Shiro has never considered himself a comedian, but he thinks the joke he's working on now has a lot of potential:
Two guys walk into a laundromat. One carries a basket full of clothes, all covered in blood; the other stands in nothing more than a pair of boxer briefs.
The one with the bloody clothes is gorgeous, even though he sports a mullet that couldn't have come from anywhere but 1976. The one in the boxer briefs is instantly in love, even though by all definitions this is completely absurd.
Two guys walk into a laundromat, and the punchline, of course, is that this isn't a joke. At 2:57 am in the only 24/7 laundromat in town, Shiro stands stripped down to his underwear while the guy next to him quickly shoves his bloodstained clothes into the machine opposite Shiro’s.
He’s the most beautiful man Shiro has ever seen, and he knows right away he’s a goner.
Sometimes, that’s just how it goes.
Watching a complete stranger throw a load of blood-soaked clothes into the washing machine, Shiro's first thought shouldn't be those are going to stain if he doesn't soak them in something first, but with each piece of clothing comes a sting of anxiety. Those clothes are going to be ruined .
"Hey," Shiro says, hoping to get the guy’s attention without startling him, "I don't mean to bother you but, it's just, if your clothes are covered in blood, and you throw them into the washer like that, they're going to permanently stain."
The stranger stops, arm still halfway inside the washer. He slowly cranes his head back towards Shiro, expression unsure. "Really? I've never had to do this before." He pulls his arm out of the machine, awkwardly bringing the bloody shirt he's holding back to him. "Do you, uh, know what’ll get blood out of clothes?"
Shiro feels flat out sorry for this guy. For someone frantically hurling a crime scene into the world's sketchiest washing machine, he looks pretty pathetic. If he is a serial killer, Shiro thinks those victims probably have to deal with a mess of oh, I'm sorry, I'm not trying to kill you, is this okay?
"Yeah, I think hydrogen peroxide is supposed to work well? Just, pour it on and let it soak for a couple minutes." The guy nods.
"Do you have any with you?"
In response, Shiro just looks down at himself, holding his arms out slightly to say what you see is what you get. He should probably be more embarrassed about being practically naked in a public space, but somehow, Shiro thinks that, out of the two of them, he isn't the weird one.
The stranger laughs nervously, eyes lingering half a second longer then what's normally considered polite. Shiro can’t find it in himself to mind, given what he must look like. One-armed adult men wearing nothing but boxer briefs in public aren’t exact a common occurrence. Honestly, the stranger is rolling with it with a level of casualness Shiro wouldn’t have previously thought possible. "Right, of course, sorry, I'm uh... I don't normally do this, obviously."
"Yeah," Shiro teases, "most murderers research how to get blood out of clothes before they commit the crime."
Wrong thing to say. The stranger pales immediately, glancing over his shoulder to the door as if he expects the police to be there, ready to arrest him and throw him in jail. "Oh my god, no, I didn't—I didn't kill anyone, I mean I know what this looks like, obviously it isn't good, that's why I came here at three am because I thought no one would see me doing this, which, you know, makes me sound even guiltier. It’s just—" The poor guy is rambling, unable to stop, but Shiro watches, amused, letting him get it out of his system.
"Hey," Shiro says gently, chuckling. He holds out a hand to stop him. "It was just a joke, it's okay. Calm down. Though,"—he raises an eyebrow—"your desperate denial does make you look pretty guilty. Should I be worried that I'm your next victim?"
Finally, the stranger relaxes. "I wouldn't. You look like someone who could handle their own in a fight; definitely not someone I'd pick as a target." He smiles, and then holds out the hand still carrying the bloody shirt. "I'm Keith."
Shiro just stares at him, waiting for Keith to realize what he's doing. It takes a second, but Keith's eyes widen and he quickly brings the shirt back, face flushing scarlet. "Wow, I'm, uh, really not doing great tonight, am I? It’s been a long night." He moves the shirt to his other hand, then tries again.
Shiro looks at the hand held out to him for a moment, then up at Keith. This is completely absurd, it's all too... convenient. Here in front of him stands this absolutely beautiful man, too beautiful—all lean muscle and sharp angles, dark hair framing pale skin—beautiful enough for it to be a trap, holding out his hand and just casually introducing himself as if this is completely normal.
And man, does he want to take it. Shiro tries to tell himself it's just a handshake, but it feels more like the pomegranate seeds of Hades—once he takes that hand there's no going back.
Come on, Shiro, he tells himself. Didn't anyone ever tell you not to flirt with bloody strangers in laundromats while you stand almost completely naked?
No. No one has ever told him that. In fact, Shiro feels fairly confident that no one has ever had to tell anyone that.
Which means, obviously, that it's okay.
"I'm Shiro," he says, accepting the handshake with his prosthetic. Keith's smile grows, unfazed, and, yeah, Shiro's done for. He’s acutely aware of the setting around them: flickering fluorescent lights and cracked linoleum, the shaking of Shiro’s dryer the only sound competing with Sheryl Crow singing through the grainy overhead sound system. It’s not what he would consider romantic, but it’s what he has to work with.
Pulling his hand back, Keith scratches the side of his head. "So, I hate to ask this, but, I’m new in town and my phone kind of died getting me here. Do you know where the nearest Walmart is? Or any store that would sell stain remover?"
Here’s your chance, Shiro. "Oh, yeah. There's a drugstore a couple blocks from here, it's not far." He pauses, considering whether or not he should say what he wants to next. "I can show you where it is, if you want."
Keith, expression unchanging, glances down to Shiro's... oh. Right.
"After my clothes are done, I mean," Shiro quickly amends. "I think they only have a couple minutes left." Keith just nods at that, an amused smirk ghosting his lips.
"Right, okay." Keith starts pulling the rest of his clothes out of the washing machine. "Wait, shit, what am I supposed to do with my clothes?"
Shiro shrugs. "Just bring them with you. You might get an odd look from the cashier, but, it's the middle of the night in the heart of downtown. I doubt you'll be the strangest customer they’ve had come in." Shiro glances back at the pile of clothes. It is a lot of blood. "Well, maybe one of the strangest. But honestly? I doubt there’ll even be anyone else there."
This doesn't seem to appease Keith, but he knows there isn't anything else he can do, unless he just wants to leave them here. Which, also isn't a bad idea; Shiro doubts that anyone is going to come in and take them. But, a part of Shiro really wants to see if Keith will actually bring a bloody laundry hamper into a pharmacy.
Keith narrows his eyes at Shiro. "How do I know you aren't going to murder me? "
Shiro laughs, leaning back onto the dryer behind him. "Yeah, the half-nude look really helps to disarm my victims. Though, I've gotta say, I've been coming around this laundromat for years and you're the first person I've actually managed to get to talk to me." Keith blinks at him. "It was a joke, you can laugh."
"Oh, right, I knew that," Keith says, chuckling weakly. They stand there for a minute, waiting on Shiro's dryer to finish it's cycle. Shiro waits a beat, and then another. One beat turns into several, and unease begins to fill the room as the two continue to stand in silence. Shiro’s about to say something to cut the tension, but Keith beats him to it.
"Why are you naked?" he blurts out. Keith bites his lip, bringing his hand up to cover his face. "I mean, well, almost naked."
Shiro's face burns. Stripping down to boxer briefs in the middle of a laundromat wasn't something he thought he'd ever do, but, he'd been out drinking with friends tonight, and on his way back to his apartment some car drove too close to the sidewalk and drenched Shiro in mud. In the moment, Shiro’d thought himself a genius: his apartment was another ten minute walk, but the Wash-O-Rama was only a five minute walk. In his mind, he’d rationalized, it isn’t like there’ll be anyone else doing laundry at this hour.
He explains all of this to Keith, much to the younger man’s amusement. "So, did you soak your muddy clothes in anything? Or does mud not stain like blood does?"
Oh shit. Shiro hadn't thought about that. He'd spent a good ten minutes picking all of the dried mud off his clothes with his fingernails, as evidenced by the small pile of the stuff on top of the nearest washing machine, but he hadn't thought about the mud that had soaked into the clothes themselves. His jeans would probably be fine, but he now held little hope for his shirt. "I uh, did not soak my clothes. I guess we'll have to wait and see if mud and blood stain the same."
Keith runs a hand through his hair, and Shiro hopes he isn't ogling as he watches the dark locks part like rushing water around his fingers. "So, are you still drunk?"
I'm pretty sure all the alcohol fled my system the moment I saw you, Shiro thinks. When Keith starts giggling beside him, trying to cover his mouth and stop the laughter escaping from it, Shiro realizes he'd said that out loud.
Okay, so maybe he's still a little drunk.
He wants to ask about Keith's current situation, it's only fair, but the buzzing of the dryer distracts him. "Moment of truth, I guess," he says, opening the dryer door. When Shiro pulls out his t-shirt, he deflates.
Keith starts laughing again. "That's rough, man. How did you not notice when you put it into the dryer?"
"I don’t know! It was wet and wadded up, I didn’t think about it when I put it in. This was my favorite shirt," Shiro mumbles. "Whatever, it's wearable, which is all I really need to go into public. The two of us will cancel each other's weirdness out." Shiro starts to put his clothes back on, a little slower than necessary. He can't tell if Keith is actually watching him or if he's just imagining it, but he is making a conscious effort to not turn and see.
"Let's just hope whoever's at the store doesn't think that's blood on your shirt, too," Keith says.
Shiro grins at his comment. "Ha, maybe it'll sell the look even more." Fully dressed, he asks, "Ready?"
Keith nods, grabbing his hamper before heading to the door. He holds it open for Shiro, allowing him to shake off the uncanniness from inside and readjust to the real world.
Outside, the streets are relatively quiet. The town has always been fairly slow, which is good for them—no pedestrians to pass by and cast their silent judgements, and for the first block or so, they walk in comfortable silence. Shiro has never really liked this time of night, where the darkness of the sky hangs low and heavy, seeping its way through pathways and corners. But walking with Keith, he starts to see the things he never appreciated: the warm glow of the street lamps, the crispness of the air, the way every sound seems to perfectly echo itself.
Rounding the next corner, Shiro decides to the bring up the topic that’s been nagging him: "So, you asked about me, now it's my turn to know what's up with the horror film you’re carrying."
Keith’s eyes flicker towards Shiro. "I’m sure you’ve come up with some ideas of your own. Why don’t you guess?"
Shiro thinks for a second, trying to think of a plausible reason why so many of Keith’s clothes would be bloodied. "Well, we already ruled out that you’re a murderer, at least I think."
"No, yeah, no killing or anything else illegal."
"So does that rule out that you’re an underground street fighting champion?"
"No streetfighting, sadly, but I’ll admit I’ve thrown a couple punches in my past."
"Really?" Shiro asks, not entirely surprised but playing along anyways.
"Yeah, typical loner highschool with anger issues story. Poor kid never knew when to give up." Keith sighs dramatically. "Learned my way around a proper fight, though."
"Oh thank goodness," Shiro says, "If someone tries to mug us out here, I’ll have you to protect me."
Keith let’s out a singular ha, the breath more of a scoff than a laugh . "Yeah, right. Trust me, I don’t think you want to make that bet."
Maybe I do, Shiro thinks, stealing a glance at Keith. Everything about him so far has been unexpected. He isn’t the person you think of when you think ‘strange man suspiciously brings bloodsoaked clothing to a laundromat in the middle of the night’. If anything, he’s the exact opposite: a shy and sort of awkward guy who could have only ended up here after being thrust unwittingly into the middle of a worst case scenario. No, Shiro doesn’t know Keith—but already, he gets the feeling this is someone worth betting on, despite what the odds might look like.
Maybe that’s a little too sappy for someone he’s just met, but then again, nothing about this night has been conventional. A little bit of sap never hurt anyone.
Keith catches Shiro staring, and his eyes narrow slightly, suddenly looking nervous. "What?"
"Nothing," Shiro says, focusing his attention back on the streets in front of him. "Just trying to figure out what the story is. No murder, no street fighting. Maybe you’re a vampire who’s just really bad at feeding."
Keith genuinely laughs at that, and Shiro’s heart flutters at the approval. "Yeah, that’s it. I steal blood bags from hospitals, but I just keep spilling them on myself! You think I’d have learned to use a straw by now, but old habits die hard."
Shiro throws a hand into the air. "Okay, I give up. I have no idea. I can think of plenty of reasons why you’d have one ruined shirt, maybe, but I can’t think of any reason why a whole load of laundry would be ruined."
Nothing prepares Shiro for Keith to tell him, "A cat gave birth in my apartment."
A cat gave birth in his apartment. A cat. Gave birth. In his apartment. Shiro lets the information sink in, and it doesn’t escape his notice that Keith doesn’t use the word my . "Just a random cat? It wasn’t your cat that gave birth in your apartment?"
Keith’s shoulders fall, and he lets out a groan. "No! It isn’t my cat. I’ve been a dog person my whole life, but now I have not one, but five cats living in my apartment. I’ve gone around to all the people in my complex, and not one of them has claimed the cat as theirs."
"How did the cat even get into your apartment?"
"I took my dog out for a walk, and I guess I didn’t close my door all the way, so she just waltzed in and started going for it. Imagine my shock when I came back to find a cat going into labor on my kitchen floor."
Shiro is absolutely dying. He makes no attempt to censor his cackling, tears forming in his eyes. Out of all the things he expected Keith to say, it definitely wasn’t that. "Oh my god. Wait, didn’t you say you were new in town? How long have you lived in that apartment?"
Keith shrinks even more. When he answers, he whispers so softly Shiro can barely hear him. "Three days."
If Shiro wasn’t laughing hard before, he positively loses it now. He feels his side begin to stitch, and he clutches it for dear life, gasping for breath. "I cannot believe—oh my god Keith, that is, wow, what a welcome to the neighborhood, right?" The more Shiro thinks about it, the more ridiculous the whole scenario becomes. "Okay, so let me get this straight: You come into your apartment to find a cat giving birth in your kitchen, and your first thought was to throw all of your shirts down? Does your new apartment not have any towels ?"
Keith slaps a hand over his eyes. Even in the dark, Shiro can see that Keith is blushing. "I panicked, okay! And I hadn’t finished unpacking, so there was a box of clothes right by me. It was a lapse of judgement under strenuous circumstances. I don’t suppose you might be in the market for a cat? Super cute, free to a loving home."
"Sorry, man," Shiro tells him. "My apartment has a strict ‘no animals’ policy. I do love cats, though. Just how cute are we talking?"
"Nauseatingly cute," Keith insists. "I’d show you pictures if my phone wasn’t dead. But, I swear, they’re the cutest damn kittens you’ve ever seen in your life."
A large part of Shiro hopes that he’ll get the chance to meet them himself. He can’t even bring himself to mentally say he’s being ridiculous—talking with Keith, being with him, it feels natural. There’s just something that clicks, and maybe he’s reading too much into a friendly conversation, but it hasn’t escaped his notice that Keith has been slowly inching himself closer to Shiro throughout their walk. Shiro may be a hopeless romantic, but he isn’t an idiot. He likes to think he can tell when someone is interested in him.
In what feels like no time at all, they arrive at the drugstore. As the sliding glass doors part, Keith tenses, as if waiting for a barrage of judgement to come reigning down on him. Per what Shiro expected, though, nothing happens. The store seems to be completely empty, save the old man behind the counter who couldn’t be less interested.
Shiro walks in, turning back to make sure Keith is following him. "See? Like I said, no one here."
Keith falls in step behind Shiro, less tense but still nervous. "Yeah, you’re right, let’s just hurry. What'd you say would work again?"
"Hydrogen peroxide. It'll probably be on the medicine aisle with bandaids and stuff." The two make their way through the store, soon coming up to the right shelf. Keith grabs the closest bottle. "These are huge. Do you think we’ll need more than one?"
Shiro has no clue; he's never done this before, either. He estimates that they’ll need a good amount—the clothes are pretty stained—and he thinks that if they're pouring the stuff directly onto the clothes, they'll empty the bottles pretty quickly. "Uhm, let's get five."
Keith whips his head around, looking at Shiro like he’s crazy. "Five?! Seriously? That has to be too much, right?"
"I don’t know! How many shirts do you have? Each one will probably need half a bottle, I think, maybe more."
Keith shakes his head, exasperated. "Look it up on your phone. We should make sure this actually works before I buy it."
Shiro pulls out his phone and searches does hydrogen peroxide remove blood stains?
He clicks on the first search result. It’s a DIY blog, and the instructions seem easy enough: pour hydrogen peroxide directly over the stain, let it sit, then rinse it with cold water before washing. Shiro reads the instructions out loud to Keith.
"Alright," Keith says, "let's get five, I guess. Can you carry them?"
Shiro nods, and the two head to the cash register. Keith's defensive walls shoot back up as soon as they near the cashier, but the man remains as indifferent towards them as when they came into the store. Shiro is almost disappointed—he would have loved to see a more visceral reaction—but he can tell that Keith is more than relieved at not having to deal with any more embarrassment than he already feels.
The cashier rings them up without so much as batting an eye, and with a tear of the receipt, he dismisses them, allowing the two to head back to the laundromat without issue.
Shiro and Keith set up shop in the measly back room bathroom, both hunching over the only sink. It’s small, plastic, and pathetic. "I guess we’ll just go one shirt at a time," Keith says, more of a question than a statement. He grabs a shirt from the basket now resting on the tile floor and lays it down over the sink. Without asking, Keith reaches his hand back, and Shiro grabs one of the bottles from the bag, placing it in his hand.
Keith hesitantly tilts the bottle, just enough for a small stream to trickle out. The reaction is instant, and as soon as the liquid hits the fabric, white foam begins to form over the material. Keith jerks back, retreating as if the chemical might hurt him. "What the hell?"
"You've never poured hydrogen peroxide on a cut before?" Shiro asks. "I’m honestly not sure how it works. But it bubbles whenever it comes in contact with bacteria. Most people use hydrogen peroxide to clean out open cuts to make sure they don't get infected, that kind of thing."
"No, I've never heard that before." Keith leans back in, closely examining the shirt. "That's kinda cool. Could’ve used this stuff when I was younger."
They go through the load: pour, bubble, rinse, repeat. A puddle of red, bloody water begins to form on the counter, but soon, all of the shirts are thoroughly rinsed and look clean enough to go into the wash.
Shiro perches on top of one of the dryers, cross-legged, watching as Keith tosses his clothes into the washer. He knows that there's no reason for him to still be here. There was no reason for him to even help Keith once they got back to the laundromat; but he finds he doesn't want to leave Keith alone, and he gets the feeling Keith doesn't want him to go, either.
So Shiro stays, grinning when Keith joins him on top of the dryers, mirroring his position, knees gently brushing against each other.
"So," Shiro asks, coming back to the conversation from earlier. "What brings you into town?"
They quickly fall back into the easy rhythm they found outside. Shiro learns that Keith moved to town for grad school (‘ it's a bit of a commute, but the rent is way cheaper here than in Olkari’) and is studying psychology. His dream is to be a school counselor, and help the kids who are just like he was. The counselor Keith had was something of a guiding light for him, and Keith wants to be that guiding light for others, too.
If Shiro wasn't sold on Keith before, learning he wants to help help children for a living is the icing on the cake.
Shiro finds himself opening up, too. He's never considered himself a closed off person, but he shares more with Keith than he would most people. Shiro's move to town was one of those cathartic new starts that are usually the plot lines to indie films—a young man is the top of his class at the Air Force Academy when a training accident takes his arm and future career.
"I had nothing," Shiro tells Keith. "It was like everything I'd spent my whole life building towards was just gone. I had no idea what I was supposed to do or who I was. My family wanted me to go back home to Arizona, but I knew that if I was going to learn how to move on and live with all the change, I needed a completely fresh start. I couldn't go back to my old life. It would've been like... how do I describe it? It would've been like looking through a window at my old life without being able to reach it."
Keith, to his credit, is a great listener. He leans in, elbows resting on his knees and chin propped in his hand. "So, how'd you find this place?"
"I had a friend who was up at UA. We weren't super close at the time, but we were friends. I moved far enough away from campus that I'd wouldn’t have to see her if I didn't want to, but close enough that if I ever needed a landline to my old life, she'd be there in a minute. I'm glad I did; me moving here really re-sparked our friendship. She was actually one of the people I was with tonight before I ended up here."
The washing machine buzzes, and Shiro realizes with growing embarrassment that he's spent almost the entire cycle talking about himself. "So, I just dumped my entire life story onto you with no warning. Sorry about that."
Keith hops down and puts his clothes in the dryer opposite the row Shiro is still planted on. "Don't apologize. I wanted to hear it." He holds out one of the shirts from the wash, examining it. "Hey, no stain! Looks like that stuff worked pretty well."
Shiro lets out an exaggerated sigh of relief at the shirt. "Thank god, I was halfway worried it wouldn't work and then your ruined clothes would be on my head. Anyways, I think being a counselor is perfect for you. I've known you, what, an hour? And I'm already spilling my darkest secrets."
Turning the dryer on, Keith laughs and returns to his spot in front of Shiro. "If that was your darkest secret, then you're doing pretty well for yourself. Everyone has baggage, that's just a part of life."
"What about you? What's your baggage?" Shiro immediately regrets asking, wincing at his own question. It's one thing to voluntarily talk about the heavy details of your life to someone; it's another to ask that of someone you barely know. “Sorry, you don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to.”
But Keith handles the question in stride. "I already told you, didn't I? I was the angry kid who got in fights, the one who needed a guidance counselor to step in for him before he got expelled."
Shiro bites back the why sitting heavy on his tongue. He knows that most kids don't get to that point without a reason, but Shiro also knows it isn't his place to pry that information out of Keith.
It turns out that Shiro doesn't have to. When Shiro offers no response, Keith lowers his gaze, looking down at the empty washing machines. Voice barely above a whisper, he says, "I was in the system for most of my childhood. My mom left when I was still a baby, which sucked, but, my dad and I were happy. It was just the two of us, and he did everything he could to provide for me. But, he died when I was eight—he was a firefighter. After that, I went from home to home, never finding a place that more than tolerated me. I felt so unwanted, and I took that out on my classmates."
"Wow, Keith, I'm so sorry." Shiro lifts his hand, prepared to offer Keith some form of physical reassurance, but decides against it, curling his fingers around his knee instead.
"It's okay," Keith says, giving Shiro a small smile. "I've had plenty of time to cope with it and move on. My mom actually found me a couple of years ago. It was... rough, at first, but we've managed to find a balance that works for us."
"That's great, I'm so glad for you." Shiro can’t imagine what that must have been like. His whole life, his family has been his one constant, the one thing he knows will be there for him when he needs them. Looking at Keith, he can’t comprehend how anyone could not want him.
"Yeah, me too." Keith lets out an awkward chuckle. "Maybe I'm not the only one who should be a therapist. Actually, you never told me what you do. Are you really a psychiatrist in disguise?"
"Ha, no, I think I'd be a terrible therapist. I work at a bakery, actually."
Keith's eyes widen. "Seriously?"
Shiro grins. "Yeah. Weird choice for an ex-military student, I know, but that was always the one thing I really loved doing. When I came to town I planned on just working as a waiter or something, maybe a barista, but as fate would have it, there was a privately owned bakery looking to hire."
"That's awesome," Keith says. "I've never been gifted in the kitchen; I usually burn anything more complicated than eggs."
Shiro waves him off. "It's a skill you learn, not one you're born with. I think if you applied yourself you'd be surprised."
The conversation remains much more lighthearted after that. Shiro tells him about the basic ins-and-outs of working at a bakery, and the two discuss their favorite and least favorite desserts. It’s all small talk, but Shiro latches onto the opportunity to learn some of these little details about Keith. He hates raisins, but oatmeal raisin cookies are okay. Red velvet anything is his favorite, but oddly enough, he doesn't like cream cheese frosting. He thinks chocolate and red velvet is the untapped combination that everyone is missing out on (“Keith. Red velvet is already chocolate.” “So then it makes perfect sense to add more!”) , and he suggests to Shiro that this should be the next new dessert added to the bakery’s collection. Shiro admits that, despite making some kick-ass brownies, he doesn't actually like them. His weakness is lemon-flavored anything. Cakes, cookies, you name it. If he was on a desert island and could only have one dessert, Shiro would choose lemon bars every time.
When the dryer finishes, it feels like it couldn't have possibly run for long enough. Keith gathers up his clothes, and it soon becomes apparent that there's no longer any excuse for either of them to remain at the laundromat.
Neither one of them makes the first move to leave.
For a minute they just watch each other, Keith standing with his clothes folded into his laundry basket, Shiro still sitting on the machine. It isn't until Shiro slowly slides off the dryer that Keith speaks. "I should probably head back to my apartment and make sure the cats haven't destroyed everything."
"Yeah, of course," Shiro agrees. "Make sure no one else has given birth in your apartment. I should head back, too. My shift starts in," Shiro checks the time on his phone. Almost five am. "Five hours." He walks with Keith to the door, but stops before exiting. His heart is pounding, and he steels himself for what he's about to say next. "You should come by, sometime. To the bakery. You know, when we're open."
“Yeah!” Keith says excitedly, borderline overeager. A faint pink rises in his cheeks. "I mean, okay. Yeah, I'd love to."
"Really?" Shiro asks, heart pounding even harder now, adrenaline pumping with excited hope.
Keith's pink cheeks deepen to red. "Yeah, really. Uh, I don't know where it is, though."
Shiro smacks a hand against his forehead. "Right, duh. Hold on." He pulls his wallet out of his pocket, fishing out one of the business cards he keeps on hand, then passes it to Keith.
Keith reads over it before looking back up at Shiro. "Thanks. And uhm, thank you for helping me tonight. Seriously, I appreciate it. I don’t know a lot of people who would help a complete stranger covered in blood in the middle of the night." He backs himself up against the door while still facing Shiro, pushing on it slightly without leaving the building.
"Well, to be fair, you yourself weren’t covered in blood, just your laundry load."
"Still, thank you." Keith takes another step back, this time glancing out of the opening door. "Goodnight, I guess. I’ll see you around."
"Yeah, I’ll see you." Shiro offers a small wave. It’s too jerky and awkward, but Keith offers one in return, a final gesture before he’s gone, walking down the street and out of sight.
Shiro stands there for a moment, soaking in the empty space that just held the most unlikely human he’s ever met. And then he laughs, laughs at the last two hours of his life and how in all of his existence, and most likely anyone else’s, he’s never experienced anything quite that impossible.
It’s six hours later when Shiro comes up with another joke.
A guy walks into a bakery. He doesn’t carry anything weird, like, say, a basket full of bloody clothes, and the guy working there stands wearing a normal uniform.
The one without the bloody clothes is gorgeous, right down to the mullet that couldn’t have come from anywhere but 1976. The one who’s working the store is already in love, maybe not with him, but with this, this morning, even though by all definitions this is completely absurd.
A guy walks into a bakery, and the punchline, of course, is that this isn’t a joke. At 11:57 at the only bakery in town, Shiro stands behind the counter as Keith walks up, pulling out the red velvet cupcake (with chocolate icing, not cream cheese) he's pre-prepared from behind the display.
Keith's the most beautiful man Shiro has ever seen, and he knows right away he’s a goner.
Sometimes, that’s just how it goes.