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we just fall where our hearts go

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It starts one sunny Monday morning, the very first day of senior year. It starts with one Takashi Shirogane proudly surveying his neat and tidy locker and thinking that yes, this is it - here’s to a hopefully good last year of high school.

It starts when someone bodily crashes against the lockers beside him with a broken whimper and agonized call of “Takashi!”

Shiro jumps and almost drops his books, eyeing the other student in alarm. “What- Sven?”

Sven looks pained - face flushed, hand clutching his chest and eyes glazed. It was an alarming look on someone bigger than Shiro, who was already pretty tall and bulky himself. Breathlessly, he reaches out a hand to cling to Shiro’s sleeve and repeats, “Takashi-”

“Whoa, there, buddy.” Shiro moves to close his locker and face his cousin. “Are you okay?”

“Take me to the hospital.” Sven says, looking even more distraught.

“What- What’s wrong?”

“I- My chest- I can’t breathe.”

“What-”

Shiro gets cut off when Sven grips his shoulders and launches into a shaky, heartfelt explanation. “I just saw the prettiest girl on this planet, Takashi. I have never seen someone more beautiful. You should have seen her- Her hair- her hair is so long and shiny and her eyes are violet- pink- fuschia? Magenta? I don’t know what color they are, but they’re the best color and and Takashi-... Takashi, her voice! Her voice is so amazing, I can’t describe it, it sounds so sweet-”

What on Earth.

“Wait wait, hold up- What-” Shiro says, holding up his hands and shaking his head. “This- This is about a girl?”

“The prettiest girl! I’ve never seen her before! Maybe she’s new? I think she’s a junior-”

“Sven.” Shiro stops his cousin again, because what the hell - “You said you couldn’t breathe-”

“How do I do that, Takashi?! She-... s-she- she smiled- ” Sven’s voice breaks at this one, then he releases a dreamy sigh. “She smiled at me...”

Shiro takes a long look at Sven’s dopey smile. It was too early for… this. Too early in the school year and too early in the morning. He lets out a breath. “Okay...”

“Okay?” Sven hums as he blinks at Shiro, smile wide and eyes - god - they’re sparkling and Sven looks so disturbingly like a shoujo manga protagonist. The sweet and innocent girl protagonists, Shiro thinks, not their smooth-talking love interests.

“Sven.” he starts, careful. “You know you’re my favorite cousin-”

Sven laughs, distracted. “I’m your only cousin-”

“-and I love you-”

“Aw, I love you too-”

“Thanks, I’m very happy for you, but… you know, I’m just gonna go away now, I don’t want to be late for the first day of senior year. Yeah?”

A happy, carefree nod. “Yeah, okay, see you, Takashi!”

Shiro escapes quickly.

He meant it, he’s happy for Sven - but Sven would go on about this Prettiest Girl on the Planet all day . Shiro doesn’t make much of it. It’s just like the last time, junior year, with Allura, but that had faded over the summer after Allura graduated. There was another time before that, with Veronica. Sven had gone and pined for weeks and months and all throughout break- No, two breaks- And no matter how much Shiro and his friends had encouraged him, told him that he’s the school’s star quarterback and golden boy and everyone was practically falling over him, Sven had just stared longingly after his dream girl and never chalked up enough nerve to do more than greet her shyly in the halls.

Shiro figures he has a whole year ahead of him to pat Sven’s back as the poor guy pines after this new girl. For now, he really has to go to class.

.

.

The next day, Shiro just thanks the gods above when Sven doesn’t greet him with his straight panicking disguised as a medical emergency. Shiro readies himself for a round of Excited Gushing. That was the First Stage of Sven’s Stages of Pining - it lasts for about two to three weeks.

“Takashi…” comes the pathetic, distraught whine and-

That is not the sound of Sven pre-Excited Gushing. Shiro raises a brow and looks at his cousin. “Uh… Hey, buddy.”

“I think Romelle has a boyfriend already.” Sven says, miserable. “That’s her name, by the way. Romelle. It’s such a beautiful name, Takashi…”

That’s a bit of gushing, but not very excited. And with a reason, if it’s true that this Romelle is already taken. Shiro tries to be supportive, because he’s a good person like that. “That’s tough, man. Is she... in our year?”

“No, she’s a junior, transferred this year.” Sven sighs. “And she has a boyfriend…”

“Hm…” Shiro muses. “She told you that?”

Shiro has to stop himself from laughing because Sven looks horrified at the mere prospect. “No!” he splutters. “I- I was just… I was going to come up to her, you know, say ‘hello’ or something...  Then she got on the phone and called this… this Keith person…”

“She did?”

“She said she misses him and she said ‘I love you’! Takashi, who else-”

“Family?” Shiro cuts him off smoothly. “Maybe her dad, who’s maybe away so she misses him? Her... brother? Cousin? Uncle? Best friend? Pet? Regular pizza delivery guy? This Keith could be anyone, Sven.”

Sven still looks like a kicked puppy, but at least he looks like a hopeful kicked puppy. “You think so?”

“I think so.” Shiro tries for a smile, then decides to find whichever science lab Matt decided to camp out in for the week, where Shiro may, hopefully, hide from Sven’s mourning over his two-day-old crush.

.

.

It takes another day for Sven to delightedly ambush his favorite (and only) cousin by the lockers again, but this time, he was smiling the widest dopey smile Shiro has seen on his face since-... Well-... two days ago.

“Romelle is single!” he declares in an excited whisper, because while he doesn’t do pining half-assed, he miraculously happens to know subtlety. “Keith is her brother! He goes here too, a junior!”

That got Shiro slightly curious. “They’re twins?”

“Oh. No, she’s adopted.” Sven says easily. “Apparently, Keith drove a motorcycle to school this morning and Romelle rode with him. I’m not sure why he missed the first two days of school but-”

“Wait, uh, where are you getting all this information?”

“Umm… Nyma.” Sven answers, sheepish. “...and, uh, Plaxum. Matt Holt… and Lance?”

Okay. Shiro gets the deal with Nyma and Plaxum. The cheerleaders operated the school’s rumor mill and have been trying to get Sven to notice them since freshman year. Of course they have answers for anything he asked. Meanwhile, Matt treated information-gathering like a ninja freelance part-time job, accepting favors and food in exchange of his services. But-

“Lance? McClain?” Shiro blinks in question, because didn’t he just hear Lance ‘Drama Club Shining Star’ McClain loudly and publicly (read: standing on top of a cafeteria table) declare that he’s taking a break from outside drama this year because he’s gonna be focusing on the drama they’re supposed to be making inside Drama Club?

“Lance thinks Keith is not cool. He says Keith is a show-off with his loud motorcycle, and that the mullet is ugly.” Sven shrugs. “I think he’s just annoyed that someone pulled off a hairstyle that he couldn’t.”

Shiro thinks back to a year ago when Lance McClain tried to rock a mullet and it just… looked weird. It simply didn’t work, at all. Shiro shudders, then promptly realizes that Sven had been saying something all this time-

“-and Plaxum said Romelle wore a pink helmet! With a star on it… She must have looked so cute, I wish I’d seen her but I was at morning practice-”

Shiro goes back to reminiscing about McClain’s horrible mullet attempt.

.

.

For his first week of senior year, Shiro thinks he did more learning about Romelle than about any of his lessons from all his classes combined.

Here are the facts: Romelle Kogane is a junior and has really nice, long, blonde hair that she wears in all these crazy elaborate braid hairstyles. She has a wardrobe made entirely of cute pastel-colored clothes, her backpack has hand-painted flowers and unicorns on them and she is very committed to this aesthetic.

“Today her sweater says ‘I’d Rather Be A Mermaid’, Takashi! It’s adorable.”

“How does Plaxum feel about that?”

“Actually, Plaxum told me she likes Romelle now. She said they’re Team Mermaid.”

Romelle’s eyes were deep mauve , Shiro learns after he had to sit with Sven through a debate-turned-informative-lecture Shiro had internally decided to dub “50 Shades of Purple”, courtesy of Nyma and Plaxum. Shiro just settles with violet. Violet is a good color.

Romelle and her family just very recently (read: literally a day before classes started) moved in their nice little town. She comes to school riding behind her brother Keith’s motorcycle. The motorcycle is bright red, Matt has reported, and apparently said brother is a bit of a punk.

“A... punk?”

“Black and red leather jacket and fingerless gloves. Mullet. Scar on face.”

“Oh.”

Shiro wishes Sven luck on that department. It’s going to be difficult enough to work up the courage to ask the girl out, but with a protective brother in the mix? Boy.

Shiro had caught his first glimpse of ‘Pastel Aesthetic Luna Lovegood’, as Matt called her, on Thursday morning. He had recognized her via the painted backpack.

That, plus the fact that he saw her when she was standing in front of the sparkly Drama Club Auditions sign-up form and signing ‘Romelle K.’ in cute cursive easily spanning five lines, using blue glitter sharpie. He is reminded of Sharpay, from High School Musical.

The following day, Sven tells Shiro that, according to Katie “Pidge” Holt, Romelle and Keith now had a standing invitation to the Drama Club’s cafeteria table. All because Lance had gained mad respect for Romelle’s over-the-top audition (where she did Romeo and Juliet, and played both Romeo and Juliet), while Keith had been recruited by the tech crew.

And that’s how Shiro’s first week of senior year ends, listening to Sven’s excited chatter about how important it is to appreciate how much Drama Club raises awareness and support for the arts and-

“Maybe we can volunteer to help with the sets or something, Takashi. You’re not that busy with the mathletes, right? And the football team can help them sell tickets too, when they start promoting their play- Show solidarity between the sports and art clubs, you know- Professor Smythe always complains that the sports clubs get more funding than the drama club so we should support them- Katie Holt says Romelle looks really passionate about theater. Hey- Hey, what do you think, Takashi?”

.

.

.

It’s week two and Shiro fully expects Sven to move on to the next Stage of Pining any day soon. The Sighing Dreamily stage has always been a trying time, but at this point, Shiro has already dealt with it several times, so what’s another? Besides, it wasn’t the worst stage. It was actually one of the kinder ones.

But then the unexpected happens, because that morning Shiro finds himself holding a folded piece of paper. No, paper was too simple. It’s stationery paper , pink and scented and-... Is that washi tape with stars and sparkles on the edges?

“Uh. You want me to what?” Shiro asks weakly. This is not how he had thought his morning would go down.

“It’s a poem.” Sven closes his eyes, lets out a breath and clasps his hands together like in prayer. He looks… solemn. “I need you to put it in her locker.”

Shiro stares. This has never happened before. Not the love letters, not the initiative to do something. This is easily the farthest Sven has gone in all the times Shiro watched him pine over girls.

“Sven, I-... Why… Why don’t you do it yourself?” Shiro asks, not unkindly, just a bit concerned. “You look like you… worked hard on this.”

“You know I’ll lose the nerve.” Sven mourns, fiddling with the sleeve of his letterman jacket. “I’ll walk up there and then I’ll get scared and run- I- It’s stupid, right? Maybe I shouldn’t-”

He moves to take the paper back, and Shiro holds it away. “No. No, this is- Good. You’re doing something ! I just-... I’m not sure I should be the one to… do this. Shouldn’t it be you ?”

“Takashi, please. You’re the only one I trust to do this!” Sven pleads now, hope in his eyes - and yep, this is Sighing Dreamily, just a more productive variant. That includes stationery and poetry, apparently. “I mean, you can walk around the halls and pass by lockers without people trying to talk to you every ten seconds!”

Ouch. Fine . So, yeah, Shiro isn’t as popular as his quarterback cousin. He’s just a mathlete who probably would have gotten bullied and shoved against lockers if he wasn’t big and tall and always walking beside the school’s good-natured golden boy. Said golden boy who is now pleading for his help because he’s too chicken to slip one tiny note on a girl’s locker-

“If I do it, everyone will know.” Sven continues. “I didn’t even put my name on it. I mean, I’m not trying to be creepy, but maybe I can… build up to it first, you know? I don’t want to freak her out or pressure her or anything.”

And- okay. Sven has thought about this, and that’s pretty sweet. That also meant that this poem has a sequel , because Sven has plans . And Takashi Shirogane is probably part of those plans.

Shiro stares at the paper for a long moment and sighs. “Alright, I’ll do it.”

That’s how Shiro find himself in front of Romelle’s locker, eyes darting to check if anyone might be looking. Thankfully, it was still early in the morning, the students who were already in the school were mostly athletes in morning practice, so the halls were practically empty. He double-checks the locker number before taking the note he had tucked in his book.

It should be easy, the paper was small, he just has to slip it into the gap as quick as he can and be on his merry way-

“What are you doing?”

Shiro freezes, and he would forever claim that the indignant squeak totally did not come from him just then. He turns around slowly, swallowing, and meets sharp and dark blue-gray eyes that he would say were breathtaking if they didn’t look intent to murder him where he stood.

“Um…” he tries, and fails, and steps back, seriously contemplating if he could maybe outrun this kid. He’s never seen him before, but he looked like he beat guys like Shiro up for breakfast.

“I’ll ask one more time: what are you putting on my sister’s locker?”

Shiro pales. “Keith!” he splutters out before he can help it. Because he was pretty sure this was Keith The Brother . Because Shiro has only heard that name in tandem with Romelle’s for the past two weeks and- “Uh, hi- I, uhhh-”

Shiro learns that Keith’s glare can sharpen even more. “You know my name?” Keith grits out, stepping forward, making Shiro step back. Shiro’s back hits the lockers and he helplessly stares as Keith crosses his arms across his chest and raises one perfect eyebrow. Shiro doesn’t mean to eye him up and down and back up again, but he does anyway, despite himself.

‘Sven, you traitor.’ Shiro thinks. ‘You could’ve warned me the brother was hot.’

“Hey. Answer. Now.” Keith demands, and Shiro-

Well, Shiro is just a man.

Also, being a disaster runs in the family.

He breaks.

He closes his eyes and shakily holds out the letter like it was an amulet to ward off Keith’s wrath, then he spills.

Everything.

“My cousin has a crush on your sister and he wrote her a poem but he’s too scared to put it on her locker himself so he asked me to do it. I know your name because he mentioned you- Once. Twice, a couple times! Romelle is all he talks about, he’s not a creep, I swear, he’s just a bit starstruck! That’s all, please don’t hurt me, I’m just a messenger!”

When Shiro opens his eyes, Keith is not angry. His expression is a mix of surprise and confusion, slowly creeping to bemusement.

Keith bites his lip, obviously trying to fight off a laugh. “...What?”

‘Oh shit, he’s cute too.’ is Shiro’s first thought, but he knows he’s not scot-free just yet, so he tries to plead for his life again.  “My cousin has a crush on your sister-”

“No, I- I think I got that.” Keith says, taking the letter from Shiro’s hands carefully. He takes a step back and Shiro can breathe again. “It’s just-... It’s hard to trust some complete stranger putting things on someone’s locker, you know.”

“I understand. I’m sorry, I know how it must have looked like.” Shiro looks down sheepishly. “It’s… It’s true, though. My cousin likes your sister a lot.”

“Sure, but we’ve- Look, we’re new here, and we can’t be too careful.” Keith stares down at the letter thoughtfully. “People have left some pretty shitty stuff in our lockers in the past.”

Shiro blinks. “I don’t think that will happen here. Everyone likes Romelle.”

Keith looks up at him, expression suspicious again.

“I just… I’ve been hearing a lot! And I, um, I’m friends with Matt Holt?”

Keith takes a moment to recall the name. “As in like Holt from Drama?”

“Her brother, yeah. The Drama Club’s pretty solid and you two are part of that now, so.” Shiro shrugs, hands flailing aimlessly to make some semblance of a point. “They’ve… got your back? You don’t have to worry…? I think?”

Keith considers him for another moment, before looking down again. He unfolds the letter and reads.

Shiro stares after it hopelessly. Keith is probably never gonna let it anywhere near Romelle, legit or not. He looks like the protective type. Shiro looks around warily. The hallway was still empty and Keith was busy reading Sven’s love poem, so he takes advantage of that to properly look at the new student.

Keith indeed rocks the mullet like the rumors (read: Matt Holt) said, and he looks straight out of a punk rock band photoshoot with his frayed white shirt, torn black jeans, combat boots, wolf fang necklace and black wristbands. He has his leather jacket tucked under his arm.

He looks good .

He looks even better giggling.

Wait- giggling? Shiro snaps out of his disaster gay haze and realizes that Keith’s shoulders are shaking, and he was muffling his laughter with his hand.

Keith looks up with a very amused grin and Shiro wants to make that his lockscreen, stat. “This… this is the cheesiest shit I’ve ever read.” Keith says, involuntarily letting out another giggle. He folds the letter again, shaking his head.

Shiro looks on in both dread for Sven, and fascination at Keith’s perfect face. “It-... It is?”

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s-... It’s good.” Keith says, noticing that the paper was scented and taking a short sniff. He shrugs like he actually approves. “It’s sweet, it’s just-” he waves a hand vaguely, looking for a word.

“Very sappy?” Shiro tries to provide.

Keith nods. “You read it?”

“No, but I know the guy who wrote it.” Shiro says, chuckling. He doesn’t think anything of it when Keith nudges him to the side, until he sees the shorter teen casually slip the paper inside Romelle’s locker. “Oh. Wow, okay. You just-... Huh.”

“She’ll love it.” Keith shakes his head, and doesn’t seem to mind that Shiro is now watching him unlock his own locker. “She likes that sappy sweet stuff.”

“I… I see.” Well. Mission accomplished , Shiro thinks. With an added bonus of making a ridiculously cute boy laugh, so… This is a good day. Full of surprises, but really good ones.

Shiro catches sight of three polaroid photos taped beside some sticky notes in Keith’s locker door. One was a photo of Keith and Romelle, another looked like a family picture, and the last one was Keith with what looked more like a wolf than a dog.

Keith glances at Shiro with a small grin as he starts gathering his hair behind his head. “So... your cousin, huh?”

Shiro finds himself very distracted looking at Keith’s neck, but he tries to focus. “Um.. yeah.”

“You sure that’s not you?” Keith asks. As he raises his arms to tie his hair back with a hair tie that looks like it could have been taken from Romelle’s stash, his shirt rides up an inch, giving Shiro a glimpse of the bare, slender waist above those very tight black pants.

That’s the moment Shiro’s last two brain cells decide to betray him and declare, “Oh, no, I’m gay.”

Keith turns to him, his mouth a small ‘o’, and Shiro realizes what just happened and drops his head in the tall stack of books and binders in his arms.

“Shit-! I mean- Yeah, no, that- That’s not me! That’s my cousin! I’m sorry-” he groans miserably. Sven owes him big time for this.

“Okay, that’s noted.” He hears Keith chuckle and risks a small peek to see Keith poking aimlessly at the books in his locker, like a complete stranger just didn’t come out to him in an awkward accident. “Are you gonna tell me whose letter I just helped sneak into my sister’s locker, then?”

“Oh, um…” Shiro swallows, standing straight because he wants to retain some dignity here. “It’s… Sven. Sven Holgersson?”

Keith stops poking and looks at Shiro with narrowed eyes. “You’re kidding. That’s… the quarterback, right? Big guy, goes everywhere, knows everyone?”

Shiro nods. “Yeah, that’s him.”

“Holy shit.” Keith whispers loudly at his locker, then looks at Shiro again. “No way.”

“Yes way.” Shiro grins. “He’s been crushing on Romelle since first day of school. Actually, I’m not supposed to tell you, but he’s very obvious about it anyway, it’s just that no one has the heart to tell him he’s not as subtle as he thinks he is.”

“You know you just ruined his reputation with me.” Keith says, an amused grin coming back to his face again. “Now whenever I see him, all I’ll think about is his cheesy poetry.”

Shiro shrugs. He’s sat through years of Sven pining hopelessly, Sven has this coming. That raises a concern, though.

“Will you tell Romelle?” Shiro asks, because as much as he hates playing silly messenger like this, Sven had good reasons for keeping his identity secret from the girl he has a crush on, after all.

“Nope. It’s not my business.” Keith shakes his head, to Shiro’s relief. His phone chimes with a message and he reads it quickly before looking at Shiro. “She’s on her way here now. You should go. Unless you want her to see you here and get suspicious.”

For the first time in the conversation, Shiro realizes that he hasn’t checked the time once and that he has other things to do before class. “You’re right. I’ll- I’ll go now, I guess. Uh. Thanks… for… being cool about the letter thing.”

Keith gives him a small smile. “Don’t mention it.”

Shiro smiles back and goes on his way. He makes it several steps before-

“Hey, Cousin of the Year.” Keith calls out. Shiro quickly turns to look back, and just hopes he didn’t look too eager. Keith says, “It’s kinda unfair that you know my name but I don’t know yours.”

Shiro knows he’s blushing, and he thinks maybe he understands Sven now when the guy claims he needs to be taken to the hospital. But Shiro likes to think he has more guts than his cousin here, so he powers through.

“Takashi Shirogane.” he answers, miraculously without stuttering. “My friends call me Shiro.”

Keith tries to mouth his full name, then gives up and shrugs. “Well. See you around, Shiro.”

“See you too... Keith.” he manages.

Keith gives him a two-finger salute before disappearing behind his locker door.

Later, Matt will claim that he saw Shiro skipping in the halls on his way to the Math Club room, and Shiro will fervently cry slander.

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Chapter Text

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.

Moving to a new town and transferring the kids to a different school is looking like the right choice so far, Krolia thinks.

The commute to her new job was easy, she didn’t have to cross state lines to meet up with her friends and Kosmo likes the weather. Keith and Romelle look like they were happy to go to school for once.

The new flight school she teaches in now paid a bit less than the previous one. She didn’t mind - it was still decent pay, and with all the other good things this move has brought to their family, that was a small price to pay.

Now it’s Friday afternoon and she is curled up comfortably on the couch with Kosmo, watching reruns of some old sitcom. That’s when she hears a loud banging noise from upstairs.

“You know, don’t you?!” Romelle’s voice is loud, but it sounds more scandalized than angry.

There’s a muffled answer that must have been Keith’s grumbling, followed by loud electric guitar strumming.

“Keith! No fair!” Romelle shrieks above the noise. The strumming stops abruptly and there’s feedback. Krolia smirks - Romelle must have unplugged the guitar from the amplifier. “All this time you knew!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Keith says, and it sounds like he was moving around. “I have absolutely no idea-” he cuts off into a muffled yelp.

There’s a tense beat of silence, and then Keith is shouting and Romelle is squealing.

It’s been a while since Krolia heard the sound of two pairs of feet chasing each other up and down the stairs, accompanied by laughter and teasing. It lasts for several minutes, and then silence. When she turns her head towards the stairs, she catches both her teenagers in the pillow fight version of a Mexican standoff.

“It’s over, Keith. I have the high ground!” Romelle declares dramatically, and Krolia has never been prouder.

“You’re literally on the second step from the bottom.” Keith deadpans from the hallway. “It’s not that high.”

“It’s still high ground!” Romelle says, and then she skips three more stairs higher to avoid the strawberry-shaped pillow Keith hurls at her. Romelle throws her teddy bear aside as she lets out a warcry and lunges at her brother.

“Fuck-” is all that Keith manages to yell before he is tackled to the floor.

“YEAH!” Romelle raises her arms in victory, straddling Keith’s stomach.

Keith grumbles as he lays spread eagle on the carpet. “It’s a pillow fight. You throw pillows! You’re not allowed to throw yourself !”

“That’s not a rule.” Romelle says. “I won, anyway. You’re gonna tell me the truth now!”

“No.” Keith frowns, resolute. Krolia thinks Keith could make a great actor too, if he wasn’t so intent on working backstage instead. “Never!”

Romelle starts to reach out for the fallen teddy bear and recites, “Knowledge or death, Keith!” Krolia doesn’t know where that one came from, but her daughter could sure deliver her lines.

“Alright.” Krolia finally speaks up, more amused than concerned. Kosmo withdraws from her and trots over to start licking Keith’s face. “What is this that’s worth breaking your brother’s neck for, Romelle?”

Krolia doesn’t miss Romelle’s blush, and how it’s Keith who answers with a smug smirk on his face. “Someone’s been sending Romelle love letters.”

“Poems!” Romelle corrects.

“Whatever. Poems.” Keith concedes, reaching up to scratch behind Kosmo’s ears.

Krolia raises an eyebrow at that. “Oh? My girl has an admirer?”

“They’re not signed.” Romelle says, then scowls vehemently down at her brother. “But Keith knows who it is. I bet he’s known all this time. He just won’t admit it.”

Keith shrug. “He doesn’t sign it for a reason.”

Krolia raises an eyebrow. “Why? Is he ugly?”

“Mom!” both of them cry, exasperated.

Krolia rolls her eyes, looking similarly exasperated. It’s a battle she wins because she’s the one who taught them that in the first place. “Then why all the mystery?”

Keith sighs, and tilts his head to avoid more drool from the family pet. “Do you really want to know who? Fine, I’ll tell you-”

“What?! No!” Romelle squeals as she covers her ears. “No, don’t tell me! I don’t want to know!”

Keith and Krolia look at each other helplessly, then Keith throws his hands up, at a loss. “What did you fight me for, then?!”

“I just wanted you to admit that you know! You’ve been lying to me, I keep showing you the notes and asking you if you have any clue and you kept saying you know nothing.” Romelle elaborates, looking annoyed. “I’m fine with not knowing until he’s ready. I’m not fine with you pretending like you’re not an accomplice-”

“I’m not an accomplice.” Keith interjects.

“I’ve been betrayed by my own brother.” Romelle gives him a dirty look. “You are , too. Pidge told me she caught you putting one of the letters in my locker yourself.”

Keith sighs in defeat. “Fine, yeah, whatever. I admit that I know who it is, but I won’t tell you until he does. Happy?”

Romelle considers it, then sniffs haughtily before finally getting back on her feet. “Happy.” she huffs, and picks up the fallen pillows on her way to stomp back upstairs.

Keith doesn’t get up and just lets Kosmo settle over him in the middle of the hallway.

Krolia waits until Romelle is just barely out of earshot before speaking. “So, he’s not ugly?”

Keith doesn’t miss a beat, noting that the sound of Romelle’s footfalls have stopped. “No, mom, he’s actually pretty good-looking.”

Krolia hums thoughtfully. “Oh, is he now?”

“Yeah.” Keith replies with enthusiasm. “He’s quite a catch.”

Romelle screams.

.

.

It’s the first day of exam week, and Shiro is running on a mix of nerves and confidence borne from weeks spent studying. He is ready to show these exams who’s boss, and he definitely doesn’t need Sven tapping insistently on his shoulder to probably ask him to deliver another goddamn message to his crush.

Shiro gets the last of the books he needs from his locker and turns to give his cousin a piece of his mind.

“Sven, please, not today of all days-”

Except it’s not Sven.

Not Sven at all.

“Give me your hand.” Keith says without preamble, and Shiro is too dumbfounded to do anything else besides transfer his books to one arm so he can offer a free hand. Keith positions it palm up, then places something on it.

Shiro looks down at the item, still trying to gather his wits. “Um… Thanks for… this… paper butterfly?” he says, squinting at it. It does look like a butterfly origami, and it was pink and shiny.

“Romelle knows that I know who’s been sending her the notes.” Keith says. When Shiro’s brows furrow in alarm, he continues. “Don’t worry, I didn’t tell her who. She didn’t ask, either. But now that she knows she has a way to write back, she wants to give him something too. So...” He tilts his head meaningfully at the paper butterfly. “There’s a message inside that, just pull the wings apart a bit.”

“Oh. Okay. Got it… Uh- Sven-... Sven will be over the moon, I’m sure of it.” Shiro finally says, nodding in understanding as he tucks the origami safely on his bag’s empty side pocket. Of course. It was for Sven, from Romelle. Of course it is. There was no way Keith was going to just give Shiro a cute origami butterfly out of the blue-

But Keith cuts through his thoughts and places several brightly-colored items on top of Shiro’s stack of books. “These are for you.”

There are five, Shiro counts, in different colors. More origami. They were shaped like cat heads, with different cute cat faces scribbled on them. Shiro splutters his reply. “Keith, they’re… adorable. I-... What are they for?”

“I made them while helping Romelle figure out the butterfly.” Keith shrugs, like it’s a perfectly normal thing to just randomly give someone a bunch of cute origami cat heads. “They’re bookmarks.” he explains. “And you’re always carrying a shitload of books so I figured you can use them.”

Shiro tries not to cry. Or scream. Or melt. He can’t stop the blush, though.

“Thank you, Keith. These are wonderful. I love them.” Shiro says. I love you , he wants to say but he doesn’t, because he doesn’t want to embarrass himself just yet.

“Yeah, well. It’s nothing, really.” Keith hums as tucks his hands on his pockets and steps back. “Good luck with exams.”

Shiro smiles. “Thanks! Good luck, too.”

Keith smiles back and then disappears in the crowd of students hurrying to their classrooms, as he does.

.

.

Shiro finds Sven with Matt before he goes to his first exam. He hands his cousin the origami butterfly, says it’s from Romelle, and instructs him to be careful because it has a message inside. Shiro and Matt share one look and turn around because they can’t watch Sven’s meltdown, nope, they won’t be subjected to that.

Matt notices the cat heads poking out of Shiro’s books and asks about them instead.

“Keith gave them to me.” Shiro marvels softly, sounding like he couldn’t quite believe it himself.

Before Matt could say anything, they hear a whimper from behind them. “Sven? You okay there, pal?”

“She loves my poems and she wishes me luck on my exams.” Sven sniffs. Matt turns to check up on him, and Sven honest-to-God clings . “M-Matthew… please take me to the hospital.”

Light leaves Matt’s eyes as he extracts the taller guy’s hand from his sleeve. “I have exams, Holgersson. Take yourself to the hospital.”

He hears a sigh and turns to see Shiro still smiling softly at the cat bookmarks.

“God.” Matt shudders. “There’s two of them now.”

.

.

Shiro delivers another note after exam week and notes Keith’s grin when he catches sight of the red paper cat tucked in the pages of one of Shiro’s textbooks.

The next day, Keith intercepts Shiro on his way to class, smoothly tucking a folded paper penguin on his binder without so much as stopping in his steps. There were no bookmarks for Shiro this time, just a message from Romelle to Sven, but that’s alright because between their different schedules, seeing Keith around the halls in between classes was a reward in itself.

The days pass and it becomes routine, Shiro and Keith playing messengers for their cousin and sister respectively, catching the other at random times throughout the day and passing notes around in stealth.

Whenever they happen across each other in the lockers early in the morning, they stop to chat a bit. Shiro learns some things about Keith that Sven hadn’t covered when he was still gathering information about Romelle.

Keith is an incredible artist, half of his locker were sketch pads and art materials. He joined the Drama Club’s tech crew because he likes working with his hands. He couldn’t wait to build the sets and help with the costumes. Romelle’s hand-painted backpack was his birthday gift to her.

Krolia Kogane had single-handedly raised her two kids after her husband passed away years ago. She is “a major badass flight instructor and is basically superwoman”, according to Keith.

The Kogane family pet is indeed part-wolf. Kosmo is a wolfdog hybrid that Keith found sick and injured on the wild while the family was on a hiking trip. They nursed him back to health and Kosmo had grown attached to the family. Krolia had known wolfdogs were risky to have as pets, but she worked on getting a license anyway, and so Kosmo stayed.

One day, Keith makes Shiro choose between two very complicated-looking braided hairstyles he found on Pinterest, and that’s the day Shiro learns that Keith is actually the one responsible for his sister’s various elaborate daily hairdos.

“I like braiding.” Keith says with a shrug. “But I don’t want to deal with that much hair. Romelle likes sitting down and having someone do hers, so it works.”

“So this one’s you?” Shiro asks, fingers hesitantly hovering above the two tight braids on one side of Keith’s head that made him a faux undercut.

“Yeah, that’s me.” Keith grins proudly. Shiro tries to stay calm when Keith playfully butts his head against his hovering hand, and he settles with tucking some stray strands neatly behind Keith’s ear.

He coughs to clear his throat. “So… uh, I gotta go… There’s this big Math League the club’s been gearing up for and I promised our freshmen some mentoring time.”

“Right.” Keith nods. “Go be with your nerd friends.”

Shiro pouts through a smile as he starts walking away. “Hey, we’re cool nerds!”

“Still nerds.” Keith teases. “Be great, win the Nerd Tournament and be the Ultimate Nerd.”

“That’s a title of great honor, I’ll have you know!” Shiro calls back, not willing to let Keith have the last word on this one. Math Club is the one thing he took pride in. “When I become Ultimate Nerd, you owe me a meal in Waffle House.”

Keith leans against the lockers, thoroughly amused. “You mean, if you win?”

When I win.” Shiro insists. “It’s a date!”

Keith’s brows shoot up, and- okay, yeah, Shiro just said that. God, what would Keith think of him, just coming on to Keith like that-

Then Keith say, “Deal.” and Shiro stops dead in the middle of the hallway. “Also, you missed your turn.”

Shiro stares, before nodding indignantly. Yes, he did miss the turn he was supposed to take on his way to the Math Club room. He makes a lame attempt at Keith’s two-finger salute, before using the same hand to point at the adjoining hallway then stepping in that direction.

Then he hears, “Shiro, that’s to the gym!”

Shiro groans, does a 180, points at the right hallway and power walks like it’s no one’s business. “I knew that! Bye, Keith!”

Keith’s laughter echoes in his head for the rest of the day.

.

.

Krolia likes Friday nights. Friday nights were for her, Keith and Romelle. She doesn’t cook on Friday nights. They just order in and spend the rest of the night either watching movies or, as is the case tonight, playing games.

Right now, she’s thoroughly enjoying beating her one and only son in Mario Kart.

“Ugh, no!” Keith complains, grumpily dumping his controller on his lap as he watched Rosalina throw her hands up in victory onscreen. “I never win at this thing against you, mom. You’re like a pro. It’s unfair.” he grabbed a slice of pizza and took a big bite.

“You’re just a sore loser, Keith.” Krolia says grabbing her own pizza. “Where’s your sister?”

Keith shrugs. “She says to leave her alone. She didn’t sound upset, though. Maybe she’s just writing another love letter.”

Krolia hums thoughtfully as she watches her son practically inhale the pizza. Teenagers and their appetite. “So, about this secret admirer of Romelle’s-”

As if summoned, Romelle makes her presence known as she storms down the stairs, screaming. She doesn’t stop until she collapses on the living room.

“MOM, HOLY FU- Oh, pizza.”

Keith and Krolia watch as she takes a slice and starts eating-

“MOM-... MOM, OMYGOCH .”

-while talking.

“An’-... an’ Keef ‘ya lil shitch.”

“Take your time, darling.” Krolia says. Keith pushes the glass of water towards his sister.

Romelle finishes her slice and gulps down the water bottoms up and takes a deep breath. “So, like, Keith, you gave me a note from Mr. Mystery Poetry today, right?”

Keith nods. “Yeah, what about it?”

“At the bottom he put his number and said I can call him, if I want to. If… If I’m ready.”

Krolia looks at Keith as he leans back against the couch. “Holy shit.” he whispers. “He did it, I’m so proud of him.”

“Wha-?” Romelle squints at her brother, but shakes her head in an attempt to stay on track. “So. I called him.”

Krolia turns to watch Romelle this time, and she is not disappointed by what she sees.

Romelle’s expression is one of utter horror as she shrieks, “SVEN HOLGERSSON?!”

“Mm- Yeah?” Keith shrugs. “Surprise?”

“Keith!” Romelle wails , grabbing at Keith’s pajama bottoms. “It’s Sven Freaking Holgersson!!! You didn’t tell me?!”

“You said not to tell you!” Keith shot back, also grabbing his pajamas lest his sister accidentally strip him on the spot.

“You could have warned me!”

“How the hell do I do that?!”

All the while, Krolia chews on her pizza and watches her children shout miserably at each other like one would watch a tennis match. Teenagers are so entertaining .

“Like- Like, I don’t know! Like you could’ve said, maybe-... Hey, sis, your secret admirer’s kind of a big deal-

“That makes no sense! Why would I do that?”

“I don’t know, you could’ve done- Something- Given me like, a clue -”

“You didn’t wanna hear any of it!”

“Oh, my God.” Romelle says, burying her face in her hands. “I’ve been flirting with Sven Holgersson for months -”

Krolia finally speaks up. “You look upset.” Then she turns to Keith. “You said he wasn’t ugly.”

“No, mom, he’s not ugly. Like, at all.” Romelle whines. “He’s the opposite of ugly, that’s the problem. He’s, like, this actual Adonis -”

“Ew.” Keith says, earning him a scowl.

“Huh.” Krolia huffs, brows furrowed. “...And he’s a big deal in school, why?”

“Quarterback.” Keith provides. “Campus heartthrob.”

“But like, in a good way!” Romelle adds. “He’s not a playboy, or a jerk, and he’s always so friendly and sweet with everyone… Oh god...” She hides in her hands again.

“He’s popular, huh?” Krolia whistles. “That’s my girl.” But also, she is really confused. “So… why are you upset?”

Romelle surfaces to say, miserably, “Because he’s Mr. Perfect, mom! And he likes me , of all people, and I-... I am shook .”

“Sweetheart.” Krolia says carefully. “He’s Mr. Perfect, you say?” Romelle nods. “Good, because that’s the least he can be to deserve my perfect daughter.”

And Romelle- Well, Romelle breaks down and switches from pulling on Keith’s poor pants to sniffling on her mother’s lap.

Keith shakes his head and mumbles, “Drama Club.”

He eats pizza and lets his sister and mother have a mother-daughter bonding moment.

Romelle gets her composure back after a while, and then she’s back to being her chipper self.

“Oh, he asked me out, too. On the phone, when we talked. He said he’d love to go on a date with me.” she says, then promptly weaponizes her still teary eyes as she blinks up sweetly at Krolia. “I told him I have to ask you first. So… can we go out on a date, mom? I really like him. Please?”

“Okay.” Krolia looks down at her daughter with a sweet smile and strokes the girl’s hair. “On three conditions.”

Romelle bites her lip. Keith lounges down on the couch - it’s his turn to watch this time.

“One: he picks you up here so I can have a word with him before you go.”

Romelle nods, eager. “I’m sure he’d love to meet you.”

“Two: curfew is still 10 PM.”

Another nod, this time with a toothy smile. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Three: Keith’s going with you.”

Romelle’s face falls, Keith drops his pizza and Krolia smiles in self-satisfaction as both her children exclaim together-

“What?!”

.

.

.

Chapter Text

.

.

.

Keith is perched on the porch railings when Sven’s jeep pulls up on their driveway. He didn’t have to call out to his mother because Krolia walks out the door seconds later and hums in appreciation as soon as she sees the vehicle. Sven knows how to impress, Keith gives him that.

They watch as the cousins hop off the jeep and start walking up to the front door.

“They’re cousins, you say? Which one’s yours, the nerd or the jock?” Krolia asks and ignores how Keith almost falls off the railings, intent on studying the two boys. “Oh wait, Romelle’s dating the quarterback, so-”

“No one’s mine, mom.” Keith cuts her off. “I’m chaperoning and Shiro’s driving - we’re both third-wheeling here.”

Krolia considers it. “Two third-wheels?”

“Two third-wheels.” Keith confirms. “Thanks to you.”

Krolia seems to accept it, but gets a final word in before their guests come within earshot. “No one says chaperoning can’t be fun, though. Specially if the driver is cute.”

Keith rolls his eyes but shuts up because Shiro just nudged Sven forward, prompting their school’s star quarterback to cough and splutter out a greeting to a very smug and amused looking Krolia.

Keith think it’s overkill that his mom chose to welcome them in her fitted tank top (read: the one that lets everyone know that she lifts ) with her old army jacket tied around her waist, but it’s always fun to watch Krolia terrify people, so he just watches the show.

He glances at Shiro, who looks back at him and mouths ‘badass’ , and Keith leans forward on his propped up knee to hide his grin behind it.

Keith and Romelle had both complained when Krolia demanded that Keith should go chaperone, but their mother had been adamant. Romelle called Sven to ask if it’s okay, and Sven only sheepishly admitted that he was just about to call her too, because apparently he was having Shiro tag along on his side as well.

‘I don’t trust him to drive while Romelle is in the car.’ Shiro had explained to Keith through text later that night when Keith asked about it. ‘That would be life-threatening and very embarrassing.’

Keith only replied, ‘K. I call shotgun.’

Now, he only half-listens to whatever sermon Krolia has chosen to subject Sven and Shiro through, probably about where they were planning to take her children, the 10 PM curfew, and driving safely.

Romelle finally comes out of the house, dressed up and beaming, probably with the sole purpose of making Sven choke on air.

Which he did. Shiro slaps his cousin’s back and hisses something like ‘Get it together, man.’

“Uh…” Sven coughs, standing straight, smiling shakily. The best he can manage is, “Hi.”

“Hi.” Romelle greets back. Keith can see that she’s wringing her fingers behind her.

They just stand there, staring and smiling and God , Keith thinks, they’ll be stuck here all day if no one does something .

It’s Krolia who takes charge, clearing her throat and telling the teens that they’re wasting daylight and they should probably get going.

“Of course! It’s nice to meet you, ma’am.” Sven nods at Krolia again, perfectly polite, a picture of a gentleman. He still looks nervous, but he was clearly coming to grips with himself.

Keith hops off from his perch and kisses his mother’s cheek after Romelle does. Romelle has shifted to bouncy and excited when she takes in how nervous Sven is, and takes the initiative of taking his arm and pulling him towards the jeep, already talking a mile a minute. Shiro troops dutifully after them, Keith bringing up the rear.

“Romelle,” Krolia calls. “Take care, sweetheart.”

“Yes, mom!” Romelle answers, bright and cheery.

“Keith, look after your sister.”

Keith says nothing but gives his mother a salute.

“Sven, Shiro?”

The cousins turn to her, attentive.

“Both my children have a black belt in Taekwondo, I just thought you should know.”

The boys looked terrified, but manage to nod shakily. “Y-Yes ma’am...”

Krolia grins, watching Sven help Romelle climb inside the vehicle. “Enjoy, kids! I’ll be here, taking stock of my knife collection.”

Sven misses his step and Romelle had to pull him up, laughing heartily.

Keith makes himself comfortable in the passenger seat, as Shiro starts up the jeep.

“Does your mom really have a knife collection?” Shiro asks.

Keith snorts. “No.”

“No?”

“It’s more like a knife and sword collection.”

They hear Sven mumble something in Norwegian. It might have been a prayer.

It’s followed closely by Romelle giggling. “Oh, no, don’t worry! She really liked you! I can tell!”

Keith and Shiro glance at the rearview mirror to see their companions already snuggled comfortably on the backseat.

This is gonna be an interesting day.

.

.

It turns out that Sven’s entire date plan is an amusement park date.

Of course, Keith thinks, of course the guy would take his sister, the transfer student made of sunshine, glitter and rainbows, into the local amusement park that she’s been wanting to go to for a while now. Sven has done his research and Keith respects that.

“It’s going… well.” he hears Shiro say beside him as they trailed after the other two.

“It’s not as bad as you thought, huh.” Keith says, watching Romelle and Sven walking ahead of them, both chattering excitedly, smiles bright, fingers linked.

“I might have underestimated my cousin.” Shiro admits. “I expected him to be more of a mess.”

“He bounced back, fast.”

“Romelle helps. Like… a lot.”

“Yeah, she does that.”

It had only taken the entire jeep ride for Sven and Romelle to be perfectly comfortable with each other. Maybe it’s because they’ve already exchanged a ton of cheesy love notes before really hanging out, but Sven’s nervous energy had been quickly balanced out by Romelle’s easy curiosity and his eagerness to answer her questions. By the time they reached the park, the two were already attached at the hip, playing 21 Questions.

It turns out, chaperoning an extremely cheesy date isn’t really as awkward as he had thought it would be, specially when he has someone he can exchange exasperated looks with. Romelle and Sven are in their own little lovestruck bubble, and Keith and Shiro only have to keep a few steps behind them.

After the first hour of walking around and playing booth games, Keith has stopped worrying about where Sven put his hands, because they were always on Romelle’s hand, or shoulder, or the small of her back. He carries her shiny sea-shell backpack without complaint, and fights tooth and nail on the shooting booth to get Romelle a unicorn plushie.

He manages to get only the smallest one, and Romelle looks at him like he hung the moon.

They’re okay , Keith concludes. He takes one picture and sends it to his mother. She replies with a thumbs up and sparkle emoji.

 

 

But Keith is still a big brother (of two months, but eh, details ), so he pockets his phone, cracks his knuckles, steps forward, and passes some coins to the booth. He makes sure to smirk smugly at Sven’s direction as he wins a giant stuffed bunny.

“Show-off.” Romelle pouts, hugging her tiny unicorn to her chest.

“Aw, did you want the big bunny?” Keith asks, teasing.

“No. Keep your petty show-off bunny!” Romelle turns around and grabs Sven’s arm to drag him to the next game.

While Romelle was busy finding their next destination, Sven whips his head around, points at the bunny, then at himself and mouths ‘Please teach me!’ and... okay , Keith decides he likes the guy, after all.

He hears Shiro laugh beside him, phone raised because he had been capturing it all on video all this time.

“Hey, Shiro.” Keith calls, and Shiro pauses the video to look at him. “Would you like a giant bunny?”

Shiro blinks, looks at the toy and tries not to gape. He splutters out a couple of sentence before deciding he should shut up and reorganize his thoughts first. Finally, blush high on his cheeks, he nods. “Yes, I would like a giant bunny, Keith. I don’t know what I’d do with it, but I can figure that out later.”

Keith grins and hands him the stuffed bunny, which Shiro accepted with open arms and hugged like it was the most precious thing in the world. Keith shakes his head as he starts walking after Sven and Romelle again. “Don’t name it after me, that’s weird.”

“Okay.” Shiro says, then lifts the toy to look straight into the bunny’s button eyes. “You’re now… Keef.”

Keith almost trips, turning to look at him disbelievingly. “Dude!”

“What? I didn’t name it after you.” Shiro says defensively.

Keith rolls his eyes and gives up. “You’re a dork.”

Shiro just hugs the bunny tighter.

Keith takes out his phone, snaps a photo and sends it to his mom along with a message: ‘I got the bigger one tho’ . Krolia replies with three lines’ worth of thumbs up and fire emojis.

 

 

Then they hear Romelle calling them and shouting about the rides. They caught ‘teacup’ and ‘carousel’ and ‘rollercoaster’.

“Oh, shit. She’s starting.” Keith sighs.

Shiro shifts nervously behind him. “Starting what?”

“Uh…” Keith runs a hand through his hair and considers his words carefully. “She… really likes… rides.”

Shiro freezes. “How much… does she like them?”

“She’s probably gonna make your cousin ride the rollercoaster three times.”

They both look at the happy couple. Romelle is bouncing on her feet as she says something to Sven, their hands clasped between them. Sven looks smitten .

Keith and Shiro pray for his soul.

.

.

.

The date goes swimmingly. It’s a testament to Sven’s resilience that he survives every ride Romelle had dragged him through. The Kogane siblings were back home by 9:30 PM, plenty of time for Sven to walk Romelle to the door and say ‘Good Evening and Thank You For Allowing Me to Date Your Perfect Daughter’ to Krolia like a proper gentleman. Romelle bids her date goodbye with a kiss to his cheek. The cousins drive off reassured that they were in Krolia’s good graces and wouldn’t have to face her knife and sword collection anytime soon.

Shiro is certain that this is all he’ll hear about from Sven for the rest of the weekend and the entire Monday morning until Sven gets swept away by his darling girlfriend again. Shiro hopes the two will start hanging out with each other now, because really, he can only take so much.

The drive back to the Holgerssons’ was quiet, with Shiro driving dutifully and Sven sprawled ungracefully in the backseat, looking out the window with a dreamy look on his face.

Then Sven says, “Oh, no.”

Shiro snaps to attention. “What?”

“Keith forgot his bunny!” Sven says, leaning over to take a closer look at the bunny stuffed toy on the passenger seat. It had its seat belt buckled and everything.

Shiro chuckles. “No, he didn’t. He said I can have it.”

“Ah. That’s nice.” Sven calms down quickly, then goes back to his backseat sprawl. “Keith is really nice. I thought he’d be more... scary, you know.”

Shiro thinks about it. “He can be a bit intimidating, I guess.”

“Yes, but when he’s not, he’s really nice. And fun.”

“He is.” Shiro says. “He’s great company.”

The drive becomes quiet for several blissful moments.

Then Sven abruptly sits up, looking like he just has an epiphany. “Takashi.”

“Hm?”

“You did so much for me. For me and Romelle.”

“Uh… yeah, sure? Don’t mention it?”

“If you need someone to put love notes in Keith’s locker, I-”

“No.”

And that was that.

.

.

.

Chapter Text

.

.

.

“Wait, wait - let me get this straight. Romelle, you and our good friend Sven here… are dating?”

Romelle grins proudly and nods. “Yes, Lance, we totally are!” She snuggles closer to her boyfriend’s side. Sven leans his head on top of hers and squeezes her shoulder. She had pulled him to sit with her and the Drama Club for lunch break, so she can tell her friends the good news.

Lance squints at them, trying to process the new information, then he leans sideways to stage-whisper, “I thought you said it was Keith and Shiro?”

Pidge has her chin propped up on her hands and was looking at the couple in scrutiny and confusion. She nods, “I did say it was Keith and Shiro.”

Romelle blinks, confused, while Sven frowns as he thinks about anything he might have missed.

“You see, all this time,” Hunk says, taking pity at the two and explaining. “We thought it was Keith and Shiro who were dating.”

As one, the whole group turns to Keith, who was busy sketching with one hand while holding his sandwich with another. He has his headphones on, and remains unaware of the attention until he glances up and realizes they were all staring at him.

He nudges his headphones down and asks, “What?”

Lance, King of Tact, bluntly asks, “You’re dating Shiro, right?”

Keith meets each pair of eyes staring at him, one by one, then shakes his head. “Uh… no.” he says. “Why would you think that?”

“You’ve been, like, flirting. A lot. Like, tons of giggling and whispering.” Pidge says.

“You spend like all morning before classes chatting by the lockers.” Hunk adds. “We kinda thought you two were… together, already. But you guys are both, like, really private people so we weren’t going to bug you about it, you know.”

“What?” Keith lets out a wary laugh. “I think you misunderstood. We just meet up regularly because these two,” he points his pencil at Romelle and Sven, “had this cheesy secret love letter thing going on. Complete with hidden identity stuff. Sven made Shiro deliver his letters and Romelle made me deliver hers, so that’s probably what you saw. Shiro and I are friends, we just bonded over how hopeless and sappy these two were.”

His friends all make noises of understanding. Lance and Hunk turn to properly congratulate Romelle and Sven now, while Pidge just snaps a photo because hey, they were adorable .

Pidge had been trying to take another photo when she catches two familiar faces entering the cafeteria. “Speak of the devils.” she mumbled, then raises a hand to call out. “Matt! Shiro! Sit with us!”

Matt and Shiro head over to them, Matt squeezing in between Hunk and sister, and Shiro sitting in the space Sven freed for him. The space beside Keith.

The others fill him in on what they had been talking about, and Shiro laughs bashfully. “We were just playing messengers.” he clarifies. “It’s nothing interesting. You guys should ask these two about their epic movie romance.”

It proves effective, because Romelle and Sven were all too eager to share the details of said ‘epic movie romance’, diverting all attention to them.

Shiro starts eating his lunch, now and then glancing at Keith’s sketch. It’s difficult not to - the lines were bold and vivid and the scene Keith was currently drawing already looked breathtaking.

Keith finishes his sandwich then rummages through his bag for something. He leans over slightly and whispers, “Hand.”

By now, Shiro knows Keith enough not to say anything and just hold his hand palm up.

Keith drops something on it. More origami , Shiro notes. This time it was a single red and green cube.

Shiro examines it first, before whispering back, “What is it?”

Keith goes back to drawing and shrugs. “Let’s see if you can figure it out.”

Shiro considers it again, then comes at a loss and just tucks the item in his bag. Later, he thinks. He’ll figure it out later.

.

.

Keith had been sitting on the roof outside his bedroom window, lazily strumming on his guitar, when he receives several texts from Shiro.

‘Keeeeeeith’

‘I’m about to give up’

‘Just tell me what to do pleeeease?’

It was followed by several crying emojis.

Keith doesn’t hesitate and starts a video call.

Shiro is still adjusting his phone on his desk when the video feed appears. What Keith can see of his room were bookshelves and white walls with dark-colored stars and planet stickers. He’d bet anything that they glowed in the dark.

“Hey.” he greets.

Shiro clears his throat first, then says, “Hey.”

Keith blinks, noticing something different- “Holy shit, you’re wearing glasses.”

Shiro looks surprised, and self-consciously adjusts his thick-framed square glasses. “Yeah, I, um, I wear contacts to school. The glasses make me look old. With the white hair, all.”

“That’s crap, you look good.” Keith says, and grins when Shiro laughs bashfully, scratching the back of his neck. Even with the poor lighting, he can makes out the blush on Shiro’s cheeks.

“Thanks.” Shiro mumbles, then it’s his turn to squint at Keith. “Are you… on the roof? Is that a guitar?”

“Yeah, I was just trying to figure out this song.”

“You play guitar.” Shiro’s expression is unreadable.

“A bit. I was in a band, but we moved, and one quit, and two graduated, so.” he shrugs. “I’m rusty, anyway.”

Shiro is quiet, looking like he was trying hard to process all that. After a while, what comes out is a quiet, “You’re so cool.”

Keith snorts, and starts to tell Shiro that he’s not that cool, but Shiro moves, and Keith notes something else. “Is that Keef?”

Shiro freezes.

Keith holds back a laugh as his eyes zoom in on the white bunny plushie in Shiro’s arms, sandwiched between Shiro and his desk. “Are you hugging Keef right now?”

Shiro buries his nose on the white fur and Keith could barely make out his muffled defense. “He’s soft, okay?” Then he raises Keith’s mystery cube in his hand, trying to get back to business. “So, what do I do with this? I figured I should be unfolding it a certain way, but I don’t wanna ruin it trying.”

“You could’ve Googled it, you know.”

“I don’t wanna ruin your surprise.”

Keith pauses at that, and he smiles lightly before sighing. “Fine, you big baby. Okay, hold it up, I’ll tell you what to do. It’s really cool.”

He walks Shiro through it, telling him where to pull or pinch, how to pry a side loose carefully. Shiro is an attentive listener and followed instructions well.

When they finish, Keith decides that he made the right decision starting this video call, because gets to hear Shiro’s small gasp and see his priceless, surprised and fond expression.

Shiro holds up the little red paper rose in his hand like it was fragile glass. “Keith, it’s lovely…”

“Right?” Keith grins. “That’s not all of it.”

“Oh… yeah…” Shiro says, then pries a tiny paper star from inside beneath the rose petals. He squints at it, then starts unfolding. His eyes read the written words and Keith finally knows how a person looks like when they melt . “Keith… This is really sweet. Thank you.”

“I know the Math League’s this Friday.” Keith explains. “Figured I’d wish you good luck. And remind you that I keep my promises.”

Shiro is quiet, delicately tracing the paper petals in his fingers.

Keith watches for a while before saying, “I want to go take the Ultimate Nerd to Waffle House, got it?”

Shiro laughs, soft and affectionate. “Got it.”

.

.

.

The following week, Shiro avoids most everyone like the plague.

Keith finds him anyway in one of the science labs.

“Takashi Shirogane, I know you’re in here. Matt ratted you out after I gave him a burger.”

Shiro groans, curses his best friend for the betrayal, and crawls out from under the teacher’s table.

Keith gapes. “Under the-... Someone your size? Seriously? I thought you’d at least hide behind a shelf or something.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t have time to squeeze in between the cabinet and the wall.” Shiro grumbles, looking away.

He knew there was no use running, so he stays unmoving on his spot, staring at the floor, as Keith approaches him. He risks a glance to see Keith hop up to sit on the table.

“So… what, you’re avoiding me now?” Keith asks, and he doesn’t sound angry. He just sounds… concerned.

“It’s not you-” Shiro starts, and realizes that he’s about to deliver a major cliche. Still, there was no other way to say it, so he just cringes and continues, “It’s me.”

“Did you seriously use that line?”

“I know, it sounds really bad.”

Shiro finally looks up to meet Keith’s eyes. Keith looks both resigned and amused, and he just shakes his head. He says, “Hand.”

Shiro thinks he doesn’t deserve whatever sweet little cheer-up present Keith made for him this time, but he holds out his hand anyway.

Keith doesn’t put anything on it. Instead, he covers it with his own and twines their fingers together.

“How are you doing?” he asks, rubbing his thumb over Shiro’s knuckles comfortingly.

“Trying to hide from the Math Club.” Shiro sighs, involuntarily giving Keith’s hand a squeeze. “It’s so stupid.”

Keith frowns. “Hey, you got sick and couldn’t go to school. That’s not stupid.”

“Why that day of all days?” Shiro whines, looking up at the ceiling. “It’s my last year, the biggest competition for our club, and I couldn’t make it. It’s pathetic.”

“They still won.” Keith points out.

“Barely.” Shiro grits out, and he knows it sounds petty, but he couldn’t help himself. “I just wish I could’ve been there. They were counting on me.”

Keith keeps quiet and just holds his hand. Shiro feels bad for unloading this on him. Thankfully, Keith is being supportive and understanding-

Now Shiro feels worse.

“I let you down, too.”

Keith tilts his head and tugs at Shiro’s hand to make the taller teen turn towards him. “How is this about me?”

“Our deal.” Shiro says, sheepish. “Or maybe I was the only one looking forward to that- I just-... You went out of your way to make me that good-luck thing-”

Keith lets out an annoyed huff, this time shifting his position so they were fully face to face. “You know,” he starts, and tugs at Shiro until he stepped closer. “I never stated my terms in that deal.”

Shiro blinks, and tries to stay calm because Keith was so close and wow, are those freckles- No. No, Takashi, get yourself together-

“W-Well… Well, I lost, so… What… what were your- your terms, then?”

“You take me to Waffle House.” Keith answers, short and simple.

“But that’s-... the same-?”

Keith shakes his head. “Nope. You said if you become the Ultimate Nerd, I owe you a trip to Waffle House. Now, my terms are-”

“I owe you?”

“Yeah.” Keith grins and leans forward. “So, are you gonna honor that deal, or what?”

Shiro’s cheeks were the color of Keith’s motorcycle now, and he babbles incoherently for a couple of seconds first before he managed to form actual words. “T-The- The-... The game.”

Keith raises an eyebrow. “The what?”

“Sven has a game tomorrow, I have to be there.”

“Yeah, I know about it. Romelle’s going so I’m going.”

“Would you go with me to Waffle House? Before? Or after, I don’t mind either.”

“Sure.” Keith says, looking very satisfied. “Also, everyone’s worried about you. Stop sulking. It wasn’t your fault. You’re not less of a nerd if you got sick and missed one quiz bee.”

“It was a big quiz bee.” Shiro pouts, ducking his head, but he feels the beginnings of a smile on his lips. “For cool nerds.” He swings their clasped hands a little. “Did they send you?

“No. I sent myself, because I wanted free waffles.” Keith teases.

Shiro looks up with a fake hurt expression. “Keith, is that all I am to you? Free waffles?”

“Maybe.” Keith laughs. “I’m still deciding.” His phone chimes, and he clicks his tongue. “I gotta get back to the auditorium. We’re painting a lot of walls today.”

He lets go of Shiro as he slides off the table, and Shiro mourns the loss of the warm hand in his.

“May I go with you?” Shiro asks, before he could even think about it. “I mean- I like- I like watching you draw… and paint, I guess.”

“No, you’re not watching.” Keith scoffs. “Big guy like you, Professor Smythe’s gonna make you carry stuff around.”

“I don’t mind.” he says, and is all too happy when Keith holds his hand out again.

.

.

.

Shiro had always gone to Sven’s games with Sven’s parents or the Math Club. He has never experienced high school football games in the company of Drama Club.

Turns out, they are all very… passionate.

“GO LIONS!!!” Pidge screams at the top of her lungs, riding on Hunk’s shoulders.

“GET THOSE WILDCAT SUCKERS!” is from Lance, waving a pom-pom one of the cheerleaders had accidentally thrown at the crowd earlier. Matt slaps his back and joins in the screaming.

And then there’s Romelle standing on her seat, gripping both Shiro and Keith and shaking them back and forth when Sven scores a goal- “YES! THAT’S MY BOYFRIEND!!!”

“THAT’S HER BOYFRIEND!!!” Pidge, Lance and Hunk echo. Matt whistles loudly.

“LIONS!!!” their adviser Coran Smythe, joins in, waving a Lions banner.

“Sven did good, right?” Romelle asks Shiro. “I don’t understand football but he scored something, right, so that’s good?”

Shiro blinks. “Uh, yeah. He did great.”

Romelle nods, then goes right back to screaming. “THAT’S MY MAN!!!” Sven must have heard her because he waves widely at them with both arms. He blows a kiss to Romelle, who catches it and beams, “GO GET ‘EM, SWEETCAKES!!!”

“So you don’t really get what’s happening?” Shiro asks his companions.

“Nope.” Romelle says. “But like, the score says we’re winning, so whatever.”

“We just like screaming.” Lance chimes in. “We have no idea what they’re doing 80% of the time.”

“I’m the only one who really gets it ‘round here.” Matt adds. And, Shiro laments, he’s not in Drama Club. So he doesn’t even count. “Katie is actually allergic to sports.”

Doing sports.” Pidge corrects her brother, eyes intent on the game. “I like shouting about sports-” she stills when their Linebacker gets knocked down, and- “GET THE FUCK UP, ROLO!

“Language.” Hunk chastises.

PLEASE GET THE FUCK UP, ROLO!”

Shiro turns to Keith, who has contented himself with simply holding half of their ‘GO LIONS’ banner to show his solidarity. “Please tell me you understand football.”

“Of course.” Keith says. “Just run around, tackle each other, something-something goal... score higher than the other team, right?”

Shiro looks at him in utter disappointment. “Oh, Keith…”

Keith pouts. “Don’t judge me.”

And then Sven scores another goal, people scream “LIONS!!!” again, and Romelle strangles Shiro and Keith as she cheers for her boyfriend.

.

.

.

Keith threatens Sven with his black belt, Romelle’s black belt, and his mother’s knife and sword collection exactly ten times, then lets Sven drive Romelle home.

Romelle had narrowed her eyes when Keith first told them that he’s going with Shiro, but Keith only said, “Shiro lost a bet and owes me waffles. Tell mom I’ll be back before curfew.” and then she lets it go.

Shiro looks ridiculous wearing Romelle’s pink helmet, but there weren’t that many options. He puts it on happily and hops behind Keith on his motorcycle very creatively named ‘Red’.

“If I’m the one taking you out, shouldn’t I be the one driving?” Shiro asks.

Keith twists a bit to look at him. “Do you know how to drive a bike?”

Shiro grins sheepishly. “I’ve always wanted to try.”

Keith rolls his eyes and reaches out to pat the ridiculous tuft of hair escaping from Shiro’s helmet. “Let’s take a raincheck on that one. I don’t wanna get in a crash for my first date.”

Shiro catches the shy lilt in Keith’s voice. Keith has always been confident and sure of himself, even when he’s flustered or confused, that it takes Shiro aback when he notes that Keith can be shy .

Something clicks in him then.

“This… This is your first date?”

A shrug. “I mean… yeah. Is that a big deal for you, or-”

And Shiro-

Shiro is horrified . “Are you kidding? I’m just taking you to some cheap Waffle House, after a football game you didn’t really get, wearing your sister’s helmet- And I’m making you drive- Keith, I’m so sorry-”

Keith stops him with a hearty chuckle and a playful punch to his shoulder. “Okay, now you’re channelling Sven-”

“No, Keith, I should’ve made this more special-”

“Shiro.” Keith says, firmly this time, and looking so fond that Shiro just shuts up right away. “Shiro, it’s fine. I’m enjoying it so far.”

Shiro still looks torn. “Really?”

“Really.” Keith nods. “I’m not my sister, I don’t need an all-expense paid trip to the amusement park.”

Shiro manages to muster up a smile as he leans forward. He had planned to touch their foreheads together, but couldn’t quite achieve the same effect with helmets on. Keith didn’t seem to mind, leaning as close as comfortable.

“So… just waffles, then?” Shiro asks.

Keith hums in thought and then smiles back. “Maybe add a milkshake.”

Shiro nods. “Anything you want.” he says, and means it.

.

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Chapter Text

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.

.

“So you guys are dating now, too?”

Shiro nods in behalf of Keith, who is again in his headphones with his head on his sketchpad, tuning out the rest of their table.

“Huh. That’s cool.” Lance says, nodding approvingly.

“We’re happy you finally found love, Shiro.” Pidge adds. “After suffering from Sven’s disaster attempts for years.”

“I think we could have stopped after than first sentence, Pidge.” Hunks remedies kindly. “But we mean it. You guys look great together.”

Shiro ducks his head to hide his blush. “Thanks, guys.” He sends a smile Keith’s way even though he’s still lost to the world.

Then a low, cold voice cuts through his moment of appreciation and promptly sends shivers down his spine. “They do, huh. They look good together.”

“They’re perfect for each other.” says another voice. The words sound positive, but the tone is far from it.

Shiro looks up to see Romelle’s and Sven’s matching narrowed eyes.

“It’s a shame they never told us.” Romelle continues, sounding very, very betrayed.

Sven hums. “I kept asking him if he likes a certain someone and he just kept avoiding the question…”

“Then I learn from everyone that he’s been flirting-”

“-getting cute presents and he doesn’t tell me anything about them? Me? His favorite cousin-”

“Now it makes sense why he agreed to chaperone for us as soon as you said Shiro was coming too.”

“Me, his only cousin-”

“I shared every single love letter with him and he couldn’t even tell me he promised someone a date-”

“Me, his best friend -!”

It’s Matt who scoffs and tells them off. “Suck it up, you losers. You’re just bitter you two have been so wrapped up in your secret love letter exchange, you didn’t notice that your middlemen were getting cozy with each other.”

Shiro looks at him, wary but at this point, he’ll take all the support he can get. “Thank you for your input, Matt.”

“Hey, man, if this was a Cutest Couple contest, I’m Team Sheith.” Matt shrugs. Shiro considers forgiving him for all the times he sold Shiro out for food.

Sven and Romelle glare at Matt as one, then they go back to glaring at Shiro.

Shiro ducks again, this time hiding his face on Keith’s shoulder, but it looks like Keith really can’t be bothered at the moment because he just tilts his head to press a kiss on top of Shiro’s head and then goes back to drawing, not even glancing up at the others.

Lance, Pidge and Hunk simultaneously ‘awwww’ .

Romelle breaks and lets out a squeak. “God, I can’t stay mad! They’re too cute!” she whines, clutching at her boyfriend’s sleeve.

Sven sighs, shaking his head as he rubs Romelle’s back comfortingly. “I know, love. I know.”

.

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Chapter Text

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.

“You gotta be fucking kidding me.” Keith grumbles darkly, untangling himself from a sleepy Kosmo and slamming his window open.

It’s exactly one minute past midnight.

Sven’s jeep is on the driveway. Sven is on top of his jeep. Singing what sounds like an Abba medley of all things. Lance is perched on the hood of the jeep playing a ukulele. Hunk is crouched on the curb banging rhythmically on a mini conga drum. Pidge is shaking a goddamn maraca and is clearly just in it for shits and giggles because she’s not even trying to play in time.

Screw that, Keith is pretty sure those three have never played an instrument in their entire life.

Keith curses the day Sven started hanging out with the Drama Club.

When Keith looks towards his sister’s room, he finds Romelle sitting on her windowsill, eyes sparkling, lips quivering and hands clutched to her chest.

That’s the only reason he thinks twice about telling them to fuck off. His phone rings and he answers the call without looking.

“Baby, I’m so sorry, I tried to stop them.”

Keith cranes his head and sees Shiro peering out from the jeep’s window. Shiro waves and smiles guiltily.

“I know they’re unstoppable.” Keith sighs, leaning tiredly against the window. “But couldn’t you have convinced them to do this at a more reasonable hour?”

“Sven insisted we do it at exactly midnight.” Shiro says. He cringes when Sven struggles with a particularly high note, then yelps as he dodges the maraca Pidge had been aimlessly swinging around as she cackled. “He says the day is special?”

Keith looks at the calendar on his desk and rolls his eyes. “It’s her birthday.”

“Oh.”

Then he jumps when a familiar voice beside him says, “So he’s not perfect, after all. He can’t sing .”

Keith gapes as his mother makes herself comfortable sitting on his windowsill.

“Mom, what-”

Krolia raises her phone.

“Are you taking a video?”

“They’re so bad at it...” Krolia whispers, looking equal parts amused, confused and to Keith’s horror, weirdly impressed.

Keith goes back to his call. “At least Mom thinks it’s funny.”

“She does? Thank God. I was worried she’ll chase us off with a machete or something.”

“Valid.” Keith says.

Sven finishes his song number, then he smiles brilliantly at Romelle. “My love, I wish you a happy, happy birthday! I made sure to be the first to greet you, I hope you liked my little present!”

Romelle squeaks and nods, wiping actual tears. “Are you kidding me? I love it!” she squeals. “You’re the best boyfriend ever!”

Keith prays that the neighbors sleep through this.

“And, that’s not all I came here to say...” Sven continues. He holds out his arms. “Romelle, will you go to the prom with me?”

Romelle gasps.

“Ohhhhh…” Krolia says in understanding.

“Huh.” Keith hears Shiro say, and they stare at each other across the distance for a moment. “Oh, yeah… Prom.”

Finally, Romelle nods again, beaming. “Of course I will!” She screeches and then sends her boyfriend flying kisses.

Sven looks relieved, and he takes a moment to exchange high fives with Lance, Pidge and Hunk, who all cheer and congratulate him.

“So. Prom.” Keith says.

“Yeah, prom.” Shiro replies. “Uh…”

They spend a few seconds in awkward silence, but when they finally speak up, they do it at the same time.

“Prom’s stupid, anyway.”

“Do you want to go together?”

Awkward. Then-

“I mean, yeah, sure-”

“Haha- You’re right, it’s stupid.”

They both stop and groan before they can embarrass themselves further. When Keith looks out the window again, he sees Shiro’s apologetic smile.

Then Krolia says, “Say ‘yes’ to the cute driver, Keith.”

Keith always listens to his mom.

He sends Shiro an easy smile. “No, you know what? It’s your senior year. We should go.”

“You sure? I know it’s not exactly your scene.”

“Shiro, I wanna go with you.”

“Oh… okay.”

“Yeah, let’s... go to the stupid dance… and stuff.”

“Okay, Keith.”

Then Lance starts strumming again and Hunk and Pidge rush to accompany him.

They haven’t improved in the five minutes they took a break.

Sven looks very proud of himself. “And this one- This song is a song I wrote for you, my love!”

Romelle claps her hands and giggles in delight.

“Aw, fuck .” Keith whispers. “Shiro, I swear, if he starts singing his poetry, I’m gonna come down there."

“I should have knocked him out. I know that now.” Shiro says, sounding very, very tired. “Baby, I’m so sorry, please don’t kill him? I know he deserves it but I don’t want you to go to jail-”

“Oh, I won’t murder him. I’ll just send your cousin to the hospital. He’ll recover. Eventually.”

Sven starts singing, and Krolia chokes and covers her mouth to stop from laughing, still dutifully taking the video. What she plans to do with it, Keith doesn’t know.

“This boy is so brave .” she says in what Keith is afraid to call awe , because Krolia is a woman who respects guts, but still-

Lance tucks his ukulele under his arm and starts beatboxing.

“Y-Yeah… There’s a rap part.” Shiro says, sounding embarrassed enough for all of them.

Sven doesn’t miss a beat-... or misses all the beats. It’s hard to tell. Pidge is still shaking her maraca.

Keith closes his eyes, sighs, and goes to crawl back under the covers, phone still pressed into his ear.

“I promise never to do something like this for you.” he hears Shiro say.

Okay. Okay, that-

That is probably everything Keith ever wants in life at this point.

“Shiro?”

“Yes?”

“I think I’ve never been more in love with you.” he says, and means it.

.

.