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The words on the page have been swimming for at least five minutes, and the images have lost their clarity long before that. When Shiro blinks, it burns. He plants his cheek on the open textbook, and decides he should probably take a break.

 

He’s halfway to a nap when a whine by his feet wakes him up, and big black eyes meet his gray ones. Ah, how long have his dogs been laying here, dutifully, while Shiro’s brain melts in preparation for his exam tomorrow? Probably too long, so he owes them. Shiro gets up from his desk and stretches with a groan as the huge black german shepard and teeny shih tzu all but leap up, nails clicking and scratching at the floor in excitement.

 

“You kids wanna go for a walk? That sound good?” Shiro asks them, kneeling down to bat playfully at Sirius’ shoulders. His bark and wagging tail are more than enough confirmation.

 

Shiro heads to his room to change into clothes that don’t say “I haven’t slept or eaten anything but Lucky Charms in 30 hours” with the clinking of dog tags following close behind.

 


 

His perception of time must be super off, because it’s like 3pm with the sun fully out and shining over all, instead of late in the evening like he thought. It’s all in his favor though, because that means he’ll have time to follow through with that nap once Sirius and Ursa tire out enough to go home.

 

They reach a nice empty spot in the park, so Shiro unclips Sirius’ leash and tosses a grimy tennis ball for him to run after. Ursa, being much smaller and calmer, is content to roll around in the leaves nearby. She yips and wiggles cutely as Shiro rubs his hands over her fuzzy belly.

 

“Who’s my baby girl? Who’s the cutest girl in the world?” Ursa rolls over and starts licking affectionately at Shiro’s prosthetic hand. He coos, “Smart girl.”

 

Sirius starts barking somewhere in the distance, and in between barks Shiro hears what sounds like a screaming child. What the heck? He’s well-behaved, so something like this strikes Shiro uneasily. He immediately grabs both dogs’ leashes and all but runs to the sound.

 

“Hey!” Shiro lets out a sharp whistle when he sees the black dog, crouched low with a wagging tail as he continues barking. He whistles again.

 

Sirius turns around this time, running back to Shiro with a big pink tongue lolling out of his mouth. The tennis ball is nowhere in sight.

 

“What’s going on with you, bud? Are you being a nuisance?” Shiro can’t help but scold as he smooshes the dog’s cheeks. Sirius pants in response. 

 

“Aw, he’s not bothering anyone, man,” someone from above Shiro says. He looks up and is met with an angel, holding a child and a grimy tennis ball.

 

Ah, okay, maybe not an angel, but definitely close. The first thing he notices is the bright clear blue of his eyes, framed by long, dark curly lashes. They’re glimmering—who knew eyes could actually glimmer? Those eyes release their hold on Shiro, allowing him to take in the surrounding features: the arched brows, freckled cheekbones, full lips. The sun is shining right above him, shards of gold in his brown hair. Yeah, never mind, this is definitely an angel.

 

“Uh—” Shiro is trying so hard to think of something coherent to say, but he’s saved by the cooing of the toddler in this angel’s arms. She’s adorable, with the same dark hair but deeper-skinned, and tiny gold hoops in her ears. Is she… his daughter? The prospect makes Shiro’s stomach swoop, because there’s no way this beautiful man wouldn’t have a child and probably a loving husband or wife. Fate is kind to people with good looks.

 

“Tío Lance! Play more!” cries the little girl, twisting to pat her small hands on Lance’s face. Uncle? So, niece. She’s his niece. That’s good news. There’s hope, if he plays his cards right.

 

“Alondra, the dog has to go home now. They came to pick him up, see?” The smile he gives her is nothing but warm and sweet. Can hearts sweat? Shiro’s heart might be sweating. “Sorry,” he adds with a laugh, “My niece really likes dogs.”

 

Shiro rubs the back of his neck. “I’m sure Sirius wouldn’t mind playing fetch a little more,” he says with a soft smile that is easily returned.

 

He loves it when this stranger smiles, Shiro’s decided. Each one is impossibly more beautiful than the last, like he really means it every time. He especially loves being on the receiving end of those smiles. He needs this to be a regular occurrence.

 

“Wow, that’s really nice of you, uh…”

 

“Takashi.” Why the heck would he say Takashi? Only his mom calls him that. His brain is short-circuiting, but Ursa’s high-pitched bark is oddly grounding. He corrects himself. “But most people call me Shiro. It’s nice to meet you, Lance.” He extends his hand, the one not full of dog leash.

 

Lance sets Alondra down, one of his hands wrapped around hers while the other reaches out to Shiro, holding the tennis ball. “Sorry, haha, but you probably want this back, right?”

 

“Oh! Right, thank you.”

 

“And… is your dog’s name a Harry Potter reference?” Lance asks, cocking an eyebrow.

 

He’s been caught. His classmates think Sirius and Ursa are just space names—which, is true for Ursa, but Sirius has always served double duty. Sue him, that guy was his favorite. When he confirms, Lance laughs and it’s music to his ears.

 

“That’s pretty cute. Fitting, you know.” Shiro rubs his neck again. “What about your little one?”

 

“I guess you’re right. And this fluffball,” Shiro says, rustling her leash so the tags chime, “Is Ursa. Like the bear constellation.” He’s always liked that name, and the irony with it.

 

Lance laughs again. Does he really think Shiro is that funny? “Also fitting, for such a majestic creature.” He leans down, reaching out the dog lying on the grass. Ursa perks up at the attention and walks over, to Lance and Alondra’s delight. The little girl squeals.

 

“Be careful when you pet her, mama. She’s little like you.” Lance takes her hand, gently placing it on Ursa’s back. Alondra rubs softly over her brown fur, nodding appreciatively.

 

Internally, Shiro is combusting. Melting. His heart? Useless. It has sweat away into nothing. Sirius regards him almost knowingly, whining. You’re head over tail, man.

 

And he really is. Lance and his little niece, petting his dog, looking soft and serene; it’s like nothing could ever be truly wrong in the world if this is able to happen. What Shiro wouldn’t give to have this sight in front of him over and over again. He scratches Sirius behind the ears, and gets a reassuring lick in return as an act of solidarity. You’ve got this. Man’s best friend, for real.

 

“Hey, um, Lance?” Shiro swallows nervously when those blue eyes meet his. “Are you… are you busy for the rest of the afternoon?”

 

Lance tilts his head, the corner of his mouth tilting into a smile. Oh god, he has dimples. His gaze drifts from Shiro’s eyes, down to his mouth, and then over to the dogs playing around his niece.

 

He smiles. “Not too busy for you.”

 

His nap can wait.