “but you wouldn’t say no to me, right?”

Lance opened his mouth, but shut it with a huff that had his cheeks puffing out.

Shiro laughed. “Don’t worry buddy, it’s nothing bad,” he said, as he set Lance down on one of the tables. “I just want to talk to you about Keith.”

A confused frown furrowed Lance’s brow. “Keith? What’s wrong with Keith?”

“Nothing is wrong with Keith,” Shiro said. He crouched down so that he was eye-level with Lance. “Do you think Keith has been a little quiet lately? Maybe a little sad?”

Lance put a hand to his chin and hummed in thought. “Well, maybe,” he conceded after a moment. “Is Keith okay?”

“I think he is a little sad,” Shiro said. He didn’t want to worry Lance, but he did want to point out Keith’s feelings. He thought that this was the best way to do it. “Do you have any idea why?”

Lance shook his head.

“I want to make Keith happier again,” Shiro said. “Do you think you can help me do that? Like our own secret mission.”

Lance’s eyes lit up. “Oh, oh! I can do that!” He said, nodding. “I can be the boss and you can be the secret agent! Wait, no. You be the boss, and I’ll be the secret agent, I think I’ll be better at that.”

Shiro laughed again. “Good idea, buddy. Now, I have a plan in mind. Do you want to hear what it is?”

“Yeah, tell me.”

“Alright,” Shiro said, lowering his voice to a quiet whisper, “first we need to locate the target.”

“You mean Keith?”

“You’re already on the mark! Are you sure you’re not really a secret agent, Lance?”

Lance giggled. “I’m not, I swear.”

Shiro smiled. “Alright, so the plan is to locate the target – Keith – and make him happy again. You know what he likes best, right? I’ll have to trust you do try your very hardest to make the target happy again.”

“I can do it,” Lance said, determined. “I know Keith the best. But what are you going to do?”

“I have some plans of my own,” Shiro said, as he ruffled Lance’s hair. “Top secret.”

Chapter Text

It started with cherries. Keith loved them, though Shiro thought that had something more to do with their colour than their taste. Red was Keith’s favourite colour, after all. Shiro had a bowl of cherries prepared, among other platters of fruit, for the kids to snack on that afternoon. He planned to have Lance take the cherries, though, just for Keith.

“What are you up to?” Allura asked, one eyebrow raised as she leaned across the counter to watch him. He was on afternoon tea duty while Coran supervised the children with Allura and Lotor. Shiro only had to slice the watermelon and the apples before the food would be ready to serve and eat.

“Nothing, nothing!” Shiro said.

Allura snorted. “I can tell when you’re up to something, you get this weird little smile on your face- there it is, right there.”

“I’m not smiling.”

“You are.”

“I’m not.”

“You’re smiling right now.”

Shiro tried to set his face straight because, just like usual, she was right.

Allura burst out into laughter. “Honestly, I don’t mind what you’re up to,” she said. “Whatever it is has Lotor stuck with Coran, and it’s hilarious. He thinks that Lotor loves his blue lollies! I’ve given Coran permission to make as many as he wants for him.”

“Oh no,” Shiro laughed. “That’s mean.”

“Lotor certainly didn’t seem pleased. Serves him right for teasing me all week.”

Shiro laughed again. “Alright, alright, get back to work, you. I have a horde of hungry children to feed.”

She laughed across the counter to press a small kiss to his lips. “Alright, I’ll get back to it. Save me some watermelon?”

“Of course.”

For what it was worth, Keith seemed rather surprised that Lance was giving him such a treat when Lance carried the cherries over. “Cherries are my favourite,” he said, as he took the bowl from Lance.

“I know!” Lance said with a bright grin. “They’re just for you.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

Keith gave Lance a small smile, and offered the bowl to him. “Want to eat them with me?”

Shiro knew that Lance didn’t really like cherries, but he still sat down beside Keith and took him up on the offer. It made Shiro smile to see Keith look a little more upbeat. All of the kids enjoyed the fruit, but Shiro liked to think no one enjoyed it more than Keith did. Keith just liked Lance. He really had missed Lance, huh? It made Shiro think that they would never be apart.

Chapter Text

Their “secret mission” went pretty smoothly after they started it off well. As the end of the week drew near and Lance continued to spoil Keith, Keith started to smile more. Little by little he returned to his usual attitude, and that was more than Shiro could have hoped for.

At the end of the week, to celebrate Lotor completing his work experience, they had a water fight. Shiro suggested it, and Allura agreed to it because she knew that Lotor did not like to get his hair wet, but Shiro had no doubt the kids would love it more than Lotor hated it. In fact, even Lotor seemed excited by the prospect of it. The air outside was getting much colder with winter around the corner, but that Friday seemed uncharacteristically warm. It was a perfect day for a water fight.

It was amusing to see Lance act out his secret agent role. His board shorts and shirt became his secret agent suit, and the water gun became his weapon. He spent the entire day diving in front of shots to “save” Keith, and although he ended up completely drenched by the time the afternoon rolled around, he had a grin bigger than any other Shiro had ever seen stuck on his face.

When the kids were coming back inside after their supplies for the water fight had been exhausted, Shiro set to helping them dry off. He saw Allura snag Lance at the door, determined to stop his dripping from getting onto the floor inside. With Lance being taken care of, Shiro worked on Keith. Although he certainly hadn’t gotten as wet as his friends, it would do no good if he caught a cold from having damp hair.

“Did you have fun today?” Shiro asked, as he rubbed a towel through Keith’s dark locks.

“Yeah,” Keith said, nodding. “Water fights are fun.”

“You’re very good at them.”

“Lance was helping me,” Keith smiled, as he grabbed at Shiro’s hand. “He was really nice to me today.”

“Oh?” Shiro’s hands stilled.

“Yeah! And yesterday, too. He carried my jacket for me when I forgot, and went to get my plate at lunch. And he painted me a picture I got to keep.”

“Wow,” Shiro said, “Lance made you very happy.”

“Mhmm!” Keith nodded. “Lance is really funny.”

Shiro chuckled, and continued to dry Keith’s hair. “I’m glad you had fun, buddy,” he said. “Lance looked like he had a lot of fun, too.”

“He was protecting me.”

“I saw, I saw. That’s what best friends do.”

Keith hide a smile to himself, but Shiro saw it anyway. It wasn’t often that Keith so visibly displayed his happiness, and Shiro was all the more glad for it. Lately Keith seemed unafraid to smile and laugh loudly, and that was something that could never be faulted.

Maybe all Keith needed to be happy around others and with himself was Lance.

Chapter Text

At the end of the day after all the kids had been dried off from the water fight, Coran brought out a celebratory cake with candles for Lotor. It came with a complimentary container stuffed full of Coran’s blue disc lollies, and every single one of them was just for the teen to exclusively enjoy. He was, of course, appropriately thrilled – on the outside. Shiro didn’t need to see Allura’s muffled snorts to know that Lotor was less than impressed.

While Lotor blew out his candles and listened to Allura rattle off a painfully bland speech about his achievements, Shiro finished signing Lotor’s paperwork and certificate. When that was done he brought everything out of the office and had Allura present it to Lotor as the manager of Altea Kindergarten. All the kids clapped, even if they didn’t quite understand exactly what was going on.

After everyone had been given their share of cake, Shiro included, they took their seats around the dining tables and began to chat. Shiro was with Allura of course, but Lotor came to join them, too.

“Did you enjoy your time here?” Shiro asked, as Lotor pulled a chair closer.

Lotor nodded. “Very much,” he said. “The kids are quiet well-mannered most of the time. I expected them to be more… chaotic. Or messy, at least.”

Shiro laughed a little. “They are very sweet,” he agreed. “We have a good class here.”

“Mmm… good teachers often have that effect on children, I’ve heard. Even you aren’t so bad, cousin.”

Allura gave him a flat look. Lotor’s words didn’t sound much like a compliment, but he was smiling in that amused way of his that meant it wasn’t an insult, either. How he somehow managed to find a middle ground in between the two was beyond Shiro.

“Maybe after I’ve graduated I can come work here,” Lotor said, as he rested his chin in his hand. He didn’t sound serious, but everything he said carried a note of truth to it, so Shiro wouldn’t have been surprised if he really did show up again in a few years. Then again, he wouldn’t have been surprised if Lotor didn’t, either.

“Do you want to work in childcare?” Shiro asked. He knew that Lotor’s father had a huge company, and he sort of expected that perhaps Lotor would have to take over it, one day. It was almost the same for Allura, though she’d taken over her mother’s business instead.

“Maybe,” Lotor said. “I’m keeping my options open, for now. I might go into my father’s business.”

“It’s good to have more than one option,” Allura said. Shiro was surprised to hear her offer advice like that, but he always knew she couldn’t help herself when it came to helping others, especially with children. Even if she found Lotor annoying, she wouldn’t do anything detrimental to his future, and she’d aid him in any way she was able to.

“If I did come back here, you could be my mentor,” Lotor said, as he turned to look at Shiro. “You’d be a perfect mentor for me, you know. Wouldn’t it be great? There’s no one better to learn from.”

Shiro felt flattered by Lotor’s compliments, but didn’t know how to answer him. He’d been the mentor for a lot of younger cadets when he was in the Garrison, but that was different. He knew he’d been good at his job back then – at the top of all his classes. Here felt a little different. Although he was good at his job, wouldn’t it make more sense to ask one of the two more experienced workers? Lotor really was quite the strange child.

“That’s enough of that, Shiro is too busy with our kids here to look after another one,” Allura said. “Who’s to say you’ll want to work in childcare once you graduate?”

“That’s true,” Lotor said. His eyes spoke of his amusement – maybe he thought Allura was jealous that he was giving Shiro attention. Maybe she was jealous. Shiro just couldn’t get a read on him, not even after spending an entire week with him. Even Allura seemed to be a bit of an enigma when she was around Lotor. “Aren’t you going to miss me when I’m not here, Allura?”

“No.”

“Not even a little?”

“Nope.”

“So cold,” Lotor sighed. “How did you ever manage to snag a boyfriend? I’ll never know.”

Allura huffed, but Lotor’s teasing just made Shiro laugh. It was clear that they’d known each other for a while.

Still, he thought he might be a little sad to see Lotor go. His energy was quite different to theirs, and the way he made the kids behave was different. It was nice to have a change for a while… though he would be glad to see Keith’s jealous loneliness leave. At least he wouldn’t have competition for Lance’s attention anymore. In the long run it was probably good for Keith to learn that he wouldn’t always have all of Lance’s attention for himself, but Shiro still didn’t like to see it.

If he could have, he would have kept all the kids in the safe, comforting space of Altea Kindergarten for as long as possible, if just to see them continue to smile.

Chapter Text

For Easter morning, Shiro made sure to wake up half an hour early. He hadn’t celebrated Easter with chocolate eggs since he was a child, but the Garrison officers had always given their cadets some, so he found it to be a pleasant holiday.

He’d bought Allura a bunch of chocolate eggs for Easter, just because he could. She liked to eat chocolate, and now they’d have something to share when they curled up on the couch together that evening. Maybe it was a little childish of him, but he wanted to hide them. He’d bought her a bottle of her favourite perfume (also just because he could) and he’d hide that amongst the chocolate eggs, too.

His lovely girlfriend, as the definitely-not morning person she was, didn’t wake up when he snuck out of bed. She’d probably become used to him rising earlier than her by now. He hid most of the chocolate eggs behind the television, in cabinets and under their couch cushions. He even put one under their coffee table, one in the sink, and then finally a bunch hidden in this little nest thing one set of eggs had come with high on top of the fridge with the perfume box. Maybe he was being a little cruel when he hid something high enough that Allura couldn’t reach, but he’d get to pick her up if he did, right? It was a win-win, in his books.

Allura was rather surprised by the egg hunt when she woke up. She’d laughed when Shiro had explained it to her, but her eagerness distracted him more than his embarrassment did. She’d escaped from the bedroom to search for the eggs before he’d even finished brushing her hair, like he often did when she woke up, now.

“Ah, I found some!” She called. He hadn’t even set her hairbrush down then.

“Keep looking!” Shiro replied, laughing. “There’s a present hidden in amongst them somewhere.”

“A present? For me?”

“No, for Balmera.”

She snorted. “You’re a funny man, Shiro.”

He laughed again. As he heard Allura rustling around in their home, he continued getting ready for the day. They’d have a chocolate egg hunt on for the children that day, after they’d all made simple, little baskets out of thick paper and a variety of glitters and decorations. He knew that Coran had gone in early to paint little rabbit footprints in baby powder all over the kindergarten.

“Look at them all!” Allura said, after she’d rounded up a sizeable amount of chocolate eggs. “When on Earth did you find time to buy all of this?”

“It’s a secret,” Shiro said. “You haven’t found your present yet.”

Allura hummed. “I checked everywhere, though… at least I thought I did.”

Shiro grinned. “Want some help finding it?”

She gave him an amused look, but followed him to the fridge. She clearly gave him a look that said she couldn’t reach to where he was hinting, and Shiro was more than glad to lift her up at the waist.

“Oh!” Allura reached forwards to take the chocolate eggs and perfume before Shiro set her down on her feet. “Thank you, Shiro. You didn’t have to.”

“I wanted to,” he said, as he pressed a kiss to her cheek. “I like spoiling you every now and then.”

She laughed quietly. “Well, I’m not exactly opposed to that,” she admitted, looking a little flushed. “But let me spoil you every now and then too, alright?”

He kissed her again as a way of answering. Spoiling Allura was definitely one of his favourite things to do. Her smiles were contagious and when she was happy, it was hard for him not to be happy, too. He’d just… never had the chance to love someone like he loved Allura, and he wanted to take advantage of that for as long as she’d let him. Spoiling her, even with small gifts like this, was a part of that.

“Come on, we’ve got to get ready,” he said. “The kids will want to go egg hunting straight away, but they have to make baskets first.”

Allura laughed again. “Alright, alright. Let me just put the chocolate somewhere the cats won’t get into. We’ll eat it when we get home, right? You have to help me finish it all.”

“Definitely.”

Chapter Text

The interior of the kindergarten was very decorated when they arrived. Coran had gone all out with the decorations; there were colourful streamers and wall stickers and those little yellow chickens on every surface. He’d managed to draw the rabbit footprints in baby powder, too. It really looked like the Easter bunny had visited Altea.

Coran forced them to put on bunny ears and let him draw little whiskers on their cheeks before getting on with the Easter preparations. There was even a (mandatory, apparently) matching cotton tail to attach to the back of his pants. Shiro was beyond embarrassed, especially when Allura started taking photographs, but he didn’t take any of it off.

There were a pile of chocolate Easter eggs hidden in the fridge. While Coran finished decorating inside, Shiro and Allura took the eggs outside so that they could hide them around the yard. It was a nice day, not too sunny, so the eggs wouldn’t melt while the kids made their baskets. They made sure to hide enough of them so that all the kids would each get a good amount. Shiro was rather pleased with himself when he got the idea to hide a red and a blue wrapped egg together at every hiding spot. Lance and Keith would love that.

“All done?’ Allura asked, as she stood from hiding a handful of little eggs in the sandpit.

“All done,” Shiro agreed. The kids would be arriving soon, and getting them to focus would be difficult when they knew what was waiting outside for them.

Expectedly, the kids were quite excited when they arrived in the morning. They were allowed to snack on apple slices that Coran had cut into little bunny shapes while they waited for everyone to be dropped off, and as soon as the last child was accounted for, the basket making began.

Each child was given a sheet of cardboard with a box pattern printed onto it. After carefully cutting them out and gluing the piece together via little tabs, they were free to decorate the boxes however they wished. Shiro helped the kids attach the handles securely with little twist pins. He didn’t expect the cardboard to be so sturdy, but he knew they wouldn’t break, even if the kids found a whole bunch of eggs.

“Alright, look over here, children,” Coran said, as he stood in the centre of the room to brandish a huge, woven basket decorated with pastel coloured ribbons. “As a gift from us at Altea, we’d like to give everyone a special Easter egg for their basket! Do you want one?”

There was an uprise of cheers from the children, who scrabbled to get the best spots around Coran and his basket. Shiro couldn’t help but laugh as he watched Coran hand out the eggs. He hadn’t known that Coran was going to do that, but it was sweet.

“Aren’t these nice?” Coran said. “I’m your Easter bunny this year.”

“No way, there are rabbit footprints!” Lance said, as he pointed to the baby powder. “The real Easter bunny was here!”

“Oh, I hadn’t noticed,” Coran said, surprised. If Shiro hadn’t know better, he would have believed Coran’s shocked expression. “Are you sure? I don’t think there are more eggs…”

There was a round of disappointed noises from the children that made Shiro snort. They loved Coran so much that they believed everything he said and it was utterly adorable.

“Oh!” Coran finally exclaimed. “I know! How about… we go on an egg hunt?”

Ah, and there it was. The excitement was back. Shiro dutifully stepped out of the way as Coran led his herd of kids straight out the back doors and into the yard. It was clear to him that Coran had spent many Easters with children, if his little routine was anything to go by.

“There he goes again, being dramatic,” Allura laughed, as she came up to stand beside him. “Isn’t it sweet, though? He loves Easter.”

Shiro tapped one of his rabbit ears. “Yes, I figured.”

“They look good on you,” she grinned.

“Liar.” He was smiling, too.

She reached for his hand and tangled their fingers together. “Let’s go see if they can find all of our eggs.”

The kids were all over the place for a while. Like Shiro had thought, Lance and Keith decided to stick together to do their Easter egg hunting. He was pretty sure they’d turned it into a competition between them and Hunk and Pidge, but there was enough eggs to go around, so Shiro wasn’t too worried.

Even if it was a competition, seeing the kids work together always made him happy. Sometimes Lance would hold both baskets while Keith carefully put their fair share of eggs inside. Other times Lance would move eggs from his basket to Keith’s so that they had a perfectly even amount. When an egg was just a little too high for them to reach, Keith would put both his arms around Lance’s waist and lift him up those few small inches just for a moment, so that he could get an egg for both of them.

At the end of the day, Shiro didn’t even care that he was wearing embarrassing accessories or that the kindergarten was covered in foil wrappers or that the kids were on a permanent sugar high. They’d had so much fun that it was hard to think of anything bad. All his kids had given him one of their eggs, the foils of which had matched their colours, which they’d all eaten together. He’d given Allura a pink one and had to suffer the embarrassing oohing-and-ahhing from the kids. She’d given him a purple one in reply and the teasing had only sky-rocketed.

All in all, it was a very pleasant way to spend the Easter holidays. He made sure to take heaps of photos of Pidge that he could send to Matt, and he had Allura take a nice photo of both Pidge and himself that he could send along, too. He thought Matt might get a kick out of seeing the rabbit ears and whiskers. He asked Allura for a nice photo of him with her to send to his parents, as well.

It was a really great day.

Chapter Text

Shiro yawned as he slumped against the couch. He’d turned the lights down low and shut the curtains, and the dark, warm atmosphere was making him sleepy. His face still kind of stung from his shower – washing off the whiskers Coran had drawn on his face had not been an easy task – and he was still waiting for Allura to do the same so that she could join him.

He yawned again, and made himself comfortable. He could have fallen asleep there if he didn’t know Allura would be coming to join him any moment. They’d already had dinner and fed the cats and he’d showered first. It had been a good day, but a tiresome one. He wanted to curl up and eat chocolate with his girlfriend, but he had a feeling he was going to fall asleep halfway through their relaxation time, instead.

Eventually Allura emerged from the bathroom. She was wearing her most comfortable pyjamas and had her damp hair tied up in a long braid. She shuffled into the kitchen before coming to see him, but when she did she had some of her chocolate eggs broken up into a bowl for them to share.

“You know, I’m almost too tired to eat this chocolate… almost.” Allura nudged her way in between his legs as she clambered onto the couch. She somehow managed to fit in resting against his chest, and with her nestled against him, he couldn’t help but put his arms around her waist and use her as a pillow. “Want some?”

The little pieces of chocolate were perfectly bite sized, so for a while they shared the bowl and watched television. Shiro wasn’t really a sweets person, but he did eat his fair share almost without realising. After a while he stopped eating and closed his eyes instead. Allura was warm and soft and the sound of the television was oddly calming. He never would have thought he’d be able to sit like this, to have a quiet moment like this with someone he loved so much.

It felt really good.

“Shiro?”

“Hmm?” He hummed, half-asleep.

“Are you going to sleep?”

“Mmm.”

Allura chuckled. He could feel her laughter from where they were pressed together. “Alright, but just for a little while,” she said.

He hardly heard her. His mind had drifted off, and with it he went, content to sleep beside her.

Chapter Text

“Shiro?”

“Mmm?”

“It’s time for bed.”

He huffed, and shook his head. He wasn’t sure how long had passed since he’d dozed off, but he was frightfully tired, and all too reluctant to move. His leg had kind of fallen asleep from where Allura was resting against it and his neck was starting to ache, but he was too sleepy to feel uncomfortable.

“Come on, lazy bones,” Allura said, as she dug her fingers into his arms. “I can’t carry you.”

Well, he couldn’t argue that. He groaned as he pushed himself upright, and made sure to exaggerate it just a little bit. Allura laughed at him, and steadied him with her hands on his waist. “I’m tired,” he mumbled.

“I know,” she said, “let’s go to bed, then. I’m tired too.”

He shuffled to their bedroom without complaint. It was colder in the bedroom, but slumping down against his pillow was comforting. The chill of the cool fabric felt good against his face. He could smell a mix of his shampoo and Allura’s, and it smelt homely. There was only a faint trace of their fabric softener left on the sheets.

“Allura?” He called after a moment when she hadn’t appeared. He’d grown so used to sleeping beside her that he struggled to drift away into unconsciousness when she wasn’t there, even when he was as tired as he was.

“I’m just getting water, Shiro. I’ll be there in a moment.”

He hummed, and turned his face into his pillow. He could hear her quietly wandering around the kitchen, and after a moment, he heard the light switch being flicked off. He cracked open an eye to watch Allura as she set two glasses of water down on her bedside table, one for each of them. Allura’s weight was familiar as she climbed into bed beside him. She pulled the covers over them before resting on her face, one hand stretched out to trace a gentle line down his forehead with the back of her knuckles.

“Shiro?”

“Mmm?”

“You’re very pretty.”

He groaned, and turned his face into his pillows to hide his flushed reaction. “You’re pretty,” he corrected.

Allura laughed quietly. She leaned over to press a kiss against his temple. Her fingertips ran through his hair, pushing it away from his face. The motion of it made him feel like he was melting into the mattress.

“You can sleep now,” she told him.

He made an unintelligible noise, and put his arm over her waist to pull her close. “Now I can,” he corrected.

She just smiled.

Chapter Text

On the weekend, Shiro took Allura on another date. Well, she kind of took him, but it was an equal effort on both parts, he thought. It was her turn to choose where they went, so she decided they’d go to their local ice rink. Shiro would choose where they went for lunch afterwards, if they were hungry. Luckily, the sports centre wasn’t too far away from a street full of restaurants and little cafes, so he wasn’t too worried about being able to find somewhere afterwards.

Shiro hadn’t been ice skating since he was a teenager. His balance had been thrown way off after his arm had been amputated and although he was pretty much back to normal, the idea of stepping back onto the ice was daunting. He hid his nervousness partly because he didn’t want Allura to worry and partly because he didn’t want the date to be changed because of him. It wouldn’t be that bad, would it?

Maybe he underestimated his abilities, though.

Getting on the ice wasn’t as difficult as he’d thought it’d be. He and Allura went one trip around the rink by the wall, taking it slow and easy to get used to their skates and the slip of the ice. After that he was fine to shuffle along beside her while she remained by the rink wall for support.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come a little further in?” Shiro asked, as he held Allura’s hand tightly. Her fingers must have been cold – the direction of people on the rink had her on his right side, so she was holding onto his prosthetic, though he did had gloves on.

“I’m good!” Allura insisted.

Shiro lifted a hand to hide his amused smile. “Your knees are shaking,” he pointed out.

“They are not.”

“They are.”

“Are not.”

He couldn’t hide his next laugh, didn’t even try. “Come on,” he encouraged, as he took both of her hands in his, “this was your idea, wasn’t it? Just trust me.”

“I do trust you,” she said, “but I most certainly do not trust the ice. It’s completely uneven, Shiro. Uneven!”

“That’s because other people have skated on it,” he said. She didn’t protest as he gently eased her away from the wall. “It’s got more grip like this, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t know,” she said, doubtful.

He laughed again. “Don’t worry, I won’t let you- whoa,” he wobbled for a moment, flushed, and gave her a meek smile. “I won’t let you fall.”

“Not very encouraging.” The look she gave him couldn’t have been any flatter.

As much as she seemed hesitant, she let him guide her across the admittedly uneven ice. Even if he could balance well enough he still wasn’t the best at skating and he did wobble every now and then, but certainly not as much as his poor girlfriend. Oddly enough, it made him smile. He liked to think that he could protect her, even if it was just to stop her from falling on the ice. It felt ridiculously cliché and cheesy and normal, and that was something he was never sure he’d get.

“See, this isn’t so bad,” he said, when they’d both gained some semblance of balance.

“I suppose I can’t complain since I’m the one that decided to come here,” she said. “Are you having fun, at least?”

“Of course,” he said, “as long as I’m with you.”

Allura’s cheeks turned red. “You can’t just say that.”

“Why? It’s true.”

She groaned, and ducked her head. “You’re too much for me,” she said, as she pressed her forehead against his chest. “How am I meant to compete?”

He laughed. “Now you know how I feel every time you look at me,” he teased.

“Shiro.”

Chapter Text

Pidge was uncharacteristically quiet come the next day Shiro went to work. It wasn’t unusual for Pidge to be a little withdrawn, but that day, something was different. Shiro wasn’t quite sure what, but he was certainly aware that something was bothering Pidge, even if no one else really seemed to notice. He’d known Pidge for the longest, after all, even if he hadn’t been with Pidge at Altea for as long as others had.

He was tempted to pull Pidge aside and see if there was anything he could do to make him feel better, but Pidge beat him to it. He found Shiro when Shiro was alone, and tugged on the bottom of his shirt to get his attention. “Shiro?”

He knew that something was wrong when Pidge didn’t refer to him as “Mr”. When they were at the kindergarten, Pidge was always sure to address him in the same way that the other kids did (with the exception of Lance and Keith, who refused to follow the rules). “What’s wrong buddy?” He asked, as he bent over to lift Pidge up. There was no doubt that Pidge was always more comfortable being eye-to-eye with the person he was talking to, so Shiro kept that in mind.

“I feel weird,” Pidge said, his eyes lowered.

Shiro frowned, worried. “Weird? Can you describe it for me?”

Pidge made an uncertain noise.

“Is it physical?” Shiro asked. “Does your tummy hurt? Or your head?”

Pidge shook his head as his hands nervously fisted in his shirt. “No, it’s different,” he mumbled. “It’s stupid.”

“Pidge, no matter what, I promise you it isn’t stupid,” Shiro said firmly. “I always want you to feel comfortable coming to me, alright? I will never think anything you tell me is stupid.”

“Okay,” Pidge whispered. He hesitated for a moment. “It’s about Matt.”

“Matt?”

“I had a bad dream,” Pidge said, “and Matt was in it. He got hurt, and he didn’t come home. But it was just a dream, right? He’ll come home, right?”

Shiro felt his heart ache. He rubbed Pidge’s back gently. “Of course he will,” Shiro said without hesitance. “Matt’s favourite place to be is with you, he told me so.”

Pidge glanced up. “Really?”

“Yes,” Shiro said, nodding, “it’s true. When I talk to him, all he wants to talk about is you. He has me send him pictures of you all the time so that he feels less homesick. He loves coming home to see you, and misses you a lot. He tells me that every time we talk.”

“I didn’t know that,” Pidge said.

Shiro laughed quietly. “Tell you what, how about I ring Matt at lunch and you can talk to him? I’m sure he’ll just love to hear from you.”

Pidge’s eyes widened. “Can I?” He pleaded. “I want to talk to him.”

“Of course,” Shiro said. “If you ever feel like this again Pidge, just tell me, alright? Even if it’s my job to care for you, you’re also my family. I want you to be happy.”

Pidge gave him a smile, and put his arms around Shiro’s neck for a hug. Shiro was more than happy to return it. He liked seeing the Holt siblings smile, and if he could see those smiles from them more often, then what more could he ask for?

Chapter Text

Coran made lunch for the kids that day just like usual, and Shiro helped to hand out the plates while Allura gave everyone juice. He’d messaged Matt earlier to see if he could spare some time during lunch, and was relieved to find that Matt’s day wasn’t too busy.

He was sure to keep an eye on Pidge while the kids ate. He could see that Pidge was buzzing with pure excitement, and he kept glancing over at Shiro, looking rather expectant. He wouldn’t be allowed to call Matt until he finished his lunch – Shiro had told him that just so he wouldn’t skip a meal, because he knew that was something Pidge often did when he was distracted by something else. (Not surprisingly, but it was also something Matt did.)

When Pidge had finished as much as he could get away with, he was up and out of his seat. He found Shiro before Shiro could even glance up from the work he was doing, and gave him his most expectant look of the day, clearly quite impatient. It made Shiro laugh.

“Alright, alright, let’s go call Matt,” Shiro said. He lifted Pidge back up and settled him on his hip as he ducked into the office. He’d already told Allura what he was going to do, and after assuring her the call would only be as long as their scheduled lunch break, she’d let him have the office to himself. He’d already set up the computer and its camera, as well as the calling program, so all he needed to do was message Matt that they were ready.

Shiro took a seat in his desk chair and sat Pidge down on his lap. After he’d texted Matt to call them, he opened the program, and sat back to let Pidge do the work. He was very handy with technology, and knew how to work it without needing directions from Shiro. After a moment, Matt’s call came through, and with an excited gasp Pidge accepted it.

“Matt!” Pidge cried, as Matt’s face appeared on the screen.

“Pidge! Did you grow even bigger?” Matt leaned closer to the screen as a broad grin stretched across his face. “You’re gonna be taller than me soon.”

“No way,” Pidge said. “You’re the big brother!”

Matt laughed. “Well I guess I am!”

“You sound like you forgot that,” Shiro snorted.

“Who, me? Never,” Matt said, “it’s not like I’d forget to put my boots on before lining up in front of the Sargent, or anything.”

“That was one time, Matt.”

“You had one job, Shiro.”

Ah, yes. How he’d missed his friend. Even if Matt’s teasing was embarrassment, it was a welcome relief. Sometimes, even he feared that Matt might not come home, even though he was nowhere near any combat zones. He was working as a technician now, but he used to fly pilot fighters like Shiro did, and Shiro guessed that those old fears of his still haunted him every now and then.

It must be harder for Pidge, he thought. A child couldn’t understand the demands of a job, especially not one that took a person away from home, let alone one with the Garrison. To Pidge, Matt’s job must have seemed like something that just kept him from coming home. Seeing how overjoyed Pidge was to have his big brother talking to him, even if it was just through a screen, made Shiro realise just how much Pidge missed Matt. It made his heart ache.

For a while, Shiro idly listened to the two Holt siblings talking. Pidge was talking about his day and telling Matt about all of the cool things they’d been doing lately. He was sure to explain their Easter egg hunt in great detail, and told Matt about how he helped their parents walk Rover every night.

“I can hold his leash now,” Pidge said, proud of himself, “Dad lets me, I swear.”

“Wow! That’s so cool, Pidge!”

Shiro didn’t want to admit it, but he was envious of their bond. They were so close that it seemed cruel to ever have them apart. He’d never seen siblings so close before. He thought that maybe that was because of their large age gap – Matt was already an adult by the time Pidge was born, so there wasn’t any sibling rivalry between them.

Unfortunately, Shiro couldn’t let the phone call go on for as long as he wished it could. Matt noticed the forlorn look on his face, and gave him a weak smile. He knew that they’d run out of time, too.

Saying goodbye was the worst part. “Just a little longer?” Pidge pleaded, as his eyes darted between Shiro and Matt before decidedly landing on Shiro. “Please, Shiro? Just a little.”

Shiro’s heart jumped into his throat. Their lunch break was over and it was be inappropriate of him to keep Pidge away from the other kids for so long, even if it was just to talk to his brother.

“I’m sorry buddy, I’ve got to get back to work, too,” Matt said, as he rubbed the back of his neck. He probably could have spared a few more minutes, but he knew Shiro couldn’t. “How about I ring you later tonight? Is that okay?”

“But Matt,” Pidge whimpered.

“I’m really sorry,” Matt said. He looked sad too. “I love you lots, Pidge.”

“Love you too,” Pidge whispered.

Matt promised to call again later that night before disconnecting the call. Pidge looked so miserable that Shiro wondered if he’d done the right thing, but then Pidge wiped at his eyes, and his sad look disappeared. He looked like he’d be alright.

“As least you have me still,” he offered when nothing else came to mind.

It made Pidge laugh, and that’s all Shiro needed.

Chapter Text

Sometimes Allura was called away on business matters concerning the kindergarten. Lately Coran had been leaving in her place, but Shiro thought that was just because Coran knew they liked to work together a lot. He was always doing things for them without either one of them realising, but Shiro was started to notice those things more now.

But that day, it was Allura who needed to go. Shiro was a little forlorn about not being able to see her all day, but he figured that a little time apart was good for a relationship. They never had time to themselves, and although he didn’t hate that, it was still good to be able to regroup with himself. He’d still miss her, though.

It was strange going to work by himself. Allura almost looked worried for him when he left home that morning, but it just made him laugh. He’d be alright. It was nice to love someone so much that he’d miss not spending every moment of his day with them.

For what it was worth, his day at the kindergarten was not unlike the others he had. Although Allura wasn’t there, he still enjoyed his time with the kids and with Coran. They had to do a little more work to cover for Allura, but it wasn’t painfully difficult. They did what Coran liked to call “easy to supervise” activities, where the kids were all in the main room or the recreation room playing board games, watching a movie or doing arts and crafts.

Shiro was playing with the kids when it happened. He was monitoring the recreation room, and as one movie finished all the kids got up to choose the next one. He was slow to follow them, knowing they’d be able to make a decision themselves, but the kids got impatient with him. They didn’t do anything wrong, nor was their impatience punishable, but…

“C’mon, Shiro!” Keith insisted, as he pulled on Shiro’s left hand. “We’ve got to put another movie on!”

“Alright, alright, I’m coming,” Shiro laughed. Not one to be outdone, Lance took a hold of Shiro’s right hand and pulled him along, too. The kids weren’t strong enough to do any damage, not on their own anyway. Shiro would have been fine if there wasn’t paper on the ground.

He wasn’t sure who had brought paper into the recreation room. The kids weren’t really allowed to colour or draw unless they were seated at one of the tables, but it wasn’t so bad to lay their things on the floor so they could draw while watching a movie. They were usually careful not to let the room get so messy, knowing that they were toeing the line of what was allowed and what wasn’t.

Lance didn’t mean to trip. A piece of paper or maybe a crayon got caught under his foot and he was toppling backwards before Shiro could brace himself. Lance held tight onto Shiro’s arm as he fell, and the angle was just wrong.

Shiro shouted out in pain as a jolt flew down his spine. It was the same kind of pain that he always tried to avoid, that one that brought him to his knees and seemed to rattle his teeth. The kind of pain that made his mouth taste like smoke and burning metal. He didn’t even realise that Lance had become teary eyed with worry until his head stopped swimming.

“I’m sorry, Shiro,” Lance whimpered, as he delicately cradled Shiro’s hand in his. “I’m really sorry! I- I didn’t mean to…”

“Hey, hey,” Shiro soothed, smiling through a wince, “it’s alright buddy. Come here.”

Lance was reluctant as Shiro pulled him in with his good arm. If possible, Lance seemed even smaller than usual as he muffled his cries against Shiro’s shirt. “I’m sorry,” he whimpered again.

“It’s alright, it’s alright,” Shiro said. He struggled to lift his prosthetic without feeling pain, but carefully rubbed Lance’s back anyway. “It was just an accident buddy, don’t worry about it. I’m alright, see?”

Lance didn’t seem convinced, and he didn’t stop sniffling.

“Are you really alright?” Keith asked, his brow furrowed as he carefully put both of his hands on Shiro’s prosthetic. His touch was so light that Shiro couldn’t even feel it.

“I’m really alright,” Shiro said. It was a lie, but his kids didn’t need to worry about him like that. They were too young to understand what had happened to him, and he didn’t want them to be affected by his prosthetic. If they became dainty or overly careful around him because of this incident he didn’t know what he’d do.

It took a while for Lance to calm down. When he had stopped sniffling, Shiro was able to pass him to Keith, who latched onto Lance with both hands, like he was afraid his friend was going to fall apart. Shiro left them and the other kids in the recreation room after assuring them he really was alright. After he said it a dozen times, they seemed to believe him.

But he wasn’t alright. Coran was watching from the doorway – had heard him shout and come running – and Shiro knew that Coran could tell he was lying through his teeth. “There’s an icepack in the office,” Coran said, as Shiro passed through the recreation room doorway, “I’ve left it on your desk in a tea towel. Take all the time you need, alright? I’ll call Allura.”

“No, don’t call her,” Shiro said. “I don’t want to bother her for something like this, I’ll be alright in a bit.”

Coran was not as easy to trick as the children, and he clearly didn’t believe Shiro one bit. “Allura will want to know,” he said.

“I know,” Shiro agreed, “but it can wait for now, I’ll tell her later. The children come first.”

He hated himself for being so weak. He couldn’t help but think that if he wasn’t crippled, this wouldn’t have happened. How could he do his job when he was at risk of getting hurt like this?

He really, really hated it.

Chapter Text

Shiro wore a compression band over his shoulder and the attachment site of his prosthetic for the rest of the day. It kept his shoulder mostly immobile and stopped the pain from worsening. After Allura had accidentally hurt him, she’d convinced him to leave a compression band and a sling at work just in case something happened.

He was irritated at himself that her assumptions had been right. He should have been more careful.

The kids were a bit tentative around him for the rest of the day, especially Lance. Shiro couldn’t remember a single moment when Lance wasn’t trailing behind him like a lost puppy, his fingers often tangled in the hem of Shiro’s shirt. Shiro didn’t turn him away, not even once. Having Lance want his attention was a good sign.

Despite Shiro asking him not to, Coran did call Allura. She arrived in a taxi at the end of the day, intent on driving home so that Shiro didn’t have to strain his shoulder. She didn’t look pleased, but didn’t criticise him for not wanting to call her. She was just worried.

At home, she had him take a hot shower before icing his shoulder again. “How bad is it?” She asked. It wasn’t the first time she’d asked a question like that that night, and he doubted it would be the last. He didn’t know if he felt annoyed or touched by her concern. He thought he was leaning towards the latter.

“It’s not that bad,” he muttered. “Lance isn’t that heavy.”

Allura sighed. She was no doubt remembering how her hit had caused him so much pain, and Lance certainly had more force behind his fall than she had had. “You’ll tell me if it gets worse, won’t you?”

He nodded. He’d tell her.

She made dinner that night, and washed up, too. She fed the cats and put the laundry in to clean. She wouldn’t let Shiro help, and although he rationally knew she was doing it because she wanted to make things easier for him, he couldn’t help but blame himself. He was crippled, so she felt pity. He couldn’t do it, so she was forced to. He was burdening her, and that was wrong of him.

But he couldn’t think things like that. He didn’t want to think things like that anymore.

“Allura?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re making me feel a little useless.”

Allura startled, and turned around to face him. She had a troubled look on her face. “Want to help me?”

She was drying the dishes, and gave them to him to put away. He was sure to keep a straight face, knowing that if she saw him wincing she’d feel bad. Doing things felt better than sitting still all evening.

“Do you still worry about being disabled?” She asked him.

He was surprised by the question, because no one had ever asked him something so direct before. His first reaction was to lie, but lying to Allura made him feel awful, so he bit back his words and told the truth. “I do,” he said. “If I had my real arm I wouldn’t have upset Lance.”

“Maybe that’s true,” Allura said after a moment, “but would you be the same person you are now if you hadn’t experienced what you’ve experienced?”

It was a question he’d always, always avoided. He didn’t want to think about it. People had told him that he’d changed after the accident, and he’d always thought they were stupid for saying so. Of course he’d changed. He’d had his arm ripped off. He’d been depressed and angry and spiteful for months while he recovered. And then, when everything in him had finally started to settle, he’d been left with the ruins he had no one to blame for making expect for himself.

“I don’t know,” he finally admitted. He really didn’t.

“I don’t think you would be,” Allura said. No one else had ever said that, either. “I like the Shiro you are now. I love the Shiro you are. I feel… I feel like that we would have never met if our paths had been any different to what they are now. I’m not saying that I’m glad you had your accident, but I’m glad to have met you. I don’t want you to be haunted by it anymore, because seeing you in pain hurts me too.”

“Pretty words can’t fix it.”

“I know.” She set the plate she’d dried back down in the drying rack, uncaring that it’d get wet again, so she could turn to look at him straight in the eyes. “But I feel helpless when it comes to your pain. How can I help you when you’re hurt? How can I make you understand just how important you are to the kids, and to Coran, and to me? Do I make any difference at all?”

“You do,” he said. Maybe he wasn’t the only one feeling useless. “I hate that I don’t have a part of me anymore. It’s natural for people to pity me, or look at me differently. If I was a parent, I don’t know if I’d be able to trust someone like me with my child, even though I know that I’m more than capable of caring for them.” He pressed a hand over his face. “I just want to be whole again, but I can’t be. I can’t ever be.”

Allura took his hand in hers and drew it away from his face. “Who says you’re not?” She asked, as she pulled him closer. “Why can’t you be whole just the way you are? Those kids never knew you before the accident, I never knew you before the accident… to me, you’ve never been anything but Shiro. Just Shiro. My Shiro.”

He’d never thought about it that way. She’d seen photos of him when he still had his arm, but she’d never seen it. She’d never seen the shape of his real right hand or the little scale he used to have on his first knuckle or the freckle he faintly remembered always having on his inner wrist, though he never knew when it appeared there. She didn’t know that his right wrist had always cracked when he handwrote too much, or that he’d always bite his right hand’s fingernails a little more than his left, or that he’d always thought his right arm was stronger.

Those were only things that existed in his memory.

“I can’t even begin to comprehend what you’ve lost,” she said, as she pressed her palm to his cheek, “but can we think about what you’ve gained, instead?”

He knew she wasn’t talking about his prosthetic or his scars or his pain. Even if she hadn’t implied that his accident had led to meeting her, in some ways, it had. Before losing his arm he would have never considered working in child care. He was a pilot, not a babysitter. When he’d lost his arm, he’d lost everything that he’d considered to be intrinsic parts of himself – namely piloting. There couldn’t be a plane without a pilot, and who was Shiro without a plane? He was no one.

Losing his arm had forced him to find other things to fill the gaps of what he could no longer be. Even if he couldn’t have been a child care worker before, he could be now. He could be good at it, and enjoy it. He could meet people like Coran and admire them for something other than military rank and piloting abilities. He could meet a person like Allura and fall in love.

The things he’d gained were pretty good, he thought. They were things he didn’t want to lose.

Allura pressed her cheek against his chest. She sniffled.

“Why are you crying?” He asked.

“Because I know you don’t want to.”

He didn’t want to. He’d done enough of that to last more than one lifetime. “I love you too,” he said, when it became clear she’d told him everything she wanted to by then. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

How long had they been together now? It felt like it’d been years, but could have only been one at that most. She’d probably know when their first anniversary was.

“Well, you wouldn’t have anyone’s hair to brush in the morning,” she said, huffing through a weak laugh, “and you’d be down two cats.”

“No secret chocolate stash, either.”

“That’s meant to be a secret.”

Things felt lighter. He felt like he could breathe again, like he was allowed to. Allura always knew how to sooth his worries. No one had ever been able to do that for him, not in the way she did it. Not with so much brutal honesty. It was what he needed. What would he really do without her? Gently, he brushed hair away from her forehead, and pressed his lips against the skin he exposed. “I love you,” he whispered again.

He couldn’t help but think that he really wanted to marry her.

Chapter Text

The next day Allura drove them to work. Shiro wasn’t as fussed by that as he thought he’d be. That talk they’d had last night had done him a lot of good. It was easier to accept her help knowing the things she’d told him.

His shoulder was feeling better after a night of rest. The ice and the compression band had helped, and although there was a lingering ache, it wasn’t distracting. He was more worried about Lance than himself. He really hoped that Lance wasn’t still upset about what had happened.

The kids seemed glad to have him back to normal. Shiro was sure to be as jovial around them as he could, knowing that they’d understand his actions more than his words. He didn’t act any differently to how he normally would. He picked the kids up and moved the tables when needed and wasn’t afraid to move around his shoulder. He probably shouldn’t have just to be sure, but he was being careful. Besides, he could feel Allura’s eyes watching over him, and he didn’t want to worry her too much.

Lance arrived with an anxious look on his face that morning. Keith flocked to him like a moth to a flame, intent on soothing his friend. Lance seemed a little more concerned with finding Shiro to appreciate Keith’s efforts, though that didn’t really deter Keith.

“What’s up, buddy?” Shiro asked, as he crouched down in front of Lance. “I’m alright, see? Nothing wrong at all.”

Lance had something hidden behind his back. He looked quite nervous as he withdrew it, and offered it to Shiro. “I made this for you,” he said.

Shiro took it. It was a folded piece of paper – a card, he realised after a moment. One Lance had clearly made himself. When he carefully opened it, he was surprised to find it addressed to “Mr Shiro”. Lance never called him “Mr”.

It was an apology card. Lance’s writing wasn’t that neat, but he had the same childish scrawl that other kids had, and it was easy enough to read. In his card he apologised for hurting Shiro, and promised to never do it again. He’d drawn a little picture of Shiro and himself, too. It was crude, and likely done in crayon, and Shiro had never felt so touched by anything ever before.

“Thank you for this Lance,” Shiro said, as he refolded the card.

“Do you like it?” Lance asked, as he wrung his fingers together.

“I love it,” Shiro said. He drew Lance into a hug, and was more than pleased when Lance returned it enthusiastically. “Do you feel better now?”

Lance nodded.

“Alright,” Shiro smiled, as he stood again. “Why don’t you go play with Keith?”

Lance and Keith were off to find Hunk and Pidge once Lance was satisfied. Shiro watched them go and let out a fond sigh. He was sure to tuck the card away somewhere safe where it wouldn’t crinkle or get damaged. He didn’t want to lose it.

“You seem cheery,” Allura said, as she snuck up behind him. “Did Lance make you a card?”

“He did.”

Allura laughed quietly. “That’s so sweet,” she said, as she pressed a little kiss to his cheek. “I’m glad you’re feeling better, Shiro.”

He was, too.

Chapter Text

“This way, Pidge.”

“I know, I know,” Pidge said as he huffed. His fingers were tightly wrapped around Shiro’s so that he didn’t get lost in the crowd. “I can’t see very well.”

“Come here,” Shiro said, as he paused for a moment. When Pidge turned to face him he lifted Pidge up and settled him on his hip. “Better?”

Pidge only grinned.

They were out to get things they could put in a care package for Matt. It had been Matt’s idea, actually, one he suggested over a video call with Pidge the previous week. It made Pidge feel closer to Matt, so Shiro had volunteered to take him out on the weekend to find things that Pidge wanted to send to his brother. Mrs Holt had thought it was a great idea, and had offered to give him money for whatever Pidge wanted, but Shiro had declined. This was sort of a gift from him, too.

“Ah, over there,” Pidge said, as he pointed at a gift shop. “Maybe there will be something there.”

“Alright,” Shiro said, smiling softly. The last time he’d taken Pidge out shopping with just the two of them had been when Pidge wanted to find a dress. He doubted this shopping trip would be as difficult as that one had been, but he was curious to see what Pidge wanted to send his big brother.

It started off with a little dog keychain. “It looks like Rover,” Pidge said, grinning. Shiro agreed, and after buying the little charm, Pidge tucked it away safely into the green backpack he’d brought along with him.

Shiro suggested the next item. He knew which lollies Matt liked the best, and also knew that they weren’t available on Garrison owned sites. He remembered how much of a pain it had been to get things shipped in past security too, so if they could send him some, he thought Matt might like it. He let Pidge pick out a few packets they could add to Matt’s care-package, and let Pidge pick one for them to share for the day, too.

Halfway through the day they stopped to have lunch at the food court. Pidge chatted about everything and anything, and Shiro listened to him fondly. His little backpack was starting to get full now – there was his dog key chain and the lollies, but they’d also found a soft blanket, a book about aliens, and a notebook with tools on the front cover to include. Shiro had noticed that the cologne Matt wore was on sale, so he’d bought that. He remembered how forgetful Matt had been during their shared Garrison days, so he bought a new toothbrush and body wash set, too. (Mrs Holt may have also mentioned that Matt might need it.)

“How do I send a package?” Pidge asked, as he picked at his hot chips.

“Don’t worry, once it’s all wrapped up, I’ll send it,” Shiro said. “We just have to make sure everything is labelled and packaged safely.”

Pidge nodded, looking pleased by that answer. “Okay!”

It was nice to see Pidge looking so happy. Even if sending the package would be a little pricey, he had no doubt that it was worth it.

Chapter Text

Since Pidge decided to send a package to his brother, Matt decided to ship one back. Even if shipping into the Garrison took a while, shipping out of it was much faster. Once his package had cleared security it arrived at the post office within a week. He’d addressed it to Shiro, so Shiro took Pidge to pick it up after work one evening. He left a little early so they’d arrive before the post office shut, but it was around the same time Pidge was usually picked up anyway.

“I wonder what he sent,” Pidge said, as he reached for Shiro’s hand when they entered the post office. “I bet it’s cool stuff!”

“Of course,” Shiro said, laughing. He was curious to see what Matt had sent to his little brother, too.

The line at the register wasn’t that long. After handing the attendant the slip left by the mailman and showing proof of his identity, they were given the parcel. It was a bit too heavy for Pidge to carry, but not heavy enough that Shiro had to use both hands to hold it – he liked holding Pidge’s hand, too.

They opened the package at Pidge’s home. Shiro wouldn’t be staying for dinner, but he did let Mrs Holt convince him to have tea. After Shiro cut open the box, he let Pidge have at it.

“Ah, look!” Pidge exclaimed, as he pulled out whatever was left on top. “He sent me lollies!”

Shiro snorted. They were the bagged lollies kept in Garrison cafeterias and food parcels. While their diets were quite strict and the food very regulated, they were given some leeway every now and then. The lollies were nice, and most people hoarded them for bad days. It was sweet of Matt to send his to Pidge, though with Matt’s current stationing, he guessed that the lollies weren’t as rare as they used to be.

“Shiro can you please open them?” Pidge asked, as he held out the packet. “I want to keep looking.”

Shiro cast Mrs Holt a glance, and when she nodded, he indulged in Pidge’s request. The lollies were small, but it would probably be best if Pidge only had a few so that he didn’t spoil his dinner.

Pidge unveiled a few photographs and a pen with the Garrison logo (Shiro had noticed that kids quite liked things like that – their branded pens were always the favoured ones at arts and crafts time) before finding the true star of the package. “Matt made me another robot!” Pidge cried, as he carefully pulled the contraption out of the box. It was sitting in another box surrounded by bubble-wrap, and when he pulled it free, Shiro got a clear look at it.

He wasn’t quite sure what it was. It was circular, like a soccer ball, and covered in hexagonal panels. Pidge started tinkering with it as soon as he got his hands on it, his tongue peeking out from between pursed lips. He suddenly looked so concentrated that Shiro wanted to laugh. He had a feeling that the things Matt sent were made for Pidge to figure out.

After a moment, the robot suddenly came to line. The gaps between its panels began to glow a soft green, and then they pushed open, revealing star-shaped holes and little dots cut into the metal.

“The light, the light!” Pidge exclaimed, as he impatiently waved a hand towards the lounge room’s light switch. “Turn it off, please!”

Mrs Holt laughed, but did as asked. She looked curious too, though she was probably used to all the strange things Matt sent Pidge.

As the lights turned off, the true purpose of the little robot was revealed. Starry patterns burst across the walls and ceiling, covering the room in made-up constellations of green light. Pidge’s eyes went wide at the sight of it before he let out an excited cheer.

“Oh my,” Mrs Holt said, surprised.

Shiro could only echo her amazement. Matt’s ability to create things was phenomenal, but those skills went above and beyond when it was for Pidge. It was incredible to see what he made for his little brother, and even better to see how much Pidge just adored everything he was given. There was not one thing Matt would do that Pidge would dislike, Shiro thought. Seeing Pidge fawn over his new present cemented that.

He would never get tired of it.

Chapter Text

Shiro was a descent cook. He could make enough to have a different meal every night and it wasn’t like he had to live off instant noodles and cereal. His mother had taught him heaps of Japanese and western dishes that he liked to make, and with Allura around, the cooking duties were halved. He never really worried about eating.

The one thing he couldn’t do, however, was bake. Something usually went wrong, and if it didn’t, then what he made usually turned out no more than mediocre at best. Allura was pretty good at baking, so he usually left it to her.

At the kindergarten, baking was something they did often. Coran was a good cook and a good baker, and he liked to do things involving food with the kids. While sugary treats were a rarity, the days they were allowed to bake were very enjoyable. Most of the kids followed Coran’s directions with ease, but like with some of the other activities they did, there was always a kid or two who stood out from amongst the other children for being exceptionally talented at what they were doing.

With baking, it was definitely Hunk.

“And then you put this much sugar in,” Hunk said, as he scooped out a perfect amount of sugar from the bag to give to Keith and Lance. Neither of Hunk’s friends were any good at cooking and Pidge wasn’t too interested in anything other than the end product, so it was really Hunk’s chance to shine.

“Are you sure that’s enough?” Keith asked, as he gave their table’s mixing bowl a thoughtful look. “Maybe we should add more.”

“No, no,” Hunk said, shaking his head, “that’s enough, I read the recipe. They’ll be too grainy if you add more sugar.”

“Oh,” Keith said. “I guess that’s true. So what do we do now?”

It was nice to see Hunk take the lead for once. He usually wasn’t all that confident in himself, but he knew where his strengths were, and it was encouraging to see him step up for a little while. The other kids were more than happy to follow him, especially when they knew how talented he was with cooking. They liked his version of Coran’s blue disc lollies more than Coran’s, after all.

It seemed like Hunk enjoyed the positive attention, too. The kids, mostly Keith and Lance, really fawned over his baking knowledge. Lance in particular wasn’t stingy with his compliments, and Hunk seemed to appreciate them very much. He got all flustered and chuffed with every praise his friends gave him. Shiro had no doubt in mind that their cookies would turn out the absolute best just because Hunk was in charge.

Seeing the kids support each other like they did left him feeling very content inside.

Chapter Text

Expectedly, the cookies that Hunk made with his friends turned out deliciously well. The kids spent a while decorating them, though their little group decided to give Hunk the most to decorate considering he’d put the most effort into making them.

“Those look really good, buddy,” Shiro said, as he crouched down beside Hunk. He’d made little sunflowers out of yellow-coloured sweets and chocolates on his cookies. “Yellow is a nice colour, huh?”

Hunk nodded as a warm grin stretched across his face. “Tastes good, too!”

Shiro laughed quietly. “Sure does! Is there anything else you need for decorating?”

Hunk cast a contemplative glance over their table’s supplies. “We might need more stuff,” he said after a moment. “Lance is running out of blue icing.”

That was true. He’d wasted most of it on just one cookie, and while it might taste nice, it meant the others would have less on them. It sort of made Shiro laugh, but that’s definitely something Lance did often. He wasn’t all that great at rationing. It was nice of Hunk to notice before Lance did, too. He was always looking out for his friends.

“Alright, how about we go get some more from the kitchen?” Shiro asked, as he stood back up. “I’m sure Coran has heaps leftover somewhere.”

“Okay,” Hunk said, smiling. He followed Shiro into the kitchen, a place the children weren’t really allowed to go, only after Shiro gave him permission to. He was such a good kid.

Like he had thought, Coran had left a bunch of extra decorations in the fridge and on the bench. There were more lollies, premade icing and sprinkles leftover that Shiro gave to Hunk. That should be enough to keep the kids occupied for a little while longer.

“Need anything else?” Shiro asked.

Hunk hesitated for a moment, before shyly asking, “Are there anymore yellow decorations?”

Shiro laughed. “Of course, there’s heaps more,” he said. “Come here.” He didn’t often pick Hunk up, not like he did with the other kids. Hunk always seemed older and more mature, like he didn’t need Shiro to dote on him as much as maybe Lance or Pidge or even Keith did. Still, Shiro had to remember that Hunk was just as young as the others, and there was nothing wrong with showing him just as much attention as he did the others.

From his higher vantage point, Hunk could see onto the bench, where all the decorations were. His eyes went wide at the array offered to him, and with a certain amount of admirable decisiveness, he chose what he wanted. With everything put aside for their group, Shiro set Hunk down, and sent him on his way.

“Thank you, Mr Shiro,” Hunk said with another warm grin.

He really was such a good kid. Even if he was sometimes a little too nervous sometimes, or if he let Lance boss him around, he never lost sight of what he knew was right and what was wrong. Shiro thought that he’d make a good leader, one day.

“Everything alright there, Shiro?” Allura asked, as she wandered past. Her hands were covered in pink icing.

“All good,” he said. He looked pointedly at her hands. “How about you?”

She wiggled her sticky fingers at him. “Want this in your hair, mister?”

“No, no, I’m fine,” he laughed, as he backed away. “I’ll leave you to it.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” she said, laughing too. She went into the kitchen to wash her hands, and he turned back to supervising. The other kids were excited by the things Hunk brought them, and it was sweet to see.

Even if Lance and Keith could be a little combative sometimes, they were never anything but appreciative towards Hunk. Pidge, too. It made Shiro happy to see how much they supported each other. He could only hope that their friendship lasted, but he had a good feeling that it would.

Chapter Text

Shiro was trying to fix the sink in the kitchen. It was his must-be-done project for the weekend, because it was something that really needed to be repaired. He and Allura had had to mop up the kitchen floor every night that week because there was a leak in the pipes somewhere. It wasn’t that hard of a problem to fix, but finding the leak itself was proving to be more troublesome than he had predicted.

“How’s it going down there?”

“I think I’m almost done,” Shiro said, as he slowly inched out from under the sink. Allura had been in bed most of the day, struck down by a small cold. He was surprised that she’d managed to get up at all considering how tired she was. She’d pulled on one of Shiro’s sweaters over a pair of tights and was using the long sleeves to keep her hands warm. She hadn’t brushed her hair today, but he didn’t think it looked all that bad. “How are you feeling now? Better?”

“Not really,” she said with a sniffy sigh. “I think I got snot on your sweater though, I’m sorry. I can’t stop sneezing.”

“It’s alright, don’t worry about it,” he said, waving a hand. “It can just go in the wash when you’re done with it.”

Allura gave him a weak smile, and took a seat at the kitchen bench. “I don’t like being sick,” she said. “I feel useless.”

“You’re not useless,” Shiro said, as he turned on the tap to wash his hands and check for the leak. When nothing started to drip from the pipes, he grinned. “All fixed.”

“My hero,” she said, smiling.

He laughed, and shut the cupboard door beneath the sink. “Did you take the mediation I gave you earlier?” He asked.

She nodded.

“Alright, then I think it’s back to bed for you,” he said, as he put his hands on her waist to guide her back off the seat. “I’ll wake you up when dinner is ready.”

“But-”

“Honestly Allura, it’s alright,” he said, before she could get guilty over doing nothing. “Cooking and cleaning for one evening isn’t going to do me much harm. You just focus on resting up, okay?”

She looked like she wanted to complain again, but didn’t. He had her lay back down in bed, and pulled off her socks so that she wouldn’t overheat. He refilled the glass of water she kept on her bedside table and tucked the covers up over her. By the time he’d done all that she was struggling to fight sleep, her eyes just barely open.

“Rest,” he said again.

“Okay,” she murmured, before she was out like a light. It made him laugh quietly as he sat on the edge of the bed so that he could comfortably run his fingers through her hair. She always tried her hardest to pull her weight, even when she was ill. How did he get so lucky? He still didn’t know.

Chapter Text

Allura wasn’t feeling much better by Sunday, which surprised Shiro. She didn’t often get struck down by a cold, but winter was starting to creep in and the nights were getting colder, so he didn’t worry himself too much.

He did take her to the doctors, though, just to be sure. She seemed rather confused as he bundled her out of bed, still in her pyjamas (his sweater) and slippers, to take her to the surgery. She’d slept most of the drive, and then again while they waited for her name to be called. Luckily, the doctor thought it was just a nasty cold, and prescribed Allura antibiotics to move it along its way faster. As long as she was feeling better tomorrow, and she took the medicine for a week, she would be fine to work with the kids.

With the medicine finally kicking in, and a long day of resting spent hardly doing anything, Allura was starting to feel better. After her shower that evening she joined him on the couch to relax and watch television, her blanket in tow. She wiggled her way in beside him and gave him a thankful smile when he began to draw small patterns down her back and arms.

“Thank you for taking care of me,” Allura said after a while.

“You don’t need to thank me,” Shiro reminded her, “you’re my girlfriend, it’s my job to look after you.”

A silly sort of smile touched Allura’s face, and embarrassed, she looked away. Somehow her embarrassment made him a little proud of himself. It was a good accomplishment to make his girlfriend blush, he thought. It felt nice to see her happy after being so miserable for the last two days. He was glad to see that she was feeling better now.

They went back to quietly watching television, though Shiro could see that her cheeks were still tinted red. He settled further into the couch and ran his fingers down her arm without really thinking too much about it. After a while, Allura’s head dropped back onto his shoulder, her eyes closed. She’d fallen asleep.

He laughed to himself quietly, and let her be. A proper night’s rest would do her well, and she looked comfortable.

When it got a little late, he carried her to bed. Allura wasn’t short, and although she was slender she certainly had some muscle to her, but he didn’t struggle to carry her. He wondered if she knew he was strong enough to pick her up. That was something that would probably make her embarrassed, too, he thought.

He tucked her into bed, locked all their doors, and turned off the lights. Another week of work was ahead, but he found that he wasn’t disappointed in that prospect. He looked forwards to working with the kids, and Coran and Allura. He never would have thought that he’d be happy with his job after he left the Garrison, but he loved what he was doing.

The people he was with all day certainly made everything better.

Chapter Text

The power on the entire street had been turned off for the evening. A powerline had been damaged, and although every house had been sent a courtesy letter warning them of the times the power would be off, neither Shiro nor Allura had noticed it. The letter seemed to have slipped from the pile that either one of them could have brought in – they found it under Balmera’s bed, its corners chewed by devious little teeth.

So they weren’t prepared. Shiro managed to take the batteries out of the television remote so they could replace the empty ones in the torch, but they came up empty when searching for candles. Allura had some pretty ones stashed in their room, but he insisted that she didn’t use them, knowing she’d saved the best smelling ones for an afternoon where she specifically wanted them to burn.

“We can make do without them,” he said, as he took two bottles of water from the fridge before shutting it for good. They hadn’t prepared any extra ice to keep their perishables cool, so it would be best if they didn’t open the fridge again until the power was on. At least he’d already made dinner before it went out.

“If you’re sure,” Allura said, as she put her good candles back. She sounded hesitant, but Shiro knew she was glad that he’d said they didn’t need to use them. They were a luxury she was saving, and he knew that a little darkness wouldn’t hurt them. It was already evening, anyway. The torch was enough to brighten the room they were in – the bedroom, because there was no point laying anywhere else, and their quilts were both comfortable and warm.

Shiro didn’t mind having no power. He could live with it for a little while, even if it meant they had no interior heating and no way to boil water hot enough for tea (their stove was electric, too). It was too dark to read and neither of them were in the mood for a board game, so they just laid there, wondering what to do. Eventually, Allura spoke.

“Remember the wedding I invited you to a while ago?” She asked.

He did remember it. That wedding felt like it had been years ago, but it couldn’t have been more than just one. “What about it?”

“I got a lot of comments about you,” she said.

Curious, he glanced down at her and raised a brow. She was tucked under his arm, the both of them under the quilts and propped against the headrest with their pillows. “Like what?”

“Well, obvious things,” she started, seeming a little hesitant. “That you’re handsome, that they’re surprised I managed to find someone like you, that if you hurt me they’d promise to do some unspeakable things to you – they were joking, I promise. Well, most of them.”

He laughed a little. He wasn’t too worried about that, though he was worried about making a good impression. He wanted Allura’s family members to like him, after all.

“There was something else, though,” Allura continued.

“Is it bothering you?” He asked. It looked like it was.

“A little,” she confessed. “I know they were only teasing me, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I think it’s something we should talk about. It’s just a little… embarrassing.”

He gave her a puzzled look. “I’m not going to laugh at anything you say,” he reassured her. “If you want to talk about something, then we can talk. I just want you to be comfortable with whatever it is.”

“I know, I know,” she said, as she put a hand on his chest, “that’s why I’m bringing it up. It’s still embarrassing, though.”

He waited for her to talk.

“At the wedding, they were asking if we-” she made a rolling hand gesture, her eyes pointedly fixed elsewhere, “if we’d had- had sex yet.”

It took a moment for it to click, but when it did, he felt his face turn red. His first instinct was to turn his face away, so that’s what he did. Alright, so that was embarrassing to talk about.

“Embarrassing, right?” She forced a laugh.

Shiro stopped himself from letting out a long exhale. Allura was clearly nervous talking about sex, and he hadn’t ever asked her about her history, so he needed to get over it. “A little,” he admitted, “but it’s okay to ask about. Just… go for it. Like ripping off a Band-Aid.”

“You don’t mind talking about it?”

“No, it’s fine.”

“If you don’t want to answer something, that’s okay.”

“I know. The same goes for you.”

“You have questions, too?”

“Of course I do.”

“Okay.” She let out a breath. “Okay. Are you a virgin?”

His cheeks burned. “No.” There was a moment of silence. “Is that bad…?”

“No, no,” she was quick to say. “I don’t have a problem with it. I mean, we’re not teenagers anymore, it’s not that unexpected. But… I’m not saying I don’t trust you, but can you get tested before we…?”

“Yeah, of course,” he said. There was another silent moment. “Are you a virgin?”

She glanced away again. Even in the low light he could see her face was red. “Yes,” she said, as she cleared her throat, “I am. Is that bad?”

“No, of course not,” he said. Would that make him her first, if they ever…? He didn’t want to think about it, it was making him feel too many mixed feelings (all positive, though). He was starting to sense where the conversation was going. “I don’t mind waiting,” he finally said.

She looked up at him. “You don’t?”

“For you? Not at all.”

Her face went red again, but she didn’t look away. “I’m not saying I don’t want to, because I do,” she said, “but not… not yet. We’ve almost been together for a year and most people already expect sex and I don’t want to deprive you or anything-”

“Allura,” he said to stop her rambling, “you’re not depriving me of anything, okay? It’s not… I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t thought about it, because I have,” he paused, embarrassed, “but if it was a problem, I would have already said something. It’s been ages since I had a girlfriend – years. After the accident there was nothing about myself I was interested in, and I had no sex drive. It’s just… it’s different now. Sure, I want to have sex with you, but I just want to… be with you. Does that make sense?”

She nodded.

“Then that’s that,” he said, “so don’t worry about it, okay?”

“Is it okay that I have no experience?” She asked. “I’m not ashamed of it, but I really don’t know much about how it actually works or anything – practically, that is. It just makes me nervous.”

“Me too,” he said. At her surprised look, he continued. “The girl I love is trusting me with something so intimate that she’s never showed anyone else, how could I not be nervous? I’m worried it won’t be good enough for you, when it does happen. I just want to make you happy.”

Allura pressed her face against his chest. “I have no doubt that you can,” she said. “You really don’t mind waiting?”

“Not at all,” he said, confident. “Even if you’re never ready, I don’t mind. You can always talk to me about this sort of stuff. We can figure it out.”

She nodded. She seemed much more at ease now. “Thank you,” she said quietly, “for understanding. I don’t think many other people would.”

“I doubt anyone else could possibly love you as much as I do in the way I do.”

She laughed quietly. “I suppose that’s true. I love you too, you know.”

“I know.”

They settled into a comfortable silence for a while. Shiro drew her closer, had her rest against him. He wondered what could have brought on the conversation, but it seemed startlingly obvious to him now. They were two adults left in the dark with nothing to do but be in bed. It seemed like the situation was almost set up for it.

He was sort of glad they hadn’t, though. While he did want to sleep with Allura, he appreciated that he didn’t have to. He still felt the way he did, still loved her as much as he did, without that sort of intimacy guiding the way. He’d never felt less impatient for something in his life.

“You know,” Allura said after a long moment, her voice light and teasing, “I think about it too.”

He couldn’t help but laugh.

Chapter Text

It was a pretty uneventful week at the kindergarten. Shiro cleaned, played with the kids and taught them the things that he had to. It was getting colder, so he was constantly reminding them to bring scarves and beanies if they wanted to play outdoors. Lance was hardly affected by the cold at all, and he’d had to wear one of Shiro’s jackets twice that week just so he could go outside with his friends (it was huge on him, painfully so. It reached down well past his knees and the sleeves had to be rolled up four times on each arm).

He thought it was a nice week, even if it was a little slow and quiet. The change in weather was starting to make everyone sick – there was a lot of sniffles and sneezing happening – but other than that it was a calm sort of time. Allura was feeling much better after a weekend of rest, and the medicine she was taking had worked wonders to clear away her cold. The kids were none the wiser that she’d ever been unwell in the first place.

Coran seemed to enjoy the cooler weather. He had a wide array of… interesting sweaters. The kids just loved to see what he’d wear the next day. Shiro didn’t think he could wear what he did anywhere but at Altea Kindergarten. Surely it would be too embarrassing.

Halfway through the week, Coran gifted Shiro and Allura a scarf each. He didn’t have a particular reason for it, just the fact that it was starting to get colder and he cared. They were nice scarves, too – soft and warm, and gentle colours, so different to the sweaters he seemed to love wearing. Shiro and Allura would be sure to gift him something sometime soon in return, though Coran had insisted he didn’t need anything. That was just the kind of man he was.

All in all, it was a quiet time. He thought that the gradual change in season had something to do with it – everyone was adjusting, getting used to wearing warmer clothes and having colder nights. Even he was doing the same; having his showers a little hotter, making more tea to keep his hands warm, seeking out the warmth of Allura’s body in bed in the middle of the night more often. He didn’t really have a preference for seasons, but the colder ones made people more affectionate, more willing to cuddle up for warmth. With Allura, that certainly wasn’t a bad thing.

They’d have to plan an activity to do with the kids soon so that they didn’t get bored, but Shiro didn’t feel rushed. He was content with everything.

Chapter Text

One night, there was a storm. It wasn’t particularly thunderous, but there was a lot of harsh wind, and when Shiro arrived at Altea Kindergarten in the morning, he found that one of the branches in the backyard had been knocked down.

“Are you sure you can move it on your own?” Allura asked, as a worried frown touched her face. “I can ask Coran to help-”

“It’s alright,” Shiro said, laughing quietly. Coran had gone out to restock the kitchen like he always did; he needed to get the food so he could start on lunch for the day, so Shiro didn’t want to bother him. He could manage on his own. “Don’t worry, just make sure the kids don’t come outside.”

Like usual, when something was amiss at the kindergarten, all of the kids were very interested. They were peering out of the windows to awe at the branch, and looked like they wanted to do nothing less than climb all over it like it was a piece of play equipment. Their expressions made Shiro laugh, though he was sad they would be disappointed when they weren’t allowed on it. There were too many sharp edges and splinters to be had for the kids to get anywhere near it.

After putting on protective gloves, he set to work disassembling the branch. He could easily snap off thinner branches to make it easier to dispose of, so that’s what he spent the morning doing. It wasn’t exactly hard work, but he did build up a bit of a sweat. Eventually he managed to make the branch easier to handle, so he started to throw all the smaller branches he’d snapped off away. There were other large sticks that had been broken off trees in the storm, so he threw them away, as well.

When the entire branch had been disposed of, he pulled off his gloves and wiped away the sweat on his forehead. Allura was waiting on the porch with a glass of water which she gave to him after letting the kids out to play.

“Thank you,” he said, after he’d drained the glass. “Is the yard alright now?”

“Yeah, it’s perfect,” she said. “You’re all sweaty.”

“Can’t exactly help it.”

“It’s a good look on you.”

He flushed. Now that he was looking at her properly, he could see a redness to her cheeks that certainly wasn’t from the cold. “Were you watching me?”

“Maybe.”

He laughed. He was embarrassed, but Allura’s admiration of him felt nice. He didn’t think being sweaty was all that attractive, but on her maybe he’d change his mind. Allura could make anything attractive, he thought. “Well, as long as the backyard is safe, I think I’ll go wash my hands. You’ll be alright by yourself for a few minutes?”

“No problem,” she said. She pressed a quick kiss to his cheek before letting him go. Before he disappeared into the bathroom to wash his hands, he glanced back out of the window, just to make sure Allura was really alright. Had she really liked what she saw when he was working before? He wasn’t blind to the fact that he had broad shoulders and muscles – he’d needed them for the Garrison, and then again to balance out his missing limb – but he’d never really considered that it could be something Allura… liked.

He felt a little stupid thinking about that, actually. Allura thought he was attractive, and it was a scenario right out of a romance movie. If he were being honest, the more he thought about it, the more embarrassed he got.

She was just too much for him.

Chapter Text

Shiro and Allura didn’t know all of their neighbours. Although most of the people in the complex were older and without kids, there were younger couples around like them too, and even a few families with small children. The area was usually quiet and peaceful, and very safe.

There were some houses down the road that never seemed to have the same tenants for more than six months, though. The people who moved in usually didn’t fit into the quiet neighbourhood, and sometimes there would be a lot of noise coming from their houses. Although Shiro and Allura lived a street away, they could still hear what was going on clearly enough to be bothered by it.

Allura frowned as she peered out of their lounge room window. “There are a lot of cars on the street,” she sighed, as she let the curtains fall shut. “I think I’ll leave Panther inside tonight.”

“He won’t like it might,” Shiro pointed out.

“The noise will frighten him and he won’t come home for breakfast,” she said. “He’s sleeping on his towel again, isn’t he?”

Shiro glanced towards the balcony doors where they kept Balmera’s bed and Panther’s towel. “Yeah, he’s there.”

“Good,” Allura sighed. “I’ll lock the doors, then.”

Shiro nodded, and continued cooking. They’d have to take the cats for their regular check-up at the vet soon, and just thinking about trying to squeeze Panther into a carrying cage was already making his arms ache. There’d certainly be a lot of scratches to come, but it needed to be done. It was in their best interest, anyway.

“How long until dinner is ready?” Allura asked, as she came up behind him to peer up over his shoulder as best as she could. “It smells good.”

“Ten minutes or so,” he said. He jumped when Allura’s cold hands snuck under his jumper, pressing against the sensitive skin at his sides. “Your fingers are cold,” he complained.

“And your body is so, so warm,” she sighed, pressing her cheek against his back. “How come you run so hot all the time? It’s not fair.”

He laughed quietly. “You get extra hair as insulation,” he stated. “All of your hair is worth at least three scarves.”

She snorted, and dug her fingers into his hips. “Don’t be stingy, share your warmth,” she ordered.

“Whatever you say, Princess.”

She smiled; he could feel it against his back. “I hope their noise dies out soon,” she said, as she absentmindedly started to trace patterns across his stomach. “I don’t want to be up until two in the morning again. It’s so hard to sleep with all that partying going on.”

He hummed in agreement. Shiro was used to sleeping through a dorm full of rowdy boys, and after the piercing quiet of his hospital room after the accident, he welcomed the noise. He didn’t find Allura’s light snoring or the creaking of the house unsettling, but instead grounding. The noise helped him sleep easier. The partying was certainly a different matter, though.

When dinner was ready, he served food for two, and they ate together. He put the radio on so that it was the only thing they could hear, other than the conversation they had. The party down the street didn’t really slow down much, and while it was easy to ignore for a while, that feat became much harder to achieve when it was time to sleep.

“Honestly, do they have to be so loud?” Allura complained, as she jerked their bedroom curtains shut in an attempt to block out even some of the noise.

Shiro was already in bed, and after turning of his lamp, he beckoned her over. “Just try to ignore it,” he said.

She pulled the covers back and shuffled under them, childishly pulling the sheets over her ears until only the top of her head was visible. “It’s annoying.”

He made a noise of agreement as he adjusted her pillow for her before lying down. In the dark of the room, the low thumping noise of the partygoers seemed even louder. It didn’t bother him as much as it bothered her. “You know, after my accident, I was stuck in the hospital for ages.”

She lowered the covers to peek at him.

“It was crazy quiet there,” he said. He rolled on his side to face her, and put his arm over her waist. “There was beeping from the machines, and every now and then I’d hear footsteps, but other than that it was just… quiet. Half the time the ringing in my head was louder than my own heartbeat.”

“I didn’t know that,” she said quietly.

“I never told anyone,” he shrugged. “I got used to the noise of the dorms, so the hospital was a change. People seemed to think that after the accident I would appreciate the silence, but I didn’t. It was too clinical.”

“Is that why you like the clock on your bedside table?” She asked, as she eyed it. Its ticking was loud and hard.

“Yeah,” he nodded, “the noise is nice. Your snoring, too.”

“I don’t snore!”

“You do!” He grinned. “But I like it. Even if I don’t like the noise of the other house, it’s better than silence. It’s probably different for you, huh?”

It was her turn to shrug. “I like the quiet when I sleep,” she said, “it makes my mind drift off easier. Noise at night freak me out.”

“Good thing you’re a heavy sleeper then.”

“I didn’t used to be.”

“You didn’t?”

“I think it’s because I have you know,” she said, flushed. “It’s nice to have someone to cuddle with.” After a moment, she pressed her cold toes against his legs. “Even better when they’re like a personal heater.”

He yelped at the sudden coldness and shuffled away from her, but it was in vain; she had him right where she wanted him. “Allura!”

Chapter Text

Shiro was trying to bake. There wasn’t any real reason behind it, other than the fact that it was the weekend and he was bored. He knew that baking from scratch was probably out of his skill range, but something out of a box would be alright, wouldn’t it? He’d found a mix that was gluten and nut free, and he’d use lactose free milk – he wanted to make something for the kids like Coran often did.

“Shiro, you seem to be struggling a little there,” Allura said, as she hovered by the bench. “Are you sure you don’t want any help? I don’t mind.”

“No, no, it’s alright,” Shiro said with a shake of his head, “I want to do it on my own.”

Allura sighed. “If you’re sure… I’ll just monitor you, then.”

He laughed. “If you’ve got nothing better to do.”

She sent a lazy smile his way and took a seat at the bench. “You know the kids are going to love what you bring in, right?”

He rubbed the back of his neck as he read the back of the cupcake mix box. “I hope so,” he said, “I don’t really bring much in for them, do I? Coran does all of the cooking.”

She hummed. “He’s good at it, and he likes to do things he’s good at,” she said. “Though he does experiment a bit too much. Some of the things he makes – I’m glad he’s never made them again, if I’m being honest.”

Shiro laughed. Coran’s blue disc lollies instantly came to mind. He hoped the cupcakes would turn out alright, and that the kids liked them enough to eat them.. He’d make sure to be very careful with the ingredients, and tried not to get too distracted by the colourful decorations he’d bought. He’d have to make a whole bunch of cupcakes before he even got to the icing though, so he focused on that instead. It shouldn’t be too hard, right?

The longer he spent staring at the mess he’d already made in their kitchen, the more he wished he’d taken up Allura’s offer for help.

“We’ll just have to see how it goes,” he eventually decided.

Allura just laughed.

Chapter Text

Shiro packed the cupcakes in one of the large contains they kept in the house the next morning, safe for transportation. He’d decorated one especially for every child at Altea with Allura’s help, and there was even one for Coran.

“The kids are going to love them, don’t worry so much,” Allura said, as she carefully cradled the container on her lap. Shiro was driving, and he’d been worried about them sliding around in the back seat, so she’d offered to keep them steady for him. She could read him like a book.

“I’m more worried about passing Coran’s scrutiny,” Shiro chuckled. It was Coran’s job to approve of any food given to the kids from anyone other than their parents, considering he was the one who did all the cooking. And while Shiro was sure Coran wouldn’t mind him bringing in food for the kids (Coran, Allura and other parents often did the same thing) he was still worried. He wasn’t the best baker, after all. “Has Coran ever rejected food you’ve brought in?”

“No,” Allura said, “and he won’t turn these away, Shiro. They’re only cupcakes.”

He laughed a little again. He supposed she was right; he was worrying for nothing. Sometimes he still felt like he was brand new at the job, like the kids hadn’t completely adjusted to him or that he hadn’t completely adjusted to them. Rationally he knew it wasn’t like that. Allura was right – the kids would like the cupcakes. What child didn’t like cake?

Just like Allura had said, Coran approved of his cakes after making sure they were nut and gluten free. Of course he teased Shiro all the while, giving him scrutinizing squints and overly dramatic stares just to make him squirm. It was just so much of a Coran thing to do that Allura had promptly burst out laughing, which had made Coran laugh, too. Shiro had been left standing there dumbly and quite worried, until he’d cottoned on to their amusement.

With Coran’s permission, he set the cupcakes aside in the fridge for safe keeping. The kids would be arriving soon, and he didn’t want them thinking they could have straight sugar for breakfast or morning tea. Maybe after lunch, if they’d behaved. Although he was embarrassed about it, he was kind of excited to see how they’d react, especially his kids. He’d made a blue cupcake for Lance, red for Keith, yellow for Hunk, and green for Pidge. There was an orange one for Coran, and a pink one for Allura, too (that she didn’t know about).

It was bound to be a good day, he thought.

Chapter Text

The kids were pretty well behaved during the day. It was far too cold outside to play, and the clouds were looking a little overcast, so they were stuck inside the warmth of Altea Kindergarten all day. They were only moderately loud as they played with their toys but were quiet when they needed to be, and all the adults were rather content to offer them a treat for cooperating so well.

After lunch had been eaten and plates cleared away, Coran brought out the box of cupcakes. All the kids knew what it was, and an excited hush fell over them. Shiro laughed as he watched, leaning against the wall. The children were so easy to read.

“Does anybody feel like a cupcake?” Coran asked, as he brandished the container.

“Yes!”

Shiro muffled another laugh. Did Coran really need to ask? Even Allura seemed amused at Coran’s exaggerated display. It was clear how experienced and talented he was at his job.

“These ones are special,” Coran said, as he pulled the lid free and placed the box on the table. “Don’t they look nice?”

Shiro flushed, embarrassed. “Coran,” he started. He didn’t want to make a big deal out of them.

“These cupcakes were made by Shiro!” Coran said. “There’s one for everybody.”

“Really?” Lance asked, amazed, as his eyes shot over to Shiro. “You made them?”

“Ah, I did,” Shiro said, as he rubbed the back of his neck. “I hope you like them.”

“They look so yummy,” Hunk said, his eyes fixated on the cupcakes. “Can we eat them now, Mr Coran?”

Coran laughed. “Of course, of course. Everyone grab a serviette and I’ll give you your cupcake. No rushing, please.”

Shiro was rather pleased with himself as he watched the kids scramble for a napkin. They followed Coran’s instructions and lined up neatly to wait for their cupcake. Coran knew the kids better than Shiro probably did, so he had no problem distributing the cupcakes to the right child.

“They look like they like the cupcakes, huh? Told you they would,” Allura said, as she wandered over to stand beside him. She had her own pink cupcake cradled in her hands.

Shiro laughed. “I suppose you were right,” he conceded.

“Of course I’m right, I always am,” Allura teased. She held up her cupcake. “Thank you for this, you didn’t have to.”

“I wanted to.”

She chuckled. “Here, you have the first bite.”

He was surprised, but she pressed the cupcake against his lips before he could refuse, so he took a bite. The icing was a little too sweet for his taste, but the cake itself was nice. It wasn’t as dense as he’d thought it would be. “It’s nice,” he said.

She laughed again. “You’ve got some here…” She reached up a hand to wipe at his cheek with her thumb. “There you go.”

“Allura,” he complained, embarrassed. She just gave him a cheeky grin.

The kids seemed impressed by the cakes. Shiro turned to watch his kids in particular, and was pleased when they fawned over their coloured treats. Lance seemed ridiculously proud to get a blue one, and Keith looked pleased with his red one. After a moment, Keith offered Lance the first bite of his. Lance didn’t hesitate before accepting it, and even offered Keith his in return.

Shiro’s brows raised. Had Keith been watching them?

“They’re sweet, aren’t they?” Allura sighed fondly.

“The kids or the cupcakes?”

“Both,” she laughed. “It was a good idea to make them, the kids really love it. I think you’ve going to become everyone’s favourite, soon.”

“You’re still my favourite,” he said.

Allura’s cheeks turned pink. She took a bite of her cupcake so that she didn’t have to talk. He smiled, pleased with himself. Even if Allura was a professional at teasing him, he was still able to render her speechless every now and then. He was learning from the best, after all.

Chapter Text

The Mountain Juniberries were growing well. Alfor had bought a little greenhouse for them so that Allura’s potted plants didn’t wither in the cold weather, and they’d been growing well lately. She went out to check on them every morning before the kids arrived at Altea. Over time Allura had added more plants to the greenhouse so that it was bursting with life.

She called him out one morning to look at the Mountain Juniberries.

“They’re a lot bigger than the last time I saw them,” he said, eyes wide in surprise as he looked over the budding flowers. The stems had thickened and multiplied over time, and were now sporting not only a variety of small leaves, but small pink buds, as well. “How long until they flower, do you think?”

“I’m not sure,” Allura said, as she carefully drizzled water over the plants. “Depends on how cold winter gets. I think they’ll wait until spring to show themselves, though. I’m just glad they’re actually growing.”

Shiro nodded in agreement. He’d had no doubt that Allura could get the rare flowers to grow, but he was struck with a true feeling of excitement at seeing them produce healthy buds like they were. He still didn’t know what the flower looked like when it was in bloom, but he was adamant on not finding out until Allura got them to grow.

Most of the plants that the kids had planted had survived the start of winter, too. Allura had moved them all into bigger pots so that they had more room to grow, and now the kids helped her take care of them. It was nice to see that they were still excited about the plants whenever Allura mentioned that it was time to water and measure them.

“I can’t wait to see them bloom,” Allura said, as she set aside her watering can so that she could gently run her fingers along one of the bigger leaves. “I hope they survive the winter.”

“I’m sure they will,” he said, as he rubbed her back. “If need be, we can bring the pot home.”

She laughed quietly, and leaned into his touch. “I know,” she said, “I’m sure they’ll be fine here. The greenhouse traps a lot of warmth, don’t you think?”

He nodded. “The kids are going to love seeing these,” he said. “I know they’re only buds, but they’re already so colourful.”

Allura smiled to herself. “The flowers themselves are very colourful, too,” she said. “I remember seeing entire hills and meadows filled to the brim with them when I was younger.”

He could hardly imagine what that would look like, but it would certainly be wonderful. “I’m excited to see them too.”

“I’m glad,” she said, laughing again. “I hope you like them.”

“I have no doubt that I will.” He put his hand against her face to tilt her cheek towards him and pressed a kiss there. “But I like you more.”

“Shiro,” she admonished, embarrassed, as she nudged him away. Her cheeks had gone red. “Not where the flowers can see.”

Shiro laughed. “Alright, alright.”

Chapter Text

When their one year anniversary rolled around, Allura organised what they were going to do. She seemed hesitant when deciding, and although he offered to help her, she was adamant on planning it all herself. She seemed like she really wanted to do it, so he let her be.

Although the day itself fell on a work day, Shiro did make an effort to spoil Allura in the morning. He turned off her alarm and let her sleep in for a little longer, and did their morning chores so she didn’t have to. He made her breakfast to wake her up – blueberry pancakes and orange juice, something she often made herself because she liked it so much (and to prove that he’d listened to her when she taught him, which certainly amused her).

When they got to Altea Kindergarten, the kids and Coran surprised them with a big card and a bouquet of pink and purple flowers. The card had Happy Anniversary! written in Coran’s surprisingly neat handwriting, and all the kids had signed it in different coloured crayons and pens. Shiro laughed when he saw it, and accepted it while Allura took the flowers.

“Do you like it?” Lance inquired, as he peered over Shiro’s arm to watch Shiro read their little messages.

“Of course, buddy,” Shiro said, smiling, “it’s amazing.”

Lance grinned. “Obviously, we’re the ones that made it so it’s great!”

Allura laughed. With the flowers in hand, she turned to Coran. “Thank you,” she said, “these are lovely.”

“You’ve very welcome,” Coran said. “The kids were very specific with the flower colours I was to buy, you know. They wouldn’t accept anything other than this.”

“Oh, is that so?” Allura said with a small chuckle.

Coran nodded. “Yes, they were. They said that Allura is pink, and Shiro is purple, so I had to get flowers that featured those two colours exclusively.”

“Just those two?”

“Yes. I was only allowed to include green leaves because I insisted that bouquets didn’t come without them.”

Allura laughed again. “Thank you for going through all that effort, Coran. The kids look very proud of themselves.”

“They better be, their request was quite difficult to fill.”

The kids did look quite happy now that their little surprise had been had. Shiro couldn’t help but smile to himself. He really hadn’t expected anything from them, not like this. Even if Altea was the place where he and Allura had met, and where they had subsequently started dating, it had never registered to him that this wasn’t just work, it was a place important for them as a couple.

Without any knowledge on what they were going to do for the evening, Shiro spent the day very curious. Allura spent some time on the phone and didn’t mention who she spoke to, but she seemed a lot happier after the call had ended. He wondered who she talked with, but didn’t question her. The surprise could wait, he thought.

At the end of the day, they returned home. Coran let them off a little earlier once most of the kids had been picked up, which they were thankful for. Shiro drove while Allura held onto their flowers and card.

“Should I get dressed to go out?” He asked, as he unlocked their front door. Two hungry cats greeted them, mewling and pushing against their legs.

“No, we’re staying in tonight,” she said. After a pause, she added, “If that’s alright?”

“Of course it is,” he said, offering her a smile. He drew her closer and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I’m going to go shower, then.”

“Alright.”

He got cleaned up, changed into comfortable clothes, and while Allura took her turn in the shower, he found a vase for the flowers and put the card away safe in a drawer. He wasn’t sure if the flowers would suit Allura’s bedside table or the kitchen table more, so he left them on the one in the kitchen. They could always be moved later, anyway.

“We’ll be ordering in food tonight,” Allura said, as she fed the cats after her shower. “You don’t mind, do you? Really?”

“Not at all,” he said. “You can do whatever you like tonight Allura, I’m up for anything.”

She gave him a relieved smile, and dug through one of their kitchen drawers to pull free a brochure. “I found this Japanese restaurant the other day, and they do home deliveries. I was thinking we could get dinner from there.”

Shiro’s brows rose.

Allura flushed. “I mean- you’re Japanese, right? Your mother?”

He nodded. “I’d love to have Japanese food for dinner, I haven’t had any since I lived with my parents. My mother makes it all the time.”

Allura smiled. “Okay. I don’t know much about the cuisine, so you can order whatever you want.”

“For you, too?”

“If you don’t mind.”

The menu looked pretty good as he glanced over it. A lot of the dishes were very traditional and ethnic, and it reminded him of his childhood. His mother had wanted him to be in-touch with his cultural roots so he’d grown up following Japanese traditions and eating Japanese food. He had a pretty good idea about what menu items Allura would like, so after choosing a nice selection (it was their anniversary, he thought he could splurge a little) he placed the order with the restaurant.

It would take anywhere between thirty minutes and an hour for their order to arrive, so in the meantime, Shiro let Allura take control. She dragged their quilts and pillows out into the lounge room and piled them across the sofas. While she did that, Shiro got out cutlery and plates ready for their food, which he placed on their coffee table. It was clear that they’d be eating in the lounge room, which Shiro didn’t mind.

Before their food arrived, he went to get the gift he’d bought her. He’d bought her a blue dress (with a little direction from both Coran and Alfor) after checking the sizes of the dresses she had in their closet. He’d bought her a necklace too, one with a small origami bird charm. He wasn’t sure if she’d like it or where she could wear it, but it was nice, and the lady behind the counter had given his choice an approving look, so he’d bought it.

Allura had a gift for him, too. He wasn’t sure why but he was surprised. They sat on the sofa to exchange gifts and he waited to see her pleased reaction to what he’d bought before opening his own. She’d framed a nice picture of them from the apple orchard and decorated the frame in her neat handwriting. It would fit perfectly on his bedside table, and warmed his heart more than anything else.

It was shaping up to be a really good night.

Chapter Text

Their food arrived after they’d opened gifts and found a movie to watch on television. Shiro answered the door and paid the courier before taking the food inside. The restaurant had included disposable chopsticks in with the food, so he separated them before handing Allura the containers.

“This smells so good,” she said, as she passed him a plate. “Where do we start?”

Shiro wasn’t sure what he was expecting from the restaurant; he’d never been there before. He was pleasantly surprised, however, and the more he ate, the more he liked it. The food tasted fresh and crisp, and all the flavours were so much like what his mother made that he was more than pleased with their selection.

He taught Allura how to eat with chopsticks. Her fingers were clumsy and she struggled a little, but she eventually got the hang of it. He was more than happy to show her as many times as she needed, though. Half the time he thought she was just pretending not to know how to use them so that he had to cradle her hand and sit right beside her to show her.

When they were almost finished eating, Allura stood and moved towards the television. She fiddled with something, before making a satisfied noise and switching the channel.

“What’s on?” He asked.

“Nothing,” she said, “but I do have something for us to watch. I asked my father to send me these today… Ah, there we go.”

An image came to the screen. Shiro’s eyes went wide at the sight of it. The camera shot was shaky and unfocused, but it was clear what he was looking at.

Baby Allura was giving the camera a curious look. She couldn’t have been any older than the kids at the kindergarten now. Her cheeks were chubby, and her thick hair was cut shorter and full of glittery hair clips. There were muffled words from the person behind the camera – Alfor, probably, if the tone of voice was anything to go by – that had Allura grinning a wide, rosy grin.

“I had my father email me some videos this morning,” Allura said, embarrassed. “I knew he had a whole stash of them somewhere.”

Shiro was speechless. The sight of Allura as a child had his mind racing in every direction imaginable. He was sure he’d never seen a kid so cute. She was just sitting there, in a little yellow sundress, but she seemed to captivate the entire room. Alfor was filming her as she pawed through a children’s book, surrounded by torn wrapping paper. Was it her birthday when the video was made? He guessed it was.

“Is this okay?” Allura asked. “I mean, for the evening? I know it’s sort of expected to go out, but…”

“This is better,” Shiro said. He tore his eyes away from the screen to give her a warm smile. “I can’t believe you found these. I’ve never seen a kid so cute.”

Allura flushed all the way up to the tips of her ears.

The videos Alfor had sent her were heart-wrenchingly cute. There were clips of Allura playing in a field of flowers in Altea (not Mountain Juniberries, he was assured) and a clip of Allura being pushed on a swing set by Alfor. One of the videos had Allura’s mother in it, too.

She was cradling Allura in her arms and singing quietly. Allura was quite young, between two and three, and the sound of her mother’s voice was putting her to sleep almost instantly. Shiro had never seen Allura’s mother before, not like this. He’d seen a photo here or there, but they didn’t quite capture her like the video did. Allura took after her mother quite heavily; they had the same smile and the same dark skin colour and the same big eyes. Her mother’s singing was sweet and soft, much like the way Shiro had overheard Allura singing when she thought no one was around to listen.

“She’s very beautiful,” he said, as he pulled Allura closer.

She leaned against him and hummed. Her eyes were on the screen, too. She didn’t look sad, just fond. “I never forgot what her voice sounded like.”

Shiro loved seeing the videos of Allura. He couldn’t help but wonder if any children Allura had would look as much like Allura as Allura did with her own mother. And if they were also his kids, would they take much after him, too? Would they have her hair but his eyes? Or her eyes but his hair? Just thinking about it made him flustered beyond belief.

“This was a good way to spend the evening,” he said, as he leaned down to press a kiss to Allura’s lips. “I really appreciate all the work you did.”

She smiled at him. “I’m glad you like it.”

“I like you more.”

She groaned, and turned her face away, embarrassed. “You have to stop using that line.”

He grinned. Teasingly, he pressed her back against the couch, and kissed her again. Her smile was endlessly sweet against his lips. “Why? It works.”

She laughed at him, and relented. “You know, I called your mother today, too,” she said.

He gave her a puzzled look.

It was her turn to grin, now. “She was more than willing to send me a few home videos of her own.”

“Oh no.”

“Oh yes.” Her grin grew wider. “Ready for round two?”

Chapter Text

For Mother’s Day, Shiro took his parents out for brunch. Allura joined them after she’d rang Alfor in the morning. On the way over to the café they were meeting his parents at, Shiro bought two bouquets of flowers; one for his own mother, and one for Allura’s.

The day was a nice day. Winter was approaching full force but the café was heated, and the sun came out to join them for a little while. Luckily, there wasn’t any rain in sight. This café was his mother’s favourite because she loved the cinnamon French toast they did. It was what she ordered, and curious, Allura ordered the same. Shiro wasn’t as big a fan of sweet things as they were, so he and his father had something else.

His mother loved the flowers. He’d bought her a necklace and her favourite chocolates too, because they were things his mother liked to get on Mother’s Day. He liked spending time with his family like this, even if his mother took a lot of photos and constantly doted on him (really, the day should have been about her, but she insisted that wouldn’t be so without him).

At least his mother was happy, he thought. They stayed at the café for tea after eating and chatted about anything that came to mind. Like usual, his parents were very interested in his work, and his mother was curious about how the home movies had fared (very embarrassingly. Shiro complained, but it just made his mother happier – she even promised to send Allura more).

At the end of the day, after they’d farewelled his parents and wished his mother a happy Mother’s Day, they stopped by to see Alfor and Coran. They were as much Allura’s parents as anyone, and even if they weren’t her mother, it was nice to see them on a day meant for family.

They had a light dinner with Alfor and Coran. Neither Shiro nor Allura had seen Alfor in person for a while, so it was nice to catch up with him while he was in town again. Allura enjoyed it, too. They let Coran cook, and Alfor chose the wine to drink, though Shiro didn’t have any because he was driving.

They spoke about Allura’s mother for a while. Shiro listened to her, Alfor and Coran speak, and absorbed what they said. He wished he could have met the woman who captivated so many hearts. Still, he was glad he got to hear about her, about the way they remembered her. It felt special.

All in all, he thought it was a lovely way to spend Mother’s Day – with the people he loved most of all.

Chapter Text

“Okay, but what if I-?”

“No, Lance.”

“Not even a little?”

“Not even a little.”

Lance gave him the biggest pout he could, complete with puffed out cheeks and folded arms. He was really trying hard to convince Shiro to let him do what he wanted, but Shiro was adamant. He wasn’t going through that kind of embarrassment today.

“What if I just did one?” Lance asked, as he held up one finger and tugged on the hem of Shiro’s shirt to keep his attention. “Just one, I promise.”

“Nope,” Shiro said, as he continued to wipe down one of the tables after the recent arts and crafts session.

“Why not?” Lance whined.

“Because if you do one, then Keith will want to do one, and then Hunk and Pidge will want to do one, and then there won’t be just one anymore.”

Lance floundered for a moment, completely lost for words, before he started huffing again. It was really hard to resist such a sweet face, and Shiro was quickly losing his will. It was like Lance knew that he was weak to eyes that big and blue.

“Oh, I think you should just let them have their fun,” Allura said, grinning mischievously as she wandered past with a broom. “Don’t you think?”

He most certainly did not think that, but how could he say no now? That was two sets of blue eyes giving him imploring looks, and the thought that it was irrationally unfair flowed through him. It was with a begrudging sigh that he finally let Lance do what he wanted.

Lance let out an excited cheer and grabbed for the item they’d been arguing over. Clearly noticing his victory, the other kids crowded closer, and with Allura they debated over which to use first. Shiro took a seat at the table and laid out his right arm along its surface. He was utterly resigned to his fate.

“I think this one should go on first,” Allura said, as she pointed to the one she was talking about. She was already snickering.

“Oh, that’s a good one,” Lance agreed. He approached Shiro with it, and considered his arm with a contemplative look. After a moment, he decided.

The rainbow sticker was placed right below his elbow joint.

Shiro just groaned.

Stickers. Stickers would be his downfall.

Following the rainbow sticker was a sticker of a dog with the words “good boy” printed beside it, and then a sticker of an apple with a worm peeking out of one side, and then a green dinosaur, and then a black cat doing yoga. He had no idea where the kids had found quite so many different sticker sheets, but they seemed impossibly endless.

“So much for just one, huh?” He said, as he watched the kids take turns decorating his prosthetic with stickers. Star stickers and fruit stickers and bird stickers soon followed the ones already there. God, he hoped they peeled off easily. He didn’t think he could walk around looking like his arm was a sticker book.

“It’s high-fashion,” Allura decided, much to the delight of the children. “What a wonderful idea, Lance.”

Lance gave her a broad, proud grin.

Shiro gave her a look that clearly said you’re cleaning up this mess.

Even if it was a mess, he couldn’t help but enjoy himself. Knowing that the kids were having fun did that to him.

Chapter Text

Predictably, the stickers were a pain to peel off. The thin adhesive on the back of them seemed to just love the metal of Shiro’s prosthetic arm, and even getting just one corner to peel back was more of a challenge than he alone could handle. Half of the stickers weren’t even in a position he could comfortably reach with his left arm.

He forced Allura to help him, though she wasn’t very begrudging. In fact, he thought she was rather amused by the entire process.

“I blame you entirely for this,” he informed her, not for the first time, as he watched her scratch away the white, papery residue left by a tough sticker.

“This was a brilliant idea,” Allura said. She hadn’t stopped grinning since the stickers started going on. “I think it’s my most brilliant one yet, actually. I have so many photos!”

He didn’t doubt that. After she’d placed her sticker on him (a glittery pink heart) she’d pulled out her phone and started snapping away. There must be enough photos on there to fill an entire photo album to the brim. He had no idea what she was going to do with them but he was certain a fair few would be going straight to his mother.

“Just wait until the kids find the magnets,” Allura laughed, looking far too mischievous for the time of night it was. She managed to scrape away the last bits of the sticker she’d peeled off and moved onto the next. “Then they’ll have a real blast.”

Shiro just groaned, but he honestly didn’t mind. As long as the kids had fun, right? It wasn’t too harmful. At least, he hoped it wouldn’t be. He was briefly horrified at the thought of his specialist finding an errant sticker in the joint of his arms come his next check-up.

When most of the stickers were off, Shiro glanced over his arm. There were sticky spots everywhere that would probably only come out in the shower. He noticed only one last sticker remaining – the pink heart Allura had given him. She’d looked mighty proud of herself when she’d stuck it on his arm, and just thinking about how much she’d enjoyed herself with the kids made him smile.

“You can leave that one on there, if you want to,” he told her.

She gave him a bashful smile, and left it.

Chapter Text

Allura had decided, after going through his closet looking for a jacket she could wear, that he didn’t have enough winter clothes. He thought that that was only because she wore a lot of his jackets when they were at home and therefore many of them were in the wash, but she was adamant.

“We should go clothes shopping next weekend,” she said, as she pulled one of his sweaters over her head. “You need more warm clothes, it’s getting colder outside now.”

He was watching her from their bed, an amused look on his face. It was Sunday morning, and she’d somehow managed to convince him to say in bed for a few extra hours. He felt drowsy and dishevelled with too much sleep, but it wasn’t an unpleasant feeling. He was warm and pliant and willing to sleep again, despite how much he disliked getting up later in the day.

Allura seemed amused by his sleepiness. His sweater fell to mid-thigh on her, and drooped off of one shoulder, revealing a bra strap. She looked comfortable and fashionable, despite the fact that she’d only just woken up. He could almost be jealous, if he weren’t so sleepy.

“I might need more warm clothes too, come to think of it,” Allura mused, more to herself than to him, as she turned around to dig through their closet. Their bedroom was too small for them to each have a wardrobe, but sharing wasn’t so bad. Just a bit crowded, that’s all. It would be better if they could fit a chest of drawers in somewhere, but his mind was to sleep-muddled to think about that properly.

“I think you’ve got enough clothes,” he said.

She laughed. “Are you just saying that because you can’t think of anything else to say?”

He coloured.

She grinned. “Knew it.”

“I’m tired,” he complained. “You made me sleep.”

Allura closed the closet doors and squirmed her way back beneath the bedsheets. Her clothes were cold from being in the closet, but they warmed quickly as she cuddled up beside him, urging him flat against the pillows. “You’re cute when you’re sleepy like this,” she told him, as she laid on his chest to press a kiss against his lips.

He hummed at her. “Sure I am.”

“You are!” She insisted, laughing again. “Your cheeks are all red and your hair is all fluffy. Just look at this mess,” she said, as she drove her fingers through the longest part of his hair at the top of his head. That unfortunate white streak he had (from stress, his doctors assured him, it wasn’t a sign of him dying) was the main target of her attack.

“Am not."

“You are,” she said, as she kissed him again, “and you know I’m going to win this argument.”

“Only because I’m tired,” he half-heartedly complained.

She gave him a victorious grin. When she kissed him for the third time, he finally responded, though he was certainly not as enthusiastic as usual. It seemed that Allura didn’t mind all that much, though; he tilted his head to the side and sighed when her lips found his neck. She was very affectionate that morning.

“Why am I the sleepy one today?” He said, voice noticeably gruffer than it had been before. “This is entirely your fault.”

She smiled. “Who says this wasn’t my plan all along? Now I’m the tough guy.”

He snorted. “I’m totally the tough guy.”

“Oh? Are you sure?”

Not one to leave such a challenge unanswered, he suddenly rolled her over so that he was the one leaning above her. “I’m sure.”

Her smile broadened. They weren’t in the most graceful of positions – his elbow was on her hair and her shoulders were hunched up and he was sure they were both sporting a chin more than usual – but he thought he’d never seen her smile a more beautiful smile than that. “Who says this wasn’t a part of my plan, too?”

Really, she was going to be the death of him. He groaned, and collapsed against her, growing a smile when she let out an exaggerated winded noise. “You’re far too sneaky this morning,” he told her frankly. She seemed to have a way of getting everything she wanted from him, but he found that he didn’t mind too much, not when it was her. He’d give her anything.

“I think I’m just sneaky enough.”

Chapter Text

They did end up going clothes shopping, much to Shiro’s amusement. Allura was keen on finding a new jacket for the both of them, and maybe a scarf. It was getting quite cold now, so he wasn’t too miffed by going out. He had never particularly enjoyed shopping for clothes, but Allura liked it, so he went along with her.

“Do you know what sort of jacket you’re looking for?” He asked, as they walked hand-in-hand through the store.

“Not at all,” she said. “I’ll see what’s here.”

Shiro laughed quietly. Allura had a good taste for clothes so he had no doubt she’d find something that suited her perfectly. She’d likely pick out something for him, too; she seemed to know him better than he did, and if he were being honest, he liked letting her choose what he bought. If he really didn’t like it then he wouldn’t buy it, but more often than not she choose quite tasteful things for him to try on.

For the most part, they had a pretty peaceful time out. Even though the shops were rather crowded on the weekend, he still felt like they had space for themselves, and they didn’t have any mishaps other than getting lost for a moment on a floor they hadn’t explored before.

While Allura went to use the bathroom, Shiro bought them lunch. There was a sandwich shop in the food court that they both liked, so he ordered their favourites, paid, and patiently waited for the food. He expected Allura to be back before their food arrived, but that wasn’t the case. With their sandwiches in hand, he went looking for her.

He wasn’t pleased with what he found.

Allura was backed up near a wall in the corridor leading to the bathrooms. She had a pinched look on her face, and a tenseness in her shoulders that was making her seem smaller and stiffer than usual. There were two people standing in front of her, both male, both taller. They almost leered over her, and whatever they were saying was clearly not something she liked.

“There you are, Allura,” he said, as he forced his way to her side. He was more than satisfied to discover he was the tallest person there. He passed her their food and put his arm low around her waist. He hated making her seem like she needed help, but he hated the thought of her getting harassed more. “I was wondering where you went.”

“Sorry.” Her smile was strained. “I didn’t mean to take so long.”

If looks could be poisonous, then the one he shot at the people harassing her certainly was. Maybe they could tell she was taken, or maybe they could tell he wasn’t the type of person who liked to argue, but they didn’t do anything more than catcall as he lead her straight past them. He didn’t want the problem to escalate, and making a hasty retreat back into the crowded food court was the best thing he could think of to do.

“Are you alright?” He asked her, as they found a found to themselves.

“Fine,” she said, with a long exhale. “I just didn’t know what to do.”

“As long as you’re alright, it’s fine,” he said, as he reached for her hand. “Nothing to worry about.”

Her relieved smile soothed his heart.

Their day progressed as if nothing had ever happened. Allura’s tension eased until she almost seemed to forget about what had happened, like it didn’t even occur to her that it was something to worry over anymore. Seeing her put it behind her so easily reassured him, too.

They did end up finding jackets and scarves. When Allura was satisfied they’d survive the coming winter, they headed on home, all prior incidents of the day easily forgotten.

Chapter Text

Keith was sick. Shiro had expected the kids to catch colds eventually now that winter was around the corner, but he was surprised that Keith was the first to start sniffling. It was strange to see him so quiet. He’d thought that Keith would be alright for the day considering it hadn’t seemed like the cold had taken a hold of him properly, but that hadn’t been the case.

By midday he was miserable. The heater was on inside but Keith was still shivering; he was wearing his outdoor coat and his beanie pulled over the tips of his ears but it didn’t seem to be doing him any good. He was bundled up on one of the beanbags in the recreation room, alone. He’d been falling in and out of a fitful sleep all morning, so Shiro had sent the other kids out hoping that Keith would settle. He’d even draped his jacket across Keith when he couldn’t stop shivering.

He’d already called Keith’s parents, but neither would be able to pick him up until mid-afternoon because of work commitments. Shiro knew Keith was becoming increasingly uncomfortable, so he tried to ease Keith as much as he could until his parents arrived to take him home.

Lance wasn’t too happy at being separated from Keith. He moped for a solid hour and lingered around the recreation room door, even daring to peek in when he knew he wasn’t meant to. Shiro didn’t want him to get sick too, so he didn’t let Lance stay with Keith, even if it seemed unfair to keep them apart. Even Allura was giving Lance pitiful looks every now and then.

But it was for the best. The adults at the kindergarten had to be extra careful to make sure all the kids didn’t get sick; they wiped down surfaces with bacterial wipes and had extra tissues out and cleaned the cups and plates with water that was a lot hotter than usual. They had these little signs up next to sinks teaching kids how to properly wash their hands, and everyone was required to bring jackets and scarves for outdoor play (if they forget, the kindergarten had extra that were religiously washed and dried after every use).

When Shiro brought Keith another cup of water, he found that Keith had woken up again, and was petulantly glaring at the wall ahead of him. His nose was red and his cheeks were flushed. He’d pulled Shiro’s jacket over him like a blanket.

“How are you feeling, buddy?” He asked, as he crouched in front of Keith, who only gave him a muffled grunt in reply. He held the water to Keith’s lips and had him drink at least half of it before setting it aside. Keith’s forehead was damp with sweat when he pressed his hand against it, checking for a temperature. It seemed like the water was holding it off for now.

“I don’t feel well,” Keith mumbled, unhappy. He stuck his arms out, so Shiro carefully picked him up, and let Keith curl into his shoulder. He adjusted his jacket over Keith to keep his back warm and started to pace the room with slow, even steps. Keith was still fighting sleep, but it was a battle he was losing.

When he eventually did succumb to sleep, his fingers didn’t loosen around Shiro’s clothes like he’d expected they would. Shiro had planned to set Keith back down on the beanbag, but that wasn’t a viable option anymore, so he settled for walking around. Keith’s parents should be here shortly, and if Keith could manage to stay asleep until that happened, it would be for the best.

He hoped Keith felt better soon.

Chapter Text

Shiro hadn’t done it intentionally. In fact, it had been rather accidental – but the sound of Allura’s laughter had reminded him of a similar incident earlier that day, at Altea Kindergarten.

The kids liked to wrestle a lot. And by kids, he mostly meant Keith and Lance. They rough-housed and had competitions regularly, so it wasn’t unusual to hear a burst of laughter when one managed to wiggle their fingers into the ticklish spot of the other. As long as they didn’t end up hurting each other Shiro didn’t mind too much.

Hearing Allura laugh like she was then reminded him of that. They were sitting on the couch, and although he was relaxed after a long day of work and a nice dinner, Allura was bored. She’d rearranged him how she wanted although he’d groaned every time she did. Eventually he was sitting upright against the couch, and she was between his legs, resting against him as if he were an armchair.

He hadn’t meant to, but he’d accidentally prodded Allura in just the right place, and she’d burst out laughing in a way she’d never done before. He’d never considered that she’d be ticklish, or that she wouldn’t be, but either way the revelation certainly surprised him.

“Shiro!” She said sharply in that way people who knew that were at a disadvantage did. “Don’t even think about it, mister.”

A slow grin stretched across his face. He still had a tight grip on Allura’s waist, and now that he knew she was ticklish, he felt much more awake. “Why not?” He asked, as he applied a bit of pressure.

Allura squirmed, biting off another laugh. “Shiro!” She complained.

“What? I’m not doing anything,” he said, as he wriggled his fingers against her sides. There was a little dip just above her hip bones and slightly to the back that made her jerk. Her laughter was uncontrollable, and even though he wasn’t the one being tickled, it made him laugh too. Allura’s cheeks went red and her eyes watered as she laughed.

“Shiro, stop, stop! I give up!” She gasped, as she pushed his hands away.

He was still laughing as he finally relented. He pulled her back against the couch and waited for her panting to die down.

“You’re the worst,” she declared, as she slumped against him.

“Oh? Am I?”

“Definitely,” she continued. “Exploiting my weakness like that. You’re not even ticklish so I can’t get you back.”

He snorted. He wasn’t ticklish at all, no matter how hard Allura tried. He did get shivers when she ran her fingers down his neck or played with his hair, but that was normal, wasn’t it? At least, he thought so.

“Don’t tell the kids I’m ticklish,” Allura warned him, her voice teasing. “I have to seem tough in front of them, you know.”

“I won’t, I won’t,” he assured her, as he pressed a kiss to her cheek. “You’re my tough princess.”

She grinned. “Of course I am.”

Chapter Text

There was a fireworks festival a few weeks after Keith had gotten sick. Shiro only knew about it because Keith’s mother mentioned it; that she was glad her child had caught the cold and gotten over it at the start of winter, rather than midway or at the end. That way he was less likely to catch another one, and he could see the fireworks he adored.

He and Allura decided to go. They dressed warmly – he wore his new jacket for the first time, and made sure to wind a scarf around Allura’s neck so that she didn’t forget. He’d never been to a fireworks festival before, and hadn’t even known there was one so close to where he lived and worked. There would be food stalls and games and live music, and then at the end of the night – once at seven and again at nine – there would be a fireworks display.

He was eager to go.

The show was held at a large sports field just under an hour’s drive away from their home. Shiro drove, and found a parking spot on a gravelled lot amongst dozens of other cars. Winter meant that the sun set early, but huge spotlights and the saturated glows from rides was more than enough to see by.

“Wow, look at all the lights,” Allura said, as she craned her head back to watch one of the rides go up and up and up, dotted with flashing bulbs of colourful light and full of screaming laughter. There was a reflection in her eyes of it that he was just close enough to see. “I haven’t been to a place like this in years.”

“Me either,” Shiro said. He took her hand in his and began to lead her to the entrance. The festival had no entry fee, but they could buy tickets for rides, and tokens for food. Neither one of them were particularly keen on the rides (the festival was small, so the rides were more suited to children than adults of their size anyway) but there were other games and food they could enjoy.

It was the food that attracted Shiro first. He could smell it on the air; the sugary sweetness of churros and fairy floss mixing with hot chips and hamburgers. It was a strange mixture, tinged with cold night air and the sweat from many bodies packed together, but it struck him with a sense of nostalgia that he hadn’t felt in a while.

“It’s a nice night, huh?” He said to no one in particular.

Allura only smiled, and squeezed his hand.

They’d had something to eat before going out, so they skipped the hot food, and shared a stick of fairy floss and a little paper bag of freshly made churros between them instead.

While they ate, they wandered around to look at the stalls. Allura played a game where she had to fish up a little rubber duck with a small plastic fishing rod. The duck had a number printed on the bottom which corresponded to a prize; she won a tiny teddy bear with a big silk ribbon tied around its neck.

She managed to convince Shiro to do one of the shooting games, where he was given a water gun slightly too small for his hands and tasked with shooting down a moving target. He thought it would have been harder than it looked, but he did win a prize – a rainbow-coloured slinky. He could already see how much fun Balmera was going to have chasing it around the house.

When it was time for the fireworks show, they went to find a spot for themselves on the field. It was dark, save for the lights in the centre where the technicians were working. A community building separated the rides and the stalls from the field, casting them in cold darkness. Somehow, it made him feel excited. The fireworks would be really bright here.

The grass was dewy with cold, but not unpleasantly so. They’d chosen a spot farther away from the rest of the crowd, and even though it was darker, they still had a clear view of the field where the fireworks would be let off.

“I don’t think I’ve seen fireworks since I was younger, aside from watching them on New Year’s television,” Shiro told her. Not since the accident, anyway. He couldn’t remember seeing them after it; he’d never had the urge to.

Allura drew small patterns on the palm of his hand. She was sitting on his right side, and had his right hand. He watched her fingers, only just visible in the low-light. He couldn’t feel a thing, but in that moment, it didn’t bother him. “Do you think you’ll be okay with the noise?” She suddenly asked him.

His eyes widened. The noise? He turned to look at her, but was abruptly startled by the bang of a firework shooting into the sky. It made him jump, made smoke and burning metal flash behind his eyes. Another firework dazzled the night sky, followed by more and more, but as each bang swelled over him, his panic slowly dissipated.

The colours of the fireworks were beautiful. Golds, reds, blues and stunning silvers adorned the night sky like dyed stars, only lingering for a few short moments before they fizzled into ash. From the distance he sat he couldn’t see nor feel the ash falling from the sky, but he knew it was there.

“Shiro?” Allura asked.

“I’m alright,” he said, as he squeezed her hand, “it just caught me off guard.” More than that, he was surprised Allura had thought about the noise when even he hadn’t. There weren’t many things that sent him into a spiralling memory of his accident anymore. Not thunder, not a car backfiring on a quiet street, or even the sound of fireworks going off. Before he’d fully recovered, even footsteps pressed a little too hard against the ground had made him flinch, the ghost of an ache stinging him in an arm he no longer had.

But this felt different. He was okay. He was okay.

Allura rested her cheek against his shoulder. Her eyes had finally gone from him to the fireworks, and they settled in to enjoy them. He’d have to thank her later, for caring about him so much that she’d realised the fireworks might be a little too much like an exploding fighter plane. At one point, they wouldn’t have been, but now, they were only fireworks.

“Only fireworks, huh…” He murmured to himself.

“Only fireworks,” Allura told him.

He rested his chin against her head, and smiled to himself, just a little. He was okay.

Chapter Text

They decided not to stay for the nine o’clock fireworks. Neither Shiro nor Allura particularly wanted to linger for another two hours, so they gathered their things and started to make their way back through the festival grounds. Shiro held onto Allura’s hand with his left one, uncaring that her palm was sweaty (his was a little sweaty, too).

As they were walking past the brightly coloured stalls, a familiar face emerged. Keith and Lance, accompanied by Keith’s mother, were standing together ahead of them, sharing a snow cone drenched in blue and red flavouring.

The kids caught sight of him only moments after he’d noticed them. Lance’s eyes widened with surprise before he was darting over, a wide grin on his face, leaving Keith to scramble after him with their snow cone clutched in both hands. “Shiro!” Lance exclaimed, as he threw himself at Shiro’s legs. “I didn’t know you were coming.”

Shiro laughed, and bent down to scoop Lance up. “What a coincidence,” he said with a smile. Keith gave him an expectant look so Shiro adjusted his hold on Lance and picked Keith up, too. It was a bit of a struggle, but it would only be for a moment, so he dealt with it. “Have you both enjoyed the festival?”

“A lot,” Lance said as he nodded his head in a rather excited manner. “Did you see the fireworks? I watched them with Keith just before.”

“Yeah, I did,” Shiro said. “I watched them with Allura.”

“Oh!” Lance’s eyes sparkled, and he leaned across so that Allura had to take him, instead. “Did you like the fireworks too, Allura?”

“I sure did,” she grinned. “They’re quite wonderful.”

Lance giggled. “They are!”

“Did you have fun as well, Keith?” Shiro asked, as Lance occupied himself with bombarding questions at Allura.

Keith nodded. He watched Lance for a moment, before finally turning his attention to Shiro. “Lance is staying over at my house tonight, so my Mother said we could come here, like we usually do.”

Speaking of Keith’s mother, Shiro spotted her at the end of the aisle, and waved her over before she could think her kids had gone running off somewhere they weren’t meant to go. She came over to speak to them for a while, which was quiet nice. Her husband hadn’t gone with them, but she’d had the kids as company for the evening. Shiro could only imagine all the running around she must have had to do to keep up with the both of them.

After wishing the children goodnight, Shiro and Allura were off. Shiro waved back at Lance and Keith until he could no longer see them, and let out a small, content sigh. It was always a strange thing to see the kids outside of the kindergarten. When he met them like he did just then, he wasn’t their teacher or their carer anymore. He was just Shiro, their friend.

It was nice to have a change like that every now and then. The kids seemed to like it, too. They were always cheekier when they weren’t in class. He could only imagine the stories they were going to tell come Monday morning.

Oddly enough, it made him smile.

Chapter Text

Like Shiro had thought, the slinky went down wonderfully with Balmera. After he and Allura had arrived home from the fireworks festival and ate a small dinner, they carried on with their nightly routines. Shiro had the first shower while Allura washed the dishes. He put them away while she used the bathroom next, and then with some time to spare, he’d gotten the slinky and went to find his cat.

Expectedly, Balmera had been lounging in one of his favourite nap spots. Shiro had found him on the back of the main lounge this time. The cat also liked to sit on top of the refrigerator, in his bed, under Allura’s side of their own bed, and sometimes in an open drawer if they happened to forget to close it. Tonight though, he was using his most average spot.

The slinky made clicking, plastic noises as Shiro spread it between his hands. It caught Balmera’s attention, who lifted his ears and flicked the tip of his tail. Shiro sat cross-legged on the floor and began to roll the slinky. It jumped from end to end, making a rainbow of colours with its spiralling shape. Shiro hadn’t played with one of these things since his age was a single digit, he was sure.

Balmera was certainly interested. He’d lurched upright, paws tucked together, back arched as he watched the slinky slide across the floor. His pupils had gone all big and dark the way a cats’ pupils did when they were definitely intrigued with what they were seeing.

“Want to play, Balmera?” He asked, amused, as he watched Balmera watch the slinky. He was sure to keep it moving, knowing that the cat was only mere moments away from lunging at it.

Sure enough, the next time he stretched the slinky, the cat jumped after it. Shiro snatched his hands back as Balmera thumped against the ground, slinky clutched in his paws. He seemed surprised by the way the slinky moved, and as the other end slunk away from him, he jumped after it, too.

And then Balmera was gone, frantically chasing the slinky through the doorframe and into the hallway. Shiro leaned back on his hands, laughing to himself. Balmera, when he could be coaxed, was very playful. Sometimes he got into things he shouldn’t (like Shiro’s underwear and Allura’s bras) but when he played with the things he should, it was very funny to watch.

A moment later, he heard Allura exit the bathroom. The click of the bathroom door was a familiar noise, just like the sound of the kettle rattling to completion and the thumps of Balmera’s paws against the wooden floors and the way the bed creaked when he rolled over to turn off his alarm before it woke Allura.

“Shiro?” She called, as he stood.

“Yeah?”

“Why is my cat tangled in your slinky?”

Chapter Text

As winter started to chill the kindergarten, Shiro helped Coran and Allura rearrange the interior of the building. The changes were only small, but they were put in place to help insulate the building when the cold really started to seep in.

They had thicker curtains to insulate the windows and a rug for the recreation room floor, to start with. He hadn’t known that those at Altea were so particular about those sorts of things. He liked it, though. The curtains went up at the window and there were other, smaller rugs for the tiled floors in the bathrooms as well as in the foyer. They’d get dirty, but it wouldn’t be as cold in those rooms, which was the point in the first place. He thought that it made Altea Kindergarten feel much more homely, like all they needed was a fireplace and they’d be straight out of a postcard.

“We start to serve hot lunches, too,” Allura told him when he mentioned it. He was helping her heave one of the thick curtains up over the windows.

“Does Coran make them?”

“Of course,” Allura said, laughing quietly. “He makes things likes grilled cheese, boiled vegetables, macaroni, noodles… the kids usually enjoy it a lot. It’s harder to convince them to eat hot food during summer, so sandwiches and salads usually suffice. Coran always gets more creative with hot food.”

Shiro laughed too. “I hope he doesn’t experiment too much.”

“Oh, he does,” Allura informed him. She sounded rather grave, but he knew she was only teasing. “He rather likes coming up with new soup flavours, though my father doesn’t let him serve them to the children without a taste test first.”

“So he sacrifices himself, huh?”

“I suppose so,” Allura grinned. “My father doesn’t dislike Coran’s cooking as much as I do, though. He’s always eager to try out Coran’s creations.”

“He is?”

Allura nodded. “Half the time it tastes good, apparently. I don’t trust my father’s tastebuds though, not after all the years he’s been subjected to Coran’s cooking. My mother always told him that his sense of taste would become warped if he kept testing all of Coran’s experiments... I’m sure she turned out to be correct, you know.”

Shiro laughed. He could just imagine all the times Alfor had tried out Coran’s crazy experiments. He was quite glad he hadn’t been subjected to them, yet, even if some did happen to turn out tasty.

“Don’t worry,” Allura teased, as they finally finished hanging up the last curtain. “I’ll protect you from Coran’s cooking, Shiro.”

Chapter Text

For some reason completely unclear to him, Shiro suddenly woke in the middle of the night. Any remnants of a dream quickly slipped away from him, as if a breeze had blown away the last of a cold morning’s fog. He tried to fall back asleep for a while, but when it continued to evade him, he restlessly snuck out of bed, and made his way into the kitchen.

It was as he was drinking down a glass of water that it occurred to him – how familiar he had become with this house. He hadn’t turned any of the lights on for fear of waking Allura, and even though it was incredibly dark, he hadn’t bumped into anything. He knew his way around without having to think about it, could remember that Allura thrown her jacket onto the stool at the kitchen bench but it’d slipped off onto the floor, could remember that they’d moved the table a little further away from the wall, could remember how far he needed to turn the tap to get a small stream of water.

It was home, and it made him happy.

But it did make him wonder if they would be moving soon. They’d been together for more than a year now, and although it didn’t sound like long, it felt like forever. He was so in love with her that he couldn’t imagine being with anyone else or having anyone else in his heart like Allura was. Down the line, if they did have kids, they’d need a bigger house. Something with a yard, if they could find that. He wondered if she’d want a one story or a two story house. Would she want something that could be fixed, or something ready to move into? He knew that they both would love to stay in this area. If they saved up, they could definitely afford a deposit on a house.

He took another half-glass of water out onto the balcony to sit. The air was especially cold that night, and although it made him shiver, he didn’t hate it. There was a quiet jingle; Panther leapt up onto the table beside him, the bell around his neck glinting. He didn’t meow or butt his head against Shiro for attention, not the way Balmera did. Instead he patiently waited for Shiro to lift a hand so that he could get a scratch behind the ear. Shiro wasn’t surprised to find him outside, even though it was so cold – he’d returned for dinner, but left again when his bowl was mostly empty. Some nights he couldn’t be tempted inside.

“I wonder if you’ll be able to adjust to a new home alright,” Shiro said, as he absentmindedly scratched behind Panther’s ears, just like he knew the cat liked. It had taken a while for Panther to grow used to Shiro’s presence, but that was just in Panther’s nature.

He finished his water and went back inside. He was probably only out there for ten minutes, but he felt chilled all over. Panther had wandered back off after a few minutes, his sleek fur blending into the dark shadows.

When Shiro eventually made his way back into the bedroom, Allura was sitting up, rubbing her knuckles into her eyes. “Where’d you go?” She asked, voice rough with sleep.

“Just for water,” he told her, as he slipped back beneath the covers. “Sorry for waking you.”

“Shiro, you’re freezing!” Allura exclaimed, much more awake as she pressed her hand to his shoulder. “Did you go outside?”

“Only for a little bit,” he said. He clutched her hand and let her sleep-warmed skin chase the chill away from his fingers. “Don’t worry, I just couldn’t sleep, that’s all.”

She seemed hesitant, but he wasn’t upset, and he wasn’t hurt, so she slowly relaxed. “At least get under the covers properly,” she told him, as she laid back down.

He laughed quietly, and did as he was told. It was certainly much nicer under the blankets, and even though she grumbled about it, Allura was more than willing to pull him into her arms to help warm him up. It wasn’t hard to find sleep again.

Chapter Text

One of Allura’s friends were celebrating a birthday one evening. Shiro had met them a few times since that wedding last year, when they’d been introduced, just like how Allura had met his friends (well, she had met Matt). The birthday was held at a classy diner, and Shiro was invited as Allura’s plus-one.

“They just want a chance to fawn over you again,” Allura had told him after he’d agreed to go with her. “And I want a chance to show you off, of course.”

He’d been flustered at that, but sort of pleased, too. He liked that Allura liked being with him enough to bring him places with her friends. It was nice to go out with other people, too. He’d forgotten what socialising felt like since his accident, and although he was still sort of awkward and quiet around strangers, he did have fun on nights out. A diner was a perfect place to go.

For the dinner, he dressed casually. He thought it was much easier for a male to dress up than it was for a female; he spent half an hour in the bathroom showering and getting dressed and he was ready to go. Allura, however, struggled a lot more. She wasn’t sure what dress to wear (though she ended up choosing the one he’d bought her a short while ago), and then she wasn’t sure about shoes, and what to do with her hair. He was never quite sure how to help her when she was getting ready, or if he was able to in the first place.

Sometimes it was easier to let Allura go through her entire closet before she decided to wear the first thing she’d picked out.

“I think you’ll look beautiful no matter what you wear,” he’d told her, as she’d flittered from the bathroom and their bedroom and then back again. She’d smiled at him, and seemed less nervous after that. He only spoke the truth when it came to her, after all – she really was beautiful in anything she chose to wear.

While Allura was doing her hair (she was either brushing or braiding it now, maybe even both, but he couldn’t be quite sure) Shiro fed the cats and locked up the house for the evening. Allura had been able to coax Panther inside that now, and he was fast asleep on his towel, looking like nothing in the world could possibly ever bother him.

Getting ready always seemed like an event in their household.

Chapter Text

Shiro had been thinking about his and Allura’s routines for a while now. Combined with his thoughts about a bigger house and marriage were his thoughts for their domestic rituals and exactly how they managed to function around each other. Allura usually took longer to get ready – and she put far more effort into her appearance than he did – but there were things that had him curious.

Her incredible fashion sense was beyond him, but maybe her makeup routine wouldn’t be.

From what he could tell after watching Allura for quite a while, her makeup routine varied depending on several things. One was what she intended to do for the day, and another was how much time she had to get ready in the morning. They were very obvious things, he thought, now that he’d realising they were facts Allura took into consideration.

It was one morning when she was getting ready for the day that she finally caught him watching her. They weren’t going out or anything, but Allura was trying out a new look. At least, that was what Shiro thought from watching her fiddle around with her makeup. He’d grown used to her routine, and although he wasn’t quite sure what products she was using, he knew that this one was out of order.

“Is something the matter?” Allura asked, as she peered over her shoulder at him.

He jumped at being caught, flustered by the question. He’d been watching her from behind the bathroom doorway, but she’d spotted him in the mirror peeking in at her. “N-no, I’m just… What are you doing?” He managed to force out.

“Just practising,” she said, as she waved a sort of pencil at him. “Why?”

He shrugged, lost for words. He hadn’t thought this far ahead. Was it weird to tell her that he liked watching her put makeup on? He just had no idea how it worked, and that made him curious.

Allura had a knowing look in her eyes. She turned to lean against the sink, an eyebrow quirked. “Have you always watched me put makeup on?”

“Just recently,” he admitted. “There’s not much else for me to do when I’m waiting to go.”

She laughed, amused by his bashfulness. “I don’t mind, you know,” she said. “I don’t expect you to just sit around while I take forever getting ready.”

That relieved him a little.

“Have you ever worn makeup?” She asked.

“No,” he said, surprised by the question.

“Want to try some?”

 

As it turned out, there were quite a number of different products Allura used. They sat on the bedroom floor with her makeup bag’s contents tipped out beside them. Makeup turned out to be a very personal art, and so she had her legs tossed over his thighs and her hands constantly touching or prodding at his face.

For work, her makeup routine was quite minimal. She explained to him what she wore – a light foundation, and some mascara. It made her eyes look brighter, apparently. When they went out, she wore a lot more – things like eyeliner, blush, highlighter… Shiro didn’t know what half of it did, but he knew she looked beautiful with and without makeup, so he let her chatter away about it and did his best to keep up.

“Okay, now look up,” Allura said, as she carefully rested her hand against his cheekbone. “Try not to move too much.”

He did as he was asked with a small amount of apprehension. He had no idea what she was doing, but she’d called it “winged eyeliner”. It made him nervous to have a pencil and a brush so close to his eye. How did she stand it? Didn’t her hands get shaky?

“Don’t worry, I won’t jab you in the eye,” Allura said.

“It’s creepy how you keep reading my mind like that.”

“It’s written all over your face, love.”

He huffed. She scolded him for moving, so he went still again. “I don’t think it’ll look that good on me,” he said.

“You’ll look great,” she told him, confident. “You have really nicely shaped eyes.”

“I do?” He’d always thought his eyes were a little small. His mother was Japanese, after all, and a lot of his facial features he inherited from her side of the family. It had never really been something he’d thought about, though.

“Definitely. Plus your skin is unfairly smooth, so that works in your favour too.”

He touched his chin ruefully. He’d shaved the day before, but stubble had already started to grow in. The men from his mother’s side of the family didn’t grow facial hair as fast as he did even if it wasn’t thick, so he blamed his father’s genetics for that.

“Alright, look at me properly for a moment,” Allura demanded.

Shiro met her eyes.

She grinned at him. “Perfect! See, I told you the eyeliner gel goes on really smoothly. I used to use pencils, and they’re good for marking out where you’re going to draw the line, but the gel just moves so easily.”

He nodded, although he had no idea what she was talking about. It almost seemed like the same thing to him, though he knew it certainly wasn’t. The eyeliner made his skin feel strangely cold as it dried. He worried that if he sneezed it would suddenly smudge and he’d look vaguely like a racoon.

“Now for the other eye,” Allura said, as she turned his face to the side. “Same steps as before, Shiro.”

He let her do it. This sort of attention felt kind of good, even if the feel of the brush on his eyelid made him flinch every now and then. It reminded him of when Allura would run her fingers through his hair or trace nonsensical patterns on his back.

When Allura was done, she leaned back to survey her work, and then gave him a nod. “All done.” She set her eyeliner aside and picked up a hand mirror, which she turned towards him. “What do you think?”

He peered at himself. She’d lined his eyelids with the black product, but the ends extended past the outer corner of his eyes, just like little wings. The change that eyeliner made to his face was quite surprising. His eyes looked both bigger and brighter even though nothing in him had changed. “I like it,” he said, when words finally came back to him. “It’s different.”

She tilted her head around the mirror to shoot him a grin. “You look handsome!”

He smiled. He liked spending time with her like this, though he did wonder how exactly to get the eyeliner off. “Makeup seems quite difficult,” he told her.

“It is, but once you get the hang of it, it’s quite fun. Like a hobby.” She set the mirror down and packed up all her things into her makeup bag. “Kind of pricey, though.”

“Well, if you like it, it’s worth it, isn’t it?”

Allura laughed. “I suppose you’re right.”

“Of course I am, I’m always right,” he teased. He’d had her say the same words to him dozens of times when she had undoubtedly proven herself to be correct.

“Alright now, Princess,” Allura counted, “your head will be too big to get through the door if you keep up that attitude.”

Shiro laughed. “You’re the princess, though,” he said.

She snorted, but still seemed amused by his antics. She held up a packet of makeup wipes. “Want me to take it off now?”

“No, no, I’m getting used to it now,” he said. “I want to see how long it lasts.”

“Ah, a true makeup guru in the making,” she said, laughing, as she patted his cheek. “Just remind me to take it off you before you sleep. You’ll ruin your skin if you leave it on.” She leaned forwards to press a kiss to his lips. “You really do look handsome.”

He grinned at her. “Thanks, Princess.”

Chapter Text

“Winter is perfect for pyjama day, Shiro.”

“If you say so.”

Allura grinned at him. She’d somehow managed to convince Coran to let them have another pyjama day, which the children were quite excited about. Shiro was apprehensive, as always, about wearing something other than normal clothes to work. After spending years religiously wearing a strict uniform, he still had yet to get the hang of “civilian clothes”, as they used to put it in the Garrison.

Considering how cold it was outside, Shiro wore thicker pyjamas to work. He still wore pants and a loose shirt to sleep, but to work he wore a warmer sweater, instead. It was plain and sort of hung off him (something of a feat itself what with his shoulders) so he thought it counted as pyjamas.

Allura wore the pyjamas she used at home. They were comfortable pants and a long-sleeved pyjama shirt with a cute, pink pattern. He was astounded that she somehow managed to look fashionable even in sleepwear.

As they arrived at the kindergarten, Shiro was almost glad it was pyjama day. The weather outside was miserable; rain and wind brought a chill in through every open crack. The extra-warm clothing felt comforting; it felt almost like a sleepover when Shiro, Allura and Coran finally finished dragging out the beanbags, blankets and pillows into the main room. Aside from the lessons and activities they had planned, there would also be the typical pyjama-day fun – movie watching pillow fighting and board games. The kids were sure to have fun.

Expectedly, the children all arrived dressed in their pyjamas, just like they had last time. Shiro wasn’t surprised to see that Lance and Keith had matching blue and red pyjamas. They all seemed to enjoy dressing up, even if he thought it was technically dressing down, for days like this. He enjoyed it too, even if he did complain a little.

Towards mid-afternoon, the wind outside really started to kick up. Rain splattered the windows, and although there were thick curtains hiding it, it was impossible not to hear the noise of the storm. Shiro was in the recreation room with the kids watching a movie, and while they were mostly distracted, there were still some worried glances aimed at the windows. Most of the kids were getting used to experiencing storms away from their parents now, but he didn’t think they were quite old enough to shake those worries away just yet.

For the most part, though, the kids were happy to focus on the movie. Lance and Keith were bickering with each other as they shared a beanbag; Shiro wasn’t quite sure what it was about this time, perhaps who was going to go get a drink for them both first, but it was light-hearted anyway. Pidge and Hunk were sharing a beanbag too, and while Pidge was focused entirely on the movie, it seemed like Hunk had fallen asleep, cocooned under a yellow blanket.

Shiro tucked him in a little more, checked to see if any of the kids in the room wanted a drink of juice, and went to get some for those who answered positively.

All in all, it was a nice way to spend the day.

Chapter Text

Allura had something planned. Shiro didn’t know what, but he was certain that she was up to something, something she wanted to keep incredibly secretive. She’d gone out the other evening without him, which in itself wasn’t a bad thing, but she would usually tell him what she’d be up to. This time, however, she’d dodged his questions and given him nothing but teasing smiles.

He thought it might have had something to do with the kids or the kindergarten, but when he’d asked Coran, they’d both come to the same conclusion: neither one of them knew what Allura was hiding. It only made Shiro more curious. What could she be planning that had to be so secret? It was undoubtedly a surprised for them – he’d heard of the things she’d come up with before, like pyjama day, for example – but he had no clue what it could be this time.

Of course, he didn’t have to wait long. Allura was never one to dally with things, and soon enough, her smile took on a rather bright, noticeable cheeriness. If he hadn’t known her so well, perhaps he wouldn’t have noticed how she suddenly looked so victorious. She even willingly woke up early the next morning, which was something she never did. She was definitely excited about something important to her. He only raised a brow at her, hoping for a hint, but she was as tight-lipped about her secret as ever.

“It’s going to be a surprise, Shiro,” she told him when he tried to wheedle the answer out of her, “a surprise!”

“I worry about your surprises sometimes,” he replied, pouting in a way that would probably make Lance proud. “I’m your boyfriend, why can’t I know the secret?”

“Because it’s a secret for you too, silly,” she told him, as she pressed a soft kiss against his lips. They both still had to get ready for the morning – Shiro had showered, but Allura hadn’t, and neither of them had had breakfast yet – but he couldn’t help but return her kiss. She was always very sweet in the morning after she’d been given a chance to wake up and shake away the last remnants of sleep from her mind.

“I’m excited to see what it is,” he told her.

“Good,” she said, proud of herself. “You and everyone else will love to see what it is, I’m certain!”

Chapter Text

When he arrived at the kindergarten, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. He turned the car into the adjacent parking lot and used one of the spots reserved for staff members. Allura was exceptionally cheerful as they made their way into the building. Coran had already arrived, like usual, and Shiro thought maybe that might have ruined whatever surprise Allura had, but she seemed as confident as ever.

“Good morning, Allura, Shiro,” Coran called over his shoulder as he heard them come in. “Allura, I’m assuming it’s your doing that the recreation room is locked?”

Allura pulled the key from her pocket and teasingly dangled it. “Sure is,” she said. “No peeking until all the kids are here!”

Coran only sighed.

Shiro laughed quietly, amused by their antics. Coran was probably used to these bursts of spontaneousness that Allura tended to have. Even if her surprise did make him endlessly curious, Shiro was admittedly a little excited about it, too. He knew Allura was a very creative person, and anything that got her so eager was definitely going to be fun.

It was almost painful waiting for all the kids to show up. They were used to having free run of the building, so when they found the recreation room, they realised that something was up. Shiro got lots of questions from them about why the room was blocked off, but he didn’t have any answers for them.

Eventually, however, everyone was accounted for, and Shiro found himself sending Allura pointed looks that had her laughing every time she caught him. Could he really be blamed? He was just as interested as the kids were about her super-secret surprise. He would be sure to complain to her about how much she’d been teasing him lately when they were back home that evening.

“Alright, time for a surprise!” Allura declared when she finally relented to his stares and the kid’s hushed, eager murmurs. The children flocked to her as she went to unlock the recreation room door. Even Shiro followed after them, thankful that he was far taller than everyone else and he could therefore easily see over their heads.

“What is it, Allura?” Lance asked, as he held onto the hem of Allura’s shirt, his eyes bright and inquiring.

“It’s a secret,” Allura told him.

He pouted.

“Just wait one moment, Lance,” she said, laughing, as she fumbled to get the key in the door.

Lance turned to give Keith a scandalised look, but Keith only took his hands, jealously scowling. He seemed to brighten when Lance gave him a puzzled but charming grin, squeezing Keith’s hands back. Those two were far too adorable.

Eventually Allura managed to get the door unlocked, and then she was pushing it open. Almost immediately Shiro was overwhelmed by the view of the room.

Allura had covered it from wall to ceiling in fairy lights. The curtains had been pulled shut tightly, leaving the only source of light to be the glowing twinkles, which cast warm spots across the walls and floor. All the beanbags had been dragged into the centre of the room and covered in the kindergarten’s spare blankets.

She’d hung dangling lights from the ceilings and bookshelves, too. They had glowing stars on the ends, which matched the ones on the ceiling. The room had been turned into an oasis of stars and glittering lights, and the awed gasps of the children aptly matched how Shiro felt at the sight of it. Now he knew why Allura had been so secretive – this really was just a wonderful surprise, and he was glad she hadn’t told him anything about it.

“Woah, this looks so cool, Miss Allura!” Hunk said, as he entered the room with the other children. “Is this for us?”

“Of course it is, Hunk,” Allura said, smiling. “It’s our own astronomy room!”

Pidge’s eyes were glowing as he followed Hunk in. “This is like the robot Matt sent me before,” he said, grinning.

“It sure is,” Allura nodded. “That was a part of my inspiration! Do you like it?”

“Yeah!”

Lance and Keith had already dived head-first into the room, and after spending a few, swift moments cataloguing all the changes, they’d chosen a little section for themselves and sat down on the beanbags. Keith had found one of the handful of torches Allura had placed around the room – they were covered in coloured cellophane, which casted coloured spotlights around the room when they were switched on. Lance was busy tucking a blanket around Keith’s shoulders, one that he managed to crawl under to join Keith when he was done making sure his friendly was appropriately warmed.

Shiro just smiled at them. All the kids were already enthralled with Allura’s surprise, and he just knew they’d be entertained by it for a good portion of the day, which was perfect for the adults at Altea Kindergarten.

“Good surprise?” Allura asked, as she dug her elbow into his ribs.

“It’s amazing,” he said. He put his arm around her waist and pressed a quick kiss against her forehead. “No wonder you’ve been so busy lately. How did you reach the ceiling without me?”

She huffed, and rolled her eyes, but the amused tilt of her lips showed how pleased she actually was. “I used a ladder, you oaf,” she said. “Those things exist, you know.”

“Do they? I’ve never needed one.” It was a lie, but it made her laugh, which in turn made him quite happy with himself. He was getting better at the playful teasing thing, he thought. He was learning from the best.

“You’re too much for me,” she said as her laughter quietened. “Do you like it, though? Really?”

“It’s wonderful,” he told her, as he nuzzled the top of her head. “It reminds me of when I’d pilot at night, and the stars were the only thing I’d see. The kids just adore it, too.”

Allura smiled, her cheeks flushed. “I’m glad you like it.”

Chapter Text

They decided to keep the “astronomy” room for a while, though Shiro noticed that the kids quickly renamed it the “starlight room”. Even if it meant that most of the toys and furniture in the recreation room had to be relocated to the main room, it was only a temporary matter, and the kids didn’t really seem to mind. Besides, it gave Shiro and Coran a chance to go through the older toys and throw out what was no longer played with. Allura was the one in charge of supervising the kids while they set to thinning out the old piles of unused or damaged toys.

“I wonder how long the kids will want to keep the room like that,” Shiro mused, as he separated a bunch of tangled dolls from one another. Most of them could be kept, but some were too old and frayed for the kids to have any interest in them. They’d probably have to throw them away, if they couldn’t donate any of them to a second-hand store.

“A while, probably,” Coran said. He gave a Frisbee he pulled from the bottom of a box a very squinty stare before decidedly moving it to the throw-away pile. There was a thin crack running down one of its edges. “The kids always love it when Allura does things like that for them, so I usually let them enjoy it for a while. At least until we need the room again, anyway.”

“Does she do things like that for the kids often?”

“Depends on what she can come up with,” Coran said. “One time during the summer a couple of years ago she had the kids help her build a bunch of these little tents in the backyard. They were made from fabric the kids painted and a few sticks that had fallen from the trees out there, but it somehow worked. Looked pretty good too, though don’t go telling her I said that. The kids refused to dismantle the tents for a solid week, not until there was a summer storm and they got broken.”

Shiro laughed quietly. “That sounds like something she’d certainly do.”

“They did a slip-and-slide once, as well. All she used was a large tarp and dishwashing soap. The kids loved that one,” Coran continued. “Oh, and once she strung up red string all throughout the hallway and made the kids act like they were in a spy movie to get from one side to the other. If they touched the string, then they had to start over.”

“Like the strings were lasers?”

“Precisely!”

“Do you have any photos?” Shiro asked. Even if he hadn’t known Allura back then, or anyone from the kindergarten for that matter, he still felt oddly left out, and even a little bit jealous. There still seemed to be so much history to this place that he had no knowledge about, like there was still a divide between him and them. He didn’t feel like an outsider anymore, not like he did when he first started working at Altea Kindergarten, but there was still a longing in him that ached to be included. That included things from the past, too, even if he hadn’t been there to experience any of it.

“I sure do,” Coran said, grinning. “I’ll dig them up for you later, but don’t tell Allura. She’ll be too embarrassed to show you, I’m certain. She’s a funny one.”

Shiro smiled. Not only were there things he was still figuring out about Allura, but there were still things about Coran that had yet to be uncovered, too. Being surprised by the little things that made them who they were was something that brought Shiro a great amount of pleasure. Coran’s funny way of talking was one of those little things, but it was so distinctively Coran that Shiro couldn’t find any part of himself that disliked it. What Coran meant by “she’s a funny one” could have been a whole lot of things, but Shiro was sure it was that Coran thought Allura’s reactions to Shiro seeing parts of her life before him was endearing. He thought they were, too.

“I won’t tell her,” he promised. “I can’t wait to see all the photos.”

Coran smiled at him, too. He had a smile a lot like Alfor’s then, Shiro thought, or even like his own father’s.

It seemed that Allura wasn’t the only person who could make him feel undoubtedly included in their little family.

Chapter Text

The reunion at the Garrison was fast approaching, and even if Shiro would have preferred to forget it ever existed in the first place, Allura was very on top of it. She had the date written on their calendar, and had been subtly conditioning Shiro to get used to the idea of going with gentle questions and quiet reminders about the upcoming date for the past two weeks or so.

Shiro wasn’t oblivious to what she was doing, and although he found it confronting at first, he rather appreciated it now. Allura had a way of putting herself straight into his insecurities without him noticing she was there until he already felt them easing away. He had no idea how she did it, and even if he recognised what she was doing this time round, that fact remained the same. Thinking about the reunion didn’t fill him with as much anxious dread as it used to.

It was when Allura was busy doing the dishes that he snuck back into their bedroom, the Garrison on his mind. For the reunion he’d have to wear his formal uniform, complete with all the trimmings and shiny things that came with it. It was a requisite that every pilot conformed to, partially because of respect, and partially because it felt odd and out of routine to be out of uniform when around so many higher-ranking officers and fellow soldiers. Shiro hadn’t touched the uniform since the accident. He wasn’t even sure if he’d ever looked at it again, but that night he did.

The uniform was kept in one of those bags important people with important clothes used to keep their garments from getting dusty. He wasn’t sure what it was called, but it did its job – and kept him from ever having to face the uniform again. It had been stuffed into the back of the closet when he moved in only because he didn’t want Allura to see it and he didn’t have the strength to throw it away forever. He’d once asked if he could leave it at his parent’s house, but his mother had told him to keep it. He hadn’t really understood why she said that back then, and he still kind of didn’t, but he had a feeling she’d made the right decision.

When he unzipped the protective bag, the sight of the uniform made him pause. It looked exactly like how he remembered it. He wasn’t sure what he had been expecting, but he hadn’t expected it to be so… familiar. The uniform was something he had fixed his sense of self-identity on for so long that when he left the Garrison, he’d completely rejected it. That was why he’d kept it hidden away for so many years. He was uncomfortable with the fact that he’d changed so much and yet the uniform still seemed impossibly familiar.

He took a seat on the bed, still holding the uniform. If – no, when he went back to see everyone, he’d have to wear it. Just thinking that made him believe he could almost feel the buttons beneath his fingers. Dressing had been such a routine in the Garrison that he hardly believed he’d ever managed to break out of it. He could feel ghosts of the uniform fitting around him; the straight shoulders, the heavy boots, the muffled clinking of medals he’d earned by accomplishing piloting feats and participating in dangerous missions.

None of them had been as dangerous as Kerberos.

His arm ached just thinking the word.

He hadn’t let himself brush across it, even in memory, in an incredibly long time.

A sigh escaped him. Complicated memories or not, the uniform was required. He wondered if it would still fit him, and if he should mention it to Allura. He could hear her draining the sink in the kitchen, and spurred on by shameful feelings, he hastily zipped his uniform up in the protective bag and hid it away in the closet. There hadn’t been a reason he came into the bedroom, but he took the opportunity to change in his pyjamas, and to take the previous nights’ water glasses out into the kitchen, ready to be refilled.

“Are you alright?” Allura asked him, as she caught sight of him out of the corner of her eyes. Just like usual, her uncanny way of reading him so accurately was startling. He didn’t think he looked that troubled, but maybe she could see things in him that no one else ever had or ever could.

“I’m alright,” he told her. It wasn’t exactly a lie – he was alright, just confused. He needed time to think about everything, to sort out what he felt and what he remembered. Allura’s subtle reminders about the reunion were good reminders for him to do that, so that he didn’t get overwhelmed by it all at once.

Allura squinted at him. She dried her hands on the tea towel they kept hanging on the oven’s handle before pressing her palm against her forehead. “Are you sure, Shiro? You look a little pale, but you’re not warm…”

He nodded. “I’m sure,” he said.

She let the subject go, but drew him closer, her hands on his hips. She wasn’t a short girl, but she was shorter than him, so when she tilted her head up to kiss him, he met her halfway. Her lips were somewhat cold from the frigid air that naturally accompanied nightfall, but they warmed quickly beneath his own.

“Are you worried about something?” She whispered.

He laughed quietly, and drew back to rest his forehead against hers. It seemed that she was perhaps unable to let go of her concern for him. It was an oddly endearing habit of hers. “I’m not worried, just… thinking,” he admitted. He thought that maybe a weight would lift off his shoulders if he shared a little bit of his concern with her, but it didn’t. That wasn’t a bad thing, just puzzling. It seemed like there were a few things he had to work through on his own first, that’s all.

“Anything I can help with?” She offered.

He shook his head. “Not yet.”

“Alright.” She pressed another kiss to his lips. This time, she seemed comfortable with letting the conversation go. “Just talk to me if you need me, alright? Promise.”

“I promise,” he said. He meant it. When it came to things he was uncertain or pained about, he no longer felt the need to suppress everything to the point where it was like his pain was completely disconnected from him. Instead, he instinctively thought about Allura, about asking for her opinion about it. She always seemed impossibly clear-headed when he was lost in thought.

“I think it’s time we went to bed,” she declared. “I’ll meet you in the bedroom?”

He snuck one more kiss from her, before agreeing.

Chapter Text

A phone call from Mrs Holt surprised Shiro one evening. He went into the kitchen to take it, not wanting to bother Allura in the lounge room. Mrs Holt gave him a litany of pleasantries that he felt no need to interrupt, despite his curiosity towards the nature of her call. She did get to the point eventually.

“Do you know about what’s happening this month?” She asked tentatively. “I mean at the Kindergarten, that is.”

He frowned, confused. “No. What’s happening? It’s just turned June, hasn’t it?”

“Yes,” she said, “Coran and Allura usually organise something for pride month.”

Shiro’s eyebrows went up. Everything was suddenly clear to him, and he nodded in understanding, even though Mrs Holt couldn’t see him. “Do they usually do something for Pidge?” He asked.

Mrs Holt hesitated. “Well, they started a tradition about doing something during June to celebrate the month, but Pidge was too withdrawn last year to participate. I think he was still scared and confused.”

“I see,” Shiro said. “Do you want me to ask what Allura has planned?”

“No, no, it’s alright,” she said quickly. “But… could you do me a favour?”

“Of course.”

“Could you talk to Pidge, please? That’s really why I rang, he wants to speak with you, but I told him he only could if you were free.”

“I am,” Shiro said without hesitation. He always had time for Pidge. “You can put him on.”

Mrs Holt let out a deep, relieved sigh. “Thank you Shiro, I can’t thank you enough for what you do for my boys.” She was calling Pidge in the background before he could reply, her voice muffled. Shiro heard the phone being switched hands, and then Pidge’s nervous breathing.

“Shiro?”

“Hey buddy,” he said, his tone soft and quiet. He took a seat at the kitchen counter, wincing at the cold for a moment. “What’s up?”

“It’s pride month, right?”

“Sure is.” Shiro paused, waiting for Pidge to say something, before deciding that perhaps he should lead the conversation instead. “Is there something you want to do?”

“Can I?” Pidge asked, sounding high and quick, like he was clutching the phone tighter. “Is it okay?”

“It’s more than okay, Pidge,” Shiro said. He didn’t know what Allura or Coran had planned for the month, but he knew they’d let Pidge do whatever he wanted. Out of all the children in the kindergarten, he was the one they needed to express the most pride for. His decision to present as a boy was a very brave one. “Do you have something in mind?”

“No,” Pidge whispered, shaky. “I can’t think of anything yet. B-but, if I think of something later, can I do it then? I promise to do something before it’s over!”

“Pidge,” Shiro interrupted, “it doesn’t matter how long it takes you, even if it’s tomorrow, or next month, or next year. Whatever you want to do, you just come straight to me and tell me, and I’ll make it happen. You hear me? Doesn’t matter when, or what. Just tell me and I’ll make it happen.”

Pidge was silent for a long, breathless moment. “Okay,” he finally said.

“Promise?” Shiro insisted.

“I promise.”

“Pinkie promise?”

That drew a giggle from Pidge. “I can’t pinkie promise you if I can’t see you, Shiro!”

“Sure you can,” Shiro grinned. “See, I’ve got my pinkie wrapped around the phone right this very instant. Pinkie promise to tell me?”

There was muffled crackling as Pidge shifted the phone, likely wrapping his finger around it just the same way Shiro had. “Okay, I pinkie promise,” Pidge said.

Shiro smiled. “Good.” He hadn’t felt as satisfied as he did then in a long time.

Chapter Text

It started with a flag. A rainbow flag, to be specific. Shiro wasn’t quite sure where Coran dug it out from, but it was likely in one of the back storage rooms. They’d kept it in a plastic seal, so when Allura took it outside to shake it loose, it was in near-perfect condition.

“It’s surprising,” Allura said, as she had him help hang it up by the front entrance, “most parents enjoy that we celebrate pride month here. I was worried there would be some objections to it, but everyone is glad that their kids have a chance to experience a positive outlook on it. They don’t mind what we do for the month, within reason of course.”

Shiro nodded. It was chilly outside that day, and his fingers were frozen stiff by the time he finally managed to pin the flag up straight. Allura stepped back to double check that it really was hanging straight from a distance, and gave him a satisfied nod when she decided that it was. They escaped back into the warmth of Altea Kindergarten a moment later, both feeling oddly accomplished.

It was a good start.

 

One of the kid’s parents worked at a library. Shiro wasn’t too familiar with them, but during the beginning of June, they leant Altea Kindergarten a whole stack of children’s books straight from the LGBTQ section at their work. Shiro was surprised to arrive one morning and see a box full of library books on the bench.

It wasn’t unusual for them to have story time with the kids, where one of the adults would read out a book that the kids chose for them. Shiro didn’t think he had that great of a reading voice, and Allura always insisted that Coran put on the best voice acting, so it was always him that did the reading for the kids. If Shiro were being honest, Coran’s ability to create a new voice for every single character was a little frightening, just because he was so good at it.

But the new books were rather cute. Curious, Shiro flipped through them after getting his designated rooms ready for the day. The stories were very inclusive for all genders and orientations, more than he would have expected. They were sweet and hopeful and colourful. He couldn’t think of a single orientation that wasn’t presented in at least one of the books.

He left the one about a transgender boy on top hoping that Coran would read it first.

Later in the day, when it came time for the kids to settle down for story time, that book was the one that Coran picked up.

It was interesting to watch the kids react to the book. For the most part, they didn’t seem fussed at all by the identity of the main character, perhaps because they were so used to Pidge’s company. But Pidge seemed to like it. His eyes grew wider and wider as the story progressed. Coran would turn the book around after every page so that the kids could see the illustrations, and Pidge would lean forwards every time, eager to see every detail up close.

When reading time was done, Shiro found the book, and took a photo of it that he sent to Mrs Holt. He just knew she would love to find the book somewhere so Pidge could own it himself. She was more than happy to hear about it.

 

During arts and crafts one afternoon, they decided to hold a rainbow painting competition. The rules were simple: the children had to paint their best version of a rainbow. It didn’t matter what kind of rainbow they painted or how they painted it, as long as it was a rainbow.

Of course, letting the kids get into the paints was always a messy event. After explaining the rules like he usually did, with the exception of adding the rainbow painting competition, Shiro spent the better part of the day scrubbing jackets clean. Just Lance’s and Keith’s, of course, because who else could get so messy in such a short amount of time?

At least Allura had taught him how to get rid of paint marks before they permanently stained the fabric.

She came to watch him as he scrubbed Keith’s jacket clean as fast as he could. “Those two making a mess again?” She asked around a muffled laugh.

“Sure are,” he said, sighing. It wasn’t a put-out sigh, but just one of content acceptance. He held up the jacket for Allura’s inspection. “Good enough, do you think?”

“Looks perfect to me,” she praised. She darted into the small laundry to press a sweet kiss against his cheek, and smiled at him teasingly. “Looks like someone paid attention to all those lessons I gave.”

He laughed. “I was listening,” he insisted. “I have to learn how to get paint stains out considering how often they get each other dirty. I don’t even know how they did it this time!”

Allura chuckled. “Well, when you’re done, just pop the jackets straight in the dryer, alright? It’d be best if we could get them dry as soon as possible.”

“Alright, I will.”

For the time being, Lance and Keith were borrowing two of Shiro’s jackets – one that he’d worn to work, and one that Allura had stolen so she could wear it when he hadn’t been looking. Both the sweaters swamped the kids, but it kept them warm until their own clothes were ready to wear again. Besides, wearing Shiro’s clothes had them being a hundred times more careful with where they were aiming their dirty paintbrushes.

Aside from the whole paint-on-jackets incident, the rest of the activity went rather well. Shiro got their clothes straight into the kindergarten’s dryer before heading back out to monitor the kids. They were all painting something rather creative, and it was great to see them get so artsy with the little competition.

Hunk was painting a normal rainbow. He had it arching widely across the page, hanging over a lawn of grass and flowers. “I know it’s normal, but I like it,” he said, grinning widely as he painted a cheerfully bright yellow sun in the corner of the page.

“Your lines are very neat,” Shiro praised. “I think it looks fantastic.”

Hunk’s replying grin was as warm as the sun.

Pidge was painting a lion with rainbow-coloured fur. When Shiro asked him why, Pidge had just grinned at him, and cheekily adjusted his glasses. “Lions have a pride, you know!”

Shiro laughed, and ruffled Pidge’s hair. “That’s so clever!” It really was. Not only did the kids have all their lion toys, but Pidge had somehow managed to work in their love for them into the rainbow painting contest. It was definitely something only Pidge would think to do.

Lance and Keith were painting something vaguely rainbow-ish. They had all the colours on their pages when Shiro glanced over their shoulders, so he assumed they were on track. For the most part. Maybe. Either way, they looked like they were enjoying themselves, and he thought that that was what mattered the most.

Once all the paintings had been completed and allowed an hour or so to dry, Shiro helped Allura and Coran pin them up onto the wall. The kids would vote for their favourite (but they weren’t allowed to vote for their own) and then the winner would receive chocolate. For fairness’s sake, they also had little lollies for all the other kids.

It was nice to see a wall of rainbows at work.

 

Coran made cookies. They were nothing like his blue disc lollies, but were instead simple sugar-cookies cut into cute shapes with a bunch of different cookie cutters that Shiro never realised they had. He could smell them baking when he arrived one morning.

“What are these for?” Shiro asked, as he leaned into the kitchen to peer at the trays of baked cookies. Coran must have come in extra early to get them all done – Shiro was surprised by just how many there were.

“Decorating,” Coran said, grinning, as he brandished a tray freshly pulled from the oven for Shiro’s curious inspection. “It’ll be the main activity for the day.”

Shiro chuckled. That seemed like something Coran would think of for sure. The cookies were a wide variety of shapes, including clouds and arches and love hearts. He knew the kids would enjoy it. It seemed like Coran was still the one who was the most in tune with the kids when it came to fun activities. Shiro had seen adults described as being childlike, but with Coran, he thought there was something different. Coran just loved the kids and loved to make them happy, that was all.

Predictably, the kids did enjoy decorating all the cookies. There were so many that needed decorating that they were all preoccupied for a solid hour and a half, something of which was an impressive feat when it came to their kids.

They decorated the cookies with a bunch of different toppings. They had icing for every colour of the rainbow, and little chocolate chips, and rainbow sprinkles. The kids made a mess all over the place, but everyone was happy, so Shiro didn’t mind a little extra clean up afterwards. Lance and Keith even managed to keep the icing strictly on the cookies (well, and the table top, but that wasn’t too bad).

When Pidge gave him one of his personally decorated cookies, Shiro felt a rush of affection for his kids. They responded so well to everything that was going on for pride month, and it made him feel good. He didn’t want to admit it, but he had been a little wary about it all, just because he knew how cruel kids could be sometimes.

But he’d said it before, and he’d say it again – the kids they had at Altea Kindergarten were the kindest kids possible.

 

They had a parade. At least, that’s what Shiro called it. Allura and Coran called it that as well, but it was more like a huge, all-inclusive dress up party. Coran pulled out a props box from somewhere that Shiro had never seen before and all the kids were encouraged to wear brightly coloured clothes for the day. They made little teams amongst themselves and dressed each other up in the props while Shiro and Coran set up a runway.

All the tables in the dining room had to be moved aside, which took a bit of time. They used the chairs to line the runway, marking out a space for the kids to walk down when they were ready. It was also a good place for everyone to sit while the teams took their turns showing off.

Shiro had been very curious about the pride parades when he heard that Allura and Coran liked to hold a small, play one for the kids every June. He’d looked up pictures of the ones held in the city and around the world and thought it was a good way to celebrate pride month. He’d never been to one in person – he’d always been too busy with Garrison work – so seeing what the kids would do was going to be fun.

Coran had managed to find a bunch of colourful accessories for the kids to put on from his pop box. There were huge, feathered scarves and big glasses and shirts with LGBTQ positive slogans printed across the front and back. Shiro didn’t think he’d ever seen more colour in Altea Kindergarten before. There were a bunch of fake flowers that the kids used to carry like bouquets, too.

As the parade started, Allura turned on some peppy music, and the kids began their parade walks. Shiro wasn’t surprised to see that a lot of their kids had colour coded their outfits. It was like they were making a rainbow. He loved seeing his little group of kids walking down the runway. Pidge and Hunk had formed a team, and while Pidge shyly carried flowers, Hunk flaunted a yellow bow on his head and a shirt with a big smiley face on it.

Lance and Keith had made a team, too. They’d coloured themselves red and blue which was entirely unsurprising. They both had fluffy, feather scarves around their necks and comical sunglasses that oddly enough suited them. Lance took the parade in his stride, taking every opportunity to confidentially twirl and drag Keith into made-up dance moves. He was wearing a shirt with a big rainbow heart plastered across the front. It was lovely to see them having so much fun together, even if Keith looked horribly embarrassed.

Shiro made sure to take lots of photos at their little pride parade.

 

Eventually, Pidge did think of something he wanted to do to celebrate pride month. Shiro almost expected him not to, just because he seemed to be enjoying everything that the adults at the kindergarten had planned, but he was very glad that Pidge had found a way to express himself.

He arrived early one morning with his mother in tow. Pidge got there before all of the other children, and Shiro had a feeling that he wanted a moment of privacy before his friends arrived. He was carrying a little plastic bag, and looked rather nervous.

“Go ahead, Pidge,” Mrs Holt encouraged when the two of them entered the kindergarten, as she put her hands on the back of Pidge’s shoulders. “You can ask Mr Shiro.”

Shiro gave Pidge a comforting smile and crouched down in front of him. “What’s up buddy?” He asked. “What have you got there?”

Pidge’s eyes nervously flittered from Shiro to the bag. He hesitated, before reaching into it and pulling out something that looked like a flag. “T-this is my idea,” he said, his voice wobbly. “It’s a flag for me.” He held the flag by its corners and unfurled it. The flag was partnered with pink, blue and white stripes – Shiro only recognised it because he’d looked up what it looked like.

“That's perfect, Pidge,” Shiro smiled. “How about we hang it up outside?”

Pidge’s eyes sparkled. “Can I?”

“Of course, it’s a wonderful idea. Let’s go do it now.” He groaned as he scooped Pidge up onto his hip, which made Pidge laugh. Mrs Holt was smiling as she followed them out. Shiro picked up some pins on the way.

They hung the flag beside the rainbow one still up by the entryway. Shiro lifted Pidge up to hang the flag himself, though he was sure to help Pidge with the pins. Once it was done, they stepped back to admire their handiwork. The two flags together looked good.

“What do you think?” Shiro asked Pidge. “Is it good?”

Pidge nodded. He put his arms around Shiro’s neck and hid his face there, though Shiro could feel him smiling. It was so satisfying to know that Pidge was happy and comfortable like he was.

“Thanks for doing this Shiro,” Mrs Holt said. “I really appreciate it.”

“It’s no problem at all,” Shiro said honestly. He returned Pidge’s hug before setting him back down on the ground. “How about you say goodbye to your Ma and then we’ll go inside, hmm? It’s cold out here.”

Pidge nodded, and turned to hug his mother’s legs. Shiro let them be, and wandered back inside, eternally grateful that he’d been given the chance to experience everything he had with the people at Altea Kindergarten.

He couldn’t be any prouder of them all.

Chapter Text

The house they chose was one Alfor found, actually. It was located on a small, quiet street in a neighbourhood incredibly close to where they were already living. The kindergarten was a little further away, but the grocer’s market and the Holt’s house were both closer. Shiro thought that he and Allura were both just glad they were able to stay in the neighbourhood.

They signed the lease in both their names. It wasn’t exactly conventional because he and Allura weren’t married yet, but Alfor’s word had a lot of sway when it came to buying the house, especially because he helped them with the deposit. Shiro had very surprised by the whole process, not in the least because it was Alfor who started it with a very confronting question.

“Are you planning on marrying my daughter?”

Shiro had almost spat out the coffee he’d been drinking. Alfor had rung him to ask him out for coffee and breakfast, and Shiro hadn’t thought anything of it. He’d expected Allura to come with them, but she hadn’t. He was comfortable around Alfor so it hadn’t mattered much, but that question had certainly caught him off guard. He felt nervous meeting Alfor’s eyes after it had been asked, but he did. He didn’t have anything to be afraid of, did he? “I do,” he’d said, “eventually.”

Alfor had nodded, looking rather pleased with Shiro’s answer. He didn’t pry any further, which Shiro was thankful for. He was already embarrassed enough as it was. That was when Alfor had brought up the house situation. Shiro was worried that they were moving too fast – they’d known each other for two years, but they’d only dated for a year and a half. He knew he loved Allura and that he always wanted to be with her forever, but was he jumping into things?

But Alfor didn’t seem to think that at all. With the way he spoke, it was like those doubts had never even crossed his mind. Somehow that reassured Shiro. Getting Alfor’s support was something he valued highly, and really appreciated.

He and Allura went house hunting a few weekends after his talk with Alfor. They’d been looking on and off for a while, never really talking about it in-depth. They both knew what they wanted and that when it happened, it happened, but neither one of them felt the need to talk about it like it was a serious possibility. Until then, anyway. Then it seemed like it was all they talked about.

Either way, the house they ended up choosing was one Alfor pointed out. He’d suggested a few because he’d been helping Allura prepare for owning a house the same way Shiro’s father had taken to helping him. It was a big step, and it was a little frightening, but Shiro was still excited. Of course, they wouldn’t have been able to afford a house at all if Alfor hadn’t helped them with the deposit, but it was a good time to buy a house. The interest rates were the lowest they’d been for a while and the prices in their neighbourhood were steady. Taking advantage of that opportunity, even if it was a little sudden, was a good idea financially.

They took a mortgage out on the house about a month after they first went to see it. Not only was its location perfect, but its price was fair, the owner didn’t mind that they weren’t married, and it was just the right size for any future possibilities.

“Do you think we’re ready to own our own house?” Allura had asked him late one night, when neither one of them had been able to find sleep. She seemed as nervous as he felt.

“I think we’ll be okay,” he told her, as he reached for her hand above the covers. Her skin was cold, but his was too, so it didn’t matter. “Your dad is helping us, and my parents will help us.”

She nodded. “I think we’ll be okay,” she repeated. She sounded a little more like she believed it.

Shiro thought that one of the hardest parts about moving houses was not facing the future, but rather leaving the past behind. Namely, the house they’d been living in together. He’d grown attached to it, something he only noticed after he realised he would be leaving it. This house was the place where he’d truly fallen in love with Allura, where she’d eased his worries and cared for him and allowed him to grow fonder of her with every passing day.

He almost didn’t want to leave it.

Packing to move was a sort of ritualistic thing. Allura did the living room while Shiro did the bedroom. He spent a lot of time sitting on the bed folding clothes and trying to convince himself that his memories of this place wouldn’t fade after they’d left it. Panther came in for a while to sit by his leg, something the cat normally didn’t do. He’d be coming with them to the new house, and Shiro wondered how he’d handle it. He’d lived at this complex for all of his life, after all.

“Shiro? Are you alright?” Allura peered in at him from the doorway, looking concerned. “You’ve been quiet for a while.”

Shiro gave her a weak smile. “I’m fine, just thinking.”

Allura came into the room and took a seat beside him. “It’s weird,” she said, “to think that we won’t be driving back here anymore, isn’t it? Not bad, just strange to think about.”

He nodded. Although he was undoubtedly excited to have a new home all of their own, he would miss this place more than he expected he would. He’d only ever lived in his old apartment after his accident, until he’d moved in with Allura. Being here with her taught him that he didn’t have to be lonely and miserable anymore. This pace represented a better life for him, a change for the positive.

Allura suddenly pushed him back, startling both Panther and himself as they fell against the sheets. “You should stop brooding so much,” she said, as she pinned him down with a leg flung across his waist. “You’ll get wrinkles.”

He laughed quietly, and absentmindedly put a hand on her leg. She was wearing her pyjamas and a pair of thick socks to keep warm. “I think I already have wrinkles,” he told her.

She leaned up on one elbow to look at him, and lifted a hand to trace lines across his forehead. “Don’t worry, you’re unfairly pretty anyway.”

He snorted. Allura’s small movements were very relaxing, and as she ran her fingers up and down the bridge of his nose, he found himself unable to keep his eyes open. “I’m going to fall asleep if you keep doing that,” he said.

“Then sleep.”

“I haven’t finished packing the drawers away yet…”

“It’s fine,” Allura said. By then he’d closed his eyes, unable to help himself. He felt her trace around the edge of the scar across his nose, but it didn’t make him feel uncomfortable like it once would have. “It’s only eleven o’clock anyway, perfect time for a nap.”

“No it’s not,” he argued, but there was no bite or effort in his voice. Sun was streaming in through the windows where the curtains had been parted. It made his legs warm, and when Panther settled again, the cat did too. “Allura,” he whined. “I don’t want to sleep.”

“Yes you do,” she said, laughing quietly. “You’re feeling sleepy.”

“You’re trying to hypnotise me.”

“Who, me? Of course not.”

He laughed quietly, too. “You’re cruel.”

“No I’m not, I’m just right.” She laid down beside him and settled into the bed. Her hair was fanned across the sheets and when she shifted to put her arms around him, he could feel it tickling his cheek. She had his head tucked under her chin and it only made him sleepier.

“Wake me up in ten minutes,” he demanded.

“Sure, sure,” Allura said, as she stroked the back of his head. “I’ll definitely do that.”

She didn’t.

 

They moved on a weekend, starting from Friday afternoon all the way through till Sunday evening. Most of their possessions they could take over themselves – books and movies and clothes they didn’t need, that sort of thing. They packed them up in boxes, labelled them, and took them over.

Furniture and heavier things were more difficult. Shiro found a local moving company and hired them for Saturday morning to take everything over. He was quite happy that they got it all moved over in time. They couldn’t leave the house until Sunday, so they were left with a blow-up mattress and a pile of quilts as bedding and that was it.

“I don’t recall the house being this big before,” Allura said, amused, as they sat on the floor amongst a pile of half-packed boxes and blankets. They were having sandwiches for dinner because they’d already moved everything from the kitchen except the tea and coffee to the new house.

Shiro found himself nodding in agreement as he watched Balmera run between the boxes. He took another bite of his sandwich, content to eat in silence. He could feel Allura watching him; she’d been doing the same thing ever since his long nap yesterday. Maybe she was worried about him feeling too attached to this place, but he was coming to terms with it now. He kind of liked her concern though, because it wasn’t oppressive. She let him work through his problems without pressuring him to share them.

“Do you think the cats will be okay in the new house?” Shiro asked, as he was throwing away their paper plates and knives (they’d taken their plates over to the new house already, too).

“I think Balmera will adjust alright,” Allura said. She was sweeping away their crumbs, and when she was done, she buried herself back into the quilts they’d dragged into the lounge room. Her head popped out a moment later, hair crazy and dishevelled. “I’m not so sure about Panther.”

Shiro hummed. Panther wouldn’t be allowed outside until he got used to the new house, and he was typically an outdoors cat. “He might not like being indoors for so long, but I think he’ll like the backyard,” he said. “Now that we actually have one.”

Allura laughed. “That’s nice to say, isn’t it? We have a backyard. A front yard, too. With a garden.”

He smiled. It was nice to say. Their front yard was neatly kept and full of flower beds. There was enough room for Allura to add her own touches to it. The backyard was similar; it had an undercover area and a garden that looked like it had been pulled from a magazine. There was room for a barbecue, as well as tables and chairs. It would be a great place to host parties. Even if the yards would be a pain to mow once the grass grew too long, Shiro really liked it.

When night fell, they got a moderately good sleep on the mattress, and then returned to packing. The curtains had to come down and everything from the laundry cupboard was moved over to the new house. Once everything was taken out, they returned to clean every room from top to bottom. It was hard work, but it felt very rewarding once it was done.

“This place is so empty,” Allura said, as she leaned into his side when he put his arms around her. “I’m going to miss it.”

“Me too,” he said. They were standing in the doorway to their bedroom – well, their old bedroom. He still felt that nostalgic twinge whenever he thought about leaving this place behind, but now that he’d seen all their things in the new place, it didn’t hurt as bad. “Want to go round up the cats?”

He took care of Balmera because Panther had always been more attached to Allura. Neither one of them particularly liked being put in carrier cages, nor being left in the car for a moment while Shiro and Allura said their final goodbyes to the house.

It was a nice, quiet moment.

And then they left.

 

The new house was bigger than the old ones. There were four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a decently sized kitchen. Most of the houses in the area were the same, perfect for a normal sized family. For the two of them it seemed a little big, but it was meant to last them a lifetime, so that didn’t matter.

They spent Sunday evening unpacking the essentials and wandering around in this awed daze that neither one of them could seem to shake away. The cats were left shut away in one of the bedrooms with all their towels, Balmera’s bed, and Panther’s towel. They meowed to get out for a little while, but seemed to get over it when left alone.

Shiro unpacked the bathroom and bedroom while Allur