It all started in the same way any good love story does.
With the complete stopping of time and a sweet sounds of a 90s pop song.
At least, that’s what Keith had convinced himself.
In reality it had all started freshman year with one (1) T. Shirogane walking into their shared dorm room with a box of vintage video games and a blinding smile. The Roommate, as he and his best friend Pidge had taken to calling him before the fated meeting, had surprised them with his biceps that could crush watermelons and his sensibilities better suited for a quantified nerd.
Hi, I’m Shiro, he’d said simply after carefully placing the box on the desk Keith hadn’t claimed with his own array of actual junk. Then he’d offered his hand, and took Keith’s— and also his heart— in the palm of his warm, strong handshake.
Three years had passed since and not much had actually changed.
Shiro still loved his old video games and consoles.
Pidge still referred to him as The Roommate— though The rang with a different kind of significance now.
Keith was still completely, and irrevocably in love with him.
“So are you finally gonna tell him?” Pidge asked through a mouthful of popcorn and M&Ms, spraying bits of the salty sweet mix across her keys as she fired the question at Keith, not bothering to look up from her mathematical theorems homework.
When she had shown up that morning with her laptop under one arm and bag of “brain food” in the other, Keith knew he should have turned her away.
Nothing good ever came from that determined scowl she sported whenever something was on her mind. He’d known her long enough to know better, and yet he had still stepped aside with a quick nod of his head and a gesture back to his open bedroom door.
If anyone asked, he’d just say he had yet to fully awaken enough to understand the weight of his decisions.
This is what you get for having friends, Kogane, he thought to himself as he chewed at the corner of his mouth, doing his best to focus on his aerospace engineering paper instead of Pidge’s question.
Senior year had hit the ground running and was already kicking their asses six ways from Sunday though it was a mere two weeks in, and yet somehow she still found time to ask about unimportant things.
Those unimportant things being his unrequited feelings for Shiro.
Not that they were unimportant because of who they were for, but rather because of who he was. Keith had long ago accepted the fact that Shiro would be nothing more than his friend and longterm roommate.
It was fine.
And when it wasn’t fine, he buried said feelings beneath the greasiest abomination he could find that dared to call itself food and a healthy layer of tequila until it was.
At this point, it was almost something of a ritual, and who he was he to deny himself that?
“I mean, I’m probably going to throw up if I have to sit between the two of you eye fucking during Mario Kart again,” Pidge continued, shoving her hand into the bowl of popcorn before finding a perfectly good piece of ammunition to throw at the back of his head.
She snickered lowly as it caught within the waves of his onyx hair.
“We don’t eye fuck during Mario Kart,” Keith muttered under his breath as he brushed at the back of his head, knocking the popped kernel from his hair as he reread the last sentence he’d just finished for the umpteenth time.
Not that it helped, it still didn’t make sense to him even though he’d written it.
“Sorry, Star Fox then.” Her comment was filled with the crunch of popcorn, candy, and nonchalance. Which, was honestly just uncalled for.
It wasn’t Star Fox either.
It was Rampage. And it was completely unrequited eye fucking.
“Pidge,” he growled in warning as he finally gave up on his explanation of aeroelasticity and spun his chair around.
“There’s that patented Kogane glare I love so much,” she laughed as she pushed herself up and back until she was sitting on her calves. It was a power play, he knew. The move made her just tall enough that he had to tilt his head back a fraction to look up at her.
Perfect? Beautiful? A god amongst men that just happened to like mac and cheese and video games released before 1995?
“He’s just Shiro, you know?” Keith finished lamely, shrugging as if it was explanation enough.
As far as he was concerned, it was.
See, there were very few things that stood out in his life that Keith counted as a blessing.
The first, was his motorcycle, which had been with him longer than anyone else in his life.
It’s weird how much you love that thing, Pidge’s brother, Matt, had once said, looking over Keith’s shoulder during Red’s weekly cleaning.
No it’s not, he’d cooed as he’d lovingly wiped a smudge off her shiny paint.
The second, was the full scholarship he’d landed to Garrison University, effectively changing his life.
You’ll have to maintain a GPA of at least 3.7 to keep it, his counselor had said slowly in that same tone adults had liked to use around him when they thought he couldn’t do something but didn’t want to explicitly say so.
No sweat, he’d said with a shrug as he signed the agreement.
And the third— and arguably most important— was that day Shiro walked into their dorm.
You alright? Pidge had asked right after his new roommate had left to grab the rest of his things for their dorm and left him standing there with his jaw on the floor.
Yeah, Keith had barely managed to push the lie between his teeth.
“I’m not going to lie, I don’t exactly know what that’s supposed to mean,” Pidge said, eyebrows pulling together in the same way they did when she was working on a particularly tough math problem. It was determination, stubbornness and plain, unadulterated bemusement all wrapped up in the dip between them.
“You know,” Keith flourished his hand towards his closed door and subsequently, the adonic man that occupied the room opposite his own.
Silence was the only answer as she sat waiting, honey glazed stare blank because apparently no, she didn’t know.
“I can’t tell him, Pidge,” he sighed, shoulders deflating slightly as he dropped his head down to avoid her gaze.
Admittedly, Keith had considered spilling his guts before Shiro and across their wood flooring. There had been many a time he had stood at the threshold of his own room, hand on the doorknob as he took steadying breaths because now, now was going to be the time, Kogane.
Yet each time he found himself swallowing the words and throwing himself back on his bed to stare up at the popcorn ceiling and lose himself amongst the speckled constellations he found there.
It was for the best, really. Attachments that heavy only got in the way and only made things hurt more when the inevitable fallout happened. Having Shiro as a friend and roommate was enough.
Well, friend, roommate, and occasional muse for his stress relief.
“You do know you won’t be roommates forever, right?” Pidge said, rolling her shoulders back in defiance as she repeated the statement that had always been the spearhead to her campaign for Keith to finally say something.
You won’t be roommates forever. As if being roommates was the only thing that kept him in Shiro’s orbit.
The small voice that took root at the back of his mind piped up suddenly. But isn’t that exactly what you fear?
“This year could be your last chance. Do you even know what he’s doing after graduation?”
He did, in fact.
Shiro’s endgame goal was a doctorate in aeronautical science. It was a truth he’d admitted to Keith one night during a particularly harrowing encounter with some vodka and a foam party.
Do you ever think about how good it would be to be up there? He’d asked in slurred, hushed tones from where he lay in the grass of the frat house they’d just been kicked out of.
At the time it had felt like a confession. Like something he was sharing with Keith in full confidence. They had only known each other for half a semester then, and he’d thought that maybe it was fate. Because, yes, he did think about how good it would be.
How freeing it would feel to be surrounded by nothing other than open sky and unending starlight.
He’d told Shiro as much, which then launched him into a near ten minute speech about his life’s plans that revolved solidly around the space that looked down on them.
Of course, now he knew that Shiro would wax poetic about flying and his future degree to just about anyone if he had enough alcohol in him. But that didn’t stop him from tucking that night into a hidden space in his chest, centered ever so slightly to the left.
It must have shown on his face because Pidge let out a world weary sigh that brought him crashing back to the present.
“Okay, new question,” she said as she brought both hands to her temples and massaged them gently. “Do you know what you’re doing after graduation?”
The emphasis on you’re was nothing short of a bucket of frozen water cascading over him with all the harsh realities of what stood waiting for him the upcoming May. Because no. He didn’t know. Outside of the obvious get a job, Keith hadn’t ever thought that far.
He was a child of the foster system. As far as he was concerned, he wasn’t meant to have gotten to the point where he was considering what to do after he obtained the piece of paper he was working so hard to get to.
Hell, he hadn’t even thought he’d ever get the chance to get it in the first place.
Considering a possible future had always felt like something of a luxury that he couldn’t quite afford, but now it was here staring him in the face and all his brain kept coming up with was a shimmering vision of Shiro.
Shiro with his perfect smile, his strong outstretched hand and nothing but the stretch of open painted sky behind him.
Opening his mouth to say anything that would placate the look of blatant curiosity on Pidge’s face, he was cut off by the sound of his door opening.
“Hey Keith?” Shiro said, that damn easy smile plastered in place as he poked his head through the doorway. A moment of white noise emptied his mind of all thought that wasn’t the sound of the way his name sounded on Shiro’s tongue.
If he were so inclined to be sappy, he would say it was his favorite sound.
Good thing he wasn’t.
“Yeah?” He breathed, barely registering the irritated sound Pidge made in the back of her throat as she crossed her arms. Instead, he focused on the broad shoulders he could see peaking through the entrance to his room and the tip of the console logo that emblazoned the black of his shirt.
“Want takeout tonight?” Shiro asked, leaning his head against the doorframe as his eyes trailed over his body. It sent a skittering jolt over his heart, stalling it momentarily as he sucked in a sharp breath.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the barely there shake of Pidge’s tawny hair.
“From the usual place?” He managed around the erratic beat that threatened to choke him.
“Unless you want something else?” The question was accompanied by the quick furrow of Shiro’s brows as he cocked his head to the side, smile faltering slightly.
“No, that sounds good,” Keith offered his warm grin in return, ignoring the burn he could feel on his skin from Pidge as his voice softened. “You know what I like.”
Silence fell over the room as Shiro’s smile cracked wide once more, his teeth sparkling as they captured all the light from the room. It was a thing of beauty that crinkled the edges of his eyes as he nodded. Then, for added measure, he winked and stole what air was left in his lungs.
Floundering silently beneath the weight of his crush, he was vaguely aware of Shiro asking Pidge if she wanted anything before he retreated from the doorway.
It wasn’t until the door safely clicked shut behind him that the quiet snapped in two. Lightning quick, Pidge thrust her hand deep into the bowl of her popcorn before pelting him with a cascade of buttery goodness and partially melted M&Ms.
“You’re both disgusting,” she groaned as she flopped back down on her stomach and buried her face into the crook of her arm.
“What!” Keith exclaimed, picking a piece of popcorn off the front of his hoodie and popping it in his mouth with a loud crunch.
“Right there, Keith,” her voice was muffled as she whined. “Right in front of my popcorn.”
Heat burnt across his cheeks and up to the tops of his ears, leaving a hush of pink in its wake as he heard the implication in her words. Suddenly, his mouth felt all too dry.
Clearing his throat, he swiveled back around in his chair, turning his eyes back to that damned sentence that seemed to be taunting him as he spoke.
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
A moment passed before he heard the sound of her keys clicking, the quick rhythmic sound punctuating her scoff.
“Sure you don’t.”
There was something about the neon chaos of arcades that always felt a bit like home to Shiro. With all their flashing colors and bright happy 8-bit themes that clashed together across the otherwise dimly lit space with its sticky floors and questionable food, there was always a strange sense of belonging for him.
When he had been a kid, his hometown arcade had been one of his favorite places. A treat every Sunday afternoon that was just him, his grandpa, and the games that would quickly come to shape his love for vintage gaming.
There he didn’t feel quite so different with his prosthetic arm and his eyes always caught up in the skies.
In an arcade, with a joystick tucked comfortably in his palm, he could make many trips to the stars.
It was in an arcade that he could be a hero whose bionic arm didn’t limit him, but helped him fight bad guys and end wars.
Then, after his grandfather passed, it almost became a place of solitude for him. One that he always managed to make time for, even after he shot up a foot and a half over night in what was— according to Matt— the glow-up of the century.
You think you’ll ever grow out of the arcade thing? Matt had once asked after a long day of scoping out the three different gaming centers within reasonable distance from Garrison University’s campus.
Probably not, he had replied, hiding his slight grimace behind a warm laugh.
Not, that he hadn’t tried. But there was just something about the pixelated pandemonium that helped him escape.
There, Shiro could clear his head.
There, he could finally think.
In fact, that’s what he was doing now.
About a pair of depthless purple eyes that almost always seemed caught between the color of the galaxies above, and the inky oceans below. And hair colored like deep onyx. And a smile that cut through his skin and his bone in order to bury itself right there in the meat of his heart.
He was thinking about Keith.
Keith and the way he’d looked over at him from the opposite side of their dining table and his morning cup of coffee and whispered a sweet good morning. Paired with his sleep rumpled look and the shirt that looked suspiciously like his hanging from his frame, it was a deadly combo that had nearly had him down and out before he could even make his morning scramble.
Of course, if Matt asked, he was there to keep him company during the dinner shift that almost always guaranteed a cheesy explosion that his best friend would have to clean up.
And also to play some Gradius.
“So are you finally gonna tell him?” Matt’s voice ripped him away from his poetic musings and landed him gracelessly back at the prize counter.
“Tell him what?” Shiro asked slowly, averting his eyes toward the busy game floor as he picked up his sweating Coke and brought the straw to his lips, if only just for something to do. The him was heavily implied by the way Matt rolled the word off his tongue with that weight he always managed to give it when he talked about Keith without saying his name.
For all his feigned ignorance, he earned a practiced scoff. One that his best friend had created, perfected, trademarked, and then promptly taught his little sister.
“That you love him? That you quite literally think he hung the stars up in the sky? That, if biologically possible, you would have his babies?” Matt counted off in a bored voice that made it sound more like he was reciting engineering formulas and not the— disgustingly over exaggerated— way Shiro felt about his roommate.
Yes, okay, maybe he did like Keith a lot more than beyond just the scope of their friendship and living arrangement.
Yes, Shiro did once drunkenly profess his theory that Keith was the reason for all the stars above.
And yes, maybe, just maybe, he had once had a dream involving them as a family.
But Keith didn’t need to know about any of that. He’d learned enough in the three years that they’d lived together to know that Keith had been burned enough times in his past, and he didn’t want to become another number in a long line of blackened scars.
Shiro could swallow down the saccharine taste of his feelings if it meant he could keep whatever it was between them untarnished, because that was what Keith deserved.
Honestly, he deserved the world.
“Boys can’t have babies,” a know-it-all voice piped up as a boy no older than seven stepped up to the counter and slammed a fistful of tickets onto the counter. The sudden addition to their conversation stalled his body mid swallow, sending the mouthful of soda forcefully back up into his mouth and nose as he choked.
“No they can’t, kid,” Matt laughed as he shoved a fistful of napkins in Shiro’s direction before grabbing the tickets and adding them to the scale behind him.
“Do you want babies?” The kid asked, turning his big eyes towards Shiro as he wiped at his face, soaking up the sticky sweet liquid and vaguely wondering what the Coke would do to the inside of his nose if it could eat away rust.
“No, I—” he started, pausing to search for an explanation as he set his drink back on the counter so he could wipe at the front of his shirt before realizing that he didn’t actually owe him one.
Him, or Matt for that matter.
“Haven’t you ever heard of stranger danger?” He asked instead, trying to ignore the way his voice cracked over the question. Closing his metal fist over the napkins and effectively crushing them, he dropped the balled paper onto the counter as Matt turned around.
The kid, to his credit, just shrugged.
“Kids these days,” Matt said in a stage whisper before he lowered his forearms onto the counter. “You got enough for five things from this case, buddy.”
Swallowing a chuckle as the boy’s eyebrows furrowed with resolve, he watched as he knelt before the glass case, eyes flickering over the choices within as Matt waited patiently for him to make his decision.
It was a welcome reprieve from the conversation. This wasn’t the first time Matt had urged him to say something. Or the second. Or even the tenth. He’d lost count of how many times he or even his sister had tried to prod him into telling his roommate about his secret affections, both caught up the shared delusion that somehow Keith might actually feel the same.
And, truth be told, he had almost cracked beneath the weight of those feelings more times than he’d cared to admit. All too often had he found himself standing at his own doorway with his hand on the doorknob and a practiced confession on his lips. Now, now will be the time, Shirogane, he would repeat to himself until the realization of what he was about to do would dawn on him and push him back towards his bed.
That, however, was a secret he would take with him to his grave.
Or, less dramatically, one that he would bury beneath an unhealthy amount of the arcade’s famous mac and cheese and possibly some whiskey.
“Anyway, so when are you telling him?” Matt asked as he waved the kid off with his knew set of small plastic toy lions, because apparently dropping the subject was not an option tonight.
“I’m not telling him anything, Matt,” he sighed as he ran his fingers along the cool condensation hugging the sides of his cup, mindlessly dragging shapes across the droplets as he tried to ignore the pointed stare his answer earned him.
“Come on, Shiro. If you don’t do something, Katie will be forced to move forward with her plan to lock you both in a room until one of you finally cracks and spills or resorts to cannibalism to stay alive.”
A small pause separated them as Matt waited for any sign of retort that he followed with a heavy sigh when he realized he wasn’t getting one.
“And at this point, I’m not sure I’ll stop her.”
Another pointed stare.
“There’s nothing to tell,” Shiro growled before taking an angry sip of his soda. “Besides, you both seem to think he likes me, but he doesn’t, so just leave it.”
Aggravation turned Matt’s voice rough as he snorted, rolling his eyes upward as he pushed himself back from the counter. Eyes tightening at the edges in a near perfect impression of Keith’s glare, he crossed his arms over his narrow chest, the logo of the arcade rumpling comically beneath them.
The way it had bunched, the purple alien was looking up at him with an almost identical look of unamused disbelief.
“God, okay, so do you really think his eyes just turn into big, adoring pools of liquid amethyst around everyone?”
His heart stutter stepped along his sternum as he imagined the exact expression Matt described. No, he didn’t think Keith looked at everyone that way. But he’d also already convinced himself that that look was nothing more than his own hopeful projections.
“Matt,” his tone wore a dark cloak of warning as he mirrored his friend’s pose. “Drop it.”
Quiet stretched out between them as a silent standoff waged in the distance set by the glass countertop. Minutes passed as his silver stare pushed back against Matt’s golden before he finally sighed.
“Fine, but only because this is your place of worship,” he said, defeat coloring his words a murky shade as he placed his hands on the edge of the counter and pressed forward.
“But seriously man, you have to tell him. It’s almost painful watching you two moon over each other like you don’t already live together in practically wedded bliss.”
Dragging a now watered down sip of Coke through his straw, Shiro shrugged.
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Sure you don’t,” Matt muttered under his breath as a little girl walked up to the counter, trailing tickets behind her and effectively ending their conversation. Grinning up at him, she began to pile them up onto the counter, ignoring Shiro as he began to worry the plastic of his straw between his teeth.
Matt didn’t have a point. That much Shiro knew. But if he did, maybe Shiro could see it in the far— very far— off distance. If he squinted.
And tilted his head.
But he couldn’t say anything though.
Wouldn’t, in fact, because what he and Keith had built in the three years they’d known each other was more important to him than any of his own feelings ever could be. Ruining it wasn’t and wouldn’t ever be an option. Even if it ripped his chest open and left him to bleed out right there on the ground for everyone to see, he would swallow down those three little words that always balanced themselves so easily on the tip of his tongue whenever he saw Keith’s smile.
But, maybe he could try to see just what it was the Holts had deluded themselves into seeing.
Mashing the decimated plastic between his molars, a stack of neon colored paper off to the side of the counter caught his eye. Emblazoned with the Garrison University logo, the flyer proclaimed the dates for a charity tournament being held at the arcade the following weekend.
Gaze flickering up from the stack and towards Matt, Shiro watched his friend as he carefully gathered the little girl’s tickets and placed them on the scale. When he was convinced he was preoccupied, he snatched up one of the flyers and shoved it into his back pocket.
It wasn’t Keith’s first time at the arcade by any means. He’d grown quite accustomed, in fact, to the vibrant lights and loud sounds of the game filled hangout. Once upon a time he hadn’t quite understood the appeal. Generally there were too many people, food that was too overpriced, and it took far more money to earn prizes that he could get for cheaper at a dollar store.
He had stated so much that first time Shiro had dragged him along to visit the arcade with the swirling galaxy out front that proudly proclaimed itself as Galra Games. Before setting foot into the neon portal to his own doom, his crush had been a fledgling thing. Nothing more than the quick palpitation of his heart whenever Shiro would smile at him in the morning, or offer him help with homework from their shared calculus class.
It was in that very arcade, standing with his shoulder against the side of some obscure game that it exploded into a crushing force that apparently gave the feeling its name. Because there, exclaiming in excitement as the machine spewed explosive sounds of victory, Shiro had turned to face him with a light in his eyes and a cutting smile that buried itself between his ribs.
It had been the quickest K.O. he was sure Shiro had ever landed, and the joke of it all was that he didn’t even know.
Keith always felt the residual sting of that very smile each time they ended up at the arcade, the scar of it making it hard to breathe whenever he caught that same look aimed his way under the bright neons.
It happened enough times by this point that he had trained himself to push through it. To drag a four count in and push a four count out in some semblance of a normal breathing pattern.
Yet, standing at Shiro’s side now, his hand wrapped around a joystick and his fingers dancing between the set of four buttons beside it, he thought he would actually choke on the feeling growing in his throat.
“You’re doing great, Keith,” he heard Shiro say lowly beside him, their arms brushing together and sending an electric sting rolling down to the tips of his fingers. They flinched in response, sending his player running closer to their opponent and receiving a brass knuckled fist to the face.
It was painfully symbolic.
“I told you you probably should have asked Matt to be your partner,” Keith said through gritted teeth as he tapped at the keys until his character jumped back towards Shiro and safety.
“And I told you I didn’t want Matt,” Shiro said simply, shrugging his shoulder with ease as he landed a combo attack that knocked down the thug that had punched him. Heat erupted across the bridge of his nose and through his cheeks at the words as he followed up with an accidental combo of his own that sent the final opponent flying out of the game screen.
To his right, he heard a growl of defeat as another pair of competitors got the dreaded END GAME screen.
“But then you would probably win,” Keith muttered as their own faded momentarily to load the next level. Taking the opportunity to look away, Shiro turned toward him.
“It’s not about winning, Keith,” he said, wrapping his name in a layer of fondness that made it something soft. Something revered. Something that skewed the scope of everything he’d come to known encompassed in everything that was Shiro and Keith. “It’s about being with you.”
When Shiro had come home with a brightly colored flyer, a glint in his eye and a request for Keith to be his righthand man for the charity tournament, his mind had heaved a single word into his thoughts.
Date, it screamed, flashing the four letters like a blinking sign across his eyelids as he’d try to swallow down the sweet tang of the thought before it carried him away with it.
Yes, he’d agreed because he had been able to lock away the small ember of hope that had been stoked by the way Shiro’s eyes had shined when he’d asked.
This wasn’t a date.
This was two roommates kicking ass in the name of charity together with an arcade voucher and two prizes of their choice from behind the counter on the line.
Only, right now, pinned beneath the crescent moon smile that turned Shiro’s gaze into two pools of molten silver, Keith couldn’t help but feel like maybe he was wrong.
In response, his heart tapped a stuttering rhythm against his ribs that lined up suspiciously well with the 8-bit tune of Double Dragon.
“We’re down to our final three folks,” Matt’s voice cut through the overhead speakers in faux DJ tones as Shiro turned his attention back to the game, poising his fingers over the buttons in a practiced pose.
“We’ve got my personal favorite, Team Punk! That’s my sister!” Keith swallowed around the stone that weighed down the back of his tongue as he followed Shiro’s lead, the sound of the crowd cheering falling away as he fixed his gaze on the words FINAL STAGE emblazoned on their screen.
“We’ve got the very enthusiastic newcomers, Team Cotton Candy!” His face burned with the presence of a stare as his fingers twitched against the multicolored buttons.
“And lastly, two very familiar faces here at Galra Games, Team Black Lion!” Flicking his gaze quickly to Shiro, time stood still as their eyes met, smothering him beneath the wildfire of his heated metal stare.
“This isn’t a betting competition,” Matt continued as Keith forgot how to breathe. “But if it were, now would be the time to place those at the very nonexistent pool here at the prize counter!”
Cheers ricocheted around them as big, garish letters painted themselves across the screen, proclaiming the start of the final round as two large men followed, one shirtless and one sporting a bulky black rifle.
Somehow, that also seemed symbolic.
“We’ll take gun guy first,” Shiro said conspiratorially as he pushed his character towards the opponent, easily sidestepping the slow moving shirtless man as if he didn’t realize he’d already caused his first casualty this final round.
Loud, over exaggerated punches punctuated each and every one of Keith’s spiraling thoughts as Shiro whooped excitedly, his fingers flying over the buttons as he continued to singlehandedly take on the boss.
With each blow, Keith kept coming back to that single word.
The sudden urge to tell Shiro everything he felt hit him with the same intensity of the punch his character received, knocking him back to the ground.
“You okay, Keith?” Worry blanketed Shiro’s voice as he turned his character to come to his aid.
The short answer, was no.
He was not okay because right there in the middle of an arcade, he was about to choke on everything he’d ever wanted to say. They stuck to the insides of his throat as he tried to swallow around them, unable to get anything out at all.
Instead, he watched as Shiro punched at the shirtless assailant, knocking him down with a combo that had him dissipating into game heaven.
Rest in fucking peace.
“Keith?” A large, warm hand landed on his shoulder, turning him away from the machine and towards Shiro as he felt a knuckle tap his chin upward. Both points burned, sending twin shocks racing through him and meeting together in a lightning storm in his chest as he sucked in a small, quick breath. His lips parted around the sound, and a pleased feeling curled itself low in his gut as he caught the way Shiro’s eyes dragged down to them. Concern and confusion muted their usual bright color as he waited for Keith to say something.
Date, his mind screamed.
“Is this a date?” He asked in a rush, the words blurring together with the quickness of his outburst. Shiro’s eyebrows pulled together as his mouth opened around silent words before it shut again, his look falling to the ground between them as he dragged a steadying breath in. A pang of hope cracked Keith’s chest as it was his turn to wait.
Beside them, their machine protested loudly with grunts and cries as their unmoving characters fell victim to the boss’ hits.
Fingers tightening on his shoulder, Shiro looked back up with an almost shy smile tugging at the corner of his lips.
“I’m that obvious, huh?”
He paused as if he thought there were any possibility that Keith would something. Like he even could. Instead of words, his tongue found nothing but white noise as his shoulder burned with the heat of Shiro’s warm palm.
“I mean, this wasn’t the date part, exactly. I had a plan,” he said, mouth quirking down as the game’s screen darkened, music spiraling out before it exclaimed END GAME. Defeat gave his soft expression a sour edge as he turned to look over at the screen before he shrugged.
“But I guess that’s out the window now.”
In the distance, Keith was aware of the sound of the crowd around the machines cheering as it came down to the final two. Somewhere all too far away and yet all too close, the tournament still raged, but all he could feel was the fire rolling off Shiro’s skin. There was an undeniable pull underneath his own that screamed out to the warmth like gravity as he leant in closer.
“What was it?” He asked, breathing in slowly as he looked up through his lashes, biting his teeth into the meat of his bottom lip.
“What?” Shiro hummed after a blatant moment of heavy silence as he watched the ivory pull across the pink of his skin, leaving his lip rouged and wet.
A warm blush stretched across the bridge of Shiro’s nose, turning his scar a deeper shade as he cut his eyes to the side. Pulling his hand away from Keith’s shoulder, he rubbed the back of his neck in the same way he always did when he felt self conscious.
Working his fingers into the skin at his nape, he finally looked back as he spoke.
“Win,” his laugh broke up his answer as he shook his head. “Get one of those large stuffed animals as my prize—”
Voice fading, the flush darkened still as he paused.
“And?” Keith urged, barely aware of the sound of a loud curse behind their machine and Pidge’s cry of victory.
The world continued to spin around them and yet, he couldn’t bring himself to care.
“Ask if you wanted to be my player two.”
Silence wasn’t the appropriate response, but it was all Keith had as he stared up at Shiro in open awe. The world dropped out from under his feet as the crowd around them descended on Pidge and her gaming partner, Hunk, leaving the two of them alone on the other side of the machines. Suddenly, it was all too much, and yet not enough as the skin of his shoulder felt unbearably cold without the touch of Shiro’s hand.
Confusion and doubt etched a line deep between his eyebrows as he tripped over his words.
“Look, forget it,” he said, bringing both hands up between them as if in surrender. “It’s stupid and cheesy. This doesn’t have to chan—”
Surging forward, Keith swallowed the rest of Shiro’s statement, biting it in two as he tried to express every reassurance through the simple pressing of their skin. Between them he could feel the expanding pressure of something new that threatened to break through his skin and leave him bleeding out before the bleating game. It pushed against his very being, ending life as he had once known it and leaving in its place something entirely new.
Eyes fluttering shut as he felt fingers tangle in his hair and palms cup the side of his neck, Keith could see his future painted across the back of his eyelids in the form of Shiro and that expansive sky. Stars and galaxies twisted through his veins, burning through him until he couldn’t breathe.
Opening into the kiss, he moaned as Shiro licked the back of his teeth before pulling his bottom lip between his own and biting down. Each one of the pricks of light that burned within him went supernova all at once, incinerating what was left and leaving him wholly new as he finally pulled away.
“So is that a yes?” Shiro’s voice was nothing more than a burred growl as his fingers massaged at the back of Keith’s scalp, his words dancing across his lips as he pressed their foreheads together.
“Fuck yes,” Keith growled before he grabbed a fistful of Shiro’s shirt and pulling him back in. Lightning crackled over his skin as their lips met, trapping everything else between them.
“Well it’s about time,” Pidge’s snarking voice sounded from behind him, pulling him up from the depths that he was lose in long enough to keep him from drowning within the flames.
“Took them long enough,” Matt’s voice joined her, smile all too apparent in the way it lilted. There was a sharp snap that sounded suspiciously like two palms slapping together.
Reaching behind him without breaking their contact, Keith elegantly flipped them off.
Twin scoffs of feigned offense were his reply as he smiled into the kiss before pulling away. Opening his eyes, his vision was filled with the hazy gaze of Shiro’s eyes, trapped somewhere between night and a morning’s fog.
“Let’s go home,” Keith soothed, unclenching his fist and leaving Shiro’s shirt wrinkled just above his heart. A bright smile of pure sunlight cut itself across his teeth as he dragged his palms down Keith’s neck and over his shoulders, leading forest fires down his arms before he took on of his hands into his own.
“Really, Keith?” Pidge called as they began to walk away. “Right in front of my game?”
Warm laughter pulled itself from deep in his throat as he waved a hand back towards her.
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about,” Keith called over his shoulder as he felt Shiro’s laughter shake through him.
“Dude, don’t you care that you lost?” Half of Team Cotton Candy asked with an incredulous voice.
Looking over to Shiro, whose features were cracked wide by a smile reflecting the sunlight shining through the exit, Keith just shook his head.
“Not at all,” he called back with full sincerity as he pushed the arcade door open, stepping out into the brilliant Fall afternoon.
He smiled to himself as Shiro turned them towards the direction of their apartment.
No, Keith didn’t mind at all. Because in the end, it felt a lot like they had won.