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Just Breathe it in Now

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“Thought you were gonna go train with Keith?” Matt looks up from his data pad as Shiro slinks dejectedly back into the lounge.

“I was,” Shiro flops onto the couch, “But he’s in a call with Kolivan right now, so…” he shrugs, a bit dejectedly.

“I’m sorry, Kashi,” Matt reaches out to pat Shiro’s thigh, “Would you like me to come train with you instead?”

Shiro snorts, “I know you’re kidding. But that actually sounds kinda nice.”

“Really?” Matt cocks his head. He wasn’t prepared Shiro to agree to his tongue-in-cheek offer. But now that he has, Matt realizes how much he actually wants it.

“Yeah,” Shiro shrugs, “It’ll be a nice way to let off some steam. Or… release some endorphins. Whatever you science nerds are into.”

“Um, excuse me,” Matt puts on his best indignant look, “You are in no position to be making fun of science nerds, Mr. Space Guy.”

“Excuse you, I am a pilot,” Shiro corrects with laughter in his voice.

“Right,” Matt quirks an eyebrow, “A space pilot.”

“And you’re a space biologist slash engineer slash spy, so by that math you’re at least… four times as nerdy as I am,” Shiro says smugly.

Matt cringes, “That’s terrible math. I’m revoking your nerd card.”

Shiro huffs, “The nerd card I’m currently trying to disavow?”

“Yes, that one,” Matt nods.

Shiro rolls his eyes and cuffs Matt’s shoulder, “C’mon, doofus, let’s head to the training room.”

-------

“Okay, so… what do we do?” Matt looks around when they reach the training room.

“You look like you’ve never seen the place before,” Shiro chuckles, “Matt, you train with us all the time.”

“Yeah, but some people aren’t jocks like you,” Matt teases, “We don’t all come here and train off-hours for fun.”

“Thought I was a nerd?” Shiro smirks.

“Not anymore,” Matt retorts, “I revoked your nerd card for questionable math, remember?”

“You’re ridiculous,” Shiro laughs, “Anyways, I thought we’d just run through some forms with the training swords. That sounds good to you?”

“Yeah, sure,” Matt agrees. Really he’s just looking forward to seeing Shiro in his element when they’re not in immediate peril. Maybe get a little sweaty. Or a lot sweaty. The specifics don’t matter much.

Except apparently they do, because the second Shiro pulls a training sword from the equipment cabinet and points it at Matt, fireworks go off inside his head and he freezes.

It takes him a moment to realize Shiro is handing it to him.

(What did he think was gonna happen?)

Embarrassed, Matt dusts away his terror and takes the sword without a word. It feels strangely light in his hands. Is that normal for Altean swords?

Everything feels floaty, like he’s existing just a little to the left of his own body.

Yeah, that’s not normal.

Shit.

The sword. There’s a memory that goes with swords. Shiro and swords. Or at least… normally there is. Now it seems to be lost in the fog, but the vague outline of a memory still haunts the corners of his consciousness.

“Matt?” Shiro is saying. His voice sounds distant, like Matt’s careening through the atmosphere but his ears haven’t quite got around to popping yet. “Earth to Matthew Holt. Or… Castle to Matthew Holt, I suppose. You okay?”

“I’m fine,” Matt responds, his voice coming out flatter than he intended it too.

Shiro pouts slightly, knitting his eyebrows together in concern and confusion, “You don’t sound very fine.”

Great, now Shiro’s gonna act weird about it.

“Eh, just got startled a little,” Matt tries to smile, but it comes out forced and a little creepy because the rest of his face refuses to cooperate with his mouth, “I’ll be fine in a second.”

Realization dawns on Shiro’s face, “Wait. Fuck. I wasn’t thinking. I can’t believe—fuck, Matt, I’m so sorry. I never should’ve suggested—”

“You’re fine,” Matt tries to coax. But he can’t get rid of the damn flatness in his voice, so the comforting effect is kind of lost.

“I’m so sorry,” Shiro continues, “I’m sorry.”

Matt doesn’t quite feel present enough to explain why he doesn’t need to be sorry, so instead he just hazily repeats, “It’s fine. You’re fine.”

“I’m s—” Shiro reaches out towards Matt, then flinches back, “Fuck. I’m sorry.”

“Shiro, I’m not mad…”

“Fuck, I’m just making things worse,” Shiro presses his hands to his face. His breathing is visibly labored.

“Shiro, I’m not…”

“Sorry,” Shiro whispers one last time before turning tail and speedwalking out of the training room.

Welp, that went well.

Matt numbly returns his training sword to the equipment cabinet before walking out of the room. He makes a hazy beeline for his sister’s lab, because where else is he gonna go? Shiro’s room?

Pidge is alone, which is kind of a relief. Matt’s not sure he wants to make this Hunk’s problem. Hell, he’s not sure he wants to make it Pidge’s problem, either. But he’s also not sure he wants to be alone right now, so he does his best to look casual as he strolls in and greets his sister with a lopsided grin on his face.

“Hey Matt,” she looks up from her computer and cocks her head, “What’s wrong?”

His face falls slightly, but he does his best to shrug it off, “I was playing this fun new video game called Real Life and found a cool glitch! It allows you to exist in two levels at once. Kinda wild! Except then you get stuck and have to hit reset before you can keep playing, so make sure you save first.” Then without warning, he drops to the floor and bursts into tears.

“Aww, Matt,” Pidge gets up and makes her way over to sit beside her brother, rubbing his back as he blubbers into his knees. He leans into the touch and lets his sister hold him until he’s able to calm down.

-------

Once Matt feels like himself again, he excuses himself from Pidge’s lab and cautiously makes his way to Shiro’s room. Both of their room, really, since Matt has been sleeping there for months now. Usually he would waltz right in like he owns the place, but this time he knocks first because right now he feels more like a visitor than an inhabitant.

“Matt?” Shiro asks from beyond the door.

“Yeah,” Matt responds, “Can I come in, or d’you still need space?”

Footsteps approach. The door slides open. “Sorry,” Shiro mumbles, averting his eyes as he ushers Matt in.

“Would you cut that out?” Matt hisses as he steps inside, the vitriol in his voice surprising him as much as it surprises Shiro.

“I’m—” Shiro cuts himself off before he can finish the apology on the tip of his tongue.

“Sorry. Yeah, I know,” Matt grumbles. The door closes behind him, but he doesn’t sit down.

Shiro doesn’t sit down, either. He looks like he wants to apologize again, but he’s holding it back. Matt appreciates the effort. He knows the apologies are coming from a good place, but each one rips into him like a dull knife, leaving behind frayed nerves and raw emotions. He’s not sure how many more he can take tonight.

After a moment of heavy silence, Shiro speaks again in a watery voice, “If you wanna sleep in your room tonight, I understand. I’m not… I’m… I dunno.”

“Do you want me to sleep in my room tonight?” Matt asks. Because he will if Shiro wants him to, but he’d rather not. God, he doesn’t wanna sleep alone. Especially not tonight.

“No, I… Maybe. I dunno,” Shiro stares intently at a spot on the floor, far away from Matt.

“What do you want?” Matt repeats, trying hard to hide the frustration in his voice. He mostly succeeds, he thinks. He hopes.

“I dunno, I…” Shiro’s breath hitches, “I want you to feel safe. Maybe this isn’t… I dunno. I’m sorry.”

The frustration rushes back full force, because how dare he assume what Matt needs like that? Matt bites his tongue and forces himself to take a ragged breath, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Silence for a moment, and then, “I don’t know why you keep coming back.”

“Oh my god,” Matt theatrically flings his arms in the air in a desperate attempt to add some levity to the situation, but the crack in his voice betrays the depth of his dismay. He runs an agitated hand through his hair and begins pacing the length of the small bedroom, “Would you just—God. Can you just listen to me for once when I fucking… I’m not mad at you! And you’re not—you’re not bad for me, okay? I’m—I’m—you’re not. I’m mad, but I’m not mad at you I’m just… I’m mad at everything that happened, okay? I’m mad for you. I’m mad that you feel like you have to apologize for something that’s not your fault and I just fucking…” he comes to a stop and grabs fistfuls of his own hair in frustration, “Can you just be mad at them with me for once instead of acting like this is all your fault? Please?”

Silence.

“Are you even listening to me?” Matt looks up, his voice small and raw.

Shiro makes a choked sound and, in one fluid motion, ignites his hand and swivels to slice into the metal wall behind him.

Then he crumples to the floor with his head in his hands, his shoulders shaking with silent sobs.

“Hey…” Matt takes a cautious step forward, the last of his fury melting away.

“I’m so sorry, Matt,” Shiro sobs into his hands, his words only half-coherent, “God, I just… I am mad. I’m so fucking mad at them. But I’m mad at me, too. Fuck. I dunno. I don’t… I don’t deserve this. I don’t—I don’t—I’m not innocent. But I’m so fucking tired of dealing with this on my own.”

“Hey, it’s okay,” Matt coaxes, crouching by Shiro’s side, “I’m here. I’m here if you want me to be.”

“I—” Shiro snuffles his nose and sucks some spit back into his mouth, “Please.”

“Please stay or please go or please… something-else-entirely?” Matt checks.

“Stay,” Shiro hiccups, his face still firmly planted in his palms.

“Okay,” Matt agrees, “I can do that. Can I touch you?”

Shiro nods, so Matt plops down on the floor and gathers him up in his arms.

“I got you,” Matt says, smoothing a hand over Shiro’s hair, “I got you. It’s okay. I got you.”

Shiro lowers his hands, draping his arms sloppily around Matt’s torso and burying his dripping nose against his shoulder. Gross. But kind of endearing, so Matt just pulls him closer and kisses his temple.

“Breathe with me?” he whispers, because he knows that nonsense works for Shiro.

Shiro gives a small nod, so Matt does his best to steady his breathing so Shiro can follow along. It’s out-of-sync and messy at first. But slowly Matt’s breathing evens out, and Shiro’s follow suit, relaxing into a steady rumble not unlike a lawnmower.

“Are you snoring?” Matt teases.

“I’m awake,” Shiro retorts, the tiniest hint of a laugh crackling in his throat.

“Yeah, awake and snoring,” the corner of Matt’s mouth twitches up in a smile.

“Shush, you,” Shiro defends playfully.

Matt snorts, “Fine. Guess we still have a conversation to finish anyways. Or… something. I dunno. D’you wanna talk about the thing now, or should we, uh… later.”

Shiro thinks for a minute, then shrugs, “Kinda wanna… hm. I’m not ready to drop it, but maybe we could… just stay like this a little longer?”

“Yeah, course we can,” Matt nods, “Though… maybe let’s move to the bed? This floor’s trying to kill me.” He stretches to illustrate his point, causing his back to make a mildly alarming crunching noise.

Oof,” Shiro cringes on Matt’s behalf, “Yep, time to relocate.”

They reluctantly untangle themselves long enough to move to the bed, where they lay down facing each other.

“Thanks for staying with me,” Shiro murmurs once they’re situated. He doesn’t specify whether he means tonight or in general. Probably a little of both.

“Of course,” Matt leans forward and presses his lips to Shiro’s forehead.

“It’s just…” Shiro hums, “It’s hard doing this all alone, y’know?”

“Well then, good thing neither of us is alone, huh?” Matt says with a soft grin.

“Yep,” Shiro reaches up and brushes a thumb over Matt’s cheek, mirroring his smile, “Good thing.”