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Speaking is Not Communication

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“Keith is amazing.”

Matt took his eyes off the screen of his laptop to look at his friend. Shiro was looking down at his packed lunch like it was God’s greatest miracle.

Matt heaved a long-suffering sigh. “Dude.”

Shiro blinked at him, chewing slowly to savor the taste of the lunch Keith had (lovingly, if you were to ask anyone except Keith himself) prepared for him.

“How are you still pining over your own boyfriend?” Matt said with a shake of his head. He continued typing. “You’re already dating. You’re literally together 24/7. You live in his closet. Which, you know, I still don’t know how to feel about. It’s weird. Cute, but weird- Also logistically impossible, but after my sister and her friends grew superpowers I’ve stopped worrying too much about science… so. The point. Uh. What was I saying? I had a point going in, right? Keith? You’re pining over Keith?”

Shiro watched his friend type for a few more seconds, and when it became apparent that he had lost Matt to whatever homework or research the guy was doing on his laptop, he finally said, “I’m not pining.”

Matt snorted. “Shirogane, I am 98% focused on this code Pidge wrote for Rover 3.0 and can’t be bothered to look at you but I can still tell you don’t believe what you said just now.”

“I’m not! I was just- I just complimented Keith, that’s all.”

“Mm, okay. Just a strictly platonic compliment about the guy you’re fake dating, yep, sure , Shiro.”

“Don’t do that.” Shiro sighed. “I was just appreciating the food, really .” 

“Uh-huh.” then Matt looked at him. “Oh hey, that anniversary dinner thing you two were obsessing about. That was last night, right? How did it go?”

Shiro blinked once at the sudden change of topic before smiling. “It went really well, actually. Everything went according to plan.”

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((Over the past week, Keith had dragged Shiro in a quest to prepare the perfect surprise homemade dinner for his uncles’ anniversary. Apparently, Thace and Ulaz hadn’t had time to make any plans to go out, simply mentioning that they’ll stay in and perhaps watch a movie. Thus, Keith had taken the matter into his own hands and came up with the surprise dinner. It wasn’t often he did things like this, but apparently he wanted something special for his uncles because they’ve both been very busy and often came home tired recently.))

((As with everything else he did, Keith approached the plan with fierce single-minded determination. Shiro, being the cheerleading fake-boyfriend he was, supported him wholeheartedly. Keith asked Hunk for recipes and cooking advice while Shiro scrolled through ‘romantic dinner at home’ search results in Pinterest. Their friends bore witness to a week of the two debating food choices and table cloth colors and whether or not to go with scented candles.))

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“Including the wine?” Matt asked.

Shiro chuckled. “Yes, including the wine.”

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((“SHIRO!” Keith yelled as he chased down a Hollow that popped up on the freakin’ school rooftop, of all places. Matt had been there, and turned to look for Shiro because Keith’s voice sounded so terrified and urgent - did something happen to Shiro?))

((Shiro was sitting on his corner, practicing napkin folding from a video playing on Keith’s phone in front of him. He looked up. “Yes?”))

((“We haven’t thought about the wine!” ))

((“Oh! The wine, of course!”))

((And then Shiro was googling wine recommendations.))

((Keith hacked at their newest monster-of-the-day like it was some minor annoyance in comparison to romantic dinner-planning details.))

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“Sounds great. How did the uncles react? I bet they loved it.”

“They did!” Shiro said with a fond chuckle. “They really did, actually. They looked very happy about everything. Keith was relieved. They invited us to join them, but we just said we already had dinner. We didn't want to intrude.”

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((It was all worth it, in the end. Thace and Ulaz were delighted (and a bit teary-eyed) when they went home to a candlelit table with dinner for two, a nephew who was smiling sheepishly, and said nephew’s boyfriend who congratulated them on their anniversary.))

((Keith was smothered in hugs for all of five minutes before he was able to squirm his way out of the two men’s arms and quickly escape with Shiro, claiming that they’ll just get some air outside, effectively leaving his uncles with the house to themselves.))

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“And then…?” Matt prompted, grinning.

Shiro looked at him cluelessly. “And then… what? The dinner went well.”

“I know, you said that. You and Keith left the uncles alone. That means you and Keith were alone too. So…? You had the rest of the night to yourselves…” Matt trailed off, then waggled his eyebrows.

“That's... right.” Shiro said, brows furrowing in confusion as Matt continued to waggle his eyebrows. “So we went on night patrol.”

Matt stopped. “Wha- Night patrol?”

“We patrol around town every night. Watching out for Hollows and doing some soul burials on stray spirits. I thought you knew?” Shiro asked, genuinely confused.

“Yes. I knew.” Matt grumbled. “Of course. Nothing more romantic than jumping around town fighting spirit monsters and giving ghosts pep talks.”

“Night patrol is not supposed to be romantic. It’s… our job.” Shiro said, then chewed thoughtfully on his food again. “And we’re not actually dating.”

Matt shook his head and sighed. “Wait, where is he, anyway? And Katie? We’re already halfway through lunchbreak. Are they out fighting Hollows?”

“...No. I would know if they were.” Shiro said, but took out his phone to check. No new messages. Keith and Pidge usually got to the rooftop before Matt and Shiro did. Hunk and Lance joined them sometimes, but that day the two were eating lunch with Lance’s other friends.

“Hang on. Katie’s online.” Matt said, hands flying over his keyboard again. “She has my lunch, man. I’m hungry, and you showing off your boyfriend’s homemade lunch isn’t helping.”

Shiro was about to offer to share his lunch, but he was cut off when Matt turned to look at him sharply, eyes wide.

“Matt?”

“Someone’s trying to steal your fake boyfriend.” Matt blurted out.

“...What?”

Matt squinted at his laptop screen again. “Apparently Katie is stuck watching Keith being asked out by this girl on their class? Keith won’t let her leave because he - I quote - ‘doesn’t know how to person’ .”

Matt tried to ignore it when he heard something that sounded suspiciously like chopsticks being crushed in someone’s hand, because a new message just popped up on his screen.

“Katie says the girl is persuasive, apparently she’s had a crush on Keith since first year when he… helped her carry stuff to the teacher’s office... one time.” Matt groaned. “Man, Keith does that all the time though. Helps people? Quietly? Nods when you thank him and then goes away? He’s, like, got that patented. He’s always been this super quiet but nice kid.”

“This girl likes Keith then?” Shiro asked, voice higher than usual.

Matt tried not to grin too smugly. “Yep.”

“Does Keith like her back?”

Finally, Matt caved in and looked at his friend. “Dude. Keith is gay. Gay. Do you know what gay means, do you have gay people in Soul Society? Because that is what you and your fake boyfriend are supposed to be right now according to this fake dating setup you have?”

“Um.”

Taking pity on the poor guy, Matt reached over to pat his back comfortingly. “Okay, buddy - I’m kidding. Katie says Keith is trying to dump the girl so that probably answers your question.”

“...okay. Okay, yeah, you’re right.”

“Aw, don’t worry so much, Shiro.” Matt said, this time with a snigger. “Your baby only has eyes for you.”

Shiro coughed, and would have buried his head in his hands if they weren’t occupied with his lunchbox and two broken chopsticks. “I called him that one time …”

“Well, it was very memorable.” then Matt looked at his messages again when he heard the message alert chime. “There, the poor girl has been rejected. They’re coming up now. You can rest easy. I can finally eat my lunch.”

Matt leaned back and stretched, then folded his laptop closed to wait for his sister and his lunch. When he looked at Shiro, he had to hold back a laugh as he saw the guy use his now broken chopsticks to finish eating the rest of his own lunch.

Shiro looked up at him then. “Does that always happen? People asking Keith out?”

Matt hummed as he thought. “Well… he hangs out with Katie more than me so I don’t know that much, but… yeah, I’ve heard it happen a couple times. Uh, about two other times before, I think? So this is like the third, maybe. To my knowledge. I don't, like, keep track...”

“Just the third?”

Matt chuckled. Of course, Shiro probably started worrying about competition after what they just heard about. “Yeah, just the third, don’t worry-”

“Why only three? Are you sure there weren’t more?”

Matt stopped short. “Wait, uh, what? More?”

“I mean…” Shiro looked down at his lunch, frowning. “Keith is an amazing person, I thought there would be more people who liked him. Liked him enough to… ask him out…”

Oh. Shiro wasn’t worried about new competition.

Shiro was genuinely wondering why there wasn’t more competition.

Actually, scratch that - Shiro looked offended that there wasn’t more competition.

Because apparently, Keith was very date-able.

But, Matt thought, this was Keith . He’d known the kid since Katie brought him home back in middle school. Keith was… well. He was Keith. Weird ghost kid, who besides the ghost thing was a pretty good friend to his sister, and a pretty nice kid overall. But still. 'Anger Issues Ghost Kid' was what most people knew him as.

“Well, sure.” Matt started. “Yeah, I guess Keith is indeed… attractive, if we’re talking looks. He rocks the mullet, at least.”

“He said his hair just grows that way.” Shiro defended, because of course Keith had informed his fake-boyfriend that the mullet is so not a mullet.

“Yeah, yeah.” Matt waved it off. “And, sure, he doesn’t dress so sloppily either...”

Understatement , Matt thought. Keith’s entire wardrobe was made up of skinny jeans, bomber jackets, statement shirts, and boots, and he somehow still managed to rock every single one of his ensembles with minimal effort, while rocking the mullet- Fine . The kid was a fashion icon. Wannabe aesthetic-fashion-Instagram-famous kids hate him.

“I’m not just talking about his looks, Matt-”

Matt nodded. “I know, I know. He’s a good person - cares about his friends, helps the elderly, loves his uncles, respects you if you respect him. Yep. All likeable qualities. He’s also smart but doesn’t show off, plus he’s a good student…”

In fact, now that Matt thought about it, Keith was such a good student and company, he convinced Katie to stay in school. Katie wanted to stop going to school when she got bullied for being the smallest and youngest and smartest in class, but Keith was both a good influence and reliable moral support for her. Enough for her to tough it out until the bullying subsided and she was mostly left alone to enjoy Keith’s and Hunk’s company.

“He’s also talented.” Shiro added.

“Yeah, like, it’s almost freaky how he’s good at everything he does- I mean, he fights, he cooks, he works with engines-”

“He does?”

“He part-times at the repair shop during school breaks.” Matt provided, then continued listing. “He’s good at sports, he can draw decently - I know because I got him to help me and Katie with Rover’s first blueprints - he reads good books, and he wins every video game night-”

Matt stopped. Shiro looked at him blankly.

“What the hell. He’s perfect.” Matt blurted out, looking disturbed.

Because this was Keith . How had he not noticed before how Keith can do anything ?

“Shiro, your fake boyfriend is perfect- Wait. Can he sing?”

Shiro smiled sheepishly. “Yes.”

Matt didn’t know about that. “What? Really?”

“I asked him about the guitar in his room and he said he’s stopped playing it, but Slav convinced him to play. For science, he said. So Keith played. And he sang a little, and it was… his voice was really... nice.”

Matt rubbed his temples. “Let me guess, Keith has the voice of an angel?”

Shiro was quiet for a while before admitting, “Yes.”

“What the hell?!” Matt exclaimed, distraught at these revelations. He’d always known that Katie’s Best Friend Keith Weird Ghost Kid Sometimes Punches People But They Usually Had It Coming Kogane was nice company and had many talents, he never realized that he was pretty much the ideal guy- “I can’t believe it! If I liked dudes, I’d want Keith to be my boyfriend!”

Shiro raised an eyebrow, but quickly nodded. “See?”

“How is it only three people have asked him out?”

Shiro nodded again. “That’s what I was wondering about!”

“Maybe it’s the talking-to-ghosts thing?” Matt continued, wondering. “Or the fighting? He always got into fights because of the talking-to-ghosts thing, but… heck, other people date actual delinquents with terrible personalities, why not the smart and talented perfect boyfriend who just happens to see and talk to ghosts sometimes?”

“Being polite to dead people shouldn’t be a… what do you call it? About deals...?”

“Deal-breaker.” Matt provided.

“Yes, that.”

“Yeah.” Matt agreed, nodding fervently. “I mean, sure, he looks grumpy, and almost always looks like he could kill you, but he’s nice if you’re nice to him. Everyone says he’s short-tempered, but I know he’s not. He listens to me and Katie ramble for hours. And makes sure we’ve eaten! If anything, he’s really thoughtful.”

God. Why is he suddenly stanning Keith.

What even was this new perspective that his best-friend-of-like-maybe-four-months-tops made him re-evaluate?

“He is. Very thoughtful.” Shiro said with a sigh that Matt wanted to claim was a dreamy one, but then the topic of their conversation arrived, and they both quickly shut their mouths, trying not to look too much like two schoolgirls gossiping about the campus heartthrob.

“There he is! Kogane, our resident heartbreaker!” Matt greeted, grinning too widely to look completely innocent. “And my food!”

Pidge snorted. “Of course it’s nice to see you too, Katie. Thanks for bringing my lunch, you’re the best little sister ever!” she said, voice dripping with sarcasm, handing her brother his lunch before plopping across him.

“Aw, she knows exactly what my heart says.” Matt cooed, ruffling his sister’s already unruly hair.

Pidge batted his hand away with an amused grin so she could eat her own lunch.

Keith sat down beside Shiro, as he always did. “Hey.” he said, with that easy smile he’d started to wear fairly recently.

“Hey.” Shiro greeted back, returning the smile with his own. “Thanks for the lunch.”

Keith shrugged. “Don’t mention it. It’s just leftover ingredients from last night. What happened to your chopsticks?”

“Uh… accident.” Shiro lied, lamely. He flinched when Matt inevitably choked, but maintained his smile for Keith. “Um. Thanks for the lunch.”

“You said that already.” Keith said, chuckling lightly as he started eating.

“I did?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh. Well. Uh- Okay.”

Keith was looking at him weirdly now. “Uh. Okay?” He narrowed his eyes, peering closely at Shiro’s face. “Shiro, are you okay?”

Giving up on his words, Shiro just nodded and then tried to finish the rest of his lunch.

Matt stared for moment before focusing on his meal. He didn’t know what was happening with Keith and Shiro, not really. Well, he got the whole substitute shinigami part. Shiro wasn’t really human, he’s basically a grim reaper, who saved Keith’s life out of the goodness of his heart and passed his powers to Keith, who took over the job while he recovers.

That was, surprisingly, the only part of their relationship that wasn’t vague.

They weren’t dating when all of this started out. Until they decided to fake-date because apparently dating was a convenient excuse to all the sneaking around they do -  but their friends learned about the whole shinigami gig the same day, so they called off the fake-dating because there was no need for the sneaking around part anymore… until someone blurted out to the uncles that Keith and Shiro were dating and the uncles were so happy that ‘Little Keith’ finally found love and Keith didn’t have the heart to tell them it wasn’t true. So now they were fake-dating again… for the sake of Keith’s adorable uncles...

They also keep messing with Lance. Actually, they keep messing with everyone .

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((Just last week, as Shiro fussed over a scratch on Keith’s cheek from a fight with a Hollow, Pidge teased them. “Aw, Keith, you shouldn’t worry your boyfriend like that...”))

((Lance added, “Why don’t you kiss it better, Shiro?”))

((Keith only glared his patented Keith Kogane Glare, but instead of telling them off, he exchanged a split-second look with Shiro. He wore the most smug smirk as his friends watched Shiro put a band-aid over the scratch before pressing a quick peck to it.))

((“OH GOD, MY EYES!” Pidge and Lance screamed, like the actual children that they were. Hunk was trying not to squeal.))

((“Shiro, I’m soooo tired.” Keith said, his voice comically monotone. “I don’t think I can walk home.”))

((Shiro was trying not to laugh, but one thing they’ve come to learn about the guy was that he could be as petty as the rest of them, so he scooped Keith up, bridal style, as he dramatically declared, “I got you, my love.”))

((Keith even went as far as wrapping his arms around his fake boyfriend’s neck. “My hero, what would I do without you?”))

((“That is so wrong.” Lance said, watching Shiro start the trek home with a whole entire Keith Kogane cozy in his arms. “Hunk- Oh my God- Dude, are you crying?”))

((“Their petty levels are right up there, huh.” Pidge remarked, both awed and horrified.))

((Matt just sighed.))

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Okay, maybe they did deserve being subjected to the horribly-acted cheesy PDA, because them being gossips landed the two in the fake-dating situation in the first place.

Sometimes though, Matt thought that perhaps it wasn’t all fueled by spite.

He looked at them now, lunchboxes set aside, Keith snug against Shiro’s side, head tilted to muffle his yawn against the other’s shoulder. They were mumbling something between the two of them, something that made Keith chuckle and Shiro smile and Keith close his eyes while Shiro ruffled his hair, all of it culminating to Keith sliding down to lay his head on Shiro’s lap as he announced that he was gonna take a quick 5 minute nap.

So their friends were supernatural monster-fighting samurai? Sure. Are they dating? Uhhh… details unclear, ask again later.

He felt Katie nudge his arm. “Are you gonna tell them they’re acting like the cutest sappiest dorks in love, or what?”

Matt snorted. “Naw, they won’t get it.”

Shiro was now playing some kind of puzzle game in Keith’s phone. Keith, who also had the ability to fall asleep literally anywhere and wake up literally anytime, was peacefully napping.

Katie sighed. “Yeah, they won’t.”

Chapter Text

Hunk thought it was cute, really. Lance complained, Pidge looked mildly alarmed, and Matt seemed, at best, exasperated , but Hunk thought it was cute.

It, being Keith doing kendo drills.

Okay, the kendo wasn’t new. They all knew that Keith used to practice kendo when he was younger. And now that his shinigami part-time gig’s weapon-of-choice is a giant sword, it was no doubt useful to practice sword drills.

What’s new is Keith going through the drills pressed up against someone , listening intently to their instructions and letting them guide him through the stances.

The word ‘guide’ here doesn’t mean Keith’s instructor was telling him what to do and watching him try to do it. Nope. This is guiding that goes like “Here, let me stand behind you and encircle you in my toned arms and hold your hands in mine and whisper gently into your ear as I teach you how to swing this bamboo sword properly.”

The ‘someone’ here was Shiro. Of course it was. Who else would it be.

“What kind of romcom shit is this.” Hunk heard Lance say. “I did not come here to be tortured, Hunk.”

“No one came here for this, I assure you.” came from Pidge. Hunk saw her brow twitch slightly when Shiro’s hand went to Keith’s waist to correct his posture.

“You know it’s… not as bad as them sparring.” Matt said, trying to see the bright side in the situation because, well, someone should.

The reminder, however, just made both Lance and Pidge shiver, and even Hunk felt a bit embarrassed.

Watching Keith and Shiro sparring a few days prior was a whole other experience, because the pouncing, grunting, heavy breathing, pinning the other to the practice mat, flipping each other over, coupled with the mutual grinning and teasing was too much and everyone else just felt like they were intruding on something, and that led to all of them quietly, meekly excusing themselves from the room.

So yes, however the memory made them feel, Matt was right - watching the two act out a scene from some cheesy romantic movie was not as horrible as the tension-filled sweaty sparring session they all suffered from.

Luckily, that was when the door opened and Coran peered inside. He took one look at the scene and chuckled. “Ah, young love.”

Pidge was the first one to perk up. “Coran! Please tell us you’ve removed whatever poison fog you unleashed in your lab and we can hang out there instead.”

Coran grinned, finger twirling his orange mustache. “This is why you’re my favorite, Number Five! Come on, then, let’s work on that improved Hollow tracker.”

Hunk and Matt stood up, eager. Lance furrowed his brows. “Wait, that ’s what you guys came here for? Why am I here then?”

“Oh, you’re coming with us, Mr. Quincy!” Coran said. “You have the best spiritual control in the group! Well... next to Shiro, but he’s still recovering his abilities so he’s an outlier. That makes you the best!”

Lance beamed, preening at the praise. “You think so?”

“I know so!”

That was enough to get him to his feet and follow the others out. Hunk was the last to leave the room, sparing one last glance to his friends who were totally training and not just flirting with each other.

He coughed. “Hey, uh, guys, we’ll be at the lab, okay?”

Both looked up abruptly, pulled out of their little bubble. Shiro smiled while Keith nodded. “Yeah, sure. Have fun… um... doing science?”

Hunk gave them a thumbs up before closing the door behind him. He walked through the strange halls of Coran’s house-laboratory-office-place, heading for the lab.

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((Ever since Shiro introduced them to the man, whom he vaguely referred to as an “associate”, their group of friends had taken to hanging out at Coran’s place after school and even during the weekends.

It was, really, a matter of convenience. As Shiro had promised, Coran was a bit of a mad scientist, and he instantly bonded with “Team Science”.

The man gave Shiro and Keith tips on how to improve Keith’s spiritual senses, then exchanged theories about Pidge and Hunk’s powers, and worked with them plus Matt to test the limits of their newfound abilities. Coran had a special training room that could withstand Keith’s giant blade attacks, Lance’s spirit arrows and Hunk’s new superpowered punches.

The fact that the room was “bigger on the inside” only prompted Pidge, Matt and Hunk to obsess over the science-magic-spirit-stuff that made it work.

Lance always claimed to hate shinigami by principle that he was a quincy, but after tasting Coran’s weird but delicious snacks, and being praised by Coran for his abilities and sweet-talked into helping with their experiments, he eventually conceded that Coran was not bad, for a shinigami.

Lastly, Coran didn’t even bat an eye at a walking and talking stuffed toy. When they brought in Slav, the man only huffed in amusement and said, “Hm. Well, that’s a reasonable solution, if I've ever seen one.” So Slav was free to roam around and annoy someone else for a change. Shiro and Keith could only spend so much time around him before they both snapped.))

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When Hunk got to the lab, Pidge was already perched by the computers, while Slav was perched on Pidge’s head, both of them studying the data on the monitors. Lance was doing some spirit thing over one of Coran’s prototypes, while the man took notes on how his invention was faring. Matt waved Hunk over to help him tinker with the Hollow tracker they were working on. They were trying to improve the one that Coran had given Shiro to use.

They had been working for about 30 minutes when someone’s phone rang. With everyone distracted, it took Pidge cursing to get their attention.

“Oh, shit - it’s Thace.”

Matt blinked. “Thace is calling you?”

“No, Thace is calling Keith.” Pidge replied. “I have Keith’s phone. I told him I’m gonna try installing the Hollow tracker on it too.”

“Well?” Lance raised an eyebrow. “You’re gonna worry Uncle Wolverine. Just answer it and tell him Keith’s busy with Shiro right now.”

“Do you have a death wish, man?” Matt deadpanned. “Let me remind you, Keith has a giant sword.”

“Okay, maybe just tell him Keith’s not in the room?” Hunk suggested. “We can get him if it’s urgent.”

Pidge finally nodded, tapping the phone to answer the call. “Keith’s phone. Hey, Thace! No, it’s Pidge. Keith’s not in the room right now… uh… yeah, yeah he left his phone here-”

“To charge.” Lance provided.

“-because it’s charging.” Pidge giving Lance a nod. She listened to the other line. “What was that? Our proj- Oh, yeah, our project! It’s going well, yeah. Yep, he’s with Shiro, they’re… uh...” Her eyes swept the room, flailing a hand to ask for help.

Lance shrugged. “Buying snacks?”

“-out buying snacks! I can take your message, if you like, or I’ll tell him to call you back-” A pause. “Oh. Okay. Okay, got it. You’ll send a list? I’ll tell him when he gets back. Yeah- Yeah, Oooh, Shiro can come too? ” Pidge grinned, exchanging a look with the others. “Sure thing. I’ll tell ‘em. Yeah, got it. No problem, Thace. Bye!”

She hung up, then looked at the others. “So we’re supposed to tell Keith to buy some dinner ingredients on his way home. Thace is gonna send a list. Shiro is invited and from the way Thace said it, I’m pretty sure the uncles are already planning the wedding.”

It was nothing new, really. The uncles had been smitten with Shiro from the moment they met the guy.

With that out of the way, they all moved to continue where they left off, back to their own little experiments-

Until Pidge said, “Uh. Guys. Keith’s lockscreen is Shiro.”

“You’re kidding.” Lance said. “I know they’re the opposite of subtle, but that’s- That’s next level, dude.”

Pidge stared him dead in the eye as she flipped the phone to give them a good view of the screen.

It was indeed Shiro, grinning happily as a familiar white cat booped his nose with her paw.

Hunk squeaked. “Aw, it’s Shiro and the princess!”

“It is quite adorable, indeed.” Coran nodded, rubbing his chin. “It seems Princess Allura has already picked a favorite, hm?”

“She’d boop Shiro, but not me?!” Lance whined.

“Lance.” Hunk sighed. “You’re allergic to cats.”

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((The first time they met Coran, they also met Allura. She was a beautiful white cat with eyes that seemed to change color everytime someone looked at them. Coran introduced her as “My housemate, Princess Allura.”

“He calls his cat ‘princess’.” Lance snorted.

Coran coughed, eyes narrowed. “I must correct you, my boy. She is NOT my cat. Again, she is my housemate. Princess Allura does not belong to anyone. And I call her ‘princess’ because she is one.”

“Those eyes are not normal cat eyes.” Keith pointed out, blunt as always. “Is she a… real… normal… cat?”

There was a full five seconds of silence before Coran said, “Why, yes, Keith. She’s real enough, alright.”

They chose not to question that, because Princess Allura did not look the least bit pleased with any of them. Except Shiro. She was perfectly comfortable sitting on Shiro’s lap.

But Pidge had another question up her sleeve. “So… Coran, what are you? Are you a shinigami too, like Shiro?”

Another long silence. “I’m a scientist. Just like Allura is a cat.”

And… sure. Okay. Of course he’s a scientist. Of course Allura is a perfectly normal cat.

A couple days later, they saw Allura playing with a group of mice. Not playing with them like they were food, but playing with them like they were friends.

“Oh, those are her pets.”

“Your pet has pets.”

“Princess Allura is not a pet. Don’t let her hear you say that. If you want to live.”

“O-Okay...?"

Yep. Perfectly normal.))

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Anyway-

“Keith actually took a photo of his fake boyfriend being booped on the nose by a cat and made it his lockscreen.” Matt said. “Unbelievable.”

“You’re just bitter because the princess doesn’t like you.” Pidge pointed out.

“I try to be sweet and give her treats and she never lets me pet her!” Matt mourned. “Then I see her letting Keith scratch her chin? And she boops Shiro’s nose? Unfair.”

“She doesn’t like treats.” Hunk said. “I asked.”

“Who?”

“The princess.”

Coran nodded at this, impressed.

Lance looked dubious. “She answered you?”

“I asked nicely.” Hunk shrugged. “Then she pat my hand. So I took that as a yes. I think she doesn’t like to be… uh… sweet-talked? Because I saw Keith talking to her, like, normally, and she was fine with that.”

“Keith talking to-” Matt squinted, then turned to Pidge. “He talks to ghosts. He talks to cats now, too?”

"Maybe." Pidge shrugged, staring down at the phone screen - before it blacked out again. “These two are hopeless.”

There was a general noise of agreement among everyone else in the room.

“I think it’s cute.” Hunk volunteered. “That they go on dates and give each other little presents-”

Pidge looked up sharply, and so did the others. “Whoa. Whoa, hold- Hold up, what? They do what? They go on dates? When?

Hunk thought about it. “Uh, they went ice skating together last week… The aquarium too. And that one time they went to that pet cafe?”

They all stared at him.

“They took me to the aquarium place with them.” Slav said. “It was a nice trip. Very informative. You humans have many interesting water friends.”

Matt, Pidge and Lance looked at him, then back at Hunk.

“What?” Hunk blinked. “It’s all on Keith’s Instagram.”

“Keith is on Instagram?!” Matt choked, and Hunk had never seen Lance whip his phone out so fast.

Meanwhile, Pidge was practically shrieking. “Since when?!”

“...you didn’t know?”

“We’re not on Instagram.” Matt said, in behalf of his sister. “Why is Keith on Instagram?”

Lance was swiping rapidly at his phone. “His only followers are Hunk, his uncle, and his uncle’s boyfriend’s gym. And some guy called Regris- wow, this dude’s ripped.”

“I know him, he works on Uncle Mohawk’s gym.” Pidge said, then blinked in realization. “Wait, I remember! Keith made an Instagram because he got roped in by the uncles to follow the gym’s account for some… marketing thing? They needed followers? I thought he abandoned it afterwards.”

“Nope, he posts pretty pictures now and then.” Hunk said. “Like, scenery and buildings and stray cats on sidewalks. And Shiro.”

Matt sidled up beside Lance to look at the pictures.

Shiro cuddling puppies. Shiro meditating. Shiro doing homework. Keith with penguins . Matching ice cream cones. A tiny hippo plushie from the amusement park. Someone’s silhouette against a sunset. The photos had no captions or hashtags, but all of them were geotagged with locations.

Coran hummed. “I must say, our Keith has a good eye for photographs.”

“Helps that Shiro already looks like a model- Oh my God.” Lance stopped, fell silent, face carefully blank before he declared, “Mullet is an Instagram boyfriend.”

Pidge gaped, and dashed to grab the phone and check the photos herself. Hunk chuckled lightly before nodding. “Yeah, Keith is an Instagram boyfriend.”

Lance looked horrified. “What timeline are we in?”

“Oh, and that red lion charm is from Shiro, by the way.” Hunk said, because his friends looked shaken and their faces were the funniest things he’d seen in days.

Pidge lifted Keith’s phone and the three stared at the shiny red plastic robot lion head dangling from the phone case.

“Shiro has the black one. Matchy-matchy.” Hunk added with a smile. “Super cute.”

Lance squinted at his best friend. “How do you know all this?”

.

.

((Hunk didn’t expect to come across them that afternoon, really. He was on his way home when he saw Keith and Shiro in front of one of the tiny shops that sold toys, candy and comics in the neighborhood. Keith was talking and Shiro was listening intently.

Then Keith slid a token into the gashapon machine and twisted the latch.

Hunk had to keep himself from laughing out loud when they both leaned down and ended up butting heads in their excitement.

Keith got his toy and as Shiro took his turn, Hunk finally decided to approach them. He  raised a hand and before he could say anything, both Keith and Shiro turned to look right at him.

“Hey, Hunk.” said Shiro.

“Holy-... Did you see me coming?!”

“No, we felt you.” Keith said. “My senses are improving.”

Hunk sighed. “That was scary, man. So what’re you guys up to?”

“Shiro wanted to see how this thing works, so we tried it.” Keith explained, shaking the plastic capsule near his ear. He looked at Shiro and grinned. “You ready?”

Hunk watched as the two opened the capsules at the same time.

“I got the Black Lion.” Keith said, lifting up the charm. “It looks cool.”

“I got Red.” Shiro announced, grinning back. Then he looked at Keith. “It’s your favorite color, right? Do you want it?”

Keith looked at the charm, then at Shiro. “Okay, you have Black, then.”

Then Hunk watched as Keith taught Shiro how to hang it up on his phone. He had begun to think that the two had forgotten him, when Shiro looked at him and asked, “Are you getting one too, Hunk?”

Hunk took a second to think about it before shrugging. “Eh, why not?”

He got Yellow.))

.

.

Of course, before Hunk could explain himself, Keith chose to enter the room. He looked fresh from the shower - he and Shiro probably decided to spar again. He had Princess Allura The Totally Real Normal Cat in his arms. He stopped as soon as he saw his friends and Coran all huddled together. Keith narrowed his eyes as he zeroed in on the familiar item in the middle of said huddle.

“Is that my phone?”

Lance, with surprisingly reliable lying skills, blurted out, “We’re testing the new thingy Pidge put in it. It’s not working. Your phone sucks. Like you.” Then he tilted his head and grinned charmingly at the cat cradled in Keith’s arms. “Hello, Princes- ACHOO! ” He sneezed and rubbed his nose. “I’ll just- uh- Sit over there… in the corner…”

“Can cats sigh?” Matt whispered to Hunk, because that was the only way he could describe the cat’s reaction to all that.

“Are you done with my phone?” Keith finally said, extending a hand to take his phone.

“No, but I can pick up next time.” Pidge returned the item without complaint. “Thace called, he’ll send you a list of stuff to buy for dinner. He said to invite Shiro too.”

Keith nodded and began to check his inbox for other unread messages.

“And we all saw your lockscreen.”

At this, Keith looked up at them. His cheeks were pink, but he stood his ground and only raised an eyebrow, practically daring them to say anything . “And?”

Coran saved the day. “It was a very nice photo!”

“Thanks, Coran.” Keith spared a polite smile. “I had a very nice subject.”

Pidge grinned. “Shiro?”

Keith squinted. “Allura. Shiro just… uh… happened to be there.”

Said cat practically preened, gracefully leaning up to nuzzle Keith’s cheek.

“Can cats smirk ?” Matt whispered again, this time to his sister.

“You always do that?” Lance asked from his corner, innocent. “Take pictures of Shiro?”

“Sometimes.” Keith said, not meeting anyone’s eyes, burning holes in his phone.

“Real~ly???” Lance hummed. “Only sometimes?”

There was a chime from Keith’s phone. He read the notification, looked up and glared at Lance.

Then to his surprise, before he can do anything, the cat in his arms raised a paw and tapped at the screen.

Lance looked down when his phone chimed. He cried, “You have exactly 4 followers and you still block me?!”

Pidge and Matt cackled, Hunk covered his laugh with his hand, and Coran nodded again, amused.

Keith smirked as he stroked the cat’s fur. “Thank you, Your Highness.” Said princess purred as she continued daintily playing with the red lion charm on his phone. Coran had told them that she liked shiny things.

After that, their group settled down to finally go back to what they were working on. Shiro came back from his shower, towel still draped on his shoulders, and quickly got pulled in by Coran to help test whatever new gadget he was making.

Hunk smiled guiltily when Keith approached him to settle The Perfectly Ordinary Non-Magical Cat Called Princess Allura down on the table beside him. “I… I kinda slipped and told them you’re on Instagram. I thought they knew? Sorry, Keith.”

Keith shook his head. “It’s fine, no big deal. It’s just a place for photos I like, and no one sees them, anyway. Just you guys and my uncles. And… and it’s not like I’m hiding it. Just from Lance because he’s being an ass.”

“I like the latest pictures.” Hunk said, earnest. “Kinda surprised you and Shiro go out so much.”

“Well, we can’t just binge-watch Sailor Moon all day.” Keith said, sheepish.

Hunk hesitated for a moment, then took a step closer and asked in a whisper, “So… are they like, dates? Like, date dates?”

Keith looked at him, this time actually blushing, before he turned away, shaking his head. “Of course not. We’re just- y’know, hanging out. We got bored at home and Shiro’s never been anywhere , so we thought we’d go… places. It’s for fun. It’s... not… like that.”

Hunk thought of telling him that ‘date’ dates were usually also for fun, but Keith looked ready to bolt, so he decided to let that slide. “Okay. Sure. If you say so.”

Keith nodded this time, then gestured awkwardly to his phone as he stepped away. “I gotta… call Thace back…”

Hunk watched him go, but before he could join the others, Shiro approached him. “Is Keith... okay?”

Hunk tried not to sigh. He just smiled at Shiro. “Yeah, he’s just making a call home. About dinner, probably.”

"Oh." Shiro smiled at this. “His uncles are very kind. They’ve been inviting me over all the time.”

They heard Matt calling, “Hey, Shiro, come over here, we need you on this one!”

Shiro looked at the others and- did something just explode on that table? “Give me a minute.” he called back, and left his towel and phone down on the table before joining them.

Hunk didn’t mean to look, it was just one of those things you notice - but there it was.

Shiro’s lockscreen was Keith.

Well, it was mostly a stuffed hippo plush, but Keith was there, peering up from behind it.

Hunk thought it was the cutest .

“Oh, boy.” he whispered, now openly staring at the item until the screen lights dimmed and then blacked out. That was when he realized that the princess was also looking curiously at the photo. “It’s like that , though. Don’t you think, Your Highness?”

Princess Allura raised a paw and pat his arm. He took that as a yes.

.

Chapter Text

.

Coran was just cleaning up his usual diagnostic equipment when someone knocked on the door he had left ajar.

Keith peeked inside curiously. “Uh, Slav said you guys were here.”

“Well here we are!” Coran greeted cheerfully, waving him over. “Don’t be shy now, lad. You can come in.”

Keith stepped inside, looking around the room as he made his way towards Shiro, who was sitting up on what looked like a hospital bed, just starting to button up his uniform shirt. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Keith replied. It took no time at all for him to recognize the bed, the shelves of medicine and the table with the tools in it. He grew up in a clinic, after all. “Is everything okay?”

Coran didn’t miss Shiro’s soft smile, but thought it better than to watch so openly, so he withdrew his gaze and focused on packing up the tools and trinkets on the table.

“I’m okay, Keith. It’s just the routine check-up. Just making sure my soul’s doing fine in this body.” Shiro said, then yawned. “Always leaves me sleepy, though. Side-effect of the… diagnostic… spell… things...” He rubbed his eyes sleepily.

While picking up one of his gadgets, Coran caught a glimpse of Keith gently prying Shiro’s clumsy hands away so he could button up the man’s shirt himself. “Are you really okay?”

Shiro chuckled. “You can ask Coran.”

Keith didn’t have to ask. Coran perked up and nodded reassuringly. “There’s no need for alarm, my boy. He’s been steadily regaining his strength. The drowsiness is a sign of that, his current body is meant to store only low-level spiritual energy, and he’s slowly moving past that, so he tends to get tired faster. Don’t worry, I’m working on a new, more suitable body, and for the meantime, I can give him something to ease the fatigue.”

Keith blinked. “What, like a medicine?”

Coran nodded. “Just a harmless pill, once a day. Think of them as some sort of… vitamins? Food supplements. Anyway, it’s only for two, three days, tops. I’ll have the new body by then. Otherwise, your Shiro is great.”

“See?” Shiro smiled as he smothered another yawn. “Your Shiro is great.”

Keith snorted, finishing up the last button on the shirt. He also straightened the collar for good measure. “My Shiro should probably take a nap.”

“But… we have to patrol-”

“I can manage. Pidge was able to put the tracker thing on my phone.” Keith said, crossing his arms across his chest. "And she wants to tag along tonight, actually."

“A nap would be conducive, Shiro. Listen to your Keith.” Coran said with an amused smile as picked up his stuff and turned towards his guests. “You may use that bed, if you want to.”

“See?” Keith said, smirking. “Listen to your Keith.”

“My Keith is bossy.” Shiro tried to pout - it was adorable - but he ended up yawning again.

“I’ll just put these away and then I’ll get you that medicine.” Coran said as he crossed the room, heading for the door.  “I mean it though, the room’s yours so feel free to take a nap.”

“Thanks, Coran.” was the last thing he heard as he left the room.

He headed to the lab to put his tools away. Matt and Slav were there, bent over one of his prototypes. They greeted him distractedly. After that, he dropped by the training room and found Lance and Hunk having a chat. Across the room, Pidge was experimenting with a very small version of her shield, using it as some sort of seesaw for the mice while Allura watched in fascination. No wonder, Pidge’s precise control of her new power was very impressive.

Coran never really expected Shiro to bring his friends over. Not that he didn’t like them. Coran did like them a lot - they were curious and intelligent and painfully young . He enjoyed having them around. It was a nice change of pace from his and Allura’s usual isolation.

Coran and Allura never expected Shiro , period. They found him shortly after he had lost his powers. Coran and Allura didn’t know much about Shiro, but as far as they can gather, he was just an ordinary shinigami… he gave his powers to a human, and thus effectively stuck in the living world for the meantime. Had this happened several centuries earlier, Coran was sure that Allura would have said ‘no’, would have pointed out that what Shiro did was against the rules. But their circumstances have changed since then. He and Allura knew better. It was actually Allura who decided that they would provide assistance.

.

.

((“Are you… You’re-?” Shiro seemed at a loss, a soul without powers, approached by a strange man and his cat. “You’re gonna help me? I don’t-”

“We can give you a new body, an identity, some tools to help you get started and settled while you recover…” Coran said, walking around the man as if to get all his angles. “That’s our business.”

“Business?” Shiro frowned. “I’m sorry, I-.. I don’t exactly have the means to pay-”

Allura did a cat’s version of a huff, and Shiro looked bewildered at her. He only managed to blink tiredly when Coran leaned down and pat his back. “No worries, my boy. We can open a tab.”))

.

.

And then, because they had decided to help Shiro, it also figured that they’d be helping Keith.

Keith, who had an unbelievably strong spiritual pressure, growing even stronger day by day. Keith - strong, brilliant, thoughtful Keith who Shiro had nothing but praise and fondness for. Keith, who Shiro had insisted they keep their distance from because “he’s done enough for me, I don’t want to drag him into this.” Keith, who Shiro ended up bringing to Coran and Allura anyway, because they could help Keith, and Shiro only ever wanted what’s best for him. Keith, who remained blissfully oblivious to the nature of his powers.

Coran thought that maybe they should tell him, but Allura took one look at Shiro looking at Keith and Keith looking back, and she decided that maybe they can wait a bit longer.

Besides, it wasn't just Keith who ought to know. Coran knew other people who maybe could explain it all a bit better.

He must have been too caught up in his thoughts, that he didn’t notice that he was back again in his home clinic until he heard voices from inside the room.

“So… nobody. Nobody ever calls you by your first name? It’s really always just ‘Shiro’?” Keith’s voice was soft, almost a whisper, but loud enough in the silence.

“Hm… yes. Anyway, almost everyone just calls each other by last name. Shiro is easier than Shirogane, so it’s still a nickname, I guess.”

“What about your friends?”

“I don’t really have… many friends.” A sigh. “I know a lot of people, but… They don’t really- They’re more like co-workers.”

“You? No way. Everyone likes you.”

Shiro’s chuckle was sheepish, sleepy. “It’s… different. Back there. I’m different.”

“Different how?” then he huffed, smug - Coran could almost see the teasing grin. “Are you a big deal over there or something? Have some sort of reputation?”

“No, it’s not that.” Shiro replied, sounding hesitant. “I look different. I’m not… I just look different, over there.”

Keith let out a confused hum. “Different how?”

There was a pause. Shiro was thinking. “You don’t remember? The night we met?”

“It’s a bit hazy. I know what happened. I remember the fight and the Hollow. I don’t… I don’t recall the little details.” Keith said.

Shiro sighed. Leave it to Keith to regard a man’s scarred face and a metal arm as ‘little details’.

“Wait. The scar? You had a scar. I think.”

Ah. There.

“A lot of them, unfortunately. And there’s my arm.”

“I didn’t see it much. What’s… What’s wrong with your arm?”

“My arm is... My right arm’s a prosthetic, Keith.”

“Oh.” Keith fell silent again.

Coran knew all that and more. He met Shiro in soul form - he saw the angry scar running across the man’s nose and examined the prosthetic arm himself. It was easy to attribute them to injuries from the field. Shinigami were effectively soldiers in a way, and Hollows were dangerous and ruthless. Still, in the living world, the scar and the arm would attract unnecessary attention, specially on someone supposed to be blending in as a high school student. That’s why he provided Shiro with a physical body that was free of either. The hair, however-

“Skunk hair.”

“Hm?”

“You had white hair, right? Not all over, but… It’s like… like a… sort of… floof. Right… uh. Here-”

“A floof.” Shiro laughed softly. “I did.” then as an afterthought, “I still do. You just can’t see it right now.”

Coran knew of several things that could have caused the hair, but he chose not to pry. He remained cautious, though. Hence the check-ups and questions. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Shiro - he was actually surprised just how much he trusted the man - but he didn’t trust how Shiro isn’t entirely sure how the white happened.

“So, what, just because you’re a big guy with white hair floof, a scar and a prosthetic arm... people didn’t like you?

“I think they get sort of… intimidated.”

“But you’re-...” Keith stopped, probably considering his words, and coming up short. “...you.” His next words were stilted, but they were honest. “You’re not scary. They should get to know you before they judge you. You’re... good.”

“Thank you, Keith.” came Shiro’s reply. He let out another yawn. Coran shook his head. The man was still stubbornly fighting naptime, of course. “It’s not so bad. I didn’t really have the time for it, anyway. I was focused on my job. And now I have you. And the others. You’re good friends.”

“You risked yourself for us several times. It’s the least we could do.” Keith paused for a beat, and Coran was about to make some sort of noise, announce his presence before entering- “So your friends can call you by your first name, then?”

“Hm… Well, I’ve already gotten used to ‘Shiro’, but-”

“Takashi.”

Shiro was quiet.

“Did I say that right?”

“Y-Yeah.”

“Takashi.” Keith repeated again, as if testing how the name sounded, coming from his lips. “I sound weird. Kashi? Huh. I sound like a toddler. ‘Takashi’, then?”

“It sounds nice.” Shiro said, after a while. “You can use that, if you want.”

“Maybe I’ll stick with ‘Shiro’, for now.” Keith said. “I’ll save ‘Takashi’ for when you piss me off or something.”

Shiro laughed. “I finally get someone to call me by my name, and it’s only when they’re mad at me?”

“Yeah.” Keith chuckled, then his tone went hard - “Seriously, though. You have to take your nap now. Takashi.”

Shiro let out a strangled noise, but the boys didn’t say anything else, just sort of laughing softly at each other. When Coran heard rustling, he finally decided to announce his presence and enter the room.

He held back from his usual loud greetings, knowing what he was walking in on, but he still stopped midway a quieter one when he saw how his two guests had been talking all this time.

Keith was sitting up on the bed. Shiro was lying on his side, head pillowed comfortably on his companion’s lap. One of Keith’s hand idly stroked Shiro’s hair, while his other was swiping through his phone. Shiro was already asleep, he had dozed off fast as soon as he stopped trying to stay awake.

Coran chose not to comment on any of it, instead exchanging a quiet nod with Keith as he crossed the room and rifled through his shelves. He found the medicine quickly and handed it to Keith, who, familiar with reading prescription medicine labels, examined the little bottle right away.

“So just take one pill once a day?” Keith asked. “This will keep his energy up?”

“Basically. It’s only until I finish making the new body. Shouldn’t take that long.” Coran reassured.

Keith’s next question was more careful, guarded. “Coran, how… how many bodies have you made for Shiro?”

Coran looked at Shiro, napping peacefully, then at Keith’s hand scratching gently at the sleeping man’s undercut. “Only two, so far. When he decided to stay and pose as a human while recovering his powers, I gave him a body fit for the purpose. All human functions, but can house a soul steadily gaining spiritual pressure of a shinigami of his rank. Then he came back to me, asking me if I can make a body with enhanced physical strength so he could assist you. It was made in a rush, so while it was able to focus on physical strength, its capacity to hold spiritual pressure isn’t as flexible as the first one. That’s the current body he’s in. The next one I make will be fit for both.”

“I see.” Keith replied, tucking the medicine bottle in his pocket. “His soul form… Is it...? Is it different? From… this one?”

“Yes.” Coran said with a nod. “But you have to know, the substitute bodies I make, they’re only that. Vessels. Something physical to house a soul. Some details might have been tweaked just a smidge, but as far as we’re concerned, one’s soul, one’s mind and heart, they remain just the same.”

Keith nodded back, sparing a small smile. “Right. Thanks, Coran.”

Coran smiled, making for the door. “Well, I’ll check up on Matt and Slav in the lab now. They’re very smart, but we don’t want the house to burn down. Also, Pidge meant to ask when you’re going to start patrol?”

Coran could tell that he had mostly lost Keith to Shiro’s peaceful sleeping face already. “Give me a few more minutes. I’ll join them in a bit.”

“Got it. I’ll tell her.” was all Coran said, and when he exited the room, he made sure to close the door as quietly as he could.

.

.

When Coran found the others, Pidge had upgraded from a seesaw for mice to a seesaw for humans.

Lance and Hunk were sitting on opposite ends of her shield, and she was moving her hands left to right and back, focusing on controlling the contraption.

It moved less like a seesaw and more like some amusement park ride. Hunk looked about ready to throw up.

“Keith wants to tell you that he’ll be joining you in a bit.”

“What about Shiro?” Pidge asked. “He usually comes too, right?”

“He’ll be staying behind for now, I reckon. He’s taking quite a nice nap in Keith’s lap.” Coran said, grinning like a proud father.

Lance whistled. “Ya know. I think I’ve figured out why they keep not-dating each other.”

Hunk blinked. “Okay? Mind sharing your theory?”

“They skipped dating altogether. They just started from strangers, then went straight to couple-married-for-30-years-and-still-grossly-in-love.”

Nobody spoke for a while, then Pidge shrugged. “That’s... not entirely incorrect?”

“Pardon me.” Coran started, and the three teenagers turned to him expectantly. “Do you mean to say that our two good friends Keith and Shiro aren’t actually… together?”

He was answered with groans.

“Nobody knows, Coran.” Hunk said with a resigned smile.

Huh.

Well, then.

How could he possibly have missed that, he wondered.

.

Chapter Text

.

From: Unknown
Message:

‘Hi, Lance. Good afternoon. This is Shiro. I got your number from Hunk. I hope you don’t mind.’

 

Of all the messages Lance thought he would receive that day, that was not on the list of what he expected.

But, well. It’s Shiro. Shiro was an okay person. Lance saved the contact first and then replied.

 

‘hey man’

‘it’s cool. no problem.’

‘what’s up?’

 

From: Not Mullet’s BF
Message:

‘I was wondering if you’re home and if I could come over? I need help with something and Keith said you’re the guy for this.’

 

Huh. Lance blinked. Mullet referred Shiro to him? What is up ?

 

‘just u?’

‘no keith?’

but yeah sure ok’

 

From: Not Mullet’s BF
Message:

‘He’s got something else going on today. Thanks, Lance. I’ll head over there now.’

 

.

.

“Okay. What the hell, man.”

Lance didn’t know what he was looking at. Okay, he knew. But. Like. Why .

All that came out from Shiro was “Um.”

And that-? Um? UM?

How.

That was exactly what Lance said. “ How ?”

Lance looked at Shiro, who was sitting on a bean bag on the floor like a dejected oversized puppy, then he looked at Slav in Shiro’s hands, who looked helpless and ready to cry and was missing his two plushie arms. The cotton stuffing was visible.

Lance wasn’t, uh, close to Slav, not really. But he wouldn’t, like, beat the little guy up even though sometimes his science talk was worse than Hunk, Pidge and Matt combined. Also, Slav’s button eyes were super expressive for, well, buttons.

Slav didn’t deserve to be armless. Shit, he looked even weirder without arms. What was he supposed to be in the first place, anyway? A green penguin? An otter-penguin? With a beak-like thing that wasn’t a beak? Now he just looked like a long worm alien with a beak-like thing. And he was squirming, to boot. Weird.

So Lance leaned down and whispered, “Who did this to you, buddy?”

“Shiro did.” Slav sniffed - how does he make that sound when he’s a plushie?

Lance looked at Shiro disbelievingly, and Shiro quickly shook his head, looking horrified but resolute. “It was an accident!”

“He ripped off my poor arms for trying to touch Keith!”

“That’s not what happened!”

“He just made it look like an accident!”

“It was an accident!”

Lance shook his head at Shiro. “Dude. Possessive much? Slav’s just a-… Slav.”

Shiro sighed. “I’m telling you, that’s far from what happened. Look. Keith had a guest, and Slav didn’t know, so he just came running and screaming into the room and latched on to Keith. I grabbed him before Keith’s friend could see him, but I guess Slav had a really tight grip because that’s when his arms came off.”

Lance stared. “Am I supposed to believe that?”

“Yes.” Shiro nodded. “And I’m not possessive. Keith’s not-... mine.”

Lance looked at Slav.

Slav must have been trying for a shrug, but with neither arms nor shoulders, it just looked like more squirming. “Keith did have a human guest. I told him I’m sorry.”

Shiro looked down at the plushie in his hands with a guilty frown. “Hey, Keith’s not angry.”

“I hope he doesn’t ban me from the laptop.” Slav said, visibly wilting. “I like the laptop.”

“Alright, okay. So it’s nobody’s fault that Slav is armless now.” Lance said, hands raised to calm them both down. God. He was a Quincy. Why is he acting as a counselor to a shinigami and a mod soul? “Shiro, you came to me because...?”

“Keith said you’re good at sewing.” Shiro replied. “So he suggested that I come see you and maybe ask you to teach me how to fix this?”

“Huh.”

That’s… very Keith, Lance thought. Bluntly practical, sending his boyfriend and their poor broken talking pet plushie to Lance because Lance was the person best suited to help. Even if he didn't like Lance much.

“Well, not like I’ve got anything else to do this afternoon.” Lance said, then brought his hands together to crack his knuckles. “Alright. Let’s do this.”

.

.

Lance watched Shiro’s pathetic attempt at sewing for a full thirty minutes. That was a record. He tried to be nice, but it was difficult when Slav was also vocally complaining about Shiro’s technique for the entire duration of the thing. So after that gruelling half-hour, Lance gave up.

“Alright, no, this is not working. I’ll do it. I won’t even complain or ask Mullet to pay for my services. I can’t watch, I just want this to end, that’s payment enough for me.” Lance said, drawing the sewing kit to himself and extending a hand for Shiro to give him the plushie. "C'mon, give."

Shiro looked stricken, and covered Slav’s mouth-beak-thing when the mod soul started voicing his agreement with Lance’s suggestion. “But- We don’t want to bother-”

“Shiro, buddy, I know you tried your best, and you’re doing great! Really!” Lance reassured, beaming. He meant it, too. “But I think this job requires my nimble fingers and my rad sewing skills to really build sturdy arms for Slav. Ones that won’t come off the next time you pry him off Keith.”

Shiro handed the toy to him, looking dejected again. It was unfair how he could pull that look off.

To make him not feel totally worthless, Lance instead handed Shiro a basket of messy crochet thread that his nieces and nephews had left in chaos the last time they came over. He asked the guy to try to untangle and bring some semblance of order to the threads.

Shiro, only happy to oblige, got to work.

Lance suddenly felt some form of kinship to those nice diner waitresses who gave kids a coloring pad and crayons to keep them occupied.

Slav shut up and watched in fascination as Lance undid the thirty minutes worth of sewing monstrosity that Shiro left and then started over.

After a while of comfortable silence, Lance started talking. “So where’s your other half? You said he had a friend over?”

“Yes. Keith hadn’t been expecting him, either. I didn’t want to intrude, so I said I’ll go and get Slav fixed.”

“Didn’t know he had other friends besides Hunk and the Holts.”

“He said they’re old friends. Some guy called Regris?”

Lance paused. The name sounded familiar- “Regris? Uh, tall, ripped, total dreamboat?”

Shiro looked up from his basket. “You know him?”

“No, just saw him online… following Keith’s IG… I think Pidge said something like the dude worked in the gym? The uncle’s gym.”

“Oh.” Shiro said, nodding. “Well… They went to the mall.”

Lance’s brows furrowed. “Keith? And this Regris dude? They went to the mall?”

“Yes.”

“Just the two of them?”

“I think so.” Shiro answered.

Lance had questions now. A list of them. But while he was still re-ordering the questions in his head, Shiro excused himself to go to the toilet. As soon as the guy was out the door, Lance turned towards his ‘patient’. “Slav.”

“Yes, Quincy Lance?” Slav answered, looking up with curious button eyes.

“What really happened? I want the truth. And details. Or I’ll stop after the first arm.”

Slav squirmed, then shook, then nodded quickly. “I… I don’t know much? The Human Regris came over all of a sudden. The Uncle Thace was not home. When I came in, Keith was talking to the Regris and Shiro grabbed me and I lost my arms. Then Keith came back to his bedroom to talk to Shiro. Keith said he was going to the mall with the Regris and Keith asked Shiro if he wants to come too. Shiro said no, and to have fun and that he’ll get me fixed.”

“Did the Reg- Did Regris and Keith look close?”

“What exactly do we mean by ‘close’?”

“Was he… uh… touchy? With Keith?”

“The Regris hugged Keith a lot and touched his hair a number of times.”

“Was Keith smiley?”

“Yes. He was also… laugh-y.”

“Okay, last question: did Shiro see them being touchy, smiley and laughy?”

“...Probably? About a 90% chance, I think.”

Oh, boy. What is this. What was happening. This can’t happen. Lance already had half of a perfectly-worded passive-aggressive-embarrassing speech started for Mullet and Shiro’s wedding. Who is this Regris dude and why was he ruining Lance’s life plans?

When Shiro came back, he was immediately attacked with a question - “Shiro, are you okay?”

Shiro blinked. He was used to Keith asking him that, but hearing it from Lance was nice, too. “Yeah, I found the bathroom just fine-”

“No. No, I mean. Are you okay? With the whole Regris thing?”

This time Shiro tilted his head to the side. “Yes…? Yes, I mean… It’s nice that Keith has other friends who care about him-”

“So you’re totally fine with the fact that Keith just went out with another guy?”

Shiro was just confused now. “They just went to the mall…”

“On a date?”

“Keith didn’t say it was a date.”

“They went out together to go to the mall, just the two of them, and they were-... touchy!”

“Touchy?”

“They left the house while the Regris was hugging Keith.” Slav provided, as if it was adequate explanation.

Shiro shook his head and laughed lightly. “Keith and I go to places together, too, and those aren’t dates-... Well-... Uh. Well, we tell his uncles that we’re going out on a date, but they’re not real dates, really, because Keith and I are just friends, we’re just pretending to be a couple for his uncles. So, Keith going out with his friend Regris isn’t really a date, they just went to the mall together, like Keith and I usually do when we go out on a date-”

He stopped, looked at Lance, who raised a knowing brow, and then at Slav, who squirmed some more, and then back at Lance.

“Wait, is Keith on a date with someone who’s not me?”

Lance raised his hands in an exasperated shrug. “I don’t know, Shiro, it looks like it, but maybe everything’s fine , he’s just fake-cheating on you!”

Shiro slumped back down on the bean bag. Shakily, he grabbed his basket of thread again. “Y-Yeah. It’s fine, right? We’re just friends. Keith can date people he really wants to date. It’s okay-”

“Oh my God. Are you moping? On my bean bag? No. No, I can’t deal with this-” Lance said, abandoning his work on Slav and grabbing his phone instead.

.

.

 

You created a group with TheIncredibleHunk and Not Mullet’s BF.

 

TheIncredibleHunk: ????

Not Mullet’s BF: Lance, I really don’t think this is necessary...

TheIncredibleHunk: Oh hey it’s Shiro!

 

@TheIncredibleHunk please could u add Holt 1 and 2 here it’s an emergency

TheIncredibleHunk added Pidge Holt and Matt Holt to the group.

 

Count on Hunk to properly name his contacts. Lance wasn’t having any of it though.

 

Pidge: wtf is this

Big Pidge: ^

Big Pidge: oh hey Shiro’s here

Pidge: where’s keith

 

mullet is the reason we’re all gathered here today.

Holt 2 i need u to answer a question

 

Pidge: i have a name mcclain

 

idc anyways u said u know keith’s friend regris right?

what exactly do u know about him?

 

Pidge: not much

Pidge: he’s like 1 or 2 yrs older than keith so he’s in college now i think

Pidge: he and k both worked part time at uncle’s gym last summer

 

ok seriously how many part time jobs does mullet have

 

Big Pidge: dude he’s an only child and his only friends are the biggest nerds

Big Pidge: keith is smart but have you ever tried hanging out with pidge and hunk when they’re in the zone?

Big Pidge: he’s gotta spend his vacations somewhere somehow you know

 

ok ok point taken

 

Pidge: why r u asking anyway

Pidge: are u planning to jump him

 

EW NO WTF

EWWW

EWWWWW

no offense Shiro my dude

 

Not Mullet’s BF: ?

Pidge: i meant regris not keith u idiot

 

oh ok.

do u know if he’s close with mullet???

 

Pidge: they hung out a lot

Pidge: and kinda dated for like a month

Pidge: so yeah maybe they were tight idk

 

WHAT

THEY DATED

?!

 

TheIncredibleHunk: I didn’t know that! :O

Big Pidge: keith will kill us all… god...

Big Pidge: why are we talking about this again?

Big Pidge: also Shiro are u ok? buddy you’re so quiet…

Pidge: shiro dont take it srsly. it was 1 month and keith said they just like made out a lot of times then regris went to college and theyre done

Pidge: its like nothing happened

Pidge: its gonna be ok dude keith loves u

Not Mullet’s BF: I’m fine, guys.

 

No ur not bc KEITH. IS IN A MALL DATE RIGHT NOW. WITH THE REGRIS .  

 

Pidge: what

Big Pidge: whAT

TheIncredibleHunk: Whaaaaaaaaaat?

Not Mullet’s BF: Keith can date who he wants.

Big Pidge: BUT WHAT ABOUT YOU

Pidge: wait lance how do u know all this?

 

uhhh shiro is with me rn for arts and crafts related reasons and he mentioned mullet going to the mall with his ex

 

TheIncredibleHunk: Wait.

Not Mullet’s BF: It’s really ok…

Big Pidge: are u sure it’s a date

 

YES

 

Not Mullet’s BF: Not really.

 

slav said they were touchy and keith was laughing

LAUGHING

also shiro looks sad  

 

Not Mullet’s BF: I’m not sad.

 

“I’m focusing on these strings.” Shiro said, frowning up at Lance, who was perched on the bed, Slav squirming in his lap impatiently. He looked weird with just half an arm attached to him. “I won’t finish this if we keep on talking on our phones.”

Lance was unimpressed. “Dude, you’re so distracted you’re looking for the end of that thread in the basket when you’re holding both ends in your other hand.”

Shiro stopped, stared at his hand, then scowled at the thread and started trying to untangle it with renewed vigor.

 

omg he’s super upset guys

 

Big Pidge: oh buddy...

Big Pidge: maybe keith went out with the guy to dump him? maybe?

Big Pidge: and why did hunk say wait? wait for what?

 

And then Lance’s bedroom door opened and Hunk was there. He took a look at the room and made a beeline for Shiro. “Hey, bud. How are you holding up?”

Shiro blinked. “How did you get here so fast?”

“Uh. I literally live next door.” Hunk said, plopping on the chair by the desk. “Came to provide you some moral support in this trying time-”

Shiro sighed. “Guys, for the last time, it’s no big deal if Keith is on a date or not-”

“Okay, but, man - you’re balling up that yarn pretty intensely.”

Shiro made an effort to slow down.

“I don’t understand humans.” Slav said from his perch on Lance’s lap. “Keith and Shiro tell Uncle Thace that they are in love but they tell their friends they are not. Keith and Shiro go out to the mall and it is okay because they’re not in love? The Regris takes Keith to the mall and it is not okay because they might be in love? Why are Keith and Shiro not in love but they sleep on the same bed like Uncle Thace and Uncle Ulaz who are in love? What is the truth? I am very confused. How is this all computed?”

Silence.

Shiro coughed, but kept trying to work on the threads.

Then Hunk spoke, very very quietly. “Bro, I thought you sleep on the closet…”

“It was one time. We were tired and dozed off while talking.” Shiro answered, face red.

Hunk looked at Slav. Slav raised his half arm. “Three times this week.”

Shiro gaped, looking utterly betrayed. “Why are you even counting?!”

“I’m sorry, I like numbers!” Slav cried, and clung lamely to Lance’s shirt.

 

so Hunk just came over.

 

Big Pidge: Katie left like 10 min ago and she’s still not back

Big Pidge: Katie Holt where are you

Pidge: OK LOSERS I’M BACK

Pidge: BC U R ALL TOO CHICKEN TO JUST ASK

Pidge: I DID IT FOR U

Pidge: I CALLED KEITH

Big Pidge: chickens are dinosaurs tho

Pidge: SHUT UP MATT

 

“Shiro. Shiro, dude. Check your phone. Pidge’s on to something.” Lance said.

Shiro let out a resigned sigh, but picked up his phone.

 

Pidge: so i said HEY MULLET HOPE IM NOT INTERRUPTING A DATE OR SMTH

Pidge: guess what he said

 

did he say YES KATIE DONT INTERRUPT MY FAKE CHEATING

 

Big Pidge: no no he said ‘how could u ask that? u know Shiro is my only love! baka!’

TheIncredibleHunk: hahaha but no really Pidge please end our suffering?

Not Mullet’s BF: I get Keith now when he says he hates you all.

Not Mullet’s BF: Except Hunk.

Pidge: y’all are idiots.

Pidge: anyway he was like UM NO.

Pidge: then he was like SHIRO’S WORKING ON SOMETHING ELSE TODAY

Big Pidge: :O

TheIncredibleHunk: :’)

 

lmao date = shiro

ok mullet ok very subtle

 

Pidge: i tried to clarify the Regris thing so i was like OK SO ARE YOU HOME OR WHAT

Pidge: and u guys are so stupid ok. keith said he’s out with Reg

Pidge: he calls him Reg but dont panic

Pidge: dude is just home for break and asked Keith to help him buy snacks and beers and shit bc he’s throwing some party for the gym staff tonight

Pidge: thats it

Pidge: they went to the mall to get groceries u losers

Pidge: y’all really should stop watching too much soap operas

 

oh ok

 

Big Pidge: yeah that makes sense

TheIncredibleHunk: Keep doing god’s work Pidge! <3

Pidge: <3

Pidge: shiro are u ok tell me u feel ok now

Not Mullet’s BF: yewsa

Not Mullet’s BF: yes

Not Mullet’s BF: Not taht I wasntt ealrlier

Not Mullet’s BF: I wanst wooriedd at all!1

Pidge: good thats the spirit!!!

Pidge: tbh i just stayed for u dude. 

Pidge: u beautiful disaster.......

Pidge: i’m gonna log out now bye losers.

 

Pidge has left the group.

 

“So.” Lance started, picking Slav up again. “The weather, huh. Sunny today.”

Hunk chuckled, and noted Shiro now working on the crochet threads with a smile.

Then Slav spoke up. “Can someone please explain to me what happened and how everything is okay again?”

Hunk took a deep breath, bracing himself. “Okay, buddy. Let me try…”

Shiro sighed.

.

.

.

Several hours later, as he was just about to fall asleep, Lance heard his phone chime three consecutive times.

He groaned sleepily, but when it chimed two more times, he reached out to check the new messages.

 

From: Unknown

Message:

WHAT THE HELL MCCLAIN

WHAT IS THIS

EIGHT ARMS

YOU GAVE MY PLUSHIE 8 FUCKING ARMS

I SENT MY BOYFRIEND TO YOU SO YOU COULD HELP HIM REATTACH THE ARMS NOT TO ADD THREE MORE PAIRS

 

Lance cackled, then covered his mouth with his hand upon realizing that his parents and siblings were probably already asleep. He saved the contact and replied.

 

ur welcome kogane

did u just call shiro ur bf? :D

 

From: Mullet Kogane

Message:

Yes ???

But not really

Not like that

You know it’s for my uncles

WHATEVER

More importantly why does he have a basket full of strings

He won’t go to bed until he’s got them all balled up

Is this your fault?

 

nah its YOUR fault for sending him here

i suggest u seduce him to joining u on ur bed ;D

 

From: Mullet Kogane

Message:

IT WAS ONE TIME

 

yea shiro said that too

 sweet dreams cuddling ur boyfriend

 

From: Mullet Kogane

Message:

SHUT UP LANCE

 

.

.

Chapter Text

.

Keith had been Pidge’s best friend since middle school. Nobody really expected Keith and Pidge to get along, but they did. Terrifyingly well. No, Keith wasn’t Matt or Hunk, who were usually Pidge’s partners in cri- err, science adventures, but Keith was sensible, trustworthy and honest - all traits that Pidge valued highly.

Keith had been more than Pidge’s best friend - he had also been Pidge’s protector. That role should have gone to Matt, really, but between Matt and Keith, they all knew who can throw a punch and not break his hand. Keith was a fighter, through and through. More than once, he had worn a bloody nose, a black eye and bruises well in the name of defending Pidge and Hunk from bullies twice his size.

That’s why it was so… strange … to see Keith so…

Pidge didn’t want to say it.

But he looked so soft .

Of course, Pidge knew Keith could be soft. He was a sleepy mess during weekend mornings. When he was in a room with people he trusted, he usually found someplace soft and comfortable, curled up into a ball and snuggled the nearest pillow or plushie. It may not be a regular occurrence, but Soft Keith wasn’t unheard of. At least for Pidge.

He was a different kind of soft tonight, though. Keith was curled up on Shiro’s lap on the supposedly single-person couch, sleeping peacefully against the guy’s chest despite the sounds of screeching cars, gunshots and explosions from the movie they were all supposed to be watching.

For his part, Shiro was engrossed with the movie. Attentive to the action, an arm securing Keith in place while he used his free hand to occasionally get popcorn from a bowl set on Keith’s lap.

It was… charming.

Though Pidge had thought to seriously smack Lance and Matt back to their senses when the two set this up, at first.

.

.

((Keith and Shiro, appointed to buy drinks and snacks for movie night at the Holts’, arrived tired - with Shiro looking meek while Keith was straight up grumpy.

“For once, I just want to buy something without having to leave my body and fight some big dumb monster on the way to the store, dammit.”

Before Keith could move to succumb to the comfort of the couch, Lance beat him to it, sprawling across both Hunk and Pidge. Matt didn’t miss a beat, taking up all the space on the loveseat.

“Oops,” Lance beamed. “Looks like there’s only that one couch left.”

“You know I can literally throw you, McClain.” Keith growled.

“The law of dibs is absolute, Keith.” Matt chimed in.

Keith rolled his eyes. “How could I call dibs when I wasn’t even here?!”

“Guys-” Hunk started, but he stopped when Keith just grabbed the giant bowl of popcorn from Lance and then grabbed Shiro’s arm, dragging him towards the only space left, the single-person couch.

Lance sat up. “Hey, that’s my popcorn!”

“Dibs.” Keith said, then turned to Shiro and tilted his head to indicate the single seat.

“I can sit on the floor.” Shiro offered.

“I want to cuddle.” Keith said bluntly - loudly. For good measure, he added, “Takashi. My love. Moon of my life.”

Matt choked on his popcorn.

Shiro choked on nothing, but he was a trooper, and always 101% behind his not-boyfriend, so he said, "Okay, baby. My sun and stars." and actually scooped Keith up in his arms and then sat down.

“Oh, God.” Lance groaned.

Matt gaped. "Did they just-"

“Wait, no-”

Hunk stifled his laugh, while Pidge smirked at the two culprits. “Why do you guys even try?”

Matt watched Keith feed Shiro popcorn. After that, the guy turned to them with narrowed eyes and his patented Displeased Keith Kogane Frown, then gave them the finger before tossing popcorn into his own mouth.

Shiro leaned down and buried his face in Keith’s hair, his shoulders shaking from trying to hold in his laughter.

“Any regrets?” Hunk asked, smiling at Matt and Lance.

Matt cleared his throat. “N-None.”

“What are you waiting for?” Keith demanded. “Play the stupid movie before we get bored and make out right here.”

Lance dove for the remote. ))

.

.

Really, Pidge thought. Matt and Lance should know by now that Keith had unexpected levels of petty and Shiro was smitten enough that any attempts to make the two blush would always fail spectacularly. They were that dedicated .

Not even halfway through the movie, Keith dozed off. He must be really tired, to fall asleep on an action movie. All while sitting on another person, too. Was Shiro that comfortable?

Pidge didn’t think the others have noticed. They were busy watching the movie, and she only noticed in the first place because she was the one sitting closest to the two.

Every once in a while, Keith would stir and shift a little. Shiro simply held fast on the popcorn bowl to avoid it from tipping over, while his other hand rubbed Keith’s back. He leaned down a bit and sometimes he looked like he was saying something, but Keith just continued sleeping and simply snuggled closer.

Soft. That was what stuck to Pidge. Keith looked soft- No. Keith was soft, relaxed, all his guard down.

Pidge was very okay with this. Keith deserved nice things. Nice things seemed to come in a complete package called Shiro, and she wasn’t going to complain about that.

.

.

As Pidge predicted, after the movie, the others were quick to notice their sleeping friend.

Thankfully, Pidge was ready and equipped with a throw pillow.

“HAH! How could anyone sleep through- Mmmph!

“Not right now, Lance.” she said. Then she turned to Shiro, who was absently stroking sleeping Keith’s hair. “Just stay there, we’ll get the sleeping bags.”

“You guys actually sleep on sleepovers?” Lance asked as Pidge and Matt went off to get the sleeping bags and comforters and Hunk started cleaning up the snacks, drinks and other stuff lying around.

“Sorry, we value our 8 hours of sleep here, unlike your other friends who just, what, gossip until morning?” Pidge asked when they came back.

“Man, that’s boring.” Lance said, but helped Hunk clear space on the living room floor. He was being considerate, at least, talking quieter than normal. Maybe he felt guilty about harassing a tired-from-fighting-Hollows Keith, after all.

They set up quickly, and pretty soon the living room was a giant nest of sleeping bags, blankets, comforters and pillows. Pidge took the couch, tucked in with a teddy bear. Lance claimed at least four pillows to himself. Beside him, Hunk fell asleep fast, snoring lightly. Shiro managed to stir Keith awake enough to get him to move to the spot beside the couch. He draped a blanket over his sleeping not-boyfriend before getting himself settled.

Matt flicked the lights off, then crawled into a blanket burrito on the loveseat.

Darkness settled in the room. Lance and Matt were softly talking about something Pidge didn’t bother to catch. Sometimes Shiro joined in, keeping his voice as quiet as possible.

Pidge found herself drifting off to their hushed voices, and to Keith’s figure rolling over to tuck himself to Shiro’s side.

.

.

.

Pidge didn’t know when she fell asleep, or how long she had been sleeping, but she woke up to rustling and a whispered conversation. She could ignore those, maybe her friends were just restless - but then she heard the sniff, and the labored breathing.

Groggily, she reached out for her glasses and put them on.

Two others were up. She recognized Shiro, shaking, clinging to Keith, who held him steady and rubbed soothing circles on his back.

Keith was whispering, and Pidge had to strain forward to catch his words. “It’s fine. We’re okay, Shiro.”

“S-Sorry.” came from Shiro, his voice muffled against Keith’s shoulder. “I just- Sorry. Just give me a minute-”

“Take your time.” Keith murmured. Pidge wasn’t sure if it was just the lack of light, but it looked a lot like Keith pressing a kiss on Shiro’s cheek, and in turn Shiro just held him tighter, almost pulling him to his lap again, much like earlier that night.

Pidge didn’t want to intrude, but she didn’t like feeling like an eavesdropper, either. She sat up, catching both their attentions. As softly as she could, she asked, “You guys okay over there?”

“Yeah. Just... bad dream.” Keith said, just as quiet. He wasn’t looking at her, but in the shadows on the wall, looking boneless in Shiro’s arms as he idly rubbed the man’s back.

“Okay.” Pidge watched them for a moment before asking, “You need anything? Tissues? Water, maybe?”

Shiro surfaced from Keith’s shoulder and rubbed a hand to his face as he shook his head. “I- No need-”

“Shiro.” Keith said, tone scolding.

Shiro sighed, then closed his eyes and nodded.

Pidge got up from the couch and headed to the kitchen. When she came back with a glass of water, the two had withdrawn from each other, but they still sat closely, their sides touching. Shiro accepted the glass with a soft thanks. Pidge sat with them. She was used to feeling small, but she felt very tiny and young , pressed up to Shiro’s other side.

When they put the glass away, she watched as Keith leaned his head on Shiro’s bicep and twined their fingers together.

“Nightmares, huh.” she said, after a while. “What do you guys usually do after this?”

Neither of them said anything about her just knowing that it wasn’t the first time this happened, about the assumption that this was one night out of many. They knew her and she knew them well enough for that.

To her surprise, it was Shiro who answered, “Let’s go to the roof.”

.

.

.

That was how Pidge found herself on the roof of her house at 4 AM, face half-hidden under a scarf and the rest of her wrapped up in a blanket. She sat beside Keith and Shiro, who were much in the same state, except of course they just had to share one blanket, because it was the one extra fluffy kind they both like.

“You two do this often?” Pidge asked, after a while of peaceful silence.

What were they really doing, anyway? Stargazing? Watching the distant city lights? Waiting for the sunrise? After all that she had heard about - the dates, the cuddling, the bed-sharing - it wouldn’t surprise her in the least if the two had some sort of sappy romantic routine on top of roofs.

“When we can’t sleep.” Keith answered.

She raised an eyebrow, but her eyes still looked up at the stars, looking for constellations she might know. “We? Meaning together or not at all?”

She expected Keith to groan in annoyance, but he only huffed. Shiro chuckled. “Usually. We’re both… We asked Coran about it. We’re… connected, sort of? I used my powers to boost Keith’s spiritual pressure so it’s kind of…”

“...like being in tune with each other’s frequency.” Keith finished for him. “My senses are improving and Shiro's always just around, so I'm kinda used to feeling him nearby... So it’s like, when Shiro wakes up and sneaks off to the roof, I can sorta feel him drifting away, brooding-

“I don’t brood.” Shiro mumbled.

“-so I end up just waking up too and keeping him company.” Keith finished. “Same goes the other way around, when I’m the one who can’t sleep. It's both convenient and annoying.”

Pidge let out a breath as she turned to them. “Holy shit, you’re literal soulmates.”

A noncommittal shrug from Keith. A shy smile from Shiro. They looked like one creature, wrapped up in one blue blanket like this - Cookie Monster but without arms and with two human heads. They looked very much at ease.

So Pidge decided to strike.

Pidge was the smartest of their bunch, and she had been watching this whole disaster of a relationship situation since… well… day one, probably. No, not day one, she wasn't there- but she came and observed as soon as she heard.

Matt and Lance were actual eight year olds who decided that the best way to set the two up and get them to admit to their painfully obvious pining was to literally push them together. Pidge had learned from that. You can’t bully two people into closeness when they were already far too comfortable with each other.

Hunk was more considerate. He didn’t tease, always claimed that they were cute and adorable - like typical Hunk. Pidge learned from that, too. Keith didn’t feel like Hunk was treating them any different, so Keith never attempted to push him away. That was probably how Hunk got those juicy details and cute anecdotes - he was simply being himself.

Then there was Coran, and Pidge figured it out then. Coran treated Keith’s and Shiro’s togetherness like that was just the way things worked in this universe. Which was probably how the two saw things, really. They were together because they just were. They like training and talking and cuddling and going places just because. Pidge learned from that, too.

Which brought her here. It was her turn now. She wouldn’t tease like Lance or Matt. She wouldn’t coo at them like Hunk-

“Okay, uh. Hypothetical question.”

She saw Keith yawn, but he nodded to tell her to shoot.

She’s gonna be like Coran, open and unflinching. She would ask the question while respecting what they’d all been told. Not pushing, just fundamentally curious. ‘For science’, as she always said. Questions for science were straightforward, and Keith appreciated straightforward.

“You two aren’t dating right now, only for show for the sake of the overly-excited uncles. I get that. But how about- What if - and I’m using ‘if’, okay? What if you end up liking each other for real? Will you start real-dating, then?”

She did a little victory dance when the two looked at each other, then at her. She made them think about it, made them consider it. Good. That’s good, now-

“You think we haven’t talked about that while we were starting out?”

She blinked at Keith, and saw him exchange another glance with Shiro before looking away. Shiro cleared his throat. Keith was leaving this one to him. Pidge idly wondered if that soul frequency connection thing included telepathy.

Shiro’s smile was wary when he answered, “It won’t work out, anyhow.”

“Won’t work out how?”

“This is all temporary.” Shiro continued. Pidge saw Keith shift, like he was snuggling closer to Shiro’s side, but she couldn’t really tell with the blanket wrapped around them. “My stay here, Keith doing my job. It’s been extended due to some… circumstances, but… I’m going to recover soon. Keith could get on with his life before all this trouble with Hollows. I’ll go back to doing my job. I don’t know where Soul Society would send me next, really.”

“We really shouldn’t.” Keith said, quiet, looking into the distance.

Shiro nodded, chuckling. “Yeah, we really shouldn’t.”

‘But you want to.’ Pidge wanted to say. Was that the only reason they were holding this off? Because this was temporary? There was a time limit? Was that why they don’t mind doing all the couple stuff, because it will end soon anyway?

“Hypothetically-” she started again. “ If there was no Soul Society thing to worry about. D’you think it’ll work out?”

This time, they took a bit longer. Pidge began to wonder if perhaps she may have overstepped.

Then Keith said, with a light dusting of pink on his face, “Maybe.”

“Shiro?” Pidge looked at Shiro, who was, as always, looking at Keith.

Shiro smiled weakly, his voice almost a whisper. “Why not?”

At those two answers, Pidge had a conclusion to this little experiment of hers.

Shiro looked up, then grinned and nudged Keith. “Hey, I found Leo.”

“Really?” Keith looked up too. “Where?”

“There.” Shiro raised a hand to point at somewhere in the sky. “See that?”

Keith squinted. “What’s that one look like again?”

Shiro laughed. “There. That bright one is Regulus, the heart. It’s part of five stars that form the body… then three for the head…”

Pidge watched Keith complain about constellations looking nothing like their names, while Shiro tried to explain the concept and pointing out others, eyes twinkling brighter than the stars they were looking at.

‘What kind of star-crossed lovers shit did you get yourself into, Keith?’ she wanted to ask, but she didn’t.

So. The fake-dating was a thing, and it wasn’t about what they all thought it was about. Pidge always thought it was a thing because the two were being oblivious pining disasters. It hadn’t occurred to her that it may have been some sort of mutual defense mechanism.

So. Yeah. Keith and Shiro are not dating, Pidge concluded.

But they want to, that much was clear.

That answer, for Pidge, was good enough for now.

.

.

Chapter Text

.

+1

.

Breakfast was ready when Thace arrived downstairs that morning. Ulaz was in his usual seat at the table, drinking coffee and reading the news on his tablet. There was another cup ready for Thace, made exactly to his preference. Bustling around in the kitchen, preparing packed lunches, was Keith.

Keith cooked a lot these days, Thace noticed.

“Morning, Thace.” Keith said, not turning from his work.

“Good morning, kit.” Thace replied, picking up his mug and taking a sip.

Keith was humming. Thace looked towards his partner and Ulaz let out a bemused smile before returning to his reading.

Keith hummed a lot these days, too.

Many things were different with their Keith these days. He woke up earlier, talked more often and ate more than usual. For once, he didn’t have a part-time job. He’d never needed one, really, even before - Keith simply liked working and having his own money. But now, he spent his free time hanging out with his friends, who also came over more often lately.

“Lunch for two again?” Thace asked, peering over the teen’s shoulder to look at the three lunchboxes he was working on. One was for Ulaz, as usual. Another was for Keith. Thace was pretty sure the last one wasn’t his, because he wasn’t leaving the house today.

“It’s for Shiro.” said Keith, then he looked up at the man. “Eat already. You’re supposed to open up the clinic soon.”

“Ah.” Thace smiled, nodding.

If Keith wasn’t with his friends, he was with Shiro.

Shiro, who, as if summoned, knocked on the door and then let himself inside the house. After the first few times that he turned up in the morning to walk with Keith to school and instead got invited inside to join them for breakfast, they just told him to let himself in, moving forward. They were all too lazy to get up from the dining table.

“There he is, early as always.” Ulaz said, nodding towards the student. “How’s your morning, Shiro?”

“Pleasant so far, sir.” Shiro greeted, perfectly polite.

.

((Shiro was what Keith’s best friend Katie described as “100% A Gentleman, Has A Firm Handshake, Parents Love Him”. According to her brother Matt, Shiro is “The Perfect Boyfriend For Your Precious Keith (So Please Approve, We’re All So Done With Them)”.

Thace can see where they're coming from.))

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Ulaz nodded at their guest. “Take a seat, kid.”

Shiro obeyed quickly. “Thank you, sir.”

“Had breakfast yet?” Thace slid a plate stacked with toast towards him. “We told you, no need to be so formal. Just call us by our names.”

Shiro smiled sheepishly, taking a piece of toast for himself. “Right, thank you, sir- Uh. Thace.”

“Or Uncle.” Ulaz chimed in. “You’re part of the family now, so it should be fine.”

Shiro choked.

“Keith hasn’t called us that since he entered middle school.” Ulaz continued, and reached out to pat Shiro’s back like he had nothing to do with why their guest was now coughing violently.

“Stop bullying him.” Keith called from the kitchen. “And I never called you uncle, Ulaz.”

Ulaz looked like he’d been shot. Complete with a whimper and a hand to his chest.

Thace gasped. “Keith! How could you say that to your Uncle Ulaz?”

“I love you like you’re my own, kitten!” Ulaz despaired.

Shiro continued to cough.

“You’re both more embarrassing than usual, I see.” Keith stomped over to them, glaring at his uncles as he shoved a glass of water towards Shiro, who accepted it gratefully.

.

((From what Thace had heard from Hunk, Shiro and Keith were " Hashtag-Relationship-Goals" .))

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Keith went back to the kitchen and returned with the lunchboxes. He set one down in front of a still-fake-sobbing Ulaz, then moved to unzip Shiro’s backpack and stuffed the other two inside.

.

((Thace can see Hunk’s point.))

.

Still, they were having too much fun, because Shiro was blushing as red as Keith’s shirt, and Keith was aggressively biting on toast.

So Thace shifted in his seat, and reached out to touch the giant framed portrait of his dear sister-

“KROLIA! Your son has been cooking for the man he loves! Everyday!”

Ulaz brightened up. “Oh, you'd be so proud of him!”

Keith scowled. “It’s-... It’s not everyday!”

“Shiro, you say something too.” Ulaz said.

Shiro blinked, having only just recovered from choking on his breakfast, and turned to look at the portrait, at a loss. “Uh…”

Keith got much of his looks from his mother, for certain. It was hard to miss - the portrait itself was hard to miss, big as it was, almost occupying a whole wall. Maybe he’ll ask Keith about it sometime.

Shiro cleared his throat. “Your son’s cooking is the best I’ve tasted, Ma’am.”

Thace and Ulaz cheered. Keith sighed in exasperation.

“Stop enabling them. I hate you.” he said, shaking his head as he grabbed his own bag and went to find his shoes.

“Please don’t.” Shiro called after him, also standing up.

"You hardly ate anything! Grab one for the road, kid.” Thace said, raising the plate of toast to their guest. “And for Keith, too.”

Shiro nodded, grabbing two slices. “Thanks for the breakfast, sir-”

“Uncle.” Ulaz interjected.

“Uncle.” Shiro hastily corrected, then froze when he realized what he said.

The two men looked very pleased.

Keith reappeared beside Shiro and took his arm. “You’re both horrible.” he told his uncles, then pulled Shiro away.

They were almost out the door when Thace shouted their usual farewell. “Bye, kitten! We love you!”

“Unfortunately, I love you too.” Keith called back.

That was another one of the many different things about Keith these days.

.

It hadn’t even been a minute after they heard the front door close that Thace noticed something amiss in the table.

“Oh, dear.” he said.

Ulaz looked up. “What is it?”

Thace grabbed the notebook that Keith must have left behind and jogged to the door, throwing it open, hoping to catch-

Keith and Shiro abruptly stepping away from each other, eyes wide and faces red.

Huh.

Thace had the grace not to grin slyly. He kept his face carefully blank as he offered the notebook. “You forgot something.”

It took Keith several seconds to react. He nodded and took the item. “Y-Yeah. Thanks, Uncle Thace.”

“Take care, both of you.” Thace winked, and then went back inside.

He was whistling when he sat back in the table and picked up his coffee mug.

Ulaz raised an eyebrow, reading his partner’s mood all too well. “What happened?”

“Keith called me ‘uncle’ again.”

“Did he?”

“I think I almost caught them kissing.”

At that, Ulaz had no words.

They were eating peacefully when they heard crashing noises and a yelp from upstairs. There was a muffled, panicked cry that sounded something like ‘They forgot me again!’

Ulaz chuckled. “There he goes.”

“Subtle as always.” Thace nodded.

“Do you think Keith will ever tell us, willingly?”

“I really don’t know.” Thace sighed, idly stirring his coffee. “Have you heard back from Coran?”

“Not much, but he said there’s nothing to worry about for now.” Ulaz replied. Then, he put his tablet down. “Thace.”

“Hm?”

When Ulaz said nothing, Thace looked up and saw the other man looking at him- No. Past him. Ulaz was eyeing the portrait on the wall thoughtfully. Thace rested his chin on his hand, thoughtful. “You think it’s time?”

“You just said you almost caught those kids kissing.”

Thace closed his eyes and sighed. “You’re right.” He tilted his head to look up at his sister’s smiling face and laughed lightly. “She should hear about this.”

He took a sip of his coffee. Only Keith could get it this perfect.

Then Ulaz said, “We’ll not tell her about the giant photo, though.”

Thace shivered. “She’d kill us.”

Ulaz hummed, smiling. “She would.”

Thace took another moment to look at the photo before turning back to his breakfast.

"Alright. I'll call Kolivan."

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