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Death And Ninja Mullet (A Story of Destiny Begins)

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“What’s your name, human?”

“Keith. Keith Kogane.”

“Keith… Are you sure about this?”

“Yes. I’m sure. Just do it, shinigami.”

“It’s not shinigami. It’s Takashi Shirogane. You can call me Shiro.”

“Alright then, Shiro. Let’s do this.”

.

.

.

Keith woke up to his alarm ringing loudly. With a groan, he poked his head out from under the covers and blindly reached out for the offending item in his bedside table. After a few clumsy pats, his hand landed on the noisy alarm clock. He tried to press on the button to stop the ringing, but the alarm clock then fell over, sliding out from his hands and toppling over the edge of the desk-

Keith cursed as he jerked awake. “Shit-”

There was no crash. Keith sighed in relief when he saw that a hand had caught the item. Said hand connected to a muscled arm belonging to someone who stood beside the bed and promptly silenced the alarm.

A shock of black hair, an undercut, gray eyes and a gentle smile, all punctuated with a pleasant greeting: “Good morning, Keith.”

“Shiro.” Keith let out another groan as he buried his face in his pillow. “Mornin’.”

“You should get up. Your uncle will call you for breakfast soon.”

“Five more minutes.”

“You’ll be late.” Shiro said, tone only reprimanding gently.

“Ugh. Fine.” Keith complained as he gave in and got up. He huffed when he saw that Shiro was already dressed in the uniform white shirt and gray trousers of their school, ready to go save for his still bare feet. “How are you functional this early?”

Shiro grinned, but didn’t say anything.

Keith only stretched and then trudged towards the bathroom to wash up and get ready for his day.

When he came back, he was wearing his uniform trousers and a red t-shirt. Shiro was standing by his desk, eyes glued to the flip phone in his hand.

“Anything today?” Keith asked absently, picking up his white uniform shirt and putting it on but not bothering to button it up.

Shiro looked up from his phone to answer shortly. “We’re clear so far.”

Before Keith could reply, a voice called out from downstairs: “Keith, breakfast is ready!”

“Yeah, I’m coming!” Keith called back, walking around his bedroom, picking things up and shoving them in his school bag - his phone, his pencil case, some notebooks, a couple of hand-outs, a lone textbook…

He looked back towards his companion when he heard the sound of his closet sliding open. Shiro reached inside and retrieved a pair of shoes and his own school bag.

After that, Shiro carefully stepped on top of the bed with his socked feet, slid the window open and carefully looked out into the streets. He turned to regard Keith. “I’ll see you outside?”

Keith only nodded. “Yeah.”

And then Shiro was bracing his feet on the windowsill, and he jumped off from Keith’s bedroom window. From the house’s second story.

The whole thing was ridiculous.

Keith shrugged it off.

He’s been living through ridiculous for a whole week now.

Nevertheless, Keith waited for the soft, tell-tale thud of a person landing with both feet on the house’s yard. When he heard it, he finally moved to put some socks on. He slid the window closed but didn’t lock the latch, then headed downstairs.

.

.

As Thace promised, breakfast was ready when Keith reached the dining table. Thace was still in the kitchen while Ulaz was in his usual seat in the table, reading the news while drinking his morning coffee.

“Good morning, Keith.” Thace greeted.

“Morning, Thace. Ulaz.” Keith greeted back, grabbing a piece of toast and taking a quick bite.

Ulaz nodded in acknowledgement. “Good morning, kid.”

Thace walked around the kitchen counter and laid a neatly wrapped bento on the table. “Here’s your lunch.”

“Thanks.” said Keith, still munching on his toast as he walked past his uncle to get a zip-lock bag from the kitchen shelf.

Thace sat down and watched as his nephew hastily started making a sandwich with the food on the table. “In a hurry?”

“I’m on cleaning duty.” Keith answered. He finished making one sandwich, then started another.

They were quiet as he finished that as well and got started on a third.

“Are you always this hungry?” Ulaz asked, exchanging a glance with Thace over his newspaper.

Keith just shrugged as he stuffed the three sandwiches in the ziplock. “Uh... Pidge. I’m giving one to Pidge, since we’re on cleaning duty together, and…  You know Pidge. She forgets to eat. And when she remembers, she eats like ten people.”

“Hm.” Thace nodded, absently picking up Ulaz’s coffee mug and taking a sip. He turned to look towards the wall, gazing on a portrait of a dark-haired woman.

Then the man let out a slow sigh.

It was starting. Keith headed towards the fridge, ignoring the prelude to his uncle’s usual-

“Sister, what am I going to do?”

There it is. Keith settled for rolling his eyes. “Oh my God. Thace.”

“Your son won’t even sit with me for breakfast anymore.” Thace shook his head, mourning. “Where did I go wrong?”

“Stop.” Keith warned as he took two juice boxes from the fridge. “You’re embarrassing.”

Ulaz moved to pat the other man’s shoulder comfortingly. Then he sniffled.

Great, Keith thought. Thace got his boyfriend on board today. “Both of you are embarrassing.”

“Keith, you break our hearts.” his uncle frowned.

“No. You’re a drama king. And you’re teasing me.” Keith deadpanned. “Stop it. I’m sure Mom thinks you’re ridiculous too.”

“How do you know what she thinks?”

“You always say I took after her.” he shrugged, stuffed his bento in his backpack and slung the bag over his shoulder. “I’m going.” He headed towards the door to put on his shoes.

“Sister, he won’t even kiss me goodbye anymore like he used to!”

“Bye, Thace!” Keith called out, exasperated.

“You take care, kitten!” - that one came from Ulaz. There was a sob so dramatic it had to be fake. “We love you!”

Keith gave the two men a half-hearted glare. “Save your sappy nicknames for each other!”

He got out of the house before they could dote on him further.

.

Three blocks down, Shiro fell into step beside him. “Your uncles are as lively as always.”

“Tell me about it.” Keith grumbled, taking out the zip-lock and retrieving one sandwich before handing the rest to his companion. “Two grown men being dramatic every single morning.”

Shiro thanked him for the food and they ate as they walked.

(He idly wondered how long Keith can keep providing him breakfast during mornings, or how long until his uncles notice. Shiro had never asked for it, Keith just did it after Shiro moved in to Keith’s closet.)

A few minutes later, they finished their sandwiches and Keith handed him a juice box. Shiro couldn’t help but smile when he saw that Keith had already punched the straw in for him.

(Keith had taught him, just a few days ago, how juice boxes work. Shiro was sure he can punch the straw in by himself now, but he didn’t mind Keith doing that for him.)

(It was kind of endearing.)

(He won’t say that out loud because Keith would surely scowl and then tell him to shut up. After all, Keith’s default mood is Grumpy, even while doing something nice and kind.)

He was cut off from his thoughts when Keith spoke up, “What?”

“Sorry?” Shiro asked.

Keith squinted at him suspiciously. “Why are you smiling like that?”

“N-Nothing?” the taller student tried. When Keith only narrowed his eyes, Shiro tried again. “I… like apple juice.”

“That much?”

A wary nod. “Yes. I like it very much, Keith.”

Keith just huffed, then let it pass.

Besides, it wasn’t even the weirdest thing Shiro had been up to this week.

(Between almost dying while saving Keith’s life, passing his powers to Keith so Keith could fight and live, moving into Keith’s bedroom closet and then masquerading as a third year transfer student in Keith’s high school… yeah, liking apple juice very much to the point of making googly eyes at the juice box was pretty normal by comparison.)

“Good job last night, by the way.” Shiro started, his tone casual. “I’m sorry you had to wake up in the middle of the night.”

Keith shrugged. “If you didn’t wake me up, a Hollow would’ve eaten some poor kid’s soul. I don’t mind.”

Shiro smiled softly. “I’m really… glad… that you’re taking this well. It’s my job, and you’re stuck doing it because I failed-”

“You didn’t fail. I’m still alive.” Keith cut him off, his tone very matter-of-fact. “Besides, it’s only until you recover your powers, right? You said it, I’m a substitute.”

“Yes, that’s correct. It shouldn’t take too long...”

“If you feel so bad about saddling me with your job, the best thing you can do for me is to focus on yourself so you can recover faster.”

Shiro nodded. The words sounded cold at first, but in the short time he had spent with Keith so far, the only thing Keith had ever done was care for other people. He might come off as brash and a bit aloof, but Keith never wished anyone harm. Except, of course, the Hollows they hunted together at night.

“Thanks, Keith.”

“Don’t thank me. I owe you.”

Before they knew it, they were almost there. Keith spotted a familiar head of unruly brown hair belonging to a student with a too-big backpack walking through the school gates. He leaned sideways a bit and spoke in a quiet voice, “Hey, I’ll see you later.”

“Okay.” Shiro answered, and watched as Keith jogged to catch up to his friend.

Pidge was in Keith’s class, although she looked a year or two younger than her classmates. Her brother Matt was in Shiro’s class. Matt had called her Katie. Maybe Shiro could ask Keith why he called her Pidge? Humans and their strange nicknames...

Shiro observed as Keith and Pidge exchanged backpacks like they always did when they met up every morning at the gates. Keith, as usual, complained about what the hell Pidge brought to school this time (because ‘this thing weighs like my whole house, Pidge’). Pidge promptly broke into a long explanation that Shiro simply did not try to follow (because what does she even mean by ‘I’m telling you Keith I am building the future, Rover 2.0 is the future!’)?

Despite the complaints, Keith did not make a move to return the backpack to his friend.

Human teenagers are very strange and interesting indeed, Shiro concluded.

He got distracted when some of his own classmates caught up to him. They exchanged the usual good morning greetings and Shiro let himself blend in their conversations. He didn’t understand everything they talked about, but he managed to smile and nod and hum in all the right moments.

He had lost sight of Keith and Pidge, but he didn’t mind so much. It was almost effortless to reach out towards Keith’s spiritual signature. He felt the presence at the back of his mind, a ribbon, red among hundreds of white ones, just a few meters away.

He heard his phone chime softly and flipped the gadget open to read the new message.

 

From: Keith Kogane

Message:

text if anything comes up

 

Of course. Keith was ready to go if any trouble pops up. Shiro smiled again as he typed in his simple reply: ‘I will.’

He was really glad this human who was his current substitute was a brave and responsible one.

.

.

.

To Keith’s relief, the morning passed by without incident.

No texts from Shiro, no weird shit going down…

It was peaceful, for once.

(Two days ago, he had to excuse himself from his classes because what the hell, that was a goddamn Hollow on the rooftop of the neighboring primary school! It was quickly taken care of.)

He was contentedly enjoying his packed lunch when one of his two companions spoke up.

“So, ummm… Keith? You know I’m not a gossip, right?”

Keith looked up from his lunch with an expression that clearly said he was Done™ even before whatever nonsense was about to start has properly started. “That’s what someone who gossips says to hide the fact that they gossiped, Hunk.”

Hunk looked guiltily down at his own lunchbox, which was twice - thrice, actually - the size of Keith’s own. “No no no. Dude. I just-... Someone asked me, okay?”

“Asked you what?”

“Is this about that third year transfer student?” Pidge interjected. She was busy tinkering on her new project, some kind of robot drone she proudly called Rover 2.0.

(The first model fell down a ditch and exploded. Keith helped Pidge build a memorial on the Holts’ backyard for poor Rover 1.0, and that’s when Pidge was struck with the genius idea to attach the second model to a flying drone to avoid it from toppling over a ditch again.)

Currently, because Pidge was busy with her work, Keith was taking it upon himself to pick food from Hunk’s lunchbox and then feed it to Pidge -- which was exactly what he did when she opened her mouth to continue.

“What are you two talking about?” he asked them, trying to sound as clueless as possible.

Shiro. They were probably talking about Shiro.

“Do you know him?” Hunk asked. “Shirogane?”

Ah. There you go.

“We’re… acquaintances.” Keith said, choosing his words carefully.

“Yeah, but how?” Hunk prodded, all curiosity. “It wasn’t like you hang out with third years. Except Matt. Sometimes. When you’re hanging out with Pidge hanging out with Matt, I guess.”

Suddenly Keith’s half-eaten lunch was very, very interesting. “He was at the clinic earlier this week, getting checked up for… something… I can’t tell, I don’t know, doctor-patient confidentiality. That’s why he knows me.”

Keith was a familiar face to a lot of people in town simply because their house doubled as a family clinic, and Keith helped around whenever they were short-handed. Most of the regular patients know him because of that.

(That, or he came home a couple of times with a black eye or a bleeding nose while Thace was attending to a patient. That was always memorable for the patients. Keith was never really a model child.)

Anyways, the clinic was always a good alibi.

But it wasn’t fool-proof. Specially against Pidge.

“Oh. A check-up, huh. Is that when he got your number too?” Pidge asked with a sly smile.

“W-What?”

“You text a lot these days, ninja mull- Mmff!”

Keith stopped her by stuffing her mouth with food from his own lunchbox before he turned to Hunk. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Whatever news reached your ears is bullshit. Who told you anyway?”

It wasn’t like Hunk to listen to campus gossip, except-

Oh.

“Wait.” Keith continued, even before Hunk could answer. “It’s Lance, isn’t it?”

Hunk shoved a ton of food into his mouth and began chewing very thoroughly.

“It’s Lance.” Keith rolled his eyes. “I know you’re best friends or bros or whatever... But don’t listen to him on this one.”

Lance and Hunk had been best friends since primary school but somehow since the first year of middle school, they have never been in the same class. Hunk had always ended up in Keith’s section. Maybe that’s why Lance always gave Keith the stink-eye? Keith refused to think too much about it, he never really cared much about Hunk’s loud and obnoxious other half.

(Keith could get with the knitting, though. Those handmade scarves, gloves and beanies that Hunk wore during winter always looked warm and comfy as hell.)

“It’s not like he started it!” Hunk said, quick to come to his best friend’s defense. “Lance just asked me if I know what’s the deal between you and Shirogane, because the guy’s like, popular right now? Apparently he’s really nice to everyone and super polite and good at everything except modern technology, and though he could be a bit awkward at times, he’s still really charming. That’s… what I’ve heard. From Lance. Who heard it from everyone else.”

Keith had to commend Hunk and subsequently Lance for the accurate info.

Because yeah, that sounded exactly like Shiro.

Those were the exact same reasons why Keith couldn’t bring himself to throw the guy out of his closet, after all.

No matter how weird it was having a schoolmate living in your closet.

They really have to do something about that.

“He uses a flip phone!” ...and Pidge was back. “And Matt said-” Keith stopped her with another mouthful of food before she could fully recover. Matt was in Shiro’s class. Keith didn’t want to know what sort of crazy shenanigans Shiro managed to unleash in his own class. Yet.

“What does Lance think Mr. Popular and Perfect have to do with me?” Keith asked Hunk.

Hunk hesitated for a bit before answering in a small voice. “I, uh- You see- It’s not me, I swear, it’s not Lance either, but Lance heard it from Rolo who heard it from Nyma who heard it from someone I forgot, a first-year, I think-”

“Hunk.” Seriously, he should just spit it out. It was probably something silly like they’re in a gang or doing drugs or fighting over some random girl which makes no sense but still sells like pancakes-

“-so yeah. Apparently you and Shirogane are dating or something?”

Keith stared.

Because he wasn’t moving, Pidge took his lunchbox and chopsticks from him and started eating the rest of his food.

Keith glared at her.

Pidge shrugged. “That’s what Matt said too.”

Keith choked. “What.”

It wasn’t even a question.

“How the hell did people come up with that?”

That one was.

“Um, Keith?” Hunk started, voice gentle, as if he was about to break a very harsh truth to an unsuspecting person. “You’ve been sneaking out of class and someone reported finding you two walking out of a broom closet, and apparently - while the credibility of this one is questionable and I swear I’ll believe you if you say it’s not true because I trust you - Shirogane was seen sneaking out from your bedroom window.”

Well, shit.

He’s gonna kill Shiro.

Wait. Keith is gonna take a sword to the gut for Shiro so they’ll finally be even… and then he’ll kill Shiro.

“Oh wow I didn’t know it went that far.” Pidge said.

Keith looked at her. “Why, what do you have?”

“Simple. You were totally texting him.” she shrugged, apparently bypassing manners as she talked with her mouth full. Of Keith’s lunch. “Mmhm, this is so good. Who made it? Uncle Wolverine or Uncle Mohawk?”

“Uncle Wolverine.” Keith looked at her, expression betrayed. For revenge, he grabbed the muffin she had set aside for later and began to eat it. “And how are you so sure that I was texting him?” he asked bitterly.

“Because he was totally texting you. Matt saw it in that ugly flip phone, seriously, please advice your boyfriend to upgrade.” Pidge was unfazed that he was eating the muffin. She only kept eating his lunch. “ Anyway, Matt saw it. There is only one Keith Kogane in this school, Keith Kogane. That’s you, Keith. Kogane. In case you forgot. Matt asked him too, just to be sure, if he was texting you, Keith Kogane, first year. And apparently Shirogane - they all call him Shiro, by the way - he said that yes, he was texting you, Keith Kogane. Are you still going to deny this, Keith Kogane?”

Keith cringed. There were fights you just couldn’t win.

“So, Matt asked-”

Keith is gonna kill Matt, too.

“-if you’re dating, and Shiro confirmed it. Waitletmefinish-” Pidge pointed the chopsticks at Keith’s face before he could cut her off. “-at that point I said, ‘You gotta be shitting me Matt, if Keith was dating Mr. Charming Transfer Student, I would know!’ because, y’know, as juicy as that scoop was, I don’t believe you could betray me, your best friend, that much. So Matt told me he really wasn’t lying. And then I said ‘Tell me. What yours and Shiro’s exact words were.’

Keith sighed, rubbing his temples. “And what did Matt say?”

“Matt said he asked Shiro ‘Are you in a relationship with Keith?’, and Shiro said ‘Yes, I think we could call it a relationship.’ So. There.”

At this point, both Hunk and Keith were just gaping at Pidge.

“So...” Hunk started, clearing his throat. “For now, I’ll tell Lance that I know nothing.”

Keith wanted to hug him.

But more importantly... Pidge.

Pidge was frowning deeply at him. “What the hell kind of answer was that, Keith?!”

Well, Keith supposed Shiro could have answered worse.

Shiro wasn’t exactly up to date with how things work in this day and age.

Apparently, Soul Society, where he came from, was super old-fashioned.

Very, very old-fashioned, from what Keith was able to gather so far.

Ancient. It was probably ancient.

(Just the other night, after a particularly stressful fight with a Hollow, Keith told Shiro to go to hell. Shiro only frowned and said ‘But the gates don’t just open for anyone, Keith.’ and Keith immediately regretted his words because Shiro then proceeded to go on a lengthy explanation of how much spiritual energy it would take to open up a gate to Hell and all the risks it entailed. When Keith said he didn’t understand all of it, Shiro volunteered to explain it through illustrations and that’s when Keith snapped and smiled the biggest fake smile he could muster and tell Shiro that no, the illustrations are not needed, he understood the basic concept and that was fine.)

(Keith doesn’t want another round of those crayon drawings that wouldn’t look out of place with the ones Thace had stuck on their fridge door when Keith was in preschool, thank you very much.)

(They were adorable. Really. But it takes immense strength of will to not admit that they were adorable - that Shiro was adorable for making adorable shit and-... Well, Keith has a Reputation™ to uphold.)

Keith breathed deeply. “Whatever relationship you think we have… it’s not that kind of relationship.”

Pidge took him by the shoulders and shook him back and forth. “THEN WHAT IS IT?!”

“Did he really sneak out of your bedroom window?” Hunk asked.

“No, I bet that was… an exaggeration… probably from when someone saw him leave the clinic after his check-up!” Keith said, hoping they’ll believe him. “C’mon, you know people would say anything to make a story more interesting that it actually is!”

It seemed to work, because Hunk nodded in consideration before asking again, “But you do text each other.”

As if on cue, his phone in his pocket vibrated and out of habit, Keith checked the message.

Both Pidge and Hunk leaned forward and he pressed the phone to his chest to hide it from view. “What?!” he snapped.

“Is it Shiro?” they both asked, eyes wide.

Of course it was Shiro.

At this point, Keith has resigned to his fate. “Yeah.”

An awkward silence fell upon their little group.

At the same time, Keith knew he had to get up and leave as soon as possible. There was a Hollow in town. Why it had to wander around and terrorize poor innocent souls in the middle of the day, Keith didn’t know, but he knew he was the one who has to get rid of it.

“I gotta go… somewhere.”

“I can’t believe this.” Pidge deadpanned. “My own best friend won’t tell me that he’s dating the newest school heartthrob when there are receipts. Right. There.”

“Stop.” Keith said. What is up with the people today, seriously? First, Thace and Ulaz, now Hunk and Pidge- “We’ll talk more later. I really gotta go right now-”

Pidge clutched her chest in fake pain. “He won’t even just tell it to my face that he’s running off to go make out with Shirogane Takashi in some… some-... where was it, Hunk?”

“Broom closet.” Hunk provided helpfully.

“-in some broom closet!”

Keith just shook his head and stood up. “Finish my lunch, I’m taking the muffin.”

“This conversation is not over, Kogane!” he heard her declare as he took his leave.

Keith didn’t bother facing her as he replied, “Whatever, Holt!”

.

.

“Shiro.” Keith started as he jumped from rooftop to rooftop with Shiro riding on piggyback (which was another completely ridiculous thing, but between the two of them, Keith was the one with the superhuman strength, speed and stamina so really it’s a no-brainer).

Shiro was navigating using that crappy Hollow GPS Tracker app in that flip phone of his. “Yes?” he asked, a little distracted. He was probably making sure they weren’t going around town for a false alarm again.

(That was on the second night. Apparently the flip phone was some kind of beta release that Shiro agreed to testing out. Keith didn’t ask how he got that deal, but Shiro mentioned something about some shinigami researcher-inventor-mechanic who gave him discounts on some stuff he could use to help with his job in the human world.)

(“Are you sure it wasn’t some sort of scam?”)

(“Scam?”)

(Shiro had never used a phone before. But he reassured Keith that he read the instruction manual.)

(Keith’s reaction was to try and be grumpy to hide the fact that he just decided he would protect this precious man with his life.)

Keith kept his eyes forward. “Remind me later that we have to talk.”

“Talk? About what?”

From a distance, they heard a Hollow’s cry.

“Later.” Keith said, speeding up.

“Alright.”

.

.

.

Keith made a good shinigami. It was apparent from that first night when they met and he gave Keith his powers, but Shiro chalked it up to a combination of Keith running on adrenaline and him being slightly delirious from blood loss.

Now, a few days later, Shiro was glad to know that his initial assessment was correct.

Keith knew how to fight. It was obvious that he was more used to punching and kicking - he probably got into fights with other kids his age - but he was agile and flexible and he lifted that giant sword like it weighed nothing. His movements were graceful, despite the struggle with how to really use a sword (specially one almost as tall as he was) and he slashed at Hollows as if he was born for it.

Shiro was taught to fight, his skills borne from training and hard work. Keith, however, while also trained, heeded Shiro’s combat advice only a quarter of the time and ran on instinct for the rest.

When Shiro asked about his fighting experience, the rundown was quick and simple. Keith took basic karate and kendo lessons when he was a child, but stopped when his mother died. A few years later, around middle school when he started getting into fights with other kids who bullied and teased him (for being scrawny, for having no mom, for hanging out with Pidge, for being the weird kid who stares at nothing and talks to air), his uncle taught him how to defend himself. Keith took the self-defense lessons well but Keith was also a kid with a short temper and good load of pent-up anger, and he figured he’d feel better if he could land a punch or two for good measure.

All this reflected in how he fought Hollows. Keith had a good stance from his foundations, always used his smaller size to his advantage, blocked attacks well, and then attacked with all he had. Keith also knew these weren’t mere bullies, but actual monsters to fight, that there were actual people - souls - to protect, so he never found reason to hesitate in cutting the enemy down.

Shiro watched patiently as Keith finished off the Hollow that had been chasing a ghost - a lost little girl - cornering her into an area full of abandoned warehouses. When Keith finally cut it down, the Hollow gave one last agonized cry before it disappeared into the daylight in a burst of shadows.

Keith really did make a good shinigami, Shiro thought. It helped that he also carried himself well in the standard black shihakusho all shinigami wore despite his initial complaints that it was ‘tacky’ and he wasn’t used to wearing traditional clothes anymore.

But most of all, Keith made a good shinigami because he cared about the people - both living and dead - who were affected by his work.

“Hey, it’s okay. You can come out.” Keith called out. Shiro knew it wasn’t directed at him, but towards the soul hiding behind the door of one of the warehouses.

“I’m not going to hurt you. I just came here to get rid of that monster. It’s gone now.” Keith continued. When the little girl peeked out from the door, Keith got down on one knee and let out a soft smile. “Come on. It’s me. Do you remember me?” The girl stepped forward now, her eyes squinting at Keith. “You used to hang out near the mochi shop in the market district. I didn’t stop to talk because there were a lot of people, but I know you were there. I left you some flowers and that small doll one time.”

Finally, recognition seemed to dawn on her face, and she ran hurriedly towards Keith.

“Your clothes are weird now.” she said. He let out a short laugh, then she asked, “Will the big monster come back?”

“No. You saw me kill it, right?” Keith said, holding out a hand. She nodded gingerly as she held on to it, and he squeezed it comfortingly. “How about I help you get out of here, then? I can help you go somewhere better.”

The girl nodded, and Keith gave her a short explanation of what was going to happen before he did the ritual blessing to help her pass on.

Fighting was easy, Shiro knew. There was a system to it, specially if it only involved stray lower-level Hollows in cities like this. It was dealing with souls that was the real tricky part of the job. For someone who had started barely a week ago, Keith was exceptional at it.

(Keith has been seeing ghosts and spirits for as long as he can remember. He talked to them sometimes, or left little tokens.)

(Today, he was gentle with the scared girl. Yesterday, he was in a shouting match with a grumpy old man, but in the end the spirit let him do the soul burial and actually thanked him. Before that, he had been totally patient with a crying woman. He even let her hug him for a while as she cried about leaving her teenage son behind.)

(Shiro’s memory of the first time he ever saw Keith was Keith getting into a fight because some high schoolers purposely knocked over the flowers he left for the ghost of an old lady under a streetlamp. Shiro had just sent that old lady on, and she had told him ‘if you see him, please give my thanks to the nice young lad who greets me on his way home every afternoon’. Shiro didn’t have to wait long to understand what she had talked about.)

So yes, perhaps Keith was good at this because he had more first-hand experience dealing with lost, wandering souls than even Shiro had.

“Are we done here?” Keith asked Shiro as he stood up, patting down his shinigami uniform.

Shiro checked his phone again before nodding. “Yes. I think we can go back now.”

He quelled the little voice at the back of his head that felt disappointment because Keith’s soft smile has left his face. It looked like he only reserved those for scared ghosts, after all.

As Keith walked towards him, Shiro noticed something that made him frown in worry. “I didn’t notice that you got hit.”

Keith looked down at his arm, where the sleeve was torn and he received a shallow gash. “It’s nothing. I can just wrap it up.”

“Here, let me.” Shiro stepped forward to meet him. Keith just shrugged and let Shiro gently lift his arm. Shiro then raised a hand and breathed deeply. The hand glowed with the standard healing spell regular shinigami used for their wounds and Keith immediately sighed as the sting of the wound began to fade.

As he did this, Keith looked at him as if to study his face. “You do this everytime I fight.”

Shiro nodded, not meeting his eyes. “It’s the least I can do while you fight monsters on my behalf.”

“You’re using spiritual energy for this, right?”

“Yes, that’s correct. It’s a form of kidou, like the binding and attacking spells I used-”

Keith cut him off. “Then stop. You’re supposed to be recovering your spiritual energy, not wasting it on me.” He moved to take his arm back but Shiro’s hand on his elbow tightened. “Let go.”

“At least let me stop the bleeding?” he asked, his gaze finally lifting to meeting Keith’s. “I just-... I hate that you get hurt for this.”

“I can handle it.” Keith said. “I get beat up on the regular for talking to ghosts, thank you very much. This is nothing.”

Shiro finally relented and let go of his arm. “I’m sorry. I just thought-”

Keith looked at the injury, nodding when he saw that Shiro’s spell did indeed stop the bleeding. “I appreciate it, but don’t waste it on trivial stuff.”

“Your well-being is not trivial.”

“Yours isn’t, either. And I’m doing fine right now. I just mean… maybe reserve those healing spells for when we really need them.”

Shiro couldn’t argue with that. “Alright. But we should have that wrapped up soon.”

“I know.”

“You also said we should talk?”

Keith looked confused for a second before he remembered. “Ah. Yeah. About that- Wait, what time is it?”

Shiro checked the time on his phone. “One-thirty. The first afternoon class would be halfway done by now-”

Keith cursed. “Shit, I have a test at two! Come on, we’ll talk later at home, I have to get back to school!”

.

.

Keith barely made it to his next class. He narrowly avoided Hunk’s and Pidge’s questions using the test as his excuse. All three of them prioritized their academics very much, after all.

After that, however, was one of the more boring classes, and also one that doesn’t require their full attention to really understand.

So of course Keith’s phone vibrated and he had to check it under the useful cover of his textbook standing upright in his desk.

It wasn’t a text, but a group chat.

 

KatiePidge: ‘NINJA!!! MULLET!!!’

 

pidge. we’re in class

 

KatiePidge: whatever we can all 3 of us pass this class in our sleep dont argue

Hunk G: Umm.

KatiePidge: keith is that a hickey

 

WHAT?????

 

KatiePidge: on your neck keith

Hunk G: OMG KEITH

KatiePidge: JUST TELL ME I WON’T BE ANGRY U KNOW I APPRECIATE HONESTY

 

Keith absently touched his neck and winced slightly when he pressed too hard on a certain spot. Damn. Must be in his and Shiro’s rush to literally tear his soul out from his physical body so they can go take care of the Hollow from earlier…

 

it’s just a bruise

 

KatiePidge: a hickey is a bruise

 

but this bruise is not a hickey! it’s a normal bruise!

have you ever even seen a hickey before???

 

KatiePidge: but how do u even get a bruise on your neck???

Hunk G: Dude did you get into a fight again?

 

no

i mean yeah just after i left you guys.

they started it.

i ended it quickly. it’s fine and the bruise is the only damage

so don’t worry about it anymore.

thanks for the concern hunk.

 

Hunk G: Aww no problem bro.

 

Keith getting into fights wasn’t new. He hoped they accept that white lie for now.

 

KatiePidge: ok we’re glad ur fine

KatiePidge: so??? are you ready to tell us about your boyfriend now???

KatiePidge: your bf who did not give u a hickey but made u miss a class???

 

ok

look

 

KatiePidge: we’re looking pls explain

 

Keith stopped there. What did they want him to say? What explanation can he give? Keith sucked at making stories up. White lies now and then, yes - but just to cover up minor stuff. Besides, it was useless to lie to these two - Hunk, maybe, he could get away with something credible enough, but Pidge-... Pidge knew him too well.

In frustration, he began composing:

so last week i was walking home and there was this big monster lurking in front of the house right? not a symbolic monster but a LITERAL monster, big guy with creepy limbs and claws and a nightmare mask and it was right there. about to attack the clinic. THATS MY HOUSE YOU GUYS. MY HOUSE I GREW UP IN. THE HOUSE MY MOM LIVED AND DIED IN. THE HOUSE WHERE MY UNCLE WORKED HARD TO BUILD A DECENT BUSINESS SO HE COULD RAISE ME. thace was out of town so like. i attacked the monster? because he was about to attack my house? i was in a bad mood and I LOVE MY FUCKING HOUSE.

Keith has really strong feelings for his house, dammit.

buuuut turns out it’s some corrupt twisted bad spirit creature so i got my ass handed to me. i mean i landed a mean flying kick but after that it threw me away like a ragdoll and then maybe wanted to eat me. but this guy came in and. it was shiro. yeah shiro came and saved me but like i know it was stupid but the monster was still trying to attack my house so i still went at it like FUCKING FIGHT ME FUCKER and i guess shiro got impaled for that?

He cringed, recalling all the blood, and Shiro’s pale face politely telling him it was a brave but very stupid thing to do, so would he please just really be sensible and run away now? Shiro looked different in his shinigami form then - there was a shock of white hair in his fringe and a scar across the bridge of his nose. For some reason, none of those were present in his current form.

shiro is actually a shinigami btw. met him earlier that day he was so weird but i just figured i’ve seen weirder ghosts so i left him alone? turns out he actually is a gream reaper and he has powers? but since he got impaled by that monster he had to pass his powers to me so now i’m the one fighting monsters around town while he’s recovering. also he lives in my closet. so that’s how we know each other haha crazy right?

 

He looked at the message. It was… very long. Also, he could feel Hunk’s and Pidge’s eyes on him, suspiciously intent. The ‘Keith is typing…’ text on the bottom of their chat’s display must be driving them insane.

When another five minutes passed with Keith just contemplating whether or not it was worth it to send that long-ass message containing The Truth And Nothing But The Truth to both of them, Pidge lost patience and gave up.

 

KatiePidge: keith we asked for a synopsis not the whole novel

Hunk G: Yeah man you don’t have to force yourself to tell us anything that makes you uncomfortable.

 

Keith closed his eyes as he deleted the entirety of ‘the novel’ and instead said:

 

it’s complicated

 

KatiePidge: again

KatiePidge: synopsis NOT novel but also NOT ur current relationship status

 

Okay, that was pretty fair. Keith tried again.

 

we’re friends

 

Yes. It would be weird if you weren’t at the very least friends with the person who saved your life (and house) and currently lived with you (in your closet).

 

ok here

we hung out for a bit while he was in the waiting room during his check-up

he’s a really nice person

 

KatiePidge: i sense a BUT here

 

but

shiro is ummm

going through something personal

 

Almost dying, temporarily losing your death god powers and being homeless were kinda personal, right?

 

and its not my place to tell people what its about

all i can say is i’m kinda helping him deal with some of it

 

That should work. Only the clinic alibi was a straight-up lie. The rest was just… ommission. Right?

 

oh and the relationship thing

he had a very different upbringing so he might say some weird shit sometimes

he honestly gets very confused with some stuff

so i bet when he was talking to matt he meant relationship as in friendship

that’s it

please leave me alone now this is very awkward

 

Keith stared down at those last few messages to see if they made sense. They did. It was also kind of the truth. Vague, but true.

 

KatiePidge: ok that sounds fishy but

KatiePidge: i’ve heard crazier stuff from you

KatiePidge: like that time u begged me not to sit on some bench because it was occupied by the ghost of some war veteran

 

he was very upset pidge

 

KatiePidge: oh my god i didnt sit on it let me live

KatiePidge: anyway why didnt u just tell us earlier?

 

errr i just

you sounded so

confrontational?

you know i dont deal well with that?

thats why i get into fights remember

and you were freaking out

so i kinda freaked out too?

 

KatiePidge: yikes sorry yeah maybe i went a bit overboard

KatiePidge: u know i love u ninja mullet

 

ew

ily2

 

Hunk G: Aw bro I’m sorry if I freaked out.

Hunk G: Also I told Lance you and Shiro are just friends.

 

thanks

and what did he say

 

Hunk G: Idk why but

Hunk G: He said he thought you couldn’t possibly be weirder but he was wrong and you’re even weirder now.

 

wtf

 

Hunk G: I don’t understand much either but you know Lance.

 

hunk

open your eyes

you’re too good for him

 

Hunk G:

Hunk G: ???

KatiePidge: lmao omg he doesnt get it

Hunk G: Who’s he?

Hunk G: Get what?

Hunk G: Is it me are we talking about me???

 

lol

 

Hunk G: Keith???

Hunk G: Pidge???

Hunk G: ????????????

Hunk G: GUYS COME ON

 

.

.

While this shinigami business was practically just straight up dropped on Keith’s lap with no warning whatsoever and was maybe starting to disrupt his carefully established routines, Keith kept his resolve to deal with it appropriately.

Shiro saved his life. He was returning the favor. That was it.

So Shiro camped out on his closet? Fine. It was temporary, and it wasn’t like Shiro was an annoying roommate. Shiro was actually a nice roommate - one with like a thousand questions about everything because apparently Soul Society was way way different from the human world, but he always asked politely.

(Also Keith had already sat Shiro down in front of his laptop and taught the guy how to use Google.)

(With the look on Shiro’s face, Keith was tempted to sing “A Whole New World” but he was not a singing person and Why Would Keith Kogane Know The Lyrics Of That Disney Song In The First Place?)

So Keith had to fight Hollows? Well, Keith’s motto for bullies who get in his way was ‘Fight them’ anyway, so not much difference there. So they’re big and scary? Keith actually had the means now. It was doable, he rolled with it.

Keith may be stubborn - but he knew how to adapt.

He wouldn’t be friends with Pidge if he was incapable of being flexible with his life choices.

(“Pidge, why does Rover 2.0 have flippers now? When did we decide to give it flippers?”)

(“Five seconds ago, Ninja Mullet, get with the program.”)

So far the shinigami business was just a couple of minor inconveniences to Keith, and while he had some complaints, he figured it’s all fine.

There were some perks to it, though. Besides the superhuman strength, the monster-killing hero gig and the cool sword.

What Keith liked the most about this new (albeit secret) part of his life were the night patrols.

Keith liked how quiet the night could get. He liked the feel of the wind against his hair and his face as he jumped from roof to roof, keeping an eye out for stray spirits that may need a soul burial, or any smaller Hollows to purify.

And yes, it can be quite weird to do it while carrying a guy bigger than you on your back, but it was a minor hassle and, like with all things, Shiro somehow managed to be polite about it.

(Sometimes Keith wished Shiro was more annoying, just so Keith could stop feeling so damn… nice... around him all the time.)

So that night, Keith told his uncle that he was going to bed early, and after making sure there was nothing suspicious about Keith’s physical body tucked peacefully in his bed, he and Shiro took off for the scheduled patrol.

They encountered one spirit and no Hollows, and decided to take a break when they landed on top of a building still under construction. Keith sat perched on the edge of the roof while Shiro stood beside him and they looked out at the view of the town at night in silence.

That silence broke when Shiro spoke up. “About that child from earlier...”

Keith glanced at him for a moment before looking away again. “Yeah, what about her?”

“I just noticed that you know a lot of spirits around here. Do you befriend all of them?”

“I try to leave them alone most of the time.” Keith answered. “But some of them just look so alone and lost so sometimes I talk to them or leave something. Until eventually they’re just not there anymore. Probably got bored and moved. Or your folks found them and sent them ahead.”

Shiro nodded.

“It’s weird, huh? I get along better with dead people.”

Now that Keith thought about it, maybe that was the best part of the whole shinigami gig.

Back then he can only do so much for the ghosts he came across with - leave a flower, some tokens, greet them in passing, lend an ear for a few minutes - but now he can actually help send them on.

It topped the very short list of Things Keith Liked About His Temporary Job, for sure. The night patrol duties come pretty close after, though.

“It’s not... weird.” Shiro said. “Well… maybe your peers might think it is, but I think it’s admirable.”

“Uh-huh. In speaking of peers.” Keith sighed. “You get along well with Matt Holt, right?”

Shiro blinked, perhaps wondering why Keith suddenly asked. “Yes, I find his company quite good.”

“So apparently you told him that you and I have a relationship, and I’ll have you know, you made the whole school think that we’re together.”

“W-What…?”

“That’s how they took it.” Keith informed him with a straight face.

Shiro looked confused and perhaps slightly mortified. “Together, like… a couple?”

“Like a couple.” Keith nodded. “That’s what Matt meant when he asked about a ‘relationship’.”

“Keith.” Shiro said helplessly. “I’m very sorry. I must have been out of it, it was very hard following their conversations and they ask questions all of a sudden, sometimes I say the wrong things-”

“I figured.” Keith waved him off calmly. “Just take note of it for next time. You don’t want people spreading tasteless gossip. I told Pidge and Hunk we’re just friends and I’m helping you with some personal stuff, that’s why we’re always talking. They’re cool with it. Pidge probably told Matt, too.”

“Personal stuff?”

“They probably think it’s some kind of family or health issue since I told them we met at my uncle’s clinic. Anyways, she won’t pry if it’s a private thing.”

Shiro considered this and nodded. “So we have a cover story, then.”

“Yeah. ‘Bout time we thought of that. It’s better than announcing that you live in my closet because I’m fighting monsters for you.” Keith snorted.

Shiro laughed lightly. “That’s more exciting, though.”

A huff. “I don’t like exciting. I want to be left in peace.”

“So says the high school student who wields a giant sword, hunts corrupted spirits every night and saves innocent souls.”

Keith gave his shoulder a light punch. Then he paused and asked, “Did you start reading my manga?”

“Yes.” Shiro confessed sheepishly. “They’re very interesting, and there are so many. Are those really all yours?”

“Some of them are Pidge’s. I agreed to keep them in my room when her room started getting too cluttered with all the stuff she makes.”

“I especially like the Sailor Moon one.”

“Of course you do.” Keith rolled his eyes. “I should make you watch the anime.”

Shiro’s face practically glowed in wonder. “It has an anime? I could watch?”

Keith paused for a bit before shrugging. “Yeah, I’m sure there are episodes online. We’ll look it up.”

“That sounds nice.” Shiro began to smile, looking down and fiddling with his hands. “Do you mean it, Keith?”

“What, that we can watch Sailor Moon? Yeah, sure-”

“No, that we’re friends?”

Keith looked up at him and raised an eyebrow. Was it that big of a deal? “...I guess?” he shrugged. “But if you think it’s too much, then-”

“No, no, I like it. I’m glad.” he said, grinning even wider.

Keith wanted to punch him.

If only to wipe that smile off his face.

Because it made Keith want to smile back. And Keith Kogane Does Not Smile Back.

“You don’t have… friends? Where you come from?”

“I do, just-... not a whole lot of them. Not as many as you have, anyway.” Shiro mumbled, rubbing the back on his neck.

“What? I have, like, two.” Keith snorted. “Wait, are you counting dead people too? What the hell, Shiro.”

“There’s just not much time to befriend others, at least for me.” Shiro said, visibly sorting through information, probably which facts to share. “My, uh… duties. They’re pretty isolated compared to other shinigami’s. This is actually only my second mission to the human world- not that I’m not experienced! I am, but… to other places. I’ve only ever been sent to other places.”

“Okay, I won’t ask, because it takes you forever to explain shit and I’m getting sleepy.” Keith yawned. “But yeah, we’re friends if that makes you happy.”

“It does.” Shiro assured him.

“You’re so sappy.” Keith shook his head. “Everyone is so sappy. C’mon, let’s go home.”

.

.

.

If Keith had known that he was about to unleash a monster, he wouldn’t have suggested it.

Two nights later, he found himself giving up on a boring take-home essay that wasn’t due until the following week. It was Friday night anyway, so he decided to take it easy. He looked at where Shiro was sitting on the floor, legs crossed, back against the side of the bed, attention solely dedicated to the laptop screen.

“What episode are you in?” he asked.

“Eighteen.” Shiro answered absently.

“Holy shit.” Keith mumbled before setting aside his papers and scrambling to get a better view and confirm that Shiro wasn’t just misreading the episode number.

He was indeed on episode eighteen.

Keith let out an impressed huff as he laid down on his stomach, propped up on his elbows and resting his chin on his hands. Shiro didn’t seem to mind him moving too close. In fact, he was too busy watching that he didn’t notice that Keith wasn’t looking at the screen, but was instead observing him.

Keith had to fight hard not to laugh out loud at the dozen or so different expressions that Shiro’s face made in the course of one episode.

It was only when the ending credits started that Shiro turned towards him and finally found out that he was staring. “...W-What is it? Is something wrong?”

Keith refused to feel embarrassed and looked straight back at his companion with a smug grin. “Your face.”

“My face?” Shiro blinked. “What about it? Is there something on my face?”

Keith simply chuckled and shrugged before crossing his arms in front of him to rest his head in them. “Nothing. You’re funny.”

“I am? You don’t look like you think I’m funny, though.”

And as if to try to better read Keith’s current expression, Shiro leaned closer towards him-

Keith was quick to raise a hand and gingerly push him away by his forehead. “Whoa there. Personal space, big guy.” Shiro chuckled upon seeing Keith’s amused pout. Keith then moved his hand on Shiro’s shoulder, steadying himself as he reached over towards the laptop. He clicked the ‘watch next episode’ button. “Let’s just. Keep watching.”

As the familiar opening theme played, Shiro snuck a glance at his companion. “Keith?”

“Mm?” Keith hummed, voice already muffled from where he had tucked his head in his crossed arms again.

“It feels good to relax like this after a long day.” Shiro told him earnestly. “Thanks.”

Keith said nothing, but after a while of contemplation, he nodded slightly. “Yeah. I could get used to this.”

“Me too.” Shiro agreed, almost too softly. Keith wondered if that was just him falling asleep or if Shiro really was just whispering.

Then the episode had started for real and the screen had Shiro’s full attention again. Pretty soon Keith found himself fighting to stay awake, but eventually succumbing, shifting to lie on his side and grabbing a pillow to snuggle into. Idly, he realized the top of his head was touching the back of Shiro’s shoulder, but he couldn’t for the life of him find it in himself to care. If anything, Shiro seemed to have leaned back as well, and they ended up sharing the pillow in comfortable silence as the show went on.

Then, of course, there soon came the familiar chime they both recognized as the Hollow alert.

Keith groaned against his pillow.

“Could you get used to that, too?” Shiro asked, tilting his head slightly to look at Keith.

Keith only opened one eye but managed to look unimpressed. “Honestly, already used to it.”

They paused the Sailor Moon episode and as if they hadn’t been relaxing just earlier, both quickly sprung into action.

As Keith jumped from roof to roof in ease with Shiro on his back as usual, Shiro said, “Hey, Keith?”

“Yeah?”

“I guess we could say you’re… fighting evil by moonlight?”

If Keith didn’t worry too much about missing a landing, he would have turned his head to glare. “Don’t.”

“You’re a soldier of love and justice-”

“Shiro.”

“In the name of the Moon-”

“-I’ll drop you.”

“Wrong. It's 'I'll punish you', Keith. That's why you shouldn't sleep during Sailor Moon.”

“You’re a little shit, Shirogane Takashi.”

.

.

.

On the following week, Shiro finally joined them for lunch.

It got unusually quiet during the first five minutes. Hunk looked a bit starstruck. Pidge observed their ‘guest’ as if she was required to write a whole dissertation about him even while she was working on Rover 2.0. Keith acted as if there was nothing out of the ordinary – he was usually quiet anyway. Shiro tried his best to act as pleasant as he could under the scrutiny, contentedly munching on his own lunch (cafeteria food, because Keith couldn’t very well provide him with his own bento too).

Then, perhaps because the silence was getting too awkward, Shiro smiled at Pidge and asked, “Matt told me you're an inventor. What are you working on?”

One had to commend Shiro’s miraculous people skills – because then Pidge perked up and immediately started her usual long-winded explanations. Even Hunk was encouraged to join in now and then to translate some of the really technical terms. Keith didn’t bother telling them that Shiro probably understood much less than he let on despite his perfectly-timed questions, hums and nods. Instead, Keith decided to give his own form of support by occasionally interrupting Pidge by stuffing food into her mouth. She needed to eat too, after all. And give Shiro a few merciful seconds to process all the information he just received.

When Pidge finally decided to stop explaining the new technological frontier that Rover 2.0 would pioneer, Keith finally said, “Shiro’s been reading your manga.”

Pidge blinked. “Huh, which ones?”

“Sailor Moon.” Shiro said. “I really like it.”

She raised an eyebrow as if to gauge if Shiro was kidding or not, but when Keith only looked expectantly at her, she nodded and said, “Good. Didn’t expect that, though. Knowing Ninja Mullet here, I woulda thought he’d make you read Fullmetal Alchemist first or something.”

“We’ll get to that.” Keith shrugged. ‘When he finishes all 100 seasons of the anime.’

“I have a question.” Shiro started. “Why do you call Keith… what was it? ‘Ninja Mullet’?”

“Hah! I like you! You ask good questions, buddy.” Pidge said, grinning evilly.

“No, he doesn’t.” Keith grumbled, side-eyeing Shiro. “How dare you.”

“Oooohhh, Keith will hate you forever now, Shiro. You messed up.” Hunk teased, trying to hold back his laughter.

Shiro’s expression turned to that of a puppy – a small helpless puppy that got lost, stuck in the rain, kicked and then rejected. “Keith, I-I’m sorrmmff-“

“You really should stop shutting people up by feeding them, Ninja Mullet.” Pidge commented, looking amused as she looked between Shiro chewing confusedly and Keith now glaring at his lunchbox as if it was the item's fault Keith was ending up with less food for himself.

“It’s a kindness. I know worst ways to shut people up. Don’t make me demonstrate.” Keith deadpanned. “And no thank you, I will answer the question. Before you embellish it with stupid details.”

Pidge snorted. Hunk laughed. “You do you, Keith.”

Keith just rolled his eyes, turning towards Shiro, exasperated. “Middle school. I lost a bet to Pidge. Loser does whatever winner wants. She made me do the Naruto run.”

Shiro’s brows furrowed. “What’s a-“

“When you run real fast with your arms extended behind you and leaning forward like you’re going to headbutt whoever gets in your way.” Keith answered promptly.

“What’s so bad-“

“Everyone saw. It was fucking ridiculous.” Keith finished.

Shiro still seemed confused.

Pidge decided to enlighten him further. “So Ninja because Naruto is a ninja and Mullet because-“

“You’ve worn your hair like that since you were a kid?” Shiro asked, tilting his head in what Keith didn’t dare call ‘awe’ because that was just crazy.

Keith raised an eyebrow. “Yeah-“

“Fluffier!” Pidge interjected. “It was fluffy. And we could tie his hair up in little pigtails! And that one time we put them in buns?”

Shiro nodded, thinking about it for a couple of seconds before saying, “You must have been an adorable kid.”

Keith huffed and then shrugged. “Yes- Wait, what?”

Pidge cackled. Hunk guffawed.

And Shiro actually said it again- “You must have been an adorable- Mmff-!!!”

“Look at you, Keith-” Pidge managed between her laughter. “-feeding your boyfriend!”

Keith glared at them. “I hate you all.”

“Naww, you don’t. Not really.” Hunk cooed. “What do you think, Shiro?”

“Keith’s uncle’s cooking is delicious.” Shiro said after he finally swallowed the last mouthful of food.

Keith just shook his head and resumed his lunch. “Weirdo.”

They were almost finished when the Hollow alert was heard. Shiro checked his phone and let out a split-second frown before glancing at Keith. Keith gave him a barely noticeable nod before sealing his lunchbox quickly.

“Uh, we gotta be somewhere.” Keith told his friends, who both looked up at him and Shiro curiously when both of them suddenly stood up.

“What-… Now? Where?” Pidge asked, forgetting herself only for a moment before her expression turned to that of apology as she turned to Shiro. “Oh- I mean. You don’t have to answer if it’s personal-“

“No, it’s fine.” Shiro said, smiling softly. “The truth is-“

Keith furrowed his brows. “Shiro?"

“It’s okay, Keith. They deserve to know.” Shiro assured him before he continued. “I’m a shinigami and certain circumstances happened that forced me to pass my powers to Keith. Now we’ve been informed that there’s a monster in town and we have to fight it before it can harm innocent people, both living and dead.”

Pidge and Hunk blinked. Looked at each other. Looked at Shiro. Blinked again.

Keith gaped, and then quickly snapped out of it, recovering and quickly trying to rectify the situation. “Guys-“

“Okay.” came from Pidge. “Go.”

“We understand.” Hunk followed. “You two should hurry, the people are counting on you.”

“W-What…?” Keith blinked.

Shiro nodded at them both. “Thanks, guys. Let’s go, Keith.”

Keith’s brain had probably short-circuited so Shiro had to take his hand and pull him away.

“Fight the monster and come back to tell us how it went down, eh?” Pidge called after them, and grinned when Shiro stopped momentarily to give her a thumbs-up.

As soon as their two companions were out of sight, Pidge and Hunk stared at each other before dissolving into giggles.

“Holy shit. I can’t believe!” Pidge marveled. “They’re both big weird nerds.”

“They’re dating.” Hunk said after a while.

“They’re totally dating.” she agreed, holding back from more giggles. “They don’t know it yet but they are.”

“Totally made for each other, man.”

“No, shit.”

“When do you think they’ll realize, though?”

“Ah. You ask the real questions, bud.”

.

.

“What the fresh hell just happened in there?” Keith asked as he and Shiro ran to find someplace suitable for Keith to leave his physical body in. “Did you know it would work?”

“No. I took a leap of faith.” Shiro only smiled at him. “You have great friends, Keith.”

“Correct assessment. Questionable method of analysis.” Keith accused. “I can’t believe you just straight up told them the truth and they just thought you were kidding and actually played along.”

Shiro chuckled. “Is that good or bad?”

“Neither. Both. Whatever.”

Despite that, Keith found himself grinning back.

“Let’s just… go and kick some Hollow butt.”

.